Friday, December 31, 2010

Letter #67 - December 27, 2010

Hey everybody!

I feel like we just talked... oh wait, we did! How great it was to talk to all of you and feel like I was a part of you for a little while on Christmas. I started remember Christmas things and what it might be like to be there relaxing with family. But it acutally didn't make me homesick. It seems like a completely different universe, or like the pleasant dream of a far off place in a fairy tale that I someday hope to visit. I'm glad that you are all doing well and enjoying each other's company. It is so lovely to know that I have a family that loves to be together.

So to fill in those that I didn't talk to on Saturday, I had changes this week and I am now re-opening an area and training. We are in the port town of Corinto in the northwest of Nicarauga (if you wanted to find it on google earth). Corinto is a pretty clean town compared to Manauga and it's quaint, with few cars and a lot of tricyclos (three-wheeled bicycle taxis). They eat a lot of fish and clams and everything from the sea, and it just has that easy going, care-free feel of costal people. Our house is really close to the church and the beach is only two blocks away. It's fun to see the ocean even though we can't take a dip. And I found out that Corinto is actually where all the cruise ships come, so Grandma Donna will have to double check her cruise stops and what days she'll be in Nicaragua. It is actually hotter here than in Managua. I didn't think there was a hotter place on earth than Managua, but I was wrong. Well they threw me into the fire to finish my mission and I'm going to "echar fuego" (throw fire) here in Corinto and go out with a bang.

It has been fun trying to get to know a new place and contacting a lot of new people while trying to find ourselves. I've been carrying my guitar around and we had some fun starting our contacts with a christmas hymn. One time, we saw an old couple sitting in front of there house so we went over to talk to them. There was a fiesta just finishing up next door and it was
a little loud, but we started asking them how they were doing anyway. The abuelitos said that things were regular, not good, but not bad either and I told them that we brought them a song to lift their spirits. As we started to sing, the mańs face lit up, and the woman lifted her head and started to smile. Soon the people leaving the fiesta were shushing each other and
turning to listen too. We had a good crowd all quiet and listening to us and were able to contact and teach them a little, setting up appointments to come back later on in the week. The power of music to lift hearts is truly amazing and the way it facilitates so freely the spirit opens doors that otherwise wouldn't be available.

Hna. Winter has a really pretty voice and actually holds her own part pretty well so we've been able to have some fun harmonizing. She's the first companion I've been able to do that with. Hna. Winter is from Guatemala even though her name comes from Germany (great grandpa) and she is white with black hair. I'll have to send some pictures next week because I forgot my camera today. She is excited to work and to learn and she really wants to be a great missionary and follow the rules. She is a little on the moon sometimes, the scatter-brained type and almost too sweet, but we're going to have fun and I know she is going to be an amazing missionary. We are also living with Hna. Contreras from El Salvador and she is working with one of the members right now, María José, because we have an odd number of sisters. They are both great and it's nice to have them to help us and show us around the area. We actually have two seperate areas, both in the same ward. The ward seems pretty strong, with an average attendance of about 115, but the leaders seems a little tired, a little disanimated. But we're going to put in the batteries and get everyone charged up for the new year.

Mom, thanks for your sweet testimony. It brought tears to my eyes. I rarely cry now when I'm teaching or bearing my testimony. I remember this time last year when I really couldn't even open my mouth without tears, I was so tender. But it's not that I don't have tender feelings about the gospel anymore, really they are deeper and more profound. And they are accompanied with experience. I know that Christ lives. He suffered beyond human comprehension and took upon himself all the wickedness and confusion and darkness and pain that the human heart can experience. Then he rose from that abismal and triumphed over death and sin, freeing us all from their bondage if we will but humble ourselves before Him and seek His will. I know that in our darkest and most difficult hours, we are very close to the Savior and that as we reach out and up to take His hand, He will guide us into the light again. That is the plan, it is the good news. Christ restored his complete gospel with all that we need to achieve our exhaultation through the Prophet Joseph Smith. His is an extraordinary story of faith and perserverance, never wavering even until the end of his extraordinary life. Because of the diligence of that faithful man, the blessings of the priesthood are again available on the earth and the ordinances of the temple have been restored. We have a living prophet today who counsels with the Lord to guide His work on the earth. If we heed his words, we will never go astray.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - being a special witness of Christ during Christmas was never sweeter.

Love,
Hna. Crosland

P.S. I sent a package home and a few Christmas cards this week. Sorry so late. The package has a few articles of clothing, shirt for Will (light blue button-up) and shirt for Ali (awesome baseball jersey) and a nighty for Mom. I got Dad a machete but they wouldn't let me mail it. So he'll just have to wait a little while, along with Mike and Paige. Sorry. But I hope the Christmas cards get to you this week, even though they missed Christmas. LOVE YOU!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Letter #66 - December 20, 2010

HEY!

I can't believe about the provo tabernacle! I am so sad!! I hope they can rebuild/remodel it. I have so many memories in that building.

This week was full of choir practices and performances for me too. We worked so hard with the ward members and were able to present our ward Christmas cantata friday night with about 8 differente himns and it turned out really well. I was really happy because it gave an opportunity to some of the choir members who have family members who aren't members of the church, to invite them and present something really nice and spiritual. The wife of Hno. Guillermo and the mom of Marjourie, a recient convert came along with a few others and they seemed to be really touched. Neither of them are very receptive to the church and mabye they still don't want to come on Sunday or recieve the missionaries, but I know a seed was planted and that they were able to feel the spirit in the chapel. That is a big step.





It was so fun to see the ward members get all prepared and coordinate what they were going to wear and buy red and green folders for the music. The bishop's wife even made beautiful christmas badges with ribbon, fake leaves and white flowers for everone. We were all unified and proud of the work we had done. Yesterday was the presentation of the stake and each ward choir did a number or two. We were all excited and sang two of our best numbers. It all went really well and even though the choirs were far from professional, the spirit was felt and you could really see the effort that every ward put into organizing and preparing their choir. All in all, it was a great experience that I will never forget and I am so grateful for the talents that the Lord blessed me with to be able to share a wonderful experience with our ward members. They were all so grateful and everyone felt so proud of what we accomplished and how nice it turned out.

The other good news is that Aldo came to church this week and Norlan stopped drinking. We had some really good lessons with Norlan and his companion about faith and repentence and he has been reading in Alma from 32 to about 39. I love that Norlan loves to read the book of mormon. We leave him a chapter and he not only reads the assigned chapter, sometimes twice, but then keeps reading and he always points out his favorite scriptures to us. The bad thing is that he couldn't come to church this week, but we also have the problem of his divorce, so his baptism is still out a little ways, but I am so happy that he is back on track.

Sorry to be short but today is a little crazy. I love you all so much!

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - sharing the best of ourselves.

Love, Hna. Crosland

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Letter #65 - December 13, 2010

Thank you for your birthday wishes. My birthday was great. I had more fotos to send you but I forgot my camera.... oops, until next week. I got many birthday wishes from the ward members and even a few gifts. They are so sweet. And I was invited to a birthday lunch and dinner. Actually we've been invited to eat at members houses all week, which has been perfect because the Medina family was gone and with them, our normal food appointment. But the Lord has taken super good care of us. I also tried Mondongo for the first time this week. Mondongo is cow stomach and it is just as nasty as it sounds (fotos coming soon). But basically it looks like carpet and tastes nasty. I'm not quite sure why people eat it, but whatever.

News with investigators is not so great this week. After some amazing lessons with Norlan and Maryuri, they didn't show up for church last week and then on Tuesday, we found Norlan drunk. He has been drunk this whole week even though we've been stopping by his house nearly every day. The frustrating part is that his wife says that he hadn't had a drink in over two years and right when we found him and started teaching him and his family, Satan had to pull the rug out from under them. So frustrating.

We also weren't able to teach Aldo y Karla until Sunday night even though we also passed by their house everyday this week as well. After the great experience with them at the Chirstmas devotional, we wanted to follow up with them quickly and strike while the iron was hot, but no such luck. They were always gone or too busy to receive us.

The Purisima didn't help matters either this week. Tuesday, Wednesday and even Thursday the streets were full of people singing praises to the Virgen and each house hadconstructed a fancy schmancy alter with flashy lights and the Virgen María prominent. I wanted to take pictures of them and the people were thrilled to be asked if we could take a picture of their shrine. It's a tradition to give out things for the Purisima to those that come and sing at your shrine and after one of the pictures I took, the man gave us a little gift...oops, I was purisima-ing. Bad missionary. But the festivities made it really hard to proselyte and Tuesday night we even had to go in early. Elder Figueroa had part of a burning firecracker land on his head and it caught his hair on fire! I wish I had seen it. I was pretty much dying of laughter as he showed me his singed scalp. Crazy catholics. Hopefully this week we can help Norlan stop drinking so he can really start progressing and Aldo and Karla will get more involved. We invited them to a bunch of activities this week in the church and they are all in the evening when they are a little more free with time. They are always really positive when we teach them, they just can't stop being work-aholics. We really need to get some investigators progressing right now. Seems like the Christmas season should be the best season to find more open and willing people, but here it is just the opposite.

We had our mission Christmas activity/conference today and it was so good. Each zone prepared a hymn (the ones we prepared went splendidly) and the program was really nice. Then we played outside with a few big blow-up obstacle courses and water balloons and dodge ball. And I participated in the watermelon eating contest... and WON! Well it was only me and one other elder because they did a whole bunch, just two at a time. But I won. Yep, turns out that besides being a really good balloon player, I'm I really good watermelon eater. We couldn't use our hands and I had watermelon juice all over my face and up my nose. Salvaje. It was fun. Then we had a big banquet and swapped gifts and Presidente and Hermana Arredondo closed with a few words. It was really wonderful, especially when Presidente and his family sang. They have a singing family too and it was a good moment for me to remember singing with my family at Christmas.

This Christmas we are far from each other once again, but truly I am grateful. I can't imagine myself in any other place, doing any other thing this Christmas. The best gift that we can give the Lord is the very best of ourselves. I am not much. I don't have many talents or much charm. My spanish is far from perfect and my teaching skills are average. But this Christmas season, I am giving my all to the Lord, the very best that I have. And I am going to see what His hands can make of it and watch the miracles unfold. We are here to serve, not ourselves, but all those around us. There are so many looking for love and that is exactly what we have to offer, the pure love of the Savior that never runs out or wears out. I can't think of a more perfect and beautiful gift. And we are armed with it always. Don't forget what you have to give, it's everything.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - we have everything to give and nothing to lose.

Love,

Your favorite hermana in Nicaragua
Hna. Crosland

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Letter #64 - December 6, 2010

Hello dear family and friends,

First off, before I forget. I heard Ali has red hair. That is awesome. So does Hna. Cano. Well, it's not that red now because she had to darken it before her mission but she told me that she always dyes her hair red. I also saw aunt Ruth in the Christmas devotional and I'm loving her dark hair. I don't know if it's new, but it looked a lot darker to me and I just kept thinking how pretty it was. So congrats for having cool hair. You will all need to help me with mine when I arrive... yikies. Speaking of hair, my hair has been falling out in fist-fulls and I'm starting to get worried. I know I'm stressed but do you think that is all it is? I'm going to come home bald. Well, enough about that.

making a magic herbal hair treatment from a plant that grows on Hna. Medina's fence

Tony was baptized this week and it was really special. He is so awesome. The elders also had a baptism too and we bought a cake to celebrate with them. We have been fasting and praying to find and baptize a family this month. We just dropped Juan y Iliana. They just weren't progressing. And we could never find Aldo y Karla.

the baptismal crew and cake

me, Tony, Hna. Cano

Then on Wednesday, the office elders called with a reference named Norlan. We dropped our other plans and went to look for him that afternoon, finding him outside of his house talking to his friend Luis, who happened to be the member that referred him. How sweet is that? So we met him and his family and set an appointment to come back the next day. We brought Hno. Jimmy along and had a really positive lesson with him and his wife Maryuri, where we left him with a book of mormon and a commitment to read Moroni 10. We set another appoinment with them for Friday and when we arrive he had not only read and understood Moroni 10, but had started from the beginning and was asking us questions about Nefi and his family. Wow. We commited him and his wife to a baptismal date for the 18th of December and they were all excited to come to church with us this Sunday. Hno. Jimmy was going to pass by to bring them. Well, Sunday morning, they were nowhere to be found. I was crushed. We didn't have a single family of investigators in church. Lame, lame, lame.

But I was determined to take a family to the Christmas devotional so after choir practice we set out to find one. We decided to stop by and see if Aldo y Karla were home. I didn't have high hopes, but we went anyway. We found them. Both of them. And they weren't busy. That never happens. We had a slight problem because they had promised to take their kids to the little neighborhood circus but we sat teaching them and getting them excited to meet the prophet and go to the devotional and in the end they decided to come. At the same time, Jennyfer Medina called and said that her dad had just gotten back from Rivas and still had the mission car and would give us a ride to the broadcast. How perfect! Jennyfer had accompanied us a couple of times with Aldo y Karla so they already knew each other. We all packed into the truck and headed off.

Greetings from the missionaries of Ciudad Jardin (E. Pinzòn, Hna. Cano, me, E. Figueroa)

I couldn't help feeling in the clouds. And then the Christmas devotional was just so amazing. And all the members who came were happy and inviting and inclusive. Are all mormons like that? Karla asked. Yep, and you will be too, replied Hna. Medina. Haha. I just love that lady. When we dropped them off, Karla asked us when we could come back to teach them. She didn't want to wait until Tuesday so we made an appointment for tonight. I'm so excited for them. They really loved the experience. Now we just need to get them to sacrament meeting and put them in the water. They are a really special family. I still haven't given up on Norlan y Maryuri, and we're going to stop by tonight to see what happened to them and keep teaching them. Ah, teaching the gospel to families is such a beautiful and amazing experience.

greetings from Zona Bello Horizonte

Tonight we are having a birthday dinner with the Medina family. They are going to be in Guatemala for Jimmy Jr.'s wedding all this week. How awesome for them. Man, I miss the temple. I think I will cry when they announce the Managua, Nicaragua temple. These people are so humble and ready for the gospel, and even though the work seems slow at times, I know that the Lord is preparing many hearts. He goes with us always. I'm grateful for this beautiful season and for the chance to keep the Savior even closer to my heart and in my mind. Walking the streets and spreading His peace and joy makes me feel close to Him. It is what He did while He was here.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - there is sunshine in my soul today.

Love, Hna. Crosland


Perro Sonpopo, our friend gecko

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Letter #63 - November 29, 2010

Hello one and all,

Glad to hear that you had a great Thanksgiving break. Once again, I didn't realize it was Thanksgiving day until about 8pm and so avoided thinking about all of the delicious food and turkey that I wasn't eating all day. I did eat some beans and rice and cheese though, accompanied by a large glass of pinolillo. ¡Que rico! Dinner is always pretty light, but Hna. Maritza makes big lunches and all her food is delicious. I told her to start making me a recipe book of all my favorite dishes. The trick will be finding all the right fruits and veggies and seasonings back in the states.

The Medina family is busy getting ready for their son's wedding on Pearl Harbor Day and then the trip to the temple on my Birthday. We wish we could be part of the festivities (and especially the temple trip) but we're excited for them just the same.

I wish I could tell you that Aldo and Karla are progressing, but they are so busy working all the time that we haven't even been able to teach them and they haven't come to church. We also had a slight hang up with Toni, but his baptism is scheduled for this coming Saturday. We found out last minute that Toni's Dad, a member of the church, although less-active, wanted Toni to wait another year or so before getting baptized. But we talked to him and helped him see the importance of baptism and especially the Holy Ghost for Toni and he gave his permission.

We're still working with Iliana and Juan, although they are coming along really slowly. They couldn't come to church this week, but Iliana came last week and they both said they would come next week. Well I've heard that a million times (literally), so we'll see if they really start making progress or if we'll have to leave them. The search for the next golden family continues and we have the goal to baptize two families in December.

The hard part about this time of year is that is the month of Catholic fiestas and processions, and chanting at the virgin María and everyone is drinking all the time. The weekends are horrible and the firecrackers and bottle-rockets and fireworks have started again and are in full swing. I remember when I first got here and I thought how weird it was that everyone was lighting off firecrackers at all hours of the day and night, every single day. I thought the country was crazy. Now I know that it's not a year round thing, just Nov, Dec, Jan thing. Haha. They almost don't make me jump and put me tense now, only a little bit.

The ward and missionary choirs that I'm trying to pull off are starting to sound pretty good. I've been drilling the parts with them, sometimes without a piano, which is a little bit tricky, but I improvise and lucky I have pretty good pitch. We have our ward Christmas cantata planned for Friday night, December 17 and then saturday morning, a service project, cleaning and fixing up some houses of less active members and investigators and taking them a food basket. On Sunday night, Dec 19 we have the stake Christmas program and our ward choir is singing Joy to the World (¡Regocijad!). I don't know exactly when the missionary choir will sing, because they haven't told us when we will be having the Christmas activity of the mission.

The biggest news this week is that we moved houses again. A sweet old lady who is a member of the church and who lives in Los Angeles, California has a house here in the ward as well and she happens to be visiting this month. We visited her at her house and she mentioned that only her sister lived there and she wished that someone else lived there to keep the house and her sister company. Well, the house is pretty nice, relatively speaking, and I jumped right on that offer and told her that we would love to live in her house. Haha, she loved the idea as well and even though we pass most of the day out of the house, she thought it would be a good fit. So this morning we packed everything up and with the help of the Elders, found a guy with a truck who could move us. The house is only about two blocks from our old house so it's still a great location. Hna. Cano and I are still rockin' the streets of Managua with the glory of the gospel and talking to everyone who will listen to us.

The time is starting to feel really short and it's time to sprint to the finish. We fall into our beds exhausted at night, but with smiles on our faces. I try not to let the problems of all those around me get me down, even though sometimes it's hard not to feel a little sad for the suffering of those I have learned to love so much. I'm grateful for the countless lessons that the Lord is teaching me about what it means to be a true disciple and walk the paths he trod. Where else could I learn this?

Through the trials and disappointments, we truly find what we are capable of and what's more, what the Lord is capable of. At times I feel like I'm standing in the dark and I don't want to move forward because I can't see where I need to go. But when I asked the Lord to light the way, He told me instead to put my hand in His, and advance in the darkness. His guiding hand is safer and more sure than a light and I know that when we put our trust in Him and humble ourselves to truly let Him guide us, we will find the way home.

I love you all with all my heart. I hope you know that I pray for you and that my thoughts are with you. May your hearts be filled with peace and warmth (I'm sending you a heat wave straight from Nicaragua), and trust in the Savior this week and always.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - walking hand in hand with the Lord.

Love, Hna. Crosland

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Letter #62 - November 22, 2010

Feliz día de gracias!

Thanksgiving is this week right? I'll miss all the yummy american food, but don't worry, I'm filling my belly just fine with gallo pinto, queso frito, y tajadas. I think the adjustment to the food I ate before the mission is going to be almost just as hard as the adjustment to the typical Nicaraguan diet that I'm now accostumed to. Well, another week has flown by. It's starting to scare me how fast the time is going. I sent some pictures and letter to Nagarote a few days ago with Hno. Jimmy, who has a calling working with Presidente Monestel of the south mission, and he brought back some letters and gifts from my favorite families there. It put me thinking about those first three months in Nicaragua and really who far I've come, how I've changed since then, and really how long it's been.

I was glad to hear from some of my converts and know that they are still strong in the church. The church really struggles there, especially with organization and leadership. It's a fight for the members to keep their branch functioning as it should, but they love the church and although their testimonies are basic, their faith is strong. The branch in Nagarote is actually doing pretty well and progressing since I was there, so that made me really happy. It's easy to look at them and think how far they are from functioning at the level of the church in Utah, but then when I think about the level that God functions at... We are all very far from functioning as a perfect organization and in relation to where God is, we are all nearly at the same level. There is no reason to feel frustrated or hopeless or overwhelmed with the progress of this work. It truly is WORK and thoroughly difficult, but the Lord directs it and we are all learning every day. The important thing is that we never throw in the towel and stop working. We must never tire, we must never give up. Even when the results of all we do seem minimal and to us, don't amount to much. We must press forward, faithfully trusting in Christ. So in all your church service and all you do to strengthen your familiy, don't feel inadequate and don't feel like your work is in vain. It's a long steep hill we are climbing, but we will reach the summit with all those who matter most to us if we strive to lift those around us every day.

We haven't been able to teach Karla since last Sunday because she is super busy and every time we go to visit, she is working. But we put a baptismal date with Aldo last night and he seems really positive. Also, he said that Karla has been ready the book of mormon that we left for her and is already about 20 pages into it. That is an astounding accomplishment for the typical investigator in Nicaragua. I just wish we could actually teach her and answer her questions. But we have another appointment with them tomorrow so we'll see how it goes. I told you about Toni and his cousin Mercedes right? Toni is the son of a less active family in the ward. Toni's uncle gave us the reference of the family and we have been visiting them. Toni is ten years old and he is super smart and loves when we come teach him. The whole family came to church yesterday and he is going to be baptized this saturday. Iliana came as well with her cute little boy and she is doing well. We still haven't been able to convince Juan to come though. We found a neat lady named Teresa that said she really felt the spirit as we sang a christmas hymn with her and we had a really positive lesson, but saturday her mother fell, who must be nearing 70, and Teresa had to go tend to her, outside of Managua. I hope she can return soon so we can keep teaching her.

The elders are all settled in and we are having a lot of fun with them in the ward. It's really nice to be sharing the ward and working a smaller area. And the Elders are a lot of fun. Elder Figueroa is really funny and a really straight arrow at the same time. He likes to do things right but has a ton of personality and is always making us laugh. And Elder Pinzón has one of the purest hearts of anyone I've ever met. He seems a little slow and sometimes his comments don't have anything to do with anything, but he always makes us laugh as well and hasn't a trace of guile. It's fun to be in the season of Navidad and to see people start putting up their lights and chirstmas trees. It's still a little weird without the snow, and I have serious snow withdrawels, especially because it's so blasted hot all the time, but it's starting to feel a bit like christmas. We started singing christmas hymns this week in church. That always does it for me. hahaha.

Well, the time has run down again. I love you and miss you all. The Medina family send their love as well. My mama Maritza is taking good care of me.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - every day a little bit closer...

Love, Hna. Crosland

Letter #61 - November 15, 2010

Hey all,

The double dose email was nice this week. I was sad to hear about Brian's stroke and a whole week late... but I'll keep him in my prayers and I'm glad that he is recovering well. Happy Birthday to a whole slew of people last week (Nancy, Matt, Michael, Jacob, Brian, Bryan, and Andrew) and to Brookie Gardner Keith on the 18th. I don't know why her birthday is cemented into my mind but I always remember it, so happy birthday Brookie. I'm glad to hear that things are going well in young women's mom, and that the girls are getting involved in activities. I wish we could find a way to do some really great activities with the youth here. It's just so hard to get people to actually come. They are starting to get people organized and trained to do a session of EFY here in 2012. They have done it for two years now in Guatemala and they are expanding the program. It seems to be just as powerful and impacting on the youth here as it is there. Truly an inspired program. The church is really growing here. Sometimes the progress seems slow, but I know that nothing can stop this work, and those who get involved will have their lives changed forever.

This week was a little strange. Okay, a lot strange. We had changes on Wednesday and .... drum roll, please... I'm still in Ciudad Jardin! Wow, five months and going on six. Hna. Arredonde called me and told me that the bishop of my ward called Presidente and asked him please not to change me. So Hna. Cano and I are still truckin' along. I really thought that I would be going but I am happy to be here with the members and converts and investigators that I know and love. The weird part of the week has been looking for a new house practically all day every day and not being able to visit. I can comiserate with Gaye and Lary a little bit I think. We were looking for a house because they decided to put two Elders in the area as well. The other weird thing was that the responsability to divide the area, find a house for the Elders and find people to be their permanent food appointments fell on me. We started searching on Tuesday of last week and when the Elders came on Wednesday, they still didn't have anywhere to live, or beds or desks or anything really. And it seems that no body was really that concerned except me. And I was told to find them a house. And to find it now. So we hardly got to visit our investigators and recient converts this week.

But yesterday was a good day. I'm having a lot of fun directing the ward choir here and teaching the few members that come (about 15) to sing the parts. We are working on a few Christmas songs and I want to put on a nice Christmas program, something that they have never done in the ward. They aren't wonderful singers and no one reads music (except for the piano player that we have, yay Rodolfo!) but when they start to get it and I can hear them really trying to sing their respective parts, I makes me so excited and happy. Our little choir is really coming along.

After dinner yesterday, Jennyfer Medina accompanied us on a few visits. We went to teach Iliana and Juan and it just so happened that Juans sister and Mom were visiting again (I think I told you about an incident that happened at their house last time the sister and mom were there, with the guys throwing rocks and the brawl?) Anyway, the experience was nice because as Hna. Cano was saying the opening prayer, a question came to my mind to ask them about prayer. Then Hna. Cano started the lesson. I wasn't sure what she was going to teach because we are really focusing on asking inspired questions and then dicerning their needs to teach the right gospel principle that will touch their hearts. She talked for a minute and then asked them a question, if they could spend five minutes with Jesus and ask him anything they wanted, what would it be. After they answered she started talking about prayer. It was just what the Spirit had put into my mind to teach them as well.

Then we found a new family that seems really positive named Aldo y Karla and their three little kids. They had a lot of questions right there in the street in front of their house and we taught them about keeping the sabbath day holy and the book of mormon, but we didn't have any copies of the Book of Mormon with us so we are going to stop by tonight to give them one. I really think that they can progress and get baptized. We just have to persuade them to come to church. Karla sells food and Saturdays and Sundays are the best selling days. And Aldo doesn't have work right now... Their situation is tough, and all too common, but I think that if we can help them have some spiritual experiences, especially with the Book of Mormon, then they will come to church next week.

We had a bit of an interesting experience with a man missing a few fingers, and although I want to tell you about it, I think I'll have save it for when I get back so that Mom doesn't worry. Don't worry Mama! We're fine and all is well. But remind me when you see me to tell you about "sin dedos".

Well, truly being a missionary is the best thing in the world - there's nothing like teaching latinos to sing.

Love, Hna. Crosland

Monday, November 15, 2010

Letter #60 - November 8, 2010

Hey everybody,

This week we had the baptism of Holman! Thanks for your prayers, I know they helped.

We gave him a hymn book, the Church's new version of the Spanish Bible, and a triple this week and he really dove in and started reading. He is basically teaching himself and when our district leader interviewed him, he was really impressed. "Take good care of this guy," he said, "he's really special."

We had challenged him to pray about the decision to be baptized this weekend and the next day, in our appointment we asked him how he felt. He said he felt good and that he was ready. Wow, I felt the spirit so strong and I was so excited. Not many of the ward members could come to the baptism but it was special and the spirit was there. I had prayed that it could be a spiritual experience for Holman and that he could feel the power of the priesthood. Then in church he was confirmed and he was basically radiating. He also got up towards the end of the meeting and bore his testimony. My heart was so full, listening to him bear his testimony of the Book of Mormon and of the prophet Joseph Smith. Hearing the testimony of your investigators is one of the sweetest things of the mission. He said that he felt lifted and hopeful for the future. The Elders Quorum is going to prepare him to recieve the Melchizedec Priesthood at the end of the month along with Luis, who we baptized about two months ago. I'm so happy to see them progressing. Holman is going to be a strong leader in the church and a strength to this ward. I feel so privileged that the Lord put him in our path and was able to use us to bring the gospel to him.

Fatima wasn't able to come to church this week and that made me sad. But she did come to a Relief Society activity on Saturday where we learned how to make bread, cheese bread and picos (sweet bread in the form of a triangle with cheese, sugar and cinnamon.)

We are also teaching a guy named Marvin. He came to church last week and we stopped by his house to get him excited to come again the next day. Well, his little old grandma came to the door and told us that he was there but that he has a problem with drugs and that right now he didn't want to come out to recieve us. I felt so sad, but we went in and talked to the grandma for a little while. I noticed the piles of clean but unfolded clothes around the room and asked if we could help fold. She was hesistant but we insisted and started folding. I found a white button-up shirt and asked if we could iron it for him. She let us and we left the shirt hanging over a chair in the room and the clothes nicely folded. We told the grandma to tell Marvin that we would pass by for him at 8:45. Well, we went by the next morning and there was Marvin, in his ironed white shirt, waiting for us to go to church and he stayed for all three hours. We went back with a member and taught him last night as well. He has a true desire to change his life and to overcome his drug addiction. I know that he can do it and that the gospel will change his life and help him repent and feel the amazing love of the atonement.

Well, it's time for changes once again. I have been feeling like my time here is coming to an end, but who knows. We will see what happens. If I leave here I will surely miss the Medina family, but really it's better to go now than wait for the next change because it's right before Christmas. That would be super sad. Well, the time has run short again... kind of like every week. I know this work is true and I am so grateful to be a part of it. I know that my own life is changing as I help others to change as well. Jesus Christ is our Savior and it is only because of Him that any of this is possible. He is the Way, the Light, and the Hope of the world.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - Jesus Christ heals each of our lives when we are humble.

Love, Hna. Crosland

Letter #59 - November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween yesterday!

They don't do anything here for Halloween because the Evangelicos put up a big fuss about it. They think it's all satanic, so everything was pretty uneventful. Today I want to tell you a little bit about Holman and Fatima.

They are a young couple that we contacted about a month ago. We are preparing Holman to be baptized this weekend. Fatima is a little more hesitant, is more "catholic", and has a lot of wounds that need to heal, but she is coming along. Right now they are separated because of some problems they had, but Hna. Cano and I are hoping the with a bit more time and the help of the gospel, they will get back together. They have a darling little girl who's about 18 months old.

Holman has been reading the Book of Mormon a lot and we have had some powerful lessons with him. We let the spirit guide us and ask the questions that just open him up. He told us his principle doubts about the BOM that we could resolve and also about a couple of interesting experiences. He saw a woman at work pass by carrying a bible a few months ago and it made him feel really bad because he had left the church he was attending and hadn't been reading the bible. It made him evaluate his life in the moment, but then he forget all about the experience. The night that we contacted him and Fatima, he remembered the experience and that is why he accepted the invitation of an appointment. He also told us about the first time he really felt the spirit while reading the bible, when the words really touched his soul. I promised him that he would have that same feeling again as he read the Book of Mormon and he really has been reading it. At the end of the lesson he said he felt like a great burden had been lifted from his shoulders. So cool. He always has a bunch of good questions about what he has been reading. Tonight we are going to go teach them both about the plan of salvation. I'm excited. Pray for him to be able to get baptized this weekend.

We've also had a couple really great lessons with Fatima and she has really opened up and told us about a lot of her problems. That we really know what to focus on when we teach her and the spirit is there to touch her heart.

Well, I love and miss you all.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - better than peach cobbler and vanilla ice cream (thanks for that craving Paige... )

Love, Hna Crosland

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Letter #58 - October 25, 2010

Hey mom and dad,

To answer your questions while they are still in my mind, Presidente Arredondo asked all of the North Americans if we could ask our parents to just send an additional package when they send one to us. But you have a good point because there are a lot fewer North American sisters than Latinas. Right now I think there are 16 sisters in the mission and only 5 of us are gringas. Maybe just send two generic packages if it is not too expensive, instead of gift bags for each one. I don't know. Or maybe one generic package that one of the sisters that never gets any mail can have and a package with gift bags for all of them (I think it would be about 11 but probably more will be here by Christmas, so maybe 15). Anything will be greatly appreciated but I don't want you to go into debt sending mail to Nicaragua or making Christmas joy for all the orphans in the whole world...

Um, what else? Yes, they do celebrate Halloween here in some way or other I think, and actually the day after Halloween is kind of like their memorial day, but instead of giving it a nice name like memorial day, they call it the day of the dead or something equally macabre. But I really don't know what Halloween will be like because I wasn't here in Halloween last year, I was confined in the Guatemala MTC practicing Spanish verbs, with my companions nametag on instead of my own, for a lame excuse at a costume. So, I'll let you know how Halloween goes. Is it this week? Wow, how fast
the time is going.

Um, um, umbrella. I think that a high tech umbrella would be very useful here. And I've been wishing I had one for about 4 months. Haha. The problem would be lugging it around. But especially after the monsoon we had yesterday and the trashed umbrella that I was under, which did virtually nothing for me because we arrived at the closest house as if we had swam there, I think a rubber jumpsuit might be better suited.

Well, I don't have a ton of time left, but I wanted to tell you a little about the "new doctrine" that we are putting into practice now. It is nothing new really, just PMG applied and more direct. We are focusing even more in inspired questions and learning to listen to the investigator as well as the spirit and then discerning what to teach instead of arriving at the house with a set plan ahead of time. It is a little more exciting because it's much more comfortable to go with a nice little plan of everything you're going to teach, but we have had a lot of good experiences. The inspired question is the key. It is a question that really hits home with the investigator, that makes them examine their lives and the deepest desires of their hearts. And then the spirit lets us know which doctrine we should teach them, always with questions. It's really been exciting to put this method in practice and we had some really great lessons. I wish I could tell you about all of them and about all of the people we're teaching right now, but maybe next week...

I do want to tell you about some crazy things I experienced yesterday though. Yesterday was pretty much a crappy day. I'll just say it. Out of the 17 positive investigators that told us they would come to church, only 1 actually came through. Even after going by all of their houses Sunday morning to pick them up and help them get ready. In sacrament meeting I stared up at the ceiling fan, working feverishly to keep the congregation cool, and tried to keep the tears back. It was pointless. I felt defeated. Well, after that, pretty much nobody was home. But actually, the monsoon, instead of dampening my spirit body along with my physical body, really lifted my mood. I just like the rain. I can't help it. Even when the rivers flooding through the streets are brown, smell like poo, and the floating trash makes you sick. Haha, that's just Nicaragua.

Well, when we finally found some investigators that were home, we went in and started asking them questions. We starting teaching about families and about our loving Father in Heaven, when some vagos started throwing rocks, one landing in the back patio of the house where the niños were playing. That sent papa Juan into a wild rage and he stormed outside and basically started a brawl. There were death threats flying back and forth, and then they threatened to pull out a pistol. They threw more rocks and hit Juan in the back. Then they started calling each other stupid, which is like insulting your ancestors and the very core of your soul. Basically the lesson didn't turn out so well in the end. We left when the family was storming out to go to the police, because they never answered the phone.

Well, as we were walking down the street a few minutes later, a truck passed with the truck bed stacked up with decapitated pig carcasses. Yummy. But the funniest thing was the muchacho sitting on top of the pile waving at us like, "No big deal, I sit on dead pig bodies with no heads every day," which truly is probably the case. Well, sorry for the mega paragraph today. My thoughts were a little unorganized. But guess what? I love you all a whole lot. Thanks for all you do, for your prayers and cares and thoughts and especially emails.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - some things only happen in Nicaragua. :)

Love, Hna. Crosland

P.S. Tell Brookie that I love her and that yes, I did get at least one Dear Elder from her. The thing is, I'm just a really bad pen pal... I will try to send her a letter soon. BBYYEEEE!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Letter #57 - October 19, 2010

Hello Dearies,

That picture of Lake Powell is so gorgeous! Man, I miss the desert. Haha. I also miss the seasons changing. Here there are only two options. Super hot, and super hot with rain. I'm glad everyone seems to be doing so well and being nourished by the good word of God as well. This week I learned a good lesson.

We have been working hard to find some new investigators and teach them with members to help them progress and come to church. To me it seems hard to get people to church out here, but I don't want to sound like a complainer to missionaries who have a much harder time. Well, Friday night rolled around and when the Elders called to ask us what our goal was for investigators in church on Sunday, I told him I thought we might be able to get 4 there (we had only 1 two weeks ago and 2 the week before). It seemed like the realistic answer to me. We are teaching about 20 which means that around 4 will actually show up at church and maybe 2 of them will get baptized in the next few weeks.

But then he surprised me and said, "No hermana, your goal is 15."

What? 15? I could feel myself starting to get irritated. Why did he think that he could just set my goal for me, and an unrealistic goal at that. And for what I did next, I feel really bad about. I just told him straight up how I felt.

"Elder, that is not a goal, that is a dream. And I don't work with unrealistic dreams. I work with goals that are acutally accomplishable. Maybe if you had told us on Monday that we had to get 15 investigators in church we could have had time to make plans and realistically accomplish that goal but the night before, with just one day to make it happen... it just can't be done."

He tried to convince me and I just kept being stubborn and obstinant with him. He told me not to kill the messenger. But when I hung up the phone, I got to work and started making plans with Hna. Cano. We made a list of all our investigators and those whom we had committed to come to church. We didn't have time to visit everyone we needed to to get a commitment from the others, but we made a list of people to call. Then we made a list of ward missionaries that could help us in the morning on Sunday to bring each investigator to church.

We worked hard all day Saturday, praying for the Lords help to accomplish this goal and by the end of the day I counted 14 investigators who had given us an affirmative "yes" that they would be at church and there were a few others who were possibilities. We got up early on Sunday, hoping for a miracle and started passing by for everyone. Well, with the help of a few of the ward missionaries, and the most help from the Lord, we had 9 investigators in church. I was super happy and a little bit sad at the same time because some of the investigators that I was sure would come, who I thought were the most positive, didn't show up. And three of the nine were brought by members and we hadn't even planned on them being there.

It is a great blessing when members bring their friends to church so I am excited to go and teach the new ones that came. But a little disappointed that we are another week behind with a few investigators who I thought were the strongest. Well, the Lord knows which ones will truly progress. But the point of the story is, have faith in the Lord to accomplish big tasks. I had to repent of my attitude on the phone with Elder Cruz, but once I did and decided to have faith and work to accomplish a goal that seemed bigger than life, the Lord did a miracle and brought nine investigators to church. More than quadrupling the number that we had last week.

I know that this is the Lords work. He is in charge. He is getting things done. The church will only go forward, it cannot go back. And we are simply here to be His hands, His voice.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - this is HIS work.

Love you all more than the smell of flowering trees in the dirty streets of Nicaragua.

Love, Hna. Crosland

P.S. The pictures are of the new shoes and of my little hija and of brother and sister Medina on Hna. Medina's birthday. We wrote her a song on the guitar and bought her a couple of cute parakeets. She loves them. Haha. It was a fun activity for us.




Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Letter #56 - October 11, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

Thanks for the emails this week. I heard from all five of you and it was so fun! I love hearing about what is going on in your lives. And thinking about cooler weather. It has seriously been an inferno her this past week. The rain has actually slowed down a lot and that has meant a whole lot of intense sun. I'm longing for a bit of a breeze from the mountains in Provo. I really miss the seasons changing. I've now gone nearly a whole year in Nicaragua and besides a bit of rain, the weather is always the same: hot and humid.

So I had a number of interesting experiences this week. The first one was nearly being struck by lightning. Seriously. We were walking along the street, looking at the clouds that were threatening to get us soaked, and a few big drops were just starting to fall. We had just passed by a corner where a bunch of guys were standing around who looked up to no good so when I initially saw the brilliant light and heard a huge crack, I thought they had fired off some kind of firework, as happens frequently here. But it was way to loud and way too bright to be a firework and the light raced into the ground. It was like 30 feet from us. We screamed and grabbed on to each other and then couldn't stop laughing about it for like five minutes. Whoa. I have never been that close to lightning.

The next experience was really embarrassing. Friday night we got in totally exhausted and finished up our numbers quickly because the Elders have been asking for them really early lately. Then I put my head on the desk waiting for the call and promptly fell asleep. A little while later, Hna. Cano tapped me on the shoulder. "ya hermana," she said. And in my daze, I got in my PJs, we said our prayers and I climbed up to my top bunk and went to sleep for the night. I was sound asleep when our renter came pounding on the door a little after 11 pm. "Las buscan!" he yelled. What on earth? I thought as I climbed down from the bed, not really fully awake yet. "quien?" I asked. "Los misioneros," he replied. And that's when it dawned on me that the call from the Elders never came and I had gone to bed without talking to them and they were now at the door to make sure we were okay.

So in my PJs, I went out to the main door and standing there was Elder Church, as well in his PJs, Elder Avila, the car of the AP's with Elder Gomez's head sticking out the window and two other office elders in the car. Oh, how embarrassing! I was pretty much horrified. We explained how we had fallen asleep and somehow not heard the phone and they were pretty tranquilos, but I felt way bad. When we got back in, l looked at the phone and we had like ten missed called. Even ward members had been calling. But the weird thing is that the first missed call was at like 10:40pm so that means that if the Elders called at the normal time of about 9:25pm, it never came in. I think something weird happened to our phone. Oh well, I'm sure basically the whole mission found out that the AP's had to come to our house to make sure we were in this week.

We also had some great experiences following promptings of the spirit. They strengthened my testimony that God guides us to those in need and those who are ready to hear the gospel. Thursday night, it was getting late and we had planned to just do some contacting before returning home. But then I thought of one of our investigators who wasn't home when we had tried to visit her earlier in the day. "How about we pass by for Ericka one more time?" I asked, "maybe now she's home." Hna. Cano agreed and we set off.

As we arrived at the house I thought I saw Ericka sitting in the back room, at the end of the dark corridor the leads to house, but when we asked if she was home, we were told she wasn't there. "Are you sure that's not her?" I asked, not wanting to give up so easily. "No, it's my grandma," said the muchacha. "And the other one?" I said, compelled to keep asking. "No, that's my aunt." Then she got up and began walking toward us. Her face looked dark and she had on heavy make-up around her eyes and a cigarette in her hand. She took a long draw and blew out the smoke. "If you want to come in and look, you can," she said challengingly, "I'm not lying. Ericka's not here." "No, that's alright," I said, "thanks." Then she surprised me with a question. "You've never seen me like this have you?" she said. I was taken back because although she seemed familiar, I didn't recognize her. "What's your name?" I asked, trying to remeber her. "you don't recognize me?" she said, turning her face to the light, "I'm Bianca."

Then it came to me that she was a friend of Ericka's who had come to an activity at the church about a month ago. We had taught her mom and sister a couple of times but not her specifically. "Do you know why I'm like this tonight?" she asked, and I could smell the liquor on her breath. "No," I answered simply. She then proceeded to talk for a good half an hour about an abusive relationship with her husband, and a father who after 30 years still abuses her mother, how she just couldn't take it anymore and how the day before, she had wanted to take her life. She planned to wreck her fathers car but to prevent her from doing anything, her brother in law had gotten in the car and when he finally calmed her down and she decided to turn back around to go home, she lost control of the car and got in an accident anyway. The worst part for her was that her brother in law got hurt and absolutely nothing happened to her.

We spoke little, but we spoke of the Savior, of the atonement, of hope. We sang "I am a Child of God" huddled there in the dark corridor and hugged her as she cried. She told us that we were her angels and that she knew God had sent us to her in her moment of need. She said she couldn't imagine what would have happened if she hadn't stood up and approached us to talk to us. We gave her the pamphlet of the plan of salvation and made an appointment to come back the next day. I left feeling a little amazed at how the Lord works and how he had sent us to listen to her. Pretty much all we did was listen but as she told us that she felt more at peace, that she felt hope, I knew that the Lord had used us that night, to lighten the load of one of his precious daughters. How grateful I am that the Spirit had guided us to that house and even though Ericka hid from us (because I'm pretty sure she was there) the Lord had someone else in mind when He sent us there.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - lifting the up the heads that hang down.

I hope you are all healthy, safe and well. Learning lots and seeking the Lord. I love you endlessly.

Love, Hna. Crosland

Monday, October 4, 2010

Letter #55 - October 4, 2010

Hey everyone,

I spent all my time writing an email to a girl that is coming to this mission in a while so I'll have to just give you brief updates. I am still in Cuidad Jardin but I'm finally training! It is so fun and my new companion "hija" is Hna. Cano from Guatemala. She's a cutie and really great. More about her later. Conference was wonderful and inspiring and I got to listen to all four sessions in english. What a blessing. The prophet is true and so is the gospel. Mom, thanks for your email and even though you feel like you don't express your thoughts well, you never cease to inspire me. Really. And my card doesn't expire until July 2012. I love you all so much and I'm sorry I couldn't write more.

For more reading material you can read the email I sent to the girl coming out... here it is:

Alicia,

Congrats on being called to the greatest mission on earth. You are in for the adventure of your lifetime. Okay, first to answer a few of your questions.

1) Temple clothes – leave them home. They’ll rent them for you in Guatemala and Provo.

2) Long sleeved shirts - I have a couple and I hardly ever wear them (like never). I did serve in the coldest area of Nicaragua and in that area. I was always borrowing sweaters that were heavier than the ones I brought. If I were you, I’d bring a couple light sweaters that you can put on and take off as the weather changes during the day and one heavy one for when you get sent to Jinotega.

3) My favorite skirts are the ones that I can wear any shirt with, that are a little bit longer and a little bit wider. Longer because you are going to have to sit on all kinds of things out here to teach people including rocks and stumps and curbs of sidewalks that are low to the ground. And wide because it doesn’t restrict you when taking big steps and getting on and off busses. Basically bring clothes you feel cute and comfortable in. Think about doing yard work in Sunday clothes when making your choices… ;)

4) I wouldn’t bring boots but I would bring a rain poncho (something plastic and cheap will work just fine) and an umbrella that is easy to carry around with you for the rainy season.

5) Don’t worry about getting enough clean water. In every apartment there are big 5 gallon jugs of agua pura and the mission pays for them to be delivered. Also in the MTC you’ll get a water bottle that filters any water you put in it.

6) I brought my personal debit card and yes, there ATMs (cajeros) everywhere that you can use. You’ll get a debit card from the mission as well where you’ll take out your monthly misisonary budgit.

7) Medications – bring a bunch of tylenol or ibuprofen or whatever your preferred pain killer is. Also bring anit-itch cream or allergy medicine. Also diarrhea medicine and something for stomach aches. Really you can get pretty much any kind of drug here over the counter, like stuff you need a prescription for in the states. And everyone here will tell you about a million different drugs that will help with whatever you might be suffering with. But for that we have a mission nurse. I would also bring a nail clipper than can handle and cut out ingrown toenails. Don’t worry about being sick. You’ll feel yucky and you just deal with it like a champ and then it passes. The Lord really takes care of His missionaries.

Well as far as other stuff to bring, I love my mountainsmith bag. It has a shoulder strap and a waist strap. I would just get one size bigger though. I got the small one and the médium one would have been better to fit PMG more easily.

To prepare, read PMG at least once through before you enter the MTC and memorize the order of the principles in the first three lessons. Then just get used to making small talk and talking with everyone! It was hard for me to just go up to random people sitting outside their houses and generate a conversation. Talk to everyone. The faster you get used to talking to people and making conversation the better and more comfortable you’ll be on the mission. I don’t know how your spanish is, but I think I can say that it will be a struggle for you at first. The Guatemala MTC will help a ton. I’ll try to make a list of good phrases in the next few months to give to you when you get here.

Also if you are musically inclined, bring arrangements of hymns and other church music. They are always in need of musical numbers for conferences and church meetings. Um… suitcases. I have one enormous one and one small one. I wish I had two médium ones. And don’t pack them both way full before you leave. Leave yourself some space. And maybe bring a simple back pack as well. I’ve had to pack for just one or two nights because of staying the night with some other hermanas and I wished I had something small to pack clothes in for just a day. I left my hair straightener home, but I would bring it if I could od it again. It’s nice to be able to fix yourself up nice for the conferences. Oh, that reminds me. Have one or two nice outfits for the conferences, like a cute suit jacket and matching skirt. Something sophisticated. You’ll get sick of feeling grubby, and the conferences are your chance to look nice.

Other things

- Travel pillow (or room in suitcase for a real one)
- More garments than they tell you to bring (like16 pairs)
- Travel iron
- Little compass because the directions here are crazy
- Two laundy bags, one to keep dirty clothes in while your clothes are being washed. A lot of time we live out of our suitcases. There aren’t places to put the clothes.
- A wallet to keep in your bag and one to keep the rest of your Money and personal debit card in in the house. Okay, that is all I can think of for the momento and really all the time I have today. If you have any more questions, feel free to send me an email at Michelle.crosland@myldsmail.net. See you soon!

Hna. Crosland

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Letter #54 - September 27, 2010

Hey everybody,

Thanks for all the messages this week. It was fun to hear from the Crosland Clan. Sounds like you are all doing awesome, except for Amie's mouth contraption (ouch!). Mom, thanks for sending the music. I haven't had a chance to look through it yet, but I'm sure it will be awesome.

The rain is still going strong. It rains every day but it actually hasn't been super strong. There were some hurricane warnings but mostly for the Atlantic coast. And there has been a little bit of flooding in various parts of the country but nothing here.

I'm also feeling back to normal. After the fever went away, a nasty rash, that turned my skin red and spotty and made me so itchy I wanted to die and crawl right out of my skin, plagued me for a few days and made it extremely hard to concentrate on anything, but now I'm feeling good.

So changes are this Wednesday. I'm thinking Hna. Tunche will go and I will stay. But we'll find out tomorrow night what is to become of us. We went shoe shopping this morning and finally found some in Payless (where else?) which is actually like the posh shoe store out here. I also bought two pairs of no show socks and some shoe polish. So a huge thanks to grandma and grandpa from both Hna. Tunche and I. We are looking stylish and feeling snazzy in our new shoes.

This weekend we had the baptism of Ivania. She is the niece of one of the ward members and is 8 months pregnant. She is living with Hna. Montano and has been to church a few times, but we had never been to teach her until this week. She is super sweet and humble and accepted the lessons and the challenges to keep the commandments and we were able to baptize her this weekend. What I have learned about having baptisms is this: they are simply gifts from the Lord. We can do all we can and work our guts out and some times it just seems like no one is willing to change, and then all of the sudden, the Lord puts someone in your path who is prepared, who is humble, who wants to make changes in their life, and you are just lucky enough to be there to teach them.

I feel like I almost have nothing to do with finding these people. We are out in the streets trying to find people all day and to help the people we have to progress, but really all we can do is be as obedient as we can and work as hard and as smart as we can and then the Lord does the rest. He takes our effort, and although it usually didn't get us anywhere, he does the rest and gives us someone to teach and baptize. This is truly the Lord's work. We play such a small and insignificant part, but we need this experience. I am so grateful for the people that the Lord has entrusted me with and for the tiny role I have been able to play in their lives, to help them learn eternal truths that can save their lives.

I hope everyone is excited for conference this weekend. I am WAY excited, even though I'll probably have to listen to all of conference in spanish, which just isn't the same. But that's okay. Okay, I love you all. Thanks again Grandma and Grandpa for the new shoes.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - receiving the blessings of the Lord.

Love, Hna. Crosland

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Letter #53 - September 20, 2010

Hello everybody,

The highlight of the week was definitely the baptism of Luis, Suyen, Carlos, and Kenneth on Saturday. Just in case I haven't mentioned, Carlos is Luis and Suyen's eight year old son, and Kenneth is the son of a member but he just turned nine at the beginning of September so we taught him the lessons and he was also baptized this Saturday.


It was great and we had the support of quite a few members. Then they were all confirmed in church yesterday and it was really special. The only thing that made the experience less than perfect is that I started feeling pretty sick during the baptism.

I guess I have to back up a little bit.

Last monday I finished up my week of the terrible cold, but the very day that I started feeling better, Hna. Tunche got sick with a bad fever, body aches, and diarrhea. Well, Saturday she started feeling better and Saturday night, all of the sudden, I started feeling hot and shakey and since then I have felt pretty bad. Today the fever is less but I feel really dizzy and weak. So basically as a companionship we have more than two weeks of being sick and who knows how long it's going to hold on, whatever I have now. Hna. Medina has been so sweet. She is totally our mom here. She told me not to tell you that I've been sick, but I just had to. When you don't feel good, you just want your mom. And if she can't be there, at least she can know how you feel. So mama, don't worry. I'm going to feel better soon.

I miss you a lot right now. Like Daddy said, the trials are to polish us and knock off the rough edges. Well I've still got a lot of rough edges and the Lord is trying to polish me.

This week we also had a really great conference with Elder Don. R Clark of the Seventy. It was wonderful and very inspiring. I felt humbled and inspired to do better and I wrote down a lot of good points on how to improve. I know that the Lord loves us and is mindful of us. He wants us to succeed and He gives us many opportunities to do so. Let's make the most of everyday and give our best. And even on the hard days when our best effort doesn't amount to much, the Lord accepts it and makes up the difference.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - shall we not go on in so great a cause?

Love, Hna. Crosland

P.S. I will try to find some time to look for a new pair of shoes. It probably wont be until next monday because today I just need to rest. But tell Grandma and Grandpa thank you and that I love them a lot.

EDITORS NOTE:

HAPPY ONE YEAR TO THE HERMANA! A member made her a cake to celebrate.





Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Letter #52 - September 13, 2010

Dear fam and friends,

This weeks email is going to be short and sweet. I don't have a ton of time today. But I did have some really wonderful experiences this week that I wanted to share, and some frustrating ones that make the sweet ones all the better.

On Saturday we weren't having any luck with finding the people we had planned to teach. But finally we a lady named Flor let us come in and start teaching her. We are teaching her son Kevin and we had taught her as well one time before but this time, Kevin wasn't home and it gave us the chance to answer some of her questions. She started asking about the Book of Mormon. Basically it turned out to be a really frustrating lesson in which she was totally closed to accepting anything we said and just threw one objection after another at us. I felt like we actually did a really good job of answering her questions and objections and showing her how Heavenly Father's plan all works together so perfectly. I even felt the spirit testify through me as I bore my testimony of a Loving Father in Heaven and the book that he prepared for us in these last days to clear up all the confusion that exists in religion. But she was super closed to taking anything into her heart and at the end wouldn't even accept the invitation to read part of the Book of Mormon to find out for herself what it contained and if it was true. That always hurts a little bit. Not because we were rejected, but because she will never know what kind of happiness and truth she could have had. I love the Book of Mormon with all my heart.

Now, contrast that experience with yesterdays testimony meeting where Bernarda, our recient convert of about a month ago, got up and bore a sweet and simple testimony that she is so grateful to have discovered the true church, and that through the reading the Book of Mormon, she knows that the church is true. Wow. That was probably one of the sweetest moments I have had. It is so hard to get people to read the Book of Mormon out here, members AND investigators. And hearing her testify of the Book of Mormon from the pulpit yesterday about made my heart burst. She has gone through a ton of trials since she got baptized, but she has been faithfully reading the book of Mormon and it has made all the difference.

The other sweet experience was with Luis and Suyen. They didn't get baptized this saturday because Suyen still had a lot of doubts and is worried about her family totally rejecting her if she gets baptized because they are super catholic. But we trudged through a hurricane to get to their house last night and it was well worth the bath. When we got there, dripping wet even though we had a huge umbrella, Suyen said she had some news for us. She said that they wouldn't be coming to church anymore and that they were going to stop receiving the lessons... my heart skipped an entire beat and a half. But then a sly smile creeped across her face. Just kidding, she said, we're going to be baptized on Saturday the 18th, for sure. Wow! I wanted to jump up and shout and dance, but I settled for giving her a big hug. This family is really special. I feel like if they were the only ones that I got to teach and baptize in my whole mission it would be worth it.

Well time is up, but I just have to say that being a missionary is the best thing in the world - the bitter makes the sweetness that much sweeter.

Love,

Hna. Crosland

Monday, September 6, 2010

Letter #51 - September 6, 2010

Well hi everybody,

How are ya'll? It sounds like it was an exciting a spiritual week. Congrats to Will on his patriarchal blessing. That will be such a guide for you in your life if you read it often and work to fulfill the requirements for each blessing promised. And three cheers for Ali, all the way up there at BYU-I! I'm so happy and excited for you, and I can't believe that by the time I see you again, you'll be a seasoned veteran at the whole college thing. Wow, time is flying. Thanks for the uplifting emails mom and dad.
I love reading them. They are a great source of strength to me each week, a recharge of energy.

I have had one of the nastiest colds of my life for the last four days and it is still going strong. But I have been amazed at all I can do, even while feeling very sick, with the Lord's help, and it hasn't slowed down the work. I hope that it doesn't hold on much longer though. I don't think my nose will make it. We had stake conference this weekend and it was very nice. It almost felt like the church at home. We had 7 investigators there, including Luis and Suyen, Erika, and Oscar. I don't know if I have
told you about Erika. She is the wife of a less-active member and she has a baptismal date for this saturday along with Luis and Suyen. As of now, I think they are on track. We watched the Joseph Smith movie with L and S yesterday at the stake presidents house and it was really awesome. Oscar is a 20 year old kid that we are teaching who always has a new rumor about the church for us to clear up. He's progressing and I think in a few weeks he will get baptized as well. Mijaly and Yolanda have been really hard to find still. But we made an appointment with them for tonight and we'll see how it goes. I hope we can rescue them. It will break my heart to lose them.

Hna. Tunche and I will be companions at least until Sept. 29. We work pretty well together, despite our differences. Actually it's our different strengths that really make up for what the other lacks. Almost daily I am grateful for something she did that I didn't think to do that turned out to make a big difference. But I should be better at telling her that. The changes actually come out to be nearly exact for my 18 months because of the three week extension, March 17. And I think I'll be able to choose if I want to come home then or at the next change which would be at the end of April. But I have been thinking that I want to jump right into the spring term of school so I'm thinking march.

It seems this week that I have been thinking about a lot of things. For one reason or another, I've been really contemplative. Before my mission I used to think that it wouldn't matter to me if I got rejected every day and hardly anyone would listen to us. I was so sure that just "being a missionary and preaching the gospel" could be enough and that if I had any success in terms of baptisms, it would be icing on the cake. But that was before I started to love the people here and desire their salvation. Having "success" to be able to report numbers still doesn't matter to me, but knowing that the gospel can truly save someoe and to have them not be able to open their eyes and see it really hurts. It's not a hurting for myself, I ache for them. I want so badly to help but so many don't let us. But we have to push forward and do the best that we can. Baptism the the key.

I was also reading a talk that Paige gave in church some months ago and sent me this morning. She spoke about love. And I started really contemplating the subject. It seems on my mission that I've discovered just what an amature I am at love. I used to think that I had it all down, that I was so capable of loving everyone. How naive I was. To my surprise and discontent, Christ-like love has been something I've struggled with here. That purest of all love should be the true motive of all we do. But how many times have I looked for and found other motives to keep me going, worldly motives, shallow motives. Why am I so easily annoyed and discouraged? Is the charity in my heart truly so thin and unsubstantial?

I think that we can study the pinciples of the gospel and tributes of Christ all our lives, and we should, but we really don't learn them with our hearts until we are put to the test. All my life I have studied the gospel and I have a lot of knowledge about it. I have read about thousands of examples of love and charity. And now I am here with the opportunity to put that knowledge into action, to somehow get it from my head to my heart and I feel like I fail 9 times out of 10. We don't learn until we are tested. It's easy to love your best friend and serve her. It's easy to love your family especially when you are very far away from them. But loving complete strangers, and people you haven't even met yet, enough to sacrifice so much, to go out and work when you are sick and tired and have nothing left to give, except the shred of charity you pull up from deep within your heart, that is something of a challenge.

I hope I am learning to love, despite my failures. And perhaps it is through my failures that progress is being made. No, not through failing, through the courage to pick myself up and keep trying. Let us cultivate charity and not be discouraged when our capacity to love is tested and we don't quite measure up yet. We are little children and cannot bear all things now, but must grow in grace and truth... and I would add charity.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - try, try again.

I love you all with all my heart.

Love, Hna. Crosland

Letter #50 - August 30, 2010

Hey you guys,

Sorry you missed the email last week. I don't know what happened. I actually did send it, so it must have just gotten lost in cyber-space. So, we have a little problem in our one-room house called low water pressure. Here's a fluid dynamics problem for you. When you have one water source that is being directed to varias locations and someone is washing while another person is trying to take a shower, what happens? Basically, the water dribbles out of the shower head and sticks to the wall most mornings.

So trying to get yourself wet is kind of interesting. It's like this, I stretch up my arm and place my palm against the wall where the stream of water is coming down, more or less making a bridge so that the water is directed down my arm and onto my shoulder and from there to the rest of my body. This is method number one. When we have a bit more pressure, there is the good old make-a-cup-out-of-your-hands method and then splash it on your body (think ELF in the shower). But my favorite is when we've got a good sprinkle going and I get all lathered up and then all of the sudden, not a single drop is coming out. Luckily it usually comes on again in a few minutes, but the moments spent standing in the shower wondering what I'm going to do if it doesn't come back on are entertaining.

Well, the best news this week is that Shilo got baptized! Mijaly and Yoli still aren't ready and I'm actually pretty worried that Mijaly is loosing interest. He hasn't let us teach him all week. But things are going really well with Suyen and Luis. Tonight we are going to teach them about Family Night at the bishop's house. The activity we had for the baptisms this week went pretty well. It was all centered around the vision of Lehi and the tree of life. We watched a little video to get started and then everyone followed the iron rod (a rope covered in tin foil) around the church, facing various temptations including a discoteca and a room filled with candy. Finally, everyone ended up in the room with the baptismal font where a lovely christmas tree represented the tree of life. Haha. It was pretty funny. Then we had the baptisms. I attached some pictures of the activity and Shilo.

Preparing for the activity

The rope covered in tinfoil--I mean the iron rod . . .


Baptisms

Getting baptized is super fly

Shilo

Today we splurged and bought betty crocker cookie mixes at the grocery store (la colonia). It was like heaven eating cookie dough, and all the latinos just stared and looked at us like we were crazy. "You are going to get so sick from eating that" they said. But I assured them that I have been eating cookie dough since I was born and that nothing would happen. Hna. Campos wanted the cookies to be done faster so she turned the heat up as high as it would go, but luckily, elder iverson saw her do it and quickly turned it back down. It made me laugh. Cookies are just not a latin american thing. But they turned out good. We also watched The Mountain of the Lord on the big screen in the church. It was awesome. I think I've seen it once before, but it really hit me how much the saints sacrificed to build the Salt Lake Temple. It also made me miss the temple a lot. We also watched part of a church video but in Portuguese and I was stoked when I realized that I could understand almost everything. Portuguese is so cool. I want to learn it when I get home.

Daddy, I'm glad you are happy with your eye surgery still and that everything went well. And I love hearing about your ward and what you are doing with them and how the family is participating. It sounds like your day of rest yesterday was a little like one of mine... not at all restful. But when we are in the service of the Lord, He promises us a rest that will be eternal.

I love you all dearly.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - and it never ends, keep working hard to spread the joy.

Love, Hna. Crosland

P.S. I can't wait to meet my new niece in a few months. I hope everyone is taking good care of Paige and Mikey. And good luck to Ali-bug with starting school up at BYU-I. I know you'll be great Ali, you're starting an amazing new chapter of your life so live it up to the fullest! And Will, just know I love you and I'm always thinking about you.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Letter #49 - August 23, 2010

Dear family and friends,

I’m still here in Ciudad Jardin with Hna. Tunche. Neither of us had changes. So we at least have another six week in this lovely garden city…haha, truly there’s no great garden, but I do love it here. This week’s letter is going to be a little bit short because I spent too much time being charmed by the ultrasounds of my new niece, baby Ada. Wow, what a heart breaker. It makes me ache to be home a little bit but I also can’t imagine my time here being over. There is so much to DO!

We are teaching a new family that I'm really excited about. Their names are Luis and Suyén (sue-jen, with the accent on jen). Yesterday was there second time at church and Luis even came with a white shirt and tie on! Wow, and with their cute kids all gussied up. They are really open and like learning about how they can strengthen their family. Suyén feels like men have all the priviledges in this church and was asking why women can't have the priesthood but we did our best to explain the roles of husbands and wives in the gospel and how we aren't complete without each other, that the church doesn't favor men and teaches about the divinity of women. I hope she can see the beauty of our different but equal roles.

I hope you're still praying for Mijaly and Yolanda. We're fighting for them to be baptized this weekend but Mijaly is disanimated (is that a word in English?). We are going to bring them to the Medina's tonight for a Noche de Hogar and try to help him see what a difference the gospel can make for his young family. Maybe seeing the success of the Medina family and how happy they are will help him see the big picture a little clearer and get him interested in the gospel again.

Paige said that it has been a little rainy there lately. It's still raining here a lot too, and the thunder and lightening storms are gorgeous. A few nights ago as we were leaving the house of Luis and Suyén, a monsoon started. Our house isn't very far away from theirs, but by the time we were unlocking the front gate, we were completely drenched. Not a dry spot on us. Even my hair, which was tied up in a bun was soaked through. Wow, maybe it's time to buy an umbrella? Supposedly October is the hurricane month. I guess we'll see.

I still haven't gotten the package yet, but with a little luck it's still on it's way and nobody snatched it. I've worn holes into the bottom of the new shoes you sent me in April, but they still work just fine. And I still have one pair without holes in the soles, just the side of the leather is ripped. But I will be fine with shoes and clothes until I get home. The rainy season is coming to an end, just two more months, and everything is just fine in the logistics department. The Lord has blessed me with everything I need, and I couln't be happier to have everything that I do.

It is such a blessing to have a solid roof over head, to be eating three meals a day, and to have clothes to put on my body. And what's more, I have the gospel in my life, so even if I didn't have those things, I know I'd make it through and I know what the future holds if we are faithful. Let us all go on in this beautiful and eternal cause. We have so much to give.

Let's not hold back, because we are truly a blessed people beyond measure.

Thanks for all your support and love. I love hearing from you.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - we've got everything to give and nothing to loose.

Love, Hna. Crosland