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Monday, November 16, 2015

has the last year and a half gone by really quickly, or is it just me?

Hey family!

I hope you all had a great week! Thanks as always for your love and support.

This week was a great week. We worked really hard and were super busy, and it was worth it! We saw a lot of progress both in the work with the members and in the area in general this week, which was such a blessing. We had a couple of investigators come to church for the first time yesterday. We´ve been working with one of them to come to church for a while now, and last week she told us that she wasn´t going to be able to go, but promised us that she would come this week. So when we went to teach her on Wednesday we agreed to meet outside of our apartment to walk to church together. When we walked out yesterday she was waiting for us and as we started walking she started telling us about how the night before she was running around at 9:00 trying to find a place where she could buy more minutes to call us and tell us that she wasn´t going to go. She said she went to like four different places that normally sell credit for cell phones and every one was either closed or told her that they didn´t offer that service. We told her, "See? You obviously needed to come to church today." :) And the most interesting part is in Sunday School the week before we finished the course and the teacher decided to wait and start over in January, so instead of giving the normal lesson she gave one on Faith. We´ve been working with this same investigator a lot because she feels like she´s completely lost her faith, and the lesson was perfect for her. It was amazing how everything worked out! And she had a really good experience at church.

Today we went to el Centro with the other sisters in the Zone, and it was the best P-day I´ve ever had! We arrived in the center of town just in time to see a parade (this Friday is a national holiday, Día de la Revolución de México). After watching the parade for a while we went all over town seeing a few of the tourist sights- we went on a museum tour of the mining history here in Durango and a museum, and we were going to go on the Teleferico (gondola to see the city) but it was closed because of weather conditions, so I treated the other sisters to smoothies and brownies in a little café that we found. It was so fun and so sweet of Hermana Vázquez to think of doing that for Hermana Hernández and I. 

To be honest, I´ve kind of been avoiding writing this email.....I just don´t know what to say! I seriously can´t believe that it´s already been a year and a half, and I honestly don´t have words to express my gratitude for the opportunity that I´ve had to be a missionary. It has definitely been hard, but I have grown and learned so much, and become so much closer to my Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. I learned so many things on my mission that I wouldn´t have time to list them all, but I just want to share that I know that this work, this Church, and this Gospel are true. God is our loving Heavenly Father who created this plan for our eternal progress and we have eternal potential as His sons and daughters. I am so grateful for His Son Jesus Christ; because of Him each of us can have a new beginning and eternal joy.

Last transfer, an elder who was going home said in his final testimony, "Thanks to the Atonement, I have no regrets about my mission." I loved that. I was definitely not a perfect missionary, but this work is perfect and I am grateful for the Perfect Being who accepts my humble offering. He has given me so many blessings that the past year and a half haven´t been a sacrifice at all. It´s just another blessing, one of the biggest ones I have ever received. 

Mom and Dad, I´ll see you on Friday. Everyone else, I´ll see you on Thanksgiving. I love you all so much and I know that this Gospel is true. 

Love forever, 

Hermana Ashley Rose Southard
Misión México Torreón

Monday, November 9, 2015

once upon a time and answered prayers

Hello family!

Thanks for the emails this week. Yes, I am so excited to see you, but yes, I am starting to feel lots of emotions as I begin my last full week here. I´m ready to come home, I know I am, but.................

Bueno. In a few hours we´re actually going to go to the center of town for a few hours before District Meeting. Hermana Vázquez, a sister in our zone, asked permission for the six sisters in our zone to go to el Centro before Hermana Hernández and I leave in a couple of weeks. It was really sweet of her and I´m excited to go. I´ll send pictures next week. 

The ward activity turned out really well! Not a lot of members attended, but three of our investigators and lots of members from the other ward went, so I think it was worth it. Everyone who did go really liked it a lot and the next day were telling all of the other members that they missed out. The Elders came up with a really creative story line. The skit begins with the basic story of Little Red Riding Hood, on her way to Grandmother´s house, when she meets the wolf and he sends her down another path so that he can beat her to her Grandmother´s house. While traveling down the path, Little Red Riding Hood finds the Three Little Pigs and starts to play with them. Then the narrator comes in and asks the pigs what they´re doing in the story and they´re arguing about why they should be there when the wolf shows up, impatient because Little Red Riding Hood has taken so long to get to Grandma´s house. The wolf decides that he´s better off eating them all right there, and starts chasing them when Maleficent arrives (dramatic entry with an evil laugh) and asks what they´re doing. The wolf tries to act all big and bad, but she turns him into a chihuahua and is about to carry out her evil plans with all the other characters when the rancher prince arrives to save the day. The prince and Maleficent begin to fight when we go back to the day before, when the three little pigs are playing hide and seek when the missionaries contact the pig who´s doing the seeking. She tells them that she´s not interested in listening but gives them Maleficent´s address as a referral. The skit goes back to the fight between the prince and Maleficent, who´s about to beat him, when the narrator warns that the missionaries are coming. Everyone runs and hides in the house and the missionaries arrive and knock at the door, but no one answers. They´re standing outside figuring out what to do when the grandmother arrives. They contact her and she tells them that she´s a member and that Maleficent is her daughter. She lets the missionaries in and convinces Maleficent to listen to them, and the skit ends with the missionaries converting Maleficent. And they all live happily ever after. :)

So that was the big activity of this week, preparing for the skit. But we also had a really good experience and received a big answer to prayers yesterday. On Tuesday we had Zone Conference and decided to do a zone fast Saturday-Sunday. We were fasting for the investigators and for our ward. After sacrament meeting a brother in the ward asked if he could talk to us and expressed that he wants to help us motivate the ward members so that they begin participating in the work. We came up with a plan to train the ward members every Sunday that the bishop approved and they´re going to start in two weeks. It was literally an answer to three months´ of fasting and prayers and trying to get the members to work. Even though I won´t be here to help, I felt like all of the effort we´ve put in over the past few months is finally paying off. The Lord answers prayers in His own time, but He answers them.

I love you all so much! I´m ready to give it all I´ve got during my last full week. I love this work.

Love,

Hermana Southard    

cast photo: (left to right, from the top)
Elder Lima, the big bad wolf; Omar & Daniel, the missionaries; Elder Sánchez, el principe ranchero (the rancher prince); Hna Isis, who held the signs "And They Lived Happily Ever After", etc; Óscar, the narrator; Lelani, Little Red Riding Hood, Lety, Little Pig #2, Hna Peña, Little Pig #3, me, Malefica (Malificent); Hermana Hernández, the grandmother; and Hermana Osorio, Little Pig #1.





Monday, November 2, 2015

Feliz Día de Muertos!

Hola hola!

First of all, thank you so much for all of the emails! I am so sorry if I don´t have time to respond. But I absolutely love hearing from all of you. And thank you so much for all the words of support...I´m finding that the last transfer has some unique challenges but I´m doing good overall!

A couple of you asked about Día de los Muertos. Yep, it is today. The cemetary is in our area, and later on today we´re going to go to the market that they set up outside of the cemetary to contact and talk to people about the Plan of Salvation and Temples/Family History. It´s actually kind of funny, because the cemetary is partly in the area of Barrio Central and partly in the area of Barrio Guadalupe, and last year I went with my first companion to the same market to contact. I remember that when we had finished contacting we were walking when we both commented how the next year on Día de los Muertos, I would be just weeks away from finishing my mission and she would already be home. I can´t believe that year has already gone by. 

We´ve been practicing all week for the ward activity we´re going to have on Saturday. Next week I´ll send you a summary of the plotline of the skit we´re doing. It turned out really well and I´m excited. :) Two members from Mezquital are helping us and wow, acting is more complicated than I thought! Ha ha but it´s going to be great :)

I´m short on time (again), and have to go, but thank you again for all of your support. I know that this gospel and this work are true. I am so grateful for the opportunity I´ve had to serve here and the weeks I have left. 

Hermana Southard

Monday, October 26, 2015

my week in bullet points

Hey family!

I hope you´re all well! I´m sure you´ve had a really busy week. I don´t have a lot of time to write today, but here are the highlights of my week:

-on Monday we had our district meeting and we were talking about teaching simply so that the investigators truly understand the doctrine. We read a quote in PMG that talks about how we should be able to teach the doctrines of the gospel in such a way that even a child can understand them, and then we did the coolest practice ever! Our district leader brought in a bunch of Primary kids from his ward and each companionship taught them a lesson. My favorite part was when the elders asked the little boy they were teaching what substances we should avoid to keep the Word of Wisdom and he answered, "Alcohol, drugs, tea, coffee, candy...." ha ha. I loved the practice and loved being with the little kids.

-we´re planning an activity with the elders and sisters who are serving in Barrio Mezquital (the ward right next to ours- we share a church building). It´s going to be a talent show and we´re presenting a skit for the members. The elders came up with a really original script that includes a bunch of fairytale characters and the missionaries, of course. They cast me as Maleficent......not sure what to think about that. But in the end she´s baptized and gets called as the Stake RS President. 

-we found and started teaching a really amazing family this week: Familia Hernández Obregón. We contacted the parents on Tuesday and set up an appointment for the next day, but when we went back the older gentleman who answered the door told us they weren´t home (apparently he tells that to everyone who knocks). Long story short, we taught them for the first time yesterday and it was a beautiful lesson with an incredible Spirit, and all of them accepted to be baptized in December. We´re going to keep working hard with them, and I´m super excited to see them progress. 

-not so happy news: Hermana Garcia was transferred today :( that was hard. I was hoping to be able to finish up her training and be with her until the end of my mission. But now Hermana Peña and I are here in the area.

-The scripture that I am "ponderizing" (the verb "ponderize" is "meditizar" in Spanish. I was impressed with that translation during General Conference) this week is Alma 34:38. Actually, a few weeks before GC the assistants challenged us to memorize a scripture from the Book of Mormon every week, and I´ve really loved it. I chose this scripture because Thanksgiving is one month from today, and I want to cultivate an attitude of gratitude during this last month on my mission. 

-We were also challenged to finish the Book of Mormon in three months (by the end of October) and I´m so close! Hermana Garcia and I were barely starting Alma when October started, so we decided to study only the Book of Mormon during personal study. I´m in Mormon chapter 6 right now.

Well, my short email ended up pretty long. :) Sorry it took me 17 months to figure out how to write a good email. It´s Hermana Hernández´s birthday today (we were companions twice in Torreón) so we invited them over to eat tacos al pastor before we have to head to the Camionera for comp exchanges. I love you all so, so, so much. I´ll talk to you next week!

Hermana Southard

Monday, October 19, 2015

Love from Durango

Hey family!

I hope you´re all recovered from the crazy weekend of weddings :)....

It was a crazy week for us too. We had interviews with Presidente on Friday, which definitely helped me calm down a little bit. It was interesting adjusting to having two missionaries in training, but we´re all good. The good thing is that both of my hijas are dedicated missionaries who are here for the right reasons and willing to work! And they are both learning so fast. Seeing Hermana Peña, who just barely arrived, has helped me recognize the progress that Hermana García has had over these last six weeks. They always say that training is like raising a child, and I kind of feel like I´m getting a more realistic parenting experience training two at the same time, ha ha. It has really made me think about what it will be like when I actually have kids and have to worry about the individual needs of all of them while helping them all at the same time, if that makes sense. Even though I was so nervous at the beginning of last week, this week has been a week of a lot of pondering and prayer, and I know that this experience is what I need to finish out my mission. 

The highlight of our week was definitely the stake activity we had yesterday. There were lots of baptisms scheduled for the same day, so the Zone Leaders decided to combine all of them and do a stake baptismal service with a special program. All week long we were inviting members and investigators, because the program was made specifically with the investigators in mind. It turned out so well. There were a few talks, several videos, and all of the missionaries in the zone sang two numbers: "Our Savior´s Love", and "The Test" by Janice Kapp Perry. I actually sang the first little part of "The Test" solo, and it turned out well. We were all dressed in white. The Spirit was so strong, and it was so neat to see so many baptisms all at once- there ended up being six or seven of them.  

Well, I love you lots and I am excited to see you all, but I honestly still can´t believe that I´ll be going home so soon. It just doesn´t feel real. But we´re working hard and last week we found lots of new investigators that I know are going to progress. Actually, Mom and Dad, I think you´re going to get to attend my last baptism here in the mission. We have two investigators with baptismal dates scheduled for the 21st of November. I was really hoping you would get to be here for one. :) Please keep praying for us and our investigators. I know that this is the work of the Lord, and I am so happy doing it. 

I love you, 

Hermana Southard



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"terminar with a bang"

Hello family!

I´m not sure if Hermana Anderl emailed you yesterday to tell you that I would be writing today.

Yesterday I headed to Torreón to pick up another new companion, Hermana Peña. I´m now going to be training her and Hermana Garcia at the same time. I seriously couldn´t believe it when the Sister Training Leaders told me, and called the Assistants and told them they must be crazy. They assured me that it was Presidente who chose the trainers, not them. "You´re going to finish with a bang!" they told me. So yesterday at 5:30 Hermana Garcia and I headed to the Camionera here in Durango so I could take a bus to Torreón while Hermana García waited for us with another companionship here in Durango. We had the meeting there in the offices in Torreón and then returned in bus and arrived here in Durango last night around 8:45. 

I was feeling so many emotions yesterday- nervous, weak, insecure- and asked the assistants to give me a blessing. What caught my attention most was that I was told that this experience will help me to learn patience and how the Atonement can heal me. I know and am exercising my faith that this experience, even though it will be difficult, will be exactly what I need to finish my mission. I am grateful for every experience that I have had until now, and that I´ll be able to finish my mission with a bang :) I know that Jesus Christ and the Atonement will be essential to make these last six weeks of my mission the sweetest. 

I love you!

Hermana Southard


1. All of the sisters who were transferred in the Central Camionera in Torreón. Almost every companionship had transfers!
2. My new companion, Hermana Peña


Monday, October 5, 2015

La última conferencia aquí en Durango

Hello family!

I hope you had a great week and a great conference weekend! This week went well for us. It seems like every week goes by faster than the last. One highlight this week was teaching one of our investigators, Juan Carlos. I know I mentioned him when we started teaching him a few weeks ago. He´s progressing really well and has a baptismal date scheduled for the 31st of this month. On Thursday we taught him and the bishop´s wife accompanied us. We talked about the Word of Wisdom and the Atonement, and how the Atonement can help us to overcome our addictions. As we were leaving the bishop´s wife told us that during the lesson she thought of a church video that she wanted Juan Carlos to see, so went with him to the bishop´s house the next day to watch it. It´s called "In the Master´s Hands" (or something like that), and it was such a powerful lesson. I had never seen the video, but it´s really good. We talked about the worth of souls and how God sees us for what we can become, and how He helps us to reach our potential. I was so, so grateful to Hermana Hernández (the bishop´s wife) for receiving the inspiration to watch it with him. Members are so crucial to this work!

So Saturday was absolutely nuts. The first session of Conference was going to be broadcast live in our building at 11, but we left the house at 9:30 because Alejandro, our recent convert who was baptized last week, wanted to go to all four sessions of conference and we weren´t able to find anyone with a truck who could take him in his wheelchair, so we picked him up and walked to the Church. It was an adventure, but he was so determined to see all the sessions. After dropping him off we went with a sister in the ward to pick up a couple of investigators and arrived at the church a couple of minutes before 11. We walked into the chappel were surprised when the broadcast wasn´t going. They were having major technical difficulties and couldn´t get it to work. One elder managed to pull up the audio on a member´s phone and we listened to the first two talks, and halfway through the third talk they got the broadcast to work. It lasted until the talk was finished, but then went out again and they announced that there was no internet connection in the area. So one of the ward members took our investigators to another building to catch the last 40 minutes while we stayed with Alejandro, trying to figure out how to get him to another building. The bishop from another ward ended up being able to help us take him, and we arrived in time to hear the closing hymn by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It was honestly so crazy that it was hard to feel the Spirit and enjoy the Conference, but it all worked out! I was especially grateful that our investigators were able to go and see at least a part of the conference. Yesterday we were able to see both sessions and the morning session was my favorite. I loved President Nelson´s talk most of all. I absolutely love General Conference and can´t wait to go back and read the talks. When I asked you to sent me the conference Ensign a few months ago Mom, I set the goal to read all of the last session´s conference talks before this conference. And I´m so glad I did! I feel like i got so much out of them, reading them for a second time. I´m planning on doing it again with this conference. 

Well, I love you all so much and hope you have a fantastic week! I´ll be praying for you lots. Thanks for all of the emails and for the pillowcase! I love it and put it on my pillow. I love you and it won´t be long before I see you again. :)

Love,

Hermana Southard

pictures:

1. A family from another ward that we met yesterday in between sessions
2. Alejandro wanted a picture with the elders: Elder Kemp, Elder Maldonado, Elder Buhler, and Elder Pérez