First off, shoutouts to Marianne, Mamoo, and Tami Minnick for the packages! You guys are awesome!
This week was great as always and being a missionary is awesome! I’m grateful to be down here building the Lord´s kingdom, poco a poco! Love you all!
So, there's never enough time to say all I want to say in my emails and we are trapped in our house for 3 days for Carnival. So, I finally have time to write some letters! We only get to mail letters once in a blue moon since we have to leave our zone to do so, but I’m going to try to mail a letter home whenever we do.
First off, I love and miss you all a ton. I pray for each one of you everyday and am constantly overcome with gratitude for being blessed to have you as my family. I thank Heavenly Father everyday that I get to have you all forever.
I just wanted to share a few things I’ve learned from being down here and that have impacted me the most.
First, people in America are so blessed. What is considered poor in America is still better than the average Bolivian, sometimes just for the reason that is it America. In America, there are paved roads, sanitary grocery stores, and plumbing that is actually good. That was something that I really struggled with when I got down here, because the people’s lives are so hard and I couldn’t help but think, “How is this ok? How is it that these people’s lives are so hard, that they all have know death, health problems, hunger, and they live in conditions that people from the states wouldn’t believe and then people in the states have so much? And not only do people in the states have so much material wise, but they are blessed with health, education, and spiritual blessings as well such as temples, prophets, and air conditioned church building! These people sacrifice so much for things that we take for granted, such as going to the temple or even going to a ward activity. I’ve always believed that, while on paper life isn’t fair, we are all given trials that are equally hard for us based on our weakness. But, compared to these people, my life and the lives of almost everyone I know are a trip to Disneyland. How can Heavenly Father give me all these blessings when these people deserve it so much more than I do? I really struggled with this, especially after my first week of teaching. I remember teaching this one recent convert who lives in one of the worst houses. It is a shack with a roof (it barely passes for a roof) and ten people live in it. The room is the size of Sarah’s room. There were a billion flies and we were sitting on broken chairs and it was a dirt floor and we were teaching her about how God loves her and how if she goes to church the Lord will bless her. And, to be honest (I’m ashamed to admit this) at the moment I remember thinking “I wouldn’t blame this woman if she didn’t believe us, if she even slightly resented us. If the roles were reversed and I was her, sitting in my shack with children tugging at me and some gringa from Utah was telling me God loved me and that He would bless me for making yet another sacrifice in my life, I don’t think I would believe it or like it. I would want evidence because so far in my life the blessings had been pretty scarce. Obviously, I forgot for a moment the joy that the gospel brings and that Heavenly Father blesses everyone, but in different ways. I’ve thought a lot about it and come to two conclusions. The first is that because we have been blessed so much, we have more responsibility. Not only to help them and impart as much of our own substance as we can to those in need, but to make the most of all that we have been given. We have temples all around us, so we must put them to use. We get to hear the actual voice of the prophets during general conference, so we must listen and actually apply their teachings. We have amazing education systems, so we should actually go to class and learn. (Not a day goes by down here that I don’t regret every time I skipped class) I don’t mean to sound preachy, but I just can’t explain enough how blessed we are and I know I took so much for granted before my mission. The second conclusion I have come to is that God is really just. What these people lack in material blessings, they have in spiritual blessings. They are more in tune to the spirit and the Lord often sends them dreams and other manifestations. And, they have faith to move mountains. I personally believe and hope that when judgment comes they will be judged more leniently because of all they had to endure. I will personally vouch that they all deserve this, because they do. Not that I even have to worry, because Heavenly Father loves them a billion times more than I do and He is both just and merciful.
The second thing I’ve learned is that the gospel really does change people’s lives and Heavenly Father does bless the faithful. You can always tell who has been converted because they are different. The culture down here is one of laziness to a ridiculous level, but the members are different. They are hard working, keep their houses clean and do what the Lord asks of them. They stand in stark contrast to the general population. They have jobs and they actually go to work. They do things on top of their jobs, like fulfilling their calling. Their days are more than just sitting at home. And, the Lord blesses them for their dedication and faithfulness. Members always have nicer houses, better jobs, and more opportunities. I’ve always known the Lord blesses us when we follow the commandments and serve Him, but I think in the states it’s harder to see. But down here it is so much clearer. The Lord has promised to bless us when we keep covenants and commandments and He keeps his promise with every member around the world.
The last thing I’ll share is that the gospel really is the only way we can have joy. I know before my mission it was so easy for me to get caught up in the world—what new movie was coming out or making sure my clothes were the style. But, those things don’t bring lasting joy. It is only through the gospel that we can have our families forever, live with Heavenly Father again, and reach our full potential. I’ve come to understand the vision of the tree of life and how partaking of the fruit can fill our souls with joy. Because the gospel is joy! It’s glorious and everyone should feel the joy I feel from having the gospel in my life. Once we partake of the fruit, it’s so easy to live the gospel because nothing else compares. I love this gospel so much and know it’s true with all my heart. I thank Heavenly Father everyday for the opportunity I have to serve the people of Bolivia. The Church is true! The Book of Mormon is true and Jesus Christ did atone and die for all of us, so that through his atonement we can receive eternal life. I personally can’t wait for the day when I can touch the nail prints in His body and weep as I thank Him for His sacrifice. I hope to be able to look Him in the eyes and tell Him I served Him with all my heart, might, mind and strength all my life as an expression of my gratitude and testimony.
I love you all. Keep being awesome! I miss you, but I love being here and building the kingdom down here. It’s the best time to be a missionary! Hurrah for Israel!
Hermana Willes and her zone with Elder Grow