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.