I swear, I have had more meetings this week than in the entirety of my mission thus far. We have had zone training, Sister Finau’s one week follow-up, a meeting for Seminary, a meeting with the Bishop here in the Solemint ward, and were asked last-minute to go to the ward council meeting on Sunday morning, as well as having our normal missionary coordination meeting with the elders and the ward mission leader.
The one week follow-up training was one of the eight hour meetings that missionaries have a love-hate relationship with. It’s great, because you get to spend 8 hours talking with and learning from President and Sister Hall, but it’s miserable because you’re sitting for eight hours. Though I have to admit, it was a lot more interactive than mine, considering there were only thirty of us in the meeting, instead of 100 when I came in. The curse of the fifty. It was a totally different dynamic, so it was a huge blessing. The only struggle we came to was the fact that we had a huge language problem with translation. The poor Korean sisters (who are from Seoul and Teijan) had headaches an hour or two in because of translating from English, poor Elder Aguilar was relying on the hermanas for translation (he is from Mexico and learning English), and then the two sisters who are deaf needed interpreters, so the other ASL sisters were switching off. Sister Geottche asked me to interpret, but I let the other ASL sister who is new do it instead so she could learn to continue interpreting. There’s definitely a period where you have to find your own rhythm to interpret by. It was great learning from President in a more intimate setting than in our huge zone conferences and such.
Sister Ingrahm, who is one of the first deaf sisters in the mission, taught me how to sign pretzel, which was definitely a highlight. I realized that as a “normal” interpreter I’m pretty useless – I only know gospel signs. We are so blessed to have missionaries sign natively (meaning ASL is their native language, not English), it is such an amazing asset to the mission already. The deaf sisters have been able to double their work, especially since we have three signing companionships in the San Fernando Valley at the moment. West Hills is “home base,” or where the deaf branch meets, and then we have a companionship in Burbank and in Mission Hills.
Between all of our meetings, we didn’t have a lot of time to go finding, but where able to find a new investigator! It is so easy to see the Lord’s hand in us finding her – she and I have a lot in common, and she is so willing to learn. She lost her husband in May of 2011 to brain cancer, so she’s been alone for the last three years and trying to find comfort. We contacted her while we were on exchanges (so Sister Finau was working with Sister Johnson in Mint Canyon, and Sister Naylor and I were working in our area), and it was a real miracle. We taught her about the plan of salvation on her doorstep, mainly because it was a beautiful evening. I will have to snap a picture of her house, it’s beautiful. Tiny, but with stucco and lots of plants, it has a huge personality. One of my favorite things was the wrought-iron gate daffodil gate and her door, which has a giant sunflower as the screen. We are planning on stopping by to meet with her again on Friday evening.
We also taught the family that we picked up last week, which was a blast. It was Sister Finau’s first ever lesson in the field, and she did such an amazing job. So proud of her! We taught mainly the kids, Russell and Sophia, but by the end were specifically teaching their parents, Ernie and Anna. Anna was pretty reserved at the beginning, whereas Ernie was headon into the discussion, asking questions and talking with the kids about what we were teaching. By the end of the lesson, Anna was asking questions and asked about coming to church. We talked a lot about Primary with them, which will be perfect because Sophia is 6 and Russell is 3. Ernie gave us the biggest compliment, “if someone is going to teach my kids about Jesus, I want it to be the Mormons.” They are such an awesome family, and the spirit is so strong in their home, and their kids are so engaged and willing to learn. When we called to confirm with Ernie on Tuesday, he told us, “you’ll never guess what happened when you left the other day. Sophia and her friend took the Jesus cards you gave them and drew a church around them, and then they prayed together!” We almost died. This family is SO prepared and ready for the gospel.
It’s funny, Solemint/Canyon Country is so different from Chatsworth. I.E. we saw a raccoon at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and the other morning I saw a bobcat in the gulley behind our apartment from our bedroom window. It’s a lot wealthier than the areas I have worked in before, so that is taking a LOT of adjustment for me personally. The houses around here are gorgeous, and so perfect, it really makes me uncomfortable in some ways. And it always reminds me of Mike Piercy asking, “Are they truly happy?” They will be when we bring them the gospel!
Sister Finau and I had the opportunity to speak this past Sunday, and it was a good experience and helped the ward get to know/trust us a little. Sister Finau blew the ward out of the water, and for the rest of the time we were at Church, youth and adults alike were flocking to her to talk and ask questions. I was just standing there like, “yeah, I know mine was a come to Jesus, but come on!” Just kidding. They both went really well. I ended up talking about Bishop Gerald Causse’s most recent General Conference address, “Ye are No More Strangers.” I had a lot of fun studying in preparation for it. Sister Finau had the entire congregation in tears talking about her mom and her family. Needless to say, she is the new Solemint ward favorite. I’m so proud! The icing on the cake was that in closing she bore her testimony in Tongan, which had all the congregation engaged. (Did I mention previously that she’s fluent in three languages? Tongan, Samoan, and English)
We were asked to teach Seminary this week, in anticipation of “Invite a Friend to Seminary Week” this next week. It’s going to be interesting, to say the least – we are teaching the 0550 class with the zone leaders. So our tomorrow will be absolutely packed – seminary in the morning, extra studies, interviews with President in the afternoon that take FOREVER, and then hopefully a lesson with Ernie and Anna and their kids.
Working in Santa Clarita is so different than working in the San Fernando valley, and has it’s own set of challenges that we are learning to work with. I am so grateful for the support we have in our zone leaders, district leader, and in our elders that are in our ward. They are constantly texting to check in and make sure that we’re doing alright and asking if we need anything (which we never do, but it’s nice anyhow). We are so blessed. This mission is really changing, and the work around the world is really changing, and quickly, and it is such a blessing to be a part of it.
I love the work and love the people (still hate palm trees), and am so thankful for all your love and support! It was just what I needed the other day to receive a little bundle of letters just when I needed it most.