15 July 2009
Hola Hola Hola!!!!!!!
So today I find myself in the Downey Public Library, writing to my family (and friends ;) for the first time in 2 weeks!
So here's a quick run down of basic info, then I'll tell you about this last week. My P-day is usually on Monday, but once a transfer (until Sept.) we have temple P-day, which means that P-day is Wednesday, and we get to go up to Santa Monica and go to the temple, then do all our other p-day stuff. I can only send and receive email from immediate family (parents, siblings, siblings-in-law, grandparents), so unless you're in that category, please don't email me! I get snail mail once a week at our District or Zone meeting, and then email once a week as well. So any snail mail (which I love getting too...), just send to the mission home (1591 E. Temple Way, L.A. Ca. 90024).
I'm currently serving in Downey, Ca, which is in southeastern LA county. It's a good sized town, with LOTS of people. LA in general has LOTS of people! I was amazed as I looked out over LA from the airplane last week at just how many people there are crammed into this place! There are houses and apartments everywhere, and they're all really close together. Hence, there are approximately 5 million people just within the boundaries of my mission! In Downey alone there are something like 110,000 people!
My companion is fabulous - her name is Sis. Foutz, from Boise Idaho, and she has the patience of a saint! This first week hasn't been easy, but she's very patient and loving with me. This is actually the last transfer of her mission, which means that I'm "killing" her in the mission. She's great though, and I'm SO grateful for her!
My mission president and his wife are also great. I wasn't sure what to expect from the picture, but Pres and Sis Blackburn are wonderful.
Sister Blackburn especially cracks me up! She has very classy and sophisticated style, with her red high heels and spiky hair, but she's just great.
Downey is a good area, and I'm grateful that it's my first. Our mission is a bilingual mission, which means that all the missionaries can speak both English and Spanish (well, eventually anyways), unless they're called to Korean or ASL. In our area, we cover both the Downey 4th ward, as well as the Santa Fe Springs Spanish branch. So we have a pretty good mix of both English and Spanish here, though a lot of the people in my area are 2nd generation Hispanics, so they speak mostly English.
There are a lot of pretty poor people here, but it's not a totally ghetto area (they take care to keep the sisters in good areas). It's definitely not Beverly Hills! BH is actually where my MTC comp is at, and they do a lot of tracting to call boxes there. Not the most successful, for sure. I'm grateful to be where I am!
The field is way harder than I expected...I feel like I'm starting all over again. I suppose I AM starting all over again. There are really good people here, and they've actually been having great success, so I've "inherited" a number of recent converts and investigators. That's nice, but there's always more finding to do. I've come to learn that I hate tracting. No really, I do. Street contacting is ok - I actually kind of enjoy that, but I hate knocking doors. I didn't realize how hard the rejection factor would be for me. And it's not that we're getting doors slammed in our faces all the time - that's only kind of happened once or twice. I'd almost RATHER people just shut the door without listening if they really don't want to hear us. For me, it's the worst when they just stand there at the door looking somewhat bothered that we're there, but trying to be polite, so they listen and kind of nod until they can gently convince us that they aren't interested and close the door. Honestly, the quicker we could move through those who don't want to hear it, the better. I know we need to give everyone the chance to hear the gospel because everyone needs it - this IS their salvation, and you never know what one little thing you might say will pique their interest and make them want to listen, but sometimes it feels like we stand there talking with someone for a good 5 or 10 minutes, just spinning our wheels. I like street contacting better because they're already out, and what's the worst they can do? Run away? I just want to find the elect, who will "hear mine voice," and not turn me away like I'm not even a real person. I guess it's just been tough being brand new in a town, knowing no one but your companion, and having most of the people you kindly say hello to resent that you're even there. Does that make sense? Am I at least semi-normal for feeling that way?
That's all just so that you know, in all honesty, how I've been feeling a lot this last week. OK, I'm done complaining.
Really, I have no room to complain - the Savior went through WAY more than I'll ever go through, and it's His errand that I'm on. What can I expect? In the words of Elder Holland, missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. How can I expect sunshine and roses all the time (though there IS sunshine here all the time) when Jesus Christ suffered and was rejected beyond anything I'll ever experience here in LA? I can't. But just so that you know, missionary work is not easy.
So now that I'm really done with all that, are you ready for my fun and happy stories from this week? I've got some pretty good ones already!
First of all, Mom, I think of you a lot just because of the Sheryl Crow song that we always sing about LA. The temple overlooks Santa Monica Boulevard, and today we were out (just behind the mission home...just off SMB) washing our car "hosing and scrubbing as best we could in skirts and suits." Yep, we washed AND waxed our car today, all in our normal proselytizing (sp?) clothes. It was fabulous. And going to the temple was wonderful! It weird to come out of the temple and look right out over LA, with the smog, and the buildings and the cars and the billboards...oh the humanity! You want to talk about Babylon? That's where I am! I love it.
I'm learning just what a blessed, sheltered life I've lived. We meet people everyday who are living on welfare, people who have known nothing but the street their entire lives, people who have seen and experienced more in their life than I ever will, and more than I even imagined was possible. We have a recent convert who grew up in the streets of San Diego. His entire life, since his very earliest memory was drugs and gangs. And hard core too. He's amazing though! The coolest thing is to see the miracles that the Lord works in people. Mario (our gang-banger friend) is a changed man. As he put it in his talk Sunday, conversion is a "quiet miracle". He is a spiritual powerhouse, and funny too! Another sister that we're teaching right now is going through that change as well. She's 19 years old, but when she was 13, she ran away from home and lived on the streets for a while. She did street racing, lived with her boyfriend for about 4 years, was in and out of jail, was a bit of an alcoholic, just lived an all-around messed up life. Like I said, she's lived and seen more of the world in her 19 years than I'll ever even begin to imagine. However, she came back home and is turning around. She's got a ways to go yet, but to see the changes she's had already is just amazing. She's scheduled to get baptized this Sunday!
We had a total missionary moment earlier this week teaching someone! There's a cute little Korean lady who's dry cleaning place is just down the street from us. Her name is Esther, and we're teaching her English. The picture-perfect moment dawned on me when I realized that here we were, sitting in the back of a little tiny dry-cleaning shop in a Los Angeles suburb, eating plums and teaching English. It was great.
Mom, you'd be shocked by some of the people that we meet and talk to here - I'm shocked half the time - but they're wonderful. I'm learning that most of the roughest looking people are the best investigators, because they're the one's who've seen the world and want something better.
This is such a ride.
The church is true, the Lord loves ALL of His children!!!
Ok, well I have 1 minute left, so I'll go. I love and miss you all TONS, and look forward to hearing from you!!!
I (usually) LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hermana Sallie Wilson