Serving in the Mexico Mérida Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Extra! Extra! Sister Pitcher and LOVE

Hola Fambly, 

Because I have a new hija (brand new missionary) I get extra time to write! Hna. Pitcher is from Utah. I really like her. And I like how she is just determined to do well. I can tell she's uncomfortable with the language and everything being new, but she just has this instinctive reaction to think that being uncomfortable is not an excuse to not get comfortable with the language and mission life. And she's very analytical, which means she learns really fast. She asks lots of questions. She reminds me of some Pixar animated character-- I think it's Penny from Bolt, but I don't remember my movie characters anymore. She's cool. And I feel this surge of love for her that just comes out of nowhere.
Hermanas Pitcher, Ludlam, new sister, and De Leon

Thoughts About Love:  I was thinking about what Mom said about sometimes the most charitable thing we can do for people is withhold judgment. Sometimes the best thing we can give is the benefit of the doubt. And that will make us happier people, too.

I was also thinking about my question from a few weeks ago, about why it is that service engenders love. I think it's because charity, or love like Christ has, is the ability to look outward instead of looking inward (see "The Character of Christ" by David A. Bednar).

The ability to look outward-- such as thinking "what is this person thinking or feeling?" instead of "what is this person thinking or feeling about me?" is an essential step to feeling love. And service-- real service-- REQUIRES that you do that, to think of someone else instead of yourself. If you are giving service, you are motivating yourself to create the conditions in your heart that are necessary to truly love.

I was also thinking about “What IS service?” A definition that I like is “anything we do to make someone else feel loved.” I think the purpose of service (and the reason Heavenly Father requires it) is not just because we are helping someone else to have less work, but because we are helping someone else feel loved. And like what Richard G. Scott said in the last conference: “Giving others confidence that you love them can give them confidence that God loves them.” I think that’s what Heavenly Father wants, is that we nudge people, by tasting a little bit of human love, to want to come to God and taste of his infinite and soul-filling love. And develop that type of love in themselves… so they can be happy!

Thank you for your love-package, Fam-ly, with the sunflower stickers on it. The products were much appreciated. And I was very impressed with your calligraphy skills, Jenna and Luci! Were the bookmarks a school-turned-missionary project or something from church? And the socks were needed as well-- ever since it started raining, I've had to wear my plastic water shoes all the time that just eat up my sockies. Oh! And the Pilot pen was a really good idea-- would it be possible to send a few more of those with the 0.38 thickness? Anyone that is going to serve outside of the States should buy a ton of fine Pilot pens because your agenda is really small and it’s hard to write clearly with normal cheap pens. No other brand in Mexico comes close in price or quality and there are no Pilot pens to be found.

And I loved the conference blurbs! I can carry around the newspaper clippings with me a lot easier than the chunky conference Liahona (the Spanish version of the Church magazine, Ensign).

For the reunion, are you guys planning a "Family Tree Gathering" like in Quentin L Cooks talk? And has anyone ever noticed how the tree of life is a TREE? Like a Family TREE? 

Fidel and Joel
Where I am now: Terranova is really nice-- lots of two-story houses and gardens and cars. The house that the other hermanas found for us is really nice. We haven’t visited anyone yet because we spent all day signing the contract for the house and moving furniture, but we should start soon. I’ll try to send pictures next week.

It’s weird how getting a new companion and a new area can change the whole feel of your mission overnight. I think maybe I just feel weird not teaching for a couple days. 

These are some really cute kids of our investigator (Jani) in Mulsay.  Fidel makes the best, most adult-like faces. 
Flash cards from English class
Hermana De Leon and I were giving reading classes in Mulsay, and we made flash cards to learn letters. Hna De Leon didn't finish hers (on the right) but they were really cute.
Could someone thank Grandma Cheryle for the card she sent me? I still don’t have her email.

Have a great week, my beloved brethren!

Hermana Ludlam

Monday, June 23, 2014

Opening a New Area in Terranova!

Hullo Familia,

Modesty Part II

I was thinking about how the Bible compares our bodies to temples (1 Cor. 3:16-17). I was also thinking about how I hear lots of people justify immodesty or pornography or nude art by saying, “It’s a celebration of the beauty of the human body.” “It’s because my body is beautiful.” “I'm not ashamed of my own body.”

Well, the temple is beautiful too. But do we publicize what is inside the temple? No. Why wouldn’t we want to publicize something beautiful and celebrate it? Because it is sacred. Yes, your body is beautiful, but it is also something that God has intended to be kept private because of its beautifully sacred nature. You only get to appreciate the beauty of what is inside the temple when you make sacred covenants, just like the only person who should see your body is someone who has made covenants of marriage with you. Can you imagine how horrible it would be if someone were to expose the things that happen in the temple? Even if they just exposed them a little bit? There really isn’t any difference between doing that and revealing the sacred temple that is your body.
And, just to clarify from the last letter about modesty, not only does Satan trick us into doing things that will rob us of the things that will bring true and lasting happiness, he tricks us into doing the things that will certainly bring us misery. Specifically speaking of modesty, the point of dressing immodestly is to attract sexual attention. If you think one or two steps ahead, that is 100% certain to bring you misery. 

I was thinking about what Nephi (a Book of Mormon Prophet) pleads in his psalm about God helping him “shake at the appearance of sin.” I realized I do not abhor sin nearly as much as I should. Especially in music—I’m such a sucker for good, well-written music, even if it happens to have a stinky message or bad lyrics. And I justify to myself thinking: “I know the message isn’t true and I would never do those things,” and therefore I am safe to listen to it.

Actually, being honest with myself, I was thinking that when I get back home it probably would not bother me that much to listen to a few worldly songs if they were mostly good. WOW! is Satan sneaky. He always likes to make us think we have more control over how sin affects us than we really do. He makes us think it affects the other, more ignorant, less spiritually-fortified people, but not us. So what can you trust? How can you know what you really can handle without being poco a poco (little by little) eroded by sin?

The conclusion I came to is three really great words... 
The prophets know exactly what is the limit. They tell you exactly where to draw the line so that you are not subject to self-deceiving justifications. For example, the prophets state very clearly exactly what type of music you should and should not listen to. They tell you not to have serious dating relationships in your teens. They tell you not to lie next to other people, to not passionately kiss before marriage, and not to arouse sexual emotions in yourself. They tell you very specifically how you should dress. They tell you not to watch sporting events on Sunday, and what sorts of beverages you should not drink.

The point is, in deciding what is sin and what isn't and what is dangerous and what isn't and what's true and what isn't, YOU CAN'T TRUST YOURSELF but YOU CAN TRUST THE PROPHET. (Eph. 4:11-15). And if the prophet doesn’t say anything, your next resort should be Heavenly Father.

Well, I am leaving Mulsay and my beloved companion, Hermana De Leon, to train and open an area in Terranova. They got rid of the Sister Training Leaders! Terranova is a more uppity area, so we’ll see how that goes. Baptize every week, yah!

You guys, being companions with Hermana De Leon was like being friends with someone in elementary school. We like to be together just because we like each other. We don’t even think about what the other person is thinking about us, just that we like to be with the other person. I am going to miss her painfully. Who knows who my new companion will be...? I think a bunch of Americanas are coming this transfer...

I love you all lots.
Hermana Ludlam

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Thumping in My Heart

To My Best Team:
Lia wanted to include this picture sent from her cousin Morgan, also serving in Mexico.
It says "Your Family is your Best Team"

I want to write about Maria Preciosa, investigator from the stars. I have never, ever had an investigator like her. She's 15. She got married at 11, had a baby at 13. She LOVES the Bible and has listened to tons of different religions, but she said “they always come over and I have this feeling where they make me want to learn more, but at the same time I really don’t want to learn more.” She said, after the first visit with us, “This fills me, this is what I have been looking for. She’s eating up the Book of Mormon and sits for hours using La Guia de Las Escrituras (Topical Guide to Scriptures)  She’s 15, guys! She prayed to receive her answer if the Book of Mormon was the word of God and if Joseph Smith was a prophet and she said: “I’ve never felt a feeling like that before. It was like this thumping in my heart that lasted even after I got off my knees. All day I could feel it.”

I have never had an investigator so in tune with spiritual promptings-- that she could tell just by listening to other ideas that they were not correct, or that Heavenly Father was able to confirm so strongly about the truth. And yesterday she asked us: “What do you guys say about movies and music?” We explained that she should be able to feel the Spirit while she’s listening to them. And she says, “Yeah, that’s what I thought. Yesterday I felt this little twinge while I was watching TV and I had to go change my movie to watch cartoons instead.” That was after the 2nd lesson.

And after the first lesson, she came to us and said “Somebody came to me and told me Joseph Smith was an assassin.” And we thought, “Oh, no... Satan has already been at work” (because that happens frequently and people hear weird things about Joseph Smith and don’t listen to us when we try to explain), but then she says “But its okay, because that’s what repentance is for right? I imagine he was an assassin and then repented and changed his heart so God could use Him as an instrument.” (For those of you who aren’t members of the church, Joseph Smith was not an assassin, though he died a martyr.)

I can’t write extra today because we are going to work for a few hours on preparation day to be able to go to the temple this week. But, I will have more time next week.  Yes!  EEEEEE… THE TEMPLE!

Mucho amor,
Hna Ludlam

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

AHHH...Eternal Friends!

This is the wonderful Familia Mena Bautista!
Hola Family,

This is Yesamin’s baptism (from a couple weeks ago, but I didn’t have time to upload them.) The best part of her conversion wasn’t as much what she learned (because she’s already very much an angel), but what changed in her family. We taught them more than we taught her. They are menos-activos (less active) and had the habit of attending church every time one of their kids was getting ready to be baptized, and then completely disappearing afterwards. But we focused their teaching on becoming converted to Christ, and actually experiencing Him in their lives. And they’ve started reading scriptures everyday and have been attending every week. Lia, Gregorio, Yamili, Yesamin, Gloria, Gloria mama, y Hna Bautista. We are missing her brother, Jorge.
"I love Yahaira so deeply."
And last week, HOOOORAY. Yahaira was finally baptized. She’s been through a good 4-5 sets of elders because, even though she is as gold and pure as investigators come, her Dad caused some serious problems and refused to allow her to do it. But lo and behold, two SISTER missionaries move into the area and he happens to like us and offer us food and drinks all the time and has no problem with Yahaira baptizing. I love Yahaira so deeply. She is Cinderella. And she DID IT!
Hermana De Leon in Mulsay

​And a picture of Hna. De Leon and our street in Mulsay. Hna. De Leon never looks like herself in pictures for some reason. You guys--she is the best! I think if Presidente separates us for the next cambio (transfer), I will cry.

​Well, I had a big flop on Monday in the Leadership Training Meeting (where the Zone and Training Leaders come together from the whole mission, listen to what President and the AP’s say, and then go share it with all of their zones.) Presidente had told us the NIGHT BEFORE that he wanted us to present on “how to ask good questions.” So we stay up all night and wake up early to scrape together what we’re going to say (It was a topic on which I had a TON of stuff that I had been wanting to have a chance to teach), but then the next day during the conference we keep waiting for our turn but it never comes. We ask the assistants if they’re planning on us presenting and they said no, but they did go ask President and came back and tell us we could have 10 minutes!

So we go and try to present everything we had planned so beautifully in only ten  minutes, and it came out SUPER incoherently and vague and really just bad. It was the first time I had tried teaching something without feeling the Spirit at all. And even though it shouldn’t matter, I was really embarrassed about bombing it in front of all the leaders. I was worried it was going to blow our credibility as a teachers the next time we needed to capacitar (train in) something. And we kept asking ourselves: “What did we do wrong? The planning was inspired and what we thought Heavenly Father wanted us to say.  It was REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF, so why did Heavenly Father make it so we couldn't present it?”

I do know that it humbled me a lot, which was very refreshing. It showed me, “Sister Ludlam, without divine aid, is really a very incoherent mess.” Somebody had to kick me off my horse.

And, happy ending, we taught the same presentation in our zone meeting, but we had all week to prepare and I was praying for it all week. And it was VERY excellent and incisive and everybody was really involved. I think it really changed a lot of missionaries and the way they approach teaching. And their investigators.  I like working in the Spirit a lot more than I like not working in the Spirit.  If I have time, I'll write my capacitacion (training seminar)on “How to Teach People, Not Lessons” and “How To Ask Good Questions” and Basically How To Teach and Learn in General.

Stake Baptism for Zones Mérida, Centro and Aeropuerto
We had a MASSIVE stake baptism that I’ll have to tell you about later. Jesus and Juvencio were there and there is such JOY that swells in my heart every time I see them. AHH… eternal friends!

Love you, my eternal friends and family.
Hermana Ludlam

Monday, June 2, 2014

Receiving Answers to Prayer

México Mérida Temple
Hello Beloved Family,

GUESS WHAT?!?!?!?!?!? PRESIDENTE CHANGED THE RULES SO WE CAN GO TO THE TEMPLE WITH OUR INVESTIGATORS!! AHHHHH!!  Sister De Leon and I just about died in happiness. That has been my secret dream ever since I got here. Heavenly Father loves me.

My letter this week is some thoughts I put together about how to receive answers to prayer. I’ll write a newsier, less-preach-ier letter next week, I promise.

Receiving Answers to Prayer
I’ve noticed that my ability to receive answers to prayers actually depends a lot more on how and what I ask.

First of all, we have to ask, and we have to ask specifically. There are tons of blessings Heavenly Father wants to give us, but that He can'’ give us until we specifically ask for them, because to give them to us without our will would be a denial of our agency. We have to specifically demonstrate our will by specifically asking for them. D&C 46:30. Basically we are putting our will in line with His (I think that’s the definition of prayer, actually.).
Usually, the 'will' of Heavenly Father has to do with you being given greater capacity to do something, not dumping blessings on other people’s heads. (Example: “Please bless the homeless and the needy” vs “Help me find people who need help, and inspire me of how to help them.” D&C 46:28 and 30. D&C 11:13.

I think the reason we need to ask like that is because He can’t infringe on other people’s agency. He can’t give other people things they haven’t asked for or make them change in the way you want, but if YOU are willing (Alma 34:28), He can use you as an instrument (Mosiah 23:10, Alma 34:28).  Instead of praying that other people will change, pray to be made an instrument to help them change-- the Lord can’t force them to soften their heart, but through the things He inspires you to say you can you can be the tool He uses to soften their heart. This type of asking requires that you have to GO and DO the thing you need help with, go TALK to the person you want to change, go STUDY the thing you want to understand and He will take those efforts and make you better (2 Ne 32:9. 2 Ne 33:4).

To receive answers we have to pray in Faith. (D&C 42:14). What does it mean to pray in faith?
To me, faith means...
1. Asking for specific things. There is much greater risk in asking for something specific, so sometimes we’re afraid to do it.  When I ask for general things, Heavenly Father does give me what I ask for, but the answers are general so I don’t recognize them.

For example, general petitions:
-Please give me patience
-Help me to understand the scriptures
-Bless my family
-Help us baptize every week
-Help me be an effective missionary

And more specific petitions for the same ideas:
-When my companion takes forever to do nightly planning, help me to not get irritated.
-Why was it okay for Nephi to kill Laban if that’s against the commandments?
-Help Dad to not get overwhelmed or discouraged in His new calling.
-Tomorrow in our weekly planning, please give us good ideas when we brainstorm about what we can start doing to baptize every week.
-Help me make a good impression on this person so they’ll listen to my advice.

Asking for specific things helps us to be able to receive the specific answers we’re looking for, which is point number two.

2. It takes faith to look for specific answers. If we’re really convinced God is going to answer our prayers, we will be looking out all day watching for how He’s going to answer them.

How do I receive answers?
Sometimes it’s while I’m on my knees, if I stop to think about the problem again or assess how I feel about something. More often than not, the answer comes through very clear and direct thoughts than through feelings.
Lots of times, though, the answer comes during morning study-- through SEARCHING and also EXPLORING the scriptures. Sometimes it’s revealed little by little throughout the week. Sometimes it’s as I’m talking to someone and I’m inspired of what to say, or they say something inspired to me. Sometimes really good ideas come to my head as I’m planning something.
Sometimes, if I’m asking for inspiration to make a decision, (like hoping for a confirmation of something I’ve decided), Heavenly Father doesn’t always give me an answer. I’ve realized that wanting Him to tell me the right answer in every decision is a little like having someone give me all the answers on a homework assignment. I don’t learn anything! I’ve realized we’re here to make errors, too. Sometimes we learn more from errors than we would if He had made the right decision in the first place.

It takes faith to be patient waiting for answers. The counsel is to knock (3 Ne 14:7-8). But nobody opens their door instantaneously! (especially in Mexico.) We have to trust that if Heavenly Father promised us He’s going to open the door, He will. We just can’t walk away before He does it.

3) After we’ve watched for and received answers, it takes faith to recognize (or admit) that the answer came from Heavenly Father. That is gratitude. D&C 46:32. If we never acknowledge and thank Heavenly Father for the specific blessings we asked for and then received, He’ll probably stop helping us.
Thank you, by the way, for all of the people that pray for the missionaries. Maybe that is why the missionaries are so powerful is because there are so many good people praying for them.

Love you all muchisimo.
Hermana Ludlam