Monday, January 26, 2015

How to Train Your Greenie

Greenie: A new missionary (a word that we´re not technically supposed to use...)
Train: A fast moving vehicle...I mean, to teach and instruct.

So I know that you guys are probably wondering what it's like over here. Well... it's hard. I mean, I knew it would be. But I thought I knew my area better. I thought we had an accurate ward list. I thought I knew where people lived. It's been humbling.

My new companion is a native Spanish speaker (Whoot whoot!). Her name is Hermana Manotas (with a first name surprisingly similar to mine), she was born in Columbia, lives in a Southern Spanish Pueblo (Vuelva), is 22 years old, and has high expectations for the mission. So far all I've all been able to show her was what happens when things fall through and the harder parts of missionary work (endless contacting).

But we had a fantastic cita with a woman named Edith. We were able to share equally and really explain what she needed to know. One good meeting, one good contact, one good hour makes all the other difficult things worth it.

So... it turns out I'm somewhat of a legend now (weird) because everyone at the training meeting (before we got our companions) already knew me, my situation, everything. I have a reputation I don't deserve and a calling I'm not totally sure how to do.
Pero bueno. I will try.
I will go and do.
We're going to be SO obedient.
We're going to see miracles.

Spiritual thought:
We're singing the song "This is the Christ" (Well, in Spanish, but the same difference) in choir.
They heard His voice, a voice so mild.
It pierced them through and made their souls to quake.
They saw Him come, a man in white,
The Savior, who had suffered for their sake.
They felt the wounds in hands and side,
And each could testify:
This is the Christ.
This is the Christ, the holy Son of God,
Our Savior, Lord, Redeemer of mankind.
This is the Christ, the Healer of our souls,
Who ransomed us with love divine.
2. I read His words, the words He prayed
While bearing sorrow in Gethsemane.
I feel His love, the price He paid.
How many drops of blood were spilled for me?
With Saints of old in joyful cry
I too can testify:

Summary:The work is hard but worth it. My companion is as much training me as I am training her.

Love you guys!
(Not the greatest picture, but it gives you a visual.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Blind Leading the Blind

Blind: Without sight. Lost.
Lead: To take charge, to show, to have a responsibility over the welfare of another.

This is the week of transfers (every six weeks). You don't know who your new companion will be or if you're staying in the area or anything until Saturday night and then you have until Tuesday to prepare. Sometimes nothing changes. Sometimes everything does. But more on that later.

This week was... well it was crazy, but I don't have oodles of time to spend talking about it so here's the low-down. There were trios, there were splits. There was a day when every single plan (even the back-ups and the back-ups to those) fell through. There was also a day when we had 7 citas within 3 hours and we somehow (with the help of some members) got to all of them. I got lost in my area on a split with a member. Everything looked familiar but nothing looked right and we were already a little bit late. It was one of the most frustrating moments to date. But that's just part of mission life. There are disappointments and challenges. You meet them, you shake them off, and you move on. We visited some people so Hermana Manwill could say goodbye and as we ran into piso on Saturday night, I got a rather unique phonecall.

President Pace called (a unique occurrence on the mission, seeing as there are over 200 missionaries) and asked to speak to me. Our conversation (after an inside-ish joke and some salutations) went somewhat like this.

"Hermana Een, I'm going to ask you to do something that has never been done before. Not in this mission, anyway."

    "Well.... I like being the first."

"We've prayed about it and have felt the confirmation. We'd like to ask you to train a new missionary this transfer. What do you think about that?"

    "Um. Wow."

"And while you're at it, whenever you can squeeze it in, you can finish training yourself. What do you think about that?"

     "Well, if you're sure, then I'll do my best."

"How are you feeling?"

     "It'll be better once I, you know, process this a bit."

He said a few other things, about his faith in me and such, logistics for when I go down to Barcelona for the training meeting, etc. I wished him a good night and hung up.

So I'll let that sink in a bit.

I'm not getting a trainer, I'm going to BE a trainer.
Somewhere in the CCM at this moment, there's a girl. She's saying goodbye to her District. She's passing around email information, and she's wondering. Where will she go? Who will her trainer be? She's hoping for a native. She's hoping for someone with a lot of missionary experience. She's eager for a senior companion. And what she gets instead is... me.

And tomorrow, I'll find out who she is.

So I ask for your prayers. On her behalf, as well as mine.

On Monday morning we said Goodbye to Hermana Manwill. On Tuesday morning we said goodbye to Hermana Stilson, who is being sent up North (a surprise to us all). I'm getting the apartment ready for 3 hermanas, one of them is somewhat experienced, the other two are training, and one of them will be mine.
Killing Hermana Manwill
Adios to Hermana Stilson

So here are my parting thoughts, the things that have kept me going these past couple of days.
"It's kind-of fun to do the impossible." -Walt Disney
"To receive blessings you've never had, you've got to do things you've never done." -Hermana Manwill
1 Nephi 3:5 and... a LOT of other scriptures.

It's a good thing I represent the only person who has ever made a blind man see. (have to tie-in the title, you know?)

Wish me luck!!! I'll tell you all about it next week!

Summary: I'm my own step-mom and I'm going to be a teenage mother (something that has NEVER been done before in my mission). Changes happen in ways you wouldn't expect. Pray for me, pray for her. Saying goodbye is hard.

Hermana Een

Hermana Jimenez and I getting new companions

READ THIS FIRST!!! (sent to specific friends)

Some of you have asked (ok, just Eliza, but there we go) and so I figured I'll tell you about my new trainer.

She's SUPER great. I feel like I've known her my whole life. We share the same tastes in clothing, foods... we even have the same favorite color! She's a pro at movie quotes and references and keeps me entertained for HOURS. 

We've already decided to be roommates when I get back to college. It just made sense, you know?

I've told her about you guys and she already loves you SO much. I'm just so blessed to be with someone so unique and wonderful and strong and I'm excited for you to get to know her.

Actually, you guys already do!!

It's me. 
I'm my new trainer.
I'm my own step-mom.

Oh, and to sweeten the deal, I get to be a mother too!

Ok love you bye!!!

-Hermana Een

Sorry, couldn't resist.
(read my general letter.)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Not-At-All-Annual Alayna Health Update (or this is for all those questions Mom asks--SnailMail)

So I remember one of the things you said before I left was that you weren’t worried about me gaining weight.  That was really sweet of you and all, but maybe you should have worried just a little bit. ;)
The members feed us well and feed us a lot we don’t eat with them too often though, especially here in our trio.  With two areas, we just don’t have time for eating citas (Spanish word for appointment).  My companions are crazy about this pre-made salad thing, and when we eat in piso (apartment) I make a salad too.
We’ve made a New Years Resolution to work out more effectively.  We go out and run every other day and do cross-fit/P-90x or abb workouts on the off days.  So that’s good.
We eat breakfast well, Mercadona has this fantastic granola, I add frosted flakes, and it’s a delicious homemade Honey Bunches of Oats.
Lunch is late, 2 or 3 usually, but it gets big.  Dinner is either non-existent (a fruit) or leftovers.
No weird twitches.  I’m pretty normal, healthwise.  Being tired is just a part of missionary life, but it hasn’t been too bad for me.
My companions think I’m crazy because of how quickly I wake up in the morning and how ready I am to get going.
I . . . . occasionally zone out of church, and it was hard to stay awake in Sacrament meeting at first, but now that I’ve got more Spanish comprehension, mints, and a water bottle with me, it’s easier.
So I mailed the Lladro and no I’m mailing you the package tracking info.  I hope it gets there OK.  It was about 50 Euors to ship, and they don’t have insurance or anything so that’s why I didn’t have them ship it.
Did you know they have shelf-stable milk here?  It tastes . . . .different.  But good.  There were a couple of other minor adjustments in diet but, I’m game and it’s not too bad.
I’m healthy, happy (a little bit heavier, I think), and carrying on.
<3 Hermana Een (arrow to the heart “that’s healthy too.”)

From the Project Life cards she sent back for her scrapbook:
President & Hermana Lovell
Location:  Madrid, Spain
Companion:  Ashley Brooke Curtis
Favorite Thing about the MTC:  My district #Amulekforever!  The people I got to meet.
Least favorite thing about the MTC:  Hard to say.  The schedule was a bit rough.

District Meeting 13/1/15 My Trainer’s last. We sang sappy songs like “God be With You ‘Til We Meet Again.”  We did some practicas and talked about statistics.  Elder Grau is our District Leader, a native Peruvian (Paraguay?) and very hard to understand with his thick accent.  He asks if I understand and I feel bad but have to say “más o menos.”

BAPTISM 25/12/14 WHITE CHRISTMAS   Xiomara was the first lesson I had here in Valencia, now she’s my first baptism too!  It was a lot of running around and scrambling together beforehand but the service was perfect.  Afterwards she bore a beautiful testimony of how clean and white she felt.

Companion:  Ashley Brooke Curtis (ABC)
From:  Alpine, Texas (Nowheresville)
About:  One of the sweetest, most compassionate people I know.  Very Spiritual.  Struggled with confidence.
Date:  October 28th-December 9th
Area:  MTC or CCM

Companion:  Vanessa Manwill
From:  Holladay Utah
About:  A hard-working Sister Training Leader.  She said “Well Shoot!”  When things went wrong and always wore purple cardigans.  She swore they were red . . . .
Date:  December 10-January 20th 2015
Area:  Valencia 1C

Zone Conference:  My first one ever.  (12/22/2014)  Brought Christmas to the mission.  President answered questions, people gave lectures and talks, we ate paella and ended with a testimony meeting.  I wasn’t planning on bearing mine, and I didn’t know what to say.  But after a while I stopped fighting the urge and stood up.  Later, President said that I had been an answer to prayer, that he’d prayed I would speak.  I’ll never forget.

Remember to Look UP
We went to visit a family, but couldn’t get in so we decided to knock the building.  Top floor, last door.  Miraculously the door to the roof was unlocked so we snuck out and wandered a bit.  You could see the whole city from up there!  But even better . . . .I saw the stars for the first time on my mission—really seeing them.  And Orion is still there like an old friend.
[Explanatory note from home:  Eliza says when they walked to the Jacksons in the mornings for a ride to seminary it was usually dark and they’d see the constellation Orion hanging out above the Jackson’s home.  Alayna didn’t know what it was at first when Eliza would say, “There’s Orion” but came to recognize it.]

Monday, January 12, 2015

Even so I will boast

To boast: To speak in high praise of.  Often associated with pride.  Not always a bad thing.

This is my last week in a trio, the last week with my trainer (my "mom" in mission lingo. But I'm not out of training yet, so I'll be getting a step-mom at the next transfer). Strange. It doesn't feel like it's been that long, definitely not six weeks, but my journal is half full and my hair is longer and other little things to remind me that time is passing.

Because three is sort-of my motif of the mission thus far, I'll briefly mention the three days (and two nights) that Hermana Stilson and I spent together while Hermana Manwill went on back to back intercambios (companionship exchanges, a Sister Training Leader duty). It's daunting to be left to handle the area, the citas (appointments) and the lessons for two areas with two still-training missionaries, but somehow we pulled through (I even invited an investigator to be baptized in a lesson. A first for me out here). I know that we saw miracles and we need not worry when we go forth in faith. In His work, God will make you equal to the task.

One of the recent converts in our area just had a kidney stone removed (4 incisions and other nasty stuff) and when we went to visit her, she asked if we could clean the wound and change the dressings. ick. I thought she was kidding (she wasn't). Hermana Stilson has actually worked in a hospital and wants to be a surgeon someday, so that worked out well while squeamish little Hermana Een kept her distance. There are pictures. Oh the things we do as missionaries.

We had interviews with the mission president this week. He is such a sweet, loving, and spiritual man. Hermana Manwill said most of her interview was spent talking about her companions and told me that both she and the President Pace agree that I will be a Sister Training Leader someday and a million other great things. For now? I'm just going to worry about getting out of my OWN training. Poco a poco. But it was nice to hear about the faith they have in me and that my efforts aren't wasted.

Spiritual Thought: My last letter was a long "Come to Jesus" discourse, and it made me realize just how easy it is to speak about the gospel. Back home, when I read letters from missionaries, I always thought it was weird how they would "gush" about the work and the scriptures and their converts and about the gospel. I thought that it was just something they did when they didn't have anything else to say. Being ON a mission has changed my perspective. Instead, it's the opposite. When you realize the power and the importance of the Gospel, the other things about your daily activities pale in comparative importance.
Alma 26:12  Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.

So that pretty much sums it up. I'm a gushy missionary.  And it's actually a good thing.

Summary: Last week in a trio. Three days without a trainer this week and my companion performed surgery ;) just a day in the mission life. Mission President interviews, so far so good. I'm a Sister Training Leader in training.

Love you guys!

Hermana Een.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Power of Three

Power: Above average abilities or strength; see also "With great power comes great responsibility."

Three: Three Hermanas working together for three weeks in the third largest city in Spain.

Spain sure has a lot of holidays. And since holidays are the only times we can eat with other missionary companionships for dinners, we've had a lot of fun. This week I had real seafood for the first time in my life and let me tell you, shrimp are a LOT harder to eat when their bulging black eyes are staring you down and you have to rip their heads off while smiling gratefully at the member who made them for you. I also discovered that missionaries have their own version of a "food fight." It's someone telling a member that another missionary needs more food (because the other missionary can't be rude and refuse) and retaliating by scooping a heaping spoonful of rice onto the plate of the Elder across from you when he's not paying attention.
New Years eve was a little weird since we were in bed by 11:30pm, but we were slightly rebellious and ran out to our balcony at midnight, banging pots and pans shouting Feliz año to the three people that were out there. We didn't do the 12 grape thing. Shame.

Basically, it's still Christmas here. There are more parties and lights because of Día de los Reyes (which is tomorrow) and they still play (AMERICAN) Christmas songs in all the stores. The holidays are hard for missionary work because everyone is partying, with family, or out of town and nobody wants to keep appointments. The glass recycling bins on every street corner are chuck full of bottles and the streets are empty until 5 when everyone decides to wake up again. So it´s hard. But we try our darndest.

We're in a tripanionship (a word I made up because it sounds way more awesome than trio), so it's Hermana Manwill (my trainer who's leaving on January 20th), Hermana Stilson (a second transfer missionary who is ALMOST out of training and who's trainer had to leave a little early to start school), and I (of course). Which means two 3 hour church meetings, two correlation meetings, two district meetings, and two areas to cover. Throw in the fact that Hermana Manwill is currently the only Sister Training Leader and has to leave us for meetings and intercambios... let's just say we're busy, and sometimes it's just Hermana Stilson and I trying to get by.

A Jewish musician named Eduardo met with us and asked a million and a half questions about the Church. He plays the clarinet and double bass but has enough violins in his house to outfit a middle school orchestra. I mentioned that I play the cello and he said I'd have to play sometime, amended his statement and said, "Actually, right now." So... well, it wasn't pretty, but it was fun. He's such an interesting soul.

We had the opportunity to meet with a man named Carlos. He's blind because of a car accident 10 years ago, but I've never met someone with so much faith, strength, and selflessness. It was just Hermana Stilson and I, and we were going to keep it simple (talking about church attendance and the importance of baptism) when he said the three words no first-transfer missionary wants to hear: "Tengo una problema." He launched into a story about a car accident, a broken window, people that think it's his fault, and a court decision after the holidays that could send him to prison or fine him more than he'd ever be able to pay. The fact that I was able to understand that much was nothing short of a miracle. I wanted to help him, and knew what I wanted to say. I don't know a lot, but I knew enough -- a word I learned from my CCM companion, words borrowed from our memorized missionary purpose, and others pieced together into something that helped. There's a lot that I lack in this language and as a missionary in general, but it was enough to help someone who needed it. We shared scriptures of faith and comfort and parted ways both having learned something uplifting.

I have always been a goal oriented person, and a mission is a GREAT place for that. We have monthly goals, weekly goals, daily goals, yearly goals, goals for transfers, goals for the mission, companionship goals, personal goals, and district goals. It gets a little overwhelming! This year, we've been trying to motivate people to be better, to come closer to Christ. New year, NEW YOU! One thing I'd like to focus on is in the scripture Mathew 19:20, the story of a righteous man with many riches who asks the Savior how he can gain salvation and earn heaven. Christ tells him to keep the commandments. He says "All these things I have kept from my youth. What lack I yet?"

What lack I yet.

I love that thought. I hold all of you in high esteem. I see your names in the letters as I address them and I can personally testify that you are great people. Precious souls. Beloved children of God. You are all SO GREAT. And I want to challenge you to be even better.
Ask, "What lack I yet?"
Be brave enough to ask,
Humble enough to listen,
Strong enough to act.

I wish you luck on all of your New Years Resolutions, and hope you'll take this spiritual challenge. Try and write a missionary this month, ok? We love hearing from you guys, and there sure are a lot of us out here (88,000). You'll make someone's day.

Love always!

-Hermana Alayna Een

Summary: Read the whole letter. It´s a good one. I´ll summarize the next one. ;)

P.S I hope you enjoyed my Doctor Who and Spiderman references in the beginning.

Bonus:  I have both a really funny story and something to repent of (sometimes they are inseparable). I'm part of a new trio (tripanionship is my preferred term, it sounds WAY cooler) which means two church meetings and a whole lot of other responsibilities we're still trying to work out. Sweet Hermana Gillette used to play the piano in her ward, and I was wondering who they were going to have play the piano this time around when lo and behold the bishop announced that I was going to... over the pulpit... for the opening hymn... and I only know 4 songs. So I convinced them to change it to one I knew, and it went fairly well. But I don't know any sacrament hymns and there was no time to try and play through any of them so I just sight read and hoped for the best. Within the first line someone in the congregation started singing loudly and suddenly we were singing the words of 109 to the tune of 128, and I had to try my best to accompany the congregation while poor Hermana Stilson didn't know what beat to lead to. It was a disaster, but a funny one. It didn't leave the best feeling for the start of a sacred meeting such as the sacrament and I wasn't in the right mind set. (Remember, it´s in the Spanish Hymnal.)
Note:  I looked it up, #109 is the tune of "We'll Sing All Hail to Jesus' Name" in 3/4 time and #128 is "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" in 6/8 time.  Visualizing that in my mind makes funnier.  The beginning 2 notes of both hymns are the same . . . still Christmas celebrations going on in Spain . . I get it.
The StilWillEen Tripanionship

Hermanas Een, Stilston, Manwill