Monday December 12, 2011
Happy holidays! Can I remind you all super quick that it does not feel like Christmas at all. While you are all sipping on hot chocolate, decorating trees, singing Christmas songs, snowboarding, skiing, hanging up lights, and enjoying the winter chill, it is dang hot here! I am just dying sweating every second and the only real Christmas lights I have seen are one little string hung up in the butchers place by our apartment. Instead of sitting by a fire enjoying a little Carpenters Christmas tunes, all I hear all day in the streets is cumbia and corteto. And to top it all off, instead of
finishing up finals and traveling home to be with fam for the holidays, I am with the same person, 24/7 for three months – it’s a good thing we freaking love each other! Haha - but as the holidays come closer and closer, I have come to realize how truly happy I am to be here in the mission. Instead of spending time for gifts, food, and family, I am going outside each day, (even in the dang hot weather ☺), and opening my mouth to everyone I see and testifying of the Savior of the world and how he is truly the most important and significant being in this season of Christmas. This week, or actually, just the past 4 days, has been possibly the most amazing and wonderful days on my mission, and I pray and hope that in just the few words I have to give and express to you all in this email, that it will even come close to help you to understand what I have been through, what I have learned, and felt.
So Thursday was our big Christmas zone conference! I had the opportunity to give my farewell talk since I only have one transfer left, and it was super sad, but went really well. We learned so much during the conference and had a ton of training classes to better us as missionaries and the president talked to us a lot about expecting miracles this Christmas in December as a mission, and how we are going
to accomplish it. Of course, he spoke of the importance of change and repentance, and how we as missionaries really need to re-focus, and begin to develop more faith and power through broken hearts, sincerity, devotion, and sacrifice. It got my companion and I really thinking of what we could do to see miracles at this point because we had absolutely no one to work with lately, and we knew we would need to make a change in us first before we expected miracles.
The next day, Friday, my companion and I woke up just super distracted and nervous. We both had hard times focusing and studying and didn’t know what to do. We started our companionship study with a prayer, and I began to share a book that I got for Christmas in my package from my family, ¨Reflections of Christ: Another Testament.¨ This book has beautiful photographs of Christ visiting the people in 3rd Nephi from the Book of Mormon. The pictures were taken in South America, so it was close to home for us. As I read from its pages, the Preface of what the author wrote about taking pictures of this marvelous scene when Christ came to the Americas, and as we studied the pictures, we both began to weep. In my mind, I wondered what it could possibly be like to be at this photo shoot, and really take your imagination back to this historic and life-changing moment when Christ appeared to the people in the Americas after his death and resurrection. As both my companion and I studied these breath-taking photos, we wondered just what it would be like if we could have been there, and what it will actually be like to be able to see him in his return here. We pondered of our personal worthiness, readiness, our true conversión to Him, and our testimony of his divinity. One of the first scriptures you read when you open the book is in 3 Nephi 9:13…….
13 - O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?
We thought of this as an actual invitation, as if the Savior was with us in that moment and was inviting us to come unto him, just like he was doing to these people in the Americas, and was asking us to be converted to him so we could be healed. We expressed our personal testimonies of Jesus Christ and really our dedication to serve him.
We both had felt that due to our recent trials and struggles with health and our area, we have not been “in a good place,” and knew we needed a change. In this moment, we literally felt in our minds and our hearts what it would feel like to be with him, in his presence, and know without doubt that He is the Christ…………
(3 Nephi 11:14-15)
14 Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.
15 And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.
3 Nephi 9:20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
3 Nephi 17:7 Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.
3 Nephi 25:2 But unto you that fear my name, shall the Son of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings
3 Nephi 22:10 For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.
We both felt such a strong love and gratitude for our Savior and felt as the people, like is says in 3 Nephi 17:10, “And they did all, both they who had been healed and they who were whole, bow down at his feet, and did worship him; and as many as could come for the multitude did kiss his feet, insomuch that they did bathe his feet with their tears.
We decided in that moment how much we just loved our Redeemer and really who He was to us and we just knew that he does live and loved us and was there to pull us into his wings of healing and convert and change us.
Right after we had this intense experience, our phone rang and it was the mission office. They had a reference for us and told us this intense story, and to pass for this lady. It was in a town a little bit farther away so we figured we could just go the next day but we both felt a spiritual impression that we should change all our plans and try and find this lady. The direction was kind of confusing but, after a prayer on our knees together of thanks, love, and help in this journey, we jumped on a bus, and went to find her! Once we got to the neighborhood, we began our search. As we walked through the neighborhood looking like complete tourists with a map and so lost, we asked around for help and a lady directed us to a house that we had already passed and as we had passed it earlier, I felt that it was the house. Normally we would stand really far out and clap our hands, because it is just the Argentina way, but I felt really strongly we should go to the front door directly, and just knock. Right away this lady opens the door and at first looks confused but once she sees our tags, she gets this huge smile on her face and says, ¨come in!¨ ¨I have been waiting for you!¨
She couldn’t believe we found her because when she found and spoke with the
Elders in Cordoba, they acted like it would be confusing to find where she lived.
She sat us down right away and told us her whole story. About 4 years ago she investigated the church in this area, attending the La Falda ward, and was going to get baptized with her whole family but for some reason had some doubts, got scared, and lost contact and never went back. She separated from her abusive husband and was alone with her 5 kids without much work. A few months ago she found out she was pregnant, obviously not planned because she is not really dating
or serious with anyone, and she called the guy and he got super mad, and told her to ¨take care of it¨ and never wanted to see her again. She is 41, a single mother with 5 and now possibly 6 kids, and had no idea what to do. She was in tears, fear, and completely in darkness for weeks and had tons of pressure to get an abortion. Her friend set her up a free appointment at a clinic in Cordoba and she went, thinking there was nothing else she could do, and this was her only option. As she waited her turn in the clinic, she looked outside and saw a mother holding her little son, and she panicked and walked out of the clinic. As she stepped outside, she saw two completely lost elders who had now passed her a third time since she had been in Cordoba and on this third time as they passed, she looked into their faces, saw her two sons in these boys, and felt she had to stop and talk to them. She pulled them aside and began to weep telling her story, and the elders became emotional, testified of the góspel and the plan of salvation, and the importance of saving the life of this child. She agreed to keep the baby and felt peace with these two elders for the first time in a long time in her life. They got her information and it was eventually passed to us.
They gave her a Book of Mormon, which she had been reading and praying, and said to us in this first conversation, ¨I know this is a sign from God and this is the truth. I felt it 4 years ago in your church, I felt it in Cordoba with those two elders, and I feel it very strongly with you two right now.¨ My companion and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes, sat in a few seconds of silence, and I looked her direct in the face and said ¨As a representative of Jesus Christ I testify to you that this is His church and it is true.¨ From that moment on, as we taught this lady and her children, I have never felt the love of God so strong and we just taught with so much of the spirit and unity that we were all just speechless.
The next day we began a fast, and we went to put a baptism date with her. As we taught her the doctrine of Christ she accepted it all and we asked her to follow the
example of Jesus Christ and she said yes! And even better she accepted to be baptized this coming Saturday!!! The next day was Sunday and her and two of her kids came, she felt so happy and comfortable with the members, and even shared her testimony in the principles of the gospel class I taught! Everyone in the ward rallied around this woman and were emotional, with her presence, and story, and just loved her so much! We got permission from the bishop to do it this Saturday and we just have so much support from everyone! After church we put baptism dates with her two kids, Pilar and Tomas who are 12 and 9, and they accepted the same day as their mom! Every single day we are seeing more and more miracles and it is such a blessing. Also in church that same day, a member came up to us and told us his friend was here and is super interested in the gospel and wants us to teach him! Every day we are in more amazement with the huge progression and
change that we have seen in only 4 short days in ourselves, in the ward, in the bishop, and in investigators.
Looking back and reflecting on the experience we had as a companionship, we both can testify that literally the living son of the living God is real. He exists and he, like it teaches us in all of 3 Nephi and throughout all of the scriptures, lives, and loves us,
and is inviting us to truly repent of our sins, be converted, and healed through him and his sacrifice. This is why we have so much reason to rejoice. This is the whole purpose of this season of Christmas. This is the grand plan that God has for us like it states in John 3:16-17,
16 ¶For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
This is what we are all working up to. Just like God testified to Moses,
Moses 1:39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
God is here and he sent his son in the world to bring us happiness, so that if we followed him, and truly with a broken heart and contrite spirit, accept him and give up everything to be with him, we will never have to be alone and we will find peace in this life and countless blessings and miracles. When we make the decisión
personally to align ourselves and our will with God’s will, that is when our lives change, we come to know the Savior, and we witness miracles. I have personally witnessed this myself these past few days. I have come to know Jesus Christ and for this reason I am so completely full of joy and gratitude to be here during this season of celebrating the birth of the Savior of the world. I can testify that Jesus Christ and God are real, and live, and are among us. They love us and want us to be happy. During this Christmas season, I desire that we can all return to the real reason Christmas began and we can come to know, personally and truthfully, the King of Israel, the Prince of Peace, Jesus who was born in Bethlehem. I invite all to study His divinity and sacrifice and come to know truly what he did for you. Then, go out during this magical season of love and share that fire of a testimony with others, like these people we are finding, and fill the lives of those around you with your light, love, and joy and go about doing good. It will fill you up inside like no other sensation you can possibly receive and will be the most rewarding gift that you could give to anyone else, and Jesus Christ, during this celebration of Christmas. I know this gospel is true, and I can promise you all that getting to know our Savior is the only way that each one of us will be truly happy in our lives we have been given. I love you all and thank you for all you do for the missionaries of the world. Keep sending them out, supporting them, and praying for them.
Love Hermana Pond