Tuesday, December 27, 2016

FELIZ FIESTAS

¡Hola y feliz fiestas familia! 
This week has been the CRAZIEST thing. Quick rundown. 
Monday: Christmas exploring in Santander, looking at lights and cute little stores, then a noche de hogar with one of our cutest little investigators, Mercedes. (She's 9 years old and from Argentina. So cute! Her parents are both less active members, and we're teaching Mercedes the charlas to prepare her for her baptism on the 13th of January!) we watched the restoration video and talked about how to receive answers to prayers. 
Tuesday: I went on an intercambio in Vitoria with Hermana Stapley! It took about 3 hours to get there by bus, which was pretty killer, but Vitoria is super beautiful! And SUPER cold. Like... SUPER COLD. Luckily we had visits everywhere so we ran around and stayed nice and warm. Hermana Stapley is super sweet and we had a blast and before we knew it it was time to head back! 
Wednesday: I got back to Santander, (yay, home sweet home!!!) and we ran around doing last minute visits and service projects. Normal missionary life! 
Thursday: we woke up WAYYYY too early and headed to the bus station and to Bilbao for our Christmas Zone Conference. It was a super amazing conference, totally centered on Christ and "what shall we give him?" We had a reader's theater sing along program toward the end, which was super fun, and a testimony meeting which was the highlight of the whole thing! We also had an AMAZING lunch set up by one of the senior missionary couples here in the north, pork and mashed potatoes and green beans and gravy and apple cobbler, YUM. And to surprise the Daytons, one of the Hermanas in our Zone brought in her accordion and we all sang a missionary rendition of jingle bells and we wish you a merry Christmas. Then we ended the meeting, and the Daytons hosted a few games for us missionaries! They were just a few minute-to-win-it games, but it was SO fun to play and laugh and enjoy the Christmas spirit. :) unfortunately, the next bus didn't leave until the nighttime, so that was our whole day! 





Friday: We ran around again and then had our ward Christmas activity, which was pretty low key but really fun! Each group put on a show or a couple of songs or a skit, and we had chocolate and tortilla de patata. (One of which was made by us hermanas. Spain points!) we missionaries did an activity where we gave everyone in the room a few peanut M&M's and told them that the price for each one was 3 push ups from one of our elders. At first everyone thought that was pretty funny, but it ended up being about 300 push ups for the candies.... anyway it was a pretty powerful testimony about the atonement. Kinda hard to describe, but it was good! That night we got transfer calls, but we're staying the same here in Santander! HERMANA NELSON AND I GET TO BE TOGETHER FOR ONE MORE TRANSFER!!! Boom!!! We're super excited about that. :) 
Saturday and Sunday: Food food and more food!!! We've been blessed to have been sent to a ward that really loves feeding the missionaries, so we had 3 solid eating visits each day! Food typical of Colombia, Peru, Spain, Ecuador, and even the states, and all of it was HEAVENLY. Lots of laughs and good company and good food and a spirit that was just incredible. I love having the chance to spend the holidays as a missionary in Spain!!! And then I got to see all y'all on Skype and I just kinda flipped a little. :) Sorry for all the tears, they were happy, I promise!!! 
Just overwhelmed by how fantastic Christmas is and how phenomenal you all are and how grateful I am for the blessed life I lead. :) 
Love you all so much, don't forget it! 
Con cariño, 
Hermana Larson 








Monday, December 19, 2016

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL

District Meeting / Pancake Party
FELIZ NAVIDAD Y FELIZ AÑO NUEVO Y WOW MIRA ESTAMOS EN LAS FIESTAS NO PUEDO CREERLO!
It's CHRISTMAS, Y'ALL!!!! ish. Hermana Nelson and I have been LOVING the christmas life here in Santander... it's going by way too quickly! We continue to run around like crazy from person to person, this week with the added task of trying to secretly decorate the doors of each member family in our ward with paper chains and stuff to celebrate christmas. (This is actually a REALLY difficult task, because most people live, as we know, in apartment buildings which are almost impossible to get into... especially as missionaries. But the Lord always provides a way! Some highlights of the week have been:

eating... and eating... and eating with members. ;) We've been really blessed to be invited over to many of the member's houses this week, and we have about 5 eating visits set up for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and we've got a few already for New Years and Reyes.
and we found THE BEST new family!! They're from peru, and they have the most adorable little 8-month old baby. They were actually some old investigators of some previous hermanas here, but they couldn't meet much because of all the craziness that comes with preparing for a new baby. But we went and passed by and they welcomed us in! It was a really great first lesson, and we'll be meeting with them again on tuesday.
CHRISTMAS!!! We've been going christmas crazy. We had a celebratory pancake party after District meeting on Tuesday, (thanks, mom!!) they just set up a new christmas tree outside our big window, we've been setting up christmas decorations all over our piso, and spreading the Christmas message everywhere that we can. I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!!
I hit my year mark on Friday! And, pues, I feel weird. One year ago as of this last friday(?) I entered into the MTC in Provo, Utah, and began the adventure of a lifetime. I spoke approximately 2 phrases of Spanish ("Pásame la pistola de clavos" y "Me gusta queso"), the only thing I really knew about Spain was that they like Fútbol and bullfighting (which is true), and I had little to no idea of what a mission was actually going to be like. And I was probably a solid 90/10 percent mix of terrified and excited.

It's really difficult for me to describe how much this one year of my life has meant to me already, what I've learned, what has changed, and what I now hope never changes. It's not really something that I can put into words - certainly not in an email. But I just want to say that I know God lives. I know he's real, and living. And I know he loves us and has a plan for us. I know that he knows the things that will make us most happy, even if, at first, we don't always agree. I know that he wants us to be able to receive the blessings that he has prepared, but I know that he will NEVER force us to take them. And I know that, as an ultimate sign of his love, he sent us to this earth to learn and grow, and sent His only begotten son to help us return someday. I know that His son came, truly, under the most humble and meek of circumstances, to live and lay down his life for us. Each of us, individually. I know he Lives. Having the opportunity to spend this Christmas season as a missionary has been one of the best experiences of my life. I love the chance that I have to help others learn these "good tidings of great joy!"
Have yourselves a merry little Christmas, vale? I love you and I'm so grateful for you all. Merry Christmas!

Love,
Hermana Larson

Monday, December 12, 2016

Ups and Downs and Spirals and Fun!

This week was another roller coaster, with lots of ups and downs and spirals and fun! Monday and Tuesday were FANTASTIC. Monday night we spent Noche de Hogar with a member family from Colombia, who asked us to come and share a lesson with their non-member son and a brother in law. (After little to no consideration, we happily said YES PLEASE.) We shared an object lesson about prayer where you have a scarf and you tell them that they have to tie a knot in the middle with one hand on each end, without letting it go. (Kinda hard to describe over email... but it works.) Everyone tries, and thinks it's impossible. Then you read Alma 37:36-37 or James 1:5 or another scripture about prayer, and talk about how sometimes we have a problem that we wrestle with and wrestle with because we just can't get our minds around it, but that ultimately, we'll solve the issue a LOT faster and a LOT easier if we ask help from the Lord through prayer. Then you fold your arms, and while doing so, grab each end of the scarf, and as you unfold your arms, it makes a simple, beautiful little knot. BOOM! Magic. So we talked about that with them for a LONG time, and both were really active in the discussion and really eager to hear about what we believe. They're super super great people who have been going through a lot lately, and they've seen the changes that have come to the lives of their family members, and they want to know why that is. Then we all had arroz con leche and that night ended just like a fairy tale - happily ever after!
We met with them again on tuesday and explained a little more about the book of mormon, and it was an equally amazing lesson COMPLETELY led by the spirit. (That's one of my favorite things about being a missionary. Sometimes you go in all ready and prepared to teach a lesson according to YOUR plan, but then the impression comes to change it completely! And you and your companion just look at each other and you both just know, you know? And the words that you say and the scriptures you use don't really come from you, you're just the lucky duck that gets to say them. Gahh it's just the best!!!!)  We'd love to keep teaching them, but they actually live in the Elder's area right now, so we passed them over this week. Speaking of which, we have elders again! Elder Bradshaw and Elder de Leon who are both from the US and who came in with Hermana McBride (about 4 months ago). They're both super hard working and can both speak spanish super well so we're not worried about these amazing investigators; they're in good hands. We also had to give over one of my personal favorite investigators that we found - Angel. He's just the cutest little grandpa from Ecuador and he has passed through a lot of really difficult trials through the last little bit that have brought him to search for God. We had our first lesson with him on a park bench in front of a giant electronic Christmas tree in a plaza in the middle of Santander, and he asked us to help him to get closer to God because he wants to change his life. (Again, YES PLEASE). We talked with him and as we closed with a prayer, he started crying and he told us how much that meant to him, that we would pray for him and his family. *heart melts* He's so cute, and every time we met with him or saw him in the street, he would say something like "hola mi hijitas!" So cute. We also had to pass him over this week, which was a little sad, but again, the Elders will take good care of him, so I'm not worried. We also had to have a talk with Saul this week about how we can't meet with him anymore because he's not keeping his commitments and he just likes to have us as friends. We told him that we like being his friends, but that our objective first and foremost here in Spain is to help people come closer to God - to learn and to grow to depend more on Christ. That was also a pretty spiritual lesson, which, to be honest, I wasn't really anticipating. It's always hard to explain to people that we aren't going to be able to meet anymore, but the Spirit is always there to guide and direct us in what to say and how to be sure to communicate our love for them at the same time. THIS IS WHAT MAKES THE MISSION SO DIFFICULT. You just fall for these people so hard!!! 
BUT when everything gets difficult, that's when the best miracles happen. Like once upon a time, Hermana Nelson and I were walking back to piso at the end of a day, and a man we don't know comes walking up to us and asks us what time church is at! (I know. We were a little freaked out at first, too. :) Turns out he's a member from Argentina who just had moved to Santander about 2 days before, and was looking for the church! He brought us to meet his daughter, who is 9 and who isn't baptized yet, so we'll be meeting with their family tonight to start going through the lessons with her. :) She's so cute!!! She's already my bestest friend. 
I'm also going to be honest.... I don't really remember a whole lot about most of the days this week because i had an AWFUL cold and couldn't breathe/sleep/talk/think, and I tended to cry unintentionally when we were sitting down. (Not out of any kind of negative emotion... my eyes would just get super dry all of a sudden. It confused and concerned quite a few of our investigators on multiple occasions, jajaja.) But another highlight of the week is that we got invited to eat with someone EVERY SINGLE DAY this week!!! Which was a HUGE blessing and was SO fun. We're really trying to boost our standing with the ward as Hermana Misioneras, and we're seeing huge blessings as a result. It's working!!! i LOVE this ward here in Santander, and together we're all working to move to a brand new chapel that they have built here! The work is progressing and the Gospel is flourishing!!! I heard a quote this week that made me literally drop everything and write it down, (which was pretty embarrassing, because we were in Relief Society at the time.) I wrote it in Spanish, and I don't know what it is in English, so I'll write it the best I can reallly quick. It says, "and if nobody else apart from the Lord kept his name in their memory, that would be a blessing enough for him, as it would be for any of us." - Howard W. Hunter. Hahaha that's probably kinda close to what it says in english... in Spanish it's, "y si nadie más aparte del Señor guardara su nombre en memoria, esa seria una bendición suficiente para él, como lo sería para cualquiera de nosotros." We were talking about Service, and this quote about one of the early saints filled my heart. This is the kind of person that I want to be, especially on my mission. Quietly going about doing good! Seeking opportunities to be a good and faithful servant, without seeking for praise for doing so. 
I want you all to know that I know that this gospel is true. I know that Christ lives and that there is true converting power in the Book of Mormon. I know that it is the word of God, that it was written by prophets guided by the spirit, and that it was written to help us in our day. I know that it was translated by a prophet called of God in these latter days, and that the promise found in Moroni 10:3-5 is real. That it works for those who are reading for the first time or the fiftieth time. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior. 
I love you all! Have a good week! 

-Hermana Larson





Monday, December 5, 2016

Santander 4

Hola familia! 

¡Feliz Navidad! We finally made it to the hap-happiest season of all and it's FANTASTIC here in Santander! 

They put up these cute little lights across every street and there are Christmas trees in every little plaza. Our personal favorite thing is a nice little outdoor ice skating rink that we took advantage of today. :) Every night, especially during the weekend, it's almost IMPOSSIBLE to walk down the Main Streets because there are so many people out celebrating and laughing and talking and shopping... it makes us both a little claustrophobic. But it's made for some really interesting contacts! It's really rewarding to get to talk to people about the true meaning of Christmas and how we can make the season even merrier for others (and, by doing so, ourselves!) We've shared that video of #LighttheWorld probably about a hundred times, and we never get tired of it. It's such an incredible opportunity that we have to be able to give the Savior everything we've got for these few short months! 

Let's break down the week.
Monday night we got to have a fun little Family Home Evening with one of our favorite families, where we were able to bring Jaime and talk about Personal Revelation. Afterwards, Virginia, (the mother of the family) took us into the kitchen and taught us how to make Venezuelan Empanadas.... THEY'RE TO DIE FOR. So, I'll add that to my resume once I get a little more practice. It was a really spiritually (and physically) filling night! 
Tuesday we spent the first part of the day in Bilbao for District meeting. (Side note: our elders got moved, and so now Hermana Nelson and I have all of Santander to ourselves. Which is CRAZY because this city is HUGE but we both love having to run from event to event and cita to cita.) We accidentally missed our 9:30 bus and the only other bus that would get us there in time was a "premium" bus, which basically means you each pay 10 more euro to pretend that you're on a plane - in-flight snacks and everything. So we both felt pretty fancy about that. 

When we got back we ran from visit to visit with our investigators, and we had a SUPER incredible lesson with our investigator Alassana and our member friend Patrick. (I don't remember if I've talked about him or not already, but Alassana is from Guinea Bissau and we're teaching him poco a poco about who Christ is and why He came to the earth.) We talked about prayer and the spirit was super strong! I love getting to testify of the things which I know are true. And the best part of it all is that at the end, I get to say, "look. We don't actually want you to just take our word for it. Try it yourself! Will you pray every day this week and ask God if what we're telling you is true?" Because that's what differentiates this gospel from anything else. And that's the only thing that keeps this crazy work running. The fact that it's true! And that you can find out for yourself! 
Wednesday morning we spent with one of our Less-active members, Yanina, who we're teaching English. And I've just got to say. I'm SO glad that I have grown up speaking this language, haha! Spanish is so much easier to learn than English. But as we're teaching, we're also learning a lot about how to speak properly, so there's a bonus! In the afternoon we went over to the house of Virginia and Franklin (our Venezuelan member family) and had lunch with them and our investigator, Saul, who lives in the same apartment. We had super fancy food that Saul made for us (he works in one of the super pijo restaurants here in Santander) including Murcia, which is the sausage that they make out of pig or cow blood mixed with rice powdery stuff. Super delicious, right? Yeah. But we finished off the meal with oreo cheesecake to celebrate Hermana Nelson reaching 6 months in the mission! (Which is super weird, because, again, we worked together her first night in the mission field, and that feels like it was just yesterday. 


That afternoon we went out contacting with Virginia, and introduced ourselves to all of her neighbors. (Which was actually HER idea!!!) and then went out and hit the streets for a few minutes. We always see such amazing miracles when we're with her! 
Really sad side note. On wednesday we had a visit set up with Jaime, but he texted us telling us that he wasn't going to be able to make it, and that he needed a few days to think over things. That, obviously doesn't sound super promising, and so a few days later we passed by his house to check up on him. He had a pretty bad relapse, which has him pretty discouraged. And about 10 minutes ago we got a text from him that said that he won't be meeting with us anymore. He still believes that the church is true, but he says he can't come to church or visit with us until he feels like he can commit completely to the Savior. Which, of course, we understand, but it's always hard to see someone walk away. That's ok, though, because we've still got lots of really promising investigators and lots of incredible miracles that we're seeing here in Santander! 
This week we've also been cleaning as much as we can in our spare moments, because we had Piso Check on Saturday. Los Rhode came to our piso during mediodia on Saturday and we all ate lunch together and then they inspected our piso. It's a pretty old building actually... and as we were cleaning we found a lot of things, both good and bad. Our landlord (or dueño as they call them here) left behind TONS of stuff, so we've decided to dedicate an entire room just for storing the stuff that we don't use. We found a whole lot of entertaining clothes, quite a few spiders, LOTS of dust, and some more christmas decor! (Which we definitely put up immediately.) 


Our piso was pretty clean, but we got some suggestions about how to help it get even closer to godliness (get it?) and how to make it more home-y. So there's still work to do there!
The good news is that I finally got unpacked. 

And today! Our original plan was to go to Bilbao and meet up with the hermanas there, but there were some complications with the bus schedule and we ended up having to create a plan B. SO we decided to go to that cute little skating rink! After buying a few groceries, we went out to a little cafe for lunch and enjoyed the christmas music that they were playing there, and then went and spent an hour on the ice. We planned it out nicely so that there was almost NOBODY there... Monday during mediodia is ideal for doing fun things and avoiding crowds. And then we just walked along the docks and ate ice cream. (Yes. ice cream. It was probably about 70 degrees outside today... how strange!) so it was a good day! 

Tonight we'll be meeting with another family for FHE and that'll probably be our day! 
I am so grateful to be here. I love this work and I love this gospel. I know that it's true. I know that our Savior lives and that He loves us and that His Atonement is infinite and powerful and real. I'm so grateful for the chance that I have to be here in Santander sharing the truth of the restored gospel with the people here. I know that NONE of this would be possible without the Spirit and that we're here on the Lord's errand. I read a quote this week by Gordon B. Hinckley that reads, "Those who have read the Book of Mormon prayerfully, be they rich or poor, learned or unlearned, have grown under it's power. Without reservation I promise you that if you will prayerfully read the Book of Mormon, regardless of how many times you have previously read it, there will come into your hearts... the spirit of the Lord. There will come a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments and there will come a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God."
So... Read it! 

I love you!! Have a good week! #IluminaElMundo

Love, Hermana Larson

Monday, November 28, 2016

Santander 3

FELIZ DIA DE ACCIÓN DE GRACIAS!!!!! (Kinda...)

Ok.. so I´m a little late. But Happy Thanksgiving anyway! And HAPPY BEGINNING OF CHRISTMAS SEASON!!!! This last week Hermana Nelson and I discovered the new Church initiative #lighttheworld or, in spanish, #IluminaelMundo! We. LOVE. It. It's been so much fun to get into the christmas spirit by spreading the news to serve others! We can't wait to start the 25 day challenge. This week has been FULL to bursting of visits with investigators, members, activities, and just in-betweens. Some highlights...

We've been eating. A lot. It's not even funny. We've been really blessed with a lot of really amazing members who want to feed us a lot of really amazing food. For Thanksgiving, for example, we got to spend it with a member family that we have here from Colombia. With the two of us, the mom, her two daughters and their one son (their dad couldn't make it) it actually felt a lot like Thanksgiving at home! (You know... with all those girls.) It's so weird to think about how quickly the time passes! 
Wait. I'm getting distracted. Back to food. So we had Thanksgiving with this amazing family, with Potato purée, Gravy, Chicken disguised as turkey, pumpkin soup, stuffing (kind of), and flan. That's about as Espamerican as you can get! It was super super tasty. :) We also had a visit where we were given Paella de Marisco (serious shellfish stuff) and Ceviche, which is basically chunks of raw fish with lemon and raw onion. This was really good quality stuff, but anyone who knows me knows that seafood is... a personal difficulty. So that was a little trial of faith for me. Haha really though, it was tasty, but won't be going on my top 10 favorite foods anytime soon.



Kinda going along on that theme, we had a noche de Culturas this week as a ward activity, which was REALLY fun! We have people from at least 10 different countries in our ward, so each family brought something to share and we all just kinda laughed and talked and watched people sing and dance and everything. We, Hermana Nelson and Elder Nelson and I, sang the National Anthem for everyone, which was an adventure. I just have fallen in love with this ward already!

Jaime was doing pretty well in his goal of quitting smoking, but he had a bit of a relapse this last week that kinda got him down. We've had some really fantastic visits with him, though, and he's seguiring adelante! He has a fecha for the 10th, and we're working with him almost every day with different members and everything. He's so fantastic, and he wants to get baptized so badly! Prayers for him, please. We have been seeing so many miracles over the last little while, with people just walking up to us and asking us if they can meet with us, and getting references with the members, that we actually haven't had time to contact... THIS IS THE STRANGEST AND KIND OF BEST THING EVER. This is what every missionary dreams of. So Hermana Nelson and I have just been running to and from and back and forth and up and down and we're LOVING it. More adventures to come! 

I love you all! Illuminate the world and serve and enjoy this Christmas Season! I know that He was born and that He lived and that He died and was resurrected for us. I know that He lives now. And I know that we are here on this Earth to learn to follow His footsteps and make it back to the Father with our Families! I'm grateful for this Gospel and for all of you and for the Mission de Barcelona, España. I love being a missionary! 
Love, 

Hermana Larson

Monday, November 21, 2016

Santander

Ok! The last two weeks in the life of Hermana Larson can be summed up in about 4 words. 

"Alright. What just happened?"

My last week in Gandía passed VERY quickly, and before I knew it, I was on my way to the train station! The JAS met us there at the train, and gave us some very sweet gifts and I definitely had to hold back tears as we boarded Monday night. We headed to Valencia to spend the night, and then early the next morning we woke up and headed back to the train station. I was so sad to leave Hermana McBride in Gandía! It was super weird to think we wouldn't be working together anymore. It took us a little over 3 hours to get to Barcelona, where we waited and caught up with everyone until our next train. We boarded at 3:30 and finally got to Bilbao at 10:30 ish. That is TOO LONG to be on a train, my friends. I started feeling super sick about halfway through, and spent the next few hours focusing on not throwing up. Finally we made up it to beautiful (and super cold) Bilbao, where my incredible new companion, Hermana Nelson, ran over and tackled me! Haha love that Hermana. 😊 we dragged my suitcases over to the Hermanas Piso in Bilbao to spend the night, and woke up the next morning to take a bus an hour and a half to our area, Santander. I was absolutely glued to the window the WHOLE time. It's SO BEAUTIFUL HERE. We're right on the coast, so everything is green and fresh and full of life! And history! Every few seconds we'd see another old rock-made house on a hill, or cute little pueblo. It reminds me a little bit of Washington, but more like the movies or tv shows that you see of what Europe really is like. Haha. So beautiful. We got to Santander, and I just absolutely fell in love with it. It has all these old looking white and cream colored buildings with iron-work railings, with super cute pijo little shops on the ground floor. They're setting up for Christmas, so there are lights strung up everywhere, across all the streets, and each storefront is LOADED with Christmas stuff. I love it!!! 
We hit the ground running, with just enough time to bring my suitcases to Piso before our first appointment. We ran to the house of a part-member family to help them practice English, then we came back to Piso to eat, than ran out again to visit with a couple of our investigators. We have a couple who are right on the brink of Baptism!!!! Jaime is from here, and he's got his fecha set for December 3rd. He's all set, with a SUPER powerful testimony of the Gospel and he's SO excited to be baptized and become a member. He just needs to quit smoking, which he's working it REALLY hard. He's gone 5 days now without smoking, for the first time in 20 years, so he's doing great! Keep him in your prayers please! He's SO smart. He teaches himself how to speak different languages until he's fluent, so he can speak Spanish, Portugués, French, Italian, English, and German. He's currently working on Russian. 😂 
We're also working with an investigator named Saul, who's from Peru. He's a professional chef, so he's helping us learn about really good food, haha, and we're helping him learn more about the gospel! He wants to be baptized, he just needs to come to church, which he can't right now due to work. He's so funny though! He lives with a family that's new to our ward, who just got here from Venezuela. I. LOVE. them. I love them I love them. They are so humble and so happy, so willing to help and who are truly truly dedicated to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They invited us over to dinner the other night and made real Venezuelan Arrepas.... oh my word. The BEST food I've had on my mission so far. They were so. good. And then the mom of the family, Virginia, told us that she wants to knock her building with us to introduce us to all her neighbors, *tears*.... they're fantastic. Every day we've been running home to Piso at the end of the day, because there never seems to be enough time to do all the things we want to do! We're booking it from visit to visit, and we're seeing so many miracles daily. Here in Santander there's a ward, which is/has been growing so much that they've built a chapel for us! They're still finishing it off, so we can't meet there yet, but we're hoping to keep growing and growing and growing some more! The ward here is so cute, I love them all already. I think they're tired of me already, because I keep trying to convince them that I'm from Guayaquil, Ecuador, or Tegucigalpa, Honduras.... they're not buying it. Maybe I'll lose my Spanish theta here, haha. :) I love love LOVE Hermana Nelson. She's a fantastic missionary and fabulous companion!! We never run out of things to talk about, and we have eerily parallel lives.... it's a little weird sometimes, haha. She's incredible, and we're going to see some incredible, phenomenal, unbelievable miracles as we head into the Christmas Season. 
I'm so grateful for the chance that I have to be here, to serve the Lord and to share the Gospel. I know that the Savior lives. I know that this is His church, and that the Atonement is real and personal for each of us. I love this Gospel with all of my heart, and I know that it can and does change lives. 
I love you all!!! 
Have a good week!
Hermana Larson 


🇪🇸¡El Reino De Dios o Nada!🇪🇸






Wednesday, November 16, 2016

BILBAO SANTANDER

Hey family! Can't talk much today, we're TRAVELING all day! Hermana McBride is staying in Gandía to take care of our investigators and members, and I'm heading up NORTH FOR CHRISTMAS!!  I'm going to Santander, which is clear on the other side of the mission from Gandía. 

I'm going to be with the FABULOUS  Hermana Nelson, who I took out on her first night!!! (I honestly can't wait. I already love that Hermana!) And, even funnier, I'm taking the spot of my MTC companion, Hermana Humbert! Funny how things work out, haha. So we spent 4 hours on a train heading to Barcelona, and now we're sitting here waiting for our next train which will leave at 3 and will get us to Bilbao at about 11 tonight, and then a bus for an hour and a half to Santander tomorrow. Thus, I don't have much time to write. But I just want to say that I LOVED Gandía, and that I'm so grateful for the chance that I had to be there! And I'm so excited to go up to the rainy, rainy north! Hahaha. 

I know this work is the work of the Lord, and that this is His church! I know that He lives!!! 
Love, 
Hermana Larson 


🇪🇸¡El Reino De Dios o Nada!🇪🇸





Monday, November 7, 2016

Hey family, lo siento muchísimo i can't write a ton today, we're on a train back to Gandía from Valencia and we're just barely gonna have time to send these before we go get back to work. This week has been good! I've been thinking a lot about miracles lately, because there's been a heck of a lot of wind lately and I've been seeing TONS of "miracles" in the street. :) (sorry... family joke) and we've seen tons of incredible miracles this week. 
For example.... WE FOUND YANA!!  
I can't remember if that was last week or this week, but I think it was this week. Anyway, we found her! We went and passed by her house, and she welcomed us in and we picked up right back where we left off! Now the trick is getting her to read the scriptures and pray consistently, but she's doing great and hopefully we'll see her progress even more in her testimony! 
We also keep running into people in the street that we need to talk to! We'll be walking around in the street and we'll see investigator after investigator after investigator and finding new people to teach and testify to. It's always an incredible miracle to find someone new to talk to about this amazing plan that God has for us! 
This week, Hermana McBride and I have also been taught how to make real Spanish "buñuelos y chocolate", which is a couple of glorified terms for "diabetes in the form of doughnuts and hot chocolate pudding." LOTS of sugar. Tons. But it was fun! 

 

Now we know how to make those and tortilla de patata and paella, so you can basically call us Valencianas. 
Speaking of which, transfers are this next week.... crazy!!! It's probably my turn to go, but we'll find out next Tuesday. :) 
Tune in next week! :) 
Love you all!!! 
Hna. Larson 

Sent from my iPad

Monday, October 31, 2016

Gettin' old

Good news is, I had a FANTASTIC birthday!!!! 
The bad news is, that means I'm officially OLD. I'm TWENTY years old. Weird. So weird. Hasn't really sunk in, but it's all good. 

Here's how we celebrated!!!

I was sick for a couple days, unfortunately. Those days haven't stuck very well in my brain.... so... yes. That was monday and tuesday. 

Thursday we had an Intercambio! Hermana McBride went up to Valencia and Hermana Iregui, who is from Colombia and who came here in the group before me, came down for the day! It was really fun to get to know her better, and we spent the day contacting and finding new people to teach. We found a lot of really great miracles, and at the end of the day, to pump us up, our District Leader told us that we needed to call someone in our district and just scream into the phone and hang up, once for every lesson that we had with a member to accompany us. That was pretty fun, actually!!! Haha very therapeutic. 
Then we had Noche de Barrio where we talked about the Holy Ghost and how in order to receive an answer, we really need to be listening for it! Then we played "Do you love your neighbor", (which is a really fun game that i dont really have time to explain, but I'm sure there's a youtube demonstration out there somewhere.) and ended the night with a lot of laughs. :) 

Friday morning Hermana Iregui and I woke up, made breakfast, and sat down for studies. As I was delving into the new testament, hermana Iregui snuck out of our study room, grabbed a HUGE confetti Cannon that she had been hiding, and SHOT ME WITH IT! Hahah not really. It was shot OVER me. But there was (and still is) Confetti in EVERY nook and cranny in our study room, which is a nice reminder of how scared out of my mind i was, hahaha. After the initial shock, it was a nice birthday surprise. :) 



After that, we had to take her to the train station, and we had just enough time to stop by one of my favorite Burger joints here for a milkshake before she had to catch the train. I finished up my studies as I waited for Hermana McBride, and we grabbed a frozen pizza from the grocery store on our way back to piso for lunch. Jeje
Later that day we were at the church setting up a few things for the Karaoke Activity that we were in charge of (more on that in a second) when we got a call from one of our members who asked if we had time to meet with her and her boyfriend, (who's not a member), because he wanted to start taking the Charlas. (I guess we've got time for that...) So we planned on meeting at the church, and what we had planned on being about a 30 minute lesson, because they didn't have much time, turned out to be a close to 2 hour question and answer session! IT WAS THE BEST THING EVER!!! Javier is his name, and he is really really truly searching to become closer to God, and he thinks that this might be the way to do it! He asks real, searching questions, and he is so ready to listen and learn! We gave him a Libro de Mormon, and he said he'll read it and we'll hopefully get to meet with him again this week. He's so great!!!!  Afterwards as we were all leaving, they found out that it was my birthday, and they ran out and brought me back a couple of birthday presents!!! So sweet. (We snagged a picture as well, haha.) They are so great, I love them both so much!!!
Afterwards, we were in the church trying to set up again, when a couple of our JAS members came over and surprised me with a birthday cake! Haha THEN to top it all off, on our way back to piso, we stopped by my favorite bakery here in Gandia and my sweet companion bought me a piece of my favorite cake! We went back to piso, feasted on our sweets, and hung up birthday decorations to celebrate. All in all, a FANTASTIC birthday, I couldn't have asked for a better one. :) 
The next day we spent ALL DAY at the church and running back and forth from different stores buying things for the activity. We set it all up, and at 7:30, we started the Karaoke activity! Now, to be completely honest here, we weren't really sure how to feel about the whole thing a few months ago when we started planning it.  We had wanted to do a ward activity, but when we found out that Karaoke was the only one of our ideas that they hadn't already done here, we thought the activity might be a flop. As the weeks passed and the date got closer, we turned into giant balls of stress and anxiety, and we talked about it with EVERYONE. EVERY single person we invited- investigators, people on the street, members, all of them. At 7:30, when it started, was when I got the most nervous, because only about 20 people had shown up. But as the night got going, more and more people came, and we ended up having about 130 people show up to the activity, with no fault (I think she means "lack".  It's "falta" in Spanish!  haha!) of people asking to sing their favorite song! It was a hit, which can definitely be attributed to the willingness of members of our ward council to break the ice and make it a truly fun night. We got a few investigators there as well, and it was just a super great night!!!



 We missionaries had to run home at 10, (exact obedience, you know) so we missed out on the cleaning up part of it... darn. ;) but on Sunday morning, everything in the church was back where it was, spotlessly clean, and members told us about how it had gone on until about 11:15 that night. Haha these people are part of one of the biggest Party cultures in the world, I think. SO now we're more relaxed, we've got a fantastic new investigator, lots of places to go to find people, and we're on a roller coaster that only goes up! :) 
Spiritual thought of the week comes from an article that we found on the LDS website, called something like "are you living the perfect lie?" It really captures something that I think a lot of people, especially members of the church, and maybe especially missionaries, deal with a lot of the time! 
The perfect lie had me believing that it was up to me to change. That if I could just work a little harder, do a little more, be a little more disciplined, do more, be more—that somehow I would eventually get there. That if I could just try harder I would be better.But this is false! This is the lie!Nowhere in the scriptures does Christ say that our efforts are inadequate. Never does He say, “If you don’t work hard enough, you’ll never be enough.”No. His truth and His invitation is “Come unto me, for my grace is sufficient.”
Click here to read the entire article. It's a good one!
I know this church is true. I know that my savior lives and that this is HIS church. I know that He is at the helm, and that He is always there with outstretched arms for us. I love you all, and i hope you have a good week! 

Carpe Diem!
Love, 

Hermana Larson

Monday, October 24, 2016

Blessings that Don't even need a Disguise

Dearest Darlingist Momsie and Popsicle and all the rest o y'all. 

This week has been probably one of the best of my entire mission, quizás of my entire life. SO. MANY. MIRACLES OCCURRED! And I´ve never felt so much love for my Savior and my Father in Heaven, and so much gratitude for the many blessings (99% of them being PEOPLE... the other 1% is divided between Peanut Butter Cups and Goldfish Crackers) that He has sent me, this week and throughout my life. 

First off, I just want to say THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH FOR THE BIRTHDAY WISHES/TREATS/LOVE!!!! This has definitely been one of the best birthdays of my life, and I haven't even technically had it yet. I celebrated a little early.... hehe. But it was indeed SUPER fabulous, and I'm so grateful for you all!!! 

OK. So. To start off this incredible week, we had preparation day, where we headed over to the Playa of our area with one of our ward's recent converts and ate at a really yummy Burger restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean Sea! It's October, and about 80 Degrees maximum, so all the tourists have left for the season. (Apart from the odd little straggler here and there) which is alright by us! It was nice to enjoy one of the last days of "summer" here in Gandía. After that, we went and knocked a few buildings, which, I'm going to be honest here, is a hit-or-miss kind of situation. I just had to keep thinking about President Uchtdorf's talk about "Fourth Floor, Last Door", and it became a bit of a mantra as we went on. We didn't end up finding anyone that night, but we've got a WHOLE lot more buildings to check up in, so we're not quitting just yet. :) 

TUESDAY was fantastic. We woke up, got ready, and got on the train to Valencia for interviews with President and Hermana Dayton. I don't think I've expressed this NEARLY as much as I should have, but can I just tell you how much I love them? I love them SO MUCH. They are absolutely incredible, and I absolutely adore them. President said something that really struck me during our interview; he said that people talk all the time about how much of a "sacrifice" the mission is... but, really, it's not much of a sacrifice! Yes, we don't have cell phones and we don't watch movies for a few months, but we've got the rest of our lives to do that. It's true we don't get to see our families for this time, but our Father and Savior have made it possible for us to be with them forever! Really, the only true sacrifice that we can make on a mission, and really, throughout our lives, is our will - a broken heart and a contrite spirit. That's one thing that he will NEVER take from us, or anyone else. And it's one thing that we are asked to give to him so that he can bless us more than we can imagine. I loved thinking about that! I'm still thinking about it, and boy, it's a lot harder than it seems to give 100%, but luckily for us, he has asked for our best, and has given us time to practice. It's something I don't think we can do without His help, and I think it's the ultimate gauge of success on a mission and in life. I'm lucky to be surrounded by incredible examples of this; by President and Hermana Dayton, companions and other missionaries, friends, relatives, and, of course, my awe-inspiring Mom and Dad. :) 
We decided to just walk to the train station from the chapel after interviews, because it wasn't really that far away, but we ended up getting a little lost. (Poor Hermana McBride has experienced more than her fair share of my poor navigation skills) and it ended up taking us about 2 hours to finally find the train station. On the way, though, we accidentally found a store that sells things from America! (Called "Taste of America" haha) and we decided to stop in for a second to rest. While all of it was too expensive to buy, it was funny to see all the things that we've gone so long without - like jello and maple syrup and Root Beer - and we felt a bit like we were in some kind of strange museum, haha. 'Murica. 
We finally made it home, and it started POURING rain, so at the end of the day, we celebrated with Hot Chocolate and christmas music again. Teehee. 

Wednesday was good, we had another lesson with Yana and this time we brought along one of our good friends from the ward, Monica. Unfortunately, about 20 minutes after we got there, Yana had to go with her family to go look at a few different pisos (though Yana reassured us that she's still going to be here in Gandia), so we didn't get to finish out lesson of the Plan of Salvation. We're hopefully going to be meeting with her later on this week, so we'll be able to finish that. After that, we went and taught English Class, which had an abnormal number of students, which was super exciting! We ended up dividing the classes into "basic" and "advanced" and we, the hermanas, took the basic-level students and taught them about adjectives and descriptions. That was actually really fun, and we shared "Atributos Cristianos" at the end and talked about the character of Christ. Great night!

Thursday was pouring rain again, and we had little luck contacting after weekly planning. We were also looking for decorations for the Karaoke Activity that we're in charge of this coming Saturday, which was more stressful than we had previously thought it was going to be. (Turns out they don't have streamers here... go figure!) Halloween isn't super big here, but we found a couple of party stores that had what we were looking for. (And a little more... I'm still not a huge fan of Halloween-scary masks and figures and things like that, and I was scared right out of my chapa a few more times than I'd like to admit just by looking around. Motion-detecting Halloween things are just not my friends.) We returned home drenched, and had just enough time to change, gather up our things, and head to Valencia. 
We spent the night there with the hermanas from Valencia and Catarroja, and all got to bed because the next day would be CRAZY!

The next morning we got up at 5 to get ready for the day. At 6 we headed over to the train Station,  and our train left at 7:30. Luckily for us, the seats we happened to be in were designed to sleep in, and we all crashed pretty hard for the next three hours. We finally got into Barcelona at about 10:30, took the metro to the Stake Center, and prepared ourselves for the Conference of a lifetime. EVERY missionary in El Faro was there, which is a SUPER rare occurrence, as we typically divide conferences and such in half because of the distance of travel. But everyone was there! It was a fun reunion with the hermanas from my district way back in the Provo MTC and old companions, and we then got all set up and prepped for a mission-wide photo with the guests of honor: President Russel M. Nelson and Elder Kearon and their wives! We got all set up ahead of time, and to keep the reverence in the room, we started humming hymns. After a bit, he entered and the room was in complete silence as we snapped the photo and then went one by one and shook the hand of one of the special witnesses of the Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Right from the beginning of the meeting the Spirit was SO strong. Everyone was attentive and soaking in every word of testimony and counsel from first President and Hermana Dayton, then Hermana and Elder Kearon, and finally Hermana and President Nelson. Each of the testimonies held so much power, and made me think of the scriptures that said that Christ and other prophets spoke as "with power and Authority from God". My prayers, and questions that I didn't even know that I had, were answered, and the Spirit testified to me once again that this is the work of Almighty God, and that these are some of His chosen servants. Sister Kearon shared a sacred experience that they had as a young couple, learning about the Plan of Salvation through the loss of their firstborn son, that left each of us in tears of gratitude for the great plan of our God. One of the strongest lessons that I have learned in the ten months that I have had here in Spain is of the reality and perfection of the Plan of Happiness. I'm so eternally grateful for the opportunity that I have to be linked forever to those whom I love most in this life, and that by obedience we can again return to the presence of our loving Father. Elder Kearon reminded us of how to find true happiness and success in this life and in the mission, and how to find joy in every day. Haha something that he said that I loved was something along the lines of "Just stop being so anxious. Don't worry. Work hard." And "You're a Mormon! You, we, thrive on adversity!!!!" Haha that made us all laugh. He advised us to approach every aspect of our day with Vigor- especially our personal prayers in the morning. That we should be pleading, with passion and whole energy of soul, and giving thanks and expressing our love for our Father as soon as we wake up. That's a sure fire way to have a good day, don't you agree? 
President and Hermana Nelson talked about the importance of sharing the plan of Salvation and Family History work with those we meet in the street, because it's something that we have knowledge of that nobody else in the world does! And that the gathering of israel and the signs of the second coming are already happening. Isn't that interesting? I always kind of thought that it was something we were looking out for in the future, but it's happening! We're a part of it! 
It was an INCREDIBLE conference, absolutely life changing. It was only three hours long, but it was probably one of my favorite moments EVER. I'm so grateful for the opportunity that I had to be there, in the presence of some of the Lord's Finest! 
After the conference, Hermana McBride and I booked it to the office, and, after waiting for a little bit, received the long-anticipated packages from home. If you want to know kinda how we felt, see Proverbs 25:25 {As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.}, and then picture a small child on Christmas. Hehe. We couldn't wait very long, in fact, we made it onto the train and sat down before curiosity overcame us and we had to open up the packages. (Just one week early!) Thank you soooo much, all of you, for the gifts and the cards and the LOVE! It means SO much to me!!!! And we cried and we laughed and we just basked in the glory of such an incredible day. 
We spent the night again in the piso of the Hermanas of Valencia, and then came back to Gandia to finish off the day. 

Anyway, that's about all the time I've got, but I just want to say again how much I love you and am grateful for all of you! I can't believe how blessed I am to have you each in my life, and I want to let you all know that I know my Savior lives. I know that He is there. I know that He really sacrificed Himself for us, and that He truly took upon himself our griefs and sorrows and pains and afflictions. I know that He is there. 
I love you!!!
Love, 

Hermana Larson

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Day in Gandía

Hola familia! 
This week I'm also having a bit of trouble remembering what happened... haha I really need to start writing things down more. Lemme give you a rundown of what a typical day consists of: 
7:20 We wake up and get ready to go running! Hermana McBride and I have made a deal that we need to go running at least 3 times a week, and after the first few times it actually became enjoyable! (Hehe) It's tough to wake up before the sun, but we've been able to see some really great sunrises, and it's been fun to run around the orange orchards that make up the majority of Gandía. 
8:00 We get ready, eat breakfast, and prep for the day. Usually we will listen to Conference talks or EFY songs, but this week was all cloudy and cold, so we broke out the Christmas Music!! (Listen. Rain is a big deal for us here in Valencia. It's basically a Christmas miracle, so we're celebrating a little early.) 
9:00 Personal Study this week has been down and focused on the final chapters of El Libro de Mormón... and I FINALLY DID!!! This week I finally finished the Book of Mormon in SPANISH. WHAT!?!? MIRACLE!!! This time last year I didn't even know the word for "Gospel" in Spanish, and now I'm preachin' it in Spain! WEIRD!!! Honestly it's the biggest evidence to me that miracles still take place here and now. Definitely couldn't have done that all on my own. 
10:00 Companionship Study. Since we're doing the training stuff with Hermana McBride, we have two hours of Companionship Study every day. We start off with a prayer, then a song, then we read in the white handbook, and plan/practice for the lessons we'll be teaching that day. We also get to watch THE DISTRICT which is really one of our favorite things ever, and Study up to prepare for our investigators as much as we can. #PreachMyGospel
11:55 We start reciting and preparing to leave Piso with a prayer. We always recite our purpose as missionaries, 3 Nefi 5:13, our mission motto (El Reino De Dios o Nada) and our invitación bautismal. Then we each take a turn testifying of what we know to be true! 
12:00 we're out the door, preachin', teachin', testifyin', invitin' and followin' up! We've been doing a lot of street contacting lately, which means that we give ourselves a direction (i.e. A member's house) and talk to people on the way there. Always on the lookout for new people to visit! 
2:00 we come in for Comida. Usually Hermana McBride and I will cook something that includes rice, pasta, rice, pasta, or rice, and whatever else we happen to have in the fridge, haha. Occasionally we'll receive an invitation from some members, which is always a highlight of our week, and we'll get some really yummy Valencian or Bolivian food. :) 
3:00 we have language study for an hour, which usually will consist of practicing/ learning new verbs, studying out of the textbooks we have, and reading together out loud from the Book of Mormon. That part is key! Whenever someone asks us how we learned Spanish, we tell them all about our language study- the most important part is reading the Book of Mormon! 
4:00 we leave piso again and invite people to come unto Christ! We've been having a lot of visits lately with one of our investigators named Yana from Greece. She's got a FECHA for the 29th of October, and things are looking really promising with her! She's praying and reading every day, and she came to church this Sunday, which was a huge miracle! She's progressing a lot in the Gospel, and we're growing to love her more and more every time we get to talk to her. She's the sweetest! She lives at the Playa, which is the other part of our area, which we have to get to by Bus or by walking for about an hour and a half. So... we take the bus. Hehehe. We've also got a long list of people to visit and pass-by and call, so we're always busy. We've been getting ready for this Karaoke activity in a couple weeks, which is a bit stressful, but also really fun! We're hoping and praying for a lot of people to come. :) 

10:00 we're back in piso, and we plan for the next day. 
10:30 we get ready for bed, usually we'll make popcorn or chocolate milk or something and write in our journals or watch Mormon messages. :) 
11:30 we pray, go to bed, and almost the second my head hits the pillow, I'm out! Except thanks to a DIFFERENT Hermana Larsen, we've started a tradition of sharing our favorite moment of the day, so that we can always end the day on a good note. 

That's the daily life of a missionary, basically! At least here, in El Faro!  
I accidentally left my notebook in Piso today, so I still can't write what I learned about integrity/genuine(ninityness)... (And I'm pretty late already) but this month is Faith!!!! Tomorrow we're going to have interviews with President and then on Friday we get to go to Barcelona to listen to Elder Kearon and President Nelson!!! 

I love you All!!! Have a great week!! 
Love, 

Hermana Larson 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Some Weeks are Like That

Hello Family!!!
I'm going to be honest with you all right from the get-go... I don't remember what happened this week. Hahaha 
Here's what I do know:
Yesterday we had a visit with our members Maria Flores and Matilde. Have I talked about them yet? They're a couple of really old ladies in our ward who we visit once a week. They're the best!!!!! Hahaha Maria showed us how to make a Valenciano Paella and told us what we should look for in a future spouse, and Matilde smiled and nodded and made an occasional comment. Haha we absolutely love them, they're so funny and it's an adventure every time we visit them. 
We've still been trying to reach 100 contacts in one day, but we still haven't made it. Still more time! 
Hahaha I really cannot think of anything else we did this week. IT'S WIERD!!! Hahaha Life in the mission is a funny time. 

I'm really really reallly sorry that this is such a lame email... I promise it'll be better next week!!! 
Have a good week!

-Hermana Larson