Sunday, October 28, 2012

Letter # 7 10/24/12

Dear Family,

Thanks for your emails! It means a lot to me.

First things first: This morning from 10am to 12 noon we had a devotional with Elder Bednar. I sat almost exactly front and center in our little sacrament meeting room. It was such an awesome feeling to sit less than 6 feet away from an apostle of the Lord and hear him teach us-- and it really was teaching, not just a talk. It was wonderful! He got up and said that we had probably come there today to hear him speak, but that's not how he wanted our meeting to go. Instead we were going to be actively involved and asking questions. We had actually been warned this might happen (apparently Elder Bednar does this a lot) and so we were prepared with questions. We only had time for four questions. My old companion, Hermana Harris went first:

"What can we actively be doing to develop patience?" An excellent question, especially since Hermana Harris always has to be actively doing something no matter what. She has so many nervous or bored ticks that it used to drive me crazy. Elder Bednar counseled her to get a paperback copy of the Book of Mormon, read it, and mark every instance of patience and its practice therein. Afterward, write up a one page summary of what patience is.

"Sometimes I don't feel the Spirit when I'm teaching, even though I have a testimony of the doctrine." Another excellent question. Elder Bednar said that we shouldn't have to have the Spirit be telling us every step of the way that what we say or do was "meant" to be said or done. Be a good boy, be a good girl, keep your covenants and press forward with faith. More often the Spirit works wonders without us even realizing. We shouldn't have to realize it to have faith.

Then I got to stand up and ask an Apostle of the Lord a question. I had been pondering this question for at least a few days (time kind of blurrs together here) and I felt sure that this is what I needed to ask. I raised my hand and Elder Bednar called on me by name (he has really remarkable eyesight for 60+) and I asked "What is the role of temperance in missionary work, and how can we develop it?" If you know me at all, it should be obvious why I asked this question. There is such a high expectation for spiritual growth and so many intense spiritual experiences, I have been having a really hard time with the difference between the highs and the lows. Everything about serving a mission hightens your awareness of... well, of everything and this can be a little overwhelming. So I asked about temperance.

I don't have time to adequately describe the answer, but suffice it to say that Elder Bednar took 30 minutes answering. Most of it was teaching us how to ask and answer a question in a way that is clear, precise and inspired. I had been praying for the gift of temperance and moderation and stability for weeks. Everything today leading up to my question and everything about the very manner in which it was answered was a very detailed answer in and of itself. I'm still sorting through everything. This is how the Lord works. He never lectures, he teaches through experience. 

In other news, my compaion and I are getting along great. The language is still a problem-- whenever I ask native speakers to repeat what they said, they 1- don't repeat the same words but explain it in a different way and 2- don't talk any slower. So that's been a little aggravating. I've also decided that my ability with music is more of a hinderance here. People love it when I sing, but singing with other people has become a really painful experience. I'm praying to be able to ignore. Part of it's cultural-- people simply aren't taught how to sing and part of it I'm convinced is that there must be something wrong with a lot of peoples' ears. 

I'll be leaving the CCM on Tuesday next week! So excited! All the mission presidents from this area of South America were also here attending a conference, and so I got to meet Presidente and Hermana Armstrong! They seem like such nice and genuine people!

Also, since the age change for missionaries, the numbers have changed: Elder Bednar said that they used to receive 800 applictions per week. Since the announcement, the numbers have increased to almost 2,000 per week. WOW.

Love you, but I have to go. I'll be sending pictures soon!


Hermana Phillips

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Letter # 6 10/18/12

Dear Family,

What a week! Our little District Moróni of only four missionaries was officially disbanded, and we've integrated into other districts with our new Latin companions. Mi nueva compañera se llamado Hermana Spitale, from Cordoba, Argentina. I am the only English-speaker in my class all day, every day and I'm starting to realize just how much I don't understand. Luckily, I've had all of these classes before. As I have been here for 7 weeks and my compañera only one, I am the senior companion. This change has also made me realize how much I used to rely on Hermana Harris, who was the senior companion last transfer. At first I was really afraid that there would be a huge language barrier between me and Hermana Spitale-- and I was right. But we also have the companionship of the Holy Ghost with us constantly. He is the best translator you could hope for!

Speaking is MUCH easier for me than understanding. At least when I speak I can make hand gestures and form words that kind of sound like what they're supposed to be, but I'm not used to having to focus so much when people talk. I'm getting better, though; earlier today we had a workshop for the Latin missionaries totally in Spanish, and I think I got about 70%. At least the general idea.

Next Wednesday, Elder Bednar, Elder Oaks and one of the other members of the Quorrum are coming to the CCM! No one seems to know who the third one is, but of course this devocional is sure to be fantastic!

About last Monday, when we taught Fortunata. You know me: I set my expectations really high, always. And almost always the Lord decides to teach me something different. When Nefi asked for the strength to burst the bonds with which he was bound, the Lord answered by loosening them instead. He answered in a way that reminded Nefi that it was by the Lord's power that these things are done. When we were fasting and praying beforehand I always felt hesitant to ask that Fortunata would be baptized I wanted to commit her to baptizm during the lesson, but I simply couldn't, for one reason or another. We taught her for 45 minutes and I never had the opportunity. Instead she agreed to read from the Book of Mormon and pray about it-- something that she has never committed to before. I'm still praying-- I'm always praying. My entire day is one long prayer.

Proselitismo is AMAZING. We go out for about 3-4 hours on Saturday and find references for the "real" missionaries. This last Staturday we hit dead ends everywhere, not to mention getting out there an hour later than usual. We were sitting near a bus stop hoping to talk to some people (at least at a bus stop no one can run away from us) but we weren't having much success. I said a silent prayer saying, "Heavenly Father, we want to serve, but I don't know if I can do this. Please, just give me a chance to prove to myself that I can be a missionary. Please send me someone to teach." Ten seconds later, a woman walked up and I started converstaion. She was our first contact of the day. Three more followed within 30 minutes. The message was pretty clear: "Maybe you're right: maybe you can't do this. But I can."

I'm really short on time today, so that has to be all!

Les amo para siempre!
Su Hija y Hermana,
Hermana Phillips

Letter # 5 10/4/12

Thanks for your email! I wasn't able to hear the YW broadcast, but we'll be streaming General Conference and the Relief Society meeting here at the CCM. I'm so glad you were able to go and have a good experience, though!

I love being a missionary! I know I'm only in the CCM right now, and it's been really challenging, I know I can do hard things and I know that God is with me. Everyone here is in my life for a reason, from my Mission President to the girls down the hall. My district is really important to me as well-- all four of us. We have grown really close during these 5 weeks, and I feel like they are part of my family. I actually keep having dreams that I come home and the elders are my brothers-in-law, though they never seem to be married to my sisters.

I'm so tired all the time now. Today is the first day I haven't been tired much at all, but I think it's because I didn't sleep at all well last night and now I'm running on adrenaline. It's been a real test to see how much I can do without falling over. I just feel the Spirit all the time and I think that´s what´s draining me. Hopefully I can build up some endurance before I actually get to the field.

I love hearing about home. Finally got the first letter you sent me. Maybe I'm imagining it, but I swear the envelope smells just like home. Funny story though: It took 20 days to get here with a $1.05 stamp, but it only took five days for a letter to get here for my companion with a single forever stamp. Your guess on that one is as good as mine.

Dad, I think you're trying to send me pictures of your trip to China, but I can´t access the site it's linking me to. I'd really like to see them though. I currently can't figure out why I can't send pictures. It may be because the server is just really bogged down with a dozen missionaries trying to email furiously all at once. I'm sitting in the computer lab and it sounds like a thousand tiny horses galloping on the desktops. You could cut the intensity with a knife.

I'll tell you a little bit about my district.

Elder Pyper is the district leader. His dad is an officer in the Air Force and his mom is from South Korea, where his dad served his mission. Thus, he knows a lot of Korean and it was a surprise when he got called to South America. He moved around a lot, but he is most recently from Oklahoma. He went to BYU for a year before the mission. He's a really great guy.

Elder Francis is like a younger brother. He has struggled a lot since he got here. Last night he actually told us that he asked President if he could go home on the first day-- I'm SO glad he didn't. Before the mission he had a great memory and he never had to try in school at all. Coming here, it's like the Lord suddenly took away his ability to memorize or remember things in general. I wish I could do something to help, but I think the Lord is really trying to teach him something with this trial. He has such a good heart and I know he'll be better for it.

My compañera, Hermana Harris. She is awesome. She likes Star Trek and basically every other nerdy thing our family is into, so we get along great on that level. Her mother is from Mexico and her dad is from Seattle and both speak Spanish. She understands a lot, but never learned grammar. I can't understand anything people say but I know a lot of grammar and vocab now, so we complement each other great.

Can you get one of my sisters to send me an email this week? I love hearing from you, Mom. I love hearing about the garden. I miss you and I love you so much, but I only allow that to throw me farther into this work. I talk about my family a lot when I'm teaching, especially your example and what things have been important to me growing up. I love you so much. I love you I love you I love you.

Siempre, Su Hija,
Hermana Phillips

Letter #4

Dear Mom,
I can´t wait until I can write to you completely in Spanish! I´m really close, lately things have just been clicking for our district, but I still only have 30 minutes to write to you and it takes too long to translate. I´ll work on a letter this week all in Spanish. Our writing time got moved to today because we were at the temple yesterday. I was really grateful to be able to do it in english-- last time it was in Spanish and I had a hard time. Like my district leader says, "I go to the temple to receive personal revelation, not practice Spanish." I look forward to being able to do it all in Spanish, no problem, though. 

I love it here, except for the fact that I´ve already been sick twice. I hope this whole getting sick every two weeks isn´t becoming a trend for my whole mission. Yes Mom, I´ve been eating well and drinking lot´s of water, and going to bed on time and taking my vitamins every day, but this morning I woke up with another horrible cough. It´s probably the fact that there are about 150 people living in the same 3 floors, sharing bathrooms and eating areas.

I love hearing about home. I pray for you a lot and I´m glad to hear you´re doing well. How are Desiree and Christopher? Lisa? Grandma and Grandpa? I´d email, but I don´t have any addresses.
I am memorizing the 1st Vision now, as well as the missionary purpose. What else?

I'll tell you about Presidente Openshaw. I have never met anyone more knowledgeable about the scriptures than the CCM presidente. We have a devotional with him about every three days (at least) and he always starts it with, "Does anybody have any questions?" When we ask, the next step is always, "That´s an excellent question. Let's turn to (scripture reference) to find out." He seems to have mastered the skill of knowing and applying any and all scriptures. I want to be like that. In my patriarchal blessing, I am counseled to be knowledgeable about the Savior and the scriptures, for in them holds the key on a daily basis of how I can obtain the gifts of the spirit-- and I will tell you that learning a language is definitely going to be a gift of the spirit for me. I prayed about this in the temple yesterday, asking what I needed to do to obtain this gift. The Lord said that the only available offering I have is my heart on the altar. I then prayed to know what this meant, and the Spirit taught me that I need to open up "that [my] heart may be like unto the house of Emma-- a refuge for those who have nowhere else to go." Temples are awesome.

I´m sending pictures. Soon.

I love you. I´m sorry my emails are always so scattered and random. But I love you.

Hermana Phillips