Monday, March 20, 2017

There is Power in the Book!

So my first week back has been a whirlwind. There are definitely quite a few things that are different (they've changed the schedule and some of the policies slightly for missions worldwide), but at the same time it almost feels like I never left. I love being a missionary and I'm happier here in the field than I've ever been!

My luggage got stuck in Chicago so I was actually without most of my things on Tuesday and had to use Hermana Weyand's makeup and everything else in the morning, but I got the luggage by Tuesday night which was great!

 Getting set apart on Monday was a great experience, I immediately felt an influx of the spirit and just PURE joy!

We helped a member make tamales

The Lopez family texted Ilene this photo
My companion right now is Hermana Weyand, this is her last transfer, and she just got her flight itinerary to go home. She's pretty depressed about it, she doesn't want to leave! And I can see why, she's an incredible missionary. It's amazing, too, because she was called English-speaking, not Spanish-speaking, and her Spanish is really amazing even though she hasn't been speaking it her whole mission. She's from Pittsburgh, so it's fun to talk about the East Coast :P  Hermana Weyand and I have been getting along really great, and I'm glad that I had the chance to serve with her! She's a great missionary and fun to be around, and has made the transition back into the field easy to manage and fun. We seriously get along so well, and we're BOTH staying in Gilbert next transfer! I'm really excited, but we're still not sure what that means - we could be trio training, but we actually think they're going to split the Gilbert area so we'll both be here, but with our own companions and half of the branch's boundaries to look over each. It should be an interesting transition, but we won't know until tomorrow night at the earliest!

My Spanish has come back REALLY fast, the gift of tongues is definitely real! I stumble a bit more than I was stumbling in November, but not by much, and everyone says I'm fluent, which is good. Also, seeing everyone in the branch again was such a tender experience! They were all so happy to see me, and I feel SO much love for these people!!!

We saw a number of miracles this week with amazing lessons with some of our investigators and less actives, but the biggest miracle was really how Hermana Weyand and I just immediately had companionship unity. We've been able to teach with the Spirit and listen to each other as we teach, and really pay attention to the needs of the people we've been teaching. I feel like we've been companions for MUCH longer than just one week! The Lord has definitely helped us to work hard and support one another. Also, we have a mutual love for the gospel that has kept us going through the hardest moments this week.Hermana Weyand has a huge passion for the Book of Mormon, and I feel like that has been the theme of this re-entry into my mission. I've been reading the conference talks from this past conference, and so many of them are about the Book of Mormon and how incredible it is, and how it really is the tool for conversion. There's a talk in the priesthood session called, "There is Power in the Book" by Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., and it tells so many stories about people joining the church as they felt the spirit through reading the Book of Mormon. I felt a need to focus more on that goal for our investigators, and on Saturday our Stake President challenged all of us missionaries to give out five Books of Mormon - and then said, "Actually, in the branch, it should be 10." Then Hermana Weyand said, "Why not 15?" And yesterday, we gave our SEVENTEENTH Book of Mormon! It was such a miracle and we felt the power of God so much as we strove to fulfill that goal and are confident we'll see miracles this transfer!

I have, however, been slightly discouraged at various points throughout the week, because none of the people that I was teaching last fall are still investigating the church, and almost none of the less actives that I was working with have been reactivated - in fact, less actives who we helped reactivate have stopped coming to church again. It's really disheartening, because you put so much love and effort into your work and then don't see any fruits of your labors. But I've been reminded by the spirit over and over again that that doesn't mean the first six months of my mission were a failure. I was reading in Elder Neil L. Andersen's talk from the last conference, "A Witness of God," and in it he says, "Please don't see your efforts to share the love of the Savior with another as a pass/fail test with your grade determined by how positively your friends respond to your feelings or invitation to meet the missionaries. With our mortal eyes, we cannot judge the effect of our efforts, nor can we establish the timetable. When you share the love of the Savior with another, your grade is always an A+."I reflected on that this morning when I was reading in Alma 36 where Alma recounts his conversion story to Helaman. He says that as he was racked with torment, he remembered the preachings of his father, and that helped him turn to Christ and change his whole life. Perhaps I'll never know the effect that I may have had on people, but I know that I was doing the Lord's work. Also, since I'll be staying in Gilbert, I have the opportunity to contact some of those people again and see if they've reached a point where their hearts are more open to receive the gospel. But even if they aren't - I've fulfilled my calling and am always actively seeking to improve, and as hard as it can be, I can be confident that the Lord is pleased with my efforts.I'm so grateful for a knowledge of this gospel, and to know that the Lord really does have a plan for each and every one of us!

I LOVE THE SCRIPTURES!!!! AND I LOVE GENERAL CONFERENCE!!! I can't believe that it's coming up so soon!This verse really stood out to me this week with it being my first week back in the mission - Alma 30:9 ... "Now if a man desired to serve God, it was his privilege; or rather, if he believed in God it was his privilege to serve him." There was also a quote from General Conference by Elder Oaks where he said, "Sharing the restored gospel is our lifelong Christian duty and privilege." I feel so privileged to be able to share the gospel as a missionary once again!In Neil L. Andersen's talk, he gives us this amazing promise: "As you respond to spiritual promptings, the Holy Ghost will carry your words to the heart of another, and one day the Savior will confess you before His Father." What an incredible promise that is! It is essential to share the gospel, and the rewards we will receive are immeasurable! He also said, "Each of us is a piece of the puzzle, and each of us helps to set in place other essential pieces. You are important to this great cause."There were SO many talks about the Book of Mormon last conference, and I loved how Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr. reminded us that "The greatest power of the Book of Mormon is its impact in bringing us closer to Jesus Christ." In Gary E. Stevenson's talk "Look to the Book, Look to the Lord," he reminded us of the power of the Book of Mormon with this quote from President Benson: "The Book of Mormon teaches us truth [and] bears testimony of Christ .... But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation .... You will find the power to stay on the straight and narrow path."

As far as my health, I'm doing great! I'm still keeping a food journal, and I'm being really careful about what I eat, and I've felt great.

I've got to go.  Love you!
Hermana Garner

leaving from Newark airport to go back, she was so excited!

she got to see her former companion Herman CedeƱo at a conference

Hermana Weyand ready to fight the cockroaches in the apartment

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