Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Leaving the Mission

This is an essay that was included in the last Bakersfield Mission newsletter Savannah received before heading home. They included an essay from an elder who had just arrived in the mission field and from Savannah who was getting ready to leave.

Hermana Blau arrived in the Bakersfield Mission February 15, 2016.

As I have neared the close of my mission, I have been given plenty of opportunities to look back on my time here and how I have changed. When I first got off the plane at the Bakersfield Airport, I had no idea that I was in for 18 months of learning and growing. I had never experienced an afternoon of walking in scorching heat, and I had no idea how to speak to random people who I had never met before. I was more than a little bit overwhelmed. I have experienced some of the greatest spiritual moments of my entire life as I have taught people who are now friends. I have also faced moments of trial where I have questioned what I was doing on a mission and if I would ever be able to be a good missionary. I feel that the mission is a roller-coaster of emotions, but through it all, I have had my faith strengthened. I learned that it is actually possible for a human being to survive walking on days when it is more that 115 degrees outside. I learned that even if you cannot fully speak to people, all people speak the language of the Spirit. I have prayed harder than I ever had in my entire life and seen real answers come from those prayers. I have felt joy as I have seen investigators who I have been working with for weeks finally come to church or finally start keeping commitments and making changes in their lives. More than anything, I have learned to apply the counsel found in Proverbs 3:5-6: 

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

—Sister Blau

Monday, July 10, 2017

Week Seventy-Nine: I'm Coming Home!

Area: Delano Ward
Companions: Hermana Galvez and Hermana Ruiz

WOW! This week was an amazing week to end off the mission. I can't believe that it has already been eighteen months. We have seen some AMAZING miracles this week!

We celebrated the fourth of July this week in typical missionary fashion -- we went into our apartments early to avoid all of the drunk drivers and did our studies. It was okay though, because we were able to eat a festive dinner with a member before hand and to watch the fireworks through the window of our apartment. The only downside was that the air conditioning in our apartment has been really flaky this entire week and it was out on Tuesday night. . . it was a really sweaty time!

The biggest thing that happened this week was the marriage of our investigators, Victoriano and Luisa. It was one of the most exciting things that has happened to me on my mission. When we first came here to Delano, the elder that was leaving the area told us that Victoriano and Luisa needed sisters. Victoriano had been learning with the missionaries for a couple of transfers, but had not been able to be baptized because he was living with Luisa and they weren't married. Luisa had never talked with the elders and she told them that she only spoke Mixteco The first time that we talked to Luisa, she told us that she wouldn't get married until they were able to go back to Oaxaca and have a big Catholic wedding in three years. Over the course of the last couple of months, we have been working with them and have seen a ton of miracles with the family. Ever since they decided to get married, they have been super excited!

This week, we spent a lot of time working with the family. One day, we were in talking to Victoriano's brother, Gabino, and teaching him about tithing. Right in the middle of the lesson, Victoriano and Luisa drove up in their car. They hopped out and and ran to the trunk and pulled out five or six live chickens. They had driven all the way from Bakersfield to get chickens for the mole they were going to make for the wedding and on the way back, the chickens had started to get heat stroke and to die. Victoriano started putting them in the kiddie pool to cool them off, but it wasn't working. They had to kill the chickens before they died so that they could cook them, so they started stringing them up right in the yard and cutting off their heads. The entire time, we were just watching them. Needless to say, we needed to invite the spirit again after that! :) It was super funny!

Speaking of Gabino, we have been working with him a lot and he was able to get his baptismal interview this Saturday. He passed! I am super excited for him. He is going to be baptized this Saturday (a couple of days after I leave, but it is okay!) He is going to be a really good member of the church.

On Friday, we woke up really early to go down to the departing temple trip in Los Angeles. It was really nice. I was with Hermana Perry again. It was a bizarre experience to be living what we talked about a year ago when we were companions. I learned a lot as I went to the temple and I am super excited to go back when I get home.

Biggest moment of the week was the wedding. We were running around all morning long helping them to set up. It was pretty sweet. Right before the wedding, we were at Victoriano and Luisa's house and they told us that they wouldn't have time to fill up balloons, so they asked us to go and get them filled with helium. We figured that we would have enough time, so we went to the flower shop. When they gave us the balloons, we pretty quickly realized that we didn't really have any space for them in our car . We ended up squishing them all in the back seat with Hermana Ruiz. It was a fun ride!

The wedding was so cute! Our stake president here drove all the way from Bakersfield to preform the ceremony because Bishop was out of town. It was really nice! He doesn't speak Spanish and they don't speak English, but they were able to have some headsets and someone to translate for them during the ceremony! It was so beautiful. I am so excited for them to continue to learn so that they can go to get sealed in the temple some day.

This has been a really strange week, but I am so happy! I have loved my experience as a missionary and I am sad that it is over, but I am also happy with all that I have done. I know that I have served the Lord and I don't regret my decision to serve a mission one bit. I love the work and I love the gospel and all of the blessings that it has given me and everyone that I have shared it with! I hope that you have a good couple of days. I will see you soon!

Hermana Blau

Monday, July 3, 2017

Week Seventy-Eight: My Last Full Week!

Area: Delano Ward
Companions: Hermana Galvez and Hermana Ruiz

Where do I even start. I feel like the time is flying by so fast and I can't believe that I am in the last full week of my mission. This week was pretty good!

We had a pretty good week for finding and teaching. I feel like all of our investigators are doing really well. A couple of months ago, when we first came to Delano, the elders had been teaching a lady named Laura. She is super cool and she loves to read the Book of Mormon. She had been learning for a while and we were able to teach her about three times before she told us that she had to go to Mexico to help her husband finalize his visa to come to the United States. When she left, we helped her to refer herself to the missionaries over in Mexico. This last week, she came back with her husband and we started teaching them again. They are a super cute family and they love learning about the gospel. The missionaries in Mexico didn't go to visit them, so we have started teaching them all over again as a family. They know a lot about the scriptures and they really want to change their lives.

While we were walking around this week, we met some interesting people. One day, right before we were about to head back to our apartment for dinner, we met a lady and her husband working on their car. We started talking to them and the next thing I knew, we were sitting in their back yard drinking home-made blueberry juice, eating chips covered in hot sauce, and listening to her tell us about some little smurf houses that she had made for her garden. I found myself looking around and wondering how I had even gotten into that situation in the first place. It was bizarre, but nice. :)

Me with a member of the ward named Brother Morales. He is super funny!
Also, this week we have continued to teach the Luisa and Victoriano. They are super excited for their wedding on Saturday. When we went over the other day, Luisa was telling us about all of the food she was going to make: tamales, posole, mole, things like that. It sounds like it is going to be great! We have continued to teach Gabino and he is super excited about learning. He loves to read the scriptures and he is really good at keeping commitments. He is pretty much a golden investigator.

This week, we had a missionary activity in the park. We decided to have a little picnic and to draw the Plan of Salvation on the sidewalks. It was really fun. Gabino was able to come and he really liked it. It was fun seeing all of the little kids playing with the sidewalk chalk and learning together. It wasn't a really big activity, but it was effective!

On Wednesday, we went to the temple! It was so nice. Because the temple day replaced our p-day, we decided that we would go to the earliest session possible so that we could come back and have time to do our laundry and to go to the store. We wanted to go to the 8:00 session. The only problem is that Delano is about three hours away from Los Angeles, so we had to leave at 4:30. It was so early! We got a ride down with one of the members from our ward, Sister Intok. She is Filipino and she brought one of her Filipino non-member friends with her. It was fun listening to them speak Tagalog while we were on our way. Sister Intok is a lot more of a defensive driver than I am and she was weaving through the LA traffic like no one I have ever seen. It was an adventure.

While we were at the temple, we had a great time. There weren't a lot of people in the session that we were in. I think there were only three other women who were there, apart from us. It was nice because it kind of felt like we were in our own personal session. :) After we were done, we were able to go and do initiatories. I love the temple so much. I was able to feel the spirit really strongly and to find answers to some of my questions. I am super excited to go back next week for my departing temple trip!

Things are going well and I am looking forward to working really hard for the last week of my mission. It is strange to think about, but I know that I have done my best and that my mission has shaped me so much. I love the mission and I love my Savior. I know that this church is true. I hope that you all have a good week!

Hermana Blau

Monday, June 26, 2017

Week Seventy-Seven: Sooooo hot!

Area: Delano Ward
Companions: Hermana Galvez and Hermana Ruiz

This week was a really long and really hot, but by the end of it all, I have felt spiritually uplifted and fulfilled. I have been seeing a lot of miracles during the past couple of weeks and this week they continued to come. We have been seeing a lot of progress with our investigators.

I guess to start it all out, I must talk about the heat. This week was insane! I think that it was around 115 degrees every single day for the entire week. I didn't know that it was possible for a human being to handle the extremes of the heat for so long. I don't think that I have sweated as much in my entire life! Luckily, our bishop told us a tip from his mission. If your face is super sweaty before you talk to someone, you can take your name badge off and use it as a squidgy and wipe your face with a handkerchief while you are speaking. That has made us a little more presentable! Even with all of that, I have been trying to take some precautions to stay out of the sun. We dash in between patches of shade to find people who are outside who we can talk to. It is like a game.

This week, we started out with exchanges. They were super fun! We went back down to South Bakersfield in Buena Vista and we were able to work out there. It was super fun being there and seeing the Sister Training Leader's area. I love getting to learn on exchanges. The first person that we talked to on exchanges was a lady sitting in her car. When we went up to her, we asked her how she was doing and she said, "I am fighting with my boyfriend." I heard, "I am finding my boyfriend" and so I said, "That's great!" That lead to a pretty awkward silence. After that, we were able to talk to her about how she can find comfort through Jesus Christ and how the gospel could help her. We gave her a Book of Mormon and she was crying of happiness by the end. It was super sweet. I was glad to have that experience.

This week, we also had interviews with President Layton. It was a really nice experience. I was able to talk to him about some of the things that are going on in our area and about how we can better work with the ward and he gave me some great advice. He was talking to me about how there was a reason that we (Spanish speaking sisters) were put in the ward and about how we can do a lot of good. That really made me think. I feel that we are fulfilling our purpose here in this part of the vineyard.

On Saturday night, we had the pleasure of eating dinner at the house of one of the Filipino members of the ward. They were having a birthday party, so they invited all of the missionaries to come and eat the Filipino food that they had made. I don't think that I have ever eaten food that was more delicious in my entire life! I was so full of rice and shrimp when I left, but I wish that I could have eaten more. Luckily, we were able to take some to-go boxes with some food that we ate today for lunch.

This week at church was really good for us. On Saturday night and Sunday morning, we invited a lot of people to come to church and they all said that they would be there. We thought that it was just like it always is when people say that they will come to church, so we didn't really know what was going to happen. Then, during church, all of the people who said that they would come to church did come! Even the brother-in-law of one of our recent converts came to church. We had met him yesterday and he didn't have time to talk to us, but we asked him if he would come to church and he said that he would. By the time that they were saying the sacrament prayers, we had seven investigators in church. It was a miracle!

We have been seeing the hand for the Lord so much recently and we have been seeing a lot of progress in our investigators. I know that this is the work of the Lord and that we are doing his will as missionaries. I am so glad for this opportunity and I know that the church is true. I hope that you all have a good week!

Hermana Blau

Monday, June 19, 2017

Week Seventy-Six: Marriage Prep

Area: Delano Ward
Companions: Hermana Galvez and Hermana Ruiz

This week has been a doozy! It has been about a million degrees every day and I feel like we are about to melt into the pavement. I take comfort in the fact that when it is 112 degrees here in Bakersfield, it is 117 degrees in Las Vegas! :) We are drinking a lot of water and we are trying to stay in the shade during the day. Luckily, we have been able to be in a lot of lessons, so we are generally inside for those.

Biggest news of the week is that we were able to help the Victoriano and Luisa to get their marriage license. We got permission from President Layton to go down to Bakersfield with them and to help them through the application. It was so cute to be in the marriage license office and to see all of the people going through and so excited to be married. Victoriano and Luisa were super cute together and they are excited to be getting married! We went with Luisa during the week to help her get some wedding invitations made. She asked us for advise on her dress. The only problem is that she is SUPER short. I would say that she can't be taller that five feet, so any dress that she could buy would be way too  big. We were thinking about just looking in the First Communion dresses because they were closer to her size, but in the end, she decided to buy a dress and get all of the bottom part cut off. We are super excited for their wedding!

Aren't they cute?
This week, something truly tragic happened. I was getting in the car to back it up and Hermana Galvez and I saw a little kitten run underneath the car. I thought nothing more of it and got in to back up. As we were driving out, I felt a little bump. I thought that the front of the car had scraped up against the cement block. Hermana Galvez joked and said, "I think you ran over the cat Hermana Blau." I was sure that I hadn't. Then, right when Hermana Ruiz was getting into the car, Hermana Galvez said, "Hermana Blau, you really did run over the cat!!!!" It was lying on the ground, dying. There was nothing that we could do, so we just left. When we got to where we were going, I got out to check the wheel and found that the cat guts had gotten all over, so we had to go up to a lady that was watering her garden and ask her if we could borrow her hose. It was super sad! The worst part was that it was right outside of our parking spot and they didn't get around to picking it up for the next two days. Every time we came home or left, I had a reminder of the terrible deed.

We have also been teaching a couple of other people. One of them is the grandson of a less active that we have been helping to come back to church. He has returned to activity and he started taking his grand children to church with him. They are super cute and super excited to learn. They all came to church this week and had a wonderful time!

We also had Zone Conference this week. It was really nice. It was combined with all of the Zones here in Bakersfield, so we traveled down south and got to see everyone. We learned about faith and how we can overcome our struggles in the work. It gave me a renewed sense of purpose and helped me to know how I can help some of our investigators. 

On Saturday, there was a baptism here in the ward and we invited all of our investigators to come. Last minute, we decided to invite one of our investigators who likes us coming by but who has been really scared of coming to church. He was able to come and he really liked the service. After it was over, we were able to take him around the church building and show him all of the pictures. We ended up in the chapel and talked to him about the sacrament. He was able to feel the spirit and even asked us if we could meet in the church building for our regular appointments. He had a work commitment the next day, but he said that he would be there at church the next week.

Things have been going well for us here and I know that I am where I need to be. I am so happy to be a missionary and I am glad that I have the opportunity to serve. I am excited for what the last few weeks will bring and I am happy to work hard right until the end. I love being a missionary! I hope that you all have a good week!

Hermana Blau

Monday, June 12, 2017

Week Seventy-Five: One Month to Go!

Area: Delano Ward
Companions: Hermana Galvez and Hermana Ruiz

This week was a good one. It seems like the time is going by faster and faster, but things have been good and we have been seeing a lot of success in the area. I am really happy to be here, where I am right now, sharing the gospel with people.

We have been looking for a lot of service opportunities lately and we didn't have anything to do on Tuesday morning, so we decided to call one of the members who recently broke her wrist. Last minute, we asked her if she needed any help with anything and she told us that we could come over and help her to pull up some weeds from her yard and to trim down her rose bushes. It was nice to be able to help her out a little bit and to be able to do some yard work. I love serving people. It is one of my favorite parts of being a missionary!

We have been trying to work with our members more recently and we have been seeing some success with that. We decided to take one of our members, Hermana Perez, to a lesson, but it ended up falling through. We decided to try and visit a couple of people that we have been teaching, but no one was home. As a last resort, we decided to visit the mother of one of the recent converts in the area. When we went to her house, the mother wasn't there, but the brother was. He has never learned from the missionaries before, even though we have seen him a couple of times. He told us that he was Catholic and that he wasn't interested and Hermana Perez was able to bear her testimony about how her life has changed since joining the church. It was a powerful testimony. After that, the brother said, "If I go to your church, can I still go to the rodeo?" I guess he had never wanted to learn before because he thought that he wouldn't be able to do that. After we told him that he could, he was excited to learn and he let us teach him.

I guess that the biggest news of the week is that one of the families that we have been working with, Victoriano and Luisa, have started to make a lot of progress all of the sudden. We have been teaching the main couple for a while and all they need to do in order to be baptized is to get married. When we first got here, Luisa didn't want to get married until they moved back to Mexico in three years. When we went over this week, we were talking to her and she said that she wanted to get married at the beginning of next month. We were a little shocked by the sudden change of feelings, so we asked her why she wanted to get married so soon. She told us that the night before, she had a dream that she was getting married dressed in white. We were happy for her. Then she told us that when you dream that in her culture, it means that you are going to die soon. I hope that that isn't true! In any case, I guess the Lord works in mysterious ways to help accomplish his work! We have been praying for miracles with that family and they are finally coming. We are planning to go down with them this Tuesday to Bakersfield so we can help them to purchase a marriage license and she told us that we could come with her to pick out a dress.

We have also recently started to teach some other members of the family. We started teaching Gabino, the brother of Victoriano last week and he is super cool! He is about 21 years old and he really wants to learn more about God. We invited all of the family to come to church this week and they all came! After the sacrament meeting, Victoriano and Luisa had to leave to go visit some family out of town, but Gabino and the tia, Fransisca, were able to stay for all three hours. They were the only ones in the Spanish Gospel Principles class, but they really seemed to like it and they said that they would come back next week. The past couple of times that we have taught Gabino, he has asked us where he could get a name tag like us and he says that he wants to be a missionary, too!

Last night, we were just about to head in when we stopped to talk with one last person in the park. He was sitting on one of the benches, listening to music. We started talking to him and we soon discovered that he was a famous DJ, just chilling in the park. He talked to us about all of the music festivals that he has played at and all of the things that he has done in his life. He even taught us a couple of dance moves. I don't know if he really is a famous DJ, but in any case, it was a fun way to end out the week!

Things have been well and we have been seeing miracles. I know that we are in the Lord's work and that I am doing what I need to be doing. I am so glad that I am a missionary right now! I know that the gospel is true and I have really seen its blessings in my life! I hope that you all have a good week!

Hermana Blau

Monday, June 5, 2017

Week Seventy-Four: Tremendous Trio

Our new district
 Area: Delano Ward
Companions: Hermana Galvez and Hermana Ruiz

This week was pretty exciting and we have been working hard throughout the whole time. We have been able to see some really cool things as I have started to work in my first trio of the mission. Things are good here in Delano!

I guess to start out, I should talk a little bit about Hermana Ruiz, our new companion. She is really nice! On Tuesday morning, we headed out to Bakersfield and the entire time, we were wondering what she was going to be like. When we got to the training meeting, it wasn't hard to know who we were going to train because she was the only Spanish-speaking sister there. We knew that she was going to be a good companion the moment that we saw her! She is from Utah and has some Mexican heritage, but she is a language learner. It has been super fun to help her to learn a little bit of Spanish during the first week, especially because we have Hermana Galvez to help us both! :) It reminds me of my first couple of weeks in the mission. She is super excited to work and to learn, so it has been fun to go out and work hard during this week!
I got to see Hermana Luqette at the transfer point!
It is a little strange being in a trio. I never thought that I was going to have the chance to be in one, but now that I am here, it is super fun! It if really nice to be able to have three testimonies instead of just two and we are always talking and laughing. I already liked working with Hermana Galvez and like working with Hermana Ruiz. Sometimes, it is a little weird because there is never enough space on doorsteps for us all, but we manage to make it work. The other night, we were teaching one of our investigators and there was only one love seat for all of us. We just all squished in like sardines and sat really close together for the entire lesson (even though it was super hot in the house and we were all sweating). It has been fun!

We have still been teaching Eliseo (our eccentric investigator). This week, he invited us to come over to his house to eat carnitas. When we came, it turned out that he was having a giant family party. When we knocked on the door, they said that we couldn't come in and that we should come back later. When we said that Eliseo invited us, they let us right in and put us to work turning tortillas. It was all worth it because we had some bomb carnitas!

This week, we have been able to teach a lot of people. One person that we started teaching this week was a little old man named Gonzalo. He was a referral from the English elders and we talked to him a little bit last Saturday, but he was really busy and said that we could come back on Monday night. We only had a Plan of Salvation pamphlet, so we left that with him and didn't think anything else about it. When we came back on Monday night, he was waiting for us outside and said that he had read the pamphlet and told us about all of the questions that he had and the things that he understood. Then, he told us that he feels that he needs to be baptized and that he wants to come to church. It was really fun to teach him and he was super nice.

We have also still been working with Victoriano and things are going well with him and his family. This week, we invited him to come to church again and he said that he wouldn't be able to because he was going to work in the morning and later he was going to go up to Santa Maria in the afternoon to go to an Amway conference. We were really sad and when we went to church, we were praying for a miracle. When the service started, he wasn't there and we were sad. After the Sacrament was over, the priesthood opened up the doors to the chapel and Victoriano, his daughter, and his aunt were outside! It was an answer to prayer. Victoriano wasn't able to stay after the first hour, but his daughter and his aunt stayed for all three hours. We had never really talked to the aunt, but during the second hour there weren't enough people to do a Spanish Gospel Principles, so we decided to teach her the first lesson instead and then to take her on a tour of the church. It was super sweet and she told us that she liked the service.

This week was really good. We had a lot of fun and we saw some miracles. Things are going well here in Delano and I love being a missionary here. It was super strange starting my last transfer, but I am still working hard and it is good to have Hermana Ruiz here to instill us all with her greenie fire! I know that the gospel is true and that the gospel brings blessings! I hope that you have a good week!

Hermana Blau

This last one is a little funny. President told us recently to stop making signs in our pictures. The Zone Leaders and the District Leader were trying to demonstrate to us what we shouldn't do and Hermana Galvez's camera accidentally went off. This is the candid photo. :)