Monday, February 27, 2012

Solano Este

Hi Everyone,
Well, I'm now serving in Solano Este. I think this has been a good change. There is a lot of work to do, and we are keeping very busy. We have our work cut out for us here, and I'm excited to see how things go over the next transfer. Getting moved for your last transfer has its advantages and disadvantages. It's nice because no one really knows how long you have been out, and so I don't really get asked much, and then when I do get asked I respond with "a little over a year" which is more or less true. There are a few people who recognized me from a baptism that I came to with Hna Ayala, so they know I've been out longer, but as for the rest, I'm just some new missionary who is here to work.
Speaking of work, working in a bike only area is interesting! You meet a lot more crazies on the streets when you are on bike constantly. We work in some interesting neighborhoods, and we are meeting a lot of people. I'm still trying to get all of the names down and keep everyone straight, so I'm not sure I could give much of an update on that. It's just a lot of work, and we are keeping really really busy. I'm exhausted every night by the time we get home, and I'm also glad that it's not the middle of summer. It's been plenty hot, and it's just going to keep getting warmer, so I'm glad I only have to do this bike area thing for one transfer.
I'm not really sure what else to talk about... I think you all need to start sending me questions again... becuase I'm out of ideas.
Other things... Well, maybe I'll tell you a little more about my companion. Her name is Hna Garcia... she's from Fresno California, although her family currently lives in Farmington Utah. She is the oldest of 3 and the first missionary in her family. Her mothers parents are the first members in her family, and her Dad joined the church about 3 or 4 years ago. She's been out for 5 months, and she is a ball of fire. It's pretty easy to tell that she loves being a missionary, and I am enjoying serving with her. The fun fact with her is that she is my very shortest companion which says a lot, Hna Ayala was 5'1''. Hna Garcia is 4'11''. We get a lot of laughs. It's pretty funny. Sometimes we'll see our reflection in the mirror when we're brushing our teeth or something a just crack up becuase we look so funny next to each other.
It's really weird being at this point. You spend your whole mission watching other missionaries go home, and then suddenly you are the old missionary. It's cool to look back on my time of service and to see the things I've learned. I feel like I have learned so much from each of my areas and companions, and I am really greatful for this time. I just wake up and feel like it can't really be ending. I think I feel like that especially because I'm only going to be here for one transfer, and that is just such a short amount of time. A transfer goes by really quickly, so I'm trying to make the most of it.
I think that's pretty much all of the excitement. Please send me questions for next week... they really help.
Love you all lots!
Hna Okeson

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Hi Everyone!

President gave us permission to send a brief e-mail home with our new addresses. Today was the first chance we've had to do so. I am now serving in the Solano ward with Hna Maria Garcia. It's in the Glendale stake. It is an ALL BIKE AREA.... So I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks. I'm exhausted constantly, but it's a lot of fun. We meet a lot of crazies being out on the streets on bikes at all hours, but we also meet some really cool people. There is a pretty good teaching pool here, which is nice. I've not often had that luxury when coming into a new area.

Okay, I've got to run... but I thought I would send a picture to describe my companionship...
I love you all lots, and I'll write more on p-day.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Transferred to ???

Hello All,
I'm being transferred. We just got the news. Even though I was pretty sure this was coming, it's hard realizing it's a reality. This is the best area that I have served in, and I love these people so much. It's really going to be hard to leave them. On Sunday I got to play in church. It was the best I have played my whole mission. Somewhere out of no where my sound came back, just for those 5 minutes. It was really good to be able to play, I guess that was God's little gift to me to let me say goodbye to my favorite area. He helped me play how I used to so I could share my testimony with the members of La Joya.
Man, this is really hard. Really, really, really hard. And I haven't even started to say goodbyes. I just keep working to remember that God has more for me to learn, and needs me somewhere else for my last 6 weeks. This work isn't about me, it's about doing what my Heavenly Father needs of me. I've seen a lot of progress here in La Joya. Both in myself and in those we work with. This hasn't been easy. I guess I could say that of any time I've served as a missionary. Each part of the mission is a refining process, and sometimes it puts us in positions we would not choose on our own. I don't think I would have chosen to be moved for my last 6 weeks as a missionary, but I know this is what I need.
I read a really good talk this morning during my studies. It talks about different types of missionaries, and how the best missionary is the one who not only serves with his might and strength, but also all of his heart and soul. It talked about how the mission (and by extension life) is a molding process, and that we can choose to allow the Lord to mold us, or we can cave and just go with the flow of time and trends of the world. In the talk it said that it may not always be easy at first to turn ourselves over to the Lord and to give him all of ourselves, but that in the long run it is worth everything. It talked about how the best missionary is the one who may not have been perfect, who may have not loved every moment, or may have even struggled at times with areas and companions, but that this missionary chose to serve and to willingly subject himself to the will of the Lord. This missionary can reach the end of his mission and honestly say that they did their best and have no regrets. I really liked that. I can't say that I've loved every moment. There were days where it seemed like this would never end, and even a few where it seemed like I should just give up. There were some really stressful moments, but as I look back, I can see that I have tried my best, and I am happy with this time and my efforts. I feel like I'm not the same person who started on this journey. I've got a lot more to learn, and a long way to go, but I have been blessed beyond measure for my work and service. We had a missionary come home this week, and in his talk he mentioned that if he had the chance to go back and serve again, knowing all of the hard times and difficulties of a mission, he'd take it at the drop of the hat. I feel the same.
This week I got a letter from a family that I spent a lot of time working with in Agua Fria. It made my week. It's so cool to see these people hold on to their new found faith, and to see them grow. That's what I hope for each of the people I've been able to work with on my mission. It's a little frustrating being transferred, because all of our baptisms just got pushed back to March. But it's okay. I did my part, and they are ready. Now they need the help and support of someone else.
This past week we went on exchanges. I got to go down to Montana del Sur with Hna Graves. It was, I think, my favorite exchange of my mission. I served for 3 weeks in Montana, so it was fun to go back and be somewhere where I recognized things and people. It was also really fun to spend a day teaching with Hna Graves. She is a really really good missionary. It was fun, because teaching with her was like riding a bike. We just got going and it was like we were back serving together in Agua Fria. I had a great time working with her, and learning from her for the day. We also had a cool experience visiting some "eternal" investigators. I remember this family from over a year ago when I served in South Phoenix. I remember the sisters who were serving there coming home and crying after appointments because they were so hard. Then, I remember actually teaching them, and wondering if they were ever going to progress. Well, after a year of a lot of work and prayers I can say they most certainly have. They may not have made it to baptism yet, but the home I walked into on Wednesday was a completely different home than the one I remember from last January. The changes were shocking. I could see it on the faces of each member of that family, I could see it in the children and how they behaved, and I could feel it as I walked through their door. The feeling in their home has changed completely. It was so cool to see. It reminded me that although we may not get to see all of the conversion process, we do get to be a part of it, and that not all changes happen over night. Some take time. A lot a lot of time.
Sorry I don't have any more news on transfers. I guess you'll just have to wait until next week to see where I am and who I am with. The transfer meeting happens tomorrow morning. Today all that happens is that we get a call to pack and then to show up at the meeting tomorrow. It makes for an interesting experience, but a good one.
I love you all lots. Thanks for your prayers and support!
Hermana Okeson

Monday, February 13, 2012

Life Lessons

Hi All,

Well, it's been an interesting week. I was thinking a week or so ago as I read Trent's letters that there are some interesting similarities and differences between the areas and people we work with. The biggest similarity is that like Trent, it is very easy to get in for a first lesson, or to have people agree to have us come back and teach us. What is tricky is getting things to stick. We've seen a lot of this over the past few weeks. Actually, I've seen it a lot in this area. I've found more new investigators here than any other place on my mission, but we've had a far harder time getting investigators to progress much. It's been an interesting new set of challenges, but that's okay. I'm learning new things, which is good.

I think I have officially reached the "super old" missionary stage. Over the last week, every single dinner appointment has asked me (and only me) how much time I have left. I asked Sister Harding if I have a sign taped to my back that says, "She's going home soon and doesn't want to talk about it, so be sure to ask!" Yeah. I remember before my mission how people would tell me that this would pass by so quickly, and I think I finally understand. It really does. There are really long and hard moments, but now as I look back, it's incredible to see how much I have done in this time. I've taken to reading my journal from the start of my mission, and it is so interesting to see how I've changed and grown in this work. I know I still have a lot more I want to try and learn in the next 2 months, but I also feel really good about my service and this time.

I think I've learned a lot about diligence and just sticking things out. Missions are not easy, but it's been cool to see how I can just hold to this and get up at 6:30 every morning and go exercise and do studies and then go out and ride a bike all over Phoenix (and sometimes all of it in 120 degrees). I've learned that sometimes you get placed in situations that maybe aren't the first choice, or with people who maybe wouldn't ordinarily be your friends, but that it doesn't matter, I can choose how I want to deal and what I want to do. I've learned that prayer really works. Sometimes it takes a really, really, really long time to get an answer, and sometimes it seems like the answer may never come, but especially as I was looking back at some events over the last year, I realized that the answers did come, but maybe I just needed a little more time to be able to see them from a different perspective.

In Preach My Gospel (the book missionaries study from like crazy) it has a chapter on Christlike Attributes. I certainly have a long way to go on all of them, but it has been interesting to look back and see how different events and circumstances of my mission have really been hand tailored by the Lord to give me the opportunity to develop and become more like the Savior. It's also been interesting to reflect back and see how different lessons I've learned from different companions and investigators have applied as I work with my current companion and investigators. I've learned a lot about patience. I think I came on a mission to learn to be patient. I don't know that I'd call it a stunning success, but I think I'm a good deal more patient with myself and with others than I was when I started.

I remember last October for General Conference, someone made the comment that not only should your mission be the best 2 years of your life, but it should be the best 2 years for your life. I really liked that. I think I can say that I have learned many lessons that I will treasure and take with me for the rest of my life. I've been blessed to work with so many great people and families, and to learn from them. I think in many cases these people have taught me a lot more than I was able to teach them. You learn a lot from people as you spend time serving them and getting to know them. I've been really blessed over my mission to work with some really incredible women. I was looking back, and I've taught mostly single moms, and let me tell you, they are amazing. I've learned a lot from them, and really look up to them.

Sorry this week wasn't much of one for a lot of exciting news, it's just that way sometimes. Thanks for the prayers and support. I love you all lots!


Hermana Okeson

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ostriches and Emus

Hello All,

It's amazing to me that a whole week has gone by again. This week
makes for one of the most stressful of my mission. We've seen some pretty incredible miracles each day, but we've also seen more opposition than I've ever seen. Long story short, we have an incredible investigator who is so ready to be baptized, but due to family opposition we have to wait. Yeah... it's been rough. But it's okay, she's handling it really, really well, and we know that it will all work out in God's time... it's just teaching us all a lesson in patience. I've learned a lot about prayer, and also about working hard to turn things over to God, which is really hard. As a missionary you love these people so much, and it is so hard to watch them go through trials.

On a happier note, we had some really fun lessons and experiences over the last week. Actually, the first one happened two weeks ago and I forgot to write about it. We were out tracting and met this really nice lady, we had a good conversation and set up an appointment with her for the following Saturday. At the end of our conversation she asked us if we liked cabbage. Mexican's like cabbage in everything, but it still seemed like a bit of a strange question. But we told her we did, she then proceeded to walk out to her car and open the trunk where she had a huge box filled with cabbages. Turns out she works on a farm, and gets to keep some of the surplus. I ended up with two huge cabbages in my backpack... it was a little weird.

Next, I got to pet an ostrich! Yeah. A real live ostrich! We taught a lesson to some new investigators this past week, and after the lesson they asked us if we wanted to go out back and see their greenhouses (they do a lot of farming). We said yes, and on the way out there saw a bunch of goats, chickens, ducks, geese, 2 emus and finally 2 ostriches! It was quite the farm. It made me think of a children’s Richard Scary (is that even how you spell his name?) story Dad used to read about some farmers who had all sorts of birds and got the eggs from them... I just remember the picture with the story, and now I'm pretty sure I know where the inspiration came from. Anyhow, long story short, one of the ostriches was sitting on the ground and they told us you could pet them... They're actually a lot softer than I expected, and really quite tame... I'm not sure if that applies to all ostriches, or just the ones we ran into.

We had Zone Conference this week. It was fun, but a little different. This year, President has decided to move to smaller Zone Conferences for 2 of the conferences of the 4 that we do. This was a small one, it was a little weird to have so few missionaries, and I was a little bummed because I didn't get to see any of the other Spanish Sisters. Oh well. We learned a lot, and had some really good discussions. It also got me out of metro-Phoenix again, because the conference was way out in Buckeye, which is pretty much (as far as I could tell) the middle of nowhere. There were just cotton fields and cactus, and then in the middle of 2 huge cotton fields there was a church. That's where we had our conference. It was fun.

I also got exciting news this week. For exchanges in 2 weeks I get to go with Hermana Graves! We are both super excited to get to spend a day together again. She was one of my very favorite companions, and I am so excited to get to work with her. She's now serving down in Montana del Sur, and I spend a few weeks there at the beginning of my mission, so it'll be fun to be back with a former companion in an area I'm at least a little familiar with.

I think that's all of the excitement for this week. I could go for a calmer week after this last one, I'm a little exhausted, but it doesn't seem to work that way. Maybe today I'll get a p-day nap in. That would be nice.

Oh, and to end quickly, last week Mom asked for favorite scriptures from my mission. I really like 2 Nephi 4:34-35, because it teaches us to trust in God... something that I've really had to learn on a mission. Also, (because I can't just pick one), I like 3 Nephi 5:13, because it talks to all of us as disciples of Jesus Christ. Finally, of late I've really loved 2 Timothy 4:6-8, because I want to be like Paul at the end of my mission and say that I have fought the good fight. It's my goal to work as hard as I can over the next 2 months and give my all so like Paul I can look back with no regrets.

All right, now I really am done. I love you all lots! Thanks for the prayers and the support!

Hermana Okeson