Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pictures as Promised

1. Hiking Last P-day
2. Hiking again with all of the Sisters in our Zone

3. Hna Hoof and the Perea Family, a family we love to stop by and teach. Those boys keep us on our toes every time we go.
4. The Daugherty Family, one of our favorite families in the ward.

5. Our Christmas stockings we made with the Daugherties

6. Our cut our Christmas tree, stockings, and most importantly, your favorite sister missionaries.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Life in Aguila

Hi Everyone!
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. We had quite the event full Christmas here as we were covering two wards, so we had lots of people to stop by. It was so fun, and I think I have tried more variations on tamales in the last few days than I ever expected to try in a lifetime. Yum. We also got our share of other dishes with the winner being dinner with Alma, the sister who got baptized in early December. She made a really really yummy Postole (beef and corn soup... ish...) for us for Christmas Eve and it was fun to stop by and visit her. On Christmas morning we read the Christmas story as a companionship and then opened our presents by our cardboard Christmas tree. After we made sugar cookies to take by families. It was fun to get to make and decorate cookies and made me think of years of doing it at home.

The not so surprising news is that I am getting a new companion, but I am staying here in Aguila. We'd suspected that I would stay, but you never know with transfers. There are a good bunch of sisters getting transferred this time, so I'm really curious to find out who I will be serving with. I guess you'll have to wait until next week to find out.

I set what I hope to be a once-in-a-mission record of 7 straight hours of church this past Sunday. I went to 3 different wards and by the end of the last one (Aguila) I was exhausted. I got to put my piano skills to use in Aguila though because the Sister who normally plays was in Mexico. Then, not only did I get to play for Sacrament Meeting (and sightread Christmas hymns I'd never really looked at before) but I also got hauled into Primary to play for them. That was the exciting one, because a lot of the songs are almost the same, but since Spanish words are way longer there are all sorts of extra notes thrown in all over the place. At this rate I'm going to be one heck of a sightreader on the piano by the time I get home. I'm already way way more comfortable with sightreading on the piano than I ever was before, and I keep getting asked to play for all sorts of things.

I thought I'd send some more pictures home in this e-mail, so I hope you enjoy these. A lot of these are pictures that we took before Hna Hoof went home, so these are partially for her, but I think you all will enjoy them. (to be added soon, just a letter for now)

1. Hiking last P-day
2. Hiking again with all of the Sisters in our Zone
3. Hna Hoof and the Perea Family, a family we love to stop by and teach. Those boys keep us on our toes every time we go.
4. The Daugherty Family, one of our favorite families in the ward.
5. Our Christmas stockings we made with the Daugherties
6. Our cut our Christmas tree, stockings, and most importantly, your favorite sister missionaries.

As for other news, hmmm... I feel like this past week was really quite a blur, we really kept super busy trying to cover both areas and I think we tried to make a huge dent in the allotted car miles that we are given... whoops. I guess that's what you get when you cover two areas that aren't particularly close to each other.

I think one of my favorite happenings from Christmas was that evening when all the missionaries from my district got together for a party at the church. Some missionaries are just so typical. It turned into a favorite door knocking story party, followed by watching the Joseph Smith movie and everyone chipping in on their own random hearsay about church history. We have a really nice district of 2 companionships of Sisters and 3 companionships of Elders. I also got to learn how to make Abuelita, the mexican form of hot chocolate, although I decided to avoid it in favor of not having headache problems, but at least I know how to make it now. It's actually pretty yummy.

Well, I think that is about it for the last week. I look forward to being able to tell you next week about my companion and how things are going here in Aguila. Have a wonderful week!

Hermana Okeson

Ps. We're only allowed to open e-mails from immediate family, so for you clever friends who figured out what my e-mail is, I wish I could read it and write you back but I can't. Send me a letter some time, I'd love to see more than just your name in my inbox! All of my contact info should be on facebook. If you can't find it, leave a comment and I'm sure my Mom would be happy to send you my info.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lesson Learned

Hi Family and Friends,
I learned a valuable lesson, just because you end p-day early to write another day doesn't mean it's going to be easy to find time to get a letter in. So, here's a really short and quick letter, and hopefully things will go better this next p-day so I can write a better letter.
I was intrigued in one of Trent's recent letters where he wrote about going by an unspoken rule of "if your English is better than my Chinese, then we speak English." So, I decided to watch and see how that affects what we do. For us, primarily it's if you are under 30 and you've lived in the states for the last 5 or more years, we speak in English, after that then it's almost completely in Spanish. Little kids tend towards wanting to speak English, but I love hearing them speak Spanish, so I try to keep speaking to them in Spanish to see if they'll switch over. The Bishop in the ward I serve in is very adamant about trying to get families to stick to their heritage and speak Spanish at home, so often the kids in these families speak very good Spanish, which I'm told is not always the case.
We finally managed to get a Christmas tree, which my companion and I are very excited about. It's a cardboard cut out of a tree that was left over from a preschool program that was held in the church last Thursday, and it works perfectly, we've taped it up on the wall and we're pretty happy to have it and our apartment looks quite festive.
Christmas is such a fun time to be a missionary, I'm really enjoying getting out and working with people and being with the ward members and our investigators. People seem to stop and listen just a little longer to our message and to find out a little more about what we have to say. It's nice, and we're teaching some really wonderful people. The weather here feels like summer, and so it doesn't really feel like Christmas, and I always laugh seeing light up snowmen here because they look so out of place. We had the great opportunity to go caroling with the Youth this week, and it was so fun to pass by and visit some of the people we are teaching and sing carols for them.
Well, we've got to run. Hopefully this p-day we'll work everything out and the place we normally go for e-mailing will be open so we don't run into problems.
Lots of love!
Hermana Okeson

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A picture is worth a 1,000 words!

Hi Family,
We're short on e-mail time today becuase we had other things to take care of today, so you'll get an actual letter when we stop back by tomorrow. Instead in the few minutes I have I thought I'd send some pictures. I've heard some mention from the Peanut Gallery that they would likesome, so here you go!
1. At the Mesa Temple with my companion and the other sisters we live with.
2. My handlebars after my biking fiasco the first week.
3. Hna Hoof and I at the temple.
4. Half of the sister missionaries in the mission and Sister Beck.
5. MTC District with our teachers.
6. All the Sisters from my BYU ward who were at the MTC together. We took this picture to send to our Bishop. :-)
7. Alma's Baptism. The blonde sister is Hna Ochosinski, the sister I replaced. She got special permision to be able to come to the baptism.

Okay. I'll write a real letter tomorrow, but I thought you would all enjoy these pictures. I wish I had time to send more, but I was worried that the computer wouldn't like it. Maybe next time.

Okay, a short amusing story before I go. The ward members have informed me I speak Spanish with a South American accent. They're pretty convinced on that one, which I find funny, since I've never been to South America, nor have I really talked with a lot of peole from there. But there you go, I speak like I learned Spanish down in South America. I'll take it, atleast I'm not too gringo :)

Have a great day, and I'll send out a real letter tomorrow!
Love you all!
Hermana Okeson

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

First Baptism

Hi Family and Friends!
So, we're a little short on time today, and this week was absolutely jam packed, so we'll see what I can fit in. I wanted to upload pictures for you, but we're using computers that I don't particularly trust, so I guess it will have to wait until next week. The big news is that we got a building, and everything came together perfectly and Alma was baptized on Saturday. It was incredible. I absolutely love her, and then on Sunday when she shared her testimony I finally heard a little more about how she got interested in the church. It turns out that she had driven by our building for months and wanted to come check out the "new church" (our building is almost a year old). She just showed up 4 weeks ago. She'd been searching because she had a dream one night that she was walking and saw a tree with fruit that she knew she needed in her life, but she didn't know how to get there (sound familiar?) Four weeks after she first walked into our church building she was being confirmed a member. She has had so much support from members, and it's really shown me how desperately as missionaries we need them in our work. We just can't do this alone. Almost all of the baptisms we see here in Phoenix are ones from member referrals, or they are ones where the person getting baptized knows tons of members who really swoop in and help once they start meeting with missionaries (Alma). The baptism was so beautiful, and we had a huge miracle because her family came and supported her. Originally her mother and son were not going to come because they didn't agree with her decision. Then about a week before her son came out and said he would support her, and Saturday morning her mom told her that she was going to support her decision to be baptized.
Friday was also an incredible day. We had our Christmas Zone Conference. Half of the mission met together and we had a conference where President and Sister Beck spoke and then also President Lopez (the first counselor in the mission presidency) shared his conversion story. I was asked to play flute, and so I had to do some scrambling to find a flute, but I did and it sounded okay. Definitely not up to my usual par for playing, but I figure for not playing for three months (CRAZY!) I sounded pretty good. I have to say I absolutely love my mission president and his wife. Thursday we ended up at the mission office to take care of some things and I got to know them both a little better and am really enjoying them. At the Christmas Zone Conference their talks were both so good, and I loved listening to them. President Beck announced the New Year's mission goal, and I thought I would share it for those family members who might be interested. It is not something that he personally extended to families, but I'd like to invite anyone who is interested to join in. The invitation is to read the Book of Mormon in 60 days (the amount of time it took Joseph to translate it) and while reading it to highlight in 5 different colors the 5 parts of the doctrine of Christ, faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the holy ghost, and enduring to the end. We will be beginning as an entire mission on the 1st of January and finishing 60 days later. That means you read roughly 9-11 pages a day. Another wonderful part of the Christmas Conference is that they take all of the missionaries to the temple. It was so beautiful, and as we came out later in the evening we were able to see the temple all lit up and we got to listen to the Christmas music. It was such a beautiful evening. Hopefully I can attach pictures some time soon so you can all see.
A little more about my living situation and such. I am living with 2 other sisters, one is from Canada (interestingly enough she is also half native American, but I don't remember which tribe, but she does have a linguistics degree in Native American languages, which makes her incredibly cool) and the other sister is from Georgia. She's just celebrated her 5 year baptismal mark this past week, which was quite fun. We have a washer and dryer in our apartment which I have decided is a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because we live in a very poor area and who knows where we would find to wash our clothes, but it's a curse because with 4 sisters, the odds of actually doing a single load of wash on p-day are not good. Usually I end up doing laundry when every I have a minute to throw it in and then I call it good.
I'm starting to eat more Mexican food, but we really don't get fed that much. There is a rule in our mission that we are not allowed to eat at members houses unless they invite friends or we can bring an investigator. We're working on getting them to invite friends, and things are getting a little better. In the few meals I have eaten here I think I've eaten a life supply of beans. They eat them with everything, and I mean everything. That and corn tortillas, they don't really use forks, you just grab what you want with the tortilla and eat away. It's pretty fun. I think the favorite thing I've eaten here was today. A member fed us lunch and fed us a soup called "Postole" it's a pulled pork soup with a spicy broth. It has corn, and chilies and who knows what else and then a ton of cilantro. So yummy. I've got to learn how to make that one.
We're working like crazy here. I'm learning so much and I'm working really hard and getting so much each day. Keep us in your prayers and especially pray that the windows of heaven will open for us and that we can find those who are really ready for the gospel.
Love you lots!
Hermana Okeson

Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!!! (Belated)

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend, I know I sure did. Thanksgiving as a missionary is a very fun experience, especially when you are serving in a Hispanic Barrio (ward), because they love Fiestas! We started off last week with out a single dinner appointment, but by Wednesday night had turned down 4 because we just had too many. I ate 2 dinners, and had far too many deserts. We stopped by many members houses and got to see them and say hello. It was fun to go see the members and it also helped me to start putting families together. I've tried placing families together at church but all adults refer to anyone under 18 as "mi hijo" or "mi hija" (my son/my daughter). It's quite endearing, and often the older members will call Sister Hoof and I "Mi hija" as well. While it's very endearing, it makes for a very confused Sister Okeson as she tries to put families together.
On Thanksgiving morning the Zone got together and played Soccer. Trent referenced that European Football and American Soccer are not the same sport, so I guess I have the other end of the sports arena for "soccer" in whatever form it may be. It was fun to get together with the Zone (there are 6 sisters total in my zone, and we live with 2 of the other sisters, so it was fun to meet the last 2.) It was also fun because one of the Elders from my MTC district is in my Zone so we got to say hi and see how we've done in our first 2 weeks.
The really cool part of my Thanksgiving was visiting a single sister who was spending her Thanksgiving alone. She's in the process of moving, and had planned to move before the holidays but ended up not being quite done. Sister Hoof has been dropping by for months giving service and offering short spiritual messages, but to date she'd never really been interested. Well, when we showed up around 6:30 on Thanksgiving we were the first people she'd seen. We sat and talked with her and then shared President Monson's talk on Gratitude with her. The spirit in the room was incredible and it was amazing to see how touched she was by his message. That's what I'm really going to remember about this Thanksgiving, sharing that message and watching the change in her as we read.
Okay, here's a quick thought on virtue. Virtue as a missionary is interesting because you are out with your companion and it's just the two of you making decisions and deciding what to do and where to go and how to reach the most people. Virtue as a missionary is working hard and long, it's only taking that hour for lunch or dinner even when you are tired. It's talking to one more person, or knocking on one more door. It's saying "yes I'll help" after you've had a long day and don't really want to give more service, and you know that your Mission President will never know, or any other leadership, but you keep going because you know that it is what you came here to do. Virtue, like Mom said, is what we do when no one is watching.
Okay, now for my saga of the week. Remember the Sister we committed to baptism last week? Well, her baptismal date is on Saturday, and we still don't have anywhere to do the service. Who'd have thought that in a city full of LDS chapels we wouldn't be able to get a single one that will let us come do a baptism. We're moving forward with faith (and appealing to higher powers to help us make this baptism happen) and with any luck this Saturday Alma will be getting baptized. We're so excited for her, and I've just loved working with her.
Other points of interest, I feel that I have now officially become a missionary as I got chased down the road on my bike by a dog. Not really a highlight of the week, but certainly worth mentioning. It gave me my work out, and certainly got the adrenalin going.
I think that's about it for this week. Thanks to those of you who sent me letters, I really enjoyed getting them. Have a marvelous week!
Love you all,
Hermana Okeson

Nicole's Mission President's wife does a blog if any one wants to check it out.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Arrived In Phoenix, Serving in Phoenix

Hi Family and Friends,
So, p-day is technically on Monday, but with this weekend being a holiday weekend, President moved P-day to Thursday, but we're e-mailing today. We meant to do it sooner, but things have been so crazy that this was the first time we could get to the Library.
I don't even know where to start. I'm serving in Phoenix in a Spanish speaking ward. It's myself and my companion and then two Elders who serve in our ward. To give you a geographic idea of what kind of area we cover, we're covering about 3 wards (at least as best I can figure out). The Elders cover the other half of our ward which is also about the size of 3 English speaking wards. It takes us up to a half hour to drive from our apartment to some of our investigators, and they aren't even at the end of our area. That means that yes, we do bike. But often we drive part way, and then bike the rest. We do that mostly so that we can save time (because biking for over an hour to get to an appointment really doesn't yield a whole lot besides being nice and sweaty for the appointment) and then when we bike for part of the distance it helps us get out and talk to more people.
I quite like biking, especially because the weather is really pretty here right now. I've enjoyed being able to be outside after spending two months inside in classrooms. Speaking of biking, I had a rather interesting experience my first day biking here. It was my second day here, and we were biking to one of the church buildings for our District Meeting. The bike was fine on the way to the meeting but on the way back I hit a bump and the next thing I knew my handlebars came loose. My companion was ahead leading the way and I didn't want to loose her, so I just kept riding as my handlebars were sinking lower and lower. By the time we got back to the apartment instead of being like an upturned u, they were completely flipped down. It was quite the experience.
My companion Hermana Hoof is really really good. I'm learning so much from her and really enjoying serving with her. She's the oldest of six, and with me being the oldest of five we've made a companionship goal to work on not being so bossy. The first night together as we were talking about our families it came out that both of our families think we are bossy oldest children. Neither of us know what they are talking about. The interesting fact about Hermana Hoof is that she is half Native American, her father is from the Blackfoot Tribe. How cool is that? I think it's pretty cool. Hermana Hoof has been out for a year, and we actually celebrated her year mark last Thursday. That year mark seem so far away to me, but she assures me it comes all to quickly.
Ooh, another interesting fact, her last companion was an opera singer. I've informed her that she is one step closer to exaltation since she's moved to the best of the musical instruments. *grin*
I thought I would share my cool experience from the week. My first night here in Phoenix I went with Hermana Hoof to meet an investigator named Alma. She had made a baptismal commitment, but had yet to set a day. As we were planning on Thursday we felt like we needed to extend December 4th to her as the day to be baptized. We had a return appointment for Friday and so the plan was that we would meet up after being on splits in time to have both Hermana Hoof and I there and the two sisters from the ward who were with us. I showed up at the time for the lesson but Hermana Hoof was no where in sight. We tried calling and she didn't answer. So, after waiting and talking with the Sister I was with we decided to go and start the lesson and pray that Hermana Hoof would show up soon. We started the lesson, and still no Hermana Hoof (turns out they had checked on someone who was way chatty and taught a really good lesson, so it was fine that she wasn't with us). Well, the part of the lesson comes when we wanted to extend the baptismal date to her, and Hermana Hoof was still gone. I wouldn't have been nervous, except President Beck has a whole memorized set up that he likes us to use. It's one of the few things he is very very adamant about using from memory every time. I'd started memorizing it in the morning to be familiar, but since Hermana Hoof was going to be there I wasn't too worried about getting it done. All I can say is in that lesson there was a greenie who was super stressed. It went really well though, and we have a baptism planned for the 4th. I'm so excited for Alma, she's really really wonderful and she just looks so happy.
Okay, a little about my ward before I have to go. In the ward they call me Hermanita O. Hermanita is usually used as a familiar term for a younger (smaller/shorter) sister. They use it with me because they can't get over how tall I am. The ward is really wonderful. Hispanics are so generous. I've really loved getting to work with them so far, and my Spanish is holding up pretty well. The only times I really have trouble is when there is a lot of noise going on. The only problem with speaking well, is that they all assume I've been on a mission much longer, and so sometimes they ask me things that a more seasoned missionary would know, but I'm still pretty clueless and don't know. Oh well. We don't get fed too much because there is a rule that to feed missionaries you have to have someone who isn't a member there. Luckily for us that rule is not in effect tomorrow, so we have about 4 dinner appointments all in a row. I think I may need more time on the bikes after this weekend.
I think that is about all, well, at least for now. I love and miss you all.
Hermana Okeson

ps- This is Nicole's mom. If any of you out there would like to have Nicole's address in Phoenix you have two options. One is to respond to this blog and I will get back with you and the second is to check on her profile info on facebook. She loves hearing from everyone. Thanks for your support.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Hi Family and Friends!
Well, as you can probably guess from the subject, I got my travel plans to head to Phoenix. I'm pretty excited. I'm writing a little earlier than usual so that I can head back to my room and start getting things packed. I leave for Phoenix next Tuesday morning. So, that means two things. First, Mom and Dad, you can expect a call some time your Tuesday night. I should be at the airport quite early in the morning, so I'll be able to call, and hopefully I'll get to talk to everyone. Second, there will probably be no letter from me next week. My p-day is Tuesday and since I'll be traveling early in the morning I won't have a chance to send out an e-mail before I leave the MTC, and I'm not sure when p-day is in Phoenix, so if you don't get a letter next week, that's why.

I am SOOOOOO excited to leave. Getting travel plans really makes everything seem real, and now I'm really antsy to get out of here. I'm pretty ready to go, and I feel like I've gotten what I needed fromt the MTC. I had quite a breakthrough in Spanish this week. There is a verb tense that has plagued me since High School. It doesn't really exist in English, and it is a pretty subjective verb tense as far as I can tell. This past week though, I met with the language tutor, and I think I finally get it! Woo hoo! This is the verb tense that stressed me out to no end in high school, and was the cause of quite a lot of nerves here when I figured out it's the tense you are supposed to use when you pray and quite often when you teach. That was my miracle of the week. I still feel like I am floundering using it, but at least now I'm starting to have a vauge understanding of when, and I just stick to using it in the situations where I know it will work.

This week, was a really really cool week. I've written a little bit home about being in a trio companionship, but I thought I'd share a little more so that you can all see the kind of miracles that happen here at the MTC. Hermana Vasquez showed up three weeks ago tomorrow, and yesterday morning Hermana Cannon and I helped her get her bags to the shuttle to head to Chile. The Hermana Vasquez who we got as a companion 3 weeks ago, is not the same Hna Vasquez who we dropped off at the shuttle. To give some background, Hna Vasquez is the only active member in her family, and she's had a pretty hard life. About 6 months ago she felt like she needed to get her life in order, and not long after that the missionaries brought her back to church for the first time since she was a little girl. When she came to the MTC she was full of desire to serve, but not completely prepared and not quite sure what she was getting herself into (but is anyone really sure what they are getting themselves into, I know I wasn't and still am not...) One of the things we had to work with Hna Vasquez on was on getting her to look like a missionary. The boys really have it easy, cut your hair, buy some suits bring only white shirts and leave your really crazy ties at home. As a Sister we have a lot more leeway and Hna Vasquez came and it quickly became obvious that the wardrobe she brought was not a good one to take to Chile. Here is where the miracle came in. Hna Cannon and I had the chance to work with her on clothing, and one of the wives of the branch presidency also helped out. Sister Jurgens (the wife of one of the counselors in the Branch Presidency) was able to go to Hna Cannon's parents house (in Cedar Hills, about an hour from the MTC) and pick up the clothes that Hna Cannon had bought last minute for her mission but didn't have enough room for in the end. The clothes Sister Jurgens brought fit perfectly. Not only that, there was the exact number of shirts and skirts that Hna Vasquez was missing. Coincidence, I think not. Working with Hna Vasquez over the past 3 weeks has really taught me about what missions are all about. When Hna Vasquez came she was coming out of a rough time, but as we worked with her and really worked to show her how much we love her, I saw an incredible change. I don't know that I could even begin to describe it. This last week was a really really hard week, and it was stressful trying to get everything done before she had to leave, but I wouldn't trade that experience for anything in the world. There are some pretty lucky people down in Chile.

So, this makes a good (albeit quick) segue into keeping up with Trent's mission goal to study the Christlike attributes. I actually just finished studying that chapter in Preach My Gospel, and so it will be fun to go back through it again. When I think about faith, I really think about this last week. Hna Cannon and I were so stressed trying to get everything to work and to pull things together, we spent a whole lot of time praying that things would work out, and a whole lot of time working to make them work out. I think that is what faith is. Faith is telling the Lord that you are in need of help, and then doing everything you can to show him that you are going to live up to all that you can so He can step in and help you. When we do that the results are incredible.
Dad - I think you are right, I think it was 129 that I wasn't sure what to do with the left hand. Who knows, maybe I'll have access to an organ in Phoenix and be able to fill in the notes as they should be. We'll see. I've played a lot more piano thus far than I ever expected, maybe that trend will continue. Also, I got your letter about the trip to Japan. Everything sounded awesome and I loved the pictures.
Mom - I'm glad you are hanging in there for Chinese. I can understand really struggling with a language, but eventually things start making sense. I'm very glad thought that I've had 9 wees here to really be more comfortable with the language and to get used to speaking and teaching in Spanish. I really don't think 3 would have been enough.
Todd - congrats on Basketball. I can understand why you wanted to play on the other team, sounds like you are way busy! Are you missing Volleyball?
Tanner - You are way cheeky. Just in case you were wondering. Have an awesome week.
Morgan - I LOVED your music joke. It made my day, and I told it to all the Elders and they just rolled their eyes at me... talk about feeling like I was right back at home. *grin* It was like having brothers around to be disgusted with all the nerdy music jokes I love.

Love you all!!!
Hermana Okeson