Sunday, January 29, 2012

So Yeah...

So, things have gotten a bit better...we finally got to go to the
temple today...a much needed trip (I will attach pics next week.). The
Portland temple is really beautiful and reminds me of San Diego'
good memories. ;) I am still not sure why I, Hermana Alard am on a
mission. Although I have felt pretty weird lately, not really getting
how I fit in the "mission", rolling a lot of thoughts and feelings
around in my mind and heart, I do feel more peaceful and happened upon
Words of Mormon 1:7 in the Celestial room which is good for me to
hear. I don't know why, but I've been worried about all ya'll at home
too, so bless you for your updates. I've printed them and will read
them later. That includes you Carmen...write me asap please; I don't
like being in the dark. Don't freak out, I'm not crazy distracted,
it's just better not to wonder is all. :)

As far as the Gonzalez family saga:
We saw them and the Lord knew what He was doing having us respond the
way we did, following our impressions even though we wanted to run
over there instantly, the wait was best. Earlier that day we had a
lesson with Z (who by the way has been blessed with a love for the
gospel beyond measure and baptism should be just around the corner!)
and she was wearing and adorable penguin beanie and it reminded me of
how we had told the little Gonzalez girls that we'd bring Hermana
Grass's sock monkey beanie she got for Christmas because they have
similar ones. When we got in our car after Z's, I just felt like
we should go get the beanie even though it sounded silly, I saw a scene
play in my head of Hermana Gress and I at their door and her wearing
it and when they opened, the girls being thrilled and giggling and the
rest of the family crowding to see and smiling...instantly breaking
the ice. I kept feeling impressed about doing this, but not sure if it
was revelation...but it ended up that we had time to grab it on our
way to dinner.
After dinner we went, Hermana Grass wore it and it was
like DEJAVU! The scene played out exactly as I had seen it and
everybody was loose and ready to be real. I love the Lord and I love
that he is funny. :) That is why he put me in the Alard family. ;) Our
revelation may seem out of the ordinary, but it was perfect.
 After a bit we asked what we had planned and learned that they are simply
overwhelmed. A. feels very loyal to the Catholic church and
especially right now to finish J's 1st Communion, so attending
both churches exhausted the family and they could feel the excited
pressure from the branch. A. had also misunderstood the RS lesson
about VT, thinking that everyone visited everyone every a
missionary and stressed of how she could never commit to that much
time and effort. With their family's school and work schedules,
communion commitments and the parents both getting GED's she feels
maxed out. And as far as feeling the spirit like her text talked
about...our sacrament is just new and she is used to feeling the spirit
a certain way in mass. (At least this is my interpretation...) Then
Ju jumped in and let us know how he supports the "patrona"
(A..haha.) but how he doesn't like the Catholic church, how nobody
is unified and there is a lot of hypocrisy. He never was near religion
until he met A, so he is not as attached to the traditions etc. He
also talked about how bored the kids are and doesn't think that they
learn much, so he and the kids prefer our church but are understanding
of A. and he does feel stressed out and acknowledges how tough it is
to change for all of them. So, he clarified that all they need is more
time and she agreed. We of course then asked what that meant...if they
believed what we had taught, if they still wanted to be taught and
explaining that it is no obligation, only their choice and definitely
clarified VT.
They all said how they believe in everything we have
taught and want to keep learning, saying that they will continue to
prary and read and come to church and activities when they can. None
of them liked the idea of slowing down and not being taught. Wasn't
this situation interesting?! Not at all what her text had communicated
and nobody had said a word to them that we know of. We could tell that
probably what happened was that they went to Mass and A. felt
stressed to hurry to our sacrament and then Ju said that they can't
waste our time if she is going to choose to be loyal to the Catholic
church right now and she cracked and texted us something
unlike her and they were very grateful that we understood. (You can't
serve 2 it is just a matter of time.) It wasn't that she
was dishonest, but that they are overwhelmed. Such a blessing to know
now how they all feel and be clear. We pleaded that they always tell
us how they're feeling and thinking so this confusion does not heppen
again. We are not going to give up on them...the Lord will be the one
to pressure them as long as they keep up the commitments that they
offered and we didn't even ask about praying sincerely and the BOM. I
feel so blessed that the Lord helped us handle this situation His way.
I asked if we could pray before we left and they really liked
that...Ju asked me to offer it; I was very humbled.

Other updates: We put a teenager we are teaching, Cr. on date to
be baptized 02/04/12!!! We drug him out of bed Sunday and got him to
church...mind you, we're talking 2pm church starts! Hahha, but hey! :)

Mary  was fine after reading all of her Mormon internet
research and her biggest question was what was baptism of fire from
the BOM reading assignment we had left her! Thank you Mary for reading
from the BOM on top of all of your crazy out of context research!
hahaha! So, once we answered that baptism by fire means the gift of
the holy ghost/confirmation after baptism, she said...oh, and I prayed
about a date to be baptized and the Lord gave me a dream and told me
I'm not ready...ha! She was so sincere...and we believe her and agree.
She's not quite ready, but wherever there is a will there is a way and
we are going to help her quit smoking...but the Lord is who she knows
can help her, because that's why she felt impressed to quit drinking
and have us start teaching her. :)

Ok, there's all of that...I swear the mission is just like film...I'm
just a part of a bunch of novelas! So, stay tuned for more episodes!
(They love, love, love novelas...gosh, I miss Mexico and hacking off
hair when they're mad Carm. Told Hermana Grass about that one and she

Love ya'll so much and thanks again for your updates! 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Let the War Wage On

Hey Family & Friends,

So our pday got moved to today because we were supposed to go to the temple this morning in Oregon, but because of weather (slushy snow) they cancelled it. :( I really needed to go to the temple and being from Utah this "snow" is laughable...but I will do as I am told.

 Well, I'm going to be completely honest with you...this weekend was brutal. Satan is fighting with all his might on the Gonzalez family and M. Our lessons were strong about the atonement and praying, studying the scriptures and attending church with "real intent" to know. The Gonzalez brought their kids to mutual, they've all been reading in the BOM and have been talking completely normal about church and them bringing up that they'll see us at church and preparing for baptism. We've had members present and families in our branch have set up family nights with them the next two weeks, so their fellowshipping is going well. Then, this Sunday the Gonzalez didn't come to was really weird, but we figured they had something really important come up and they usually text us if they can't come or need to change an appointment, but we heard nothing. So, we called them after church and left a really nice voicemail about how they were missed and we hope they are well etc. They then texted us a couple of hours later and the text was like someone else was talking...didn't sound like them at all. It was extremely formal and came as a huge shock to me and Sister Grass. They asked for our forgiveness for "wasting our time" and that "truthfully they don't feel the presence of God at our church...that we are always welcome in their home, but they are not going to come to our church...that they have felt the presence of God in the Catholic church."

Sister Grass and I were completely confused and broken hearted...we cried in silence, racked our brains with what could've happened between our last powerful lesson Friday and them telling us that they'll see us at church and then to Sunday and this text...totally unlike them to not say something to us in person after we had just discussed with them last week about where they were at and their feelings about the church and how they wanted to keep going and learn more and keep their commitments. So, we know it is God's plan and Satan always wants to disrupt it...he is working hard because this is an incredible family! We fervently prayed to do what the Lord wants in this situation. We feel that someone has told them misconceptions about the church and better yet that they are going to Hell if they keep listening to us or something...we don't know, but the formality of the text sounded more like fear than faith. We texted back later that we would like to see them this week and that it is never a waste of time with them and that we love them with all our hearts. They responded the next day very casual and positive...sounding relieved and inviting us over Thursday night.

Sister Grass and I are not discouraged...just dissapointed and doing our best to take that energy and make it motivation to serve all of our investigators and to do all that we can with the Gonzalez family. We plan to go to them on Thursday and tell them that we are confused, we do not know what changed and do they believe in what we have taught them and do they feel that they have done all they can to know for themselves. It reminds me of the Children of Israel and how many times with the people in the BOM who go back to their old ways no matter how much they've been taught...following fear instead of faith...not exercising their faith. We believe in them and we believe in the power of God to win...if we have but only planted a seed in the parent's and especially their kid's hearts (inparticularly their son J who we have felt very impressed is meant to join the church and build Heavenly Father's kingdom....his spirit and understanding and love for the gospel is more pure than anyone I've met on my mission so far.) that a lasting impression has been made so deep that it is impossible for them to forget this gospel.

We do not know the Lord's timing and we trust Him, although we are so confused. Thank you for your support and we are going to do all that we can do, but we understand that this is a matter of agency and choosing to know for themselves. We have taught them to the best of our abilities...this isn't about one more scripture we could've shared or a more heartfelt testimony...this is what Heavenly Father tells us in James 1:5, in 1 Nephi 10 in Moroni 10...ask Him! Then the pounding has kept coming from Satan as our other investigator, M, who told us that we are heavenly messengers and wants to be baptized...has quit drinking, working on quiting smoking, reading in the BOM, goes to church and has strong fellowshippers, got sick this weekend and when we checked on her, she told us that yes she has been studying and checking out this church on the internet and began rattling off questions from all sorts of anti-mormon literature...we again are not discouraged, but dissapointed and gearing up to say and do what the Lord would have us say and do at our appointment with her this week.

The Lord is blessing us. We have other promising investigators that I don't have time to write about now, but we had a breakthrough lesson with a less-active family last night after receiving some good advice from a member who said that because missionaries planted a seed in her when she was young, that is what stuck with her and why she went looking for the church as a teenager, she also shared an analogy from her friend, "Life has its ups and downs...but when you go to an amusement park, which ride do you want to ride? The ROLLERCOASTER of course! On the ride you experience how the highs are only highs because of how low the lows are. When you drop, the coaster keeps going because it takes that energy to go back up again. It may slow down a bit, but it always goes back up if it has momentum." So, we are taking that energy and building momentum, suiting up the armor of God and fighting the adversary back! This is the Lord's work and I have a strong testimony of that. I love my mission and let the war wage on. :)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

On the Brink of Baptism...

So, here's my updates:

Surprise of all surprises, HERMANA ALARD & HERMANA GRASS GET 6 MORE WEEKS TOGETHER! a.k.a Somehow they let us stay is crazy. As of last week, an English sister had to go home suddenly so Pres. Greer asked one of the spanish sisters to become English for the time being. So, this means that there are only 4 Spanish sisters in the mission right of tomorrow we will have 1 new Spanish Sister (Hermana A from the MTC/one of my first companions in the MTC) and maybe a sister who went home for health reasons 6 months ago...this means that there will be one companionship opening up a new area, but we still don't know who is where and who is coming yet. All we know is that we get to stay! This is so incredible because we have plenty of investigators on the brink of baptism, we just gotta lovingly push them in the water! ;)

Z's mom was a member for awhile when she was younger and has some serious misconceptions about the church that she shared with Z. So, Z is still moving strong and has been receiving great courage to continue forward with what she feels is true. She asked us about her mom's misconceptions and they were understandable, but way out of context...but we handled it well and Z is going to Mutual, coming to church, reading and praying and loving our lessons. And her mom is still letting us meet with that's good news!

The Gonzalez family is at a crucial point right now...we've been fasting and praying for them to gain a testimony that this is true on their own and be baptized. They want to be sure, but we have gotten them way further than they were anticipating and they are comfortable and happy. We've had powerful lessons with members that were definitely inspired, especially this last week we had the G's (Older Salvadoran couple who are converts and have been members for 24 years and have a very similar background with religion as the Gonzalez's) and we taught what sets us apart: the priesthood and the BOM...without these the gospel would not be restored and we would not know that the saving ordinances are done correctly. They are seeing and feeling that this gospel is focused on family and that is giving them faith. I have never cried in a lesson until this last one with them and the Gs and I bore my testimony about how the gospel blesses families and how no matter how much I want them to have it, and no matter how much I tell them about it...they have to want it for themselves. They have to seek for the truth by praying, studying the BOM and going to church. They were touched by this and A hugged me tight after the lesson and J shook my hand and told me that what I said was really was the spirit because I could feel everyone else feeling it too and looking at me so intently that I just tried to be the Lord's instrument and let him strum away! But then they scared us yesterday...they didn't show up for church (our classes are first and sacrament last)...we were fasting and in a daze all morning just praying that they would come. Then, they texted us and said they were on their way for sacrament! We were so pumped we couldn't stand it! Testimony meeting was perfect...everyone bore strong testimonies of the restoration: the priesthood, the BOM and Families...exactly what we had been teaching. I know you're thinking well duh, everyone bears their testimony on that...not like yesterday. One very old but strong member got up and specifically pointed out the Gonzalez family and told them how the restoration has blessed her family...CRAZY! It was kinda funny because after the meeting both A and J teased that I had put her up to it...they are so funny and so comfortable with us. J is a born leader...I've never seen someone so funny and friendly...except my dad. :) He is a friend to all and he is the new one...I love it. Then A is so kind and sincere that everyone is drawn to her and wants to chat. Then their kids are so well behaved and smart and fun that all the kids cling to them! This has to happen...they have to become members...just like the Savior says, there is no other way. (2 Nephi 31)

Have I told you about Mar? We are teaching an american/english speaking elderly woman who was in the army for years....I need to tell you about her I think...let me know.

Love you all and hope you are having a great week. Now that I am getting the hang of my new life, my goal this transfer is to write people back!!!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Christmas & New Years

Mission & Speaking the Spanish
I do not think I am a fantastic missionary by any means, nor do I ever see myself thinking that...but, I know they need me here. Speaking the language of the spirit is the most powerful and everyone can...but when we first meet people, being able to speak spanish conversationally gets in the door. Out of the 5 here and from what I understand the 2 coming...I am the strongest spanish speaker of the Hermanas, so I feel the pressure, but I feel fine because it has been coming out naturally...even when I make mistakes and I have yet to meet someone who has not felt comfortable with me and Hermana Grass. Anyway, blabbing. The Lord loves me and I love speaking spanish way more than I ever have.

I am barely at the beginning of my mission and I can feel that the Lord has let Hermana Grass and I be companions now so that we can strive for that standard the rest of our missions. She is 2 months away from her 1/2 way mark, so all we are saying/predicting is that it will be pretty unlikely that we'll be companions again with an Hermana coming back on her mission and my first MTC companion Hermana Alberts after January 10. Anyway, we'll of right now we have 6 progressing investigators (meaning we've taught them more than 2x and they are solid.), 2 on date to be baptized and several on the brink including Juan and Ana's family so yeah, keep praying! :)

We got our on date investigator Olivia and her family to church yesterday and it was a really spiritual experience for her...I'll tell you more later but there is a lot of mess we've got to get her out of, but she is in love with the BOM and her 2 sons want to be baptized too!

We gave Sister Wise an ornament with our picture in it because of our sweet memory of decorating the tree with her and because she cherishes the ornaments all of her students in past years have made her so much. She loved it. She was very lonely yesterday, but our cars had to be parked at 7, so after talking with my family, I baked the muffins they sent me and we chatted with her for a long time. We would have never had time to bake and chat like that if it had not been for Christmas and I think it cheered her first I wasn't so happy that we had to be home and not drive because I wanted to be out and about on Christmas because it is such a golden day...but believe it or not I do follow rules when I don't talk to my family on the phone for so long. ;) And it makes sense because the roads are full of unsafe drivers on holidays.

New Years
The New Year flooded in and we are barely breathing with our heads now above the water today...yesterday we had 6 INVESTIGATORS COME TO CHURCH!!! So now we just need their heads to be under water! (hahaha...did ya see what I did there...I'm having a good time with the corny mission jargon.) E. (Elderly Peruvian woman), Z.(M’s 17 yr. old sister), The Gonzalez family (J, A, H 13, J 11, M 7, A 4) It was crazy! We prepared well notifying all the presidents etc. that we had visitors coming...but you never know who will actually show up...and they all did! We had one or more in every class/part of the church: RS, EQ, SS, YW and Primary...and they stayed for all 3 hours!

E is a new progressing investigator, but the rest are all just about to tip over into the waters of baptism! The Gonzalez's love us...listen and particpate in every lesson and they are so kind and fun...they came to the Christmas Dinner and they invited us to their family Christmas Breakfast and for a New Years Eve dinner...they already act like members and we hope to put them on date this week and start teaching their kids separately so that they can choose/know for themselves that the true gospel is alive and well today. Then Z is prime time..she's watched her sister's life change and she wants it too. She feels so close to us and says that she misses when she doesn't see us because she feels so good when we are teaching...she is coming to recognize that that is the spirit testifying truth. She is pumped for YW, she's been reading the BOM and praying and believes that Joseph Smith restored the exact same church that Christ established when he was on the earth...she and I have had some good talks about self-esteem and YW and she knows it is all true and fell deeper in love with the gospel after church yesterday and told everyone that she is definitely coming back. M is overcome and so are we...M also has a friend named Chelsey that sat in on a lesson we taught and we discussed 3 Nephi 11 and she felt the spirit so strong that she has already talked to Z and M about being baptized so we will be teaching her too! One person makes all the difference...M's conversion is a beacon to all around her.

I've been thinking so much about the effect one person can fact, all of my thoughts lead back to I've how one boy's earnest prayer has brought millions back into the fold. How Joseph Smith and every prophet before him asked of God and received (Adam, Moses, Lehi etc. ) and because they chose to do that on their own, generations were blessed. No, we are not all prophets...but we are all capable of receving personal revelation...the ability to know for ourselves what is true because God loves us...but the "turning point" (Eh, eh, Ironic that so many english speaking investigators use that to describe conversion! I LOVE IT!) is when they use their agency for good...when they choose what is best even when that is not the easiest, when Satan is telling them no or flinging confusion into their minds or waving temptation in front of their face..but they persevere and make that decision to follow the example of Jesus Christ and as soon as they do their lives do become easier. Challenges do not disappear, but the Lord carries that weight for us...the weights of sin, sadness, poverty, confidence, bitterness, sickness etc. But it is that choice that makes all the difference...the choice to follow the Savior; and because of that one person's choice, many more follow because they can now see the path...the pathway back to our Heavenly Father...all they needed was some light. What father doesn't want his children to come home? Heavenly Father wants His children to come home...and to be able to recognize Him and our big brother when we get there. Yes, I am rambling...but these are my thoughts. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet because just as prophets of old restored the priesthood in their dispensations he has for ours so that we may know what choice to make and here we are today with President Thomas S. Monson leading and guiding us back to God. There are people searching for truth...yes, even in Utah and in someway more so in Utah my dear friends and family...members and non-members alike can be in darkness and all it takes is one person to be a beacon for all to see their way back. I guess what I am saying is what Matthew says "Let your light so shine that others may see your good works and glorify your father which is in Heaven." (total paraphrase...Matt 25 I think.)

So, for this New Year, let's all MAKE THE CHOICE TO BE THE BEACON! This isn't just advice that I want to force on you...this is advice mostly for me as I am becoming increasingly anxious for Hermana Grass to be called elsewhere early and me to be in charge of this area without her. The Lord has laid a lot in our laps and this email is just scratching the surface of our is unusual to have our load...but I am grateful and honored to have it and just pray to have the strength to care for it how the Lord wants it to be cared for.

Hope you all had a fantastic New ROCK! Lovin the Love.