Monday, September 29, 2014

Prepared by the Angels

This week we made a "big cake" for one of our investigators--turns out Tang makes great flavoring for frosting!

Hello and happy conference week! Are you guys PSYCHED?? I sure am!

Remember how I wrote last week about the "blue vase" of Santa Barbara, 50 more baptisms? Let's follow up on that: following the counsel of my wise cousin Megan (shout out to Hermana Hickman in Argentina!) that when we have a goal, we can study it out in our minds and take our plans to the Lord in a companionship inventory. Well, I was looking at our very small investigator pool and thinking "I don't know how we're going to baptize 50 people if we're only teaching 10" So I spent a long conversation with the Lord on Sunday night asking that we might be able to find many new investigators. We talked about that same subject on Tuesday morning during our companionship study and our district meeting, especially about finding those who have been truly prepared. As we went out to teach Tuesday afternoon, we prayed to find those who had been prepared by the angels, as we had read in Alma, from both sides of the veil.

And what happened? We found 19 new investigators this week, including three new families. That is a miracle. That is an answer to a prayer. I love that our Heavenly Father answers prayer. So here's the Hermana Pickett lesson this week: Do you have a righteous desire? Good, your Heavenly Father shares your righteous desires. Think about it, study the scriptures, make a plan, and then pray with the absolute confidence that God is listening and that He will perfect your plan by combining it with His. And then you and He will make it happen. Don't take my word for it--go try it. It's pretty amazing.

Run down on some of these new people:

1. Familia Tabora Sorto. So humble and ready to learn, a father, mother, and four children (three above 8 years of age). They met the missionaries in a little out of nowhere village where they used to live, but the sisters there were taken out of the area only a few days after knowing this family. They say one was from Mexico, but our ony Mexican sister that I know of was never in Santa Barbara...heavenly messengers...maybe

2. Fam. Mejia Alemán, fam. Garcia Alemán, Belkys, and Lorena. This is a combined seven people, all in different houses, but all related to each other. This is why we ask for referrals. One said "I've tried to go to other churches, but I just don't feel the truth there." Another said "We've been praying to know which church is true, because we want to serve God in His true church." I'm so not making this up. As I was sitting in these lessons I was thinking "No, this isn't really happening. I'm having a Preach My Gospel influenced dream." But it really happened! And I loved it!

3. Fam. Tejada. She's a nurse, her children actually sat down and listened to us without being coerced, and she was willing to come to church two hours after finishing a night shift at the hospital. That's legit.

Now, this email will be a lot cooler next week when all of these people have come to general conference. But all good things come to those who wait, when they wait upon the Lord.

I love being a missionary. It's not easy, but it's wonderful. I love the Lord, I love the gospel, and I love this work. I hope that everyone is having a wonderful week and that you are taking your oportunities to share the gospel in your corners of the vineyard!

And hey, my mom says that a few of you reading are not yet members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Have you spoken with someone about the incredible atoning sacrife of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Have you read the remarkable book He called the prophet Joseph Smith to translate? If you haven't, you're missing out. Give it shot--it's more than worth it.
Remember how I fell down a lot in that cave? 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Blue Vase

My beautiful hijas! I'm so proud of them! 

Baptisms, I LOVE baptisms! Blessings all around!

I thought these were toys from a distance, but they turned out to be dessert! 

We celebrated the birthdays of one of our elders and a very soon to be elder this week...

Turns out birthday cakes are a lot more fun in Honduras than they are in the States

This is the moutain I climbed from the inside. It was pretty coool 

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Companionship adventures in cave exploring!
I can't even count the number of times I though "Oh man, my dad would hate this." :)

Our wonderful guides, the Trochez family. We made a fire (girl's camp skills!) and then they made a spit, on which they roasted pork, grilled corn, and reheated tortillas. Pretty impressive. 

Buenas tardes from Santa Barbara! Today has been nothing short of exasting, but exauted is what I live for! 

This week was great--how could being in the service of the one true God be anything less? We were so highly blessed to see the baptisms of Walquidia and Axel. As they entered the font, I was remembering the day that Hna Davila and I were contacting in the street and asked a well-to-do looking woman "Have you ever heard of the Mormon church?" and our shock to hear her reply that she was already a member. Add to that our joy to find that one of her children was of an accountable age and wanted to hear the gospel, our surprise to find that she remembered very little of the doctrine she had learned fifteen years earlier, and our excitement to find that both mother and son needed the ordinance of baptism and were ready to accept it. I love seeing the miracle of conversion unfold. It really is spectacular. 

Speaking of spectacular conversions, we have had some incredible lessons with Byron this week. When we called to set up an appointment on Friday, we were met with the news that Byron's grandfather had passed away. We were able to attend the viewing, where we were aquainted with Byron's grandmother. We briefly shared with her a message that we have repeated a lot this week--through this gospel, marriage does not have an expiration date. Not even death will keep us apart for long. We were able to share that same message in more detail with Byron, his parents, and his sisters the next evening. The plan of salvation is one of my favorite lessons to teach--people hear it and they just know it is true. The divine in each of us raises its head and whispers, I think I remember that. The family had a special mass in the name of their grandfather (Byron's family is super Catholic, PS), but Byron came to Sacrament meeting anyway. He said he felt like he needed to come. On Sunday night, we went over three key events of the Restoration: Joseph saw God the Father and His Son, the Book of Mormon was brought forth by the power of God, and the priesthood was restored. We then asked, one by one, if Byron believed those had actually happened. Here's how he responded. 1. At first, I had a lot of doubts about how the church was established, but seeing how it was given to someone so humble, I know it is true. 2. Of course it is true, hermanas! You only have to read it to know that it is the word of God. (And this one might be my favorite) 3. Well, hermanas, it's just like Nephi says (he's been reading 1 Nephi 13) it was necessary that we had a restoration of all things. So yeah, I believe that God gave that power to Joseph. And then we're like (but in an artiulate way) Byron! So get baptized already, man! But with the help of Kristy and the Holy Ghost, we found out that a lot of the problem is that he feels weird moving away from his family's catholosism. We can work on that. He's got a baptismal date for the 4th. I'll keep you posted. 

As part of a leadership training this week, we watched a film called A Quest for a Go Getter. In said film (which is wonderful), a young man cheerfully and unrelentlessly pursues his goal, obtaining a certain blue vase, even though it is a purposefully impossible task and he only has one of his arms. He doesn't take no for an answer, he doesn't quit, and he doesn't allow himself to be discouraged for long. And even though the task was pretty much impossible, he made whatever sacrifice necessary and in the end, he accomplished the impossible. Time after time, he said with a smile, It shall be done. Our branch president encouraged us to identify our "blue vase" and ask ourselves what we were willing to do to achieve it. I asked during the mission coordination meeting how many baptisms we are missing this year, and now I've got a blue vase: 50 baptisms, 3 months. It shall be done! 

My good friend Hermana Behan (shout out to Nicaragua!) recieved an epic promise from Elder Alonso when he visited her mission, and a part of the plan she was given to fulfill that promise was to have a vision and pray with faith to achieve it. I've got my eye on a goal, and I know that it is possible. There is nothing impossible for God. The last three months of this year are my last three months on this mission, and I will certainly have plenty to keep me busy! 

I love this work. I love my Savior, and I am so glad to serve Him. I love this gospel and I know that it is true. The Spirit reminds me of that every single day. 

Oh! I forgot to mention why I am so tired today. We woke up at 5 to hike up to some caves--turns out it's called La Cueva Montuca--and that hike took a long time. Being in a cave was one of the stranger experiences of my life. We walked on and on through the darkness, maybe a mile or a mile and a half, into endless black. Everything was damp and cold, the bats squealed and the water dripped endlessly, and it smelled strangly like orange sticks. Minus the orange sticks smell and the flashlights, I think outer darkness might be a lot like living a mile deep in a cave. I have never been so glad to see the sun as I was after the two hours we spent in the darkness. We all fell down a lot (this was not a smooth path in the dark, I basically climbed a mountain from the inside) and I realized when we got out that the sharp pain in my leg was owing to the large goose egg growing there. But I am now well fed and clean and I'll take some ibuprofen, so it's fine. 

Have a wonderful week, and I wish the happiest of birthdays to both of my grandfathers! I love you! 

Con mucho amor, 
Hermana Pickett

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

And Hermana Pickett prayed, Let there be light

Sep 8 (This one is out of order)
Hello family and everyone else interested enough to read this letter!

It's getting pretty late in the afternoon here in Honduras, so here's the fun story--sometimes (or rather, all of the time) in this lovely little town of Santa Barbara, the power goes out. And we can't use the internet if the power is out. So we went to write at 2 pm, our normal writing time, and the power went out just before we arrived. It stayed out until 4:30, and we go out to work at 6, so there is a fire under my tail today!

In regards to changes, we didn't have one. Davila and Pickett are passing another 6 weeks in Santa Barbara. We had a pretty normal week, if any week in the mission is normal. Axel and Walquidia are still progressing nicely (maybe a smidge too quickly) toward their baptism, which is planned for this Saturday. We found lots of promising new investigators, I didn't hurt myself any worse (major achievement, if you're me) and did our best to build the Kingdom.

Here's a funny moment from this week: One day, as we had not been able to find the people with whom we had appointments, we contacted a woman in the street and asked if we could come back in the coming days. We went back, found her house, and sat down to start a lesson. And then her dad came in. Little did we know, he was the founder and pastor of the Evangelical Christian church across the street. The next thirty minutes were really not very uplifting. It became increasingly clear that this man had no interest in hearing us. On the contrary, he continually tried to take possession of the lesson and convert us to "the truth". His favorite question was "But have you really accepted Christ as your Savior?" I figured out why people get baptized in Evangelical churches here. It's because, no matter what you say, the pastor is there to convince you that, no, you haven't accepted Christ as your Savior, and that you need to do so right now. When we finally found the oppportune moment to end the lesson (we had been trying to do so for twenty of the thirty minutes) we politely asked this man if he might offer the closing prayer. Enthusiastically, he almost shouted "Yes I will! Stand up! (we reluctantly stood) We're all sinners, but right now you're going to confess your sins and accept Christ! Father, say Father! You do believe in the Father in your church, right?" Yeah, we just left. We shook hands and smiled and left. We have now named that neighborhood el mar de apostasía, because the people there are spiritually drowning. We hear he is bragging that he beat the Mormons. When I heard that, I just thought about Moroni's promise that one day we will meet at the bar of God, and we will know who was right. I'll just leave that there. So, long story short, I didn't convert to Evangelicalism.

I'm sorry this letter is short and lame today, but I prayed fervently that the power would come back on so that 1. I could read my letters from all of you and 2. My parents wouldn't worry that I was dead (guys, I'm not dead), and now I've fulfilled that. So I got what I needed. While we were waiting for the power to come back on and accepting the reality that it wasn't going to happen any time soon, my companion offered the wisdom, Well, you can't always get what you want. In response now I can confidently offer (and I would sing this if I were telling you this story face to face) you can't alway get what you want, but you get what you need.

I love my Heavenly Father, and I am so profoundly grateful and awestruck that He has trusted me with this corner of His vineyard. I hope I can prove better for the task. I love you all and I hope you have a wonderful week!

Hermana Pickett

Fourteen Ain't Eighteen

This week, we had our first zone meeting of the change. Hence, I had my first opportunity to say to the zone, "Hi. I'm Hermana Pickett, and I have 14 months on the mission" and that's when I am met with a resounding wave of "BAGGGGGGGGGGGYYYYYYYY" (that's mission talk for, you already want to go home, you're practically on the plane!) But no, I'm not baggy. Because I was called for 18 months, not 14. And fourteen sure isn't 18. Do they seem close by? Ask yourself what the difference is between being 14 years old and being 18 years old. Yeah, that's what I'm saying. 14 ain't 18.

You know what I got to learn again this week? I am an authorized representative of Jesus Christ, a laborer in the Lord's vineyard, a missionary for the only true and living church of the Almighty God on the face of the earth. That's a big deal! I won't always be able to say that, but while I can, I love it. I love being a missonary. It isn't easy at all, but I love it. At our zone meeting, our ZLs shared a video, in the which President Eyring, then Elder Holland, then President Eyring again spoke about this great work in which we are serving. President Eyring was speaking in a priesthood session, and Elder Holland was speaking to new mission presidents. Elder Holland posed a question that struck me to the core. He said "Presidents, you will have missionaries who will say, "Why isn't this easier, President? Why don't they get it? Why don't they flock to the waters of baptism? Why do they reject us? Why is this so hard, President?'" And to us, sometimes it doesn't make sense why the work is so hard. To us, the blessings and happiness of the gospel are so blatant, and we don't understand why others don't want those blessings. But this work is Christ's work. And if the Savior of the world was driven to ask if there wasn't another way, if the burden might not be lifted, it is easy to see that Christ's work is hard. It wasn't easy for Him, and it won't be easy for us. But He never stopped. He never said, I deserve a break. He never slackened His pace or ceased to be perfectly obedient. So we keep going, and we don't quit. That is the work we have been called to--the work of salvation.

And speaking of such, Walquidia and Axel are definitely gettng baptized this Saturday! They had to go away this last weekend on a family emergency, but that's okay--they weren't ready last Saturday. They're ready now. The Lord knows how His plan is to unfold. We were also very excited on Sunday to see Bairon, a missionary aged young man who is honestly persuing the truth. He read from the title page to 1 Nephi 10 in one sitting. That was cool. He needs to grasp a little more profoundly his testimony of the restoration, but he really has been prepared for this message. Stay tuned for good news.

This is such an incredible message to be prepared for. Let's recap: Before the world was even formed, God created a perfect plan to give His children every single good thing and happiness ever. So He made an earth and sent us to it, and His only perfect child, Jesus Christ, came and lived a life without a single mistake--not even a single unclean thought--and even though He could have passed on to rest without suffering, because He had done nothing to merit suffering, He volunteered to bear the guilt and pain brought on by the mistakes and heartaches, not to mention illnesses and worries, for every person who ever lived and ever will live on this earth. Think about that! He paid for sins for people who haven't even been born yet! He bore the guilt for mistakes you and I haven't even made! And He did it because He loves His Father, and both of Them love all of us. So now, if we can complete the very small portion of work that has been left to our responsiblity (if we can trust God enough to believe in Him, change our lives for the better, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and stick it out, always trying our best) there is not a single blessing that will be kept back from us. That means living forever in a perfect body, with a perfect happiness, with our families and loved ones. That means peace now and joy forever. That's real.

I'm going to say that again: it's real. If you don't feel like it's real, say a prayer. Read the Book of Mormon. Test God. He told me. He'll tell you.

I know that God loves us, and that He loves us just as much as He loved His children in biblical times. That's why He's still calling prophets, like Joseph Smith in 1820 and Thomas S. Monson right now. I love Him, and I love to be one of His missionaries.

Yesterday, we spoke to a man who really doesn't like our religion, or religions in general, or governments, or the United States. After ranting about all of the above for a while, his anger became focused on me, an obvious citizen of a country he doesn't like. With hatred in his voice, he accused me of only coming to Honduras to find something I liked and take it away, because that's what Americans do. Without a moment of hesitation, I looked that man square in the eye and said "I am here because God sent me here to preach His gospel." And that's right. There's no other reason that I am here--just to be a servant of my Heavenly Father. And it's the best reason there is.

I love you all and I hope that you have a wonderful week. Take a second to remember what has been done for you, and ponder the question I was asked 13 months ago in the CCM: What are you going to give to Him who gave everything for you?

Hermana Pickett

Monday, September 1, 2014

Big Cake

big ugly bruise--love it!
SO glad I don't have to do this anymore!

Hunger games! 

Couldn't participate but still had fun!

My DL threw a bucket of water on me...
...and I wasn't happy about it

¡Hola familia y amigos! Espero que estén muy bien y que hayan pasado una semana excelente. Don't use google to translate that! I believe in your ability to read it.

Want to hear something crazy? I've already finished a whole transfer cycle here in Santa Barbara! It's already been six weeks! We don't know anything about transfers yet (although one elder is best friends with the AP, and he says there is a cambio coming...) so that will just be an excellent surprise for all of you next week, now won't it? Cliffhanger!

The best news of the work this week is that I actually got to participate! Other than Tuesday afternoon, I went out and worked every day this week. And that was awesome. I love the Lord and I love His work. I hated having to miss it. And the day that I couldn't go out, I stayed the afternoon in the home of the sweetest woman I have ever met in my life (her name is Carmen--think the Honduran version of Annie and you're there) and we talked about how we could help her to reactivate her husband and help her daughter avoid discouragement after having to return early from the mission due to illness. Afternoon very well spent. So even though I'm grateful I had the opportunity to read about 15 chapters of Jesus the Christ, I am very happy to be laboring once again in the Lord's vineyard.

On Wednesday we had the incredible blessing of having a conference with Elder Jose L. Alonso of the Seventy and his wife. We had to put in the sacrifice to obtain the blessing--On the bus at 5 am, off the bus at 7:30--but it was worth it. In Preach My Gospel, it says that we should be bold and loving. Elder Alonso is my new favorite example of how to be bold. He taught us to get to know people with opening lines like "We're here to help you to prepare to be baptized in the only true church of Jesus Christ", "We're missionaries and we baptize everyone who says hello to us in the street" and "Oh, so you've heard how the angel Moroni delivered and ancient record to the youth Joseph and now we have the fullness of the gospel?" And all of those things are true. I just didn't know we had permission to say them upon meeting someone for the first time. I know now :) He also spoke very strongly about the dignity of a missionary and how it is that we can come to know our Heavenly Father better. Best of all, Elder Alonso is working on his Spanish. So after a strong call to the latino missionaries that, just like we the gringos should always be working on our Spanish, they should always be working on their English, Elder Alonso gave key parts of his talk in English. So when a pair of sisters asked how they could gain more trust and support of the bishopric in their area, and in every other question about people relations, Elder Alonso said "Ok, aquí es lo que tienen que hacer: van a hacer un big cake." And he put out his arms to show just how big this big cake should be. And then he said, "Y si eso no funciona, van a comprar un bigger cake--no se preocupe del precio, President Dester will pay for it." It was very, very funny. So now we have a dicho in our mission--big cake.

And then, from Thursday to the end of the week, we took that spiritual high that we had learned from an apostle of God and applied it to the missionary. Unfortunately, every decided to not be home this week. But we are not discouraged! We street contacted more than I think has ever been done in this area, we asked everyone, interested or not, who they would like to share this gospel with, and we talked about baptism like the eternal blessing and pressing priority that it is. We need a little more oil to become a finely tuned machine on that front, but I liked working with the Alonso method. It's fun.

Investigator wise, Walquidia and Axel are still progressing smoothly toward baptism. Marvin, Judith's husband, seems to think that he can whimp out on the gospel and thus prohibit his wife from receiving the blessings she is so totally deserving. Now that I have a brace on my foot and I can walk, I will have to have a talk with him. Byron, the young man who came to church a few times, has been out of the picture as of late because his friend in Yojoa got married this week. We'll find him. Other than that, we are doing our best to tell the whole world about this true and living gospel and seek out those who are prepared to receive this message. I love doing that. I love this work.

I love you all and I hope you have a fantastic week. Find an opportunity to share your testimony with someone and share it boldly! We have no need to fear sharing the truth. I know that Christ lives, and that this is His gospel, and that only by and through Him may we have hope that there really is something better waiting for us and for our families. I love my Savior, and I am honored to be in His service.

Con mucho amor,

Hermana Pickett
We contacted a family that sells piñatasand helped make a few--maybe they aren't all that interested, but I have the best new life skill ever!

Cinnamon rolls, round 2 in the mission! It DEFINITELY rose enough

The Parable of the Sprained Ankle

I have been reading a lot of Jesus the Christ this week, so I will now explain this week in the James E. Talmage style that is currently permeating my thought process:

There was in the land of Honduras a sister missionary who, being influenced by the entertaining but potentially  dangerous idea of a Hunger Games activity planned by the elders in her district, sought a high place in which to hide herself and avoid being utterly destroyed in said activity. Due to the exaustion and standoffish attitude of her companion, the missionary sought after her hideaway alone. Upon locating a likely place to climb and find safety, she attempted to scale to the potential sanctuary and fell, striking her foot sharply in the descent. Despite her best efforts at shrugging it off and thinking positively, the missionary was diagnosed with an esquince, which being interpreted is sprain, and was impelled to stay in her bed all the week long, bemoaning her moment of foolishness and changing her ice packs during all watches of the night.

But Elder Talmage does not just give the parable, he gives the interpretation. So let's look at this week's mishap from a gospel standpoint. Sometimes in life, we put ourselves in dangerous situations, but they don't look very dangerous. Maybe we only sidestep one or two minor commandments to get there. We don't mean to fall, but we put ourselves in a good opportunity to do so. We won't always fall. I was not the only one looking for a good place to climb that day or any day, but I am the only one who had an accident. Not everyone is going to fall prey to the same problems. But just because our friends can come out of a situation that could be spiritually dangerous without a scratch doesn't mean that everyone will do so. So we put ourselves in the situation, and sometimes, we fall. And then three things happen: we cannot do what we want to do, we cannot do what we need to do, and we cannot do what we are called to do. More on that.

1. We cannot do what we want to do. I spent the last week in bed with my foot elevated. It didn't matter that I would have liked to visit the people here that I love and want to help progress. It didn't matter that I wanted to write in my journal. It didn't matter that I wanted to get outside and breath clean air. I couldn't do anything but lay there and allow my foot to heal. That was lame. And boring. And surprisingly difficult.

2. We cannot do what we need to do. Getting my own food, changing my own ice packs, washing dishes, taking a shower that lasts longer than five minutes, you name it. If it was a necessesity that involved getting out of bed, I couldn't do it. And I had to let people help me. That was a pretty humiliating experience, not being able to fulfill my own needs. But Heavenly Father helps our humiliating experiences become humbling exeperiences, and He uses our mistakes to teach us.

3. We cannot do what we are called to do. 18 months wasn't a long time in the first place, but now that I am down to less than 20 weeks, losing a whole week of the Lord's time was unacceptable to me. The pain in my foot was only matched by the absolute knowledge that I had a work to do and I wasn't doing it. Lame, lame, lame. But I literally could not do work. I couldn't walk. So there was nothing to do but know that my two minutes of poor decision making would have a much longer time of relash.

We put ourselves in dangerous situations in life when we step out of holy places, and we fall when we sin. The spiritual damage we can cause is easily more painful and much harder to fix, at times, than a sprained ankle. Like it or not, we all have to go through the long and arduous process of repentance, and sometimes we even need other people, like a bishop, to help us. We can no longer enjoy the gladness and confidence waxed strong by virtuous and righteous living. We become incapable of fulfilling our spiritual needs by worthily partaking of the sacrament and living our covenants. We absolutely cannot work in the realms that God has called us to, because we cannot have the constant present of His spirit. And that hurts! Ibuprofen does not get rid of that! The good news is that we can heal. In the same way that our bodies have the capacity to heal themselves because of divine design, our Father sent us a Savior so that He can heal our souls. But we can avoid the pain that is sure to accompany our healing if we will skip those two minutes of poor decisions. We can't write off commandments as minor. We can't make excuses to leave our holy places. An accident won't always happen, but it's better to not take the risk than suffer the consequences. Long story short: keep the commandments, in this there is safety and peace.

So other than staying in bed, I went for an X-ray, I went to the hospital, I got another X-ray (hey, how much do we charge for those in the States? Because at the clinic they're only $20 and at the hospital they're only $2. That's a steal) I almost got a cast but didn't, I have a perscription for an ankle brace that I will receive on Wednesday, I made a lot of new friends in the branch by staying in the house with them all day long, and there was a miracle: We were inspired to call the Sister Leader Trainers and they came and stayed with us for three whole days so that there would always be someone to stay with me and someone to go teaching with Hermana Davila. They are the best people in this mission. We love them.

I should have some great stuff to report next week. I will actually be able to leave the house when I've got my brace and Elder Alonzo of the 70 is coming for a conference this week, so that should be great! I love you all, I hope you have a wonderful week, and remember--avoid poor choices! Sprained ankles hurt!

Hermana Pickett
X-ray! No broken bones here!