Monday, December 7, 2015

Week 79 (FINAL WEEK): Placentero Nos Es Trabajar

Dear Family and Friends,

WOW.  There are no words to accurately explain the thoughts and emotions one experiences at the end of a mission.  My heart is SO full as I write this!  I know that I cannot do it justice, because I am ¨not mighty in writing.¨  Perhaps you could read Alma 29 or Alma 17 to understand a little of what I´m feeling.

To be honest, this week was pretty difficult at the beginning.  We battled negativity from all sides - investigators who hid from and lied to us, members who informed us that they no longer desire to visit church or be visited by missionaries, and our own negative thoughts creeping in.  BUT I can testify of the hope that our faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement gives!  Later in the week, we were smiling and feeling that perfect brightness of hope that the scriptures promise us when we put our trust in Jesus Christ.  Satan is battling hard.  That doesn´t matter when we´re on the Lord´s team!

I am humbled as I reflect on the past 18 months that I have had the privilege to serve as a representative of Jesus Christ.  I have witnessed His hand in countless ways.  I have seen people´s lives and hearts change as they accept and live His gospel.  I have experienced His tender mercies and ennabling grace in my own life.  I know He lives!  I sometimes feel overwhelmed by my own imperfections, but I know that with Him I can be made whole.

I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to meet the people I have met and share in their lives.  I am thankful for companions, leaders, members, and friends who have inspired and instructed me.  I love each one of YOU family members and friends who have supported and loved me in countless ways.

I testify that THIS IS THE TRUTH.  Jesus Christ is the savior and redeemer of the world, which means he is the personal savior of each of us.  Jesus Christ restored His church and His priesthood authority through the prophet Joseph Smith.  The Book of Mormon is the word of God.  God has a plan for each one of us and has provided the way to return to Him by making and keeping covenants.  The Holy Ghost is real and he is always available to comfort, guide, and teach us.  

The mission has tested me more than I ever imagined.  My joy has been exquisite, as has been my pain.  These are sacred experiences I will use as a foundation for the rest of my life.

All nostalgia aside, I know that the mission is not the end.  I´m not dying!  I´m just moving on to another phase of service in the Lord´s vineyard.  He expects us to keep progressing ALWAYS.  And I´m excited about that!

I love these Nicaraguans!  I love each of you.  I love my Savior.  

Until we meet again,

Hermana Hansen

Photos: So sad to pack!
With Monica, a recent convert who is awesome at working with the sister missionaries!
With Mirella and her girls
Zone photo
Funny photo
Nica photo

Monday, November 30, 2015

Week 78: I Stand All Amazed‏

Dearest Loved Ones,
Happy Thanksgiving!  I give thanks for each of you.  I also am thankful for the wonderful privilege to be a full-time missionary teaching the restored gospel of Jesus Christ!
Sorry for the trunkiness of last week`s email.  This week I successfully ¨forgot¨ that I was getting close to the end of my mission and worked like I know how to work!  I was much happier and enjoyed the moments more.
We were blessed to find many positive new people to teach, among them a few families!  I want to tell you about Teresa and Marlon.  We were going for a return appointment with a different investigator, but she wasn`t there.  Therefore, we contacted another house on the street, and Teresa invited us in.  She`s a young college student with a ¨husband¨ (they`re not married) and a 3-year-old son.  From the start, it was easy to see that she is intelligent and curious.  She accepted the invitation to go to church and get baptized.  When we returned the next day, she had read her whole pamphlet of the restoration and her comment was, ¨I guess I need to get a Book of Mormon then, because it says here that I can know the truth of the message if I read and pray about this book.¨ Okay, we`d love to help you out with that!  She has continued to read and has a lot of questions.  She attended church on Sunday!  We`re just working on helping her gain a testimony in her HEART instead of only an intellectual acceptance of the gospel.
On Thursday, we had a quick Thanksgiving lunch as a zone in a little restaurant.  It was fun and I was grateful to share it with a small part of my mission family!
On Friday morning, I had my final interview with President Russell.  It didn`t feel like I thought it would... I don`t think it`s sunk in yet that I`m leaving.  I have moments (mostly before bed) when I think about it a lot, but it stresses me out, so I try to avoid it.  I am FAR more terrified of leaving the mission than I ever was to come!
We continue to struggle to bring investigators to church.  It was heartbreaking to have found so many positive investigators only to have most of them fall through on Sunday.  Well, if it`s not hard, we`re not learning, right?  We`re NEVER done progressing.  Don`t get complacent!  The Lord keeps His promises when we are obedient.  And sometimes, even when you`re obedient, you have to trust in the Lord`s timing.  I have felt the confirming and comforting witness of the Holy Ghost this week.  I hope you have too!
Sending BIG hugs and much love from Nicaragua!
-Hermana Hansen
With the gigantona... I think someone gets inside of this and dances?  Never actually seen it performed, but the costume was outside of a recent convert`s house, so we took a picture.

Week 77: Come Unto Jesus, Ye Heavy Laden!‏

Dearest everyone,
Let`s jump in with both feet!
- Tuesday: Fulfilled a mission bucket list item by visiting the fancy hospital in Managua with Hermana Lord!  No worries, we just went for a  doctor`s appointment and chest x-ray for a persistent cough that Hna. Lord has had for the past month and a half.  Now she has a bunch of pills to take that we hope are working!
- Our biggest challenge right now is helping investigators to stay positive and interested for more than one or two visits.  It`s not hard to find new people and have them commit to come to church and get baptized in the first appointment, but the next time we pass by they remember that they`re Catholic or that they work every Sunday or they just hide from us.
- Hna. Boulton and Hna. Hancock didn`t have electricity in their apartment for three days, so they slept over at our house for two nights.  Fun!  We took turns sleeping on the floor.
- The sweetest less-active-becoming-active family invited us over for dinner on Friday!  It touched me to see how meticulously they cleaned their tiny house, set a table with a white tablecloth, wore nice clothes, and prepared a simple meal of pasta, rice, platanos, and a little piece of chicken for us.  They were positively beaming as we raved about the food and watched us eat each bite.  Oh, I love these loving people!
- My companion is wonderful.  She pep-talked me through a major self-doubt session.  It`s hard to get to the end of your mission.  Being me, I started to overthink everything and wonder if I`ve made a difference in anybody`s life or improved as a person myself.  What I`m learning is to TRUST in the Lord and in His timing.  Numbers aren`t everything.  If you want to see a change, then change!  Life is a process, and it`s not over yet, so don`t stress!
- Funnies: I fist bumped a 95-year-old man and held hands with a monkey.  Also, we recently dropped investigators named Elmo, Jibreska, and Walmaro.  Tell me you don`t wish you were Nicaraguan to have a name as cool as that!
- Quote from my companion: ¨I just don`t know what I should do with my hands at the second coming.¨  Please send me your best suggestions!
I know that the gospel is true and that the Savior offers healing to each one of us if we just let Him in!  Don`t stop studying the scriptures... ever!
I love you!
-Hermana Hansen
Photos (I apologize in advance for my inability to take selfies):

Our cute little district family!
District picnic at la Makina, a cool waterfall
At the hopsital!  I felt like I was in the States, it was so nice!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Week 76: Stop the clock!‏

Dear family and friends,
Wow.  It`s Monday, yet again!  If I start thinking about how fast the time is going, it makes me a little sick to my stomach.  I`m sad and scared to leave the mission bubble!  Good thing I love you all a lot, because otherwise I`d probably spend the rest of my life in Nicaragua.
Let´s go backwards to see how much I can remember from this week:
Today, it was our zone`s turn to have interviews with President Russell!  It was my shortest interview ever.  Basically, ¨Keep working hard.  Be tough on your investigators.  Bring people to church.¨  And we passed our apartment cleaning check to receive brownies from Hermana Russell!
Yesterday, we had some miracles at church.  One of them was Mirella.  We had given her one last chance before dropping her, since she`s been an eternal investigator since February yet still doesn`t keep her commitments consistently and can`t get baptized until her husband`s divorce comes through.  On Wednesday, she told us adamantly she wasn`t coming to church.  As we left, we said, ¨We´ll see you on Sunday!  We know you`ll make a good decision!  We love you!¨  Then no contact with her until we arrive at church to find her sitting in sacrament meeting in a skirt (first time wearing a skirt!).  I love her!
Another miracle: José Amilcar.  We passed by to bring Maria Fernanda to church (she`s actually super awesome and reads and has a testimony of Joseph Smith) but she was hiding from us.  Her ¨brother-in-law¨ of sorts comes out as we`re waiting at the door, so we say somewhat jokingly, ¨I guess you`ll just have to come to take her place!¨  And he actually came!  We went to his house later and he was simply grinning from ear to ear.  He loved church and feels that God called him to make a change in his life, so he easily accepted a baptismal date for December 19th!
Friday: We did divisions with the Sister Training Leaders.  I was with Hermana Hancock in her area.  She has such a laid-back personality and we had fun working hard together.  
Also on Friday, we had a great district meeting on helping our investigators to recognize the promptings of the Spirit.  I noticed a lot more the presence of the Holy Ghost in our teaching and throughout the day.  In the past few days, I`ve learned a LOT about how to recognize and follow the Spirit!  Why did it take me so long?!
Well, I love you lots and I have so much more I would love to say, but the time escapes me!
Remember to read your scriptures and pray, pray, pray!
-Hermana Hansen

P.S.  Did I ever mention that Hermana Lord is basically the same person as Angie Arnoldsen?  Can I even tell you how hard that makes it to focus, walking around all day with your best friend?!  Ang, I can`t wait for you two to room together at Snow!

Transportation photos in a mototaxi!  I love Nicaragua!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Week 75: Take a Hike!‏

Dearest everyone,
I love each of you!  Thank you for your righteous examples and for fighting hard as part of the Lord`s army.  You inspire me!
Remember how life is a series of ups and downs?  That does not cease to be true.  After baptizing a positive, progressing investigator pool, often you go through a more active finding stage.  We found several positive-looking investigators this week, and randomly, most of them had already received missionaries and attended church previously.  However, most of them did not come to church on Sunday despite our best efforts to commit strongly and verify during the week.  I had the following thought: Sometimes, the mission feels like getting dumped by your boyfriend EVERY WEEK.  You`re left wondering, ¨What went wrong?  Just yesterday we were feeling the Spirit and smiling and planning on going to church together, and now you`re hiding from me!¨ Well, at least I`m learning to be more emotionally resilient!
The best part about serving a mission in Nicaragua is that when you feel sad after disappointing situations, you can take a hike through the rainforest (which is really just your area) and contact new people, enjoying the nice weather and the flora and fauna.
Hermana Lord and I have been enjoying missionary lightbulb moments about the Plan of Salvation and how very important the principles of agency and obedience are.  Also, in my personal study, I reviewed chapter five of Preach My Gospel about the Book of Mormon, especially its relationship with the Bible.  Wow, I really love the scriptures!  Side note: I invite you to read the book of Acts.  It`s excellent.
I`ve remembered this week the importance of progress and repentance.  We can`t remain discouraged when we think of all the things we`re doing wrong or need to do better.  We just need to repent!  Change can be hard, but it is so necessary.  It is so possible!  Remember that you are a work in progress.  Everyone you meet is a work in progress.  Therefore, work on your own progress and help someone else in their progress as well!
Sorry to not be very specific this week.  The mission is still the best thing I`ve ever experienced!  I love you all!
-Hermana Hansen

It`s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!  Man, I love being a missionary for the following reason: when a picture looks awkward, you can always grab a Book of Mormon and it`s instantly solved!  But in all seriousness, it`s one of the best gifts that God has given us!
Have a happy Nica Christmas!

Week 74: There is Sunshine in my Soul!‏

Dearest everyone,

Could there be any greater happiness than being a missionary?  There are so many things to smile about!  Here are a few of them:

- My new companion is Hermana Lord from Orem!  I met her when she was ¨born¨ in Granada eight months ago.  She went to Mountain View High School and we have mutual friends.  She also was Hermana Quezada´s companion for two changes, so we have a lot in common.  This hermana is so positive, hardworking, obedient, and just a general joy to be around.  Our biggest problem is remembering that we have to stop talking so we can go to bed!  We´ve seen miracles in our first few days together and are excited to keep working to see more.

- Angela got baptized!  There are not words to describe how wonderful and complete her conversion has been.  It was a very sacred experience for me to be a small part of it.  I was so sad that Hna. Garfield couldn´t be there!  As we took the mototaxi to her baptism, Angela leans over to me and says with a contented smile, ¨Hermana, I feel certain of what I´m going to do.¨  In her confirmation the next day, she cried.  Then she passed to the front to bear her testimony later in the meeting and I was crying with her.  There is no greater joy than participating or witnessing true repentance!

- On Wednesday, Hna. Lord and I were walking down the street at 8:30 PM and both felt the impression to stop at a certain house.  We yelled ¨buenas,¨ and a middle-aged woman let us in.  Within a few minutes, we learn that she and her daughter attended church several years ago and were receiving the missionaries, but the missionaries had changes so they never got baptized.  But they´re excited to learn more and come back to church!  They quickly accepted a baptismal date and a return appointment.  I´m here to testify that Engisn moments really do happen!

- The mission opened a new area in our zone that has never had missionaries before.  The four elders there will be bringing their investigators to our branch for a few weeks until there are some newly baptized members, at which point they will be starting a nucleus (smaller than a branch) that meets in their home.  It´s incredibly exciting to see 27 new investigators at church from an area that has never known anything about ¨the Mormons!¨  The Lord is hastening His work!

- We´re continuing to see progress with many of our less-actives, thanks to support from the branch and also pure tender mercies of the Lord. I never knew the thrill I would have to see people at church!

Well, I´m getting low on time, so I´ll finish up.  Please remember that I share the good moments with you, so don´t feel jealous or think that missions are just one big conglomerate of happy endings.  We´ve also cried with a recent convert family who has left the church completely and asked that we never visit again.  We were lied to by several investigators, and yelled at by their family members, and catcalled in the streets.  We felt hungry, and tired, and apathetic at times.  We didn´t meet the standards of excellence for investigators at church.  Yet overall, in this moment I feel happy to be an instrument in the Lord´s hands.  I know He directs every aspect of this work!  I´ve said it dozens of times, but it does not cease to be true!  He is always pleased with our efforts, but He is never satisfied.  We are never finished progressing - isn´t that a happy thought?

I love you and I love the gospel!  Remember to live it!

-Hermana Hansen

photos: The sisters in our district - all of us Utah Mormons!  In front of the house that will soon be the nucleus of San Rafael del Sur!


Monday, October 26, 2015

Week 73: Baptism and Multi-Mission‏

Dear family and friends,

I cannot believe how time is flying!  How is it even possible that Monday has come again?!

Let´s talk about the best news of the week: Luis Ivan got baptized!!  He is such a good man.  For the past five weeks, he has come to church early on his bicycle with his four-year-old daughter Rosita sitting on the middle bar.  We spent time on Monday and Wednesday running around trying to gather the final papers for his wedding only to find out on Thursday that Rosa is cheating on him and drinking alcohol, so he opted to separate rather than get married.  Oh, disobedience to the commandments ruins families and breaks hearts!  But Hno. Luis is so humble and faithful, and he loves his little girl.  Rosita refuses to stay with anybody else during the day, so he has had to take her to his night job guarding a ¨finca¨ (little ranch/orchard/farm thing) where she sleeps on the floor.  Luis arrived early to his baptism and brought his 84-year-old father.  It was a short and sweet service.  Angela, his neighbor and our investigator, came to see!  Her comment to us afterward warmed my heart as well: ¨Thank you for not giving up on me.¨ And all the ward keeps asking her when she´s getting baptized, too!  She answers, ¨¡Ya pronto!¨ (Soon!)

The other major thing that happened this week was another multi-mission conference (North and South), this time with Elder Steven E. Snow and his wife, accompanied by Brother Turley, both from the Church History Department.  They talked about the importance of keeping a record of our missions, learning from every experience, and gaining a greater vision of the work.  I loved what Elder Snow said: we should not get caught up in the everyday chores of missionary work.  If we increase our faith, we will find the people who are prepared!

Here´s the crazy/wonderful part of the multi-mission conferece: We had to board the bus with the rest of the zone at 4:30 AM.  We got to the church in Managua at 5:50 AM.  Therefore, we had four hours to catch up with other missionaries and study scriptures before the 10:00 conference!  I got to see, hug, and talk to Hna. McArthur, Hna. Quezada, Hna. Alexa Ortiz from OHS, Hna. Lord, Hna. Lagos, Hna. Reeve, and more!  I love those women!  And guess what... Ligia got baptized in Las Flores!

We´re randomly having a bunch of less-actives that we´ve visited start coming to church again!  And one of these humble families received the blessings right after they obeyed: they came home from church and someone gave them a chicken.  Be obedient and the blessings come!

A few quick funny moments to share before I sign off:

-As we waited outside the church for Angela to come to the baptism, a semi truck rolled by.  I noticed it had a circus logo on it.  The back of the truck was just a bar cage and contained at least three lions and a leopard.  Hna. Garfield and I just stared at the truck and then at each other... what in the world?!  Just another day in Nicaragua!

-On Sunday evening, we went to visit an investigator (an adult man) who hadn´t gone to church.  I saw him peek out behind the door as we climbed the steps.  He immediately turned and ran down the hall to hide from us. ¨Buenas!  Buenas!  BUENAS!" Nothing.  I was laughing too hard to be frustrated!

-It started POURING rain at 8:50 one night as we headed home.  We flat-out ran about four blocks to our house and probably looked pretty awesome in the process.

-While contacting a man holding a large chicken: ¨My sister just gifted me this chicken.  What a blessing from God, right?  Here, hold it!  Heft it!"  Okay... so I held the chicken. Wow, not going to lie, that is quite a nice, plump, heavy chicken!  I love Nicaragua.

Life is great and I´m loving the mission!  I know that God has prepared His children to hear this message - it´s just up to us to be obedient, work hard, and have the faith to find them!

Love you all!

-Hermana Hansen

Photos: Luis´ baptism!

Volleyball with the zone in our matching shirts!