Monday, March 31, 2014

3.31.2014

Hello Family and Friends!!!!!!
     
Can you believe that by the end of this week I will have been on my mission for two months?! Pff, I sure can’t! Every day here has its new challenges, but I keep on keepin on! My companion Hermana Fuentes is seriously the best!! I cannot believe how blessed I am to have her! Every day I am learning new words and phrases, and sometimes certain ones just do not want to stick. However, my companion is so patient, never gets mad, and truly wants to help me to succeed! The Lord really does bring to me tender mercies every day!!! There are lots of little moments where I have been with investigators or when we are contacting where my words through my testimony come out so nice and they understand perfectly as to what I wish to express through the Lord. Thank you thank you Heavenly Father! Haha, it is so funny because my companion can understand a lot of English but cannot speak very much of it, whereas I can speak pretty well, but it is the understanding part that is difficult right now. We balance each other out and let me tell you, we have fun!! Hehe. The other day while in a lesson my companion told our investigator Jean Carlos that he needed to have cafe in Jesus Christ, which is coffee. Hahaha. But, I made a bad error the other day too! Hahaha. I said, Yo necesito quitar mis piernas, instead of saying I need to shave my legs, I said I need to take off my legs. My companion looked at me shocked and then started to laugh. Oops! Got two words mixed up! We mess up ALL the time, but it’s no sweat! We learn, and one of my favorite quotes is from Sword in the Stone, when Merlin is speaking. He says, The best way to learn it is to do it! It is absolutely true, the only way you can truly learn is through actions, right and wrong.
     
So, I have to tell you about this AMAZING sister missionary I met!! We had a zone meeting the other day, and while we did a practice, I met this hermana named Hermana Vasquez. When she and her companion Hermana Nielson practiced taught my companion and I, I could feel their strength, sincereness, and kindness towards us! They speak wonderful Spanish and smile so much! When the practice was over I found some interesting facts about Hermana Vasquez. She is from Guatemala, and before coming into the mission field she did not know ANY Spanish, none! She grew up in the mountains and spoke a Mayan dialect called, Mam. She never had been to school, did not know how to read or write at all. Before coming on her mission she received a special promise in her Patriarchal Blessing that she would learn ALL that she needed to quickly! WOW!!!! She has been in the field for only four months, and her progress is incredible! Wow!! She is and her companion are both HUGE examples to me now. Whenever you are tempted to complain, do not do it! Think about her, and the indescribable faith she has. I hope to achieve even a portion of what she has while I am here on my mission.
     
There are two progressive investigators that we have that are making a lot of progress! Their names are Edwin, Marlyn, and their ADORABLE baby Liliana. They have been coming to church every Sunday and all other necessary meetings. They are even preparing for baptism! However, right now in order for them to be baptized they first have to be married. There are lots of people here who have a couple kids or even a lot, and are not married. And so, they need not only a marriage license but also other important documents, which unfortunately require a lot of money, which they do not have. However, they keep demonstrating their faith and they are doing what they can to become members of this church! For example, on Sunday, Edwin went up to my district leader Elder Putt [not knowing he is a missionary] and told him he needed to come join his church. Elder Putt thought, oh no, he is asking me to come to his church, so he asks Edwin what church he belongs to. Then Edwin proceeds to say that his church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They are such incredible people, I hope I see them baptized while I am in this area!
     
I also got to experience asking someone to be baptized for the very first time! Our investigator is not ready, but I feel good that I had the opportunity to extend the invitation anyways. In our lessons my companion and I always start the lessons by singing a Hymn. That is something I know for sure that the people can feel, is the Spirit testify through the Spirit. My companion told me that our investigator Jean Carlos always loves it when we sing. It is incredible how much music is an influence. I have a song with me always, and every time I sing or hear one my heart swells and I feel this indescribable happiness. Thank you Mom and Dad for giving me a love and Huge appreciation for music! Both of you have such great taste and have led me in the ways of righteousness! I am forever grateful. Thank you for the music, it touches me always. I love you both immensely.
     
Alright, now for the interesting parts of the week....
         
Two times on Friday two men in passing looked at me strangely and said, Hey Babay! Blagh!! Ah! And yesterday while my companion and I were heading for an appointment, we ran into an elderly man that Hermana Fuentes has met before. When going to shake her hand he tried really hard to kiss her, but she kept persisting and saying, no, no! She has already explained why to him, but he needed another reminder.
          
Here in Nicaragua, it is just like Yap in a way. The women have no shame when it comes to nursing their children. They just whip their shirt up, while you are talking to them, and feed. The first time I saw it while we were with Edwin and Marlyn I did not know what to think or even where to look. So when we left I got up to go and shake hands and hug Marlyn, but she was nursing. I have never felt more uncomfortable ever, so I hope she wasnt.
         
Also here, when people get excited about something, they snap their fingers this certain way [I will figure it out before I leave!!!!], and when somebody wants something, they look at you and pucker their lips. Haha, I will do the snapping, but most likely not the puckering.
         
One night, in my first week here my companion got past our gate to head up the stairs into our apartment. I hadn’t turned on the light yet when going up the stairs, and I saw something HUGE sitting on one of the steps. I screamed and nearly had a heart attack!! My companion turned the light on and it was this gigantic frog, just sitting there looking at us. Hermana Fuentes said I should have kissed him. Hahaha, blagh, no!!
        
I love you all very very very very much!!!!! Ustedes es mi apoyo [All of you are my support]!!!! Thank you thank you!!! For everything!!!


Love, Hermana Stephenson           

Monday, March 24, 2014

3.24.2014

Hello everyone!!!
     
It’s been so long for me to talk to you all!! Wow, where to start! Well, I’ll start with a story, I like stories. :) So, while I was on my first flight from Mexico City to San Salvador, I sat by a woman from Costa Rica, and on the other side of her was an hermana (serving in San Salvador). Earlier that day I had an impression to put a copy of the Book of Mormon in my bag for the plane. During the ride the hermana on the other side was talking to this woman and getting to know her. I don’t understand very much right now, so I only understood a little bit. However, while on the flight, I introduced myself and did my best to talk to her in Spanish. Luckily she understood the things I was trying to say. I then told her why I am on my mission, and pulled out my copy of my English scriptures. I bore testimony of the gospel and of this precious book. I then pulled out the copy of the Book of Mormon and told her that she could have it. She smiled warmly and said she would read it, and looked very happy that I had given it to her. Later on the flight we exchanged information, and I felt so good. My first time being a missionary here in the field! Wooohoooo!!!!
     
Presidente Russell and his wife are GREAT people! Ah, they are SO great!!! I love them. They have so much enthusiasm for the gospel and love for others. I hope to one day speak with such eloquence like Presidente Russell. Even though I don’t know really what he is speaking in Spanish, I can feel his testimony and power. He makes us laugh really hard, and touched by the Spirit. I am so blessed to have them!
     
In my first night here, we got to go to one of two Burger Kings in Nicaragua! While I was in the CCM I had been craving some hamburgers for several days, man were they delicious!! I’m so lucky! Me and one of the other hermanas got to stay in the special room the apostles stay in when they come to the mission home. Wow! What a treat! I was in heaven!! Plus, I saw my first beday. Hahahaha, didn’t use it though. Kept thinking of Garfield when he calls it his "very own cat tub". There are so many cats, dogs, birds, and horses here! It makes me sad though because all of the animals (except the horses) are SO skinny and underfed. Ah, it makes me sad! However, getting to see them is a treat! :)
    
Being here feels familiar, and in a way like home. Yes, the culture is VERY different, but yet it is the same. I love it. :) It smells a lot like the Stephenson ranch in Salmon, so I feel reminiscent a lot. Especially when I see the horses, I think of those fun memories of when I was really little. One of the most common ways of transportation here is by pepano, which is a man riding a bicycle, with a seat, cart, and roof attached. Essentially, it’s a one man carriage! My companion and I have been on them a few times when we have to go someplace a bit further, or we have a heavier load to carry. Daniel’s dad is absolutely right, the people here are either really poor, or they do really well. The traveling here is either by the pepanos, bikes, walking, motorcycles, or huge SUVs.
     
I LOVE my companion! AH! I am SO lucky to have her!! Her name is Hermana Fuentes and she is from Panama. She is so much personality, love, a huge heart, and testimony! She is helping me out with everything so much, I am so grateful! I tell her all the time that she is my blessing! She is so servicable too. She has given me several notes of encouragement, has prepared dinner, made my bed the way I like it, gave me a new skirt, gives me hugs, bought me ice cream....my goodness she spoils me! I love her so much, and her kind heart. I want to be more like her! It’s so cute, whenever she speaks in English her voice gets a lot higher. Her favorite things to say in English are, "Oh freak!" and "Whatever". Hehehe, she doesn’t say "whatever" in a mean way, but to be funny. So, I decided to teach her a phrase in English. Hehehe. I told her that "As if!" (from "Clueless") has the same meaning. That night when she was talking to our district leader on the phone, she kept saying over and over again, "As if! Whatever!" Hehe, it brings me so much joy when she says it. She says it just like Alicia Silverstone, and she’s never seen the movie. Even though she knows a little English and I know a little Spanish, we get along SO well! We sing together a lot, and laugh, and learn. She seriously is the best companion anyone could have. I am so lucky.
     
Every different kind of food and drink I have tried here is good, except for two things. There is this white cheese that they use a lot, and it is just not good whatsoever. Bluck! But, I have to eat, so I eat it anyways. It’s like a cross of bleu cheese and ricotta. Not a good mix. The other thing is their version of ketchup. Haha it tastes nothing like it, but fortunately, it’s not common to have it here, so it’s all good, esta bien! My favorite thing we’ve had here is pescados with a pico de gallo mixture on top with a pan cooked tortilla. They don’t really gut the fish or anything, so they cook it just the way it is. I saw the boiled eye looking at me, removed it, and dared myself to eat it when I was done eating the fish. I tried it and it really didn’t taste bad at all! I actually kinda liked it. :) However, anything that has to do with fish is good to me, haha! A common dish we eat here is called gallo pinto with platanos. It’s so good! Platanos is a fruit that looks and tastes like a banana, but it’s a bit different. They mostly eat it straight, but the other night they fried it up like chips, and MAN it was good! Mmm!! We also eat a lot of jocote, which is the better and sweeter version of a grape! It looks kinda like a cherry tomato, and it’s so delicious! They grow on a lot of the trees here, so all you have to do is find a really long stick, put it up in the tree and try to knock the fruit down.
     
There is a member family we see every day (The Ibarra´s) that invites us to have almuerzo (lunch). They recently converted to the church while I was in the CCM. They are SO awesome!! They are so kind, and understanding that I don’t understand even a quarter of what they say. They are the kindest family and I feel so blessed we are so welcome in their home. I can tell they love me, and they support me so much. They encourage and know how to have fun! They are always teasing and laughing.
     
Now for the interesting part of the letter...the interesting things I’ve seen here. On my first day riding in a taxi with my companion, heading to our apartment, a man in the street called out to me and blew me a kiss. Here, they call men like that "musos", which translates as "snake". While being here, there’s been several men that have done things like that or just give me this look that makes me want to go and hide, haha! I also learned today from my district leader that instead of men whistling to girls, they make this "Tssss" sound like a snake, and apparently it is illegal! Bleck!...Another interesting experience was at the Ibarra’s house. I went over to the chicken coop and decided to hold one of the cute little chicks. All of a sudden I felt this warm feeling. I looked down and I had poop and pee all over my hand, and on my arm, hahaha....People here sell food in any kind of place. When I was riding the bus, people would bang on the windows from the outside and try to sell food and drinks. And at each bus stop, a new vender would get on and walk up and down the bus to see if anyone wanted anything. They carry so much and have such good balance. Some of the women in the streets carry what they have with them on their head too...
     
Something I really like here is how kind and affectionate the people are. They don’t even know you and they want to serve you, it’s crazy, I love it! Whenever I greet a woman here I give them a side hug and a kiss. With the men, I just shake hands because I am a missionary! My companion has greeted some men who have tried to kiss her, hopefully that doesn’t happen to me! Also, when it comes to greeting people, you say "adios" as you pass people in the street. And when we approach the house we say, "buenas!" I love the customs here. :) My apartment is great, and we have tons of fans so it never gets too hot, but when we’re not in the casa, I sweat and sweat, and sweat. It’s alright though; it’s keeping my skin from getting dry! The heat really doesn’t bother me at all! I really like how warm it is. The people here say how hot it is, and ask me if I’m dying from the heat. They look at me like "What!" when I say that it doesn’t bother me, and they wear less clothes than me, haha. There’s a lot of little bed bugs and I have bites, but they really aren’t bad at all. As long as they aren’t spiders or cockroaches, then I’m great! The shower we have gets some water coming out, but some days, like today we don’t get water. So I got to take a shower today with a bucket and spout in our bathroom. Hehe, it wasn’t bad, just took a while. I love all my new culture experiences here, I feel like I’m at home and in a new place all at the same time.
     
You know, I have been feeling a little frustrated at times because I can’t understand much, I’m the newest one here, and I can’t always get my meaning out right. However, I know why I am here. Heavenly Father has given me tender mercies EVERY DAY! There have been little moments while we contact or teach where I feel like I am understanding a little bit more, and have a little more to say. My companion lifts me up, and she feels the same way I do about her English. I know the Spirit is teaching through me, and I rely on the Lord and my companion for the help I need. I speak as much Spanish as I can, am learning new words as my companion and I walk through the streets, and slowly my abilities are getting better. It requires a lot of patience, and the people understand. They are SO kind. It’s incredible how understanding they are. I do what I can, and the Lord just keeps blessing me. I am so lucky to have all of YOU, the Lord, my beautiful companion Hermana Fuentes, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost as my support. You ALL help me to fulfill Christ’s work. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love all of you very very much!!! Please keep writing, I read ALL of the letters and cherish them! Now that I am here in Nicaragua I can actually print them off now yay!!!!!!! You are all in my thoughts and prayers, always!!

-Not sure if I will be able to have enough time to send pictures today, but I will for sure next week!

Love, Your Hermana Stephenson :D

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

3.12.2014

Hello my wonderful, beautiful Family and Friends!!!!
     
This past week has many ups and downs, but mostly ups! :D Teaching lessons is definitely a challenge when you only know so many words, but I can testify that by the word of God and The Holy Ghost, my mouth is filled. :)  Almost every single day here we practice teaching to one another in this language. Every day the lesson and language is used differently. Earlier in the week my companion and I were practice teaching El Plan de Salvación (The Plan of Salvation). We had never taught the full lesson before, so every time I would speak I felt like I wasn’t being understood well or clearly. One of the maestros (teachers) from the other class that we were practicing with, came up to me while we were teaching. He whispered to me, "Pray always throughout the lesson. That’s why we are here, is to learn from our mistakes." That gave me a lot of comfort, and I quickly reminded myself not to dwell on my mistakes. The lesson came to the point of teaching about the Atonement. I taught it feeling the Spirit loving me in my heart. It was a great comfort to me, and since then, I pray throughout the day and lessons so that I always have the reassurance that "I CAN DO IT!" or "Yo puedo!!" :) This experience reminded me of the scripture in 1 Nefí 16:29--"by small means the Lord can bring about great things." And it also reminded me of one of my very favorite scriptures in Proverbs 3:5-6--"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and he shall direct thy paths." It really is THAT easy! When we put forth our best esfuerzos (efforts), the Lord PROMISES us that he will direct us and help us!! The Lord says specifically tells us MANY times in the our scriptures that he will help us, and not forsake us. :) What a blessing!! Our lessons have gone well this week because I completely rely on the Spirit. He is the true teacher of God, and I am the mouthpiece. I feel so fortunate to have a voice to bring forth my testimony, love, and God’s truths to others.
     
Here, we emphasize the importance of truly teaching by others needs, and not what we think they need. It is difficult at times to know what those needs are, when I do not understand what people are saying, but I sincerely believe that I am understanding just a little bit more every day. Everything happens "line upon line, precept upon precept", and I am patient with that. :) Everything is done in the Lord’s timing and that is an extreme comfort to me!! My life is more fulfilling, not knowing what’s going to happen next. Every day is an adventure from 6:30 in the morning to 10:30 at night! I am more than blessed to be in a place where I am constantly improving on how to be a loving, effective teacher. :) . . . An INCREDIBLE experience happened this week for me!! So several weeks ago at devotional, our speaker talked about making "specific prayers". You ask the Lord what you need to be done, using specific times and places, and then you tell him what you are going to do to make it happen. He told MANY stories of specific prayers and the faith the people had to believe that their prayers would come true. The example in the scriptures is the love story between Isaac and Rebekah, please read it!! :) I wish I could share all the stories with you, but since I can’t I will tell you of my experience:
     
The other night I pulled my Patriarchal Blessing out and read it before going to bed. Before reading it I asked Heavenly Father if he would tell me what I must do next in my life, while here on my mission. Upon reading it, the Spirit prompted me very strongly to kneel down and say a specific prayer. My mind was already feeling so preoccupied upon the thoughts of my blessing, so I layed down to try to go to sleep. Nope. I couldn’t do it. My stomach and head began to feel sick, and so I got up from my bed and knelt down. However, when I knelt down, I had no idea what to ask specifically for. After a few moments I then thought of something to ask. I then asked Heavenly Father if he would make the answer known unto me like this: "Heavenly Father, if when I wake up tomorrow morning and I am not sick or anything, I will go to breakfast and then go do my personal study. During personal study, at exactly eight a.m., I will open my blue, paperback Book of Mormon and close my eyes, and flip to a random page. Heavenly Father, when I go to read what’s in front of me, please give me a distinct "yes" or "no" answer. Heavenly Father I will do my best to prepare for this. I will wake up at exactly 6:30 a.m., not 5 or 10 minutes later, and I promise to be completely ready for the day at exactly 7 a.m. I felt so nervous and inadequate to be so specific in my prayer, and unworthy to ask Heavenly Father to give me a specific answer at a specific time. However, the Spirit of the Lord filled me and prompted me to do it. The next morning everything was great, and I did exactly what I told God I would do. At exactly 8 a.m. I said a prayer again to receive an answer, and then proceeded to close my eyes and flip to a random passage of scripture. I landed in Alma chapter 13, and the first verse my eyes rested on was in verse 12. Well, I sat there reading it and thought, I am not receiving anything. This verse is not giving me a yes or a no. I sat there feeling sad and wanting to know what to do. The Spirit then prompted me to read the whole chapter. I flipped the page and proceeded to read..."being left to choose good or evil; therefore having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling (verse 3)...[I] have been called to this holy calling on account of [my] faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren (verse 4)...humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit (verse 28)...Having faith on the Lord; having a hope...having the love of God (verse 29." WOW!!!!! Heavenly Father truly answered my prayer and I got a "yes" to my question!!! Of course I wanted to know the answer to my question, but I truly can testify from my experience, that the power of specific prayers really do work!!!! Try it out, with ANY question!! It works!!!!!
     
Take advantage of the scriptures, all the answers you need to know are found in all of these precious, sacred, works!!! Joseph Smith is one of my greatest heroes who ever lived! Every time I read my scriptures I make sure to treasure them up with all my heart, just like he did (J.S.H. 1:11-12). All those who came before us sacrificed to much for us to enjoy the holy blessings of God. The Salt Lake temple took 40 years to finish!!! The Saints experienced much adversity when trying to build a house of the Lord! I realize I need to truly take every opportunity to renew my covenants with God during Sacrament, and the sacred covenants in the temple. Jesus Christ not only suffered for our pains, sins, and temptations, but he suffered so that we can make SACRED convenios (covenants). So many have suffered much for my well-being and happiness, so I am doing my best to be more grateful through my prayers, words, thoughts, and actions. :) I know in every corner of my mind and heart that this church is undoubtedly true. As the song from "Love Actually" says, "I feel it in my fingers; I feel it in my toes. Love is all around us, come on and let it show!" I love our Heavenly Father, Redeemer, and The Holy Ghost. Yes, I suffer from the pains of the adversary daily, but God’s love and blessings outweigh all of that. My purpose here is for others, not of myself, and when I completely put my focus and heart on others, I experience a greater happiness that I have never had before. :D
     
We as a branch, including a few others, sang the EFY Medley "As Sisters in Zion/Army of Helaman" this week! :) It was fantastic, and I did my best not to cry while feeling the Spirit in me, during the song. Whenever I saw someone in the audience crying I had to look away, because it is a chain reaction for me. If I see someone crying, then I cry, so I did my best to control myself, haha. :) We as a district also sang "Grande éres Tú!" ("How Great Thou Art") on Sunday. I played and arranged how everyone was to sing it. It was a great time with everyone. :)
     
I also want to give you a list of funny things that happened this week:
           -Whenever the lights go off anywhere, the elders yell, "¡Castidad!" which means chastity. Hahaha, our teacher Hermano López taught us that, when he turned off the lights for a movie clip.
           -So, our elders LOVE to talk in hashtags every now and again. The other night they talked ONLY in hashtags in their casa (house) for 2 hours. When our district leader Elder Paraso and his companion Elder Woodland went to have companionship prayer before going to bed, Elder Paraso accidentally asked God for something in a hashtag. Hahahaha. SO great!
           -I was about to walk out of our casa for the day, and I thought, "I am completely ready and I have everything I need! Then as I exited the casa, I realized I was going out in my Winnie the Pooh flip flops. Haha, I quickly went back inside and changed my shoes. Hehe.
          -The other day when I went to leave the bathroom stall, I realized that the lach on the door in the stall had locked. I locked myself inside. Trying my hardest to open the door it wouldn’t open. I decided to just crawl underneath the door to get out and I thought, "No, that’s silly, I can get this door open!" After a few more tries I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to get it open. My companion noticed that I was taking longer than normal, while she was standing outside, so as she was about to enter the bathroom, I called out to her, "Hermana, I’m stuck." We both just laughed and laughed. She crawled underneath the door and got it open in one go. Wow. Hahahahaha. :D There is a first time for everything!
   
I love all of you SO much, es muy increible!!! All of you ser mí milagros!!!!

Love, Your Hermana Keri Chantel Stephenson :D

Monday, March 10, 2014

3.5.2014

Quierido Mi Familia y amigos!!!!!!!

Today we were so privileged to go to the temple today in México City! Now, since the temple is under construction on the outside and inside, we only got to be in the visitors center, but it was incredible nonetheless! I had no idea there are so many temples in Méxio, it’s crazy!! :D  The picture of the temple in Chihuahua resides in the smallest town in the world that has a temple! Also, the visitor’s center here is the most visited in all of them in the world! Wow!! It’s very interesting being out of the CCM and seeing what it really looks like here! Every building has every color of the rainbow on it and there are so many BEAUTIFUL trees and plants all throughout the city! The only thing that makes me really nervous being out of the CCM is being on the bus. The cars you drive next to are a foot away or less, and they drive SO fast! People honk just as often as you would smile or say hello to someone, it’s so funny. When there are a lot going on at once it sounds like the cars are having a heated debate, haha! Plus, it’s a party town here almost every day of the week. Every now and again cannons go off in celebration of another holiday or party! At night when I lay down to go to sleep I can hear honking and music going off in the distance, as well as whistles (which scared me at first because it sounds like a woman screaming in panic)! This last fast Sunday during the meeting there was loud, club music going off right by our window. I tried my best to not be distracted by it or tap my feet. The Spirit was able to conquer it though and we had a lovely meeting. :)

On fast Sunday everyone in my district bore their testimony. It was really heartfelt and what everyone said was sincere. Here is part of what I shared of one of my favorite hymns: A me gusta la parte en "Las familias pueden eternas", cual es "yo quiero heredar el celestial hogar. Con la mía la eternidad, por toda la eternidad." Yo se que podemos vivir con las familias otra vez. Estoy muchas agradecidas por mí familia y la oportunidad vivr con Dios y Cristo por eternalemente. . . .For those who do speak Spanish, I apologize now, that my Spanish is not quite good yet. However, when the Spirit is with me, I am able to teach exactly how the Lord wants me to. :)  Predicad mí Evangelio teaches that the most essential part of teaching is to have the Spirit. Investigators, converts, and members cannot be converted if they do not have the Spirit of the Lord with them. In our video devotional this week Jeffrey R. Holland spoke. :)  He said that in the time of his mission, missionaries had to memorize and recite lessons word for word, all lessons mentioned in order. I had no idea that is how missionaries used to be. When President Hinckley was a prophet he noticed a HUGE decline in converts staying in the church, as well as the missionaries who came from their missions. That is why we have Preach my Gospel now!! What a miracle it is to know that times are changing, because the prophets and our Lord know what we need.

Elder Holland taught of the huge importance it is to teach by the Holy Ghost, to the very specific needs of others. He told a story that happened around the time between WWI and WWII. A missionary serving in Czechoslovakia was out tracting one day with his companion, and they came to the door of a single woman. When they knocked on the door, she immediately opened and then slammed the door before they could even get a word in. Well, they weren’t going to give up so easily so they were persistent and waited, knocking on the door the second time. Before she could close the door in their faces again, one of the elders put his foot in the door. He said, "Why don’t you want to hear us? We’re young missionaries and have a wonderful message to share with you." She looked at them and said, "Well, you’re ministers aren’t you?" The elder then responded, "Well, yes. We’re missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." She then firmly told them she wanted nothing to do with missionaries or ministers of the church. 

Quite a while back from this time, this woman’s only child died in a tragic accident, and she did not have a husband or anyone to help her with her grief. In complete despair, she seeks help from a minister in a nearby church. When she arrives at the church, she pours her feelings of tragedy to the minister, in hopes he will help her. However the minister replied with this, "You have never entered these doors and your child was not baptized. You have never entered this church before, and you expect me to help you now, when it is clearly to late? Your child is in Hell and you will eventually one day too." Since that time she completely shut herself off from anyone associated with the church. After the missionaries discovered this (as they are still communicating from the front door, not inside) this special elder, in the best Czech he could muster, he asked this woman, "Would you like to know where your child is?" After replying with a yes, he turned to Mosiah chapter eight. He then explained of the mercy of Jesus Christ’s Atonement and how through him are children automatically saved. This woman, by the elder’s ability to call upon the Lord and the Holy Ghost, was baptized and remained a Faithful member, and one of the few in their area. She and a few other woman served with all their might in this church, and took advantage of Priesthood authority when it was available to them at this time. Elder Holland said that we will never know where we will need to turn to in our Scriptures to find the answers someone needs, but we need to be prepared and worthy to bring forth exactly what they need, through the sacred, holy power of the Holy Ghost. I cannot even imagine how a mission would be if I did not have the Spirit with me. He is so essential, and the only true instrument of the word of God. :)

Elder Holland, the Lord, our Savior, and the Holy Ghost have invigorated me to know that I can do this. I need to put all my effort in and the Lord truly will provide the rest. Yesterday I was feeling very inadequate of my abilities to speak and help others in this language. My companion receives many compliments of how well she teaches and speaks. Then I realized that it is not our ability that makes anything possible, it is the Lord and our effort. A scripture that gave me a lot of comfort and strength in my weakness is Alma 32: 40-43. It teaches that when we have planted our seed of faith, and we have patience and diligence then we will: "reap the rewards of [these qualities], and long-suffering waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto [us]." The Lord truly blesses me, even when I fall short. What a miracle that is to know that He has that power. I am more than nervous to go to Nicaragua, but I know that as long as I have faith and do not fear, our Heavenly Father will give me the power to do His will. I love all of you endlessly and pray for you always. :) Sus todos en mí corazón siempre. Te amo!!!!

Love, Your Hermana Keri Chantel Stephenson :D

I ran out of time, so I’ll send pictures this next week