Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Phoenix Rains Mud

Hello All!
Happy P-day! First to get out the news you are all curious about... Transfers. The transfer news came as a complete shock. Hna Graves is being moved and I am staying. Not what either of us expected. I'm excited to have another six weeks here in Agua Fria but nervous about who I will get to serve with. This transfer has been such an easy one that it makes me wonder what is in store for the next 6 weeks. Tomorrow we'll go to transfer meeting and see where Hna Graves is headed and then who is coming here with me. I guess we'll have to wait until tomorrow to see what happens. I'm excited to get to stay here and see the ward continue to progress. We've had some good changes happen in the last week and I'm excited to see how they will effect the work.

Okay, now for all of the fun things from this week. This week ranks as one of the busiest of my entire mission. The craziness started on Monday. As we were leaving in the evening for our appointments we got a call from the member who was coming with us saying she couldn't come because there was a really bad storm. I was somewhat skeptical as from leaving our house it was sunny and 110 degrees. Well, with the pictures attached as evidence, it was stormy. I really think here in Phoenix it just rains mud. Our nicely washed white car turned brown. It was disgusting. YUCK! By not Arizona standards it was a pretty lame excuse for a storm... no really wind... not that much rain... no thunder... no lightning, but what impressed me was that the raindrops literally were brown, it was raining mud! Gross!

The week really was busy with getting ready for one wedding and two baptisms. I think we had something related to at least one of the events each day. Between that and trying to keep up with our normal investigators we were running around like crazy all week. It was fun, but I think I reached a whole new level of exhaustion. Okay, so the wedding was beautiful. The ward really went all out, it was quite the party. When we left at nine the fun was only starting, I hear the party lasted until late in the evening, and I believed it from the tired looks on peoples faces in church on Sunday. It was also cool because President and Sister Taylor came. It was fun to get to introduce them to the members of the ward. The whole ward was really touched that they came. I also realized at the dinner after the wedding that I had reached a new bench mark of sorts for my Spanish. I realized I no longer really had to pay attention to understand the lyrics of the music that was playing in the background. It didn't matter what was on, I was understanding it. But back to the wedding, the bride and groom looked excited and happy and it all came off really well. This Saturday Raphael will be baptized, which we are also really really excited about.

Sunday was Kassandra and Vanessia's baptism. We had taught both of them because of various extenuating circumstances. It was fun to see them baptized, and I think they were quite happy to get baptized together since they are really good friends. It was a very different experience working with children. I've taught more children than I expected here on my mission... I think God keeps putting me in this position because he knows how much I don't like it. I like playing with kids and being around kids, but teaching kids is a whole different issue. If I ever even remotely thought I wanted a career working with children, I am now sure I don't. That said, I really did enjoy working with both girls, and I had a good time with them... but those teaching situations were really a stretch for me.

I forgot my journal this week, so I have nothing to jog my memory... so I think that may be all for the really exciting news of the week, although I am sure there are things I am forgetting. This transfer has been the best transfer of my mission. Our numbers this transfer were better than I've ever seen, and I am loving how much we are working. I love being this busy and being able to work like this. I'm hoping that with the start of this new transfer we will be able to keep things moving forward. I want to keep things progressing here. I think the thing I have loved the most this transfer is just feeling so satisfied and exhausted at the end of each day. We have worked so incredibly hard. Some of our days as we are out on bike we end up looking pretty scary, but that's okay... We're about half way through the worst of the heat... and I'm told that when September hits, it stays hot, but not quite as hot. By the end of this transfer we are starting I will have spent 7 months here in Agua Fria. That's crazy to me. The time here has really flown, and I am impressed ever week with how it manages to go faster than the week before.
I'm working hard here, drinking lots of water, and absolutely loving every minute!
Love you all!
Hermana Okeson

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nicole's Birthday

Hello All,

Nicole's letter has not come through this week but I thought I would send out a Birthday invitation. This is one of a different sort. I thought it would be fun for Nicole to receive a bunch of birthday cards for her birthday. Her birthday is Aug. 21. Here is the mailing address:
Sister Nicole Okeson
Arizona Phoenix Mission
18001 N 79th Ave Ste C50
Glendale, AZ 85309-8394

Thanks for following Nicole's Blog and for your love and support also.
Thanks, Effie (Nicole's Mom)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Running Like Crazy

Hello All!
It has been an incredibly busy week yet again. This week I set a personal record for my mission for number of lessons taught in a week... and that was after lots of others fell through. We are running like crazy. Hna Graves and I have been wondering lately if this is a sign that they will be splitting our area next week at transfers. It wouldn't surprise me. In some areas our numbers are almost that of what two companionship's would be expected to do in a week. Needless to say, it's exhausting. I don't think I've ever been this tired in my life, we run and run all day, and then come home with just enough time to plan and go to bed to start doing it all again the next day. It's exciting and I'm loving every minute.

I thought for a change in my letters, and to maybe give you all an idea of what a missionary day is like, I would write about one day exclusively... I'm pulling mostly from my journal entry and then adding a few things here and there. This is from Saturday... as a side note, Saturdays are usually one of our busiest days, and this Saturday was no exception. So if it sounds like we were really busy and did a lot, it's because we were and we did.

6:30 am ~ get up... I can't say I exactly pop out of bed... On Saturday morning what gets me out of bed is the knowledge that in 2 days on p-day I can take a nap. Usually by about 6:45 or so Hna Graves and I are gathered up and we run to the park where we like to exercise. We usually run laps around the park. We tried running together but we run at different speeds, so we settled for the park. It works pretty well, our only complaint is it's sooooo hot at 6:30... most mornings it's already 100 degrees. Yuck!
7:20 am ~ shower, get ready and eat breakfast.
8:00 am ~ Normally personal study, but Saturday mornings we have an investigator who lives a pretty good difference from us who likes to meet at 9, so unlike most days, on Saturday we pull snacks together to leave by 8:15 to make the 45 minute drive to visit Veronica.
9:00 am ~ Veronica wasn't home. Yuck-o. Especially because we had driven the 45 minutes to visit with her. We called a few times and heard her phone ringing in the house. She ended up calling an hour later and telling us she left for the store and completely forgot we were coming. Since we were already out and about we decided to run by the Velasquez family. Kassandra is getting baptized on Sunday, and it was Kimberly's birthday. They were a little surprised to see us so early in the morning but Kimberly was excited to have us stop by. We sang her happy birthday and I graced her with happy birthday in Welsh and Chinese (at least what I remember from hearing "Happy Birthday" in Chinese a few times). I'm sure I butchered them both because everything now comes out with a Spanish accent, but there were no complaints from the audience. When we left we drove another half hour to a cita (appointment) way south of where we were... Not there again. Yuck!
10:00 am ~ We decided to cut our losses and go to the library and try and get some study time in. It was a little weird studying at the library, but beggars can't be choosers. Luckily it was quiet and we were able to get some good studying in.
11:00 am ~ When we finished we ran over to the Castro's to knock doors in their apartment complex. We talked with Hna Castro and she suggested some neighbors for us to stop by. We did so (and talked with anyone else who would open the door on the way), and had a really good lesson with a woman named Miriam. She's very Catholic, but has lots of questions about what we believe. We'll see what happens.
2:00 pm ~ We ran all the way back to the north end of our area for some appointments we had later that day. We had just under two hours for finishing our studies and so we did so. As we were studying a lady saw us and came over to talk to us. Turns out she's a member and just wanted to say hi. I don't know if the Elders get that a lot, but as sisters, we are somewhat of a rare species, and so we have people stop us all the time. While we were studying we got a call from Raphael saying he got called suddenly to go into work and would have to cancel for the evening. We adjusted some of our plans and headed to our next appointment.
4:30 pm~ Another descent drive to get over to the Ayala's. We were invited over to share a message before Bryan (the 15 year old) had his birthday party. We showed up and things were pretty crazy, so instead of a formal lesson we helped clean, set up chairs, make punch, and carry out food for the party. We got a short message in, not quite what we had hoped for, but it was still a good visit.
5:30 pm ~ Since Raphael had canceled we decided to run over and try to catch the Gutierrez family at home. We almost never catch them at home, but lucky for us, they were home! What a huge blessing! We were able to teach a lesson and then at the end Hno Gutierrez gave us a ton of Gatorade... like everyone else, they worry about us out in the heat. Hno Gutierrez is a miner, and I guess they give him packs and packs of Gatorade and he has more than enough, so he gave us some. I think we have enough Gatorade for an army of missionaries.
7:00 pm ~ We had a little time before our appointment at eight so we drove over to make a quick stop by Leonila. We've been teaching her for a long time, and she's really going through a rough patch right now, so we wanted to see how she was doing and maybe share a thought with her. We talked about the power of prayer and having faith through hard times. It was a good, and much needed visit.
8:00 pm ~ One last cita for the evening. We went to visit with Mary (the sister who was baptized in May). She made fruit salad (she makes the best fruit salad I've ever eaten) and we were finally able to meet her husband. He owns a company in Mexico, and she has her own business here, so they travel back and forth a lot... we were excited to finally get to meet him. We had a great lesson on missionary work, and I enjoyed getting to visit with them, especially because Mary is headed back out of town and won't be back until August.
9:30 pm ~ We arrived home in time to plan, update our records, and get ready for bed.
10:30 pm ~ after another super busy day two completely exhausted missionaries finally got to go to bed.

There you all go! That is a day in the life as a missionary. No day is ever the same, but I thought this would give you all a fun picture of how things normally are for us. The biggest difference from the "norm" for Saturdays is that we move our study time around and do it in the afternoon because we have people who like to meet with us Saturday morning. Normally we study all in one chunk and around noon.

Other news from the week was that we had exchanges again on Friday. I went out to Wickenburg for the day. It was fun to go out there, I had a good time with Hna Jaunfrea (she was Hna Graves' companion in the MTC). It was also fun because I had been on exchanges there before and got to see some of the same people again. I liked that, it left me feeling a little less lost than I normally do on exchanges. It's a little hard being the missionary who goes to a new area for an exchange because you don't know anyone and you have to really rely on the Spirit to know what to share and how to teach.

I think that's all the fun for this week.
Have a great week! I love you all lots!
Hna Okeson

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monsoon Season

Hello All!
It's been another busy week here in Phoenix. We have been running from one thing to another all week. I'm actually starting to hope that our area will get split in two weeks, just because we really can't keep up with everything anymore. Having another set of missionaries here in Agua Fria would be a huge help. We'll see what happens. Main events from this week would include meeting President Taylor, getting caught out in the dust storm, and going to Mesa with the Valencia family. We'll see what all I can get in this week.

Thursday we had interviews, which was our first chance to meet and interact with President Taylor. He will be a very good mission president, but he is certainly a huge change from President Beck. Where President Beck was very formal and business oriented, President Taylor is a little more laid back. I am curious to see how things will be over the next few months. There were no huge changes starting off, but I figure they will come. For a little more background. President Taylor was an editor at the Deseret News, he had covered stories from all over the world, and most recently had spent the last year or so covering church affairs. His wife, who I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with runs a preschool in Provo that has a waiting list already for when she gets home in 3 years. We promptly invited her to come with us to our many lessons with children. We're teaching a lot of young families, and Hna Graves and I are fast running out of ideas. They came with their 16 year old son Braeden (I have no clue how to spell his name). He seemed like a good kid, and really enjoyed being with the Elders. I think this will be a good but interesting change. I didn't expect it to be hard, but I've struggled more than I expected. I think I fit more comfortably with President Becks way of doing things. President Taylor likes to chat a little more and the meeting was a lot more laid back. Where President Beck had an agenda timed down to the minute, President Taylor had a loose agenda of things that needed to get done. Both ways are good, it's just making the transition. I am excited though to keep working with him and see where the mission will go.

Dad mentioned in his letter about seeing in the news about a huge dust storm. There was a lot of dust. I felt like you could feel it in your teeth and like all you were breathing was dust. Luckily we were in the car that night, but I feel for all of the Elders who were out on bikes. The dust was thick enough as we drove home I could barely see the tail lights of the cars in front of me... it was like driving through a blizzard. The dust storm was also significant, or so I'm told, because it marks the beginning of the Monsoon season. No one told me it would get humid here! Shame on all of you! Dry heat when it's really hot is pretty miserable, but wet heat when it's really hot is awful. Luckily we're doing the best thing in the world, so it doesn't matter how miserable it gets, we're still happy about life. It just means we smell worse and worse every day. Oh well.

Saturday night we went with the Valencia's down to Mesa to the visitors center. I'd send pictures, but none of them turned out... something was up with the camera setting, and the battery was dying so I didn't have much time to mess with it. It was a really good visit. The best part was getting to talk with Raphael and Berenice about having a goal of coming back to the temple in a year to be sealed as a family. They looked so excited. Both of their faces just lit up as we talked to them. They are getting married on the 23rd, and I'm getting quite excited.

Besides all of that excitement things are going pretty much the same as ever. We are working hard, and seeing great results. I've seen so much progress here in Agua Fria, and I am loving every minute. It's really amazing how fast this time goes by. It's starting to really make me nervous. Thursday at interviews when I was talking to Sister Taylor she asked me how long I'd been out, when I told her she responded with "Oh, you're half way done! Bummer, we won't get you for very long then." Yuck. Each week goes a little faster and I am amazed at all that I am learning here. This really is the experience of a life time, you learn and see so much.

I love you all! Have a great week!
Hermana Okeson

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gatorade and Sunflower Seeds

Hi All,
It is HOT here in Phoenix. And as of the last three days it's decided to be humid. We spend most of our time looking like drowned rats... and we've started keeping perfume with us to try and mask the sweaty smell. It's always a little interesting when we show up in homes and the sisters want to give us a kiss on the cheek (that's the very very standard Mexican greeting). The increased heat has also turned most conversations to ones about what to do in the heat. Sunday we had a member give us four huge packets of Gatorade. I think we now have enough to last for at least the next month. He also told us to eat salty foods... so Hna Graves and I picked up a huge bag of sunflower seeds.
This week has been a really good week. Monday morning we got quite a fun phone call. Our Zone leaders were calling us to congratulate us for leading the Stake in numbers for the past week. We were pretty excited. I was especially, because I have seen so much growth here in my time here. Our "regular" numbers were numbers I could barely imagine for this area when I got here. This area was a historically "dead" area. I had heard about what it was like here before I got here, and to be honest, I was terrified. I remember spending my first few weeks here back in February feeling so over whelmed. It's really cool to see what a lot of hard work and prayer can do. We are so busy right now. By the time I get home at night I'm so exhausted. We spend all day every day working and working and working and I love it. Now I'm scared that in a few weeks at transfers they'll split the area. That's good news, but it would mean that one way or another we would loose some of the people we are working with. That would be really hard.
Our biggest news right now is that we are working towards wedding plans for Raphael and Berenice. Everything is starting to come together and it should be a really nice wedding. I'm so excited for them, and they look so happy. The Saturday of the wedding will probably be one of the busiest days of my mission, since that morning we will also have a baptism. I'm trying not to think of how we are going to fit everything in, or how tired we'll be. It should be a really really good day. We're also headed to Mesa with Raphael and Berenice to go to the visitors center with them. It's one more thing to be really really excited about. I'm pretty happy.
Mom asked about what work is like in the summer. Work in the summer is hard. We have a lot of people going to Mexico and very few people want to risk the heat to open their doors. It's also tricky to talk to lots of people, because so few people are on the street. I'm told that this is just what we should expect until the middle of September. Luckily at the beginning of August school starts, so the kids and their families will have to be back from vacation to start school. In some ways though, having some of our investigators gone has given us a little more time to focus on others who need a little more of our attention. We'll see what we come up with over the next month.
Tuesday we got to go on exchanges. I went back down to South Phoenix for a day. I loved it! I have such a love for those people and for that area. It reminded me a lot of the beginning of my mission, and it was fun to spend a day completely on bike without biking miles on end. It was also interesting because I was the decided Sr. companion in this exchange. I've done exchanges other times but for those I felt more like the Sr. companion by technicality... but this time I had been out longer than both of the other sisters (I was back in a trio for a day). It was fun to see the difference in work techniques and to get new ideas. I think that is one of my favorite things about exchanges is that you get some new ideas to mix things up a bit.
For anyone who was wondering... the Fourth of July is a fairly lame holiday as a missionary. That's okay. We were still able to get some appointments, while I think most of the English missionaries were grounded for the night. The rule was we could go to appointments if a member drove us there. None of our members had plans for the fourth, so we were good to go. It was cool though because we got to ask some of them what Mexican Independence Day is like. Let's just say I'm already getting excited for the 15th of September. True to form Mexicans like to party, and their Independence Day is no different. Ward parties are always good for us, because it's often the first time we can get some of our investigators to come to church and check things out. I also got a good laugh as I was looking through some old teaching records. The Elders who had served in this area a year ago added one more box to check on their teaching records. That box read "Invited to fiestas". Hermana Graves and I got a good laugh out of that.
I think that's all the fun for this week.
Love you all lots!
Hermana Okeson