Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Of Tornadoes and Floods

This week has been... eventful? That hardly seems like the right word, but it's the only one I've got right now. It started with tornadoes on Monday, perhaps you heard of them? There were two in the Nebraska towns of Pilger and Wakefield, which devastated Pilger. I heard one person say that 80% of Pilger was gone, and the other 20% wasn't in good shape. Wednesday was kind of awful, with two of our investigators dropping us. Ouch. It might not be a literal drop, but it hurt, nonetheless. On Thursday there was the potential for floods. The community we live in, Dakota Dunes, is right at the confluence of the Big Sioux and Missouri Rivers, and we've had so much rain that the waters were rising pretty rapidly. The Big Sioux River looked pretty scary, and there were huge dump trucks filled with dirt going through our neighborhood to the river to build levees. When we saw the levees, Sister Larson and I thought of Alma 50:1--"Moroni did not stop making preparations for war... for he caused that his armies should commence in digging up heaps of earth roundabout all the cities." Only, instead of preparations for war, it was preparations for flooding. Sister Larson and I prepared for flooding by moving all of our belongings out of the basement where we lived. Then we went to a nearby neighborhood to fill sandbags. It was hot, humid, and (ultimately) unnecessary. The levees held and the damage that could have happened didn't. But everyone prepared for the worst outcome, and we all were pleasantly surprised when the worst did not happen.
On Saturday, missionaries and members headed down to the Pilger area to help with cleaning up tornado debris. We didn't end up in Pilger but in Wakefield. So much of the attention has been on Pilger, apparently, that Wakefield has been somewhat neglected. So we went there to help a farmer clean up his fields. As we traveled we saw some of the devastation: some homes completely stripped to foundations, a car that looked like it had been hit by a semi, and one home that was partially gone, but half the house remained. It was like a can opener had opened up the house and peeled the front walls away. The farm we went to had most of their buildings intact, but the farm across the way had been obliterated, and all of the house, outbuildings, and belongings had been distributed across his fields like confetti. 

At one point, I stood on a hill in the middle of his bean fields, and I could clearly see the brown path the tornado had taken for miles in each direction. It was crazy to imagine. We spent several hours following behind pickup trucks in his corn and bean fields and putting all of the things we found in them: shredded 2x4s, a baby quilt, ribbons from the county fair, the twisted remnants of a ceiling fan motor, a broken doll's foot, the fender of a bicycle, a knitting needle, Christmas ornaments and tinsel, broken cupboard drawer fronts, twisted sheets of corrugated metal from silos, glass, pottery shards--everything you find in your home, except this stuff had been put into a blender and then spread across acres and acres of land. It was sobering. 

From where I stood on one hill, I could see the other farmhouse, or what was left of it, which wasn't much. We worked alongside other members, nonmembers, and missionaries, and it was definitely sad. I've never seen a tornado, but I have now seen the devastation that one causes. It was humbling to think of what had happened, and how much more needed to be done. The people there probably won't be done cleaning up for months. I think sometime we imagine that things like this are finished as soon as the news stops mentioning it, but in reality they continue for months and years. 

So, pray for the people who are affected by things like this every day, and then--if you can--get to work and help them out. I'm grateful to have this time as a missionary to be able to say, "There is actually nothing in my life today more important than helping out here." It is a luxury I appreciate, and I hope that after my mission I can continue to help people when I need to and when they need it. I am glad that I learned the value of work and service from my parents. who always served and encouraged us to serve. 

I love you all! Stay safe, and keep writing! I have been terrible about writing back, but as you can see, this week has been a little crazy. Don't fault me too much! 

Sister Loradona May

Monday, June 16, 2014

Miracles can happen...

This was our week of miracles! It was pretty cool. We first of all had a dinner cancel right off the bat on Monday. Sad way to start the week... until an investigator invited us to dinner that night! It was really cool. We had a super good lesson with them, and we hope to continue helping them move towards baptism. We shall see! We also had dinners with less active members and other investigators this week, which was really cool.
Our biggest miracle came on Friday. We had exchanges with the Spanish Sisters, and I went with Hermana Thompson to our area. We had fasted and prayed that morning for two goals: a baptismal set for us, and a new investigator for them. We went out to drop in on people and go tracting, and as we did so, we found a new Spanish investigator for them! We continued to work and were able to meet and teach other people, but at the end of the evening, in fact our last chance to set someone for baptism, we were driving by an apartment complex where an investigator lives, and he was outside. So we stopped and talked with him. Then we asked if we could read from the Book of Mormon with him, and he ran inside to grab his book. While he was inside, Hna. Thompson and I figured out which chapter we wanted to read with him: Mosiah 18. We read it with him, and then we asked him if that was how he felt, if he felt like he wanted to bear others' burdens and support them and keep the commandments. He said he did. Then Hna. Thompson asked if he would follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by the priesthood authority. He said he'd been thinking about it already, and he thought his birthday would be a nice day to do something like that. When's his birthday we ask? July 26. So you all should pray for him and that he can follow through on his desire to be baptized. He has a lot to change, but with prayer and the Atonement, nothing's impossible. He's a nice guy, and he has sincere desires. He's been to church 4 times, but he hasn't stayed for all three hours yet. He's shy and I think Priesthood scares him a little. :) But he has a fellowshipper--someone he wants to baptize him!--and we reminded him yesterday that his friend could sit by him and could help him through Elders' Quorum. He looked surprised, like he'd forgotten that it was a possibility. 

We also had monster rains on Saturday night. We went back to teach him and his girlfriend, and he had great questions and took notes. When we went to drive home, the roads were full of rain, but we didn't realize how full until we had already driven a block and drove into a deep puddle. We were already in middle of it and decided just to go forward and made it! Whew! It was pretty intense. And we were just two blocks from the Missouri River, so all the water was heading that way. It was really dark and rainy, but we made it home, safe and sound! So: a big thanks for all of your prayers. I have to go, but I love you and hope you all have a great week with your own miracles!

Sister Loradona May

Monday, June 9, 2014

Tornados and gumdrops!

We had some really cool experiences this week, including almost getting hit by lightning! Hooray? We were on foot (yep, saving car miles by walking miles with our feet (not piggies!)), and the sky turned dark, it first started to sprinkle, then to rain, then to pour. We had begun heading towards our car at the insistence of a potential investigator whose door we had knocked on, and when we were still 10+ blocks away, a bolt of lightning hit about 2 blocks away. The crack of thunder was deafening, and Sister Larson and I took off running! The nearest member's house was about 3 blocks away, so we headed there and... she wasn't home. So we sat on her porch until she arrived. In the meantime, we saw a guy running across the street in nothing but boxer shorts and tennis shoes. We laughed really hard at that one. When the member came home, her 7 year old daughter told us that looking at the man with no shirt on was a sin. "That's a sin!" she exclaimed. "If you stared, that's a sin!" Sister Larson and I laughed, and then ate their gumdrops. So, you know, life is okay! 

We also had some tornado warnings, and a member even showed us a picture of one of the tornadoes on her phone. It wasn't big, but it was still a tornado! Crazy, eh? And that night we had a dinner in the area where the tornadoes were, but it was sunny and cheery as ever. Who knows. Life here is weird. But it is also awesome! Our new ward mission leader is the former stake president, and he is so excited about missionary work--I love it! He set up an appointment and went with us to meet a new referral, who are now our new investigators! Without him, though, it would never have happened. It was because of him and his relationship with the husband of the couple that allowed us to set a return appointment. Otherwise, it would never have happened. The wife is very interested, but the husband is too stuck on his smoking, coffee, and beer habits. He even mentioned--several times--about liking beer as a reason he could never join, and offered us some (jokingly, of course), I think as a way to try and deter us. But because of our ward mission leader who was there, they (but especially he) were willing to let us back. The husband reminds me a lot of Grandpa Nylund. So basically, he is my favorite person ever. :) 

We also had the chance to go down to Omaha for Mission leadership Council, which was excellent as usual. We are trying to do our best, and the council and counsel (see what I did there?) help me to feel a little better about the work I am doing, even when there isn't a ton of success. Because sometimes it isn't about you. In fact, it usually isn't (But wait, I thought it was all about me...?). It's about doing what Heavenly Father needs you to do. So I am working on doing what he needs me to do. Will you also work on doing what he needs you to do? Pray about it and find out what he wants, and then go do it! You'll have an amazing experience, I promise!

I love you! Keep writing letters! I still have a while to go, so don't forget about me!

Sister Loradona May

PS: the picture I have attached is of my district before Sister Gomez was transferred. Back row (for anyone who cares), L-R: E. Harrison (one Zone Leader), E. Blanck (in our ward), E. Paddock, E. French (Also in our ward), E. Shipley (our district leader), and E. Pulver (our other zone leader). Front row, L-R: S. Gomez, Me, Hna. Pocock (who came out with me), and Hna. Thompson (who will go home with me). Enjoy! Love you all!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


So. We may or may not be down to our last 90ish miles for the week, so Sister Larson and I may or may not be walking a lot. You determine the truth. But, it has led to some interesting experiences.
Experience the First: We were walking to help someone out when we walk by a couple on the street. The guy asks, "Why are you all dressed up?" Because we're missionaries! "You have a book, don't you guys?" Yep, we sure do! Would you like one? "Yeah!" We have an appointment with the girl tomorrow (I think it was tomorrow, so let's hope I wrote it down right), so walking isn't all bad...
... but it isn't all good either. Experience the Second: We were out walking yesterday after church (we were able to get a ride to church, and a ride to dinner in the evening, but in between church and dinner? Walking.), and the wind starts to blow. The clouds get dark. The rain begins to fall. The lightning begins to strike, and we begin to decide our current plan is maybe less good than we thought. So we walked to the nearest member's house, where they let us in, give us towels, and let us sit on their couch and watch Legacy until the person giving us a ride arrives. So even the "bad" wasn't all bad, either.
We went on exchanges, and there is one Sister serving in Columbus, NE where we went who is a native Spanish speaker. She has been serving in Spanish areas until now, and now she is serving as the Spanish half of a Spanish/English companionship. She let me know she had never contacted a referral in English before and didn't know how. So we talked about how to do it and then... we went and did it! She was nervous (and I might have been, too; hey, it wasn't my area!), but we did it, and got his phone number and had a good interchange, so it was fun.
I feel like other things happened, but I can't remember what.
In other news, I just emailed back and forth with Cliff in Afghanistan--how cool is that? I'll answer: really cool! Anyway, I love you all and I hope you all have missionary experiences this week! I know I will!
Sister Loradona May