Monday, September 28, 2015

The Rod of Iron

The weeks just keep getting crazier and crazier!!! As our planners just keep getting fuller and fuller.  Ok, so....we had an appointment with Sebastian and one of the members which gave such a wonderful testimony about the word of wisdom and we left with lots of faith and hope that he could put aside those addictions.  Yesterday he came to church with a huge smile!  Brisa as well came and we have a "lunch date" with her mom this Thursday.  Saturday night, we found a boy names Luiz who is a member but has been inactive for some time and we taught him and his older brother "Juan".  They both showed up to church yesterday :)  The members are super great and greet them like family.  Speaking of members, we had a knock at our door with 4 bags of veggies and fruits from a family in our ward!!  We also passed by the family Romano and taught the Restoration and we found out there are 7 kids, not 4!!  The appointment with them was fantastic and the spirit was sooo strong.  I can't even explain how much I just love them and pray that their progression will get stronger.  We invited them to church and the mom said, "let me have a little time to think about it, but I do love the message you share."  There is hope and there is faith!!!

Ok, so we had noche de hogar with.....president and his wife!!!  Last night and it was a blast, we ate dinner and played games all night.  It was so much fun getting to know them better and it's so hard not to love them as well! We definitely had a few good laughs and I'm so grateful for them and what they do for this mission and for us as missionaries.  This week I had an experience during our zone meeting and one of the Hermanas and I were blind folded.  They grabbed us by the arm and took us to another room and they let me go and I had no idea where I was and what was around me.  All i knew was that I had to get to "paradise", but we had obstacles in our path and not only that people yelling and whispering from every corner trying to tell me to go from one end to the other. "Good spirits" and "Bad spirits".  Well, as I started, I remembered Hermana Risser was there blind folded, so I called to her and we grabbed arms and worked together.  I thought, "2 is better than 1".  As we began, we started going one way and I touched a table with my right hand and I remember there were sooo many voices and I just wanted to cover my ears and shrink down to the floor.  It was stressful and frustrating because I couldn't concentrate.  As I heard one of my leader's voices, I felt the need to listen to it and go towards that direction.   At the same time, I was begin pulled into the other direction by Hermana Risser.  I tried to say, "vamos alla", but she continued to go the other way without hesitation and as I was pulled, I decided to just have confidence in her and as we hit another table, we took of our blind folds.   We had unfortunately fallen into "outer darkness".  I learned a huge lesson from this activity.  Even though it was just an activity, I felt as if sometimes this happens to us in reality.  In the Book of Mormon, in 1 Nephi, it talks about "The Iron Rod", and three groups as they are directed along their path of salvation.

(1) 1 Nephi 8:21-23
 21 And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood.
 22 And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree.
 23 And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.

(2) 1 Nephi 8:24-28
 24 And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.
 25 And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.
 26 And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.
 27 And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.
 28 And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.

(3) 1 Nephi 8:30
30 But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.

As we are guided to our path to salvation, sometimes we feel like we just need to stop, close our ears and eyes and forget everything and get away.  Who of us have felt that sometimes we find the guidance ("iron rod") and then we get pulled away from distractions? or we end up listening to "the good whispering of the spirit", but don't follow up on those promptings.  Sometimes we are listening to many voices and can't quite figure out what is right.  Sometime we think we can do it together - 2 is better than 1....but what if one has a different path in mind?  Sometimes we need to let go of those and follow our own instincts.  Sometimes we forget our road is solo, that it's our own salvation we need to get in line.  At times, I think we forget that it's our connection to God.  I was truly sad that I didn't make it to the pile of brownies but I was truly happy that I had this chance to learn from my mistakes and that my salvation is by myself and it's my path I need to work on which God has for ME.

Elder Kevin S. Hamilton said, "there was, however a third group that was not only successful in reaching the tree of life, but they afterward did not fall away.  Of these, the scriptures say that they pressed forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.  The rod of iron represented for this group of people the only safety and security that they could fin, and they held fast continually.  They refused to let go, even for something as simple as a Sunday afternoon ride in the country.  The key phrase in this verse is "continually holding fast to the rod of iron"...Perhaps this third group of people consistently read and studied and searched the words of Christ...This is the group you and I should strive to join."

It is so important that we make the right decision in all things because it can lead to our "ETERNAL SALVATION".  We all make mistakes, we all have sinned, we have all fallen.  We forget that the adversary too is very powerful, tricky, and intelligent and can carefully and quickly lead us astray.  But thanks to our loving Savior, we have the opportunity to repent and save ourselves.  In the mist of darkness, he guides us, and leads us, helps until we get hold of the iron rod and press forward until the end.  My words to you is, DON'T LET GO, DO NOT LET GO, CLING TO IT, UNDERSTAND IT, STUDY IT, GET TO KNOW IT, CONTINUALLY HOLD ONTO IT, OF THAT WHICH YOU DEARLY LOVE MOST.

Elder Hamilton also said, "my brothers and sisters, we are a covenant people.  We willingly make and keep covenants, and the promised blessing is that we will receive all that the Father hath.  As we continually hold fast to the rod by keeping our covenants, we will be strengthened to resist the temptations and perils of the world.  WE will be able to navigate this mortal life with all of its challenges until we actually reach the tree with the fruit.  Most precious and most desirable above all other."

I'm so grateful to have this gospel in my life so that I can continually hold fast to the iron road and for the plan and blessing God has waiting for us as we continually press to the end.  Hold firm to an eternal purpose, remember and recognize the things you do now and ask yourself, "where will this bring me to the end of my journey?"  Am I dangling along or holding on with my pinky finger, or am I grasping with both hands?  As we continue in righteousness, we will b e edified together and unified as we are ALL on the same path.

Homework:  Are you holding steadfast to the iron rod?  I invite you to read 1 Nephi 15:8  ;)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Spiritual Apathy

What a crazy week!!!  First of all, my companion, poor thing was practically in bed with a bug for 4 days.  But thanks to many prayers and faith, she is now back on two legs working hard ;)  Glad to have her back!

Second...guess who came to visit us this week?....Elder Teixeira from the Seventy and his wife.  We had a mission conference with half of all the missionaries in Bahia Blanca and another in Mar del Plata.  Presidente Cifuentes and his wife also gave such wonderful talks as well.  It was fantastic!! 

Speaking of fantastic, church was so great yesterday, so many of the menos activo (less active) families we are teaching attended church as well as Sabastion who is doing great but struggling with addiction problems.  He full-heatedly believes that God will help him in the process and the He has a better plan for him.  I absolutely love his attitude and diligence as he acts upon his faith in God. 

Okay, so yesterday we finally were able to contact the family Romano that we found about two weeks ago and we met all 4 of her kids and their bright smiles.  Lucas, Mida, Annali, whom are all over the age of 10 and then the littlest, "the baby".  This time we got to know them a little bit better.  We played a "get to know you" game and it turned out to be so funny.  In the end, they were laughing so hard!  We also taught them a little more about "the family" and the spirit had definitely touched everyone of our hearts.  I'm in love with this family and am so grateful God put us in His path to share His gospel with them.  I'm so excited to watch them progress and continue to share this beautiful message with them.  Including we left with a plate full of cookies from Annali and then their dog followed us all the way home that night ;) haha.  

Okay, so I think we've got the area down....It's been a week since I last used our map.  I still meet new members every Sunday but either way, they're super awesome with such great attitudes, and ready to get to work.  So I want to share a little that inspired me during our conference by Elder Teixeira.  They all talked a lot about the spirit, "how can we understand the promptings of the spirit?"  Something that caught my attention was the question, "Como estan nuestros oraciones?" (How are our prayers?)  He said if we want the spirit it depends a lot on our obedience and your prayers.  If you want to teach with the spirit you got to pray more personally and with the people you teach, pray particularly for guidance and the help of the holy spirit.  As we do so, it will help us to have the blessing to be sensible to listen and hear the impressions of the spirit and after....valiantly DO the impressions.  I learned so much from this conference and had the opportunity to study this week a lot about the importance of the spirit in prayer and teaching and got to exercise it as well.  In Preach My Gospel, pg 95, Elder M. Russell Ballard, spoke of the power of the spirit, "the conversion comes though the power of the spirit,  When the spirit touches the heart, hearts are changed.  when individuals....feel the spirit working with them or when the see the evidence of the Lord's love and mercy in their lives, they are edified and strengthened spiritually and their faith in him increases.  These experiences with the spirit follow naturally when a person is willing to experiment upon the word.  This is how we come to know the gospel is true."  I've learned that the spirit takes a huge part in our own conversion and in the conversion of others.  We should pray to that others will be guided in that path and that same spirit will touch their hearts.  It's important to pray to have the spirit as a companion and that we can understand and know the impression of the spirit but to ACT upon them like Elder Teixeira said.  It is a blessing, a gift, a protection that God has given us.   Who wouldn't want that blessing?! In the scriptures in Alma 12:7

 Now when Alma had spoken these words, Zeezrom began to tremble more exceedingly, for he was convinced more and more of the power of God; and he was also convinced that Alma and Amulek had a knowledge of him, for he was convinced that they knew the thoughts and intents of his heart; for power was given unto them that they might know of these things according to the spirit of prophecy.

it talks about Alma being a powerful man with such a spirit of proficiency and revelation, was able to stand up and testify of the truth.  What would it be like to have such a testimony?  This week, I had the opportunity to exercise prayer more and especially as my companion being sick, I was able to pray for her and for our investigators whom we currently had to put aside for a day so my companion could get better.  Well, Brisa who has 11 years old, has been coming to church for 2 years now.  She was never baptized because her mom wouldn't give permission.  Well one day, my companion and I got to know her mom better and we began to pray not only for Brisa, but for her mom and yesterday at church, Brisa came running saying her mom has given permission.  Anything is possible with the Lord.  What a blessing it is to have the power of prayer given to us as we exercise it.  I have a huge testimony that prayer is important, it is a tool and it is a commandment.  it is our communication with our Savior, when we kneel before God, a new light is brought through us.  Our testimonies are stronger, we have a greater strength to conquer the challenged for temptations or Satan's power.  WE have been brought forth with the spirit of revelation to teach with the power of God.  A new knowledge and others around us will see that light and they too will be touched by it.  If you don't have a testimony of prayer, search for it, find it, and exercise it and strengthen it.  I know God answers prayers, my own prayers have been answered.  I have been blessed and strengthened.  I know and become a witness of it, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Homework:  Read Personal and prayer by President Henry b. Eyring

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Dogs Just Won't Stay Away!

Well my companion and I have taken the coats off and thrown them in the suitcase because summer has arrived!!! We've also turned into milanesas (crispy chicken) from all the sand that's blown into the air.  By the time we get home, we are covered from head to toe.  My companion drew the best picture of us walking down the street ;) 

Also I don't know what it is but the DOGS won't STAY AWAY from me.  This week I had an experience where we started walking down the street and this random dog comes up to me (not the little kind) and wraps it's two front legs around mine and wouldn't let me go! for about a good straight 2 minutes.  Here i am too scared to let a scream out and trying to push its head away so it doesn't bite me.  My companion is throwing rocks at it...."it was a sight to see!"  Finally I escape and it follows us for a good 10 minutes. Anyways, that was ONE of my many dog attacks this week. 

Other than dogs, we had a FANTASTIC WEEK!  Sunday, Brisa and Sabastian came to church.  Brisa is a joven (youth) who has been attending church with a family of member here in Villaflonesta and Sabasitan, we started teaching just this week. It was a miracle because we found him Tuesday and we ended up passing by Saturday to remind him about church and he had moved houses. Well, during sacrament meeting, he came walking through the front doors of the chapel!  He had made it to church.  He absolutely loved it and participated a lot during the classes. Right now in Villaflonesta we've been trying to get to know all the members and the area and we have had lots of success and we've been working with a ton of references.  My FAVORITE! This area is definitely HUGE but God's definitely given us strength every step we take.  haha  I've also gotten to just love my companion Hermana Palma and her great smile.  Such a strong woman with a powerful testimony.  We've been trying to animate each other to do our exercises in the morning more than just a few stretches and such ;)  and we found that our day becomes 10 times better.  One of our zone leaders asked, "what can we do to bring the spirit"?  and during the week, I realized that many things can bring the spirit as well as "the word of wisdom".  There have been many times where I have definitely craved too much chocolate or dulce de leche and after I feel like I can't even walk because my stomach hurts, then I think, why didn't I listen to my mom or when the doctor says, "an apple a day keep the doctor away" ;) 

I love what Elder Russell M. Nelson says about the body, "cada vez que se miren en el espejo.  Vean su cuerpo como un templo.  Esa verdad-renovada congratitud cada dia-puede influir enforma en que cuidaran su cuerpo y la manera en que lo utilizaran; y esas decisiones determinaran su destino.  Porque su cuerpo es el templo de su espiritu, y la manera en que utilizan su cuerpo afecta a su espiritu.  Entre las decisiones que determinaran su destino eterno se encuentran las siguientes.  1. La forma en que decidan cuidar y utilizar su cuerpo  2. Los atributos espirituales que decidan cultivar.  (For those of you who speak Spanish, too much time to put in the accents)

"Your Heavenly Father has known you for a very long time.  You, as His son or daughter, were chosen by Him to come to earth at this precise time, to be a leader in His great work on earth.  You were chosen not for your bodily characteristics but for your spiritual attributes, such as bravery, courage, integrity of heart, a thirst for truth, a hunger for wisdom and a desire to serve others."  I'm so grateful for the body God has given me physically, mentally and spiritually to be able to walk, run, dance, breathe, hear and talk.  To be here on earth.  I know there have been times in my life where I could have treated this gift better.  Better exercising, foods, etc.  More importantly for my spirit.  God has given us many "things good" to help protect and strengthen our bodies.  There are "always many fruits, touch not these things (meaning bad), for in the day thy life shall be shortened and thou shalt die". 

This week, I've noticed  HUGE difference as I have better kept the word of wisdom.  I'm able to walk what seems like the pacific ocean and back, have good health and I've seen and felt the spirit guide me more.  I had the experience to feel the spirit so strong every time I bore my testimony, tears came to my eyes.  I know this is a very important commandment to keep and yes, we will make mistakes, but we can always learn from them through the healing, cleansing and enabling power of the atonement of Jesus Christ.

HOMEWORK:  How can you better treat your body and spirit?  (examples: music, eating, exercising, good words, waking up early, going to be early, etc.)

Monday, September 7, 2015

La Familia es de Dios

Ahh...It's been so long and so many things have happened. Including transfers.....which means I"m going back to BAHIA BLANCA!  I was hoping to get one more transfer in Balcarce especially for the people I've been working with, which was soo difficult to say goodbye, but I know God has something better ALWAYS.  I have tons of faith that Balcarce will continue growing with miracles.  I know one day Liliana will continue to grow her testimony and take that first convenio in baptism and soon after enter the temple. 

Speaking of temples, we taught a lady named Isabel and 3 weeks later, her family.  She had told us for sometime that she had been searching for an answer.  Her son died at the age of 20 and she couldn't get past this obstacle.  One day, we got on the topic of marriage and realized that none of them were married.  So we began our lesson on temples and ended up teaching them about the convenios we do in the temple.  1: That we can be sealed to our spouses for eternity and I got the chance to show them a picture of my older brother and his wife when they got married in the temple and just loved it.  One of the daughters, "jessica", said, "I want this, I'm going to ask my partner" Ha and guess what?  She did just that!  Her boyfriend said, "alright, I'll go look for a ring :)  2: That families can be together forever (sealing) and 3: Baptism for the dead.  That's when Isabel's eyes opened and I'd never seen such a light come through her.  She said, "This is what I want for my son, and how can I get my son to be baptized?"  She said she had been searching for this answer for years and couldn't stop telling us thank you and we probably got about 100+ hugs! She was able to go to church with us in Balcarce these past two weeks, her husband is now listening to the lessons and never like religion but noticed such a change in his wife.  They are now working with "family history" for her family and her son ;).  I'm so grateful for the plan that God has for us, that we can have an eternal perspective and help those who don't have that belief.  I'm going to miss Balcarce a ton, I've never liked transfers and I got nuts every Saturday night we have transfers because I don't want to leave those I love.  Right now, God wants me in Bahia Blance, in Villa Floresta which is in the same stake as TWO of my first areas, Pueyrredon and Pigue! 

Me and Isabel

We recently had a conference yesterday, and I got to see a ton of members and converts!  Angie from Pueyrredon who now is pregnant with a baby boy and is due in October!  We also had two people from our area in Floresta that we met and taught this week that came to church with us.  Brisa who is 11 and Tita and grandma, and they absolutely loved it! This conference was a little different than most.   An apostle spoke and it was directed to all of Argentina and the speaker were Quentin L. Cook and Robert D. Hales.  They spoke a ton about the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy, the missionary work, and family marriage.  They encouraged a lot of the youth to listen to the prophets to be worthy to go on missions by reading the scripture, seminary and institute, as well as members need to do the missionary work that can be done by technology.  How this is the only generation that has such abilities to really extend the gospel.   And to families that marriage is the door to life eternal, peace and happiness.  As families, we need to help one another in our goals especially that of exhalation.  Sunday turned out beautiful and I learned a lot and I'm excited to apply it to my own life and my future.  

So more about Villa Floresta......well, it's HUGE!  It was 4 Sisters before and now my companion Hermana Palma and I have it all to ourselves. We were blinded because neither one of us knows the area ;) Woo Hoo!  My companion is FANTASTIC and she if from Chile and is 20 hears old with 7 months in the mission and I've learned so much from  her already.  We are both exhausted from all the traveling and walking, running to get to know one member to the other, cleaning out the carpet in our apartment, etc....but I'm sooo pumped for this transfer and I have to admit I love Bahia Blanca.  I've been serving here for more than a year and I'm super excited to continue working close to "Home"! 

So the mission is now giving service every Thursday at 9:00am-4:00pm for those who need an extra hand.  This week we got to clean, organize and plan for a party for foreign exchange students and it's been great to give service to those who need a helping hand. I'm able to feel love for those and get to know them better.  I love the scripture that is in John 15:9-15:

A Day of Service

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
and how God calls us His "Friends". Everyone of us are sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father and His love for us is greater than we can ever imagine.  We are able to manifest our love to Him as we keep His commandments and serve Him with all our heart.  I love that, "What we seek, is determined by what we love, that what we think and do is determined by what we seek, and that who we become is determined by what we think and do."  It is so important to build and strengthen our testimonies, because we cannot help people repair spiritual damage unless our own faith is vibrant.  Luke 10:33-35:

33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
I love my Heavenly Father so much and will do anything to be able to live with Him again because I know that He is the Light and Life of this world.  I know He lives and loves us.  I am so grateful for His great and atoning sacrifice, His love and His grace so that one day we can have that eternal life.

Homework:  Our mission President gave us the goal to write down future goals, especially those of the family. But how and what we do NOW depends on how we accomplish them.  Write goals and what you will do NOW to achieve it ;).