Wednesday, January 27, 2016

El día de los reyes

January 11, 2016 
Dearest family,

First off. Yes. I did eat the grapes. Your lack of confidence is insulting. Just kidding you know I love you  ;) but really. I did eat them.

This week has been a huge learning experience for Hermana Peters and I. It has been a hard one. I will say that it has been one of the hardest I have had yet. But we also laughed a lot, learned a lot and kept on trying. With that wonderful preface lets get started.

 we honestly just took the day super slow and played the piano in the chapel. Hermana Peters has been trying to teach me, I'm still rhythmically challenged, but learning.

Tuesday we started to see the beginning of the festivities. Bands marched around the streets playing songs to let everyone know that the three kings were following them. This brought hoards of children running catching the candy that was thrown. We got to have a lesson with U that day. She is a less active member who has been struggling recently with her health. But as we have come and taught her she has talked about how she knows something is missing from her life. It was such a miracle that we were able to teach her that day and give her a little comfort in her hard situation. Tuesday night was really interesting because it was basically like Christmas Eve. There was a huge parade in the center of San Fernando where the three kings came with candy for everyone, but Hermana Peters and I were out on other streets so we missed it. But it was funny because we managed to teach one person that night, and when we went in, the streets were full of people, and in the 30 min we were inside they all went home because we came out and the streets were empty!

Speaking of that one lesson, we got to teach an old investigator who's name is Man. His wife passed away recently and he lives alone now. We taught a lesson in the doorway and as I started to explain the Book of Mormon and offer him one, he walked away. We were both a little confused, but then he came back with a really old Book of Mormon. Turns out his wife was reading it before she died. I felt the spirit so strongly as if she was actually there with us as we invited him to explore the truths his wife had been. He accepted, saying that he was too old to change, but he wanted to feel close to her again so he would. I know there is power in the Book of Mormon and I know he will feel it as he reads. The good news of the gospel is that it never is too late for anyone, and I am sure that his sweet wife will be gently prompting him as he begins this path.

Later that night we were walking and a cute bakery was selling Rascón de Reyes. A traditional kings day dessert. And there was a lady giving out free samples. We happily accepted and kept on our way. It was funny how much that lifted our spirits. The rest of the night was spent walking from house to house trying to talk to people. We didn't have much success, but we learned how to work together better in our teaching. Learning from the power of two testimonies is always better than just one.

Wednesday morning was actually pretty magical, so king’s day is awesome. During the night the three kings come and give the children presents they set them up in their rooms or in the living room and as the children wake up they just go crazy with joy at what the kings brought. It was really fun to be doing our studies and hear from the pizos surrounding us shouts of joy from little kids. When we went out on the streets to work that morning there were 2 people out. Us ;) but we still tried to work. People were really surprised to see us show up to their homes, they would ask us, do you know what day it is!? Or just laugh at us silly Americans ;) but it honestly was fun to be out trying to work and talk to people as they celebrated the gifts given to the Savior. That afternoon we ate more Rascón with U and J. Normally in a Rascón there is a bean and a little king doll hidden inside. The person who finds the king is king for a day and the person who finds the bean has to pay for the Rascón the next year. Hermana Peters got the king! I just got a nice piece of Rascón ;)

Then we went to the chapel and taught English to E. Who is from Spain but is actually going to school in Russia. He is really cool, but has no interest in the church. But we won't let him get away that easily. We finished the night with our bishop, he was really kind to us and gave us.... More Rascón ;) a whole one to take home. I don't know what we are going to do with it. But hey :) our bishop is really wonderful and takes his calling very seriously. It is as if every member here is one of his children. I love it.

Thursday we had an awesome weekly planning. We really got excited about the plans that we made and are so ready to attack this next week. We then went to Ms' home and ate the most Spanish meal of paella and croketas :) then they gave us three or four desserts. Christmas here is killing me.

We then went and taught a less active member who we had never met. She invited us in and let us sit down. We talked to her and she told us about how she liked her experience with the church but she would rather to be free to do as she chooses. This really didn't make sense to me. Because I have learned on my mission that being truly free only comes by living the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the Lord has blessed us with the organization of a church to do so more fully.

I am so grateful that through my Savior I truly can be made free. Agency is a precious gift that we have been given, but honestly the best thing we can do with our agency is just give it right back and do His will. I explained to her my thoughts and she thanked us for the spirit we had brought but told us in all honesty she had no desire to change even if we were right. Hermana Peters and I were a little desperate trying to get through to her. But in the end we couldn't change her perspective. We left a little discouraged and spent the night walking from house to house trying to talk to anyone. But from it we learned just how powerful our own agency is. And we built a firmer resolve to stay true to the light we have and not regress.

This week with zone conference we had the opportunity to give a talk. It was the first talk Hermana Peters and I have given in a zone conference. So we were both pretty nervous. But we were able to study a lot about commitments and how to effectively give them. It was honestly a huge learning experience for me. I hope those in our zone learned something because I know that I did: I realized just how important commitments are.

If you look at what we want as missionaries, what we really want is the salvation of souls. And that can seem like a huge mountain. But we cannot exactly grab our investigators and drag them up the mountain of salvation. It just doesn't work like that. Our job as missionaries is to help them take small steps of faith until they develop the spiritual strength necessary to do it on their own. Elder Nelson said something I loved in his first general conference talk, "Men finally climbed Mount Everest, not by standing at its base in consuming awe, but by shouldering their packs and by placing one foot in front of another." I feel often like there is no way I can help others climb a mountain I myself struggle with. And yet the way we can help them is through commitments, commitments we ourselves have had to make and keep, so they can put one foot in front of the other and start. And through our honest and pure testimonies they can gain the courage to begin. Anyway I could go on but I'll try to keep it short.

The Other thing that I really felt strongly about in the commitment process was giving testimony. Sometimes as missionaries we bear testimony so often it's like we fall into a pattern, and honestly I feel like sometimes we as members do this. But what a sacred opportunity we have to share this knowledge we have fought for through our own climb with others. I hope we never share a truth given to us through the spirit in a spirit of levity. I hope we always put power behind the simple words “I know”, because there is power there.

Last week when we were still teaching C I was bearing my testimony of the Book of Mormon to him, and I started to tell him that I knew through the power of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon was true, I meant the words but I don’t know that I was really feeling them.  He stopped me and told me to be careful, because at judgement day we will be judged by the words we speak. And I looked him in the eye and said that it was my privilege to be there and testify of this book. And that I know I would be judged by my words, and with that knowledge I would state again and keep declaring my knowledge that the Book of Mormon was true. He didn't have much to say after that. And that was fine because I feel like it was more of a powerful experience for me than for him.

The rest of zone meeting we talked about our goals for the year and how if we consecrate ourselves we would be able to achieve our area goals which would all come together to make the mission goal of 832 baptisms. It was incredible to me that we set that goal as a mission and when adding up the goals of all the stakes in the mission. The number they had set was 831. I know the Lord was inspiring all of us as we set our goals this week.

Saturday was the culmination of our week. Our investigator who was supposed to get baptized wouldn't answer us, we got dropped by two very promising investigators and did not teach a single lesson until the last hour of the day when we taught Ch. It was a hard day. But we learned how to push through and just keep going. We learned that it was okay if we were having a hard day because there are thousands of missionaries working and over all the Lord’s team is winning. And the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. So we can't get too sad.

Sunday was wonderful as always. Taking the sacrament is such a privilege. And we also sang my favorite hymn in the Spanish hymn book. It's called "el fin se acerca" or the end is close. And most missionaries don't sing it because they think the end of my mission! No! But these are the words in English. I love them.

The end is close, and there is little time
You should proclaim that which God commanded you
Leave then brothers, with faith proclaiming
That God has already founded his kingdom anew

Fulfill the work that you have accepted
Follow the model he lord gave you
The present pains, as much as they weigh now
You will have joy in the end it better times

Oh what does it matter to you the hate of the world
God will protect you, you have the truth
And God promises you eternal life if you are always faithful
And to him listen

Be firm, you will be tested brothers
If the just win, Satan will lose
More Christ will give to the just protection
If we are faithful to him he will save us

 So that was probably an awful translation but you got it. I love it.

Sunday night finished with the call from e ayudantes congratulating us on our baptism. What. Turns out Hermana Smalley accidentally reported a baptism she didn't get. After getting jokingly reprimanded for lying about numbers they asked about the area and such. It was just super funny in light of the week we had that they called to congratulate us.

Anyway sorry for the long one. I love you all so much and I truly love the mission and all that I am learning.

Hermana Smalley

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