Feliz Dia de Gracias! Wow, there is so much to say and so little time! Like always. First off, sorry to those who I didn't have time to write back to today. I am not feeling super great so I slept most of my P-day and didn't have a lot of time to write letters. So people such as Kimi, Sam/Krista, Grandma/Grandpa, etc., I apologize and will be sure to write to you next week :)
I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving! I know I did. This has been a very great week, but to be honest, with Thanksgiving having been so wonderful, I really can't remember all that much from the rest of the week. It's all a blur in comparison to how great Thursday was! Where to begin? This was probably the best Thanksgiving I've had, even though I was trapped here at the MTC, it really was wonderful. After breakfast we all lined up for the morning devotional. We got in line around 7:45am, though the devotional wasn't to start until 10am. We all knew we were going to be hearing from one of the 12 apostles, so it was crazier than Black Friday at Walmart, I'm sure. There were even announcements before we were allowed in to be sure no one was trampled...they were serious. Even lining up more than 2 hours early, we didn't get the best of seats, but they were good enough. It was pretty exciting/amazing/spiritual when Elder Jeffery R. Holland and his family walked in. Wow. You can't even believe the spirit felt among 2,500 missionaries standing and being completely silent as an apostle of the Lord walks in, especially one so beloved as Elder Holland. It was amazing. His family put on an amazing program for us and of course the best part was hearing from him at the end. Here is just a tiny portion of all the notes I was able to jot down:
· We are Christ's family. That is why He died for us. He wants to live with us again. He loves us so much.
· You do not need a vision to know - don't be a "doubting Thomas"
· To be of real service to your Father in Heaven, you must have a deep testimony and conviction of both Christ and of the Book of Mormon. Always turn to Christ and to the Book of Mormon.
· Missionary work is not just about bringing the gospel to God's children, but we are literally preparing for the coming of the Messiah
· This truly is the greatest dispensation. God touches the earth through His prophets and that is what He did through Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith taught us more about the living Christ than any other man in the history of written language, and he did it in just 38 years.
· God knows us by name. Names are so important to Him. Never doubt that He knows you.
· D&C 133:44-53 (this is amazing - everyone should read it) We have been carried by the Lord.
I have so much more I want to share...but so little time :(
After the devotional we had a great Thanksgiving lunch, then a special Thanksgiving program, some free time outside, then a Service program, then a sack-lunch dinner in our rooms, then a Service project in the Cafeteria, followed by a "Special Program". Lots of programs, lots of sitting, but so much of the spirit and so wonderful! Especially because it was so different than our regular schedule and having a break after 6 weeks of the same thing was really nice. The Thanksgiving program was sort of ridiculous, with a skit about the Native Americans and the Pilgrims as well as singing, conversion stories, and more singing! Lots of fun. We spent our free time going on a walk as a district, and reading out loud in Spanish from the Book of Mormon, and of course, taking lots of pictures. Hopefully I'll have time to send them next week. The Service Program was really powerful, showing what we were to be doing for our service project that evening, about the people in Mali it was going towards, and about how service is the way we worship God, as well as come closer together with our fellowman. It was very powerful. The Service project was soooo great! I loved it. We assembled education and health kits for children in Mali and it was so great! The spirit I felt serving alongside so many other missionaries on the day of thanksgiving was just so overwhelmingly beautiful. There is so much to be thankful for, and what better way to show thanks by serving others. I want to make it a tradition to always find some sort of service to be involved in on Thanksgiving day. I think there is no better way to spend a day of thanks. For the "Special Program", we ended up watching a movie with popcorn for everyone! It was a wonderful surprise and we were all very excited. We watched 17 Miracles, which I had never seen, but wow, it's really great. If you haven't seen it, you should. I definitely bawled. That's ok though, everyone else was crying too :)
It was such a good day. It's been a great week too. We haven't taught a lot this week, but our investigators are progressing pretty well. My Spanish is improving (though I have so far to go) and our teaching is improving. I am learning how to recognize and respond to the Holy Ghost always, and not just when it is felt very strongly for a few brief moments. Following the spirit every moment of your mission is essential for success, and if you want it to be the Lord's mission, and not your own, which is exactly what I want. We must remember to delight, ponder, and continue (2 Nephi 4:15-16). Revelation is real. We can know the mysteries of God, all it requires is all of our faith and love (Jacob 4:48). In the lyrics Come Thou Fount (what we sang in choir this week), it uses the word "fetter", like what you do to a bird so it won't fly away. My heart often wanders, and I want so badly to fetter my heart to the Lord. I know this work is real and this gospel is as "real life" as it ever gets.
Hermana Alyssa Escalante