Monday, August 24, 2015

August 24, 2015 - Aguas Buenas

Hello familia! Thanks for all your letters and pictures! You guys are the best! I love you all so much!

This week we had intercambios again! This time I went to Guayama and it was so nice because there were no hills! :) But it made me realize how much the Lord has blessed me with a love for Aguas Buenas and the people here because I had the biggest feeling of relief when I came back. Guayama was good, but Aguas Buenas is where I'm meant to be. It helped me appreciate this area again which I really needed because we're really struggling here. It's so hard not seeing any progression and not teaching anyone. Some days we are just walking and contacting all day and it's really exhausting, but I know Heavenly Father has a plan for this area and He keeps blessing us with the strength we need to work hard each and every day. I've really gained a testimony of everything happening in the Lord's timing. Maybe we can't see the fruits of our labor while we are in this area, but as long as we do our best, the Lord will bless this area and will nourish the seeds we are planting and one day, in His timing, the seeds will grow and the people will find the gospel. 

We decided to basically "White Wash" this area and start over since no one that we were visiting really had potential so like I said earlier we have just been contacting like crazy. But one plus about contacting all day is that we get to explore new areas of Aguas Buenas. On Saturday we hiked up to some neighborhoods on the top of the mountain and it was absolutely gorgeous up there! We could see the ocean and all of Bayamon and San Juan and it was just the prettiest thing I have ever seen! So that's was pretty exciting. :) And missionaries haven't been up there for a long time because it's pretty far away so it was cool to meet new people and I can't wait to go back there and meet more people and see who the Lord has been preparing. 

Also, we found a family of 5! We had been walking and contacting all day long and weren't having much success and we thought about turning around and heading back, but the Spirit told us to keep going a little bit more. That's when we met a family of 5 who had listened to missionaries before but over time the missionaries had lost contact with them and now 3 years later, the Lord sent missionaries to them again! We are so excited to teach them and hopefully see them progress!

Also something that I learned this week is based on a conference talk I read by President Uchtdorf from Priesthood session. He said "Artificial discipleship not only keeps us from seeing ourselves as who we really are, but it also prevents us from truly changing through the miracle of the Savior's Atonement." I thought a lot about this this past week because I noticed that over time I had been building a facade to cover up my weaknesses to look more "perfect" than I actually was. Not necessarily with my "discipleship" like President Uchtdorf was talking about but just with general everyday weaknesses. I wanted to look flawless and perfect as possible and didn't want to mess up in anything in front of others. So slowly I've been building a facade over these weaknesses. But I've been learning how damaging this can be. And like President Uchtdorf said, it prevents us from truly changing through the Atonement. Instead of working through my weaknesses, I've just been covering them up. But as I've started to accept my weaknesses and let God help me to strengthen them and change them instead of covering them up, I've been blessed with power and the ability to do things that I never thought I could do. It's incredible what the Atonement can do. If we use it every single day of our lives we really can change and become more like our Father in Heaven. He will give us the strength we need and He will refine us and shape us into the people we are striving to be and into the people He wants and needs us to be. The Lord has been refining me here in Aguas Buenas. While sometimes it's hard, it's worth it. I'm amazed as I look back and see how far I've come through the power of the Atonement. It's real and it works. The Atonement is the greatest blessing we have been given in this life and if we put all our effort into using it every single day of lives, it can work miracles within us and can change us and heal us and bring us closer to our Savior and our Father in Heaven. 

I really am learning so much! It just fascinates me how much we are capable of learning in this life. I love it!

I don't know how much space you have left in the package but do you remember that book of sheet music I gave you a while ago because the binding was coming undone and you were going to bind it? Do you know if you still have it? I think the book is called I Know that My Redeemer Lives by someone named Michael something.... Michael Hicks maybe.... Anyways, if you still have it, could you send that in the package? If not, then no worries! :) 

I'm so sorry you had a hard week, mom. I know you can do it! The peace that can come from the scriptures and the temple is huge and I know the Lord will comfort you and help you through this. You will definitely be in my prayers. I love you so much!

Oh my goodness, Amelia is just too cute. Tell her I love her! 

Good luck Heidi and Christopher with school! Study hard and be good! :) 

Love you guys so much!

~Hermana Allan

Monday, August 17, 2015

August 17, 2015 - Aguas Buenas

Wow, I love all the letters and pictures! Thanks so much for keeping me updated. :) 

This week was great! Still no pictures but hopefully it will work with the new one you are sending. Thanks so much for doing that! Also, I know you probably already sent the package and I'm sorry I didn't bring this up earlier, but I have enough medicine to last me until Sept. 11 so I was just wondering if you could possibly see if you could refill that for me before then. Thanks so much! Also great job with school mom! Thanks for always being such a great example of hard work and dedication. I love you! And dad, no, I have not been out for 6 months. :) But I had a pretty good laugh when I read that! Yes, I think I know who Sister Eakle is. She goes around doing apartment cleaning checks so I'll make sure to get some pictures with her when she comes to Aguas Buenas. And yes, I'm eating well... maybe a little too well..... The couple who lives above us brings us food ALL THE TIME and it's soooo good! Even with walking 10 miles everyday I'm still gaining weight so that should tell you that I'm pretty covered when it comes to food. :) 

To answer your other question, Aguas Buenas is a really large area so it's poor and rich. In the pueblo (the main part of Aguas Buenas), it's really poor. Anyone that lives close to the pueblo is more on the poor side. But if we go way far out into the mountains and the campo houses, those are a little bit richer and cleaner.

Not a whole lot to say about this week... just another week of working hard, learning lots, and witnessing God's tender mercies every day in my life. This week, God opened my eyes to the progress I've been making with Spanish and it makes me so happy! For the most part, I can understand what most people say and I love it! It's so much easier to have good relationships with people when you can understand them and Heavenly Father has definitely been blessing me with the gift of tongues to be able to communicate with His children here in Puerto Rico. It was really exciting to notice that this week. :) 

Our little dying branch is slowly chugging forward. Sometimes it's hard to see the progress that it's making, but I know that because we're working hard and doing our best, Heavenly Father will bless us and will help this branch. We may not be able to see the little miracles now, but I know that little by little Heavenly Father is strengthening this branch and I can't wait to be able to look back and see how far it's come. 

This week I learned a lot about the Book of Mormon. We focused a lot on using the Book of Mormon in our teachings and it was amazing how much it changed our lessons. Before we had been a little timid to share things from the Book of Mormon because here, it's very easy to offend people if you share anything that isn't the Bible or part of the Catholic church. But we are working at being fearless missionaries so we decided that no matter what happened we were going to share at least one scripture in every single lesson and every single contact. Heavenly Father helped us put it into practice as soon as we left the house, because there was a lady just getting into her car and about to drive away, but we walked right up to her and started talking to her and then used the Book of Mormon to testify of the plan that God has for us. The Spirit was so strong and she started crying and we knew that it had been what she was looking for. It was an incredible testimony builder that the Book of Mormon really is the center of what we teach and everything relies on it's truthfulness. The rest of our lessons and contacts that day were so spiritual and guided by the spirit and we were able to teach more in unity as a companionship and find a good balance in our teachings. It was such an amazing experience! So many miracles come from the Book of Mormon! 

It reminded me of a scripture in Jacob 4:6 "Wherefore, we search the prophets and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witness we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea." We search the prophets in the scriptures and because of their words and their teachings our faith increases and we are endowed with power. I know that the Book of Mormon really can give us this power, even the power to command the trees, the mountains, and the seas. There is real power when we dilligently study the word of God and feast upon the truth. I know this to be true and I have seen it work miracles in people's lives and in my own life. I love this gospel and am so grateful for my Savior and for all that He has blessed me with and for the scriptures which teach us and guide us and strengthen us. The church is true!

I love you guys so much! Thanks for your love and your support! and good luck with school and work everyone!

~Hermana Allan

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

August 10, 2015 - Transfers

Hello familia! It's so good to hear from you all every week. Thanks so much for writing me and supporting me and keeping me up to date on all the craziness back home! :)

Well, first a kind of funny story that happened on Monday. So we emailed at the mission office last week because we had just picked up our mini missionary. Then, because we had a car for once we decided to find a walmart on our way back, because walmart is a luxury here in Aguas Buenas. So after driving around for forever and getting so lost, we finally found a walmart! Which was so weird! I felt like I was back home. Anyways, we finished and then started on the way back but got lost again and ended up going the wrong direction for about 30 min. But before we could turn around, our tire popped! We were on the freeway so it was kind of scary, but we were able to pull over safely thank goodness. Then we called the zone leaders and they started walking us through how to change a tire.... just imagine. Three sister missionaries on the side of the freeway trying to fix a tire.... it was rough. But eventually someone pulled over and helped change our tire and all was well after that. It was pretty exciting. :)

And real quick before I talk about this week, tomorrow is transfers! And surprise, Hermana Stevens and I are staying right here! We knew we would because the training program is 12 weeks and I've only done half. So yep, another transfer in Aguas Buenas! Wahoo!

Ok, now for the week. Wow. This week was a week of refinement that's for sure. We started this week with 8 baptismal dates and now we have 1. It was pretty disappointing to have 7 fall through this week after working with them so much. We were given just about every experience this week that a missionary can have. It was a roller coaster of emotions but wow, we learned so much from all of it. One of the things we faced this week was trying to help an investigator who is suffering from depression and who attempted suicide. It was really hard because we didn't really know how to help her and she didn't believe we could help her because we hadn't been through the same things she had. Which is true. We hadn't. But it made me think of this quote I found this week from the last general conference that says "I don't completely understand your challenges. But through my personal tests and trials- the ones that have brought me to my knees- I have become well acquainted with the One who does understand, He who was 'acquainted with grief' who experienced all and understands all." I used this quote so much this week. It's true that I couldn't empathize with a lot of the people we talked to this past week, but because of my own personal trials I have found someone who can help and who does know exactly what we go through. And that's why I'm here on a mission- to help others find the One who understands, who knows, who heals, who loves. I know that no matter what we are going through, Christ knows exactly what we feel and exactly how to help us. My testimony of the Atonement was strengthened so much through the experiences we had this week.I know He's always there for us with arms outstretched just waiting for us to turn to Him and ask Him for His help. 

So even though this week we lost a lot of people, I learned so much and now I'm even closer to my Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ. It was the refiner's fire and I know Heavenly Father gave us these experiences to learn very specific things and to mold us into the missionaries He wants us to be. It was such a spiritual and defining week for me and I love missionary work even more (if that's possible!) :) Life is just wonderful and what a beautiful experience it is to be able to learn and grow and become more like our Father in Heaven! There is so much we can learn and become and do and with the Lord's help, it is all possible!

Thanks for your love and support! Good luck with school and work and everything else! :)

Mom- sorry, no pictures again. I think it's just because the cord or card reader is old or something like that. Because it's the same computer that I have been sending them on, but it just decided not to work anymore. So I'm not really sure.... Pictures might have to wait until I'm transferred.... sorry! 

Love you lots!!!!!

~Hermana Allan

August 3, 2015 - What a Miracle

Wow. What a week! On Tuesday, I had my first intercambios!!!! I was super nervous! Hermana Stevens left for a different city so I was left to lead the area with a latina who didn't speak any English. I was really nervous beforehand but she got here and we got going, it was so good! It was a nice confidence boost to be able to lead the lessons and the contacting and such for a little bit. Also, it helped me so much with Spanish! It was super cool because I could understand and communicate perfectly with Hermana Gallardo. It's as if Puerto Rican spanish is a whole other language. They are so hard to understand! But Hermana Gallardo is from Mexico and I could understand just fine, so I'm just working on the Puerto Rican part of Spanish now..... :) Anyways, it was super fun and now I hopefully won't be as nervous for other intercambios. :)

This week was pretty rough again though. Once again most of our citas fell through and we did a lot of walking and contacting. It was hard too because our investigators, A and J aren't all that interested anymore. So that's a bummer. But we are going to keep trying and working with them. We're hoping it's just a trial of their faith and that they'll get over it soon. But we just kept on going and working hard all week and Heavenly Father blessed us with a huge miracle at the end of the week. I think I talked about him a little bit last week, but two Saturdays ago, we had contacted a man on the street who had said "There's something different about you... I think it's the spirit." We were super excited to teach him so we invited him to church the next day, but he didn't show up. But we kept trying. So we called him and set up a cita every single day but every single time he fell through and didn't show. We were so sad because he had so much potential. So on Saturday we decided to call him one last time and invite him to church. And he said he would come! So Sunday morning we called him again just to be sure and he said he was already on his way! We waited outside and he came! He lives about 45 min away from the capilla on foot and he walked the entire way! What a sacrifice! Then we had church and after Priesthood when we saw him again we asked how he liked it and he said "I want to be baptized. What do I need to do to be baptized?" It was incredible! So we planned out the next two weeks with him so he can be baptized on the 15th. Then we decided to teach him the first lesson right there, so we sat down and taught him. but honestly, he was teaching us. He already knew so much and understood everything so perfectly, it was incredible! At the end we asked him to pray to know if these things are true and he said "I already know. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet. I know we have a living prophet today. I know this is the church of God. I've been to other churches before but I've never seen anyone bear their testimonies with such surety like I saw here, so how can it not be true?" the Spirit was so strong and we were all crying and so so so happy. It was the best experience I have every had and one that I will never forget. It was very interesting too, because since it was fast Sunday we had decided to pray for our investigators with baptismal dates and that they would be prepared for their dates. We realized that this man was our answer to our fast. Our investigators can attend his baptism and we are positive that that will help our other investigators so much. What a joyful day it was! Heavenly Father truly works miracles and truly loves His children. The church is so true!

Also, we had a testimony meeting last night with the entire mission. It was so cool! And I saw Hermana Jacobsen again! My goodness, I just love her. :) It was really interesting though because we had some time to socialize with other missionaries afterwards and so I met a lot of knew people. When I told people what area I'm in, they all would say "Oh I'm so sorry. What a bummer. That area is the worst." I was shocked. I mean yes it's a hard area, but I love it and slowly but surely it's growing and being strengthened and it's amazing to me to see the little miracles every day in this area. I realized that attitude really does change everything. Some don't have faith in the potential of this area. It's amazing what faith and a positive attitude can do. I've seen it as I look through the area book and read about the past hermanas' experiences and the tiny miracles they saw. It's all about perspective. Heavenly Father can do anything. We just need to submit ourselves completely to Him through faith and obedience and only then will He bless us with miracles. 

To answer some of your questions, no we don't do a lot with the members. I've only eaten with members two times (it was delicious!). And mini missionaries are fabulous! If Chris can do one, then I say do it! After seeing these mini missionaries, I wish I could have done one too. :) 

I was reading 2 Nephi 26 and it goes along perfectly with the scripture in Acts. (Mainly 2 Nephi 26:24-end). God offers salvation to anyone who will come unto Him. I think I told you about the recent convert in this branch who was a criminal and spent 17 years in jail and was doing terrible things, but God prepared Him anyways and sent missionaries to him to give him the chance to accept the truth. God gives everyone that chance to change and receive the blessings of this gospel. Also, sometimes when we are planning we will feel impressed to go visit our 105 year old man just to sing song with him or visit this other elderly lady just to read to her. Sometimes, we question it because it doesn't help us reach our goals and it's not contacting or teaching or finding, but God loves them just the same and even though they probably won't progress and be baptized in this life, God cares about them and sends us to help them and to brighten their day. He truly is no respecter of persons and cares about each and every one of His sons and daughters and will help them in anyway He possibly can. 

Well, Puerto Rico is just wonderful! It is absolutely the most gorgeous place I have ever seen! It's so green and has so many varieties of plants and fruit and animals and there are mountains and oceans and all kinds of different areas, I just love it! It's absolutely gorgeous and I'm so grateful for this opportunity to be here! Thanks for all of your support and love! I love you all!!! 

~Hermana Allan

ps. pictures still aren't working... I think it's the cord or the card reader or something. Would you possibly be able to send something else that I can try? The memory card is a micro SD card so something that can read that would be great. Thanks so much!