Thursday, June 26, 2014

I believe in music the way that some people believe in fairy tales

So last week I was reading mom´s talk and was super interested by her experience about the trek fireside. (Mom had sent Amanda a copy of a talk she gave in Church on Father's Day. In it, Mom referenced an experience where Amanda came along to a Stake Trek Fireside at a young age since both parents and older sisters had to be in attendance. Although very willing to attend, Mom was feeling badly that the two younger girls had to be dragged along to a meeting they didn't need to be at. But the following Sunday, Amanda shared during testimony meeting the impact that the night at the fireside had on her.) I especially liked the part about "a maturity I hadnt noticed" haha thanks mom :) . I´m writing about it because I remember that happening. But heres the thing - I don´t remember a word of what was shared at that fireside. I can´t even remember being there. But I DISTINCTLY remember the drive. On the way home from the fireside I was sitting in the back left corner seat of the van. The car was quiet, or I was just in a pensive mood and ignoring you guys, I dont know. :) But  I sat there in the back seat and stared out the window at the full moon. I started thinking about what we were learning in school about astronomy and felt the Spirit as I just sat there in the car and stared at the moon. I knew that the next week was fast Sunday and determined that I wanted to bear my testimony about what I was thinking about the moon and astronomy. So I sat there in the long drive and planned specific parts of what I would share in my testimony. It wasn´t the fireside that strengthened my testimony - it was the drive. 

So the biggest thing I have to share this week is what we did yesterday! Every third Sunday the missionaries are in charge of sacrament meeting here in the branch (I know, I dont really know why). But anyway, what always happened is that the missionaries got up and talked about all the things that the members needed to change, etc, etc, which everyone was super bored of, including me. So this week, since the decision sort of fell on me, I decided to do something different. What we really need in the branch is just love and the Spirit, so I stole an idea from Bishop Ross (thanks, Bishop! You´re blessing Paraguay!) and choose certain members to share their testimony of their favorite hymn and why, and then we would all sing it together. I started off and shared Jesus, Lover of my Soul (except it´s O Jesús, mi gran amor) and shared why its my favorite (because it´s daddy´s favorite) and then somehow sang it in front of everybody alone and acapella without even being scared at all. Talk about developing new talents of the mission.
And then someone shared count your blessings and we all sang it together, a returned missionary from the branch who came home this week sang Have I done any good in the world today? and then a widow whose son just recently died cried and shared her testimony and we all sang I need thee every hour (Senor, Te Necesito). 


I wasnt really focused cause I was worried the whole time about the timing, but Hermana Tapia told me the spirit was really really strong and basically everyone was crying. So that was my yay! moment of the week, and the reason for the title of this email. Also because an Elder downloaded the music from the mission office on my pendrive for me and this morning Dueling Guitars from August Rush started playing and it made me so happy. I really do have a testimony of music and how it speaks things that words just cant. I will forever be grateful for the eternal patience Sister Hansen and Mom had with me. thank you, forever.


I´m also WAY pumped and jealous that this week is trek!! I know it will be amazing, because it seriously impacted me and my testimony! It was so hard, but I LOVED it and would do it all again in a heartbeat. Doing hard things is the best. I´ll be praying for you all and that everything goes well and that all the wheels work! (haha :) (when Amanda was on trek, her Trek family had a wagon wheel that wouldn't turn)


I love you all a ton and Im rolling along here in Paraguay!!
love, Hermana Rawlins :)



Questions from the family:

Amanda, how are things going with your new companion? Awesome! Although I have the repent, I lied. She´s only 31. my bad!


And being stls?tranquilo, we´re only in charge of one other companionship and they live right next door to us and work in the same branch as us so we see them literally every day

Has the flooding improved at all? nope, its getting worse. yay!


Dear Sister training leader Amanda (what is it in Spanish?)Hi. It´s Hermana Lider Capacitadora (HLC)


How is the work and how is the flooding??The work is... eh. Know how there are joys and hardships in the work? Well I´m working to not focus on the hardships. Hermana Tapia is one of the joys.


Have you met with the President yet as STL? Or when does that happen?no, I dont get special interviews or anything. But I do go to the leadership council in Posadas every month, which I think is next Monday. So I´ll probably write really late Monday night or most likely on Tuesday. Don´t be concerned!!


Heres a picture of my poor legs. Lets play Ispy. I spy with my little eye, a million mosquito bites, my boot scars, and the calluses on the back of my heels.

Hermana Tapia and I were eaten alive last night (see other picture) so to amuse ourselves today we circled all of our mosquito bites and took pictures of ourselves dying hahaha

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Jamás

Hellooo famjamily!!

I´m glad you all liked the butterflies so much :)
So this week was... interesting. I honestly don't even know what to share, my companion was struggling so it was up and down and all over the place. I love her, I´ve done all I know how to do to help her, and just need to trust that that's good enough. Our numbers have been suuuper low this whole transfer, so that makes me feel bad, but I´m needing to trust in the Lord that perhaps that wasn´t the point of this transfer. The question is: Are we better today than we were at the beginning of the transfer?". And that answer is yes, so that means we´ve had success. Just a different type of it, but the kind that the Lord needed. trust trust trust.
Anyway, the big news of the week is the transfer!! I'm staying here in P, Hermana Mamani is going to Argentina. My new companion is Hermana Tapia. Now close your eyes and guess how old she is. ...open your eyes (old spice, anyone?). ...Bet you didn't guess 36!!!! :) hahaha but seriously I´m SOO excited. She was in my old zone, in Santo Tome. (shes the trainer of Hermana Myrold). She is super, super fun and hilarious. She loves to work hard and have fun doing it, which are the two best things to do on the mission, so I´m really happy!! Today I pulled out the note she had written me when I left our zone last transfer, and it said "Everyone who will be your companion is privileged". And now it´s her, haha! :) And we´re gonna be sister training leaders together!
I actually have no idea what I´m supposed to do as a sister training leader besides help the other sisters, which I made a point of always trying to do anyways (when I was sad I was still junior companion I decided, "well, who says I need a title to lift and support and help the other hermanas")... but anyway, I´m excited and it should be interesting. I know Hermana Tapia and I will figure it out together.
Other news of the week is a prayer request! A big one. Our whole area is having super flood issues. I´m not sure if you guys keep up on the news down here or not, but all the rivers here are rising and flooding everything. Basically all of the campo was already flooded when I came, but this week Igazu flooded (like the falls) and now things are getting worse. P has a "muro" (I have noooo idea what that translation is... sand bank?) which will only hold so much more. If things continue to progress worser, the missionaries will be taken out and basically all of P will go to asuncion as refugees (last time it happened in ´83... look it up its all anyone is talking about). prayers please! That it stops raining and that the water stops rising.
aaand that´s about all I have for the week. Sorry this letter is so much less profound than last week, haha. I set a pretty high standard for myself :) But here´s a spiritual thought igual. I was reading 1 Nephi 15:24 in spanish the other day and something struck me. In english it says that if we hold onto the word of God we will "never perish" but in spanish it uses the word "jamás". Jamás is a really strong word for "never ever ever". Like they use it to say my parents JAMÁS would let me stay out past midnight or something like that. I just loved that emphasis, that we are promised that the Lord will never, ever, EVER desert us if we are holding on to Him. Jamás.
I love you guys so much, and know the Lord knows what He´s doing. When we trust Him, things will always end up for the better.
 
Love and besos from Paraguay,
Hermana Rawlins
Here´s me and Samira, the daughter of our ward mission leader who wanted to play a game of chess after Sunday lunch. I won ;)

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Miracle of the Butterflies

So this week I couldn't think of anything that worthwhile sharing, as the work continues normal and the challenges we have I don't really know how to explain. So I thought I'd do something a little different.

I've started to collect a little list of the miracles I've seen here in the mission. There are miracles all over the place, and i'm sure more that I don't even recognize, but I started a little list of miracles that are specifically for me or in my life, sort of like 17 miracles (an LDS Movie) but the stories of my mission. And I'm writing them out in a little book. So today I'm going to tell you the story of the miracle that is the most significant to me, The Miracle of the Butterflies. 

It starts in Virasoro right at the beginning of my mission. After arriving in Virasoro with Hermana Gonzalez, I quickly realized how much Spanish I didn't know or understand. I spent the first weeks, like any missionary learning a second language, crying and praying for some sort form of strength. On one particularly bad morning, I had had it. After a lesson and on our way to lunch that Saturday morning, I broke down crying in the middle of the street we were walking down. My companion immediately tried to help me by saying things (in Spanish) like "You need to trust in God more" and "You need to have more faith". It didn't help. As I tried to stamp down the feelings of frustration, helplessness, and just about every other emotion a new missionary feels, the only thing I was capable of doing was to look up to the sky and desperately plead, "Father, help." In that moment, a butterfly fluttered past. I thought, "Oh nice, a butterfly", dropped my head and kept crying and walking. Then another one dipped down into my eyesight and fluttered away. I picked my head up and started paying attention. Along every road we walked to that lunch appointment, there was a butterfly.

My prayer wasn't answered by immediately speaking Spanish fluently and my hard times certainly weren't over - once we got to the lunch appointment I still locked myself in the member´s bathroom and cried - but my prayer had been answered. The thought repeated in my mind "Heavenly Father loves me enough to send a butterfly in my path".

I've never been a girly girl, one to like pink, fluffy things and flowers and butterflies. But from that moment on butterflies had a new meaning for me --Gods love and awareness for me specifically. 
But it didn't end there. The rest of that day there were butterflies in my path, if I only looked up. My days and weeks continued to be hard. Really, really hard.
I began to pray to see the butterflies. And they came. Sometimes they were far off in the distance, other times they fluttered right across my path. One time when things were really bad once came and almost landed on my head. But almost every moment I was sad, down, or depressed, every moment, a butterfly was nearby. Countless times this happened to be, but I never told anyone. 

Until one day I shared it, just on a whim, with Hermana Anderson. She helped me see just how special it really was, and we started to watch for the butterflies together. Often they fluttered past and several times we came across one in our path that we could pick up and carry along with us. They weren't always constantly there, but every time I needed them, they appeared.

 I started sharing this experience in a few lessons as an example of the way God shows His love for His children in very, very small ways. As I prepared to leave Virasoro, Hermana Anderson and the Elders there told me that every time they saw a butterfly they would think of me and of Gods love. 

Then I got moved to Paraguay, and I needed the butterflies again. My first morning here I prayed for butterflies. And I walked out the door and they were surrounding me all day again, like they had before in the hard times. And they're still here, because God still loves me. He loves us. He loves us enough to test us and try us, and to send butterflies along the way. The reason I decided to share this today, is that this morning I walked out of the cyber worried about you, Daddy. I was walking down the street with my head down and thinking about everything, and all of a sudden a butterfly appeared, flew right towards me and smacked into me, brushed against my arm, and then fluttered away. It was the only one I've seen all day, and the only butterfly to have ever touched me. 

I know God is aware of us. I know it. I know He loves me, enough to send butterflies in the path of His daughter all the way in Paraguay. I know His plan is greater than our own, and that if we pray for the "butterflies" in our lives and look up, they will come. I testify of and promise that as His representative.

Questions from the family: 

Can you joke now in Spanish?
yes I can! Well not puns or anything, but I can make people laugh! That is if they want to understand me. Its interesting, the people who want to understand me, can. Then there's a whole bunch of other people who use my accent (which isn't even that bad compared to others) as a reason to ignore me or degrade what I'm saying. So, so many times in lessons or contacts I say something that makes sense, my companion 100% understands, and the person listening makes a big deal of not understanding me, or pretends not to because they don't want to admit what I'm saying is right. It drives me crazy sometimes. That's something that you guys could pray for if you want, I want a better accent!

Sending all of my love,
Amanda :)

me pretending to drink a giant cup of terrere (probably not spelled right)

me and the butterflies 


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

An Unintentionally Melodramatic Letter

wait, I'm actually not even sure if I know what melodramatic means. whatever.

I hate feeling isolated. I appreciate every little bit of insignificant news, EVERY bit people. I just feel far away from my life. 

Moving on, this week was just basically normal. Two Sundays ago my whole district was fasting for charity to help us work here in P, and this past Sunday that was answered for me. My heart just got filled up with love for these people, sort of out of nowhere. I sit and listen to their problems and just get so humbled, every single day. You guys all think that I`m here making huge sacrifices but the reality is that we live like princesses. I honestly sometimes feel guilty for all of my blessings, especially with my sweet companion now, and that makes me feel bad. I don't understand why i was born into them and they weren't. I want these people to inherit the Celestial Kingdom more than anything because they all deserve it so much more than I do. I will cry with them when they get there, I really will.
For example, M is a recent convert of the other pair of Hermanas here. Her mom died when she was little and did not have a good childhood. She got pregnant at 15 i believe, and was with the father who drank too much and was abusive and all sorts of things. Right now they’re separated and she has no job but tries to do whatever she can to feed her two sons that live with her, one who is six. I was on a division visiting her and she said "whenever I get sad about my circumstances, I just remind myself that there are people worse off than me. I have a roof. I have a bed.". 
I will forever be humbled by people in about the worst circumstances I can imagine, talking about and wanting to help the people who are worse off. So next time we all count our blessings, let’s make sure we really count them. And include your roof and your bed. 

Questions from the family: 

How is our favorite hermana?
I´m good!

What did you get at the bookstore that was so exciting and made you almost cry?
Its not what I got, it was walking in the doors. You don't understand how, even though im a missionary, how isolated we are from the church. Not the gospel, but the church. The websites, videos, materials, etc are like another world to me. Like for example when I got the conference Ensign in English from grandma and grandpa rowe (THANK YOU!), one american Elder walked up to me and asked if he could just touch it. So walking in felt like a tiny tiny tiny fragment of what i think it will feel like to walk in the doors of the celestial kingdom after living in the world for so long. But I bought a book of Mormon in guarani, and a copy of just the new testament in Spanish, which are also very good reasons to cry of happiness

Tell us what makes mission conference "super good as always." What are President LaPierre and his wife like?
Well it is always, always uplifting to be with other missionaries and people who have the spirit with them. along the same lines as the bookstore feeling thing. And they’re just the best, i don’t really know how to describe them. President is very practical and down to earth, which i really appreciate

Sorry to hear how cold your place is. You really don't have a roof in some spots? Do you have enough clothes to layer?
yup i have enough! and also it got not as cold. Apparently in winter the cold comes and goes 

Your pension sounds interesting (and breezy). Do you have any pictures of it so that we can see what you are facing?
yup i attached some!

Someone asked if I have any specific prayer requests, don't remember who. How about just everyone here, we all have so many problems.

Well, this letter has turned out rather melodramatic. Oops. The mission is an emotional rollercoaster, but I will forever be grateful that I got on. Amo mi mision. I would never give this up or the things that I am learning here. I love you all a ton, and am so so grateful for your love and your support and your letters. I really am. :) 

all my love,
la Hermana Rawlins


this is the window that just has wooden shutters. they don't really close all the way, but aren't too bad.

this is the best shot i could get of the balcony thing. above it is just like the top of a pavilion type thing, so not closed off. also, that is my mosquito net as a screen. I had to do that too in virasoro haha.

just call me Hermana Betty Crocker, making peanut butter cookies with the top of a pot because we dont have a pan. 
The following pictures were sent to us by the mission secretary from their trip to Asunción