Guess what? We found out that there are two ELDERS coming to Hualqui next transfer. Crazy. I have always liked having elders and hermanas in my sectors, though, so it will be good for Hualqui to have both. Most of the priesthood holders in Hualqui work "afuera" (at least a half hour drive away from Hualqui) and get home pretty late, so it will be nice to have priesthood available all the time, at the very least.
I don't really know what to say about this week. It was hot outside a couple days. When it gets really miserable and hot I try to remind myself that last summer in Chillán was MUCH hotter. But I think I have blocked those memories out, because sometimes it seems impossible that I could be any more uncomfortable. We're all getting tan and my hair keeps getting more and more blonde. I hate that part.
But there are flowers everywhere and lots of trees and it is really still impossible for me to believe that it is December. Christmas just looks so funny in the summertime!
So besides it being hot and everyone giving us ice cream for dessert at lunch (no complaints here!), the main thing that happened this week is I learned some things about prayer. Mostly that it works. I mean, I knew that before. But I just experienced it differently this week, I guess.
The truth is that I have never been real great at prayer. Before the mission I almost never had a real consistent habit of doing personal prayers, I would get anxiety when I had to pray in public, I usually didn't recognize personal revelation for what it was, and I didn't know how to turn my prayers into something very real. But throughout my mission, I have felt strongly that one thing I needed to learn to do here was pray. I still struggle with it a lot, and I have to really concentrate on it and make a concerted effort, but I am starting to notice a difference.
One of the struggles I have had with prayer in the past is that I didn't feel like I very often received answers. Or at least, I didn't know how to recognize them. I am learning that this is because 1. I have a wild imagination and so anything less than a grand gesture (which, as we know, is not the general format for answers to prayers) is generally lost on me, and 2. I have a tendency to overthink things, so I would manage to talk myself out of the answers I received or rationalize them as being my own thoughts or desires.
So throughout the mission I have tried to improve my prayers and to be more attentive to personal revelation, though I have not always had much success and at times I have been frustrated and felt alone and unanswered, after such experiences my "prayer cycle" would sink back down into its "vain repetition" phase. But there have been a few times when I have been able to break through those barriers and feel that my prayers were sincere and honest and that I could be at peace through having received an answer - or at least knowing that one would come.
This week I had two cool experiences with prayer - neither of them miraculous angels-descending-from-heaven-
to-beat-you-over-the-head- with-the-answer experiences, but miraculous and special in their own way.
First of all, one day we were out working and we ran into one of our investigators, whom we hadn't seen in a while. She is the daughter of a menos activa and takes care of her two little siblings while her mom works. So we saw her out in the street and when we went to talk to her we found out that her little brother (who's about four years old) had gone missing and that she was waiting for the police to come and help her look for him. We offered our help as well and started scouring the neighborhood for a little boy in green camoflauge sneakers, asking all the little kids if they knew him or had seen him. After a few minutes of searching, we remembered that we had told Andrea that we would pray and that we had not yet done so. So we stopped there in the street and said a quick prayer and then completed our rounds of the población, with no luck finding the little guy. We went back to Andrea's house to see if the carabineros had arrived yet and no one was there. I wanted to call, but I didn't want to interrupt if maybe she was giving a police report or something, so we decided to keep working and keep our eyes open for little Vicente. Then a few minutes later, down the street walks Andrea with Vicente by her side. She and the carabineros had managed to find him just a few blocks away from home. We were so grateful that our prayer had been answered.
The other experience I had was one that blessed me greatly. Many times throughout my mission I had been invited to ask Heavenly Father a specific question about how He feels about my missionary service. And though I had done it before, I had never really felt that I had received an answer, so I just didn't really bother to keep asking. Well, this week in an interview with President Arrington he challenged me to do it and he looked me straight in the eyes (darn mission presidents that just look right into your soul) and made me commit to do it in every personal prayer until I got an answer. So I said I would do it, though I didn't have a lot of faith in the experiment.
Over the next couple of days I tried really hard to take President Arrington's challenge seriously, and I would try to wait and "listen" for a response after I prayed, but I still didn't really feel any different than before. But I said I would do it, so I kept doing it, and hoped that someday the answer would come.
Well, morning I started thinking a lot about Hermana Snyder. Worrying about her, really, and I wanted to know how she was doing. But as she isn't in my zone or my sister training group, I don't really communicate with her on a real regular basis. A quick email once in a while and sometimes we see each other in the office on P-days, but that's it. We aren't really supposed to call other hermanas just to chat, but I just felt so strongly that I should and I just couldn't ignore it. I just kept thinking about her and wanting to talk to her and so after lunch I decided I was just going to try to get a hold of her. By complete luck, we had in our phone the number of the companionship of hermanas that lives in her same house, so I called Hermana Taylor and she had Hermana Snyder come talk to me. And I was so glad that I did. It turns out that she didn't really need anything from me - my "worrying" about her was just a way to get me to call her, I guess. Because as we talked, she communicated things to me in a way that no one else could have done. Only her personality and our relationship could have resulted in that conversation, and it was an answer to my prayers. We are often taught that the Lord sometimes answers our prayers through other people, and so it was this day. At first I was tempted not to call the experience an "answer," but the more I think about it and remember it and reflect on it, the more I realize that that is what it was. God needed to use Hermana Snyder to tell me things that I wouldn't have been able to hear or understand in any other way. And I am so very grateful. To her and to Him.
This week I want to invite you all to take the opportunity to focus a little more on your prayers. Talk sincerely and openly with Heavenly Father, and He WILL answer you. Maybe not now, and maybe not in the way you think, but the answers will come. I know because they have come to me. And they are so special. I know that God loves me very much, and I know that He loves all of you as well. So talk to Him!
And how are we doing in the Book of Mormon? I know those war chapters are a little tough, but we're getting down to the end of Alma - hooray! This week I was excited to read about when Zerahemnah gets scalped by one of Captain Moroni's soldiers. I don't know why, but I get a real kick out of that story every time. Anyway, keep on reading! You can do it - EVERY DAY!
Well, it's seriously time for me to go now. I love you all and hope you are all very well and happy! Talk to you again next week!