Thursday, August 29, 2013

Emily sent this email on Monday, August 26, 2013.

The gospel is so great!

We have been meeting so many of God's children this week!  There are a lot of people in the area that are ready for the gospel.  

We have started teaching this guy named Rene.  He seems like he is going to be dedicated to giving this a try!  We usually meet him in the park.  Wednesday night when we were meeting with him, he said that he would be baptized.  He just barely got out of jail and so we aren't sure if he is on probation or parole.  If he is then he can't get baptized because he isn't living in accordance with the laws of the land.  He hasn't been able to come to church because he works at the carwash on Sundays.  We've probably met with him 3-4 times.  Just that last time, he told us that his papers went through for this other, much better job.  We told him that he needed to stop working at the carwash and we think God helped him get this other job so he would be able to come to church.  His date is 22 September 2013 and his confirmation will be the following week.

We met a name named Solomon Sanchez on Saturday.  We were just finished with our lesson with Francisca and German and waiting for the car hermanas to pick us up for a Blitz when Solomon walked by.  I swear, I need to make a bingo sheet with all the cool gospel names.  We've already got a Moroni and soon we'll have a Solomon!  He walked by us with a baby in a stroller.  He gave us a double take and we had him.  He has already been reading in the Book of Mormon and he knows that it is true.  I think he thinks that any book about God is true, though.  He anxiously gave us his number and made sure that we had his.  He even called us on his phone and waited until he could hear our voices through the other side.  He said that he would like to come to church and that he would really be there.  He of course doesn't have a car.  We offered to find transportation for him.  He actually agreed.  Again, this sounds super exciting, but almost nothing ever comes of any of this.  We called him that night and he was still on for church.  Still, this is not that exciting.  We decided that he was legit-enough that we would find him transportation.  We tried really hard Saturday night and no one could.  We told him we had transportation for him though.  We finally found someone in the morning, but they needed to pick him up at 8:15.  We called him and told him and he was good for that.  When we got to the church, the elders texted us and told us that he hadn't come because he was taking care of his grand baby.  Of course.  While we were waiting outside the church and it was almost time for the meetings to start, we see Solomon walk through the gates of the church.  He walked to church.  He came in a different entrance and finally people identified him as ours.  We gave him to the elders to take to their meetings.  THIS IS A MIRACLE!  We let him stay with the elders in gospel principles (which was taught by Hermano Sosa from the bishopric--he is really really good) which was on tithing and then we had Sacrament.  We talked to him afterwards, and he said that he liked church, but he would've liked it more if he understood more.  We told him that we would definitely fix that and we set up an appointment with him.  Yesterday, Sunday, we taught Francisca and German like we always do.  Then we had a companionship study in the park with the district leader.  After that we went to an appointment with Carina.  We met these cute little girls about 2 weeks back and they loved us!  They told us that the English sisters used to go to their house and teach them.  The English sisters would tell the little girls and then they would translate for their mom.  That is crazy!  We should've been visiting that family!  I think it was Thursday or Friday that we were heading down Varial on our bikes when this little girl started saying 'mom! mom! The missionaries!!'  She was the little girl we'd met.  She had been so excited to get us in contact with her mom before, but her mom hadn't been home then.  The stars aligned for all of us in that moment because we were all there on the street.  It was pretty dark, so it's lucky that she even recognized us!   It turns out that 3 years ago there were some English sisters that went there.  This little girl had remembered them from 3 years ago and knew we were the same when she met us the first time!

When we went to visit the Torrez family (we found them just a little bit ago and they seem awesome) we met some of their neighbors out on the steps drinking.  I think this was Thursday night.   The appointment fell through with them so we did the walk of shame back to our bikes and had one of the coolest contacts with their neighbors ever.  The dad and his friend were the ones that had initially been teasing us when we'd pulled up.  They were on the front steps drinking and his wife was a little ways back with the kids.  The friend was much more vocal and talked about how only God can judge people.  We talked about what his relationship was with God.  Many people tell us how much God does for them.  He told us that he just does what God wants him to do.  We asked him what he did to show God that he was trying to follow him.  He takes care of his father who is really sick.  He doesn't even have time to work because that is what he does every week day.  He was a lot easier to understand because he spoke English.  About everything else we do is in Spanish.  When I'd asked him that question, I was thinking about the commandments and how that loyalty and obedience is a sign that we are loyal to God.  Being in the service of our fellow beings also is a gift to God.  Mostly we talked with the tattooed friend.  We talked a lot about the plan and the doctrine of Christ.  We talked about how eternal life is the greatest gift of all time and if it were easy to obtain that that would cheapen it.  We talked deeply for a bit more.  At one point the dad got up to go use his phone.  He didn't make a phone call.  He felt something.  We could almost see tears in his eyes.  The mom in the back started perking up.  She had been working on a laptop but started to listen and by the end she was standing on the steps right behind the men.  The dad went to get us drinks.  He said that he wouldn't offer us beer, but wanted us to take the water.  It was dark and time for us to leave, but they all felt something.  We were able to leave them with foyettas of the plan and the doctrine of Christ.  It was so cute how worried they were about us getting home safely.  I don't think people realize to the degree that God protects his servants.  

We have miraculous experiences every night.  I love being here.  I love the people and I love the work.  This is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done in my life.  It blows people's minds that we do this every day and without getting paid.  People don't understand why we are so happy or why we go about every day trying to spread the good work.  Many people don't respect us until they talk to us and then we gain very loyal, if nothing more, connections.

Ok, Love you!  

p.s., my hair is getting really light and kinda long!  I am super super tan and my freckles are really coming out!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

We received this email from Emily on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013:

I am very excited about the things that are happening here.  Next week I will tell you a lot more about German and Francisca.  They are incredible and they have so much faith.  I am amazed by what they live through.  They both speak Spanish, and their son Erik mostly speaks English.  Apparently he is kind of handicapped, but as of right now he isn't that noticeably behind.  He has said some really cute things to me.  You don't happen to have sheet music for a pretty Spanish baptism song?  I know it is a long shot, but I just thought I'd ask ;)  I want to make Francisca and German's baptism really special by playing 'I like to look for rainbows' or something like that.  Actually, maybe that is in the Children's hymn book too..  

I played the opening and closing hymns in Relief Society on Sunday.  I did a pretty good job.  Both of the hymns were easy.  One was Venid a Mi (Come Follow Me) and Mas Cerca Dios a Ti (Nearer My God to Thee).  So, yes!  Had it been almost any other songs, it would've been more of a struggle!  I am really excited about this!  We text them for the hymns about every day because we think we might be able to spare an hour on Wednesday to practice, but they never text us the hymns until we arrive at church, so that kind of frustrates the heck out of me.  

So right now I am at the Chapel.  This is were we do our emailing.  We just rode over here after doing our three hours of studying and our laundry.  After this we're going to have to go to the store and do grocery shopping and somehow get the groceries back home again.  (All we have is our bikes, so we have to be a bit creative) :)

We are starting to teach the English class on the 28th of this month.  Basically our companionship is completely in charge of it and I am super super excited to start!

Ok, well I love you so much!

Love, Emma

Monday, August 12, 2013

We received the following email on Monday, August 12, 2013:

Hey family that I love so much!

I love you very much!  

I ended up buying a bike and I love it!  It is simple and black so hopefully it won't draw enough attention to it for anyone to want to steal it.  It cost about $300 which was a pretty good deal.  The owner at the bike store told me that I looked like a princess--which was really nice because we pretty much go about every day feeling not very pretty!  A little girl told us we were pretty just the day before.  It was so cute because she was still saying it to her mom even after they were further down the hall on the way to their room in the apartment building.  And, she saw us with our skirts rolled up and our helmets still on just after we'd carried our bikes up 2 sets of stairs.  

Most missionaries put garbage bags and duct tape on their bikes to make them look older.  I kinda want cover mine in church stickers!!  And use stickers to spell out 'choose the right' or something fun.  I'm probably going to make a water bottle holder to put on my bike!  Hermana Pulver and I want to attach some sort of basket to our bikes so that we can have our pass along cards even more handy!  My bike is going to have so many gadgets.  I do handoffs while we are riding down the streets and the sidewalks!  It is so much fun!  I'm pretty sure that people have started recognizing us because, come on, two girls in skirts on bikes EVERY day is kinda memorable.  We are also really happy and people notice that.  We get a lot of comments about how it looks like we are having fun.  

We are having fun, but there is a lot more.  We feel joy because of the nature of the work.  About 10 times each day we will turn to each other and say, "What we do is so awesome."  What we do is SO AWESOME.  We have been trusted by Heavenly Father to take care of this part of his vineyard and help bring to remembrance the words of Christ.  We say 'hi' to absolutely everyone we meet!  We talk to people and offer service and help.  We pray on the streets.  We testify.  We give out pass along cards.  Getting ready to leave the apartment in the mornings is pretty cool because we stock our bags full of materials that will fit the needs or anyone that we could meet.  We take Books of Mormon, Libros de Mormon, foyettas in English and Spanish and pass-along cards and cards.  We are prepared for whatever we might meet.  

Do you know who goes on missions?  Agents.  Agents go on missions.  I am an agent of the Lord.  I even went to a training center and learned a different language.  It is physically and mentally difficult, but I am getting stronger everyday!  I am becoming more accomplished in the art of persuasion ;)  Just kidding!  But really, I do feel like someone from an Alex Rider book when I pack my bags full of supplies and helmet up and grab my bike.  

I love our ward already.  We are meeting the members in our area and they are really sweet to us!  I love the Hispanics.   All the women at church greet us with kisses and...I'm starting to get used to it;) 

Something I've been pondering over a lot lately is the responsibility I have here.  Heavenly Father is trusting me with his children and there is nothing more valuable to him than them.  I am here and have the responsibility to bring his children back to him.  As missionaries, we invite people to come unto Christ.  I know that I am supposed to be on a mission.  I know that I am supposed to be here.  When we were at the MTC the director of the choir (who is brilliant, by the way) told us this before the devotional:  He said that if we were to fill the whole Marriot center and another building on campus even bigger than the Marriot center and pick just one person from all those people, that one person represents the people who are on the earth at this time out of all the other children of Heavenly Father.  He asked us if we were living up to our foreordination.  He asked us why we were the one that was chosen to come to Earth during this time of the battle for souls, when the adversary would be this strong. This amount of responsibility is a bit overwhelming to me right now.  I am constantly trying to see If I am living up to the foreordination.  I want Heavenly Father to see that he was right when He decided to trust me.  I've been a little stressed out with this lately, but I'm working on it and I am learning about how either we will find the people that are ready for us or the people that are ready will come find us.  God will lead us to someone.  And lots of the time it isn't the person you think you are being led to.  Hermana Pulver is amazing and teaches me things all the time.  She is teaching me that it isn't our responsibility to convince people of anything. They have to be ready.  She is a well of wisdom and is great for me.  Anyway, we found a wonderful family.  The mom was really really nice to us and asked us to come and sit in the shade of her yard and told us we could read the Bible there and she got us some bottles of water.  I am excited to visit her again and see if she wants to come to church with us.  I actually called her on Saturday to invite her, but lots of people don't get phone calls because not very many people pay the phone bills.  Frustrating.  

The Chavez family is so so so cute!  I love them!  The two sons: Eric and German are baptized.  German is 17 and Eric is probably 11.  The mom and the dad are both getting baptized on the 5th of October!  They came to church yesterday and it was so sweet to see them making friends with the other members of the ward!  We call German everyday at 10:00 to read El Libro de Mormon with him over the phone.  We visit Francisca about three times a week and then we have a lesson with the both of them on Saturday and Sunday.  I just realized that this might be confusing, but the Dad's name and the son's name is German.  I don't know how that happened ;)  Francisca is so sweet.  I would love for you to meet her one day.  She has a big copy of the Book of Mormon because her vision is so bad.  We are working really hard to get her a BOM on CD so she can learn more because reading just a chapter is definitely an arduous task.  We think we've about secured one and we are really excited to give such a humble person something that can bring them closer to Christ.

Love you!  Gotta go!

Love, Emily

Monday, August 5, 2013

We received Emily's first email from San Fernando, California, today--Monday, August 5, 2013.

Hello!  Hello!  I love you all!

Well, I am here!  I am getting over the shock!!  I am in the San Fernando Valley!  The San Fernando mission includes the San Fernando valley and the Santa Clarita Valley.  The mission home is in the Santa Clarita valley.  My mission is the El Camino Real mission!  Pretty awesome, right?  In our ward, I am one of 4 Spanish speaking sisters and our companionship is the only one on bike.  The other sister companionship is the sister training leaders and guess what!  The leader, Sister Clifton, is the daughter of the nice lady I met at the MTC!  I told her that I would look for her daughter and now we live right across the street from each other and she is actually in the same room with me right now!  

Ok, it is crazy here!  It is California!  There are so many Hispanics!  We say hi to every single Hispanic person we walk past.  They are really social, and friendly, and humble.  If I did in Salt Lake, the same thing I do here, people would just look at me weird, but people here like it.  

Oh!  Here is the address I'm at:
7220 Oso #216
Winetka, CA 91306

Our little apartment smells like a cheap Vegas hotel.  Apparently it is nicer than a lot of the places they have in Recita.  Don't worry, though!  It is a safe area and my companion and I are very careful!

So it's really weird being here because at the same time that I can't really comprehend that I'm here, it is almost hard for me to remember my past life.  And I think that the fact that I call it a past life shows that it really is very, very far from me.  I don't think it's really hit me yet that we ride everywhere on bikes and enter lots of Spanish speaking houses and that I am REALLY HERE.  It's kinda like a dream and not reality.  I can't imagine myself doing anything else though!  Like, home almost feels like someone else's story.

Ok, I am definitely supposed to be in this ward!  Our ward mission leader is AMAZING!  His name is Moroni and apparently his dedication and responsibility is unheard of in a Spanish ward.  I can help this ward so much.  They sing to a tape in Relief Society.  Doesn't that make you sad?  That is so pitiful and we can do a lot better than that.  I would've needed them to be this desperate before I would've volunteered to be the designated piano player.  If there was another girl who could play, I wouldn't have ended up playing.  Heavenly Father put me here so I would end up being the piano player.  I am sooo excited about this.  So, I'm going to be the ward Relief Society pianist, and who knows, maybe I'll get promoted to ward Sacrament meeting pianist depending on how my skills go.  I am hoping that because I am serving with everything that I have, Heavenly Father will bless me and help me to develop this talent.  

Also, we were brainstorming with the ward mission leader and trying to think of an awesome activity that we can get people to.  So here is the idea:  It is going to be a night of nourishment.  It could be called "Feed my sheep: primero con pan y despues con pan de la vida" (feed my sheep, first with bread, and then with the bread of life).  The plan is to have a pot luck/share your specialty food event, and then..........dah dah dah dah!: a little program centered around the Primary!  Basically the Primary children will be dressed up as people from the Book of Mormon and they will be on the stage acting-out/looking cute while there is some narration about that story.  Then they will sing a song that goes with that scene.  I wrote about 7 different scenes. 
It's going to be so adorable because all the little children are ADORABLE!!!  There are two girls in particular that I adore and they always run to me and talk to me and pull on me and touch my hair.  They love now naturally curly my hair is here!  I am so excited to make this program awesome and cute!  

Love you!