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. http://www.mormonchannel.org/video/mormon-messages?v=911161
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. So...as 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