Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Gandía week 5

Hola Familia!!!!

Another fantastic week here in Gandía! We had District meeting on
Tuesday, so we headed over to Valencia for the morning/afternoon.
That's always an adventure, haha. It's so weird being outside of the
City far enough to have to take an hour's train ride to get there! I
love being in our pueblo, though. It's a little (a lot) cleaner and
it's SO NICE to be surrounded by mountains again.  We are also about 5
minutes away from the beach, but we haven't been there since my first
week here. It's tougher in the summertime to find people who actually
LIVE here, haha. Most people we contact, especially the closer we get
to the beach, are tourists. And the investigators we would love to
meet with go on their own vacations for months at a time. Hopefully
that should slow down a little bit within the next couple of weeks,
because summer is almost over. (WHAT???)
We were also hoping for more people to contact this week, because the
weather has finally been cooling off and not being so impossible to
handle. (The Valencianos are awake for part of the afternoon now! ;)
Unfortunately for us, Mother Nature decided that we needed a nice
splash, and on Tuesday what started off as a light sprinkle turned
into a torrential storm in the space of 2 minutes. Hermana Stahl and I
had planned on going contacting with one of our members, and we were
on our way to meet him in the Plaza, when we suddenly hit a wall of
water and wind so fuerte that it broke my companion's umbrella and
started flooding the streets. I've never seen such a downpour in my
WHOLE LIFE!!! We were giggling and having a ball, trying to fight our
umbrellas and push through the wind, because our poor member friend
was already waiting in the plaza! We finally reached him, screamed out
an apology above the noise, and laughed as we all tried to find cover.
As thunder and lightning started to get louder and brighter, we
decided that heading over to the chapel would be our best bet, but
that required another 10 minute run in the rain. Luckily for me, my
companion has a good sense of humor and she loves the rain! We ran
home, pausing occasionally to help people who were stranded to get to
their cars or to buildings nearby. It was the BEST MORNING!!! When we
finally made it to the chapel, we jumped inside and sat there,
drenched and dripping, singing songs and watching the rain until it
stopped. Lucky for us, it stopped before mediodia because we had an
eating visit with a couple of our members! Later that night we taught
English class to Karen, the only student who showed up. (She's also
the investigator who showed up to the church with her mom a couple of
weeks ago!) We got to explain a little more to her about who we were
and why we were here, and she enjoyed the spiritual message and prayer
at the end, so we're trying to meet with her again today or tomorrow.
Then we had weekly planning on Thursday, we got to teach a lesson to
Mirel, our investigator from Bolivia, and had Noche de Barrio. (I've
never played Uno so much in my life as I have in the last few weeks
here. I think I'll have to head to the professional leagues when I get
back!) Friday we had more contacting, which was tough because a couple
of missionaries in our district have started getting pretty sick
(including yours truly). At the end of the night, though, we got to
visit our new investigator family at their peluqueria! We got to play
with their baby, who made the discussion a bit difficult at times due
to his eagerness to walk around and be chased by his parents. ;) But
he's super cute and they were super nice - they brought us over to the
Cafe next door and bought us orange Fanta and potato chips! I'm
starting to develop quite a taste for the national snacks of Spain. ;)
Unfortunately, as we were trying to talk, a table close to us started
having a very heated discussion that almost turned into a full out bar
fight, so we didn't get to teach as much as we would have liked.
They're great though! Hopefully we can get them to come to church this
Sunday! :) Saturday we decided that we were going to do our favorite
thing: CONTACT ALL DAY!!!! WOO HOO!!!! We cut our Companionship study
by an hour and hit the streets early, searching for more people to
teach. We were able to find a couple of people who were willing to
listen to us, and one that even said he would come to church on
Sunday! (Though he ended up not coming) Then we had a nice big lunch
at the church with one of our member families, which was great because
I've been missing my Ecuadorian food quite a bit! They're super nice
and we got into a nice long discussion about the different types of
rice they use here vs in the US, in South America, and in Asia. ;) The
things you learn! After Language study, we went back into the streets
again, this time with one of our members, Andrea. We were able to get
into a building to knock it, which is one of my favorite things to do.
It always brings a lot of surprises, a lot of laughs, and quite a few
miracles! We had decided that if we could hit 100 contacts by the end
of the day, that we could buy pizza and bring it to sports that night.
At the end of it all, we didn't earn pizza, but we're gonna try again
this next week! Sports was great, and the Elders started teaching my
how to shoot a basketball. Hopefully by the end of my mission, I'll be
able to come home quite the deportista! ;) (I hit my 8 month mark
today! THAT'S CRAZY!!! I'm almost middle-aged in missionary terms!) On
Sunday our investigators ended up not being able to come to church,
which was kind of disappointing, but it was a great meeting where we
got to learn a lot about the Creation! We had a friend come to church
who we meet in the streets sometimes, and he kind of took over Gospel
Principles class, giving us quite an interesting testimony about the
end of the world. That was pretty interesting, to say the least,
haha... Especially as the theme of the class was originally "La Obra
Misional" or "Missionary Work". He said he enjoyed Church, though, and
told us that we were invited to his church anytime we wanted to come.
On Monday, we went to Valencia again, because we had Specialized
Conference with President and Hermana Dayton! It was so good to see
and hear from them again. 
One thing that was nice about being in Badalona is that we got to see them quite a bit! But I can understand why they don't make the trip all the way down here every week. ;) They
talked to us about being bold and overcoming discouragement, which are
things that we all really needed to hear right now. Sometimes it's so
easy to forget who we're serving and why we're here; to put on
blinders and just think about what the people around me are thinking
or saying. At the end of it all, it doesn't matter!!! Not only is it
unimportant, it literally does not matter at all. We're fighting for
the Lord's cause, and our job is to open our mouth and declare to the
world the everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ, through the power and
authority that comes by the Holy Ghost. President Monson said "When we
are on the Lord's errand, we are entitled to the Lord's help. Remember
that whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies." The Ayudantes also
spoke to us about obedience and the importance of maintaining a
standard of EXACT obedience ALWAYS. While nobody is perfect, it's
important to do our best do BE our best, as exemplified by a story
found in Joshua 7. The army that circled the walls of Jericho (and
made them and one of the strongest armies in the land at the time
crumble) was pulled down and almost destroyed for the lack of
obedience of ONE of the soldiers to a strict and clear commandment of
God. To be worthy of the blessings that the Lord has in store for us,
it's important to always have our desires and intentions in the best
and right place. It was a great conference, and I learned a lot!!!
Then, today for preparation day we decided to make an "American"
breakfast for Hermana Stahl and Elder Becerra, since they've dealt so
patiently with us crazy Americans for the last 5 weeks. :) We made
scrambled eggs, bacon, and biscuits and gravy, because you can't get
much more American than that, but it still turned out pretty
Europeanized; Bacon just isn't the same here. ;) We also watched The
Other Side of Heaven, and I cried like a small child! It's hard to
describe the love that you just start feeling for people as a
missionary - especially investigators. There's a part where one of
their investigators, who truly desired to change his life and accept
the Gospel completely, dies before he is able to do so, and the Elders
are there with him as he passes away. The grief expressed by the
Elders in that scene is something that really touched me, and made me
think of the love that I have for investigators and members here in
Spain that I really.... I guess I just never anticipated. It hurts to
think that my time here with them is slipping away so quickly! We're
at the end of another Transfer already, and I feel like I just got
here! I really want to be able to return from my mission feeling like
I was able to dedicate my all to the Lord, and to be able to continue
doing so for the rest of my life. In the moments when we get home,
exhausted from walking around all day, probably not having seen the
most success, but having had opportunities to serve or to bear
testimony, that's when I really feel the happiest! It's so strange!!!
And even though this work is difficult and sometimes can be
discouraging, I know that it's the most glorious job in the world,
because we're really helping to build God's Kingdom here on the Earth.
I read somewhere this week that Faith is kindled by hearing the
testimony of those who have faith. And I'm so grateful for those who
have shared their testimonies and showed their examples of Faith to me
during the moments when I needed it most, to help me learn to grow my
own testimony. I know this church is true, and that God is our loving
Father in Heaven who loves us. Each of us, individually. I know that
for that love, he sent us to this earth, to learn and to grow and to
experience so that we could become more like him. And I know that he
gave His Son for us - so that we could have a way to return to live
with him again. I know that no matter what happens, he is always
waiting to shower us with blessings, as we just turn our faces to him
so that we can catch a few of them. :)

I love you all!

-Hermana Larson

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