October 5, 2009
Where to even start! :-)
Only send US mail, otherwise it could take a month to get a package.
My companion is Hermana Murray. She is from Bellevue. She lived a couple blocks from the temple! sooo cool! Mom, we want you to go on a temple trip with her mom. Her name is Pam. Isn't that cool? Hermana Murray goes to the University of Oregon, so it will be easy to keep in contact.
My first area is St. Petersburg. I have a lot of love for this area already. They only recently opened it to Spanish missionaries for three transfers, only 18 weeks. That is crazy. It is the last zone in the area that doesn’t have a Spanish branch, and it is not because of a lack of Spanish people. That is for sure!!! We didn't have hardly anyone in our teaching pool when I got here, but some really great and amazing miracles have happened. I thought about this as I sat in the chapel at conference with a family we just put on date for baptism that was sitting in front of us. In general conference when the area seventy talked about how he prayed that missionaries would enter Russia and how his son was a part of that answer to a prayer, well, I felt like I was a part of a lot of prayers. This area has grown so much in just the week that I have been here. I am really excited! When I heard about the area I was really surprised that they would put a greeny like me here when there is so much important work to do!
I don't even know where to start. I think I might just send what I have in my journal home... or I might make you wait.
The first day in the field was work! I LOVE TRACTING! Some missionaries don't like it. But I love it! In fact, the first Spanish door contact we did, and I did it by myself, is taking the lessons right now! They have a daughter that is 14, Juni. She is going to mutual now. It is great. I have a good feeling about it. We plan on committing them to baptism the next time we meet on Wednesday. :-) Yay!!!!!!! They have a family of 6. …but my first Spanish contact! Yay!!!
Next we went to the Saldivar shop. I’m definitely taking you to meet the Saldivars!!! They own one of those mom and pop’s stores on the corner with all of the weird Hispanic food; like pig heads hanging in there and everything. But they are really great to us missionaries. They were inactive before the Spanish missionaries got here, now they are actively participating. WE ARE SOOOO CLOSE to having a Spanish branch! We always stop by and they bring us in the back and we teach them a quick lesson. We laugh a lot. The first day I didn't understand them very well, THEY SPEAK FAST! But we stopped by there the night before last and I was doing really good understanding them. My Spanish has made a lot of improvement! It is amazing. It is completely the Lord helping. I wouldn't be able to do it without Him.
The first night was fun. We moved a family for four hours in the sweltering heat! 96 with 85% humidity! I’m pretty sure I got heat exhaustion. I have been soooo tired since and it hasn't been from lack of sleep.
I've lost 7 pounds since being here! It’s crazy. This is the most disciplined mission I have ever heard of. They don't pass around a dinner sign up at all, because from 5-9 is prime time for doing the work and we shouldn't be in someone’s home unless there is an investigator there. I think that is soooo awesome!!! So we can eat at 4, but usually we are so busy that we don't eat until we get home. I thought the members would be feeding us a lot more, but we are so busy we put them on the bottom of the list. Food is just food anyways :-)
So I know I said the teaching pool wasn't full when I got here, but we have been blessed so much. We have been guided by the Spirit so directly that that has changed A LOT!!! Dozens and dozens of times while tracting my companion and I have felt directly that we needed to contact particular doors and people. One in particular just amazed me! We walked up to the door and it was my turn to do the contacting. It was Spanish and something really amazing happened. I will never forget this for the rest of my life. I felt my heart leap as I knocked on the door. (It was in kind of a rundown area) the spirit hit me so strong that I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest. A woman answered the door. She looked like she had been crying. I felt prompted to just bear strong testimony of the Savior and the atonement. I didn't even ask for her name or anything. I said (in Spanish… it just came. I haven't said this ever before) "Jesus Christ loves you, and He wanted us to come here because you need help. We are here to help you and to tell you that the Savior loves you. Through prayer and the atonement...” I didn't even get a chance to finish my sentence before she was sobbing in my arms. We were not planning on coming in this area, but we were directed by the spirit. We weren't able to say much to her other than bear testimony to her of how the atonement could help her. She talked to us for 25 minutes without us really getting a word in. Through her tears and speaking so fast I hardly could understand her... So instead as I sat there and looked into her eyes I prayed my heart out to Heavenly Father that the Holy Ghost would tell me the worries of her heart, how we could help her, and that she would see the light of Christ in us... and Heavenly Father blessed me with that. My companion offered for us to leave them with a prayer, and turned to me to offer it. Oh boy! I was nervous, but the spirit helped me. (at this point I didn't know what exactly was going on. I knew her daughter was gone, and had tried to commit suicide a few weeks ago. Can you imagine how scary this might be for a new missionary that has only spoken Spanish for two months!) but the Lord helped me. The spirit was strong when I prayed. I cried through the whole thing and so did everyone else. I prayed for a miracle. I felt prompted to say that that the daughter would return.
I didn't know what exactly happened until my companion and I left. We found out after they had invited us in that there 16 year old daughter had just ran way with her boyfriend. She said she was coming back today but she didn't show up. (this was all on my second day here...) We came to visit two days later, and the daughter was back. The father thanked us so much as he talked to us on the door step. They really want us to teach them I feel really good about the family.
OK! Now, the Valasquez family! So amazing! The mother is an inactive member (Karina), from Puerto Rico. They moved to the states 5 years ago. Hector, was a very stern Catholic. He’s not really active, but very against even thinking about any other religions. The family started looking into other religions. They really desired that their children would have a good faith in God and Jesus Christ. Once Karina’s mom in Puerto Rico found out, she quickly sent a Media referral. A month ago the sisters taught them, and Hector didn't like it. So they weren't able to visit again until last week. As we were going through our area book, we felt prompted to follow up with them. We prayed for a mighty miracle that would soften Hector’s heart. Karina desired to become active again. AND IT SOOO HAPPENED! We went there, and it was amazing! Hector and his son Mathew are on date for Nov 6th, but he is so excited that it will probably happen sooner I’m sure. When we got there he was so ready. He already knew Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, the Bbook of Mormon was true. He even taught us about the Urim Thummin. It reminded me of my first contact with the missionaries. "the teachers become the teachees!" Ya! Totally happened! It was one of the strongest testimonies of prayer I have ever heard. He had never prayed out loud in front of people before, other then scripted prayers, and before we left we wanted to pray. So we asked him who he would like to say the prayer. He said " I will. I need to set the example for my kids." He was so nervous, but he did it! I was soooo darn happy! I didn't even sleep that night.
During our weekly panning we set a very high number of 4 baptisms for this month. We prayed and felt strongly about that goal. They haven't had one baptism in 3 months in this area. Well, we have two right now so far, soon to be four. I talked to the ZL last night, and they said we've broken the glass ceiling on all of the numbers for the last year in just a week. WE WORK HARD! We never let a moment go by! Everything is in the Lords hand’s!
Hector loved general conference! Just after conference he came right out and said, “When can I learn more about prophets?” with a huge smile on his face! Oh man! We do church tours here... the first priority is to have the first lesson in the church building with a fellowshipper (member). The next lesson is at a member’s house, or at the investigator’s house with a fellowshipper. They really know what they are doing here. We only do what works. Bikes are more effective because you get more contacts. So, we bike a lot! It is great!!!
Yesterday we taught a man named Antonio. We gave the whole first lesson on the door step. I said the first vision for the first time. Yay!! The spirit was so strong. I know he felt it. He is from Brazil. I am really excited to teach him again. I just know he will be baptized. You just get this feeling! Yay!
Our teaching pool keeps getting fuller! Trailer parks are our friends! We have been in some REALLY scary areas with drugs and crime. Heard gun shots the other day, but I definitely feel protected and think of Elder Scott’s blessing often that we will be kept safe as we are obedient.
We had two little Spanish girls run out and give us some paper ring chains that said “we love you”. They like to follow us around when contacting. We have really built up a good reputation with some of the areas. I am just amazed on how humble the Spanish people are. I really have learned a lot of life lessons in just my first week. Also, I never realized until now that I have been preparing my whole life for my mission. I love it here. I love the people sooo much. My prayers have never been as meaningful as they are now when I offer a mighty prayer for our investigators and for direction.
I’m already sad to leave the people here!
Love you all