Monday, May 30, 2016

Week Twenty-One: Girl on a Bike on a Mission

Area: Esperanza Ward
Companion: Hermana Van der Toolen

This week has been crazy! I guess that I will just start from the beginning.

We have been working really hard to find more people to teach right now. It is a little bit harder to find Spanish speaking people who want to hear the message here than it was in Littlerock. Because of that, we have been trying to get creative in our finding methods. We called up all the mortuaries and hospitals in this area to get on their list of clergy. We have been talking about family history. It has been going a little slowly, but we have been getting more interested investigators!

Funny story for this week. We had found an old Catholic man last week and set up a time for a return appointment. When we went by for the appointment, we were saying a prayer in the car right before we went up to the door. Right before we got out of the car, the man who we were coming to visit walked out of his door to smoke. He saw us and we saw him and we made awkward eye contact for about ten seconds before we started to get out of the car. Between the time that we saw each other and the time that we made it out of the car, he had disappeared. We went to see if he was by his door, but when he wasn't there, we decided to go to our next plans. As we were getting back in the car, we found the man. He was crouching beside his car, trying to hide from us. It was so awkward. We talked to him for just a second and then got into the car. He could see us through the windows, so we had to keep our composure until we made it around the corner. Then Hermana Vander Toolen and I burst out laughing. We were laughing about how awkward the situation was all night long.
[Translation: WARNING ... The driver will disappear in the Rapture]
This week is the end of the month and Hermana Vander Toolen has been a little stressed out about miles. We are a little close to our limit, so we decided to become BIKING MISSIONARIES! That's right, I have been on a bike for the last couple of days. If you think that sister missionaries biking in skirts sounds a little silly, let me be the first one to tell you that it certainly is. We were on exchanges this week (With our new Sister Training Leaders, Hermana Martineau and Hermana White) and Hermana White and I were back together. The Dream Team. We started out biking on the first day and it was actually really fun. We were able to talk to a lot of people and we could actually get around pretty well. The second day, it was not as fun. We had decided to go to an area that is a little bit farther away than the first area that we biked in. That was problem number one. Problem number two was that we were biking in a pretty mountainous and deserty area. At one point, we realized that we had been going the wrong way and that we had to turn around and walk the bikes through the desert. When we got to an area where we could start to bike again, we realized that we had a third problem. Hermana White's bike tires were full of goat heads. I can't remember if I have already written home about them, but goat heads are little thorns that are all over the place. They stick in your shoes and are super sharp! Because of the goat heads, both of the bike tires popped and we had to wait until someone could come and rescue us from the desert. Eventually, we were able to make it home and get back in the car.
Hermanas Blau, Van der Toolen, White, and Martineau
Before we started the exchanges, we were praying to find people and listening to the impressions of the spirit to see what kind of investigators that we would find. Two of us were feeling pretty strongly that we were supposed to find a single man while the other two were feeling that we were supposed to find a family. While Hermana Vander Toolen and Hermana Martineau were out on exchanges, they ran into some people who fulfilled both of the requirements. Carlos, who we have started to teach, is a single man who's wife died a couple of years ago. He has one son and lives with his brother and sister-in-law and their children. It turns out that he had received a copy of the Book of Mormon from one of his relatives and that he had been reading it for over two years. He said that he had been waiting for missionaries to come up to his house and talk to him. When they told him where the church was, he was super excited that it was so close. I guess that he has always wanted to come to one of our services.

Before church started, we called Carlos to see if he was going to come and he said that he would. Sacrament meeting started, but he still wasn't there. We texted him and he said that he was on the way. When the sacrament hymn started, he texted us and said that he was outside and that he didn't know how to come in. We ran out side and did a lap around the church building until we were able to find him. Eventually, we were saw him and we all quickly, but reverently, walked into the chapel right in time for the sacrament to start. It was super cool! Last night, we were able to go over and teach him about the restoration. It was a super good lesson. He has a lot of questions and I think that he really has a sincere desire to learn more. Hopefully, he will continue to come to church and make commitments. He is really cool!

Well, that is about all for this week. We are starting to teach some people who are really interested and who have a sincere desire to learn and to change. We are already starting to see a lot of success in this area. We are doing pretty well here and I have felt my faith grow each day! I love being a missionary. Keep up the good work at home! I love you all.
Hermana Blau

Monday, May 23, 2016

Week Twenty: A New Area

Area: Esperanza Ward
Companion: Hermana Van der Toolen

This week has been really busy and I feel like we have been working super hard. It has been a little strange adjusting to a new area and trying to get to know all of the people here. I kind of feel like I am back in the first week of my mission. . . Except this time, I know just a little bit more about everything that is going on, so I am not completely lost. Overall, I really enjoyed this week.

First of all, my new area is super cool. The Esperanza Ward is super big and it has a lot of really cool members. It is really interesting because while I was in the Littlerock area, I used to live in the Esperanza area boundaries. We have actually gone out working down by our old apartments. It is really strange now, though, because everything is different now. In my new area, I work a lot more in neighborhoods in the actual city. It is a good thing, because there are now a lot fewer dogs that wander the streets and the houses are a lot closer together, so we are able to talk to more people. The bad news is that it is a lot harder to find Spanish speaking people in this area. We really have to search for people to teach, but we have still been able to find some.

When I first came to the area, we had almost literally no one to teach. This week, we have been spending a lot of time finding people. We have been able to have a lot of cool experiences and meet a lot of interesting people. One thing that we have been trying to do is pray specifically for inspiration in places to look and people to talk to. It has actually been really cool. One day, we set aside an hour where we had prayed and felt impressed to go to one particular street. However, when we got there, we weren't having a lot of success finding anyone. Right before we needed to leave, we found a person who was really interested and wanted to learn more. I was really able to see that the Lord will bless us as we follow inspiration.

I think that I told you about how much of a problem miles were in Littlerock. They are even more of a problem in my new area. We had so few miles at the beginning of the week that we had to drive our car to around where we were going to work, park the car, and walk literally everywhere that we needed to go. It was intense! On Tuesday, we walked for literally 7 hours straight. By the end of the day, we were both super tired. It was nice though, because we were able to talk to a lot of people. I actually really like walking because we are able to speak to everyone!

This week, I realized how much my Spanish is improving. I have really started to be able to talk to people about normal things instead of just about the Gospel. My dream is to be able to tell people that I am from Guadalajara and that they will actually believe me. I don't know if that is going to happen while I am on the mission, but I am sure that I can get my Spanish to be really good if I just keep working on it every day and praying for help in the language!

Yesterday, we had a really cool experience. On my first day in the area, we texted the only investigator that was there before we came. Apparently, she was super golden, but when we texted, she started to argue with us through text. She told us that she only believed in the Bible and that she wanted us to accept Jesus in our lives. We told her to have a good day and we were planning on never going back to see her again. Last night, we had a lot of appointments set up with our new investigators, but every single one fell through. At the end of the day, we found ourselves with nothing to do. When we were thinking about all of the people that we could go and see, I felt the impression that we should go and see Adriana (the investigator who we had dropped earlier in the week). I had been feeling a little off about the whole experience the entire week, but I didn't know why. We decided to go, and when we got there, she was super excited to see us and learn more. She asked us why we didn't contact her and hadn't tried to teach her earlier. That was when we figured out that we had texted the wrong number trying to get a hold of her. Adriana is actually super cool. We taught her about the Word of Wisdom and she said that she had already been keeping it, but now she knew why. It was super exciting. I really felt the love that the Lord has for all of his children and how he will make sure that the people who are prepared receive the gospel. I also learned that we always need to follow the inspirations that the Lord gives us.

Well, that's about it for this week. It was a super long one, but it was also a good one. I know that I am where I am supposed to be and that I am doing the things that I am supposed to. I love this restored gospel and the opportunity that I have as a missionary to share it with people!

Have a good week at home. I pray for you all everyday!

Hermana Blau

Monday, May 16, 2016

Week Nineteen: A Week of Firsts

Me with Chris and Stephanie. I love them!
Area: Littlerock Spanish Branch
Companion: Hermana Gonzalez

Another week, another email. This week marks the end of the transfer, and I guess that the big news of the week is that I am getting transferred! I think that I will miss this area. The people here are really special. More about that later in the letter.

This week has been really interesting. We have talked to a lot of interesting people and done a lot of interesting things. I am still being introduced to the food of the people who I am serving here. It's kind of funny. We were having dinner with one of the members here and we were telling her about all of the food that I haven't tried yet. She asked me why I hadn't and I told her that there weren't a lot of Latino people in Missouri. She told me that I had no excuse because I have been here for almost five months. This week, I tried my first pupusa (I am not sure if that's how you spell it). We went to a dinner with a member and she gave us mangoes for dessert. At that point, I realized that I don't really know how to eat mangoes. It ended up okay. I just looked at Hermana Gonzalez and followed her moves. I end up doing that a lot during dinners when we are eating strange foods, and I think that she has started to notice because she starts giggling when I do it. 

This week, we have been trying to find more quality people to teach. In addition, we don't have a lot of miles to drive on our car, so we have been walking a lot. I officially got my first California sunburn. It wasn't that bad, but I think that it is a bad sign for the times ahead. One morning, we were knocking on doors in an area where we hadn't been before. At one of the houses, a man opened the door just a crack and poked his head out. We asked him how he was doing and he replied, "I'm naked". I guess that he must have seen the strange looks on our faces because he said quickly, "just kidding". We talked to him a little bit, but he wasn't really interested and he kept saying strange things, so we asked him if we could leave him with a card. When he opened the door to grab the card, we could see a little bit more inside the house. That was when we discovered that he wasn't really kidding when he told us that he was naked. Awkward!

This week, we had an exciting event. Before all of the departing missionaries go home, they go down to the Los Angeles temple for the day. The one of the Hermanas from the other side of Palmdale is going home this week, so her companion, Hermana Van der Toolen came over and stayed with us for the day. It was really interesting being in a trio instead of just having one companion. It was really awkward because we didn't know who was going to say what or when we should say it. Trio life is weird.

Later that night, we got our transfer calls. I am leaving and Hermana Gonzalez is staying. The exciting part is that I am not going very far away. I am going to be going to the Esperanza Ward in. . . the other side of Palmdale. I am still going to be in the same zone and the same stake as this transfer. My new companion is going to be Hermana Van der Toolen. I am really excited to be going to a new area and meeting new people, but I am sad that I will not be here with the people who I have met and the members here. I love the people in this area and I feel like I have been learning so much about Spanish and the Gospel here. I will miss the dirt roads and giant pit bulls of Littlerock, but I think that I will be going to a place where I am needed.

Well, that is it for this week. Nothing really big happened, but I bet next week is going to be really interesting. I love being a missionary and getting to love the people in this area. I am so grateful for the Gospel in my life and for the love of my Heavenly Father. 

I love you all so much. Have a good week!

Hermana Blau

Palmdale Zone Meeting

Monday, May 9, 2016

Week Eighteen: Dog Adventures

A present that a friendly balloon artist gave us when we were out walking the other day.
She was super nice, but she only spoke English sadly. Que triste!
Area: Littlerock Spanish Branch
Companion: Hermana Gonzalez

Hello, all. This week was super crazy and a lot of interesting things happened, so I will try to remember them all and get them into the letter. The struggle is real when it comes to once-a-week emails!

This week, we have had a lot of adventures out in Littlerock. I love the people in that area and I always feel like I am in a movie while I am walking out there. One of the things that I did not realize about the area is the surprising amount of interesting wildlife. For example, while we were teaching some people at their door this last week, we noticed a lot of giant caterpillars. It was kind of gross, but we were all okay with it. . . until one of the people who we were teaching looked at my foot and told me that one of them had started crawling on me. I immediately jumped up about five feet in the air and freaked out a little bit! For the rest of the contact, I kept looking down at my feet about every 30 seconds to make sure that the caterpillars weren't encroaching on my area.

Something eventful happened this week -- I got bitten by my first dog! It wasn't actually an impressive story. We were walking down the street and we saw a fence that was left open. We thought that that must have been a sign that we should go in and talk to the people inside. When we went to enter the fence, two big dogs came up and started barking at us. We thought that they would be nice because they did not run at us while we were outside the fence, so we continued forward. Suddenly, out of the blue, a little dog ran out from in between the two others and bit me on my ankle. It didn't draw blood and it didn't really hurt my body, but it did hurt my pride.
My dog bite. (It looks pretty bad. The dog was vicious!)
Later that same day, we were going to enter a different fence when Hermana Gonzalez told me that she could see a big dog and that we shouldn't go in. I couldn't see the dog that she was talking about, so I decided to go in anyways. Hermana Gonzalez stayed by the fence (I guess she could see what was coming) and I walked up by the door of the house. Right as I was about to knock on it, I saw a giant dog. It started to growl at me. I think that I did the worst possible thing to do in that situation and ran back to the gate. I made it in time, but in my haste to get out, I fell down and scraped my knee. I guess that is what I get for not listening to the advice of my companion.

Later this week, we were in a lesson with a family that we met in Littlerock. I guess that we lost track of time, because by the time that we left, it was already pitch black outside. One of the funny things about Littlerock is that there are not any streetlights. I did not realize how far away we parked our car until we had to walk back in absolute darkness. It was just about the scariest moment of my life.

This week, we had a lesson with Chris and Stephanie again. They are super cool and really want to progress. During the lesson, I realized the power of church in helping people achieve personal conversion. We were talking to Chris, who had previously expressed some doubts about our message and we asked him if he would still like to be baptized. He said that he had had a really spiritual experience at church where he realized that we really do have continuing revelation and a prophet on the earth today. It was super cool. I am positive that they will continue to have positive experiences in church.

It was super fun getting to talk to the family this week. I guess that it just reminded me about why I am out here on my mission. I love my family so much and I know that I would be really depressed if I did not get to talk to them or hang out with them when we get to heaven. I am so glad that we know that we can be together as families forever. I love that I get to share that message with everyone!

I love you all and I hope that you all had a good week. Things are going pretty well here. I know that we will be blessed as we follow the counsel of the Lord in all things that we do. Have a great week!

Hermana Blau

Monday, May 2, 2016

Week Seventeen: An Answer to My Fast

Me with the Jehovah's Witness Umbrella.
Area: Littlerock Spanish Branch
Companion: Hermana Gonzalez

Missionary life is super strange and sometimes, it is super discouraging, but I have noticed during this week that it can also be really rewarding. I love being a missionary and getting to help the people in this area come closer to Jesus Christ and change to be better people.

This week has been pretty good as far as finding people goes. One of the really cool people who we have started to teach actually talked to us last week. I don't know if you remember the lady who asked us to come back and do more service for her, but we were able to go back and help her out. When we went, we started out by cleaning her kitchen and then she took us to her dining room table. She had a bunch of bills from about the past five years that were all in a pile. She asked us to help her to organize them. The only problem is that I couldn't really understand the way that she was telling us to arrange them because all of the instructions were in Spanish. After sitting around feeling a little useless, I decided to start putting the papers in piles according to year. When I finally got my pile all sorted, I looked around and realized that Hermana Gonzales and Mari (the lady who we were helping) had been sorting them according to company. Oh well. She really appreciated the help and asked us to come back the next day to teach her a lesson. It went super well and she asked a lot of good questions. I guess that service really is a good way to find people to teach! Who would have thought?

The other day, we were knocking on some doors in one of the neighborhoods where we normally go. As we were going down the street, we knocked on the door of a family of Jehovah's Witnesses. The mom came out to talk to us. She asked us what we believed and so we started talking about the Restoration of the Gospel. She stopped us right away and started grilling us for about 30 minutes about the Bible and our beliefs in God. It was super intimidating, especially because it was in English and Hermana Gonzalez doesn't really feel very comfortable talking when we teach in English. That meant that I was pretty much going up against the lady alone. I finally just invited her to pray and ask for her answers about our church that way. Hopefully, her heart will be softened.

That same day, about two doors down, we knocked on another door and a man came to the door. When we introduced ourselves, he told us that he was a Jehovah's Witness and that he wanted us to tell him about our beliefs. I thought that it was going to be just like the lady who we talked to before, but he was actually really nice. While we were talking in him, it started to rain. I don't know why, but I feel like any time it rains here, it pours. The guy let us borrow his umbrella, so we are going to go back and bring it back to him later.

This week, we have been working really hard to get our investigators to come to church. It is always really frustrating when Sunday comes around and the people who we thought were really progressing don't come. Because this Sunday was fast Sunday, I decided to fast for all of our investigators and for their church attendance. When the service started, I looked out into the crowd while I was playing the piano and nobody was there. I felt so let down and I thought that maybe my fast didn't work. After the opening hymn, Chris and Stephanie (the two children who have started coming to church with their mother, but who's father doesn't really want them to go to our church) came. Imagine my surprise when I saw that they were accompanied by their mother AND their father. I don't know if that means that he is 100% supportive, but I think that that is definitely a big step towards him letting them be baptized. It was a miracle and I am positive that it was an answer to my fast. I was just so happy and thankful to the Lord for his help in this work!

This week, I have seen the hand of the Lord in the work and the way that he is able to help us in our righteous endeavors. I love being a missionary and being able to bring the Gospel to others. I hope that I can become a better instrument in the hands of the Lord and that I will be able to find those people who are prepared!

I love you all at home and I hope that everything goes well for you this week. I am praying for you and I can feel your prayers for me being answered as well. Thanks for everything!

Hermana Blau