Monday, November 25, 2013

Tried to come up with a good creative title . . . . . But I got nothing (a direct quote from Annie)

Buenos Dias mi familia!
So good to hear from you all, it's always a good day when you get to check your email! I'm so glad that your Thanksgiving dinner went well and that everyone was able to come! I wish I could have been there with you, but this is the place I've gotta be right now...and I am loving it here in Texas! (quick side note...I think that I have developed a slight allergy to pineapple...I ate it twice this week and both times my mouth was all weird and tingly and itchy! Que triste! Except I don't know that it's really enough to stop me from eating it because it is just too good! haha but mom don't worry I'll be careful) The temperature has dropped, so it's been in the forties here for the past week. It's a good thing I bought tights last Monday! I'm wearing them as we speak! So I am jealous that you get to go to San Diego and experience that beautiful weather! Let me know how everything goes and make sure you drive safe. Liv, good luck with all of your games..kick some butt alrighty? (haha am I allowed to say that? If not...por favor perdoneme.) And dad, can I just say that picture you sent me had me in tears I was laughing so hard! hahahahahahahaha and the caption along with it just made it that much better. Meg looked pretty good too. And then the story of your proof reading skills on the program...that got me too! haha So thanks for brightening my day with some laughter! I just love you all too much. One last thing before I move on...Jake and Tay, or any one who has some good ideas...what are some object lessons you used to teach on your mission? We're trying to get our investigators and the people we are teaching more involved and help them understand it better. So if you have any ideas please let me know!
Oh and one other thing too. Mom, know I am thinking of you a lot this week with Thanksgiving coming up and everything. I know it's a difficult time for you, grandpa, your sisters, the Petersons, etc. and know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers. How great it is to have this knowledge through the gospel that we can live with our families for eternity and that we are never alone. I grow more grateful every day for this knowledge and how it has been able to help me through my life. The power of the atonement is something remarkable that every one of us can feel, and that is something that I am trying to understand and apply more to my life every day. Also trying to help others understand this and have more faith in the Savior. It really makes all of the challenges and difficulties in life so much more bearable. Christ invites us to "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." What a comfort that is to know that we can be relieved of our pains and burdens through Jesus Christ, our Savior. I know that you can be filled with the love of Christ during this hard time. And know that I will be listening to "Come to Jesus" right along side with you!
So this week has been a very interesting one, very different than the ones we've had in the past, but incredible nevertheless! We didn't have many lessons with investigators this week, however hard we tried. We had tons of lessons set up but they all fell through. A lot of things just didn't go according to plan, but I've realized that our back up plans and back up back up plans are usually God's first choice of plans. haha So all of these things fall through and then God helps us recognize what it really is we should be doing in that moment of time. He always finds a way to help us out though, and if we are ready and willing to listen to and follow the direction of the Spirit, all is well. We had a lot of lessons with our members and menos activos and I guess that is just what the Lord is having us do right now. We have seen some incredible miracles through this though! We have met with the same menos activo family that I wrote home about last week, and they are so incredible! They were going to come to church, but we found out yesterday that his car wouldn't start. Ugh. Satan's little tricks huh? But what is important is their desire. It is there! Their desire to return is there and they are so willing to make the steps to come back. Both lessons that we had with them were so incredible and it is really helping him remember those feelings that he had while he was active. I am so excited for them and so excited to see what great things will happen with them! On Friday we had a big ward activity for Thanksgiving and a lot of people came! We were able to get a referral from that and we'll be visiting them this week! It was a referral from Obispo and he says that they seem really ready to accept the gospel, so be praying for them! Saturday was kind of an off day too, but ended tremendously! I woke up a little sick from something I ate at the party the night before so I wasn't feeling well the whole day, but we had a baptism in our ward!!! Whooo!!! One of the investigators of the other Hermanas in nuestro barrio fue bautizado! This was the same man that I was able to extend the baptismal date to when I was on exchanges with Hna. Bruneel, so it was cool because I felt like I had a part in it too. He was so ready and is so happy to finally have been baptized! It was such a beautiful, incredible, spiritual experience.
One thing I learned this week was at our district meeting. We were talking a lot about the doctrine of Christ--fe, arrepentimiento, bautismo, el Espiritu Santo, y perseverar hasta el fin. I realized that it all comes back to this. This is what we are here to teach, the doctrine of Christ! It doesn't matter if I don't have a ton of baptisms on my mission, what matters is that I am sharing this and helping others feel the love of God. If I can help someone increase their faith, that's a victory in and of itself! If I can help someone demonstrate their faith through repentance, even better! If I can help someone take the steps to receive baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost--Whoo!! And if I can help them keep those covenants and endure to the end, wow! It is a process, and not every one is ready to take all the steps at once, no matter how badly we want them to. Patience is key. But in all of these things I can find reason to rejoice. It's such incredible work, being a missionary. We simply must do the best we can do to share what we know, and it's up to the person listening and the Spirit how it will be received. I am so grateful to be a missionary right now. Mom and Dad, I just want to thank you for helping make this possible for me, I don't think I thank you nearly enough! Thank you for raising me in a way to understand and appreciate this gospel and the importance of it in our lives and for helping me have that desire to share it with others. Thank you for all of your sacrifices and time and service to me and others, for being the best examples I could have ever had. I really cannot thank you enough. Thanks for being my parents! I sure love you lots! (And the rest of the fam too. :) you are all just as fantastic) LOVE YOU ALL! Happy Thanksgiving!!
con MUCHISIMO amor,
Hermana Hoj
                       Dinner at an investigator's for his birthday                      

Monday, November 18, 2013

One Transfer Down! Thanksgiving and Christmas in Spring!

 Hey there my favorite family! Como le va?
This week has been a good one! Definitely ups and downs, but that's life right? But overall it has been incredible and I am continuing to see miracles every single day.
To answer your questions...for Thanksgiving a family in our ward, the Hales, has invited all the missionaries from our ward over to their house for Thanksgiving Dinner and I am so grateful for that! I don't know what it will be like, but I'm assuming it will just be regular Thanksgiving foods. This family is great too, they have the cutest kids and they are people that are always striving to do good. So I'm excited for that! We also have a big ward activity this Friday for Thanksgiving where anyone and everyone is invited! So that should be a great finding opportunity for us as missionaries! So if there's anything different here in Texas than our traditional Thanksgiving dinners at home I will be sure to let you know! And wow, thank you so much for that surprise! And give Lance a big thank you for me too! It really came at the perfect time. The day before had been a little rough for me and it was just that extra little dose of love that I needed, so thank you! We have been enjoying the treats and making yummy sandwiches and everything! So thank you thank you thank you! I am so lucky to have a family that is so involved and supportive in everything that I am doing, I know I can always count on you all!
As I said, this week has been so great. I've had my moments, but the goodness and mercy of the Lord always triumphs. Always, always, always. And it's amazing to me the way that He helps us too. I was reading in 2 Nephi 4 and it was exactly what I needed to hear. Needless to say, I was humbled a bit. I just went to to copy and paste the scriptures into the email and then realized that it would be way too long, so I'm going to have to trust your word that you will read it all right? Start in 17 if you don't want to read the whole chapter. So Nephi I would say is having a bad day. We all do right? But what I am amazed at is that he doesn't dwell on it! He recognizes what upsets him and he does what he can to fix it! He rejoices in the Lord and shows his gratitude for the things that he has been given...recognizes the good in all things. He knows to turn to the Lord when opposition and adversity comes. He then talks about all of the incredible things that the Lord has shown him, and the Lord's mercy for men and he says: (really read all the way to 35 okay?)
"O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath avisited men in so much bmercy, cwhy should my dheart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?
And why should I ayield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to btemptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my cpeace and afflict my soul? Why am I dangry because of mine enemy?
 Awake, my soul! No longer adroop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the benemy of my soul."
That was a lesson for me! Why was I letting my soul linger in the valley of sorrow when I have seen the incredible blessings and miracles that the Lord has put before me?! Ah, wow I feel like I was just slapped in the face. haha Reality check right? I just can't believe how selfish I was being. I see so many incredible things happen every single day through the mercy of the Lord and here I was being so ungrateful for them because I was focusing on the things that were upsetting me. So yes, I was humbled through that and I am working on fixing that every day that I live. I really am so grateful for the Lord and for how He helps us recognize our weaknesses and how we can make them stronger. I love my study time!
And for the experience of the week...Sunday (yesterday) we didn't have a single appointment planned. Nevertheless we planned the night before and had faith that the Lord would help us accomplish what we needed to. We were contacting over in some apartments and I felt like we should go visit a menos activo that was in those same apartments. It was kind of weird though because I knew that she worked Sundays and wouldn't be home. But I told Sister Driesel what I was thinking and she said that she was thinking the same thing. So we figured we should probably go if the Lord was telling both of us. And I am so glad that we did. We knocked on the door and her daughter and her ex-husband Carlos who was there with the kids answered the door. He is also a less active member. He began asking us where our church was and we invited him to the ward activity that we have this upcoming week. We asked him if there was anyone that would benefit from hearing our message and his little girl said I do! She took us over to another apartment to visit her sister in law, but she was on the phone and couldn't talk to us at that moment. So as we were walking back to the other apartment we asked the girl when the last time was that she read in her Book of Mormon. She said she hadn't for a long time and we said "well do you want us to come read with you right now?" She agreed whole-heartedly! So we went back to her apartment to sit outside and read with her. Carlos walked out and said, "You weren't going to invite me?" haha so he joined us too! We read in 3 Nephi 11, always a good chapter, and he began to tell us a story about finding someone's wallet and returning it to them. I didn't really know what the significance of the story was, but this is where it gets good. He was saying that when you have lost something and can't find it, how great the feeling is when you find it again. He said that he had been thinking about that and then we knocked on his door, and said he felt that same feeling as we were sitting there reading the Book of Mormon with him and his two girls. I know that he was able to recognize again the happiness that the gospel brings, he had found something that he had lost for awhile. And how happy he was that he found it! I am so grateful that we followed the promptings of the Spirit and I know that there really are divine appointments that God helps us have when we are worthy, and show him our desires and efforts through the work that we try to accomplish.
I am doing great and am so excited to start my second transfer here in the Woodlands! Hermana Driesel and I are both staying here, and all the missionaries in our ward are staying the same too. I am so excited to begin this next transfer! As I look back I can already see how much I have grown and improved just over a short six weeks. I know that it is all because of the Lord and I am so grateful for His continued guidance and help throughout my life. I hope that I can continue to progress quickly and grow to be the missionary that He knows I can become.
I love you all and hope that you have an incredible Thanksgiving. When you go around the table talking about the things that you are grateful for, you can speak for me and tell everyone how grateful I am for the experiences that make you stretch and make you grow. They definitely are not easy but it is so worth it in the end to see how much you've changed. Ah man now that I say that I have so many other things that I want to say I am grateful for. Tell them all that I am grateful for their support and love too, and just for families! Tell them thanks for being a great extended family, I feel so lucky to have so much family that loves each other and gets along so well! So yeah, I should probably stop there or else it will never end. Love you all sooooooo much! Love love love love love! (sorry Tay, I'm copying you)
Hermana Hoj
                                           A Lunch for Hermana

                                        Teeny Tiny Bananas!
                               A present from one of our investigators

A little taste of home!
Thank you Lance Howell and The Store!

Monday, November 11, 2013

"So much love we can't even handle it!"

Hola hola mi familia!

Mom, your title for this emaill was perfect! I'll explain more later on, but this has definitely been a "week of gratitude" for us here in the Woodlands! To first answer some questions...our main focus right now is finding new people to teach. We do a lot of personal contacting lately, knocking and what not but this week we actually received a few referrals too! We try to work a lot with the recent converts here and the members as well, so as we do that hopefully we will continue to get more and more referrals. I'm really excited for this next week too, we have a lot of members coming out to lessons with us which has been something we're really trying to improve on. It's just so hard because we have to work with the investigator's schedule, the member's schedule, and our schedule, but it is so worth it and God is making it possible for us. I feel like we're teaching a lot of people right now which I am so grateful for, but at the same time it's hard to know who is really interested in what we have to share and are willing to do the things that we ask them to do. And I know it's not easy, but where there's a will there's a way! I really cannot tell you how much patience I have had to learn while on my mission. And I know it will continually be something for me to work on! I need to have patience with myself and with the people we teach. Even if we aren't placing baptismal dates left and right, we are making a big effort to show these people how much we love them and care for them. Hopefully when they recognize this they'll have an even greater desire to change because they'll know that we are sincere. It can be really frustrating to be giving it all that you have and not see immediate results, in fact that is something that has been hard for us this week. But we just have to endure it with patience and continue giving our best efforts and when we do see the results of our labors, in the Lord's timing and in His way, how much greater our joy will be. (Read the talk Continue in Patience by Pres. Uchtdorf)

So at the very beginning of the week we were a little discouraged because of what I just mentioned. We feel as if we are working so hard and a lot of the time not really seeing much come of it. On Tuesday I read an article in the Ensign about a woman who only gave gratitude prayers and how her testimony was strengthened from this. So I decided I wanted to try this. Hna. Driesel and I decided to only say gratitude prayers for the rest of that week, and wow was our perspective changed! At first I had no idea how I would be able to do this when as a missionary we need all the help from the Lord that we can get! But it was really interesting to see how rather than asking for things, we put our trust and faith in the Lord that He could make things possible. Instead of asking Him to help us find someone to teach it turned into "We know that with your help and guidance we can find the people who are ready to accept this message." We were putting all of our faith in Him, and then miracles were coming at us from every direction! Just on that Tuesday we saw the biggest difference in our work and we had so much excitement. Our desire to work hard was completely rejuevenated! Listen to all the things that happened to us on Tuesday, and see how the Lord was blessing us for our faith. We went to an appointment and it didn't go through. But then we found a new potential who seems sincerely interested! We have an appointment set up with him and his family this week! A family!!! Then we went to visit one of our menos activos. She also wasn't able to have the appointment because she was sick. But her daughter and her family live with her and let us come teach her. She is so sweet, loved what we had to share with her, and invited us back. So, we got a new investigator! Then we got to eat enchiladas with a member which is just a miracle in and of itself. Then, we went to have a member lesson with a family in our ward. Lo and behold, the mom of this family had her sister over for dinner. She knows a lot about the bible and is very interested in religion. We had a really incredible discussion with her and shared with her some of the things we believe, she pretty much agreed to all that we said. So, we got another new investigator and have a lesson with her this week as well! There were so many unexpected miracles that I am so grateful for. I know that not every person we have another lesson with will be converted, but the Lord was blessing us for our efforts and it is exactly what we needed.

In other news, I went on exchanges twice this week and with one of them we set a baptismal date! He is actually in the ward I go to right now (there are two sets of sisters in our ward and one companionship of elders) so I will be able to see it happen! It was such an awesome experience. He was so excited and I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face. Literally the muscles in my jaw were so exhausted! haha It's so exciting and...ah I don't even have words to describe it. So that was a really cool experience.

Yesterday I had the best food I've had since being on my mission. The same man in the picture I sent you that gives us coca cola every time we visit made food for us while we were teaching his wife. He had homemade tortillas, fajita, onions, jalapeno, avocado, and we had the best tacos in the entire world. Mmmmm. haha sorry that was so off of topic but I just had to share that with you.

Sorry my emails are all over the place, there really is just so much that happens that I don't even know what to tell you all. I wish I could tell you every detail but there are just too many. But I want to leave you with one last experience and my testimony of the restoration. This week we had our first lesson with Maria, who we miraculously knocked into last week. I have never felt the Spirit so strongly while teaching the restoration in my life. It came out of nowhere, but the Spirit testified to me that this miraculous, sacred story is true. We were telling her about Joseph Smith and his experience in the arboleda (sorry I can't think of the words in English. Ask Jake if you need help! haha) Hna. Driesel began to read Joseph Smith's account of the first vision..."Vi una columna de luz, mas brillante que el sol, directamente arriba de mi cabeza; y esta luz gradualmente descendio hasta descansar sobre mi...Al reposar sobre mi la luz, vi en el aire arribe de mi a dos personajes, cuyo fulgor y gloria no admiten descripcion. Uno de ellos me hablo, llamandome por mi nombre, y dijo, senalando al otro: Este es Mi Hijo Amado: Escuchalo!" As she read this tears filled my eyes, and the Spirit I felt in that moment was penetrating. I testified to Maria that I knew this to be true. I know that as I share these teachings, my knowledge and my testimony increases. I am learning so much, and I think that the Lord is really trying to teach me. I'm His investigator. I know that as I submit to His will and give everything I have to know Him, I will be changed into the person that He knows I can become. I must be willing to change, and I have realized that I should always let the Lord change me. I can always trust God and know that whatever changes He makes in me will always be for the better. I have a testimony of this and I know that if I give this mission everything that I have I will be blessed and begin to become the person God intended for me to be. I know that it is not an easy thing to do, pero bien vale la pena.

I love you all so much and love getting to hear from you every week. Thanks for letting me share the things that I learn with you, not all of it is probably right, I know I've still got a lot of learning to do. But the person that I am becoming as a result of these things will be something that I will forever be grateful for. Show your gratitude to God for what He has given you, not only in your prayers but through your actions as well. I know that you will be blessed!!

With so much love that you can't even handle it,

Hermana Hoj

Monday, November 4, 2013

Hola from your favorite Houston Hermana!

Mi maravillosa familia!

Howdy! How's it going up there in the (what I'm assuming is cold now) great state of Utah?
To your questions:

Yes I speak Spanish a lot where I'm at, which I am so grateful for. We teach multiple people in Spanish every day. I am definitely still learning, but I know I am progressing. I still can't understand everything, and I sure can't speak it all, but it's feeling better as time goes on and I can see some of the progress that I've made already. So, I still get to speak English a lot...which I probably shouldn't do...with other missionaries and my companion and what not, but I get to practice Spanish every day. In my ward all of the meetings are in Spanish so I get a lot of practice there too. No callings or assignments, just missionaries! The weather is beautiful here! It gets a little chilly at nights, but for the most part it has been perfect lately! I actually have been driving the car, so I know my way around here pretty least in our area. We decided it would be good if I drove because then when I'm here on exchanges I'll know where I'm going. Okay, sorry I'm kind of pressed for time today so I've got to get on with it. haha

First of all, thank you for the packages! Both to mi familia y to la familia Dalton. You know me all too well! And p.s. that chocolate dipped coconut LUNA bar...SOOOO good. haha But thank you for your cards, your treats, and everything else. I sure do love you all!

I'm going to share two miracles with you from this week and then one thing I've learned in my studies. With our investigator Vanessa...she is our investigator that is progressing the most right now, and it is incredible to see how much she has changed and grown just in the short time that we have been teaching her. Our lesson with her this week was on reading the scriptures, praying, and attending church and how important they all are. I think she's beginning to understand that even if she can't understand it all, it's the fact that she's trying. The fact that she's showing God that she has the desires to know and learn more. When we started talking about attending church she kind of had this little smile on her face, she knew what was coming. We told her the importance of coming to church, and then she told us some great news. Her boss just decided to close on Sundays, so work won't get in the way of her coming to church! Ahh!! We were so excited and told her that God is preparing the way for her to get there and to take these steps. So I really hope that she can commit to coming to church this next week!

On Friday we had another incredible miracle. We have been focusing a lot on finding new people to teach and we are putting our whole trust in the Lord. We had a really cool experience. For our power hour that night (the time we go knocking every night) we prayed very specifically to know where we should go to find a new investigator. We picked an area that we have never been to, and while looking at the map, both picked 3 streets we felt inspired to visit. One of them was the same, so we went there. The first few houses no one answered, or no one was interested, but then we met Maria. She let us in and we were able to get to know her and tell her about our purpose as missionaries. We set a return appointment with her and I am so excited to visit her again! She is so strong and is such an incredible woman. I just felt so much love for her because I know that our way to her was so inspired. I want to be able to feel that towards every single person that we talk with. When we put our faith in the Lord, so many more things are possible.

Last but not least, in my personal study today I read the talk "Why this Holy Land?" by Russell M. Nelson. Holy cow, wow oh wow. So cool. It talks a lot about the significance behind all of the places Christ lived or visited, etc. My favorite part was about the Atonement. It says,

"Jesus came to the base of the Mount of Olives to effect the first component of the Atonement. This He did at the Garden of Gethsemane. The word Gethsemane comes from two Hebrew roots: gath, meaning “press,” and shemen, meaning “oil,” especially that of the olive. There olives had been pressed under the weight of great stone wheels to squeeze precious oil from the olives. So the Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane was literally pressed under the weight of the sins of the world. He sweated great drops of blood—his life’s “oil”—which issued from every pore."

Wow. I just am blown away by that image and the symbolism here. There really is no coincidence that everything happened where it happened. God planned out every single detail, and how perfect and flawless is His plan! My testimony of the Atonement grows more and more every single day as I try to apply it in my life, and try to help other people apply it to theirs. He then goes on to talk about how the very last thing Christ told His apostles to do is to preach the gospel to all the world. (Read Matthew 28:19-20, por favor) As I was reading this I want to tell you all to do this, apply this counsel into your lives. It may not be completely converting someone, but simply sharing the message or helping others to feel of the incredible power of the love of God. I have realized that on my mission. The goal isn't necessarily to convert every single person that I meet, however great that may be. But it is to simply live my life in a way that I can be an example to these people of how what I know has helped me in my life and has brought me so much happiness. I simply want to help them feel of the love of God and our Savior Jesus Christ. That can change the world. So, my challenge to you is to take part in missionary work at home. As a missionary I really do recognize how important members are in the work, and I cannot say it to you enough times. Have the missionaries over for dinner, go out with them to help them teach a lesson, share your Spirit and help others feel of this love.

I love you all and hope that you are doing well! Have an incredible week!!
Hermana Hoj

Advanced pumpkin carving skills!
                                                   Not sweat! Just a Houston downpour!
Wishing you were here to have one of these amazing tacos!