Monday, May 19, 2014

Renca

May 19, 2014

WELPT... You will never guess where I am... again. 
 I seriously cannot even believe it!  I´m BACK IN RENCA!  Same branch.  Same sector.  I´m going to be a sister training leader again, this time with Sister Ibarra.  Sister Ibarra is awesome.  We´ve worked together several times.  She got to the MTC the same day I did.  She has been seeing some serious success here in Jose Miguel Infante.  It´s definitely going to be interesting.  I know the streets, the people, the members, the old investigators, and even the recent converts because of the interchanges I´ve done here.  It´s going to be a little weird but  I´m pumped.  This change is going to only be for four weeks.  I have no idea what will happen after that.  Sister Ibarra leaves August 11th, which would have been my original release date.  I have a new official date,  September 23.  That means 3 more changes.  I´m the only sister that can choose if I am going to extend or not because of my "situation."  I have the option of extending until November 4th.  But I don´t think that´s what the Lord wants.  I may also have the option of extending into the middle of the change (October 13th), but that will depend upon President Videla.  I don´t think that´s what the Lord wants either.  For now, I am feeling really good about September 23rd even though it broke my heart at first.  It´s soooo soon.  Way too soon.  I just love being a missionary.  I know I always say that but I really do.  It´s the greatest joy that there can possibly be.  I can only hope to serve to the fullest of my abilities.  I am excited to work with Sister Ibarra because I know she feels the same way.  Not a second will go to waste. 
It was hard leaving my hijita and all of our hard work in Santa Maria.  But I am sure that the Lord has his purposes and that He knows exactly what He is doing.  Sister Alonso has sort of been left to direct the sector... as a trainee.  Sister Ostler will finish training her, but as I mentioned, she only has 4 weeks to finish up.  Santa Maria is going to be seeing some serious miracles.  


 I am now in one of the nicest homes in the mission.  This house is so awesome.  It´s got three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a nice kitchen, and a giant open area to study.  We have a patio in front, to one side, AND behind.  Pretty cool.  It gets cold, but I don´t think it will possibly get as cold as the Santa Maria house.

Lately, on our p-days, we pretty much just did shopping and internet because sometimes we had to travel really far to get to the good stores, but here we´re definitely going to do some fun stuff!  We have to take advantage of this time together close to Santiago!



Love you all so much!  I will see you real soon.

Hermana Thomas


Santa Maria








May 12, 2014

My Dear Family,
What an amazing time we had yesterday!  Right? She is talking about when we Skyped with her on Sunday.

This week was... interesting.  My companion was pretty much dead 4.5 days - throwing up all day, everyday (hence the reason for our crazy adventure Friday with diesel in a mini-van).  I did ten contacts this week... uhhh....  We sure got to know each other this week, my companion and I.  As happens with each of my dearly beloved companions, she got to a point in which she developed enough trust in me to open up and tell me her life story.  You would not believe the stories I have heard from my latina companions.  It`s just... unbelievable sometimes the things that they have passed through.  How GOOD we have it where we live, how nearly PERFECT our family is, how BLESSED we are to live together and go to church and read and pray and have family home evening together and pay our tithing and have the Spirit and serve our neighbors and our Savior.
This week will be the first of what I mentioned yesterday.  A revolution for Santa Maria.
50% baptizing.  50% reactivating.  It`s a little crazy.  It`s actually really crazy.  But it just might work.  And so we`re going to try it with all of the faith that we can muster.  Santa Maria is desperate for something.  It`s time to try something new.  Just baptizing won`t get us anywhere, because they WILL NOT stay active in this branch unless the members step it up a bit and decide to work.  We`ll have to see what happens with changes this Monday.  I`m wondering if he will change my companion... or me.  I don`t THINK so, but I`m not sure.
Either way, as some of you mentioned in your emails, I am happy.  So very happy.  So filled with joy.  Being a missionary brings the greatest joy that one can possibly find here on earth.  And the greatest part is that we don`t have to be "Called to Serve."  When each person is baptized, they make a promise to work EVERY SINGLE DAY of their lives to take upon them the name of Christ.  And that`s the beauty of the Sacrament.  That each Sunday He reminds us as we repent.
There`s one more part from my interview with President that I would like to share.  As you know from previous letters, Satan plays with our minds.  Telling us we are unworthy, telling us we don`t deserve our positions, that we shouldn`t be serving a mission, that we don`t have the right to teach and to bear the name of Jesus Christ and to represent Him.  Because it sure is hard to represent Him. He`s awfully perfect.  And I`m awfully not.  So, I felt bad.  I felt unworthy.  Unfortunately, I let him get to me.  And when I entered the room with my president and he asked me if there was anything I would like to talk about, I said yes.  After I opened my heart to him, he looked at me with such love and said "Sister Thomas, I`m not sure if the things you have mentioned are even sins!"  I had to laugh.    And I felt for so long that as I repented, the Lord was not forgiving me.  He helped me to see that it was actually me not forgiving me.  He taught me what I can do to feel the "miracle of forgiveness" in my life and help others to find it as well.  It was awesome.  And there above his head was a giant picture of Christ and I felt so relieved and like He was just loving me and forgiving me and so merciful. And I love Him. And I am so happy. 
Here is an excerpt from President`s letter to the mission today. It`s true.  

"Some missionaries work hard preaching the gospel and feel great joy and happiness.  Other missionaries work hard preaching the gospel but feel little joy and happiness.  Unless a missionary has a mental/emotional condition masking their feelings, such as depression, most missionaries who find little joy and happiness preaching the gospel need to increase their love of the Lord and of other people in order to find the joy and happiness.  When we do things out of love, joy and happiness come.  If we do things only to obtain numbers, position, the praise of others, or to say that we completed a mission, we will probably experience little joy or happiness."


With great love,
Sister Thomas

I asked about the van adventure and this was an additional email she sent.

It was so crazy!  Did I not tell you yesterday?  Oh and Sister Arroyo said Happy Mother`s Day. I forgot to tell you.  I meant to put this story in the main letter.  All was well Friday for interviews, my companion was finally feeling better so afterwards we went to lunch across the street.  She ate a giant plate of spaghetti and 5 minutes later threw EVERYTHING up.  I begged Sister Essig for either them or the assistants to take us home.  She agreed, seeing the unfortunate state of my companion and knowing she would not make it home in the micro (it`s basically the knight bus from Harry Potter but worse).  So we jumped in the back of the van and went to fill up with gas.  Got to a shell. The elder called the office to find out what kind to put in... and the office made a mistake.  3 minutes later we were on the road and the car died... giving us just enough time to pull into the church.  But now we had no money because we had spent everything the four of us had in filling up on gas because they never except credit cards anywhere here!  So we called the zone leaders who live near by and the four of them pushed the car through a crazy round about and rush hour traffic to the gas station where we waited for several hours as they tried unsuccessfully to fix it.  At one point, gas erupted all over Elder Jenson`s suit. It was all just so crazy.  In the end, a near by bishop came to the rescue, towed us to his house, and worked for several more hours taking the gas out and re-filtering the system until we could get on the road at about 10:30 at night.  The poor assistants got home to Santiago at 1 in the morning.  It was nuts.  And so fun.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Life in Santa Maria






 May 5, 2014

154 Days To Go!!
Bren- HOLY GORGEOUS!  You look awesome!  (Sent some prom pictures of Bren)
Jess- Congrats on the PERMIT!!  SO awesome!    (Jessie passed her permit test this week) 
Justin-  Finish strong kiddo.  How`s your book of mormon reading?  Don`t tell me I'm beating you?  (She and Justin are having a Book of Mormon competition.  I'm sure she is winning!)

After church, I am going to do the best I can to talk at 3:30 my time.  My only problem is that I have to talk before 5.  But don`t panic.  If something happens, President likes me.  He`ll help me out.  This week, I called him with a question and as I was about to hang up he said, "Oh wait, Sister Thomas?"  "Yes?"  "I was thinking about you today.  I think you ought to know that you are doing an excellent job.  We could sure use more Sister Thomases in this mission."  So that was cool.

It has been a fascinating week, as always, here in lovely Santa Maria.  Thank you all for your letters.  I can`t tell you how happy I am when I see that all of you have written me!  Even if it`s just one little line.  I live for it.  This week I was frustrated and feeling a little... broken?  I didn`t know what to do.  And felt an extreme amount of pressure... nothing new... but still.  I felt like the future of Santa Maria was weighing on my shoulders... and I felt pretty lonely.  It`s true, many many people receive us... once.  And then we never find them again or they commit to be baptized because I`m blonde or because they didn`t understand the message or because they feel bad saying no.  And then they commit to go to church. And never get there.  It`s all the same as normal, of course, but on top of it, this sector is EXTREMELY fragile, such that even if I had investigators progressing, I wouldn`t feel comfortable baptizing them, because nobody would care. And the members would leave them out and they would go inactive in about two seconds. I go to talk with the branch president, excited to tell him about our hard work and help him in the progress of the branch. And he doesn`t even look at me.  He gets on facebook.  And asks if I like to play basketball.  And all the members hate each other. Again, nothing new for Chile.  But I don`t know, I just felt stuck. Plus training... a 25 year old Latina. Plus I don`t sleep because I half freeze to death (p.s. sorry... I`ve sort of spent some money in things to keep me warm.) Can't believe she is apologizing for spending money to keep herself warm!   It just felt like a lot.  But two things happened.  One, we taught a lesson to an extremely poor family.  I`m talking shack with dirt floor and 10 people crammed in doing their best to warm their hands in a poorly built fire outside.  They were sad and wondering  why, if God exists, He would permit that their family suffered so much.  And as I sat there, examining the fire as it began to die down, it came to me.  Something that has come to me before, but never quite so beautifully.  Carbon starts out black and dirty.   But when it`s lit on fire and burns and burns, it turns white.  Nothing impure can possibly enter in the kingdom of God.  He will not tolerate even the slightest semblance of evil in his glory.  And so we must pass through the fire, to be cleansed white, to be perfected in the blood of His son.  So that our sins that were once as scarlet may become white as snow. So that our imperfections and weaknesses become strengths.  So that we become perfect.  Little by little God is helping me to become perfect.  And someday, I will meet Him, and I will thank Him for every tiny problem, trial, challenge, however you like to call it.  And I will report to Him that I overcame each one through the power of the Atonement.  And He will say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."  And I will raise my head to look Him in the eye and will have taken upon me His countenance and He will recognize me as His daughter and welcome me home.  But if I don`t take on the fire, there is no point.  I will never be perfected.

And second.  I got to work with Sister Arroyo for a day.   Hallelujiah. It was so darn cool. I got to go back and see Nora and Exequiel and everybody else and work hard with someone who knows how to work hard. And we had a blast.  The poor dear was also... DONE. She has been frustrated with some things going in in her area as well. Problemitas.  But we worked things out. When I came back the next day, my companion and I talked about EVERYTHING for a very, very long time.  It was great.  I still feel like all is upon my shoulders.  But that`s not true.  The yolk falls upon the shoulders of my Savior.  I`m just the tool used for the work to go forth.  And if I`m obedient and open my mouth and do everything in my power to represent Him here on earth, He will open windows when all the doors have been closed.

I love being a missionary. I feel that my time is passing way way way too fast.  But then again, it`s not really my time, is it?
Love you all so much!!

Sister Thomas