Wednesday, September 4, 2013

2 Months have gone by!

Mother's note:  Carl's brother, Alan Withers of Terreton, Idaho passed away last week.  He was 57 years old and was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer in August, and it had already spread to his liver.  We will miss him.  

And...  Sam isn't playing hockey up here in the North Country!!  

Sept. 4, 2013

Dear Family,
It is hard to believe how quickly Uncle Alan died.  I am sad to hear that another one of Dad´s siblings has died early.   I am glad that before my mission I was able to say bye to him.  I know we will all see him again.  The assistants to the presidents were in Chillan that day, and they were able to tell me personally about his passing, outside the gates of the LDS Stake Center.  They told me teaching the plan of salvation will be a lot more special now.  I will be teaching the plan of salvation tonight, so I will be thinking of Alan.  Alan will do wonders in the mission field up above.  I want you to know that I love you all.  

There have been investigators, less active members, and street contacts who all need the message of the plan of salvation so badly.  I don’t know if we can ever realize how precious our knowledge of the plan of salvation is.  The church is true.  The LDS church is the only true church.   We have an investigator who will be baptized Saturday, so that is exciting. 

How is cross country going for the girls?  I always wanted to do cross country, but I didn´t want to leave Idaho.  What color is Sam´s hockey helmet?  I hope you are all okay after driving so far.

Dad, thank you so much for working on a fishing idea.  I am in full support of whatever you plan.  It is awesome the Canada mission president has that lodge.  Be really good friends with him.

I love you all,
Elder Withers  

Dear Family,
I was really sad to hear about Uncle Alan's passing.  He was awesome.  But at least he isn't so sick all the time now. And I can't believe you people drove all the way to Idaho.  What a dream.  At least you had a bucket of bubble gum right?  And snaps to Valerie for getting it on her glasses :)  When did you actually leave MN and get back to MN?  You drove like 3000 miles in less than a week?  Who are you people?  Super heroes, that's who!  Crazy that he died so soon.  I was so sad to hear.  It's amazing that I found out when I did because I was with President.  For all of the new missionaries in this mission they have what is called Expectations meeting about a week into the mission.  So I was with President that morning.  He slipped out in the middle to take a phone call, taught us during the meeting, and at the end asked if he could talk to me.  I have a really good President and am so grateful to be here.

So we live in a huge apartment.  With heating, nice kitchen, and a washer and dryer inside.  It is so awesome.

It is very super duper humid.  Every time you go outside, you'll get a nice whiff of what smells like an old shed or dumpy garage...because the muggy air just traps the smell of everything.  It gets especially bad when it rains, but usually it isn't too bad.

I live in America, and rumor has it that Loudoun county is currently the richest county in America (thank you loaded white people) but it feels like a foreign country...because no one is American in this little 1 mile area.  My companion and I joke that we are serving in the mini El Salvador, because that's where everyone is from.  During our runs in the morning, we run past a few gas stations and there are always a few groups of men with a cooler who look like they are waiting to get picked up for a day job.  

Hispanic people value their job almost as much as they value their family, which is A LOT.  They are always praising God for their work.  And a lot of them work on Sunday, which means it is really hard to get people to Church.  We can get an investigator through all of the lessons, they can be living the Word of Wisdom and are willing to pay tithing....but getting people to church is so hard.  They all have family in El Salvador depending on them for money, and they are too afraid to quit their job to try and find another one because they don't know if they can get another one....and since most of them are illegal, they are just terrified of changing too much in their life that could introduce them to immigration services.  

So because I am living in the little El Salvador, the members serve us their food!  It isn't that bad, but I also don't know if I would ever voluntarily eat it.  We had one investigator who couldn't believe that I hadn't tried pupusas, which is the signature meal of El Salvador.  She invited us in to try some, and I learned that pupusas are cornmeal tortilla things, stuffed with beans and cheese or chicken, or whatever you want...fried, and then dipped in what they called salsa but it tasted like tomato soup to me.  And I actually didn't mind it.  Again, I am probably being blessed with an ability to accept and absorb all sorts of different cultures, so I am just fine.  The other thing that I have been served is...actually I have no idea what it is called.  But it is a sweetened type of milk, mixed with cooked rice and raisins.  Ha...describing it makes me realize how gross it sounds, and the texture was a little weird...but it just tasted like oatmeal.  I am grateful every day that I am able to eat this food.  I have eaten everything that has been served to me and have enjoyed eating it....such a blessing!

Something I have noticed about Virginia houses, is that most don't have overhead lighting!  They all use lamps.  Ha it's kind of weird, but it doesn't really matter.  It just takes forever to go around and turn on all the lights in our apartment.  

The biggest tool we have been using to get investigators is teaching English.  We take our flash cards everywhere we go, and sometimes people will ask us if we will teach them English.  We almost always say yes, unless we have an appointment, then we set up another appointment to start teaching them.  After we teach them the some basic words for a few minutes, we just have them start reading out of the Book of Mormon in English.  What better way to learn English than with the words from the Lord.  He can help them.  It amazes me that people have been living here for 13-15 years and can't speak English.  Then when you think about it, it makes a little bit of sense.  They live in a Hispanic community; go to work with other Hispanics, and go to church with other Hispanics.  They know enough words to get around shopping and driving, and that's it.  And one of the members in our ward said that Congress is working on a law to provide illegal immigrants with a path towards citizenship, one part of which would require people to pass an English test?  Is this true?  Can you fill me in on this law a little more?  I know people are worried about it, because they keep asking for help with their English...I would just like to know.  To all of the adults I think we have become the English teachers, and to all of the kids we are the sticker girls.

It should be documented that teaching English is hilarious.  They mix up words like bird and beer, mouse and mouth, boot and boat, hen and hand, three and tree....and its pretty awesome.  After a little explaining they understand, but I do see where they are coming from.  A lot of our words sound a like.    

You might be pleased to know that I am in a walking area (and President is getting bikes for us!), but about 80% of missionaries will get in at least one car accident.  Because traffic is always so bad, drivers here are a little crazy, and whoever designed the roads back in 1700 whatever did a good job making it confusing!  All the missionaries have a GPS, it's just hard to get around sometimes.

Popsicles are what's keepin it real and my life sane here in this Virginia summer.  I have one for lunch, and every time we come home at night.  It's awesome :)

On Saturday we were following up with a list of old investigator records that hadn't been worked with for several months, and their apartment/house numbers were impossible.  In your mind you know you are looking for number you're like "Okay, here's 52...we'll go around the corner, because we have to be close."  You get around the corner and it says keep going and you hit 26, think "what the..." and keep going.  We go back the way we came, thinking we made a wrong turn... go around the other corner and hit 132, 134, then it goes to 75, 78, 35, 36.  WHO ARRANGED THIS PLACE?!  It took us 3 1/2 hours of walking and wandering, but I would like it to be known to the world that we actually found all of the apartments.  Miracle actually.  

At church we are trying to teach the primary kids how to sing I am a Child of God in Spanish, so that they can all sing it in the Primary Program with the kids who go to our Spanish group.  The first Sunday it was a disaster, but this last Sunday they are getting much better!  The primary conductor had the words on paper...which was a good idea in theory, but the little kids can't quite read in English, so trying it in Spanish was rough.  The kids are smart though, so they are starting to pick it up just by memorizing it.  

On the first Sunday of every month, the English and Spanish sisters meet together for Relief Society.  They normally have translators who can help the Spanish sisters...but they couldn't do that left my companion and I....little baby missionaries.  It was hard, and I tried my best to combine the sentences and thoughts together.  But the teacher was not cooperating!  She kept using crazy words like gristle, force shield, hip, and other words that were slightly relevant to the lesson but not really.  It took a lot of thinking to try and predict where she was going with the thought, translating that...doing our best to get the message and lesson across.  It was actually really cool.  I don't know how much the Spanish sisters got out of it, but I was able to see how much Spanish I do and don't know, so that was a good evaluation for me.  

On Wednesday, we had dinner in an absolute mansion.  We drove past the biggest houses I have ever seen in my whole life, and it was weird.  I am used to being in an area where the apartments and little houses smell like ramen and chicken nuggets, with second hand smoke lingering in the air.  The member was family was super super nice, and very kind to was just weird to drive in a car for 20 minutes and be in a whole new world, different in every way from what I am currently living in.  

We see the same people over and over again because the area is so small, and sometimes kids ask us "How come you wear dresses all the time?"  "Because, we are representing Jesus Christ....and also it's dang HOT out here!"  We see the Elders a lot, wearing their white shirts and ties, slacks, and polished shoes....and it's easy to see we all stick out.  Everyone has at least seen us, been taught by us, learned English from us, or knows someone who has done one of the above.  It's awesome to have such a presence here, and I know the Lord is expecting great things from the people here.  

This last Sunday, the six missionaries in our district did a blitz...which is where we all attack one apartment complex at once.  We each take a building, knock all the doors, try to get as many referrals and new investigators as possible.  It was actually really fun! You have to go through some intimidating white people to get to a few people who are genuinely interested, but it was a cool experience.

Yesterday for P-Day we got to go to the Washington DC temple!!!!! It was so awesome, and I had such a great experience.  We had a member take us, who just got home from her mission in February, and we met up with 4 other sister missionaries in our mission. The DC temple is soooo might be my new favorite one.  The steeples are super tall and it is just such a pretty temple.  The staircases were my favorite, with stained glass in the wall corners and beautiful fountains inside.  The paintings were huge and beautiful, and I loved being there.  It was just a fun day, and a great, temporary escape from the stresses and demands of missionary work.  We couldn’t email yesterday because all of the libraries were closed, but for some reason the temple was open so we went.  It was perfect.  

This week was great.  I thought a lot about you guys as you traveled to Idaho for the funeral.  I'm glad all went well and that you traveled safely.  And school has started???  How is it?  How is cross country?  And is Sam doing hockey?  Tell me everything!  

Mail won’t be forwarded from the mission home to my apartment anymore, so you should send everything directly to me.  I know Chad can't get any mail, so I don't want to sound like a needy child.... but since I haven't left America yet can you send me mail?  I only get to email once a week, and was spoiled in the MTC to hear from you every day.  I just want to hear from you.  I know it’s a two-way street, so I will mail you back.  I just want to enjoy reliable mail while I still have it.

Thanks for all of your support.  I love you more than all of the crazy drivers and all of the big houses in Virginia,

Hermana Withers

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