Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Week 30: Christmas and a Wedding

Dearest family and friends,
 
First off, I LOVE you a lot!  It was heaven to talk to you on Christmas and see your cute faces.  I forgot to congratulate Rebekah on finishing her college applications (seriously, I remember that being a huge stress, but you did it!), but other than that I think we hit all the major news points.  Even more than that, thank you for your personal messages to me that I received in our Christmas multi-zone conference!  And the family photo was another wonderful surprise.  HOORAY that we get to be together for eternity!
 
So, here in Nicaragua, Christmas means fireworks, parties, and a big dinner.  Also, lots of alcohol, but let´s not focus on that. :)  Everything happens on the 24th leading up to midnight instead of in the morning on the 25th.  For Nicaraguans, the ¨cena¨ is a more common form of celebration than presents.  We had two Christmas dinners in a row, first with Santiago and Elizabeth, then with Hermana Gladys.  Wow, we were stuffed to bursting!  Traditional Christmas food is pollo relleno (you can look it up, I´m not sure everything that it includes).  It was a good day, although we didn´t work very effectively.
 
On the 25th, I Skyped the fam!  Thanks for being yourselves and being such great people.
 
The 26th was our multi-zone conference.  We listened to inspired messages by President and Sister Russell, then had a three-course meal in the cultural hall.  After that, we changed into ¨ropa P-day¨ and played volleyball and broom hockey, which was ridiculously intense and super fun.  Then we changed back to our missionary clothes and had a gift exchange, watched a slideshow of pictures of every missionary´s family, and received gifts from the mission.  You should have seen how excited that room of missionaries got when President Russell announced that each missionary would get his or her own jar of peanut butter and jelly!  Haha, we know how to party in Nicaragua Managua Sur!  But in addition to our sandwich fixings, we also received these cool carved wooden pencil / missionary name tag holders, 72-hour kits, and ziploc bags to protect our scriptures.  The gifts really were perfectly suited to our needs and very thoughtful, which I loved!  The other highlight of the multi-zone was seeing and talking to Hermana Richins again after over three months.
 
We got home from the multi-zone at 7:00 PM, and that´s when things get crazy.  We went to see if Elieth and Juan Carlos were home, since Elieth was our possibility for baptism on Saturday.  However, we had kind of given up on the chance that she would be baptized this week because her mom told us on Thursday that she wasn´t home and that she and Juan had gotten drunk to celebrate the 24th.  Wait, I already summarized this in my letter to President Russell, so let me just copy and paste to save time:
 
¨Elieth and Juan Carlos were super indecisive about the idea of marriage.  They wouldn´t give us a firm answer until Tuesday that they wanted to get married instead of separated.  To our deep disappointment, Juan Carlos drank guaro all last weekend after staying sober for a month, so we knew he would have to wait to be baptized. Then, we thought our baptismal candidate Elieth had fallen through on Thursday morning when we went to review the interview questions and her mother told us that she and her husband had celebrated the 24th by getting drunk (like the rest of Managua, it seems). However, on Friday night after the Multi-zona when we went to search for them one last time, we found out that Elieth was still clean with respect to the Word of Wisdom. One quick interview later, and we were left with a little under 20 hours to plan a wedding and a baptism! I was a world-class procrastinator before my mission, but with all the stress of these last-minute baptisms, I think I might return home forever cured of my bad habit.¨ :)
 
So, to spare you the stressful details of contracting a lawyer at 9:00 AM for a 5:00 PM wedding and buying a cake and decorations and searching for witnesses and finding baptismal clothes and reminding our investigators that they needed to go to church in the morning... Saturday happened, and Elieth and Juan Carlos got married!  How fitting that my first wedding in the mission should happen on Mom and Dad´s wedding anniversary?!  Then Elieth got baptized.  Ah, they were so happy.
 
Anyway, that was my week!  I hope yours was wonderful as well!
Love,
 
Hermana Hansen
 
Photos:
 
1) Christmas dinner number 1
2) Christmas dinner number 2 (note the looks of apprehension)


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Week 29: Stress ´n Blessin´s

Hola, Familia!

I think this week wins the prize as the most stressful week of my entire mission.  The good news is that with the greatest opposition come the greatest blessings!  Here we go with the ¨stress and blessings:¨

Blessing: Betania got baptized!  And she had the support of her father in the baptismal service, although hardly anybody came.

Stress: We couldn´t find Betania all week for her scheduled baptismal interview and were completely stressed out of our minds about it.  I had a great study of Jacob 5 and we talked in our companionship about how God is the Lord of the vineyard and that we can do all we can, but sometimes we have to work and prune and then wait a little longer for the good fruit to come.  Then on Friday night, one of the APs and one of our zone leaders came to work with us, and we finally located Betania at 8:50 PM.  After a speedy interview, the elders told us she´d be getting baptized at 9:00 the next morning.  Woohoo!  But the stressful part: finding her father to sign the baptismal record to give permission (she´s 17), calling the ward mission leader and the bishop (and we didn´t have ¨saldo¨ so we couldn´t call anyone), filling the font (and there were no keys, so we had to hop the glass and then the Elders helped us by filling countless garbage cans full of water and hauling them to the font to fill it in time), finding baptismal clothes, giving talks and a musical number, etc.... By 10:00 AM, we were completely exhausted, but happy.  And then we cleaned the church with sweet Geovanny (recent convert) for two hours.

Blessing: Miguel Briones continues to be a miracle.  On Thursday, he opens the gate with a big smile and his three grown children and wife all gathered to listen to us.  He read his pamphlet and the chapter we left him in the Book of Mormon.  He had good questions.  We felt the Spirit, and laughed, and committed them to come to church.  They fed us dinner and gave us cake because it was the son´s birthday.  And again on Sunday, he and his wife were all ready and were at church before we were.  Ahh, investigators like this make missionary work easy!

Stress:  We moved on Monday.  And we don´t know anybody who has a pickup truck, so we walked around in the street looking for pickups and asking if people would be willing to move our stuff if we paid them.  Talking to people is what missionaries do best!  Mission accomplished, and it was less painful than expected.  The new house is BIG and far away from the church and our lunch appointment.  It also smells like cigarettes.  But hey, it has TWO working sinks, which makes it the most luxurious place I´ve lived on my mission.  We had a hard time sleeping the first few nights because of the noise and smell and unfamiliarity of it all, but now we´ve basically adjusted.

Blessing:  We had a surprise Stake Christmas Music Fireside on Sunday.  Wow, it was powerful!  Forgive me for thinking Nicaraguans can´t sing. :)  The biggest highlight was seeing ¨mi gente¨ from Barrio Monte Fresco.  I got to see Yasmina (wife of Elmer) who got baptized after I got transferred.  Wow, she is so changed!  Before she was very emotionally guarded and rarely smiled.  Yesterday, she was the one who greeted me and gave me a big hug and smile.  AHHHH!  The gospel changes lives.  It makes us HAPPY!  Let it make you happy!

Stress:  We visited more less-actives this week, because the ward is seriously struggling with church attendance.  We learned some things that make our job a whole lot harder... but we´re going to press forward with faith.  The gospel is perfect, even if members and church leaders are not.  Hold fast to the scriptures, to prayer, and keep the faith!

Ah, so much more happened, and I can´t tell it all.  I guess we´ll have to wait until Thursday to fill you in on the rest!

I love you!!  Merry Christmas!

-Hermana Hansen

1) We found this giant, artistic Nativity scene in a house on a dirt road in the middle of Nicaragua.  Too bad the owners don´t want to come to church with us.

2) Betania´s baptism!

3) Happy birthday to my favorite little brother!  I hope you have a fantastic day!

4) Here´s my new bathroom!  The shower is basically like a strong drinking fountain, but at least there´s running water. :)



Monday, December 15, 2014

Week 28: And I`m back!

Hey, all!

So, the Lord loves us a lot.  We decided to look for the miracles this week instead of expecting disappointments.  As a result, it was a fantastic week!  We also had some major stresses/frustrations/sadnesses, but it`s all part of the process to help us become better missionaries and better people.

Miracles:

-Miguel Briones!  We contacted him in the street.  He`s about 50 years old and has attended church once before.  We set up a return appointment and asked us to bring a Book of Mormon.  The miracle part: when we went back for the return appointment, he was actually home!  And he was ready to receive us with his two grown daughters.  He hesitantly accepted a baptismal date for January 10th.  We haven`t taught him a lot yet and he couldn`t come to church because he had to work, but it was a tender mercy for us in the moment.

-Evelin Ruiz!  She`s been inactive for seven years and we just happened upon her house.  She let us in and was super happy to listen.  She said that she felt the Spirit when we were there, and that she missed that in her life.  Another tender mercy!

-Maura Artola!  She`s one of our investigators (about 50 years old) who had committed to come to church this week.  When we passed by on Sunday morning, she wasn`t going to come.  But we did all we could to get her excited about church and all the blessings she would receive for coming.  And then at 9:30... she walks into Sacrament Meeting.  Woohoo!


Funnies:

-We passed by Miguel and Clarissa`s house (an older less-active couple, the husband is blind.  The same one who had the injured toe several weeks ago, remember?)  and saw Clarissa trying to climb over the gate because it was locked from the inside and Miguel couldn`t find the key.  So I offered to hop the gate to help them out.  My companion boosts me up and Miguel tries to help me over from the other side.  The issue is this: I was wearing a skirt and Miguel is blind.  An awkward moment followed.  And in the end of it all, Miguel found the key on his own and the whole mission was for naught.  My companion couldn`t stop laughing.

-Hermana Gomez stepped on a giant dead rat and it was the grossest thing I`ve ever seen.

-Our ward mission leader invited us to his son`s sixth grade graduation party and asked me to give a spur-of-the-moment spiritual thought.  You might be surprised to know that ¨graduation¨ doesn`t appear in the topical guide... I settled on Ammon`s glorying in the Lord instead of boasting in his own strength.  I hope all of the non-member friends and family members present were inspired...  The mission teaches you to think on your feet!


Growth:

-It was interview week with President Russell!  I learned that I need to be more effusive.  You know that quote in Preach My Gospel by Elder Holland that says we need to be devastated when our investigators don`t keep their commitments?  In our mission, we call that ¨the show.¨ When people make good decisions, we get super excited and give them lots of praise.  When they don`t, we really show our disappointment.  They need to see how the Lord feels when we sin.  It`s something that has been hard for me to learn to do.  However, I followed President`s counsel and as a result, Maura came to church!  I realized that in order to be effective, we need to be willing to change.  Complacency = pride.  Pride impedes progress.  The Lord is most able and willing to work with us when we are humble and teachable.

-I went on divisions with the sister training leaders on Friday.  Ah, it was such a nice break to leave my area and not stress about the numbers or anything - just focus on preaching the gospel and learning from the example of my leaders!  Wow, these sisters are powerful.  They make missionary work look easy!  I came away with good ideas to put into practice in my own teaching and area.

Anyway, time to go because I have to move into a new house today.  That issue deserves its own hour of email time, it`s been such a complete headache and stress.  But the good news is, we are not homeless for another month or so until we get to move again.  Woohoo!

I love you lots!

-Hermana Hansen

P.S. I only took photos of houses this week... maybe I`ll include a couple photos of the bathrooms to give you a feeling for why I`ve been stressed this week.  Don`t worry, we`re not going to live in either of these places...

1) This one`s not bad.  The only problem is that we`d share it with four other people.

2) The shower of that same house.

3) The shower is behind that blanket on the left, but there`s only running water for a few hours in the middle of the night. And the toilet is brand new!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Week 27: Pura vida y purìsima‏

Dear family and friends,

Phew, it`s been a long week!  We`re working hard, but are struggling to see the blessings from our labor.  It`s all part of the process, I guess.  The Lord seeth fit to try our patience and our faith!  Afterwards, we receive the testimony (and the miracles, I hope!).  

But let`s focus on the positive!

- Hermana Gomez and I have broken through that initial companionship awkwardness and are now working in unity.  Adversity can bring you together! We joke and laugh and have some stellar practices in companionship study.  Whoo!

- We DIDN`T clean the church this week!  The young men banded together and gave the chapel a good scrubbing on Saturday morning.  Now if we can just figure out who we need to contact to order more toilet paper for the women`s bathroom...

- I took a trip to Costa Rica on Friday!  I`ve had visa problems, so I had to cross the border in order to be allowed to stay another 90 days while we wait for documents to arrive.  The power went out in all of Managua that morning, but we were still able to get up and out the door before 6:00 AM.  My companion went to work with the hermanas in Monte Fresco and I went with Hermana Betty (the missionary paperwork ninja of Central America) on a 3 hour school-bus ride to the border.  Basically, I spent twelve and a half hours sitting on buses and waiting in lines.  But hey, now I`m legal for another 3 months!  I gained a greater appreciation for the privilege it is to do missionary work every day, because it was pretty boring to not be able to study, teach, and contact.  The good part is that I got to talk with Hermana Betty.  Hermana Betty is a wonderful lady; faithful, knowledgeable, spirited, stubborn, and loving.  She`s one of the pioneers of Nicaraguan members!

Now the lows:

- We have one week left to find a new place to live.  It`s been a two and a half month process searching for a house to rent, still with no success.  It`s pretty much the biggest stress of my life right now.

- On Sunday, nobody came to church.  We had an all-time low church attendance of 61, and not a single one of the 16 investigators that we passed for on Sunday morning came.  Why?  La Purìsima.  It`s a celebration of la vìrgen Marìa and is basically grown-up trick-or-treating.  People wait in long lines all night and all day to get buckets of food (rice, beans, oil, sugar, etc.) and sing songs in front of shrines to honor the virgin Mary.  Also, there are lots of fireworks at all hours of the day and night.  Anyway, my companion and I felt basically destroyed after our 2-hour Fast Sunday morning hike to bring investigators to church only to have nobody there.  How is it that we can commit people to come to church all week, verify those commitments in every visit, and pass by on Saturday afternoon or evening and have people tell us that they are for sure going to be there on Sunday, and then everyone has an excuse in the morning?  What are we doing wrong?  Aaaahhh, patience!  It`s the hardest thing to develop, and the thing I think I have developed most on my mission.  Seems like the Lord would have me develop a little bit more!

I have faith that as we continue in diligence, obedience, and humility, the Lord will magnify our efforts and we will eventually see miracles according to His will.  He is always blessing us with miracles, but sometimes we`re not opening our eyes to see those miracles.

Anyway, sorry for the downer email.  I think I promised a more faith-promoting letter this week... whoops!  Next week I`ll tell you more about our investigators (when I`m not feeling quite so broken-hearted at their poor decisions).  Sometimes I want to yell, ¨Can`t you just understand that living the commandments will make you happy?¨ Agency is a crucial part of our Heavenly Father`s plan.  Obedience brings blessings, and disobedience leads to misery, but all of these consequences come in time!  Try it and you`ll see!

Well, I really love you all a lot and love to hear about your happy happenings!  Keep the faith!

Love,

Hermana Ali Hansen

Photos:

1) Thanksgiving round 2 with the hermanas of Monte Fresco!

2)  Christmas package and letter from Hermana Claire Forste (whom I love dearly and will soon find a way to send a letter back!!)

3)  Mi arbolito!  The best $4 I`ve ever spent - baby tree and lights with 8 different settings of flashing, fading, etc.  It makes me way too happy!



Monday, December 1, 2014

Week 26: ¡Felíz Acción de Gracias!

Hey, all!

This week´s email may be a short one, since I spent more time reading and responding to all your happy news and sweet emails.  I really do have the best family and friends!  Heavenly Father must love me a whole bunch!

So, transfers!  It was hard to say goodbye to Hermana Estrada after 12 weeks together.  Luckily, a thoughtful recent convert made sure to pray that I ¨would be able to survive the emotional trauma of separating from my beloved companion,¨ so I think I received extra blessings for that heartfelt prayer.  But seriously, it was a bittersweet parting as I sent her off to reunite with her family and meet my new companion.  We have become good friends!

My new companion is Hermana Gomez from Guatemala.  She has almost 5 months in the mission and is excited to work hard.  We´re still trying to get in the flow of teaching together, but it will come with time and practice!

Our new district is super ¨young¨... Hermana Gonzales and I both have 6 months and are the oldest in the mission.  The district leader just finished his training.  It´s good, because we´re all excited to work and progress!

We had a Thanksgiving dinner as a zone on Thursday, which was super fun.  It didn´t even make me trunky, because I realized that I only have one or two opportunities in my whole life to eat Thanksgiving dinner in Nicaragua instead of all the regular Thanksgiving traditions at home.  I´m definitely thankful for each one of you wonderful people and all that you add to my life!

Church cleaning has become a weekly service, but we´re trying to train the ward to do it and work ourselves out of a job. :)  This Saturday we were accompanied by Elizabeth and Yorlieth (the recent converts in last week´s photo) and it went a lot faster.  Woohoo!

Sorry for the lame email, I´ll try to be more inspiring / positive / eloquent next week.  But I´ll attach pictures now to make up for it!

Love you all immensely!

-Hermana Hansen


1) Further evidence that Nicaraguan niños are adorable!

2) District activity: cooking eggs over a fire in the mountains of the Elders´ area!

3) First photo together

4) Distrito Loma Fresca is full of ánimo!

5) Thanksgiving dinner close-up

6) Happy Thanksgiving from Hermana Hansen and Hermana Gomez!






Monday, November 24, 2014

Week 25: Placentero nos es trabajar...‏

Dear everyone,
 
´Twas a happy week here in Loma Linda!  With Hermana Estrada heading home this Wednesday, we really appreciated all the little things and felt the joy of being missionaries in Nicaragua.  On to the highs and the lows!
 
Highs:
 
-Gerald got baptized!  We almost didn´t have water for the service, and we had to do another 2-hour church cleaning session early on Saturday morning to prepare, but in the end, all was well.  ¨El Malo¨ (as his friends call him) entered the waters of baptism and made his first covenant with the Lord!
 
-Erwin is loving the Book of Mormon!  When we checked up on his progress, he had read 14 chapters in two or three days.  He gave a talk in Gerald´s baptism.  Pure missionary material, that kid!
 
-Bettania is the 18-year-old daughter of a recent convert of the elders in our ward.  She was interested in the church because her dad changed drastically for the better as he investigated and got baptized last month.  Bettania has attended other churches, but didn´t like the irreverence of the evangelical churches and wasn´t a fan of worshipping saints in the Catholic church.  Anyway, when we went back for our second appointment and asked her how she was doing with her prayers, she responds, ¨I feel totally strange when I pray to know if the church is true.  I get all warm from my head to my feet and my heart beats fast.  I think I´ve found the truth.¨ (Who volunteers to send that one to the Ensign for me?)  Ah, she is just my favorite!
 
-Zone meeting on Friday.  I teared up a little at the thought of Hermana Estrada leaving as we sang ¨Para Siempre Dios Esté Con Vos.¨  But also, I learned a lot about how to use the Book of Mormon in teaching and inspired questions.  Hence, I consider it a ¨high.¨
 
Lows:
 
-Some type of insect bit my foot and left it super swollen, red, and itchy for a few days.  Hermana Gladys named it ¨tortugita¨ (little turtle) and my district leader said it looked like a cupcake with the way it swelled up in my shoe.  The good news is, I took an allergy pill and the swelling went down after two days.  Also, Hermana Gladys is wonderful and made a foot soak out of mint leaves for me to use at night.
 
-This week in sacrament meeting, they forgot to assign people to give talks.  Without going into details about what happened next, suffice it to say that it was one of those ¨inner cringe¨ moments.  Sometimes learning to sustain your leaders is one of the hardest lessons in the mission.
 
-We set a goal to FINALLY meet the standards of excellence this week.  We had done all the math and knew how many people we needed to contact to meet the goal (we fell short in lessons with investigators and recent converts/less actives, but knew we could meet the goal for contacts).  Sunday night, we sit down to sum all the numbers, and... 167 contacts.  Standard of excellence? 168.  NOOOO!!!  We almost left the apartment to find one more person to contact, but decided that exact obedience and this lesson in humility were probably more important.
 
 
Anyway, I´m going to leave time for sending photos, so that´s going to be all for this week.  Don´t forget to do all the little things!  Choose the right way and be happy!  Grow those testimonies!  Give thanks!  Enjoy Thanksgiving for me!
 
Love,
 
Hermana Ali Hansen
 
Photos:
 
1) Los chavalos at Gerald´s baptism. 
2) This amazing lady is Hermana Gladys!  My little abuelita who makes us food twice a day.  She is feisty and loves to tease, but she always has besos, nicknames, and comebacks for us, her ¨niñas.¨  Hermana Gladys delights in the fatness of the missionaries who pass through this area... :))  <-- My double chin
3) The wonderful ward mission leader, Hermano Neftali, with his wife and family (and Jose Andres who popped in for the photo)
4) Santiago, Elizabeth, Yorliet, and Jose Andres, one of the recent convert families we visit.  They love to tease me. They´re also hilarious and strong in their testimonies.
5) Gerald´s baptism!
6) My turtle/cupcake foot






Monday, November 17, 2014

Week 24: Más chele...‏

Hey, family and friends!
So, this week: 
-Erwin got baptized!  The first time we tried to set a baptismal date with him, he told us his personal goal for baptism at the end of this year.  But with a little persuasion by us and mostly by the Spirit, he prepared for the 15th of November.  Erwin wanted to clean up his language before making this covenant, so we made him a cutesy sticker chart and he made his goal!  He´s a funny kid; when we asked him how he felt after his baptism, he responded, ¨Más chele.¨ or ¨More white/gringo.¨ And Jovany (who got baptized last month) gave a talk in Erwin´s baptism and made Hermana Estrada and I so proud!
-In the spirit of, ¨If you see something that needs to be done, just do it,¨ Hermana Estrada and I woke up early on Friday morning to clean the church.  After two hours of sweeping and mopping the hallways, we saw some major improvement and had blisters to show for it.  But we´re planning on going back one day this week with some members to give service and do a thorough cleaning of the chapel, classrooms, and bathrooms.
-We did a double take when we walked past our house on the way to our lunch appointment on Friday.  When we locked up in the morning, our house was red.  At noon, it was bright green.  I guess the landlord wanted a change and bought some paint...
-Sunday was so great!  Here´s why:
1) Eliet´s husband (who she´s not actually married to) came to church instead of spending the weekend drunk!  And he says he wants to change and accepted a baptismal date! 
2) Pedro (last week´s miracle contact) came!  We tried to contact him all week, but he was never home and doesn´t have a phone.  The bummer part is that he´s moving this week, but he plans to keep coming to church.  We´re going to pass the reference to wherever he goes, because this man needs to be baptized!
3) The talks in Sacrament Meeting were great!  And so was Gospel Principles!  Sometimes I steel myself for church because often the talks and lessons are prepared at the moment of delivery instead of in the days or weeks beforehand, and you´re never sure what´s going to be said that might scare your investigators away (or bore them).  But this week, the speakers testified of the Book of Mormon and family history in an interesting and approachable way.  Gospel Principles was on the Restoration and the teacher encouraged class participation.
-Nicaragua is beautiful.  I just never get over the sky, the green, the view of the lake and the volcanoes, the huge clouds, the colorful houses.... ahhh.  Literally, there are butterflies that flutter through the streets.  And there´s also a lot of dirt, garbage, and dog poop, but I still find it gorgeous!
I´m out of time, so I´ll attach a few photos and be done.  But I love you all and I love this work!  Make no mistake, it´s definitely work, but it´s worth it!
Love,
Hermana Hansencita
1) The crazy district!
2) Erwin´s baptism!
3) We had to go from the church to the mission office for Hna. Estrada´s final interview, and we didn´t have umbrellas, so we improvised.





Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Week 23: El poder de un contacto


To my wonderful family and friends:

Hey, it´s Monday again!  How does time pass so quickly in the mission?  I feel that I am not taking full advantage of every minute, and it stresses me out!

But really, I´m happy and learning, so it´s all good.  And now, on to the news, bullet-point style:

-The Relief Society put on a baby shower for a sister in the ward this Saturday.  When we first arrived (at 3:05 for the 3:00 shower), nobody was there.  So we dropped off our plates and cups and went to do some contacting.  At 3:45 when we returned, there were some sisters and some food and a few gifts, but no decorations or games.  The Relief Society president turns to us and says, ¨The sister missionaries are going to help us get started.¨ Turns out that we´re pretty good at teaching the gospel, but not so adept at throwing spur-of-the-moment baby showers.  So we sang a hymn, shared a spiritual thought, and asked the other sisters to share parenting advice.  After that, Vanessa and Lucia took over with the toilet-paper belly measuring and I imagine the group enjoyed the food after we had to leave for our other teaching appointments.  Awkward to the max!  Future missionaries, prepare yourselves with a few baby shower games, okay?

-The good thing about having a companion that´s about to ¨die¨ is that members want to invite us to eat with them.  We made tajadas with a less-active sister this week, and we have plans for other dinners.  Whoo!

-Sometimes the ever-present mission tiredness gets the better of us and results in hilarious moments.  This week Hermana Estrada invited an investigator to get baptized on April 6th instead of December 6th.  Also, she fell asleep in a prayer and said ¨amen¨ before the recent convert had finished praying.  The good news is that we were able to fix both situations as well as have a little laughing fit (I´m telling you, the sleepiness is SO real!).

-There are days when all of your appointments fall through for five hours straight.  But there are also days when your ward mission leader accompanies you for six hours.  The ups and downs of mission life.

-Had some important lessons with recent converts this week and committed them to come to church.  And we get so excited and feel the Spirit and can see that they´re feeling it too, and then they don´t show up on Sunday.

-Have I ever mentioned how often we find less actives while contacting?  It happens at least once a week.  Not sure why I felt the need to tell you all that...

-MIRACLE TIME!  We were looking for the house of a contact we had made in the street earlier in the week and had set up an appointment.  However, it was starting to get dark and we were in an area that´s supposedly dangerous at night.  I was focused on finding this house, having a quick lesson, and getting ourselves out of there.  We asked a man sitting in his hammock if he knew where these people lived.  He said no, so we thanked him and casually invited him to church (one more tally mark in our daily contacts).  He asked us more details about when and where, and we answered practically over our shoulders as we hurried on our way.  Fast forward to Sunday morning: I´m sitting at the piano in Sacrament Meeting and I see a man walk in and sit in the same pew as my companion.  She asks me at the end of the meeting, ¨Do you recognize him?¨ Nope.  But we talk to him in Gospel Principles to set up an appointment, and he tells us some of the details of his difficult life.  He has many vices and feels hopeless, but wants to change.  He says, ¨I was praying to God to help me, and then you passed by and invited me to church.  I´ve never been to a church before, even though my sister always invites me to her Evangelical church.  I knew you were an answer to my prayers.¨ Okay, one day I´ll learn to follow the promptings of the Spirit.  Until then, Heavenly Father will just help those people find their way to church so we can teach them.  Wow, He loves His children so much!  Pedro now has a baptismal goal for December 13th.

-I decided that a major part of serving a mission is learning how to deal with adversity.  You experience physical discomfort (sun, humidity, ever-present intestinal issues, bug bites, over-eating, hunger, back or foot pain, sore muscles, fatigue, etc.) and emotional/spiritual discomfort (rejection, investigators who don´t keep commitments, appointments that fall through, stress to reach numbers goals, sorrow at watching people deal with vices or family problems, homesickness, testimony-trying moments, language frustration).  But you learn to keep your chin up and keep working your hardest to fulfill your duty to your Heavenly Father.  And you learn to notice the hundreds of ways He is blessing you in His work.  You learn to study the scriptures and pray out of necessity to help these people you love and also to find solace and answers yourself.  Missionary problems are far different and sometimes I think easier than ¨normal life¨ problems, but they are helping me learn to rely on the Lord, keep His commandments, and endure to the end.

So keep on keeping on, everyone!  I know life is not easy, but it´s sure a whole lot easier when we live the gospel.  Make time for the Lord, and watch Him bless you!

Love,

Hermana Ali Hansen

Photos:

1) Nicaraguan children are adorable.  Even if they don´t smile for pictures.  Meet Magaby, daughter of recent converts Alondra and Reynaldo.

2) Fernanda and Maura, daughters of less-actives.  Maura is the cutest/most talkative/most mischievous child I have met in Nicaragua.  Dad, you would get such a kick out of hearing this kid talk!

3) Pops!  P-day ice cream with Hermanas Grow and Carranza from the zone.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Week 22: Tengo gozo en mi alma hoy!‏

Dear family and friends,

Ah, another week has flown by!  Let`s see how many stories I can tell you in the remainder of my email time:

1) I learned this week the power of companionship unity!  Our district leader`s message in Friday`s district meeting centered around this topic, and it was definitely inspired.  Hermana Estrada and I were able to talk openly afterward, and now we`ve reached that level of friendship and trust that helps us work together toward the same goals, share the stress, and invite the Spirit in our lessons.  Seriously, it`s been like someone turned on a light in our companionship.  So hey, everyone, don`t forget to communicate!  Help your companion, and let your companion help you!  Unity invites the Spirit!

2) We went on divisions with two sisters in the ward to help us find new investigators and lessen the stress of meeting the numbers goals.  Wow, let me say one more time how much I love working with members!  I was with Vanessa, who just submitted her mission papers.  We visited a less-active who Vanessa knew from a few years before in Young Womens, but who stopped coming to church when she became a teenage mother and some members said horrible things.  Vanessa was able to share her testimony as we read in the Book of Mormon, and the less-active sister cried and said she would come to church this week.  Better yet, she actually came!  Other things we learned from doing divisions: 1) tons of ward gossip (that`s a huge thing in Central America, it seems), 2) confidence in my ability to teach, find, and do other missionary things on my own, and 3) where a bunch of less actives and past investigators live.

3) We were contacting one day and started talking to a family about prophets.  At first, they were asking good questions, but within a couple of minutes we realized they were super firm Jehovah`s Witnesses.  We would have closed the lesson quickly (that`s really not going to lead to baptism and is not a very good use of our time), but then the wife comes out with these delicious sweet bread things hot from the oven.  So we enjoyed our heavenly bread as these two men got their game faces on and pulled out a bunch of scriptures, and we calmly answered with our own scriptures, testimonies, and invitations to read, pray, and come to church.  But it was actually really interesting to hear their ideas of what`s going to happen after we die and so forth.  And even more testimony-building for me to realize that we don`t have to search for obscure scriptures to interpret in a way that upholds our religion, or get all worked up and contentious to defend it, because it`s simply TRUE!

4) Jason, Gerald, and Erwin (14-year-old soccer buddies) are progressing nicely in their testimonies, even though sometimes we want to smack them with our hard-cover Libros de Mormon because they`re afraid to commit when they know it`s true.  Comments from Jason: ¨Do I have to get baptized to be a member of the church?  Like, if I don`t get baptized on the 15th of November, can I keep coming to church?¨ Comments from Gerald:¨What if the person baptizing me drops me? Or we both faint, or smack our heads on the wall, and we drown?¨ Comments from Erwin: ¨I can`t go to church today, because my eye is still swollen from getting hit in the soccer game the other day and it`s too embarrassing for people to see me.¨  We do our best to maintain composure, resolve their concerns, and help them recognize the Spirit and the importance of keeping commitments.  I see some major missionary material, they just need to recognize it and hearken unto the voice of the Spirit!  (Apparently the Lord is preparing a lot of 14-year-old boys in Loma Linda to hear the gospel right now...)

5) Not every moment is Ensign-worthy.  Our hearts broke this week as we found out about a pornography addiction with one of our investigators.  Another recent convert is addicted to illegal drugs.  But I`ve been learning a lot about the Atonement and repentance in my personal study.  There`s nothing more wonderful than recognizing the healing that is available to us as we apply the sacrifice of the Savior in our lives.  I knew the gospel was true before coming on a mission, but these experiences have put that testimony to the test and are teaching me how to really APPLY these principles.

Anyway, enough of the novel for this week.  I love you lots!  The gospel is true!  Don`t stress, don`t compare yourself to others, and be obedient!

Love you!

-Hermana Hansen

Photos:

1) Happy Hallo-Birthday, Mom!
2) Divisions with Vanessa!  (Please excuse the grease and lighting and red eyes and everything... missionary work is glamorous!)
3) My companion with Lucia, sister of Vanessa




Monday, October 27, 2014

Week 21: Pon tu hombro a la lid


Dear family and friends,

Ahh, it´s a good day to be a missionary!  I feel like we´re finally gaining traction here in Loma Linda (after 8 weeks) and the Lord is blessing us with the fruit from our more dedicated effort this week.  But first, let´s start with the low moments and end on a high note, shall we?

Bad news: It turns out that a little hydrogen peroxide and Neosporin are not sufficient protection for an open wound in Nicaragua.  My scraped leg got infected.  I´ll spare you the gory details, but for about three days it burned from the outside, hurt from the inside, and excreted pus.  Sorry, no pictures! :) Not to worry, it´s almost 100% healed now after more disinfecting stuff, Neosporin, and prayers.

The sadder part is that I let myself wallow in self-pity on Thursday and was thinking a lot more about myself than my investigators, my companion, our recent converts, and my calling as a missionary.  It was a hard lesson to learn at the end of the day when I realized that I had used fatigue, pain, and whatever other selfishness as an excuse to not give the Lord my all.  But as horrible as that feeling was, it was the motivation I needed to repent and rededicate my efforts to serve the Lord with all of my heart, might, mind and strength.  I´m so grateful for the Atonement and the divine gift of repentance.  As a result, we saw miracles this week!

High points: Sunday!  We had a record number of investigators, recent converts, and overall attendance at church.  I´m not sure exactly what changed to bring about this miracle, but I do know that the Lord magnified our efforts and blessed us with additional tender mercies.  I know without a doubt that He loves His children.  

One of these miracles is Sonia, who turns 45 this Tuesday.  We contacted her last Saturday when she was standing at her gate.  We approached her and asked how she was, because she looked really sad.  She told us that her daughter is in prison and some other sad things.  We shared our testimonies that God loves her, along with a scripture, a prayer, and the invitation to come to church.  When we passed by the next morning for church, she wasn´t there.  We returned later in the week for our scheduled return appointment, and she wasn´t there again, but her daughter let us in and we had a quick lesson.  The faithless part of me was ready to write Sonia off as another dead-end contact, but miraculously, I saw her and her daughter walk into the chapel from my spot at the piano in Sacrament Meeting yesterday.  She had a fever and headache, but decided to come anyway and stayed for all three hours.  Both she and her daughter loved everything about church and easily accepted a baptismal date in our appointment later that afternoon!  Yep, those miracles really do exist, o ye of little faith (cough, Hermana Hansen)!

We´ve seen more success as we worked with members and got closer to meeting the mission´s established standards of excellence this week.  We´re learning how to be more brief and powerful in lessons, using our time more effectively and concentrating on smaller parts of the area instead of losing time walking from place to place.  The Lord is definitely preparing hearts, we just need to have the focus, love, and patience to find, teach, and baptize these people!

I love you tons and pray for your eternal happiness!  Don´t forget to remember the Savior this week and apply the Atonement in your life.  

Love, 

Hermana Hansen

(Lame) photos:


1) (From last week) Elder Shepherd´s only towel got sent back in my laundry and he had transfers, poor kid.  No worries, he and his towel have now been happily reunited.

2) Church bathroom selfie after getting caught in the pouring rain.  And you can´t really tell how wet we are, but it´s the only picture I took this week...