Monday, March 29, 2010

Letter #27 - March 29, 2010

Greetings from... JINOTEGA!

Yep, I'm still here - but what's even better is that Hna. Aguilar is still here too, and now we have two more sisters living and working with us. Hna. Bustillos (mi madre y entrenadora) and Hna. Juarez arrived Wednesday afternoon and the four of us are all crammed into our tiny matchbox house. It's pretty comical. We moved the two desks that were upstairs to the main level and put two additional mattresses on the floor in the room where the desks were. They barely fit wall to wall in that little room with just a tiny bit of space at the head of the mattresses for their suitcases. And with four desks and our chairs downstairs...there isn't space to walk through when we're all sitting to study, so if one person gets up to go to the bathroom or something, everyone has to stand up to let her by. Haha. We mostly laugh it up. Hna. Bustillos and Hna. Aguilar have exactly three more weeks from today before they finish their missions and Hna. Juarez is just two and a half weeks behind them. She will finish out the change with me when the other two leave.

Technically, I'm working with Hna. Bustillos again and it is very interesting to be back with her. I can see how much I've changed and how much I've improved with the language. I understand her a lot better and I am more capable of incorporating her great qualities into the way I work. It's also funny because she and Hna. Aguilar are basically complete opposites.

Hna. Bustillos does everything exactly by the book and is probably the most dilligent person I have ever met in my life. She teaches very seriously and tends to teach too much sometimes. But she seems to never get tired and has this energy that comes directly from her desire to serve the Lord with all she has.

Hna. Aguilar is loud and loveable and is constantly laughing. When she enters a house, everyone starts to smile and trust her immediately. Most of the time she leaves out the hymn and sometimes she doesn't teach anything at all, just chats with them and listens and jokes around. She is pretty disorganized and when she is tired tends to put things off. But she has a rockin' testimony and the ability to connect with everyone, so when she teaches it really hits home. I want to be the perfect combination of them both.

It's interesting to be sort of stuck in the middle and of course living with four people is twice as hard as living with two. But we are all working hard and learning from each other and it's amazing the difference two extra missionaries make in an area. We had 12 investigators at church yesterday... sweetness. The challenge continues to be getting the MEMEBERS to church. The attendance went down yesterday and President Fraatz wasn't very happy with us, but we are going to do better this week and watch the miracles unfold.

Hno. Raul was baptized this Saturday and confirmed yesterday in sacrament meeting. He's so cool. We found some families this week that I'm really excited about and Hna. Bustillos and I are working with the ward list to find and meet all the members (there are about 410) and figure out why they don't come to church. Many have moved, some have died, and others are now Evangelicos or J-dubs. Everyone has their excuse, right? It's disheartening to see all the problems within the ward and hear all the gossip and silly circumstances that keep people from finding the peace and joy that only gospel of Jesus Christ can bring. But it's equally heart-warming to watch people's lives change as they embrace the truths that will save them. The Book of Mormon has amazing power. It truly is a book for our time, for our challenges, for our salvation.

I'm excited for conference this weekend but I think we'll only be able to see the Sunday session. We have to travel to Matagalpa to watch it. So send me the ensign as soon as you get your hands on it! Oh, that reminds me - thanks for all the awesome valentines and chocolates. Love Love Love. I finally got the V-day package and it looked like it got hammered in the mail, but no damage was done to the precious cargo within.

Okay, time is up. But I love you all a whole bunch.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - and it's four times better with four working together!

Love, Hna. Crosland

Monday, March 22, 2010

Letter #26 - March 22, 2010

Dear lovies,

Yes, I'm still here in Jinotega. We'll find out tomorrow night if we have changes. For one part I hope I have changes because I want to go to the change conference to see all the newbies and get the package you sent and get away from the things that are eating me here, but for the other part I don't want a new companion. Hna. Aguilar and I have so much fun working together and I would love to have the priviledge of "killing" her. She came from the MTC together with 3 other hermanas (Hna. Bustillos is one of them, my trainer) and Pres. Fraatz basically forced all of them to extend their missions nearly two months. They all completed 18 months the 4th of March and aren't leaving until the 19th of April. So I hope we can stay together for four more weeks but I don't think it's likely. I'll let you know next week where I am and who I'm with.

The weather in Jinotega is super hot in the day and gets cool at night. It hasn't been super cold for a few weeks. But semana santa (passion week) is supposed to be the hottest week of the year in all of Central America so it would be nice to be in the coolest area (Jinotega) for that week, but we'll see.

We had a good week of finding and teaching, but unfortunately all the baptisms we had lined up for this week fell through. Raul got really sick on thursday and still had a fever and wasn't doing great Saturday and Sunday so we are postponing his baptism until next week. Elizabeth and her 8-year-old son were going to be baptized too but she just has a lot of fears that have to do with her family (the part that aren't members), so we don't know when she finally put aside her fears and follow the Lord. But I did have some cool experiences teaching and we found some great new investigators.

This week we stopped by the house of an investigator named Isaac. I don't know if I've written about him, but he's about 60, knows the bible really well and is active in his own church (I can't remember if it's evangelical or what), but we taught him the first lesson a couple weeks ago and gave him a Book of Mormon with the commitment to read 3 Ne 11 and pray about it and come to church last sunday. But when he didn't come to church last week and we showed up this week and he hadn't done anything, I was disappointed. So Hna. Aguilar started to lay it down. I listened in awe as she bore a bold and powerful witness of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration. It was the kind of testimony that you can't just ignore or cast aside, the kind of testimony that is not apologetic in the least, straight forward and full of the spirit. Then I added my witness that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kindom of God on the earth and that it is the only church that has the power to perform the saving ordinances of baptism with the authority of God. I bore testimony of the veracity of the Book of Mormon and of Joseph Smith and told Isaac that if he doesn't ask the Lord in earnest, than he will never know the truth of our words. It was exhilirating, and a spiritual high different from any other. And the cool part is that he came to church yesterday. Hopefully he will find his answer that the Book of Mormon is true soon. I'm excited to meet with him again this week.

Now for some sad news. The first counsellor in the branch presidency, Hno. Felipe, works as a night guard for some sort of offices I think. Saturday night, a lady that he had seen walk by and say hello for quite a few days, stopped by and offered him a drink. Hno. Felipe is the kind of person that can't offend anyone, a super kind and gentle old guy. So he accepted the
drink through the window. Well, it turns out the drink was drugged and when he was passed out the theives forced the door and robbed the place. Sunday morning his wife got worried because he hadn't come home and was late for his 7:00am meeting in the church so she went and found him unconscious on the floor. He's still in the hospital in and out of consciousness and the doctors said that the drugs have affected his heart. They still don't know what they gave him but it's pretty bad and we're all praying for him. Sorry to end on a sad note...

I love you all a lot. I'm glad you got my package a while ago but I can't believe no one liked the Pinol. Nicaragua is famous for that stuff. In fact a nickname for Nicas is Pinoleros. I'm going to bring a bunch home in my suitcase! Anyway, hopefully I'll be able to pick up your package at the change conference. Loves.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - when we are obedient, the Lord speaks through our mouths to take the truth to the world.

Love, Hna. Crosland

Photos from a recent conference with Elder Clayton and Elder Martino of the Seventy

my legs (que feas) with the horrible tan and bug bites

video
quick video of Hna. Aguilar

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Letter #25 - March 15, 2010

Wow! Tomorrow is my 6th month mark. How crazy is that?

I hope everyone is happy and healthy and not suffering from insect bites. It's a miracle I don't have dengue. ;) All the members comment on my pock-marked legs and suggest solutions, but nothing seems to help. But even if you tried to send something, it wouldn't likely get to me until I'm in a different area and by then the problem will have passed. Plus I'm still not sure what is biting me. Maybe it's mosquitos in the streets but at night in the house it's either fleas or the mites that the pigeon's living in the roof have. If there was any time we could do something about it, but changes are next week. If I stay here I'll look into it more. But way too much about insect bites already... sorry.

How cool about Elder Oaks at stake conference. Wow, how spoiled you Utah folks are! I forgot how often I got to hear the apostles or the profet speak at home. Lucky, lucky, lucky. Thanks for sharing your experience of listening to the spirit mom. It amazes me all the time how the spirit prompts and directs us, even giving us specific instruction for our lives and the lives of the people we are responsible for. It really is the most important thing we can do to live worthly of the Holy Ghost's constant companionship.

This week was a bit of a downer because the family we had planned to baptize this weekend still wont commit to get married. Sheesh. But we'll keep working with them. Raul came to church again this week. Man, this old guy is pilas. He made a sweet cover for his Libro de Mormon with heavy cream-colored paper and he told us that he reads it for 30 min. in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon. How sweet is that. I wish we could get everyone to read the Book of Mormon like that. We taught him about the word of wisdom a couple days ago and he accepted it right off the bat and committed to quit drinking coffee and to quit smoking. Yay for Raul!

As I strive to keep improving and work hard, I seem to be bombarded with all my flaws and weaknesses. Serving a mission is like lifting up a big rock in the garden. Everything looks all pretty until you pick that rock up, and then all the critters underneath scatter and start running around in plain daylight. All of the weaknesses that I never confronted seem to highlight themselves to me here on the mission. And now that I've picked the rock up, I have to face them. It's discouraging at times to see all my flaws so clearly, but I know that the best way to diminish them is to lose myself in the work. Because as I lose myself in my Savior, he makes me so much more than I could make of myself. We can try to fix every little thing that's wrong with us and make very little progress, but if we focus on others and on serving the Lord in the way He desires, we will find that we are changing without even realizing it.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - I'll never regret picking up this rock.

I love you all a whole bunch and more.

Love, Hna. Crosland

P.S. No, I haven't received any packages yet, but hopefully this week or next at interview or the change conference. And speaking of packages, I sent one to mom my last week in Nagarote which would have been 5 or 6 weeks ago. Has it gotten to you? I sent it the same way I sent the first package home, so I'm sad it didn't arrive quickly like the other. Let me know when (if) you get it. Loves.

P.P.S. Just keep sending everthing to the mission address. It comes through the pouch fast enough. Just the packages take a while because we only get them when we go to Managua for multi-zonas, but that is the same as before. Loves.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Letter #24 - March 8, 2010

!Buenas¡

Espero que todos estén muy muy bien. Thanks for your email this week mom & dad. To answer mom's question, I had two weeks in Nagarote when we didn't baptize and we didn't baptize again this week here in Jinotega. So that makes 4 in total. Boo. I hate it when we don't baptize.

We are working with a muchacha named Elizabeth who is ready, has a testimony, is reading the book of mormon, has come to church a bunch of times, and who wants to be baptized... she just has the huge obstacle of her family including her husband who are against it and she is afraid to disrupt the peace. It's frustrating. I was hoping that she would take the plunge this weekend but we're still waiting.

We're also teaching two families who live in a really poor area of Jinotega called Villa Valencia. Jinotega is surrounded by "mountains" kind of like Utah Valley, but everything is on a smaller scale. And Villa Valencia is up on the benches in the North end of Jinotega. Olga y Julio live in a house of black plasitc, kind of like a tarp, wrapped around four big branches stuck in the dirt. Half of their house is taken up by the bed that they sleep in with their two little girls, smaller than a double bed, and there is a fire pit in the opposite corner. They haven't come to church yet but we're hoping we can get them there next week. A few houses above them on the hill live María y José Luis in a slightly bigger, but very similar house. María has been to church twice now and two of her six kids, Fabiola y David, have been twice as well. Her husband works every Sunday and he's only been there for one or two lessons, but María and her two kids want to be baptized. The only hold-up is that she and José Luis need to get married and he's really hesitant about it.

While working in Villa Valencia yesterday, we saw this tiny little girl, probably about 4 years old trying to carry a bucket of water up the hill. The dirt paths are really steep and I always slip on the dust and rocks trying to get around. But this little girl was so small and struggling with her bucket. So Hna. Aguilar started talking to her, asked where she was going and took the bucket to help her up the hill. After a second we came up upon her older sister, probably 12 years old, hauling one of those 5 gallon buckets filled with water and sealed with a lid. So I took that bucket and we continued up the hill. Holy cow, seriouly I don't know how the people in Villa Valencia haul their water up to their houses every day from the spigot by the little tienda at the bottom. I'm glad we have running water in our little house, even if it's super cold coming out of the shower in the morning.

We also had Raul come to church this week, a viejito of 81 years who we're teaching. This guy has the most interesting life. He was born in Mexico and when he was still pretty small, was interned at a school taught by Jesuits. Later he worked on a passenger ship and he knows all the port cities along the atlantic and pacific coasts up and down from Mexico to Peru. He likes to tell us stories and we like to listen. He also has great faith in the Savior and accepts everything we teach him very easily. I just hope the importance of the message can sink in and that he will see the need for baptism. But he showed up at church all by himself (45 min. late) because he wasn't home when we passed by in the morning. I was thrilled to see him walk in.

So we have a flock of doves that live in the rafters of our house and since there are holes in the roof (like right above my bed), we get all sorts of nasty creatures that are nearly too small to see, but that bite us in the night. My body looks like I have chicken pox for all the bug bites I have and I'm constantly plagued with itches. I think more than one type of animalito is biting me. Because I think during the day mosquitos attack my feet, ankels and heels, and during the night the little devils bite my back, legs, shoulders and arms. Hmmm... we've talked to the lady we pay rent to and I think she is going to have someone come and seal up the holes and evict the doves. I hope that will help aliviate at least part of the problem.

Thanks for the news of the ward. I'm sorry to hear about Sis. Parrot. If you see Brookie again anytime soon, tell her that she was in one of my dreams a few weeks ago. I don't remember the dream now, just that she was in it. Congrats to the Timpview STATE CHAMPS! That's so fun to be a part of, especially your senior year. Also congrats to Heather. I want to see pictures, so tell her to send me an email with some. But seriously, that's so exciting. And I also want to congradulate my smarty-pants cuñado. Way to go Mikey. Felicidades, en serio. Sé que trabajas muy duro y siempre estoy agradecida que mi hermanita le hallo.

I can't put into words sufficiently the strength it is to me to have a family like you, serving in the church, striving everyday to live the gospel and build your testimonies, pressing forward along the path of discipleship. It makes me want to be better, to work harder, and to keep progressing so that one day we can all be together as an eternal family. And because of your wonderful example, I have a much clearer picture of what I want my future family to look like. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Keep doing your best everyday and let the Lord take care of the rest. If we put him in the first place in our lives, everything else will work out for our good. I'm grateful for the unifying and edifying goal we have as a familiy of being together for the eternities.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - sometimes the path of the disciple is carrying a 5 gallon bucket up a steep dirt hill.

Love you more than life.

Hna. Crosland

Monday, March 1, 2010

Letter #23 - March 1, 2010

Hey you guys!

So they upgraded myldsmail in connection with gmail and it's fantastic. My new email address is michelle.crosland@myldsmail.net (I'm pretty sure) but I think all mail to the old address will be forwarded. So how is everyone?

This week we had fun making invitations and doing divisions to invite all of Jinotega to the District conference yesterday in Matagalpa. It was a satelite broadcast to all of Central America and Pres. Eyring, Elder Christofferson, Elder Costa (of the presidency of the 70), and Sister Cook (of the general YW presidency) all spoke. It was really good and they focused a lot on the importance of family prayer, scripture study, and FHE. Those things really are the foundation of a strong family and we are constantly trying to get people to buy into the program. Elder Eyring also spoke about our path to perfection. He said, we tend to look at perfection all at once and get overwhelmed but we have to take it one step at a time. He said that baptism is the first step, really it's the door we have to pass through in order to begin our journey down the path to perfection. And along the way are our temple covenants. He talked about how our temple covenants not only bless our own lives, but they bind our families together and the covenants of the parents protect and guide their children as well. I loved his emphasis on the temple even though it made me really miss it. It was also weird not hearing his voice. My heart jumped to hear his first two words from his own mouth and then the translator took over and it just wasn't the same. But the message was really good none the less. It was a bit of a circus getting everyone packed in the bus, but we arrived and we had 9 investigators attend the conference.

This week we had the baptismal interview of Camilo on Wednesday and he passed just fine and was excited for his baptism. We just weren't 100% sure when it was going to happen with his work schedule. So wednesday we left it at, we'll set a time tomorrow for either friday or saturday evening/night. But we couldn't get a hold of him either thursday or friday, so by Saturday morning I was really worried. The few days before a baptism are crucial and Satan works his hardest to prevent it and we hadn't seen Camilo for two days. We went to his house about 4 times throughout the morning and early afternoon and finally got the phone number of his brother and got a hold of him by phone around 3pm. He said that he had to work late but would try really hard to meet us at the church at 8pm for his baptism... I was skeptical. Around 5:30pm it started to rain, no it started to pour. The rain here is seriously crazy. But we still had invitations to deliver and a dinner appointment so on we went without umbrellas. By the time we got to the house, we only had time to grab my camera before heading to the church.

We were soaked from head to toe and our feet were covered in mud and no one was at the church. Hna. Aguilar started calling all the priesthood holders that we had asked to help us with the baptism and one after another told her that they couldn't come for various reasons. I was pacing around hoping that Camilo would show and that we would actually have someone here to baptize him. But 15 minutes later to my utter surprize and jubilation, Camilo walked in and 15 minutes after that we had about 6 priesthood holders and 5 other members and the baptism was a huge success. I was so happy.

You can kind of see how wet we are in the photo. Anyway, it was a great week.

Being a missionary is the best thing ever - even when you are soaking wet.

I love you tons!

Tell Jocelyn that I miss her dearly and I hope all is going well. Tell her
to send me an email so I have her address.

Love, Hna. Crosland