Monday, August 14, 2017

The highlight of the week was definitely Gloria's baptism!! 

I met Gloria a few months ago on exchanges with Hna CedeƱo.  Gloria has moved a lot, but considers herself mostly from Spain, though she was born in Chile. She's very animated and dedicated to living the gospel - she's been planning her baptism for over a month, but wanted to wait until her actual birthday to do it (partly hoping her daughter would be here from Mexico by then, but they hit a snag with the paperwork so she wasn't able to make it). She was SO excited for her baptism all week, and when Saturday came she was there in a brand new dress she bought specifically for that day. When the ward mission leader asked her if she was ready after the talk on baptism, she immediately said, "Si!" I don't think I've ever seen someone stand up that fast or answer that question so quickly, it was hilarious but also heartwarming seeing how much she desired it and how much it meant to her! She was confirmed the same day, since we didn't have church yesterday and we all wanted her to be able to go to the Tucson temple dedication with us. The spirit was so strong, and it made her really excited to go to the temple to do baptisms 

Another really, really amazing experience this week was being able to go to the sealing of the Quintero family on Saturday morning. They're a family from the branch in Gilbert, but I worked with them a lot when I was there last year and this past April. Hna Quintero was never interested in joining the church, but her husband was a member. He died just a few years ago, and she started taking the missionaries a bit more seriously. Now, they're just the most solid family you would ever meet - Fernanda is 17, Rene is 11, and Willy is 6. I've come to love them so much, and was thrilled that they were finally able to be sealed.  When they brought the kids in to join Hna Quintero and the proxy brother, the sealer looked at them all and said softly, "Do you know what's about to happen?" Fernanda nodded, and said in a shaky voice, "We're going to be sealed to our father." Rene started crying and put her head down on the altar, and I lost it. I don't think there was a dry eye in the entire room. The love and compassion that I feel for that wonderful, wonderful family is beyond anything I've felt before.  While we were there, I also got to see almost all of my favorite people from the branch, since they'd come to the sealing as well. I felt so loved as they all greeted me, all of them kept asking when I was coming back north haha. I miss them! 

Jimmy's still progressing, his smoking has improved a lot and we're proud of him! We took him to the visitor's center yesterday morning and watched the Joseph Smith movie, which we think was helpful - the spirit was definitely there - but we're still searching for how to best help him take that leap of faith. He wants to be baptized, and he's on date for the 26th. 

 Another person on date is Diana for this Saturday.  She's 9, super shy, but she and her mom have been investigating forever. Letty, her mom, wants to get baptized SO bad but has some hurdles. So together we decided to not wait anymore for Diana and go ahead and get her baptized.  Diana's excited about it. 

 In other news - Wednesday was zone conference, and at the end of it President Wheeler got a call then came back in and announced that they were shipping out the smartphones the next day!  I'm excited to be able to use it as a tool in missionary work! Sometime this week Elder Bednar's going to be here to train a small group of missionaries (most likely the ones they choose to be the new 'district' - to follow them around and videotape them to train other missionaries) and then probably next week we'll actually get the phones. Crazy! Elder Anderson will also be here for a mission tour this month, so we're in for some cool experiences!

The scriptures are so powerful and the source we should turn to to find the Lord's strength when we're feeling weak! Some of the things I learned this week:

 - The Plan of Salvation is the key, and part of the reason why the Book of Mormon is so important since it makes the Lord's plan so clear. Without an understanding and testimony of the plan of salvation, why would we do anything in the gospel? 

- Quote from Elder Bednar: "[God] shouldn't have to dramatically shake us to get our attention."

- There are so many incredible examples of charity in the scriptures - specifically charity for our enemies. When Christ said, "Love your enemies," He didn't mean to just not do bad things to them - He meant to actually love them. That's something I definitely need to work on, having genuine love for everyone. 

This morning, I was reflecting on everything I've experienced and learned on my mission, and reading Dad's journal entry that he put on the back of our 2015 Christmas card, and I just felt overwhelmed. I wrote this in my study journal: "I am so humbled by the sacrifice and love of my Savior and Brother, Jesus Christ. My soul is filled with gratitude and wonder. I look at the pictures of my family on my wall and feel close to tears knowing that we can and will be together for eternity - all because of the mercy and love of our Heavenly Father and His Only Begotten. I feel in my heart what President Nelson said in conference last October - 'As our Savior becomes more and more real to us and as we plead for His joy to be given to us, our joy will increase.'

 My heart is full of joy!"
Hermana Garner

Monday, August 7, 2017

It's been a great week! I LOVE Hermana Showalter, she's amazing!

So, a little about her - she's from Buffalo, NY and is very, very proud of it, she's studying industrial design at BYU (if she gets into the program - her portfolio is ready, she'll be submitting it in the Spring) and is a super talented artist. She doesn't like chocolate, she LOVES to read, is a huge fan of Brooklyn 99 and many of the other best TV shows out there, has an unhealthy addiction to McDonald's 59 cent ice creams, and most DEFINITELY a carnivore. Her sister's actually getting married this weekend, so flashback to a year ago in my own situation! I love her so much, I feel pretty certain we're going to be lifelong friends, we just love being in each others' company! I had already been living with her for the past three months, but I love her so much more as I've gotten to know her more personally. She also has an amazing testimony and our comp studies are great, we learn so much from each other!

We have some amazing investigators in this area, too. I've already met quite a few of them from exchanges and from them coming to church (I'm still in the ward, in case you didn't remember). One of them is Gloria, and her baptism is this Saturday (she's SO excited about it!) so that's going to be awesome. She's been investigating since April, but has had this baptismal date for over a month (she very specifically wanted to be baptized on her birthday). Sister Shaffer's going to sing a special number for it, but just asked me to play for her or sing with her ... so I might be doing something as well, we'll see haha. But it'll be fun, she'll be confirmed the same day so she can go to the Tucson temple dedication this next Sunday (there won't be regular church).

And then there's Jimmy. Jimmy is awesome! He had plans to be baptized about 25 years ago but didn't. Then he fell off the grid, and Hnas Showalter and Shaffer just found him again last transfer. The day they found his trailer (he lives in a lot behind his restaurant, still under construction, which is behind the mattress firm in Gilbert) he said, "You found me! Well, maybe you'll be the ones to baptize me." He really does want to get baptized, and has a baptismal date for the 26th. His only issue at the moment is smoking, but we've seen so many miracles as we've worked with him to help him quit. He has, too - he's down to 2 cigarettes a day, and he finds that he can't even finish them,  yesterday, he was only able to take two puffs before he felt too guilty and was too disgusted to continue, and he threw it away! We're certain he'll be able to do it, and we've talked a lot about him finding his strength from the Lord, and he's truly seeking for that. He still has a couple of little doubts, but he knows the church is true so he's moving forward with that faith. Pray for him to keep striving and overcome this!

We had a really cool experience on Thursday. We weren't sure where to go to tract, so we said a prayer. I felt like we needed to be in the Southwest corner of our area, and Hna Showalter had a specific former come to mind, Carina - who just happens to live in the area I felt prompted to go to. Hna Showalter was nervous about it - apparently dropping her was really awkward, and she didn't know how Carina would react to a visit a couple months later. But the prompting was clear, so we went. 

Caught in a rain storm
As we were walking to the door, it opened. Carina walked out - she was about to leave to pick up her son from school. First evidence of the Lord's timing. We told her we were in the area and had just been thinking about her. And in the course of the conversation, we learned that she'd just lost her brother. Second evidence of the Lord's timing. In three years she's lost 2 brothers and her husband, and she talked about how she was praying to God, "Please, no more." I asked her if we could visit this weekend - and she told us she was leaving for Mexico the next day. Third evidence of the Lord's timing. We gave her a Plan of Salvation pamphlet and invited her to read it on her trip and share it with her family to help them find peace. The Spirit was so strong, and when we got in the car Hna Showalter and I just looked at each other and she said, "That was inspired." It was a humbling experience. My testimony truly grew of the Lord's hand in His work. He knows each of His children, where they are, and what they need at this moment, and leads us and uses us as His hands to serve them, often without us even realizing it.

Hermana Garner