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 "...ye 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 Apartment...so from here to the above.