Sunday, December 29, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013! (December 18th-24th)

Merry Christmas from our missionary! It was hard not having her home for the holidays, but lots of family helped the day go by better :) Plus, we got 45 minutes to skype/call her! (skype quit working after about 30 min so we switched to a phone call). She was all smiles :)



Lucky for us, her P-day was Christmas eve so we got a letter from her just the day before :) Here is some of it (again, edited for privacy of the members/investigators. I left the first inital of the name, or the first two if they started with the same letter as another a fore mentioned person):

I don't remember if I told you guys this, but here's a little Mexican culture.  They mostly celebrate Christmas the 24th.  I think it's based off of Catholic traditions of Dinner, mass and then celebrations after.  SO they eat super late at like 7 or 8 and then at midnight open presents.  And then for most families the 25th is just another day (because they've already celebrated).  We have a celebration tonight, but we're leaving by like 8:45... bedtime is at 10:30 :)
 
This past week has been amazing.  We had a lot of struggles, but a lot of miracles too!  It's amazing how you can see the hand of the Lord in your life when you look.
 
Tuesday:
After p-day we had a lesson with C, and we shared the Joy to the World DVD.  We had to be somewhere after, but once we finished he just kept watching everything else on the DVD, so we left it with him.  The spirit was so strong and it's really a true testament to how this season really is about the Birth of Jesus Christ. 
After our lesson with C we went caroling with some members of the ward.  It was fun, but it became really apparent that singing, is not a Mexican thing (bless their hearts and intentions though)
 
Wednesday:
We had a really good lesson with a man named J.  He has been having lessons for a while, but won't come to church because he has other issues to resolve.  This week we shared "Come Join with Us," Elder Uchtdorf's conference talk from October.  The Spirit was really strong and we thought that he'd actually come to church this week, especially since it was Christmas (he didn't...).  But it was a really good lesson.
 
Thursday we struggled with finding members to help us.  And we determined that the elders' bikes are too big for me to use... (not that we were exactly surprised), so no car, no bikes and our appointments were too far to walk.  But amazingly enough, we were able to get ahold of Hna Ch, and she was able to help us.  She's new in the ward and pregnant (apparently like everyone else in the family/ward/world.  How exciting!).  We visited Cy, a less active, single mother who has an adorable 3 year old.  We shared the short Nativity video and talked about Christmas and how we can bring the spirit of Christ into this crazy holiday season.  Hna Ch shared how every year before they open presents they think about one they can give Jesus and God the following year.  And then we talked about other things families did. 
After the lesson, we were just talking and Cy turns to Hna and asks "Do you have clothes for your baby?"  And Hna replies that she has newborn but that's about it (baby isn't due until March- and it's a little girl!)  Cy gets up, runs to her garage and grabs 2 garbage bags full of baby girl clothes and tells Hna to take whatever she wants and needs.  It was incredible and the Spirit of Christ and of Christmas was so strong.  Hna Ch kept saying she was so flattered and she now has the cutest clothes ages probably 3-9+ months (and maybe more... I'm not good at guessing clothes and ages...).  But it was a blessing to us about the friendships that should be built in wards and it was a blessing to Hna for going out with us. 
 
Friday:
Friday night we went out with Hna and Hno G as member helpers.  And we sat as Hno and Hna taught the lesson.  There were several times were I tried to interject and actually teach but it was to no avail.  But it was good hermanamiento (fellowshipping) because we visited a recent convert family, and a less active family.  And the G's had valuable advice for the families.
 
Saturday:
All I wrote down on my notes for Saturday was struggles, but miracles happened too.  We were able to have a very good lesson with Ja.  She is super super sweet and was dating a member before he left on a mission.  He wrote her about the church and missionaries and we've had great lessons with her.  The last one we gave her the Book of Mormon and she told us how she and her mom read it and they like it.  It was super cute because she said all her mom wanted to do was watch her telenovelas but Ja said "Mom! This is the word of God.  We need to read it" and so they did.
 
Sunday:
We took a recent convert family caroling that night to start a new family tradition.  They have 3 kids (2 girls and a boy too!) and so it was a fun adventure.  We had chosen two songs earlier to make it earlier, but they just ended up singing, Noche de Luz the whole time.  And after dropping us off at the apartment, they came back and caroled to us.  It was so sweet!  (And at one of the houses we were able to teach a very short Christmas lesson.  And they were able to make friends!)
 
Monday:
Yesterday we had planning so we didn't get out of the house until 4, but we decided to swing by Ca's house to see if she was home!  And she was.  She opened the door and said, "Estoy occupada... pasen"  (I'm busy... come in) and then we were able to talk to her for an hour and teach her a little.  She was making buñuelos. We shared Juan 3:16-17.  Her grandson was there too, and I made a new friend... the poor kid didn't want to say good bye.  We were also able to have a lesson last night with a different Ca that we'd been trying to get a hold of.  So yesterday was a day of Cas :). 

And lastly, as always a few pictures to follow up:

 Here is Em's Christmas tree, and the bike that she was given to ride. You can clearly see that it is waaaay to big for her :) We're working on finding her a proper sized bike.

 Em loves kids, and made quick friends with this little boy :) you can see how happy she is
Even better, a little girl covered in stickers that our aunt and uncle sent to Em :)


Friday, December 20, 2013

Almost Accidentally in Mexico (December 11th-17th)

Hola Amigos! Emily is doing well, we got a Christmas card from her and Hermana Calloway this week! She promised a longer letter for today, and followed through on her word :) I've edited out the names of investigators and members in her ward for their own confidentiality, and left just a first initial or two. Here is what she has to say:

First of all, thank you so much to anyone who sends letters, and Christmas cards.  We have the cards on our wall and it is making the apartment so festive!  And letters are amazing!  We get to write on P-day, so you might have to wait for a response, but you will get one eventually- I promise!
 
Missionary work is exhausting.  I'm always tired, and that's the way it's supposed to be.  President Miller said if you're not tired, you're not doing it right, so I guess that's a consolation to always being tired.  We started walking every morning and physical exercise has helped keep me awake and focused during the day.
 
Tuesday:
So we ended up not having the car last Tuesday night and all our scheduled appointments and member help cancelled on us.  And the elders still had the bikes too.  So our only option was to walk.  And we decided on a family that was nearby and we could easily walk to their house and then teach a short lesson and walk home.  As we were walking, we walked past a house with a lady who we had been trying to get in touch with and we decided to try it out.  And C was home!  We had the opportunity to talk to her and in the beginning she had no time, didn't really want a lesson and didn't want to schedule one in the future.  But she invited us in and the more we talked, the more she opened up and then she fed us, scheduled a new appointment and we were able to teach a mini lesson.  It just shows the power of the Holy Ghost in softening people's hearts to listen to the message we share. 
Dinner that night was in our apartment, with the members... because we were carless and they lived in the farthest area in the barrio, we asked if there was anyway we could get a ride or get the food dropped off.  And they said they'd drop it off, and they came too.  We weren't really expecting that, but were able to move the table and chairs so that we could all eat together.  It was interesting to say the least.
 
Wednesday
Intercambios with the sister-training leaders.  I ended up going to Horizon with Hermana Cederquist, my mission grandma (Hna. Callaway's trainer). It was an interesting experience.  Lots of knocking on doors trying to contact former investigadores.  And we decided that the MTC needs a class on what to do with dogs, cause you're never quite sure about what you want to do with them... 
 
Thursday:
I was returned to Montana Vista Thursday morning and we continued work as always.  We spent the day trying to find people.  We had more cancelled lessons, but we have learned that everything happens for a reason and so we just kept going.  The elders had given us back the car on Wednesday so it was nice to be able to use that.  And then, when we finally were able to find a member to help us, we had awkward door encounters.  The endless life of a missionary :)  Usually things are only a little awkward but this was bad. 
 
Friday:
This was our day full of service.  We helped on the of the Relief Society teachers to make Christmas ornaments for her lesson on Sunday.  That's what the pictures are from.  I don't quite know why they were spiders, it had something to do with a story, but I don't fully understand it (especially since the story she put on the ornaments doesn't seem complete).  We had dinner with the Relief Society president (she is Amazing!  Love her so much) and then our nightly service cancelled and so did our member help.  And then our scheduled appointment wasn't home, so we decided to drop by the house of another investigadora.  And she was home and so ready for a lesson!  S is so ready for the Gospel and church but is still just holding back.  And there have been so many challenges in her life.  It just make my heart ache listening to her talk.  The problem isn't her faith though, it's her willingness to act on her faith.  Faith without works is dead, and it's a lesson we're going to have to teach her.  We can have all the faith we need but we have to act, if we don't Heavenly Father can't help us.  S and her kids will eventually have to be switched to the English elders though, because the lessons are in English and the kids don't understand Spanish so English church is preferable. 
 
Saturday
On Saturday we had the opportunity of visiting one of the menos activos hermanas.  K was baptized several years ago and currently works on sundays.  But she makes piñatas and so when we stopped by she was finishing up an order.  We watched her complete the last steps and we just talked about life and then shared a Christmas scripture.   And then Saturday night, we had a lesson with Ca.  The lesson went well, Ca wants to be baptized but because he's dependent on his family, it's created conflicts.  So right now he still wants lessons so we'll see how it goes.
 
Sunday:
I think it was a normal sunday.... Went to church, had a couple lessons. 
 
Monday:
We had Zone conference yesterday and it was amazing!  Elder Foster came and it was incredible.  The Spirit was really strong and we learned a lot.  2 main things I remember is that 1. we as missionaries always have the Spirit, if we are living obediently.  We just because desensitized to it so we worry about not having it.  and 2.  We are children of God and he knows us individually.  Isn't that always a nice thought to remember, he knows our names, who we are and what problems we're going through.  He knows who can help us and who we can help. 
On the drive home from zone conference (it was on the other side of El Paso), the elders told us not to worry and they'd lead us home.  Well very close to that point, we lost them and decided to follow the GPS.  So we're driving and I look at the landscape and the GPS and am like oh, that's the Rio Grande... and then we keep driving and I see a fence and lots of houses and I'm like um, and Hermana Callaway is like "that's Juarez."  Okay, so at this point in time, we're driving the border.  And then she points and says there's how to get to Juarez, and that was the direction the GPS was taking us.  We kinda had a mini freak out and I decided that the GPS could reroute itself and didn't turn.  So we didn't end up going to Juarez (thank goodness cause then we'd be sent home... we think Satan was controlling the GPS...).  We made it safely home though so no worries.
And then last night we finally were able to have an appointment with J.  We had found her my first week and had been able to teach her some.  But we get into the lesson and she starts of telling us that she doesn't want us to come back.  She said that she was happy in her life, didn't want to make changes, and she didn't want to waste our time when other people needed our messages more.  It was heart breaking.  There is really no other way to describe it.  When someone feels the influence of the Holy Ghost but still decides not to listen it is so hard.  It's not upsetting because we don't get a baptism, the church doesn't need more baptisms.  It's upsetting because they are rejecting the Holy Ghost and the chance to be happy, to follow Jesus Christ.  Everyone can be happier.  That's why I'm serving a mission, to help others find happiness, but also for me.  As I come closer to Christ, I become happier.  And I don't think there's a limit to how happy I can be.  So last night I went home and cried.  I don't understand how someone can feel the Spirit of Christ, yet still reject his message.  I don't know if I'll ever understand.  But we as people do have our agency and we use it.  We just have to remember that we are trying to find the people the Lord has prepared and when we are rejected, they weren're prepared but we had the opportunity to plant seeds.  And someday these seeds will grow.  And upside to the night was letters, in the mailbox and at Zone conference. 
 
I love you all and your support.  Talk to you next week!

She also sent pictures of the little spidery things she made. Kinda cute and kinda just weird :)



Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Un-Mexican Christmas Party (El Paso week two)

Emily sent the shortest email home this week. Luckily mom happened to be on her email when she got it and was able to correspond with Em for a few minutes and tell her that more than just family are actually reading the blog. She promised to write more in the future :) But for now, here's what we've got.

"This past Friday was la fiesta del barrio por Navidad (Ward Christmas party).  And I'm not going to lie... it was the most un-Mexican party I've been to.  Dinner was salad, corn, pulled pork and rolls, and pizza.  The most Mexican thing was probably the amount of desserts and some specific Mexican ones, too.  Oh and then the Mariachi band and the piñata.  And this was a good Mexican piñata, not one of those cheap ones you buy at the stores.  It took the kids probably a good 15-20 minutes before they really made a dent in it.  And after about 30 minutes the bishop finally took it down and then all the kids swarmed it and attacked the piñata (see picture).  Obispo (bishop) then ripped open the piñata and threw out candy and it was primary mayhem from there.  We all thought that it was going to poke someone's eye out the way it was being hit and they way it was swinging around.  It was super crazy, but we really enjoyed the party. 

Our church building is called the Lee Trevino Chapel, haha (professional golfer).  All the streets here have names instead of numbers and depending on where you live there are different themes.  So one part of the area is beach themed (seagull, beachcomber, mermaid) and then others are tower themed (tower arms etc).  Then there are people streets like Lee Trevino, George Dieter, etc.  It's taken some getting used to, after living in Bellevue with all the numbered streets.

There are 2 stakes in El Paso and each stake is a missionary zone.  We'll be meeting together for Zone conference next week.  There are English speaking wards and Spanish speaking wards.  We teach in English or Spanish (or a combination of both, Spanglish), but who we teach is determined on where they would rather go to church.
We had a good busy week, lots of lessons, and we invited EVERYONE to the Christmas party.  And we had 1 family show up.  We were so so happy that they were able to make it. 

Other things that happened this week:
-We had a really good zone training on Friday and we talked about how Christmas is a great time to share the gospel because everyone is a spirit of Christmas. 
-My companionship got the car this week and so I've been driving around and learning the streets and everything.  It's a weird experience to be driving again.
-We put up a Christmas tree (thanks to one family), lights (thanks to another) so we're all festive and ready for Christmas in our little apartment.  And we have an awesome Advent calendar too!
-We had a great lesson with a less active member who wants to come back to church.  He is so eager to read his scriptures and come to church and to make changes... the only kicker is that he'd prefer to do it all in English, so we had to pass him off to the English elders in the area.

Here are answers to your questions: (mom was asking her some questions, I thought I'd keep her answers as part of the blog post)

 1)  Is there a Chase bank in your area?  Yes
2)  How about a Safeway?  No.  Subway? Yes  McDonalds?  Yes.  And yes to Target & Walmart.
3)  What kind of gift cards would you like for Christmas?  Target is always nice because then I can usually get anything.
4)  Does your apartment have Christmas decorations?
Yep, we have a tree and lights.  Thanks to ward members.  Oh and a very very lovely advent calendar.
5)  What about music?  CD’s?  Can you listen to music?  Yes.  Our music rule is that we can listen anything spiritually uplifting. 
 6)  So when all these members feed you, are you eating Mexican food or regular food?
Well... mostly Mexican food.  Thanksgiving was Americanized but I've been getting my fill of Mexican food here too.
 7)  Will the entire mission be getting together for a Christmas devotional?  We really haven't heard anything about Christmas yet.  I do know we're allowed 30-40 minutes to Skype family.


We have an average of 20+ lessons a week through teaching investigadores, menos-activos (less active members) and recent converts.  So the week was made of up teaching, finding appointments, and scrambling to fill opening spots when someone cancels.  We have a busy week ahead of us and our goal this week is to get people to church.  If you have any suggestions let me know!"

And to follow up with pictures! The pinata from la Fiesta de Navidad, as well as the primary kids swarming it :) And Emily and her companion, Sister Calloway (center) and Sister Cedarquist (we're not entirely sure who she is.)





In following, due to a suggestion from a friend, we are going to take Emilys address off of the blog. If you would like to send her mail, feel free to use her email or email my mom at kfletch62@comcast.net to get her postal address :) 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

El Paso Texas!!!

We have officially heard from Hermana Hendricks! She is safe and happy (and we are much happier now that we know where she is and that shes safe and fed! :)) Here is her much awaited letter (Its a little long cause its been over a week!):

"Hey family!  Life is great right now.  I'm really enjoying life down south in Texas.
My current address is
(Email Kristin Fletcher-Hendricks at kfletch62@comcast.net to get Em's address :))
This address is good until Dec 31, and then mail should be sent to the mission home because transfers are the following week.  SO since this week has been so crazy, I don't really quite know where to start, and I'm going to try and tell you everything....
Monday
We left the MTC at 3.  So way too early in the morning.  The airport wasn't really a problem, except the card machines weren't working and we had to pay for luggage in cash... which I was lacking.  So one of the elders covered me (and I paid him back later).  My flight was good too.  On the way from Mexico I sat next to a lady who works for the church in the genealogy department.  It was really cool because she is like the head person and was down in south America and mexico checking out the genealogy centers.  We talked the whole ride about the different programs in the church and how things work in the more impoverished countries (like in south America and Africa) and it was super neat.  
We had a 3 hour layover in Dallas and luckily our flight wasn't cancelled.  We were checking (in between flights) and one of the airport attendants asked us if our flight had been cancelled.  When we said no, he said that God must be on our side.  We (5 missionaries from Mexico) just smiled and agreed. 
We get into Albuquerque and President and Sister Miller met us at the airport.  We gathered everything we needed into a separate bag and then I drove with them to the Mission home.  There we had a late lunch, started training, had interviews and then had dinner.  I had the opportunity to go out contacting with some local sister missionaries and we shared information about an upcoming Christmas program (it sounded similar to our Nativities).  Then after dinner we had the chance to learn more about President and his wife, and we had a testimony meeting with all the new incoming missionaries (6 from Mexico, 4 other sisters and then a bunch of elders).  All the sister missionaries spent the night at the mission home.
Tuesday:
We woke up and went to the first transfer meeting.  Everyone there knew my trainer because I was the only Hermana to come in to the mission and so everyone was telling me how great a trainer I would have and how much I would love her.  And then one of the sisters let it slip that I was headed south... so I sat through the first transfer meeting knowing that I would be getting in a car and headed south.
And that's what happened.  The next transfer meeting was in Las Cruces or 3 hours south of Albuquerque so we drove there.  And there I heard again how amazing my trainer was, and that's when an Hermana slipped and told me her name....
And then after Las Cruces we got in the car again and drove to El Paso, for the last transfer meeting.  And finally I met my trainer, Hermana Callaway.  She's from Las Vegas and she's been in the same ward/area since she came out so about 4 months.  AND we just so happened to meet over facebook before she came out on her mission.  So such a small world :) After the transfer meeting we went back to the apartment, and started training.  And then at 6 we went out and started teaching. 
A little about my area:
Our Spanish barrio (ward) covers a huge area.  There are 7 missionaries in the ward.  Us two, a companionship of elders and then another trio of elders.  The ward is divided into 3 areas, so we're not tracting into the same people, though in our area we do share it with 2 sets of missionaries from English wards (2 to be exact).
We teach in English, Spanish and Spanglish.  Basically the rule of thumb is that if they would be comfortable attending  church in Spanish, we teach them.  And then we teach them in whatever language they prefer.  But the Spanglish is amazing.  Languages change mid sentence, like this example. "Here give the baby the blanket because hace frio."  Yeah, it's normal.  :) 
We have amazing members here.  They are so willing to feed us, drive us and and go out with us.  We are fed every night by members and practically every lesson we have members with us.  It truly is a great blessing.  And depending on what language the member speaks, that can affect the language of the lesson too. 
Wednesday:
We spent a lot of the day inside because it was weekly planning (normally on Mondays).  So we planned for the next 10 days and then we taught lessons.  The lessons we taught were mostly on gratitude because of Thanksgiving the next day. 
Thanksgiving:
We ate with a family in the ward.  In fact, all 7 of us missionaries ate there, so we were well taken care of.  Afterwards we tried to visit some people but the lessons fell through so we went back to the apartment, I unpacked and then we went and visited and new member family, who fed us again.  So don't worry about me not getting fed.  I don't think I'll ever run into that problem in this ward.
Friday:
District meetings in the morning.  Lessons in the after noon.
Saturday:
Lessons in the afternoon.  Because I'm brand new in the mission, we're on training schedule so that means we spend an extra hour in the morning going over stuff so we really don't leave our apartment until 1.  But even with heading out late, we're still getting a lot done.
Sunday:
Church in Spanish!  It was great.  And then afterwards we taught more lessons and talked to more people.
Monday (12/2/13):
Weekly planning again.  So we didn't get out of the apartment until 4.  And then for an hour, since our lesson cancelled, we drove around with the member helping us trying to contact former investigadores.  Dinner was good (the family fed all 7 of us, through we're not always together for meals) and then we went out with a young single adult member in the ward.  We visited a recent member family and taught them about family night and how to have one.  And then we went to visit a new investigador that we met last week.  Most of the lesson was answering her questions about missions and missionaries, but then we started to teach her about the Book of Mormon and the church.  Throughout the lesson she seemed really distant and closed, but when our member bore her testimony about everything that was being said, our investigador felt the Spirit and began to cry.  It was a very spiritually power experience.  There is really no way to describe it expect that when you see an investigador feel the spirit, there is nothing you want more for them than to continue feeling it.  And the love you have for them just explodes!  SO that was last night and it was crazy wonderful.
Our area, and the area south of ours are in a car-share, so every other week we have the car, and the other week the bikes.  Well, my companion doesn't drive (she doesn't have a license) and since I'm new I didn't have permission to drive.  But Friday I was given permission to drive and much to the disappointment of the elders, they have to give us back the car today."



As you can see, Emily is learning lots and becoming a great missionary :) She loves it!