Monday, February 23, 2015

Angels Among Us


¿Cómo están todos?  Let me tell you about a miracle we saw this week.

So we were in church yesterday.  Hermana Sorenson and I had just finished giving the lesson in Sunday School, and it was time to transition to Sacrament Meeting (the meetings are a little backwards here in Paraguay).  As I left the classroom, the elders beckoned me over to meet a man.  Assuming he was one of the elders' investigators, I smiled warmly and started to introduce myself.  "No, Hermana," the elder told me, "You've already met."  Thoroughly confused, I asked, "Where?  When?"  The man, whose name is Cesar, explained how we had talked to him in the street.  We gave him a tarjetita (a pass-along-card) and told him he was more than welcome to come to church.  This apparently happened sometime within the last week or two.  When Cesar was faced with personal and family problems, he remembered the tarjetita and the invitation to come to church, and he came.

I thought perhaps Hermana Sorenson had given him the tarjetita and I just hadn't been paying attention, but she has absolutely no recollection of the man.  Her comment, as we discussed the strange and miraculous event, was, "I think angels are at work."

What a blessing to know that we are not alone in this great work!  There are forces greater than we can imagine in operation.  The Lord is truly hastening His work.

¡Les quiero mucho!

Hermana Watts

Q & A:
1.   Have you seen the southern cross? (a constellation that can be seen in the southern hemisphere)

I think so, but I haven't identified it before.  I'll keep an eye out for it for sure!

2.  Tell us about your language study?  Do you study Spanish, Guarani, and Portuguese?  Do you have study materials?

Language study usually consists of reading the Book of Mormon in Spanish.  I'm looking to get a copy in Guarani, but I haven't needed to use Portuguese at all yet.

Monday, February 16, 2015

I'm a missionary!

​Saludos de Paraguay,

Guess what guys.  I am now officially a missionary.  I have endured sunburn, blisters, rejection - there was only one thing left to complete my initiation.  I got bit by a dog.  

Don't worry, I'm fine.  It happened last week, right after I finished writing my family.  It was a big black dog, and I'm pretty sure it was part bear.  But it was also a very clean dog.  It had all of its shots - I know, because I asked the owners.  And it was a very clean bite.  My companion took me home and got me all bandaged up, and I went proselyting the next day.  Don't worry, Mom.  I'm doing great!  The wound is almost completely healed.

I was reading an article in the Liahona about the Mormon pioneers.  Whenever I read stories about the pioneers, I am blown away by the things they did because of their faith in Jesus Christ.  They sacrificed so much.  I read about a woman who single-handedly kept her wagon from sliding down a very steep hill while her young children sat and watched, and I thought, what could she have been thinking?!  I tried to put myself in the woman's shoes, and the thought that came to me was, of course she would do that.  It was what needed to be done.

That's how we need to be.  We need to cultivate faith so strong that when we are called upon to sacrifice or to do hard things for the Lord, our thoughts are, Of course I will do that.  It is what needs to be done.  Of course I will travel 6000 miles from my family.  Of course I will walk for hours each day in the hot sun.  Of course I will endure blisters, sun burn, and dog bites.  Of course I will talk to complete strangers about the most precious and sacred thoughts of my heart.  Of course I will, because my Savior has asked me to do so.  Because I love Him and trust Him.  

May we all strive to cultivate such faith as the pioneers had.

¡Les quiero mucho!

Hermana Watts

Q and A for the week:

1.  Can you tell us your schedule for a typical day?

6:30 wake up, 8:00 personal study, 9:00 leave the pension, 12:00-12:30ish lunch, 1:30 companionship study, 2:30 new missionary training (which I do for the first 12 weeks), 3:30 language study, 4:30 leave the pension, 9:00 return home and plan, 10:30 lights out

2.  How do you do your laundry?

It depends.  Sometimes the members wash our laundry, sometimes we wash it (by hand), today we took it to a lavanderia near our pension.

3.  When you have interviews with President LaPierre, does his wife come, too?

Yep!  She's great.

4.  Have you seen a monkey in the wild yet?

Nope.  I haven't seen much of anything in the wild, Encarnación is a pretty big city.

5.  What kinds of fruits and veggies do you eat?

Bananas, nectarines, peaches, mangoes, pears, grapes, guayaba (which grows everywhere, but you have to be careful - there are usually worms), tomatoes, etc....A very big food staple here is mandioca, which I'm pretty sure is the same as yucca.

Hermana Sorenson and Hermana Watts

With President and Sister LaPierre

Monday, February 9, 2015


Saludos de Encarnación,

I love this mission!  I don’t think you guys are going to recognize me when I get back - I am actually getting tan, sort of, and the food here is so great that I´m going to return a little gordita, haha.  We´re continuing to work with the branch to get the members more involved in missionary work, and paso a paso we´re seeing some progreso.

We had interviews with President LaPierre this week, and he shared a thought with me that I really liked. He explained to me that we all have an identity that is formed by the people around us.  The way our friends, our coworkers, and most importantly our family interact with us defines who we are.
Then I became a missionary.  Suddenly, I lost all of that reinforcement of identity.  And now I miss my friends and my family, but I don´t really miss my friends and my family as much as I miss myself.  (I do miss you all, I promise.)
Here is the beauty of it all: now I get to form a completely new identity as a disciple of Jesus Christ. 
It´s challenging.  And frustrating.  But it´s a transformation that is beautiful and glorious.  And I hope that when I come home, you really won´t recognize me - not just because I´m tanner or fatter, but because I have changed so completely to become a better person than the person I am today.
Les quiero,
Hermana Watts

Q & A (from the whole family)
1. Have you seen a monkey?

Yes, actually.  One.  It was someone´s pet.  We were just walking down the street one day when we saw it, and I didn´t have my camera with me.
2. Tell us about your companion.  How old is she? Did she go to school before her mission? What are her plans for after her mission? What kind of interests does she have?

She is 20.  Her birthday is August 29.  (Elena's birthday is August 30) She did a year of school before the mission at Utah State.  She wants to study journalism and she loves crafting.
3. Is there a food that you don't like, and what is your favorite food?

So far the only food I didn´t love was some meat some members fed us, and it wasn´t that the meat was bad, just that it was a huge chunk and very tough to cut and chew.
4.  Have you met anyone that is my age or Daniel's age (from Chiara)?

I am so glad you asked that.  There is a little girl named Valentina in the ward who is seven years old.  She is going to get baptized in the beginning of March and she reminds me a lot of you, Chiara.  There is also a boy who is 11 who actually reminds me of Joseph.
5.  Are your blisters healing?

Oh yeah.  It was just a little blister, after I got home and changed shoes it didn´t bother me again.
6.  Do you know how to say triskaidekaphopia in Guarani?  Tell us something you do know in Guarani.

Haé nde ko ndéve - Just kidding.  Some elders taught me that one last week.

7.  I read on Wikipedia that Encarnacion is the Carnival capital of Paraguay, so keep your eye out for it at the end of this month.

Oh, Carnival is totally going on right now.  Every weekend there are people partying it up.  We walked by a huge semi truck filled to the brim with feathers - it's crazy!

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Cave (Part II)

¡Saludos de Paraguay!
Last week I wrote about Plato's Allegory of the Cave, describing the way investigators are reluctant to accept the beautiful light of the message we carry.  This week I realized that the Allegory actually applies to me as a missionary.  In a lot of ways, serving a mission is like leaving that dark cave for the blinding sunlight.  The change is uncomfortable.  As much as I love being a missionary, there are things that make me squirm in protest.  (What do you mean, we can't eat while we study?)  But as I get accustomed to the light, as I accept this new lifestyle, I begin to see the beauty that it brings.  I constantly see miracles being wrought around me and even, on rare and precious occasions, through me.  One report came to us of a taxista who was trying to listen to the radio in his car.  Nothing would work until he put in the audiobook of the Book of Mormon.  On another occasion a woman we have been working with finally made a goal to go to the temple.  I have watched as eyes are opened and hearts are softened, and the work is glorious.
Two other miracles: 
1.  One day while returning from a lunch appointment about a 30 minute walk from our apartment, I realized that the inevitable had finally happened: I developed a blister on my foot.  Ever the prepared missionary, I pulled a bandaid out of my bag, applied it to the sore area, and stood up - just in time to watch the bus drive past.  Just a week previously we had waited nearly an hour for a bus in the same neighborhood.  We would have to walk.
Walking would not have been a problem, except that the bandaid proved to be entirely ineffective.  After maybe ten minutes I felt I could endure the pain no longer, and I paused to rest my feet and deliberate whether it would be better to walk home barefoot.  Just at that moment, a bus pulled up.  How the Lord provides!
2.  Our branch has about 700+ members, of which only about 35 regularly come to meetings.  As missionaries, we have been fighting to reactivate members, with a goal for the past few weeks to increase our attendance to 40.  Yesterday, by some miracle, our little branch saw 51 children of God come to worship! 
What miracles have you seen recently in your lives?
Love you all!
Hermana Watts 

I (Elena's Mom) decided to include some Q & A for those who might be interested in a few more of the day to day details:
1.  Tell us about your pension. How big is it? Do you have beds?
Our pension has two bedrooms, one bathroom, two open rooms (study area/dining room?) and a kitchen.  It's a little bit smaller than our house in Mexico, but a step up in that we do actually have an oven :)  We have two twin beds and sleep in the same room, the only room with AC (for which I am eternally grateful).
2. What do you eat for breakfast in the morning? I know your main meal is in the afternoon - do you cook for yourselves at night?
Breakfast is usually cereal or fruit or both.  At night we snack a little bit, but we don't get time to eat until we get home.  The only time we really cook for ourselves is when we don't have a lunch appointment.
3. Do you walk everywhere or do you ride the bus sometimes?
We ride the bus to get to appointments out of our area (our branch is split into two areas), but within our area we walk.  Sometimes we walk to the appointments out of our area, but it's about a 30 minute walk, so it depends how we're feeling and whether the bus is running.
4. Are the roads paved? 
Some roads are paved, some roads are dirt, but most are cobblestone.  It's nice because it keeps the mud and dust down, but it wears on you to walk on such uneven stone all the time.
5. Are you teaching anyone?
Yeah, we work mostly with a lot of less actives to try to get them to come back to church, but we also have a few investigators we try to visit regularly.  One woman is committed to be baptized, but she is living with a man (a member) who is married to another woman and we are waiting for his divorce to come through so they can get married and she can be baptized.  We also work with a family of sisters and the granddaughter of a less active family.  There's a lovely family in our branch that we love to visit.  The wife and children are members, but the husband is not.  The problem is that he is a taxista, a taxi driver, and he is always working!  So we can only talk to him when we need a ride.  But we gave him an audiobook of the Book of Mormon and he is listening to it while he works.