Monday, January 25, 2016

Hark and Happenstance

Hark and Happenstance (sort of sounds like 'Pomp and Circumstance.'And that's the only cultural reference I have for you today. It's the name of that graduation song, right?)

Hark: literary, listen.
Happenstance: coincidence

We had a worldwide mission conference, something they haven't done in a decade. WORLD-WIDE. That means all the 75,000 full time missionaries from all around the world, together, listening and singing and learning from apostles and disciples (except for those in Tokyo and stuff, time-change problems). I took SO MANY notes, listened intently, and received some useful correction.  The intermediary hymn was "Hark, All ye Nations."  During that hymn, I thought of all my friends serving missions:  Marissa Farmer, Devin Nordine, Elisa Martinez, Kimberly Pace, Jackie Lupton, McKenzie Schoffield, Paul Swenson, Stephanie Williams, Ashley MacKay, Wiliam Orchard, Michael Hilton, Megan Wiseman, Amanda Randall.  In places all around the world: Norway, England, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Peru, Utah, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, other states, and good old España.  All singing together. Kind-of incredible ¿no?

Interviews with President.
We talked business; the area, the ward, my companion. Which I realize I haven't mentioned lately so... Ana and Norma are still incredibly faithful. They have several REAL problems going on right now and might be kicked out of their piso[apartment] at the end of the month. There's nothing much we can do but share strength and comfort and pray for them, but we do that a LOT.  There are several friend/investigators (Elba and Muna) that we've been nursing along like a bad habit but we've been being a little more fuerte [strong] with them lately, have them on fecha, and we'll see if that gets them going.  A lot of things are still in need for change, but transfers are coming up and usually bring PLENTY of that.  Ok, so that's the area. Other than that, our interview was pretty tranquillo. They trust me a lot.
The view of a Zaragoza pueblo
A miraculous happenstance.
We planned an intercambio [exchange] because of convenience, seeing that all the missionaries would be in Zaragoza, and deciding to save ourselves a return trip. Just convenience and a pure coincidence that I went on an intercambio with the Hermana I trained (Hermana Manotas) a year TO THE DAY from when I picked her up? That only happens NEVER. It was fun to talk about old times, new prospects, be introduced in citas [appointments] as "mi entrenadora" [my trainer] and be told that I did a good job. Near the end we got stuck in a cita, stressed out, trapped in the bus huelga (strikes), and just BARELY made it to where we needed to be in time. Honestly, it was a lot like our companionship a year ago. :)

Also this photo. Perfectly describes our companionship as it once was
and was again that day... ;)

 A fuerte [strong] testimony
We were in a cita with a family, and at first it went really well. We started explaining the Book of Mormon with the Dayton's doodle (by the end of my mission I'm sure there'll be dozens of my "doodle-work" in scattered Spanish homes), but as we got to explaining prophets and authority the father of the family started fighting with us. We pulled out examples, used scriptures, and tried to explain but after several futile attempts he started shouting, his wife joined in, and we knew that we were getting nowhere so we decided to get out. Somehow Hermana Ingram got the floor and started to bear testimony of the simple little truths. She spoke with more power and conviction then I've ever heard in a lesson and tears started in the corners of her eyes as she spoke, ever so clearly, about the savior. She lead right into a prayer, and then we left.
I learned a lot in that moment. You can only teach the teachable. But you can testify to EVERYONE.

So I want to wrap up with a couple of these little truths, so there is no confusion.

We are Christians.
The Book of Mormon is not the Bible; Nor does it replace it. They are both sacred scriptures.
We do not worship Joseph Smith; But we know he is a prophet called of God.
Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and of our souls.
He died for our sins.
He provided the way for us to live with God again.
Baptism, by someone who holds the restored priesthood authority of God, is the way that we accept Christ's sacrifice for us and show God that we are willing and worthy to follow him.
We are part of the eternal family of God.
Our families can be eternal.
You are a child of God with divine, eternal potential.
And He loves you.

Hark, ALL ye nations! Hear heaven’s voice
Thru ev’ry land that all may rejoice!
Angels of glory shout the refrain:
Truth is restored again!
Searching in darkness, nations have wept;
Watching for dawn, their vigil they’ve kept.
All now rejoice; the long night is o’er.
Truth is on earth once more!
Chosen by God to serve him below,
To ev’ry land and people we’ll go,
Standing for truth with fervent accord,
Teaching his holy word.
Oh, how glorious from the throne above
Shines the gospel light of truth and love!
Bright as the sun, this heavenly ray
Lights ev’ry land today.

Share a little bit of what you know, and join in the effort to light every land.
I love you all and hope you have a great week!
Hermana Alayna Een

Monday, January 18, 2016

Consecration, concentration is a game (Not really)

Consecrate: dedicate formally to a religious or divine purpose.
Concentration: the game you play with clapping, saying words... I don't quite remember how it goes. Also, the action or power of focusing ones mental efforts.

I realized that these letters sometimes seem more like weekly sermons than mission updates (#sorrynotsorry)

A collection of scattered thoughts: the name of my old blog. My way of working. Hopefully I'll piece them all together by the end of this.

I went on an intercambio with Hermana Plant. She's incredible. It was a great experience for both of us. Intercambios are not always about the numbers, always about diligence.  I realized that we are similar in strange, comforting ways. One of them being the difficulty to (and therefore greater desires to) consecrate our thoughts.

Story time.
I've been a good person, kept the commandments 'from my youth.' I didn't have much to change to be worthy of missionary service. But one thing that I struggled with was 'thoughts.' I had grown so accustomed to letting my mind play scenes from movies. In the MTC and in training I balked at the idea of letting it go.  "I wasn't hurting anyone! They can't tell me what to THINK."  But I learned that yes, 1) it was hurting someone- me, and my effectiveness as a  missionary and ability to listen to the spirit. 2) and yes, they could, and always have. Mosiah 4:30, "and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God..." D&C 121:45  There came a point in my training- I still remember it clearly- when I realized I couldn't be the missionary I wanted to be and still entertain the mental distractions of my stories or favorite movies. So I prayed in my heart, asking the Lord to help me clear them from my mind and focus on the work, asking only for the promise that in some future day - when I need them again- they would return to me.

Yes. You can sin with a thought. You can be disobedient with the click of a button. (Mosiah 4:29, And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.) We're in the game of perfecting ourselves and we haven't made it yet!
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7)

"You cannot have one foot at home and one foot in the mission field, that is a certain formula for frustration" "You young missionaries came out here to change the world, to change lives. But there is a cost. It costs everything you have on the altar of sacrifice: fears, etc.  Our all really isn't a lot to ask when you compare it to His all, all that Christ gave for us."

Other things: nearing the end of a long winter transfer (insert Narnia reference), we bought a back brace (my poor broken companion), and are seeing little miracles as we stay diligent in the streets (which is even harder in the cold).

Sorry to be a little scattered. I don't know where the time goes but I get such great joy hearing news from all around our little world as it fills my inbox that I seem to push my own email until last.
Pero Bueno.
Know that I love you all.
Hermana Een

I offended the new Hufflepuff Élder,

Monday, January 11, 2016

Patient, Prank, Parasite

Patient: able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious. 2,  a person receiving or set to receive medical treatment.
Prank: a practical joke or mischievous act
Parasite: an organism that lives in or on another organism and benefits by deriving nutrients at its host's expense.

Last week I mentioned that I had never spent a night in the hospital before. Now I can say that I am highly familiar with the accommodations of a hospital couch. I thought I knew what patience was, but having my companion become a patient taught me so much more. I learned the importance of self-sufficiency... as I became completely dependent on others. (The Relief Society to bring me food, to go on splits so I could grab things from the piso [apartment], etc.) I lived as a parasite from Monday night to Saturday afternoon. I learned the difficulty of the life of a shut-in, how every visit means so much, how it helps keep you sane. I learned my own strength... and how much I needed to rely on the Lord's. I learned how hard it is to be consecrated and focused from a hospital, but how important it is no matter the situation. I learned SO MUCH. And just when I started to shrink, when I started to despair... We were out.

"I've been shot" 

We spent Kings Day in a hospital. The Elders (thanks to a leprosy-recovery in a slightly-delayed new arrival (Elder Woodmansee), there are 4 again) came and visited several times in our 6 days there. I somehow managed to make it to the Zone Meeting in Zaragoza... alone. Let's just say it took the six elders in our district to replace Hermana Ingram as my companion. ;)
The Elders visit for Three Kings Day

By Saturday Hermana Ingram was feeling fine, but they wanted to keep her longer without running any tests or giving her anything more specific than an anti-nausea pill. So we talked with the mission President and among ourselves and decided to sign the thing to leave against the doctor's orders. It was a great pleasure to wave the little paper and say, like in LOTR, "You have no power here!" Our sudden departure into freedom ("Doby is a free elf!" or "We made it, we're going home!") provided the perfect opportunity to repay the Elders for the prank they pulled with Élder Pixton on Christmas Eve. We'll say that the reunion was ever-more sweet that Sunday morning, give Hermana Een two thumbs up for over-the-phone acting skills, and leave it at that.

You have no power here!

"Doby is a free elf!" or "We made it, we're going home!"
So I've had a lot of time to think (claro [of course]). I've also had a decent amount of time to watch church-related movies (the best). And I had this thought while watching the Bible videos.

In Luke 22, we have the story of Christ's intercessory prayer.
40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,
46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.

Carl Bloch's painting of this moment is both beautiful and saddening. God sent an angel down to comfort Christ, in this, his moment of greatest agony. But I can't help but think that the angel wouldn't have been necessary if the apostles had just stayed awake, had "watched with him one hour." I've had many angels come to me in this week, in the form of the Elders, a saintly Relief Society President, and other loving and faithful members.

When we take seriously our responsibility to uplift and minister to others is when we can see heaven on earth.
We had a great contact last night that helped recharge my faith, and we're out here ready to work again.

Be the Angels.
Love you all, and hoping you have a great week full of calendar-worthy miracles.

Hermana Een

I love this, Alayna's study desk.  I love to see the things we have sent, the things she chose to put up,
the glimpse into her world.

'Cup Song Challenge'

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


A year of firsts

First: coming before all others in time or in order. A "first" something that has never happened to you before.

We rang in the new year with the traditional 12 Spanish grapes... But since missionaries can't be out at midnight, we compromised and did it at noon with the Elders. Great photos, a funny video,  great memories.  In my family we always made those silly childish jokes at the stroke of midnight "I haven't seen my mom since last year!" I haven't eaten since last year!" "I haven't watched TV since last year!" Funny how as a missionary, I can truly say that I haven't done many of those things for a full year.

2015 was my full calendar year as a missionary. I have a calendar hanging in my room with a miracle written in on every day. I've filled it in along the weeks that build up to months that pass so quickly until we're here again. (I got the idea from my trainer around December 2014 when I asked her what a certain calendar was. She said it was a miracle calendar. I asked why it was still on September. She said she'd fallen behind ;) . Bless her.) It really has been a year of miracles. 

But this. THIS has been a year of firsts.  Because Hermana Ingram got pretty sick.  It was my first Sunday completely missing church (definitely on my mission, maybe in my whole life). It was my first time receiving the sacrament in my home. It was my first time letting ELDERS into our piso.  I went to concilio, leaving my companion in the capable hands of Hermana Manotas, coming from the nearby city of Zaragoza, a real tender mercy. I LOVED being in concilio and learned a lot, talked with a lot of other missionaries, and helped set great new goals for the new year. I came back on Monday night and met up with a sweet member from the relief society (Raquel, my hero) who took me to the hospital where I was surprised to find that Hermana Ingram had been since I had left.  I spent my first night in a hospital room (probably since the day I was born, though I wasn't the patient in this case, it still counts).  My companion has had some health struggles all along, and it seems that they've all just accumulated and now is the time to get to the bottom of it.  I have never been so grateful for those who put OTHERS first: For the help, visits, food, calls, flowers, and calls of countless loving and supportive members; for selfless and serving Elders who really, really have made all the difference. I'm grateful for a priesthood blessing on that Sunday morning telling us that Hermana Ingram would not have to cut short her missionary service for this trial and that she "has been blessed with an incredible companion."

I'm grateful for the faith that pushes us through.  In this, the first month of many, I leave you with two challenges:  Discover the daily miracles that surround you; and be the "first" to respond, be that angel that someone needs you to be.  You never know, until that last moment más alla [beyond or after] all the good that you can do. 

Thanks for all of those who wrote me this week. I love you all, even though every single one of you mentioned how I'll be coming home soon.... Sorry that my time limits with wifi don't allow me to personally respond to you all.

There's still so much to do, and every little aspect of his work is important. It's all a part of His grand plan and we are all just little chess pieces with different and important roles. Mine right now, is to be a supportive and faithful companion.  We'll be in the hospital at least until Thursday. Prayers are appreciated (and heard). But don't worry too much.

Until next week.

Hermana Een