Monday, February 23, 2015

Week 59! "The Empty Bus"

From 2/23/15

Hola Family and Friends!!

We had an AWESOME week!! It was jam-packed with conferences and super inspirational meetings. WOO! It was the best!! In Cuernavaca, we had a multizone conference for the missionaries in our mission with President and Sister Kusch and Elder Mendoza, from the quorum of the seventy. We learned so much from them and from the impressions of the Spirit. Elder Mendoza talked about a few doctrines that really impacted me. He talked a lot about the Premortal life and about who we truly are and what our purpose is. He also expounded on doctrine that is included in the Area Plan for Mexico--which is an inspired annual document of the goals and vision for the nation of Mexico. It includes increasing our faith personally so that the work accelerates in this country. He shared the scripture that we have heard many times the past few years:

"Behold, I will hasten my work in its time. And I give unto you, who are the first laborers in this last kingdom, a commandment that you assemble yourselves together, and organize yourselves, and prepare yourselves, and sanctify yourselves; yea, purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands and your feet before me, that I may make you clean." (D&C 88:73-74)
In our meeting we discussed what the word "hasten" means. Elder Mendoza listened for a while and then shared this insight: It's as if the Lord is saying, I need more and better results in less time. 
Elder Mendoza also shared that the hastening will commence and move forth as quickly as we make meaningful changes in our own lives. We are always invited to improve and change personally. It's like the scripture says, we are to purify our hearts before the Lord. Our hearts represent our desires, thoughts, feelings and attitude. What changes are required of us in order to purify our desires? Our thoughts? Our feelings? Or how about our attitude regarding the work of salvation? There is always room to change. Repentance is the way, the Savior makes it possible to be great and mighty instruments in His hands to get the work moving forward.
He also shared numerous scriptures and experiences to teach us of the doctrine of the Premortal life and our purpose on the earth. Elder Mendoza shared some things that were just so special that really touched my heart. He also said that each one of us has been reserved to come forth in the latter days for a great work. That since our Father's presence, we have always desired to serve Him. En especial, we said that we were called to be missionaries even before we were born:
"When President Monson signed your mission call, we was prophetically reaffirming your calling to serve that was given since the preexistence."
We read from D&C 138, which calls the spirits that resided in the presence of Heavenly Father as choice, great, noble, and reserved:
"Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men."
Then Elder Mendoza stopped, looked at us and said, those spirits--are YOU.
It is so easy to forget our divine worth and figuratively sell our noble birthright for food like Esau did to Jacob--when we let the influences of the world--popularity, prosperity, power or pride--have more room in our lives than living the gospel. Each son or daughter of God is special. Many are still waiting to hear the gospel and we have the opportunity to do so and to hasten the work.
A sister missionary shared this quote from Marjorie Hinckley, wife of President Gordon B. Hinckley:
"First I obey, then I understand."
As we obediently and diligently keep our covenants, share the gospel and participate in missionary and temple work, we will truly realize our great and divine callings on this earth and find enduring happiness and peace.
On top of all the awesomeness from the week, yesterday was stake conference here. We invited some neighborhood friends to go AND THEY DID. :O They do not live in or anywhere close to our area, but they work here almost every day. We invited E and his friend to come to church, and they committed to, and came! :) It was super cool!
On the way home from the conference, we got on a bus that was completely empty--except for us and the bus driver--which was unusual. My companion and I sat on different sides of the bus so that as we drove and people came on, we would be able to talk to more people than we would if we sat together. (missionaries are crazy! haha). But no one was getting on the bus! I looked at the bus driver and the empty bus and felt so grateful that maybe we could contact him! I moved to the front of the bus and starting speaking. I was afraid that he would ignore me or say 'no thanks' because of the distraction of talking, but no, he was very open and friendly and willing to talk!
We spoke for a few minutes as people slowly started to fill the bus. We spoke about his family and his work. He was married the same year as my parents, and their first and last child was born the same year as Matthew and Benjamin. More people filled the bus. A woman carrying grocery bags sat next to me, and it made it difficult to talk with him. I was thinking NO! I didn't even get his address or an appointment! There's no way he's going to tell me over a whole bus of people. Just about every seat on the bus had been taken now. I asked if we would be able to share more about the gospel with him, his wife and his children:
"Where do you live, mas o menos?"
Without missing a beat he shouted across to me, I live on street-so and so, number blank. :O
"Can we visit you this Thursday?"
"Absolutely! My wife will be there too because she works later in the afternoon. We'll be expecting you two."
I felt so happy that it filled every space in my heart! It was so cool how the timing was perfect to meet him. When people accept the invitation to hear the gospel or keep a commitment or come to church, it is the best feeling in the whole wide world. I felt like I could almost cry because of the blessing of the empty bus.
Later in the afternoon, we walked down the sidewalk trying to avoid the LARGE CARNIVAL that was going down in the opposite direction of the street. When, lo, a beautiful family crossed our path. haha. They clearly were in a hurry to get going somewhere. We quickly extended a pass-along card and invited them to learn more. The mom and dad stopped. They did just about the same thing that the bus driver had done! They blurted out their address, invited us over, smiled, and took off.
It is so cool to see how the hearts of God's children are softened more and more every day to accept the gospel.
I love being a missionary!!! I ran into members from my very first ward in the mission on Wednesday and then on Saturday with Hermana C [previous companion]. It was probably one of the coolest feelings in the whole world to see people I love so much after a year! One hermano shook my hand and said, I thought I'd never see you again!
The experiences of this week have reminded me that God knows us individually. He knows exactly where we are needed, so that we can share the gospel and learn from those around us also. His plan is perfect!
I hope you all have a great week and that you can take time to meditate and think about what your personal strengths and talents are. If you have your Patriarchal Blessing, maybe you could prayerfully read it and meditate on its meaning. As you do so, you will find evidence of the love that Heavenly Father has for you and of your own divine purpose and mission.
Have a great week!!
Con Amor,
Hermana Fernelius
P.S. I used a bathroom that was a tarp on a lot, with wooden planks that overlapped and formed a floor over a massive dugout hole in the earth--which is also called a toilet here? That's right. The bathroom was a hole in the floor in the open outside. Also in my view....goats. Large, dirty goats. It was unforgettable.
Also, we witnessed a beautiful true to life moment of two street vendors that successfully sold a HAWK to a pair of gullible people in their business store. Worst part? The price--like 550 pesos. Next worst part? They didn't buy a cage or nuthin else, just the straight up hawk on the street. Other worst part? When the bird sellers *won* and sold them the HAWK they also tried to sell some pretty yellow canaries....that's when the store owners were like..whoa whoa whoa.. that's a lot of commitment, I don't think we want canaries. But thank you. My favorite worst part? The two people that bought the HAWK were mom and son owners of a seed and grain store. The older mom was disheartened after the purchase when she realized that the HAWK would not let her pet it. She was bit in the hand 5 times in a row, and looked surprised each time it bit her. Just writing this story is killing me. We laughed so hard we cried. Then that all ended when the bird vendors passed by us and offered some canaries. NO GRACIAS, Señores. We actually wanted the Hawk. hahahaha.
Have a great week!!
Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Week 58! "Duh, I Was Born Ready!"

From 2/16/15

Hola Family and Friends!!

Happy Valentine's Day last Friday!! All of the little stores around town had hearts, balloons, chocolate, stuffed animals and flowers. We would completely forget about what holiday is coming up if it weren't for these awesome little stores here...they are called Abarrotes. There is one on just about every corner!

Great week! Remember last week, I mentioned C [the man on crutches]? He's the funniest guy ever! This week in our appointment, we invited him to be baptized. "Si usted recibe una respuesta de Dios que esta mensaje es verdadero, sera bautizado usted?"

"Claro, NACI LISTO!"

Butchered translation: If you receive an answer from God that this message is true, will you be baptized? .... DUH, I was BORN READY!! haha.

We love the lessons we've had with C because of his enthusiasm and desire to learn! He always does his best to participate and is eager to follow the commitments we extend to him. One of the best parts about being a missionary is watching people grow in the gospel. He came to church again on Sunday dressed his best and ready to learn! :)

We also love seeing how Ao keeps growing in his understanding of the gospel. He has really been struggling to find a job for more than 4 months now. The work situation in Mexico is so difficult! He's been doing the best he can in keeping the commandments and coming to church. As we talked to him in one of our appointments this week, he expressed his deep concern for his economic situation--then we spoke about the power of paying tithing and fasting. In Malachi, the Lord promises faithful tithe payers that the windows of heaven will be opened and blessings will pour out so greatly that there won't be enough room to contain it all. We challenged him to always always pay an honest tithe and to fast to know what to do about his work situation. On Sunday morning, he came faithfully to his meetings and expressed his faith in putting the Lord first and everything else!! :) We're praying that he finds a job soon and a good Mormon girl in the stake to help him along the way! ;)

This week I've noticed just how much of a difference each member of the branch makes! We've been visiting part member families and families with children who are less active. We've seen just how difficult it is for both the parents and the children when membership in the church becomes a second priority. Last night especially, we had the opportunity to visit a young man who has not been to church in about 5 years. As we listened, we really saw the desire he had to return, for his life to improve, and for his faith to be strengthened. We shared with this family a scripture of how Jesus invited the little ones to come unto Him. I think He loved the children because of the purity of their hearts and their humility and willingness to believe. No matter how off track we feel we've gone, we are asked to be humble and return and He'll be waiting for us.

"Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God".

Our homes should be filled with frequent and natural testimony bearing. By our words and our actions, we bear testimony that the gospel has been restored and is true--and others have strengthened faith also.
Hope you all have a great week!
Hermana Fernelius 
Monday, February 9, 2015

Week 57! "Another Six Weeks"

From 2/9/15

Hola Family and Friends!

Another week has gone by so fast. We've met many wonderful new people and families to teach. There have been so many happy moments this week, yesterday being one of the greatest.

I have a secret also: I think that Hermana C and I might be together for another six weeks in this area!!!!! It's still a secret, but do you know what that might possibly mean? If so, I will have been in this area for about 8 months and Hermana C for 6!

I love it here so much, and I most especially love my companion too!!! Hermana C is the BEST!!! She is super patient with me, because I can be a little crazy sometimes. haha. We have so much fun doing nothing sometimes. She really does feel like a sister to me! I feel like we teach fluidly together. I learn a lot from her each day! It's so true that when you work well together in your companionship, your best efforts will always bring some kind of success. While on the other hand, until there is harmony in a companionship, no amount of effort will ever bring true success. We have been so blessed to see miracles and progression in this area. We are excited to see what lies ahead!

One evening I overheard the sisters in our home talk about their goal for receiving references the following day. (A missionary reference is given to a companionship in a specific area with the information of an individual who is interested in hearing more about the church.) We receive references most commonly through asking individuals in the street or through members--most often we receive 1-2 a day. But what stood out to me is that they set a high goal for the following day of how many referrals received.

The next morning, we went to a meeting on the other side of town and talked to as many people as we could along the way. We met a man who introduced himself to us first. He asked us more about the church and asked if we could come by to teach him. We took down his information--he lived in the upper part of our area--the area of the other sister missionaries. On the bus to our meeting and back we met three more individuals who accepted to hear a message of the gospel who live in the upper part of our area--altogether four references for the sisters.

As we walked down the street to our next appointment, I had a thought come to my mind. When we make higher expectations for ourselves and ask the Lord for help, He will help us to reach those goals or surpass them. I had another thought come to my mind next. Sometimes, we can be the answer to someone else's prayer. At the end of the night, Hermana C and I were also given many references, above the personal goal we had set, with faith. It is a lesson to me of how our vision and goals can help us to do something more and be a better person.

Along those lines, we met some super duper cool fellows this week as we contacted. We left pretty early one morning for an appointment and passed by a man ["C"] with crutches on the way. "I should talk to him", I thought as we passed him by.

I didn't stop to talk to him. We went on to our appointment. No one came out as we knocked on the door and waited for a few more minutes. Then we see this man pass us by again. Okay, THIS time we are talking to him!! We went up to an older man with big blue eyes and introduced ourselves to him.

"Oh, you are the Mormons! I went to your church in Los Angeles over 40 years ago! I really liked it, there is something different about it!"

We invited him to church.

"I'll be there this Sunday".

We've seen over and over again, to listen to the Spirit and do what he says. Be wiser than I was--never postpone a prompting! This man was too cool not to contact but we almost didn't!

We went to another first appointment with a young woman and her little sister on Saturday. "Aa" opened the door and let us in. Her siblings were eating breakfast and her parents were doing various things around the home. All movement stopped as soon as we walked in!!! We were warmly greeted by everyone. The mom came out to meet us and invited us to sit down. The dad came out also and took initiative to speak with us and learn who we were, where we came from, and why we were there. The kids trickled out of the dining room one by one and found a place to sit down in the living room and listen.

I felt like we were in a dream or something!! It was so cool to see the parents leading by their example to hearing the gospel, and each child listening attentively too. We asked to say an opening prayer and felt impressed to teach the message of the Restoration. Everyone participated and asked and answered questions. We shared the first vision of Joseph Smith, and a sweet spirit was there in their home. We asked them how they felt about this experience. Without missing a beat, the dad said, "The experience Joseph had meant that he was chosen to do this work. He was called to be prophet."

We invited them to pray about the truthfulness of our message and to be baptized if they receive an answer- they all accepted. We also handed them a Book of Mormon. The family said that they had one already. They went into one of their bedrooms and brought out two copies.  They committed to reading and praying and we knelt together in their home to end our lesson.

IT WAS SO SUPER COOL! AHH. We passed by the next morning to go with them to church. Aa answered the door in her pajamas. She said, "I was just about to get into the shower so we could go. My parents can't go because they went to take care of an emergency, but that doesn't mean we can't go!"

All four of the siblings came to church yesterday and so did C!!

Our modest house of prayer was completely filled yesterday!! There were so many youth!! There was an actual Young men's class, the primary was full, relief society...everything! Many less actives came yesterday, and so did our investigators. The talks and lessons were very inspired and uplifting. It was probably one of the best Sundays I've had on my mission because of the warmth we felt in church. We've been working so hard so almost 6 months now to see that kind of growth in church. It felt so wonderful. The family that came with us was super content. C was accompanied home by Ao!!! :) We were just so happy!

The work goes on! We do the best we can and the Lord does His part to make it complete! I hope you all keep looking for the blessings big and small every day. I know that Heavenly Father loves us so much! So so much. Hope you all have a great week.

Con Amor,

Hermana Fernelius
Monday, February 2, 2015

Week 56! "This Spider Bites!"

From 2/2/15

Hola Family and Friends!!

Hope you all had a great week!!!

First things first, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TIFFANY!!!!!! Not every sister missionary can say she's celebrated two birthdays on the mission. :) I hope you have so so much fun on your birthday. Here we'll sing las mañanitas, break a piñata for you, and you have to get your face slammed into a cake. ¿sale?  Sounds good! Love you Tiffy!!

Otros asuntos.....

AO IS A MEMBER NOW! :D AHHH!! His baptism on Saturday was beautiful. Words to describe that day seem to escape me. Ao is just SO SPECIAL. (P.S. Beware...I feel like this email might have a few more capitalizations and exclamation points ahead. I'm just really excited!).

We've been in contact with Ao every day this week leading up to his baptism. Every appointment we saw just how much he was ready to be baptized. On Friday night, we passed by kind of unexpectedly with a member from our branch. Toward the end of our lesson, we talked to him about his family. He told us that his family was not too interested in coming to his baptism. He told us a little disappointedly that he invited his brother several times, but they weren't sure. We decided to invite them in that moment to come to his baptism. If they did not, they would regret missing this huge part of his life someday in the future.

We went downstairs and found his mom there, we sat down with her and invited her to come. As we talked with her and listened to how she has seen changes in Ao's life, a sweet spirit entered the room. We talked to her about the power of the Atonement and the Savior's invitation for all to come unto Him and find healing, and to begin to make changes. We shared a scripture from 3 Nephi, when the Savior came to the Americas and invited the people to follow Him:

"Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me."

Her eyes welled up with tears as she spoke of how pleased she was to see these changes in her son. We felt the Spirit so strongly there.

The following morning, we were filled with joy when we saw Ao, O (his brother), and their mom all together. Dressed in their best and ready for the baptismal service.

His baptism was done by a member of our branch who had never baptized anyone before. He was humbled to baptize his friend. One of the best moments of the service was hearing Ao's testimony. It was probably one of the purest and most sincere testimonies I have heard during my time on the mission. It was incredible.

We felt so blessed to have been able to see his progress from the very beginning when we first met him, to now. There are few words that can describe how we felt!! I am excited to continue to see him grow and progress and serve in the gospel. He is a wonderful influence for good in his home and to those that surround him. :) He is a spiritual giant!

This week we've faced a lot of strong opposition. Opposition has been a blessing because it clears the fog of the day and helps us to see answered prayers, blessings and even miracles clearly. We are grateful for the spiritual experiences the Lord has given us, and also for the trials of faith we've had. I've realized and just want to share with you all that I know that it is SO necessary that we go through hard things! It's okay for outside circumstances to go a little crazy sometimes, even though we are doing things right--or at least the best we can! Life is a time of probation and trials and tests of our faith and obedience. In Abraham it says:

"And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them."
Imagine if the night never came! We would never be able to enjoy the light of the stars and the moon. So look for the good in hard times! Keep smiling! Keep hoping, keep praying, keep working! Promise that there is something fantastic right around the corner! :)
We were able to teach several less active members that we have recently come into contact with. We were blessed to have been able to teach a less active member named J who is about 20 years old. He has not come to church for quite a bit of time. He openly shared that he has had problems with the Word of Wisdom and that he feels uncomfortable being in church on Sunday morning after spending Saturday night with his friends. After talking for a little bit, he himself realized the blessings that he has been missing from not actively going to church and keeping the commandments.
We invited him to come back to church and once again begin the wonderful, purifying path called repentance. Sunday morning we were so happy to see J in church dressed his best and smiling.
It reminds me of something an investigator told us a couple of weeks ago. She said that she is embarrassed by her life of all the things that have happened. She tells her children now of her past so that they can hopefully learn from her example and not repeat the same mistakes. After telling them about her past she tells them--"Hijos...Fui; Ya no soy!" ["Children...I used to be that way; I am not now!"]. 
That's who she was, not who she is now. People can change! I know that is true--most especially because it's happened in my own personal life. I am so grateful for the forgiveness of the Savior. I know that He wants to forgive and He wants to help us change. :)
Hope you all have a great week!! :)
Con mucho amor,
Hermana Fernelius
Ao's baptism
Ao, his brother "O", and their mom at Ao's baptism.

I think something bit me this week. It hurt. I'm better now though. We're thinking that it was a spider bite. 

Hermana C (my companion) bought a Kinder Egg (chocolate egg with a toy inside) a few weeks ago that had a chubby pirate from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. She was a little distraught because the little guy is not very cute---especially not because the other option of a toy was a parrot, or Jake, or an alligator. But....she took it like a champ and kept the creepy little pirate toy.
THEN.....on Saturday we found a magical Barbie egg with the best surprise in it ever. When she put her mini Barbie on the table, it found a place right next to the creepy little pirate. It was perfect. This is a photo of Hermana C with the representation of the creepy men of the Barona. It makes me smile every time.