Monday, January 28, 2013

"We are troubled on every side, but not discouraged." II Corinthians

Deeeeeeeearest Family,

This is very late because earlier the LDS mail site wasn`t working, so we went out to work and came back a couple hours later.
Thank you for the birthday wishes! I got a couple emails from friends I haven`t heard from in a long time, so thank you so much! I didn`t at all expect anyone to remember my birthday considering the first of the month always sneaks up on us. It will be a great day because we have our best lunch appointment on Fridays with the Perez family. I feel like their house is the only place I eat delicious food. I am not excited to go home, but I am excited to eat good food again. You know you`re a missionary when you risk your own health to be on good terms with others (read: when you eat empanadas de carne and drink glasses of soda because that`s how the members show their love to you, which is what I just did about 10 minutes ago.)
About this time last Monday I began to feel sick, and it was the start of a weird illness all week that I`m still recovering from. Mostly I had a throbbing headache all the time, sometimes coupled with a sore throat and sometimes with a stomach ache. But, thanks to prayers, we hardly lost an hour of work. I just took ibuprofen and endured. Thankfully it`s not dengue fever. 
Rosa is going to get baptized this next Saturday, but almost her whole family was in church yesterday and her mom even got a calling as nursery leader! Hooray for re-activation! It feels so good!
I got a really sweet letter in the mail from a girl I don`t know. She introduced herself as a recent convert and said that Christian Duke had a huge role in her conversion. She told me her beautiful conversion story, and how now she is at BYU in Provo with a strong desire to serve a mission. She thanked me from the bottom of her heart for being the example that motivated Christian to serve a mission, and for unknowingly changing her life. She said she`s wanted to write me ever since she heard the testimony of Christian. It was a letter that gave me so much hope and motivation to be better, to always just be obedient. So sweet of her to find my address and write me a letter, no?
We had some moments that were so spiritual and precious this week, and others when I found out about problems that I never imagined I would have to face as a missionary. I will tell you about the former. :) It is so important to talk to everyone. A while ago I bought a huge umbrella because it was the only one I could find, and my old one broke. We were walking in the sun on a road with no shade and a mom and her little daughter were also walking in the same direction. I shared my shade with my easily-shareable umbrella and we talked to her. Her name is Norma and she left her husband last week because he has another in his sad. Anyway, in this very difficult time we were able to teach her and her dad, who went to church a lot several years ago but never got baptized. Norma feels like we are true servants of God because we talked to her just at a time in her life when she needs help. It is so important to talk to everybody, to just open my mouth. 

Many times when we introduce ourselves and talk about the church, people from other religions say, "We are Catholic (or Baptist, or from Dios es Amor or take your pick), but there`s only one God!" indicating that as long as we talk about God it doesn`t matter what Church we go to. One man this week explained it as, "It doesn`t matter if we arrive at the feet of God in a car or a boat or a bike or on foot, as long as we get there!" and another says, "Churches are like schools, it doesn`t matter if you go to a private school or a public school, as long as you learn in the end!" But I ask myself, did God ever say that? Did He say we can believe whatever and we will be saved? Did he say that broad is the way that leads to salvation? He sent His Son and said that HE is the way, the truth, and the life, and only through HIM we can get there. And if Christ established His church, that is how we should follow Him. I`ve been thinking about Matthew 7:14 a lot this week, how the path is straight and the gate is narrow, and few there be that find it (interesting you should mention that scripture in your letter to me this week, dad). In that same chapter it says that all those who say "Lord, Lord" will not be saved. Only those who follow Him in HIS way, who submit to His will through baptism with his power and permission, His authority. And that is why we have to tell everyone of the restored gospel! So they know that the same church that Christ restored is here!!!  His Priesthood power has been restored to the earth!  Isn`t it the best news on earth?! I`m so thankful I`m called to bear it. There is really no better way to love one another than to share the gospel with them. Friends don`t let friends live without the gospel. We have to share the gospel! 
In case you are curious, we finally caught the rat in our house. We were on divisions and Sister Sanchez from Panama was here the morning we finally found it in our trap (alive!) and she bravely took care of it for me. Whew.
I had a lot of things I wanted to tell you and thought I would remember without writing them down, which I didn`t. It was probably something about how I love being a missionary.

I am so thankful that I have the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life, that "God has shined in my heart" as it says in 2 Corinthians. Thanks to this, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." I couldn`t describe the mission (or life) more acurately, it is sooo hard sometimes. :)  However, thanks to our knowledge of Jesus Christ and the full gospel, we can be troubled with work or hard classes or perplexed with problems in the ward, or persecuted with a 5 month wait until you enter the MTC, and we can still be haaappppppppyyy! We can overcome distress and destruction. Oh man oh man I love the gospel. 
Your very sweaty sister missionary in Paraguay,
Sister Faith Goimarac

Monday, January 21, 2013

My thoughts are higher than your thoughts, saith the Lord (Photos at end.)

Dear Family,

Another dollar, another day. We worked even harder this week with even higher numbers, and we finally are seeing some fruits! We had four investigators in church yesterday, but almost more sweet were several less actives who came that I didn`t think were going to reactivate for a while. 

We saw a little miracle, too. Well, several. We see miracles all the time. But anyway, I`ve been praying to have another baptism in January because the mission standard of excellence is to have 2 each month, and I believe that God would not ask us to do something that is impossible. We have also been trying to visit a very inactive family, the family Resquin, and they never seem to make time for us. We have been going to their house over and over to no avail. We had a great lesson with them the first week we were here, and they said they would go to church, but didn`t. And since then they haven`t wanted to talk to us. But on Wednesday we went yet again, and caught them outside (aHA!). And they were so happy to talk to us, actually. As if they hadn`t been avoiding us at all. The mom said, "Hermanas, we have something importantismo (very important) to do. My daughter Rosa is 9 years old and isn`t baptized." And thus it is. She already has attendance at church and the elders taught her a while ago, and we are re-teaching her everything this week and have a baptism on Saturday!  Hna. Resquin and Rosa went to church yesterday and everyone was so happy to see them. Members came up to us and said, "Hermanas! You did the mission impossible! You got the Resquins to church!"  But all we really did is just keep on trying to visit them. 

Another day we were doing a visit with Leti Franco  (I`m attaching a pic of her and her family, they help us a TON) and asked her if she knew an old investigator named Elaine that we had found in the area book. She knew the general area and we asked around and found her. Little did we know that the day before Elaine had come home from the hospital from having a baby, and was alone with her two other young children and her husband was at work. Her house was a disaster, and on top of that she doesn`t have water at her house and had to carry water, which she shouldn`t be doing after having a c-section. We immediately washed dishes, cleaned up a bunch of trash, got lots of water, and transformed the place. It felt so good to be at the right place at the right time. I felt so much joy helping her, because she was really stuck. By the way, she is from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Ever since your call, Hope, I see people and things from Sao Paulo everywhere I look!

My comp is just so great. We make a good team, I think. She speaks guarani and is teaching me, and I am teaching her a little english.  I decided that it doesn`t matter if your circumstances are ideal as long as you have a great companionship, you can be happy and conquer. Good lesson for life: marry the right person.

Yesterday we had an interesting little conversation when we clapped the house of someone who wanted to teach us that we need to study the Bible more, and ONLY the Bible. It made me think a lot and I realized that we are really the only church that believes that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Everyone thinks they believe that, but if they think about it they don`t. If God never changes, it means that if He revealed His gospel to His prophets since the beginning of time, He will today, too. It means that if it was a sin to commit adultery back in Jesus`s time, it is still a sin, etc. People who think that the Bible is the only word of God we are ever going to get just don`t know God very well. Do they think the Bible was written in a day? No, it was written over years and years as God revealed his gospel to his prophets and they wrote the Bible. So....God spoke more, and then more books were written over centuries. And if God is the same, He is going to continue speaking more, or adding books. Everyone loves to quote the verse from Revelations that says "if any man adds or detracts from this book he will be condemned" (of however it is in English). But they don`t understand the Book of Revelations if they use that to mean there will be no word of God. This is a battle I fight daily, trying to show people God loves us enough to guide us through these latter days. The heavens are NOT closed, folks. God speaks to us today because we need him now more than ever. And why do you murmur and complain about receiving more direction from God?? 

There is a young woman in the ward, Pati Perez, who is 19 and has wanted to go on a mission but hasn`t been able to decide if she should. I wrote a few scriptures on a post-it note that helped me when I was deciding to go on a mission, and as I prepared to go. (D&C 100:1 and D&C 31. Scriptures that Matt Price so wisely texted me.) I gave her the note on Friday when we had lunch at their house, and the next day we were with her to do a visit with her and she said, "Hermana Goimarac, you helped me so much. I read those scriptures and then my patriarchal blessing and prayed, and felt so much peace. I`m filling out my papers on Monday. Those scriptures addressed my exact concern, that my family is going to be ok while I`m gone." Her mom is in poor health. It made me so happy to be able to help her. 

Your helpful spanish word for the day: la lagartija (lizard). Helpful for explaining to your companion why you shriek from the bathroom when the little lizard who lives behind the medicine cabinet pokes his head out at you while you brush your teeth. But it`s a cute lagartija.

I am so very happy. So content. So hot. But so thankful.

Your Sister Missionary,

Photos: Today we went on a little excursion to Aregua.

 The Franco family and us: Alipio, Leti and Janet.

Our house. Prettier on the outside than in...haha. And still has a rat we cannot trap.

Friday, January 18, 2013

"The crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty," Jeffrey R. Holland (Photos at end)

Dear Family,
The new dog is super cute! I am so glad there is an animal in the house again. She is a lucky dog. Do you think she can run four miles with you every day, mom and dad? I can only imagine how jealous Snickers is, looking down from heaven. haha

HOPE, happy birthday this week!!! I will be thinking of you on Saturday (even though I think about you like all the time already especially since your call). You should ask for the day off at Sound Bites. I sent you a letter two weeks ago so look for it. Also, I bet you are going to baptize a ful in Sao Paulo. I`m sure by now you know there`s a temple there. Many of the early members in Paraguay traveled there to be sealed with their families. It was the first temple in South America. 

The photos I`m sending are of me and Hna. Pelozo, of me by a cow in our daily short cut, and of the baptism of Blanca (who finally got confirmed yesterday! Her father died on Wednesday which freed her up from taking care of him, and she went to church) I sent this photo before but I don`t think you were able to see them.  The fourth is an advertisement for soda pop.

Yesterday Ronni went to church all by himself, without his friends or his mom, and received the Aaronic priesthood. He is really quiet but seems very devoted for a 12 year old. I think of Elder Zaballos of the 70 who also joined the church as a child alone without any family. I know a family is much more preferable though, and we are working with his parents but for some reason they are not nearly as submissive and willing to go to church. Along with the 15 other people who committed to go to church yesterday and didn`t. 0 out of 15...whew. 

Sister Quito called me from Piribebuy yesterday. She told me Sonya is getting baptized on Saturday! It made me so happy! I wish I could be there for her baptism but it doesn`t really matter, we`re all on the same team. I remember the day I contacted her, and now here she is. I sent a photo of her and me last week. Hna. Quito also told me she got a card from you, mom and dad, and also a card from a sister in my ward (don`t know who). She loved it. Thank you so much. 

We worked sooo hard this week. We found 14 new investigators and had 32 lessons and contacted a ful (a ful means a ton, by the way. A spanish word I kind of love) and reached our daily goals 6 days out of 7. The happiest days are the ones you work the hardest. Funny how that works. 

Mom, the heat is definitely a trial but I`m getting kind of used to it...I guess. We do have a ceiling fan and a floor fan, but with both of them on, my alarm clock still says it`s 92 degrees. I wake up as hot and sweaty and thirsty as if I had been running all night instead of sleeping. 

This week I read a talk by Pres Monson about seeing others as they can become from last conference. I really felt the Spirit. I KNOW he is prophet. Anyway, it is a quality I`m really trying to develop. I am also studying each of the Christlike attributes and setting daily goals to practice one of them, and realized God wants us to have hope in people. Hope is a Christlike attribute. He wants to us to not give up on anyone, he wants us to see people who seem hopelessly lost or stubborn or uninterested, and see the good in them, have hope that they can change and "put off the natural man and become a saint." 

Last Friday (the day Hope opened her call!) was my half-way mark. I can`t believe it, but I also don`t think about it. Why count how much time I have left on my mission if my mission should last my whole life? Perhaps my location and my nametag will change, but I will never look back or turn my vision away from missionary work until the job is done and the love of God and of neighbor rules the world. As Elder Holland said in his extremely-moving conference talk, "Ours is not a feeble message. It is not hapless, it is not hopeless. Is is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. This is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. " It is also to change me as a missionary. I don`t really see a lot of changes in myself, but I sure hope I have changed. I can say I have way more confidence and almost no fear in opening my mouth about the gospel, which was not the case before. 

Well we had some great experiences this week. We had a visit with a recent convert, Sergio Ayala, and his wife. I asked him why he decided to get baptized, and he looked at his non-member wife and said, "Well, I actually never told my wife I got baptized, but now she knows. Honey, I got baptized in September." That was unique. She was a little surprised but not upset. We haven`t been able to find him at home since. We are also working with a great guy named Milton who I really think is going to join the church. He started talking with the missionaries because he has diabetes and terrible foot pain that the doctors can`t figure out. He is desperate to be healed. His faith has already grown so much and he truly wants to believe. We had an amazing visit with him on Saturday with the Perez family and they invited him to watch the John Tanner movie with them, which is perfect. Have you seen that? It`s on the D&C DVD and is an amazing story of John Tanner whose leg was healed. 

There are literally millions of mangos ripe right now. There are Paraguay mangos which are small and sweet and full of fiber and Brazilian mangos which are big and have no fiber. I love them. I have mentioned to some people that I love the Brazilian mangoes (but they`re harder to find) and on Saturday I had 6 mangoes that members had given me. The whole town smells like cooked or rotten mangos because there are just hundreds lining the streets. (And with all this fresh fruit it seems everyone still just eats meat and white bread and soda...)

Well this was a fairly lame email I`m afraid. But know that I love you and that the mission is one of the best decisions I ever made, and that the gospel is here to change us. Let it change you. And go read Elder Holland`s talk from conference again. And tell the missionaries in the Sedona ward how lucky they are to have dinner and a with-member lesson every single Monday night with the best family there is--mine.

Your Sister Missionary,
Hermana Faith Goimarac

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Man Never Stands Taller Than When He Is On His Knees

Bom dia!!!! That means good morning, and it`s the only portuguese I know. HOPE I AM SO HAPPY ABOUT YOUR MISSION CALL I COULD POP. And you know me and those moments when I say I am going to pop. I am telling everyone about it. I even wrote about it in my letter to my mission presidente. Why didn`t I think of Brazil?! You`ve been there, you already know spanish but you wanted to speak a different language, it`s close to Paraguay so it`s obviously pretty great, you`re good at roughing it so living in a jungle or in a South American city will be no big deal. In just a few short months we will be sooooo close. It`s going to kill me being so close yet so far away. We have to find a way to see each other. I can just do what someone I know does and show up in the ward you`re serving in on my way home the Sunday after I leave Paraguay. After all, no one can stop me from going to church. Oh Hope, you have made me such a proud sister. I am so thankful Heavenly Father sent us to the same parents at the same time and that we get to be sisters in the best work ever, too. How do you say sister in Portuguese? Just yesterday afternoon  I was talking with someone from Sao Paulo, little did I know that at that moment you were probably thinking about that place. 

Well, we are in full swing in Isla Bogado trying to establish everything. I am with Hermana Pelozo, from San Lorenzo Paraguay, which is right down the street from where we are. She is a breath of fresh air! So loving, humble, sweet, full of light and she always laughs instead of being frustrated when something happens that we can`t really do anything about. She has such a good attitude. She`s been a member for just 6 years and is the only member in her family. Her family actually doesn`t even realize she ever got baptized. She kind of did it in secret and they never thought to ask. They don`t have any interest. She, like Hna. Quito, joined the church thanks to an invitation from her member friend. She`s been an EFY counselor, is the the current primary president, and just loves the gospel. She is studying nutrition and is on summer break right now, so she told Pres that she could be a local missionary for 6 weeks if he needed her, and sure enough he did. She walks fast, she sings great, she likes to eat salad and cook healthy things. I`m happy. :)
Our house is...well, we are not alone. We had a rat but I think it`s gone.  I think I`m going to die of heat before I fall asleep. There is no air conditioning whatsoever. Hope, perhaps you should sleep with 6 blankets as mission prep. 

My comp is great but she has no mission experience, and we are doing a lot of visits with members who also have no mission experience. So, I have to really stay on top of things. It`s mentally draining at times to have to remember everything on my own. There`s a lot to do....(I just plumb forgot it was fast sunday yesterday, just forgot, can you believe that? I felt awful and will be making up for it.)  Our chapel is a huge stake center, so beautiful! There is a ward! My first ward and not a branch! There were about 80 people at church yesterday, although there are supposedly 600 members. Did I mention there is lots to do?

I have to say, I really know this change was inspired. I have felt it a lot over the few days we`ve been here. Our first day we arrived at the house of a member, Hna. Perez, and she hugged us so tight and began to cry and said a whole in her heart has been filled, that we are two angels who are going to change this ward. She was taught by two sister missionaries from Utah  21 years ago and is still in touch with them today. She and her husband and RM son all have callings in the stake and are a rock of the ward. It was so different to go to church here and basically just attend (well, I did play the piano in sac mtg here, too)  than in the little branch of Piribebuy, where I taught two classes and played the piano and sat by investigators and calmed wild little Arturo Baez at the same time. 

I was going to tell you a little about how it was to leave Piribebuy. It was so hard to say goodbye. Sonya, our investigator that we taught maybe 6 times, called us and asked if she could come over to say goodbye. We can`t have people in our house, we went to her`s and we visited. She began to cry and said we have changed her life. I never would have imagined she would say that. She ran in the house and put together a little gift for me with her photo and jewelry and a letter and told me "Te quiero mucho." It was so sweet. I heard she went to church again yesterday, and although I wish I could be there to see her progress, I know I planted seeds in good ground with her. 

We got here on Wednesday afternoon and were told there was an investigator with a baptismal date for Saturday already! There are two companionships in the ward, the ward is divided into two areas and there are elders in the other area, and they have been working with a 12 year old boy named Ronni in our area. We had his interview on Friday and his baptism on Saturday and confirmaion on Sunday, and ya esta! It was the easiest baptism ever! His mom is not a member, but came to the baptism and all three hours of church on sunday! Ronni was so happy at his baptism, just gleaming and grinning ear to ear as he came out of the font. Baptisms are always soooo happy. We`re going to have a lot here, I don`t care if this area hasn`t seen a baptism for 18 months. I feel like I will be here for a long time, and good things are going to happen! I am soooo full of HOPE!!!! I am so happy (despite being so lost! haha!)!!!

Your Sister Missionary,
Hermana Goimarac

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Babylon, I bid thee farewell (Babylon referring to my old self, not my old area)

Deaaaaaarrest family,

It was indeed so wonderful to skype with you on Christmas, but also so very difficult to say goodbye. I just miss you all so much more than I realize, and seeing you makes me realize. Especially knowing I won`t see Hope for so long made me really sad, but yet I`m so happy she`s going on a mission that it drowns out the sadness on large ratio.

I am also on pins and needles waiting for your call, Hope. But just know this isn`t the last time in your life that you will be anxiously awaiting news. For the past week but especially today I was dying to know if I was going to be transfered from Piribebuy. There have been days this week when I thought it was necessary that some type of change happen, and other days when I thought "If I get changed I`m going to cry."

Well I don`t remember what else I was going to tell you in my email today, because all I can think about now is changes. Elder Vance, the AP who I know because he was recently our zone leader and came for all our baptismal inteviews (back when we had baptisms) called, which made me curious because it should be our district leader who calls. He started out and said, "Hermana, remember when were talking about how hard it is to get people to church and I told you how I had an area when there were no investigators in church for 13 weeks in a row? And then how, much later after I left, the people I had taught during that time began to progress or get baptized? Well, soon after that, that area closed down for a year, and that ward had no missionaries.  But the Lord has decided to send missionaries there again, and He is sending you to open it." And, on top of that, I am going to be with a local missionary, a member from Paraguay who just fills in for a change or two when there is an odd number of sisters in the mission and we lack one. She hasn`t been to the MTC or anything. It`s like training again....but so different.

I honestly didn`t think I was going to leave Piribebuy. I don`t feel like my work here is finished. But I guess that means I should have done it all sooner. I thought I would get an easier change after this, maybe be junior comp for a while (hallelujah!) or just stay in Piribebuy. But here I go, opening a new area with no direction from the past missionaries, no one who knows how to get around town, no progressing investigators lined up......just a house and an area book and a new missionary. At first I was just plain nervous, but now I am nervous and excited. It`s a brand new year, new area, new comp, new opportunity to give my all and start over. I kind of can`t believe the Lord has so much confidence in me. I feel like he is taking quite a risk with me. I do feel like I have given my all to my current companionship and truly worked so hard to help Hermana Quito. So, for this reason, I am so thankful God is giving me a chance to redeem myself. It is truly a tender mercy.

Oh but it is SOOOO hard to leave. There are so many people I want to keep visiting, to keep teaching, to see them progress. How can I leave dear Sonya? And Teodora and Edgar, our new progressing investigators who are like my parents and always want to feed us? How can I leave the Velazquez family? How can I leave Jorge and Marian (and their adorable son Kevin) without seeing their wedding and baptism? How can I leave Kuka, Ino`s little boy? I probably won`t see these people ever again and it literally breaks my heart. To them I`m just another missionary who comes and goes, but to me they are much more than just members or investigators.

Today during personal study I wanted to reflect and make new years resolutions. But I couldn`t think of anything concrete, to make a smart goal (one that is specific and has a deadline and is measurable, etc.) But I did think how, in a nutshell my new years resolution is to just sacrifice everything I can possibly give. I want to look back on this time, and be proud of the person I`ve been. I want to know the choices I`ve made won`t make me wish that I could make them again. And I know that if I don`t want regrets, I have to just GIVE all I have, and then some. If there is any way to give more of what I have, I will DO IT. I will contact when I don`t feel like contacting, I will take the blame when I don`t deserve it, I will be happy when I don`t really feel happy, I will think of the work when I want to think about myself or my future or the boys in my life, I will pray and fast even when I am tired, I will be optimistic when all seems in vain, I will teach with all my soul even when no one appears to care about what I have to say, I will be loving instead of frustrated, I will be humble instead of offended. Basically, I am leaving my fishing nets behind as Peter did when Christ called. Babylon, I bid thee farewell, you are so 2012.

I realize that good goals are specific and not so vague, but it`s an attitude I commit to adopt, and I do it in front of everyone who reads this so it`s official. Carrie, I liked what you said about the importance of setting goals. Heavenly Father wants us to set goals. Yesterday in Primary (there were only two little kids because it was raining and we had half the attendance as normal) I had the kids set goals, too. They committed to read their scriptures every day. It made me think about the time that I finished the Book of Mormon for the first time, when I was like 9 think. I remember telling dad that I finished, and he said, "Now you need to follow Moroni`s promise and pray to know if it`s true." I remember that comment kind of hit me, as if it had never occured to me that it wasn`t true. But since that time I have prayed many times to know if the Book of Mormon is true, even though I already believe it, and I have had it confirmed to me time and time again that it is. I know with all my heart it is.

Wow, this email has no direction. I`m all over the map. My thesis is, happy new year. May you celebrate not as the Paraguayans, who all drink clerico, which is fruit salad with wine in it. May you set resolutions and may you pray that I get some sleep tonight. And may we all always remember that no matter what happens this year, even if you are expected to do things you don`t feel very adequate in doing, God will be your support and you can definitely not only survive but thrive. I KNOW that the Lord always provides a way for us to fulfill what he has commanded. Gaaahhhhh the church is true and missionary work is the best.

I`ll write to you all next year. And I`ll see you next year, too.

Your Sister Missionary,
Sister Faith Goimarac

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