Mom note: Here are the 5 Questions this week:
1) Do you have instructions for us for your Christmas call yet? Do you get to Skype? What is your time limit?
2) Have you received any of the packages that were sent to you for Christmas yet?
3) Grandma Jo is sending something for you to the mission home, so will you let me know when you finally get it? She'll be worried.
4) Uncle Tony asked me about the chances of stopping to take you and your comp to lunch in January when he goes home to see his family. I told him he'll have to call the mission president for permission, but I thought I'd give you a heads up, just in case. He's very persistent. ;)
1. Okay, we'll either Skype--using the area Skype account or our own--or call like normal. President Fenn just asks us to be wise in our time usage, so we don't have a set limit. He did say he felt 20 minutes was too short but 7 hours was much too long. So I guess we'll decide more later. Hermana Israelsen and I will talk about it before we email next week and give you more details. What might be useful though is if you can find my Skype login info....honestly I have no idea if I've written it down somewhere or not; I imagine it's probably my regular email at gmail, and my regular password. Will one of you try it out this week and see if that logs you in? That would be great.
2. We will be getting Christmas packages this Thursday at the Christmas devotional we have as zones. So I'll let you know more next week--though I won't be opening them until Christmas, just so you know.
3. I will let you know when I get it.
4. Thanks for the info. He's free to call President Fenn but I have no idea what he'll say. However, his word is law. Plus, I dunno that Uncle Tony would want to drive all the way out here.... (I'm going to operate under the impression that I won't be transferred this January until otherwise told-because I don't want to leave.)
5. I don't have an address for Kate....but I can ask at the very least. If I remember.
Where do I begin? This week was full of miracles. It was almost unbelievable.
(First off, I'm typing this while sitting in a Firestone auto shop, and the smell just makes me think of Gilroy. Also, the TV is playing some cooking show...is that a normal car shop waiting room choice?)
On Tuesday last week, during companion study, one of our newest investigator's texted us, asking us to pray for her husband who had just been to the hospital. My first thought was, "if they were members, somebody would take them dinner. So that's what we should do." Eventually, we found someone who could come with us that evening to take them something for dinner--Sister and Brother Tandy--and this family, the G Family, loved it! They have four adorable little girls who have got to be the most polite niñas of all time. Their dad was back from the hospital already so that was good news--he had had a back spasm on Sunday, which is apparently a regular occurrence for him, but it still hadn't gone away by Tuesday, which isn't regular for him. Anyway, it was such a great way for the members to get involved with our investigators and they really felt like they were important to us, I think, which never hurts.
Wednesday, we met with Maria and her husband Manuel, with Sister Grilliot. We were planning on teaching the plan of salvation because we've reviewed the Restoration with Maria multiple times, but Manuel hadn't heard the entire Restoration. So that was rough. They also had some interesting questions that we weren't prepared for (such as abortion) but I think it went alright, all things considered. We definitely need to teach Manuel the entire Restoration.
We also visited the R family; we taught the plan of salvation there (with dibujos) and Victor, their 8 year old who is preparing to be baptized...oh man. I thought he was going to cry. He became super worried and anxious that he wouldn't be able to make it to the celestial kingdom. We and his cute mom assured him that he doesn't have to be perfect to go to the celestial kingdom, and that that is one reason why we are so grateful to Jesus Christ. It was a really good lesson, and so touching.
Thursday: zone conference.
I got Aunt Shannon and Gma's package as well as a letter from her explaining what was in it. I was quite excited to open it....so we opened it this morning--thank you! Those little puzzles have got to be the greatest things I have ever seen.... Ammon. Enough said. Thank you so much! We really appreciate it.
After we got home, we started exchanges! So both of us had appointments for 6:00 but one, our less active, cancelled on us--we later found out it was because he went to do his home teaching, so it turned out to be a really good thing. The other didn't show. So Hermana Santos and I went to Rene with Sister Clay and we had a good lesson about following God's commandments and the blessings we receive by doing so, and we also read from the children's Book of Mormon with him. I had him write down the commitments we'd given--and he didn't write down what I had said....so that kind of explains why he hasn't been keeping commitments. Ah well. It's hard because he doesn't really function on a regular level. But, it was alright. Afterwards, Hermana Santos and I went to MCM where the elders never showed up. So it was us with our ward mission leader--and his wife and newborn. It was a good meeting though. This family, the Moore's, are moving two days after Christmas. I'm gonna miss them...Brother Moore reminds me of our family: he is so sarcastic. So he and I sometimes get teasing each other and it feels just like I'm talking to dad.
After MCM we picked up Hermanas Israelsen and Torres, and the latter had twisted her ankle--for the third time on her mission. Oh man. The poor hermana! However, we did find out that it was because they had had such a powerful lesson with one of our less active/part member families, the M Family. Here's the thing: Hermana Torres served in this area about a year ago and they were her very first lesson. They had invited Emiliano to be baptized in that lesson and he had said no. This time, she invited him to be baptized and he basically said he knows he needs to be. So after the lesson she was crying (because of the Spirit) and then tripped down a stair and twisted it. So. It was a great lesson, but a sad outcome for Hermana Torres' ankle.
Friday: Hermana Santos and I were dropped off in one area while Hermana Torres and Israelsen went to another. The first house that answered was a potential named Cindy, but we found Felix (her uncle). We also met his twins, who are three years old. We just showed him the He is the Gift video--he didn't seem super interested at any point but it's so cool because you can just see the effect that video has on people. It's amazing.
Then, Olga & Marcelino. We had met Olga before, and taught her twice, so we stopped by and she basically told us she was too busy, but we asked if we could just share a two or three minute video about Christ with her, and she let us in. Then we met her husband, Marcelino. We ended up talking about how we can give something back to Christ, and we brought up the Book of Mormon. Marcelino was super skeptical the whole time, and I loved it because Hermana Santos basically confronted him about it. Which I think actually helped him realize the importance of it. Anyway, we set up a return appointment for Monday (today) so we'll see them tonight.
We still had half an hour before our next appointment so we tried another potential, Laura, and we ended up meeting her and her family. They were making tamales and they gave us some. Oh. My. Goodness. I just had one--uno de color. And it was sweet---literally. So delicious. They also had tamales de pollo y de queso. Plus, they gave us atole to drink too, and it was pretty good. I'd never had it before but I loved it! It smelled and tasted a lot like Mexican hot chocolate but it was thicker, kinda like the difference between broth and stew. Mm, it was good. Anyway, we also shared He is the Gift with them and kind of invited them to the ward party that night, as well as church. Gloria, Laura's mom, basically told us that she doesn't think you need to go to church because faith is between you and God. Honestly, I'm still surprised by how many people believe something like that.
We left just in time for our appointment at four, but halfway there we realized that we had left Hermana Santos' hat at Laura's, so we ran back for that and then ran to Jorge's where we met up with Sis Antczak. We had a lesson with him about the sacrament and keeping the Sabbath holy. He just started working 5 am to 1 pm, so he can't come to church....so. He did tell us that he wants to come to church, and after we shared 1 Nephi 3:7 he agreed that God is all powerful and will provide a way. So now we just have to pray and hope he finds a way--even if it means quitting... but it was good.
We had just enough time for one more lesson, which was good because we had an appointment with Ana. I think she really liked meeting Hermana Santos (who is mexicana and just straight up awesome) and we basically just stressed the importance of praying about what she's reading. She agreed to do that this week. We also invited her to the ward party, as well as the baptism on Sunday (of her sister, Lupita). To both she said she would try to make it.
We ran home to un-exchange, and then sped off to the ward party--we were already a bit late. We had invited the G Family, and they agreed to come, but had gotten lost so we met them at Jewel Osco, which is right by the church--as well as a Mennonite church, so they had gotten confused. So we finally made it to the Bloomington 1st ward's Christmas party. Since we had gotten there late, there weren't anymore empty tables, so Brother Moore and the elders set up a table for us and the Garza's. We ended up being away from them for a while to talk to Ana for a bit and we were so proud of our members: they were chatting with them and whatnot. That really is what members need to be aware of most, if you ask me. When the missionaries bring investigators to ward activities, just help them feel welcome. Just say hi and introduce yourself and let them know that you're glad they're there. That's all you have to do.
After the dinner (and the Bishop reading a Cajun Night Before Christmas....if that's somewhere online, find it and read it. SO funny....at least when read in an accent) we gave the Garza Family a tour of the church. They loved the painting of the First Vision looking at Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and Joseph's back. They were asking us a bit about how missions work and the prophet. We were going to continue but then David turned to us and said, "look, man, you've gotta take this pain away." We had considered offering a Priesthood blessing but then decided maybe later, so I at least took that as a signal to offer him a blessing. So we had the elders come do that and the Spirit was SO strong. It was beautiful. Afterwards, when we were talking to him and his wife, Beverlyn, about it they told us they could "feel the energy" so we explained that's the Spirit. We're planning on visiting them tonight so we'll have a lesson basically just about the Priesthood. I'm excited. This family is so solid.
Saturday: Miriam cancelled on us, but that meant we didn't have to ride the bus for hours on end....so that was a plus. However, on the bus that we did have to take, we met Flori. She's from Guatemala and ended up telling us how a family friend had just passed away (in Guatemala I'm assuming) and she doesn't have any family here so she was really torn up about it, and started crying. We gave her a Plan of Salvation pamphlet and set up a visit with her. I can't wait to see her again. She was awesome.
Basically we spent the day walking up and down and up and down and up the street. And I came to the realization that that is pretty much all we ever do. Our success isn't really our success--it is completely Heavenly Father's. So that was kind of a cool self-introspection moment (am I using that word correctly? I dunno. I can't speak English or Spanish anymore.)
Then, we visited Julia w/Sis Albrechtsen. First we asked if she had any questions from listening to the Book of Mormon and she asked about that whole daughters of Zion thing in 2 Nephi 13. haha we weren't sure how to answer that--regardless of language--so we said it's just talking about pride. That seemed to reassure her. What was funny was how we communicated about that chapter. It was half Spanish and half body language. I wish I had a recording of my memory of Hermana Israelsen. It was so funny....anyway. Julia also told us, practically out of the blue, "I'm coming to church tomorrow!" We were in shock. But Sister Albrechtsen offered to give her a ride so we got that all figured out. After we got home...we were still in shock...then, just as we finished up planning, we got a call--not from our district leader: it was Laura, saying "we're coming to church." SHOCK. Oh man. We were wiped out, in a good way. I mean, of course we were thrilled but it is so exhausting, missionary work: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So we were ready for bed when the time came.
Sunday. We were late-ish to church, so we were practically running around like crazy people, trying to get the translator all figured out and whatnot. But hey, we had a family of five at Bloomington 1st! Woohoo! They seemed to enjoy it--at least the kids did--and Laura's husband, Alejandro, was participating and reading in Gospel Principles (which we had in Spanish as there were no English speakers there...that was cool.) We also had Ward council after church. It was the first time we've been to Bloomington 1st ward council and I think it really helped our relationship with that ward. It's been a bit rickety, whether because of past trust issues or miscommunication or what, I don't know. But now they know that we're there and that we want to be involved. I do feel kind of bad for them because they have about 30% activity, and they feel like they're floundering. The stake president was there and he kinda gave them a pep talk about not feeling like they need to fulfill regular expectations. He basically told them not to work so hard, which one of the bishopric members pointed out. That was kinda funny. The poor RS president...I feel for her. But, President Johnson had a point. Even though they've got less people, that doesn't mean they have to feel like they're not performing well. Ah well. Hopefully we can think of something to help them.
Then we had Normal ward. We ended up going to pick up Julia with Sister Albrechtsen just after the sacrament...but it was good. I also translated a meeting for the first time (Relief Society) and I thought I did terrible, because Julia said she liked the first two meetings but didn't understand the third (which was RS). But Hermana Israelsen said I did well--and she pointed out that she wouldn't have been able to translate her second transfer, so I guess I'm doing alright. After Normal ended, we finally ate...we had been in meetings/running around since 8 am that morning. Whew. I was beginning to get somewhat fatigued I think. Afterwards, we helped with prep for the baptism. We had called Jorge to invite him to come and he agreed so we had to find a ride for him, as well as get the translator ready. They ended up having the first half of the program in the chapel (there were a lot of people--Lupita's family--there, but we moved to the Relief Society room for the ordinance, and since we all fit we just stayed there. The second talk, about the Holy Ghost, was given by Brother Davis, who is a Spanish professor at ISU--he's actually Lupita's teacher. But it was cool because he gave his talk in both English and Spanish, so we didn't have to translate. It was a really good talk to. (He kinda scares us, which is entirely irrational because you'd think it would be scarier to talk to natives in Spanish than a white guy who also speaks Spanish but it's actually scarier to talk to him in Spanish....anyway.) Afterwards we were talking with members of Lupita and Ana's family: we met Javier who speaks Spanish, English, and French--the elders have spoken with him because Elder Noho speaks French too. And we also more officially met Ana's son, Jarom. He didn't seem super interested, but he did take a restoration pamphlet and he seemed to enjoy talking to us. So, it was really good. Also, here's the funniest story of the week: they had brought cookies as refreshments to the baptism, so we were going to get some (for us and Ana) but they were gone, so we came back and told her, "Hermana, tenemos malas noticias." She got all concerned and legitimately worried, and asked what, and we told her, "No hay mas galletas." Javier standing behind her was cracking up, as were we. It was hilarious. So, you've gotta feel pretty good about your second language ability when you can use humor, right? Oh, it was funny.
When we finally left the church, we rode home with Sister Goodman. She's got this adorable Southern accent and she really just makes you feel at home, like she's your mom and she's got your back no matter what. She told us the story of how she and her husband (Bishop Goodman) met--in the army--and then how he converted. I love hearing different people's conversion stories, as well as the classic "how did you meet?" story. Always. There's is particularly sweet.
When we finally got home, we had been at the church for 12 hours (with two short excursions to pick up and drop off Julia). Oh my goodness. It was such a good day, but so exhausting. I think we were still in shock... but it all actually happened! So, all in all, this week was amazing.
So far, today, we got all our cleaning and housework done in about an hour and a half, and then we spent an hour and a half at Firestone because we had to get new tires....ohh man. No hard feelings against car shops but we got home and had to turn on the church music right away because my spirit just needed to decompress....the TV, after the cooking show, was on Dr. Phil or some something about counseling for couples who have been in domestic abuse or something I don't even know what. It was just awful, as a missionary. Ugh.....so. Now I need a nap...
I love this work, and I love this area. I love my companion, my members, my investigators, my mission president, my district and zone. I think I could stay here in Bloomington-Normal forever and be perfectly content. But, as the Book of Mormon warns, we should be wary of contentment. So, I shall continue to work as hard as I can, striving to be worthy of the Spirit in order to bring the eternal happiness of the Gospel to those who lack it.
Love you all so much, and I pray for you nearly every day.
Con Todo Mi Amor,
Don't get used to this long of an email....I had nothing else to do while sitting in Firestone....
Mom Note: I'm not sure why these will only import sideways or upside down. I'm sorry. I'll get the Genius golfer to look at it for me when he gets home.
#1: Hermana Santos and I, at the end of exchanges
#2: Hermana Israelsen and I with our Christmas decorations, due largely in part to Grandma Cheryl and Aunt Shannon.
#3: selfie, because it's P-day.
#4: We drive past this house every time we go to or leave the church. They are serious about Christmas decorating.... (I can't remember if I've sent this or not, so here it is again):
#5: The Peoria skyline: