Monday, July 28, 2014

I am getting abducted . . . . . . . by God (in the words of Hermana Miller:)

Showing off my new Mexican food cooking skills - This is guissero puerco
Yes, I am getting abducted by God in the words of Hermana Miller. Transfer calls came yesterday and I am leaving Louetta. I feel good and sad all at the same time. I have really loved this area and all the people I have met. My life really has been changed here! And I am so sad that I only got to be with Hermana Miller for six weeks, she is just so amazing and I have learned so much from her. It was just too good to be true I guess!! haha but I know that the Lord has plans for me and that those plans are absolutely perfect. So I am excited to see what the Lord has in store for me. It was actually pretty ironic. Last night it was about 10:22 and I hadn't received a phone call yet so I thought, "Okay, I guess I'm staying." So I was getting ready for bed and started to say my prayers and said "So I think I am still staying here, but I am willing to go wherever you need me to go and do what you need me to do. I know that you know what I need." At 10:27, right as I said Amen, the phone rung and I found out that I was being transferred. haha talk about the timing of the Lord! Hermana Miller has helped me so much though, she has been the answer to many of my prayers and has helped me overcome many of my weaknesses that I could not have overcome on my own. She has helped me to be more bold, and she has helped me gain a confidence in myself that I didn't have before. Being companions with her has helped me focus on my strengths--it was almost hard to focus on my weaknesses. Enough that I could recognize them and work on them, but never so much that I was dwelling on them. This past transfer I was truly able to work outside of myself so that I could focus on others' needs. I was worried for them instead of myself. That was what I needed to let go of to truly get lost in the work. I think this has been the happiest time of my mission so far because I truly felt that I was focused more on the work than anything else, and as a result I am happy. So so so happy. There is not one single day out of this transfer where we didn't see a miracle. I truly just feel remarkably blessed that the Lord has permitted me to see so many amazing things. This scripture came to my mind as I was thinking back on this transfer:
"Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many might miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever...for our joy is full." Alma 26:12,16
                          Oh how I will miss Hermana Miller!!!!!!
Again, this week has been another week of awesomeness. (is that a word?) We went to the temple on Tuesday! So that was wonderful! I really am so lucky that I am in a mission where the temple is in my area. The fact that we get to go to the temple every transfer is SUCH an incredible blessing! I always learn something new when I go, the Lord always helps me find the answers that I am searching for. So that alone made this week awesome.

We had an amazing miracle with one of our investigators this past week. She is so incredible! She has been investigating the church for a long time--she comes to church every Sunday, and her son actually was baptized, but because of some things in her life, she is not able to be baptized...yet. It's going to come soon though, I know it! We went to the Book of Mormon class at our church on Tuesday, and she came! She shared such a powerful testimony. She shared with us an experience she had when she was talking to her sister about church. Her sister had invited her to come to a different church with her and Hermana began to tell her how she has found a church that she knows to be true and isn't interested in going to a different one. She told us how she has always had a hard time talking openly with her sister, just that she has felt kind of small in comparison to her, so she was scared to begin telling her about our church. She said that as she was testifying to her sister of what she knew to be true, she recognized that the words she was speaking weren't hers. They just came to her through the power of the Holy Ghost.(she was tearing up as she said all of this) I shared D&C 84:85 with her and testified that the spirit was with her. She knows better than many people that this is the true church. She really, truly KNOWS. That is something that as a missionary can be so hard. You know it's true and you just want them to know as well! However, the answer doesn't always come in the way that you expect it, or in the time that we as missionaries expect. It often takes a long time, and that is something that we have to be patient about. The Lord is constantly preparing people to accept this gospel, and it really is all in a matter of His timing. I am so excited for her and I am praying for the path to open up for her to be baptized. She is AMAZING!! Please keep her in your prayers!

While we were working hard this week, we were also having fun doing so. We learned how to cook a few things from two Hermanas in our ward so that was super fun! (see pictures) Claudia is just the best. I love her so much and will miss her so much! She taught us to make a super spicy salsa that we loooove and also some delicious bread. Then we also learned how to make something called guissado puerco that was also really yummy. So that was fun! Wow I am starting to realize so many things we did this week. Victoria, one of the girls in our ward, had her farewell this weekend so we went to a dinner that she had, and we also went to the house of one of the families that we are teaching for their little girl, Itzel's, birthday. She is sooo cute! We love them. I'm going to miss them too! So it's been a fun and crazy week. And here is my favorite story from the week. You ready for this?
                                     I love Claudia!!!!
So amazing. I told you last week about Mercedes when we celebrated her birthday, so you know a little bit about her. When I first came into this area, she wasn't coming to church very much. We have been visiting her a lot while I have been here, and she started to have the desire to come little by little. The first Sunday she came to church while I was here was so awesome and I was so happy that she came! And then she started to come more and more, and before we knew it she was reactivated! So the opportunity that I had to see that happen was just wonderful in and of itself. And then yesterday...ahhh! So good! She came to church on her own and sat with us for Sacrament Meeting. Hermana Miller and Hermana De la O gave talks, and then Victoria gave her farewell talk. So needless to say, missionary work was the big focus of the meeting. The Spirit was so strong. While Victoria was giving her talk, I looked over at Mercedes and her eyes were glistening with tears and with the Spirit. As Victoria finished her talk, Mercedes was crying and turned to me and said, "I think I'm going to go on a mission." AHHHH!!!!! You have nooooo idea how happy that made me to hear those words come out of her mouth! I cannot even describe to you the happiness that I felt as she said that. She said "This never happens, I don't usually cry you guys, but today was a really special day for me. I felt the Spirit really strongly, and now I have made a life-changing decision!" AAAAAAHHHHHH I AM SOOOOO HAPPY!!! These are the experiences that we have as missionaries that make all the doors slammed in your face, the rejections, the heartbreaks, and the sorrows worth it. Because the joy that you feel from moments like that overcome it all. I found a scripture this past week that I absolutely love. Now, I know that I am not a mom yet, but I can imagine that this is pretty true. It's from 3 John 1:4 and reads, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." I LOVE THAT!! And as I was reading that the thought came to my mind, "Wow, can you imagine how our Heavenly Father must feel when He sees His children walk in the truth?" PURE JOY. I think that as missionaries we are blessed to feel a portion of the love that He has and the joy that He feels when we see our friends, our family, our investigators, and less active members return to that path and walk in the truth. I love being a missionary. So so much. I am so so so happy and GOD IS GOOD. 

Much love, 
Hermana Hoj

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How Can We Live for Jesus Christ?

                                    Mexican Mug Shot
Que tal mi familia? Seriously, I just don't know where to begin. Another one of those weeks where I'm looking back and seeing how tremendously blessed we have been. The Lord is helping us see so many miracles! I think this is going to have to be another day by day letter, because I can't figure out how to summarize it all. So, here goes.

Lunes: Mercedes' birthday. They invited us to go out and eat with them, and it was so much food that was also so very delicious. We didn't have dinner plans, so it worked out perfectly! They are probably one of the funniest and most sarcastic families I have ever met. Love them!
                              Dessert for Mercedes' birthday
Martes: We finally got in with a potential that we have been trying to get in with for almost the whole time I have been here. We were in the area and saw her car in the driveway and stopped by. She had been out of town for awhile, so that's why we could never get in with her. She has visited with missionaries before. She told us that when she was younger she stayed with a Mormon family--she made it seem like it was a mission president and his family. She LOVED being with them and said she always felt so much love and peace and loved how they were always so happy. She wants her family to be like that. She told us how they always read from the kid's Book of Mormon that had pictures and she loved that book. She went back to Mexico later on and could not find it anywhere. From that time on she has been searching for a new one. We told her that we had plenty and we could bring her one and she was FULL of joy. She started tearing up and saying "I'm going to cry I'm so happy. All the good feelings from when I was with that family are coming back." That happiness my friends, is the reward for living the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was such a beautiful moment for her and we are so excited to go back this week and see the look on her face when we bring her the book!

Then we went to the Book of Mormon class at the church and one of our investigators showed up with his brother too! They think the church is so awesome and that what we do as missionaries is even better. For example, we told them we don't watch T.V. as missionaries and they said "Good! That's the way it should be! And the shouldn't listen to that either." We told them we don't and they were like, "No way!! That's so awesome!" We told them we would come by and teach them about how we got the Book of Mormon and also about the Plan of Salvation which answers the questions, where do we come from? why are we here? and where am I going? and they said "What?! You know that!? That's so cool!!!" So needless to say, they are excited to learn and we are excited to teach them!!!!

Miercoles: We learned how to make flautas and salsa! We are trying to learn how to make hispanic food so that when I come home I can cook for all of you. :) So for our lunch hour, we have been going to member's houses to teach us how to make their favorite dish, and then we share a lesson! It's been pretty great. Get excited! Also, today we taught a potential that has 10 kids! We love teaching families!

Jueves: We saw a less active member today that has just barely begun letting us in. She has been coming to church though, and was actually reactivated this week! It's such a miracle because she used to not want anything to do with the church, but for some reason she's changing. She doesn't open up very much, so we went into this lesson today praying for help to know how to help her. A miracle happened! She opened up to us more than she ever has before. She was telling us about how she has gone through a lot of difficult things in her childhood, and she was getting super emotional about it. I don't know what happened exactly, but the Spirit touched her and opened up her heart. I'm so happy that she has the desire to come back, I can tell that she feels so much happier.

Viernes: I was on exchanges with Hermana Hill! Love her so much, she is so sweet and is such a good example. She truly teaches with such power! We taught one of their progressing investigators who also has been having a really hard time opening up to them. We had an awesome lesson with him about the Spirit in conversion and that he really has been feeling the Spirit all along. I think a lot of times people just don't know that what they are feeling is the Spirit. It's so amazing to help them realize that. We shared with him the conversion story of Zeezrom in Alma 11-15 and at the end he started telling us about how he has changed and then asked "Could that be something like his story?" We were so happy and were just like "YES!! Yes that is part of the process of your conversion!" It was awesome.

Sabado: This day started off kind of rough. All of our appointments fell through, we were short on miles, and were at a loss of what to do. After praying, we decided to go contact a referral we had been given, Johnson, and we ended up teaching him the Restoration lesson. It was an amazing lesson. He really listened and responded to questions so well and when he prayed at the end, it was beautiful and so sincere. When he said "Amen" I looked at him and knew that he was feeling the Spirit. He had a look of contemplation/wonder and he said "I feel good. I feel really, really good." We extended a baptismal invitation and he accepted! He said, "Si, me gustaria hacerlo." (Yes, I would like to do it) We extended a date and he told us he would prepare for it, but he also needed to give it more thought. That was a miracle and the spirit was so strong! 

Domingo: The Hermana I was talking about on Thursday was reactivated!!! Yay!!

So yes, it has been a GOOD week. Sorry that my thoughts are so scattered in this email, but WE ARE SO BLESSED AND GOD IS SO GOOD!!! This week in studies I was reading about the parable of the talents in the New Testament and had some awesome revelation, a connecting of all the dots. In the guia in the Spanish scriptures I looked up talentos and part of it said "Se utilizo tambien como simbolo de algo de gran valor, como por ejemplo el Evangelio de Jesucristo." So a rough translation of that would be "Is used also as a symbol of something of great worth, for example the Gospel of Jesus Christ." Then I read the parable again with the cross references from the guia with the perspective of the talents being the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it was eye opening! If we have been given this gift, we are required to share it! "...exercise thy gift...that thou mayest bring many to the knowledge of the truth..." (D&C 6:11) I'm so lucky that is what I get to be doing right now! I know more than ever before how important this gospel is and how many blessings we receive as families when we live the gospel. I know with more surety than anything else that Jesus Christ lives. He lives and He love us. He lives for us. How can we live for Him? By living and sharing His gospel.
                                      Hermana Hill and I on exchanges

Have a stellar week! Much love!!! (That's coming from Texas, where everything is bigger. So that's a lot of love)

Hermana Hoj


Monday, July 14, 2014

There Are No Excuses

I love the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is true, it is all true. I have been so blessed on my mission to meet so many incredible people who are changing my life, and to have experiences that I will never forget. I know the Lord is mindful of me and my weaknesses, strengths, and desires. He is helping me so much! I've got to keep learning to put my trust in Him, ALWAYS. 

This week has been another week just full of miracles. The Lord is blessing us so so much! Hermana Miller is so amazing! Wow, I am so lucky to be her companion. She rocks. She really is teaching me so much and we are working so so hard together. With us, there are no excuses...we know that the work of the Lord needs to be done and we are doing all that we can to do it!! That is actually something that hit me even harder this week. There really are NO excuses. I am faaaaar from perfect, and I was humbled this week big time when I was letting those dumb negative thoughts and complaints enter my mind. Here's the story.

We met a man on the side of the street in some apartment complexes that was selling fruit. We started talking to him and shared our purpose as missionaries and began talking about the Book of Mormon. He had some customers come up to buy fruit, so we gave him the Restoration folleto and told him we would come talk to him again the next time he was there. So, two days later he was there again! He told us he had been reading in the folleto, but doesn't read super well--he is a self-taught reader--but he understood a lot of it. We began to teach him the message of the Restoration, our unique message to the world. He kept going off subject on random tangents, there were flies and mosquitos all over, it was super hot and there was sweat dripping off of my face, we were standing and my feet hurt, I was tired, blah blah blah. Pretty much all the complaints in the world, right? I would try to say something and couldn't and I was beginning to get frustrated. I knew I was getting frustrated and I knew that I shouldn't be, so that frustrated me even more! I knew that with the way I was thinking at that moment, the Spirit couldn't work through me, so I tried to shake it off and said a prayer in my heart to help me focus on the message rather than all of the annoyances that were surrounding me. Then something came into my mind. Last week I was talking to Jake and asked if he had any advice for me of how to take advantage of the time I have left, or if there was anything he wishes that he had done better. All the words that he wrote came running through my mind and I thought..."Wow, what am I doing? Listen. Listen with love. This man is a child of God." This is what he said to me last week,
"If I had to give you any advice about how to take advantage of the time you have left, I would suggest strive every day to make your mission about "them"--the people you serve. Be totally and utterly absorbed in listening to what they have to say. That being said, I totally know how frustrating it can be at times when people just go on and on, and there's definitely a balance between just listening to people and being proactive in leading a discussion and teaching--there are definitely times when you need to take the reins and direct the lesson how you and your companion had planned. I think what I'm trying to say though is that I look back at my mission at times and wish I would have paid less attention to making sure every lesson went exactly as planned and paid more attention to people's concerns, struggles, difficulties, etc.
One other thing (which I may have told you before): I think the thing that has made the biggest difference in my life was learning how to see Christ in other people. Read the words of "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief". It's awesome. The person narrating the words talks about how he was able to see Christ in a poor beggar ("I saw something in his eye, that won my love I knew not why"). When I started trying to see Christ in the people I met, it became so much easier to listen to them and show my interest in their potential as members of the Church. If Christ is a perfect example and a perfect person, isn't this all just a way of seeing the potential in other people? It's not always easy, and often times you have to really search for the Christ-like attributes in some people (especially when it's 110* F and the humidity is off the charts haha), but I haven't found a better way to change my outlook and perspective on the people I meet."
You can see how perfect that advice was for me at that moment, huh? So thank you Jake! As that came to my mind, all those frustrations disappeared, and I listened with love. And you know what? Something amazing happened. Something clicked for him. He realized that we weren't doing this for money, that it is all voluntary and because we know that this message is true and will help others. I think he realized how important this message really is. The first day we met him he had told us that he and his wife are always working and that they would never be home for us to stop by his house. And then the next day he told us he wants us to come by and share these things with his family and to have us eat dinner with them. Everything changed. How grateful I am that I chose to put away all my frustrations and listen with love. It was such a humbling experience for me, and one that I will never forget! I realized that I still have a long way to go to sacrifice everything I have to the Lord. The natural man is just awful! haha It holds me back so much!! I've really, really got to try to just let go of all of my selfish desires and focus on the Lord's will. I need to be willing to let Him work through me. So that is a big thing I am focusing on right now, and I know it is something that I will be working on for the rest of my life. So it's not easy at all! Which reminds me of a talk that I read this week "Missionary Work and the Atonement" by Jeffrey R. Holland. Every time I read this talk it's just like, BAM!! That's Elder Holland for ya. He says that we will all ask, "Why is this so hard?"
Then he continues,
"You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him?" 
Salvation is not a cheap experience. We must work for it, there are NO excuses.

Se que aunque esta vida es dificil, hay esperanza. Siempre hay esperanza. Y hay esperanza debido a nuestro Salvador Jesucristo. Tenemos que tener fe en El y trabajar y despues podremos disfrutar Su gracia y todos los bendiciones que el nos dara. Tenemos que ser fieles, Tenemos que ser firmes. Tenemos que ser dedicados a El. No hay excusas, no podemos ser flojo. Trabajaremos en la obra del Senor y experimentaremos Su amor y GRAN gozo. 

I love you all and always remember the love that the Lord has for you! Remember that when you put Jesus first, then Others, then Yourself, that is when you will have true J.O.Y.

Hermana Hoj

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sabe de Jesucristo, o conoce a Jesucristo? & Adios to the Pingrees!

Another letter where there is just so much to say that it's going to be all over the place. So bear with me! This week has been so so amazing! I have so many stories and so many thoughts.

First off, Samantha and Barbara were baptized on Tuesday!! And, Hermano was able to be the one to perform the ordinance!! When we walked up with the girls to the baptismal font to help them, I was overcome with the Spirit. To see them be baptized, to see Hermano with his daughters, to witness the Priesthood power, to witness the power the Atonement has to help people change...I AM SO GRATEFUL AND SO HAPPY!!!! Samantha was first, and as Hermano said the words to baptize her, the Spirit overcame him, and he was very emotional. He felt that priesthood power again, and I know he felt so good to have it back. He now remembers what he had been missing. The Lord works miracles--they have not ceased, and I am blessed to be a witness of some of the miracles He performs. The Atonement is miraculous and there truly is not one thing more amazing than witnessing that power change a person. Such a beautiful experience! On Sunday, Hermano bore his testimony too--with such an amazing Spirit. Love that family. 

Okay, get ready for this one. This is awesome. You know those stories that returned missionaries always share at their homecoming and you just think, "There is no way that really happened." Well, we had the biggest miracle ever! That happened to us! We were going to visit Rigoberto and Ricardo and they weren't home, but Mari opened the door. She came outside and started talking with us. First we were talking about the Book of Mormon and how the gospel makes us happy. She began to ask us many questions about the "requirements" of our religion, because she has heard many different things about our church. She told us that she's Catholic, but not from the heart. We began answering her questions and she invited us to come inside becuase she had so many more. She asked us an awesome question--a question that usually one who is prepared asks. The very same question that Joseph Smith had when he prayed and Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him. She was asking "Why are there so many churches? There is one God, so why are there so many churches that teach such different things? Why is it that when religion is something that should unify us is today something that pulls us apart?" Wow. We have the answer!! So into the Restoration lesson we dove. And it just gets better. We talked about prophets, the priesthood, apostasy, and Jesus Christ. We talked about what Jesus Christ did for us. She then told us that her mom was killed and how that was something so hard for her. We read Alma 7:11-12 with her and I know the Spirit touched her. All the sudden she looks at us and says "Do you believe in dreams?" We told her that yes, we believe dreams can be a form of personal revelation.Then she told us about a dream she had about a year ago. She said "I have shared this with so many people, but no one can tell me what it means." She said, I was in a field with my family, surrounded by a lot of trees, all of them covered in fruit. From the field into the trees there was a path that we began to follow. As we were walking down this path, I looked up at the sky to see a hand that looked like a cloud, as if it were telling me to stop. We all stopped and then I noticed another path. I began to tell my family to follow me down the other path. As we followed this path, it led us directly to God. We looked ahead and saw God, and saw that He was a normal person, that He looked just like us. I ran towards Him, shouting and we embraced. I was able to feel Him when I hugged Him, He was like us! I made it to God, and then the dream ended." Ummm....I was SPEECHLESS. All that was going through my mind was "Lehi's dream!! 1 Nephi 8, the tree of life!!!!!" She said "Do you know what it means?" Hermana Miller and I looked at each other, dumbfounded. Then we said "Hermana, there is a prophet in the Book of Mormon who had a dream almost exactly like this. Do you want to read it?" With big eyes she said "Really? Yes!!!" So we read 1 Nephi 8 to her and after she was in awe too. She asked what the hand could have meant and we told her that it was the Lord guiding her to the right path. Then she stopped and said "I just want to know everything." Oh my goodness. What in the world? That really happened? We went back to visit her, and sadly she is moving. :( But we got her address and we are going to send missionaries to her ASAP! Wow, GOD IS GOOD!!! 
               Adios to the Pingrees! They are amazing and will be missed!
                 We can't thank you enough for your service!
                   Hola to the Mortensen family from Irvine California!

On the 4th of July we met President Mortensen and his family! (oh and by the know it's the fourth of July in Texas when you wake up and 6:00 in the morning to go running and there are people already barbecuing...haha) They are such an adorable family! The have six kids--their oldest daughter Mallory is on a mission, Sophie-17, Grace-14, Paige-12, Anders-9, and Dane-5. Such a cute family. Sure will miss the Pingrees and all the good that they have done, but I also know that the Mortensen family is here for a reason and are going to do so much for everyone here. When Hermana Miller and I talked to President, he challenges us to double our contacts. So instead of 25...50. Sometimes, okay a lot of the time, it is a struggle to get 25 contacts! Running to and from appointments, being in the car, sometimes it's hard. But we took the challenge and we talked to EVERYONE. Everyone that was in our sight. We got 60 contacts!! It was amazing too, because we didn't even really go out of our way to talk to people, the Lord put them right in our path! We found some really prepared people and found 11 new investigators! The Lord truly is blessing us. This last weekend I was more tired than I think I have ever been in my life when we got home, but there is no better feeling than knowing that you gave your all in the Lord's work. Every appointment we had that day fell through, but the Lord had some divine appointments waiting for us! BEING A MISSIONARY IS THE BEST THING EVER. I never want it to end! I am just so happy and feel so blessed and so grateful!

One more miracle. Saturday night we got a call from a random number asking us where our church was and what time it started. Then he said he'd see us there! So we get to church on Sunday and when we went to the gospel principles class there were two guys that none of us knew, but I didn't know at first if it was him. We went up to talk to him after and I realized that he is the son of one of our previous investigators! His name is Moises. I went by his house once to see if his dad was home, and he opened the door. The other guy that was with him, Immanuel, is the son of one of the members in our ward, but he isn't a member. Moises was asking so many questions and really wants to know about the church. We later found out that he knew his friend knew where the Mormon church was and said Take me! How awesome is that! The Lord truly is preparing so many people! There are people literally searching for the truth! We just have to find them!!

Last but not least, one of the things I have really been thinking a lot about lately is the title of my email. Translated, for those of you who don't know Spanish, it means Do you know of Jesus Christ, or do you know Jesus Christ? It isn't enough to simply know of Jesus Christ. We have to know Him personally! And one might ask, how do we get to know Him? Let me share with you a quote by Joseph Smith. He said,
"I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”
There you have it. The Book of Mormon. It's purpose is to testify of Christ! We will come to know God and Jesus Christ by reading it, pondering it, and praying to know that it is true. It is the only way to do so! I love the Book of Mormon, and it is such an incredible experience to be able to testify of it, along with the Savior, every day. I am so lucky! But the good news is that you can do that too! Yes, I am a missionary so this is my focus every day, but you as well have the opportunity to do the same thing! We are here to help others come unto Christ, invite them to come to know Christ. This is how we can do it, sharing the Book of Mormon. So that's my challenge for you! Share your testimony of the Book of Mormon with someone who is not a member, post a scripture, give someone a Book of Mormon to keep for themselves. I promise that you will be filled with the greatest happiness ever! Do it! Okay?! Love you all so much! Have a fabulous week!!!

Hermana Hoj