Monday, September 15, 2014

Santa Maria, Amada Missão...

Olá (:

So turns out, I received my transfer instructions a little early. You won't believe what is going to happen... I'm being transferred. AGAIN. I just got here to Parque Pinheiro to train, and now, I'm heading out again. I'll be opening the area again, but the craziest part is, I wasn't even given a companion! It's just going to be me and the Lord. My new area is called Alpine, Utah. There's really not too much missionary work to be done there, since the majority of the people are already members of the church, but I'm excited. It's going to be really great to see what the Lord has in store for me there (:

And, it finally came. After 18 months of thinking that this day would never come, (and hoping that it wouldn't come either...), my mission is coming to a close. Where to begin to describe the things that I have learned? There are no words. There is nothing to describe the feelings that I am feeling at this moment. It's a mixture of gratitude, heartache, love, longing and excitement. 

I had many moments this week that brought me to tears. And I don't think it was because I was going home. I was brought to tears because of how much love I feel for these people that I am working with. I felt how much Heavenly Father loves them. I knew that He sees them in a different way. I saw their potential, I saw who they ultimately could become. One of the most special moments of my entire mission took place this week as we were reading Alma 26 with a couple who was recently baptized. We talked about how difficult this change is, to come into the church, to leave the life we once knew, and then completely change our lives for the better. It's difficult, but it is worth it. I felt so much love from our Father in Heaven in the exact moment, and we all sat in tears, hugging each other.

Afterwards, I spent a few more days studying Alma 26. Yesterday, it hit me. It all came together. And as I thought about what I could write you all for the very last time, the words of Alma seemed to be perfect.

 29 And we have entered into their houses and taught them, and we have taught them in their streets; yea, and we have taught them upon their hills; and we have also entered into their temples and their synagogues and taught them; and we have been cast out, and mocked, and spit upon, and smote upon our cheeks; and we have been stoned, and taken and bound with strong cords, and cast into prison; and through the power and wisdom of God we have been delivered again.
 30 And we have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some.
 31 Now behold, we can look forth and see the fruits of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay, they are many; yea, and we can witness of their sincerity, because of their love towards their brethren and also towards us.

This past year and a half has been the most trying, the most exhausting, and the most rewarding time of my entire life. It has not been an easy experience. But, oh, has it been worth it. As I thought about those that I have helped, those lives that I have seen changed because of the gospel, because of their testimonies in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, I realized how much this really has been worth it. The heartaches, the days we spent walking in the rain without umbrellas, the times we were rejected, the times that I felt inadequate and useless, the sunburnt faces, the blistered feet, the exhaustion and the sleepless nights - they were all made worth it because of those people that I have met and because of those lives that have been changed. Hearing the words, "Sister Card, you have changed my life. You have changed my family. We can never ever repay you for what you have given us. We love you. We will never forget you," makes every ounce of heartache worth it. It has not been easy, but I have loved every minute of laboring in this part of the Lord's vineyard for the past 18 months. These people have given me far more than I have given them. How I have loved my time as a missionary! How I have loved serving the people of Brazil and the people of Alabama! What a sweet experience this has been. 

I am grateful for all the prayers, the letters and the love that you have all shown me throughout this time. You all have given me more than I could have possibly asked for. I am so thankful for each one of you and I cannot wait to be back with you, to squeeze each of you, and to catch up on everything that has taken place over the past year and a half. Thank you for all that you have done for me.

I know and I love my Heavenly Father and my Savior. They have been with me every step of the way. They live and They love every single one of us. It doesn't matter how many times we fall short, how many times we want to give up, They are there. They are pushing us forward. Ever since I put the name of my Savior Jesus Christ next to my own, I felt His influence. I have become His disciple. I have truly been changed and have started on this path that He needs me to be on. Nothing about that will change. I will continue to push myself to be a little better, to truly be the person that He needs me to be. I know that this church is the only true church on the face of the earth. I know that it was restored by the prophet Joseph Smith. I know that he translated the Book of Mormon and that it contains the fulness of the gospel. I know that we have a living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, that leads us and guides us in the things that we need. I know that our families can be together forever. I know that this work is the work of the Lord.

 16 Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.

I will never be able to express the gratitude that I feel for having served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Oh how I have loved it!

I'll see you all soon (:

Sister Card

Monday, September 8, 2014

Count Your Blessings

Hey everyone!

Well, I have given a lot of thought to what I could send to you all as things are coming to a close. Yes, there's still one more week, but these are going to be some of my last words as a missionary. As I thought about the things that I have learned with my time here, I realized how truly happy I am. It's something simple, but it is the truth. I'm just happy and I am grateful for what I've been given. 

One of the hymns that we sing in nearly every lesson we teach is "Count Your Blessings." It's basically become our motto for our lives. Sister Tenorio and I have been focusing on how blessed we are and how great this life is. There are so many things that we have been given, so many blessings, and it seems as if we sometimes forget that. 

As I was studying the book of Helaman this week, I came across a story that really caught my attention. In chapter 11, it talks about a famine that came upon the people due to their wickedness. After many prayers, this is what happened:

17 And it came to pass that in the seventy and sixth year the Lord did turn away his anger from the people, and caused that rain should fall upon the earth, insomuch that it did bring forth her fruit in the season of her fruit. And it came to pass that it did bring forth her grain in the season of her grain.
 18 And behold, the people did rejoice and glorify God, and the whole face of the land was filled with rejoicing; and they did no more seek to destroy Nephi, but they did esteem him as a great prophet, and a man of God, having great power and authority given unto him from God.

These prayers began in the seventy and fifth year. It took an entire year for the rain to fall again. And when the rain fell, it came in the season that it would have usually come. It wasn't like Heavenly Father sent a big rainstorm immediately, or that the fruit miraculously started growing again (even though those things would have definitely been possible as well). No, Heavenly Father sent a little blessing. He did perform a miracle in the eyes of these people. They saw that He had answered their prayers. Maybe it took a while, maybe it wasn't anything extreme, but it came. And they recognized it. 

The Lord is present in our lives. He lives. He loves us. He helps us every single day. Sometimes we look past those miracles that He is performing, and sometimes we forget that He really is the One that gives us our all. I'm working on that. All those little blessings that we have are because of Him.

I love my mission. I love these people here. I don't think anyone will ever truly understand how grateful I am for my mission. I say it each week. I love everything that is taking place in my life. I am trying to count my blessings, see the good in every situation. And you know what? There always is a bright side. Always.

I love you all so much. I am so excited to see you all again, to hug you and squeeze you and tell you about all these miracles that I have seen. Thank you for your love, your prayers, your support, and all you have given me. I would have never been able to do it without you all. I love you. I will see you soon (:

Sister Card

Monday, September 1, 2014

And the last month has started...

Hey everyone!
And, it's September. I think I've had nightmares about September for a very, very long time. I can't believe how quickly it came!

Things are going SO well. So so so so well. I am so grateful for the experiences that I have and for the profound love that I feel for this work and for those that I am serving. I continue to cry every single day because of how grateful I feel to be a part of this work.

My time is short today, but we had such a great week. We had a baptism of our cute Rose. She is the cutest thing that I have ever met. For real. She was counting down the days until her baptism, because she is absolutely thrilled to be a member of the church. She has been keeping 10% of her income for the past three weeks just so that she could pay her tithing. And she did just that on Sunday (: What an incredible example that she is to me. I am so grateful to have met so many people who have the desire to do what the Lord expects of them.

Too often we think the Lord expects too much of us, that we are incapable to do all that He asks. It's true. We can't do it alone. But as long as we depend on Him, trust in Him, and continue to look to Him as our guide, we can do it. Life becomes rewarding. We no longer view it as something too hard, something too much. We see it as something that we love. We become happy. I have seen that in my own life. I hope you all know how truly happy I am.
Life is a beautiful thing. I am so grateful for this life I have been given, for the people that the Lord has placed in my life and for all the incredible experiences that I have had. It's such a blessing to be here.
I love you all so much and I can't wait to see you all again soon. You inspire me each and every day. I love you (:

Sister Card