Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Going home.

Hellooooo everyone!

So...............this is my last update from the mission. I am going home this coming week.

Just about 2 weeks after I got to my area in Reu, I found out that my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. It was a huge shock and it was really hard to handle - I was just getting used to the mission and adjusting, and then dealing with that news at the same time! It was pretty rough and pretty overwhelming at times. I was seriously thinking about going home after I got that news, but decided that I would stay, at least for another change, and keep moving forward on my mission. It was great after that! I felt like I could really focus and dive into missionary work, and we saw some pretty amazing miracles there in July.

Then, just a few weeks ago, I got another update that my Dad's condition was much more serious than previously thought and, long story short - I'm coming home this week.

This decision did not come easily and without many desperate, tear-filled prayers and a very inspired trip to the temple in the middle of it. I had the feeling that I needed to be home with my family, but that conflicted with the calling I had as a missionary, to put aside all personal affairs and lose oneself in the service of the Lord. But after lots and lots of tears and prayer, I made the decision to come home, and I feel at peace with it.

I am beyond words with how grateful I am for this experience I have had as a missionary. It's only been 3 months, but I have learned and grown so much. Most of all - I gained my testimony here on the mission.

My testimony was decent before I came on the mission - I knew I loved the Lord and I loved the church, but there were parts where I wanted it to be strengthened and solidified, and my prayers were definitely answered. I have a testimony that Joseph Smith really was a true prophet. That he was chosen to bring forth the restored gospel to the Earth again - the same that was on the Earth when Christ was here. That the blessings available for the people who come to a knowledge of this truth are amazing and because of this truth, we have the guidance of a living prophet to help us on this journey back to our loving Heavenly Father.

I know that He lives, I know that He loves us and I know that His love extends to every single one of his children, no matter where they are. I am so incredibly grateful for the people I have met and the miracles I witnessed here in Retalhuleu. I just hope I was able to make some sort of difference in the lives of the people we taught. I certainly tried and testified with my whole heart.

I am very anxious to be home to go through this challenge together as family and I know that our loving Heavenly Father is watching over us.

Sorry that this mission blog was pretty short! But I am very grateful for my mission - and I will never forget it.

LOVE YOU ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-Hermana Layton

p.s. no pictures this week. But I had one of the Elders recover almost all of my photos!! But at the risk of them being erased again...I'm just going to wait until I get home to post them haha.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Skipped a week...

Helloooooo everyone!

Sorry I didn't update last week! It's been an interesting couple of weeks!

Well these weeks have been good! Just working hard, same old stuff. We had an investigator get baptized this past weekend - Victor. He had been coming to church with his friend and that family who are members in the ward and really wanted to get baptized. He had investigated the church before, maybe 5 years ago, and now just started to check it out again and he felt that desire to be baptized.

He is really an example of people who are prepared and ready to accept the gospel. Sometimes I think missionaries get too discouraged or pushy when people do not want to listen or don't want to come to church - but the conclusion is that it's just not their time and that's ok. There really are people out there who are ready and prepared to hear the gospel and have it in their lives, and it's just our job to find them. Not force our religion on every person we meet. It was really nice to see him and his genuine desire to just be better in his life and receive that answer that this really is true. It was great.

I had a ton of photos to upload from the past few weeks, since my connector cord wasn't working, but guess what. All of them are now ERASED. I tried uploading them and they were erased. So...hopefully I can get them back somehow. But in your heads just imagine us at a baptism, doing this presentation of the Restoration for the stake with little kids and a big Goliath, me chopping wood for a member and more green fields. Use your imagination.

Love you all!!!!!

-Hermana Layton

Monday, August 3, 2015

WE WENT TO TACO BELL GUYS!! ...Oh yeah and mission stuff too

Hello!!

Another week has passed and we're in August. Don't know how that happened! But yeah it was a pretty good week!

We had a multi-zone conference on Thursday with different messages and speakers and it was really uplifting and nice. We also, in the middle of the conference, Skyped with a former missionary from that area who, in the past couple months, had been in the hospital for about 10 or so different surgeries on his abdomen for some problem. It was really touch and go with him for a while and we fasted as a whole mission a couple times for him - Elder Kevin Portillo. But he is out of the hospital now and recovering and he's going to be just fine and we all Skyped with him at the conference! He gave a really powerful testimony about how the mission changed his life and how he relied on the Savior and His Atonement during his hospital stays and thanked us for the support. I think everyone was in tears. I did not get to know him since he left the mission before I got there, but it was pretty amazing and I'm so glad he's doing better.

Today for P-day, we went to Mazate, which is another area just about an hour from Reu and we went to TACO BELL OH MY GOSH IT WAS SO GREAT AND IT DIDN'T TASTE ANY DIFFERENT AND I HOPE I DON'T DIE OF PARASITES OR SOMETHING BUT IT WAS SO GREAT.

Yeah Mazate has a bunch of the fast food chains there like Taco Bell, Wendy's, Pizza Hut, Dominos and a Burger King. And of course McDonald's. But that's nothing new.

All in all, it was a good week! Just moving forward and learning new things every day. I really appreciate all the letters and support from everyone. They really mean a lot. :)

LOVE YOU ALL!!!!!!!!!

-Hermana Layton

Super scary bridge that we couldn't end up crossing because it broke on the other end

Me and Hermana Mendoza at the conference in the super huge new church building in the area San Felipe

More green fields of La Bendicion

Offering our peaches to Ronald McDonald.  He didn't accept them.  Jerk. 

Playing pool with Hermana Mendoza and Hermana Saenz
Aww man I had a picture of the Taco Bell, but my stupid piece of crap camera cord isn't being read by the computer at the moment.  It's temperamental like that.  But maybe next week. 

LOVE YOU ALL!!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Another video!

video
We're in a Tuc-tuc. :)

Another Week!

Hello!!

Well this week has been good! Not tooooooo much to update, just same old missionary stuff.

We had a baptism this weekend of a girl named Marializ who is 9. Her family is starting to come back to church after visiting with them and they all came to her baptism on Saturday. It was really, really nice because her Mom is often just stressed and kind of cold when we come to visit. But she was smiling almost the whole time at the baptism and she gave both of us huge hugs out of nowhere and just seemed way happier than we had seen her. It was nice to see the whole family come together like that for their daughter.

We also had another sweet, little experience this week. The bishop's wife is currently sick in the hospital. They don't know exactly what the problem is, but she was in there for the whole weekend, so my companion and I went to the hospital to visit her on Sunday. We went into her room, which consisted of 6 people in beds to a room and visited with her for a bit with some other members of the ward who came. Then we decided to sing a hymn with her and say a prayer so we sang "I am a Child of God". The Spirit hit me like a ton of bricks. It was very strong. We then went and gave a hug to the other patients in the room and their families and they all thanked us so much for coming. It was a really special moment and I hope it gave them some peace.

Other than that, not much else is going on! I'm slowly but surely getting the hang of this whole missionary thing. Probably just in time for transfers in 3 weeks when everything will change again. Maybe. Who knows! Until then, I'm just trying to keep going forward and try to be a better missionary every day. I really, genuinely, am trying to teach the best way I can and try to have the Spirit with me and just teach as if Christ himself were teaching them. It's definitely a skill, but it all just boils down to loving every person you come in contact with because you know you're all children of the same loving Heavenly Father. So......yeah trying to do that. :)

Love you all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-Hermana Layton

SPONGEBOB!

MariaLiz

In a tuc-tuc


Note from Hermana Layton: "Also i just watched this from lds.org - can you link it to my blog post too? It's kind of extremely relevant and gave me all sorts of warm fuzzies."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Video from Hermana Layton

video
LIZ!!  I couldn't send this video so I uploaded it here - hopefully it shows up??  It's us on a bus coming back from a place called Boxoma and this song came on that I LOVEEEEE and I don't know what it's called and I didn't know the lyrics so I couldn't sing them in the video haha.  But they play it ALL THE TIME here.  It goes, "Y tu sin mi, y yo sin ti, dime quien puede ser feliz?" and something else.  AH.  I love it.  So yeah there ya go!


Mmmmyellloowwsssss from Guatemalaz!

Ok, maybe I should be more formal with my blog post titles.......or maybe not.

But hello! Another week has passed and it was QUICK. These weeks go by really fast, I'm not going to lie. I guess that's what happens when basically every second of your day is planned out.

But yes this week was good. The highlight was the baptism of Hermano Salomon on Saturday. He and his family came, as well as the mission president and tons of people from the ward. Hermano Salomon also made AHMAHZING corn bread and tamales for it, so that was pretty great also.

I feel like I should add/edit my explanation of Salomon's baptism from last post. I feel like I literally have zero time to write, so I went back and read it and I was like - hmm, I should explain that better.

I made it seem like he had weird reasons to wait to get baptized and didn't really understand the importance of it - no he did. He waited because he is 76 years old and will not be told what to do, of course! And because he knows it is an important step in his life and there was definitely some fear of him feeling like he's going to screw up after his baptism. But his faith kept growing, week after week, and, with the support of his family, he was baptized this Saturday. His wife, Luisa, gave the closing prayer and this woman - who is normally pretty rough and very direct - was in tears sobbing for how grateful she was now that her husband was baptized. She also told me how she hopes that they both make it to a year from now so they can be sealed together for eternity in the temple. I might have sobbed.

This mission has definitely increased my faith and testimony in baptism. As missionaries, we invite people to be baptized from the first or second lesson. And that seemed extremely early for me when I first came here and it made me uncomfortable. But as I kept going and learning, I just learned more about how important it is in the gospel of Christ. When He came to earth, He was baptized. And He walked miles and miles to find the person who had the proper authority to do it - John the Baptist. And in almost every teaching that is recorded in the Bible and Book of Mormon, He invites people to come unto Him, be cleansed of their sins and to be baptized. It is an essential step for everyone and the first step on the journey back to our loving Heavenly Father. That is His ultimate goal for all of us - to return back to Him, happy with our families.

So yeah this week was good. I'm very proud of the zone I am in - all of the missionaries and the zone leaders we have work really hard and we feel like a family. We all fasted as a zone this past Friday to support all of the people planning to be baptized this weekend. It was pretty powerful.

So anyway - again, feeling like I have zero time - I hope that clarified a little bit of the sanctity that is baptism. It was a very spiritual day and one I will not forget.

Thank you for all of your letters!!! Love you all!!!!!!!!

-Hermana Layton

Hermano Salomon baptism 1

Hermano Salomon baptism 2

Ermahgerd I'm in love with the bread

Driving back in a covered pickup with Hermana Eaton from Wyoming!  It's her first change.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Such miraclezzz this weekzz

Hello everyone!!

Well this week was definitely better than last week. Shocker. But yes, definitely better this week. I felt way more focused and energized to work and it was a lot easier. And on top of that - there were just tons of miracles this week.

Miracle #1
One of our long-term investigators - Salomon - finally decided on a baptism date. He's the bishop's dad in our ward. My companion said that he started coming to church with his family earlier this year and has been more and more interested, but never gave us a baptism date. He always said he wanted to be sure beforehand and didn't want to be rushed. Which is completely fine! But this week he decided. Last month he said he decided he was going to be baptized for sure, but wanted to wait until the end of the month because he was doing this diabetes treatment or something and he wanted to have cake at his baptism....so he was waiting until July. Long story short, the treatment didn't make much of a difference so he decided to get baptized. So he is scheduled to be baptized this Saturday, July 18. :)

Miracle #2
Another one of our investigators came to church with us on Sunday. We've been teaching her for a while, for over 4 months, and she's always been very interested and positive. She knows that the Book of Mormon is true and has a testimony, but just hasn't come to church yet. We didn't know if she felt nervous because she doesn't know anyone or if it was too much to get on the bus in the morning to come, or what it was. But she finally came with us this Sunday. :)

Miracles #3 & #4
Just two small moments this week. First, we talked to this one girl briefly who works at this paper store in our area and we started just giving here a quick message about prayer and she all of the sudden burst into tears and said that we were an answer to her prayer. She said that she moved down here from home and is starting a new job and is very stressed and said she was praying for help and said we were her answer. 
 
Second, we were walking home at the end of the night and the place where we live is right in the center of Reu and is surrounded by bars. There's always music blaring from all corners - I love it actually. But we were walking home and there was a woman sitting in front of one of the bars in tears. We stopped and asked if she was ok and if she needed help. She asked us if we were Mormons, and we said yes. She then gave us her address and number! She went on to say that she was baptized a while ago, but that her husband left her recently for another woman and she started drinking after that and hasn't been able to give it up. We took her information and shared a quick message with her about the Atonement and gave her lots of hugs - and we plan on visiting her this next week.

These two little moments were really sweet. I'm not sure if these two people will completely accept everything or not - but just the fact that we were able to be there for them when they needed us then, was really special. I'm so glad we were able to help them in some way.

So yeah this week was good. Our zone leader gave us the goal to fast once a week this month, and I really believe that there is a lot of power and strength that comes from that.

I am grateful for my Savior and His Atonement that allows us to each grow and progress in this life and I'm grateful that I have the opportunity to share this message of love and happiness with others.

Thank you for all of your emails!! I love you all!!!!

-Hermana Layton

Hermana Felipa and Hermana Silvia: these ladies have a one way ticket to the celestial kingdom.  They're amazing. 

In the rain!

Activity with the primary kids where they were missionaries for a day and went out and sang songs to less-active members. 

Me skeptical that Retalhuleu is the capital of the world...

Monday, July 6, 2015

Such photoz. Have been erasedz. By virusez. Merp.

Liz told me to come up with more entertaining blog post titles in my updates. I thought she would maybe put something funny or clever or something but WHATEVER I can do it myself.

Just kidding Liz. :)

But yes. I discovered that when I tried to upload photos today, there were no photos in my folder. I have heard from pretty much every missionary that this has happened to them, so I was kind of expecting it, and I didn't have TOO many new ones, but it's still a bummer. Hopefully my memory card isn't completely fried and I can take some new ones.

But anyway. Well this week.

This week was extremely hard I'm not going to lie. About 3 weeks into my mission, I got some tough news from home and, without going into details - it's been very hard to focus since then and I have been seriously considering coming home since then. Some days I found my self focused and pumped to move forward, but lots of days, my mind was exhausted with the divide between trying to focus on missionary work and thinking about the possibility of going home and how GREAT that sounded.

And of course this news comes right when I'm starting and adjusting, right? It's already hard enough for missionaries to adjust and get the hang of things without this extra struggle. It's been hard. Very hard.

This past week, I prayed extremely hard and fasted this past Sunday to know what I should do. The mission president gave me permission to call home today and that I could make a decision. It was a very hard fast and Sunday morning, I was 99.99% sure I was coming home. But extremely torn with that decision because I didn't want to feel like a failed missionary who can't persevere and find the blessings in the struggle. I knew that I could decide for myself either way - but my heart was torn and the answers from God were not coming. I don't know if I've felt more desolated, if I'm going to be honest.

Ok, sorry uplifting thingz coming soon...

Well Sunday afternoon, we had divisions with another pair of sister missionaries and they were the hermana leaders. I was paired with Hermana Keltner, who is leaving on Wednesday. This was the answer to my fasting and prayers. It was so refreshing. I not only was able to express to her my whole situation and my doubts and fears, among floods of tears I might add, and not only did she listen and offer advice - but when we went out teaching people, my whole being was lifted.

I was able to see how she taught and how it differed from my current companion and how I liked the way she did it a little more than my companion. And it made me feel like I can do this. Because when you don't have a very good lesson with someone, you not only doubt your ability as a teacher, you doubt your entire testimony and it spirals into - do I even believe in this crap??? (sorry, but I might have thought that exact phrase many timez in the past month).

But when I was at my absolute breaking point of the mission and ready to give up, He lifted me up. And I can't express how grateful I am for that.

I know that in extremely hard times, it is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to stay positive and continue forward with faith and prayer. Trust me - I know. And I know that God pushes us to be better. And even though the changes hurt - EXTREMELY BAD - if we trust in Him and still follow Him, it will ALWAYS be for our benefit and learning. Always. Because God knows each and every one of us personally and knows where our breaking points are. And He will let us be pushed right up to the edge, to see if you still trust Him the closer and closer you get to falling off.

The love of God is real. And if we feel a lack of it in our lives - I know we can feel it again. It's either lacking because our faith is being tested, or He's waiting for us to strive a little harder to follow Him.

Mmkay I'm getting off my soap box. But doesn't being a missionary mean that I'm on a soap box 24/7 for 18 months? Who knows.

Anyway. I need to sleep because the stress of the past month is catching up to me - BUT - I am filled with renewed hope and strength and am ready to go out and find the people who need this wonderful gospel in their lives.

I love you all!!!

-Hermana Layton

Monday, June 29, 2015

Update! (yep. same title. I forgot to tell her to mix it up.)

Hello!!!

Well this week was honestly not very eventful, but it was good!

It has been BLAZINGLY hot here the past week. Apparently we are in this 15-or-so-day period where it doesn't rain very much before the "winter" here, where it rains like crazy until November. It's been very sweaty, but definitely a conversation starter to everyone on the streets who are dying from the heat too! So that's nice.

This week just involved going around the areas and finding new people to talk to and teach. It's becoming easier and easier to open up and have confidence to talk to them as I go and that's been really nice. It's interesting to see the spectrum of reactions to us when we talk to people. Some are extremely nice people, but very aware that we're missionaries and, at some point, are going to talk to them about the gospel so they try to avoid us after that haha. Some people don't make eye contact at all. It's interesting. Then we get to the people who, maybe aren't interested at all in the beginning, but after talking for a bit, have lots of questions and are interested in learning more. And then realize that this message rings true in their hearts. It's pretty incredible.

All we do is just invite people to listen and to read and pray about our message. It is not the eloquence of our teaching or our skills as missionaries that teaches them. It is definitely the Spirit. All we try to do is create the opportunities for the Spirit to touch their hearts and to help them act upon it. It's very hard at times, but very rewarding at other times.

So yeah this week has just been about keeping one foot in front of the other and taking each step with faith. I have the words to one of my favorite hymns "Lead Kindly Light" above my desk and it helps a lot. 
 
"Keep thou my feet, I do not ask to see the distant scene, one step enough for me."

Love you all!!

-Hermana Layton

Hermana Layton, Hermana Mendoza, and that demon rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Or at least, that's what I assume it is.  She didn't send a caption with this pic.
Steph, er, I mean, Hermana Layton... and a pony.  I assume she got me this pony for my birthday!

"With corn and eating ah-mazing tamales!"
Update - they took that first picture because Hermana Mendoza found that rabbit and wanted to take a picture because her sister loves rabbits.  Whatever, I'm keeping my caption!  

Monday, June 22, 2015

Update! (I'm gonna need to tell her to get more creative with her email titles...)

Hello family!!!!

Well this week has been pretty good. Not much to report, honestly, just staying busy everyday. We spend lots of our time just visiting the different people who want to listen to us and traveling to and from their houses. Lots of buses and lots of tuc-tucs.

This past Wednesday, we actually got to go to the temple!! We went to the one in Quetzaltenango. WHY did I not get called THERE?? It's perfect weather up there in the mountains. But anyway, temple. It was so amazing. And very needed. I'm still blown away by the same spirit that is in the temple, no matter where you are. It, without fail, fills me to the brim with peace and Spirit so strongly and it was a very needed recharge day.

It was a sort of reward for our zone because apparently we broke a record for the most baptisms in May - I got there May 27 so I didn't really contribute much...but I'll take it! And it's not about numbers. Seriously, that really bugs me sometimes. Some missionaries really focus on the numbers and don't focus on the people themselves and how they can actually help them and how this can change their lives and such. They only care about the numbers they can report at the end of the month. Ok, I'm done ranting. And it's not all the missionaries! Just some. Ok I'm done.

We also spent the week inviting people to a movie they were premiering here in the center of Reu in the theater - Meet the Mormons. It's a really nice movie about different families across the world who are members and how the gospel blesses their lives and families. It's really well done and fun to watch. Lots of people went and they really liked it! It was fun.

I want to mention how impressed I am with the members of the church here. They blow me away with their strength and testimonies. For example - Hermana Felipa. She lives in Boxoma, which is an hour bus ride away from the church building. She is probably in her 70's and has trouble walking because she gets tired easily and her feet give her problems. But she not only makes it to church every single Sunday, but she picks up everyone in the area to come with her. She is such a help to us as missionaries up there and she really looks out for them. She's amazing.

Another example is Hermano Angel who is in our ward. He's probably in his 50's. He spent a good 30 years of his life drunk and really struggling and moving from place to place. He said the gospel changed his life and he now is an active member and is sober. He's never been married and has no kids, and he lives alone in a very small house - more like a room with a tin roof - with his two cats and works most days. But he is the nicest, most positive man I've ever met. He has come with us to teach some people and always offers to buy us a soda or some bread and, even though we politely say no, he still gets it for us. He just says he tries to share what little he has with everyone. He is also amazing.

It just warms my heart to see people whose lives have really changed because of this gospel. It truly works miracles in people's lives. And it makes me appreciate it more and makes me want to work harder, because there are people out there who, truly, need this.

Anyway, I have just felt extra blessed this week. I have felt a strange peace and calmness all week and have been able to focus really well. I recognize that's an answer to my prayers and I'm just trying to keep moving forward.

I love you all!!!!!

-Hermana Layton

Meet the Mormons

Quetzaltenango temple

Temple


Temple with companion

Me and a super cute parrot


Me and a kind of less cute chicken.
I swear I'm doing more than just playing with animals at people's houses.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Update!

Hello everyone!

Well this week - or at least since last Wednesday - has been pretty good. Just getting then hang of walking around talking to people and feeling confident. It definitely takes time to get up the courage. But my companion is an awesome trainer and has been helping me a lot.

One of the highlights of this week was - I. Drank. Mate.

I was at a member´s house for lunch and he served his mission in Chile and he made some!! See pictures - if I can upload them in time...

Anyway, it was amazing and I was pretty much on fire for the rest of that day. Hopefully that can continue the next time we go over there...

Also I´ve discovered a good way to not offend people when my bariatric stomach can´t finish their food! I tried sneaking it to my companion, asking to take it home (they gave me really weird looks when I did that), but I figured if I just say: "Perdon hermana, creo que ya me llene!" and then say sorry like 12 times, they´re always really nice about it. Finally!

So yeah, not too much to report this week. But just going to try to upload all the photos.

Love you all!!!!!
-Hermana Layton

Washing clothes!

Me at the river in Boxolma

Me and Hermana Mendoza in the center of Reu

Awesome green fields in La Bendicion

Me feeding a cow in those green fields

Me and my companion, Hermana Mendoza, and the mission president's wife - Hermana Ruiz

DRINKING MATE!!!!!!!!
Pay no attention to my blood-red eyes....I had a pretty nasty eye infection.  But it's all better now. 

Us at the beach in Champerico this morning


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Week......3?

I've honestly lost count because of all the ridiculous delays in my P-days so far haha. 

But hello again!!

I have been on my mission officially for 4 weeks!  It'll be a month on the 13th.  I have lost all concept of time and it feels like the longest and maybe shortest 4 weeks of my life.  It's funny how the mission does that to you. 

But this week was pretty good!  I've had many adventures including still riding lots of Tuc-Tuc's every day, going to different areas to talk to investigators and trying to not get eaten alive by mosquitos.  It's only working like 1% of the time.  But I'm working on that part. 

So basically because our area is in the center of the city of Reu, we travel to other areas by bus a lot to visit members and investigators there.  There's an area called Boxolma, which is an hour by bus away from the city and it's pretty much like farm country.  There are members who take the bus early every Sunday to get to church at 8:30am.  And I used to complain about the 15 min car ride for church at noon!  Humbled slap to the face on that one. 

Then we also go to this place called La Guitarra a lot.  It's basically a bunch of homes in the middle of the jungle that looks like a guitar from the air.  We visit people there a lot and it's about a 25 min bus ride.  And COVERED in mosquitos.  I'm pretty sure I've cuddled with every one of them that lives out there.  I will spare you photos of my legs.  You're welcome. :)

And then the other area is just like 10 minutes in Tuc Tuc away, but it's called La Bendicion.  It's a small group of homes surrounded by green farm land and cows.  Did you hear that?  GREEN.  FIELDS.  AND.  COWS.  It reminds me of Scotland.  I might die every time I go there.  It's gorgeous.  Pics to follow. 

But anyway this has been a very difficult but rewarding transition.  I know that no life-changing experience comes without hardship, because that's what makes you a better person.  And I feel like that is what is happening.  It's painful, but worth it.  And the biggest help is just to focus outward to others.  I've found that when I focus on how I can help my companion, my investigators, the ward, the other missionaries, etc - it is easier and I feel that happiness that comes from charity - the true love of Christ.  

I am very grateful to be here and I know that we are doing good work here and are representatives of Christ.  That has been something that has helped me a lot.  To think that I am set apart as a missionary to act as Christ would if He were on the Earth.  I'm just trying to love and serve as He would. 

I miss you all and keep praying for me and my other missionaries here!  I pray for you all every day and hope you can feel the blessings of this work we are doing. 

Love you all!!!!!!!!!!

-Hermana Layton

Ok just kidding about the photos - it's not working on this computer right now....

But next week!!  More photos. 


Also I killed a cockroach in my room this past week.  I felt very proud.  Forgot to say that. 

-Hermana Layton

Oh yeah ALSO forgot to say haha - I'm now playing the piano for my ward in sacrament meeting!  Didn't take them long to figure out that I could play.  And by "piano", I mean small keyboard with no pedal......but it still sounds ok. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

More pics!

Here are some pictures of Hermana Layton from her mission president's page:



We hope to hear from her today!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Week 2! Sort of.

(editor's note: Stephanie was transferred last Tuesday, and apparently the Retalhuleu P-day is on Monday, while the CCM is on Wednesday.  So she skipped a week in emailing, which may have caused her family members to have severe emotional reactions including disbelief, anger, sadness, bloating, strange rashes, and other difficult maladies.  We appreciate your support.)

Finally writing! Today is my first P-day in the field.

I am in zona Retalhuleu in Area Reu 1, right in the city! It's very hot, but populated. My trainer/companion is Hermana Mendoza! She's been here for 6 months. She's pretty great and super motivated and is a good trainer.

I have gotten accustomed to cold showers, putting on bug spray every day and I even washed my clothes by hand today! And I got eaten alive by mosquitos so far, so I don't know how effective it is...

It's been an interesting transition. And the roughing-it stuff is not even the hardest part! Although the cold shower in the morning is quite the way to wake you up. The hardest part has been being able to talk to people and feeling confident and everything! But I'm getting better. We've met with some investigators and I've been able to teach the lessons with her and everything, so it's coming along.

We had 3 baptisms this weekend! They were already planned to be baptized when I got here, but they were 3 little boys from areas around here. Mario, Federico, and Israel. These boys were super excited to get baptized and were so happy afterwards. And when they were baptizing them, it was really powerful and my companion, when she was talking to the boys, was just emphasizing how this will help them be better people and examples to their parents and everything. It was pretty powerful. I might have teared up.

But yeah, I'm probably forgetting all sorts of stuff but I don't have too much time, but I love you all and I think and pray about you guys all the time.

Also I finally attached pictures. Probably in many installments. Let's see how this goes.

-Hermana Layton

(editor's note - I'm in Africa on shady wi-fi, so I can't get the pictures to download so that I can put them on her blog.  I'll see if Hermana Layton's mom can get them up on Facebook, and I'll put them up whenever I have better internet access.  Sorry!)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Week One: FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hello Family!!!!!

 I finally have an opportunity to write. I thought my P day was Tuesday, but apparently it was Wednesday...I didn't completely freak out or anything...

But jes I am in the CCM now! I have been here officially a whole week. And it has, honestly, been the longest week of my life. Both because it's been incredibly emotional and because we have just done so much!

I arrived on my first day to the CCM at like 6am and they started us right off. We had breakfast, met with the CCM President, Presidente Cox and his wife, and then they let us sleep for a few hours. Then we went right to lunch and classes! I am in Distrito "Moroni". My companion is Hermana Powers! She's from utah and apparently she didn't have a consistent companion for the whole time she has been here. They kept leaving i think...and then she was in trios or something but now she's got me and we're leaving at the same time - a week from yesterday.

The classes have been super intense. It is like church/seminary on steroids. Which is actually pretty nice, but stressful at the same time. I'm pretty sure they just want us to know the material really, really well so they're pounding it into our heads everyday. We also have fake investigators that we're teaching and it's been nice because you learn effective ways of teaching the different topics and you can genuinely pray and bear your testimony to these people about it and you feel the Spirit pretty strongly. Even though it's our teachers who are playing the investigators!

The food has been pretty great, not going to lie. This place reminds me of Mexico so much. We got on this old school bus to drive from the airport to the CCM and the streets reminded me of the streets of Mexico, and while the rest of the American missionaries on the bus were freaking out because we cut off tons of people and almost hit a biker, I almost was in tears because it was just so nostalgic!! And yeah the food has been filled with rice, beans, eggs, tamales and all sorts of other delicious things. Some of the hermanas have complained that they're gaining weight and I understand why. It's delicious.

Today is our P day and we had a chance to go to the Guatemala City temple! It's right next to the CCM so we just walked to it. It was so great. It was very small and it was all in Spanish, but the Spirit was still the same. And that was incredible - that I am thousands of miles away from the US and I can still feel the presence of God and peace in the temple down here. It was pretty overwhelming.

It has been such a whirlwind week full of tears of homesickness, but then incredibly good days - which I now appreciate soooooo much. Presidente Cox and Hermana Cox are awesome too and really look out for you. He asked to talk to me for a bit because he saw that I was pretty sad at the beginning and just wanted me to know that they're thinking about me and that I'm definitely not alone in missing my family.

I do miss you all. So much that my heart aches pretty much every day. But I'm not forgetting the feeling I had to come here and I know why I'm here. I'm here to work hard and to feel the Spirit and serve the people I am meant to serve in Guatemala. And I'm excited to get out to my area, Retalhuleu and meet the people there.

Sorry for the lack of pictures!! They took away our cameras at the beginning because apparently they've had problems with some Elders taking innappropriate pictures of the sisters or something at the CCM - so we get it when we go out. So I'll send you tons when I get to my area. Although we do have a couple pictures of us standing in front of the temple and the CCM! But they still have to send that to us.

I love you all and miss you all. Keep praying for me and the missionaries here! And I'm praying for all of you everyday.

 -Hermana Layton


Oh yeah also peoples!

I don't know when my next P day will be actually. I leave for Retalhuleu next Tuesday and I don't know when the P day is there. Maybe the next Monday? I dunno. But hopefully they'll allow us another 5 minute - I'm alive - email when I get there. But I will for sure let you know. I'm pretty excited to get there actually. And take pictures!!!\

Love you all again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

She made it!

An email from Hermana Layton this morning:

I made it to the CCM! Did you get that super random picture from that random number? haha
We met up with the missionaries in LA and there were some parents going on their way to pick up their son so they texted a pic of us. [see below]



I only have 5 minutes right now before they send us up to take a nap! But they said to send us mail on Sunday, since our P day changes every week. I´m only here for 2 weeks too!! They have a special district full of North American advanced Spanish speakers so that should be cool.. Anyway they said the next time we e-mail is on Tuesday.

Love you all!!!!!!!!!!!

Hermana Layton

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

And she's off!

Ready to depart for Guatemala City!

With Mom.

With Dad.
All reports are that Sister Layton is excited to get to Guatemala and get this party started!  Wish her luck, and prayers are appreciated!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

First Post! Farewell Talk

Hello!!

Well I guess this is my first post on my mission blog!  I leave Tuesday evening to go to the Guatemala MTC And so I thought I would post my farewell talk on here as my first post before I leave.  So here ya go! 

I was asked to give a talk based on a talk by Lynn G. Robbins called “Which Way Do You Face?” from the Oct 2014 general conference.  He talks about a time President Boyd K Packer asked him that - Which way do you face?  He said it caught him off guard and didn’t know what he meant, but Pres Packer then said, “A Seventy does not represent the people to the prophet but the prophet to the people.  Never forget which way you face!”  Elder Robbins then goes on and says, 

“Trying to please others before pleasing God is inverting the first and second great commandments (see Matthew 22:37–39). [Which are first - to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and second to love thy neighbor as thyself]. It is forgetting which way we face. And yet, we have all made that mistake because of the fear of men. In Isaiah the Lord warns us, “Fear ye not the reproach of men” (Isaiah 51:7; see also 2 Nephi 8:7). In Lehi’s dream, this fear was triggered by the finger of scorn pointed from the great and spacious building, causing many to forget which way they faced and to leave the tree “ashamed” (see 1 Nephi 8:25–28).”

He then goes on and gives many examples from the scriptures and of prophets who had struggled because they feared men more than being true to what they felt God wanted them to do.  He says, “Pilate was merciful till it became risky.” King Herod was sorrowful at the request to behead John the Baptist but wanted to please “them which sat with him at meat” (Matthew 14:9). King Noah was ready to free Abinadi until peer pressure from his wicked priests caused him to waver.”
And after that, he gives examples of prophets in the scriptures who were strong - for example Mormon towards the end of the Book of Mormon saying, “Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear”.  And Nephi when writing on the plates, “Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world”.  

These are all examples of the principle of standing up for what you believe in, despite peer pressure.  It’s remembering and being true to what you have felt and believed through your relationship with God and expanding on that and not being ashamed of it because of others.  

So, of course, because I’m going on my mission in 2 days, I’ve applied this whole talk to my mission.  So that’s probably what I’m going to talk about for the rest of it basically…

My decision to go on a mission was kind of an interesting one.  I was, honestly, sitting at home kind of praying/having a mental conversation with God, and kind of complaining about my life.  I was frustrated that I wasn’t being as social with people in my ward and wasn’t dating as much as I wanted to and blah blah blah.  And I wasn’t sure what timetable He had for me, but if He could have just given me an itinerary of the next couple years of my life, that would be great. And it’s right then when I had the thought - “go on a mission first!”  And I was like - no.

I had never really had any desire to go - it was always kind of in the back of my mind as an option, but never really thought too much about it.  But the more I thought about it then and the more I started looking it up, the more it felt good.  And then I started praying about it and it started feeling even better - like I hadn’t felt that kind of spirit about it in a while.  So, basically over the course of a weekend of prayer, I had made the decision to go.  And then I met this boy the next November…...and by January I was 100% ready to NOT go on my mission.  I would stay with him and still do all the study and preparation and everything, but just still stay here! I was 100% ready to do that...but it honestly never felt quite right.  And I was ignoring that feeling pretty well for a while.  

And so I prayed about it and presented God with my plan and the general feeling I got from that option was….”kay”.  
So then I proceeded to say - “UGHHHH ok well maybe I’ll possibly think about, maybe, still going, if that’s what you want - maybe”.  
So I reconsidered and started thinking about it again.  And I took one whole day to really think and pray about it and I went on a temple trip that night and I was sitting in the celestial room and I asked God - do you want me to go on a mission?

And that’s when I got probably the strongest confirmation of the Spirit that I had ever received - that His answer was YES.  It was pretty overwhelming.  Which was incredibly inconvenient.  So just to be sure, I kept asking….and I kept feeling that feeling.  I kept saying over and over again in my head - Ok….so….I’m going on a mission…...I’m going on a mission….you sure?.....OK I’m going.  And I finally agreed.  And so here I am.  

And so yes - I think that applies to this topic pretty well - my journey that has led me to this decision was very personal, very prayerful and very inspired against my will it sometimes feels like.  But I feel like God has faced me towards going on a mission.  And I have felt that, and come to that conclusion myself.  And, even though it really kills me sometimes to think of the people I”m leaving behind and the things I might miss out on, I am still going because I’m trying to stay true to that feeling I had and I have faith that it is the right path for me.  And I’ve been so incredibly lucky and blessed because I have had so much support from my family and friends so there hasn’t been too much of that overwhelming peer pressure.  But this decision hasn’t been met with at least some skepticism and challenge.

For example, I work as a home health care aid and I have a couple clients and my one client is in a wheelchair and I have been working with him for a while.  And when I told him I was leaving and why I was leaving, he was quite upset and didn’t understand.  He knew I was Mormon and he sort of knew about missionaries, but he didn’t agree with why I was going on a mission.  He said that we were just there to sell our church to people and we were no different than Jehovah’s Witnesses and we’re just manipulating people, etc.  And he said - don’t you believe that working with and helping me is service?  Why do you have to go all the way to Guatemala to serve God??  And it was pretty much the first time in my life that I, basically, had to defend missionary work.  And it was difficult to hear and difficult to defend, because I had never been a super strong advocate for missionary work!

But basically my answer to him was this - I had felt like it was the right thing for me to do and I’m going to do it.  I don’t fully understand why or what He has in store, but it was a very distinct, powerful confirmation that I received about it and I can’t deny it.  And I’m not there to force people or manipulate people into joining the church - I’m basically going and presenting them with this option, that I believe has brought a lot of happiness in my life and I think it brings a lot of happiness in other people’s lives and there is such great value in living it in your life.  But if it’s not their time, it’s not their time.  And I’m going to try to be as in tune with the Spirit as possible to try to know how to help them and help them feel the love of their God as I have felt it in my life. That’s it.  I’m not there to force people - I just know I am supposed to go and, to me, that means that there are people that God wants me to meet and to teach and to help.  He has work for me to do and it is my job to try to be in tune with His Spirit and love them.  That’s the way I believe I have been told to face and I’m just striving to stay true to that.

The last example Elder Robbins gives in his talk is that of the Savior.  He says, “The Savior, our great Exemplar, always faced His Father. He loved and served His fellow men but said, “I receive not honour from men” (John 5:41). He wanted those He taught to follow Him, but He did not court their favor. When He performed an act of charity, such as healing the sick, the gift often came with the request to “tell no man” (Matthew 8:4; Mark 7:36; Luke 5:14; 8:56). In part, this was to avoid the very fame which followed Him in spite of His efforts to eschew it (see Matthew 4:24). He condemned the Pharisees for doing good works only to be seen of men (see Matthew 6:5). The Savior, the only perfect being who ever lived, was the most fearless. In His life, He was confronted by scores of accusers but never yielded to their finger of scorn. He is the only person who never once forgot which way He faced: “I do always those things that please [the Father]” (John 8:29; emphasis added), and “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30).”

I’m going to be honest - this talk is not my favorite.  I feel like there is some danger in the approach that is given in this talk of us, as members, feeling overly superior to the rest of the world.  And that by facing only God, you’re turning your back on the world. and isolating yourself and not giving any consideration to other’s opinions or sympathy to the different ways people live their lives.  I honestly think it makes us seem smug and unapproachable as members of the church and makes us think we are better than everyone else and we are in a position to judge the world.  Which I don’t think is exactly what he’s trying to say in his talk, but that’s the overall impression I got from some of the things he said and I don’t really think that’s the example of the Savior.

The Savior’s great commandments are - to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and second to love thy neighbor as thyself.  It’s about love.  And I feel like the Savior was the ultimate example of love - both for His Father and for others and that is the example I try to follow.  
My absolute favorite stories from the Savior’s ministry are that of the woman taken in adultery and the man who brought his afflicted son to be healed.  

The woman was brought by the scribes and Pharisees to Christ because she had committed adultery and according to the law of Moses, she should be stoned.  They were testing Christ to see if he would punish her as they had judged because, clearly, this woman had “forgotten which way she faced” so to speak and committed this sin.
“But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.  So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
And they all left.  
“When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”

And when the man had brought his son who had been possessed with a spirit - desperate and in tears, pleaded with him to heal his son.
“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
And he healed his son.  

I absolutely love both these stories because of the incredible love and compassion that Christ showed to these very imperfect people - and I guess I just identify with them because of my imperfections and doubts, but yet have felt the love of God in my life.  And I think the point is that I am not the Savior - I am in no position to condemn other’s actions or judge them - that’s not my job - that would honestly be too exhausting.  My job is to love the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind, and also to love my neighbor as myself.  It may be a pretty “kumbaya” approach and I promise I’ll get off my soap box now, but - I feel like the moments of greatest motivation and progression in my life have stemmed from the feeling that my Heavenly Father loved me.  

And, of course, because it’s Mother’s Day I can’t forget probably the greatest example I have in my life - my mom.  She is the greatest example to me of love and strength and if I could be half the woman she is, I would be completely happy in my life.  I am so incredibly lucky to have her as my mother and just my friend.  

I am so incredibly lucky and blessed in general.  I have had so much support for my mission from my friends and family, active and not active and I cannot express how much that means to me.  I love all of them with all my heart.  

If there is one thing that I feel like I have gained a testimony of in my 24 years of life - it’s that God knows us each individually and He has a plan of each of us in our lives.  And above all else, He loves us.  And I think that coming to that realization in our lives and believing it gives us the strength to move forward and to face forward.  

I don’t know everything - I don’t have a perfect testimony of everything.  I know that my Heavenly Father is there, that He loves me - I know that He wants me to go on a mission.  I know I wouldn’t be anywhere near this point in my life without Him - I’ve noticed my prayers have changed to, just, “thank you for the life you have given me”, because I honestly feel like I am still here and happy because of His love for me.  And I know that He has that love for every single person on this Earth and I hope that I can just be an instrument in His hands to help people come to know and believe that.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.