August 25, 2014 – Moroni 10:34

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Dear Familia,

 
[[[ First of all, Libni, Brendy and Adoni were not baptized on Saturday. Her husband changed his mind and decided not to marry her, so their baptism fell. It was very sad, but I trust that God has a plan for them. Maybe I didn´t get to baptize this special special family, but we (re)found them, and created a lifelong friendship with them, and witnessed miracles with them, and one day when they are sealed in the temple, I will be there. 🙂 ]]]
 
It began
 
in Salcajá.
 
In this year and a half (shoot, in this past week) I have seen so much and felt so deeply. I have cried of sadness and joy and laughter and love. I have seen the Lord´s hand and I know His voice. I know that He never breaks a promise (Moroni 9:25). I know that He is infinitely kind (3 Nefi 22:10) and endlessly forgiving (Mosiah 26:30). I´ve taught and baptized and seen loyal converts receive the Holy Ghost and endure to the end. I´ve been able to serve my fellow hermanas and see miracles in their spiritual progression and my own.
 
I cannot express the depth of my joy and gratitude for God´s mercy and His wisdom and grace that divinely plan and powerfully enable. I now know that man is nothing (Moses1:10) and that I am so imperfect, but as I have seen Him do with myself and others, God strengthens weaknesses and cleanses sins. I have loved my mission and enjoyed every minute of it. It has done more for me than anything else could have (such as in learning how to really pray and really study the scriptures and really love and serve other people and Heavenly Father).
 
Now I know it never ends and I am determined to continue serving my Heavenly Father until the end of my days and beyond.
 
And it ends
 
in Cerrito del Maíz.
 
¨Me despido de todos.¨ Me despido de este país hermoso y querido (las tortillas y los tortrix y las pilas y el quiche, el mam, el kanjobal, el popti) y esta gente hermosa y querida (salca, san mateo, el prado, la esperanza, cerrito del maíz, y mis hermanas misioneras). Los amo y los extrañaré. Sepan que han hecho más por mí que lo que saben. Nunca los olvidaré porque han cambiado mi corazón duro. ¨Nos veremos aun más allᨠ— ¨ante el agradable tribunal del gran Jehová, el Juez Eterno de vivos y muertos.¨ Así sea.
 
My advice to those who will serve or are currently serving: Alza tu corazón y regocíjate (DyC 31:3). Just love everyone. Love them as fast and as deeply as you can. Love the random bolo in the street and the members and love your companion and love your investigators, and most of all, love God. Because charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
 
I love you all.
Hermana Stephens
 
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August 18, 2014 – Penúltima (ayuno with Libni, bolo Tonio, no sea ¨chute¨)

Dear Familia,

 
This week we fasted with Libni. It was the. most. special. experience. On Thursday when we arrived to start our fast together, she had already started (hadn´t even lunched). We talked about Helaman 3:35 (one of my favorite scriptures) and asked her what she wanted the purpose of the fast to be. She said ¨So that God can change this hard heart of mine so that I can forgive my husband and want to marry him, so we can get married and I and my kids can be baptized. Because by being baptized I can set a good example for them and above all, have salvation.¨ What faith. And oh, she received the blessing she so desired. Because she sought not to change her situation, but her self, (1 Nefi 7:17) the power of the Atonement touched her life and her heart.
 
On Friday she ended the fast with a prayer and in her prayer she told Heavenly Father ¨Consider this fast as my way of just saying thanks, because Thou hast already answered my petition.¨ Her heart was softened, her prayer answered. Her heart ¨was changed by faith on His name¨ and now she will ¨be born of Him¨ and ¨become His daughter¨ (Mosiah 5:2, 7). How will she do that? This Saturday she and two of her children will be baptized into the true Church of God. Her husband will attend her baptism, and hopefully it will help him make the decision to start listening to the missionaries and going to church as well.
 
I am so incredibly grateful to have been a part of their story. I am astounded at God`s mercy and grace. I know I don`t deserve it. I know I lack so much refinement, but God`s grace is sufficient. His love is eternal. Obedience to His Gospel is what saves us andchanges us. I`ve seen people fall so far. I`ve walked my ward mission leader home drunk. But then I`ve seen how repentance heals those wounds and somehow they come out even stronger, with deeper roots and unbreakable testimonies.
 
On Tuesday I entered into the temple in Xela for probably the last time. I cannot explain the depth of gratitude and joy I felt there…. There just aren`t words. I couldn`t stop smiling as I prayed and thanked my Heavenly Father for his perfect plan and the redeeming sacrifice of His Son. Tuesday night we had the testimony meeting of those that ya se van (are…leaving…already? I can`t speak English). That was a special experience as well. I love the mission and the Gospel and these people who I have been so priveleged to be able to serve for a time. I love the people of Salcajá, San Mateo, El Prado, La Esperanza, and beloved Cerrito del Maíz. I`ve thought for this year and a half that I was teaching and changing lives, but really they`ve been changing mine and teaching me.
 
But it´s not time for tears yet…. I still have a blessed week full of miracles left. (See picture of me with the menu from Monte Alto.)
 
Love,
 
Hermana Stephens
 
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August 11, 2014 – ¨Puedo pedir otro favor? que oren por nosotros¨

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Dear the Fam!

Some incredible experiences this week. We talked to Libni about forgiveness and it was such a special spiritual lesson. She had to work Sunday and couldn´t come to church, and then when we visited her Sunday afternoon (in which visit we had planned to teach the Sabbath Day) she told us she was thinking about quitting her job because she didn´t like having to work Sundays. She´s a miracle. We´re going to fast with her this Wednesday so she can be married and baptized in August. I love Libni and her beautiful family!

The Plan of Salvation missionary activity on Friday turned out great! It wasn´t what we expected, but it was very beautiful. The best part was the accidental three different kingdoms of glory rooms at the end, which we hadn´t originally planned but it was absolutely hermoso.

We had some very special experiences teaching menos activos and recent converts this week–Yensy and Carlos, Ashley and Fabi, Celeste, Luís, Antonio. I admire loyal converts so very much. I know that sometimes the straight and narrow is so hard, I know that there will always be strong wind blowing against the path to the tree of life, but I also know that for those people who truly want to change and come to be like Christ, He strengthens and sustains us to be able to resist any temptation the devil uses to attack. If anyone who is reading this is having doubts or thinks that it´s just too hard, I promise you that this is the truth and God does love us and speak to us and He will strengthen and ennable you through the power of Christ´s Atonement to be able to make it through hard times. I know it´s true because I´ve lived it. (3 Nefi 22:7-8)

I´m currently in Xela right now with Hna Cornejo who goes home Wednesday. Tomorrow we´re going to go to the temple and have the last testimony meeting and so on. This is so weird. But today I visited my first convert who I think has been pretty menos-activa for a couple months, but she and her family are going to go to church this Sunday. I love you Ester!

I love you all!

Hna Stephens

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August 4, 2014 – Rudy´s baptism, ¨How can I be like my brother –¨

Querida Familia,

Yesterday was my last fast and testimony meeting*. Luís (my favorite convert, but shhh don´t tell anyone) bore his testimony and it was beautiful. I also bore my testimony (and bawled like a baby). I know that this Gospel is true. I´m so grateful for the Atonement and for repentance every day and for fasting and miracles and opportunities to serve.

*Okay, going over that paragraph, that´s not entirely accurate. It´s my last fast and testimony meeting on the mission. But it certainly feels like my life is coming to an end.

Rudy´s baptism was beautiful. His family came! It was so stark the difference. They got there late, but when they walked in the whole spirit of the occasion changed: felt more complete, more meaningful. Families are so important. And Luís gave a talk and used Preach My Gospel. And Elida got to the church at 5:00 (the baptism started at 6:30 but really 7:00 because of la hora chapina) because she heard wrong. But she stayed the whole 2 hours waiting for it to start, just to apoyar a Rudy.

We went to Xela three times this week, so I took a lot of Nauseol pills. And slept on some random lady´s shoulder. And a sleeping Hna Richards hit her head on the bar of the seat in front of us. That was the most hilarious thing I´ve ever seen.

We´ve seen a lot of progress with Libni and her family. Oh how I love them!! I really hope I can see them baptized. If not, it´s good enough to have seen them progressed and be a part of it.

I love y´all, the Lord, and this work. I love it so much. 3 Nefi 12:4; 17:5, 7. 3 Nefi 4:33.

Hermana StephensIMG_1630

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July 28, 2014 – tres felices tigres y Rudy AGAIN

IMG_1348 IMG_1379 IMG_1402 IMG_1508Dear Familia,

We picked up Rudy again. He left his job because it took too much time. So now he can go to church. And he came yesterday! Rudy went to visit people with us yesterday and he really is so pilas. And he´s finally going to be baptized this Saturday after these almost 6 months I´ve known him. He´s very very excited.

My beautiful wonderful convert Celeste Gomez who hadn´t gone to church for months came yesterday! The members are finally poniendose las pilas, so I don´t think she´ll ever go inactive again. She is so so courageous and one of the best people I know. She wants to serve a mission and she´s so full of faith. Her family one day will all see the light!

ALSO my old investigator who got baptized after I left from barrio el Prado who is now living in Cerrito came to church this Sunday (also after months of not coming)! Yayyy!

We went to visit a new family who moved into the ward on Friday. This was the third time we tried to visit them, and the other two times something always came up and they couldn´t meet with us. But God has a plan, because on Friday a non-member prima was visiting them in their house at the same time we went to visit them, so we had a lesson with her and she´s probably going to be baptized this Saturday or the next. She always come to church, I have no idea why she hasn´t been baptized. But it was definitely divine intervention that those first two citas with this family fell through.

Oh yeah! Forgot to tell you! We have a new companion: Hermana Madrid. (she doesn´t like futbol and doesn´t have an opinion about real or barza though, so hold your horses). She´s wonderful and has 6 months in the mission (remember when I had six months in the mission? Eleven months ago? How time flies) so we´re training her to be a leader and when I leave she´ll stay here in beloved Cerrito. (Also, I totally knew she would be our new comp. When I asked E Bloom who it was going to be he asked me ¨have you prayed yet?¨ so I said ¨haha very funny¨…and then prayed. And she just kinda popped into my head and I said to Richards ¨I think Hna Madrid is going to be our new comp¨ and cabal!) God loves giving me crazy surprise cambios, but I´ve loved every single one of them. I love Hermana Richards and Hermana Madrid!!!

I would love to share everything I learned this week but it´s so much it´s impossible. So here´s some scriptures and commentary:
Hel 15:2. ¨Nunca quiero estar embarazada¨ – Hna Madrid
Hel 16: 4 // Mat 5:14-16
3 Nefi 1:9. Demanding the fulfillment of promises the Lord hasn´t made is a sign of a lack of faith.

Our Heavenly Father really does know us perfectly and gives us what we need, in the very moment we need it. He is so merciful and patient and forgiving. He never forgets us. I love Him and His Gospel, and I am so very grateful for the forgiveness and ennabling power He has allowed me to experience.

I love every one of you.

Hermana Stephens

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July 21, 2014 – Fasting, cleansing, forgiveness and miracles and mercy (3 Nefi 8:1)

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Dear the Family,

Firstly, sorry if this email is really long or doesn´t make sense. That´s just how my brain is. Long and senseless. (what?) Now on to the real email:

¨Surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful.¨ (Elder Holland)

And oh, how merciful He was with us this week. All week, we didn´t have many lessons, we didn´t have very many prospects of people who wanted to come to church. Basically despite looking and teaching and praying, we didn´t have very many positive investigators. We dropped Rudy and a few other investigators because they weren´t fulfilling their commitments. We kept asking ourselves and God what we were doing wrong. We planned with what we had, and loved the investigators we had and tried our hardest with them but were still afraid we just wouldn´t have anyone in church this Sunday. Up until Saturday night.

Saturday, we went to the Colonia Molina to visit Fabi, a menos-activa who has started coming back to church because – de plano – we didn´t have any investigators to visit. So we visited her and it was great, she said she´d come to church, and the girl who works with her (not a member) said she´d come too. Then we left Fabi´s house and made our way up the scary stony path and passed a house full of references we´ve been trying to contact for mil años who are never home. Earlier in the week I´d said to Hna Richards ¨Maybe they just straight up don´t want anything and that´s why the kids always say their parents aren´t home¨ and Richards had said ¨Or it´s Satan working really hard on them.¨ (Richy, why are you always right??)

Anyways so Hna Richards goes and knocks on the door because – de plano – nothing else to do. It was around 8:00pm. A lady opens the door who we had never seen before, and without us even introducing ourselves, invites us in. We enter, and meet Libni, her mom Antonieta, and Libni´s three children, one of which we had already met because of all the times she had opened the door and told us nobody was home. Then 10 minutes in, Libni´s husband Colocho (okay, his real name is Viktor Hugo) walks in and joins us in the lesson. They´ve listened to missionaries before. We have a great lesson and invite them to church and Libni says ¨Yo sí voy a ir.¨ Like it was the easiest thing in the world. Just by inviting her we convinced her. Colocho couldn´t though, he had to work.

Sunday morning, we called them and Brendy (la nena) answered and said ¨Yeah, we´re getting ready!¨ We passed by for Libni and her three kids (the two oldest are 8 and 9) and we all went to church together. They knew everyone. We actually got a little worried because we thought maybe they were secretly already members. They had gone to church a lot like two years ago, but never got baptized and eventually just stopped going. Half the members thought they had been baptized.

Long story long, they loved church. It was so natural. That afternoon, we went and visited them with a member and taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ and asked if they wanted to be baptized and they said yes. Even Antonieta, who we thought was way Adventista, said she wants to start going to church and be baptized, but ¨más adelante¨ because she has some problems in her life she wants to solve first. Colocho wasn´t there but we´re going back tomorrow night to talk to all of them. Libni, Brendy, and Adoni now all have baptismal dates for the 9th of August.

We got out of that lesson and the only thing we could think to do was just say a prayer of gratitude. This really is the Lord´s work. His hand is in all things. We wander around blindly just trying to do the best we can, but when it´s the right time, He directs us and mercifully allows us to work and witness miracles in this beautiful amazing work. How kind. How loving. How mindful of us He is.

To top it all off, the changes calls were made last night, and neither of us have changes. (Although our district leader told me at first that I had changes and just about broke my heart.) So I get to finish the mission here in Cerrito del Maíz with Hna Richards and all of these other people I love so very very much.

Some blessings take time. ¨Indeed, when we are unduly impatient with an omnicient God´s timing, we really are suggesting that we know what is best. Strange, isn´t it, we who wear wristwatches seek to counsel Him who oversees cosmic clocks and calendars.¨ (Neal A. Maxwell) It´s all in the Lord´s timing.

I am so humbled and grateful and amazed.

I love you all,

Hna Stephens (for one more cambio)

p.s. Also we did divisions with Colonia and I went with mi primogénita and that was a really good experience. We talked about repentance and humility and exact obedience and un montón de cosas.

 

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July 14, 2014 – Adoni´s change, Tonio´s mission, Origin, Pedros

Dear Family,

I know I talk about Élida and Luís every email…but they´re just incredible. They both fasted this past Sunday. And Élida´s husband (who is in the U.S.) wants to listen to the missionaries and go to church, so we passed his info as a reference up to Kentucky. What an incredible miracle and change of heart. I hope they contact him quickly!

Also had a great experience with an Hermana on divisions. In comp study we talked about how to repent and apply the Atonement in our lives and I got to share everything I had learned last week about ¨Being Accepted of the Lord.¨ We both received answers and felt the Spirit and tears were shed.

We´re working with an Adoni and his wife and two kids and they´re doing great…It´s just very poco a poco. On Monday we went with them and talked about the family and he said he didn´t want two inexperienced gringas telling him how to raise his family… Sooo the next visit, we brought Fernando Mendez (the recently released 2 counselor of the old stake presidency) to tell him how to raise his family! Jeje. But actually it was a miracle lesson, that one. Turns out they´re both 32 years old with wives (that´s one wife each, people) and two varoncitos and good jobs — they have a lot in common. Adoni actually opened up a lot in that lesson and we could really see a change in him from the first 2 visits. We have high hopes for them.

This week I know more than ever that prayers are answered and felt by the people prayed for (thanks Antonio) and the Atonement has power to redeem and power to enable (thanks Shalysse and Elder Bednar).

I love you all and I love my Lord and my God.

Hermana Stephens

p.s. ¨Pulpo?¨ – José David ¨Huácala!!¨ – Luísfe

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