Monday, November 28, 2016

Week Forty-Seven: Happy Thanksgiving!

Area: Arvin Spanish Group
Companion: Hermana White

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that you all had a good time and that you were able to think about all of the things that you are thankful for. We were able to see a lot of miracles and to witness many good things in our area, so we definitely have a lot to be thankful for out here. Things are good out here in good old Arvin, California!

A new cold front moved in and it has been raining down here in Arvin and snowing in the surrounding mountains. One cool feature about Arvin is that any time that the weather changes, the wind picks up and all of the dirt from the surrounding fields flies up into the air and moves in an ominous cloud towards the town. It is pretty scary! We were able to make it into the house of a recent convert and so we were safe!

This week, we started things out with an interesting exchange. We went on exchanges with the hermanas who are currently in Little Rock. It was really strange to go back there and see all of the places that I used to go to when I was training. I have been able to go on exchange to all of the areas where I have previously served, but I think that it was definitely the strangest to go there. We went out to a lesson with one of the hermanas's investigators and we took Hermana Lopez (the Relief Society President) as our member present. It was super cool to be able to see some of the members from the branch. The exchanges were super fun and we were able to learn a lot! We only have one exchange left this transfer and then we will be able to rest for a little bit before we start back up again.

This Thanksgiving, we were able to have a lot of fun and to celebrate in style. We started out in weekly planning for a while in the morning. We went out tracting for a while and tried to contact some referrals while all of the families were at home. Then, we had dinner with the Navarros (a family from the group). It was super good, although a little bit different from what I was used to. Instead of eating turkey, we ate posole (so yummy!). Afterwards, we all went around the table and talked about what we were grateful for. It made me think about Thanksgiving at home, but I am super glad that I am out here as a missionary. I love being able to help people change their lives and to come closer to Christ!

On Saturday, we were able to go to the baptism of one of the people that we have been teaching, Daniel. He was taught for a little bit by Hermanas White and Martineau before I got to Arvin, and then I was able to teach him for about three weeks while I was up here. The week before the baptism, we decided to let the English elders start to teach him because he speaks English much better than Spanish and he wanted to go to the English ward. It was a little sad, because he got baptized just a week later, but it was still a really good service and we were able to feel the spirit a lot. We were able to go to the sacrament meeting in the English ward to see the confirmation the next day, as well. It was super cool!
This Sunday, we were able to see a lot of our investigators at church. A couple of people that we found on the street and didn't have the opportunity to teach showed up on their own as well. I met one of the guys a couple of weeks ago on exchanges outside of a restaurant when we were about to go to eat. He called us over and said that he had been taught by missionaries a couple of years ago and he had gone to church with them in Bakersfield. He didn't have a phone number and we didn't know his exact address, so we didn't think that we were ever going to be able to talk to him again. Imagine our surprise when we walked into church and saw him there. He said that he just decided to come and he walked there by himself. It turns out that he is friends with one of the members and that he wants to start coming to church every week. It was a Thanksgiving miracle!

Well, that is just about it for the week. We saw a lot of miracles and we were able to give thanks in style. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve a mission and to come closer to Jesus Christ and to help others to do the same. I am so grateful for the Gospel and for the sacrifice of the Atonement. I love all of you at home and I am glad to be out here. I hope that you all have a good week!

Hermana Blau

Monday, November 21, 2016

Week Forty-Six: Spontaneous Service Opportunities

We had a cookie bakeoff for our district activity, and these were our contribution.
Area: Arvin Spanish Group
Companion: Hermana White

This was a pretty good week. We were able to help and teach a lot of people and I could see the hand of the Lord in our work.

This week, it started to get cold. I am sure that you all would laugh at me back home for being such a wuss when it comes to the temperatures. It gets to be in the fifties during the night time and I start to shiver even though I have my big coat on. I feel like we have been praying all summer for the cold to come and now that it is here, we will start praying for the heat. It does make it easier to feel like the holidays are coming around. Many of the Spanish speaking people down here leave their Christmas lights up on their house year round, but they have finally started to turn them on and Arvin is turning into a little winter wonderland.

One fun story from Arvin. Because Arvin is just a little town, it is really easy to see a lot of strange things going around. For example: We had just finished praying in our car before leaving for an appointment when we looked up and saw a man on a bicycle making his way in our direction. The closer he got, the more strange he looked. The man was shirtless and covered in tattoos. What we thought was a helmet on his head actually turned out to be a tee shirt wound as a turban. He was holding something in his hand. Right before he passed by our car, we realized that it was a live (and rather surprised) chicken. After he passed, Hermana White and I just stared at each other in shock, trying to process what happened. There is nothing like missionary work to let you see just a little of all of the strange things that people do in their free time.

We had some more exchanges this week. On Tuesday, I was feeling a little bit of dejavu (I don't know how to spell that word, so I hope you can tell what it means! :)) because I went down to Buena Vista again with Hermana Zambrano. It felt like I was coming back from really long exchanges with Hermana White and returning to my actual area. We were able to work in the area and visit a couple of the hermanas's new investigators. It was bizarre!

We have been having a lot of spontaneous service opportunities this week. Last Monday, we were finishing our grocery shopping in Walmart when we met an old lady who was shopping for her Thanksgiving meal. After we were finished paying for our things, we asked if she needed help taking her things out to her car. She said that she did, so we left to help. She didn't really remember where she had parked, so we ran around the parking lot until we were able to locate her car and we put all of her groceries inside. She was super sweet and thanked us. She told us that she was praying that she would find someone nice to help her out. Service is super sweet!

Later this week, we were doing some street contacting in a residential area. We hadn't really talked to anyone that was super cool, so we were about to head back to our car and go somewhere else. Right before we got there, we saw a door and felt like we should knock on it. After we had done so, a lady opened up and started talking to us. She was being a little short with us and was trying to tell us that she wasn't interested when I said, "We felt inspired by God to be in this area and we felt specifically inspired to knock on your door. We don't know what our purpose is here, but we would like to share a message with you." After that, the lady opened up the door and invited us in. She actually ended up being really cool and we were able to teach her the entire Restoration. It was a real testimony builder to me that God really does inspire us and sends us to the people who need to hear from us.

Well, that is just about it for the week. Things are going well down here in Arvin and we are seeing lots of miracles. We are working with lots of cool people and they are progressing really well. It is so amazing to be able to see the Atonement at work in people's lives and to help them to learn about the happiness that comes through Christ. I love being a missionary. I hope that you all have a good week and that you have a happy Thanksgiving!

Hermana Blau

Hermana Luquette's reaction to our cookies.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Week Forty-Five: Elder Bednar Speaks with Fire!

Area: Arvin Spanish Group
Companion: Hermana White

This week was pretty good. It started out with a couple of exchanges with the other hermanas and ended with a couple of conferences with Elder Bednar. Not too bad, if I do say so myself. I was able to feel the spirit really strongly and we have been working hard out here in little old Arvin.

Right now, we are working really hard with one of our investigators. He is a little old man from Chiapas and he is always really nice to us. I guess that Hermana White and Hermana Martineau had been working with him for a while before I came here, but he never seemed to be progressing (although he would always come to church and pray). This past week, we started working really hard on him to get him to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. He has problems with his eyes, so it is hard for him to read. We were feeling a little stuck and we didn't know exactly what to do to help him when we had a lesson earlier this week. When we got there, he told us that he had a dream that told him to keep learning from us. We were super excited. When we came back later this week, he told us that he had another dream where an angel told him to read in the Book of Mormon to find answers, even if it was hard. He had been reading the entire morning. It was super cool to see!

Later this week, I was on exchanges and we were trying to talk to one of our potential investigators. Only Hermana White had the address written down and I was positive that I would be able to find the house when I got there. It turned out that I couldn't remember which house it was, so we decided to knock on the couple of houses that looked familiar. On the first one that we knocked on, a young woman opened the door and we started talking to her. We told her that we were looking for someone who was looking for greater happiness and peace. She said that we were probably looking for her and we started teaching her. She was awesome! We were able to teach her about the Restoration and she accepted it all. After we finished talking to her, we were able to find the potential. It showed me that we will always be led to the people who are prepared to listen.

The most exciting part of the week was definitely when we listened to Elder Bednar! All of the missionaries in the entire mission came in to Bakersfield and we had the opportunity to talk to him and listen to him for three hours. It was a surreal experience. The spirit was super strong! It was a little strange because in the moment it didn't feel too much more than a zone conference (except with an Apostle of Jesus Christ!) He told us that we could ask any question that we wanted to and that he was one of the fifteen people in the entire world who could answer them. He talked a lot about the Sacrament and the fact that we are here to act in this world and not to be acted upon. It was indescribable. I loved listening to Elder Bednar and being instructed in such a small group. Elder Bednar was so good. He talks with fire! He talked all about baptism and how we need to teach people like they are people who act and not objects to be acted upon. It was really good! He told us about a couple of false doctrines and how to combat them. He is super funny and really spiritual. I wish we could have listened to him for longer!
On the way to see Elder Bednar
The missionaries in our Zone got the opportunity to hear Elder Bednar again because he came to our stake's conference the next day. It was super cool. We were able to get a couple of our investigators to come and they really liked it! It was like he was speaking to them. Halfway through the meeting, one of the members came up to Hermana White and I and told us to come into a back room with him. There were a limited number of translation headphones, and a couple of people had come late and weren't able to get a set. For the rest of the meeting, Hermana White and I whispered the translation of the talk to a couple of recent converts. It was a testimony to me of the gift of tongues! 

That was pretty much our week. It was full of the spirit and we were able to see a lot of miracles in the work. I am still loving it out here in Arvin and we are seeing a lot of success working with the people. I love this gospel and I am so glad that I have the opportunity to tell the world about how they can find happiness and come closer to God. I am a happy missionary! I hope that you all have a good week!

Hermana Blau

Monday, November 7, 2016

Week Forty-Four: Sister Training Leader

Area: Arvin Spanish Group
Companion: Hermana White

This week has been really crazy. I guess the biggest thing that has happened is that I am now working in a little town called Arvin and I am now a Sister Training Leader with. . . Hermana White. Surprise! It is super fun to be back with my trainer and the work is really going forward in this area. Life is good.

To start, I should probably give you all a little description of my new area. Arvin is a little town about 30 minutes south-east of Bakersfield. The entire town is a couple of roads roughly arranged in the shape of a rectangle surrounded by miles and miles of produce fields and entirely packed with Spanish speaking people. There are always a ton of people outside riding on bikes or walking through the parks in the town and there are tons of little alleys and hidden houses scattered throughout the town. It is super cute and really easy to fall in love with. We go to a little Spanish group for church that meets in a one room Veteran's Post. There are only around 40 people that come to church (so far!) and all of the members are super nice and loving. It is like a little family!

The little building where we meet for church.
It is interesting being back with Hermana White again. Everyday is an adventure when we are together and we always talk to the most interesting people. Last night, we started talking to a lady who was taking the seeds out of a lot of pomegranates. She wasn't super interested, but as we were walking away she called us back and gave us a couple of the pomegranates. We continued walking and we saw another lady. She asked us about the pomegranates that we had and we struck up a little conversation with her. It turns out that she is from Mexico and is temporarily in California working in the pomegranates. We kept talking to her and eventually were able to teach her the entire first lesson. In the end, she thanked us by giving us even more pomegranates! 

We are teaching a lot of really cool people right now. There are a couple of people who are preparing for baptism in the next couple of weeks. One of them is super cool. He encountered the church years ago while he was living in Mexico and Hermana White and Martineau just started teaching him right before I got transferred. He came to church the first week that he heard about the gospel and is really progressing!

My second day in the area, we got to go to the Mission Leadership Counsel with President and Sister Layton. I felt a little out of place, but everything ended up being really good in the end. It was a really spiritual experience and we were able to learn a lot about how the mission was doing and what we could do to help the people that we are working with. Hermana White and I are the only Sister Training Leaders for the hermanas, so we cover all of the Hermanas from Bakersfield to Palmdale. It is really interesting being able to serve all of them, but I am excited for the opportunity!

This week, we had a big party for all of the Spanish speaking people in Bakersfield -- The Fiesta Latina. It was super fun! There was food from all of the Spanish speaking countries in the Americas and there were a lot of traditional costumes and dances. One of the benefits of being a Spanish speaking missionary in the United States is that you get to experience a lot of different cultures from all around the world. It makes me want to be a world traveler. It was also super fun because we were able to see all of the members from all of the areas around Bakersfield, so I was able to talk to people that I haven't seen in a really long time.
At the Fiesta Latina
That is just about it for this week. It is hard to believe that all of that has happened since the last time that I wrote, but things are really going well. This next week is shaping up to be really good as well. Elder Bednar is going to be coming to visit our mission, so he is going to talk to all of the missionaries for three hours on Saturday. On Sunday, all of the missionaries in the East Bakersfield Zone are going to be blessed again because he is going to speak at our Stake Conference. I am super excited to be able to listen to the words of one of the apostles and I am looking forward to the advice that he will give us!

I hope that you all are having a good time at home and that you are having lots of good experiences. I am so happy to be out here as a missionary and to be serving the Lord. I love seeing the difference that the gospel makes in people's lives. I love you all. Have a good week!

Hermana Blau