Monday, March 29, 2010

Happy Easter!

Well, the Easter Pageant is amazing! And I've been able to see a lot of people from my old little branch. This email is going to be super short because I don't have much to say, and I don't want to be here for that long because we still have a lot to do today (my new companion likes to shop a lot). Anyways, we are really busy almost every night. At first I thought we wouldn't be because the first few nights weren't very crowded. People would come early but stay outside to save their seats and go home right after. However, the cast missionaries (they are called and set apart from surrounding wards) are doing a great job of getting people to come into the VC. We also have one theater set apart for pictures with cast members, like the Roman soldiers. We have cameras, so there is no excuse like "we didn't bring our camera." Also, we have set it up so that they have to fill out a referral card before they can get their picture taken, so we know who the picture belongs to. If they aren't members of the church they have the option of having missionaries bring them their picture and share a message with them. I've heard that in photos alone, the number of people who accepted missionaries is double that of all Easter Pageant last year. And we are only in the first week! It is really weird being back at the VC and I must say that there are still days that I miss full-field. The VC is much more exhausting than full-field. I don't know why, but it is. Well, that is all I have energy for right now. I think this will be my shortest email, and the shortest I have ever spent in the library.

I love you all, and hope you enjoy conference, I am super excited for it! And it is really special that it falls on Easter this year and I am excited for the testimonies of the prophet and apostles. As the finale in the Easter Pageant says "He lives, my Savior lives, He lives." Maybe I'll write more of the songs next week when I'm not so exhausted...

Desde Mesa con amor,
Hermana Ladd

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Another transfer come and gone...

And Hermana Nielsen is leaving me :( I feel like the one transfer I wasn't ready for some type of a change, one came. I really really hope that I will be able to serve with her again. Transfers were all around kind of crazy this transfer. For the Spanish sisters that transferred, we all just switched. Hermana Nielsen is switching with Hermana Guzman, Hna Lopez with Hna Hernandez, and Hna Bustillo with Hna Anthony. Hna Nielsen is going to the companion she had just before me, so maybe there is hope we can serve together again! Another full-field Spanish sister got transferred to Connecticut, and no one knows why yet. ALSO, they put sisters back on the reservation! Maybe there is hope that I'll get to serve on the res now, I've wanted to as soon as I got my call. Hna Guzman and I don't know if we are going to go back full-field after the pagaent, because we were both full-field this last transfer, so we both still have one more. I have mixed feelings about going back to the VC. I am really excited for the pageant, but I haven't practiced any of the VC teaching skills in 6 weeks. I hope that they will come back quickly.

One thing about going back to the VC is that we won't have such an open schedule to make appts. This is already a busy area, so it will be super busy as a VC area. And we won't have any nights in our area for about 2 weeks. Luckily, there are more missionaries in our ward so the elders can help us out. They will be teaching Laura tomorrow night, because we have to be at the VC, but she has to continue to get all the lessons to be ready for her baptism. She finally came to our ward yesterday, though it was just for sacrament. Then she had to go to her daughter's ward to help with her granddaughter while her daughter taught a lesson. She said she will for sure be there all three hours next week. Maria and Eustaquio also were at church. Maria has been going every week for months, but it has just been recently that Eustaquio has been coming every week. I haven't written about them before, but Maria's son got baptized last year. He is 17, and a great example to his family now. Every since, Maria has known that the church is true, because she saw the change in Jose (evidently he was on the worse end of the spectrum of trouble teenage guys can get into.) However, Eustaquio, while not against them learning, wasn't interested in learning himself. Also, they aren't married, and he is married in Mexico and has to get divorced first (sound familiar? it does to me...) Recently, however, he decided to learn and has been attending church ever since. We of course asked him in our first lesson to read the Book of Mormon. And of course he got opposition right off the bat. He told us in the next lesson that his coworkers, who had never even mentioned the church, started talking about it. His boss said that the Book of Mormon is another Bible and that he shouldn't read it. To that Eustaquio replied "I'll read it first and then I'll let you know if it's true or not." He had only read to the introduction when we last saw him, but he had already gone back to his boss and testified saying that the "Book of Mormon is not another Bible, but a compliment to it." They are just waiting to get enough money to pay for his divorce, and then they will get married and baptized. Also at church was our investigator Salvador. Salvador is a fairly new investigator. He lives with a recent convert who is on fire. The sisters before us dropped a lot of investigators in the trailer park where he lives and when we went back to contact them about half said that Armando is still coming over to visit them every week! He is really great. Salvador, however, is very difficult to teach. He is actually a faithful Catholic and goes every week. Not only that but he actually knows and studies the Bible every day. It is very intimidating to us. However, I have learned a lot from teaching him. I have learned to rely so much on the Spirit and testimony. Right before we started teaching Salvador, we had taught Armando the 1st lesson again so that he could then teach it to his mom. We reviewed with him after the lesson and asked him what he had learned about teaching. It was great to hear his reply. He said that the most important things are to testify a lot, talk about the restoration of the gospel, and use Joseph Smith's own words to describe the first vision. Those are all things that we focus on in mission meetings. And it was interesting the very next day when we went over to teach Salvador, how we really had to rely on those 3 basic but crucial things. However, Salvador is making progress. He sometimes studies with Armando at night, and he said that in all his years studying the Bible he has never understood some of the things that Armando, who has less than one year in the church, can explain to him. That is the beauty of modern revelation and living prophets! Another funny thing about them- when Salvador first found out Armando was Mormon (they work together) he said to him "Armando, I always thought you were more intelligent than that." Armando confidently replied "If I appear at all intelligent, it is because I am a Mormon." The recent converts in our ward are great! We are also teaching the son, Gilberto, of another recent convert, Fransisco. Fransisco and Armando are actually great friends and are both in similar situations. They are both single and each have one son, Gilberto is 8 and Abram (Armando's son) is 6. They sons live with the mothers not too far apart in Phoenix during the week and they drive together every Friday night and Sunday night to pick them up and take them home. The boys had spring break last week so they were with their dads all week. Even though Gilberto is going to be baptized with the other 8-yr-old children, Fransisco wants us to teach him so that he feels more ready. He is such a cute little boy and he loves his dad so much. In our first lesson he turned to him and said "I want to be you when I grow up" and then held his hand. It is so great to see the gospel unifying them. Fransisco works so hard for his son and if he could he would have him live with him all the time, but he works until like 8 at night so he can't. Gilberto's mom has other children and since they all have different fathers they don't have a strong bond. She also smokes, which neither of them like. Gilberto is really great though, and so excited to get baptized. It is really fun to teach little kids, because then we get to pull out all of our missionary tricks!

That's all for this week. Next week I'm sure I'll have tons to tell you about a new companion and... EASTER PAGAENT!

Desde Mesa con amor,
Hermana Ladd

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Last week we found at least 6 new less-active members. Some of them have a desire to come back to church, and others seem less than enthusiastic about it. I can see that work with less-actives is going to be an emphasis we have to make in the coming weeks. We are hoping to really try and involve the ward in this. Sometimes, especially when a ward is made up of many converts, most trying to figure out how to be members themselves, it is hard for them to know how to help the missionary effort. The have the desires to help, but they need direction. Our ward has been having a little trouble finding that direction in the investigator part of our work, but I think that helping them help us with less-actives will better help them understand how they too can be missionaries and examples to everyone.

There isn't much to report on Laura this week, since we haven't been able to see her. Her daughter-in-law just had a baby, so she is busy helping her and our next appt isn't until this Thursday.

We are starting to worry a little about Thelma. We were only able to visit with her last week, and not teach a lesson because she cancelled some of our appts and when we just stopped by, we were able to visit with her for a short time but then she had to go. She rescheduled for tomorrow, and are hoping and praying that she will be there. The last time that we taught Thelma, and we were taking about baptism, she said, "well, yeah, but it was a lot easier for both of you becuase you grew up in the church." I started thinking about that and told her it was easier to recognize the truth, because I had great parents that taught it to me. They taught me the lessons and the principles through FHE before I was eight. I told her that is what we are. Since she didn't have parents who taught her the lessons, the Lord sent missionaries, so that, if she lets it, her decision can also be as easy as mine was. I realized how important the things I learned were in keeping me strong in the church. So thanks, Mom and Dad, for being my missionaries and fulfilling our purpose, to "baptize and retain."

We have spent a lot of this week inviting people to the Easter Pageant. It starts in exactly one week! I am really excited for it. The stage is up and they are practicing all this week, since it is Spring Break for the Mesa Schools. The last day of the pageant is the first day of conference, and the day before Easter. I am excited that conference falls on Easter this year. There is so much to look forward to in the next 4 weeks! We find out about transfers (all ready?!) this Saturday, transfers and the Easter Pageant are next Tuesday, Easter and General Conference are the first week of April, and then Laura's baptism is April 10th. So much to do! Who knows what is going to happen with transfers. Who ever knows but the Lord... I really want to stay in my area, with Hna. Nielsen next transfer. That would mean I would be back at the VC just for 2 weeks and then full-field again. It has happened before. Well, that is it for this week!

Desde Mesa con amor,
Hermana Ladd

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Well, guess what tomorrow is...

My half way point?! Can you believe it? I sure can't... So much has happened in the last 9 months... I figured it would be a good time right before I hit the peak to look back and comment on the last 9 months.

Spanish: The Spanish is going well, of course I still make mistakes, but at least I feel like I can speak more fluently, mistakes and all, meaning that I don't trip over the words any more. I can understand almost everyone, especially over topics I have vocab for. There are still some people that are hard to understand (our investigator Thelma is one of them, she speaks super fast and uses a lot of expressions I don't know). All in all, I feel confident enough to talk to people. In fact I still prefer talking to people in Spanish.

VC: well, seeing as how I am not in it right now... but I have gotten used to the VC, there are of course still some hard things, it takes a lolt of faith to call people. They are getting ready for the Easter Pageant in 2 weeks! The stage is huge and I've heard so many things about it. I wish you all could be here to watch it too! And I can't record it to send it home, so we will just have to go back.

Other Missionary stuff: The routine is easy to handle, I actually really like always having a schedule. If we don't schedule out or preparation days well, then they can get a little stressful. Teaching is my favorite part of being a missionary. My least favorite part has got to be a certain type of contacting. I say a certain type because there are other types I do like. For example, I have no problem when we get a referral through the church referral system contacting people who ran into missionaries outside our area, or accepted at the VC or through calling in or being called. They at least are expecting something so it is easy to talk to them. Also, if members give us referrals and say that we can tell their friends the member sent us, it is a teeny bit harder, but really not that hard because we can find some common ground. However, when members don't want us to tell their friends (or neighbors or family or tenants...) they sent us, or if they tell us "well I think there are hispanics in x house" I still struggle with that. I don't even know what to expect, let alone the person we are contacting. That, however, is one of the reasons the Lord gave us companions, to help support each other and encourage each other. It is like the scripture in Ether 12:27 - "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." The scripture could have easily said "then through the help of their companions will I make weak things become strong unto them." That can apply in any situation, because we all have companions of some sort, whether it be our missionary companions, our fellow ward members, leaders, parents, spouse, children, brothers, sisters, coworkers, friends... We should all help each other overcome our weaknesses and develop strengths. That is one reason I am grateful for my companion.

Anyways, nowadays the mission feels like normal life. I love something that Elder Holland said in a talk called "Miracle of a Mission." He said that the mission IS real life. I don't remember exactly what he said but it made me realize that as missionaries we aren't taking a break from real life for these 18 months. Instead, we are getting the chance to spend all of our time living real life, helping our brothers and sisters gain eternal life. I like thinking about it like that. The most important things in life are not those things we gain from the world, but from God.
On to the investigator update. Laura is great. We went to her son-in-law's baptism last Saturday, which was beautiful. She had been telling everyone already that she is going to get baptized. Her date is April 10th. The one thing that we are struggling with right now is getting her to church with us, because other things just keep coming up, and they are good excuses. Last week was fine, because she went to his confirmation and his ward, so still at church be we want her to meet our ward. She can't go this week because her daughter-in-law is having a baby (had a baby?) today and it is a c-section so won't be out of the hospital til the weekend. But, she has a strong testimony and her family is super supportive, so we are going to keep working on that.
Thelma now understands the importance of baptism, but doesn't know if she wants to be baptized. We told her to pray about it, and she told us that she already knows the answer will be yes, that she needs to be baptized, but she doesn't know if she wants to. She has been with someone since she was 16 (who actually just moved back in a week ago to our suprise) and she told us she may want to explore other paths before she gets baptized. We are really trying to make it clear that she will not find joy on those other paths, especially since she knows she needs to be baptized.

Like I think I mentioned last week, we have been really emphasizing our use of the Book of Mormon in our mission meetings. We had a good experience with this the other day. We have been trying to contact a referral from the VC for a few days but every time have only found his brother. Finally we asked his brother if we could share a message with him. He had to think about it for quite a while, then he let us in. We began teaching the Restoration, but then his brother came home. He was clearly under the influence of something so we told him we would come back. He said that we were going to bring him a book (he had asked for a Book of Mormon). We showed it to him, but rather than giving it to him, testified of the treasure that is was and told him we would give it to him when he was in a better state to understand it. Before all of our training we probably would have just given it to him, but we didn't. We left our phone number, with him, and then his brother, who we didn't think was interested, asked for our number too. We could tell that something had changed in him. I know it was because of the way we treated the Book of Mormon, and now he is interested. He was not under the influence of drugs like his brother, so he was able to notice how we treasured the book and in a way protected it. That was just 2 days ago, so we haven't been back to see him yet, but I am excited to give him a Book of Mormon, because he seems like he will respect it more.

Time almost up, so I have to go. Love you all!

Desde Mesa con amor,
Hermana Ladd

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

(No Subject)

I'm sure I've said this plenty of times but it still holds true and that is that each transfer goes by faster and faster than the last. In fact, today is my "9 months left" mark. I don't know how exact it is because my exact 9 months left would be February 30th, which even on leap year doesn't exist, so I rounded it to today.

This last week has been really great. We had zone conference last Thursday, which as always was wonderful. We talked a lot about how to emphasize that baptism is a gate, a beginning rather than an end. We also talked a lot of the Book of Mormon. During this time of my mission I have grown to love the Book of Mormon more than I ever have before, and each time I have the opportunity to testify of it my own testimony grows. I just wish all people would just take the small step to open it and read just a little, because then the Spirit will testify to them of its truth. Until they do that however, we can't help them progress at all. Unfortunately there are many people that won't take that step. But, on the other hand, we have seen people who do take that step and then we see it change their lives. We got to teach Laura, our "golden investigator", again last night. She is so wonderful, and before we even invited had made the decision to be baptized. We committed her to pray for a date, and we are thinking that it will be at the beginning of April. We are also going to pray as a companionship to find a way that her husband's heart will be softened and he too will be able to prepare for baptism then. She has so much faith that it will happen that I can't help but have that faith either. I learn so much from the people we teach, that sometimes I feel like they are the missionaries and I am the investigator. At least I hope that I am a progressing one!

We haven't been able to see Thelma since last Wednesday, she has rescheduled both of the appointments we made with her so our next appointment is tomorrow. I just hope that she is still reading and praying, so that she can continue progressing.

At zone conference, Sis. Bassett, our mission president's wife spoke to us about our area books. Those are the book where we keep all of the information of people being taught, as well as people that used to be taught. Everything from info like where they live to committments they are keeping to problems they are having to how they are taking the lessons. There is a section in the area book, sometimes large, sometimes small, called the former investigators. Sis. Bassett promised us that there is someone in that section who is now ready for baptism. It is such an exciting thing to hear, but for an area like mine where the former section is quite large, it seems like an overwhelming task to find them. Hna. Nielsen and I are working on that right now, going through our area and trying to contact all of our formers. We know one of them is ready to progress again, but sometimes it is hard to get ahold of them. We have already found a few that have moved away, and others who aren't interested. But we have a lot more to go through. As a missionary something I try to do is not prejudge people. When you read through the teaching records of some of these formers they seem to be an obvious one to try and contact. Sometimes we can't tell why someone was dropped when it seems they were progressing so well. Sometimes we can't see why someone wasn't dropped earlier. That is why we have to go through and contact everyone, because only the Lord knows which person is ready.

Speaking of zone conference, we also got some exciting news. First of all, we found out who our future mission president is going to be. I can't remember his first name, but it is Pres. Ellsworth, from Idaho. [mom: R. Spence Ellsworth] He is going to be coming sometime at the beginning of July. I really love Pres. Bassett, we all do, and he is the president we need right now, but I am excited to welcome Pres. Ellsworth. Something Pres. Bassett said to me in my very first interview is that often missionaries that have been here for a while (and I have now caught myself doing this) will talk about missionaries that have already gone home. It is not bad to talk about them of course, but they talk about how great they are and how they wish they were still here. They compare some of the newer missionaries to the returned ones. What President told me is that yes they were great missionaries but he doesn't want them anymore, he only wants the missionaries that are called to serve right now. We talked about it in my last interview too, concerning the Burkes leaving and the Whites coming, and President said it would be the same when he left. I know that that is true so I am excited to welcome the Ellsworths when it is their time to serve. One thing I noticed when the Burkes left is that no matter how hard it is for us, it is harder for them. They are just a part of our mission. We also have our members, our investigators, our companions, our other leaders, our mission leaders, our VC leaders, etc. However, we are their mission, and when they leave they won't have something to replace us, like we have to replace them. Unfortunately I know that it will be the same when I leave, but fortunately I still have a little more than half my mission left!

Another exciting thing we heard about was some changes in the mission boundaries. There is going to be a new mission created! It will be the New Mexico something mission (I already forgot the name, but it is some northern town in New Mexico). [mom: New Mexico Farmington] Our already small mission is going to become even smaller. Right now we cover Mesa and go up north to Snowflake and Payson and a few other northern towns, plus the majority it seems of the Navajo nation Reservation. All of the reservations except the one down here in Mesa are going to be taken out and put in this new mission. That goes for all the surrounding missions too. The new one will cover 4 states, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. It will cover 4 Corners, and it seems like it will be made up mainly of reservations. The president for that is a 70 that is working in the missionary department of the church. [mom: Spencer V. Jones] He is actually the church "expert" on the Native Americans and Pres. Bassett has already been working with him a lot concerning our reservations. I think it is great to see that the work is progressing so much in this area that a new mission is being created. Even better though, I think it is awesome that the Native Americans in the area will have a mission almost completely focused on them. They are the Lamanite people, and their ancestors were those that God led first to this continent. They were also some of the first people missionaries we sent to when the church was organized. That is something that I love about teaching the hispanic people, because they too are descended from the Lamanites. (I think I may have said this before...) I love seeing the promises of the Book of Mormon fulfilled in the people I teach.

Now on to my "answer this for me..." question of the week. What is a p-day like? Well, we wake up at 6:30 am, as usual. Instead of exercising we clean our apartment. The rest of the day sometimes has a variation in schedule but consists of the following: We email from the library at 10:00 am. We have a small mission and there are only 2 libraries in the Mesa part of it, so the library is packed with missionaries on Tuesday. If you aren't here at 9:45 you don't get a computer. I am sitting in a part of the library with 24 computers, and every one but one has a missionary. And this is just a part of the library. We also do our grocery shopping, usually at Wal-mart. If there is need we write letters at our apartment later on in the day. Then we usually do one other thing. Today we are going out to lunch with an English member in our area. Once a transfer we go to the temple in the morning. Once a transfer we do some sort of a zone activity. Often people go hiking. I usually try to fit a nap in there somewhere. Hna. Nielsen and I are also going to make tshirts today, which I am pretty excited about. I'll send pictures when they are done. All in all, I often feel like pdays are just as busy as every other day...

Well, I hope that March has started off well and that where ever you are the weather is treating you well. I think February so far was my favorite month in AZ, weather-wise. Which is odd because I don't really like February, it is just such an odd month... Anyways, the weather is still beautiful here so if it isn't beautiful where you are, just you wait, I'm sure your summer will be beautiful and mine will be the opposite...

Desde Mesa con amor,
Hermana Ladd