Monday, July 1, 2013

Mi burro murió (my donkey died) 7.1.13

Wow what a week! You know how sometimes you think you know a lot, and then find out you know absolutely nothing? That is me in every way here. First of all, I hardly ever know quite what´s going on, since I don´t speak spanish very well. My companion likes to tell everyone we meet some hilarious mistake her gringa has made (there are a lot). I do understand enough spanish to know what she is saying, but not enough to explain what actually happened. :) Some examples: When I started teaching Jehovah Witness Missionaries on the street, when I locked myself out in the mini courtyard of our house, When I said ¨chin¨ stead of ¨mana¨ in Quechua (Silencio [silence]instead of Nada [nothing] when I was asked "What are you thinking?").

 It is all part of the learning process :) I´ve been learning a tiny bit of Quechua - a lot of the older generation here speak it. A lot of them also can´t read at all which presents an interesting challenge when you are teaching them about the Book of Mormon. Some words I´ve learned: "Imanaya Kasanquì" - how are you? "Gualegia" - good; ¨Tencunacama¨ - I have no idea... something like goodbye or I'll see you later; ¨ñañay¨ - sister; and my favorite, ¨Chili¨ for cold - who would´ve thought? Oh and of course ¨wawa¨ which means baby and is my companion's favorite name for me.

A quick note on food: a favorite delicacy here is Chuño which I named negro papa [black potato] because they literally leave potatoes out until they are black and then eat it. No me gusta [I do not like it]. Also, they really like pear juice and I tried ¨mormon coffee¨ last night. I figured if the bishop drank it it was ok... something called ecco that smells just like coffee. Also, my companion and I made a sad attempt at pancakes and realized that our ideas of what a pancake is are very very different.

There are 4 church houses in Potosì, 7 wards in 1 stake. We all mostly walk to church. I have seen a few people drive - about 5ish cars in the parking lot. There are 26 missionaries in the zone of Potosi - 6 sisters and 20 elders.

Potosì is crazy! I really love it though. We have all sorts of adventures - especially when we offer to do service. Friday night I got to have one of those missionary experiences I´m pretty sure I´ll be telling my whole life :)

It all started at 8:00 PM as we were walking through the "calle de burros y chanchos [street of donkeys and pigs]" (there aren't really street names so we make up our own - its not really a street, more like a dirt gully). There was a little Cholita (those women that wear the traditional skirts) standing out in the dark in front of her house. We went up to her and asked if we could help her with anything. I knew we were in trouble as soon as I heard the words ¨burro¨ (donkey), and ¨murìo¨ [died] in the same sentence. :)

So we then proceeded to help this little old lady bury her dead donkey. The three of us dragged and carried the poor thing in a tarp halfway up the mountain to a little crevice in the hill. Then we went back and got a shovel and a pickax. My companion and I took turns pickaxe-ing the mountain side while the Cholita supervised and made sure his little hoofs were buried. Let me just say, if you haven´t heard the mourning cry of a mother donkey, you´ve missed something spectacular in life. I couldn´t help but laugh as I walked back down the mountain in the dark with dirt covered boots, a donkey smelling skirt, pickax over my shoulder, with my missionary nametag. That is true service.

Needless to say, the Cholita was very willing to listen to us and come with us to a baptism on Saturday night. I found out later that she lives all alone with her donkeys, and there was really no one that could´ve helped her in her time of need  except two sister missionaries that happened to be walking by. The Lord works in mysterious ways!

We have one young man preparing for baptism this Saturday. His faith is so amazing - when we asked him why he believed Joseph Smith was a prophet, he said because you told me. We explained, of course, that he needed to receive a witness of the spirit, but his complete trust is really amazing. He simply accepts everything we teach - even tithing, word of wisdom, and chastity. When we taught him about the priesthood and how after baptism he could receive it, he was sincerely amazed - ¨The power of god with me?¨ Also, when we asked if he had committed any serious sin (for the baptism interview) he said yes (which nearly gave me a heart attack), and then proceeded to explain how he had stolen some money from his dad when he was six.

It really is quite amazing! I'm learning a ton from these simple people. Hope all is going well with everyone back home!

Love, Hna. Black


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

An Awfully Great Adventure :) 6.24.13


I am in my first área! It is called Potosí and it’s in the middle of the Andes Mountains. It is probably the coldest area in the mission and I get to be here in the middle of winter. We are really incredibly high up - I was warned that gringos tend to get really really sick but I’ve been so blessed. They say it never snows here, but it actually snowed this morning. What a blessing for me!! I felt right at home in my mountains. It was fun to watch the Bolivians freak out a little - my companion especially. She just stood outside watching the huge fluffy flakes of snow land on her coat. 

Potosi, highest city in Bolivia: 13,420 ft!
It is cold! There is really no such thing as heating in the houses here, so I’ve just gotten used to being cold all the time. My bed has literally 15 blankets and comforters – my companion was worried that the weight would crush me. Our little house is the envy of the entire zone apparently. The ceiling is a foot above my head when I am standing. 

I am so happy to be in the mountains again!! It is so beautiful! This really is the perfect area for me. I’ts like camping all day (except in a skirt, and better cause I get to teach the gospel). We literally hike up dirt trails to get to people’s houses - on the outskirts of the city there are no addresses or streets. Just random houses everywhere. It feels like you are always walking uphill, both directions. So much fun! 

We eat a lot of soup, soup, bread, and soup. There’s nothing better than a hot bowl of soup though on a cold day! And every morning my companion and I have hot chocolate and bread for breakfast - no complaint there!

Unfortunately, the dogs really do not like me and I have learned that it is a great inconvenience to be a gringa here. They don’t send very many gringos up here. My companion calls me hija because I really don’t know anything and my spanish is awful. She has to protect me from the dogs and hide me from the taxi drivers and she wouldn’t let me do the dishes this morning because the water was so cold. She is amazing! And she knows absolutely no english. She’s only been out 3 months and just got done with her training, but her teaching is absolutely incredible and she always knows exactly what to say to encourage me. 

It really is quite the adventure and I am learning so much. The hardest part for me is definitely not the weather or living conditions or anything (it’s sort of fun), but my heart just breaks everytime I talk with the incredibly humble people here. My first lesson was teaching two hermanas while sitting on tiny stools in the dirt in their house with a dog, 2 chickens, a pig, and a bunny. We taught them the law of tithing. I just wanted to cry at their incredible faith - they understood immediately and committed to pay tithing and fast offerings. A scripture in the Book of Mormon came to mind- the one where Ammon says "I have not seen such faith among all the Nephites" I feel the same way.

Every single prayer I have heard offered by the people has been so incredible. Their faith is so humble and so strong that they receive answers immediately - before they are even done asking in prayer. I just know that God loves this people so much - as soon as they turn to him He is there. It is the most powerful thing I have ever felt. Another scripture comes to mind of the King of the Lamanites who offered his first prayer, saying he would give up all to know God. It is EXACTLY like that here. So powerful.

I wish I could tell you more but there just isn’t time! I love you all so much and know that I am loving it here and I feel awesome!

Love, Hna. Black

P.S. One of the hermanas had a song playing this morning that was rather familiar and I realized it was Keneth Cope - you can let him know his music has reached this tiny part of the world. They were all thrilled when I told them I knew him - that actually happens a lot. Everyone once they find out I'm from SLC ask if I have met the prophet. Its really bizarre to see it from their perspective - especially with the broadcast on sunday being in the Marriott Center. I told my companion, "that's my school". She was so shocked!


Seguir Adelante! (To continue onward/forward) 6.11.13

Today is my last P-day in the CCM. I'll be sad to leave but I´m very very excited for Bolivia.


This last Sunday was surprisingly busy for me with lots of leadership meetings and lots of musical numbers to plan and practice.  One of the sisters in my district brought sheet music to my favorite arrangement of "I Stand All Amazed" - the one I play all the time at home. I got to accompany her at the fireside for the entire CCM on Sunday night - it was so incredible! She is a spectacular singer. My district also got to do prelude - we sang a few hymns plus the EFY Medley and "Childs Prayer". As the zone music leader, I had to find pianists and choristers for all the hymns we sing all day (there´s a lot) as well as pick all the hymns. I love it!


Also on Sunday, my companion and I sat down at a table for lunch that was eventually joined by the Branch President and his family, the CCM Presidente and his wife, and the regional doctor and his wife. It was quite the lunch! I love how small the CCM is - when the area seventy´s come, we get to meet all of them just by going to lunch in the cafeteria. We actually got a huge influx of missionaries this last transfer - we are almost at capacity! There are SO many sisters!! Its insane! Definitely more sisters than Elders in the North American group.


My spanish is slowly improving. We try and speak it all day every day which is always interesting and forces us to say things creatively. I was singing a random song once, and my companion said "Solo español!" trying to get me to stop, but I just sang it in spanish instead. It was pretty awesome :). Our movie quote references have also been translated to spanish - the meaning often gets lost along the way but oh well. One favorite phrase that us Norte Americanos taught the latino teachers is "Qué in el mundo!" :) so fun.


Another fun thing we do is our evening teacher has us run around the CCM if we start looking sleepy in class. We´ve done it three nights in a row now... we just run around in our skirts and suits in the dark until he lets us stop. :) its so fun and totally works at waking us up.


I've learned a lot this week about patience and charity and diligence. Every night, we have a mini devotional with the hermanas in my room so we can calm down a bit. As I was looking for a scripture in Alma I read four in a row that fit so perfectly together for me I had to share them all: Alma 37:6 - Alma 26:12 - Alma 36:24 - Alma 26:30. I hope you can make sense of my thought process :).


On another night, my companion asked if we could sing "Be Still My Soul". For some sad reason, that hymn isn´t in the spanish hymn books so we haven´t been able to sing it – it’s one of my favorites. But I dug out my mini english hymn book, and we sang all four verses in our little room. It was so incredible!


Love you all! Keep writing and I hope the beginning of summer is wonderful for everyone!


Love, Hna. Black



Walking Into A Miracle 6.04.13


I hope everyone is doing well! I am having the time of my life :)

Malorie´s district left early this morning so now we are the oldest in the CCM. The branch president gave me the calling of music leader for the CCM so I get to plan all the musical numbers and figure out who is playing the piano at all of our meetings. I'm way excited!

Last Thursday we had an amazing fireside! All in spanish of course, but I actually understood quite a bit. My district also got to sing the EFY medly for the musical number. The latinos here LOVE music so much! They always sing at the top of their lungs no matter how out of tune it might be. The speaker talked about our Mission Call letters and how each one is nearly identical, and yet so "Intimately and impressively personal" (D&C 15 heading). I am continually amazed by the work that I get to be a part of. How us 18 and 19 year olds are entrusted with such a precious duty to serve God´s precious children. I heard a quote the other day: "Some people carry the gospel on their back like a burden, rather than in their heart like a song". To me, it definitely feels like a song of joy.

We got to go proselyting again on Saturday! Definitely my favorite thing. We learn so much in just a few hours.

This time around, my companion and I were left to figure out the spanish thing on our own. We did have one of the CCM teachers with us that didn't speak any english at all, but she stayed with the other two hermanas and we went ahead. We started ringing those intercom things (everyone's house is gated off) which was the worst. We wouldn't even get done saying "la iglesia de JesuCristo de los santos..." and they would hang up. We got pretty clever and started saying other things, but its hard enough to hear someone through an intercom let alone understand spanish.

We never got too discouraged - we were much too excited just to be outside the CCM walls and in the city. Our teacher told us later something like (in spanish), "If it were easy, you wouldn't be so incredibly happy when someone actually listens to what you have to say". Its so true. So here are the great experiences we had after our trial of knocking doors:

I talked to a young woman sitting on the curb and gave her a Book of Mormon after bearing a really sincere testimony. She refused the first time, but something kept pushing me to bear my testimony and give her the book. She eventually took it :) Sadly, we don't get to see the results of any of work here since we will be leaving in two weeks, but it is still so worth it to have a part in planting seeds.

A really great moment was when we talked to a lady on her roof. For some reason we couldn't understand, she just really did not want to come down from her roof! So we yelled from the street up at her and committed her to go to church. She was pretty interested. :) It was a great way to get the attention of everyone on the street - we got to yell at the top of our lungs "Somos missioneras por la iglesia de Jesucristo de los santos de los ultimos dias!" :)

We talked to a few others out on the street, and actually met quite a few members. One member asked for one of our pamphlets and then handed it to the guy painting his courtyard. We had way more success just talking to people outside.

Our last two contacts were the best by far. (Only after a long day of work do we get the blessings). We started up a conversation with one man in the park, and found out that he was Atheist. A super interesting conversation for sure! We actually gave him a Book of Mormon and told him he could find out for himself and he promised to try it out.

Walking away from that and wondering where to go next, we ran into a miracle. A man was walking towards us down the sidewalk and saw a book of Mormon in my hand. He pointed to it and said, "what's that? Can you teach me?" The sweetest words! We walked over to his house and started talking to him. He was seriously the sweetest kindest, most excited and eager man I have ever met. I have no idea where he found such an earnest desire to learn, it was incredible. He just absorbed everything we said and understood it all instantly. He had us call the other hermanas over because he wanted to meet all of us, and our teacher was able to do a better job at explaining the fine details and finding a time for the missionaries to come back and such. He had all five of us, one by one tell him what we thought of the church. One of our sisters is a convert of two years and as she explained her conversion story, he just hung on her every word and the whole time he was just hugging the Book of Mormon we gave him. It was such a sweet moment! He was so sad when we had to go, and he actually took a picture of all of us and wrote our names down. I wish I could see how things go for him! What a miracle!

I love this work so much already! I have grown to love the Book of Mormon so much - it is incredible once you start looking for answers to questions you hear from investigators, every single verse has an answer to someone's question. It is such a powerful book! I wish I could tell you all the things I'm learning but it’s just too much and there's never enough time to even learn it all!

I love you all!! Good luck in all you do! Remember that God loves you so much!

love, Hermana Black




Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sweaters (5/28/13)

I´ve finally gotten into the routine of things here at the CCM. It was fun to help the new girls who came in Thursday adjust to everything. I´m already half way through! Time is just flying by!
Alright, one quick funny story. One of our teachers has this great sweater that he wears when he is an investigator. It is blue and has stripes and is just awesome. One day it was freezing cold here and so he was wearing it to teach as well, and I guess there is a rule in the CCM that the elders have to wear suit coats if they wear sweaters. So he asked the elders in my district if he could borrow one of their suit coats and they went up to get one, or so we thought; the elders misunderstood. All five of them came back with sweaters on, with an extra one for the teacher, and no suit coats. It was so funny.
Also, we found out that I am actually the oldest person in my district besides one elder who is 21. How weird! That is a completely new experience for me. And now elder Elder S insists on calling me "the Old One" despite the fact that I´m less than a year older than him. But today at lunch he gave me his extra chocolate ice cream in exchange for the right to call me old the rest of my life. It was a fair trade.
There were a few pretty incredible experiences this week that have just amazed me at the power of the spirit despite the different languages. So, every night, one person in our district gives a little testimony. A few days ago, we asked one of our teachers to bear his. It was so cool! He can't speak English very well at all, but he started to bear his testimony in the few English words he knew, and I have never heard anything so powerful. Every word was chosen so carefully and I could just feel the incredibly strong testimony he has in his heart. He told us the story of how he got the job at the CCM, and how it was an answer to many many prayers. He read us the scripture that talks about how Lehi comforted Sariah when her sons went back to Jerusalem. He said that when he was feeling despair like Sariah, his wife bore her testimony to him and he was comforted. Testimonies can be so powerful - they change hearts and comfort souls. He finished with saying something like "A good missionary has experience with God".
I am continually amazed by how a testimony, even in a different language, can be so full of the spirit. My companion and I were teaching a lesson in really rough Spanish, and our investigator asked how we knew that God answers prayers. I seized on the opportunity to bear my testimony because that is one thing I can do in Spanish, and the words just flowed! And I testified that I knew God answers prayers because He has answered mine. Then my amazing beautiful companion bore her sweet testimony of prayer in this language that we´ve only started learning, and the spirit just burned in that little room. We both started crying a bit.
That´s why the CCM is awesome! You get to experience miracles every day and the spirit is around you all the time so strongly - even in a different language you can still feel it! How incredible is that?
Love you all! Don´t forget to write! or email or anything!
Love, Hermana Black

Clean From Fish (5/21/13)

Hola familia!

Lima Peru MTC
I am still loving it here, and in answer to Mom's question, Snot fruit is a regular here. But it is required to hit it on your head to crack it open. Also, everyone loves Choka Sodas here and they all wish their moms had taken them to Peru to get some too. :) Oh and I've used the phrase "Que es esto?" a lot during meal times, but we still don't really know what we are eating... ("You don't know, and you´re eating it" is a common movie quote at our table).

Speaking of food, the first day in the CCM we went to lunch to find a bunch of plates with upside-down ice cream cones on them. We didn't really get why they were just sitting there until after lunch everyone took their cone to the one cafeteria man who is the designated soft serve ice cream guy. (He is so good at what he does - its crazy). So we learned to always get the cone. And now, whenever we see those cones, it makes our day brighter because we know whats coming.

Today, there are only 30 people in the CCM. All the latinos left early this morning, including my amazing hermana roomates. I miss them all already! Yesterday at lunch we had a battle of tongue twisters: the latinos would give us one in spanish, and we'd give them an english one. We tried to give them the "how much wood can a woodchuck chuck..." one but they all got stuck on "wood". None of them could say it.

So, on Friday while we were teaching a lesson to our investigator, I made one of those infamous word mix-ups. We were talking about how the waters of baptism will clean you from sin (pecado), and I accidentally said pescado. Which of course, means "fish". He was super confused, to say the least. Another common movie quote around here is "I do not think that word means what you think it means".  

Our teacher also reminded us that along with all the mission rules, we still have to obey the laws of gravity too. I unfortunately forgot that one when I got knocked over on the soccer field. Also, on an entirely unrelated note, I've been wearing my glasses for the last two days. Its been an interesting, humbling challenge. :) Despite everything, we are still so incredibly blessed here. Just know that if you pray to be strong, expect trials. That's how the Lord teaches you to be strong and humble at the same time.

Definitely the biggest and greatest adventure of the week was going Proselytizing on Saturday. Only 10 days of learning spanish, and they sent us out into the city. (Our teacher said "just... pray" - which immediately reminded me of a movie quote *Alli*). My compañeras and I were lucky enough to be paired with latina hermanas - everyone else was on their own. So my new companion for the day, and I set out with the goal to place 4 Books of Mormon in 4 hours. We made it to three! It was so awesome and incredible and amazing. Oh and guess what? The first person we talked to was the Ice Cream Man. He came rollin' down the hill on his bike with a bright yellow cart and a bright yellow hat. We commited him to come to Church on Sunday.

I am learning so much it is crazy! I couldn't believe it when I explained all about the Book of Mormon in spanish to one lady and she completely understood. It is so true that if we just open our mouths, the spirit will help us know what to say - even in a different language.

 On Sunday, we watched an incredible devotional given by Elder Bednar. I highly recommend it if you can find it somewhere online - It was the MTC Christmas devotional in 2011. It changed my perspective a lot. He talked about the Character of Christ, and how he always turns outward and thinks of others - even at times when all of us would turn inward. Like in the garden of Gethsamane, after going through incomprehensible pain, he healed the ear of one of them come to arrest him. We also watched one by Elder Holland (MTC 8-30-11) that was amazing. He told us missionaries very firmly that we have no right to turn our back on the centuries of faithful missionaries before us who have given their lives for this work. Both the talks helped me more realize that this mission is not about me. So, no matter how hard it gets, I will keep going. Because I get to share with these amazing, loving people how much God loves them and He wants them to be happy. What could be better than that?

Love you all! Hope all is going well!

Hermana Black

P.S. I really like the scripture 2 Corinthians 3.8-9



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

First Week:
The CCM is AMAZING! I am loving it here! The campus is super small and so we all know eachother - especially the norte-americanos. There are only about 30 of us here. I love talking to the latinos - they are such amazing people. The day after I got here, 80 latino elders showed up. There are also three latina hermanas who share a room with me and my compañeras. Love talking to them! 

After 5 days, Im proud to say I am practically fluent in spanglish. :) I am learning spanish way faster than I expected- The teaching method here seems to be one of "throw them in the pool and they'll figure out how to swim eventually." We learn out of necessity since english is so extremely rare. I absolutely love it.

 An elder in my district and he makes us laugh every day. For example, when we were talking about how we are trusted to live all the mission rules without supervision, someone told him "you are still under the BYU honor code!" and he responded, "we live by a higher law now - The honor code has been fulfilled." It made us all laugh.

Oh! another funny story - one of our hermanas was talking to a latino elder and tried to ask him his name (Cual es su nombre?) and instead asked for his number (Cual es su numero?). We laughed for a long while at that - not very reverent but we couldn't help it.

There are actually three Hermana Blacks here! In a place with only 15 sisters, it gets pretty confusing (For example, in sacrament meeting they called on Hermana Black to speak and I almost had a heart attack until they said it was another Hermana Black).

My teacher gave us some great advice for when we feel overwhelmed by the task ahead. He compared the difficulty of learning a new language in 6 weeks to Nephi's task of building a ship. It seems almost impossible, but if we just take it a day at a time, a piece at a time, and follow the directions of the Lord, we can do anything - even build a ship! He also asked us, "your head thinks its dificíl (difficult), but what does your heart feel?" We all said good. It is so true. No matter how hard it gets, I still am so happy here and it feels so good.

I am continually amazed by the blessings being poured out on us - I am learning so much I don't think I could ever keep it all in my head. I also think I understand now why missionaries come back so "wierd". My branch president explained how we like to be well rounded in life, but on a mission, you get a little lopsided. But it's OK to be lopsided! We are lopsided in the spirit. It's all good.

Oh! I almost forgot about the Fruit Loop Juice - for every meal they have two different kinds of juices and every single time they have been different! So it’s like an adventure in tasting them (because we have no idea what the signs say). I am officially designated the juice taster since my compañeras have lost their courage after a few very bad tastes haha. But one of the first ones we tried here tasted exactly like fruit loops. Go figure.

I love you all! Don't forget to write! I am loving every second here even though I am tired all the time - in the best way. The good and full life way.