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!

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!!!

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!! 

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

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Gandía Shore

Muy Buenas Tardes!
So let's just start off with the big stuff. GENERAL CONFERENCE WAS THIS WEEKEND!!!!!! I LOVE GENERAL CONFERENCE!!!! WE HAVE A LIVING PROPHET ON THE EARTH TODAY!!! It was amazing. I love love love love LOVE General Conference, and I love the spirit that it brings. Hermana McBride and I were both pleasantly surprised by the answers to prayers we received during every one of the sessions. It was simply amazing.
Conference here is fun, because we have to change around the times a little bit. We were able to watch the General Women's session on Saturday Afternoon, and then we watched the Saturday Morning session right after that. Sunday morning was the priesthood session, then the Saturday Afternoon session was at 2 in the afternoon, and the Sunday Afternoon session was at 6, which was the only one that we were able to watch Live. Confused? So were most of the ward members, haha. The Majority of them just watched it from home, anyway, so those of us here were able to split up according to languages. There was Spanish downstairs on the projector, and then the missionaries and a few English-Speaking members went upstairs and watched it on an ipad or the computer in the Library. With a little adjusting each time, we were able to (miraculously) overcome some technical difficulties, and were able to listen to our prophets give their inspired words. For the women's session, we were actually able to invite one of our investigators, Yana, to come and watch it with us. She's half Bulgarian and half Greek, and speaks about as much spanish as we do, so communication, especially regarding religious terminology, is a little slow sometimes. BUT Thanks to the miraculous efforts of who even knows how many people, we were able to show her the Women's session translated into Greek! She seemed to really enjoy it, and it was really great to be able to have an experience like that! Even though we don't understand a WORD of Greek, we were still able to feel the Spirit and power of the messages that were delivered. (Later we were able to watch it in Spanish and English). 
Cristian, unfortunately, has decided to stop meeting with us, which we were disappointed about of course, but we understand that it's his decision. That being said, we've been spending a LOT of time in the streets lately, trying to find new people to teach! One of my goals since my training has been to be able to contact 100 people in one day. Hermana McBride and I are bound and determined to reach that goal, but the highest we've ever been able to get is about 70. WE WILL ROCK IT ONE OF THESE DAYS!!!! It's provided a lot of different opportunities to speak to all kinds of people from ALL over the world! Gandía is a pretty tourist-y spot, so we get people from all over. Including English Speakers, sometimes! We have yet to meet an American, but we've met people from most countries of Europe, a lot of Africa, a few different asian countries, and most of central and South america. Ain't i lucky that I dont have to go anywhere, they all just come to me? ;) One of the most incredible things that they've done here in Gandía recently is that they turned it into.... Disneyland. 
I'm not even kidding. 
Rides, booths, twinkly lights, parades, bands, concerts, freak shows, EVERYTHING. ALL. OVER. GANDIA. It took us about 45 minutes to get to our area, just trying to get through all the people. It was insane! Super amazing, but very much insane. They had different sections of the town split up, as well - a medieval market, pottery and mosaics from North Africa, Dancers from South and Central America, everything. It looked like a TON of fun, but when we're trying to bear testimony to people that we meet in the street, it was a little bit of a stumbling block, haha. But it's all good! Gotta come back someday for that. :) 
Well, that's basically the week! Findin', Teachin', Testifyin', and Invitin'! I love you all and I miss you all!!! Have a great week!!! READ/WATCH/LISTEN TO CONFERENCE AGAIN!!!! 

-Hermana Larson