Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Emily sent us the following email on Monday, November 25, 2013:

How are you doing?!  I hope you are doing well! 

This is a boy named Alex and he is totally great!  Ales is a menos activo and a recent convert.  He struggles with an obsession to Marijuana.  He is really smart and likes to write poetry.  Most of his poetry is about Marijuana or it is about God.  It's a strange combination, and you would really only get it in Alex.  

We have some successes with Alex!  He is not smoking anymore!  I know this is really hard for him and we visit him basically everyday.  Sometimes it is really short and just at the end of the night that we knock on his window and chat and laugh and share scriptures through the window. 

For Mariano's baptism, his mom didn't have any preferences or absolutely anything, so I thought it would be a cool opportunity to ask Alex to share a poem about the Holy Ghost in place of a talk.  When I asked him, I was surprised that he agreed so quickly.  He wrote it that night and then shared it at the baptism. His mom, one of our investigators, drove him to the baptism and he got up and shared it!!!!  Ahhh!!!  I was glad that it was in English and most people there only understand Spanish, but I couldn't have been more proud of him.  He wrote the poem that very night after we talked with him. 

He has a poem about prayer that is my favorite.  He said he'd write a copy for me.  I'm amazed at its depth and I will share it with you when he gives me a copy. 

And, Alex came to church yesterday!!!  He got there early and he was wearing a nice shirt and sweater vest.  He also wrote another poem about Jesus Christ and his atonement that he memorized and told us after church!  He's just tearing it up and being so righteous.  Alex looks different since he's stopped smoking too.  He seems happier and there is a noticeable light.  Forever he was in denial that Marijuana was actually a drug..don't ask me how that can be argued, but he was able to recognize (as he expressed in some lyrics in one of his poems) that whether he thinks marijuana hurts him physically is not really the question because it hurts him spiritually and takes him away from God.  

It's hard to describe how much I love Alex, but I love him a lot.  We look out for him like he is our little brother.  This picture was taken right after the baptism where he shared the poem he'd written.  I want him to go on a mission so badly because I want him to be so converted that he will never fall to the temptations of the devil.  I feel like I learn so much about conversion by talking to Alex and studying for him.  Alex is going to be my friend even after my mission.  He's such a good boy. 

You know who else I love:

Adrian has been investigating the church for quite a while.  He dropped missionaries before because they were pushy and he just didn't believe it.  His doubt has always been the Book of Mormon, which is always interesting because the Book of Mormon is the "convincing evidence" of the restoration.  We had many lessons on the Book of Mormon and I've studied a lot for him.  He accepted baptism about 2 weeks ago and he is going to be baptized on the 8th of December. 

For the longest time we couldn't figure out what was the problem, and after digging around for a bit, we found out that he was praying more in his mind than anything else, which means that he wasn't actually praying.  He was just thinking about things and counting that.  We challenged him to pray actually kneeling and out loud everyday.  It wasn't long after that that we asked him to get baptized and he said yes.  Prayer is one of the crucial ingredients to gaining a testimony.  Prayer has to be sincere and the pray-er has to be willing to act on an answer that they get.  A good example of this is Joseph Smith.  He was ready and wiling to act on any answer that he got and he got the most spectacular answer of all. 

Here's a tender success: the other day with Adrian he told us, "No puedo negar que El Libro de Momon contiene las palabras de Dios" (I can't deny that the Book of Mormon is the word of God).  And then he asked us if we would still come and visit him after his baptism.  We assured him yes and were very much more touched when he asked if when we left if we could take his number with us so that we can talk with him after the mission.  :)  Adrian is so sweet and so humble.  He has this cute little cat that he takes care of.  He is quite a logical person, but nothing makes more sense to him than that there is a God.  Now he knows the Book of Mormon is true.  I love him very much.

He came to church yesterday.  We took a picture of everyone after sacrament because yesterday was our first Sunday as a new little branch.  We were a barrio (ward) before, but then split us into two ramas (branches).  It is very good for the missionary efforts.  Now the church is so much closer and hopefully we can get people to church easier.  Also, they have combined the youth groups with the English speaking ward, so there are much more youth and the activities will be fun and attractive.  We will have a larger pool to pull kids from to be friends with our young investigators.  There weren't too many kids before.  It's crazy that it's even possible to not have very many kids, but there weren't.  Now there are kids of every age and a class even :)

Anayeli told us yesterday that she didn't think she could be baptized.  This broke my heart.  We went over to her house to figure things out and ended up teaching her mom who started crying to us.  We'd already taught her mom, but I think we're going to start more consistently now.  She told us that she was sad because she felt like her heart was hard.  I've been putting great effort into learning scripture and their location and I was immediately able to open to Alma 5:13 that talks about how when the people were preached the word of God, a great change was wrought in their hearts and they humbled themselves before God and put their trust in him.

There is hope here.  We have an apt on Tuesday at 6:00 to teach the Plan of Salvation, and we are going to take a member with us to lessons.  We've been having a hard time having a member present at lessons because so many of our lessons fall through, but this is an effort that we will start making.  I'm excited to see miracles because we are taking members with us. :)

I love you so much!  Take care this week!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Emily sent us the following email on Monday, November 18, 2013:

How are you doing?  I miss you!

I'm having a great time in Santa Clarita!  It is totally different here than in the valley.  I got into a little slump of comfort where I'd stopped approaching everyone and making friends with them.  After about a week and a half of that, I wasn't feeling right and knew that things had to change.  I knew that we needed to be finding more investigators so that we could cycle through the people that weren't progressing.  We needed to find the people that were prepared and that were perishing by the wayside.  I studied finding [How do I find people to teach?] in Preach My Gospel.  I wrote down all the things that I could pray to have help with.  (Examples: to have the courage to be bold and open my mouth, to have the faith to find, to trust that Heavenly Father would help me teach them the right thing, the spiritual sensitivity to know who to talk to, etc.)  I was actually pretty down and I had no choice but to study and pray and plan and act.  I had my list of about 10 things that I could pray for and then I would pray before either leaving the apartment or the car.  We found SO much this last week.  It was incredible.  I didn't passively walk past people, but I stopped every person and chased after some people.  The lady we chased after in Jakes way (Tina)  told us that she knew she needed to give more time to the Lord and loved the story of the restoration and wanted us to come over to her house Friday to explain it more.  She shared two little sandwiches she had that she was bringing home from work with her.  She is one of our new investigators. 

The man at night that was checking the mail box--His name is Miguel.  He was very impressed that two blancas could speak Spanish.  We joked about the mail, flossing (he works as a dental assistant) (Yes, I have the flossing technique/gospel analogy) and then he invited us to sit on his porch with him and tell us the difference between Catholic beliefs and Mormon beliefs.  About twice he told us that he was Catholic because his parents were and that is how he was born.  We taught him the Restoration (our unique message as latter day saints).  He was really curious to have a Libro De Mormon once I'd told him that was the gift of God to us letting all his children know that Joseph Smith was chosen by Him to lead and guide us.  Miguel is a new investigator. 

Once Heavenly Father knew that we were going to be diligent and talk to everyone in our path, he knew it wouldn't be wasted efforts to put people that were prepared into our paths.  It's cool how there are things that you can do to gain the trust of Heavenly Father.  Let me give you some examples.  And they all almost have to do with being diligent. 
  • If Heavenly Father knows that you will always be obedient, then he knows he can trust you and he can set up situations that you will fall into by being obedient.
  • If you humble yourself and just do roleplaying, then Heavenly Father knows that he can trust you with investigators because He knows that you truly care for them and will take the time to prepare for them.  (role playing is like cutting around a grapefruit for someone: a true act of love)
  • If Heavenly Father knows that you will go where you planned you would be the night before, then he can have someone else in that general vicinity even if the person you think you are looking for isn't there.  (we could probably be better at this one)
  • If you promise to talk to everyone you see, he will open your spiritual eyes and let you see the one that needs your message.  
  • If you study preach my gospel, opportunities will present themselves throughout the day for you to use the things you learned.  He is showing you that he is in control.  
Man, it's just so cool!  There is a lot of repenting (changing) I need to do!  I repented during sacrament yesterday and recommitted myself to being a more diligent and trustworthy agent for God!  I love that he lets us start fresh in his eyes every week and doesn't hold things against us.  I'm trying very hard to make Him proud and let him know that he can trust me.  I'm trying to show him that I will treasure up the things of Him so that when called upon, things can come into my memory.  I'm trying to be his tool, and that brings me such great joy. 

Ok, I have got to tell you about Anayeli!  I love this little girl so much!  Anayeli is such a sweet girl.  she is only 14 years old, but if you met her you would think she was at least 16.  She has a difficult life.  She is always sacrificing for everyone around her.  She hurries home from school so that she can be there to help take care of her nieces because her sister leaves her kids there and goes out.  She spends the time she has with them.

She has a baptismal date for the 1st of December.  She is acting in faith to find more comfort and strength in her life. 

The other day we taught her the word of wisdom.  It was SUCH a cool lesson.  We talked about how Satan wants people to fall and he wants to cut off their communication with Dios.  When fighting a war, the enemy knows that the best chance they have to overtake the others is to cut off their communication.  That is exactly what Satan tries to do with us.  He will do anything he can to keep us from having that connecting, unifying communication with Heavenly Father.  The second that we choose to break the Word of Wisdom and put a drop of anything into our body, instantly, we forfeit the presence of the Holy Ghost.  When our bodies are drunk or high, it acts as a barrier in between our spirits and Dios.  Because our spirits have to dwell in these mortal bodies and be subject to all consequences of being human, we have to work hard to keep our spiritual receptiveness up. 

Anayeli would've had a different childhood if she'd had parents that had lived the Word of Wisdom.  When we taught her this law she cried.  I asked her if she could see why God had given us this law and if she thought it was from him.  She said that she could tell it was from him. 

The Word of Wisdom is a law of health from God.  It is supposed to keep us healthy physically and spiritually.  There might be things that we don't think will hurt us physically, and maybe they won't, but that is really beside the point.  They hurt us spiritually and there is no way around that.  We also have the Word of Wisdom to show that we are going to be obedient.  If none of these benefits even existed and it wasn't a commandment from God, the Word of Wisdom alone, would still save many marriages.  I told Anayeli that she will be able to marry someone in the temple that will keep the Word of Wisdom.  With that she will know that her husband will not spend money on drugs, get drunk and be mean to her or her kids, waste time bumming around, leave her to go smoke with his buddies.  If nothing else, the Word of Wisdom is meant to save marriages and help people live up to their privilege as children of God.  Drugs rob you of real happiness and leave you empty.  She's young, but not that young and she's seen a lot of things.  Now she is more aware of the adversary and his tactics.  We have another set of eyes that we can open to see that we have the choice to either follow God or to let the adversary have his way.  Ana's eyes are opening and it is so cool to see her seeing this life for the test that it is.  I feel like my eyes are opening to this too. 

I felt prompted to tell her that all the things she was learning right now were because she would have people put into her life that would need her and they would need her to help them with the knowledge that she was learning from the Holy Ghost right then. 

She told us that she felt something.  That it was warm.  Like a hug.

Emily also sent this photo with the caption, "I built this temple."  It appears to be quite a feat of engineering!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

We received an email from Emily on Monday, November 5, 2013:

Dear familia,

You made my Halloween so much fun!  I love how creative you are and everything you sent me appeals perfectly to me!  I basically turn the glowing pumpkins on every night and enjoy them.  We are going to make the cookies today.  (We need to make them soon or I am going to have eaten all the chocolate chips before we get to cookie time.  How did you know I love the big chocolate chips? ;))  We listen to the Halloween CD on repeat in the car anytime we go anywhere.  I love my new companion very, very much.  She basically knows all our Halloween songs :)  She is from Idaho, but she lived in Utah before she came.  She is one year older and she went to 3 years of college before the mission.  She was in my first MTC group.  You would probably see a picture of her in my MTC district, the first time around.  I already told Hna. Larsen that I have a Thanksgiving song to teach her that we can sing as a round.  She laughed and said she is excited.  Also, she is celebrating Harry Potter month with me.  ha! :)  It's wonderful!

I love being here and I love what I am doing.  I've been using the Atonement to feel more joy and not rely on people besides Christ.  Also, knowing that I have the best family in the world fills me full.  I love our family and all the members in it.  I know if we have our family that I have everything and more that I need to be happy.  :)  The love and support that I get from you means so much and sustains me.  I wish I was able to show you that more.  I read you letters multiple times and laugh at all the funny parts.  I miss your personality and I am so grateful for how you take care of me. 

It has been getting really cold here.  Freezing cold.  We freeze like every night.  Skirts!  We might try to go and buy some tights today or something.  We'll have to see what we can find.  I don't know how much of a good job they'll really do, but we need to try.  Maybe I need to get leggings instead..  We're going to go investigate our options because it's only going to get colder from here on out. 

I took that recording device and I am going to try to record on it and mail it to you and tell you some things.  Basically this is because it was so good for me to hear your voices on the CD you sent me, and so I thought I'd try to return the favor a tiny bit.  Oh, I love the CD.  I will literally listen to it for the next 14 months of my mission and after that.  Feel free to send me CDs with songs whenever you like!   Here is the thing about the recorder.  I'll probably just have to record it when we are driving in the car or something because we don't really have down time ever.  So it's not awkward, I'll probably have Hna. Larsen included in on the conversation and we can both tell you the story of this week. You'll get to see a lot of her personality from the recording.  I'll also have her tell you a bit about herself!  I think it'll be cool.

We're going to go, but we might be in Newhall tonight to use their computers to create baptism invitations for Mariano  and so I will probably check my email a little later today.  Thanks so much for everything.

I love you:)

Until later, love, Emma