Monday, December 28, 2015

Mankind, my business

Mankind: human beings considered collectively, the human race.
Business: a person's regular occupation.

I'm so grateful for our Elders, the four other missionaries that work in our ward. We're all very different, we've had different challenges, we all are in different places in our missions but somehow,
miraculously, we've become a close-nit family. How strange to have a family not on first-name terms, but that is what we are. And what a blessing it has been to spend much of Christmas together.
We had a district Breakfast, a gift exchange (with funny things you find in piso), and had the best Christmas Adam ever. (Because Adam comes before Eve).

 One of the Elders (Élder Pixton) injured his ankle in the MTC...Several months of walking on it later... It's broken, surgery is needed, and he'll be going home.  But we didn't know when.  They pulled a prank on Christmas Eve and told us he had left that morning... (Never trust an Elder) we were sad, surprised, mad for the briefest moment, and then glad to spend Christmas Eve together at the home of a member.

The Elder's "Lock-your-heart" attack. Yes, they forgot the tape.

MERRY CHRISTMAS! Hope it was a great one. Mine was. We spent it in and out of member's homes, attempting to carol, bringing Christmas to Anna's home with the delivery of hand-me-down baby clothes, video chatting with family, laughing, and playing games. I love my family.  They're great people. They're the reason that I'm here, and paradoxically, the reason why it's sometimes hard to be. And I love them, and I also love the people here. My heart in so many happy pieces and places.

We took this with a timer, it was set to do 2 pictures.  By a tender mercy Alayna is on the screen in this picture . . . 

 . . . and Aria and Spencer in Hawaii are on the screen in this one taken immediately after.
We sang in sacrament meeting, and had some lessons with some new people. I was so grateful for the help of a member we didn't really know very well before, but have been very blessed by her help, her
experience, and her understanding of the Gospel.

We spent the day today picnicking in the rare Lleida sun (the normal "bleak mid-winter" took a day off, and we were grateful). And I just got a call that Élder Pixton will be leaving, so we'll leave soonish to say goodbye and then get back to work.  It really is a marvelous work and a wonder, la obra misional. I've always loved Christmas stories, and one of my all-time favorites is "a Christmas Carol" not just because of Dickens or the many different versions there are to marathon, but because of how much there is to learn and take from it. Jacob Marley, an old man (ghost) filled with regret mankind makes the sad cry, "Mankind should have been my business!"  As a missionary, it is. It's God's business, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.(Moses 1:39) What a pleasure it is to share in this business.  Scrooge also wishes for the Spirit of Christmas to last all year long.
Is that possible? Yes. Easy, it's the spirit and light of Christ. And we can most definitely have that with us always, when we chose to, and do good things.

So let's do good things. Make goals this new year to come closer to Christ, to learn and improve. And review them weekly, daily as needed.  Really try to achieve them. He'll multiply your honest efforts. He always does.

Have an incredible week starting this new year.
Lots of love,
Hermana Een

Monday, December 21, 2015

It's a Wonderful Life: Jimmy Stewart and Jesus Christ

It's a wonderful life: a classic Christmas tale, a black and white film starring Jimmy Stewart. I remember the first time I actually sat down to watch it. I was quite young, it was kind of long. I'm a sensitive soul (though I seem thick skinned) and there came a moment when my little heart broke for this poor man and all his problems. I distinctly remember turning to my mom with tears streaming down my face and saying that I couldn't watch it anymore, that 'this life was anything but wonderful'. She wisely told me to keep watching, that it wasn't over yet, and everything would be alright in the end, I would see. And as we know, this classic film ended in pure happiness, all problems solved, and left Jimmy Stewart with an immense gratitude for the life he had lived, the experiences that had shaped him, and the good he had both seen and done.

Dear friends, it really is a wonderful life, but it's also, sometimes, a hard 'knock' life (whatever 'knock' means, Annie was never really clear.)

I believe that I forgot to mention that Manuela (an investigator from Bilbao) was baptized on December 6th. All her family came to support her, and in the photos I've seen she looks truly happy. And that, in turn, makes me truly happy.  We keep meeting with our dear friends Anna and Norma, and as we were checking up on Anna's Christmas Day fecha to be baptized she told us she wasn't quite ready yet, and dropped the "I'm not married" bomb. We were sad for her, her uncertain future as well as that of her newborn son, but also (unfortunately) we were sorry for ourselves. Our hopes for a Christmas baptism were dashed like the snow in the famous Christmas carol. But we went forth with faith to the area book and Hermana Ingram found a registro [old record] laying out of someone who used to meet with the missionaries, and she felt really strongly that we should pass by them. As we climbed the stairs to the apartment in which he lived, a man painting the stairway asked if we were the missionaries for the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." We had a great conversation with Jose Martin, who lives in a pueblo but went to our church all through his youth. We invited him to pretty much everything we do, and he said he'd try and make it. I know we were lead to him, even if we can't continue the teaching process at this time.

Manuela and Hermana Randall

Hermanas Manotas, McWhorter, Ingram, and I

We threw we the ward Christmas party (because no one else wanted to). It was a bit stressful and a lot of work, but all things considered -a weeks notice, no budget, and poor communication- it came off a lot better than we expected. 

They sang "The First Noel"
The Sunday before Christmas was the primary program, and in my year y pico [and a little be more] as a missionary, it was one of the most spiritual meetings I've ever been in. They firmly testified and recited the articles of faith, sang familiar songs made beautiful in Spanish, and as they sang "I hope they call me on a mission" I got nostalgic. It was so precious.

Always around this time of year, I remember the story line of "It's a Wonderful Life," how Jimmy Stewart makes a wish that he was never born and then sees the consequences. I've often pondered on that same story line, but with the perspective of me not knowing this gospel. On one hand, it was fun - a couple more Sunday birthday parties I could have gone to, longer camping trips, stuff like that. But as I got older the view got dimmer. Now that I'm here, completely focused on sharing what I know, I know how precious it is- and I wouldn't give it up for anything. The gospel of Jesus Christ and the true church that teaches it have been the anchor and foundation of my family life, of my education, of my relationships with others, of my personal study, and the solution to every one of my little problems.

As hard as it is to ponder on that possibility, there is another, darker train of thought. What if Christ, our savior, whose birth we celebrate this Christmas season, had never come? What if we were left with the stain of Adam's transgression and left to both spiritual and temporal death?
Well? What if?

But thankfully, we're not. We can continue, improve, and become better. We can change. There is, surprisingly, always hope.
Gracias a que Él vive [Because He lives]
Ha Nacido un Salvador. [A Savior is born]

What a wonderful time to be a missionary.
Have the best Christmas ever, ok?
Lots of love,
Hermana Alayna Een

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Toes, Noels, and never alone

Toes- important walking instruments.
Noels- a song we sang as a District for the conference. It went well.
Never Alone- as a missionary, you always have a companion, but that's not quite what I mean.

What even IS a Monday preparation day?
Ok, just to get it out of the way, I would like to inform you all that my toe is fine. A couple days of wearing sandals (no fun. Don't break your toe during winter. Though you can walk and ice it at the same time and it's so numb that it doesn't hurt, so that's a bonus) and icing/ elevating it at night, and I'm good. So good in fact, that we went ice skating today. :) (but... Now I'll never live it down in the district. I'll forever be the missionary who can quote the entire "Incredibles" and who broke her toe doing wall sits.)
Today is her Dad's birthday

But while we're on that subject, I'd like to talk about a blessing. So I'm still super prideful and never want to ask for a blessing, thinking I can handle it and all. Silly. But since Hermana Ingram needed one too, we caved in and asked the Elders. We met up at the church, had the usual little jokes and silliness and then got down to business. Hermana Ingram received her blessing first. And it was incredible; so specific, addressing needs and worries that Élder Johnson never could have known. At one point it said "you have a companion who loves you, and prays for you daily." I almost choked on an intake of air. It's true, I do. And now I know, I KNOW that God heard those prayers. And when Hermana Ingram needed to know, needed to feel that extra love, He let her know that I pray for her. Such an incredible little thing. She was told that her health problems will help her understand the atonement better (something that never comes painlessly, because it didn't in the first place). My blessing couldn't have been more different. I was promised a complete healing, that my foot would not hinder the work. I was also given some vague and cryptic advice and invitations that I'll be puzzling out for the next little while.

The Dayton's came up on Sunday and as we saw them walking on their way to the church we decided to contact them. (Excuse me, Have you seen missionaries like us before?) it was great. After church we went- the missionaries and the mission president and his wife- to eat at the home of a member. She broke down within three seconds of us entering. It was as if Christ had walked into her home (or 8 of His representatives).

Isabel and her family
We had our Specialized Training (a LONG meeting with all the missionaries) and it was incredible. Every topic was beautiful, informative, intriguing, and applicable to our work. Loving people, the atonement, setting goals and achieving them, and wrapping it up with a Christmas program. My arm was sore from conducting by the time we'd sung almost ALL the Christmas hymns, but I couldn't have been happier. A Christmas on the mission is a true gift.  And then they showed the video.  The Christmas video is legendary. It's a compilation of baptism photos from all around the mission all throughout the year. It's a way to remember, commemorate, honor, and feel the awe of such a great work.  But I was wary. It hadn't even started yet and I got anxious and uncomfortable and shed some preparatory tears...because I knew that I would see a photo of Eduardo standing in white next to a beaming Hermana Wiseman and myself. And I knew I would feel the reality of his death hit me again. And it did. My perceptive companion held my hand. The moment passed, and was lost amid the happy faces (of the Paces and other great –now veteran- missionaries) and memories took a center stage. I know that baptism is necessary and that repentance is possible, beautiful, and crucial.

Harkening back to my prideful state at the beginning of this email, I've taken the time lately to write down a couple of what I call "Hermana Een theories." And one of them is as follows. That no one, even God the greatest of all, can go about it alone. In a perfect plan, we all need someone else.
I'm including it in photo form because I'm running out of time.

“God is perfect and all powerful.  But alone even He was powerless to save His children.  God needed Christ to be our Savior.”
“Christ needed Simon to carry His cross the rest of the way, and we all need Christ to save us from our otherwise overwhelming sins and afflictions.”  #h.eentheories

Friday, December 11, 2015

Project Life Journaling Cards

1/12/15 (European style, that’s December) Preparation Day
            The day after concilio, just the lonely Hermanas day, we took a little time to write letters and such, shop a bit, and then finally FINALLY made it to the castle.  It’s Lleida’s biggest landmark, and one of the few true attractions.  I’ve drawn a castle on EVERY preparation day since I’ve been her and as we finally walked in we heard the good news “It’s free today!”  We took TONS of photos, explored what we call “The Queen of Hearts Cathedral.” (at some point it had been turned into an army barracks and the soldiers—being silly young men—had beheaded almost all of the statues) and even climbed the many tiny stairs to reach the lookout tower.  You can see all of Lleida from there.  It’s incredible.
            It was a good, full and relaxing and exciting preparation day.

I learned . . . of little seeds and great fruit.
The night before concilio Hermana O’Neill told me how Carol (in Valencia) is returning to the church and preparing for baptism . . . because I reached out in an email at the right time. 
Hna. Lameroux said how Manuela is “obsessed” with me and “the most prepared person I’ve ever taught.”  And I rejoice in the knowledge that great good has come from little things I’ve done.

Exchanges  . . . with my trainee J  2/12/15
In many ways it was a weird “blast from the past”—riding buses, contacting in semi-darkened streets and being ½ lost . . . but we’ve both changed so much since then.  We realize how we both needed and learned from that long ago transfer, and that we’re better off because of it.  Even better, we’re friends.  We can talk openly, teach and testify together.  I love Hermana Manotas.
Back in the day...

Let the Holy Spirit Guide.
At the end of a preparation day, our ‘for sure’ cita [appointment] failed, leaving us without real plans, and I could tell my companion was frustrated. I knew we had to decide something fast and surprised myself by saying “I was thinking we should visit Ana” though the thought hadn’t crossed my mind until that point.  It was a perfect cita.  I know we were guided, and I was so grateful.

Zone Conference
1st one in Lleida.  As usual, I was assigned the Hna. Dayton “Achieving goals” topic. 
They had a Santa Claus come and give a Christmas gift to each companionship.  The box said “To:  Dios, De:  El Faro”.  Inside was a small Christmas ornament that said “One baptism in December”  For EVERY companionship.  (Not as well executed as it was in concilio, but the affect was good.)

Two very different people can live together in harmony when their focus is the same—OTHER people and THEIR needs.
Any companionship can work if both people are willing.

            Nothing is better than a surprise letter or package from home.
            Few things are harder than waiting for a letter/package that you know is coming and doesn’t. (Or if your companion gets a surprise something while you are waiting.)

Funny Spanish Mistake:
(Not on our part)

We contacted this African man who did not speak English or Spanish very well.  After a couple minutes of trying to tell him we wanted to share a message (mensaje) he sounded very interested until we clarified that we were not giving massages (masaje).

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Email from Hermana Randall 12/9/15

I wanted to give your family an update of Manuela :) Oh, it was so incredible to teach her with Hermana Een. Your daughter is amazing! I absolutely LOVED being with her - she is such a hard working, diligent, obedient, and consecrated missionary. We had a blast our two transfers together and I wish she could have been at the baptism of Manuela this last weekend.
So I was with Hermana Lamoreaux [Hna. Lamoreaux and her companion shared the apartment with Alayna and her apartment in Valencia.] after Hermana Een left Bilbao (I don't know how I was so blessed to be with these two incredible missionaries! They are the best!) But with transfers yesterday, I am now on the island of Palma de Mallorca. I will be with Hermana Johnson, who just finished her training, and am really excited.
Con amor, Hermana Randall
Hna Randall, Manuela, Hna Lamoreaux

Begin forwarded message:
From: Amanda Randall
To: Alayna Een
Subject: Manuela's Baptism :)

Oh Hermana! I so wish you could have been there! And I wish I could capture how wonderful it was in an email. She talked about you EVERY visit and will NEVER forget the impact you made in her life -- I have never seen an investigator (now member!) love a missionary more :) I feel bad that both of us are gone now because of how much she will talk about us.

So I don't have enough time to write you all the details (that would take all day!), but here are some pictures of journal entries that talk about her baptism. This last week was such a whirlwind that I didn't get to write about anything until I was on the shaky train going down to Barc-Sants with about 3 hours of sleep from the night before.

[From her journal]
Tuesday December 8th, 2015
"Manuela was BAPTIZED!!!Oh, it was so perfect. :) This week has been incredible and so busy, but I finally have time to write since I am currently 7 or 8 hours to Barc for transfers.
Friday was Manuela's interview. The Elders showed up late- so she missed Noche de Barrio- but she passed :). (We went over everything beforehand- but she was in there for a full hour with Elder Loaiza. She came out with a sad face to joke around and say she didn't pass. After, she told a few members and they congratulated her). :)
(I think she told Elder Loiaza all about what happened with her husband and what happened with him and Jonathan. . .)
We then went and ate lunch (a portugal dish with beans and then a Latino version of Shepherd's pie) at Manuela's with her Kids, Amy, and Bishop. THey made me a cheesecake to celebrate my birthday. :)
The baptism started a little late but everything went so smoothly. (Hna. L said it was one of the best she's seen). A bunch of family and friends came, including her brother Angel, her Sister Merci, kids... that, with Ward members made it so we had about 30 people there!
Us missionaries did a musical number singing "Lead, Kindly Light" (They sang, Hna. L played violin, I played piano).
The baptism was performed by Bishop.
He was great at calming her down and practicing before she got in the font. Everything was perfect for the baptism and she gave Bishop a big hug after. I was then with her and Alma in the bathroom while Hna. L was in the chapel tho play violin while people wrote notes to Manuela.
Hermana Lamoreaux and I then bore our testimonies :) It was a beautiful baptism service.
While I was with Manuela and Alma, Manuela said "soy Manuela." She said that the water was "calientita" and she felt so much warmth as she came out of the water. I told Alma how we came in contact with her :). It was incredible to be with her and see her joy and happiness.

Well Saturday night was transfer calls. I'm still a little shocked that I'm going to Palma de Mallorca. I will be with Hna. Johnson (an Hermana who just finished training.... so I'm her breaker). It's my first time being "senior companion" and knowing more Spanish than my comp.......
But it's hard to leave Bilbao. It is a BEAUTIFUL city with an awesome ward, incredible members, the best district... ahhh I love it SO MUCH!...
I was SOOO nervous with how Manuela would handle it. She was surprised, too. We didn't prep her at all beforehand with the knowledge that I could be leaving (because we didn't want it to affect herbaptism and confirmation). Bishop and his councilors confirmed her a member of the church with a beautiful blessing. When we explained to Manuela after how we had just got the phone call the night before saying that I would be leaving she teared up and looked pretty sad the rest of the meetings."

We went Monday night to visit her one last time before I left. Oh, it was hard! I held it in pretty well until we got in the elevator and turned around to say one last goodbye - then I lost it and wanted to bawl :)

Thanks for your emails! It's so fun getting them from you and Hna. Ingram :) [Hnas Randall and Ingram were companions at the MTC.] Love you and glad to know this are going well in Lleida - take care of your lame toe ;)

Hermana Randall

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Long Winter. A Little Bit Lame.

The long winter: 1) A book in the "Little House" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Also, one of the few books I've never finished (guess it was a little TOO long.) 2) Also, an 8 week transfer encompassing ALL the winter holidays. I'll be spending it in Lleida with Hermana Ingram (killed the suspense there, but since I forgot to mention last time that we would be having transfers, there wasn't much to build up to.)

Lame: 1) inability to walk normally as a result of injury to the leg or foot 2) (of an explanation or excuse) unconvincingly feeble.

Let's start out with a word you haven't heard in my emails lately...
Intercambio. Yes, I still do them, but there aren't very many hermanas in this smaller zone so they're a bit less frequent.  Anyway I had the strange yet pleasant opportunity to go on an intercambio with Hermana Manotas this Wednesday/Thursday. It was a strange blast from the past, complete with multiple bus rides, contacting in dimly lit streets, and always feeling slightly lost. It was remarkably like our transfer in Valencia! The only difference was US. We've both changed and grown because of and since that long-ago transfer together and now we can look back and see how important and necessary it was for both of us. We talked as old friends, taught together, and worked in beautiful Zaragoza.
Hermanas Een and Manotas, together again for an intercambio
Norma is an investigator out here who is PERFECT.... And she has plans to get married in February, so we're excited for her, but we have also been visiting with her sister Ana. She recently had a baby and has been SO open and sincere and ready to learn. We challenged her and her husband (not the baby, that's The Catholic Church) to prepare to be baptized on Christmas Day. We're working towards a white Christmas, my friends!

Another lesson I learned this past week is that pride comes before a fall. I was telling my companion the day before (as she continues to wage a war on her internal intestinal battlefield) that I've never stayed in piso [apartment] on the mission because of my own sickness or health challenges. And then that next morning my foot slipped out from under me as I was doing wall sits and slammed into the table in front of me.  Did I really just have a repeat baby toe injury? Yes, this time on the other foot. I iced it and tried to ignore it and we went out that morning to test it out. Upon returning and taking off the sock I was greeted with the satisfying fact that I wasn't being lame (making a fuss unnecessarily) but that I was, in fact, somewhat lame, as my purple toe and ugly bruise proved. We called it in and stayed the rest of the day icing and elevating it. (Applicable scripture, James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.) now we're being more careful, and I'm learning patience yet again.

As Christmas approaches, with all the fun festivities, I'm remembering more and more this year, the real reason. That God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son. For us. As part of a grand, eternal, and perfect plan, of which a Savior is an essential part.  Mosiah 3:5 For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.  In third Nephi, after tumult and destruction, Christ's voice is heard pleading for the people to come so he can heal them. That is why he came and why we still celebrate his birth, because he heals and makes us whole, in his own, perfect timing. And I've never been so sure of anything.

Companion facts:  once lived next door to Miley Cyrus. Likes picking things up with her toes/ is actually really good at it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Recuerdo, acción de gracias

Recuerdo- I remember
Día de acción de gracias- Thanksgiving doesn't exist here, but if it did, this is what they would call it.

I gave my third talk as a missionary. I had it all written out but didn't like it all, so spent the rest of my preparation time (and not much of that) tracking down the first talk I ever gave (my first 8 weeks in the mission) and gave that one instead. It was much better; not a call to repentance, but a focus on Christ and His example. When I didn't know how to say very much, I said only that which was most important. Something I should remember, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication (thanks Leonardo da Vinci).

On Saturday I remembered what diligence means. The activity we were planning to help with was not what we expected it to be and would be a waste of time so we left a little dejected and without backup plans. But before we'd gotten very far, I realized we needed a change and asked how many pass-along cards Hermana Ingram had.  She told me, and all told, we had 20. We set the goal to pass them all out before going in for lunch. "Well then Hermana, I guess we'll need to talk to EVERYONE." And you know what?  We did.  And we saw miracles right from the start.

We are still working with our friend, Zian, and every time he amazes me a little bit more, this time because he was in JACOB 5 and still loves the Book of Mormon and because he shared a dream he'd had of Hermana Ingram and I holding light and coming towards him. So he knows the Book of Mormon is true. But he's Muslim, and that comes with some inherent difficulties on several hands. Everyone deserves this gospel, and it IS for everyone...but it definitely comes harder for some people to accept. Keep him in your prayers.

I went down to Barcelona for Concilo [leadership meeting] and received so much strength and energy there. Speaking with the hermanas who are serving in my past areas was very gratifying. Hermana Lameraoux (a good friend who replaced me in Bilbao) says that Manuela is the most prepared person she's even taught and that she's getting baptized this Saturday and inviting EVERYONE. She gave me a letter that was a little hard to read but said "I love you" a lot. Hermana O'Neill (from my MTC group and another good friend) had surprising news from Valencia that Carol (who had dropped off the map long ago) was coming back strong and doing everything she could to prepare for baptism... because a few months ago I sent her an email (that I didn't even know went through, since I never got a response) calling her back.  I'm thankful that no efforts are wasted. Often in missionary service and in normal life, we aren't blessed to see the positive consequences of even our smallest, faithful actions. But that doesn't mean it doesn't matter. It matters so, SO very much.

I'm thankful for these little things.

Our mission put the inspired goal for EVERY companionship to have a baptism in December. What  greater gift can we give the Savior than to work with faith, diligence, and obedience, and help someone understand the truth of a Savior?

We had a great American thanksgiving... As much as you can with just an hour and not a lot of access to the typical foods.

Last email she said there are tumbleweeds in Lleida . . . Voila, tumbleweed tree!