Monday, November 18, 2013

Argentina: Week 18

At a baptism!

It was in a river!

So pretty!

Hermana Vernon and I at her baptism! She isn't my companion, but she is in my district.

The dog who followed us home.

My birthday present that Hermana Mejia bought me!

Hermana Lopez bought me an alfajora that I ate before I had the chance to take a picture.

Hermana Thorp gave me my favorite flower!

So I have a butt-load of things to talk about today. First of all I am being transferred! Our trio is splitting and I will continue training, just with another hermana. I am going to an area called Confluencia which is in Neuquen. I´m really not looking forward to the heat that will come because I already feel like I´m suffering and it isn't even summer yet. Ready to have pictures of a hot Christmas? weird! Anyway, my birthday was awesome. I wasn't expecting it to be but I had the chance to go to Hermana Vernon´s baptism in Huergo which was awesome. It was actually three baptisms and it was in a Rio! There were actually quite a bit of members there so that was fun to see them support each of the converts. They also made empanadas for the baptism and cake so I got to have both for "my birthday" :) I also got a call from the mission´s presidents wife who told me happy birthday and my companions bought me some treats (picture).

I am leaving today for my new area in 4 hours or so, so my life is going to be pretty crazy for a little bit. I wanted to say goodbye to everyone but Laura (my baptism) didn't come to church and I was so upset that I wasn't going to be able to say goodbye. Well I can testify that there are tender mercies of the Lord because as we were walking home last night they were passing in a car and stopped to say goodbye! I got to take pictures with them and hug her goodbye. She had been visiting her sister and it just so happened she left as we were walking by.

I would also like to share with you all one of the awkward moments of missionary work: we clapped this door to which an old lady came to the window. She was really old and you could see she was straining to see who it was. Once she recognized it was missionaries she slowly walked to the other side of her window to close her see-through curtains and then preceded to do the same with the other side of the window. It was like a slow motion comedy.

Something that also happening on my birthday was that we had this lesson with one of our investigators. I don't know if I talked about her before but I found her with Hermana Rayburn, so we have been teaching her and Nick for a while. They were the ones we thought we were going to drop but didn't after they read the plan of salvation folletito. They have been progressing and last week they came to church! They missed sacrament meeting, but still they came! When we had a lesson with Katy on Saturday she was talking about how she was wanting to help her neighbor because her neighbor was having such a hard time and what it sounded like happened is that she testified of how we have been helping her with the gospel. She made it clear that it wasn't us that was changing her but the gospel. It was an amazing moment!

Something awkward that happened this week: remember the area a long time ago that we felt very strongly that we should go to after we all prayed about it and pointed to the same area? I talked about when we actually went there and found a guy who had already read like half the Book of Mormon and said that we could pass by another time. Well I never said anything more about that because when we passed by again he hadn't been home. Anyway, we never gave up and finally got a hold of him two weeks ago. We met with him four times in one week because he had the time and he had tons of questions/doubts/problems. Anyway, I had suspected that he might like me for different reasons but I just decided that it was my own imagination and we continued. Well I called him the other day because we had set up a cita and he didn't show. When he asked who it was I told him and he started telling me how he wanted to talk to just me. At first I pretended I didn't understand (a plus of being a gringa! :D ) but he kept pushing it and make it awkward. Good thing I´m leaving! He can be baptized and I wont be a distraction. Happy day.

Another thing about transfers: Hermana Vernon is training! She just finished her 12 weeks, but she is absolutely amazing. She is struggling a lot with Spanish, which is why she is extremely nervous about it, but as I was thinking about that this morning I was thinking about how much my Spanish has improved exponentially at the beginning of every transfer. I know from experience that God doesn't call the qualified, but qualifies the called.

The last thing I want to share is what I learned for personal study on my birthday!

Hope is the foundation of faith, without hope we cannot have faith, meaning that hope is the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When we lose hope we lose faith. Losing hope is when the going gets tough; when Satan can penetrate our defenses and make the world come crashing down. Hope is why we have the ATONEMENT. We can only change and have change through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, so we need to use the Atonement to have hope and experience change. When we lose hope we are thinking there can be no change and therefore saying the Atonement doesn't apply to this situation when, in reality, the Atonement is the answer. When we have hope we are trusting that He knows best and we will not always be suffering. Hope is believing that the sacrifices we make now will bless us in the future. Trusting in Heavenly Father is the basis of hope. We trust that HE KNOWS BEST and that all that we experience is for our benefit. Trust leads to hope, hope leads to faith, and faith is the foundation of the gospel.

I almost forgot to tell you about the dog! One of our investigator´s dogs followed us home and we have already lost one dog that way (well I did with Hermana Rayburn) and so we actually brought it home so we could drop off our stuff and take it back home. We called our investigator to tell her that her dog was with us and that we would bring it back to which she replied that he knows his way around and could make it back (it was like a 20 minute walk). We left it in one of the barrio´s here and they haven't seen it since. This time I don't feel bad because we did our part, but the other family´s dog is still gone and they don't know that it followed us home. They even put up flyers. I don't understand why everyone has a dog here. There are enough in the streets to keep you occupied, why would you want to specifically have one in your home?

I love you all so much! I will try to write those who wrote me, but I don't have much time left. Thank you guys so much for being so supportive! I LOVE YOU!!!!

Hermana Allen

Argentina: Week 17

Hermana Vernon and me! She is the coolest hermana and like my best friend. She bought me ice cream today for my birthday!

Trials are a common occurrence in life. Some are big and some are small, but they are always there. I wish I could properly convey to you all how much the Savior shows His love when He tries and tests us. Life seems like such a big deal, every little thing seems like a boulder pushing us down trying to bury us, but this life is so short and if we endure it well our reward is something that we cant actually comprehend.

"I have a perfect knowledge that God loves us. He is good; He is our Father, and He expects us to pray, and trust, and be believing, and not give up, and not panic, and not retreat, and not jump ship, when something doesn't seem to be going just right. We stay in, we keep working, we keep believing, keep trusting, following that same path. And we will live to fall in his arms and feel his embrace and hear him say ´I told you it´d be okay, I told you it´d be alright.'" -Elder Holland

Heavenly Father is acutely aware of what you are going through. I can say from experience that when everything seems to be crashing down, He is there to say I love you, just wait. Just hold on a little longer and you will understand. You are my child and I will always be here.

That is my favorite part about the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many wonderful parts of the gospel, but nothing compares to the knowledge and relationship I have with my Savior. I love you all and hope that you have an awesome week before Thanksgiving! I wont be celebrating it just like we didn't celebrate Halloween. It was awkward and sad, but what ya gonna do?

Hermana Allen

Argentina: Week 16

Sometimes I wish that P-day wasn't after Sunday because when you don't have investigators who actually attend church you don't have any excitement for anything and all that I had wanted to tell you all during the week seems pointless. What I would like to tell you is that life is not hopeless. This past week was really really hard. I don't like being in a trio and sincerely hope that I never have to do it again. Understand that my companions are nice and I get along with them generally well, but it is still really really hard. I had this moment after church where I just couldn't understand how to cope with failure after failure. Why hasn't Heavenly Father trusted me more with success? That is when I read a scripture that touched my heart and gave me the strength and understanding I needed to carry on. If you are struggling with anything turn to the scriptures. Turn to your Savior for strength and understanding. Church is a way to repent and start new. Start your day/week/month/life in a new way. Change what you don't like, keep what you do. The gospel is simple and so is happiness. It is us who get in the way of that simple truth.

Anyway, Love you!

Hermana Allen

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Argentina: Week 15

They have a pinocho (Pinocchio) park here!

Older picture of the obisbo and his wife (who cooks a lot like Mom which is why her food is my favorite.)

So this week has been hard and I´m not feeling too chatty. I love you all and am incredibly grateful for your support. If you are feeling down at all read 2 Nephi 4:26-30. I found comfort in that this week.

Love you!

Hermana Allen

Argentina: Week 14

New companions!
One is from Utah and the other Nicaragua.

So this week has been a little difficult. I have come to think of obedience as a top priority. It is the one thing to which all blessings are predicated and I have come to have a strong testimony of that. We are protected when we obey and we draw closer to the Lord. It is really hard when others don't see it the same way. I am thankfully not getting an attitude of resentment toward this trial, but I will not miss it in the slightest. Training is hard in a trio. I hope I am handling this in the way Heavenly Father wants me to. He knows so much more than I do and I don't know how much responsibility to take upon myself. At the moment I am just trying to do my best to be an example. I am glad that it is not part of my nature to follow other people.

Anyway, revelation story: Saturday my companions and I had been knocking this street for a good portion of the night and when we got home one of them asked why we don't pray about where we were going to knock. We decided to do that for the next day by praying for the inspiration and looking for a spot on the map that stood out to us. As we did so we all ended up with the same spot on the map. When we knocked the next day (mind you this was after a couple hours of knocking these streets) we came across this man who had read almost half the Book of Mormon. We have an appointment with him in an hour or so. This is the only time he could meet with us so hopefully everything works out and he is who has been prepared by the Lord for us to teach. I love you all! Thank you so much for your support and also for your letters/emails. They do mean a lot to have a knowledge of what is happening.

Hermana Allen

Argentina: Week 13

My companion is leaving!

I was begging her for a besito but she wouldn't give me one because she had already given me like 5.

I was going to send pictures of me and my new companions but it isn't working. I will try more after I write the email. I´m doing good, but struggling because I haven't been able to work for the past week in my area. I worked on Tuesday, but after that I had to go to another area so that those sisters could work in their area before we went to Neuquen to get our new companions. I have a companion from Nicaragua and one from Utah, but the one from Utah spoke Spanish all her life so they are both technically Latina.

I have mainly been focusing on helping the Elders with their area and finding a pension because I´m the only one who knows anything that was left behind here. I don't really have too much to say except that with the sudden change in speaking castellano all the time, I am a little sick of it. I am also suddenly aware of how much Heavenly Father has helped me change and grow, and I feel him changing my mind about things. I hope some day I can get to the point where he has changed me enough that I am worthy to see Him face to face like Moses. I have no words to describe how amazing a mission is. Of course it is harder than anyone can possibly imagine without actually having experienced it, but because of those harder things I have been able to draw close to my savior and use the Atonement. I have considered more and more how we let the world get in the way of the eternal perspective of things. This life is so short and only probationary. We are here to chose Heavenly Father and obey His commandments. Everything else is secondary. We know what we need to do to be happy, it just takes effort. The wonderful thing about the gospel and our families is that we never have to do it alone. I know that if I need anything I can rely on my family who has supported me so much on this adventure I am having. Thank you so much to everyone who is praying for me and giving me the love I need seguir adelante (to keep pressing forward). I love you!

Hermana Allen

Argentina: Week 12

An FHE activity that we did with Relief Society! We made casitas!

All the casitas! Everyone wanted me to write it so they are all in my hand writing!

Honestly I would rather not talk about this week, only for the reason that it was crazy and action packed and I learned a lot that I would rather share with you than crazy events. First of all, my companion is being transferred and is going to be a sister training leader! I am going to stay in Godoy and train a newbie as well as a visa waiter......trio! Yeah this transfer is crazy because we received 60 new missionaries! There are lots of trios because some of them are visa waiters so they are already trained. We will be receiving about the same, maybe more next transfer so the visa waiters are preparing to figure everything out here. It is going to take a while to get into the swing of things, but I trust the Lord knows best.

Here are some notes from things I have learned this week:

The Lord puts us through trials to bring us to an awakening of our pride and need for change.
Our eternal progression depends on how well we use our agency.
No person has the power to change another.
"Change comes from within as we are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. Others may motivate us to change, but the determination to change is generated by personal desire as we yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit."
The Lord cannot have weak servants to lead. I am in the refining process and I am being prepared, but only God knows how long I will be in the refining fire.

I hope you learned from conference and from what I learned this past week! I love the gospel! Chow!

Hermana Allen

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Argentina: Week 11

An Argentine panaderia.

An alfajore which is Hermana's favorite factura because it has coconut.

I´m not too much into a sharing mood today. Transfers are coming up so this will be the last p-day I have with my district. This past week wasn’t my favorite and I struggled a lot. We have a lot of Evangelicals here who think that God is in every church and it doesn’t matter what you preach, just as long as you preach to come unto Christ. I´m not a fan of their beliefs, but it has helped me understand how Satan distorts the truth. Everything we believe, Satan has a counter part that somehow changes the pure truth or creates excuses for sin. It is devastating to see. This reminds me of a talk by Holland called "Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence." It I have already suggested that you read it then sorry, but it is an amazing and powerful talk that can help anyone in any time of trial, I feel.

I truly love you all and thank you sincerely for your sacrifices and support. I was recently reminded of how amazing of an opportunity I have in order to serve a mission. I have a responsibility to do my best so that I can stand before the Lord at the last day and say I did my best. This life is so short, and I know some of you know that, but I would urge you to try to write it on your heart. Try to understand that all of the trials, tribulations, and difficulties are sacred. They are to help us grow and learn. I am reminded of that often when I feel like I´m drowning in the misuse of agency of others. It breaks my heart that they don’t want to work or change to be happier.

Anyway, I would like to ask you all to do me a favor. I would like to know your favorite part about the gospel, the part that gives you joy and fuels the fire of your soul. Please send me an email about it. My favorite part is first: the relationship that we can have with our Heavenly Father. When we understand more about His will and love, we grow closer to him. We also grow closer when we follow His commandments, and as members of the church we are capable of living a higher law and having a closer relationship than most. Please do not take offense if you are not one of our faith. I would ask that you pause and research why we make such a bold claim. This gospel is so much more than another church, or another way to believe. We have the truth, the authority, and the way to return to our Lord and Savior.

Love you!
Hermana Allen

Argentina: Week 10

I am going to try to respond to all the emails I got but I have a buttload to tell you all about what happened this past week. First of all I am going to say that baptisms are so stressful!!! First of all I don’t know how well I explained Laura´s story so I will give a brief overview.

Our relief society president and her husband (ward mission leader) have a very inactive family. They used to be inactives themselves until they went to the temple. Their son was the spouse of Laura and he has been inactive for years. They weren’t married which is what missionaries have been trying to change for the past 10 months or so. They got married Friday so that she could be baptized on Saturday. My companion and I had entrevistas with our Mission President so we couldn’t go to the wedding which was sad, but it didn’t sound like they did that much anyway. Sad. Because she has a relation to the church they have gone to activities and the ward knows and loves her. The ward decided to throw her a party after the baptism which is why we decided to have it later in the day (7:30...they don’t have dinner until 9 or 10 here!)

Now I am going to go into the stresses of a baptism. First of all, from a misunderstanding on the part of the bishop, he told us that in order to go to the dinner after they were saying you needed to have an invitation, meaning that all of our investigators were going to feel rejected by our ward. I was pretty upset about that and we talked to some other people to figure out what was going on. All was well after we figured out the bishop was completely wrong. We then asked the mission leader to find someone to clean the font and fill it. Yeah, that didn’t happen like we thought it would and we didn’t find that out until a half hour before the baptism was supposed to stop. It was "cleaned" but not filled all the way and only freezing cold water could come out fast enough to fill it the rest of the way. We also had a scare about who was actually going to baptize her because the person who was supposed to couldn’t. His wife is an "active" member, but she doesn’t want him to do missionary work or to do a calling or use his priesthood. We aren’t sure what her problem is, especially since they just got married in January and it seems like she hates him. Anyway, not my point. We found someone to baptize her at 7:30, but he didn’t have any clothes so we had to call the Elders to bring theirs. They ran from their apartment, but the person that was going to baptize her still wasn’t there. She had shown up 15 minutes after her baptism was supposed to start and so we still needed to take pictures and wait for the guy who was going to baptize her. It was all ridiculous and we didn’t finish until 9:00, but it was wonderful to see how happy she was. She even cried (and if you know anything about Argentinians that is kind of a big deal to cry in public). She is also not a very emotionally driven person so it was very special to see. (by that I mean that I don’t usually see her mad, or sad, or overly happy). She had no idea about the dinner so it was a wonderful surprise and they took pictures for us because after the baptism we had to book-it back to our apartment to make it by curfew.

The next day (Sunday) she was confirmed and it was great! I am so thankful that I could have been part of it all!!!! I love you all.

Hermana Allen

Argentina: Week 9

So.... I´M GOING TO HAVE A BAPTISM!!! OH MY LANTA I´M SO EXCITED!!! She is super awesome too. The closer it gets to her baptism, the greater she is. Laura and Marcelo are going to be married on Friday and Laura is going to be baptized on Saturday! We had a lesson with them yesterday and Laura has so much faith. Marcelo is the one that we have been working with and trying to get him back on track. He has been less active for three years and he had gone down a very dark road for a long time. We are trying to help him re-establish his faith and he is doing pretty good so far. About a month ago he wasn’t reading or praying much. His answer to everything was pretty much mas or menos. My Spanish is coming along by the way. I still have moments where I don’t understand everything and their expressions in Spanish are so different. Here they say this phrase that is ¨no hay drama¨. That means there is no drama and my companion loves it. That phrase is easy for me to get down but others not so much.

I have some big news! Last Monday we found out some seriously big changes in this mission. Every missionary who is at all obedient knows that members at lessons are one of the most important things. This mission just made the rule that we need to have 4 citas (appointments) with members every day. We cannot count any lesson that is not taught with a member including less actives and recent converts. It was a pretty crazy week trying to change everything but it was good.

I also wanted to tell you all how they make salads here because they don’t have any dressings. They use mayo on everything! One of the little girls in our ward just squeezing the mayo, ketchup and mustard into her mouth during lunch. It is disgusting, but they seriously use it for everything. They have these giant bags that every family uses to put on their meat or their potatoes. Cualquier cosa. It is nasty BUT their salads are super delicious. I didn’t mean to go off on that super long side-track. They make salad here with lemon, oil and salt, and that is the dressing. It is actually really good and I know it doesn’t have as much calories as dressing. They don’t really eat things with tons of calories here. They don’t normally have desserts. Their type of dessert is an apple which we get at almost every single almuerzo. Also, they don’t really believe that much in toilet paper here. If you don’t have it for a while no big deal because every home has this butt flusher thing. The other day I was pretty excited that this family actually had toilet paper! It easily could have been the highlight of my day if teaching lessons didn’t give me so much joy.

Hermana Allen

Argentina: Week 8

Doing some yard work.

The sister had like 300 chickens.

Cleaning the chicken coop.

Lots of work.

Some more work.

So I have a lot more to talk about that normal. First, Mabel dropped us. That was hard but we were planning to drop her anyway because she hasn’t been progressing for a month. We found out Sunday that our area is going to be split and we are going to get Elders in our area. We found some people in part of our area but we aren’t sure if they are going to go anywhere. Laura, the one who is going to be married on the 20th and baptized on the 21st told us she was doubting whether or not she should get married on the 20th because her mom was thinking that was too fast even though they have been living together for 4 years. Right. Anyway, we told her to come to church with that question in mind and we would ask her afterwards. She is for sure getting married on the 20th as of yesterday! WOOT WOOT. Missionaries have been working with her and Marcelo for 9 months. We are pretty excited that we could help them get to this point. We had an awesome lesson with them about how our actions on this earth are building our mansions in heaven, and we even built a little house out of popsicle sticks. We still have it but we haven’t taken a picture of it yet. I also forgot to get a picture of a panaderia before coming here so you will have to wait until next week.

Other exciting news? The bus that we use to get everywhere had a little drama on Friday. The bus drivers went on strike and we couldn’t use the bus to get to the other part of our area. We had also been planning on taking that bus to the stake center to have zone capacitation (training) but none of the missionaries could get there so they canceled it after we had already gone in a taxi for twenty minutes. Fun times.

Now the pictures. Saturday we had service for a single sister in the ward. We cleaned up her yard while some people over-turned the dirt.

We finished with that early and there weren’t enough shovels to do the other part so we asked what else we could do. They told us that the only other thing to do is man’s work. Pah. It was gross, nothing more. It wasn’t hard at all just smelt really bad. We cleaned out the chicken coops that had this layer of dirt/poop and then carted it off to this pile. It was pretty interesting day.

Hermana Allen