Hello again, my wonderful family! I hope y'all weren't too worried or sad to not hear from me on Monday this week! We found out on Friday that this week would be temple p-day, which means that p-day gets moved to Wednesday instead of Monday. I was a little worried that y'all might be worried, but I could just hear Mom's voice in my head, "Well, no news is good news..." :)
The temple was wonderful today. We actually just missed the session (traffic on the 405 is horrendous), so I did initiatories instead. And actually, it was really wonderful! I love doing initiatories because I love to hear/remember the blessings there. I also tend to have a really hard time staying awake in an endowment session too, so initiatories are good :) It was fun to actually be able to pronounce the Spanish names too.
It's been a good week! The weeks really tend to just fly by out here on the mission, but at the same time, they seem very long as well. For example, we had an experience (which I'll share a little further down) a week ago yesterday, but it seems like it was FOR-E-VER ago now. Weird.
So I'm on my second companion now. Her name is Sister Tavares, and she's from Salta, Argentina (nope David, not my MTC comp - thank goodness! companionships definitely need more experience than 2 brand new missionaries!)! It's really great having a native Spanish-speaker for a companion, and my Spanish is already improving incredibly, just in the last week! Sis. Tavares is a great missionary - really hard-working, really obedient, and a great teacher. It's still hard sometimes -- getting used to another companion, doing things new/differently, etc, but it's good, and I'm learning a lot. AND I'm enjoying tracting. I've pretty much just decided that the first couple of days or weeks are just HARD, and that a lot also depends on your companion...which really makes me want to be a better companion, so that I'm ready and can really be a help and blessing when my turn for sr. comp/training comes around. And it will, this much I know. Our mission is growing a lot, especially now that the visitor's center will be opening up (it's been closed for renovations/remodeling for the last 2 or so years), so we'll be getting a lot of new sisters in the next few transfers, which means that most of us who are here now will be training soon. ...which scares me to death, but I'm doing my best to learn all I can and be the best missionary I can be so that I'll be ready.
Ok, some experiences and picture-worthy missionary moments from this week!
First of all, did you know that I'm really close to Compton here? It's actually in the neighboring area, so I'll probably get to work there a little bit when I go on splits there. I'm excited :) And don't worry Mom, we're very careful, and there is a very real protection that comes with being "one of them Jesus people". God watches over His missionaries for sure.
I discover more and more every day how much I love being a missionary, and all the cool experiences that you have that would never ever happen otherwise. Por ejemplo: (for example) Last Tuesday I was in South Gate (the neighboring sister's area that includes Compton) for the day because it was the day before transfers and my companion was at the mission home for the day before she went home. While there, we went to see and help one of the investigators that the sisters were teaching. It's amazing to be in a place where you can go from 1st to 3rd world conditions in a matter of moments, often within the same neighborhood. This woman was in her late 40's, and because of diabetes and really poor living conditions, she is blind, losing her hearing, and her legs are almost black from the calf down. She had sores all over her legs, and really just was not doing well at all. The saddest part though was her home. She lives in a converted garage apartment that was the filthiest place I've ever been. I really can't even describe to you what that place was like. But imagine the dirtiest - not messy, but dirty - home you've ever been in, and multiply that by a lot. Garbage, flies, rat droppings, stench, filth. Everywhere. It was really sad. So we went and cleaned. We have a recent convert who's an ex-gangster and a nurse, and he came and helped bandage her up (I think he also scared her son into taking better care of her). The house was notably cleaner when we finished, (though not what you would really call "clean"), we put some pictures of Jesus up around the house, and she had clean, well-bandaged legs. She was so happy that she went from sitting, waiting to die to dancing! It was quite the experience. Really, it's like a whole other world here.
We went and made breakfast for some investigators on Sunday morning to help them get to church, and they came!
Did you know that there are professional garbage-diggers here? There are. We see them at least once a week or so in our apartment dumpsters. Apparently there's big money to be made in recycling here, and people go to great lengths to find bottles.
I'm really coming to better understand that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to true happiness in this life. Every single day we see people who have everything, as well as people who have nothing, and without the gospel, they aren't happy. They really aren't. They may think they are, but being on this end, I can really see the void that people try to fill with money, medication, drugs, stuff, whatever it may be; if it isn't the Lord and His gospel, it always, always, always leaves them empty in the end. I can say that because I know myself and have seen it in the lives of others around me. True happiness, joy, and lasting peace in this life only and always comes from living the Gospel - keeping the commandments; inviting the Lord into your life and then letting Him build a mansion out of our little "shack" of a soul. The church is true, and I can't believe what an awesome opportunity I have to not only be a part of it, but share it as well. I'm so glad that I came.
Well, I've got to go - time's almost up!
I love you all, thank you so much for everything!
I Love being a missionary!!!
Hermana Sallie Wilson