This has been so flipin' hard! But to first answer your questions Mom:
Yes, I have a mini missionary.
Yes, I'm serious.
What happened is that we're short on sisters her (in fact we're short on missionaries.) Let's pause for a minute while I retell what President Monson told us this past GC. "We need missionaries! All young men should live worthy so they are worthy to go on a mission when the time comes. Young women don't have to go, but we love your service. Senior couples are strongly encouraged to go." (That's not word for word, but close enough). We need elders and senior couples bad. There aren't enough.
Okay, back to the story. So yeah, we're short because four of the sisters assigned to Chicago can't get their visas. It's not only Mexico and other places that aren't letting missionaries in, it's America too. So Sister Arce is 20, and she's been thinking about a mission. She wants to go, but doesn't turn 21 til July. Well her Bishop contacted her 1 week before transfers and asked her if she wanted to come on a 6 week mission. She didn't know what that was, but said yes. Then the Spanish Sisters in her ward explained what she would be doing. One of them was Sister Reyes, who will be going home with me in a year, and she also served in Rensselaer with Sister Clark before I did. (Sister Clark is her mom). Sister Arce follows all the same rules as a regular missionary. If it's in the white hand book she follows it. I have no idea what her mom thinks of this. She's a member though.
Yes, I saw Sister Jeppson. And it was kinda exciting. Nice to have a familiar face. So that was cool. She and her mom are super cool. Also her moms sister in law is Mrs. Carolin Monson, my ballet teacher! Cool huh? Yes, I did know who Sister Jeppson was...well she was familiar, then we started talking and then I remembered that her kids have a lawn business too.
And what the? All I get is "Oh btw, we're at war with Libya...or whatever! Um...haven't even heard that! This is what I heard about Japan before you informed me of it with pictures and details. "There was a 8.9 earthquake in Japan which triggered a tsunami, and there's supposed to be a tsunami in Hawaii too.” All the pictures look horrible. That's it. I get NO news out here in the sticks!
And you just told me Devey's engaged! I've never even heard of this kid! What the? I'm happy and sad. I knew she wanted to serve a mission, and stuff. Oh man, all my friends are going to be married when I get back! I'll have to transfer down to BYU so Emilee and I can sit in our apartment eating ice-cream and talk about mission stuff and how we're not married, while all our friends go have couples night. haha!
Um, yeah, I love letters! Especially now. Life is so hard right now. Rensselaer has already been tracted over a gazzilion times, and we're out of miles to travel any where else really. And I lost one of my best friends when Sister Clark left, and I'm feeling so overwhelmed, and sometimes it's hard to keep smiling, but I know I have to do it for Sister Arce. Training her is so stinking hard!
This week with Sister Arce has been a little hard. I was excited to find out that I wouldn't be training a permanent missionary, but part of me thinks this is slightly harder. I found out that she has never read any of PMG, or doesn't have a strong understanding of the scriptures, but she does have a strong testimony, which is a total plus...something that some missionaries from the MTC don't even have. But sometimes I feel that I'm not only training her, but I'm also her MTC. So it's hard to have a short companion study when I feel like I have to teach her so much. I just remember coming out here with an understanding of how to teach the 1st and 2nd lesson, and with that background it was easy for me to figure out how to teach the rest of the lessons, plus Sister Chen was an awesome teacher.
So I've been struggling to know how in the world I can help Sister Arce learn how to teach. I've been praying for her and me. Iv'e tried several different ideas of teaching her, but none seem to work. Then yesterday we stopped at Subway to get dinner and I just said out of the blue, "Bring your Book of Mormon with you, because I want to go over something with you." After we ate we opened to the Introduction and we went over the last 2 paragraphs like we did in Zone meeting in October or November. I taught her like she was an investigator, then I told her to teach me as if I was an investigator. I found that that worked the best. She was actually teaching me in her own style instead of her trying to imitate how I taught. Yeah, the Lord does answer prayers. I still talk the most in lessons, but that's because she doesn't know what to say. I tell her that if she doesn't know what to say then just bear her testimony.
This is really spiritually draining. Sister Clark and Elder Vicars both told me that training is really hard emotionally and spiritually because you are the one, the only one that this new missionary sees and therefore will have a lasting impact on how they serve the rest of their mission.
But I have been happy a lot. I know God loves me! He's watching out for me and miracles are starting to happen.
Since Sister Clark left I've been praying to know what to do with this area, and for the first couple days I didn't get a lot of answers. I was feeling really overwhelmed, and just kept praying. Then I sat down and read a case study that we are discussing tomorrow in zone conference and answers started to flow of how we can use members. Specific members popped into my head with lessons we could give them, encouragement we could give them, members who I don't know very well that we could get to know, etc. We haven't had a baptism from a member referral for about 1 year...well as far as I know. The members out here are very missionary minded, the feed us, they drive 30-40 minutes to come to appointments with us, they love having us over, and some of them are working with their friends. But as I was reading this I thought of ways we can encourage these members to work a little harder and a little more effectively--so they actually give us more good, quality referrals. The hard thing about being in a small branch is that hardly anyone is new, and there's not very many people in the branch. But I know that despite these difficulties, that if we as missionaries try to do our best to get member referrals than it will happen. "Knock and ye shall receive, ask and it shall be given unto you." The scriptures are right!
Then the first couple of days we tracted because at the beginning of the week Sister Clark and I didn't do anything because she was packing and not wanting to work really. She was really struggling with going home and what not. (I never want to kill someone again! It's too hard!) So we didn't have any appointments for when Sister Arce came. So we tracted and tracted. I thought, "Great I'm turing into Sister Chen! tracting all day!" But Sister Arce doesn't mind it much. Although she's really tired now. But yeah. Then these past couple of days, we've been meeting people in Rensselaer that want a Book of Mormon, or want to know how their families can be together forever. I've called several investigators that we kind of lost touch with, or stopped by their house and boom! We have appointments! Two of them happened last night. Pedro, who we haven't seen for a long time, like a month, invited us back next Tuesday. Good thing Sister Arce can speak Spanish! Cuz I can't, and Pedro can't speak English! Then right next door is Caressa, and she's been investigating since before I got here, and we haven't been able to meet with her. Last night we popped in, and had an 1 hourish discussion on random things. She told about her Great Grandpa and grandma passing, and I asked if we could come back to teach her about where we go after we die. She said yes. Another appointment!
I'm planning on working with a lot of less active and part member families, and maybe active members. I want to ask them since Sister Arce is so new, and doesn't know how to teach the lessons if we can come over and practice the lessons on them. And we'd encourage them to do the same things we ask investigators to do, read and pray, come to church, repent, etc. So I"m going to get in touch with Brother Fernandez to see which less active members wouldn't mind that. I hardly know any. I just hope this works!
I have a feeling that I'll be training again in 5 weeks. I hope not, but I think I will! But I do remember what it was like in Wheaton. It wasn't that Sister Chen didn't love me, it was that I didn't see that love.
Then Sister Clark. I knew she loved me every day! She would give me hugs, cook me meals, make sure I was well rested, talked with me about things I needed to talk about, and I could FEEL her love. So that's one thing I'm trying to do with Sister Arce, is help her FEEL my love. I don't really know how to do that. But maybe not be so focused on the work like Sister Chen was. But take time out of my day to go on a walk with her, or make her something to eat, or teach her something, or ask her questions about her past life, or her future. Also encouragement. I hardly ever knew if I was teaching good or not. It was only when I had a meltdown and said, "I'm not a good missionary!" That Sister Chen would reassure me that I was, that I was a great missionary! So with Sister Arce whenever she does something good, I praise her. Like yesterday when she contacted someone all by herself, and I didn't say a word, I told her exactly what she did well on. I'm not trying to build myself up, just so you know. This is just what I'm doing.
But I know that with Rensselaer changing hands, and me not having been strongly influenced by Sister Clarks ways of doing things, that the work here will change. I just hope the Branch members don't mind it, and love me for who I am!
Also I need several pics of the family so I can use them to decorate a box. Just a few. But make sure they’re good!
By the way, this is what President Doll told me. It really helped me. "You helped her [Sister Clark] finish [her] mission in a super way. Don’t worry about filling her shoes or anyone else’s shoes. Just be Sister Ostler and that will be enough." Makes me want to cry!
Love you all! And hope you have an awesome week! I love all news because I get none of it all week! Tell Devey to write me! And everyone else! I love mail!