Well, we thought it was going to be a "normal" Sunday yesterday, but boy were we mistaken. During PEC the bishop told us that President Emery (Stake president) and his counselors want all of the Spanish-speaking members to stay after sacrament for a meeting. Needless to say, immediately Hermana Murray and I had huge smiles! The Bishop didn't know what it was about, but we knew! We have been praying so hard for the Spanish group to be a branch. To be able to grow in the gospel in there own language, so many of our group members are impeded by language that they can't have callings. So we anxiously waited for the arrival of the stake presidency. They needed translation but the first scripture that President Emery shared with us was Doctrine & Covenants 90:15. He asked Sister Murray to stand and read it to all the members. As she read this, I just felt an overwhelming feeling and love for the group of Spanish members. I felt the spirit overcome me with a great amount of fuego (fire) to get to work. I want these members to have this promise, but I know that the success of this is only going to be because of our diligence in gathering the lost sheep.
We are going to combine with the Spanish members that are attending in Clearwater. They are all very excited and we work with them a lot as well. This has been a long time in the works, but we’ve finally got the number of priesthood holders necessary to make it work. Oh my! I am so excited! I was shouting “Hurrah for Israel” ALLL day yesterday!
One sad thing about this change is that Sister Murray and I will be changing buildings. We will be at the stake center, which is actually closer to our house in Seminole. I didn't realize how much I have come to love ALL of the members in the St. Pete ward until we were told that we would be moving. My emotions went from pure excitement, to a little sadness for leaving, then to excitement, then an overwhelming feeling of, WE HAVE A LOT OF WORK TO DO! There are roughly 1 million people in Pinellas county and 50,000 Spanish-speaking people in all of the stake... and then us! Oh my! THAT’S A LOT OF WORK. Essentially we will be opening a new area! We’ve been here serving in the stake now, but the areas that we focus on will be a little different.
As I sat there on the pew and listened to the comments from all of the members, my mind was flooded with all the people that we have talked to or brought to church that didn't like it because of how much English was involved in the services. Good thing we have kept good tracting records because we are GETTING THEM TO CHURCH AGAIN! :-) The spirit bore strong witness to us that this is the will of the Lord. It will be hard for some of the members (especially those that are bi-lingual) to decide where to attend, but President Emery assured them that they would receive a witness through prayer what they should do. January 17th is the first day.
OH, I don't even know where to begin! SOOOOO many amazing experiences this week! I’m sad that the Christmas time has come and gone away! I loved saying "Merry Christmas!!!" when we talked to people. “Happy New Year” just doesn't have the same meaning :-) Christmas was amazing! A LOT of food! The Spanish people celebrate "noche bueno" on the 24th more than the 25th. So we were doubled on dinner appointments that night. Of course we had investigators there :-) but oh my goodness we ate A LOT of food!!! Tamales! Yakas! From all of over the world! We gathered in celebration of the birth of the Lord with from people from Columbia, Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and Puerto Rico! We tried all of their traditional foods por la navidad! It was so neat to ask them, “So what do you do in your country to celebrate Christmas?” I’m definitely going to try to incorporate them in my future Christmas celebrations.
Christmas day we were with our family…our ward family. We started off waking up early to open presents, studied in our pajamas and enjoyed a cup of “Santa soup” (hot cocoa) while studying. :-) Then we were off to have an amazing breakfast with the Calhoons. It was just so good to sit around with their family and play with their children.
Later, we went to the Hesse’s and we had an authentic Italian dinner. It is their family tradition. I love the Hesse family. Brother Hesse is half German, so we always share our common heritage. Our favorite cakes are German chocolate. At the ward Christmas party he cut me off a piece and brought it to my table to make sure I got a piece. AND…he is having a German New Years, so I’m excited! Sour kraut and sausage! He is so funny. At church he’s like; “We're having German New Year’s for you!” I’m his little blonde German granddaughter it seems like. :-) It’s amazing.
The best part of Christmas was sitting at the table with Sister and Brother Hesse and talking about the temple and the blessings of temple worship. They are temple workers. Oh, they described the celestial room of the Orlando temple and I can't wait to go!!!! Ahhhhh! But to be sitting around a table with such good saints talking about the House of the Lord was very special to me. How important it is to have the temple in the center of our home. The temple is the reason we do everything in the church. There is nothing that can bring us closer to the Lord than to make sacred covenants with Him and live them. Baptism is only the gate. I miss the temple so much. It is the one place in the world where I can go and have the burdens of life taken off my shoulders. It is where I can ALWAYS feel the influence of the Holy Ghost. We should go as often as we can. If there is any goal that anyone should have for the next year, it should be to go to the temple. Get yourself worthy and go! Heavenly father has so many blessings that he would pour on us as the “dews from heaven” from temple attendance, but it is us that keep Him from blessing us. GO GO GO GO!!!
Can you believe I only have a year left? Yikes! It is coming tooo soon and it’s going by faster and faster. It feels like it was just November first, now December is gone.
Thank you everyone for your support! All of the Christmas gifts, cards and letters. It really does mean the world to me. There is nowhere else I would rather be!
Have an amazing week! We have A LOT of work ahead of us!
Hermana Vaughan Schultz