Monday, April 24, 2017

Mission Report

My name is Elena Aburto and just over 18 months ago I was called to serve in the California Modesto Mission. When I received my call, I had never even heard of Modesto, California, but I knew that the call was from God and I was so excited to serve there. The Modesto area is very different from Orem. The people there speak differently. In California they say hecka (I’m hecka tired, or that’s hecka funny, or oh my goodness the word hecka is so hecka annoying) or instead of saying “I’m so jealous” they say “I’m so jelly.”

My mission was the most incredible experience of my life so far. Today I wanted to start out by sharing about how the Savior changed me, and then I’ll go into how the Savior changed the people that I taught.

In Matthew 10:39 (Joseph Smith Translation) it reads: “He who seeketh to save his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” Before my mission, I had heard that verse several times, but I never truly understood it until I lived it. As a missionary, the Lord asks that we turn outward and love other people, when our natural tendency is to be self-absorbed and turn inward. I have always struggled with pride in that I tend to worry about how other people see me and that has always made me really self-conscious. But whenever I truly loved someone, I would become so bold and confident in teaching them about the gospel, because I truly desired their salvation. So by turning outward I was able to come out of my shell and successfully teach the gospel. By turning outward, it’s as if I literally had more room in my heart for the Spirit to reside and take over.

By turning outward and loving others, I was able to finally recognize my talents and gifts and qualities that I had never considered having before. The Savior taught me that I am a good friend to those who know me well, that I am a charitable person, that I am a good teacher, and my personal favorite, that I am a giant flirt. (When I first discovered that about myself I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but now I’m just choosing to be proud of it.)

Something I find remarkable is that I feel like with a lot of the people that I taught, they were very similar to me in some ways. I could identify with them.

There was one less-active member that I taught, Brother Oxxxx. He was really shy but he was hilarious—literally me. He was shy about saying the prayer or bearing testimony or having a calling in church. He wouldn’t even pray in front of his own family. My companion and I tried to teach him that we were both similar to him, in that we didn’t like to be the center of attention but the Lord was able to help us with anything that he asks. But he never got up the nerve to pray whenever we asked him. One day we were having dinner at his house and I happened to be having a really bad day, and he could tell so he tried to cheer me up by making me laugh. Later after dinner I asked him to say the prayer and he again said no, and so I thought, “You know I’ve been having a bad day.” And I told him, “If you don’t say the prayer, I’m going to start crying.” So he said, “Really?” and I’m like, “Yeah.” And he finally said the prayer for the first time ever! The second time that he prayed was when, his brother had come over to his house and had basically attacked my companion and me. He told us that we didn’t have any proof that there was a God, and that Joseph Smith wasn’t really a prophet. To be honest, it didn’t really bother us because we knew what we believed, and we knew that he was just being stubborn. But Brother Oxxx felt bad. So he prayed for us and the way that he prayed for us missionaries to be able to overcome any opposition was so beautiful. I will never forget the Spirit that I felt whenever he prayed. I’m so grateful for the love that he had for us which was able to cast out the fear that he had.

I want to talk about my investigators Pxxx and her 18 year old son, Lxxx. They were both super shy people. But the power of the Book of Mormon was really evident when we taught them. What happened was, one of the members of the Quorum of the Seventy, Elder David F. Evans, had come and spoken to all the missionaries in my mission. He had given us the challenge to give our investigators big reading assignments. Instead of just asking to read one chapter, give them 10 chapters to read! He said that people need to read until they feel the Spirit, and then read a little more. So that’s what we did with Pxxx and Lxxx. It was so cool to see them read the Book of Mormon! At first Luis didn’t want to share what he read, but eventually he warmed up to us. We would bike off and we saw her reading the Book of Mormon immediately after our visit. They felt the Spirit as they read about Lehi’s Vision. I remember she asked us about infant baptism and we showed her where it talks about how children are alive in Christ in Moroni chapter 8. It was so cool to see her mark it in her scriptures. You could tell that they were hungry for heavenly help. A few weeks afterwards, my companion and I both got transferred out of that area but we heard that Lxxx got baptized. He wrote me a letter saying that my companion and I had helped him out of the sorrow he had felt before meeting us. In Preach My Gospel it reads, “As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase.” I know what it is like to feel sorrowful, to feel lonely, to feel hopeless, but I know what it is like to feel the healing power of the Atonement. And I wouldn’t want anyone to feel those awful feelings, and that is what motivated me to share the gospel with everyone, including Pxxx and Lxxx—to allow them to feel that peace for themselves.

There was one less-active member who we started teaching since he hadn’t been to church in years and he didn’t remember much. His name is Bxxx. He felt inadequate and unworthy, but Bxxx didn’t realize what a powerful Spirit he had about him. It was so much fun to teach him and I always felt so uplifted after our visits with him. Instead of smoking actual cigarettes he smoked something similar to e-cigarettes. We tried to get him off of those too. So we had the idea to have him come teach with us. So he became a fellow-shipper for our investigator Nxxx. Nxxx was a pretty shy guy but Bxxx was perfect for him. Bxxx was so funny and charming and most importantly he was so sincere whenever he bore testimony. When he taught with us, he no longer had the desire to smoke.
When you’re struggling, the best thing you can do is serve other people.

One of things that really excited me during the course of my mission was anytime the members were involved in missionary work. Our missionary work flourished whenever the members were really excited about missionary work. The reason we found Dxxx was because of a member, Sister Dxxx. Sister Dxxx had been doing her visiting teaching with another member of our ward who was related to Dxxx. Sister Dxxx mentioned the Book of Mormon in her visit and offered a copy of the Book of Mormon to Dxxx and she gladly accepted it. Dxxx was the most solid investigator I ever taught. She got baptized real quickly and she once told us that she understood that the Lord is going to ask us to make changes to our lives. She taught me what it meant to truly repent. She was also so willing to serve others and do her visiting teaching.

After serving my mission, I have come to the conclusion that missionary work isn’t limited to an 18 month excursion. Rather, missionary work is a lifestyle. Turn outward and love other people enough to share the gospel with them. Or if you’re like me and you don’t like people, then love God enough to do His will by sharing the gospel with everyone. Declaring repentance means to simply invite people to do something. We tried to help the members understand how easy it is. You can invite friends to FHE, or to mutual or to ward activities. Share things on social media so that they can feel the Spirit that way.

Don’t be afraid to share the gospel. You never know who will be ready to hear about it, so don’t judge who you think is ready and who is not. There was one man, Dxxx, who everyone –missionaries and members alike--including me assumed that Dxxx wasn’t interested. We thought he was the reason that his wife and kids didn’t go to church. (They were members but he wasn’t.) That wasn’t the case at all. He wanted his family to go to church, even though he himself didn’t grow up with any faith, he wanted his kids to have faith. I felt inspired to ask him, “Why do you want to believe?” He said, “When you don’t believe, then death is the scariest thing in the world. My father passed away 3 weeks ago.” We seized the opportunity to start teaching him. We taught him the Plan of Salvation, and he really liked it; he said it was his favorite explanation of the afterlife he had heard thus far. He read Alma 30 and really identified with Korihor, which I thought was great. It was fascinating to teach him about something as simple as prayer; he didn’t know that you could pray any time you wanted. As far as I know, he never got baptized but the fact that we were able to teach him was a good spiritual touchpoint in his life.

Another story: This happened during a time where we had zero investigators. What made it worse was that even the members simply didn’t want to participate in missionary work with us. We did a lot of knocking on doors, which was fine and we met cool people but we never found anyone solid to teach. My companion and I felt like we weren’t really making a difference in anyone’s life. We had been teaching a less-active member that we had found named Brother Oxxxx. He felt like he wasn’t worthy since he just left God behind and hadn’t been to church in months. But oh my goodness he was a spiritual powerhouse. It felt more like he was teaches us. The last lesson I ever taught him was the Plan of Salvation. The Spirit was present, and when we got to the Atonement I felt impressed to read from Alma 36; my all-time favorite chapter where Alma the Younger talks about his experience with repentance and the joy that can only come from the Savior and His Atonement. Then Hno Oxxx told us about how, when he came to church about two weeks previous after a long time of inactivity, he was silently debating to himself whether he was worthy to take the sacrament or not. After wrestling with himself for a while, he took it, and he felt an overwhelming sense of peace come over him. Then he told us that he didn't think it was a coincidence that we had found him and started teaching him to remind him of his beliefs. He said that both my companion and I would make lasting impressions to him for the rest of his life. I just started crying. He expressed so perfectly why I needed to be sent here on a mission; why I needed to meet these specific people that the Lord has placed on my path. It was a direct answer to my prayers, and it was wonderful to know that my companion and I were answers to his prayers as well.

I bear my witness that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. I know that He is the source of all joy. I’m so grateful for the chance I had to serve Him and act in His name as a missionary. I know that He restored His gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that it is another witness of Christ. I know that He lives and that He loves every one of us. I say these things in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Last email

March 27th, 2017

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith 
2 Timothy 4:7

Well this was my last full week as a missionary, and it was a really good week!

I absolutely loved the women's session of General Conference! It never ceases to amaze me whenever it feels like the talks were directed to me, and answered all my questions perfectly. I loved that it was mentioned a lot that we should center our lives on the Savior. That was a good reminder for me since it may be harder to avoid the distractions once I go home to the real world, but I truly want to live in such a way that will invite the Spirit to be with me all the time.

On Tuesday morning, Sister Palmer called us and said she was going to come teach with us! That is always really intimidating and at first we were just freakin' out, but it went so well! She was with us while we taught a less-active, Hna Castro. We taught her about faith, and about reading the scriptures and listening to the Spirit. I was amazed at our teaching abilities there; the Spirit was definitely the teacher there. Afterwards, I was really touched at how Sister Palmer praised us for how well we taught. 

Later that same day, we had our departure interviews with President Palmer. I seriously just cried the entire interview. I had a mix of emotions: sad that I'm going home but so happy for everything that I've learned as a missionary. He told me that when I go home, my family may not even recognize me. I've changed so much. I was so touched by the genuine love that President Palmer has for me. He is just amazing.

We saw the less-active young women, Axxx and Exxx Gxxx. They have opened up just a little since we started visiting them. They both prayed for the first time in years in front of us! That was super exciting. They are really sweet and I hope they return to Church soon. Attached is the picture of them and their dad.

We were knocking on doors one day and at one door, a man named Axxx answered. We talked to him and he asked us where our church was. We told him and he was like, "I drive by that church every day. When I first moved to Manteca 15 years ago, I saw that church and I thought, 'I want to go there someday' but I never have. And now you're here." We were so excited! We gave him as a referral to the English missionaries and we are so excited for them to teach him.

For my last district meeting, we were told to come with a question in mind. And then we simply read the scriptures together. We read chapters 1 Nephi 8 and Enos 1. It was incredible to see how Heavenly Father was able to help each of us with our questions. Then we each bore our testimonies. It was a perfect last meeting. The Spirit was so strong. 

I was reading Mosiah 28:3 yesterday, and I remember thinking, "I don't know if I have as much desire to save others than Alma and the sons of Mosiah." But then as we were teaching some people yesterday, I was thinking about the time in my life where I had gone through a really hard trial, and I kind of stopped going to church for a while. I remember feeling incredibly lonely and felt abandoned by God. That was so depressing, and I don't want anyone to feel that way. That gave me such a strong desire to never let anyone feel that way. So, like Alma and those other powerful missionaries, I do have that desire to save God's children.

I have never felt so close to my Savior. I am so thankful that He called me to serve a mission. I wouldn't trade these 18 months for anything in the world. It's been the most amazing journey. I know without a doubt that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer. He restored His gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith. I know that my Savior loves me and knows me perfectly. I know that He speaks to us through His living prophet and apostles today. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know that this is His true church. 

Love,

Hermana Aburto

District picture!



Us with Hno Rxxx and his dog Skyrm!


 

At service with the elders. This looks like an album cover, haha! We love them and we'll miss them a ton.


More silly pics...




One more

Monday, March 20, 2017

Have you seen my chickens?

March 20th, 2017

This week we went on our last exchange as missionaries. The way that exchanges are done is different now. Before, you and your leaders would trade companions and one companionship would stay in your area while the other went to the leaders' area. But now Salt Lake has asked that we do exchanges where both companionships work in the leaders' area. So we got to go to Oakdale this week to work in our leaders' area. It was pretty cool! I absolutely love Oakdale. The people there are so nice.

I was on exchanges with Hna Williams and we had a really successful day. We were trying to find former investigators, and the first door that we knocked on was answered by this nice lady who at first said she was busy taking care of her grand kids, but then she just let us in and offered us pizza and tacos. She said the missionaries could come back another day. I just find it so weird that people trust us, complete strangers, to come into their house and eat their food.

We talked to a man on the street, and after a few minutes, he was like, "You should meet my grandchildren!" and he invited us into his home and we taught four kids, who ranged from like ages 10-17 or something. It was so cool!

I also got to go back to Modesto 12th ward for a Relief Society activity. (The Spanish Sister Training Leaders are in that ward, but they live in Oakdale and cover the northern part of the ward.) I got to see some familiar faces and I was touched that those sisters were so happy to see me.

One day, Hna Maya and I were knocking on doors and a guy that answered was really nice but he was kinda distracted and as we were talking to him about family history he just randomly asked, "Have you seen my chickens?" and we were like "....No." And he said his chickens had escaped and so we said we'd keep an eye out for them, and we found them as soon as we left. We helped him chase his chickens! That was the last thing we were expecting to do!

This week we found a new investigator!!! Rxxx is her name. She had met with missionaries before, since her mom was a member and her mom just passed away recently. The missionaries would visit her mom while she was sick. Though Rxxx belongs to a Christian church, she likes missionaries and she was really awesome as we taught her the Restoration and committed her to read the Book of Mormon. We're excited to meet with her again!

There is also this super nice lady named Lxxx who we met this week. We talked to her once while she was in her garden getting rid of Aloe Vera, and I asked if I could have some, and she gave me this giant bag of it! Hispanic people are just so nice and so willing to share their stuff.

Funny story: remember how I told you that I have been trying to get over my addiction of pulling my hair, since it makes it look like I'm not paying attention to anyone? So one time, a while ago, Hna Maya had to go to the bathroom while we were out biking. So we went to a gas station and I sat and waited while she went, and she came back out and was like, "Hermana, do you have your camera?" And I'm like, "No, why?" And she was like, "I wanted to take a picture of the aliens." And I'm like "What aliens....oh!" And then I see that the entire store has like 100 aliens all around. I totally didn't notice because I was too busy picking at my hair!

This is a sign we found at another gas station which we loved.

This is that outside of that gas station. I'm not sure how I didn't see that the first time...

Just nine more days and then I get to hug you again!!!

Love you!!!

Hermana Aburto




With a sister from our ward


With our ward mission leader and his wife



With a couple from our ward





Zone picture!!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Last zone training

March 13th, 2017

There comes a time, towards the end of a missionaries' service, that the adversary attacks and makes missionaries believe that they weren't successful and that they could've done better. 

I got to that point this last week, and I just broke down. I asked my district leader, Elder Schoenfeld, for a blessing, and as usual Heavenly Father was able to tell me exactly what I needed to hear.

The next day, we went to visit our spiritual powerhouse of a less-active member, Fxxx Oxxx. I felt the Spirit so strongly as we taught him about the Plan of Salvation. When we got to the Atonement, I had him read that scripture that I cherish so much found in Alma 36:19-21, where Alma experiences the joy that can only be brought about by Christ and the Atonement. Then Hno Oxxx told us about how, when he came to church about two weeks ago after a long time, he was silently debating to himself whether he was worthy to take the sacrament or not. He took it, and he felt an overwhelming sense of peace come over him. Then he told us that he didn't think it was a coincidence that we had found him and started teaching him to remind him of his beliefs. He said that both my companion and I would make lasting impressions to him for the rest of his life. I just started crying. He expressed so perfectly why I needed to be sent here on a mission; why I needed to meet these specific people that the Lord has placed on my path. I couldn't stop crying and even now as I'm typing this I can remember how strong the Spirit was as we visited him and it just makes me so happy and want to start crying again.

This week we had a zone training; the last one I will ever have! :( It was about the parables found in the scriptures.

The things that stuck out most to me were the following: Elder Schoenfeld talked about lots of times we see repentance as a glass half empty, meaning we only focus on the things that we are lacking. But repentance means looking at ourselves as a glass half full, meaning that you can acknowledge what you are doing right, and add to it. It's the same with our investigators; rather than just focusing on their faults (i.e. smoking) focus on what they are doing right, (prayer and scripture study can help overcome addiction to smoke.) Elder Manly mentioned that when we came on our missions, we agreed to go find the lost sheep and leave our "99 sheep" back home (our families, our personal lives). 

At the end of the zone training, it was asked that those missionaries who were leaving at the end of the transfer would offer their testimonies. I once again felt the Spirit incredibly strongly as I testified of the Atonement and of the principle of turning outward in order to feel joy. 

So one time I was just pondering during personal study or something. I wondered why it is that mothers have to go through so much pain in order to give birth to a child. But I thought about it and I wonder if it's because mother's wouldn't appreciate their child as much if it were so easy to give birth. The fact that it's so hard just makes the child so much more special.


Likewise I definitely would not have appreciated my mission as much if it were easy. This is like the hardest thing I've ever done. But it's also the best decision I've ever made in my life, by far.

I am so sad that my time as a missionary is coming to an end, but I know that the Lord has more things in store for me back home. Love you!

Hermana Aburto



Monday, March 6, 2017

Last multi-zone conference

March 6th, 2017

It was a really good week!

We had a multi-zone conference; the last one I will ever have! :( It was so so so good! It was, not surprisingly, about teaching repentance and baptizing converts. It's always fascinating to me how we talk about the same topic over and over again, yet still get so much out of it.

This time around, we saw Elder Bednar and Elder Oaks talking to some mission presidents and their wives. Something that Elder Bednar pointed out was that it is crucial to involve the Redeemer in repentance. He said that changing behavior without the Savior is not repentance [it's therapy]. He also taught that we shouldn't be afraid of repetitious teaching, which I know to be true since most of the time it takes a couple thousand times to teach something before it finally clicks in someone's mind. One of the mission presidents wives mentioned that the adversary is aware of repentance, and makes people believe that they can't do it. Another one's wife mentioned that a lot of missionaries don't believe that they will make it to the celestial kingdom. If you don't believe you will make it, then you don't believe in repentance! Or the Atonement!


Elder Bednar also said how great of a leader Alma was. In Mosiah 23:27 it reads, "Alma went forth and stood among them," He didn't stand above the people that he led, but among them. (Itwas mentioned during the conference that the mission presidents and their wives should go out with their missionaries to teach them.)

Hna Maya and I also re-listened to Bill Carpenter's conversion story this week, and a part that stood out to me this time is that he said that missionaries in the MTC probably pray 15 times a day, meaning that there were at least 45,000 prayers going on in that building (back then when he was a missionary). That's one reason why the MTC is such a heavenly place! And he said that missionaries are added to the temple prayer roll, and are prayed for every day by people that don't even know us personally. I think even one of the general authorities has mentioned that missionaries get prayed for more than the prophet or something, I can't remember, don't quote me on that. 

But I can certainly say that I feel the prayers that everyone offers for me and my fellow missionaries! I'm once again so incredibly thankful for this holy calling!

During district meeting we talked about this zone conference and I learned that there aren't really "steps" to repentance, rather there are "elements" to repentance. There isn't a specific order that the elements go in (recognize, confess to God, restitution, don't repeat mistake again, etc.). I just found it all really interesting and I'm so grateful to be able to apply repentance to my life. 

About that repetitious teaching though, one of our less-actives Mxxx Cxxx, is a perfect example of that. She wants to know which church is true, but I feel like she never understands what we're trying to teach her about finding her answer. It's not enough to just pray, but she needs to be willing to act, too. She hasn't been reading the scriptures too much, and she doesn't want to come to church. You have to DO and then KNOW and no matter how many times we explain it, she just doesn't get it! Come on, son! 

This week we were finally able to meet with a less-active member Mxxx Rxxx who we've been wanting to work with. He seems really solid, but he works on Sunday so that makes it hard for him. We were able to take another less-active, Txxx, to see him. It's always cool to help our members see the awesomeness of sharing the gospel with other people. 

Yesterday we knocked on the door of a man who has met with missionaries before, and seems to be really familiar with our church. He seems really interested! But I must admit, Hna Maya and I were kinda distracted as we were talking to him because Alvin and the Chipmunks was on his TV in the background, haha! But anyways we are really excited because he said we could come back and talk to him tonight! We'll see how that goes.

Last week we also met with another former investigator who was a referral from a less-active member. He seems to have gone through a hard time recently. We hope that we can help him to understand the Plan of Salvation! We will be meeting with him tomorrow. 

I only have like 23 days left!!!! What is this garbage!!!! Just kidding I'm super excited but sad at the same time...

Have a great week!

Love,

Hermana Aburto

This was from a Relief Society breakfast in our ward

Monday, February 27, 2017

Wherefore can ye doubt?

February 27th, 2017

This week was a really successful week, even though we didn't officially get new investigators, the Lord has helped us be successful in other ways.

This week we met these two sweet less-active teenage girls. They were so cute! They've been through a lot and so they're pretty shy but we had a really awesome lesson with them about God's love, prayer, and scripture study.

We met with a man whose ex-wife was a member of our church. He doesn't believe in God, but we had a good visit with him, and we brought our member, Hna Mxxx with us. Even though he didn't wind up being interested in our message, he said that if he were to join a church, he would join ours, because he has noticed that our church members are really good people. We talked about charity with him. Overall our visit was just a really good "touchpoint" for him.

Oh yeah, and thanks so much for the family history stuff that you sent me last week! We've pretty much been talking about family history with everyone that we meet now, and here's an example of how awesome it is!

Last night we knocked on a random door and an old man named Hno. Jxxx answered, and we talked to him about how the Savior made it possible for our families to be forever, and mentioned family history to him, and asked if he knew his grandparents and what not, and he really liked it! He then asked us questions about our beliefs and we asked if we can come back this week and he said yes! He said that he believes that all religions are good, and that he is Catholic, but I'm so glad that he was able to feel the Spirit of Elijah as we talked about family history with him.

This week we were talking with a man who suffers from something like anxiety, and he's a major introvert. It just made me so sad to talk with him because you can tell that he is super lonely. It just reminded me a lot of how lonely I used to feel. I really truly would not wish that on anyone. It's not a fun experience.

But as I pondered about that I was thinking about how I used to not believe it when people would tell me that I was doing a good job. I thought about how Mami told me that God sends those people to me, and they are acting as angels from God to let me know that He is pleased with me. Then this week during district meeting, we read in 1 Nephi 4:3 where it says, "Ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore can ye doubt?" So, it's saying exactly the same thing Mami told me!

I was also reading in the newest edition of the Ensign and I love what Elder Bednar said about Nephi and the bands around his arms. He said that Nephi didn't pray to have his circumstances change, rather he prayed to have the strength to change his circumstances. And he prayed in that way because he knew of the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I just absolutely love that and can testify that that is 100% true!!

Love you!!!

Hermana Aburto

P.S. This week a member fed us tinga, and it was the best thing ever! Can you make me some tinga when I get home? And ravioli 'cause that is also the best.