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