Tuesday, December 31, 2013

More Life in Estelí

The Hermanas of Distrito Estelí, Rama Cento, after grocery shopping on a pday. Never a dull moment with us. I really love these sisters a lot.

This is a family that I love love love with one of our investigators. In the very front we have 2-year-old Albert, who loves the sister missionaries so much and is probably the funniest kid I've ever met. Every picture he sees of himself, he says "woah, guapo!" I need this kid's self-esteem! Holding Albert is his uncle, Juan Garcia. He was our ward mission leader until he left for his own mission on December 18th in the D.R. He's super pilas and super excited and is going to be awesome. On the right are his mom and sister. His mom reminds me of my Aunt Sylvia, one of the sweetest, most faithful and angelic women I've ever met. She makes me feel so loved and so at home. His sister is 12 and she is super sweet, too, and so funny. One of my best friends here in Estelí.

More Catching Up: Life in Nicaragua

This is the new missionaries training meeting at the end of October in Managua. There were 5 new missionaries being trained in our zone, which means 10 missionaries from our zone were at this meeting. In order to get back to the bus terminal, we fit 8 of us in a taxi and 2 in a bike taxi (like you'd imagine in Asia. They're here, too). You can just barely see my face in the back. Here we have Elder Shaff taking the picture, and you can see his comp's shoulder. There are two other sisters "not pictured" here because you can't see them behind the other missionaries. Good times.

This was a cumple-mes surprise for me, on November 2. I came back to the house to find the remnants of these cockroaches in my shower; they total about 12 or so. Apparently they were all alive in the afternoon when Hermana Merrill found them. She killed them all, so it ended up being my job to clean them up. Life in Nicaragua. :)

Still catching up: more pictures from my first week in Nicaragua

My artsy shot from the top of Mirador Tisey, a the highest mountain in the Estelí area. This is my life, now. I. Love. Nicaragua. Always green, always huge, blue sky. That's right. Be jealous you're not me.

Our district in front of Salto Estanzuela. You can't tell how cool this waterfall is from this picture, but the important part is how cool the district is. 

In front on the left, we have Elder Yardley, who "ya se va por su casa" this change (he's headed home now). He and the gringo in the blue shirt, Elder Witt, were our Zone Leaders, and were awesome. Elder Larson in the red shirt is from Mesa and is pure cowboy. We get along great. He knows Cowtown Boots and Bill Johnson's Big Apple and Snowflake, AZ. His comp in the blue polo, Elder Tercero, is from Chinandega, Nicaragua. He was here in Mision Norte for 8 months waiting on his visa for his mission in Guadalajara Mexico. Elder Barton and Elder Giron are the other two in front. Elder Giron is my district leader, as I mentioned before, and Elder Barton is a democrat. Enough said. And the other Hermanas, Hermana Merrill and Hermana Aparicio, lived with us for a whole change before they finally found a house of their own. President wants us to be living only 2 missionaries in each house, so they left for a more fachenta casa (ritzier place), but still serve with us in our branch and we still hang out together to do girl stuff on pdays. They're the best. Hermana Merrill is from Utah Valley, so luckily we'll be seeing a lot of each other even after the mission. In this first change she was our Sister Training Leader - basically the female version of a zone leader.

My first week was full of culture shock and drowning in the new language and new culture of mission life, and each day felt like an eternity. I got to Esteli on a Wednesday, worked until Sunday, went hiking on Monday with the zone, and went to multi-zone conference in Matagalpa on Tuesday, where I finally had my first interview with the president, where he told me he could already see an improvement in me. ! I was still drowning, gosh dang it! Thank heavens for a good branch president, a good mission president, and other good missionaries. There is a support system here, after all.

Catching up: pictures from my first week in Nicaragua

This is me with my mission president and his wife on my first night in Nicaragua. I had flown in only hours earlier, met my comp and the APs, and my mission president and his wife, of course, and they took us to dinner at Rosti-Pollos, a pretty ritzy place for Nicaragua. I still didn't speak Spanish too well, I was overwhelmed and tired because I'd woken up at 3:30 and traveled all day, and yet I still felt great being with them. They're my surrogate parents and my ecclesiatical leaders for the next 18 months.

This is a "family" photo in the Tisey Reserve on my first pday. Trainers are always "mom" or "dad," and your first District Leader is your "dad" too. So, here I am with Hermana Corzantes and Elder Giron, both of whom are rather short. Just goes to show that with genes, you never know.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cumpliendo 23 in Nicaragua!

So I turned 23 on the 13th. And the Hobbit 2 came out. That were the two biggest pieces of news for the day. Here's what went down in Esteli in the course of that week:

My lunch cita made us a special chicken dinner when she found out it was my birthday. And it was super delicious. And had garlic. That is a treat. (my comp doesn't like to count when she takes pictures. I get lots of candid shots)

Hermana Alba Iris. She is an angel, and so faithful. She is so sweet, and reminds me of Aunt Sylvia. She loves the missionaries so much, and takes such good care of us. She invited all four of the sister missionaries in our branch to eat dinner at her house for my birthday. On my plate are "manuelitos," basically thick crepes filled with syrup and cheese. Weird, but good.

After eating dinner with her family, we played "What If...?" in Spanish. Some of the golden moments were:
"What if Hermana Ferrin danced on her head? She'd lose 30 pounds."
"What if Hermana Corzantes were a model? We'd know she was an imposter."
"What if Hermana Merrill were gordita? She'd find herself a cowboy like Hermana Ferrin found." And that is a story in and of itself that I have yet to recount here. Maybe next week.

This week Nicaragua is celebrating my birthday with fireworks. Actually, it's the Patron festival of Esteli, which means we get gigantonas (giant creepy dolls that dance in the streets), fireworks, the biggest rodeo in all of Esteli, and a noche de compras, full of music and food in the streets and parties and dancing...which means they're celebrating my birthday all week.

For my birthday, on pday, I went on a shopping spree. There are these lovely things called "pacas" here where they sell new and used American clothing for what is a lot less than it would be in the states. So I bought all this for about $50, give or take. I feel like such a girl. And shopping here is so EASY! There's always stuff in my size, since no one else is as big as me. :)

We were going to go to a super ritzy place for my birthday, but ran out of time. We ended up eating hamburgers and batidos at Toto instead. The batidos were SUPER HUGE.

On my birthday, we were going to have our mission president visit us to do interviews and work with the areas who are struggling the most, but he changed the date. So instead, I went to the house of a member who reminds me of Aunt Sylvia, since she'd offered to cook for all four of us missionaries for my birthday. And it was wonderful, and we stayed and visited with her family for a long time. Her son is about to leave on his mission to the D.R. tomorrow, and he's been our branch mission leader.  The day before, we contacted someone who turned out to be a really rich guy, and while visiting with him in his house he was showing me his collecting of grammars of miskitu, a native language on the coast of Nicaragua. He had a duplicate, and when he saw my interest in linguistics, he gifted it to me, not even knowing it was my birthday. And aside from all the other birthday songs and wishes from other missionaries, my District Leader (thus, my "mission papá"), not knowing of my own dad's tradition of singing las mañanitas to us on the guitar for our birthdays, called me and sang me Las Mañanitas with guitar accompaniment. It was pretty awesome.

This week, our ward went on a temple trip, and one of the families here was sealed. After three years of working towards that. It was beautiful to hear them talk about how much they loved that experience. I'm so grateful to see the members here gaining the blessings of the temple. I'm starting to love these people a lot, and it's starting with the members, who are so faithful even though there are so few of them.

Still loving it here in Este Ley.
Hermana Ferrin

Monday, December 2, 2013

2nd Cumple-mes!

Today marks my two-months in the mission. For those of you keeping score at home, that means 16 months left mission Lee Ferrin. Lo siento. But I'm enjoying my time here, too.

Time keeps moving faster and faster here, and it seems like not too long ago that I was last writing in the Ciber cafe. This week has had its ups and downs. Turns out, as I learned on Thursday, that after the rains leave Estelí, it gets DARN COLD. Usually the Nicas are really cold and wonder why I'm not feeling anything when there are a few breezes or it gets a bit cool, but this time I was shivering and reaching for a non-existent jacket (I accidentally left my only sweater in my mission president's car, I think, but decided I wouldn't actually need it in Nicaragua). Just kidding! I definitely do need on in this zone in December. It's feeling a little like an AZ Christmas, even. And to make things even better, both my companion and I have had colds all week. We asked for a blessing on Wednesdasy in zone conference, and were promised that our sickness wouldn't interfere with our work, but we were starting to feel on Thursday that we needed to spend some time sleeping off our sickness in the casa when we got a call from a couple sisters in Managua. Turns out they are our new sister-training-leaders. They just changed the way that's organized in our mission, and now all the leaders are in companionships so they can maximize their time in divisions. The sisters in Managua got the zones with the fewest sisters (we lost a companionship of sisters and gained a 2 companionships of elders in the last changes, since we needed a branch president in one of our areas, and the other is too close to Honduras for comfort for the sisters), and we're one of those. So I had the chance to go to Managua to do divisons on Friday with a sister 3 years older than me, also from Utah, and it was great to talk in English, and we taught a lesson in English, and they have a ton of members and a ward who all wants to feed them and teach with them, and I'm a little jealous. I just loved being in Managua, with a bunch of people, noisy buses, Evangelical music on every corner, and it felt like a working vacation.

Things seemed a bit easier there than in Estelí. I think it's because I still have a lot of fear that is keeping me from exercising the faith that I need/want to in order to work well and powefully, fear that I didn't feel while I was working in someone else's area and could trust the responsible, older leader to direct me and take care of me. But in Managua on that same division, in my personal study, I finally came to an understanding of D&C 6:36, which says "Look unto me in every thought,doubt not, fear not." This is like a loving earthly father, who is helping his daughter learn to walk, or give a talk, or ride a bike, and is standing there with his arms out, or sitting there expectantly, with his eyes trained on his daughter, saying "just focus on me, just come to me, just pay attention to me, don't worry about anyone else, and everything will be okay." And I sure am counting on that promise. I can physically feel the fear when it makes its way into my heart, and it sure is uncomfortable. But if I take that same thought and look at it by way of Christ, suddenly, I'm not afraid. Suddenly, I don't doubt. Suddenly, I trust that I can accomplish His will. What a remarkable promise.

We ate lunch with our Branch President and his wife on Sunday, and they played 17 Miracles for us as we ate. That may or may not have made me a little trunky, as the clothing and music is all reminiscent of Philmont, not to mention I got to see Sister Breinholt and my friend Caitlin, both of whom are actresses in the movie.

We keep on keeping on out here in Estelí, and my spanish is better every day. I feel fairly confident with it now. It's still difficult to eavesdrop, but other than that, I can understand most everything if I pay attention, and I keep getting complimented on my spanish. I credit Dad for my accent and the fluency that I came here with. Thanks, Dad. :)

Still no pictures due to the jankiness of internet in ciber cafes. I promise it'll happen before the new year.

By the way, my birthday is coming up, and you know what the best gift would be? Letters or emails. Just sayin'.

Love from Nicaragua.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My first taste of Nicaragua

We're going to pretend that I didn't just fail to write on my blog for the first month of my time in the mission field (fail). I've been waiting for the chance to upload pictures, because what is a blog post without pictures, but that's not going to happen anytime soon, so here goes:

Culture shock is real, and there's the Spanish culture, the Nicaraguan culture, and the missionary culture to adjust to. Fortunately, there are a lot of people here to love, and to love me, and that's what I need to stay focused. Our little branch of about 70 had an activity the other day, with food and dancing, and I realized just how much I'm coming to love the people in this little country.

I love all the missionaries in my zone. We're a great, big family, and I wish I could see them more often. We do get together every Tuesday for meetings, and the district gets together every Monday for Preparation Day to play soccer and eat lunch. We have a lot of fun, cheles and natives alike, playing futbol and shouting at each other in English and Spanish. My trainer, aka "mom," is Hermana Corzantes, a Guatemalteca with 3 months in the mission. We're the youngest (experience wise) companionship in the whole mission, and I feel like we're Rory and Lorelai Gilmore, sometimes. In both good and bad ways. But I love her. My mission "dad," (my first District Leader) is an amazing 25-year-old from Guatemala who is an amazing speaker, amazing leader, and great at loving the people he serves and works with. He gave up some of his afternoon to help us with our investigators who had a legal problem to finish before they could be baptized (that has a sad ending...short version, it didn't work out), and though he "machetes" us occasionally when the numbers aren't great, he does so the way the D&C asks in 121 (I think), with an increase in love afterward, as he helps contact in our area to help us find more families to teach.

The other sisters we live with are just awesome. Sister Merril, the sister training leader and one of my roommates, is from Alpine, UT, and loves to joke around and sing in the house. Her companion, Hermana Aparicio, is brand new like me, and she's from Panama. It's always fun when she and I have divisions together so that Hermana Merrill can do training with my companion. With a month and a half of experience between the two of us, we get awfully lost in the streets of Esteli. Everyone is willing to give slightly convoluted directions, though. I'm sure going to miss those sisters when they move to their new casa. We spent a couple hours playing soccer this morning with them and a recent convert and an investigator at the capilla. I earned myself the name "Wall of Steel" for my defensive skills. And we found a basketball today in a secondhand store, so you know what's next week.

As for peopel to love, we have a new investigator, Dayelis, who is 16 and wants to get baptized. We've been teaching her for a while, but she was hesitant to commit to baptism because she never felt like she'd received her response. Then she was praying one day for her answer, opened her book of mormon, and found the discourse on baptism in 3 Ne, and took it for her answer. She's so excited, we're so excited, and I know she'll find a big family and lots of love in our little branch here.

We have another investigator, Salvador, who lived in the U.S. for about 14 years in total, and who encountered the missionaries once or twice there, but never heard the discussions. He's encountered almost all our doctrine in his study of the Bible, and he's ready to be baptized. But then this week his brother died, and his house was robbed twice, making a total of 5 times in the past month. I'm still trying to learn how to teach people who have so little, and who have such great temporal concerns. I know the gospel can bring temporal blessings as well, but how to teach that sensitively...? That's what the spirit is for. I don't know enough on my own for that.

I'm realizing just how big and how important this work is, and how little I know on my own, and how little I can do on my own. I'm learning more now than ever before how to rely on the spirit and on my Savior. And that is making this place precious to me.

Monday, October 14, 2013

As Time Draws Near...

When I will leave the MTC! I'm taking off early early early tomorrow morning. I know I've been a little silent about my experience so far. That's because I have little to no time to think, much less email! I've found a wonderful group of missionaries in my district (class) here, and my teachers are wonderful, including one who used to be a member of my uncle's stake. Small Mormon world indeed. 

This is my district in our classroom. My companion, Hermana Nava, is the one taking the selfie.

I've been living the missionary lifestyle, going to bed at 10:30, waking up at 6:30, and working the entire time in between. But this work is so rewarding. I have two weeks to learn how to teach the most important message they're ever going to hear; how to be a full time minister of Christ for the next 18 months. I'm learning how to find and focus on the needs of others, how to study the scriptures more effectively to answer my own questions and those of the people I'll teach, how to love your companion and thus demonstrate that we are Christ's disciples, and how to be the representatives that Christ wants. I love wearing my name tag. It's a great responsibility to have not only my name on my plaque, but also that of my Savior, and I'm only beginning to learn how to live up to that. 


It's certainly been overwhelming, trying to figure out how to teach such important doctrine and saving truths in a language I'm only beginning to understand. And let's not even talk about just chatting with my classmates in Spanish. The vocabulary of teaching I've started to get down, but just talking with people? I do okay when it's just my district, but as soon as I start talking to my teachers I get too nervous and the wrong words start coming out. Oh well. I give myself 3 months. Let's see how I am after that. 

This picture is all the sisters in my district dressed up (and all with curled hair!) and ready for conference. For the record, General Conference in the MTC is the best. It's like Christmas. It was the best instruction possible for two days straight. General Conference occurs twice a year when for two days, in the first weekend of April and the first weekend of October, the apostles and prophets of the latter-days speak to the church and to the world. 15 men who I sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators give direction and counsel to those who are listening. And watching conference with hundreds of other youth who have chosen to unselfishly consecrate their lives for the next 18-24 months to the service of Jesus Christ, who stands at the head of this church, was a powerful experience. We ate, slept, and breathed conference, and then when conference was over on Sunday, we had an MTC devotional with Vocal Point (BYU'S acapella group, all returned missionaries, AMAZING!) and then my district watched the Testaments in Spanish. The Testaments is a film that tells the story of the visit of Jesus Christ to the people of the Americas shortly after his resurrection and ascension into heaven, as is told in the book of 3rd Nephi of the Book of Mormon. It is a powerful story, and it is so beautiful to see the love that Christ as for all his people, and for the individual, as portrayed in that film. 

Well, that's all the time I have this week. I'll have some pictures from Nicaragua next time I post, and I'll be experiencing a low of 71 degrees Fahrenheit starting tomorrow evening! 

Farewell from the crossroads of the West and the shadow of the everlasting hills. :)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Favorite Books

I say amen to everything my friend Rachel wrote in her latest blog post.

And if you ever wonder, one of my favorite books is the Book of Mormon.

Just sayin'. 

Friday, September 27, 2013


I must confess to having experienced quite a bit of trepidation at leaving behind what is currently my whole world for 18 months to go to a whole new country, a whole new continent even, where they speak completely different language, and to sacrifice my time and myself. Yes, I would be sacrificing to build God's kingdom on earth, but I was still selfishly afraid. And you know what? I don't like being afraid. So I decided I needed to stop being afraid. It took some time, some prayer and study, and some very apt words of advice from some very dear friends, but I got my head into gear and realized that for the first time in my life I have a piece of paper signed by a prophet of God telling me exactly what my Heavenly Father wants me to do, where he wants me to be, and when he wants me to be there.

I know with perhaps more exactness than ever before in my life just what is next in Heavenly Father's plan for me. And so, though I'm giving up quite a lot as I leave behind my family, my friends, my life, my hobbies, so much of what I consider "myself," nothing I could be doing here in the next 18 months would make me happier than what I'll be doing in Nicaragua. Nope, not even going to Philmont. And though I'll be working harder than I've ever worked in my life, I've been told by a lot of returned missionaries that, if I have the right attitude, I might just have more fun than I've ever had before, either. And I believe it. After all, who's going to have more fun than me when it comes to walking long hours on dirt roads, only having cold showers, no makeup, and sweating all day? I mean, isn't this what my summers have taught me to love?

I'm not afraid anymore. I'm excited. I know that what I'm doing next is right, and is exactly what the Lord has planned for me, and that makes this awesome. I know with a surety that I'm doing the Lord's will, and I know of a surety his doctrine. I've got everything I need, and I'm ready for the best adventure of my life. And you know what? I'm ready for the adventures after that. Because that's what this life is about. Learning to handle new experiences with grace and enthusiasm.

Come at me, bro!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

That big, white envelope

On the 16th of June I picked my way up Wilson Mesa, a beautiful stretch of timber on the Elliott Barker Wildlife Area, on my way back to work at Rich Cabins at Philmont Scout Ranch. Charlie and I had just spent the night with our neighbors, the Pueblano Boys, not long after helping to evacuate the South Country for the White Peak Fire. And yet as exciting as the previous 3 days had been, I had something even more exciting in store: there was a large, white envelope in my backpack. Much to the chagrin of my hiking buddy and "brother," I had stopped at the mail room every day of my days off to check for it. I was finally rewarded the day before I was to return to work, and wanting to open my mission at a particularly picturesque place as planned months before, I placed it carefully into the back of my pack and planned to open it on Wilson Mesa on the way home.

Me with my mission call in front of the mail room. I simply sat and stared at it for about 20 minutes in disbelief after this photo was taken. Sorry, Charlie!

As we climbed that day, we were joined by one of our good friends we'd known since the previous year who fortuitously encountered us at Pueblano that morning as he was hiking to visit us that night. We reached the top of the mesa and I called a halt, took a photo, and then, as planned, hiked some way off the trail to have some time to myself. 

Baldy to my left, Touch-Me-Not to my right, and a mission call in my hands

Long before I decided I was going to serve a mission, I'd decided if I was to ever have a mission call of my own, I'd want to open it alone, and ideally, on a mountaintop. Even more ideally, I'd open it on a mountaintop at HOmE, at Philmont. And here I was, long after, executing the plan I'd only daydreamed about. I found a secluded place, knelt, and prayed, expressing gratitude and trepidation for the opportunity to serve as a missionary. I opened my call and forced my eyes not to skip to "where and when" part of the letter. "Dear Sister Ferrin, You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." Okay, got through that part. "You are assigned to labor in the Nicaragua Managua North Mission." And that was where I started crying and laughing all at once. What a perfect call, what a perfect assignment. I couldn't have come up with a better place for myself. It was perfect, and a testament to me that my Heavenly Father knows me and loves me. I spent some time laughing and crying to myself, reading through the rest of the letter, and reading about my new mission president before I returned to Matt and Charlie, who were patiently waiting for me (those awesome guys).

I then called my parents (lucky for me, there's service on Wilson Mesa) and read my mission call aloud to them and Charlie and Matt. I got congratulations and hugs from all of them (well, okay, only hugs from the boys). Then we packed up and hiked home to make it back before noon. Because that's what you do at Philmont. No matter what happens, the show must go on, because we do it for the kids, though I did get to enjoy a guessing game with all the family at Rich when I arrived home, before I even got to take my pack off. 

And so, ladies and gentlemen, that is why I will be departing for 18 months, why I will be leaving behind the family I love, the friends I adore, and the mountains I think I just can't live without. Why I'll be leaving my country, my native language, all that is familiar and comfortable. This is why I'm choosing to lose a summer at Philmont, to miss weddings and graduations and new babies. It's because there is truth and joy that I have, that make me who I am and make me happier than anything else on this earth, and I want to give others a chance to have that too, an opportunity to do the will of the Father, so that they may know if His doctrine is true, if it is of Him, or of man. And for 18 months, that's just what I'll be doing in Nicaragua.