Monday, December 21, 2015

A Christmas Miracle

We had to travel to Encarnación this week, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we got to go to visit the branch activity with the sisters of Rama 1 where I ran into a few old friends from my first area in the mission, including this crazy fellow:
His name is Alberto.

Flashback to early February. My companion is Hermana Sorenson, and my area is Encarnación Rama 3. It's Monday, so it's time to write our families! Usually we go to the cyber first thing in the morning, but today a lot of stuff was going on and we couldn't get to the cyber until the afternoon. But it turns out to be a blessing because while we're in the cyber, we run into this super cool less-active member named Alberto. He wants to meet with us! We set up an appointment for that very night, even though we already have other appointments to get to and we might not have very much time. And then our other appointments fall through! So we have plenty of time to chat with Alberto, who is going through a lot of trials in his life and desperately needs help. We offer what little advice we can. And then we learn that his birthday is on Thursday! And he doesn't have anyone to celebrate with. So of course we plan to make a cake and celebrate a little with him in the church. Maybe we can invite some members too.

On Thursday we make the cake and wait in the church, but Alberto never shows up.

On Friday, we get a call from Presidente LaPierre. It's interview season, and we were scheduled to have interviews on Saturday, but Presidente finished early today with his interviews so he has time to squeeze us in and get a head start on tomorrow's interviews and can we meet him in our church in half an hour?

While my companion is in her interview with Pte. LaPierre, I chat with Hermana LaPierre in the chapel. Suddenly, a strange man appears in the doorway. It's dark and I can't see who it is. "Hello?" I say. The man steps into the light and - it's Alberto! He apologizes for not showing up last night. He was walking by tonight and saw that the gate was open and thought he would poke his head in and see if someone was here. He learns that Presidente is here and asks, "Is it difficult to get an interview with Pte. LaPierre?" As a matter of fact, once President finishes my interview, he has time to interview Alberto right then and there.

After the interview, we never saw Alberto again. He kind of just vanished. We tried to call him, but the calls didn't go through. So I forgot about him, until I ran into Hermana Marvian six months later. Hermana Marvian followed me to Encarnación, and she found Alberto and his wife and kid and worked to reactivate all of them. "Do you remember Alberto?" she asked me when I asked her about all of the people in Rama 3.

Not only did Alberto return to church, he also became a great support for the church in Encarnación. After some time he moved to Rama 1, where he worked with the missionaries to find and activate all the less active members. The missionaries told me how church assistance (attendance) skyrocketed when Alberto was working with them. And then he moved again, this time to Posadas, and their assistance dropped.

"But, Hermana Watts," you ask, "if Alberto moved to Posadas, how did you find him in Encarnación?"

This is very good question. All I can say is that God's timing is impeccable. It just so happened that the one day I was in Encarnación was the day that Alberto popped in for a visit. One coincidence after another...but so many coincidences cannot be anything but divine planning.

Love,
Hermana Watts

p.s. Ha Nacido Un Salvador!! A Savior Is Born! check out the video: christmas.mormon.org (for Spanish visit navidad.mormon.org)

Rosi and her daughter Magalí, very dear friends from Rama 3
Encarnación!
Our district Christmas Party/White Elephant gift exchange
Isn't my area breathtaking?
There are members in the branch who have a pet monkey!  His name is Enrique.

Monday, December 7, 2015

What Shall We Give to the Babe in the Manger?

​"​In our day the spirit of giving gifts plays a large role in commemorating the Christmas season. I wonder if we might profit by asking ourselves, What gifts would the Lord have me give to Him or to others at this precious season of the year?  

May I suggest that our Heavenly Father would want each of us to render to Him and to His Son the gift of obedience. I also feel that He would ask us to give of ourselves and not be selfish or greedy or quarrelsome​."​ (Thomas S. Monson)

​What shall we give to the Babe in the manger?​ This Christmas season, I would like to give the gift of faith.

I got to do divisions with Hermana Hartley last week and I feel like one of the prominent principles I learned was that of faith. We had the opportunity to visit Celeste, who is going to be baptized on Saturday, and our visit with her gave me a new perspective on faith. Hna Hartley explained to me that Celeste was supposed to be baptized last Saturday, but she missed one church attendance so they had to postpone it a week. This last week, Celeste began to have a lot of doubts about her baptism and felt that she was rushing things, that maybe she should wait a little longer. (I guess one of the members talked in church about how he had to wait two years to be baptized.) I began to agree with her - why the rush? But Hna Hartley wanted her to be baptized this week, and we talked about how we could help her. I began to think about it, and the thought that came to my mind was the principle of faith. Some people need to try their faith by waiting a long time before they can be baptized. But sometimes the trial of faith comes in making the decision to follow the Lord even when (or perhaps especially when) we're full of doubt. Celeste had received her spiritual confirmation that this was the right path, her faith was proven in overcoming her doubts and deciding to go through with the baptism. I'll try to take a lesson from Celeste and keep exercising my faith even when doubts arise.

What shall you give?

Love,
Hermana Watts










Monday, November 30, 2015

Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?

Last week we were walking down the street on our way to church when we passed a woman tending her flower garden in front of her house.  We waved and kept walking, and she called to us, "Do you live here?"  We told her that no, we live in another part of town, but we visit people out here.
"Where is your church?" she asked.  We explained to her how to get to our church.
"I used to be a member of your church," she told us.
"Really? How long ago?" I asked.
"Oooh, a long time ago.  Probably 20 years.  I joined in Buenos Aires.  I was a missionary too."  She told us that she had been married in the Catholic church and that her husband passed away just four months ago.  Across the street from her house is a Catholic church, but she told us that she doesn't feel good in that church.  She wants to return to the true Church.

Yesterday we visited Teresa again.  She showed us her photos from her mission in Salta, Argentina.  She invited us to eat lunch with her - we initially declined, because we had another lunch appointment elsewhere, but while we talked, the sister called to cancel the appointment, so we got to eat lunch with our new friend and sister.  Just before we left, we invited her to pray.  "Let's see if I remember," she said.  In her prayer, she thanked God for sending us to her and for showing her that He hasn't forgotten her.  

God truly is mindful of each of us, and it is a privilege to take part in His great work to "succor the weaklift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees" (D&C 81:5).

Love,
Hermana Watts


Monday, November 23, 2015

Grateful

Happy Thanksgiving!  What a special time of year to pause a moment and consider the rich blessings the Lord showers upon us.  Let me share a few of my blessings with you.

I am grateful for the woman who took pity on two rain-soaked missionaries trying not to slip and fall in the mud as we made our way through the surprise rainstorm.  She invited us into her home and fed us delicious homemade bread and even offered to let us stay the night if the storm didn't let up.  When the rain eased up, she lent us two warm sweaters so we wouldn't freeze while waiting for the bus.

I am grateful for a companion who speaks Guaraní and tries to teach me.

I am grateful for the woman who had the courage to stop us in our path to ask where our church was.  She explained that all her family are members and she also used to participate in the church but had fallen away, but now has desires to return.  And I am grateful for the other woman, who stopped us the very next day in another part of town, and explained that she had been baptized and served a mission in Argentina, but fell away from the church some twenty years ago, and now wants to come back.

I am grateful for a ward mission leader who is willing to sacrifice his time and energy to work with the missionaries and fulfill his calling.  And I am grateful for his mother who always gives us big hugs and makes us feel loved.

I am grateful for the green green plants and the blue blue sky of Minga Guazú, and I am even grateful for the rain that makes everything grow so beautifully here.

I am grateful for a Heavenly Father who loves me and is patient with my weaknesses.
I am grateful for my Savior, for His love and mercy.  I am grateful for the opportunity He has given me to repent and be better.  I am grateful for the great Plan of Redemption prepared by our loving Father before the beginning of the world.  And I am grateful for the opportunity to teach others about this plan.

Love,
Hermana Watts

Found my juice!


Fotos with the children and niece of Ramona and David, newly-baptized members as of about two weeks before I arrived.  I love this family so much!







We invited Francisca, the 17-year-old sister of Ramona, to the stake Young Women in Excellence night.  Each ward/branch put together and performed a zumba dance - super fun!

Proud of the Minga Guazú YW!

"Paraguay...My country...My world,
Root of my being and guarani soul...
Rich in history and unique in her essence,
And it is solely from within that one can
Appreciate her true colors,
Her own light and the warmth of her people.
From without,
It is easy to confuse her reality,
But from within,
It is impossible not to fall in love..."

Look! That's where I am!
A beautiful mural at the new Jesuitas shopping center (which is basically a portal to the United States - they have Nike, TGI Friday's, and Burger King)

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Adventure Continues . . .

Monday, November 9

Early Afternoon.
Other missionaries: "Hermana Watts, you have ​trámites! Be in the terminal at 9:30 tonight!"
Me: "Okay, great, where am I going?"
Them: "Asunción!"
Me: "Oh cool, last time I went to Asunción, we were only there one day. I don't need to bring anything!"

9:30 p.m.
We arrive in the terminal. Hermana Gavilán, Hermana Santos, and Hermana Martinez go home to the area where they will be staying until their companions return. Hermana Woodwell, Hermana Hartley, and I get cozy while we wait for the elders to buy our tickets.
Me: "Hermana Hartley, why do you have a suitcase? Why did you bring so much stuff?"
Hna. Hartley: "They told me that after Asunción I would go directly to Posadas for consejo."
Me: "Wait, you and Hermana Woodwell are both HLCs! What am I going to do? I don't have anyone to travel back to my area with me!"
Elders: "We're just going to go to Asunción and they'll tell us what to do from there."

11:30 p.m.
The bus leaves Ciudad del Este for Asunción.

Tuesday, November 10

5:30 a.m.
We arrive in Asunción and meet up with the missionaries who travelled from Encarnación, including the Secretary of Trámites, Elder Quesada.
Me: "Elder Quesada, what am I going to do after tramites? Hermana Woodwell and Hermana Hartley are going to Posadas for Consejo."
Elder Quesada: "Sorry Hermana Watts, I forgot about you. You'll just have to stay in Encarnación."

6:00 a.m.
We board the combi and go to the government building where we sign papers and stuff.
Me and Hermana Hartley, with Hermana Woodwell in the background
10:00 a.m.
We finish tramites and go to the temple.  Elder Quesada disappears on some official errand and doesn't come back until 3 hours later, so we take advantage of the time to snap pictures, buy stuff in the distribution center across the street, and nap.



1:00 p.m.
Elder Quesada reappears and we eat lunch.

4:00 p.m.
We board the bus for Encarnación.

9:30 p.m.
We arrive (exhausted) in Encarnación.  I get to stay the night with Hermana Albach and Hermana Lopez, who are wonderful.  It would have been a lot more fun if I had thought to bring a change of clothes, or at least a toothbrush.  But what can you do?

Wednesday, November 11

Late Afternoon.
After spending the day with Hermana Albach and Hermana Lopez, we return to the terminal in Encarnación to wait as missionaries begin crossing over from Consejo.  I start talking to my zone leader, Elder Graves.
Me: "What time does the bus leave for Ciudad del Este?"
Elder Graves: (eyes widen) "Oh no!  The hermanas aren't crossing over till tomorrow!  They have trámites in Posadas!  They forgot about you again!"
Me: "Hahaha good one!  But seriously, when does the bus leave?"
E' Graves: "No, I'm being serious!"
Me: "Very funny."
E' Graves: *pulls out cell phone and calls mission office*
Me: "Wait, you're actually serious?!"
A moment of horror passes, and then we realize that Hermana Barragan is in the terminal and also needs to travel to CdE.  I can travel with her and our companions can come when they are done with trámites.  

Late Evening.
While waiting for the bus, I seize the opportunity to go out to dinner with my friends Ariel y Liz (from Rama 3) and Hermana Barragan.
Reunited with Liz!




Thursday, November 12

12:30 a.m.
The bus for CdE leaves Encarnación.

5:30 a.m.
We arrive in our pension and go to sleep.

11:00 a.m.
And...back to work!
Jaha ñamba'apo!

Love,
Hermana Watts

Bonus Fotos

Branch Conference Choir!


Me and my companion, Hermana Gavilán

Pics from last week


Saying goodbye to...
Maria Correa (Sweet evangelical-turned-Mormon)
Vanessa Benitez (RS President)
Marcos Lopez (Investigator)
my district




and my companion
Also, look who I found in the terminal!
Ariel, a member from my first area


Monday, November 9, 2015

Jaha Ñamba'apo!

So this morning I was sitting with my companion waiting for the bus...when suddenly a fancy car pulls up and two young men start talking to us.  I couldn't hear them very well and thought they were asking for directions.  But then they looked right at me and said, "Can I have your number?"

...awkward.

Fortunately my companion jumped in and saved me.  "We don't have a cell phone!" (which is true, it got pick-pocketed a week ago.)  And the two creepy guys drove away.

Yep, I'm back in Paraguay.

Q&A from my mother:

1. How has your week been?  Lots of traveling?  Don't you have to cross into Paraguay through Posadas and Encarnación?  So you had to go the long way around to get to your area which was really just across the river!
Umm, yes? I think you answered your own question...

2. On my weather app, it looked like Paraguay was a little hotter than Argentina.  Is it?
Yes.  There aren't as many trees here, so we spend a lot of time directly under the sun.  My skin is now a lovely shade of red...I think I might need to invest in a sombrero.

3. And did you have a time change or not?
Yes, but not in the sense you're thinking.  My area is somewhat dangerous at night, so I have a different schedule than other missionaries.  We work during daylight hours and return to the pension around 7 for planning and studies.  But Paraguay is on the same time as Argentina now.

4. Tell us about your area?  Is it part of Ciudad del Este, or is it a separate town?  Are there elders there, or just another set of sisters?  Do you live with the other sisters?
I didn't realize how much I missed this country until I came back!  I am very happy with my area.  I live in Minga Guazú which is just west of Ciudad del Este.  It is its own city but there's not much distinction between the two - like Reno and Sparks.  There are only sisters in Minga, which is super fun!  The other companionship consists of Hermana Dempsey, my former companion, and Hermana Runnells, who was in the MTC with Hermana Dempsey and in my zone in Eldorado.  We don't live together, but they live only a block away from us and we see each other all the time.  The four of us are having a blast!

5. Tell us about your new companion.  Where in Paraguay is she from?  Does she speak Guarani?  How old is she?  What does she like to do?  Is she a convert?
My new companion is Hermana Gavilán from Concepción, Paraguay (north of Asunción).  She speaks fluent Guaraní and is teaching me a ton!  For the first time I have a companion who is younger than me, though not by much since she turned 20 in September.  She likes to do everything (her words).  Her family joined the church when she was a year old.  She's a sweetheart!

Jaha ñamba'apo! My new favorite phrase in Guaraní.  It means, "let's get to work!"  President Ezra Taft Benson taught: "I have often said that one of the greatest secrets of missionary work is work!"  The Kingdom of God isn't going to build itself.  So let's get to work!  

Jaha ñamba'apo!

Love,
Hermana Watts

Those were the questions I sent her yesterday.  (She had mentioned last week that she was being transferred to Minga Guazú and that her new companion would be from Paraguay, but didn't give any details).  Here's a few more questions from today:

1.  Any pictures this week?
My companion took some pictures, but I'm afraid to take my camera out of the pension because of pick-pocketers...

2. Are both sets of sisters in the same branch or are there two branches in Minga Guazú?
We are in the same branch.  OH!  And I forgot to mention they are building a new chapel right across the street from our pension (or rebuilding) so we are meeting in Barrio 2 de CdE (about 30 minutes away by bus).  We have our meetings at 1 in the afternoon.  The new building should be completed by the end of the year, so I might be here when it is finished!

3. What time do you leave your apartment in the morning?
We have an hour of personal studies in the morning from 8:30-9:30 and leave between 9:30 and 10:00.

4.  You said you didn't realize how much you missed Paraguay until you came back.  Do you like it better than Argentina, or will you feel the same way if you go back to Argentina after several months.  What are some of the differences between serving in the two countries?
The food, for one thing.  There are different flavors in Paraguay that they don't have in Argentina, so the first time I had lunch with the members it was like coming home.  The accent, too, is just ever-so-slightly different.  Somehow I just feel more comfortable here, maybe because Paraguay is my "birthplace." (meaning her first area)

5. Have you heard some Portuguese?
Yep, a little. There are a few members who are from brazil and speak Portuguese.  But it's mostly Spanish and Guaraní.

6. What's different about Minga Guazú in comparison to Encarnacion?
Minga Guazú is a lot bigger. There's a lot more movement because it's just outside Ciudad and Brazil's right there.  There's a lot more Guaraní.  It's fun!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Power in Prayer

​This week I had the opportunity to visit Puerto Rico. You might say, "But Hermana Watts, you are in Argentina!" Well, you are right. Puerto Rico is a cute little town between Eldorado and Posadas. I had the opportunity to do divisions there with Hermana Cárdenas, from Mexico.

While with Hermana Cárdenas, we taught a very brief lesson to an investigator about prayer. We asked how she was doing in her prayers, and she told us about her cousin who had a stroke and was in a coma. The doctors didn't think she would come out of the coma. Our investigator told us how she prayed fervently for her cousin. "Yesterday my cousin woke up," she said. Prayer works!

I cannot count the number of times my prayers have been answered over the years. I can't express what it means to me to know that the Creator of the Universe, with all His worlds and peoples, is mindful of me. He knows each one of us personally and loves us individually. What a blessing to be able to communicate with Him through prayer!

Love,
Hermana Watts

p.s. My companion decorated the pension for Halloween while I was taking a shower...this is what I saw when I came out of the bathroom. She joked that the whole world was celebrating for my birthday (you know, since I'm a witch jaja).





And here's a short video clip (Hermana Watts wasn't sure it was blog-worthy, but I thought it was cute):

video