Monday, October 28, 2013

Like Unto Moroni

 I love being a missionary. Have I told you that before? THANK YOU for giving me this incredible opportunity to serve God's children 24/7 with all that I have got for this short time. I feel that my love for the people and this great work continues to grow and grow everyday. THIS WAS ANOTHER INCREDIBLE WEEK OF MIRACLES! I know for a fact that God, our Heavenly Father, is a Father of Miracles, the Master of change and perfection and the one who loves us more than our mortal minds can imagine. Thanks to the atonement of Jesus Christ and this incredible Gospel, I am changing. A lot. I learned so much this week and was so spiritually fed through sister mission conference, launching leaders and stake conference this weekend---information overload. I also realized how much I need to work on. God doesn't ask us to be perfect though. He asks us to be better each day, and that is why we have been given repentance. In launching leaders we learned about the importance of becoming a LEADER. and STANDING for something always. I want to be like unto Moroni someday! "Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been and were and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of @#!*% would have been SHAKEN forever; yea the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men." (Alma 38:17) We can all be so strong like Moroni, so much so that Satan will not have power over us. How incredible! This is who I want to become, and I hope that you all are becoming this also.

MIRACLES. Reina has been searching for answers, and I have no doubt that in a few short weeks Reina will be baptized. Reina could actually be baptized tomorrow. She has received all the lessons, reads the Book of Mormon everyday, comes to church and fasts for answers. She is incredible!! She knows that she needs to be baptized and she has a sincere desire to be baptized. She says she wants to wait till December because that is when her birthday is...:) She is a keeper. I truly do love Reina, and to see the changes that she is making in her life, it is incredible. We had the opportunity to fast with Reina. She told us the purpose of her fast was so that God would provide her ideas of where she could work so that she can have Sundays free to go to church every week. She has such incredible faith.  Yesterday, Reina told us that she had received an idea to start making El Salvador food and going door to door to sell it for money, so that she doesn't have to work on Sunday! What was crazy about that is that I had the exact same idea earlier that day! The Spirit works in incredible ways. Reina says she is going to start now, so that she can make the sacrifice to come to church. She says that she knows that is exactly what she is supposed to do, and doesn't care if she doesn't have enough funds for awhile. She is deciding to put God first. She truly is raising her own "title of liberty." It is incredible to see the change. She studies, asks questions and feasts on the word of God. She tells us that she knows that we were sent as angels to her from God to help her be on the right path. There is light growing and shining in her face. She is happy. Although she doesn't have many worldly things, she HAS EVERYTHING. and she is so happy. She is truly "like unto Moroni." I know that she will be baptized, and I can't wait to see her go to the temple in just over a year :).

We had an incredible stake conference! We got an entire new stake presidency and they took the bishop of our ward with them! Bishop Matos has been the bishop of the Old Town ward for 10 years! can you believe it? And now will be incredible in the stake presidency. We will be getting a new bishop soon! Also, Elder Fallabella (of the seventy) came and spoke! He was such an incredible speaker and talked about how we can hasten the work for the people here on earth, but especially for those on the other side of the vail! He stressed the importance of going to the temple because we are ALL missionaries! And there is so much work to do. He is from Guatemala and the ward cooked everyone a Guatemala meal for after! I had the chance to met him, and he is the type of person I hope to be like. Humble and funny. I also had the opportunity to TRANSLATE stake conference from English to Spanish! There wasn't enough headphone sets for all the members in the ward, so Hermana Casteneda asked me to translate the 2 hour meeting for her! I was super nervous at first, but I said a little prayer and said, "help me do this, because I have no idea!" It was quite difficult, but I made it through. They talked so fast, and it was hard to keep up at times! I think she may have got a little bit different of a version of conference than everyone else, but she said she understood perfectly! MIRACLE!

We stopped in on a family that has helped us with a referral to see how they were doing. The entire family speaks Portuguese. They have 3 little kids under the age of 8 and they all gathered around to hear what we were going to say. I felt the Spirit so strong that we needed to sing "I am a Child of God" but in 3 different languages. So, they sang the first verse in Portuguese, we sang the second in Spanish and we all sang together in English for the third. That song has become the theme song of my mission. Everywhere we go we sing that song. It is literally the most important truth of this gospel. As we sang all together I looked in the eyes of those kids...they were so shining with hope and renewed joy. I started to cry. The Spirit was so strong. We REALLY all are CHILDREN of God. We are brothers and sisters, here to help and lead and guide each other back to Him. Amazing.

MIRACLES. Marta Lida is a walking example of how the Book of Mormon changes lives. I think I have told you a little bit about her, but her neighbor, is LDS and decided one day to open her mouth and share the Gospel with her neighbor. She gave her a Book of Mormon in Spanish. A week later we began having lessons with Marta. She loves it. This week, we went to Marta's house and SHE IS ON CHAPTER 8 of the Book of Mormon. How great our joy was and I couldn't stop smiling as she said that whenever she is lonely or sad, she reads. Whenever she has a spare moment, she reads. That book is real, and it changes lives. It can change yours too if you read it, ponder about it and apply it. I also can't tell you how powerful members are when they share their testimony and the gospel with their friends! It truly makes ALL the difference. Now, Marta is going to be baptized on November 22. Yesterday we had an incredible lesson with her. We taught lesson 3, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Spirit testified as we taught of the 5 steps we take to follow in the example of Jesus Christ--Faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost and persevering to the end. As we taught, her eyes filled with tears. "This is exactly what I have been looking for, for so long. My life is going to change. I will do whatever it takes to follow Jesus Christ and be baptized." WOW! We almost fell off of our chairs. Not only that, but she told us that she is making every sacrifice and arrangement necessary so that she can come to church. One of the major issues serving the Hispanic people is that most all of them work on Sundays. Giving up their job is like giving up their life line for food, clothes, rent everything! But Marta said she is willing to do it. What an incredible example. She told us she has already given up her Sunday job so she can come to church. AMAZING WOMAN of FAITH! After the lesson, Marta prayed the most sincere prayer I have ever heard. She was talking to her Father. She promised she would follow in His steps. The Spirit flooded the room. It was incredible. Marta then turned to her neighbor, who was in the lesson with us, and said "Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn the truth." That is what it is all about. We never know who is prepared to hear the Gospel. I know she will be baptized. I am so happy for her. She is taking steps to become more "like unto Moroni."

This ward is absolutely incredible. They are bringing their friends to church and they have truly "caught the wave" of missionary work. Hna. Sussane Rojas is incredible! She has referred us to 2 solid investigators and was the one who referred us to both our recent converts Juana Huerta and Jaqueline Jimmenez. This week we had the chance to have a couple of lessons at her home with a friend of hers named Ruben. He is golden! He cannot read, but he listens and he memorizes so quickly. In fact, he has the entire new testament of the Bible memorized. He has just listened to it over and over again, and that is how he learns. AMAZING! He is so ready and loves learning about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As we taught him about Joseph Smith and about the Book of Mormon, he sat there in amazement. He told us that he didn't know why but he just feels and know that what we are teaching him is true. We are going to read the Book of Mormon to him daily and get him a Book of Mormon in Spanish on tape. Hopefully he will memorize that too. :) He is so ready for baptism, and I know that he will be baptized soon! He also always brings us food, even though he barely has enough for himself. He tells us that we are servants of the Lord, and that the least he can do is feed us. What an amazing man!

We had a sister conference this week with President Riggs! How inspiring! They talked about our role in the Priesthood and how ALL of us (male or female) have access to the POWER of the priesthood. It was so inspired! Apparently a lot has been happening in SLC about woman having the Priesthood. So they got all of us sister missionaries together and broke down every aspect of the Priesthood and now I understand so much better! I am so grateful for the priesthood and I know that I am a woman that has my own divine is crucial. Men and women are different, but they are EQUAL in God's eyes--we are both ENDOWED with the Priesthood power, and I know that if I keep the covenants I have made with God...I will have access to this great amazing power. Never forget your divine role of being a virtuous woman (or man).

We also had the opportunity to attend a ward member's "quincenera" (which is a HUGE Hispanic tradition to celebrate when their youth turn 15 years old.) These events are always huge! Everyone comes there is food for 100's of people, there is a dancing, decorations, and the girl that is turning 15 has a huge dress on and all the youth dress up in best dress and dance for all the adults. IT WAS AMAZING and IT WAS MASSIVE! I couldn't believe it. It was held in the gym of the stake center! The family that was having it, the Argueta family, has been out of a job for months and didn't have enough money to fund the event. So by a miracle, the ward stepped in and helped her to have her quincenera. What an incredible spirit that was there, also a LOT of investigators came. So we were running table to table getting to know them all and spreading the Gospel. Amazing! Hna. Rojas brought a new friend! Her name is Enma and we are starting to teach her! What a miracle!

This literally was a week of miracles. I love this great work and these people.

Thank you so much for all of your love, support and prayers. I need them dearly. I look up to all of you so much and hope that you know that you are always in my heart and prayers. I love you so much and hope that you never take one single moment for granted. This is our time to PROVE that we are Noble and Great. WE ARE CHILDREN OF GOD. We were chosen before we came to this earth, and we were NOBLE AND GREAT. "Among these there were many of the noble and great ones; and God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers...thou wast chosen before thou wast born." (Abraham 3:22-23) And now is our WONDERFUL opportunity on earth to truly SHOW and to "prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them." (Abraham 3:25). How amazing is our opportunity in life! It is amazing! You truly are noble and great, and NOW is the chance to prove to your Heavenly Father that you will REMAIN noble and great for always! :) Don't be afraid to be "like unto Moroni" and stand for what you believe. I hope that you have a great week, and that you reach out and remember that you are noble and great. He needs you, and you need Him. STAND UP TO YOUR TRUE IDENTITY.

Hermana Weenig
Elder Fallabella from the quorum of the Seventy and I. He is such an incredible speaker and example. It was fun to speak Spanish with him! :)

The quincenera cake! it was huge!

The set up at the quincenera!

Stephanie and I. She was the woman of the night! She turned 15! The Hispanics celebrate it like it is the end of the world! I want all my girls to have quinceneras :)
Last P-day we had the chance to visit the Historic high school T.C. Williams! It is the high school where "Remember the Titans" was based off of. True story! First school to allow black athletes to play ball :) "Oh, ah I feel, Oh an feel good!"

Monday, October 21, 2013

This is Incredible

I love LOVE LOVE being a missionary. I can't even express in words how much I love this work. This work and Gospel is incredible. Every day...more and more it continues to overpower me with "awe". Miracles, huge miracles, are happening everyday. It is a LOT of work...but in reality it is the dream life. I just wish I could give more. I love it. All of it. The good, the bad and everything. It is so worth it for THEM. I love these people so much. I am learning so much about our Savior, our Heavenly Father, our purpose in life, and my weaknesses. I seriously can't say thank you enough for giving me the opportunity to serve the Lord with ALL that I have got for 18 months. IT IS SO SHORT! And it is going by way too fast, and there is so much to be done! :) I am giving all that I am, all my thoughts, actions, words and EVERYTHING to Him. Because I want Him to be glorified, not me. That is what this life is about---making our Heavenly Father proud. Even though I am so far from perfect, I know that all of us can become and reach our full potential through prayer and diligence and faith.

There is something that I like to do everyday in my missionary planner. Because I know Heavenly Father sends us miracles everyday, I write down the miracles that I see that day each night when we get home. This week, everyday was PLASTERED with miracles. This area and these people are lighting fire and it is so amazing to see. I am so grateful to be apart of it. Although it is getting freezing, the people are warming up, and cold hearts are being opened. It is a miracle.

We have officially become the singers for every ward activity, mutual night and any other time that the ward wants music. I love it! I never thought singing would play such a huge role in sharing the Gospel. It has been incredible to learn the Hymns in Spanish and be able to share our testimonies through music! This week one of my dreams came true! The young women's president called us and wanted us to come sing for a less-active girl's birthday. She said that she wants to start working really closely with us, due to the new efforts of members and missionaries working more together. We were so excited! The young women's activity was to bring a cake and visit a less active girl on her birthday! It was a dream---I LOVE THE YOUNG WOMEN! The young women in this ward are gems. It was such a great experience to visit the less active girl, Casey, and get to know all the youth. The youth are so powerful, but I know that Satan has got a powerful grip on them. That is why it is so important for the youth to Stand ALWAYS in Holy places. If you do that, Satan is going to have a really tough time getting you. But that doesn't mean life is always easy and doesn't mean you won't trip up and fall. Some of the greatest prophets in the history of the world talk about their sins, and how they, too, were not perfect. They too had to experience the miracle of forgiveness. Don't ever let Satan win...and he will try really hard...trying to get you to believe that to be accepted, like or whatever you need the glory and adoration of the world. But that is vain. What REALLY matters is how Christ sees us. He doesn't look at accomplishments, grades, clothes, beauty, or anything. He looks at our heart. Remember that, and you will never be insecure with yourself and you will be able to accomplish miracles--because you will be living your life in a way to PLEASE HIM....not ANYONE ELSE. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks or says....just what He does.

Funny side story: Juana, our recent convert, LOVES coming out with us to share the Gospel with people. She is already an amazing missionary (probably because she studies the Bible and Book of Mormon 3-4 hours a day). Anyways, the other day we called her to see if she would want to come on splits with us. When we called her she was at Costco. Juana doesn't have hardly any money and has been out of a job for quite some time (which recently she just received one...MIRACLE!) and so we were a little bit confused to as why she was at Costco. She then told us that she had taken the bus all the way down to Costco so she could watch the "Telenovelas" (Mexican drama shows) on the big screens at Costco. We asked her why and she told us that "Cable is too expensive and it is better to watch it at Costco." I probably laughed for 10 minutes. But the great thing was is that she was laughing too, only she was dead serious. She is such a ray of sunshine, I love her. So if you ever come to Alexandria and you happen to stop by Costco, you may just find Juana watching her telenovelas. What a gem.

Prayer works. I know it does, because I have seen it work in so many people's lives including my own. The BIGGEST miracle of the week came through prayer. We were following up with some potential investigators in Sacrament Dr. Apartments, and weren't having any luck. We decided to pray. When we prayed we were guided to slowly walk over to a corner of the street and just stand there. I was a little bit confused at why the Holy Ghost would guide us to do such a thing. But, we did it. We waited there for a couple minutes and saw some Hispanic moms waiting to pick up their kids from the bus stop. I thought, "maybe we are supposed to talk to them?" but it didn't feel quite right. That was when we heard, "HERMANAS!!" It was Viriana. A ward member that we have been trying to contact for WEEKS. She is from Bolivia. She is a single mom that is 28 years old and absolutely stunning. She has always been so happy and nice, but little did we know she has been depressed, burdened and devastated for the past couple of months because of sin. When we saw her she seemed happy and everything, but her eyes said differently. We sat down and she introduced us to her non-member friend (she is super interested in the church---SO EXCITING) and she asked us to sing. We felt inspired to sing "I am a child of God". As we sang, Viriana started to cry....(hopefully it was the Spirit and not the horrendous sound...haha). She said that we had been an answer to a prayer. She said she has been caught up in a lot of sin and a lot of hardship, and had prayed earlier that morning for God to send her a sign that He loves her. She said we were the answer to that prayer. She said how she had forgotten what it actually means to be a child of God. I learned in that moment that not everyone who looks perfect and happy is actually perfect and happy. EVERYONE needs a friend and a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes they are the ones that need it the most. As we continued talking, Viriana looked me in the eyes and said, "Hermana, I know I knew you before this life. Thank you for coming on your mission to tell me, teach me and love me in the way that you have. I feel happy for the first time in 6 months." Chills went up and down my spine as I looked her in the eyes and saw her Spirit. I too know that I knew Viriana before this life. It was like seeing an old friend. That made my entire 18 month mission worth it. Just to see her smile. As we talked, we told her that God loves her and wants her to be happy. He wants her to be clean, He wants her to accomplish her dreams. But it takes patience, virtue and bravery to face the fact that we aren't perfect. Repenting and becoming more and more like God has been on my mind a lot lately, and she said something that really hit me...."Each time you say 'no' to a temptation or to a vice that you are trying to overcome, you become more perfect." It is so true, and Jesus Christ is our best friend that is right by our side supporting us to overcome whatever weakness or trial we might have. She kept saying, "Why not me?" and she is right! "Why not be the most virtuous person you can?" "Why not serve with all you have got?" "Why not?" God is on our side and ready to help us accomplish any goal He sees fit. She is striving to become temple worthy, so she can get married there someday. We are going to help her through this rough time, and I know that if she follows the steps of true repentance, she will be able to go back to the temple and enjoy the blessings and the happiness she knew long ago. She keeps telling me that she is going to invite me to the wedding! I am so excited for her goals, and know that she is on the right track to accomplish them! Had we not been on that corner right then, we would have missed her. The Lord works in incredible ways. Prayer is real.
Jill needs a little more prep time before getting baptized...a little bit of tea and coffee...but we know that she will be getting baptized soon! We helped her move out this week, and she is loving reading the Book of Mormon. We are really excited to see all of the changes that are happening in her life!

We were walking to one of our lessons in the Audubon trailer parks to visit Jose and Ramon. They were the two that we met by a miracle last week. When we were walking down the street, we saw Jose on his porch...he was reading the restoration pamphlet we left him!!! AMAZING! What a miracle! When we started teaching the lesson he had a billion questions. He said he also read all about the Plan of Salvation and loves it. He has been so prepared by the Lord. We taught him about the Book of Mormon, and he says that he can't wait to read it. Both Ramon and Jose have been carefully prepared by the Lord. And every time we leave them passages in the Book of Mormon to read and things to think about---they do. And when we go back to teach them, they drill us with a thousand questions. They are really thinking about getting baptized and I am SO excited for them!!! I know that they will, and they will be incredible disciples of Christ. Miracle. They offered us coffee, and when we told them we don't drink...Jose immediately decided to stop drinking coffee. MIRACLE.

We were walking through "Little Mexico" and this little girl came biking up to us. "Hermanas!" She kept saying, "please sing, please sing!" And then we remembered that she was one of the little girls that we had sang to a few weeks ago. We said, "Of course." And she screamed with excitement, and then she said, "WAIT! Let me please get my mom!!" She ran inside to bring out her mom. All the sudden a whole bunch of little children gathered around. They asked us to sing "Soy un hijo de Dios" (I am a child of God.) We did. They sang a long with us! In fact, one of the little girls knew remembered the song! AMAZING! I hope that they never forget that they really are children of God. What was even more amazing is that through that experience we are now teaching the little girl's mom! Miracles.

We are working with a in-active lady named Hna. Garcia. She got baptized in a different church, and doesn't really want anything to do with us. The other day we asked her to pray about whether or not she is in the path that God wants for her. Apparently she got her answer. The day she prayed she was sent to the hospital for 8 days straight. We just happened to knock on her door the day she got back from the hospital. While in the hospital, she told us, she did a lot of thinking. She says that she know it was a sign from God that she needs to come back to church. AMAZING. She really is having a change of heart, and I am excited to see where it takes her.

The ward is on fire still. They are bringing non-member friends to church. Jelitza Oliva grabbed my hand in sacrament meeting and pulled me to the front to introduce me to her best friend. Miracle! Maria is her name and she loved church and wants to know more about how she can be baptized. :)

I love this ward so much, the people are incredible. I love all of the investigators, less actives, in-actives and all we come in contact with. I just hope that they can feel of the love that Heavenly Father has for them. I know that I am not much, but I want to be an efficient and powerful tool in His hands. We taught a lot of lessons this week and were exhausted. The Lord really is opening up the windows of Heaven in this area. I am so excited for the miracles that are in store.

Thank you so much for all your love, support and prayers! I love you all so much! You all mean the world to me and you are always in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for everything and for the examples you are to me! This really is the greatest work that there is!!

Hermana Weenig
All the beautiful young women in our ward!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Miracle of Change

I love being a missionary, and I believe in miracles. But I especially believe in the miracle of change. The gospel was never meant or created for perfect people. EVER. It was made and created for us, sinners and humans, to change--to be molded into something better, someone greater. Kind of like a hospital or physical therapy--but for our Spirits. Over and over again in my mission I have messed up or I have seen people mess up, but thanks to the Gospel, I can be better and better everyday. I have SEEN that first hand literally turn around the lives of the people that I serve. The Gospel steps have 5 important steps, among those are faith and repentance. I truly believe that there is a good reason that those two are the first couple of steps...because in reality, we NEVER stop doing those things, it is one endless cycle. I have changed SO much on my mission already, and I have seen, firsthand, what the Atonement of Jesus Christ has in my life and for other people. Over and over again. It changes people's attitudes, lives, lifestyles, goals, focuses, and happiness. Its incredible. I believe that our Heavenly Father is the master of change, or the "master painter" of all of our lives. At first we may think that the painting is terrible and destroyed, but through time, faith and diligence He allows us to grow and to see the grander picture----and that is what life is all about-- creating, with the Lord, a MASTERPIECE.
The miracles are not stopping, and I know that there are much more to come. When I first got into the area, we met a woman named Jill. We literally just saw her in the lobby of an apartment building and started talking to her. We taught her the restoration and invited her to be baptized right on the spot. She accepted. But, that was back in July. She had a hard heart at the beginning and was very shut toward us and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We would call her and try to set up appointments, but she would never keep appointments and she would never come to church (although we invited her every week.) We had kinda put her on hold, because we have been so busy with so many people wanting to hear the Gospel. Well, just last week, we got a call from her. She was in tears. Her husband had abused her and left her out to dry---she was left as a single mother, can't speak English and has a little girl. She said that she didn't know where to go for comfort. So she started reading the Book of Mormon we had left for her 2 months prior. She said that she had remembered us telling her that the book would give her comfort and help her. She said that she opened up the Book of Mormon to a random page in an act of desperation and there she found the scripture that gave her peace and hope. That is when she called us. MIRACLE.We ran to teach her and we taught her the power of prayer and accessing help through the power of prayer. At the end of the lesson she was bawling. I remember taking her hands and looking her in the eyes and saying, "With God you can do this, because He LOVES YOU. Believe that." She smiled. She has now come to church for the past 2 weeks and loves it--she is a totally changed woman. She even came to the ward activity and brought a friend this past week. Now, she has committed to being baptized on October 28!! Can you believe that? Although it wasn't her time when we first met her Heavenly Father worked a way for us to met her and help prepare her for her trials, and now she is ready to accept the Gospel! AMAZING! I believe in change. Jill changed from a lady that didn't seem to have any time for us before to one that is studying the Gospel Principles book like its candy and going with us to a temple tour this Friday. AMAZING!
This past week was the infamous "Noche de Hispanidad," a ward activity that they do every year to celebrate all the diverse cultures! We made flyers and gave them to EVERYONE we met! At the activity there was EASILY 800 Hispanics crowding the Chapel gym. and about half of those were investigators! Can you believe it? The event comprised of every ward member from their home country (Bolivia, Guatemala, Brazil, Mexico, El Salvador, Panama, Honduras, and Peru) got together and made the traditional food from their country and dressed up in the traditional dress as well. They all decked out their tables with things from their country. It was INCREDIBLE!! I seriously feel like I am serving in 8 different countries! Because they all have such different cultures, foods and EVERYTHING! It is so incredible. So everyone went around and tried a little bit of food from all the different countries! It was a blast! And such interesting foods! Then, every country did their traditional form of dance! It was incredible. These people know how to dance, and they are so amazing at it. I couldn't believe how they can move their feet! Then, one of the ward members--Hno. Escobar came running up to me midway during the dance program. "Hna. Weenig!!! To represent America you need to sing for us!!" I kinda laughed it off and then I saw him talking to Bishop Matos who was directing the HUGE event. Bishop asked if that would be okay. Of course! So, my companion and I sang "I am a child of God", the first verse in English and the last verse in Spanish. What a blast! I seriously could not BELIEVE how many people were there. And we got to meet like 10000 new investigators. I probably gave out like 2084398203948098 besitos. Delicious. I love these people so much. The missionaries were the only white people there, so we stuck out like sore thumbs. But it made it really easy to talk to people and get to know them. We missionaries had a table as well! We had a huge model of the Washington D.C. temple lit up on our table with Books of Mormons and party-favor bags for all the investigators (filled with the missionary pamphlets and the Book of Mormon). It was incredible! A lot of the members brought friends, and the night was spent getting to know them! SO COOL! I love these people and want to be just like loving and so humble and so nonjudgemental. After this event I have decided something: I will have a Mexican wedding....Mariachi Band, Pasole, sombreros and all. I LOVE THESE CULTURES SO MUCH AND I WANT THEM APART OF MY LIFE FOREVER! Also I tell my companion every morning and night that I just want to be Hispanic---I love the culture, the language and the people so much. I can't even explain.
I am loving this place so much. But more than that, the people. The ward, the investigators...EVERYONE. The other day Hna. Aquipua (from Peru) taught us how to make tres leches cake! A recipe all the way from Peru! I will make it for the rest of my life!!! I am learning how to cook like a Hispanic on my mission! So fun! The people here are so giving and so humble. Yet they are the happiest people I have met. They have nothing, yet they have everything.
 We were teaching Reina, one of our investigators (who said she was making Papusas the other day and the feeling of "I need to get baptized came to her"), about tithing and fast offerings. We asked her if she knew what tithing was and she taught us. She nailed it! As we were teaching the lesson, a man knocked on her door and asked to borrow some money. Reina got up and grabbed a twenty, and gave it to him. I looked at her in shock. I asked her why she had done it and she said that "God knows my heart, and if I don't serve, it is my mistake." I asked her about what if the man uses it on illegal substances. She said, "I am not the judge, only the servant." She is such a role model and a powerful example of giving to the poor! I can't wait for her to be baptized! She said that she knows the Book of Mormon is totally true, but she wants to get baptized on her birthday...which isn't till December. But we have been helping her to receive an answer through prayer as to when she should actually be baptized. I honestly think it is so soon! I am so excited for her. She is changing day by day...even though it is slow. I can see it in her eyes. I love that woman so much.
Ghana is the word. So, serving in Washington D.C. you feel like you are in 100 different countries at the same time. It is the coolest thing ever. There are a TON of Ghanans here, working to provide for their families in Africa. One day we felt inspired to take a different route home than usual. So we began to walk. All the sudden this man ran up to us and said "Sisters!" We were both a little bit startled by the fact, and turned to find Prince, a Ghanan man, whom we had met on the street about a month ago. He began to tell us that he has watched us "Mormons" and wants to join with our congregation and be baptized. He says that he knows that we are the ones that can lead him to where God needs him to be! He said "PLEASE, send me the missionaries!" Can you believe it!? Miracle! We quickly called our Zone Leaders to give them the referral, and they almost passed out in shock! What a miracle! I am excited to see if he gets baptized soon. 
Study Preach my Gospel---it is changing my life and I know it will change yours too. There is a section on asking inspired questions. We had one lesson where we sat down and the people started telling us all of their Catholic beliefs. They were so excited to tell us about baptizing their babies and praying to Mary and everything. I was scared for a moment, because I had no idea how I was going to tell them what we know and that the true priesthood authority has been restored on the earth again. I didn't want to judge or offend because I love these people so much and respect them every wit. It was then I remembered something I had studied in Preach my Gospel about the Great Apostasy. I read in "Jesus the Christ" about the history of the Catholic church and felt inspired to ask a question. So I asked, "Can you tell me the history of your church?" And they looked at me dumbfounded. They said no. Then we asked them if we could explain our history and how we know and claim to have the priesthood power that Christ had when He was on the earth. They agreed. We taught the restoration and they were shocked. They couldn't believe it. They want to know more.That question came out of thin air it seemed (it was the Holy Ghost) but I know that we will never be dumbfounded on what to say if we are studying the scriptures and doing our best to treasure the word up in our minds.
Hermana Wilcox and I are COMPLETELY fasting from English. It is a blast!!! Its really fun to see Hermana Wilcox excelling in the language. She went from nothing to saying "Andale!" I am so proud. But now it is really hard for me to write or do anything in English. All of the members and investigators say that I sound like a Mexican....I think that is a good thing? haha But that is the goal anyways. I am trying really hard to study their mannerisms and their accents and culture and everything so I can connect with them in every way possible. I am trying to un-"gringa" myself, but I am not sure how well it is working.
Yesterday we had the opportunity to attend the temple with a "in-active" (now TOTALLY ACTIVE) member that we have been working with! Her name is Hermana Ventura! What a treat! She is a amazing lady and this was her first time back to the temple in a really long time. She is now referring us to all of her friends! Amazing chains! MEMBERS ARE AMAZING!
It has been raining like CRAZY here. Like non-stop. Hermana Wilcox and I, last p-day decided it was time to do some running and jumping in the rain puddles. I don't know if you have ever seen Virginia rain but when it rains, it pours. And the puddles around our apartment where like mini swimming pools. We splashed and jumped in the puddles for like 30 minutes laughing and screaming like little children. I learned something. We can either choose to complain about the "rain" that is in our lives or we can DANCE in it. Choose to dance, it is so much more fun.
It is CRAZY busy---so many people are interested in this incredible message we have been called to share. Which is good, but we are working like little work horses and trying to get everything done. There never seems like there is enough time in the day, but we are loving and enjoying every moment that we have to serve.
Thank you so much for all of your love, support, prayers and EVERYTHING. I am so lucky to know you and be apart of your life, even if it is in a small way. I love all of you so much and pray for you and think of you always. This work is truly HASTENING, and I can't believe how lucky I am to see it first hand. I hope that you always remember to give of yourself and that you NEVER give up. Because there is ALWAYS time and a chance to change for the better. I love you all so much. Thanks for all that you do for me. Have a beautiful week. Rely on your Savior. He is waiting.
Hermana Weenig
Making tres leches with Hermana Aiquipa
Our table at the Noche de Hispanidad! Klondie MADE the temple! What an amazing artist!

The Casteneda family from Mexico!! ay, ay ay!!

Cute little girls from Guatamala!

The ladies in the ward from Columbia!

The ladies in the ward from Panama! So cool!

Hermano Teeter from Guatamala! Such a cool costume!

Hermana Ventura and I at the temple yesterday! Love her!
Dancing in the rain after the HUGE rainstorm on p-day. We were soaked!

Monday, October 7, 2013

See with Your Heart and Not Your Mind

I love being a missionary. I love it. Every second of it. The good, the bad, the hard, the harder, the people, the place, the EVERYTHING. We had transfers this week, and BY SOME MIRACLE Hermana Wilcox and I did not get transferred. We were so excited. When our district leader called us to tell us we were staying (our third transfer together now) we were SCREAMING in his ear. Hope that ear of his is okay. But we will be serving in Old Town for another six weeks together! We are so excited. Apparently we are "on fire" according to our mission president....and something to do with high numbers. Nonetheless, we are honestly just working as hard as we can and living up every moment helping all the people that we can come unto Jesus Christ. We are working on mapping out our entire ward, getting to know each family individually, and strategically using the members in our less active and proselyting activities! A new leaf has been turned! We are also working on a flyer initiative of leaving behind something every time we knock a door that invites all people to come meet us at a members home. We will see how this initiative takes off. We have been working really hard with the Bishop and are hoping it brings FIRE to this area.There is also a huge activity that we are doing this weekend "Noche de Hispanidad" which is for all the members to invite their friends to. There will be food from every country in south America and dances representing each country!  We have decided to push ourselves more this transfer and have set some really high goals! I am SO SO SO excited to see what happens in these next few weeks. I also just love my companion Hermana Wilcox, because we have the same vision of missionary work and we love to WORK HARD. It is a total blast. We come home exhausted, but so happy we can't stop smiling.
I have decided to throw myself into the Hispanic culture, and have a dying and burning desired to be a Hispanic. I love their culture, food, language, smiles and EVERYTHING. I LOVE THESE PEOPLE! I can't even describe it to you. They are among the happiest and simplest people I have ever met. Most of them have no money, and are struggling to put food on the table, but they are by far the happiest people I have ever met. They also just have this ability to LOVE unconditionally and not judge. I want to be like that. They are so passionate about Jesus Christ and love learning. The Lord really has prepared the Hispanic people here in Virginia to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. They KNOW what is most important in isn't money, education, nice houses and cars (most none of them have those things) but it is FAMILY and the GOSPEL. And you know something? They really do look on the heart of a person. They love spending time with people. They are the happiest people and I love them. I just wish I could do more for them. But they have my heart. They stole it, and I am totally okay with that. (p.s. I have a HUGE collection of water bottles! Almost EVERY house we enter, we get a water bottle! Classy!)
My perspective on life is changing, rapidly. There are miracles happening ALL around EVERY day. I seriously can't believe it. At night when I get home I try to keep track of all the miracles that happen in one day's time and it is near impossible to keep track of. I am learning on my mission that the PEOPLE teach me more than I could ever teach them. One night we were walking to a lesson and we passed a man on the side of the road. We had the impression to stop and talk to him. Instantly he looked up and we could tell he was blind. We had the INCREDIBLE opportunity to sit down and talk with this amazing man. He is from El Salvador, and has slowly lost his sight throughout the years. He told us of the times that he could see his children's faces and see the leaves changing outside, but then he said it is all different now. We asked him why he was so happy still and how he was able to press on, despite his hardship. He responded, "God is truly amazing. He gives us hard times so that we can learn a different perspective in life, so that we can grow. Right now I am learning to see with my heart and NOT my eyes." That statement struck me like lightening. How often am I so focused on what my eyes see? How much differently would I see my life and everything in it if I just had my heart to judge off of? As we taught this man of the restoration and about how the gospel blesses families, he lit up. He is a strong catholic, but wants to know more. He then was silent for a while after we told him about prophets that lead us through spiritual darkness. The spirit was thick it the air and I was pensive--hanging on the words that he would say. His daughter came outside in the cool night  air and put her arms around her father. She was coming out to make sure he was okay. Then he started to talk to us. He said, "You know, I had a cousin that would always complain about not having money, a job, and an education, but one night I told him to stop complaining because he has everything. He has health. He is alive. He has eyes. He has everything. You have everything. You have eyes to see and legs to walk, what more do you need? God has given you those things to help others. Use them." I will never forget that man. And how true that statement is. We have everything. This man too believed that he has everything, despite the fact he cant see. He said, "I have my family and a roof over my head. That is all I need. I am the happiest and luckiest man in the world." Woah. I will never ever forget that man. I want to be exactly like him someday. An inspiration of what truly makes us happiest. What an attitude of gratitude. I need to be a LOT more like that.
Marta Lida is getting baptized at the end of this month!! I can't even wait for her! I am so excited for her! She was a member referral, and is from Peru. She lives alone and is constant running from job to job to make ends meet. It is so hard to catch her home, but the other night we sat down with her. She explained that she has been praying and reading the Book of Mormon!!! AMAZING! She said that in all of the 18 years that she has lived here in the USA that she hasn't felt more at peace and happy than when she reads the Book of Mormon and prays. She said she wants to follow Jesus Christ and wants to prepare to be baptized. She is a miracle! And I love her so much. I am so happy she is making that decision to follow Jesus Christ. We hadn't planned to extend a date to her, but when we got in the Spirit whispered to us that it is her time! We are so excited for her.
Members are amazing. If you don't think you aren't a missionary because you don't have a black tag you are wrong! This week one of our members, Hna. Perez (from Mexico), invited us to lunch (amazing Mexican Pasole) with a non-member friend of hers! The lunch was amazing, but what was even more amazing was to see her friend's openness and willingness to hear the Gospel. Now, she is taking the missionary lessons! MIRACLE! When the members testify, the Spirit fills the room and the investigators listen so much more! MEMBERS, WE NEED YOU! You are truly what will make this work roll forward, and I am seeing it first hand! It's amazing.
Remember how I ate 3 grasshoppers to get Hno. Casteneda to come to church? well, the good news is that he has come every week since! Hna. Casteneda can't thank us enough (it wasn't us) but says that her entire family has done a 360 turn. That woman has faith to move mountains...not just mountains but entire MOUNTAIN RANGES! She gave like a 10 minute prayer at the end of a lesson, it was great. Speaking of long prayers... our mission president has us praying everyday for every progressing investigator for the ENTIRE mission. Our prayers have increased in length by a long shot! It is so wonderful though! I love it!
Anti. In effort to rediscover some of the inactive in our ward, I started calling names on the ward list I had never met. I called a man, Hermano Solis. He answered the phone and asked me what church I was from. I told him that I represent Jesus Christ and that we are of the church of Jesus Christ of latter day Saints. For the next 30 minutes he yelled at me for believing what I believe. He told me that we are a cult and that we are the church of the devil. He told me that I was wasting time on my mission. He even told me that he would pray for my "damned soul". He used to be a counselor in the bishopric of this ward. As I sat and listened to his voice, it was plagued with contention and hatred, the Spirit guided and directed my thoughts. Every time he would pause I would bear testimony of Jesus Christ. Although he was saying things that weren't true and that the scriptures could have proved wrong, I just kept bearing my testimony of the Savior. I have no idea how it happened but there was a feeling of power that came out when I spoke the words "Jesus Christ loves you and me. He wants us to be happy. That is why He has shown us the way." There was silence on the phone. I didn't know what to say either. I just kept bearing testimony of what I know. If ever you are confronted with someone who bashes you and hates you for what you believe....STAND. Be a testifier and DISCIPLE of Christ. Don't try to fight, just stand.
Side note: Street contacting and tracting are my FAVORITE THING! you get to meet so many amazing people. People that sing praises to the Lord, people that stalk you, people who hate you, and people who wonder who you are. I LOVE PEOPLE and I LOVE talking to them and getting to know them. There are so many incredible people on the face of the earth. One man got ahold of our phone number (Jose Louis) and won't stop calling us--- "Mi hija!" he says.
For the past few weeks our missionary president has had us go through the addiction recovery program (the 12 step program put out by the church) to help us with our investigators and also our personal battles. and WOW! That program is amazing. We are focusing on pleasing the Lord instead of the world. A lot of addictions and negative thoughts and behaviors come from trying to please the world and not the Lord. Do the 12 step program! :)
Conference was amazing! I hope you all enjoyed it! What a wonderful opportunity we got to hear from a prophet of God. We watched it at the homes of less actives, members and investigators. I learned so much, and didn't want it to end! It was my first time watching it all in Spanish! WOW! It was incredible. Reina Reyes watched conference and said she loved it! Miracle! She says she wants to set her baptism up for December because that is when her birthday is! WONDERFUL! We watched one session with a Peruvian family (the Cardosos) in our ward and Juana came with us (recent convert). This was her first general conference! She sat there mesmerized over the talks. After each talk she would say "Ay, que bonito." I LOVE JUANA! She said that she loved the talks so much she wanted to sleep....hahaha 
We have a charge from our mission president to memorize all the scriptures in Preach my Gospel! WHEW! I have my work cut out for me. But it is amazing what is happening. It looks impossible, but slowly and surely I am chipping away at it. And the promise of having "all things come to your remembrance" is coming to full fruition! We will be teaching someone and all the sudden 3 or 4 references will jump into my head. And it turns out to be exactly what that person needed. The Lord lets us be His instruments, if we are prepared. I just wish that there was more I could do. I am giving Him my all, I just wish I could give more.
Anyways! I love it here so much. And I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve the Lord here in Virginia! I am also so grateful it hasn't got cold yet. It is still in the 90s! WAHOO! That is my kind of weather. We are working hard.
I can't thank you all enough for you love, support, letters, emails and prayers. It means the world to me. Please know that you are always in my thoughts and my prayers. I love you all so very much. Thank you so much for this opportunity to serve. I hope you have an AMAZING week. Remember who you are and WHOSE you are.
Hermana Weenig

This is Juana and I in front of her cute little house. She has been coming on splits with us! She is fired up to share the Gospel that has changed her life!

Hna. Perez and her friend from Peru! Sharing the Gospel over lunch is the BEST! :)

DEELICIOUS Mexican Pasole!

This is my district -- Mt. Vernon District -- from last transfer! They are all like family! :)