Oh, What a Night….

That really has nothing to do with my week other than somehow Frankie Valli songs have been stuck in my head ALL WEEK LONG. There’s a Four Seasons response in my head to everything people have said to me for the last five or six days. Feet hurt? Walk like a man, talk like a man… See you later in the week? Bye, bye, baby, baby goodbyyyeeee. It goes on and on. This is my life. You all should be impressed that the Frankie Valli in my head is spot on with that falsetto of his.

Moving on.
No pictures this week because we’re back at the Apple store in the mall due to a squashed time today for preparation day. I promise many, many more next week! Especially since this afternoon we are going up to the one point in the mission where you can see the ocean. This east coast girl who hates being landlocked and hasn’t seen more than a puddle in months is incredibly excited.
This week was super busy, and plans got shuffled around so many times, I think there are holes in my planner from so much erasing and rewriting plans and commitments.
On Monday we had dinner with the Larsen’s. They are hilarious. They lived back east for a long time and were so excited that I knew what they were talking about. They lived in Virginia and in New Hampshire, as well as outside Boston. Poor Sister Attanasio had no idea what we were talking about, but she was a champion (as normal). The first time I met Brother Larsen he asked me where I was from, and when I responded that I was from Connecticut he went into this whole story about how he went out to lunch in Stamford with a mafia kingpin. I didn’t even think about it and just asked, “well, what were you doing in Stamford?? You asked for it then!” He just laughed and Sister Larsen just smacked him and told him that’s what he got for going to Stamford and not to introduce himself to sister missionaries and ask if they had ties to the mafia. I stayed mum on that point just for kicks.
I was still feeling pretty nasty on Monday night, and was so surprised when the Korean elders (Elder Yang and Elder Oh) stopped by to see how I was doing. I’m standing there in my pojammies with my hair all soaked because I’d literally gotten out of the shower ten minutes before they knocked on the door and they were so gracious. I love our Korean elders! They brought by their favorite Korean cookies (Elder Yang’s mom sent a HUGE package of Korean candies and sweets a few weeks ago) for us. We returned the favor later in the week by making some of Katie’s crack cookies (read: peanut butter and chocolate), which were a hit. We meet in the same building as the Korean branch, so it’s been really nice to be able to see them often and pass along referrals. They are the sweetest, and I am so sad that Elder Oh is going home this upcoming transfer!! We are wondering how we can extend his mission. :)
We had district meeting on Tuesday morning, and it was absolutely stellar. Elder Hansen is a fantastic teacher, and does so much for the district and his area. I’m really glad to be working with him (ps – he trained Elder McCauley, my brother from another mother. Hansen has decided we really are siblings). Then on Thursday we had interviews with President Hall and as we were waiting got to know the elders in our district better. Elder Sharp (Hansen’s companion) is really coming out of his shell, and as we were doing role plays he proved how good of a teacher he is, and he’s getting better every week. I love seeing how much the elders improve and the love they have for the people they are serving. They are such a blessing to us, and I feel like I have a bunch of new younger brothers (yes, I am the oldest in the district and the oldest sister in the zone, right below Elder Yang). I am so proud of each of them!
Every time I interact with President Hall, I love and respect him more. He is so compassionate and is such a wonderful example of what a missionary should be. He reads people so well, I wish I could half a quarter of his ability.
Sister Attanasio and I continually pray for the elders that will be coming to Chatsworth as we prepare their area for them. She notes that I’ve gone Mama Bear for them,  making sure they have all the emergency numbers, restaurant locations, etc. I just laugh and tell her she hasn’t seen anything compared to home. :)
On Wednesday night we got together with the Relief Society to put together plates of cookies for the less active sisters in the ward, which was a blast. It was a good way for me to get to know more people and put names to faces. We delivered four of the plates that evening and the next day and got to talk with more sisters. We dropped one off to a Filipino family and helped them for a few minutes pack up some clothing and shoes to send to the Philipines. They updated us on the missionaries there. Elder Schroeppel’s best friend was in the mission where they had elders unaccounted for, and it was nice to know that they finally have accounted for all of the missionaries there. I was so worried and had been praying so hard because so many of us here in the zone have friends in the Philipines serving missions, and I personally know two elders (Lee and Quizon) from the Philipines. Keep them in your prayers please!
Friday and Saturday we had exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders (Sister Cottrell and Kemp, the two I lived with last transfer). Sister Cottrell and I stayed in Chatsworth and did a lot of less-active work. Our miracle for the day was that we knocked into a less active sister that had been on the list we were given, but hadn’t planned to visit til next week. She opened the door and her eyes brightened. She was sick, but asked us to come back the next day to visit her. She is too sick to go to church, but is so incredibly faithful and has such a strong testimony, it was a real witness of her strength. She lost her husband five years ago, so it’s just her and her 3 cats and her collie. We are planning on stopping by this next week and seeing if we can do any service for her.
The bishop in the Chatsworth ward, Bishop Payne, is an absolute riot. He is one of our greatest supporters. He saw me finger spelling something to our deaf sister in the ward, Beverly, and told me he felt that I needed to learn ASL while I was here in the ward. Every time I see him, he teaches me new signs pertaining to the Gospel. We are having lunch with Beverly on Tuesday, and she has insisted on teaching us too. I am so happy and so excited to be able to learn to sign while here. I feel so strongly about it and know the Lord is helping me to remember the signs that I learn from Bishop, from Beverly, and from watching the interpreters at stake meetings interpret for the deaf branch in our stake. I have mastered the alphabet and can bear a choppy testimony in ASL and am so excited to learn more. Beverly is insistent that I be semi-fluent before I am transferred, and I don’t dare tell her no. I love her so much! She was so proud that I knew the sign for “I really love you!” and that I use it every time I say bye to her. Everyone else (except for my MTC district) get’s the sign for “I love you.” She’s noticed that and thinks it’s hilarious. I am loving the support we get from the ward here in Chatsworth, especially from Bishop and Sister Payne and from Brother and Sister Summers. We have a new assistant ward mission leader, Brother Faulkner, who reminds me SO much of one of the elders that taught me when I was younger. And a little bit of my middle school social studies teacher. It’s a little weird, but he works so hard to help us out and keep us buoyed.
We helped Vanessa, one of our investigators, earlier in the week organize her Origami Owl stock and helped her put together her office. We went over last night while she had some friends over, and I really enjoyed talking with them and sharing with some of them the gospel. One woman just about broke my heart. Her name is Diana and she’s from Lebanon (her husband is Armenian, so I can’t pronounce her last name). She looked so sad and when we got to talking, she explained that this week was particularly hard for her. She lost her mother to breast cancer after four years of fighting it in 2005 during this week, and the next year she lost her father to lung cancer a month after his diagnosis. She has has several miscarriages and lost twin boys in November six years ago after delivering them at 6 months. The pain in her voice was nothing compared to the pain you could see in her eyes. I wanted so badly to share the message of the plan of salvation with her, but something told me that it wasn’t time for her to receive it just yet. She has such incredible faith (she is Greek Orthodox and was so excited that I knew what that was, then was surprised that I grew up surrounded by Irish and Polish Catholics), I know she is slowly but surely being prepared to receive the gospel. My heart broke for her and I myself was on the verge of tears, hearing her story of the past several years. She is a woman of incredible faith and belief, and such a good mother to her son. She was a little bitter, but her hope and faith enveloped that bitterness and washed away the emotions that would break her down. She is perhaps one of the strongest women I have ever met, and as I have thought of her last night and this morning, I realize that she is very like Emma Smith – she has lost her children, born unbelievable hardship, left her home in Lebanon and lives in a place she feels foreign in, but yet she continues on in great faith and in great love for those around her. She is certainly one of the Lord’s elect. She was so surprised when I asked if there was anything I could do for her and asked only that I would pray for her.
She doesn’t know it, but I pray morning and night for the people in this valley. I may not be fond of the landscape and the noises of California living, but I love these people. I pray for them. I prepare for them. I love them dearly and want only to serve them. It’s incredible to be able to feel the love of the Savior, Jesus Christ, flow through you and help you to see the needs of the people you are called to serve. I couldn’t do this without Him and know that I walk beside Him each day as I knock on doors, talk to people on the street, teach people at bus stops and in their homes.
I love you all so much and am so thankful for your love and support. Keep the faith!
Sista Red
PS – more people keep asking me if I’m from Canada. I don’t think I have an accent… and anyway, how could you get Canada out of Connecticut? MAYBE if you are riding a roller coaster over some serious bumps and have a temporary stutter you could get Connecticut out of Canada, but I don’t think that’s the case…

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