I swear, time moves so quickly and yet so slowly when you are a missionary. Days feel like weeks, and weeks feel like a day. So much has gone on this week.
On Tuesday, after we got home from Santa Clarita, we went contacting. None of our referrals were home, but we got to talk with a few people about the gospel and what it means for us. People here are so open about their beliefs, it is so nice to just talk openly about the role of the Savior in each of our lives. We ate dinner with Emily (eggplant parmesan, which was fantastic), and when Shark came home, he whipped out a list for us to go over. After going to the temple visitor’s center with Jorge’s family, he decided that he wanted to host a fiesta for all the Latino families in our ward. We thought he’d get to it at some point, but he had already come up with a list of who to invite, where to host it, who would need to bring what, what the entertainment ought to be, etc. We are super stoked about it, and have talked to a few families, and they’re all really excited.
And Thursday. Holy heck. Zone conference was absolutely amazing. I loved every minute of it, despite the fact that we were stuck 8 missionaries to a side pew for 6 hours with only a 45 minute break. We got to Santa Clarita early, and while we were waiting for President Hall and Elder Kopischke to arrive, the assistants to the president burst into the chapel, trotted up to the podium and said, “Elders! Sisters! It’s Elder Ko-pish-kaa, not Elder Ko-pish-kee! Make sure you say Ko-pish-kaa!” It was hilarious, especially since when Elder Kopischke introduced himself, he pronounced his name “Ko-pish-kuh.” I was really impressed that he took the time to shake each of our hands and ask us our names. I shook his hand and he kept ahold of my hand, and he asked, “Do you know what your name means?” I told him yes, that it meant essentially ‘to speak’ in German. He nodded, and said, “your name means ‘Speaker.’ Remember that.” I was taken aback, and incredibly glad that I knew the translation of Redner. And I made sure I paid 110% attention while he was speaking, since I knew he knew my name and he didn’t seem like the type to hesitate calling someone up from the audience.
Elder Kopischke has to be one of the sweetest, funniest men I’ve ever met. His accent is so interesting, since he learned English from an American companion during his mission, and worked with the American servicemen in Germany as a bishop and stake president. I, being the nerd I am, was so excited when he started using German phrases and explaining the difference between the word ‘kennen’ and ‘erkennen’ in regards to the Gospel. Sister Kemp and Sister Cottrell were just laughing at me, because they looked down at my notes and all of a sudden it looked like I was doing German homework rather than taking notes about what he was saying and what the Spirit was telling me (and looking back at my notes now, there are German words sprinkled throughout).
I wish I could just sit down and tell you absolutely everything that I learned from Elder Kopishke, but that would take hours. I took 7 pages of notes. He talked about the importance of us having a vision, or dream, for our mission, and having the goals necessary to accomplish that vision, as well as this mission being exactly where we are needed. One thing that really hit me was the fact that I have been called to serve in an area where I am 100% unfamiliar with the language and culture. I’ve often wondered why I wasn’t called to an area with more French or German speakers, and it’s frustrating because I literally can’t understand a word people say here. Back home, I could follow the gist of a conversation if it was in Italian, German, French, or Polish. Here, I might as well be wearing earmuffs. He told us about a sister who was called to East Berlin who spoke seven or so languages – none of which was German. Why couldn’t she been called to “Bella Italia!” or “la Belle Paris!” or Spain, England, or Portugal? He told us that she ended up speaking and teaching in every language she knew in East Berlin. That was a bit of needed chastening from the Lord for me, which I really appreciate. I will continue to try to learn more French and German in my spare time and not worry over the fact that I have no idea what 90% of the population we work with are saying.
My favorite part of Zone Conference was after lunch (ham… yuck. Elder Stucki commented that I am the most Jewish Mormon he’s ever met. I don’t eat shellfish or pork, and Hannukah is one of my favorite holidays, and ‘kosher’ is my byword). Elder Kopischke opened the floor to questions. I was kind of dreading people asking questions that we already knew the answer to, but was really pleased at the questions people asked. Just know that Elder Kopischke seriously blew my mind.
Jose had his baptismal interview on Friday with Elder Shroeppell, and Sister Stewart and I got talk with Elder Lee for a while. It was so good to get to know him better, he is definitely going to be in a leadership position soon. He came out from Provo with me (he’s one of “The Fifty” as we are notoriously called), but had gotten his call in January. He had to wait 8 months because of visa issues. He’s from the Phillipines and was so excited that I knew what pancit was. He told me there’s instant pancit (like ramen, but better), and now we are both on the lookout for it. Worse comes to worst, we’ll hunt down the ingredients and make it on p-day at one of the church buildings.
Jose’s baptism was awesome. Everything was incredibly chaotic until Jose got into the water – cell phones going off, his family was late, the printer wasn’t working to make copies of his baptismal program, the piano was out of tune, our chorister went AWOL sometime between the first and last hymn, one of our speakers didn’t make it, so Sister Stewart had to fill in for her, Art was walking around trying to memorize Jose’s fifty bajillion Filipino names, and Jose’s daughter was fussing. But the moment he and Art stepped into the water, it was so quiet. The spirit was so strong. He just started crying. I am so happy for him, and for his family! He was so ready to be baptized.
We lost a member of our ward this week, Jean. I told you about her in the last email I sent. She passed away on the 11th. I was reading today in the Book of Enos and a verse brought me a lot of comfort: “And I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest. And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality, and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father.” I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to know her, however briefly, and learn from her. She was such a dear old lady, so cantankerous.
Elder Ahn, Elder Kim, and Elder Larman gave us the BEST referral on earth. They were walking down the street and a man yelled, “hey! What are you selling?!” They turned around and told him about the Book of Mormon and sent us the referral. We stopped by the other night and talked with him for an hour. He shared with us his beliefs and was astounded when we told him that literally everything he told us was in the Book of Mormon. He told us that he paid his tithing, lived the Word of Wisdom, and believed in the law of Chastity. I asked him jokingly if he had really read the Book of Mormon and was just joshing us, and he threw his hands up in the air and said, “I swear I haven’t! I mean… I don’t swear! Swearing is bad! I promise I haven’t!” We laughed so hard. He has explored every religion, from Judaism to Christianity to Hinduism and Islam, but has never really been introduced to the Church. He was so excited when we explained to him what the Book of Mormon is, that it is a companion to the Bible, that he shook our hands, made sure we made it to our car, and went inside to read. He’s golden. We’re meeting with him on Tuesday, and can’t wait.
Funny story of the week: last night around 11:30 all of the fire alarms went off in our apartment complex. We had been asleep and had NO idea what was going on. Sister Kemp, Sister Stewart and I couldn’t find our glasses, so we’re bumbling about, Sister Cottrell is smacking the fire alarm to make it stop, and finally we just go outside. We felt like idiots – we were the only people in our pajamas. We had thought it was 2 or 3 in the morning, but really, we were the only ones in bed. The guy across from us, Ryan (who is a member), just laughed at us and told us to just be obedient and go back to bed. When we all woke up in the morning, we all were wondering if it was a dream. Ryan walked past while we were talking about it and just laughed. Yes, it was real. Yes, today I am especially exhausted. (no, there wasn’t a fire. Someone had just burned something)
I had my first tamale this week, and my first Mexican coca-cola! SO GOOD. I’m hooked. There’s a little tamale shop on one of the main streets, and you can get a tamale, rice, and a coke for $5. I will become best friends with the owner, I swear. We are also strategically planning which food trucks to visit on our next p-day. There are food trucks EVERYWHERE in our area, but apparently there are more in Granada Hills. We are praying for a Granada Hills blitz sometime soon, because there is a beignet truck that parks at the center of town.
Also, it’s been a common consensus that my name is unpronouncable, and it has officially been shortened to “Sista Red.” Apparently they don’t come across German names very often in this part of California. :)
I love you all so much, and am so thankful for your prayers. We need them! I hope all is well on the home front (*hint* send me letters *hint*).
Picture 1 – Eliza drew me this and folded it up, and wrote ‘opn it’ on the back. It’s her and I. I love Eliza.
Picture 2 – California has the weirdest plants.
Picture 2 – California has the weirdest plants.
Picture 3 – Jose right before he was baptized!
Picture 4 – I love the roses that we find in California. They make me so happy