Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Life is a Highway!

Hello!!! Okay wow did this week just flyyy by. Seriously it was like yesterday that I wrote you guys. I hope you all had a wonderful week and had a fun time talking in the singles ward yesterday. I was definitely thinking of you all and was happy that I didn't have to speak. I would rather speak in Spanish with a small group of Nicas :)...mainly because a lot of people still don't understand me so I can just get up there and say whatever I want haha. Anyways, this week was pretty crazy! First, P-days are suppose to be your break day right? WRONG. Well, not for me at least. So we started washing our own clothes. Well, today I washed my clothes from the past two weeks...with a pila...which took 3 flipping hours. Can I just say i am dying? Like literally my arms hurt so bad. You know that pain in your arms after rock climbing? Multiply that by ten and that is what I am feeling right now. So ENJOY your washing machines people!
Our ride home from church- in the back of a Pickup Truck

Anyways, with this new change, my comp and I set some goals for the change. Our goals were focused on eating healthier and exercising because we have been struggling in this two areas. We try to get up every morning at 6 to exercise and we have been pretty successful! With the new change, we had a zone meeting in Esteli on Wednesday to meet all of the newbies in the zone. There wasn't a ton of new changes, only like 4 in the zone and one of them is a new elder in Dario because Elder Coffey finished his mission. The new Elder is Elder Gomez and he is from Utah! He actually lives right by A-Fresh and Wendy's? Small world. Well when the zone meeting ended, we (us sisters and 4 elders in my area) were walking to the bus station when a member and his wife drove by in his truck and offered us a ride. Be missionaries, not wanting to spend money, we gladly accepted. Mom and Dad, don't kill me, but we hopped in the back of a pickup truck, went on the freeway at probably 70 mph and went back to our area. hahaha the whole time I was thinking "if Mom and Dad saw me right now they would die." It was so much fun! Other than my face was numb from my hair hitting my face for an hour and a half. Seriously my life is the best!

Okay this is my paragraph of random facts. So first I love my new house! It seriously is so nice and the woman and her family that lives there are the best. They always make us food which makes us happy:) Mom you would approve! And the view from my window is gorgeous. Another random fact for the week is that I met an 110 year old man! 110! I have never met anyone older than 90 before so I thought it was pretty cool. This man is the dad of a member and he looks and act likes he is in his late 80s. We asked him his secret and he just smiled and either the secret is laugh in life or he didn't hear us.

Teaching English
My area!
So a lot of people here in Dario have asked us missionaries about teaching an English class. After talking about it with my comp, we decided to try out teaching an English class and see if anyone would show up. The class started at 3 pm on Saturday and after waiting 40 minute, with no one showing up, we decided to leave. Well I went to the bathroom first and when I opened the door to leave the bathroom, the church was FILLED with people. hahaha my face was pretty priceless, it was pure shock, then terror and fear of the thought that I have to teach all of these people by myself! (my comp doesn't know English). A bunch of kids from the ages of six to eighteen came and there were about 13 to 15 people! I taught the alphabet and everything went very well. I actually loved teaching the class and am excited for this Saturday to teach! It was so cute, none of the kids could say my name so everyone just called me "teacher". I am hoping we will be able to find some families to teach through these kids that are assisting my class. 

Cutest twins ever!
This week was kinda a rough week teaching. None of our investigators are progressing and no one will come to church or accept a baptism date. My leaders have sent texts everyday encouraging us to put baptism dates and it has been so frustrating that I haven't been to fulfill this goal. I definitely have been working on patience this week. Especially with my investigators. I  am pretty sure I have told you guys about them in a past email. So the dad, is reading the BOM, reading general conference talks and has read all the pamphlets we leave but he refuses to come to church. I had a humility check this week in one of the lessons when he told us we need to have patience with him because it is hard for him to leave behind all of his beliefs like the virgin maria. As my family, you know that I am not the most patient of people so this week has been pretty humbling for me. In Predicad Mi Evangelio, everything is centered on patience and humility. I need to be patient with the language and be humble for the help of my Father in Heaven. I need patience with my investigators. I need to be humble so I can have the direction of the Spirit. This week I realized I have been pretty prideful in this work: I was struggling to feel the spirit when I was teaching and felt alone in this work. I was depending more on my strength than relying on my Father in Heaven in this work. This week I was struggling to feel the spirit and felt distant from my Heavenly Father. In Ether 12:27 we read, "And if men come unto me I will show unto them theiraweakness. I bgive unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my cgrace is sufficient for all men that dhumble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make eweak things become strong unto them." As we come to Christ, we see our faults because our Savior is perfect. However, through the grace of him, we can overcome our weaknesses and become more like him. I have learned a lot this week that I can't do this work without the help from my Savior and my Father in Heaven. This truly is the work of the Lord and it is a blessing that he allows me to take apart of it!
Hna Zepeda and I

Well I hope you all know how much I love you all!! I pray for all of you everyday and think about you during my day. hope you have a wonderful week and I can't wait to hear about your week next week! 

Hermana Howell

Monday, February 17, 2014

Re-define "Party"

My first tortilla!
Helloooo family! How is everyone doing this week? From last week, it sounded like everyone is travelling around the world. I hope everyone had a wonderful time and were safe! This week was soooooo much better than last week. It really is truly amazing to me to see how my Father in Heaven is watching out for me and sends me help through my family. Mom, Dad and Aunt Steph, your letters were EXACTLY what I needed. Thank you for being worthy to receive revelation for me and to act on that revelation. I just have the best family ever! Today was changes and I DON'T HAVE CHANGES! Woohoo first time in my mission that I don't have to change! So I get to still be with Hermana Zepeda which I am really excited about! So this week was one of my most craziest weeks on my mission so this email I am going to try splitting it up according to days. Sorry if this email is a little jumpy! 

Tuesday was the last meeting for new missionaries and trainers and this meeting was really different than the others! Everyone went to Matagalpa! Matagalpa is absolutely gorgeous. I was so excited to go and finally see that place! Anyways, the meeting was only for 2 hours and then after for the rest of the day we split up with another sister and worked. Since my area is only 45 minutes away from Matagalpa, my comp and I returned to my area with Hermana Mendez and Hermana Virula to work! I went with Hermana Virula to work and we had a lot of success! We contacted some stellar families and taught some really good lessons. 

My Zone
Valentine's Day Party
Thursday was Valentines day!! Seriously this was probably the best Valentines day of my life. So I saved those hearts from the Michael Buble concert and spread them on my comps bed and throughout the room so that was fun! In addition, some guy at this smoothie store gave me a free smoothie so that was a bonus :) Probably though the highlight of my day was what happened at night. In Dario, there is a ton of youth and so we are teaching a lot of the youth! They are Missy's age and my age. There are two young women we are teaching. Well we told them we were going to have a lesson with them and then have food after as a little Valentine's party and they were so excited! Okay their idea of a lesson with some food (a party) was wayyy different than our idea of a party. So we went to the house, we brought some juice and they were going to bring chips and beans, and wow what she had waiting for us was definitely not what we were expecting! (Side note: the girls wanted the elders to come so we invited them because Elder Molina is Presidente De la Rama). So we walk up to the house and there are a ton of people there! Music is blasting, there is a table full of food, and it is a legit teen party. The young women had invited all of their friends! Talk about literally being separated from the world as we walk in the house with skirts and suits while everyone is in spandex shorts and tanks. hahaha I was dying! We did end up having a lesson, a very simple one about faith. I would like you all to picture this, especially you Missy. You are at a friends house on Valentine's day having a party and four missionaries walk in and have a lesson about faith with you. hahaha Awkward! After the lesson, we stayed for a little and ate some food but then left because we felt awkward; everyone was dancing and were trying to flirt with us. hahaha it was a pretty funny situation! After our "lesson", me and my comp went and got chocolate shakes to celebrate Valentine's day together! Well, you would think after this crazy day that it would go back to being a normal night. But no, I am living in Nicaragua so life isn't normal. So ya know how we changed houses last Monday? Well, we are still waiting to get the key to the house. We came home Thursday night and the lady of the house is not home. So we are locked out of the house. In Nicaragua. At night. We called her like 30 times and she didn't answer. Well, I ended up calling my leaders to ask them what to do and everyone was freaking out. We were about to have to sleep in a Ferreteria of a member, which is a place that sells mattresses, but at 10:15 the lady of the house came home! So everything turned out okay!
My view from our window

I saw two miracles this week. The first was we had 46 people in church today! It was absolutely amazing! It is extremely difficult to find menos activos here and this Sunday we found four inactives and brought them all to church with us. The second miracle was finding this wonderful family. So my comp and I were walking in the street and my comp was thirsty so we stopped at a pulperia to buy something for her to drink. Well, the man of the store was joking around with us and asked "What have you brought me?" I answered saying we brought him the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Well, he ended up letting us in and we had a lesson with him and his family. This family is literally golden. So the dad, was studying to be a pastor or something for the Catholic church but didn't feel like it was right. He said he has been searching for the truth and feels like this is his second chance. The family is so receptive and he is reading the book of Mormon! AHHH I just wanted to cry for joy. He has so many questions which is always good. They don't want to go to church yet but we will get them there this Sunday :) Literally it was such a miracle to see the Lord's hand in this work, guiding us to this family! 

Well those are some of the highlights of my crazy week! I love being a missionary. I love the joy and happiness I feel as I tell people of the plan of God and seeing a change in their lives. There truly is no other joy in this world than to bring others to the gospel. It is coming real to me that a mission has a due-date and in two weeks I will only have a year left in the mission. Everything in my mission I am cherishing because I know I won't be able to have it again. Even those tough days are days that are priceless. I hope you are all doing well and had a wonderful week! I love you all so much and am continually amazed at all the blessings and such a wonderful life my Father in Heaven has given me. Have a lovely week!! LOVE EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU!!!

Con muchicismo amor,

Hermana Howell 

Sharing the Love

Hola familia! Que tal? Another week has already come and gone. I still can't believe it is already February! So crazy. And before I forget...Happy Valentines day!! I hope you all have a wonderful day full of love. Honestly it is not my favorite holiday but here in Nicaragua it is more like a day of friends and not boyfriend/girlfriend thing so I am cool with that! I am planning on putting those hearts that you sent in my Christmas package all around my room and then my comp and I are planning to go get shakes that night to celebrate! Also, I finally got some letters this week! I got a letter from Josh, the Maughans, and Grandma and Grandpa's letter! THANK YOU SO MUCH! I loved them all! Letters are like gold on the mission.
So today was kinda a crazy day. Honestly no p-day is ever fun or relaxing haha. We had some issues with our house we moved to a few weeks ago. Well, our prayers were answered and we found this super fachenta (rich) house! This woman that owns the church building had an extra room for rent in her house which is one of the nicest houses I have seen in Dario. So we changed houses today and are now living with her! She has three daughters so our whole house is girls, woohoo! Moving houses was kinda a pain. No one was able to help us or lend us a car so we had to move, by hand, everything from our room to this new house. Luckily the elders in my area are awesome and were willing to help us so the four of us moved all of our stuff relatively fast. My new room is awesome! By far the best place I have stayed in my mission so far. The only problem is it doesn't have a sink or mirror which is okay.
On Tuesday Hermana Ferrin came to my area and worked with me and my comp! It was so much fun! I had fun in Esteli but it was so good to return to my area. I really missed it and especially missed the members! haha. When I came back everyone told me they missed me and the members attacked me with hugs :) feeling loved! Tuesday was also the first class of seminary and it went really well! My comp loves teaching so she has taken a lot of responsibility planning lessons and stuff which has been helping her. We have four students, and three of them came which was awesome. Two young women in my Rama who always help us, are in the class which is so fun! We are all really good friends. Tuesd
ay also was Tania's 16th birthday so after seminary the members invited us missionaries over to dinner to celebrate with their family. The family was so grateful that we came because we were the only other friends who came. We ate dinner which was rice, tortillas, fried chicken, and repollo (a veggie). It was so good but it was a huge amount of food! Luckily, Elder Coffey helped me out with the rice :) Elders are the best haha. We then had cake which ended up in a cake fight! It was so much fun! Someone put frosting on someone's face and then it just erupted into a huge frosting fight with everyone playing! hahaha so fun. Then we went to go clean up and then that started a water fight. Even the 80 year old grandma of Tania was apart of it! Imagine a delicate older lady hobbling after you with frosting. TOO GOOD! I had a lot of fun being apart of the Martinez family.
It still amazes me to see the miracles that fasting brings. So we have been struggling with finding people to teach and having success in our area. On Saturday we decided to fast for help with bringing our investigators to church and boy did we see a miracle! We had four investigators come to church, one of whom is the father of a family who I think can be baptized in two weeks, Francisco, and two young women! These two youths are Missy's age and are friends. It was such a miracle because we have never had more than two investigators in the church before! All of the investigators loved the church and said they wanted to come back next week. We went from zero progressing investigators to three in one day. I know that the Lord's hand is in this work and he is helping us.
Sorry that this email is really short, not a lot happened this week.  I will be sharing the love of Christ on Valentine's day which in my opinion is the best! Well I love you all so much. Every day I thank my Father in Heaven for sending me and amazing family. I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH!!!
Hermana Howell

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Fear of Pigeons and Crocodiles!

Hola to the most wonderful family in the whole entire world! I hope you are all doing well and had a wonderful week! So as of today, I have been in the mission field for 5 months. Crazy right? I really only have a year left and then I will be home. Woah. It has gone by fast and then slow at the same time. But as I was "born" in Leon, I am in Leon today! So to make a crazy and long story somewhat short, I had divisions with the sister training leader so I came to Esteli to work with hermana Ferrin. Well her and another sister here had to go to Managua today to get their cedula and another sister had to go to Leon for some stuff so I ended up going to Leon with her! AH it was so fun to go back. I saw my old Bishop and then some of the members. We went and visited mami Elbita, the woman I lived with before, and she made us lunch and everything. It was so much fun to see all of the members! Leon is gorgeous. I visited the cathedrals again and had fun going back to the area that I was born in. It was cool to see the progress I have made from the first day in the mission field in Leon. After a long day of traveling, I finally made it back to Esteli and will be going back to my area tomorrow.
In addition to talking in sacrament, teaching in Relief Society, Young Women's and Sunday School, I am officially the Seminary teacher for the youth in Ciudad Dario. Say what?! yep that is exactly what I was thinking. The stake president of Esteli tried to find an adult to teach seminary but couldn't find one so he gave the responsibility to me and my comp. He came to my area on Saturday and gave us like an hour training and now we are really just going to figure it out on our own. I would like to give a shout out to every single one of my seminary teachers: Brother Cook, Brother Geilman, Brother Prestwich and all the others I have had in my life. You really don't know how hard and how big of a deal seminary is until you have to become a teacher. Realamente seminary has a HUGE impact on youth during high school. Seminary is the place youth can go to and be spiritually restrengthened during the day which will help them stay on the right path during high school. I am so grateful for all of the wonderful seminary teachers I had that now I can use their example and teach the students I am in charge of. Since the church is new in my area, there are only three enrolled youth and they are all in my branch. Yamilet and Thania are sisters who help me and my comp all the time and are my friends so it will be fun teaching them! Overall I am a little nervous about this but it should be fun! I am grateful for all the opportunities I have to teach on my mission but I have decided I don't want to be a teacher when I grow up...I think I will stick to law.
This week was really tough for me. Every day I would wake up in the morning having no energy. One day I was feeling very down and so I just turned to my Father in Heaven in prayer and asked for help to overcome what I was going through. After praying, I instantly felt the Savior lifting me up and felt the spirit comforting me. A friend suggested I read Alma 38 so I turned to this chapter and read it. It was like my Father in Heaven was speaking to me! This chapter brought me so much comfort and energy to continue forward. I also read my favorite scripture, D&C 121:7-8, and was reminded with patience, I will be able to endure everything. Really my time here on the mission in short. In 13 months I will be able to rest and spend all the time I want doing things I want with the people I love. So in reality, I am fine. I have never felt my Father in Heaven so close to me before in my life. This mission has helped me so much strengthen my testimony in my Savior and in my Heavenly Father. I know that they are there for me and lift me up when I think I cant move on.
One of the exciting moments of my week was seeing a crocodile in the river in my area! Usually we only have seen the eyes and noses but this time we saw half of its body. Half of its body was on the bank of the river and the skin color totally blended in with the dirt so if I wasn't paying attention I probably wouldn't have seen it. The crocodile was pretty big! It is so crazy to think my area has crocs. Sometimes I am just amazed that I am living in Nicaragua!
So remember my investigators Francisco and Victorina? Well I had a wonderful, meaning the most hilarious lesson with them, this week! So they have pet pigeons that live in this tree we sit beneath to teach. Well one day we were teaching and I was so paranoid a pigeon was going to poo on me because in an earlier lesson a pigeon almost pooped on Victorina. So we were all paranoid of the pigeons and kept looking up to see what was going on above us. We were in the middle of teaching a lesson when all of a sudden, SPLAT. Victorina started screeching; a pigeon pooped on her head. We all just started screeching and dying of laughter! Francisco got a towel and got some of the bird poop out of her hair. For literally the next five minutes we were all laughing! Every time we would stop laughing, someone would chuckle and then we would just start all over again. In this moment of laughter, I just felt pure happiness; I was surrounded in green trees, teaching the gospel to people I love and laughing. Couldn't get much better than that!
Well I hope you all have a wonderful week!!! I love you all so much! Keep firm in the faith and be stellar members.
Con mucho amor,

Hermana Howell

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Do you want to be a Mormon?

Buenas tardes to the most wonderful family in the whole entire world! I hope you all know that I love you all so much. I have been thinking about you all a lot this week...just a little homesick...but I am just so grateful to have such an amazing family! I hope you all are doing well and had a wonderful week. This week was definitely better than the past previous weeks. So this week was kinda a crazy week. Tuesday I was in Managua for a training meeting and then I had two day changes. So Hermana Zepeda went with some hermanas for two days in Managua and another hermana, Hermana Melendez, came with me! We were in the same zone in Managua before so we knew each other which was always good. Working with Hna Melendez was good. She only has two months in the mission so it was still a scary thought to think that I am now the older comp...I still feel like a baby! We had some pretty good times together. For example, we were walking under some trees and a bird pooped on her shoulder. I was dying of laughter because she was so casual like..oh, looks like a little birdy left a gift for me! hahaha good thing it wasn't me. I would be freaking out. Also a boy walked up to her and gave her a flower that was for me...yeah I definitely put it in my journal haha. 

Hra. Zepeda and me
So this week was kinda a sad week with my investigators. My investigators, the family who was going to get baptized Saturday didn't get baptized because they are waiting for divorce papers which takes 3 MONTHS here. AH I am hoping for some miracle and they can get married and baptized soon because they are so ready! Other than them, no other investigators came to church this Sunday. Oh boy this Sunday was pretty sad. After sacrament, literally the whole rama went home so in relief society was only me, my comp, the teacher and one other sister. Crazy right?! The one thing that I hope I can help this area is help strengthen the rama.

On Friday Elder Soares and Elder Ochcoa from the Seventy came and spoke to us! It was such an amazing experience. Presidente Collado encouraged us all to come to the meeting, which was in Managua, fasting for questions about our area or other things we needed. I accepted his invitation and fasted to receive some questions I had about my area. Every time I fast I marvel at the miracles that I see. I had every single one of my questions answered in the conference with Elder Soares. My testimony of fasting continues to be strengthened and I know without any doubt that if we fast, having faith that we can receive what we are fasting for, our Heavenly Father will answer our prayers. In the conference, both the mission presidents and their wives gave little talks and then Elder Ochoca and his wife gave a talk. Following them, Hermana Soares and Elder Soares spoke. Such an amazing experience to be sitting in front of the President of the Seventy. Elder Soares gave a wonderful talk; I was uplifted and inspired. What made the meeting even more great was that I understood everything the speakers said. It is little things like this that show me my Spanish is improving...little by little. I felt the spirit so strongly in the meeting and was impacted with how grateful I feel for the opportunity I have to serve my Savior here in Nicaragua. My testimony has grown so much on my mission. My relation with Christ and my Father in Heaven have been strengthened so much and I know they are there and are always by my side. I cherish this time I have to serve the Lord and absolutely love being a missionary! Yes, every day there are challenges but the joy I feel from helping others come to Christ, and especially coming closer to Christ myself, is priceless.

My District
President Collado provided all of us with lunch to eat in the bus after the conference which was McDonalds. Never again in my life will I eat McDonalds. He gave us a Big Mac, fries and soda. In addition, I bought more fries and mcnuggets (fat status). Worst idea ever. Well, we ended up all getting sick so we just chilled in our room when we got home that night feeling so nauseous and sick. Word of advice: don't eat McDonalds in a moving vehicle. 

One thing I love about serving in Nicaragua is all the crazy experiences I have. On Saturday we had a lesson with this older woman, who contacted us in the street and asked us to come to her house which we accepted. So we went to teach her and the first problem is that she owns and lives in a bar. Well, that doesn't look the greatest! Two missionaries walking into a bar, that must have looked lovely! Well it turns out she is one of those older women who just wants to talk and is not interested in our message. She was a member of another faith and we just gave up trying to teach her a lesson because everytime we would say something she would yell " I belong to another church!" Oh well, how great. Want to become Mormon? haha. Anyways, we kept trying to leave but she would always find some reason to make us stay longer. For example, she offered us food which of course we gladly accepted. Well, she ends up giving us cake and coke in a beer cup! So there are two missionaries teaching the Gospel with a cup that says "Tona" (it is a local beer company) full of soda in our hands. Luckily no one passed by! I was laughing so hard at our ridiculous situation. What a crazy lesson that was!

Con MUCHO amor,

Hermana Howell