September 15, 2014

Week Thirty-Nine: Happy Hump Day

On top of El Santo.
Area: Fruitillares
Companion: Hermana Caseres

Dear familia,

9 months ... and I complete 9 months on the Independence Day of Chile. What the heck? Where on earth did this time go? I am so grateful to be a missionary this week. It was another hard one ... but I am giving my very best.

I think that this week I will share a little allegory from the real mission life of Laney Blau. Our Zone Leaders this week, Elder Hancock and Elder Caulder, let us know on Thursday or Friday that we were going to have a service project on Saturday to celebrate a day of service. It had to do with meeting in the center of Tomé and then hiking up a hill to build a house (or so said Elder Calizya, our District Leader). I have really felt the importance of supporting our leaders in this cambio ... not sure why, but I always try to be the first to put in my hand of support when the leaders tell us to do something. I love serving other people, but the Chileans don't really let us have the chance to do it because they say that the things that they need done is men's work. Bah. Anyways, when I heard about this service, I was pretty enthused. 

We woke up and got ready really, really fast to be able to get down to Tomé in time. All of us gathered together and we began our journey towards ... EL SANTO. This hill is basically death ... in the form of nature. I started walking up the hill and had noooo idea what was ahead of me (because from the bottom of the hill, it didn't look so big). Hermana Sheppard and I (fun fact, she knows me from before the mission because she read my blog) were talking about her life and the experiences that brought her to the mission ... and I suddenly felt that my legs were jello and that I couldn't breath. Uhhhhhm, we hadn't even made it up first incline of the hill. I was only thinking, "Dang, I am out of shape." Thank goodness that summer is coming and we can start running again. Every couple of seconds, we had to stop and wait for a few Hermanas to catch up with us and I caught a glimpse of the bay. Ohhhhh, every time this happened, my breath was taken away (this time figuratively). It was soooo beautiful. 

After a lot of sweating, we finally made it to the top of the hill. I looked out over the ocean and died. This hill was definitely the best place that I have been on my mission. I looked down on the little square that was centro and was kind of amazed. Wow, we hiked up this huge hill. We did it with our own feet and nothing else. I was so tired this day, but the view made everything worth it.

When I wasn't thinking about how chubby I have gotten on the mission on the incline ... I was forming this letter in my mind. I was thinking about how similar that incline is to the mission and progress in general. I started my mission knowing that it would be hard, but I was so willing to meet the challenge. It has been way harder than I thought. With every incline, it gets harder and harder, but the love and satisfaction that I feel from the work also continues to grow. I imagine that at the end of my mission, I am going to look over my work and be SOOOOO content with the view (especially if I am working my hardest). I thought that it was a pretty clever thought.

We had a lot of good experiences this week (even though we walked a LOT). There was one point where we had knocked on twenty or thirty doors trying to get into a house and nothing happened. I looked over at Hermana Caceres and I just knew that she was sick of being in this area, but we still had plans in the neighborhood. I said, "Hermana, I really, really don't know what to do. We are going to say a prayer and see what Heavenly Father wants us to do." We bowed our heads in the middle of the street and I started to pray. The frustration and faith that I felt bubbled up in my chest and I started to cry. "Help us to know what to do. We are trying our best. Help us out." And He helped us. Hermana Caceres lifted up her head and said, "Hey, didn't we have a cita with Carlos today?" I had lost my agenda during the week and didn't have it written down ... but I realized that we totally did. We headed over to his house and had a great lesson. This happened sooo many times. We prayed so much in the streets this week. We were able to go where we needed to go every time. Phew, everything under control.

With Hermana Caseres

The day that we hiked EL SANTO, we also had plans to head out to the netherlands of Frutillares to verify the list of members that we had over there. I felt sooo sure that we were going to find people ... because I had everything planned perfectly. We were going to walk, verifying the list and asking everyone to kn ow where the people lived. We were going to enter the house of every member menos-activo and were going to find families that were incomplete. We were going to look for antiguo investigators of the elders from 2008. We had fasted that day to find people. It seemed like everything was working in our favor. 

As we walked, I felt the spirit sooo strongly testifying that what we were doing was pleasing in Heavenly Father's eyes. I talked to everyone in the streets. We found a lot of families incompletos ... but we didn't enter into a single house. Hermana Caceres was feeling a little bit down. It's not like you can stop being a missionary, so we bought a package of cookies and kept going. Nada, nada, nada. Even though we weren't having any success with numbers, I still felt like Heavenly Father was pleased with our efforts. I felt like the blessings were coming ... that we just had to wait a little, little bit and that he would pour them out over us.

Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of Heaven.

The service that we ended up doing was putting number plates on the houses on the top of EL SANTO. It was just like being a missionary ... but we were offering service, so the people were really nice and willing to let us in their house haha. It is a little incredible what the nametag does to these people ... it closes them up immediately. Crazy stuff.

This next story doesn't have anything to do with that day.

This week in church, I was pretty bummed out because none of our investigators or menos activos were going to be able to make it. I sat in Relief Society with the three sisters that always show up on time and was trying to figure out how I could convey to Hermana Caceres that I was really happy with the work that she has been doing (because through all of these difficulties, she has had a pretty positive attitude). Suddenly, a wave of menos activos that I worked really hard with in the beginning of my time here in Frutillares showed up. I haven't been able to go up to a certain part of Frutillares these past couple of weeks because we have been concentrated in our grupo de enfoque ... and I haven't really expected the people to come to church because they usually don't if we don't work with them. I don't know how to convey how shocked I was. During Sacrament Meeting, I was sooooo amazed at the people who were there. 

All were people that I love. In the meeting, I looked around at these people and I felt the love of God soooo strongly. He LOVES these people. He loves them way more than I love them ... and He is helping them to progress and grow. In this moment, my role as a missionary was made a little bit clearer. I am here to help these people to come closer to Christ. Close enough that they can feel of His love and then desire to obtain it without my help. The Hermanas in the ward joke that when I leave the branch, no one will come to church ... but I saw yesterday that that is soooo not true. I don't do anything here. Heavenly Father does EVERYTHING and I just help Him. It was a good thing to realize and remember.

I had a lot of good experiences this week ... but I don't know how to describe them. Sometimes, to be able to do what God wants me to do, I cry, pray and get to work. Sometimes, I just follow the advice of my leaders and wait to see the results. Other times, I take a back seat and watch with faith to see what God has in store for me. I know that He's got a lot of good things ahead!

We contacted this house that had a million little dogs. I was dying. I HATE dogs now. I hate them.
I love you so much! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE BEST DADDY IN THE WHOLE WORLD. Thanks so much for your example and your love! I hope that one day I can be as awesome as you. Have a great, great, great week and CELEBRATE 18! Pray that I will be able to eat all of the empanadas that these people are going to be feeding me in the next couple of days haha.

:) Until next week (when I will be in the bajada!! AHHHHHHHHH!!)

I buy anything Chilean ... so far I have a pillow, hat,
key chains, an apron ... napkins, a bag of chips.
It is a bit of an obsession.

[In last week's email home Laney expressed her faith in Heavenly Father but a lack of faith in her ability to do all He asks her to do. (Check it out HERE).She obviously expressed this same sentiment in her letter that she sent to her mission president. He sent this wonderful response to her this week ....]

A letter from Prezzy. :)

Hermana Blau,

Thank you so much, as always, for your informative, inspiring, and entertaining letters.

Everything starts with faith.If you have faith to find, you will.If you have the faith, God will help you reach your goals.I feel like i am giving everything but I also feel like I am giving so little. If i am not finding does that mean I lack faith?If I am not baptizing, do I lack faith, do I lack teaching ability, do I lack obedience, do I lack consecration, what do I lack? .Why am I not baptizing?

Hermana, I hope you understand that these are thoughts and frustrations that every single missionary who has ever served has gone through and asked themselves.

You already know there is no easy answer.

That is why you must use standards of excellence, goals and key indicators as indicators of areas where you may be able to improve, not as indicators of faith. Those indicators that you have complete control over (obedience, contacts etc) can be indicators of faith, devotion and consecration but not those indicators over which yoiu do not have complete control. If someone is finding, teaching and baptizing a lot I could probably surmise that that person has been exercising faith. But i cannot in any way deduce that he or she has more faith than someone who is going through a period where they are not finding, teaching or baptizing.

if you want to evaluate your faith, look in your heart. You need to look there and be honest with yourself but I can assure you that your heart is in the right place. I have seen it. If you desire to increase your faith, read those paragraphs at the top of page 123 in PME. I know you are already doing those things but each of us can always improve. But please, as you work to increase your faith do not let anyone tell you you dont have enough. 

I am grateful that in your prayer you realized that you do have faith in Heavenly Father. But, I am not so pleased that you concluded you dont have the faith in your ability to do all that The Lord asks of you. So, just a reminder - the faith that counts is faith in Jesus Christ. If you have faith in Jesus Christ (and I know you do) you do not need faith in yourself. With faith in Christ you know that He will not ask you to do what you cannot do and that when he does ask you to do what might not seem possible, He will ¨prepare the way for you to accomplish the thing that he has commanded you¨ So, don´t worry about whether you have faith in yourself, focus on the faith you have in Jesus Christ and He will take care of the rest. 

Speaking of ¨save He shall prepare the way¨ - the Lord has called you to help Hna. Caceres to learn how to be a good missionary. He trusts you completely, as do I because I have felt the confirmation of that call to you. I am not worried in the least for Hna. Caceres. I told her she has one of the best sister missionaries in this mission as her trainer and I meant it. 

Hna. Blau, you keep doing what yiou have been doing - knowing that you are doing your best and looking for ways to be a little better each day - not because you are not good enough but because you (we) are not yet like Him but will one day be so.

Con amor,

Presidente Arrington

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