This letter was written to a very good friend of ours by my daughter in law who served a mission to Chile. Hermana Guerrero is currently serving a mission in Mexico. Megan (my daughter in law) wrote this letter to Sophia in hopes of encouraging her and helping her deal with the struggles of learning a new language in the mission field.
Your mission sounds amazing, humbling and difficult! I am writing this letter to you in hopes that it will help lift your spirits.
I can honestly say that I know exactly what you are going through right now. I left the MTC thinking that I knew spanish. I knew that I wasn't an expert by any means but I felt like I understood my teachers for the most part when they spoke spanish and I felt confident that I would be able to talk with people and share my testimony. And man was I so wrong! I got to Chile and the trainer I was assigned to was from El Salvador and didn't speak a lick of english, and we lived alone. It was more difficult than I anticipated. I wasn't able to understand not only her but anyone else we talked to. I couldn't speak spanish enough to express myself. I couldn't teach in our lessons, or even have a basic conversation to contact someone in the street. I quickly lost all the confidence I had in my spanish and knew that I had a long way to go before I would be fluent. But not only did I lose my confidence, I felt so alone. I mean I couldn't even have a normal conversation with my companion! She thought I was so quiet but in reality it's just because I had no idea how to say things in spanish! I felt like I wasn't serving my purpose as a missionary to Invitar a otros a venir a Cristo. how could I invite someone to come unto Christ without being able to speak to them? I never wanted to go home and leave the mission, but I felt useless and questioned why I was there if I couldn't do anything to help. I cried more in those first few months that I have in my whole life. I never prayed and pleaded so much with my Heavenly Father for help than in those moments.
It was in my first 2 months as a missionary that I really learned a few important points of the gospel.
1. Hermana Guerrero, remember that your Heavenly Father loves you, so much. More than we will ever be able to know. He has not left you alone no matter how alone you feel right now. You have been blessed with the gift of the Holy Ghost so now is the time to use it! Get down on your knees every morning and night and ask for comfort, strength and the knowledge of His love for you. I promise it will come to you. The following is an experience I had during this time.
There was one night, I was sitting on my bed after a long day. I had maybe understood about 10% of what was going on that day. I was so frustrated because my companion had asked me to participate in a lesson. So, I told her I would say the first vision. I practiced all day. I went over it in my head time after time when finally the moment came to do it in the lesson. I was a little nervous but I started, and after the second line, I completely forgot the order. I started saying it all wrong and finally just jumped to the end and finished it. I was not only embarrassed but so upset that these people needed to hear the message we had and I knew how important the first vision was in this moment, and I blew it. I completely butchered it. But that night as I sat on my bed writing in my journal, I decided to get down on my knees and pray, I poured out my whole soul, and of course that was accompanied by tears. But near the end of the prayer, I felt as if someone had put their arm around me and I felt a warmth come over my heart. I remember knowing that it didn't matter that I had messed up, my Heavenly Father loves me and is here for me no matter what. And despite the frustration day after day with Spanish, I felt at peace knowing that one day it wouldn't be like that!
2. Along with your Heavenly Father loving you, he didn't send you to Mexico to fail. He would never set us up for failure. Like it says in 1 Nefi 3:7, the Lord always prepares a way for us. He has prepared a way for you! You have been called to serve at this time and in Mexico because the people need you. But he never said the road he prepared would be easy. You will struggle day in and day out to learn spanish, but once again like it says in the scriptures, you learn line upon line, precept upon precept. One day you will understand a little bit more. or you will be able to speak a little more, until one day you will be walking along and realize, oh my gosh, I just participated in that whole lesson and you didn't even realize it! There is light at the end of the tunnel I promise!!
3. Preach My Gospel is amazing! Read Chapter 7, it's all about Learning a Language. And it gives you great ideas! It talks about creating a language study plan! Make daily, weekly and monthly goals. I started small, like writing down words I heard that I didn't understand and then at night before I went to bed I would look them up and try to memorize them the next day. I also made it a goal with my companion to look at our scheduled lessons and make sure I had a part going into it. That way the days leading up to it I could prepare. For example, if we were going to teach the Restoration, I would say ok I want 2 parts. so, she would assign me to teach profetas and the book of mormon. Then I could prepare, write down how I would explain things and then practice them with her! I would practice them like 3-4 times a day with her. Practice practice, practice! Practice until you want to cut your tongue off haha!! Also, when you have a plan, the Lord is more able to help you! Say a personal and a companionship prayer before going into a lesson and specifically ask for help with the language and that the spirit will prompt you to remember the things that you studied.
4. Remember how many people are praying for you. Think about all the people in Sacramento that love you and are praying for you everyday. Think about us in Utah. Think about how in every temple session, they pray for the missionaries. Now think of how many temples there are in the world and how many sessions they do a day! Remember all of the families in the church that pray for missionaries on a daily basis. You have millions upon millions of people praying for you every day! That is truly amzing. Michael and I have put your name in the temple so that is only added prayers coming your way! We are all here for you and helping the ways that we can.
5. I'll end with this for now. In chapter 6 of PMG(Preach my gospel). Man this chapter is the chapter of all chapters! I loved this one. Under the Christlike attribute Faith it says, "Faith is a principle of power. God works by power, but His power is usually exercised in response to faith. He works ACCORDING to the faith of His children. Doubt and fear are opposed to faith. "Put your faith and trust in the Lord that he is going to help you. Study and practice the language. Do all that you can and then put it back on Him. Pray, and say, Heavenly Father, I have given 120% today in learning the gospel and everyday for that matter, so please help me today.......You will be amazed at what you say! I promise you, that if you put your faith in the Lord and don't doubt, he will bless you with the gift of tongues. You will be able to understand people more clearly and speak without thinking about it.
Never stop trying! I know it is rough right now, but it will get better I promise! Just keep trusting the Lord, remember how much he loves you and how much all of us love you. We are all supporting you and the Lord will make sure that you are successful!
Ciao Hermana! Te quiero!