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