Friday, February 26, 2016

El Camiño de Santiago‏

Today's email will probably be shorter. The Bakers (the missionary couple assigned to Galicia was nice enough to take us to Santiago today to see the cathedral. They are the best! I've been wanting to see this cathedral since I first heard about it in my art history classes in High-school. Dreams are coming true.
My first week with Hermana Graff has been pretty awesome. She's a really hard working missionary and she's full of energy. I feel really lucky to be working with her. Despite the awesome companionship, we had a pretty slow week. Honestly, it felt like all of our appointments failed on us. Of course that's just sort of what happens with transfers.
Nonetheless, we saw some pretty cool things.
First off, on Tuesday we saw G. He's progressing retry nicely. Hermana Graff in order to get to know him asked him a few questions one of which being "What do you like to do?" His response: "I like reading this book," motioning to the Book of Mormon. We read a little with him, which he always loves. We talked with him again about baptism, and he was still worried that he's not ready to get baptized. We explained to him that that's why we're here, to help people prepare themselves to get baptized. After thinking about it for a while we were able to recommit him to be baptized on March 19.
A small miracle we've been seeing with him is that he's really opening up to the concepts we are teaching him and starting to connect the dots. We asked him at the end of the lesson what he's been observing about himself as he reads and goes to church. He said that he feels like he's learning a lot of things he never knew before. I asked him where he thought those feelings were coming from. He paused for a moment and thought about it and then said, "Well, it has to be the Spirit of God."
He's starting to recognize the Spirit within himself and follow what it's teaching him.
Later we met with Ad, El and La again. We needed to finish teaching the Plan of Salvation to them, but we felt prompted to explain the Gospel of Jesus Christ to La.
La REALLY wants to get baptized.
We had beautiful lesson with them on the plan of salvation and Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even though she's a child, she knows the importance of having faith and repenting. She knows that being baptized is the right thing to do. We explained the principle of receiving a remission of sins through our worthiness in taking the sacrament and keeping the covenants of baptism. She REALLY wanted to get baptized after this. Especially so she could receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. She said she's willing to keep those promises throughout her life.
Her mom hit a home run when she explained that after learning about the Gospel that her daughter has become more honest and good. She bore her testimony about the Gift of the Holy Ghost and how it has changed her. She wants her daughter to have it as well.
At first her parents didn't want her to get baptized because they thought since they were so new to church, that she'd never be able to take baptism seriously. However, we have finally gotten Ad on board after explaining the necessity of receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost at a young age in order to make good decisions. In fact she got really excited and said she hopes she serves a mission someday.
The catch is with the father. He doesn't think she's ready. We need to help him understand that making these covenants empowers, strengthens and helps us. The bar is set high, but the Lord gives all those who want to follow him the help they need to live up to his standards.
Also I learned something in my personal study this morning. Joseph Smith had taught about the story of Cornelius. He had received the Holy Ghost in order to confirm his testimony, but he needed to GIFT of the Holy Ghost in order to continue learning. If he didn't, his testimony would be fleeting. We're hoping that her father can understand that soon enough.
I bore my testimony in sacrament meeting about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the sudden thought came to my mind to testify about the simplicity of it and how it does require us to become as children. Hence the reason we are baptized starting fairly young. I could see his face out of the corner of my eye and he was thinking pretty deeply on that.
Aa also got up and challenged her husband to get up and bear his testimony. He didn't. But she did also challenge the whole branch to pray for him to let his daughter get baptized. She has a strong personality, but I really appreciate it. After the meeting, apparently he just sent up the white flag of surrender and said "Yeah, yeah, whatever you want." It's a step, but we're going to work for a little more... We need his full support.
Ya veremos.
We also saw Kla this week. Oh boy... The sent us through a loop.
She really is ready to be baptized, she has a really beautiful testimony and she knows it's true. BUT she has started having a ton of doubts. This week she wanted to know all of this stuff about church history and President Monson and everything. She's So close, but she needs to learn how to resolve her own doubts. In Preach My Gospel it talks about how it's not our responsibility as missionaries to answer everyone's questions, it's our job to help them learn the Book of Mormon is true. Only they can do that for themselves. We can only point them in the right direction.
Kla does know that the Book of Mormon is true, but she's overwhelming herself. We're going to change her date.
Please pray for Kla, El and La this week.
We met again with J. He's doing pretty well. We taught him the Plan of Salvation, which he liked, but admitted at the end of the lesson, he feels he doesn't know that much. We committed him to be baptized the 5th of March. He's a little afraid, but frankly, I think he can make it.
We also met with his dad, Jo. It was nice to see him again, but we had kind of a weird lesson with him. It didn't look like he had been reading, so we picked back up where he left off in 1 Nephi 4 where Nephi kills Laban. We got to the part where the Spirit tells Nephi to kill Laban and he says that he doesn't want to. This is how it went:
"So Jo, if you were Nephi, what would you do?"
"Well... I guess I'd take the sword and kill him or something..."
That wasn't the answer we expected. Normally we get an answer mostly like Nephi's where he explains that he doesn't want to etc. But not o ...
Moving on.
We met with Mn and Mfe again to do Family History. I taught them how to index, and they thought it was really cool. Also, big news. Mn apparently found something about his family this weekend. Mfe called us last night to tell us the Good news. We're going to meet with them tomorrow to see what it is.
Also, Tuesday night, a man named Valere got our phone number and called us. He was interested in the English classes we offered and he came to the class. He actually speaks really good English... And Spanish... And Russian (he's from Russia). So he put us all to shame.
At the end we shared a message about the Book of Mormon. There is this great Mormon Message about this bishop in England and what he had learned through the Book of Mormon. His face lit up and he said he really wanted to learn more. He was really interested in religion in general, but he has doubts about churches. He wants more faith. We're meeting with him again this Wednesday.
The highlight of last week was that we got to go to a zone conference with a general authority. Joaquim Moreira from the seventy came to address us. He gave us a great talk about repentance and how that means we need to change our attitudes, beliefs and actions to become more like the Savior. For example, when we say something like "I'm in the North of Spain, there's no way that we're going to baptize anyone..." Well... We need to repent.
Also, I think he somehow knew that I don't keep a journal and looked directly in my eyes and told us as a group that we need to write all of our experiences down so we can remember our own paths to repentance. He called me to repentance...
We had a really good meeting with him afterwards with the zone leaders. He gave great suggestions on how to help our branches be stronger.
I went up to him afterwards and expressed my gratitude for what he had taught because it had answered a lot of my questions. He gave me a hearty handshake and genuinely thanked me for my comments and questions. I felt like a million bucks.
Also I thought like this was all pretty funny. He seemed really nice. We had gotten a phone call from one of the zone leaders last night relating to us how scary he was. Apparently when he did the zone conference in Madrid, he didn't just singe their eyebrows, he took them right off. I was really scared of the meeting, but honestly I thought he was great!
That's all for this week. Hasta pronto!
Hermana Sykes

Friday, January 8, 2016

¡Feliz Año Nuevo a Todos!

¡Feliz Año Nuevo a Todos!

We had some really awesome miracles this week. I thought nothing could beat last week, BUT I WAS WRONG!

Honestly, I have no idea how the Lord somehow thought we were worthy to see these miracles. Nonetheless, I'm thoroughly enjoying them. I love Lugo and I love the people here.

We met with Ka again, and we decided that we wanted to talk to her about eternal marriage and temples. We've been through the first few lessons and she had a particular interest in temples, so we showed her a video that explained temples (Between Heaven and Earth). We tried that morning to show it to her, but we couldn't get the DVD player at the church to work, so we set up an appointment with her later that day. She showed up with potato chips, popcorn and Coke. We watched it with her and her daughter, and she LOVED it. She kept telling us that she's been having dreams about going inside the temple.

We thought it was a good idea to teach her about the temple because, in the end, that's really the goal. Her desire to get baptized has increased since we started teaching her about the temple.

Actually what's cool is that she has appeared to have just decided that she's going to be a member. She comes with good questions about the lessons and what she's reading, and really wants to participate in everything. She even came to church this week and really loved it.

We had a good lesson with Aa this week, even though we didn't get a lot of chances to get in contact with her this week. We watched "A Summer With Great Aunt Rose," Elder Uchtdorf's talk from the Women's conference this year. She had a friend over who was visiting from
Germany. She's not of our faith, but she really loved the talk. I think it's a good stepping stone for her in the future.

We met with Ad, a member who loves missionary work, and almost always has someone for us to try and visit. We are preparing her to go to the temple, and we talked a little about temples this week. She's really cool, and I'm convinced that she has the gift of prophecy! We spent a lot of time talking about the dreams she has. She also got me cozy socks for my birthday.

We met with Eo again this week. The first time we met with him, we decided we were going to teach him the Plan of Salvation. We thought that maybe his lack of progression might have had something to do with the fact that for the last 5 years the missionaries have never
really progressed with the lessons after teaching The Restoration. We actually discovered that he has A LOT of doubts about the Plan of Salvation. He doesn't believe it all the way. Which is partially
because he refuses to pray about the Book of Mormon.

We saw him walking around one day by the Muralla (the city wall)  (like about 4-5times) and asked if he wanted to sit down and chat for a while. In his prayer he mentioned something that went like this:
"Well I guess you have a message for me, God... Because I saw the hermanas 5 times today..."

We talked about the Book of Mormon AGAIN. How's that for your message?

The next time we met with him, we decided we wanted to take him though the scriptures to help him resolve his doubts. We read some VERY clear passages about the plan, and asked him to pray about it. Still no. We even were able to show him that he does, AS A MATTER OF FACT,
have doubts about Joseph Smith, and told him very clearly that if he wants to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet, he needs to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. Because, duh. If you know the Book of Mormon is true through the Holy Ghost, then you also know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. Because how else would we even have the Book of Mormon? It doesn't go the other way around. Much to the dismay of the members, who love him dearly, we've decided we're going to take a break from him for 2-3 weeks. Give him some time to think. He'll still have a lot of contact with the church because he reads the Book of Mormon every day and comes to church and the
activities every week. He even came to the church to fix some electrical problems. Also, he and the branch president appear to be best friends. He apparently stayed at the branch president's house for a couple of days this week.

We met with a less active member, Goo, who wants to come back.  He's really cool. He's Spanish and apparently came to church one day a few years back because he read a little of his dad's Book of Mormon. The missionaries snatched him up and he got baptized a few weeks
later. On his teaching record it says that he's one of the "other 3 immortal nephites." He went inactive a while back because his feelings got seriously hurt by a few people, including a friend who a year or two ago fasted and prayed to find to bring into the church (successfully I might add; she's one of the strongest members). This being a small branch and all, it got super awkward, and just stayed aloof.

His friend asked him to come back to church and we got to meet with him this week. We talked about repentance, and he committed to come back. He even helped us drive out to a town called Viveiro to track down a church referral. It was false, but we were grateful for the help anyways.

Later his mom (who loves us, by the way) called us and invited us to dinner for Noche Vieja (New Years Eve). We had lamb, shrimp and a lot of other traditional Spanish things. We spent most of the night talking to his sister who lives in A Coruña and she actually seems really interested to learn about the Gospel. We showed them a video before we left, and she and her husband and kids really liked it. We're passing the referral along to the missionaries there.

Ya  and Ge brought an old professor to family home evening on Friday. She loved the activity, and when we gave her a Book of Mormon she got really excited. She had apparently been looking for a church in Ciudad Real where she lives and asked us about it. She said she'd read it on the bus to Ciudad Real.

We met with Ya again for the first time in a long time. She's still reading. We're really impressed with her because she's studying and that's a huge commitment. We talked about temples as well, and she really liked it. We don't feel like it's quite her time yet, but she's progressing really steadily. She's really wonderful.

Sunday was the best day this week! This is the list of our friends that came to church:

Ya, Go (investigator), Eo, Ke and Al, and Aa's husband and stepson (E and Sa). That is SEVEN people. We beat both of our records. Also, they all appeared to really like the meetings.

After sacrament meeting Ad yelled over at me to come and talk to Sa, Aa's rebellious stepson. She told us some of the sad news that his older brother had passed away this week, and he was really struggling. His dad even recommended that he talk to us. Apparently Ad felt a strong impression to come and sit with him in Sacrament meeting. He sat there and asked questions about Jos, the boy who was passing the sacrament:

"Who is he?"
"What's he doing?"
"Can I do that?"
"How can I do that?"
"Do I have to talk to the sisters?"

We met with him later that night and talked to him about the Plan of Salvation. The spirit was really strong. I could feel that he felt a lot better after the lesson now that he knew where his brother was. We set up a return visit. We felt strongly that he'll be the one to do his brother's work for him in the temple. We set up home teaching assignments this week. Pray for the branch president, as he wants to do be in ALL of the companionships.  We met with Chr, the mother of two, young recent converts, Rl and Cs. Rl, as a side note, is a really good kid. He's the one in the family who takes church the most seriously. Also, he loves the missionaries and wants to help us on appointments. We had the rare privilege of meeting her husband who NO ONE has met. We're the first missionaries to teach him.

We also met with Er this week. She appeared to be doing a little better, albeit a little sad. We read about the atonement, and after the final prayer, we could tell she was about to cry. We both gave her a big hug and she felt a lot better. We can tell she likes and trusts us. We think she'll be ready to begin praying again soon.

That's all for this week!

Con cariño!

Hermana Sykes

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

El Reino de Dios or Nada


This gives you an idea of where Lugo is.


I really had a lot more planned for this email, but we're really
running out of time. .

Two stories. First is of K**** who knocked on the door of the church
while we were in another lesson this week. She was looking for a
church to attend, and felt strongly that this was it. She's from
Brasil and she has a cute little girl who turns eight in December.

In one lesson she was telling us that she has something like 12
siblings and almost everyone is a different religion, although her
brother is LDS. She felt so confused about why there were so many
churches in the world, and wanted to know which was the true church.
She felt an impression to get up and start walking one day. She walked
until she felt this force bring her to our chapel where she found us.
She likes the Book of Mormon, and is starting to develop a testimony.

She's really friendly, and she's started to make friends at church
activities. Everyone loves her. We feel really strongly that she'll
get baptized.

Our piso is finally getting sorted out. The landlady, who is an angel,
got the place professionally cleaned this week. While she was getting
it cleaned, she let us eat lunch in her house, showed us her house and
pictures of her son, and sent us off with a bag of fruit from her
house in the country.

She and her husband, J***, are super nice. Her husband is Gallego, and
sometimes he shuffles around muttering in Gallego. They were in our
house fixing something, and he started yammering to us in Gallego. She
just responded: "Honey, they don't understand you. You're talking in
Gallego again."

There is more to report, but It'll have to wait.

Lots of love,

Kathleen

This week's district meeting. We didn't want to spend 44 euro and 4 hours to travel to Santiago, so we skyped.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Un Besino


Kathleen and her companion, Hna Baxter, in front of the Cathedral in Lugo, Spain.


Hna Sykes, celebrating Movember.
 

Hermana Baxter and a really big lunch!!

****************************

No, that is not Spanish in the title. It's Gallego. Not everyone
speaks 100% Spanish up here. Actually the older generation can hardly
speak Spanish. It's like I was transferred to another country.

This week was pretty slow. We whitewashed the area, which means the
elders were taken out of the area and replaced with sisters. We also
took their piso (apartment), which was frightening. We spent most of the week
cleaning it, much to the delight of our neighbor/land lady. She
knocked on our door one day and we had a conversation that went
something like this:

"Oh, hello. Who are yo--"

"Oh thank goodness they sent girls to live here! I was so worried
about the boys that lived here before. I could smell their piso from
my piso! I was so worried about them because they haven't opened the
windows for four years! I noticed you took a bunch of bags of trash
out, and I thought to myself 'Oh my goodness! What could they have
found!?' I love it when they send Americans here! They are so nice,
and charming, and polite!..."

This went on for about 10 minutes and then she said we could knock on
her door for anything because we could consider her our "mother." She
liked us so much that she and her husband were going to get the piso
cleaned professionally. We were so happy!

For what little went on this week, we actually had a lot of success.
The members trust us right off the bat. We received five phone numbers
this week four of which are from members. They are also really good
referrals!

We taught A****** this week who is a long term investigator. The
elders didn't visit her last transfer, but in the meantime, she has
kept praying, she came to church a few times, and she tried really
hard to give up coffee. She has a lot of potential. She's also really
honest about her progress. She told us she hadn't been reading as much
as she should have, but she knows she needs to get better. We really
love her. She'll do great.

We also met with a member named G******** this week. He got baptized
about 4 years ago when he just decided to walk into a sacrament
meeting. He got baptized 20 days later and has been a firm member ever
since. He's half Spanish, half Gallegan, and has a really firm
testimony. We also got to meet his mom, who is really nice. She loves
art and poetry, so we got along right away. We taught her a little
about the Book of Mormon and she accepted to have us back.

We taught English classes, and an old investigator, J***** showed up.
He appears to show some interest. He doesn't seem like he's quite
ready to change religions quite yet, but he has some potential. We
taught him how to pray this week.

About 3 months ago, I ran into a girl on the train in Leganés who is a
member, and wanted to be a missionary. She is in this branch! We met
with her, and she's working on her papers to go on a mission. She got
baptized 2 years ago, but wasn't confirmed until April of this year,
so we're going to be working with her on mission preparation until
she's ready to go on a mission.

There is a student from Mexico, G********, who is attending this
branch until she goes home in January. She's studying to be a
veterinarian along with her room mate who is also studying abroad.
Y***** is living with Geraldine and another member, and we went to
visit them last night. I'm not quite sure what happened, but Y*****
showed up in the middle of the conversation, and it seemed like she
wanted to know more about the church!

We were in the right place at the right time. It seemed like she was
really curious, but was too shy to ask her room mates. Also, I'm
pretty sure that her room mates didn't know how to start the
conversation, but we were there! She loved what we shared with her. We
left her with a Book of Mormon, and she was THRILLED. I hadn't quite
seen that much excitement to get a Book of Mormon in a long time. When
we gave it to her she had a big smile on her face and immediately said
(without much of an invitation), "Yes! I'll read it!"

We also met with an inactive member named M****. She admitted right
off the bat that she was inactive, which struck us as really weird.
Normally people don't admit it or try to hide it (which is hard when
you're not coming to church). We went over to find out why, and we
discovered she was having a really difficult family situation. I could
tell that she was really worn down by the cares of the world, but I
could see that there was a potential miracle here.

She really wanted her whole family to be active, but she wasn't
feeling the support of her husband or children, nor the branch. What's
important is that she has the desires. If she has the drive, she will
be able to work miracles in her family.

We're excited to have a full and normal week here! Hasta la proxima semana!

Hermana Sykes

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Nuevos Comienzos‏ (New Beginnings)


So I had a little bit of a shock this week. We had transfers this week
-- which no one actually knows what will go down -- and I was totally
expecting to stay a third transfer with Hermana Clements. I expected
wrong.

President called me this Saturday, and asked me to move. I'm going to
the super-far-north of Spain to a city called Lugo to whitewash the
area. We are going to be the ONLY missionaries there.

President is showing a lot of confidence in me and my new companion
(Hermana Whiting). Because frankly... I'm a little freaked out. Not
too much, but this is a lot of responsibility.

Prayers, as always are appreciated.

Just a note about Hermana Whiting. We sort of knew each other before
our mission through Facebook. We got in contact through a group that
was for sisters who were preparing to go on missions and we hit it off
there. In my first transfer, we did two companion exchanges because
our trainers were the sister training leaders and had to go to
leadership council. We did another companion exchange when I was in
Leganés, and we joked about how we wanted to go whitewash some obscure
branch in the north in an area with no other missionaries... We got
our wish!

This week was a bit slow, but we did see some good progress with
I****. This week we started teaching him some of the commandments. We
started by teaching him the Word of Wisdom. He had a lot of questions
because he had read about people drinking wine in the Bible. We simply
explained that we know that we have a living prophet today who
receives revelation from God and that if we want to know if something
is a true principle, we need to live it.

The next day we got a text from him saying something like this:

"Hola, hermanas! You can pass by after 7 if you want. By the way, I
went to a birthday party last night and someone offered me a beer and
I told them I don't drink anymore."

I'm so proud of him. He has been accepting the Gospel so fully and has
been living in a way that he'll be able to receive an answer. He's
accepting the Gospel with his whole heart.

Side note: He's in Mosiah 10 now.

Also L****, one of the girls in the ward who is planning on going on a
mission got her call this week for London England. She invited us to
come see her open her call. She's super excited because it was the
exact call she wanted. She leaves on December 17.

Unfortunately, we dropped R**** this week. Like always we had a
beautiful, strong lesson with him. Also like usual, Roger has no
desires to change his ways.

We had decided since he was struggling with reading the Book of Mormon
that we would read with him every lesson until he felt its power and
wanted to start reading on his own. We read 2 Nephi 31 which talks
about what we need to do in order to follow Christ. And he loved it.

We asked him if he would read the Book of Mormon every day. He said no.

We asked if he would read a little bit every day. He said no.

We asked if we sent him a text with a scripture in it every day. He said no.

We asked if he'd come to church with us this week. He said no.

He had a lot of doubts and excuses. No matter how much we explained
things like it was okay if he failed as long as he tried again or
whatever else. He still said no. Hermana Clements even testified and
promised that he would be happier and find a job if he read and prayed
about the Book of Mormon. The Spirit testified to me in that moment
that this promise was true, but he still didn't want to read.

At this point I sort of saw where it was going. I've seen it before.
He didn't have the desires to change. He liked meeting with us and
hearing the word of God, but he termed himself to be a "flexible
Christian" and said all churches lead to the same God. All he needed
to do was be a good person and everything would be fine. I testified
that I know that God established one way for us to return to him, that
this was the true church and that God would testify of that to him,
just like he did to Joseph Smith if he would just read the Book of
Mormon and pray and ask.

He then got offended. He essentially went to say that all churches are
the same and teach the same things. Therefore they must all be true.
He then told me to not say that I know that this is the true church
because it confused him. The Spirit testified to me at this point that
it was time to let him go. So we did.

It was a hard lesson. I don't think I had ever seen the Spirit work so
hard on someone who was so resistant. He really was prepared and had
potential, but he chose to use his agency against the Spirit. Hermana
Clements and I were really sad. We kind of began to understand how God
feels when we disobey him or don't listen because of our pride.

On my last day we went to several families to visit them. I was
surprised about how much people appreciated me even though I was only
there one transfer. A few people actually shed a few tears. We went
over to the Plasencias, a really nice family from Chile, who told me
that when I was over before, they really felt the Spirit after I
started a small testimony meeting with them. The wife wants to do that
in her Sunday school classes. The son also thanked me for being a good
example of obedience. He's preparing to go on a mission and didn't
really like the idea of the rules. He said that we made it seem fun to
be obedient missionaries.

That's all for this week! Off to Lugo!

Con cariño,

Hermana Sykes

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Hermosa Guadalajara‏, Rabbit Stew and Selfies



Kathleen and her companion have been transferred to Guadalajara Spain.  There have never been Hermanas there before.  Here is her report:

First and foremost: Guadalajara is GREAT! I love it here. Here are the
main reasons:

1. The elders here are angels. Normally when you open an area, you
don't have a book information from old investigators... Let alone
investigators. We got there and the Elders (Nash and Broadbent) found
old investigators for us, gave us referrals, invited us to meet
members, and are letting us teach the only person they baptized in
either of their missions. They are a shining example of what it means
to be Christlike. And awesome.

2. The ward is any missionary's dream. The members really like doing
missionary work and they particularly like having sisters. Half of the
phone calls we made to members this week went like this:

"Hi, this is the sister missionaries. Is this Nico--"

"AHHHHH!!! It's the sisters! We have sisters now! Oh, Hermanita! I've
been praying that we would get sisters for months! When can we have
you over? What do you like to eat? What's your name? Can we come on
appointments with you? Where are you from?..."

3. Guadalajara is really pretty and we get to walk a lot. I don't have
to deal with the metro for at least one transfer.

4. We have some AWESOME investigators already.

5. The bishop is one of the best bishops I have ever worked with. Same
thing with the ward mission leader.

6. There are several young women who want to serve missions and have
been calling us to ask if they can spend time with us. They go
contacting with us sometimes!

Now for the stories from the week. Warning, the part following the
stars might not be suitable for people with weak stomachs.

***

Okay, I wanted to write about this because I officially ate one of the
weirdest things in my mission. A rabbit's head... Actually two... This
is what happened:

We were invited over to an Argentinian family's house, the
S's. They are rumored to be the best cooks in the ward, so
I was really excited. They had cooked rabbit that day, so I was even
more excited. Until they lopped the rabbit's head on my plate.
Normally the way rabbits are butchered here is they are skinned and
cut in half down the middle. They do not bother to remove the head,
and so when you go to the grocery store they have a pile of rabbit
corpses all looking straight at you. It's weird. Normally people
remove the head and it's not eaten. This family also doesn't like the
head and thought they removed it. They did not.

I realized I got the head when I realized that the rabbit was looking
at me. I could see it's eye and teeth and everything. so I sort of
pushed it to the side. Everyone else got normal things like legs. The
daughter, who served a mission and understood my misery, saw that I
got the head and slyly asked me if I wanted more rabbit (understanding
that I probably didn't want the head). She reached in for another
piece of meat, and plopped the other side of the head on my plate. She
gave me back the plate and suddenly realized my dilemma...

The mother was asking me if I didn't like rabbit, and I finally came
clean and mentioned that I had gotten the head. They said that was
impossible because she had removed it. Only those Spaniards like the
head. The family started poking the meat on my plate insisting that it
was not the rabbit head. I tried to eat it, but I gave up after it's
brain fell out on my plate. They all came to the conclusion that it
was weird and decided to make a pizza instead. I don't think I've ever
been more grateful!

***

Okay, weird story over! You can all read about the rest of my week!

It started off a little slow. Since Hermana Clements and I didn't have
many leads, we just hit the street and contacted. We had to stop to
rest her foot a bit, but we actually got a lot of work done.
Guadalajara is a less receptive city compared to Leganés and Barrio 3,
so we had to work extra hard. So far we have three investigators, but
they are AWESOME.

The first is K. He's from Iran, but had to leave many years ago
because he was in opposition to the government. Many years ago, he
converted to Christianity. We walked into his shop one day to buy a
snack and he started up a conversation with us. He wanted to know more
about what we believed and so we taught him a little about the Book of
Mormon (we actually had one in Farsi that we were going to give Sr
back in Leganés, but he never met with us again) and the next day we
came back and taught him about the restoration of the church, which
appeared to answer a lot of his questions.

He's kind of an eccentric guy, and he talks A LOT! I think he really
appreciates that we do come and listen to him, though.

The second person is Va. She's from Senegal, and we met her on
the street one night. We talked a little about the restoration and she
asked if she could come to church. She actually seemed really excited
to talk to us, and tried to come to General Conference.

We also met En, a young man from Equatorial Guinea. He's here
studying and is very interested in religion. We met him on Saturday
night and he seemed really interested. We invited him to come listen
to conference the next day, and (drumroll please)... HE CAME. He also
loved it. He was talking about all the apostles and prophets
afterwards like he had been a member his whole life. He said he
learned a lot and felt like some of them were talking to him. The
members were also really friendly to him.

We also met with the Elder's recent convert this week. She hadn't had
the new member lessons, and they wanted to know if we could be in
charge of teaching them to her. Aa is really cool. She had been
waiting to get baptized for a year and a half because her mother was
very opposed to it and still doesn't know she got baptized a month
ago. In the mean time, she graduated from seminary and got her
personal progress award. She's a really strong convert. We talked
about the Restoration of the church and she really felt the Spirit. We
talked about how she will be a good example for her family even though
they are resistant right now.

I will never forget the first phone conversation we had with her:

"Hey, Aa, we're the sisters assigned to your ward, we wanted to
get to kn--"

"QUE ALEGRIA! We have sisters now!" (She squealed this at the top of her lungs)

We love her.

I love all of you.

Con amor,

Hermana Sykes

This is Hermana Clements, and Kathleen.


Friday, September 4, 2015

Siete Meses Mas

It's hard to believe that Kathleen has only a little less than 7 months until she returns home.  Here are excerpts from her latest letters.  I'm including my favorites -- Rebecca Sykes

Hola Familia:  Hope all is well with all of you at home! This week was a bit challenging. A lot of our investigators have not been meeting with us, so we hit the streets and contacted the stuffing out of them. One day, all of our lessons failed... So we had 9 lessons in the streets. Pretty crazy... Experiences like this are a little bit like taking castor oil (yes, I do realize that this is an old-timey reference). It's not that fun at first, but in the end you're happy you did it. We found some really good people, many of which are really prepared to hear the Restored Gospel.

One day when we were out contacting with a member and we got tired of contacting, so we asked him if there was someone in the area we could visit. He indicated the door we should knock and we went to find this family. Apparently it was a family that joined the church a while back -- and because of some lamentable offenses to the family -- they became inactive. The Spirit must have really been working through our member because when we knocked the door and she asked who it was, it popped right open.

Normally we have to explain what we want to do; convince them that we just want to get their number and leave our card; ask if we could come by some other day; etc. But C had been waiting for someone to come and help her. I won't go into details about her struggles, but she had really suffered from the bad decisions of her family the last few years and was in the middle of a family emergency. She had really needed to hear from us. We shared something to comfort her and prayed with her. We're going back to meet her tomorrow.

We met R this week, who is really prepared to hear the Gospel. He said he really wants to be part of a faith that focuses solely on God and our Savior and not on the bad things happening in the world. He said he's always had the question of why there are so many churches in the world and was so fascinated that we said that he could know through prayer. He was excited to know that he could get an answer directly from God. He was also happy to know that he could be completely forgiven of his sins through our Savior, Jesus Christ.

We also met with a man named B this week. He's GOLDEN. He's been looking for a church that really provides a clean environment and that... Get this... "Has the authority of God" and "Was the real church Jesus Christ established when he was on the earth." We had to pick our jaws off the ground. He kept asking questions and making comments that showed that he was really in tune with what we were going to teach him. He was so excited that he could receive an answer to his prayers and could know what was true.

We also had a funny conversation with an old investigator who in the time she was not meeting with the missionaries started meeting with another church. We were trying to meet up with her and she said that she didn't like our message because she was really confused when the missionaries met with her the first time because they had said something about there being "one true church on the earth."

She commented, "But when I go outside, there are a lot of churches! There are churches on every corner! Obviously you two are really confused because there is obviously more than one!" Hermana Cls responded with "Yes... That's why we want to meet with you. Because you're really confused..." I couldn't help but laugh.

Other interesting facts... Well I could go into how many lessons we taught this week, but I'll go into more interesting stats:

-People asking me to marry them this week: 2

-Investigators who are Muslim: About half (They're really good investigators!)

-People we met on the street who told us some story about how they slept on the streets of Paris on two different occasions and when the rats and cockroaches came out, he prayed and God told him to tell them that he was better than they were and they went away: 1

-Doors knocked: At least 120

-Angry Spaniards threatening to call the police if we knocked more doors: 1

-Spaniards giving us dirty looks for knocking doors: 5

-Police officers called to scene: 0

-Doors knocked and answered by a weird old Portuguese man who thought we were prostitutes even though we were dressed in sensible shoes, floor-length skirts, and frumpy sweaters: 1

Now for a little more humor:

Twice this week we had unexpected teaching opportunities. We were walking home one night and two rowdy teenage boys started trying to yell at us in English (this actually happens a lot)... I had had it with the cat-calls these little punks and so I grabbed the Book of Mormon out of my companions hands and stormed back to where these boys were. They probably thought I was going to kill them. I gave them the Book of Mormon and told them that it was a gift for them. One of them, Jamal, was a little awestruck and said "You can´t just give it to us without explaining it to us!" So we explained it. Or rather, I explained it while my companion was dying from laughter. He was really interested and he actually read some of it. We´re meeting him again this week.

Roughly the same thing happened when a group of construction workers cat-called us this week. I went back and gave them all pamphlets and explained a little of our message. I even committed one to be baptized. We called them later that week and they had read the pamphlet. They loved it and even said it resolved a lot of their doubts.

It´ll be an interesting day when they are talking in sacrament meeting about their conversion story:

"I was sitting on the street one day cat-calling at women and then two of them stopped; chewed me out; told me to repent, and then asked me to get baptized. Now I´m here..."

Serious Thoughts:

Two thoughts that I have had on my mind this week. The first is the power of the Atonement, or the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us. Often we think of it as simply our sins being forgiven and being able to start fresh. I read a lot about the Atonement this week, and I realized that it was a lot more. The Atonement does get rid of our sins and the effects of them. But even more, it changes our hearts.

When we really take advantage of the Savior's sacrifice for us, we have the same reaction as the people who listened to King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon: "And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually."

We also had a zone conference this week. We talked a lot about the Spirit and the function it has in the lives of our investigators. Truly it is the Holy Ghost that brings this change in our hearts. We can't change on our own, therefore we need to rely on the Spirit to testify to us that we do have a Savior and can be new people.

I had also realized that it does not matter how much study you do in the scriptures; how much doctrine you know; how many years you have studied religion; if you do not have the Holy Ghost with you, you will learn nothing. You may know a lot about religion afterward, you may be able to explain things, but without the Spirit you can not apply the Atonement to your life or be converted. It's like reading a science textbook without actually doing any experiments.

Con Cariño,  Hermana Sykes