Monday, December 30, 2013

F A I T H - 5 letters that brings miracles!

Christmas Entertainment!
Hola to my favorite people on the planet! I hope your Christmas was wonderful and you partied hard! And....HAPPY NEW YEAR! Can you believe it is almost 2014? Wow I can't. This year went by so fast and sooo many crazy things I am on a Nicaragua. Oh the paths of life. I had a wonderful Christmas full of FOOD. So Christmas morning I kept the tradition going and ate cinnamon rolls! I opened presents and listened to Christmas music. I received the package and the SUITCASE full of gifts. Oh my gosh, I felt like the biggest spoiled brat on the planet. My family is just straight up love. I got the suitcase the day after Christmas and I can't even express my feelings of gratitude and love I feel. To the Young Women and the Primary, thank you so much for the time and effort you all put into writing me cards and wishing me a merry Christmas. I will admit, as I read the letters, I felt so loved that I cried. Tears of joy of course. I have loved the war heads and my comp tried one and about died hahaha. Don't worry I took pictures of her first experience trying a warhead. As I looked at all of the pictures and cards, my heart was just so full of gratitude for all the love and support I have from our ward. You all probably will never understand how much this meant to me. So thank you again! Our ward is seriously amazing. And then the I cannot thank you enough! I loved EVERY single thing that was in that suitcase. Seriously that was one of my favorite Christmases of my life. Peruvian chocolate, a chocolate orange, Clorox wipes, a new skirt, hand sanitizer, calendars, footie socks, a BACK Scratcher...honestly life can't get any better. I learned this Christmas that it isn't about the gifts, but your loved ones that make a happy Christmas. I loved seeing and hearing your lovely voices and am so grateful for the opportunity I had to talk to all of you! Thanks again all SOOOO much!!
Christmas Cheer with Herbie!
Christmas Dinner!
This week has been a week of learning. I have learned the only precious gift we can give to someone and especially to our savior, is time. Every second of my life I can't get back so I need to use my time wisely. Heavenly Father has given me this time on the Earth so I need to respect and fully utilize his time. Many times we waste our time on things that are of little importance...excluding watching the Bachelorette and Duck Dynasty:) This week I was reminded that I only have this time in my life to serve here in Nicaragua as a sister missionary so I need to utilize my time wisely and work my hardest. My little sacrifice of time is nothing compared to what Christ has done for me. In no way can we ever pay back our Savior because every commandment we obey or anything that we sacrifice, he blesses us 100 times more. My mind is continually blown away by the love of our Heavenly Father.
I have seen many Christmas miracles this week. So on Christmas morning, Hra. Mendez was planning on talking with her family on our phone but of all mornings our phone decided not to work. Well, we were freaking out because we had been trying to fix the phone for 2 hours and her mom was going to call soon. We each had said personal prayers but then we decided to pray as a companionship. We prayed with all the energy of our hearts for the phone to work. After praying, we turned on the phone and it worked! Faith is a power and by faith miracles can happen. When we just have a little faith and ask for something, through that faith, miracles will be brought to pass. Faith is a real power that we all have an access to. All we need to do is just believe.
In addition to this miracle, I saw a miracle in church yesterday We had five investigators, five recent converts and three menos activos come to church!  It was so awesome! The Lord´s hand is definitely in this work.
Christmas Mission Party at the Hilton!
So because I am in a foreign country crazy things happen. So we were walking to a cita and a moto drove past us with men blowing kisses and singing "I like to move it." Well side note, motos are a motorcycle with some sort of seat contraption attached to the front. (Sorry it is difficult to describe). Well these two men started to speed up and act all cool. They turned the corner of the road and the moto flipped over and they went flying! Thank heavens no one was seriously injured, the driver had a gash in his head. But after we walked away, I was dying of laughter. Hahaha, that is what you get for trying to impress the chelita. Also, I finally got proposed to! I was walking in the street and a man yelled "Will you marry me?" I didn't reply and just kept walking which kinda ticked him off but I didn't know what to say without busting out laughing! 

Sushi in Managua!
Today for P-day Mendez, Ligia and I finally went to eat at El Sushitto! It was so good! So one of the things that has changed about me on my mission is that I will eat anything and I eat all the food on the plate. I ate fish eggs and who knows what else at this sushi place. It was so good! Still, so full but oh well. It is sad but I literally have the stomach of a cow, its disgusting. Yolo only 14 more months of this. #prayingthatIdontgetfat #forgothowtousehashtags.
Well, I hope you all have a Happy New Year!! I will talk to you next year! hahaha, I remember Dad would always say that to us and I always was so scared and sad as I child thinking you were leaving and I wouldn't see you until next year. Oh too good. But really, party it up! Missy don't kiss too many boys :) Have so much fun on your cruise this week! Not that I am jealous or anything...esta bien. Try to get as tan as me! Probably won't happen! Pues I love you all so much!!! Every day I marvel at the wonderful family and life my Heavenly Father has blessed me with. Love you all so much!! Happy new years!!
Christmas in Managua!

Con mucho amor,

Hermana Howell 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dig Deeper!

Hola familia!! Can you believe that next Wednesday I will be seeing you lovely beautiful people and guess what I found out, I definitely can Skype you longer. I AM SO EXCITED! Seriously, December has flown by. I love the house with all the Christmas decorations! So gorgeous! It doesn't really feel like Christmas time here in Nica because there is no snow but people have Christmas decorations so that is fun. Still, sadly we don't have any but today we went Christmas shopping and wow! I definitely remembered the stress of buying people presents. So because we were Christmas shopping, I am short on time today so I apologize in advance that this letter will probably be a little shorter than usual. Also for the Skype thing, I am not exactly sure what is going on with that but I think I will know more info on next Monday. So plan for Christmas to Skype your lovely sister and daughter! What time do you guys want me to Skype? I am stressing because there isn't a cyber with Skype but don't worry I will look for one this week. AH I AM SO EXCITED!!! 

We have been guided to so many women who are ready to accept this Gospel. We taught a woman named Irania who committed to baptism and also Angelica, which we gave her a BOM and right after we left she started reading it! We are mostly teaching women but whatever. Girl power! Another woman we taught, Osyilla Ahora, said she felt that everything we said was true and committed to baptism. So awesome! 

Funny moment of the week was we were teaching a lesson and this teenage boy shakes my hand and goes to kiss me on the cheek. Side note, here in Nica we greet each other by kissing on the cheek. ha ha anyways as he leans in to kiss my cheek, I start shrieking and backing away from him! He pulled away looking sooo confused. I explained to him that as missionaries we cant hug, kiss, etc the opposite sex; oh man it was so funny!

This week as a zone, well only like 10 of us, started doing Insanity every morning. For those of you who don't know what that is, Missy you should know, it is like the hardest workout DVD in America. So every day we wake up at 5:20am, go to the capilla, workout for an hour, and then go back to our houses. It is so much fun! The trainer in it always yells "dig deeper" which explains the title of my email. Other than there is literally a puddle under everyone after working out. But hey we gotta do something to fight off the rice!

So this week has kinda been a struggle.  My faith has been a little struggling and I have felt that no one is there when I need to talk. I have felt distant from my Father in Heaven and have felt very alone. However, in church on Sunday during the class of recent converts and investigators I was teaching, we sang "I know that my Savior lives." These lyrics to this hymn touched my heart so much. As I sang this song I choked back tears because of the beautiful lyrics. I would type all of the lyrics but I don't have time so look them up! I was especially touched by the line "El vive mi amigo fiel." (He lives my faithful friend). Christ is always there for me and will always be mi amigo fiel who can help me through my challenges. I remembered the story, "Footprints in the Sand" when Christ tells the man that when he saw only one set of footprints in the sand in his life, Christ was carrying him during these difficult times. I have been blessed with so much; especially with many tender mercies that testify to me that God knows me and is always there for me. I know that as I continue pressing FORWARD , having my testimony firm in Christ, I will be able to do all things. Many times we experience trials that make us "dig deeper" and realize we need to always have our faith built upon Christ. (Don't you like how I added the Insanity theme in there? Clever I know:)

My mind is racing right now with a billion different things to do. Plus this week hasn't been too exciting. However I was going to do divisions with Wilsynn this week but it kinda fell through. So she came to my house and Mendez went to hers. So we had a little sleepover which was so fun! But in the morning they found out they had to be in Tipitapa for a meeting so Mendez returned. Divisions were fun though while it lasted! 

Well I want you to know how much I LOVE EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU SO STINKIN MUCH! I think I don't feel like it is Christmas because all of my family and friends aren't here. I am so grateful to have such an amazing family and wonderful friends. I hope you all have a wonderful week and guess what. I WILL LEGITILY SEE YOU NEXT WEEK! Warning: most likely I will cry. I will try my best not to. But cry happy tears of course. So just a warning. Well I love you all so much! Enjoy the holiday season! And remember Christ during this time. Okay I love you all so much!! 

Con mucho amor,

Hermana Howell 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

All Dressed in White

Pair of an Elder's shoes left in the apartment
Hola Familia!! Como esta? So it is freezing in Utah right now and I am dying of heat here in Nica. HA HA. I can't say that I am jealous that you all are cold because I hate being cold but then again it doesn't feel like Christmas is coming here at all. Plus, my comp and I can't find Christmas decorations anywhere so our room doesn't feel like Christmas at all. Speaking of Christmas, I found out today I can Skype you guys on the 24th or 25th! AHHH. Except Presidente is only letting us Skype for 30 or 40 minutes...cupa. OH well at least I get to see your faces for that little amount of time! And on the 23rd the whole mission gets to go to the Hotel Hilton and have a party! So excited! 

So luckily everything went well with moving houses this past week. The elders in my zone and district, who are awesome, helped move all of our stuff. Our new room is a million times better than our old house. So the house we live in is kinda like the house we stayed at in France in a way. A woman and her daughter lives there and other families board there as well. There is a member family living there, us, and then the woman and her daughter. The house is pretty nice and all of the people are so friendly! Since where our house is located is little relatively safer, we go running sometimes in the morning which is so awesome!! Hermana Ligia cooks our food and does our laundry still. Literally she is an angel! I love her to death! 

Hermana Ligia, my comp and I
One thing that I love about serving a mission in a different country is learning about a new culture. The culture here is definitely different than America. The ways, ideas and lifestyles are completely opposite of how things back at home. All of the women here think bows are like the prettiest things ever. Like the bows babies wear. I have received sooo many bows as gifts but I have never worn a bow in my life. So I don't know what to do with all the bows I get. Another cultural fact is the people here live off of rice and soda. I probably am fed a small pot of rice a day and two gallons of soda a day as well. Oh man it is killing me.  Yesterday I had fried pig skin with yuca. Let's just say it is not my favorite. 

This week we had an interview with Presidente Collado in front of like a panel of other missionaries which included zone leaders, district leaders, and sister training leaders. The interview went so well! Presidente was really happy with our numbers and especially the miracle we had with Marcos and Marivelle last week. I am glad that we are having some success here in La Primavera and I know that the Lord is helping us so much!

Carmen dressed in white.
So this week was my FIRST BAPTISM!!!!!! Ah it was such an amazing but crazy experience! Our investigator Carmen was baptized. My comp and I arrived at the church earlier and filled the baptismal font and set up chairs. While we were waiting for everyone to come, I was playing the piano in the chapel. We saw Presidente Frech, our presidente de la Rama, arrive so we went to go back to the room with the baptismal font. Well to our surprise there are two dirty boys bathing/swimming in the font in their underwear!!! Are you kidding me?! Presidente Frech came and ordered them out and they left. So we had to clean the baptismal font again. After waiting for Carmen and members to come for an hour, I started to freak out thinking that Carmen was not going to show up. My district leaders went to her house and luckily she was there so they brought her to the church. Only three people from the Rama showed up which was disappointing but at least someone came. The baptismal program was very beautiful and the spirit was strong. My comp and I sang "Press Forward Saints" which went well. It was such an amazing experience to see Carmen enter the baptismal waters and get baptized. I felt the spirit so strongly and just wanted to cry of happiness! It is so true that bringing others to Christ brings so much joy. Knowing that I was the hands of the Lord in helping bring someone into this church and attain eternal life is priceless. Every struggle I have means nothing compared to the moment of seeing someone begin on the strait and narrow path to our Father in Heaven. I am so grateful for the opportunity the Lord has given me to be a part of this experience! 

Marcos and Marivelle are continuing to progress! They are seriously the most wonderful people ever. One day they called, telling us to come to their house, that they had a surprise for us. We arrived and they had made us lunch! Marcos said "we don't have very much but what we have we want to give to you both." Awww, seriously the sweetest people ever! They attended church yesterday so we are planning on them being baptized this Sunday! AHH I am so excited! I know that God has prepared them and we were guided to find them.

Saturday in Nicaragua was a huge holiday called La Policima. It is kinda like Halloween where families go house to getting candy. However, when they go to the houses they worship the Virgin Mary and sing and chant things to Mary. On this holiday people do fireworks all day and night and blast music. So we received literally zero sleep which killed us the next day. All night the house next to us was blasting Spanish rap and Enimem so I was trying to hum some hymns. However it is hard to stay in tune with the spirit when "apple bottom jeans and boots with the fur" is being played…can't remember the name to the song but hearing it I just wanted to dance! Overall, not one of my favorite nights in Nica! 

Well, I hope you all are doing wonderful and have a great week! Keep up the hard work in school, work, and whatever else you guys do. I cant believe Christmas is just two weeks away! I can't wait to hear all of your beautiful voices!! Have a spectacular week and keep pressing forward! 

Con mucho amor,

Hermana Howell 

Monday, December 2, 2013

La Primavera

Hola familia!! First off, I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving! I absolutely LOVED all the pictures you sent me. Seriously it looked like you guys had a lot of fun...without Thanksgiving was pretty good. I kinda bought whatever food I wanted to, that was fun! I love this time of year because we realize what is actually important in our lives. Yes friends are important, but what is more important is our family and I am so glad that I get to live with you guys forever! 

I am going to be honest. Thanksgiving was pretty tough for me because it was my first holiday away from home and I knew exactly what you guys would be doing for that day. That morning I was reallyyy homesick and was crying and being a baby ha. However I turned to my Heavenly Father and the scriptures for strength and was comforted. I turned to the scripture in 3 Nephi 7, 3 which says, 'For the Lord shall comfort (Jessica), he will comfort all her waste places and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness shall be found there in, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.' When I read this scripture I thought of the lesson Hermana Pratt gave in the CCM. We are constantly put in new places which at first are like the lone and dreary wilderness but become our garden of Eden. Throughout the day I was strengthened and could feel the love of my Father in Heaven. 

My Shower!
So, after a long day of traveling, getting forgotten about, and waiting for someone to bring us to the church building for changes, I finally made it to my new area - La Primavera. I love being in the city! The houses and streets in my area are the same in Leon but it is fun to have McDonald's, Subway, La Union, a mall and American stuff close by. However, the only one bad thing is that I live close to the airport so I hear airplanes a lot about trunky. La Primavera is by Lake Managua so I can see the lake at some points in my area but we aren't allowed to go there because it is dangerous. My zone leaders and district leaders are awesome! We are the only hermanas in our district but there are six companionships of hermanas in my zone. And guess what? WILSYNN is in my zone!1 AHH! Seriously how fun is that! I was dying of happiness when I found out. So our house is straight up disgusting. There is a layer of dirt everywhere, the mattresses look like they are from the 1800s, cobwebs are everywhere, we don't have running water in the morning, I bathe with a bucket, I flush the toilet with the bucket, my comp got sick from our house, my skin is going crazy because of the dirtiness of the house and our house used to be a bar! FUN huh! And it is in a dangerous part of town. Well luckily, after a long day of walking around our area, we found a place we can move to which we are actually moving later today. We are moving into a room with a member family so hopefully that will be a little better. Honestly, showering with a bucket isn't that bad. It is just the dirt that bugs me. hahaha every time I go to bed I think of you mom and how you would die if you had to live in the house I live in. 
Indoor Plumbing-Almost!

The church in La Primavera isn't very big so I am in a Rama. Church this Sunday was empty. Like only thirty people came! But our goal is to make this rama into a barrio! The members here are just incredible! This one member we are with a lot. She is 24 years old and has the cutest daughter. Her family is so awesome! She is just the cutest chica ever! She cleans our clothes and cooks our lunches and has come with us everyday to help us which is so nice. haha cultural fact of Nicaragua. Novellas are HUGE here! When we go to her house to eat, all of the family is gathered around the TV watching La Tracion. All of the members are so excited to have us HERMANAs and are so willing to help us in this work. La Primavera has never had sisters before so we are the first! Woohoo represent! So there were elders before us and they left no information of investigators or whatsoever so we are legitly starting from scratch. So this week we have been contacting a lot to get investigators. The people here though are so ready for this gospel! One woman we are teaching now we met the first day here. We found her standing in the street and asked her for help with directions. We ended up making a teaching appointment with her which was amazing! We taught about the restoration and she said she knew the BOM was true, Joseph smith was a prophet, and she wanted to come to church. (which she didn't.) We found another woman and she is stellar! She visited a little with elders before and has been going to church here and there. Well, we have committed her to baptism this Saturday! AHH my first baptism! She attended church Sunday and I guess the Sunday before so we can baptize her. 

Weary Feet-Lovely Tan lines
I had the most amazing experience ever in my mission yesterday! So since it is the first week of December (say what!?) it was fast Sunday. Presidente Collado asked the mission to fast that we could find a family to baptize before Christmas. So my comp and I were fasting for this purpose. So, two days ago (Saturday) we we were contacting in the street and we decided to go up to this house and see if anyone was there. Well, it was dark in the front porch so we only saw this older man sitting in a rocking chair. We approached him and introduced ourselves. While we were talking to him, a man and a woman came out of the darkness. They told us they wanted us to come and visit them so we went yesterday to teach them about the gospel. The lesson I had with them AND THEY ARE A FAMILY, I will never forget. We started out the lesson just getting to know them and then transitioned into teaching about the restoration. After we finished giving the lesson, the father opened up and shared how when he was 6 years old he left home because of the bad family situation he had. During this time he experienced many trials and began to wonder which church is true. He got baptized in the Baptist church but he didn't feel good about it. He then said he felt like he was supposed to meet us. He saw us in the street, particularly me, and was curious. When we approached the door of the older man, he had this strong urge to get out of his chair and talk with us which he did. He told us of many experiences that day that guided him to be in that chair at that exact moment we walked by. Everything he shared I could see the hand of God guiding him and directing his path. All of his questions, the church had the answers. He then told us he had a dream; his wife was in a white dress and he was wearing a white tie, shirt and pants and they were in this beautiful building. They were surrounded by people wearing the same clothing. He told us he wanted to stay in this place and he remembers being so happy. He dreamt of the celestial room in the temple! HOLY COW. Throughout the rest of the night he kept saying he felt a warmth in his heart which we told him was the spirit testifying that what we were saying was true. I invited him to be baptized on the 21st of Diciembre which he answered, no. My heart just dropped. Are you kidding? We just had this amazing, really spiritual lesson with you and your answer is no. However, he then replies saying he wants to get baptized BEFORE the 21st. I just had the biggest smile on my face and so much happiness. We set a baptismal date for them on the 15th of Diciembre right after church. I know that God has prepared this family for the Gospel and that I and my comp were the ones that they needed. I know that fasting and prayer has power and that when we have faith and hope, all things are possible. Bringing others into the gospel truly does bring true joy. (I was tearing up the whole lesson, embarrassing I know,) I know I am suppose to be here in Nicaragua and specifically in La Primavera. 

I am so grateful for you all and your love and support! Especially I am so grateful to have such an amazing family. I can't wait to see your beautiful faces in 23 or less days! 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Definition of a Mission: Constant Change

Hola to the best family in the world! How is everyone doing? As always I can't wait to read your emails later today. I don't have time to read your emails so I print them off and read them before I go to bed! And before I forget....HAVE A HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! I will be eating who knows what. Have so much fun! I will be thinking of all of you eating good food!

So I was going to save this for the end of my email but I am freaking out so I am going to tell you now. Today is cambios which is where we learn who is getting changed. Just when Hermana Jess gets used to things and is starting to adjust, God decides nope she needs to keep growing. So Hermana Jess leaves for her new area tomorrow morning. AH! Biggest shock ever to hear because I wasn't planning or even thinking of getting changed. I am going to Managua! I am assigned to the area of Primavera 2. What makes this even crazier is Hna Mendez is coming with me and we are opening up this new area. UM WHAT?! No, I have only been in the mission field for 6 weeks and I am opening up a new area. It is so strange that my comp and I are going together and "whitewashing" but in the long run it is good because we know each other and know how to work together and such. When I found out I just started crying. I love Leon and now have to leave. I am leaving Hna Behan and Hawkins too which just breaks my heart because they are literally like my sisters here. But I am excited too! God knows I can do this which brings me peace and strength. There is someone who needs me in Managua so I will be obedient to the call of the Lord and "go where he wants me to go." So that is the craziest of today! It doesn't even feel real. So we leave tomorrow morning so I have to pack and go to all of our investigators and members' houses to say goodbye. Noooo, I love them but promise me we can come back to Leon so I can introduce them to you! Here I come Managua! 

I finally meet Wilsynn!
On Tuesday and Wednesday this week I was in Managua for meetings. I got to see Hermana Rogers again which always makes me so happy! And I FINALLY got to see Wilsynn!! AHHH it was sooo good to see her! We definitely attacked each other when we saw each other. It was so fun to talk to each other and share our experiences. Ah I love her. I love all of the hermanas in my mission! So it was really fun to go and see everyone and now I will be returning to Managua! Ah crazy.

One of my favorite lessons this week was with our investigators. We taught them about the Savior's love, the Book of Mormon, and then answered questions they had. When we were testifying of the Savior's love and the BOM, the spirit was SO strong like my heart was on fire. The Husband then says "My heart is really warm." I freaked out and jabbed my comp in the side with my elbow. We explained the role of the Holy Ghost and the feelings we receive from him. I knew he felt the spirit. Now it is his responsibility to act on those feelings. I hope they get baptized!
Drink served in bag.

One of my absolute favorite things of Nicaragua during this time of year is "the star." Amidst all of the stars, there is this one star that shines so bright and is always constant; it never changes and is always in the exact same place each night. Apparently this star is only here during the months of November and December which is so cool because a bright star appeared in the Americas when Christ was born. I am in the Americas during the time Christ was born! So cool. This star symbolizes so much for me. It reminds me of the birth of our Savior and all he has done for me. The star reminds me to "look up" during difficult times and rely on the constant companionship of Christ.

In addition to teaching the Gospel, I am teaching English as well! Well I guess no mas aqui en Coyolar. I taught an English class with Hermana Hawkins and we were going to teach every Saturday together. In the class only four people came but I think it will be a great way to find investigators and hopefully baptize people. We taught the alphabet and how to say a prayer in English. It was really fun teaching English! It made me feel like I knew something haha because my Spanish is far from perfect. 

I never guessed how much running I would do here in Nicaragua! This week we have run from so many men haha. One of the times we were trying to contact a referral when this one baurracho kept on following us. We would walk one way and he would follow us. So once we turned the corner of a street, we just broke into a full-on sprint! Luckily, we lost him and weren't followed by anyone else for the rest of the day. My comp and I were laughing so hard when we were running! Everyday is an adventure here in the mission field. 

This week I was reminded that faith is a power. When we have faith, "and hope for things," all things are possible with our Father in Heaven. Today four of our investigators came to church in addition to two menos activos familias. This is a miracle! We have struggled so much getting investigators to church which usually we end up dropping them because you can't progress in the Gospel without coming to church. My leaders have been telling us to have a lot of faith. I am going to be honest my faith has been lacking. I was so used to not having our investigators come to church that I just kinda gave up hope. I was reading Ether 12 that morning and was impressed by the phrase, "by faith." This statement was repeated multiple times throughout the chapter. By faith miracles happen. As we were inviting our investigators to church that morning, I remembered the scripture in Alma which states, "exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you." I offered a prayer to Heavenly Father in that moment asking him, through my desire for my investigators to come to church, that our investigators would also have a desire to come to church. My heart was so full of joy and gratitude when I walked in the chapel and saw our investigators. This experience was a reminder to me that when we turn to our Father in Heaven for help, he will help us. Faith is a power in a real sense and when we have faith, miracles can be brought to pass.

Well, wish me luck during transfers! Ah I am so nervous but with Christ I can do anything. I love you all so much! Have a wonderful thanksgiving! I am so THANKFUL for all of your amazing people in my life! LOVE YOU SO MUCH!

Con mucho amor,

Hermana Jess