Sunday, January 26, 2014

una voz

                                                                                                        January 25, 2014


So it was another crazy week.  I feel like every week as a missionary is a crazy week.  lol.  But this week really was different from the others.  I got some sort of bug.  It seemed sort of flu-like.  I just had kind of an overall weakness in my body, with those pains that make your arms and legs feel floppy and your chest, stomach, and neck just hurt.  I couldn't eat the normal food we eat here because it was too heavy and made me feel nauseous.  I never had a fever or threw up, but I wasn't well enough to go out and do missionary work, so for the majority of four days we were just in the house.  I just rested a lot, took Tylenol or ibuprofen, drank a lot of fluids, and watched a lot of Church movies in Spanish (lol).  It was pretty lame.  You know me, I just wanted to get OUT of the HOUSE and serve the Lord!  We tried various times off and on in those four days, but my body just couldn't handle it like normal.  But I still had wonderful spiritual experiences and learned a lot.  The Lord really has infinite wisdom, and I believe with every fiber of my being that everything happens for a reason.  I think it was harder on my companion that it was on me to be stuck inside for four days.  But we grew from it!  I find that most of the experiences that I have on this mission are to teach me to better understand the love of Christ.  There were moments when I was laying on the bed, just feeling like a failure as a missionary.  After all, I didn't sign up to come to Chile just to sit around.  I felt like I was missing so many opportunities to share with God's children, that maybe I was just making a big deal out of nothing and it would be better if we left...but then every time we left I got dizzy, or overheated, or nauseous, or something and we had to go home.  It was frustrating.  We called the sister training leaders and talked to them, and I thought about what the Lord would want me to learn.  I think that He wanted me to see just how much He loves me.  He knew that I wasn't just being lazy or trying to avoid my responsibilities.  He wanted me to learn patience with myself and to love myself enough to care for my body rather than tear myself down for being a "bad missionary."  

On Thursday we had our interview with President Rappleye, and I was telling him about all of the mean thoughts that I have that tell me that I am a bad missionary, or a terrible companion, or that I don't have a strong enough testimony, or other mean things like that.  President Rappleye is a car guy.  With him everything is very straightforward.  He just looked me straight in the eyes and asked me, "Where do you think those thoughts come from?"  I know exactly where they come from.  I know that every mean thought that I ever have comes from Satan.  He has told me so many lies over the years!  He is just so MEAN!  But on this mission, I learn more and more each day how to melt the icy shell of mean things that Satan has put in my mind with the warmth of the love of Christ.  President Rappleye is so wise and so spiritual!  It was really wonderful to have an interview with him and to understand his concern for us as missionaries and for me individually.

I have never felt so loved in my entire life.  Here in Chile, my companion, my sister training leaders, zone leaders, and district leader, the ward members, and the mission president care about me so much!  They make me feel important and loved and help me understand my worth as a daughter of God.  We live across the street from our ward Relief Society president, and she has been watching out for me as I've been sick this week, calling out of the blue to see how I'm doing and bringing us brownies.  (she's about your age, Mama, and her hugs and the way she loves us, she's like my Chilean mom).  Then, I received three letters this from Sister Butler, one from Sugar Hill Stake YSA, and one from Aunt Cheryl.  Every week I get emails from my parents and my friends, many of whom are in other parts of the world serving missions.  It is a love web that spreads around the entire world! (that sounds super cheesy but it's really how I feel!  I am so far away, but so close to everyone in my heart.)

The title this week is "una voz," because this week while we were in the house I listened to a lot of new songs that Hermana Montalván shared with me, and my favorite one is called "One Voice."  It talks about how even though we are each just one voice...we can make such a big difference.  "I am just one voice, but one voice can still be heard.  I have made the choice to seal my witness with my word."  " I am just one voice, but one voice will carry far!"  I still don't know all of the words because I just discovered it, but it has such a wonderful message!  It goes on to say, "He was just one voice, but one voice that changed the earth..." in reference to Jesus Christ.  So even if I am just one voice, my testimony is strong.  It is made of simple truth and valiant faith that the Savior lives, and that He loves every single person.  I KNOW this to be true.  So when I am out in the streets, and I am nervous or I can't think of what I want to say, I will listen to the Spirit and speak what I believe!  And my voice can carry far.  Because I can share my testimony from the very south of the world up to all of you in the United States!

I love you all so much!  I will keep the Mulcays, the Snyders, and Elder Washburn in my prayers.  This mission is hard.  But we have to do all that we can not to leave!  We must keep going!  The Lord will make us strong enough to do His work.  Thank you for the scripture, the picture, and the box.  You are the cutest mom ever.  I love you and I miss you!  

Abrazos, Hermana Latham

el sol chileno

                                                              January 18, 2014


Okay, first for the questions.  I forgot to answer the one about the elder on the phone last week.  He was my district leader in Pucón and just finished his mission, so now he's back home.  I didn't really know how to cut him out of the so he's just randomly in the doorway talking on the phone...
I would love if you could send me some Altoids and Cheez-Its.  And I would imagine that you aren't thinking of mailing me beef jerky, but just in case, they told us this week that Chilean customs absolutely DO NOT PASS beef jerky, so that should not go in the box.  lol.  I'm good on memory cards for now.  I can't think of other medicine that I might need...I really only use ibuprofen and decongestant. I would love a plastic waterbottle that I can wash and reuse.  Other than that I'm doing pretty good!  I can buy almost everything like normal here.
I am super super limited on space and weight, especially when there are transfers, so the less stuff that is not necessary the better.  Printing photos here is super expensive, so I don't generally print them.  I'm just going to wait to do a mission photo album until I get home with all of the photos throughout the mission.

This week absolutely flew by!  I honestly cannot believe that it is Saturday again. Craziness.
The activity went so well!  There were more people at the activity than in sacrament meeting!  A lot of people brought their friends, and some of them seemed genuinely interested in the Mormon church.  I'm sending a couple of pictures of it.

So we are dying of heat here!  I know you guys are freezing to death.  lol I have never been so tan in January!  El sol chileno is the Chilean sun.  It is so strong! Temperatures here are recorded in Celsius, so when people tell us how hot it is, half the time I don't really know how to react, like, "Oh, that's so hot!", or what. So we have done a couple seems that it's typically around the low 80s here.  So it's not really that hot.  But the fact that we are outside a whole lot and that air conditioning doesn't exist here makes it seem hotter.  Blech.  I am so sweaty and gross.  And covered in bug bites.  We keep our windows open in the house because wind comes in and makes our house less of an oven.  But then we find interesting bugs...

The other night we were getting ready for bed and there was this giant, flying, shiny, green bug in our house...I was trying to get it and it whacked me in the arm and I kind of freaked out because I didn't know if it could sting me...and this whole time Hermana Johnson was in the bathroom, so she was just laughing because she could only hear what was going  I sent a picture that we took of it.  It's basically a big shiny green beetle that flies.  It's called a San Juan, and people told us that they don't do anything so it's fine.  lol adventures with Chilean bugs...I told Hermana Johnson that this bug was like half an edamame...

This week we went to the Registro Civil ( I honestly have no idea how to say that in English) to get my carnet.  They told me that I couldn't smile, so I basically look like I hate life...I'll have to send you a picture when I get the actual card. We were dying laughing.  It looks like a mugshot.

I've had two different interpretations of my accent from people here this girl asked me if I was from Brazil.  An investigator told me that I sound like Google translator.  lol.  So it's funny to hear that my English is weird too!  haha I'm just a mess as far as talking goes, apparently....everything in English and Spanish is so mixed up.  Sometimes I ask myself how to pronounce things in English.

In our ward here we are serving with the zone leaders for Zona Osorno (I guess it would be Osorno Zone in English).  They are so fabulous.  I can tell that their ideas for what to do in our zone really come from God.  We have been working to apply the things they said in training this week, and we really have seen miracles!  We insisted that one of our investigators pray, and when she did, the Spirit really entered the room!  With our contacting this week, we have been focusing on setting a return appointment with every person we talk to...and yesterday we set 3 return appointments!  It is so exciting to see the work grow as we trust that our zone leaders are inspired by the Lord.  It's really cool to learn how to respect and trust peer leaders.  It makes me more ready for when I'm a real grown-up!

My companion and I have been talking about fear lately, and how fear really doesn't come from the Lord.  What comes from the Lord is courage and hope. Everyone has fear...but we just need to ignore it and trust in God!  I know that when we live righteously, He has us in His tender care.  We are stronger than we think we are with Him!  And our purpose is so big, we just can't let things that scare us stop us.  I love a scripture...I'm pretty sure it's 2 Timothy 3....I don't remember.  But it says something to the effect of how the Lord doesn't give us fear, but a strong mind.  (2 Timothy 1:7  For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.)

This week I also studied The Living Christ.  It brought back so many memories of when I memorized it for Young Women, and really reminded me how strong my testimony is.  I know He lives.  I know He loves me!  I know that He loves every single person, and He is always there.  I know that I will see Him again someday.  All that He asks of me is to follow Him.  I'm so glad that you can share my testimony from these letters!  As a missionary, I know that I am truly a witness that He lives, and that this is His gospel, the good news and the way to return home to Him one day.  Link to The Living Christ:

Thank you for the C.S. Lewis quote and the picture of us in the quilt!  I miss lots of people....but Mama, I miss you the most!  My companion is amazing, but she doesn't really like hugs.  And this week I was really missing your hugs!  But I hug you every night in my heart.  And I teach this gospel and do this work with all the strength I have, so that I can help other people to feel the joy I feel in Christ.
I hope you have a wonderful week!  I love you!  Thank you so much for your letters and your support!
Abrazos y amor para siempre, Hermana Latham
(hugs and love always)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

puertas abiertas

                                                                                                                       January 11, 2014


GRACIAS for sending me the picture of Sarah Beth's baby and the quote.  Do you know what it says?  I felt special that you sent me a quote in Spanish.  :)  The picture I sent her is above and loosely translated, it means "In difficult times, be grateful for wonderful people."
Before I forget, I got three letters this week!  One from Sister Benning, one from Nana and Buster, and one from Uncle Brackin and Aunt Patti.  :D  It is so nice to live close to the mission home!

My companion is FABULOUS!  She is just such a great listener and friend.  She also has a really strong testimony, she's really fun to be around, and she's so genuine.  She just really loves all of the people that we serve.  I am learning from her to be a better teacher and to have more charity.  She also helps me to learn to be more relaxed...she laughs about everything and is patient with me when I get anxious or stressed out.  She is an inch taller than me, which is definitely different!  My other two companions were very short (probably 5 feet or 5'1").

We have been hearing about the weather in the States.  When we tell people that we're from the United States, it's the first thing they talk about.  They say there's been a ton of snow and some deaths.  I hope conditions improve!  Sorry about the pipes!  How frustrating!  (¡Que fome!)  (haha so funny to translate things back into English...I almost write in Spanish and then remember that y'all probably won't know what I'm 
This week it has been so fun to get to know the sector here.  We are working with so many wonderful people!  One family we are teaching is just a treasure.  They are a young couple with two precious little girls.  The mom was baptized as a little girl, but the dad can't get baptized yet because they are still not married.  But he is progressing so well!  He really loves to read the scriptures and is working to change family habits.  They have the habit to pray every time before they eat!  :)  We are so excited for them.  We are also teaching another man progressing toward baptism.  It is so fun to see people who really want to grow and change, and who understand that Christ can help them to change for the better.  We have approximately a million less actives here, and we love visiting them and inviting them back.

Our ward is so enthusiastic.  We have members who are so excited to do missionary work!  Tonight we have an activity in the chapel called "puertas abiertas."  The idea behind it is the same as an open house in English, but puertas abiertas literally means "open doors."  We are having a representative from every organization in a room to explain their organization (one for Relief Society, one for Young Women's, etc), and we asked all the ward members to bring their favorite dessert and invite a friend.  We put up flyers for the activity in all of the little businesses around where we live, and we have been inviting everyone...members, less actives, non-members, everyone.  It will be such a great time for this town to share with each other and for non-members to get to know Mormons better.  I am so excited!  The members have been so willing to help with their booths to explain the organizations, bringing desserts, inviting people, everything.  AHHH!  We are hoping for the best.  Hermana Johnson and I will also have a room to explain missionary work!  WOOO!

As I have been thinking about puertas abiertas this week, I've been thinking about more than just the doors to the chapel.  There are so many ways we can open our doors, but I wanted to talk about two others.  One--we can share our religious beliefs with others.  It is a lot easier to keep the gospel to ourselves, with our doors shut.  But if we open the doors to our friends and share what we love about the gospel, we will start to see the blessings.  Two (the most important)--is opening the doors of our hearts to Christ.  I love the painting where Christ is standing outside of the door, knocking, but there is no knob.  The person inside has to open the door to let Him in.  I testify that Christ is always there, knocking at the door of our hearts.  To feel His love and to understand His will, all we have to do is open the door.  Sometimes it is hard.  Sometimes we don't feel worthy, or strong, or happy, or whatever else.  But His love knows no bounds.  When we have the strength to open the door, His love fills up all of our little holes.  I hope you all will make the effort this week to open up your personal door to our loving Savior!  (I attempted to add the picture and the link to the picture Melanie is referring to.  I can't make it work, but if you are interested, you can google LDS.images and search "Christ knocking")

This week has been crazy, like any other week of missionary life.  I finally got my visa!  YAY!  So we did the first step in the process to get my carnet (my legal ID card for Chile).  I am en route to be a legal chilena!  lol.  We had exchanges with the sister leaders this week, so I got to see another area and I learned more from the sister leader about how to serve with love and teach by the Spirit.  We also had rain!  Which was really nice.  The rain brings me so much peace and it reminds me of home.  Another thing that reminds me of home is that we have a mall here!  It's not quite the same as your typical mall because it is a Chilean mall.  But it is still a mall, and somehow, as crazy as malls are, going in there on P-day brings me a little bit of calm.  Maybe it's because it's so normal?  haha.

I am growing so much here.  The Lord really helps me every day to learn to be a better missionary and also to learn to love myself more.  I am so blessed with a loving, supportive companion who loves to work hard.  We are seeing people's lives change for the better, and that is the great prize of missionary work.
I love you all so much!  I miss you!  I hope you stay warm!

Love always, and abrazos, Hermana Latham  

el viento

                                                                                                                                   January 4, 2014 

                                                 ¡Hermana Latham en Osorno!

So I knew you would worry about me when I told you that I had talked to the mission psychologist.  :(  But I didn't want to keep it from you guys.  The problems that I have are mainly the same as the problems that I've struggled with for the past few years.  In the mission it has been tougher, because Satan really works to attack my testimony more than he ever has before, and here is when I need to rely on my testimony the most!  I felt really surprised when the sister leader wanted me to talk to the psychologist, because this is a problem that I've had for a long time and basically just struggled through it on my own, with a wonderful mom who listens.  :)  I felt like they thought I was really sick, or had a serious mental problem.  But when I talked to the psychologist, I expressed to her that I really don't think that I'm a dire case, or that I'm crazy...and she told me that I'm not crazy at all.  She told me that these kinds of problems are really normal.  All of the feelings that I've had over the years are basically summed up in anxiety, which isn't the same as depression, but still a mental issue that I face.  It was really good to talk to her and understand myself better.  I always just thought that I was really emotional.  But she explained to me how that is a part of anxiety.  People with anxiety tend to be really emotional because they bottle up their feelings, and then a little thing can become a volcano.  Also people with anxiety are generally really stressed out and/or worried, incredibly self-critical, and can suffer with occasional depression.  She doesn't think I need medical attention, or medicine or anything like that, but more that I need to learn how to combat my stress and my constant self-criticism.  She sent me a lot of things that can help me to stop criticizing myself, to lessen my stress, and to combat anxiety.  I feel really thankful to have people here who care about me and want to help me!  I told the sister leader that I really don't want to be a burden to anyone, and I don't want people to think that I'm feeling really bad, because I'm not.  But she told me that it's like someone with a hurt knee.  If someone has a hurt knee, people want to help this person to feel better...put ice on it and stuff like that.  So the people here want to help me with the places that I hurt.

My last few days in Pucón were really crazy, but I had some great experiences to leave with.  :)  One day we were in a lesson with two teenage girls, and at the end of the lesson, as we were wrapping up, I just felt that we needed to sing a hymn with them.  We sang "I Know That My Redeemer Lives," or "Yo sé que vive mi Señor."  As we started to sing, the Spirit entered the room.  All of the little kids in the house got really quiet and came into the room we were in to listen.  It was such a sweet experience to see how the Spirit and how the hymns can touch the hearts of little children!  They don't have any suspicions or judgments about us because we're Mormons.  They like to be with us because we talk about Jesus.  I love little kids!  We had one last family home evening with the SXXX family, the family that had us over for Christmas Eve.  It was really hard to say goodbye to them because they are so wonderful and so loving.  But I just pray that they will be able to get sealed in the temple soon!  JXXX and IXXX are very special to me.  JXXX is a less active member and IXXX, his wife, isn't a member.  They are very old and don't understand very much that we teach them...but they love to pray with us and always want to hear from "la santa palabra," or "the holy word."  We love to perform service for IXXX.  Sometimes we take her for walks in her wheelchair, and one time we cleaned her windows.  She and JXXX love us so much!  They always give us once.  :)  I will miss them!  Then on New Year's Eve, we had a nice dinner in the chapel with the elders and two families from our branch.  It was fun to celebrate with them!  New Year was crazy for us.  Hermana Montalván woke me up at 3 am again to give the hug.  I don't like that tradition.  lol if my companion for the next Christmas and New Year is a Latina, I hope that she doesn't like to wake me up in the middle of the night!  New Year's Day we had a district meeting, and we came home and I packed like a crazy person to move to Osorno on Thursday.
La casa capilla-our little house chapel

My new sector is so great!  I love it here!  Pucón is a little touristy mountain town, and Osorno is more like a city!  I didn't realize how much I had missed the city.  Our sector is called Los Laureles, and it is in a suburb right outside of Osorno called Francke (FRAHN-keh).  So we don't live in the city, but near it.  It's really windy here, and not nearly as hot as it is in Pucón.  I'm going to have to buy some new skirts!  When we were looking for skirts, we were so focused on the length, it didn't even cross my mind that some of the skirts wouldn't work in the wind.  The wind is "el viento" in Spanish.  I was thinking about "el viento" as the title because there is so much wind here, but also because we talk about wind a lot when we talk about faith.  I can't see the wind.  But I can feel it.  And it is the same with the principles of the gospel!  I can't see Christ.  But I can feel Him touching my life and the lives of others every day.  This sector is going to be an adventure.  There are a lot of less actives we can help, and we have 3 investigators with baptismal dates!  I've only been here for 2 days, so I still haven't met everyone, but I'm really excited to get to know the people here.  We actually have a ward here, which is exciting for me!  Daddy was thinking that this might be an easier sector since I have been serving in a really hard one.  I believe that no sector is easy because they all have their challenges, but this one definitely seems easier than my other one.  Our mamita is great.  So far the food that I've eaten at her house has been pretty good, and she washes our laundry every week!  My new companion is fantastic.  Her name is Hermana Johnson and she is from Alpine, Utah.  She also went to BYU!  It has been fun the past couple days to be with an American girl again!  She just understands me so much better culturally.  She is like me...she loves to work hard and all she wants to do is give her all to the Lord.  I really feel the Spirit with her, and she's super relaxed, which is nice after having a couple of super dramatic companions.  She is very friendly and loving, and we get along really well.  I'm so excited for this transfer here in Francke with her!  She actually reminds me a lot of one of my friends from BYU, Kylie Smith.  

I love the dream you had!  I really miss my best friend too.  Some people are good listeners, but no one is quite like my fabulous mom.  But even though I miss you...I am so happy to be here serving a mission.  I am pleased to sacrifice a year and a half of my life for the Lord.  And I truly find that as I give my all to Him, He blesses me more and more each day.  He heals me, and through that I can better testify of the Atonement and help others to begin their healing process.  

Yes, I do write a letter to my mission president every week.  So he knows what is going on with each of the missionaries, and I truly believe that transfers are inspired.  We all learn so much from every area, every companion, and especially from every person who we can share the gospel with!  

I love you all so much!  I am so excited for this new year, this new area, new companion, and new opportunity to serve the Lord and His children with my all!

Abrazos, Hermana Latham

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

nuevo año, nuevo sector

                                                                    Christmas Eve with the tree

                                                My companion with her message to you in English.  :)
December 30, 2013 

¡FELIZ AÑO NUEVO!  Can you believe that 2014 is already here?  I certainly can't.  This has been a crazy, tough, interesting, emotional, fabulous year.  :)  A freezing, sometimes frustrating, and yet wonderful semester at BYU.  Another summer working at Target and enjoying four months with my amazing family.  And four months as a missionary, 1 transfer in Mexico City and 2 transfers in Pucón, Chile.  I really can't believe how much the Lord has blessed me!  I was reflecting on that this Christmas.  Christmas here was rather uneventful (outside of talking to you guys).  Sadly, the majority of people here really miss the meaning of Christmas and just think of it as a time to give toys to little kids.  But I received 2 wonderful gifts this year--one was the ability to have free time (whoever tells you that P-day is free time doesn't remember the mission very  We didn't have to clean our house, or buy the things we need for the week, or whatever else.  So we listened to music and relaxed!  I stitched up a skirt, organized my stuff a little bit, and wrote in my journal.  We also watched Legacy (the church movie about pioneers).  The second was to be able to talk to you all.  What a BLESSING!  I can't explain how warm and happy I felt to be able to talk to you.  It felt so normal and welcome and happy!  And since it was Skype, it was almost like I was on the other side of the table talking to you guys, like any other Christmas.  Thankfully, it wasn't too hard afterward.  It was more like a recharge of my love batteries. :)  I felt renewed in my purpose as a missionary, and more enthusiastic to serve with my all so that I can return to you guys in honor.  It makes me so happy that you can see a light in me like in the other sister missionaries!  I do the best that I can every day, and all I want to do is to be able to reflect Him.  This mission is hard, and I can't say that I feel happy in every moment of the day.  But the moments when I am happy are so wonderful.  It is a happiness that tells me that I am doing the Lord's work!

I'm glad you heard from Sister Biggs!  She is so fabulous.  I have told her lots of times that she is my mission grandma.  I really will miss them a lot!  On the other hand, I can't BELIEVE what happened to the Mulcays' house!  OH. MY. GOSH!!!!!!!!!!!  How devastating!  Do they know how it happened?  (The family across the street from us lost their home to a fire on Christmas night) I will pray for them.  I just wish I could give them huge hugs and tell them that when things are tough, the only source we have to look to is Christ.  The scariest thing that I have ever seen was when my car was in pieces in the middle of the street, and I remember the sweet man and his mom who talked to me and asked me if I would like to say a prayer.  I hope that they will pray together.

So with this new year, I am being transferred to a new area!  ¡HOLA, OSORNO!  I have heard nothing but good about Osorno.  I will also be closer to the mission home, so mail will get to me faster (probably).  [Speaking of mail, I got the sweetest letter from the Hamilton Mill Ward Mia Maids.  :)  It was really nice!]  My companion tells me that now I will be like a little bird flying solo!  hahaha.  This is because I just graduated from the 12 week missionary in-field training!  I feel lucky to have had two different trainers and learned two different perspectives.  Although Hermana Montalván is great, I can't say that I will miss her too much.  I have learned a lot from her and we have shared some really sweet moments together, so I will always remember her and hope for the best for her life in Honduras!  But in Osorno....I will have the chance to have a companion from the United States!  That will be so nice for me.  After three months with companions who really don't understand my culture, I am excited to be companions with an American girl!  Part of me is sad to leave Pucó is so beautiful here, and yesterday I had to say goodbye to my beloved viejitos (little old people) Jxxx and Ixxx
.  But I feel a sweet peace knowing that while I served here, I gave it my all and prayed to be the servant the Lord needed.  Also, I am so excited because I will spend the entirety of 2014 here in Chile!  So all of my New Year's Resolutions will be as a missionary.  :D  In Osorno, my P-day will be on Saturday, so y'all will hear from me again on Saturday!  

Since the sister training leaders were worried about me, they had me talk with the mission psychologist.  It was really nice to talk to her and get some tools to help me conquer my problems with anxiety, stress, worry, self-criticism, etc.  She assured me that these kinds of problems are really normal, and she referred me to Moses 1, where God teaches Moses over and over that he is a son of God, and then Satan calls him son of man...and in turn, Moses has a battle with Satan, but finally chases him out...and God teaches Moses more.  She told me that Satan wants us to forget who we are--children of God.  She said that when we remember that, we have much more power over our circumstances, our feelings, and over Satan.  

I love you all so much!!  I want to wish you a HAPPY NEW YEAR!  I don't know exactly when I will be traveling to Osorno, but it will be soon!  GIANT HUGS!  2014!!!!!!! :D

Abrazos, Hermana Latham  

Here a traditional Christmas treat is pan de Pascua...we bought a pan de pascua, thinking it would be beautiful and delicious like the ones we had eaten in people's homes...and when we opened it it was this tiny, muffin sized pan de pascua

Missionary shoe tan plus a ton of black dust produced this on my feet...Hermana Montalván laughed so hard that we had to talk a picture!

el regalo mas grande

                                                                                        December 23, 2013

Hermanas y cascadas


¡FELIZ NAVIDAD!  Prospero año y felicidad.  lol.  Merry Christmas!!!!!!!  I can't believe that Christmas is here.  What a special time to be able to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  We have pass-along cards with a picture of the Nativity, and I give them to literally everyone I see.  They say, "Regocijaos, Jesús nació," or "All rejoice, Jesus was born!"  It's really interesting to talk to people about what they think about Christmas.  We always ask them if they have plans, or what they believe about Christmas.  Some of their answers are really sad.  The two responses that have made me think the most are "Well, Christmas is just for kids, anyway," and "Why do we give gifts at Christmas?  Do the Mormons have a belief about that?"

I want to be the first person to say that Christmas is not just for kids.  Christmas is for everyone.  It is the time when we can remember our dear Savior!  And why do we give gifts?  God gave the greatest gift--el regalo mas grande--that the world could ever receive when He sent His Son to the earth.  So, what better way can we commemorate this incredible gift than to give each other gifts, and remember the gift that Christ is to us every single day?  As I told you last year, I am amazed that every year at Christmas, Jesus Christ means more to me.  I can't think of a better reason to celebrate a holiday that the Savior. 

This is the Mormon message "The Spirit of Christmas" that Melanie and her companion have been sharing with the people they meet.

Sorry I shocked you so much when I called, and sorry that I cried the whole time!!  I really didn't expect to cry for the entire 10 minutes, but it was so, so wonderful to hear your voices for the first time in four months!  (Melanie called out of the blue one night to schedule our Christmas Day Skype call!) Something about missionary life makes me feel like I live in another world, or another life, and I feel really distant from everything that I once did.  But the things that are always constant are the scriptures and the love that the Lord offers to His children.  Thank you so much for your encouragement.  You are always telling me that you can see my growth, and I so appreciate that.  The 18 months of a mission are a dynamic process.  I try to be different for the better every single day!  I think about your favorite song on the Book of Mormon Video Soundtrack, "Firm in the Faith" where it says that "He can make more of a man than any man without Him ever can."  As missionaries, we really give our everything to Him, and in turn, He shapes us.  He shapes us for the better.  And He helps us overcome our trials.  Sometimes it feels like the trials we face here are insurmountable.  

Pucón actually has a reputation in our mission for being one of the hardest places to serve.  Yesterday night I was pretty stress-crushed.  Then this morning, we had no gas to heat our water.  We paid the bill last week--and it was abnormally high--and the company cut our gas.  AHHHH!  Something about the freezing shower this morning made the morning a little tougher than most mornings.  But I am going to do my best throughout my mission to change the reputation of Pucón to be "the faith-building sector."  :D  From 11 weeks in Pucón, I have learned greater faith, hope, patience, humility, and forgiveness.  I have been stretched in all the ways possible and worked harder than I ever thought I could.  And all the while, the Lord has been on my side.  It is a battle every day.  But we know who will win in the end!  So we just keep fighting on the Lord's side!  This week the hermanas líderes (sister training leaders) had exchanges with us, and one of them was asking me how I was doing. I started talking to her, suddenly I found myself revealing my most personal trials.  As you know, I am severely self-critical and I have a super hard time keeping out the evil thoughts that Satan puts in my mind.  I pretty much just assumed that this was a trial that I would have to face alone, and something I would struggle with for the rest of my life.  But she gave me a lot of hope that I can conquer this trial!  I've been thinking this week about Harry Potter and occlumency, when Harry has to do everything he can to keep Voldemort out of his mind.  So I am just mastering the art of occlumency, is all!  :)  It will be hard.  But I believe that I will be able to kick this trial in the butt once and for all!  So I am praying a lot, and working to replace the mean thoughts with happy and hopeful thoughts.  I am realizing that if Heavenly Father can teach me to be less stressed out and more happy in the toughest situation I have ever been in, then He is preparing me to be less stressed out and more happy for the rest of my life.  It's kind of crazy.  I signed up to come to Chile for a year and a half to help other people, but I find that the person who receives the most help from this mission is me.  I can't even fathom how much Heavenly Father loves us.

This week we had a lesson with a really great little old lady.  We taught her the plan of salvation, and afterward asked her what she thought about the lesson and how she felt.  She told us that she felt like a piece of heaven had entered her home!  We invited her to be baptized and she accepted!  She wanted to know when we met for church!  So we set up a time to pass by her house on Sunday and go with her to church.  We tried not to get our hopes up too much, because when you do that, if it falls through, you feel super sad.  But we went by her house on Sunday morning...and she was completely ready for church.  She was wearing a skirt, dress shoes, and a necklace, and she had fixed up her hair.  Tears came to my eyes.  This sweet little old lady recognized the truth and wanted to come with us to church.  She didn't forget.  She wasn't lying to us.  As we were walking with her, she told us that she loved the Spirit that we brought with us.  In moments like this, I know that I'm doing an okay job as a missionary.  What a sweet miracle!

A couple weeks ago you said something about my hair.  It really is so long...and I LOVE it!  It is not nearly as triangle-y as I expected it to be.  It's golden and curly and so much fun!  Last week I French-braided my own hair!  WOO!  You can't really tell in the pictures from the waterfall, but it is in a French braid.  I'm hoping that as it gets longer it'll be like Sleeping Beauty hair.  :)

I love you all so, so, so much!  I am so proud to be able to represent the Latham family and my Savior Jesus Christ as I serve as a missionary here in Chile this Christmas season.  I will talk to you in 2 DAYS!!  (It will be at a member of our branch's house.)

Love always, abrazos gigantes (giant hugs), Hermana Latham 

Ojos de carburgua..yes the water is really that color!

el espíritu santo, nuestro mejor amigo

 Hermana Latham and Hermana Montalvan

My district

Dec 16, 2013

Oh Mama, even from so far away, you know me so well.  I normally try not to tell you about the bad, lame, or frustrating things that happen because I don't want you to worry about me.  Also, I'm limited in the details I can give.  And I don't want to say mean things about other people either!  But yeah, missionary life is not all roses and butterflies.  hahaha...  I try to share the most important things, and the spiritual things.  It makes me so happy that so many people can read my blog!  Being a missionary just makes me want to tell everybody about the gospel and about how much Heavenly Father loves them, so it's really special to be able to do that a little bit with the blog.  I CAN'T WAIT TO TALK TO YOU GUYS!  I have been pretty good about not missing you all too much for the first 3 months...but with December, and Christmas and everything, it gets hard at points.  I am so happy that I will be able to see your face and hear your voice!  I just miss your voice so much.  It's funny, they always say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and it's true.  I always tried to value my family as much as I could when I was home, but the amount that I value you all today is so much more.  I can see how the Lord has had me in His tender care for all of my life, and truly, as Nephi of old, I have goodly parents!  It makes me so happy that you are trying to have Family Home Evening more.  Family Home Evening is so important!  It unifies the family in the gospel.  Yeah, I don't know why in other missions it is so different...I suppose it's all up to the mission president.  I still don't really know when I'll be able to call....we have clearance to call the 23rd, 24th, or 25th, and in Honduras the 24th is when they do all of the celebrating (they wait until midnight on the 24th...I can't imagine Christmas in the middle of the night!  lol), so Hermana Montalván wants to talk to her family on the 24th.  For me it doesn't matter so much what day as long as I get to see you guys!  

As far as the Women's Chorus stuff, I don't know if it's the same songs I already have.  If you look in iTunes under BYU Women's Chorus, you'll see all the songs I have.  If it's the same thing, then I don't need to download it again.  Oh, and I finally got the Thanksgiving cards from you and from Nana & Buster.  And thank you for all of the Christmas things you have been sending in the emails.  I LOVED the picture of the Salt Lake Temple with the lights.  We didn't get to watch the Christmas devotional this year, so I miss seeing the temple all lit up.  Also I am excited for the Christmas scripture calendar.

So it is super weird to have Christmas in the summer.  SUPER weird.  People have their Christmas trees in their windows, with green grass and gorgeous flowers in the front yard.  lol my brain just does not compute that.  Speaking of flowers, there are more hydrangeas here than I have ever seen, and they are huge and gorgeous right now!  The majority of them are blue, but there are also white ones.  Because we are so far south, our days are even longer in the summer.  It gets dark around 10:00.  And I have no idea when the sun comes up because when we get up at 7:00, it's already up and it looks like 9 or 10 AM in the States.  Also it's starting to get hot here, and the sun is super strong, so we are using sunscreen.  But today we get to take advantage of the beautiful weather...we are going with two senior couples of missionaries and another set of sisters to see some waterfalls in Caburgua (they are called ojos de Caburgua).  I will send pictures next week!

This week we had multi-zone conference with three zones, and we heard from both Hermana and President Rappleye.  They know so much about how we can grow to be better missionaries!  They talked about the importance of the Holy Ghost in every phase of missionary work.  The Holy Ghost, our best friend (el Espíritu Santo, nuestro mejor amigo).  Then when we got home, in companion study we were talking about the importance of the Holy Ghost AGAIN...and so I realized that what I really need to be focusing on is the companionship of the Holy Ghost.  So I have studied more about Him this week.  His companionship really is the greatest blessing we can ever have.  He blesses us with feelings of comfort and peace, and He testifies of the truth.  In this world where so many voices compete for our attention, it can get really complicated to find the voice of the Holy Ghost.  Even as missionaries, we struggle mightily with that!  But one thing I read this week was in Ephesians 6, about putting on the whole armor of God.  In order to withstand the evil voices that Satan puts in our minds, we need to use the shield of faith to fight of his fiery darts!  So I have been thinking about a missionary as a kind of warrior who stands for truth, and the importance of the full armor of God.  

In the zone conference, we all got a Santa hat and we sang Christmas English!  It was super fun.  But they had asked me to direct the songs, and so at the end my voice hurt so much and I just needed water!  When there isn't accompaniment I have to sing so loud!  After the zone conference, Elder and Hermana Biggs gave us a ride home ( no bus!  YES! ) and took us out for pizza.  It is so great to have their support.  They are helping us with our abundant problems in our branch, and it's great because the branch members really respect them.  They really are our mission grandparents.  Hermana Biggs always gives us big hugs.

 Elder and Hermana Biggs (our matrimonio missionaries or senior couple)

The biggest challenge this week has been with my companion.  Signing up to live with a person 24/7 is no joke.  I love the mission and I am learning so much, but I am so thankful that after these 18 months I don't have to be with one single person all the time!  Because when you are with a person for so much time, it is super easy to get frustrated with one another and then you can't escape.  lol.  So we have had our various frustrations, and I didn't think they were all that bad because in general we get along.  But when we have weekly planning, we also have companionship inventory.  And in companionship inventory, my companion told me that this is the hardest companionship she has ever had and that her problems with a companion have never been so extreme.  This hurt my feelings SO much.  The problems that we have are small in comparison to the problems I've had with other companions.  So you know me, I started thinking, "What the heck is wrong with me?  I just try so hard to love my companions, and I have had problems with every one!  Maybe if I was different things would be better...."  But I know that these thoughts come from Satan and I am NOT willing for him to drag me down!  It is so normal to have problems with a companion.  And Heavenly Father created me the way that I am, so I don't need to try to be different.  So I prayed a lot and studied what I could do to make our communication better.  I found two things that I really liked.  One is in Ephesians 4:29-32, and it talks about laying aside bitterness and anger in our communication in order to focus on kindness and love.  Also, I just love Mosiah 3:19, where it talks about overcoming the natural man.  Now, Hermana Montalván has said and done some things that hurt my feelings...but things will never get better if I don't let it go.  So I realized that what I need to do is focus on forgiveness and understanding, and strive to be humble in my communication with her.  I know I have hurt her feelings too...but that doesn't make me a failure as a companion.  I can be a better companion each day as I learn more forgiveness, humility, and understanding.  Also I've been trying to remember that she is just a really dramatic person who tends to blow things out of proportion, and I don't need to keep blowing it out of proportion, but rather to try and understand how I can be better.  I have been thinking about it, and honestly, after the time that we have as companions, we will probably never see each other again.  But the things that I learn from being her companion...the ways that I learn to be a better person...are the marks she will leave on my life, and I will be a better friend, a better daughter, a better wife, and better mother from the things I learn.  I figure no companion will be easy.  And that doesn't make me a bad person or a bad missionary!  I just need to find out how I can love better each time.

I love the sweet rewards that Heavenly Father gives me for the efforts I strive to give to Him.  This week we were searching for a less active to visit, and it was a street name we didn't recognize, but we knew in general where it should be.  So we asked a bunch of people where the street was.  For a while it seemed like the street might not even exist.  But we kept going and we finally found a man who knew where the street was.  We went to the house, and the less active wasn't there, but his grandma was.  She listened to us and shared with us her faith in Jesus Christ and how much she loves the power of prayer.  She even accepted a baptismal date in the first contact!  The other super cool day I was reading A Brief Introduction to the Book of Mormon in Spanish, and at the same time listening to an orchestral version of Joseph Smith's First Prayer.  I just felt this sweet, clear feeling that all of this really is true.  I just knew, in that moment, that Joseph Smith really saw God and Jesus Christ, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  I can't hold back the tears with I think of that sweet manifestation.  I know that this mission shapes me in so many ways.  At times it is unbelievably hard.  But it is so worth it.  

I love you so much and I miss you!  I am so thankful every day for your support and love for me.  Families truly are one of the greatest blessings that we enjoy.  
I hope you are having a wonderful week getting ready for Christmas!  I have run myself out of time to email other people (again), so if you would tell Abby not to stress about finals, Nana and Buster that I love them SO MUCH, Aunt Janet that I am so thankful for her email and I miss her...I would so appreciate that.  The next time I email you we will be only hours away from when we get to SKYPE!!!

Ginormous abrazos, and all the love I have to give, Hermana Latham  

(Mama asked Melanie to send pictures of where she lives, so she attached these!)

 Our tiny estufa where we make fire when it's cold

My study area