Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Lovely Days

¡Mi querida familia!

      Oh, I have so many things I want to tell you. Even with my novel emails, I never seem to be able to say all that I want or tell you all that I wish to. So so much happens each day in the mission world and I could talk for hours on end about all that I am experiencing, learning and loving. But one day in the future when I can sit down and talk to each of you face to face will have to do. Also, I am emailing late today because we came up here to Paradise (we're still here actually) with our zone & went on an incredibly beautiful hike! It was actually a little scary at times because we walked along this path that was super steep and high up, I'll have to send pictures next week but it was so so beautiful. Up here in Paradise we're a lot more north so it's super green, lush & there are pine trees everywhere!!!! I am obsessed. You don't see any palm trees this north and it's more of an Oregon feel but I love it!!! There was a huge waterfall on the hike too and also, I was with the British Sister, Sister Woods for a lot of the time - she is hilarious - and at one point she got scared and wanted to hold my hand while we were walking down a steep part, so we were holding hands and then she completely slipped!! Which meant I slipped, and we both completely fell down & slid down the mountain!!!! It was the funniest thing I have ever experienced. I was laughing so hard and our entire zone watched it in aw. Oh my goodness. We got very muddy from it as well but it made the hike even more adventurous! Also, it started raining on our way back. I was in pure heaven!!!!!! Okay but for some updates!!

      1. First off, speaking of getting muddy ... I have to tell you about the most hilarious thing that happened to us last Monday evening. So, every Monday night we have dinner at our Branch President's home in Chico. Well, I am still not the absolute best with directions, especially in Chico (I am slowly getting better) and I struggle even more when it's pitch black outside so anywho, we were driving to dinner and I accidentally took a wrong turn which led us into the church's property of orchards. Well, usually the right turn takes us through orchards as well but we kept on driving and after not too long, I knew we were lost & not heading in the right direction. I tried to find my way around the best I could but at night, all of the orchards look identical and so after quite awhile of driving I realized we had gone way too far and I decided to put aside my pride hahaha and pull over to call someone for directions. Well, the second I pulled over right next to the trees, I slid a little bit and knew I had hit pure mud. It has been raining pretty much every single day here so the orchard mud is nice & thick. Okay, so when I realized we were in mud, I started trying to drive forward, then backward, then forward again, etc. and I am sure you can guess what happened next. Yes, we got completely stuck in the mud!!!!!!! Haha and my going back & forth only sunk us down deeper. Well, so then I thought I would be strong enough to push the car out (hahaha that is a joke in itself) and I hopped out of the car in my little church flats, had Hermana Cluff at the wheel and I started to push away. Yeah, it didn't take long before I realized I wasn't making an ounce of a difference and all that came as a result of my efforts  were thick mud/clay covered shoes!!! Hahaha you'd think this would cause frustration too but I actually was laughing my head off. I then called the Orland Elders and again, could barely tell them what had happened because I was laughing so hard. Picture this: two Sister missionaries, in skirts & church flats, in the middle of a pitch black orchard, with their car that is stuck in the mud. Even better, picture me trying to push the car!! Haha it was hilarious. So the Elders immediately came to our rescue (luckily I had glanced at what street we had turned on) and they rolled up their pant legs, took off their socks & shoes and pushed, pushed & pushed our car some more until it was finally back on dry ground!!! It was a miracle!!! And that was our fun Monday night adventure. Also, our Branch President told the whole branch the story yesterday during Sacrament Meeting. Haha he used it as a metaphor for life. He talked about how sometimes in life we take wrong turns, darkness comes over us & we get lost, we think we can find our way back but then we get stuck, we realize we can't do it on our own & with our own strength and we realize we have to ask for help. We have to humble ourselves and rely on the only one who can truly come to our rescue & put us back on the safe path, that being Jesus Christ. It is a pretty good metaphor actually! But so anyways, that was the first adventure of our week!
      2. Speaking of rain. Again, it has been raining almost every single day here (yes, I have been in heaven) and some days it pours!!!!! Especially this past Wednesday it did. We finished our District Meeting at the church and the second I took a step outside, I was completely drenched. We all were wearing our Christmas sweaters too, wanting to take a final District picture in them and we ended up taking them in the pouring rain!!! It was so much fun! And then during lunch, us & the sisters literally ran around in the rain, ran through puddles and sang Christmas songs while doing so. I think I am getting more goobery every single day. But it's far too fun and so I am fine with it! 
      3. On Thursday there was an MLC (missionary leadership counsel) meeting and usually it is just the Sister Training Leaders & Zone Leaders that go but for some reason President Marston invited me to go as well. So I went down to Gridley on Thursday for that! It ended up being 7 hours long but I absolutely loved it. First off, I loved seeing missionaries I have served with that are serving in all parts of our mission and then the entire conference alone was incredible. We had Brother Mike Hemingway (head of Church proselyting) and Brother Troy Davis (Technology Head – Missionary Department) join with us as well and all that they addressed and taught us was again, so incredible & exciting. I learned so so much throughout the meeting and left feelings (as I always do after meetings like that) very uplifted, exciting and determined to be the most successful missionary I can possibly be!!! This gospel means everything to me. Absolutely everything and I sincerely want to share it with the world!!!!!! Ohh I need my mission to last a lot longer than it is going to. I still have far too much to do!!!!!!! But again, it was a very spiritual, inspiring and powerful meeting and I loved being in the room with all of the leaders of my mission. They are all excellent missionaries. It also was, of course, such a pleasure & joy to visit with President & Sister Marston as well. I love them both so much!
      4. Fortunately for me, I got to spend another day in Gridley this past week! I had exchanges on Saturday and got to spend the day in my most favorite little town with Hermana Harper (Hermana Brigg's greenie). It was, of course, soo much fun! I absolutely love that place and especially around Christmas time!! There are lamp posts with wreaths everywhere, trees covered in lights, and aw, it just brings back so many fond memories and I love it!! But so in the morning we went on a beautiful run through some orchards around the town and next to the canal. It was incredible. It was slightly raining, there was mist & fog in the air which looked so mystical and pretty through the orchard trees and I honest felt as though my soul was being fed. I was on cloud 9!! Purely amazing. Then, we had a little counsel meeting with President Lopez & the Elders at the Lopez's house and we discussed their progress record and then had breakfast. Including Sister Lopez's homemade bread, heaven. We then had 4 hours of studies (12 week training) and headed out for the day. Our first visit, of course, was Yamara. Oh my goodness the second that girl opened the door I couldn't help but get the biggest grin on my face and hug her to death. I miss her soo much!!! We were both just so happy to see each other too & I couldn't get over how beautiful & grown up she looked. I love my little Yamary!! Oh, I truly love her more than words. But we chatted with her for a little, Antonio made us his famous "choco-mil" and then we shared a wonderful lesson with just Yamara. I asked her how everything was and then felt impressed to really focused on the importance of reading from the Book of Mormon daily. We talked about how it truly is our "iron rod" and how we must cling to it and hold on to it with all of our might, meaning we must not go a day without reading from it, to stay on the straight & narrow path and to safely & happily make it back to our Father in Heaven. I loved teaching her again, it did my heart a lot of good, and what touched my heart even more was when I bore testimony of the Book of Mormon. I shared with her my deep love, gratitude, appreciation and admiration for the Book of Mormon and said how through reading it every single day, I have come to truly recognize myself as a daughter of God & feel His love more than I could in any other way. I then told her it will be the exact same for her. I told her that through diligently reading & praying we come to know our Father in Heaven & Savior, Jesus Christ more and feel of their infinite love so so much. While I was sharing all of this, she then had tears start rolling down her cheeks and began to cry!!! The spirit was soo strong and I had to choke back my own tears as well. However, as soon as we both were crying or on the verge too, I looked at her, our eyes locked and while she had tears still running down her face I said to her, "You are one of Heavenly Father's choice daughters. He loves you so much. Jesus Christ loves you so much. And I love you so much." She then looked at me, wiping away her tears and said with a little smile on her face, "this is why I have missed you so much." My heart completely broke. It was the most tender, sweet & special moment for me. I sincerely feel as though Yamara is my little sister & angel. Words cannot begin to describe how much I love her & how much she means to me. She knows it too. So this was an experience I will never forget and it again, did my heart so much good. Also, her one year baptism anniversary mark is coming up in less than a month! Can you even believe it!?! I am so proud of my Yamara. Also, Lorenza has still been consistently going to church with Yamara and apparently the entire family - including Esgar & Antonio - have been going frequently together lately as well. This entire family will be baptized one day. No doubt in my mind. Speaking of ... Antonio was so excited I was in Gridley that as soon as Lorenza got home from work, he took us all out to dinner! We ate at ABC Chinese (Gridley classic) and it was soo much fun. We ate more than anyone should ever possibly eat and just enjoyed one another's presence so much. Haha we chatted about a lot of stuff too but I knew I would eventually get serious on them and see where their spiritual progression was. Well, as soon as I got my fortune cookie which read, "Now is a good time to finish up old tasks" I knew without a doubt that it was time for me to get the discussion going. So I did just that. They told me how they have been attending church regularly, Lorenza told me how she has still been reading the Book of Mormon and then right then & there I again, invited her to be baptized and she agreed to being baptized, she said she knows it is what she needs to do & knows it's the best thing for her to do ... but as I tried to set a date with her, she couldn't do it. I even tried to get her to agree to January 4th, the same day Yamara was baptized but she said it doesn't matter to her what day she gets baptized on, she just isn't ready to set a date yet. Ahh, that Lorenza. She is a difficult one. She said she believes it all to be true but now she is just waiting for a strong impression to come upon her where she has as strong of a desire to be baptized as Yamara did. She told Hermana Harper Yamara's conversion story of gradually listening to us, meeting President Weston and then wanting to be baptized so badly that she didn't care about anything else. Including the Quinceañera she had dreamed about since she was a little girl. All she wanted in the world was to be baptized. Lorenza wants to feel that same way. So anyways, we discussed tons & tons with her and I'll have to tell you more of the details one day. But she knows it's true and that it is what she needs to do, she is just still waiting for some reason. It's quite frustrating actually but I know it will happen in the Lord's own time. Also, Antonio looked at me very seriously and told me he knows he will be baptized too. He said he just doesn't know exactly when yet but that it will happen and he reminded me of his dream when he was in Washington and how meeting Hermana Piggott & I was no coincidence and then he also said he will tell us his conversion story at his baptism. Those two need to get baptized ASAP. They are so ready!!! And I will continue to give you updates on them until it happens. Ohh the Elizondo's. Mi familia Mexicana. Also, they kept asking me when I think I will be getting married because they want to plan a trip to Utah for it. Haha as if I have the slightest clue!! I told them there's a possibly I won't be married for 5 years and they were convinced that won't be the case but said they will still come then even if it is. Also, I have decided - and known this for awhile now - that Yamara will be one of my bridesmaids at my future wedding. Whenever it happens. Even if it's in 5 years haha. Can you imagine anything more darling!?! She really is one of my best friends!!!! 
      5. I also got to see Jesús for a little bit and that made me so so happy too. Hermana Brigg's told me to make sure we visited him because she overheard him say on Sunday how he really missed Hermana Piggott & I. Soo cute!! So we visited him and it was amazing. I'm not kidding when I say that boy looks better & happier every single time I see him. He was literally glowing and just all smiles when we were visiting with him!! He is so cute! Also, I asked him how he was and so sincerely he told me he was doing great & very happy. He also told me how he is still going to seminary, which was very apparent by the answers & comments he had during our little lesson, and he is still going to church every single Sunday. He hit his year mark of being baptized on November 9th and he has been to church every single Sunday since then! Can you even believe it!? He is so so solid. Also, he is now blessing the Sacrament and aw, just growing up before my eyes. Really though. He looks so much older, more mature and just happier in every way. He glows and it makes my heart happier than I can express. Also, we shared the "He is the gift" video with him, which he loved, and afterwards we committed him to reading from the Book of Mormon every single day and to "sharing the gift" with his friends at school. So cute! He even said with a smile on his face, "Okay, so I could do something like this .... I could say to a friend, "hey, what are you excited about this Christmas season?" ... "Well, I am excited because we are celebrating Jesus Christ and he is the true gift & meaning of Christmas." And then he would give them a pass-along card and invite them to watch the video, etc. Haha as he finished his own "practice teach" with us he got the biggest smile on his face too and said, "something like that?" And then we both gave him high fives. Ohh my goodness. He is amazing!!!! When he got baptized so quickly & being the only member in his family, there were many adults who worried he would fade or stop coming ... but that could not be farther from the truth. He is now a worthy Priesthood holder, he baptized his own father and he is doing his own missionary work. I love my little Jesús!!!!! He is such a miracle. Seeing him made me so so happy.
      6. Now as for updates on Orland!!! The work is still hastening like crazy here. Our district alone has 10 people currently on date, which is so awesome, and Hermana Cluff & I currently have 9 progressing investigators!! Which is amazing. We are thrilled. We have been having a lot more member presents lately too, which has helped a ton, and I just feel as though so many big miracles are heading our way. I love it! I don't have any huge updates on anyone but everyone is doing great and Hermana Brigg's & Cluff on exchanges almost got Ismael & Israel on date for baptism which was super exciting!! Everyone is amazing and especially the Campos family. They are so awesome, so close to baptism and especially Lorena, she is completely solid. We had Hermana Whitaker with us at her last lesson and she told Hermana Whitaker how she again, knows everything we teach her is true and she is taking the desire she has to be baptized very seriously. Oh, she is so so awesome. Also, we found a new investigator this past week from tracting and doing the "He is the gift" initiative! His name is Eduardo, he's 22 and so awesome. More updates to come on him later. I know we are going to see so much success from this initiative, I can feel it ... right now we are just trying to find more time to share it because we have been so busy going from appointment to appointment. Which is the absolute best problem to have but anyways ... more updates to come!!! 
      Well, that's all that I can think of as of now to update you all on. I know, I go into far too much detail of what I tell you but I just love writing!! And I love writing exactly how things went. It's hard for me to sum them up. Especially because these emails have become somewhat of my journal entries. Lo siento. But I hope all is well at home!! I am excited to hear about all of the Christmas festivities that are taking place. Have you already listened to the Children's choir downtown? Isn't it usually at the beginning of the month? Oh, I love Christmas time so so much. And this year I am loving it even more so than usual because I am making it entirely Christ-centered. How it should be. Every day for personal study I am still reading from the Book of Mormon - oh I forgot to tell you! I just finished reading the Book of Mormon in English again & I just finished reading it in Spanish as well! Super exciting - but and I am also, for my new study journal I just started, intently studying & writing about the scriptures we get each day from an advent calendar President & Sister Marston gave us, which is always centered on Christ, and then after doing the challenge it gives us for the day, writing a journal entry on my experience with that at the end of each day. It has been incredible so far and I already feel my knowledge of and relationship with my Savior increasing so much. I LOVE MY SAVIOR WITH ALL OF MY HEART. Also, I absolutely loved the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional last night and had to hold back tears the entire time. It was so so beautiful and I had chills going up & down my body the entire time as well. I just love my Savior more than I can & will ever be able to explain and I am so so happy we get to celebrate Him so much this time of the year. I LOVE HIM.
      Also, something I heard at church yesterday from Hermano Arevalo has really stuck with me. In Sunday school he talked about how right now we are celebrating Christ's birth. With that being said, gifts are a natural part of celebrating Birthdays, correct?? So it makes sense as to why gift giving & receiving is a big part of Christmas. However, sometimes it appears as though the world focuses more on giving one another gifts and not Christ gifts. If we truly are celebrating HIM & HIS birthday, shouldn't our biggest & main priority be to give HIM something? To give Him a precious, beautiful & thoughtful gift. Well, with that being said ... I would invite each of you to really think about what you want to give Jesus Christ this Christmas. Whether it be more of your time, attention, love, will, obedience, diligence, etc. Really ponder over this and decide what gift you feel you would personally like to give to the Savior & Redeemer of the world. The One who bought you with His blood and made it possible for you to receive the greatest & most glorious gift of all: eternal life. 
      I know that Jesus is the Christ. He is my Lord, my Redeemer, the Captain of my Salvation and the Rescuer of my soul.

      I love you all so much my dearest family. Know you are in my prayers & that I wish you the merriest & loveliest week! 

Con amor, 

      Hermana Barth 

Ps. I hope you all remember to write out your testimonies of the Savior for me!! It truly is all I want for Christmas!! Mom & dad ... if you are the only ones who read my emails these days, will you please remind everyone to do that!? Okay, well I love you all so much!!! 

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