It was super weird to get the picture from becky that showed mountains of snow on the back porch, because here it´s a sauna! Haha, I love it though, it´s kind of weird that people are putting up there tiny plastic christmas trees as the put up there pools and take finals right before summer. Here Christmas is pretty much the same so far, just that the people speak spanish instead of english and it´s a lot hotter and they do pool parties and popsicles instead of hot chocolate. Thank you all so much for the letters, it was absolutely wonderful to get three letters today, one from grandma and grandpa hoffman, one from grandma and grandpa cooper, and one from the fam. I love you all so much, and your words and testimonies strengthen me in so many ways. So glad to hear that all is well and everyone is having a blast back in good old Williamsport.
As for the week: It´s been great! I was a little worried when I got to the office that I wouldn´t continue to learn spanish as quickly because were 5 americans and 2 chileans in the office/apartment, and mi companions are both from the states, but the good thing is that all the elders here know spanish extremely well, and they know the why behind the grammar better than native speakers because they learned not only by speaking but by studying the grammar as well. Elder Rivas is a politician from Chile, and he speaks very good english and studies every day, so we´ve been studying together, helping each other with the pronounciation and everything.
It´s been pretty hard this week to find people to teach, school just let out and everyone hits the beach after the siesta. We study in the morning and then work in the office from 10:30 until 5, and 5 is right about when everyone leaves to go to the beach or the pool, things like that. We do have some really awesome families that we´re teaching right now that just need a couple more things to be ready for baptism, and it´s absolutely wonderful to notice the changes in their faces and lives because of the gospel. One family, the Yagüe, came to the baptism of Elder Nash and Elder Parkes on Saturday, and Raul, (still needs to stop smoking to get baptized), said that he felt the spirit very powerfully and wants to continue working to baptism. His wife, Mariela, got baptized in september and is super awesome, and their daughter Maria has a marriage date with her boyfriend Martin for January, and she´s going to get baptized shortly afterward. I think we´re going to have dinner with them on the 24th. The other family we´re teaching, the Treico family, are also awesome. Israel got baptized in October, he´s the son and he has 11 years. His parentes, Claudio and Roxane want to get baptized with their 8 year old son Mariano and have super strong testimonies of the gospel, their just waiting for the divorce certificate of Claudio to come back to them in the mail, and then they can get married and get baptized. We had an awesome lesson with them this week about Alma 50 where Moroni fortifies the cities of the nefites. I told them about the family home evening we had a couple of days before september 11th and how I know that when we strengthen our weaknesses and fortify our families through prayer, scripture, going to church, and looking to God, the challenges of this life cannot break us apart. It is so wonderful to see this true principal come into play from the outside perspective in the lives of the families that we teach.
In church on sunday I gave a talk on the Atonement of Christ and the wonderful gift of His birth, the very purpose of the nativity. There´s a story in the Liahona (Ensign) of December by Bruce D. Porter that talks about a man he taught on his mission in Germany who wanted nothing to do with the church, but decided to hear the lessons so his mom would stop bugging him about it. He mocked the missionaries and ignored everything until they came to the fourth discussion that talked about the Atonement of Christ. He began to cry and asked the missionaries if it was really possible to have the heavy weight of guilt and mistakes taken from his shoulders through the infinite Atonement of the Savior, and they testified to him that yes, it is indeed very possible. He changed his life, entered into the waters of baptism, and they met 20 years later by chance in the Germany temple. We invited the members to share this gift of the Atonement of Christ with their friends through Books of Mormon that we wrapped up with a Christmas card that talks about Christ. It was a super awesome Sunday! Also, Sunday night we sang in a choir of missionaries for christmas! We sang to a pretty big audience, as it was a big community event of 4 choirs. It´s super cool working in the office because we get to know President and Sister Parreño really well, and they organized a big choir of three zones (40-50 missionaries) to sing in a choir exhibition for Christmas. It wasn´t quite all state choir, but it was super great to sing in a really good choir again and even more so to sing in spanish with other missionaries here about the wonderful birth of Christ.
Times almost up, but thank you all so very much for the letters. I haven´t recieved the package yet (the mail system was on strike here for the last week or two, hopefully it still gets here!) but the letters I got were wonderful. I´ll try to send a letter today. As for talking for Christmas, I´m pretty sure we´ll be able to do it by Skype with one of the office computers, we have exactly one hour (not a second more, says president) but I´m not sure what time yet. I´ll email ya´ll details next week. I love you all a million! Thank you for supporting me in this incredible work. I´ve grown to love and know my Savior in ways I never thought possible through these 6 months (can´t believe how fast it´s flying by!)
Quick scripture thought: In the last verse of the first chapter of first Nephi, we read the the Lord´s tender mercies extend over those who he has chosen because of their faith to strengthen until they have the power to free themselves (roughly translated from Spanish). First, we know that we are chosen of the Lord if only we have faith in Him and His Atonement, and second, we learn that the tender mercies of the Lord will extend over us and bear us up when we need strength, so that we may have the power we need to free ourselves from the natural man, from Satan´s grasp, from habits, addictions, sickness, affliction, challenges, tragedies, and whatever other rocks life throws at us. I love you all!
Con mucho cariño,