Monday, April 27, 2015

Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers, Evangelists and so forth

Hola ¿qué tal?

All is well here in Paraguay. We've had an eventful week, complete with a visit from an Apostle and an exciting encounter with a crazy preacher.

The other day we went to visit a lovely sister in our ward who has recently come back to church. We arrived at her house to find that she was already entertaining a guest - namely, her boyfriend's pastor. We sat down and began to make polite conversation, looking for common ground to build on. Oh, you try to help people build good values and come closer to God? So do we! All was going well...until I pulled out the Book of Mormon. Our friend started off on a long-winded tyrade about how only the Bible is the word of God. Have you ever read the Book of Mormon? we asked. No, he hadn't, but he had studied for years in the University and knew everything there was to know about God's word and knew that the Book of Mormon wasn't true. Finally, he said, "I invite you to pray that the Holy Ghost will bring light to your minds and help you know the truth." Funny, that's exactly what I did . . . .

I pity the man. Despite his prayer that we would turn from our "misguided beliefs," I walked away from that encounter with a stronger conviction than ever that the Book of Mormon is true. It contains the word of God. It testifies of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer.

In contrast, we had a very different experience on Friday when we had the opportunity to participate in a special conference with an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. Elder Dallin H. Oaks came to visit the Argentina Resistencia Mission, and our mission was invited to participate in the satellite transmission of the conference. I loved watching on the screen as Elder and Sister Oaks shook the hands of every missionary in the Resistencia mission. I loved to see the love and respect Elder and Sister Oaks have for each other, evident in the compliments they paid each other in their respective talks. I loved Sister Oaks' message about using time wisely. And I loved Elder Oaks' message about personal revelation. When he stood up to speak, he explained that when he speaks to missionaries, he never prepares a talk, but rather lets the Spirit dictate his comments. He then proceeded to explain different types of personal revelation. I walked out of that meeting feeling spiritually edified. What a precious experience!

I hope you are all well! Love you all!

Hermana Watts
 Q & A

1. What kinds of interesting modes of transportation are there in Paraguay? Do you see many people on bicycles? Mopeds? Motorcycles?  

Mostly motorcycles, a few people have cars....there are actuallly a lot of people with horses and wagons, which is quite a sight.

2. Did the missionaries rent a small bus when they went to Asunción, or were there other passengers with all of you? (See last weeks post about 20 missionaries going to Asunción for paperwork).

The trip to and from Asunción was on a normal bus, but while we were in Asunción we rented a small combi that seated all the missionaries.

3. So who went to Asunción? Was it mostly Americans, or do the native speakers also have to do paperwork all the time? 

It was mostly Americans.

4. Did you meet new people (besides the brand new missionaries) on the trip to Asunción, or do you feel like you've met most of the people in your mission?

I met a few new missionaries, but I think I've met the majority of the missionaries in Paraguay by now. But I don't know any of the missionaries in Argentina; it's like we have two different missions. 

(Because Hermana Watts is in Encarnación, she and her companion meet the missionaries who are going into Argentina and give them their passports, and then they collect the passports as the missionaries come back into Paraguay, so that may be why she knows most of the missionaries in Paraguay).

Monday, April 20, 2015

Better Than I

¡Saludos de Paraguay!

The mission continues to be a wonderful experience, teaching me one lesson after another. I got to travel to Asunción on Friday to do more tramites, which was an adventure. We got to go to the temple grounds, but it was pouring rain so we didn't stay very long. We left Thursday around midnight and got home about 2am Saturday morning - it was exhausting! But we had a great time. Can you imagine some 20-odd missionaries piling into a large van and traipsing around the city? Good times :)

This week I learned a little bit about God's plan for us. He truly does know better than we do what we need. Last Monday, we planned a noche de hogar (FHE) with the elders in our branch for a menos activo family in their area. We made brownies and were on our way out there when the elders called and informed us that the family had cancelled. Not gonna lie, I was pretty upset. I mean, we had gone to all the trouble of making brownies for this family! But there wasn't anything we could do about it. Hermana Nethercott and I changed our plans and started walking to visit some other people in our area. As we walked, we passed a young man selling lomitos on the street. Behind him was a woman holding a baby - supervising, I guess. (Lomitos are the closest thing Paraguay has to tacos - they have meat and lettuce and tomatos and garlic sauce all wrapped up in a kind of pita-bread-tortilla-thing. They're delicious!) We continued walking for about a hundred feet before Hermana Nethercott stopped and said, "You know, a lomito sounds really good right now." So we turned around and walked back to the lomitos stand, ordered our lomitos, and struck up a conversation with the woman. We found out that she had moved to Encarnación within the last month and begun her little business selling baked goods and lomitos. It was actually their first day selling lomitos. And before she moved, she met the missionaries. She didn't just meet them, but she was friends with them. She knew several sisters by name, and she told us how they would come and she would teach them how to cook. Her husband came in and we got to meet him too, and they said we could come by whenever.

Can you imagine? Our appointment just happened to fall through, and we just happened to be walking down the street on the very night they opened their lomitos stand - all of these things that are too perfect to be coincidence. God is truly great.

How have you seen the hand of God in your life?

Con amor,
Hermana Watts

Q & A

1. You've mentioned Sister Training Leaders in your emails. Tell us more about them. Are both members of a companionship STL's or just one? Are there STL's in every district, or do they cover more than one district? What are their responsibilities? (We didn't have STL's when I was a missionary).

Usually just one member of a companionship is a Sister Training Leader. Our STL, Hermana Field, is the only STL in the zone, but our district is the only district with sisters, so she only covers our district. They go on divisions at least once per transfer with the sisters to show us by example how we should go about missionary work, and they call us at least once a week to see how we're doing. They are sisters we can look to for advice and counsel and leadership.

2. What has been the most difficult thing about your mission thus far?
The most difficult thing for me thus far is probably inviting people to be baptized. I love teaching the Gospel and talking about doctrine and helping people feel the Spirit, but asking them to make these huge changes in their lives me cuesta mucho. (translation: it costs me a lot, or it's really hard for me) I guess I'm just so afraid they'll say no that I can't bring myself to talk to them about it. 

3. What food do you miss the most? (On my mission we never had cheese.  I really liked Japanese food, so I don't know that I missed it that much, but it was kind of weird not to have it).

I really like Paraguayan food, so I don't miss too much of American food...occasionally I remember things and I think, man, that would taste really good right now, too bad it doesn't exist here, but then I just eat chipa and it solves my problems. Haha. I do miss not having to cook for myself, and sometimes I really miss your salads.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words . . .

Hola hola :)

This week has been super great. I killed my mother (translation: my trainer finished her mission), and that was kind of rough, but my new companion is fantastic! Her name is Hermana Nethercott and she is from Star Valley, Wyoming. She is the cutest little missionary! And since you have been begging and begging for weeks and weeks, I decided that instead of writing a big long email I would just send pictures. Are you okay with that?

My darling new companion :)

All the missionaries at the district activity. We went all-out on the costumes!
 Note:  Because they have branches instead of wards, they have districts instead of stakes, so this district activity is for all the members of the branches in the area - not to be confused with Elena's mission district which has just eight or ten missionaries in it.

Making chipa-on-a-stick for Semana Santa
Q & A

1. Tell us more about your new companion? 

My companion is a twin, she likes geology, and after her mission she plans to study nutrition at BYU Idaho. She's also super funny :)

2. Have you had any comical faux pas with the language? 

Oh I've had plenty! None that come to mind right now, but I'm always messing up. Thank goodness for Latino missionaries who correct me!

3. How has the weather changed with the onset of fall?

Well, it's still hot. It's just slightly less hot. Paraguay went off daylight savings time, and now it gets dark a lot earlier, which is kind of stressful. I really don't like being outside after dark.

Note: Paraguay went off daylight savings time the same day that went on, so when Elena first arrived in Paraguay, she was five hours ahead of Nevada, but now she is only three hours ahead.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Refiner's Fire

​¡Felices Pascuas!​

Wow.  Was General Conference great or what?  We had a great week here in Encarnaciòn getting ready for it.  Our activity for the members turned out great!  Our district leader dressed up like Lehi and led people to the "iron rod" (represented by a rope) which they could follow past the "great and spacious building" (we put a sign on a door that said "Fiesta Aquì" to the "tree of life" (we put Christmas lights on a tree outside) where they could partake of the "fruit" (little white carmelitos (candy)).  Other missionaries prepared a variation of dodge ball to represent the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites, and the members also got to enjoy a reenactment of Moroni burying the plates.  The climax of the evening was when everyone gathered in the sacrament room and sat on blankets on the floor to listen to King Benjamin.  We showed the beautiful "Because He Lives" video and invited the members to study the words of the prophets and learn of Jesus Christ.  

A thought I've been considering a lot this week is the concept of the refiner's fire.  A sister shared a beautiful story with me:

A woman once went to a silversmith.  She listened attentively as he explained the process of putting raw silver in the very hot fire to burn away all the impurities.  "How long do you leave the silver in the fire?" she asked him.  "Is it a matter of minutes, or do you leave it for a while so you can do other things and come back to it?"

"Oh no," replied the silversmith.  "Once I put the silver in the fire, I never leave.  I stay right by the fire's side the entire time until it is ready to come out.  The silver is precious to me, and I would never risk leaving it in the fire too long to get burned.  I wait patiently and watch carefully until the moment all of the impurities have been burned away and it is ready to come out."

"How do you know when it is ready?" 

"When I can see myself reflected in its surface."

This life is like the refiner's fire, and we are the silver.  God is the great Silversmith.  Once He puts us in the fire, He will not abandon us.  He will be right there with us the entire time, ready to pull us out as soon as our impurities have been burned away.  He will not let the fire harm us.  He is waiting to see Himself reflected in our countenances.

May we live such that we reflect our Heavenly Father in our lives, that we may glorify Him.

Hermana Watts

Q & A
1.  How was Easter in Paraguay?

Easter was great!  Hermana Sorenson and I made chipa-on-a-stick with a member in our branch.  I was going to send pictures, but this computer is not recognizing my memory card.  One day....

2.  What was your favorite conference talk?

My favorite talk was Elder Bednar's talk on godly fear versus worldly fear.  I am convinced he wrote that talk for me.

3.  Did you listen to the Spanish talks in Spanish? What about the rest of conference?

I watched most of conference in English with some 6-10 other missionaries, but for the Spanish talks we all snuck into the back of the cultural hall to watch the talks in their original language.  We were quite a sight sneaking in and out!  

4.  Have you seen any new wildlife?

I saw some brilliant yellow birds the other day, super pretty!

5.  How's Myrian?

Myrian is great, we're going to visit her tonight.

6.  Do you know about transfers yet?

Yes, it's true.  I just killed my mother.  (missionary lingo: mother/father = a missionary's first companion, also known as his or her trainer. A missionary that is going home is dying, and her last companion is the one who kills her)  This morning Hermana Sorenson left for Posadas, and tomorrow she flies home.  (How did you figure that out, Mom?  I feel like I haven't really said too much about it in my emails home.  Also, how did you know about transfers this week?  You're kind of scary...)  My new companion is the lovely Hermana Nethercott, who I got to know when she did divisions with me about a month ago.  I'm so excited!  She should get here Wednesday - until then, I'm in a trio with Hermana Martinez and Hermana Simmons, who also just sent their companions home. (transfers are every 6 weeks, so it's not too hard to figure out when they occur)

7.  Have you finished your new missionary training, and how does that change your schedule?

I did just finish my new missionary training, so now I have an hour more for proselyting.  Also, we changed to the winter schedule a couple weeks ago.  Now we do all of our studies in the morning and then go out and work until 9.  I can't remember if I told you or not.