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 them...so 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!

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