Monday, October 31, 2011

Biking and more biking!

Hello All,

I remember during the summer saying that I couldn't wait for it to cool off, and that I hoped that when it did I would get sent to a bike area. Well, technically this isn't a bike area, but it might as well be. We bike everywhere! Pretty much the only time we use the car is to drive from our apartment and to park near our last appointment of the night. Then we pull the bikes of the bike rack and we ride everywhere all day. I think I have spent more time on the bike in the last week than I ever could have imagined. It's lots of fun! We get to meet a lot of people out on the street every day, and I'm really enjoying talking with everyone. It's also nice because this is a more Hispanic area, so well over half of the contacts we do on the street are in Spanish. I like feeling like I am speaking more Spanish, and I am enjoying the chance to dust off some of the Spanish vocab and skills I hadn't needed while I was up in Peoria.

Mom asked if we feel like we know the area better... that would be a yes and no. There are still people we have not met. We've met the majority of the people the previous missionaries were teaching, but there are still some that we cannot seem to get in contact with. It's pretty tricky. All we have with some of them is just an address. No phone number, no hints as to when they are home, no record of how much they were taught or if they were just contacts off of the street... so it makes for a lot of guess work on our part. We finally were able to meet with one family after one of the sisters in the ward gave us a suggestion as to when to find them home. That said, the members have been super helpful. There are a lot of people in the ward who are very involved in missionary work and we are never lacking for people offering to come out with us. That's really, really nice. We've had multiple members point out to us people who they know who might be interested, and we've also had lots of people who remember former investigators, and they've told us to go stop by. We are sitting on a pretty big list of people we're still trying to meet.

We've also had some entertaining moments as we've tried to chase down regular members of the ward. We were given a ward roster last Sunday, and set out to try and meet as many of the members who lived in our area as we could. We've discovered that some of the addresses need updating. My personal favorite was we went by one house for dinner with the family. We biked up and saw a kid playing out in the yard. We asked him if this was his house, and told him to tell his family we were here for dinner. Turns out the family who we were having dinner with had moved. Super awkward. We were already locking our bikes to the basketball net when this guy comes out and goes, "I think the people you are having dinner with moved..." We've now taken to checking addresses before our dinner appointments.

Being back in this area really does remind me of serving in Aguila. Once again you see cowboys out riding their horses down the street, and I've been chased a few times on my bike by dogs. One guy sicked his dogs on us as we were riding by, rude! We've also done some off roading through the cotton fields here, we just take the paths that the tractor would use. It saves us some biking distance, but sure makes for a bumpy ride.

I'll try to have pictures for next week. I keep forgetting to take my camera with me. I've got to work on that again. It's all that biking, you try to take as little stuff as possible, because you don't want to carry it all day.

Love you all lots!
Hermana Okeson

Monday, October 24, 2011

Somos las Hermanas de Michuacan!

Hi All!!!
Well, here is the news you've all been waiting for. *drum roll* I've been transfered to La Joya, in South West Phoenix. We have part of our area in Tullison, and part of our area in what I think is Phoenix itself. I'm with Hermana Wells. I don't know if you remember but five months ago (or so) we went on exchanges out in Wickenburg together. We're the two sister missionaries in the mission both from Michigan. Hence the title of this e-mail. Michuacan is a state in Mexico, and it's always fun to joke and say I'm from there, so now we say we both are. Actually, we started of with me trying to tell people I was from China because we both didn't want to say we were from the same state, but when people find out I don't speak any Chinese they don't believe me. Now I've dropped back to saying that I'm from Michican... and sometimes I add that my family doesn't live there any more and see if anyone takes the bait.

Now for some news about the area, we're both new here... until Wednesday morning there were Elders serving in the area we cover. It's a pretty interesting experience getting moved into a new area. We've certainly been busy. The first big "project" of coming here was cleaning up where we live. I remember Mom talking about getting moved into an apartment at the end of her mission where Elder's had lived, and now I understand what she meant about all the cleaning they had to do. Thursday morning I was up at 5am (I couldn't sleep...) and cleaned from 5 am until about 2 in the afternoon. Friday we got up early again and cleaned for a few hours, and then this morning we finished the last of the deep cleaning by about 10 am. To say the least it way pretty gross. But, now it's all clean, and we quite like the apartment.

The area we work in reminds me a lot of my first area down in Aguila. I really am loving it here, and it's fun because the ward is super excited to have sister missionaries again. There were sisters here about a year ago, but they got pulled out to open a different area. That's pretty normal for the Spanish sisters areas, There's about 10 or so Spanish Wards across the mission (by my best count) and 6 companionships of Spanish sisters, so they tend to rotate us through the different areas every so often. We are teaching a lot of people here. We've been here for 5 days now and we're still trying to meet everyone. It's really going to keep us busy, and we're trying not to drop the ball anywhere.

Now for a little about my companion, it turns out we have a lot more in common than just being from the same state. We'll start at the begining... Our dad's have the same career (chemical engineer), we were born in the same hospital, we both went to the same university (BYU), we were both in the same college in the university (School of Fine Arts), we've both been on the mission for around a year, and when we get home we'll both go back to BYU to finish school. There are a few other things that I'm sure I'm forgetting, but it's pretty funny to see how much we have in common. Hna Wells served the first part of her mission in El Salvador, but had to come home because of health complications. So last December she came here to finish her mission. I was a little surprised when we got put together, mostly because we are some of the "oldest" sisters on the mission. But I'm super excited. She's a really good missionary, and I'm excited to serve with her.

I'm not sure what else to tell you all about. It's really just been a lot of trying to get ourselves pulled together and to figure out what is going on. We're really really busy and absolutly loving it. President told me at transfers what he is planning for my last 4 transfers and I'm pretty happy with what he is planning on. So I guess that means there are probably no more surprises in store for me, but I think I'll keep you all in the dark so that atleast someone is surprised. I will tell you though that Hna Wells will finish her mission here with me in La Joya (she goes home in January). We're super excited to spend all of the holidays together and to work like crazy here. This is one of the busiest areas for the Spanish work in this whole mission, so we've got a lot to do, and really big shoes to fill. We both love being out and working, so this should be fun. It's also fun because this is a bike area... except at night. We've been told to use our bikes until it gets really dark and then to use the car. I've done so much biking in the last few days and it is so fun. We run into so many people out on the street, and the majority of them speak Spanish! I've done more Spanish contacting in the last week than I think I did in my entire time in Agua Fria. I'm also back in an all Spanish district, so we get do to everything in Spanish... and my entire district all serves in La Joya. This is one of the wards in the mission that has 3 sets of missionaries. It's a lot of fun being with the other missionaries and working with them, and there's a lot of combined effort here between the different sets of missionaries.

I think that's about it for the exciting news of the week. There will probably be more next week as we get to know the people here in the area. We'll see what we find. This is going to be a super busy transfer!

Love you lots!
Hermana Okeson

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Hi All,
Well, as you guessed, I'm being transferred. 8 months here. That's a long time. I'm not surprised. I was pretty sure that I was going. Now the question is where I am going. Honestly, I have no clue. I'm excited to go start again in a new area. It's always hard but fun. I feel like in my time here I accomplished what I needed to do, and that the Lord is happy with me and my work. Especially with having Leonila's baptism, I feel like I finished the last of what I was sent here to do. I really feel like I was here for her.

Well, this week was long, but good. We did a lot of finding, especially because pretty much all of our apointments canceled on us. That is where you really learn the value of your back up plans. We had some that put us in the right place at the right time. The coolest happened on Friday. We had set an apointment to visit a family, and then they had to cancel on us last minute. We decided to go visit one of the less actives in the ward, Gloria. We showed up over there and didn't find her, but did find her sister and neice sitting outside. They were coming to stay while Gloria went to Mexico for the weekend. There had been a mix-up and the keys Gloria had left with a neighbor didn't get to her sister. The cool thing was that we showed up and were able to help get the keys, talk to them, and now she wants missionaries to come visit her at her home. I had worked with this sister just 4 months ago, and she wan't interested. But after that chance to serve her and help her out, she was more willing to listen and excited to have missionaries come to her home and share more with her family.

Sorry, I have a feeling this is going to be a pretty spacey letter... my mind is spinning wondering where I will be sent. The rumor is they are opening a new sisters area this transfer... I'm really hoping that I get to go there. I think opening an area would be really fun. But who knows. There are some other areas that are also options, I guess I'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out exactly where I'm going.

I thought I would look back on my time here in this area... This has certainly been a growing experience for me to serve here. I've learned a lot. Especially as I've worked with a lot of different people over a long period of time. I've also seen a lot of results and a lot of blessings here. I watched on Sunday as an Hermano who I've worked some with recieved his first calling in years... when I first came he never came to church, but slowly he's come back and I was so happy to see him finally reach this point. Also I've seen a lot of the same progress with Oscar Carrillo and his family. I'll be excited to come back for his daughter's baptism in a few weeks.

I've also learned a lot here about diligence. I'm not going to lie. It's been pretty hard at times. Missions aren't easy. I've had a lot of things that have not gone as I would have hoped, and I've had a lot of dissapointments, but I've also seen a lot of joy and happiness here. I can honestly say that I love the people I've worked with. Serving here has taken everything I have, but it's been worth it. I'm excited to go somewhere new and to do the same thing, and to really work hard and give all that I have.

I've also learned a lot from my current companion, Hna Alvarez. I'm really going to miss that girl. She's taught me a lot about how to work with people, and how to really love those we serve. She's so good at looking for those who are forgotten and reminding them that they are loved. I've learned a lot from her about the value of slowing down a little to take a little more time with someone, and that we don't have to run at 100mph all the time. I've learned that it is okay to take a few minutes for yourself when you are exhausted (I thought it was super funny that Trent mentioned the same thing in his letter... I think both of us have some of the same perfectionist and workaholic attitudes as missionaries). Anyhow, this has been a good area for me, and I know I'll miss it. But I'm also excited to see what the Lord has in store for me.

Thanks for the letters and all of the support. I really appreciate those of you who have taken the time to write me. I'll try to get a few letters out this week, but I have a feeling that I'll end up using most of my p-day time to pack. So, if you don't here from me this week, it's because I spent my p-day trying to cram 8 months worth of life into the back of our car... yikes!
I love you all!
Hermana Okeson

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lots and Lots of Biking

Hello All,

Well, last week was one of the best of my mission, and so in true rollercoaster style, this was one of the not so good ones. That's okay though, that means this week will go better. The exciting news of the week was that I got the flute in the mail. I was pretty excited. I've had a chance to play a little since getting it, and am I ever rusty! That's okay though. No one here knows what I sounded like before, so they have nothing to compare to. Mostly it's just that everything moves a little slower than it used to, but I'm really not worried for when I get home. I played some this morning and just felt like when the time comes things will come back just fine. That was comforting. Now I'm working on finding a pianist, because I would love to play a musical number in the ward I've been serving in. I feel like I need to redeem myself here... they've only ever heard me play hymns on the piano in sacrament meeting, so I feel like a bit of a faker when I tell them that I studied music performance before the mission. (It comes up pretty quickly that I am studying the flute not the piano.)

This week was rough mostly because everything managed to fall through on us which meant we got to do a lot of finding. Finding is good. We have spent the better part of the last week on bike and riding through different parts of our area. On Thursday we actually found an area that I had never been to that seems fairly Hispanic. We're pretty excited to go back there and to do some finding. It's also been nice to be out on bike because the weather right now is perfect! We've sat at about 75 degrees every day, after a summer of 110+ only 75 degrees feels so good. The locals here also agree, and it's been evident by the fact that there are now people out on the streets. In the dead of summer the only people out on the streets were the crazies and the missionaries.

We're now gearing up for another baptism here at the end of the month. We're pretty excited. Her name is Yizelle and she's 14. Her family hasn't been to church in a long time but we're working at getting them back. They made it to church on Sunday which was a huge step forward. She's a whole lot of fun to work with. We're hoping that after she gets baptized her older brother will change his mind and decide to be baptized too. They're a fun family to work with, and we're enjoying getting to work with them. It's actually pretty funny... before I came to this area all of the baptisms were in the southern end of the area... since I've gotten here all the baptisms we have seen have been way in the northern part of our area. I'm not sure what that means... but it's been interesting to see how far north we work in comparison to all of the previous missionaries who have served in this area. It's actually nice... because the southern area is pretty burnt over... so it's good to go places where people are more willing to listen at least for a few minutes.

Mom asked about my goals for the last part of my mission... I really just want to work really hard. Multiple people in their e-mails commented on how they liked the conference talk by Elder Arden of the 70 about time management. I really liked it too... I think we Okesons are all the same... Anyhow, I really did enjoy it and thinking about how we use our time. It really does fly by, especially as the end of the mission comes faster and faster. Next week I start my 9th transfer (sisters serve for 12 transfers). Like Trent, I've become one of the decidedly "old" missionaries. Also like Trent said, it's nice to have been out for a long time because you get very comfortable with the routine of missionary work. You know how things go and how they are supposed to work. I like having the routine down, but getting caught in the routine can lead to time wasting. It's also interesting to work those sorts of things out with a companion. Everyone brings different things to this work... I've heard that my reputation in the mission is as a really, really hard working missionary, which I like... But like I said, we all bring different things. It's interesting to look back at the things I have learned from each of my companions. Hna Alvarez, my current companion, is really a social character... and so I've learned a lot about working with people from her. She loves being in the thick of things and talking to lots of people. I like being a grunt... I like doing the work but would pretty happily stay doing my work in my area off on the side somewhere. So, I've been pushed out of my element quite a bit over these last two transfers, which is probably good.

Other things for the end of my mission... I really want to figure out how to really polish my Spanish. It really makes a difference being able to really communicate with people on their own terms and in their own language. Most of the time I do pretty good, but every so often there are a few verb tenses that still manage to really trip me up. I can understand them and follow what is going on when they are used, but using them myself is still a little tricky. I'm also working on reading the entire Bible in Spanish. I'm trying to keep up with those reading for Seminary; only I'm on a little bit of a faster track because I have to finish the New Testament too. I think I will finish everything a little after Christmas if all goes well. It's really cool reading the scriptures in another language because different things stand out. I really like that. I have some favorite verses in Spanish that just aren't the same in English. I'm also looking forward to being able to tell some of the cranky people on the street who accuse me of having never read the Bible, that I in fact have... and I've done it in two languages. :-)

We have transfers next week; it'll be interesting to see what happens. I'm almost positive I'm staying here again... at this rate I think I could end up serving my entire mission here. I'm just hoping that if President wants to transfer me that he doesn't wait until the end of this next transfer, I think it would be hard to get transferred to a new area right before Christmas. But who knows. That does mean, that my letter next week will be sent on Tuesday, and not on Monday. There are no new sisters coming in who speak Spanish until January, so things should be fairly stable until then... I would expect a few small changes here or there, but that the really big move for Spanish sisters will probably come again right after Christmas.

Okay, I'm out of time. I love you all. Thanks for the letters and the support!


Hermana Okeson

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Really Good Week!

Hello All,

This has easily been one of the best weeks of my mission. We'll see if I can fit everything in that I want to. We started off the week with exchanges. I've always quite liked exchanges, I enjoy the chance to get ideas from another missionary, and to work with someone new for a day. This time around I worked with Hna Overy, she is in her 2nd transfer and we spent the majority of the day working on Spanish. It really made me realize what a blessing it was to come out already speaking my mission language. I still had a lot to learn, but for the most part I could communicate and get a general grasp of what was going on. I was able to work with her a lot on methods for learning a language, and trying to help her progress with that. It also made me realize just how much I pull music habits into everything I do. I realized as I was walking her through some ideas of how to study Spanish, that I approach my daily Spanish studies like a practice session... I got a good laugh at that one. Some habits are pretty strong I guess.

Thursday and Friday zipped by, as we were working to get everything ready for Leonila's baptism, and also trying to get as many people to conference as we could. Leonila's baptism was incredible. It was easily the best moment of my mission thus far. I've spent 6 months working with her and watched her go through a lot, and so seeing her finally take this step was so cool. The Spirit in her baptism was incredible, and I loved being there. It was also fun because Mary, one of our other recent converts gave the talk on the Holy Ghost. When we told her earlier in the week that Leonila wanted her to speak, she was pretty nervous. We went over and spent some time helping her put together her talk, and it went really really well. It was so cool to see her progression and to listen to her talk about her conversion. Also, Hna Graves came to the baptism! I was so excited to see her. Unfortunatly, things were crazy and we really didn't get to talk too much. It was cool in the little time that I did get to see her to see how she has progressed as a missionary. She was a really good missionary when I had the chance to serve with her, and she has only improved.

General Conference was really good for me. I needed so many of the talks. Mom asked in her e-mail about changes that I have noticed as I have served, and it was interesting because I had reflected a lot on that over the course of this conference weekend. I thought a lot about how 1 year ago as I watched conference I was terrified. I had only been a missionary for a few weeks and I was so nervous about everything that was coming. I was nervous about the time commitment, my Spanish, my future companions and just about anything else I could think of. As I looked back over the last year, I was really hit by a huge sense of gratitude. I feel so incredibly blessed. I feel like here on my mission I have gained far more than I have been able to give. I think one of the biggest blessings from my mission is a love of the scriptures. I enjoyed studying the scriptures before my mission, but now I really love it. I've gained so much as I've studied daily, and I know it's a habit that will really bless me for the rest of my life. I've learned a lot about patience as a missionary. I thought I was a pretty patient person before my mission, but looking back I really wasn't. I've had a lot of experiences here as a missionary where I've had to learn a lot about being patient, both with myself and with others. I've also learned a lot about service and charity. One of the coolest things about being a missionary is that you feel the most incredible sense of love for the people you serve. I would do anything for these people. It's hard for me to imagine my life with out them, they've made such a huge impact on me. Even some of the people I've only met or worked with briefly have helped me grow. I feel a lot more committed to serving for the rest of my life. Before my mission I was willing to serve... in the right situations. Now I have learned that it really doesn't matter where or how we serve, but that we do it and we give all that we can. I've realized as a missionary just how blessed I am. There is nothing like seeing people who don't have the same oportunities and blessings as I do to remind me how much the Lord has blessed me in my life.

That leads me to one of the biggest things I learned at General Conference. I've been pretty worried of late about what will happen in 6 months when I go home. I'd not worried about that since the begining of my mission, but people are starting to ask me in the ward (because I've been here a really long time, and so they think I'm headed out pretty soon... no matter how often I remind them I've still got a while). As I watched conference and thought back on all of the blessings I have seen in my life, I realized that those blessings won't stop when I go home. I realized that I will be blessed for this time and service, and that all I have to do is give everything I can for these 6 months, and that God will take care of everything for me. There is an Elder I have served with who is a pianist hoping to study music when he goes home... I've watched as he's been less than obedient about piano and music on his mission... and I've thought a little about that. I may be pretty (okay, really, really) rusty on the flute when I get home, because even with a flute here I won't actually be able to really practice, but I'm glad that I will be able to turn to my Heavenly Father and tell Him that I did what was asked of me, and know that I will be blessed.

The last really good event was taking Oscar and Ariana to the temple Sunday evening. I have been working with Oscar for about 4 or 5 months now. When I first started working with him, he really wasn't interested in coming back to church. But we kept coming by, and working with him and trying to answer his questions. After conference he caught me and thanked me for the months of persistance. He told me he finally got his answer at General Conference and really felt like he was in the right place. He was really excited and a completely different person when we went to the Temple with him and his daughter. He was showing her stuff, and talking to her about how much he loved all of these things. We were able to have a good talk about the blessings of the temple, and it was cool to watch Ariana (she's 8) look around and say "I think Mom would have liked this". Her mother passed away from cancer 2 years ago, and while we were at the temple, I know she really felt her Mom's presence there. It was really special to be able to be there with her and her father, and to reflect on all of the blessings of the temple in my life and the life of my family. It's really an incredible thing to know that our families can be together forever, and that death isn't the end.

Well, this has been a pretty long letter. I've had a lot to reflect on, and you all managed to get some of it. I love you all. Thank you for your prayers, letters and support. I really appreciate that.

Hermana Okeson

Ps. For a funny moment of the week, I learned why Grandpa Okeson's #1 running goal is to not fall. I took my first really big fall while running this week. I was sprinting and hit a crack in the pavement and flew throught the air only to skid on the right side of my body across the pavement. I'm pretty beat up, but no worse for the wear. I do have an impressivly black and purple knee... it's huge and a little stiff. Sorry, no pictures of that one. It looked pretty impressive though, I caught some pretty good air before I hit the ground. :)