My Beloved Family and Sweet Friends,
So much to tell you! Thank you so much for your emails and letters. I love hearing from all of you! Sister Holiday, NEVER doubt how much I love you and feel of your love! I am so sorry that the packages haven't come through, it's just the unlucky truth of Argentina. Don't you worry, I'm sure they'll make it sometime. And Mom, I did get the letters from you and Corey and the beautiful Simon Dewey cards. They are gorgeous and you know how much I love his artwork. I gave one of them to Hermana Martinez and she placed it all nice and neat in her journal. I love the mail you send! We get mail whenever we have a trip to Rosario for a training or something, or when our Zone Leaders go to Rosario they bring us back the mail. It feels like old fashioned mail times, really. Like the pioneer times! I wanted you to know that though I'm not able to see Hermana Alicea or the other missionary friends of mine I mentioned before, I did happen to be with Hermana Reyes when she got your letter--she is in my zone (I am so lucky because she is an absolute doll! Chilean princess, more like it) and she looked so surprised to have mail when the zone leaders handed her your letter with the Jesus Picture on the front. She looked at the name funny, like "Who is the Boren Bunch" and I explained that "Este carta es de mi familia." She looked so flabbergasted and delightfully surprised and exclaimed "En Serio??" in the same moment, and then she began to cry, gave me the tightest hug I have ever received. Quickly she began to open the letter and look through the pictures, laughing and smiling as she looked at the drawings that Corey and the primary kids sent her, and she loved the pictures of Christ you sent as well. Thank you so much, that moment was a sweet tender mercy I will remember forever. I felt in that moment all kinds of love--love for my sweet friend Hermana Reyes, love for you, my family, and the tender kindness of your hearts to serve selflessly and give much. Love for the Lord and the sweet gift he's given me to serve a mission and come to know such erect, good doing people from all over the world. Love for the Savior, and his example of love and service that we have the gift to follow. Thank you so much for sending her that letter. I'm sure that Elder Vergara, Elder Alvarez, and Hermana Alicea felt much the same. I don't want to ask to much, but if you could send a letter to Hermana Martinez as well, she would love it. She also doesn't get much mail from Honduras. She said she wouldn't give her family the address because she doesn't want them to spend the money. I thought in that moment, by golly, we can at least get her a letter.
I have learned so much this week. I feel that every day in my mission I am learning to sing the song of redeeming love as I experience daily moments of celestial light and also the sorrow of personal Gethsemane. There is so much Heavenly Father has for his missionaries to learn. I feel that the Mission field has given me my life. It's amazing the lives that are blessed on all sides because of missionary service--investigators get a chance to accept the savior and his gospel, converts receive the ordinances of salvation, members receive conversion and testimony as they too thrust in their efforts in the work, and we missionaries . . . I feel like we get it all, because we get to be a part of it all! Heavenly Father is so good to us!
Miracles of this week:
Brisa. She is 9 years old and a little piece of Heaven. She squeezes me with a big hug every time we enter the Diaz' home and even shared her birthday candy with me (it was something like warheads, and I loved it). She was born very premature and was sick, almost on her deathbed, 2 times before age 5. She's been through a lot. She hasn't yet learned to read and I'm figuring she's got to have several learning disabilities, and I'm drawing back on all my Elementary Education experience to know how to help her and how to teach her. I feel it is God's hand that I am blessed to be in her life right now, and I feel no greater joy right now then when I am with Hermana Martinez, teaching this sweet little girl about the Savior and that he loves her. I think she feels very insecure about learning and hasn't had a good experience in school. We are doing our very best to help her learn to love learning as she comes to know the message of the Restoration. I am so grateful that I bought a picture Book of Mormon at the MTC store in Spanish. Mom and Dad, I love this book and have used it often on my mission--thank you for helping me learn the stories of the Book of Mormon through this simplified version all through my growing up years. I know how to find each Book of Mormon story by picture now. Austin, I always think of you when I turn to the part about King Lamoni's father when he learns from Aaron. You know, the little drawing of the wife, and the spear in the background . . . you've got to know what I mean :) Love you, Jbird.
Also, our investigator Maria--we met her on our second day here in Cañada, just doing the good-old door to door contacting. She started bawling when she first met us and asked us to come back. She has come to two different church activities and we have had 4 lessons so far. She is so solid! She has read every reading assignment in the Book of Mormon that we've extended to her and prays every morning and night. We had a supernal moment this week when her granddaughter, Florencia, was listening in on a lesson. We invited Florencia to pray, and when she shied away, Maria encouraged her that she could do it, and before our eyes began helping her through a prayer, step by step. "Padre Celestial, Te doy gracias . . . " Oh my goodness. We felt like two little giddy kids afterwards as we all but skipped from the lesson. Hermana Martinez gave me the spanish equivalent of "Did you just see that! That was awesome!" It is one of the tender things we enjoy as missionaries, teaching others to pray.
We encountered a man during contacts the other day named Pedro. He is deaf in one ear and can't speak very well. In his quiet, half-worded speech, he told us that he is a member of the church, that he used to work in the United states (I think it was Texas) for a time, and found the missionaries there. He was baptized, told us about the peace he felt taking the sacrament, and how he has kept everything he learned about the book of Mromon and Heavenly Father locked in his heart. He then expressed that he felt it was a sign from God that we were passing and stopped to talk to him. He kept pointing at our name tags and then at the sky, the heavens. We hope we can help him return to activity and strengthen his testimony.
Yesterday Hermana Martinez and I taught the Relief Society lesson, that was a first in my mission. Lots of teaching, but never Relief Society before. We talked about the lesson in the Lorenzo Snow teachings manual about forsaking the world and putting our priorities and love with God. Shout out to Bishop Gurney: A long time ago in Youth Conference, you used an example with a glass mason jar about rocks being the essential things, littler rocks and sand being important things, and water being the extra things. You expressed visually the importance of putting our priorities with the essential things. I definitely copied this idea for our lesson and taught the sisters the importance of putting God and his commandments as our essential things, first and foremost in our life. Thank you for giving me that lesson visual! YW and YM leaders, you never know what the youth will remember and need later on their missions and in life. Thank you for each and every one of the Ward members in Highland who have blessed and influenced my life, and that of my family.
Also, 10 minutes before Sacrament meeting, I am asked by the 2nd counselor in the Branch Presidency to give a talk. Gulp! Well, I winged it, but luckily during Sunday School and Gospel Principles Hermana Rane had taught about 7 steps to giving a talk in church. So I was all set with the formula in my brain! It goes like this:
1. I remember when . . . (and give a personal story. It's always more interesting.)
2. Explain the doctrine/topic
4. Use a visual example (like an analogy)
5. Invite (invite the congregation to act on this principle, it's like a missionary commitment)
6. Promise blessings
When the time came to give my talk, I opened with sharing a sweet personal experience I had when Sister Watkins called me one summer and asked if I could help her son Logan with physical and learning exercises for a week or so. I explained the tender opportunity I had to walk alongside and help on the playground this wonderful little boy, a beloved son of Heavenly Father, as he better learned to walk and play and develop. I then related to the doctrine of helping our brothers and sisters walk spiritually, helping recent converts or less active members develop testimonies and learn the doctrine, but to do so with love and respect, not with criticism or arrogance. I also spoke about Mosiah 4:19, are we not all beggars before God? Sister Watkins, I want to thank you personally for that experience. I was filled with the spirit as I remembered all that I learned from that one short week in your loving home.
All for now, my sweet family. Keep the faith. Keep serving, keep loving the Lord. Can't wait to hear from you all next week!