Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Week 3: 22 Minutes and Counting

Want to know something funny? I’ve been appointed to a leadership position: the CCM music coordinator. I think this is what I get for not hiding that I’m bored in class. Fortunately, you do not actually have to be good at music to fill this job, you just have to organize which classes who want to sing in church or at devotionals get to do so on which days. This requires speaking Spanish, which I love.

This week we got brand new teachers (we have one in the afternoon and one in the evening, and both were replaced). Consequently, much of this week has involved me watching other people learn Spanish and watching teachers try to make the elders in our group remember what it means to be missionaries, as well as realize that they will in fact have to speak Spanish all the time once they leave the CCM. As a result, we have done some pretty interesting activities. It makes me sad, to watch teachers, who have been on missions themselves and seen the gospel change other people’s lives, and had it change theirs as well, try to convince a handful of pampered white Americans who have lived in bubbles all their lives (sorry for the harsh words) that they need to rise to the challenge that is before them (of understanding and loving a new culture, and realizing how important the gospel is, especially for people who've never felt God's love before.) But for one of these activities the teacher had a little box like you would put jewelry in. He told us inside the box we would see who the best missionary in the world is, and he had us all come up one at a time to look inside. I thought it would be empty, because we learn things through the Spirit of God, and only directly through the people who are teaching. But, instead, inside there was a mirror.

The real humbling experience came later in the week, though. I had been feeling angsty, bored, wishing I could be out in the mission already, trying hard not to complain about having already read everything in the manual we're learning from and knowing the Spanish we're being taught - and not succeeding very well, because it’s hard to smile lots in a room without any windows. Then we went to CRE, which is this little building next to the temple where members of the church from the city or from other parts of Central America come to pretend to be investigators learning about the church. It was our second time teaching as a trio instead of a companionship, and we taught these two little old women. They were SO SWEET. They helped us come up with Spanish phrases when we were searching for them, they asked good questions, and you could just tell that they were so happy to be with missionaries it was hard for them to keep up the charade of not already being Mormon. At the end each of them gave each of us a hug and a kiss. I walked away from CRE that day walking on air. And while the teacher's best missionary in a box activity helped humble me, the shine of that mirror could never hold a candle to the light in those two member's eyes. I dont know their stories, or when they found the church, but it was written in the smile lines of their faces how much the gospel of Jesus Christ means to them. And they loved us, automatically, just because we have Jesus' name on our nametags and are trying the best we can to be the people he would want us to be.

In other news, did you hear about the 58 new missions?!?!?! This is so exciting!!!! I feel like that is a LOT of new missions at once. There's going to be another one in Guatemala (not by me, but by where a couple of the people in my group will be going) and a temple too. Also, 8 in Mexico and 7 in Brazil!! Wow :)

So I'm in a trio now, which was initially very difficult because me and my original companion, Hermana C., were just rocking the socks off missionary training and had everything settled and were happy together. Our new companion, Hermana G, was super sad about her old companion leaving early for the mission and was acting pretty reluctant to become a part of a trio. It was a really, really, difficult process to get to where we are now, but we're here! And I will characterize this new blissful state of trio companionship by explaining that Hermana G. sent me to the bathroom at the start of dinner last night so that she could cut up by meat for me while I was gone. (I really hate bones.) I came back and was so delighted! It was the sweetest thing. (And just so no one, particularly my mom, will roll their eyes or worry about me not eating food in Guatemala, I do totally eat it, I just don't like to dissect the bones, and Hermana G. knew that and instead of judging me, served me, which was really sweet.) So now, even though our personalities are pretty different and we don’t always see eye to eye, we laugh and sing together and are becoming friends. It’s exactly what I wanted, and perfect; and I am so grateful that we are getting along better. (As soon as I figure out how this happened, I will tell you.)

There’s lots more to say, but I will just end with the delightful news that I got letters! They seem to take about two weeks to get here. Thank you SO much to those of you who've written. Okay, I have to go because time is up, but I love you all much and I love being a missionary! :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Week 2: La Vista Hermosa

Hola, todos! I want to start this week off sharing SOME QUOTES from the last several days:

“I love the scriptures!” or “Me gustan las escrituras” is rapidly overtaking “I love everything” as my favorite phrase. Though, I love everything too.

“You will suffer. And you will cry." One of the sisters who's a teacher in the MTC stopped and scolded us one night as we were walking through the lobby speaking English. Gotta practice our espanol! 

“So we have five minutes to prepare.”

“Wanna talk about trucks?” This was the start to a conversation between the two elders in our district (group). They're pretty....funny, I guess.

“Apresuremos la obra." This means “We are hastening the work.” I absolutely love this phrase, and now I can say it in two languages. Jeffrey R. Holland (one of the apostles on the earth today) said that phrase a ton in a press conference about lowering the age at which missionaries can serve. An elder in the Seventy (church group of leaders) who gave us a devotional said it too. I'm here as a missionary because of that phrase, because the Lord wants more people on this earth to love and live as him.

“We all prayed before we got here, but I guess... not like this.” One of the elders in my district said this. Watching these other missionaries who have not grown up in Bloomington learn some things about diversity can be excruciating at times, but it is also absolutely wonderful to watch them rely on the Spirit as they learn Spanish and get accustomed to new things.

“TALLLLLL” This is the name of the computer program we use to practice Spanish. It says its name in a singing sound when you close out of it, so when everyone is done in the lab we pull out our headphones and it sounds like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is singing an ode to language learning in the computer lab. Gotta love the details.

“Sisters, I love my Heavenly Father, and I did not come to this earth to never see him again.” Hermana Curtis, who taught one of the meetings on Sunday, said this. She grew up a very devoted member of the Catholic Church, married a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala in her 20s, and moved to the U.S. They joined the church a few years later. She is so sassy, I love her. And that heartfelt remark just touched my heart.


I just want to bear my testimony of Jesus Christ. He lived. He lives.

He came to this earth to be exactly obedient to his father. He loves us so much. And if we apply his atonement in our lives, we can have more happiness - and a different, better kind of happiness - than we have ever had before. He gives me so much hope, and I am so grateful.


Dia del Carino (Valentine's Day) in Central America. There were many Valentine cards exchanged among the sisters, and the elders decorated the whiteboard in our classroom. We had special Valentine’s Day desserts at lunch and dinner, and there was much pleasant festivity!

Singing. It happened. When we did companion exchanges on Sunday, my companions were singing in church. They had me do it with them! It was way fun. I like singing here in Central America, because everyone just belts their heart out, and you don't have to sound so perfect. Then, later in the day (two days before the first group of ‘2 weeks’(Spanish speakers) left; oh my gosh, I love those girls!!!), several of us gathered outside the dining hall singing a children's song we'd learned in one of the church meetings. Then, someone had the idea that those of us from the U.S. should sing in English and the Latinas could sing in Spanish at the same time, so we all sang A Child's Prayer together in our different languages, and it was SO beautiful. I will never forget the smiles in everyone's eyes that minute, or the hugs I got last night when those Latina girls left. They will make great missionaries.

I still have four more weeks here, though there was quite a scare this weekend when I didn't know if I'd be leaving today or not. One of the girls in my group, the one who is good at Spanish, is going to Panama and because of some scheduling miscommunication; she ended up leaving today, after three weeks! They thought that might happen to me, but it didn't, so now I'm in a trio with the two other girls in my group. This means I get to stay to go to the temple today (!!!) and on cool P-day trips, and can meet more awesome Latina girls, and see Haley Holland when she comes tomorrow! (Though I'm not going to lie, I got really excited at the prospect of going to Reu right away.)

It got to be 60 degrees this week for a little bit, and it was so funny to watch some of the people from Central and South America. They got so cold! They actually put on scarfs and sweaters. It was cute. I would totally be like that if I was from here.

Today for P-day we got to go to a church building and play outside, and then go to a mall and see stuff. On the way, we drove on the rest of Vista Hermosa Boulevard, which goes up this big mountain. We stopped and got out of the van to take pictures. It is SO pretty! The whole city of Guatemala is spread out below in the valley, and there's the Volcan Agua in the distance. I love, love, love it! I love the climate. I love the language and Guatemala. I do not love being around so many people from Utah trying to see if they have mutual friends and talking about BYU all the time. But, basically, I love everything. Especially Guatemalan pastries. And the scriptures.


Um, …we haven't received any mail yet, but I'm sure it’s on the way. I love you all and wish you the very best! And there are a million things I'm forgetting, so just give yourself a hug from me, smile, and enjoy your gorgeous life. And snow, if you have it! Whatever February is, you can keep it. Off to the temple!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Week 1: Message for the Blog


I live in the CCM, the Spanish acronym for Missionary Training Center. It is a three story L-shaped building in Guatemala City, on a busy road, a thoroughfare named Vista Hermosa. Members of the church here joke the road is named so because the temple is on the street. It’s a gas station and an optometrist shop away from us, and oh, is it beautiful. We get to go in a couple weeks, when it gets done being closed for cleaning. 

Because there are a record number of missionaries in the CCM right now, the thirteen American girls who are here for 6 weeks to learn the language (instead of 2 weeks like the native speakers) live a couple blocks away in temple visitor housing. We say good morning to the security guards along the way when we walk to the CCM in the mornings, and it’s totally fine, so Grandma and Grandma types, please dear goodness don’t worry. It has vaulted ceilings and Spanish gates and is beautiful. We get to walk to the CCM in the morning and are driven back (all of us giggling in one big van) at night for safety.


Every day we get up at 6:30, come to the CCM for deportes (exercise time - they have a bunch of exercise machines and two half-court basketball courts behind the building), go back to our casa and shower, come to class for a personal scripture study, have breakfast, study some more, study Spanish for a while, do Spanish computer programs to help us learn, have lunch, have lessons from our fantastic and amazing teacher, attend various meetings and trainings and do activities, have dinner, and prepare for and practice teaching our fake investigator, who is pretending to be real but we're pretty sure actually works at the CCM. He drives a red Mustang and his name is Erick.


I go to class with five other people, all from the United States. That was kind of a disappointment, because I thought I’d be forced to be speaking Spanish with natives right away, but it’s good to be able to help the people in my class who are learning. There are four girls and two boys, and almost everyone who is American here is from Utah, though I have found people from Virginia and Michigan. They are such sweet spirits, with colorful life stories, and are really good examples to me. One knows Spanish as well or better than me, so we have fun. On Sundays, we do companion exchanges, where all of us from the US are companions with someone from Central America. I was in a trio with two girls from Guatemala on Sunday and LOVED it.


The food is delicious. We have traditional dishes as well as things like chicken parmesan and Salisbury steak. We can basically have ice cream whenever we want. (So much for getting skinny here!) Also I have tried a kind of cake called magdelana and it is my new peanut butter and jelly. But the best part is the cooks. They’re not Mormon and they’re all super nice and funny. One carves a different food sculpture every few days! The last one was a swan made out of a watermelon - so cool.

I am working on rolling my r's, (practicing for six minutes every night!), finding it weird to go by my last name, in love with Latin America and Spanish, and very, very happy. The first full day, I taught a few Latina girls how to do Indian runs, and we had quite the time of it.

I would LOVEEEEE some letters! Apparently the print Dear Elders out here, so you should do that -lots. Gracias. :)

Ah, there is so much to say, but so little time! I love you guys, I love this place, and I hope you all are doing well. Prayers and abrazos, from me to you.


Sometimes I think we need to package the gospel up into this nice little package with a bow and cute wrapping and wait for just the right day to present it to people.

As missionaries, we do learn how to teach in the best way possible and practice being diplomatic and tactful when we share this message of great importance. But that doesn’t make the gospel anymore true. Does that make sense?

Sometimes, I've wondered, if the church is as true as I know it is, how come everybody doesn't see that? If the church is so true, why aren't people flocking to it? Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, addressed that question in a video we watched this week about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Holland said: “This work has to be hard. It has to be hard because it was hard for Jesus Christ. Because salvation is not a cheap experience, nor a cheap reward.”

There are so many distractions in the world - so many. It’s only been since I’ve been in the MTC that I've really understood how misuse of cell phones and TV and internet time and things can really distract us from seeing what’s right in front of our faces. From watching the sunset. From feeling centered. From being happy where we are. I’m not saying AT ALL that these things are bad - just that there is some benefit to living the missionary lifestyle for a little bit, and I’m seeing it now.

But I've strayed from my point. Sometimes people have so much going on in their lives that it’s hard for them to see the value in the gospel. But people trying to be missionaries shouldn’t ever try to mold the gospel to fit in people’s lives. We can be delicate when we teach, but we should never diminish the gospel or try to package it in some form that we think will make it more appetizing. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is what it is. And we are lucky to know it.

There is so much truth in that scripture “stand still and know that I am God.” He is. And he loves us so much.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I don't want to cry....

....but I can't describe the feeling of sitting at a dinner table with five incredible women who all happen to be sisters, who all have their parents' looks of patience and mother's facial features, who all love me.

And I don't know why, but I started to cry when I watched five kids spin each other round in a wooden mushroom chair in the middle of the kitchen floor. Something about their pure joy, their delight, their happiness. And something, too, about the inherent friendship of cousins, and my just getting to stand there in the doorway and watch.

My family is so special. And I know everyone thinks their family is special, but I'm not lying.

On the way back from shopping, one of my aunts told me about investigators she taught on her mission to California. On the way there, two others talked about "living in sin" (their words) with their boyfriends. And inbetween department stores, we all sat down at a table and ate French fries together and laughed and took pictures.

Too often, we let the Church (or peoples' activity or inactivity in it) be a dividing force in our families.

That shouldn't happen. Are we Christians, or aren't we?

I am grateful for my mom's family for teaching me, before I knew of any other way, to love one another. To accept individuals despite histories or differences. To tease and always hug. To be true and faithful at least to principles and to each other, if not always covenants and ordinances.

That stuff is important - incredibly so. But first and foremost (just like I learned again this morning at Sister F.'s bedside) comes knowing we're loved by God. From that comes the ability to accept love from others, and to show love back, to God and to all around us.

My maternal extended family has a handle on that. They could write a book on it. I could be really cheesy and say they already have - in my heart, and therefore in everything I ever write that comes from my heart.

Instead, I just want to thank them. For the shopping trip. For the photo album. For the party, for the hugs.

And for the hope. I don't think I'll ever feel as safe in the next 18 months as I did tonight in Bekah's crowded family room.