Sunday, March 30, 2014

mentes firmes

                                                                                                                                          March 24, 2014

                                     We went to the lookout last week and took pictures of the river.  :)


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MAMA!!  This year I'm not gonna be able to whisper-sing happy birthday into your voicemail, so I hope this email will suffice.  :)  I love you so so very much and I hope that you can feel that even though I'm far away!  You closed your last email with "I love you THIIIIIIIISSSSS much!"  I remember that in the moments when I feel overwhelmed...when I was really little and I sat in your lap and you told me that.  And I know that as I got bigger, more emotional, or whatever else, you still loved me that much and the love you share with me through these emails gives me a lot of strength.  I hope that one day when I am a mom I can love my daughter or son as much as you love me....because the love I have from you and Daddy is one of the biggest blessings in my life.  

I'm sorry about the whole situation with the wood stove.  I talked to my zone leader to see if someone could come look at it, but it really seems that no one is concerned.  Everyone here heats their homes with wood stoves, so it must not be that big of a safety risk.  One of the mission rules is that we can't use it until May to conserve wood for the really cold months (June, July, and August), and then when May comes we really will only use it for a couple of hours in the morning so we are not ice cubes while we study.  We have to put out the fire when we leave in the morning, and there's really no point in starting one at night because we can't sleep with a fire going.  It's not too cold yet.  We've had a couple of really cold mornings and nights, but for the most part we have been enjoying a really gorgeous fall.  I LOVE fall!  I had almost forgotten how much since I really haven't had fall since October 2012.  lol.  My favorite, favorite thing in Río Bueno is the stars at night.  It is a tiny little town almost in the country, and we can really see a million stars.  I love to look at the stars...always have, ever since I was little and we would come home from family walks and lay in the grass to look at them.  The stars here are stunning.  I wish you could see it!  My camera can't capture just how gorgeous it is.

So, we have transfers this Wednesday....and I'm not leaving!  Yay!  And what's better?  Hermana Núñez isn't leaving either!  This will be my sixth transfer, and in my first five transfers I had 5 companions.  One for every transfer.  So I am really excited to stay with the same companion a while longer!  We have really learned so much together this transfer.  We are becoming masters at contacting, we work really hard to teach through the Spirit, and we are learning to be really brave in committing people to do things--pray, read the scriptures, come to church, etc.  With all the work that we have done together this transfer, we just know that there are special things to come in the next one.  We are learning to have more faith that we really can see progressing investigators.  We get along so well.  I love Hermana Núñez!  The other two sisters are staying another transfer, and the four of us are so excited.  We have become really good friends.  There are moments of missionary work that are truly so joyful.  I love teaching the gospel.  I love speaking Spanish.  And I am so excited to have another transfer in Río Bueno!  

                                             Hermana Latham & Hermana Nuñez at the river
This week I read a scripture that was really fabulous in Jacob 3.  I am continually amazed that even if I am just reading the Book of Mormon chronologically, every day there is something that I read that I really needed to read that day.  This particular day I read Jacob 3 and the first two verses really stuck out to me.  In these verses Jacob explains that we should have faith with "mentes firmes," or firm minds.  In this life, everything changes.  Every day can feel like an emotional roller coaster (especially as a missionary).  There are moments when I have a lot of faith, when I feel really hopeful, and happy.  But there are moments also when doubt creeps in, when I feel sad or frustrated or stressed out, and those are the really hard moments.  I think the key is in having a firm mind.  You sent me a quote the other day about how one thought can change your whole day, and it is really true.  But I don't want that one thought to be a mean one or a hurtful one.  If we can learn to become the masters of our thoughts, with firm minds, then Jacob says that we can forever enjoy the love of God.  Wow!  What a promise!  If we have faith to kick out the mean thoughts or the doubts, then we will forever enjoy the love of God.  

I am so happy that everything went so well for Nana & Buster's anniversary!  What a fabulous way to celebrate.  They are honestly such examples to me and to so many others.  50 years of trials and joys that they have gone through together!  Did you give them the card I bought this summer?  

I hope that you all have a wonderful, wonderful week!  I hope that you always search for and feel the love of God in your lives.  I imagine Him looking at us from heaven and watching how everything is going.  We are so blessed to have prayer so that we can talk to Him!  I love you all so much.  I miss you a lot!  I am sending you big, big hugs from Río Bueno.

Love always, Hermana Latham   

 Hermana Latham with an Easter decoration in Espanol. 

All of the hermanas in our zone went to the lake nearby (an hour in bus).  Yesterday one of them straightened my hair, so that is why my hair looks different the picture :)

cosas pequeñas y sencillas

                                                                                                                       March 17, 2014


HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY!  This is a holiday that does not exist in Chile.  But I am still wearing my green shirt in remembrance.  :)  And wishing that I wasn't lactose intolerant so that I could drink green milk.  lol.  

We have a detector in our house for smoke of different types.  I'm pretty sure that it detects for carbon monoxide.  But yesterday when they finished installing the fire stove we called the secretary of the mission, and he told us that we should check out the pipes and everything to make sure it looks good...I don't have any idea what looks good and what doesn't, so I think we will ask one of the senior couples of missionaries to come by and look at it to make sure that everything is safe.  oh, the things that we worry about as missionaries in southern Chile...these past weeks Hermana Núñez and I have become meat for fleas.  So every few days I change my sheets, spray down my mattress with bug spray, and shake out my blankets, and the other day I put the flea collar at the foot of the bed.  Today I'm going to buy a good flea killing spray.  Since I started really treating my bed things have been better, so that's good.  Flea bites are really no fun.  The cold and rain are starting, and people have been telling me that it's somewhat like winter.  We still have some good days (today it's really nice out), but I think pretty soon we'll be in winter.  I pulled out all of the winter stuff from my suitcase, and now it's cool enough that I can wear my scarves!  :)

So the theme this week is "cosas pequeñas y sencillas."  It comes from one of my favorite scriptures, in Alma 37:6 & 7, where Alma teaches us that by small and simple things (cosas pequeñas y sencillas) are great things brought to pass.  Yesterday in sacrament meeting, one of the talks was based on this scripture.  It hit me in a different way than it has in other moments when I have studied it, because I applied it to missionary work and to the Atonement.  At the end of the verse, it talks about how by these small and simple means, the Lord brings to pass salvation of souls.  The missionary stories that we always hear are the kind that you read in Church magazines, or the kind that people tell in General Conference talks, and I think that subconsciously we start to think that missionary work should bring about results like those, or that the Lord always works in incredible, powerful ways.  But I believe that sometimes the ways that we see the incredible power of the Lord are in the simple, sweet moments.  The salvation of souls is achieved by a long journey of small and simple things.  Now to compare it with the Atonement...the Lord gives us a new day every single day.  And with each new day, we have a new chance to be a better person, a better friend, or in my case, a better missionary.  It is by these small and simple things that we can bless the lives of others!

This week the small and simple thing that Hermana Núñez and I have been doing is contacts.  We have really been making an effort to talk with every single person that we can, to share our voices with the people here.  And we have discovered that we LOVE contacting!  As we talk to people in the street, we really get to know and love the people of Rio Bueno.  We have talked to so many fabulous people, and some are really, honestly interested in learning more.  I believe that one simple contact can be the start of their process to salvation.

I find myself loving the people of southern Chile more and more as I am here for more time.  I find myself thinking, "I love little old people (Amo a viejitos)."  "I love little kids."  "I love talking to people my age."  "I love young families."  And I realize that the Lord is teaching me charity.  He is teaching me to love all people, and to really care about how I can help them.  Here in Chile there are a huge number of less actives.  In every sector, we have a list of all of the less actives that need visits.  At the beginning of the mission, I wasn't excited to visit less actives.  I just felt like if they had the gospel and let it go, that was their agency.  But I have learned that it is so important to serve all people.  I was called here to invite others to come unto Christ, and that includes the less actives!  Christ is a good shepherd, and He goes searching for His lost ones.  And as a representative of Him, I must search for His lost ones and strive to bring them back to the fold.  Now I love visiting less actives.

I love you all so much!  Mama, I wish there was a way that I could hug you for real!  I miss you so much too!  Being a missionary is a really interesting phenomenon.  At the same time as you love the work, you also miss things about your old life.  I really feel like I live in a different world.  My brain is so confused.  I have dreams about people from all different phases of my life....I think my brain is trying to make a connection with this life and everything else that I have lived when there really isn't one.  Haha the other day I had a dream that Tyler from elementary school was serving as a missionary in Chile.  I really appreciate the love that you share with me.  It helps me to remember where I come from and that I really am a normal person, and there is a land far away that I call home!  I hope that everything goes fantastic with the 50th anniversary and visit from Jeff!  

Love you so much, Hermana Latham  

Friday, March 14, 2014

Hacer y Correo Corto

                                                                                        March 10, 2014 
"Our favorite Carrito"~Hermana Nuñez and I crack up every time we see these little things.  These are vehicles you don't really see outside of Rio Bueno, Chile
¡Hola hola!

Thank you so much for all of your emails.  And for asking other people to email me.  I got mail from Sister Walker, Brackin, Nana, Benjamin, Abby, Daddy, and you.  I really appreciate all of the support that you give me!  You guys have talked a lot lately about coming home early, but I wouldn't imagine it unless I really, really had to.  Some people get sick without warning and have to go home.  But I am here to stay until the end of February 2015!!  I committed to the Lord 18 months of my life so that I could help Him in this work!  The mittens are cute, but I think that I will be good with the gloves.  Thank you for thinking of me with the box and the Easter card!  haha!  The other card got here the day before Valentine's Day, I just forgot to tell you.  It was so fun because I got that card and a card from Grandma right before Valentine's Day.

Thank you also for your prayers and for your examples.  I have such a fabulous family!  Sometimes I can really imagine your hugs through the computer!  My companion is really great and gives me lots of hugs.  This transfer is more than halfway over, and I am starting to get sad because I will miss her so much if she's not my companion again next transfer!  Our area is tough, but it is not as tough as I made it sound last week.  I was having a tough afternoon and a more than emotional moment when my letter to you guys disappeared.  :(  We have so, so many investigators....the thing that we are working for now is that they can progress.  Because they can listen all they want, but if they don't do anything about what we have taught them and the Spirit they have felt, then nothing changes.  That is actually the theme of this week's letter....hacer, or to do.

Okay, so last week I had written about a whole bunch of things I always forget to tell you.  And the email disappeared.  So I am going to write them again.  haha.

I am teaching English classes here!  It is so much fun.  It's also a challenge.  I've never taught English before, much less to people who speak Spanish.  But the classes are going pretty well!  I love teaching.  One of the elders here is also from the U.S., and we are thinking about what we can do to invite more people to the classes and help people to learn in an inviting, fun situation.

In this Chilean summer, we have SO enjoyed the fruit!  There is so, so much great fruit here.  Cherries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, apples, plums, peaches, grapes, everything.  People give us fruit all the time.  The fruit is so fresh and SO good.  It's all grown here.  So we are trying to soak as much out of it as we can before it gets cold and the fruit goes away again!  haha.

I love the Book of Mormon so much!  Studying it in Spanish is a really great challenge for me.  As I study it, I really have to pay attention and meditate to understand what the words are saying.  And because of that, the Book of Mormon truly means so much more to me this time around reading it.  It is slow going.  haha I started around Christmas and right now I am at the end of 2 Nephi.  But I am really enjoying it and loving how it is truly another testament of Jesus Christ.  It means exactly the same thing in Spanish.  And it is in over 100 languages around the world so that people can read it in their native tongue and come to love and understand their Savior more.  How BLESSED we are to have it!  We live in a district here (instead of a stake) and our district has been really focused on reading the Book of Mormon lately.  So we have been talking about it a lot and thinking about how we can incorporate it better into our lessons and invite people to read it.  This week we had a lesson with a couple who we really love.  They have a tough time keeping their commitments, and it's tough to invite the Spirit into their home.  But we read Alma 32 together with them, and it was really beautiful how the Spirit came into the room!  They truly understood the concept of faith, and the young man said that the ways that he can "water his plant," or strengthen his faith, are by praying, reading the scriptures, and going to church.  He really understood!  I love the Book of Mormon.

So this past week was so crazy!  I feel like I say that every week.  Basically it has been 6 months of crazy weeks and I guess I can look forward to a year more of them!  You would think that with our strict schedule and everything that missionary life would be pretty predictable...not really.... :)

Last Friday we bought 4 cubic meters of firewood and brought them all into our shed.  It was hard work!  I really appreciate central heating and never realized it!  But here in southern Chile, everyone heats their homes with firewood in little stoves.  The handiman came to our house yesterday to install our fire stove.  I'm not sure what the missionaries did last winter to heat the house, but I am really glad that our owner is putting in a fire stove!

 Here is me with the mountain of firewood after the guys threw it in our front yard.
Then me with the firewood all stacked up in our shed!

On Monday we went to a viewing and on Tuesday the funeral of a less active lady in our branch.  It was just on that day when I emailed y'all with the short email and I was feeling pretty crummy.  I talked to my companion and felt a lot better.  Then when we went to the viewing, I felt a prompting that I should offer to play some hymns on the piano.  It was so sweet to feel the Spirit that came in with the hymns.  The elders sang while I played and it was really nice.  I also played at the funeral and all of us as missionaries sang, as well.  I actually really enjoyed the funeral.  It made me think more about the plan of salvation, and how I am sure that there is a life after this one.

We had zone conference this week with three different zones, and President Rappleye came to speak to us. (Mom's note:  President Rappleye is the man who is in charge of all the missionaries in Melanie's mission)  We also had district conference yesterday (like stake conference) and President Rappleye spoke about the same things that he shared in zone conference.  It struck me both times, so I wanted to share it with you all.  A couple weeks ago we had the opportunity to hear from Elder Ballard, and we have all been trying to be better according to what we learned from him. (Elder Ballard is a church official based in Salt Lake City who has responsibility for several of the missions in South America) But I really loved how President Rappleye applied it.  He centered it all in hacer, or to do.  We all heard the words of Elder Ballard.  We all listened and took notes.  But what are we actually doing to make those words make a difference?  President talked about the power that lies in the words to do.  He shared the story from Matthew 7 with the wise man who built his house upon the rock and the foolish man who built his house upon the sand.  He said that we usually focus on the difference between their foundations, the rock of Jesus Christ or the sand.  But if we read carefully in verses 24 and 26, both the man on the rock and the man on the sand heard and listened to the words of Christ.  But the one who builds his house upon the rock doeth them.  He listens to the words of Christ and doeth them!  Then the other man doeth them not.  So what difference does it make to us to listen to the words of Christ if we don't do anything about what we have learned?  Like you were saying about how faith is a principle of action, we need to listen to the words of Christ and act upon them.  President asked us what we are going to do to apply the words of Elder Ballard and to be better missionaries.

 This is our entire zone (Zona La Union) at Zone Conference.
This is all of the sisters from three zones.  There are so many of us in these three zones!!

This week we also had the blessing to go to the baptism of an old investigator!  Hermana Núñez and I both served in Los Laureles (she was companions with Hermana Johnson before I was), and so we both taught José.  We received special permission to go back just for the baptism.  There are some moments in life where you feel so much happiness that it fills you up and there aren't words to describe it.  This was one of those moments.  A celestial experience.  A beautiful, beautiful moment to see how glowing and how happy he was, and how committed he is to follow Christ and to teach his family.  It was wonderful.

Throughout the week Hermana Núñez and I have taught so many wonderful people, and after the baptism, now we are just thinking, "Okay.  Who can be next?  How can we help people to really change their lives for the better?"  We are so excited.  ¡VIVA RIO BUENO!

I love you all so so much.  I miss you!  But I am so happy to be here and to be inviting people to make the steps to have an eternal family.

Love always, gigantes abrazos, Hermana Latham

                                                                                             Monday, March 3, 2014
This email is going to be super short (correo corto is short email).  I wrote a really long, good letter like normal, but I have had SO many problems with the computer today and it said that it was sending my email, but never actually now 30 minutes worth of writing is lost.  I think a couple of the pictures I tried to send got to you.  I would try to write again, but P-day is over and we have appointments.  I feel SO frustrated.  Next week I will send a really good letter.

Thank you for all the love that you send me!  I miss your hugs a lot too.  This area is not an easy one.  I have never prayed harder in my life.  But the Lord is teaching me a lot of faith, hope and patience.  I am working really hard to be a better missionary every day.  I'm SO proud of Abby and Benjamin that they want to go on missions, and of Mama for leaving with the missionaries!  (mom's note:  She means going on visits with the sister missionaries serving here in GA!) That requires a lot of bravery!

I am having a rough time lately with feeling like I am not doing a good job as a missionary.  I am trying to give it my best, and I know that the Lord calls imperfect people to do His work.

One interesting thing, this week we bought firewood.  That is something I will probably never do again outside of Chile!  I'll share more details next week.

I love you all.  I pray for you every day and hope you are doing well!  My testimony of the Book of Mormon grows every day.  I invite you guys to keep having family home evening with Preach My Gospel and also to read the Book of Mormon!  It is an incredible source of fire for our faith.

Abrazos, Hermana Latham

Hermana Latham and Hermana Johnson (companion in her previous area)