Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dios es nuestro amoroso Padre Celestial


Mama, thank you so much for your letter.  You always find a way to share so much love for me...and it's like a hug on a piece of paper!  I love your sweet Primary class!  They are so lucky to have you for their teacher, just like I am so lucky to have you for my mom.  And my visiting teacher.  lol.  If you would like to send me something else, that's cool.  If not, that's cool too.  You always share with me your insights from the scriptures and quotes and things (which I really honestly love!), so to me that seems like a pretty great visiting teacher.  I love the quote from Pooh and Piglet.  Winnie the Pooh is so great! 
Thank you also for helping me feel more normal about my weird stomach pains.  I called the mission nurse and she told me that I might be lactose intolerant.  So I tried going without cheese and I even bought lactose free milk (which is actually not that bad), but it didn't really make a difference.  So it is still a mystery if I am lactose intolerant.  lol.  It would make sense!  There are a lot of lactose foods that make me feel kind of icky.  But at the same time I really hope that I'm not because I love cheese SO much.  lol.
I'm glad that you could see Rio Bueno on the Internet!  Isn't it cute?  Little by little I love it more.  We are starting to have fall here, with cool mornings, hot afternoons, and cool evenings.  The trees are starting to turn colors (YAY!  I haven't had fall in a year and a half!) as well.  My favorite thing here is that the skies are so clear.  We can see so many stars at night!  My camera isn't connecting to the computer today either, but hopefully next week I will be able to send pictures.
I think our fall will be chilly because the summer here really wasn't hot.  It got into the low 80s on occasion, but never got super hot.  I have heard that it starts to be pretty cold in May and then June, July, and August are "pleno invierno" or basically just plain winter.  So I'm expecting a super cold birthday.  haha.  Today we got permission to come to Osorno because I want to buy new shoes and some boots for the winter.  Soon I'll also be looking for leggings and more pantyhose to keep my legs warm in the winter, and one thing that I would love for when winter comes is slippers of some kind.  Warm socks are great, but the problem is that because the bottom isn't plastic, the cold seeps in when your feet are on the floor.  
This week Hermana Núñez and I have been working really hard to apply the things that we learned from Elder Ballard.  I don't remember if I told you last week, but one of the things that he told us is that there are a lot of people in this world who really don't know who God is.  He told us that God is our Heavenly Father, and we are His children, and it's that simple!  So we have been trying to teach more in contacts, lessons, and at any appropriate time, that God is our loving Heavenly Father, or "Dios es nuestro amoroso Padre Celestial."  This simple truth resonates with people.  We can see in their eyes that they recognize it and they really want to know how they can become closer to their Heavenly Father.  We have had some cool moments this week with contacts and investigators simply by focusing on this truth.  Elder Ballard challenged us to really internalize the doctrines that we teach from Preach My Gospel.  I have read the first lesson about a million times, but I don't think that I have ever really studied it the way that I have this week.  If y'all have a copy of Preach My Gospel, I would invite you to read the lessons in Chapter 3...but not just read them.  Really ponder about what they mean.  My deep study of the first lesson this week has strengthened my testimony so very much, and I have been more able to offer the beautiful truths of the gospel to people who need it.  God truly is our loving Heavenly Father.  He has a body of flesh and bones.  And He misses us!  He loves to talk to us in prayer, just like I love to talk to y'all in email! He watches over and blesses us and has a perfect plan for each of us, because He wants to live with us again someday.  
As Hermana Núñez and I have been studying, working, and praying so hard, the Lord truly guides us to the people who are ready for the gospel.  We have taught a lot of great first lessons.  One of my favorites this week was to a little boy whose mom is a less active member.  He is eight years old, so he could get baptized if he decides to.  We went by to visit his mom, but Hermana Núñez asked him if he would like to be in the lesson.  We taught him about God as our Heavenly Father and he understood so well!  I love to see how little kids really grasp onto gospel truths and believe them easily.  We taught him how to pray and he offered the prayer at the end.  It was such a wonderful experience.  I hope and pray that he keeps listening!
We have also had a lot of fun moments this week.  Outside of Rio Bueno a part of our area is campo.  The direct translation of campo is field, but it basically means "the middle of nowhere."  It's really pretty out there, but one place we went this week....there were literally more cows that people.  And we decided that it is better to teach the gospel to people than to cows after we had to wait for the bus for over an hour.  haha it was frustrating but at the same time funny, because the people who live en el campo (in the middle of nowhere) really aren't worried about anything, so a bus schedule would be at the bottom of their list. The buses are more regular on Saturdays, so we think we are going to go to el campo only on Saturdays (we have some great contacts there).  One elder in our branch celebrated his birthday this week, so we had a little activity in the chapel. There is this dog here who is probably my favorite dog from my three areas.  Her name I think is probably spelled Puppy, but in Spanish the letter "u" says "oo." So, it sounds like Poopie when people say her name.  She is this really small, really fat dog with tiny feet who runs all the time and is SO happy. Sometimes she starts following us and then we get happy too.  What a crazy, little fat and happy dog.  lol.
I hope that you all have a wonderful week!  I love you and miss you so much!

Love always, Hermana Latham

Friday, February 21, 2014

experiencias celestiales

                                                                                                                 February 18, 2014

HOLA from Rio Bueno!

After 6 short weeks in Los Laureles I got transferred!  I was pretty shocked that I was leaving so quickly.  Hermana Johnson is staying in Los Laureles and training a newbie.  I hope that she can see how lucky she is to serve in such a fantastic area!  That young couple we found did go to church, and I got to teach them one lesson before I left.  They are incredible and I just know that they will be wonderful members!  Leaving Los Laureles was really hard for me.  I work so hard each day to be a better missionary, and I had prayed so hard to have charity for the members, the investigators, and everyone naturally I CRIED so much to leave!  I don't think I've ever loved people so much in such a short period of time.  I took so many pictures (my camera won't connect to the computer today, though) and said so many goodbyes.  The sweet young women we worked with made me a memory box, the Relief Society president gave me some souvenirs from Osorno, my favorite less active wrote me a letter, and JXXX and GXXX (our golden family) gave me a beautiful necklace.  I really could not believe the bonds that I much I loved them and how much they loved me.  But I really trust in the hand of the Lord and in His plan...and here I am in Rio Bueno!

Rio Bueno is a little town about 40 minutes outside of Osorno.  It has a sweet little town vibe and kind of reminds me of Because of Winn-Dixie.  Our sector is really bursting with potential!  We are working with a lot of part-member families and young investigators...a lot of people who can really be blessed by the gospel in their lives.  It's a branch here, but we have a chapel.  There are 6 missionaries serving here, 4 sisters and 2 elders.  So I say that Rio Bueno is a little town because there is not much here...but there are a ton of people who live here!  It's kind of like a suburb.  A lot of people work in nearby Osorno or La Unión.  

My new companion is so wonderful.  I love her SO much!  Her name is Hermana Núñez.  She was born in Ecuador, but has lived in Spain for the past 13 years.  She's a year older than me and she is a science girl too, studying environmental science.  I learn so much from her every day about how to invite the Spirit into our lives more.  She really carries it with her, and she is so peaceful, happy, and loving.  I am so excited to serve with her!

I don't have quite the right words to describe the conference with Elder Ballard.  The best way that I could think of to sum it up was "experiencias celestiales," because it was really a heavenly, celestial experience.  The conference was about three hours south of here in bus but we had to be there very early in the morning, so we stayed the night with some sisters in another city.  There were six of us in the house and we had a devotional before bed where we all shared our testimonies and sang our mission song, "Fe en cada paso," or "Faith in Every Footstep."  Here is a link to the mission song Melanie is referring to:
Our bus to the conference was filled with sister missionaries.  It was so amazing to be on that bus!  We sang a bunch of hymns on the way to the conference, and I could hardly hold back the tears when we sang "Yo sé que vive mi Señor," "I Know That My Redeemer Lives."  It was just so incredible.  And here is a link to the hymn, "I Know That My Redeemer Lives":

When we got to the chapel, it was so cool to be there with almost all the missionaries in the mission!  Out of 12 zones, 10 were there and the other two were there through videoconference (those are the zones where the transfers are by airplane).  When Elder Ballard came in, he shook every single one of our hands.  Every single one.  He told me good morning.  It was so unbelievable to actually see him in person.  The conference was wonderful.  Elder Gonzalez, our area seventy, and his wife both spoke.  Then Elder Rasband from the presidency of the seventy and his wife.  Then Elder Ballard's daughter, and then Elder Ballard.  It was truly a celestial experience.  When I think about it now, I feel like that whole room was taken and put inside of heaven for a couple of hours.  It was like being in the temple.  Warm, spiritual, deeply happy.  When Elder Ballard spoke, it was so powerful.  He is quite the presence.  He really explained the importance of missionary work, and faith, and of fighting to win this war against the adversary.  The center of his message was that there are so many people here in Chile who don't really know who God is.  They might think that they know...but they don't really know.  He is our Heavenly Father, and we are His children.  "It's that simple," he said.  He is our Heavenly Father, and we are His children.  When I think about how this world could change if every single person really knew this, it draws me to tears.  How blessed we are to know that...and how important it is to share it with others!  

Elder Ballard bore a powerful, powerful witness that Jesus is the Christ.  I have heard apostles testify in General Conference so many times throughout my life.  But yesterday, seeing Elder Ballard in the same room as me and hearing him bear testimony of Christ, was unbelievable.  There is no doubt in my mind that Christ lives.  He loves us and He will lead us to eternal life.  He invites us every day, and all we need to do is choose to come unto Him.  In a world like this, it is so important that we defend the kingdom of God and stand up boldly for what we believe in.  It really will bless the lives of the people who surround us.  It blesses my life every day.  Yesterday was such a heavenly experience.  I got to see all of my old companions (except for Hermana Nappa) and give them all giant hugs.  We were so happy to see each other and hear about the progress that we had made since the last time we saw each other.  I really think that that is what heaven will be like.  We will be able to see everyone that we loved here on earth and give them great big hugs and hear about all of the things that they did here on earth.  I look forward to that day!

Every day I strengthen my resolve to give all that I have to the Lord.  Every day I strive to be a better missionary.  Yesterday on the bus I was reflecting...I am practically a third of the way through the mission.  And today I am not the same person that I was when I boarded the plane to Mexico City.  I have learned and grown so much.  I have loved and been loved so much.  I have strengthened my testimony of the Savior.  It seems that as time goes by I become increasingly aware of all the things that I don't know and all of the things that I don't understand.  There are a whole whole lot of them!  But what I do know is that there is a God in heaven who looks down on all of us with very loving eyes, and He is willing to help us if we let Him in.  I hope that in the year I have left as a full-time missionary, I can open my heart more and more to Him and serve Him with all that I have.

I love you all so very much!  You are in my thoughts and my prayers.

Abrazos GIGANTES de Rio Bueno, Hermana Latham 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

el plan perfecto

                                                                                                                                                            Feb 8, 2014


HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!  Hermana Johnson and I got the box this week!  THANK YOU SO SO SO MUCH!  That box was filled with so much love.  It almost smelled like hugs!  We loved the little valentines from your Primary class, and I have been enjoying the Reese's pieces and Cheez-Its so much.  It's fun to eat American things!  Snoopy is my new best friend.  I CRIED when I found Esto Les Digo (thank you so much for finding that and sending it to me!) and cried even more when I read everything on the pillowcase.  Wow.  I have the best family in the WORLD.  Thank you so much for doing all of that for me.  It was my princess box.  I just felt so special to get it!  I didn't get something in the mail for you all for Valentine's Day this year.  :(  But I hope that all the same you can feel just how much I love you!  Today I have felt just so loved.  I got emails from Tessa, Ashton, Aunt Cheryl, Michael Burlingame, and Sister Stevens from the Geneva Ward.  It feels so nice to be remembered by so many people!  Like you were saying with the birthdays, it's kind of my thing to remember people.  I just love to make other people feel special.  So this year for Valentine's Day, I hope that you all can spread the love that you have.  It feels so good to love!  And then the miracle is that when you love with all you've got, the love comes back to you multiplied by a million.  One of my favorite Mormon messages is called "Lo que es mas importante" in español.  I guess it would be called What's Most Important.  It is President Monson, and he shares some really great quotes on what it means to love.  My favorite is that he says "Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved."  
Link to the message by President Monson "What Matters Most" below:

I have a strong testimony that every single person in this world is a child of God.  And as such, every one has a beautiful and special personality that was created by God!  It is so important that we love.  As a missionary, our love is very concentrated in service.  Today I read a quote from President Eyring that talked about how when we serve in the Lord's name, we will feel His love...and then eventually this love, this charity, will become a part of who we are.  I love Valentine's Day because it is such a perfect way to let other people know just how much you love them.

I love the news about Sister Opp and Josh & Clarissa!  AHHHHH!  I also love both of the quotes. (One of the quotes Mom sent this week is the one above about missionaries.)  That quote about obedience is one of my favorite quotes ever.  Thank you for sending it to me.  It is such a great reminder, especially as a missionary when at times the sheer quantity of rules can get frustrating.   The quote Melanie is referring to:  "When obedience ceases to be an irritant, and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power."  ~Ezra Taft Benson

Logistics stuff....we have transfers on Wednesday and we still don't know who is getting transferred.  I don't think that I will get transferred because I've only been here for one transfer, but if I do, you won't hear from me on Saturday.  If I get transferred, my P-day will be on Monday again, but because of the special conference with Elder Ballard, P-day is Tuesday.  So long story short if I get transferred, I will write again next Tuesday.  lol.  Also, it was only hot here the one week that I wrote.  After that it has been really bipolar.  It's turning into fall really fast!

So the title this week is "el plan perfecto," or "the perfect plan."  As a missionary, my testimony has really grown that the Lord has the perfect plan.  Not just a logical plan.  Not just a merciful plan.  The.  Perfect.  Plan.  This week Hermana Johnson and I saw a sweet miracle.  This week has been tougher.  We haven't had a lot of appointments, and it's been gray and drizzly.  But yesterday we went past a contact who wasn't home, and were leaving to visit someone else.  We walked past a young couple and waved at them, like normal.  Then out of the blue, the couple turned around and flagged us down.  They asked us, "Why don't you pass by our house?"  Then we were just kind of stunned and asked them where they lived.  They told us that they aren't married yet, but are living together and expecting a baby.  The man grew up in the Church, but became inactive as he got older.  He has the priesthood.  The woman is not a member.  But they want to get involved in the Church!  The man told us that they had searched on Google to try to find the missionaries, but didn't know exactly how.  They want to get married.  The wife wants to learn about the gospel.  And they are hoping that one day they will be able to get sealed in the temple.  The man told us that if he was going to change his life, he didn't want to just change a little bit.  He wanted to change entirely to be the man who he knew he should be.  Wow.  So we gave them the address to the chapel, and they said they will come tomorrow!  We are going to start visiting them!  If we had not been on that street at that particular time of the day, we would not have passed this couple.

The Lord has the perfect plan.  He has every single one of us in His tender, loving care.  I am constantly in awe of just how much He really loves His children.  He loves us, and so we can trust in Him.  He will never lie to us, and will always lead us in a direction to make us happier.  We just need to be humble enough to hear the voice of the Spirit and follow it.  

I hope that this Valentine's Day you all can feel the immense love of our Savior and our Heavenly Father!  I want to testify to you all that it is an actual power.  You can feel it fill your heart with warmth, and envelop you in hope and peace.  I love the Lord.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve Him and to serve His blessed children here in Chile.

I love you all so very very very much!  I carry your hearts with me every day!  May you enjoy a happy Valentine's Day and much chocolate.  :)

Amor para siempre, y abrazos gigantes de Francke, Chile, Hermana Latham

(Love always and gigantic hugs from Francke, Chile)

dulce tu obra es, Señor

                                                                                                                                             Feb 1, 2014

                                                              Hermana Latham and Hermana Johnson
¡Hola hola!

Thank you so much for all of the prayers you are sending my way!  Prayer is my source of strength through everything, including being sick.  There is a mission nurse, but she is another missionary and most of the time she doesn't answer her phone.  So it's pretty much your own judgment on health stuff.  I just rested a lot, drank a lot of liquids, and took some different pain medicines.  I did get in touch with the nurse, and she helped me a bit as well.  I would love to be friends with DXXX and with MXXX.  haha it's weird to think of MXXX RXXX because he was Elder RXXX here before he went home...that will be one of the strangest things, I think, all of the people I met here having real names after the mission!  ;)  

This week has been so, so great!  Every once in a while you tell me in your letters that it's okay if I share the bad/frustrating things that happen...and those happen every week, it's just that the good things so outweigh the bad things!  I have honestly never felt so genuinely happy in my life!  At the same time, the sad and the frustrated feelings on the mission are bigger, but the happy just eats it all up and Christ helps me to take care of the tough stuff.  I think that it is really inspired that we can't be calling home all the time, because we really learn to rely on the Lord!  This week my companion and I had a few bumpy patches, and all that I wanted to do was call you and ask what you would do.  But I couldn't do that, and so I prayed and we talked together and worked everything out...and now we have a friendship that is more valuable and we really appreciate each other.  I have been studying this week about the importance of opposition.  I really love 2 Nephi 2!  (Yes, I finally finished 1 Nephi in Spanish and now I'm in 2 Nephi.  Seeing progress, little by little. lol)  If I never had problems with a companion, I would never fully appreciate the great times we have together.  Also, if I never had someone slam the door in my face, I wouldn't fully appreciate the miracle of a humble person who makes room for Christ in his or her life.  It's a principle that can really apply to anything.  I think as normal human people we just want to see the pretty happy things....but I testify that God puts tough stuff in our path so that we can be able to recognize the good.  This week our zone leaders talked about the importance of faith and energy in this work.  We really have to put all of our hope in the fact that we can see changes daily through the Atonement...even if they are little changes.  They challenged us to look for miracles every day.  So I have been looking for the miracles....and I see them.  Every.  Single.  Day.  This week we have faced more rejection and had more problems than in other weeks...but at the same time we have seen more beautiful miracles.  

                                            "las gringas locas"--me and my crazy companion :)

I LOVE our investigators.  I LOVE this ward.  I LOVE this work!!!!  "Dulce tu obra es, Señor"  is the Spanish version of "sweet is the work, my God, my King!"  This work is so so sweet.  Our golden family is progressing unbelievably.  They discovered the Mormon channel on the Internet, and now they are obsessed with watching talks from General Authorities.  This week....they set a date to get married!!!  AHHHHHHH!  In Chile there are lots of people who live together without getting married...but they have to get married before they can get baptized.  We have been praying and teaching them and hoping, and they set the date!  We are SO excited!  They told us that they are doing this because they really believe that their family can be eternal.  What a sweet joy.  Our other progressing investigator is a man who has a hard time with the Word of Wisdom, and he is working to give up smoking.  He wants to get baptized to be born again and have a new opportunity.  We have been working so hard this week with the members of the ward.  We had a fabulous family home evening with the bishop and our golden family, and we have been working a lot with two sweet Young Women.  They are in summer break right now and they both want to be missionaries.  They are on fire with missionary work!  One day we went to visit a bunch of less active young women in the ward, and they made scripture bookmarks for every single one.  

This week Hermana Johnson and I both got packages from the United States.  Nana sent me a Valentine's day box and I got another Christmas card, this one from Sister Shultz.  Both of us got American chocolate!!  WOOO!  So we have been enjoying Ghirardelli, Hershey's and Kit Kat that all, amazingly, didn't melt in their journey to Chile.  Nana sent me a box very similar to those that she sent me at BYU, including a jar of peanut butter and a can of tuna.  lol.  

This transfer is almost over and we are getting so excited!  At the beginning of the next transfer, Elder M. Russell Ballard is coming here!  He is coming to speak at a multi-stake conference, and the next day he will speak to our mission!!  AHHHHHHHHH! There are 405 missions in the world, and this time he is coming to the Chile Osorno Mission!  WOO!  I can't believe that this transfer is almost over.  It has gone by so fast and I have learned so much.  I think that one of the best things that I have learned this transfer is the grand difference between being a self-centered person and a Christ-centered person.  There are so many things in this world competing for our attention, and they all just want us to be self-focused, self-interested, and careless.  But the Spirit whispers to us and reminds us of our Savior, who loves us so much and brings us everlasting peace.  And in the end, when we strive to be Christ-centered, magically all of the problems that we had within ourselves seem to lessen and we are filled with happiness.  Today is the beginning of a new month!  I hope that we can all work on centering ourselves more around our Savior, so that we can find real happiness with Him.

I love you all so so much!  I miss you!  I hope you are staying warm in the snow!  

Love you always, gigantes abrazos de Chile, Hermana Latham