Thursday, September 16, 2010

An Adventure

Shortly after Christmas, we had a huge snowstorm that lasted most of Saturday and into Sunday.  All missionaries with cars had to park them and walk.  This wasn't a problem for the city missionaries, who didn't have cars anyway, but for us on Long Island, it meant we got a lot of exercise and not much else.  Sister Gines and I actually didn't even live in our area, so we left our area early on Saturday to park the car at our apartment. Then we trudged through snow to try and tract in an area that wasn't ours.  And we didn't live by very many houses/apartments.  So it was a little challenging.

Trudging through the snow

Passed the Amityville sign (where we lived) so we stopped for pictures

Found a random cart, so I hopped in

Church was cancelled the next day because of all the snow.  We didn't want to tract an untracteable area again, so we took the Long Island Railroad into our area.  I think it cost us like $7.  By then it wasn't snowing anymore, but we still weren't allowed to use our cars.  We met the elders in our district at the church to decide what we were going to do that day.  We decided to all walk to a house where an inactive member lived.  She wasn't usually home, but her sister was and we were trying to get her baptized since she had been coming to church for about a year and a half.  And she always fed us on Sundays.  (I heard after I came home that she finally did get baptized!)

So we made the long trek to their house, but first we got all bundled up (it was so cold!).  I'm the shorter one.:

Our district outside the church:

After we finally got there and ate and thawed out a little, we had a little snowball fight with the kids that live there.  (This definitely wasn't your typical Sunday.)

I think the rest of the day was spent trying to tract, look up inactives, etc.  By the time we got on the train to head back home, I was exhausted.

A Sad Story

During my first transfer we tracted into a family from El Salvador.  The oldest daughter, Louisa, was 15 years old and pregnant.  Not by her own choice.  One day she went down to the basement to take something to her uncle (whose family lived down there), and he took advantage of her.  When we met them I think she was about 8 months pregnant.  I can't remember if the uncle still lived there or not (we never met him).  It was one of the saddest things I've ever heard.  This family was very nice, quiet and unassuming.  So sad that something like that had to happen to them.

They did come to church once, but I think they felt kind of overwhelmed by all the well-meaning members, so they never came again.  We did visit them from time to time, though.  Louisa turned 16 so we made a cake and took it to her.

Our beautiful cake

Louisa blowing out the candles

We took the YW president with us, along with the one active young woman from the branch.
Left to Right: me, Santana (mom), Ines (little sister), Hna Chirinos, Louisa, Prisila Orduno

Saturday, June 5, 2010


During my second transfer, Mayra Rodriguez was baptized.  It was a little difficult getting it to happen, courtesy of the branch president, but it happened!  I remember it had been kind of a hard week.  My sister had gotten married back at home, we accidentally juked (didn't show up to an appointment) an investigator, we were juked so many times, and everything was just kind of discouraging.  But then we witnessed a baptism and it was all worth it.  It went really well and her son Jose came along with one of her nieces.

The picture I took of her in white turned out super blurry, so this is the only one I have of her from that night.  She's the one next to Sister Gines.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Freeport Investigators/Less Actives

Even though Freeport was a "struggling" area, we did have some awesome investigators and were able to activate a less-active hermana.

Liliana was from Colombia.  She was like 4'7" or something and was a spunky little lady.  The first time I talked to her was on the phone a few days after I had arrived.  My companion was talking to her and I guess Liliana was having a hard time with life and was thinking about possibly ending it.  All of a sudden my comp said, "My companion is going to sing you a song" and handed me the phone.  We flipped open the hymn book and I sang  "Lead Kindly Light".  I guess it helped because she didn't follow through with her plans.  She never did get baptized, at least while I was there, but I think learning about the gospel and coming to church helped her a lot, probably more than I even know.

She liked to bring us Colombian food sometimes.  Oh yum.

My companion took the pictures in case you're wondering if it was just me and the elders.

Mayra was from Honduras.  She lived and worked in a hotel.  Every time we would go teach her she always wanted to make us dinner, even though she didn't have a lot.  Once she splurged and we had pasta with shrimp.  Another time she ordered pizza.  But it was usually rice with some meaty soupy something.

She got us trouser socks for Christmas (that's what we wore a lot during the winter).

She became a friend.

She introduced one of her friends to us to teach.

And she got baptized!  (See next post.)  We were so happy because Freeport hadn't had a baptism for quite a while.

Maira was the daughter of a member and was about 12 years old.  She was deaf and had one blue eye and one brown eye (which I always thought was really cool).  She taught us some sign language, which I can't remember anymore, but it helped us communicate a little better.  She could also read lips pretty well, and I think she did have a little bit of hearing.  She didn't ever get baptized, at least not when I was there, but after I had been home from my mission a couple years I heard that her dad got baptized.  So maybe she did too.

Veronica was the daughter of another member, also about 12 years old.  I don't think she was every really too interested in the church, but she seemed to like it when we came over.  We usually tried to have some kind of game prepared to help her learn what we were teaching.  In the picture she's the one on the left.  The girl on the right was a member that we would bring with us sometimes.

Reina was from El Salvador.  We met her when our branch was having an open house for their new church building.  Basically Hermana Gines and I (I mostly just followed) dragged her in from the street to come see it.  Then we got her contact info and started visiting her.  She was always really nice and would give us things (very Hispanic), but I don't think she was really all that interested.  She was fun to get to know though.  One night we helped her with her laundry so we could teach her and then she took us out for pupusas, yum!

And I can't forget the Sanchez family.  We knocked on their door one night and they let us in.  We ended up talking with the husband for like 2 hours (well, he did most of the talking I think), and we went back a couple of times.  They loved us, and they were Seventh Day Adventists.  I think the husband was pretty high up in the leadership at their church too.  We went back a few times, invited them to our church - they came once - they invited us to their church - we went once (very interesting), but in the end we had to tell them that we couldn't visit anymore because they really weren't interested in what we had to say.  They just liked "hanging out".  They were a great family though.

Hermana Chavez was a less-active from Guatemala.  She and her "husband" (I'm pretty sure they weren't really married) lived in a tiny apartment filled with cockroaches and a million other things.  She was a funny lady, always wanting to give us hugs and kisses and food.  She actually started coming back to church right before I got transferred, and when I told her I was leaving for another area she got all choked up and just gave me a hug because she couldn't speak.

For Christmas we gave her a beanie and she gave us thses funky purses with skanky women stitched on them.

Most Hispanics don't smile for pictures in case you're wondering why she always looks so grumpy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Freeport Members

The branch in Freeport struggled a little, but there were some really awesome members who kept it going.

The Chirinos family was wonderful. They were both returned missionaries and did a LOT for the branch. I think they were pretty overwhelmed sometimes, but we loved them for what they did.

There were a lot of really cute kids.  This little girl was soooo cute:

Sometimes we got to help in the Primary:

Their parents went out of town for a couple of weeks and they asked us to help them with their homework because they lady they had babysitting couldn't speak English.  So we just counted it as our service hours for the week.  We had a lot of fun with them.  Ronaldo was really funny and kept trying to climb on me.

Some of the kids at the branch Christmas party:

We helped with the Young Women's Evening of Excellence.  These girls (most of which actually weren't even members) are practicing a song that they sang.

Maira was deaf, so the three of us signed the words of the song.  This is her teaching us the signs.

At the branch Christmas party.  The girl in the red shirt is one of two YW who ever came to church.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Area #1 - Freeport

My first area was Freeport, just east of Queens on Long Island. It was the only car area I was ever in (which is good considering the large quantities of rice and beans we ate). Our apartment was above a 99 cent store (below) and we shared the one bedroom pad (yes, we called them pads) with another companionship. Sister Gines and I slept in the living room (2nd pic).

I'm not a morning person, and exercising early in the morning is even worse. But, we were supposed to do it. And my comp liked to go running. So every morning we would run a couple of blocks to a little park with a pond where I walked and she ran. It was a really cute place and I wish I would have thought to take a picture, but I never did.

Long Island is, well, an island, and Freeport was located on the bottom edge, so it was on the "coast", if you could call it that. There weren't any beaches, but there was a little harbor. One of the members whose daughter we were teaching lived right on it, so one day when we were down there we stopped to take some pictures.

The branch in Freeport was pretty small. I think there were maybe 35-45 people in church every week. Although the work there was hard and not very fruitful, I still look back at it with fond memories. My first Sunday there I was called to come up and bear my testimony (a regular occurrence when a new missionary was transferred into an area), and I think when I was up there it just hit me that I was on a MISSION, and I just started crying and crying. And I kept crying through the whole meeting. I couldn't stop! But everyone was so sweet. One little girl went and got me a drink of water, and after the meeting all the hermanas surrounded me and gave me hugs and said it would be ok and they were so glad I was there, etc. I loved that little branch and was so grateful to serve there.

These are some of the hermanas in the branch. Aren't they sweet?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Leaving for the New York New York South Mission

The day we got our travel plans was so exciting! But kinda scary. It was like knowing when we were going to leave made it so much more real. We left November 15th really early in the morning. I don't remember the time, but I think I woke up at about 2 am. Being tired and nervous don't make a good combination. Yes, I was super nervous.

The flight wasn't long enough for me, but you can't put off the inevitable. We arrived in NY at around 4:00 pm ET and were picked up by our mission president, President Morrow, and the APs. They said we looked like deer in headlights. I'm sure we did. We thought we were going straight to the mission home, but they had other plans for us. The following excerpt is from my journal because when I wrote it it was fresher on my mind so I think I describe it better than I could now:

"When we left the airport we drove to an area in Queens and they basically threw us right in. They call it a "street sweep". We got paired up with other missionaries who had already been there a while and kind of went at it. I watched my "companion" Hna Allred do it for a little while, and then I got on the Soap Box [yes we had a soap box. it was a crate that said "Soap Box"] and street preached about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. In Spanish of course. I actually kind of liked doing that. Then I ended up approaching a couple of people and I would get as far as introducing us and asking if they have ever heard of the church and then I would pull Hna Allred in to do the rest. It was the scariest night of my life! Afterwards it wasn't too bad, but while I was in the moment and doing it, I was terrified"

So that's how we were introduced to our mission. Most zones did street sweeps every Saturday, so that wasn't the last time I would be doing that. After about 1/2 hour of sweeping the streets, we were finally taken to the mission home, where Sister Morrow had a nice dinner waiting for us. Then we had a devotional, welcome to the mission kind of thing and went to bed. I think I had a hard time sleeping that night. Probably because I was super tired and wondering what the heck I was doing there.

The next day was transfer meeting, so after breakfast we left for the mission office to meet our trainers. My trainer was Sister Gines and she was amazing. I really believe she was the only one who could have trained me. She was so patient with me through our 2 transfers together as I tried to overcome homesickness, fear of talking to people, shyness, the list goes on. She was very positive and always looking for ways to help and serve others. She was a great example to me.

This was after transfer meeting, the last time our MTC district would be together. (We saw each other throughout our missions of course, but we were never alltogether again.) Yes, we're all smiling in the picture, but if you look closely you can tell we are all FREAKED OUT.

With President and Sister Morrow.

Fun Stuff

A lot of missionaries didn't like being "stuck" in the MTC and couldn't wait to get out. I actually enjoyed the two months that I was there. We did a lot of fun things.

I was there during Halloween (which was a Sunday, but we "celebrated" on Saturday). Some of the sisters in our dorm building decided to dress up and have a little party with snacks. One of Hermana McKeeth's friends had sent her the glasses that we're wearing, otherwise I don't know what I would have done for a costume. Other sisters were really creative, using nylons and garbage bags. One sister (not in the picture) even used the blankets from the beds to make a sumo wrestler costume.

We had a lot of fun with our district, although the elders could be very very messy. Understandable though, since this was probably the first time being away from home where Mom can't pick up after them. :) We also had fun laughing at the mistakes we would make in Spanish. For example, one day we were practicing teaching each other and Hermana McKeeth and I were teaching some elders in our district and they were teaching us. One of the elders said (when he was practicing making an appointment), "Que dia es mujer" (what day is woman) instead of "Que dia es mejor" (what day is best). The grammar wasn't perfect either, but that one vowel change sure made it have a slightly different meaning.

These were our "grandparents". We met them in the cafeteria one day and the sister started calling us her granddaughters. I can't remember where they were going to serve.

Friday, February 26, 2010


We had P-day on Mondays. We actually called it P-3 hours because we still had class in the afternoon. In the morning after breakfast we would go to the temple, which was always really nice.

After class that afternoon we had dinner and then free time for the rest of the night to do laundry, write letters, etc. There wasn't really a whole lot to do since we couldn't really leave the MTC, so a lot of people would just hang out in the laundry room or their dorm rooms.

One P-day we found The Pillow Room. It was just down the hall from our dorm room and we think it was usually locked, but this time it wasn't. This room was full of pillows; we couldn't even reach the floor when we jumped into the pile. I think we played in there for a good 20 minutes. It was a great stress reliever.

A Typical Day

A typical day in the MTC went like this:

6:30 am - wake up (we would get up a little earlier so we would actually have time to get ready)
7:00 am - breakfast (there is a huge cafeteria where everyone eats)
7:45 am - class
12:00 pm - lunch
12:45 pm - class
5:00 pm - dinner
5:45 pm - class
9:30 pm - back to the dorms, read scriptures, write in journals
10:30 pm - lights out

Lots of class time. The hardest times were after lunch when I always felt a little sleepy.

Of course there were other things that we did. Once a week we did service (which mostly consisted of cleaning the dorm bathrooms or vacuuming), we had gym time a couple times a week, firesides on Sunday nights (we didn't have class on Sundays either), and devotionals on Tuesday nights.

During class time, sometimes our teachers would take us to the RC (referral center), or the TRC (Teaching [something] Center). The RC is where people who get a pass along card call and speak to somebody to get their free video or Book of Mormon or whatever. We also did a lot of outbound calling to people that had called in before but didn't want the missionaries to come by. I admit, I hated the RC. It was just like a call center, except we were supposed to use the Spirit, and I hated call centers. I had worked at Convergys just before I left, and I only lasted a week doing inbound calls for DirecTV. So that wasn't really my favorite place to go.

The TRC was a place where we could practice teaching people (volunteers). I liked that better because they were always members, and I was with my companion. None of that one-on-one phone stuff.

I also mentioned the TEC in my previous entry. I think it stood for Teaching Education Center. We could go there during our personal study time and meet with an MTC teacher and teach them a lesson and they would provide feedback. Sometimes we even asked them to teach us so we could hear how other people taught. It was a great resource.