Monday, November 24, 2014

Hau’oli La Ho’omakika’i!‏

Aloha once more, loved ones!

This week has been crazy, and it's about to get even crazier. This is Sister Teuscher's last week on the mission, and so she has a lot to do. We drove to Honolulu on Wednesday for her 'dying' interview with President Warner. I'm super sad to see her go, and so is everyone else :( BUT while we were in the office, we got to see the official Mormon Message for this Holiday season (I'm not sure if it's been released yet to the public). It is so amazing, and really shows and reminds us of the true reason for the season. Please go watch it, if it's out (or as soon as it's released). 

SO THIS WEEK. A lot has gone down. 

Our Zone leaders called us Thursday afternoon, and told us we were having a meeting at 3pm the next day with President Warner, because he needed to discuss some things with the Kaneohe zone. Now, this isn't normal, so of course my anxiety was on overload for the next 24 hours. When we got to the meeting place, we learned that there has been a lot of disobedience in our mission, and that several missionaries have been going out of zone and making some not so good decisions. Our zone leaders were released from their positions, and President Warner really just wanted us to know how important being obedient to not only God's commandments, but being obedient to the mission rules was. It was really great to see how those missionaries truly took responsibility, and apologized for their actions. I respect them so much, and they are good examples of being able to go through the repentance process while on a mission and still receive miracles. Honestly, the more I meet with and talk to the other missionaries in my zone, the more grateful I am for them. I never thought I could get this attached to a group of people I met only 6 weeks ago, yet here I am. I love the Kaneohe Zone (:

Our investigators and members are doing really well! Leni wasn't able to come to church this Sunday. Her little baby, Serenity was up all night Saturday crying and fusing, and Leni didn't sleep and she got sick. I wish we could've helped her more, but she is set on coming next Sunday. She and her family are so sweet, they have been so prepared by the Lord. She totally has faith in Christ, and it's been amazing to look at her progress record. When they started teaching her and her family in May, she didn't want to get baptized at all, but maybe have Jasmin baptized. Now, only recently has she wanted to get baptized herself, and with that has come faith and really relying on Heavenly Father. She prays all the time, and loves it when we come by. (:

Saturday night has been one of the greatest nights of my mission, so far. We went over to Aunty Lily and Uncle Willy's for dinner with Elder Whitely and Elder Va'enuku, as we do every fourth Saturday. With it being Sister T's last dinner with them, they really made it special. They set up outside a big table, with SO MUCH FOOD, and Aunty Lily's cousin and brother were there. Her brother had a beautiful guitar with him, and we jammed all night. We sang hymns, local Hawaiian songs, and I even was able to sing some of my favorite Beatles tunes! :D There was such a special spirit that night, though, and it was that moment that I realized I was in Hawaii. The lights were dim, and the wind was blowing softly, and it was beautiful. I realized how blessed I was to be sent to this mission, and to LIVE and SERVE the people of Hawaii for 18 months. 

I can't believe I've almost finished my first transfer already. It's so bizarre that Thanksgiving is this week, I honestly had no idea. It's funny how being set apart as a missionary truly sets you apart from the world. Not in a bad way, but just, we don't hear the Christmas music, the commercials for all the black Friday sales. We truly are focused on the people and their needs, and what they need from us. I love this work. I love serving the people here, and the love I feel from them and my Heavenly Father. 

For Thanksgiving, we so far have 4 different dinners to go to. Fun fact: Sister Teuscher gained 7 pounds on Thanksgiving alone last year. Who wants to guess how much I'll be gaining this Thursday? :P I am kinda scared, not gonna lie. I know the Lord will bless me with an extra stomach or 2... I hope. (:

I hope everyone has a very Happy Thanksgiving! I'm so grateful for each and every one of you that have helped me on this journey, whether it was money, words of love and support, or just an email. I love you all. Stay cherry, Arizona!

Hau’oli La Ho’omakika’i,
Sister Noriega <3

Monday, November 17, 2014

The 'Perfect' Week‏

Aloha, friends and family! 

First off, I am SUPER excited for everyone in Arizona right now! I've heard only good reports on the cultural celebration and dedication. I have the Phoenix Temple pic taped to my wall, so I see it everyday. Makes me so excited to go through it when I eventually come home! Congrats to everyone and for your hard work (:

So please excuse me, but I've been up since 3:45am. We went on a hike on Lanikai mountain, or pill box, as a zone to see the sun rise. So funny thing, the mountain is lava rock. And it was pitch black. And nobody remembered flashlights. I might have rolled my ankle... and cut up my legs and arm after almost rolling down the hill... but hey, the Lord kept me alive! It was intense. SO worth it though, we watched the sun and I got some amazing pictures. I think I may be able to send a lot home today :D Then, after the hike we got breakfast, and then we went to Kualoa ranch and took the bus tour and guess what? I WAS IN JURASSIC PARK AND I CRIED BEST DAY EVER AHHHH. I took a picture with one of the scene props. Seriously best day ever oh man. The rest of the stuff was super cool, got a lot of fun pictures. In about an hour we're meeting up and doing a water slide, hopefully no more injuries will occur (:

SO. This week, we taught Leni (the George family). She committed to baptism once more, and we needed her to come to sacrament meeting yesterday in order for her to keep that date. I PRAYED so much. I had a calm feeling, and I just, somehow knew she'd show up. Well, in sacrament on Sunday, she wasn't there. We had done announcements, and started to sing the sacrament hymn, and I was nearly in tears. Just as I was about to say she wasn't coming, I looked up and saw Leni and her 4 little girls walk in. They stayed all 3 meetings, and she had a great time. SO THANKFUL for Heavenly Father and the spirit, for keeping my hopes up and for helping her know that church would be an amazing experience (:

We also went over and taught the Souza family. They were very kind once more, and they let us in and fed us. THEN we brought out the Book of Mormon. They kinda freaked a bit, and started saying that they only worship ONE God, and Christ, and they just kinda went off for a bit. They still want us to come back, but they don't know about Joseph Smith. I wanted to bolt out of there, I was sick to my stomach. It's so hard to teach people who don't want to truly listen to your message, and let us explain ourselves. It's hard, too, when people do not believe Joseph Smith. I personally struggled with the fact that a 14 year old boy saw Christ and Heavenly Father, and supposedly restored the gospel. BUT. I prayed to know the truth, just as Joseph Smith did, and I received an answer. I know without a single doubt in my mind that he DID restore Christ's true church to the Earth once more, and I realized how strong my testimony was when they were telling us that we were wrong. They accused us of "being indoctrinated from birth" and "raised to believe lies" and I was able to say "Umm, actually NO" (but in a nicer way, of course). They turned red, and not gonna lie it was a satisfying moment. 

Patrick, once of our recent converts, received the Aaronic Priesthood on Sunday. He had one of the bishops counselors come and get Teuscher and I from relief society, and it was such a special moment. Patrick has been so prepared by the Lord to be a member, and to serve Him. I cried during the blessing, and just, felt the spirit so strongly. LOVE this gospel!

We had many good lessons this week. Our zone DESTROYED our goals, like for example, we wanted to teach 45 with member lessons. Want go guess how many we ended up teaching? 72! We all worked SO hard, and this is the largest amount of lessons, new investigators, at sacrament, EVERYTHING. The Lord is helping us as we are obedient to the commandments and mission rules. We had that perfect week were prayed and strived for! 

I have tried a few more fruits here, almost puked a few times, but hey it's all good. The food isn't what counts, it's the people. I love everyone here so much, and I am so grateful to be here. I feel myself forgetting myself more often, and losing myself in the work. I finished the Book of Mormon a few days ago, and have since restarted it, and I know with 100% assurance that it is truly the word of God. I know this church is true, and that Heavenly Father loves us and that Christ died for us so we could live with Him again. Love and miss you all so much! 

This holiday season, I challenge everyone to show your gratitude to someone in your life who you are thankful for. Think of a time where someone expressed how grateful they were for you, or something you did for them, and imagine making someone else feel that feeling. (:

'Ofa atu,
Sister Noriega

Monday, November 10, 2014

Raising the Title of Liberty!‏

Aloha once more, everyone!

So, on a really sad note, we didn't go to Jurassic Park today. One of our zone leaders rolled his ankle, and wouldn't be able to do the hike we planned. NEXT MONDAY THOUGH. 

Okay, so anyways, hi! I am doing extremely well this week. Had a few anxiety moments though, they asked me to speak in Sacrament meeting and I was so nervous. They had me talk about my conversion, and I spoke right before a sister who just returned from her mission. She was serving in the California Anaheim Mission, Samoan speaking. She was super sweet, everyone so so happy and excited to have her home. Reminded me how quickly my mission's going to fly, and really put me in perspective. 

Some fun things that happened this week:

We committed 2 of our investigators to baptism! We went into the lesson not planning on it at all, but the Spirit really prompted and led us to do so. Her name is Leni, and she and her family moved here from the Marshallese  islands. Her daughter, Jasmine, loves going to activity days every Wednesday and has a good bond with many people in the church. They taught Jasmine about the Holy Ghost, so we expanded on that topic. There came a point when Leni was saying how much she'd love to have that constant companionship of the HG. Sister Teuscher turned to me, and told me to "pop the question". So I did, and both were very excited! Unfortunately Leni got very sick this weekend and wasn't able to come to church. We are keeping her and her family in our prayers, though (:

On Thursday we had zone conference in Mililani, so we woke up early to drive over there. I found out that Elder Gee is serving in Mililani! So it was cool to see him, hopefully he sent the pictures home to his Mom and she's sharing them. (:
Anyways, we had a full day of training with President and Sister Warner, and I really learned a lot about finding people and the importance of reading the Book of Mormon every single day. Our testimony of the gospel isn't something that we can just have forever as it is in the beginning. We have to constantly strengthen and nourish it, pray, read the scriptures, go to church and all our meetings, and not shy away. It is so easy to lose something as precious as our testimony, and I really realized how important it is to do my daily studies. I am grateful for my time I have to read and ponder the things our Heavenly Father has given us.
It was an extremely long day, and we took so many pictures. Again, can't send pictures this week. I promise, ASAP though!

Friday we went on exchanges with our Sister training leaders, so I went and served with Sister Talanoa in her area. Not too far from where we are, but definitely different. We had service at 9:30am, and our member took us to Denny's for breakfast. She's super sweet, and very talkative! She has a rottweiler who is super fluffy and sweet, named Roxy. Roxy and I played with the hose, it was a lot of fun (: We met a lot of super kind people, and I was happy to meet them. At the same time though, I found myself missing my own area, and wanting to be with my own companion and members. It was such a great day though, I literally met SO MANY DOGS. BEST DAY EVER. But seriously dogs are the best. I loved having that one on one time with Sister Talanoa. She told me "You are a natural missionary. You have the spirit with you so strongly with you when you speak, and you are so genuine. We can all tell how much you love the gospel, everything we talk about, you are able to somehow bring it back to the gospel." I needed that so badly! It felt really great to know I'm doing the Lord's work, and not completely ruining the church :P

Saturday, Sister Teuscher and I went tracting! Most people either ignored us and hid, or they turned us away. I am grateful to be in a place where everyone is very chill and loving, so far no doors slammed in my face! As we were tracting, we knocked on this one door and met this super sweet lady and her husband. They are older, and they're the Souza's. They were so loving and welcomed us into their home, where we talked for about an hour about what we do, and about their lives. They are some of the most Christ-like people I've met, and the spirit told me that they are special. Like. I don't know how to explain it, but it's a good thing (: Phillip (the husband) is an activist, and he just loves to talk. He found out I was Mexican, and he said next time we come over that we'll be discussing the Alamo. (: But seriously, everything they were saying, it was like they were Mormon's already. They prayed with us, and after Sister Teuscher had finished, Phillip continued the prayer. He thanked God for sending us sisters to him and his wife, and thanked us for the work we're doing. He asked Heavenly Father to bless that more people would be willing to hear our message and let us in to invite the Spirit into their lives. He also said the last line in Spanish (and he was holding my hand and said this line because I think he thinks I speak Spanish awkward) and then hugged us. They said next time we come over they'll bake us something and have us eat lunch while we're there. It was just an amazing experience, and I cannot wait to go over and see them again (: 

We had a really amazing FHE with our ward mission leader, Aulani and her family, and Uncle Gabe and Aunty Shelly. We talked about our "Flags of Liberty" and made our own flags. It was sweet, to see what the everyone had written. I'll send a picture of mine when I can! Sya, the 5 year old, he held up the flag from the scriptures and played Captain Moroni. It was THE cutest thing I've ever seen. If you don't know this story, I included it below so you can understand better (: Basically though, Moroni writes on this flag all of the things they will lose when they let the bad guy be king. He writes on the flag all the things he's fighting for. I want everyone to think about what you would write on your own Title of Liberty! 
((seriously I'm terrible at explaining stories though, read the little section I included below))

On my Title of Liberty, I wrote "Family, friends, Christ and His Atonement, Chance of Recovery, the Scriptures, my testimony, and love". Those are my motivators each and every day. I am grateful that I do have these things to fight for, and to motivate me each and every single day.

I am grateful for my life. I am grateful to be in this mission, and to be able to serve the Lord for 18 months in Hawaii. I love everyone here, the people I've met and continue to meet. I love my district, and my zone. I love my mission President, and his guidance and all he does for us. I'm also extremely grateful for Christ and His Atonement, that no matter how many times we've messed up in our lives, we can always come back to God. I love this gospel, and how it has saved my life. Thank you all, for your constant love and support for me! This is the Lord's work, and I know I am where I need to be. (: Love you all!

Ofa atu,
Sister Noriega

Chapter 46
Amalickiah conspires to be king—Moroni raises the title of liberty—He rallies the people to defend their religion—True believers are called Christians—A remnant of Joseph will be preserved—Amalickiah and the dissenters flee to the land of Nephi—Those who will not support the cause of freedom are put to death. About 73–72 B.C.

 And it came to pass that as many as would not hearken to the words of Helaman and his brethren were gathered together against their brethren.

 And now behold, they were exceedingly wroth, insomuch that they were determined to slay them.

Now the leader of those who were wroth against their brethren was a large and a strong man; and his name was Amalickiah.

 And Amalickiah was desirous to be a king; and those people who were wroth were also desirous that he should be their king; and they were the greater part of them the lower judges of the land, and they were seeking for power.

 And they had been led by the flatteries of Amalickiah, that if they would support him and establish him to be their king that he would make them rulers over the people.

Thus they were led away by Amalickiah to dissensions, notwithstanding the preaching of Helaman and his brethren, yea, notwithstanding their exceedingly great care over the church, for they were high priests over the church.

 And there were many in the church who believed in the flattering words of Amalickiah, therefore they dissented even from the church; and thus were the affairs of the people of Nephi exceedingly precarious and dangerous, notwithstanding their great victory which they had had over the Lamanites, and their great rejoicings which they had had because of their deliverance by the hand of the Lord.

Thus we see how quick the children of men do forget the Lord their God, yea, how quick to do iniquity, and to be led away by the evil one.

 Yea, and we also see the great wickedness one very wicked man can cause to take place among the children of men.

10 Yea, we see that Amalickiah, because he was a man of cunning device and a man of many flattering words, that he led away the hearts of many people to do wickedly; yea, and to seek to destroy the church of God, and to destroy the foundation of liberty which God had granted unto them, or which blessing God had sent upon the face of the land for the righteous’ sake.

 11 And now it came to pass that when Moroni, who was the chief commander of the armies of the Nephites, had heard of these dissensions, he was angry with Amalickiah.

12 And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.

 13 And he fastened on his head-plate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land—

Monday, November 3, 2014

It's P-day again?

Aloha, all! (:

I honestly don't know where the week went. Yesterday I could barely believe it was already Sunday again, and now it's p-day. Time is starting to fly a little, and it feels really weird. But we started our P-day off with a trip to the ''beach", as in we did our personal studies sitting on the grass, with sand just a few yards ahead of us. Nobody was there, and it was overcast and BEAUTIFUL. I "pondered" my studies (it was a little nap but hey) for a while, and it was perfect. Gosh I wish I could send pictures, there is no way to describe Hawaii. Even the pictures don't do it justice, I can't wait to bring loved ones back once I come home :D

Our week has been an odd one. Tuesday we went to Papa Warner's house for pancakes as a zone, because we hit our goals woohooo! One of the Elder's made me a Mickey Mouse head pancake, it was cute! Then Sister Teuscher was really sick, so we stayed home a majority of the day. OH BUT BEFORE THAT we went to this place called Tutti Frutti, and literally had THE BEST DOLE WHIP OF MY LIFE. Oh man. Mom, you would love it here.

So Wednesday, many of our appointments fell through. I didn't feel discouraged though, I felt motivated. We have a few struggling recent converts, so this week we really focused on them and their needs. It's so hard, especially with the holidays coming up. These people are so scared about being homeless in a year, and not being able to give their children Christmas. I have been truly humbled, and so very grateful for the little apartment that we do have. That we know we are taken care of, and can afford food every week. I plan on making a lot of Christmas goody-baskets this year, to help out (: 

Halloween was bizarre. We had to stop tracting at 5, so all the missionaries in our zone got together and played sports and ate candy. Apparently I'm really good at handball, which is funny because I don't play sports ever. Here though, it's so much fun! Minimal injuries, lots of laughs, hardly any sleep, it was a successful night (: OH and there's an Elder from Arizona, and he and I both have histories with depression and anxiety, and he's really been able to help me a lot. I was totally put in this area by God, this is no coincidence.

Speaking of, there's a lady named Mapu in Weinberg Village. I may have mentioned this before (but frankly I can't remember so), but her daughter lives about an hour away from here. She's living in a group home, because she has been suicidal and severely self harms herself. Sister T and I talked to our mission president about us driving to visit her, because of where she is and my past with self harm. He approved us to go to Pearl City and see her, and I am SO excited. Mapu was on the phone with her, and said "When I look at Sister Noriega, I see you. I can't wait for you 2 to meet each other". I know that Heavenly Father gives us trials for a bigger purpose. I pray every day that I will be able to help this girl, and connect with her and make a difference. To show her recovery is possible, especially with the gospel. Please pray that we will be safe and have a meaningful and impactful visit with her this Saturday!

I keep trying to think of what else to write. Hmm.

We might be dropping an investigator soon, Papito. He will not pray, and he doesn't focus at all when we're teaching. He's flying through the BoM, but, not progressing. He has been meeting with the missionaries for months. I'm sad about it, and I am starting to see why agency can be extremely sad and frustrating. I pray for him daily as well.
One of our other investigators, though, will be baptized soon! Her name is Sasha, and she turns 10 this Friday. We visited her on Thursday, and Sister T asked "If you could ask Christ for one thing for your birthday, what would it be?" and Sasha replied "to be baptized!" quickly. Soooo (: Hopefully we'll get a date by the end of the week!  

I hope everyone is doing well, and being safe and all that jazz. I miss you all so much, but the Lord has a purpose for me, and I couldn't be more grateful for this opportunity to serve (: I'M FINALLY HALFWAY THROUGH 3RD NEPHI BTW SOOOO THAT'S A HUGE DEAL I'M SO EXCITED YAY

Okay anyways, sorry I'm being random, just. So much happens in a week. I need to be better at journaling, that's my goal!


ofa atu, everyone!
Sister Noriega (actual Hawaiian Princess)