Monday, January 31, 2011


Hi Family and Friends,
It seems that my mission will be punctuated by being in a trio ever transfer. That's right, I'm now serving in two areas again and there are three of us again. One of the other Hermanas in our apartment went home to take care of things for school and so I am back with Hermana Kigueta again (just like at the end of last transfer) and so the three of us are covering Aguila and Montana del Sur areas. Serving with Hermanas Ayala and Kigueta is so much fun. We are having a blast, and we are so incredibly swamped. It's pretty fun and a little stressful sometimes as we are trying to hold everything together. We spend most of our day in the car running from appointment to appointment. Aguila for the most part is a nicer area, there are some sketchy areas. Montana is one big sketchy area. It's pretty much Mexico. I love it. We visit all these little houses and wonderful families, and there are some really really great people in that area.
For investigators in Aguila we are still working a lot with Rossy and Reuben, they are making progress, and it is very cool to see the change in their lives, especially in Reuben's life. When I first met him he was your very very typical macho Mexican man, now he's softening up and really willing to talk with us and learn. We also had quite the surprise as an investigator we had written off and dropped showed up out of nowhere at church on Sunday. Both Hermana Ayala and I were incredibly surprised.
As far as stories for this week goes, I ate the most terrifying meal of my whole mission on Saturday. I knew it was bad news when I first saw it, but as a missionary sometimes you just have to have a whole lot of confidence that being protected by God includes being protected from bacteria. With every bite I was praying we wouldn't die during the night. We were all pretty miserable after the meal, and I spent a good part of the evening feel way sick but no one died. The impressive thing was that it made Hna Ayala sick, because she is Mexican and so usually she can eat anything, but not this time.
Sunday night we went over to Bishop Galvis' for a birthday dinner. There were tons of families there and it was quite the party. They made "carne asada" which ranks as my all time favorite meal of my entire mission (it made for a convenient follow up to the worst meal of my entire mission). Carne asada is grilled beef with all sorts of delicious spices on it, and then you eat it with tortillas, beans, avocado, rice and salsa. So good. It was also pretty fun because I was able to see how my Spanish is getting better. When I first came out I really really struggled understanding Spanish when there were lots of people talking and lots of noise. Yesterday I was able to keep up pretty well and I wasn't just laughing because everyone else was laughing. (It's pretty sad, but often as missionaries when we are learning the language you just watch for when everyone else laughs and laugh with them and then ask your companion later about what the joke was about.) It was quite the party. The Galvis' house was full of people and it was all people I've loved working with.
I'm getting a little nervous, transfers are next week, and there's going to be a lot of change in the sisters areas. I'll probably be included one way or another because there are so many changes that are going to happen. I've absolutely loved serving in Aguila and I'm really nervous, I don't really want to get moved yet. I feel like I have so much more I want to do, and so I'm crossing my fingers that President lets me stay for another 6 weeks and that Hna Ayala gets to stay too. I've had such a good time serving with her.
Today was quite the fun p-day. We got up and all the missionaries in our area got together to play "death ball" think dodge ball but far more crazy. I actually lasted quite a long time, but none of that was of my own doing, the Elders are just afraid to chuck the ball at the Sisters, so we tend to last a little longer. We also played soccer and then we went to a mexican restaurant with Hermanas Jensen and Wells. Hermana Jensen was Hermana Ayala's companion before me and she is going home next Tuesday. So we all went out and got lunch together. Way fun. Tonight we have some really awesome lessons set up and I'm quite excited for them.
We've got to get going. Next week when I e-mail you'll all get to hear if I'm staying in Aguila or if I'm getting moved. Who knows.
Have a wonderful week!
Hermana Okeson

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Goodbye EFY

Hello All!

This has been another interesting week. Mostly because of all of the long meetings we had this week so there really wasn't much time for working. Tuesday we had Zone Conference. It was awesome. The big announcement from Zone conference was from President Beck. He got up and banned EFY music. (For those who don't know, EFY or Especially For Youth, is a summer program for teenagers.) He banned it for different reasons than I would have... apparently being musically tacky isn't reason enough to ban something... and I think I am probably the only missionary in the mission celebrating. All in all it was a really really fun conference, and it was very fun to see the other missionaries. Also it was fun to go see some of the other sisters. As sister missionaries sometimes we feel a little like an island, and it was fun to see some of the sisters from the other areas. We even got up early and had breakfast at the apartment of the sisters who were catching a ride with us to the conference. That was way fun.

Wednesday we had an enormous district meeting. This month as a mission we are focusing on planning better. So, Wednesday we all got together and had a massive weekly planning session. It was actually pretty fun. One of the Elders had been sent a Little Ceasars gift card and so he used it to buy pizza for everyone. Then we all spread out across the building and did our weekly planning. It's way easier to stay focused when you aren't in your apartment. Hna Ayala and I have decided we're never doing weekly planning at home again.

Wednesday we ended up driving into Peoria to trade companions for exchanges for Thursday. Exchanges were interesting. They certainly helped me see that I'm not exactly the easiest person to work with. Especially since I was working in my own area with a companion who was just here for the day. I was very excited to get Hna Ayala back at the end of the day. That said, we did have some really good visits on Thursday and found some people who were willing to have us come back, so I can't complain.

Friday we spent the day going through our records trying to find people who had previously met with missionaries and might be interested in meeting with us again. Knocking doors has been less than fruitful lately, so we thought we'd try a different approach. It's been slightly more successful, and now at least we are coming into this week with a good number of appointments.

Saturday was a weird day. We had an early morning appointment at 9am so we had to get up and get out pretty fast. Especially because it was on the other end of our area, so we had a good 20 minute car drive to get out there. We met up with Maria, a woman who we had tracted into and we had a pretty good appointment with her. We'll have to see how next Saturday goes with her. She's traditionally Catholic, as opposed to religiously Catholic. You see that a lot with Mexicans. They're Catholic more out of tradition than conviction, but it still makes for some interesting conversations... especially about the Virgin Guadeloupe (the Mexican version of the Virgin Mary). I'm still a little sketchy on exactly what makes Guadeloupe different from the Virgin Mary, I've heard all sorts of descriptions ranging from that she is the mother of all Mexicans to that she is no different than the traditional Virgin Mary. Maybe one of these days I'll get that one figured out.

After visiting Maria we went and stopped by Alma and had breakfast with her and her mom, Petra. It was so much fun, and it was the first time Petra was really willing to just sit and talk with us. She is hilarious! I had a blast listening to her tell stories, and she's quite the sassy Mexican. I also learned what Mexicans eat for breakfast... scrambled eggs with onions and jalapeƱos, beans, and tortillas. It was pretty good. I'm still working on learning to eat like they do with their tortillas... no one uses utensils much, you just grab and scoop with the tortillas... I use utensils because I hate having beans or random other foods running down my arms. After Alma's we spent the rest of the day driving around just visiting lots of people.

We ended our night over at Rossy and Reuben's. That was an interesting visit. As a missionary it's frustrating to see how little we can do to get people to make changes in their lives. We can encourage, we can promise blessings, we can bring over members who made the same changes but none of it matters unless the individual wants to make those changes for themselves. That's kind of where we are at with Reuben. We've got to get him to a point where he sees that his choices aren't good ones and then get him ready to make those changes. When we stopped by Saturday it became very very apparent that he isn't even trying to make those changes. Yuck. We were really really bummed after that visit. That might be an understatement. It's amazing after just two months of knowing people your heart can break for them and you really really hurt for them.

Sunday was a pretty typical day. The hardest thing for me about Sundays is we have meetings we have to be at at 7am. Not fun. I really have no idea of how I survived seminary, because one meeting a week at 7am is killing me. I think the difference is that as a missionary I feel like I have to look presentable for those meetings, I never really felt that way about seminary.

Today for p-day we went over to Hermana Lopez's and she taught us how to make earrings. Hermana Lopez is the wife of Presidente Lopez, one of the counselors in the mission presidency. I absolutely love them both. We joke that Presidente Lopez is the muscle in the mission presidency, he was a rough and tough Mexican fighter until he found the church just over 10 years ago. Now he just looks rough and tough, but he is absolutely amazing. We love working with him and bringing him to lessons, and his wife loves to come out with the Sisters, which we also love. She invited us over a few weeks ago to come make jewelry with her on p-day and today we finally worked everything out to be able to do so. It was way fun, and I got a new pair of earrings out of the deal. Awesome! Next p-day we're going over to Hna Madrueno's so that she can teach me how to make true Mexican salsa. I'm pretty excited.

We have to run. I love you all lots and am so grateful for your prayers and support. Have a wonderful week!
Hermana Okeson

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ghetto Bird

Dear Family and Friends,

This has been a week for missed appointments. Sort of frustrating, but it shows us pretty fast who is interested and who is not. Now we just have to figure out where the interested people are. Most of our missed appointments were from people standing us up, but the memorable one this week was when we got chased out of an area by the Ghetto Bird. The Ghetto Bird is the police helicopter that tends to show up when something is going on. It spent a lot of time in Hna Ayala's last area, and we'd see it a little here but not very often. Well, Thursday we were in an area for an appointment and we saw the Ghetto Bird out and about and didn't think too much of it, it's not like we were planning on knocking doors in that area, just visiting someone. After being there a few minutes trying to find the house, suddenly the Ghetto Bird got really really close, and we saw a lot of police hanging out, and then another Ghetto Bird showed up. We left pretty quick after seeing the second helicopter. Still not sure what went on that afternoon, but we didn't see anything...
Most of our area is actually the nicest and safest of the two wards in our district. Most of the homes we go into a pretty nice and upscale, but we have one stretch of housing that we call "little Mexico" and that's where we were when the Ghetto Bird came. We try to stick to only being there during daylight hours, because it's a little creepy at night. But it's also a fun area to be in. It's almost completely Spanish speaking, and hispanics are far nicer than the white people we run into. They're way happy to sit out and talk and get to know you. White neighborhoods aren't nearly as fun. No one is every outside and they don't really want to sit and talk. So while Little Mexico can get a little sketchy, I absolutely love it there.
We've done a lot of just going out and visiting the members this week, trying to help them get involved in missionary work. It's been really fun to get to know the members in our area. It's pretty hard sometimes to get to know them because we aren't allowed to do dinner appointments. So instead we just schedule and drop by and share a quick message and have to leave. We've been trying to visit at least one family a day, and this week we will have gone by every family in our area. After that we'll start going back and seeing how they've done on the assignments we left with them.
In visiting the members we pick up some pretty cool stories. My favorite for this week was learning how Mexican men go fishing. They catch fish with their bare hands. Big fish. They grab them by the gills and yank them out of the water. We stopped by to visit a member of the bishopric last night and as we were talking he was telling us about how he learned to fish with his brother. It was hilarious. I guess when you grab a big fish by the gills it puts up a bit of a fight, and Hno Madrueno was acting it all out for us.
One of my other favorite stories from this week was stopping by and dropping of a birthday present for one of our favorite ward members/ families. This family has kids roughly the same ages (but not genders) as in our family and a few younger. Hno Carrillo is a real joker and loves to mess with people, so we decided for his birthday we'd get him back. For Christmas Grandma Okeson sent me a fake snow kit (just add water!) we decided to make a full jar of snow and drop it off. It was quite a hit. He couldn't believe it was "snow" but by the time we left he was having to defend his "snow" from all of his kids.
Okay, so I'm struggling with a little writers block (I really should start bringing my journal down when I write so I can remember things better) so today you all get a few pictures.
I thought I would show a funny picture that gave an idea of the height disparity in the areas where I serve. Friday night we went to a baptism for someone Hna Ayala had taught before coming here. She had me stand in on one of the pictures and I thought the results were hilarious. Hna Ayala and I make quite a pair, and we get tons of comments about our difference in height.

These pictures are from after the baptism Friday. The family that took us to the baptism also took us to one of their favorite restaurants. They said it was just like being back in Mexico. I certainly got stared at. Especially as I was keeping up in Spanish. After dinner right before we got off of the free way the car started making funny noises... we had a flat tire!!! Hno Daugherty changed the tire while Hna Ayala and I took pictures by the road.
I think for me I'm learning a lot about patience. Apparently when I started my mission God knew I had no concept of what patience was... now I know enough to know I don't have much of it. Mexican culture is very very laid back. "Lo que sea" is a pretty common thing I hear here, which translates roughly into a very non committal version of whatever/whenever etc. I'm used to things happening at a certain time and starting and ending and go in, get the job done, and get on. I'm learning that's not how it works here. Things are a little slower. I'm also having to learn to be far more social than I've ever been in my life. Mexicans love to PARTY! That was something I was super uncomfortable with at the beginning of my mission. I'm still not great at just getting in and talking to everyone and getting to know everyone but I'm getting better. My Spanish is also really getting better, now I just struggle with jokes and particularly with sarcasm. I can't follow hispanic humor yet. I usually just try to laugh with everyone else and then I quiz Hna Ayala after on what everything actually meant.

These 4 pictures are more pictures of a family in our ward. Today for p-day we went over to their house and helped the kids make scripture cases. It's a family of five boys 15 and under and then a single mom. We cut our pictures for them and then brought everything over with some treats. I was way excited about how much they liked the activity and they all seemed pretty excited with the results. Even Hna Perea wanted to make her own!

Well, I've got to run. Thanks for all your prayers and support! I try to write back for the letters I get, and I'm really really sorry for those of you who I've been slow getting to. P-day just seems to slip away, but I'm trying to do better and get more letters out.

I love you all!
Hermana Okeson

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Chihuahua and the Giant

Hi Everyone!

This week has been another packed week. The biggest thing this week is that we have made amazing progress with Reuben. He is the esposo of one of our long term investigators, Rossy, and until Christmas he had been completely uninterested in our message. Well, after lots and lots and lots of prayer he decided to meet with us. This Sunday he came to church for the first time in his whole entire life. Crazy! If someone had told me the first time I met him that he would be sitting with us in Church this last Sunday I would have laughed at them. It's amazing the changes that can happen.

I thought I would regale you all with an amusing story from this past week. The other Hermanas in our apartment had to go into the mission office earlier last week to pick up some supplies. While they were there they heard the office Elders talking about this really cute new companionship. After eaves dropping a little more they heard them say it was that tall one and the Mexican one. That's right. Who's part of the most attractive companionship in the Arizona Phoenix Mission... Hermana Ayala and I have gotten quite a laugh at that one, and now we use it as our excuse when creeps follow us.

Also, these past two weeks have been pretty cold by Arizona standards. Hna Ayala and I got to tract in the rain not long after she got here, and I've actually had to wear a coat in the evenings. I guess I've been pretty spoiled, but I'm sure starting to get nervous about the summer.

Right now here in Aguila we're really working on building up our teaching pool. We have some long term investigators, but we are trying to get new ones, especially because we will be dropping one of our longer term investigators this week. As a quick definition for those who don't know, when we say we "dropped" an investigator, we mean that we aren't teaching them anymore because for one reason or another they are not progressing. I'm not looking forward to stopping with this particular investigator, she knows our message is true, and she's supposed to be baptized at the end of the month, but we've not had much of any contact with her for 2 weeks and she keeps standing us up. She was supposed to get baptized when I first came here and the same thing happened, a few weeks before the baptism she just disappeared. We talked with the Bishop on Sunday and he was really supportive, but I really don't look forward to talking to her and telling her that her actions say she isn't ready to be baptized.

Working with a native companion is helping my Spanish in ways I never expected. I blame eating all the Mexican cheese and salsa. I'm picking up interesting habits including pointing with my head (it's a bizarre thing Hispanics do, I don't know when I started, but it's gotten pretty noticeable in the last week) and saying Mande (the equivalent of what in Spanish/Mexican) whenever I miss what someone said. It's also cool serving with her because she is way up on the slang and so she is helping me know what people are saying. It's been super helpful. The most recent thing she taught me was a series of words that as you change one letter it goes from little girl (chamaca), to little boy (chamaco), and finally the devil (chamuco). I've not worked up the nerve to use any of those yet since I'm terrified of mixing them up.

Have a wonderful week everyone! Things are wonderful down here in Aguila, and I'm really enjoying the work. We're meeting some really amazing people, and missionary work is really the best thing ever!
Love you all!
Hermana Okeson

Monday, January 3, 2011

La Morenita y la Grandota!

Hi Everyone!

So, the news you've all been waiting for, my new companion. I am serving with Hermana Ayala (she's the short Mexican one in the pictures Hna Beck put up on her Blog from the transfer meeting...) She's from California but her parents are from Mexico. That means she's a native speaker, so I'm excited to be able to work on my Spanish with her. We are having a blast. I absolutely love serving with Hna Ayala, she told me from the start that she likes to work hard and play hard, which sounded great to me.

This week was actually a pretty weird one. We had transfers on Tuesday, and then Wednesday and Thursday were regular working days, but on Friday because of New Years we had to be in at 6pm and then Saturday was by appointment only. Our Saturday appointments fell through so that left us hanging out at the apartment all day. Not really my idea of what to do with a Saturday, but obedience brings blessings, right? If nothing else we got some things done around the apartment and I got to know Hna Ayala better which was fun.

Hna Ayala has been out for about a year, and like I said, we've been having a blast. We had way too much time on our hands as we were stuck at home on Saturday, and you can only update the area book so much, so we decided to call the Elders who live near by and see what happens. Long story short, Hna Ayala convinced them to not only fix her bike (it has a flat) but also to get us a bunch of yummy Mexican juices and different candies. Those Elders moved into our apartment complex during the last transfer and they've had to fix our bikes three times already. I guess they've learned what it means to live near Sisters.

I thought I ought to explain the title for this letter. Grandota, effectively means really really tall, and Morenita means little brown one. Hna Ayala is 5'2'' on a good day. We make quite a pair out talking to people. She's super loud and full of tons of energy. I absolutely love that. Also, somehow she is always up on everything that is happening across the mission, so now I think in one week I've learned more about the mission and what's happening where than most other missionaries know. She takes the whole "Sisters know everything" to a whole new level.

This past week we've spent a lot of time out door knocking, with little door answering because everyone is still in Mexico, so to make things more entertaining we took to rating all of the wreaths on a scale of 1 to 10. I feel like if music doesn't work out I have a future in wreath critiquing.

We also had a really interesting experience this week as we were out checking on people who had been taught by missionaries before, but for one reason or another had not continued meeting with them anymore. Serving in the area that we do often we get stopped from going to houses by guard dogs. In my last companionship Hna Hoof was by far the faster runner so I was somewhat loath to go into those yards with "Beware of Dog" signs as I knew which of the two of us would turn into a puppy snack... I think I could take Hna Ayala in a race, but we have an agreement about avoiding doggy houses. This past week however was the first week I have been thwarted by a guard horse. That's right, horse. We pulled up to this house and there right in the front yard was three dogs and a big beautiful white horse. We were more concerned about the dogs than the horse, but as we walked up to the house we learned we had placed our concern in the wrong area. That horse followed us up and down the front of the gate as we tried to distract it enough to get to the house. Next time we go by I'm taking carrots. I'll have to send pictures as well, we decided to cut our losses and took some pretty fun pictures by that horse before moving on.

Other news, mostly we're just really trying to get out and find people to teach. We're trying to work more with our ward, and we've had some pretty good success with that. We're also trying to help Karla feel ready for her baptism on the 29th, she's a little nervous still, but I'm super excited for her. It's so cool being a missionary. I really love every day so much, I just wake up smiling because I'm so happy to be here and to be serving.
Have an awesome week. I love you all!
Hermana Okeson