JULIO GOT BAPTIZED!!

HE DID IT! HE GOT BAPTIZED! JULIO GOT BAPTIZED!!!

This past week I got a phone call from an old companion in El Paso. I was confused by why she would be calling and so shocked when she told me that she just wanted to let me know that she was at a baptismal service for Julio. I cried and danced around and honestly cannot remember the last time I’ve ever been that happy.

We started teaching Julio back at the beginning of the summer and he has been one of my all time favorite people that I’ve met out here. One of the hardest parts about leaving Montwood was leaving him and his girlfriend, Idarly. She’s a member of the church and one of the best people I know. Idarly introduced Julio to us and was a huge help in all of the lessons. She was the real missionary in all of it. When I left, Julio had come to the point where he knew everything he needed to know to be baptized, he had received answers to his prayers and he wanted to be baptized. All he had to do was just decide for himself when he felt right about going for it.

I’m so happy and so thankful to have had the opportunity to get to know Julio and Idarly, and to have gotten to play a small part in such an exciting time of their lives. He is so changed. He wasn’t ever a bad guy or a sad person– he was a awesome from the start, but it was really cool to see the light in him get brighter and brighter. He is on a good path, one that brings lasting peace and real happiness.

Mission life is the good life.

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“Soft Joy”

I’m back in Albuquerque and loving it! The last few weeks have been so good and have gone by way too fast. I love this new area and my companion is one of the best missionaries I’ve ever seen in action. I’m learning a ton from her and just trying to do my best to keep up!

This past week we had an awesome lesson with a new investigator named Luis. My companion, Hermana Thompson, was his translator at a city service project we volunteered at a little while ago and we ran into him again last Monday while we were emailing. No coincidences, this guy was so ready to take the discussions and a divine hand was at work to make sure it happened.

Luis is very smart and had great insights. He was so touched by the message of the Restoration. He was amazed to learn that Priesthood authority had been brought back and he loved that it was Peter, James and John who had come to ordain Joseph Smith. He was so excited to have his own copy of the Book of Mormon. He told us that when he had woken up that morning he had felt a very strong spiritual impression to "bundle up." I can’t translate what he said with all of the eloquence he used, but basically he expressed that he felt like the Book of Mormon would give him a way to protect himself from the harsh winds of life. He’s pretty much the coolest. He prayed at the end of the lesson and afterwards we paused for a moment to talk about what he was feeling. We had been speaking in Spanish the whole time, but right then he looked around at all of us and said in broken English, "I feel like, how you say, joy. Yes, soft joy.’" I think that might just be the very best way to describe what there is to gain from a knowledge of restored truth: soft joy.

Feliz Dia de Independencia! Viva Mexico!

Transfer news is out and my time in El Paso, TX has officially come to a close (for now at least). Tomorrow morning I’m headed back up north to the Los Lunas zone in Albuquerque. My new companion is Hermana Thompson and I am pumped! She’s one incredible missionary and this is her last transfer before she goes home. We’re going to make these next 6 weeks count!

Saying goodbye to everyone here was so hard. The Montwood ward was genuinely like family to me and we were working with some really cool people. The last little while that I’ve gotten to spend with Hermana Johnson has been so good. She’s also being transferred out and elders are replacing us (those lucky dogs). Even though we only got a transfer together, I learned a ton from her and I know the two of us are going to be friends long after the mission.

Missions are cool like that- you meet all of these awesome people and in very short spans of time you’re able to form these super tight bonds. It never fails to amaze me just how many good friendships there are to be made. I’m so thankful for my time in Montwood, for all of the people I’ve been able to associate with and for all of the memories that have been made here. The Gospel is true and mission life is the good life.

The pictures attached are from all of the Mexican Independence Day celebrations that happened this past week (viva Mexico!), from Zone Conference (I had a sweet reunion with the Valle del Norte missionary crew) and from a handful of goodbyes with good friends.

Albuquerque, here I come! Hasta luego! Les quiero mucho y que tengan una bonita semana!

Menudo

This week I took on Menudo (cow intestine soup) and came off conqueror in a battle with a massive black widow.

The past few days have been nothing short of adventurous! In the most recent transfer, I received news that I would be getting to stick around El Paso in the Montwood ward and that Hermana Johnson would be my new companion. Best thing ever! Hermana Johnson is a work horse and we are seeing so much success together. We’re also having a blast while we’re at it. We’re the sister training leaders for the zone, so we get to look out for 3 other sister companionships and conduct companionship exchanges with them. We’re loving it! This opportunity to serve so many other missionaries has really helped me to open my heart and look beyond my own worries and struggles. Mission life is so good. Every week definitely comes with a new round of curve balls, ie funky foods and aggressive spiders, but in all honestly there still is nothing better than getting to wear the little black name tag and turning it all over to the Lord.

Okay, so story time. The hermanas that live in the apartment below ours were sick for a few days this past week. We went down to bring them soup (chicken noodle, the cow intestine stuff happened later on) and check on how they were doing. We were standing in the doorway chatting when out of nowhere Hermana Johnson yanks me away, wraps me up into a boa constrictor hug and starts yelling, "THAT THING ALMOST ATE YOU!!!" I turned back in time to see this gigantic creature of a spider scuttle back up it’s web and away from where my head had been just moments before. The hermanas slammed their front door and communicated with us from then on through the window. We ran to the elders apartment and enlisted them to help exterminate the little beast. They grabbed a left over subway sandwich from the fridge, a bottle of mosquito spray, and a chancla (a mexican flip flop). We got back just in time to watch the spider retreat back into the inside of a light fixture. The elders did the best they could with what they had, but the night ended in a stale mate.

The next morning the hermanas accidentally locked themselves out. The main office still hadn’t opened and we couldn’t leave them out on the porch with the black widow still on the lose, so we rolled up our sleeves and put our locksmith skills to the test. Luckily my companion is a champ and with a credit card and a little elbow grease she was able to break her way in. But in the process of doing so, the black widow reared it’s ugly head and came out for another round of battle. While Hermana Johnson worked against the clock to get through the door, I did everything I could think of to keep the spider’s attention occupied. A few poorly aimed rocks served only to irritate the old widow, so I had to resort to other means. I quickly retrieved an old broom, and with a deep breath, I took my aim. She fought like a dragon, but with a chorus of girlish screams (supplied by the spectating hermanas) the spider’s fight was at last brought to a squished end. Parts of the guts still stand on display, as a warning to all other spiders in the complex.

I don’t know, but Hermana Johnson and I are thinking that we’ve done a pretty good job so far with building trust with the other missionaries. Their sister training leaders have got their backs.

As for the menudo, there’s not too much of a story there. Mostly I just prayed a lot for strength and went into survival mode. I’m becoming quite the stomach of steel spider slayer these days.

Love you guys! Have an awesome week!

20 years old and half way mark in the mission!

First off I just want to thank you all so, so much for all of the sweet birthday wishes I’ve received today. I feel SO loved and so blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life! I can’t tell you enough just how much I love you. You guys are the best.

I’m still trying to catch up to the fact that I am now 20 years old and officially half way through this mission… what?!? Where does the time go?

Recently we received permission from our mission president to work on our own family history trees for an hour each week. My companion and I have taken full advantage of this opportunity and it has become one of my favorite parts of our weekly routine. I always find the coolest things! I’m related to Elvis Presley AND the one and only Abraham Lincoln! I also came across a branch in my tree where every one has the last name "Butt." Not kidding. I have a great, great, great aunt named Fanny Butt and another named Sarah Little Butt. Talk about being the butt of a joke…

If you haven’t done family history before, I’d invite you to give it a try! The church offers free accounts on FamilySearch.org for everyone, whether you’re Mormon or not. Log on to Lds.org and click on the "my account and ward" button on the top right hand corner and then "sign in." If you already have an lds account, once you’re signed in go back to that same drop down arrow and click "my family tree" under "my account" to get started. If you don’t have an account yet, go to the bottom of the sign in page and click "register for an LDS account." You can then set up an account either as a member with your recordship number or "as a friend." Both options will give you full access to all church related sites, including FamilySearch.org.

Fair warning: it’s addicting and once you get started, it might be hard to quit.

In addition to all of the humorous little gems I’ve stumbled upon in my genealogy, I’ve also been able to learn a whole lot more about the incredible heritage that I come from. My tree is absolutely full of Mormon Pioneers and Missionaries. The more I learn of their stories, the more proud I am to be able to wear this missionary name tag of mine. Who I am has been in the making for a lot longer than 20 years. There are so many that came before me and gave it all for their families, their freedom and their faith. That faith has brought peace and purpose to our family for generations. This Gospel is one of power and of truth. I’ve seen the healing effect it’s had on my ancestors’ lives, on my own life and on the lives of so many of those that I get the privilege to interact with out here. I am so thankful to have this blessing and to be able to share it full time. I’m also grateful for all that my ancestors gave to live and to share the Gospel. I know they’re not all that far away. Loved ones on the other side are still very aware of us and our lives. They influence, protect and love us from where they are and I look forward to the day when we are once again reunited as a family– I’m especially looking forward to meeting all of the Butt cousins at that big family reunion.

There is a God. He is the Father of our Spirits and He has this beautiful plan prepared for all of us, His children, to be able to achieve ultimate happiness as families. Christ lives. He is our loving Brother and by following His example and teachings we can come to be our very best selves. I know these things to be true and I leave them with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Silver Linings

It’s been quite the week. It all started with last Monday when I realized shortly after leaving the library that I had left my camera SD card plugged into the computer. I felt so sick knowing that the vast majority of the photos and videos on that thing aren’t backed up anywhere else. We went back and it was nowhere to be found. Nobody had turned it in to the lost and found and no one had seen anything.

After starting the week on that note, it was just one thing after another. I woke up covered in bug bites one morning which led us to believe we had a bed bug infestation on our hands. I guess that’s a pretty bad problem around here. After the amount of cock roaches we’ve already killed, I was pretty put out by the prospect of dealing with bed bugs too.

Then this sweet elderly man in the ward (who’s related to half the congregation in some way and loved by absolutely everyone) took a turn for the worst in the hospital and passed away. We spent a day at the funeral supporting the family and getting their meal put together. The family was shocked and heart broken and it was really tough to see.

On another afternoon the sister companionship that we’re in charge of looking out for got really lost while out on bikes in the El Paso sun. They ended up biking over 5 miles and one sister got super sick from the heat. So we did last minute emergency exchanges and I went out to work with the other sister in her area. The two of us also got lost, and out of nowhere all of these black cloud rolled in. Not expecting rain that day, I wore a white dress. White dresses and torrential desert rain storms are not a good combo.

But it just kept getting better! In the midst of all the craziness of this week, my companion and I got a phone call from a number we didn’t recognize. We answered and on the other end of the line was the voice of a sobbing girl who said she needed help. We showed up to find her house and her life in shambles. We dropped all our other appointments and spent a couple of hours helping her clean up and calm down. She told us her story and how she hadn’t been to church in 4 years. She said that she had reached the point where she just didn’t know where to turn or who else to call. We hugged her a whole lot and promised to come back again soon.

After seeing her, my companion got knocked down with a bad tension head ache. When her vision started blurring, we decided it was time for a trip to urgent care. To relieve the pain she had to get a shot… in the butt. I felt really bad for her, but at the same time it was actually pretty funny.

Here’s the good news: My camera SD card was in a converter that my companion lent to me and she had her home phone number written on it. So this good Samaritan called her parents this week wanting to return it! They emailed us his information and we’re going to meet up with him later today. Who knows, maybe he’ll let us teach him a little about Christ while we’re at it.

What’s more, the bed bug infestation was a false alarm. While we were visiting a family whose dad hasn’t been to church in years, we mentioned my bug bites. Turns out he’s an exterminator! He checked them out and told us that they were probably from mosquitoes, but that if more showed up, he’d be more than willing to come spray our apartment. I haven’t gotten any new bites since, but it gave us a great in with this guy and he’s totally our pal now!

Also, the man who passed away had a grandson that was serving his mission in Bolivia. He only had a couple of weeks left, so he got permission to come home early and be there for his family. After taking time with his family, he wanted to get back to work, so he came out to lessons with us this week. Holy cow that kid can testify with power. He’s our new secret weapon.

There was even a silver lining to the butt shot! As embarrassed as she was, my companion is a champ, so she told the nurse all about who we are and what we do. She bore her testimony about how the Gospel can change lives and strengthen families, and he gave us his contact info and wants to meet with missionaries to learn more.

The very best part of the week was yesterday, when our new friend (the one that had called us for help) came back to church for the first time after so many years. She was trembling and crying and so scared of what people would think of her, but she came. Everyone hugged her, told her how happy they were to see her and offered her help and love. It was one of the best things I’ve been able to be apart of in all of my time out here as a missionary.

I learned a lot from this week. I learned not just that El Paso has absolutely zero drainage system, which makes for awesome puddles to jump in when one might be in need of a stress relief, but also that there really is something good to be found in every situation. I know we have a Father in Heaven looking out for each one of us. He loves us, He has a plan for us and His hand is in the details of our lives.

El Paso, La Tierra Prometida

I am really loving El Paso. Our ward takes such good care of us. There are people here that already feel like family and I honestly can’t believe I’ve only known them for 3 weeks. At the same time I also can’t believe it’s already been 3 whole weeks since this transfer began! Time needs to slow down. I’m still accidentally dating things as February! I guess the summer heat should be a better reminder to me that February is long gone… It is HOT here. But it’s all good because it actually works to our benefit. People are always taking pity on us while we’re out in the heat and inviting us in for a cold drink. This past week alone we found 6 new investigators! Lately our mission leaders have invited us to focus our efforts on teens and young adults and we’ve been seeing a good amount of success in that. 4 of the 6 we found this past week fall in that age group and they are all so awesome. I’m pumped to get to be a part of their journeys. This Gospel changes lives. I’m keeping super busy and I could not be happier. Everyone in the mission calls El Paso “La Tierra Prometida” or “the Promised Land,” and man, they weren’t kidding.

Thank you for the prayers said on my behalf and for all of the love and support you guys send my way. Love and miss you lots!