Monday, October 31, 2016

Week Forty-Three: Happy Halloween!!

That is the reaction picture of me after the dog ate the Book of Mormon.
You can't really see the bites, but they are there!
Area: Buena Vista Spanish Ward
Companion: Hermana Zambrano

First of all, Happy Halloween! Today, we have somewhat of a free day because we have to be inside of our house at six o'clock. It isn't really that exciting because we have been given some talks that we have to study during the time that we are inside. Also, I will be packing because I am going to be transferred tomorrow! I still don't know where I am going to go or who I am going to be with, but I will be leaving good old Buena Vista tomorrow morning, heading for greener pastures. It makes me a little sad, because I really love the members and the area, but it will be good to keep doing the work.

Another exciting thing that happened this week was my birthday. I am officially no longer a teenager. It was a little strange celebrating my birthday on the mission because there wasn't a lot of time to think about it, but everyone made an effort to make me feel loved. The STLs called me and sang Happy Birthday and President and Sister Layton called to wish me a happy birthday as well. Even Sister Ball, one of the missionaries from the office, came over and brought me a cupcake.  Our investigator, Claudia, took us out to dinner. It was all super nice and sweet. I opened the package that I got from home and discovered all of the candy inside. It was a wonderful surprise. Now, the only worry that we have in our apartment is not to get diabetes from all of the sugar that we have inside.

One funny story from the week: We talked to a lady who was sitting in her garage while we were walking down the street. She said that we could come back and share a little bit more, so we planned to come back another day. Right before we left, I saw a couple of little dogs in her yard and made sure to ask her if she had any big dogs. She told us that she didn't, so we foolishly thought that we were safe. Flash forward to a couple of days ago. We went back for our return appointment and we noticed that the little dogs were a little vicious, especially one little white one that started biting at the chain link fence when we walked past. We waited a little bit and the dog started to calm down, so we thought that it would be safe to walk inside the gate. I walked in and told Hermana Zambrano to stay outside (I just read the scripture where the Savior said that the greatest love is that one lays down his life for his friends. I thought that would apply to companions as well). I made it all the way inside the gate and decided that it would be a good idea to try and pet the vicious dog to make sure that it knew that we weren't going to kill it. No sooner did I touch the head of the dog but it started making moves to bite me. I put the Book of Mormon I had in my hand close to the dog so it would bite the book instead of my hand. It latched on to the book, but I was able to escape through the gate and yank the book out of the dogs mouth. Now, I have a souvenir  Book of Mormon with teeth marks all the way through to Alma!

We had a pretty cool experience with one of our less active families this week. We started working in an area and I felt like we needed to be somewhere else. We decided to try and see a sister who we knew from our records but who we had never met before. We had previously tried knocking on her door, but no one ever answered. We got to the sister's house and she opened the door and invited us in. I guess that she had a really bad day at work and she prayed for comfort. Right after she prayed, we knocked on the door. It was a witness that the spirit really does guide the work.

Right now, we are working with a really cool family. We have taught them a couple of time and they really want to learn more. The other week, we invited them to come to church, but it was Stake Conference, so they got lost looking for the Stake Center and ended going home. This week, we invited them again to come to church. We confirmed 30 minutes before, but as the meeting was starting, they still weren't there. We called them again and it turned out that they were lost again. We were able to guide them over the phone and they made it just in time for church. Everyday is an adventure!

Well, it has been another week and another transfer. I am sad to leave this area because I really love the people here, but I am excited to see what comes ahead. I love this gospel and I love being a missionary. I hope that you all have a Happy Halloween!

Hermana Blau

Hermana Zambrano is all trained up!!!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Week Forty-Two: Our Spanglish Primary Program

Area: Buena Vista Spanish Ward
Companion: Hermana Zambrano

This week was pretty good. It was a pretty tame week, but we were able to see a lot of cool things! Things are starting to cool down out here, so that is always nice.

One recurring theme that happened throughout the week was that we were able to help the ward a little bit with the primary program. One day, we went and did service at the Primary President's house making paper flowers for the center piece. I was able to help the Primary a little bit by playing the piano at one of the practices because the sister who was playing for the regular program couldn't be there. It was a super cute program. I think that there were more people at church than I have ever seen in this ward. It was a bit of a Spanglish presentation. Some of the songs were in Spanish and some were in English, but they were all super cute!

On one night this week, it was a little late and we didn't have very much to do, so we decided to try something different. I felt inspired that we should go and talk to the people at the taco stand by our apartment. We took the long way around. While we were walking along the road, we saw two young guys messing around on skateboards. We started talking to them and gave them our card. We finally made it to the taco stand. It turned out to be a super awkward experience and we didn't really find anyone interested to talk to. When we went home, we got a call from one of the young guys that we met. It turns out that he was actually interested in learning more. Sad news: he was English speaking. Hopefully, it will turn out well for the English elders.

We have been working a lot with the less active people in our ward. We have been trying to meet with all of the people in our area who could receive the Melchizedek priesthood, so we have been having some interesting experiences. We talked to one family who haven't been to church in a couple of years, but their daughter-in-law was pretty interested in talking to us.

One day this week, we were walking down the street late at night on our way to talk to one of the less active families in our area. Every time that it gets really windy, the dust starts blowing around. This makes the visibility remarkably low. We were walking down the street when it was super dusty and we saw someone coming up out of the distance. We couldn't really see what it was until it came right next to us. When the image became clearer, we saw that it was a person riding on a skateboard with a skull mask and a long green wig. I thought that we were walking in a nightmare! We were able to find shelter in the less active's house, so we didn't end up reenacting a horror movie.

We have been working with a lot of cool families recently, and things are going along really well with them. We have been able to see a lot of miracles while we have been teaching. The Lord really does direct His work! I love being a missionary and being able to tell people about how they can apply the Atonement in their lives.

I hope that you all have a good week and that you are able to have some adventures. Enjoy fall!

Hermana Blau

Monday, October 17, 2016

Week Forty-One: My Jurassic Park Moment

Area: Buena Vista Spanish Ward
Companion: Hermana Zambrano

Howdy y'all! This has been a really good week and we have had a lot of adventures our here in the great Bakersfield mission. We have been spending some time teaching some really cool people and we have had a lot of conferences, so we have been able to receive a lot of inspiration and instruction.

One of the big things that happened this week is that we have started going to a place called Pumpkin Center. Our area is on the very southern edge of Bakersfield, so we cover all of the area surrounding that edge of the city. There are several little towns in las afueras that we haven't been going to very much because we have been trying to visit the main parts of the town, but we decided that it would be worth our time to stop by this week. Pumpkin Center is about 10 streets in the middle of a bunch of dirt, but a ton of Spanish speaking people live there. Despite the name, there isn't a pumpkin to be seen. We were able to talk to a ton of people who were eating at the taco trucks and hanging out in their yards. It is a super fun place!

We found an investigator down there named Francisca. She is a young mother of two and her family is super cute. The first time we met her, we walked into her yard and knocked on her door. The second time, the gate was locked. Hermana Zambrano asked if there was a dog inside and I laughed her to scorn because we hadn't seen a dog the last time. I walked right into the gate and made it to the door of the trailer when I heard Hermana Zambrano say, "Hermana, look out. There is a dog!" I turned around a saw a giant pit bull out of the corner of my eye. It hadn't seen me yet, so I was trying to gauge my options between knocking on the door and hoping that they opened it in time and sneaking around the car to get to the gate while not letting the dog see me. I chose to walk around the car. The entire time, Hermana Zambrano was telling me that the dog was walking around the car and about to see me. Picture the scene in Jurassic Park when the little kids are running away from the raptors and you would know about how I felt in that moment. I had almost made it to the gate when I looked and saw that the dog was right behind me. In the end, it turned out that the dog was actually super nice and friendly. We walked back and knocked on the door and I could still feel all the  adrenaline. I was shaky for a couple of minutes after that! jaja

We didn't have dinner one night this week, so we decided to go and eat at one of the taco stands that are all around town. We parked outside of the one that we had chosen, and the lady who ran the stand came out and stared at us while we were in the car. We were a little concerned about it, but we walked out and started towards the stand. She called out to us and asked us if we were missionaries. Then she told us that she was a member of the church and had recently moved from El Salvador. She hadn't been able to find the church and she wanted to go back to church. It was super cool how the Lord put us in her path! Also, she made us super good pupusas!

We have started teaching a couple of really cool families recently. We went over to teach one family and after the lesson, they said that they had some cake for us. We were super excited! They brought the cake out and cut the pieces for us. When we asked them what kind of cake it was, we discovered that coffee was one of the ingredients. After a quick word of wisdom lesson, we told them that we couldn't eat it. I felt really bad because they had gotten the cake special for us, but after we told them, the hermana said that she totally understood and got out some chocolate cereal for us to eat. It was super funny and we all had a good laugh. They are super cool!

Things are going well in the work. We had a member of the seventy (Elder Cook) visit the mission and we had a really good training with him. The next day, the South Bakersfield Stake had it's stake conference and Elder Cook stayed to train the Stake. It was really cool to be able to hear from one of the general authorities and to receive teachings from him!

That is about it for this week. We have been having nicer weather down here. It rained last night for the first time in about six months, so we have been enjoying the water. I hope that you all have a good week at home!

Hermana Blau

Monday, October 10, 2016

Week Forty: Half-Way Done!!!

The cutest moment of my mission! A less active family in our ward has two baby
kittens, and they let me feed them! My face looked like that for the entire time. SO CUTE!
This week was pretty good. We were able to see a lot of miracles. One of the biggest ones is that I completed the first half of my mission! It seems like it was only yesterday that I was just starting out in the MTC. I can hardly believe that I am here! I still feel like I have a ton to learn and that there is so much that I can improve, but I can see that I have changed a lot over the past nine months. Time is crazy!

One of the miracles this week happened when we decided to go contacting in the park. It was only after we got to the park that we realized that it was two in the afternoon on a weekday and that no one was there. We decided to go knocking in the houses around the park instead. In the first house that we knocked on, we met a lady who was super excited to see us. It turns out that she had learned from the missionaries twelve years ago in Los Angeles and that she loved the church. She kept calling us her princesas and  invited us in to eat. Because we were late to our dinner appointment, we made a return appointment and left. When we went back, she invited us right in and we taught the first lesson. In the middle, we were asking her why she stopped meeting with the missionaries. It turns out that she had talked with one of the members and they had told her that the church didn't believe in using medicine and that she should give all of the money that she would have spent of medicine for a really horrible disease that she had and give it to the church. She was upset about that and decided to stop meeting with the missionaries even though she loved them and the church. We were able to tell her that we didn't believe in that. After we told her that, she looked at us with tears in her eyes and told us that we didn't know what a difference that made for her. The spirit was super strong! She is really excited to meet with us now and really wants to move forward.
Me and a bag of Chick Fil A that we found outside of our apartment.
It had two chicken sandwiches and kids toys. We don't know if it was left for us,
so we left it. Nobody came and took it, so it is still a mystery why it was there.
We threw it away in the end. Que triste!
We have been getting a lot of food recently. I don't know what has been happening recently, but every time that we leave someone's house, they give us a giant bag of food to take home. One of the members of the bishopric works for Nabisco, so he gave us a giant bag of crackers and cookies after we left his house. Last night we met a lady who works in la uva and she gave us giant bags of grapes when we left (even though she wasn't super interested in learning from us). We hardly had to spend any money on groceries this week. Que milagro!

All of the sisters in our zone at an In N Out.
One of the benefits of serving on the west coast!
This week, we have had a couple of people chase us down to talk to us. One of them was a person that we talked to at the beginning of last transfer named Reyes. We had gone back to his return appointment and almost gotten eaten by his vicious dog. While we were walking past his house late at night, he was sitting with his friends outside. He chased us down and told us that he hadn't been able to meet with us because he had lost his teeth while he was working and felt embarrassed. He told us that he was still interested in learning, so we went back to talk to him later that week and had a really good lesson.

The other night, we were walking through the area by our house late at night right before going home and I thought that I heard someone call my name. I looked around and didn't see anyone, so we kept walking. Right before we walked in the door of our house, we got a call from a man that we had talked to a couple of weeks ago. It turns out that we had walked right past his house and he wanted to talk to us again. He had called my name, but we didn't realize what had been happening. We were able to go back last night and talk to him and his family. They were super cute and the lesson went pretty well!

I guess that is pretty much it for this week. We have been seeing really good things in the area and we have been working with some super cool people. I have definitely been able to see the hand of the Lord in the work and I love being a missionary!

I hope that you all have a good week and that fall is going well. It is just starting to show up here. I love you all!

Hermana Blau
Our zone after our zone training meeting.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Week Thirty-Nine: The Perfect Storm

On exchanges with Hermana Martineau

Area: Buena Vista Spanish Ward
Companion: Hermana Zambrano

This week was an interesting one. I really think that I have been able to grow and see the hand of the Lord in the things that we have been doing. It is always good to have a spiritual high from General Conference.

This week, we had exchanges. I left with Hermana Martineau and travelled up to Arvin (always a fun place to be). It is just a couple of homes, a lot of dirt, and is surrounded by grape fields. It was a pretty good exchange. Right in the middle, we started talking to a weatherman. While we were telling him about the Restoration, he looked at the sky and noticed that it was quickly darkening and that there was lightning flashing a couple of miles away. I guess that he was scared of lightning, so he ran inside his house. We were walking back to the car when we noticed that the dust was starting to blow a lot. We made it to the car and started driving to a member's house to find shelter, but the dust was so bad that I couldn't see the road and we had to pull over. Then it started to pour down rain. The rain mixed with the dust in the air and so it started to rain down mud. It was pretty much the strangest weather that I have experienced in my entire life. We finally made it to the member's house. When we got there, one of her nonmember friends was there and we were able to teach her as well. It turned out to be a pretty good lesson. When we left the house, the sky was clear, there was a rainbow, and you could see the mountains that are normally hidden by pollution. It was pretty miraculous.

While we were walking around the other day, we talked to a young man. He said that he was busy and that we could come back later that afternoon. We were a little skeptical, but we went back later and talked to him. He said that he is going through some really hard things in his life right now and that he wants to come closer to God and to learn more of him. We sat and talked to him for a long time about the things that are going on in his life and how the gospel of Jesus Christ can help him. I have really gained a testimony lately about how every single person on the earth can benefit from learning about and coming closer to Jesus Christ. It really is amazing!

One morning, we were walking down the street in the outskirts of the city when we heard banda music coming from behind one of the houses. Hermana Zambrano thought that there might be another house behind the one we could see from the road, so we decided to go check it out. It turned out that it was just the backyard of the house we could see (imagine that!) but we decided that it would be too strange to walk away once they had seen us, so we walked right into the backyard. We decided to steer clear of the drunken poker game that was going on in the barn, but we were able to talk to someone who was sitting outside. After avoiding his drunk friends, we were able to get his information and set up a time that we could see him again. We went back to see him yesterday and started talking to him. It turns out that he is a war veteran and that he has been struggling with some issues relating to that. When we told him about the message of the Restoration, he was super excited that there are modern day prophets. It made me think about how we are guided to do some strange things sometimes. I guess Heavenly Father knows what he wants to have happen.

Speaking of guidance, General Conference was amazing! I feel like all of the talks were speaking directly to me. I loved the Saturday Afternoon session. I feel like the entire thing was all about missionary work and how we can help others to have the same joy that we experience. We were able to help one of our investigators to watch the talk the President Monson gave and he said that it was incredible and that you couldn't deny that he was speaking the truth. I second that! I love that we are able to receive direction from God through the modern day prophets.

That is pretty much it for the week. I really love the mission and I can't believe that I am already nine months in. I feel like I just came here, but I know that I have been growing and changing so much. I wouldn't change it for the world! I hope that you all have a good week back home!

Hermana Blau

The dust storms. Scary!