Monday, November 26, 2012

Letter #11 11/26/12

Dear Family,

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm so happy to hear that everyone was together to celebrate! I can picture it so well in my mind that I feel like I was there :) We celebrated Thanksgiving here as well, go figure. There is a senior couple (The Hills; they actually have family in Heber, they tell me, but I don't know if they're related to the Hills in our ward...) serving in our area and they invited our district over to have Thanksgiving dinner. It was wonderful. Elder Hill gave a small talk before the dinner explaining the origins of the holiday for all the Latins, but it got a little awkward as he started talking about how the United States is the best country in the world, etc... Not that I don't feel that way too, but I keep my patriotism mostly to myself when I'm in a group of 11 Latin Americans. Elder Hill asked our Zone Leader, Elder Labrador, to offer the prayer over the food because only an American citizen could appreciate the freedom we have in the States. But the food was really good (I almost started crying when Hermana Hill brought out the pumpkin pie), and we love the Hills. We're planning to have a Noche de Hogar with them this Friday for all the single less active sisters and investigators in the ward. There are many.

I don't know if you've heard of mate, but the culture of Uruguay revolves around it. It's a kind of herbal tea, and everyone here loves it. You pour the dried herbs into a special cup, add hot water, and sip the tea from a special straw that drains the leaves. It's not against the Word of Wisdom, at least not explicitly, but missionaries aren't allowed to drink it. If it was, there would be massive apostasy in Uruguay and absolutely no one would listen to us. People literally take it everywhere. They walk down the street with mate cups and thermoses, drive scooters with it in hand, etc. It's kind of crazy. I'm a little suspicious of it, but it makes proselyting a little easier in the evening: everyone sits outside on benches and drinks mate with their friends, so it's easier to find people to talk to. It also makes up for siesta time, when there is literally NO ONE in the street.

There are a LOT of people here who suffer from mental illness. Everyone we talk to seems to know at least one person who has depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. A lot of people are under really heavy medication for all sorts of things. I'd like to know a little more about these illnesses in order to help people, but in the past my primary resource to find out would be the internet, which is unavailiable to me now. Can anyone help me out?

That's all I have time for. Love you so much! Thank you so much for raising me right and for being wonderful examples.

Siempre, su hija,
Hermana Phillips

Monday, November 19, 2012

Letter #10 11/19/12

Dear Family,

My P Day is now on Monday! Sorry for not explaining that before. Things in Florida are going well. Last week we went to Montevideo for Zone Conference and went to the temple. We only go to the temple once a year, so this was a really special occasion. My companion hasn't gone her entire mission (9 months) and we're praying that this trip will last her another 9 and me another 12. We'll see.

We have 6 new investigators this week! We're not completely sure about how well all of them will progress, but it's always worth a shot. I just have to be a good missionary and teach the doctrine so they can use their agency. Otherwise it's on me. I am starting to understand the simple doctrines of the gospel in ways different and more profound than I ever have. Consider this: today we read 3 Nephi 11 in companion study. The first things that Christ does when he appears to the Nephites is introduce who He is, what He has done, and invites them to come unto Him. Next, He explains very clearly how this must be done. Remember your baptismal covenants, and partake of the sacrament worthily. Repentance is key. The reason we have a mile long list of inactives is because most of the probably did not repent properly before baptism.

Anyway, today is P Day and the elders in our district invited us to go play futbòl with them and possibly make tacos. We don't know if we're going to go. Why is it the only sport I'm good at is one of the only ones I can't do on the mission? Swimming...

Our Rama (Branch) is just the best. We have the best ever mission leader, Hermano Alanìs. I didn't serve a mission when he was younger, but if he had it would have been awesome. Sunday morning he texted us saying (translation): Buenos dias, Hermanas! I am full of gratitude to be able to serve with you in the work of our Father in Heaven, who has bless us with so much success and progress.

Amazing. Our Relief Society presidency is also amazing.

Yesterday we were blessed to bring our only (now) progressing investigator to church, Hermano Alberto Dotta. He is around 45 and lives at home with his parents. He is remarkably intelligent and has a unique view of the world. When we first started teaching him he explained his view of God as more of an energy or all powerful force. He asks really thoughtful questions that I have a hard time answering in Spanish :) but we try our best. He has confided in us that he has also been see a psychiatrist (or something, my comprehension of Spanish is still pretty low) because he has some problems being around a lot of people. Thus, we (I) were a little concerned about his first time in church. But really, the gospel and the church are incredible. He felt as comfortable as I could hope. Some of the doctrine in Priesthood meeting was a little over his head at this point, but we have a wonderful teacher for Gospel Principles. She teaches the beautiful truths of the gospel like someone lit a fire under her chair. The topic was Our Need for A Savior, and Alberto gave the closing prayer. He asked God: help me to know thee. It was a moment I hope I never forget. We have his baptismal date set out pretty far: the 22nd of December, but we're hoping to move it closer if he starts progressing faster. No reason to delay if he wants to be baptized!

My time is up. I love you! I pray for you! I promise I'll write to you but if you could send me stamps, that would be great. I can't buy any here, obviously, and also I can't figure out the postal system...

I love you!!!!!

Hermana Phillips

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

First Area: Florida

Florida is in the bottom half of the country.

Main Square, celebrating the Declaration of Independence in 1825.
In the background you can see the Catholic Cathedral.

Pictures: Arrival in the Mission

New missionaries with President and Sister Armstrong.

Christina and her trainer, Hermana Vargas are going to Florida!

Letter # 8 11/05/12

Wow. My first week in Uruguay is going well. It's weird to think I've been away from home this long. I have very little perception of time out here. Right now I'm sitting in an internet hub at a bus station in the middle of bustling Montevideo, two hours away by omnibus from our area in Florida. We had to come today for medical checkups. They took my blood, etc, basic checkup stuff. Since we only have 30 minutes for email, I'll be sending you a longer letter via the church pouch with more detailed stories-- we already have some. We are only allowed to receive emails from immediate family members, so if someone could help spread this word around that would be great: everyone can send emails to the mission home at where they will be printed and given to me open-letter style. My name needs to be in the subject line (Hermana Christina Phillips).

We are working for a baptism on Saturday! I haven't been present for all the lessons with Mauro, but we'll be teaching him every day until his baptism. A note here: in the States it's rude to interrupt, but here, you can't communicate at all if you don't. Uruguayos talk and talk and talk and talk... about things unrelated to the topic. I loose interest and Hermana Vargas looses patience. She truly has a gift for interrupting.

The people are so loving, unless we tell them that there's only one true church. That makes some people kind of mad.

There are a lot of inactive members here. Retention is a big problem.
The previous mission president really pushed the number of baptisms, but according to Hermana Vargas that caused a lot of missionaries to baptize before people were ready, and also baptize a lot of youths and children without their parents. Of the 86,000+ miembros en Urugay, we don't have any idea where 20,000 are. Our ward missionaries are really great, though, so I look forward to getting their help with that.

I love you. I miss you. It's really hot. I'm happy to be preaching the Gospel! What else is there? I love you.
Hermana Phillips