Monday, December 8, 2014

The Last Post: Reflecting in the Post-Mission Life

So it's been almost a week since I arrived back in the States. It's such a strange feeling. I feel like the most impactful, incredible, life-changing months of my life passed by and in a split second its gone and i'm back home in the same house, same ward, same neighbors, same facebook, but completely different me.

As I look back now, sometimes I can't remember if it did actually all happen or if it was all just a dream. A real long, intense, amazing dream :) But I feel like I should share a few thoughts as I reflect on this amazing past 18 months.

Maybe it hasnt all really hit me yet. I remember, I kept thinking "it'll hit me in the mission office. it'll hit me on the bus. itll hit me in the airplane. itll hit me when i see my parents. itll hit me when i unpack..." I have no idea when it will hit me, if it already did, or if i'm just truly in a real deep hardcore denial.  I learned I'm pretty good at denial haha.

Maybe the hardest part was leaving the eternal friends I made on the mission. The members, the investigators, the missionaries. Getting on that plane and knowing that many of them I may never see again in this life, but smiling knowing that it's such a blessing that this life isn't all there is.

As you've shared this adventure with me for the past 18 months, you know that this mission has had its share of ups and downs. Trials and victories. Tears of happiness and pain of heartbreak. But for every single experience I am forever grateful.

From the first day in the MTC getting caught up in the excitement of it all--new people, new schedules, new language, new food (& too much of it).
  So many firsts: first name tag, first companions (temporary while I waited for my real one to arrive late at the MTC haha), first district, first words in portuguese, first time to feel AND recognize the Holy Spirit.
  The exciting day we all opened our re-assignments and read them off together.  Then the first real goodbyes as few by few we all caught our planes to our first missions--stateside!

The first trainer, first meeting, first President and his amazing wife--the Neiders. The first area, first meeting with bishop. first dinner message which my trainer gave to me--and which I gave while almost peeing my pants because i was so nervous. Then, the first lesson. the first breakdown because i realized how incredibly inadequate i truly was. my first real prayer. the first real answer of comfort. The first real encounter with the capacitating power of the Atonement.

Then the first transfer of areas. The milestone marks of first baptisms, 3 months, 6 months, and everything flies by. The miracles, the changes, the tragedies, the growth--the pain and stretching required to grow. The eternal friends and loved ones. Then the phone call of the received visa.

I remember I dreaded it. I didn't want it anymore.  But again, God knows more and gave me little miracles and signs that I truly was needed in Brasil (the nail in the shoe, the compromise with God). The goodbyes again, and the airplane.

Brasil. Hot. New language. MTC. New district. New food. New companion (kind of (; ). New kinds of clothes--leave behind everything warm. Then more goodbyes and another airplane--finally to arrive in my mission.

Teresina. REAL hot. Pretty sure it's a different language. Lots of rain. LONG bus ride to a new area. New trainer. More lessons--tons of people talking. Not understanding anything. Lots of walking.

Real prayer. Sore knees. Sweat. But Learning to love the difference in culture. The people. The language. The work which is truly the same where ever you are.
Training--a new challenge. Learning to love even more.

Big transfer. New zone. New people. New ward--very different. Different food. Different climate--REAL HOT. More walking. More poverty. More prayer.
Then the call--Sister Training Leader. One of the biggest challenges. but truly learning to trust in the Lord and His leaders. Learning to gain revelation for the Sisters. Learning to want to love and help them. and then learning to Love them. truly.

All the time learning to forget myself and serve others.
And then learning that all of it is
truly only for

Seeing the time dwindling down to the end, learning everything again in this last month, I was able to see truly the hand of God in my life, personally. I saw glimpses of the intricate and perfect plan that He has for me. Every person, situation, trial, and weaknesses was to lead me to what I am today, and to what I need to be tomorrow.

One of the most priceless things I was able to learn from my mission is that God truly is my Heavenly Father. That He truly does love me. And that He is completely 100% aware of every one of us. He has a plan for each of us. I learned how to TRUST in Him. No matter what comes into my way, I know that He Lives. I know that He will guide me for the best. I know that this gospel is the full complete gospel on the Earth. I know that I will never be able to repay Him for what I've gained from this amazing mission. That while I wanted to dedicate my all to Him to serve Him and His children for just 18 months, really it was ME who ultimately received the greatest reward.

This may be my last post on this blog--but I did want to thank each and every one of you who came to read at least some of my emails from the past year and a half.  This time has truly been the best time of my life and I pray that these amazing experiences that I've had and that i hope you've been able to share with me, might have been at least a little blessing in your lives as well.

And now as I'm getting ready to begin my next mission, it does hurt. I miss the mission, the calling, the mantle, the everything about being a true representative

of the Lord Jesus Christ, but I'm ready to accept my new call. To bring all of this with me to the real world--my world. And make it real. Carry it with me forever and share this real joy with EVERYone! :)
I love you all so much.

Amo voces.
Tchau tchau, meus queridos!
Tudo de bom com voces,
e Deus vos guarde com o seu amor. <3

-Sister Lauren Yoshimoto

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

In the Mission Home On the Way Home

Oi Familia!

So, I’m in the house of presidente with all of the sisters who are leaving. There are 9 of us and it’s soooo great being able to see Sisters Merrill and Nilson and Pedreira again!  I miss these sisters.  I’m feeling super strange because I just feel like we’re having a little sisters meeting in Teresina and then we’ll go back to our areas and keep being happy missionaries!  But it’s real weird.  It still hasn’t really hit me yet, but I’m okay with that.

Today, I don’t have a lot to say, just that today we have our final interviews with Presidente and then it will be airplane time..... 

I’m trying to get that in my head. 

It was real tough leaving Sao Luis.  That place truly became home to me.  The members, missionaries. everyone there.  It was real tough to leave but I’m excited to return and visit again!! :)  haha. 

I’m so incredibly grateful for this experience I’ve been blessed with.   The decision to serve a mission is the best decision I’ve ever made and I still can’t believe that I was entrusted with such a sacred calling. I hope I proved worthy of that trust. 

I love you all muiiiiito!! [a lot]   e tou anciosa a ver voces de novo. mas por enquanto, vou aproveitar hoje e fazer mais uma diferença!  [I am anxious to you all, again, but for today, I will try to make more of a difference ].

ate daqui em pouco.  [in a little while]
sua missionária para sempreeeeee,  [His missionary forever]
Sister Yoshimoto <333

Monday, November 24, 2014

Last Preparation Day Letter

Mon, Nov 24, 2014
Subject: e agora........  [and now ....]

òla família e amigos queridos!!  [Hello dear friends and family]

It was brought to my attention various times that this is my last pday on the mission ever---so I have to be real serious with this email.  haha. 

But it’s alright.  I feel like I’m in hardcore denial because I still don’t believe that it’s all ending.  I’m still waiting to find out where my next transfer is!!!  Who’s my next comp.  Then I remember that it’s the "big transfer.”   But that’s alright.  I still have a week and it’s going to be the BIGGEST WEEK OF MIRACLES!  I’ll tell you all about it when I see you  :)

This past week was a real toughy.  I feel like as we get to the end where we just want to work, work, work, everything happens.  This is definitely part of our work, too -- my calling as LTS [sister training leader], but its frustrating.   haha.   The sisters are having a loooot of problems that we have to spend a lot of time inside dealing out. sicknesses, fights, laziness, spiritually weakening. but I feel like the miracle of this week was that I was able to truly feel the Spirit guiding me and qualifying me in my calling.  Sometimes, especially when we give trainings in zone meetings, I feel so confused as to why I’M the LTS.  I feel sooo incredibly unqualified and terrible with my words, in English, let alone in Portuguese.  But it’s momentes  [moments] like this where I truly know that Deus [God] doesn’t call the qualified, but if we are humble and with the right intentions -- helping the sisteres [sisters] in their calling -- He WILL qualify us. 

I feel like in our house there are a lot of sisters that don’t trust each other -- but trust me.  So I have to kind of run around talking to all of them privately and stay as unbiased as I can.  I’m definitely starting to feel like a mom.   haha.  Sorry Mom,  you had 4 girls.... dang... but I have learned to truly TRULY love every one of them.  I’m learning that truly everyone has a story, we just need to listen to it. and love them.

But in other news, Glayson and Leandro are still sooo strong!  Leandro is working again, but told his boss that he can’t work Sundays.  We had him pray before and talked a lot about trusting in God.  He did it.  And now he is working but not on Sundays!!  It’s the coolest miracle ever.  He is sooo strong and faithful.  He will be an amaaazing missionary.  Glayson is still goin to church, and institute and everything.  He’s a member already.  haha.  But just waiting anxiously for his baptism in January.  We’ve been seeing sooo many miracles and eleitos [elites] here in this area and Keilyn warned me about this.  It’s true!!!  I feel sooooo bummed that I’m leaving cause there’s just sooooo much work to do and miracles to see and family I’m leaving behind.  But I like what she said.  I’ll just see it as a good job.  I feel so blessed to know that at least I can say that this area has changed into being an area that the next sisters will  love easily.  I love the mission.  I can’t accept that I’m going home, yet, and I won’t, because at least for 1 more week,  I will be Sister Yoshimoto, full time representante de Jesus Cristo [representative of Jesus Christ].  I love my calling.  I love this work.  I know that it’s the work of God and that after all the good I may have done, it was the Lord’s work and I benefitted the most.  I hope I’ve changed truly on my mission, but I’m excited to see how this next chapter of my life will turn out.  I’m so grateful for this mission that has trained me to be a better member when I return.   And I will be a missionary for the rest of my life.  I’m so grateful for every single person I’ve met in Vegas, and in Brasil who has changed my life for the better.  I’m grateful for my family and my friends and the ward at home who has supported me every step of the way.  I’m grateful for my Heavenly Father who has seen fit to trust me with this sacred calling and to give me this amazing opportunity to be a better person. 

I love you all sooooo much, and I can’t wait to tell you all the other fun stories soon.!! 
But until then, we’ll work até o pó!!!!! [until the end]
até o proximo, queridos!  [until next time, dear]
muito amor,   [much love]
Sister Yoshimoto <3

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

No Time to Be Sick. Too much to do.

Nov 18, 2014

Oi Familia!

Hi!  There is so much to do!  I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by how little time I have to do everything that needs to be done!!  I feel like I’ve been getting a little stressed out with everything and it’s not good :(  but we had a big zone conference yesterday and wow, it was the best. It was exactly what I needed.  Our leaders are so inspired.  They talked about the talk “The 4th Missionary.”  It’s sooooooo suuuuuper good and something that every missionary should read.  That will be my thought for this week.  Sorry I’m so out of it right now :( 

Everyone asks me every second how I feel and how is my heart doing.  Am I excited.   I think “Why?  And then I remember.  I literally don’t feel like I’m going home!  I feel like my comp is.  haha.  She’s real trunkster.  It’s funny.  She just wants to get married already and has like eveyrthing planned out -- just needs the man, she says.   haha. 

I got the new flight plan.  I’m going to leave Teresina on the 2nd,  3 pm-ish and get there in San Jose at 12 pm on the 3rd.  That’s real fast!  haha.  What a blessing.

So, this week, was real crazy. I got a little sick and had to stay in the house for a day and a half. which was probably more stressful than the sickness. I’m getting better -- I think it was probably just another intestinal infection.  We’ll see.  I’m just real excited to get back to work.

We’re going to have interviews tomorrow with the president in our house.  It will be interesting.  haha. It is the first time he’s ever gone to every house in the mission. He’ll be checking cleanliness and organizacao. [organization]  It’ll be real good for everyone. 

Sorry, it’s a real short email this week.  I’m still recovering a bit and I don’t really remember a lot that happened.  Send Sister Skudder’s parents a big hug and my love.  She’s a real good kid. She’s like saving me here.  haha. :Love her tons.  Her name is Chayce Skudder.  She’s from New Zealand and she thinks that Jeremy served in her ward once. Bishop Skudder.  She said it was an apostasy ward...whatever that means. lol. 

Give a big hug to everyone.  I’ll write more next week. 
amo voces<3333  [love you guys]
-Sister Yoshimoto

ps. D&C 122 is a section about Joseph Smith and hard trials. 
I don’t know how anyone can not know he’s a profeta of God.  [prophet of God]
I love the scriptures and especially the Book of Mormon. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Joy of Missionary Work

Date: Nov 10, 2014
Subject: Semana de figado..... [week of liver ... ???]

Oi Familia!

This week I ate a looooot of new things..... and not all of them were very good at all, but just to list it off

-Figado is liver and it’s nasty.  Figado of cow is tolerable, but of figado of chicken is the worst thing I’ve had in my mouth. and I was tricked into it.  I was just  talking and stuff and Sister Herculano just popped it in my mouth and I was like “Oh!  Food! thanks!  And then I almost died. Hahahaha.   Man, gross.

-Heart!  I ate heart of cow and of chicken!  I was like this meat is weird.  It’s not figado but it’s not normal meat. and they were like its coração!  And I was like what..? curacao?  For like 2 seconds I was like that means heart, but that’s weird. Why would they..... OMG I’M EATING HEART!  I didn’t even think that happens in the world …  except in Snow White, but dang. It’s pretty good. hahahaha

- Alligator.   Man, its super good!  I’d eat that every day!

-Pumba.  From the lion king.  Warthog?   It’s alright.... not my favorite. but cool to add to the list of Brasilian experiences! :)

But now that that’s out of the way, I will write about the real highlight of the week:

The baptism of LEANDROOOO!!! Oh mannnn it was amazing and suuuuch a test of faith and miracles!!  So basically we spent the day preparing, cleaning and organizing for the baptism Saturday.  Finally the time came and everyone was there and ready and excited … but no Leandro or Glayson!  We called, but no one answered.  We called the other phones, desligados. [no answer]   We were kinda freaking out and ready to just run to their house (about 20 minutes walking so not too far) but then Glayson answered and said that something happened the night before and Leandro didn’t want to do it, anymore, but he wanted to talk first,  My heart dropped.  Because of some bad planning on our part, we didnt have a chance to see him the night before.  The only night we didn’t see them.  I knew we had messed up. real bad.  I just prayed and prayed that whatever happened, it would be the Lord’s will, but that our screw up wouldn’t impede the saving decision of Leandro to make this promise with God. 

So we went to their house and took them to the chapel and just sat there.  We prayed, felt the spirit and they talked.   

This was when I truly truly prayed for the will of God, whatever it was. to not discourage them from keeping going and doing the right thing.  I know God knows and understands what is best for each of us individually.  It is not "one size fits all."

But miracles!  The zone leader talked with them and said that they truly were repentant and Leandro could be baptized!!!  The Spirit spoke to the zone leaders.  I am grateful for priesthood keys.

So Leandro was baptized 1.5 hours late.  It was the best baptism meeting ever. Seeing him walk in and knowing with a certainty that when he came out of that water, he was clean.  All the sins were washed away and Leandro understood the mercy of God.  The best part was seeing the face of Glayson as he too realized the significance of this moment for Leandro, and the excitement for his own baptism in Janeiro. [January] 

Also, it was a battle to go to church the next day because Leandro worked.  Long story short, we testified of the promises of God and Leandro came the next day. on the hour! and received the gift of the Holy Ghost who will help not only him but Glayson, as well, until Glayson, too, receives the gift of the Holy Ghost in Janeiro [January].  What a blessing!  This weekend was full of miracles and trials of our faith.  I feel so soooo  blessed knowing that repentance is real. that it is sooo real and that these kids will be the instruments in the Lords hand soon to bring this gospel to their families and to hundreds more in the field. 

I wrote down the blessing Leandro received, as well.  I’ll tell you later, but it was the best blessing of confirmation ever! 

I am out of time, but I love you all and you are reallly in my prayers always.  I am so grateful for this opportunity to be on a mission.  It’s incredible and I never want it to end.  It still hasn’t hit me because I feel like I have years here still.   So I’ll keep believing that. :) 
Keep strong and share the gospel!   Love you all!
-Sister Yoshimoto

p.s.  I included pics of Ravy and his daughter I helped teach who got baptized!!
I also included a picture of the dress up for halloween/activity at the church :)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Appreciating the Joy that Repentance Brings to those who are Sincere

Nov 3, 2014 
 Subject: Wow! Pday already?

Haha.  It’s been soooo long since the last pday, huh?  [Sister Yoshimoto's preparation days were changed from Wednesdays to Mondays so this was a very short week since last Wednesday].

Thank goodness it’s been a short week because I am literally dying of exhaustion haha.  I definitely know why we have a rule to sleep at 10:30 as a normal missionary.  It’s realllll tough on the body and mind to not sleep.  But this calling is cheia [flood] of too many things to do!

First of all, thanks so much, Dad!!!  I got the emails about the classes and all.  It’s real good that you did that for me because I literally didn’t even think about that stuff until someone asked me here what I’m doing for school after, and I was like “Oh, probably going back to BYU and stuff, but it didn’t even hit me that i had to register and do all that stuff first.........  so thanks so much Dad haha.   I’m so blessed with parents who understand a mission :) 

hmmm.... I forgot everything I was going to respond to from last week... I’m the worst.   Sorry about that--again :(

But I did read it all!  And I just want to tell Travis that the sisters laughed at your response and are even more in love with you because in Brasil "no one wants the young kids" as they say haha.   So yeah...if all else fails there, come with me to Brasil -- theres a monte  [mountain … bunch] of sisters who are lining up for you hahahahaha.   Man, it’s killing me hahahahaha.  They want me to send pictures of them to you.   Hahahaha.  Good thing I forgot my camera today hehe.

Happy Halloween!!!!!!!
It’s funny because the other sister here who speaks english is from New Zealand and I forget sometimes that she’s not American, but she says they don’t do Halloween in New Zealand so it was not very exciting for her.  But my lider de distrito [district leader] is American and he said Happy Halloween!  haha.  It  was cool cause we organized an activity for Halloween without knowing it was Halloween.  The activity was us sisters dressed up as women from the bible and bearing testimony of our experiences with the Savior.  I was the woman who taken in adultery.  It was such an amazing experience to imagine the situation from her perspective.  It was short but a real powerful experience.  Mostly because 15 minutes before, we received some sad news :(

Remember Glayson?   He’s the super eleito [elite] 20year old.  He is just soooo good hearted and amazingly eleito [elite, prepared, humble, teachable].  He has been having trouble with smoking.  We were making major progress with him and Leandro, his cousin.   The zone leaders interviewed and leandro passed and will be baptized this Saturday!!!!   Glayson will have to wait until January because of some past mistakes.  It was soooo hard to hear because we were so excited by the progress and true change of heart they have.  But we felt an overwhelming sense of peace and hope, because we know this will prepare him to be an even stronger individual and  leader in the church and definitely a great missionary as he will grow to understand true repentance. 

After learning this, I stood there in the front bearing testimony of the woman who was taken in adultery and additionally bearing my own testimony – the true meaning of repentance and my gratitude for the Savior for giving each of us one more chance -- especially when we truly don’t deserve it.  I felt so incredibly grateful for the excitement in Glayson’s attitude as he is preparing and looking forward to his baptism dia 3 de January [3rd of January].  For Leandro, this Saturday, he will be preparing to receive the sacerdocio [priesthood] and and preparing to baptize Glayson.   I am excited by just the thought of the happiness he will have as he will feel and know that his sins truly will be washed away and he will be forgiven. 

I love this gospel -- the truth of the Atonement, the reality of the Savior.  I am so grateful for this huge blessing to be trusted enough to be a representative of Cristo [Christ] and bringing His message to those who truly need it and are searching for it.  I never want this to end!!!!   But I know that it doesn’t have to.  I am sooo excited to work with the missionaries at home, but I definitely will miss the 24/7 part of it.  I am loving this work.  It’s hot and sweaty and smelly and exhausting, but it’s the best BEST beeessst thing in the world. 

I love you all so much and am more grateful than ever to have such a huuuuge blessing in my life.  You are always in my prayers todas as noites [day and night], by name.
com muiiiiito carinho e amor!!!<3333  [with much love]

-Sister Yoshimoto