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Monday, July 28, 2014

Answers to Mom's questions

What are the members like?  Do they take care of/help you? the members here are AWESOME. We eat with a different family every day, which allows us to get to know them really well. There are only a few members who live over here in our area though. But the Limones family, Hermana Limones and her daughter Rocio, are like my Mexican family. I feel like they´re my grandma and aunt. They live over here in our area and help us take care of everything we need. They are so, so caring and always so willing to help us. I can´t even list all the ways they´ve already helped us! They feed us, let us use they´re laundry machine to wash our sheets, and were helping me when my eye was swollen this week. Yesterday Hermana Limones told me they were praying for me and were worried because of my eye (which is fine now). I love them so much! I´ll take a picture with them to send to you.

Do you feel safe there?  (You can be honest :) Yes. It´s not Lindon, but my companion watches out for me and we´re careful. The Lord is protecting us, I know.

What things are different now that sisters are in that area? I´m not sure, honestly. But I did find out that the sisters never get sent out to the ranchos (country). I´ll either be in Durango or Torreón my entire mission.

How is the laundry going?, Really. Good. We are not allowed to wash our clothes in a washing machine unless we pay to take them to a laundromat. Hna Limones taught me how to wash using a lavadora. It´s not that bad, honestly. It does take a long time, but your clothes are really clean. I´m including pictures of our lavadora. One side has a faucet where we get water from. We pour the water on our clothes, rub them with a bar of soap, and then scrub it against the ridges on the other side of the lavadora. It´s the typical way to wash here in México...it´s just what everyone does!  

If you are not in the center of Durango, are you out in a rural area? Or how far out from the main part of the city is it?  What is it like? We´re only about 20-30 mins outside of the center. There are still stores and commercial centers, but our area is mostly residential. The houses are low to the ground and colorful, but it´s definitely a desert out here! Lots of dirt.  

What meals do you have to make for yourself? Breakfast and sometimes a small dinner before bed. Cereal, pancakes, simple things like that.

Are you able to buy most of the stuff you need with your missionary debit card/missionary monthly allowance? (I assume you have one?)  If we keep $75-100 in your acct. is that enough?  I have had other missionary moms tell me that's what they do in case of loss or theft. I think so. And that amount of money is perfect. 12 pesos equal one dollar; our monthly allowance is the equivalent of $115. Crazy, huh?? I´ll have to use that money if I want to buy something personal, or like you said, in case of theft. But everything is super cheap here; if I break or loose something it´s probably easier and cheaper to try and buy it over here.

What is the most common thing you eat? Soup, rice, tortillas. The food is really good. I asked one member for her recipe for these meat burritos that were sooo good. Also, when you come to México, try the little candies that look like the Méxican flag. They´re coconut, and they´re my favorite. When do you come to México again?

Have you been sick yet from water/food contamination? Not too bad. Everyone has to adjust.

What was most surprising to you about where you are? That I´m actually living in México, speaking Spanish every day. It´s weird to think about sometimes.

I was glad to hear the sister in your ward asked you if you were wearing sunblock!!  Now it's my turn…are you wearing sunblock?  :)  :) Yes. But I do have a tan already. The tan line on my feet is especially clear!

Where do you go to use the internet? An internet café in our area.

We had some funny experiences this week. There were a couple lessons that were just funny. One was when we were teaching a 75 year old investigator outside of her house. There are these trucks with speakers on top that drive around advertising different things. They´re super loud, and of course one parked right down the street as we were teaching this investigator. It was so funny, trying to speak loud enough to be heard and straining to her what she was saying. 

Another time, we were teaching a lesson to a woman when her daughter ran in with her dying pet chicken. We just sat there for a few minutes and watched her try and revive the chicken. The poor girl, who´s five years old, started bawling when she figured out her chick had died. It was kind of a funny situation. 

The people here are so kind. After one lesson, an investigator who sells clothes gave me a skirt, two shirts, and a jacket. I was so touched, I felt like crying. She needs those clothes to sell, but she just told us that we need them more. Even many people who tell us they´re not interested in the message are still friendly and always tell us we can return if we ever need help or anything.

I feel like I´ve adjusted to missionary life. It´s hard in a lot of ways I didn´t expect, but I don´t want to leave! We have several investigators that are progressing really well. It´s so amazing to watch the hope that comes into their lives as they accept the Gospel. One woman who will be baptized on August 16th told us all of the problems she´s facing, and I was amazed at her strength to carry on. She has so much faith and is so ready to be baptized. If she could be baptized tomorrow she would without hesitation!

If I don´t say much about specific investigators, it´s because we´re supposed to be careful with confidentail information. But there are two other families that I want to mention. The first is a husband and wife whose oldest son passed away five years ago. They came to Church with us yesterday, and it was the first time the husband had ever attended a church. The other family is a mother and her ten year old son. She was been so receptive of everything we´ve taught her and the last time we were there, she had invited her mother to listen to our message. They both accepted baptismal dates. The struggle with them will be helping them to realize the importance of attending Church. We have an appointment with them this Wednesday and the bishop is going to accompany us to help teach about honoring the Sabbath Day. 

I love you! Thank you for your love and support. My testimony of the Gospel and of our Heavenly Father´s love for us grows every day. I know without a doubt this Church is true, and that every sacrifice we make for the Gospel will be more than worth it. 

Love, 

Hermana Southard

Monday, July 21, 2014

Hello family!

I am so sorry, I am almost out of time, so this will be a super short email. But thank you so much for all of your emails! I love reading them and staying up to date on everyone´s lives.

We found a lot of new investigators this week and two of them have baptismal dates for next month. One of them is a woman that the elders who were in this area before us were teaching. She´s already been taught most of the lessons and attended Church three times, and is so ready to be baptized! We will continue working with her to prepare her for baptism. 

We are also helping to plan a few ward activities next month to help us find more investigators to teach. I´ll send you more details later, but I´m super excited for them. The ward members are eager to help us with the work, which is AWESOME!

One thing I love here in the mission is interacting with all the kids. We´ve met a lot, both in members´ families and on the streets and they are so adorable. I was talking with a six year old girl named Carmine last week, who is the granddaughter of a member. I appologized for not being able to speak very well and she told me, "Don´t worry! I was born here, so I already speak Spanish." It was so sweet and so comforting. Even though I have studied Spanish for a while, it´s still a process to learn to understand the people when they´re talking a thousand miles an hour (; Ha ha. Really though, I have been blessed to have a background in Spanish. It helps a lot!

I want to bear my testimony of the truthfulness of this work. I love introducing the Gospel to our investigators and helping them realize how much God loves them and wants to help them. He is there for each and every one of us. He knows us perfectly, and can comfort us perfectly when we need Him. 

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

Hermana Southard

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hello family and friends!

I've completed my first week here in México! It is great. The Lord has blessed me in a lot of ways, and I'm so grateful to be serving in this area. 

My companion, Hermana Leiataua, is awesome. It's a tender mercy to have an American companion, because although my Spanish might not be improving as rapidly as it would with a native companion, she understands the culture shock factor. We do speak only Spanish with each other though (with the occasional English phrase). And she is an obedient and hard working missionary who looks out for me while also continually pushing me to grow. We get along super well and have already become friends. I love her!

The ward here is awesome. We eat with members every day for lunch. Such a huge blessing! I absolutely love being with the members, feeling their Spirit and hearing their testimonies. And I feel at home in their houses, because of the spirit there and because they take such good care of us. One sister, Hermana Limones, was helping us wash our clothes today. She also fed us breakfast and asked me if I was applying sunblock ha ha. She treats us like daughters and is so kind. The whole ward is so loving.
The food here is very good. They eat a lot of soup. I think of you every time I eat soup, Dad! Another thing that we have eaten a lot of is burros (burritos). And because the water here is bad, they drink aguas frescas, which is flavored water. My favorite kind that I've had so far was pineapple and lime. So good. We also had horchata the other day at a member's house, and I was excited to have authentic horchata ha ha. Although the members have been feeding us huge portions. Apparently one of the elders who used to be in this area, Elder Vega, could eat an unbelievable amount of food. Like more than the other three elders and the members combined. My companion keeps telling the members that they'll have a lot more food now that only hermanas are serving in the ward!

We have four investigators right now, all of whom we found through street contacting. We've taught two of them twice and we taught the other two for the first time yesterday. We're going to continue to work with them this week, especially getting them to attend church. We're also trying to find all of the investigators the elders were working with but it's hard to locate their homes when neither of us know the area. We found several yesterday though, and set up appointments to see them this week. 

My Spanish is coming along pretty well. Yesterday in Sunday School we had an amazing lesson on spiritual gifts. When the teacher, Hermano Juan, was talking about the gift of tongues, he taught a lot about how the gift of tongues is so that we can teach and learn the Gospel in a language other than our native tongue. It's through the Spirit that we are able to understand what is being taught. It was amazing, because he was teaching in rapid Spanish, but I understood every word. The gift of tongues was working for us in that lesson as we were learning about it.

Hermana Leiataua and I make a pretty funny pair. Many people here haven't even heard of Samoa, so she has a hard time explaining where her family is from. And I get a lot of stares. I'm sure the people wonder why in the world a gringa is in Durango. Many just assume I don't speak Spanish. Yesterday a guy we were talking to on the street kept telling my companion that I don't speak Spanish. I finally said in Spanish with a very Mexican accent, "Sir, I speak Spanish! Don't I look like a Mexican?" He laughed pretty hard and told me that no, I could never pass for a Mexican. 

I love you all! I need to go, but you should read 1 Nephi 14:14. The Saints of God may be few in number, but we are mighty in His power. 

Love, 

Hermana Southard

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

¡He llegado en México!

Hola!

It was so good to talk to you on Monday. We landed in Torreón around 8 15 on Monday night and after going through migration and customs, we were picked up by President Ramos and his assistants. We went back to the mission home, where we stayed the night. There was a slight almost catastrophe on Monday night; when the assistants asked for my passport, a paper I had gotten from migrations was missing. We started back for the airport to try and find it when I remembered that I had dropped my passport when I stepped out of the car outside of the mission home. Elder Hansen called another elder at the mission home and luckily they were able to find it on the sidewalk. That was a miracle; I need that paper to be granted residency, so it was such a blessing to find it. 

We were at the mission home most of Tuesday for an orientation meeting and to meet our trainers. There are about a dozen new missionaries this transfer. Five are Americans and the rest are native Spanish speakers who were down at the Mexico MTC. My trainer is Hermana Leiataua. She is 23 years old, from California, and is Samoan. She has been in the field only five months and I am her first trainee. We are actually not in Torreón; we are in Durango, which is about three hours away from Torreón. I'm glad to be here...Torreón is SUPER hot. I woke up on Tuesday morning covered in sweat! But Durango is a lot more mild. Apparently it rains almost every day here. It's raining right now, actually. 

So we're opening a new area in Durango called Guadalupe 2. Two other sisters, including one who was in the MTC with me, are in the same ward and bordering area. This area hasn't had sister missionaries for almost 20 years...only elders. So right now we have no investigators and a lot of contacting to do! We did a little of contacting today at our zone meeting and spoke with a man who was very eager to learn more about the Church, but we have to pass him on to the elders in that area. He lives on the streets, so we don't really have a way to contact him, but he said he wanted to come to Church this Sunday. Hopefully he shows up and the elders can work with him. 

The living conditions are pretty good here. My companion and I live in a new apartment that she said is one of the nicest in the mission. We have hot water (yay!) but we are going to have to wash our clothes by hand. That's pretty typical though. 

Well, I need to sign off, but I'll be able to write again on Monday! I love you all so much. Last night I kept repeating in my head a quote that I heard from an elder in the MTC: "Don't worry about being homesick. Don't worry about being new. Don't worry about the language. None of that matters. God loves you. This is the truth. You can do it. Start fast. Run hard. You can rest later." (Elder Holland). I was nervous this morning because I didn't know what I was doing, but I'm feeling better now. I have a lot to learn, but I'm excited to get started!

I hope you all have a great week!

Hermana Southard

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Last week at the MTC!

Hello family and friends!

This is it! I leave at 7:00 am on Monday for the Salt Lake City airport. We fly from there to Dallas and then from Dallas straight to Torreon! I am so excited. A little nervous of course, but "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". And although I'm not yet the missionary that I hope to become, I feel like I have made enough progress to be prepared to enter the field. I'm pretty comfortable with Spanish, which is a HUGE blessing, and I'm so excited to be immersed in the language. 

I don't feel like I have much to say this week, but here are a few random thoughts: 

I've picked a Spanish hymn as my personal anthem for the mission. It's called "Placentero nos es trabajar" and I love it because it talks all about spreading the Gospel. The first verse translates as: "It's our pleasure to work in the vineyard of the great King Jesus, and our honor to teach Your people Your law and Your light." I love it! That is the attitude I try to have about missionary work, because it really is such an honor to be the Lord's representative.   

The two movies my district quotes the most often are "The Best Two Years" and "Nacho Libre". Apparently, according to my MTC teachers who have served in Mexico, Mexico is pretty much exactly like the way it's depicted in Nacho Libre. Apparently it's just hysterical to watch once you come home from your mission because you realize how accurate it is. So that's probably going to be the first movie I watch when I get back (; 

I am so excited to go to Mexico, but I will miss the elders and sisters in my district here at the MTC. Because we're an intermediate group none of us are going to the same mission (which is usually the case), so I won't see them for the rest of my mission. We have become so close- you really have no other choice when you're together for 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. And I'm so thankful for the teachers I've had here at the MTC. We were lucky and got to interact with more teachers than most MTC groups get to, because when we first came in there were only two districts in our zone and there are about 8 teachers for the zone. They are all incredible teachers of the Gospel and have given me good examples to look up to. 

These next few days are going to fly by. We have in field training tomorrow during the day, and then get to celebrate the Fourth of July tomorrow night. I am so grateful for this country we live in. I am so grateful for the wonderful family and friends that I have and for my membership in the Church. I know that this Church contains the fullness of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I can't wait to begin sharing it in Mexico! Hasta luego!

con mucho carino, 

Hermana Southard
Ashley with her mission President and his wife and other missionaries going to Torreón.