Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I'm Serving in Bloomfield, New Mexico

I got to Albuquerque last Monday! We had a meeting with the Mission President and his wife, went tracting, had interviews, and then my companion and I slept at a members house and got up early for transfer meeting the next morning. I LOVE President Anderson. He and his wife feel like grandparents, or older versions of you, Mom and Dad. They are just as sweet as their picture looked! When President Faust called them to be mission presidents, he said that their purpose was to raise strong mothers, fathers, leaders and teachers in the Church. That was their first priority.

The mission has been growing TREMENDOUSLY at each transfer. There were 17 of us in our group, and only 8 missionaries were going home. President Anderson speaks Navajo, so he taught us how to sing, "Head Shoulders Knees and Toes", in that language. Do I remember it though? Nope. There are 19 pueblos in our mission, 2 of which are open to proselyting. President Anderson hopes to get the others open soon. Sisters ARE allowed to serve on the reservations. My MTC companion is on one right now actually. They also used to print name tags for us in Navajo, but that stopped recently. I can see why. There are 3 towns in northern New Mexico that were settled by Mormon Pioneers under the direction of Brigham Young. Kirtland was one, and I don't remember the other 2, but I want to say Farmington and Bloomsfield.

I am in Bloomfield 2nd ward. I love it here, but it is WAY different from home. 7,000 people live here, so it's got a small town feel. It reminds me of Richfield, Utah except we don't even have a McDonalds or a Walmart or a grocery store...besides Farmer's Market. There are a TON of country roads, and a lot of the roads are just dirt. The whole community thrives off of oil drilling...everyone works there. I would guess that over 75% of the community lives in trailers. It's a slower paced life for sure, but that's nice because people just let us in to their homes to shoot the breeze. EVERYONE has dogs, and they are sometimes MEAN. President Anderson said some missionaries buy dog treats to try to befriend them. We drove buy the LDS farm earlier in the week. The stake has it's own FARM! How cool! They use it for ward activities, canning, and they have a few animals.

My trainer is Sister Crossley. I can't imagine having a sweeter, more angelic companion. She is from Pittsburgh, and is super sweet, fun, and can bring the spirit into a room SO FAST. She is incredible at being led by the spirit. She always stops to think, "Does that feel right?" and it's so cool to see us be on the same page. There have been houses that we both decide we should not go up to late at night. It's amazing to see us both have the same impressions. Basically, I just can't say enough good things about her. She is a hard worker and is so loving. She's a gorgeous girl. And guess what her name is? Natalie, and obviously I have very tender feelings associated with that name.

We are double transferring into Bloomfield, because the area was closed before we got there. So we're opening the area again. Which I think is a little stressful, because neither of us know the area...obviously I don't because I'm new. The sisters opened the area again back in November, but had to go home. This means that all the former investigators haven't been taught in about a month and a half. We have a WHOLE BOOK of people to get in contact with. Only 44% of the ward is active, and there is just a lot to do. But investigators are calling us back, which is good. Sister Crossley said that this usually NEVER happens. So at least some people are excited we're back!

The Bloomfield 2nd ward had Stake Conference yesterday. The Stake President said that the ward made an offering at the temple recently that was acceptable to the Lord, and a blessing from that is that hearts in this town are being softened towards the gospel, and therefore it is the Stake's responsibility to DO SOMETHING. The year is going to be focused around missionary work so that is EXCITING! The Stake has a goal to get 60 new converts this year. Both Sister Crossley and I can feel that this area is ready to be HARVESTED, not just sown. I just know that there are people nearby searching for the truth. There is an urgency to find them.

At our First Day Orientation meeting, the car coordinator showed us pictures of a car that had been totaled because a cow ran into it. A COW! Crazy huh? It's just a different life out here. Speaking of cars, the President makes sure sisters are ALWAYS in vehicles. So no biking for me! Ever.

My first night in Bloomfield was interesting. One of the members made us a delicious "Greenie Dinner." They had tons of green balloons. We had stuffed sopa pias, with chicken, and I had my FIRST taste of Green Chile! It was delicious. Oh, and the members dyed ALL the food green. Even the chicken. It was fun to have our whole district there.

We visited with a less active family earlier this week. The 3 little boys asked us as soon as we walked in the door if they could get involved in scouts, and the little 7 year old looked right in my eyes and said, "Can I be baptised?!?!" Hopefully, the little kids can inspire their dad to go back to church. The mom isn't a member, but we're going to try to teach her. We are also working with a Navajo family. The grandpa was raised on the Lamanite Placement Program. I had never heard of this program until I got here, but President Anderson explained that Mormons used to raise Indian children so they could get a good education, so when you meet Native Americans, they often have very positive feelings or at least familiarity with the church. Some were baptised, but went back to their traditional Native American ways. I've also heard that some Navajos have negative feelings about the church due to the placement program.

I placed my first Book of Mormon this week. The lady was excited about it. We asked her to read the introduction, and we'd come back on Wednesday. The family was intimidating to me at first. I was skeptical, but when I saw how interested they became when we told them the history of the Book of Mormon...I remembered the scripture 1 Sam 16....the Lord looketh on the heart and not the outward appearance.

Well, there are A MILLION things I would want to tell you about, but time is short, and we have a dinner appointment to go to. But I love you ALL!

XOXO Love,

Sister Waters

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Goodbye MTC

Thanks for the letters, they mean SO MUCH! I know Caresse usually reads my blog, so thank you for the muffins! They were delicious! But I don't have your school address, so I'm not able to write you back! Thanks everyone for writing. Time is short, but I will try to respond. My Elders tease me for how much mail I get. Can I get a Ward directory? I need to send thank you notes to all the people who gave me such great going away notes...especially, the little Primary girls!

I am loving the MTC. The first week was HARD, as most new experiences are. But I've adjusted very well, and have really felt the prayers of everyone this week. What other time in my life will so many people around the world be praying for me?!? Even the Prophet and Apostles. Kinda cool!

Let's see, this week has been interesting. One of our roommates got the Elders to teach her how to take MTC Matrix pictures. So we took some Sister Missionary pictures...they are awesome! I'll try to send some home.

The thing about being in the MTC is that the spirit is here SO MUCH, that it is very easy to become desensitized, or used to it. I never want to take these experiences for granted or become complacent about them. There is just SO MUCH to learn, that I don't know if I'll ever internalize it all. The MTC is kind of like a time warp. The weeks fly by so FAST! And yet, the days are incredibly long sometimes. And it's also funny to notice that age doesn't mean ANYTHING. Age is calculated by how long you've been in the MTC or set apart as a missionary--not one's actual age. Some Elders seem years older than me, and some 24 year old Sisters seem very young. I never thought I'd see it that way.

Our Branch President was just called as a Mission President, but he can't tell us where they are going yet. Pretty exciting! So many people have asked me what my days are like in the MTC, and you specifically asked about, "Preach My Gospel", so I guess I can touch on that. This week we have been studying the second lesson on the Plan of Salvation. Most of my district is very apprehensive about this, and do not like it as much as Lesson One on the Restoration. I feel the exact opposite. While knowing the Joseph Smith story is important to knowing the truthfulness of the Church, the Plan of Salvation is exciting because it teaches us how to return to Heavenly Father. It is all about Christ and it gives us the instructions to happiness. My MTC teachers are great. I can't believe they are only 23. We've been putting a HUGE emphasis on teaching our lessons to other Missionaries as Missionaries. We prepare with specific companions in mind, pray for them and try to be led by the spirit as we prepare.

A good talk to read is, "Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon" by Ezra Taft Benson. I LOVE some of the quotes about his visions for the earth. Incredible. I'm developing a greater love for the Book of Mormon and wish I had been more of a scriptorian in Seminary. My teacher taught us something neat this week. "All angels do is quote scripture." Think about it...Moroni, Gabriel, etc. So often we wish we could have angelic manifestations, but really the words of the Lord are already printed in the Standard Works. All angels do is quote scripture. I'm learning how to incorporate scriptures more into my teaching. There are so many teaching skills to learn! At the same time, it's important to remember that we are not called as missionaries to re-invent the wheel. The gospel is beautiful in its simplicity.

My Elders continue to be hilarious. We get to sing in Sacrament Meeting on Sunday, and they ALL wanted to sing their "special" version of, "I Hope They Call Me On a Mission". Thank goodness our Branch President vetoed that early on. They also made our teacher cry in class. So yeah, it's been interesting. But at the same time it is great to watch everyone grow. The Elders are funny, but I really do feel like we're equals. We bought shoelaces to tie all the companionships together, because some have problems staying with their companions. I am learning HOW IMPORTANT it is to build each other up instead of tearing each other down. Living so close together as a district is new and sometimes hard, but we have more in common than anyone else in the world. So you would think that we would build each other up more than we do. Although, it was cool yesterday to see everyone bolster a couple of Elders in our district who were having a difficult time.

We had a devotional speaker that said we walk on sacred ground when we teach from, "Preach My Gospel". I really think that is true. I am so glad to be a missionary. While this time of my life will FLY BY, as evidenced by the fact that I am almost out of the MTC, the effects of what we do are eternal. It is a privilege to serve the Lord and a sacred trust to teach His children.

Time is up. I love you all and miss you. But I love the MTC, and will miss it in some ways. But I'm so excited to hit the ground running come Monday.