Dear family,

This has been a crazy week! I loved it. It is my second Puerto Rican Christmas, and I really enjoyed it this time through. First of all, more deets on what the Christmas Conference was, and then on to what the real Christmas activities entailed.

Christmas Conference was held last Tuesday and Wednesday. It was a two day spectacle of lights and color. Not really...that just sounded appropriate there. It was a two-day activity with lots of missionaries and lots of fun. Tuesday was the fun day and Wednesday was the spiritual day (not that it wasn't fun though...). Tuesday (as previously mentioned) we went to the Yunque, which is the rain forest! It was very exciting. We did two hikes. The second one was really intense, and some of the missionaries couldn't make it to the top, so President had the Elders carry them. It was all very dramatic because it was raining too (I mean, we were in the rain forest). We made it to the observation tower, which is the famous part of the Yunque. We climbed the tower and all we saw was cloud, because it was a cloudy day. We were in a cloud. Very exciting, but not a beautiful view. We had a title of liberty type activity up there. It was cool. But cold.

Later that day, we did the flash mob I had previously mentioned at the outlet. It was super fun. We had a dinner and talent show that night, and it was really good. There were some entertaining talents, some talents that were actually good, and a really wonderful moment when some members from a nearby ward came in a did a real Puerto Rican paranda: Puerto Rican Christmas caroling. It's like that picture I sent of the Puerto Ricans playing music and singing loud, but even cooler. I want to be Puerto Rican just so I can do that. Seriously. You should have seen our President. It was awesome. It was just loud and rowdy and completely awesome. We recorded some on video, but you just can't capture that. It comes out as noise, not as music. It was awesome though. So good.

The next day we had a little talk with the President and then we watched the Christmas devotional by the first presidency. It was good. I noticed how much I've grown this year. Last year, I couldn't understand completely what they were saying on the devotional, and now, 1. I know why I couldn't understand (Church translators have Spanish accents!), and 2. I could understand with absolutely no problem. It was very cool. Elder Vines also came and talked to us about knowing God through other's experiences (the scriptures), and through our experiences. It was cool because he said that we can know Him through the scriptures, but we can testify of Him when we experience His characteristics and attributes in our lives. It was a really cool talk. He knows the scriptures really well. Later, we practiced singing again so we could sing at an Art Museum in Santurce (downtown). We went and ate lunch at the mission home, where I had weird flashback experiences. We ate food there last Christmas too, and it was weird to change from being the youngest last year to being the oldest this year. Looking back on this year, I don't know where it went. It flew by so fast. It was a very pensive moment. Anyway, we went and sang at the art gallery and then went on a walk through the botanical gardens afterwards and went and had a testimony meeting and then watched a movie of the activity. It was a really nice activity. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

On Thursday night we ate dinner at a member house and it was the classic Christmas meal. Lechon, (some type of pork?), rice and gandules, and pasteles, which are those tamale-type things that are actually gross. Surprise! It was the 4th time I tried pasteles, and the first time I actually enjoyed them. It was a surprise for me too. So, it is true what they say: you have to try someting several times before you like it. We also had arroz con dulce, which is like a sweet rice pudding with cinnamon and raisens and ginger that is chilled in the fridge. Not my favorite. But then again, only have actually tried it once (I've always found an excuse to avoid it...).

Next exciting event was Christmas Eve. The enchilada tradition continued because the family we ate with had Mexican friends visiting, so we made enchiladas (they were actually pretty good; I ate them even though there was melted cheese on them...). It felt like home. Haha. Not really, but they were good. We also had Chinese take-out leftovers and other stuff (ranodm, but tasty). Half-way through dinner we experienced a little tremor (of the and earthquake, but not strong enough to be termed earthquake). It's my second! It was very exciting. We were just eating, and I was talking about Niagara Falls and then all-of-a-sudden, the hostess jumps up and yells: "It's a tremor! It's a tremor!" and the host jumps up and is like "Oh no!" and the rest of us are just kind of sitting there. Not gonna lie, I was a little worried when she jumped up. My heart did one of those little jump things and flashes of destruction came to mind...and then it stopped. It was cooler then the last one because I was awake for the whole thing. It happened in Aguas Buenas, which is actually fairly close to us. People have been saying it was a 5.4, which is a step up from the last one, which was only 5.1 or something. It was exciting, but I wouldn't mind if I never experienced it again. There is just something unsettling about a solid thing like the earth shaking. It is not supposed to move, in my experience. Luckily there wasn't a tsunami or something. Nothing feel off the shelves either. Then, we continued eating.

On Christmas Day we went around and caroled to members and shared a little scripture about Christmas with them. Then we went to a senior couple's house (missionary couple) to eat Christmas dinner. It was fun because we were a ton of missionaries together eating American Christmas dinner food. Delicious. After that we went to a hospital and caroled to the people there that we just happened to find in the halls or in rooms. It was a really great Christmas. I really enjoyed it.

Somebody really cool that we met on Christmas Eve and then went to teach on SUnday and had a return visit yesterday is Wanda. She is a single mom with a son, and she seems to really understand the message and seems excited to learn more. I'm excited to keep teaching her, especially since she is the only thing like an investigator that Hermana Comoletti has experienced. Yay! We mostly just visit menos activos. But, something really cool that has been happening with them is that we have been really working on listening and question asking...asking "questions from the heavens," and these last three days (Sunday, Monday and TUesday), we have had several "confessions" as to why people are inactive, which is wonderful, because we haven't been able to get to the root of things for so long. The Lord has really blessed us this week though with these "confessions" (for lack of a better term), so that we can focus in on the needs of each person instead of just blindly guessing. It has been a really cool experience. Well, it is kind of sad to hear why every one is less active, but it is definitely going to help us as we work with them.

Thanks so much for talking to me on Friday! And thank you for waiting patiently until I was ready. I really enjoyed talking to you. I hope you have a happy new year1

Hermana Miller


0075: First stop with Hermana Comoletti. It was a really pretty pool thing with a really picturesque bridge.

0098: Second stop with Sister Purdy. It was a really pretty waterfall thing with rocks to climb on and stuff.

0110: Third stop with Hermana Comoletti. This is the observation tower. We are probably one of the most ridiculous couples because she is 4'10' and I am nearly 6'. This was a funny one that captures that ridiculous.

0111: The observation tower on the outside.

0127: Me with two other sisters wearing our garbage bag ponchos.
0164: Hermana Comoletti and I on Christmas. I look so big next to her!
0169: All the sisters at the Christmas dinner. They're all so pretty!
0171: This is us with the Peitz, the senior couple that hosted. They are really cool. He reminds me a little bit of Grumpy because he always wears cowboy boots and a big belt buckle. He has a ranch in Northern California.

0236: A lizard that we found on a lemon last night. It was so cold it couldn't move, I think. A cold front has come in this week, and it is like in the 70s every day. Brrr. It finally moved after we touched it for a while. It was really strange.
0215 and 0221: Some orchids that grow in our yard. They just kind of grow in the wild here. It is really cool/beautiful.

Today, we went to the rainforest. It is like every other forest, but we took pictures anyway. It rained on us, and we got wet. It is called the Yunque and it is the only rainforest on US territory. We are doing a Christmas conference thing today and tomorrow. I don't have a lot of time to write today, but call me on Thursday to confirm when we're going to talk and stuff. My number is the same that it was on Mother's Day.

Other Christmas conference fun was a flash mob we did in a food court where we sang Joy to the World and Angels we Have Heard on High. It was fun, because we were just sitting and eating like normal and then all of a sudden some people stood up and started singing, and then we all got up and started singing together. It was planned and stuff, but it was fun.
I'll talk to you soon and we'll arrange the stuff then.

Hermana Miller

Dear Family,

Happy Christmas! It is Christmas time. Yesterday we had a really cool opportunity to go and sing at the mall. It was the entire San Juan Zone that went to the mall in Carolina (one of the pueblos to the East of San Juan) and sang a series of Christmas hymns and passed out cards, DVDs and pamphlets. It was cool. I really enjoyed the opportunity. It was also really cool to get together with other missionaries and spend some time together. It was a cool way to help others feel the spirit. I loved going to the mall and singing and sharing the gospel in that way

Last week we also had a Sister's meeting. We all went to the office on Wednesday night and had a little devotional thing. Then, we stayed at the office overnight and were in the office all day on Thursday for talks and activities. During lunch we watched Errand of Angels, a non-church made movie about sister missionaries. It wasn't like, the best movie ever made, but the colors were really pretty and I liked the lighting. And also the message. It was an nice break. It was good to see that the mission is hard for every one and we all have challenges and disappointments at times but it is good and fun to work hard. I could see similarities between our two mission, and I appreciated that. We also watched the video that was played in the Young Woman conference in March. It was so good. It was like Mormon messages. I had read the quotes in the Ensign and really liked them, but it is amazing how powerful images and music can make the words. I really loved it, and would recommend it to anyone who wants to feel the spirit (or in other words...go and watch it now! Of course you want to feel the spirit!). It wasn't just put on by leaders...lots of the hermanas participated by giving a talk or sharing a musical number. I talked about unity and the importantance of being unified and how it is a godly attribute. It was really cool. I loved it and think we should do it more often. I came out of the conference with a greater resolve to work harder and be more obedient. It was a nice way to relax and learn at the same time. It was also nice to see my only remaining ex-companioin, Sister Summers. I miss being with her. She was a really great companion for me.

After the Sister's conference, on Friday we had the ward Christmas party, which had food and people and fun. After eating the food, they started the Paranda, which is basically Christmas caroling (but we didn't go from door-to-door; we just sang right there in the church). They sang traditional Puerto-Rican Christmas songs and played instruments, including bongos and shaky things and guitar and other stuff. It was awesome and little bit difficult not to dance. We just sat down and shook our feet instead. I loved it.

Sister Comoletti is doing really well. I think she might be training me. She has a real gift for thinking of what people's needs are and can really come up with great ideas for lessons. She has an amazing energy for and love of the work. Like I said last week, she has a real fire for missionary work and I am really impressed at how good she is at it. She has a lot of faith; in Jesus Christ and His gospel, and also in others. It is amazing. She is still struggling a little bit with the language (mostly understanding), but I feel like she can speak fairly well for someone who arrived so recently. She is a great companion. She has a strong testimony and bears it often.

We had a new less active come to church on Sunday. That was really exciting. I was so happy to see her there. It is just as good to have a less active come to church as it is to have an investigator make it there.

I don't think I'll be writing again before Christmas (there are some rumours flying around, but nothing officially confirmed yet. We'll see), so I hope you have a great week, and we'll talk to you soon.

Hermana Miller

5821: This is Karina and Gilberto with their family. The woman on the right is Gilberto's mother, the one that referred Karina. She is from the ward next door, Trujillo Alto.

5823: This is their family with us, ready to baptize/be baptized. :) Aren't those kids the cutest? The girl's name is Koraima and the boy's name is Diego. He is hilarious and she is calm.

007: These are just some pictures we took of Diego being cute. He loves playing with the phone. He only likes to touch things he is not allowed to touch. Therefore, our phone is his favorite toy.

0011: He loves to laugh and his laugh cracks me up. He kind of just pushes all the the air out at once and then forgets to breathe for a second. And he likes to clap as he does it. He is 2. So cute.

0046: This is the group of Hermanas that all came to Puerto Rico on the same day. We're the old ones now! From left to right: Hermana Melgar (Guatemala), Hermana Palmer (Arizona...but her family recently moved to Peru!), me, Hermana Barker (Utah), and Hermana Rodriguez (El Salvador). We're all pretty cool.

0050: Here are the Puerto Ricans playing and singing. I love this picture because there is action and color. This is Puerto Rico! They're so happy. :)

0053: This is Sister Comoletti and I at the Christmas party...trying not to dance.

Dear family,

I got your packages in the mail this week! Thank you for thinking of me. Our landlady lent us this little 4 foot fiber optic Christmas tree thing, and I put the gifts on/under that. Our apartment looks so nice and Christmas-y with the tree and the lights and the gifts etc. It is a wonderful place to live. :)

Karina was baptized on Saturday. Woohoo! It is something we have been working on since July. I know that was one of the miracles we could see with Hermana Beltran. Part of the miracle was that her husband, Gilberto, former menos activo was able to baptize her and he did it perfectly! When they were coming out of the font, he spoke to Benjamin, the Elders Quorum President who invited him to do it and coached him on how to do it. He said that he was so happy (he was crying), and thank you because he had never imagined that he would be able to do that. That is, baptize his wife. It was a really cool experience. I will send pictures next week when I have my cable with me.
Well, transfers were today and new missionaries came in yesterday. We picked up a new missionary for me and I sent Hermana Beltran to Bayamon (almost next door), to work with someone else. My new companion is Hermana Comoletti. She is from Springville, Utah. She is really happy and bubbly and reminds me of my roommate from last summer, in Indiana. It is fun. She has the fire! It is so weird to compare her with me. She is very excited and trusts people and has faith in every body and I am tired and not as bubbly. I know I am going to learn a lot with her. She has a strong testimony and a love of the Lord and the desire to be here. It is cool to think of all the good that she is going to accomplish in her mission. Sister Reid is going home today, which is really weird. I am now the next sister to go home; I am the oldest sister in the mission, along with Sister Palmer. It is a really, really crazy feeling, because I still feel like I'm trying to figure out how to do things the best way. I'm still trying to figure out how to be the best missionary possible. I guess there is always room for improvement.

Everything has been going fine and we are enjoying the break from the heat. I love you all and hope you have a great week!

Hermana Miller

Dear family,

Thank you for the letters you sent me this week (mom). I can't believe it is December already! In November, it was okay that it didn't feel like winter, but now it is really difficult to believe it is December because it still is sunny and stuff. It is cooler, sure, but even I can't deny that it is warm outside.

Investigator news:

Karina's baptism is just around the corner, and we are really excited. Every time we go over to visit her we realize how prepared she really is. I hope everything goes well and she'll be ready to be baptized soon. They've been to church 4 or 5 times now and yesterday in the interview, Gilberto and Jose (a RC the Elders taught) really hit it off and are pretty good friends now. They bonded over computer things and video games. It was a good moment. And they got a dog...which is so cute. They called her Canela, which is Spanish for Cinnamon. I love her! Another less active member got a dog too and I love him too. I think when I get home I am going to get a dog. Because I love them. Maybe it is just because I'm not allowed to hold babies, but I love holding dogs; they are so cute!

We were blessed yesterday with a new investigator (sort of...). He is the "practically son" of a less active we met yesterday and we left him a Book of Mormon. We are going to try to continue working with him and try to check up on his reading and such. He isn't an official new investigator, because we couldn't set a return cita, but he's all we've got right now, and we're holding on to that. There is another family that we contacted a while ago and we finally figured out where they live, so we are going to try to work with them. We haven't been able to teach them yet, but we will hopefully get in this week sometime.

Companion news:

Sister Beltran is growing leaps and bounds. I am so impressed with her. She is overcoming her timidity and learning so much about the gospel and even learning some English, and how to conduct music. She is just learning so much because she is so humble and teachable and willing to learn. I am really happy for the progress she has been making here.

Missionary life news:

I completed one year in Puerto Rico this week. Maybe you recall, that my first day here last year was Thanksgiving. I was surprised to find that alongside their turkey Puerto Ricans eat rice with gandules (which is a kind of pea/bean thing). I am happy to announce that I was again privileged to eat Turkey and rice with gandules on Thanksgiving day this year.

On Thanksgiving we went to have dinner with the primary president and the Kay family came (an hour late, but they did arrive, so we were happy). It was a good time and the turkey was delicious...I thought.

Next, we went to a returning less-active's house and she gave us more turkey with rice and gandules. This turkey was even better. She also made a pasta salad thing and it was a good time.
The next day, we went to visit another returning less active who just happened to be taking a turkey out of the oven. She gave us a piece of turkey for helping her carry it from one place in her house to another (it was a huge turkey and she is about 4'10"), and it was the most delicious of them all. It was amazingly moist and juicy. I don't know how she did it. Thinking of the other turkeys, a line from one of our favorite movies came to mind: "This bird is dry! Haven't you people heard of basting?," and chuckled to myself.

It was a good Thanksgiving and a delicious one too.

I hope everything at home is going great. Thank you for sending me the pictures and the news about the family. I'm happy for all of you!

Hermana Miller.
/Auntie J. :)