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