Monday, February 23, 2015

Laundry y la Luna

Laundry: Everyone's least-favorite chore (though I actually don't mind it). Your clothes are agitated, drenched, lathered, rinsed, and spun dry. Eventually they come out clean (if you think you see a gospel parallel coming on, you're right.)

La Luna: The moon. An interesting paradox, always there, but always waxing, waning and changing.

Laundry, la luna, life comes in cycles. You know what else comes in cycles? The mission. I'm about to complete my second transfer (12 weeks, in total)  in the mission field which means that I'm technically out of training!!! I say technically because I've been so busy working on training Hermana Manotas (reading in Preach My Gospel and such) that I never really finished my own. I plan on finishing our training together (reading the other parts of Preach My Gospel and finally getting around to taking those online language tests), but as we get transfer calls this Saturday, all bets are off. Sure, NORMALLY I would stay to finish her training but NORMALLY they don't call a 6-week-old missionary to train, so I'm mentally preparing for any eventuality.

The miracle of this week (well, a carry over from previous weeks, but a higher focus now) is Genoveva. She's a live-in nanny of sorts, and when our cita [appointment] with her neighbor fired we decided to stop by and try and share something. She was hesitant to let us in but Mamma Africa (a member, bless her) insisted, "just for a moment". We shared a bit of the first lesson and answered her questions about the Resurrection and by the end of the visit, she was like a totally different person. She was open and loving and invited us back. We've been back to visit her a couple of times since then and each time she seems to radiate with greater happiness. This week she came to church because she said she WANTED to almost before we could extend the invitation. It's the first time that missionary work has seemed so effortless, and I honestly feel that I can't take credit for any of her progress or anything that has happened. She's been prepared from on high, fellowshipped/loved/welcomed by the members, and we're almost in the background. And I LOVE that.

We're getting her ready for the "rinse cycle" (BAPTISM).

We had an AWESOME cita with Margarita (I think I wrote a bit about her before) and planned to start at square one because she hasn't had contact with the church for almost 20 years. Once we got there, she sat her granddaughter down and told her to listen to us. So... we taught, testified, and used the video of the Restoration (It's AWESOME). One of the best lessons I've had on my mission so far.

I lost my companion and went on splits with an Elder.
Ok, so not exactly, but it's a great start to the story. We had a lesson planned and had called for Abrahm (our Ward Mission Leader) to come with us (more people to testify=better lesson.) but as we were getting off the Tramvia (an above-ground train) a flock of midgets (children) separated my companion and I. I made it off the train, but the doors closed behind me and we had a frantic moment of trying to get the doors open again as the train sped off sending poor companion away as I frantically tried to signal for her to get off at the next stop. I could have freaked out (should have) but I felt calm. I walked to a nearby bus stop where Abrahm was waiting and I had to explain to my ward mission leader (2 months off of his OWN mission) that I'd lost my companion. We started walking in the direction of the train and before long we saw Hermana Manotas BOOKING it towards us. All was well. We laughed. A LOT.

One thing I've come to learn on the mission is Love. ("Hermana Een," you say, "You're a little late. Valentine's Day was LAST week." But hear me out.)  Going to church every Sunday and seeing who's there-- which of our investigators showed up, our favorite member, menos activos [less active]-- I feel filled with joy, real JOY to see them there. And at the same time my heart aches for those who I don't see, for those who aren't there. And I think I understand just a small part of the love that our Father in Heaven has for each one of us. He wants us to come unto Him and be happy, and has given us the Doctrine of Christ as a guide in how to life a happy life.

Faith in Jesus Christ
Baptism (renewal of our covenants)
The Holy Ghost (the gift and presence of)
And Enduring to the End (the hardest and most important, in my opinion)
Lather, rinse repeat.

We're good. We do our best, but we always fall short (there's always laundry to do). So we start the cycle again. It's better not to wait until the last pair of socks, but stay in a continually cleansing cycle.
And that's my week.

As I mentioned, transfers are next week, so don't freak out if I don't email until Tuesday or Wednesday (Love you, Mom.)

Stay awesome!

Keep us in your prayers!
-Hermana Een

Summary: Life comes in cycles, like laundry. We should be continually cleansing. I lost my companion and went on splits with an Elder (you´re going to have to read that one for clarification). Mission work is going well.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Con Tiempo

Con: a Spanish word meaning "with"

Tiempo: time (also, weather. Spanish is weird), as in "everything gets better with" and "flies"

The life of a missionary REVOLVES around time. We have a strict schedule of when to wake up, study, proselyte, etc. Time is crucial. Sometimes you wander the streets contacting and it just crawls by. Sometimes you're running to get from point A to point B without stopping and you realize that you slept with your watch on... again... for the fourth night in a row. (And then there's that week that the battery cuts out and you feel like you've lost three hands or something.)

We've had a good week. (Thought I'd get that out of the way for those of you who were worried about my well-being and that of my companion from my last letter) Although neither of us can pin-point exactly what we did differently this week from the last, it felt so much... better.

Hermana Een is now an official Spanish citizen!!!! (For a year) All it took was 20 minutes in a police station that was oddly similar to the Las Vegas DMV... that, and two 3 hour train rides. The ride there was almost first-class (!) so we slept/watched the sunrise over the ocean. The ride back was longer and less comfortable but I spent the majority of it geeking out with Hermana O´Neill (from my CCM group). I still know a LOT about Doctor Who, as I am going to prove shortly.

We met with Margarita in a Valencian pueblo (a little town on the outskirts, connected by metro). We'd contacted her a couple weeks ago and got her number and then Elders from ANOTHER pueblo contacted her this week and gave us the reference (Apparently God really wanted her to meet with the missionaries). A few minutes into the visit we found out that she was actually a MEMEBER. She was baptized in Chile over 20 years ago after being touched by the service missionaries performed for a town torn down by an earthquake, but hasn't been to church since. We shared a message of hope and invited her to return.

And she did.

We also met with Julie. She had a fight with her roommates, packed a carry-on to blow off steam in Madrid and was just feeling lost, angry, and upset ... and we contacted her as she was walking down the street to the station. We had a lesson later and she said that although she hadn't thought much of it at the time, at the very moment she needed comfort... two Mormon missionaries gave her a message of hope.

People think that time is a direct progression from one point to the next when really, from a non-linear point of view, it´s more a ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff. Blessings come in the Lord's time. And it's SO much better that way. We're on this earth to be tested, so there are hard times. But He also knows us perfectly, and knows what we need in a MOMENT.

And somehow our lives collide so that you get what you need when you need it, and are able to give to someone else.

And it's only possible when we are willing to serve, too.

Alma 34:32  For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
Luke 12:6-7 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Summary:  Everything gets better with time. The Lord knows His children and how to give them what they need. We had a good week and we're going to have another one.

Bonus: "con tiempo" is also how you say "eventually" in Spanish.

That's sort-of deep.

LOTS OF LOVE! (And a Happy Belated Valentines Day!)
-Hermana Een.
Hermanas Manotas and Een on Valentines Day
"We ate cake with Pamela."

She said "Happy Valentine's Day!" and then stabbed it. (Hanging out with single women on Valentine's Day is always a treat)

Monday, February 9, 2015


Dar: To give.

Dar un luz [literal translation to give a light, but as Alayna previously told us it is how they say “to give birth” in Spanish]: Sister Pace called me at nine am one morning to tell me that I'm the AUNT to a newborn, slightly red-headed, currently nameless niece!!! I´m thrilled for my family and excited to hear more about her.

Dar un bendicion [to give a blessing]: This week was specialized training which is a great, spiritually uplifting two days where we talk, share, and grow. It was enlightening and humbling (So everything I'm doing now is wrong? Ok.  Just checking.)  and I shared my favorite story of Christ in the last part of the training with the hymn "Master, the Tempest is Raging" and my testimony of how Christ can calm our personal storms.

Speaking of personal storms, my companion is struggling.  A lot.  With adjusting to missionary life. So President Pace gave her a blessing at the end of the meetings, and while he was at it, gave me one as well. A blessing is a sort-of prayer given by someone who holds the priesthood authority of God, and is able to (through the laying on of hands) voice the blessings of heaven upon you and give you knowledge and comfort or peace and healing (depending on what you need). And I personally am a huge fan of them, though I've always been a little hesitant to ask.  It's amazing how the desires of your heart and preoccupations of your mind are so clearly perceived and addressed.

Dar comida [give food]: Last week we passed around a "feed the missionaries list" and... well we haven't really eaten in piso this week, so I guess that means that the members love us. I'm a fan of Colombian food, and being in a real HOME really helped Hermana Manotas feel a little more tranquilla.

Dar Consuelo [give comfort]: Did I mention that my companion was struggling? She came on the mission with a mountain of emotional baggage that she feels like she can't unpack and can no longer carry (that's the best way I can think of to describe it.) We've talked a lot. And I've tried, summoning all the wisdom a  studious 19-year-old can accumulate, to help her but it's hard. It's hard when someone is trying to confide in you and you are trying to listen and understand but you have to ask for clarification because she's upset and talking REALLY quickly in a language you haven't mastered yet. But we tried. And we'll keep trying.

Dar un discourse [give a talk]: This Sunday I was assigned to give a 10 minute talk on missionary work (a subject I'm fairly familiar with, so at least that's good.) and although I wondered why they would ask the missionary with the least language experience and second-least mission experience I did my best. I wrote it all out and had Hermana Manotas read through it on the metro to the church (feeling like a kid and a teacher). I'm sure my face was beet-red most of the time, but I know that at least SOME people understood what I was trying to say. It wasn't bad, which is good enough for now.

To give up: (I don't know how to say that in Spanish) [Darse por vencido]
My companion has decided to leave. Her bags aren't packed yet, but her mind is home.  In the past few days we haven't had a single conversation that didn't end without a mention of her home or family.  She stopped saying "if" and started saying "when" and the thought of leaving at the end of the 6 weeks training period turned into "If I leave tomorrow."

I want what's best for her (your companion is the most important person in your area) but I'm not ready to give up on her. I'll try my best to make this next week great, to help her focus on the good that she can do instead of the hard truth of endless rejection. And I'm not giving up.
James 1:5  If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

and some other phrase that I´m pretty sure is Scripture, but I don´t know where
"Peace I leave with you. My peace I GIVE unto you. Not as the world GIVETH GIVE I unto you, let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." [John 14:27]
Tomorrow I go to Barcelona to get my residency which means I've been in the field for 60 days. A LOT of things have happened in that time, good and bad, but I'm hopeful and full of peace in spite of it all.

Summary: Give. Live. Seguir adelante. [Go ahead, press forward, carry on]

Love you guys! (Pray for us!)
Hermana Een

A sort of P.S.  I guess this letter was a bit of a downer, so I just wanted to add that really, this week has also been a really good one in many aspects. Ignacio (a recent convert) blessed the sacrament for the first time... and had to say it three times but it was SO tender and I was so proud of him. Edith (an investigator) has read up to 2 Nephi and although she doesn't understand everything says she feels something when she reads and that she loves us. Even in trial there is beauty to be found. And I can honestly say that in spite of- and because of- the things that are happening, I'm happy and I have (for the most part) peace. I can't really explain it. But I can feel it. And I'm SO grateful.
Ok. Love you guys. :D

Valencia District

Monday, February 2, 2015

Light of the World

Darkness: the absence of light. That´s it.
If there's one thing I've learned on the mission (and there's more than one, but here we go) it's that you have to do hard things and that your comfort zone has to expand pretty rapidly or else you're going to have a rough go of it. Who should be the first to train a new missionary while still in training? Hermana Een. Who should we ask to give a 10 minute talk on Sunday (IN SPANISH)? Hermana Een. Who should share a spiritual thought in the next Zone Conference (specialized training... I'd try and explain it but I'm not exactly sure what it is either)? Hermana Een. Who has lost all ability to say no? Hermana Een. Es una cosa de la misiĆ³n. [It is a thing of the mission] (My companion thinks I say that a lot.)

You know that old TV show, Dragon Tales? Remember Zach and Wheezy? (The two-headed, green and purple one?) Sometimes that's what a companionship is like. You take two VERY different people and tell them to work as one. There's bumps in the road. There's a lot of adjustment.   It's weird being a senior companion/trainer to someone who is above me both in Language and in years and the only thing I have going for me is "mission experience," and not much of that either. But we try.
Ustedes son maquinas! [You are machines!]  I hear that a lot from well-meaning leaders in the mission regarding my companion and I.  In a way it's true. We're doing hard things, never before done, and we're giving it our best.  We're not quite well-oiled yet. We still get lost, take the wrong metros and have to ask where the bus stop is...but we're getting there.
This week I had my first first intercambio (when the Sister Training Leaders come and spend the day with you), so Hermana Boyer joined our companionship for a day. We worked through winds worthy of the Wizard of Oz, prayed a lot, and had one of the best days I've ever had on my mission. Part of that was due to the members we visited and the lessons we taught, but above all of that was when Souad accepted a baptismal date.  Here's her story.
       We were knocking doors (a necessity of missionary work, though not one Hermana Manotas enjoys) and a woman answered. Her hair was disheveled, her doorway was dark and she looked...well... a little scary. She told us how she didn't have power, didn't have light, and wasn't very interested in our message... because she's boarderline muslim (whatever that means).   But we left our card and encouraged her to call us if she ever needed help.   About 10 minutes later we got a call simply saying, "I found a candle. You can come back."
I was a little hesitant (Dang it Saratov Approach) but we went back, sat in her humble piso (sharing a chair because she didn't have 2), and listened. When the time was right I shared my favorite scripture, John 8:12 (I [Jesus] am the light of the world. He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.)  We bore testimony.  We tried to comfort her.  And when the time came, we left.
This is the "Willow Tree" figure we got
for Alayna about 9 years ago . . . when we
first named Alayna, we didn't know that
 it is a form of "Helen" which means
"Shining One" or "Torchbearer".
We got her this after we found that out.
 She is living up to her name!
She called a few times in the following days, once saying "I have light. You can come back." So when we were in the area again, we stopped by.  It was a COMPLETE change. The light was on (she'd talked to the landlord).   She was more alert.  Her hair was more tame, her glasses were on, and she looked like a different person.  This time we were able to share a little bit more of a lesson, of our message.  After a while she said, "Oh, you guys are the Mormons?"  And told us how she had visited with Elders before and really liked it.  So we set up another appointment.
The three of us went to Souad's house again. She had found another chair so we could all sit and was SO different.  We hadn't even gotten very far into the lesson, simply talking about this and that about the church and she said "Take me Take me, Baptize me!" So we set a date.
I've always heard that people could change.   And I've really tried to believe it.   But now I know.   Now I've seen it for myself, and that changes everything.  So everything that's hard in mission work is worth it because we really ARE making a difference. We didn't do anything with electricity, but we brought a light, and it continues to grow and glow. And I'll never forget that.
Summary: People really CAN change, and the light that the gospel brings is SO REAL. Having a new companion is different in ways that are both good and challenging. But we try.
Love you guys!
Hermana Een
Hermana Manotas and Hermana Alayna Een