Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Letter #76 - February 28, 2011

Hello everybody,

This week was pretty uneventful which is just as well because I only have about five minutes to write about it. Haha. Well We are still working hard with the families we're teaching but none of them were able to come to church this week. Carlos hasn't been drinking at all, which is great, but Julio has been drunk all week despite our super human efforts to help him to stop. We practically camped out at his house a few days this week but to no avail. However, we have also been contacting families and have found a few more really positive families to work with.

Thanks for the good counsel, dad, about writing those things in my journal. To be honest, it has been harder and harder to write in my journal and I really need to dedicate some time to it and record EVERYTHING.  One day this week I was walking home from our dinner appointment with the other three hermanas, joking and laughing with them as we went. It had been such a good day, full of great experiences and I just felt so full of joy, full right up to the brim. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks how soon all of this would be coming to an end and I got quiet and a little bit sad. Oh how I will miss people arguing in Spanish in the streets, saying "adios" to all the little kids who shout out "Hermana Crosland!", talking to anyone I want to in the street, walking into any house and becoming instant friends with complete strangers, testifying of Jesus Christ and how the gospel will change their lives. It really is a strange and beautiful thing to be a missionary. I know that this is a singular experience that I will only live once and now it is coming to an end. How strange it feels. All I know is that I am going to squeeze all the juice out of these last two weeks, every last drop.

Being a missionary is the greatest thing in the world - angels on earth.

Love, Hna. Crosland

Letter #75 - February 22, 2011

Hello fam,

How are you all?  Seems like your all busy and doing well, which is great. Felicidades to Nick and Jessica on their mission calls!  I was thrilled to finally hear about where they are going.  And congrats on Will's first date.  She's a cutie, Will.  Nice work.  I want to see more pictures of baby Ada.  I'm pretty much obsessed with her, telling the whole world I'm a tía and I have a severe need to see more pictures of her.  Please send them. Asap.

Well, this week we had a few set backs.  The night after we taught a great lesson about the Word of Wisdom to Julio y Dulce, and committed them to keep it (Friday), we found out that Julio was drinking on Saturday, breaking a three month streak without a drink. Cool, love when that happens.We were doing better when we hadn't taught the commandment. So that kept him and Dulce from coming to church this week. Also, Carlos y Christian didn't come after two weeks of coming all by themselves, because Saturday night, Carlos was drinking as well after three weeks of being clean. Very disappointing. But we are not discouraged and we're going to keep working hard with these families. But we were happy because Nubia and Edwin came. They are a couple that keep breaking up and getting back together so I'm not sure what to think, but on Sunday they came to church together and said that they wanted to get married and baptized. Well, strike while the iron is hot, I say. We're going to try to baptize them this weekend.

The work is going well and I know that there is so much I can do here in these last few weeks. But I am longing for the cold of Utah.  The sun here is brutal and it is really starting to heat up.

Yesterday we were invited to a Super P-day with two other zones who have also been consistantly baptizing families and we had a fun day playing with water. It was fun having a huge water fight and dragging unsuspecting victims outside to be hosed down and thrown into the blow-up slip-n-slide. There was also a giant blow up slide and those crazy elders ended up tipping the whole thing over because there were about 10 of them all up at the top. Sometimes elders are so smart. :) But we had a great time even though I think getting wet really worsened the cold I had been fighting because it came on full force today and I feel slightly miserable. But who can let a
cold slow you down?

Well, I've been thinking a lot about agency and the atonement and changing in the last week and I've got a lot of thoughts swimming around in my head. I don't think I will be able to adequately be able to formulate them in this email, but it's been amazing to note the ways in which I have changed. The power that the atonement has to change us, change our attitudes, our thoughts, our habits and to heal us our hearts is truly incredible. But so much of it has to do with our agency and our actions. The atonement can have just as much power in our lives as we let it, but we have to choose it, and we have to work for it.

This journey is not easy. My mission has not been easy. It has been the most challenging thing I have ever done. But I chose to come and I choose to be here every day, and not just to be here, but to invest here - in myself as well as in the people all around me. I have made countless mistakes, but I choose to be better and overcome. Then the atonement makes that choice a possibility for me and erases the imperfect past. The process is continual but can be easily reversed if we are not careful. A good seminary teacher once explained it to me using the example of walking up a downward-moving escalator. If we stop walking for even a second, we get pulled down.  Now, I don't know if you have ever actually tried walking up the "down" escalator, but I was a little dare-devil of a child and I have.  To make any upward progress, you really have to be moving, almost running, in a constant effort to overcome the
down-moving stairs. It's hard and sometimes you fall. But just as in the battle against satan, if we keep a constant eye on the goal and never stop fighting, we will all make it home.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - no matter where in the world you are serving (Guatemala, Belgium!!)

Love you,

Hna. Crosland

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Letter #74 - February 15, 2011

Hey loves,

¡Feliz día del cariño! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM! What a great week it was right? Well we had a fun day yesterday in Managua, all of the sister missionaries at Presidents house with Hna. Arredonde. We basically had a girl party - doing yoga, learning how to straighten our hair without any electrical appliance, playing volleyball, making lasagna, talking, taking pictures, eating cheesecake, and laughing lots. It was a really fun day. At the end, we even got our own private question & answer session with Pres. Arredondo. Can I just tell you how much I love and admire that man? And Hna. Arredondo as well. They are just gems of people. Well, that is the reason I'm writing a day late.

Sister's Conference

Oh, and before I forget, I'm coming home March 17th. I don't know what time yet, but that is the date. Crazy that they already have my homecoming talk scheduled... Man, I don't even want to think about giving that talk. My english is so bad. I was talking to some of the new hermanas in english yesterday and I was surprized at how much I get stuck and tongue tied. Just promise not to laugh at me too much...

Well, this week we had a miracle and also a big disappointment. It cause me to ponder a lot. Okay, so first for the story. You know about Felix y Ruth, our part member family that couldn't be completed because Felix was waiting on the okay from the prophet to be baptized... well, thursday afternoon I got a phone call from the AP telling me that they had received a letter from the first presidency that Felix could be baptized. I was ecstatic. We ran to Felix's house to tell him and he was thrilled too, even though his wife seemed a little apathetic. Well, he just needed an interview with the mission president, so friday early-morning we all went to Managua and everything went great. He passed his interview and although we had the baptismal date for the 19th, President said that we should baptize him the next day, Saturday the 12th. Felix agreed and we set a time.

Well, that pretty much took up our whole day on Friday and what time we had left, we prepared for the baptism. We went back to his house at about 7 just to check with him and make sure everything was set, but he was asleep. His wife said everything was fine. Well, Saturday morning we got there early and found Ruth alone with the babies. Felix was gone. She said that he had woken up feeling a little sick and that the babies were sick too and that they didn't have any money to buy food because Felix had gone to Managua with us instead of working on Friday so he had gone to work (tricycle taxi). I couldn't believe it. I was praying for a way to find Felix and talk to him and while we were there with Ruth, he showed up. He said he was sorry, and that he wasn't feeling good, but asked if we could have the baptism later in the day. So we set another time. When we went back for the second time, he wasn't there again but showed up shortly after and we had to convince Ruth to come because she had a lot of clothes to wash. Well, he finally got baptized and the service was really nice.

Well, to make a long story a little bit shorter, on Sunday we went to his house three times before sacrament meeting, the first time at 6:45am and the last at about 9:10am, then again after sacrament meeting, and then one more time after church at lunch time, and never found him. We even went to find his mom's house because Ruth said that he might be there.

Well, I was pretty devastated that he wasn't able to be confirmed to say the least and it made me ask myself why. We were even fasting so that he could be baptized and confirmed and that everything would work out well. He had been waiting for months to be baptized and was so excited when we told him the news. We did everything we could think to do to help him and he wasn't confirmed. I have had many opportunities to ask why things don't work out and why we don't have success when we are doing everything humanly possible to achieve it. Didn't the Lord want Felix to be confirmed this weekend? But I feel like the answer is, of course He did.

The Hermana and a bashful toddler
But the Lord respects our agency so incredibly much that He would never impose His will over ours or over the will of those we are trying to help. Felix made his own choice not to come to church and receive the Holy Ghost on Sunday and hopefully he will be able to receive it next Sunday, but I know that even though it makes me sad, I have to be happy knowing that I did everything I could. I know that this is the Lord's work, but I also know that the Lord respects our agency, and we must respect the agency of others as well. It is heart-breaking when others make poor decisions, when they don't understand, when they reject the gospel, but we cannot let our strength slacken.

I love you all so much and I can't think of better examples of Saints of God, living the gospel, and enjoying all the blessing that it brings. Thank you for being who you are and for being examples for me.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - fighting for salvation and respecting agency.

Love, Hna. Crosland

Monday, February 7, 2011

Letter #73 - February 7, 2011

Buen Día Vosotros,

How is everyone? Are you all super anxious, waiting for baby Ada? I am too. I was sad not to find pictures of her in my inbox today. But, next week for sure right?

Well, this week I started my last change here in Nicaragua. I am still in Corinto, training again, but this time a Salvadoreña. She is the first companion I've had that is taller than me. Funny huh? I have a feeling that I am going to feel like I shrunk when I get back home. Her name is Hna. Menéndez and she has been a member for just over a year, the only member in her family. She is great. She is one of those girls that is super gorgeous and from far away would be easy to envy, but when you get to know her, she is just so innocent, and kind, absolutely guileless and sweet that it is impossible not to like her instantly. She is still learning a lot about the gospel but her testimony is so pure and real.

Juan and Sunilda got married and baptized this Saturday along with their little daughter Daniela. It was one of the happiest days of my mission. There is just a light around them and now their family is complete. Their oldest son Kervin (26), who has been a less active member for years got up and bore his testimony about how grateful he is to have his family with him in the church. He doesn't feel alone now and now there is a support system in his home. I know that they will all help each other and work together to stay active in the church and go to the temple as soon as they can. I can only dream of being there with them.

We're also teaching the Beteta Family, Carlos and Christian. I think I've already told you a little about them. Christian was in Guatemala almost all last month but now she is back and we're working with them again. They came to church yesterday and I wanted to sing when I saw them walk in. Julio also came to church. He was a man we contacted and turns out is a friend of one of the members. After church he asked us if we could get him a copy of the book of mormon and we told him we'd bring him one later that afternoon. We went and met his wife, Dulce and had a really good lesson with them.

Another of our investigadors is named Nubia. I don't know if I mentioned Edwin and Nubia in the last email, but this week, they separated again. Apparently, he treats her pretty bad. But she came to church and is very positive about the gospel. She wants to change her life.

We have two other new hermanas in the house as well and we've been having a blast. Hna. Ruíz is from El Salvador as well, and Hna. Tacam is from Guatemala. They are hilarious and good workers. Hna. Ruíz organized and cleaned our whole house. I thought it was pretty good, but she is kind of a clean freak like Paige and I'm super glad to have her help in the house. Hna. Tacam is short and chubby, like a little teddy bear. She is the smallest hermana in the mission and just so cute. It was her birthday
yesterday too. I'll attach a picture so you can get to know the gang.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - aiming towards the temple.

Love you a million times over,

Hna. Crosland

Monday, January 31, 2011

Letter #72 - January 31, 2011

Another week has come and gone. How does that happen so quickly. I wish I could report that Sunilda and Juan got baptized and confirmed yesterday, but the divorce didn't get finalized until today. But they are all set, excited and ready for next Saturday. What a celestial family. They were all in church yesterday, all five (Kervin and Nidia are their two older children and have been less active for a while, but now they're coming back to church) and we also had Felix and Ruth with their three little screaming kids. But they looked so nice and dressed up.

I was kind of sad on Saturday when I found out that we weren't going to have the baptism that day and it really hit me that I only have 6 more Saturdays... yikes. Only six more opportunities to see these people I love enter the waters of baptism and make covenants with the Lord. That hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt almost a panic in my chest and a sense of urgency that I hadn't felt quite that strongly before. I don't feel like I have wasted time on my mission, but I felt a renewed energy to use every second wisely and work even harder to bring these people to Christ. I don't know what will happen with changes. I don't think I will be leaving Corinto, and if I do, I will be really sad, but I know that the Lord will put me where He needs me most and where I will learn and grow the most.

A couple of days ago I tried a raw clam. It was super salty and super fishy and all around super nasty. We were helping the bishop and his family make ceviche - or seafood cocktail - with raw fish, clams, and shrimp. They say that the lime juice cooks it. Okay, that's fine. I actually tried the finished product as well and really liked it, but the raw squiggly little guy that I just popped into my mouth right out of his shell... I won't be doing that again. My job was taking the clams, after the bishop had opened the shell, and scraping them out into a big bowl. There were a whole lot of clams. Anyway, it was a fun experience. I eat a lot of fish here, and clams and shrimp every once and a while too. And last night, Hna. Cunningham gave us each a little loaf of coconut bread. ¡Que RICO! I don't know if she will give me that secret recipe but it was delicious. You must think I'm hungry from how much I've been talking about food...

So here in Corinto the people are really interesting. I don't know any other place in the world where the men (straight men) pluck their eyebrows and the women don't even shave their legs. Very strange, very strange. But I am enjoying the culture and getting to know these beautiful people. They are all children of God, my own brothers and sisters and as I look at them, I think of Paige, Alison and William. There isn't much I wouldn't do to help my sisters and my little brother. As I contact new people on the street, I try to imagine that I am contacting you guys, and giving you the gopel that has blessed our lives so inexplicably. We all lived together once and fought side by side for our chance to come to earth. Now we are here together and we walk by each other as strangers. Why can't we remember? We must remember. With all their oddities, weaknesses, and errors these people belong to me and I must take care of them, we fought together once and now it's my turn to fight for them.

Thanks for your support and prayers in my behalf and in behalf of those I'm fighting for. Thank you for your good lives and your good examples. You are a strength to me. I can't wait to hear about and see pictures of the new little person in our lives that should be arriving shortly. Ada Lou, I love you.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - fighting for our brothers and sisters.

Love, Hna. Crosland

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Letter #71 - January 25, 2011

Just to let you know, I'm going to write the real letter tomorrow because we got back so late again and we don't have time right now. Just didn't want you to worry, but you're probably getting used to this bad habit of writing a day late. Okay so here are just a couple pictures of Sunilda y Juan and another family that we're teaching named Felix y Ruth.
Felix y Ruth
Sunilda y Juan. Sunilda and Juans son in the back is named Kervin and the daughter is Daniela. She is going to get baptized this week too if all works out right
We played soccer today and went to Presidents house to celebrate the great success of the choir. He also took us to a great mexican food restaurant. It was another P-day of traveling to and from Managua, but always great to be with Presidente and the missionaries. And oh how I love mexican food.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about the conference which was amazing. Pray for Sunilda y Juan to get baptized this weekend. Okay loves. Until tomorrow.


Sorry for the teaser email, but I didn't want to let you down by not sending one on Monday. We got back late and the plan was to still write but when we got to the cyber they were closing and only gave us half an hour to write, so now we'll see what I can pump out in the other half hour. Really the best thing this week was the conference.

The missionaries in the choir had to go to Managua on Thursday to practice one more time Thursday night and then be there early Friday morning. Which meant that we left Corinto at about 2:00pm and after the practice we stayed with the hermanas in Ciudad Jardin! It was fun to be there in my old house with Hna. Cano and Hna. Rippstein (her new comp) and also Hna. Willford, Hna. Avila, and Hna. López. We had a great slumber party and I got a nice surprise when the Medina Family showed up at the door to say hi! It was so lovely to see them. I don't know how they found out that I was staying there. Actually, I had wanted to go out and visit a bunch of people but we got back too late from the practice, so I was feeling a little sad.

I don't know if I told you that Aldo y Karla got baptized a week and a half ago! I am so happy for them. And Norlan and Maryuri are getting baptized this Saturday. Hopefully Sunilda y Juan también, so basically, even though I couldn't/can't be there in Ciudad Jardin to see those two families get baptized, my heart is full to overflowing that they are entering the waters of baptism and making those covenants with the Lord that will bless their lives forever.

Friday morning we were all excited, waiting for the apostle to come and Pres. Arredonde had asked us all to prepare questions for him. Before he arrived, we were all seated and pondering, listening to the prelude music and when Elder Christofferson walked in we all stood and sang We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet. It was such a powerful feeling and the spirit was strong as we walked up one by one to shake his hand and look into his eyes.

Elder Falabella, Elder Duarte, and Hna. Christofferson also spoke briefly. Some things I liked from their remarks were the emphasis on the habits we are making in the mission and continuing to do these things after we get home, that these things are for all our lives, not just good ideas for missionaries. Elder Falabella said that a habit forgotten was never a habit, it was an obligation. Hna. Christofferson made a really good remark about being ready to receive all that the Lord wants to give us. We only receive according to what we are ready to receive. The question is, how much do we want? She talked about our study time in the morning and how important it is to be immursed in the scriptures. How much are we spiritually prepared to receive? And that the "word of God" is not limited to written scriptures, it also means personal revelation. We receive the word of God when we receive revelation personal.

Elder Christofferson was magnificent. He spoke humble and simply but testified so powerfully. He let us ask questions for the majority of the time and it was incredible to watch him listen and ponder after a
question was made, waiting for the spirit to reveal the answer. Someone asked (actually it was Elder Goodman, jaja) how we can know if we have really been converted on the mission. I thought it was a very good question and the answer was so beautiful. He talked about having the spirit in your life and
being able to recognize it as a good sign of conversion, but then he started talking about the Savior and doing the will of the Father. He said that when a person has removed every motive from his life except that of doing the will of our Father in Heaven, they have achieved true conversion. He went on to say that if Christ's one true motive was not doing the will of the Father, He would not have been able to complete the atonement.

He said that when we return home, we will be able to note the difference in our conversion, but we will not have yet arrived. It is a life-time process. He said that to keep our families of converts in the mission and our families at home strong, we should help them to understand the gift of the Holy Ghost and it's role in our lives. He said that they have to keep doing the things that they did to plant the seed in their hearts in the first place. The process described in Alma 32 has to continue after baptism and throughout our lives.

He bore testimony that the Lord is personally guiding this church and that He is an active leader, there each day guiding in very specific ways. The Lord takes care of this church because it is the most important organization on the earth. He bore powerful testimony of the Savior and of our magnificent callings as missionaries, preaching with His power and authority and in His name. He also left us with an apostolic blessing to receive the gift of faith in a greater profundity, that we will feel more deeply His love and that as we preach in His name, we will feel it. He also blessed us to achieve celestial marriages and eternal families and to be faithful servants of the Lord throughout the rest of our lives, and that His angels will guide us and keep us on the path to eternal life. Those were just the blessings that my heart was longing to hear.

He finished all too soon, and as we sang the closing song I was left wishing he would speak again. Unfortunately I didn't get my wish but he did allow us to take pictures with him zone by zone. It was great.

The other best thing was the FHE that we had with Sunilda y Juan last night. After leaving the cyber we ran to their house because we were about 15 minutes late and we found them with their scriptures and hymn book out, just about to start. Wow. Sunilda had planned down to the hymns and the refreshment. I have never been in an FHE so well planned and so spiritually rich. I was left with my jaw dropped. She had picked a lesson from the book Principles of the Gospel about the life of our Savior, Jesus Chist and had all the scriptures marked with little papers. The comments of the family, explaining the scriptures was so amazing. We said very little, just adding a comment here and there. Basically they taught us lesson three, the gospel of Jesus Christ right down to enduring to the end and the importance of baptism. Um... I think... they're ready. I just am praying that the divorce will finalize so that they can get married!!!

Anyway, my time is up but I just love you all to pieces. I love my mission. I can't believe all the amazing experiences I am having and the ways that these people are changing my life. I don't know what I would have done without this experience. I don't even want to think about it.. hahaha.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - period.

Love, Hna. Crosland

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Letter #70 - January 18, 2011

Hey! Glad to hear you got the all the stuff. I really don't have any time this week. It's been hard having to travel to Managua on Mondays to practice for the musical number we're doing for Elder Christofferson this week, but the conference is on Friday so hopefully next Monday we will actually have a normal P-day.

Just to tell you a couple of highlights... We had an awesome activity for the recient converts on the beach and it was a great success. We played games (water balloon volleyball and others) and had a testimony meeting around a bonfire. It was wonderful to hear the testimonies of the recient converts, some of which were sharing their testimonies for the first time in their lives. It was a great spiritual and faith building experience for them. Then on Saturday, the elders from Chinandega came to Corinto with their investigators and we had a baptismal service on the beach. I was sad that we didn't have anyone ready to be baptized, but hopefully we will on the 29th, when we do the activity again. It was really beautiful though.

Okay, now to answer your questions. The ward is doing pretty good. We've made some good progress and now we just need to really follow up well so that they keep up the energy and develope good habits. They had a leadership training meeting with the stake this week but I still want to organize an activity for leaders and really get them going strong. Maybe next Friday.

Sunilda is still awesome, but Juan broke my heart this weekend because he got drunk on Saturday and didn't come to church. But we had a great Family Home Evening with them at the bishops house yesterday and they are still progressing. We contacted a bunch of new families on Saturday but we haven't had appointments with them yet. As soon as I'm done writing we're going to see a family named Justo and María. They seemed really positive so I hope they're there.

We go into Chinandega on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and sometimes on Monday to do stuff as a zone for P-day. We just take a little micro-bus and get there in about 20 minutes. Here in Corinto we get around on our feet. It's pretty small. It actually reminds me a lot of Nagarote. We also go in Bixi (tricycles) sometimes when we're short on time. I'll take a picture of one if I remember. In Corinto we're four missionaries. All sisters. But in Chinandega there are like ten and in Chichigalpa there are about 6. I am pretty sure there are 20 in our zone. Chichigalpa is another town on the other side of Chinandega.

As far as health goes, I'm feeling really good. Just sad about my once lovely hair that now is pretty sad. It is still falling out but not quite as much as before. But my little pony-tail just makes me cry. I think I'm going to cut it short when I get home. Oh well. Hopefully it will grow back right?

Well, sorry for an informative but not very spiritual email. I love you all endlessly and can't wait to see your faces so soon.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - building up zion, one drunk at a time.

Hna. Crosland