Monday, October 28, 2013

Best Ward in Spain

Dear Family, 

Well I took you up on your offer and spent the last hour writing people I don´t usually write. So I have a small amount of time :) 

Things are going well here in Almería. I love the ward here. We had ward council yesterday and I almost fainted. They were talking about OUR investigators. They have a website that they all use and they have every auxiliary organization assigned to do something for each of our investigators, whom they know by name and by photo. Honestly the bishop was giving out assignments for people to do stuff to help our investigators, and we hardly even talked at all. And then at the end he told us that he has a list of people he needs us to visit this week and part member families and things like that. I about died. This is the best ward in Spain. It´s amazing how much the members support us. There are 22 ward missionaries here!!! 

The other missionares here are great too. My companion and I get along really well. He´s a great kid and he makes me laugh a lot. We are pretty good friends. The work is going really slow. It´s hard to find investigators, but we are continuing forward. 

I was in a lesson that I had a small little revelation this week. I was trying to comfort an investigator with massive depression problems and a very difficult life, and then I just started talking about Jesus Christ and the love that He has for all of us, and that we have every reason in the world to be hopeful. It was almost an out of body experience, where I heard the words come out of my own mouth and it dawned on me that what I said was for myself as well. I need to practice what I preach. I would go around from house to house preaching about hope in Christ and the love of God and I wasn´t applying my own counsel :) It´s been a crazy past few days, but I really changed my perspective on a lot of things. My district leader gave all of us a copy of a letter from his father to his older brother, who is serving in India, and his older brother is so much like me it´s literally eerie. His brother has a lot of my same challenges. And this letter really helped me. As well as some modern day prophets and other things. I have started to look at myself from a different perspective. And I am right now working on being hopeful. Positive. Optimistic :) There is so much to be hopeful about. He really did overcome the world. I know that although I am not perfect, He is and He loves me. I love Him so much. I actually feel really happy :) Things can be difficult, but that is no reason to be down on oneself. I make mistakes, I don´t accomplish everything I want to, but I am trying. And He loves me no matter what. 

Well I am out of time :) I am proud of the hope that you both have right now. We all have trials in life. You will find a good job.  I am sorry that things are hard right now, but you guys just need to keep on having hope :) I love you both so much. I love all of you. Brigham I love you and I want you to know that you are so loved. By your earthly parents and your heavenly parents. If I were there with all of you, I would smile so brightly, and hug all of you. And I would tell you how much you mean to me. I am content being here in Spain, but I will always look forward to the day when I get to be with my family again. 

I love you 

elder sharp

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Faith Stronger than Fear

Preston sent two letters home this time, one to dad and one to mom. So I combined them for this post. That's why it's so super long. And a bit choppy.

It was a pretty good week. It was very reenergizing to switch areas. I like it. Almeria is an interesting place. My area is smaller than Jerez, which is nice. But they use the bus a lot here, which is...different. I prefer walking to the bus. In Jerez we walked so much. Most other missionaries don´t like that. They prefer to wait for a bus to come. But I think walking is more effective. Saves money, healthier, and you can talk to people while you walk. I dunno. An opinion thing I guess. I was really really disappointed when I started talking about the weather with people. Apparently this is the city with the most hours of sunshine in a year in the whole world. Even in winter. I was seriously just heartbroken. I am so sick of sunshine. I just want clouds, rain, and snow. It does snow in some areas here. But nope. I got sent to the sunny coast. I will spend the winter in San Diego :) They say it never rains here either. It isn´t that hot right now. I mean, it´s hot, but nothing like summertime in Spain. Everyday the weather is perfect here. And it just makes me sad. I am super weird about weather, but honestly in october the weather should be different than this. I have accepted the fact that I won´t experience my kind of weather until five months after I get home. Until then, I will learn to love the sun :)

Almeria is a city that is smaller than Jerez, but more condensed. And it has pueblos (or small towns) outside of it that do belong to our area. But we normally don´t go there. Although lots of members live in the pueblos. The ward here is enormous. 140 - 150 active members. That´s huge for Spain. We´re about to be split. The ward is actually really supportive. We get fed almost every day. Which also helps me save money. I am glad to be here. They are very willing to help the missionary work. The food here is the same...I suppose. We shop at a huge supermarket chain called Mercadona, and they have that everywhere in Spain. There are lots of south americans here, and they cook differently than the spaniards do.

I got to my area and was a little frustrated. The person who I replaced was getting really comfortable here. I don´t blame him because it happens after you´ve been here for so long, but let´s just say I made some serious changes. They had been teaching eternigators(investigators that just aren´t progressing because of various reasons) three times a week, and that is just a fat waste of time. They hadn´t been finding any new investigators at all, and were visiting recent converts and eternigators, and lots of members. Which is not my style. So Elder Chapple was a little bugged at first when I explained to him the problem, but he came around. They haven´t baptized here for awhile, and it was obviously because the other elder was just tired. They had about four investigators when I got here. All of them have been investigating for years. They taught lots of lessons every week, but I don´t think 20 lessons to investigators that aren´t progressing is anything to be proud of. We are here to make things happen. So this week we only had nine lessons. Which is really low. But sometimes it is necessary to start over and build back up. We are going to start FINDING. Really though, I got here and my performance level SKYROCKETED. I have been surprising myself. I wasn´t really a street contacter at all in Jerez, but I have been doing it here. We found this african on friday in the street and he came to church on sunday and we are going to teach him today. He´s pretty awesome. His name is Gabriel. He should have a fecha for the 3rd tonight. And we also got some eternigators to come to church that have never come before. I was so glad they came. We´re gonna set a fecha with them tonight as well. So things are going well. I have never felt so much desire to work. It´s insane. The motivation is just oozing out of me. We went to church and a baptism on saturday and I was so outgoing. Talking to all of the members and getting all of their names and just being really friendly. It is weird being in an area where I don´t know everything. I have no idea where to go somtimes. And I don´t know the ward yet. But I am learning fast, and I realize now that I have changed a little. I could not have done any of that before the mission. I am just not a very outgoing person :) But a missionary is an outgoing person. So sometimes we need to stretch a little. Things are going well though. Elder Chapple is a good kid. He´s only 18. Really young. But he is really obedient and wants to work. Haha. He just...I don´t know. He is super athletic and a good looking kid and is really nice and cool, just a little different than me. But we get along pretty well.

Anyway. Enough about me. How are things with you guys? If I have learned anything it is that we only need to trust in the Lord. You have two missionaries now and you will be blessed. Our faith needs to be stronger than our fear. I love that. Fear is the opposite of faith. You´d think that it would be courage or something, but it´s faith. It´s having hope even when we are afraid. I am sometimes afraid that I won´t be able to find new investigators or have baptisms, but I do have faith that if I am obedient and work as hard as I can, the lord will bless me. I think one of the blessings of the mission is being in an environment where gospel priniciples are so easily applied to life. It is so much easier to see the application here than it is at home.

You are always in my prayers. I miss you so much. I miss my family. Sundays are always the most homesick days for me. I don´t know why. Being at church or something. This church is for families. Sigh. I know that I am doing the right thing though. It´s difficult to want so desperately to help these people that cannot understand or choose not to. I will pour my heart out and share this message only to watch some turn away and reject it. I´ve gotten used to people hating us in the street. Here there are tons of Jehovah´s witnesses and everyone HATES them here. They always confuse us with them because we dress similar. So most people just don´t give us the time of day. But it´s a good experience. It´s hard. It´s repetitive. I get overwhelmed sometimes and I start to worry about everything. How I am not making the most of my studies, how I am not budgeting as well as I need to, I don´t exercise enough, I don´t eat healthily enough, I am not progressing spiritually, I don´t study the language like I should, just so many things. The hardest thing for me is that I am not good at applying what I learn. I read something, like it a lot, but struggle to apply it to my life. Like every other human being. But that is my biggest worry right now. But what mom told me really helped me. I can´t overcome all of my weaknesses on my mission. I am not expected to. I have all of my life for that. It´s true.

So things are going well. But we don´t live with the other missionaries here in Almería. There are two other elders and two hermanas and we all are in the same city. Our piso is SUPER nice though. Small, but I love it. It has american AC and wood floors (the closest thing to american carpet you can get in europe). I would love to spend Christmas here just because the piso really feels like home. It´s nice. Good view of the ocean too. And the person that was here before me (Elder B) is now ZL in San Fernando. We traded spots. Sometimes they do split up people´s training. Which is fine. And no, I am not a huge fan of the zone leader life. But it is a chance to serve other missionaries which is good. Lots of pressure though. And you have to tell people what to do a lot. I just like being responsible for me and my companion.

Your email was good. Don´t ever feel bad for sending a long email. I do like the long ones better. Sometimes I get so jealous of your life. I really miss home. Sundays are homesick days for me. Yesterday I was more homesick than usual. I will study that parable more and tell you what I think about it. I must not understand it either. And thanks for the Bednar book...I thought you were going to send a different one but I think this one can really help me. I just have hardly any time to read it. I read a little though.

I am excited for Spencer to get into the field. You will probably hear from him in a couple hours. That´s awesome. Hopefully he starts writing more. Although it is hard even with lots of time. There are just so many people that want to hear from us. Today I won´t be able to write anyone besides you two. I am starting to realize that my friends all write shorter emails to their families than I do, or I just type really slowly.

I feel better now. It was renewing to start again in a new area. I sometimes just wish I had more time in the day. I would like five hours of study time instead of one. And then the question of whether to study in Spanish or english comes up. I can do both, but it isn´t quite as edifying in Spanish. I don´t know. Right now I am reading the book of mormon in spanish and using an english BOM study guide that I found. But I just want more time!!! I don´t really like comp study at all. It´s good and everything, but I much prefer personal study.

I have no time anymore. I love you so much. Don´t lose hope. Things are scary right now but I know we´ll be ok. The Lord will bless us. I love you mom. I really can´t wait to see you again.

elder sharp

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

On to Almeria

I sent Preston a lot of photos of Spencer's MTC drop off and the days preceeding that.  I also sent him Spencer's first letter from the MTC.  It sounds like Preston may have some hard days ahead of him- but he is up to the challenge, I'm sure of it.  I miss my boys.  P.S. I don't know why blogger posts the text in different ways each week.  Weird!

Wow. I just spent the last half hour sobbing. Haha. It felt like I was there when I looked at those pictures. That was surprisingly difficult for me. He looked so wonderful. The best photo was the one with all of you hugging him and you could see his face. He´s gone. I thought about him all week. It feels so crazy. I hope he ends up loving the mtc. It sounds like he does already. Honestly this week has been the most difficult week of my mission so far. I have just been super discouraged. That really helped me though. I know that you feel like he isn´t ready, but I think he is. He has to be :) But he will really be fine. He will grow so much. I am so happy that he is out. The countdown has started. I will see him in 725 days. And Brigham in way more apparently. But I prefer that. Better that he leaves sooner than later. And he will be at my wedding. A year and a half?? Yeah I will definitely not be married by the time he gets home. That´s too soon. I miss all of you so much. I am excited for Christmas. 

San Fernando is alright. I don´t like being here though just because I don´t feel like it´s my area. But I do love Elder Lish. It is RIDICULOUS how much he reminds me of Ben. I am going to miss Elder Lish. I don´t really have a lot of time. I spent all of it listening to hymns and looking at Spencer´s photos. I am leaving San Fernando of course. I will be sent to Almería and my companion will be Elder Chapple. He has six weeks in the mission, so I will finish his training. There are six missionaries there. It apparently isn´t the best area in the mission :) Hahaha. Before I got called, I asked some people what the worst area in the mission was and several told me Almería. After they found out I was assigned there they started thinking of positive things to say about it and I got "you grow a lot in Almería" ;) I wanted to go somewhere like that though. I am not a huge fan of being a zone leader. Lish has a hard job, and you spend a good amount of time out of your area. I was hoping to go to a difficult area, and I got what I wanted. I don´t like thinking that any area isn´t a good area. I know that there are prepared people every where, and I feel a ton of motivation now. Which I was lacking this week. My companion and I will baptize in Almería. 

I don´t know why this week has been so hard for me. I sometimes feel overwhelmed. I was never too hard on myself before the mission. I stressed and had desires to improve, but being in here I just get overwhelmed with how far I have left to go in the eternal scheme of things. I often feel as though I am not doing enough with my mission. It´s an odd feeling. But I am pressing forward. I shouldn´t be discouraged. I may not be the missionary I want to be quite yet. But I can´t expect to be perfect. It´s a process. 

I love all of you so much. Thank you so much for the package mom. I was thinking that maybe they just aren´t worth it, because of the hassle and the price. But opening up that package with the halloween theme and the autumn smell and everything just felt like a rush of home. I LOVED it. Thank you so much. You are so wonderful. I hope you are all doing well. Did you get a new car?? Or was that Grandpa and Grammie´s van? Anyway. I love you. 

elder sharp

The baptism of his beloved Pablo

Remember when he said he had held a falcon?

With his first and second companion.  Pardo and Erickson.  Now it's Chapple time.  :)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Spencer Enters MTC

Sorry- this week has been BUSY. We were able to email back and forth with Preston as a family on Monday for a few mins. since we were traveling home from Oregon when he emailed. That doesn't happen very often. It was fun to joke back and forth. He is in very good spirits. :)

Well things are going...

I like San Fernando. I have been fed every single day. It´s way different than Jerez. It isn´t good for me when it comes to the diet and all, but at least I don´t have to spend money on food. I´m in good old Jerez right now actually with Chavez and Erickson. Only for today and tomorrow. My companion is in Malaga in a mission council for all of the Zone Leaders. He is super awesome. I really love Elder Lish. He is a lot like Ben and we get along super well. I will be sad to leave him. I will find out where my next area is on Friday. I am really excited. I don´t really know what to say about San Fernando. The members are great and really strong. But the work is a little harder. It´s just different. It is easier to get lessons in San Fernando, but harder to find baptisms. I was super spoiled in Jerez. I am Jerezano at heart. It was really awesome on Sunday to see all of the members from Jerez. V was almost in tears when he saw me :) I love that guy. The members of Jerez love me so much. And I lov them even more. P was there too. Stud. He is so awesome. I just love them so much. I will always have a special place in my heart for Jerez. Also- I really want you to come pick me up. But you have to learn some spanish first :) K?? I want you to be able to talk to these people!! And I know that you guys are hardly ever busy and just have oodles of time on your hands to learn new languages and stuff like that, but some basic conservational skills would be really cool :) Whatever you can do!!

I feel like I don´t belong anywhere right now. It´s weird. I feel like I am on a really long split or something. I am like a half companion. Just filling a spot until the real ZL gets here. That´s ok though :) I am still working as hard as I can in San Fern. Excited for Spencer to get here ;) There is hardly any work in San Fern. But we are finding some news right now.

So I don´t have much to say right now. So I will tell you about conference.

I loved it SOOO much. I honestly felt like I was on fire the whole time. As the new young women´s president oscarson spoke, I just teared up. I don´t even know why. I just love being a member of the church. I think to myself about how I want to live the gospel perfectly for the rest of my life. I just get excited about all of the callings I will receive and how amazing I want to do at my callings. I will be the best primary teacher/young mens advisor/home teaching coordinator ever. I couldn´t care less when it comes to the actual calling. I just want the chance to serve my Heavenly Father and my fellow brothers and sisters. I am going to have 100 percent home teaching every single month. Wow. I am just so excited. I know that it will all be a trillion times more difficult when life is back to normal again. With family and school and work. But I still have so many desires to serve Him. I just love being mormon. I looked around at the other missionaries sitting next to me, all taking notes and watching intently as we listen to spiritual, scriptural sermons. We truly are a peculiar people. Not many young adults would choose to do what we do. I love it. I want everyone in the world to experience the edifying and uplifiting joy that I feel as I hear the voices of our inspired leaders. It´s like a waterfall of revelation. They are telling us exactly what God wants us to hear.

As I heard the voice of our Prophet, I felt so much peace. It was like I was back home in Utah again. Like I was sitting on the couch next to Spencer watching conference in our pajamas. The spirit that I felt as he spoke was so comforting. I felt reenergized and ready to go out and face the world. Towards the last two or three years before I left on my mission, I really started to enjoy conference. But this was so much better. Difficult to explain. I hope you all absolutely loved it. Those of you that stayed awake the whole time ;) Just kidding. I can´t judge. I have fallen asleep before as well, unfortunately. Never again though.

Things have been going really well for me. I have really improved my personal study. I feel edified every morning and I am making the most of my time. We have started to read the BoM as a mission as well, and that is really wonderful. We started today and will finish by the 31st of December. I am also focusing a lot on the Spirit. I am drastically improving the quality of my prayers and trying to focus on the Spirit in every aspect of this work. Basically I am doing really well. Although I don´t feel tied down to an area or anything and that is a little hard, I still am loving being a missionary. Guess what!!!!!! I AM GOING TO BE A GRANDPA!!! Erickson is going to train!! I am super excited. I have been talking him up to President for about six weeks so it´s about time!! Really though, he is fantastic. He has learned so quickly and he really is ready to train. After this transfer he and Elder Chavez will split up and he will train and Chavez will get a new companion and go to the other part of Jerez that will open up this transfer. There will be seven missionaries here!! Super cool.

Package has arrived. I haven´t got it yet, but we will pick it up tomorrow :) And I got Grandpa´s letter as well :) Thank you so much. I wouldn´t send anything for a while though. Until I am all situated in my new area. Wherever that is. Tell you in a week. Let´s just say Elder Lish is great. He is wonderful and I am gonna miss him a lot. He is a good Zone Leader. San Fernando is great. Super ugly. But I like it a lot. The members are nice. I haven´t said goodbye to everyone yet, but I am coming back on Thursday to do that.

Not much else to say. I want you to know Spencer that this work has already changed my life forever. I have never done anything so worthwhile in my entire life. This is the greatest work you could ever be a part of. It will be hard. You will be thrown into a life so different than what you knew before. But just be quick to observe, and adapt to it. Learn fast. And think of all of the missionaries that have gone before you when you are feeling down. In the beginning of the church they left their starving wives and children to go and preach the restored gospel. They left hungry and tired with absolutely nothing but one book of mormon and the clothes on their back. It was rough back then. But they did it. And God strengthened them to bear their burdens and have success. And he will do the same to you. Your burdens will be different than theirs- not easier, but different. Pray for the strength to endure whatever is thrown in your way, and don´t waste time. Sometimes this flat out sucks. But it is worth every single second. So think of them who went before you. Have faith :) You are about to embark on the coolest adventure of your life. Don´t be afraid. Please don´t be afraid. It´s ok to cry and it´s ok to miss home. A lot. But remember who this is for. Remember the reason for all of this. All of the heartache and the tears and the exhaustion and the emotional pain that you might feel. It´s a small small piece of what He went through as He atoned. I once heard that the mission is blood and tears because the atonement was blood and tears. I have actually lost blood on the mission. Not a lot. But still. Tears...a lot. I just think that we learn so much about His love for us and for our brothers and sisters here on earth. We learn a little bit about the motivating factor that enabled Jesus to accomplish what he did. Pure, celestial, and godly love. He obeyed the will of the Father in every way, and He did what no one else could have done. Because of love. Pray to be given some of that love. I promise that He will give it to you. More than anything I could tell you, I would tell you to plead and ask Heavenly Father with all of your heart to give you that same motivation. You need to be motivated on your mission. Not by positions or numbers, but by a love for your Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ. That is the only thing that will make your mission truly life changing. Pray for that motivating love. And think of that everytime you get discouraged. This isn´t about us. It´s about Him. It´s His work. In His footsteps we walk. I love Him. I love Him more and more every day.

I am so excited for you Spencer. This will be the greatest two years for your life. I promise. I love you. I love all of you and I pray for you every day. Thank you for your support

Elder Sharp