Thursday, November 13, 2014

Happy Families Live the Gospel, "Become the Convert in Galvez, Argentina"

November 10, 2014

Dear Family,
I shake you warmly by the hand.  This week we had some exciting stuff happen.  Daniel, the man who was baptized a few weeks ago had his 59th birthday on Thursday.  We called him and sang him happy birthday in Spanish.  He was really happy, and then the next day we went to visit him and they had saved us a little bit of cake.  ¡Que rico!  (Very delicious!)  It has been interesting to see him slowly grow to like the church more and more.  On his few first Sundays he would come in jeans and a plaid shirt, then he worked his way up to a color shirt with a blue sport coat and trousers, and for his confirmation he wore a suit, now he wears a suit and comes with a nice shoulder bag to carry his scriptures and Sunday school books.  I received a letter from Elder Catron, my trainer, saying that he interviewed Daniel`s wife for baptism, roughly 6 months ago.  He was surprised that Daniel has been baptized, because several months ago he was not even near wanting to join the church.  Elder Catron was a great companion, he gave me a stick of jerky today in the office, and is now training again, and ends his mission when Rebecca does.

I am genuinely doing great.  I love the mission and really would like to stay another transfer in Santa Sabina, but I guess I will find out next week whether or not I will still be here.  I know things have been hard with my companion, but he has come a long ways, and I have learned a lot about what it means to be a peacemaker.  I am glad that we have been together; it has given me an amazing opportunity to draw closer to the Savior.  I think Elder Z will end up staying in the mission field, thank you for your prayers.

I had laid aside Saturday to lay siege on the Bavarian village, but we will be having Stake Conference Saturday session that evening, and an Elders Quorum home teaching blitz in the morning, so It will have to be done a different day.  Very tricky.  

I am happy and healthy and really hope the very best for all of you.  I know without a doubt that any family that lives the gospel will be a happy family.  I love you all.  Keep living the gospel and you’ll be happy.  Thanks for all of your prayers and letters.  I hope you have a great week.  I love you all more than the number of toothpicks you would need to make a replica of a full-grown California redwood.

With lots of love,
Elder Withers

Dear Family,
This was a terrifically great week!  We had to spend a lot of time in Santa Fe, the closest big city to Galvez for meetings and paperwork for the visa of my companion, so that made the week seem slow in terms of missionary work......but it really was a great week.  

In one of the meetings we had this week, was with President Zanni.  It was with the Santa Fe and Santa Fe North it was kind of cool to have a smaller meeting with just president and his family, and I learned TONS.  It’s been a long time since I have felt so spiritually recharged and edified, both from what he taught us and from what the spirit taught me, and I have been mentally analyzing and thinking about it over and over again.  I wish I could type it all out and share everything that I learned, but the time will not even slightly cut it.  At one point he looked me directly in the eyes, and he said......"Sister, I know exactly what is happening in the area where you are serving........and what the Lord is really looking for is that you become the convert from Galvez".  I knew President was the person saying the words, but at the same time I felt like it was a message straight from Heavenly Father.  I looked President in the eyes the whole time and said, "I know........"  I hardly ever cry, but while sitting in that eyes started to well up with tears a little bit, as I realized Heavenly Father really does love us and expects the best of us at all times, and that a mission serves in many ways to bring more people unto Christ....but to also convert the missionary.  I have never felt that to be more true.  I had a working knowledge and belief that the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet......I really did have a testimony, ever so small, before starting my mission.....but now there is no way you could ever get me to deny it.  Send me through jail, or put me through fire, strip me of my freedoms, whatever you want....but you could never get me to deny it.  Because what I have learned here on my mission has changed me forever.  My mission so far has been the school of my life, and I know that without all of my missionary experiences, I would have never grown to love Jesus Christ and His gospel in the way that I do.  President Zanni always says, that a mission is the school of the Gods.....because we were born to be Kings and Queens.......and someday we will be, but right now we are in schooling to learn how to do it right.

Galvez has been the Gethsemane of my mission, in that I have never felt so far and so lonely before.  In terms of missionary tools that a missionary could a ward missionary leader, or counselors for the branch president, or members who understand the doctrine and can help with the lessons, or members who give us lunch, a relief society president who goes to church, a branch president who lives close......there is absolutely nothing.  We have nothing.  The tools we have, are preach my gospel, the Book of Mormon, mission president, and prayer.

This week we had lots of problems with members getting offended by other members for silly and insignificant things......and all of the gossip and hate is really hurting this small branch.  Instead of being able to look for new investigators and teaching them, we had to spend some extra time this week working with all the members to help them keep the peace and cool off.  We taught a lot about forgiveness, and how no one is perfect, and not worrying about what happens in the church.  If at any moment you received a testimony that the church is true, and you were baptized....making a covenant with God saying you would take the name of Jesus Christ upon you, then forget about the rest of the things that happen with the imperfect members.  Keep your part of the deal with God by going to church, reading the scriptures, saying your prayers.......and you are fine.  Case closed.  They have taken it surprisingly well.....seeing as how we aren’t taking any more excuses.  :)  We teach with all the love we have to give, and what they have really needed is someone who loves them enough to remind them how we should act as members.  We talk clearly, and directly, and with as much love as possible.....and it’s what someone should have been doing here in Galvez a long time ago.  And so, when President said.......that the Lord was expecting that I become Galvez´s most converted convert, it really hit me.  It has been so true; as I have tried to help other people strengthen their testimonies.....I have become more and more converted.  I have also learned how important it is to stick to the fundamental basics, like the Book of Mormon and words from the prophets.  If we know those things to be true, then we start with that and work our way forward.  

It really was a great week, a spiritually fortifying week, with lots of blessings!  Thanks for everything.  I love you all lots and lots and lots!  I love you all more than the number of fireflies that fly around in the streets each night in Galvez!

Hermana Withers

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Chile has Record Number of People in Church, Argentina has Rain, Rain, Rain!!

Dear Family,
Well, I am happy to hear that all is well and that you have plenty of Halloween candy.  Our next door neighbors have chickens, and every morning their rooster starts up at about 5:00 am, periodically and loudly does his cock-a-doodle-doo until about 7:00 ish.  I have finally gotten used to it and can now sleep through it soundly.  

This week was not too crazy.  The work has been a little slower lately, with very few people to teach.  We will keep looking for new investigators, and once again the Bavarian village idea got slammed with other things.  I think we might just cancel some stuff this week to make room for it.  I read the first part of Luke 5.  I really liked it.  I recommend it.  Luke 5:4 is my favorite.  That is what we are going to do to find new investigators, “Launch out into the deep, and let your nets down for a draught”.

I hope you are all doing well, that you are in good health.  Oh, I forgot to say, that last week we hit an all time record for this ward of 208 people in church, almost getting the 210 we are aiming for.

I realize it is a short letter, but I promise next week will be a better letter.  
Thanks so much for all your prayers and support.

I love you all, more than the number of M&Ms that get chomped on the week after Halloween.
Elder Withers

Dear Family,
This week was pretty typical for me.  It was incredibly hot in the hot.  Like the kind of heat Argentina whips out towards the end of December, and I was sincerely nervous because we hadn’t even started November yet.....trying to imagine what December was going to be like wasn’t a happy or comforting thought....but it turns out that it was abnormally hot and humid, because a record storm was on its way.  We had intense heat and humidity for 5 days, and the epic storm started on Friday, and is still going strong.  It just barely stopped raining a few hours ago...but since Friday it has been raining on and off.........sometimes with a sharp whistling wind, sometimes with lightning and thunder so loud and powerful you can see water in a water bottle ripple and feel a cool chill run from your head to your toes, and sometimes the rain comes with a little bit of hail......but it hasn’t stopped until today.  And even then it is still cold with overcast, it is still going to rain....but at least it has stopped for a little bit right now! 

The weather was the most unhelpful thing ever in terms of church attendance.  We had 6 people show up, and they showed up soaking wet, I felt so bad for them (for only a minute) because I later realized that all sacrifices to be obedient bring blessings.  Even though they showed up wet and cold because they didn’t have a good coat or umbrella, and they had to walk in the thick and sticky mud (which is a tricky endeavor, you have to make a balance between walking and skating to keep from falling)...they made the sacrifice and got to the chapel....because they understand that the chance to take the sacrament comes but once a week, and it’s not optional.  We already promised that we would be there each Sunday to take the come what may.....rain/snow/mud/etc....we have to go!  We plugged the heater in so that they could dry off and warm up :) 

What this epic rain storm has made evident, is that the chapel roof leaks.  We had to put rags in random places to soak up the water, and also our apartment floods with such enormous amounts of water.  The door doesn’t keep all the water out, and so it seeps in from the under the door crack.....and gets everywhere.  We have been pushing water out of our apartment with a mop for days now, every few hours we have to do it again.  We have to pray kneeling on our chairs so we don’t get wet.  But in all reality it didn’t matter if we got wet or not while praying, because we got wet anyway when we went outside to was awesome.

My companion turned 23 this week, and for her birthday she wanted "completos".  Chad should know what they are.  Turns out they are just hot dogs, but apparently in Chile they love love love hot dogs.  They put whatever they want on them, and everyone eats them.  So we had "completos" and we also got ice cream to celebrate the occasion :)

What was really funny was watching kids try to trick or treat.  It isn’t a holiday that people recognize here, so all attempts to trick or treat basically failed.  A few moms or dads went out with their kids to try it anyway, with costumes like you would see in the states.....and when a kid knocked on a door, we could see them from a ways off.  We would watch as we kept walking towards our next appointment.  The kid knocked on the door, said trick or treat.....and nearly every house sent the kids marching empty handed.  I don’t know why they bothered, it’s not a tradition here.  But, oh well.  The United States has an incredibly powerful influence on the world, in so many ways.  Lots of people love the states, and lots of people hate the states, but either way lots of people try to mimic the examples or traditions we have.  

It really was a great week!  This letter is sort of a random mix of everything, I’m not sure if it is even entertaining to read...but it’s what happened this week and the thoughts that are running through my head right, there you go!  I am glad all is well with you.  It really is so nice to know that everything keeps on keeping on without big news, changes or problems.  I love you all so so so so so much!

I love you all more than how happy people feel when they are obedient to all of the commandments,
Hermana Withers