Writing emails kind of stresses me out. By the time I read all your beautiful emails I have no time to reply. Thanks to everyone who has written. I love it so much. Just because I don’t write back does not mean I don’t love you. Please know this.
Guess what I learned this week? Missions are HARD!!! They are hard work. They are emotional. My heart is always full of joy or sorrow or the Spirit. It’s really something that only people who have served missions can truly understand. People always told me missions were hard and I kind of didn’t believe them that much. The schedule is rigorous. I hardly have a spare minute to think. We climb hills all day. We get rejected all day. The Chile mission doesn’t have dinner so we are always hungry. Our schedule is different so we don’t sleep until 11:30. My head hurts from trying to learn Spanish constantly. I pray until I fall asleep on my knees. It’s hot during the day and freezing at night. My companion and I are both itchy all over from fleas in our beds, we have to eat whatever people feed us, we never have enough time to plan, we feel responsible for people’s salvation, and we cry nearly every day.
But…. you know what else? Missions are soooo beautiful. This week we had an investigator get married and baptized and now their whole family are members. They are planning to go to the temple in a year and be sealed together forever. We have felt the Spirit speak through us and we are watching people find answers, peace, help and change their lives forever. These people have problems that are big and real and they need the Gospel so much. I’m changing too, a lot. It’s a refiner’s fire on the mission. Both my strengths and weaknesses are magnified and I am learning to depend on the Lord with everything I am. I’m changing and becoming a new person. More patient with myself, more humble, more loving, more understanding, more trusting. It’s beautiful. It’s hard.
I love this quote from when Elder Holland spoke at the MTC in Brazil:
“Start fast. Run hard, and to the tape! You can rest later, but right now we want you to run all the way, every day, every step until this is over. To give the Lord a full 24-month or 18-month mission, for your sake, for the church’s sake, for integrity’s sake, for the prophet’s sake. So start now. Just don’t look back. Just put your face to the sun and put your shoulder into this work, and give it everything you’ve got and savor every day! This is hard work. It’s the hardest work you’ll ever do. That’s why I say it is the most important work you will ever do. Plan right now for the stories you will tell your children about your mission. Live right now in every way to look them in the eye and put them on your knee and rock them on your lap and tell them that you loved every day of your mission. That you worked your head off! That you’ve never worked so hard in your life. That you were tired and sweaty and dirty and hungry and you knew how Paul felt and you knew how Peter felt and you knew how Mormon felt and how Moroni felt. And I promise you that your children will remember and never forget it.”
Despite all that, I think that if you don’t love your mission, you’re doing something wrong. Also if your mission isn’t hard you’re doing something wrong. It’s the same way with life. So how do we find the balance between the two? We can enjoy the overall experience of life/the mission without enjoying every single moment. I’m learning how to choose to be happy despite whatever circumstance I’m in. It’s an easy thing to say but not so easy to do. The best advice I can give is to be grateful. Pay attention to all the little wonderful things that happen each day. Count your blessings, really. Write them down. Pray lots. Ask for the peace and help that you need. Acknowledge your dependence on the Lord. Forget yourself. Go to work. Help someone else. Have a sense of humor when things go wrong. There is a wonderful talk about this called, “Come what may and love it.” When my companion and I are wandering around at 9:30 without any appointments and everyone in the streets is drunk and we are tired and itchy and cold and hungry, we just laugh. We find humor in our situation and it makes everything so much more bearable.
So speaking of funny things, who knew that it takes an eternity and a half to fill a baptismal font? Not this girl! So Saturday was crazy already with our baptism and then we were supposed to fill the font and it was so slow!! And people were arriving. So we started to panic. We started a 20 minute restoration video for everyone and ran to the kitchen and started filling giant pots of water and dumping them in the font. Finally it was full enough so we went and started the meeting and had talks and everything. Upon returning to the font, we realized that we had left the water running and the font was way too full now! It was going to overflow! Wow. So we got the same pots we used to fill the font and started using them to take water out of the font! All the while everyone was waiting and had no idea what was going on. I spilled water all over myself and on the floor a few times in my haste. Super funny. It all worked out though and the baptism was beautiful. Right after, Hermana Lovell and I sang “Divina Luz” (Lead Kindly Light). I was still out of breath a bit and we had only practiced the song once together, but it turned out great. As soon as we began singing I felt at peace. The Spirit was super strong and everyone left happy.
I love you all. I feel your prayers and they get me through. You amaze and inspire me constantly. By the way, if you want to read my companion’s blog and see more of what’s going on, she is awesome and the web address is: hermanaashleylovell.blogspot.com
I am in Paradise. Literally, I think I died on the airplane and woke up in heaven. I don’t even know where to begin, sooooooooo much has happened already. Ok. So, I left the MTC right after Conference and the MTC had a special fireside with Vocal Point! So that was totally awesome and they still remembered me so I got to go talk to them afterwards. [She previously helped film or record one of Vocal Point’s performances, or something like that; I only remember that she was able to work with them and she loved the whole experience.] I only got 2 hours of sleep that night because of packing and then leaving super early in the morning. We traveled forever, it seemed, but in reality it was like 30 hours, but then when I finally got here we had to travel 5 more hours by bus. I was super scared to be a travel leader because I’m terrible with directions, but we all got there safely so no worries. haha. It was amazing how pumped I still was after not sleeping 2 nights in a row but we got right to work. I got my first chance to share the gospel in Spanish on the airplane. I sat by this man from Peru. He is a fisherman, has 4 daughters, and loves the sea. When I asked him if he had a religion, he replied, “The sea is my religion” in this wistful poetic way that made me love him immediately. He’s like 75 years old and still in tip-top shape. Anyway, to make a long story short, he wants to read the Book of Mormon now so I have to get the missionaries in Peru to visit him. He said he would love that and gave me all his info. Super cool.
Ok, back to Paradise. Chile is the most beautiful place I think I have ever seen. Our area is nestled between the sea and the green, green mountains. Also my companion, Hermana Lovell, is the greatest EVER! We are best friends already. We are both gringas but her Spanish is way better. We are kinda a shocking sight for people here to see these two ridiculously happy white girls talking to everyone about the Gospel. It’s fantastic. So, it took me some time to start to understand people here. Chileans talk funny. We live with two other Latino sisters and they told me they couldn’t understand anybody here for the first few days either and they speak Spanish! I’m getting better and everyone says my Spanish is really good. Speaking hasn’t actually been much of a problem. I know my Spanish is rough but people can understand it so it works for now and it gets better with time. The gift of tongues is so real, by the way.
There is so much I could write about, the different animals EVERYWHERE, laundry flapping in the wind, the women walking arm in arm, the men that honk and yell things at us, the adorable little Chilean kids in the streets, the colorful houses, the plants growing all over everything, the sea, the way people greet each other with kisses on the cheek, the little markets everywhere, the amazing members, and the fresh delicious bread and vegetables they feed us. I don’t even know where to begin or what to elaborate on!
We have had some weird things happen this week as well. We were teaching this one lady and there was already a really strange feeling about her, but all of the sudden, in the middle of our lesson, she starts singing. My companion and I didn’t really know what to do so we just waited for her to finish and tried not to laugh (it lasted a couple minutes). Strange things happen at times.
We were having lunch with a member the other day and she brought us out these plates full of what honestly looked like poop. My companion and I glanced at each other and hesitantly tried to eat whatever it was. Sooooooo nasty. I barely swallowed one bite and almost threw up. We politely asked what kind of food it was and she said chicken. If it was chicken, we are pretty sure she just fried a bunch of organs or something. Anyway, it was funny because after a few bites the lady looked away for a moment and my companion and I both moved our napkins to our laps at the same time. We calmly conversed and pretended to eat for like 20 minutes and every time she looked away for a moment we moved more of the food to our laps. Finally we got out of there and fed the nasty organ food to the dogs in the street. That was a close call. I don’t know what we would have done if we didn’t have napkins.
Also our shower is kinda funny. It only has two temperatures, scalding or ice. Most of my shower I just stand outside of the water and then when I need to rinse something off I change the temperature from hot to cold and can usually get a good 15 seconds of bearable water while it switches between the two. Lots of funny things like this, but it’s awesome here. It’s really humbling to see how little people have. A lot of the Latino sisters have never had light bulbs or electricity before and what they brought in their suitcases is all they own. People have really humble houses. For example, some of our investigators live in the same apartments as us. We have 4 sisters in one apartment and they have 2 families living in the same size apartment and both families have kids too! Crazy.
Really, the most amazing thing of all is being able to teach people and feel the Spirit tell me exactly what to say. It’s amazing to watch people’s conversions as they totally change their lives and come to recognize the love of their Savior for the first time. They love to learn that the Savior visited the Americas, too. They are so amazing. We were teaching this woman, Flor, who is getting baptized either this Saturday or the next. She smokes, but as soon as we taught her the Word of Wisdom she said, “Well, I better stop smoking.” We didn’t even have to invite her; as soon as she realized what she was doing was bad she stopped immediately.
We have another family that’s getting baptized Saturday, a mom and her daughter. The husband is a member already but hasn’t been active for a long time. Absolutely love this family. We watched The Testaments with them and a bunch of other people and afterwards bore testimony. Lots of them were crying. Also, the part in the movie where the earthquake happened reminded them a lot of the earthquake here a few years ago.
This area got hit pretty hard and most of the people here can still remember it or are still suffering the consequences. Mostly the city has been cleaned up really well, but remnants of houses that fell down or old broken walls still remain. The one thing that people remember the most is that a bunch of youth were having a huge party on this nearby island when the earthquake and Tsunami hit and every one of them died. This seems to be the most prominent memory for people here because they could all hear the screams for miles and it was pretty tragic.
Anyway, I wish I could just film every second here and show you how amazing missions are and how beautiful Chile is, and how warm and wonderful the people are! Today for P-Day we got a bunch of missionaries together and went to the beach. We ate sandwiches and I played soccer with a bunch of elders. I cant get over how amazing it is. There was nobody really around and the beach and the rocks were so beautiful and this thick fog was everywhere. Does it get better than this? I think not. I just got here and I already never want to leave.
So thanks for all the emails that I got from everyone and I apologize for the millionth time that my replies are so short. Read the blog!!
I love you all so much!!!