Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From Nuevos to Viejos

Hello all! Happy almost Halloween!

What an incredible week! A LOT a lot happened. Hopefully I'll be able to type quickly and get it all in. Sort of like a lesson here at the CRE (kind of like the TRC... an opportunity to teach teachers who pretend to be investigators), when we only have 20 minutes to get to know them and share these beautiful truths of the gospel in the best possible way. Except I already know ya'll, and this isn't really a conversation, and I get a half hour... so... here we go. :)

The week started with Divisions (on Wednesday... which I can't believe I forgot to mention to you last week!). This was where all the North American Missionaries went out into the field for a day! I was put with Hermana Campo, a Latina from Guatemala, and I served in the Guatemala Central mission. I was blessed to get a Latina companion... most of the Nuevos (or new missionaries... so those who got here on the same day as I did) got North American companions, and getting a Latino is a special treat. She was very sweet, and my only frustration of the day (as it usually is in every day) was not being able to understand as much as I wanted to from her. It is hard working with a companion when you don't speak the same language.

2 experiences I want to share from Divisions: The first lesson we taught was at a tiny home, dirt floors, smoke from a fire in the kitchen billowing into the house, and 2 big beds for 10 people to share. There were a lot of small children, and the father was sick and barefoot. It was very humbling to see. I got to sit in the nicest chair they had, which was a plastic one with a big hole in it, so I sat on the edge.
The father (David) was really excited about the Book of Mormon. When he read what he liked, his son had to help him with the words... I think the son had more education than he did.We also talked about prayer and I told them how having family prayers with my family has strenghtened and unified us. So humble, so poor, but the Spirit was strong. It was a wake up call that people actually live that way.

The other experience was when we went door to door, contacting. The first house we went to was a man who talked to us for quite a while. He used to be a member of the church but now was very anti. We didn't want to waste our time, but he kept talking and talking. He tried to discourage us, letting us know how dangerous it is for any girls to be walking on these streets, and saying that there is no way our God will really protect us. I bore my testimony that this is where I need to be, and I know that I am protected. My spanish had been not great until that moment, and he seemed surprised with the change in my ability to speak. I know it was only through the help of the Holy Ghost.

So, divisions were really fun! It was nice to go out into the world and practice for real what we've been learning. We get a chance to do it again in 3 weeks, (or I guess just 2 weeks from tomorrow) just before we leave for the field.

We saw our first cockroach this week! My companion was pretty scared, but I was just so excited to be seeing one! A Latina sister stomped on it 4 times before it died, and it was just a little one.

On church this last Sunday, we had a musical number of two Latino Elders singing "A child's prayer", accompanied by another Elder who played evey other chord with the left hand and the melody line with the right. It's amazing how music doesn't have to be beautifully arranged or perfectly in tune for the Spirit to be there. Also, one of the talks given was by an Elder Valdizon, who I've never heard speak and never had eye contact with. From his first day here, he has walked with his head down, in his own little world. I've never known what was wrong, and President Christensen told us to just treat him like everyone else but not take it personally when he doesn't respond. Anyway, he spoke in church about enduring to the end and perserverance. It was great to hear his testimony, although ironically, I was on the front row and the podium was so high that I couldn't see his mouth moving. Kind of eerie to see his eyes but still not know what he looks like talking. Pres. Christensen shed some tears. I think it was a miracle for this Elder to have the courage to speak in church.

On Monday we went to Las Colinas or "The Hills", a beautiful place! We had the day to play and spend time with the Latinos and Viejos before they were leaving. I went on a hike with about a third of the group through real jungle. It was really really great. :) Wish you could see what it's like here.

Last night was very touching. We said goodbye to all the Viejos (the Northamerican districts who have been here for 3 weeks more than us) and all the Latinos. I have made such great friends with them in just 3 weeks! Elder Illescas, who took rubix cube lessons from me sometimes during gym, Elder Mejia who is incredible at soccer and has the sweetest testimony, Hermana Noj who really confided in me and became such a close friend. It was hard saying goodbye, thinking I may never see them again in this life. Just the first of a lot of times when I'll have to say goodbye, I suppose. But I'm also very excited for them to go out to their respective missions, and for us to have 3 more weeks to prepare our best before ours.

Are my Emails too long? Let me know! Sorry... we have an hour for email this week because there are only 20 of us here today. That'll all change tomorrow when we get 70 Latinos and no more North Americans!!! I'm very excited!!

I love you all and am having a wonderful time! and want you to know that I have a testimony of this Gospel. Please share your spiritual experiences with me when you write back!

Love, Hermana Francis

PS: Just got my first snail mail today... one from Mom sent through pouch written on Oct. 11th. I guess it takes a while! Thanks for the emails... it's really great to hear how you all are!!!

PPS: I leave this MTC on Nov. 16th, just to let you know.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hello from Paradise!

Hello all! What a wonderful and super rapido week! I can´t believe it´s already preparation day again.

I still LOVE being here. I feel so honored and blessed to have the opportunity to serve the Lord with all my heart, might, mind and strength. I´ve realized that this is just a preparation for me to learn how to do this for the rest of my life. And what joy is in store when we seek to do God´s will! I am so very happy.

I now realize that in my last email I said nothing about food, which was silly of me. The food is really really good. Sometimes it does funny things to our Norteamericano stomaches, but in general, but nothing worth complaining about or worrying about. We have eggs and beans a lot, nearly every day for breakfast. One day this week, along with our eggs and beans, we also had nachos and chocolate cake! Crazy. I thought maybe John E. would enjoy it. Ñ) (... that´s what happens when I try to do a smiley face... I guess you´ll just have to imagine my grin. )

We also have amazing ice cream here, offered at every meal except for breakfast, every day! At Provo we only had it Wednesday and Sunday nights! Yep, we´re lucky. One of my teachers, Hermana Leonardo figured that if we had it for every meal it would be 80 something ice creams... so I cut down to the odd days like Marcie does, and only at lunch times. I don´t want to be too gordita.

Often I wake up before the alarm, and when I do I smile because it means I have extra time to read the Book of Mormon. I´m reading it sequentially and am in 2 Ne. 21 now. In the past I´ve always skimmed or skipped over the Isaiah chapters, thinking they were only for deep thinkers like Dad, but as I have sought the Holy Ghost to accompany me in studying, I´ve been able to apply and understand a lot more than the past. Specifically, one morning I went over and sat on our little window sill slash seat and read with a beautiful view of the Guatemala City temple, and the early morning sun. I read in 2 Ne 12 verse 2 which talks about nations flowing unto the temple. I thought about the people we´ve met going to the temple here, from Honduras, Guatemala, and other countries in Central America, and what a sacrifice they make to come. At least 2 faithful members I´ve talked to (at different times) have said they´ve gotten up around 1 am, taken a bus for several hours, and attended several sessions. I am so touched by the sacifice of the people here.

Speaking of sacrifice, we had an amazing experience on Sunday where we sat at small tables with mixed groups... 4 missionaries from different districts, and had a chance to ask questions and learn about some questions of the soul and special experiences that these missionaries have had before and so far on the mission. I had one Norteamericano Elder who has been here 3 more weeks than me, and 2 Latino Elders. I was so touched by all the stories told, and by the end we were all in tears, thinking about the sacrifices these wonderful Latino Elders have made to be here, and what an important cause this is. I absolutely love speaking and listening to Spanish, and my only frustration is not being able to understand as much as I want to. Usually I can express what I want to say by talking around a word or by the help of who ever I´m talking to, but I just want to know every word from these amazing people.

I gain so much strength when I think of my family, and ancestors, and their slash your faithfulness to the gospel. Thank you for your good example. I know that Grandma Ellsworth is here as my companion, and for her presence and help, I´m grateful.

Speaking of companions, I know I raved about her last week, but I love working with Hermana Romero. She´s very fun to be around, works hard, teaches very well, and she is so sincere. I want to be able to express my love to people with words the way she does.

I had a question brewing in me this week, wondering if everyone back home was doing alright, and if yáll (ha ha.. that´s a new way to write it!) know how much I love you. I know this is my time to focus and learn how to love the people of Guatemala and soon Honduras, but I want to be sure you all know how much I love you, that I´m praying with faith for you specifically, and that I appreciate you and all you´ve done to help prepare me for this, the Lord´s mission, and for your support now. So, just never forget it. ¿Está bien?

I love you!

Hermana Francis

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Estoy en Guatemala!

Hola todos! Como estan? I'm in Guatemala!! It is incredible to be here. I love everything about it. There's no way that I could possibly describe everything to you all, but just know that I'm safe, happy, and having the time of my life.

My favorite thing about being here is just talking with everyone, especially the Latinos. I try to talk with them every opportunity I get. My district is just North Americans, and we have a different schedule than the Latinos, so when we get to be in a meeting or have meals with them, it's a special treat. I have become great friends with so many of them. Every time I tell them I'm going to San Pedro Sula, they make a face and tell me how hot it's going to be. I guess I have no idea what I'm getting into. :)

It's not super hot here, quite humid, but I like it. When it rains, it really rains, and it just comes down hard and suddenly. It was funny watching the viejos, or the missionaries who have been here already for 3 weeks taking a nice group picture outside... it kept raining, so they'd wait for it to stop, then go out and try to take the picture, running back and forth while the camera man tried to protect his camera. I love love love the rain.

My companion is Hermana Romero from Hooper Utah. She's as gringa as I am, although her last name comes from Mexico a long ways back. She is very smart, has a lot of Spanish experience, and is outgoing and great! We do well together contacting and teaching. We're already fast friends. It's interesting to see what people think of you or what labels they give you... my last companion thought of me as very strict and organized, and Hna. Romero thinks of me as happy and excited about everything. Which I suppose is true, I mean, I'm in GUATEMALA!!! Anyhow, she's wonderful.

Every Sunday, everyone has to prepare a talk to give in church (in Spanish, of course). This week, the topic given to my district was virtue, and I kept teasing all the Latino Elders that they would be called to speak. Guess who was called? Yep, me. I wasn't really nervous, and it went pretty well. It was fun to see a whole two rows of Latino Elders grinning at me with smiles of "I told you so" and "You're doing great". I feel so loved and supported here. In my talk, I struggled a little bit in reading and pronouncing things, but as soon as I shared my testimony at the end, I noticed a great change in my confidence and ability to speak.

Elder Falabella from the quorum of the 70 (He gave a prayer in our latest General Conference) came! He spoke in Spanish to all of us, and I got to sit in the front row, center. There weren't enough headphones for all of us Norteamericanos, so my companion and I tried to understand as much as we could without, and we got most of it! I was able to take a lot of notes, and in Spanish. It was amazing.. the spirit was strong, and I felt honored to be able to hear a general authority share his testimony and love.

Earlier in the week we went contacting at the temple grounds! There was a man selling ice cream that my comp and I talked to. We testified of the gospel, of God's love for him, and gave him a panflet (can't spell in English any more) about the restoration. Later we saw him reading it! The best part is, a few Elders tried contacting him before us, and he wouldn't hear any of it. Oh the power of being a white girl. :)

Today we get to go to the temple! I'm very excited!! Email is probably the best way to communicate with me here... I get 45 minutes to read and respond, where snail mail is going to take probably at least a week maybe more. But you can snail mail if you want too. Pouch mail will get to me in my mission, sometime in mid November, or here is the address of our CCM (MTC):

Hermana Francis
Boulevard Vista Hermosa
23-15 Zona 15
Guatemala City, Guatemala

I sent some letters today, so you probably won't get them for another week, but know they're coming. My home address is the return address so that if they get lost, they'll be sent to home in Orem and not get lost coming back here.

I love you all! I have a testimony of this amazing work. Be missionaries now! Seize every opportunity! You don't know what good you can do.

Love, Hermana Francis
Jacob 3:1-2

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hast Luego

Hello all! This is my last day at the Provo MTC! Crazy, eh? The time has flown. I leave for Guatemala first thing in the morning. I'll have a 5 hour layover in Texas (we should be there from Noon to 5pm), and I'll have time to call you! I'll try soon after we arrive in Texas, but if no one answers I'll keep trying in between my passalong cards and Books of Mormon that I'm planning to give out. There isn't really a time limit on the phone call (that I know about) and I'm really excited to talk to all y'all!
Speaking of the Books of Mormon, here at the MTC we get $8 a week to spend at the bookstore or vending machines. I bought myself a yogurt one night and thought it took a dollar off of the card. Later I went to the bookstore with the intent of getting passalong cards and 1 English and 1 Spanish copy of the Book of Mormon to mark up, write my testimony in, and give away at the airport in Texas. I didn't really pay attention to how much it would cost me, and wasn't using my math skills (we get a discount anyway), so was surprised to find out it would cost me $7.60. I gave them my card and it had $7.61 on it. Wow. I would call that a tender mercy. :D

It's been an amazing week. Things are a lot better with my companion: not perfect, but better. It's wonderful to look back and see how far we've come together. Heavenly Father has certainly answered our fervent prayers. Our last lesson this week for our "progressing investigator" (a teacher here at the MTC) went really well and we taught in unity.

To help my Spanish improve, I've been memorizing a scripture a day. I've noticed that if I'm diligent and start from the minute I wake up (putting a 3X5 card in the shower in a dry spot so I can start trying to memorize it then, and then trying every spare moment I get throughout the day) that I am able to remember the verses! I guess I'm still a sleep talker... and one night this week I woke up all my roommates saying "Y cuando recibeis estas cosas, quisiera exhortaros..." ("and when you shall recieve these things I would exhort you..."). They tease me that I'm even a missionary in my sleep. :) But that's the way it should be, right? 24-7 for the rest of my life.

I know that having the Holy Ghost with me is vital in my ability to learn and remember. One day this week, my companion and I were doing our service assignment which was vaccumming. I was trying to memorize Alma 32:21 (in Spanish, por supuesto) while I vaccuumed. After a while, I could no longer see my companion (she had gone around the corner at the end of the hall) and I realized I couldn't remember the verse anymore. I know that the MTC is pretty much the safest place in the whole world, but it still is so important to obey with exactness (in this case to stay within sight and sound of my companion at all times: no exceptions). I'm grateful for the ability to realize when the Spirit is with me and when He isn't, so I can strive to always keep Him with me. I find joy in obeying with exactness, and I figure that this is the best time to get in the habit of doing so, as it may be more difficult in the field.

How about la conferencia general??!?!?! Wow. That was incredible. Someone (I'm thinking it was one of my teachers) suggested a way of note taking given by Elder Bednar, to make a margin about a third of the way across the page and to just write what strikes you in what the speaker actually says in that much space, leaving the rest for personal inspiration. I did that, and I thought of it as an act of faith, hoping and praying that I would have enough personal inspiration to fill in all the blank space I left. (Does that seem silly? I don't know if that made sense...) I was given so much!!! It was amazing. Every hymn sung had at least a line that really stuck out to me, and I made a lot of written resolutions and promises to the Lord that I will always be faithful to Him and that I will do my very best on my mission and for the rest of my life.

On Sunday night we had a fireside (my last here). I was overjoyed when it was announced that the topic was music, and that we were going to sing a lot! Elders and Sisters lined up at microphones and shared their favorite hymns and why, and then we sung a verse from them. We ended up singing 19 hymns!!! I love singing loud and strong in praise of God and Jesus Christ. The Spirit of missionary work was so strong and I have loved singing with so many people with the same purpose: To invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His atonement, repentence, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. Please do this for all those around you! Every member a missionary! I love you all so much and think of you often. I found this yesterday in my personal study and thought of all those who love me back home:

Romans 1:9

Take care, all. Always be faithful. Things are great with me.

Hermana Francis
PS: don't worry about my knee, mom. It's feeling great. :D