Thursday, July 23, 2015

July 20, 2015 Letter

This week was awesome. I definitely felt like that whole fresh start thing that I describe in my last email got put into practice. It wasn't a perfect week, but I feel like, overall, it was really good. We working a lot with the 15 year old Dominican girl that I told you about. She now has a baptismal date for September and loves everything we teach her.  So we had her pick her own date and that's what she chose! She's awesome. I'll keep you updated on her. She loves the a Book of Mormon so much and yesterday, thanks to the help of our awesome Young Women's president, Natalia, she started working on her personal progress. And she LOVES it. She's also reading for the strength of youth and was so excited about the section of dressing appropriately. She was just going on and on about how finally somebody understands that you shouldn't flaunt what you've got and such... It was cute. Oh, and she also told us, after our law of chastity lesson, that she definitely wants to marry a Mormon boy. We told her about BYU and how there are thousands of Mormon boys there, and you should have seen her eyes light up... It was so cute. We love her a lot and we're excited about her. 

We also had this great find this week- F. He's Spanish, about 35 years old, and works as a nurse. He worked with this woman awhile back who was living in the old folks home where he works. The missionaries would go and visit her and bring her the sacrament until she died a  little while later (she was a member of the church). The missionaries never talked to him, but he was, at that time, starting to get disilliusioned with the Catholic Church and he was really impressed with the way that the missionaries treated this poor little old woman. With their quiet example, he decided to look up on the Church online and read through the whole website. He then got the address of the church and stopped by one morning when we happened to be there for a lesson. He rang on the doorbell and asked if he could meet with us another day. We wrote down his number and gave him our card, and he called us 2 hours later! It was so cool. So we've now met with him twice. Our first lesson was just answering his questions, and in our second, we were trying to help him understand more our purpose as missionaries and we asked him what his end goal in meeting us was. This is before we've brought up baptism at all, seeing as we were going to invite him after asking that question. His response was- "so I'll keep meeting with you, get all my questions answered, go to church, read the book, feel it in my heart, and then if I like everything, I'll get baptized." It was amazing. We're excited about him as well. 

We spent some good time on the street and we found a really cool guy yesterday. We ended up talking to him for about an hour- half of my face is sunburnt, as a result. He is a young Spaniard and has all the right questions. So I'm excited for him!! The Lord is blessing us tremendously and I feel so happy to be here. 

Also, we planned and threw a wildly successful branch activity on Saturday night. It was a culture activity. Everyone brought a dish from their country and we had some people do dances and a few members did a presentation on family history. It was so much fun and SO  many people came. We were blown away. My compa and I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and brownies, and the elders made corndogs. People thought the sandwiches were weird, but you would not believe their reaction to the corndogs and the brownies. They were in Heaven. A few members invited friends and we were able to get to know them better. It was really good. It was only through Heavnely fathers help that it went so well- it reminds me of a quote I found the other day by the Prophet. He said- "I never cease to be amazed by how the Lord can motivate and direct the length and breadth of His kingdom and yet have time to provide inspiration concerning one individual--or one cultural celebration or one Jumbotron. The fact that He can, that He does, is a testimony to me." It was super super cool.

Culture NIght-We dressed as Americans

Saturday, July 18, 2015

July 13, 2015 Letter

Wow. I can't even begin to describe this week. I have no words. English and Spanish are both so insufficient. I have so much joy in my heart right now and I can't express it. This week, I truly discovered the Atonement. For the first time ever in my entire life, I have sung the song of redeeming love. And I honestly can feel so now.

So I will start from the beginning, I suppose. The last two transfers have probably been the most discouraging transfers of my entire mission. I lost a lot of desire and a lot of excitement and just a lot of love of the work. I got tired. I remember one morning, back in Barrio 8, we had one hour left before we went home for lunch, and we were contacting on our good ole Calle Albufera. I looked down the street, filled with people ready to receive the Gospel, and something inside me cracked and all the sudden, I just couldn't do it anymore. I looked at my companion, looked back at the street, muttered something about not wanting to do it anymore, and sat down on a bench. I didn't attempt to make calls, I didn't attempt to write cards, I didn't even attempt to smile at anybody walking by. I just sat there. It was a moment of real distress. And although I fought it off, those moments kept coming back and kept coming back. There was the moment at the beginning of a planning session last transfer, my first in Gijon, when I finished the prayer, laid down on the floor and started crying because I felt that although we were trying and fighting and walking literally miles every single day, nobody was progressing or even accepting what we were trying to teach them or even say to them. There were the little moments on the street, getting hit by the unexpected feelings of extreme homesickness, triggered by things as random as people eating together in bars or seeing Rafa Nadal on street signs. Like, who thought seeing a picture of Rafa in Spain would make me miss Utah, eh? Anyways. That's just how it was going, there for awhile. In the meantime, I was praying really, really hard. And even though I felt like God wasn't listening, I kept on praying. They were sort of desperate, sad sort of prayers. Without a lot of hope, but I kept on praying and I kept on working the best I could. We improved our teaching, we worked with the branch, we expressed love for people even when it was hard to feel it. We did our best.

And then God sent us this week. Because you know what? God is a loving God. That is a true statement. God loves us so, so much. I've never been so convinced.

It started last Sunday, the beginning of our second transfer together. We sat down together and decided that the work goes a whole lot better when we're happy about it. We looked back at all the times when we felt really down and realized that the work subsequently went really down, as well. So we just made the decision to be happy. It was as simple as that. We decided to do all that would could, trust in God, and let Him do His work through us, and just to let the results be what they were. It was a good decision.

Then, on Wednesday, we had one of the most solid district meetings that I've ever attended. Our district leader, Elder Maxfield, talked about success and what it truly means to be a successful missionary. He asked my companion and I to both speak about times when we've felt successful. Preparing for that talk was a little bit hard, because I realized, as I looked back upon my mission, I have never quite known what success truly is. I've always, always, always ended up feeling like a failure missionary, or like I'm never going to succeed. But as I was preparing for that talk, I realized that the reason that always happened is because I have no idea what defines success for me. So I told my district that. I expressed gratitude to Elder Maxfield for listening to the Spirit and assigning me that topic, because I realized that I needed to define success for myself and for my mission. It was a clarifying moment for me, and I realized that although I may be a successful missionary, I will never recognize it until I know what success actually is.

There was a lot of little things that happened this week that I look back and see that it was truly the hand of God, working towards helping me and those around me. God was answering my prayers little by little. And then, we met the new mission president and his wife and family. They were amazing. It was such a defining experience in my mission. We had a zone conference in Oviedo and, seeing as our zone is pretty small, we all got some quality one on one time with the new President and his wife. They both presented messages about obedience, about how much they loved us and about how much they love Jesus Christ. The Spirit was there in a way that I've never felt it before. It was just so powerful. And I had the distinct and clear impression that God loves me. And that Jesus Christ atoned for me. He knows me. And that they were both working together to give me a second chance. I don't consider anything in my mission, up until this point, a failure. I have made mistakes and I have been tired, but all those tired times and mistake ridden days have gotten me to the point where I needed, more than anything else, the Atonement of Jesus Christ to take place in my life. And I felt as if last Friday was a point of starting over again. It was a point of repentance, and that is why I feel so overwhelmed with gratitude and love right now. I had the chance to talk to President Pack and just tell him how anxious I was to do the Lord's will. I told him how little I care about leadership positions, about the cool areas where I could serve or about the numbers that seemingly define success. I told him that I just wanted to do the Lords will. And I think, in that moment, I was given a blank slate. I felt it, I think he felt it. And that is the miracle of the Atonement.

I went to bed on Friday night with such a sweet spirit surrounding me. And it hasn't left. It's the peace that surpasseth all understanding, and I know it's comes from my Heavenly Father. I feel the joy that comes from the Gospel, and now, I finally can say that I know why I am here. I feel as if I am a changed person. I can't really explain why. It was just like every prayer I've ever prayed, every answer I've ever needed, every time I've pleaded with Heavenly Father to just let me know that He really is there- He saved them all and then gave me all that I was asking for and more, in a few simple, short hours in a zone conference in Oviedo. I can't even.. There aren't words. I love my Heavenly Father, and I know my older brother, Jesus Christ, is there. He is always there. He is right by our sides, always, helping us do what we cannot do on our own. I hope that everyone can have the chance to come to the knowledge that I have come to. And that hope is what will drive me for the rest of my mission, and for the rest of my life, as well. Nothing else compares to the love that God has for us, and the love that He is willing to show for us, if we just listen. Any sacrifice, any change, any good things put away for better- it is worth it to feel what I have felt in the last four days. I want to feel this way forever. I want to continue to change. And I will.

Ok. I'll try to wrap up the sermon with some more details of the great things that have happened this week. Sorry to get preachy. But hey, it's what I do.

Number one is P. She's this 15 year old Dominican girl that we found in her house. We contacted her mom on the street, and she invited us over to teach her and her daughter, P. We had a great first lesson, and invited them to come to church. M., the mom, couldn't, but P. could. And she came. She also read the chapter in the Book of Mormon, loved it, and has been telling us how much she loved Nefi, how stupid his brothers are, etc.  She had now come to church twice, various church activities, has become best friends with an investigator of the Elders that is also very awesome, and has accepted the invitation to be baptized. We don't have a date because we have yet to be able to talk to her mom, but she's so sweet and just loves the Gospel. She's a miracle and I can't figure out why we were so blessed to find her, but we were. And we love her.

There is also Y., another 15 year old. She's highly spiritual and loves what we teach her. She hasn't been able to come to church yet, but she has a lot of potential. I feel like she has a special spirit and that God just really, really loves her. Found her on the street, and although we have a lot to go with her, she is really special.

We are teaching a plethora of other people right now, and that in itself is a miracle. Finding is hard here, but the people that we have found are such blessings. The branch is amazing, as well. My companion is an angel. Such a blessing in my life. I'm so grateful to be where I am. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Gospel Doctrine Selfie

Church in Gijon

I love my compa!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

July 6th, 2015 Letter

I love giving away Books of Mormon, especially on the street. It makes me feel like people have that much more of a chance to accept the Gospel. The Book of Mormon is the most powerful tool that we have, along with the Spirit. It's really amazing to see the effects that it has in the lives of people that we teach, along with our own lives. It has been hard for me to get over my own natural shyness. I don't know if I'll ever be able to fully overcome it, but it's little by little. I've found that I'm good at making people feel comfortable, even in awkward situations. So that's been something that has helped. Sometimes, it's easy to forget how cool it actually is, what we do every day. It just becomes.. Routine, I guess you could say. But yesterday we went and visited a member named Elena. She's been a member for 32 years, the person with the most time in the church in Gijon. She was talking about how much fire she has in sharing the Gospel, and how much she loves to do it. It was really cool and it helped us remember, again, how special the work we do really is.

This week was good! Hard, as usual. Gijon is just hard. But good. We had transfers and there aren't any changes with us!! We're staying together. I'm so happy about it. My companion is so awesome, I love being with her. She's a really happy, low key person and we get along great. We had some really good moments this week. In district meeting, we talked about how we needed to have more progressing investigators as a district and the best ways to do that. We reviewed some principles in Preach my Gospel and it really helped us learn how to become better teachers. Then, we were able to apply them! We found a mom and a daughter from the Dominican Republic the other day on the street, and we went to their house to teach them. They were so awesome. We had a great lesson, and the daughter came with us to church on Sunday.

We also found a Brazilian guy named S. We taught him a few days later and even though it wasn't the best lesson we've ever taught, he wants us to come back and teach him and his nieces. He's worried that they're losing their spirituality. It's been really good. The work has, again, been hard this week. But we made some goals last night and decided that things go better when we are happy. We know we are here in this somewhat dead branch for a reason, and we decided that the best way to help is to work hard and just be happy and do the best that we can. Comparison is really really hard in the mission, because it's easy to see the strengths and outward results of other people without being able to see your own. But when we're able to forget about that and just trust in the Lord and that we are here for a reason, everything else goes a lot better. I'm excited to see how this next week goes. I'm hoping and praying that it goes well. Still figuring a lot of things out, as a person and as a missionary, but I feel like Heavenly Father is never very far away. This is His work, not mine. And He can help us do it!

Life is going good. I learn more every day and I'm so grateful for this experience and for my Heavnely Father and Savior, Jesus Christ. They mean everything to me. Continue to send pictures, if you can, throughout the week!! I love getting them!! Also, scripture challenge: this week I finally figured out Mosiah, historically speaking. I charted it all out. It was so confusing but I finally understand it!! Sooo... See if you can figure it out. It blew my mind. Love ya!!

Be good!!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

June 29th, 2015 Letter

I'm so glad that you got to go to Navuoo. I really am, that's such a cool and special experience. It sounds like it has been a really good time. It's always fun to meet missionaries. I love it, and I am one! There's a special spirit that comes from being a representative of Jesus Christ. I bet they do love their mission, as does everyone. My companion and I were talking about it this week- really, the mission we are called to is perfect for who we are. Like, could you imagine a better mission than Madrid?! I'm in Europe, but speaking Spanish. We wake up late and go to bed late, and have a 2 hour break right in the middle of the day. There's people from everywhere, all around the world, and there is basically three different missions in one, all in Madrid, with the North, the Islands, and Madrid. We have big, mostly clean and really safe cities. We have a temple. It's such a perfect place to serve. I love it here so much. And Parker will feel the same about Lithuania. And everyone feels that same about wherever they serve. It's really cool.

Beautiful Gijon!

We also heard about the Supreme Court decision when one of the elders in my area received an email about it from his mom this week. It was interesting to hear about. Kind of made me sad, but we all knew that's how it would end up. It will have sad effects in the future of our country, but we just have to always remember that when the last dispensation started, it was prophesied that the greatest good and the worst evils that the world has ever experiences would begin to take place. So no matter how dark it gets, there is always light to counterbalance it. We have gay marriage, but think about how many more people today have the chance to experience temple marriage, thanks to the hundreds of temples that we have and will continue to have, as well as the missionary work that is taking place in places that have never been touched by the Gospel, up until now. It's always like that. Just remember in 2 nephi when lei talks about opposition in all things. We just have to keep looking for, finding, cultivating, and being grateful for the good things in the world. There's a lot.

 I went on intercambios on Tuesday with Hermana Freestone. She's being trained in the area right next to Gijon, Oviedo. She's 23 and just really awesome. I liked it a lot. We taught this guy named J. M., who is a Catholic Friar who has a lot of questions. He stopped us at a park and we met up on Tuesday. He has really good desires, and we're seeing him tomorrow, so it'll be cool to see how it goes. He's Spanish and 63 years old. I'm so interested to see if he progresses. I can see it being that he accepts everything, knows it's true, but that it's hard for him to change. But I have faith! He's really really cool.

On the way to change for intercambios, I saw this young, Spanish looking guy on the bus and I had a really strong feeling that I needed to talk to him. It was a little bit scary for me, because I've never been good at talking to young, attractive people, much less as a weirdo missionary, but I prayed to God to give me the chance to talk to him, and as we were getting off, he looked up at me and said, in English, "hi!". His name is T. and he's actually from Portugal. We got his information and we met on Saturday in the park. He's a really active member of a different church, but we explained our message and he looked like he had a ton of questions. So he asked if we could meet the next day, and we did, and he came with a list of stuff that he found on the internet about Joseph smith. So he started firing questions at us, and we answered,  but finally, we just said, look, T. We can sit here and talk about my religion versus your religion all day long. But how bout we just get to know each other better? He then told us his story about he found God, and the lesson changed. We were able to get him to commit to reading the Book of Mormon and to continue to meet with us . It was really cool. We'll see how it goes. We've been having a hard time setting up second lessons with people. They're all really busy. The Peruvian family being one of them. But we'll see them this week. It's just little by little, but we're going. We feel good about what we've done and were continuing to rely on the Lord and try to do and be better every day.

Gijon is wonderful. I'll send you some pictures!! We're doing well. There's not much more to write, honestly. Just at the grind! Our new president comes this week. I'll let you know how it goes, I love you all so much. Proud of you and grateful for all that you do. The Gospel is true! I know it! Love you.

My nice new mumu!

Meditating by the ocean

One Year Down!! June 22, 2015 Letter

 I am hitting a year this week!! It's so crazy how fast the time goes, I really can't believe it. My life has changed so much in this past year, I never thought I'd be at this point, doing what I'm doing, learning what I have learned. I speak a whole different language now, I've met people from all around the world, lived in Europe, and just been a missionary for a year! It's amazing and I'm so happy to be doing it. It's hard! But it's worth it, especially for the lessons learned, people met and testimony gained. I just wanna kill it for the next 6 months and do the best I can. I know the time will just go
faster and faster, but I'm happy to be here.

One Year Selfie

To answer a few questions that I forgot to answer last week: I am not sister training leader anymore. There's not enough sisters in the north to really have the need for sister training leaders here. So yeah, I was released from that assignment  Also, I still haven't received any letters to my piso, but I'm sure they're coming. I don't know if maybe the mail to get up to Gijon is slower or something, but I guess we'll have to wait and see. Thank you for writing me,though! I love getting letters, even though I've been really bad at writing them,

This week has been really good. We decided as a companionship that we were gonna stop worrying about the number game and just focus on the work and the people. I've seen missionaries out here get absolutely consumed by the numerical results of their work, and it makes me sad because it really takes away from the spirit of everything and the reason we are doing what we are doing, which is the love of God and of His children. It's hard not to get sucked into the trap of focusing soooo  much on numbers because sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that high numbers always mean that we are good missionaries. High numbers definitely aren't bad, but using them as a way to gauge success can be harmful. It's been a struggle for me on my mission not to compare myself to others and their outward results, but being here in Gijon has really given me the chance to focus on the people and just doing the best I can, because number wise, it's just a lot harder here. And this week has felt really good, as a result. We actually were able to teach a lot of new investigators, which did feel really good.

We had a first lesson with this family from Peru that we found, as well with that guy that I told you about that we stopped with our umbrellas. He is really cool and we're meeting with him again tomorrow. The family was a bit of a miracle. We walked around Gijon all day yesterday. There is no public transportation here, except for buses that take a really long time, so we just walk. All day, everyday. We had a lot of lessons fail us yesterday and we had this lesson set up with this guy that we had quickly contacted on the street. I had like, zero expectations with him because I sort of thought he was kind of weird and thought for sure he was going to fail us. But we got there and he let us in. We started talking, and then his wife walked in and we got to know her. Turns out, although he has been in Spain for 8 years, she just got here 3 months ago, and she was meeting with the elders in Peru right before she moved here. They were so awesome, and we didn't have much time to be with them, but we
shared the Gracias a El video with them and invited the to read The Book of Mormon. He told us that he felt like it was destiny for us to be there. It was just such a cool experience. We're excited to see how they progress.

The branch here is still small and still pretty dramatic. A lot of people don't come to church anymore because they've been offended in the past by one thing or another, but we're working on that. I've been working a lot to have charity and love for a few of the members that have been hard for me to connect with. I was thinking about in the Bible when Jesus talks about how even evil men love people that love them, but it takes a truly Christlike man to love somebody that shows no affection towards them, or that is hard to even like.

I gave a talk in sacrament meeting yesterday about missionary work, and I talked about certain missionary experiences that I had before the mission and times that I was able to share my testimony with those around me. I talked about how we should always share what we know, and how the Lord will bless us for it, whether or not they accept what we are sharing with them. I challenged the branch to search for more missionary opportunities in their own lives. I was thinking that maybe that's something that you guys could work on, too! Soon there will be two missionaries from our house out in the field, but we can always be missionaries. So I want to extend a Seegmiller family challenge:

I want each of you to give out a Book of Mormon to somebody before I get home. This includes mom and dad, as well. I know you can all do it!! I know that if you start praying to have missionary opportunities,they will come. I know that it really strengthens our testimonies to share what we know. So... Will you do it? I think it would be a really cool thing to try and do. It might require you all to stretch a little bit out of your comfort zone, but that's what we have to do sometimes (all the time) as missionaries. I know you can do it!! Let me know what you think.

That's really cool that you're going to Navuoo and that Parker is going through the temple there. It will be a really cool experience. I love that temple a lot. And his farewell is in three weeks?? Holy cow. Time flies. I'm so excited for him!