Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Wednesday

Hello Everyone!

Sorry I didn't get out a letter sooner. Monday the library was closed, and then on Tuesday we were on exchanges with the Aguila sisters... so here I am writing you all on a Wednesday. It's a little weird. I've really become accustomed to writing on a Monday, and so it seems a little odd to be writing in the middle of the week.

Christmas was really good. We were expected to be in our apartments at 6pm on Christmas eve, and then our Christmas day appointments were to be kept short. It worked out well. For Christmas eve Hna Harding and I ate tamales (a Mexican tradition... one of the Hna's in the ward gave us enough tamales to last a life time) and then after eating we made some cookies to take to the families that we work with. Christmas morning we were up bright an early and while my companion was rather chipper, I woke up with quite the headache, so as a Christmas gift to myself I showered as fast as I could and then went back to bed until studies started at 8. At church I was able to play flute. I really enjoyed it. I have really loved being able to play more this year. I'm a pretty rusty, but luckily for church stuff it's never anything difficult, so I do fine.

After church we ate dinner with the Bencomo family, and then started our visits. My favorite visit of the year was with the Texta family. If I had to pick a favorite family from my mission, the Texta's would be at the top of my list. I love them! They were baptized six months ago, and they are some of the best people I have ever met. They have three kids, and I just love every chance I have to be with them. We took the "Joy to the World" movie over to them with a plate of cookies. The kids polished off the cookies in a matter of minutes, and then we watched the movie. As it finished there was a beautiful spirit in their home, and we were able to talk with them about how the changes they have made in the last 6 months have blessed their family. We were then able to re commit them to work to become an eternal family. I really loved listening to them talk about how their family has been blessed and the way their lives have been changed in the last 6 months. It's moments like those where I really remember why I came on a mission, and I feel so grateful for the chance I have had to serve.

Our other exciting event of the week happened on Thursday. Thursday we got a flat tire, and when I say flat I mean, completely flat. Later we discovered that a huge screw had worked it's way into the tire... lucky us. Actually, it was Hno Texta and his 10 year old son, Manuel, who came to our rescue. The Hno was very pleased to be able to help us, and we were very pleased to have the help. In the process I learned my new favorite vocabulary word. "Gato". Those of you who may know a little Spanish might know that "gato" means "cat" (like the animal). What I discovered is that "gato" also means "jack" (like that thing you use to pick up the car). The funniest part of all of this was after learning this word, the Texta's showed up to help us, and Manuel turned to his father and said, in English, "Hey Dad, should I go get the cat?" I was left with the mental image of some poor cat being used as a lever to lift up the car. :)

As I hinted at the beginning of my e-mail, yesterday we had exchanges with the Aguila Hermanas. Much to my disappointment, I did not get to go back to Aguila. I would have loved to go back and work in that area for a day again, but I guess it was not to be. Instead I just sent Hna Harding with a list of people to give bear hugs to. I had a great time being with Hna Brown for the day. She came out not long after me, and I really enjoyed working with her. I love seeing how different missionaries work and how they serve. I learn so much each time I get to work with a different missionary, and I love that. It was also fun to pick her brains about all the people I remember from when I served in Aguila. It's great to hear how they are doing.

Mom asked about my favorite finding activity... I think it's just talking to people on the street. I love getting to know them, finding out a little about their lives and families and then looking for how the Gospel of Jesus Christ can help them. I've really seen how the world is full of so many good people. Every day I get to interact with them, and I love that.

My favorite teaching situation is with families, I don't know that I have a favorite thing to teach, but I love helping people. I love helping them see how their lives can be better, and helping them to achieve so much more. I guess my favorite single thing to teach is probably that there is a God and He loves us... a lot of people need to know that.

Have a wonderful week, and a happy new year!


Hermana Okeson

Monday, December 19, 2011


Hello All,

This week has been the biggest rollercoaster week of my mission. I think God wants me to learn more about patience and faith and probably a lot more things. First, the downer parts, and then I'll share how it all worked out. As we started the week we had a good number of lessons with our new and progressing investigators. I was feeling pretty good about it all, as it had been a bit of a rough start in this area. Well, by Wednesday night all of our progressing investigators had dropped us or were impossible to get ahold of. The family we were teaching called and said they had changed their mind and were no longer interested, and a lot of other things like that happened right out of the blue. I was dying. When you train a new missionary you want things to go really well to build their confidence and to help them know they can be successful, and this was not going anything like how I had imagined. Thursday I was pretty down, and got a pretty bad migraine which didn't help anything. But that is where our miracles begin.

Thursday night we didn't have a lot of time left to work once I was finally feeling better, but we prayed and wanted to go find people to teach. We felt really good about a certain road, and like Trent, the very first house was interested. Turns out that the grandfather in this family had joined the church in California and just come here and wants to come to church and also to have his daughter and her family learn more. We're pretty excited. It's not every day you run into a part member family who are really interested and haven't met with missionaries before. Friday was the mission conference, which was so good. Sister Taylor pulled me aside and we were able to talk for a while which was super helpful. I really love working with the Taylors, and have really felt so blessed to serve with them. The rest of the conference was really good. I enjoyed seeing the other sisters, and then going to the temple as a mission was really good. I remember going last year and loving it, and this year was just as amazing. Saturday we ended up in the mission office to meet with President for some follow up on the training program. It was really helpful for me, and I was greatful for the advice I recieved. After that we came back down and went to work. We were able to set a baptismal date, which I'll tell you a little more about in a minute, and we had a really really needed lesson with a recent convert family that we have been working with. The end result of that one came on Sunday when the rest of the family who have never wanted to have anything to do with the church all came to church, and stayed for all three hours. Incredible.

Now for a little about the Chavez family. They are the family who we had a first lesson scheduled with for Monday night. Mike, their 21 year old son just got home from a mission in Texas, and is really excited about his family finally being interested in learning. We had a really really incredible lesson with his younger sister Jessica on Saturday night. We had planned to teach about the restoration of the gospel, but we got in there and within a few minutes invited and committed her to be baptized on January first. It was one of the most memorable moments of my mission. As she committed to be baptized she then turned to her older brother and asked him if he would baptize her. It was an incredible moment. Then Sunday night we came over to teach Mike's mom, Isabell. I'm pretty sure she taught us instead of us teaching her. She is one of the most spiritually intune people I have ever worked with. I learned so much in just an hour with her, and I am so excited to continue working with her. Dad is a little less interested, but we'll keep trying... some things just take time.

I thought I would end today sharing a few thoughts about Christmas and this past year. First, being a missionary is the best, but also the hardest thing I have ever done. As I chatted with President on Saturday we both agreed that when you set off on a mission you really don't know what you are getting into, and that honestly, it's probably better that way. There are a lot of things that you just don't expect or that don't work quite like you want them too. It's also so rewarding, because you get to watch lives change and you get to spend every day serving and helping people. I remember a few years ago Grandpa Okeson shared some thoughts in a testimony meeting at church about missions. He talked about how after serving his mission he came home with lots more grandkids, and that they weren't necesarily biological grandchildren, but that he loved them from the time that he had been able to spend serving them. Well, I've found the same thing on my mission. I've really come to love the people I've served. I've found people I love like family after just working with them for a few weeks, and I would do anything for them. I am amazed by how much I want to give and how much I want to help. This is really amazing. I love being a missionary!

Have a wonderful Christmas!
Hermana Okeson

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Late Blogging, Sorry!

Hello All,

Well, when I came to e-mailing today I thought I would have the winning "ouch" story of the week, but Morgan, you sure out did me. I hope you get better quickly! Any sort of fracture just doesn't sound fun. As for myself, I don't know if you all remember, but in late August/ early September I went in to have my toes looked at. I was having problems with my big toe nail and the long story short was that as the doctor was explaining to me what he would do to fix it, I passed out. Well, I had vowed never to go back, but by last week my toe was really hurting and so I decided maybe I should suck it up and go back. I have the most disgusting looking toe right now! I made it through the procedure, and I got home and was fine that day, but then the next day, Saturday morning, I had to take off the bandaging to clean my toe and re bandage it. I passed out on my poor companion. Right there in the middle of the floor. My toe looked pretty bad, and I wasn't quite ready for that. Whoops. The whole thing made me rather ill, and I was pretty sore, so Saturday was a bit of a slow day for us. I'm feeling pretty good today, and if all goes well, we'll be back on bikes tomorrow. I've attached a picture of my bandaged toe for all of you... mostly because the picture turned out pretty cool looking. :)

Yikes! I'm pretty much out of e-mail time. This week has been a crazy one. We've had a bit of a rough run of it, but it seems like all rough weeks are followed by really good weeks, so I'm not too worried. We have the Christmas Conference for the mission on Friday and I'm quite excited. I'm playing flute for it. It's been really fun having a flute, I've gotten many chances to play over the last few months since getting the flute, and it's nice because I just have one to use instead of having to hunt. We also get to go to the temple for the conference which will be nice. I'm really excited. Also, we have a new family that we are teaching, which I'm excited about. It's a part member family, their 21 year old son just got home from a mission, and now his family wants to learn more. I'm excited to see where this goes. We have a lesson with them tonight.
I think that's about all. I'm sorry this was really short. Hopefully next week I'll have more for you.
Love you!
Hermana Okeson

Monday, December 5, 2011


Hello Everyone!

Happy December! As you know from my last e-mail last week was transfers. This starts my 10th transfer. CRAZY! I am now serving with Hermana Harding. She is from Orem Utah and just graduated from BYU with a degree in Spanish. It's so nice being with someone who really knows Spanish, and makes my job as her companion sooooooo much easier. We're having a good time together, and I am enjoying serving with her.

Life in La Joya is moving forward. We had a rough start this week with transfers throwing everything off, and then trying to get everything taken care of and settled, but by the end of the week things were going pretty good. Right now we are still in the process of finding, which is fun with a new missionary. I am remembering all of my nerves at the start of my mission and how much I hated contacting and just talking to people on the street. We've done lots of practice and it's getting better. I can't say I love just going up to people and talking to them, but you certainly do get more comfortable with it. I'm also enjoying doing the training program for the second time, I feel like I understand it a lot better this time around and like I know more what I am doing. That's always nice. Last time I was learning right along with Hna Graves, but this time I know a little more what to expect.

For my amusing story of the night I thought I would tell you about the "friend" I found in my bathroom my first night with Hna Harding. Let me preface this by saying we live in kind of ghetto apartments, but they aren't the worst ones in the mission. I walked into my bathroom and there sitting on my counter was the world’s biggest COCKROACH!!! GROSS! I was mildly displeased, and at 9:30 at night might have called the senior missionary over missionary housing and demanded that he come the next morning to de-roach our apartment. He found it rather funny, and I have offers from some of the Elders who heard about my cockroach friend that after we killed him they would mount him on a plaque for the mission office that would read "World's Biggest Cockroach, found by Hna Okeson". The Cockroach is now dead, but I decided to return him to his rightful home and flush him down the toilet. We have roach killer stuff all over, and we've not seen any evidence of any roaches since. *shudder*

Besides my roachy friend, it's been a pretty uneventful week. It's been freezing cold! I've worn under armor under my tights every day this week, and multiple other layers, and I'm still freezing. I guess being out in the sun all summer really has ruined me. We've also seen more rain in the last few days than I've seen in my whole time here... which means it's rained for about a total of 2 hours if you add it all up. None the less, it is cold, especially out on a bike.

Well, I think that is everything. Oh, I stuck a picture on of the advent calendar that you all sent. I've really enjoyed opening the different presents each day.

Love you lots!

Hermana Okeson

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

6 More Weeks in La Joya!

Hello All,

As you can tell from the heading I'm going to be here in La Joya for 6 more weeks. I'm excited. I really love it here, and I'm enjoying the work. We had a little down turn last week as the cold that I fought off managed to find Hna Wells and really hit her hard as well. It took out some of our working time and left her as exhausted as it left me. Besides that things are going well. It's warmed up a little and so besides freezing to death on our morning run we've been okay. (I look rather ridiculous out running because I've crammed lots of layers on, but it works). It's amazing to see how much turn over we've seen in this area in the last 6 weeks. As this transfer came to a close I've done a lot of reflecting on all that has happened and it has been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. Hna Wells is another favorite companion. I will miss her. I still don't know who I will be serving with, so you'll all just have to wait until next week to find out. My options are Hna Garcia from Mesa AZ or an Hna H. from Orem Utah (she had a really long name and I didn't catch it all when President told me). I'm not really sure which I will be getting.

Now looking back over the week. Last Monday we played soccer as a zone. It was quite fun, the only down side was that I mildly sprained my ankle. OUCH! It left me limping for a few days, and biking was quite the experience. It's a little sore now when I run, but besides that I'm good. It was a fun Zone Activity none the less, and Hna Wells and I enjoyed being the handicap on each team (since neither of us actually knew what we were doing, we just sort of got in the way and tried to kick the ball... that was the best we had.... we're an art major and a music major...:-)

Tuesday and Wednesday were the days that we were down and out the most... between my ankle being soar and Hna Wells cold we were moving pretty slow. I guess it really just is that time of year right now. I'm just glad I got over it before transfers, because I want to work really hard with my new companion. We were really blessed to set a baptismal date this week. It's for a former investigator from the Elders who were here. He has a lot to work through but we're excited to work with him and to help him prepare. We have a few others where we've been working on getting them closer, some are progressing faster than others... but we'll see what happens.

Thursday was Thanksgiving. We were told that it was by appointment only... so we made cookies and took them to our investigators. It was pretty fun to drop by and surprise them, although we had to be quite insistent that we weren't there to stay long... Hispanics really are some of the most giving people I have ever met, and they just really don't want to let you leave without eating, chatting for a while, and spending time together. But, we did well. We only ate one Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving, which was our goal. Last year I ate 3 full dinners and wanted to die, so I vowed I would not do it again. I just got my Thanksgiving dinners for 3 days in a row, as every family we've eaten with this weekend fed us thanksgiving dinner.

I thought though I would note a few key differences about a Thanksgiving dinner with a Hispanic family. First, it doesn't have a designated starting time... we run on Mexican Standard Time... which means 30 minutes to an hour late at times. The ward thanksgiving started 45 minutes late, but our dinner on Thursday was actually pretty punctual. Second, you don't use a fork or spoon... you use tortillas. I've started to get really good at just eating with tortillas... I don't think I'll ever be able to eat tacos like a white person again:-). Third, there is no gravy. We use salsa. I didn't mind the salsa on the turkey or even the ham, but it was a little weird on mash potatoes, although it made for the spiciest mashed potatoes I've ever eaten. It was a fun Thanksgiving. I really enjoyed it. I really love the people I get to work with, and all day I remember thinking that I am so greatful that I am able to serve them and to be here in Phoenix. I know that Phoenix wasn't exactly where I wanted to come on a mission, but I love it here and most of all I love these people. They are wonderful.

Friday and Saturday were busy working days. We have been doing lots of visits, trying to meet all the members who live in our area. I'll be starting those again tomorrow with my new companion, but at least now I know everyone,

I've got to run I'm out of time.

Love you all.

Hna Okeson

Below some fun pictures of Nicole and Sis. Wells, Phoenix Arizona Mission's two Michigan Sisters!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Blessings and Miracles

Hello All,
This has been a really good week despite some challenging set-backs that tried to get in the way. We had multiple events over the course of the week that really showed me just how much Heavenly Father is aware of us and how He is the one who is guiding this work. We had a really cool lesson Tuesday morning. We'd been pretty stressed about this lesson, it was with a Sister who was struggling and needed a lot of help. She wanted us to bring someone who had some very specific things in common with her to the lesson on Tuesday. We'd hunted and hunted and not found anyone who matched up. It really highlighted to me how new both of us are in this area, even after 5 weeks I feel like I'm still just barely starting to get a handle on things here. Then, Monday night as we were about to give up we thought of one last sister to call and ask. We had decided we were just going to try getting anyone at this point, and we weren't going to worry about all the things that were supposed to match up. Well, the sister said yes. We breathed a huge sigh of relief and started to prep for how we would explain to the sister that we hadn't found exactly who we were looking for. Well, in the car ride as we were talking to this sister it turned out she had had very, very similar life experiences to the lady we were going to visit. The lesson went so well, and as they were talking Hna Wells and I just sat in stunned silence as we watched everything unfold. It really showed me that God does know what is going on, and that He really wants to help us, we just have to do our part and then He will do the rest.
Wednesday we had a sisters' conference. It was soooooooo much fun. I've got to figure out how to get a hold of some pictures from it. Prior to leaving on my mission I brought two memory cards... my first memory card is full and I can't find my second one, so I've just been asking people to take ones for me. It's not like we take that many pictures, just at big events and such. I got to play flute for the sisters conference which was fun. I played an arrangement of "Did you think to pray?" that Dad and I often played and it was fun to get to use the flute and play a song that I really enjoy. There were some great talks and lessons and I really enjoyed being around the other Sisters. It's tricky sometimes being a Sister Missionary, because we are very much out numbered and often are the only sisters in our districts and zones (ie area that we serve in). So, being at the sisters' conference was really, really nice. President Taylor came and was in and out for the meeting and shared some really good thoughts. I've really enjoyed having 2 mission presidents and getting to learn from them both. They are both quite different, but equally inspired and both great leaders for the mission.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday were rough days. I managed to pick up a nasty cold somewhere and it really wiped me out. I've decided a year + of running straight has really taken a toll. I remember picking up little colds here and there when I first got to Arizona, and not really struggling but this time around I think I was just too exhausted to efficiently fight it off. I'm feeling much better now, but it took a lot of sleep and just being down. I feel much better now, and I've decided I'm done with being sick for the rest of my mission. We'll see how that one works.
We were really blessed to find a whole family this week. I'm super excited. We have a lesson with them tonight. It's pretty tricky to find a whole intact family around here. Some of the situations with various issues here in Arizona have split up a lot of families, and a lot of other families have fallen apart on their own. So, finding a full family was pretty exciting. We're really excited to get to work with them and get to know them better.
Sunday I also was really excited to get to go back for the baptism of Ariana Carrillo. I had worked with her dad, Oscar Carrillo, for the better portion of my time in Agua Fria. It was so cool to go back and to see her get baptized, she is such a cute little girl, and I was so happy to get to see her. It was also fun to get to see some of the other people I worked with during my time in Agua Fria. I really have some fond memories of being there and working with them. It was also interesting to go back because effective last week the mission is no longer really giving permission for missionaries to return for baptisms in old areas. I had to really beg for that one, and it was interesting to know that my visit on Sunday was the last time I would be in Agua Fria as a missionary. Weird.
I think that's all for now. I love you all. Have a great week.
Don't forget, transfers are next week, so I won't be writing until Tuesday.

Love ya!
Hermana Okeson

PS (a note from the mom) Okay, I find it really annoying the way this shows on Nicole's blog. I don't know why it is coming up as a white back. Any one out there in the cyber world know how to stop this? I want the green back ground back!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mission Tour

Hi All,
This week was a pretty busy one. We've been running pretty hard, and I'm quite excited for my nap today. P-day naps are easily one of my favorite parts of p-day. We spent most of our week running from one thing to the next. One of the interesting things about being dropped into an area is that you quickly find out who was committed to the missionaries and who was committed to the message. It can be a little discouraging at times, but we've been really blessed as we've worked on finding people to teach. We're finally starting to see results, and I'm excited to see what happens over this week.
The big event of the week was our mission tour. Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the Quorum of the 70 came to visit and work with us. He was fantastic. I really enjoyed his thoughts and the things I learned from him. As an interesting side note, he used to travel to Midland a lot... apparently during the time when our family lived there, and he says he would often go to church on Sunday's there... so who knows, our paths may have crossed before. I didn't remember or really recognize him, but you never know.
One of the things Elder Duncan focused heavily on was love, and how all of our actions should be motivated by love. That really hit me. I think I've been a pretty good missionary. I'm obedient, and I do what I'm supposed to when I'm supposed to. I go out and work during the day, and I try to get as much work done as I can... but I realized that I need to do a better job really focusing on why I am doing these things. I need to remember that I do these things because I love the people I am called to serve, and that I want the best for them. It's not too hard to remember in lessons, or at church... but when someone yells at you on the street or says all sorts of awful things, it's pretty hard to remember. So I'm working on that. It's given me lots to think about, and I'm trying to really tighten things up and really work on my focus being 100% towards those I am serving.
There's really not too much else to report. We're keeping busy, riding bikes all the time, talking to lots of cool people on the street, and eating Mexican food. This week we have a Sisters Conference. I'm pretty excited. It'll be fun to see all the other sisters. I got to see almost all of the other Spanish sisters at the mission tour. We all crammed onto one table for lunch together. There is a lot of over lap as most of us have served together, gone on exchanges together, or served in each others areas. So there was lots to talk about. There are now sisters in my first area, Aguila, and I had a good time asking them about all of the people I remember from serving there. It's always fun to hear how they are doing.
Okay, I think that's all for this week. Sorry it was short.
Love you all!
Hermana Okeson

Monday, November 7, 2011

Freezing in AZ

Hello All,

Yes, you read the subject correctly... we've been FREEZING here in Arizona. I remember when I first started my mission, I used to tease my trainers for wearing so many layers in weather that I knew wasn't that cold. I used to get quite a laugh as I would see them pile layer after layer on, while I would just grab a jacket. Well, after a summer of riding a bike in 120 degree weather, I now understand. I AM SO COLD ALL OF THE TIME! It got down into the 60's this weekend and I thought I was going to freeze to my bike. I don't think I've ever felt this cold. It's pretty embarrassing. I don't really want to tell people I'm from Michigan any more, mostly because I don't think they'll believe me when they see me decked out in so many layers.

This week has been a good one. Monday was Halloween... and in true missionary fashion, it was super boring. We were grounded for the evening. However we made it interesting... Hna Wells had been wanting to dye her hair for a while, and she wanted to go for a strawberry blond color... so we decided Halloween was the perfect time to do it. So, as we went shopping we also picked up some hair dye. It was a pretty nice looking red. Well, as we mixed it up, and I started putting it on her hair, it got redder and redder. But that's okay, because the color of the dye isn't exactly the color that comes out. So no worries. By the end of Halloween Hna Wells could have passed for Strawberry Shortcake (the doll, not the dessert). We got a pretty good laugh. That's what happens when you put an art major and a music major together... some one's hair comes out in funky colors. Tuesday morning we rushed to the store and got a second dye to color over it... so now she's a dark brownish red. Not what we were going for, but it looks good. All in all it was quite the adventure.

Now for missionary work things. We've been so busy this week. I keep telling myself that we'll have this area figured out in the next week, and then new things come out of the wood work. This week we spent most of our time doing visits as assigned by the Bishop. It's actually been super helpful, because it's helped us get to know the members better. We ran all over the area trying to meet people... it translated into lots of biking. We also went on exchanges with the Encanto sisters. I went with Hna Jeanfreau (the sister Hna Wells trained) while Hna Wells went with Hna Graves (the sister I trained). It was cool because for the first time I got to do a repeat in an exchange. I went on exchanges with Hna Jeanfreau 3 transfers ago, so it was fun to see how she has grown and changed as a missionary.

The ward also had a baptism that was quite the event last night. We showed up at a meeting Sunday morning, and the Bishop asked one of the sets of Elders if they were ready for their baptism in the evening... they said no because this Hno was being baptized the next week... well, he was baptized last night. Turns out the Bishop had talked to this Hno and had got him to agree to be baptized on Sunday... and instead of telling the Elders the Hno had told them that he had a surprise for them on Sunday. Pretty comical. I got to play flute for the baptism for a special musical number. It was fun to get the flute out and play some. We played an arrangement that Dad and I have played many times of "Did you think to pray". It went well for zero practice time. There was a mix up and so I had to play it from memory... I was really glad we had chosen something I had played so many times because even though it's now been a year since I really have sat down and played, I could still play that one from memory.

Okay, I think that's all for this week. I'm out of time. Sorry it's a short letter.
Love you all!
Hermana Okeson

Monday, October 31, 2011

Biking and more biking!

Hello All,

I remember during the summer saying that I couldn't wait for it to cool off, and that I hoped that when it did I would get sent to a bike area. Well, technically this isn't a bike area, but it might as well be. We bike everywhere! Pretty much the only time we use the car is to drive from our apartment and to park near our last appointment of the night. Then we pull the bikes of the bike rack and we ride everywhere all day. I think I have spent more time on the bike in the last week than I ever could have imagined. It's lots of fun! We get to meet a lot of people out on the street every day, and I'm really enjoying talking with everyone. It's also nice because this is a more Hispanic area, so well over half of the contacts we do on the street are in Spanish. I like feeling like I am speaking more Spanish, and I am enjoying the chance to dust off some of the Spanish vocab and skills I hadn't needed while I was up in Peoria.

Mom asked if we feel like we know the area better... that would be a yes and no. There are still people we have not met. We've met the majority of the people the previous missionaries were teaching, but there are still some that we cannot seem to get in contact with. It's pretty tricky. All we have with some of them is just an address. No phone number, no hints as to when they are home, no record of how much they were taught or if they were just contacts off of the street... so it makes for a lot of guess work on our part. We finally were able to meet with one family after one of the sisters in the ward gave us a suggestion as to when to find them home. That said, the members have been super helpful. There are a lot of people in the ward who are very involved in missionary work and we are never lacking for people offering to come out with us. That's really, really nice. We've had multiple members point out to us people who they know who might be interested, and we've also had lots of people who remember former investigators, and they've told us to go stop by. We are sitting on a pretty big list of people we're still trying to meet.

We've also had some entertaining moments as we've tried to chase down regular members of the ward. We were given a ward roster last Sunday, and set out to try and meet as many of the members who lived in our area as we could. We've discovered that some of the addresses need updating. My personal favorite was we went by one house for dinner with the family. We biked up and saw a kid playing out in the yard. We asked him if this was his house, and told him to tell his family we were here for dinner. Turns out the family who we were having dinner with had moved. Super awkward. We were already locking our bikes to the basketball net when this guy comes out and goes, "I think the people you are having dinner with moved..." We've now taken to checking addresses before our dinner appointments.

Being back in this area really does remind me of serving in Aguila. Once again you see cowboys out riding their horses down the street, and I've been chased a few times on my bike by dogs. One guy sicked his dogs on us as we were riding by, rude! We've also done some off roading through the cotton fields here, we just take the paths that the tractor would use. It saves us some biking distance, but sure makes for a bumpy ride.

I'll try to have pictures for next week. I keep forgetting to take my camera with me. I've got to work on that again. It's all that biking, you try to take as little stuff as possible, because you don't want to carry it all day.

Love you all lots!
Hermana Okeson

Monday, October 24, 2011

Somos las Hermanas de Michuacan!

Hi All!!!
Well, here is the news you've all been waiting for. *drum roll* I've been transfered to La Joya, in South West Phoenix. We have part of our area in Tullison, and part of our area in what I think is Phoenix itself. I'm with Hermana Wells. I don't know if you remember but five months ago (or so) we went on exchanges out in Wickenburg together. We're the two sister missionaries in the mission both from Michigan. Hence the title of this e-mail. Michuacan is a state in Mexico, and it's always fun to joke and say I'm from there, so now we say we both are. Actually, we started of with me trying to tell people I was from China because we both didn't want to say we were from the same state, but when people find out I don't speak any Chinese they don't believe me. Now I've dropped back to saying that I'm from Michican... and sometimes I add that my family doesn't live there any more and see if anyone takes the bait.

Now for some news about the area, we're both new here... until Wednesday morning there were Elders serving in the area we cover. It's a pretty interesting experience getting moved into a new area. We've certainly been busy. The first big "project" of coming here was cleaning up where we live. I remember Mom talking about getting moved into an apartment at the end of her mission where Elder's had lived, and now I understand what she meant about all the cleaning they had to do. Thursday morning I was up at 5am (I couldn't sleep...) and cleaned from 5 am until about 2 in the afternoon. Friday we got up early again and cleaned for a few hours, and then this morning we finished the last of the deep cleaning by about 10 am. To say the least it way pretty gross. But, now it's all clean, and we quite like the apartment.

The area we work in reminds me a lot of my first area down in Aguila. I really am loving it here, and it's fun because the ward is super excited to have sister missionaries again. There were sisters here about a year ago, but they got pulled out to open a different area. That's pretty normal for the Spanish sisters areas, There's about 10 or so Spanish Wards across the mission (by my best count) and 6 companionships of Spanish sisters, so they tend to rotate us through the different areas every so often. We are teaching a lot of people here. We've been here for 5 days now and we're still trying to meet everyone. It's really going to keep us busy, and we're trying not to drop the ball anywhere.

Now for a little about my companion, it turns out we have a lot more in common than just being from the same state. We'll start at the begining... Our dad's have the same career (chemical engineer), we were born in the same hospital, we both went to the same university (BYU), we were both in the same college in the university (School of Fine Arts), we've both been on the mission for around a year, and when we get home we'll both go back to BYU to finish school. There are a few other things that I'm sure I'm forgetting, but it's pretty funny to see how much we have in common. Hna Wells served the first part of her mission in El Salvador, but had to come home because of health complications. So last December she came here to finish her mission. I was a little surprised when we got put together, mostly because we are some of the "oldest" sisters on the mission. But I'm super excited. She's a really good missionary, and I'm excited to serve with her.

I'm not sure what else to tell you all about. It's really just been a lot of trying to get ourselves pulled together and to figure out what is going on. We're really really busy and absolutly loving it. President told me at transfers what he is planning for my last 4 transfers and I'm pretty happy with what he is planning on. So I guess that means there are probably no more surprises in store for me, but I think I'll keep you all in the dark so that atleast someone is surprised. I will tell you though that Hna Wells will finish her mission here with me in La Joya (she goes home in January). We're super excited to spend all of the holidays together and to work like crazy here. This is one of the busiest areas for the Spanish work in this whole mission, so we've got a lot to do, and really big shoes to fill. We both love being out and working, so this should be fun. It's also fun because this is a bike area... except at night. We've been told to use our bikes until it gets really dark and then to use the car. I've done so much biking in the last few days and it is so fun. We run into so many people out on the street, and the majority of them speak Spanish! I've done more Spanish contacting in the last week than I think I did in my entire time in Agua Fria. I'm also back in an all Spanish district, so we get do to everything in Spanish... and my entire district all serves in La Joya. This is one of the wards in the mission that has 3 sets of missionaries. It's a lot of fun being with the other missionaries and working with them, and there's a lot of combined effort here between the different sets of missionaries.

I think that's about it for the exciting news of the week. There will probably be more next week as we get to know the people here in the area. We'll see what we find. This is going to be a super busy transfer!

Love you lots!
Hermana Okeson

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Hi All,
Well, as you guessed, I'm being transferred. 8 months here. That's a long time. I'm not surprised. I was pretty sure that I was going. Now the question is where I am going. Honestly, I have no clue. I'm excited to go start again in a new area. It's always hard but fun. I feel like in my time here I accomplished what I needed to do, and that the Lord is happy with me and my work. Especially with having Leonila's baptism, I feel like I finished the last of what I was sent here to do. I really feel like I was here for her.

Well, this week was long, but good. We did a lot of finding, especially because pretty much all of our apointments canceled on us. That is where you really learn the value of your back up plans. We had some that put us in the right place at the right time. The coolest happened on Friday. We had set an apointment to visit a family, and then they had to cancel on us last minute. We decided to go visit one of the less actives in the ward, Gloria. We showed up over there and didn't find her, but did find her sister and neice sitting outside. They were coming to stay while Gloria went to Mexico for the weekend. There had been a mix-up and the keys Gloria had left with a neighbor didn't get to her sister. The cool thing was that we showed up and were able to help get the keys, talk to them, and now she wants missionaries to come visit her at her home. I had worked with this sister just 4 months ago, and she wan't interested. But after that chance to serve her and help her out, she was more willing to listen and excited to have missionaries come to her home and share more with her family.

Sorry, I have a feeling this is going to be a pretty spacey letter... my mind is spinning wondering where I will be sent. The rumor is they are opening a new sisters area this transfer... I'm really hoping that I get to go there. I think opening an area would be really fun. But who knows. There are some other areas that are also options, I guess I'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out exactly where I'm going.

I thought I would look back on my time here in this area... This has certainly been a growing experience for me to serve here. I've learned a lot. Especially as I've worked with a lot of different people over a long period of time. I've also seen a lot of results and a lot of blessings here. I watched on Sunday as an Hermano who I've worked some with recieved his first calling in years... when I first came he never came to church, but slowly he's come back and I was so happy to see him finally reach this point. Also I've seen a lot of the same progress with Oscar Carrillo and his family. I'll be excited to come back for his daughter's baptism in a few weeks.

I've also learned a lot here about diligence. I'm not going to lie. It's been pretty hard at times. Missions aren't easy. I've had a lot of things that have not gone as I would have hoped, and I've had a lot of dissapointments, but I've also seen a lot of joy and happiness here. I can honestly say that I love the people I've worked with. Serving here has taken everything I have, but it's been worth it. I'm excited to go somewhere new and to do the same thing, and to really work hard and give all that I have.

I've also learned a lot from my current companion, Hna Alvarez. I'm really going to miss that girl. She's taught me a lot about how to work with people, and how to really love those we serve. She's so good at looking for those who are forgotten and reminding them that they are loved. I've learned a lot from her about the value of slowing down a little to take a little more time with someone, and that we don't have to run at 100mph all the time. I've learned that it is okay to take a few minutes for yourself when you are exhausted (I thought it was super funny that Trent mentioned the same thing in his letter... I think both of us have some of the same perfectionist and workaholic attitudes as missionaries). Anyhow, this has been a good area for me, and I know I'll miss it. But I'm also excited to see what the Lord has in store for me.

Thanks for the letters and all of the support. I really appreciate those of you who have taken the time to write me. I'll try to get a few letters out this week, but I have a feeling that I'll end up using most of my p-day time to pack. So, if you don't here from me this week, it's because I spent my p-day trying to cram 8 months worth of life into the back of our car... yikes!
I love you all!
Hermana Okeson

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lots and Lots of Biking

Hello All,

Well, last week was one of the best of my mission, and so in true rollercoaster style, this was one of the not so good ones. That's okay though, that means this week will go better. The exciting news of the week was that I got the flute in the mail. I was pretty excited. I've had a chance to play a little since getting it, and am I ever rusty! That's okay though. No one here knows what I sounded like before, so they have nothing to compare to. Mostly it's just that everything moves a little slower than it used to, but I'm really not worried for when I get home. I played some this morning and just felt like when the time comes things will come back just fine. That was comforting. Now I'm working on finding a pianist, because I would love to play a musical number in the ward I've been serving in. I feel like I need to redeem myself here... they've only ever heard me play hymns on the piano in sacrament meeting, so I feel like a bit of a faker when I tell them that I studied music performance before the mission. (It comes up pretty quickly that I am studying the flute not the piano.)

This week was rough mostly because everything managed to fall through on us which meant we got to do a lot of finding. Finding is good. We have spent the better part of the last week on bike and riding through different parts of our area. On Thursday we actually found an area that I had never been to that seems fairly Hispanic. We're pretty excited to go back there and to do some finding. It's also been nice to be out on bike because the weather right now is perfect! We've sat at about 75 degrees every day, after a summer of 110+ only 75 degrees feels so good. The locals here also agree, and it's been evident by the fact that there are now people out on the streets. In the dead of summer the only people out on the streets were the crazies and the missionaries.

We're now gearing up for another baptism here at the end of the month. We're pretty excited. Her name is Yizelle and she's 14. Her family hasn't been to church in a long time but we're working at getting them back. They made it to church on Sunday which was a huge step forward. She's a whole lot of fun to work with. We're hoping that after she gets baptized her older brother will change his mind and decide to be baptized too. They're a fun family to work with, and we're enjoying getting to work with them. It's actually pretty funny... before I came to this area all of the baptisms were in the southern end of the area... since I've gotten here all the baptisms we have seen have been way in the northern part of our area. I'm not sure what that means... but it's been interesting to see how far north we work in comparison to all of the previous missionaries who have served in this area. It's actually nice... because the southern area is pretty burnt over... so it's good to go places where people are more willing to listen at least for a few minutes.

Mom asked about my goals for the last part of my mission... I really just want to work really hard. Multiple people in their e-mails commented on how they liked the conference talk by Elder Arden of the 70 about time management. I really liked it too... I think we Okesons are all the same... Anyhow, I really did enjoy it and thinking about how we use our time. It really does fly by, especially as the end of the mission comes faster and faster. Next week I start my 9th transfer (sisters serve for 12 transfers). Like Trent, I've become one of the decidedly "old" missionaries. Also like Trent said, it's nice to have been out for a long time because you get very comfortable with the routine of missionary work. You know how things go and how they are supposed to work. I like having the routine down, but getting caught in the routine can lead to time wasting. It's also interesting to work those sorts of things out with a companion. Everyone brings different things to this work... I've heard that my reputation in the mission is as a really, really hard working missionary, which I like... But like I said, we all bring different things. It's interesting to look back at the things I have learned from each of my companions. Hna Alvarez, my current companion, is really a social character... and so I've learned a lot about working with people from her. She loves being in the thick of things and talking to lots of people. I like being a grunt... I like doing the work but would pretty happily stay doing my work in my area off on the side somewhere. So, I've been pushed out of my element quite a bit over these last two transfers, which is probably good.

Other things for the end of my mission... I really want to figure out how to really polish my Spanish. It really makes a difference being able to really communicate with people on their own terms and in their own language. Most of the time I do pretty good, but every so often there are a few verb tenses that still manage to really trip me up. I can understand them and follow what is going on when they are used, but using them myself is still a little tricky. I'm also working on reading the entire Bible in Spanish. I'm trying to keep up with those reading for Seminary; only I'm on a little bit of a faster track because I have to finish the New Testament too. I think I will finish everything a little after Christmas if all goes well. It's really cool reading the scriptures in another language because different things stand out. I really like that. I have some favorite verses in Spanish that just aren't the same in English. I'm also looking forward to being able to tell some of the cranky people on the street who accuse me of having never read the Bible, that I in fact have... and I've done it in two languages. :-)

We have transfers next week; it'll be interesting to see what happens. I'm almost positive I'm staying here again... at this rate I think I could end up serving my entire mission here. I'm just hoping that if President wants to transfer me that he doesn't wait until the end of this next transfer, I think it would be hard to get transferred to a new area right before Christmas. But who knows. That does mean, that my letter next week will be sent on Tuesday, and not on Monday. There are no new sisters coming in who speak Spanish until January, so things should be fairly stable until then... I would expect a few small changes here or there, but that the really big move for Spanish sisters will probably come again right after Christmas.

Okay, I'm out of time. I love you all. Thanks for the letters and the support!


Hermana Okeson

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Really Good Week!

Hello All,

This has easily been one of the best weeks of my mission. We'll see if I can fit everything in that I want to. We started off the week with exchanges. I've always quite liked exchanges, I enjoy the chance to get ideas from another missionary, and to work with someone new for a day. This time around I worked with Hna Overy, she is in her 2nd transfer and we spent the majority of the day working on Spanish. It really made me realize what a blessing it was to come out already speaking my mission language. I still had a lot to learn, but for the most part I could communicate and get a general grasp of what was going on. I was able to work with her a lot on methods for learning a language, and trying to help her progress with that. It also made me realize just how much I pull music habits into everything I do. I realized as I was walking her through some ideas of how to study Spanish, that I approach my daily Spanish studies like a practice session... I got a good laugh at that one. Some habits are pretty strong I guess.

Thursday and Friday zipped by, as we were working to get everything ready for Leonila's baptism, and also trying to get as many people to conference as we could. Leonila's baptism was incredible. It was easily the best moment of my mission thus far. I've spent 6 months working with her and watched her go through a lot, and so seeing her finally take this step was so cool. The Spirit in her baptism was incredible, and I loved being there. It was also fun because Mary, one of our other recent converts gave the talk on the Holy Ghost. When we told her earlier in the week that Leonila wanted her to speak, she was pretty nervous. We went over and spent some time helping her put together her talk, and it went really really well. It was so cool to see her progression and to listen to her talk about her conversion. Also, Hna Graves came to the baptism! I was so excited to see her. Unfortunatly, things were crazy and we really didn't get to talk too much. It was cool in the little time that I did get to see her to see how she has progressed as a missionary. She was a really good missionary when I had the chance to serve with her, and she has only improved.

General Conference was really good for me. I needed so many of the talks. Mom asked in her e-mail about changes that I have noticed as I have served, and it was interesting because I had reflected a lot on that over the course of this conference weekend. I thought a lot about how 1 year ago as I watched conference I was terrified. I had only been a missionary for a few weeks and I was so nervous about everything that was coming. I was nervous about the time commitment, my Spanish, my future companions and just about anything else I could think of. As I looked back over the last year, I was really hit by a huge sense of gratitude. I feel so incredibly blessed. I feel like here on my mission I have gained far more than I have been able to give. I think one of the biggest blessings from my mission is a love of the scriptures. I enjoyed studying the scriptures before my mission, but now I really love it. I've gained so much as I've studied daily, and I know it's a habit that will really bless me for the rest of my life. I've learned a lot about patience as a missionary. I thought I was a pretty patient person before my mission, but looking back I really wasn't. I've had a lot of experiences here as a missionary where I've had to learn a lot about being patient, both with myself and with others. I've also learned a lot about service and charity. One of the coolest things about being a missionary is that you feel the most incredible sense of love for the people you serve. I would do anything for these people. It's hard for me to imagine my life with out them, they've made such a huge impact on me. Even some of the people I've only met or worked with briefly have helped me grow. I feel a lot more committed to serving for the rest of my life. Before my mission I was willing to serve... in the right situations. Now I have learned that it really doesn't matter where or how we serve, but that we do it and we give all that we can. I've realized as a missionary just how blessed I am. There is nothing like seeing people who don't have the same oportunities and blessings as I do to remind me how much the Lord has blessed me in my life.

That leads me to one of the biggest things I learned at General Conference. I've been pretty worried of late about what will happen in 6 months when I go home. I'd not worried about that since the begining of my mission, but people are starting to ask me in the ward (because I've been here a really long time, and so they think I'm headed out pretty soon... no matter how often I remind them I've still got a while). As I watched conference and thought back on all of the blessings I have seen in my life, I realized that those blessings won't stop when I go home. I realized that I will be blessed for this time and service, and that all I have to do is give everything I can for these 6 months, and that God will take care of everything for me. There is an Elder I have served with who is a pianist hoping to study music when he goes home... I've watched as he's been less than obedient about piano and music on his mission... and I've thought a little about that. I may be pretty (okay, really, really) rusty on the flute when I get home, because even with a flute here I won't actually be able to really practice, but I'm glad that I will be able to turn to my Heavenly Father and tell Him that I did what was asked of me, and know that I will be blessed.

The last really good event was taking Oscar and Ariana to the temple Sunday evening. I have been working with Oscar for about 4 or 5 months now. When I first started working with him, he really wasn't interested in coming back to church. But we kept coming by, and working with him and trying to answer his questions. After conference he caught me and thanked me for the months of persistance. He told me he finally got his answer at General Conference and really felt like he was in the right place. He was really excited and a completely different person when we went to the Temple with him and his daughter. He was showing her stuff, and talking to her about how much he loved all of these things. We were able to have a good talk about the blessings of the temple, and it was cool to watch Ariana (she's 8) look around and say "I think Mom would have liked this". Her mother passed away from cancer 2 years ago, and while we were at the temple, I know she really felt her Mom's presence there. It was really special to be able to be there with her and her father, and to reflect on all of the blessings of the temple in my life and the life of my family. It's really an incredible thing to know that our families can be together forever, and that death isn't the end.

Well, this has been a pretty long letter. I've had a lot to reflect on, and you all managed to get some of it. I love you all. Thank you for your prayers, letters and support. I really appreciate that.

Hermana Okeson

Ps. For a funny moment of the week, I learned why Grandpa Okeson's #1 running goal is to not fall. I took my first really big fall while running this week. I was sprinting and hit a crack in the pavement and flew throught the air only to skid on the right side of my body across the pavement. I'm pretty beat up, but no worse for the wear. I do have an impressivly black and purple knee... it's huge and a little stiff. Sorry, no pictures of that one. It looked pretty impressive though, I caught some pretty good air before I hit the ground. :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Slow start, fast finish.

Hello Everyone!
This week started soooooooooo slow. We had a pretty rough start to the week. Most of our appointments fell through, and I think I spoke too soon about it cooling off, because it was really hot again. Luckily by the time we hit Thursday things picked up and the end of the week was both successful and speedy. That was nice. Our most exciting news is that Leonila is being baptized this Saturday! We are so excited for her, and she is so thrilled. I've spent six months working with her, and it's been an incredible experience. So, after the afternoon session of General Conference on Saturday, we'll be having a baptismal service. What a way to start October! I'm pretty thrilled.

Thursday we had interviews. Last time we had interviews it was the first time we got to meet the Taylors. It was a little weird to realize that they have been here for 3 months now. As I was thinking about it, I realized how grateful I am that I have been able to work with 2 different presidents. It is so cool to see how personalities may be different, and styles may be different, but this work goes on irregardless. Interviews went well, with the most exciting news being that I now have permission to get my hands on a flute. I'm pretty excited. I'm excited to be able to play flute for the holidays. Playing flute at Christmas is one of my favorite things, and so I'm excited to have that chance this year. I really missed that last year.

We've had some cool experiences this week where the Lord has really blessed us. Multiple times we've felt prompted to stop by people we wouldn't have normally visited and found people to teach through them. We've been focusing a lot on not only getting to know the Spanish speaking members in this area, but also some of the English speakers. That is quite the task, because there are a lot of English speaking members of the church in this area. Hna Alvarez and I decided that we have an advantage because we are sister missionaries. We're such a rare novelty that the members are just excited to meet us and see that we exist, so it's pretty easy to meet them and share a short message. We had one visit this week where we stopped by a family, and their five year old girl came up and asked us if we were really sister missionaries, we told her yes and she said something to the effect of, "Oh, I've never seen real live sister missionaries before". We got a good laugh from that one.

The other really memorable event from this week was going to the Relief Society session from General Conference. I'll admit, I've never been much for this session. I'd always looked at it and thought it was for the "old women" and that it was boring. I worked really hard before this Saturday to come with an open heart and be ready to learn. The talk that really stood out to me was by President Utchdorf. In part of his talk he made a comparison to the book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a book I loved as a kid. I think that was God's way of telling me to listen up. :) In his comparison he talked about how at the beginning of the book Mr. Wonka announced to the world that 5 chocolate bars would have a Golden Ticket- a ticket to a lifetime supply of chocolate and all sorts of wonderful things. The world then began to buy tons and tons of chocolate, only to open each on and throw the chocolate away when no Golden Ticket was found. President Utchdorf then talked about how often we spend too much time looking for a Golden Ticket, and forget to savor the chocolate along the way. That really stood out to me. As a missionary we work at a pretty fast pace, and the time really flies by. We spend a lot of time looking for "golden investigators" and "golden contacts" and "golden referrals" and golden this and golden that... and after listening to the talk I realized that in all this search for the "goldens" sometimes we forget to savor the chocolate along the way. A mission is really, really, really hard. You face a lot of challenges and discouragement on a daily and sometimes hourly level. Some days you come home and only have the energy to crawl into bed and pray that you can get up the next day and do it all again. That said, a mission is also the best experience of my life. Between all the hard events you get these amazing moments that make everything worth it. President Utchdorf reminded me that I need to work harder to savor these moments, because they are passing, oh so very quickly. The numbers, and the hours, and the miles traveled will all melt into the past, but the memories of the people served and met will be things I can keep forever. That's pretty cool. So, with 6 months left to serve, I want to savor more. I know the routine, I've done this for a year now. But I don't want to get caught in the routine and miss seeing and savoring the "chocolate" along the way.

This next week is going to be pretty busy. Wednesday we have exchanges. I'll be here in Agua Fria, and Hna Alvarez is headed out to Wickenburg. Saturday we have Leonila's baptism, and then Sunday we will be going down to Mesa to see the visitors center with another family we've been working with. It will be a very full, and exciting week.

I love you all, thanks for your prayers, and letters, and support!
Hermana Okeson

Now for some pictures from Nicole. With nice weather, the two Hermanas decided to sleep out side. :)
I am sure that you all have wondered what Hermana does on her p-day. Wonder no longer. :)
Finally a trip to a sandwich joint. Hna Alvarez's dad runs some sandwich shops down in Florida. We found one in our area. This was my first visit. (Think Subway and your about on the right line. . . they're called Fire House Subs. It was pretty good.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

I'm a Mormon!

Hello Everyone!
It's been an interesting week. For some reason this transfer has been dragging by. I'm hoping it will pick up near the end... we'll see. The exciting news is that this week we had the opportunity to go to a training meeting for the "I'm a Mormon" campaign starting here on the 3rd of October. I am sooooooooooo excited. It will run for exactly the last 6 months of my mission, and I feel like this is a huge blessing to be able to be a part of this for the last part of my time as a missionary. The meeting was lead by Brother Tracy Watson, the director of all proselyting efforts for the church. It was so cool to get to work with him. He spent the first hour and a half just helping us to be better missionaries. He was full of lots of good ideas, and I was taking notes like crazy. Then after a short break we started the training for the media campaign. For the next 6 months there will be short commercials on all the main TV channels, billboard adds, Internet adds, and lots more. This will be a huge help to the work in this area. The only thing I'm disappointed about is that they don't have everything up and running in Spanish. So, our focus is going to be the teenagers, because they all speak English. We're still expecting a lot of traffic in the Spanish work, and we're trying to get into as many homes as we can before October 3rd to help families understand what will be happening. We've done a few trainings over the last few days and they have all gone well. It will be exciting to see how things go starting in October.

For other exciting events this week, we had the opportunity to run a Tuesday night activity for the youth this week. It went really well. The focus was on helping them answer questions about the church and their beliefs. We split them up into teams and they had to race and take little 3 question multiple choice/ fill in the blank tests, and with each one they couldn't go on to the next station until they had all the answers right. That left them doing lots of searching in the scriptures, and some clever kids started pulling out cell phones and going to the Internet! I got a good laugh about that, as we saw some of them googling some of the harder questions. The goal was to be the fastest group to finish, and there were good prizes for the winners (movie tickets, Coldstone ice cream gift cards, and other goodies). They really got into the activity, and it proved to be a good kick off for working with the youth to help get them ready for the media campaign. This same campaign was run in 10 other cities across the US last year, and the results showed that about 50% of adult members of the church were asked by someone about the adds, but 100% of the youth were asked. So we've got lots to do to help them be as ready as possible to answer questions from friends.

Besides that the week has been a lot of finding and working with the members. We've had some really good experiences as we've spent more time working with member families, and getting to know them better. We had one really cool experience where one person walked with us over to meet his neighbors. That was super cool! Also, this week was nice because we had Stake Conference. It made me think back to last Stake Conference and where I was... It's amazing what can happen in 6 months. I've been pretty frustrated lately with this area and the work here, but then as I thought back over the last 6 months I could really see lots of progress and while things still aren't where I would like them to be, it was good to know that at least we have moved forward. I really enjoyed the meetings, and it was really good for some of the people we are working with. We're hoping and praying for some big miracles this week. We'll see what happens.

Well, I think that's about all. We're keeping busy here, and that is good. It's been a bit of a rough run, but I'm really hoping that this week will be a turning point for us here in Agua Fria. We'll see. Oh, and I almost forgot, I celebrated my year mark this week. That was weird. It doesn't feel that long, but I guess I really have been a missionary for a year now. I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity to serve. Last night Mary was asking me about why I chose serving a mission over some of my other options, and I was so glad that I could honestly tell her that coming here was the best decision I could have ever made. I have loved serving, even in some of the really hard times. A mission is a really big roller coaster, lots of ups and downs and it moves so fast that if you blink you might miss it, because it moves at 100 miles an hour.

I love you all lots! Thanks for all of your support!
Hermana Okeson