Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Work is Worth It

Worth: of high value or merit

Work: activity involving mental or physical effort in order to achieve a purpose or result

We sure walked a lot in the beginning of the week. Whether it was by poor planning on our part or communication issues with our investigators, I can't quite recall, but I remember walking, talking with people, the chill air as the hours passed, and being tired at the end of the day.

At some point my companion, thinking aloud, asked, "I wonder how Christ faced rejection." I imagine it was something like this: his face takes on a hint of sadness as he lets them get the last word or walk away and then quietly, lovingly, and humbly, he says "that's ok, I'll pay for your sins anyway."

Random deep mental wanderings aside, it's been a pretty good week. We sort of consistently struggled to get citas [appointments] but had the typical meetings and weekly things kept us going: District Meeting where we were attacked with confetti cannons in the most loving way imaginable, English class where getting them not to roll their 'r' is the HARDEST thing ever, coordination with some newly called and very excited Ward missionaries (and food, of course, because Javier wouldn't have it any other way), Noche de Barrio [ward night], and half-hearted practices for some more last-minute musical numbers.

We had a pretty incredible lesson with Ana and Norma and a new roommate named Celeste. We talked about the "what, why, and how" of baptism. I had had a hard time focusing in  personal study that morning, though I had done all of the things I was "supposed" to do (read in PMG, the Book of Mormon, another book of scripture (D&C this time)), I just wasn't feeling it until, with about 29 minutes left, I thought about Ana and Norma. I thought about what they needed, how we should teach them, and what scriptures/experiences would help get the message across. And like flipping switch I felt a new energy and excitement in what I found for them. It was the perfect jumpstart to the day. And I learned again the paradox: focusing on others is the best way to help yourself. As we moved smoothly from idea to scripture to discussion, Norma said "We aren't baptized, but we go to church. If we aren't members, then... What are we?" A great question. You can go to church as often as you want and feel the spirit, but if you don't make the covenant of baptism you'll never have the promise of his constant presence. And I think they finally got it. Norma is just waiting on papers to get married. Ana has a harder choice to make, but she committed to sincerely pray about it. And I finally feel like we're helping them again.  Hermana Gutoff gets bad migraines sometimes, and it's gotten worse lately. I should have seen it coming: 50% of the missionaries I work with end up with serious health problems and I've at least crossed paths with every missionary who's had to go home early. I'm like a bad luck charm. ;) but we'll get it figured out.

How you survive piso purgatory. The District, arts and crafts, journaling, food, and phone calls.

Sometimes I wonder about worth.
I've sent out hundreds of reminder texts for church and activities, made thousands of unanswered phone calls, and seen no results. 
Worthless is what it seems.
As every transfer comes to the last few weeks, I evaluate myself as a leader and missionary and am overwhelmed by just how much I've missed the mark. I haven't hit pautas [mission goals] for over six months or had a baptism since Eduardo, I don't even work with members as well as I should and really, why haven't I been released yet? Why haven't they just given up on me "it's been a nice run, Hermana Een" and passed the torch on to a more worthy candidate? Am I really worthy to be considered a leader?
We stop and talk to so many people: most are Muslim, all are busy and we find very few who stop and listen, much less who want to learn more. And yet we keep walking. We keep talking, and we keep inviting.

And then there are times that restore your faith.
Because a man named Julio you contacted and called actually followed up on his promise to come to church, and you realize that SOMEONE at least, got the message.
Because yesterday was Specialized training, and in the leadership meeting they of course talked about how we can help missionaries work better, but we also talked about how our first goal is the exaltation of the missionaries we work with, strengthening their faith, diligence, and testimonies. And I know that I have at least done that.
Because the Lord’s elect are out there. Manuela is one of them. Eduardo was too. And we're not here just to fill the font and see our names in the mission news. We are here to build Zion.

Surprise run-in with the Dayton crew at the train station
And I know that missionary work is worth it. I know that it's worth every rainy, windy, gloomy day. It's worth every pain, headache, and broken toe. It's worth every slammed door and rude contact. It's worth it because it's true. It's worth it because I know. I know that I am a child of God. I know that everyone I've ever contacted in every area I've ever been in is a loved spirit Child of our Heavenly Father. It's worth it because of the disciples of Christ that we are becoming. It's worth it because the book of Mormon is true. And I love it. I love the example of great missionaries like Alma, Amulek, and Ammon. I love the examples of the great missionaries I work with. It's worth it because of the seeds you plant and the testimony you write on your heart every time you bear it. And someday those who've heard it will remember and it'll ring familiar and true. It's worth it because of Christ, and the honor I have to put his name over my heart.
The worth of souls is great in the sight of God.
It's worth a year and a half.
It's worth a lifetime.

You were worth every drop of blood he shed for you. And helping people come to know that is a high and holy calling. One I'm grateful to hold.

Please remember your worth this week. And give a special prayer of gratitude.
I love you all!
Hermana Een

Companion fact: obsessed with seafood, prefers salty to sweet, and has 4 sisters

Because some of you have asked...
Companion: just hit half way. Has 5 siblings but only one brother. Is the second youngest but only missionary... Most are menos active. I love her a lot. She gets migraines and likes to talk things out which is great most of the time. I know I'm here to help her heal and grow.  She's from Utah but both of her parents are from Argentina so people expect her to be native. 

Area: a solid 80% of everyone we contact is Muslim, and it gets harder for me to find the energy to continue in what seems like it will probably be another dead-end contact. Our most promising people don't have solid schedules or don't answer their phones, but we keep working and are blessed with miracle moments that makes everything else worth it. We're a little lonely, being the only hermanas here, but the district is like a family. A really weird, high energy, slightly awkward family. ;)

Een: finally starting to realize that I have less than 60 days left in the mission field, determining to finish strong and see those last few miracles. Ready to go to my tenth Concilio and sometimes just feeling all around OLD. But there's still much to learn, grow, and DO. And on
we go.

Love you all!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Asombroso amor

Asombroso: Amazing, astonishing. Not quite what we thought it meant in the MTC as our poorly equipped tongues tried to find the Spanish equivalent of "awesome."
Amor: love. What does love mean? An intense feeling of deep affection.  I guess any reader with a bit of insight and slight awareness of the date (day after Valentine's Day) could guess what this week's sermon will be. But first, a little about our week.

We had a zone Enfoque in Zaragoza. I had the great pleasure of reviewing a section of the white handbook (Blanca biblia). I love the white handbook... A sacred trust to cover the section about "the opposite sex" the week of Valentine's Day. ;) But really, it's important to remember that we've been set apart. That we can't act the way we did before, we need to aspire higher. Do more than avoid the appearance of evil, give the appearance of GOOD. We came back, did a couple of pass bys, went to missionary coordination (where I've come to be called 'sergeant' because of my attention to the time and attempts to keep us on topic).

We got home justo en tiempo (just in time) and were greeted by our door, dark and hanging open. Moments of possible danger bring out your true nature. I'm a fighter (umbrella= weapon. Let's go!). My companion isn't. So we called the Elders and they searched our piso, finding nothing out of place. We thanked them and spent the next 45 minutes running through every detail of the day, seeing if it was possible that Hermana Gutoff forgot to shut the door.

Spring's showers are coming. We got caught in them sometimes this week. Fun stuff. We continue to find new people and have had some great moments following the spirit and keeping the faith this week.  God answers prayers.

On Sunday we were running just a little bit late to church, walking fast trying to get there on time. Part way through I realized that if we kept walking we would be late. So I prayed we could be there in time, apologizing for leaving late, and we started running. Not two minutes later a woman pulled over to the side of the road, honked the horn, and said "Hermanas!" We were at church in plenty of time. God is in the details and answers prayers when he knows we'll do our part too. (Best part- I'd never met that member before...)

Oh Valentine's Day. As we said goodbye to Élder Barney in the train station he pointed out one perk of his departure "At least I'll get to celebrate Valentine's Day for real this year, which you can't really do." My straight-faced response was, "Actually, I'm going to celebrate it pretty much the same way I always have." And you know what? We did.  We went to church, made brownies, cut out a million paper hearts and stamped them with those good old Hermana Manwill leftovers. In our little way, we filled the world with love. We met with Ana and Norma, something we haven't been able to really do for a good while. The good thing is that they said they felt the difference, and they most definitely will be going to church next week: rain, wind, walk...
They'll be there.

A while ago I was reading through the New Testament. I got to a chapter in 1 John and about half way through said to myself "this sure has said 'love' a lot.... Maybe I should start marking it." Several minutes later I was staring, dumbfounded, at my scriptures crowded with little hearts and boxes. In only 21 verses, 1 John 4 contains 29 references to the word 'love.' So I started a tab in gospel library, and since then, it's been showing up everywhere.

 I always thought that love was a sort-of cop-out answer. Harry Potter was protected by his mother's love, true love's kiss is always magical, love heals a "Frozen" heart, etc, etc, etc. It was the easy, cliche, eye-roll answer to all the problems people face. But the more I learn of the gospel, the more I realize that society and imagination - for once- actually got it right. Because love- Heavenly Father's love for us and the Savior's love for us and Him- is what brought us here, what will save us, and what will bring us back again. It breaks the bonds of death, lifts us, and continually blesses and heals us.
For God so loved the world...
It really is everything.

Our mission president is a fan of musicals (a big part of what made the switch easier). And there's a song. He wants it to become a sort of secondary mission anthem. It's already played through my mind and heart a million times, and I love it. It's a constant question, a self-assessment, and a motivation.
For those of you with YouTube capabilities, I encourage you to look it up.
But here's the last verse.

Did I Fill the World With Love?
In the evening of my life I shall look to the sunset, at a moment in
my life when the night is due.
And the question I shall ask only I can answer.
Was I brave and strong and true?
Did I fill the world with love my whole life through?
Did I fill the world with love, did I fill the world with love, did I
fill the world with love my whole life through?

I love you all.
Have a great week, and fill the world with love!
Hermana Een

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Alegría: happiness or joy
Back to the Basics: to return to an essential foundation or starting point
Carnival: typically during the week before Lent in Roman Catholic countries involving parades, music, dancing, and the use of masquerade.

Lleida District.
Elders Alder, H. Johnson, Christensen, Jacobson, Woodmansee, and Byington. Hermanas Gutoff and Een

As it turns out, I'm still rather bad with directions. I'm never quite certain where something is, even though I've been in this area for a couple of months now. The good news is that everything is familiar and I haven't gotten too lost. New eyes have helped us see miracles in the area and meet some good new people. We're planning to follow up with all of them in the coming days.  We've done some good things: taught English class; did a favor and taught a mutual class about the lost sheep to the ONE girl who showed up (a little ironic); lots of contacting and pass-bys; had some great visits with menos active members (one who promised to make us the traditional African dish, Foofoo); had a couple of great lessons scattered in and finally.... Got caught in another Spanish festival. I have all the luck.
We walked out of a visit and were met by a mob of costumed kids and families. If I had a dollar for every Ana and Elsa I saw that night, I could easily take care of that pesky college tuition. There was a parade route with little floats and confetti throwers and we almost got stuck in the middle of it. Thank heavens for Spanish side-streets.

We're working out the kinks of a new companionship and seem to be doing pretty well. Open communication is key, and we've got that part down. A fun little miracle happened on Wednesday morning- the first full day of our companionship. I had read all around in personal study: the next chapter in Alma, continuing working through PMG (Preach My Gospel: A Missionary Resource), a conference talk someone suggested that I hadn't gotten around to yet, etc. it all seemed pretty scattered and I felt a little bad that although everything I had read was good and edifying, hadn't really prepared for the lessons or plans we had for the day. Then came the part in companionship study where we share what we learned. She went first and mentioned some of her insecurities and problems, some of the things she was struggling with. I listened, a little shocked, as every word and every point she brought up related directly to something I had studied that morning, and I was able to really, truly help her. God is in the details.
Hermanas Wiseman and Een at Concilio
Sunday night I left for Concilio (missionary leadership meeting) with a special joy in my heart. Why? Because (thanks to the recipients list on a leadership email) I knew that Hermana Wiseman would be there. That welcome hug was long awaited and gave me a small taste of what a reunion in heaven would be like.  Concilio was incredible. We clarified, brainstormed, talked about negative thinking, taught, learned, and testified. Confession: I wanted to train in these, my last two transfers. I wanted that newbie fire to keep me going. I wanted that focus and those fundamentals. And in a way, I'll get it. We've decided to go through the training program as a mission- focusing on the fundamentals and getting back to the basics. After presenting it, President Dayton said, "Did you see that? You all just became trainers!"
God is in the details.
Hermana Fenn and I tried to match and were going to be "Hermana Feen" with the chapa and everything... But it was on loan to Hermana Arauco.

The ABC's are the building blocks of our language, the three simple letters we start with. As Spanish-speaking missionaries, we had three other vitally important building blocks as letters. We call it "OLA."
Orar: pray
Leer: read
Asistir: attend church.
These are the little things we do to build our testimony. It's as easy as 1,2,3, simple as do, re, mi.
I testify to the importance of these three simple things, as we learn to waltz to the beautiful music of the gospel.

Love you all and hope you have a great week!
Hermana Een

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Called to Serve

Call: inspire or urge (someone) to do something: I am called to preach the gospel. <--Thank you, new Oxford American dictionary.
Serve: perform services or duties for another person. Something NO ONE EVER ASKS THE HERMANAS TO DO.

Let's start with a little rant (sorry). No one ever asks hermanas to help them. When there is painting to be done, a house to be moved into, cleaning, or heard work to do, people call the Elders. We usually find out about it after the fact. Elders are expected to serve. Hermanas are not. I speak for all hermanas out there when I say that we are just as qualified and willing as any other male counterpart. Ok? Ok.
But on the positive side, we were able to do service this week! Ana and Norma changed pisos and didn't really want to ask for help but we've gotten so close that they let us come over. Downside: they moved out of our area... And are still living with their boyfriends. We'll see how this works out.
Lleida ward
Lots of other things happened this week. Wednesday was the worst day ever. (Hate to be dramatic, but its true). Splurge buying dark chocolate and gummy octopus helped. Basically, we found the true meaning of diligence by still pushing on as everything steadily got worse.
Saturday was transfer calls. For the first time in a long time... I'm not the one that's leaving.
It'll be the first time since Hermana Manotas that I'm NOT the one saying goodbye.  Strange. Hermana Ingram will be going to Valencia (promised land!) and be a trainer-breaker. It's just the change she needed. God knows his children and President reads emails.
We said a very VERY dramatic goodbye to Élder Barney as we sent him home. For the first time it really felt real: that someday (not that distant), that will be me.

Something else about service. On several occasions on my mission, people have thanked me for serving, being an Hermana. Technically, we're not obligated to go so it's somehow more special when we do. But service is what runs the church: it's the machinery that keeps the stone rolling, it's the expectation of every member, missionary, and family. We serve one another, we serve the Lord. Mosiah 2:17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.

And I'm everlastingly more great full for my call to serve a mission.  Love you all, we'll chat again next week.
Hermana Een

Companion fact: Hermana Gutoff. Doesn't like rice.

Favorite Romanian family