Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 29, 2013 letters

October 29, 2013

Hi daddy!

Answer for the day: When we get that wet, I let my shoes dry for about two days and hang my clothes to dry. It´s humid, but most of the time, it feels about like San Francisco on a rainy day. And when it´s hot, it feels like Utah in the summer, with a little more humidity. I love my skirts - they´re perfect for running and the weather.

What - there´s a new chapel in Brentwood? Since when? And what did President Westover say? (mom mentioned it in her email) Have you read Unbroken? That is such a good example of trials and overcoming them.

We get to go to the Temple this week - one of Hermana Cruz´s converts is getting sealed on Saturday and we get to go with them. We´ll have to get up around 3 to get to the session (at 7 am), but, it´s "vale la pena" (it´s worth it). And we have cambios (changes) tomorrow. And we´re getting another companion! We´ll be a trio in Rivera del Rio and I´m excited. We don´t know who it is, but that´s ok. She´ll be amazing, I can feel it.

Oh - we saw fireflies last night when we taught in the colonia. It was so pretty.

Prayer is such a fundamental thing in our lives, but especially in the mission field. We pray all the time for our investigators, our recent converts, our menos activos (less actives), and pray for our lessons and the ward and everything in between. But for investigators, it´s especially important. Through prayer, investigators receive answers and feel the Spirit (but not just prayer - going to Church, reading the Book of Mormon, and keeping the commandments are fundamental, as well). Prayer is a two-way communication with God and we talk to Him and He responds in His own time and way. We have to be patient. In the Bible Dictionary, it says that when people don´t pray, it´s because they don´t understand our relationship with Heavenly Father and how He is literally our Father in Heaven and we get to talk to Him. He, the Eternal God and and Infinite God, talks to us, miniscule beings in comparison. I love the quote by President Uchtdorf where he says something to the effect of how we are nothing compared to God, but yet, we are everything to God. I know that when we understand that Heavenly Father loves us and wants to hear from us (about our successes, failures, happy moments, frustrations, our days in general), we will "instinctively" kneel and prayer to our Father.

Lately, when explaining prayer to someone who won´t pray or doesn´t understand prayer, we´ve used the example of a long-distance phone call with someone that we haven´t seen for a while that we love and want to talk to. I know that Heavenly Father loves us and when we want to show our gratitude for the things in our life or need help or need to talk, we have prayer 24-7.

I love you, dad! Say "Hola" to the rest of the family and I´m sending my love towards the States!

Con mucho amor en Guatemala,
Hermana "pumpkin" Conover
 October 29, 2013
Hi momma!
I´m embracing everything. I really like the food (who would have thought?) and there´s only a few things that I don´t like. And when I get the recipe, I´ll send it. [referencing a cooked banana dessert that Michelle really likes.]

We have cambios tomorrow (exchanges) and we´re "receiving" another Hermana. We´ll have three in our companionship! Excitement! And we´ll get letters and packages tomorrow. I´ll let you know next week if I get the package. [Mom sent Michelle a three pound jar of peanut butter--the jar of peanut butter cost $ 4.50, the postage was $ 38.00-- Michelle eating peanut butter--priceless!]
And the stamps [on some of the letters she received] were the international ones and I didn´t have to pay extra. Oh - and we found a tienda in our area that sells small bottles of JIF creamy. We indulged last night. It was good. So I´ll probably save the other for when I am in an area that doesn´t have peanut butter.

Oh, the Book of Mormon. It is so important in the conversion process of anyone. It softens the hearts of investigators and testifies again about Jesucristo to members and non-members alike. And, at the moment, I´m studying the Book of Mormon in English and when I have time, I study in Spanish. And I´ve heard both ways, too. How you learn Spanish (or another language) better and faster when you read the Book of Mormon in that language, but I might get lost. I read them side by side sometimes and when I don´t understand the Spanish, I automatically look it up in English (if we´re home - I don´t carry my English scriptures with me while we´re teaching).  And yes, it is hard to not underline everything in the Book of Mormon. I have a feeling that when I get home, everything is going to be one color or another. But, I love the Book of Mormon. There´s solace, comfort, and help in this book. I know it is true.
In 1 Nephi 6:6, Nephi gives a commandment to his descendants to not fill the plates with things not of importance to the children of men. Entonces ("so" - I use this word so much throughout the day), everything in the Book of Mormon is there because it is important for our day, because the Book of Mormon was written for us. Every chapter, verse, and word is there because the Lord knows that it will help us in our lives today.

There´s a recent convert in our ward and she is such an example to me and (I think) to everyone she meets. She has cancer and every 15 days has therapy (treatments), but she is so happy. All the time. Her testimony is so strong and she has a love for everyone she meets. I re-realized this week that it is a decision to be happy and when we decide to be happy and act on that decision, the days are better and the work is better. I know that. I have a testimony of that.

I love you, mom! Thanks for the football updates! [BYU's football team is playing in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T park in San Francisco on December 27th.]
And no, our crossing paths over the internet didn´t mess me up - I was excited, actually. [Mom happened to be checking her email on the 22nd, and noticed that Michelle had just sent her letter, so she was able to send a quick message and get a quick answer back from Hermana Conover.]
I love you! I hope you´re feeling better!
Con MUCHo amor,
Hermana Conover

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Letter October 22nd (2013)

¡Hola mi padre! ¿Cómo esta?

I love hearing about your work in the Temple - we get to go every 6 months (because our work is for the living, as I heard once) and it reminds me of how special a place it is.
This week was really good. I´m working on street contacting more and listening to the Spirit more in lessons to ask inspired questions and discern the needs of the investigators
We had Zone Conference on Friday and it was fantastic. We practiced teaching lessons (where I practiced using silence effectively after the First Visions - the Spirit was really strong) and President Brough talked about how we have angels assigned to us to comfort us and help us in life. He talked about how our angels are our ancestors and our future children. And he emphasized the importance of exact obedience and being valiant. 
After the conference, it was POURING rain. I have never been so wet from rain in my life. It was as if I had stood underneath a shower for five minutes. It was ridiculous, but we were so uplifted from the conference that it didn´t really matter. We got home, changed clothes really quickly, and went back to work.
I got your letters after the conference! Thank you so much! It meant a lot to see your and mom´s handwriting on the pages. Thank you.
This week I realized the importance (or, re-realized) of reading the Book of Mormon and how integral it is in the conversion process for members and non-members alike. In Preach My Gospel, there´s a whole chapter dedicated to the Book of Mormon and how to use it to answer questions, doubts, and in conversion. If the Book of Mormon is true, then it contains the words of God, Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, the Church is true, and Jesucristo is our Savior and Redeemer. President Kimball (I think) said that for investigators, the only concern is whether the Book of Mormon is true because if it´s true, it´s all true. We taught a lesson Saturday night (many lessons, but one in particular) where we testified that the evidence of the truth of the Gospel is the Book of Mormon and how any person can grow closer to God through this book and know of hte Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was a really good lesson and the Spirit was really strong .
There´s a quote somewhere (I don´t remember) but it´s to the effect of missionary work is home teaching for non-members and home teaching is missionary work for members. I thought you´d like that. I think Elder Packer said it, but I´m not sure.
New thing I tried this week - I don´t know what it´s called in English, but basically, it´s boiled bananas with a little bit of salt and sugar. It´s really good. I want to get the recipe, it´s that good.
I love you! Say hi to the family for me! I pray for you and mom and the family everyday!
Con MUCHO amor,
Hermana Conover

Usually Michelle's letters to her mom are answers to "housekeeping" questions about how to take care of internet things, how her clothing is working out, what she needs...you know, mom questions.  This week's letter to mom gave a little more insight to her language acquisition and the rest of her letter paralleled her letter to her dad.  "Esta todo bien!" or "Its all good!" as she is fond of saying.

Hola mi amorosa madre, ¿que tal?

I do have an accent - an American Spanish accent. No, Spanish is coming along. Really. We had Zone Conference on Friday and I talked with President Brough and he said that my Spanish is really good. And he wouldn´t just say that - he knows how much I´ve been stressing about my Spanish. So that was good to know.

I study the Book of Mormon in English for a half an hour a day, but I think I might switch over to Spanish and read the English when I´m confused. I´m grateful for my Book of Mormon classes at the Y, for sure, PERO, I´m studying for a different purpose now and for specific people and not just for my own personal knowledge. It´s a special experience how I can read a chapter in the Book of Mormon and find at least one scripture that applies to our companionship or our investigators. No matter the chapter, there´s a principal that can be applied.
I was reading in Helaman 4 and 5 today and Mormon talks about how not even a hundredth of the Book of Mormon is in the plates. It meant a lot to me today that every scripture, every word, is what we need in today´s society. The Book of Mormon was written for us and for our day and every scripture can be applied to our lives. So we need to read and reread the words of the Prophets. 
In Preach My Gospel, it talks about the Book of Mormon and how crucial it is for investigators (and members, for that matter) to read it. If the book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, this Church is true, and Jesucristo is our Savior and Redeemer. I know that. I get it. So, we´re trying to get our investigators to read the Book of Mormon with renewed vigor and intensity because the evidence that this church is true is in the Book of Mormon. I know that. And I know that this Church is true and that we can find solace and comfort and the words of God in the Book of Mormon and its´teachings.
I love you, mom! So much! I pray for you and the rest of our family everyday! 
Con MUCHO amor en Guatemala, 
Hermana Conover

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October 15th letter 2013

Hi daddy! (and the rest of the fam)
I take that as a good thing that I don´t look like a pumpkin. [Michelle's dad asked her why he called her Pumpkin in his letter to her.] Although, I am getting a slight tan. I´m starting to get a watch tan and a lot of freckles. Tons of freckles on my arms and a few on my face. It´s fun.

The people here are really nice and the ward is really nice. Some of the time I don´t understand what´s being said, but people are kind and patient with my Spanish. If I ask them to repeat something, they do. Our ward mission leader is funny and nice. 

We offer service to people we teach after our lessons and ask the members if we can do any service for them (laundry, cooking, etc.) but usually, no one takes us up on that offer. We helped a recent convert move the other day. She moved two streets away from her original house, but she didn´t have a car to move her stuff. So, poco a poco, we moved the toys, the clothes, and other things. It was good to help her move.

Dad, I´m so glad that you have the opportunity to work in the Temple. That is a great experience.

Services? Our cook cooks lunch [and dinner] for us and does our laundry once a week. That´s about it.

Oh - last night, we had FHE at the Bishop´s house (the mother in law isn´t a member) and last week, the bishop´s wife asked me what I missed. I said PB&J sandwiches. The refreshment last night? PB&J. She had somehow found Planters peanut butter and Nutella. Oh man. It was heaven.

An average day in my life as a missionary:
5 - wake up
5-5:30 - exercise
5:30-6:30 - get ready for the day and breakfast
6:30-7:30 - personal study
7:30-9:30 - companion study (an extra hour for me because I´m being trained; hence getting up at 5:30)
9:30-10:30 - language study (English and Spanish)
10:30-1 - appointments and contacting
1-1:30 or 2 - lunch
2-9 - contacting, teaching, appointments, etc.
9-9:30 - planning
9:30-10:20 - dinner, journal, ready for bed
10:20 - prayers
10:25 - lights are usually off (or before)

Yep. It´s the life. The missionary life.

As we were running around Sunday to help our investigators get to church (yes, running), a thought popped into my head. This message - our message - that is central to Jesus Christ is a message of change and action. We invite people to repent and become more like Christ. We have to have faith and then act on that faith. In Ether 12:6, it says that only after a trial of your faith does the testimony (and blessings, as the case may be) come.  In verse 12 of that same chapter, it says that the Lord performs miracles only after we show our faith. Entonces (So), we invite people to repent because we´re all working on becoming more Christlike. We repent, we change, we act on our faith, and then we´re blessed. I know that life is hard sometimes, but that doesn´t mean that we have to be sad about it. When we look forward to the future with faith and hope, Heavenly Father blesses us and we are able to endure the trials and problems in our lives.If we continually look back on things that have happened in our lives, we cannot progress forward. So, we access the Atonement, repent and/or find solace in the Atonement, and move on and press forward with a steadfast faith in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope.

I know that this Gospel is true and that this is the Lord´s work. When members and missionaries work together, miracles happen, and when we´re exactly obedient, miracles happen. And when we have faith and hope with exact obedience, more miracles happen.

I love you all! I hope all is well at home! ¡Esta todo bien!  [Michelle's signature:  "Its all good!" in Spanish.]

Con mucho amor,
Hermana Conover

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October 8th 2013 letter

Hi daddy! (and the rest of the family)
The area we´re in is kind of a suburb - it´s called a colonia (I think) and it´s layout is like Utah - a grid system of calles and avenidas.  We´re about 20 minutes away from Guatemala City, so it [the weather] should be similar. We´ve been rained on pretty good this past week (think of a 15 minute thunderstorm where it rains about a foot in those 15 minutes, and that´s about how it is everyday around 3 pm). It´s great. Really. The song "There is sunshine in my soul today"makes a lot of sense during these storms We´re in part of a house that´s about the size of an apartment. Two bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen. Simple. But it works.  The people we rent from have a garden of mini cacti. Hundreds of cacti. Every time we climb the stairs to our house, I pray that I don´t trip and fall into the cacti on the stairs.
We do street contacts and bus contacts and have lessons. We try to have lessons with members present, but some of the time, they can´t come or our lessons fall through. But, the work is moving forward. We had a wedding and baptism on Wednesday. That was exciting. The street and bus contacts (if they let us take down their information) are sometimes good, and sometimes they don´t listen. A lot of bus contacts are references for other missionaries (not in our area), but we got some contacts in the past few days that I think will turn out to be really good.
 Conference was AMAZING. We got to watch it in English (there are 7 other norte americanos in my zone) and it was amazing. I loved President Monson´s call to action - "Now is the time for members and misisonaries to come together to bring souls unto Christ". I know (even with only a few weeks in the field) that contacts through members and not just people in the street turn out a lot better than just someone that lied about their address (which happens) or half-heartedly gave their information. I know that when investigators (and eventually converts) have friends in the Gospel and in the Church, they´ll come back and continue strong in the faith. 
We had a trainers meeting this past week (I think Wednesday) where we talked about why people don´t come back to church after they are baptized. President Brough drew a line in the middle of the board and said one side was the life that the convert had before baptism (drinking, smoking, friends, etc.) and the other side is life in the Gospel. He said that, as missionaries, we focus on the positive things - blesses you family, help through trials, etc. - and don´t focus on what actually happens. The converts don´t have friends. They can´t do things on Sunday. They can´t drink, they can,...etc. The convert then falls back onto what they know and what is comfortable. I truly believe that when a convert has a calling and a friend in the Gospel, they´ll come back. The converts of the church need support and friendship as they begin to grow more in the Gospel. I know that sharing the Gospel sometimes is hard, but it´s "vale la pena" (it´s worth it). When missionaries and members work together, miracles happen. When we´re exactly obedient, miracles happen. 
I´m so excited that you get to work in the temple, dad! It´s such a wonderful opportunity to get to do that. I found out today that we get to go to the Temple for Christmas! Exciting! 
I love you, dad! And send my love to the rest of the family as well. I love you! I hope everything is going well at home!
Con mucho amor en Guatemala,
Hermana Conover
Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. (one of my favorites from conference)
P.S. Spanish is coming along. Some days are better than others and I´m always learning.
And scripture for the day - Alma 43. I always thought the war chapters in Alma didn´t have spiritual stuff in them, but they do. In this chapter, it talks about how the Lamanites were coming upon the Nephites and the Nephites were prepared to meet them. In light of conference this past weekend where many talks were centered on being stong NOW and having strong testimonies NOW, I thought of this and how when we have strong testimonies, we´re prepared to meet those things in life that are hard to bear and are hard in general.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October 1st (2013) letter

¡Hola familia!

How´s the home front? I hope that everything is going well.

We don´t get to print the emails - we just go to an internet cafe place (they´re all over here) and email for an hour and 15 minutes.

We had a baptism this past Saturday and it was a miracle that it happened. We fasted with her to decide to be baptized and she felt that she needed to be baptized. We were so happy when she said yes and tears were shed during the baptism. I sang at the baptism (with the BYU Men´s Chorus on my iPod) and a lot of people told me that they couldn´t understand the words (it was in English), they could feel the Spirit.

AND we have a wedding/baptism tomorrow. It´ll be good. I´m excited.

And I gave a talk on Sunday. Just a short, five-minute talk. I talked about the worth of souls (D&C 18:10, 15-16) and how everyone in the world is a son or daughter of God and how as members of the Church, we need to share the Gospel with everyone that we meet. People don´t know that through Jesus Christ and the Atonement, we can return to live with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and with our families. This message is one of happiness and hope and faith and people need to know about it. Anyway, when we walked into the church on Sunday, Hermana Brough was there, greeting the members. It was only her and her daughter, but we didn´t know she was coming. She spoke and she said that my Spanish is really good for being here for "three weeks". (it´s been two, but who´s counting?)

My testimony has grown so much since I left home and even since when I left the CCM. I know that this church is true. The Atonement can help us through all our afflictions and problems. The Plan of Salvation is true and the Gospel indeed blesses families. Yesterday, we taught an hermano about the Proclamation to the World and I got to share about the section that talks about establishing your home on Gospel principles (faith, repentance, love, charity, etc) and it hit me, in a little shack however many hundreds of miles away from home, how blessed our family is for being centered on Christ. I started crying from the Spirit that I felt when I realized that. When homes are centered on Christ and principles of the Gospel, families are blessed. That´s why I´m here - to share this message centered on Jesus Christ and how families can be eternal. How we can return to our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ as families. The Gospel is true and has a power that changes lives for the better. It´s our privilege to be able to share this message,  as member missionaries and full-time missionaries.

I love you all! I pray for you everyday! I love you! Thank you for the letters and for the help and spiritual insights!

Con mucho amor,
Hermana Conover