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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Que honda?

Hello family and friends!

I hope you've all had a great week! I can't believe it's already P-day again. This week has been crazy and I've definitely been humbled a lot this week. To be honest, my companion and I are struggling to teach in the way we need to, but wow, I've learned a lot about how to bring the Spirit into a lesson.

Our TRC investigator is progressing really well. We had a very powerful lesson with her on Tuesday where we talked about how if she wants to receive answers to her prayers, she needs to have a real intent- to be willing to do whatever the Lord asks her to do. She asked us if she could pray with us right then, which shocked us; the very first lesson we had with her, she told us that she doesn't pray. She said a very earnest and humble prayer that touched all of us in that room. It's amazing how accepting of the Gospel she's become in the last week. Unfortunately tomorrow will be our last day teaching her, but Hma Woods and I are hoping to keep in contact with her after we leave the MTC. 

Speaking of that, only a week and a half until I leave for Mexico! I actually got to meet my mission president on Monday. All of the new mission presidents who arrive in their fields next week were up here this week to receive training from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and their missionaries got to meet with them on Monday night. I love President and Sister Ramos. They're tiny- I'm a few inches taller than Sister Ramos, and President Ramos might be about my same height, but I was wearing heels when I met him, so I was a little taller than he was. They are so humble and so kind. We saw them again on Tuesday night after the devotional and Sister Ramos was asking us what we want for breakfast on our first day in Mexico! They are going to take good care of us, and I am so excited to learn and grow with them. They both speak a little English, but not much. But President Ramos speaks Spanish really slowly, so it's pretty easy to understand them. Meeting with both of them made me so excited to get down to Mexico and meet the sweet people there. 

We had some great devotionals this week. On Sunday Sister Janice Kapp Perry and her husband Douglas came and spoke to us, and it was one of the best devotionals I've ever been to. They were hilarious and it was so fun- we sang a lot of her songs during the meeting and they both spoke to us about missionary work. At one point, Sister Perry started telling us about how they met: they were in a clarinet class together at BYU, and she was sucking on her reed to get ready to play for the final when Brother Perry leaned over and said, "Those lips would be better for something else" or something like that. We all exploded in laughter, and then Brother Perry jumped out of his seat, walked as fast as his 80 year old legs would carry him, and went over and grabbed Sister Perry's face and kissed her hard. It was hilarious- I doubt many MTC devotionals have that happen! But the devotional was also exactly what I needed to hear. Something Sister Perry said comforted me and reassured me in exactly the right way, and was definitely a tender mercy from the Lord.

We also got to hear from Elder D. Todd Christofferson on Tuesday. And because the mission presidents were there, Elders Nelson, Oaks, Ballard, Bednar, and Andersen were also there. Literally half of the Quorum of the Twelve were at our devotional! It was awesome. Elder Christofferson spoke about the worth of souls, a topic very near to my heart. One thing I loved that he said was, (quoting a story told by Pres. Monson) "The worth of souls is the capacity to become like God." Wow. We have so much divine potential.

Well, should finish up. But I want to say that since coming on a mission I have realized how richly blessed I am, especially in having such wonderful and supportive family and friends. Thank you so much for all of your love- it's so much easier to serve a mission because of the support I feel from you all. Los quiero muchisimo, y nos vemos la proxima semana!

Hermana Southard

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Que Padre!

Hola querida familia y amigos!

I hope you've all had a fantastic week, and especially a fantastic Father's Day. In Mexico, "que padre" is a slang term for "how cool". "Que padre" literally translates into English as "how father", which makes sense when you have a dad as cool as mine. Really though, I am so grateful to have such a great father who is a good example of a righteous disciple of Christ. The majority of missionaries in my district don't have dads who served missions, so I am especially grateful as a missionary to have the example of my dad to look to. 

I hope this Father's Day you also thought about our Heavenly Father as well. The very first thing we teach our investigators is that God is our loving Heavenly Father. If you believe that, you can have the faith to believe the rest of the Gospel. Yo se, sin duda, que Dios es nuestro Padre Celestial amoroso, y que El nos envio a la tierra para aprender y crecer y llegar a ser como El. What a blessing it is to be one of God's children, and to have the opportunity through the Atonement to be able to return and live with Him someday. 

This was a very full and wonderful week! My trip to Vegas on Friday was quite the experience. There were only two other missionaries from the MTC that I traveled with, but we ended up meeting up with about seven other prospective missionaries who are all part of an experimental group. They're all going to Mexico on their missions (I even met to guys who will be coming to Torreon!) but they're going to go down to the Mexico MTC instead of coming here to Provo.

The trip was a great opportunity to share the Gospel. While we were waiting for our flight to Vegas a Mexican woman who spoke a little English came up to us and asked us to help us find her gate. I think she may have thought we were airport employees ha ha. But I walked with her to her gate and got to practice my Spanish and talk to her about Mexico. When I left her I gave her a pass along card, explaining that I was a missionary for my Church. She was Christian and was very excited to get it. 

Going straight from the MTC to the airport in Vegas, where there are more slot machines than there are TSA employees, was a little bit of a culture shock. It was weird being outside of the MTC, but I loved it because I really felt set apart as a missionary. In the MTC, I'm just one of thousands of missionaries. But while we were traveling, we stood out. I love that when people see me I am immediately identified as a representative of Jesus Christ. When I was going through security in Salt Lake they made me take off my name badge and I hated it. I felt awful without it on, even though it was only for a couple minutes. My name badge is what marks me as a missionary and is very dear to me. The first thing you do when you enter the MTC is get your name badge, which I think is so wonderful- the first thing you do as a missionary is literally take His name upon you. 

On the flight back I sat next to an incredible gentleman who was flying to Washington to visit his grandkids for Father's Day, and we had a very pleasant conversation the whole way home. He is an art expert and because I want to major in Art History we talked a lot about art and traveling. He is so knowledgeable, but so humble. He teaches at a school in Vegas for very underprivileged kids and it was amazing to hear about all the programs he's come up with to teach them. He knew a little about the Church, and we talked about missions a lot. He's from upstate NY and has actually been to the Hill Cumorah pageant many times. When I found out he was going to be in the area this summer I told him he should go to the pageant again. He like that idea- he said he hadn't been in a while and it would be good to go. He even called the pageant "powerful. I also gave him a pass along card with a picture of the Book of Mormon, and when he saw the picture of the Book he said, "Oh! I still have a copy from the pageant." I told him, "You should read it! It's my favorite book." He was such a great guy and I've been praying for him since I met him. This whole experience has made me so excited to go into the field. 

We had two amazing devotional speakers this week. Sister Sheri Dew spoke to us on Sunday and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke to us on Tuesday. Elder Ballard was so powerful. A shiver went through my body when he told us we were involved in the greatest era of missionary work in the history of the world. He also said twice, "Keep your eye on us (meaning the First Presidency and the Twelve). We cannot and will not lead you astray." Hearing an apostle testify about his own divine calling was so incredible. We're so blessed to be able to hear from these men. We hear next week's devotional should be pretty special...we're very excited.

I've been thinking a lot about my purpose as a missionary this week. The missionary purpose is to "invite others to come unto Christ". If I can bring one person closer to Christ every day, even if that one person is only myself, I will consider myself a successful missionary. This is only possible if I rely on the Lord and do exactly as he directs me to do. It's been amazing to teach one of our investigators and see how the Lord directs us to teach her. She told me that I always share exactly the scriptures she needs- I know that's because the Lord knows her heart and can tell me through the Spirit what she needs to hear. 

I love being a missionary. There is so much to do everyday to help God's children. I will forever be grateful for this opportunity. I love you all and hope you have a great week!

Nos vemos!

Hermana Southard

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hello!

Hello family and friends!

It has been a great week. The second week of the MTC definitely goes by a lot faster than the first. I get to fly to Las Vegas tomorrow to get my visa, which I am so excited for. I 'm so glad it's come through and that I'll be able to go to Mexico on time. 

We had a special treat this week- Elder Cook from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles came and gave the devotional on Tuesday. Of course, every devotional speaker we've had has been fantastic, but these men have a special spirit and witness of Christ about them. You can't deny that they are servants of God. 

We also got four new sisters and four new elders in our zone this week, which is awesome. I have pictures that I was going to try to send, but I don't think these computers work with SD cards...I'll try to figure that out. Anyway, we've been having a lot of fun as a district and a zone.  Sometimes it's hard to find a balance between having fun and staying focused, but the missionaries in my district are very dedicated to working hard and we've learned a lot together. We have some incredible teachers who have taught me so much about how to teach the Gospel. I'm not a very good teacher naturally, but with their guidance and the Spirit I've learned a lot and I can't wait to get to Mexico. 

I've only been on a mission for two weeks, but I never want it to end! I love this work and I love being a representative of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately I'm already out of time for today, but I want to share a thought with you all. One of the elders in my district said a couple weeks ago that the Atonement is "the most un-used resource in the world". I think that's true- Christ is offering it to us and so often our pride gets in the way of us using that Atonement. Let Him help you in whatever you may need, and you will see miracles in your life. I promise.

I love you all, and I hope you have a fantastic week!

Hermana Southard

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Hola querida familia y amigos!

Hello from the MTC! I am so excited to finally be able to communicate with you all. My P day is on Thursday, but we didn´t get one last week because Tuesday was our first full day of classes. And unfortunately I have a little less time to email today than I usually will because I had to go to the doctor up on main campus (I'll explain that later), but I am eager to tell you all about my week.

First of all, thank you so much for all of the notes you left for me at my farewell, and for the letters and packages I've received since being here. I think DearElder is the best way to send letters. I love having a letter to read at the end of the day. I feel so much support and love from everyone, so thank you for that. 

The first three or four days here at the MTC went by really slowly. They were also a bit overwhelming, but so good. I am on the MTC West Campus (we usually call it the CCM, which is short for Centro de Capitación Misionero).We do live at Wyview, and attend class in the old Raintree apartments. I love being on the west campus. We live in an apartment rather than a dorm, so there's a lot more space, and because the entire campus is Spanish speaking we're more or less immersed in the language. We try to speak Spanish all the time, but there are times when we're too spent to try and speak in Spanish. Our classes are completely in Spanish though, and I was pleasantly surprised on the first day when I found out I could understand about 95% of what my teachers were saying to me. By Friday we taught our first investigators in Spanish. Our district is assigned an "investigator" every week who is actually a teacher here at the MTC. But there are also people walking around the campus who you can set up appointments with, and my companion and I have picked up four investigators that way. Some of the investigators are members of the Church but others are real investigators. I'm pretty sure two of our investigators are members of the Church but it's such good practice to teach them. The other two are a husband and wife from Guatamala who we are meeting with tomorrow for the first time, and I'm not sure if they're members of the Church, but I think they might be real investigators. We treat every investigator as if they're really investigating the Church, and it's amazing the revelation we can receive for them. 

So my companion's name is Hermana Woods. She's from Sacramento California, is nineteen years old, and also went to two semesters at BYU before entering the MTC. We get along really well. We are pretty different in a lot of ways, but I think our strengths compliment each other's and there is a lot I can learn from her. There are two other sisters in our district, who also share our apartment with us: Hermana Robinson and Hermana Kell. Hermana Kell is 23 and graduated from BYU last December. Hermana Robinson is 20 and goes to Utah State. I love all of the sisters I get to work with here. 

There are four Elders in our district. Elder Hazel and Elder Dreesen, and Elder Stewart and Elder Branham. Elder Hazel is very loud, sarcastic, and funny. Elder Dreesen is also funny and a little sarcastic, but more laid back than his companion. Elder Stewart is our district leader. He's 6'7" and the ceilings in our classroom are only 7', so he's usually slouching. He's been a great district leader. Elder Branham is "sneaky funny" as Hermana Robinson described him, and looks like Ron Weasley (not Rupert Grint, Ron Weasley.) Five of us in our zone are going to Mexico, though because we're an intermediate class it's a mix of all different missions. Elders Stewart and Branham are both going to Costa Rica, and Hermana Kell is going to California. The other district in our zone is all Elders. One Elder, who is one of the zone leaders, is from Pleasant Grove, so that was fun to figure that out. Our district is already really good friends- it's easy to get to know people when you spend 16 hours a day with them. 

I've also been able to see a few friends, Sister Marquis and Sister Olsen, when I go up to main campus for devotionals. It's so fun to see all of us preparing to go out into our field of labor, excited to serve. 

It's amazing how much I learn in a single day here. On Thursday, I was so hesitant to pray that I wrote out a prayer in Spanish and used it twice that day, once reading it and once more or less memorized. But by the end of Friday I had said more prayers in Spanish than I could count! My language skills are improving every day. These past two days I've also learned so much about how to teach investigators. They kind of just give you an investigator at first and let you figure out how to teach them, and then teach you how to teach once you're finished with your first investigator. I have such a strong testimony that this is the Lord's work. There is no way I would be able to do the things I do everyday--especially with the language--if it wasn't. I can feel Him buoying me up and strengthening me daily. 

I want to share one experience before I have to finish. On Tuesday I was exercising with weights during gym time when I felt my shoulder momentarily pop out of place. I got really dizzy and started seeing stars but was pretty sure I was otherwise okay, so I continued to exercise, being careful to not work my shoulder. That night at the Devotional though my shoulder was in a lot of pain and I really started to worry that I had seriously injured it. I was a little discouraged that night because it had been a long day and I was in pain, but I fervently pleaded with Heavenly Father to heal my shoulder completely. But as I prayed before going to sleep, I felt literally "encircled about in the arms of His love" (2 Nephi 1:15). It was like Heavenly Father was giving me a hug, and it was the most comforting answer I could have received. As I lay in bed on my back, trying to not further aggravate my shoulder, the song "Abide With Me, 'Tis Eventide" kept running through my head, as I continued to pray that I would be completely healed. 

The next day I went and saw a physical therapist who did some tests and said that if my shoulder had subluxed, it was now back in place. She set up an appointment with the doctor for me and I went and saw him today. The doctor said it's more likely that I just tore a tendon, but that it is also very possible my shoulder bone momentarily popped out of place but went right back in. Either way, he is completely confident that I will be 100% recovered within the next week and that I shouldn't have problems in the future. He prescribed some anti-inflammatory drugs just to be safe. Heavenly Father definitely answered my prayers for recovery. 

Well, I need to go, but I love you all! I felt so much peace my first day in the MTC. I know this is where I need to be. I miss you all of course, but I haven't really gotten homesick because I'm just taking everything a day at a time. I love being a missionary, a servant of God and a representative of Jesus Christ. I know this is His Church, His Gospel, and His work. Have a great week!

Abrazos y besos, 

Hermana Ashley Southard