Monday, June 27, 2016

Week Twenty-Five: Hello, Bakersfield!!

Area: La Cresta Spanish Ward
Companion: Hermana Perry

This week was my first week in Bakersfield and everything is going great! It is super hot, but the people here are super cool and I love being companions with Hermana Perry. She is the greatest. We came out at the exact same time, so we already knew each other a little bit from the first day things. We are the youngest Spanish speaking Hermanas in the mission, so we have been having a great time and working a lot.

This week has been a scorcher! As soon as I got down here, the air conditioning in our apartment broke. It was so bad. The first night, I woke up completely drenched because it was so hot during the night. Weekly planning was almost unbearable because we were inside the apartment for a couple of hours. Luckily, we were able to contact the apartment management and they came by to fix it. I never appreciated the magic of modern technology until I felt that sweet air conditioning again.

This is a great area and we have been working really hard. We are in the La Cresta Spanish ward in East Bakersfield. There are a ton of Spanish speakers here. It is really nice and I have had lots of opportunities to work on the language. It is a little funny because Hermana Perry and I have about the same amount of experience in speaking Spanish, so living with the language barrier has been really fun. One day this week, we were calling one of our investigators to confirm our appointment with her. Towards the end, she said something that neither of us could understand. I thought that she had said, "I love you" which seemed a little weird, but I told Hermana Perry. She responded to Rocio (our investigator) "I love you, too!" She sounded really surprised. That was when we realized that she hadn't actually said I love you. Awkward! Despite that, we have been able to do pretty well with the language together.

We have been working really hard to follow the promptings of the spirit this week. When we get to any area, we pray to see what we should be doing and who we should talk to. We have had a lot of adventures and some really cool experiences.

One day, we were going to go and see one of our potential investigators. When we pulled over to the side of the road to pray, a lady walked out of her house and started looking at us really strangely. We finished praying and she started to walk towards our car, so I rolled down the window. She introduced herself and started talking to us. After a second, she told us that she was going to get into our back seat so that she could talk to us better. Then, before we could say anything, she opened the back door of the car and hopped right in. We were sitting there in shock, but she just kept asking us questions. It was really strange! She told us that she was schizophrenic and bipolar, which explained a little bit about why she would do that. While we were talking, her mom came out, saw that she was in our car, gave us a strange look, and walked back into the house. I wanted to talk to the mom, so I asked the lady in our car if she would go into her house to get us some water. When she got out, I turned to Hermana Perry and told her to grab her stuff, then we just followed the lady into her house. We didn't end up talking to her mom, but we were able to talk to her sister-in-law and we did a little bit of service and helped them to pack up for their move later this week. It was a little strange of an experience, but I think that we were able to meet some people who were prepared.

Another experience where we had an adventure because we followed the spirit. We were walking down a street where we have been a lot this week. One of the houses on the street had a couple of really big and scary looking dogs that were kept on chains. They had looked so scary that we decided that we probably shouldn't try talking to the people in the house. As we were about to get in our car to leave the street, we decided to knock one more house. They weren't home, but from the porch, we could see that one of the scary dogs had gotten loose and that all of the family from that house were outside in the streets. We both felt prompted to go and talk to them. Right before we got up to the house, the dog that had gotten loose started running up towards me. I saw my life flash before my eyes. It sort of jumped on me, and then it ran away. Nothing happened (but I did have some dog slobber on my watch). The dog's owner came out swearing up a storm and apologized so much. We gave her our card and were able to talk to her about our message. Her mother came out and started talking to us to. It turns out that she is actually an extremely less active member. We were able to talk to her a bit and she said that she wants to start coming back to church. We probably wouldn't have been able to find her if we weren't listening to the spirit (even though the prompting didn't make much sense!).

I am super excited for this transfer. It is going to be seven weeks long, but I am sure that we are going to be able to do a lot of good work during this time. I have already seen a lot of miracles during my first week here. I am positive that they are going to just keep on going!

I love being a missionary and seeing the difference that I am able to make in people's lives. I am sure that I am where the Lord wants me to be and I am trying more and more each day to be doing what he wants me to be doing. I love you all and I hope that you have a good week back at home. Keep cool and have fun!

Hermana Blau

Monday, June 20, 2016

Week Twenty-Four: Last Week in Palmdale

Area: Esperanza Ward
Companion: Hermana Van der Toolen

A lot of things have happened between the time that I last emailed and now. We went to the temple and we also got transfer calls. This transfer was only five weeks, so it felt super short. Start the drum roll. I am going to. . .BAKERSFIELD! I will be spending the next transfer in the Lacresta Ward in North Bakersfield. Things are going to be good!

Going to the temple was really cool. I have really missed being able to go whenever I wanted to, but I think that the fact that we are only able to go every six months made it really special. We got there a little early, so we were able to spend some time in the visitor's center. It was super interesting. We got there before any regular people were there, so the senior missionaries gave us a tour of the place. They offered to let us sit in on the training of the sister missionaries who work there. We didn't end up going, but it was super interesting being around other missionaries.

Being in the temple again was really nice. I love going to different temples, and the Los Angeles temple is huge! It was a beautiful building and I was able to feel the Spirit so much. I love the peace that I am able to feel while I am in the temple. It is one of my favorite things in the world.

This week, we had a ward party and one of our investigators, Carlos, came. It was super fun. I always love the parties that we have in the Hispanic wards. While we were at the party, we also had our (English speaking) district leader and his companion there on exchanges with the elders in our ward. It was super funny to see them reacting to all the people and the food. I forget sometimes how different everything in Spanish wards is from English wards. It is going to be a little strange going back home after spending so much time with the people down here!

With our investigator, Carlos
On Saturday, we met an interesting person while we were out. As we were walking down the street, we saw a guy who was sitting on his front porch and we decided to go and talk to him. He was Catholic, but he seemed pretty interested to learn more about the differences and similarities between our churches. It turned out that he had actually talked to the English sisters a week or so before. We were wondering why they hadn't given him as a referral (because his whole family is more comfortable in Spanish) when things started to get a little weird. He started to talk a lot about marriage and asking us strange questions like, "Do you think that Jesus was married?" and "Do you think that God could send someone into your life that would be your soul mate?" We started telling him about the Young Single Adult ward that they have in Lancaster, but he wasn't really interested in actually going to church. As we were trying to go, he said, "Who knows, maybe one of you would end up being my wife". What an interesting person!

Church yesterday was pretty good. We got our transfer calls on Saturday night. I am going to Bakersfield and Hermana Van der Toolen is going to Lancaster (about 20 minutes away from our current area). At church, we started telling everyone that we are going to be leaving. Hermana Van der Toolen would tell them that she was going to Lancaster and they would say that they were super excited for her. I would tell them that I was going to Bakersfield and they would get a sad look on their face and say, "Oh. That's . . . nice. Make sure that you stay in the shade and don't breathe in the dust". I have heard that when you go to Bakersfield, your shoes literally melt off of your feet and the dust storms can kill you. Hopefully, everything will work out. Hopefully I will not have melted by next Monday when I can write again!

One of our recent converts, Esther, brought her sister-in-law, Nahidi, to church. She is super sweet, but she has really bad Alzheimer's and is also a little frail. During relief society, Ester asked everyone to pray for her sister-in-law and everyone said that they would. After the class ended, we looked over and one of the less active members who had come to church that day had her hand on Nahidi's face, was shaking her back and forth, and was performing an exorcism. We just stood there in shock as it was all going on. She stopped in a little bit.

I am a little bit sad to leave Palmdale. I have made a lot of friends here and I love the people in this area. I have loved being able to teach the people in this area. I am sure that I will also come to love the people in Bakersfield as well. I love being a missionary and I am sure that the Lord is directing the work.

Keep cool at home. I love you all so much. You are all in my prayers!

Hermana Blau

Monday, June 13, 2016

Week Twenty-Three: In the Fiery Furnace

Look at the temperature! That isn't even the highest that I have seen it at. Sometimes it is a struggle to be out here because no one that we teach uses their air conditioning because it is too expensive.
Area: Esperanza Ward
Companion: Hermana Van der Toolen

This week has been crazy! We have been working a ton and trying to move the work forward in this area, and we have seen some pretty cool things!

I guess, first thing first, I should talk about the Licona family. I am pretty sure that I mentioned them a little bit in my last letter. We went over on Monday night to see them and talk to them about getting their marriage license. It turns out that they were able to go and buy the license during the day on Monday! That was a super big miracle. It has turned out to be a little bit harder to pick up the license because they both work in Los Angeles during every week day and have a hard time getting off work. Hopefully, they will be able to pick up the license during this week and they can keep moving towards baptism. I don't know if the entire family will be baptized all at once (the mom and some of the children are still super attached to the Catholic church), but the Lord is certainly helping them along the path!

We are still having a little bit of trouble finding people to teach right now, so we have been getting creative in our finding methods. One of the things that we have decided to start is an English class. We went over to the church on Tuesday night and set everything up, but we did not do very well with the publicity. In the end, we had one member and one investigator there along with the Spanish speaking elders in this area. It was super fun to teach English. It brought me back to the MTC. We were able to play some games and by the end, we all introduced ourselves in English. We are working on publicity and are passing out fliers for the class. Hopefully, this week, we will be able to have more people come and maybe we will be able to find some new investigators from it!

This week, we got a ton of referrals. It is always super fun to go and try to contact them all. Our area is huge. We cover the areas of four or five sets of English missionaries, so anytime they find someone who speaks Spanish, they just send them over to us. It's funny sometimes because the English missionaries can't really communicate with the people that they are referring us to, so sometimes we go over to see them and they are clearly not interested at all. Sometimes, however, we do get referrals to people who are super cool! For example, the other day, we went over to see a lady named Marlene who was a referral from our District Leaders. She told us to come right on in and sit down. She was super excited to see us and to learn from us. She already knows a lot about the church because some of her family currently attends the English ward in this area. She really likes the church and wants to come! Hopefully, everything turns out well with her.

One of my investigators drew this for me.
The weather here is super strange right now. For the first part of the week, I felt like I was burning up. It was so hot! The last half of the week, however, has actually been a little chilly. It is super strange. The other afternoon, I actually had to put on a sweater. I don't know if that is because it is actually cold, or if it is because I just want to believe that it is not a million degrees outside.

This week, we don't really have a full p-day. After we email, we are going to go right back to work, because we are going to go to the temple in Los Angeles on Wednesday! I am so excited! I love the temple so much and I have really missed going. It is also going to be really nice to get out of Palmdale for a little bit. I haven't left the city for four months! It feels weird to be going out into the big world again. I will be sure to send you some pictures of the adventure next week!

Not a whole ton of things have happened this week, but it has been a good one. I am so glad for this opportunity that I have to be a missionary out here in the Bakersfield California Mission. Even if it is like being in a fiery furnace all the time, I know that this is the area that I am supposed to be in. The people here are so nice (mostly) and I am able to see the hand of the Lord so many times each day. I love being here!

Thank you so much for all of your support! I love you all so much. Have fun back at home and have a good week!

Hermana Blau

My watch and feet tan lines. Pretty impressive if I do say so myself!
[Mom note: Savannah doesn't usually tan. She burns.]

Monday, June 6, 2016

Week Twenty-Two: Yo Estaba Muy Cerca a una Cerca

Area: Esperanza Ward
Companion: Hermana Van der Toolen

This week has been kind of slow, but we have really been seeing miracles! I think that I have learned more about how the Lord will always help us in this work this week than I have during any other week so far.

The most eventful thing that happened during the beginning of this week was that we finally won the victory over the miles! All of the walking and biking worked out and we were able to finish out the month of May with exactly 1100.4 miles. It was pretty impressive (if I do say so myself). The only problem is that the temperature has finally started to resemble what I imagined California summers would be like. During the days, it is 100 degrees or more with no clouds in the sky. When the wind blows, it feels like a blow-dryer! I can't remember if I shared this last week, but I have finally started to get sunburned. The difference here as opposed to Missouri is that my sunburns are turning into tans. It is the strangest thing.

One funny story. We were walking along the street the other day and I got really close to a fence. It turned out that the top of the fence was made of something sharp, so I cut my arm up. It wasn't super bad, but it started to bleed a little bit. Instead of taking one of Hermana Van der Toolen's band-aids, I decided that it would be a good talking point. We knocked on a door and I showed the lady my bleeding arm and asked if she would give me a band-aid. While she was helping me out, we were able to talk to her. She wasn't super interested, but I was able to tell her that I got cut because "yo estaba muy cerca a una cerca". [Translation: I was very close to a fence. (In Spanish the words for  "close" and "fence" are the same.)] That made me chuckle for the rest of the day.

Because it is so hot during the day, we have been trying to set up visits with less active members. It has actually been working out pretty well. We get to come in from the heat and the sun and we also get to teach people. There are a lot of people in the Esperanza ward who haven't been contacted for a long time, so it has been good to be able to see them. Hopefully, we will be able to start helping them to come back to church.

This week we had another lesson with Adriana. I don't know if you remember her, but she is the one that we almost dropped because we thought that she was Bible bashing us through text message. It turns out that she is super prepared. She loves learning about the Gospel and reading in the scriptures and she always keeps all of her commitments, which is a breath of fresh air. Her biggest problem at this moment is with coming to church. She works in a hotel as a maid and works pretty much all the time. We went over to teach her about the importance of the Sabbath day. When we asked her if she thought that her boss would give her Sundays off, she said that she didn't think so. Apparently, her boss is a bit of a jerk and doesn't like changing people's schedules. It is also hard because Adriana really needs to work to help to support her family. We shared 1 Nephi 3:7 with her and talked with her a little bit about faith and the importance of church. Afterwards, we asked her if she would be willing to go in and talk to her boss, and she said that she definitely would because going to church is so important and she wants to know the truth. It was super cool. She has so much faith. I think that my experience with Adriana has really gone to show me that God is always going to make sure that his prepared children receive the Gospel!

We received the biggest surprise of this week yesterday. There is a family that the Hermanas in this area have been teaching for a really long time named the Liconas. They have had all the lessons and have been coming to church regularly for a long time and all of them really want to be baptized. The only problem is that the parents aren't married. For a long time, they weren't able to get married because of a lack of money to buy the marriage license and some relationship problems. Recently, they haven't been able to get the license because they can never get time off of work to go to buy the license during the week. Yesterday, we texted the father to ask if we could come over on Sunday night to teach a lesson with them and he said that we should come over on Monday night because he got a day off of work. It turns out that they are going to go and get their marriage license today! After that, there is nothing stopping them from getting baptized. We have been fasting and praying for them to be able to get the license for a long time, and it looks like it is finally going to happen!

This week has been a little bit interesting, but I have definitely been able to see the hand of the Lord in this work. I am so glad that I am a missionary and am able to see all of the positive changes that the Gospel brings to people's lives. I love this church!

I love you all and I am hope that everything is going well at home. Keep cool and have fun at home!

Hermana Blau