Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dulce gozo

                                                                                                                                      December 9, 2013 
 This is the view behind our house :)
Misioneras y montanas (missionaries and mountains)


I got your package!  It was so nice to see all of the pictures of our family and the little notes you guys wrote me!  Sometimes I feel really lonely being so far away from you guys, so it was so nice to be able to see those pictures with "families are forever."  We are always teaching about eternal families...and I am so blessed to belong to an eternal family!  And no distance in the world can separate us, because we have eternity to spend together.  :)  The picture with the Christmas tree is in the mamita's house.  She lives around the corner from us in our neighborhood, so she is in our branch.  She doesn't do our laundry very often. Only sometimes.  It's kind of frustrating with her because she's not very reliable. Laundry is one of the most frustrating things here, so I don't tell you guys about it.  lol.  I'm learning patience on that front.  Like Evan told you, relationships and family are way more important than schedules here, and as you predicted, it drives me nuts because I am such a schedule-oriented person.  If we go in a house, we will likely be inside for an hour and a half, sometimes two.  It is a LOT of listening.  In Spanish.  So that is another way that I am learning patience.  :)

I'm so glad that you guys could go to the temple!  I miss the temple a lot.  But I keep the feelings from the temple close to my heart whenever I start to feel sad.  What a beautiful place!  Your Christmas sounds crazy, but beautiful.  It's hard being so far away during the Christmas season...but I am able to really focus on how important the Savior is to me and to everyone else in the world.  He is the greatest gift we could ever receive!  We have been sharing a Mormon message with people lately called, "The Spirit of Christmas."  You guys should look it up!  It is so inspiring and I cry every time we watch it.  I love Christmas so much!  I don't know a lot of details yet about how we will talk.  I know that it is through my Skype account for 45 minutes, and probably on a member's computer.  But I will find out and let you guys know as we get closer.

One day this week, my companion got really dizzy, so dizzy that she couldn't walk.  So we stayed inside the house all day.  I read General Conference talks and old letters, wrote out the emails I wanted to send this week, and studied over my notes from the MTC.  It was so good to study those notes!  I remembered the idealism of the MTC, and how important it is to keep an idealistic perspective.  Mission life is hard.  Really hard.  So it's easy to lose idealism...but when we lose idealism, we also start to lose faith.  And I just know that faith in Jesus Christ needs to be my center!  He helps me so much.  I have never felt His love more than I feel it now.  Sometimes I get frustrated living in a world where I feel like I don't have anyone who can listen.  My companion is great, but she talks all the time, she's super dramatic and a little bit of a princess, and she doesn't listen very well.  She's super loving and hardworking, but listening is not her strong suit.  So this week at points I felt very alone.  But when I would get on my knees to pray, I knew that He listened to everything I had to say.  I know He listens and He loves me!  He understands me perfectly.  Like I said, missionary life is tough.  I am speaking a different language, in a different country, serving in a weak branch.  By the world's standards, I don't have the things I need to be happy.  People think that they need a nice car, big house, other possession-type things to be happy.  But I can tell you that all you really need to be happy is to feel God's love.  Because when you truly feel His love, you want to act upon it.  And when you act upon it, He teaches you to be happy.  Happiness is not the absence of trial, but the presence of Christ.  President Uchtdorf, in his talk to the Young Women in March, said that there will be bumps in the road...but we shouldn't focus on them.  I know that happiness is always within our reach!  Pray to feel His love.  It can really transform you.  I have never felt such a general happiness.  It is a deep, sweet happiness that fills up my soul.  And I know that it is the happiness that Christ gives.  He makes it possible for us to be happy no matter our circumstances.  "Dulce gozo" means sweet joy.  

This week I have also been learning what it means to receive answers to faithful prayers.  I pray so hard for the branch, for our investigators, and for my ability to be the servant the Lord needs.  On Tuesday, we had a meeting with the senior couple serving here, and we were able to plan what to do to help out our branch.  This was a huge answer to my prayers!  After 2 months serving here, it had gotten to be something that seemed completely discouraging.  But with us, the elders, and the senior couple, we created a hopeful plan to help invite our branch back to Christ.  I am hoping for the best!  We are going to help the members understand their callings better, first, and then see what we can do next.  Then, the family that Hermana Nappa and I were teaching hasn't let us in their home for 3 weeks.  We have been praying that they will remember the importance of the gospel.  On Saturday, we were just walking and out of the blue we saw them in the street and they invited us into their home.  I know that the Lord answers prayers!  I know that heaven is not as far away as we may think it is.  All we have to do is get on our knees in faith, and He is there.  Prayer blesses my life every day, and I hope you all will remember to pray!

Another thought--almost every day, my companion reminds me that Heavenly Father doesn't focus on our errors, but on our potential.  How sweet this thought is!  It destroys all the lies that Satan tells us, that we aren't good enough, can't do it, or whatever else he may try to say.  Heavenly Father is merciful and patient, and in the journey of life, He loves us for who we are and for what we are striving to become.

I love you all so much.  I miss you a lot, especially now that we are close to Christmas!  But I know also that this sacrifice will be worth it, and that the next Christmas we are together will be so special and beautiful.

Abrazos, Hermana Latham 

 Arbol de la vida (Tree of Life)
We had a Book of Mormon themed activity recently and a family in our branch made this tree of life!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

¿me amas tú a mí?

                                                                                                                                      December 2, 2013


This hour every week is really the most stressful hour of the week!  I want to talk to everybody, but I only have an hour.  So I'm doing the best I can to respond to all of the questions and write back to other people within 2 weeks.  I haven't gotten any mail other than the Christmas package.  Are you sending the mail to the mission home?  If you send things to the mission home, then I get them when we have meetings with the zone leaders, which is about once a month.  They get all of the mail for our zone.  Our mission is a gigantic area, so this is the only way we can all get our mail.  We have zone conference on the 10th, so I might get some things then.  Sorry the mail situation is so frustrating!  It's tough because we are in such a rural area of Chile.  And don't worry about the lyrics to The Olive Tree...I figured them out.  It's just so that I can sing along!  There were some words I didn't recognize, so I looked them up in my dictionary.  I have two new blouses that were gifted to me in the MTC, and also two winter skirts I got from Hermana Rappleye in the mission home.  It will be nice to have new clothes, but I am okay without them.  I am the most excited for the black cardigan!  It really was a shame that I lost the last one...  Líder is close to where we live, but it's not quite the same as Wal-Mart.  I can buy some Great Value stuff, which is nice.  As far as medicine goes, the only places we have to buy those are in pharmacies, and they don't have nearly as good of a selection as in the States.  But anyway, I went ahead and bought some more cold medicine for when my decongestant runs out.  If you guys could send regular decongestant whenever you send the next box, that would be great.  Decongestant doesn't exist in my pharmacy here.  I really am lucky to serve in Chile!  It is really safe here with the water and food and everything.  Honestly, the faucet water here is cleaner and tastes better than in the States.  People are always asking me if I have family members who speak Spanish, and I get to tell them that my uncle served here years ago!  They all think that is pretty cool.  :)

So I survived my first Thanksgiving outside of the United States!  It was tough, but not nearly as tough as I thought it would be.  My companion wrote me a really sweet note, and as I thought about all of the many blessings my Heavenly Father has given me, I thought about how grateful I am for Chile and how grateful I am for the opportunity I have to serve as a missionary.  I will have Thanksgiving every year throughout my life, and only 2 of them will be as a missionary.  I show my gratitude to the Lord by giving Him my everything.  Every morning while we are exercising, we listen to the songs on our cell phone.  One of them has a chunk of a talk by Jeffrey R. Holland in Spanish.  It's the talk about Peter, when the Savior asks, "Do you love me?" or in español, "¿me amas tú a mí?"  I think about that every day.  When things are tough, I think about the reason I am serving.  And it is because I love Him.  I love Him more than I love the United States.  I love Him more than I love the English language.  I love Him more than I love my regular life.  And for this I serve Him with all I have!  I know He can see my efforts because He blesses me in return.  

We are finding lots of new people to teach!  Hermana Montalván is a really stellar missionary, and together we are working so hard to invite others to come unto Christ.  As we work hard, we can see the fruits of our efforts!  Even if we are just planting seeds by giving short lessons and pamphlets to people in the streets, we are inviting other people to open their hearts to Him.  Right now we have a lady with a baptismal date and she is awesome!  She has so much love for the Lord and she really listens when we teach.  One of the coolest things I learned in the MTC is that as we are missionaries and have investigators, it is also important to remember that we are the Lord's investigators.  As we prepared the lesson on the Plan of Salvation to teach our investigator, it came to me, clear as a bell, that I am a part of God's great plan, and that He wants for me to be able to live with Him one day.  All of the things we teach as missionaries apply to us personally, as well.

With the family who had baptismal dates, the work is frustrating right now.  They don't want the missionaries to come over anymore since Hermana Nappa left.  So we are praying that they will open their hearts to us.  If they really want the gospel to be part of their lives, it won't matter to them which missionaries are the ones teaching and preparing them for baptism.  The other frustrating thing is with our tiny branch.  We are encountering tons of problems...but we are working to find solutions and praying for the Lord's help.  This is His work, and the people in this branch are His children, and He will not forget them!

I realized that I haven't told you guys about one of my favorite parts of Chilean culture!  I feel so lucky when people invite us to have once ( on-say) with them.  Dinner doesn't exist here.  After lunch, sometime before people go to bed, they drink something hot and have bread with jam or strange meat paste (I go for the jam, of course.  lol).  It makes me think of what tea time must be like in Europe.  It's just such a fun custom here.  The Chilean people are honestly the most relaxed and social people I have ever met.  Once lasts approximately forever because it's just a time for the family and friends to sit around the table, eat something, and pass time together.  Chileans have so much love to give, and it is so nice to share that with them!  This week we had once with the Relief Society president.  Then yesterday we ate lunch with a family and they invited us to help them decorate their Christmas tree.  It was such a sweet experience to share with them!  This Christmas will be hard, but special.  The family we ate with yesterday invited us to spend Christmas with them, too.  I appreciate them so much!

I am so, so happy with my life right now.  It is so wonderful to me that as I live in righteousness and strive to show the Lord how much I love Him, He blesses me to be able to achieve my dreams.  How special it is to be able to share the gospel.  Of course, it is hard and it is frustrating....but every day I learn more patience, I learn to love more, and my testimony grows.  Being a missionary is such a dynamic process!  Time is really starting to fly.  I feel like before I know it, this transfer is going to be over!  

I love you all so much and I miss you!  I am doing the best I can with the emails (sorry I can't write to everyone!)

Abrazos, Hermana Latham


                                                                                                                                    November 25, 2013

                                                       Volcan Villarrica y Lago Villarrica


And HAPPY THANKSGIVING!  You are right.  This week is going to be a tough one.  I miss Thanksgiving so much!  I miss spending time with you guys!  But I am praying for comfort and help.  I have been thinking about all of the things I am grateful for, and that makes things easier.  Yesterday I gave a talk in sacrament meeting, and my assigned topic was gratitude (could that have worked out better?).  So I've been studying gratitude and remembering Thanksgiving.  On the day of Thanksgiving, I will have been a missionary for 3 months!  WOO!  It's been a long first three months, but I know that the time will begin to run away from me the more I serve.  Another thing that helps with missing Thanksgiving is that people here are already decorating for Christmas.  Our mamita already has her Christmas tree, and it has multicolored lights like the Christmas tree we had when I was a little girl.  It makes me really happy to see it and helps me feel closer to home.

A couple of random Spanish fact for the week--to vacuum and to aspire are the same word in Spanish--aspirar.  So we can vacuum for eternal life and we can aspire our rug.  hahaha.  Also, I didn't realize until I got a new companion what cool music we have on our cell phone!  We have The Olive Tree in Spanish!  AHHHH!  So I wanted to ask you guys if you could send me the lyrics to The Olive Tree in Spanish (it's tough for me to understand music in Spanish).  I am SO GRATEFUL that you write me every week, Mama!!  I miss you so much, and being able to read your emails makes it better.  My poor companion didn't get any email from her family this week, and here she is in a new area.  :(  

So Hermana Nappa was right at the middle of her mission, 9 months.  She was going to reach 9 months on the same day I'll reach 3.  She trained another hermana while she was serving in Punta Arenas.  I learned a lot from her, but sometimes it got frustrating because we would just do things without her explaining to me what was going on.  And then she would get irritated with me sometimes when I asked her questions.  We worked as much as we could, but she was pretty exhausted.  She's been suffering with this ever since she got to Chile, and she's been trying every method under the sun to resolve it, but finally all of the resources were exhausted, and she needed to go home for treatment.  People knew she was sick, but I think a lot of people tried to just push it off to the side.  I find that people don't want to face the reality of mental and emotional sicknesses.  People would just tell her that all she needed to do was have faith and things would get better....but she was really, really suffering.  She wasn't super open, so I don't know how bad it was, but I could tell it was bad.  So, I am learning a TON about missionary work from my new companion.  Thank you for what you said about me being kind and mature!  I prayed a LOT for help, and I just tried to love her even when she didn't receive it.  I find that the best way for me to feel less alone here is to give all the love I have to others.  Christ gives me love in return, even if others don't.  Like the quote you gave me from President Monson says, His love is always there for us.  I have never in my life felt His love more!  He strengthens me every day.

My new companion is wonderful!  Her name is Hermana Montalván and she is from Honduras.  She doesn't speak a lick of English, so my Spanish is growing by leaps and bounds (Hermana Nappa spoke English, so if I was just failing in Spanish, I could always ask her to help me out because she could give me translations and what not).  She is 25 and before the mission, she was studying law.  She is very put together and incredibly obedient.  She likes to talk to me and give me hugs!  She has a really positive attitude and she works hard.  I am so thankful for her!  It is very easy to feel the Spirit with her, which is essential to missionary work.  She has been a missionary for 10 months (one transfer more than Hermana Nappa).  Of course, no companion is perfect and every companion is a transition.  We are learning to understand each other better every day, and we got along really well.  The first day she was really weirded out by my contacts...she asked me why I used contacts if I wasn't changing the color of my eyes.  Latinos always ask me if my eye color is natural.  lol.  I told her that I needed them to see!  I think this transfer is going to be great.  Hermana Montalván is a special missionary.  On our first day together, we contacted people on the street, which was new for me.  It was really cool to listen to the directions of the Spirit to know what to say.  We found a lady cleaning her front yard, and she looked pretty sad, so we went to see if we could help her.  As we were talking to her about prayer, she just started crying, and she invited us into her house.  She was so receptive, and I just knew that the Lord had put us in front of her house because she needed His love in that moment.  It was incredible.  Moments like that help me to remember why I chose to be a missionary!

I am feeling WAY better this week.  It always takes a while for colds to die, but I know it will in a few more days.  haha I was thinking about that earlier this week, that I was sick during Thanksgiving break.  You're much changes in a year!   :) 

This week I have been studying scriptures about patience, or paciencia in Spanish.  Patience is such a Christlike attribute.  I am trying so hard to learn more patience!  I read in Alma 32:41-43, applying it to patience (normally I apply it to faith).  I was thinking about my missionary work as the tree, or the missionary I am becoming as the tree.  It talks about how important it is to have patience, diligence, and faith, waiting for the tree to bring fruit.  It starts out talking about nourishing the tree as it begins to grow.  I am working on reminding myself that I am in the beginning of the growing process, so I need to nourish my tree!  I need to have patience with myself as I learn to be a better missionary every day.  Although my companion is great, it's still tough because the way she does missionary work is different than the way Hermana Nappa did it.  So sometimes I feel so frustrated and feel like I don't know anything.  But then I just listen to the voices of the Spirit and remind myself to have patience.  Every day is better, and if this mission is going to get better every day for the next 15 months, I can't imagine how wonderful it will be!  I like to think about what Elder Holland said about how his mission was the reason for all of the blessings in his life.  I know that the things I learn as a missionary will affect everything else that I do for as long as I live!  Learning patience teaches me to be a better friend and family member.  Learning diligence teaches me to be a better student.  Etc, etc.  :)  I know you are working on studying the scriptures every day--I would recommend studying with Preach My Gospel.  It really is an inspired book.  I especially love the chapter about Christlike attributes!

I miss you very much.  I send you all my love and gigantic hugs!  And every day I remember how thankful I am for my wonderful family.  You all are one of the greatest blessings the Lord could ever give to me.  I hope you enjoy Thanksgiving (and the buffet) for me!  lol.  And please remember to be grateful for the temple, the gospel, and our strong ward.  In this tiny branch, I remember every week to be thankful for the strength of the Church back home.

Abrazos, Hermana Latham 
 Hermana Latham and Hermana Nappa

Hermana Latham and Hermana Montalvan in our Mamita's house