|With President and Sister Arrington|
Companion: Hermana Hilary Harris
Companion's Blog: http://hjhmissionabroad.blogspot.com/2014/02/new-area-brings-great-blessings.html
Dear, dear, dear Familia ...
How in the holy canole are you?? This is my very first letter from Chile! Can you even believe it? I have been here for a week and it is still hard for me to believe it is real ... but everything is wonderful. My first week was great!
Hmmmmmm ... so, my trainer is Hermana Harris. She was the one gringa girl that was among the potential trainers when we arrived at the mission home and I got her! What are the odds? It's un poco triste because I really wanted to improve my Spanish ... but more about that later. We are opening a new sector in a town called Chillán. I'm pretty sure that we are not allowed to say specifically where we are, but I LOVE it here. It is exactly like China ... but a little cleaner. There are so many dogs and the house that I live in isn't like ... super bueno ... but I love it! The members haven't had sisters for a long, long time, so they are willing to do EVERYTHING for us. It's amazing really.
Hermana Harris is such an awesome person in general. We get along really, really well! I am SO BLESSED. I think I would be incredibly lonely if I were serving with a Latina ... simply because it is SO hard for me to speak the language. I thought that I knew Spanish ... and I still do understand a LOT ... but when it comes to speaking -- I have absolutely no confidence and it comes out super jumbled. This is hard, especially because we have been contacting for most of our time here. Because we don't have any investigators and we are both new, we have been trying our hardest to open our mouths and to talk to EVERYONE. This week we contacted 203 people on the streets. Isn't that insane?
The people of Chile are so so kind. My Spanish is awful, but they try really hard to understand (and if they don't, they just pretend like they do). The only thing that I really have to give them is my love ... so I give it freely. I ask them if they need help with things and I say HOLA to EVERY SINGLE PERSON that we pass by. I think that the Chileans think I am a freak, but they always respond. It bugs me so bad that I can't converse with them like a normal human being. Sometimes they talk to me like I am a little kid and I get frustrated, but then I laugh because I really am just a child in Spanish. For our first lunch here, we ate with a family that was awesome. They had a little daughter that pulled out her little Winnie the Pooh books in Spanish and read them with me so that I could learn the colors. It is stuff like this that makes me love it here ten times more.
Like I said before, we contacted so many people this week and it was great practice! I love the missionary work. I am starting to love it more and more as I start to actually do it. There are so many stories that I could share of people having their hearts softened and letting us in their doors. I am AMAZED by how willing these people are to listen. Because Hna. Harris and I have been working our super hardest, we are running into people that are prepared beyond belief for the message of the gospel that we have to share with them. Can I just say that the gift of tongues is real? I mentioned that my Spanish is pretty stinking awful ... and it is! But when I pay attention to the Spirit when I teach, I am able to say things and to really mean them! AND THE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND. It's so crazy. There are times when I just pull these phrases and ideas out of no where and it is a miracle. I cannot wait for the day when I am fluent, but I am enjoying this part of my mission because I can see very very clearly when the gift of tongues is functioning in my life.
Hmmm ... the food here is SUPER RICA. Aw, man. I don't ever feel like I am in danger here (even when talking to creepy drunk guys). The only danger for me is that I really am going to get fat and die. They don't eat a ton of weird stuff (as far as I've eaten) and the portions have been alright. The members definitely give us their very best! We aren't allowed to buy things from the street vendors, but I've already had completos and porotos and all things delicious. SOOOO GOOD.
Our ward is so powerful. There are quite a few people that are attending, but I think that the most awesome part about it is the leadership. Our Bishop is a young-ish guy (you can never tell with the Chileans ... they are ageless here) and he has such a love for the obra misional. He really wants to help us to succeed. He also is looking out for me. The other day, he called us from his work to see if I was doing alright and told me that if I were to ever feel depressed or discouraged, I needed to call him. He asks me every time he sees me if I still feel animo for the work and I immediately respond, "SIEMPRE!" I really, really do. I love this. I love being a missionary.
The very first day that I was here, I woke up and I had this sick, sick feeling in my stomach (not the "I'm going to throw up kind" ... just nerves). It was the first time that I really wanted to go home. I wasn't feeling comfortable and I was scared to talk to people because I didn't really know how to listen to them. I read this talk during study that morning that talked about attitude and how it applies to missionary work. I was really impressed by it. It doesn't matter if I don't know the language and if my feet hurt and if I am terrified to stop people in the street. It is my attitude that counts. From that moment, I have been trying really hard to WORK MY TAIL OFF. Even when I don't speak (which happens a lot), I try to listen and follow what is going on and to throw in my two cents when needed. I try to participate in the lessons that we've had. I am going to try even harder this week! When I am working, I can feel the current of momentum that is pulling this work along. It is really powerful and really awesome.
We have seen a lot of miracles. There are so many families that have opened their doors to us and have "committed" to baptism. We visited a less active lady (whose son is actually serving a mission ahora) and I pulled a classic Dad move and invited her to meet with the Bishop for an interview. One lady that we talked to opened her door and I was sure that she was going to reject us. We pulled out a pass-along card (that is my job) and her heart was softened. When we started teaching her, I testified that the power of God is on the earth today and that she can feel it in her life too if she wants. When I asked her how she felt, she started to cry and said, "The power of God is real." It was awesome. There also is this little family that we talked to on the first day that we are teaching now. They invited us to their home for another day, but we got caught up in a meeting with the bishop and missed it. Luckily, we were able to catch them and they still were interested. This happened time and time again. Heavenly Father is blessing us for our diligence! I just know it!
We just got a new mission leader for our ward. He is in charge of the 6 missionaries that are working in this area. (We are the only sisters and then there are four elders). His animo for mission work is incredible to witness. He recently returned from his mission, so he definitely knows what it takes to be successful. Last night, we had a little almost ward council meeting specifically about missionary work and how we can more effectively work with the members. At the beginning of the meeting, José (his name) talked about vision and told the leaders of the barrio that he wanted to see a new ward in 6 months. Some of the members scoffed, but I felt the power of his vision. I really have faith that if we work together, we can totally make this come to pass. I want so BADLY to stay in this area for a long period of time. It is such a wonderful place.
Okay, funny anecdote (is that the correct spelling? I can't talk in English OR in Spanish baaaaaaaah). We went to church yesterday a little late because we TRIED to pass by our investigators houses to take them to church. Unfortunately none of them were there. :( Anyways, when we got there, I realized that I had forgotten my nametag. AHHHHHH. It was so embarrassing. The members would look down to where my tag should have been and I was like, Lo siento ... se me olvidó. So, instead of calling me Hna. Blau, they referred to me as the girl without the name tag. So funny! It was a little mortifying though, so I am probably going to remember it from now on forever.
Also, we have a ton of Latino elders in our district. I can't really talk to them that well, but it is hilarious to hear them try to talk in English. I totally understand how they feel now! One thing that they really like to say is, "Oh my goooooooosh." and "Frick!!" Haha, it is pretty much the best. I wish I could get to know them better, but for now, I just rely on Hna. Harris and talk when I can insert myself. It's really interesting to be fully immersed in Spanish, because it actually isn't that difficult to understand the Chileans. They have some weird words and some of the people speak really fast, but I usually can catch 60 percent of what is going on. I am SO grateful for this. So many mixed feelings when it comes to the Spanish. I have a lot of faith that fluency will come. I am trying really hard not to be embarrassed by how little I know, but it's hard. However, when I open my mouth, it is always filled. Incredible.
FEELINGS TIME. I feel pretty good. I have a lot of love for the Chileans and for the Spanish language which has been protecting me from missing home and feeling inadequate. There are definitely moments when I feel totally totally stupid which are hard, but I think about the Savior and I try to focus on working and it becomes much easier. I think that something that I am going to have to work on while I am here in Chile is trusting people with my love and giving my whole heart to the work. Don't get me wrong, I am trying to put in my whole soul ... but at the same time, I feel a gentle pulling back. I am afraid to speak because I am afraid to trust. I am afraid to share sometimes for the same reason. I need to rely more on Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ when it comes to this. I need to trust that these wonderful people that I am teaching can and will accept the gospel message and let it change their lives. This is super hard for me, but I am working on it.
I am always tired, but it is a good feeling. I love working hard because when I come home at the end of the day, I feel like I have accomplished something great. I feel renewed energy every day as I recommit to try my hardest. This week, it was really hard for me to stay awake during our study time, but I renewed my resolve and I am going to try harder this week. I think that this improvement will continue and continue for as long as I live. I want to be better each week and I know that I can be! I want to be a super effective and great missionary, not because I want the glory of being super awesome, but because I want to help other people to the best of my abilities! I know that Heavenly Father can help me with this. Right now I am just waiting for when it happens, but until it does, I am just enjoying every minute. I love that the Chilean ladies kiss my cheeks and that the old men call Hna. Harris and I blessed by our looks. I love the little kids. I love everything about being here! I am working on feeling peaceful even when I feel like crawling into a ball and dying ... so far, this has been a successful exercise. It can only get better from here!
Anyways, let everyone know that I love them. Also, tell Adrienne FELICITACIONES! Holy cow ... that is a hard-core mission. She will absolutely love it! A mission has been así-así difficult for me and I am sure that it will only get harder, but it also has been super rewarding so far. I am so excited for her and for the good work that she will do! I LOVE YOU GUYS SO MUCH! I love each and everyone of you more and more every day. I hope that everything is SUPER GENIAL con ustedes!! Know that I am working hard and am loving the work that I have to do here in Chile so far.
Con mucho, mucho amor,
PS. Pucha (like shoot in Chilean Spanish) about the phone calls. Gosh darn! It was sure worth it to hear your voices ... but I guess it makes sense why they shut off my card. Ah, well. Lesson learned.
[Editor's/Mom's Note: Laney called home from the airports in Mexico City and Chile (for which we were super grateful!), but she put the call on her debit card, and it ended up costing about $400 for her twenty to thirty minutes of call time. Ay ay ay!!!]