Tuesday, November 29, 2011

6 More Weeks in La Joya!

Hello All,

As you can tell from the heading I'm going to be here in La Joya for 6 more weeks. I'm excited. I really love it here, and I'm enjoying the work. We had a little down turn last week as the cold that I fought off managed to find Hna Wells and really hit her hard as well. It took out some of our working time and left her as exhausted as it left me. Besides that things are going well. It's warmed up a little and so besides freezing to death on our morning run we've been okay. (I look rather ridiculous out running because I've crammed lots of layers on, but it works). It's amazing to see how much turn over we've seen in this area in the last 6 weeks. As this transfer came to a close I've done a lot of reflecting on all that has happened and it has been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. Hna Wells is another favorite companion. I will miss her. I still don't know who I will be serving with, so you'll all just have to wait until next week to find out. My options are Hna Garcia from Mesa AZ or an Hna H. from Orem Utah (she had a really long name and I didn't catch it all when President told me). I'm not really sure which I will be getting.

Now looking back over the week. Last Monday we played soccer as a zone. It was quite fun, the only down side was that I mildly sprained my ankle. OUCH! It left me limping for a few days, and biking was quite the experience. It's a little sore now when I run, but besides that I'm good. It was a fun Zone Activity none the less, and Hna Wells and I enjoyed being the handicap on each team (since neither of us actually knew what we were doing, we just sort of got in the way and tried to kick the ball... that was the best we had.... we're an art major and a music major...:-)

Tuesday and Wednesday were the days that we were down and out the most... between my ankle being soar and Hna Wells cold we were moving pretty slow. I guess it really just is that time of year right now. I'm just glad I got over it before transfers, because I want to work really hard with my new companion. We were really blessed to set a baptismal date this week. It's for a former investigator from the Elders who were here. He has a lot to work through but we're excited to work with him and to help him prepare. We have a few others where we've been working on getting them closer, some are progressing faster than others... but we'll see what happens.

Thursday was Thanksgiving. We were told that it was by appointment only... so we made cookies and took them to our investigators. It was pretty fun to drop by and surprise them, although we had to be quite insistent that we weren't there to stay long... Hispanics really are some of the most giving people I have ever met, and they just really don't want to let you leave without eating, chatting for a while, and spending time together. But, we did well. We only ate one Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving, which was our goal. Last year I ate 3 full dinners and wanted to die, so I vowed I would not do it again. I just got my Thanksgiving dinners for 3 days in a row, as every family we've eaten with this weekend fed us thanksgiving dinner.

I thought though I would note a few key differences about a Thanksgiving dinner with a Hispanic family. First, it doesn't have a designated starting time... we run on Mexican Standard Time... which means 30 minutes to an hour late at times. The ward thanksgiving started 45 minutes late, but our dinner on Thursday was actually pretty punctual. Second, you don't use a fork or spoon... you use tortillas. I've started to get really good at just eating with tortillas... I don't think I'll ever be able to eat tacos like a white person again:-). Third, there is no gravy. We use salsa. I didn't mind the salsa on the turkey or even the ham, but it was a little weird on mash potatoes, although it made for the spiciest mashed potatoes I've ever eaten. It was a fun Thanksgiving. I really enjoyed it. I really love the people I get to work with, and all day I remember thinking that I am so greatful that I am able to serve them and to be here in Phoenix. I know that Phoenix wasn't exactly where I wanted to come on a mission, but I love it here and most of all I love these people. They are wonderful.

Friday and Saturday were busy working days. We have been doing lots of visits, trying to meet all the members who live in our area. I'll be starting those again tomorrow with my new companion, but at least now I know everyone,

I've got to run I'm out of time.

Love you all.

Hna Okeson

Below some fun pictures of Nicole and Sis. Wells, Phoenix Arizona Mission's two Michigan Sisters!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Blessings and Miracles

Hello All,
This has been a really good week despite some challenging set-backs that tried to get in the way. We had multiple events over the course of the week that really showed me just how much Heavenly Father is aware of us and how He is the one who is guiding this work. We had a really cool lesson Tuesday morning. We'd been pretty stressed about this lesson, it was with a Sister who was struggling and needed a lot of help. She wanted us to bring someone who had some very specific things in common with her to the lesson on Tuesday. We'd hunted and hunted and not found anyone who matched up. It really highlighted to me how new both of us are in this area, even after 5 weeks I feel like I'm still just barely starting to get a handle on things here. Then, Monday night as we were about to give up we thought of one last sister to call and ask. We had decided we were just going to try getting anyone at this point, and we weren't going to worry about all the things that were supposed to match up. Well, the sister said yes. We breathed a huge sigh of relief and started to prep for how we would explain to the sister that we hadn't found exactly who we were looking for. Well, in the car ride as we were talking to this sister it turned out she had had very, very similar life experiences to the lady we were going to visit. The lesson went so well, and as they were talking Hna Wells and I just sat in stunned silence as we watched everything unfold. It really showed me that God does know what is going on, and that He really wants to help us, we just have to do our part and then He will do the rest.
Wednesday we had a sisters' conference. It was soooooooo much fun. I've got to figure out how to get a hold of some pictures from it. Prior to leaving on my mission I brought two memory cards... my first memory card is full and I can't find my second one, so I've just been asking people to take ones for me. It's not like we take that many pictures, just at big events and such. I got to play flute for the sisters conference which was fun. I played an arrangement of "Did you think to pray?" that Dad and I often played and it was fun to get to use the flute and play a song that I really enjoy. There were some great talks and lessons and I really enjoyed being around the other Sisters. It's tricky sometimes being a Sister Missionary, because we are very much out numbered and often are the only sisters in our districts and zones (ie area that we serve in). So, being at the sisters' conference was really, really nice. President Taylor came and was in and out for the meeting and shared some really good thoughts. I've really enjoyed having 2 mission presidents and getting to learn from them both. They are both quite different, but equally inspired and both great leaders for the mission.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday were rough days. I managed to pick up a nasty cold somewhere and it really wiped me out. I've decided a year + of running straight has really taken a toll. I remember picking up little colds here and there when I first got to Arizona, and not really struggling but this time around I think I was just too exhausted to efficiently fight it off. I'm feeling much better now, but it took a lot of sleep and just being down. I feel much better now, and I've decided I'm done with being sick for the rest of my mission. We'll see how that one works.
We were really blessed to find a whole family this week. I'm super excited. We have a lesson with them tonight. It's pretty tricky to find a whole intact family around here. Some of the situations with various issues here in Arizona have split up a lot of families, and a lot of other families have fallen apart on their own. So, finding a full family was pretty exciting. We're really excited to get to work with them and get to know them better.
Sunday I also was really excited to get to go back for the baptism of Ariana Carrillo. I had worked with her dad, Oscar Carrillo, for the better portion of my time in Agua Fria. It was so cool to go back and to see her get baptized, she is such a cute little girl, and I was so happy to get to see her. It was also fun to get to see some of the other people I worked with during my time in Agua Fria. I really have some fond memories of being there and working with them. It was also interesting to go back because effective last week the mission is no longer really giving permission for missionaries to return for baptisms in old areas. I had to really beg for that one, and it was interesting to know that my visit on Sunday was the last time I would be in Agua Fria as a missionary. Weird.
I think that's all for now. I love you all. Have a great week.
Don't forget, transfers are next week, so I won't be writing until Tuesday.

Love ya!
Hermana Okeson

PS (a note from the mom) Okay, I find it really annoying the way this shows on Nicole's blog. I don't know why it is coming up as a white back. Any one out there in the cyber world know how to stop this? I want the green back ground back!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mission Tour

Hi All,
This week was a pretty busy one. We've been running pretty hard, and I'm quite excited for my nap today. P-day naps are easily one of my favorite parts of p-day. We spent most of our week running from one thing to the next. One of the interesting things about being dropped into an area is that you quickly find out who was committed to the missionaries and who was committed to the message. It can be a little discouraging at times, but we've been really blessed as we've worked on finding people to teach. We're finally starting to see results, and I'm excited to see what happens over this week.
The big event of the week was our mission tour. Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the Quorum of the 70 came to visit and work with us. He was fantastic. I really enjoyed his thoughts and the things I learned from him. As an interesting side note, he used to travel to Midland a lot... apparently during the time when our family lived there, and he says he would often go to church on Sunday's there... so who knows, our paths may have crossed before. I didn't remember or really recognize him, but you never know.
One of the things Elder Duncan focused heavily on was love, and how all of our actions should be motivated by love. That really hit me. I think I've been a pretty good missionary. I'm obedient, and I do what I'm supposed to when I'm supposed to. I go out and work during the day, and I try to get as much work done as I can... but I realized that I need to do a better job really focusing on why I am doing these things. I need to remember that I do these things because I love the people I am called to serve, and that I want the best for them. It's not too hard to remember in lessons, or at church... but when someone yells at you on the street or says all sorts of awful things, it's pretty hard to remember. So I'm working on that. It's given me lots to think about, and I'm trying to really tighten things up and really work on my focus being 100% towards those I am serving.
There's really not too much else to report. We're keeping busy, riding bikes all the time, talking to lots of cool people on the street, and eating Mexican food. This week we have a Sisters Conference. I'm pretty excited. It'll be fun to see all the other sisters. I got to see almost all of the other Spanish sisters at the mission tour. We all crammed onto one table for lunch together. There is a lot of over lap as most of us have served together, gone on exchanges together, or served in each others areas. So there was lots to talk about. There are now sisters in my first area, Aguila, and I had a good time asking them about all of the people I remember from serving there. It's always fun to hear how they are doing.
Okay, I think that's all for this week. Sorry it was short.
Love you all!
Hermana Okeson

Monday, November 7, 2011

Freezing in AZ

Hello All,

Yes, you read the subject correctly... we've been FREEZING here in Arizona. I remember when I first started my mission, I used to tease my trainers for wearing so many layers in weather that I knew wasn't that cold. I used to get quite a laugh as I would see them pile layer after layer on, while I would just grab a jacket. Well, after a summer of riding a bike in 120 degree weather, I now understand. I AM SO COLD ALL OF THE TIME! It got down into the 60's this weekend and I thought I was going to freeze to my bike. I don't think I've ever felt this cold. It's pretty embarrassing. I don't really want to tell people I'm from Michigan any more, mostly because I don't think they'll believe me when they see me decked out in so many layers.

This week has been a good one. Monday was Halloween... and in true missionary fashion, it was super boring. We were grounded for the evening. However we made it interesting... Hna Wells had been wanting to dye her hair for a while, and she wanted to go for a strawberry blond color... so we decided Halloween was the perfect time to do it. So, as we went shopping we also picked up some hair dye. It was a pretty nice looking red. Well, as we mixed it up, and I started putting it on her hair, it got redder and redder. But that's okay, because the color of the dye isn't exactly the color that comes out. So no worries. By the end of Halloween Hna Wells could have passed for Strawberry Shortcake (the doll, not the dessert). We got a pretty good laugh. That's what happens when you put an art major and a music major together... some one's hair comes out in funky colors. Tuesday morning we rushed to the store and got a second dye to color over it... so now she's a dark brownish red. Not what we were going for, but it looks good. All in all it was quite the adventure.

Now for missionary work things. We've been so busy this week. I keep telling myself that we'll have this area figured out in the next week, and then new things come out of the wood work. This week we spent most of our time doing visits as assigned by the Bishop. It's actually been super helpful, because it's helped us get to know the members better. We ran all over the area trying to meet people... it translated into lots of biking. We also went on exchanges with the Encanto sisters. I went with Hna Jeanfreau (the sister Hna Wells trained) while Hna Wells went with Hna Graves (the sister I trained). It was cool because for the first time I got to do a repeat in an exchange. I went on exchanges with Hna Jeanfreau 3 transfers ago, so it was fun to see how she has grown and changed as a missionary.

The ward also had a baptism that was quite the event last night. We showed up at a meeting Sunday morning, and the Bishop asked one of the sets of Elders if they were ready for their baptism in the evening... they said no because this Hno was being baptized the next week... well, he was baptized last night. Turns out the Bishop had talked to this Hno and had got him to agree to be baptized on Sunday... and instead of telling the Elders the Hno had told them that he had a surprise for them on Sunday. Pretty comical. I got to play flute for the baptism for a special musical number. It was fun to get the flute out and play some. We played an arrangement that Dad and I have played many times of "Did you think to pray". It went well for zero practice time. There was a mix up and so I had to play it from memory... I was really glad we had chosen something I had played so many times because even though it's now been a year since I really have sat down and played, I could still play that one from memory.

Okay, I think that's all for this week. I'm out of time. Sorry it's a short letter.
Love you all!
Hermana Okeson