Monday, February 3, 2014

Letter #71 2/2/14 "Santificaos‏"

It's still raining.

Dear friends and family,

Where to begin?

I gave a talk in church last week about Zion. All four of us missionaries serving in this ward feel like that is the reason we are here: strengthen the members. They are truly amazing-- and the Lord allows the strong to be tested.

On Saturday we had an amazing lesson with our investigator, Gustavo Zipitría. When we called an hour before our appointment to confirm that he would be there, he told us that he had reached the decision to not be baptized. Fortunately, my companion and I are not the type to take "no" for an answer that easily, and we went with a member couple to his house to try and resolve his doubts. The problem is that we haven't been able to teach him very much, and the challenge of baptism weakens if not supplemented immediately by the good word of God. We were able to convince him not to close the door on something he does not fully understand yet.

This week at church the attendance dropped by over half. After calling and texting all our investigators about church, we ran the two blocks in the pouring rain to the chapel. The power was out, and only the emergency lighting was running. We held Relief Society in almost complete darkness as another black raincloud moved in and blocked out the sun. Our phone has a flashlight, which I gave to the teacher so she could read the manual. It was me and Hermana Peña, Hermana Norma (the teacher) and Hermana Rodao (the bishop's sister). 4 sisters.

There was a confirmation during the sacrament meeting, and a profound silence reigned over the chapel during the whole meeting; all the families with little kids had stayed at home because of the rain. During the sacrament, the Spirit comforted both me and my companion. Despite our efforts, the rain had turned out to be stronger than our investigators' faith, and none appeared. But faith is to believe that all things are possible, even when we see "the wind boisterous". The Spirit has given me a deep feeling of tranquility that we will reach our baptismal goal this month. The Lord is just testing our faith and the strength of our desire to bring sould unto Him. Seconds after the "amen" of the benediction, the lights came on in the church. As my wise companion keeps reminding me, "there is nothing physical that does not teach a spiritual principle."

The other sisters were frantically trying to find the baptismal clothing for their baptism to be held right after church. It had disappeared, but they found it in the house of a member who had offered to wash it after his son's baptism. Due to the fact that there had been no power in the building, the font was filled with icy water, but the little girl who was baptized showed great courage and pure faith as she stepped down and didn't say a word. The power of godliness is truly manifest in the plain and precious words and actions of gospel ordinances.

This week I am amazed at the Lord's ability to help me find strength in places I never would have looked.

I am grateful for my amazing companion. I am grateful for your prayers and please know that I pray for you every day. God has everything under control.

Love you forever,
Hermana Phillips

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Letter # 70 1/28/14 "Lluvia Imponente‏"

Dear Friends and Family,

It is raining.

It is impossible to describe the rain in this country in a way that my desert-dwelling loved ones can understand. Last week after church, the sun was shining when we left the Familia Barrreto's house after lunch, and 15 minutes later a huge wind blew through Sarandí del Yí, and in seconds we were completely soaked, running through the pouring rain and hail, trying to find shelter. I thought of Helaman 5:12, when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty cstorm shall beat upon you... Before we were a quarter of the way home, the sun came out-- but it was still RAINING. I am not making this up to make it sound cool. After a few minutes of the strange sun-rain, it all stopped and we trudged home to change. The sun came out again, smiling innocently.
20 minutes later-- RAIN AGAIN. Even harder.
Guys, my umbrella is thrashed.
It will be raining all week, rumor has it, but that doesn't stop the gospel from being true, and it surely doesn't stop the good people of Sarandí del Yí from needing to accept it. Therefore, out we shall march, trying to find them.

In other news, we had changes this week, and it looks like Sarandí will be my final resting place as a full-time missionary. I'm staying here with Hermana Peña another transfer. There were no changes in our house, so we'll all be here another 6 weeks.

I feel like I am waking up from a lifetime of dreaming. I thought I knew what the mission, the gospel, were all about. I had no idea. This work is so important. Not important like remembering to pay the bills is important. Important like breathing. Like food. It is a basic human need. I don't know if we full realize that not obeying the commandments is like not eating. We will die if we don't give heed to the scriptures and repent. That's been a theme of the last few weeks. The urgency of the gospel of Christ-- He didn't say tomorrow, or next week. He said NOW. Let the work consume you.

I have been called of God to declare repentance to all people, including my friends and family. So I invite you to search the scriptures and repent. This sacred calling has required that I do the same, and I will thank God every day of my life for opening my eyes to to consequences of sin. Search the scriptures. Pray with earnestness. Attend church with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. You will thank God every day of your lives if you do.

As always, I run out of time before I'm halfway done.
If you can, this is a list of our current investigators that you can include in your prayers:
Familia Medina Rivero (Isidoro, Rosa, PAMELA, Fabián, Leonardo)
Familia Zipitría (Gustavo, Andrea, Noemí, Melina)
Familia Mendilarzu (Hector, Mercedes, Cristofer)
Familia Castro (part-member family) (Carlos, Giovanna, Sofía, Laureano, Luzmila)

Love you forever,
Hermana Phillips

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pictures: Sarandi del Yi

Letter #69 1/21/2014 "Dormir, dormir...‏"

Dear Family and Friends,
Sorry about having to write a day late. There are some parents of missionaries who call the mission office when their kids don't write exactly on time. I am so glad you don't do that. Anyway, the reason is because we had to go to Montevideo yesterday for a super-secret mission conference. They wouldn't tell us what was going on or why we had to go, but the good thing about being a missionary is that you develop an innate trust of what your leaders tell you to do. At first we thought it was just our zone, and that we would be going to the temple, but when we got on the bus we found out the whole mission was going to be there, and rumors began to fly. Are they splitting the mission? Is there a general authority coming? Is there a national emergency and we have to leave the country? President Monson is coming?!
Well, we got to Montevideo and started the conference. Then President Newsome got up and announced that he and his wife are being released. There is apparently legal trouble with President's company back in the States and he has to go and fix things. For now we don't know when they are leaving, nor who our new mission president will be. I am of course super sad about this, but I know that the Lord is in it, and that President Newsome was exactly what Uruguay needed to add more energy into the missionary program here.
At the end of the conference we got to say goodbye to them individually. As he shook my hand, President looked at me with those kind blue eyes and told me he loved me. Both Hermana and President Newsome have a special gift for helping people to feel the pure love of Christ through their words and their actions. I am so grateful to have had such great examples of great love and leadership so close. I will miss them so much.
So that's why I'm tired today. For the past week or so we've been traveling a lot and and working double to make up for it.
I love you all and hope you are well.
Hermana Phillips

Monday, January 13, 2014

Pictures: Sarandi del Yi

Letter #68 1/13/2014 "Gratitude Oatmeal Returns"

Dear friends and family,
Honestly there is not much to report this week. We are still trying to work more in harmony with the ward. Retention of recently baptized members is a huge challenge. Let's put it this way: I have never been so greateful to have been raised in a fully-functioning ward as I am now. I wish you all could live what I'm living, see what I'm seeing, and hear what I'm hearing so you could better understand just how blessed we are. I used to complain about "Utah Mormons." Never again will I breathe a word of complaint.

That said, there are a few rays of sunshine breaking through the clouds:

I can't remember if I mentioned this before, but they assigned me to form and direct a ward choir. It has been a mental, emotional and physical challenge, but as always working in music still both wears me out and fills my soul.

We found the recent convert of my first companion, Hermana Harris. She specifically asked me to try to find him. He had dropped off the map for months, and we finally tracked him down. 18 years old and wandering from place to place. I'm so grateful to God for leading us to him. While we're wandering around lost, He knows exactly where His lost sheep are, and guides us to them.

I hope all is well back home-- but I suppose if it were easy you wouldn't be progressing or learning. I know you have trials and difficulties and frustrations. One thing I have learned to be grateful for is the fact that there are trials. One sentance of my patriarchal blessing has been the theme of this week:

"Be willing to accept light and truth in whatever form it may be..."

That form isn't always wrapped in pretty paper with a bow on top. Sometimes it comes in the form of chastisement or correction rudely given. Sometimes it comes in the form of extra, seemingly unfair responsabilities. We have to take it when it comes AND be grateful for it. He whom the Lord loveth He chastiseth.

I pray for you always.

Love you forever,
Hermana Phillip

Monday, January 6, 2014

Letter #67 01/06/2014 "En el Tiempo del Señor‏"

Dear Friends and Family,

This weekend has been a little stressful. After the mission I'm going to re-read my emails and count how many times the word "stress" appears. Fortunately, the church just came out with a "adjusting to mission life"/"how to manage stress" booklet. The things in it really work; I just wish they'd given it to me a year ago.

We are teaching a one-legged man named Alberto. His situation is complicated, to say the least. Teaching him has been a test in every aspect: charity, compassion, patience, listening to the Spirit, prayer, the gift of discernment, the gift of tongues, working with my companion, working with the ward. Everything I have learned on the mission seems to be especially pertinent now. My setting-apart blessing says that I "will stretch and grow in ways that will not be comfortable." Truer words have never been spoken.

This week is best summed up in the words of the Prophet Joseph: "In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them bearight, which is it, and how shall I know it?"

How do we know what to do when pulled from every side, pushed from behind, reminded, reprimanded, chastened, and pressured?

If any of you lack bwisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

We must listen to the still small voice of the Holy Ghost, which leads us to the presence of God. No one can stand in the place of the Spirit. No one can stand in the place of Jesus Christ or our Heavenly Father. We must listen, and read the scriptures that we be not deceived. We must have the faith to believe and expect that God will answer our prayers, if we ask not amiss.

In the midst of all the confusion, there have been moments when I looked up at the gigantic Uruguayan sky and felt deep gratitude for the blessings, oportunities, and the tests. I know He answers my prayers when I ask according to His will.

Love you forever,
Hermana Phillips