I love you all sooo much!
Please, tell the Rygg's thank you! They sent me an adorable card from Kevin. Aunt Nancy also sent me a postcard so will you please thank her for me!
I'm only sending one picture today but it's pretty important!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY KATIE AND DAVID. Hopefully you got my letter last week. I am so excited to hear how your first week of school goes Katie and how everything continues to work out with you Brother. I love you both SOOOO much! Sorry I didn't send presents or a card but know that I love you and am thinking of you today. Maybe I'll go eat a piece of cake for you today.
PS. Speaking of which mama, thanks for the wonderful information about walking all over Argentina. Danish Desserts here I come!
Editor's note: In my last letter to Jen I wrote: I was reading on the Buenos Aries West blog and Sister Carter the mission president's wife wrote: “I remember my first month in the mission, I felt like I walked a hundred miles…and I am not even out in the streets All Day Long. I can only imagine how our new missionaries feel. It was interesting to learn that one of them has been wearing a pedometer. When I was checking his agenda, I happened to see this note from yesterday: 21,604 steps 10.207 miles. Most of the walking is not done on smoothly paved sidewalks or roads. In spite of that, the missionaries all seem to like their time on the streets.” So, my conclusion is…eat all the good stuff you want in Solvang because you are going to work it off in Buenos Aries. LOL
Solvang is such a blessed area! I am so grateful to be serving in such a wonderful area full of the spirit of missionary work. There really are people prepared to hear the gospel and we are doing our best to find them and teach by the spirit. My greatest desire is to be the tool the Lord wants me to be here in this area. Each day I am trying to better earn the presence of the spirit and follow its counsel in our lessons. I have begun to focus less on myself and the personal struggles I am having and more on my investigators, or at least I hope I am. I know that is how I will find true happiness myself and how I will be better able to serve the Lord's children.
I am so grateful for the ward and their support. The bishopric and ward council are "hastening the work of salvation" and becoming united as a missionary force. One of my main goals in this area is to help establish a better working relationship between the ward and the missionaries and get everyone excited about the work. I have seen, just in the few short weeks here, how important those relationships are with the ward and how much they help our investigators. We have really been blessed with miracles this week because of the faithful efforts of ward members.
On Monday we were able to have a lesson in the Klitgaard home with our investigators Carl, Dawn and Woody. We taught the restoration and it was wonderful! Brother and Sister Kiltgaard had such wonderful thoughts and brought the spirit and I was so impressed with how Brother Klitgaard was able to connect with 10 year old Woody. It was such a miracle lesson and I felt the spirit working through Hermana Cannon and I as we tried to focus on how the restoration of the gospel blesses families.
On Tuesday we were able to finally contact a family that we had been trying to get a hold of for a week. This family was referred to us by a wonderful member family, the Swolgaard's, the week before during a dinner appointment. We stopped by the Stacy home and after talking to the father, Chad, for just a few minutes he invited us to have dinner with them. That evening happened to be one of the few this week that we didn't have a dinner appointment with someone in the ward (another small miracle) and so we stayed and talked with them through dinner. They are an incredibly sweet, spiritual family with four children that are so ready for the blessings of the gospel. Throughout the meal we discussed religion and their upbringings and after dinner we were able to share a small part of the restoration and how we have a living prophet on the earth today. We then heard from Sister Swolgaard that the mom, Sarah, loved meeting us and was touched by our message. We are planning to have a lesson in the Swolgaard home with them on Friday and we are so excited. We learned in Ward Council on Sunday that the Swolgaard's have had the Stacy Family as a focus of their ward mission plan for the past three years. They have been slowly forming a trusting relationship and opening doors to the church through scouts and the primary program and now our hope is that they are ready to hear and accept the fullness of the gospel. I am SO excited to begin working with them.
On Wednesday we organized and put together a combined youth activity about missionary work. We gave each of the youth mission calls the Sunday before and that night they had a "mini mission". They went to the "MTC" where they learned a few phrases in their assigned mission language and learned the basics of how to teach the restoration. They then knocked on doors and taught two ten minute lessons. We then came back together and talked about what they learned and how important missions are. There were some who definitely focused and learned a little more than others, but overall I hope the youth learned from it.
On Wednesday after district meeting we went to this cute old couple's house in Lompoc who took our pictures and are going to make us little business cards with our picture, email address etc. to give to our converts or favorite members who want to contact us. Isn't that sweet!? I'll have to send one home when I get them.
On Thursday we were able to find another wonderful investigator through a member family, the Watson's. Sister Watson called us in tears on Tuesday night after she and her husband had visited a friend, Claudia. Claudia worked for the Peace Corps for the past two years fixing sewing machines and recently had to have surgery on her fingers because of all her work. Brother Watson was able to give Claudia a priesthood blessing and they talked to her about priesthood authority. Apparently, Claudia was really touched. Sister Watson shared with us that her father, who recently passed away, was a major influence in the life of Claudia and that he had been slowly helping her to come closer to the church for years. On Thursday we were able to visit with Claudia and do a few things for her around her house that she hasn't been able to do because of the surgery. We then discussed a little bit of the restoration with her and answered some of her questions about the church. She then came to church on Sunday and we have a lesson with her tomorrow. She is a sweet woman and we can't wait to help her receive the fullness of the gospel!
We had a bit of a funny experience on Thursday as we tried to get a member to go with us to a lesson with our investigator Andy. We decided to call Sister Bailey, a woman in the ward who helped us with our youth activity the night before. Well, it turns out there are multiple Sister Bailey's and we called an older lady who was still willing to come with us. We figured it would be a great opportunity to meet someone new. When she arrived at the meeting and we began talking with her before the lesson she informed us that she is actually not a member! Her husband is apparently less active and she has received the lessons but has never been baptized! She joined us on the lesson anyway and had some great words of advice and encouragement for Andy. We were not able to get a "member present" out of it like we had planned but maybe God was working in a different way and wanted us to help her as well. She was so sweet to agree to come with us and is a wonderful woman that will hopefully join the church eventually. Isn't that just so sweet of her to come with us even though she's not a member! What the heck. Who does that? Apparently this cute lady. We thought it was a hilarious turn of events though.
Throughout the week we have also met wonderful members through dinner appointments who are so strong and share the gospel wherever they can. On Thursday we ate with Sister Grant and she invited her non-member mother and step father. As we talked with them about the church and their religious beliefs they both became very negative and attacked the church rather harshly. Sister Grant, who is widowed, very meekly and boldly stood up to them. We tried to support her and defend the church in a loving, respectful manner but they were both quite hard-hearted. She was such an inspiration to us, however, in her deep faith and willingness to live the gospel alone, without support.
On Friday we ate with a man named Brother Adre. He took us to a little pancake house where they make special Danish pancakes. Guess what. I got french toast. :) I did try Hermana Cannon's pancakes though. They are kind of a mix between a pancake and a crepe. My french toast was better LOL. He was this super sweet old man though. He met his wife right before he was supposed to go into the armed forces and married her two weeks later! They've now been married 70 years! Can you believe it! He was a great old man.
That evening Bishop Haws came on two Spanish speaking appointments with us. Our first appointment was with Maria, a lady Hermana Bartschi and I met on exchanges. I love Maria and her fiery personality and quick questions. She and Bishop Haws clicked immediately and I learned so much from him in his teaching. He was excited, bold, loving and powerful at the same time. I was excited because I understood most of the conversation between them and could see the progress Maria is making. I love it when I can understand everything they say! It definitely helps when they are talking about the gospel though. When they go off on other tangents I'm completely lost haha. He explained so simply to her that the church is either right or wrong. It is black or white and that there is no middle ground. I loved his ability to say so with such power and authority but also love. It was a wonderful experience to watch and learn from him.
On Saturday we had another miracle. We have been teaching this lady who has tuberculosis. (Yeah I know. Super bad to be teaching her. She wasn't supposed to have visitors but Hermana Cannon really wanted to talk to her. I'm not dead yet though so I think God protected us.) Well we had two men from the ward give her a priesthood blessing last Sunday and we went on Saturday this week and she wasn't wearing her mask. We were like, "Domitila, where is your mask?" and she said, "I'm tuberculosis free!" She was totally healed. Now I don't really know much about TB and the timing of healing and everything so maybe it could be somewhat logically explained but it can't be just coincidence that it happened right after she received a blessing. Unfortunately, she couldn't see that and refused to even pray to know if our church could be true so we won't be teaching her anymore but it was an awesome blessing. It was probably a good lesson for me to recognize miracles and not doubt because I immediately thought about medically what might have been going on since I don't really know about tuberculosis.
That day we also visited a few LARCS (less active or recent convert). One of them was named Sister Dee Anderson. She is an old lady who reminds me of Grandma. She was so sweet and totally agreed that the church is true and she needs to come back. Her daughter's family is another less active/part member family. We had an awesome discussion with her about how her coming back to the church could really bless her family. We were pretty honest but she took it so well and was soo sweet. I loved her.
We had multiple other lessons with members present this week and were able to see so many wonderful things going on. On Sunday we attended ward council and the Bishop began by playing a few clips from the new Hastening the Work of Salvation website. The whole ward council then discussed how they can be more involved in the missionary efforts. With our new enthusiastic Ward Mission Leader, Brother Liljenquist, and the support of the ward council I can't wait to see what other miracles are waiting for Solvang!
There are so many personal goals I am working on right now to have the spirit with me, to be charitable, kind and selfless with my investigators and Hermana Cannon. I am learning so much from this area and the experiences we have here.
AH! I'm out of time. I'll tell you the other stories by snail mail.
LOVE LOVE LOVE! Is what I have for you.