This week has been so wonderful!! I have been loving every moment, the members have been feeding us like crazy - honestly, we are getting fed dinner every night & fed lunch a bunch of days too haha I am still being stuffed with Mexican food ... the weather has been beyond beautiful, I have the most darling companion in the world, we are teaching soo many incredible people & overall life is treating me so well. I could not feel more blessed!! Here are some updates!!
. We had such a fun p-day last week! We emailed early and then went and played fútbol at a park in Chico with investigators, members & missionaries from our branch! It was soo much fun. Mexicans are incredible at soccer too however they are the sweetest so it was somewhat competitive but everyone had a complete blast and ahh I loved it so much. I even found myself getting quite into the game and I made several attempts at making a goal but the goalies were too good for my skills. Hahaha it was awesome though. I loved it! Then after the game, Hermana Cluff & I looked around at some shops in Chico and had a lovely day together. The weather is absolutely beautiful here, we're in the mid 70's now and I am loving it far too much!! My freckles are even showing up which is making me happy. I've missed them. Haha
. was wonderful! First off, we had district meeting however, this district meeting was a bit different than usual. So ... before a missionary goes home, they always give a "departing testimony" at either the last zone conference or zone meeting they attend. So, because I am the only missionary leaving in my zone, my zone leaders forgot I would be giving my departing testimony and I admit, it crossed my mind at our last zone meeting but I didn't say anything haha so I didn't give one. Well, I still never said anything but then when we had our interviews with President, he brought it up. So anyways, President was a little upset that the ZL's forgot and he still wanted me to have a good audience to give my departing testimony to. So he then asked for me to give it at my next district meeting and to my surprise, the zone leaders, sister training leaders and Hmong Elders (who just came along for the fun & because I have served with them for a ton of my mission - Elder Lemon & Elder Kidd) showed up at our district meeting as well! Hahaha all to hear me bear my testimony. It really didn't need to be a big ordeal but they were all very kind to drive 30 minutes just to support me. Haha I actually kinda felt embarrassed when they all showed up but I did end up giving my departing testimony ... and it was definitely an experience I will never forget. Yes, it was sad ... and at first brought tears to my eyes ... but as I continued to share my testimony with my incredible district and other outstanding missionaries I have grown to love, I felt the spirit so strongly and felt such peace, gratitude & comfort come over me. Especially as I heard the words of my precious testimony escape my mouth. I am so so beyond grateful for the testimony I have gained while serving as a full-time missionary these past 17 (almost 18) months and nothing makes me happier than to know that no matter where I am, my testimony will be with me. I get to take my testimony home with me and that brings complete peace, joy & gratitude into my heart. It is a permanent part of me and the greatest gift I could have received on my mission. It is mind boggling for me to see how much my testimony has grown & been strengthen while on my mission as well. I never expected it to have grown as much as it has. Ohh the Lord has blessed me so much. But also at our district meeting, Hermana Cluff & I gave a short little focus on faith - which I will be briefly explaining more about in a little bit. But that was awesome and then after our district meeting we all went out to lunch and got Chinese! Pretty fun. After district meeting though we had a pretty normal day. We had a good amount of lessons, delicious dinner at the Whitaker's - Montse (Hermana Whitaker) makes the best & freshest Mexican food. I am trying to take notes!! Haha
. our Zone Blitz!! This was only the second zone blitz I have had on my mission and I loved it! Instead of tracting this time though we were given 12 or so names of less-actives to contact for the Chico 4th ward and then we each had a service activity. Hermana Cluff ended up driving all around Chico for our 12 relief society/less-active women and then we, in my opinion, we're given the best service opportunity! We went and visited an elderly lady in a rest home. Her name was Nancy and she was the cutest thing. We also ended chatting with her & her adorable roommate, Barbara. Both of them were the sweetest and we all enjoyed one another's company very much. We chatted about all kinds of things - traveling, how they met their husbands, our families, etc. Also, cutest thing ... Nancy was talking about how she enjoys watching romance movies and Barbara (who's 94 and was married for 67 years) said, "I don't need to watch love stories, I lived mine." Okay, we were dying. Then a Sister said, "I want a marriage that will last 67 years!" and Sister Nateri (from Kiribati - an island in the middle of the ocean) whispered to me in her broken English and said, "I want a marriage that will last forever." Okay. So cute. Haha Sisters are the cheesiest. I love it. But anyways, that was a lot of fun and we had a wonderful day. The blitz was from too so it was an all day event but there's something super exciting about blitzing an area with tons of missionaries. Such a thrill!! Also, we sang the California Roseville Mission song and it's a rare occasion when we do (usually only at zone conferences & trainer/trainee) so I recorded it this time and will send it to you!!! I love our mission song. It was written by a Sister forever ago and it always takes me back to my very first day in the field when all of the trainers sang it to us trainees and I was the happiest person on the planet knowing I was finally about to start the real work & that Hermana Piggott was my trainer!! So it's a very nostalgic song. Also, it always reminds me of a President Weston and the last time we sang it with him, he was about to leave and everyone was a bit emotional. But so yes, that was a great day!!
. was a pretty normal day ... we had service, a relief society activity and best of all, we had an incredible lesson with Marco!!! We taught him at a beautiful park again, it was a new one this time but still lovely ... and we taught him about temples, baptisms for the dead, family history, eternal marriage, etc. We taught him a ton and a lot of it was brand new information for him but it ended up being such an incredible lesson. Marco is amazing!!!! Honestly. He has progressed soooo much and impresses me more & more every time we teach him. First off, he understood everything we taught him about these subjects and although he had questions along the way, there were never any objections or doubts to what he taught and he found it all quite fascinating & intriguing. I even asked him at the end if he had a desire to enter into the temple one day and he said yes. I then asked him about being baptized and he said he has been contemplating over it a lot lately!!! He said at first his big drive to be baptized was his mother, because he knows how happy it would make her but he then said that he now knows he wouldn't just be baptized for her but for himself as well. Now that he realizes it is becoming something he truly desires for himself though, he wants to make sure he doesn't rush into it too fast ... he want to feel ready. He also said he knows he needs to read the Book of Mormon more. He has been keeping up with our reading commitments but he wants to read more on his own. He did also address that he's still a little nervous to fully read the Book of Mormon because he says if he doesn't feel different after reading it, he will be completely turned off to everything. However, we continue to tell him we have full confidence in the book and he knows he needs to read more. I am almost positive he will be baptized before he reads the entire Book of Mormon though. But I also know he would not be able to stop investigating the church unless he read the entire book and felt it weren't true. Which will not happen. So again, he will be baptized. It is now just a matter of when. Ahh I can hardly believe it!! It makes me soooo happy! He will be such a miracle baptism for me. He also kept telling us over & over how he wants us to know we are not wasting our time with him. He told us he is taking this all very serious and truly contemplating over all that we teach him all the time. He also kept emphasizing how we are the first missionaries he has ever listened too, he used to refuse to listen to other missionaries, and to now see where he is at ..... it is such a miracle!!!! I feel so so blessed & fortunate to have been one of the missionaries he opened up to & allowed to teach him for the first time after his parents & sister have been baptized for years. It is such a privilege. I know that Marco is a huge huge reason why I was called to serve here in the Hamilton City branch. I cannot wait to see when he gets baptized!! With his quick progression, I have a feeling it will be sooner than later!
, & . This past weekend we spent a ton, a ton of time contacting formers & tracting. We desperately need new investigators. Our other investigators are just kinda at a stand still - for example, at our lesson with Lorena this past week she told us how she still wants to be baptized but she's waiting for her family to be ready too - and anyways, we just really need new blood. So, we are trying our best to expand our pool & find new people!!! Luckily, like I mentioned earlier, the weather has been so so beautiful - actually, while we were tracting it got pretty toasty, high 70's, and we both got tons of sun on our faces, I never thought I would be worrying about getting sun in January!!!! I am loving & soaking in the warm weather so so much though, it's perfect - so we have been more than happy to walk the streets of little Orland & tract. We haven't found too much success yet, a few solid potentials is all for now but we'll see!! I know there are tons of goldens surrounding us, we just have to find them!! Also, heartbreaking news. We found out this weekend, while visiting a part-member family, that a member in our branch may have a brain tumor. He was air lifted to a hospital in San Francisco and possibly will be getting surgery or algo así anytime now. Very very sad.
Faith. So again, at district meeting Hermana Cluff & I did a combined focus on faith. Here's an idea of what we talked about & discussed .... As missionaries, our purpose is to, "invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel by faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end." So, our purpose is first to help them come unto Christ by increasing their faith in Jesus Christ. Faith is everything and absolutely essential for one's spiritual progression. So, we help others increase their faith but to do so, we ourselves must also exercise & increase our faith in Jesus Christ. Hermana Cluff then talked about just that. How we, as full-time missionaries and members of the church, must exercise our faith consistently. We must first desire to increase our faith, we ask our Father in Heaven to help us receive greater faith, we act on the faith that we have and do things that require faith ... to be more specific for us full-time missionaries, we took a leap of faith to accept a call to serve in a foreign land, often speaking a foreign language ... we must have faith to open our mouths to everyone around us, to knock on complete strangers doors & ask them if we can share a message about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we must have faith in ourselves, faith that we can truly teach & preach the word of God, that we can truly preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in a foreign language, we must have faith in our messages, testimonies & in the Book of Mormon - making our promises & invitations solid & powerful - we must have faith that there truly are people waiting & ready for the messages that we have, we must have faith in our investigators, less-actives, recent converts & members, we must have faith that all will happen according to the Lord's will & His timing and we must have faith that as long as we are obedient, diligent & try are very best, we will constantly have the companionship of the Holy Ghost with us to lead, help & guide us and we will indeed be successful missionaries & tools in the Lord's hands. Then, once we ourselves are consistently striving to gain greater faith, our purpose (as mentioned above) is to help others do the same. I am here entirely to help others gain greater faith in Jesus Christ and alongside that, help them gain greater faith in themselves. I have been called to proclaim the restored gospel of Jesus Christ along with helping those I teach gain a greater idea of who they truly are and who & what their divine potential is. It's no surprise that the very first thing we mention when teaching the first lesson, The Restoration, is that God is our loving Heavenly Father and we are all His precious children. It is so crucial that the people we teach understand what their true identity is, that being a child of God and again, who & what they can become because of it. That truly is what changes people. There honestly is nothing more special than watching someone come to recognize who they truly are, that God literally knows who they are & loves them infinitely, that He has a specific plan just for them and that they have greater potential than they can possibly imagine. It's amazing. So again, our job as a full-time missionaries is to help others connect to heaven and know what they must do in order to reach this full potential. We help them know of the steps they must take, the ordinances they must partake in and we must help them learn how to better connect with heaven & their Heavenly Father through prayer (direct & personal communication) & scripture study (the word of God). These are some of the crucial tools that lead to one's conversion and help them understand the ways & will of the Lord. However, whether or not those we teach choose to act and follow the steps we present to them, it's ultimately their choice ... however, our responsibility is to clearly teach them & help them understand the way and then invite them to act. We are all Heavenly Father's children and we want all to become who they are destined to become and receive celestial glory. So, once we know we have shown them "the way" and invited them to make commitments and act, whether or not they choose to follow through, we can know we are being successful missionaries. And when we can recognize that the faith in those we teach is increasing, we can clearly see that we are being successful. That doesn't mean a baptism has to come as a result either. Of course, baptism is the first big step on the straight & narrow path but it truly becomes secondary. I absolutely love what Scotty once told me months & months ago, it has really stuck with me my entire mission and helped changed my perspective at times ... "Now, as I look back at all of the people I met and interacted with, I realize that the most important things that you can do is help people believe in themselves, help them be more united as a family and help them to love and respect their fellow man. Be the one who introduces the real love of Christ into their lives. Whether or not they follow through with getting baptized right now is secondary. Realize that everyone has their own timeline and sometimes the timing just isn’t right. BUT, you can be the one that they will always remember as the angelic girl who cared so much about helping them. That changes people."
The reason I wanted to talk about all of this in my email, is now that my time as a full-time missionary is coming to end, I have been pondering a lot over my entire mission and praying to Heavenly Father consistently to know if I have indeed been a successful missionary. If I have accomplished all that I was called here to do. If I have made my Father proud. I feel so so blessed, humbled & full of joy to feel as though I truly have. When I talked about faith with my district I realized two crucial things. While serving, I have exercised more faith than ever before in my life & I have seen countless miracles because of it. I have seen my faith grow immensely and on top of that, I have seen the faith in others grow miraculously as well. Yes, many of these wonderful souls whose faith I've seen increase have been baptized - which makes me thrilled beyond measure - but also, I now am able to clearly reflect back on all of the wonderful people I have taught & am currently teaching who have not been baptized yet, whose faith I have seen grow more than I ever thought were possible. I know that I have taught countless people about the restored gospel & about how they can reach their divine potential, I have invited them to make those steps & take the first step of baptism, I can confidently say that I have (as Scotty mentioned) helped numerous people better believe in themselves, be more united as a family and love & respect their fellow men. More importantly, I truly feel as though I have introduced the real love of Christ into soo many people's lives and helped them feel His love through my own deep love & care for them. I am not saying that I have been a perfect missionary in the slightest but looking back ... I know that all those I have taught really know how much I love & care for them and know how much I believe in them and only want the best for them. So with knowing that, even if many of these people never get baptized .... I know I have been a successful missionary. You have no idea how refreshing & wonderful it feels to say that. I feel at complete peace and my heart is full of joy & gratitude.
Okay, well I still have one more week in the beautiful field!!!! So I will say no more for now. I am so so excited I have many more days ahead of me though!! There is still a lot of work to do. We have a very busy week planned ahead and I am so excited for it!! I love being a full-time missionary!! The work is amazing, I love the Lord with all of my heart, the gospel is true and I love you all so much!!!!!
Ps. I am still sending one more email next week!! So this is not the last time you'll hear from me as Hermana Barth!!