As I am writing this letter I am listening to Elder Macdonald and Kayla sing "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." What a tender mercy. I have the best family ever. I will probably listen to it another 10 times. Man I love them.
Every time I sit down to write these letters I just feel overwhelmed because I just wish I could tell you all those feelings of my heart. You feel so many different things as a missionary. Lately I’ve been studying the topic of Fear. The bible dictionary by far has the best definition! It says something like the following: fear is something unworthy of a child of God; it destroys the feeling of confidence a child of God should have in a loving Heavenly Father. Therefore we see that fear is inconsistent with our divine identity as children of God. 1 John 4:18 says that "perfect love casteth out fear." I have probably talked about this topic a lot but its because I think it is something I struggle with a lot. I don’t feel like I am a fearful person by any means. But I think I am holding myself back sometimes by focusing on my own abilities and who I am rather than who I can be and what I can do with Christ. D&C 50:41 says "Fear not, little children, for you are mine." We are in good hands. I just think I sometimes don't let that sink in. But my goal is to be more like the stripling warriors (Alma 56). They understood who they were and what they could do with God. Their hearts were placed in Him. As a missionary it is even more important that I do that because if I don’t, then how can I teach these people with power and conviction. I testify of the validity of the Book of Mormon on a daily basis, I need to trust in every single promise and word of comfort found in the Book of Mormon. There is no room for fear or doubt- only faith.
That was kind of a tangent! I guess I needed to just vent for a second.
This week I went on exchanges down in a cute little area called Heights. It is right next to downtown and seriously looks like Coronado Island. I was in love with it. I could definitely serve down there! Anyways, I think that this was a very important day for me. I met a member named Hermana Colunga. I asked her one question about why she joined the church (she is a member of 8 years) and she ended up spending the next hour explaining her conversion story. She is amazing. I wish I had time to relate the story to you but just know that GOD ANSWERS PRAYERS. He does it in His own time in His own way, but He does it. The reason I think I had to meet her is because she just glows. My face has never hurt from smiling so much as I did from that lesson with her. I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole time that we were there. She told me that before she found the church, she was anti-social. I had the hardest time believing that because I look at her and she is the happiest, kindest, most outgoing person I have ever met. There was a glow about her. Something extremely special. She was telling me also that she always carries a Book of Mormon with her so that she can strike up conversations with those around her in lines at the grocery stores. She wants EVERYONE to know about this gospel because it literally has changed everything about her. She is so beautiful.
This past week our lesson with Omar/Alex Jiminez fell through. I don’t know if I told you this, but they live super close to Maria and Florencio. So when it fell through, we all felt that we should stop by and see them. Mind you, this would be the first time seeing them since everything happened. We walked up and Lencho was just getting out of his car from work. We were a good distance away but immediately I knew that something was not right. Something was very different. Hermana Burnham was practically running to him and yelling but I was feeling super hesitant. When we finally made it up to him, I knew immediately he had been drinking. Heartbroken. He was just like he was the first day I ever met him- Florencio not Lencho. Luckily we talked long enough to set up another time to stop by- 2 days later. I got back to the car and had to make Hermana Burnham drive (just like she did that night in June). I was a mess. It hurt my heart so bad because it appeared that he fell so hard after we left. The only upside that I could see from that day is that at least we can help him point out that things were a lot better when we were visiting with them and studying the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We went back to their house yesterday and I saw Maria. Wow, she was different too. She is very caught up in work. Still an amazing, stalwart women but different. She didn’t stay sitting with us for very long because a friend came over, but she did make us melon juice because she remembered that was my favorite! We sat and talked with Lencho and Emilio. Emilio is their granddaughter’s boyfriend who is living with them right now. He is under house arrest and while he was in jail he found God and started reading the bible. HE IS THE REASON WE ARE BACK WITH THE GOMEZ FAMILY! He was sleeping when we first got to their house but while he was sleeping he felt the tingles- the kind of tingles he says that he feels when he feels the Holy Spirit. He then woke up and heard our voices and knew that he needed to come out and talk to us. We read the Book of Mormon with him for a little and he is really excited to start reading it himself. He then told us as we were leaving that Lencho said to him, look, those girls are angels. Emilio agreed with him. He said just like the Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu. Ya that isn’t really correct to say that by any means, but they fact that he made that connection is pretty cool. We are literally the Lord's servants and they see it.
I had another heart to heart with Hermana Negrete this week. She was talking to me about her mom and how she took care of her when she got to be really old. The best part of the conversation was when she told me how her mom was so proud of her when she finally got a house that when she found out, she raised her hands in the air and kept saying gracias a Dios. The way she talked about her mother was so sweet and endearing. We both just started crying. Mothers are the best. I love my mom!
She also talked about her son who died of cancer and how interesting it is how God works. I know that nothing ever separates us from Gods love and he is ALWAYS mindful of us. He is ALWAYS working with us to get back to Him and be happy.
I hope this wasn’t too jumbled. I just had a lot of different thoughts coming into my mind while writing this. The subject of this email is one of my new favorite scriptures. I also love Alma 27- just read it yesterday and I have an even stronger testimony that we just need to do what the Lord asks and go forward even when we don’t know how things will turn out. Have that faith. The best part is that he will send us tender mercies along the way- verses 17-18. God has a plan for each of us; it is our job to get on that path and work!
I love you so much! Hope it was a good 1st week of school. It really put into perspective how long I have been on my mission when everyone went back to school here. Its crazy!! I can’t believe it.
Additional Story from Hermana Burnham:
So we live in a pretty sketchy part of Houston, right? You've heard the stories. And there are also many more that I choose not to share of scary things that have happened to us. So, as soon as we come in our house we double bolt lock the door and then go into our room and lock the door to our room as well. Well, this is difficult to describe over email, but my bed is right next to the window of our bedroom (as in, my face hits the blinds all during the night) and that window is right next to the front door – but not "next to" as in on the same wall. The door leads into the living room, but you walk down the hall and do a little turny turn and then the window is on the right wall and the door is in the left wall (divided by some more wall and water heaters and such). Okay, so now that you are all thoroughly confused, I will proceed with my story.
One night we come home, plan, go to bed and go to sleep. Well, they go to sleep; I never sleep haha. So, at about one in the morning, Hna Koch woke up to go to the bathroom. I was still awake and Hna Parry is out like a rock, when all of the sudden there is a knock at the door. I hear it, but choose not to talk nor move because the window, even though covered by blinds, is still right next to where whomever is knocking on our door is standing. Hna Koch then says in a loud whisper, and for anyone who has ever been in dangerous situations whispering seems to always be louder than talking, "Someone just knocked on our door." This comment wakes Hna Parry up. By this time, I have concluded that there are two men standing outside our door . . . at 1 am. They are talking about the stuff on our door [a picture of Jesus and a sign that says no smoking . . . I was really tired of 1) always smelling like smoke; and, 2) feeling like I was developing lung cancer]. They proceed to knock 2 more times, and that is a total of 3 knocks for anyone counting, each knock growing louder and louder. By this time, I am plotting ways to save us. These ways included throwing the girls into the closet, arming them with various make-shift weapons as I go to conquer the enemy by hitting them over the head, after being cleverly hid, clearly, with my "Bubba Gump" cup – that really is more of a weapon than it is a cup. All of the sudden they start banging on the window. Let me remind you, I am laying RIGHT NEXT TO the window. If the window wasn't dividing us, they would be touching my face in that moment. So, needless to say, I think I am about to have a heart attack when they well: "YO!!! YO KEYS A AHN DA MAT!"
That's right folks. Our keys, to our home, car, etc., had been IN OUR DOOR all night long and these kind people, whom we thought were there to kill us, found it a pressing enough . . . I don't know how to speak in English[editor’s note: Brian, just for you, I am sure] . . . matter to violently bang on our window and wake us up and let us know that 1) our keys were NOT in our house, and 2) they had placed them on the mat.
The Lord protects us.
P.S. After waiting to make sure they were gone and no one was waiting for us outside our house, we retrieved the keys.