Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Hi All!

It has been a busy week in La Joya. Like Trent, we had interviews this week too. I thought interviews with President Taylor were long, but Trent’s mission has ours beat. President Beck (the last mission president) did 2-3 minute interviews. Those were speedy interviews. So when President Taylor came and did 8-10 minute interviews it seemed quite long. Actually, I really enjoyed interviews. I usually do, but this makes my favorite interview experience. I really enjoyed it because President asked some really good questions. I thought I would share the three questions he asked all of us, because they were really good questions.

First he asked, what are you trying to improve in your life? Then, what would your companion like you to improve? Finally he told us to imagine that the Savior came into the room, put his arm around us, and told us He is proud of our work, and accepts our service. Then he tells us one thing we could do better. What is that one thing?

Wow. Those questions left me with a lot to think about. They are pretty good questions for throughout your life, but especially as a missionary where we are working so hard to improve and to do the Lord's work. It was a really good experience. It was interesting because I am now on the tail end of my time as a missionary. The next interview I have with President is my exit interview. Yikes! It was cool with the third question to be able to look back on my time here
and to realize that my work has been accepted. I have not been a perfect missionary, but I have done my best and tried to serve as the Lord wants. I felt the spirit so strong as I thought over my time, and then as I thought about what I would like to improve over these last 9 weeks. I've got plenty left to do, and I am trying to throw all I have into what I have left and make it count.

We taught a really fun Plan of Salvation lesson this week with Nathan. He's 9, and so our lessons are a little more interactive, which is fun and also challenging. We decided that for teaching the Plan of Salvation we were going to draw it all out on the floor with jump ropes and broom handles and who knows what else, and then spend the lesson walking through. We used coats to represent our bodies (ie come to earth and get a body= put on the coat, die= leave the coat in the "earth" circle, resurrect= get your coat back but imagine it's a way cooler coat). It was pretty fun. We had the lesson stretched
from one end of the house to the other, and we had some good laughs as Nathan and Manuel came up with their different death stories (figures that 9 and 10 year old boys would want to have super drawn out deaths... it was pretty comical). It was a really fun lesson, and also really good. Kids can be a handful to teach, but it sure can be fun sometimes.

Besides that things have been moving forward as normal. We're keeping pretty busy, and the weather has gotten really nice, so we're constantly out on bikes. I really like that. People are actually outside right now, so we are talking to lots of people. I keep telling Hna Harding to enjoy it while it lasts, because eventually when summer hits only the crazies and the missionaries are out on the streets during the day. This next week is already looking rather crowded, so it should be another fast week. I wake up in the morning on P-day and wonder how it came so quickly. Time sure manages to fly by really, really fast as a missionary. Thanks for all of your prayers and support.

Love you lots!

Hermana Okeson

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cookies and Tortillas

Hello All,

It has been a good week. Not necessarily an easy week, but looking back it has been good. We are making good progress in the area, and helping the work move forward. I'm not sure what all to write about. It feels like it all is passing by me so quickly. I find myself watching things happen and realizing just how short this time is. It makes me wish somehow I could put this on pause, but I guess that's not possible.

I think my favorite event of the week was teaching a family we work with how to make cut out sugar cookies. We've been working with the Jimenez family pretty much since I got here, and we're working on their 9 year old son, Nathan, to help him be ready to get baptized. He's a good kid, but is pretty quiet, which makes teaching him a little hard. We decided we needed to do something with him to get him to talk a little more, and decided that the best method was teaching him to make cookies. (We'd taken him cookies for Christmas and Thanksgiving, and they loved them!). It was a fun experience, and certainly got him talking a lot more. It's interesting, I never thought that as a missionary I would spend so much time working with children, but I realized that almost half of my baptisms have been children! I've learned a lot about working with them, and while I really didn't like teaching kids at the start of my mission, I enjoy it now. I don't know that I can say it's my favorite, but I do really enjoy working with them.

Speaking of children, we are still working with the Chavez family. Jessica got baptized last week, and now we are working on Mom. It was pretty funny, Jessica is all bent out of shape that she doesn't get her own lesson time with us like her mom does, so we are headed over this week for a lesson just with Jessica. She's rather set on the idea, and has told everyone that on Wednesday we are hers. Should be good. She's a lot of fun. We actually had a really cool miracle with her. When we started teaching her in December she could barely read. We knew though that she needed to start reading the Book of Mormon. In the lesson we felt really prompted to promise her that if she faithfully read her Book of Mormon that her reading problems would go away. Well, two weeks ago she took a reading test, and in less than a month had improved from a 17 to a 40. (I'm not sure what the scale is on, but I gathered that it was a huge improvement). Her teacher was amazed and asked her what she had been doing, she told her teacher she is reading the Book of Mormon. That's pretty cool.

We're also going to have an interesting experience with the Chavez family on Tuesday. Well mostly with Isabel... we're going to go help her give the dog a haircut. I'm less than excited, but Hna Harding loves dogs, so she's pretty thrilled. We've been doing random chores and yard work with Isabel for the last few weeks whenever we can, and it's provided a good time to just get to talk with her and get to know her better.

Mom asked what the most interesting thing that I have learned on my mission was... I'm not sure if it's the most interesting, but I've finally learned how to eat a taco like a Mexican. Growing up I thought that to eat a taco you got the tortilla, loaded it up with goodies, folded it and ate it. I learned pretty early that that was how the gringos ate their tacos. To properly eat a taco you rip the tortilla with your hands and use your hands, another piece of tortilla (or on rare occasion a spoon) and push some stuff into a small part of the shell and eat that. Depending on the food there are different ways of folding your little chunk of shell and eating with it. My personal favorite is making a little cone out of it, but that only works well for beans and rice and carefully cut meat. If it's a big chunk of meat you rip the meat with your hands and then put some in the tortilla. It was a little weird to get used to. Sometimes if it's a really nice meal the tortillas will come with the meat and salsas already in it, then you can just fold it and eat it, but the majority that I have eaten, have been a do-it-yourself sort of taco experience.

Does that count as interesting enough? The only thing I can't do with a tortilla is roll it like the Mexicans do when they eat soup. They place the corn tortilla flat on their hand and then run the other across it super fast and it comes out rolled up super tight and they use that to push the stuff onto their spoon for the soup and then to soak up the broth. I've also learned that a tortilla is the replacement for anything... they get used everywhere.

I think that is all for this week. I'm sure I probably forgot something or other, but at least this time the computer didn't eat my e-mail. I love you all lots! Thanks for your prayers and your support.

Love ya!

Hermana Okeson

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Computer ATE my e-mail!

Hello All!

I had a lovely e-mail written for you, and then the computer ate it. grrrr. So now you get a very short e-mail update on my life.

1. Jessica's baptism was lovely. I played flute which was nice. We had a good chat with her mom about baptism after. We'll see when she decides to be baptized too. We also had a miracle with her 17 year old brother. He's now going to let us teach him. Yay!

2. The skirts for Michelle worked great. Some of them were a little big, so she's having them taken in, but she was really excited about them.

3. We are keeping super busy! Over the last week we got more referrals than I think any other week of my mission. So, we're teaching a lot right now. Hopefully it sticks. We'll just have to wait and see on that one.

4. Today we're headed to the temple with one of our investigators. That should be nice. I'm excited for the visit, and it'll be nice to be able to show Hna Harding around the visitors’ center.

5. Mom asked about what has helped the most, and I had a really good response to that one, but now you get the Readers Digest version. The thing that has helped me the most is knowing exactly why I am here. Missions aren't easy, and so it's good to know I am here because I know this is where God wants me to be right now and also to know that the message we are sharing really can and does change lives. It's pretty cool to get to be a small part of that.

Okay, I think that's all. Sorry this is really short. Love ya!
Hermana Okeson

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Hello Everyone!

Happy New Year! We celebrated in typical missionary fashion... we went to bed. It looked like most of the people at church didn't do the same, as the congregation looked pretty wiped out Sunday. This round of the holidays has been a little more rough on the teaching and working. I have to keep reminding myself that last year I was covering two areas for the holidays, so that made it seem like there was lots of work. This year with just one area it's been a little harder. In our case it meant we were grounded when our appointments fell through new years eve, and also on new years day. Actually, the down time was nice. Not something I think I could get very used to as a missionary, because I would much rather be out working, but it was nice to have some down time for a day.

Honestly, the weeks are really starting to blur together again. It took me a lot longer to reach this point in my last area, but here the days just seem to run together into one big day. It's amazing how fast the time is going. I wish I could figure out how to put the breaks on, but each week seems to go by just a little bit faster.

I think the even of the last week that sticks out the most was meeting a woman named Erlinda. We met her on Friday. We were out on bikes with the goal of talking to lots of people and trying to set return appointments. I saw Erlinda from a distance and honestly dreaded approaching her. She was a little old lady, and usually if they are little old Hispanics they aren't much for talking about anything except the Virgin Guadalupe (the patron saint of Mexico). I'm a little ashamed to say I almost talked myself out of talking to her, but then as I passed her on my bike I felt like we needed to talk to her, so I turned the bike around and stopped. Talking with her will forever be one of my favorite memories from my mission. We didn't get a return appointment, we didn't get to give her any literature (she can't read), and we didn't even get her address. But, what we were able to do was to offer her a little comfort. Turns out her adult son was missing and she had taken the bus to come to his house and hopefully wait for his return. She was so sad and so alone. She just really needed someone to be there with her. We talked with her and waited with her for a while. She told us about her life and how she had come from Mexico. She told us a little about her family, and shared some of the trials she has experienced over the years. It was a really special experience to talk with her. I think that is really what we are here to do as missionaries. We say we're representatives of Jesus Christ, but I think we let ourselves fall short of that. She needed someone who cared enough to listen and to spend that time with her, and I'm grateful that we were in the position to help and serve.

I think I have a little writers block today... I can't think of much. We're keeping busy and working hard. Mom asked about our living situation... We live in some pretty ghetto apartments, but for being in Phoenix as missionaries it's not too bad. I know of other apartments where the smells that stick out usually are smells of illegal drugs and who knows what else, so ours is actually pretty good. We have plenty of room, it's a two bedroom apartment, and we have 2 bathrooms also. We have our beds in the smaller bedroom and them some desks and miscellaneous items in the larger room. We have an okay sized table in the kitchen and then in the "living room" we have one more desk, a chair that I refuse to sit in because it smells funny, and a couch. It's not too bad. This apartment has had missionaries in it for years, so it has tons of stuff. We have a closet that is just full of random things that Hna Wells and I found when we moved in. Every so often I think about going in there to clean it out, and then I think better of it and decide not to. Mom asked also about "smells of the mission" and the one that sticks out to me the most is the smell of the laundry detergent that I'm pretty sure all Mexicans use. I can pick out a Mexican home by the smell of that detergent. It tends to stick out no matter where we go, especially in some of the poorer neighborhoods.

I think that's all for this week!
Love you lots!
Hermana Okeson