Monday, August 29, 2011

117 Degrees

Hi All!
Okay, so I scratch everything I said last week about this being a cooler summer. This week was one of the hottest of my mission. We nearly roasted alive. Aaaaaaand it was my turn to get sick from the heat. I'm pretty sure it wasn't a water related problem since I have trouble sleeping at night because I'm making trips to the bathroom. Anyhow, we were out on bikes and I developed the first signs of heat stroke... it was 117 degrees, and I was FREEZING! It was the most bizzare feeling ever. We ended up calling the Zone Leaders and they came to get us and our bikes, and once again we were grounded. Hopefully though we really are at the end of the really bad heat and things will start to cool off atleast a little from here. I'd settle for staying around 100 if I had too. That's a huge improvement on 110+.

We're at an interesting point right now in this area, we're teaching but no one is going anywhere. It's been a frusterating transfer, but I'm hoping that any time now something will change and we'll start seeing progress again. The real improvements this transfer have come from the ward we're working in. At the very begining of the transfer a new ward Mission Leader was called. Talk about answers to prayers. He's been wonderful, we've really enjoyed working with him, and he's been such a help in getting the ward more motivated. Now we just have to get the people we're working with moving forward. I think it will come, sometimes these things just take time.

We did have some interesting experiences this week that really showed me why it can be a huge blessing to be in an area for a long time. There were two families I worked with in the begining of my time here that over the last week or so I've had on my mind. Any time we were near their homes I would think of them and wonder how they were and what would happen if we were to stop in. Well, this week we had appointments fall through when we were close to both of these families, and we stopped by. In both cases we caught them at home, and they let us in. We were able to teach lessons and schedule appointments for the coming week. Neither of these families were in our back-up plans (which also fell through) but becuase I've been here a while and already knew them I was able to just stop by and we were able to get in their homes again. I'd wondered for most of this transfer why I still need to be in the same area, and I think in part it was for these families. If I hadn't remembered them they may have had to wait a lot longer for missionaries to come by again.

And now for a fun story from this week. Saturday we had a really cool chance to go spend time in the mission home. Sister Taylor wants to learn how to cook Mexican food, and being the closest Spanish Sisters we were in charge of finding someone to come. So, Saturday evening we went to the mission home and we made salsa with Sister Taylor and one of the sisters from our ward, Hna Calderon. It was super fun, and we made tons of salsa. We came out with five different salsas and they were all amazing. I am never buying salsa again... it's pretty easy to make, and turns out way better when you do it yourself. I've attached a few pictures, but Sister Taylor took way more, so you'll have to go check out the mission blog to get the rest.

Sorry this weeks letter is short, I ran out of time...
Love ya'll lots!
Hermana Okeson

Monday, August 22, 2011

Feliz Cumpleanos!

Hi All,
This week has been an interesting one. Monday right after I e-mailed we went with a group of missionaries to do a service project. We were out working in the sun for three hours and my companion got heat exhaustion. She passed out right in the middle of this old guys living room. Actually, we were quite lucky, no one saw her fall, and if she had fallen six inches in any direction she would have cracked her head open. Anyhow, we both got an up close look at what happens when you get dehydrated in this heat... it wipes you out. Monday we made it to one more meeting and then had to call it quits, and then Tuesday was a pretty light work day too. By Wednesday we were able to get moving again only to go tracting out in the sun for two hours and for Hna Alvarez to almost pass out again. We're now working on drinking more water. I guess our mission theme "living water to a thirsty land" can also be applied to the missionaries. Actually, according to the members in this area, this has been a very "cool" summer. We really only spent a week or two up by 120 and then the last two weeks we've been in the low triple digits. I'm not sure I believe that this was really a "cool" summer, but I'm counting my blessings.

Friday we had our first Zone Conference with President Taylor. Talk about turning everything upside down. A lot changed at this Zone Conference. A lot, a lot. I'm very excited though, and I think the changes are all good steps forward for the mission. It will just take a little adjusting. A lot of rules changed, with the most noticeable being about music. It has been moved to what the white handbook says, "anything that inspires, uplifts, and invites the spirit". I listened to Mozart for the first time in almost a year this past week. I was pretty thrilled. He gave us some more specific guidelines as far as what really fits within the definition, but besides that we have been asked to choose well. There were also some changes for how some of the inner workings of the mission will work, and so I'm interested to see how things continue to unfold. More and more I am seeing how President Taylor has been able to take all the things that have gone so well over the last 3 years and just continue to build on them.

Now for the birthday fun. The fun really started on Saturday. Saturday morning we got up at 3:00am to head down to the Temple in Mesa with some of the sisters from our ward. It was great to get to go down, and they are some of my favorite sisters, so I had a great time being with them. On our way home they took us to a Mexican bakery and we ate pastries for breakfast. I got a peach empanada, yum! (Think peach filled pastry and you're on the right lines).

We got back in time to help out at an activity at the church. They were doing a craft for making pictures of Christ to put up in homes, and one of our investigators couldn't come, so I made one for her. I was quite pleased with how it turned out. Hna Alvarez also made one for an Hermana who wasn't able to come last minute. After finishing the project (which took way way longer than we expected when we agreed to help) we went home and crashed. We were exhausted and figured if we didn't get some sleep made up we would be useless for the rest of the evening. Saturday night we ate dinner with the Waldo's and all of her grand kids came in to sing to me with an improv "cupcake and candle" (a little bowl of ice cream with a spoon stuck in the top). It was really cute. We made a few more visits and then called it a night.

Sunday started off with a bang. After I had gone to bed Hna Alvarez had decorated some of the house we live in, it was fun to wake up to. For church Hna Alvarez and I had been asked a few days before to speak in Sacrament meeting, and then right after that asked to teach Sunday school. What a birthday present. I shared some fun stories I had received in letters this week that applied to missionary work. One from Trent and then another that the Savilles had sent me about their time up in Tianjin. I thought the talk went well. I mostly focused on the members role in missionary work, and then how we need to have faith, patience, and open our mouths. The more I get comfortable with Spanish the more I enjoy speaking for things like that. After church we made a few visits, and then went over to Leonila's for my birthday dinner. It was quite the meal. I opened presents at her house and then we all went over to another families home for a Noche de Hogar (Family Home Evening) and birthday party. Hna Ayala made a Salvadorean specialty, Papusas, and I got to learn how to make them. I didn't get pictures of that one so I guess I'll have to go over again for practice to get some. All in all it was a fun day.

I thought to end I would share a really interesting experience I had two weeks ago. I've hesitated about sharing it because in no way is it an example of where my language skills are... but instead I really look at how the Lord can make us so much more than we are when we are doing what He wants. Two weeks ago we had a visit with one of the families we work with. We were going to eat lunch and then were planning on watching a movie. We thought we had the movie in Spanish, but then that morning I felt like we only had it in English, but not to worry because everything would be okay. I didn't think much of it until we pulled up to their home and discovered that in fact the movie was only in English. We prayed and felt really strongly like we needed to show this movie, and that everything would be okay. As we were talking about it I suddenly felt like I should offer to translate. I felt really peaceful about it, and we made that our game plan. We would watch the movie and I would translate. As we ate lunch with this family I was pretty nervous. I've never translated much before, and this was an hour long movie. Most translators (from what I've seen here) switch on and off because it is exhausting trying to translate for long periods of time. As we sat at lunch again I felt really peaceful and knew everything would be okay. After lunch we told them we would be watching the movie, and I said I would translate. Translating for that hour was one of the most memorable experiences of my mission. I did it, and it really easy. The words just came, even words I don't remember learning. It didn't matter how fast the scene was going or how fast they were talking, I could keep up. Verb tenses and vocabulary I had struggled with just came, and for the entire hour I translated. We left that appointment and I was more drained that I had been in a long time. I was exhausted. Here is the interesting part of the story, the next day in language study I decided to try translating a few short video clips just to see if I could do it again. I couldn't. Not even close. I could get maybe every third or fourth sentence and that was all. I know I was helped out so much in that hour, and it was because that movie was what the family needed. Only because they needed it and the Spirit was present was I able to translate like that. This really is the Lord's work. He really does lead and guide it, and He really does make us into so much more than we can be on our own.

I love you all!
Hermana Okeson
Ps. I hope you enjoy all of the pictures.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Area Book

Hello All,

It's been a pretty good week here in Agua Fria. We're working to keep busy, although it's been a rough run for the last few weeks. But, it's all about having faith, and the best will come. We did have some great moments this week. Our most exciting was meeting a fellow named Alex. For about a month I'd been feeling like we needed to go through the area book, because there was a baptism waiting in there. We'd set it as a back up plan for a while, and then finally we managed to go through and look for people to teach. (The Area Book, is a binder of records of all those who have been taught in the area. The records can date back years in some, although in this Area Book there are only a few that are that old.) I stopped at an older teaching record, and decided to pull it out. Often the turn over with Hispanics is pretty high, so if a record is over two or three years old the person no longer lives at the same address or has the same number. This record was one from 2007. We called, and the number worked! Alex said he would be happy to have us come by and share a little more with him, we set an appointment for the next day (Friday) and planned to go by and meet him. When we showed up he was so excited to see us. He told us he's been going through a hard time but has been reading the Book of Mormon. He then proceeded to walk us through all of his favorite chapters and the things that he had learned. After that he proceeded on to do the same with some of the things he had read from the Doctrine and Covenants. The best was when he got to Section 89 (The Word of Wisdom). He opened to that one and proudly told us that he stopped drinking two months ago, and that he hadn't smoked in over a year. We set a date with him for September, and we're really excited to work with him. He has teenage kids who seem pretty interested, so it'll be interesting to work with them some too. It was sooooo cool to get to teach him. I'm excited to keep working with him over the next month.

We've been out on bike a little more lately. The weather has started cooling down and so it's actually pretty nice. It's also become important as 6 months of being in Agua Fria has not done good things for the way my wardrobe fits. I'm half considering telling President he needs to transfer me to a ward that doesn't feed the missionaries so much because otherwise I may need to go shopping. So we're biking more. I actually prefer being out on bike. It's so much fun! When we're just in the car it feels like we're trapped in this little box. As we're out on bikes we get to talk to people, and it's fun to be out and about. By mid September we're hoping to be out on bikes a lot of the time. I've gotten pretty good on the bike, after feeling like I could never keep up with my companions at the beginning of my mission, I've been out long enough and biked enough that now I'm the speedy companion. Although I still don't think I could keep up with Hna Hoof. She was super speedy.

I got multiple comments about that locust in the car, so I thought I would clarify, It was about as long as my thumb and a little bit wider around. I've not really worried about seeing too many other bugs, although we see lots of lizards. I'm just grateful that I've not seen any snakes. Yuck!

We're still working with a few other main investigators, but most of our time right now is being focused towards finding. I like the finding process. It's fun getting out and meeting lots of people. This week is the meetings week of the transfer, which is not my favorite. I like being out working and I've determined that I don't sit still very well as a missionary. It'll be fun though to get to see what things are in store. This week is our first Zone Conference with President Taylor, and so I'm excited to see what he has planned. I've already seen quite a few changes in just the month and a half that he's been here, and I assume there are more coming.

I think that's all for this week. I love you all lots! Thanks for the letters and support, they've been a great help!
Hermana Okeson

p.s. (This is Effie) I received a letter from Nicole's new mission President and the invited everyone to view their blog. It is
Also a reminder to those of you who might want to send Nicole a Birthday wish, her birthday is this coming Sunday.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Locust in the car!

Hello All,
This week has been interesting. But the good news, is that interesting weeks are often followed by good weeks, so I have high hopes that this week will go better. That's the funny thing about being a missionary. You do everything you can, and then have to leave the rest to God. Sometimes it works out how you hoped, but often it works out better, the trick is that some times that time in between is a little more iffy. So we're in the in between time.

Dad commented about it being Typhoon season over in China. Here in Arizona it's Monsoon season. It's still pretty muggy. Hna Alvarez is from Florida, and assures me that this isn't too bad, but I'm pretty sure that this kind of heat with any humidity is a lot to take in. Luckily we're heading towards the end of summer, something I've been readily anticipating for months. I think the Elders are also pretty excited, because biking in this heat is a lot of work. We haven't spent too much time lately on bikes, something I miss. Trent talked in his e-mail about how he is happy that they get to go on the bus, because it's better for contacting people. For us bikes are a huge step up from spending all day in the car, although right now only the crazy people and the missionaries are outside. It makes for some interesting contacts. I think all of the sun sometimes messes with some of the people we run into. Hna Alvarez and I have set the goal to use bikes a little more. They're actually pretty efficient when we are out in the evening. Once it cools off to a more reasonable 100 degrees people seem more prone to come outside.

Okay, now for some interesting events from the week. Wednesday we were able to have Sister Taylor come out with us for the afternoon. It was really cool to have her, although once again it highlighted the differences between the Taylors and the Becks. Both are really good though, and I'm so greatful that I had the chance to work with two mission presidents and their wives. Sister Taylor was able to clear most of her afternoon, so we had her with us until 5pm. We made multiple visits, and were able to get a lot of work done. I've also been really impressed with the Taylors Spanish. It's cool to see how they both worked hard to be able to speak here with our members. (Both spoke Spanish previously, but had many many years with out using it much).

Thursday night Hna Alvarez and I had an interesting experience. As I was about to get in the car I felt some sort of bug zoom by my arm. I didn't think much of it, until Hna Alvarez and I shut the doors, and suddenly this huge winged bug flew in our faces. We shrieked and jumped out of the car as fast as we could. We then spent the next few minutes trying to find the bug to get it out of the car. Hna Gutierrez (the sister we had just finished visiting) came out to try and help us. We decided that it must have been the worlds biggest grasshopper and that it was now gone. We got in the car once again, and right as I put the car into drive, it came out again! The exact same chaos ensued and we both were now less than thrilled about the idea of carpooling with whatever bug it was that had made it in the car. Again we couldn't find the thing. So we set off on our way home. As we left Hna Alvarez looked down at the phone... somewhere in the midst of all the chaos we had accidentally dialed the Elders. They had heard everything. They thanked us for the evening amusement, and now everytime we see them we get comments about killer grasshoppers. In our defense, the next morning when we went out to the car we found the bug. It wasn't a grasshopper. It was a big nasty looking locust! Yuck! He was huge.

One of our huge blessings was finding a lot of people this week to start teaching. This is an area where traditionally it's hard to find people to teach. Hna Alvarez and I have been working really hard to figure out where the Mexicans are, and then to start teaching them. We had a huge miracle this week when we went to check up on a potential investigator and for once she was home. Visiting her is interesting. She has a huge dog that looks like he could eat you in one bite, and then three little dogs, que muerden (that bite). So going and knocking her door isn't much of an option. Instead what you have to do is stand outside of the gate and yell. You yell some, and then you take your key from the car, and bang it as hard as you can against the metal on the fence. Between the yelling and the clanking from the key on the fence and the dogs barking we were able to get her attention (she's hard of hearing and her TV is usually on pretty loud when she is home). I'm pretty sure the whole neighborhood knows everytime the missionaries come. We were excited to start teaching her, and her daughter and 5 grandkids were also around, so we had a great visit with all of them.

This week we also got to teach primary for church. It went pretty well. The kids were excited to have us there. Hna Alvarez loved it, she loves working with kids. I like working with kids, but not on that large of a scale and in another language. It was quite fun though. We had a short lesson and then helped them write letters to the missionaries serving from the Agua Fria ward.

I think that's about all for this week. We're working hard and keeping busy. I love you all lots. Thanks for the support and prayers!
Hermana Okeson

Monday, August 1, 2011


Hi All,
This has been another good week. It was a little weird with transfers being on Wednesday instead of Tuesday, but it all worked out well in the end. Now for what you all have been waiting for... My new companion is Hna Alvarez. Yes, her last name is Hispanic, no she is not a native Spanish speaker. Her dad is Cuban and her mom is Irish. What a combo! But, she didn't grow up speaking Spanish so she's learning it here on the mission. She's been out about 6 months, and served the whole time down in South Phoenix in Montana del Sur. She reminds me very much of serving with Hna Ayala, so this should be a very fun transfer. Her mom sent a package this week that included two flying monkeys... they are sling shot type stuffed animals... and we have spent a good deal of time pelting them at each other. Mine is named Charlie the Chango (chango is the Mexican slang word for monkey) he has a cape and a mask so he looks like some sort of masked flying monkey bandit... hence the monkey bandit type name. If you are lucky next week we'll send pictures with our monkeys.

This week has been interesting... it's always an interesting experience changing companions. You spend so much time with a companion that you get very comfortable with them. You become very comfortable teaching with them and fall into a routine of how you like things. Then you switch companions and all that goes out the window. We've been doing a lot of practice teaching to get comfortable teaching together. It always takes a little time, but one of our goals is to teach comfortably together by the end of this week. We'll see how we do. It's also tricky because you have to teach them the area... A lot of weight switches to the missionary who stayed, because suddenly your companion who knew the area and the people is no longer there to jog your memory or help you not forget people or things that need to happen. But all that said, Hna Alvarez is picking up everything really fast, and we have some great ideas to keep the work in this area moving forward. We have some great goals that we have set for things that we want to accomplish to get the work here up to the level that the other Spanish areas are. Right now the work is about par for an English area, but for a Spanish area it's still way below the mark, so we've still got a long way to go.

Mom asked in her letter about changes that were made in the mission with the new mission president. There have been huge changes, and most of them happened at Transfer meeting. It was cool to be there to hear all the changes. The change that has had the most responses was that President moved back to having Junior and Senior companions. With President Beck, after you had been out 6 months you became a co-senior. There have been some interesting comments and some very bent out of shape missionaries. That said, from the way President talked about it, to me it doesn't seem like it really should change that much... just that one person has the ultimate responsibility for the work in the area. Also, President split and re-aligned areas like crazy. For us here in Agua Fria it was a pretty big downer, because we are now the only Spanish missionaries in our Zone... English missionaries just are not quite as much fun as the Spanish missionaries. Both Hna Alvarez and I were pretty bummed. Also, the mission now only has one set of Assistants to the President. Previously there were two Spanish AP's and two English AP's. Before the reasoning was that this is technically a Spanish mission (meaning that we get the same focus towards the Spanish members and work as you would in Mexico or South America). But President decided that he just wants the two AP's, so two it is. Honestly, not too much of it affects me. He also talked about tightening up the rules and being more obedient, which was no surprise. And, all of the Spanish sisters were at transfer meeting. He really moved us around a lot! No companionship stayed the same.

Okay, now for a few more updates. Raphael's baptism was really lovely. He was so much fun to work with. I really love their whole family, and it was one of my best experiences as a missionary. I'll never forget how happy and excited he looked, those are the moments that make everything worth it as a missionary. Some times missionary work really is hard and long and exhausting. Then you have moments like that and suddenly all of the hours sweating like crazy in the Arizona sun don't matter.

The work here right now is interesting. Hna Graves and I had looked at the list of people we were working with going into the last week of the transfer, decided the majority really weren't progressing, and felt inspired to drop the vast majority. As a missionary that is both hard and terrifying. It's hard because you really love these people, but if they really aren't doing much or putting in their part, we need to move on. It's also terrifying because suddenly you are faced with a lot of time to try and find, and in this area that's hard, because there really aren't many Hispanics here. But, we're moving forward, and I'm excited to see what is waiting for us.
I think that's about all from Arizona. Love you all lots!
Hermana Okeson