Monday, July 21, 2014

Most Important Day On My Mission

Alright. We need to talk. How in the world do I have just one month left? Is that even real? When you are on a mission you  have to look at it like you are never leaving. Like the mission will never end. When you realize.... Ohhhhh. Shootie. The next 21st of the month I won´t be here in Cartagena........ WOAH!!!    NOT OKAY! THERE IS TOO MUCH TO DO! I would be lying if I said I wasn´t excited because I cannot WAIT to see my family. But don´t worry amigos. We testify of the importance of enduring to the end and I intend on following my own advice. We have lots to do here!

This was a very exciting week! Last Monday and Tuesday, I had to go back on the 9 hour trip to Málaga to finish my residency. Only this time I had a friend to go down with. Elder Turley. He was in the CCM with me but MAN! Lets talk about WE-IRD! Nine hours with just an elder does not happen! Then when arrived in Malaga I was the only Hermana with ten Elders. hahaha I felt so uncomfortable!! To the point where I just helped Hermana Deere cook and didn´t leave her side. When it came time to sleep I realized I would have to sleep alone. President Deere realized that I was about to have a panic attack so he brought up one of the mattresses and I slept in the living room right next to their door. Now THAT'S something you will never forget. That's when I realized..... ooooooooo ya I´m not sure how I´m going to handle this whole "real life" thing. We woke up Wednesday morning and got all the residency stuff done then I had another nine hours on the bus ride back. An exciting little vacation when I realized just how weird I had become. Yay.

Yesterday was one of the most important days on my mission. I don´t know why I haven´t said anything before but we have been preparing for the 20th of July for a long, long time. Because here is the deal. There are three wards here in Cartagena. Two of which only have 80 in attendance each week. Then there is the 3rd ward. My ward. We have between 150 to 170 each week. We are on the verge of splitting but with the other two wards, THERE IS NO ROOM! Literally we don´t have seats. You can´t breathe in the hallways. So our stake president has been fighting to have another chapel built here in Cartagena. The Area Presidency said no until 2018. President Marmol freaked out and kept fighting to the point where The Area Presidency sent one of the Area Seventy to our ward to see if it really is necessary to build another church. So we have worked SOOOOOOOOOOOO hard for this day when Elder Obando came. And want to know what happened? We had 12 investigators in church, 8 less actives and a total of 201 people in church! It was incredible. I have never seen a church so filled. I realize that's not very much in Utah but here in Spain that is UNHEARD OF! We made history! It was so stressful and I had butterflies all Sunday morning because if we as missionaries failed.... all of Cartagena would suffer for the next 5 years..... All I pray is that it was enough and they start the construction of the new church! 

Elder Obando :) Area Seventy :) Not something you see every day!

This is our youth class. There wasn´t even a class room for them!

Investigator Class.... My joy is full.....

I don´t have much time and those were the two most exciting events of my week. Life here is good. We should be having two baptisms this Sunday! Remember Walter and his son Jose Manuel? Ya. They are getting dunked.  Then we should have Bryan on the 3rd of August. And we found the most incredible family to be baptized on the 10th :) So when I said I have lots to do this last month.... I MEAN IT!  The work is moving forward here in Cartagena, bringing souls unto Christ.

Peace out.

Hermana Brown

This is what happens when you let little kids take advantage of you :) 

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Few Things I have Learned

Another week has gone by and yesterday I realized that I´m under 40 days now. I can hardly think that without tearing up because I don´t want this to end. People tease me all the time asking if I´m trunky and my answer is....... Well, no more than usual! hahaha I think I´m more stressed than anything trying to find, teach, and baptize while I have this power and authority. You know? A mission is a once in a lifetime experience. So I´m trying so hard to stay focused. The best way to do that is just loving the people. I´m trying to focus all my time and talents on them so that I have zero time to think about myself. Or the future. Especially the future. 

Cartagena is a wonderful place. All my areas have done something for me. Have molded me in the way the Lord needs me to be. As I was thinking about Cartagena, I can say that here is where I have been sanctified. I have had so many questions and I have needed so many answers my whole mission. And I don´t know why, but here in Cartagena, everything has clicked. Answers to questions that I have been praying about for years. And there is the trick: Prayer. Here in Cartagena my testimony of prayer has grown and the way I pray is different. I have learned a thing or two on prayer so yesterday I decided to write down all the things. 

I lave learned to say "I´m sorry when I pray, take my shame humbly before the Lord, to take responsibility for my actions.

I´m learning to forgive --everybody, everything, every time-- because I truly want to be forgiven.

I´m also learning to pray to love those more whom I have loved less. I understand why God requires this of us. He loves us all more. He wants us to become like him.

I have learned  that kneeling and speaking aloud to our Father in a quiet place daily allows me to speak with God, person to person. I feel as though He is waiting on my every word.

Be formal; be informal; be always prayerful. I try to walk and talk with God every moment. That way I am constantly receptive to the Holy Ghost.

I leave learned to ask for daily guidance from the Holy Ghost.

I have learned to ask what I should pray for -- asking in a prayer what to say in a prayer.

I have learned that the Holy Ghost translates and delivers our pleading and praises to our Father even when we can´t find the words to express our deepest joy or darkest sorrow.

I have learned that Good can communicate to me on important matters and that He can say no.

I have learned to pray to recognize temptations, no matter how subtle, and for the strength to flee from sin once recognized and to avoid going counter to God´s will for me.

I have learned to pray for the strength to meet challenges, not have them removed.

RESIST THE DEVIL, AND HE WILL FLEE FROM YOU. James 4:7 I have learned we can all lose desire for sin. One day we will simply ignore the devil, not interested in what he offers because we are so mightily interested in the promises of our Father to share all he has with us.

So I don´t just pray to not be led into temptation, I pray to be led into understanding of God´s will for me.

I have learned the diminishing usage of "vain repetitions."

I have learned how the Holy Spirit speaks with us, spirit to spirit, putting words into our minds in the customized, unmistakable way only he can communicate to each of us individually.

I have learned that God can say yes!

I am continuing to learn that answers come in unexpected ways.

I am learning to sort out his impressions from my own ideas.

I´ve learned that the Lord´s thoughts are not my thoughts -- they are higher.

Don´t forget. God has been giving answers for a long, long time and commanded those who have received them to take notes. Search the scriptures.

I have learned to WRITE DOWN every spiritual experience. I have found some of my strongest answers come from my own journal.

I´ve learned another kind of "no". I have learned, and still continue to learn, to obey. To endure something that is totally against my will. I am beginning to learn "thy will, not mine, be done." 

I have learned that uniting our prayers with others changes things. Unity is powerful in prayer.

I have learned as we work our way out of depression, we move from focusing on our own coping to noticing once more the needs of others around us. We can fill our prayers with the names of others.

I have learned that its our hearts that need to change and will change.

I have learned the strongest prayer is a prayer of gratitude. There is nothing that invokes the powers of heaven more strongly deep hearted gratitude.

Gratitude can be contagious. I have received my most powerful answers through prayers of gratitude.

I understand how Enos and others could have prayed all night.

I´ve learned that counting blessings with all the energy of heart can be a glorious, communing experience and that it will leave your heart filled with love.

I have also learned that His love fortifies us for the pain and disappointment that are part of this earth life. After tribulations, cometh great blessings.

I´ve learned to pray when I don´t feel like it. How Satan must laugh as we abandon praying instead of hurrying to our knees to be nurtured and cleansed.

Prayer changes things. I´ve learned that prayer is our pathway to mighty change.

I have learned your desire to pray will grow in you as you read the scriptures. You will close the book with a renewed desire to speak with the author.

I have learned to breathe in the peace that comes from prayer and understand when Heavenly Father says "Just be patient. This will pass. Everything will be alright in the end." 

I am learning the meaning of sanctification. This sacred process is my own will being swallowed up in the will of the Fathers. Wanting nothing more than to see the Lord´s will done. 

I still have a long ways to go. I still struggle to understand God´s purposes, to align my will with his. The process continues in me. I know God listens. I have felt moments when I have barged my way through heaven´s door and my Father in Heaven is waiting on my every word. I know that miracles only come after dipping heart-deep in prayer. I have seen miracles. I know that prayer is the only avenue to true peace. I´m so grateful for my mission and that I have been able to apply this simple principle and understand the depth of its power. Go talk to God will ya? I promise He´s waiting for you.

Hermana Brown

A little morning Jog... Caragena, so beautiful.....

Zone Conference!!! Reunited with Hermana Flake....

Monday, July 7, 2014

Spain will ALWAYS have a piece of my HEART!

We took a wrong bus and got dropped off in the desert. There wasn´t another bus for two hours..... OOPS! 

My compy comp :) Hermana Herrera :) She is 21 and from Ecuador but lives in Madrid :)

She´s the best! 

First off, apology for no post last week :)  It was a crazy week and it literally flew by! Which is a scary thing when I only have six more weeks..... WHAT? I am officially starting my last transfer in my mission and I´m not quite sure how it has passed by so fast. Like.... I´m freaking out a little bit. Especially since tomorrow we have our multi-zone conference in Murcia. Our mission has these conferences about 3 times a year. Tomorrow we will be with 80 missionaries and a very special one......... HERMANA FLAKE! I´m literally jumping up and down I´m so excited! I haven´t seen her since March. And on top of that.... I´ll be giving my dying testimony. A tradition in our mission is that at your last zone conference you give your last testimony on what you have learned on your mission. I just can´t believe that day has already come. I have seen missionaries for the best year and a half cry their eyes out at this moment. And now I´m just like..."Ummm.... I still feel like a baby out here in the mission....." hahaha So that will be tough tomorrow.

But this week was an interesting one. Literally just traveling down to Malaga and back for 3 days. Have I ever mentioned that I am closer to Barcelona than Malaga? Fact. So I had lots of time to think and read and write. In fact. My bus ride back was.... interesting.
 I somehow managed to get on a bus that stopped in FIFTEEN pueblos and takes ELEVEN hours. That's literally the same amount of time to California from Utah. So during this half a country adventure we stopped in a little pueblo called Vélez Blanco for an hour. Everyone got off the bus and what was I going to do? Sit there in the heat for an hour? NO! So I got off and lost my myself in the streets of Spain. I suddenly found myself in a park surrounded by European, iron gated apartments with purple flowers falling from the windowsills. I looked up to see an old, abandoned castle and all I thought was.... woah.... I´m in Spain. SPAIN! I LOVE  SPAIN! I took advantage of the moment and sat down on a broken stone edge and began to write. This is what I wrote...

Strange pueblos and being lost on cobblestone streets. Dancing in my spinning skirt with my braid slowly coming undone. I am coming undone. Hair is falling and so is my heart. Twirling, prancing, and swaying for this country I love so much. The Spanish air. The purple flowers from the vintage windows. The abandoned cathedrals. Every inch of this place calls my name and beckons me to just let go. Take that deep breath and say "Spain, you own my heart. Here it is and when I leave in 50 days know that a part of me will always stay here with you." I´m lost in Spain and I think I don´t want to be found. I want to smell the roses and the dancing flamenco feet. Clack clack clack. To read soft, lovely words in a new language I now know. To feel the incense from the dry earth and love of all things God has woven into my soul day after day with the hope that in 50 days... when my time is up... I leave as the beautiful Spaniard that has danced around my head. Spain has a piece of my heart. I have given it freely. And there is a beautiful rule that states "When you give, you receive even more." And by the curls in my hair to the blisters on my toes, I can whisper back to my dear country "You have my heart and I have yours." Love is a funny thing and I sometimes wonder how many times I can split this pumping organ in my heart. But I am coming to find that the more I slice and break and tear this part of me that feels very small, it is mended and healed and sewed back together by the grateful smiles and kisses from from my warm sun. My freckles show that Spain loves me too. That I have his heart too. I know that no goodbye is forever and that this will always be sacred ground. If home is where the heart is then these rolling mountains and white houses have found their home in my heart. Spain is home.

I love Spain. I also love America :)  The best of both worlds!   We had a big fourth of July party with all the missionaries in Cartagena! 

Soooooo there´s my life. Catch ya´ll next week! LOVE YOU!

Hermana Brown

Monday, June 30, 2014

Beautiful Spain

A little meditation overlooking the beautiful Cartagena coast.

Linsey was not able to write a post this week as she needs to take an 8 hour bus ride to Malaga to work on residency papers.  Until next week.....

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Lessons I have Learned....

The week I have a had a lovely song stuck in my head. In fact, only one line." CUZ WHEN YOU´RE FIFTEEN"...... Yep by good old Taylor Swift. Why you may ask? Because I hit my 15 month mark out here. Like woah, that's a long time! A certain phrase of that song says "If only you could go back and tell yourself what you know now..." And I think about that a lot. I think about the Hermana Brown in Malaga and in Granada and in Jerez. What lessons I have learned through this whole process. A mission goes by so fast and here are a few that stand out in my mind.   Don´t stress so much. Enjoy being the newbie. Spanish will come. Make sure to give Hermana Johns a big hug for this amazing missionary changed my life. You can do impossible things. All miracles come through prayer. So many priceless lessons. I´m so changed. This morning I had a conversation with one of the Elders about how the atonement changes our personalities and why that is. Read Mosiah 3:19. My favorite scripture and the major lesson that the Lord has taught me throughout my mission.

 19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

This Wednesday is transfers and the calls are in. My sweet Hermana Guerrero is going to Malaga to be a SHE (A sister training leader)!!!! AHHHHH!!! My baby girl is going to be a SHE. I just feel like the proudest grandma. Because that's what I am now on the mission. I had my glory days filled with concilio and exchanges and leadership. Those were the days of my youth. Now President has placed me in a quiet place called Cartagena to die in peace. I have been helping a SHE-in-training and now I have to send her off to shine and sparkle. I know a part of my legacy will live on through her. I just now feel like I´m going to sit in my rocking chair and keep finding. And guess what? I´m getting another little rugrat sent to me named Hermana Herrera :) Another native! WOOHOO! She is from Ecuador as well and just has 4 months in the mission. SPANISH 4 LYFE!
My other half:)

Now I just need to rant about how amazing Hermana Guerrero is. I have been blessed with really amazing companions so I can´t say exactly who is my favorite but this little chavala.... She has impacted me more than anyone on my mission. We changed each other. I don´t quite know how to explain it but she opened up a part of my heart that has never been touched and has helped me with a lot of tender things. She will forever be my best friend. Normally I cry when my companion leaves but this last Friday, right after we hung up the phone with President Deere, I sat down on the couch and cried like a baby (No surprise there). Its one thing to have an American companion from Utah and another to wonder if I´ll ever see my best friend again. I have cried every single day. Really. I´m so obsessed with this girl but I have to let my baby bird fly and spread her wings! 

Until next week! Chow :)
Hermana Brown

So we got special permission to be on the beach. That does NOT happen in our mission.

The Elders had a baptism in the ocean. This man said that the baptismal font wasn´t big enough to wash away all his sins. Only the ocean was big enough. One of the coolest experiences ever! 

Ahhh. love the beach and the sand....

With Britney :) My little sister :)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Precious Gems

SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Once upon a time our mission secretary, Elder Dansie, called me two weeks ago. He´s a good friend from the MTC and one of my favorite Elders. He called me and said "Hermana Brown, wanna know what I´m doing right now?" I replied "What is it this time?" He answered "I´m totally sending in the request for your plane tickets. How trunky does that make you??" All I could scream was "ARE YOU KIDDING! Why would you call me for that!!!" And he just laughed and laughed and laughed.

Not funny.

The tickets are bought and the best way to describe how I feel is like I´m in a tunnel full of precious gems. This is a very long tunnel and there is light at the end. Lately, that light has been getting bigger and bigger. I try not to look at it because I have a lot of precious gems to find. I´m looking like crazy because everyday the light at the end of the tunnel is getting larger. Now I´m starting to get stressed because I know there are those precious gems. I need to find them as I see the light getting brighter and brighter. 

That's all.

Its summer here and so HOT! Its been between 95 and 105 degrees everyday and I am constantly sweating. Welcome to the Spanish summer. I´m hoping to get a nice missionary tan and just trying to smell the flowers.

I have had a couple of really hard weeks in my mission, emotionally wise, and this week was definitely in the top 5. I felt like I was in Jerez again.

3 Very special women!!!  Maria Angeles, Grizzel and Arely

Remember those three women we found? They are all so very special to me. Maria Angeles, Grizzell, and Arely. Last week they had a baptismal date when we found out the Grizzel found a job opportunity in Bilboa. I wish I could explain all the fine details but this was a hard week because we had to sneak them out of their apartment and to Bilboa. I learned a very special lesson. You never know where the Lord needs you to be an instrument. At times you are going to be aasked  to place the foundation, build the outer walls, or put the roof on. This week we were definitely building walls and helping these three women. When we had to say goodbye, all three just bawled and said "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for being our angels." They took so many pictures and kept saying "We´ll never forget you two. We love you. We love you!" I began to cry. Although I won´t see these two be baptized, I know I did exactly what the Lord wanted me to do. I have never felt more like the Lord´s hand than I did helping these three women. I will never ever forget them.

We also had THREE BAPTISMS!! Britney, Nerea, and Dylan were all baptized yesterday and it was so beautiful. Aida bore her testimony about how coming back to the church was the best decision in her life. That she has never felt so happy and this was one of the best days of her life to see her three children baptized. She just cried and us missionaries sang "When I Am Baptized" and the spirit was so strong. The moment came and Britney just cried and cried. Afterward Nerea started to cry. They all gave their testimonies. Have you ever seen an 8 year old cry at his baptism? I haven´t. But Dylan cried knowing that this is what God wanted him to do. Nerea cried saying that she finally had fulfilled her dream. And Britney bore a powerful testimony about how her family will be sealed in the temple. Aida afterward just hugged me and said "Thank you for being my angel. Thank you." BEST DAY EVER! Afterward I was just on a high and that high hasn´t quite worn off. I love that family. They are so special to me and will forever mean the world to me.

Britney, Nerea and Dylan were all baptized.  Aida was so proud!!!

Britney,  My little Spaniard Sister!

All the people that came for their baptism! Can you say new investigators?

It was a wonderful week. We had 11 investigators in church yesterday and it was crazy. Our ward is HUGE and there weren´t any seats to sit! The youth had to have their class outside because all the classrooms were too full! They should be splitting the ward in August or September. It is such an amazing thing to be apart of :) I LOVE CARTAGENA! I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY! As a missionary you get to run on the Lord´s errand and be his angels here on earth. Nothing can ever replace that feeling. Nothing!

The youth having their class outside! WOOOO!  No room in the chapel!!! Not a bad problem to have!

Well, gotta go look for more gems! Catch ya all next week!
Hermana Brown

Monday, June 9, 2014

Remember how last week we had absolutely nothing? In the course of one week we had seven investigators in church yesterday and four less actives. Like what? Top that off with seven baptismal dates and I am just one happy camper. 

For everyone who is on a mission or is about to go on a mission, let me just share with yall a little something I have learned.

I have come to find that the Lords time is perfect. Preach My Gospel says that the Lord is literally preparing people to receive his missionaries. To accept the gospel. There are people who are waiting for the truth in their life. I have prayed and prayed to have faith in this promise. And we search and we look and we plan and we search and search and search. For how much time we are looking, you would think there would be more success. But here is where I have learned a very important lesson. Not only does the investigator have to be prepared, but also the missionary. I have seen so many times on my mission where things are going great. We have work and are going along great. I begin to think I can just do everything on my own and don´t rely on the Lord like I should. That's when we lose everything. But the moment that I have sufficiently humbled myself and have just said "Okay. I can´t do this by myself. I don´t know what to do." That's when the Lord steps in and says "Are you ready? This is my work. Look, I have people waiting. If you will just learn a little patience and follow the spirit, I promise I will show you where they are." 

That's what happened this week!

Aida and her kids are the most special people. The kid´s father told them that he wants nothing to do with them if they are baptized. Aida said that she is firm in her decision and he walked away from their family. Aida is struggling with it but knows the church is true. She wants nothing more than for her kids to be baptized. And this Sunday they will be! WOOOO! They have been such a miracle in my life. I love them very much.

Remember the random call we got this week? Turns out to be three beautiful women. Maria Angeles is from Nicaragua and has been a member for 4 years. She moved here a month ago looking for work. She came with her sister, Grisel, who is ready to be baptized. She just needs to stop drinking coffee and she´ll be ready. She´s talked with missionaries for years and here in a new place and she is ready to make this big change. She also came with her best friend, Arely, who is from HONDURAS! She talked with missionaries about 3 years ago but was traveling a lot at the time and had to drop the church. She wanted to be baptized. So the two have baptismal dates for the 22 of June :) WOOHOO!

Then we found Walter and his son Jose Manuel. They are referrals from some members and LOVED church. Walter was so happy and I asked him "Walter, are we going to see you here every week?" He said "Yes of course! I want to belong to your church." What? 

I know the Lord prepares people. I know patience is a divine gift. It is something we have to develop. I love being a missionary. And I love you all!