Monday, February 29, 2016

Week Eight: Progressing Much Faster Than Normal

Us with the Sister Training Leaders
Area: Littlerock Spanish Branch
Companion: Hermana White

Hello everyone. I have been having a great time and learning so much during this week. I always feel like I am learning so much every day and that I progress so much faster than is normal. I know that I have been receiving help from the Lord.

Life is good here in California. Even though everyone says that the Bakersfield area is the armpit of California, there are still plenty of things to love about it. For example, the weather is pretty much perfect every day (for now, at least). When I tell people that it is a little hot outside, they always laugh and tell me that I am going to die in the summer. I believe it. This morning, I took off my watch and found out that I have a watch tan! Right now, I am enjoying the weather that we have and trying to avoid thinking about what the weather is going to be like next month.

This week, I went on my first exchange with the Hermana Training Leaders. There are not very many hermanas in the mission (only about 14). It was super interesting. Hermana Aguilar, who I went with, is a native Spanish speaker, so it was really strange to hear her talk to others and learn more about teaching. We taught one of their recent converts about the plan of salvation, but we didn't end up making it to the end of the lesson because he started talking about all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories. Because it was in Spanish, I wasn't able to follow much, but I think that he said that some planet is going to mess up the magnetic poles of the Earth and that we are all going to burn. It was good to know.

I think the thing that I have noticed the most during this week is that the people that we teach either haven't really read the Bible at all or they have read the Bible and can quote it forwards and backwards. For example, we met a man outside of his house late yesterday. We started teaching him the message of the Restoration and he started to share his experiences with religion and the Bible. Then he brought his Bible out of his car and started to share scriptures with us about the nature of God. He told us that he went out and knocked on doors like us and that he was super impressed with how we (mostly Hermana White) could speak Spanish. So he invited us in to talk with the leader of the church that he went to. We went and talked to them about the church for about an hour. By the end, they were super excited to read the Book of Mormon and wanted to learn more.

A really angry chihuahua that one of our investigators owns.
She followed us around for about 10 minutes after we left.
... but this is her cute puppy. :)
There are three more. I'm beginning to see why some people don't like dogs.
They are all over the place here, and most of them don't like missionaries.
I really love the people that we get to meet out here. I think that when I go home, I am going to have to go around on weekends and knock on the doors of random people just to hear their stories. The other night, we met this couple who work as chefs for celebrities and run a skate shop. When we met them, they were super drunk. The entire time that we were talking to them, the lady kept saying over and over again that she loved our message so much and that she wanted to be baptized. Then she told us that we were beautiful and that Hermana White looked like Kiera Knightly and that I looked like Kate Winslet. The entire time that she was talking, she was swaying back and forth and dropping the things that she was holding. We are going back to see them tomorrow. Hopefully, they will be just as accepting of our message when they are sober.

We met the coolest family ever this week. We had been teaching one of their family members and we went to see him one day. When we went there, his nephew came up to us and told us that he had been baptized and went to a YSA ward in a different part of California and that he wanted us to teach his sisters and so he invited us to dinner. When we came over, he asked us if we liked pizza. When we told him that we did, he said that we weren't going to have pizza -- we were going to have pizza pasta. He just took pizza ingredients and added pasta to it. When we started eating, he said, "to be honest I also added just a little bit of cinnamon." You could really taste the cinnamon, but it was so nice to eat with them. We were able to share a message about prayer and I think that they really were listening.

I love this work and I am so happy to be serving as a missionary right now. I love getting to talk to people and being able to see people learn and grow. I feel like as I do this, I am able to learn and grow as well. That is really the reason that we all are here. I know that this church is the restored church of Jesus Christ and that it can lead to true happiness. 

I love you all at home. Thank you for all of your prayers. They really help!

Hermana Blau

Monday, February 22, 2016

Week Six/Seven: First Week in the Mission Field

With President and Sister Wilson
Area: Littlerock Spanish Branch
Companion: Hermana White
Hermana White's blog: February 22

I don't even know what to say because so many things have happened this week. It is all super crazy, but hopefully I will be able to write about it in a way that makes sense.

First off, I am in California now. I am serving in the Littlerock Spanish Branch and we cover the area in Littlerock and part of Palmdale. It is really interesting because the two different cities are only ten minutes away, but they are so different. Palmdale is a biggish city (about the size of Springfield). There are a lot of Hispanic people, but it feels relatively familiar. Littlerock, on the other hand, is more like a little Mexico. Everything is dirt and there are cactus and palm trees all over the place. There have been a couple of times that I have had to get out of the car and pull tumbleweeds off of the road.It is super strange, but I really like it.

With Hermana White.She's from Kansas City.
How crazy is that?
My trainer is Hermana White. She is a crazy good missionary and is super bold. For almost every person that we encounter, we end up with a return visit and they have a baptism date. I'm not kidding. Last week we had 28 new investigators. Not every single one of them continues to listen, but it is crazy how much we talk to people.

Speaking of talking to people, it is super strange teaching the gospel in Spanish in the United States. We are allowed to teach people as long as they are fluent in Spanish, but that means that sometimes we end up teaching totally in Spanish, other times totally in English, sometimes we switch from English to Spanish halfway through the lesson. I feel like my Spanish has really been improving during this week. Hermana White makes sure that I teach just about half of every lesson. I am positive that someday I will be able to speak Spanish well.

The weather here is strange. During the days, it is super hot and sunny. I make frequent use of the sun block that I got for Christmas. I really don't want to get sunburned. During the night, on the other hand, it gets kind of cold. Not really cold, just kind of. On the first night that we were out, it started to rain as well. That was a crazy night. Everyone that we talked to was kind of rude, but we were eventually able to teach a lesson to someone and they invited us into their home.

I think that my favorite part of being in the field is that we get to meet lots of interesting people. For example, we went into the home of a part member and less active family. The wife was Hispanic and only spoke Spanish, but the husband (who isn't a member of the church) is Persian and only spoke broken English and Spanish. We ended up teaching the message of the Restoration in Spanglish and we helped him to find the Book of Mormon in Persian on his phone. At the end of the lesson, he asked us what our names were. When I said mine, he thought that Blau was an interesting name and Hermana White said that it was German. I think that he thought that she said that I was German, because for the rest of the lesson, he would say something in English, then say it's Persian equivalent, and then ask me how to say it in German. I am glad that I knew just a little German, but if we go back, I think that I will have to crush his dreams.

Late at night, we met one person and started to teach him about the Restoration. He was interested intellectually, but he kept interrupting us and telling us all of these crazy conspiracy theories. He kept telling us about equality and about how he was part of an activist group. At the end of the lesson, we asked him if he had any questions for us. He told us that along with sharing messages about Jesus, we should also share messages about equality at the same time. During the entire lesson, I was biting my tongue so that I wouldn't laugh, but once we got into the car, Hermana White and I burst out laughing.

Some of the places that we go to, especially in Littlerock, are a little sketchy. For example, last night, we were going into a trailer park right before we went back to our apartment. The lady who we were meeting with didn't show up for the appointment, but when we went back to the car, someone had thrown Barbecue sauce all over the windows and doors. We left pretty soon after that, but it was super strange.
Evidence of the barbecue sauce. We still have to clean the car.
Going to church yesterday was super interesting. It feels bizarre going to services in Spanish and sitting in gospel classes where the questions and responses are all in a different language. It was kind of like being in a really strange dream. I think that this experience has made me really appreciate how great it is that there are Spanish missionaries in the United States. I know that if I was just learning about the gospel, I would want to be doing it in my own language. That is why I will continue to work hard to learn Spanish, even though it drives me crazy sometimes to not be able to say what I want to.

I love being in the actual field and being able to share the gospel with real people and hear their real questions. I am so happy to be here and I love the work. I love you all at home and I love to hear about you. I pray for you often.

Hermana Blau

Some pictures from the last week at the MTC:

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Week Five: Last P-Day in the MTC!

Our zone. The last P-Day that we will all be together!
Area: Mexico MTC
Companion: Hermana Neeleman
Sister Neeleman's Blog: Happy Valentine's Day!

I can't believe that this is the last time that I will be writing to you from Mexico. I feel like the time has been flying by in a strangely slow way. Every day, I feel like I will never get out of class, but next thing I know, four days have passed. I really only have four more real days in the MTC. While I don't think that I am anywhere near ready to actually be out speaking Spanish and teaching real people, but I am so excited to leave.

One of the elders in our district said that the MTC experience is like the movie Groundhog Day. We do the same thing over and over and over again, getting a little better each time, until we are ready to move on. I think that this is the most accurate description of anything that I have ever heard in my life. It is not a bad thing, but every day is starting to feel like I am living the same weird dream over again.

I know that I told you that a couple of weeks ago we started to go a little crazy in here, but I think that we really have hit the pinnacle. Last night, everyone in the district wrote down their names and put them in a bag. Then we all pulled each other's names from the bag. Then we laughed about who everyone got, put the names back into the bag, and did it over again. This went on for (I'm not kidding) thirty minutes. Even sadder is that we would have kept playing except for the fact that we had to go home. Once we got home, Hermana Leslie put on her mumu sleeping gown and stuffed her dirty clothes underneath to make her look like an old grandma. We laughed at that for another thirty minutes, then we went to bed early. Nothing I would rather do on a Monday night!

This week, I experienced the happiest moment of my entire life. When we first arrived at the MTC, they told us that the wives of the presidency would be coming around periodically to check our casas and make sure that they were kept clean. Then they told us that if our beds were made during the check that we would get chocolate. I never forgot this as I made my bed every morning, but I started to believe that the day would never come. This week, however, we came home and found that there was chocolates on our beds. What was even better was that this morning, I was considering not making my bed because the check had happened earlier that week. I decided to make my bed and when I came back I found chocolate on the bed again! I guess that it just goes to show that we don't know the day or the hour and must be constantly prepared. 

Our zone with the brownies Sis. Neeleman's mother sent to her. They were
super good, but everyone's parents have been sending treats through the
package service.
Last week there was a day where we literally received three dozen donuts.
I feel like I eat so much sugar here!
This week was Fast Sunday at the MTC and it was a really strange experience. The entire campus fasted from after lunch on Saturday to lunch on Sunday. During that time the cafeteria was closed. That meant that instead of dinner that night, we just stayed in our room and continued to study. It was one of the longest nights of my life. I realized that day that I don't even really like meals for the food; they offer a welcome respite from the constant studying and classes. During sacrament meeting, all of the testimonies that were shared were so good. I think that everyone was able to share such powerful testimonies because we are all going through a really difficult time and everyone is struggling, but everyone is also becoming so much closer to the Savior. 

I am sorry that I don't have more to write about. I'm not kidding when I say that every day here feels exactly the same. I am sure that when I get to the field, I will have more stories, but for now, I am content.

I love being here and training for my mission, but I am really excited for the time when I will be able to go out and help real people. I get a little nervous when I think about how much I still have to learn and the fact that I only have a week to learn it, but then I think about how far I have come and what I have been able to learn with the help of the Lord. I think that this whole MTC experience has really taught me about the power of the Atonement. I have almost finished Jesus the Christ and the entire time I have just thought about why the Savior did what he did and how much it is helping me in my immediate and every day life. I love the gospel!

Hermana Blau

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Week Four: Team Neelau for the Gold!

My MTC District

Area: Mexico MTC
Companion: Hermana Neeleman
Sister Neeleman's Blog Post: Hola!

I feel like no time has passed at all since I have last written home. I guess that is what happens when you only have five days between your P days. Honestly, time here is really strange anyway you look at it. The days always go by so slowly, but the weeks take no time at all. I hardly feel like I have almost been in the CCM for a month. It is really strange because all of the newer missionaries will ask us for advice when I feel like I can't possibly know any more than they do.

Nothing super eventful has happened this week. Mostly I have just been spending a LOT of time studying Spanish and the scriptures. One of the elders in my district probably described it best when he said that reading the Book of Mormon has become as exciting and relaxing to him as watching TV was at home. During this week, I finished Our Search for Happiness and I am already about 300 pages into Jesus the Christ. So fun!

On Friday, our district decided to have an English fast. Because my Spanish skills are what they are, it ended up being more of a speaking fast for me. In the middle of the day, I was starting to feel a little discouraged. Right before personal study, I decided to say a prayer. During the prayer, I asked what I could do to feel better in my progress and to obtain the Gift of Tongues. After I was done praying, I stayed where I was and pondered for a second. Then I felt really clearly the impression that I should go out and help others. That night, I was able to talk to one of the Hermanas in the zone that has really been struggling and share that experience with her. I think that it really helped her to talk about it and I felt better afterwards as well. I am so grateful that prayers are answered for each of us specifically.

On Saturday night, all of the people in our district were talking to our teacher about how we can't get through our nightly prayers without laughing. Then, they all blamed me for it! They said that my keeping my eyes open during prayers makes them giggly. After that, our teacher gave us a little lecture on how we should be reverent and examples for the younger missionaries. Afterwards, he asked us what we could do to have more reverent prayers. Someone suggested that we turn out the lights and turn so that no one is facing each other while we pray. That idea didn't end up being accepted. Instead, I have just decided to close my eyes (even though it has never been a problem before). [Mom note: Savannah has never closed her eyes during prayers. She always explained to us that the purpose of closing your eyes is to eliminate outside distractions and focus inward on your feelings and thoughts. She just felt like she was able to block out distractions even when her eyes were open. That seems to have carried through into the MTC ... until now].

Sundays are always my favorite days in the CCM. The classes are super spiritual and sacrament meeting is always nice (I didn't have to speak this week). Sundays are also the best because we have movie night. This week, we watched The Testaments. I don't know if I have ever seen a movie that is more quotable. I think that I was able to realize just what the environment at the CCM does to people because when the couple in the movie kissed, everyone was freaking out.

This afternoon, our district decided to have the first ever CCM Companionship Olympics. I think that it entails feats of strength and "Newlywed Game" type questions. I don't know exactly what is going to happen -- the elders are the ones who are writing the questions -- but I do know that team Neelau is going to take gold!

I am sorry that there was not much to talk about this week. Hopefully, I will be able to share more exciting news next week on my last P day in the CCM!

Hermana Blau

 what the climate has been doing to my legs. I have had a couple of people
come up to me and ask me what is wrong. I don't really know why,
but my legs have just started to scab up.
It's still better than being up in the snow and cold.