Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The end.


Wow.

I can't believe this is actually happening.  Honestly, when I left 18 months ago I never really believed that the mission would end.  But here it is... ending.  I don't think it has truly hit me yet. 

This week was truly filled with tender mercies.  We had a miracle baptism on Sunday.  There is a little boy who lives in our ward and comes almost every week.  His name is A and his mom is a less active member.  However, his father is a non member and never was willing to sign to let his son be baptized.  Looking for a last minute miracle, Hermana M and I visited them on Wednesday.  We don't really know what happened, but the father experienced the "mighty change of heart."  He signed, and A was baptized on Sunday.  The best part is that his dad also came to church on Sunday to support the family.  His dad gave him one of those giant, wet, YOU JUST GOT BAPTIZED hugs that I love so much and we heard him say "I have never felt so proud."  Hermano R (the dad) is now taking the lessons and wants to continue going to church with his family.  We anticipate that he will be baptized in September.  One of the greatest miracles of my mission is seeing how The Lord works to soften hearts and change lives... Including mine. 

At this point in my mission I really feel like I understand Ammon who, when speaking of his mission, said...

"I desire to dwell among this people for a time, yeah and perhaps until the day I die."

I feel ya, Ammon.  Guatemala just seems like a part of who I am at this point.  I love this people and I love the privilege that I have been given to serve and love the Lamanites for 18 months.  18 months ago, you guys sent a scared, scrawny white girl to Guatemala.  I am not the same I was before.  Yes, I am still Sierra.  But I feel like I am a better version of myself.  I am closer to the Lord.  I am braver.  I am happier.  And I am clean from the blood and sins of this generation.  I have fought a good fight and done what I can.  I haven't been the perfect missionary, but I have done the best that I can and thanks to the atonement of Jesus Christ, that is enough.  I have learned the importance of obedience, and that includes being obedient to the hardest part of the entire process... Coming home. 

But President Markham told me "you have a great life ahead of you.  Trust in God and move forward."

I guess that is true.  It would be wrong of me to spend 18 months telling people to trust in God and do hard things if I myself were unwilling to do it.  I trust that my Heavenly Father trusts me enough to allow me to continue progressing in the real world.  I know that He is preparing me to move on to other things and I know that the work that I have done here will continue forward.  This is a great and marvelous work.  It is an eternal work, with eternal blessings.  I am so grateful that I came and I look forward to the opportunity to continue seeking Christ throughout my entire life. 

Elder Uchtdorf, speaking about discipleship, said..,

"Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not an effort of once a week or once a day.  It is an effort of once and for all."

My discipleship will not end when I take off my nametag.  My conversion runs deep.  I know that I am a true representative of Jesus Christ.  I know that He lives.  I feel His love and His influence in my life.  I know that this is His work, to bring to pass the eternal life of man.  God didn't need me to be here in Guatemala.  But I needed Him.  He taught me how to look for His hand, access His mercy and rejoice in the cleansing and strengthening power of the atonement.  I have rejoiced in Christ.  I rejoice in Christ.  And I will forever rejoice in Him.  Discipleship is not a journey of 18 months, it is a journey of a lifetime. 

I am grateful for my Heavenly Father who sent me, not only here to earth, but here to Guatemala.  I am grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ who paid for my sins.  I owe everything I am to Him, and He is everything to me.  I know who He is and I know where to find Him.  I am grateful for my parents to have loved and supported me through the entire process.  I am grateful for President and Hermana Markham who serve as our parents and guides as we love and serve the people here.  I am grateful for Thomas S Monson and the apostles.  I am grateful that the windows of heaven are continually opened.  I am grateful for the age change. I am grateful for my temple covenants. I am grateful for my companions.  I am grateful for my friends, los chapines, here in Guatemala.  I am grateful for my converts... They have changed me more than I have changed them.  I think that one of the most important converts I have in my whole mission is myself.  I know that this really is the kingdom of God here on the earth.  I am grateful for every second that I have spent here in Guatemala, but more than anything I am grateful that God has been mindful of me a "wanderer in a strange land."

Thank you for loving and supporting me while I have been here.  I love the mission, but more than anything I love God and I know that He wants me to come home.

It has been a great adventure. I look forward to many more to come.

I apologize in advance for being a weirdo... White people make me anxious. 

Les AMO!

See you.... Saturday.

Hermana Wise 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

La Lluvia


Hola Familia!

Wow, I am totally going to miss the craziness of Guatemalan weather. 

This Saturday we had a miracle baptism.  P did indeed get baptized... Even though we had scheduling conflicts and lots of last minute drama... it all worked out.  The truth is that it was a beautiful baptismal service and everyone was happy in the end, so that is all that really matters.  P and her boyfriend R have plans to be sealed in the Salt Lake temple in a year.  I promised to attend. 

After the service, we headed off to start working.  Within minutes we were hit by a gigantic, unexpected rainstorm.  We forgot our raincoats.  We got drenched. We made fashionable ponchos out of trash bags. But, we just kept moving forward looking for lessons.  We had a lesson scheduled at 3 in a gated community at the edge of our area.  We started walking only to realize that the entire dirt road was flooded.  After trying unsuccessfully to wade through waist-deep dirty rainwater, we climbed up the weedy hill on the side of the road to try and leap to safety.  At this point there were cars lined up watching the psycho Mormons try to get to their appointment.  Hermana M made the first leap and then asked me to throw her backpack to her.  Coordination is not my strongest suit.  I unintentionally flung her backpack into dirty rainwater... Whoops.  She saved it.  The scriptures were unharmed.  At this point I was expected to also leap to safety.  As previously discussed, coordination is not my strongest suit. Panic set in as I clung to the small tree nearby overlooking certain death.  Suddenly a car pulled up filled with very nice strangers.  They explained to us that they were members and helped us climb down the ledge and into their car.  They drove us to our appointment.

God answers prayers, people. 

We saw some real miracles here with our investigator pool as well.  We really needed to find some new people who were going to progress.  The stake planned a stake-wide family home evening.  It was a success.  We had 9 investigators attend and received 6 referrals.

The Amatitilan stake (here) won the worldwide indexing competition... Yeah pretty cool. Like 6 times on Sunday someone over the pulpit glared me down and said "we beat the US in the competition for indexing." It was uncomfortable.  But hey! At least we can drink the water that comes out of the sink in the United States! We win some and we lose some. We are trying to take all of the animo that they have after the competition and put it into missionary work.

This final time here in the mission really has been incredible.  God has helped me see my weaknesses, rely on Him and change.  I am far from perfect, but I am truly trying to be Christ like.  I am grateful for these beautiful 18 months which I have been given to come to know my Savior, Jesus Christ.

I love the mission.  I am grateful for this time which God has granted me to be here and help bring others unto Christ.  More than anything, I am grateful that I have been brought unto Him.  He lives.  He is everything.  This is His work.  I am grateful for the chance I have to be a lifelong missionary. 

I love the mission.  I love The Lord.  Even though I don't want the mission to end, I trust that God has many great things planned for me after the mission as well.  Stop worrying, mom... I will be happy to see you guys. :)  Yes, leaving Guatemala will be hard.  But I choose to be happy and I am genuinely excited to see the family again (although I doubt we will all recognize each other). 

I love you guys.  Thank you for supporting and writing me throughout my whole mission.  I love my family.  I am grateful for the miracle that our family is eternal.

LOVE YOU GUYS!

Until the final email....

Hna Wise

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My New BFF J Lo


Hey familia!

This week has been nuts! I feel like we are just running as fast as we possibly can.  Time is flying! It kinda makes me panic.  Hermana P extended her mission 3 weeks but is going home tomorrow.  It just makes everything feel so real.  I love the mission and I really don't want it to end but I am trying to develop faith that God has other great things planned for me.  It's just... weird.

Divisions have been great.  I got to go with my hijita Hermana C last week.  It was so cool to see how well she has been progressing after her training.  Man, I love that girl. 

We have a baptism lined up for this weekend.  Her name is P and she was a referral from our new best friend, Jennifer Lopez.  Yes, that is her real name.  She is a middle-aged member in the ward who insists we call her Hermana J Lo.... It's pretty weird.  But, her referral is coming along just great! She really has been a miracle as we have struggled to get traction in this area.  LS is great but it is wealthy... The majority of my converts live in tin houses with dirt floors.

BUT! Challenges aren't impossible.  We have a very interesting pool of investigators right now.  One of them, M, is a 20 year old girl who works in the house of an inactive family who lives in a gated neighborhood in our area.  She is super cute, came to church and loved it, and really wants to know if the church is true...

... The only challenge is that M is from Quiche, a village in Northern Guatemala.  She speaks very little Spanish just quetchi´kel (dialect) and doesn't know how to read or write.  No one on the ward speaks this dialect.

Does that sound like a challenge or what?! Our lessons are more than anything like a weird cross between charades and Pictionary with the occasional interpretive dance of the first vision thrown in there.  It's fun, and crazy, teaching with such a language barrier.  PRAY FOR M!

I just keep telling her ¨oshk´atimi lok!¨ which means we love you! And ¨cashno´k!¨which means GET BAPTIZED!

Our other hilarious teaching challenge is named Kim S.  He is the father of a recent convert, K.  K is half Guatemalan and half Korean.  His dad has 14 years of being in Guatemala but really has never learned Spanish.  The most interesting part is that his wife and his kids don't speak Korean.... I don't really understand how they communicate with each other but they somehow get by.  The other day we went to visit Kevin and his dad was home, half drunk and smoking a cigar.  He asked us to teach him and we politely agreed.

To make the situation interesting, he asked us if Mormons drink.  We explained to him that we do not and he completely launched into orbit.  He began sputtering a whole lot of Korean mixed with English and the occasional unconjugated Spanish verb.  By some miracle, I was able to understand him.  This is what he said...

¨But I am pretty sure that Jesus got drunk sometimes but then he just went home and took a nap.  I am Catholic, and I drink and God still loves me.  I am also Buddhist.  Buddha totally smokes.¨

My companion ¨God wants you to stop drinking and smoking so you can be blessed with health¨

Kim ¨BUT I AM ALREADY HEALTHY!!! GIVE ME YOUR ARM!!! Let's arm wrestle!!!!¨

My companion looked panicked but I mean really, what else can you do when a drunk Korean investigator wants to arm wrestle you?  You just have to give it your best shot.

She totally won.  We followed up that insightful message with a Mormon message that we watched on their laptop.  We tried to watch it in Korean, but ended up watching it in Portuguese.  So no one understood.  That was an adventure.  He is totally going to get baptized one day. 

But, those have been a few adventures of this week.  It's been great.  I really can't believe how fast the mission is moving along. 

Just trying to enjoy every second of it. 

LOVE YOU ALL! (hasta pronto)

Hna Wise

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Hace 17 Meses

Hola familia!
Wow, 17 months ago today I sat nervously in the basement packing my belongings and wondering what the next year and a half would bring me.  Terrified, I wondered if I would ever be able to learn Spanish.  I wondered who my trainer would be.  I questioned if I would really be able to serve a mission.  I was anxious, and excited to have the adventure of a lifetime here in Guatemala.

16 months ago, I sat in the MTC doubting my own sanity as I unsuccessfully tried to learn Spanish.

15.5 months ago, I sat on my very first Guatemalan bus, watching Hermana H interact with the people.  Exactly 2 seconds later, I realized that I understood absolutely no Spanish. 

14 months ago, I received my first Latina companion.

13 months ago, I left Petapa and met the CP family.

1 year ago, the CP family got baptized and I had surgery... On my head... In Guatemala...

11 months ago, I realized how much I truly loved the mission.

10 months ago, I came to the coast for the first time and hated it.

9 months ago, I learned to love the coast.

8 months ago, I received my best friend Hermana Z and we opened a new  area together in La Gomera.

7 months ago, After suffering being rejected and hospitalized... We had a miracle baptism.

6 months ago, I left La Gomera and went to Palin to open area and train Hermana C. 

5 months ago, we got the notice that Hermana C's Mom was going to die of terminal cancer.  She decided to continue with her mission.

4 months ago, we had emergency changes (one day I will tell you all why) and we went to open a new area (again) in Santa Elena. 

3 months ago, we met and baptized the S Family.  They were a miracle.

2 months ago, I started the training of Hermana S.  She changed my mission.

1 month ago, I got the notice that I was going to leave Santa Elena...

And now I am here.  Sitting in this hot sweaty internet cafe in the middle of Guatemala.  On the 4th of March, exactly 17 months ago, I said goodbye to my family and packed my belongings.  I felt so worried, so fearful about what I was leaving behind.  I was anxious and doubtful that I would be able to achieve what would be expected of me.  I questioned if I would truly be able to love a people and a culture so unfamiliar and if I would ever feel comfortable conversing in Spanish.  I dreaded the thought of wearing a skirt every day.  18 months seemed like an eternity.

And yet, here I am... 17 months later.  The suitcases so meticulously packed are battered and beaten.  The clothing that once filled them has all been destroyed or given away.  The things which once seemed so important to me now don't seem to matter at all. 

In seventeen months I have been worn down, rejected, cast out, ridiculed, and beaten down.  Yet, I am the happiest I have ever been.  I have seen miracles and have been carried in the hand of The Lord.  I have been an instrument in bringing to pass the eternal life of man.  God has shown me my weaknesses and my flaws and somehow made use of me anyway.  I am the ungrateful servant.  My effort will never be enough, but through the atonement of Jesus Christ I can be redeemed.  Though I am weak through Him I am strong. 

I have been transformed through my the love of my Savior Jesus Christ.  The more I learn of Him the less I ever want to leave His side.  Like the disciples awaiting the resurrected Christ my heart burns within me.  I pray to one day have the same confidence that Enos had at the end of his life.  I hope that I feel the assurity that Christ will say to me "ven a mi tu, bendito eres.  Hay un lugar preparado para ti en las mansiones de mi Padre."  All I want in life is to return to my Heavenly Father and help as many others as I can do the same.  I can't say that "the mission changed me" because the truth is that I am still Sierra, just refined by the atonement of Christ.

I feel my Savior's love.  This is His work.  This is His Gospel.  He lives.

I am grateful for the time that God has given me to serve His people here in Guatemala.  This time is precious.  Seventeen months ago, a year and a half seemed like a sacrifice.  It looked like a lifetime.  Seventeen months later I realize it was never a sacrifice at all.

The end of the mission is painful and beautiful.  I know that God has so many things prepared for me, not only for this next month but for the rest of my life.  I am so glad that I chose to be a part of it.  I am grateful to follow Jesus Christ.  I pray that I will be able to do all He wants me to do while I am here.

This change is flying out from under me.  We are doing 3 divisions a week and I don't even feel the time passing.  Working with the other sisters is rewarding and incredible.  They are teaching me so much!  Tomorrow I get to work with Hermana C... I am pretty excited. 

Thanks for all the love and support! Praying for you guys!!!

Until next week!

Hna Wise

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Changes


Hola Familia!

Wow, what a week.  As you already knew I had changes this week. I will be finishing my mission in LS, which is in the same zone as Palin.  I also received the calling to serve as sister training leader.  In this mission, there are three companionships of STL.  The mountains, the city, and the coast.

... We are the training leaders for the coast. 

WHOOHOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PURA VIDA COSTA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I LOVE serving on the coast.  The greatest part is that I will get to work with some of my favorite sisters:  Hermana Z and Hermana C (who is opening area and training again).  AND I will be able to visit my old areas (Las Delicias and La Gomera). 

Wow.  I did not see that change coming at all.  But I am excited.  And totally terrified.

My companion is Hermana M, who was trained in my same district by Hermana Godfrey while I was in Petapa.  She's from Ecuador. She is great and is really helping me learn the ropes here.  We had a few unfortunate obst├ículos.... (she spent the night in the hospital).  But everything is good now.  There is nothing more thrilling than calling President Markham your first day in a new area to inform him that you are rushing your companion to the hospital.  All in a day's work.  But, HEY! The food in the hospital is delicious, and in the end it was nothing serious. Just a fun little adventure to start changes.

But, yeah! That is about all I have to report.  It has been a great week.  I have learned a lot.  I am in a senior companionship again.  And today I will do my very first division! Pray for me..... Because I have no idea what I am doing. 

It is hard to believe that this is my last change here in Guatemala.  But, I have just learned so much.  I truly can testify that Jesus Christ lives.  He is my Savior and Redeemer.  Even though I am weak, in Him I can be made strong.  He sees all my weaknesses and all my sins and somehow He loves me anyway.  I am grateful for the chance that I have to be here and help others come unto Christ and partake of that same love.  I love my job.  I love the representing Jesus Christ and His restored church.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LINCOLN AND MACKENZIE AND HOLLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I love you people.  Sending you loves of happy thoughts and prayers from la costa. 

LES AMO!

Hermana Wise

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

There is Only One Gringo in the District


Hola familia!

Sorry for writing on a weird day again.... I just like to keep you all guessing.  The thing is that we won the perfect district competition again this change and once again got to eat in Presidents house.  It was pretty cool, and as a result P day got switched around. 

Wow, I cannot even express how much I love this district.  Seriously, in all my mission I have never had a district more united and more fun.  We are all best friends.  Our time together mostly consists of inside jokes, laughing, inside jokes that we don't even understand, singing hymns in the bus until everyone begs us to stop, laughing, spiritual moments, pretending to speak Portuguese, and more laughing.  The other missionaries here in SE have become my family.  This branch is really geographically isolated and it is rare that we see other missionaries.  As a result, we have all grown super close.  Elder S is basically a standup comedian.  Elder A is super weird but we all love him.  Elder P has been my district leader for 4 months between here and Palin... I would literally give the kid a kidney if proven necessary.  Elder R keeps us balanced.  And we all know that I love Hermana S. 

Seriously, I love these guys.  We all just get along super great.  The other day we were all eating together after branch counsel and out of nowhere the elders told me: 

"Hermana Wise... We had divisions the other day and we came to a conclusion: There is only one north American in the district, and it is Elder R. You are officially Latina."

It was seriously the best compliment that anyone has ever given me.  I have officially been converted to be Latina.

But really, we are always having a great time.  Earlier this week we all got on the same bus after Zone meeting to head back to SE.  They were all laughing and telling me that I had to contact the bus but I had to do something crazy.  After asking them to clarify they all simply told me: we just want to laugh. 

So, feeling passively aggressive this is what I did:

"Good afternoon brothers and sisters! We are representatives of Jesus Christ and we are here to share a message with you.  I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that this is the same church Christ organized during his lifetime.  We would like to take your addresses so that we can share this message with you in your homes... But first, I would like to recognize the presence of the world famous, Elder P.... The hymn-singing preacher from El Salvador.  He is going to pass in front and sing a song for all of you, all by himself, in English.  And then we are going to pass by and write down your addresses." 

The funniest part was that he really did it.

Hermana Markham says that this is the most unified, loving district in the whole mission. 

Which, obviously means we have changes..... The call came this morning and shocked us all.  Elder A is leaving the district with Elder S and Elder R...

... And I am leaving too. 

We all cried like babies.  Changes is the hardest part of the whole mission. And this change really stings.  But, the work of the Lord rolls forward and we have to do His will.  I truly feel like I have done all that God wanted me to do here in SE and that now it is my time to go... But I will really miss the other missionaries, members, and my converts here.

Which brings us to our favorite game, where in the world will Hermana Wise be next week?  Where will I finish my mission? Please pray for me.... There are rumors that I will be opening an area again.  But, we will see.

Alright, thinking about changes is making me sad all over again.... Let me share a funny story with all of you:

The other day we needed to get into the capital, so we took a bus.  The only problem is that the buses that go to the capital in the morning are always jam packed with people.  As a result, it is super hard to get off the bus at your stop.  Frazzled, I was trying to get my backpack down from the overhead compartment when I suddenly heard Hermana S scream out in terror.  When I looked behind me, I saw Hermana S... In the arms of a strange man...who was carrying her.

"LET ME GO LET ME GO!!!!!" she screamed.... and was helplessly kicking her little feet trying to get away.  But this "overly helpful" bus assistant was trying to help her get off the bus.... Instead of just taking her hand and helping her jump down he decided to carry her. 

In panic, I threw myself off the back of the bus and ripped her out of the man's arms. 

The funniest part?  In all the commotion I accidently pocket dialed the first councilor in the branch and left him a voice mail:

"ARE YOU OKAY?!!! THAT MAN WAS TOUCHING YOU!!!!"

"HE WAS CARRYING ME!!! HE TOUCHED ALL MY BODY!!!!" (followed by unintelligible screaming)

Gotta love the mission. 

Well folks, I sure do love you.  I will let you all know next week what happens with changes.

PRAY FOR ME!!!

Love you!

La latina de distrito Jocotillo...

Hermana Wise 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Bear One Another's Burdens That They May Be Made Light


Hola Familia,

I am eternally grateful for the mission and all that God teaches me during my time here.

This week, God allowed me to truly understand the meaning of my baptismal covenant.

Bear one another's burdens that they may be made light.

We are currently working with a very special investigator... J.  J is about to turn 90 years old.  This week she told us that she wanted to go to church on Sunday.  The only problem is that she has failing health and lives at the top of a mountain.  We promised her as representatives of Jesus Christ that she would be able to attend. 

Sunday morning we coordinated so that the first councilor of the branch would be able to drive her, but unfortunately there was no way to get his car to her door.  She would have to walk down the hill and at the base he would be able to drive her to the chapel.  We prayed together before leaving the house and Hermana S and I carefully helped her climb down the hill to the car. 

Church was a beautiful experience.  She stayed the whole time and was simply radiating.  When the service ended, two returned missionaries gave her a priesthood blessing and we got her in the car to take her home. 

The only problem was that after an eventful day, she was completely exhausted.  When we got to the base of the mountain she had no energy to walk and could barely stand.  Fearing that she was going to fall, I took the tiny woman in my arms and carried her up the mountain. 

When we were about halfway there, she took my face in her hands and with tears in her eyes told me.

"Thank you,  thank you.... Thank you.  This is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me."

It was one of the most powerful moments in my whole mission.  Honestly, it was hard for me to hold back tears.  I literally had the opportunity to carry this sickly, crippled, elderly, beautiful child of God so that she would be able to worship in the Lords house.  I truly had the chance to bear her burdens so they would be made light. 

I am grateful for the atonement of my Savior Jesus Christ.  Thanks to Him, this work is possible.  I am grateful to take upon me His name.  To always remember Him. Being here serving the Lamanites has brought me closer to my Redeemer than I ever thought possible.  I love the Lord.  I love this work.  I love the Gospel.  I love Guatemala and I love that I have this sacred opportunity to serve and grow. 

We also got to go to the temple this week as a zone (which is why I am writing so late).  It was incredible and so refreshing to be able to  take a step back and remember what it is all about.

The S family is progressing right along.  Get ready folks, because I WILL be there when they get sealed in a year.

I love my job. 

I just am going to end this one with gratitude...Gratitude for my parents, my siblings, my friends and my incredible church leaders who helped me prepare to serve and become who my Heavenly Father wants me to be.  But more than anything, gratitude for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Thanks to Him, eternal life is possible.  Thanks to Him, death has no sting.  Thanks to Him family relations can be blessed in this life and throughout the eternity.

I know that Heavenly Father lives and loves us.  I testify that His son, Jesus Christ atoned for our sins and thanks to him we can return to the presence of God.

I love this work.  I know that this is the only true restored church upon the earth.  I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.  I know that he really did see God the Father and His son Jesus Christ.  I know the church is true.  I know Thomas S Monson is also a prophet of God.  I am grateful to be a part of this great work.

Until next week!

Hermana Wise