Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I Can See Brazil !!


Well, this week marks my departure from my beloved Mariano Roque Alonso... 
Changes came faster than the blink of an eye!

So where am I now? A beautiful place called PEDRO JUAN!  I am literally living 3 blocks from the border of Brazil... In fact, I see Brazil everyday!! :) Which means now I've got the way cool opportunity to learn Portuguese and Guarani... So, I'm giving those a go!!

I'm almost 8 hours away from Mariano and everything is very different here - but I am so beyond excited to be here and serve, serve, serve!!  After all, that's why I'm here, right?! :)

Here in Pedro Juan, I am actually opening a new area and training...  Usually the way changes normally work is one companion stays and a new comp comes in... that way, there is always someone that knows the area and can show the arriving missionary around. But in my case, I am here to train and learn this area desde zero (starting from zero) for the next few changes. It will definitely a challenge, but we are oh-so-excited!!

We are making new friends all ready!!  

My new friend, Luana!

We had a baptism last week and we are preparing for another one this Saturday. There is a lot to do and we are just going to move forward and try our very best!!

My new Branch

Hna Mera is staying in Mariano with Hermana B, AND Hna Mera is actually going to finish training Hermana B!!  They really are stellar missionaries!! :) 

I've been so grateful for the time that I had in Mariano Roque Alonso... so extremely grateful. I have never learned so much before in my life and I had a District that was just too good to be true!! Haha!  I learned so much about companionship, hard work, the blessing of opposition, the blessing of discipleship, and of the atonement of our Savior. And now, I can't even wait to find out what the Lord has in store to learn here in Pedro Juan! 

I'll have to introduce you to my companion and share more stories next week... but, until then... Be good!!!! and make good choices!! :)

I love you ALL!!
Hermana Fardos

Monday, May 18, 2015

Such a Fantastic Week!!


Wowwww!!... This week has ben a great week to be alive and well in Paraguay!! :)

Changes are coming this week, I really can't believe how fast the time goes sometimes. But, our District was determined to finish off this change with a bang!! :) Full of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, beautiful people, lovely Paraguay, and a Heavenly Father who is perfect and NEVER makes mistakes!! 

Lets start with the BEST part! :) We went and spent a day with the native tribe called the MAKA, they are a native group here in Mariano.  They are self sufficient and they are still very strong in their culture and traditions, they understand castellano (Spanish) and some speak it, but the native lanuage they speak is Maka.

They had a big celebration this last week for Mothers Day and also to celebrate the birthday of the "Chief's" wife and they decided to invite us. We decided that if we were all to go, it should have something also to do with missionary work, because after all that is why we are here :) So the Elders spoke to the leaders asking if we could take some time to share our message with them too... and they gave us the go! :D

Above photo of Maka people taken from the Internet

We walk in and EVERYONE is decorated in feathers, head dresses, beads, belts, painted faces, with instruments of every type.. what a sight!! :) Everyone was so warm, their smiles, their spirits, it felt surreal to be there.  We met up with Saqueo (he is married to one of the Leaders daughters) and he brought us in, let us drop off our stuff and then he invited us to come and dance....

There was a big pole with banners and everything all around and everyone started forming a big circle and everyone participated in this dance, all singing in Maka, (It was like a scene in Pocahantas! but, I was John Smith!!  Haha... the only blonde person there!! Haha!) It was so special!!  Elder Carpio, Elder Caicedo, Elder Calderon, and I decided that we had to get in on some of that... so we entered the circle and danced with them and WOW, it was so awesome, I didn't want it to end!!

Then they took a break and the woman participated in their own dance, while all the men got together in their groups and began playing their instruments... and it all came together into a beautiful rythm and vibe that was so contagious. It was so beautiful to watch these people in their element and feel part of it!

They took a break in the afternoon to eat lunch, and we took that as our cue to return the favor and share something that is dear and special to us... :)  It felt like we were in another world and another time :)  All 7 of us missionaries stocked our bags full of folletos, Books of Mormon, pass along cards, and mouths and hearts ready to be opened and we grabbed our bags, split up and began to share what we had. 

In that moment of mutual sharing and genuine affection, I could see just how beautiful and special every single one of these people really are, I felt like my eyes were fine tuned or replaced with more spiritual ones.  We found a handful of people in particular that actually received our message and wanted more than the our brief summary, these people actually wanted to really know more and were maybe prepared to act on their interest! :) 

I don't think a single one of us wanted to leave that day, it was just so special and so beautiful, and so surreal!! :)

To finish out our week, as a District, we decided that we all wanted to run the Puente Remanso, a long bridge that crosses the river.  So our District Mariano, woke up at 5 o'clock  this morning and we all met up at 5:30 to watch the sunrise and finish the last week we all have together strong. 

Above photo of the Puente Remanso Bridge (photo from the Internet)

Photo of Lauren's Zone and District
 Lauren has loved this District!!

Talk about another surreal moment.... it just felt so good to be at the highest point of that bridge, over looking the river, with the sun coming up, surrounded by awesome missionaries.  It just felt like a big animo (encouragement to the soul) boost from on high. I talked with one of the Elders and we had the conversation about, what if we never came out here... we wouldn't have gotten to experience ANY of this... the Maka celebration, the beautiful Paraguayan families that we love so much, this sunrise, and we would have never learned all of these beautiful lessons we have learned here on the mission.  We wouldn't have come to know our Heavenly Father like we are coming to know him here and now. 

I love this work!!  This work is the Fathers, the Harvest is His! :) And we have the blessed opprotunity to thrust in the sickle and help Him with the best part!  This work brings joy - pure, raw, genuine, lasting JOY! :) Why? Because it is something so beyond the superficial, it is salvation we are talking about.  When we can help other people come to know and taste of the sweetness of the gospel, the richness of their Savior's love... we too, will feel that celestial joy in abundance. Look for missionary moments! :) They surround you! They do not have to be big things, they can be small.... after all, its by small and simple things that great things are brought to pass!!! (also read DC 64:23-24) Let us share our testimonies, in small and simple ways. Let us serve others, let us pray for these mometns and pray tyo recognize them as they come. I promise that as you do... you will taste something sweeter than sweet, a sweetness so special that it leaves you looking for moe- continuing to do the necessary to be able to have that special sweet addition to your life!

I love you guys:)
Hermana Fardos

Monday, May 11, 2015

Just Another Day in Paradise!!

WoW!! Family, 

I just want to start by saying that it was oh-so-good to see your beautiful faces... you guys are amazing!! :) I am so very over-the-moon grateful! (I feel like mom saying that! Ha!! :D)  I am also really glad that you have now gotten to hear all of the "me setting a jewel shop on fire" story, so now you can tell everyone how that went and Mom can be at ease! ;)

We have power now, which is a fantastic thing.... but we haven't had hot water since this all began, so, yeah we still dont have any of that.  We ARE working on it though, and this week, if all goes well, we should have hot water too!! :) :) :)  (hoping that means no more gripe or sickness por culpa of the ice water)

I know I mentioned on SKYPE and in last week's update about our house flooding and about how all of my books got ruined.... just completely r-u-i-n-e-d, to the  point of not being able to save some.  That was a really hard thing for me to accept... my personal study journals and my scriptures in particular... have become my best friends and being without them really hurt... it was heartbreaking to see my personal study journals just blank,  completely empty because the ink literally washed away, it was devastating to see the pages of my scriptures falling out because they no longer stick to the bindings...  I worked so hard on those scriptures and I worked so hard to be diligent in all of my personal studies and recorded all of my thoughts, my learning moments, and personal revelation that I received. It's all gone, and I really feel the loss.

But this week, I was given some special insight that gave me such peace. This week we traveled to the Temple to visit the Distribution Center to buy all my books again (Book of Mormon, Bible, Preach My Gospel, etc), we got home and we opened all those new books up and at first it was so intimidating... so many pages needing to be reread and remarked.... but just as quickly that meed (fear) faded and I got the biggest wave of excitement and eagerness to read!  I felt the confirmation of the Spirit that these last 12 weeks have been growing weeks... experience after experience after experience.... but all of them were for my benefit -- IF I sought out the Lord and looked for those doors that He was opeing for me. I felt that all these experiences have prepared me to read and study with a new set of eyes, if you will... A new perspective.  And now the Lord was telling me, "Hey, try it again, one more time. And if you let me, I will show it all to you a little differently - and you will learn even more and I will expand and illuminate your mind and heart with my words and wonders".

And I know that this promise I felt is the same promise extended to each and every one of us if we take the time to read the scriptures and diligently look for guidance of our Heavenly Father.  He is opening doors and is ready to illuminate our minds so we can grow and have a special, personal revelation every time we open up the scriptures. 

I also just wanted to share with you guys how special this book, The Book of Mormon, is to me... it is everything to me! :) I now have experience and I can testify that I know what it is like to have The Book of Mormon with you as your constant companion  - and I also know now, what it's like to be without it... and that difference is enormous!!  I know this book is insipred, I know that the words written on those precious pages are pure and raw revelation received from prophets of God, that those words were preserved, protected, fought for, and that it is sealed by the very lives of those who fought to keep it AND the lives of those who translated the plates so that we could have access to this fountain of perfect help, knowledge, releif and guidance or whatever we need that fountain to be. That book may seem like just a book, but it is so much more and I invite you all to experiment just how special those words can be. Through humble prayer, diligent study, and appropriate reflection... we all can grow and learn about all our Heavenly Father has in store.

I love you all!
Keep on keeping on!!!

Until next Monday! :)
Hna Lauren Fardos

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Crazy Life That Is My Mission!


Well, let me tell you a little bit about the crazyness that is my mission life.....

Our power went out a week ago because we turned on the water heater for the shower and the little air conditioner in our bedroom at the same time.  So, for the next 3 days we were totally in the dark... our little house was only lit with candles on various plates. Haha. I'm sure from the outside we must have looked like brujeria (witchcraft) or something because we had all the windows open, with candles and wax everywhere, and the three of us were all huddled on the floor around the candles... We were trying to use the light to study or write in our journals.  I felt a little like such a gypsy!  Haha!!

Anyways, I decided that I would just go play with the main brakers on the street and sure enough after playing with a few, we found ours and we had power... but only for one night.  Sure enough, in the morning around 7:00, the power went out again - we didn't even have anything plugged in or turned on, it just went out... so we just continued again without power. 

When we were approaching the 6th day without power, the guys from the joyeria (we live behind the joyeria or jewelry store) were kind enough to lend us a shop light, like a long extension cord with a light bulb, so we could have some light in our house! :)

Saturday finally came around and we were just so excited to get to church the next morning - we had so many great plans and were so looking forward to the many people who were planning to be there this week!  But, sure enough, in the middle of the night (about 1:00 in the morning) I felt something wet hit my head...  yup, it was raining!!  It rained so hard that our house started leaking!!  Haha!  And the rain, the thunder and the lightning did not stop!!

Sunday morning, rain is still falling... We got ready and put our boots on (btw, Thanks Mom for the perfect timing of your packages! Haha! I totally needed those boots - big time!!) and we left for church... only to find that our normal route was FLOODED so bad!  So, we decided to take some backstreets and see if they were any better... they weren't!  We were going to have to swim either way!!  Haha!  So I climbed up the neighbors fences and told my comps "You guys.. We are going to church!!"  And they were with me!  They followed, and we scaled the fences until we got to a spot were we could hop off (it totally felt like a Hermana Indiana Jones moment).  I went first to see were we could walk and after I took two steps forward, I stepped into the biggest ditch (you couldn't even see it), and completely fell in the water - up to my neck and waist-deep when I stood up!!  After battling the rivers of Mariano for half an hour, we finally made it to church :) only to find that we and the Elders were the only ones there!!  After waiting a little while, a few other families came and we had a very small, very sweet testimony meeting.

So, even though we had to scale the top of fences and swim through Paraguayan rain rivers to get to church, it was all great because we got to participar de la santa cena (partake of the sacrament).  Being there after all that effort, it really hit me, just how important the sacrament is, and just how important it is to get to church... rain or shine, because that sacrament, representing the atoning sacrifice of our Savior, is there and it is waiting for us! :)  And this made it the most special Sacrament Meeting I have ever been to in my life.  Never have I ever had to fight and try so hard to get to church... it really just put it all in perspective for me - just how important and special the sacrament is! :)  It's the most important reason to go, not to socialize, not to get dressed up and show off our spirituality... it's to renew the covenants that we have made with our Father in Heaven, and recommit to take on the name of Christ.

There's so much more to tell about the craziness this week, but I'm running out of time... I'll try to elaborate more during next week's update.  I'll just paraphrase and tell you that this week I also ended up setting the jewelry shop on fire, then after finding a key, I entered without permission, put out the fire, and had to talk with the Paraguayan authorities... :)  The good news is that I'm not in jail and I was able to share the Book of Mormon with them! :D  The bad news is, I also didn't get to tell you all about our house getting flooded and EVERYTHING we own -- every book, every journal, every single thing got soaked!!  

(drying out our stuff)

Oh, and I have now cut a field with just a machete!

At the end of the day, God is perfect and he never makes mistakes!  :)  So we will see what blessings or miracles take place because of all of this craziness!! 

I love you guys so much and I love this gospel so much!  I know that this church is the church of Jesus Christ and that we are in His loving hands and He will forever guide us, He will never leave us or lead us astray.  We just have to give heed unto His counsel and seek His will :)  I testify that the sacrament, is oh-so-important... to me, it is the most important moment and opprotunity we are given every week! :) I pray that every single one of us can continue trying to make that sacrament more and more meaningful.. becuase it can be.  It is powerful! :) Pray often, read daily, and attend regularly. 

I love you all!!

Hermana Fardos

On our Mothers Day SKYPE this passed week, Lauren elaborated on her stories and asked me to share the details from the fire and flood mentioned above... The shop light given to the girls by the jewelry store had outlets (like a power strip) on it, so the girls tried to plug other items in, when all of a sudden, they heard a pop, the power went out again, and Lauren said she knew immediately there was a fire... so she got up and started looking around...  when she looked at the jewelry store, she could see smoke start billowing up inside.  She ran over and was going to try to climb in through a raised window so she could put the fire out.  As she was climbing, she found a key, and it fit the lock.  She entered the shop, but the alarm started to sound.  A neighbor tried to help, and thought cutting the alarm wire would stop the noise, but, it's a jewelry shop... and their alarm system was wired anticipating a potential thief might cut the wire - so the alarm just got louder and signaled the police.  When the officials arrived, they were able to explain everything... and although they set the fire, entered the store without permission, and cut the alarm wire... they were able to avoid an arrest, and somehow segued into a discussion about missionary service and coming unto Christ! :D

When the girls were returning home from a full day on Sunday (after all ready navigating the rain rivers in Mariano), they could see the water and debris had moved closer and closer to their little house.  And when they finally arrived home, they were in about 10 inches of water.  Outside of a small kitchen table, a desk, and beds; they have no furniture... so all of their stuff is on the floor.  Their suitcases under their beds and their books and papers in crates on the ground... When they entered their house all of their journals, books, study material, etc was just floating.  They were all heartbroken, but fortunately Lauren's companions are relatively new to the mission, just one and two changes each of them... but, Lauren lost 9 months, half of her mission's journals, studies, letters, inspirations and personal revelations that she had recorded.  This was a hard loss.  Fortunately for Lauren, she is Lauren... and being Lauren, she's quick to find any possible positive outcome, and she's also just as quick to forget the hardship of her challenges... and given a moment to just be her, with the help of the Lord, she will see miracles and this experience will not be wasted on her!  

I am so grateful for this girl!!