1) I'm serving in the Santa Clarita 1st Ward, which is the Spanish ward that covers the entire Santa Clarita Valley... big area. My companion and I are one of four missionary companionships that serve in our ward, and we still have huge areas. Good news? Plenty of work to do! So my area is called Canyon Country East, just for your future reference. :) Oh, and did I mention that we are "whitewashing the area" together? Which means that we are both brand new to the area and pretty much have to start all over on our own. It's awesome. It is GORGEOUS HERE!!!! Seriously... I love it. It has mountains like Utah, but it is green like Indiana. And there are tropical flowers everywhere, like Hawaii. Think Garden of Eden mixed with Sodom and Gomorrah... that pretty much sums up where I live. haha I'm so excited to be here, though!
Oh, here is my new address:
27310 N. Sara St. Apt. 103
Canyon Country, CA 91387
2) My trainer's name is Hermana Kiewra, as in (Key-ra). She's from Syracuse, New York. She is truly fantastic!! I love her so much!! She goes home June 1, so I only get this transfer with her, which is really sad, but I'm super excited that I at least have the opportunity to learn from her for that long. Her Spanish is incredible, which is good... REALLY GOOD. haha We live with two other Hermanas that also serve in our ward--Hermanas Stander (from Ogden) and Walton (from American Fork). They're great too. Last night for Easter we decorated eggs with stickers and crayons, and then had an egg crashing contest. haha... I lost. haha But we all really enjoy each other!
3) My district is the eight of us missionaries that cover the Santa Clarita 1st ward--four sisters and 4 elders. Our district leader is E. Camacho, from Mexico. His companion is E. Rowley, from Utah I think. Then E. Pastor is from Spain, and his companion is E. 'Otuafi, who is Tongan, but from Hawaii... I know what you're all thinking. That he probably knows Hna. Ponaveitongo... but he doesn't. Tragic, huh? Anyway, I'm still stoked that I get to practice my Tongan eyebrow gestures that I've been perfecting over the last 10 weeks in the MTC! haha My Zone is the Valencia stake, and we are the only Spanish speaking district.
4) The adjustment: it's going well! To be honest, the hardest part has been adjusting to the very different culture of the missionaries here than in the MTC or in Tim & Jan's mission, or even in Indiana. I've had obedience to 100% of the rules drilled in to my head for so long, that I guess I kind of forgot that you can choose not to be obedient. haha Does that sound weird? This mission is one that just is a bit lax I guess. And I'm certainly not here to judge anyone... it has just been a bit of a culture shock coming right out of the MTC if you know what I mean? But just because no one else is 100% obedient doesn't mean that I can't reap the blessings of being so. So don't worry, I'm not going to go AWOL on you! ;) haha
5) The language: Well... hahahahahaha. I'm not COMPLETELY lost. Most of the time. ;) But I also only know half of what's going on normally. It'll get there. I speak as much as I can, but I realize more and more every day what a long long road I have ahead before I'll be able to really communicate everything I know and feel. Baby steps though. I just have to keep reminding myself that. In reality, I can now understand about 70%ish of what people say... unfortunately sometimes it's that 30% that is lost in translation which contains the really crucial words that give me understanding to the whole story. hahaha Aye well. Just keep praying for me. :)
6) The people: Amazing. I love them all. They are so great. Really. We are teaching several people, and I wanted to tell you a bit about each of them.
David Martinez, we taught our first night here. We taught him again on Saturday about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has a desire to get baptized but doesn't feel quite ready yet to accept a date. And we're working with him to give up coffee, which I think is actually is main concern about getting baptized. So pray for him. He can do it! He's awesome, and is truly being prepared by the Lord to accept the truth in his life. He just needs the faith to trust the Lord and reap the blessings of doing so!
Melissa is 11. Her mom is an inactive member, and her dad is Catholic. Melissa told us when we met her that she has not had a good life, wants a better one, and has already decided that the way to do that is to follow Jesus Christ. Can you say PREPARED or what?! Seriously. We invited her to be baptized on May 8, and she accepted, so hopefully we can help her prepare to start following Christ.
The Lopez Family. Rigo and Balbina aren't married, which is actually the main obstacle right now. Rigo is a straight up former thug from Mexico. (To everyone from the MTC, think WILLIAM.) But he has completely changed his life around. He loves the gospel, he loves church. He wants to be baptized. He is ready to be baptized. We just have to help them get married first. They have 3 children: Alma (11), Rigo (9), and Robert (5). Robert is autistic, which has been very trying on the family, and has been difficult for them to come to church of because someone always has to sit outside with him. Balbina originally liked the church, and then she hated the church. She wanted to get married, and then her family made a big stink about wanting a big party, which they can't afford... so then she didn't want to get married. So we are hoping that with prayers and fasting her heart will soften and she'll let us talk to her about it. They all came to church yesterday, so that was a step in the right direction! Pray for them. :)
Meliton Alvarez. He has a 3 yr old son from his first wife, and he shares custody of him. He is remarried to a woman who only speaks English, so hopefully we'll get to meet her soon. We had an awesome lesson with him on Friday night about the Book of Mormon. He has been taught before, but has struggled being able to accept the Book of Mormon as the word of God. I didn't say a whole lot during most of the lesson, but when I did finally say something, it was by the Spirit. It was powerful, and I KNOW he felt that even in my terrible Spanish that I just KNOW that the Book of Mormon is true and that all I want for him is to know for himself. It was then that his heart opened and softened and he accepted the invitation to pray sincerely about it. So pray for him to know. He is such a good man and is trying so hard to be a good father. I read 2 Ne. 25:26 to him and explained that that is exactly WHY the Book of Mormon was written and preserved for us in this day.
There are a few others that we've taught or will teach later this week, but I'm out of time. SO... I hope this will satisfy your curiosity for now!
Happy Easter to you all! I had the awesome opportunity to bear my testimony yesterday in church. In Spanish. I shared with them Omni 1:26, which has become one of my favorite verses in the mission, because it pretty much sums up exactly why I am here running around all day every day trying to invite people to come closer to Christ. Because Christ IS the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE. And This Gospel which was restored by Joseph Smith and is contained in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon is the ONLY way in which we can return to live with our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and to live with our families for eternity! I'm so grateful that Jesus Christ lives. The truth that Jesus Christ really was victorious over sin and death, and that He really was resurrected so that we could do so one day is one of the cornerstones of my faith and testimony in Him. I hope that you were all able to remember that and also that you'll continue to remember that!
I love you all!!