Sister Carly M Springer
Paraguay Asuncion North Mission
Avenida Santisima Trinidad No 1280 C/Julio Correa
Casilla De Correo 1871
Asuncion, Paraguay

Sunday, September 2, 2012

School Again

Dear Everyone,

Well, I'm back at BYU! Thanks to the amazing courtesy of my awesome friends Sister Pusillo and Uncle Jared, I managed to move all six boxes of my worldly possessions to Provo. It took me about two hours to move into my 15x20 bedroom, and now I'm all settled in. I'm rooming with my best friend Heidi Soderquist (who I met in Freshman year and who's helped me ever since), Heidi's cousin Elen, and her soon-to-be-cousin-in-law Tasha, who's engaged to Heidi's cousin Austin (there are five Soderquists or soon-to-be Soderquists in our complex--there's also Austin and Austin's sister Michelle).

Centennial 2 is really great. It's like the cheapest, simplest apartment complex in Provo, but it means that the residents are really humble and know how to pinch pennies and live responsibly. I love my ward so far. We've got lots of fun activities planned these next few weeks to get to know each other. Today we had the dedication of the first ever Multi-Stake Building. It was so cool--with 100 offices for church leaders around Provo and the best organ in Utah Valley. Our stake president offered the dedicatory prayer, and it was beautiful. He has a way with words. He also has an unconscious way of delivering them with a very loud voice, so that every time he gets up to speak, all the people nodding off in the congregation snap to attention and look around, startled. It's hilarious.

School is going well, too. It was so weird going back. For some reason, all I could remember about being a student was that the teachers were mean, the classes boring, and the homework out to kill you. I'd somehow managed to suppress any happy memories of school, so I was very nervous that first day. But now that I've gone a whole week and have seen all my classes, I can honestly say that my teachers are super nice (it helps that half of them have college-aged children--they're sympathetic), the classes fly by because they're so interesting to me, and the homework isn't bad.

I've managed to stay on track with my homework so far. On Friday I managed to do every single assignment, so now I have the whole weekend to just relax. I'm sure I'll have much less free time once i start working. On Tuesday I'll be introduced to my boss on the Gardening staff here at BYU. It should be a fun job, though I will be praying for little snow this year so I won't have to get up early morning for snow removal duties on the weekends.

Tomorrow I'm going with Heidi's whole extended family to the Brigham City Temple Open House. It should be super fun. As much as I wish I could hang out with my own extended family tomorrow, Heidi's family is a pretty good substitute. I feel like they're my cousins, too.

Something interesting about this weekend so far is that Tasha rescued an injured magpie from the road. She named it Pika, and it's currently living in a cardboard box in her bedroom until Animal Control can come get it on Tuesday. It keeps freaking me out when I'm home alone and I forget that it's there and hear it shuffling around in Tasha's room. :)

The football game was pretty good, if a little late. I went with Heidi, her boyfriend Steven, and a bunch of Freshman friends. It was so fun to catch up with all of them, and they were all amazed and impressed that I stayed up until 12:30 and watched the entire game. It was too entertaining for me to get too tired. Then Friday night we all ate ice cream at Steven's apartment and played Mafia and stayed up until 1:30.  Since i had a class on Saturday morning i couldn't sleep in, so I didn't really catch up on my sleep until today. I need to get into better sleeping habits. :)

Well, that's all I can think to talk about this week. Hope it's entertaining. Thank you for your book ideas so far for my Print Publishing project. I'll let you know by Thursday night what I decide to do.

I hope you're all having a great week and that you enjoy your Labor Day weekend! I love you!!


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Week #....Um...Okay, no, just a random update.

Hey everyone!

So I've been receiving lots of complaints about how I never write to you anymore. Sorry about that. Life just isn't as cool as it used to be in Paraguay. But I guess you won't be satisfied until I SHOW you how boring my life is by writing to you again.  And since I'm too lazy to look up all your e-mail addresses, I'm doing this facebook-style. 

The adjustment to life back at home has been relatively smooth. It's so great to be with my family again. Mom and I have had lots of quality one-on-one time. I think she's gonna miss me. My sisters have grown up so much and it's been fun getting to know them all over again. 

My dogs were really excited to see me, since I meant a return to regular walks. They're gonna miss that, and so will I, since it's my best way to make myself get up and exercise every day. 

I've mostly been filling my days with little projects, like cleaning out old storage boxes full of my junk and working on putting together a scrapbook... Stuff like that. This last week I've been getting progressively lazier, watching TV and reading books as if this is my last week to live. Because I can't watch TV or read at the Y. I really need to focus once I go back to school. 

Which...is on Tuesday. Can you believe it's already been a whole month since I came back to the States? It's gone by way too fast. Already time for another big step in my life. *Sigh* Can I just take some little steps now? I feel like such a hobo. I'm "home" in AZ, but I don't even have my own bed. And then I'm going to LIVE in Utah, but that won't really be HOME. I need some stability, here. 

For anyone who's curious, I decided to rearrange my college plans a little and major in English Language instead of just plain English. Which basically means that I'm studying basically the same thing, but in a more practical way. I'm aiming to be an editor, not a schoolteacher, which is all the English major was really offering me.

My homecoming talks went well. I had two. I gave one in the Spanish branch (which was AWESOME. It felt a lot like being back in Paraguay. And then I just gave another one today, which I was super nervous for beforehand. Once I stepped up to the pulpit, though, it all just flowed so easily. I've definitely gained some public speaking skills this last year and a half.

I'm working really hard to keep up my good habits of daily scripture study and prayer. So far I haven't missed a day. Yay! I thought it would be so much easier with a no-schedule day to study the scriptures, but I'm excited to be busy again back at school. I like having a real schedule. 

I'm regularly hearing from Hna. Goimarac. Another member of the Meza family recently got baptized, which made me super happy (no, it wasn't Juan Angel, but still). Oh dang, did I even confirm to you all that the Mezas were baptized as planned? It took me forever to find out. Sorry if I didn't tell you. Now you know!  It makes me happy to hear how some of my hard-sown seeds are starting to sprout in my wake. 

Someday I need to go back to Paraguay. I can't wait to see how things are progressing. In the meantime, my new goals are graduating and getting married. That latter one is going to be a complete surprise. I'm basically starting over with all my acquaintances. I unfriended like half of my facebook friends (the ones I never talked to even when I lived by them and now I'll never contact again), and everyone else I know either got married or graduated and moved on while i was gone. So I'll let you know how it goes.

Know what? I just realized that getting you all updated weekly won't be so hard in the near future. I'll be living in your same state pretty soon! My poor parents and sisters and the Andersons will be out of the loop a bit, but the rest of us aren't going to have too hard of a time getting together! That'll be fun! Don't be surprised if I call you up. 

Well, that's all I can think of to write about right now. That's a whole month's worth of my life. Told you it was boring. But take care everyone, and thank you all for caring what happens to me. I LOVE YOU!!

Love, Hna. Spr---I mean, Carly

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Week 81 - Paraguay - Concepcion

Mis Queridos,


The guy who runs the internet cafe is listening to American music that I'm very familiar with, and I'm feeling totally innocent singing along, because this is my second-to-last day. At six o'clock when we go out to work, I promise my mind will be completely focused on the gospel. But for now, all untrunkiness is being thrown out the window. I am excited beyond words. 

But before I get SUPER trunky on you, I'll tell you all about this week.

First of all, Hna. Goimarac and I broke our companionship record and met our daily goals five days out of seven this week. It wasn't quite the 7/7 we were aiming for, but it was much better than our average 2/7. We found some amazing new investigators, had great lessons with our progressing investigators, and did lots of contacting. Hna. Goimarac is set up for success after I'm gone, and I feel very accomplished for having done so well my last week.

I've been getting lots of sweet letters from Paraguayans this week. A girl from Villa Hayes wrote to me to thank me for changing her life just by being her friend when she felt friendless. That, along with little cards and pictures given to me from the Primary and other Concepcion friends are making me very emotional and feeling very very blessed.

I've been taking TONS of photos (don't you worry) and saying lots of goodbyes and trying to capture the best and sometimes the worst of Paraguay to try and share with you later. I've been doing lots of things for "the last time"--last Sacrament meeting, last member-given lunch, last trip to the grocery store, last time starting to read the White Handbook from the beginning in companionship study...

I got a pedicure from our investigator Leida so that we could get a lesson in with her (she's so busy working, giving people manicures and pedicures, that she can never share with us). It felt awesome and my feet look pretty and I feel like a girly girl for the first time in over a year. :)

Gladys and her daughters decided that they're not waiting for Juan Angel to quit smoking anymore. He hasn't shown much progress despite his love for the gospel, and so they're getting baptized without him. This Friday. I can't accurately describe to you how painful it was to have to tell her that I won't be there. Why couldn't I leave only THREE DAYS LATER? :( If I seem a little bummed at around 3:00pm on Friday, now you know why. I may have to photoshop myself into their baptism photo. That's basically the only recuerdo I wanted.

But anyways, no regrets. Today we had so much fun with the Elders. We got ahold of a Concepcion tour guide, who took us to an Indian Monument not too far away from our area. It was pretty cool, but we were bummed that we couldn't go up into it and see the view (it's closed for renovations--it was built in the 60s and basically hasn't been fixed up at all since then, so it would be dangerous to try and climb it). Apparently it used to be a communications tower during the Chaco War, but when the war ended they turned it into a tribute to the native Paraguayans.

Then when we expressed sadness at not being able to go into it, the tour guide revealed that she could let us into the giant Virgin Mary statue in the middle of the city. We had no idea that was possible, so we excitedly took her up on that. It was awesome. The view was spectacular. It was the perfect last P-Day activity for me--to get a good long look at this city I've come to love so well. The tour guide is going to e-mail me the pictures she was taking of us the whole time (how crazy that she can e-mail them to ME so soon!), and now Hna. Goimarac has lots of things the tour guide can take her and her new companion to do on future P-Days. We were all very happy about the whole thing.

Sorry, this e-mail is already getting long, and I haven't even gotten into the trunky talk yet. But I have to mention one more thing. Today when we were buying groceries, I noticed that the cashier was pretty quiet and seemed really bored or bummed about something. I wasn't feeling exactly peppy, either, buying groceries for only one more day in Paraguay, but I felt impressed to say something nice to her. So I said, "I like your earrings. They look great on you." She was like, "Huh? Oh. Thanks," then went back to ringing up the groceries of the lady behind me in line. I just went to get my stuff together, not thinking anything more about it. Then when we were about to walk out the door, one of the store employees came up to us and said, "A gift from the cashier." She handed me the very earrings I'd just complimented! When I caught the cashier's eye across the store, she was smiling at me very warmly. I mouthed "gracias," with a huge grin on my face. I don't even have pierced ears (yet) but I felt so great inside knowing that I'd brightened somebody's day and it had been appreciated. That's Paraguayan love for you. 

*Sigh* I'm still dying very happy despite not being able to see the Meza family baptized. I know that I've done all that I could as a missionary, and now the Lord needs me somewhere else. It's a very, very difficult emotion to describe, having my heart torn two ways like this. 

Hna. Goimarac and I are both very intrigued by the fact that I'm not a perfect missionary, despite having been practicing at it for 18 straight months. I still have to work very hard in each lesson. I don't know guarani very well, and I still mess up in Spanish every now and then. I kind of expected that by the time the mission ended I'd just float around like an angel, blessing lives with little effort, being perfectly fluent in the language. But I'm not. The conclusion I draw from that isn't that I just didn't work hard enough; it's that I've been a perfect missionary from Day 1. God never expected me to be flawless, but He's given me opportunities despite my shortcomings to share His gospel since the day I left the MTC. It's still very important to practice and study and work hard, but as long as we follow the Spirit, we're always perfect missionaries. It's not about skill, it's about faith.

And I definitely HAVE improved a ton, trying to be a perfect missionary. These have been the best 18 months for my life. I needed to learn the gospel as much as my investigators. I needed to learn from the Paraguayans possibly even more than they needed to learn from me. By becoming a part of their lives, I've shared what I know and also learned what they know. The way they live by their testimonies, the way they make things work despite their poverty, the way they face challenges with faith...I'm never going to be able to forget them. They've become a part of me. I feel like the greatest convert I've created is MYSELF.

I was so naive at the beginning. I had no idea about life or the gospel. I kind of shudder to think of how lame and shallow those first few e-mails home were. I don't really want to re-read them. :) Now I know what Paraguay is REALLY like, and I'm going to love it forever. God took everything that I knew away--the luxuries, the technology, the free time--so that I could discover the beauty of the world and discover who I really am and can be. I've had to rely on the Spirit and on my own spiritual strength to get through these last 18 months, and I've become so changed by it.

My greatest challenge when I get home, I think, is going to be applying what I've learned here. I feel like these last 18 months were just a training period to get me ready for "real life," and now I'm going to be left to my own devices. No companion constantly at my side. No daily planners. No perfectly-scheduled mornings centered on gospel study. At least, not quite in the same way. I like routine, and I like studying tranquilly in my apartment every day, and I like the surety of every day here on the mission. I may not know exactly what's going to happen, but I always know what I'M going to do--contact, teach, help, and work my tail off. That won't be quite the same when I get back, and yet it SHOULD be. This is going to be my test--showing the Lord that I learned the most important life lessons and that I'm going to serve Him forever. 

I can't believe how excitedly I counted down the days during the mission. Now the days are gone and I'm so confused as to where they went. It's SO HARD to say goodbye. I'm still in shock. I really feel like I have two places to call Home now. My heart will always belong to both, and while it's a joy to go back to one, I'll miss the other so badly.

I was comforted by D&C 133 this week. I loved verses 57-59, about how the Lord sends the weak things to "thrash the nations." I definitely am a weak thing, but I've never felt stronger nor more important and needed by the Lord in my entire life. But I promise to continue spreading the Word and doing all that the Lord requires as faithfully as I have here in Paraguay.

I also liked vs. 15, and 3 Nephi 21:29. The Lord prepared everything for my success before I even got my mission call. I always trusted in Him to lead me towards happiness. Now I also have to trust Him to be my "rearward." I'm scared to leave my investigators and converts in the hands of other missionaries, but I know that the Lord will continue nurturing the seeds I've planted. He's got my back. I can safely leave Paraguay behind, unworried. At least, I'll try.

But my absolute favorite verse today is D&C 130:2. I know that if I make it to the Celestial Kingdom and all of my Paraguayans make it, too, we'll be friends and neighbors and siblings FOREVER. That has given me an incredible added drive to my goal to achieve celestial glory. I want to see my Paraguayans again. Many of them don't have internet. None of them have mailing addresses. I may never see some of them ever again, even if i do manage to make a trip back down here someday. But I know that the same sociality that exists here on earth exists there in heaven, tambien, and that I WILL see my wonderful Paraguayan brothers and sisters again someday. I'm going to do all I can to deserve that privelege to see them again.

I'm going to miss it all in the meantime--the flowers, the trees, the milanesa sandwiches, the random weather, the river, the friendly culture, the simple living habits, the frogs... everything.

And I'm going to miss all of your letters, especially. Thank you SO MUCH for all of your letters. You have no idea how much that meant to me. Hearing from you and receiving word of your love and support got me through some hard days. Thank you for being faithful and loving and selfless. I've missed you all so much, but I'm glad I got to see the Lord's promise to me fulfilled--that you would all be okay while I was gone. I know that He is aware of me, and that He's aware of all of you, and that He's aware of all my Paraguayans. Every single moment of this mission has been a gift from Him, and I know that the future holds just as much joy, if I trust in Him to guide me right even in "real life." I know that the Church is true with all my heart, and I promise all of you that I will NEVER turn my back on it. I will NEVER do anything that I wouldn't want one of my investigators to do. After obeying and trusting in Him so completely these last 18 months, I can honestly testify to you that that's the only way to go. He has it all in His hands. Our own strength, our own desires, our own opinions won't get us anywhere if we're not aligned with His will. I know that this is His Work, not mine, not Pte. Monson's, not Joseph Smith's. Our Savior lives. He guides His church today. His gospel is true. It's meant to make us freer and happier than we can even imagine. I know, because that's how I feel right now after having applied it to my own life and helped others apply it to theirs.

I love you all. I'll be seeing you very, very soon. 

---Hna. Springer (soon to be just plain "Carly")

"Tomorrow we'll discover what our God in heaven has in store. One more life, one more day, ONE DAY MORE!"

You don't have much longer to wait to see ALL my photos, so I'm just sending a few today. :)

1-Me and the faithful Relief Society sisters of Concepcion Rama 1
2-The Indian Tower (a monument to the native Paraguayans) that we visited today
3-Me with the Centro behind me (taken from the top of the humongous Virgin statue!)
4-Me with one of our favorite member families (can we talk about the sassiness of the girl sitting behind me? She's so funny!)

Sorry for the lack of details, but I need to give you SOME reason to make you excited to see me this weekend. :)


Monday, July 9, 2012

Week 80 - Paraguay - Concepcion

Dearest Familia,

Wow! Great job everybody! This week you sent me so many e-mails and made me so happy this morning! Thank you Blairs, Nana, Goompa, Grandma, Jessie, Shelli, Dad, Mom, Chase, Amanda, Sarah, and Ashley for your letters (trunky as they may be). I'm glad you all had a fun Fourth of July and are enjoying your summer vacations.

This is the last ever chance that you all will have to write me while I'm in Paraguay, can you believe it?? Seize the opportunity! :)

Several of you wondered if I got to celebrate the 4th of July at all even though it's not a holiday here in Paraguay. The answer is yes. It was a wonderful sunny start of the week for us. We went fishing with the Elders on Monday (until we got too hot and bored...nobody even got a nibble) and actually got sunburned. None of us were expecting that. You get sunburned in July at HOME, not here in the Southern Hemisphere! It's not acting very winter-ish this year. The mornings get kind of chilly, but nothing to major.

We got to have district meeting on Wednesday instead of Tuesday because our district leader was at a training meeting over the weekend, so we gringos all got to celebrate Independence Day together. Hna. Goimarac and I provided an apple pie, which neither of us had ever made before (but we HAD to make it--"As American as apple pie"--no other dessert would do) but it turned out to be great. The Elders scarfed it down so quickly. :) She and I both wore patriotic red, white, and blue outfits, and to start district meeting we all sang The Star-Spangled Banner. Someone provided a little flag, so we sang it standing with our hands over our hearts. It gave me chills, despite the relative silliness of the situation. I'm so grateful for my country. God bless the USA! The one latino Elder in our district was such a sport for letting us celebrate our national holiday. He enjoyed taking pictures of it all.

Now it's the 9th already. Wow. I'm down to single digits in the number of days I have left as a missionary. Sad.

My only goals at this point are to meet my weekly contacting goals and to see the Meza family baptized. If I accomplish that, I will die happy. The contacting part is going really well so far. This last week was brutal, because after the sunny 4th of July it got really cold. Literally over the course of an hour it went from blazing hot to freezing cold. We couldn't find anybody on the streets to contact, and even clapping houses proved unfruitful. Nobody wanted to leave the warmth of their beds to come talk to us. As of yesterday morning we only had like 30 contacts each. It was pathetic.

But then we were saved by a championship soccer match between Cerro and Olympia, the two biggest clubs in Paraguay. It was a sunny day again, and everyone and their dog was in the middle of town to watch the game with their friends (literally. Dogs EVERYWHERE). At halftime, we got to talk with SO MANY people, and we easily caught up on our contacting goals and found some cool people to teach. The Lord is so nice to us. :)

And the Mezas came to church yesterday and are scheduled to be baptized this Saturday, finally. PLEASE pray that it happens. So far we have no reason to think that it won't, but it should have happened a month ago and little things just keep popping up. To have their baptism be my last would be the perfect icing on the cake.

Hna. Goimarac is going to have lots more baptisms after I leave. We had such a great turnout at church yesterday. Almost all of our progressing investigators came, and we even got one of our long-time investigators (Bernardina, if you remember her) to FINALLY come to church. I think she really liked it, and we were so proud of her for taking the leap of faith. She was asking us for the details of the Meza baptism this Saturday, wanting to come see it. I have hope for her, and I can't wait to hear all about the baptisms that follow after I leave.

This last week of training I'm just trying to soak in all there is to love about Paraguay. The training manual actually says that Hna. Goimarac is supposed to lead in ALL planning and teaching situations. So basically I just get to play co-pilot. Nice. :) I just get to watch Hna. Goimarac shine, occasionally correcting her Spanish or clarifying her ideas and getting to testify a lot. It's so fun. I'm feeling so much bolder and excited to talk with people now that I realize that my time is so short.

Man, in next week's e-mail I'm gonna be so emotional. Just warning you.

But there's still LOTS of time for me to be a missionary. :) This week we used Job a lot with our menos activos to talk about the importance of trials and the love of God. I also read D&C 121-127 this week, and I found that I really love sections 121, 122, and 127. I already knew that 121 and 122 were excellent (they're quoted a LOT), but it's just so encouraging to see that everybody who follows the Lord is going to have opposition and trials. Nobody is exempt, and nobody is cut off from the love of God. Trials don't mean lack of love on God's part. If anything they mean that He is more confident in us. I'm so grateful for the eternal perspective in my life. If I didn't know that blessings and eternal good would come from enduring trials, I probably wouldn't have any strength to support them. But now that I know what the purpose of trials is, I feel like I can take on anything.

We'll see what the Lord has in store for me after this mission. It's kind of scary. I feel like I'm about to fall off the edge of the world, with no idea what awaits me. But whatever it is, I know it'll be great. The Lord's got it all figured out.

Have an excellent week, everybody. I love you so much and thank you for all that you do.

---Hna. Springer

Here's some random photos!

1-Hna. Goimarac getting all tangled up in her attempt at Paraguay river-style fishing
2-A boat on the river
3-Me by the river getting sunburned
4-Me with the pie that we made for the Fourth of July

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Week 79 - Paraguay - Concepcion

Queridos Parientes y Amigos,

I feel like I was just barely here at the internet cafe and I don't have much else to say except SOMEBODY SLOW DOWN THE CLOCK PLEASE!! I have no idea where the last two months went. It seems like my whole mission I was so aware of how much time I had left, but now the end has just snuck up on me all of a sudden. 

I gave my last testimony in my very last Fast and Testimony Meeting yesterday. Can you believe that? Yesterday morning I was considering just not bearing my testimony at all. I kind of liked the idea of just sneaking out of Concepcion without the pain of saying goodbye to everybody. But then we were sitting in Sacrament meeting and I was really emotional from my fasting and from the fact that it was my third-to-last Sunday and because the Meza family hadn't shown up. There was a long pause where nobody got up to bear their testimony, so I decided to break the awkward silence and make myself get up and speak. I still wasn't planning on saying goodbye, but I eventually did. I didn't want the fuss of having everyone count down the days for me, but I know it would have hurt their feelings if I hadn't said anything. Besides, goodbyes are sometimes the best times to tell someone that you love them, and I LOVE this branch so it had to be done.

But that wasn't the only reason why I'm writing about how I bore my testimony. I had another one of those "God DOES love me" moments while I was up there. I was just talking about how God shapes us by giving us difficult moments where we'll learn to rely on Him. I had just wrapped up a story about how I know that God does know our hearts and loves us, and then...Juan Angel walked in. I don't really know what I said after that. I was mostly talking to God in my head after that, thanking Him for once again taking care of Juan Angel and showing me that everything will work out. I had been so worried about Juan Angel and his family, wondering why they hadn't come to church, wondering if he'd smoked over the weekend. Then there he came--a half hour late and looking like he'd just thrown on whatever clothes he could find to make it to church on time, but he'd made the effort to come. I couldn't help but cry, and I'm sure the congregation noticed what had caused the tears to flow all of a sudden. 

I was so happy the rest of the day. Juan Angel happily told us that thanks to the many hard candies we've been providing, he hasn't smoked since last week. He and his family are still preparing to be baptized, and best of all, now Juan Angel knows that I'm leaving soon so he's anxious to be baptized before I go. 

The branch is being so great. They were about as excited to see him come to church as we were, and several of them have gone to visit the Meza family throughout the week. They already feel like members. We just have to make it official. :)

On Saturday night the Mezas even came to the District Family Night held at our chapel. It was a very cute event, though a little unorganized. They told everyone to come at 6:00pm, but it didn't actually start until 8:00. They played "Night at the Museum 2" to entertain the few who DID come on time, but they'd mostly counted on everyone to come two hours late. It was an okay idea, except for those of us who actually came on time (especially us missionaries, who can't watch TV...). They were so bored. Night at the Museum relies a lot on history knowledge for its jokes and....let's just say that most of those in attendance weren't history buffs. 

But when the Family Night did actually start, it was wonderful. They started with a little fireside about the importance of the family, and then they had a Show de Talentos (yes, they actually say "show" here. No Spanish translation for that word, I guess). They had everyone perform talents as FAMILIES, not as individuals, and it was adorable. There was mostly singing and traditional dancing. My favorite was an act put on by a young couple in our branch. They did a traditional Paraguayan dance complete with costumes. The dance was one that's usually performed just with couples--it's supposed to be a flirtatious, romantic dance--but they included their eight-month-old son in the routine, passing him between them and such. It was SO CUTE. The looks of love they had in their eyes was so precious, especially since it extended to their baby. It was so beautifully symbolic of how fun families can be and how the fun in your life doesn't end when you have children. It was so perfect for the theme of the activity. The pictures I got of it aren't great quality, but I will never forget that little family.

Aside from that...there just really isn't much to tell about this week. Our progressing investigators are doing pretty well aside from church attendance :( but we had great days this week just meeting new people and sowing new seeds. It's really REALLY sad for me to know that even if we find the coolest investigator ever who comes to church three weeks in a row and wants to be baptized ASAP...I won't be here for it. :( 

That doesn't mean that I'm discouraged or lazy, though. As with Crecencio, I've seen several times that it takes every missionary's effort to get these people to change their lives. Maybe I won't see any more convert baptisms after the Meza family, but I can still change peoples' lives by starting them on that first step or helping them continue down the road towards salvation. I know I'm not done here, yet. The Lord still has a lot in store for me. If He didn't, He wouldn't have me stay two weeks longer. :) 

Thank you Grandma, Laurel, Sarah, Dad, Mom, Goompa, and the Blairs for writing to me this week. And since I'm sure the Goimaracs will be reading this, too, HAPPY BIRTHDAY HNA. GOIMARAC'S DAD!! :) 

I love you all!! Have a fantastic week!

---Hna. Springer

1-4= pictures of an adorable little family who, at District Family Night, put on a traditional Paraguayan dance for us. The lighting was awful so my pictures aren't great, but I just love the look in their eyes as they show the world that even married couples with kids can still dance. :) 
5- This one's mostly for Ashley. The decorations place next-door to us has two siamese cats that are often found sleeping in the display case where I guess it's pretty warm. It always makes me think of "Elf" whenever we catch them in there.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Week 78 - Paraguay - Concepcion

Mis Queridos,

El Dia de San Juan proved to be pretty anticlimactic. I didn't see any sign of it yesterday, actually. But we did still have a lot of the old-timers tell us about all the fun traditions they USED to do. Lots of them had to do with San Juan predicting who was going to get married first. For example, one of the traditions was to take a rooster on the 23rd at noon and lock it up without food or water until noon on the 24th (El Dia de San Juan). Then, in an enclosure where the rooster can't escape, all the girls in the neighborhood stand in a circle and each puts a kernal of corn at their feet. Then someone puts the rooster in the middle of the circle, spins it around and lets it go. Whosever kernal it eats first is going to get married first. They all swear by it! Anyone up to try that next year? :)

Lately the Relief Society sisters have been expressing sadness about the fact that girls nowadays only care about makeup and parties, when before their traditions were so much more fun. But I have a lot of hope for the girls in this branch at least. Yesterday when we went to the Gomez' house and found their 14-year-old daughter, Araceli (who has already finished Personal Progress), helping a less-active girl do her Personal Progress. It was adorable. Araceli also leads the branch's Young Women in doing visits to all the less-actives and the sick. The next generation of Relief Society is in good hands. 

This week was so crazy. I have a headache just thinking of how to write about it. I'll just give it my best shot.

So...on Monday we were so sure that the Meza family was all set to get baptized, and then out of the blue, our branch president's father-in-law was also set to be baptized! He's always gone to church and has been listening to missionaries for 10 years, but his hang-up was always his chewing tobacco. He couldn't quit to save his life (or his soul in this case...) until this month when his loving little six-year-old granddaughter Arami became his shadow and scolded him whenever he tried to chew tobacco. His heart was so touched that he gave it up completely and told us, "Hey, I want to get baptized this Saturday." 

Another miracle baptism!

But then on Thursday we had the Elders come do interviews, and turns out we had to postpone the Meza family's baptism again until this next Saturday. We were sad, but it's actually proving to be a lot better this way. They had something they still needed to clear up as a family, and now they're stronger for it. But Crecencio was still good to go after his interview, and we were so grateful for the Lord's tender mercy in giving us a baptism this weekend after all.

Then on Friday night, Pte. called and was like, "Hermanas, Crecencio can't get baptized tomorrow. He has to work. We'll do it after church on Sunday." Again, we were disappointed (this would mean four baptisms in June, but no confirmations until July!), but we called everyone on Saturday morning to tell them about the change of plans.

Then on Saturday afternoon, at like 2:00, Pte called AGAIN and said, "Actually, if we hurry we can do the baptism at 4:00!"

Oh. We hurried. 

We called everyone all over again (and they were EXTREMELY confused) and everyone pulled through for us. We had a nice, simple service Saturday afternoon, not really able to believe the blessing that it was. We didn't even know he had INTEREST in being baptized until six days ago, and there he was a new member of the church!

Funnily enough, everyone in the branch seems so impressed with us, now. Especially our ward mission leader. Before they could be a little critical about our efforts, but now they're all like, "Wow, you got Crecencio baptized and the Meza family is going to be baptized...you missionaries are amazing. You're going to be so successful." 

If they're this impressed with a last-minute baptism we hardly had anything to do with, how will they be when our actual investigators are baptized? :)

At this, the end of the mission, the Lord is showing me so many blessings for my labors, I feel like. We had a zone training meeting on Tuesday, and I had the amazing opportunity to meet the trainee of my trainee, a sister from Peru whose name is really difficult and I can't remember. What an awful "grandma" I am! My two trainees were there with me, and I just had to snap a picture. It was a beautiful moment. 

It's amazing how much everything seems to be fitting together for me. My days are so happy, and even the rare bad day I'm able to support without too much trouble. I've come to learn that each day of our lives is like receiving one piece of a puzzle every day. Some days the pieces are obviously beautiful, with a cherry blossom or a butterfly or something on it. Other days, the piece is hazy and ugly and seemingly unnecessary. But if we respond with gratitude and fit all the pieces together, at the end we'll see that even the apparently ugly pieces are necessary and wonderful in creating a beautiful picture. 

I hope you're all enjoying your summer. We're dealing with lots of drizzly rain and mud, but thankfully we're allowed to wear boots (back in the day they weren't allowed because they didn't look professional, but I guess they decided that boots look better than the trash bags Hermanas would wrap around their shoes to save them from the mud). Still no colds or flus, thankfully. I hope you're all healthy and happy, too.

Thank you Hna. Tua'one, Grandma Springer, Nana, Dad, Mom, Amanda, Ashley, Blairs, McConkies, and Teresa for writing to me this week! I love you!

---Hna. Springer

My "posterity"--my two daughters in the mission and my granddaughter from Peru. :) The rest are of the baptism we had on Saturday.  
Oh, that other one is of the letter I got from the office containing all the information for my "deathday," hence the picture some office Elder attached to it in the mailing process. :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Week 77 - Paraguay - Concepcion

Dear Family and other Loved Ones,

HAPPY FATHERS DAY!! I was thinking about all of my wonderful father figures yesterday and feeling so grateful. I looked up a bunch of scriptures about fathers during personal study to celebrate the occasion, and the favorite verse I found was Proverbs 6:20-23. To sum up, it says that if we take our parents' (but just apply this to fathers for now...) commandments and put them in our hearts, they will guide us in every aspect of our lives. Because their commands are the way of life. I love that! It's so true. I'm so grateful for the guidance of Dad and my Grandpas and uncles and everybody. Mothers change the world so much, but a righteous father really does work miracles. Hence our mission's focus on baptizing Priesthood-age men. Men make or break the success of the Church. I also realized that one of the titles for Jesus Christ is the Everlasting Father. I found lots of verses about how God is father of the fatherless, and how He will never leave us orphans. It's nice to know that all the orphans and missionaries very far away from their fathers can always have an Eternal Father right by their side through it all. Without my Heavenly Father to guide me, the mission would literally be impossible.

Anyways, last week wasn't actually as interesting as I promised that it would be. We're still working with the Meza family. Stay tuned. :) But their little daughter Mercedes adores the Children's Illustrated Book of Mormon. We took it for FHE last week and she was so absorbed in it that we couldn't bear to ask for it back. We just gave it to her as an early baptism gift, and she's been reading it hungrily. Better, she's actually understanding, pondering, and asking about it. The other day she asked us why the Holy Ghost would tell Nephi to kill Laban. That's such a deep question coming from a seven-year-old. I'm sad she's too young to baptize, but I'm sure she, too, will be a great strength in the church someday. She's already loving Primary and being a good example to the kids there.

Hna. Goimarac and I have made it our companionship goal to be sure and get at least one with-member lesson a day--to have a member come with us to teach an investigator at least once a day. It's such a challenge around here, as we can only ask people with motorcycles to come meet up with us, and we have very few people who match the demographic of our investigators and have free time to help us. We thought that on Saturday it would be impossible to get a with-member lesson, but we were determined. I felt inspired to ask a recent convert named Carolina Urbieta to come with us. We weren't sure how it would go, and we were a little stressed when she showed up with her husband and youngest child instead of alone like we'd planned. We were only going to visit young single mothers that afternoon, so we thought it would be awkward. But the Lord knows better. Carolina's husband, Federico, has such a strong testimony, especially about the Book of Mormon. Carolina on her own is a little shy, but with Federico there they were a great tag-team. They were so natural about sharing their testimonies and offering to help the women come to church and everything. They showed them that members are normal (one of our investigators was all shocked that Carolina was a baptized member because she was wearing jeans--she thought that once you were baptized you had to wear skirts every day like us missionaries! Members are so essential!), and we had a great turn-out at church yesterday thanks to their help.

The weather was a lot warmer last week after the rain, and now it's all rainy again but not cold. We're not sure if it's winter yet or not. :) When the weather had just barely turned warmer after lots or rain, the mosquitos were insane. I wore repellent, but towards the end of the night we were in a house by a little stream, and I thought I was doing a good job of swatting the skeeters away, but the next morning I found that I'd failed. I won't traumatize you with the pictures, but my legs looked like they belonged to a dalmation with chicken pox. Hna. Goimarac wasn't any better off. We used lots of benadryl that next day, and took our bottles of repellent with us for multiple re-applications. By a MIRACLE we don't have dengue. We feel like we dodged a bullet. :) 

This weekend Paraguay is celebrating a national holiday called El Dia de San Juan. All I know about it is that they eat lots of traditional Paraguayan food like chipa and sopa and mbeju, and that they play traditional games. One of the games they described to me is where they put some valuable prize at the top of a tall metal pole covered in grease. Whoever can climb the pole and retrieve the prize gets the keep it. They say many people break arms or worse in the attempt, yet they keep doing it every year. I think it'd be hilarious to watch, but I'd never let my kids play. Not without some kind of harness like you'd use rock climbing. :)

Man I'm out of time already. The days are feeling so much shorter what with the sun setting so early and the weeks passing by in a blur. I don't know how any missionary can claim to be able to slack off towards the end of the mission. If anything, I feel more pressure than ever. I have so much to do to prepare to leave--send out letters to all my gente, go through my stuff to decide what to take home and what to give away, prepare Hna. Goimarac to go on without me... I both feel like yeah I have tons of time to do all that, but at the same time I only have P-Days to dedicate time to that, and I only have four P-Days left! Psycho! It's stressful. But I know that this last month is going to be awesome, especially with the Meza family's baptism to look forward to. 

Thank you Sarah, Ashley, Dad, Mom, McConkies, Grandma and Grandpa Springer, Goompa and Nana, and Hna. Tua'one for writing to me! I know it seems less important, since we'll get to talk face-to-face soon, but I still need those letters and I love them! :)


---Hna. Springer

I actually don't have as many as I promised, but here are a few of last P-Day by the river