Wednesday, December 28, 2011
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!
Monday, December 19, 2011
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!
Sunday, December 18, 2011
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.
Monday, December 5, 2011
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!
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
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.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
Monday, October 31, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
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!
Monday, October 3, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
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.)