Monday, July 25, 2016

Week 2 In the Field

Hola, Familia!

The bridal shower sounds like a blast! I wish I could be there! One fun thing about this week, though, was that we actually got to help out with a wedding here in the branch! It was wonderful to be able to help them have such a special experience, and it was fun imagining how great that day will be for my family in August!! 

So, I'm going to go right ahead and start with the sad news of the week - Rosa dropped us. She was the one who committed to a baptismal date, and we were so excited and happy that night. Well, Saturday we were supposed to go on a church tour with her, and she texted us and told us that she wasn't going to change her religion and would we please not visit her again. It was heartwrenching, especially since we'd just been praying and planning about the church tour and how we could best help her. All we can do is keep praying for her and let her know we're still here.

Okay, on to the rest of the week - WE CAN DRIVE!!!!!!!!!! Hna Cedeño and I woke up SUPER early on Wednesday morning to go to the DMV so she could retake the written test. We got to meet a lot of people there and talk to them as we were waiting for the DMV to open - we were the third ones in. Anyway, we went in, and Hna Cedeño took her test. She passed it, which was super exciting! The DMV only has 25 tickets for the road tests per day, and since it's summer and all the high school kids are out of school those tickets go super fast. We were sure we wouldn't be able to do the road test that same day, but the woman who was doing the paperwork for Hna Cedeño after she passed her test was the same one who'd been there last week and helped us figure out what we needed to do in order for her to come back and pass her test. Well, as soon as she saw that Hna Cedeño had passed, she smiled and kind of winked at her and said, "I have a card for you." She'd remembered we were going to come that day and planned ahead so there would be space for us in the schedule!! It was really a tender mercy of the Lord! Hna Cedeño was able to take and PASS her driving test that day, and it was perfect timing because we went to the temple that night with a recent convert and we were able to drive ourselves!
There were a lot of cancelled appointments this week, a lot of slammed doors, and a lot of rejected invitations. But at the same time, there were a lot of beautiful moments with us teaching and getting to know more of God's children. I saw the Lord touch peoples' hearts and help them be a little more humble, even as others have hardened their hearts. I've noticed a pattern - every time Christ performed a miracle by healing someone, first, they came to Him. They called out to Him. They asked to be healed. If we don't ask - if we don't come to Him with real intent and purpose of heart, believing we can receive - He cannot help us, because he will not ever take away our agency and ability to choose. But if we merely call out to Him, we will see miracles in our lives.

We didn't teach as much this week as we'd intended to, because there was a lot of training and a lot of service projects that we were involved with. We also spent a good amount of our time trying to contact our referrals, and the ones we contacted either weren't interested or weren't home. So there have been a lot of hours walking around and knocking doors, but we know we're working! It's really fulfilling to come home at the end of the day and know that you've really WORKED and done everything you could, even if your "stats" don't exactly reflect it the way you'd like them to.

One investigator that I met this week (that Hna Cedeño already knew) was Daniela. She's seriously amazing, but at the moment her family is going through a lot, so if you can remember please pray for them. Anyway, the first time I met her she told us about some of the spiritual experiences she's had, and it was just amazing to hear. We went over on Saturday night to visit with her and teach her about the Plan of Salvation, but that was when she'd just gotten some bad news from her parents. They were leaving as we came in, and rather than teaching a lesson we just talked with her and comforted her for 45 minutes. But I know that though we didn't "teach" her, we were still able to help her grow her testimony. We did share a couple scriptures with her and we bore our testimonies of the power of the atonement to heal and comfort us in our lives. And then she told us that every time she's gone through a trial like this in her life, almost immediately the missionaries have shown up at her door. She called us her angels. I was able to bear testimony to her that we were sent to her from God, because He loves her, and that it wasn't a coincidence that He sent us that night. 

It's amazing how the Spirit leads you even when you don't realize it to those who need you right at that specific moment. That happened at least two other times this week that I know of, but there were probably more that I don't know about. It's really humbling to see how the Lord is using us as His instruments as we strive to do His work!

So, the appointment I was waiting for all week was with Vielka!! We met her last Sunday night (she was the one looking for her dog) and our appointment was for Saturday. I'd been praying about it all week and looking forward to being able to teach her. When we got there, she initially didn't answer the door, and I felt my heart start to break, but then I called her and she picked up and quickly let us in. We were able to teach about the Plan of Salvation to her and one of her sons, Enrique. They're truly an amazing family - a FAMILY - and really so ready to receive the gospel if they hearken to the spirit!! We have another appointment with her on Wednesday, and we fasted for her, Daniela, and Rosa on Sunday, because she too is going through some difficulties that can't be easily fixed without help from the Lord. The spirit in her home as we taught her was amazing, and I know she felt it. When she said the closing prayer, I felt the spirit surround us all, and I pointed it out to her, to which she just nodded with a smile. 

It was an emotional night, and what made it all that better was that we were able to bring an AWESOME member of the branch with us to fellowship her! Sister Espadas and Vielka are both fairly new to the area and they live just about a block away from each other, so it's perfect! They also discovered that they have a lot in common! Hopefully it's a budding friendship that can help her feel more comfortable and open up to receiving a witness from God about the truthfulness of this gospel!

Members make SUCH a huge difference in missionary work!!!

Well, that's it as far as news for this week! (Other than the GIANT wolf spider that was in our house that took up all our exercise time one morning) 
Hna Garner

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I Love Being A Missionary!

Hermana Garner's group she arrived with
Sister Garner's new address is:

829 Park Avenue
Gilbert, AZ
(For letters)

Packages need to go to the mission home:
1001 N Burk Str
Gilbert, AZ

Okay, first things first - I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!!!!


So, some background - in the MTC, I prayed really hard that I would have a companion who was a native speaker, I really wanted to be challenged and have someone who would be able to help me not only to increase my vocabulary but the learn idioms and phrases. Well, come to find out, there's only one native speaker in the whole mission ... and the Lord answered my prayers and made her my companion!!! Hna Cedeño is simply amazing! She's from Venezuela and she's been on her mission for nine months! I also prayed for someone who was cheerful and had a really positive attitude, and that definitely describes Hna Cedeño to a T! I love spending time with her, and I love working with her! We're both dedicated to the work, and we've gotten to be such good friends here! She helps me a LOT with my Spanish and is really patient, and I get to help her a bit with English too, which is nice! But most of the time we speak Spanish to each other, which is great practice for me. She also gives me tests to take in Spanish during my language study time ... :P

So when we met on Wednesday, it was her BIRTHDAY!! She just turned 20! It was so fun, because we had lunch and dinner scheduled and at both they had cake for her. The people here love her so much, and it's because she really loves them! She has such an easy, approachable way about her when she talks to people, and she jokes with them a lot. She's hilarious, and just a ball of sunshine to be around. I really, really love her.

The Spanish. It's going good!! I wish I understood more, but really, I understand quite a lot, and I'm learning fast. It's been a confidence booster, but it's also been incredibly humbling. I know that the only reason I'm able to speak as well as I can and understand as well as I can is because of the Gift of Tongues, and without the Lord's help (and Grandpa's help) there's no way I'd be able to teach as well as I can. But I've felt confident in our lessons and been able to explain concepts to people and answer their questions, even if it takes me a bit longer than it would others as I search for words or conjugations. But everyone's patient, and they love to help me learn. It's funny too, because everyone says that if you eat spicy food, you'll be able to learn Spanish quicker. So I've been eating a LOT of spicy food per the request of the members :P

That's another thing - the food is AMAZING!!! Seriously, every meal I'm absolutely amazed by what these members cook for us!! I love, love, LOVE Mexican food, and I get to try food from all different regions of Mexico and even other countries as we go to member's houses. The members are so giving and kind, and they LOVE to feed us! 

The bike! It started out REALLY hard. The bag that we bought was great at the beginning because I didn't have a basket or anything to put my things in, so I was able to strap it on and ride. But it was HEAVY. That first day, when we were biking to our first appointment, I felt like I could barely breathe. It was so hot, I was sweating like crazy, and my legs very quickly were tired. I remember riding along behind Hna Cedeño (she's pretty fast) and praying to the Lord to give me strength that I would be able to do His work, because there were points where I really felt like I was going to fall over and die (I did fall over, though .... eight times :P The problem was getting off, but Hna Cedeño helped me and I haven't fallen for the past two days, so we're good! It was really funny, though, and Hna Cedeño and I both got some great laughs out of it). 

On Friday, a miracle happened. We biked to a neighborhood to tract, and the first door we knocked on happened to be a member's home (I'd just fallen in her driveway ...)  When we got to my bike, we saw that - for the THIRD time - the chain had come off. I got the chain back on, but there was still something wrong with it. At that moment, Sister Allen's son - CB - pulled up in his truck. He's also a member of the church and saw that we were having trouble and offered to take us to a bike shop in his truck. Well, the shop happened to be in our area, and right next to where our dinner appointment was, so it was perfect! We got there, and the man at the store quickly discovered what was wrong and fixed it. He also tightened Hna Cedeño's kickstand, and didn't charge us for anything. Since we were already there, I picked out a basket for my bike, and when I went to pay for it Brother Allen wouldn't let me - he insisted on buying it for me. So we were able to fix the problems, get a ride to our dinner appointment, and get a basket for my bike all for free! It was such a blessing, because with my bag in the basket instead of on my bike, it's SO much easier to ride!

Which brings me to my scripture study from this morning - I've been studying and learning SO much, but one thing that really stuck out was Matthew 11:28-30 - "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Remember when I prayed for strength? Well, the Lord gave me strength. And He also made my burden light by sending Brother Allen to us so I could get a basket for my bike. It truly was a miracle, and now that I've learned how to get off of my bike without falling all over the place, I actually really love biking! It's fun, it's good exercise, and it's a GREAT way to meet people!

Like last night!! We had such an amazing experience, and made SO many new contacts! As were we riding, a member drove by and rolled down her window to talk to us (this happens a LOT, and it's really fun - we'll be riding down the street and we hear people honk at us all the time in passing. It really helps give you more energy to do the work! People also are always offering us water, which is such a blessing!). Anyway, we asked the member if she knew anyone in the area who spoke Spanish, and she pointed out two houses. We went by them and were able to talk to people at both! The first people were really nice and we had a great lesson with them in their driveway, but when we asked if we could come back, they said no, they were happy in their church. But I think we still were able to help them come closer to Christ, and we gave them a pass-along card and our number and told them to call us if they ever need any service. The second person was really nice as well, and he obviously is being humbled and prepared by the Lord. We were able to get to know him a bit, and we set up an appointment to meet with him on Sunday.

So after that miracle, we passed by a house where we were supposed to have an appointment, but they weren't there. They let us know that they do want us to come back, though. It's a cool experience, because the way we first found them was totally by the Spirit. We were riding our bikes to another appointment on Friday, and we were actually going to be a little bit early. We rode past their house and I saw them sitting on the porch. Something told me to turn around, so I called out to Hna Cedeño and we did. They were very receptive, and we're really excited to be able to teach them! It's amazing how the Spirit has led us to other opportunities like that - after we went by their house last night, we had a similar experience - we rode past a man working in his yard, looked at each other, and just knew we were supposed to turn back. His name was Jose, and he invited us to come back and visit with him and his family.

After talking to Jose, we rode down the street a bit towards a recent convert's home and saw someone else standing outside, actually talking to one of the members of the branch! She's VERY Catholic, but she had questions and invited us to come back and teach her some more!

And then, after all of that, the timing was JUST right for us to meet Vielka! We were still headed towards the recent convert's house, and we saw a woman on the street calling out for a dog. Hna Cedeño asked her in English if she was looking for a dog, and she respond, "No hablo ingles." We were really excited! Immediately we got off our bikes and used our headlights to find the dog. Then, of course, we told her who we are and what our purpose is. We talked for a LONG time, and she has been SO prepared by the Lord! She's going through a lot right now, and was eager to invite us to come back. She even said she'll come to Family Night (Noche de Hogar) TONIGHT at the church! She's really, really amazing! She also lives with her husband and two sons, so we're going to be able to teach the whole family when we visit her later this week! It truly was a miracle and we were able to be exactly in the right place to meet her because we were on our bikes!

We had a lesson with Rosa. I'd been to one lesson with her before, and she's so humble, and like everyone else here she has so much faith. She too was baptized Catholic when she was a baby, but she doesn't go to church anymore. We've been working with her for a couple of lessons now, and she's kept every commitment we've given her, even though it's hard for her. When she reads El Libro de Mormon, she doesn't really understand it. Listening is better for her, so we showed her how she can listen on her phone through the church app. But even though she hasn't understood what she's read, she's still been reading and keeping every commitment we've extended to her. So as we were teaching about the Plan of Salvation yesterday, I felt the spirit and invited her to be baptized once she knew these things were true. Initially, she responded by saying she was already baptized, but when we explained the importance of authority, she said YES!!!!!! She said that when she knows it's true, she will be baptized, and she committed to the date of .... (drumroll please) .... August 20th!!! That's right, the day of my sister's wedding!! I have confidence that she'll be able to make that date, and that this is one of the many reasons why I was led to sacrifice being at my sister's wedding - so I could help others come to a knowledge of the truth and find the joy of baptism and confirmation, and the blessings of the temple! When we were riding our bikes to our dinner appointment afterwards, Hna Cedeño and I seriously couldn't stop cheering. We were SO happy, and even though we were sweaty and hot I hardly felt it. It was really an amazing experience!

I've seen so many miracles and received so many blessings throughout this week and I can't even imagine what the rest of my mission is going to be like!

And FINALLY, I'm done! There's so much more I could tell you - and so much I could write about my last week in the MTC that I haven't written - but this is already the longest email I think I've ever written in my life. But the past few days here really have been such an amazing blessing, and I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing at this moment.

OH, one more thing - so on Friday morning, we played kickball with our zone (and I actually scored two runs!) against another zone. And when we pulled up to the church where we were going to play, I recognized it. It was the church where Grandpa's funeral was. It was a little surreal to be there again, now as a missionary, four years later. I keep wondering if I'm going to see anyone around here, but that's not where my focus is at all - I really don't have time to focus on it, there's so much to do! But it's comforting to know that I have family close by, and I can feel your love and prayers every day!

Les quiero MUCHISIMO!!!

Hna Garner


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

One More Week!

A week from now, I'll be on a plane to Arizona!! CRAZY!!

So, I guess I'll start there - Friday we got our travel plans! I'm leaving next Tuesday morning, CRAZY!! I can't wait to get to the field. I got a letter from President Wheeler today talking about what the first day is going to be like, and I'm sooooo excited! I can't wait to meet some of the members there and meet my trainer and start REALLY learning how to speak Spanish out in the field. 

This week, teaching with Hna Casos has been amazing. We've really both been focusing on the spirit in our lessons, and as a result we've been completely in sync and really in a "groove" during our teaching. There have been so many times when I've felt prompted to share something that we hadn't planned for, and then Hna Casos has shared the same thing! She said that the same thing has happened with me. It's been such an amazing thing to realize how the spirit really is in charge and that as we focus on teaching by the spirit we, too, will be in sync with one another.

red white and blue

red white and blue
Saturday we had a "celebration of freedom." It was basically a devotional where they talked about the restoration coming forth and specifically about the freedom of religion. It was interesting to celebrate the fourth of July with a focus completely on the gospel and the REASONS why this country was made free. Afterwards, most of the missionaries went to the parking lot across the street to watch the Stadium of Fire fireworks, but Hermana Casos and I decided to go back to the dorm and watch them from the giant window in the stairwell of our building. Honestly, it was the best decision ever. We got in our pajamas, grabbed snacks and our journals, and just enjoyed chatting and talking about life, getting to know each other more. It was just the two of us, and we could see the fireworks perfectly. It was a peaceful moment where I also learned even more just how much of an amazing person she is, and I feel that our friendship grew so much stronger that night.

Saturday was also our last day with one of our teachers, Hna Ellison. She just moved to California on Sunday, so we don't get her our last week.  We all miss her. I'm so grateful for everything she taught us and for her love and support!

Last day with our teacher, Hermana Ellison :(
Now for scriptures!

This week, I've been reading mostly in 3rd Nephi. There's SO MUCH I could share, my scriptures have become like a coloring book! There's so much throughout the entire book that's about the prophecies of the gathering of Israel and about what it means to be part of the tribe of Israel, and it was so enlightening! It was also humbling to realize that I am playing a part in the fulfillment of those prophecies.

The part that was the most profound to me when reading this week was in 3 Nephi 19:20-23. It's when Christ is praying for the people. He says: "Father, I thank thee that thou hast given the Holy Ghost to these whom I have chosen; and it is because of their belief in me that I have chosen them out of the world. Father, I pray thee that thou wilt give the Holy Ghost unto all them that shall believe in their words. Father, thou hast given them the Holy Ghost because they believe in me; and thou seest that they believe in me because thou hearest them, and they pray unto me; and they pray unto me because I am with them. And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, and that we may be one."

He prays again in verses 28-29. When I read those verses the spirit testified to me so strongly that that prayer was a continuous prayer that the Lord is praying for all those who believe in Him! And with that, I made the realization that he's praying for me! What an unbelievable, incredible, humbling, absolutely unfathomable truth! The Lord is praying for all of us, and He's praying for each of us, that we may be able to be One with Him.

There are more scriptures, but there's no more time!

Love you!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

sunday songs - "forgiven"

Every Sunday, I will post a video or audio track of a church-related song, whether it be a pretty arrangement of a hymn, an EFY song, or even an inspirational, Christ-centered song by a Christian group not affiliated with the church. Music has such an unbelievable power to change lives - it is through song that I feel the Spirit the strongest in my life, and I hope that as I share these songs you can feel the truth of the messages they teach.

We can all be forgiven by the Lord if we utilize the atonement. This is such a precious blessing in our lives, and one I am so grateful for!