Monday, July 4, 2016

Miracles Still in Progress

Last Sunday, my companion and I decided to fast to be able to find some new investigators. We specifically fasted that we would be able to find and teach an entire family. That night, we stopped in to visit our good friend Hugo to teach him about the law of tithing. When we got there, to our pleasant surprise, we found that not only Hugo was waiting for us to teach him, but also his mother Bernarda (less-active), his sister Marisa (less-active), his niece Erika (investigator), and even his sister Cristiani (investigator) had closed her little store to come listen in. It was our first time meeting Marisa and our first time teaching Cristiani. Hermana Villanueva and I were like, "Uh . . . what do we teach?" Tithing is not usually what we teach as a first lesson. But we felt impressed to just continue with the plans we have made, and it was perhaps one of the most spiritual lessons on tithing I have ever taught. Everyone participated, asking questions and making really good comments. 

We returned to visit them on Thursday, and felt impressed to teach about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This time, Marisa brought her 10-year-old granddaughter Larise, who has heard about the church from one of her classmates who is a member of our branch. Once again, the lesson was very spiritual, although I became concerned with some of the doubts Marisa expressed. Her comments showed that she didn't believe that anyone can know which church is true, if there even is a true church. We emphasized the power of revelation, of asking God and receiving an answer directly from the source, and invited her to pray and ask God if Joseph Smith was a prophet and if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church of God on the earth. When we finished teaching, we all knelt down to pray. As we explained that we show reverence by folding our arms, bowing our heads, and closing our eyes, Larise said, "I remember this is how Lujan (her classmate) taught me to pray!" Marisa offered the prayer. It was sincere, heartfelt, and powerful.

Yesterday, Marisa and Larise came to church. Marisa was there for the first time in 30 years. We enjoyed listening to the testimonies of the members, which brought a pleasant spirit to our meeting. I was shocked when suddenly Marisa walked up to the pulpit to share her testimony. "I know that God is real," she began, and I thought, Good, she believes in God. What is she going to say about the church? She continued, and told about how her family has been passing through a difficult time, and how she was feeling lost and confused. She concluded with this sweet testimony: "I used to think that nobody could know which church was true, but then I prayed and asked God. He answered my prayer. I know that this is the true church. It is the only true path that will lead us to heaven." 

I am amazed at the power of God to take a skeptical and unbelieving heart and touch it and soften it, that it might be transformed and purified. He did it with Marisa, and He did it with me, and it is truly a miracle.

Hermana Watts

Goodbye Presidente y Hermana LaPierre

Hello Presidente y Hermana Svec :)
so...umm...I fell off my bike.  How did it happen, you ask?  Oh, you know, I was just trying to ride without holding the handlebars and . . . well.  

 I got permission to go visit my old area Minga Guazú for my last P-day here, which sure was a special treat.  Here are some photos:

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Goodbyes are hard.

We had our last zone conference with Presidente and Hermana LaPierre this past Friday. Today (Tuesday) they finish their mission and return home. President told us about how a few weeks ago, he received a large envelope that contained three letters: first, a letter from the mission departement informing him that he has been released as mission president; second, a letter from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles informing him that he has been released as mission president; and finally, a letter from the First Presidency informing him that he has been released as mission president. "I guess they really wanted me to know that I'm released," he joked.

The zone conference was probably one of the most spiritual conferences I've been to in my mission. The highlight was the very end, when Hermana and Presidente LaPierre stood to share their testimonies. As they spoke, I could feel their immense love for each of the missionaries. With spiritual eyes, I caught a glimpse of the efforts and sacrifices they put in to leading this mission. All of the missionaries in the room felt that powerful spirit of love. We carried that spirit as we stood as a zone and sang, in token of our gratitude for our beloved mission president and his wife, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." The Spirit that filled the room was strong and sweet and tender. We love Presidente and Hermana LaPierre and we will miss them dearly.

With that same spirit of love, we are excited to welcome our new mission president and his wife, Presidente and Hermana Svec, who will be arriving sometime today. They have been called to preside over this mission at this time, and we are excited to work with them to further the Lord's work here.

I love you all!
Hermana Watts

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Las Cataratas de Iguazú

So.  THAT day finally arrived.  I got to take the trip with all the honorably-returning missionaries to visit the Iguazú waterfalls.  It was a really special experience, not for the waterfalls, which are just as breathtaking as they were the last time I visited them, but for the company I was with.  These elders and sisters are incredible people, and I am grateful for their dedication and service.  Each of them is an example to me.  I am also grateful for the people we met along the trail - for José from Ecuador who has now visited six of the seven wonders of the world and who accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon and the invitation to read it, and for the sweet Japanese couple who tried so hard to speak English with me. 

Thinking about my experience at the falls, a thought came to me.  The cataratas surely are one of God's most impressive creations in this earth, but we, His children, are His greatest creation.  Every beautiful, wonderful thing in this world was created just for us.  His love for us is reflected in the beauty and magnificence of the world around us.  

May we all have eyes to see the evidence of God's love for us.

Hermana Watts

Top to bottom, left to right: Elder Merrell, Elder Gardner, Elder Rigby, Elder Herzog, Elder Mahoney, Hermana Runnells, Hermana Hartley, me, Hermana Dempsey, Elder Christiansen, and Elder Choca (with coatimundis)

José from Ecuador, at the ripe old age of 26, has visited 6 of the 7 natural wonders of the world - all he has left to see is Petra in Jordan.
This darling Japanese couple is studying English and traveling South America . . . they remind me of my grandparents, always learning, always traveling :)

Monday, June 13, 2016

Susana is Baptized!

This is chapter 2 of the story I shared three weeks ago about the little boy who was hit by a motorcycle. You will be pleased to know that Wilsin is on the mend, his injury now little more than a scratch. He is the same lively, playful almost-7-year-old that he always was. He is determined to serve a mission when he has "grown a foot or two." 

Wilsin's mother, Susana, after receiving the missionary lessons for over two years, finally made the decision to be baptized. The decision wasn't easy. It required great effort and sacrifice not only from her but from her entire family. But she did it!

She was baptized on Saturday, June 11, and confirmed Sunday, June 12. I have never seen her happier. She has made sacred promises with God and is clean from all her sins. 

I testify that this is the only true and living Church upon the face of the earth. It is directed by Jesus Christ himself. "And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent." 

Hermana Watts

p.s. In additional good news, Hugo went to the temple!! We are so happy for him, and his progress is exciting the members. They have greater desires to share the gospel. Spiritual progress is contagious!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Does that mean . . .?

We had such a beautiful experience this past week in teaching Denise, a less active member. She was baptized about 15-16 years ago, stayed strong for maybe 4 years, and then fell away. We love her! We have been visiting her for a few weeks now, and when we went this week, she pulled out gifts for us: a green scarf for me and a white scarf for my companion (see photo). 

This week we decided to teach her the Plan of Salvation. We thought that it would just kind of be a brief summary, since she's already been baptized, but the way she reacted to the lesson made it clear that it was the first time she had heard about it.

"Are you telling me that we lived with God before we were born?" she asked.
"That's right," we said.
"Oh! I always wondered about that! I always thought that life began at birth. I used to think about it, and I would wonder, if life began at birth, why should it continue after death? Eventually I learned to believe that there was life after death, but I never knew that there was life before!" Her excitement was contagious. Then she thought of her daughter, who is expecting a little girl, due July 4. "Does that mean that my granddaughter is there with God?"

Her joy in discovering these truths impressed me greatly. Truly we are blessed with the knowledge we have of God's plan for us - that we did exist before we were born, that we are each sons and daughters of God, that we have the potential to return to His presence and become like Him. Is this not great reason to rejoice?

Hermana Watts

p.s. bonus story! Hugo is a less-active member now coming back to church. His joy in returning to the fold is incredible to witness. He shared his testimony in Sacrament Meeting yesterday: "Estaba en las tinieblas, pero ahora estoy en la luz. (I was in darkness, but now I am in the light)."

Also, last week we had stake conference, and look who I ran into!
TERESA!!  She is doing great, she was able to go to the temple recently and is now serving as the Gospel Principles teacher in the church.

Also my good friend Silvia Nuarte from the stake Relief Society presidency.

And a picture with my favorite family, just cuz :)
Yrma with her three sons, Arnaldo, Pipo, y David; her daughter-in-law Carmen; and her gradndaughter Mia.  And her adoptive daughter, me! :)

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Lord's Work is Our Work

Wilsin is out of the hospital and doing very well. We promised his mother Susana that if she would make a goal to be baptized and make every effort to achieve that goal, she would see God work miracles in her life. One miracle is that Wilsin is safe and sound. Another is that she and her boyfriend were able to take the decision to live in separate houses until they can get married. Now she is one step closer to baptism, and God will continue to bless her as she strives to be obedient to His commandments.

We had a very neat experience this past week to have a member invite some nonmember friends to a family home evening. Later in the week, we were able to go visit one of the friends with the same member. There was a powerful spirit in the lesson and in the family home evening, and now, reflecting on the title of my last email, I have received a new perspective. This is the Lord's work, yes, but it is also our work. I think it's interesting to consider the name of the church I represent: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is not just Jesus Christ's church, it is also our church. This work is not His alone, it is also our work. We who are members of this church have covenanted him that we will always remember Him, that we will take His name upon us. I would humbly suggest that taking His name upon us implies taking upon ourselves some of His responsibility to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." When we as members and missionaries work in unity with our Savior at the lead, we see miracles in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

Hermana Watts

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Plan

On his way home from school last Thursday, Wilsin, an energetic almost-seven-year-old boy in our branch, ran in front of a motorcycle.  He suffered a severe injury to the head and was rushed to the hospital.  He had just enough strength to offer a prayer before he fell into a coma.  For many hours afterwards, the doctors were unsure if he would survive.  In one dark moment, one doctor pronounced him dead.  But Wilsin's time had not yet come.  He woke up.  He began to regain strength, such that when we heard the news a day later and called to see how we could help, he was able to speak into the phone and assure us that, "¡Estoy bien ahora!" (I'm fine now!) 

We went to visit his mother to offer service a couple days after the accident.  She is preparing to be baptized soon.  She told us the whole story, and then we shared a very tender moment with her as she said, "Es un milagro que mi hijo está vivo." (It's a miracle that my son is alive.)  My companion and I testified to her of God's plan for his children.  She said, "Yes, I know the Lord has a plan for my son.  He is going to be a great missionary."

God does have a plan for us.  I spent some time this week studying Abraham chatpers 4 and 5, which describes the creation of the earth.  In chapter 4, the Lord sets forth a very detailed plan of how He is going to create the earth, and in chapter 5, He follows it.  God's plan is perfect.  He knows exactly how He is going to achieve His goal: the immortality and eternal life of man.  He set this plan up before the foundation of the earth.  It is detailed and exact.  If we trust in Him, He will watch over and protect us until we have completed the work He has sent us here to do.

Hermana Watts