Monday, March 31, 2014

Baptism, Birthdays, and Kissing Squirrels!

Dear Family and Friends,

For starters, Gloria got baptized!!! Wahoo! It was so amazing to be with her on her big day and to be able to help her into the font. She was super excited the whole day. She bore her testimony in all three meetings! She even made the effort to climb to the stand even though she's blind. Everything went so well! 

Sister Duong and I with Gloria
She was baptized by our ward mission leader Kevin. The branch was very sweet to make her feel welcome and loved. As part of her baptism, Hermana Duong and I and the Seminole sisters sang, "Cuando me bautice" (When I am Baptized). It was so pretty. She started crying during our song and then afterward said that we were angels. 

Her husband Diego, who she's been in a fight with for the longest time even got emotional. He said he was so proud of her and called her his wife for the first time in a long time. I am so proud of her decision. I know she is too. Even though she called us her angels, I think she is the one who is an angel. 

Afterward we all had snickerdoodle and peanut butter cookies which I made and rice krispies that Sister Wakefield made. Gloria loved them, and as they were leaving, we watched with smiles on our faces as Diego sneaked an extra cookie for her in her bag. Overall it was a wonderful day. (For those of you who weren't aware hers was my first baptism.)

As for the rest of the week, where should I begin?

Monday we celebrated Hermana Duong's birthday by going to her favorite Indian food restaurant and then to a surprise b-day party at the Seminole sisters apartment. They made her broiled birthday cake, haha, with Barney colored frosting and brownies. We all put on mustaches and sang and just laughed about the silly things we do as missionaries. We had a blast!

That night we taught Elouisa and Juan about the Book of Mormon. They are super into it! We watched the Restoration with them and they loved it so much they asked if they could keep it! We gladly gave it to them to watch with their kids over and over again.

Tuesday on Hermana Duong's actual birthday we had a day booked of lessons which you can bet all included a birthday cake for Hermana Duong afterwards. Bleh! I never want to eat cake again! Haha. 

We started at Gloria's house and taught about prophets. Afterward she gave us some cobblery stuff and mango juice. Ema we taught about tithing and fasting and then afterwards she gave us some chocolate strawberry cake with white frosting, very classy, it was so very "like" her. Hermana Pizarro, our fellowshipper gave Hermana a pink doll which was really funny because Hermana Duong HATES pink, so she decided to name it after me because apparently pink is my color. 

Elizabeth made us a Puerto Rican dish of chicken and yellow rice. Delish! She also made Hermana Duong a cake which was supposed to have a Butterfly on it but the bag broke as she was decorating it, so she just smeared all the colors together, ha! It was a masterpiece! She threw a full on party for her. It was super sweet.

 Eluid and Maggie, Elizabeth's siblings were there and they gave us presents! I am now the proud owner of a very ugly pink, blue, brown and white tie-dye skirt which matches Hermana Duong's very ugly pink brown tie-dye skirt. Pictures will be included later. They also gave us both perfume. Afterwards we read from the scriptures, they love reading.

Wednesday after district meeting we went on exchanges with the St. Petersburg Metro sisters, sisters Kunz and Losada. Me and sister Kunz stayed up in Largo and spent the day finding mostly. We went to Largo park and met a few people who were interested.

We started talking to this guy who was feeding squirrels and he said that he would hear us out, so we sat down and started teaching him. He gave us each a bunch of peanuts to feed the squirrels and taught us how. "You got to look them in the eye" he said, "and then when you've got them, when their biting down on the nut, you lift them up and kiss 'em on the head!"

I look at sister Kunz, she looks at me, what do we do? We decide to try it! So there we were sitting in the park, feeding squirrels, and Sister Kunz does it! She kissed a squirrel on the head! Crazy right? Well, I on the other hand, was having a hard time getting them to stay on long enough to kiss them on the head, so there I was just flipping squirrels everywhere! It was hillarious! I wish I would have gotten a picture. Crazy day right? I had so much fun.

Thursday we switched back in time to teach Gloria again. We spent the whole time preparing her for her baptism, she was so ready. After that we taught back to back lessons all day. Chavela gave us more cake that night, bleh! We ended up giving it away to Elouisa and Juan, they were happy to receive it.
Friday we did another exchange with the Seminole A sisters. I went finding with Sister Anderson. We went to the mall and met a bunch of cool people. Saturday we gave sister Anderson to the Seminole C sisters and we kept Hermana Wakefield to spend one more day with us in "Spanish land." I love the opportunity to learn from so many amazing daughters of God. 

That night we watched the Woman's Conference and I adored it! I never thought I would ever watch conference in Spanish and understand it like I did. The spirit was so overwhelming. I hope nobody saw because I was crying the whole entire time! I love the sense of unity conference brings! I can't wait for the weekend, it's going to be the best! Missionary Christmas!

Hope you all have a fantastic week!

Con Amor,
Hermana Mathis

Monday, March 24, 2014

Teaching the King of the World ... well, sort of.

Dear Family and Friends,

Thanks to all of you who sent me emails, it's always so good to hear from everyone! This past week has gone by in a blur! First things first, Happy Birthday again to my beautiful Mother and to Hermana Duong! Happy 25th to my companion!

Being beautiful in our car because once you step outside,
humidity starts it's magic! You might notice that I'm driving nowadays.
Let's just say not much has changed about my driving.

The big news right now is that we have a baptism this coming week. Our investigator Gloria (wife of a recent convert) is getting baptized! Oh yeah! I thought it would be fun to tell you all a little about her. Gloria Fuentes is 93 years old. She is on dialysis and is blind as a bat! She committed to baptism the first time we taught her the Restoration. She gave up coffee for milk the very day we asked her to. She loves to sing with us.

This is Gloria. She is preparing to be baptized next week!

The other day when we were teaching her the ten commandments, she unintentionally flipped us off. Haha, we couldn't stop laughing. She is so sweet and when we told her what it meant, she turned red. She is super excited for her big day. We're just hoping now that she lives long enough for her big day. She told us her biggest sin was eating too much. Haha. 

Hermana Duong and I with Antonia

Other news is that we are still teaching the family of Juan and Elouisa. They are progressing really well. They both have been looking for a new church, it is so much fun to teach them together. Families really progress when you teach both parents.

Dinner with Sara at Venus's house.
Venus is still coming to church :)  We talked with her last night and she is preparing to go to the temple. We both decided that if we didn't come here for anyone else, we came here for her. We're so proud of her.

We started teaching this guy named Reymundo which in Spanish literally translates to king-world, so we are basically teaching the King of the World, right? haha. So far so good.
Sleeping in our study because the other sisters
took our living room and bedroom.

Hermana Duong and I

I'm super excited to celebrate Hermana Duong's birthday tomorrow. We went on splits last week so I was able to set up a few surprise parties. It should be great!

Having fun on P-Day in the Seminole apartment. 

These are all our girls, I love them!

Spending time with Nathalie on her birthday.
What a pretty day In Largo Central Park.
Con Amor,
Hermana Mathis

Monday, March 17, 2014

Hastening the Work

Hastening the work can be super hard, but we can't nod off. I've found on my mission that getting others to come to things is the hardest part. However as I have continued to pray and live by example people have begun to come more rapidly. One cool thing that we've noticed is that as we've looked for ways to be more obedient, the Lord has blessed us in our efforts. We are setting more dates and seeing more people than ever before.

In the car with Hermana Duong

I love being a sister training leader even though it was very unexpected. We've been doing exchanges every week and I learn so much. This last week I was with a sister down in Seminole and we talked to this guy who was convinced that aliens created the pyramids. He talked our ears off trying to explain to us how in the future we're going to have time machines and all that. He was pretty funny. We also saw this lady who had over 200 clocks in her apartment! Imagine that! We've got some interesting people in the church.

On exchanges with Sister Ercanbrack!
On exchanges with Sister Rasmussen in her snuggy
that Hermana Duong hates.

We also did a tour with Elizabeth and her family this past week. They loved the church! Sadly they didn't come though. I think Elizabeth is embarrassed about her weight and doesn't want people judging her, it's
really sad. She asked us if in the resurrection she would be skinny. She is really self-conscience.

Elizabeth, Ada, Eluid and Tamara. We've been teaching Elizabeth since I got here.
She had become very dear to us.
We also had a new one of our families come to church! We were super excited to see them there.
Other than that nothing really out of the ordinary has happened this week.

Love you!

Generation shot: Sister's Loveridege, Jensen and Fox. They are all so pretty!

These are the latest of my favorite church videos:

I found this during Personal Study and really loved it: You have a noble responsibility to use your strength and influence for good. Your loving Heavenly Father has blessed you with talents and abilities that will help you fulfill your divine mission: prayer, scripture study, obedience to the commandments, and service to others.These daily personal habits will strengthen your faith in and testimony of Jesus Christ. They will also allow you to recognize and develop your unique gifts. Always use your influence to lift and bless your family, Honor womanhood, support the priesthood, and cherish faithful motherhood and fatherhood. (Welcome to Personal Progress)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

This past week has been SO crazy! I don't even know where to begin. So as some of you know, this is the first week of my 4th transfer. Lot's of things changed, and for the better! I'm just going to go through my week for ya:

Monday- P-day, emails, we had a lesson with a less-active member at Pepe's (a popular Latino market, anyone who's anyone goes there). Also later that night we went to a bible study. Now I have to give you some background because as missionaries it's rare that we go to another church. There's this lady that we've been trying to teach for a while now who goes to this Presbyterian church. So for the past few weeks Hermana has been trying to convince me to go to their bible-study so that we could talk to her. I've always been against it but I didn't want to ignore her impression, so we just went. Haha, the first thing they asked us, "Oh! You're sisters? Are you from the convent?" We were so tempted to say, "Yes, and we'll be giving a speech tonight!" But we didn't. It was very interesting. We were able to talk to the woman and it turned out to be not as bad as I thought it might be.

Tuesday- Transfer day...and this is where it get's crazy. So first of all, we had a beyond brilliant lesson with this new lady we met at Wendys! Her name is Elouisa and she is progressing really fast! She even committed to coming to church with her family! After that we drove up to Clearwater for a lesson with a new-member's Catholic wife. All we taught her was the first lesson straight out of the pamphlet. She committed to being baptized right then and there! She's going to be baptized on the 23rd! She just nodded her head and started to tear up and said, "It's true!" Hermana Duong saw her later in the week and she said that she is still stoked about her baptism! 

So we have these amazing lessons, right? Then we have ANOTHER fantastic lesson with Eluid, Elizabeth's brother. And then one after that with Antonia. We're like, "What did we do right?" Blessings were just being piled up. It's like God was saying, "Oh you liked that good lesson? Here have another!" Haha! We didn't commit them to baptism but it was so nice. 

Then after that we went to see this new guy, Juan, that we've been teaching. We taught him English. On the way to his house though, we realized we had missed like 5 calls from the AP's and from other sisters. Going through our voice mail we learned that we would now be rooming with four other sisters for a while in our apartment! Not only that, but then during our lesson with Juan, we learned that we were now sister training leaders! So long story short, we're STL's now, have two more date sets and are living in a small apartment with 4 new sisters!

We rushed home because the sisters were locked out and bought them pizza and spent the night helping them settle in. We finished the night with a lesson with Chavela. What a crazy awesome day! We only had three beds and a couch, so we slept on the floor in our study. It was like a sleepover.
Wednesday- Best district meeting ever, we learned so much, training meeting right after with the ZL's, learned even more, awesome second lesson with the family that fed us the cactus, weekly planning and then dinner with Cindy.

Thursday-Lesson with Eluid and his sister Ada, went really well he committed to baptism! We are so stoked! We're slowly bringing in the whole Perez family! They are all really big, like maybe 300 pounds each, so we decided that if we could get them all to come to church they would break the bench, haha! We taught Juan again, good lesson, he's still not sure of our church yet.

Friday- MLC (Missionary Leadership Conference), my first ever! I learned a lot from our mission leaders. One thing that I really loved that president said was that "if you err, do so on the side of love and compassion." How often do we mess up and then become frustrated with ourselves? It was a great conference.

After that we did our first exchange as STL's and I had the chance to go down south to Seminole with Hermana Wakefield. It was so much fun! I love Hermana Wakefield. She is a cutie! I will hopefully send pics this week, if not next week. They are living with two other sisters too, so it was like a party! We went to their block party for the free dinner and hoping to find some people to teach, it was ok, they were handing out beer, so we left. We spent the rest of the night contacting.

Saturday-Went to a parade to find, then to a carnival to find, then to the park to find. English finding is a lot harder than Spanish finding! I was super surprised.

We switched back and  then me and Hermana Duong went to Elouisa's and met her husband Juan. We taught them a little bit of the first lesson. All went well.

Sunday- 6 investigators at church! Wahoo! Seriously what did we do right? I guess we'll never know, but that's it folks, that's my crazy week! Hope you enjoyed it.

Have a great week!

Con Amor,
Hermana Mathis

Monday, March 3, 2014

Hola familia y amigos!
Como estan?

So to start off this week I would like to quote Elder Timothy J. Dyches: "Do you remember when your faith and joy were full to the brim? Remember the moment you found your testimony or when God confirmed to you that you were His son or daughter and that He loved you very much--and you felt whole? If that time seems lost, it can be found again." 

One of my favorite parts about missionary work is helping people find that joy that fills hearts to the brim. I know that as we teach and help one-another as members and as friends we can bring others to remember that they are children of their Heavenly Father.

This past week we had exchanges, again! Back-to-back 48 hour exchanges! Crazy right? Except this time I was the one who stayed in Largo and Hermana Duong went up to Hudson. I realized during that exchange how grateful I am to have Hermana Duong! Haha, it's really stressful to work the phone, GPS, plan the lessons, drive the car, schedule all the appointments and teach the whole lesson all by yourself.

I'm not saying Sister White didn't help me, it's just that she doesn't know as much Spanish, so it was a little difficult. I had a lot of fun though. We were able to contact a lot of people and set up appointments with them. We also taught several amazing lessons in which sister White bore testimony in Spanish (I was so proud of her)!

We started teaching this new guy named Juan who is super ready for the gospel. He asks all the right questions. We're really excited to start teaching him. We also started teaching one of our investigators sisters who is also really into the gospel. We are starting to get more people to come to church as well. Manny is still coming and loving it, he's progressing so well. All is going pretty good.

One thing I've learned this weekend is that being a missionary is more than just finding people and baptizing them. I realized that I have found the most joy helping others (less-active members) come back to the church. There is this one woman in particular named Venus and her testimony has grown so much since we started teaching her. She told us the other night that we were her favorites to learn from. I get all teary-eyed thinking about it. I love these people. I don't want to leave them, thank goodness I still have another transfer here in Largo!

I love bringing the ward unto Christ. I didn't really consider them my ward for the longest time, actually, until yesterday, when it hit me, this is my ward! I then realized that what I had really been doing all along with reactivation and member-present lessons had all been helping my ward grow stronger. Part of being a missionary, I realized, is being an overly active member in the ward! 24-7 visiting teaching! Haha. I love it. I love seeing our investigators learning in the church. It is such a powerful joy, one that I can't say I've experienced before.

I hope all of you have a good week.  

Hermana Mathis