Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Letter #53 09/24/2013

My Dear Family and Friends,
I'm sorry that I don't have very much time. I have to do some other really important things during my already limited time on the computer, so I'll start uploading some photos for you instead. I love you and continue to pray for you.
The transfer cycle just ended, and my beloved companion is leaving... for my first area, Ferroviario! I'm so excited for her. I'm very sad she's leaving.
I will be staying in San Carlos. I will be training. Here's to new adventures!
Hermana Phillips

Monday, September 23, 2013

LDS Church in Uruguay

The Church has many country specific websites. You can access the site for Uruguay here.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Letter #52 09/16/13

Dear Family and Friends,
Last week I wrote about the "Santa Rosa" (tropical storm) that happened last week. Apparently Saint Rose heard me and decided to show her true colors. It's been raining for four days straight, and is forecasted to last for a few more days, with strong winds. My umbrella broke yesterday from the wind so I am mostly using it as a polka-dotted shield in front of me, because the rain here falls sideways. I finally heard the story about why it's called Santa Rosa: In the early days of the colonies in Uruguay, the Dutch or the English or French (the member lady who told me couldn't remember which, but it's one of the three) came to invade. The inhabitants along the coast prayed to Saint Rose to protect them. In response, she sent a huge storm that prevented the Dutch/English/French ships from landing. I understand-- in a storm like this I'd give up trying to invade Uruguay too. Fortunately, I'm preaching the gospel instead, and God is more powerful than any storm.
Saint Rose also seems to be against investigators coming to church. We have been teaching a great young couple who in our last lesson invited themselves to church without us even bringing up the subject. We passed by on Saturday night to see if they were still coming and Javier came out and greeted us with a broken wrist. We went inside the house to find Yeni, his girlfriend, lying in bed looking weak and yellowish. Apparently she had passed out shortly before we got there and were about to leave for the hospital. We said a prayer with them so everything would go well at the hospital, and that she would recuperate soon. I told them that if they felt better they were still welcome at church the next day, and Javier responded enthusiastically that they would do everything possible to come, which surprised me. They must have had something happen because they didn't show. We're going to visit them today to find out.
One of our strongest investigators (the one we found last week that was the miracle) dropped us on Sunday morning when we called to remind her about church.
I hate Satan.
Like my wonderful companion keeps saying, "Everything happens for a reason." I believe that too, it's just a little frustrating when we feel like we've done everything we can and we don't immediately see the results. I understand a little bit more about how Heavenly Father and Jesus must feel when I do something I should, or don't do something I know I should. I imagine Christ thinking to Himself, "I suffered and died and gave everything for you, so you could be preaching My gospel. Please start Personal Study at 8:00 instead of 8:02. It's the least you could do." I'm not saying that I'm a disobedient missionary; there will always be things to improve, but the experiences this week have made me see with more clarity the great love that God has for every one of His precious children, and how sad he feels when they disobey or don't understand the consequences of their actions.
Anyway, a little about the ward:
Our bishop is really cool. He has one eye and works in construction. He has three kids, and they just got another dog: a German shepherd. Since they live right behind us and we share the same yard, I feel like we just got a new dog too! I also feel safer than ever to have two worthy Melchizedek priesthood holders in front and behind us.
There is a great brother in the ward named Leo, who teaches Sunday school every other week. He is wheelchair-bound and has trouble speaking, but I have never met anyone before with a testimony of Jesus Christ that seems to radiate so powerfully out of every part of his being.
The sister who coordinates our lunches every day is named Maruja, and she's like another grandma to me-- mi abuelita. She's one of the oldest members in the ward and is hard of hearing, and I think that about 75% of the time she just guesses what we're saying, because some of her responses are really out of context. Love her to death, though.
Speaking of old ladies, Bishop Machado's mother lives with them, and I am now convinced that she's no longer completely sane. She gave my  companion quite the scare our second week. At first we didn't have curtains, but we used to get dressed in the back room of our house that just has one window that looks out onto the bishop's patio, but it's placed in such a way that you don't naturally look into it as you pass by. My companion was changing and I was in the kitchen when I suddenly hear a loud gasp, followed by "Oh! Hola!" followed by old-woman laughter. Luckily, the bishop's mom had just popped her head in the window at exactly the moment my comp finished changing. Don't worry, we have curtains now.
Anyway, Love you all, hope all is well.
Love you forever,
Hermana Phillips

Monday, September 9, 2013

Letter #51 09/09/2013

Dear Friends and Family,
We woke up Friday night to rain pounding furiously on our roof of corrugated metal. It rained all day Saturday and was blowing like crazy. The elders told us it was a "Santa Rosa," which means it would be raining with strong winds for at least four days. Three days later there's hardly a cloud in the sky, and the weather warmed up so much people are starting to walk around in their shorts and tank-tops-- minus the missionaries, of course, and everyone thinks we're crazy. When I looked up "Uruguay" on the internet before the mission, it said that the country is "susceptible to frequent weather changes." An understatement if I ever heard one.
This last week was full of challenges, ending with a beautiful tender mercy and answer to prayer. We began the week with a really high number of new investigators (30), but by Friday we had dropped almost all of them, or they had dropped us. The Lord is full of tender mercies, however, which we knew, so Hermana Nelson wisely suggested that we fast this Sunday. The first person that we talked to after ending our fast was an incredibly prepared single mom of three kids who believes strongly in God and in family values, and who now has a baptismal date for the end of this month. Without us even bringing up the subject, she informed us she would be coming to church, and she would be bringing her kids (all above age 8) with her. An incredible experience-- it humbled me and filled me with gratitude. I am so happy here and learning so much about myself and about the Lord.
I've also been seeing my ordinarily pessimistic attitude gradually changing, mostly due to my wonderful companion. She is always so happy and enthusiastic, and so aware and grateful for her blessings. She makes me play her "gratitude game" with her, in which we basically take turns naming our blessings until you run out of blessings. Of course, we're still not finished.
I've been reading "Our Heritage" in my personal study, and loving it. It shares so many stories of the incredible sacrifices made by the early saints. It's basically about how no one had food or clothes or money or a home, and had to travel thousands of miles. It's very humbling. I looked up from reading yesterday and looked around my house. I realized that there was literally nothing there that I could see that those early saints, much less those early missionaries had. When the sun is really hot and my feet hurt, I think, "At least I'm not walking barefoot over the sharp, frozen wilderness of Iowa to escape a Mormon-hating mob." It gives me a little comfort, and also motivation. That is not just the heritage of the church-- that is MY heritage. I come from a long line of noble disciples of the Savior Jesus Christ. Because they sacrificed so much, I am able to preach the gospel and become the means through which people can learn about the Savior's Atonement.
Mom, a few weeks ago you asked me to send you something for Grandma's birthday. I guess that's it-- a giant "THANK YOU." There are no words that can express how grateful I feel to my Father in Heaven for placing me in a family that loves me, keeps it's covenants, and is strong in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When I was 15, I got my patriarchal blessing. In it, it states that "There are those who are very close to (me) who have been great examples of faith, endurance, and stability." Every day I begin to realize how true that is. My family is the greatest blessing the Lord has given me, apart from my testimony of Him.
Grandma, I love you. I love your love of the Lord, and I love your testimony of Him. Thank you for the countless hugs and kisses you gave to me as a little girl, a struggling teenager, and a confused young adult. Thank you for your faith in me and our family. Thank you for the numberless pounds of mashed potatoes. Thank you for the opportunity to make testimony gloves with you. Thank you for supporting me in my mission. Thank you for countless hours of fun with cousins that I had in your back yard and at the crater. All those blessings (and so many more that I can't even count because I only get an hour on the computer) were possible because of your personal righteousness and your faithfulness to your covenants. Thank you. You are a huge part of my heritage.
Love you forever,
Hermana Phillips

Monday, September 2, 2013

Letter #50 09/02/2013

These past two weeks have been completely oposite of each other, but each has been really amazing. This week we had an intercambio with Hermana Neufer and Hermana Figueroa, who are two of the Traveling Sisters of our mission. Also I completed a year on Friday! And, for the first time in my mission we completed *almost* all our weekly goals. We actually went over on most of them. I normally try not to stress out about numbers, because they are simply not the most important thing, but in this case I'll use them to illustrate the hand of God. He really heard my prayers and after each one followed a tender mercy designed to increase my faith and my love for Him. I truly do love my Heavenly Father and my Savior; every day I find that love growing more and more.

Along with that thought, last week was particularly hard for Hermana Nelson and I, as far as the numbers were concerned. It was probably the lowest of my mission. Even so, that Sunday night after verification talking to a disappointed district leader, I felt the best I ever had at the end of any week out of the past 52. I had tried my best that day and the days before to bear pure testimony of Jesus Christ, felt the Spirit so strongly and been guided by it, and I felt that my faith had grown and my love for God had expanded in ways that before I hadn't considered. Hermana Nelson felt the same. We spent some time talking and came up with the following True Key Indicators by which we now evaluate our work every day, along with the normal ones:

1- Have I testified of Jesus Christ?
2- Have I helped someone in need?
3- Am I exhausted but happy?
4- Have I felt the Spirit today?
5- Do I love the members, the people I teach, my companion and the Lord more today than I did yesterday?

This week I can honestly answer "yes" to each of those True Key Indicators. A phrase from a blessing I received in the mission has also become a theme for our companionship and our work: "You will know that you are being successful by the feelings you will have." That is so true.
Here are a couple of experiences from our time here in San Carlos:
Two Sundays ago we decided to spend the last precious hour of our week singing to the patients. The scriptures keep urging us to "raise our voices" and we wanted to try something we've never done before. We only got to be with one family, and we couldn't sing because their precious two-year-old boy was sleeping, recovering from surgery. As we stood in the doorway, the mom told us we couldn't sing, but if we had a message to share to please come in and share it-- which we gladly did. It was the mom, who was evangelical, and her parents, who are catholics. Her father was actually a deacon for the catholic church. I'm not 100% positive what that means, but it sounds impressive. I shared Alma 7:11-13 which talks about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and bore my testimony of Him. My companion went next. By the time we were done, every person in the room (except the sleeping baby) had born testimony of the Savior. The Spirit in that room was so strong, and I was so grateful for the opportunity to hear the testimoies of others from different denominations about the same person.
We've been visiting a young family-- Darwin (investigator), Inès (member) and their baby, Santiago ("Slash"). They are struggling financially, and have been struggling just to eat for about two weeks now. We talked to the bishop about them but I wasn't sure he was very interested in our investigators. Last week Hermana Nelson and I had a special fast for them. On Saturday, we visited Inés, and she looked much better, saying that the bishop had stopped by that day. As we sang the opening song, "There Is Sunshine in My Soul Today," I saw something out of the corner of my eye out the open doorway. When I turned my head, there was Bishop Machado, his wife, and 6-year-old daughter, laden down with grocery bags full of things for a young family. Hermana Nelson and I couldn't finish the hymn because there were tears running down our faces. They looked just like angels. Inès was beaming as well. I love this work with all my heart.
I know that a lot of you, family and friends, are struggling with huge trials right now. I know that sometimes it feels like we are blocked at every turn, that we have no way out, or that the world is coming down on top of us. Please know that I love you and I am praying for you. I love you so much and I know that Heavenly Father loves you so much infinitely more. He knows you. Watch and wait patiently for the tender mercies, which God bestows upon all who faithfully follow Him.
Love you forever,
Hermana Phillips