Friday, September 30, 2016

Excited For Conference!

First things first, because I want to make sure you ALL read this part - next week, PLEASE send me some of your thought from conference, every single one of you! Either in an email or in a letter. I love learning from you, and conference is such a special opportunity to learn!!

We met a lot of interesting people this week. We met someone from Dubai who's only been in the states for a month, and we're going to give him a Book of Mormon in Arabic.
The Book of Mormon in arabic

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" in arabic
We met a pair of twins from Romania.  We ran into a member from South Africa who traveled by various boats for four years to get to America, and apparently the church wants to make a movie about their journey, which involves one of the captains they were with trying to stab her son! For the first time, I was Bible-bashed by a Baptist. Someone told us about having a ghost yell in his ear that morning while he was making breakfast, and also gave us the cure to cancer! Lemon juice and baking soda. And yesterday, we met a guy on house arrest! (He didn't tell us, but we saw the ankle monitor.) ​You meet so many different people on the mission! It really opens your eyes up to the world and all the different experiences people have in it, as well as the ways that they deal with it.

I'm falling more and more in love with Hispanic food. On Wednesday, we had dinner at the Zavala's house. They're from Peru, and I've discovered from them and another family in the branch that I LOVE Peruvian cuisine!! Hna Zavala gave us rice and chicken and veggies, but then gave us Crema de Aji to put on top of it, and OH MY GOSH!!!! It's my new favorite thing!! It was SOOO good!Also, Hna Cedeño taught me how to make arepas! She said that in Venezuela, they make them for almost every meal. It's basically a pita, but different kind of dough, and you put whatever you want in it. We were improvising with what we had in the house and put in cheese, mayo, ketchup, and breaded chicken. It was good!

Women's conference was so amazing this week. I'd been looking forward to it the whole week, and a lot stood out to me as we watched it. One of the first things that stood out to me was in Sister Bingham's talk. She said, "The greatest form of charity may be to withhold judgment." It was definitely something that I needed to hear this week, and helped me realize that I need to be a little more humble. I also loved when she said later, "The great blessing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the opportunity for eternal progression." Even though we always have so much to improve, we always have the opportunity to continue to improve, which is amazing.  Another thing that jumped out at me was in both Sister Stephen's and Sister Oscarson's talk. They both quoted Elder Nelson and said, "We need women who have a bedrock understanding of the Doctrine of Christ." The Doctrine of Christ is obviously something we already study a lot as missionaries, but it gave me more of a desire to really search and understand more all the parts of the doctrine! Sister Oscarson also gave us a great warning - "If we don't teach our children and youth true doctrine - and teach it clearly - the world will teach them Satan's lies." I'm so grateful for the teachings of my parents, and that because of the way I have been taught I've never had to question what was right or what was wrong!And then, of course, Elder Uchtdorf's talk was inspiring and uplifting. The first part of it that really stood out to me was "Faith is ... a conviction so strong that it moves us to do things we might normally not do." Sometimes I wonder if I have enough faith, but as he said this, I thought to myself, "I'm on a mission. That's a crazy thing, and definitely something I normally wouldn't do. Why in the world would I be here if I didn't have that faith?" Describing myself as a "Woman of Faith" has sometimes been hard for me, because I think that at times it's hard to understand exactly what faith is, but the Spirit let me know that the times when I doubt don't signify that I lack faith, because I move forward despite my doubts ("Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith"). I also thought it was informative the way he taught us about what faith cannot do - violate others' agency, or force our will upon God. It made me think about where I focus my prayers and how I can exercise more faith by trusting more in His will and plan.Also, this quote: "Faith means that we trust not only in His wisdom, but we trust also in His love." Everything He does for us - even if at the time it seems like He's not answering our prayers - is because He loves us!!And then, of course - Fourth Floor, Last Door. This was a wonderful story about the power of diligence, but as a missionary, it really lit a fire under me. I want to go to the fourth floor, last door, every day. I want to find those people, to not let the rejection get to me or cause me to slow down. And sometimes you have to knock on dozens of doors before finding the one family - or one person - ready to receive the Gospel. It was definitely a message I needed at this time in my mission, because we've been facing a lot of rejection as of late! It's so frustrating, but we just need to keep going!

We did get a new investigator this week! Her name is Laura, and she's the cutest little abuelita you've ever seen! We taught her the restoration, and when we first invited her to pray about it she seemed pretty hesitant. But earlier in the lesson, she'd said that having authority would definitely be essential in order to do ordinances like baptism and other things. So, I brought that up again, and said, "We know you don't know right now if we have that authority. But if we do, it makes all the difference in the world. What we're asking you to do is pray to know, so that if we do have that authority - and I testify that we do - you can know for yourself and be able to return to live with your Father in Heaven." After that, she nodded and really understood the importance of what we were asking her to do. We have our next appointment set up for this Thursday.

Here are some more thoughts from my personal study this week.The one that I most want to share is in Mosiah 15:11. Here Abinadi is talking, and as I read this verse I immediately thought about General Conference coming up this weekend. It says, "Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord -- I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God." It is so essential that we prepare ourselves to receive the word of the Lord our God through the mouths of his appointed servants this coming weekend. It's such a privilege to so easily be able to hear the will of the Lord, and as we heed the counsel we are given we will always prosper and be protected, and find joy in our righteousness and obedience.

iLes quiero muchisimo!! I encourage you all to personally prepare for conference this weekend with questions and ponderings to bring to the Spirit. As you earnestly do this, I can promise you that those questions will be answered and your understanding enlightened!
Love,Hna Garner

Monday, September 19, 2016

When we submit to the will of the Father, miracles happen!

First things first - next Sunday, our stake is having a special fast for missionary work and opportunities. Everyone in the stake is encouraged to fast for personal missionary opportunities as well as for the full-time missionaries and their investigators. If you all can, I'd invite you to join the fast to fast for your own personal experiences, and also for my investigators, by name - Luis, Kenia, Diana, Beatriz, Romelia Flores. There are other people we're teaching as well, of course, but those five are the ones that we're focusing on at the moment. If you can't participate in the fast, please pray individually and as a family for those opportunities and experiences. I know as we all do this, we will see miracles and be blessed!!
My companion talked me into
straightening my hair for the day
There was a lot of the typical rejection and frustration this week, but it was also a week of miracles. The first one that comes to mind is from yesterday - we woke up, got out to the car, and realized we'd forgotten to get gas Saturday night, and we were almost empty! We had a lot of places to drive to yesterday, some of them pretty far, and we were worried about being able to make it through the day without having to get gas on Sunday. We prayed in the morning that our gas would be able to last, were careful with how we used it, and got home that night without the gas light even being on! This morning, we turned on the car and immediately the gas light was illuminated. It was a cool witness of the Lord's power and also of the sanctity of the Sabbath day, that He made it possible for us to do everything we needed to do without having to go to the gas station.
So, first I'll update you on Luis. We had three different lessons with him this week. On Thursday we went with Brother and Sister Perez - they were baptized just over a year ago. We had a really great lesson, and the Perezes were really amazing with their testimonies! He was completely attentive during the entire lesson, and agreed with everything that we said, and was humble. At the end of the lesson, he committed to take the steps he needed to in order to live the Word of Wisdom! We were so excited!  We pushed him to trust in the Lord and take his efforts further, and invited him to first read the scriptures and pray when he feels the urge to smoke or drink. We testified of the power of the atonement and that he can do this, and faster than he thinks he can. If you could remember to pray and fast for him as he struggles to overcome this, I know it would give him strength! He told us yesterday that he doesn't see us as just missionaries anymore, but as his amigas. We feel the same way. He's really an amazing person!
There were a lot of different times when we felt directly led by the spirit this week to go to certain places - places we had no reason to think of going to and that made no logical sense - and we saw miracles as we followed those promptings. One of the times the spirit really led us to do something unexpected was Friday night. We were driving to try and contact a potential investigator, and drove past Sebastian's house, we were teaching him back when I first got here but ended up dropping him because he really was non-responsive in lessons and told us he wasn't going to change and didn't want to waste our time. But as we were driving past, I got this really strong feeling that we should try to visit him. I told Hna Cedeño to turn around, and she did.We knocked on the door, and his mom, Norma answered. She gasped, smiled, and said, "Es un milagro!!" We walked inside and were immediately greeted by warm, tight hugs from Camila and Santiago, Sebastian's younger siblings. Sebastian was sleeping, and we didn't see him at all, but the other three were so happy to see us, and said they'd been waiting for us to come back and had missed having us over. We were able to share a scripture with them and invited them to come to the branch activity the next night - La Noche Cultural. And then they actually CAME! 
I almost forgot - yesterday I got to sing in church. I did the arrangement I'm always playing of "I Know That My Redeemer Lives," but I memorized and sung it in Spanish. 
 Saturday, I went to my first baptism as a missionary! It was one of Hna Cedeño's old investigators in Queen Creek. He finally decided to get baptized, and we got to drive down there to be a part of the baptism. It was wonderful to see, and lifted my spirits so much! I hope to see many of my investigators take the same step, but it was wonderful and encouraging to see him making that change in his life, even if I haven't had the experience of helping someone reach that point yet (as a missionary). Hna Cedeño was so happy and excited!
.John 10:4 - Christ is speaking in a parable about himself being the Good Shephard, and he says here, "and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice." Do we know His voice? How can we come to know and recognize His voice more in our lives? It was something that caused me to ponder this morning about how I can better recognize and follow His voice at all times
.John11:41. Before Christ raises Lazarus from the dead, he says, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me." Of course I've read this before, and I knew that Christ only ever did the will of the Father, but I thought a little deeper about it today, about how Christ really did only ever do God's will, and how if it hadn't been God's will for Lazarus to be raised from the dead, despite Christ's love for him (because it says clearly in the scriptures how he loved him) He would not have raised him from the dead. We don't really think about Christ praying before performing miracles, but it caused me to reflect on the miracles He did do and how He searched for that witness from the Father that His works were sanctified. In all things, truly the will of the Son was swallowed up by the will of the Father.
Les quiero mucho!!Hna Garner​

Monday, September 12, 2016

 Frogs, Clothes, Heat and Blessings.

Hna Cedeño is terrified of frogs. TERRIFIED. We were walking to the car and there was a frog by her door and she screamed and ran away. So I picked up the frog so she could get in the car safely :P 

First things first, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!!!!!!!!!!!! September 15th is going to be a great day for us - Hna Cedeño has an investigator that she taught in Queen Creek who's going to get baptized, so we get to drive down for it!! Even though it's not someone that I taught, I'm really excited to be there :)
We're out OYMing (knocking doors) all day, we only get about one or two lessons because everyone closes the door in our faces. We hear all the time, "I'm going to be sincere - I'm Catholic," and then they won't listen to anything else we have to say. It's hard, but it makes it that much more rewarding when someone does let you in. We had a really amazing experience on Saturday morning - we went out to OYM and the first man we talked to was this guy Joe. He's English speaking, and in the process of moving, so we won't be able to teach him. But we talked to him about the Book of Mormon, gave him a copy, and invited him to read it. He was really receptive! At the end, we asked him if we could say a prayer with him (as we always do) and then asked, "Is there anything specific you'd like us to pray for?" And he said, "Just that I can understand this book you've given me." We were like, um, YES, of course we'll pray for that!! 
We had a cool tender mercy this week!!​ Hna Cedeño and I came home and saw this bag on the doorstep. We opened it up, and it was a bunch of clothes!! Really cute skirts and shirts and dresses! We had SUCH a fun night trying them all on, and I got this skirt and shirt as well as a dress that fits me PERFECTLY.  We have no idea who dropped it off, but it really was such a tender mercy!

Hermana Cedeno and I were talking about how we both feel like we've been sent here to help inactive members reignite their testimonies and come back to church. We've actually had quite a bit of success getting people back to church, and it does feel so good every time we see the less active members progressing, coming to church, and starting to prepare to go to the temple. Cool story with that - we knocked the door of this woman one day. We talked to her for a few minutes before realizing that she was a member, one that we didn't know and no one else in the branch knew, even though she was on the records. She said that her husband was a member as well, and they hadn't been to church in years but that she wanted to go. We set up an appointment to go back yesterday, and were expecting the husband to be really sharp with us and not at all interested in talking about the restored gospel. Well, the exact opposite happened. They let us in with open arms, and said they'd planned on going to church in the morning but couldn't remember where it was. We basically started teaching lesson one, the restoration, and talked about the need for a restoration of the gospel and how it was the same gospel that was on the earth when Christ was here. At the end of the lesson he gave a beautiful, beautiful prayer, and prayed for them to remember and understand the teachings of the gospel, thanked the Lord for sending us to their door to find them, and prayed that they would be able to go to the temple together! I felt like crying during the prayer - the spirit was so strong, and I saw a beautiful humility in that couple. 
this is what happens when you leave books in the car in Arizona. I left my dictionary on the dashboard, and when we came out of church the glue on the binding had melted. Yep. Love that Arizona sun. :P

2 Nephi 31:21 is exactly why I'm on a mission. "And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Gather, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen."
The Lord really does lead us to the scriptures that we need, individually and to help others. Thank you all for continuing to share your scripture study with me, and I hope that at least something that I share will be of benefit to some of you!
Les quiero muchisimo!!!!!!
Hna GarnerT

Friday, September 9, 2016

I Really am So Happy!

I CAN'T BELIEVE my baby brother is 18!!!!! What is this?????
One of the biggest things of this week really was the orientation and everything about the Saints Unified Voices concert/fireside! SUV is a Grammy-award winning gospel choir directed by Gladys Knight, and they're coming here to do a concert/fireside for free!!! They'll sing all different kinds of songs, Gladys Knight will sing, and she'll also bear her testimony of the restored gospel and talk about her conversion. It's really an amazing opportunity, we've been going around and telling people about it, and gotten a lot of positive responses. She's not as well-known in the Hispanic community, but people are still interested in going. Missionaries aren't invited, but there's not translation available in Spanish, so we're hoping we'll be allowed to go with any of our investigators who go and translate for them :P Otherwise, we're hoping we'll be asked to help out with ushering and things so we can at least listen to the music and testimony in the lobby. They've been doing this for years, and hearing the stories about how the missionary work has exploded after these concerts is so inspiring!! We're expecting a lot of self-referrals and really can't wait! So, family that lives in the Gilbert area - ask your missionaries about the concert!!!!! Invite your friends and neighbors!!!! It's really an amazing opportunity, and when else will you EVER be able to hear a Grammy-award winning choir for free????
We had a LOT of miracles this week, as we always do. The first one was seeing Luis start to make a turn in his progression. On Thursday, we extended the baptismal invite again. He said that if he's going to commit to something - even to preparing for baptism and not the baptism itself - he wants to be completely positive that it's the right thing and what the Lord wants him to do. But then he said that as soon as he gets that answer from the Lord -as soon as he knows it's true and right - he'll be the one running to us and saying, "Baptize me as soon as possible!" We felt the spirit so strongly, and Hna Cedeño testified to him that he would receive that answer she thinks she'll probably be transferred the first week of October, and we both feel that if Luis continues to search for the truth, he'll be baptized before then. But even if it takes him longer, we know that eventually he will be, because he really is searching for the truth! He's so humble and willing to learn, and we're just continuing to pray and fast with him! Another amazing thing that happened with Luis this week was a personal witness and answer to prayer that I received. They tell you over and over in the mission that you individually were sent to this place at this time for a specific reason as we were teaching Luis on Tuesday, he shared a really personal story with us, and I felt the spirit testify to me during that story that I was sent here - me, specifically - for him. That I promised him in the preexistence that I would find him and teach him the gospel. It was a humbling experience! 
I wrote in my journal on Monday, "I really am so happy. Pretty much consistently and permanently exhausted, but happy." That is probably the perfect description of my missionary experience :P I've been writing in my journal almost completely in Spanish this week. Honestly, the gift of tongues is so amazing. If you would have told me that I'd be this comfortable with Spanish three months into my mission, I never would have believed you. But right now, I'm reading El Milagro del Perdon - The Miracle of Forgiveness - in Spanish! And even though I don't understand every single word, I understand every paragraph! It's nothing short of a miracle, and just another testament to me that the work we're doing is ordained of God and He's helping and supporting me.
Funny story of the week - we met a man who believes in the Norse gods. Can't remember what he said the religion is called. It was an interesting conversation ... Hna Cedeño didn't understand what he was saying, so I explained that he believed in Thor and Loki. She was like, "Like, in the Avengers?" and he immediately said, "Yeah, it's pretty disturbing to see your gods disrespected and represented in comic series and movies." ... We really didn't know what to say to that.
Yesterday we received an AMAZING referral! I was sick after dinner (like horrible chest pains and able to throw up) so we were at home. Hna Cedeño and I have decided that every time one of us is sick we have a miracle. This one was a text that we got from a member, who got our number from some other missionaries. She said that she has a friend she's been trying to share the gospel with, but there's a language barrier because she doesn't speak Spanish very well. But her friend has a lot of questions and is really interested in learning more about the church. So she asked us if we had any nights open for dinner this week, and it just so happens that we forgot to bring the dinner calendar to church that morning. The one day she could do was Thursday, and that was the one day we had available!! She told us that her friend is really excited to meet us, and we can't wait!
Saturday was really​, really cool - we got to meet the man who baptized Hna Cedeño's dad!!! He lives in New Mexico, and he and his wife came up here for the soul purpose of meeting with us. They took us out to lunch at Red Robin, and he brought his missionary journal and shared with us a bit more about the story of her family's conversion - he also baptized two of her aunts and her grandmother. It's amazing to think of how many lives have been changed because of the decisions that he made! There have been four missionaries come out of those baptisms, and think about how many lives they've touched, and their future families!! It was a humbling experience, and so fun! Also, they bought us both stationary to keep in touch with our families, which was super sweet!

.I'm sure you're all sick of me sending novels every week, but my testimony is just growing soooo much!! I know the church is true and I'm so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to focus on the gospel completely for this time of my life!!
Hna Garner
Let's start off with the changes - we have three greenies in our zone!! Elders Peterson, Ralph, and Reynolds are all training. One of the newbies is Elder McKee, and he's Spanish-speaking, so we'll be getting to know each other really well!

Our last picture as a zone
  And now for the BIGGEST news of the week - LUIS CAME TO CHURCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And he brought his two kids!!!!!!!! They were only able to come to sacrament meeting, but the talks were so perfectly directed to him and everything he's going through! I was playing the piano, so I didn't get to sit by them, but Hna Cedeño told me that he was crying during the first talk, which was all about the healing power of the atonement and how we should be grateful for our trials because they bring us closer to Christ. He really seemed to enjoy it, and the branch was AMAZING about welcoming him and making sure they all knew who he was and he got to meet a bunch of them. We also introduced his kids to others in the ward, and both of them said that they really, really wanted to go to primary!! It really was a miracle, and we know it was an answer to all of our prayers and fasting! We're SOOO grateful and can't wait to meet with him this week!!!!
One thing that really came out of this week was just more companionship unity. Hna Cedeño and I already loved each other soooo much, but we grew so much closer this week as friends! We've talked about anything and everything.
One thing that came from all of our tracting and walking around this week, though, was a miracle on Saturday! We were knocking on the doors of this apartment complex and knocked on the door of Isaac. He doesn't speak Spanish, but we taught him a little bit about the Book of Mormon, and we actually have an appointment with him today, and if he's interested afterwards we'll pass him on to the English missionaries. But the real miracle came when we asked him for referrals. He gave us SEVEN referrals!!!!!! That's what most people's WEEKLY goal is in this mission, and that day alone we got three more!!!! For the past week, we had 17 referrals, which is absolutely incredible!! Now the challenge is contacting them, because a lot of the time they're not home, but we'll keep trying until they are!!! That day we also knocked on 40 doors. My knuckles hurt.
Also, I hit my three months this Thursday! WHAT???
Luke 15:20. This is during the parable of the Prodigal Son, and I hadn't really ever noticed this detail before. The son is returning to his father to seek employment, and verse 20 reads, "And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." Those words - "when he was yet a great way off" - were incredibly significant to me this morning. It doesn't matter how much further we have to go in the repentance process. If we turn to the Lord and are making our way back to Him, with a contrite heart and a willingness to change, He will run to us immediately and embrace us with His love. And however much further we have to go, He will stand by us the whole way, as long as we keep our focus on moving closer and closer to Him.
Les quiero muchisimo!!!Hna Garner