Sunday, December 30, 2012

"The real Christmas comes to him who has taken Christ into his life as a moving, dynamic, vitalizing force." Heber J. Grant‏

Querida Familia,
Wow, I am just so excited to talk to you tomorrow. SO much to talk about. But I`m still going to write you a solid email because I have time, and also because I love writing to you, even if you are all very busy and absorbed in the holiday and don`t read all I have to say. Writing to you is almost more for my sanity than to just follow mission rules and keep in touch.
WHAT a week. Instead of having a (baptismal) white Christmas, we had the biggest baptismal catastrophe yet. Really hard on me. Rodolfo had a great interview with the elders on Friday and everything was planned for his baptism at 5. He and his whole family were so excited. At 3 they called and said his motorcycle broke, and they had no way to get to the church, and could we find someone to give them a ride? I called everyone in the branch who has a car (three people) and in the end only the non-member husband in a member family was able to. He called Rodolfo to get directions to the house, and apparently wanted them to walk a little of the ways, and Rodolfo didn`t want to walk...and the man said some really strong things apparently (this is all just how I heard it, who knows what happened) and the next thing I know, I`m in the middle of a great lesson about the restoration at 4:30 p.m. and Rodolfo calls and says, "I`m not getting baptized and I`m not ever going to church again. If there are members like that in this church, I`m not going." and hung up and turned off his phone. Long story, but the thesis is Satan knew this young man has so much potential in the church as a priesthood holder...and was successful in postponing his baptism. More to come, but please pray for Rodolfo that he will have a change of heart.

At least I had cake for the primary kids the next day, since there was no baptism. :)  I was single-handedly in charge of all the primary kids yesterday because the teacher wasn`t there. Two hours in a little sweaty classroom with 12 very irreverent children. But how I love them. We practiced Jesus en Pesebre (away in a manger) and sang in Sacrament meeting. I was playing the piano and couldn`t lead at the same time, and so it was Sedona Primary-Stlye: can`t really understand the words they`re singing but they sure look cute up there trying.

We had two great investigators in church. Sonya came for the first time, and by herself, because her husband (well, entire family) is pretty catholic. She is a true seeker of the truth who believes the catholic church can`t be true because the Bible says to not worship anyone but God. Anyway, I really love her. People like her are why I don`t want to leave Piribebuy. There is a strong chance I do at changes on January 2.

On Wednesday we had a mission Christmas meeting. We sang to patients in a hospital, had a great lunch, I embarrased myself in my Silent Night solo, we had a Secret Santa exchange, and listened to David Archuleta`s Christmas concert from last year. I got the package from home and a letter from mom with photos (thank you mom!!! You the sweetest!) and the conference issue of the Liahona! I was absolutely 100% content coming home. What more could a girl ask for? Being a missionary, the conference issue in hand, letter from home, investigators to teach, a world to save and the gospel which has the power to save it! This is the life!

A year ago on Saturday I went to the temple for the first time. I was thinking about all that I have learned since then and how very greatful I am. Really, (knock on wood), my life has gone exactly as I ever planned. I don`t deserve it. Now if only I`m married within two Christmases from now, my life will really be on track as I mapped it out years ago.

Everyone here celebrates Christmas late at night Christmas eve by having a big dinner (and drinking and lighting off fireworks! That`s the word!) and if there are presents they open them Christmas eve night, too. I thought only the Jernigans open all their presents Christmas eve, but turns out all of Latin America does. We are going to be busy tonight (dinner with the Velazquez family and revealing ourselves as the 12 days of Christmas-givers and caroling to our investigators!) so we opened our packages today. THANK YOU for everything, mom and family! The shoes fit so perfect and I love them! (The wrapping paper had glitter all over everything and at first I thought you had sent me glittery shoes, and thought, "wow, I`m 6 years old again getting glitter shoes?" haha) and it was so fun to open the things you sent to Hna. Quito, too. It was all just what I asked for. Especially the Haz lo Justo rings and stickers, they`re like gold to a sister missionary. And the clothes Sister Oakason sent were perfect, I`m already wearing the skirt. I sent her an email already. And the package from Aunt Terri was awesome, too! I love the EFY CD!!! Last night in our 12 days of Christmas gift, I wanted to do something special but it was Sunday and we had no food in the house and couldn`t buy anything. I slipped a 20 dollar bill in with the nativity peice of Maria. And the next day, I get 20 bucks from grandma. I swear, I can never be out of debt to God.

I have so much to write still, such as a miracle with Marian and Jorge, and a sweet story about a menos activo Eduarda, but no time. But never fear! I will talk to you (virtually) face to face tomorrow!!!!
Merry Christmas, dearest family. How I wish I could sit on the couch with you tonight and sing the Nativity Story song and read Luke 2 with the Christmas tree lighted, and listen to Manheim Steamroller`s Silent Night, and watch the grandkids wake up tomorrow, and talk with Hope and Carrie and Mom and dad, and visit with Neal and hang out with him. But thankfully we will be together for eternity, and so it`s ok that I`m in Paraguay with the wonderful children of God here for one Christmas. I know with all my heart God wants me to be here, and for that reason you couldn`t pay me to be home for Christmas this year. I miss you so much but am also sooooo deeply grateful to be a missionary.
Striving for peace on earth and good will towards men,
Hermana Goimarac

Friday, December 21, 2012

For God So Loved the World That He Gave His Only Begotten Son

Wow, I didn`t feel at all homesick or trunky or anything but contentment until you told me the Bakers are in town! Jordan! Jeni! I think about you often but haven`t talked to you in ages. I am so glad you are in Sedona with my family! I hope I get lots of updates. I get to skype home next week! Wowie zingo, next p-day is Christmas Eve! Honestly it doesn`t feel at all like Christmas here. Aside from the heat that is like unto a Walmart parking lot in Phoenix in August, Christmas just isn't as big a deal here (the Virgin Mary`s birthday is a bigger ordeal). But today I baked chocolate chip cookies to give to members, investigators, and people who are not investigators but should be, and I sang Silent Night over and over (I`m singing a solo at the mission Christmas party on Wednesday...don`t ask my why on earth they asked ME), and also wrote Christmas cards to all my converts. felt like Christmas for the first time. Well, actually, we started to leave a little 12 days of Christmas gift for a family (more below) and every night as my heart beats a million miles a minute it feels like Christmas. My favorite tradition by far. And yesterday, as I taught a primary class and had kids act as sheep and others standing on chairs being the angels, it felt like Christmas, too. Who needs cold weather and hot chocolate when you have Luke 2?
Carrie, your trip to San Diego and mom and dad, your trip to NYC sound so fun. It was so sweet of you, Hope, to watch all the kids so they could go on little trips. Thank you for telling me about them.
There is truly never a dull moment. Let me explain with a few recent adventures/highlights/tender mercies:
--Coaxing a nearly afraid-to-tears companion across a sketchy bridge over a rising river at 8:30 at night. Oh the things we do to visit menos activos (less-actives).
--Making it home to Piribebuy by the skin of our teeth after a division with some other hermanas in a nearby area, Ypacarai. The division was very refreshing--new people and place for a day. But we had to get back to our area and were late, and Hermana Quito and I were waiting for a bus to Piribebuy at about 8:45 p.m., hoping we hadn`t missed the last one (praying, too). For a while, we were sitting under a tree a little ways from the highway where the busses pass by, and then decided to go wait right by the road. As soon as we went to the road a bus for Piribebuy passed us, but didn`t stop! He was our only hope of getting home! We flagged the bus driver down and ran after it and he pulled over and stopped. If we had still been under that tree the bus driver never would have seen us and been able to stop. God knew that bus was about to come, and inspired us to wait out there. God answers prayers, and cares about little missionaries being stuck in the dark far from home and very alone.
--Five legitimate investigators in church yesterday! Nothing quite as devastating as no investigators in church, and nothing quite as sweet as people going to church for the first time all because you found them and visited them.
--Making scary treks through Ino`s neighborhood at night to deliver the 12 days of Christmas to his family. He is our branch mission leader and helps us a ton, and is very poor. What`s more scary than his dark, creepy neighborhood is the chance they will discover it`s us. Two chicas in skirts are pretty easy to identify.  But so far, it`s a secret. 8 more days.
--Arriving at Marin`s house only for the owner of her house (she`s renting) to show up and march up to us and say, "I`m the owner of this house and I ask you to never set foot on this property again. I don`t want you deceiving people. There`s one God, not seven."  (What?) He wouldn`t let us say much but I managed to testify of God the father and His son and their love for us before he said, "You have three minutes to get off my property." Good things she`s moving this week so we can teach her again. And...I guess I`ll stop teaching the 7-God theory to avoid this from happening again :-)
--I prayed to find opportunities to serve others one morning, and what do you know but we helped not one but TWO different older ladies clean their yard that day. They were very grateful. Elder Ballard`s challenge from conference is true.
Tom wrote me today and said that if my mission is hot and rejecting it`s good practice, because life is hot and rejecting (SO Tom, no?) :) It`s true. I`ve learned lots of patience and been very humbled this week. I`ve learned to just surrender. I`ve learned lots about companionship.
I am SOOOO excited for Hope`s mission call to get here! Oh man oh man.
We have a baptism on Saturday of a golden investigator, Rodolfo! He is the step-son of Celzo, our convert in September. He recently moved back home from Argentina and has come to church all three weeks in a row! We taught him commandments that will be difficult for him, like word of wisdom and law of chastity, but he very willing accepted to change his life. That is true faith. It`s been such a delight to teach him. Such a blessing.
I am so thankful to be a missionary. As much as I miss you and wish I was home for Christmas, I also wouldn`t rather be anywhere else doing anything else. Every morning it is still such a thrill to put on the black nametag. Serving a mission is truly more of a privilege than a sacrifice, and one of my greatest blessings. Obviously the gospel is true because I couldn`t be happy spreading something that wasn`t 100% true and good and right. I am so thankful for Jesus Christ. It`s ironic that I`ve never been so rejected in my life as I have been while bearing His name. He was truly despised and rejected of men....but with his stripes we are healed. And not only healed, but enabled, liberated, and forgiven, if we only do our part. And oh! how I want to do my part. I will never, no never, no never, no never forsake Him.
Merry Christmas dearest family. Les amo. Sooo excited to talk to you next week! I`m not sure yet when we`re going to skype, it could be on Monday or Christmas day if the cyber is open. I will let you know next week. Stay close to your computer next Monday morning if possible, 10:30 a.m. my time.
Your Sister Missionary,
Hermana Faith Goimarac

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Patience and love detoxify disappointment." Neal A. Maxwell

Dear Family,

You know you`re in Paraguay in December when:
  • You rearrange your entire house to make it possible to be in the bedroom all the time, to study and sleep, because it`s the only room with a little air conditioning. 
  • Men only wear shirts if they`re at church or at work.
  • You carry an umbrella to block the sun. If you don`t, everyone asks you why you don`t. 
  • You study with a frozen two liter bottle of water in your lap.
  • It is necessary to buy ice cream every day. Thankfully it`s cheap and available on every other corner.`s necessary.
  • People watch TV from outside. No one has air conditioning, so being inside the house is like being being in a sauna. 
  • Every conversation starts out with talking about how hot it is. 
  • A hot shower or having to blow dry your hair would be absolute punishment (imagine that while you`re in NYC this week mom and dad! Or you freezing cold BYU students, or dear Jamie in Russia!)
  • You probably will sweat more in a 20 minute lesson than your whole family will sweat all week, combined. 
  • And you know you`re a missionary in Paraguay when dreaming of a white Christmas means....baptismal white. A white which is way better than snow white. 

This week we had a baptism of an 11 year old girl, Blanca, who lives in Cordillera, an area pretty far from the church but still in our area. Her parents are members, but her mom died three years ago and her dad is old and sick. She lives with another member, but everyone out there is fairly inactive because it is so hard to get to church (don`t ask me how the elders baptized so much out there!). But she has been managing to come to church fairly regularly and really wanted to get baptized. It was a great little baptism. But, she didn`t show up to church yesterday to get confirmed (so.....looks like we have another long trek out to Cordillera soon.) It is so inspiring to me how the church really is reaching the corners of the earth. The worth of souls is truly SO great in the eyes of God. He is willing to do everything to reach His hand out to each one of us. Su mano aun esta extendida (His hand is extended). 

Saturday, December 8th, was a HUGE deal here. (If you google Caacupe, Paraguay there`s probably something about December 8th.) We live fairly close to a city called Caacupe, where there is a large, beautiful Catholic basilica dedicated to the Virgen Mary (Tupasy Roga, house of the mother of God in guarani). On her birthday, the 8th, thousands of people from Paraguay visit the basilica. This year between 30,000 and 40,000 people went. Many of them walk to the basilica to show their dedication. It was so packed that the elders in Caacupe couldn`t leave their house for their own safety. We weren`t too badly affected by it. On Saturday we were walking really far in the middle of a particularly roasty afternoon to visit an investigator (Rodolfo, I will be talking about him later, maybe next week) and we were with a young woman in our branch, Johannah. She was saying that a lot of her friends invited her to walk to the basilica with them, but she was not about to walk kilometers and kilometers in the sun to worship an image. We decided we prefered to walk kilometers and kilometers every single day of our mission for God than to walk one time a year for an image. :)

We are neighbors with our District President, Pres. Velazques, and his family is so great to us. Hermana Velazques does our laundry and they feed us all the time, more than their share. They are one of the three members who have a car, and they always do visits and FHE`s with us. I am so thankful for them. Anyway, they have a 10 year old girl who lives with them, Pabla, who is such a good little missionary. There is a little neighbor girl, Milagros, who is 9 and her mom is an inactive member. One night we had some time, and Pabla and Milagros were playing and I decided to play missionary with them. We let them wear our nametags and they came and contacted us, and we sang and prayed and had a little lesson. They loved it so much, and now they always beg us to play misionera. It is the sweetest thing to watch them act as they perceive us to be. Milagros told us it is her dream to get baptized, and she even went to church, but she lives with her super-catholic grandma, so I`m afraid she won`t get permission. But it is a cherished relationship with those two little girls.

There is so much poverty that I have seen this week. Too many children without clothes, too many drunk fathers collapsed on the side of the road, too many homes without bare necessities. It is so hard on me to take. I know with all my heart that accepting the gospel will improve their lives, temporally and spiritually (Mosiah 2:41), but they don`t want to change to accept the blessings, to qualify for the blessings. I am just so thankful for the Atonement that will make everything that is unfair in this life right in the end. For children to live without loving parents or without food and clothes is an injustice, but thankfully, through the Atonement, even that injustice will be recompensed. Oh it is wonderful to me. It is truly miraculous. There is peace, and hope, and goodwill for all men thanks to Jesus the Christ. I am so thankful for HIM.

Rohayhu mucho!

Your Sister Missionary,
Sister Faith Goimarac

Sunday, December 9, 2012

He who will lose his life for my name`s sake shall find it.

Dear Family,

HOPE. You crack me up so much. I am so glad I printed your email, albeit long, because I got some great laughs.  My comp kept telling me, ¨Companera, tranquila! (Calm down, companion)¨ Can`t wait to catch up on your blog. Good luck starting your job. Be a good example and I bet you can have some missionary experiences at work before you leave on your mission! Your tithing story will be PERFECT for teaching diezmo (tithing) on your mission. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TWINS! I hope on Sunday you have a great time turning 7, Matthew and Katherine!! Wow I can`t believe you are so grown up! I am so proud of you both and miss you so much! You are two very bright, shining 7 year olds who bring a lot of joy to so many people, including me. Thank you for always praying for me. I know your prayers help. I am a very lucky aunt.

Along with finding some great new investigators this week, we had some very um......interesting lessons. A couple weeks ago we met a man named Fransisco and his two sons and taught them a couple times. They have a lot of interest, but their mom, Augustina, doesn`t want to listen to us because she is very catholic. Fransisco doesn`t want to go to Church without his wife. We really wanted to just talk to Augustina one time, but knew she wouldn`t answer the door if we were to just show up. On Friday we decided to pass by their house and if Augustina was outside we would casually chat with her. We walked by and what do you know, she was just walking out of her house on the way to the store! It was heavensent!  A minute earlier or later and we would not have run into her. We asked if we could just share a quick message with her and she actually agreed! She postponed her shopping trip for us, which is a miracle. We got the whole family together and taught the restoration briefly. She seemed to understand and be very grateful for our visit. We arranged an appointment for the next night and left  with  dreams of baptizing a family in December (ALL I want for Christmas!!!!) dancing in our heads. 
The next night we visited them with our District President, Pres Velazquez,who comes from a very catholic family. Augustina was apparently already sleeping and wouldn`t come out to join in the lesson. We had a great lesson with the others until we invited them to church, and Fransisco explained he doesn`t want to go without his wife, and how she is super catholic and won`t listen to him. Augustina, from the other room, starting kind of yelling at him from the other room. Little did we know she was actually listening. After quite the interchange, she came out and yelled at all of us. The only thing is it was in pure guarani and we understood nothing of it except something about San Blas and the Virgen, to whom she is apparently very devoted. The Spirit fled. It was terribly sad but we ended in a very respectful manner and left. Such is life in Paraguay as a missonary. People who we contact say, ¨Yes thank you for visiting, but your religion only believes in God, and I believe in the Virgen and San Blas.¨ Oh how I want to read Exodus 20 with them, but I just smile and ask them if they know anyone with whom we can visit. 

I am reading the four Gospels right now in between Thanksgiving and Christmas (Prof. Chadwick would be so proud) which is about 6 pages a day, even though I could read so many more. I'm taking the challenge of Elder Bednar that he gave in a talk at the MTC last Christmas to look for the character of Christ. I find so many examples of how Christ ALWAYS looked outward, He NEVER thought of Himself. For instance, after the death of his cousin John the Baptist, he went into the desert to be alone. But the people followed him. Instead of saying, ¨Give me a break, can I be alone for a while?¨ He taught them and blessed them and even fed them. His love is never ending. No matter the circumstance, He made time for others. Oh how I want to develop that type of charity. It is so powerful to me to read of Him in the Bible and Book of Mormon. It makes me remember Jerusalem and the Spirit I felt so much there. 

Everyone thinks the end of the world is going to be at the end of December. In the U.S., too? It`s sad that some people are legitimately terrified and think everyone is going to die. We are teaching a lot about the second coming, that we don`t know when it will be.  I personally wouldn`t mind if it was in a few weeks if I didn`t have plans to complete and dreams to live, like having 12 kids and making them arroz con leche and telling them ¨I love You¨ in guarani, which is rohayhu (row hi who).

The zone conference was SO motivating and inspiring! We all shook hands with Elder Zaballos and his wife and I received so many answers to my questions, and we had a great lunch together. Such a refreshing day. Wish I had more time to explain what I learned. One little fact of the day is that if you know Spanish and English you can communicate with 80% of the Church. 

Oh I LOVE THE GOSPEL!  I LOVE THE SCRIPTURES!  I LOVE MY LIFE.  I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY.  And I LOVE the people of Paraguay, even if they do love the Virgen. 

Your Sister Missionary with wicked tan lines,

P.S. Do you all know how great beets are? I had no idea. I bought one today, peeled it, and ate it like an apple. I learn new things every day.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"Living cannot be all crescendo, there must be some dynamic contrast." Neal A. Maxwell‏

(From Faith's Mom--sorry to send this out so late.  Just forgot!)

Dear Family,
Carrie, I got your Christmas package this week, and since you said you sent a Christmas CD I went ahead and opened it and have been listening to Christmas MoTab all week. :) I love it! Thank you so much! And those "Soy un Hijo de Dios" pencils?! I was so excited!! It was perfect, and so thoughtful. And I`m always going to remember that you are my sister who always sends me a 20 dollar bill with every letter. I will send your boys 20 bucks in every letter on their missions, too. :) In about 12 years. :) Thank you, really.
Hope, your email had me laughing and crying. (I know.... I am a little more emotional than I used to be.) I loved your line, "Mom and dad have turned out to be quite the entertainers! They have people over all the time!" I don`t know why, it just really made me laugh. And your description of the food and just of home life...haha. You are such a good writer. I am SO excited to read your mission emails. :)
This week, a line from Elder Holland`s talk "The Inconvenient Messiah" came to mind, in which he says, "My mission was not easy." For some reason, as I thought how the mission of Elder Holland--probably one of the most powerful missionaries in latter day history--was difficult, perhaps my mission is not difficult just because of me and my failures, perhaps it is difficult for more reasons than that. I am truly a rough stone rolling, and am grateful for the polishing getting done here on my mission.  If I came on my mission just to be a better person this wouldn`t be so hard. But I didn`t come to just learn and have experiences and leave better than I came. If I wanted to just be a better person I would just stay at home and read emails of other missionaries study church magazines and apply what I learn. But I came to help others, to change THEIR lives, to help THEM learn and change...not just me. 
I think I have mentioned it before, the BYU devotional titled "Patience" by Neal A. Maxwell. It has helped me so much this week and throughout my mission. I am so thankful for my RM friend Emily Larson for sending it to me when I was in the MTC. Hay que buscarlo y leerlo (you should find it and read it). He talks about the connection between faith and patience and also God`s deep commitment to our free agency, which makes patience necessary. 1 Peter 2:20 is wonderful, too.
I heard that my freshman roommate Rebekah Seastrand got called on a mission to Spain?! Can someone facebook verify that for me and give me her address? I am so excited! That is 5 out of 6 from our freshman dorm with mission calls! Whoohooo! Any other mission call announcements you can tell me about?
The hermanas from a nearby area just arrived in Piribebuy and are going to sleep in our house tonight (hermana pijamada! Sister sleepover!) to travel tomorrow with us to zone conference. We are going to do divisions tonight, which means two FHE`s with members and investigators! Yippeee!  We are leaving at 4 a.m. to travel with our zone to a zone conference with Elder Jorge Zeballos of the Seventy (you can look for him in the Conference Ensign!). I am so excited! I am going to attend with plenty of questions in mind and know it will help me a lot. I think Paraguay is getting quite a few general authorities because it`s not doing so hot baptisms-wise, that`s my guess. There has to be some reason we get so many from high up visiting us. There is a perception that missions in South America baptize easily.  I think in Mexico their main worry is the elders getting pneumonia from being in the baptismal font all day. But in Paraguay, the fields are a little harder to harvest. There was a day this week when literally every person we contacted told us they're not interested because they are Catholic. It is hard to convince someone to leave their Virgin-worshipping roots. But I truly believe God is preparing people for us. I just need to find them. Pray that we do. Please.
Since you all asked, I will tell you what we did for Thanksgiving. It was a normal day, but since we didn`t have a lunch cita (appointment) that day I made mashed potatoes, cooked carrots, and fruit salad at home. Yep. That`s all I have to tell. And that I have been working on my grateful list. Really, writing a list of blessings I have received throughout my life makes it impossible to deny the love of God. If you ever meet someone who doesn`t believe in God (I`ve only talked to one my whole mission), tell them to make a list of their blessings. After that, for me it would be impossible to deny the existence of God and His love for us.
I have to tell you about Marian and Jorge`s little boy, Kevin. He is three, I think, and the cutest little boy ever. I just love him to death. I have never met someone who literally bounces off the walls until him. They don`t have furniture or toys in their house, yet he finds a way to be in constant motion, and that includes running up to a wall and flipping off of it. I always tell Marian that I want a little boy just like him and she always says, "No you don`t. Kevin is like 5 kids in one."
Although mission can be difficult, I am, in the end, thankful for the difficulties as long as they don`t hinder the progress of the dear people of Piribebuy for which I am responsible. It is a huge responsibility I have. I feel like I have a taste of how bishops and stake presidents must feel....burdened as they hear about so many problems. But thankfully we are not alone. With faith in God, we are never alone. I know that, and for that reason I`m ok. Don`t you worry about me. Just pray for me. :)
I love our Heavenly Father so very much. I am so thankful for the opportunity to do all I can to serve him. Even if it just 1/12 of a teaspoon.
Your Sister Missionary,
Hermana Goimarac

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