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Monday, April 27, 2015

what to write, what to write....

Hey family!

First of all, I am so excited to talk to you soon! I kind of can´t think of what to write because we´ll be talking soon, but I´ll do my best. ;)

Grandma, thank you so much for the letter last week. It brought tears to my eyes when I read that Luci is going to be baptized. Hearing that Luci is going to be baptized is a huge blessing and an answer to prayers! Have you thought about inviting the missionaries over to talk to her about baptism? You could even do an FHE and ask them to talk about baptism. They would love it, I know!

Also, you got a bunny?? How random is that?? I just about died laughing when I read Sister Lloyd´s instagram post that you sent me, about what Hailey said. She can be pretty pursuasive, can´t she? 

This week we began teaching a married couple that we contacted last week. When we contacted them they mentioned that they had seen the ads the Church has on TV and told us they had a bunch of issues in their marriage and asked us, ¨Can you help us?¨ We set up an appointment and when we returned we found out that they´re also having a lot of financial difficulties and were feeling really, really desperate. We took the dad to the Self-Sufficiency Center (I think that´s what it´s called in English...) and they attended Church yesterday. Today we´re going to have a family home evening with them and another family and talk about eternal families. We´ve only taught them once, but I already love them so much and want so badly for them to accept the Gospel because of the blessings I know it will bring them. I love this Gospel with all my heart and we try every day to talk to as many people as we can to share it with them. The week that we found this family we contacted well over 200 people, and it was worth it, because we were able to find two people who were prepared to receive our message and change their lives.

I love you all so much! I know I say that every week, but it´s true. I´m already out of time (I know I say that every week too) but I promise I´ll write more next week. We´re headed to Torreón this week for Leadership Counsel, so it´ll be an especially good week. 

Love,

Hermana Southard

Monday, April 20, 2015

a quick note

Hey family!

Sounds like you´re just going from vacation to vacation. That´s so fun though! I loved seeing the pictures of what you´ve done the past few weeks and look forward to reading your letters more thouroughly this afternoon. 

This week was pretty normal. Our mission president and his wife were in Durango for interviews and Hermana Ramos accompanied us for a few hours two different days. Of course the first day none of our usually regular investigators were there, so we did a lot of contacting with her. But she is an amazing lady and was such a good sport, walking around with us. In my interview with my mission president we talked about how to help the sisters here in Durango to have more baptisms (the mission goal is that every companionship baptizes every month) and he told me that the Lord is pleased with my work, and that I can still do more. I´m working hard to keep improving and growing every day, so that even at the end of my mission I can say that I kept improving and working diligently. In a district meeting we had last week we talked about how diligence is a constant, improving effort, and how we can show our love for the Lord as we diligently work and seek to improve every day. I really liked that, and I know it´s true. 

Next week I´ll have to tell you about the family we´re teaching that´s going to be baptized in a few weeks. It´s the first time I´ve taught a family and the entire family is preparing to be baptized. They´re the familia Ramirez Perez, and it´s been a beautiful experience working with them. 

I´m out of time, but I love you all so much and hope you have a great week!

Love,

Hermana Southard 

Re: Love from Dad 19 Apr 2015

Every letter I write Ashley has the heading "Love from Dad" - with the date.  These blog post headings are always the subject line of her email and the date and time stamp are the time and date of the email she sends us.

This letter I asked her some questions that I really wanted to know as her father about her health - physical, mental, etc.  Missions are hard and I can't see how she is doing in person.  This was her response:

Dear Dad,

Thank you for your love and concern. It´s hard sometimes to remember that you can´t see me physically, so you don´t know that I´m okay. I´ll try to answer your questions the best I can. 

First of all, my health is great. My mission president gave me permission last week to go running in the mornings so we´re going to start doing that this week. I try to eat a balanced diet as much as possible--it´s kind of hard because the main meal of the day we eat with members, so we have to eat whatever they give us, but all the same I try to eat enough to be satisfied but not so much that I make myself sick. Mexican food is delicious, but can be really bad for your stomach. But luckily I´ve never gotten so sick I haven´t been able to work. Sometimes there´s indigestion, but all missionaries deal with that, especially the Americans. Our mission president gave us pills last summer to de-parasite us that you´re supposed to take every six months but they haven´t given us another one yet. But I´m going to ask him or his wife this week and if we´re not going to get them soon I saw that they sell them in the pharmacy, so I might buy myself one. I haven´t gained or lost weight, I drink lots of water and use lots of sunscreen. I´m always tired at the end of the day and you know that I´ve never liked getting up in the morning, but I´ve been able to get up at 6:20 every day for almost 11 months, I can survive 7 more.

As far as my emotional health goes, yes there is stress related with the work and especially with being a STL, but it´s good stress, the kind that motivates you to work hard. I probably don´t write you much about how I feel because I feel a million emotions in one day--tired, content, stressed, frustrated, grateful--but overall I am really happy. I write in my journal (in English) every night, which is a good outlet that I have for my feelings. There are still moments when the natural man in me doesn´t feel like working, or wishes for a second that I was with my family or friends, but those moments usually don´t last too long. I do love you all and love communicating with you on Mondays, and I´m so excited to see you on Mother´s day. If I don´t tell you how I feel about everything, I guess it´s because like I said, overall I am doing really well and am very happy. 

I do worry sometimes that I take things too seriously and don´t enjoy myself as much as I could. From what I´ve heard about other missions it seems like this mission is extremely strict on obedience to the missionary standards and hard work. Actually, I know that´s true- the mission president before the current one was a very hard but good man (think Captain Von Trapp from Sound of Music), and was that way because when he arrived the mission was very disobedient. So I know that something I need to work on -- and am working on -- is enjoying myself more in the mission. 

We had interviews with the mission president this week and he told me that the Lord is pleased with my work, and that I can still do more. I´ve grown a lot in this transfer and am trying to work harder to find and teach the people who are ready to accept this message. 

I hope this letter answers some of your questions, and that you can give me some advice based on what I´ve told you. There´s a quote in PMG about how the secret to missionary work is work, and if a missionary works he will get the spirit, find people to teach, and be happy. It´s true. You taught me how to work hard, and I´m trying to do my best and make the most of the time I have as a missionary.

Love you,

Hermana Southard

Monday, April 13, 2015

My head is spinning!

Hello mi querida familia!!!

Oh wow, these have been crazy days. Last week were the zone conferences, and because we have sisters in both the zones here in Durango my companion and I went to both (on Tuesday and Wednesday) to help the zone leaders teach in the conferences. It was my first time teaching in Zone Conference, and I definitely felt more prepared for the second one than the first. I actually really liked being able to teach in the conferences, and attending both and getting to hear from all of the missionaries here in Durango. And I like that we get to hear the same material three times: first in Leadership Counsel, then in the two Zone Conferences, so I learn a lot each time. The first three pictures are from the Zone Conference with Durango del Valle, the zone that my companion and I are in. 

Then Thursday and Friday we had comp exchanges with a companionship, and Saturday our investigator was baptized! His name is Salvador Sanchez. My companion found him during a comp exchange about a week before I arrived in the area. They contacted him in the street, set up an appointment to teach him, and invited him to church. When they went to his house for the appointment he wasn´t there, but showed up that Sunday to Church by himself! My companion didn´t recognize him and went to introduce herself and he said to her, ¨Don´t you remember? You were the one who invited me here!¨ He stayed for all of the church meetings and they taught him afterwards for the first time. He accepted a baptismal date right away, and has been going strong ever since! He read the entire Book of Mormon before his baptism. And the baptismal service was so beautiful. The Zone Leaders baptized a family of six the same day, so we had the baptismal service together. The Spirit was so strong and it was so special watching so many people be baptized. As we were leaving I felt so good and remembered how Bishop Sybrowsky used say that after feeling such a strong spirit you need to eat ice cream, just like after winning a basketball game, so I bought us ice cream to eat on the way home :) It was a good way to end the night.

So as a mission we have a goal of teaching 50 lessons every week. Yesterday we still needed 10 more lessons, and we were literally running around to have enough time to teach. After a very busy day we managed to reach our goal! We were super happy. 

But, yesterday was our last day together. I got a new companion today, and.....surprise! It´s hermana Quispe, who was my companion in Guadalupe 2. I was feeling kind of overwhelmed last night with all of the change and new responsability this transfer brings, but we´ll be okay. Pray for me please!

I know this is the Lord´s work and I´m happy to be doing it. You know I wouldn´t miss out on a trip to Disneyland for just anything, but I am so happy to be here. I love you, but am happy. 

Love, 

Hermana Southard

Monday, April 6, 2015

best weekend ever.

Hello family!!!!

I hope you´re enjoying the ride to California :) I´m sure as you started Lindsey made some comment about how she has more leg room because I´m not there, or how she now gets to sit next to the cooler and has easier access to the food because my spot in the car is now being used for the snacks. Don´t worry, I´ll be back in the car squishing you all soon enough ;) Ha ha but I hope you all have a wonderful trip! It sounds like last week was great, and I can´t wait to see the pictures from this week´s adventures.

This past week went by so quickly, and it was honestly the best weekend I´ve had in a long, long time. Once a month we have a Zone Training Meeting, where the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders teach us about different topics related to the work. To prepare for the conference at the beginning of every month there´s a Leadership Counsel in Torreón where the mission president and his assistants instruct the leaders on what they want taught in the Zone Conferences. So every month, once a month we get to go to Torreón for the Leadership Counsel. We (the zone leaders from the two zones here in Durango and my companion and I) got on a bus this Thursday around 5:00 to head to the counsel and arrived in Torreón around 9:00. My companion and I stayed with the two older sisters who work as secretaries in the officies, Hermana Navarette and Hermana Garza. They are so sweet- they take really good care of us when we travel! We stayed the night in their house before heading to the mission offices on Friday morning for the counsel. I loved everything about being there. We heard from Presidente and his assistants on receiving revelation and finding investigators who have been prepared to accept the Gospel, and we got to help adjust some mission-wide standards of excelence that we have. The Spirit was so strong and I learned so much from Presidente and the other missionaries there. I was also so, so happy because I got to see my trainer, Hermana Leiataua!! She´s serving as a Sister Training Leader in Torreón. Her companion, Hermana Enciso, was also in Guadalupe with me for a while (you guys actually met her- she was there when I Skyped you on Christmas) and it was so fun to see her too. She´s a great missionary and a good friend. And, once the counsel was over we ate tacos al pastor, which is probably the most delicious Mexican food there is. It was a good, good day and a beautiful experience. I think my favorite part of being a Sister Training Leader are all of the additional learning experiences we have. So many wonderful opportunities to learn and be taught by the Spirit.

And then General Conference this weekend-wow!! I loved so many of the talks and felt the Spirit so strongly. And I got to watch all of Conference in English!! That was such a blessing. I could understand everything so much better, and it just sank in on a deeper level.

Yesterday was even more special because it was Easter. I know that my Redeemer lives. I cannot comprehend fully what He did for me, but I love Him for it. My testimony is something very personal and is what influences every part of what I say, do, and think. I am so grateful for this opportunity to be His representative, and His disciple always. 

I love you all, 

Hermana Southard
Hermana Martinez - my companion

My Easter photo

The two other American sisters in the zone

The sister missionaries of Zona Durango del Valle