Monday, December 16, 2013

Ransom Captive Israel

Yesterday I drove 45 minutes to a different ward to speak in their Sacrament Meeting. It was a beautiful, cold Sunday morning. I played a new Vocal Point Christmas music video on my phone. (Rest assured, I was driving and was obviously just listening, not watching or being distracted by their handsome bundled-up faces.)

The first line caused a gush of gratitude for the Savior. I felt the Spirit from my head down to my foot on the gas pedal.  "O Come, O Come Emmanuel. And ransom captive Israel."

What a perfect line! We, as a people, are Israel. And we are captive because of sin. Yet the ransom has been paid! We can be free from the captivity of our sins.

I thought of my new friend Nicholas. Earlier this year he was a  blonde-ponytailed, hippie-type young man who tended to smoke, drink, and do drugs and roller blade all around Sedona.  The sister missionaries contacted him on the street. I met him when he was investigating the church when I got home from my mission in October. And yesterday, I was driving to the chapel where I would see him be confirmed after being baptized on Saturday. Watching this amazing young man has brought all who know him so much happiness. He is now clean-cut and converted. He is more active than the average member. He went to a mission prep class the same day he became a member. And he says he's never been as happy as he has been as he's lived the gospel of Jesus Christ. He says he knows he is doing the right thing. "A step in the light is right," is one of his personal statements. And oh what a step into the light he has made.

Nicholas accepted the ransom that Jesus Christ has paid.

 I thought of what I learned about the Light of Christ on my mission (I've been thinking about light a lot lately). I wrote once, "Truly.... every good thing, all light, all life, everything uplifting and ennobling and joyful and beautiful and all influence for good comes because of Jesus Christ. There is no joy without the Light of Christ (Alma 28:14). I think of all the happy moments I`ve experienced--the list could go on with cherished memories from playing in the treehouse with Hope to the day I got my mission call, from fun FHE`s and Sunday walks to the joy of a good cross country race to the beauty of a sunrise on an African safari or the sunset on the Holy City from my Jerusalem balcony--and I realize that every little detail is in my life because of the Savior. "I am the light and the life of the world" has a whole new meaning for me.....I am so thankful for every happy moment our dear Savior has allowed me to enjoy. And I am so thankful to be aware of the many happy moments that are being created through missionary work all across the face of the earth. "

 "The light of Christ will lead the honest soul who 'hearkeneth to the voice' to find the true gospel and the true Church and thereby receive the Holy Ghost." (Bible Dictionary) And that is exactly what happened to Nicholas.  Mis felicidades mas profundas, amigo. :)

The world is chock-full of the light of Christ, whether we realize it or not. It is leading the honest in heart to take the steps necessary to become un-captivated, thanks to the Ransom paid.

That's How the Light Gets In

And in despair, I bowed my head. "There is no peace on earth," I said. "For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will towards men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men."

I remember singing this song one Sunday in a mental hospital in Provo where my ward went as a service to the people there. The Spirit surged through me. The Spirit and hope of Christmastime filled me up.

Through a combination of events and encounters, I was recently made more aware of the state of the world and just how enticing and powerful and influential Satan is in it. It sounds pessimistic, I know. Maybe it's because I'm having to speak of other things besides the gospel all day. Maybe it's because I have been reading/listening to The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis that is all about how the Devil tempts us, and I've seen how true those tricks are and how well they work on me and those I know. Maybe its from seeing the news (most of which is sad news) on the TV as I run on the treadmill at Snap Fitness. Maybe it's from catching up with old friends and seeing how some of them have fallen away from the path they know to be right. Maybe it's from seeing good, strong, amazing members of the church give in and settle for a lower standard of excellence. Whatever the combination is, I found myself melancholy and overwhelmed with the sheer darkness of the world. Much like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who wrote the above Christmas carol, I thought to myself, "For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men."

But, God is not dead nor doth He sleep. So, that moment of sadness was but a short one. I know that the light of Christ is thousands of watts more brilliant than the the musty haze of the adversary that fogs our vision for a time.

I recently listened to a BYU devotional in which Tyler Jarvis talks about how paralyzing our desire for perfection can be. He quotes Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem.”

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

That's just it. It seems that there IS a crack in everything. There is evil where we least expect it. There is unwanted weakness in ourselves. 

However, thanks to the Light of the World, that darkness can be penetrated-through and eliminated.  

Our bells are cracked. Yes, as sincere as our desires are to be perfect bells, we are all a little cracked. As much as we all want "world peace," that dream is a little cracked, too. 

But how THANKFUL I am for those cracks! Yes, how thankful I am for the cracks in the world, for the weaknesses, trials, and even the failures. For without the moments of darkness, would we recognize the light? Would we turn to Him? 

The bells that were heard on Christmas day might have had cracks in them, too. But they were ringing because the atonement of Christ makes each of us able to function even though we're imperfect. His light makes this cracked world a world of HOPE. 

"But let us ring those bells that still can ring. Stop worrying about your failure to achieve perfection. Instead, embrace the light and healing power of Christ that come in through our cracks and imperfections." Tyler Jarvis

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Guilt-less Chocolate Treats

I came home to a practically Joel-Furhman-approved kitchen. His name is almost sure to come up at our house if we start talking food, so let me tell you that this guy has taught us all to avoid meat, to eat more plant-based foods than animal-based foods, and to avoid refined sugar and white flour almost completely. I'm not at all strict with it (I am secretly super happy when someone gives me desserts and I feel like I have to eat it to be polite) but in general I'm loving having so many healthy things available. Waking up to a green smoothie every single day (aka salad in a glass for those unfamiliar with putting spinach in your blender) is quite the switch from my limited diet in Paraguay where the healthiest things I ate were bananas and mangos. I'm so thankful my mom has helped all of us eat like this. However, we still find ourselves hankering for something sweet and substantial, so I must share my latest gluten-free, sugar-free chocolate findings. They are delicious, actually. You'll never believe there's no sugar in them. As Christmas comes along and you want to concoct up something delicious but not feel guilty, try these out:

Honey PB No-Bake Chocolate Cookies by Rita Bigham (an awesome lady in our ward who has some excellent cookbooks!)

1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons cocoa
2/3 cup natural peanut butter
2 cups quick oats
2 t vanilla

Boil honey and butter for 1 minute. Stir in cocoa, peanut  butter, oats, and vanilla. Spoon mixture onto waxed paper and divide into 24 mounds.

Cocoa-Date Truffles

1 cup walnuts
10-12 medjool dates
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Process in a food processor until smooth. You can add coconut flakes, vanilla, sunflower seeds, almonds, raisins, etc. Form into truffle-size balls and enjoy.  If you know anyone who only eats raw food, this is perfect for them, too!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

103 Things I'm Grateful For

It's 10:30 p.m. It's my goal to go to bed at this time. But I don't feel like it. And I don't have to, because I'm not a missionary anymore. So, I figured I'd ramble on my blog and put my feelings out there for all the world and my future posterity.

Tomorrow I'm speaking on gratitude in two different congregations, in two different languages (in the young single adult branch and the Spanish branch). I've been working on my talk during every spare moment of the day.

MAN. I am so grateful. If I had to sum up my feelings about life right now it would be, "Wow. I have so much to be grateful for. I'm confused about life and what I should do and what's going to happen in my future, but I'm so grateful for how life's going anyway."

A year ago, I was in Piribebuy, Paraguay. I was training a brand new sister missionary from Peru. She, nor any of Paraguay, knew what Thanksgiving is. I had to recognize it and celebrate it on my own. It was a scorching hot time of year. But at least I managed to make mashed potatoes that day. I also remember working on a project during all my spare time (hahaha! There IS no spare time on your mission), it was called la Lista de Bendiciones.
This is a picture of the original list that I still have. 103 things that I was grateful for last year. I would have written more if I had found more time. 

Here are a few of the things I wrote: 
  • I'm a missionary!
  • I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ!
  • I was baptized when I was 8 by my dad!
  • I understand the purpose of life.
  • I wasn't born during the apostasy. 
  • I am female.
  • I was homeschooled.
  • I wasn't raised watching TV.
  • My mom taught me to cook, sew, save money, work hard.
  • My grandparents, parents, and brother served missions.
  • Hope is going on a mission!
  • Carrie (my sister) got married in the temple.
  • I have great friends who write me letters.
  • I have great zone leaders.
  • I went to JERUSALEM!
  • I got admitted to BYU!
  • I have had great bishops.
  • I have always been able to run.
  • I dated wonderful, inspiring boys.
  • I didn't get kidnapped, robbed, or killed in Africa.
  • Dad built me a milk parlor.
  • I had the cutest goats.
  • I can read.
  • I know English.
  • I haven't missed an hour of missionary work due to sickness.
  • I have contacts. Changed the world.
  • My whole family is supportive of me serving a mission.
  • My family doesn't eat junk food.
  • I have been protected from many a near-death experience.
  • I have great memories of dad with ice cream.
  • Mom did cool science experiments with us. 
  • I have not gotten dengue despite hundreds of mosquito bites. 
  • Churches in the U.S. have air conditioning. 
  • I have never had to bear seeing my dad or brothers drunk.
  • I have never worried my parents would divorce.
  • I have never been addicted to anything harmful.
  • I got to be companions with Hermana Greer twice.
  • I grew up in an ambitious society. 
And the list goes on. But really, tonight as I stay up "late" there are plenty of things I could complain about. But there are about 45 times as many things that I can be grateful for. And the thing I'm grateful for most of all....
the thing that tops the many good experiences and comforts and tender mercies and close calls...

the blessing I want to thank God for more than anything tonight....
is my knowledge of the restored gospel. I wish I could be more funny or witty or entertaining or new.....but it's the truth. Tonight I'm overwhelmed with gratitude that I understand life, that I know how to find peace, that I can be hopeful about the future no matter what..... thanks to the sweet knowledge of Jesus Christ and His gospel that has been restored to it's fullness. Oh I know it's true. It's the reason why I am still grateful for the way life is, as uncertain as the future may be. It's the mother of so many of the other blessings I wrote down last year, and to so many of the blessings I will be adding to that very un-uncomplete list of 103 things. 
Mi mas profunda gratitud es hacia mi Salvador.

P.S. Apparently I was feeling very similar exactly two years ago this very same day. Click here for a Thanksgiving video and blog post. And here to see how my gratitude list sure changed from the one I made during my mission. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mis Padres

In this month of an extra-grateful heart, one of the blessings that is mother to many other blessings on my Gratitude List is my parents. I know I always talk about my parents on this blog, but I can't help but do it again. Perhaps it's because I think more now about being a parent than I ever have before, perhaps it's because I'm a nanny right now and I have internalized the magnitude of what it takes to be a mom and maintain a house, perhaps it's because I just missed them so much.....but whatever it is, my parents seem better than ever before. 
This past weekend my dad and I went to Mesa, just the two of us. My dad wears a couple very heavy hats. He's not only the bishop of our ward and constantly helping solve problems and serve and help members of the church and non-members alike, but he's the city attorney and solves and helps even more in that regard. But he took time and patiently went shopping with me. He got nothing and did nothing for himself the entire trip. It was all for me and my family. We got to go to the temple together. I'm so thankful to have a dad I can go to the temple with. 
As I said, I'm a nanny for two kids, and I've first-hand seen how much work goes into maintaining a home. It's not like I didn't do chores before, but now I just see how many chores it takes, and I realize how much my mom has done. So many loads of laundry and loads of dishes. So much picking up. So much soothing of kids' heartaches. And yet, as I go about it, I feel the grand importance of it. Perhaps the world will never feel the influence of that extra loading and un-loading of the dishwasher, but for some reason I just feel like it is one of the most important things a person can do: maintain a home and devote their time to the raising and teaching of children. For me, what my parents have done and do means the world. 
I think, "What if I had parents who didn't understand the importance of what they do?" Thankfully, my mom and dad have their priorities more straight than anyone I know. 

 Seeing them again, along with the rest of my family, was really the only perk of finishing my mission. 
 They took me on a wonderful church history trip the week after I came home. This is us between the Sacred Grove and the Palmyra temple. 
In the beautiful fall foliage outside the Johnson Farmhouse.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” 
― Marcel Proust

Thursday, October 31, 2013

You know you're an RM when...

It's been a month since my last letter from the mission field. And oh the things that have changed. Everyone asks, "how are you adjusting?" Well, let me explain some of the adjustments. You know you're a recently-returned missionary from Paraguay when:

-You always forget to wear your seat belt. With such organized driving, who needs a seat belt?
-At 10:30 pm you feel like you should go to bed, but you don't feel tired because you didn't walk 10 miles and go up and down the whole roller coaster of emotions.
-You cringe a little when guys come up to hug you. Toooo close.
-You're not sure how to greet women. We don't give kisses on both cheeks here? Do you hug? Handshake?
-You look for your flip flops before showering before realizing you really can shower barefoot.
-You wake up on Friday morning thinking, "Today's weekly planning day." and on Monday thinking, "Sweet! Today's p-day!"
-Every new technology is a miracle. Blue tooth? GPS on your phone?
-You don't recognize your girl friends on facebook because their last names have changed. All of a sudden baby announcements fill the news feed instead of wedding announcements.
-The fridge is CRAZY full! We have so much food in the house!
-You really do just want to wear a skirt.
-You get crazy happy when you find someone who speaks Spanish.
-You say "hola" to everyone.
-Going places by yourself is just....lonely.
-You ring-check every attractive man because, you're finally available. Oh the confessions of an RM.

But one of the hardest things about being off the mission is the uncertainty of the future. For the past couple of years my near future was so planned. I didn't have to make any life-altering decisions. My companions were assigned to me, my area was given me...all I had to do was work hard and receive revelation in order to help other people. It's like I've been cast out of the garden of Eden, where everything was easier and joyous and less scary. My next area is not assigned to me, personal study time is not so easily found, daily and weekly goals are not so clear, and most unfortunate is that I can't just go to the mission office and pick up my next great companion.

Monday, September 30, 2013

"Because of our Father and His Son, we don’t have to run this last strenuous leg of the relay alone"--Sheri Dew

Dearest Family,
This may be the shortest email I have yet to write, which would probably be good because I tend to be pretty long-winded sometimes. Haha. But I HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY but NO TIME.
This week:
-Celebrating Christmas was great! Hna. Owen drew me this awesome Faith`s Farm logo! It`s for my future goat dairy farm. I`m hiring her to do all my publicity. We made cinnamon rolls and gave them to all our progressing investigators, we had a wonderful Christmas dinner with the familia Flor. On Christmas eve we read a Christmas talk by Elder Eyring and drank hot chocolate by our little space heater, and sang Christmas hymns. It truly felt like Christmas; it was even cold. 
-We had the most charming, classic with-member lunch with Hno Arsenio Rojas. I have a picture with him. I wish I could have video-taped the whole thing for you to all experience having almuerzo (lunch) in Paraguay. He`s a recent convert. A year ago he was a classic Paraguayan older man who smoked and drank a lot and sat outside his little wood house with his cowboy hat on. Now he is the kind of guy who invites the sister missionaries over for lunch, has the hymns playing, has a stack of church books by his bed, has a calling and wears a white shirt and tie to church every Sunday. He insists we all eat as much as we can before he eats. 
-Yesterday we walked up to church just as Christian and his two little girls drove up on his moto. His wife Celia was sick, but Christian sure did a good job at getting his little girls ready, they were adorable in their little dresses and just happier than pigs in mud to be at church. We had given Christian a conference issue of the Liahona on Wednesday, and yesterday he said he had read half of it already, and bought a notebook to write down all the things that called his attention. He loves the gospel. Family baptism si o si (yes or yes) in October. 
-Last night Hno Guillen invited me over for a little despedida (farewell). We have been trying to help his daughter and boyfriend go to church. I just love Hno Guillen. I have never seen a guy who likes to talk so much, nor one who knows so much about the gospel. All you have to say is one frase and he can go off on that topic for 20 minutes unless you stop him. But while I listen to him, my heart just pops with love. That guy. There`s a pic of him and his daughter and baby, included. She gave me a bracelet as a goodbye present. Sweeet.
- Leonela called me last night. Isla Bogado update: Christian Morales got the priesthood yesterday! And Rossana`s two older sons got baptized on Saturday!
-Today I had my final interview with President McMullin. He made me feel so good about my mission. He started, "I have a question for you, first. Do I have to interview you and let you go?" and with much emotion he told me how thankful he is for my service and how he can tell I love the Lord. We mostly just talked about experiences we have had in following the promptings of the Spirit. We hardly talked about marriage, which is what I was expecting him to talk about, haha. He also said he went to Isla Bogado last week for their stake conference, and very few people were in the adult session, but Carlos and Susan Estigarribia were! 
I love you all so much. Let`s just chat up a storm next week so I can tell you my funny and spiritual stories and not just throw into an email what comes to mind about this past week. 
Your Sister Missionary,

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Today and Always

Querida Familia,
Escribo con un corazon lleno de amor por todo el mundo, toda mi familia, por mi misión, por el evangelio. La vida es tan buena. Voy a extrañar hablar en espanol demasiado. Mom, si, quiero ensenar ingles en la biblioteca con Nate the roller-blader. Quiero hacer la obra misional. Quiero ir a la casa de la familia Martinez y cualquier otra familia que hable espanol y enseñarles el evangelio, o hacer noche de hogar en español. Ya sè que mi corazón me dolerá con deseos de continuar haciendo lo que hago ahora.
(Translation: I am writing with a heart full of love for all the world, all my family, for my mission, for the gospel.  Life is so good.  I'm going to miss speaking in Spanish so much.  Mom, I want to teach English at the library with Nick the roller-blader.  I want to do missionary work.  I want to go to the Martinez family's house and whatever other families speak Spanish and teach them the gospel, or have FHE in Spanish.   Already my heart is full of desires to continue doing that which I'm doing now.)

If you know anyone who needs a baby sitter or a part-time help I will need money when I go home. Mention me. Although I won`t have much time to work, I could do something here and there. Also, dad, get ready to hike the Grand Canyon in October. :) Also, I officially decided while eating a lomito at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday night that a member bought us that I am going to go 100% vegetarian as soon as my feet leave Paraguayan soil.  Ok, enough talking about the end of the mission. Yuck.

You`ll like this story. We reallllllly wanted to get our goals 7/7 this week. We had gotten our daily goals every day as of yesterday (we were at 6/7 then). It`s hard to get goals on Sundays sometimes because between church, lunch, and studying there is less time to work. We had two FHE`s planned at 6 and at 8 p.m. We were in a hurry at about 5 p.m. to drop off the banana bread we made for an FHE and then try to find a new investigator before 6. We started to job a little bit, backpacks on, bread in hand, on a classic Paraguayan rough cobblestone road. You`d think I would have learned not to run, if you remember the time I completely biffed it that night in Piribebuy and had elbow and knee scars for weeks. But alas, we started to jog and all of a sudden my beautiful companion`s hands and knees met the cobblestone. She fell hard. The poor girl, I felt so bad. I could almost feel the pain shoot right through me. Two young men watching came and helped. We were able to clean her up, but her knee is in a lot of pain. 
This week we are celebrating Christmas, on the 25th. We don`t really have a reason. It just feels Christmasy when it is cold, and it`s been a little cold and rainy so we decided to take advantage of it. Hna. Owen says she doubts she`ll feel very Christmasy when it really IS Christmas because of the heat, so we had to aprovechar (take advantage). Do you know how hard it is to try and sneakily buy and make little Christmas gifts for the very companion you have to be within sight and sound of? 
We are putting on a talent show next Friday, October 4th for the ward and for them to invite their friends to. They all expect us to do something. Any ideas? Hope has just been dancing and talent-ing it up but I`ve got nothing. Anyone have any funny skits about American missionaries or something? We can translate it into Spanish. Please give me inspiration! I`m super non-creative when it comes to stuff like this, I`ve realized. I need Google or Pinterest to give me ideas, and you all are the closest thing I`ve got to a search engine. 
Yesterday was another rainy Sunday so I`m afraid I have no exciting stories about who went to church. Christian and Celia are doing great. They are reading the BOM and thinking about it a lot, and asking us fairly difficult questions ("What do you believe in as far as the omni-presence of God?" "Who are the governing judges in Alma?" and others I don`t remember). Christian said, "I hope you girls realize that your whole lives you have been prepared to come to Paraguay and bring the gospel to us, you just didn`t realize it. Just like we have been prepared for this moment, too." I thought that was a great perspective, one that I hadn`t heard a non-member realize. Celia thanked us profusely, too, saying our work is not in vain with them. Hna Owen and I were like, "We`ve hardly taught you anything still! Just wait until we teach you about eternal families! You are going to freak out with happiness!" And since then we have taught them of eternal families, and they indeed do love it, and they asked if we will come back to be in the temple for their sealing. I said I would do my best. :) I don`t want to count my chickens before they hatch, but I would be surprised if they don`t get baptized soon. Unfortunately it`s impossible to happen before I go. Natalia should be getting baptized on October 5th, however. We are praying and fasting so much for her. She is so willing to change, it`s the most beautiful sight.
It`s funny how, here in the city, more people know some English. Everyone loves to try it out on us. Very few know sufficient to really carry on a conversation, but a lot know things like "How are you? I am fine." and "What`s your name?" and even more. Although, if you gauged the English teaching in the schools by what we hear in the streets you would think all they teach is, "Goodbye girlfriend!" and "Hey baby" and "you are so beautiful."
A couple weeks ago when we were in a zone meeting, I looked around at all us missionaries and the mission president, and thought about how we all work so hard, and sacrifice so much to get people to church. We were talking about some numbers, and realized that on average about 500 people attend church throughout the stake each week.  It is a slow work sometimes. Hours and hours of work from so many missionaries, and only 500 people a week in a whole stake? But that is how God works, slow and steady. Just like any get-rich-quick tactic doesn`t work, conversion likewise cannot be done easily. We pass by churches here that have hundreds of people in attendance, shouting hallelujah or having Praise-the-Lord rock bands and people just flock to them. I thought, "They don`t send missionaries out. They don`t work hard all day every day to bring people to Christ. How come they have hundreds of people at their church, and we bleed, sweat and shed tears to get our attendance up by 5?" Well, they just hire a rock band.  It`s a temporary thrill, it`s not lasting conversion I`m afraid. I don`t think that`s the Lord`s way. Have you ever heard the story of how to kill a frog? If you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will just jump out. If you put it in a pot of cold water and let it gradually  heat up, it will die. It is usually told to explain that Satan gets us by gradually tempting us by degrees. But the Lord also knows that consistant dedication is what is most effective, most life-changing, and it is the path to exaltation. I was not born again in one moment. I was born again by degrees and I am born again and again and again every day. My testimony grows every day of my mission, and I hope my life. God is a God of small and simple things, I have discovered. Through the small and simple and weak people of the earth (i.e., 18-25 year old inexperienced missionaries) God is bringing to pass his great work, just as he did in times of old with people like Enoch who said, "Who am I? I am slow of speech." "And by the weak things of the earth the Lord shall thresh the nations by the power of his Spirit."
Also, who is just SO EXCITED FOR GENERAL CONFERENCE?! Here`s a little quote I just love to get you as stoked as a sister missionary:
"My beloved brethren, you and I, today and always, are to bless all people in all the nations of the earth. You and I, today and always, are to bear witness of Jesus Christ and delcare the message of the Restoration. You and I, today and always, are to invite all to receive the ordinances of salvation. Proclaiming the gospel is not a part-time priesthood obligation. It is not simply an activity in which we engage for a limited time or an assignment we must complete as members of the Church.... That is who we are, and that is why we are here--today and always." David A. Bednar "Becoming a missionary."
Today and always I will be a missionary. Please help me remember that promise. Not because there is some reward, or because I feel it is my duty, or because I receive some satisfaction for it, as true as that may be. I will always be a missionary because I want the atonement of Jesus Christ to be utilized in the lives of others. I want His suffering to have "full sway" in their lives (Alma 42:16). Serè una misionera toda mi vida porque amo a Cristo.  (I will be a missionary all my life because I love Christ.)

Much Love,
Your Sister Missionary Today and Always,
Hermana Goimarac

Monday, September 16, 2013

His purposes must be our purposes. His interests should be our interests. His work should be our work. (Photos at end.)

Dear Family,

One of the biggest blessings of serving a mission is learning from everyone you get to know. Outside the mission you normally don`t talk to 50+ people a week about their life, religious beliefs, problems, etc. But from talking and trying to help so many people you start to see some trends. One thing I learned this week though is how we can really respond to tragedy or difficulty in two ways: we can turn to the Lord or we can turn away from Him. 

Hermano Flor (a member) gave us a reference of one of his clients who recently lost their 7 year old daughter in a car accident. We went with Hno Flor to this family, the Reyes family, and they were just in tears the whole lesson, absolutly inconsolable even though it had been a week since she died. They said how she was their princess, their life. We sang a song and read some comforting scriptures and explained lots of things, and made an appointment to go back three days later. When we went back (without Hno Flor present) the mom said that she doesn`t believe in God anymore, that even though she used to go to lots of evangelical churches she can`t believe that God exists if He would do such a thing as take her innocent daughter away.  We tried and tried to help them understand but they are pretty hurt still and I think it will take some time. 
And then last night we were one lesson away from meeting our goals and it was 8:15 on Sunday night and no one would receive us. A reference led us to clap a fairly nice house of a man named Caesar. He seemed a little grouchy at first but said, "If you want to tell me something, I`ll listen." He soon told us that he and his wife of 27 years separated 5 months ago, and he is obviously still very heart broken. He said with very sad eyes, "You don`t know how sad it is to live alone after living with your wife and children in a full house for 27 years." But he explained that because of this he is going to the Catholic church and all kinds of other prayer meetings, he said he is not angry at God but has turned to Him. He said our visit was evidence that God is mindful of him and thanked us more than once for coming. We really all have this option in times of difficulty--to turn to the Lord or to turn away from Him. 
Mom asked if Christian Duarte is progressing and I am absolutely thrilled to tell you of his progress! We visited them on Monday, Friday, and Saturday and every lesson was so good! I was thinking of something else during one of his lessons when the thought just jumped at me, "This man is prepared." He is SO prepared and he recognizes that all he has gone through in the past several years was to lead him to this. He is about 34 and is married(!) to Celia, and they are so in love, it`s really cute. They, after a lot of difficulty having children, have two little daughters, Jazmin (7) and Emma (3) who is a little fireball--the most hyper and sassy little girl I`ve seen.  On Saturday we asked if he had been reading his Book of Mormon, and he explained that he had read 7 chapters that day and proceeded to explain to us the whole story of Nephi and Lehi and Laban and going back to get the plates, even his own perspective on why it was so important for the sons of Lehi to go back and marry the daughters of Ishmael. He said, "If I deny this book I would also be denying the Bible." Which made me think of sharing 2 Nephi 33: 10-11 with him. Then he talked about how he feels so uplifted while reading it and just can`t put it down, but that he still hasn`t prayed to know if it`s true, which made me want to read 2 Nephi 28: 30 with them. Everything he said hit a scripture off in my brain but I didn`t have a chance to share anything. Then he was talking about how he has changed so much in the past week just since having the Book of Mormon and the feeling he has in his heart, and Hna. Owen shared Alma 32:28 with him. He read it and then paused, and said, "Did you prepare that beforehand? That is perfect. That is exactly how I feel." The Spirit was so THICK. He went to church yesterday with his girls and in Gospel Principles told the class, "Last Saturday, these missionaries walked past our house, and then I watched them turn around and come back. Their message is exactly what our family needs. We recently went through a very hard time, and the fact that these sisters arrived is just like God telling me that we are not alone. Receiving the gospel makes all the hard times worth it. I had talked to missionaries before but never really had a long conversation with them, but this time it really touched us." Celia is a little more reserved religiously but Christian said it is a miracle that she even listens to us and is reading the BOM. It`s another case of Christian and Rossana but with a Rossana that is not quite as hard. Please pray for them. I know our prayers work. I fasted on Wednesday specifically that they would feel the spirit while reading the Book of Mormon, and that`s exactly what happened.

Yesterday in church one of the speakers spoke about the importance of family home evening, and mentioned that it is the father`s (not the mother`s or the chidren`s) responsibility to make sure FHE happens. And afterward Christian said, "So what is this we have to do on Monday nights?" and before I could even answer he said, "I was thinking of making a dinner for my family and gathering them together to talk about the word of God, will that work?" Um....yep! That will work!  

Natalia Rivarola is also progressing so much! Oh man I love her. She called us on Saturday night and said, "Hermanas. I am so happy. I am so happy I just had to call you and tell someone. I am reading the scriptures right now. Hermanas, you are my angels. You are my hope. I am writing my testimony that I am going to read at my baptism. Ok hermanas, sleep good, have good dreams. We will see you at church tomorrow." MUSIC to a misionera`s ears! She indeed went to church as well, for the second time (her first time being in July or something).
Truly, there is no greater joy than feeling that you are instrument in God`s hands! I don`t want that joy to stop next month when the nametag must be painfully ripped from it`s beautiful spot on my shoulder. 
Hope asked for our responses to how we know the Book of Mormon is true and I wanted to respond to that and to share my testimony with everyone who reads this, but mostly my brothers and sisters, Sabrina, Carrie, Tom, Paulette, Neal and Hope. We have all grown up where the Book of Mormon was a part of our daily lives. When I was baptized I made the goal to read the scriptures every day and I have every day since that goal was made, over 14 years ago. I can recall nights when I was reading and it seemed the BOM spoke just to me, parts that asked us to analyze ourselves like in Alma 5, "have ye sufficiently been humble? Is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother or heapeth upon him persecutions?" and I knew I needed to repent. Other nights I remember my heart just swelling and I felt I would pop with the joy of the gospel. In BYU I recall reading in my dorm room or in the library and feeling the power of the Book of Mormon. In the Jerusalem center studying the Bible, my testimony of the Book of Mormon grew along with my increased love for the Bible. One hard night my first week in Israel, I went to my room alone crying about something. I opened my Book of Mormon and read the most comforting verses in 3 Nephi and felt the love of the Savior. On  my mission my testimony of the Book of Mormon has quadrupled. I have knelt to pray many times to confirm my testimony of it as it tells us to do in Preach my Gospel, and have felt that sweet spirit fill my soul as I have done so. I have also seen many people be changed by reading it, grown men who like to argue change into Book of Mormon-lovers who cry like babies when they read and pray to know if it`s true. 
You see, precious revelation that gives us a testimony is not an event, but a process. The Holy Ghost teaches us gradually as it teaches in 2 Nephi 28:29, here a little, there a little. Some people postpone acknowledging their testimony or their spiritual progress until they have experienced a miraculous event. I have not heard the voice of the Lord or seen visions or dreams as some have. But the Lord has given me the strongest conviction that the Book of Mormon is true. I know it is. Joseph Smith could not have written such a life-changing book. I invite everyone to seek this testimony. I do not have one doubt that if someone truly wants to know, they will know.
“If all you know is what you see with your natural eyes and hear with your natural ears, then you will not know very much.”
I love you all more than I can say. I hope to see all of my family at the airport.  Even if I haven`t heard from you in the past 18 months I will act like you`ve written me every week. :)
Your Sister,
1. Sally and I when I said goodbye. She is a different woman after just a month of keeping the commitments we gave her.
2.  The Lopez girls and I. They are going to church in Isla Bogado.
3.  Leonela and Javier several weeks ago when they came to say goodbye to me. We went all over Isla Bogado in that little car. This is a very special couple I miss a lot.
4. Chinese restaraunt last week for Elder Ohara`s b-day. 
5. Green smoothies all the time after long runs with Hna. Owen. Mmmmmhhhhmmm. I have to say Hna. Owen`s are way more delicious than I`m used to...with yogurt, pineapple and just enough spinach to make it green. Actually enjoyable and no straw or nose-plugging necessary. 
6.   Birthday party for Miriam Benitez and Hna. Macfarlane at the end of August.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I've never been so profoundly happy to clean glass. (photos at end)

Dearest Family,

So many feelings, so many experiences...all from just the past 7 days! Where do I start? And I have like 20 minutes to try and fit it in. We used our p-day to clean the temple! Yes! The Pàraguay Asuncion Temple of the Lord! I was in the celestial room just minutes ago. A lady in my new ward was asked to clean every Monday and invited us and we nearly leaped with excitement. It`s been like waiting for Christmas ever since we planned to go. Oh how I love the temple. Hna. Owen and I got to clean the glass that goes around the baptismal font and also go down and clean the 12 oxen. What a blessing. I haven`t been in the temple since April, and the next time I go will be right before I board the plane. Oh man, talk about emotions. 
Even though we worked for 2 hours in the temple, I can`t say I cleaned a speck of dirt. It was already spotless, but it needs to be cleaned anyway. That is the church`s method of cleaning, to clean before it ever gets dirty. That`s how they try to keep the MTC, too. It is a marvelous comparison to keep ourselves in constant analysis and repentance before we even feel dirty. Walking into the temple today, with my great companion, in PARAGUAY....I just feel more blessed than blessed can be. I wouldn`t rather be anywhere else doing anything else. 

Mom and dad, I can see that my comment about the 4-lane highway has you on the edge of your seats. I assure you that I am careful and I realize that missionaries are not invulnerable. I promise I will be careful. 

Hope, I am so happy you are living my dream life on a Colorado farm! What a perfect place for you. I just loved your emails. I hope everyone is taking advantage of the fact that postage is cheaper to Colorado than Brazil and are sending you lots of letters/packages. I will pray for your investigators who have a date for the 21st. What an exciting time. What a life we live. 
On Saturday we had some baptisms of our own. I kind of had 5, because we had 3 here and there were 2 in Isla Bogado---dear Cristian and Rosana! I sent a different email with their pictures. Oh man I am so happy for them. I was thinking of them all day. Through a miracle they got the 100 mil guarani (like 20 bucks that was impossible for them to save) to get married, showing that if you just put a goal God will help you fulfill it (they had a date for the 7th of September all along). My heart is just so full for them. All those lessons, all the fasting, all the prayers, even getting kicked out of their house and hit by their drunk dad is MORE than worth it to see them get married and enter the waters of baptism. Today I saw Pati Perez and Hna. Perez (what a blessing!) in the temple and they said Cristian's and Rosana's testimonies on Sunday had everyone in tears. Also, another Isla Bogado update is that Susan and Carlos Estigarribia were both called as counselors in Young Men and Young Women, and that Modesto Benitez has gone to church three Sundays in a row! Oh man I wish I could be there, but I`m mostly just glad it`s all happening. 
Here in Loma, Gloria and her daughter Milagros and another young woman Malena (Maria Elena) were baptized! From seeing their picture, it may just look like another typical baptism picture---three dressed in white with two sister missionaries in front of the beautiful chapel. But behind the flash there is so much more; this photo represents much more than the accomplishment of finding baptismal clothes for them. It represents the hard work of the hermanas of this area, how one Monday night they were just clapping houses and Gloria answered and listened to them. How she accepted the invitation to pray and be baptized if she knew it was right, how she went to church and gave up coffee. This picture is more than just another baptism. It is three souls who accepted their Savior Jesus Christ in the way that He taught; by baptism by immersion with someone who holds His authority. Is there anything more beautiful?
For Malena, behind the scenes is her 14-year old friend Arami, a member who invited her to seminary one day, and then to church. Malena`s mom doesn`t even believe in Jesus Christ, but Malena can feel the spirit and she followed her feelings and diligently goes to church and decided to promise to always keep the commandments by being baptized. 
There are just so many good things happening in the world. Getting emails from other missionaries and friends, and hearing about the success in the Sedona Ward just opens my mind to the vastness of this work. As we speak there are around 75,000 missionaries sharing the message of the Restored Gospel, inviting others to come unto Christ. 
I was reading the Bible Dictionary this week during my personal study, and I was also studying about the light of Christ. The light of Christ is what enables Christ to be in all things. Truly every good thing, all light, all life, everything uplifting and enobling and joyful and beautiful and all influence for good comes because of Jesus Christ. There is no joy without the Light of Christ (Alma 28:14). I think of all the happy moments I`ve experienced--the list could go on with cherished memories from playing in the treehouse with Hope to the day I got my mission call, from fun FHE`s and Sunday walks to the joy of a good cross country race to the beauty of a sunrise on the Safari or the sunset on the Holy City from my Jerusalem balcony--and I realize that every little detail is in my life because of the Savior. "I am the light and the life of the world" has a whole new meaning for me. The other morning we were exercising on our roof (it`s big and flat, very safe, just so you can breathe, mom and dad), and as I looked out over the houses and palm trees and people walking to work and school, and I saw a big beautiful sky---all that is from HIM. Him whom I am here to serve. Oh how I want to repent and keep my covenants so His suffering for me is not in vain. Oh how I want to help others do the same. I am so thankful for every happy moment our dear Savior has allowed me to enjoy. And I am so thankful to be aware of the many happy moments that are being created through missionary work all across the face of the earth. 
Other things we did this week: had a missionary meeting with our ward missionaries (our bishop is awesome and has called like 12 missionaries), organized a 40-day fast for the ward (thanks to your idea mom and dad! we started yesterday!), had a great FHE with Hno Flor who is recently re-activated and his non-member wife (sure love them), had a great lesson with Natalia whose teenage son and daughter are recent converts and now she is trying to quit smoking and drinking and prepare to get baptized and change her life, we taught Nicholas, a young dad who is separated from his wife, who came to the baptism!
On Saturday afternoon we walked past a house and I felt the distinct impression we should have clapped there. But then I started to justify why we shouldn`t; after all we had already walked past and it would be weird to just turn around. But I have learned from experience how awful I feel all day when I ignore feelings like that. I have learned how subtle the language of the spirit is, yet how sure at the same time. We turned around and sure enough it was a great guy named Christian Duarte, and we later went back and taught him with a member present and it was a great lesson. He had read the whole booklet on the restoration and understood it great. Just another example of how this is God`s work. Like I would know which house to go to or where the prepared people are!
Well I am short on time. But I sure love you. I love my companion Hna. Owen, too. I love my life and I love the Savior more than anything, because He is the source from which everything else I love comes from. 
Your Sister Missionary,
I can`t get my camera to work so Hna. Owen is sending you some pics. 


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Look at your life through heaven's eyes.

Dear Family,
Wow! Seeing that beautiful picture of my wonderful, handsome dad with a convert at his baptism and hearing how my mom is picking up investigators for church and baptisms, and being inspired to know what to say to help them...and hearing of all the fellowshipping and the examples you set for all of the Sedona area.......I am SO FILLED WITH HAPPINESSS. That is the greatest thing you can do for me, is share the gospel there. I am so, so, so happy that missionary work is taking off in Sedona. It just fills me with joy, and I`m not even there. I know that you, mom and dad, are playing a huge role in it (as Elder Nelson says, the bishop sets the pace of missionary work in the ward. You have set a great pace! Please come train the bishops down here!). I feel like we are just one big team. And I hope we always will be. I feel like, more than my parents, we are all brothers and sisters, children of God who are just trying to help our other brothers and sisters learn the truth. Oh I love you so much. 
Dad, thank you so much for that dynamite talk you sent, too. Wow. It really helped me feel the spirit and motivated me to be a missionary my whole life. I am just so excited for the missionary experiences that will potentially be mine during my life! What a call to action for us women of the church! Hna. Greer is a great example of never going home from her mission---way to go Maggie giving a book of Mormon away on the train this week! And even having a BOM in your bag to give away! 

So, I was transfered to Loma Pyta! Surprise is right! Loma is almost right in Asuncion, it`s my first time being in the city. But as you wished, dad, I do indeed have more comfortable living conditions. The hot water for the shower even carries over and there is hot water in the sinks!!! And we even have a couch (not that we have time to sit on it, we just put stuff on it)! And air conditioning in our bedroom! But more than that, the best part is that I`m with probably the sweetest, cutest, most diligent little sister missionary in South America, Sister Owen! She just finished her training, she got to Paraguay June 5th (she totally read my blog before getting here....sweet, huh?). She is from Mesa, AZ, and went to BYU in the illustration program and loves running and green smoothies and eating healthy and walking fast and being efficient and practicing spanish and serving others. We feel like it was a very inspired change. I love her already. With her as my companion I just know I`m going to not only have a chance at losing weight before I go home, but I`m going to be a better missionary in every aspect and I`ll have no time to get trunky (like that was ever contrario [just the opposite]). Also, she`s really savvy in crossing the busy 4-lane highways that goes through our area. She just walks across like no tomorrow, she`s so practiced. Haha.
But I feel like I have a lot to do here. Almost none of the recent converts from the past two years have received the lessons over again like they should, and many of the investigators don`t even understand the restoration. I have been doing a lot of clarifying and thinking, "You are going to be baptized next week and you don`t even understand this?" Makes me worried. I was happy to read what Elder Ballard said in that talk you sent, dad, how we need to be prepared to bear testimony of the restoration. It is so exciting to teach the restoration. We taught a 16 year old girl here, Pia, a couple nights ago who goes to an evangelical church called Centro de Adoracion Familiar.  We taught the restoration with the feeling of awe that it deserves, and when we told the first vision part, she kind of gasped with delightful amazement. She was so touched. If only everyone could understand, they would also gasp with happiness to hear the good news. The Restoration is so logical. I just never get tired of teaching it. We are teaching a 48 year old mom here, Gloria, and her 14 year old daughter Milagros and they have their baptismal date for this Saturday. Gloria always mentions how this will be her 4th baptism...and I wasn`t sure if she understood that this time it won`t just be adding to her little collection of baptisms, it will actually be her first because it is the only one done right. We taught them very well and you could just see the understanding begin to sink in and  she realized that this really is God`s church. She loved it and really felt the spirit at church yesterday. Ah. So great. I love my job. 
I got here on Wednesday and it was really cold, and all of a sudden it got hot like unto a day in January in Paraguay. And we`ve been walking probably miles and miles a day because we just haven`t figured out the neighborhoods yet and have been running around like headless chickens trying to meet our goals. And we`ve been going on long runs in the morning. So I`ve been coming home absolutely physically whipped. If I pray for too long I just fall asleep on my knees. But it is an absolute pleasure to get whipped for the cause of Jesus. 
Yesterday we had the most uplifting meetings at church. This ward is pretty established because the church started here in Asuncion. All the little kids race up as soon as testimony starts to give their testimonies. Little Giovanni Suarez Adorno who is 6 got up first and added at the end of his 15-second testimony, "Y estoy feliz por tener una nueva misionera." ("And I am very happy because we have a new sister missionary.") and a few others copied him and said the same thing in their testimonies. I felt very welcomed. :) He also wrote me a cute card and said, "Hermana micionera, te quiero mucho."
But MAN. I miss my dear area of Isla Bogado. You don`t even know how hard it was to leave.  In the past, we visited people and we left them happier than when we arrived, but when I went to say goodbye to people, I left them in tears. I was thankful to have had made a difference but felt sad to see them so sad. But my heart was just tearing up inside, too. Miriam Benitez cried the most. She says we are angels who have changed her family so much and she cringes to think of how her life would be if we hadn`t come into her life. The Estigarribia family made us dinner (she even made chocolate chip cookies because I had given her the recipe a while back!) and Carlos said, "It`s like I`m saying goodbye to one of my own daughters. Know that you are always welcome to come back to our home, you can even come back with your husband and stay here."  Her daughters used the internet to write me a sweet letter in English. When we went to say goodbye to Christian and Rossana, Christian wasn`t home, but later he called me and said, "I heard that you are leaving this area, sister. I just want to thank you for bringing us the truth. Every day I`m more convinced that this is the true church. My little girl Genesis is crying because you aren`t coming back. Here, talk to her." And he handed the phone to her, and her sweet little trembling voice just melted my heart. I said I would see her at her parent`s baptism (I sure hope I get permission to go!). They all went to church yesterday, I heard, and also received priesthood blessings because Augustin (Rossana`s dad) is causing even more problems. They said they felt the spirit very strongly getting blessings. Christian is without work again (please keep praying for him) and was blessed that he would receive good work but in the Lord's time, not in his.
Also, little Junior Escobar who got baptized a few weeks ago got the priesthood and passed the sacrament yesterday in a white shirt and tie. :)
And Sally was also very emotional, she`s progressing a TON! She`s down to four cigarettes a day (a huge improvement from 40 a day!) and always always always says it is her dream to be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost, which shows a lot of understanding on her part because we haven`t even taught baptism that much because we know she has a lot to change before that moment. 
Hope, I was listening to a great quote by Elder Holland on my companion`s iPod and it made me think of you and all of us out there getting rejected. I am in a much more chuchi (rich) part of Paraguay now, where we actually ring doorbells instead of just clap, and the supermarket almost looks like Safeway, and people we talk to actually use the internet so I can offer them a card. Anyway, they are also a little more rejecting. Every time we get a door closed on us I think of you and and other U.S./Europe missionaries out there who are more rejected. This is for you:
"Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?
"You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary......If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way.
"The Atonement will carry the missionaries perhaps even more than it will carry the investigators. When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived. You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrows and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary. The only way to eternity is through Him—the Way, the Truth, and the Life." --Jeffrey R. Holland
And here`s a great new video from the church for everyone out there who doesn`t understand the Mormon church. 
And here`s another of my all time favorites that makes me want to never stop being a missionary;
I love this gospel with all my heart and just cannot contain it. My emails seem pathetic in comparison to how I feel. My mission is beginning to mean everything to me. I taught a guy on a collectivo (bus) today who was actually interested, and I just felt the spirit so much I almost couldn`t talk. God is preparing people. The world needs us! All the people gotta see the light, so BE the light! Let`s go share the glorious GOSPEL!
I love you so much and pray for you and hope you are able to feel Christ carry you over life`s burdens.
Hermana Faith Goimarac
P.S. I have lots of great pictures from this week but forgot my camera cord. :( It was Hermana Macfarlane`s birthday on Wednesday (change day), I have lots of goodbye pictures with members and converts and investigators, and then today we all went to a chinese buffet to celebrate our zone leader`s birthday. To be seen next week, entonces.

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