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


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