Received December 1, 2010
Buenos Dias Mi Querida Familia, y mis Queridos Amigos, Les Amo,
I hope that you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving this past week. Thank you so much for your emails and for your love and support. You are always so willing to give me this love and support and you will never know how much it helps me. It was really neat to see all of the gratitude that was coming from all of your emails this week. It was sure a great holiday week and it was a great chance to be able to reflect a little deeper on all of the blessings that we have received from our loving Heavenly Father. I hope you know how much I love each and every one of you and how thankful I am for you!
I can't believe that it is already December! Christmas in Puerto Rico is apparently a huge deal (I was in Aruba last year so I missed the Puerto Rican Christmas! There aren't a lot of lights up yet (which surprises me because everyone is preparing to get their lights up). Here in Puerto Rico, everyone has cement houses. They build with cement because they are stronger than wooden houses so they hold up well against the hurricanes. And they don't need insulation because its always around 85 degrees here. Actually, as I am writing you at this very moment I can look outside and see the beautiful Puerto Rican sun. Ponce happens to be the hottest part of the island. Today there are clear blue skies and the nice ocean breeze is gently swaying the palms fronds back and forth on the palm trees. Seeing all of that I would say that it is about 90 degrees out there and we will probably be in the mid 90s today. Ahhh (sigh) . . . I love it. How was that blizzard by the way?
Anyways, as I was saying about Christmas lights, basically people here have cement houses and they paint them every year after thanksgiving in preparation for their Christmas celebrations. They celebrate Three Kings day here and so the Christmas celebration goes on long after the 25th. In our Zone Council that we had on Monday, President Alvarado mentioned that the Christmas seasons lasts until the 16th of January here . . . well at least that's how long the kids are out of school. Usually the party lasts a little longer.
Anyways, it was a great holiday and we are looking forward to another great Christmas season. The thing that we are looking forward to the most is the chance that we are going to have to find some solid families this holiday season. We are gearing up to work the hardest that we ever have and we are really excited for the miracles that are going to be coming about in the next few weeks! So keep us in your prayers. We need families here so that we can build the church and grow it where it needs to be. The only way that will happen is with divine help.
For Thanksgiving we were able to visit three families. We were so big! We didn't eat anything for the next two days! Like i mentioned last week, it was a little strange to eat three Thanksgiving dinners and not have a single potato! I'll have to show you how it goes for Thanksgiving dinner here when I am with you all next Thanksgiving. In Puerto Rico the main part of the meal isn't mashed potatoes, stuffing and turkey. The main parts are arroz con gandules, renado de plataneau, y pavo. (rice and beans, plantain stuffing. Oooh! it is Soooo GOOD! Of course there is turkey as well. Needless to say it was a crazy, fun Thanksgiving! But it was also a great day of work.
We were able to visit Raul's family in the morning and had the chance to eat with them. The best part of the experience was sitting down with them and reading the story that President Monson shared with us in October conference. We have been working with this family so much the past few weeks. Raul is just doing great but his wife is having a hard time accepting that God has called a prophet in our day. She keeps saying that if he was a prophet he would be predicting huge world events that would be coming in the future. It was a really neat experience to gather with the family and talk about gratitude. I love the part of President Monson's talk when he tells us that we need to be grateful people. He told us that we need to show gratitude, not just say we are grateful. To have gratitude is good. But to live with gratitude in our hearts is to touch heaven. It was such a sweet experience for us to share with her a powerful testimony from a living prophet, it was incredible to be able to stand before the family and bear testimony that the counsel that President Monson was giving us was hundreds times better than any prediction of world-ending events. I know that President Monson is a prophet! I know that what he shared with us in conference comes directly from God. I have tried to apply those teachings to my life and I have seen an extraordinary difference in the way that I feel when I truly live with gratitude in my heart. I know that this is something that is going to help us during these difficult times that are passing in the world. But more than that, I know that he gave that talk because we are going to need to be that kind of people for the difficult times that lie ahead.
The family really enjoyed the story that we shared and the mom made a really cool observation about the light in the story and how that light was the Light of Christ in our lives. She said she thought about how, as long as we have that light, all will be well. I thought that was a way cool insight and I just wanted to share it with all of you!
We continue to work with Andres and his family. Andres is so excited about baptism. Last night we passed by with President Alvarado and it was so special to see President Alvarado testify to Andres about eternal families and how special it is for him to know that he is going to be with his kids for time and for all eternity. He brought something to the lesson that Andres needed to see and feel. Andres has been searching for the truth his entire life and he told us last night that he prays to God every night and thanks him that he has finally revealed to him the whole elephant, and not just a trunk or an ear. If you don't get that you might have to look back a few emails. But this man is doing great and we are so excited for what lies ahead of us all.
I want to end with a story that we talked about in Zone Council. President Alvarado talked about a man from a concentration camp in world war two. He was a Jewish professor who worked at a university in Poland. He said that while he was in the concentration camp the Nazis performed cruel tests on him. They performed sterilization tests on him while he was awake (among other things) and the professor said that in that moment, in the darkest lowest point of his life, when everything - absolutely everything - had been taken away from him, he found the last human ability. That ability was to be able to choose . . . agency! He said that while the Nazis would perform the experiments he would keep a picture in his head of him standing in front of his class. He would be in front of his students telling them, and testifying to them, about the things that he had experienced in his life. Especially those things in this concentration camp. He said that in that moment he realized that what makes up our lives is not our surroundings or the conditions that surround us, but rather, what makes us who we are are the choices that we make and the attitude that we have. No one can make us feel bad or depressed or angry. Nothing around us can cause us to have bad lives. Our lives can be governed by the choices that we make on our own and the attitude we choose to have. In our darkest moments, we can find the greatest light.
I just want to testify to you all that I know that this is true. I have recently felt this in my life. And I just want to tell you all how much I love you. It can be hard to stay positive when your surroundings are crumbling around you. But when you have a great support system such as family and friends who are always there for you, it makes it so much better. I want you to know how much I love you guys and how thankful I am for all that you have done. But even when you haven't been here physically, I want you to know that there you have been a constant in my life for these past 18 months. You have often been the "something" that has helped me to get through dark times. That support and the love of our Savior Jesus Christ. He lives and He loves each and every one of us. He is carrying me, and helping get through some of the hardest things that I have ever had to deal with. His atonement is real, and I know that through Him, we have the power to decide for ourselves. We can decide that even though everything around us can be bad, with His help, and His strength, we can feel good! We can feel peace.
I love you all and wish you a happy week! I'm not sure when finals are but I know that they are coming up! So good luck and know that you are always in my prayers.