Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In Which I Learn About Mormons and Tornadoes

This week has been epic, y'all. I have had some great experiences, and life has been a little all over the place. And because of Memorial Day, the libraries were closed, so we're emailing today!
Let's start with the Trail Center. Last week was the last week of school, so there were school tours all over the place, and Sister Harris and I took one tour together. We teach them interesting facts about the trek of the Mormon pioneers across Iowa, why they were going, and how they got there. One of those facts deals with the cabins and how many people often had to live in one cabin. We ask students how many they think could live in the replica cabin we have, and they are amazed when we say that usually between 10 and 15 people would have to live in one cabin, and frequently that was more than one family. By the time we got to the end of the tour, we had pumped them full of facts! Sister Harris asked what they had learned, and one boy raised his hands. "A lot of Mormons died!" Yep, that's true. Another boy: "Some of them joined the army!" Yep, also true. Then one girl raised her hand: "You can fit 15 Mormons in a cabin!" Er, what? After a momentary pause, Sister Harris continued with, "Or people!" Ha!
With a group from the same school, there was one little boy who said at the end to the sister leading the tour, "I wanted to see a real Mormon..." When she replied that she was a Mormon, the little boy stared at her like she was an artifact from an ancient time! I wonder how these school kids are prepared for the tour, and if they realize that Mormons are people. Real people. And that we still exist.
I also took my first solo tours this last week, which, let's face it, terrified me. I wasn't scared to be with unknown people--I was scared I wouldn't know enough or that I would give the wrong facts. Luckily, I seem to be doing okay. I even gave a tour to a group coming from BYU to do research on Nauvoo. Like, research research. Yikes! That one really intimidated me. But I think all went well. I decided to go with what my mission president has taught, which is that the Lord doesn't want someone else, He wants me. So I was myself, and just shared with them my insights on the pioneers, the exhibits, and the Book of Mormon. I think that turned out well. I felt good about it at the end, anyway.
We have been experiencing the miracle of planning and following through on plans. On Saturday night, we made plans to visit some specific people, and as we followed the promptings to visit people, we were blessed with some great contacts and return appointments with two people.
The investigator we thought might come to church didn't, which made us a little sad, but we have an appointment to see her on Thursday, and we dropped by last night, just to check in. I think we are still making progress there. I pray for her all the time.
Okay, now on to the part I know has you all on your tippy toes: tornadoes! No, we haven't had any (I think?), though we have had some warnings and watches. In fact, there was one early Monday morning, though Sister Harris and I didn't realize it.
It was hot and muggy, so we slept with the windows open. Around 2 in the morning, it started to get loud. Really loud. Between the torrential rain, massive winds, and thunder from lightning less than a mile away, we were definitely awakened! We shut the windows and tried to sleep, but it was so loud! We didn't sleep well that whole night.
In the morning, we got up, groggy from lack of sleep, and began our day. Sister Harris was in the shower when the home phone where we live rang. I thought that was odd--it was so early in the morning!--so I looked at the caller ID, which said LDS Missions. Huh.  They must be trying to reach us. So I ran upstairs to get our cell phone and found about eleventy thousand missed phone calls and texts. Starting with one from our mission president at 2:01 am telling us there was a severe storm with possible tornado warnings headed our way. And then our sister training leaders, Trail Center leaders, District Leader, and Zone Leaders. And then a whole bunch of them asking us if we were okay, could we please call in and let everyone know we were fine, etc.
Yeah, our phone had been on silent all night, so we had missed our warnings. Luckily, it was just a severe storm, nothing more dangerous. We learned our lesson, however: Turn the phone up at night! I think it makes for a good gospel parallel, though:
If we aren't receptive to the warnings of the Spirit, we could be in trouble. In order to be safe, we need to be prepared to receive warnings and promptings at all times, and so we should be exercising (channeling Professor Moody) CONSTANT VIGILANCE! Otherwise you could attempt to sleep through a potential tornado!
(Don't worry, Mom, we have a basement where we live, so we'll be fine, no matter what!)
I love you! Say a prayer for us out here!
Sister May

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hello All!
We have been "full proselyting" missionaries the last few weeks, but on Friday I learned that would change. A sister had to go home for health reasons, and so that companionship was dissolved, which left a hole at the Trail Center. Because Sister Harris was specifically called to the Trail Center, we were asked to go and fill their space for the remainder of the transfer, about 4 weeks. Sister Harris had kind of missed the Trail Center, so she is over the moon! I am a little nervous--there is so much to learn! But I am excited, too. I wasn't sure if I would ever get to serve there, so now it is guaranteed! I had my first shift last Saturday, and I went on three tours with other sisters. It was good, and I just need to keep learning and studying. We are serving there a TON this week--almost every day--so I will let you know next week how it all goes.
Remember how I wanted to visit all of the states in my mission? Yeah, I do. So, I am in the Council Bluffs area, which means all district and zone meetings take place in Council Bluffs, IA. Check! I live in Nebraska, so, Check! And this Thursday, we are having a combined Zone Conference with Sioux City in... wait for it... Sioux City, South Dakota! Check! After this week, I will only need to wait for Kansas, and I have my whole mission ahead of me to get that. Three states in four weeks, people. It's amazing.
My birthday was good. It was basically another day of the same, but it was a good day of the same!
This last week has been crazy, weather-wise. On Tuesday, it was 100. On Sunday the rain, wind, and lightning rolled in and we thought we would be blown away. Sister Harris and I could see the wave of wind and rain rolling in just as we got in the car, and so we got back out of the car and ran back in the church building. When it stopped, we went to drive towards home, and we passed a lot of downed trees and branches. One tree was completely uprooted and had fallen on a car! We were really surprised to see that one.
We are always moving through potential investigators, but we have one that is awesome. I won't share her name for privacy purposes, but she came right out and told us that she felt like something was missing in her life, and she asked God if we were the answer to that. Is that cool or what? I love her and I love her son. They are some of the coolest people ever.
I always feel like I have a lot to say, and then I sit down and can't remember it. Just know I love you all, and I love all of the letters and support I get from people. You are all amazing!
Bipolar Award: Goes to Nebraska, for whipping between 100 degrees and  then 58 with hail. Nebraska just needs to calm down a little.
Awkward Moment Award: Goes to ME! I tried to say hello to some folks at church yesterday, but all I got out was hello, and they gave a small wave, then I said, "How are..." and then they were walking away. Awkward! I guess they didn't want to talk to me. Sad!
Also, I get the Awkward Moment Award for forgetting my name tag today, so Sister Harris handed me her other tag in her purse, so now we are both Sister Harris. It's weird to walk up to people and say, "I'm Sister May. But my name tag says Sister Harris. And so does hers."
Loradona, aka, Sister May, aka Sister Harris

Monday, May 13, 2013

Another Week in the Nebraska!

In addition to talking to Loradona via Skyp yesterday we got this letter today.
This week I went on two exchanges, which was weird. The first one was kind of an emergency one--a sister was sick, so we shuffled some things around and I went out with Sister Bates. She has little knowledge of Plattsmouth--even less than I do!--which made that exchange a little interesting. We did just fine, though; it was just crazy trying remember where things were, and neither of us knew!
The next exchange was with one of the Sister Training Leaders--she was great. And since she gets unlimited miles in her car, we were able to go to one of the farther towns in our area and meet some members and less actives. Sadly, it's also a private community, so you can't knock on doors out there. You can only go to members' homes and you can contact people who are outside. It was an interesting time.
I am learning all of the time that everyone has a different story and a different way of coming to know who they are and what they should be doing. It's a good thing to realize.
Did I mention to you that we had a day full of Encounters of the Animal Kind? Yeah, it was pretty much awesome. First, we met a tea cup pig (I feel like I wrote about this already, but TOO BAD!). He was eating grass growing in the cracks of the sidewalk and Sister Harris pulled over the car and said, "I have to pet the pig!" So we did! I was a little concerned for the pig's welfare at first, because in the backyard, the husband of the pig's owner was busy working the smoker, but it turns out the pig is a pet, not food. Phew! Then, we randomly saw two deer just run through the middle of town, in the middle of the day. What the what? Then, at an investigator's house, we met her new bulldog/pitbull mix puppy. He looks EXACTLY like the Poky Little Puppy, Mom. And you know how I feel about that story, so you know I was in love. Finally, we had dinner at a member's home, and they had the softest rabbit I have ever touched. (The rabbit, like the pig, was a pet, not dinner.) So many critters!
Okay, one thing I have to get off my chest: All of you people who told me Nebraska was flat are LIARS! True, there are no mountains, but there are hills galore. And now that our miles for our car have been cut (yeah....) we are walking. A lot. A lot a lot. The hills are good, and I am definitely getting my exercise in. Especially since we still don't always know the area perfectly, and we are still searching for people to teach. We have a handful of people who have agreed to let us come back, but they still have to move forward, you know? Finding folks never ends. I hope they choose to continue and make progress, but it has to be up to them, and I just have to be willing to teach when they want to learn.
I wish things were more exciting, but right now it's just me and Sister Harris walking around like hobos and meeting people (and pigs!). There are some really cool houses and buildings in Plattsmouth. And yesterday in our walking around we cam across a tiny burial plot in the middle of a neighborhood! It's from 1891ish, and there were just a few small gravestones, all fenced off, between a couple of homes. It was cool yet creepy. Yet cool.
This week's Golden Letter Award is split between Hykel and Mom. Mom because she sent me a splendid letter with the craziest dream in it. I opened it at the end of a really hard day, and it made me laugh and feel better. Oh, and Mom sent me a rock and roll birthday package with dark chocolate in it, so you know, automatic WINNER!

Hykel because I got THREE letters from her in one week! That probably has less to do with her innate awesomeness (because we all know she ROCKS) and more to do with mission office forwarding weirdness, but hey! I'll take it!
Other awards:
The Barking Dog Award goes to.... drum roll.... The entire town of Plattsmouth! Everyone has a dog, and it doesn't matter what you do, the dogs bark. At everything. You, leaves, squirrels, imaginary ghosts, everything.
The Golden Banana Award goes to the Bucksbees, who buy oodles of Bananas and let us eat as many as we want. They are the nicest people to live with, and the never ending supply of bananas is a godsend. I even bought me some Nutella to better enjoy the bounty of bananas.
The Mighty Wind Award goes to... Nebraska! Well done, Nebraska, for making my very own Marilyn Monroe Moment possible! I couldn't have done it without you.
Well, that's about it for today! Just you wait until next week's episode, when you will learn the fate of our fearless heroine and if she manages to keep teaching more people, if one of those dogs finally jumps a fence and chases her down the street, and if her shoes continue to hold up (spoiler alert: I am almost certain that one of those will be a yes!).
Sister Loradona May

Friday, May 10, 2013

Letter from Plattsmouth!

 Loradona's address is to the right ----->
Hello, family!
Just time for the weekly email from the mission! This time, I am emailing you from Bellevue University in Bellevue, NE! My area is actually Plattsmouth (we're at the mouth of the Platte, believe it or not), and my companion is Sister Harris from Colorado. She is also a Trail Center missionary, though right now we are just proselyting. But I feel like I am getting ahead of myself.
My last two days at the MTC were really great--the sun shone, we had some new teachers, and we really had a lot of time to study. After the rest of our zone left early Monday morning, there were just the four of us sisters waiting until Wednesday. Because we were awkwardly timed, we had new teachers, Sister Fielding and Brother Clegg. I really appreciated the extra time to practice and to learn. I feel like I am a quick study, but I sometimes need to think about things to really get them in my mind. Because we were there longer, we also had a chance to sing with the Choir for devotional again, which is pretty much my favorite. Seriously, my advice to any missionary going to the Provo MTC is to GO TO CHOIR! I can't say it enough. It doesn't matter if you're "not a singer." Just go. You won't regret it.
Before too long, we were on our way to Nebraska! Early Wednesday morning, we showed up at the travel office. There were actually 24 of us headed to Omaha: 17 sisters, 7 elders. Everyone else was in a different zone from us, so we didn't really meet them before the airport. Four of the elders are "visa waiters" actually assigned to Brazil. They will be here until they get their visas, and they have really good attitudes about it all. I'm impressed. The Brazil elders are also the four tallest missionaries in our group. You want to know which ones are actually supposed to be in Brazil? Pick the ones who tower 6 inches over everyone else!
Anyway, there were some travel mix-ups (they didn't have our reservations or something? I'm still confused), so we left late for the airport. Once we were there, we had to book it through security to get to our gate. When we got there, all of the payphones were dominated by just a couple of sisters (minor grumble) who stayed on the phone for 30 minutes while the rest of us (24, remember?) waited forlornly. So I thank you for the calling card. I just didn't get to use it right then.
I traveled with Sister Kent (they had us split on two flights), and she was really upset at not getting to call. Luckily, on the flight there was a splendid lady who let us use her cell phone for 5 minutes. It was just frustrating to wait and wait while three people sat at the phones. My other piece of advice for missionaries: If there is a line behind you, take a break. Let others use the phones, because you aren't the only ones who want to use it.
Our flight was fairly uneventful, though the other flight was routed through Denver, which had bad weather, so I guess they got a lot of turbulence and were delayed about 2 hours, so they all got a lot of time to call. Several of the sisters talked about being scared of the turbulence, but you know me--turbulence puts me to sleep. I'm pretty sure that flight would have just rocked me to sleep!
FYI, if you ever go to Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, and you land at terminal F and need to get to terminal B for your connection, take the tram. I'm pretty sure Sister Kent and I ran a mile and a half to get to our connection. We saw the tram once, but it pulled out before we could get there, and that was that. Let me tell you, however, we definitely got our exercise in that day.

When we arrived in Omaha, it was freezing! May 1st, and freezing! Let me tell you, I was glad to have my coat. President and Sister Weston met us right at the edge of security, and it was nice to see them! They loaded us into vans and took us to the mission offices for some orientation (I learned not to put a squirrel skin down the garbage disposal, nor to throw Chinese throwing stars at the walls) and was interviewed by President Weston. Then we got to stay the night at a motel and we went to bed so early! It would have been an awesome night's sleep... if it weren't for the drunk guys running up and down the hall and yelling about needing more beer and ice for the vodka. I finally got up, stuck my head out of the door, and then said, "Hey." One guy looked at me and said, "Oh, she's sleeping." I said, "Yeah, I'm sleeping. But you're going to have to keep it down, because you're killing me." They responded with, "Oh, yeah. Sure. Thanks for not yelling at us!" Whatever, dude. Just don't wake me up.(Side note from Debra: Anybody that knows Loradona, knows not to mess with her sleep)
Aaanyway, we went to Winter Quarters and the Pioneer cemetery there, as well as the temple grounds the next morning. It was beautiful because we woke up to about 3 inches of snow on the ground. Yeaaaah... Remember how I said I wouldn't need snow boots right away? That was kind of false. That's okay, though, because at least I had the scarf Grandma knitted me. Thanks Grandma! We didn't spend nearly enough time at the Trail Center, and we didn't get a full tour, which made me sad. I figured I'd be back eventually.
We returned to the Mission offices for lunch and then to go out for our first proselyting experiences. It was really good! I went out with Sisters Hamilton and Beatty, and while I was nervous at first, going out tracting wasn't too bad at all. We even found a couple of people who asked us back, so that was really good. Sister Hamilton is really bold. She just tells it like it is, and I love it.
In the evening, we went to President Weston's house for instruction, followed by dinner and a testimony meeting. Did I mention that one of the new elders is from Ecuador? I thought that was pretty rock and roll. Naturally, he's a Spanish Elder. Following the testimonies (which were all really good), we got our assignment letters! I'm afraid I spoiled the surprise and already let you know that my companion is Sister Harris and I serve in Plattsmouth. Plattsmouth is south of Omaha, probably 30 minutes or so from the Mission Office. It reminds me a little of Sutherlin in some ways.
The ward is really small, but it looks like the members are really nice. I got to meet Sister Harris on Friday, when we met up and then drove to our area. We were both new to the area, but luckily the car had a GPS in it that Brother Bucksbee bought the sisters. We live in the Bucksbee's house. They are really nice. Brother Bucksbee reminds me a little of Grandpa in his teasing. I think he and Jeanette would have some wonderful sparring sessions. Sis. Harris and I got a little settled in, then headed to the Trail Center for her last shift before becoming what they call a "Full Proselyting" missionary. Before, she's been split, half and half, between the Trail Center and Proselyting, so this is new for her.
While we were at the Trail Center, I got to know some of the other sisters, and I took myself on a tour, thank you very much! I saw every exhibit and pushed every button, because I could.
The last sisters in our area were almost fully at the Trail Center, so we walked into an area without a lot of investigators in it. The one they had kind of got cold feet (long story), and we're working to get to the bottom of it.We just keep praying for him that he will get it figured out and that we can help him.
On Saturday, we made it our goal to go out and meet as many members as we could. We met quite a few, actually, and that was good. We also had dinner with a member and had a good time getting to know them. Sunday was fun, because we could meet a bunch more members, as well as greet the ones we'd already met. We also had a really good lesson at a member's house, getting them to think about people they might like to invite to hear the gospel. I really think my time as the Member Missionary Class teacher helped with that one!
Evening is a tough time, though, because we don't know the area very well, we don't have any investigators, and so we don't have appointments, and we don't know places to go. We just scour the previous missionaries' records and look for potential students that way and try to go and find those people. Tracting is something they encourage us not to do, because our Wards should be supplying the teaching pool. So... we do our best with what we have. If the weather were nicer, more people might be out (the weather right now reminds me of Oregon. No need for homesickness here!), but instead it is a little cool, wet and gray, and that keeps people in more. President Weston says to be grateful for the cool weather, because it will be blistering before long!
It's almost time to wrap this up (FYI, PDay is Mondays, so that's when you can expect emails).
I have two awards to give out this week! The Golden Letter Award goes to Mom's cousins! That was an awesome card. The Frozen Toes Award goes to Nebraska, for snowing in May for the first time since 1967, or some such nonsense. Get in line, Nebraska!
Anyway, here's to signing out for the week. Keep sending me emails and letters--I love them! I will try to respond to letters in writing as best I can. I have an hour now to email, so I can probably respond to emails you send again, so keep 'em coming!
Love you! Think happy thoughts!
Sister Loradona May