Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Week 3! Already?!

                 (All of cute Distrito 12 C eating ice cream cones post-volleyball. I love volleyball)


So much love on this end. I barely have time to write this letter let alone read all ten of the emails I got this week, but don´t you dare stop writing them... I love them! Thank you so much for all of the support and all of the amazing stories and testimonies. I always cry when I read them and read them out loud and mi compañera is obviously annoyed because she also has to beat the clock. It´s a whole ordeal.

Tomorrow we will be half way done at the CCM. It seems unreal. It feels like we just barely get here. There´s a strange hierarchy going on here because I am definitely among the oldest people here, but everybody who has been here for four or five weeks looks 25. Hermana Chugg and I are the Hermana Trainers for our Distrito and the newer girls feel like little sisters. It has been really fun to be there for them and interview them and comfort them when they are feeling down. (and remind them that it´s only their 3rd day, they don´t need to know the whole language).

I love being here. Last night my roommates and I were having a conversation about how it feels like we are surrounded by people who we would never spend time with in High School, but that we absolutely adore and would do anything for here. It is such an amazing environment of love and acceptance. Alright, I'll quit being cheesy for a second.

My mind has never been more clear than it has here. I know I said it last week, but I wish I had the ability (or motivation) to study in high school and college like I can here. Yesterday, we were learning about the difference between the words ´por´and ´para´, which may not mean anything to those of you reading this, but basically they are really simple words with really complex usages. And I figured out a fool proof way to determine when to use which word. I was able to teach it to everyone in my district and even our maestros had said they had never thought about it that way. More than anything, I was just surprised that such a  complex principle just... made sense in my head. I have never been book smart. And the clarity isn't just coming for the language...

I have discovered so much about apostasy, the grace of God, and the atonement in my own personal study, things that I never really understood before. No matter how hard I searched. I learned that Jesus Christ needed to suffer on the cross. I´m sure the atonement could have been completed in many ways, but due to the perfection of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and the necessity of the Law of Justice, there was a level of fairness that was required for us to ever return to live with them. In the scriptures, it simply says ´´And he suffered because the Lord had commanded it.´´ Powerful. My district is incredible. They are all interested in discussing the deeper meaning behind things, which has been really good for me. It is teaching me to communicate the things that I normally just keep in my brain. We all kind of joke that we were meant to be called Spanish Speaking so that we couldn´t preach deep doctrine. There is perfection in simplicity.

This past Sunday was focused purely on Christlike attributes. We watched a video fireside of Elder Bednar´s where he talked about studying Christ´s attributes instead of his life. It has caused me to pray for the ability to be patient and nurturing in all situations. Which is a difficult thing! I notice myself being much more humble (maybe be admitting that negates the validity of that statement...) and courageous in my dealings with others. Oddly enough, that humility has helped me gain a level of confidence that I was struggling with when I first got here. It´s all about prioritized confidence... If that makes any sense at all.

I´m rambling a bit. It was just a very insightful week. I was determined to spend more time focused on my investigators this week. We start teaching a new investigator tomorrow, which has us teaching three at a time. But last night we taught Juan Jose and I felt the spirit completely overtake me. He told us previously that he was willing to get baptized, but now he said that his wife was angry at him for making that decision and didn't want him to. I am not really sure why, but that affected me so much. I have been able to see how much the gospel has blessed my life, and to see somebody angry at the opportunity to feel purified happiness was absolutely crushing to me. I wept. And I told him, in horribly incoherent Spanish, that the Lord will bless him for his desire to change. And that since he sincerely loves his family, this is the best blessing he could have for them. I couldn't understand what he said in response, but he gave us candy so I'm assuming it went well. As we were walking away from the lesson, I felt prompted to turn back and remind him to pray every single day, several times a day. I'm not sure why that needed to happen, but it felt good to follow up on a prompting that I would have otherwise regretted ignoring.

I apologize, I try to make these emails interesting to read, but there is so much to say and it is all powerful and spiritual and heavy. Don´t give up on me just yet! I haven´t completely lost my wit.

I love talking to the Latinos! Even though they call me a gringo and say things like "Ustede es muy... how you say... hipster." (i'm definitely getting contacts when I get home).
One of the latino maestros came up to me and said:

"Does your family speak Spanish?"
"Your friends?"
"Wow. The way you learn is not normal for the CCM. I have a hard time believing you weren't fluent before you got here."

Hahahaha. I just kind of laughed at him. I still have no idea what anyone is saying most of the time. I just piece together words and hope I'm on the right track. And when I respond, I have a very limited vocabulary. But it makes me feel good that I´m not totally lost.

I love you guys!!! Thank you again for the support. Just an FYI, letters are out of hand here. It takes weeks to send or receive letters. So if I don't respond for a while, I´m not ignoring you! If you sent a letter, I haven´t received it yet (except one Dear Elder... thanks, mom!)

We found a huge bucket of laundry detergent in our casa and hurried and scooped some of it into a ziploc bag just in case it disappears one day. Laundry detergent is expensive! And I guess the closest thing you get to a rush here at the CCM is stealing laundry detergent that may or may not be available for the use of all missionaries.


¡La iglesia es verdadera!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Semana 2 en el CCM (Week 2)

I love you all!!! Thank you for all of the emails!!!

I have a new understanding of the phrase ´´the days are long and the weeks are short´´. We are up for sixteen hours a day working hard, studying, praying, thinking, eating, talking and you feel like you have already put in an entire day of work by noon, but then you realize it is already Thursday. My time here is going to fly by.

Everything is going well here still. I only get homesick if I am stressed out about something that is going on, so I guess that is a good thing. But I get stressed out a lot, so don´t worry. I´m still thinking about all of you. We just started our lessons with our second investigator, and starting tomorrow we will teach two in a day. Clavel and Juan Jose are our new investigators. You will be happy to know that our first investigator is getting baptized on Saturday. Which would be sweet if he wasn´t actually a returned missionary. They surprised us and now Adan is our official Maestro. His real name is Abinadi Soto. Such a sweet first name, hahaha.

Our whole district is freaking about the language... but I´m not.God has definitely blessed me with the ability to know that faith in him and a will to work hard is all it takes. I just keep reminding myself that almost every single missionary who has come to learn a language at the MTC has succeeded so if we follow the rules that are laid out for us, we will learn the language. Faith in Jesus Christ has really helped me recall all the words I have studied in our lessons with the investigators. I can do this. We can do this. But it is horrifying sometimes. All of our sacrament meetings are entirely in Spanish. If you have to give a talk, you just have to hope you wrote it on the right topic and listen really closely for your name so you know when it is your turn to speak.

Our district has been having some problems, unfortunately, One of the companionships is really struggling and it is taking a toll on all of us. Especially because Hermana Chugg and I feel personally responsible to help them love each other. But I want to share a cool story. On the 11th, we were walking back to our casas for the night when I got this strong feeling to go check on the boys in our district. We had just had a powerful discussion about why we decided to serve missions and Elder Haney--who is from North Bend, Washington!-- looked a little discouraged afterwards. So I dragged Hermana Chugg to their casa and caught them all as they were about to go inside. I just approached them as a whole and asked them if everything was okay and they all denied anything was wrong. The next day, after Hermana Chugg had taught our investigator, one of the other Elders came up to me and told me that he thinks that was an inspired message from God telling him that he was supposed to talk to me. He told me that he had some personal stuff he hadn't cleared up at home before he came on his mission and he told me about something really traumatic that had happened to a family member of his since he had left. I was honored he came to me because I was able to help him by sharing a few scriptures I had been studying and even convinced him to clear up his issues with the president or he would never be able to have the spirit in his lessons. Since then, he and I have had a special connection where we are able to pray together and I am constantly finding scriptures that are helpful to him. It feels really good to be serving God´s children already.

Elder Haney and Elder Ririe in our district were just called as the Zone Leaders. Which is funny because now half of our district is in the District leadership meetings on Sunday mornings. Speaking of which, I love being an Hermana Trainer. It is so much fun to encourage the new girls and get to know them. It is less fun to discipline them and tell them to clean their rooms. But whattaya do. Anyway, the other day I was thanking Elder Haney and Elder Ririe for their hard work and for all of the help they give to the struggling companionships, and they said they were grateful that Hermana Chugg and I are the only two people in our district who remind them that it is still important to smile and have a good time. Then they said that they like that we both get so excited when we learn something new in the scriptures and we stand up on our chairs in the middle of study time and say ´´DID YOU GUYS KNOW...´´ (For example, that versiculo en 3 Nefi that says that the mouths of babes were opened and they uttered things that could not be written... like, what?!?!)

I still love it here. The schedule goes as follows...

We wake up at six thirty, get ready and start studying at 7, eat breakfast, go to gym (where I always run, do sit ups, and play volleyball), then we have class, then lunch, then we teach our investigator and have study time, then we go to dinner and either a devotional or we study... more... and then we plan, pray, and go home to study or shower or whatever and we are in bed by 10:30.

I am getting sunburned. Sun screen would have been a good thing to bring. So would lotion, hahah. But I won´t need it in Oklahoma so whatever. I´m also losing weight which doesn't make sense because I swear all we eat is meat. And if the meat looks questionable, I eat Nutella on bread. So... I can´t really connect those dots.

This email is ridiculously long so I will wrap it up by sharing a couple things I learned this week and sharing some photographs...

I have always had a hard time recognizing the difference between the gospel of Christ and the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I guess I figured ´´the church´´ referred to an earthly organization. But it says in 3 Nefi that those who do what the Lord commands of them and are baptized by His power to receive el espiritu santo are called the ´´church of Christ´´. I loved that. I love that the church refers to a group of people. And that I have enough vocabulary that I was able to explain this revelation of mine to my maestra who speaks no English.

´´When we give what we have, we receive what we need.´´

´´It is okay to doubt our own abilities, but it is not okay to doubt the Lord´s abilities.´´

Picture time!!!

The attached photographs are:

                District 12 C...Us!

Myself with my favorite elders and our new zone leaders (the tall one is Elder Haney from North Bend).

The only other person in the CCM going to Oklahoma...Elder Cummings

 Also, I made Hermana Chugg turn her dictionary in ´´google translate´´ with me...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hermana Best! My P-day is on Tuesdays (Week 1)

Like, it does not matter what people tell you about the CCM. Its different than that. It is harder and more powerful. It feels a little bit like a center in the 50's if I'm being quite honest. Because the girls cannot sit with the boys and we all look sharp but we just giggle as we pass the opposite sex.

I just have to start off by saying how blessed I am. I will attach some photographs, but this place is amazing. Every morning I wake up and remember I'm on a mission, then I walk outside and remember that I'm in Mexico. It's overwhelming to say the least.

I'll start with the big things first. I volunteered to give a talk in sacrament entirely in Spanish. I even slipped in a few jokes that were probably incoherent. For example, we're District 12, so I wanted to stand up there and say ''I volunteered as tribute!'' But instead I just said ''yo soy de la 'mecca' de nuestro gente.'' (I am from the Mecca of our people). But it was such an incredible experience. I cannot believe how much I have picked up in the short amount of time I have been here. Our district gets along really well because there is such a diverse group of personalities. On Sunday, Presidente (something spanish I can't pronounce) asked me if I could be the Hermana Trainer for our branch. I was thrilled! Still trying to figure out the duties that entails, but I'm all about more resposibility.

My work ethic has boosted so much just being here. If I had this kind of drive and passion in my school work, I probably could have cured cancer by now. I know it's not me though, the Lord has opened my eyes and my ears to learning so much.

Elder Oaks came to dedicate this as on official CCM on Sunday!! All the otros speakers were speaking in Spanish except Elder Oaks, so it was muy interesante, but mostly I had no idea what was going on. When Elder Oaks spoke, it was powerful. He said a convert means to be and become.I liked that. Even if we are members of the church we need to be and continue trying to be a convert to the Lord. After her left the building, the pianist played EIGHT verses of I Need Thee Every Hour and we all just hummed along and stood still. Nobody moved. El espiritu fue muy feurte.

On the second day, they make you teach your first lesson. Just you and your compañera. Todos en español. It was terrifiying. Hermana Chugg y yo went in to teach Adan, our investigator.  We stumbled over our words and had no clue what he said at all. We didn't even comprehend that he was inviting us into his house. It was devastating. When we got out into the hall, we both just started laughing. Hysterically. Then our laughter turned into tears and our tears turned into the mightiest prayer of all time. So we got down on our knees and we just sincerely chatted with the Lord, in horrible Spanglish, but we know he understands. One thing I have learned from being here so far is that we have the capability to be completely specific with the Lord and he will bless us. We should be as straightforward and with the purest intentions for the clearest of answers. I never understood that before.

My Spanish is coming back to me like nobody's business. I'm retaining and recalling information that I don't think I've ever even learned before. I feel bad because Hermana Chugg is really struggling with the language and I think the only reason I'm excelling is to help her. Hermana Chugg and I could not be any more alike. And sometimes that's not so great because that makes two utterly loud and stubborn people be together all the time. But I´m learning how to humble myself and serve her instead of try to make myself stand out. It has been good for me. I think I'm supposed to learn a great deal about patience with Hermana Chugg. We have only been here for four days and she has already lost earrings, her house key, and her closet key (twice), and various other things that are on the ''Hermana Chugg's Struggle is Real'' list. Hahaha. Oh geez. But I love her. I love that on our first day, I said ''Hermana Chugga-Chugga! I fit in the shelves in this closet, come get in and get a picture with me!''. That picture is attached for sure because it was awesome. Hermana Schultz is our roommate and she is in the photo as well.

Tomorrow will be our fourth lesson with Adan. Just FYI these ''investigators'' are returned missionaries who just pretend--and are really good at it-- to be somebody they met on their mission. Our second lesson went really well. It helps me to shut my notes and just speak from my heart. I know that sounds corny, but when I'm conjugating in my head instead of reading something I've already written, I understand more.

Nothing here is scary. I was nervous to come here but the food is clean and usually quite yummy, there are water coolers everywhere with clean water, and it's a super safe compund that we're on. Every single day I am grateful to be here. Like, for example, what did you do today... Oh, work... Bummer. I played beach volleyball in the middle of Mexico barefoot. So, like it definitely has its perks.

BUT THIS IS HARD. This is the hardest thing I have ever done. We are always working on something. And even if you wanted to be idle it would be difficult. I didn't understand what it meant to be so scheduled and focused all the time. The first few days I consistently spent feeling like I wasn't up to the challenge. I didn't feel spiritual because I was studying the language so hard and my mind was all over the place, but then I realized... This is something so much more than me. And it always has been. I'm not here for me. I'm here for the Lord. I'm here to rescue my brothers and sisters from darkness. I am so honored to be here and so grateful for my amazing family. I can´t get Henry's, adorable song out of my head and it makes me "feel waaaaaay better."(Edit by Sara's sister: I thought for those who don't know about Henry (Nephew, age 2) or his song,I'd share that it is a song about taking a breath and counting to four when you're in a frustrating/hard situation, calming you down before you react) I hope everything in Utah is wonderful. Even if there were some kind of earthquake, I probably wouldn't hear about it down here in retro confinement so you guys can't ever stop writing me.

I love you guys. I miss you all. But mostly I just wish you could be here with me. Having allergies and smelling the flowers like me in the middle of Mexico and learning an entire new language in 42 days. XOXO.

Hermana Best

The photos are...
A mexican sunset and some amazing scenery. (top)

Just a portion of the books they gave us to study from.

And, as promised, some misioneras in a closet...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hermana Best has arrived safely!

Hi everyone!! I'm here and so happy! They just gave us our fancy green packets with our name tags, schedules, and companions so it is starting to feel official over here in Mexico City. I saw most of you quite recently so this letter might be a bit short, but I'll try to make them a bit longer next time. Also, only some of the punctuation buttons on this keyboard work so you'll have to forgive my typos.

My companion is Hermana Chugg, which is actually really exciting because she and I found each other on Facebook about a month ago and she's going to Oklahoma with me! She is such a sweetheart and I have already spent the majority of the day with her so I'm thrilled that we get to be companions. Woah, sorry I sound so boring... I'm exhausted. I keep thinking I'm hearing my phone go off, and the computers play As Sisters in Zion and the Army of Helaman on a loop so I'm a little disoriented.

This MTC (AKA the CCM en Espanol) used to be a high school but with the influx of missionaries, they converted it into this beloved MTC so it is still in it's first year. Which is actually really incredible because that means that Elder Oaks is coming later this week to dedicate it as an official Missionary Training Center.

Here are a few observation I made on the way here:

Everything in Mexico City looks like ruins but they're painted all neon colors which makes the city vibrant. And any possible area of ground that doesn't have a tree on it, there is a building crammed in. It is so crammed, so many things to look at, and I am so honored to be here. It is humbling. The roads are very scary though and no one knows how to drive. I thought Utah was bad but I kept having to check the bus drivers blind spot. Even the graffiti is beautiful. Sister Chugg saw it and said, òh my gosh, even the graffiti is in Spanish. That's so cute!! Hahaha. Love her.

 A lot of my Spanish is coming back to me already but I am definitely starting to feel far from home. I love you guys. Thank you everyone who helped me get here. I'll write more later but I should probably go. People are starting to comment on how long my email is.

The photographs are the bus from the airport with Hermana Chugg and a yellow-toothed pic of my amazing name tag!!!

 I love you all!

Hermana Best