Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Last Supper

The Last Supper: Christ's last meeting with the disciples when he institutes the sacrament, sets up his betrayal by Judas, and the last thing he does before going to the garden. It happens Easter week. My "last supper" in Concilio also happened this week, to a mix of emotions.

This week was full of so many good things, and there are so many things coming to the beautiful full circle.  Zone Conference: Familiar faces from the Barcelona and Badalona zones, together for one great mission meeting.

Intercambio: With Hermana Iregui in Girona. We were blessed to repeatedly be in the right place at the right time and saw so many little tender miracles and mercies. One involved a member who has a sister that lives in the little Pueblo of Olot (which we go to a lot. An overused joke) and she gave us her number so we could start visiting her. Her name is Sandra. Hermana Iregui started out the intercambio a little afraid of me and intercambios and by the time I left, she was comfortable with both. :) little successes.

The best day ever: We went to our pueblo of Olot. Our 'for sure' morning cita fallad [failed appointment] and in the sudden heat of spring, we found it hard to focus on contacting and working. But after a quick rest to regathering forces we went out a little more determined, and just a little braver. We talked to a lot of people, and left some good impressions/got some return citas [appointments]. Then we followed on with our afternoon plans and were able to see Sandra. She was SO cute...and really needed our help. Her husband died suddenly in her country 9 days ago, and ours was just the message she needed to hear, and we set up to see her again soon. As we got on the bus to head back to Vic we were still obsessing about how good of a day it had been. As we reviewed what had happened, counted the lessons, we were both surprised to see that we had found 7 new investigators. Our goal for the Easter week as a mission (sharing the 'Good News') was that every companionship could hit the pauta [mission goals] of 8, and we saw the difference a dedicated day can make.

Not the best day ever: Good Friday wasn't that great. We locked our keys in piso[apartment] and after a lot of wasted time had to pay a locksmith to get them out. Opposition in all things, right? And we're definitely a bit poorer this month. On the plus side, Kamal came to the Noche de Hogar [ward night] and LOVED it. He has the goal to be baptized on the 9th.  (Liliana was out of town this but we haven't forgotten about her!)

Saturday/Sunday: Turns out it IS possible to dye brown eggs. It just takes a lot more patience. We shared a lot of Easter messages to some people who really needed to hear it. I also went down to Badalona that Sunday night (for the second time that week...) because of CONCILIO.

CONCILIO: I expected it would be next week, and that I would have more time to prepare for what would be my 11th and last Concilio. D&C 39:22 [And he that receiveth these things receiveth me; and they shall be gathered unto me in time and in eternity. ]  and we just have to go with it. But it was so, so good. I've been so focused on being the torch bearer and keeping the light burning, now is the time to pass it on. But I looked around the room in the leadership conference at the old friends, young faces, and incredible new leaders... And I just felt peace. I'll endure a little longer and do all I can, but the mission is being left in good hands.

I also had to give my "Lo que el Señor me ha enseñado" [What the Lord has taught me] which I'll share with you all in my last week.

We're excited for General Conference, and to hear the prophet's voice.  We are ready to go forth in faith and without fear. We are praying for the missionaries in Brussels, and know that are blessed to be missionaries. We have had some fun run-ins with members this week from Sabadell (Near Barcelona), mother-daughter from Australia, and honeymooners from Cornwall, and it's incredible to feel the love, support, and respect we automatically have for each other.

Love you all!
Hermana Een

Monday, March 21, 2016

Semana Santa, Spanish Spring

Semana Santa: Holy Week leading up to Easter, starting with Palm Sunday (or randomly on Saturday so they can get in a whole week of cool cultural stuff) including weird parades and candlelight processions. When you're in the heart of a Catholic country, it's a big deal.
Spring: the season after winter and before summer in which vegetation begins to appear. Signifying new life.

Fun cultural things of the week: St. Patrick's Day hot air balloon launch from the plaza Mayor (city center) of which our piso [apartment] has a perfect counter view; a parade of the patron Giants and animal statues on Saturday; human towers (Castillos?) and a symphony leading a simple circle dance I'm pretty cure even I could do on. Sunday afternoon; a weekend fair near the capilla [chapel]; and a solemn procession of "Roman soldiers" and black-robed figures with tall pointed hoods we almost literally ran into as we sprinted  home Sunday night.

I'd like to start with a miracle.
As missionaries, we give our number out to a lot of people, always inviting them to call us. And we hope for the best, trusting in God’s plan and his timing and all, but I can count on a shopkeepers hand the number of times someone has actually DONE it. Well, this week that hand grew another finger. We were walking around in our area after a couple of failed passbys when my companion got a call from an unknown number. The woman introduced herself as the girlfriend of a member and asked if we had time to meet with her... now, if we could. So we headed off with a million possibilities buzzing around our heads.  Thankfully Hermana Arauco vaguely recognized her from the ward
Valentines activity and as we exchanged besos and saludos [kisses and regards] (not quite knowing what to do) she told us that she had just broken up with her boyfriend. Instead of launching into a drawn-out of hysteric word vomit and blame, she simply said, "I want to change and be better-a better mother, too- and I KNOW you can help me do it." I have rarely met someone with such great and sincere desires and honest determination. We testified of the change that comes through relying on Christ. We taught her how to pray. We invited her to church. It was one of those mission moments that reminds you why you came. I could see the simple difference our conversation had made in her. The awakening of hope.  Even better was later on that day, seeing her boyfriend in an activity, hearing that they had made amends, and receiving his heartfelt gratitude. They were both in church on Sunday. The start of something new.

There are so many great people here. The problem is that most of them can only meet on weekends because of crazy work schedules. One of them in Kamal. He is accepting everything so well, and told us that what he likes about our message is that everything centered on Christ. It's something we mention in every contact, but it's amazing the difference it makes when people discover that for themselves: we teach of Christ.
(2 Nephi 25:26)

Sunday is always a great day. Tip for the future: if you have a half-way decent voice and want to feel like a superstar, come to church in Vic. The members will love you.  The second hour was a split of only English speakers (our African friends) and only Spanish speakers, so the Ward Mission leader asked me to translate in English as he taught the class in Spanish. It was definitely a mental exercise, but went surprisingly well. An Hermana who used to serve here and is now long-distance dating the Ward Mission Leader is visiting and it's an interesting dynamic... especially since it doesn't seem like all that long ago I was serving alongside her. But the bonus is that she brought jolly ranchers.

Spending holidays- especially Christian holidays- in Spain is always a special experience. You see the differences. Here, Easter means the crucifixion. It's a week celebrating Christ's life how it was lived and how it ended. It's gothic, beautiful, laudable even, but not complete. Because I think they forgot...
He lives.
He died for us and for our sins. But he was resurrected and gave us the hope of higher things, of eternal glory and new beginnings.
And as I see it all and soak in the sun of another Spanish springtime
in the Lord's service, all I can say is...
FollowHim.mormon.org. #Hallelujah.

May not forget our risen Savior in this Holy Week,
Hermana Een

Companion fact: never broken a bone.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Gossip girl, crisis de chisme

Gossip girl: a tv show. (Ask Ari) Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.
crisis: a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger
Chisme: gossip. No me vengas con chismes. [Do not give me gossip.] (Thanks, Spanish Dictionary)

This week has been amazing and much of that has been due to my companion. She's full of energy, funny, fun to be around, focused, obedient and trying and just... great. She's great. And I just feel SO so blessed. I approached this transfer apprehensively, knowing that wherever I went or if I stayed, someone would have the burden of "killing" me. There's nothing I can do about it really, but I just felt bad for the poor Hermana who would have to do it. (Princess Bride, "You seem a decent fellow; I hate to kill you." "You seem a decent fellow, I hate to die.")  But Hermana Arauco said that she has always wanted to be my companion.  She's talked with people who have worked with me, heard my mission reputation, hoped and prayed and well... here I am. I told her I was sorry it came with the price of "killing" me and she responded (and I quote) "Hermana Een has got to be the best missionary to kill. Man, give me ten Hermana Eens, I'll kill 'um all!"

All talk of homicide aside, it's been pretty great. Vic is beautiful. It's the perfect little city of cobblestone, tiny streets, greenery, fields, tower bells that ring in every hour, and everything that Spain is supposed to be. The Hermanas here have been working hard and had an unheard of number of baptisms last transfer, which is great! So we have a lot of recent converts.... and no investigators. Pero no me importa, [But I don’t care] we'll get this area growing again if it kills me (and it probably will. Ok, no more jokes). We've talked to a ton of Africans with the charming ice-breaker "Ecom di-me pa!" (I am very hungry,) have done some good service, and eaten a lot.

But, as you know, there is opposition in all things. For the first time, I've been exposed to the mission gossip. I didn't even know that it EXISTED and never had the opportunity to take part in it -not that I'd want to. I feel as if I've been shown the shadow of El Faro. My heart ached and I wanted to disbelieve it all, but the stories fit too well together as circumstances were explained and it grew on the hint of a doubt I might have had. I've been blissfully and naively ignorant of it all up until this point and as my eyes were opened my outlook became grim. I know that no missionary, leader, mission, or person is ever perfect, nor do we pretend to be. But I still had the hope that all of them were at least good or trying to be.

In my gospel study I continue seeing the oft repeated plea, "keep the commandments," and now I'm starting to notice the importance of staying faithful as well. Keeping the commandments requires constant, continuous effort. It requires dedication, integrity, and well... faith. Faith in the principles of the gospel and that the inconvenience and potential social awkwardness is NOTHING to be compared with the blessings that await. This life is a character test, and there are no cheats involved because you're only cheating yourself in the end.

It doesn't matter how many miles you traveled on the right path if in the end, you miss the mark.
Qué fuerte [How strong], Hermana Een!
Endure to the end.
Remember the saving strength of the valiant few, those 2,000 sons of Helaman.
Oh, prove faithful.

Hermana Een

Dearest Children, God Is Near You
Dearest children, God is near you,
Watching o’er you day and night,
And delights to own and bless you,
If you strive to do what’s right.
He will bless you, He will bless you,
If you put your trust in him.
Dearest children, holy angels
Watch your actions night and day,
And they keep a faithful record
Of the good and bad you say.
Cherish virtue! Cherish virtue!
God will bless the pure in heart.
Children, God delights to teach you
By his Holy Spirit’s voice.
Quickly heed its holy promptings.
Day by day you’ll then rejoice.
Oh, prove faithful, Oh, prove faithful
To your God and Zion’s cause.

Companionship fact: she has never been to a wedding and has only been
to one funeral.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Voy a Vic. Me muero aquí.

Morir: to die, stop living. (Thanks Spanish dictionary)
Six week shaft: A term I learned from my dear friend Sister Farmer for changing areas in your last transfer. In this case, it's seven weeks.
Voy: first person, to go
Vic: a charming little Spanish town in dead center Cataluña between Barcelona and France. It has a lot of pueblos (little cities) and a rama (branch... Not quite a ward, but almost).
Me muero aquí: a phrase my stressed trainee would often say. Basically "I'm going to die here."

We had a pretty great week. On Wednesday we had a great zone Enfoque [focus], focusing on unity, which was something that had been stressed in Concilio [leadership council] and honestly couldn't have come at a better time. We needed it. But we were also supposed to talk about teaching the word of wisdom so... we played a unity-building game of "eat the fruits and vegetables as fast as you can and go cheer on the next group." Kind of hard to explain, but it was great fun. We had kiwis. The group that had oranges all got sick after, but it was well worth it.

After that I started what was my 4th intercambio [exchange] with dear sweet Hermana Schmidt. We've sort of followed each other around the mission, and I have had the great opportunity to work, teach, see, and make miracles with her. It's always a pleasure to be with her and see the beautiful city of Zaragoza in the MANY buses that we took and ran to catch. Lots of running and great street contacts, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
With Hermana Schmidt in Zaragoza
Lleida hasn't been the easiest of areas for me and I know that as I've probably expressed in past emails, we haven't been able to see many of the fruits of our labor. BUT one day last week we met Alexandria. She was the only one on the street and we started talking to her,
"Would you like to know more?"
Really? "Can we write down your number?"
"Can we visit you on Thursday at 5?"
"Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone holding the priesthood authority of God?" Ok, we didn't say that part, but it was ALMOST that perfect.
We texted to remind her and she texted back within minutes. So we went to the cita [appointment], excited to teach. That excitement turned to nerves as she let us in, introduced us to her two other super interested and similarly perfect friends, and they all sat down to listen. It's been so long since I've met someone who understands and really wants to listen and to suddenly have three of them was overwhelming in the best possible way. Lleida's looking up!

With Alexandria and friends
We had some fun citas with a member that were more like "missionary present lessons" because sweet Daniela spent most of the time talking in Romanian, to which my gift of tongues does NOT extend. Pero bueno [but hey, it’s good].
Saturday of transfer calls is always interesting. It's filled with throwbacks (just in case) and anxiously trying not to think about it.
Planning is more of a hypothetical thing because if one of you leaves... there are people that NEED to be visited.

And so I got the call to go to Vic and be with Hermana Arauco.

So the week was full of goodbyes and packing (kind of a trial run, if you think about it, which I tend not to). We had 4 eating citas (good thing we'd fasted on Sunday) and at one point literally hopped from one members' car to another's. It's good to be loved, and I love SO many of the members here. I was blessed to get to see almost everyone I needed and wanted to, including Norma (one step closer to getting her papers done) Alexandria and her friends (for the BEST plan of salvation lesson ever), and the Arrandas (My family, but the Spanish version).

It's been good. That isn't to say it hasn't also been hard. On Sunday I had a big pain in my chest that might have been troublesome as it surged and ebbed but I didn't worry too much because I'm pretty sure it was just heartache. Es una cosa de la mission [It is a thing of the mission].  But that's when you know you've come to know a little bit more what true love is like. And it's worth it.

I shared this scripture with everyone because it's one of my favorites, so I guess I'll share it with you all again as well
Mosiah 2:41 And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.

Accidental matching outfits
So send your last letters to this address (seven weeks is plenty of time, hint hint.)
Love you all and have a great week!
Hermana Alayna Een

Hermana Arauco: has seven half-blooded siblings, and no full-blooded siblings. Is from Virginia.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cumpleaños cumpliendo

Cumplir: to complete or carry out. Cumpleaños literally means "finish year" and we call it a birthday. It was Hermana Gutoff's birthday. Cuplir also means to finish. I had the opportunity to be with Hermana McWhorter- an Hermana I stayed with in my first night in the mission and who took me out contacting my first morning in the mission- who went to her last Concilio and will be going home this Tuesday. Cumplir can also mean to keep (guardar is the better word) as in "keep the commandments."

Cumpleaños. We started out the week with my companion's 20th birthday.  A birthday in the mission is usually a once-in-a-lifetime thing (unless you're an Élder or... special) so there's a little bit of pressure to make it something AMAZING (I guess...). And thanks to some 'piso find decorations,' a breakfast, a mission coordination meeting turned party, and some over-the-top contributions from the Elders, it really REALLY was. Basically, I'm STILL pulling confetti out of my bag, books, and agenda. Photos to follow, if I remember to include them.

Star Wars came out, and is still a really big deal

I did an intercambio [exchange] with Hermana Stapley! She was trained by Hermana Fenn (from my group and basically one of my favorite people in the world). Her hair is white blonde and I'm 90% sure that it's because of the sunshine in her soul. She's incredibly upbeat, loves Harry Potter, and could quote "Meet the Robinsons" along with me like a pro. Our intercambio started out a bit rough- I only caught the train by a hope and a prayer with two minutes 'til departure and the recent convert we were working with was stopped by (tip for the future, always carry your bus card) and then RAN FROM the police. Intercambios, always an adventure. But everything ended well, and then back to our areas and our companions, both a bit better off from the exchange.

We had a great lesson with an African man who sounds like Mufasa (the temptation to record him reading James 1:5 was GREAT) and rediscovered the missionary magic of brownies. (Member gives reference. The girl is "busy." We say "we're making brownies at Saundra's house." She says "que guay!" and comes.) I have a renewed testimony that God really does help us achieve our righteous desires when we go the extra mile and do OUR part.

Concilio was great as always. I felt like almost everything addressed (Christlike listening, district/companionship unity) was meant to help me, my companionship, and our area. I'm excited to teach and apply it.  I don't know what it is, some sort of magic of the mission home, but for the whole time I'm there, I feel such a profound love for EVERYONE there. It's incredible.  Another bonus is that many of these Hermanas are coming from areas where I've served and have incredible, heartwarming things to tell me:  Manuela gave her first talk in sacrament meeting and went to the ward temple trip. She's giving out references like candy and her family is finally opening up. Carol (someone I taught in my first area) is still obsessed with me and sent me Honduran scripture cases!

Our last concilio together
Our first concilio together, 
Elders Kimball,Day, Hermanas O'Neill and Fenn,
All from the same MTC group. All leaders. 
Hermanas pic!
With Hermana Wiseman, they served together in Barcelona
On my 16th month mark I completed a mission goal: I finished the Book of Mormon in Spanish. It quickly turned into another goal: to read it all again before I end.

It's going to be a little bit harder (to finish in 2 months what it took 16 to complete) and require focus and sacrifice but I'm energized to do it. And I noticed something as the train rides gave me ample time to read: the phrase "keep the commandments" appears on almost every page, sometimes multiple times.  Its been cropping up everywhere in my gospel studies and I'm starting to realize again just how important it is. Many times we think of "commandments" and immediately our minds go to "the 10." I haven't murdered and I'm not a liar, so I'm good, right? Not quite. God continues to speak to us, and he usually "speaks by way of commandment." God gives us commandments because he loves us and is a fair bit smarter than we are, so he gives us things to make our lives easier and better. The word of wisdom. Law of Chastity, etc. We keep the commandments because we love him. And then we are doubly blessed by it. How cool is that? And now, out mission rules are given us not to restrict our freedom or frustrate us, but to bless us and help us live the higher law. It isn't always easy, but it is always, ALWAYS worth it.  Mosiah 2:41. Actually all of that chapter. Read it, it's a good one.

Mosiah 2:41 And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.

Next week is transfers. Mixed feelings. Not at all sure what to expect or feel, but on we go.

Keep the commandments. Have a great week.
Love you all!
Hermana Alayna Een