Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A special kind of love

So you know that man in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" who thinks Windex will solve everything? We have one of those in our branch who thinks salt will cure every illness. With all the bugs here, my legs are pretty unattractive and everytime she sees me, she reminds me that I just need to rub salt all over them and my bites will disappear. It's pretty funny because she always gives me little bags of salt but I feel like they will just make the bites more irritated.
Other than the bugs and the rainy season, we had a very special week. We had a conference with just the Sister Missionaries that occurs once a year. Our mission President is probably the best man (besides my dad) that I have ever met in my life and the conference was beautiful. Of all the things that he could've talked about, he talked to us about self-esteem. He said, "You know what I think? I think Heavenly Father loves his daughters a little more than his sons. Why? Because he sent his sons so that they could protect his daughters. And if he doesn't love his daughters more, it is a very different special kind of love." After the talk, there wasn't a dry eye in the room and it really encouraged all of use to become better.
We had a lesson on Saturday with a woman whose door we knocked. The woman wasn't too interested but I could see a garden worker behind her that was listening but pretending to work. When we finished the lesson, I asked the man if we could visit him one day to share a message. He accepted and we passed by his house the next day. He confided in us that one of his best friends was heavily addicted to alcohol and tried many different programs to stop, but nothing worked. Then one day, two missionaries knocked on his door and gave him the first lesson. He said, "Only God could change his life and only these two missionaries brought the message that could help him." His friend gave up alcohol and was baptized and is now living a happy life. This man has a similar problem and wants to change, after giving the first lesson we challenged him to a baptism date and he accepted. It is amazing to see how people need God in order to really change and have real happiness. I am so honored to be a messenger of a message that can give people a reason to change. We have a Savior that makes any change possible and I love being here serving him.
Hermana Hansen

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Reading by candlelight

We had Zone Conference in P this last week and we received mail! I got a package from Steve Rogers and letters from Dallas, Annie, Dylan, Elizabeth Leavitt, President Hixson, and Michelle Dowden. And dearelders from Grandma, Mom, Dallas and Cole. THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH! Although I can't respond (last time, it took about 3 months for a letter to arrive at home...) I love, love, love getting the letters, thank you so much! Grandma asked if my area was like the photo you guys received from the Gainor family. Our area is huge and extends over about 7 colonias. One of them is called S, where the photo was taken. A lot of retired North Americans live here and the houses are unbelievably beautiful. Our lessons vary from teaching in settings like this, to reading the scriptures by candlelight to families who never learned how to read themselves, to an area called S, where Spanish is their second language and their town touches the volcano.
We are teaching a very special family. The parents are waiting for their birth certificates so they can be married and then be baptized. They have four children (two of them are in the picture I sent) and they first met with the missionary that was transfered out when I came in. It is hard for the families when a missionary leaves an area, especially when they have such a close relationship, which is the case with the previous missionary and this family.But last week, the mom told me, "When I found out that one of the missionaries was leaving, I prayed to God that the incoming missionary would be a lot like her and would love my family like she did...and I know that God heard my prayers." This little family is progressing and attending church EVERY WEEK. We taught them what Family Night is on Sunday and when we went to visit them on Monday, we got to watch them have their own family night. It was one of the best nights of my life watching them sing "I Am a Child of God" from memorization and seeing the mother teach a message from something she learned in the Book of Mormon. It made me miss my family a lot but not in a sad way, in a way that makes me want to work harder so I can share this message with more families. I love this gospel and I love this family we are teaching. I love being here in Guatemala and I love this opportunity I have every day to give my best and to serve God.

P-day hike behind a ward members house - - -Lots of dense growth but look at the view on the picture below.

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These are two little boys in the family she has been teaching.

      Walking to zone conference in A with Sister G (from Ecuador)  notice the volcano in the background

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

There will not be a group email from Sara this week. The internet cafe she was in was incredibly slow - and the keyboards were not functioning well so she did not have time to type one. (She has a limited time on the internet and she has to type first to her mission president and parents - then a group letter if she has time) She said she would find a different internet cafe next week. She is doing well - the new 'cook' does something different from her last 'cook' and she is not doing as well with the food -so prayers for her tummy would be wonderful. Thanks

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What do you bring in your pocket to church?

I am loving our little Branch here in S. It is about 50 members and most of them are recent converts. They are super united and very loving...but sometimes they do some pretty interesting things. For example, this Sunday, in sacrament meeting, I kept hearing the chirping of a baby bird. My distracted mind just thought that maybe there was a nest outside the window...I found out this wasn't true when the chirping followed us to Relief Society. A woman in the Presidency stood up and was holding her jacket in a weird way as she started talking to us...I then realized she was trying to hide a baby bird...for all three hours during church. For some reason, I had the mental image of Jeanette Hixson directing Relief Society while hiding a baby bird in her jacket and it cracked me up.

The people in my new area are generally more humble and don't use as many excuses as the people of L.  ("I want to here your message but...the door is locked from the inside so I can't open it..."). The first weeks of my mission, people would talk fast Spanish in front of me so I couldn't understand. But now that I can understand Spanish, they speak Catchicel here! (I'm not quite sure how to spell that.) (Internet says the language is called Kaqchikel or Cakchiquel). I am learning a little bit of the language but so far I only know how to make small talk and to say "hurry" and "dead" haha.

The work is a little bit slower here, we had a pretty rough weekend. I was a little homesick on the 4th of July, but I was able to celebrate by wearing my Captain America shirt and making hash browns from a box. The day I came to this area, we challenged a man to get baptized and we have been preparing him for this last weekend. He has been taking lessons for a while but had a long business trip so we picked up his lessons when he returned (the day I came here). Everything was going smooth until an hour before his baptism on Saturday, when it fell through. He had been keeping all of his commitments for four months but the night before his baptism, things changed. It is extremely difficult to see a grown-man so devastated as he was on Saturday, and he hasn't been in his house or answered his phone since then. It's okay to be sad, but not discouraged on the mission so we are trying our best to find him and help him again.

Besides working with him, we are working with quite a few other people here but the Law of Chastity is a huge problem. A lot of people have testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ but are living with someone that they aren't married to. Coordinating marriages isn't too hard but divorces are more complicated and a lot of people were once married and just stopped living with each other and started living with someone else.

Despite these problems, we are happy working here. The people have so little, materialistically, but they have much more happiness than most of the people I know in the states. I love the people here and am so grateful that I can be here to serve them. The church is true, there is power in the Atonement and there is hope in this message.
Hermana Hansen

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Over the river and through the woods . . . she is transferred - and happy

New companion and apartment mates in S.

I have been transferred! I am now living in S, a little city in the outskirts of ____. We go over the river and through the woods every morning to work in S (literally, there is a river that rises with the rain that we have to jump and it is pretty jungley). Our house is a definite upgrade from our last one because we have a sink inside! Our new house is also different because there are four girls instead of two, fleas instead of cockroaches, bucket shower instead of a shower with the handle that shocks your hand, and we have a little garden outside. It is beautiful and it feels like a hotel because it's one of the nicest houses in the mission. My new companion is from Equador and is named Hermana G. She is already one of my best friends, and I am so blessed to be working with her. The other two girls living in our house are super fun and I am so happy here!

I was a little sad to leave my last area because of all the people I grew to love. C (the woman we have been working with since I arrived in L. finally made the commitment to be baptized and I had to miss her baptism since I was transferred but I'm just happy that I was able to see the process and that she finally made the decision. She is one of the most strong-willed women I have ever met. The weekend K was baptized, she invited her son (who didn't know she had accepted a date to be baptized) to attend with her. When her son denied, she simply responded, It's okay, you can come to my baptism next weekend. Hahaha

My new area is really different, and since we are close to A, I'm not the only white person here! We contacted a bus last week (one of us goes to the front of the bus and announces who we are and a little bit about our message, and then we talk to every person individually on the bus to ask for their address to pass another day...we do this every time we take the bus) and after I contacted the bus, I started talking to a guy and he said to me, very slowly, I speak English. Haha, turns out they are a family on vacation from Arkansas haha.

I am already falling in love with the people here. Most of the time, when I am meeting a person and I tell them my name, they always say, OH! Like Hansen and Gretel. Most of them live in houses with just a tin roof and blankets, or tarps, for walls. The area is beautiful, and I can see THREE VOLCANOES on clear days (and one of them is usually puffing smoke). The roads are rough cobble stone or just dirt with rocks and the area is pretty hilly.

As a final note, it is pretty funny how they have different animal sounds. For example, in English, we think a dog says, Ruff, ruff.But it's different in Spanish. And if you ever meet a little Latino child, you should say, Cock'a'doodle'doo because they think it is the funniest thing in the world. I'll take a video of some of the kids because it is so cute.

I am happy here and I am so honored to be serving a mission in Guatemala. Every day is changing my life and although I miss home, there is no place I would rather be than in the Guatemala City Central Mission.
                                      Hermana Hansen 'bus contacting'.

sorry - this one was not posted - and it is a good one! 6/24/13

I was definitely spoiled this last weekend. We had Zone Conference and Elder Duncan came and spoke to us, and we got to eat LASAGNA! We also got the pouch, which means I got letters again! Big thanks to the dearelders from Kim, Clare, Cole, Andrew, Elle, Paige, Rachel and Kjersti and the letters from the Bedell Family, the Dalton Family, the Wurts Family, Kyle, Terri Lamp, President Hixson, Aaron and Joseph. I LOVED hearing from you guys and your letters inspire me to become a better missionary. I cannot thank you enough. (Sara's mail is delivered to her from the mission home whenever someone comes to her area - it can take 6 weeks for her to get her mail AFTER it arrives in Guatemala - making these mail deliveries so cherished! Kathy)

My Spanish is coming along and I am starting to feel more like a Latino because I finally love eating beans. The tortillerias and little bread stores are all familiar and I am feeling at home. But there are little things that make me realize I am very far away from my own neighborhood. For example, we were walking this last week and I heard this horrible screaming. When I asked my trainer what it was, she simply said, "A family is going to have fresh ham for dinner tonight." Haha, I love Guatemala.

Something that Elder Duncan said during the conference has stuck in my mind all this weekend. He said, "Perhaps before your life, God planned the challenges you would have in order for you to come unto Christ." I first thought of our progressing investigators and how, because they are humbled in their individual problems, they are ready, and willing, to learn. I then thought of my own life. I am incredibly lucky that I was raised in a home that is centered on Christ but I think I got too comfortable. I always knew that people needed a Savior but I didn't realize how much I personally needed him until the hardest part of my 20-year-old life hit me. Christ never left me but I had drifted away from him. Just like a person doesn't realize their dependence on doctors until they are sick, I didn't realize my dependence on Christ until my ill soul needed a Savior. And the very thing that I thought had brought me away from Christ, is the very thing that made me realize my complete dependence on him. I am not implying that the hardest part of my life has passed and I am done with having problems, that would be naive. I don't know what challenges I will have in my mission, or when I return or in my future family. But I do know that I am not alone. Without challenges, we would not be able to be humble. But with challenges, we can learn to rely on God. Remember that afflictions are always blessing in disguise, because they can help us become better and closer to Christ. I will write about transfers next week because we will find out tonight