Monday, January 26, 2015

Smile (the weekly Ruby email)

ASHLI (FINALLY) GETS BAPTIZED

So me and my companion, a while back, were teaching a 16 year old daughter of a member who was refusing to be baptized.  Well not so much refusing as saying that she was good without a baptism and that was that. 

Instead of throwing a million scriptures in her face that clearly state that a baptism IS necessary in order to live with God again, we decided to let God do the answering and invited her to ask him if she should be baptized or no. 

That is one thing I just love about the gospel and the lessons we teach.  We help the people see the truth, in the scriptures, through testimony, and a million other ways, but in the end we invite them to get on their knees and ask God what HE thinks about all this.  What is it that HE wants.  It's not about what the missionaries think is the best idea or what the missionaries say is correct.  It's what GOD tells you is right.  And He always lets you know if you ask with your heart.  I love that. 

God wants to help us out.  He's waiting to answer our questions.  And not just spiritual questions but any kind of question.  I'm thankful for the answers that He gives me.  They're subtle and simple but they are there.  He loves me.  He loves you too.  He listens.  He answers. 

Ashli did as we invited her to do.  She asked God.  The best source of knowledge that has ever existed.  And she got an answer.  Her answer was that she should keep listening to us.  Because of Ashli's crazy work schedule we only got to teach her a few times, but the spirit was always there. The last lesson we taught her was a special one.  We took her and her family to the temple and we taught them in the waiting room of the temple.  A member of the temple presidency came out and shared a little message and it was just about the coolest. 

At one point in the lesson I looked over and saw a little tear roll down Ashli's face.  In that moment I knew she knew it.  There was no way someone could deny the peace and the happiness that we felt in that little waiting room. 

Then a few weeks later they changed houses to a neighborhood just out of our area.  A few weeks later some elders called us to let us know that they found Ashli and her family hitchhiking, and she told them she wanted to be baptized because what happened in the temple changed everything. 

So cool to play such a small roll in the conversion of a 16 year old, stubborn, and wonderful teenager. I love Ashli.  She is going places.  The elders also invited us to the baptism.  We brought a cake and a special ukulele number.  We played Secret Prayer and made Ashli cry.  It was pretty wonderful. PLUS her new ward building is the chapel right in front of the temple, so her baptism pictures are in front of the very spot where everything changed.  Pretty cool if you ask me.


SERVICE WITH A SMILE

We have an investigator that's got it pretty rough.  Her daughter recently ran away, her son is turning rebellious and causing big problems at school, her husband left her for the United States and never sends anything to help them out, she works two jobs and still has barely enough money to just buy the basics like toilet paper and food.

We are always trying to visit her but she never has enough time, so we decided to show up on Saturday when we knew she would be at home.  And at least drop by the house to help her clean things up a bit. 

She has a lot of dogs.  A lot of dogs means a lot of poop.  I won't go into detail about the condition of her yard and house, but just imagine something really really really really really really dirty.  Dog poop and pee from weeks of no one having time or energy to pick up, in the house and outside of it. Also the trash from several weeks of no one picking it up or even putting it in a bag. 

There were several times when I almost turned around and left screaming and running, but I kept my calm, tried not to breath through my nose, and slapped a smile on my face.  FINALLY someone was letting us serve them.  That's rare here.  

We began to make it fun.  Instead of gagging we laughed instead.  We served with a smile.  We spent a significant time out in the blazing hot sun shoveling the garbage and poop into piles, and it was VERY tiring.  But VERY fun.  Because we made it fun. 

We called the elders from our neighboring area and they showed up to do some heavy lifting and make a door for her outside gate.  It was a hilarious sight.  Four young people from various different countries in skirts and white shirts shoveling dirt and garbage around a fairly sketchy Mexican neighborhood.  People passed by and did double takes.  Some smiled, some laughed, some just let their mouth hang open and stare. 

We just smiled.  The rest of the day was spent walking around in the super super hot sun and not finding people in their houses.  That night the disanimo threatened to creep its way back into my head.  Negative thoughts and feelings of 'Why Even Try' kept attacking.  I was sunburnt and sweaty and had a thin layer of dust all over my body from walking in the dusty dirt roads all day. 

I didn't know what else to do, so I prayed.  I kneeled down and prayed with all my heart.  I cried and I told God that I was down here just trying to do my best and that I needed help.  I told him it was hard to be a missionary and I told him that I don't always love it, even though I always want to love it.  I told him I didn't understand why there was no one progressing in our area and why all the people we contacted turned us down.  I cried and prayed it out.  It was nice to 100 percent express myself. 

God understands English so that was refreshing.  I felt the burden lifted as I felt God listen.  He's the best listener.  I fell asleep very tired but with a smile on my face.  Why?  Because I'm a missionary. How cool is that?  I get to serve with a smile.  Even when its hard. and hot.  And smelly.  Because there is just so much to smile about.  So don't forget to smile this week.  And do your best to serve, because God loves you and he listens.  Isn't that the best thing you've heard all week?  

So smile.  And smile big.

SPICY

Today we had a district activity in which we played soccer and then ate one of the spiciest chiles that one can eat without dying or damaging their digestive system.  The chile is called abanero.  It was the death.  We took a video of everyone eating it.  Everyone in their soccer jerseys and with their milk ready. 

I only threw up a little.  OH HOW IT BURNED.  But in the end it was a memorable and hilarious experience.  We laughed a lot.  And yelled.  Because it hurt.  My lips still feel a bit numb but my stomach is calm and relatively normal.  We took a big group pic of everyone with their chiles. Provecho.






Monday, January 19, 2015

Ouch.

SEVENTY

This last week a member of the Seventy came to a Multizona [missionary meeting].  Just about everything he said was SUPER inspired and helped me out a ton.  But the best thing he said was that prepared investigators ask questions.  

I had never thought of that before.  As I reflected and thought back on every baptism and every fantastic or progressing investigator I'd ever had, I realized that he was 100% right.  They all had one thing in common.  They asked questions.  Good questions.  Not questions to poke and jab.  Not questions to confuse or contradict.  But real questions. 

This was just what me and my companion needed to hear.  Lately we've been teaching quite a lot - running from one appointment to the other.  Talking with everyone.  Asking for references from anything that breathes.  And working really hard. 

BUT no one, I mean, NO ONE is progressing.  They don't read, they don't pray, and they definitely do not come to church.  It's exhausting.  And frustrating.  So many times I have thought "Why am I wasting my time?" 

We tell them again and again WHY we are there and WHAT we expect them to do.  After the stuff that Elder Pieper [member of the Seventy] said, we realized that none of our investigators were asking questions and that we are likely going to need to drop just about all of them.  Ouch. 

That means lots of hot and sweaty days out in the sun searching for new people.  That means getting rejected a lot more.  That means lower numbers.  But we trust in the Lord.  If we give it our all, He will take care of the rest.  It's like a story I read this last week of a little kid who told her dad she wanted a bike.  He told her that if she worked really hard and saved her pennies she would have her bike.  

She got right to work doing extra chores around the house for her mother and a lemonade stand every Saturday.  She avoided buying candy at the store and she saved every bit of money she could.  A few weeks later she again approached her father proudly placing before him her 75 cents that she had worked so very hard to earn. 

They walked downtown and when they arrived at the bike shop the little girl could hardly contain her excitement.  She knew it the moment she saw it, the pink bike in the back was the one.  She ran towards it to check the price.  When she saw that the bike cost 150 dollars she began to cry. "Oh dad, I'll never have enough money to buy that bike."  The reality of it hit her.  Even after her very best efforts, she couldn't buy the bike. 

But then her father intervened. "You know what? Give me your 75 cents and I'll pay for the rest?" The tears stopped and a smile replaced the sad.  She did her best and her father recognized it.  He payed the rest. 

We are all the little kid who wants the bike.  We want to live with God again.  We want to live in Heaven.  We want an eternal family.  But in all honesty what we bring to the table is so very little. Salvation is 150 dollars and we've only got a measly 75 cents.  But if we do our best, God pays for the rest.  He is our Heavenly Father and He loves us.  He wants us to be happy. He sees are efforts, even when they're small. He gave us His Son to pay the price.  And because of Him we have enough. We are enough.  I am enough.

WHITE PEOPLE

After the giant Multizona with the member of the Seventy, I headed out with another Hermana to do divisions!  We hopped onto a SUPER crowded bus and there sitting before me were two gringos.  The first thought that crossed my mind was "what are two white people doing here?" and the second one was "I should contact them." So I tried to strike up a friendly conversation. 

As soon as they opened their mouths to respond I regreted my decision.  Without answering the question I asked them, they began to jeer and make fun.  Mentioning this and that about how they were of the devil and only came to Oaxaca to sleep around and drink beer.  Their language was horrible.  The f word every other word and several other curse words creatively weaved in there too. 

I decided to make one more effort to chat because the awkward situation is that they were smashed in the bus directly in front of me and just standing there as they rambled on was killing me.  I asked them if they had ever talked with mormon missionaries before.  That was big mistake.  "Yep," said the bearded one that smelled like BO, "and you wanna know what I told them?"  I didn't want to know.  

He told me anyway. "Go back to your F-ing country!"  He yelled in my face.  That's when the praying began.  'Please Heavenly Father make them get off the bus soon.  Please oh please oh please...'   Good thing God answers prayers because they hoped off about 2 blocks later. 

I think the me before my mission would have gotten angry, wanting to make a good come back or throw something very heavy on his head.  But instead of feeling anger and hate I just felt sorry for them.  It was so very obvious that they were lost and unhappy.  Hiding behind colorful tattoos, piercings, alcohol and who knows what else.  As they got off the bus,  I said a prayer of thanks and a prayer to help them find something more in their lives. 

Their words hurt.  Ouch.  Then once we got off the bus in the area I was visiting I tried contacting the mototaxi driver to try and raise my spirits with a better contacting experience.  It wasn't better.  He made fun of me for not sharing my first name and told me I didn't love God.  Ok.  It was a frustrating afternoon but we didn't let it get us down.

SUNDAY

Another hard day.  Disanimo got the better of me and I felt like curling up in a ball and crying.  But on the mission there isn't time to curl up in a ball and cry.  We walked about a million miles and nobody was home.  And then we decided we needed to say a prayer because we both felt super disanimated. 

So we stopped by the house, knelt down, and said a prayer. "Prayer is not just something you use once a day, its something you use every time you come to a locked door."  The prayer really helped. We expressed our feelings of tiredness and disanimo.  And He helped pick us up and keep us going.

Then about an hour later our investigator called.  She's the girlfriend of a less-active and we've been teaching them both.  She called to let us know her he had died.  We taught him a ton and we had finally got him to come back to church and were working on getting them both married. 

But the thing is, she is always joking around so I didn't think she was actually serious.  So I called the sister of the one who died and asked her if it was true.  Turns out it was true and she didn't know.  I was the one who told her.  And I had to hear her and her mom break down and sob. I basically felt like the worst person in the world. 

We went and saw them today though. To give them pictures that we had of Saul (the one who passed away) and to hug and cry a little with the family. It was hard.

This week was a little rough.

Last night me and my companion had a good cry. We're planning to have a fast this week to help us get our animo back and to begin to see results in our area.  God listens.  He loves us.  And He always sends us what we need.

blurry picture
*Paula coming with us to teach. We are slowly but surely convincing her that serving a mission is the coolest thing ever.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Salad or Something


A SALAD

"Can't we ever have like a salad or something?" - Nacho libre orphan

This week a small miracle occurred.  Someone fed us a salad.  Like a legit salad with green leaves and healthy toppings.  It was glorious.  I could hardly believe what was happening.  I pinched myself several times throughout the meal to check if I was awake.  It was a tender mercy.  God's been watching my efforts and sending me rewards.  He loves me.  He knows I need rewards and motivation.  He knows I need salad.

ELSA

So I've never actually seen the movie Frozen, but apparently the main character princess wears her hair in the same kind of braid that I always wear mine.  All the kids I know call me Elsa now.  In the cartoon Elsa is blond and blue eyed and has special magical powers to make things turn to ice and to make things get cold really fast. 

Its been kind of chilly lately in my area and I always tell the kids it's only because I just arrived that it got so cold.  Their eyes get wide and they run off to tell their friends that Elsa is teaching their family the gospel. 

We are currently teaching a GOLDEN FAMILY and their 4 year old son, Sebastian, is obsessed with the movie Frozen.  His parents told me that he frequently asks when Elsa is coming back to visit. We're good friends, Sebastian and I.  We share chile flavored candy and chat about bread.  I really hope his family gets baptized so he can go on a mission someday.  I hope he remembers that Elsa helped his family learn to pray.  But more importantly, I hope he remembers to pray.

LEADERSHIP MEETING


This week we had a day and a half long leadership meeting.  All the zone leaders and sister training leaders came to the city for a huge meeting.  Basically, the president of the mission announced that there was some stuff going on in the mission and we needed a change and we needed it now.  He explained to us that WE would be the ones coming up with the solutions.  We talked over the issues and we talked over the answers. 

He divided us into groups and came up with game plans and goals.  It was all very long, very intense, and very inspiring.  The whole day we fasted through the process.  The feeling of energy and the spirit was almost tangible.  So many good people and leaders all gathered together in one purpose and one desire.  To serve the Lord. 

As we sat in one of my groups talking over goals, plans, and solutions I took a moment to just take it all in.  There I was, surrounded by such powerful missionaries.  Solid kids.  Strong and faithful missionaries.  And I just felt so amazed and honored to be able to count myself as one of them. 

After we talked for several hours we went to a session in the temple.  As I waited for my companion to change I started chatting with the darling temple workers.  One from Idaho and the other from Arizona.  They told me all about how wonderful their temple mission was and how they have a goal to serve 5 missions. They're on their second one right now. 

As we sat there and chatted in our little white dresses I felt so inspired.  So many amazing people and wonderful human interactions in one day.  It was glorious.  And exhausting.  We ended the day with dinner in the house of the president.  Hermana Madsen fed us brownies.  I think it was the first brownie I've eaten in about a year.  It was FANTASTIC.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Worms, IceSkating, and Green Jello

HAPPY NEW YEAR

My new years celebration consisted of eating a bowl of cereal and going to bed to the sound of crazy Mexican music and loud exploding noises.  My companion waited up until midnight.  I didn't.  Haha, I started off the year doing what I do best.  Sleeping.

DIVISIONES

This week I had divisions with a red headed Guatemalan.  Yep.  Her hair is natural, and she is a Guatemala native.  She's pretty awesome.  We spent the day laughing and talking and contacting and teaching the gospel.  

At the end of it all she thanked me.  "I thought all the capacitadoras (sister training leaders) were all the same.  Serious and scary.  But you're different!  We had fun and I still learned a ton!"
It was true, we both learned a ton and we both had fun.  That's what life (and divisions) is all about. Learn a ton and have fun.

During the week, the Zone Leaders called us and let us know that one of the hermanitas in Etla had suffered a death in the family and was feeling down.  We went to action and made her a poster and a breakfast, grabbed a bus, crossed a crazy busy street, caught another bus, walked through a wild Mexican market and made it to their house as a surprise. 

There were a lot of hugs and love. We then shared a special message about our divine missions and the difference of one.  The spirit was almost tangible and tears filled all our eyes as we talked about the people we were becoming and the changes we were making.  We talked about the example and the influence we have on our future families and all the amazing people we've met here in Oaxaca. We ended with a group hug and headed out. Back to work.
Being a leader is such a great opportunity to serve.

SETTING OUR SIGHTS ON THE TEMPLE

Me and my companion set a goal to take everyone and their dog to the temple this change.  We've been inviting mostly less actives and recent converts to help them visualize and feel more excited about making the temple their goal. 

And with us as their ticket we get to take them into the waiting room and one of the temple presidency always comes out and shares a little message.  This last week we took with us a less active and a recent convert. 

The temple is the best.  Every time we go it renews my desire and conviction to always have my life centered and focused on the temple.  The temple represents forever.  A little piece of heaven. Eternities changed.  Salvation gained.  Forever families.  I love the temple.

The best thing about the Oaxacan temple is its location.  It's in the middle of a super commercial area with a ton of stores and shops and cars and craziness.  But the second you step through the gates and onto the temple grounds the noise melts away and the craziness stops and there's just an overwhelming and almost tangible feeling of peace.  Just a contrast.  I will always have a special place in my heart for this tiny temple.

NOCHE DE HOGAR

We had a family home evening with some teenagers to try and animate a less active into coming back to church.  We talked about the temple.  We set goals and shared our hopes and dreams for the future. We laughed.  A lot.  And we felt the spirit.  A ton. 

I love my jovenes!  I feel like they're my little brothers and sisters and that I've got to do my part to look out for them and be their friend and set an example.  So many good kids.  All over the world.

BABY JESUS

Called some future investigators to see when we could teach them only to find out that they were, in that very moment, moving.  We asked if we could help and they said "WHY NOT!"  So we ran on over and helped them move their few belongings into the back of an old Mexican truck.  "Hop on in!" they said.  So we did.  They handed me a GIANT catholic idol of baby jesus to hold on my lap and off we went. 

So here's the thing about being a white girl in the south of Mexico.  EVERYONE STARES and points and double takes and giggles and just about everything else.  But put that white girl in the back of a truck, holding a giant ceramic baby jesus and now THAT is something to stare at. 

Everyone who saw me stared and laughed.  And I laughed right along with them because it was, in fact, HILARIOUS.  Oh how I wish I could've gotten a photo. 

When we got there. we helped them unpack their few belongings and sang a hymn and had a prayer with them.  The spirit filled their new rented room and we left feeling content for having done a little good and for having laughed so very much.

I ATE A WORM

I ate a worm this week.  At least, I think it was a worm.  It kind of looked more like a maggot to me. It was cooked and thoroughly covered in chile powder so I decided to eat it.  I ended up eating 2.  One with my pistachio flavored jello and the other plain.  It was a 100 percent Oaxacan experience alright.

ICE SKATING


Today as a special zone activity we went ice skating.  And I got to wear pants for the first time in a year.  It was strange to wear pants in public.  I felt very....normal.  It was a miracle I got my body to fit into my tiny pants.  Serving a mission in Mexico means getting fat.  It's unavoidable.  Tortillas and meat everyday does that to a person. 

The Americans spent the majority of the time picking up the Latinos from off the ice (where they had fallen) and it was an afternoon of laughs and soggy bums.  We have awesome zone leaders.

*sights set on the temple


*Our Etla visit


*me and the redheaded Guatemalan


*noche de hogar con los jovenes


*eating a worm with pistachio flavored jello. SO Mexico
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*eating a worm


*the first time I've worn pants in a year.  It was a struggle getting them on.  Mexico has this way of fattening a person. [this picture did not download]

*ice skating


*selfies with my beaten and bruised companion.  I'm pretty sure she fell more than all of us put together.  But she smiled the whole time.
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*a small video of me and Hermana Crystal cleaning the baptismal font for the baptism of Alejandro. I'm sending it to test out sending videos. Does it work?
video