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!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Week 72: Mud and Miracles‏

Dear Family and Friends,
It´s been raining here in Diriamba - and that means mud.  And also rainbows.  Literally and figuratively speaking.
Here are the mud moments:

- Angela didn´t get baptized this week.  I probably shouldn´t explain all the details because this is going on the internet.  But the good news is that repentance is the second principle of the gospel, and we´ll all be learning a lot about how to apply that in the next two weeks as we continue to prepare for her baptism!
- Two other baptismal candidates for this Saturday no longer want to receive us or keep their commitments.
- I wore out another pair of shoes to the point that they`re no longer wearable.
Here are the rainbows:
- Luis Ivan´s divorce should be completed today!  We had some more adventures in the alcaldía (Nicaraguan city hall?) searching dusty books of divorce records and so forth.  Now all should be ready for his wedding and baptism this Saturday!
- I was desperately tired one night as we walked home one night and was dreading the thought of washing my other pair of very muddy shoes.  We walked into the house and started up the stairs when our landlady says, ¨Your shoes are on the landing.  I washed them for you.¨ Oh, I could have kissed that angelic Catholic lady!  It was the perfect service.  And then she did it again last night!

- We heard that our investigator Mirella was in the hospital, and the hospital is in our area, so we went to see her.  Nicaraguan hospitals are such an adventure... we walked around and looked for her, but she had already left.  We went to her house while it was raining, and she was obviously touched that we had made the effort to cross the slippery, muddy path to get there and also that we had tried to visit in the hospital.  She paid better attention than ever before as we taught another part of the restoration.  I definitely felt the Spirit!

- I`ve been working on lesson plans about the five most common doubts of investigators here in Nicaragua (a little booklet our mission gave us at the last multi-zone) and have been learning and applying a lot!  I would suggest this exercise to anyone who wants to strengthen their testimony: make a list of doubts that you or someone else might have about the gospel, then center your scripture study around solving those doubts.  Lesson plans are the best!!
- I never mentioned this before, but during the entirety of this transfer I`ve been struggling with lingering chikungunya pain in my feet, hands, and knees.  It was unbearable in the mornings and got better later in the day.  My knees especially were suffering all day long.  But this week, the pain has diminished to the point that I almost don´t feel it!  A HUGE blessing!

- Did divisions with Hna. Boulton, one of the sister training leaders.  Since the STLs are in our district, it makes divisions SO easy - no travel, no sleeping in someone else´s bed!  I had fun working with her and taking a break from my own investigator stresses to work in someone else´s area for a day.
- We had some sacred experiences with Angela this week.  She has borne her testimony to us and continues to read the Book of Mormon daily.  I am learning SO much about the Savior´s Atonement and His perfect love for us.  Salvation is not easy, but it´s worth it!
Time is up, but I hope you know that I know the gospel is true.  It is meant to be applied, not just studied or heard.  Don´t forget to pray, to read, to repent, and to give an accounting to the Lord every night!  I promise He will bless you with increased confidence in your testimony.  He will help you to change.
I love you!
-Hermana Hansen

Celebrating Hna. Tadeo´s 18 months!  I promise I`m not actually biting that elder´s head in the funny photo, it just looks like it.
Will you still love me if my legs look like this? :)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Week 71: Disfrutando Diriamba!‏

Dearest everyone,
Somehow it`s Monday yet again!  I´m not sure how that happened so quickly.  What more do I have to report this week?
Angela is getting baptized on Saturday!  I`ve seen a real change in her in these weeks, she is much more sure of her testimony and is living the commandments.  She is reading the Book of Mormon daily and she even brought her thirteen-year-old daughter, Julissa, to church on Sunday.  Julissa doesn`t live with Angela, but she does live in our area, so woohoo!  
What else do I report about investigators?  We found a lot of new people that we thought were positive, but then most of them lied to us and now don`t want to receive us.  Earlier in my mission, that probably would have frustrated me more.  Now I know that it`s part of the process!  We have other people progressing, but no major stories I can think to share.
Oh, I do have a story!  Try to read this without tearing up: 
We have a recent convert in our area named Colallas (co-lie-us).  He´s 85 years old and lives alone in a tiny rusted metal shack.  He´s a really sweet, miniature man who loves to hear the word of God.  Last week, someone threw a wooden pole over the wall and it hit him on the shoulder.  Colallas´ shoulder became bruised and purple and he has difficulty moving his arm.  Even in that state, he came to conference last week, but he was quite dirty and smelled bad because he can´t shower or wash his clothes very well.  A sister in the ward noticed this and commented on it when we went to visit her.  But instead of criticizing, Ana Luz (who has two grown sons who are disabled and was just diagnosed with osteoporosis herself) asked if we could bring Colallas´ dirty clothes to her house so she could hand-wash them in her cement pila.  ¨I`ve seen him be so faithful in church these past few months, and I want him to be able to attend with dignity and feel clean.¨  So we thanked her and brought her the clothes.  Two days later, she gave us a sack of freshly laundered and mended clothes to deliver to Colallas.  My word, I love these people!  Ana Luz definitely has her own problems to deal with - health, economic, disablility - yet she understands what it means to be a disciple of Christ and live your baptismal covenants!
Some quick funnies, and then I`ll finish up.
-We randomly happened upon a less-active sister this week who had been baptized and promptly stopped attending.  In her prayer, she asked that we would return to our home to find ¨a pleasing, Godly odor¨ there.  Hmm, I`ve never thought to pray for that before, but it`s a good idea!
-I almost tripped and fell while drinking water and walking up a hill.  Hna. Garfield was in front of me to break my fall, but I ended up splashing her with water and she freaked out because she thought I was being attacked.
-My companion and I have been bonding more this week!  Hna. Garfield is pretty quiet and doesn`t talk a lot.  One night, after planning, we had been talking when I said, ¨Okay, that was a good talk.  Let´s go to bed.¨ Hna. Garfield: ¨Well, more like you talk, and I listen.¨ Me (in a joking tone): ¨Well, what else is new?¨ Then Hna. Garfield laughed and laughed... and now she talks to me more! ;)
Life is great!  The gospel is true!  Choose the right way and be happy!  Remember that I love you!
-Hermana Hansen
Celebrating Hna. Garfield´s nine months by eating a hamburger!
Happy BIRTHDAY to the best big brother I`ve ever had!  Love you, Jake!
En las cascadas

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Week 70: It`s a great day to be a Mormon!‏

Dearest family and friends,
Woohoo, I`m on a spiritual high from this week!  General Conference, of course, was excellent.  We also had a multi-zone in which the Spirit (through our leaders) instructed us abundantly.  Let me tell you about it!  Sorry if it`s jumbled.
WEDNESDAY: I got to play the piano!  My companion and I went to the church early in the morning so that I could practice for the multi-zone, which they advised me I`d be accompanying in the day before.  I hadn`t touched a piano in months due to a dysfunctional cable in Masaya and the fact that people in this branch can play.  AH, it was heaven to play hymns again!!!  Thank you, Margaret, for teaching me!  And thank you, Mom, for making me practice!
Also on Wednesday, Luis went to the ¨fellowishipping night¨ that we have at the church each week!
THURSDAY: The first spiritual feast!  In the multi-zone, President Russell gave a detailed talk based on ¨The Fourth Missionary,¨ that famous talk by Elder Corbridge.  He spoke on the attitudes and behavior of each type of missionary as far as study, P-day, schedule, after the mission, etc. etc. etc.  I`m not explaining this very well, but it was SO good!  I noticed a lot of things that I can improve to become a more consecrated missionary.  But the funny thing is, I also noticed how I have changed and grown in the mission, and that I`m actually doing better than I give myself credit for most of the time.
Anyway, we also had several workshops and then played Minute to Win It games to finish.  I came away from the multi-zone so inspired!  The Lord needs more out of each of us, and consecration makes us supremely happy!  We each received a copy of ¨The Fourth Missionary¨ to study, and I could write a whole other email about that, it´s so great!
SATURDAY: The first day of conference!  Nobody could come in the morning, so we did the weekly planning we had missed on Thursday for the multi-zone.  In the afternoon, we pass by first for Rosa (investigator).  She´s not home, but her 20-year-old son Cristian answers the door.  We`re like, ¨Hey, do you want to go to conference today?¨  He answers, ¨I`m not ready yet.¨ We answer, ¨Okay, we`ll be back in 30 minutes.¨ Don`t forget, it´s raining all this time.  We scarfed down a quick lunch and hurried back.  The door was closed.  In Nicaragua, that means 1) nobody´s home or 2) they`re hiding from you.  But we knocked, and miraculously, Cristian opened and he was ready to go!  We hop in a mototaxi and go to Zoyla and Rudy´s house.  The mototaxi with Cristian inside waits at the top of what they call ¨the hole¨ which is a small canyon where they live.  In the pouring rain, we hurry down to their house to find... that they`re not ready.  Zoyla is cooking beans and says she can´t leave.  We start talking and remind them of their commitment and do all we can to motivate them, and after almost half an hour, they finally come with us!  Luckily, the mototaxi waited, as did the microbus at the church with about ten wonderful members inside, and we made it to the stake center only about ten minutes after the session started!  And our investigators took notes on the papers that my companion gave to them, and we were only slightly shivering from being drenched and from the fans in the room.  Ah, heaven!!
SUNDAY: Ah, I´m running out of time!  The morning session: Luis passed by before we even got to his house with his bike and his five-year-old... ¨We`re going to conference!¨ Angela also came.  Pedro and Johnny came through, and it turns out they`re already friends.  It was a little hard to pay attention because we were sitting in the back of the stake center and there were a lot of kids, but the Spirit was unmistakable and I`m excited to read the talks in the coming weeks!
Well, I can´t describe all the wonderful and difficult things that have happened, and I can´t cause you to feel what I feel.  I love being a missionary!  I know that God´s plan for each of us is perfect, and He will help us to grow!  Remember that you are never static, but always changing.  What kind of person are you choosing to become?  Can the Lord count on you?  Go read ¨The Fourth Missionary¨ even if you`re not a full time missionary!  It applies to us all!
One final quote that I loved from reading in April conference, in Elder Kevin W. Pearson`s talk ¨Stay By the Tree:¨ ¨Enduring to the end is a hallmark of true discipleship and is essential to eternal life.  But when trials and challenges come our way, we are often told to simply, ´hang in there.´ Let me be clear: to ´hang in there´ is not a principle of the gospel.  Enduring to the end means constantly coming unto Christ and being perfected in Him.¨ 
Much love,
Hermana Hansen
Photos:  I`m a princess!  Mosquito-proofing with our new gear from the multi-zone.
My little friend!
Breakfast of champions!  Open-faced sandwiches made with 1) bag of refried beans and 2) bag of jam with peanuts.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Week 69: I like to look for rainbows...

Dearest everyone,
Happy 446th anniversary of the Bible being published in Spanish!  And happy lunar eclipse!  I found out about the first occasion by the street parade the Apostolic church put on yesterday, and the second phenomenon by the crowds of people standing outside of their houses staring at the sky.  Cool stuff!
And without further ado...
INVESTIGATORS: Angela (39) is progressing well and is reading all of her assignments!  We were worried that she wasn`t going to be able to make it to church because it rained all night on Saturday, and she lives in a very steep and very muddy area that is almost impossible to climb out of, especially since she has a small daughter that she has to carry in her arms.  But the sun came out and dried the mud by the time Relief Society started, so she came!
Luis (50) was just waiting for a divorce to go through so that he can get married to his current partner and live the law of chastity, but now it looks like he won`t need to get divorced after all.  He asked us about ¨sacerbautismo¨ the other day.  That was a cute moment.
Jamileth (28), Zoyla (17), and Rudy (10): We had invited them to be baptized last week, but they didn`t seem all that positive even though they accepted.  We returned this week, and they turned off the TV and listened intently to the message of the restoration.  Then they came to church!  I`m excited to teach more with them.
BIRTHDAY: I turned 21!  My awesome companion arranged for the ward mission leader´s wife to buy one of the good cakes from PriceMart, which is the Nicaraguan equivalent of Costco.  It was delicious and we enjoyed it all week long!  And I made it through two Nicaraguan birthdays without getting eggs cracked on my head... such a blessing!
ZONE MEETING: We learned how to work more effectively with the ward council and help the ward help us.  After doing practices, I saw the benefit of having better, more specific plans and using all of our resources to have success and build the Lord´s kingdom!
FUNNIES: A clown pulled up to us on the street in a mototaxi and asked where to find scriptures about the spirit world.  Turns out he´s a less-active member!  We were a little surprised, to say the least.  
I tried a new kind of drink (fresco natural) this week - fresco de genjibre.  It`s made up of fresh ginger and milk and is SUPER strong.  It was pretty good, but it definitely cleared out my sinuses!
I realized that I`ve probably met more Nicaraguans than the average Nicaraguan, with all the contacting and teaching and moving around to different areas we do in the mission.  That thought made me smile.
Well, we`re learning and loving and growing in the mission!  There`s so much more I could share, but for lack of time, I`ll leave it there.
I love you LOTS and hope you each enjoy conference and receive personal revelation there!
-Hermana Hansen

Cool Nicaraguan graffiti!
My birthday!  The other companionship of hermanas in our district were in Managua.
This is in my area!  Where they cut rectangular stones to build houses.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Week 68: Diriamba!‏

Dearest everyone,
Ah, so much to say, so little time!  But first, THANK YOU to everyone who wished me a happy birthday and sent kind words!  I love you lots and can`t wait to give you all hugs!
Thank you also to my wonderful cousin Alycia Pace!  I received your envelope.  Your art and note was so perfect. :)
Let`s begin with a quick report of Monday and Tuesday.  On Monday we visited a family we had contacted the night before.  The husband told us he had received missionaries before, so we were excited to see what would happen.  Turns out, he has ALL of the lessons and was even interviewed, but left for Costa Rica before his baptism.  That was about eight months ago.  Now he´s back, and he and his wife accepted baptismal dates.  MIRACLES!  On to Tuesday: We awaited transfer calls (I`ll tell you about that next) and then went to work.  Ligia had some questions about baptisms for the dead after Sunday´s talks, but after we explained, she was super excited.  ¨So, I have to go to Honduras to bring the names of my grandma, cousin, and aunt... I guess I`ll be going to the temple in December, then!¨  Woohoo, now you just need to get baptized first!  And finally, Francisco: He told us that in his head, he felt conflict about the church because he´s always been Catholic and this was something different.  However, in his heart, he felt peace while in the church.  He told us, ¨And I`ve noticed a difference in the two days since I went to church.  I usually have a lot of conflict with my sister, but now I feel more patient and haven´t responded.¨  AH, those are the best missionary moments!

OKAY, now to the real news... I got transferred!  Oh, it was terribly sad to leave Hermana McArthur and all of the super positive investigators we just found.  Saying goodbye to Hna. Karla was also gut-wrenching.  I`m not a crier, but I couldn`t hold back the tears as we talked and hugged.
I`m also slightly distracted and distraught because the memory card in my camera suddenly became corrupted and I lost the last ten or twenty photos I`ve taken, including final photos with Hna. Karla, Hna. Doris, and Hna. Sandra that I was planning to print and send to them.  Now I`m trying to copy over all the photos I can to my USB while writing.
ANYWAY, here I am in Diriamba!  My companion is Hermana Garfield, another gringa!  We did divisions once in Masaya, you can search for the photo.  Here are a few quick things about the area: 1) It`s huge!  And there are hills, which I love!  2) Mototaxis are everywhere, which is surely the best form of transportation ever invented. 3) Our house is super nice.  We have a walk in closet, full size fridge and access to a stove, woohoo!  4) The branch is the most supportive group of members I have ever seen!  More details on that next week, I`m running out of time!  5)  The sky here is gorgeous and reminds me of Loma Linda.  The climate is cooler.  There´s some cool graffitti in the city part of our area and lots of places to eat.
We`ve had some cool teaching experiences and a Sunday miracle and surprise baptismal candidate, but I`m out of time!
I know that the Lord gives us exactly the experiences we need to grow and progress.  Not always exactly what we want, but He knows a lot better than we do, so we should always trust Him.
I feel so happy to be a missionary!  Big hugs to everyone!
-Hermana Hansen
No pictures, due to my damaged memory card... :,(

Monday, September 14, 2015

Week 67: Follow up!‏

Dear everyone,
I`m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that this transfer is over... it´s definitely been the fastest of my mission!  I hope that I get to stay here with Hermana McArthur, who is hilarious and obedient and my best friend, but I guess we`ll have to see what Wednesday brings!
The theme of this week is: Follow up!  Our district leader Elder MIculax has been focusing a lot on verifying commitments, and we saw the fruits of this extra emphasis with more investigators at church this Sunday.  Ah, few things are sweeter as a missionary than seeing your investigators meet their commitments!
Let`s talk about a few of these great people:
-Francisco!  We found him on Tuesday.  He´s probably 30-something, and seemed so positive in the first visit that I was sure he was just flirting with us and wasn´t actually going to commit.  He`s listened to missionaries before and has a Book of Mormon.  After not being able to find him all week, we were able to locate him on Saturday night and ask how he was doing for Sunday morning church.  I braced myself as gave a little grimace and said, ¨I have a question... If I don`t have dress pants, can I go in jeans?¨ Phew!  Of course!  Ah, and then we found him walking to church by himself the next morning.  He stayed all three hours and told us he felt as if at home.  Oh, he is a miracle!
-Ligia!  She´s a 50-year-old artist who lives in the wealthier part of our area.  She didn`t go to church last week, but this week in one visit she told us that she was baptized in another church years ago only because it was the closest thing she could find to the truth.  She feels an emptiness and lack of truth that she hasn´t been able to satisfy.  We testified of the Book of Mormon and she read three pages... then went to church by herself!  My companion and I were sweating when all the talks were about vicarious ordinances, dreams, and temple work, but she didn`t seem too traumatized and even asked for a ¨My Family¨ family history pamphlet.
-Alvaro and Lourdes!  I mentioned Lourdes last week.  We made contact with her husband this week, and he`s pretty positive even though he has to overcome some major Word of Wisdom issues and get excited about getting married.  They even fed us dinner (on a day we had randomly been given three meals already) and on Sunday... came to church alone.  Did I not tell you it was a miraculous week?
These are just a few, but it should give you a taste of the miracles that we`re finally seeing after so many weeks of feeling like we`re spinning our wheels!
Tender Mercy: I was feeling stressed and frustrated and overwhelmed, and I couldn´t sleep because someone gave us Coca-Cola in the last few hours of the night.  I got up and prayed and opened my scriptures seeking peace.  Ah, I wish I had brought the sticky note of all the specific verses that spoke directly to my worries!  I cannot tell you how perfect it was.  Heavenly Father loves us so much!  Please read your scriptures!  And the conference talks, because they are SO powerful and inspired from God!
I wish I had time to tell you every funny moment and little miracle.  Suffice it to say that this is EXACTLY where the Lord needs me to be.  I am learning and preparing for the trials and happinesses I will face in my future life.  I find joy in serving my brothers and sisters here in this area.  It is so hard!  In ways you would not expect, but in exactly the right ways for our personal growth.
I love each one of you!  Go forth in good causes!
-Hermana Hansen
1) Con mis niñas favoritas!  Erika and Andrea
2) La familia Martinez Roy... Hna. Karla and Hno. Omar, my dear friends
3) Look at the cute Americans in Masaya trying not to look like tourists!  (Failed!)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Week 66: The Comforter‏

Dear family and friends,
Allow me to begin by sending a BIG hug to each of you!!  I really love you all a lot.  Super descriptive English, I know, but I hope you understand the feeling behind it!
Y ahora, los acontecimientos de la semana: (the comings-to-pass of the week?)
Divisions!  I spent Tuesday in Monimbo 2 with Hermana Reeve.  She´s from California and has five weeks in the mission.  It was my first time working with an American who was so new, and it was fun to remember how much the mission really changes us!  I forgot how much of an adjustment the language, culture, food, and missionary activities can be.  Hna. Reeve is super confident, smart, and optimistic, so she´s doing great.  I enjoyed talking and working with her while Hna. Hernandez and Hna. McArthur found a bunch of new investigators in our area.  Thanks!
Investigator highlight: Lourdes!  We contacted her house thinking that it was the house of an investigator the hermanas had found in our area on Tuesday.  Lourdes, about age 35, invited us in with a big smile and started talking our ears off. :)  It turns out she and her ¨husband¨ listened to the missionaries in Managua a few years ago, but never got baptized because he´s afraid of marriage.  As we talked about how the gospel blesses us and helps us to change, a man walked by pushing his ice cream cart and Lourdes bought us ice cream cones.  She accepted a baptismal date and then came with us to church on Sunday!  Another miracle: her husband went to a wedding on Friday night and came home drunk but also really excited about getting married.  Lourdes told us, ¨I wish I´d had the lawyer right there to just get it done quickly!¨  The Lord works in mysterious ways...
Chikungunya update: I got a fever on Thursday and had to stay in a member´s house for most of the day.  Hna. Doris in an angel and the mom of all the missionaries... she literally calls each of us, ¨hijo¨ or ¨hija¨ whenever we talk with her.  That sweet lady took my temperature and then had me lie down with wet cloths on my stomach and head to feel better.  Luckily, my companion was able to do divisions with a returned missionary for a few hours and my fever broke before ward council, so I was able to work for a little bit.  The next few days have been pretty good with only minor intestinal issues.  I am so thankful to have been blessed with good health on my mission!
Testimony builder: It was Fast Sunday and I was fasting and praying hard for several purposes.  Long story short, many important investigators did not go to church and we didn´t meet the standard of excellence yet again.   I was feeling... not even sad anymore, just numb.  I thought, ¨Why are we not seeing the fruits when we`re working so hard?¨ Typical missionary doubts, you know.  The elders tried to pep talk us and we ended up feeling more destroyed.  We walked back to the house to pray to break our fast, which I was thinking had been ineffective.  But after we finished praying and we went out to work, I felt that sweet, calm assurance that only the Holy Ghost gives.  Throughout the day I saw the Lord blessing us to meet the rest of the standards of excellence, to feel the Spirit as we contacted and taught, to find a new family to teach (in a house I had already contacted twice), and to feel true joy in the service of the Lord.
I KNOW that the Holy Ghost is real.  Each of us has access to His constant companionship.  I didn`t feel better in that moment because I`d received a nice meal, a tight hug, a peaceful nap, or a powerful pep talk.  I felt better because Heavenly Father heard my prayer and answered my fast.  Oh, the gospel is so true!  Sometimes we get tested to almost more than we can bear, but I can promise you that He is always there.
I`m out of time, but I want you to know that I know it`s true!  And that I love you!  He loves you too!
Con amor,
Hermana Hansen
With Suleydi in the paradise that is Tisma!
Another P-day in front of a cool lookout.  Hna. Reeve is the other American.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Week 65: President Nelson and Chikungunyita‏

Dear family and friends,
Is there really anything more intense than life on a mission?  Is there anything that prepares you better for the rest of your life?  My answer is NO!
Let`s start with the best parts:  This weekend we had a spiritual feast!  Nicaragua had the immense privilege of receiving a visit from President Russell M. Nelson.  On Saturday morning we had a combined mission conference with the North mission where he spoke to us.  I can testify that he is a prophet of God!  From the time he entered the room to the time the conference finished, there was such a strong, peaceful spirit.  We each got to pass and shake his hand.  I`m regretting leaving my notes at home, but the main part of his message was on how to increase our personal testimonies of foundational doctrine.  He mentioned the topics of Atonement, sacrifice, tithing, temple, endowment, Abrahamic covenant, Jesus Christ, covenants, sacrament, and many other entries in the Guía para el Estudio de las Escrituras that should be our ¨core curriculum¨ for the mission in order to testify with clarity and deep understanding.  Ah, I received so many answers to prayers and questions!  The LOVE in that room was overwhelming.  If everyone could even taste of that love for a minute, they would be so motivated to live the gospel!  Did you hear that?  Go love someone into being a little more obedient this week!
Apostles are just so optimistic and cheerful!  They have a very sure confidence that everything´s going to work out, because they have strong faith in Christ.  Everyone around them can feel it, too.  I want to be more like that, instead of feeling destroyed when I encounter little setbacks in the work or in life!
On Sunday, President Nelson came to speak in Masaya.  We got to go to the stake center to see and hear him.  Another great talk about teaching our families correct principles.  Unfortunately, none of our investigators came to church.  We have been obedient and seen miracles this week.  We found and set baptismal dates with five families this week... yet nobody came to church.  Aaaahhh!!!  It`s so hard to want someone`s happiness so badly and they won`t even be honest with you!  Okay, I`m not going to elaborate on those negative feelings, because we all know that missions are hard and that complaining about it doesn`t make anything better.
Now, the downer of the week: I got a little case of Chikungunya starting on Tuesday.  Don`t look it up, you`ll probably get freaked out, haha!  It`s a disease that you get from mosquito bites, and it`s basically a plague in all of Central America.  For me, it just meant that my ankles felt like they were broken for a few hours a day and my knees, wrists, fingers, and shoulders also hurt.  I never got the fever, and the rash didn`t last long either.  With ibuprofen, I was able to work normally all week.  I gained a new respect for all people who suffer from arthritis!
I had a lightbulb moment about repentance this week.  Why is it that we are so hard on ourselves when we have to repent?  It is a very fundamental part of God´s plan for us, and He knows that we are going to have to repent every day for big or little things.  Let`s think about Peter, or Alma, or Joseph Smith.  All were powerful prophets.  All had to repent of pretty big things, and had to repent repeatedly.  So why should we feel terrible about ourselves every time we mess up?  Yes, we must feel godly sorrow to repent, but we need not wallow in that!  He expects us to put it in our past, apply the Atonement, and move on.  I have set a goal to become a better repenter this week.  Join me!
Oh, and I am LOVING the conference talks in the Ensign that Mom sent me!  Read those words of the prophets and apply them to be made blissfully happy!
-Hermana Hansen
The hermanas of Zona Masaya on p-day

Much of Zona Masaya at a fancy lunch on p-day

Mire que fachenta!  My change from the grocery store - 260 córdobas all in 10s