La Semana Pasada

Hola!

This week has been a week of running on back up plans and hardly anything we planned went quite right. It’s been odd, still good, but odd. 6 of the 7 days this week we were fed American food! It was like everyone got together and officially decided together not to have Mexican food… There were two glorious days where we got pizza and fried chicken with mashed potatoes and then the other days were spaghetti and spaghetti and spaghetti AND then, lasagna. Not kidding. Hermana Cifuentes has been here for 5 months and has never seen spaghetti or lasagna until now. Not sure what was going on in the universe this week… Made me miss rice and beans!

Politics and Trump are a topic of particular concern down here… Most of the people we interact with are immigrants (legal and illegal) and they are all really scared right now, this past week especially. It’s been both heartbreaking and eye opening to see firsthand the struggles and fears they face. So many people here have become very dear friends to me, and I worry and care about them and their families a whole lot. Their reality is a whole different world than the one I grew up in and am a part of. It’s incredible what the majority of them have gone through to get here and how hard they have to work to provide for their families. I know I joke around about the food being too spicy and what not, but at the end of the day I really am so grateful that so many have been willing to open up their homes to us and share what they have. They are such good people.

If you all could remember my New Mexicans in your prayers, I would really appreciate it 🙂

I’m learning a lot out here, but perhaps the most important thing I’m growing to better understand is Christ’s Atonement. It changes lives. It has changed mine. My gratitude is deepened a little more each day for the sacrifice our Savior so freely and willingly gave on our behalf. Recently I was listening to a talk about the Atonement given by Jeffery R Holland called “Broken Things to Mend.” I 10/10 recommend giving it a read/listen (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/04/broken-things-to-mend?lang=eng) Holland talks about Christ’s invitation to all saying, “He said it to believers, and He said it to those who were not so sure. He said to everyone, whatever their personal problems might be:

‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’”

What a comfort it is to know that no one is beyond His reach of comfort and peace. His invitation is to all, that means my friends here, my friends back home, your friends, your family, me, you. Find some time this week to learn a little more about the Atonement. I honestly believe that there is no more important topic to learn of and understand, and I can’t think of any better use of our time. I know my Savior lives and that the power of His Atonement is real.

3 months: Rabbais, Pastors, Priests and taquitos

Hola!

It occurred to me this morning that I’m just 2 days shy of being at an official 3 months as a missionary! Vaca Santa! That’s loco.

So something super cool and random happened this past week: Hermana Cifuentes and I were selected by our mission president to attend an Interfaith luncheon with the mayor of Albuquerque! At the event there were Rabbais, Pastors, Priests and holy leaders from every church, synagogue and mosque in town. I loved it! Hermana Cifuentes was bored out of her mind and couldn’t wait to get out of there and back to work (she cracks me up), but I thought it was really cool to get to see how all of the different faiths in the city are coming together in emergency preparedness plans and service outreach programs. We showed up early and as a result were asked to help out with handing out name tags and greeting everyone at the door. It was awesome. We were able to meet and interact with a lot of really great people from all different sets of beliefs and backgrounds. Definitely one of my new favorite mission memories.

Everything else about this past week has been pretty great too. We were able to find a solid new investigator, we had a handful of really powerful lessons and visits with our investigators and member families, and I was fed some of the greatest taquitos I have ever had. Being a missionary is the best, and the New Mexico Albuquerque Mission is where it’s at.

Thank you for all of your love, support and prayers. All of your letters and emails are much appreciated. Love you guys! Have a great week!

Transfers

Hola!

It’s been another wonderful week here in North ​​Albuquerque and it looks like I’m in store for at least another 6 more! I’ve officially completed my first transfer (6 weeks) in the mission field and I’ve been assigned to stay here in the Valle del Norte area with my same companion, Hermana Cifuentes, for another transfer! I’m so pumped about it!

Yesterday was one of those really, really good days as a missionary. We work with a handful of investigators out here, but a lot more of what we do in this area is work with people who are already members and need a little extra love. We’ve spent this past transfer really trying to build up friendships and trust with the members, and we’ve been trying hard to help a lot of them return to activity in the church. Yesterday we had 4 inactive families (most of whom who haven’t been to church in years) show up to sacrament meeting!!! We also had a family of recent converts come (who hadn’t come to church pretty much since their baptisms) AND one of our super incredible investigator families showed up as well!! I can not even express the level of happiness and gratitude I felt sitting in that meeting yesterday looking around and seeing so many of the people that I’ve grown to love SO much be there in church with us yesterday. I would’ve been super happy if even just one of them had made it, but to have such an outcome was just amazing.

The more I grow to love these people, the more I begin to marvel at the amount of love that our Father in Heaven must feel for each one of us. If I, being as imperfect as I am, can feel so full of love for these people, I can only imagine how God, being the perfect parent that He is, must feel about us. If I’ve learned anything out here, it’s that God loves us. He’s aware of you and the things you’re going through. He’s not some distant, mysterious being that sits out on a thrown somewhere in the sky and condemns sinners. He’s a parent. Of all of the titles He has to wear, He asks us to call Him father. He loves you, He really loves you, and He wants the best for you. When you need Him, He’s only a prayer away.

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2017! What??

It’s officially 2017! How did that even happen? To celebrate, our mission president and his wife set up a special surprise for all of us missionaries here in New Mexico. They instructed us to stay in our apartments after 6:00pm on December 31st and to not make any plans whatsoever for January 2nd (since I guess that was the "official observed New Years Day"). They gave us a series of sealed envelopes to open starting at 6:00 pm on the 31st. We spent the evening following the given instructions by cleaning the apartment, reading some powerful general conference talks and journaling. It was a nice way to spend the night.

At 6:30 AM on the "official observed New Years Day," we opened an envelope that told us we would be spending the entire day reading the Book of Mormon, with the goal being that we would get through the whole thing in that one day. 6:30 AM to 10:30 PM. 16 hours. We were to use a new, unused copy of the book, and then take two different colored pencils to mark every time Christ was mentioned and then also every time the Atonement was mentioned.

I gave it an honest effort and read pretty much non-stop the whole time (there were 2 bathroom breaks and a couple of times I paused for a snack), but despite everything I unfortunately only made it to the book of Mormon (like the book inside the Book of Mormon that’s called the book of Mormon because its an account from the prophet named Mormon… The Mormon who the whole book is named after… a little confusing, but yeah) I was so close!! Despite not quite finishing, I still was able to learn a ton from this experience.

The Book of Mormon is often referred to as another testament of Jesus Christ, that’s something I’ve always known, but yesterday I learned just how true that really is. I marked every single time he’s mentioned and wow, that book is ALL about Jesus. It was such a great experience to devote a whole day to nothing but that. I love the Book of Mormon. I love it for being the incredible piece of literature it is and I love it because I know it is more than just a compilation of stories. It is holy scripture written by the hands of God’s prophets. Through this book, we can find purpose and direction and answers. There is a power that comes from reading it.

There is an invitation and a promise to those who read the Book of Mormon. It’s found in the introduction: "We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost."

That’s my favorite part about the Book of Mormon! Anyone can read it for themselves, pray to know whether or not it’s a real book of scripture, and God will give them an answer. We don’t have to take anyone else’s word for it, we can know for ourselves.

With this new year, I’d like to invite each of you to read the Book of Mormon. Tis the season of New Years Resolutions, right? Why not make this one of yours? If you’ve read it before, do it again! Spend a little time every day doing something for your spiritual health, read the book. If you’ve never read it before, give it a try. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain, of that I promise you.

I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know that Joseph Smith was who he said he was, a prophet of God. There is a God. He’s aware of us and He love us. When you pray, He listens.

Happy New Year!