Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Promised Pictures: Spanish Speaking Sisters and a few English SistersPacking Day
Sister Wells of Michigan
Molly the dog.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Crazy Week

Hello All!

Well, this past week makes for the craziest week of my mission. Easily. Everything will make more sense if I start at the beginning. About two weeks ago we got a phone call warning us that we would be moving apartments, we figured it would happen at transfers the first week of May, and so we didn't think too much of it. Monday we had a normal p-day that was mainly me sleeping a lot, as I was still trying to fight off a cold. When we got home from running errands I slept until we had to leave again for lessons in the evening. It helped a lot and I felt much better.

Tuesday we had the Sisters meeting, which was wonderful. There are about 30 sister missionaries here in the mission, and it was fun to have everyone together. Well, it was fun to see all the Spanish sisters... there's not much mixing between languages, especially because we have a few Spanish sisters who are far more comfortable in Spanish than English, and we really don't see much of the English sisters as most of them serve outside of Phoenix, and most of us serve here in Phoenix. It was a really good meeting and both President and Sister Beck spoke and I enjoyed listening to them.

After the meeting is when the fun really started for the week. We got a phone call right after the meeting from Elder Cherry, the housing coordinator for the mission. He told us that a new home had been located for us and that we needed to get over there as soon as possible because we would need to move in before the 30th. We were told we were moving in with an older sister, who lives at the very bottom corner of our area. Minus the location (now we drive a good half hour every day to get to anywhere) we were very excited and scheduled to go meet her on Wednesday morning. The rest of Tuesday was pretty normal, with lots of appointments and such. The work in this area has really really picked up and so we are teaching a lot, which I love.

Wednesday rolled around and at 10:00am as we were starting to study Spanish we got another phone call from Elder Cherry, telling us that we now needed to be moved in my Sunday night at the latest. That left us just a little stressed, as we had exchanges scheduled for Friday and so it meant we would probably have to move on Thursday. We canceled everything for two days (well, almost everything, we made it to two appointments on Wednesday), and after meeting the sister we would be living with we went back to the apartment to pack. The Elders in our area were going to move into our old apartment, and they are English Elders, so everything Spanish had to go. Spanish missionaries had lived in our apartment for years and years and years. We had to go through everything, especially because our new living arrangement is very very small. We spent all day going through documents and supplies and packing and cleaning. I attached a picture to show my handiwork and to give you all an idea of how much stuff we were working with... and what's in the picture is only part of it.

Thursday we had meetings we couldn't move and so after the meetings the Zone Leaders followed us home, we packed everything in their truck and drove the 20 minutes to our new home. Then at 4pm we frantically began to unpack, because by 6pm we had to leave to go on exchanges, because the area that I was going to was over an hour away. We got mostly unpacked before we left, but there were still some loose ends to finish up when I got back Friday night.

Friday I spent the day working in Wickenburg. Wickenburg is a town right out of the Old West cowboy movies. I think I saw more people in cowboy hats and boots than ever in my life, and there was cactus and tumbleweed everywhere. It was quite the change as I've spent my whole time here in Arizona in the city.

Friday I also made an interesting discovery. I discovered that somewhere in all the moving and packing and unpacking and everything else, that I had somehow managed to hurt my foot. More specifically my second toe on my left foot. I never realized just how much one uses their second toe. I have no clue what I did or how it happened, all I know is it hurts a lot to walk, and running, jumping or anything else is completely out of the question. I feel completely ridiculous. Who hurts their second toe on their left foot? And more specifically, what do you do for a hurt toe? I suspect I would just get told to stay off of it and so I've decided to just tough it out and see what happens. It was feeling better yesterday and so I tried to test my luck this morning for morning exercise and discovered that in fact it still hurts quite a lot. Oh well.

Besides the random hurt toe, I had a marvelous time in Wickenburg. I spent the day working with Hna Wells, the other Spanish sister missionary here from Michigan. She's from the Ann Arbour area, and also went to BYU. She's a studio art major, and about as far along as me in her program, so we decided that we've probably run into each other somewhere in the HFAC since we both were hermits there in our pre-mission lives. Small world. She's been here in Arizona for 4 months but has 6 months before that. She started her mission in El Salvador, got sick, came home to get better, and got sent here to finish her mission. It was fun to meet the people she is teaching out in Wickenburg, and we had some really lovely lessons.

Saturday, all things considered, was actually a fairly normal day. We finished getting settled in and unpacked and finally got everything organized. We also got to have lunch with the Sister we are living with and got to know her a little better, which was nice. Also, we got to know our new roommate. I attached a picture. Her name is Molly, and she is quite thrilled to have more people to pet her. Are you jealous Morgan?

Sunday was also more or less normal. We spent a good deal of time calling everyone and their dog on Saturday to invite them to church. We figured with it being Easter and all more people would want to come. Silly us, we forgot that in Mexican culture any excuse to party is a good excuse to party, and I got many replies of "We can't make it tomorrow, it's Easter." ??? The first time it happened both Hna Aydelotte and I were a little stunned.

We managed to have lots of people in church anyways, most of whom were there for the first time, which we were very very excited about. It meant that I spent most of church running like crazy (who ever said Sunday is always a day of rest never had a Sunday as a missionary) especially because Hna Aydelotte was playing piano for most of church, and also got pulled into the Primary to help out with the music. That meant that I spent most of the time running between people trying to make sure everyone had someone to sit with, and that I had talked to everyone we needed to. Hna Aydelotte and I have the goal to greet everyone every Sunday, so that alone keeps us busy, but then add anything else, and I come out of church feeling completely exhausted.

Trent talked in his letter about transfers, and so I thought I would comment on them as they are coming next week. We have a lot of Spanish sisters going home, and so there are all sorts of rumors about what will happen to the Spanish sisters next week. Everyone is convinced that a new area will be opened, and also that some sister will go there to flush-train (meaning go into an area that she's never served in with a companion who is fresh from the MTC and needs to be shown how everything goes). The current rumor is that we are getting 4 new sisters, which would be awesome, but means that there will be a lot of changes. Now you can all sit on the edge of your seats for another week and wonder what will happen. Of course at most next week I can tell you if I'm staying or going, because I won't know anything else until Tuesday after I've already written... but surprises are good, right?

Also, with the move there was a little mix up with the mail, so if anyone got mail returned to them, don't worry, keep writing to the same address you've written to. I think most of it made it to us, but someone may have slipped through.

I think that's just about all for this week. It was a crazy week, but also a good week. There are a lot of really really good things happening here in Agua Fria, and with transfers coming both Hna Aydelotte and I are nervous that one of us won't get to be here to see everything fall together. We'll see what happens next week.

Have a wonderful week. I love you all lots!
Hermana Okeson

PS. I will post the pictures Nicole sent next week when I am back on my own computer.

Monday, April 18, 2011

100 Degrees in April

Hello All!

This week has been quite an interesting one. On Wednesday I started feeling like I was losing my voice, and by Thursday morning I was in the middle of quite the head cold. This makes for the first (and hopefully last) time I've ever been sick in 100 degree weather. I think Arizona has ruined me. Apparently this is the time to get sick though, as many of the people we work with have told me that right now there are lots of people who have colds... I'm still a little surprised by the idea of having a cold when it's over 90 degrees every day. It really just means we are keeping our visits very, very short right now, I'm taking lots of cold medicine, and trying to stay away from people.

Besides being sick it's been a pretty good week. Friday we had Zone conference, which was very fun. I always enjoy the extra instruction and the chance to learn, although often it is hard not to come out of those meetings feeling like there are a million things I need to do better. Each meeting has a theme, and this one focused on church attendance. I really enjoyed learning about the purpose of church attendance and how it really can bless out investigators. Each time we have Zone conference (about every 90 days, or every other transfer) it runs all morning and into the afternoon, and so a ward is asked to prepare lunch. This time my ward, Agua Fria, was asked to prepare lunch for the missionaries. Personally I think they should always ask the Mexican wards to prepare lunch for us. Lunch was really, really, really good. It was also fun, because the night before Hna Aydelotte and I were able to help with some of the prep work. We spent a little over an hour over at a member’s home rolling flautas (little tacos) with their family. It was quite the party. All the kids and grandkids were there and everyone was helping with something. When we showed up to help we were surprised to see cars lining the street, and wondered where the party was... turns out it was just that everyone was there to help with preparing the food.

Saturday was also really cool. All of this past week, and all of this week there is a huge Easter pageant going on in Mesa. It depicts the life and ministry of Christ from the New Testament, and it's incredible. This past Friday and Saturday were the two performances in Spanish. As missionaries we can go so long as we take and investigator with us. Some things had fallen through and it looked like we weren't going to be able to go, and then on Friday everything slid into place, and someone was able to pull some strings for us, and we got last minute permission. The pageant was incredible. I really, really enjoyed it. This pageant is the oldest of the church pageants, and from what it looked like to me, the biggest (although I'm not completely sure about that one). There were hundreds of performers on the stage, and the whole performance was really very impressive.

Saturday afternoon we also had a rather comical experience. As we were out tracting, we knocked into an old folks’ home. They invited us in and we were able to share a short Easter message, which was quite nice. At the end though, they requested that we sing a song for them. We sing a fair amount, and so that wasn't the hard part, the hard part was that they all spoke English. I've not sung in English in 7 months. We picked a fairly easy song that we both thought we would remember in English... not so. We didn't even make it all the way through the first verse. Afterwards as we were walking back to our car I decided to try and see what songs I do remember in English. I can't sing a single church song all the way through in English. That said, I can't sing a single church song all the way through in Spanish either, but I was still pretty surprised to see that I've switched so much over into Spanish.

Tomorrow we have a huge training for all of the sister missionaries in the mission. I'm really, really excited. It's only a two hour training, but it'll be the first time I'll actually be able to meet many of the English sisters in the mission. Almost all of the Spanish speaking sisters are in Phoenix, so I've met all of them. But most of the English sisters are outside of Phoenix, so I've not run into many of them. It should be a really good conference.

That's about it for this week. We've officially been around 100 degrees multiple days this week. Even the locals think it is a really, really warm "spring" (to me anything over 85 degrees doesn't count as spring...). We've been drinking lots and lots of water, and I'm starting to understand why my companion is glad that if she has to go home, it'll be in the beginning of June, and before it gets too much hotter. Luckily people are pretty understanding and we get lots and lots of offers for water and such, which is always a life saver.

Have a wonderful week!

Hermana Okeson

Monday, April 11, 2011

Busy Week

Hello All,
This week has flown by. This morning as I was starting to think about what I would put in my letter this week I was amazed by how much had happened. First, and probably the most trivial, I learned how to make tamale's on Saturday. We had an appointment fall through and decided to stop by a less active member who lived near the appointment. We showed up in time to eat tamale's from the first batch and to learn how to make them for the second batch. Hna Gutierrez has a friend who is going through some rough times and so they decided to make and sell tamale's every weekend to try and help raise some money. We're going back this upcoming Saturday to help make the masa (the dough part) and to learn how to make the salsa for the meat. I'm pretty excited because her tamale's are the best I've had my whole mission. YUM! (I attached pictures from the tamale's, I hope you enjoy them!)

Okay, on to more things that don't involve food. Our most memorable event this week was a lesson we had Thursday night. We've been teaching a family where all but the husband are members. There are a few things holding him up, even though he's been going to church regularly for six months, and most people think he is a member. We decided to take Presidente Lopez over for our appointment on Thursday. Saturday at Rossy's baptism I talked with him and asked him to come and he was excited to come help us out. Presidente Lopez is amazing. I love working with him, he's only been a member of the church for 14 years, but he really loves the gospel and he loves helping people out. It was really cool to have him at the lesson, he was able to relate really well to this family and to their particular difficulties. There is still a lot to work out but after being at a standstill with this family for 3 months we're finally moving forward again.

The lesson with Presidente Lopez was also interesting because to me it highlighted something that I really struggle with in Mexican culture. Mexicans talk over each other. Conversations between Mexicans can involve both talking at the same time and, as far as I can tell, it's who ever out lasts the other wins and then is able to direct the conversation for 5 more minutes. I'd known that I struggled with that part of the culture, but didn't realize how much until we took Presidente Lopez. He was really able to direct the lesson in ways we never can, because I always feel super rude talking over my investigators. I'm not exactly sure how to work on improving that one, because I feel like I need to listen to everything they have to say, but when we do that often our visits end up being far too long and also far too off topic. I'm sure I'll come home talking over everyone and have to learn how to wait my turn again...

Other news, we're still working with a whole lot of kids. They're all from families who have not been to church in a long time for various reasons. It's interesting because while we are teaching the kids, it is the parents who need the most help. That always makes for interesting lessons. In the case of one family, they are afraid to come back to church because I guess there was some huge argument before they left, and then in the case of the other the Mom keeps going back and forth on whether she thinks her son is ready to be baptized. In the case of the second we had a really good visit with Mom on Saturday night, and hopefully we can start moving forward again. Our other family we are working with has middle school and high school age kids, which is also interesting, but far easier for me to teach. I do a lot better with older kids than with the 9 year olds. Teenagers have a lot more things to work through, and often have more questions, but I have an easier time keeping their attention that I do with the younger kids we work with.

We also had a huge miracle on Saturday. I had written about a month ago about having to drop an investigator named Carmensa. Both Hna Aydelotte and I really have prayed a lot for her over the last month, with no apparent success. We stopped by again on Friday and as usual no one answered the door. I'm not sure if no one was home or what. Well, Saturday afternoon we got a phone call from the sister in our ward who we had taken to the lesson with Carmensa over a month ago (the one where we had to pray over and over again to figure out who to take). Turns out Carmensa had had some rough times and just needed a break from us. Carmensa called this Sister in our ward on Saturday and they ended up talking for a really long time and she was able to answer a lot of her questions. Long story short, Carmensa came to sacrament meeting on Sunday, and we are starting to teach her again.

I had an interesting experience on Saturday that I thought I would share. We were over meeting with a less active Sister and some how it came up that I play flute. When she asked if I had it and I explained that I had been asked not to bring it she was very vocal in her opinions of that decision and that I couldn't have my flute. What surprised me was that as she was listing off why she thought I needed it, I realized that I am really happy that I don't have it here. That was a shock. I love that I can completely focus on being a missionary and working hard. I really have nothing to distract me here, and I love that. I still struggle some times, but not nearly as much as at the beginning, and mostly I just feel peace that everything will be fine when I get home. I am loving my time here. Each day goes by so quickly, I'm always amazed as I find myself writing you all again each p-day, because it really only feels like it's been a day or two, not a whole week. I love the people we work with, and I am so happy each day. Missionary work is really, really cool.
Have a wonderful week!
Love you all,
Hermana Okeson

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Errand of Angels

Dear Friends and Family,
This week has been incredible. It has been full of really cool experiences. We've had multiple experiences where we've shown up at just the right time to help out. The first one happened on Thursday night. When we were planning on Wednesday night we felt like we needed to go by a family we've been teaching at 8pm. It was a little weird because we'd just gone over to visit them, but we decided we'd go anyways. We drove over Thursday night at 8 and knocked on the door. When they let us in the wife explained that 15 minutes earlier they had recieved a phone call from Mexico that her husbands youngest sister had just passed away from Leukemia. She was 23 and has a little boy who is 4 years old. We spent the rest of the evening with them and as we were leaving they told us that they wanted to call us when they got the call from Mexico, but didn't want to bother us becuase they figured we would be at other visits. It was so cool to see how the Lord already knew that they were going to need extra support, and I was very humbled to be able to help.

We had another similar experience Friday morning, where all of our plans for the morning fell through and we felt impressed that we needed to go check on a Sister who lives in our area. She has a lot on her plate, and we ended up being there at the perfect time to help her with some rather pressing problems. We ended up being with her for almost 3 hours that morning, and it was a huge learning experience for me. I think in those 3 hours I learned more about the importance of making wise decisions than in any other three hours of my life. I also learned about how our decisions affect others, becuase the problem we dealt with Friday morning was a result of someone else's poor choices, but it was affecting many other people, including, and especially, this Sister.

The last big experience like that happened last night. It's cool to see how as missionaries we are often the first ones to get calls when people are in need. We got a call from a young sister in the ward who had had a really really rough weekend and she asked us to come by. We moved some things around and told her that we would come by in the evening around 7:30. When we got there we were surprised when this young sisters mother answered the door looking pretty shaken up. Her daughter had left, but it was readily apparent that the weekend had been rough on her too. We stayed and chatted with her, and at the end of the visit she told us that she thought that our visit was actually for her, and not her daughter, and that she had really been needing support that day.

Experiences like these are some of the things I have grown to love as a missionary. Friday morning's was rough, and I would never choose to be in that situation again, but in each situation I was very greatful that the Lord had sent us to help. It's moments like those that I know I will always treasure, especially when we hear the people we work with say "I knew you would come". We get that a lot, and each time it makes me realize how carefully Heavenly Father is watching over each of his children.

The other really cool experience this week was on Saturday. Saturday afternoon I was able to go back to South Phoenix for Rossy Romero's baptism. To date I think that was the happiest moment of my mission. I can't begin to describe how much time and energy my companions and I poured into Rossy and her family. She was the only one to be baptized on Saturday, but I am confident that more will follow. The changes I saw on Saturday were incredible. I was so happy to be able to be there to support her. It was also fun to be able to see some of the members from the ward and also to see Hermana Ayala. I sure miss her. She's going home in four weeks, and I expect that Saturday was the last time I'll see her on my mission.

We've also had some really cool experiences with some of the families we are teaching that are progressing to baptism. We're working with a lot of families who have not been to church in a while and want to come back. Each family has kids that are over 8 and want to be baptized and so we are working to help get them ready. The Lopez family have two sons ages 9 and 13 who we are working with, and as of last Thursday are now preparing to be baptized on May 4th. We're very excited for them, and I've had a good time working with their family. The other family, the Gutierrez family, is a family we just started teaching this past week. They have a son that is 15 and reminds me a lot of Todd, and I've had a good time getting to know him. They also have a daughter who is 13. She's quite shy, so I don't know her as well yet, but we're going over on Friday for a girls night while Hno Gutierrez and Caleb are out on a camping/fishing trip. I'm pretty excited.

Okay, I think that's about all for this week. I love you all!
Hermana Okeson