Friday, June 29, 2012

Mission Log: 29 June 2012

I decided that I'm part fairy. I always knew that I had a special love for Tinkerbell, and now I think I'm starting to understand why. JM Barrie describes fairies as being too small to feel more than one emotion at a time, and whatever emotion they happen to be feeling completely consumes them. That's what happens to me. It's kind of ridiculous, and I seriously don't understand how I have any friends. Earlier this week we did an exercise where one of our teachers would pose as an investigator and help us develop better teaching/interpersonal skills. Mostly we were trying to practice involving the invesitagators more in the lesson, applying the lesson to their needs, looking them in the eye and having appropriate body language, and being enthusiastic. All things that I've never really considered very difficult until I had to do them in Spanish. Our teacher had Hermana King and I restart our lesson in the upwards of 20 times, and after an hour I had had enough. I broke down into ugly crying and didn't let up for a while. It was a scene, and I'm embarrassed about it now that I think of it. Later this same day I heard a story about one of my long lost friends (Sister Michelle Walker if you are reading this in all your efy glory, you are the long lost friend I'm speaking of) and how fantastic she is and I was so excited that I squealed and started bouncing my feet and giggling. Again, what a sight, right? Anyway my teacher was over it at this point and in a very loving but straight forward way he told me I need to cut it out. He told me that our personalities are important and fantastic elements of who we are, but I also need to remember that I'm a representative of Christ and that my personality needs to fit within that boundary and basically that I need to get some self-control. It's not like this is news to me, I know I need to get a grip, but hearing it come out of someone else's mouth stung a little bit. So now I'm trying to figure out how on earth to stay true to myself, but also how to think before I act or explode in some surely embarrassing display of some type of emotion. We'll see how well I do. Mostly I'm just scared that I won't be able to do it. Anyone who knows me well knows that things like quiet and tame don't suit me very well, but I want them to. Maybe wanting to will be enough to get me started? But then there's the flip side, what if I do learn how to calm down and what if life is never as fun or exciting as it used to be. Oh the wandering thoughts of a silly sister missionary.  
This week was mission president training. We had 110 mission presidents and their wives on campus, as well as various general authorities. MTC campus was incredibly crowded, but it was nice to see how much these couples were willing to scarifice in order to support missions. I am amazed at how much love they have for us as missionaries, and even though my mission president wasn't here I still felt a great deal of support from those that were. We also had a special devotional with L. Tom Perry with 9 other apostles present. Those men are called of God. I think the most special part of the devotional for me was the spirit of gathering. Seeing simple things like Elder Holland blowing a farewell kiss to all the missionaries or Elder Oaks waving as we all walked in. These men are patient, loving, and their every actions testify of Christ. Their sweet mannerisms made me want to act similarly. I want to be so strong in my testimony and my faith and my obedience that my actions will tell of my testimony.
MTC life is good. It's so good. I'm kind of sad by how little time I have left here. I have grown to love my district, my teachers, my zone and my companion so much. They are integrated into every part of my life and I don't know what it will be like to not have them any more. Despite all my crazy, I'm grateful for my capacity to love, even if it hurts me sometimes. I'm glad that people have changed my life for the better, I'm grateful that people have trusted me with stories and impressions that are dear to their hearts, I'm grateful for every opportunity that I have had and will have to serve. I'm grateful that Heavenly Father has allowed me to understand and feel the smallest potion of His immense love for all of His children.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mission Log: June 22, 2012

I've been here for 6 weeks. I'm starting to forget that I ever had a life before coming here or that I will ever have a life afterwards. I haven't quite decided if that's a good or bad thing, but I'm enjoying it. This week was so full of tender mercies. Last Friday Hermana King and I went to teach in the TRC and one of the member volunteers was a friend of mine from BYU-Idaho. We ended up having this incredible discussion about miracles she had seen when she was a missionary and how she has continued to experience them since. I think my favorite thing to hear from her was how her investigators lives would change by reading the Book of Mormon. I'm so grateful for the Book of Mormon and the blessing of having it as a part of my life my whole life. There are so many lessons and comforting words to be found in the pages and I can only imagine how being first introduced to it would be a life changing experince. I'm excited to meet those in New Jersey who will benefit from reading it, who will feel the Spirit and will gain a knowledge of Heavenly Father's love and plan for them. Incredible stuff.
One of the districts in our zone left this week, and took my dear friend Hermana Cardenaz with them. She is now in Costa Rica. I learned so much from her example of faith and service. She was the previous coordinating sister and was really like a mother figure for all the girls in our zone and it has been hard for some since she left. I hope that I am doing a good job as her replacement and that the sisters in my zone feel how much I love and care for them, but more importantly how much Heavenly Father loves and cares for them and will support them in this work. I am trying really hard to be attentive to their needs and follow the Spirit in serving them. One of the sisters is not well respected in her district and it's become a miniture battle field in their classroom. I encouraged her to stop feeding the fire and follow a 3 for 1 rule so that for every mean thought she has against someone in her district she has to think 3 nice thoughts. It sounds a little childish, or maybe I just think it does because it's something my mom instigated in my life when I was really young, but it seems to be helping her a lot. I don't know if that's anything profound, in fact I'm sure it's not, but it's the best I've got right now.
We received two new districts in our zone this week, all elders. The zone leaders and I gave them the tour of the MTC last night and I gave my weekly "grow up and be gentlemen" speech. I decided I really like giving it, mostly because so many of the new elders need to hear it. They grow up really fast in the MTC, but when they first get here some of them are a little rough around the edges. After the little lecture one of the elders told me that I'm a stud...I guess I'll take that as a compliment, even though I'm pretty sure that "stud" is a masculine reference...oh well.
Teaching is getting a lot easier, I'm learning how to ask better questions and not sound so much like an interrogator. My companion is very grateful. More importantly I'm learning how to find out about people's needs and teach to them instead of at them. I'm by no means a master of this skill, but I'm leaps and bounds ahead of where I was. I really like it too because I'm seeing how much it is helping my other relationships. I'm really grateful that our purpose as missionaries is to invite "others" to come unto Christ. Not just those who are not members of our church, not just those who are less active, not just people who could increase our numbers; but every single other outside of ourselves. My district has been a lot better at implementing that and even here at the MTC where everyone is a missionary or missionary teachers I have seen and been offered invitations to come closer to Christ. What a beautiful life to be surrounded by constant invitations to better know, love, serve, and accept our Savior.  
My whole life is great! I can do anything good!
Hope life is treating each of you well.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mission Log: June 15, 2012

If every week goes as quickly as this one did then I'll be home in two shakes of a rabbit's tail! This was by far my busiest week at the MTC yet. On Sunday I was called to be the Coordinating Sister in our zone. Which means that I am basically third wheel to the zone leaders and I'm in charge of the physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being of all the sisters in our zone. There are 8 sisters in the zone right now and I interview them weekly, then I get to go to a bunch of leadership meetings and trainings to talk about how everything going on affects the sisters specifically. I'm also in charge of helping with new missionary orientation two nights a week. And my Sunday is dedicated to meetings basically all day long. It's a lot, and it's overwhelming because I have to give up a lot of class time and study time in order to get everything done. I'm nervous that I'm not going to learn everything I need to as fast as I'm expected to...but that's kind of selfish of me so I'm trying not to think that way. The sisters in my zone are great and it's an excited opportunity to get to know them each better and hopefully I'll be able to meet some of their needs while they're here at the MTC. I'm definitely learning a lot about service and charity and patience...and it's hasn't even been a full week yet. Probably the most fun part of my job is that I'm make sure all the elders know the definition of being a gentleman and act accordingly. Basically the Branch President said this is one instance where I'm allowed to be sassy and bossy. Thank you, I knew there was a place where those qualities would come in handy!
We just got a new sister in our zone this week. Sister Aquino, straight from Mexico. She is the cutest thing ever. She speaks hardly any English, she comes to my shoulder with heels on, and she has a gorgeous smile and fantastic attitude. Pretty much everything that could possibly go wrong in your first few days at the MTC has happened to her, and she's been a trooper through it all. Another sister stole her welcome packet, the airport took all her toiletries, she had to get a bunch of shots because they didn't recognize her vaccinations from Mexico, the MTC assigned her to the wrong room and gave her the wrong key twice, and she doesn't have a companion. Talk about rough. I spent a good part of the day with her yesterday running around and getting everything in order. It was great to get to know her better and to help her slowly work through all the stress that had built up. She lives in the same room as me and Hermana King now and I'm excited to continue working with her and learning from her. She is so passionate about missionary work, I love it!
I decided to participate in the chior for the first time this week. Best choice ever. We sang "Be Still My Soul" and it was exactly what I needed. As we were sining it was like a command from heaven straight to my heart. Be still, Jari. Calm down, Jari. I'm in control, Jari. I loved it. Sometimes tough love is the only way I get the message and that was one that I needed. I'm still learning the art of accepting that I can't be perfect right now. I want to be, and I get frustrated that I'm not and it's just a pointless and frustrating cycle. I'm expected to do my best, and it is assumed that I won't do everything exactly right...which is the whole point of repentance and improvement, right? I've learned that a couple of times this week. It's okay to be aware of my weaknesses, but only so far as I let them serve as motivation for improvement...not as an excuse to pout and be frustrated, which is what I had been doing. So slow and consistent betterment is my new goal. Is betterment a word? I don't really speak a language right now. Learning Spanish has robbed me of Portuguese and English is slowly on it's way out as well...I really don't know if I'm making a word of sense or not. Oh well.
What else? Oh! Yesterday in class our teacher had us ponder for a couple minutes on at least one good quality of each member of our district. He wanted us to take time to think and make sure we were sincere about it. We wrote them all down and then we took a minute to individually share our compliment with each member. I loved it! I loved watching as the elders came to realized strengths within themselves that they were blind to before. And gosh dang it I liked hearing compliments. I kind of take the mama bear role in the classroom and a get a lot of flack for it sometimes. I was sure all of the elders hated me, but not so. They told me things about myself that I had only heard from my family and dearest friends beforing coming to my mission, and haven't been reminded of since coming to the MTC. I'm not going to write down everything they said because it's special to me...but it was a really great afternoon. Especially after a week of feeling like a chicken with its head cut off.
As always, thank you so much for the letters and the support. It means a lot. You are all wonderful, and I hope all is going well in each of your lives.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mission Log: June 08, 2012

My whole life is great! I can do anything good!
So another week at the MTC. The older districts in my zone are starting to leave for their repsective missions, so my district is slowly becoming the veteran district. It's strange how quickly that happened. Even stranger how soon it will be our turn to leave, and I still don't feel quite ready for that reality. I'm just enjoying the MTC while it's my time to be here. I think the most important thing I'm learning is the importance of humility. The way our classes and teaching practices are set up is that in class my teachers make me think I understand the gospel and Spanish really well and I feel like I can take over the world and it is awesome. Then they change roles and become mock "investigators" and make me feel like I don't know anything, and even if I did know it I wouldn't be able to tell them because I definitely don't speak the same language as them. In one of our teaching practices last week I finally cracked. I ended up slamming my Book of Mormon shut and just went off. I started by saying something about how I don't speak Spanish very well and I apologize for that, and then I bore my testimony in Spanish and I honestly don't remember a single thing I said, and then it was over and it was the best lesson we've given yet. I think that may have been the point though. I'm slowly, in spite of my stubborn nature, learning that it doesn't matter if I speak well or not. It also doesn't matter if I have all the answers or not. So long as I'm humble and my goal is to help others come closer to Christ then Heavenly Father makes sure that I say the right things, and he makes sure that the Spirit accompanies my words so that the people I'm teaching can feel of their truth. If only I could constantly remember that, then I'd be in a much better position. Good thing I still have time to learn, right?
Basically I'm just so amazed at HOW much Heavenly Father loves me, and all his children. I'm amazed at how much I'm allowed to feel it. I'm amazed that I don't have to be perfect and because I'm not perfect there is a way, through the atonement of Christ, to make all things right. I'm so grateful for all the comfort and peace I'm able to feel as I testify of that truth every day, multiple times a day. It's great. The gospel brings peace, the church is true, prayers are answered.
I'm trying to think of other things that may be of interest to anyone. If you want to hear how Jari-isms make their way into Hermana Santos' life I have plenty of those stories. I caused another cafeteria scene this week, and I'm starting to get a reputation for myself. An elder from a different district told me that his memories of the MTC cafeteria will now forever be accompanied by the sounds of my constant squealing, how precious. I almost fell off a ladder and my companion called me by my frist name. In normal life that wouldn't be weird, but when you go by Hermana Santos all day every day the sound of Jari can be a little startling. It's a good name though, good job parents. Thanks for giving me the absolute perfect name. I'm a huge fan. Even when I'm scared that I may fall to my death hearing my name still makes me smile. What else? Hmm. Whistling is my method of remaining sane and I've found that I have an uncanny knack for getting songs stuck in people's heads. It makes me feel like I have the powers of mind control. Oh, and at some point during the week a had to take a stab at one of the elder's pride. But really kid, don't start a discussion about the conferderate flag in the hopes of turning it into a heated political debate just to make yourself look cool. I will make you in all your 19 year old glory look like a fool. I felt bad though, and I decided that I probably shouldn't let Ricks building Jari loose any more. She has officially been benched until December 2013.
Obviously I still have a lot to learn about being a missionary and I need to learn how to tame the crazy, the opinionated, and the loud BUT I know I'm making progress. I've seen glimpses of the person I am capable of becoming and I am working hard to become that woman. Little by little I'll get there. Thanks for putting up with me everyone.
Lots of love

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mission Log: June 01, 2012

So. Sometimes I'm Jari instead of Hermana Santos. For example. Earilier this week one of the elders made a comment about how colorful my breakfast was and I started going on and on in passionate tones about how much I love breakfast, because I do. Especially at the MTC. I mean seriously there is just fruit and oatmeal and nuts and honey and cottage cheese EVERYWHERE. It's glorious. As I was giving my ode to breakfast some random cafeteria worker sat down next to me. So I turned to see who on earth it was and why he was there and it turned out to be a long lost EFY friend. So in about 0.03 second I had lept out of my chair and came within milimeters of wrapping him in a hug all while squealing "WILL HEAPS!!" (that's his name). So I pulled back, and gave him a handshake, and then I started shaking all over because I was already super excited about breakfast, and now I was excited about seeing my friend and I couldn't hug him and there were just way too many emotions for my little body to handle. And then homeboy makes it worse by telling me that he's engaged and I doubled over and again squealing "YOU'RE GETTING MARRIED!!!" and at this point I turned around and realized that the entire cafeteria had gone silent and was watching me. Embarassing. So I waved, apologized, and then listend as a wave of teenage boy laughter filtered through the room, awesome. Then at lunch time I realized some of the elders heard me wrong, and thought that I had said "I'm getting married" and were wondering when I would be leaving the MTC to get hitched. Oh for the awkward.
Being a missionary means having absolutely no concept of time. Each day feels like two days and each week feels like one day. I don't know how it will be when I'm in the field, but in the MTC I'm learning so much that I hardly even feel like the same person from one week to the next. Some days are really hard and break my heart a little bit. Luckily though I have a really awesome companion who is so much fun and it's hard to be down on myself for too long when I'm with her. While we were cleaning bathrooms this week we got in a broom sword fight, and after I bombed one of our lessons she took me into the bathroom and we had a 2 minute dance party (complete with disco and hula moves). I'm lucky to have her.
The Spanish isn't easy for me. At all. But, that doesn't matter because like it or not I speak Spanish all day, every day. Not only do I have to speak in Spanish, but I teach in Spanish. It's exhausting...but it's humbling, and that's always good. And mark my words I'm going to speak Spanish at the end of this mission of mine.
Even though I feel like the whole point right now is that I need to learn the language, it isn't. At all. I'm learning how to talk to people, how to care for and love them, and (best of all) how to teach them about their Heavenly Father's plan for them. That through the Savior they can receive complete happiness. Even though we're only teaching fake investigators in the MTC I'm starting to see a glimpse of the amount of love I'm going to be exposed to during my mission. It's so exciting. I have lots of stories to share and I'd love to tell you each about them, but I only have 30 minutes at the computer and they have been over for 48...49...50 seconds now. So I'll try to write letters and share stories with you. Thanks to everyone for your support and love. It is greatly apprciated.
All my love,