Saturday, June 27, 2015

Mexico Week 69: Being a Positive Influence

Dear Family,

I cannot even believe that I will be with y’all in 2 weeks!  Seriously, it doesn’t even feel real. Kind of makes me nervous! It will be a whole new adventure at home.

Rain Season has officially begun in Mexico.  I am putting the boots to good use! It doesn’ t matter how sunny it is in the morning … you can never leave the house unprepared!

Okay story time!!

Hermana Claudia is precious. We visited her this week and she tells us that they’ve started praying as a family!!  We have like a month and a half inviting them to do it and they started!  She said that it brings them so much peace and how awesome is that?!  She also told us a story.  She said that she went to the market to buy cheese and other things and she asked for a tiny bit of cheese and paid her 5 pesos and went to the next stand.  She told us that when she got home, she realized that they had given her more than 5 pesos worth of cheese.  She said, “I just felt bad, usually this kind of thing doesn’t even bother me before, but I couldn´t get it out of my mind!  I went back and explained the situation and we worked it out.”  We talked to her about the Holy Ghost and how he is always going to guide her now that He’s her constant companion.  She really is changing!!  She also tells me, “Hermana Rawe, we’re going to talk on Skype after you go home!  We’re going to put you on the big screen here!”  Ha! Ha!  I was so excited and just love them too much.

This week her son left on a month long trip to Tijuana, but he’s been praying and he took his Book of Mormon with him. I told him I’d see his baptism pictures on Facebook.  Ha! Ha!  But really, I know he’s going to progress too!

We’ve also been working with an investigator named Teresa.  She is super shy, but so sweet.  Her prayers are always so sincere and right to the point.  We taught her this week about the Law of Chastity and she was eating it up, that same day she talked with her spouse and they made plans to save money and to get married within the next month and a half.  She loves to learn and she’s been reading the Book of Mormon too. She is one of those special people and she always asks me, “You’re not leaving yet right?”  I keep telling her no, not yet.  No worries!

Yesterday we visited a less active family. They have been wanting to come back to church.  They asked us to teach them how to do Family Home Evening. We took lots of pictures of temples to their home and talked about temples and eternal families. We played the game Headbandz but with church terms and everyone was laughing and having fun. They really opened up with us and they are even more excited to get back to church. They’ve only been members for a couple of years and they’ve been inactive for a year. They are too sweet!

So right now, the Elder that baptized them is living with them, but last night they started telling us that he’s not really the best influence for their kids and they’re worried. I was completely shocked.  I starting thinking about how important my example is for the people I have taught in Mexico.  I always want to be worthy of their trust and that they see that I live the gospel even after my mission!  It is not that different than being a Laurel, or being a Youth Camp Leader at Girls Camp.  The younger girls look up to us ... if we are negative, they will be negative.  If we break the rules, they will think it is okay for them to not follow the rules.  It is so important that we always try to be a positive influence on each other!

I’ve been thinking a lot about everyone that I’ve met on my mission. They are all so special to me and I just want to put them all in one big room and see all of them before I leave for home!  At the beginning of my mission, I missed my home and family in Texas.  Now, I miss my home and family in Tlaquepaque … my home and family in Cruz del Sur.  I still can’t believe I’m almost leaving here.

We need to move on to happier topics … this makes me cry!  Ha! Ha!  We had a Ward activity on Saturday for Father’s Day and it was a hit!  The Relief Society was dancing and the Young Women and it was just too funny!  Speaking of this ... Dad, Happy Father’s Day!  You know how much I love you and I can’t wait to hug you soon!  Thanks for teaching me what love is!

The Lozano family gave talks and their 15 year old talked about patience.  Poor thing starts sobbing saying how surprised she was that her parents were so patient with her because she’s done bad things and she’s made things so hard for them but they’re always there.  Her parents have expressed a few worries about her and we’ve written notes and given talks to them and I just love their family a lot and Jenny made me cry.  She came down from the pulpit and her dad gave her a huge hug and I just thought about Heavenly Father.  He also loves and forgives us and is so patient.

Hermana Ramírez asked us to help in Primary because none of the teachers showed up. We taught the older kids about the Good Shepherd and it was so fun. We helped them sing their song and pass out their notes to their dads in Elder’s Quorum.  I just love being with the kids.

I feel stronger and uplifted and I know that Heavenly Father is right there.  I feel uplifted and I KNOW that the sacrament is essential.  I would never survive without it!  I love this gospel.  I love the church. I love Jesus Christ.  I love my companion and I know she’s trying too.  I love those short few moments we have when I tell her I love her, or write her a note, or we talk about the Atonement.  I treasure those short moments and I’m trying to be more loving and patient and do what the Lord has asked me to do with the right attitude.  I love my President who is my hero and sends the most amazing emails.  Second only to my dad!  I love the Elders and Hermanas here in Uruapan. I love our investigators and I love our Ward. I’m happy, struggling, but happy and learning to dance in the storms.  Love you all to the moon and back!!

See y’all soon!!

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Mexico Week 68: Love is Always the Answer

Dear sweet family!! 

You are headed out to girl’s camp and I have been praying all week that all will go well!! You’ve all worked hard and now just let the Lord work, I know that it will be great. 

So first things first...the pictures!! This is Hermana Dayana. She’s less active and this past week she was going with us to our appointments and she went to church! It’s the first time she’s gone to church since I’ve been here!! 

My companion celebrated my 17 months with balloons! 

Hermana Karla was feeling bad the last time we visited her and Hermana Lucy was with us and so we helped her get the house tidied up! Hermana Lucy is a doll!  We love her too much! 

This week was my last zone conference! Crazy stuff right?  I am going to miss President and Hermana so much! We talked about the importance of the Sabbath Day using a training from General Conference. It was AWESOME!!  We talked about the church has the purpose of uniting families for eternity, but the chain usually breaks between baptism and entering the temple and it’s because of weak gospel teaching in the HOME.  We talked about the importance of keeping the Sabbath Day holy and how it will help families. This day we send a sign to the Lord with everything we do. How are we applying in our families what is taught at church? What are we teaching our kids that we should do on Sundays? It was so good!  We also talked about the Book of Mormon and I just loved it!  We sang the song “The Family is of God”.  Not going to lie ... I got a little teary eyed! Who makes missionaries sing that song??!!  Ha! Ha!  But, it was so pretty and honestly my new favorite song. 

President counseled us to study until we complete a Doctorate, if we can. He told us not to wait for all of the luxuries of life before we get married.  He said, “Now do you understand why faith is so important?” …  I love my President!! 

I had the opportunity to give a talk in church yesterday. I LOVE giving talks. I was praying and thinking a lot about what to talk about and I couldn’t get the idea of love out of my mind. I started talking about what is love and how much our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love us and how I came to know that that’s true. I used a lot of Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk, “The First Great Commandment”.  Once we’ve felt their love, there’s no going back, we have to love them too. I talked about how we show them our love and how we have a life of devoted discipleship to give. I felt the Spirit so strongly and I love this topic. We have to love, love our Father in Heaven and love everybody else. 

Last little story, yesterday we visited Claudia and Naty to see how they were doing and how it went in their baptism and confirmation and it turns out Brandon stayed at the table to chat.  He almost always leaves, but yesterday he stayed there! We started to talk about prayer and I felt the strongest impression to tell him, “I know you need a Dad. You need someone to listen to you and to help you and to love you and our Heavenly Father can be your dad. He is your dad. He will listen. He will help.  He will support.  He will counsel.”  He just looked at me and we kept sharing more.  He wants to start praying. We’re also going to start teaching him more and more! He asks us, “If I join your church, do I have to go on a mission?  Like it’s not my choice, I have to go?”  We told him he would make the decision and no one would force him.  A teacher at church always talks to him about a mission and I think he scared him! That’s why he hasn´t been hanging around!  Goodness!! 

Ha! Ha!  Well, I love you and hope that you’re all happy and not too stressed.  I want to see you all happy and in one piece at the end of Girls Camp!  I love y’all tons and can’t wait to see you soon. Keep praying for me! 

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Claudia and Naty

This week Claudia and Naty were baptized!  Ahh, their baptismal service was gorgeous!!  First, the Hermana LOVES flowers and so we bought her white ones with her favorite red roses for their big day.  We sang, “I Stand All Amazed” and I gave the first talk (Hermana Claudia picked me).  I talked about the Atonement and how Christ invites us to come unto Him and make covenants with Him, and how we have a life of devoted discipleship to give. As I was closing I got a little teary eyed and told them that even though I was not always going to be here, I would always be with them praying for them and encouraging them. I feel so much love for this beautiful family and then Hermana Claudia started crying and you could just feel the Spirit. Then Elder Neddo (chosen by Naty) talked about why we hang in there, why we just keep pushing and it’s because of the promise of an eternal family and the celestial kingdom.   The four missionaries sang, “The Spirit of God” and then Eduardo Lozano baptized them both. Everyone wrote them notes as they changed and the Bishop and his wife and the Relief Society President shared a few words and Hermano Mike got a little teary eyed and we’re hoping that being in the baptism motivates and encourages him a little bit. 

I just love baptisms!! I felt the Spirit confirming, hey you were an instrument in the Lord’s hands. He worked through you to help two of His beautiful daughters.  They’re just a little closer to making it home. It’s beautiful!  What we do as missionaries is a beautiful thing! 

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Mexico Week 67 -- Heavenly Father, Are You Really There?

Dear favorite family of mine, 

Today marks 17 months as a missionary!  Can you believe that?!  Kind of freaks me out a little bit. 17 months have gone by so fast and wow, just wow. 

So this is my mini coke!! Ha! Ha!  This little thing only costs 4 or 5 pesos and it is just perfect!! 

This is Hermana Mayorga and I at our Zone Meeting. I remember when she got here and stayed the night with Hermana Buttars and I!  That was a whole year ago! Crazy stuff!!  She’s in my Zone now and she is too cute! Love our Zone! 

Remember our Hermana Lucy!  The 70 year old grandma that always goes with us to our appointments? She is adorable and works a lot in a metal shop. She knows how to make so many things and she said she wanted to make me something that I could take home with me. She made me a covering for it too! How cute is she! Now I have a bird key holder ... I absolutely love it!! 

This is the daughter of a less active member. We ate with their family on Saturday but when we arrived, they were still preparing the food. Her daughter started teaching me how to make rubberband bracelets and we had a good time! How cute is she? Her mom, Hermana Saira, went to church on Sunday and shared her testimony. She says from the pulpit.  I’m grateful for the Hermanas.  Every time they invite me to church, I really feel like I want to go.  Sorry Elders, but they just make it so easy!  Everyone started laughing!  Oh, goodness!  Her testimony was so pretty and she’s just a special person. 

On Sunday it started pouring rain and all we had was one umbrella that I had brought. We were dripping wet with water and wading in the water trying to cross streets and it was absolutely crazy! We finally found Hermana Adelaida in her house and it turns out her cat had babies and her dog had puppies the same week! So cute! We were able to talk about the Holy Ghost with her and we love them too much! 

Claudia and Natalia are progressing so much! The plan is that they’ll be baptized this Friday and we have a really pretty baptismal service planned!  This week we really focused on the Book on Mormon. We taught the 10 commandments using the story of Abinadi and King Noah.  Hermana Claudia is so willing to change and to be obedient. She says, “Well Hermanas, I’m about the Sabbath Day. I know I need to wash clothes and clean the house on Saturday, I know we go to church, I know I need to take the sacrament every week, but we get home, and then what do we do?”  She just has this strong desire and she truly looks to us as guides to help her make decisions. 

We were going to teach her about the priesthood and temples on Saturday, but as were following up with her commitments, she had read so much in the Book of Mormon but she still hasn’t felt an answer. Then she mentioned that she felt like she was very impatient and just angry sometimes. I thought about 2 Nephi 4 when Nephi feels terrible about getting mad at his brothers. We read it with her and we pause for a second and Hermana Claudia says, “When we pray, we really need to talk with God, right? It needs to be a conversation.”  It was so AWESOME!!  Then we kept reading and as we finished, I felt the impression to invite her to write the impressions she had received or the things she felt like she should do as we read together. She starts writing and then puts the pen down. I wrote too, and as I was finishing, she picks up the pen again and writes, Read the Book of Mormon. We are helping her to receive and recognize revelation!! She’s already choosing who is going to baptize her and who is going to give the talks and what hymns we’re going to sing and it will be so pretty. 

As she talked about how we really need to talk with God, I thought about so many prayers that I said before my mission.  In my last semester at BYU, I spent hours on my knees, crying, listening, receiving answers, just super special experiences.  I was thinking that here on my mission, I’ve been lacking a little bit of that recently.  We got home that same night and my companion was really stressed and I sat down and started to write in my journal about the day.  I meditated on so many things and then felt the strongest desire to pray.  I felt the Spirit so strongly and it was a true conversation. The tears came and I felt His love, I haven’t been a perfect missionary, but I felt that He was content with all that I’ve done here. It was such a cool moment. 

In our Zone Meeting, we talked a lot about the covenants we’ve made with the Lord during our lives ... at baptism, in the temple, and as we were set apart as missionaries. I thought a lot about my covenants and how I need to better keep them.  I don’t want to just hang in there, or something like that. I want to faithfully and cheerfully serve in this time that I have left.  Sure it is hard, these past two months have quite easily been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but you could say that I signed a contract with the Lord.  I promised, and if I depend on Him and faithfully keep my covenants, He will strengthen me, He will make my burdens light and I will be able to serve Him with all my heart, might, mind and strength. I love the Gospel and I love the Lord. 

Hope y’all have a great week! Good luck with Girls Camp! 

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Mexico Week 66 -- Lord, I Would Follow Thee

Dear sweet family!

I love y’all too much and I keep thanking my Heavenly Father every day for the family that I have!  Can you believe it is already June? 

Let’s get these pictures explained.

The pictures with my companion are in one of my favorite parts of my area! It’s so pretty and open and I just love it! 

This week I went on splits with Hermana Peña and this time we went to her area. There are some CRAZY hills there! Ha! Ha!  It is awesome!!  We really had a good time with some incredibly spiritual lessons. We were crying and working with amazing people and just really good splits. She is an awesome missionary and we made pancakes. She is my new best friend from El Salvador! 

Today we had our Zone activity and played Preach My Gospel Jeopardy!  Ha! Ha!  We’re a little competitive but it was so fun. 

We also visited Hermana Claudia and Naty and we made empanadas! A Columbian speciality!  They were so good and we had a good time. 

 I’m a little sad about Elder L. Tom Perry. We received the message first that he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and that Elder Scott was still in the hospital.  Then the next message came through that Elder Perry died. It feels weird right? Like a member of the family died.  I love them so much. 

This week we visited Hermana Caracosa (her son died on Mother’s Day) and she is really struggling.  She feels like her relationship with God has been destroyed and little by little she’s trying to reconstruct it.  It is so hard when such bad things happen.  You really do feel like your relationship with God has fallen apart.  We talked about prayer and felt the Spirit so strongly, I love her so much and I love being able to focus on just living lifting others. It feels amazing and I just love it. I love loving people. 

We also have been working with Hermana Claudia and Naty. They are progressing so much and went to the ward activity this week and showed up at church by themselves!  We showed up at her house one day this week and she was watching conference videos and taking notes!  We are just working on helping her receive an answer to her prayers. We’re going to really focus on the Book of Mormon and they really do seem like members!  I was thinking about the Book of Mormon and how it really was written for our day.  It talks about materialism and avoiding pride and contention, being humble, being dedicated to the Lord, the importance of family.  We need a strong and firm testimony of the Book of Mormon.  We have to live it and study it personally and as a family. It’s one of the greatest tools we have to protect us and strengthen us.  I have found incredible strength in the words of Book of Mormon prophets and I know the book is true. I know it testifies of Christ and I know my testimony and understanding of the Atonement have increased by reading daily.  We all have to read!! 

We’ve been finding some new people to teach too and we’re working really hard!  I have been learning some hard lessons this week.  My companion and I went to church and it was all good, but since Saturday my companion has been pretty stressed and well mad.  She has said a few things that I don’t think she really means. She kinds of runs way in front of me and pulls her own hair and says we’re just wasting the Lord’s time, nothing good is happening here, etc.  I’ve never experienced anything like it and I’ve never had somebody so angry with me … Not even when we were younger and Mom made the face.  I felt so completely lost and confused, but I’m trying to not let it make me lose my enthusiasm or love for this work.  Being a missionary isn’t just about how many people you can baptize.  It is about helping people, bringing them hope, helping them to feel the love of the Savior, teaching them that living the gospel will bring them happiness and peace.  I’ve just been focusing on feeling the Spirit and not taking what she says to heart.

We left our lunch appointment and she was mad, and so she started saying some angry things and I knew she wanted to fight with someone.  I just tried to sing hymns and tell myself that she was stressed for other things and stuff like that and it was okay. I started talking to people in the street too because that also makes me feel good.  I just didn’t say anything and prayed she would feel the Spirit and calm down.  Well, she said something a little bit stronger and the enthusiasm slipped and the discouragement entered. I started getting watery eyed and started praying out loud in a whisper, “Heavenly Father, I don’t want to fight.  I don’t want to get mad.  I don’t want to get offended.  I don’t want to fight.  Please help me!  Help me to feel love.”   

Immediately, I felt like we should go visit Hermana Castillo. Last time we saw her, she was so sad and stressed out.  I had studied for about a week to find a message that would help her.  I kept thinking about the Lord’s grace.  We went to their house, and her son asked me if I was okay, “Your smile is the same, but your eyes look kind of sad.”  I told him it was all good! Ha!  Ha!  We started to share a message about grace. I felt the Spirit SO MUCH in that lesson. It was incredible. Hermana Castillo started crying and told us that she truly felt like now she understands grace. She started crying more and saying that we are never alone that we can always feel the Lord’s love if we look for it.  I shared my testimony too and I just felt it so strongly inside of me. I know the Lord lives and I know that I am doing things that never would have been possible without the Lord’s help. I could never keep my mouth shut and not fight back.  I could never put off frustration.  I could never forgive and forget so easily if it wasn’t for the Lord and his love.  I know that He is giving me the strength that alone I don’t have.  I thought of the hymn, Lord I Would Follow Thee ... “Pause to help and lift another, finding strength beyond my own. In the quiet heart is hidden, sorrow that the eye can’t see.  To the wounded and the weary, I would show a gentle heart. Savior, may I learn to love thee. Lord, I would follow thee.”

It is so true!  As I shared all of these feelings with her, she kind of looked at me and said, “You know how you can really tell the difference between missionaries that are committed and really converted to this and the ones that just kind of follow the routine?  The committed ones give their whole heart and they study for you and they find what you need and they share it with you.  They are like part of the family.”  I know that she was an answer to my prayer because in that moment I felt the Lord’s love so strongly and He gave me the strength to finish the day. I love Him so much and I love my companion and I know that it’ll all be okay. 

The lesson for me … What an incredible gift I was given to grow up feeling loved my entire life.  I mean really loved for who I am.  Those feelings of love and acceptance just ripple into other feelings of self-worth and confidence.  We all have crazy strong personalities, but we learned to work stuff out, without yelling most of the time and until everyone was okay.  We were taught to look for the positive in every situation.  I came on my mission grateful for my family, but when I come across people who have been treated bad their whole life, I am even more grateful.  I am learning how being a missionary helps prepare you for marriage.  Two people come together from different backgrounds, different family personalities, different ways of doing things, different ways of communicating .. and if you love each other, you continue to work on your relationship.  You work through the differences.  One person isn't right and one person isn't wrong .. it is just different, and you have to work to find the common ground.

Last night I told my companion I loved her and that she is an incredible missionary and we went to bed.  I laid there for a little bit thinking and I remembered a talk that Elder Holland gave a few years ago called, “Like a Broken Vessel” and I couldn’t get the thought out of my head.  This morning I read the talk and then I started crying during my studies because it was seriously perfect.

Elder Holland says, “So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love?” 

**Never lose faith in your Father in Heaven who loves you more than you can comprehend. Never ever doubt that and never harden your heart. 

**Faithfully pursue the time tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. 

**Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being. (I think that’s why I’m so addicted to hymns and conference talks lately!). 

**Ask for cherished priesthood blessings. 

**Take the sacrament every week and hold fast to the perfecting promise of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. 

**Believe in miracles. 

**If you are the one afflicted or a caregiver to such, try not to be overwhelmed with the size of your task. Don’t assume you can fix everything, but fix what you can. Patiently enduring some things is part of our mortal education. 

**For caregivers in your devoted effort to assist with another’s health, do not destroy your own. In all these things be wise. Do not run faster than you have strength. 

**Whatever else you may or may not be able to provide you can offer your prayers and you can give love unfeigned. 

I know that He was talking to me.  In some ways, we are all broken.  Maybe we are broken in a certain area, or maybe we are broken during a difficult time in our life.  We all struggle with things and it is our job to lift and love each other during those periods of brokenness.  I know that my companion suffers from many things and she needs my love.  She needs me to just love, love, love her and pray for her, and then love her some more until she starts to believe it herself.  I know that I need to be careful and take care of myself too. I love Elder Holland. I know that He is a servant of the Lord and I know that the Lord is with me. I feel Him. I feel His love and he is helping me to learn how to love all different kinds of people. 

I can’t wait to see y’all soon and I hope that you’re all happy!  Love you!

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