Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 31, 2013 emails to dad and mom

These posts are a little disjointed because Michelle and her companion have only an hour and fifteen minutes a week to do all of their email reading and writing.  As you can tell from the jist of the letters, Michelle is very concerned that the computer that her companion, Sister Peterson,  is using isn't working very well(they are at an email cafe). Michelle wants to make sure that her companion gets to write home this week, so she signs off with mom and dad so that her comp can use the computer that she has been using. 

Hi dad,
Yeah, I cried (as you hear) when I heard your voice. I was just so happy to hear you talk and it meant  a lot that we were able to.
We'll be sleeping New Year's Eve. Normal schedule here in Mission Central.
The letters are a way that I relax on P-Day. I have a really hard time not doing anything on P-Days, so it's a way I relax. Don't worry about it. I love doing it.
We're  working with our leaders. our WML [Ward Mission Leader] is the father of my last bishop (small world, huh). We're working hard and it's a little hard to find lessons in Solola (because our areas  so small) but we're finding people. We have a few people right now that could probably be baptized. We're working on working with the members to get more references and to go out with them to work. And that's sad the elder's checked out. We call that "being baggy" (like trunky), and that's sad because we only have to much time to give.
That's cool about Aunt Betty and Uncle Ted. You go, dad! Be a member missionary! You're doing a really good job at it.
Thanks for the prayers and the help. I love the Book of Mormon and I know it's true. I love the end chapters of 1 Nephi (we're reading the BoM as a mission now). I love 1 Nephi 13-15. I would read those.
Anyway, my comp's computer isn't working and I want her to write. So not much today, sorry.I love you! 
Con MUCHO amor,
Hermana Pumpkin Conover

Well, just kidding, her email's working now.

I get the letters every transfer.
And I love hearing about your time in the temple. I love the temple. I want to go there every week (at least) when I get back to the States. There is such a Spirit there that blesses our lives and can help us so much. I love going and learning something new every time. And feeling the pure Spirit that is in the Celestial room is amazing. I was so glad we went for Christmas as a mission. It was amazing.
Anyway, I love you! Have a wonderful new year!
Con MUCHO amor,
Hermana Pumpkin Conover

Hi momma!
I loved talking to you on Christmas. I wished that it could have been like the times when I would walk back from school and it wsa just you and me talking and then I could have had the time with everyone else, but alas, it wasn't so. It was hard to hang up (as you could probably tell), but I loved hearing your voice. And talking with you.
I love you, mom. Thank you for the prayers and everything. I love you.
Love, Hermana Conover


So my comps email started to work, so here's a little bit more.

I love you, mom. I'm so grateful for everything that you have done for me in my life before my mission and during my mission. You're so strong. You are a woman of faith and I knew that before my mission, but I've realized that more now.
Two of my companions have pointed out (when I get frustrated) that I have so much faith. And I wouldn't have that faith without you, mom. You taught me to read my scriptures and to pray and even though I wasn't the best at it before my mission, I'm following your example now and praying everyday (multiple times a day) and reading my scriptures and marking them up like you do. We're reading the Book of Mormon as a mission and I'm reading it in Spanish. It's hard sometimes (like the Isaiah chapters), but I think of your persevering attitude and press forward.
I'm trying my hardest to keep up your legacy (well, legacy to me) of presevering through hard times and diligently studying the scriptures. And your spirit of service, too. Your "can do" attitude that you got from your dad. I'm going to try to do all I can to not tarnish the name of Conover in the mission and the name of Jones, as well. In Guatemala, people have two last names - their fathers and their mothers. So here's to Conover Jones and keeping the tradition up.
I love you, mom. 
Con MUCHO amor,
hermana conover

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

December 24, 2013 email to dad

hi dad!

 I love you!

Anyway, I'm not writing a lot today becuase we'll be talking tomorrow!!!
I'm sending pictures in other emails so that you and the family can get a view of guatemala and the mission.

This week has been good - we're working on finding people to teach IN Sololá and not in the Aldeas.
The temple trip was amazing. we got to see the new video. In English. we had new translators and it was awesome. And it makes more sense of why there's so much more pauses in the video when you watch it side by side with Spanish and English. It made the translations flow better. Anyway, it was amazing. This time, I realized the importance of obedience. It definitely is a law on which the foundation of the world is based off of.

We left at 1 in the morning (we got permission to not sleep because we would have had to get up at 11.30 and only one hour wouldn't have done a lot of good) and didn't really sleep in the bus. We went to the Temple and after had a devotional with President and his family and we got our packages. Thanks to you and mom and Laura, I had candy to share on the way back home. We all opened our presents on the bus and enjoyed them all together. I had some chocolate from Peru. Oh man, it was delicious.

We have food rules in the mission. We can't eat pork or anything like it (including sliced ham for sandwiches), no fish, no strawberries, no grapes, lettuce, or ice cream from the street or any food from the street. That's about it, I think. Otherwise, we have to wash it really well (like let it sit in bleach water for a few minutes and let it air dry) or make sure it has a peel (like bananas, papayas, etc). We eat pretty well. Oatmeal or cereal in the morning (with yogurt if its cereal and an apple), a really good lunch from our cocinera (cook), and something for dinner after planning (usually cereal or oatmeal). We don't go hungry we try to eat well. I feel fine - I've only gotten sick from food once here in Sololá and that's because it was really rich. Most of the time I'm fine.
To leave town we take a bus and it takes us to where we need to go. that or a flete (the truck where a bunch of people jump into the back). It's all pretty cheap. And in town, sometimes we take taxis or a tuk-tuk - it's a taxi but it's a motorcycle. I think we're the only area that gets to use tuk-tuks and fletes.

We had a Christmas miracle! We didn't have hot water for a really long time (four weeks - the whole time I've been here plus some) [ Michelle only gets water between 7 am and 1 pm, anyway] and the electricity was all funny and didn't work right, at all. So yesterday, someone came and fixed it. And we had hot showers today. It was fantastic.

Anyway, as a mission, we're reading the Book of Mormon together. We started on Saturday and we finished 1 Nephi 8 today. It's going well. Hermana Peterson and I decided that we're going to read it in Spanish and highlight every time the word Señor, Dios, Cristo, or Jesucristo appears. I love the Book of Mormon and I am so grateful that we get to read it as a mission. It's kind of cool to think that all the missionaries in our mission are reading the same things everyday and getting different revelation from it. I love this book and I know that it is scripture and the words of God.
I love you, dad! I'm so excited we get to talk tomorrow!

con MUCHO amor,

Hermana Conover

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December 17, 2013 emails to dad and mom

Hi dad!
Solola is really close to the Quetzaltenalgo mission. We´re right next to it, actually.

Yeah, the market is crazy Tuesdays and Fridays. The buses are PACKED (but we can´t contact them because we can´t walk in them) and there are TONS of people. 
I love it here - it´s gorgeous. It´s really hilly - think of a smaller area than San Francisco but just as hilly and that would be about right.
We live in the city of Solola in a house. We don´t have water before 7 and only until about 1 in the afternoon. And the water is freezing. It´s great. I love it.
And the trajes (or cortes) - I love them. The clothes are so beautiful. Some of the trajes (the intricate clothes) can cost about 4,000 Quetzales.
We usually leave Solola, actually. The people in the city Solola aren´t that receptive to our message but in the Aldeas (like suburbs of Solola, but appear like Brentwood with tons of crops and not a lot of houses) more people are receptive. Granted, some of them don´t know Spanish, but they´re more receptive. And we have to change how to teach here. We teach lesson 1 more simply and explain everything more in detail to help the people get the basics more.
The drive was from the place we had changes to Solola. It was about 5 hours (we stopped for 30 minutes to eat at McDonalds, but it was still a really long drive). We had a mini bus - one of the members helped us out and drove us.
We´re in a branch - there are about 150 people that attend each week, but there aren´t enough men in the ward to be a ward.
The Chapel is about in the center of Solola. It´s small-ish for a chapel, but it´s a chapel. 
The phone number is our house number. I think it´s a cell phone (land lines are really expensive here). but yeah, we´ll be home in the morning on Christmas - it´s our P-Day for the week, so we´ll be home and shop for stuff afterwards.
The people here know how to work and work hard. Men here carry hundreds of pounds of stuff on their shoulders and the women and children work hard in the home and businesses.
This week for Christmas, we´re going to the Temple in Guatemala City. We get to leave at 1 in the morning from our house, pick up a bunch of people in our zone and area and then drive to Guatemala. We´ll do a session, go to eat, and then have a fireside with President Brough. I´m excited. Actually, we´re all excited for this. And then we´ll drive home. We´ll get back around 7 or 8 at night, so we´ll probably not have a lot of lessons that day. People go to their houses around 7 and to bed around 8. So we´ll get back and probably just contact the few people that are on the street and go back to our house at 9.
Oh - it´s FREEZING here. I never thought I would say that about Guatemala, but it´s COLD. In the morning and the night. And the wind. Oh man - it´s cold here, but it´s all good. I love Solola. I´m excited to work here for a while.
Anyway, this week I finished the Isaiah chapters of 2 Nephi. I didn´t understand that much more than usual, but I loved it. I kind of laughed, though, when Nephi said "I delight in plainness". Plain and clear? Working on that still, but there were definitely some things that stuck out to me as I read and I realized that even though it´s hard to understand, it´s possible to understand. We just have to read with the Spirit of the Lord and ask for help and to ponder the things that we read.
Anyway, I love you! I´m excited to talk to you and mom next week (and I guess whoever else is in the house at the time). I love you MUCHO! And thanks for all the prayers and support. It means a lot.
Con MUCHO amor,
Hermana Pumpkin Conover

Hi mom!
I think we´re getting our packages on Thursday when we go to the Temple. And thank you so much for the gorgeous Christmas cards and the letters with them. I love the Shepherd´s hill one and the "O Come Let Us Adore Him". They´re gorgeous. Thank you.
It´s a cell phone - land lines are really expensive here and it´s a cell phone. I hope that it doesn´t get too expensive. We have 40 minutes to talk, so...And you´re calling me at 11:30, right? I´m not allowed to call you, you´re calling me. Just a reminder.
The mosquito bites on my legs are from Ribera. They´re not scars, but they´re close. I had a really bad habit of scratching them. And I do have bug spray and I use it occasionally. I know I don´t want to get sick and you don´t want me sick, either, but sometimes we´re running out the door in the morning. And they´re arent´really mosquitos here - just flies that bite you. :)
It took us 5 hours to get to Solola from changes. It was fun and pretty.
Hermana Peterson is fantastic. She´s a hard worker and helps me with my Spanish. She didn´t really understand Spanish her first few months, so she understands. She says my Spanish is really good and that "I´ll be fluent and everything" by the end of my mission. That was nice to hear. But my grammar isn´t that great, so she´s helping me with that. And we´re hoping and praying that we can work more in our area and help more people to listen and to hear the Gospel. We´re working hard and trying to improve our relationship with the members to work with them more.

We go to church in a chapel above (geographically) a school - La Justo Refino. It´s a chapel for our branch in Solola 2. The Zone Leaders are in Solola 1. Our branch has about 150 members that attend each Sunday, but there aren´t enough men in the branch to be a ward. 
We have a cook and someone to do our laundry, but we do our garments ourselves. And we have a shower, but we only have water from 7 in the morning to about 1 in the afternoon. And it´s freezing water. But I love it - it´s a new, fun part of the adventure called "The Mission". :)
Yeah, our area is comparable to San Francisco, pretty much. Hermana Peterson goes a little bit slower for me when we go up the hills. It´s fun. And I am very grateful that I played tuba for 7 years. If not, I probably wouldn´t be able to breathe during the day. The areas around, though, are quite flat. It kind of looks like Brentwood before all the stores and stuff were out there. It´s flat with a lot of corn and a few houses and tiendas (stores - like small mini-marts in gas stations).
The "truck-taxis" are called "fletes" and are really fun. You feel like a dog who stuck his head out of the window of a car. It´s really fun. And I haven´t seen anyone been hit by a car. It probably happens, but I haven´t seen it. And in our area (the top part of Solola), we can see the lake for most of the time.
Yesterday, for P-Day, we went to a members house and cooked fried chicken and funeral potatoes on a stove. It was REALLY good. And it´s also good to know that we can make funeral potatoes on a stove. We´re going to try to make chicken cordon bleu for Christmas, but we´ll see how well that goes.
That´s nice about catching up with the Maltesters and with the Crespos. It´s good to hear about them.
We contacted a gringo in a bus the other dayy - it was so hard to contact in English. He´s looking for a job here in Guatemala and he´s living in Honduras. He wants to to humanitarian stuff and he doesn´t know what he´s doing with his life. We tried to get his address, but he said, "I don´t do the whole Jesus thing". It was so hard - we knew that this message could help him so much if only he´d listen. But, we planted a seed and that´s what matters.  
This week I´ve been studying the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi. I just finished and I kind of laughed when Nephi said, "I delight in plainnes". I guess I´m still working on the plain and clear part of the Isaiah chapters. Some things stuck out to me this time (like how Isaiah´s writings are poetry - they´re gorgeous) and a lot about Christ and how everything points to Christ and His purpose as a Redeemer for all of us. We´re teaching a lot about the Savior at this time of year and I love it. I love that when we teach about Christ´s birth, we´re able to talk about the Atonement and His purpose in the earth and all of it. It all works and ties in together. I love this Gospel and I´m so grateful that I get to teach people about it for the next part of my life.
I love you, mom! I hope everything is going well! Don´t do all of the Christmas decorations yourself - ask Jen or Jenna for help! I love you!
Con MUCHO amor,
Hermana Pumpkin Conover

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

December 10, 2013 emails to dad and mom

Hi daddy!
How´s it going? Your Spanish is fantastic. :)

Chris Diep - how´s he doing? I hope he´s doing well.

Thank you for that. 10 and 11 [Preach My Gospel]- my purpose as a missionary and my success as a missionary, right? I have read that many times to learn how to trust the Lord more and that it´s not baptisms that counts. It´s how hard you work and how obedient you are. I´m doing both. President Brough said that I work hard and diligently, so I´m pretty sure I´m doing ok about that. It´s just sometimes, when you´re tired or really stressed, Satan sneaks in and starts to make you frustrated. The past week I´ve done a lot better. Every time a negative thought comes in my head, I smile and think of your comment about sharing the Gospel with the people here and how I smile while doing it. I have realized recently (again) that people do have their agency. And dragging them to the font isn´t giong to help them get a real conversion or attain salvation. It´s teaching them until they understand and loving them and helping them understand that baptism and other covenants are necessary. And I understand what happened with the Elders - we´re working on that, too. President Brough calls that the "sneak attack" method of baptismal challenges.
I firmly believe in missionary touches. One of the converts in our ward said that she had gone to church for 3 years before she got baptized (I don´t think it was continuous, but still). And how many missionaries is that? A lot. And she wasn´t baptized for a really long time. Or like Martha in our ward - she wasn´t baptized for 2 years and how many missionaries? It´s just frustrating sometimes when someone got an answer and they don´t realize it or accept it. But it´s all building up to the day when they accept the Gospel - whether it´s in this life or the next.
Oh - I´m being tansferred tomorrow. I don´t know where. We´re going to be at the transfer meeting tomorrow. Hermana Cruz and Hermana Weatherford are staying in Ribera del Rio. I´m almost done packing - I got most of it done yesterday and only have to pack the stuff that I use everyday. It´ll be good to have more experiences, meet more people, and have a new companion. It´ll be good. I´m excited to continue the work in other areas.

That´s awesome for mom´s birthday! [A trip to the San Francisco Symphony to hear Burt Bacharach] And I think she´ll like the toothbrush.  You know how much she likes to clean the grout between the tile all the time. :)   [family joke]

I´ll probably get the letters tomorrow. I´ve gotten some and mom´s birthday package, but I´ll probably get the rest tomorrow. We´ll see.

This week, we had a meeting with President Brough (about retention of the converts) and he shared a scripture - 2 Nephi 10:23-24. Basically, it says that happiness is a commandment. And I´m trying hard with that one. It´s easy most of the time, but around 8:30, after our appointments fall through and there aren´t a lot of people in the street, it´s difficult. But, like I told one of the sisters in our mission, when you don´t want to smile, that´s the time to smile. Being happy is so important with this message, because it is a message of happiness and people see that. They see our smiles - it´s one of the first impressions they get of us. I notice that when I smile while talking with people, they listen. They might not accept, but they listen.

Anyway, I love you, dad! Give mom a hug for her birthday from me!

Con MUCHO amor,
Hermana Pumpkin Conover
Hi momma!
How are you? How´s your hip? How are you feeling? I hope you´re doing well. Oh - HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! HERE¨S LOVE AND KISSES AND HUGS FROM GUATEMALA!!! I love you, momma!

I´m being transferred this week - when I know where, I´ll tell you. And I should be getting to email you this week about the Christmas call information. We´ll see how that goes.
It´s weird to think that it´s so cold at home - it´s 70 and humid here and doesn´t feel like December at all. And it´s weird to think that it´s snowing in Utah. We talked about it yesterday during our P-Day, and it was weird.

The work is moving forward in Ribera. No baptisms this transfer, but a lot in the upcoming weeks. It´s all good. We touched a lot of lives these past six weeks.
I´ve had a cold this past week, but it hasn´t been that bad. I´ve still been able to work, so that´s what matters.

Ah, crying. You don´t have private moments in the mission. If one companion is down, the companionship is down. But yes, the tears were mostly in the house and sometimes in the meetings we had with the new missionaries. But they were quiet tears, if that counts for anything. It´s a work in process. Sometimes, you just get frustrated that you aren´t as good as you want to be and then humility comes in and you realize that it´s in the Lord´s time, way, and with His love, as well. We´re all working really hard. Days feel like weeks and weeks like seconds. I don´t know how that works, but it does.

My patience has grown these past 3 months. I´m still working on patience with myself  (because you and I both know that I´ve always been hard on myself), but with other people it´s decent. I can control it with other people, which is good. I need to study about grace and faith more - I know that when we try our hardest, we´ve done all we can do. But in the mission, I´m not sure what my hardest is. I try hard and I push myself, but I don´t know what my hardest is. So I keep pushing forward and doing what I can and understanding as much as I can and listen all the time to the people and the Spirit. I love this work. This is definitely a refiners fire for all the people that take part of the full-time missionary service. The blessings will come. The people will be baptized. we may not see the blessings now, but it will be there. I know it will. Heavenly Father always answers our prayers and our needs when we express them.

This week, President Brough shared two scriptures - 2 Nephi 10:23-24. Basically, it says how being happy is a commandment and how we need to never be disanimanted about things. To never give up hope. To continually push forward in the steadfast faith in Christ. I know that as we choose to be happy (because it is a choice), we´ll feel better and have more hope and faith. And there´s a really good article in the Ensign - I think its September, called "the Healing balm of hope". It´s really good. I would recommend it.

The Spanish is coming along. Sometimes, it´s hard, but most of the time I can teach and understand most of what people say.

Thanks for sharing about the ward party and the Nutcracker. And thanks for saving me an ornament. And I should get your package tomorrow as well as the letters. you should be getting two envelopes in the next week or two. They have about 8 letters or so in them.

I love you, mom! Thank you for yours prayers. I´ll have more stories next week, promise!
Con MUCHO amor,

Hermana Pumpkin Conover

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

December 3, 2013 Letters to Dad and Mom


I cannot believe it´s December. It feels like yesterday was June or May. I cannot believe it. But it´s been a great four months in the mission.

You´ll have to send a picture of the nativity and our house with all the lights. That´d be fun to see. : )

I like the idea about the WML [Ward Mission Leader]calling every night to see how the day was. That would definitely bring more unity within you and the Elders. I like that. And it keeps you up to date on the goings on of the work in Pittsburg. That´s a good idea. We might have to try that. We´ll see.

I hope the weather is good for the parade, too. Say "hi" to the guys for me.

I really like teaching about the Restoration. We teach that one the most, but I like it. And I really like teaching about the Apostasy for some reason. I think it´s because it shows that good people were on the earth during that time and tried to reform the churches to get back to the way it was. Yes, people changed doctrines to get gain (1 Nephi 13 and 4 Nephi 1:26), but good people also looked for the truth, but it wasn´t time. But because the Lord loves us and that we´re children of God, He restored the Gospel for us. It´s central to this message and it´s true. I loved what one of the counselors of the Bishopbric said the other day. We teach teh restoration first and the first vision because it shows that God has a body of flesh and bones and that He loves us and that the true church is on the earth today. We teach it a lot (because a lot of first visits) and every time, my faith and testimony get a little bit more powerful in this message.

We have an investigator right now and he has problems with the Word of Wisdom. We taught him the word of wisdom and he committed to live it, right on the spot. No coffee, smoking, or tea. He dropped all three (or, committed that he would). And he´s really close to a set bautismal date for the 22 of December. He´s attended church one time and he reads what we give him and prays. He´s awesome and we´re excited for him.

Oh - and read moms letter this week for an experience with an Atheist. That was fun.
The language is coming along. I can comfortably teach lessons and understand almost all of what people say. Sometimes, it´s hard to understand (stories are hard), but I just take a deep breath and keep going. It´s good. I´m not fluent in any respect, but I can teach and testify, and that´s what´s important. I´m going to keep improving my Spanish and work with it, but it comes little by little. So here´s to persevering! :)
I love you, dad. I am very grateful for the prayers - they help me when we´re looking for appointments and people to teach. I feel your love, even though we´re thousands of miles apart. I love you, dad!

Con mucho amor,
Hermana "Pumpkin" Conover

Hi mom!
I love hearing about the crafts! And the silhouette idea sounds amazing. I´m tired for you. And yes, I´ll have to watch Airplanes and Monsters University in Spanish when I get back (that´ll probably be the only language I´ll really understand at that point). And the cookie exchange sounds delightful - eat some cookies for me. And some soup.

Our Turkey Day was really good, actually. We planed in a half an hour and RAN to make dinner. We made potatoes, warmed up turkey slices, made gravy (which actually wasn´t that bad - I thought I burned the flour at one point, but it was good), black refried beans (because we´re in Guatemala), and bread, and apple cider. In 20 minutes. I don´t know how, but it was 20 minutes. And it was pretty good. So, my first Thanksgiving in Guatemala was pretty good.
This week, we had four days where it was FREEZING. Not by Utah standards (not by a long shot), but for Guatemala,. it was cold. It was windy too (like our house windy) and it was probably around 50 Fahrenheit for most of the day. It was cold. And we didn´t really have sweaters for it, but that´s okay. We had lessons during the coldest parts of the day, so it was okay.

Spanish is coming along. I´m at a point where I can teach comfortably (most of the time) and I understand a lot of everything else. Sometimes, it´s hard to understand people (like this one lady we teach - she talks fast and she´s old and she likes to tell stories, so it´s a little hard sometimes to understand). I´m still working on my grammar and vocabulary, but that´s okay. Always learning, right?

And here´s a story for the fan club. We taught an Atheist this week and he was very adamant that God doesn´t exist and that it´s not important to him, at all. And Hermana Weatherford had said that God is her Father in Heaven and he said that those were just words that we repeat. But a little later, I bore my testimony that God is MY Heavenly Father and that He loves me. And that those aren´t just words that I repeat, but I KNOW that He loves me and that I am a child of God. After the prayer, he said that I have a lot of conviction for this message. But that wasn´t the most influential part of the lesson. when I bore my testimony, it was as if floodgates opened in my heart and the Spirit testified so strongly to me that this message is true. And that God is my Heavenly Father.
And, for the lady at the bank, say, "Que le va a bien" for me. (it means something like, "let everything go well for you"...more or less).

Anyway, this week has been good. We´ve been working hard and praying hard and I love it when we´re busy. It feels good to teach people about Christ and how to come unto Him through the principles of the Gospel. I love it. This Gospel is true and I know it is. I have seen the Lord´s hand in this work. And some miracles, too. I know that we are helping in a divine work for the Savior and the children of our Father in Heaven.
I love you, mom! Have a wonderful week and don´t work too hard! If you need hep with the tree, ask Jen or Seth to help. And have the kidlets put the kid friendly ornaments up. Maybe for an FHE or something. I love you!

-Hermana "Pumpkin" Conover