Wednesday, November 20, 2013

hijas de Dios

                                                                                                       November 18, 2013

I'm glad you can feel how I am getting happier in my emails.  I am happier each week!  This week I am very happy and I have a lot of hope for the future.  The first transfer was super tough in a lot of ways, but I really think that this mission is going to be amazing!  Whenever I think about how I am here to represent Jesus Christ and His love for the people here, I feel so wonderful and so proud to represent Him.

As far as logistical boring stuff goes, I am sick.  Blech.  I am just slammed with a cold right now and I feel pretty miserable, physically speaking.  Also, I got your Christmas package!  I can't wait to put up the decorations.  The delay in the mail really is a pain, but at least we have email!  I love to read what you guys are doing each week.  It makes it so you don't seem quite so far.

This week has been interesting as far as current events!  Yesterday was the election for president here.  It was crazy.  Everyone has to travel to the city where they are inscripted to vote.  I don't really know what inscripted means, but basically everyone was gone.  We only had sacrament meeting for church.  And what is really interesting to me is that the two head candidates are women!  WOO!  I think women in politics is really cool.  :)  I hope we see a woman president in the USA one day.

So you got my complaining letter about my companion.  That was about a week into my time in Chile and I was SO FRUSTRATED at the time that I just had to tell someone and I couldn't wait to email it.  Things got a little better.  But this transfer has been really tough with my companion.  She doesn't like to talk to me or do anything together (exercises, etc).  But don't worry, I eat food.  I told her how important it was to me to eat after the first few days.  She is just very demanding.  But I always just think about how hard it must be for her to have this insomnia.  We've talked about it and I think the insomnia is probably just a symptom of a bigger problem.  She seems very depressed.  This week she felt bad enough that we stayed in the house for two days.  Her health problems are pretty crippling, so she is going home this Friday.  I am getting a new companion.

I have learned a lot from her about patience, and I pray every day to love her and help her in any way that I can.  But I am really thankful for the chance to have a new companion!  Maybe she will be friendly and loving.  Maybe she will like to spend time with me.  Maybe she will be a happy person!  That would be just great.  I have realized that one of the biggest reasons this transfer has been so tough is because of my companion.  I tried not to look at it that way when I was thinking we would be together for 12 weeks.  But now that I can take a step back, I realize that I was really trying my hardest to love her and be patient with her...and Heavenly Father is blessing me for that.

Our zone training last week was really great.  I really respect our zone leaders because of the way that they lead.  They try really hard to encourage rather than to criticize.  I can feel their love, and they are really exemplary missionaries.  During the training, I was thinking...all of these goals are so huge!  How are we going to do it all?  But then this calm feeling came over me that this is Christ's work, and the way we are going to be able to do it is with His help.

The next day we had companion exchanges with the sister training leaders, and it was AWESOME!  I really felt the Spirit all day with Hermana Morassi, and I realized that I am entitled to feel that Spirit because of my obedience and faith in Christ.  I realized that missionary work doesn't have to be such a negative life as it has seemed to me at times in this transfer.  So I studied about daughters of God, or hijas de Dios, and I thought about this:  I am a daughter of God.  He called me to serve here in Chile.  So I can do this!  I really CAN do this!  I can represent Jesus Christ and share His love.  I can speak Spanish.  I can love people who try my patience.  I can learn to become more like Him.  

With this new perspective, I have been able to feel happy despite challenges and daily frustrations.  I am so hopeful for this upcoming transfer!  With my new companion, we can really work to fulfill our purpose as missionaries and touch the people here.  We have great investigators.  I feel Christ's love for them and I can just tell how special they are.  And daily He reminds me that I am special, too, and my purpose here is important! 

A day in the life of a missionary in Chile, Osorno (in training.  Because I have more study than other missionaries):
I wake up at 7:00.  Then I say my prayers and I exercise until 7:30.  From 7:30 to 8:30, I get ready for the day and eat my breakfast.  I have personal study from 8:30 to 9:30.  Then, I study with my companion from 9:30 until 11:30.  We recite our missionary purpose and read from our missionary rules book, then we share with each other what we studied and we work out of my training manual.  From 11:30 to 12:30, I have time to study Spanish.  I usually study grammar and practice with some of the exercises from my books, and then find a few new vocabulary words.  At 12:30 we go to the mamita's house for lunch.  We come back around 2:00 (the mamita talks A LOT and super crazy fast, with bajillions of Chilenismos, or colloquialisms of Chile).  We make lesson plans until 3.  Then from 3 to 9:30, we have appointments, we tract, we visit contacts, and we visit less actives.  A lot of our work is focused on less actives here in Pucón.  Between 9:30 and 10 we go back home.  We plan for the next day, and then I eat something and get ready for bed...and if I have time, write in my journal!  I say my prayers and go to bed at 11:00.

That was a pretty boring summary.  But that is basically what we do here!  :)  I am out of time now, so I will talk to you next week and tell you about my new companion!  WOO!

Abrazos and love always, Hermana Latham

Friday, November 15, 2013


                                                                                                                                    November 11, 2013

Santiago Chile Temple (Mom added this because Hermana Latham talks about looking at Temple pictures this week :)

¡Allo familia!

Thank you SO MUCH for your letters and pictures.  It was like a party in my inbox today.  I had letters from two friends, Grandma, Benjamin, Daddy, and Mama!  I love the pictures.  LOVE LOVE LOVE the pictures!  Our house is so cute with the Halloween decorations.  Benjamin is a catch in his suit (and he looks so grown up!  how tall is he now?)  I love Abby's glasses.  And Mama, you are the cutest speech-pathologist-fairy ever.  I want to give you a hug through the computer screen.  :)  Also, thank you for the picture of the temple.  I am such a nerd for temple pictures.  Every Monday we have an extra half-hour we are allowed to use on the Internet to look at,, etc.  Last week we looked up a few talks and things, and we still had time left over in our half-hour, so...we looked at temple pictures.  And I was so happy!!  I love and miss the temple.  

This is the temple picture she is referring to in her letter :)

I don't really know anything about how the mail gets here.  Our zone leaders get it from the office and then we get it at zone conference or training or other big meetings.  I haven't gotten any mail since I've been here, but we have zone training tomorrow, so I might get something tomorrow!  :)  Oh and another thing on logistics...the rainy season here is in the winter.  But similar to Georgia it rains all year round here.

I'm sorry you are feeling sad and missing me!  I really miss you guys a lot too, especially with Thanksgiving coming up.  I try not to think about it too much because I don't want to cry.  What I think about instead is the blessing I have to be a representative of Jesus Christ, and to be here loving these people!  XXXXX is the name of our main investigator...her family members are also investigators, but she is the one who wants to get baptized the most.  And she is so cute.  She is like our mom in Pucón.  She always asks Hermana Nappa how she's sleeping, asks us about what we're eating, is worried if it's cold and we're not wearing pantyhose, etc.  So for now when I'm so far from your hugs XXXXX gives me the hugs I need. :) 

I've been thinking about it this week and this mission really is similar to Hercules.  This is how I relate Hercules to my life:  I came to this earth as a mortal, and got to live with wonderful parents.  There came a time when I was very awkward and didn't know my own spiritual strength (high school), and then I got really excited and decided I wanted to find my way and make decisions to get stronger (BYU).  Then I traveled far away to get training and prepare to be a hero (training with Phil=MTC).  After that I felt really strong, but still a little unsure...especially because the first place I came to had a lot of problems (Pucón is kind of like Thebes).  But this tough time was just to teach me how to be a better hero.  In the end, I'm going to make my parents so proud, and then, once this life is over, God will offer me a place in His kingdom.  This perspective is so fun and makes me feel so happy!  

Right now things are hard.  There are a lot of problems (sometimes I think our branch is more like a baby twig).  But we are going to be able to help this branch to grow, and from all of the things we learn here in Pucón, we are going to be all the more prepared for later times in our lives.  And I think you're right, I would be less stressed out if my companion wasn't so intense...but it's okay.  I'm learning a lot about how to love a person who is really different from me.  She has a little sister my age, so sometimes I go crazy with how bossy she is.  So I'm deciding that it doesn't matter if she is angry, tired, whatever, I am going to decide to be happy and to listen to the promptings of the Spirit, and above all to keep loving her so she doesn't feel so lonely.  And good news about the stress...I am handling things better.  Last week I was at orange and this week I am at yellow!  The goal is green!  lol I'm working on it.  As far as loving myself...I am getting better every day.  When problems trouble all about me and I'm getting weak, that's when Satan attacks me.  But I am learning strategies to look at myself through the Lord's potential and how much He loves me for my decisions and for my service.  I feel very loved on Mondays when I get to read your letters.  Sometimes I just sit and think about how blessed I am to have such a wonderful family!  Heavenly Father really gave me the best when He chose who was going to be my mom.  Only 6 weeks til Christmas and we get to talk on Skype!  And what's more...I know that this mission will be such a blessing in so many ways, and I wouldn't give it up for anything!  I finish my first transfer in Chile on the 20th.  Then, I will have 2 transfers down and 11 to go.  :)

So the best news of the week...the senior couple missionaries worked out an arrangement with our casa's owner, and we are going to stay in the same casa!  That was such a miracle of peace for me.  We don't have to move!  And I just know that Heavenly Father has so much more for us to learn here in Pucón and so many special people for us to serve here.  I am so glad!  Pucón is an adorable town.  The senior couple missionaries are just great.  We have two sets of them within a 2 hour radius of where we live.  One set got here just after I got here, and they live in the next town over in Villarrica.  They are helping us with the problems in our branch, which is so wonderful.  Elder Biggs has been a bishop, so he has a lot of experience.  They are like grandparents!  Hermana Biggs always gives us hugs and talks to us (and I get to talk in English...wooo!)  That helps a lot.  I miss Grandma and Nana and Buster, too, so it's nice to have the senior couple missionaries for that as well.  The Biggs are helping us to host English classes in our chapel once a week.  They were both teachers for years, so they do a better job than the elders do.  ;)  The English class we had on Friday was so fun!  They use a super simple format so we can learn it and use it when we host English classes in other sectors.  People are really interested in learning English, so it's a good way to invite people to the church.  

Two inevitable things in Chile are the rain and the dogs.  Of course, the rain is no problem for me.  I love the rain!  And now that I have rainboots it's even more fun!  Last week we had tons of rain, and also a couple of wonderfully pleasant spring type days.  We have a little backyard where we chop the firewood, and two sides of it have concrete walls.  The dog from next door dug underneath the wall and got in our yard, and he broke our fence and made our backyard a super yucky dog mess.  Blech.  I have never hated dogs more in my life!  I keep telling Hermana Nappa that I am never going to have a dog...but I just sincerely hope that my cute husband doesn't talk me into getting one one of these days!  Dogs are so awful!  We were tracting one night and this super violent dog almost attacked us.  He was SUPER close to biting Hermana Nappa.  I totally freaked out.  AGHHH I hate dogs!  I guess I can work on learning patience through dogs, too.

Another time when we were tracting we found a family of Jehovah's witnesses, and they set up an appointment with us.  So yesterday we went to their house...and it was one of the most stressful experiences of my life.  Chilean people are fairly talkative, and so for the first few minutes we just got to know each other with the mom of the family.  The whole time the dad didn't say much...and then after a few minutes, he just started straight in with questions attacking our point of view on the Plan of Salvation.  When it came to be my turn to talk, I was so freaked out and my heart was beating so fast that I couldn't remember anything in Spanish!  But he backed off some when we told him that we really don't know the Bible cover-to-cover and we're still learning.  Then, the family taught us a little about their beliefs and they let us share our testimonies and teach a little bit too.  We left them with a copy of the Book of Mormon.  I hope that they decide to read it!  With all of our investigators, we tell them that they don't need to take our word for anything.  We are just tools in the hands of the Lord, and they can receive their answers through prayer.  So we invited them to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it.  I guess we'll see what comes of that!

I have been working so hard on my Spanish, that when it comes time to speak in English, I get things mixed up.  lol a little while back when I was with Hermana McNeil, the investigator was an English professor, so she wanted to have the entire visit in English.  But when I offered the prayer in English, it was more like Spanglish, with "y" and "con" all mixed in to the I can't speak English OR Spanish well!  hahaha...the same when I'm writing you guys the letters.  In my mind before I type it sometimes it's in Spanish, so at the end I just hope that it all came out in English.  lol.  Right now I'm working on my Christmas cards for everyone.  But I don't have Christmas cards.  So they are farm cards with a Christmas message.  :D  I just want my family to get a Merry Christmas from Chile!  

I love you guys so so much, and I'm so thankful for all the ways that you have taught me and loved me throughout my life.  Heaven knows I wouldn't be in southern Chile serving as a missionary if it wasn't for you guys.  I'm also so thankful for everything I have learned in Primary, Young Women, and through the gospel in general.  The gospel is my hope for the future!  When I hear about how terrible things are with the U.S. government, I freak out a little bit....but I just have to remind myself how blessed we are to live in these times, and that we always have Christ on our side as we live in righteousness.

It sounds like you guys have a great plan for Thanksgiving!  Eat some sweet potatoes for me!  And I hope you all have a ball in Florida and with the end of football season.  :)

Abrazos para siempre (hugs always), Hermana Latham

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Dificil, pero nunca imposible

This is the best picture I could get of the volcano! (Volcan Villaricca)  I see it every day and just wanted to share it with you all!

Nov 4 at 12:25 PM
¡Allo familia!
It sounds like you guys had a great week.  :)  I'm glad that Grandma's surgery went well.  I'll be keeping her in my prayers!  I'm really sorry about the car.  :(  Hopefully the new car will be a good thing for our family.  Thank you so much for all of the things you have put in the mail for me!  It will be so nice to get a little piece of home when I am so far away.  Thank you also for your advice about what to do with the Primary.  I planned a lesson this week....and the Primary president was actually at church (usually she works on Sundays), so I taught Young Women in Spanish off the top of my head because the Young Women president wasn't at church (it's a crazy life in our branch).  And just so you know, we didn't even know about the earthquake until you told us about it.  haha so we are fine on that front.  I love what you said about how this mission is also for Hermana Latham to grow and for her family to grow.  I understand more each day just how much of a personal journey this really is.  I didn't sign up to serve a mission to get blessings from Heavenly Father...but He has me under His watchful eye and this mission really is a chance for me to grow personally.
This week was really, really tough.  (I'm going to tell about the bad stuff first and then the good stuff.  :) )  I told you last week about all of the problems we were facing.  Well, this week we got some more.  On Tuesday we got a call from some of the senior missionaries in our mission that we needed to start looking for a house.  As you saw in the pictures, Pucón is a super fabulous tourist place.  So our rent normally is about 170 thousand Chilean pesos a month, but for January our landlord wanted 450 thousand, and for February 600 thousand because the houses are in such high demand in the summer.  Sooo....we are searching for a house in Pucón, but no one wants to rent to us for a year-long contract.  All the houses are up for temporary rent, with a charge per night (like a hotel).  But if we don't find a house, the mission is going to have to close the hermanas sector in Pucón.  Transfers are on the 20th.  So if we find a house in time, I will be moving to another house in Pucón.  But if not, I will be transferred for the 20th.  We are so sad and so worried!  There are so many wonderful people for us to serve here in Pucón, and we don't want to have to leave them.  If we do, then the elders will be in charge of their sector and our sector (which is a super gigantic area) and we JUST committed our investigators to baptism for Nov. 30th. 
Then the other really tough thing is my companion's health.  She has chronic insomnia, and we went to the doctor three times the past couple of weeks.  We take a bus for 30 minutes to get to Villarrica, then we walk for a while to get to the clinic, then we sit and wait for Hermana Nappa to have a 3 minute long appointment with the doctor where he basically says, "Oh, that medication's not working for you?  Try this one and come back in a few days."  It's super frustrating.  None of the medications are helping her to sleep at all, and the most recent one she took made her really sick.  So we called the mission doctor and it turns out that this medication is prohibited for missionaries, so she can't take it anyway.  We have pretty much exhausted our resources and she will probably have to go home to Paraguay for treatment.
So as you can imagine, with all of the problems that are going on, I've been feeling super overwhelmed.  Now here's for the good parts.
On Tuesday we had a GREAT lesson with our main investigators and committed all four of them to baptism on November 30th!  We are so excited for their progress.  And the biggest part of this for me is that I was the one who invited them all!  Every time I do more things in Spanish, I feel more confident.  The lesson was fabulous.  We both gave our testimonies and helped clear up concerns they had about the first lesson.
On Wednesday night we went to Villarrica to do exchanges with the hermanas there, Hermana McNeil and Hermana Niño. (Hermana McNeil said her mom is friends with you in the mm group!)  It was so wonderful for me to spend time with Hermana McNeil.  She is fantastic.  She is such a positive, spiritual and hard-working missionary, and also so loving.  We had two really great lessons and I just felt the Spirit so strongly.  She is a really good friend to me.  We stayed the night with the Villarrica hermanas to travel with them to Valdivia for a special conference.  It was a 3 hour bus ride, so Hermana McNeil and I read for a while and then we just talked.  She helped me to feel a lot better, thinking about my goals as a missionary and just being able to talk to another gringa!  :)  But also she helped me to remember that in times of a lot of trial (like now) it is so important that we remember to love ourselves...which is one of the things I am working on.
Our training in Valdivia was with 3 different zones, and President Rappleye gave us all little booklets about how to manage missionary stress.  This booklet could not have been more timely!  Hermana Nappa and I are both just SO stressed out, but we are trying to utilize the booklet to be better (there are four levels of stress--the best is green, then there is yellow, orange, and red)  I am at orange and Hermana Nappa is at red, so we are praying to manage our stress better.  :)
What with this booklet, prayer, studying the scriptures, and everything, I have still been struggling to feel strong and happy this week.  I knew that I just needed to feel the peace and love of my Heavenly Father.  So yesterday after branch council meeting, I asked the elders to give me a blessing.  The words that Elder Whitaker used were just the words that I needed to hear.  Now I feel more peace and hope.  I know things aren't going to be so tough for forever.  I know that the Lord is with me and that He loves me so much!  I just need to press forward with faith.  Hermana Nappa and I talked a lot, and she reminded me that we didn't come here with money and medicine and tools to solve people's problems.  We came here with our testimonies and with the gospel, and sharing that light is the way that we can help other people.  We can help them to feel God's love and the hope that is in Christ.  I know it will take some time for me to get stronger and reach the green level of stress, but I know that I can.  I have been realizing more and more as I've been here that Satan doesn't want me on this mission.  And for that I want to fight as hard as I possibly can to beat him!  I know that I have the potential to be a wonderful, helpful missionary...and Satan can't take that away from me unless I let him. So I'm not letting him.  I am keeping a prayer in my heart always, with faith that everything will work out according the Lord's will.  I can do this!!  I can do this because I've got Jesus as my best friend.  Difícil, pero nunca imposible.  Difficult, but never impossible. 
I love being a missionary.  Every day we have an hour of personal study, and then after that we have companion study where Hermana Nappa and I share with each other the things we learned from personal study.  It is so great!  I have never felt such a personal connection to the scriptures.  All the answers to our questions, our investigators' concerns, and everything are in the scriptures!  They are a fountain of truth and light.  I LOVE THE SCRIPTURES!!  haha I thought I was a super Mormon nerd before this mission...I love the scriptures and the hymns more than I ever did before.  And I love my Savior more than I ever did before.  This is His mission.  And the darkness of this world will never put out His light again!  How blessed we are to live in this time.
A couple fun facts...every Sunday we eat with a different family in our branch, and it's like Thanksgiving.  We eat SO much on Sundays.  I always feel so huge afterwards!  Hermana Nappa says it gets easier once you get used to it.  lol.  Also the movie Despicable Me in Spanish is Mi Villano Favorito, or My Favorite Villain.  Just some fun food for thought.  lol I hope these things made you smile!  
I miss you all so much and I love you with all of my heart!  I will keep you always in my prayers!  Stay warm.  :)  I do not envy your cold weather!  (also thank you for the weather forecast...we never know what the weather is.  I just have a sense of, "oh, it's warm today," or "oh, today is a cardigan day.")
Love always and gigantic abrazos from Pucón, Hermana Latham