I am serving a mission as a sister missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for a period of 18 months. I am serving in the Spain Barcelona Mission and I am speaking Spanish. I reported to the Madrid Missionary Training Center on May 13th, 2014, and I will return home November of 2015. I love each of you with all my heart and I hope to hear from you throughout this life-changing experience and journey.

Monday, July 27, 2015

True Repentance, Forgiveness and Love

This past week we had transfers, but Hermana Steinfeldt and I are staying together! Woohoo! We were so pumped! She really has taught me so much. We have a blast together and we work so hard. We have become just the best of friends. We were sad to hear the one of the hermanas in our apartment, Hermana Arauco, was leaving. We are really going to miss her, and I will never forget these past two transfers with her. She is truly a remarkable missionary and friend. I know we will be friends for life and beyond.  But, she is heading to paradise … in the Islands of Mallorca! Palma! She is going to rock it and she is so ready for this; and I get to do companion exchanges there with her every few weeks!  

Tuesday (July 7): Today was another great preparation day. The majority of the day consisted of saying goodbye to missionaries who were getting transferred or going home, and then with missionaries coming into our Hospitalet Zone. That night we went to visit a less active family, Monica, Fanny and André, for a family home evening. This family really has become a family away from home for me here. They are incredible and have a daughter serving in Fresno, California. We ate and then they had planned to watch the movie, Joseph Smith: Prophet of The Restoration. I absolutely love that movie, and you all have to watch it. It has truly strengthened my testimony and my passion for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is so great and makes me get emotional every time!

Wednesday (July 8): Today was great. We were able to visit a lot of people with Angela, a young single adult from our ward. When we went to visit a girl named Damilka who we met on the street a few days prior, we noticed that we wrote her address down wrong, and she didn’t live there. An 18 year-old boy named José answered the door. He was so sweet and nice. He invited us in and told us he was from Honduras. We bore powerful testimony of The Book of Mormon and he said that he was interested and he would begin reading it!

Thursday (July 9): Today we went out with Niyeli. She is a 14-year-old girl from our ward. We are trying to invite all the Young Women to come out with us to do visits every day this week! It has been a blast! They have so much energy and great faith. They are just the breath of fresh air that we needed, and I can see them all as great future missionaries one day!

Friday (July 10): We took 14-year-old Augustina out with us today. There was a Spaniard woman who stopped us and asked if we were Mormons. Her name was Fina; and she began to cry as she talked to us. She commented that her cat had died the week before and that she was really close to him. She asked what our viewpoint was on animals, and if we would be able to see them after we died. We told her that Heavenly Father loves all of His children and creations, and that it would make sense that we would see them again. God wants us to be happy, and I think He would want us to be with all of our loved ones. My ‘lil puppy Sadie better be up there too!

Saturday (July 11): Today we had our Stake Relief Society activity! The theme was "La Vida es Bella" or (Life is Beautiful). It was such a joy to be among so many strong and fun women of the church. The Spirit was felt and laughs were shared. Dari came … she is amazing! She currently has a job working from 11am to 11pm, Sunday through Friday. It has been really hard for her and we have been praying for her a lot. She had a new job interview the other day and is waiting to hear back from them. Please keep her in your prayers.
Our ward was in charge of doing the skit part of the program. Let´s just say, long story short, my companion nailed me in the eye at one point with a piece of fruit! HILARIOUS! Haha, she was a monkey and I was the seed. It was last minute, but it turned out great! Moral of the story/skit … all of the seeds were trying to grow in a field, but every time they tried to grow their roots in the field, they got attacked by a group monkeys throwing fruit. I was originally supposed to just be another monkey, but I ended up having to be the brave seed that kept going back and back and back … until all of the beatings from the fruit over months and years … eventually made me strong, and I grew into a strong tree in the end. It was cute and simple. Everyone seemed to love it!
After the activity, we had the chance to go to the Relief Society President´s house for dinner. She was having some problems with her 12 year old daughter who was kind of going astray, veering from the path a little bit. She looked to us for help. We taught her about Repentance, Forgiveness and Love … because I was that little girl at times, who needed a little bit of a reality check (to be continued at the bottom).

Sunday (July 12): Terry came to church … with Joshua (our other Nigerian friend) … in a shirt and tie! He was so precious and he received the Priesthood and will be passing the Sacrament next week! We are so excited for him!

Monday (July 13): Whoa! It’s my 14 month mark today. It´s a weird feeling, and I can't believe I will be going home in November. Even though I miss all of you all, that still sounds way too soon. Can't I just stay forever, haha? I don't even know or remember what my life was like before, and I can't imagine not being a missionary. I can't imagine not wearing my name tag with a Book of Mormon always in my hand. I love my mission so very much and wouldn't trade it for anything. It has been the best decision of my life.

Back to Saturday night … I really started thinking and was very impacted by this experience. It was interesting, because I had read this talk about repentance and forgiveness as well. Here are some bits and pieces that I loved from a talk (“Point of Safe Return”) by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency of the Church.
"True repentance blesses our lives with the effects of the Atonement: we feel God’s forgiveness and His peace, and our guilt and sorrow are lifted away; we enjoy the influence of the Spirit in greater abundance; and we are better prepared to live with our Heavenly Father.”
President David O. McKay said, “Every principle and ordinance of the gospel of Jesus Christ is significant and important … but there is none more essential to the salvation of the human family than the divine and eternally operative principle [of] repentance”
“For salvation cometh to none … except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Mosiah3:12).
It is not repentance per se that saves man. It is the blood of Jesus Christ that saves us. It is not by our sincere and honest change of behavior alone that we are saved, but “by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).
President Spencer W. Kimball taught: “The essence of the miracle of forgiveness is that it brings peace to the previously anxious, restless, frustrated, perhaps tormented soul. … God will wipe away … the tears of anguish, and remorse … and fear, and guilt”.
Satan will try to make us believe that our sins are not forgiven because we can remember them. Satan is a liar; he tries to blur our vision and lead us away from the path of repentance and forgiveness. God did not promise that we would not remember our sins. Remembering will help us avoid making the same mistakes again. But if we stay true and faithful, the memory of our sins will be softened over time. This will be part of the needed healing and sanctification process.
For our own good, we need the moral courage to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. Never is the soul nobler and more courageous than when we forgive. This includes forgiving ourselves. The gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ provides us at all times and at in places with the blessings of repentance and forgiveness. We will receive the joy of forgiveness in our own lives when we are willing to extend that joy freely to others. Lip service is not enough. We need to purge our hearts and minds of feelings and thoughts of bitterness and let the light and the love of Christ enter in. As a result, the Spirit of the Lord will fill our souls with the joy accompanying divine peace of conscience.
Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: … Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
Wherever you find yourselves on this journey through life, whatever trials you may face, there is always a point of safe return; there is always hope. You are the captain of your life, and God has prepared a plan to bring you safely back to Him, to your divine destination."
I know that President Uchtdorf is a man of God and that he speaks the truth. I love everything that he said, and I think it is something that we all need to remember and apply in our own lives. I know that all good things come from God; that our Father in Heaven loves us so much and that we can learn how to truly repent and forgive. But it is only possible in and through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Our faith in Christ and our love for Him lead us to repent, or to change our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that are not in harmony with His will. When we repent, we feel godly sorrow, then we stop doing things that are wrong and continue doing things that are right. Bringing our lives in line with God’s will through repentance is the central purpose of our lives. We can return to live with God the Father only through Christ’s mercy, and we receive Christ’s mercy only on condition of our personal repentance.
To repent, we recognize our sins and feel remorse. We confess our sins to God through prayer. We ask God in prayer to forgive us. He knows we are not perfect. We must do all we can to correct the problems our actions may have caused; this is called restitution. These can be specifically with people or situations … that we feel have never been resolved. As we repent, our view of ourselves and the world changes. As we change, we recognize that we are children of God and that we need not continue making the same mistakes over and over. We will fall at times; we are human. But we won´t fall as deep and we will be able to recover faster and faster every time. If we have real desire to change for the better, He will help us. If we sincerely repent, we turn away from our sins and do them no more, and we resist any desire to commit sin. Our desire to follow God and love Him and His commandments grows stronger and deeper.
We will feel God’s forgiveness and His peace in our lives. Our guilt and sorrow are swept away. We also must recognize that we will not receive a full remission of our sins without making the promise or everlasting covenant of baptism, by someone holding the proper authority. By doing so, we will continue to feel the influence of the Spirit in greater abundance; and when we pass from this life, we will be more prepared to face and live in the presence our Heavenly Father and His Son.
Even after we have accepted Christ and repented of our sins, we may fall short and sin again. We should continually try to correct these transgressions. In addition, we should continually improve; to develop Christ-like qualities, to grow in knowledge, and to serve more effectively. As we learn more about what the Savior expects of us, we will want to show our love by obeying Him. Thus, as we repent daily, always striving to become better, we will find that our lives will change and improve. Our hearts and our behavior will become more Christ-like. We will come to feel this great joy and indescribable peace.
Anyone that I have ever wronged or offended throughout the course of my life, whether or not I remember it or not, I would just like to say a general "sorry” from the very depths of my soul. I mean this from the bottom of my heart. I have prayed, cried and prayed about this numerous times throughout the week. If I have ever caused you heartache or grief, frustration or pain … I truly am sorry, and I hope you can forgive me. I am doing the very best I can to make restitution with everyone and anyone in my life. I want to come home with a completely clean slate. I have changed so much on my mission and I want to continue to become better each and every day.
I love you all so much! I invite you all to get rid of any grudges or hard feelings you have; to repent and turn your heart over to the Lord and start over. This gospel is all about second chances and forgiveness. We can´t expect to be forgiven by the Lord, if we don´t forgive others.

Have an amazing week!

With all my heart,

Hermana Vance 

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