Sunday, February 21, 2016

How do I wrap up the most sacred 18 months of my life?

How do I wrap up the most sacred 18 months of my life? There aren't words that can do it justice, but I will try to wrap up the sacredness of this week.

We had an awesome stake activity where the youth (ages 16 and up) went out to work with us for an entire day! We got to the stake center early Saturday morning, had a breakfast, and were assigned our "companions" for the day. I was put with Lissett Quinteros, a girl from the ward I'm serving in. We ended up having an amazing day! She just recently decided to serve a mission, so it was fun to work with such an excited kid! 

We taught this less-active woman and her two grand-daughters for the first time. It was heartbreaking to hear this woman talk about how she jsut felt like the gospel wasn't for her. She told us the she envies those people who find the strength to live the gospel because it's something she would love to do, but feels like she just can't. Lissett just followed the Spirit and bore a powerful testimony to this women, telling her that Christ is there to let us lean on Him when we feel like we can't. This lady's face changed as she felt the Spirit tell her the truth of Lissett's words. What a blessing it was for me to see the HOPE that those words could bring to Monica. That is what the Savior does, He fills us with hope. 

We also got to teach Elena (who is getting baptized this week) a couple of times. She is such an incredible woman. She needs a lot of your prayers this week, so please remember her! We found out that she recently started smoking. She was heart-broken when she learned about the word of wisdom and realized that she wasn't living a commandment. But that night, she prayed and just told Heavenly Father that she was sorry because she didn't know before! She told Him that she wants to keep this commandment and asked Him to help her do so. I was so amazed to see the faith that she put in Him as she prayed that way. She told us "Sisters, I made a promise to God and I'm going to keep it. He's not mad at me, I feel that. He just wants me to keep moving forward." That is repentance! Christ offers us JOY as we rely on Him and it's something that brings PEACE. 

Lissett bore her testimony at the end of this stake activity. She said that making the choice to go on a mission wasn't something easy for her, but that she can now feel that it is a choice that will bring her joy! I felt bad that she got assigned to work in her own ward that day, but she stood up there and said that she was grateful to work with me...that weeks earlier, I had been a part of Heavenly Father giving her the answer to serve a mission. I don't know when or where...I don't remember, but I'm so proud of her. She is giving things up to go, but I can speak from experience when I say that the reward will be so much greater! Heavenly Father's work is the most glorious thing!! 

Yesterday, we were contacting in the street and a man asked us why we were here in Chile. He wanted to know why in the world we would give up our family, friends, and opportunities to walk in the sun and talk about Jesus to people. I couldn't help but smile and him and say "What we share must be the truth!" 

In Matthew 13:44, the Lord shares a parable: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field."

I am that man who found treasure hidden in a field. I found the gospel of Jesus Christ and the JOY that it brings as I live it. Then, like this man, I "sold" all I have to buy the field; to enjoy all the blessings of the gospel. That is how the gospel works! We each have tasted of the sweetness of finding this little piece of treasure. To fully enjoy all the Christ has to offer, like the man, we must give up what we have to buy the field and have all the treasure there. Just like Elena, we have to give things up to enjoy the treasure of the gospel. Just like Lissett, we have to give up some things to really feel the JOY the gospel offers. 

To this man in the street, it seemed crazy that I would "give up" so much to be here. But, I'm just like that man of whom Christ spoke. It may seem like I have "sold all I have," but I really just bought the whole field of treasure.

As we continued talking to this man, he told us that he has suffered a lot in his life. His wife left him and he left his children in Peru. He doesn't want to be burdened with that pain anymore. He doesn't want to keep dweeling on the wounds from the past. We invited him to be baptized in march, right there in the street. He looked at us, a little surprised, then said "What day?" He decided that finding joy is worth giving up a few things and moving forward without the burdens.

That's something I want to constantly ask myself: "Is there something holding me back from feeling the joy of the gospel?" As I've prayed about that, Heavenly Father always speaks clearly and simply to my mind. Sometimes He tells me to apologize to someone or to look for a way to serve more. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a path of joy and it is walk-able for each of us.

These months have been the most sacred of my entire life! How do you put into words the feeling of having the Savior carry you? How do you put into words what it is to have Him speak through you? How do you put into words the joy of seeing a child of God return to Him? These are experiences that I would not trade for anything. Like the lamanite king said to Aaron, "I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy" (Alma 22:15). 

I have never felt joy like I have felt here in the service of my God. This is not a joy that we need to wait for. It is not a joy that comes from just serving a mission. As Aaron taught "If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest" (Alma 22:16).

I know that is true! The Atonement of Jesus Christ can heal any broken heart and makes any transformation possible! I have seen that in the lives of countless people here in Chile; I have seen it in you guys as I have been here; I have FELT it in myself. The last testimony I bear to you guys (through email) is that Jesus Christ lives and is our Savior. That truth makes everything you can possibly imagine a beautiful reality.

I love you!

Hermana Aponte

P.S. In case you're wondering, I'm excited to see you guys! I'm pretty nervous, as well haha I feel just like I felt when I boarded the plan to come to Chile. That was the best choice I've ever made, so it must be something right if I feel the same way by going back! See you soon :) MUCHOS BESOS! 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

tired and sad...

How great that the world takes Christmas as a time to remember the Savior. I know it's something that we should do all the time (and as members of His Church, we do), but there is always a special feeling during Christmas. People start acting a little more Christ-like and that brings a general increase of happiness, peace, and hope. How beautiful it is that we can have that constantly--that the Savior's very mission and purpose is to bring to pass our eternal happiness through salvation.

One of my favorite scriptures is Helaman 5:12. I know I've shared it before, but you can't beat a good classic, alright? It says: 

"And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, IT SHALL HAVE NO POWER OVER YOU to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall." 

What a promise! There are storms that hit us everyday. There are things that distract us from what is most important; situations which bring pain and suffering. We face rejection, ridicule, loneliness, and doubt. They can all be winds sent by the adversary with the hopes of driving us off-course and ultimately set us adrift in a sea of uncertainty and misery.

I would like you all to take a nice look at the picture I sent of iron-man. I think this just applies to life in general, not just the mission! For me, in the moments when I feel like picture number two, Helaman 5:12 slaps me in the face and I turn into picture number one, again. The key is "remember, remember." When storms come it is easy to forget where our strength to keep going comes from; it's easy to forget that we have found that strength before; it's easy to forget "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." 

This week has been a week of remembering for me. I'd like to share a couple of these memories with you, with the hopes that " should read these things..." and "remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts." Also, that you can see these works and "glorify my Father which is in heaven."

- This time last year was easily the hardest point of my entire mission. I often thought it was the hardest time of my entire life. For weeks I searched the scriptures and prayed to find strength, but nothing came. I knew that I needed the enabling power of the Atonement to keep going, but I couldn't figure out how to access it. I kept working hard, I was obedient, and we had a lot of success in our sector, but I wasn't happy. It hurt me so badly to do this work without being happy. 

      One day, a dear friend stopped me and asked, "Hermana Aponte, what happened? You look different." I asked her, "What do I look like?" She told me, "You look like you need the enabling power of the Atonement." I broke down into tears and she hugged me. She told me that there are times when we feel like we can't keep fighting; there are times when we feel like we can't give any more. But, the Savior will never let us reach the point where we can't give more. Right before we get there, the power comes. 

Spent Christmas day with this kids.
Oh, how I miss Hna. Clawson.
      I cleaved to that hope for a couple of more weeks until I found myself kneeling in prayer. I poured out my heart and asked for forgiveness. I had learned that my lack of happiness came because I was not serving because of the LOVE I had for the Savior. That day, as I knelt in prayer, His will became my will and I started serving out of love. This changed my mission--it changed my life.

- I boarded the bus, tired and sad after receiving some hard news. I was distracted and feeling a little hopeless...I looked to my side and there was a lady next to me who looked like she'd had an even worse day than I did. I started talking to her and she shared the struggles she was having with 3 kids as a single mom. I listened and I loved her. She happily accepted the invitation to meet with missionaries and I walked off that bus smiling, feeling light. I don't know what happened to her, but I'm convinced that Heavenly Father put her there more for me than me for her. I learned that day about the beauty of lifting a brother or sister so that they can keep going, even for just a bit. That sister of mine was put on the bus to help me do that. "You lift me and I'll lift thee and we'll ascend together."

- My first transfer EVER. I stood up and President announced a whitewash with Hermana Clawson. The next few months were FULL of getting lost on buses, getting whistled at in the street, getting yelled at by Catholics and Baptists, and learning to just let Heavenly Father take control. His plan is always so much better. 

My last Christmas box from Home in Chile!
- As a 16-year-old girl, I asked Heavenly Father about serving a mission. It wasn't ever what I had wanted, but I had a sincere desire to know of His plan. He told me "yes! Go do it and everything will work out!" I didn't want to, but I decided that day that I would be obedient. I came on the mission out of obedience, but it has been here that I have been converted. I am still here because I love the Lord. Obedience turned into consecration; consecration turned into conversion; conversion into discipleship. This is easily the best decision I've ever made.

- 27 years ago, two kids decided to let some missionaries enter their house. They didn't have much hope for the future, mostly as a result of their pasts. The odds were stacked up against them, so everyone believed they were destined to fail. They beat the odds, but it had everything to do with the Savior. I say that I am here because the mercy of the Lord towards those two kids. He saw fit that they received the restored gospel and their decision to follow Him changed everything. The gospel changed everything for them and for me. 

Remember that moments that you have felt the love of your Father in Heaven. Remember when He has spoken to you; remember when He has given you peace and hope; remember when He has made you into so much more. All His promises will be fulfilled. I testify of that and of His love. Remembering those moments is always what gets me through a storm. Storms don't last forever, but what the Savior has given us does. 

I love you guys!
Hermana Aponte

My last Christmas Eve in Chile!

My little old lady!

Reunited with my hija amada!
My plane buddy, Hna Cannon!
We met in Atlanta on the way to Chile
and we've been best buds ever since.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

"Oh, le queda poco!"

New Area
I sent you a picture of my lovely new area. My companion is Hna Alderete from Argentina. She is 27 years old, so that's crazy, but we can bond over our wrinkles. Also, she speaks Spanish like a pro, so hopefully Mama and Papa will actually understand my Spanish when they hear me.

The sector is a bomb just waiting to explode with amazing people who just want to follow Jesus Christ! Hna Alderete's previous companion went home for her health, so they were unable to work the area for 4 of the 6 weeks that Hna Alderete was here. That basically means that this is like a white-wash, round 2 and it's been a lot of fun! I will definitely try to get a more substantial email out next week. I'm so sorry, again.

Everyone I've talked to here asks me how much time I have left on the mission...when I answer, it's always followed by, "Oh, le queda poco!" aka "You only have a little bit left!" I've been feeling that lately. The time that the Lord has given me to serve Him 24/7 is extremely short and so precious to me. Oftentimes, the Spirit whispers to me of the sacredness of what I'm doing here. This week, I have had many of those moments. Those feelings have given way to an even more beautiful realization: throughout my mission and my life, I have chosen to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. That is so much more than wearing a name-tag.
New Companion and New Apartment

I know that my Savior lives. I know that. I know that this is His Church and nothing can ever change that. I know that Jesus Christ is the light of the world. He casts out all darkness, if we left Him. I'm thankful for the opportunity to serve Him here, but you all have the same opportunity. The darkness is casts out, not just by sharing the gospel, but by changing to become like Him. That is where all happiness I have comes from.

View from Last from here to the above.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

    Hermana Nahiomi Aponte and Hermana Clawson whish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

start from scratch and change everything...

Well, Chile is finally heating up a bit! 

My tan-line on my feet is back and my neck is officially 10 shades darker than any other part of me! We are starting to invest in popsicles and sunscreen, so it's SUMMER!! I love summer :)

What a great week! 

“Asombro me da el amor que me da Jesus” and the love He gives to everyone around me. 

This week we had a beautiful opportunity to teach a young, unmarried couple named Diana and Herbis. They have a little daughter named Sofia and they are incredible. They are both so hurt by the mistakes they’ve made and all they want is to have a happy, united family. They want to give their daughter all the hope, protection, and happiness that they didn’t receive from their own families. They’ve felt so lost and hopeless, just because they didn’t know how that would ever be possible.

As I heard them share that, shedding tears the whole time, the Spirit whispered to me: “These are your parents!” In that moment, I just broke down crying, too. It wasn't just that they had similar situations to those of mama and papa. The Spirit was telling me that these two young kids felt EXACTLY as mama and papa did when they met the missionaries. 

I couldn’t hold back exclaiming “I have to tell you something!” In tears and with a picture of my family and the temple, I shared mama and papa's story with Diana and Herbis. I was able to share with them that their dreams ARE possible and there IS hope because I am the evidence. I am the product of a young couple who had no hope until they found it in the gospel. I am the proof that the gospel changes our possibilities and that Jesus Christ has changed our destiny.

In a moment of the lesson, they were just in tears as we told them about the hope of repentance. Christ lives and He lives to save THEM from sin and to free them! He lives to let them start from scratch and change everything about the future of their family. In the end, we invited them to be baptized and prepare to be sealed in the temple. As we extended the invitation, they were holding hands and just looking in each other's eyes, smiling and in tears. They have baptism dates from December and are excited to be married and prepare to enter into the temple to be sealed in one year. That is already where their vision and hope is.

Hermana Clawson has a deep love for mama and papa and our family :) She was also in tears as she told them that I am Sofia in 20 years. She told them that because of the decision mama and papa made, I am here and she has been blessed for it. She said that thousands of people have been and will be blessed for it. It will be the same for Diana and Herbis. Their decision will change all possibilities and futures of their family. 

This was a tender mercy for me, really. I’m just continually amazed by how Heavenly Father let me be here to just testify of the hope. I know it’s real because it’s the reason I have my family right now. It’s the reason for every good thing in my life and I know it will be the reason for every good thing in the lives of Diana, Herbis, Sofia and the rest of their children who are waiting. Heavenly Father’s plan is beautiful.

Well, I'm all out of time, but I love you guys dearly. It's still up to us to choose an eternal family and choose the Savior's Atonement to start from scratch every day. I know the Savior lives and I know that He is not just the Savior of Diana and Herbis, but for all of us. If you continually look for Him, you will see that :) WHAT A BLESSING. I LOVE YOU GUYS!!!

Hermana Aponte

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The mission is easily the hardest thing I've ever done...

¿Qúe les cuento? As always, it was a beautiful week here in Santiago, Chile. I sometimes feel bad because I know you guys aren't even capturing how incredible it is for me to be serving the Lord. There is nothing I would rather be doing and nothing has ever brought me so much joy.

That seems to be such a theme among the people we talk to here. So many people believe that they are happy, but they have no concept of what joy is. They feel like something is missing or that life can't possibly be just what they're seeing in front of them, yet they don't know what it is they're missing. They're missing joy! I think a lot of time that's all that we are missing. But, what's the difference between joy and happiness? Why is one better than the other? Why is joy the purpose of our very existence? 

I'm not 100% sure. I don't know a whole lot of things, but there are a couple of things that I know about joy. Basically, this is it for me: Joy is not temporal and it's something that comes from within. Because it comes from within us, it's not affected by the things happening around us. What greater blessing is there? No wonder Heavenly Father's whole plan centers on us finding JOY! He wants us to be free and to become like Him! The whole point of us being here is that we are not victims of the things happening in this crazy world and our crazy lives. In the end, this joy is only possible through Jesus Christ. 

The mission is easily the hardest thing I've ever done. Think about it. We walk all day, whether is raining or 100 degrees and sunny. I wipe dirt off my legs at night and when I wash my hands, the water is actually dirty! Sometimes, people yell at us. Some people have told me that I'm annoying and bothering everyone around me. Sometimes they tell me that I hate God and don't know who Jesus Christ is. I get gross things yelled at me on a daily basis from drunk guys on the side of the road. Then, there are the even grosser things said by people who aren't even drunk. I'm 5000 miles away from family and friends and school and movies. I've even had to eat cow stomach! Why in the world is this the happiest I've ever been in my whole life? I have joy. 

Very little of the joy I feel from doing this work comes from the craziness happening around me. It comes from the Savior. It comes from knowing that He is at my side because I have chosen to follow Him. It comes from knowing that because I've chosen Him, He will chose me. It comes from knowing that HE is proud of me. It comes form knowing that I'm making HM happy. It comes from being able to love people HE loves. It comes from trying to be HIS hands and share HIS love and the hope HE offers.

This week we started teaching a guy named Sebastian. He's always heard about God because his parents taught him. Lately, he's been feeling like he's missing something...recently, he realized that he doesn't really have a personal relationship with God. He doesn't know if He's there or if He cares or what He thinks about Sebatian...

Now, if only you could see Sebastian! He is this 22-year-old kid with a purple mohawk, but you look at him and you just see goodness. All I see is that he is another of God's children who is looking for something, but he doesn't know what. He has had a rough life because of some poor decisions he's made...he's made himself subject to a lot of the circumstances around him. For a long time his happiness has come from the things around him, the people around him, and what those people think. We ended up talking to him a lot about the love that Jesus Christ has for him and how Sebastian has a Friend who is just waiting to help him find joy.He said to us that this is literally the hope and peace that he's been waiting for. He found what He didn't know he was looking for. He is changing and he is going to find joy. It will be eternal and it will be what keeps him going throughout the rest of his life, regardless of circumstances and the choices of other people.

I think it should be so much easier for us! We already know where joy comes from. We have already felt the peace and hope and relief that Jesus Christ offers. If we haven't, we at least have the great blessing of knowing exactly where to look for it. That's really all I want for you guys and for all of the people I love. It's really what Heavenly Father wants for you guys. If we don't have JOY, we need to take a step back and realize that we're making it too hard. Like President Uchtdorf said, living the gospel is easy. Therefore, finding joy is easy. I promise it comes in the Savior and in living His gospel. I can testify of that. I think people look at missionaries and see that we have no reason to walk the streets grinning everyday. By their standards, we have 0 happiness. Yet, at the end of the day, we're still the ones grinning, no matter what. It doesn't come from us. The strength to keep going and to keep finding light does not come from us. It comes straight from following the Savior. He leaves a trail of light and joy.

Hermana Aponte

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

He cut me down...

I would just like to apologize in advance for the lameness of this letter. I've been pretty sick these last couple of days and I can't really get out any coherent thoughts, so just excuse me now.
So, Fabian got baptized on Sunday!!!! What a beautiful miracle. Listen to the story he shared at his baptism:
One day, he was just leaving the apartment when we held the gate open for him so he could leave the apartment complex. He looked back to thank us and saw our name-tags for just a second, but we kept walking. The image of those name-tags stayed in his mind all day. When He was 10-years-old there were two elders with name-tags just like that who taught his mom! He started to remember parts of what they had taught him and how good he had felt when those elders were at his house. Then, two days later, Fabian was at a bus stop and saw us standing there. His bus pulled up and he said that he knew he had a choice. He could take it or stop to get to talk to us. His bus kept going and he sat down. We're missionaries, so we started to talk to him and the rest is history. I've never taught someone so prepared. It is amazing how Heavenly Father prepared Him throughout His life to be ready to talk to us and accept the gospel in that moment.
There's more! Fabian has a friend from school named Hernan. Hernan is from a different ward, but is a pretty solid member of the church. In his ward, the missionaries invited him and his wife to pray to find someone who could be baptized by Nov. 1st Well, they started to get anxious because Nov. 1 was coming up quickly and they still hadn't found anyone. One day, they were praying in the temple to be able to find this person who could be baptized. When they came out, Hernan checked his phone and there was a text from Fabian, which read: "Hernan, I'm getting baptized on November 1st. Will you baptize me?" It was a miracle for Hernan and his wife, too. 
I guess I'm just amazed by how beautiful Heavenly Father's plan is. When He does something, He works in the lives of many of His children to bring to pass so much good. Many people's lives (min included) were changed and many testimonies were strengthened because of the beautiful workmanship of our Father in Heaven. He really is so good.
So, I told you guys that I'm sick. That's been really hard for me because I've never been sick enough to not be able to work on the mission. Yesterday, I was in tears, just praying to Heavenly Father to help me understand why I couldn't go work. I told Him that all I want to do is go be a missionary. I couldn't understand why He would let me be sick. 
Today I read in Daniel chapter 4, the story of kind Nebuchadnezzar. He had a dream about a great tree that was giving good fruit and helping a lot of animals to have shelter and food. This tree was fulfilling the measure of it's creation and it was reaching up to the heavens. It thought everything was going pretty well. Then, there comes "the watcher," who commands that the tree be cut down. This tree is the king and he was cut down because it was what the Lord saw fit. In the end, he turns to the Lord and ends up praising the Lord for all He's done for him. In the end, the king receives even more than he had.
I realized that I am this tree and I am the king. A couple of days ago I prayed that Heavenly Father would help me to stay close to Him. I prayed that He would help me to become more consecrated and just that I could depend more on Him. Then, He answered. He cut me down and it has been hard for me. There have been a lot of tears in the process because being cut down is hard, but Heavenly Father does not do it to hurt me. I am 100% sure of that. He has a much bigger vision of who I can become. Being cut down and humbled is part of helping me to trust Him more and become who HE wants me to be. Maybe I think I'm a great tree and maybe I've given off some good fruit, but He sees something even greater. 
I am thankful for my Father in Heaven. I am thankful that He is SO PATIENT and SO LOVING that He will cut us down as many times as we need to reach our full potential. he doesn't give up on us and everything He does really is for our benefit. It's funny, but the way I feel Heavenly Father's love the most has become letting Him cut me down and refine me. It's always hard and it's always uncomfortable, but that's when I see how much hope He has for me. 
I LOVE YOU GUYS! Let Heavenly Father cut you down and refine you; ask Him what He needs you to learn from it, then keep going. Keep trusting :)
Hermana Aponte