Monday, June 29, 2015

Learning to Dance in the Rain

You've probably seen it - one of those cheesy Facebook posts, a dramatic photo of storm clouds and some cutesy font reading "life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain." Cliché, but perhaps there is some value to the saying.

This week I learned that some of the most beautiful moments in life occur in the midst of the storm. I mean that very literally, as last Tuesday Hermana Monsivais and I found ourself in the middle of a rainstorm that lasted all day. We didn't have any set appointments; our plan was to go to a certain neighborhood and contact houses to look for new investigators. This is by no means my favorite way to find investigators, and the rain certainly put a damper on my spirits. But I squared my shoulders, gritted my teeth, and went forward, reminding myself that "sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven."

Door after door, we were rejected (sound familiar?). "Come back some other day," they told us. "Oh, we were just about to leave. Another time!" My favorite was when we clapped at the gate and the woman invited us to "pasar! pasar!" We got as far as the front door and were explaining our purpose when she said, "That's very nice. Come back another day when you're prettier and less wet! Then I'll let you in." ...thanks?

Then we decided to visit a menos activo family in the area. This family keeps a dog chained in the yard that always barks like crazy when we pass by, but since he's chained up, we never worried too much about him. Also, even if he were to break free, there's a fence between him and us.
Well, he broke free.
And crawled through a gap in the fence.
And came straight for us.
I yelled at him and threw up my umbrella as a shield while my companion took cover behind me. After a few terrifying seconds, he decided we weren't worth the effort and ran off. But he's a black dog, and by now it was quite dark, and we were certain that at any moment he would come after us again. We left the area very quickly.

We continued walking - two cold, wet, frightened, and exhausted missionaries. I turned to my companion and said, "Let's just try one more house." We clapped at the first house we saw with lights on inside, and a young father came out. "We're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have a very special and unique message about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Could we share it with you and your family?"
"Why not?" he said.
"Oh okay. We understand. Maybe some oth- did you just say yes?" [not actually what we said, but certainly what we were thinking]

And that's how we met José and Cristina Medina and their two children, Lurdes(9) and Ariel(1). Truly a ray of light in the midst of the storm - a tender mercy of the Lord. We have already visited them twice, and they show progress. Cristina has accepted the invitation to be baptized if she receives a confirmation that our message is true, and I am sure José will not be far behind her.

I love you all,
Hermana Watts

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Impossible is Possible

Last Tuesday, my companion and I went to visit a family that had recently fallen out of activity in the church. When we arrived at their house, the father came out. He immediately guessed why we were there and launched into a long explanation about why he no longer allowed his family to attend church. A few months ago, his family had a bad experience with some of the members in the branch, and as a direct result, the father decided that they would never return to church again.

As the father explained the situation, I could see his point of view. What had happened was a terrible thing, and he was understandably angry. But I became very sad because I realized that he was trapped in his anger. "It's impossible to forgive them for what they did," he said. "Some things are unforgivable."

But that is exactly what the gospel is all about - being able to accomplish the impossible. That's why the Savior suffered in Gethsemane and died on Golgotha. That's the "glad tidings of great joy" that the angels declared to the shepherds some 2000 years ago. Because of Him, not only can we be forgiven of our sins, but we can forgive others as well - even when their sins seem unpardonable. Because of Him, though our sins be as scarlet, they can be white as snow. We don't have to remain stuck in our past. We can repent and move forward with faith in Christ.

Isn't it the most wonderful news you have ever heard?

Hermana Watts

Monday, June 15, 2015

Members Make a World of Difference!

​Let me tell you briefly about an experience we had this week. We have one progressing investigator named Susana who is preparing to be baptized in a few weeks if all goes well. She is the neighbor of our branch president, and we would often visit her with the branch president's wife, Rosi. But on Friday, Hermana Rosi wasn't able to accompany us because of previous engagements, so we called Hermana Carmen, the relief society president/seminary teacher. Por suerte, she had finished preparing her seminary lesson in the morning and was free in the afternoon to accompany us, but only for a single hour - just the amount of time we needed to visit Susana. (Definitely the hand of God!)

When Susana saw Hermana Carmen, she was so happy! Carmen sells make-up, and Susana used to be one of her clients. Susana kept saying over and over just how happy she was to see Carmen and she didn't know Carmen was a member of the church and wasn't it just great that she knew someone in the congregation. Hermana Carmen shared her testimony with Susana, and the Spirit was strong.

Something I wish I had done more before the mission is practice sharing my testimony. Hermana Carmen does it so naturally, her testimony carries a convincing power. Even as a missionary, sharing my personal testimony is something I need to work on. But it's really not that hard! Just share the things you know to be true. Don't ever be afraid to share what you know. As the Apostle Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gosple of Christ." (Romans 1:16) Have faith!

Hermana Watts

Monday, June 8, 2015

Simply Beautiful

¡Saludos de Oberá!

I've been thinking a lot about the gospel recently. (Obviously.) But this week I've been focusing on it more than usual. This week in our monthly zone meeting, the zone leaders shared a letter sent from a former mission president in Chile to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He argued that missionaries do not truly understand the gospel. We think we understand the first principles of the gospel, because we recite them in our Missionary Purpose: "Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end."

But the truth is, we don't really understand them. I love teaching about faith, but telling an investigator he needs to repent terrifies me. And baptism? How can I expect someone I've just barely met to change their lives enough to be baptized?

This week I began to study and ponder these principles as I have never before in my mission. I began to actually understand this gospel I have learned since birth. I began to gain a deeper understanding of my purpose as a missionary. We are not here just to talk about the Savior. That is great, and everyone needs to understand the role the Savior plays in their lives. But once they gain a testimony of His divinity - what then? Faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement is only worthwhile if it leads to repentance - a mighty change of heart. And repentance is only made effective through baptism for the remission of sins and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. All of these things are worth nothing if we do not persevere in righteousness, continually progressing towards our eternal reward.

As I studied these principles, miracles happened. My companion and I taught with greater power and greater clarity. We visited one couple, who welcomed us into their home but assured us that they had found their church and had no desire to change religion. By the end of the lesson, they promised us that they would set aside the husband's duties as a 'portero' in their congregation and come visit our church.

This gospel has the power to change lives, and it is amazing to watch.

¡Les quiero!
Hermana Watts

Monday, June 1, 2015

Elder Viñas

¡Hola de Argentina!

We've had quite a busy week here in Oberá. We are still working to get to know the area. The office finally gave us our phone on Wednesday (a week after we got here) and it's been a huge help! We can actually confirm appointments now, and it makes working with the members a lot easier. The members are just so wonderful here, there are several who are more than happy to work with us to bring investigators to church and show us the homes of menos activos and give us food and wash our laundry and . . . you get the picture. There is such a good spirit in the branch!

On Wednesday, we got to go to Posadas for a special conference with Elder Viñas of the Seventy. He is the second counselor in the South America South Area Presidency. All of the missionaries in Argentina gathered in the Posadas stake center, where he taught us about the gospel of Jesus Christ. What a privilege!

One of the things that was talked about in the conference was working with the members to create an "ambiente misional" (a missionary atmosphere) in our wards and branches. I think a lot of times we don't realize just how crucial the members are in the work of salvation! There is only so much the missionaries can do - this work requires the efforts of everyone! When members and missionaries work together to find and welcome and teach the people who are sincerely seeking the truth, miracles happen. 

All right, that's the Hermana Watts soapbox for the week. Hope you're all living fantastic lives!

Hermana Watts

la conferencia Argentina con Elder Viñas
District P-day activity: visiting a waterfall just outside Oberá.
Elder Christiansen (UT), Elder Guerra (ARG), yo, Hermana Monsivais (MEX)
Q & A
1. How is Argentina different for Paraguay? (accent, food, etc)

Oberá has a lot of European influences, and it's noted in the accent. The food is pretty similar, but they eat less mandioca here.

2. Do you have a favorite Argentinian food?

Not yet...I haven't really tried many foods yet.

3. Are you in a branch or ward, and about how big is it?

We're in a branch, and there are about 50-60 people who attend every Sunday, but there are a lot more members who should be coming but don't.

4. How many wards or branches are there in Oberá?

Only one branch in Oberá.

5. How many missionaries in your district, and what areas does it cover?

There are 4 missionaries in my district: Elder Christiansen and Elder Guerra, and my companion and I. Our district covers the city of Oberá.

6. Is Oberá bigger or smaller than Encarnación?

Oberá is definitely smaller.