Monday, February 28, 2011

Winter in Phoenix

Hi All!
This week has been a pretty good week. We've been really blessed and found a lot more Spanish speakers who want us to come back and teach them. After the first 2 weeks of not really seeing much of anything here, it is nice to see things moving forward again. We spend our afternoons out meeting people and then our evenings running from one appointment to another. I like it that way, but I have a feeling that once it warms up here we'll try to move things around so we aren't out in the middle of the day. Most of our visits are to families in the ward who need extra support.
One of my favorites is visiting Hna Gutierrez and her son. She's out of work and barely scraping by. We usually stop by to talk to her a few times a week and to share an uplifting thought. Her son is 13 and very autistic. From what I've seen he functions more at about a 6 year old level. I've been working pretty hard since we first went by to get him to be comfortable enough with me to talk some. Finally last Friday when we went by he talked to me for a few minutes. It was a huge breakthrough. I've discovered he likes to play games, so today when we go shopping I'm going to buy a cheap game of some sort that is for 5-8 year olds and see if he'll play some with me next time we go by. He really just needs a lot of attention, and isn't getting it, so it's nice to be able to give that service even for such a short amount of time.
Another family we stop by a lot is the Valenzuela family. They have been through some really rough times recently and need lots of support. The husband has become fairly antagonistic about religion and so we usually go over and try to share a very mellow message. When it works we get to stick around, when it doesn't we usually end up leaving pretty quickly and then try to come back another day when he's in a better mood. Last night we stopped by and he was doing better and so we had a really nice discusion about how being obedient blesses our families... not sure if any of it stuck, but it was a nice visit... the first nice one we'd had in a while.
As far as the people we're teaching goes, most of them are either really new, or have been investigating the church for years... but we do have one sister who we've just started teaching who we are really excited about. She had us over for a Columbian dinner last Saturday night and we had a really good visit with her. She also came to church for the first time on Sunday which we were really excited about. She's really really busy, so she's hard to get ahold of, but she's always excited when we come over and has really good questions.
I thought I would share an interesting experience from this past week. We had a Zone Conference last week on "finding" aka how to find people who want to listen to us. We've had some really cool experiences this past week as we've put it all into practice. In just one week we went from finding about 4 new people a week to this week where we found 16! The coolest one happened last Friday. We'd felt like we needed to go tract in a trailer park near the chapel. After being there for about an hour we got chewed out by a cranky security guard and he told us to leave. When this happens we usually leave, and then come back and talk to people another day. So, we left. We still had another hour planned to contact people in that area and we decided we needed to stick as close as we could to that area. As we were out contacting people near by we ran into an older gentleman. He lives in an area of town we don't normally go to, but that day he was over watching a grandson who was sick. He had talked to missionaries in... Mexico (I think)... but when he came here he lost contact. He was really excited for us to come by and teach him.
Other points of interest from the week... I ate at my first taquero stand this week... there's a family in our ward who have a stand where they let the missionaries eat for free. We decided to go try it out. I enjoyed it a lot and we'll probably go back when we're in that area around dinner time. Also I'm back on medication for migraines. It's made for some interesting moments. It makes me really really sleepy all of the time. Hopefully in the next week or so it will stop doing that, but for now I'm always feeling half asleep. I do pretty good, but it's doing funny things to my Spanish. I feel like I have to think twice as long to say half as much, or I just mix up my words and say things I don't really mean. Hopefully in the next week I'll aclimate some and be able to speak and not have headaches. :)
That's about it for life here in Agua Fria. This week we have a huge mission conference that no one knows exactly what is going to happen, so we're all pretty curious. I'll be interested to see what is happening. It's gotten cold here again, which has also been interesting after having a very warm early February, Phoenix has again decided it should be "winter" so I've not been able to put away my coat... maybe this week.
Have a wonderful week!
Hermana Okeson

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Accent Shopping

Hi Friends and Family,
This week has been an interesting one. My time here in Agua Fria is turning out to be very different from my time in Aguila. The adjustment has been a little tricky, but I'm starting to get there. I've really really missed my previous companion, Hna Ayala. She and I worked very very comfortably together from the first day. We had similar work ethics and both really just loved to be out and working with the members and our investigators. Hna Aydelotte is a good missionary, but does things very differently and isn't very comfortable with change. So we've spent a lot of time trying to get used to each other. I'm learning a lot of patience... a lot a lot of patience.
The ward here in Agua Fria is made up of Mexicans and Chileans. It's about 2/3 Mexicans and then the rest are from Chili, minus one or two other families from various parts of Latin America. It's here that I've finally found the accent I want to pick up. I LOVE the Chilean accent! Every time we're in church and our Bishop gets up to speak (he's from Chili and has an incredible accent) I spend my time muttering very quietly under my breath trying to mimic his accent. I'm slowly picking it up. I figure if I can spend 3 or 4 months here I can really start to get a good Chilean accent going... we'll see what happens. The Chilean members of the ward all get a kick out of my attempt at their accent... so I guess I'm winning brownie points too.
Dad asked about the area... this area is very very white. There are very few Hispanics here and so we spend most of our time working referrals only. When we knock we can knock for 2 or 3 hours and only find one family who speaks Spanish. So it's not a very good use of our time. Tonight we're meeting with the bishop to see what we can do to try and get things moving more.
The main investigator we're working with right now is a woman named Carmenza. She's from Colombia (and also has a really cool accent) and has lived in the US for 16 years. She moved here 16 years ago to marry an American. Previously she was a lawyer in Colombia and worked for the government. We had a really interesting conversation the other night about being in a foreign country and trying to adjust to a different culture. You can tell she really misses Colombia and probably would go back if she hadn't been in the US for so long. She told us she is going to come to church this Sunday, and we're really excited. I hope she makes it.
Okay now questions from Mom:

What is the most effective thing that you do in your scripture study that you feel makes a difference in your testimony?

Well, right now I'm almost done with reading the Book of Mormon in 60 days. So that's been my big focus. Although, what we've been working on as a mission is really studying for our investigators and the people we come into contact with. President is really pushing that all of our study time should be 100% focused on our investigators. It's been very fun to see how as I am reading and thinking about the needs of the people I am teaching often things will jump out that can help them. I find myself teaching more and more from the scriptures and it's amazing to see how every question can always be answered by them.

How are the language studies going?

Language studies are going well. There's always room for improvement. When I was with Hna Ayala we would spend language study time with me telling her stories and she would help me with the vocab I didn't know and correct me when I said something funny. That really really helped my Spanish. Often when we are out and about she couldn't point out when I was saying something funny, but at home for that hour she would help me say things right. I've had to make a switch here in Agua Fria to studying more from books. I don't like it as much, but I'm making it work. It's a little tricky because I'm the Junior companion, but I'm far more comfortable with the language. Hna Aydelotte speaks very clean Spanish (probably more clean than mine) but I have a larger vocab from years with Sra. Blanchard and I'm also more comfortable just speaking. Most of the members think I'm at the end of my mission not the beginning. It's also nice because I'm able to really start picking up more and more vocab. I love it. The members here are really good about helping us out and they are more than happy to define words for us when we ask them.

Yes, I am still in the greater Phoenix area. All the Spanish speakers mostly stay in Phoenix. There are usually a few in other areas but not many. Actually, this area only has 5 of the 35 companion ships in the areas speaking Spanish. That's quite the contrast from my last area where in just one Stake (9 wards) we had 3 sets of English speaking missionaries and 12 sets of Spanish Speaking missionaries. Like I said, it's a pretty white area. As for getting warmer, earlier in the week it did hit 80 but then it cooled off again. Now we're sitting in the 60's which is nice. Actually, it's showing me how Phoenix is ruining me. It was in the upper 40's lower 50's last night and I was wearing my heavy coat and scarf and I was still cold... I felt pretty pathetic.

I think that's about all for this week. Have a wonderful week everyone!


Hermana Okeson

Monday, February 14, 2011

Scorpion Slayer!

Hi Everyone!
This has been quite the week. As you all know, Monday morning I got transfer calls and so I spent Monday and Tuesday packing up and saying goodbye. It was tricky to get to everyone, but I just about saw the people I wanted. I just missed one or two families who I had wanted to stop by. Oh well. I am now serving in a ward named Agua Fria. It's in Peoria. So I've gone from working in the ghetto to working in one of the richest areas of the mission. That's certainly made for an interesting change. We cover all of Peoria, parts of Glendale and parts of Phoenix. There aren't a whole lot of Spanish speakers here so the work is a little different. I've missed Aguila a lot this week, but I'm getting used to being here. My companion is Hna Aydelotte. She's from Boise Idaho and has been out a little over a year. Before coming out on her mission she graduated from BYU-I with a degree in highschool education focusing on Math and History. We live in an apartment off of the back of an older couple's home. I'm pretty sure it used to be a garage that was converted into an apartment. I've met Brother and Sister Anders once, but not really seen much of them. It's a nice little apartment, although I've missed having a washer/dryer in the apartment like we did in Aguila. The house is off in a nicer neighborhood so we actually have a back yard with grass and real trees. I love it. The Anders have a huge number of roosters and chickens back off of the side of the house, meaning our early mornings are punctuated by roosters crowing and me thinking about rooster soup.
Okay, now for some stories.
First, last Monday I taught a flute lesson. It was way fun. I had a really good time, and I think Sariah did too. She's 13 and we worked a lot with their family, and so it was fun to get to go over and help her out. It actually helped make me miss flute less, because it really showed me that I can do flute forever, but I can't be a missionary forever. I sound a little rusty, but I still know how everything works.
Second, Monday night was Brian's birthday party. It was so much fun. I've attached some pictures from the party. It was cool because Hna Perea wasn't expecting it at all, but we had found out that they didn't have money to celebrate, so we decided to throw the party for them. Brian was so excited. I will never forget the look on his face as we all sang "Happy Birthday" to him. That was probably one of my best moments in Aguila.
Tuesday was Transfer meeting. I spent Tuesday morning packing up and then running out to visit a few more people. Then we had to drive into Glendale for the meeting. There really weren't a whole lot of surprises. There are only 12 Spanish sisters in the whole mission, so it gets pretty easy to guess who is going with whom and where. Usually by Monday night everyone from the Spanish Sisters has talked and we all know whats happening, we just have to wait for President to announce it and make it official. This was actually a pretty big transfer for the Spanish sisters, because with Hermana Barker going home Aguila was closed and Elders were put in, and then a lot of Hermanas had to be shuffeled around. All but one companionship of Sisters came to transfer meeting.
Wednesday I got to go out and get to know the area and the other missionaries here. It's incredibly different from Aguila and being in South Phoenix, but change always makes for some good learning. The exciting news from Wednesday is that I killed my first scorpion. YUCK! I was reading Wednesday morning when I saw him coming across the floor. I was really, really, really irked. Hna Aydelotte would probably say that was an understatement. Luckily I won, and the scorpion died and noone got stung.
Here in Agua Fria we get fed a lot by the members. Last August, President sent out a letter to all the different wards asking them to no longer invite the missionaries over for dinner, since dinner appointments encroach on our best working hours. Aguila was pretty good about it... but from what I understand a lot of areas are still struggling, and Agua Fria is one of them. It's cool because it's a nice way to get to know the members, but it really just weirds me out. The good news is I've gotten to try a lot more Mexican food in the last week. Most of what I've had has been pretty good, although last night I had to think fast to avoid getting to eat Menudo... aka Cow Stomach Soup. Gross.
It's also been fun starting out again because I'm able to really see how my Spanish has improved. Most of the members when they first talk to me ask me if I'm going home soon, becuase they assume because I've gotten pretty comfortable with the language that I must be at the end of my mission. I still get that I have a South American accent, and I still don't know where that comes from, but we have a lot of Chileans here in Agua Fria, so they are enjoying my accent.
Well, that's about all the news from here. Things are going well, I'm learning to work with my new companion and in the new area. There's been a lot to get used to, because things here are very very different from my previous experience but I'm adapting.
Have a wonderful week!
Hermana Okeson

Ps. The first two pictures are with Rossy, and then with the Madruenos, my adopted family in Aguila. I'll work on sending pictures form Agua Fria next week.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saying Goodbye

Nicole sent this Feb 8 but I was enjoying the Philippines and didn't get it sent out. Hope that you will forgive me. :)

Hi All!

Transfers are probably one of the most miserable parts of being a missionary. I got the phone call this morning and was told to pack up and that tomorrow afternoon I will be in a new area with a new companion. I have truly loved my time here in Aguila and I am so sad to be leaving. Especially because for various reasons they will be closing the area that I worked in. Atleast partially closing it. I'm really curious to see what happens tomorrow at transfers. Hermana Ayala is staying here with Hermana Kigueta and they will be working in Montana del Sur. I am so bummed to be leaving them both. I absolutely love being with them. Hermana Ayala has been an amazing companion and I wish I would have gotten more than just one transfer with her. I'm still hoping to get more than just one transfer with Hermana Kigueta since she's only been out one transfer longer than me. I guess we'll just have to wait and see on that one. I have so many options of where I could end up. President is moving one sister from all but one Spanish companionship in the mission. So really I could go anywhere. This will be really interesting.
This week has been quite the week. Working in two wards was an experience. I'm glad I had such great companions for it, or this could have been really tricky to hold everything together for two weeks. Some highlights from this week include:
  • Winter finally showed up! That's right, I spent three days wearing a coat, and it was freezing! The fountain outside of our apartment complex froze! I think Arizona might have ruined me. Also on one of those super cold days we had splits and Hermana Kigueta and I went out on bikes. It was so windy I thought I was going to get blown over.
  • ROSSY AND REUBEN ARE GETTING MARRIED!!!! That was one of the huge exciting things of the week. I am so excited for them, and for them to be one step closer to being baptized. I can't believe it. I feel like part of why I was sent to Aguila was to be here with Rossy and Reuben and to work with them.
  • We taught possibly the most interesting lesson of my life this week. It was just one of those lessons that felt like you were watching a car crash, you could see where it was going and what was happening but you could seem to get out. But these are the things interesting journal entries are made of, and you laugh about many many years later.
  • Alma's dog finally decided to be friends with me. This may not seem like a big deal, but it was. Every time we'd gone over for the past three months he would sit and bark and growl, but yesterday he decided we could be friends... just in time for me to leave. Yeesh.
  • Today I'm teaching a flute lesson! I am so so so so so so so so so excited for it. There's a girl in our ward who has asked me flute questions before, and so finally I decided I might as well just teach her a lesson. I can't wait. I'm not sure which of us will have more fun.
  • Tonight we're going over to the Perea's and throwing a party for Brian, the youngest Perea boy. He turned 5 on Sunday and we found out that they don't have money for a party, so we're making him a cake and we're going to go do Testimony Pizza (a lesson about how building our faith in God is like building a pizza) with them. I am way excited for the lesson and it will be fun to surprise them with a party for Brian.
There's not much else to tell. You'll all have to hold your breath to see where I go after this. I'll write and tell you all about it next time. Where ever it is I know it's where I am needed. I am really really sad to be leaving Aguila, but I feel like I've done what I needed to here. I've worked hard and I'm happy with that. Now I get to go work somewhere else and really get to love the people there just like I've loved the people here in Aguila. Missions really are just so incredible. In just 3 months of being here I've found so many people who I just love and I have enjoyed serving.

Have a wonderful week!
Hermanita Okeson