Monday, July 23, 2012

Mission Log: 23 July 2012

Only a few pictures from the MTC because my camera got cancer and died, but no worries I have a new camera now and there are more photos to come.
Cousin: Sister Roslyn Kirwin 

I'm in New Jersey. I'm here! I'm here! I'm here! And I LOVE it. I (like every other missionary) am serving in the greatest mission on earth. Except, for real though, mine is the greatest. My mission president is this super down to earth man who laughs and sings and bears his testimony in everything he does! I love learning from him. I love my companion. With all my heart I love her. She's one of those people who when I met her it felt like I've known her my whole life, and we're friends as if we've known each other our whole lives and it's wonderful and I love it. She's also a bit of a fireball. All that time I spent learning to be calm and quiet in the MTC, yeah, it's completely out the window. Pretty much every 2-3 sentences she crescendos into a yell at the end. Which means I'm straight back to yelling...we're working on it. She's full of passion, and loves the we work hard. Really hard. But we're teaching Latin people, who all love Christ, so we end up getting to teach a lot, even if people aren't actually interested in what we have to say. There are a lot of Dominicans and Peruvians and Hondurans and Mexicans and Guatemalans actually just a lot of everyone...basically I just have to relearn Spanish every time someone new opens their mouth because they all have different accents and speak at different speeds and have different understandings of how grammar should be used. It's great. It's like I'm serving in the whole Latin world all at once. Oh, and my area kisses New York City. Pretty much I have a better view then people who are actually there. 

On Saturday we got to do clean up at Liberty State park. It reminded me of when I was a kid and my dad would make us work in the yard. That will probably only carry proper significance with my siblings, so allow me to explain. It was kind of like we had been asked to destroy the park. They handed us a bunch of tools, some shabby and dull others had just been picked up at Wal-Mart. And off we went. We kind of went to war with all the trees and vines and weeds and mulchy areas around the trees...but in the end things looked that was good. Oh and I saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time. It's kind of weird when you're not expecting to see the Statue of Liberty, and you've never actually seen the Statue of Liberty, and there you are at a service project, and there SHE is. She's just there, holding her torch and looking all elegant and I was just a little caught off guard, but it was great. And one of the recent converts came. His name is Luigi, and he loves the church. He got baptized 3 weeks ago and he loves to serve. He wants to go on a mission, and he wants to do temple work for his family, and he just wants to do everything he can, and he reads his scriptures all the time, and his favorite hymn is I Stand All Amazed, and he LOVES the gospel. BECAUSE IT CHANGED HIS LIFE! Because that's what the gospel does. It changes lives. It makes us better. It fills us with love. And it's all possible because of our Savior Jesus Christ, and knowing that sparks something in people, it sparks something in me. I want to keep the commandments, I want to be a good missionary, I want to know everything I can learn in the scriptures, because I want to become the woman I am capable of being thanks to the purifying power of the atonement. I love it. Oh, and miracles happen all the time. Like earlier this week. We were driving along and my companion pointed at a random house that looked like all the lights were out. "Someone's in there we NEED to knock on that door!" I hate knocking's the one things that makes me really nervous and I completely freeze up. But we did it. And this 20-something man (named Luis) answered...come to find out that his girlfriend is a member of the church and moments before we knocked he had been talking to her about religion and thinking about what it was that God would have him do. As were were teaching his grandpa and cousin came in and joined the lesson. They prayed with us, his cousin asked if she could have her own Book of Mormon so she could read too. Then Luis came to church on Sunday and thanked us for inviting him and invited us back to teach more. He's great. I wish I could tell that story in its entirety, but there's not time. Just know that this family is awesome, they love God, they love the Book of Mormon, and they love learning more about the truth. And I get to be the one to help teach it to them. Why did I get to be so lucky? Why? That's what I keep thinking with every lesson I teach, with every time I get to do service I'm confused about WHY Heavenly Father decided that I'm good enough to get to serve His children. I love it. I love love love being and missionary. I love the people in New Jersey. I love my companion. I love the gospel. I am immensely grateful for the love of my  Savior and that I get to watch as people apply the atonement he made. I love it. I love it. Do you understand how much I love this? It's a lot. And it keeps growing every day. For real. I'll probably explode at some point, but until then this is just great. 

Be good. Make good choices. Allow your faith to lead you to action. Say your prayers, and follow good thoughts that come. 

All my love,
Hermana Santos

Oh and my new address is:

Mission Home:
5 Cold Hill RD So
STE 10
Mendham, NJ 07945

But I live at:
496 Pavonia Ave
Jersey City, NJ 07302

You can send mail to the mission office (the cold hill address), it will just take about a month to get to me...and that's no good. BUT if you ever want to send packages DO send them to the mission office, because they'll probably get stolen if they hang out on my doorstep all day. I may or may not live in the ghetto. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mission Log: 14 July 2012

So this was my last week at the MTC. It's weird how quickly 2 months goes by. It's even weirder how much different I am than I was two months ago. I was done with the college thing before I got here so I stupidly assumed my soul searching phase of life would take it down a knotch. I was mostly anticipating 2 months of Spanish and a test of my patience with a bunch of 19 year old boys, and at some points it was, but overall it was this beautiful growing period where I was presented with countless opportunites to change and become better than I ever was before. AND I learned that this process of growth never has to stop, what fun. I learned how hard I am on myself and how much I had been limiting myself with that habit. I learned that I can love just about anyone. I thought a lot about my little brother and how stinking awesome he is. I'm starting to understand the atonement and how incredibly far reaching it is. I'm starting to understand how dear and special my upbringing was. I'm starting to better appreciate the knowledge I have always had that I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father who loves me and has a plan for me, and all His children. Seriously, life is so beautiful and so wonderful. Truly.
It's hard to write these little e-mails sometimes because I don't know how to fit a week worth of happenings into 30 minutes worth of typing. Like, for example, earlier this week when we had a fire scare at midnight that kept us outside until 1:30 am. There was one girl who was suffering from such severe migraines at the time that the noise sent her into some sort of fit that should could not for the life of her come out of. She just sat on the floor sobbing, covering her ears, and rocking back and forth while other girls ran frantically around her to get out of the building. Eventually A Hungarian sister and I had to carry her down a flight of stairs, that rocking, sobbing creature that she was, and then a fireman eventually helped us the rest of the way. It scared me half to death, and there was so little I could do...and then after a few hours it was over and we were back in bed. Or there was the day that I met a girl from California who joined the church when she was 18 after years of crazy and hating her life, and now she's here on a mission and can't wait to tell everyone in the Phillipines how happy she is and how much her life is changed. How do I fit all the comfort and joy I felt in my conversation with her into a few short sentences in an e-mail that will eventually be posted on my blog? I'm not sure.
Basically every day I talk about or am taught about the gospel. I am reminded about my Savior's love for me and my Heavenly Father's plan for me. I continually study scriptures that teach that God answers prayers and that obedience to laws and commandments brings happiness. And it's all true. And I'm happy. And I hope I can be sincere enough and ready enough to tell people that when I meet them in just a few short days in New Jersey. I hope if nothing else that they can feel a small piece of what I feel. I am so excited.
And now my 30 minutes are gone.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mission Log: 6 July 2012

When one person gets sick at the MTC, we all get sick. Especially when that person happens to be in my district and we sit in the same classroom all day every day. So now I have a nice little case of "the crud." It's a party. Something else weird, this was my last normal week at the MTC. Next week I'll be at all kinds of different trainings getting me ready to go to the field. It's precious how they think I'm ready for that. I'd be perfectly fine staying here another 2 or so weeks, but all the same I'm really excited to get to New Jersey. Yesterday I met two girls one whose brother is currently serving in my mission and another who is from the same home ward as my mission president. They both told me wonderful things about my mission president and I'm so excited to meet him. The first girl also mentioned that her brother is never in want of good food, which I found very comforting. Two months of cafeteria food will start you on all kinds of strange cravings and I'm definitely ready for a change in that department.
After you've been here for a while they start assigning you to new tasks. One of those is hosting new missionaries. Yesterday my district helped host again and it was such a fun experience. I was the host for my 2nd cousin Hermana Kirwin. It had been raining so she came in a little wet, a little sleep deprived, a little overwhelmed, and a lot of happy. Originally another girl had gone to help her, but as soon as I heard her name I swooped in and took over. We were able to talk about some family members as I showed her to her dorm and helped her with her bags. I went with her to get some band aids for her blistered feet. We picked up all her books and I took her to her classroom. In all we were together for about 40 minutes, but it was so much fun. Uncle Harvey, if you're reading this know that she's doing fantastically, she has a wonderful companion, and a fantastic teacher. She's going to love the MTC. I love hosting new missionaries. After 2 or 3 days at the MTC you start to forget how stressful that first day was and how confused and lost you were, as a host it's nice to help others realize that it's going to be okay and tell them about all the great things they're going to experience in their time here. I especially like when I get new missionaries who are learning a new language and we can talk about their goals for that. I like seeing how excited everyone is and it reminds me just what a blessing it is to be here.
I'm learning a lot about teaching. More than my brain can handle most of the time. Trying to be the perfect teacher and apply all the different teaching tools I'm learning each day wasn't really working out as well as I thought it was. One of the teachers worked with me yesterday and thanks to his ability to quote Dr. Seuss I remembered that "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." In all my pathetic attempts to be perfect I have been missing the one thing that made me want to be a missionary in the first place. I LOVE people. I really, really do. I love talking to people, I love learning about their lives, I love sharing stories, I love offering advice, I love talking, but I also love listening. My teaching was missing one huge element: love! So I'm working on that. I'm trying to get over the fact that I'm not perfect and figure out how to just love people, listen to them, and share with them the one thing that is of the greatest worth to me, the gospel. I've only had one lesson since my intervention, but I did notice a difference. I'm getting less robotic and it feels really nice.
I'm so grateful for my companion, Hermana King. She's a rockstar. She's patient and loving and calm and I'm learning so much from her. I'm grateful for my teachers, for my district, for the scriptures, for friends and family back home who offer so much support.
I could not be happier.
All my love,