Monday, April 28, 2014

And I Thought the MTC was HARD!

April 28, 2014

Hola Familia y Amigos!

Wow, the subject of this email really does explain it all. This week has been one of the most difficult things I´ve done. I don´t even know where to start. I guess with the basics.

My companion is from Mendoza, Argentina. Her name is Hna. Centeno. In our mission everyone leaves bilingual so the natives are required to learn English. She understands pretty much all english, but she doesn´t speak much english. Having a native companion is what I´ve wanted, but it definitely is hard. I love her though. She is literally the best trainer I could have hoped for her. ¡Le amo con todo mi corazon! So, yeah, she´s been out for almost 9 months and she is 22 years old. She is a rockstar. Love her. Now, for my area! I am in capital my area is called Congreso. Honestly, I didn´t want the main city at all, because I want like authentic Argentina, but it´s been really good actually. We walk a ton, so I love that. The members in Congreso are the greatest. Our goal in the mission is to never have a lesson without a member, and we have some great members and recent converts that for the most part really help us achieve this goal. Because I´m in the city, we live in an apartment. I happened to luck out on getting the best housing in the whole mission. It is suuuper awesome. Like, my apartment just feels like an American apartment. We have a gym upstairs and a laundry machine. Can you believe it?? I can´t! Anyways, its a lot nicer than all the other apartments I´ve been in. I´m very very blessed.

So basically I´m going to be straight here. I knew the mission was going to be hard. I was preparing myself for that, but it doesn´t matter how much you try to prepare yourself because you will never be truly ready for just how hard it is. I never thought it would be this hard in just the first week. Like, I didn´t learn this language in the MTC hard. I know people always say that, but its a real thing. I feel like I know 0 Spanish....or Castellano. The hardest thing is focusing on the Investigators and their needs instead of what I´m going to say and how I´m going to say it in Spanish. I need to rely more on the Spirit to impress me with what I need to say, even though I have no idea what is being said. And then trust that Heavenly Father will give me the Spanish I need to communicate what I need to say. Every day is such a huge challenge. I thought I had a ton of faith, but now I see I need more and I need to exercise that faith. Not just say I have it. Diligence and action is so key when it comes to faith.

On Sunday I did have some hope though. I really didn´t understand much. And honestly it is so hard because so many people will say something to me and I don´t even realize it and then they expect me to respond and I have no idea how to. Its the worst. However, I had several people tell me that my accent is very good. One investigator at church kept telling me this over and over and asked if my parents were from the United States or if they were latino or if I had any latino family. I kept saying no, and he couldn´t believe it. It was pretty funny. So hey, even if I can´t speak the language, at least my accent is decent jaja. 

On Saturday we contacted a referral. His name is Marcos and apparently his girlfriend is a member in Salta. So we started teaching him and, again, I didn´t follow much of the lesson, but I could see how much he needs this Gospel. So at the end I extended the invitation to be baptized in 2 weeks and he said yes! What and incredible feeling!! I loved it! However, he didn´t come to church on Sunday so that means we have to push his baptism back a week which really stinks. Why can´t the investigators all be perfect and do what you want?? Jaja just kidding. Agency, thats why. But really, its frustrating. 

Another quick experience. Saturday night I was absolutely exhausted. We had such a jam packed day and my mind and body were completely spent. So it´s our second to last lesson and we´re at a recent convert´s apartment and it was my turn to give the lesson/spiritual thought. I sat there having absolutely no clue what was being said. Like, I couldn´t follow the conversation one bit since I was so tired. I thought to myself "How am I going to speak, I can´t even follow what´s going on." So I prayed so hard to be filled with the words I needed, because otherwise I wouldn´t be able to even form a sentence. And sure enough the Lord delivered. My companion told me afterwards that it was the best lesson I had ever given. The Lord really does come through when you put your faith in HIm. 

Well folks, sorry for the long letter. I could go on forever, but I don´t want to make it too long. This week has been a whirlwind and it has been far harder than I could have imagined. Thank you so much for your prayers. Remember when you love the way the Savior does, you will see miracles happen. And as always, Stay Anxiously Engaged.

Hermana Van Wagoner

PS I ran into a glass window....suuuper first day here. The doormen to our building were laughing pretty hard. It was great. Jaja.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

And the Stars Keep Coming....

April 16, 2014

Buen Día! 

Ah! Puede creer esta carta es mi última carta del CCM? It is seriously so crazy!! It’s weird to think in just a short 5 days I will be outta here and on my way to Argentina!! Yep, that's right I got my travel plans last Thursday and I will be on my way to the marvelous Argentina!! :) I'm so beyond thrilled! So I will be leaving the MTC at 6:00 am fly out of Salt Lake at 11:09, get into Georgia at 4:45, leave for Buenos Aires at 9:10 pm, and arrive in Buenos Aires at 8:00 am on the 22nd. I still can't even believe this is happening. For the longest time it's been, "Oh, where are you going on your mission?" and I would always reply that I'm GOING to Argentina. Well in 5 days, I will no longer be telling people that I'm going to Argentina on my mission, I will actually be there! Thrilling stuff if ya ask me! :)

So let's just jump into the Stars of this week's devotionals. Sunday devo was the BYU Men's choir. They are the biggest collegiate men's chorus in the United States. I had never heard them before, but man are they good!! Oh how I love men's choirs. It was easily one of the best choir concert performances I have ever been to. I seriously cannot believe we have been so blessed to have so many musical devotionals! It has been so incredible. I seriously love music so much! So Tuesday's devo was the one with the real star. The speaker was....drum roll please....Elder Neil L. Andersen! Yep, that's right, of the Quorum of the 12! Mind blown?? Yeah, mine too. I mean we've all been expecting a big speaker to come on Easter, but no one had been saying anything about having a member of the 12 come on a Tuesday devotional! It was so amazing! He talked about the Doctrine of Christ, but more specifically the Atonement. It was very interactive with the audience. What I loved the most was that he used the Book of Mormon to teach us the doctrine. As missionaries our purpose is to teach the Doctrine of Christ. It is truly what every single lesson is based and focused on. The Book of Mormon is one of our absolute greatest tools to do so. Thus, he truly gave a talk that was perfectly catered to us missionaries and our needs. It was just amazing! :) 

Monday morning we did a really neat activity. A couple of our teachers gave a lesson about the importance of prayer and how we can receive so much revelation from it if we allow it to be more than a simple check list of things to say and ask for. I had never really thought about the fact that often times we just go through the list of what we need to be thankful for and what we are asking for and just checking them off. After the lesson, we went outside and got to spread out and not be by our companions (still within sight and sound though...of course jaja) and we just sat and prayed and meditated for like 20 minutes. It was one of the greatest experiences I have had yet at the MTC. I literally had a real conversation with Heavenly Father and just told Him all my concerns. I told Him exactly how concerned I was with my own abilities and how I was so excited to do this work, but I was so scared that I was leaving to go to Argentina so soon. It was a very long, heartfelt prayer. Despues, I just sat their and listened to His answer. I can't tell you how key it is to sit there after a prayer a LISTEN to the answer Heavenly Father is trying to give you. I immediately just started writing down my thoughts, and as I did my mind was filled with thoughts that weren't my own. The word fear kept coming to my head. I realized that Heavenly Father was telling me all my concerns were based on fear. He knows I can't do this on my own and He hasn't asked me to. He has simply asked me to give it my all and TRUST in Him. He is the one that will help me through it and lead me to those who need to hear my testimony of this gospel. He is asking me to do a very hard thing, and He will ask me to do some very hard things while on my mission, but He knows what I am capable of and He only asks that I have FAITH in Him, rather than FEAR. Go forward in faith and there is no way He will fail you. I encourage you all to set aside 15-20 minutes of your day and pray sincerely to Heavenly Father. Tell Him your greatest concerns, desires, and triumphs. Then, take a few minutes and just write about your experience. I know, He will answer your prayers. Sometimes though, we forget to listen. Make sure you listen for those answers He is yearning to give you. 

Today was my last day going to the temple for quite some time. If you know me, you know how heart broken I am about that. I LOVE the temple! It is such a beautiful place. It is the House of the Lord and the Spirit it contains is incredible! I am fortunate, though, that I will be able to visit the Buenos Aires Temple at least once on my mission! I couldn't be happier, though, to go and teach people about the Gospel and the blessings that come from it! 

Funny story of the week.-- it's quite simple really and not much to it. So I am known to talk in my sleep...pretty much cada noche. Well peeps, I have reached a new level. I SANG in SPANISH while I was sleeping. Yeah, that's right, Spanish must really be getting to me...YAY! I have yet to dream in Spanish, but the fact that I slept sang in Spanish is giving me hope that the dreaming is right around the corner. Cross your fingers. 

Another quick story. We have to do Spanish tests on the computer where we basically teach lessons and then people grade us on how well we did and how well our grammar was and what not. Well, last Saturday I took my last one and it asked me to talk about Joseph Smith and the Restoration. I thought "Psh, I got this, I'll just recite the First Vision and that'll take up most of my talking time." Oh how wrong I was. I started talking about the Joseph Smith and led my way into the First Vision, but at this point in the day my mind was so far gone with Spanish that I ended up skipping half of the first vision. So I notice my mistake in the middle of reciting it and say "oh crap, that was wrong" into the mic, and proceed to say nothing and laugh for the remaining time. Also, you can't rerecord so whatever you say you're stuck with. Yeah, the graders are going to be like "This missionary is leaving in a week? Oh heaven help her!" Jaja, it's cool, hopefully I can get it right when it really matters. I mean I only recite it like 5 times a day. Jaja, anyways, those are my stories for this week.

Well, todos, this is it. This is my last email from the MTC. The next time y'all hear from me I will be in Argentina!! I know, it's crazy how fast the time has gone. I never thought I'd reach this point and here I am! Well, I hope you all have a fantastic week!! I love you all so much! Wish me luck as I embark on this new stage of the mission. Remember, when we love the way Christ does miracles happen! And of course, Stay Anxiously Engaged!

Hermana Van Wagoner 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Conferencia General...Que Bonita!

April 9, 2014

Buenos Dias!
        What a fabulous week it has been!! General Conference was such a great break from the every day grind of the MTC. It was so good to listen to the Prophet and Apostles teach the things we as missionaries are supposed to teach, but rather so simply and beautiful. Teaching simply is not easy, and the more I'm here, the more I see that simple teaching will come with deep, intimate knowledge and understanding of the Doctrine. It is clear in their simple teachings that the General Authorities KNOW this Doctrine. 
        So for General Conference we went up to main campus both days and stayed there and watched it pretty much all day. It was fun because I got to see a lot of my friends that are up at main campus. Saturday General Conference was very enlightening for me. It was so weird because while I am super focused on my mission and what I'm doing now, I felt like I received a lot of revelation about what I want to do after my mission. One thing I realized was something I had been thinking about a lot while I've been here. I see the organ played here a lot, with devotionals and all, and every time I watch people play I always think to myself "Wow, that would be so cool to know how to play." Well I had the same thoughts as I was watching conference and it hit me. I need to learn how to play the organ when I get home. I don't know why, but I'm really excited to learn and take on that challenge. I bet you're happy about that one, Mom. :) jaja!
        I also, received a lot of revelation about what kind of wife and mother I want to be. I thought that was really interesting because that is not where I'm at in my life right now. But I completely see how this mission is going to be helping me with that and other things for the rest of my life. Elder Cook's talk got me thinking A LOT about family history and how important it is. I've always been intimidated to do family history because it seems so hard, but I really want to start doing family history when I get back also. So, again, I'm excited for that.
        Saturday night we watched the General Women's Meeting while the Elders attended the Priesthood session. We didn't get to watch it the previous Saturday for this very reason. And oh my goodness I just LOVED it!! It was marvelous! What I loved most about it was the sweet and TENDER spirit that was there. I felt like you could feel the spirit of the Women of the Church, and how wonderful and powerful that was. I just loved it. So so great! :)
        Sunday Morning Session was MY session. Jaja. I say MY session because I felt as though every single one of those talks was meant for me and my mission and future investigators. I learned so much. I wish I could write everything I learned, unfortunately there isn't time for that. :( I loved President Uchtdorf's ATTITUDE of gratitude talk. It’s not about counting your blessings in the happy moments, its about having a consistent attitude of gratitude even in those circumstances you may not be content in. There was more I liked in that talk, but I forgot my notes from conference...oops. Elder Ballard's message was perfect for missionaries! Follow up, I mean that's constantly what we're doing here in the mission field?? Another fantastic talk I related to sooo well was Elder Bednar's. As missionaries we are often required to take on some pretty heavy loads. But it is those loads that help us become the missionaries and people we are meant to be. It is those loads that bring us closer to our Savior. Those loads are hard, but we don't have to carry them by ourselves. Those loads keep us moving forward IF WE LET THEM. Otherwise we could just stay put, never TRYING to move forward. I could go on and on and on about all these talks, so its probably best if I leave it at this. Sunday Morning was my favorite session; however I honestly learned and grew so much throughout every single session. What a beautiful thing it is to watch conference through the eyes of a missionary. It really changes it. 
        Okay, so if I haven't said this yet, I will say it now. I am here at the MTC at the PERFECT time. I mean, we got David Archuleta, General Conference, Easter- which means a general authority will be speaking to us, awesome weather, not too crowded, and now this: a VOCAL POINT devotional! Oh my heart, I LOVE Vocal Point! Sunday night they came and performed for us for devo since we had be listening to talks all day. Oh my goodness, if I didn't say it enough last week, then let me say it again. I love music!! The spirit testified to me multiple times throughout the program that being on a mission is EXACTLY where I need to be right now, no matter how hard some days are. The songs they sang were absolutely perfect, and some of my absolute favorite from their hymn album. Couples were  Nearer, My God, To Thee, and I Need Thee Every Hour. Those are two of my favorite hymns of all time. They bring me so much peace, it's incredible. The funny thing is, is that as we sing hymns all day every day, they pretty much are all slowly becoming my favorite. #missionaryprobs
        Oh quick fun side note. I met a sister on Saturday who is from Germany and guess what? She knows Shad! He served in her ward! How cool is that?? Well, I'm kind of a ditz and didn't ask her name, but she's going to St. George, UT, so maybe I'll see her again before she leaves and can ask her. That would be cool. But yeah, I just thought I'd share that fun fact.
        Well, it looks as if this is the end of another email for another week. It's crazy to think that in just 12 days, one more p-day, I will be off to Argentina! I have never been more nervous and excited at the same time! Ah!! Well I love you all more than you could ever know! Miracles happen when we love the way Christ does. President Monson talked all about having Christ's love for others in his Sunday Morning talk. Go reread it! :) And remember, Stay Anxiously Engaged!! :)

Hermana Van Wagoner

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Star Struck

April 2, 2014

Hola Todos!!

Wow, what a week it has been. Last Thursday, Friday and Saturday were pretty rough. I mean they were great in some ways, but they brought many challenges. Our current investigator we are teaching (He's really just one of our teachers) has been super challenging. After every lesson it just doesn't seem good enough and we keep trying different things, but nothing is working. I feel as though I keep being hit by a "humble hammer". After every lesson, I realize how incapable I am without the help of the Lord. And after every lesson I am learning what not to do. Yeah, that's it. Last week was full of learning a whole lot of what not to dos. Thus, I keep becoming more and more humble and more and more dependent on the Lord. I know as the Lord humbles me it is purely because He loves me and knows the potential I have. I have to keep that perspective or else I get really disheartened, and being and staying disheartened is not what this work is about. So, yeah, I've learned lots this past week.

This week was also hard because one of our dear Hermanas went home on Friday. Hna. Lange's dad died last September and coming to the MTC has helped her see how many unresolved feelings she had about it. She came to realize she had never grieved properly. So she went home to be with her family and get the help she needs. She has deferred for 6 months. I love her and miss her SO much, but I feel a lot of peace about the whole situation. Her love and dedication inspires me. She has taught me so much in the short time she was here. 

So Hna. Lange was the STL of our district, and because she went home and because we are to the half way mark at the MTC, I have been made the STL in our district. Hna. Lange sure has left some big shoes to fill, but I know that this calling will help me to love and serve the hermanas even more than I already do. Hna. Weitl is now companions with me and Hna. Ridgway, so we're in a trio and its pretty fun. 

Okay, so Sunday just straight up ROCKED! First it started with fast and testimony meeting. We all had the opportunity to bear our testimonies in Spanish. Because of our lack of experience with the Spanish language, we all bore very simple, straight forward testimonies. The spirit that was present during this meeting was incredible. Sometimes we think our testimonies need to be super elaborate to bring the spirit, but that is not the case. Testifying of simple truths is how the spirit is brought. Even when the language is rough and imperfect. This was one of the most spiritual testimony meetings I have been apart of. The spirit is a universal language.

So then came devotional. And guess who spoke? You're going to love this, mom. Richard Elliot, the head MoTab organist. So as we were singing the prelude songs, I looked up to see who was speaking and I saw Richard Elliot sitting on the stand. Then, I see who is sitting next to him, where the speaker's wife usually sits. It was a young man and I was like what the heck? Then it dawned on me. DAVID ARCHULETA was sitting next to Richard the MTC. Now I like David Archuleta, but I'm not a fanatic. Well, when I saw him up there, that all changed. I was fangirling SO bad. I mean I was hitting my companions and everything. So then as I was doing this I was looking at David Archuleta, and he totally started smiling and laughing (we were like 8 rows back in the center). Yeah, we've come to a consensus that he totally saw me freaking out. It was the best. So Richard Elliot played a few organ songs like nobody's business and then David Aruchuleta sang a few hymns. They both shared their testimonies and stories about their missions. It was incredible. My favorite song Richard Elliot played was "Go Tell It on the Mount" because it was pretty much COMPLETELY with his feet. I have never seen anything like it! My favorite song David Archuleta sang was "Come Come Ye Saints" because he sang the second verse in Spanish and oh my gosh, I can't tell you how much I LOVE this language. It is beautiful!! So yeah, devotional ROCKED on Sunday. I just loved everything about it. I firmly believe music communicates to the soul what words cannot. 

My companions and I have picked up a couple investigators on the side this week (it's kinda confusing, but these investigators are not given to us by our teachers, we sorta just found them, like real missionaries). The lessons with these investigators are always SO spiritual. I have so much love for them within seconds of being with them. It makes me so excited to go out and teach the people of Argentina. I love being a missionary. Everyday, there is something that reminds me exactly why I am here. This gospel is beautiful, but more importantly this gospel is true. I know it with my whole being.

Well, it's time for me to be done for this week. I love and appreciate you all so much. I feel your love and prayers constantly. Remember, miracles occur when we love as the Savior does. And of course, Stay Anxiously Engaged!

Hermana Van Wagoner 

P.S. Today, I told the MTC Presidency "y'all be good now". Yeah, they love me and think I'm great.  ;)