Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Chapter from the Book of Job

Job: it's a book I've never read all the way through because it has about four times as many chapters as I think are necessary, but the bible dictionary says, "Narrates the afflictions that befell a righteous man and discusses the moral problem such sufferings present. The book of Job does not entirely answer the question as to why Job (or any human) might suffer pain and the loss of his goods. It does make it clear that affliction is not necessarily evidence that one has sinned. The book suggests that affliction, if not for punishment, may be for experience, discipline, and instruction (see also D&C 122).

That last part made me smile.
In the story of Job we learned that he struggled in three main categories. I'll use parallels from this week. It'll be fun.

Loss of family and property-
OK, so nothing to do with the family part (thankfully) but on an intercambio [companion exchange] this week with Hermana Rica, I realized all too late that the keys to the church and our piso [apartment] were with my companion.... In Santander. It was sufficiently stressful but thankfully the Elders came to the rescue with their extra set. (Other notes about the intercambio- we learned how to work under pressure. We ran through the rain and had a couple of great lessons.) so the loss was incredibly temporary. No pasa nada. [doesn't matter]

Job had three not-so-good friends that ended up adding the insult to injury.
Well, I don't really have that, since all of the people I work with are GREAT. But the pressure of trying to work in two intercambios in 6 days was really tough.

Physical afflictions-
Job had boils.
I stubbed (possibly broke?) my toe. It doesn't seem like such a big deal until you try and put on socks and shoes and then... Ouch.
Also... During weekly planning (trying to cram it in the day after one intercambio and hours before starting another one) I saw something black cross my companion's scalp. I pulled it out. She mentioned that her head has been itching for the past couple of days.... Further exploration confirmed the apprehension. She had lice.

And here's where the trials are a blessing in disguise.
I was spent.
I was stressed.
I was sore and tired, but my pride and worth ethic would NEVER have allowed me to rest when there was still the possibility that I could continue working. God knows me. He knew that. He sent me a way (not the most convenient way, but a way) to continue serving (combing through my companion's hair, repeated washing cycles and deep-cleaning the piso) and still get the respite I needed.

It still isn't easy. Nightly-comb throughs make a pixie-cut seem cute and practical (that's for you, Emm).  But we survived another transfer, and I'm invigorated to do better, be better, and see more miracles in these next 6 weeks.

Sorry to be so dramatic. It's the writer in me.

Lots of love!
Hermana Een

(Concilio next week, we won't write til Tuesday.)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Basque-ing in the Sun (part two)

Little ray of sunshine
Sun: Annie says it'll come out tomorrow (bet your bottom dollar). The Beatles say it's already coming (it's alright). Some group with a strange name threatens to soak it up and tell everyone to "lighten up."
(Shine) The Temptations (the ones who sing 'My Girl') say they've got it on a cloudy day. Someone else [John Denver] thinks having it on his shoulders makes him happy.
(Rise) A precariously placed fiddler tells us it's accompanied by a sunset and follows swiftly through the years. Griselda (I think, the old one from Cats) has to wait for it, she looks for a new day and musn't give in.
(Beam) Jesus wants me to be one.
I'd start including Hymns, but then we'd be here forever.

Song lyrics have a surprisingly good shelf life in my memory store.

So I've had a lot of time to think about what I said in my last letter. I've received advice and inspiration from several sources. When you hear the same thing twice, you start paying more attention, you know? Anyway, being here in the unpredictable weather, where some days are sunny and bright and others unpredictable, has taught me a lot. There are days when your best fashion accessory is your umbrella and then the wind kicks up and you can't use it and you just get wet and it's frustrating. But I have clarity. It's rainy, but I know the sun is there, that this is just a passing storm (even if it seems to be a long one).

But there are people out here who don't know it [the sun] is there. They live without the hope of God's light, and for them, the storm seems hopeless and endless.
And that's really why I'm here. To help them see the sun again, and know it is always there.

I went on an intercambio this week with an Hermana who [Lieberum] -in her own way- taught me the importance of being positive. And so, although not much in my situation has changed, my outlook definitely has. And that has made all the difference.

Placing a Book of Mormon
I've been being more careful and specific in my prayers. We always pray for people to teach and to find prepared people, but this week I found myself praying more earnestly for simple things like "help us to talk to nice people today" (which has made contacting a much more pleasant experience) and "help us to be in the place you need us, in the moment you need us there." And I was able to see both of those brought to pass this week. My favorite was with Carmen. It has always been hard to find something useful to do here on Sunday night, and after a couple phone calls we decided to do pass bys but didn't know which area to go to. We thought maybe to go to Sestao- a place we hadn't been yet (because it's kind-of far away)- but weren't sure. We were so indecisive, but decided to say a prayer. After the prayer, we fixed our course for Sestao, and hopped on the metro. After a little while, the lady sitting next to Hermana Randall turned to us and asked if we were Mormons. We said yes, and started talking to her. Carmen has been in Spain for 5 years and has tried to find the church here, but was never able to. She said she lost her Book of Mormon in the move and has felt the "falta"[lack] in her life. I gave her the book I always carry, and we gave her the direction to the church, exchanged numbers, and left feeling so grateful for the opportunity to help her find God again. It was such a neat blessing, and one that we really needed this week.

To close, I just want to share with you some of my favorite song lyrics. They're to a song called "The Sun Will Come" and it's been a long time, so for those of you who have Google, look it up, because these probably aren't quite right, but they're close enough. [If you google it you’ll probably only get the Annie version, it’s written by Craig Petrie and available at www.petriefamily.org “The Son Will Come”, I’ll include the full lyrics at the bottom.  This is a song we learned in our ward choir.]

Father, oh hear my prayer! Behold this child of thine, I long for heaven there. I've labored on the path that leads to Thee, oh how I long to stand before Thee worthily! But my life is filled with darkness, plagued with sin, how can I thy hallowed house in Heaven enter in? What more can I do, than call on Thee? And in my desperate hour, Thy spirit saith to me, "The sun will come, to light the way, to change the darkest night to brightest day. Thou hast given thy part, what is left undone is in His hands. God will send the sun."
What more can I do, than call on Thee? And in my desperate hour, thy spirit saith to me, "The Son will come, to light the way, to change the darkest night to brightest day. Thou hast given thy all, what is left undone is in His hands. God will send His Son."

Basking in the Savior's light.
Have a great week.

-Hermana Een

The Son Will Come
Father, O hear my prayer,
Behold this spot of ground, my garden growing there;
I've labored long to plant each precious seed,
Oh make them grow; the winter harvest we shall need.
Yet the sun has thus refused to give its light,
And the storm, with rain and flood now threatens in its might,
What more can I do, but call on Thee?
And in my desperate hour, thy Spirit saith to me:
The sun will come
To light the way,
To change the darkened skies
To brightest day.
Thou hast giv'n thy part;
What is left undone
Is in His hands, have faith,
God will send the sun.
Father, O hear my prayer,
Behold this child of thine, I long for heaven there;
I've labored on the path that leads to thee,
How I desire to stand before thee worthily.

Yet on earth, my robes are darkened, stained in sin,
How can I thy hallowed home in heaven enter in?

What more can I do, but call on Thee?
And in my desperate hour, thy Spirit saith to me:
The Son will come
To light the way,
To change the darkened skies
To brightest day.
Thou hast giv'n thy part;
What is left undone
Is in His hands, have faith,
God will send His Son.
With all thy mind and heart,
Strive to do thy part.
After all ye can do,
God's mercy will shine though.
The Son will come
To light the way,
To change the darkened sky
To brightest day.
Thou hast giv'n thy part;
What is left undone
Is in His hands, Oh have faith,
God will send His Son.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Basque-ing in the Sun

Basque- the culture here. They have their own super complicated language (I can barely pronounce the NAME of it, not to mention any of the WORDS), flag, pride, and soccer team.
It wasn't remotely sunny this week, but we are wrapping up the summer here, and I really wanted to use this play-on-words before it faded away completely.

I've heard that there's a point in your mission called Gethsemane.
This week has been a bit of that for me. But there's also some really great things I've learned.  Hermana Randall caught a bug or something, and was pretty sick this week. We spent a couple of days in piso [apartment]. The days that we have been able to go out made a phrase in my farewell talk (I'll be faced with more rejection than my non-existent dating life has ever prepared me for) very prophetic. We're mostly through this transfer and I don't know what we have to show for it.

But skipping on to the things that I've learned,
I've had the unique opportunity to witness a Priesthood blessing with all of my companions here on the mission (except for you Hermana Manwill!). It's incredible to see these 18-20 year old boys who struggle to speak Spanish suddenly forget how to speak English and stumble over the opening bit. But then they become true conduits, and God's love and council comes through. Here's what I've learned:
God loves his missionaries
He strengthens them
He blessed them
He needs them
He is happy with what they are doing
Their sacrifices are sufficient.
He will lift and lead them
He loves their companions
He has a plan
We are here to learn.

I've also had the opportunity to read through all the conference talks of President Monson's first year as prophet, (Thanks, President Pace!) and what I found surprised me. He is a incredible person and speaker... But he's very repetitive (he said this SAME THING last priesthood session! That's the same phraseology, even!) and my grand realization is this: there are only so many ways you can rephrase the truth. And it's something we always need to hear.

We had an incredible Zone Conference (hence the Tuesday preparation day) and addressed topics that I didn't even know I needed to hear until I heard them. They are inspired, they are loving, they know our needs. Also, fun photos. Extra intercambio in the coming week or two, fun scheduling things, and the busy mission life goes on.

Thanks for all the incredible things you continue to do on the home front and in other missions.

Lots of love,
-Hermana Een

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The 'Every So Often' Health Update

So I heard that people lose weight in the North. ;)
Barcelona was great, I loved it.  There was a member, Miriam, who fed us healthy Peruvian food once a week.  We also ate a lot of Gelato, brownies, Celestial Orbs (Nutella filled donuts), and chocolate-chip cookies (thanks to Hermana Eyring.)
Hitting nine-months was hard.  You just get more tired, and realize there’s still a long way to go.  But then you get over it.
There’s no Mercadona up here (the Spanish grocery store of choice) so we spend more on groceries and are a little less satisfied with them.  Pero Bueno, asi es. [but it’s so good]

I got good with exercising in Barcelona because Hna. Lee had P-90X and Hna. Eyring had something called Julian Smith work outs which I did with her almost every morning.  They were good.
Hna. Randall and I don’t have those, but we do pretty decently and have decided to go running once a week over the really pretty bridge in our area.  We’ll start next week . . . maybe ;)

August-September Project Life Cards

Area:  Barcelona 3C
Companion:  Hermana Megan Wiseman
From:  June 2015 to August 2015
Ward(s)/Branch(es)  Barcelona 3, Barcelona Stake

“No one is ever as PERFECT as you Paint them nor as BAD as you stain them.”  --Inspired thoughts of Hna. Een

Teaching Experience:  17/8/15
I had a moment of clarity with the last cita [appointment] with Willy, explaining the real difference between the wise and foolish man.  Afterwards he bore testimony and I felt my heart burn.  The Spirit was just so strong.  I’ll never forget it.

Teaching Experience:  Early August
Our last lesson with Willy was frustrating—more like a book-club, and way out of our control.  This time we decided to take charge again, and talk about prayers and real intent.  It was a beautiful lesson and he told us that he’s grateful for the time we give him in lessons, that he’s not wasting it, that he WANTS to be baptized . .  but just needs more time.  #patience

Today was (checklist)
Mostly Tracting    Pass-bys
Last night I got a little carried away and prayed that H.F. would help us lose weight . . . today none of the buildings had elevators.

Marissa Farmer (college roomie) is my most faithful snail-mail correspondent.  While my companion writes/receives letters to/from her boyfriend . . . I have Marissa.  She the one ‘waiting for me’ so we can be roommates again.  She sends me stickers and so much support and I’m so glad I have her. #theonceandfutureroommate

Last Companionship Inventory
Hermana Wiseman and I had been through a lot in our 2 transfers together.  We had a give-and-take, always improving relationship.  When it came to our last weekly planning session, the part about companionship strength and what we could improve, there was nothing left to say or do.  So we sat for a moment and just said, Thank you . . . " That’s how we knew someone would be transferred.

Intercambio  27/8/15
Hermana Ratlit
She loves movies, Batman, classic books, and missionary work.  She’s great at doing the 1st contact and is trying to improve her relationship with the members.   Helped her knock doors.  I went to her area, Las Aranzs and was able to crash a NoleRamra and run into Elder Vickery.  A good intercambio.

8/29/15—I’ve gone American.
I Learned . . . That God blesses our efforts.  After hiking to our area, a little put out and not much to do, we arrive at our destination 15 minutes before the cita[appointment] starts.  Hna. Randall seemed ready to rest but I just felt the need to talk to someone or do something.  We walked a little down the hill and though he was a little out of our ‘path’ I contacted this man.  Turns out he’s a member.  He gave us 3 references!

Teaching Experience 29/8/15
Momchil is a Bulgarian.  He’s had a hard life, and has run into the missionaries several times (once with an Hermana-Braun-from my MTC District in Madrid) and I was able to testify so clearly.  We were able to listen, and I really felt God’s love for this man, this lost sheep.  And I know we helped him.

I Learned . . . That God trusts me.  That he trusts his missionaries and sometimes calls them to do hard—very hard—things.  When you get a hard assignment everyone compliments (pities—inwardly) you and exclaims “It’s because God knows he can trust you, he trusts you so much!”  And my natural man sees my weakness and wonders, “Can’t He trust someone else?”  And you have to shake it off, rededicate yourself, and strive to be worthy of the great trust with which you’ve been placed.

Who:  Hermana Randall & I . . . and 2 Spanish Policemen
What:  We were contact/wandering in a park and the second time we passed them they asked if we were lost.  I said no.  They left.  Hna Randall freaked because she DOESN’T HAVE I.D. or a proselyting card . . .
Where:  Bilbao, 9:45 PM  August 29th [2015]

I have the HIGHEST respect for the Office Elders. Having spent 3 weeks in piso [related to a companion's injury], I know that the only thing harder than missionary work . . . is not being able to do it. The office Elders manage to stay on-top and well focused even as they do the most mundane (yet necessary) tasks. Other missionaries literally refer to the office as "the dungeon". Yet--for the most part--these Elders manage to stay upbeat and positive, and still have a great sense of humor and a spunky personality.
18/8/15 Office Elders: Pemberton, Day, Carter, & Bennet
The office Elders were a super great support for us as we (Hna Randall and I) worked through the gritty details of reporting/replacing things stolen from Hna. Randall's bag. We were describing/listing the things that were in it, lamenting mostly over the loss of her Journal (which was nearly full) but they seemed much more caught up the the case of her stolen passport as the biggest problem. I countered saying, "15 years from now, I'd rather have a journal than a passport." They said, "You can't use a journal as ID to fly back to the states." Touche.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Northern Exposure

Northern Exposure:  an 80s TV show I think I've seen a few episodes of (cultural references become harder to make when you've been out for 10 months...) I think it's about Alaska.

We've had a pretty good week. I feel like we're talking to more people, though not a lot of them want to learn more, and we're still struggling to find new investigators. The pautas (mission goals) have ever felt so out-of-reach, and it's a little bit daunting. There's a lot of roadblocks. I have to do an intercambio [exchange] once a week to keep up with things, I feel like I still don't know my area, and contacting/passing by antiguos [old investigators] isn't yielding much success, so things are hard in that way. But we keep pushing forward. This week we plan on working more with members, being exactly obedient, and setting personal contacting goals. So I hope that helps.
"Beauty and the Beast" moment:  So we passed by this little store with a bunch of books out front and I asked if we could wander in . . . BEST IDEA EVER.  It's so cool, I don't even care that they're all in Spanish. 
John Adams. Apparently, all you have to do is compliment the Basque culture and BOOM.  Statue in Spain.
I went on an intercambio with Hermana Schmidt, which was a fun treat since we were in Barcelona together hace poco [recently]. She's such a great, obedient, and dedicated missionary. It was a pleasure working with her again. It's an hour and a half bus ride to Santander, and although I had planned to do some reading and language study on the way, I found myself staring awe-struck out the window through most of the trip as rolling green hills, beaches, and the Spanish countryside passed by. The north sure is beautiful.
In their cute Santander piso that could fit a family of 7...

And it's another thing, too. Cold. And rainy. And technically, it's still summer. We'll have to be strong to face what winter will bring (winter is coming).

And that's something I've been studying lately. Strength. My whole mission, people have told me that I'm strong. It's written in almost every page of my transfer journal and it's the reputation that preceded me here. But most of the time, I just don't feel like it, or see how that can be true.

So I studied strength in the topical guide, and you know what I found? Strength is something you receive from God, and it's something you have to ask for. It's not something you just have. It comes with humility and a willingness to do His will, whatever it may be.

In the strength of the Lord, I can do all things.

And I can face this winter.

The cold never bothered me anyway.

This is with Hermana Wiseman, previous companion, from back in June when they sang "Let it Go" for the ward talent show in Barcelona . . . Inserted here for the Disney reference.  And because they're so cute.

Have a great week.

Hermana Een

We also talked with a Norweigian man named "Life." That was pretty cool.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Delays and Double Takes

Delays: always unexpected. A natural part of life. How you react during a delay real shows your personality (hint: People are a lot less patient than they seem...)
Double Takes: a split-second second chance to recognize something important or see something as it really is.

This week we had concilio [leadership meeting] (hence the Tuesday email) and I had the great opportunity of going down to Barcelona again... This time, in plane. (More on that later)
August 31, 2015 Concilio (way too excited to have an Hermana taller than me)

 So the festival here in Bilbao came to a close on Saturday night (more like Sunday morning...) and although it was fun to see the world walking around with blue bandanas, soccer jerseys, blue knee-length skirts, and pins of a woman win her arms raised... I'm glad to see things settle down and hopefully see a growth in the missionary work here. The end of Aste Nagusia.
Marijaia, the symbol of the festivities.  They say that her hands are raised into the air as a sign of optimism and to symbolize dancing.   They burn Marijaia at the end of the festival . . . like the Fallas in Valencia, it seems.

I got to go on an intercambio with Hermana Ratliff this week. She's one transfer ahead of me in the mission, loves Batman, wants to work better with the members, and is a very strong and confident teacher. I also got to talk with Elder Vickery (my District Leader my first transfer in Barcelona) which was great.

Ward members in Bilbao at a BBQ
Delays? We took the plane (1 hour trip) back to Bilbao after Concilio... And it was delayed for 3 hours. We got home at 2 am which is definitely the latest I've stayed up as a missionary. I thought the other passengers were ready to riot.

Just a sampling of some weird Basque street names.
I think my favorite miracle this week was with a Bulgarian man named Momchil. The Elders contacted him a couple of weeks ago and he came to church my first week here. We set up a cita [appointment] (which he failed on) and sort of lost contact after that until Saturday afternoon. I was busy on the phone and saw that someone was trying to get out attention. I stopped walking but was really distracted and after a few awkward seconds of waiting (thinking he was just another beggar on the street) sort of waved him away, and he left. Moments later the phone all ended, and Hermana Randall said "wasn't that Momchil?" My heart dropped and we ran after him. I apologized for not recognizing him, and we were able to talk. We heard more of his story and about how hard of a time he's had, but also helped him realize how God has been there to help him along the way. He's run into missionaries SEVERAL times in the past few years, and every time he gets a little bit closer. We invited him to a baptism that night, and he came. As I was sitting next to him during the service, I saw him fingering his copy of the Book of Mormon. As he flipped open the front cover I recognized the handwriting of one of the testimonies and asked to see it better. It was from a missionary in my MTC district (Hermana Braun), serving in Madrid! As we talked with him afterwards, it was so interesting to see how God has been reaching out to him, through several sets of missionaries throughout the years. It was just another testimony to me that this is His work, and we have the sacred privilege of being his instruments in preparing His children.

.... And that I almost missed the chance to be a part of it, because I waved him away. In my defense, I didn't recognize him and was carrying on a conversation in Spanish on the phone. I was lucky to have a companion paying better attention. But it made me wonder how many incredible experiences I may have missed because I wasn't paying attention, didn't recognize it, and didn't have that spiritual double-take.

And I was reading in John (I LOVE John) when he asks Peter three times, "do you love me?" Sometimes we need things more than once. But I want to get to the point someday where I can do it on the first try, where he only has to tell me once. It won't be this week or month, and may not happen on my mission or even in the coming years, but I want to try.

So that's been my week!

Wishing you all a great one as well!

-Hermana Een