Monday, August 24, 2015

The Bad Beginning: getting to Bilbao

The Bad Beginning: the first book in "A series of Unfortunate Events."
I swear I didn't quit and become a pessimist, but I already used the "Burn Notice" reference when I was moved to Barcelona (though it would have been more accurate here. Hind sight is 20-20).
I was very proud of my last email. Carefully worded, filled with sentiment and beautifully setting up my transition to a new place. I was ready to relax on a 7 hour train ride. The next few hours definitely shook all of that up.

I met my new companion (Hermana Randall from small-town Utah) at the Barcelona train station. Since most of the other Areas in our mission at least pass through there, I also met up and talked with a ton of other people I know. There were a LOT of changes this transfer and quite a few surprises. In the midst of a flurry of photos, catch-up conversations, and a whole lot of air-dropping, my companion checked her luggage... and saw that her bag was gone. A bag with ALL the important things (passport, wallet, journal, transfer journal, ID, YW medallion, glasses, things of political and personal importance). With 30 minutes before the train is scheduled to leave, we do a sweep of the area, we talk to people, we walk around and through a couple of things and don't find it. With 15 minutes to go we try to catch the train, planning to call the mission office and inform them when we get to Bilbao. The struggle with whitewashing (one of them, at least) is that you BOTH have 2 large (slightly over-packed) suitcases with a carry-on, and it's nearly impossible to manage them by yourselves. We got there 5 minutes before the train left.... and they wouldn't let us on.

 Long story short(er), a pay phone call and a few emails later (thank you, McDonalds free wifi), we were told to go back to the Barcelona piso [apartment] and we'd catch a train the next morning. Getting our luggage in and out of the metro, around the crowded city streets, and back to the piso I thought I'd left forever was the second hardest physical thing I've ever done (Monserrat still in first). It's enough to make anyone a minimalist.

It was a little awkward to suddenly be back after saying goodbye, but Hermana Eyring was really glad (and surprised) to see us waiting on the steps.

The next day we went to the Police Station to fill out a report, and then the U.S. Consulate to replace her passport. We were blessed by REALLY nice people, and good timing. That night we awkwardly worked in my old area, trying to do missionary work without a phone, passby list, or keys and without running into people I'd already said goodbye to.

So that was fun.

Thursday morning we were on the train, early and without a hiccup.

Thursday afternoon we arrived in Bilbao, with hundreds of questions and not a lot of answers.  That night, we wandered around our area trying to figure things out.  And we fell in love. It's absolutely enchanting, by far the most beautiful city I've ever been in. And it's ours.  It's a good thing we already love the city, because the rest is going to be a little bit hard.

Also, there's some sort of huge festival going on right now. More on that next week.

We received a warm welcome from the ward and are ready to work this week.

We still have a few questions, and there's still some things to iron out (like the fact that I'm paying for both of us until her new card and reimbursals come in, so it's a good thing I've been thrifty), but at least we know that it can only go up from here.

And for my quick spiritual thought...
Here's some biblical proof that the savior whitewashed too.
Isaiah 1:18
18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Love you! Good luck with school starting and whatever else is going on in your own little corners of the world!
-Hermana Een

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins- a magical nanny who fixes problems where she resides until the wind changes and she leaves to help another needy family. Also my nickname in our District...but that's just because I have everything you could ever need the moment you need it in my bag (bandaid? Motrin? Dry erase marker? Check check check)

White-wash: a mission term I'll explain later on. But let's just say it's a little more complicated than your average Tom Sawyer's picket fence.

This week felt like goodbye. The incredible story arch of our two transfers together came to a close in a matter of days; loose ends were tied up in a nice little bow, we saw tender mercies and little miracles, and just felt at peace in the assurance that Hermana Wiseman was leaving, but that a new adventure would begin and everything would be alright.
This week I had an incredible intercambio [exchange] with the only Hermana taller than me in the mission (dear sweet Hermana Fenn), and I felt like I really helped her. This week we also went contacting in a rainstorm and had a lot of little miracles... also got soaked. We ran into Abraham (just as lost and prideful as ever, but at least now we know we've done our part), and other great stuff too.
Transfers are a bit of an obsession for missionaries. We like to predict what will happen and are usually pretty accurate. About half-way through the week our piso [apartment] came to the conclusion that I would train the new Hermana coming in as Hermana Wiseman leaves this transfer. It just seemed to make sense.

So although we were nervous (as always) the Saturday night of transfer calls, we rested pretty sure in what would surely come. It wasn't even that much of a surprise when we got a call from President Dayton and he asked to talk to me.

He asked how I was doing. He said how much he trusted me, and how he thought I was the only Hermana strong enough for this assignment.
And then he asked me to go to Bilbao, and whitewash the area.

Whitewash: to start afresh. Usually you only take one missionary out of an area at a time, so that the other one can show them the area, the ward, and preserve the unity. Whitewash happens when two new missionaries go into an area they don't know, people they don't know, a WARD they don't know, and they do their best.
Whitewashing is hard.
 And it's the only thing I thought I couldn't do on the mission, what with my somewhat introverted tendencies and talent for getting myself lost.

A couple of people told me it's because God really trusts me. I think he just wants to move me out of my comfort zone and teach me to trust in Him more. Because it's a situation tin which I can't trust in my own strength.

Our goofy combined district in the one-and-only District Meeting

So it turns out that all those goodbyes were for me.
And I was blessed with an incredible Monday, saying goodbye, and knowing that the people here I've come to love will be well looked after, and that I've actually done more good here than I realized.

Our Monday morning cita [appointment] with Willy was one of the most spiritual lessons I've ever been in and made a spiritual connection I'd never thought of before and he cried as he bore testimony in front of us and his wife. I felt my heart burn as he said he knew it was true and knew that time was short (even if he thinks he needs a little bit more to be truly repentant) and said he wanted my email so he could send me a photo of his baptism. Edi called that night to say goodbye and wish me the best. He has a fecha [baptismal date] for the 29th, and it's the real deal.
The members here are incredible. Norma is the best human being on the planet, Miriam is my stylish Spanish mother, Lilium is a sweet friend, Jesus is an on-task older brother, Enrique is a dedicated and dry-humor ridden Spaniard, and I'll miss them all a lot. And I was able to say goodbye to all of them.
I'll miss the Hermanas, we've really become like sisters. I'll miss our District. I'll miss Hermana Wiseman like crazy.

Enrique and his fiance, Hermana Wiseman and I

I'll always have fond memories of Barcelona. All that I was able to do and see and learn here.
But the winds are changing, and Summer's over. And though I never expected it, I guess it's time for me to go.

Something that's helped me prepare for and come to terms with the change is this scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 6: 33-36

33 Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward.
34 Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.
35 Behold, I do not condemn you; go your ways and sin no more; perform with soberness the work which I have commanded you.
36 Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. [Emphasis added by Alayna.]

A new address and many more adventures to follow.
Until next week,
-Hermana Een

Monday, August 10, 2015

Lead Me, Guide Me

Lead: to show with surety, the way to go. Knowing well the pathway is usually a prerequisite.
Guide: help, assist

Blind leading the blind: what happened this morning since my companion slept with her contacts in and slightly (but temporarily, don't freak out TOO much) damaged her eye. Basically she's become a vampire, sensitive to direct sunlight and... that's about where the similarities end. And since you are all pretty familiar with my astounding sense of directions, I'm sure you can fill in the gaps.

This has been a great week, though honestly (looking back on it) I'm not sure when it began and was surprised to find that it has ended. Es una cosa de la misiĆ³n, tiempo vuela. [It is a thing of the mission, time flies]

I believe in seeing miracles every day, but one of the tender mercies this week was teaching a family, a REAL FAMILY, the plan of salvation. Usually there's some impediment: they're not married, someone has to get divorced first, or some sort of familial discord, but THIS family could/should be eternal. And we get to teach them HOW to be. (Which is awesome)

 Another miracle was just after a visit failed and as we were talking to the member to decide what to do, a woman approached us. We started talking to her. She said she was a member, but hasn't been able to go to church in the past 12 years because her husband wouldn't let her. But she told us that she's been faithfully reading the Book of Mormon daily, pulling an older, well-worn copy of the book FROM HER PURSE, to prove the point. It was just such a tender moment of faith for me.

We haven't been able to see Willy since he came to the baptism last Saturday, and he didn't respond to the texts when asking if we'd see him that Sunday, so we didn't think he would. But he did. He told us his experience with fasting, and I'm continually blown away by his faith and diligence. I'm grateful for the chance I had to help find this church and hope I'm here to see the day he becomes a member.

We were really able to focus on and HELP some less-active members this week, which was a great blessing both to them and to us.

Hitting the middle of your mission is hard. But you mull it over, find something profound to move you forward, and keep pushing on.

It's the last week of the Transfer (that means no letter until Tuesday) and we don't really know what will happen, but whatever does, I'm grateful for the opportunity I've had to be companions with Hermana Wiseman. We've done incredible things and been through a lot together. I continue to learn from her love of the gospel and the people here.

I am a child of God,
And so my needs are great;
Help me to understand his words
Before it grows too late.

Lead me, guide me, walk beside me,
Help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do
To live with him someday.

I am a child of God.
Rich blessings are in store;
If I but learn to do his will,
I’ll live with him once more.

Love you all!
 Hermana Een
I borrowed her shirt without seeing her outfit and when we saw each other in church...unplanned twins!

Members in Barcelona (Jairo and Miriam, JAS representatives), Hermanas Wiseman and Een

Monday, August 3, 2015

Spiritual Spider-Man

Spiritual- I'm on a mission. That's kind of a given.
Spider-Man: "with great power comes great responsibility" A great little quote, and kind of goes along with my spiritual thought from last email. Also, I've become the resident exterminator in our piso [apartment] since everyone else has either never seen a cockroach before or is afraid of them. Me, I take the more "Liam Neison" side of things, "I WILL find you... and I WILL kill you."

Another pretty great week on the mission.
Some highlights are as follows,

Catalan grandmas Rosa and Vickie were baptized, and it was beautiful. The Elders have been working with them for a long time, and it's nice to see the happy ending and the joy it's brought to their lives. Willy came to their baptism and fasted with us. A leap of faith on his part.  I have no doubt in my mind that he will be baptized. But I'm also learning to trust in the Lord and His timing.

Changes in the mission- a new baptismal goal, an area closed, a bigger District. And hey, we got a photo together!
Elders Maurer, Moyano, Pratt, Farley, Johnson, and House. Hermanas Lee Wiseman, Eyring, and I

Thanksgiving dinner and surprise eating citas.
Eating with members after Fast Sunday is GREAT!  Eating again a couple hours later when you were NOT prepared sort of nullifies whatever self-image you regained after fasting.  Pero Bueno [but good].  This extra weight is just proof that the members love us.

Hermana Lee makes us Korean food, Hermana Eyring makes us cookies... Hermana Wiseman and I get fat. ;)

This week I had the opportunity to go on an Intercambio with Hermana Eyring (who I mentioned briefly a couple of emails ago, and since then we found out that she would be trained by Hermana Lee and has been living with us ever since.) She is so dedicated, ready to talk to everyone and has a genuine love for the people here. She's also almost as tall as I am (a nice change), usually gets my Disney references (though Hermana Wiseman has been doing better in that department lately), likes to sing with me, and likes to take care of people. She also taught me how to fold napkins #lifeskill. She's a great addition to the mission and our piso.

I'd like to share a quote about the Book of Mormon. It's pretty essential to everything we do as members, leaders, and missionaries. I have a copy always in my hand and though it's sweaty and gross (or gone, if I give it away) by the end of the day, it helps me remember the importance of the words I carry in my hands and in my heart.

"It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that.  It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too.  But there is something more.  There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the straight and narrow path.  The scriptures are called “the words of life” (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance."-Ezra Taft Benson

Wish a Sister missionary a happy siblings day, ok?
 Lots of love!
-Hermana Een