Monday, May 23, 2011

Another Busy Week

Hello All,
What a week! This week was stressful because I can now say I have pulled off a less than a week baptism. The circumstances of this baptism were a little odd, so that's why it happened so fast, but boy did it add to the stress. The baptism was for a 13 year old whose records had been lost. This happens a lot among hispanic wards... I honestly have no clue why, but it does. When someones records are lost then two things have to happen, first, if there are three preisthood holders who were at the persons baptism they can come together and say they were all there, or the person can be baptized again. In the case of this 13 year old there weren't enough witnesses, and the brother who baptized her the first time announced fairly suddenly that he was moving back to Mexico. So, we had 6 days to pull everything together. Talk about stress. Luckily it all came together really beautifully, and we've decided that it may have been a miracle in disguise, becuase her father, who is a 10 year investigator, might be getting baptized soon. Watching his daughters baptism really moved him, so who knows, maybe her record needed to be lost so he could have a final push to be baptized.
Reyna and her family with the Bishop and the Hermano who baptized her.
Reyna, her family, and us (the missionaries).

Friday we had a Specialized Training. It was really really good. I have a love/hate relationship with all the meetings we go to. I get frusterated because it feels like we spend so much time in meetings some times and too little time being able to work, but then I have to remind myself that what we learn in the meetings should help us to work more effectively. That was certainly true of this last meeting. We talked about organization and then President had some really good comments on teaching the Plan of Salvation. I really enjoyed the whole training. I also got to play flute at the conference, which was interesting. I feel so incredibly out of shape. It probably doesn't help that the flutes I usually end up playing on are not such great instruments. It's always an adventure.

The hardest thing for me about playing is that it makes it really hard for me to focus on what I am here to do. I noticed it more this time than I did when I played at Christmas. I've really learned in the last months that I have to stay focused on the work here, I can't let myself worry about things I can't control. I can't control anything to do with flute here, and honestly, it's a lot easier for me to work and teach well when I'm not worried about it or thinking about it. The trick for me was when I played on Friday it opened up the flood gates again, and I had a hard time re-focusing for a little while. I was pretty surprised, but I think next time I play I'll be better prepared and be able to re-focus faster. The whole experience was a surprise for me, and actually made me greatful that I am serving somewhere where I don't have access to the flute or much classical music, because it really does make it easier to focus on what I am doing here and now. Who would have thought I would ever feel like that?!

This week was full of some amusing experiences that I thought you would all enjoy. I heard before being a missionary that you have to watch out sometimes for those who like to flirt with missionaries. Apparently yours truly does well with the 2 year old boys. We had dinner last Sunday with a family who have the cutest little two-year-old. At dinner he spent the entire time trying to share his food with me, and when we tried to leave he did his best to stop us. We all got a good laugh and his dad had a good time telling him to say by to his "novia" (girlfriend). We got a pretty good laugh about it too and didn't think much of it. Sunday I ended up sitting fairly near this family. About 10 minutes into sacrament meeting he made his way over and proceeded to share his puppets, books, and cookies with me for the rest of the hour. I found it pretty funny, and so did his family. Now I know who to go visit if I ever want a snack in church. :-)

I think that is about all this week. We've been working lots, and I am absolutely loving it. I hope all is well with everyone, and have a great week!

Hermana Okeson

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chicharron, Baptisms and Sun Screen

Hello All!
This has been quite the week. I feel like each week moves a little faster and that p-day comes a little sooner. It makes it tricky when I sit down to write because it's hard to pick out exactly what I want to talk about in such a short time. This week has been incredible. I am learning so much right now. I think being a trainer for a new missionary is so interesting. I'm thoroughly enjoying it, and hope to have the opportunity again. I'm able to see how much I've learned in my time here in Arizona, and it's also so fun to have the energy that a new missionary brings. It also is interesting because working with a new missionary helps you cut back down to the basics. I'm re-learning so many things that I had forgotten and we have really worked hard to do everything exactly as it should be done.

It's also really interesting because I see so much of myself in Hermana Graves. Being a new missionary is frusterating and exhausting. You have so much that you have to do and take in very quickly, and you feel like you will never catch up. I remember looking at both of my trainers and wondering how I would ever be able to keep up with them, or be as comfortable teaching as they were. The language is also really tough when you first come out. Mexican is not like the Spanish you learn at school. Not even close. There are a lot of words and phrases that only Mexicans use, and as a new missionary I remember really struggling with the accents and also all of the slang. I remember coming out of lessons and looking at my companion and asking what just happened, because I had only caught maybe half of what had been said. It's cool though, because in 6 months in Arizona I feel like I've become so much more comfortable. I understand what is going on, and I'm able to keep up in the conversations and usually say things how I want to. I've still got a long ways to go, but I am certainly able to see where all the hard work has gotten me to.

Now for some of the events of the week. First, Mary's baptism! It was a really wonderful baptism, and I have loved working with her. She is an incredible example to me, and I feel like she taught me far more that I ever was able to teach her. She's had an interesting life, and has loved having the opportunity to start over. Her baptism mostly went off with out any problems, although we had a mix up about the location which resulted in her going out to a chapel that was over a half hour away. Whoops. The baptism started almost a half hour late, which really just means it started on Mexican standard time. The baptism from that point on came together beautifully, and was really lovely.
The weather has also added an interesting twist to everything as now we are over 100 degrees most days atleast for a little while. I'm expecting by the end of May to be consistantly over 100 degrees. Yikes! I've started quite the sunscreen ritual, and it's helping some, although you can see quite the tan line on my feet in the picture from Mary's baptism. The members always comment on my feet, and ask if we are out biking. We actually spend a lot of time in the car and in appointments right now, so the tan line at this point is just from the small amount of time I'm spending in the sun. I'd like to get out on bike again soon, as all this food we keep getting fed, needs some way to be worked off. And speaking of food, that brings me to the next highlight of the week.

This week we were fed chicharron. *gag*. We didn't know what it was until it was too late, and then we had to eat it. The minute it ended up on my plate I had a bad feeling. It was green and slimy and looked like something from Calvin and Hobbes. We managed to get it down, but were pretty queasy for the rest of the evening. We got home and went straight to the dictionary to find out what we had eaten. Boiled residue of hog fat. 'Nuff said. Also, Hermana Graves got her first round of what really spicy Mexican food is like on Sunday. We ate with a member who knows that I can eat like a Mexican (as far as spicy food goes) so I eat what she eats, and then she makes a more tame salsa for my companions. Hna Graves looked at the salsa and decided it couldn't be that hot. She took a sip, and right as she said "oh, it's not that bad" her eyes bugged out and she turned bright red. Whoops.

This Friday we have a big conference (sometimes I feel like all we do is go to meeting, then I remind myself that it's just that the weeks keep moving by really fast). I'm pretty excited because they've asked me to play flute. I'm on the hunt right now for one, and hoping that because I'm in a richer area that I might be able to find one that is in pretty good shape. We'll see. I'm a little scared to see where my playing is at, but I just keep reminding myself that noone who has heard what I really sound like will be there. I picked up some straws on Saturday and have been blowing through straws in the car for the last few days (much to the amusement of my companions). They've been making all sorts of comments, but I'm fairly worried I might pass out from lack of air when I play. I think my lungs have shriveled up. Oh well.

I think that's about all the excitement for one week. I'm sure there is more, but it's always hard to remember things right off when I'm e-mailing. We're happy here and loving the work. I just about fall asleep every night as I'm writing in my journal, so I guess that means we're working hard.

Love you all lots!
Hermana Okeson

Monday, May 9, 2011

Texan Training

Hello all!
It has been quite the week. I guess I will start with talking about my new companion. Her name is Hermana Graves, she's from Denton Texas (she put up her Texas flag before she unpacked... what is with these Texans?), but her family is living in Guatemala. Yes, we're already having fun telling people where our families live. Before her mission she was going to school at BYU Idaho studying to be a physical therapist. I am having such a good time with her! She is a wonderful missionary, and it is so fun to feel the excitement of being with someone who is brand-new to the mission. They certainly bring a very special energy and excitement to an area. I'm enjoying working with her, and although training in a trio provides some interesting moments, we're making it work.

The most interesting thing about training is that a brand new training program has just been launched world wide. Our mission is the third one to implement it, so we are being tracked very very closely. This may mean that my weekly letters for the next 12 weeks may be a little shorter as I have more things I need to be writing to President Beck. Boiled down the new training program is built to make sure that you are covering everything in a very specific order. There is a descent sized packet that we work with, that outlines the focus for each of the 12 weeks of training. Each week has study focuses and teaching focuses. For instance, this past week the focus was to let the new missionary take the leading in all finding situations and in extending baptismal invitations. This week we will be focusing heavily on the first missionary lesson (the restoration) and also on techniques on how to begin teaching. Also we have an extra hour of studying each day. That has probably been the most interesting part. For the 12 weeks of training you have the normal one hour of personal and language study, but then also we have 2 hours of companion study. I really like it because it provides a chance to practice a lot of things each day before we leave the apartment. I remember when I was trained always feeling a little hesatant because I didn't quite know what to expect, but with the extra study time we've been able to try to practice through a lot of the situations that we will run into each day. It'll be interesting to see how the program works as we get farther into it.

This week has also been crazy because we have had lots and lots of work here in Peoria. Right now we have 3 people preparing for baptism so that keeps us quite busy. The first one is Mary, she's being baptized this Saturday. We're so incredibly excited for her. She actually found us, and we only started working with her a week or so ago. She's had some interesting experiences in her life that have prepared her very well to take this step. Right now we're hoping her husband (who is currently living and working in Mexico) will be able to get things pulled together fast enough that he can come too. That's the goal anyways. The second two who are preparing for baptism are Leonila and Erik. Leonila is a single mom, and Erik is her 13 year old son. We absolutly love working with them. Leonila is just fascinating to teach, although sometimes she keeps us on our toes, because she comes up with really really good questions. They are preparing to be baptized on the 21st.

I thought I would end by telling about our sleeping arrangement fiasco. It actually turned out fairly comical, but at the time didn't seem that way. Monday when we got the phone call that we would be recieving another sister we were told that some Elders would bring over bunkbeds and get them set up for us. Tuesday at the transfer meeting we were then informed of the same thing, and told that we would have everything dropped of, and when we got home we would have beautiful new bunkbeds waiting for us. Tuesday night we got home, walked in the garage, and saw mattresses and bunkbed parts galore. It was about 9:30pm and so we knew that there was no way we were getting bunkbeds that night. We scoped out the couches, and slept on those. We went by height, and so I got the longest couch, which was still quite a short couch. I don't think anyone really slept much. Wednesday we had some Elders come by to put the couch together, but they discovered they were short on parts. Whoops. Again, we were told when we got home, we'd have bunkbeds. This time though I was smarter (or so I thought) I called those Elders at about 7pm to check that they had put them together. they told me no, because they couldn't find the parts they needed, then they told me what we needed to put it together and to call around and ask some people in the area. So, I got to test out my mechanical Spanish skills. Huge flop. I barely knew what I was asking for in English, and "that twisty whatzamajiger that fits on the srewy thing inside the wood" doesn't really translate over so well. I think I confused the better part of the ward. We were smarter on Wednesday though, and pulled the mattresses into our room and slept on those. It worked farily well, although I was far less than pleased when I woke up and found Molly (the dog) sleeping on top of me. I don't think she will try that again. I think I scared her as much as she scared me. Well, finally, Thursday morning we ended up with bunkbeds. We were so happy to get them.

I think that is about all for this week. Have a wonderful week. Thanks all for writing me!
Love you lots,
Hermana Okeson

Ps. the picture is from dinner Wednesday night, one of the sisters made really yummy homemade pizza, this is from just before it was cooked.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Hi All,
Well here is the news you've all been waiting for. Okay maybe not, but we've sure had a week of lots of speculation. Everyone knew there were 4 Spanish sisters coming in this transfer so there were a lot of people wondering what would happen. At about 9am this morning we got a phone call from President Beck. On transfer Monday, President only calls for one reason. He only calls if someone has been called to be a trainer. I've been called to train a missionary straight out of the MTC. I'm super nervous, but also really really excited. We'll be in a trio here in Agua Fria which will be interesting, but I think is actually a huge blessing. The work here has really really picked up and we've been needing a way to go on splits, and this makes it easy since we'll only need one more sister who can come with us. Both Hermana Aydelotte and I were very happy to hear that we would be staying here in Agua Fria. It's always really hard leaving an area, and I know I wasn't ready to leave, and Hna Aydelotte only has 6 weeks left, so she didn't want to go anywhere either. Tomorrow at 1pm I have to go to a trainers meeting, and then tomorrow evening I will meet the hermana that I get to train. I guess you'll all have to wait until next week to hear anything about her.

This week was a really good week. We've spent a lot of time teaching. We spend almost all of our days running from one appointment to the next, which has made getting out and contacting quite interesting, because we simply don't have time for it. We're working on that though, and hopefully we'll start making things work a little better. I think the thing that has been most interesting here in Agua Fria is how much time we've spent working with couples with marital problems. Of the people we visit the most about 3/4 are really struggling. Sometimes as we're over working with them I feel like the blind leading the blind. We've had some really cool experiences though, and it's been so amazing to see the changes in lives. We have one couple who we are working with where she was making plans to leave him and go back to Mexico. After a lot of work, and a whole lot of prayer things are doing better with them. And, the exciting part is that they're getting married. We're pretty excited, although the wedding won't be until at least July at this rate, which Hna Aydelotte is pretty bummed about, because she really would have loved to be there. Oh well.

(I forgot my journal and in the craziness of this morning didn't think to put a list of things to write about together like normal, so sorry if this letter is all over the place)
Friday we had a mission conference. Well, a half mission conference. There are 200 missionaries here in Phoenix, and that's just too many to cram into one conference effectively, so they split us in half, and all those outside of the valley meet in the morning and then those of us here in the valley meet in the afternoon. It was a very exciting conference. We're at count down time right now, because in 2 months we will be getting a new mission president. President Beck is determined to have the mission in the best shape it has ever been before President Taylor gets here. He's been talking to him on the phone regularly and they've decided what things we're going to focus on in the next 2 months. A lot of what is happening is President is trying to make sure everything is clean and very orderly. We got a lot of instruction about being organized in our work. We also got instruction on a new baptismal calendar we are using, which was really cool. I guess a mission down in Texas has been using it to great success, and so they are starting it here. We've not had much time to try it out, but from what I've seen I really really like it.

Saturday was also a really good day. Hna Aydelotte and I got permission to go to the temple down in Mesa. Unlike Trent, we don't have a temple in our mission (although it's only about 40 minutes outside of the mission) and so we have to get special permission to go, and then we can only go every 3 months. We had a lovely trip down with one of the sisters from the ward. I thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent there, and to my great excitement Hna Ayala and her companions had also recieved permission to go at the exact same time. I was so excited to get to see her again. She goes home tomorrow, so I probably won't see her again until after my mission. Also, I ran into two friends from college. That was a little bizzare. One lived near me my freshman year, and the other was a vocal performance major who I had taken classes with. It was like two worlds were colliding. But it was cool to see them, and I really enjoyed telling them that I am a missionary. I think that was the best part, was telling them I'm a missionary and just how much I love this.

I think that's about all for this week. Sorry I'm a little frazzled. I'm sure I'll have lots and lots to tell you about next week.

Have a wonderful week all!
Hermana Okeson