Hi! I hope this week was fantastic for all of you! It has been great to hear from everyone! Shaun and Sarah, this week I got the letter that you sent! I'm glad you haven't forgotten me! Mom, thanks also for the spiritual thoughts/quotes you've been including lately. I love them! Chesea, I got you're letter but I'm going to wait to reply until I get your new address.
Mom asked about if I felt an earthquake which evidently happened south of LA. Nope. I kind of saw a part of a news report when we went to a member's house for a meal about that, but we didn't feel anything. It is kind of funny that you bring that up because since our mission is in earthquake territory, all of the missionaries have to keep this bag on our bedposts with like shoes, water, and other things like a whistle and stuff like that. The president said that no one has ever needed that stuff thus far, but it is always better to be prepared!
Before I forget also, this next part is for Chelsey Schlegel (I am not sure if I spelled that right at all) who served on this mission... so there is a new rule where elders can't give sisters rides and sisters can't give elders rides at all, so we've been having to pick up the El Camino sisters all the time for like some baptism services, zone conferences etc. I just thought it'd be cool to let you know that your name is still known here! Since you were there for like 11 months your name is like a legend there.
Oh yeah, before I forget too, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Ryan!! I still don't have your mailing address (you should write me after you move!) so that's the only way I can let you know really. But I hope you have a great birthday! I'm glad you're my brother (even though that means that I have to deal with your pranks etc a veces).
Now for the most exciting news! We had our baptism of Katherine yesterday!!!!! I think Satan wants to stop every single baptism from happening, so with Katherine he tried to stop it because the dad wouldn't sign the permission form for the longest time. His last ditch effort to stop it from happening was that the mom broke her wrist this week and has been in so much pain. But the baptism happened regardless!It was such a sweet service! Her family came and many people from the ward too. Her primary teacher gave probably the best talk on baptism I've seen. It was so simple but so direct and sweet. She did it in Spanish but because Katherine like most young people knows English really well, some parts that she really wanted Katherine to understand were in English and Spanish. It was just so great and directed straight at her and her testimony was so strong. I loved it and if I ever have to give that talk I want to do it just like her! But yeah, it was so nice! Hermana Hansen and I did a special musical number of "Cuando me Bautice" (or When I am Baptized-- I think that's the name of the song in English... it is the one that starts with "I like to look for rainbows"). That is Katherine's favorite song and so when we were singing it, we saw her singing along with us quietly. I loved that! I am seriously so excited by the baptism and I just want to get the whole world baptized! If everyone could experience that joy of being completely clean and pure and then have the courage and strength to endure to the end, this world would have everlasting peace!
Also this week, I extended my first baptism invitation to a grandma and her son. We had been planning to invite people for the last few weeks but the spirit just never was quite right. But she had recently had someone in her family pass away, so we taught about the Plan of Salvation to them. She was most extited when we told her that in the resurrection the spirit is reunited with the body once again in a perfected state. I guess Catholics believe it is some sort of spiritual resurrection, but she got so excited and was like "I want to believe that!" So then we invited them to be baptized and they accepted. She wants to pray more to make sure that this is for her but she accepted. And the grandson was like super excited. He practically wants to jump into the waters right now! That one might be interesting because we'll have to work with the mom to get the permission form etc again, but that's okay. It will happen if it is the right time! But yeah, extending that commitment is the best thing ever. Maybe because it was my first time, my heart was like pounding like "please say yes!" but it is so exciting!
It is funny because you will absolutely have both extremes all the time. You will have the best times in the world. But then you'll also have times that break your heart. There was one person who we visited this week in particular who especially comes to my mind. His family is all baptized and active members... some of the nicest and most giving members that you'll ever see. They want so badly for their dad to join the church with them and so missionaries have visited with him for quite a while I guess. But we gave him a lesson on the Word of Wisdom because he likes to drink beer and other stuff all the time. At one point we asked him what the consequences of continuing to drink beer are and he said that it'll probably eventually tear his family apart, he might get cancer, and he listed off other things like that. So he KNOWS that he shouldn't. But he doesn't want to change. We could help him if he has that faith and hope and desire. But he simply doesn't want to change. And it breaks my heart. Seeing his wife and daughter sitting there being so sad at his choices and him not wanting to change hurts so badly. But that is what agency is all about. No one can force you into heaven. Heavenly Father must sometimes be so sad at people because he wants to help us and he wants us to be happy if we just follow his way. But because we're afraid to change or we don't think we're strong enough to change we don't. It is so sad.
Anyways, I guess that is what missionary work is. The absolute best and the absolute saddest days.
But anyway, remember that New Era page you sent me in the mail a few months back about the Jamaica runner who would race people in New York on his mission in his suit and holding the Book of Mormon and then if he won the race they'd have to go to church? Remember how you added the note at the bottom about how in missionary work it is fantastic to use any talents you've been given? Well all of the MTC time I was wondering how I could apply that to me. What talents that I have that I can share? So I've found a few ways that I love to apply my talents to missionary work
1) When we're knocking on doors and people aren't interested in our message we always ask if we can leave them with a song and a prayer. Then Hermana Hansen and I sing (she is soprano and I'm alto) whatever hymn we feel like would be good and we pray. The fact that she loves to sing is one way I know that she was supposed to be my companion! Because I love to sing too! We love to sing a song before lessons as well. Now that I'm on the topic of singing, it is almost funny how the nativos sing. Like during church they sing loudly but no one is really on pitch or singing exactly the right rythm. No one really plays piano either and so the missionaries kind of play with what little skills we have. So when we sing prettily at the door I think it helps them feel the spirit a little bit and they always comment on how good we sing. Also a random song story. My first Sunday in the field in Sacrament meeting we sang song 88 in the spanish hymnbook... it is a song called "Placentero nos es Trabajar" and it is a song only found in the Spanish Hymnbook. But that is the song that my MTC district sang ALL the time and so when we came out to the field and that was the first song we sang at sacrament meeting it made me very happy and is one of those little tiny miracles for me.
2) I always used to bake cookies to give away to people. When I was the Laurels president, I would bake cookies for people's birthdays. When I was in the seminary council I remember there being a special christmas service project of baking cookies. I used to bring cookies to some Break the Fast things. But that was like my thing to do. Well, Hna Hansen and I have a few times a week been baking cookies to bring to people. On days that we bake cookies during comp study, we will plan for 4 families to bring the cookies to. Sometimes it is our investigators, sometimes it is a less active, sometimes it is a member who needs some upliftment. But we've been able to see some miracles come to pass and a few extra lessons that have been taught and definitely some houses and doors opening up because of a simple thing like baking cookies for people.
I guess I'll leave you with a spiritual thought or two.
There was a training we were at where they told us that there are three types of missionaries.
1) the missionary who comes upon a figurative wall in the path and becomes devistated
2) the missionary who comes upon a wall in the path and starts praying but does nothing more
3) the missionary who prays to know how to build a ladder
well I think there is a fourth kind of missionary maybe...
4) the missionary who simply climbs over the wall like it is nothing... yay for rock climbers! But seriously. With God, you can do ALL things! But ever since I told my companion that we've been analyzing walls that we come to when the doors are locked and we're waiting for someone to come by and let us in (because almost all the apartments have gates) and we've started analyzing how I could get over it if I wanted to (and wasn't in a skirt.)
It is always good to love what you do. We are the captains of our own soul. We're in charge of our own destiny. An interesting idea they gave us in the last big trainign was that the secret to being a good missionary/ never feeling trunky/ never feeling lazy is this:
You have to be capable of imaging that you will be a missionary for the rest of your life and be okay with that.
I totally agree with that. This work and this life is about joy! So why complain? Complaining doesn't solve things. There is never a reason for it. That is like throwing our blessings back in Heavenly Father's face. If we can get to the point where we can be grateful for the trials we're given that is when we can see we've really gone somewhere. Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things (though sometimes as sister missionaries we do have to kiss their cheeks). But yeah, enjoy life! That's why we're here!
OH yeah, the pictures I added were taken before Katherine's baptism. The missionaries are me, Hna Hansen, and Hna Fish who was Hna Hansen's companion before me. (She is in the El Camino area right now)
Have a great week and May the Spirit Always be with you!
~Hermana Whitney Whetten