Monday, January 30, 2017

Week Fifty-Six: #juliohunt2017

A fishtail braid Hermana Luquette did for me. My hair is getting long!
 Area: Arvin Spanish Group
Companion: Hermana Luquette

This week was busy and I felt like everything has been changing. I feel like missionary work has been revolutionized, and I am right on the ground floor. We have also seen GIANT miracles throughout the entire week. The rain has finally ended this week. That means that the flooding is down and everyone is getting back to work and things are getting back to normal.

We got a ton of new hermanas in the mission this past week. It has been really fun to get to know all of them. All of the other hermanas in the mission are either training or in training, so it has been interesting to get to watch over all of them. It is really exciting that there is so much new blood in the mission. It brings a fire to the work that allows the spirit to work strongly in the work!
Hermana Luquette and me with Hermana Weaver who just came in the mission and is the trainee of Hermana Zambrano. That makes me a mission grandma!
One of the strangest changes of the week has been to the missionary schedule. We no longer plan at night and we are allowed to do our studies at the time of the day that works best for us. It is really liberating and we have been able to sleep more than I have in the past year. I feel a lot more peaceful in my missionary work now, and we have been doing everything with a lot more energy now!

One of the biggest things that happened this week involved Julio. We knew that he was going to be moving to Lamont, and he told us a little bit about where he was going, but he didn't know his address before he left. We had phone contact with him several times before he left on Tuesday and when we called that day, he told us that he was in the process of leaving and that he would call us after he got to Lamont. After that, we weren't able to contact him. We tried calling several times and he never picked up. We suspect that he lost his phone while he was moving. We were starting to get a little worried, so we went over to his old house. He used to live in a little shed beside a bigger house, so we knocked on the door of the big house and inquired about Julio. The old lady who lived there told us that he is currently in Mexico. We refused to believe that, so we went back to the house later and talked to the son of the owner of the house and he told us that Julio was in Lamont but that he had no idea where he was. After consulting with the Zone Leaders, we decided to team up with the elders in Lamont and go on a Julio hunt #juliohunt2017. After district meeting, we had one hour to go to Lamont and look for Julio. We only knew that he was behind a restaurant called La Mina. When we got there, we discovered that there were approximately 10,000 people there and we were in for a long search. We said a prayer and asked for the direction of the spirit and set out. I felt like Nephi when he went into Jerusalem being led by the spirit, not knowing beforehand what he would do. We started asking people in their houses if they had seen a strange old man named Julio, and nobody was able to point us in his direction. Anytime we saw an old person on the street we chased them down and discovered to our disappointment that it was not him. The hour that we had for our Julio hunt was going by really quickly, and we only had a few minutes left. In a last ditch effort, we decided to go to the restaurant and ask them if they had seen him there. The people behind the counter said that they didn't know any Julios, so we were out of luck. Hermana Luquette had to go to the restroom, so we took a little break right before we started heading back to Arvin. While she was in the restroom, my heart was full of prayer that we would see a miracle and that we would be able to find Julio. Hermana Luquette was also praying in the restroom. When she was done, we walked out of the back corner of the restaurant and JULIO WAS STANDING RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STORE!!! I am sure that everyone in the place must have thought that we were crazy because we started freaking out and asking him all sort of questions. He showed us to where he was living and gave us some sodas (just like old times!). It was such a miracle to me. He was living a long way away from where we were looking and it was in bit of a hidden place. I really don't know how we ever would have found him in all of the town if it weren't for the hand of the Lord right at that moment. Because he wasn't able to have any preparation this week, we decided to postpone the baptism for another week or so, but I am just so happy to know that Heavenly Father is looking out for all of his children and that he wants for everyone to have the gospel.
The two of me with the dog are with a little dog named Fifi who belongs to one of the recent converts in our area, Hermana Sigala. 

Hermana Luquette and I with Hermana Sigala.
This week has been such a witness to me that Heavenly Father loves us so much and that he is personally involved in our lives. I know that he is looking out for us and that he really does answer our prayers. I have such a testimony of the truthfulness of the work. I am so happy to be a missionary! I hope that you all have a good week and that everything goes well for you!

Hermana Blau

Monday, January 23, 2017

Week Fifty-Five: Goodbye Julio!

Area: Arvin Spanish Group
Companion: Hermana Luquette

This week was packed full of fun events, miracles, and rainy days. I think that it has rained more this last month than it has rained at any other time on my mission so far. We have been making it through, though. I found some boots that I forgot that I packed when I left home, so I am living the high life out here!

The week started out with a bang. We went over to Julio's house this week for our lesson. He is planning on getting baptized this coming Saturday, so we were planning on teaching a normal-type lesson to him. We started out the lesson and he was telling us of a dream about angels, just like he always does. Then, out of the blue, he told us that he was going to move to Lamont at the end of the week. Lamont is about 10 minutes outside of Arvin and is the area of our district leader. He will still be going to the Arvin group, but our hearts sank when he told us. I was doing a pretty good time holding myself together until Julio said the opening prayer for the lesson. In his prayer, he thanked Heavenly Father for sending us to teach him and for helping him to change his life. After that, Hermana Luquette and I were a total mess for the entire lesson. Julio tried to comfort us by giving us sodas and telling us that we could come and visit him when he moves back to Mexico. It was so sad. We had his baptismal interview the next day and he passed, but we were sad because we thought it would be the last time we would be able to teach him. Then, the next day, we got permission to keep teaching him down in Lamont for the last week before his baptism. It made me so happy that we will be able to help him during his last week of preparation for his baptism. Even though his is a really strange old man, I love him so much!

We had a combined Zone Conference this week with all of the missionaries on this side of the mission. It is always fun to get together with all the other missionaries from my old areas. We talked about the blessings that come to our families that come from us serving missions. I hope that really is true. I know that I am constantly praying for you all at home and I hope that my mission is helping you all as well!

Our district right now is really small. There are only three companionships: us, the elders in Lamont, and the set of hermanas that is serving in La Cresta. This week, the La Cresta hermanas were sick on the day of district meeting, so it was just us and the elders. It was strange to have such a small district meeting, but it was a pretty spiritual meeting. Afterwards, we went out and bought some ice cream to take to the sick hermanas. One of them was Hermana Zambrano. We were able to talk to her for a while. I was really happy to see all of the progress and growth that she has been making.

Well, that is just about it for the week. It has been fun to be able to work with all of missionaries. Transfers are coming this week and there are a lot of new Spanish speaking sisters coming in. Literally every companionship except for Hermana Luquette and I will be training. It is going to be a crazy transfer, but I am sure that it will help the mission to grow stronger. I am super excited for the next transfer to come and I hope that all goes well. I am so glad for the chance that I have to serve a mission right now and I know that it is shaping me every day. I know that the church is true and that the path of Christ leads to happiness! I hope that you all have a good week!

Hermana Blau

Monday, January 16, 2017

Week Fifty-Four: Keeping Busy

Area: Arvin Spanish Group
Companion: Hermana Luquette

This week was full of fun, excitement, and cold rain. We had a lot of appointments and we spent a lot of time rushing from place to place, but it was a very fulfilling week.

We started out the week with an appointment right after p day finished out. Hermana Luquette and Hermana Perry found a man to teach on exchanges. He is pretty cool and we have had a couple of lessons with him this week. He has been reading the Book of Mormon and has a pretty spiritual background. Also, he sells Amway for a living. He is pretty excited about it. Every time that we have come over, he talks it up to us. We invited one of our members to come with us to a lesson with him. After we were done teaching, he asked us if we had five minutes. We did, so he went back into his house. To our surprise, he came out with a whiteboard and his Amway supplies and spent the next fifteen minutes trying to get us to buy in. The miracle of the night is that we made it out with our wallets intact!

One day this week, we were going to contact a referral when we passed by the parking lot of the local store. A old lady was standing outside picking up bags from her cart to carry them all the way to her house. We asked her if she needed help and she let us carry all of her groceries back to her house a couple of streets away. When we got there, she invited us in, showed us her family photos, and told us about all of her grandchildren. We were able to talk to her about the Plan of Salvation and tell her about how she could be with her late husband again. It was pretty sweet. As we left, she gave us some of the cutest cookies I have ever seen in my life. It was nice to be able to help out just a little bit.

On Tuesday this week, we had straight appointments from eleven o'clock in the morning until nine o'clock at night. We didn't have a time for lunch, so we set it for a backup plan to one of our less solid lessons. When we got there, it turned out that the lady we were supposed to teach was there. She was super sweet and was very happy to listen to us. It was nice because we were able to teach her, but it was a little sad because we were hungry until dinner.

That same day, we had a lesson with Julio. We decided to go over the Restoration with him. He actually remembered almost everything. At the end of the lesson, we asked him if he knew that the church of Jesus Christ had been restored and he told us that he had finally gotten an answer to his prayers and that he knew that it had. It made me super happy. It has been really fun to be able to see the progression in him from the beginning until now.

On Saturday night, we had an appointment planned for 8 o'clock (a happy occurrence because it was chilly, dark, and lightly drizzling). Right before the hour, the appointment fell through and we found ourselves without anything planned and with no one to try and see. We both felt that we should go and talk to a man that we had met a couple of weeks ago, but we weren't positive that he would be there or that he would let us into his house. When we got to the apartment complex where he lives, we said a prayer before we got out of the car that we would be able to find someone that would let us into their apartment and out of the rain and that we would be able to have another lesson with them the next night. Literally, the first people who we talked to after we got out of the car was a cute little family who let us teach them in their house. After our lesson, we asked for a return appointment and they said that we could come back the next night. We went back and taught a really good lesson with them. It was such a tender mercy from the Lord.

That is just about it for this week. We are keeping busy down here in Arvin and we are seeing miracles every day! I love serving the Lord and being able to serve the people of this part of the world. I love having the chance to share my testimony of the gospel every day! I hope that you all have a good week.

Hermana Blau

Monday, January 9, 2017

Week Fifty-Three: One Year Down!

My zone after our training meeting.
Area: Arvin Spanish Group
Companion: Hermana Luquette

This week has been pretty good. It has been raining almost every day, so we have been doing our best to stay dry. We were able to find a lot of cool people to speak to. Lots of cool things are happening up here in Arvin.

We went over to have dinner with one of our members this week and she told us to keep some time free for afterwards. We were a little confused about what was going on, but we did. When we got there, it turned out that the member had brought her neighbor friend over to eat with us. She recently moved here to the United States from Honduras and feels a little lonely because she doesn't have any family here with her. We were able to talk to her and to share the message of the Restoration after dinner. It was a really good show of member missionary work and we are super excited to keep teaching her!

It has been raining SO MUCH this week. I swear that it didn't rain a single drop during the entire summer that I spent in Bakersfield, but suddenly the rains came down and the floods came up. Arvin is built on a flood plain, so anytime it rains, all of the roads start to flood and the city comes in to shut them down. Normally, it is just the roads that lead from Arvin to Bakersfield, but on Thursday night the rain started to rain super hard and the roads in the middle of the town started to close. We had dinner with a member family that lived about five minutes away from our apartments. We left on time, but we discovered to our surprise that one of the roads that led to their house was closed. I have been building up my knowledge of the streets of Arvin, so I decided to take another route. I thought that I had tricked all of the flooding, but right before we arrived at her house, the road was closed and I was forced to take another detour. At that point, I was all turned around, so the town of Arvin was turned into a big maze. In the end, we were about thirty minutes late to dinner because we were so turned about.

We had exchanges with Hermana Perry and Hermana Wright this week. I went with Hermana Wright. They were super fun. She is still in training, but she is super excited to do missionary work, so it was nice to spend some time with her. We were able to teach and talk to a lot of people. 

During the night of exchanges, we had planned to go see one of our investigators. We we got to her street, I remembered that we wouldn't be able to meet with her because she worked the night shift and that she sleeps during the day. We were already there, so we decided to get out and see. A couple of weeks ago, we got a referral for a man and his family whose wife recently passed away. We had tried and tried to see him, but we were never able to find him at home. When we got out of the car, we saw them getting into their car. We were able to stop them and talk to them, which was pretty cool. Afterwards, we went to go see our investigator who we planned in. It turns out that she just recently was changed to the day shift, so we were able to talk to her and to answer some concerns about the Book of Mormon. It was pretty cool and I felt that it was the spirit that led us there.

That is pretty much it for the week. On Friday, my year mark came and went without much notice. It is strange to think about how much I have changed, but I am super glad that I have had the chance to be out here and to share the gospel with the people of California. My testimony of the gospel has grown so much and I love sharing it with the people. I know that this is the true church of Jesus Christ and that it is the way to find true happiness in this life. I hope that you all have a good week!

Hermana Blau

The pictures below are of the Hispanic straw bottle carrier that is meant to be used to carry drinks around. It was a late Christmas joke gift from Dad and Spencer, who found it at a local thrift store. I'm pretty sure I won't me using it all that often, but here it is ... 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Week Fifty-Two: Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve. We look like crazy people!
 Area: Arvin Spanish Group
Companion: Hermana Luquette

This week was fun. We spent a lot of time on exchanges with the different hermanas from the mission and we were able to do a lot of working out here in good old Arvin, so all was good!

We have been working a lot with our investigator Julio and we have been seeing a lot of progress during this last week. We had been having a hard time knowing how to help him to progress, so we didn't really know what we were going to do going into the lesson. When we got there, we started talking to him and he told us that he had a dream where someone told him not to get baptized or to join our church. We asked him if that made him have any doubts and he informed us that it only strengthened his resolve to get baptized and to learn more about what we teach. I don't really know how, but it certainly was a miracle of sorts! He is super fun to teach.

Right after that, we had exchanges with the hermanas down in Little Rock. We decided to meet up halfway in a little town called Mojave. On the drive through the mountains that we took to get up there, I saw snow for the first time in a year. It was a little bizarre! When we got to Mojave, it was super strange. It is just a little old town out in the middle of the desert. I don't know if we caught it on a bad day or what, but everyone was staring at us like we were a couple of aliens who hopped out of our UFO. It was like an episode of the Twilight Zone! We met up with the hermanas and I headed back to Arvin with one of the Hermanas who just got out on her mission, Hermana Dye. She is super fun and SUPER tall. I think that she said that she was 6' 3" or something like that. I felt like a midget next to her, but it was super fun to go on exchanges with her.

While we were on exchanges, we were able to talk to the son of one of our recent converts. It was a really cool experience. The whole time that Jesse was learning before his baptism, he told us that he was doing it so that he could be a better person for his children. It was nice to be able to teach his son a little bit and to hopefully be able to make a difference in the entire family.

On Thursday, we went on exchanges with the Hermanas that are in Buena Vista now. It was a blast. They are currently in a trio, so I was able to go and third wheel with Hermana Martineau and with Hermana Latimer. It was super fun. I love working in Arvin, but Buena Vista still has a little piece of my heart! While we were down there, we knocked on the house of a ton of Punjabi speaking truck drivers. One of them spoke english pretty well, so we were talking to him and he was translating for all of his friends. Hermana Martineau asked them how we can say "Can I give you our card?" in Punjabi, so he wrote it out on a card. He took a video of Hermana Martineau saying it and put it on Snap Chat. Who knows, maybe Hermana Martineau will soon become famous in the some sort of Punjabi social realm.

This week, it was raining a lot. It is hard to believe that we are in the middle of a desert-ish climate. I feel like it hasn't rained for months, but it sure is pouring now! Being in the rain makes me feel like more of an actual missionary. It is an adventure.

New Years was fun here in Arvin. At the beginning of the week, we were told to go in and to do planning at 6 o'clock on New Years Eve instead of going out and working. The entire time that we were inside, we heard giant fireworks going on outside. At midnight, a lot of people go outside and fire their guns up into the air, so that was fun!

The new year has allowed me to feel a lot of introspection. I feel like I have grown so much since the beginning of the year. It is hard to believe that I am going to be hitting my one year mark in just a little bit. I don't think that I am the same person at all that I was just a while ago. I can't remember what my resolutions were at this time last year, but I am sure that I was able to accomplish them :) I am excited to see what this year has in store for me!

I hope that you all have a good week at home and that you are able to do good wherever you are! I love you all!

Hermana Blau

Hermana Luquette and me in the Arvin Group building after church.