Monday, March 31, 2014

Everyday Life in Nicaragua & 6 Months as a Missionary

Nicaragua is such a weird place, and I'm really learning to love it. Managua is such a weird mix of third-world poverty and high-techness. People who sleep with their whole family in one bed walk around in Hollister shirts and talk on Blackberries. People use magnetic cards to ride surprisingly clean city busses to their work in rudimentary factories. 

I've gotten used to the need to bathe twice a day due to sweat, buying bags of sliced green mangoes topped with salt and vinegar in the street, having t-rex syndrome and mosquito-bite scars due to the amount we walk and my apparenty more desireable blood. Don't worry, I do still laugh at taking pictures with people whose heads don't even reach my shoulders (everyone here) and cramming myself into a "mototaxi" or "japonese" (you'll have to google those, I don't have any pictures, sorry, but they're so worth seeing). 

I can almost eavesdrop on Spanish now. I still love walking the streets and hearing a mix of bachata and Justin Beiber, watching taxis almost run into busses, being given fresco, delicious, juicy, ripe mangoes, or soda at every house I visit, learning to love a city, and learning to love the Lord and the temple.

I'm getting used to, but still loving, that no matter where I go, children want to follow me, watch me play piano, sit in my lap, wear my nametag, hear me speak English, or just hold my hand. That is one of the most special ways to be a representative of Christ, and, like him, I've never sent a kid away.

Half of my bishop, his 3-year-old son Samuelito, his wife Nadieska, and me eating dinner and sharing pictures at his house, like we do every Thursday night. She was a boxer before she had Sam. 

On Wednesday I'm going to complete 6 months as a missionary, as a representative of Jesus Christ, called to such a responsibility by a living prophet. And boy have these 6 months as a full-time builder of the kingdom been some of the greatest moments of growth and change in my whole life. 

At this point, more than ever, I have desires to follow my Savior, to let him take and seal my heart his. As I come every day to understand his atonement and his life a little better, I have more and more love for him, and more and more desire to do his will. And as I continue to study his life through the scriptures and as I continue to try to emulate his life through my daily actions, I come to know him more and more and have greater desires to stay on the path he's outlined to return to live with him and our Heavenly Father.

I've learned a whole lot of patience, and I've learned how to be a better teacher. I've learned Spanish...of course. I've learned to be oh so grateful for every little thing that I have at home and in the first world. I've learned to be that grateful for the things I have here, the people who've stolen my heart, the testimonies and the light in the eyes of English-speaking missionaries, Nicaraguan members, and latina sisters alike. I've learned to conquer fears of failure, fears of talking to people, fears of public speaking (in English and Spanish), fears of what others might think of me, and I've learned to focus on what the Lord thinks of me. That is just about the only thing that really matters at this point.

I'm still trying to learn to become the person that the Lord and I both want me to be, but if I've gotten that far at this point, I can't wait to see what comes in another year.

I love you all lots and lots! Cuidense!

Hermana Ferrin

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Best Week in Nicaragua

This week, I basically relaxed and did what I could, and tried to do a little better every day, but didn't worry about doing everything perfectly all at once, and look where it got me: a lot happier!

On Thursday, I did companion exchanges again, this time with one of the sister training leaders over the whole mission. This means that for a day, I was working with her instead of my companion, while my companion went to work with the other companion in her area in another part of Managua. It's an opportunity to learn from other more experienced missionaries. These sister training leaders in particular don't usually do those divisions with sisters like us, who aren't leaders, but I think they thought I needed a little extra help. I was afraid that she was coming because we hadn't been doing a good enough job, too, and so I was super anxious Wednesday night and Thursday morning

But in our companionship planning session at the beginning of our companion exchanges when I was with Sister Cruz, she told me that the Lord was very pleased with what I'd been doing so far, and that line upon line I'd keep learning and doing more, but to not stress too much. She saw over the course of that day that I stress way too much, and told me to stop stressing like that. And when I told her that I didn't feel like I'd made a whole lot of progress in the last 2 months since I was last on exchanges with her companion, she told me that I obviously had or I wouldn't be where I am right now, working in this part of Managua with such a new companion. She was an answer to prayers right there.

On Sunday, we brought 5 visitors to church, and found that a super pilas (awesome) member family has started coming back to church. They are my favorite people in this ward, and it was great to see them living more and more faithful. So church was great, and then we watched Legacy, the movie about the pioneers made in the 90's, at lunch with our lunch cita, visited a less active sister, and hung out talking to her and her twin sister, who is fully active, for hours, before going to our dinner cita, their half sister. And then today we just relaxed and played ultimate with the zone.  A good time was had by all.

And today, while in the ciber cafe, the owner was talking with us, and mentioned that she'd seen lots of missionaries in her time here, but that none of them had ever talked with her, so she'd assumed they were rather exclusive. Yet another reason for me to get over my fear of taking to people.

And if I needed other reasons to know that my president is inspired of God and the best person we could have here at this time, he changed the policy put in place by he previous mission president, that missionaries could only attend conference if they brought an investigator, and now requires that every missionary attend every session of General Conference, though preferably with an investigator. Thank goodness. I am so excited for General Conference. It's my favorite. I hope you all do something fun and enjoy it a lot, but most importantly, listen to the words and voices of living prophets. 
Hermana Ferrin

Distrito La Fuentorce (La Fuente/La Katorce), aka Distrito Gringo

This is my district with our Zona Villa Flor shirts in the stake center (church building with offices for stake leaders, church leaders who oversee various congregations) in Villa Flor. My district leader is the gringo, and I'm sitting at the feet of my two Sister Training Leaders for our zone. Yep, they're in my district. And they're the bomb. 
On the right is my comp, the only sister who doesn't speak English, but I love her to death. On the left is Hermana Teichert, granddaughter of, that's right, Minerva Teichert, the boss. 

Please notice that Elder Howard and I like to be different. I am sporting the "We All Made It" Philmont shirt. Of course. As well as a sunburn from playing ultimate in Managua in March. Bad idea, but oh such a good idea.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Fwd: Happy St. Patrick's Day!

My time is rather limited. We had an adventure today with the bus system and trying to find a Payless Shoe Store that was open so that my companion could buy some new shoes to work in. Ironically, Payless is the most expensive source for shoes in this country. But we waited about 30 minutes for a bus that didn't come, so we finally gave up and took a taxi to try to find a ciber cafe, and of course they were all full, because we were in a hurry. So today my post will be a little shorter than normal. 

I'll start with something I told my mission president this week:
Mi meta para este semana es no ser tan preocupada por cosas pequeñas, en una manera que no veo las cosas más importante mientras pasan. He aprendido mucho de las ejemplas de Maria y Marta este semana. Temo que como misionera, he sido mucho como Marta, y estoy perdiendo lo mejor parte. Estoy trabajando tanto para el Señor que pierdo la oportunidad de escuchar su voz y seguirlo en la manera mejor, la manera que él espera para mi, y lo cual traerá lo más felicidad y la mayor oportunidad de cambiar y llegar a ser como Cristo. 

Translated, that says: my goal for this week is to not be too worried about small things, in such a way that I don't see the most important things as they happen. I've learned a lot from the examples of Mary and Martha this week. I fear that as a missionary, I've been a lot like Martha, and I'm losing the best part. I'm working so hard for the Lord that I lose the opportunity to hear his voice and follow him in the best way, the way he hopes I will, and which will bring me the most happiness and the greatest opportunity to change and become like Christ.

In other news, Sunday was stake conference, and we got to listen to a broadcast with Elder Oaks and Elder Scott, two apostles of the Lord, Elder James B. Martino, part of the presidency of the 70 responsible for central america, and Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, the General President of the Young Women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Just one thing I learned from that conference was that quite often we feel overwhelmed or beaten down by what happens in this world, and often, it is only through the Spirit of God that we can regain our perspective and see the good that we are doing and that is happening in the world. That is why it is so important to go to church every Sunday: to take the sacrament so that we can renew our covenants and hence our ability to hear the Spirit and respond in good ways to the things He teaches us.

Other good news, at the end of this month, a pair of senior missionaries are moving into our ward. They've been on a mission for basically 10 months, and I am so excited to have their help. They are bosses.

Also, I ate delicious cake for probably the first time in Nicaragua at the birthday party of the 1-year-old of our lunch cita on Sunday. I think people should keep having birthdays and inviting us. This is a good Sunday tradition. I like it.

Love from Nicaragua,
Hermana Ferrin

Monday, March 10, 2014

Most Embarassing Moment of the Mission:

So this week was rather interesting. I'm going to start with my story from today that made my companion die of laughter. Today being Preparation Day, we were running some errands, including an appointment that she had at the hospital, which has a pharmacy with a bunch of American stuff, such as St. Ives and Goody hair clips and accessories. I was browsing to see what I wanted to get (since this is pretty much one of the only places in Nicaragua to find this stuff) while my companion was at the counter behind me filling her prescription. A younger, beareded man walks up and starts to make conversation, which is not uncommon, because people here are friendly. He then asks me if I speak English, and we begin to speak in English, which is not uncommon either, since the few people here who do know English always want to practice with the white people they run into. He asked me if I worked for a church, and I explained that I am a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He said "I like Jesus too. I'm catholic. Old school." I laughed and was going to invite him to visit our meetings when he had to leave, and said goobye and walked out of the pharmacy. 

My companion and I stayed inside for a while longer, paid, and then left to sit on a bench to wait for a taxi. Turns out he was still outside waiting, and comes over to join us, saying "I'm bored over there, I want to come talk to you guys." I welcomed him over, hoping for a chance to invite him to church, since he was the one who had started the conversation about religion. He begins to talk to me in English, and then asks  if my companion speaks English. I tell him no, so he asks me, in Spanish, how my Spanish is, and we begin to talk in Spanish, me using the more respectful usted pronoun like we're supposed to as missionaries. He tells me, in English, to use vos, because he's not that old, and jokingly tells me to smell his hair, which "smells like baby oil," while sticking his head in my face and patting my knee. I freeze and probably made some awful face. He can tell I'm uncomfortable at this point, so he slides over to the other end of the bench. While I try to explain that as missionaries we always use usted, he starts asking me if I'm planning to be a nun. Startled, I say no, and as I try to explain more, he says. "Oh, that's good," then pauses, and adds "I'm spoken for, but I still think you're beautiful." My companion is so confused as to why I look terrorized, as he won't switch back to speaking Spanish, but she can't help but laugh at my faces. He then gets up to leave, as his ride had come, and goes to bid us farewell with a kiss on the cheek, which is the norm here, but not what we do with males as sister missionaries, before I had a chance to react. It was probably the most awkward moment of my mission, and my companion died with laughter before he even got in the car. I died with laughter after he was out of sight. Sistermissionaryproblems.

This week has seen a lot of Plan C implemented, as people are never in their houses and we're lousy at finding addresses here of the people we contact in the street. Nicaraguaproblems. We got a chance to go visiting teaching in divisions with the Relief Society after church on Sunday, and I felt right at home. We went to a birthday party of one of our abuelo Recent Converts, and they were playing evangelical ranchera music, the Duo Zelaya from Honduras, and it made me think of Dad, and laugh quite a bit. 

I also got a package this week from a lovely Phil-girl full of the best trailfood, including jerky and tuna, which are definitely worth more than their weight in gold here. That was a trunky moment, for sure, but one of the best. I called my zone leader while giving him my numbers, and bragged a little, as he'd gone to Philmont, too, and loved it. So I practiced a little taunting. Other such Phil-packages are welcomed, and thanks, Seylina, for digging into your swap-box stash for lil' ol' me. 

One of the best moments of this week was visiting one of our investigators to read the Book of Mormon with her, and her becoming fast friends with the member we took. At one point, she said in a very thoughtful voice, after we read 3 Nephi 11 with her, that she'd listened to Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholics, Evangelicals, but none of them knew that Christ visited America. That's something so important to understand the character of the resurrected Lord, and I'm so excited that she's beginning to learn about it. Her name's Claudia, and she has 3 awesome, goofy kids, and one devoted husband, and they are the best.

Time's short, but I love you all, I wish you the best, and more to come next week.
Hermana Ferrin

Monday, March 3, 2014

Fwd: 5 months!

I just completed 5 months yesterday! So guess what? It really is only about a year until I'll be seeing you guys again. Not that I'm counting time. Okay, maybe a little bit. But I'm starting to really love being in this area, and love the people here.

So, just to clarify, I am not training Hermana Argueta. She finished her training, which is the first 12 weeks of the mission, right before she came to Villa Flor with me. In mission speak, I'm her "step-mom," which is used to refer both to a second trainer, if you get taken away from your first trainer ("mom") before the three months are up, and also to your second companion that you have after finishing your training. Hermana Ayala was my step-mom, and then I turned around and became a step-mom myself! No pressure. 

As for this week, let's hit the highlights: 
Wednesday I did exchanges with Sister Kendall, my Sister Training Leader, in my zone. She is adorable. It was her blog that I was reading to learn about this mission before I came out here. She is one of my favorite people ever, and she was my Sister Training Leader 2 changes ago when they were assigned Villa Flor and Estelí together. And we threw fire together. :) It was great. And now I'm just trying to figure out how to do so well without her around, but the Lord is qualifying me, little by little.

Thursday we had correlation and dinner with our Bishop, and I am so excited to be working with the leaders in this ward. They really support the work, and I love the excitement that they have for us and for fellowshipping new investigators.

Friday was a multi-zone conference, the first one I've had since my first week here, but it was full of amazing, inspired direction from President Collado. He talked quite a bit about how our purpose and focus is not to baptize, but rather to establish the church here in Nicaragua, which we will do as we help people to become converted and prepared for baptism, and as we work with the members. And boy do I love the members here. We talked a lot about what members can do to join in the missionary work and missionary force, and boy do I have a testimony of the importance of and joy that comes when we share the gospel. And it can be so easy. I'm really excited to still be involved in this work, even after I go home, 

Saturday we had a couple of great lessons, one with an investigator named Claudia. She and her kids are so special, and she came to church with us on Sunday. She is testimony to me that the Spirit can work with people in spite of the weaknesses of the servants, because I certainly didn't teach her very well. But she felt the spirit anyway. 

Sunday we saw a miracle. I've been a little worried about using my time to teach and prepare this piano class, since this mission is all about getting out on the street, finding, and teaching. But I've been told that serving the ward in the way the bishop wants always brings blessings. On Sunday, we walk into church, and the Bishop comes up to us and tells us that one of the young women in the ward, whom I'd thought was a member, has decided she wants to get baptized on Saturday. She's been coming to church for months with her member aunt and cousins (one of whom is in my piano class), and I'd never taught her before. But now she has a baptismal date and we're going to help make sure she's prepared this week, and have a baptism on Saturday! I might be using my time in new ways, but the work is still progressing. It goes in the Lord's time-table, regardless of what we do. But if we're worthy, he can use us to do the work, and it's a blessing to see the work progress, and to be a part of it.

We also got to teach the Young Women's class last minute, because no one from the Young Women's presidency showed up. I'm always praying that mutual and seminary can be good experiences here, because I'm learning here, where they practically never have mutual, and seminary is taught only a couple times a week, that those opportunities are precious, and it's so vital to get our focus on the temple, and to get there. And to be worthy to keep going back. That's what we talked about with them: the temple. Why we should want to be ready to go there, and how prepare ourselves to make those promises with God that we make there. And I loved reciting the Young Women's theme in Spanish! These girls are so special. :)

And today, we went to visit a big market, called Wembiss, with our lunch cita. She offered to show us around the place so that we wouldn't get ripped-off, as foreigners, and so we went today. Not until afterward did we find out that's not actually in our zone...oops. We'll be getting permission to go back there. But it was super cool! It looked just like the streets of Old Jerusalem and the marketplace in Istanbul. Oh, how I love markets. And there are a lot of little reminders that being here in Nicaragua is my chance to serve the same kind of people I loved in Jerusalem. Boy am I grateful for that.

Also, yes, there was an earthquake in Managua and in Nicaragua on Saturday night/Sunday morning, and I am very sorry to report that I slept through it entirely. I have a vague "dream" that the bunkbed was moving back and forth like a swing, which was not normal, but I was dead to the world. It was the huge wind and the dogs barking afterward that woke me up, but I decided nothing was seriously wrong and went back to sleep. Nothing fell off of tables or walls, there was no evidence in the morning, it was decidedly unexciting for a 6-point-something tremor. Ah well.

Well, now I've run out of time, but I'll write more next week! Love you all, and hope to be getting emails from some of you...
Hermana Ferrin