Monday, March 25, 2013

Letter # 28 03/25/13

Querida Familia y Amigos,
There's not much to report this week. We've had a few interesting experiences, though. The other day we were knocking on some doors and approached a couple of older ladies on their front porch. When they saw us they quickly looked away as if they hadn't seen. We came up and introduced ourselves as missionaries, and the younger of the two interrupted with the usual "I know who you are and I don't want to listen." The older of the two, however, seemed to have decided that we didn't exist. She turned away and started staring intently at a nearby tree. She was looking so fixedly at this tree that I assumed she must be seeing something I wasn't. "Looking at something?" I asked. "No." Replied the younger. "We're waiting for someone." After a confused pause, we invited them to church and said goodbye.

I finally saw the nuns! There is a catholic church in our area, which we have passed many times but I'd never seen the nuns that live there. Everyone gets confused between us and we have to explain, so I wanted to see if there was any similarity (you never know). Well, a few of them passed by a house where we were having a lesson and I saw them go by. They were riding bicycles and wearing habits and white robes like in bible movies. We look nothing like them! Plus they have bikes! How anyone gets us confused is beyond me!

In other news, we might be moving again. We are looking for an apartment in our area.

Sarah! Good luck on the mission! Send me your address in the MTC!

Love you forever,
Hermana Phillips

Monday, March 18, 2013

Letter #27 03/18/13

Querida Familia y Amigos:

We just got the news that there has been a change in the rules for writing emails: we can now write to friends via email! I can't promise much correspondence, but it will be much easier and less expensive than sending letters.

This week has been tough, I won't lie, but I'm optimistic about the coming week. I read the story of Joseph in Egypt this morning for personal study and it's still my favorite from the Old Testament. Joseph had such patience and was always faithful to what his father had taught him, even though members of his family and everyone around him had forgotten or had other beliefs. He was always an example and kept himself worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. He had the power of God because he kept himself unspotted from the world, and received amazing spiritual gifts that saved Egypt and the family of Israel from starvation. This story is also yet another "type of Christ" from the Old Testament, which I had never realized before. Every detail is significant.

On Saturday we had the open house! It was an awesome event. It's similar to the tour in the visitor's center on Temple Square, but on a much smaller scale-- and portable. We were busy all day: That morning we got up at 5 to catch the bus to San Ramon, a town just outside of Florida, for a Choque de Fuerza. That's where the entire zone of missionaries gathers in one area to proselyte and visit less-active members for a few hours to help the members and missionaries re-energize the work in that area. In other words: Mormon Invasion! That took the whole morning and we didn't have time to run home before going to the training meeting before the open house. There was an amazing spirit during the event. We taught and testified, and I know that the Lord was answering many prayers of faith. We received about 70 referrals as a Zone, and I'm hoping a good portion of them are for our area-- we have yet to divide them up but I expect to be quite busy for the rest of the transfer!

As I know a lot of young women are preparing to serve missions in the next few months (Sarah!), I have a few words of wisdom to share. I prepared a list of things I wish I had done or things that really helped me before I came. I know they'll be receiving a lot of advice from everyone, but I'll add my two cents in as well:

1. Read "Preach My Gospel" from cover to cover before you leave. It is the inspired manual for how to do the Lord's work. For a good while I kept trying to do things my way, praying for guidance, but setting aside this wonderful tool. Trust the resources that the Lord provides. The Lord has already prepared the answers to many of the prayers you will have in the future.

2. Be involved in your ward. This is one of the skills I found I was lacking. Know how a ward is supposed to function and be involved. Offer to accompany the missionaries in the area. Probably the best preparation you can have is through doing Visiting Teaching. 

3. Attend the temple as often as possible. Depending on where you are assigned to labor, and even if there is a temple in your mission, you will probably not be able to attend the temple very often. We only get to go once a year. Enjoy serving and being in the house of the Lord and take advantage of their nearness. Strive to understand the covenants you have made or will make.

4. The most important preparation is learning about the Savior and developing a more personal relationship with Him. Pray with faith and feast upon the words of Christ. In the hardest moments of your mission-- and for the rest of your life, this is what will sustain you when nothing else can. Even when you're dead tired, frustrated with investigators/members/companions, or cannot see the fruits of your labors, it will be Christ who will walk beside you and help you put away these negative feelings, be filled with the pure love of God, and endure to the end. 

After making this list I looked back and realized that these things aren't just for the mission. There are things I could have said about bringing enough socks or sunscreen, but even if you're feet are comfortable and you never get a sunburn, a lack of spiritual preparation will inevitably make a missionary wonder why they came. Even those who are prepared wonder this at times. These are  things that not only help build the foundation of a great mission, but also build the foundation of a happy life. They are the skills and testimonies we develop in our families and in our wards, no matter what our age our situation in life, whether you are preparing for a mission, raising a family or looking for your eternal companion.

The conclusion I have unintentionally come to is the value of a consecrated life. There is no happiness outside the gospel. I know that my Savior lives and that He loves us. I know that I have a purpose and a mission on earth, and that each child of God has a purpose and mission equally as important. More than anything I have come to know that the Lord is infinitely patient with our shortcomings and personal struggles.

I love you all so much and I pray for you often.

Hermana Phillips

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Letter #26 03/11/13

Querida Familia,
This week has been interesting. It seems like at the end of hardest weeks is when I realize that they've been the most productive, despite all the opposition. We found 11 new investigators! I didn't even realize until we sat down to do inventory last night. We don't give an accounting just to show our leaders or the Lord. It's also a blessing to recognize progress. (The opposite can also be true.)

We're getting ready for the open house in the chapel this Saturday. It's a big event and requires a lot of coordination with members, leaders, other missionaries, and the community here. My companion is really nervous about it because we haven't had very much training or preparation specifically for this. It seems pretty straightforward to me, but who knows? Prayers specifically for this event would be much appreciated.

My companion is full of Mormon jokes! She told me this one the other day:
Cuàl es el apellido de Adàn y Eva? (What was Adam and Eve's last name?)
Pèrez, porque Dios les dijo que si comen del fruto prohibido, pereceràn! (Pèrez, because God told them if they ate the forbidden fruit, they would perish.)
Pereceràn means "They will perish" and it sounds like Pèrez seràn, which means "they will be Pèrez."

I didn't say the jokes were any good...

Anyway, I'm glad to hear you're doing well! The temperature here is cooling down just as there it's warming up. Fortunately, I'll only have one winter here.

Love you forever!
Hermana Phillips

Monday, March 4, 2013

Letter #25 03/04/13

Querida Familia,
It's been kind of a stressful week, but we found a lot of new people to teach and we're settling in well into our house, I think. Hermana Ocampos is an awesome missionary, but she's really quiet and I'm still learning how to make conversation in Spanish, so that's been a challenge. She speaks zero English, which is good for me to practice Spanish. She is from Asunciòn, Paraguay, and she speaks both Spanish and Guaranì, which is a native language of the area. She is really good at working with members, which is one of the things I want to work on during this transfer. Apparently, Hermana Vargas and I have been counting our referrals wrong for four months, and so when we did our accounting last night the numbers were all off and it was difficult to get it resolved in Spanish. I am now officially the only English-speaker in my district.

The other day we passed a store with a sign that said, "En el vaticano no hay Papa, ¡pero acà sì!" And we had a good laugh. ("There's no Pope in the vatican, but here there is!" is a rough translation. It's funny because the word for Pope and potato are the same).
Since you've asked, there are a few things you could send me. If someone wants to go through my clothes in those red boxes, there is a pair of gray leggings and/or my gray hoodie and/or a beanie that would be really useful for when it gets cold. I can't think of any other clothing specifically, but anything long-sleeved/warm. Also fruit snacks.

To send packages, send them to the mission home address (I don't have it on me right now). I would suggest not sending anything bigger than a cubic foot or so; I have heard of big and/or heavy packages taking up to 4-5 months to arrive because of customs.

I love you! Thank you so much for your support, emails, and prayers.

Love you forever,
Hermana Phillips
PS - I have no pictures of the family. I would really love to have some, if it's at all possible.