I wanted to share some experiences from my last few days in Iowa up until the present. Thursday, Dec 2nd was a great day! I worked all day with the Hermanas and I got to say bye to Jessica. (I wonder how she is doing? I think that is the hardest thing about being home is not being able to know how everyone is progressing! I need to write with the Hermanas and get the details. I really miss all my friends in Iowa.) That night I went to the mission home and said bye to the Hermanas. I had a teary last interview with President Jergensen, really feeling the Spirit and the reassurance that Heavenly Father was happy with my service. I really appreciate President Jergensen and the changes he has made in the mission..well the impact he has made. He asked me to share an experience with him and I shared about Amanda in Sioux City and her example of faith. She has made a huge impact in my life and I am thankful for that. :) After my interview, we played games and had dinner. We later had the final testimony meeting. I cried while expressing my gratitude for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the gift of being a member of Christ's church. I shared my gratitude for the chance to participate full time in the Lord's work as a missionary. A senior missionary said something that touched me. He talked about how when we were baptized we took upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and promised to be a witness of Him in all moments of our life. So yeah, I am not a full-time missionary but I can be a member missionary and continue to be an example to those around me. When my parents came it was all surreal! We were able to watch the picture slideshow and enjoy each other’s company. It was neat seeing the pictures from the other missionaries' experiences. It was tough saying goodbye to the Jergensens but I was passed off to my real parents. The Jergensens are going to come to my volleyball games once they are back...by the way we play Iowa State in pre-season in September! Woot Woot!
So Friday we ate breakfast with the Amalzan family. That experience really touched my parents. They were amazed at the poverty level and at the generosity of the family. They fed us sopes and my parents loved the food! I shared a message with Hermana Amalzan about the lilies of the field in Matthew. She is preoccupied because she needs to pay the rent and they have little money. She recently was diagnosed with diabetes, so that has hit the family. My family wants to help them out with their rent because they are touched by their good nature. Hermana Amalzan shared her testimony with my mom and that was really special. My mom has shared that experience with other people because it meant a lot to her. Even though my mom doesn’t speak Spanish, she could feel the emotion and sense the sincerity. We later went to the Corn Patch with Bob and Aileen and some of Bompy's relatives. They have been so nice to me while I have been in Iowa! We got to visit Hector in the homeless shelter and say my goodbyes. I got to hug Hermana Ortega for the last time in awhile as well as visit Hermana Maria de la luz and her family. The best part about the day was the dinner party at Hermana Amaya's house. The Hermanas were able to come as well as the Zone Leaders. I jumped on Hermana McGuire for the last time and gave the Elders crap. Hermana Amaya, Esmerelda, Jenni, Debbie, Gladys and Eder were there. We ate awesome food and enjoyed each other’s company. At the end of dinner I requested that we had a testimony meeting. It was really special because we all were able to share our testimonies! Even Gladys shared hers and said she knows the Church is true. She hasn’t been baptized yet! She is waiting for her boyfriend to know, so they can be married and baptized. They told me thank you for being persistent, because it showed I cared. :) It was funny. This day in Des Moines was amazing because I was able to spend time with my parents. Before going to each house we said a prayer in the car. It was great because we all got to pray together, and my parents joked about the length of my prayers. :) After leaving Des Moines we headed to Sioux City...along the way we stopped in Omaha and went to the Winter Quarters visitor's center. To my surprise I ran into one of my best friends from the mission, Sister Evans. I hadn’t seen her because our mission boundaries had changed. It was a delightful experience! She gave us a tour of the visitor's center and my mama learned about the hardships the pioneers faced as well as their faith to endure trials.
Once we got to Sioux City, the first visit was to Amanda's house. She was busy making us lunch and dancing to her music super loud. We went in the house and I jumped on her. ha-ha It was so great to see her and her family. She bore her testimony to me about how the church has brought many blessings to her life. She is very happy. Her husband isn’t going to any church but he is still willing to learn about ours. I was able to meet the Elders that are working in the area and they knew about me because Amanda blabs about me. Celia and her family stopped by Amanda's house...her husband that disappeared for awhile came back! I was able to meet him, and as a family they are very content. The girls were all smiles! Her youngest daughter Melissa was baptized! My mom got a kick out of Amanda's house because the kids are really wild. Hermana McGuire told me that she would pay to see my mom at Amanda's- it was awesome! Its a big inside joke now between us. She calls Evelyn "the wig" because her hair is so thick. We went by Sister Brown's house and we had snacks. She always has snacks and drinks. Her living room is still the same, with lots of knick knacks. I took a picture of it to remember. I love that woman! Her sister Ada is finally going to be baptized! I am so excited! I was able to say a quick hello to Melissa, Alex and Lauren. Unfortunately, Melissa still has to work all the time so they don’t make it to church as much. I pray that they will be able to. We went by Hermana Rosas to see her and Nefi. We chatted and I shared my testimony at the end. It was symbolic really. Hermana Madsen took me to their house on my first day in the mission. They asked me to share my testimony then, so I did it again before leaving as a missionary. Bahh! We were able to go to the Flory's house and see their family. It was their daughter's birthday. :) Brother Flory made me my favorite sloppy Joes with Frito chips. It was thoughtful. To finish off the night, we went to the Sawyer's residence. We ate more dinner and played games with the family. I love Sister Sawyer. She is a great role model for me as a member of the church and a mother.
Sunday was absolutely incredible! We stopped by Amanda's for breakfast but only my mom ate because it was fast Sunday. I took about 20 huge tamales with me for the plane because Amanda had stayed up all night making them. She is a sweetie pie. We then went to the Brisenos and snuggled. Their grandson is able to come home for Christmas and they are really excited. He is staying in a children's facility for mental health problems...he is getting better. Arriving to the church building was sure special. Since I left the area, the ward has split up, the Spanish make up their own dependent branch. We went to the English sacrament meeting. I was able to hear the testimonies of many members. The exciting news was that Sandi Headid's children were finally baptized! Her husband wouldn’t allow it and the boys have been faithful church goers just not baptized. So that was a big spiritual high for everyone. I was thankful for the testimonies of Sister Dutton and Widdison because they expressed their gratitude for my missionary service and charity. That meaned a lot to me to hear that. Reuben our 14 yr old convert, went up and shared his testimony. He is so cool! He has been strong since the beginning. He mentioned that his brother is serving a mission and that means a lot to him. He also brought his sister to church to be a good example for her. I was proud of him. I shared my testimony and expressed my love for the ward and missionary work. Bishop Foster told me that the Spanish branch was growing and us Hermanas contributed in that. After that meeting, we went to the Gospel Doctrine class and Hno Alarcon asked me to share some of my feelings about the mission. He is an amazing teacher. The Relief Society class was led by the RS president because the teacher wasn’t there. I was able to translate for the last time! Yippee. :) The women have all bonded and it really made me happy. We were always trying to get them to be close and to get rid of that separation from the Spanish and English speakers. I was able to see Hermana Baraza, and she had been worrying me. I heard that her husband isn’t active anymore, and he had been strong and came back before I left. His position as the counselor has been replaced by Brother Lagunas, who recently showed up from Mexico. He has a strong testimony and is a good example to the branch. Good news though! Hermana Tereza is completely active and comes every Sunday with her children. She was off/on before, so that was good news. I shared my testimony with the Spanish and said thank you for their faith. I expressed the importance of daily scripture study and prayer. Amanda got up and shared her testimony and it was great! That woman inspires me. Hermana Flory told me thanks while giving her testimony; that gratitude is mutual. She is an amazing woman with a testimony like a rock. Her husband is having health problems right now and she said that they are depending on Christ. I am praying for them. Overall it was a joyous experience visiting Sioux City. It had been 9 months since I had returned, so they were excited. I promised that I would go back of course.
After church we rushed to the airport and came to find out our plane was attacked by birds, so we didn’t fly out until Monday. MY family greeted me at the airport! The Lord has blessed me with missionary opportunities in my family. My mom and I had a Family Home Evening, I shared a scripture about the Holy Ghost and we shared experiences. I hope we can do that every week, as well as family prayer. My dad is used to praying now and we have prayed numerous times in restaurants together. We went to Missouri for the day and we visited liberty jail. My dad really liked it because he loves history, and he got to learn more about our church and the trials the early Saints encountered. I learned a lot about adversity and our need to depend on the Lord and have faith, because it is all for our benefit. My grandpa, Bompy, has gotten really involved in his genealogy since I have been home so we are going to work on that this week. That could interest him to learn more about the church. My grandparents have had missionaries over, but they aren’t too serious about the lessons. Today in Singles Ward I met some Elders that actually taught my step-dad, Jim before. They told me to follow-up with him. I can see little miracles and am excited to keep inviting my family to learn and living by example.
Today, I attended the high counsel meeting and really enjoyed reporting on my mission. I talked about the area, the people, leadership and experiences. I talked again about Amanda and her faith. I discussed what we did to help get members involved in Des Moines and to obtain the word before declaring it. My friend Ciara returned from her mission in Temple Square. That was neat hearing about her mission and the differences.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve a mission. I am excited for Arizona State and was stoked to visit last week with my dad. I gave my coach a big hug! I toured the Honors College, ate gluten-free pizza in the cafeteria, spoke to the Hispanic staff, and took care of school stuff. I was able to help some confused families on the southwest flight who thought they had assigned seating. I am looking forward to using my Spanish and progressing. I met a girl in the Singles Ward today and she also served State Side Spanish speaking. We are going to go to the Spanish branch here. I am stoked. Next week, I will give my homecoming talk and the topic is Because of your faith- the General Conference talk by Elder Holland. I will be updating my blog weekly, probably on Sundays-share spiritual experiences or insights. It will be fun!
Love you all.