Monday, August 27, 2012

"Fear not, I am with thee." (Photos at end.)

GAAAAAHHHHHHH the gospel is so true, my life is so great, God is so good, and I am so happy. If you`re pressed for time and don`t have time to read my email, that`s a pretty good summary.
I don`t really know where to start. I am sending some pictures because we took a bus to the next town over, Caacupe, to get better internet, tour the big Catholic basilica, and have lunch with the elders. The first picture is of a little girl named Sonya, in Concepcion. Then of the Meza girls, Mercedes and Milene. Oh, man, I miss them. And then the familia Urbieta, some recent converts of about a year in Concepcion who are going to the temple soon to be sealed. The next is of Piribebuy. It`s spring time right now and there are beautiful blossoms everywhere. and the last is of Hna. Greer and me just now in the Catholic basilica.
Last week I contacted a young man, who we usually don`t contact because they whistle at us and stuff, but I just did. And then I asked if we could teach him a lesson right then and there, which I usually don`t do. He said yes and we walked to his home nearby and taught him with his family, who turned out to be pretty Catholic. We didn`t plan on going back. But yesterday this young man, Nelson, showed up at church! It was the most pleasant surprise. That NEVER happens. He even stayed for all three hours. After church we asked him why he came, and he said very simply, "Quiero cambiar." (I want to change.) He said he woke up that morning and decided to read a few pages of the folleto (uh...pamphlet I guess) we left him, and then he decided he wanted to go to church. His family told him all these reasons he shouldn`t, but he said it just went in one ear and out the other and he left. He even had to walk really far to get to church. We ran into him a few hours later on Sunday in town, and taught him again and he accepted a baptismal date. It was such a testimony to me that there ARE people prepared to receive the gospel, people who DO want to change. And it is the best feeling in the world to find them, to offer them the one and only thing that can indeed change their life now and for eternity.
I love my new companion, Hermana Greer. Seriously, she is such a great friend. Not just because she`s my companion and we might as well be friends, but because she teaches me so much, she wants to work really hard, we have a lot in common, and it`s just enjoyable to work with her. I feel super blessed to be companions. I am already a better missionary thanks to her. And I think that is what a true friend is, someone who makes you better.
I have gained a real testimony of the scriptures in Doctrine & Covenants that talk about how God protects missionaries. As part of the PDFHAHT act (Prevent dad from having a heart attack) I won`t describe all the potentially-dangerous things that have happened. My point isn`t to make you think I am so tough and living on the edge of adventure, but quite the opposite--that I am so protected. It has become more obvious than normal to me lately. For instance, as you will probably read in Hna. Greer`s email, I tripped and fell one cold, dark night this week when we were running to an appointment. It hurt pretty bad at first, but I realize that it could have easily been much more serious and damaging. Instead all that I was left with were skinned knees and elbows. There are times when I can almost feel God`s arms around me. I feel like He also protects me from saying the wrong thing sometimes, and helps me say the right thing. A couple of times recently I have been saying something that I hadn`t planned on saying...the words just kind of came before I could stop them from leaving my mouth.
We are teaching the dad of a family with 10 kids that are mostly all members, and the wife is a member. The dad, Celso, pretty much only speaks Guarani, and they live way out in the boonies, like an hour walk from everyone else. We take a member with us every time to translate for us. This week we wanted to do a good FHE with them. I thought about how we could visually and creatively teach their family, and immediately I thought of a Sharing Time that dad did in the Sedona Primary once. He came in, as a visitor from the bishopric I guess, and pointed to Sean Libby and said, "How old are you?" and he said, "7" or however old he was. And then dad said, "No, you`re not." And then he asked every kid their age and then said, "No, you`re not." Then he had a long rope and said that only one tiny little centimeter was our life on earth, that we lived long before this life and will live forever after. We did this for a lesson on the plan of salvation with a jump rope and it was great. Another night this week we wanted to plan a fun FHE and I thought of David and Goliath (because you know me and my new-found love of Old Testament stories) and I thought of how once in seminary Brother Sorenson had a big Goliath that he drew on a huge piece of paper, and we shot marshmallows at him with a sling shot. So, Hermana Greer (she`s an awesome artist) drew a Goliath and we bought a little sling shot and shot beans at it for another great FHE, that we are going to do again tonight. I am just so thankful to have been the recipient of so much creative teaching that I now can use with others. I want to be a missionary who knows how to grab the attention of even the most dazed if you ever come across ideas, send them my way!
I really haven`t thought about what I am going to tell you in my email this week....I suppose I should include that we went to Asuncion for a zone conference on Wednesday, but that seems so long ago. 
Mom, thank you for your sweet emails. I read them and just can`t help but say out loud in the internet cafe, "Ahhh....I love my mom!" You are so supportive. I live for the words of the emails from my parents. To you, it`s just a weekly email, but to me it`s so much.
Carrie, I really felt the spirit as I read your email. First of all, you are everything BUT a failure, and second of all, I know exactly how you feel, and third of all, yes! the Atonement does fix everything. The atonement is like a computer. We don`t understand how a computer works, but we use it anyway. I love that everything that is unfair about life will be made right through the Atonement, even if we don`t know how.
HOPE! Thank you for filling me in on Spain a little bit! I have been thinking about you all the time! I am so excited for you! I wish I could look at your blog. Link my blog to yours and they can be sister blogs. :) Hold the rod of the word of God in Spain, Hope. Really study your scriptures and conference talks or church magazines to remind you what is most important in life and where you are headed in the grand scheme of things. Use your study abroad as a time of spiritual growth. And, the scirptures use 'vosotros,' so that is good practice. :) I love you, girl.
How do you like having both your daugthers oceans away speaking Spanish, mom and dad? We are honestly sooo blessed I can`t get over it.
Well, sorry for a fairly lame email. My mind has been very involved in the work I haven`t had time to think of what to say. I love you and am so thankful for your emails and support.
Your Sister Missionary,


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Treat Every Day Like It's Your Last

Mis Queridos,
 Good luck flying to Spain this week Hope! I am super excited for you. I miss you a ton. Tom, thank you SO much for your email! It was the most pleasant surprise. And I thought the whole point of cactus was that they do NOT need water...? haha
Dad, thank you for recommending the Inconvenient Messiah again. I have it on CD (Steve gave me his talk on CD, best gift ever) but you mentioning made me read it again. His words, ¨When it seems at times that the harder you try, the harder it gets, take heart. So it has been with many¨¨ were super comforting today.
This Tuesday Hermana Quispe and I got up at 4 a.m. to go to zone training in a place called Ybu Yau (kind of like BYU mixed up, don`t you think_ Imagine a question mark right there, this keyboard is awful. Anyway, perfect for someone who is a little bit BYU sick right now as school starts next week and this is the first August since I was 5 that I have not gone back to school). Anyway. After a long bus trip and training and another super hot trip back, we got back to Concepcion about 3 p.m. and hit the streets to make some visits and preach this amazing message.
No sooner had Hna Quispe mentioned how much she was looking forward to sleeping that night when we got a phone call. Hna. Quispe said, ¨ No me digas!¨¨ I was to leave Concepcion that night at 11 p.m. and take a bus to Asuncion and be transferred to an area called Piribebuy. Changes are every six weeks, and this week was week 4 of a change. But because of three sisters going home this week in order to start school at BYU there were special changes. But because Hna. Quispe and I just barely got put together, I was not expecting changes at ALL. I didn`t want to leave the branch, the people, my Latina companion...
I had 7 short hours to say goodbye to the people I have come to love so much, and to pack. It was SO hard. I don`t know if I will ever see them again, and all of a sudden I had to say goodbye when I had least expected it. I told the Meza family I had to go and thought I would cry. Kneeling on that kitchen floor of theirs for the last time, listening to little Mercedes Meza thank God for me and thank Him for the true church that will help them to be a happy family....can a heart get more full?
I am now companions with Hermana Greer from Maryland! I sat by her on the airplane from Dallas to Buenos Aires on the flight here to Paraguay. We have been here the same amount of time, but she served in Colorado for three months before that, so she actually has twice as much missionary experience as me. Nonetheless we are co-senior companions...which has been interesting, not knowing who has authority so to speak. She is great and I am super thankful to be her companion. I am already learning so much from her. She really cares about this work and wants to put her whole heart, might, mind and strength into it, as do I. I have high expectations for this area! Vamos a cambiar este rama pequena. Vamos a ver una estaca en ningun tiempo!  (We're going to change this little branch.  We're going to see a stake here in no time.)
Piribebuy (Peer-eee-beh--boo-oy) is like the garden of Eden. It actually reminds me a lot of Africa (and with no power or running water the first two nights and cold showers and slow feels like Africa, too. But I loooooved Africa so this is good news for me). It is much smaller than Concepcion, much more tranquilo. It is what I imagined Paraguay to be like. I love it already. I took some beautiful pictures this morning on a long run (Hna Greer loves to run! Yippee!) but I am afraid I cannot attatch pictures at this internet cafe, which breaks my heart because I have some precious photos with some members in Concepcion.
The branch here is a lot smaller. I had to play the piano yesterday because I am the only one who knows how. Remember mom, how when I was taking piano lessons you told me that one day I would be in a branch and be the only one who could play? Prophesy fulfilled. haha. I am very excited to work here. Also, you know you are a missionary in Paraguay when you step off the stand at church from bearing your testimony and almost step on a dog that is lying on the floor of the chapel.
We have a house here that is about three times bigger than our little apt in Concepcion. It has a beautiful back yard. In fact, I have a little analogy that is kind of silly but was meaningful to me. As I was packing in a flurry to leave Concepcion, I thought how I had just bought a lot of food that I could not take with me because I had no room. I thought,¨Man, I even just bought a big papaya I am not going to be able to eat.¨ It wasn`t a big deal, but I did think that. And then when I got to Piribebuy, the first morning I went to our backyard to find two papaya trees, and picked a delicious papaya. I gave God a little papaya, and He gave me two papaya TREES. And that`s just how life is. We give God a little bit, and He always blesses us with more. It is a principle I am learning time and time again on my mission, and a principle I love to teach. Give God a little extra today, and just watch another blessing come into your life.
I am indeed grateful for the changes that God gives us. The purpose of life really is to change, and I sure hope that I change enough so that I am a different person when I come home.  The discouraging moments for me are when I realize that the gap between the kind of missionary I want to be and the missionary I am now is so very wide. It will indeed require all 18 months and then some to become the missionary I hope to be. 
However, in all the changes in life that come our way, our ability to be successful really depends on our trust in Heavenly Father, as Richard G. Scott says, ¨
¨Your peace of mind, your assurance of answers to vexing problems, your ultimate joy depend upon your trust in Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.¨
I love you all and miss you sooooooo much.
Your Sister Missionary,
Hermana Faith Goimarac 
P.S. Katie Nelson! Thank you so much for your letter! Oh man your words meant so much to me. And CONGRATS on your wedding! I can`t believe you still read my blog and wrote me even though you were about to get married. Your new husband is a lucky, lucky man! And that is blog-official! ;)

Monday, August 13, 2012

"Only in surrendering are we truly made free." (Photos at end.)


First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Neal and Sabrina! I don´t have your email addresses, so here´s a public felicidades. I was thinking of you on your birthdays, en serio, and your names are on my nifty missionary agenda. I am sorry I forgot to include this in my last email, but I hope your birthdays were special. Neal, I love you and miss you. I think of you and pray for you often. Sorry it is so hard to communicate. Sabrina, I also think and pray for you and hope school is going great. I love you and am so thankful to have you both as my siblings. I am not just saying that because it´s your birthday. Really, I should let you know that more often and include examples of why, but I just don´t have much time at the moment. 

Mom, happy birthday this Sunday! I hope you have waited to open the card I sent you so that you can hear from me on your actual birthday. I love and cherish your emails so much. I am excited on Mondays to check my email even if I only get letters from you and dad. Letters from my parents are really such a joy. Thank you for your endless support and love. I really have the best parents in the world and I thank Heavenly Father for sending me to you. 

Thank you for the pictures! It sounds like fishing was such a blast! What an adorable pic of Matthew fishing! You are such fun grandparents. Speaking of which, there was a story in the July Liahona (Ensign, for you) called, "I want to sit on Jesus´s lap" and it sounds like you wrote it, mom! The author is name witheld, but it could easily be you except for a couple tiny details. The grandchild´s name is even Katie. Was it you? 
And I am so glad you met with Hermana Springer! Seeing that picture made me so happy!  She emailed me and told me about it and said she enjoyed it so much. You are really so great. And thank you mom, for telling me about reading my letter to papa. That made my day to know that he read and understood my letter and even teared up. Sometimes I wonder if I will see papa and grandma again, if they will be alive in 18 months. I need to keep in better touch. I will try to send more letters soon. 

Jessica Meza was baptized on Saturday. She is such a good example to me. So sincere in her desire to repent and follow Christ. Her family told her she should wait (they all seem to think you need to know the Bible really well before you should get baptized) but she kept saying, "I don´t know why but I just don´t want to wait! I want to get baptized this Saturday!" She is single and 19 and has a 5 month old baby.  After being baptized she bore her testimony and said, "I feel like God is giving me a chance to start from zero again. I am so thankful I have this second chance. I want to be a good example to my daughter. I know this church is true, and I want her to be baptized into this church, too." Hearing those words makes a sister missionary´s heart pop. It was a perfect baptism and really spiritual. Juan Angel, her dad, even came! And her sister, Nila. They both said they want to get baptized soon. Jessica wants to be a good example to her daughter, but really she is such a light in her family. The whole Meza family is progressing so well, and they are so special to me. I love them with all my heart. It would be the most beautiful thing I think of to watch them be sealed in the temple. 
Leida was going to get baptized on Saturday, too.  All the way up until 11 a.m. on Saturday we were planning on it. But her husband came into town from the Chaco and...for some reason she couldn´t. I don´t really understand, but I´m hoping it isn´t that he isn´t supportive of it. We have met with him before and although he has Word of Wisdom problems, he seems like a great guy and very open to the gospel. So we shall see. 

Today I finished the Book of Mormon again. I have read it 15 or 16 times I think, but never has it meant so much to me as it has on my mission. Moroni 7 is by far one of my favorite chapters of all time. The verse about charity hit me so hard this morning, the verse that says, "Charity suffereth long, is kind, is not easily provoked," etc. I felt the spirit so much as I read that verse, and became extremely grateful for the difficulties I have on my mission. I realized that every opposition and temptation is an opportunity to respond as Christ would and to become more chartiable. When I miss certain people or things and realize that I still have 14 months to go....I can choose to suffer long. When I see that my companion got to have lunch with my parents and be in wonderful USA I can choose to envy not. When every group of men we pass calls me beautiful I can choose to not be puffed up (not like it´s a temptation considering they´re probably drunk and I am a sweaty, dusty disaster). When people feel a need to tell me my Spanish isn´t as good as my companion´s or when the people at the baptism complain that I didn´t bring brownies (I took banana bread and carrot sticks instead....being the public health major I am), I can choose to not be easily provoked. When investigators don´t keep commitments or I feel like I´m going to pass out from heat exhaustion (true story) I can choose to bear all things and even hope all things. And if all else fails I can choose to endure all things, knowing that I am doing what God wants me to do. Reading the definition of charity in the Bible Dictionary for some reason brought tears to my eyes and I was filled with the most earnest desire to be a more charitable person. It is a lifetime pursuit. Somedays I feel so far from charitable. I look back on the many opportunities I had to show love and didn´t, or the times when I should have listened more than I spoke, or a million other faults I made...and it is the worst feeling. I feel like every weakness I have is rising to the surface and then even some weakness I didn´t know I had. It is a terrible feeling having sacrificed so much to help people, and feel like you´re not really helping at all. When you think about who you want to be, and realize you are so far from being who you wish you were. But thankfully charity and hope are sisters. As my friend Marc Jay wrote to me this week, "Lleva tus cargas a los pies del Senor, y te ayudara." (Carry your burdens to the feet of the Savior, and he will help you.)  I do believe that. As we take our burdens to the Lord, He will help us. Oh I am so thankful for Him and His ever- outstretched arm. 

Mom, you will like this. I made a green smoothie this week. Half a head of lettuce in a glass. It was awful just like I remember. But I think I´m going to try and drink them more often. We have a blender that I never used before, so I might as well use it. I also bought some black beans this week to make at some point. 

This week on Wednesday my comp and I fasted as part of an effort to purify ourselves, to be more pure instruments in the hands of God, more able to let the Spirit work through us. We have goals for the next 40 days to help us be more focused and more exactly obedient. I hope some spiritual experiences come as a result of it.  

One day this week we found out some shocking news about an investigator from some members. It is complicated and unneccessary to explain, but to say the least it was really hard on me. I didn´t want to think about it so I didn´t write in my journal that night. The next day we got mail from our district leader (yippee!) and I got a letter from a friend who said, "If you are slacking in your journal writing, I would exhort you to recommit yourself, because it does indeed bring the Spirit more into your life." I wrote in my journal right then, and realized all the good things that had happened the day before when all I could think about at the time was this depressing investigator. Journal writing makes you reflect, and when I reflect I realize how blessed I really am. When I look back on my life or on my week even, I am literally overcome with gratitude. Why me? I don´t deserve all I have been given. Journal writing does truly bring the spirit into our lives more. 

My nephew Ethan sent me a letter that began, "Dear Aunt Faith, How´s the gospel?" Well, Ethan. Let me tell you. The gospel is beyond description. It is the good news that no matter what we have done, we can repent. It is the teaching of Jesus Christ that with faith we can have power to do all things. It is the beautiful knowledge that this life is not all. I am so thankful for the gospel and mostly for Him who taught it. May we go and love as He does. 

The Most Blessed Girl on the Earth

photo 2--To show you both my great tan lines and to BEG you to send me some socks like the ones I´m wearing. They are nowhere to be found in Paraguay. Black are best. Not the thin nylon kinds, but the thicker sock kinds. I know they are expensive, so I´m sorry. Thank you so much. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"A good man will endure all things to honor Christ, and even dispose of the whole world, and all in it, to save his soul." Joseph Smith‏ (three photos at end)


Holy cow this week went by soooo fast! I feel like I just emailed you yesterday, and yet so much has happened since. 

Gah! I am so happy. I have no particular reason why. It is testimony to me that this is God´s work--even though life isn´t necessarily going perfectly, I am still happy all the time. An inner cheerfulness and peace that can only come from God. 

This week on the 4th was my 4 month mark on the mission. Time does fly.

Dad, I loved how you said about Sis. Dew´s talk that the gospel can really solve every problem, and how it is so obvious to us and so un-obvious to the world. I think about this all the time! It is so true! Watching our branch president have to deal with so so so many problems here makes me understand just a tiny little bit what bishops and branch presidents have to go through. You are truly on the Lord´s errand, and I know you have His help and are doing a great job. You are such a good example to me.

This week was Leida´s birthday and we made a beautiful, delicious cake and celebrated with her and a member family, the Urbietas. Her husband works in the chaco so she didn´t have him there for her actual birthday, and we are some of her best friends, I can tell. I have learned that a social conversion is important as is a spiritual conversion in the gospel. No matter how strong one´s testimony is, it is still hard to participate if you don´t know anyone. And only members can really bring to pass a social conversion. As missionaries we can´t sit by every investigator in church, welcome them to the ward, invite them over for FHE´s, etc. Only members can do that. I vow right here and now to be that kind of member after my mission. I want to become a missionary, not just do missionary things, so that when I take off my nametag I am inherently a missionary for the rest of my life. I really hope I can be a completely different member because of my mission. Before my mission I didn´t really share the gospel. NEVER again! I will go out of my comfort zone and reach out! It is so important!

Yesterday, once again, we were in church with zero investigators. I sat in sunday school, having fasted for 20 hours at that point for our investigators, and praying a ful (a lot) that Leida would come, because if she didn´t she can´t be baptized this Saturday (investigators need to come to church 3 times before baptism). She finally came for sacrament meeting! And she had a great excuse for being late, actually, that made me realize she was showing a lot of determination to even make it to church at all. She seemed to love testimony meeting. 

We are working with the older Meza daughter, Jessica. She is 19 with a 5 month old baby. She is planning on being baptized this Saturday, too. But this past week we heard her boyfriend was visiting from the chaco. We didn´´t know that he was even in the picture anymore, because he doesn´t live with her. So we were worried that a law of chastity problem was going to keep her from being baptized his Saturday. We didn´t know how to address this though, because we always teach her with her mom and little sisters. But last night we went to teach her with a prayer in our hearts, and she was home alone! It was a perfect teaching situation. And she said that she didn´t know what the law of chastity was, but after we explained it, she said that she doesn´t want to get married, she´s too young, etc. But she said she is pefectly willing to live the law of chastity and not be with her boyfriend any more before getting married. She said, "If that´s what God says, than yeah, of course I´ll do it." I am so impressed with her faith. 

The hardest thing ever happened on Saturday night. I think I have written about Herminia before, a golden investigator who was going to get baptized a couple weeks ago. We haven´t been able to find her for over a week, and this past Saturday we finally found her at home, but she shut the door on us. After a few minutes of us standing there bewildered, her sister came out and said that her husband said she can´t talk with us anymore, he doesn´t like us. Her husband, who works in the chaco and knows hardly anything of the church, that I´m aware of.  I don´t have time to explain more, but as her sister was telling us this I just about burst into tears. I KNOW that the gospel will bless her family like nothing else ever could. I KNOW that she has felt the Spirit and feels it is true. Men! Men of little faith, robbing their precious, believing wives of their faith. I could tell you countless stories of men impeding the way of faithful wives and daughters. Oh it breaks my heart. I am completely devastated for her. 
Sulma did the same thing. She has been avoiding us this past week. We left a note at her house saying that if she is not avoiding us, to call us. She hasn´t called. We have spent so many hours preparing and teaching these women. We have prayed and studied and arranged our entire daily schedules around them. Oh it hurts soo bad. 
I am super thankful for Hna. Quispe. She is helping my Spanish so much. Yesterday I got up to bear my testimony, not really knowing what I would say or how I would say it, but the Spanish just flowed. Not perfect Spanish, I´m sure. But a couple of members have mentioned my Spanish is better, which is encouraging. I don´t feel any difference, I feel like my progress is very subtle, which is frustrating. 

The Olympics sound exciting. Also, can someone fill me in on Mitt Romney? Por favoooooor??

I came across this dynamite statement this week from Jeffrey R. Holland and wanted to share it.
 "However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don´t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have NOT traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ´s atonement shines. There is nothing that you have done that cannot be undone. There is no problem you cannot overcome. There is no dream that in the unfolding of time and eternity cannot yet be realized."

Gracias a Jesucristo....I mean, thanks to Jesus Christ, we have HOPE. No matter what. Not only our beautiful sister Hope, but hope that our dreams can still come true. The world is in our hands. There is nothing stopping us from our happiest dreams other than ourselves. I love each of you so much. I am so thankful we are a family for eternity. Let´s all make it to the celestial kingdom, ok?

Grace be with you. (Can you tell I´m reading the epistles of Paul in the New Testament?)

Your Spanish-English Dictionary-Loving Sister Missionary,

1. This morning we ran to the river and launched some boats for an upper-body work out. Your spanish vocab for the day: neblina (fog).

2. Alfajores. Food is about the only way we are permitted to celebrate. The alfajores represent us: white chocolate for me, the rubia (blonde), and dark chocolate for Hna. Quispe, the morena (brunette). :)
3. Leida´s birthday. 

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