Sunday, February 28, 2016

We were super lucky, or protected, because it was ready to explode

February 22, 2016  
Hello wonderful family of mine,

I hope all is well and that you have seen the miracles in your lives this week. Because no matter what we are going through God is working miracles in our lives. I have been thinking a lot about something an investigator said. He asked if God was real and so powerful why doesn't he stop at least some of the suffering that is all around us and make it just a little softer on us. Besides all of the standard answers that the plan of salvation gives us, I thought: who's to say he doesn't? Who’s to say he is not already working in our lives, softening blows that we don't even see coming.
Well that's my random intro... Let's get down to it:)

Monday night we got to meet with our bishop and he told us about his own conversion. It was funny to hear that he had rejected the missionaries before, and even when they years later were teaching his family, he had left them out in the rain because he wanted to watch a futbol game. He laughed at himself and said how clever the adversary can sometimes be, to cloud our vision and let us miss what is really important. But he ended up baptized and is an incredible bishop.

Tuesday morning we went finding. Going to different parts of our area in search of new people. Talking to everyone in the world and doing all that we could to find, find, find. We have been studying chapter 9 of preach my gospel a lot looking for new ideas and trying to develop the faith to find. Then we went over to S’s house again to eat. I swear they were playing a game to see if they could fill us. Don't be alarmed. They couldn't ;) after a four course meal we managed to eat more that her husband who had to through in the towel and give up when desert came out. No, I'm not proud at all ;)

Tuesday night we saw an incredible miracle. We were going to our back-ups and passed by a family. She let us in to talk for just a little. Her little two year old boy, who is basically a Spanish Will [Nephew], but was adorably making tons of noise. She told us how when the missionaries had last come to see her she had been having problems with her husband and their family was falling apart. But as they listened together and read together things started working out. My jaw literally dropped as she continued to talk about the spirit the missionaries left in her home and how she knew what they said was true. How many times had we walked past this home? Through this neighborhood, with no idea what was already there. But God knew. It also made me reflect on my personal studies that morning, had I been working hard enough to bring that kind of spirit to her home. And I was happy to say that I had done all I needed to have the spirit there with us. That might sound over confident but I don't mean it that way, I know that I am nothing without the spirit. And God knows it too. So he gives us the time we need to search out the spirit. If we do our part He does His. We are so excited to keep teaching Angela and help her develop this testimony that she already has.

We then went to teach M & family. We taught lesson one. Again. It's an interesting situation because M is a recent convert but his wife and son are investigators. Who really aren't progressing, but we go back so M can receive the missionary lessons and do the best we can to help his family. It has been interesting to see how every time we teach a lesson they come away with a different part of it. I have faith that one day all of them will be members ;)

We finished the night with our dear C. Oh my. I love that little old lady so so much. Our bishop has asked us to keep an eye on her because she was recently a menos activo and is alone. But she is the most loving wonderful person ever. Walking into her home literally feels like a little safe haven.

Wednesday was also an amazing day. We met a new investigator at the church named A. She is amazing, we got to give her a tour and talk to her about all that we do here. She told us how it was the first church she has ever been in without the sad images of Christ or the virgin. She loved how simple and clean everything was. I didn't realize until then just how different our church really is form the cathedrals that surround us here. Ours are buildings full of light, with space to teach, and with paintings of the life of Christ. Some people might say that the cathedrals with all their intricacies are more beautiful. Yes they are incredible. But there is something so special about these small simple buildings of ours.

We also met with P and his family and heard their conversion story. P told me how the first time the missionaries knocked his door he grabbed them both by their shirt collars and escorted them out of the building. But he is now the secretary in the bishopric, and an amazing member.

We got to meet with M!
Por fin! I realized his last week that with M we had been incredibly selfish. Possibly wanting her to get baptized for the wrong reasons. She had told us she felt it would be better for her to wait until she is 18 because of her parents. While we disagree, I realized that it is ultimately her choice. Her family. And her father. How could I pretend to know the whole situation? I know she has a testimony and that she would get baptized today if she would talk with her parents. But she has told us if she tells them wrong they will say no for forever – not just until she is 18. So we taught her a lesson on Ester. It was a story she has never heard before and I honestly couldn't believe we hadn’t thought of it before. She loved it and we are going to fast this week and M told us this is what she would fast for: “To know what Heavenly Father wants me to do. If he wants me to tell them now, how? And if not now when?”

While I have been here in San Fernando I have learned so much about patience and trusting in God’s timing. It has been a huge humbling experience to me. When I got here I thought I knew everything and that I was such a “hot-shot”. But I now know how much I don't know, how much I still need to learn and how much our success really is a gift that we cannot earn. And even if God doesn't see fit to give me success in this area, I will go on working as hard as I can to leave this area better than when I found it. I know that God knows where the elect live in this area. He knows them by name and could lead me straight to their front door. But what good would that do me? Absolutely none. So I trust him. He can see the big picture.

Thursday we ate with another member family, cute Gema told us about how it was so weird to have us there because she remembers what it was like to be in member homes. Then she told us in a couple years we would be feeding the missionaries in our homes and not even know what to do with ourselves. Yeah. Weird.

We also got to teach U&J. Sigh … J, J, J. I am starting to come up short with ideas to help him. I know Heavenly Father has a plan for him, but maybe I won't be the missionary who gets to help him take the step of baptism.

Then the day of days. ZONE CONFERENCE!!! Yeah I was so excited. So Hermanas Brown and Briggs came and stayed with us. And it just happened to be the night before Hermana Brown’s birthday. So Hermana Cole and I woke up at midnight and sang happy birthday and made her blow out a candle. Yeah, we ran in their singing. They didn't even move. Like no reaction they were so dead asleep. So we turned on the lights and tried again with the desired reaction. Then we promptly went back to bed ;) we then got up at 5:30 and got on a train to Sevilla. It was so fun to see so many wonderful people again. When I first saw Hermana Peters, Elder Alexander was about to shake her hand but I didn't even care, I basically shoved pass him and gave her he biggest hug, we both might have cried a little. I love that woman.
The conference itself was incredible. I learned so so much. Elder Johnson talked about the gift of tongues and really applying ourselves to learn more of the Spanish language. He made a really bold claim that has really stuck with me this week. We were talking about the fear that keeps missionaries from talking. And he said, “Where does this fear come from?” Paused and then said, “Make no mistake, all fear in regard to missionary work comes straight from hell? It was a pretty bold statement that kinda felt like a slap in the face. But it is so true. Fear is the number one tool to kill missionaries. And it will never be the way God works. So we need to let go and just give it all we can and talk to as many people as we can.
Elder Martin asked for Hermana Cole and I to help him by roll-playing an example of a good contact. Instead (to have a little fun with it), we roll-payed an absolutely fatal contact. But everyone thought we were legitimately doing our best. So it was a little awkward when Elder Martin asked how we could improve because no one wanted to be rude ;) we laughed and had to tell them we purposefully did it badly. Hermana Anderson laughed and said even when I was trying to look discouraged and sad I couldn't manage it ;) then we did one with tons of animo and it was great :)
[Dad note: in this context, “animo” translates to: spirit, courage, valor and zest]
President Anderson’s birthday was also one Friday so we sang for him and gave him a cake :) we ate lots of food and had a grand old time. After, I talked with Elder Reid and Elder Johnson a little bit about finding and how I could help Hermana Cole have a good experience training even if we weren't teaching as much as we would like. They asked about how many news we had found and when I told them they just said, well don't get down on yourself, you know you need to do better. It was a simple thing, but it's true. I do know that, and we will:) they also pointed out it was obvious our companionship didn't lack the animo or diligence so sometimes we just need to keep giving our best and if the numbers don't follow shake it off and attack from a different angle.

Good stuff. After that, we had about four hours until our train left back for San Fernando. So we got to talk to Hermana Anderson for a while which is one of my favorite things. It was really hard to see some of the missionaries I know and love for the last time on Friday. They have been such great examples to me. And when they gave their last testimony I just couldn't even believe the amazing people they have become. It's always hardest to say goodbye to the people who are not from the US. Because I will probably never see them again. But I have learned so much from them and will always be grateful for the chance to know them.

Saturday morning was an adventure. Our whole piso started smelling like gas and while Hermana Cole was showering I went and checked the butane that heats our water. Well it was kinda leaking all over the place, but to be honest, didn't think much of it! (Weirder things had happened.) So I re-did the seal and got in the shower. Then during personal study our CO monitor started going off. So we raced around the apartment opening all the windows even though the wind here is still crazy and it was freezing! Then we called the office. Elder Red started asking me questions and I mentioned the butane problem and he was like, “Okay so besides the fact that your piso is ready to blow up and full of toxic gas how are you?” Haha, we laughed and then really quickly got someone there to fix the butane. Turns out we have been super lucky, or protected, because the thing was basically ready to explode. Not to alarm anyone. We are safe the piso is fine. It was just funny. Anyway ;)

Saturday night. No one wanted to talk to us. And it was a long night but we kept trying :)

Sunday was wonderful as usual with correlation and consejo before church. But, that afternoon I was pretty down, and didn't want to go out for another night and feel completely useless. So I got on my knees and said a really long prayer and then felt better. I picked myself up and we went out and worked. We felt impressed to knock some doors in a neighborhood, so we did. We found a lot of futures. Then we felt impressed to go elsewhere and we also found more futures. The whole time talking to everyone and casting away all fear, and you know what happened? Yet again, I became happy. Every time I forget who I am and why I am here all I need to do is contact someone and tell them. It always amazes me how it lifts my spirits.
When I was at BYU, Bishop Morley gave me a teeny Book of Mormon that now stays in my bag and when things get rough we open it and read one or two verses to give us some animo. These are the verses we read:

 Alma 15:13-14 13 And Alma established a church in the land of Sidom, and consecrated priests and teachers in the land, to baptize unto the Lord whosoever were desirous to be baptized.

14 And it came to pass that they were many; for they did flock in from all the region round about Sidom, and were baptized.

Talk about animo! Anyway we got to work and felt like we should swing by an investigator. Turns out her daughter was there and we got to teach them both and it was such an amazing experience. On the way home we contacted a man who we got to teach a lesson, and he told us he wanted to meet with is again and talk more. It was pretty awesome. Such an awesome night. So we knew why Satan tried so hard to keep us inside that day.

This week has been a really big leaning week for Hermana Smalley. I am so grateful for the mission and that I have this amazing chance to be here. I cannot believe that 9 months of this precious time has already slipped away. But there is a lot of comfort knowing that I have given everything I can up until now, and I don't plan to stop. Love you all so much. Remember that we are never alone and anything we have to face has been faced before. Christ knows and loves you personally. Draw near to him and he will draw near to you.

Love Hermana Smalley

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