Monday, November 24, 2014

Counting My Blessings

At Zone Conference - Me & Hermanas Larson, Ordonez, and Loo
Wow, I don't even know where in the world to begin. This week has been full of so many miracles and spiritual moments! I truly feel so grateful to be a missionary. It really hit me this week how incredible this experience is. There is no where else that you could find that! The first part of the week I was on exchanges with Hermana Larson, from Devore California. She has been out for just about a month and is such a sweetheart! She has a powerful testimony and is going to do amazing things on her mission! We had a great miracle with a less active member and her son (who is an investigator) while we were teaching them about the Book of Mormon. The Spirit was SO strong. SOO STRONG. I have never seen either of them open up so much! I think something changed in them, her son told us he felt something that he had never felt before, something that he couldn't explain, but that it felt good. The Spirit was testifying to him! He prayed for us for the first time too! He has never done that before, and it was so amazing! So cool! Then the next day we had Zone Conference. President and Sister Mortensen are so inspiring! We talked about the Plan of Salvation and I learned that I need to do a lot of things to teach it better...haha but it is a work in progress, that's for sure! We role played master teaching the Plan of Salvation, and it was so good for us. It's always really humbling, because you realize how much you can't do on your own. Also, President Mortensen announced some pretty exciting news. You know how for Easter the church did the Because of Him video? Well, for Christmas they are doing a huge campaign for a new initiative called He Is the Gift! It is going to be epic! I don't know if you've already heard about it or not, but the video is amazing! It's going to be big. It will be on the main banner on the YouTube page, and all over billboards in Time Square, there will be pass along cards in all of the Ensigns--it is estimated that 220 million people will see the video!! 220 MILLION PEOPLE!! Then President Mortensen said, "Do you know what this means?...IT'S GO TIME!" I am sooooo excited! What an amazing blessing to be a missionary at this time! AHHH!!! Words cannot do it justice. It is the best! This Christmas season is going to be one of the best!! President challenged all of us to have a baptism in December so that we can give the Lord a white Christmas. How awesome would that be? So many good things are happening!!
Working hard in a downpour

Friday was a very eye-opening day for me. I was hit with an appreciation and gratitude for my mission that I have never felt before. We had a lesson with a young man from Nigeria who practices Messianic Judaism that wanted to learn more about what we believe as Mormons. He didn't want to discredit our beliefs at all, he was just looking for more understanding. We went through the Restoration lesson with him and as we did he would stop us many times and try to teach us things from history or language--like he was trying to make a point. However, every time he did so it always tied back into one of our beliefs. I learned a lot from him actually, and it was never contentious, but my testimony of the gospel and the Book of Mormon were strengthened so much! Seriously it felt like it had been cemented in for good. As we were talking about the Book of Mormon he really wanted proof, archaeological evidence of it. If we did have that kind of proof, there would be no need for faith! For everything he said, the answer was always the Book of Mormon! The Book of Mormon itself is the proof! Something really hit me at that moment. I realized that the proof you are going to find will come from within yourself as you read it and pray to know that it is true. The Spirit will testify the truth of it to you and you will feel that it is right! The proof comes as you apply the teachings of the Book of Mormon to your life. The blessings and peace that come into your life will be proof that it is true. Everyone has their own path to coming to that surety of the truth for themselves. For some people it comes instantly. For others it takes a lot longer. But the Lord is always mindful of us and will always answer us. Matt was there helping us teach him. I was amazed to see him testify with so much power after only 2 months of being a member. It is such a remarkable experience to see how the Spirit has touched his life, and to see how he has changed as a result of it. It is one of the most amazing feelings of joy to see his life so blessed by the gospel. Elder LeBaron showed us what Matt had put on instagram on his 2 month mark--a picture of him with Hna Fletcher, Loo, and I with his testimony of how his life has been blessed by the gospel. I was filled with such remarkable joy and such an overwhelming gratitude for my mission and the gospel. It wasn't because of me that Matt joined the church, he knew for himself that it was true, but I was lucky enough to be involved in his conversion. I think that often we feel like we can't make much of a difference as one person. Today Heavenly Father showed me that even I, with all of my imperfections and weaknesses, can help make a difference in someone else's life. It was such a beautiful experience for me. Like I said, my testimony grew and grew. 
At the Mission President's Fireside
Me, Krystin (one of our fabulous YSA's)
Sisters Hassell, Lambright, & Hermana Loo
On Sunday, we had the Mission President's Fireside in College Station. Another spiritually uplifting moment. It consists of recent convert testimonies, musical numbers by members and also us as a missionary choir (we sung Called to Serve, A Child's Prayer, the EFY medley, and I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go), and then President and Sister Mortensen spoke as well. What a beautiful night! Matt was one of the Recent Converts that spoke and he did such a good job! His sister and her boyfriend came too! So that was awesome for him! I have just come to realize this week how grateful I am to be a missionary--only fitting with Thanksgiving right around the corner. Something changed within me this week, and I have been filled with overwhelming gratitude for my mission. It is exactly what I have needed, and I know that it will continue to bless me forever more. I don't really know what else to say. Words do not exist to explain my feelings right now. I think the book of Helaman does a pretty good job of describing it...I am "filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory." If you want to be happy, live the gospel.
This picture pretty much symbolizes Texas
I love you all and am so grateful for each one of you. I am so grateful for your loving support, because I know that none of this would have been possible without it. I hope that you have a good Thanksgiving and that your thoughts turn often to the Savior. I LOVE Y'ALL! :)

Con muchisisisisisimo amor, 
Hermana Hoj

Monday, November 17, 2014

Learning and Growing and Stretching

Hola Hola! Como estan?

Yet another great week here in Huntsville Texas. I have had so many incredible learning experiences this week and I am excited to share some of them with you!

So to start off to help you understand a little better the "why" behind all of my learning, it all started off when President Mortensen challenged us to extend a baptismal invitation every single day. Now, of course we don't want to cast our pearls before swine here, but the Spirit testifies to you of when you should. We have seen some amazing miracles this week as a result of our commitment to this challenge! On Monday, as we were walking up to a trailer to go visit someone, there was a young man standing outside on the other side of the street. We walked up to him and started sharing our purpose as missionaries with him and sharing with him about the Book of Mormon. Our conversation was going along perfectly, and the Spirit told me, "Invite him to be baptized." So I did! And he said yes! It was really interesting what happened after that. He suddenly opened up a lot about his problems and some of the issues that are going on within his family. We were able to testify to him that we had the answer that would help him through all of his struggles and committed him to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. It was so amazing! Then the next day we went over to visit Gabby, but we had to wait for her for a little while and ended up talking with her uncle. We gave him a Book of Mormon and invited him to follow Christ's example to be baptized, and he also said yes! We have been visiting Gabby ever since I came to Huntsville, and we have never talked to her uncle about the gospel until then. He told us that he wanted to focus his life more on God and that he would read and pray. Every single day this last week we invited someone to be baptized, and every single person accepted. They said that when they received an answer that the Book of Mormon is true, they would follow Christ's example and be baptized. We didn't set any baptismal dates, but we are inviting people to be baptized, and they are accepting! As we continue to follow up with these people and begin teaching them, I know the Spirit will testify to them that it is what they need to do. They too, are more aware of our purpose as missionaries and what we are helping them do. As both us and them are focused on this goal, the success we will see as missionaries will grow so much. As we have been doing this, I have seen the understanding that I have of my purpose grow and grow and grow. I have so much more boldness and so much more confidence while we are teaching. It is set in my mind that I need to teach in a way that will permit me to invite others to follow the example of Jesus Christ, and the Spirit is guiding me so much better. Now my question is, why in the world did I not understand this until now!? Hijole. I guess that's what the mission is for, right?

Another experience I had this last week helped me understand the importance of following promptings so that God can trust me as His servant. We were out in the country--in the middle of no where yet again--and on our way back to town we drove past a Valero gas station. The thought to stop the car and fill up the gas crossed my mind, so I looked down at the fuel gage...we still had about half a tank left. So I continued to keep driving right past it. However, the thought didn't leave my mind and I soon realized that it was the Spirit that had put that thought into my mind. We were already a few miles down the road and I had the fight within myself--do I go back, or do I just keep going? The thought came to my mind, "Can God trust me?" As soon as that thought crossed my mind I pulled over to the side of the road, flipped a U-turn, and headed back to the gas station, telling Hermana Loo "We need to go back." So we get there and I start to put gas in the car, still without any idea of why I was there. So I thought, we can go hang up an English class flyer in the gas station. I was searching for the tape and could not find in anywhere! I must have looked pretty confused because I heard from behind me, "Sisters, you look lost. Are you looking for somewhere?" I turned around and there was a man next to us filling up his big red truck. I explained to him that I was looking for tape, haha and then we asked if he was a member of the church. He said, "Used to be." We got talking with him a bit, why we were in the middle of nowhere--that there are actually missionaries in the middle of nowhere--and we invited him to come to church again. He said "No thanks, but I appreciate you trying." And that was it. God was hiding the tape from me, because 2 seconds later Hermana Loo had found it. I know that was the reason I was prompted to go there. Even though it didn't turn out the best that it could have, we still provided him with that opportunity. Maybe one day he will remember that moment and recognize that he does need to go back. It really taught my that whatever promptings we receive from the Spirit, no matter how irrational or strange it may seem, must be obeyed. How can the Lord trust me enough to continue giving me direction if I haven't been following the ones he has already given to me? My testimony of listening to and following the Spirit was strengthened tremendously that day. 

                   Hermana Loo and I with the Hermana from Brazas 
                              Hermanas Ordonez and Larsen
I had one other learning experience from this week that I wanted to share with you as well. I feel very grateful for the opportunity I have to serve as a Sister Training Leader. We found out that a lot of the Sisters that we are working with are in need right now, a lot of them are going through some difficult things. A lot of the times I feel that I don't know what to say to people or that I am not qualified to really help them much. A lot of times my words aren't able to be expressed in the way that I would hope, I'm not the most eloquent with my words, but I have learned that all I want them to know is how much I love them. I just hope with all my heart that through my actions and the few scrambled words that I do get across, that they feel of the love that I have for them. If nothing else, I hope they know that. I feel that this calling that I have been given is more for the other Sisters to help me than it is for me to help them. I am constantly learning from them and their dedication to the Lord. We had two exchanges this last week, and they were both wonderful learning and growing experiences for me. 
                Working at Texas A & M this week - The famous Aggie ring!
So for me this week has just been learning and growing and stretching and learning, growing, and stretching some more. I just have the strongest desire right now to study and learn as much as I can. I had awesome studies this morning about the life of Jesus Christ and all that is possible for us because of Him. Everything that He did was to benefit us. I have already learned so much, but I just want to keep learning even more and more and more! I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!!!!

Con muchisimo amor, 
Hermana Hoj

Monday, November 10, 2014

This is my Life and my Light

One Hermana and two Sisters! (Our English speakers)
Hello again! Since I just talked to you a few days ago, I don't know how much I have to tell you...haha but I will tell you of some great miracles that we have been seeing!

I went on exchanges this last week with Sister Lambright and boy did we see some miracles! We were able to set two baptismal dates with investigators that we visited! President Mortensen has really been pushing us to be bold in extending commitments--making sure that baptism invitations are extended in the first and second lessons. He has challenged us to extend a baptismal commitment each day, and I know that we are going to see some remarkable miracles from it! We already are! It is such a privilege being able to work with the Sisters. I am learning so much from them that I hardly feel like I am teaching them anything! We did a companionship study with a companionship of Sisters in our zone and role played being bold in extending the baptismal invitation, and when we followed up with them we found out that they set 2 baptismal dates with their investigators! There are miracles everywhere! We had a conference call with President Mortensen, and he said that our mission right now is going to see more baptisms than we ever have! The Lord truly is hastening His work and I feel so privileged to be a part of it!

I feel like I have come to better understand my purpose as a missionary. It's something that in the MTC we stated every single day, and I say it every day on my mission, but for some reason it just really hit me this last week how important our purpose as missionaries truly is. As we have focused on our purpose, the whole energy of our mission has changed. The missionaries and members are more excited about the work, and the Lord is leading us to those who are prepared! I read Alma 26 this week and focused a lot on that excitement--that joy that comes from doing missionary work. IT IS INDESCRIBABLE! As I read Alma 26:26-37 I felt an overwhelming gratitude of my opportunity to be a missionary. I understand what they are talking about because I too, have experienced it. 
26 But behold, my beloved brethren, we came into the wilderness not with the intent to destroy our brethren, but with the intent that perhaps we might save some few of their souls.
 27 Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.

 28 And now behold, we have come, and been forth amongst them; and we have been patient in our sufferings, and we have suffered every privation; yea, we have traveled from house to house, relying upon the mercies of the world—not upon the mercies of the world alone but upon the mercies of God.
 29 And we have entered into their houses and taught them, and we have taught them in their streets; yea, and we have taught them upon their hills; and we have also entered into their temples and their synagogues and taught them; and we have been cast out, and mocked, and spit upon, and smote upon our cheeks; and we have been stoned, and taken and bound with strong cords, and cast into prison; and through the power and wisdom of God we have been delivered again.
 30 And we have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some.

 31 Now behold, we can look forth and see the fruits of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay, they are many; yea, and we can witness of their sincerity, because of their love towards their brethren and also towards us.
 32 For behold, they had rather sacrifice their lives than even to take the life of their enemy; and they have buried their weapons of war deep in the earth, because of their love towards their brethren.
 33 And now behold I say unto you, has there been so great love in all the land? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, there has not, even among the Nephites.
 34 For behold, they would take up arms against their brethren; they would not suffer themselves to be slain. But behold how many of these have laid down their lives; and we know that they have gone to their God, because of their love and of their hatred to sin.
 35 Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name.
 36 Now if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo. Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of this people, who are a branch of the tree of Israel, and has been lost from its body in a strange land; yea, I say, blessed be the name of my God, who has been mindful of us, wanderers in a strange land.
 37 Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen.
I too have felt like I was ready to give up. I have been mocked and laughed at. I have felt depressed and insignificant. I have faced trials and afflictions. I have gone from house to house with the hope that someone would open their door and let us in. However, all of those frustrations, all of those trials, distractions, and discouragement pale in comparison to the joy that you feel when the Lord leads you to the one who is willing to listen, who is willing to change. And then, it is all worth it. The Lord and this work "is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo." That joy is complete, it is perfect, and it is all because of God. So, I will end with this scripture, Alma 28:14.
14 And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord; and thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing—sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life.
To all those who may be wondering, a mission is the most amazing thing in the entire world.
Con muchisimo amor,
Hermana Hoj 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Recognizing the Atonement in our own Lives

So I've only got an hour and a half to email now, so I've got to bust this thing out real quick. So I apologize beforehand if it's crazy scattered. So I am emailing late because we had a Zone Conference on Monday where Elder Corbridge of the Seventy came and talked to us. It was really amazing to hear from him! The Spirit was so strong and I definitely learned things that I need to apply to be a better missionary. So now here I am writing you today instead! We went to the temple this morning, and oh my goodness it was so so good to be there again! It has been a long time since I have done an endowment session, so I was smiling from ear to ear to finally be there again! I love the Spirit and the peace that is always a part of the temple experience. It truly is the house of the Lord. 
The chili cook-off judges

                                 Dressed as a turkey a month early!
I've got a lot to cover, and not so much time, so bear with me! I'll try to get it all down! I'll have to send some pictures from Halloween because I don't have too much time to write about it, but it was great, and the ward party was awesome! I'm going to share two miracles that we had this week with you and then something I learned, alright? So miracle number one. We started the English classes this week (the Daily Dose Program). So we have been going around town, putting up flyers and inviting people to come, trying to get the word out essentially. We were thinking that maybe 4 or 5 people would come and that we'd feel pretty good about that...but miracles my friends are everywhere. There were 13 people there for our very first class!! How amazing is that!? And they all speak Spanish! I don't know about you...but to me that sounds like we are one step closer to starting a Spanish branch! haha but really though! We are working hard to get more Spanish speakers to church on Sundays, and we have been seeing a lot of success. We have felt this last week that the Lord wants us to focus a little bit harder on building the Spanish program here in Huntsville because we have seen so many miracles! Almost all of the Spanish families in the ward are part member families, and when we get them reactivated, the baptisms for the others are bound to follow! Miracle 2. We were able to get in with a Spanish family that we have never met before--amazing!! The mom is the only member of the Church, but her kids want to learn more about what she believes. We are beginning to teach them and they love it! I love teaching kids because they are so open, receptive, and so full of faith. We taught them how to pray and we also taught them how to sing I Am a Child of God and Families Can Be Together Forever. They are so so cute! It's J (12), J (11), and B (6). And they even came to church on Sunday and absolutely loved it! I just love the relationships that we are able to create with people here. It is amazing the unity and love that you can feel as you talk with others about God. It is the coolest experience ever. I just don't even know how to put into words what I am feeling right now, but it is joyful and happy and so wonderful!! Oh and sorry, one more miracle, A and C accepted a baptismal date for December 13th! Yay!! We are so excited for them! They are so adorable! And the dad might even be able to work towards being the one to baptize them! That would be so remarkable! Aaaahhhh there are so many miracles!!!

                                Some of our fantastic YSA friends
And now for my thought for the week. Wow is the power of the Atonement incredible. My testimony of and gratitude for the Atonement grew so much this week. I had an incredible experience this week where I felt the full coverage of the Atonement, and really began to understand a little bit more all that is possible for us because of Jesus Christ. I was enveloped in the love that my Heavenly Father has for me, and understood a little better what Jesus Christ did by suffering for each one of us individually--I cannot come close to understanding it all, but I can understand it enough for my own life and that is what is really important. As I use the Atonement more in my life, I come to appreciate it more and my heart is just full--full of gratitude to my Savior and Redeemer. What a comfort it is to know that when we fall short, He is there to help us just a little bit further to make it all the way. What would we do without Him? This is another one of those moments where the words are choked up in my throat and nothing can explain the fullness and swelling that is in my heart as I think about it. I will be doing all that I can do give all that I have to Him, because He gave everything to me--and more. There is nothing more that I can do but give Him all that I have. I want to live for Him every moment that I have! I invite you to do the same.

Estoy muy agradecida por la expiacion de Jesucristo y por el amor que nos da. Que increible es para tener confianza en El y hacer todo que podemos para llegar a ser como El. Quiero desarrollar todos los atributos de Jesucristo y ser como El es. Mi mision me ha ayudado a hacer eso, pero todavia tengo mucho trabajo. Amo a mi Salvador y se que El vive.

Con muchisimo amor,
Hermana Hoj