Monday, November 25, 2013

Letter # 61 11/25/2013 Tres Cruces‏

Dear Friends and Family,
I write to you from Montevideo. Today Hermana Linnell had to sign her residency so we're in the terminal waiting for our bus. Two hours here, two hours back. Tomorrow we have a conference here, so we'll have to return-- two hours there, two hours back. So I'll at least have some time to catch up on my journal. I'll need the time, because a lot has happened.
Elda Ricardi got baptized on Saturday!!!!!! I love her so much! Like Hermana Linnell keeps saying, the angels did a really good job preparing her, because we feel like we didn't really do anything. That's how it is when you're teaching someone prepared. When people open their hearts to let the Spirit in there's really not much else to do. Keeping commitments becomes no problem. Now we'll be working to retain her in the church and help her daughter come back to church as well. (If you want to pray for her too, her name is Eva Cardozo)
We are currently teaching a golden family: Federico, Cecilia, Nicolas Federico, and Belén. Amazing little family. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have found a family to teach. The only obstacle seems to be finding them all together. They work a lot.
Yesterday it was SO HOT. You'll probably read that phrase a lot in the next couple of months. I need to start wearing my hat again, even though I look a little funny; it's better to look a little funny than to pass out of heat exhaustion. Mom-- every time I put sunscreen on my ears I remember you, because at home when we would go on hikes I always forgot. Almost without warning you would grab me and put sunscreen on my ears. I guess that's a weird thing to remember, but it's the little things that make me think of home.
We have talked to an unusually large number of people who are devout members of other churches, in recent days. Not that that's bad-- I'm happy to talk to people of other religions. It's just frustrating when the conversation turns into them inviting me to their church. That must be how they feel, I imagine. We stopped some ladies in the street the other day, and I wanted to give them one of our pass-along cards with Jesus on it. The first one took it, but the second one practically leaped back and said-- very offended-- "No, I don't accept images of God. Jesus asked us not to worship graven images." I felt bad for offending her, and even though I explained that it wasn't to worship, but to remember our message, she refused. So I gave her the pass-along card with the nice-looking family on it instead. Later that day we passed by an evangelical church that was holding its worship service with all the doors open: there were the three ladies, preaching into microphones. Awkward.
I love you so much and hope you are doing well.
Love you forever,
Hermana Phillips

Monday, November 18, 2013

Letter # 60 11/18/2013 Ayuno de el Pedir‏

Dear Friends and Family,
As I'm sure many of you have noticed, God does not often answer prayers in the way we would hope or expect. We are taught that God answers prayers according to His will, in His way, and on His timing. This past week as I explained this principle in a lesson with a less-active family, the mom suddenly turned to me and asked, "So... what's the point of praying, if God's just going to do what He wants anyway?"
I was a little taken off-guard. However, I remember thinking exactly the same thing a few years ago. If our will can't possibly change the will of the Lord, why would we even try? My personal study this week has been inspired by this question.
In my head I often compare life to a school. School is hard, and sometimes we feel like we can't solve the problems presented. There's always someone with better grades than us, and sometimes we feel like we're graded unfairly. But in this school, one thing is of ultimate importance: our relationship with the teacher. (This comparison works a lot better in Spanish because "teacher" and "Master" are the same word and it's easier to insert the Savior's role into the metaphor.)
If the teacher and the student never communicate, the student can sit through the entire semester and never understand mitosis or long division, etc. The teacher can teach all He wants and all He knows, but it will never benefit the student if he doesn't try to work with the teacher to figure it out.
That's prayer. No matter how many times I told my chemistry teacher that I didn't understand ions (still don't) or thought they were dumb and useless, it didn't change the fact that ions exist and that they are a fundamental part of understanding chemistry. My teacher couldn't change the principles of chemistry that hold the world together, although if he could I'm sure Mr. Gritton would have done so to ease my suffering.
In like manner, no matter how many times I ask the Lord to change something about my life, about myself, or about my investigators, He is not going to change His plan or alter the forces that keep the universe together. He will not change the things in our lives that will perfect us and help us fulfill our purpose for being there anyway. We have to pass the final, and this is the homework that will prepare us.
As much as I hated school, it is a metaphor for life.
I still believe in miracles through prayer, but sometimes I think we think about it the wrong way. This week I have been "fasting" from asking for things in my prayers. Only thanking. I have felt the love of God more, and seen my faith grow exponentially.
Love you forever,
Hermana Phillips

Monday, November 11, 2013

Letter # 59 11/11/2013 Bebés Alrededor del Mundo‏

Dear Family and Friends,
I may have already mentioned this, but even so it never ceases to amaze me how different people's lives are-- how different we all are.

My sweet newest nephew was born a few weeks ago, and he will grow up in a loving, caring, gospel-centered home where his parents will teach him about Jesus Christ. I have every reason to believe that Luke will grow up to be a worthy priesthood holder and enjoy the blessings of raising his own family, which he will do after the pattern he learned from righteous parents.
Yesterday we tried to visit an investigator's family, who just welcomed a tiny baby into their home, a little boy named Santino. They are very poor, and are not married. When we arrived the dad greeted us and asked us to come back later. He said his wife was sleeping, and he couldn't talk to us then because he was "a little drunk." Later that day we got to see the baby, and he radiated with the same baby innocence that all babies have.
As I reflected on the experience later, the Spirit penetrated my heart and taught me a very important truth. Although Santino's parents obviously love him very much, the only thing they have to rely on are the natural instincts of care-giving and mother- and father-hood. I understood a little bit more about why my function as a missionary is so vital. Families need the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is only by applying the basic principles of that wonderful, perfect plan that we can achieve joy and happiness in this life; otherwise we are left to our own devices, our own vices, and the deceptions of the devil and humanity's flawed philosophies.
There are so many people who "are kept from the truth because they know not where to find it," nor are they willing to listen to two North-American girls in skirts.  People are suspicious of religion and religious representatives. The importance of member missionary work is incalculable. What they are not willing to listen to from missionaries suddenly becomes easier to hear from a loving friend, a neighbor, teacher, or whatever other important role we play. We ALL have people within our sphere of influence who could be blessed by our invitation to hear the glorious truth of the restored Gospel.
I had a nightmare last night that I was in the airport coming home my mission. My dream-self was panicking, wishing for more time. I woke up and thought how silly that was. When you're a missionary, you're set apart from the world and given a special calling. When you're released you are placed back into the world with more greater knowledge, greater understanding, and greater conviction than you could possibly have gained on your own. You only become a different kind of missionary, released into the world to continue to do good and serve the Lord. To paraphrase Elder Holland, after such a life-changing experience, how could anyone just go back to fishing? Although the mission experience is sacred and singular, it is not meant to be isolated or confined to 18 months or 2 years.
The more I am here the more I understand the continued call to "bring the world His truth." It is so much more than we can comprehend.
Thank you for your support and your prayers.
Love you forever!
Hermana Phillips

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Letter # 58 11/05/2013 Salud, Dinero, Amor. Check.‏

Dear Family and Friends,
We found out about transfers, and I'll be staying here with Hermana Linnell for another change! The elders that also serve in the ward here are being whitewashed out and another companionship of sisters will be replacing them. One of them is an oro, and her trainer, Hermana Sandoval, is only a few changes younger than me in the mission. It's weird for me to think that most of the missionaries are now much younger than me in the mission. Is this how it is to grow old?
Belén and Milagros were not baptized on Saturday. We're working on a few problems that came up the day before the baptism; I happened to not be there that day because we were doing an intercambio, and everything went wrong while I was gone. The hermana I switched areas with felt so bad-- she kept apologizing and even started crying. She said that she felt like she had undone all of our hard work, but I truthfully told her that if I had adequately prepared nothing would have gone wrong. Poor thing, she goes home tomorrow. I'm the one who should feel bad for ruining her last week in the mission.
We finally went to the zoo because during transfer week we have PDay on Tuesday instead of Monday. I forgot my camera cord, so pictures will have to wait. We almost got spit on by an enraged llama, though, if you can picture that one.
Thanks for the pictures of Luke! I LOVE HIM SO MUCH ALREADY! I can't wait to hold him.
My ONLY wish for Christmas is to see everyone on the other side of the computer screen. We're not allowed to call more than once (more than one house), so I can't Skype mom and dad, then Michelle and Dan, then Christopher and Desiree, then Lisa, and so forth. So that's my Christmas wish: To see ALL the family. My love for you all has grown so much while I've been away, and I miss you all. I hope to see you all soon.
Love you forever,
Hermana Phillips