Wednesday, January 28, 2015

there is sunshine in my soul today

Hello lovely family of mine!! 

      Today has been quite eventful thus far! This morning we had our usual morning - running & studies - and then we had a lesson with Manuella!! We haven't been able to catch her at home for a little while so when she called us telling us she was free, we rushed to the opportunity. Then we had lunch here in Chico at the Arevalo's ... we ate huge tortas!! Oh, they are so good. Except the meat for the sandwiches was called, "Pig cheese" ... interesting. Tasted great though! And then we went on a hike with Marco & his sister, who's a member & young woman from the branch!! The hike is called "Monkey face" because the rock you climb up to looks like a monkey face, clearly ... but it is here in Chico and was a ton of fun! The weather was absolutely perfect and we all had a very peaceful & great time together. So that was great! Then we came to the stake center to email and after emailing we're going out to dinner with the Willows Sisters & Orland Elders. On Saturday we helped this lady in the willows area who lives in the middle of an orchard, clean her house & orchard for about 5 hours so in return, she is taking us all out to dinner tonight! I am excited!! But as for some updates of the week & speaking of Marco ...   
      1. Update on Marco!! There is so much to say I honestly do not know where to even begin. Marco is amazing!!! Seriously. He is my absolute favorite to teach right now and we are just beyond happy with his progression & the changes we are continually witnessing take place in him and his heart. So for more information, we had two lessons with him this past week and both were incredible! Our first lesson was on following the Prophet - our living Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, Priesthood, the leadership & organization in the church, etc. and we showed him the conference talk "Come and See" given by Elder Bednar. He loved it all and it was such an amazing lesson! He had no doubts on anything we taught (which was surprising because in the past he seemed unsure about us having a living prophet) and he just was so receptive, respectful, nice and awesome. Haha funny story too. We always ask him to pray at the end of our lessons & he never has ... so after this lesson as soon as I turned to him and gave him "the look" he immediately said, "don't ask." Haha which we laughed about but it only took him a few seconds after he said it before he felt sooo bad and apologized over & over again for saying that. He said it totally came out wrong and he didn't mean to sound rude or disrespectful. Haha we just brushed it off too but he still felt so so bad. It was classic. But then before one of us said the closing prayer, he - on his own - promised me that he would say a prayer for one of our lessons before I leave. So that was good news!! Now for our next lesson. First off, we chose to have a deeper lesson on Prophets, Priesthood authority, revelation, etc. at our Tuesday lesson so that we could prepare him for our lesson on Thursday - that being on the latter-day revelations given to Joseph Smith in regards to The Word of Wisdom & Law of Chastity. And our promptings to do this ended up being spot on and perfect. So, on Thursday we met him at a beautiful park to have our lesson. We sat beneath all of these trees, next to a large river, the weather was perfect ... it was amazing!! But so us three sat down and naturally started chatting about things. We were just chatting about life, etc. and getting a good, natural discussion going. Honestly, it's the best because on top of Marco being on of our investigators, he really is starting to feel more & more like one of our friends. Which is a big blessing because he now is more comfortable with us, trusts us and really opens up to us. It's great!! But so as the conversation started going it naturally leaned towards the topics we were going to be teaching!! So as soon as the timing was seriously perfect, we said our opening prayer and started teaching the planned discussion. Well, as we started teaching the Word of Wisdom, we were both completely shocked at how he was reacting to it all. We quickly found out that he has never drank coffee or tea in his life, never done drugs, never smoked & has only socially drank a few times with his friends. However, he was so proud & happy to tell us he had never partaken of any of the other substances, besides alcohol, without even knowing it was a commandment not to and so he said he would have no problem not drinking alcohol either. He said he had only done so a few times but really didn't feel enticed or inclined to anymore. Could there be a greater miracle!?!?!? We got into such an amazing discussion about all of it too and all of his comments were spot on & so perfect. He is appearing to be a "dry" member the more we meet with him. He knows & agrees with pretty much everything now! Then as we led into the Law of Chastity, which he naturally briefly mentioned when we were talking about the Word of Wisdom too ... he again, whole heartedly agreed with all that we said & taught!!! He even brought up tattoos himself - told us how he had no desire to get one because he knows our bodies are creations from Heavenly Father & temples .... Is he golden or what!?! And although he has both his ears pierced, he completely respects bodies and sees them being as sacred as they truly are. Oh my goodness it was amazing!!!! We were able to cover all aspects of this commandment naturally & smoothly too and it truly could not have gone better. We even talked about dating & all that that entails and he has his head completely on straight with all of that as well! And, after we discussed everything, I invited him to live both commandments and when I said, "Will you ...." He without hesitation said, "yes, of course." He is soo great!!! Honestly. Hermana Cluff & I couldn't wipe the smiles off of our faces the entire time and we kept telling him how impressed we were with him. What made the lesson all the better too was again, it wasn't just two-on-one, us teaching him ... we were able to have a real discussion. We all made comments, told our personal insights, shared questions, answers, etc. ... I loved it soo much!! And he did as well. He even texted us that night and said, "Thank you guys for always being sweet & informative. I appreciate the teachings & I also enjoy the company. Our lesson at the park was really nice! Definitely a nice way to enjoy the day." ... "I get a lot out of our convos. Our convos are definitely refreshing, it's not everyday you get to talk to someone who understands you or has the same philosophy." We were so excited when he texted us these messages. He has changed soo much!!!!! Haha Hermana Cluff even started having tears run down her face as we were talking more about his lesson and how far he has come. It is such a big miracle. Wow. I know his parents are thrilled too because they have been members for years now and he has never shown any interest before or ever wanted to learn anything from the missionaries at all. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to teach him. It's amazing. We're still on cloud 9 about it and I know he is going to be baptized!!! Now it is just a matter of when!!! Marco is the best!!! 
      2. We had a crazy crazy night the other night. We had a few lessons set up & they all canceled. Which was upsetting however first miracle - as we were walking away from one of the doors & I was feeling one of my purse pockets for a sticky note to write on to leave on the door, I discovered a little tiny envelope that said, "Hermanitas Barth y Cluff" ... we had no idea who it was from but as soon as we walked away & opened it, sparkles spilled out along with a little note that read, "Hermanitas! Muchas gracias por todos sus esfuerzos y sacrificios en esta área. Son muy agradecidas y un gran ejemplo a todos los que rodean. ¡Ánimo! Sus esfuerzos no son por vencido :) ... ¡Alma 26:27! Que tengan una maravillosa semana! Con cariño, anónimo." Someone anonymously wrote us that note & put it in my bag. I have no idea how it was possible, I always have my bag glued to my hip ... I am convinced it's from an angel, really though ... but what a tender mercy that was for us. We were still happy but a little frustrated of course by the cancellations and we ended up reading the note at the most perfect time. When we read Alma 26:27 we laughed a little bit, saying we sure hoped nobody thinks we are depressed!! Because we are the absolute farthest from that hahaha but in all honesty, sometimes people only see our "outward success" which often means, "baptisms" ... so that is when people really notice the work we're doing ... and although we both agreed that neither of us need people to pat us on the back, thank us & tell us we're incredible ... it is still very appreciated and nice when people thank us for our efforts. We work really really hard, are always striving to be better, find more people, etc. and are hard enough on ourselves when we may not see as much progression as we'd like so it again, was very much appreciated. Whoever gave us that little note, I greatly thank our Heavenly Father for their kindness & love. Also, after we had those cancellations ... it only took about 10 minutes before we knew why they had partly happened. We all of the sudden got a call from Mercedes who was sobbing on the phone, wanted to see & talk to us and wanted to get to the Warmoth's - the Senior Missionaries - house as soon as possible. I'll have to save this story for when I get home. It was absolutely nuts. Let's just say cops were involved however it was nothing that Mercedes did. Oh heartbreaking stuff. I have definitely had my fair share of wild experiences on my mission.
      3. So I have some crazy news. We have Spanish Elders again in Chico! The Elders who were serving in Auburn (where there is no Spanish branch or ward) are now taking over Chico. It's Elder Van Leeuwen & Elder Baba. Elder Baba just finished up being trained and he is awesome! He's Japanese, lived in Japan for 6 years and then moved to New York. So, he's completely fluent in both Japanese & English and working on Spanish! He's absolutely brilliant, only 18 and considering Stanford or Columbia for college (went to a Columbia High School) and picking up Spanish quite rapidly. They are both awesome missionaries though and so although we're actually sad to lose Chico, we were just starting to get the work going there, we're thrilled to have them here. Chico is so huge too so we need them. Also, it's time for some new blood in Orland - we really need to start finding new investigators, so we are thinking of doing a Spanish blitz in the next couple of weeks. Where us, the Elders, some young men from our branch who are preparing for missions, some sisters, and some Spanish speaking RM's from the Stake all tract an area one day to find new potentials & investigators. We want to start working in Hamilton City more so we want to do the blitz there. Anyways, Elder Van Leeuwen & I are trying to figure it out. I know we would see miracles from it.
      4. Speaking of blitz's, we have another zone blitz next week and this upcoming week we have a lot going on as well! We have interviews with President - I have my hour long departing interview ... don't want to talk about it - then we actually have exchanges this week, not last, and I will be spending Thursday in Citrus Heights with my baby Hermana Hughes ... then on Friday we have a trainer/trainee meeting in Gridley and afterwards Hermana Cluff & I are going to the temple with the Orme's!!! We have a ton coming up & all of it will be wonderful! 
      5. Dad, I hope you had the most wonderful Birthday!!! I'm sorry I wasn't able to record something for the video Abs put together, I heard too late & can't email besides Monday's but I hope you got my package and felt tons of love that day. You are the absolute best and I love you so so much! Otrá vez, ¡Feliz Cumpleaños a ti!

      Well, I love you all so very much and am so thankful for your love & goodness in my life. I have thought about each of you a lot this past week actually and every time I do, I can't help but feel so much in my heart. I know I always say this but sometimes my heart almost feels like it is going to overflow it is so full. I am the absolute luckiest. This morning while praying to our loving Heavenly Father I actually was almost brought to tears by feeling so much gratitude in my heart for all the loved ones in my life too. I can never count my blessings enough. They are endless. The Savior lives. I know it. I can feel Him in my life. Heavenly Father loves each & every one of us more than we can possibly imagine and I love you all so so very much!!

Con mucho amor,

Hermana Barth

Fun/funny/random facts:

    1. Hermana Cluff & I have had the worst case of the giggles lately. Oh my goodness we have the same brain & humor and think the same things are absolutely hilarious ... which means we completely feed off one another - so if she laughs about something, I cannot help but laugh as well - and sometimes it is not in our benefit. In some situations I have never had to use more self control in my life haha but anyways, I have some hilarious stories to share later. I love my Hermana Cluff soo much!!!! 
    2. The Mexican carts are coming back out because the weather is beautiful and I am becoming obsessed with the corn they have. Usually people get a corn on the cob that is smothered in mayonnaise, cheese & chili powder but I just get the hot corn covered lightly in the cheese .... oh my goodness it's incredible. Especially on cooler days. 
    3. I was leaving a message for Martina, a recent-convert, the other day and I ended the message by saying, "en el nombre de Jesu ....." Yes. We pray so much that it became natural for me to end my thought in the way I end a prayer. Don't worry, I re-recorded the message however Hermana Cluff couldn't stop laughing for the next 5 minutes. It's okay though, the other day she prayed for President Marston & his husband ... I had some good laughs with that one as well.
   4. The weather has been absolutely perfect here lately!! Seriously. Every day is full of warmth & sunshine. I love it!! And what makes me even happier ... every morning when we go running, the sun will be setting as the moon is still in the sky. It is beautiful!! Honestly, I can't wipe the smile off my face when I see the stunning sunrise first thing when I wake up. The colors are beautiful, the silhouette from the trees are defined & clear, the streets are quiet ... and while I am running I feel as though the whole rest of the world has stopped for a moment & I get to just ponder and feel at peace. I don't know how to explain it but running has become so therapeutic to me. It is oh so good for the soul.

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