Monday, January 30, 2017

Muy buenas, familia! 

Quite the week here in Santander, Spain. Monday we went with one of our members, Lorena, to a couple of the pueblos just outside of Santander to do some sight-seeing and it was GLORIOUS. We saw a pueblo that has been preserved for something like a thousand years, a little bit of a museum of torture, a graveyard, a LOT of really old walls and buildings, and some really rough and OLD cobblestone plazas and roads. Successful day!

 That night we went and had a Family Home Evening with Carolina (I've talked about her and Cesar before, right?) and her sister, Daniela, who we're teaching the charlas to. They're both so great! We love getting to meet with them. We met with them again on Tuesday and again on Friday. They're the best! 

Wednesday was CRAZY! We spent the morning meeting with our friend Yanina who is trying to learn English, and then we ran to the bus station to go to Bilbao for the world-wide Missionary conference. It was SO great and we all loved it, and they made some really amazing changes to the Missionary Schedule and the way we work. We, up until now, have had 9 key indicators that we count every week, things like baptisms and confirmations and new investigators and such, and now we're down to four! (Five if you make Baptism and Confirmation separate things.) And we're planning in the morning instead of at night, and we have an extra hour of Preparation day. All of it is geared to help us become more effective and powerful Missionaries, and I love it!!! The conference lasted until nighttime, and we went right from there into an intercambio with the Sister Training Leaders in Vitoria. I went there to be with the amazing Hermana Martinez, who I have known and looked up to since my Badalona Training days! This intercambio lasted from Wednesday night to Friday morning, and consisted of trying Mate (an Argentinian traditional drink that all the missionaries here are obsessed with), having a jam session on her ukulele, cutting broken Zippers out of coats to help a seamstress of the ward, running from visit to visit, and just having a blast! Friday morning Hermana Nelson and I met up once again in Bilbao so that we could have a quick practice of a quartet that's singing for a conference that we have this upcoming Wednesday. (Elder Kearon is coming back!!!) and we headed back to Santander for our 3° visit with Daniela. And more of the same for the weekend! 
I don't know if I've mentioned it already, but we are blessed to be in an area where the members love to feed the missionaries!! It's an incredible blessing. We usually have at least 5-6 visits a week, with very few exceptions. It's amazing! Love the members here with all my heart. :) 
This week is transfers (unfortunately :() and I'm dreading the day I have to part with Hermana Nelson! These last two transfers have been INCREDIBLE and SO MUCH FUN! But she's been up north all 8 months of her mission so far, so I think she's probably ready to try something new. :) She's a phenomenal missionary and I love her so much! We'll keep you updated on the changes that'll be coming up next preparation day. :) 
Quote of the week comes from Leonardo da Vinci: 
"You will never have a greater or lesser dominion than that over yourself... the height of a man's success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure by his self-abandonment... and this law is the expression of eternal justice." 
Wow! ¿Qué fuerte, verdad? I love that idea! Overcoming the natural man being our greatest victory. Still working on that one, but I love it! 

Ok, also, I kind of lost track of the Attributes of Christ thing around Christmas time.... but I'm picking it back up again! This month (February) is, obviously, Christlike Love, or Charity. 

Love you all so much. Take care and talk to you soon! 

Hermana Larson 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Glorious Spiritual Victories


Well, this week was SO FAST! TOO FAST! Things are picking up speed, and I don't like it. But that's just cause I'm loving life here in Santander too much! Hermana Nelson and I feel like we're always running, which is the best missionary feeling, to be honest. I love running from visit to visit in el campo del señor!
Just to recap really quick,
I hit 13 months on Monday! Crazy. Crazy crazy crazy. To celebrate, Hermana Nelson and I spent preparation day looking at a few different stores for "rebajas" which is like a couple of weeks of Black Fridays that they have in January and July/August. We didn't find anything super exciting, but it was nice to have a place to go out of the rain. After that we headed to the house of Carolina and Cesar (have I talked about them? She's from Colombia and he's from Peru and they've got two little kids who are super adorable. They got baptized a little over a year ago and now they're getting ready to go through the TEMPLE and be SEALED!!! So exciting!! ) and had a nice family home evening with them.
We also went this week and visited with Lorena, a convert of about 3 years who lives in a pueblo about 20 minutes outside Santander. She's a young española, who didn't believe in God until she got invited to the church by a friend, took the missionary discussions, and now she's ALSO going to the temple this week! Love her. :)

On Wednesday Hermana Nelson got super sick... there's a sickness that's taking out our whole ward and everyone else in Santander... so she got to rest a little bit. (Not without a fight, though. That Hermana is bound and determined to work hard in every second! ;) she's a fantastic example. ) On Thursday we had Interviews with President and Hermana Dayton! I love them so much. There's a change in the mission, so now we'll be having interviews with him every month or two from now on. That's going to be so nice! But also, a lot of traveling for poor President and Hermana Dayton. We then got to meet with Jose and Mercedes, which was fantastic, because Mercedes was still so excited about her Baptism! She said that she felt different, like she could see everything new. :) (How cute is that?) unfortunately, we got bad news on Saturday night. Jose called us and said that he and Mercedes's mom are going through some difficulties, and that he doesn't know when they'll be able to come to church or meet with us, or when she'll be able to get confirmed. Prayers, please, for her and her family!
The GOOD news for this week is that we were finally able to go see the inside of the new chapel!!! It's HUGE!!! Even bigger than the chapel back home. (Though smaller than the stake center) it has an organ and pianos and benches and a parking lot and everything!!!! ITS AMAZING!!! Of course, where you have the meetings are not as important as the building itself, but it's so amazing to be there and to see the progress that is happening here in the north of Spain manifested in the form of a brand new building. Glorious! I'll probably be here for the dedication and open house (which will be at the end of February or beginning of March) but hermana Nelson will probably be leaving Santander in just a couple of weeks. :( The Stake president told us in Sacrament meeting that if we work hard and are obedient and unified in our efforts, that Santander has the potential to become 2 wards in just a couple of years! THATS INCREDIBLE!!! Miracles will happen, I know it.

My favorite quote this week comes from the church's Addiction Recovery Program packet, though I think it applies to everyone who lives here on the earth. :)
"We have known great sorrow, but we have seen the power of the Savior turn our most devastating defeats into glorious Spiritual victories." Remember Ether 12:27!!!

LOVE you all so much and wish the best this week! Talk to you Soon!
Hermana Larson

Monday, January 16, 2017

2 Nephi 31

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Elders and Hermanas of all
ages, it finallly happened.

I finally was able to see one of our investigators step into the
waters of BAPTISM!!!!!!! This has been one of the best weeks ever, and
also one of the craziest. We had a surprise Baptismal interview with
Mercedes on Tuesday because our District Leader was here in Santander
(normally he's up in San Sebastian about 3 hours away, so it was a
miracle that we were able to meet with him!) so we quickly talked
about the last points of laws and ordinances; temple marriage,
missionary work, service, etc. Luckily for us, Mercedes is a super
intelligent 9 year old, and she practically already knew everything!
After a quick review, she was more than prepared. :) Everything went
smoothly from there, except that that was on Tuesday, and her Baptism
was on Friday night, and with her school and everything we didn't get
to see her until the night of the actual ordinance! Hermana Nelson and
I offered probably about a hundred prayers hoping that everything
would be alright in the end. Luckily, it was! Our ward is still
meeting in the bottom floor of a building, so we don't have a built-in
Baptismal font, but we do have a giant blue tarp and metal pool thing
that we call the "blue whale". So you set that up and hook it up to
the sink and it takes about 6 hours to fill, hahaha. Luckily we had
help with that and then ran around trying to make sure that everything
was in place and that we had towels and clothing and everything that
we needed to make things run smoothly. Everything went just fine, and
thanks to our ward's new initiative to make baptisms be more
spirit-oriented, the service was peaceful and lovely and to the point.
Mercedes was able to be baptized by her father, who was less-active
until recently, and it was really sweet because he was actually
baptized in that exact same church, in the exact same font (or,
rather, "whale"), 13 years earlier! She was the first person he had
ever baptized, and it was very sweet to talk to them both afterwards
and see her glow of excitement and his eyes full of tears. What an
incredible experience and testimony builder! What a blessing from the
Lord. :)

The week seemed to pass by very quickly thanks to all the baptismal
preparations, as well as a FULL eating schedule for us! We had a visit
with a family of members Every day this week, which was a super fun
(and VERY filling) experience. We're blessed to have a very supportive
ward here in Santander who are all very good about inviting the
missionaries over. On Saturday, we were passing by a family that we
haven't visited before, when they told us about a young man from China
who is living with them while he is studying in the local University.
The story goes that they were talking about the church, when he came
out of his room and asked if they were Christians, because he is as
well! When they said that they are, and that they would be having the
missionaries over that night for a family home evening, they invited
him to join in and he said yes! So we arrived, totally surprised, and
spent a wonderful evening with this family and this young man,
explaining the Restoration of the Gospel and the importance of Prayer
in our daily lives. That was a fantastic blessing and a testimony
builder to Hermana Nelson and I that the Lord is always working to
make things align at just the right moment and just the right place.
I know that this church is true and that this gospel was restored to
the Earth! I know that the Book of Mormon and the Bible are true
testaments of Jesus Christ, that He is our Redeemer and that He lives!
I know that our Father in Heaven is there, waiting with arms
outstretched, and if you don't believe me, ask HIM! :)
Love you all!!!

Hermana Larson

Monday, January 9, 2017

Reyes and Bautismo

This was the WIERDEST just most RANDOM week EVER. Ever ever. 
On monday we went to this little place called the Magdalena (literally, this place is called "the muffin" hehehe) with our Jóvenes from the ward. I can't remember if I've talked about this already, but it was super fun! We played Capture the flag and Ninja and fun things like that with a solid group of 10-16 year olds. Honestly, I have a lot of respect for the LDS youth here in Spain! There are a lot of negative influences that start off WAY too early in their lives, but they stand strong together and they DEFINE "wholesome recreational activities". :) 

After that we went out to do some contacting, but this week hasn't been too successful in that department, because it's the last week of Vacations before school starts again. Right between New years and Reyes.... this week has been nuts. hahaha

We've been blessed with a lot of really fantastic eating visits as well! Our members are so generous and are always inviting us to go over to their houses and eat MOUNTAINS of food; Colombian, Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Español, you name it, we eat it. And postres galore! The good news is that Hermana Nelson's mom just sent us a nice 90's mom workout video that we've been getting into this last week, so hopefully we'll find a nice balance there. :) 

SO with few people in the streets and few people home and few people answering their phones, we've had a GRAND miracle, and that is that MERCEDES IS GOING TO BE BAPTIZED ON FRIDAY!!!!!! We're running around like chickens with our heads cut off a little bit, trying to get everything set up and organized for that, but we're SO EXCITED!!!! Prayers for her please so that everything will go well!!! 

Also we had REYES this week, which was CRAZY TOWN. Hermana Nelson and I were walking through one of the plazas a few weeks ago and we suddenly almost got run over by a Camel.... like, a live camel. with a middle eastern little wise man on top. and lots of presents. yep, that was random. Turns out that Reyes is actually a MUCH bigger deal here in Santander than Christmas is. So they've been prepping for this for a while. they write letters to the tres reyes magos and have a HUGE parade on the fifth, and everyone parties it up all week. Then, on the 6th, Everyone eats Roscon, which is a cake with candied fruits and sugar on top and cream in the middle, and there's a little porcelain doll and a bean hidden inside. The person who finds the doll is the king for the day, and the person who finds the bean has to pay for the roscon, hahaha. Hermana Nelson and I got a REALLY good roscon from this bakery that one of our friends runs, and it was so good that we.... ran over there and got another one later that day. So... we're both the king! yay!!! hahaha (don't worry, they were small ones.)

Gotta head out, but here's your quote for the week! "Remember that this work is not yours and mine alone. It is the Lorrd's work, and when we are on the Lord's errand, we are entitled to the Lord's help. Remember that the Lord will shape the back to bear the burden placed upon it."
-Thomas S. Monson. 

Love you all!!! Feliz Dia de Reyes and Feliz Semana and Les Quiero un montón!!!! Cuídense! 

Hermana Larson 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Feliz Año

Hola mi gente! 

Sorry, quick email this week, running out of time. But really quick highlight reel of this week! 

We ate with TONS of people again... we had I think 4 eating visits that day... two of which were with Colombian families!! It's a HUGE deal here! We got to stay out until 11:30 and then we ran home and planned and grabbed our 12 grapes to eat with the bells ringing in the new year. We did so, and then the world outside EXPLODED with fireworks and people yelling out their windows and more fireworks and bells and craziness. All of that lasted until about 4-5 in the morning. Those Spaniards don't do half-hearted fiestas! 

MIRACLE on New Year's Day was that Jaime came to church!!! He kinda left off meeting with us for a while, but he says he's ready to prepare to be baptized again and wants to try to stop smoking! Looking forward to that with him. :) 

Mercedes is still making progress towards her Baptism! She's so smart, she has everything from our lessons committed to memory already! She's doing great and we'll have her Baptism next Friday. 

Things have suddenly gotten SUPER cold in Santander, and super windy. So we've been blessed with a lot of time to spend with people indoors, haha, but we've had a few hours this week to enjoy the winter season at a very personal level. Looking forward to springtime! 

Sorry, gotta run, but I love you all! Have a great week!