Thursday, December 31, 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My sister from Mexico, Hna. Hernandez

Decorating the Christmas Tree for the Crandells

Rainstorm in the Desert

Thanksgiving Hike


Merry Christmas!

Christmastime is here! But it still doesn't feel like it. We found out about the lab at the branch of Mesa Community College right near we live so we don't have to go to the crowded library and have a time limit. School is out for the holidays, however, so the campus is literally like a ghost town, with no people, lots of cactus, clouds and wind. I'm just waiting for the tumbleweed...
There is no second wind when it comes to Christmas lights I've found out, so all of us get more and more tired every day. And more and more people are coming in every night as we get closer to Christmas. However, there is still a charm about Christmas lights and no matter how tired you are at the end of the night and how much more tired you are when you wake up the next morning, I still always look forward to going to the VC. I am especially looking forward to the last night of the lights, New Year's Eve. All of the missionaries in our mission (including the ones up north) will come down to the VC and we will be the concert for the night. I am playing prelude music with another sister who plays the violin. There will be a few full group numbers including "This is the Christ," and a few smaller group numbers. I am in a group singing "Still, Still, Still" and it is coming along nicely. I really love that we are able to teach the gospel and share our testimonies in other ways, especially through our talents. I will try and have someone record the concert so that I can send it home for you to see.

We got a text from our Pres. Bassett yesterday saying that we will reach our baptism goal for the year, which is 1,200. That means we will have had at least 400 baptisms just in the last 3 months. The Southwest missions are leading the US and Canada in baptisms and our mission is leading the Southwest. It is so exciting to see us reach our goal of a White Christmas! I am glad that our little branch was able to help towards that goal with the baptisms of Rosalva and Juan Carlos. This Saturday we will find out about transfers. I can't believe they have already come again. Sisters have been talking about them for weeks, but I still have no idea what is going to happen. I like to see everyone make their predictions and then see how they match up. I don't have much else to write this week, especially because I will be calling you family in just 3 days! so I thought I would send some pictures in my email as there is a sister here with my same camera and she brought her cord with her.

Desde Mesa con amor y Feliz Navidad,
Hermana Ladd

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A night in the life of a VC sister...

Can you believe that Christmas is less than 2 weeks away? I can't! Everything is going by so fast. Between this email and the next I will hit my six-month mark, which means that a third of my mission is already gone :( I think I can honestly say that it has been the fastest six months of my life. I wish the next year would slow down, but from what I've heard it is just the opposite. One thing that doesn't help is that our time isn't split into months anymore, but into our 6 week transfers.

Since most of my missionary time right now is spent at the VC, I thought I would explain a little about how Christmas Lights at the VC work. There are 9 posts in the VC and we rotate through 6 of them every night. We are in Zebra companionships (I think I explained before, but that means 1 English and 1 Spanish sister). I will just start describing from the first post.

Front steps: We stand out on the front porch and invite people to come into the VC. A lot of people think that the VC is part of the temple and that they are not allowed to come inside, so we invite everyone in. We talk to as many people as we can, inviting members to think of friends they could invite to hear the gospel, and inviting nonmembers to meet with missionaries. There are also Elders assigned on the temple grounds every night, also contacting people. We aren't allowed to stray past the 2 steps of the porch, because past that is where elders are assigned. We say that we can't step in the "lava" just like when we were little kids playing with couch cushions. Likewise, the elders aren't allowed to come into the VC at all during the night. Needless to say, we are more obedient than they are in this matter and never step in the lava, while the director is still having trouble with the elders coming in.

Front greet: we then move inside where it is still cold because the doors keep opening, but too warm that you look silly if you keep your coat on. Here we welcome everyone that comes into the VC and again, ask everyone to refer someone, either themself or a friend. I got to speak Russian here the other night. The women were really nice, one from Moscow and one from Ukraine. They said that I just needed to keep practicing because I had very good pronunciation :) We also direct people to different parts of the VC and try and keep them reverent and away from the curtains, behind which is the...

Christus: Here we present the narration that goes with the Christus statue. We play it both in English and Spanish (unless there are no Spanish speakers). We also get to play it in other languages if there are people visiting from other countries. We always play it in the other languages first, then Spanish, then English, because we have found that by doing it the other way, the English speakers always get up in the middle of the other languages or while you are ending the presentation in another language and leave the room. Not polite or reverent, so we make them wait :) "Through the door behind us, you can see a 6 minute presentation about the birth of Christ called...

Luke 2: In both of the theaters we show Luke 2. While one theater is playing it, the other is seating for it. Again, our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, so we give everyone referral cards. It gets frustrating when members say "I'm a member, I don't need that." Little do they know that they almost need it more. A sister the other day told me to tell them "If you don't like missionary work you aren't going to like the celestial kingdom." That is the hardest thing for me on my mission, learning how to work with members and elders. The elders take the cards away from their investigators, thinking they don't need them because they are already meeting with missionaries. However, sharing the gospel with others is such an important step in conversion. When the elders don't take cards or take them from their investigators they don't understand their purpose. Same thing with the members. I had a member the other day who wouldn't take a card, she said "We don't need that." So when she passed I ignored her and, because I believe people have their individual agency, handed one to the people she was with, who I am pretty sure were not members. She turned back and said "I said we don't need them, they are from Costa Rica." My thought: people in Costa Rica need the gospel too! We watch the Luke 2 movie so much, that we can quote it in Hebrew and Arabic. I am actually pretty sure I can understand the Arabic in it because I have heard it so much. We can also sing the last line of the film "Let earth... receive... baaaaah... her king."

Then we move on to the Savior of the World room. Just like the other floor posts *Front greet, back greet, and nativities) we talk to everyone.

Then at God's Plan for His Family we take turns showing it in English and Spanish. We also have that one memorized. I haven't decided if I have a favorite post yet. Most sisters prefer the floor posts versus the presentation posts (Christus, Theaters, God's Plan) because you can go up and talk to individual people, and it isn't as repetitive. I think I agree with them. I personally really like ...

Back greet, because that is where my favorite exhibit, the Book of Mormon table, is. I love going up to the people looking at them and starting a conversation. I feel like that is something that I can relate to because of my background, so whether or not they speak another language, I can relate to the people you just plain find it interesting. Also, that seems to be where you are most likely to find out that people are from other countries. I have already met 2 groups from Iran. One man said that he would come back so that I could give him a Book of Mormon in Farsi (we were out at the time). People are always impressed that the church has published it in their language. I think it helps them to feel how important they are to someone, and as they begin to learn more about the church and find out it is the true church of God, they will realize that it is their Father in Heaven that they are so important to. I hope all of you know that. As missionaries we have the great blessing of being able to feel a small percentage of the love our Father and His Son have for each of you and I hope I'll be able to feel that for the rest of my life!

Thought for the week- President Bassett read this scripture at our Mission Conference and because of something that had been said earlier in the meeting it made me think of faith, hope and charity. I had never noticed it before in this scripture, but those three important things are what give us eternal life: (I am translating this from my Spanish BofM)

2 Ne 31:20 Wherefore, you must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ (faith), having a perfect brightness of hope (hope) and a love of God and of all mankind (charity). For behold, if you press forward, delighting in the words of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father, you shall have eternal life.

De Mesa con Amor,

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Well we've survived the first week of Christmas lights! It is amazing how little time we have in the area. Our numbers have dropped even though we are working hard. Oh well, at least if we are working hard this transfer we have the promise of seeing the blessings in the future. The Farnsworth baptism was on Saturday. It was really special. There were so many people there, both from our branch and the English ward that Juan Carlos goes to. They were both confirmed on Sunday, and we were able to go to both meetings. It was great to finally see a family reach baptism, and then continue through that gate. I know that Rosalva's faith will be such a blessing to their family, I think she was the key to activating Larry and keeping him active. Juan Carlos one day will be a missionary and will go on to bless the lives of others. He has already started asking about what it takes to be a missionary. We are again waiting for the date for the Mestre baptism. The Lord is preparing that family for something huge! In years to come we will be able to see why their faith had to be tested so much. We have started seeing a few Christmas miracles. Yesterday, some of Hna. Blades' former investigators came to church at an English ward. The elders let us know and we are going to meet with them next week. We are finding more hispanic people little by little and most of them have agreed to let us come back. The biggest problem is still that they don't like to make appointments, and with our tight schedule we really like to have appointments, especially so that we can bring members.

Last week, the mission went to the temple together. First Pres. and Sis. Bassett spoke to us in the chapel behind the temple, and then we all went to the temple together (by all I mean about half of the missionaries in Mesa, there are so many of us that we had to be split in two days.) We only had 2 hours between the time that we got out of the conference to the time we needed to be back at the VC, so instead of wasting 1 hour and a bunch of miles, we had Rosalva come down to the VC to watch the Joseph Smith movie. We called almost every female member in our branch to see if they could bring her because she can't drive, but none of them could do it. Either they work during the day, or their kids come home from school at that time, or there husband was using the car, even one member who happened to have a doctor's appt at that time. Finally we had to call Hna. Mestre. Our investigator was the only one who could bring our investigator to the lesson! I love them so much, they are so willing to help us out. (I'm not complaining about our branch, we are so blessed with the members we have and they are so willing to help when they can, I'm just pointing out how amazing our investigators are.)

It has been just over a week since the lights started. The VC is very busy every night. However, there is such a variety of people who come in, so many people to talk to. We are on our feet all night and the individual hours are slow, but still the days seem to fly by. And each hour goes by faster the more people you talk to. When we are on shift in the morning is when we can count on our hands all the people that come in. I love the VC so much, especially right now, that I am already planning on asking the next mission president if I can stay for an extra transfer. I am scheduled to leave 3 days after we turn on the lights next year.

Today we are going to put up the tree in the Crandell's house. The other day on our way home I drove through some of the neighborhoods in our area so that Hna. Lopez could see all of the houses decorated. She was amazed by them and it was so fun to hear her. There is nothing like this in Bolivia. Even though I see Christmas lights every year they all seem more amazing this year when I heard how happy they make her.

De Mesa con amor,
Hermana Ladd

Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmastime is here!

Well this week was long, but flew by! On Thanksgiving, we went hiking in the Superstition mountains with 9 other sisters from the VC. We wanted a fun easy hike, to just enjoy the morning. It was beautiful. There are some places out here where it still surprises me to see the desert so beautiful. We went hiking up to some petroglyphs in Gold Canyon. I took lots of pictures so you'll see them when I send the next memory card home. After that, we rushed home so that we could get ready to go to our VC Thanksgiving dinner. I had volunteered to help Sis. Burke cook something so I had to throw that together too. Then we went to the clubhouse where the Burkes live, right behind the temple, and ate dinner with all the sisters. It was a lot of fun. Right after dinner we sang some Christmas songs to some of the people in their complex. Sis. Burke said that most of them are shut-ins so they don't have many visitors. This one woman started crying and said that she was sick that day so she wasn't able to go out and celebrate Thanksgiving with her family so she was very grateful to us. We only had time for a 20 minute nap even though we were exhausted, and then it was back to the VC for pie and then we opened.

Thanksgiving night was like a run through for Christmas lights. We ran like it was Christmas lights and had all the special posts we have for Christmas, but it wasn't very busy so we were able to practice a lot of the presentations. Then Christmas lights started on Friday! I am so exhausted but it is so much fun. There are so many people that come every night. Literally thousands. I know that over 3000 came in the front doors alone last night (so only after 6 pm) and I think we had over 6000 total come in for the whole day. Every night when we get home at 10:30 we collapse on the floor, plan for the next day, and then crawl into bed. Our hours change during the Christmas lights season so we have to be in bed by 11:30 and get up at 7:30. Our feet and back hurt from standing, but our cheeks hurt from smiling. You can't help but be happy at the VC and even more so during the Christmas season. My birthday was no different than any other day, but it was good nonetheless. The members we live with decorated our stairwell and their upstairs with "Feliz Cumpleanos" signs. At the VC, along with all the other food we get from the stakes, Sis. Rowe one of the senior sisters brought brownies with peppermint ice cream to celebrate. During this past week I have really been amazed at how special my call is. At the VC you get to develop such a special bond with the other sisters. No other mission is like that. We have the Elders in our district of course, but we usually only see them every other week unless we run into them proselyting or crossing paths at church. At the VC we can all support and uplift each other, sharing in good, bad, funny, sad, spiritual, and everything in between times. We also get to work with the 3 great senior couples who treat us like their own grandchildren. I wouldn't trade my call for anything!

It has been getting colder here, and it even rained yesterday. One of the posts at the VC is the front steps where we invite people to come inside the VC and see some of the presentations. It can get pretty cold out there. Thanks for the sweater mom, it is very comfortable and perfect for the weather out here (I am even wearing it right now).

We are having to work extra hard in our area, even teaching some lessons today, so that we can see the work grow here as well. We went back to Red Mountain apartments the other day and saw Mirna outside taking tabs off of soda and beer cans, so we helped her and then helped them crush them. (It was an interesting service activity for missionaries...) Then they let us in and we shared a message. I think she was just in a bad mood the other day when she wouldn't even talk to us, because she was back to normal and received us the way she used to. Service really is the way that will reach her heart, so that she can open it and continue to be touched by the Spirit. We are looking forward to the Farnsworth's baptism this week and the Mestre's 2 weeks later. We are stilling trying to find find find so that we can continue to help our little branch grow. Our district has made the goal of 20 baptisms for this transfer. I don't think that that has ever happened in the history of the mission, in our or any district. There were 8 baptisms our very first weekend and then our branch has 4 coming up. We are going to try and make that at least 5 coming up, plus a few other people that we are working with. Get ready for the Miracles on 82nd St.!

I love you all and I hope that no matter what you are doing right now, that you are enjoying it!

De Mesa con Amor,
Hermana Ladd

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is kind of a half-pday so that we can email, because our actual pday is Thanksgiving. I can't wait! There are now sisters all the way out in our zone, so we are going to go over to their house in the morning and make pies for our dinner with the VC sisters. Next week's email will be much more exciting than this one, because I will get to tell you all about how crazy Christmas lights are. They set up the room full of nativities early so we have already opened it. It is my favorite room! I love it so much! You would love it mom, it has some of the coolest nativities from around the world that I have ever seen. There is a really cute one from Nepal. I will for sure send you pictures of all of them. This week has mostly been getting ready for the lights in the VC and finding new people to teach in our area. Hna. Lopez and I are going through all of the former investigators missionaries in this area have had and are trying to contact them. Some have moved but a few have told us that we could come back. Hopefully they meant it. Christmas transfer is the transfer of miracles and with some baptisms coming up we need to find new people to teach. (That is one way to lose investigators, baptize them! Granted it is the best way to lose investigators...) But nonetheless we are working hard and enjoying it. The elders in our area actually help out a lot because they are out in the area all the time so when they meet Hispanics they tell us. Just keep praying for my area, it really helps!

We took Rosalva and Juan Carlos to a baptism on Saturday so that they could see what it was like. Rosalva is so excited, she turned to us afterwards and said "I'm ready." She has more faith than many members. She told us last night that she really feels like Satan is against her, she can't sleep at night, when she does, she has bad dreams, her family is starting to say things, etc. We are praying so hard for her. However, the good thing is that she knows that it is just the adversary, and she knows he is doing it because she is making the right decision. I am so happy for that little family. It is amazing how much love one can develop for these people. We just stepped into their life and for some of them they didn't even accept us in it at first. But even when they didn't accept us, we still loved them and still hurt when they didn't accept us. Now that they have accepted the gospel it really is like D&C 50 (I think, still working on references) but "we both rejoice and are edified together." There are a few of our investigators that have kind of distanced themselves from us. The other day we passed by Mirna and Eliseo's apartment and the door was open so Eliseo invited us in. Mirna turned to see who it was and didn't even greet us. She was cooking but she stopped cooking and took her son and said that she had to go to the store. After talking to Eliseo for a few minutes we went to another investigator in the same complex and she asked if we had been to Mirna's. We said that we just left there but Mirna had left. Herlin said she was waiting for Mirna to take her to the store. Clearly she hadn't left, because Herlin was still there and her van was in the parking lot when we left, but we don't know where she went or why she was acting like that. We saw her yesterday and she told us she was busy. But we are patient because we know it all happens in the Lord's time and we also know that everyone has their agency and can choose whether or not to accept. It is sad when people think that they don't have time for God or for his gospel, but that sadness can't even compare with the happiness you feel when someone changes their life and accepts the gospel and have the wonderful blessing of being baptized and confirmed and opening the door to thousands of other blessings.

We have very little time in our area this transfer, but our companionship has been blessed with 7 nights in our area during Christmas lights. That is more than any other companionship so while at first I was afraid about being able to fill that time, I have since realized that it is because the Lord knows that there is that much work available in the area and he is ready to help us find it. He has blessed us with so much time and so now we just have to work hard and follow his guidance. Hna. Lopez and I are looking into getting bikes (I know...) so that we can talk to more people on the street. It gets really tiring pulling over the car and getting out every time we see someone (plus, they usually have time to escape), but as missionaries we have committed to Talk with Everyone, and we are trying to be exactly obedient and do that. There have been a lot of sisters that have learned how to ride bikes on their mission and I figure there is no better time to relearn than while I am under the most protective arm the Lord has to offer. Plus, it will be good exercise to balance all the meals during this time of year (We ate 2 dinners last night plus tortillas...it was also the first time I ate tamales and they were super good.)

I'm sorry I don't have more to write, nothing super exciting has happened this week. I hope that you all have a very wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday. This is my favorite holiday of the year and I can't wait for it. It seems like as a missionary I have so much more to be thankful for that before, but the actuality is that I am just noticing more all of the blessings that our Father in Heaven gives us. Like in Mosiah 2, we can try and try to thank Him, but we will always come out of it unprofitable servants because He will continue to bless us just for thanking Him. I challenge you all to try and do as the prophets have encouraged us and remember to thank Heavenly Father in our prayers. Have some prayers this week that are purely in gratitude. I promise you that those ones will be answered with more powerful and needed blessings than the ones where we are asking the Lord for what we think we need.

I love you all!

De Mesa Con Amor,
Hermana Ladd

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Transfer 3 aka the Holiday Transfer

Well, Hna. Blades is gone and Hna Lopez and I are left in charge of Ensenada Park. It is extremely scary and overwhelming. I don't feel like I know near enough to be senior companion, we have at least 2 baptisms coming up and I can't remember the last time I've even been to a convert baptism, let alone that I've never planned one. However, Hna Lopez is a great missionary, so I'm glad that I have her to help me in our area. President told me in interviews that I was in for something challenging, and he was right. 5 VC sisters left yesterday. It was really sad. I was closest to 2 of them, who also happen to be the two foreign ones so it will be hard to see them after the mission. One left me my favorite shoes of hers, and the other her True to the Faith book in Portuguese (they are from the Dominican Republic and Brazil, respectively). On the mission there are always so many changes. Comings and goings every 6 weeks. Everyone that leaves says that it goes by so fast, and I am starting to see that. Today is my 5 months on the mission mark. I wonder if it is going by as fast for all of you back at home. I am envious of the Elders who get to serve for 2 years, but at the same time it makes me more motivated to try and accomplish as much in my time as they do in theirs.

I am so excited for this transfer! In just over 1 week it is Thanksgiving, then we turn on the lights, then I turn 22. I can't wait to tell you all about Christmas lights! Family, can you believe that in just less than 6 weeks I'll be calling you?!

Even though it will be hard and we don't have much time in the area because of Christmas lights, I am so grateful that I got to stay in Ensenada. I was not ready to leave. The Farnsworth baptism has been moved to the 5th of December, but they aren't going to Mexico over Thanksgiving so that is okay. It was really funny, when we talked to them about moving it to before Thanksgiving they were completely okay with it. However, Sis. Farnsworth said "How intelligent you all are, to get me baptized before I go to Mexico." We just looked at each other and laughed, because we hadn't told her that is why we wanted to move the baptism forward. I could tell she was happy about it though, and she agreed with us. They both passed their baptismal interviews which we are happy about. I had no doubts that they were ready for baptism, especially Rosalva, but Juan Carlos was still trying to stop drinking coffee. We prayed all weekend that he would be able to. However, the Bishop of the English ward and Larry decided that he wasn't quite ready to be able to baptize them, and instead of choosing someone else they decided to wait. He is a little disappointed and feels bad their baptism is postponed because of him, but it will be good for him. Even though he has already changed so much it is good for him to see that his inactivity for so many years does have some consequences. Thankfully he has such a supportive family and they are all doing what they need to be doing now, and together.

The Mestre family is continuing to plan their big wedding and baptism. Unfortunately, because it is during Christmas lights, we can only be there for the wedding and baptism, and not the fiestota (big fiesta) afterwards. I am so excited for them, as is our little branch. Everyone is so supportive of one another.

The work is really progressing in our area. Our district was split this transfer. We used to be 4 companionships, 3 in my stake (Alta Mesa) and 1 in Salt River. Salt River was just split so now there are 2 companionships over there (one is VC sisters, so we are no longer the farthest sisters from the VC, nor the only sisters in our zone). They are their own district. One of the areas in our district was also split, so we still have 4 companionships in our district, but now they are all in our stake. I think the elders have something like 10 baptisms just this Saturday! The work is really exploding, all over Mesa, and it is so exciting to watch. I can't wait to tell you when we have reached our mission goal! There is just something about the Christmas season on the mission, I have never been happier at this time of year. I think it is because this Christmas, I am giving something back to Christ. We are giving him a present for his birthday, the present of greatest worth, the souls of His Father's children. I want everyone else to be able to feel that during this holiday season. Every one of you can add to your own White Christmas by inviting your friends and neighbors to celebrate the birth of our Savior by learning more about His church. Invite someone to you ward Christmas program. Invite someone to the Christmas devotional. Invite someone to a Christmas Family Home Evening and talk about the restored gospel. I promise you that if you invite even just one soul to come unto Christ that this Christmas time will be the best one in your life so far. Do it for our Savior. And please, tell me how it went, I want to share in your Christmas joy too!

De Mesa con Amor,
Hermana Ladd


Friday, November 13, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I'm no longer dreaming of a White Christmas...

BECAUSE WE ARE GETTING ONE!!!!!!

I have been so happy this week I want to cry. Rosalva Farnsworth and her son Juan Carlos are going to be baptized! We originally committed them to the 5th of December but we are trying to move it up because they are going to Mexico for Thanksgiving and we don't want her to face opposition from her family without the Holy Ghost. They are such a miracle. We think Larry has been less-active for at least 18 years! And he is not only coming back to church, but he is going to be able to baptize them. It was really special when we committed them to be baptized. We asked who they want to baptize them and even though Larry isn't his birth father, Juan Carlos (who is 13) immediately pointed at Larry. I really wanted to cry, they are such a special family. So that is 2 baptisms for our little branch at the beginning of next transfer, 2 more souls brought to Christ. But wait... there's more...

The Mestres are getting baptized too!!!!! Finally!!! They are the family that has had a date for almost 6 months, but we have been waiting and waiting for Hno Mestre's divorce, but just problem after problem came up. Finally, last week Presidente Kleinman (Branch Pres.) called Pres. Bassett (mission pres) who called Pres. LeSeuer (Area Pres.) who called the Missionary department in Salt Lake who called the General Authorities in Mexico who called the Mexican government and confirmed that after 5 years of not living together, Hno. Mestre and his ex-wife are legally divorced! And all in less than a week! When we first found out, we only heard about the communication up to the Missionary department, so we thought that they had just got permission to be married in AZ even though he isn't divorced in Mexico, so that is what we told Hna. Mestre, and she decided that she couldn't be married to someone who is still married, so she would wait. But last night, we got everything cleared up and Pres. Kleinman told us how we had misunderstood. Finally, this little family with so much faith and hope can be baptized. It is going to be a huge wedding and baptism, and Hna. Mestre is thinking about the 19th of Dec. So add 3 more to the Farnsworths and that is 5 baptizms this next transfer! And it is Christmas lights! We are going to be so busy! All of the VC sisters are in the VC during the Christmas transfer, because we are so busy in there. Also, every night there are a certain number of full-field Elders and Sisters assigned to work outside. I can't wait. I have heard everyone say that this transfer is the transfer of miracles, because we have so little time in our area. One sister that is leaving in a week said that Christmas lights was her only transfer with more than one baptism, and we already have 5 scheduled! The mission is coming so close to our goal of a White Christmas, and Ensenada Park Branch is definitely contributing its share!

I don't think I've ever been more excited for this time of year in my life: baptisms, Thanksgiving, Christmas lights, my birthday, wedding/baptisms, Christmas, New Year's, it is going to be so great!

This is the end of my second transfer in AZ, and next week I will hit my 6 months in the mission mark, I can't believe it! We know for sure that Hna. Blades is leaving, because Pres. told her in interviews last week. She knew anyways, because she has been here for so long, but she is still sad, especially because she and Hna. Rincon were the ones who found the Mestres. But she will definitely be coming back for their baptism. We are pretty sure that Hna. Lopez and I will stay here, and I am hoping beyond hope that that is true. I am not ready to leave Ensenada Park yet. No matter how mean all the retirees are, our branch and our investigators are my family out here. And the members we live with are awesome. Their son just left for the MTC in Argentina, and we have volunteered to put up their huge xmas tree for them. Maybe after our xmas miracles I'll be ready, but not yet.


De Mesa con paz, gozo, y esperanza,
Hermana Ladd

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you...

Happy Birthday Dear Mommy, Happy Birthday to you!

Last week was so frustrating when it lost my email. Right before time ran out and I clicked send, the email system logged me out. The weather was really cold for a few days right before the weekend, but for the last 2 days it has been back up in the 90s! And it is November! It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner. I am really excited for both this year. They have been putting up Christmas lights at the temple since the beginning of October and will turn them on at the end of this month. I've heard that Christmas lights are crazy, and that we are so busy, but I've also heard that that transfer is full of miracles. I guess you all will find out about it when I do! We had a mission fast a few weeks ago, because the mission's goal is 400 more baptisms by the end of the year. We are going to have a White Christmas down here in Arizona and I am so excited to see it happen.

Last week for Halloween, we had some awesome activities. First of all, the English ward that meets in our building and our branch had a huge activity with the community on Friday night. They closed off two streets for it. On Saturday we had a trunk for the English ward that Rosalva's son goes to and we live in. Also that night, we got together with the elders in our district at one of their activites. Again, it was huge and for the whole community. It was in a park. We had a trunk, some elders had a trunk, and then the others put together a Tree of Life thing. The people had to hold onto an iron rod through a dark tunnel to a tree in the park the elders had decorated with christmas lights. There they got their candy or precious fruit. All the elders were dressed up as nephites. It was a lot of fun and I took some pictures so you will get to see them at some point.

I wrote about the Farnsworth family a few weeks ago. Sister Farnsworth is absolutely amazing. She is just soaking up the gospel, eating, sleeping, drinking it in. She reads all the standard works, plus the Liahona, plus the Gospel Principles and Joseph Smith manuals. AND, she tells her family in Mexico about it! The companionship (easier that saying Hermana Blades and Lopez, and I) was talking about it the other day, about different ways we can tell people are truly converted. First of all, they start looking forward to the missionaries coming over. At church Rosalva always asks to make sure we are goig to come visit her again throughout the week. Also, they love learning about the gospel. She reads with her husband and her son and always asks her husband to help her understand what they study. Also, they start sharing the gospel with those around them. If only we all could have the fire of an investigator or new member! We have come up with a competition for our ward to try and help them remember their conversion, because most of them are converts. It is like phase 10 but they have different missionary challenges. It is no surprise that the Mestre family, our awesome investigators, are winning right now. Speaking of the Mestres, I don't remember how much I've been explaining about their situation, but Hno. Mestre is married in Mexico and they have been working with lawyers here and there so that he can get divorced and they can get married. However, it has been almost 5 months now. They were supposed to find out the week I came into the field if he was divorced but because of the process they keep saying 60 more days, then 60 more days. They are so ready to get baptized and could really use the Holy Ghost. They have so many questions and study so hard. We want them to be part of our Christmas miracles. Presidente Kleinman our branch president called President Bassett Monday and they are going to call the Area authority over Arizona to see what can be done. I will be sure to keep you updated. I know that we will have their wedding/baptism before Christmas, I just know it. Along with Rosalva and her son (who haven't been committed yet but will be) that will be 5 baptisms for our little branch. Not only do I know that the mission will make its goal of bringing 400 more souls to Christ, but I know that our little area can help and add the the miracles. It is really great to see the work progressing. We found out in Zone Conference that the 4 Arizona missions are right now the strongest in the US. We are seeing so much success down here in Arizona, but we need to keep finding the people here that are ready. The field is not only white, but whiter everyday and there are more and more people ready to accept the gospel.

De Mesa con amor,
Hermana Ladd

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Argh

The system signed me out right before my time ran out so it lost my email! I'm going to have to write a letter. I'm at the VC and got permission to send this just so you know it's coming.

:-(

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

It's still summer

Last week we committed someone to baptism! So in 3 weeks will be the first baptism of my mission! We found Maria 2 weeks ago through the English elders and she has been really open to learn about the gospel. She had no problem accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet, in fact she really likes the story of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. As of right now she is going to be baptized in 3 weeks and we don't think that there will be any problems with that. Many of our investigators were sick over the past week and a half. There have been bad cases of flu throughout Arizona. Our Mission President has asked us to be really careful, but already 7 elders have gotten sick, 2 hospitalized. They were all in the same district though. As sisters we aren't as worried, because we are much more clean and cautious than most of the elders, we use hand sanitizer and wash our hands a lot. We haven't been able to teach much this past week because our investigators were sick or their children were sick.

Yesterday was the branch primary program. It was so cute. Also, our little branch swelled to 98 people! We only had 7 investogators at church but Hermana Mestre, the investigator waiting to get married, invited 2 of her sisters and their families. They took up an entire row! They were all so excited for Josecito, and he did so well. I think he was the only one in the Primary who had memorized his part. The wonder of wonder and miracle of miracles though, for probably the whole week, if not for many weeks, was the Farnsworths. I'm pretty sure that I have mentioned them before. He is a member and his wife is not. We have been trying really hard to get them to church, so hard that Hermana Blades' worst day of her mission (she says probably even her life) was a Sunday when we went over before church and he just came up with excuse not to go (it was the day we prayed for pizza). We did get them to watch a little bit of conference on their television 2 weeks ago and I think that was the key. Something must have hit Larry, and Rosalva was so touched by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Last time we went to visit them Larry offered the closing prayer and we could tell that he was really grateful we have been coming over. They were supposed to go to Mexico on Friday but her dad told her not to, I guess it has been dangerous around the border (we never really hear about this stuff). So instead they stayed home AND came to church yesterday! They are the one family our branch hasn't had faith in, because a few of them are familiar with Larry, so we really have been trying to pull them along by ourselves which is rare with our branch. But they came and the Spirit was strong because it was the Primary Program. Rosalva especially loved the Relief Society lesson on families. I was so shocked I almost didn't recognize them because they were out of place to me. I knew that one day we would get them to church, they had talked about coming after they got back from Mexico, but since we thought that they were gone and we hadn't invited them specifically to this Sunday as with others, it was a surprise. Her son also went to church, but he goes to an English ward with a friend. He has actually been a few times before. I wish every Sunday was the Primary Program!

We also had a Mission President fireside last night, where recent converts from around the mission come and share their testimony about their conversion. The missionaries bring investigators, other recent converts, and members. There are also special musical numbers between every two testimonies. I played This is the Christ on violin (thanks for sending it out mom!).

For any of you who are not following the weather here in Arizona, they have reached record highs for October. It was just over a hundred the last three days. Everyone has gone back inside, so it is hard finding people to talk to. I have surprisingly gotten used to this heat. I say "this" heat because I have gotten used to up to 112-115. When it goes higher than that next summer then I will have more getting used to to do. The worst thing is probably how tired it makes you. You are too tired to care about the sweat.

Well, that's the last week for you. I hope everyone is enjoying their nice fall weather and beautiful autumn colors. While it always looks like summer here, it also still feels like it!

De Mesa con Amor,
Hermana Ladd

I'm already running out of subjects lines...

My email this week will be rather short. We had transfers last week and now are in a trio. My new companion is Hermana Lopez, from Bolivia. I was in the FLSR with her older sister for 2 years. She is so sweet and nice, there is a lot that I have to learn from her. I am so glad that I stayed in this area, and am hoping to be here next transfer too. I love our little branch, everyone has such different, yet, strong personalities. We had a ward Family Home Evening last night and played a game where the person in the middle says something like "I love everyone who..." and everyone who matches the description has to get up and switch seats. We were playing it with full grown adults, who had grandchildren, the youngest player was 12, followed by us sisters. It was so funny to see how they all got into it and argued (jokingly of course). The ward members make me smile everytime I see them, in church, at meals, at activities, etc.

Our investigators are the same way. I find myself saying every time we leave someone's house "I love them so much, they are my favorite," and then we go to someone else and I find myself saying the same thing. They really become your family out here. I found out about Grandpa the morning of transfers while we were visiting with our strongest investigators, the Mestres, because it was their daughter's birthday. So when I got the call from President, they were all there for me, which really helped, because I wasn't alone. I hope that everyone back home is doing well, I'm sad I couldn't be there during this time, but at the same time, there is no other place I'd rather be right now than teaching other people how their families can be together forever. And when you really focus completely on the work then you forget about your own personal troubles. My testimony of the plan of salvation is just that much stronger, which also means that my desire to share it is that much greater. I'm grateful for all the time that our family was able to spend together over these last few years, and I'm grateful that you are all there for each other. You too can use this experience to share the gospel and your testimony of the plan of salvation and the wonderful blessings of the restored gospel. I send everyone my love, especially Grandma. I'm so grateful for the wonderful example you and Grandpa always gave to us. Like I said, today's email is short, and I will have to continue in handwritten letters.

De Provo [sic] con amor,
Hermana Ladd

(mom's note: she is not really in Provo ;-)

End of transfer 1

So here it is TRANSFER NEWS: I'm getting a baby sister! Yep, not only is Hna. Blades training again, but we are both staying in the area, so we are going to be in a trio for the next 6 weeks. That is really unusual, but this was a hard transfer for President, I'm sure. There are 4 Spanish sisters coming in tomorrow, and of the 10 Spanish VC sisters we have now, 4 of us have been here for 2 transfers or less, so it was hard to have enough trainers.There are 2 training trios this transfer, mine and then Hna. Cochran is in one as well, but her trainer is leaving and a new one coming in. We found out officially how it was all going to work out Saturday night, but we had some clues since Wednesday. For example, we knew we would be in a trio, because we live with members and Elder Willis the housing coordinator called us to get permission from the members, see if we could fit 3 sisters, etc. And then on Thursday he called us back and told us for sure there would be 3 sisters. There were still a lot of ways it could have happened, so Saturday night was greatly anticipated. Hna. Blades is pretty sure that this is her last transfer in Ensenada Park, she is going on 7 months there. Our guess for next transfer is that she will leave me and the new sister in the area, but again, you never know!


One thing that has amazed me on my mission is that I have seen the Lord use us as his instruments, even when we didn't know. To clarify: of course on your mission there are times when you get spiritual promptings that you need to go somewhere specific or see someone specific, but the Lord uses you even when you aren't as in tune with the Spirit as you should be. Last night, at around 8:30 we were unsure where to go. We hadn't contacted enough people that day, so we decided that that was the priority, just contact. Usually we pull over whenever we see people and talk to them, or park far away from our appointments, but I really hate doing that at night and I was driving so (probably out of laziness) I just decided to go to an apartment complex that we have a lot of investigators at and figured we could talk to them and some of the people in the parking lot. I can honestly say I felt no inspiration or prompting to go there whatsoever. When we got there, we found Mirna outside her apartment. She looked really upset and when we asked her what was wrong she just started crying. We stayed and talked to her for the next 40 minutes. I didn't understand everything but I could tell she is dealing with a lot. Her brother's girlfriend's family is trying to have him deported, because he is poor. Eliseo still can't work because he is still healing from his burns. She doesn't work but has to be the support of her little family, her two brothers, and her brother-in-law. She said that none of her neighbors have been helping her, even though before the accident Eliseo was the first person they would turn to for help. She has been so impressed by our little branch, who ran to her aid even before they knew her. She has so much faith. She was saying that she doesn't need luxuries, she just needs necessities for her family and God. When her brother's girlfriend's family (they are wealthy and proud and citizens) was treating her horribly, I think one of the things they said is that her family is so poor that they are gonig to end up like dogs, eating food from the garbage. In response she said, if God allows me even that much food, then I will be grateful. I know that we were sent there at that time by the Lord. This is his work, and he uses many ways to accomplish it, even my laziness at times. Right before we saw Mirna we were with a less-active member. He was saying the same thing. He and his wife had been struggling in the past, and about 2 weeks ago they were fighting again. Right as it was getting really bad and he was talking about divorce, the executive secretary called saying that our Branch President wanted to meet with them right then. Their home teacher also called. He said that on the way to the President's office, they were in shock, as to why that happened right then. We had been trying to contact them all weekend long. We were started to get worried, because we can usually get a hold of them some way. That same night, we had gone over while they were meeting with president, and got home right after we left. Their neighbor told them and so they called us and we turned around and went back. We didn't know about all of the fighting and the calls until last night. Again it is just miracle after miracle. Miracle that president wanted to see them (that one I'm sure was inspiration), miracle that their neighbor was still out when they got home (he was waited for his ride to work). I love seeing things like this, because they I know that even through all of our human weaknesses, the Lord can still use us to accomplish his work. When I was at the MTC I was worried about things like this, will I recognize the promptings? will I know what to share? will I know where to go? I have found that when we don't know what to share, the Lord opens our scriptures. When we don't know where to go, the Lord knows where we are. It is the Lord's work and glory to bring to pass the immortaliyt and eternal life of man, not ours. Our work is just to obey the commandments and be worthy to be his instruments.


In the VC they set up one of the theaters so that we could watch conference. I was able to watch almost all of the sessions, except half of the Saturday afternoon, because we were at our stake center and had to go to the VC. Yesterday morning our investigators were the first ones there (after us) and the members that came to the stake center we all late (way to go investigators!) Then there was a branch potluck in between the sessions. I like almost everything that I've eaten here. The members know that we gringas usually can't eat very spicy foods, so they put the chile on the side. I can eat spicier than I used to be able to though. One night when we were with a member, she had just picked some chilis from her backyard. She had some tiny red ones, about as long as a dime, and some tiny thin green ones, about as long as a quarter. Just to say we did, Hna. Blades and I each took a little nibble from the green one (family, think smaller than Erin-sized nibble). I thought that my tongue was going to fall out. My mouth was in pain for the next 30 minutes at least. There was not even really any flavor, just pain. The smaller the chili the hotter it is. I think I am going to stick with the bigger chilis.

Anyways, after that little tangent (I think I forgot I was talking about conference). I really enjoyed conference. I have never been good at remembering who talked on what, so I will make more comments when they come out in the Ensign. I will never forget Elder Holland's talk though. It was great! I wish I could carry the recording around and play it for everyone we contact in the street who says "well I read the Bible" "The Book of Mormon can't be the word of God (keep in mind they've never read it)". Last night we even had a woman say "Well I read the Bible to learn about Christ. I read a few pages of the Book of Mormon, and I just can't see how it talks about Christ." Our answer in our heads was "what book are you reading!?!?!" I have a new love of 2 Nephi 29.


De Mesa con amor,
Hermana Ladd

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Last week of my first transfer!

This email is going to be shorter, because the week was shorter, our last p-day was on Wednesday. Next time you hear from me I might be in another area, I might have another companion, I might not even be at the Visitors' Center, any number of combinations. This Saturday is when we will find out about transfers, who's staying, going, etc. All the sisters have been saying that this is going to be one of the craziest transfers. There are 4 new Spanish speaking sisters coming in, which means some of those who were training this transfer will be training again. The older sisters think that a lot of us greenies will be going full-field next transfer. I guess we will all find out in less than a week.

This past Thursday we had exchanges so I was companions with Hna. Mancilla for 24 hours. She is companions with my MTC comp, Hna. Cochran, and they are in the area next to ours. She came into my area for the day and Hna. Blades went to an area in downtown Mesa. It was interesting to see how different sisters work, but I enjoyed it. A lot of the new sisters were terrified to be with a new companion, especially because your first transfer you stay in your area so you are the one in charge. Hna. Blades and I went on splits the week before, however, so I got the being terrified over with then.

One of the best things about the mission is seeing the change in our investigators. There is a mother and daughter who are investigating together, Leonor and Herlin. Herlin is only 17 but has a three month old son. They have been investigating for a few months and have been challenged for baptism a few times but each time they said they weren't ready, they didn't feel like they knew enough, etc. When we went on exchanges Hna. Blades went to visit them and while there Leonor said "well, I don't think that we can get baptized." Hna. Blades asked why they thought that and she said that because neither she nor her daughter Herlin were married, but they had children. I guess that she had been harboring a lot of guilt over that. Hna. Blades explained that we were aware that Herlin wasn't married and yet had a son, and that we were still inviting them to be baptized. She explained about the atonement and while they still haven't accepted baptism, we have seen a great change come over Leonor. She has been coming to church for weeks but last Sunday was the first time she had dressed up. They are diligently keeping the other commitments we have given them, so we know that they will be ready for baptism soon.

On exchanges Thursday I went and saw another one of our investigators and her husband. We watched the Testaments with Mirna and Eliseo, the one who is miraculously recovering quickly from third-degree burns. After the movie we started talking to her and asking about a Relief Society activity she had gone to the night before. We were unable to go because we were in the VC but it was a "spiritual banquet" and everyone that we have talked to loved it. Mirna started crying when she was telling us about it. She has been dealing with a lot of stress over the past weeks because of Eliseo's accident. There were many days when she honestly didn't know if he was going to live, and she was worried about what would happen to her and her young son. This stress has been giving her a lot of tension in her neck and back and she wakes up every morning in a lot of pain. Yet through it all she has tried to stay strong and keep it inside. At the activity, one of the sisters in our ward came up to her and starting rubbing her back (there was definitely some prompting from the Spirit involved) and talking to her to see how she was doing. Throughout the evening, she said that the Spirit she felt was so strong and gradually the tension went away and was replaced with peace. Thursday morning was the first morning in a long time that she had woken up with our any pain. Her husband was crying as well while she was telling us this. I know that they are spiritually ready for baptism, they have so much faith and I think they always have, but now that we have helped them know where to direct that faith, and what their faith should inspire them to do, they have grown a lot. Since the Spirit has gotten them spiritually ready for baptism, now we have to help them get physically ready. Mirna is married in Mexico and before they can get baptized they need to get married and before they can get married she has to get divorced (this is the same thing we are waiting for with la familia Mestre). At least we already know a lawyer who deals with this type of situation and our Branch President can start to work on that. Then there is also the wait until Eliseo has healed enough to go completely under water. I will keep you all updated on how things are going, but we sure would appreciate your prayers for our investigators. Oh, one more thing about the miracle of Eliseo. His right arm is really the only place that will stay scarred, as it is completely burned to the third degree. After we had been talked about the activity, Mirna was talking about his recovery. I was so suprised when I heard some of it. Since his arm was so severely burned it was pronounced dead, the nerves, circulation, everything, so with dead limbs the thing to do is, of course, amputate. They called Mirna to get her permission to amputate it. She gave her permission but said that if there was anything they could do to save it then of course she would prefer that. From what I understood this was early in the morning so we think this happened right before she called us and asked us at 3 in the morning and asked us to pray for Eliseo. The nurse later called Mirna and said that in the operating room, while he was on the operating table and they were ready to amputate, something happened and his arm reacted! It hadn't done that before, which is why they had pronounced it dead. When that happens it is the policy to retest and reobserve the limb for 24 hours before continuing with the amputation. Sure enough the blood started flowing in his arm again, he gained his strength in his muscles again, and even though the ends of the nerves are burnt he can still feel. This really has been even more of a miracle than we had previously thought.

We saw Juan again last night, with another member of our ward. He hadn't read the chapter we had given him in the Book of Mormon yet, so we read a little with him. Mostly we just let him and Hno. Reyna talk. He had many more questions as usual, but you cannot deny that he feels the Spirit while we are there. He was trying not to cry for part of the lesson. I think that he has been hardened by his life. He has had to build up a wall of protection around his emotions and when we are there are the Spirit is touching his heart, well I think that is something very new to him. After we left Hno. Reyna commented on what a great man he is. I know that he will get baptized one day and he will be a strong and immovable member, you can just tell.

I went back through and skimmed over some of my past emails. Sorry I repeat myself so much! I didn't even realize it, but sometimes it is probably deja vu on your end when you read the same thing 2 or 3 weeks in a row! I will really try to be better at that.

I said in one of my first emails that I would talk about some of the exhibits that we have at the VC, and I haven't been very good with that so I'll describe one now. We have a little corner that we call the Neighborhood. There are 3 little houses with TV screens on them and kiosks in front of them. You can watch some of the church commercials, watch President Hinckley read the Proclamation to the World, or watch grown-ups or kids answer some gospel questions. My favorite is when the kids are answering the question "What happens to us when we die?" There is a clip of a little girl and all she does is look at the camera, shrug, and then point up. It is so cute and I laugh almost everytime I see it. I don't think I've watched any of the ones with grown-ups; those aren't nearly as fun to watch. There are a few problems with the neighborhood however. First of all, some of the computers will turn off randomly and we have to get engineering to come down from the temple and fix them. Also, because it is set up like a little street front, we have a lot of kids that want to climb over the wall and see if they can go in the houses, or they want to play with the stuffed animal cats or dogs on the front steps. Parents are usually pretty good about keeping the kids off though, which is saying a lot because many of the parents assume that we have been called and set apart as babysitters, not as missionaries. Elder Burke even had to send around a letter to be read in all of the wards in the area, saying that children were not to be dropped off at the VC unattended. You would be surprised at how many drop their young children off in the vc while they go to the temple. We have a sign on the back doors saying the same, that children must be accompanied by someone at least 16 years old, and yet we see parents outside after they have read the sign, tell their 10 or 11 year old "if anyone asks, just tell them you are 16." If Sister Burke sees it she has no qualms about running outside after the parents, or calling the temple and having them find the parents if they aren't already in a session.

Some crazy stuff happens at the VC. Oh my gosh, I almost forgot the crazy story that happened last week! There was a woman who I think just walked into the temple, wanting to learn more (it happens a lot, especially with temples that have a VC). When the brothers inside explained a little bit and helped her out, she found a member and began to ask her a lot of questions. Just then 2 of the sisters on shift walked by and after talking to her a little they brought her into the VC. Hna. Blades took her into an exhibit called God's Plan for His Family and at the end, stayed in the last room and talked with her a bit. (I'm going to tell this from my perspective) There is one entrance to God's Plan which is open, and then the exit is closed by a door. I was standing in the back of the VC close to the entrance. All of a sudden this woman comes running back through the entrance of God's Plan followed by Hna. Blades. She runs outside and since we can't leave without a companion Hna. Blades yells for me to come with her. She tells Hna. Blades not to come close and she says thats find, she just wants to finish talking with her. She invites her to have the missionaries come teach her more but the woman says not right now, but that she would take a card. While Hna. Blades runs inside to get every pass-along and referral card we have, the woman comes up to me at the door, asks my name and says that she would like to shake my hand. I hold out my right hand and when she shakes it with her left hand she drops a twenty dollar bill in my and and runs back to the fountain before I could give it back. We try to explain to her that we can't take it she says that she won't take anything from us unless we put it on the ground and walk away. So we put the money (she had given Hna. Blades some too) and the cards on the ground, she grabs the cards, throws the money (a total of 80 dollars) into the VC and then runs away! I guess that what happened at the beginning is that after talking with Hna. Blades in God's Plan she told her she wanted to thank her for how well she had explained everything and reahes in her bag (Hna. Blades thought she was going to pull out a Catholic pamphlet or something) and threw 60 dollars on the floor of God's Plan and runs out. That is where I caught the story. It was really funny. We gave the 80 dollars to the Director with the story, and he has it in case she ever comes back. She was a funny lady and I am sure that is just the beginning of the crazy stories I will have on my mission!

De Mesa con amor,
Hermana Ladd

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hola!

Happy Birthday Erin! I hope to hear from you about what you do and what you get, etc.

Well it seems like weather is the talk of Atlanta. I even have people coming into the Visitors' Center and when they find out I'm from Atlanta they say "have you heard how much it's been raining?" Of course we don't hear anything out here, but after this weeks emails it seems to be more than even the people out here have imagined. It hasn't rained here since my second week (so the "monsoon" season is over) but the temperature is starting to go down. Meaning that now it is below 100. Because I'm used to humidity it actually feels pretty cool now, and it has been windy lately, but not the usual hot breezes of the desert. Today it hasn't gotten above 90 yet, and it feels really cool, but thinking about it, for the end of September it is pretty hot.

We've had a really great week so far. I've found that the more you do each day, the happier you are at the end, and you are tired no matter what, so it is better to do a lot. We try to make it the habit of stopping and talking to EVERYONE we see. And oddly enough, the more people we have talked to the nicer they have all been. I think that that is all mainly on our part, because the more diligently and willingly we talk to people the more we have the Spirit and then we aren't as affected by the other persons actions. And we have talked to some really nice people this week, which always makes it easier to talk to the next one. Also, someone the other day told us that their neighbor was Russian! (Kylie, can you send me my Russian PMG and blue book?) We are going to try and contact her at some point and it would be great if we got to teach her. She speaks English too because she is a school teacher, but it says in D&C that everyone will have the opportunity to hear the gospel in their own language.
We have just started teaching a man from Mexico. We taught him for the second time last night with one of the members, Hermano Duarte. It was one of the most spiritual lessons I've had thus far. And Hermano Duarte was perfect for Juan.He has a lot of questions, but really wants to know the truth. He has also had a lot of hard times in his life and even though he has a family he is at a point where he feels very lonely, so we taught him about how after baptism we can have the Holy Ghost with us always, to help us on our way. I really want him to recognize the answers he gets. He even said that he knew we were sent by God because of the time we came at. Now he just needs to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. He read a little from it, but he really needs to pray, so that's what we talked a lot about.

Yesterday really felt like a day of miracles. Before teaching Juan we visited a less-active member. She is married to a nonmember, but her family is very active in Church. First of all it was a miracle we went over there. She is only about 23 or 24 and has a 1 year old, but she is home by herself almost all day. We usually visit her on Wednesdays but for some reason went over yesterday (this week our p-day is Wednesday). Her mom just went through the temple on Saturday, and her sister is getting married in the temple in November, and so I think that that was on her mind. She opened up to us about some of the hardships her family has gone through. Her step dad was very abusive to her family when she was in her teens, verbally, physically, and from the way she was talking we think it was worse that even that. She had to go to therapy for a while and has really just had a hard time. She was telling us that she feels like she lost her chance to have an eternal family now, so we comforted her and assured her that she can have that and will have that. Hermana Blades opened up her scriptures and just shared the first thing she had marked and it ended up being a scripture that her bishop had shared with her when she was going the counselling and court trials against her step-dad. I was so glad that we were there for her at that time, because you could tell that some of those hard memories had been coming back to her and burdening her for a little while.

Tomorrow we have exchanges, so Hna. Blades will be leaving tonight and Hna. Mancilla will be my companion for the day. I was a little worried, but last Friday we went on splits with some members because we didn't have much time in our area, so I am no longer worried about being the one most familiar with the people and area. Plus, Hna. Mancilla is Mexican so she speaks perfect Spanish.

I had a request from Dad to write about my schedule and things like that. We actually get a lot of questions about this when we are talking to people, questions like "how much do they pay you?," "is this like a nine-to-five job?" etc. This is a typical full field day, meaning no time in the VC. We wake up at 6:30 every morning and try and exercise for 30 minutes. Sometimes we go outside to exercise and sometimes we stay inside. Then we have an hour to get ready and eat breakfast and such. At 8 we have an hour of personal study, at 9 an hour of companionship study, and at 10 an hour of language study, which we use to prepare for our lessons for the day. We eat lunch at our house (we live in the basement of some member's house, I'm not sure I've mentioned that) at 11 and try to leave right after 11:30, then we are out proselyting until 9 or 9:30, depending on if we are in a lesson. We eat dinner with members at 5 or 5:30. As soon as we get home we plan for the next day and then get ready for bed and go to bed at 10:30. If we are in the VC this changes depending on our shift. IF we have the morning shift then instead of study we go to the VC right after 8 (we need to be there at 8:45). Sometimes we get an hour of study at the VC, but they rotate which companionship gets to study each day. The morning shift is usually until 3 and then we are out in our area until 9 or 9:30. If we have the evening shift then we are in our area from after lunch until about 2:15, and come straight home when the VC closes at 9. We very rarely go out to eat, except for on p-days. Yesterday we had a shorter shift at the VC because 4 of the companionships had p-day so the way it works then is that there are 2 from 9-1, 2 from 1-6 and the four p-day ones come in at 6. (The shifts are also shorter on Sundays so we can all go to church). So yesterday we went out to lunch with the other c-ship that had been on with us in the morning. Our RS Pres is really good about making sure we are fed every night we are in our area. She feeds us herself if no one has signed up. In other Stakes, the sisters have food brought to them at the VC so they get dinner even if they are there at night. We live too far away for that though, but we don't mind, we just bring healthier snacks. We don't tract in the normal sense of going door to door, especially because most people are English and we drive a car. Instead, when we are going from place to place (the places we've planned) we drive up and down streets and weave our way through the area, rather than taking direct main routes. Then if we see anyone we get out and talk to them. We make sure to ask everyone if they know of any Hispanic neighbors. They all probably think we are the Immigration Police...

I'll end this email by giving you all a challenge. Sis. Bassett, the Mission Matron (President's wife) gave us the challenge in Zone Conference to everyday write down a miracle you have seen that day. It is really cool to see the different miracles there are, big, little, personal, etc. They really can come in a number of forms. Once we were having a bad day and were on our way to dinner. It was with our RS Pres and we eat with her a lot. The last time we had eaten with her she said she would make us tongue next time because it was really good and we should try it. Well, that day, we really didn't want tongue. It was the weekend I had been sick, many of our appts fell through, and we were struggling to get some of our investigators to recognize the importance of church (actually we were struggling to get the less-active husband to go to church) but we really wanted pizza for dinner. Yes, we prayed that we would get pizza. And we did! Some elders in our zone said at Zone Development meeting that they prayed for cake once and ended up and a diabetic woman's house and she said "Elders, I don't know why I have this cake, I'm diabetic, do you want it?" So the point is that they can be small things like that or big things like when we met Juan or Eliseo's fast recovery. So my challenge is to start writing down miracles in your life. And I promise that the more you recognize them, the more the Lord will give you.

De Mesa con amor,
Hermana Ladd

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Wow, what a long week...

I am halfway through my first transfer and I can't even believe it! It is going by way too fast. Whoever controls mission time should switch it so that the MTC goes by faster and the mission slower. Actually, never mind, I liked the MTC and decided this week that I wish that we could go to the MTC and then go to the mission for about 3 weeks and then go back to the MTC to focus better on the things that we need to improve in. Missionaries at the smaller MTCs go out every night with the missionaries in that mission, but no way would they do that in Provo. (Can you imagine all of the missionaries in the MTC out proselyting in the Provo mission every night?!)

This past week was hard and Hna. Blades and I are just thankful that we made it through. I'm positive that this is just the first of many similar weeks and I'll get used to it with time. We talked to a lot of people but didn't get to teach very many. One reason is because most of the people we talked to were English. We are in a fairly affluent area and it is a real struggle for us to find the Hispanics. Also, about half of our area is made up of large "retirement villages" so we have a lot of snowbirds, and these people seem to have been hardened by life. I'm thankful that none of my grandparents have gotten mean and grumpy as they have gotten older, as age seems to make the people think they have an excuse for being rude. We still haven't found new people to teach, and we hardly have any time in our area this week because of our VC schedule. Also, the Elders in our stake are teaching 2 Hispanic families! They are teaching them in English of course, but who knows how well they speak English, and even then our branch needs families! We also know of at least 2 other member families that are Hispanic but attend English wards. That is really frustrating because our little branch is so strong and they all try so hard, they could really use the support and blessings of having more numbers. I can't remember if I wrote this last week (I often forget what I've already emailed) but our Relief Society president is so caring and selfless, once the dinner calender has been filled out she puts down her name in every blank day! And neither she, nor her husband have jobs right now! It amazes me how much these people live the gospel and how humble they are. I am learning so much from our branch, and I hope I can remember and use them when I am back to being a member missionary.

Last p-day we went to the temple. The Mesa temple is really beautiful, and really big. The inside has some of the same stonework as the outside, which adds to the feeling of being in Solomon's temple or one of the Ancient American temples. I'm sad that we can only go once every 6 weeks, but at least we get to go, unlike the majority of missionaries in other parts of the world. And I am at the VC almost every day so I get to be "in the shadow of the temple" where the Spirit is just as strong. Last Friday was one of the days when we weren't in the VC at all. We had had one of those days my first week out but then haven't had a "full field" day since. When there are more sisters at the VC we usually get one a week. I have been really good about staying hydrated out here, so I'm not sure what happened but last Friday I got really sick. I think I was dehydrated because I had an awful migraine, complete with nausea. But I was able to hold out until we got home at night, and the next morning I felt perfectly fine. I have now tried to drink even more water than I was before.

So last week (I do remember this) I said that Arizona was very ugly. That still stands, but I have found something really beautiful about Arizona and that is the lightning storms. Many nights, even when there isn't rain, there are lightning storms. I don't know if they are far away, but you never hear thunder with them, just lightning. And since the sky goes on forever out here the lightning lights up the sky, the land, the mountains... I especially love it when the lightning is behind a cloud and lights up only the outline of the huge dark clouds. It is really quite a sight.

One thing that Hna. Blades and I do every night is think of the miracle(s) we saw that day. Sometimes they are really big miracles, but we are starting to notice a lot of little ones as well. For example, we ate pizza for dinner on Sunday night. That was a miracle because earlier we had said that we really wanted pizza for dinner, and if you all had been out with us that day and known what type of day we had had, you would have seen that it really was a miracle. We are working with a family where the husband is American, and less active in the church, and the wife and son are not members. We have really started to see changes in Bro. Farnsworth as we've visited and he has become more active in the lessons, even getting his own scriptures out. He is the key to this family, whenever we invite them to church she always looks to him first. We had stake conference on Sunday and went over before to try and get them to come, but Bro. Farnsworth said that "they would have to pass today." It was such a blow, and one we weren't expecting. Things like that are really frustrating, because we just want to yell back at him "you can't just pass on salvation! and this isn't even your salvation at stake but your wife and son's!" But we don't, we just express our disappointment and invite them again next week. That is one thing that I am trying to work on, being bold, but loving, like Christ always was.

Well, I don't have much more to write. Mirna's husband is getting released from the hospital (I'm pretty sure this happened after I wrote last week). We thought that he would be able to be moved to a hospital closer to home if he kept improving, but he gets to come home! He has gone from intensive care with 3rd degree burns from the waist up, to being able to go home, in just over 2 weeks! That is definitely the largest miracle we have seen, and it is because of the power of prayers, the priesthood, and faith. We are really blessed to have access to the restored authority of God on the earth today. There are many day that I think what my life would have been like if I wasn't born into this gospel. Would I have found it? Would I have accepted it? I would like to think so. But every time I think that it makes me all the more thankful that my ancestors have been so faithful to the faith they found that my parents were able to raise me in it. It also gives me such a greater respect and admiration for all those who have found and accepted the gospel themselves and are the pioneers of the descendants that will come after them.

De Ensenada Park con amor,
Hermana Ladd

Saturday, September 12, 2009

End of week 2 already?!

These weeks have flown by! I feel like I don't have anything new to write about. That's why I need good questions when you send me emails and letters so that I can respond to those. Luckily I do keep a list in my planner of things that I think of during the week that I want to write about.

First of all, even though I love my mission and my mission call and my area and everything, that doesn't stop Arizona from being one of the ugliest places I've been! There is literally no grass, except for in parks and at the temple. Everyone's yards are made of rocks. And even worse, guess what I saw yesterday - rocks painted green! There were even some "yards" where all the rocks were glued down and painted green. There are some areas of Mesa where I feel like I'm in the middle of Mexico, and there are others (the ones with the astrorock yards) that make me feel like I'm back in the 50s. But I still love it. I am already used to the heat, and it really isn't near as hot as I thought it would be, but maybe that's because it isn't humid. In fact, some of the natives were complaining about how humid it had been last week, and I didn't even feel it. But there have been thunderstorms 5 times since I've gotten here. I tell all our members that I must have brought them from Georgia with me when they comment on how it hasn't rained in a long time.
I have another small world story for you all. The former VC directors came in last week to visit and see some of the changes that have been made and they too lived in DC and was in the stake under Grandpa Ladd, and therefore knew the Ladds and the Coltons. His name is Elder Peterson, and I didn't get his first name.

I don't feel like I have very many stories this week. Everything that was happening last week is still happening. We are still waiting to see if the Mestre's can get married and Eliseo is still in the hospital and we haven't been able to get a hold of Mirna to ask how he is doing. One of our investigators, an 11 year old, decided that I look like Bella from Twilight which of course is her favorite movie, so I am her new favorite person. Now if only she would understand that she needs to go to church more... Speaking of favorites, we have a member from El Salvador and when we went to go visit her on Friday I told her how I used to live in Honduras and that papusas were my very favorite Hispanic food so when we went over for lunch yesterday she made us some. Yep, still my very favorite Hispanic food. But just goes to show again and again how kind all of the members are. I feel like I've found my niche in the branch now, so I'm glad that happened quickly. Hna. Mestre was saying on Sunday that she had gotten in touch with the sister that had just left over the internet and told her that even though she missed them a lot they didn't miss her nearly as much because they had a new sister missionary in the branch. I thought that was really nice. I am Hna. Blades' first gringa companion, which is good for both of us, because she speaks the language really well which helps me, and when we are in lessons if I don't understand something she has to answer, when previously she had had natives that always understood so she could take a back seat on some of the harder questions, so we are both learning from each other.

We had our first zone conference yesterday which was amazing! Pres. Bassett knows the scriptures so well and finds some of the most obsure stories that seem like they were written purely so that he could use them to teach certain points. Our mission is really accelerating the work, which is great but means that we have to keep working even harder. Elders Bednar, Perry, and Ballard have all come and told us things to do specific to the mission. Elder Ballard said we need to be teaching 20 lessons a week, and I think Elder Perry was the one that said we need to be talking to at least 140 people "by the way." That is the hardest one for most of the missionaries, because it is really hard to just go up and talk to random people. And in a car it is even harder, because whenever we see someone we stop the car, get out, and go talk to them. But it is amazing that if you are obedient in talking to everyone you see then the Lord will place a lot of people in your path. The English speakers are the hardest. Some of them are so mean! I don't see the need for being rude even if you don't want to listen. We had a really condescending one the other day, calling us kids and saying we just didn't understand the world today. It is really hard for me to keep my mouth closed and be polite rather than explaining that I probably had a higher education than he did and had a far better understanding of the world, even though I was a "kid". But I did, because we don't want to lower ourselves to their level, but bring them up to ours. Hna. Blades was getting really frustrated too, because he told us he belonged to a church but siad that he didn't go that often, because he put more important things first, like work. She kindly shared that Jesus taught to put the kingdom of God first but that's when he got into the "you kids just don't understand." I thought (but kept in my head) "you must not have ever learned anything those few times you made it to church. We get a lot like that, but even that one had some good things. The day before we were talking to some high school kids down the street and one of them had made the comment "they must be paying you a lot to do this." We explained that we weren't paid but that we and our families had to pay for us to do this. He was impressed by that. Well the next day when we were talking to the other man it was raining and the high schooler drove by and said "what are you girls doing out here, it's raining!" We just told him "so what, we work in the rain too." He was really impressed by that and thought it was "awesome" so I hope at least some seeds were planted there. We love talking to nice people, at least it helps us get out of the car faster the next time we see someone and pull over, whereas after the meaner ones it is really a struggle to want to talk to more people.

So here is probably my most exciting and most terrifying story for the week. The other night in the VC some elders from the Tempe mission were there and talking to some of us right after they finished a lesson. They came up and said "we were told to ask here if there was a sister who spoke Arabic." There were four of us in the front and all of them looked at me and said she does. I had to back pedal for them and say "I studied it but can't really speak it any more." After asking why they told us that there was a Syrian man in their mission who has read the Book of Mormon 4 times already, knows it is true, and wants to be baptized. However, once you are past the age of eight you can't be baptized without being taught the lessons by the missionaries. And this man doesn't speak very good English so they need someone who can speak Arabic. I gave them all of the Arabic materials we have (Elder Burke asked my to be in charge of organizing our language materials, because there is a ton! So I knew where it was and what it was) and I told the elders that if they needed me to teach him then to call the VC and the Lord would have to help me relearn enough Arabic to teach him. They haven't called us back yet, but I've started using all the Arabic materials we have to try and relearn it. I really wish I had kept it up. I honestly never thought that I would need to speak Arabic on my mission, Russian maybe, but not Arabic, and yet the day comes and it is the language that I can't teach in that the Lord might need me in. (Side note for mom, can you find my Arabic books and send them to me so I can relearn more. I don't know where they are, and if they aren't at home then they are at grandma's, and I don't know which box, because again, not expecting to use it for 18 months. Also, if there is an Arabic Preach My Gospel could you find out and send it to me?) So that was my humbling experience for the week. If I really do end up helping them to teach this man then that will be even more humbling because it will have to be all the Lord. Luckily the church has so many great materials. 3 of the 5 lessons are printed in pamphlets for investigators so I could teach him out of those, and Preach My Gospel has all the references I would need for scriptures in the other lessons, so it would be a lesson completely out of the scriptures.

On the topic of languages here is the list of all the languages that we have the Book of Mormon in. It would be great if Erin or Ky or Jake or Mom could look them up and email me back with where each of them are spoken (I think it would be a fun project for Piggy). We have other materials such as the Family Proclamation and the Living Christ in other languages too.
Afrikaans, Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Aymara, Bengali, Bulgarian, Cambodian, Catalan, Cebuano, Chinese, Croation, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Efik, English, Estonian, Fante, Fijian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Haitian, Hawaiian, Hiligaynon, Hindi, Hmong, Hungarian, Icelandic, Igbo, Ilkano, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Kekchi, Kiribati, Korean, Laotian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malagasy, Maori, Marshallese, Maya, Mongolian, Navajo, Neomelanesian, Niuean, Norwegian, Palauan, Papiamento, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Rarotongan, Romanian, Samoan, Russian, Shona, Sinhala, Slovenian, Swahili, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tahitian, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tongan, Tswana, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Welsh, Xhosa, Yapese, Zulu.
Not hard to see why it is my favorite exhibit, right?

I'll finish up by telling you about another exhibit that we have. Our temporary exhibit right now is about the history of MoTab. There is a place where you can conduct the choir, except the baton breaks all the time from misuse and the songs are soooo slow. There is a listening station to listen to some of their recordings, interactive kiosks about their history, a collection of MoTab dresses and former conductor's batons. And then there is the beloved Music and the Spoken Word episode from the 60s. It is on a loop and just plays over and over and over. Many of the sisters have it memorized. (Take time, for your children... Mother.... where is mother? Are the questions asked when they come home...) That is unanimously the VC sisters' least favorite exhibit, especially because it is hard to teach from. It isn't a bad exhibit, actually quite interesting, but only on the first time through, and we are there a lot. But in only a few more weeks it will be gone, the room will be used as a theater for a few weeks, and then the nativities from around the world will be up for Christmas!

De Mesa con amor,

Hermana Ladd