Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,
   First of all, thank you for the abundance of emails I got today! It makes me so happy! Sadly I don't have time to read them right now before I write my letter, but I've printed them all out and will thoroughly enjoy them today. Thank you all so much for the support. It helps so much. And again thank you for all of you last week that responded to my plea for help and advice. It has helped so much. I'm doing much better. It is still very hard sometimes to not get down, and the homesickness is so powerful sometimes, but I'm trying to push through it. I know things are slowly getting easier, or I'm getting stronger. I'm so glad that I'm a missionary, and I'm so grateful for what I'm learning and how I'm growing. I love you all so much!
   We had exchanges this week and I was companions with Sister Stoker. It was a wonderful experience. I feel that I learned so much from her, and that she helped me with my specific needs. And she didn't push we way past the level I'm at right now, which I was afraid of. We made smaller more attainable goals for me that day, and because I knew I was able to reach those, it motivated me to do more and to work harder. I also loved being with her for the day because I had fun in the work we were doing. I know that we aren't here to have fun, but I also know that if I don't feel like I'm having any fun at all I feel trapped and forced to work. On our exchange we worked hard and I had fun. I'm not quite sure what made the difference, but it was really encouraging. I think that exchanges are a great thing to do. It helps so much. I really love the idea of having the sister training leaders. Not only do they do missionary work, but they focus on helping other missionaries with their needs. I would love to someday be a sister training leader for that reason. I love helping individuals adjust and learn to feel confident in themselves.
   I don't want to sound cliche like other missionaries that use this, but we've had a "White Christmas." We had two baptisms in our district this weekend! It's so happy and exciting. One woman shouted, "Halleluja!" When she came up out of the water. Haha. So funny. And then yesterday was Charlene's baptism. She is the wonderful woman that I mentioned. She's been going to church for a year I believe. (Her son was baptized a year ago.) And she made the decision that she wanted to be baptized. She already knew all about the gospel, but she still had to take all of the lessons before getting baptized. That's where we came in. Sister Cusick and I taught her all of the lessons and helped her prepare. She was baptized yesterday afternoon. It was a wonderful service. The talks were so simple but they touched me so much, reminding me of why baptism and the Holy Ghost are so important, and causing me to think of my own testimony on those two very important things. The musical numbers also brought the spirit so strongly (Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing) and it was wonderful to see her son Kevin baptize her.
   This week we have also been meeting with a lot of new people. A member family in our ward took us caroling to their nonmember friends and neighbors, and it has been a great opportunity to introduce ourselves and spread the light of Christ this Christmas season. We have planned to visit several less-active families, nonmembers, and others on Christmas Eve and Christmas. We are caroling a lot. I love it. I love this Christmas season in how it helps others be more open to learning of and thinking about Jesus Christ.

   On Thursday we had our multi-Zone Christmas Devotional. It was so fun and so wonderful. There were many musical numbers, Christmas videos, fun games, visiting with the other missionaries, messages from President Castro and his wife, and a lot of great stuff. I really enjoyed it. Sister Castro and I had a long talk about my ear. Yeah, it's been pretty bad, probably due to all the stress, but it was very comforting to talk with her. She's trying to find out more information for me, and she's been giving me great advice of things that might help it not be so loud.
   Okay...sad story. :( The packages didn't come in time for me to receive them on that day. In fact, I haven't received any letters or packages since last Monday night. (Dad, I got your letter then, that was wonderful! Thank you so much. It just the advice and counsel I needed from my Dad.) But yeah, I still haven't received anything, but I'm really, really, REALLY hoping they get here today or tomorrow. I'm worried that they got lost. I shouldn't be so paranoid. I don't know. Mom, if you think they should have arrived by now you could give Sister Truman a call - I know you love doing that. :) I talked to her at the devotional. She gave me a hug and we talked about your conversation with her. We did get a huge bag from the young women in this ward that was full of a dozen or so wrapped presents! So I do have something. But I really hope the other things get here. Thank you so much for whatever it is you sent me. I'm excited. :)
   The ward members here are great. The longer I'm here the more at home I feel with them. I miss home and family so much, so it really helps. Many of the families and members have really taken us in. The ward mission leader's family gave us See's truffles! Yum. And I really enjoy dinner with a different family each night. I've eaten some odd things like...steak and clam chowder. Haha you'd all be proud of me I hope. I eat what's put in front of me. Speaking of ward members, there's this family that is really motivated and helpful with missionary work. They want to help us so much. They've taken us caroling with them twice this week to meet their nonmember friends. What a fun and great way of meeting people! And it makes me feel part of a family here too. I've really enjoyed that. We're going to carol a lot this week like I said.
   Sister Cusick's mom sent her the Piano Guys Christmas CD. I love it so much. :) It reminds me of mission shopping with you Mom.
  Oh! Concerning calls on Christmas. So I will be calling home at 11 my time if that's alright with all of you. Actually, I don't know how I would find out if it's alright from you by then, so just plan on that please. (Is that 12 your time?) I can hardly wait to talk to you all! I love you all so much and miss you. I'll talk to you all soon! Please keep up the emails and letters. Love you all so much! Thanks for the pictures!
Love you!
Sister Melanie

Happy 1 Month Mission Birthday!

Charlene's Baptism 

All of the sisters at the Christmas Devotional with Sister Castro

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