Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Impromptu Interviews, Tie Bales and the Light Bulb

Family,

Sorry I didn't get to write yesterday. We use the computers at the library, and since it was a holiday, we obviously couldn't use the computers since it was closed. So we got to come today, so it's all good. But heads up for the future, if the holiday is on a Monday (which many are), don't expect an email.

Anyways, life is great! Yesterday we went to Sister Miller's do to a few sewing projects. She's so awesome. She's an incredible talented seamstress and ended up just taking over and doing practically all of mine for me. Haha, but it's ok because I think I may have been attempting some things a bit above my level. I'm grateful because she's amazing and so willing to help. But the most awesome thing is that we were there when President Miller got home. Sister Loftus had a question she wanted to ask him, so she went in his office for about 15 minutes. Then when they got done, I was done with all my projects and he said, "Sister Burt, I want to talk to you for a few minutes." These "few minutes" turned out to be around 45. It wasn't really an interview, more a Gospel discussion/counsel session. It was amazing. Wow, I learned SO many things in that time and he really really is led by the Spirit because everything he said hit the nail right on the head. I've been really blessed to have quite a few chances to meet with him--rather than just once every 6 weeks. Once I got out, I immediately started writing down everything I could remember as fast as I can. Even know, I'm still remembering things.

So it's so funny here. You know how they say, "Everything's bigger in Texas?" Holy cow, that's so true. Ties are a big deal here. Like the type of ties that Elders wear. In certain cities, they have these things you can buy called a "Bale of Ties." And it literally is what is sounds like: a bale (think of a giant BALE of hay and how big that thing is), except for it is made completely, 100% of ties. They are HUGE and giant and it's over a 1000 pounds of ties (trust me, I've seen them with my own eyes, it's true) AND you can buy a whole entire bale for only $20! Hahaha, I know it sounds SO ridiculous, but it's so true. The Elders will buy a bale and then just dump it on the floor and search through the whole thing for the best ones. And even then they still have a million ties left over. But apparently there are some SUPER nice brands in there (I'm not into ties, so I wouldn't know), but like Donald Trump ties, and every once in a while designer ties. So yeah, ties are a big deal and they give ties to everyone, even the sisters. I mean, I know ties are a big deal for most missionaries (because let's be honest, that's the only real accessory they've got), but it's even bigger here because of the whole "Bale of ties" situation. I guess in every Elder's apartment, ties are ALL over the place. Sister Miller was telling us yesterday that the assistants live in a house and their ENTIRE garage was just filed with left over ties. They got so sick of it that they just threw them all away. They drive a truck and it guess it took TWO entire, overflowing truck fulls to get rid of all of them. They even had to go to two different dumpsters because they filled up the first one. Haha, I wish I could have seen that because it would have been a hilarious sight.

We are so blessed in this area to be able to meet tons of new people: they invite us into their house, listen to our message, accept a return appointment. BUT this isn't the main part of our purpose to keep teaching Lesson 1's over and over again. We have realized that we really need to sift through our investigators: we need to not only start doing it more often with them, but faster. We need to work on spotting the elect; spotting those who are ready to make commitments, who are searching for the truth, and who want to act to make those blessing happen. I know that when we do this, our day's will continue to be jam packed with lessons, but more enjoyable lessons because our investigators are PROGRESSING.

I had a really cool experience when teaching a lesson the other day. We teach Teresa every other day at 7 or 8 o'clock. By this time, the sun is starting to set and it's beginning to get a little darker outside. In her house, she has one couch that we sit on and no other furniture in the room except for this little stool that she usually sits on. There are no lights in the room, so as the lesson progresses, it gets darker and darker. As we were teaching her last week, I suddenly had this realization. The sun was nearly down and I was looking at Theresa: her face was nearly completely covered in shadows and darkness. The whole room was dark and getting darker. Yet, she wants to learn, she has incredible desires to get baptized and change her life. She's already seen so many blessing in her life and--consequently--her family because of her learning the Gospel. Usually by the end of our visits, one of her little ones (she has 8 kids), runs into the other room and comes back with a single light bulb. He climbs up on the stole, screws the light into the socket on the wall. Immediately, the room is bright and we are able to see each other so much better. I realized that this is what the Gospel does to people's lives. The missionaries come in, bring this amazing spirit and light into these peoples lives who are used to being shrouded in darkness. Yet, once we leave, they take the light bulb out because it is very precious to them and it's the only one they have. Only once they continue to make steps towards and are finally baptized, will they be able to have that light in their life permanently. When we have the light of the Gospel, our lives are illuminated and we are able to see our path so much more clearly. I want this so badly for Teresa, I've seen the changes it's already made in her family's life and I know there are so much more.

Anyways, I hope you have a wonderful week! I know that I will!

--Hermana Burt

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hi, my name is Hermana Berta

Hey!

Wow here we are again! Ok so first off: Mom, thank you SOOOO much for the package! Oh gosh, I felt like it was Christmas morning. You sent me SO many shirts, I couldn't believe it...you are WAY way way too nice and I love you so much. I love the shirts, the EARRINGS (cute!), the socks, ahh...they are are wonderful.

Anyways, this was a great week. We set our goals SUPER high and exceeded all of them...except all of the ones that have connections to the investigators coming to church. :( As usual, no one came to church which is super hard because we do absolutely everything that we can to get them to come: visit them before, call them, set up rides for ALL of them, etc. Yet when the moment of truth comes, all sorts of things happen. It's a wee-bit disappointing (ok, it's bit bit disappointing), but we're changing our game plan this week and next week will be different.

So random funny stories. Apparently my last name is really hard for people to say here. It just doesn't flow naturally for Spanish speakers. I say my name and then the people look at my name tag and say, "Oh, Hermana Berta." Haha, I laughed the first time that happened, but it's definitely happened A LOT of other times. So I just smile and say, "Si, Hermana Berta." Close enough...But we're teaching a guy who looks like Orlando Bloom. The resemblance is so much that it's a bit freaky, but it's all good.

So people have SO many dogs here. I would say that every house has at least 3 dogs. And lots of them are scary guard dogs. And dogs run all over the place in the streets. One time we were walking down a road and this big dog came up to the fence where we were by and started barking at us. Then a little Chihuahua came out and started barking at us. THEN, here's the most random part of all, a rooster came out following the dogs (and us) and started cock-a-doodle-dooing at us. It was the funniest thing I think I've ever seen! Haha. Sort of like in Babe when Ferdinand the Duck, thinks he's a rooster; except this was a rooster that thought it was a guard dog. (Oh and by the way, everyone here has chickens and roosters).

They had a big mother's day fiesta at the church of Friday, we went because we had some investigators who were supposed to come...but they didn't. But it was super fun because they had a 10 man mariachi band come and play. It was INTENSE and the lady who was the lead singer. Wow, did she have a set of pipes. There was a ridiculous amount of food (as usual): it started off with cheese and crackers, then vegetables, then all sorts of Mexican drinks (I'd say at least 8 different types), then these awesome beans, then carne and rice, homemade tortillas. We didn't even get to eat the carne, rice, and all the other stuff that followed (because there definitely was WAY more food after that), but we left after 45 minutes because our investigators didn't show.

So yeah, we are working super hard. And kids LOVE us. On no matter what street or neighborhood we're in, all the kids run up to us (usually wanting stickers). But one day we were walking on Prosperidad and there was this huge birthday party with probably a lot of the kids from the neighborhood. We started walking by and then Andy (one of the kids of a former investigator that we had dropped the week earlier) RAN out of the party up to us and gave us a HUGE hug! IT was SO cute because normally he was always in the other room doing stuff (he's 5) and we don't think he ever really knew who we are. But it was so cute that he did actually remember us. Then within 5 seconds of him coming up to us, about 12 (no joke) other kids ran up to us and started hugging us. AH, it was so cute. They were all kids that we knew: we either were teaching their family, taught their family, had contacted their family, etc. Kids are so cute. It's really sad because I think children are definitely more in tune to the Spirit and can sense that there's something different about us. But the parents...not so much. So it's really sad when we see all these kids and they love us so much, but their parents aren't progressing. But anyway, it's fun being a missionary in situations like these because you feel like a little celebrity. Haha.

Anyways, thank you so much for the awesome package and letters. You are WAY too nice. I'm trying to work my hardest and some days are really hard, but in those days that's when I need to turn totally to the Lord and plead for his help. Actually, I need to do that every day. Even when the times are good. But I love being a missionary, it's nothing like I imagined and it's stretching me so much. Change and growth is really uncomfortable. But faith motivates us to do something uncomfortable. Fear motivates us to go back to things that are comfortable. I've really learned that faith is so important in this work. It's frustrating because my faith isn't where I want it to be. But I need to be humble and trust in the Lord. At my interview with President Miller he told me an interesting story and then said, "I have a feeling that you are like that. You don't like getting help from anyone." Wow, I felt an electric jolt go through me. How could he know that? Because it's so true. I don't like going to others for help. I can do it my own. But I'm learning every single day that that's not true: I need my companion, I need the Spirit, I need the Lord. I want to do it alone, but I can't and changing that part of my attitude has been hard. But, I'm doing my best and seeing the positive results.

Hope you are all well! I love you so much!
--Hermana Burt

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ankles like Nephi, Drop Talks, and Kids

Hola Familia Burt!

What a wonderful week it has been. And wow, the week really does fly by--I can't believe that it's Monday again already. It was really nice to talk to everyone in the family yesterday--it was a real boost and I was so excited afterwards that I couldn't fall asleep until at least 11:45. It really is a blessing that we only get to call twice a year...But my favorite was when I was talking to Aydan and the first thing he said was, "Hi Morgan. Come home now." Haha, unfortunately for him, I'm not coming home just yet, I'm just getting started!

Sister Loftus is doing great. Her ankle is on the mend and I came across a scripture this morning that relates exactly to her: 1 Nephi 18: 15-16: "...and also mine ankles were much swollen, and great was the soreness thereof. Nevertheless, I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions." This is the most PERFECT scripture to describe Sister Loftus. At times, I could tell that her ankle was a bit uncomfortable, but she NEVER complained and always wanted to go out and work, work, work. She is always grateful and finds the positive in EVERYTHING. She is just like Nephi, not only in this scripture but in all things: strong, spiritually minded, focused, humble, obedient, determined--I could go on and on.

We had to drop one of our investigators last night. It was really sad because we love them so much and they are such an awesome family. But they wouldn't keep any of their commitments. On our last visit last night, we read with them in Mosiah 18--the chapter we had assigned for them the past 2 visits, yet hadn't yet. We feel that for the first time, they really recognized what the Book of Mormon is (or at least somewhat). Their 6-year-old daughter was reading along with them and we were discussing different sections and passages as we went along. It was really nice. We started talking about Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy and how their family actually will be blessed if Juan stopped working on Sunday. He started trying to justify working on Sunday, using all sorts of different excuses and such. At that point, the Spirit was starting to leave, so we finished and left. It was really sad because they knew we weren't going to come back (at least for a while). But if they aren't coming to church, don't want to even be open to the fact that their baptisms weren't performed by the proper authority (because they ardently have told us numerous times that they don't see the need to be baptized again because they believe that their priest had the authority), aren't reading, praying, etc., then we've done all that we can. It's hard but we are so busy every week that week that we can't waste a minute. So we'll still pray for them.

A ton of people went home to Mexico this week for Mother's Day, so it was kind of different when a lot of our appointments fell through. (Oh, and did you know, that Mother's Day in Mexico is ALWAYS on May 10? So yesterday it just happened to fall on the same day as the American date, but yep, it's always one the 10th. Kind of interesting). But hopefully everyone will be back this week because we have lots of hope and things we're ready to teach our investigators this week!

It's interesting how spiritually sensitive and ready some of the kids are that we teach. We taught this one family last week and showed them the video "The Lamb of God" (because they had called to receive it). Oh and side note, The Lamb of God is about the last week of the Savior's life and I never realized how violent/horrific that movie is. But one of the girls left in the middle of it and started crying. We talked to her about it and she was just so sad that people would do that to anyone, let alone Jesus. Then when we told her the first vision story, she was completely in awe. She's about 11 and loves church, the Bible, etc. Then when we gave her a Book of Mormon, she was SO excited and held it in her hands as if it was encrusted in jewels. Similar experiences have happened with other kids we've taught. It's so sad because children in general are a lot more prepared, willing, and able to recognize the Spirit. They have natural desires to learn and do what is right. But the parents usually have none or are not as in tune. That's what makes it hard because we can't keep teaching some of our investigators--who are children--because their parents just simply don't care and the kids can't do it on their own; they can't drive themselves to church.

But anyways, life is great here. Texas is awesome. The weather is amazing and I love it. I can't believe how fast the days go by: it seems like I'm just barely getting up and ready for the day when the next thing I know, I'm hoping back in bed--dead tired. And it's so great because for the whole 9 weeks that I was in the MTC, I couldn't fall asleep until after 11:30 every night (at least!). But here (well, except for last night), I fall asleep within 5 minutes and don't wake up until my alarm sounds. It's great that I finally can have 8 wonderful hours of sleep again!

Anyways, sorry this email is so lame. I just really have nothing much to talk about that I didn't already say yesterday. Tell Dior I'm super proud of her and for her to keep sticking with it. Tell Matt that I'm ecstatic for him and his "Rim to Rim to Rim" 50 mile run at the Grand Canyon (also tell him he needs to get his feet massaged or something because that's brutal). Tell Marshall good luck at State! Tell Stevo that I love him and for him to keep on truckin' till the very end! And I love both you and dad so much! It was wonderful to hear from you!

Love,
Hermana Burt

Monday, May 4, 2009

Man in the Van, Mexican Remedies, and Grilled Onions

Dearest Familia,

Another wonderful week! The weather is awesome and totally not hot (around 90 degrees) and I think my companion thinks I'm a bit paranoid about sun exposure because I lather up on sunscreen multiple times a day. But oh well.

I've continued to learn a lot from Sister Loftus. She truly is an amazing, dedicated, diligent missionary. She absolutely loves the Gospel and missionary work with all her heart. She is a wonderful example to me and I'm grateful that every day I can be her companion and learn from her. On one of our very first days together, we were walking down a street Prosperidad (which--by the way--we practically LIVE on because we have so many investigators on this street. It seems like we are ALWAYS there which is SO awesome). We were walking down the street and she saw a man in a carpet cleaning van pulled to the side of the road. He was talking on his phone, windows up--obviously busy. But Sister Loftus is amazing and just walked right up to him, knocked on his window and said, "Hey, I know you're busy and talking on the phone, but could I give you something?" Surprisingly, he told the person on the other line to "hold on one minute" and then she started talking to him about the Gospel. She scheduled a time to meet with him later to talk about it because he was on his lunch break then and didn't have very much time. He's really busy with work, but we could come by another day while he was on break again. Awesome! So we did. But of we were a few minutes late, knock on his door and discover that he wasn't home. Dang it. We probably just missed him. Another day, we were talking to people on the street and we started talking to the woman outside of her house. We ended up going inside and teaching her entire family (husband, mom, 3 kids) the first lesson. It was totally awesome. They're now our investigators and are an awesome family. I love the Vasquez. Well, the reason I'm telling this story is because what happened a few days later. We went back to teach the Vasquez another day and it was great. A few days ago, we were on Prosperidad (again, as usual) contacting some other people (this is what I absolutely love about the area we are in: people outside, ALL the time. We've knocked maybe 3 doors in 2 weeks). Well, we were talking to this boy when this van pulled up and wanted to talk. So while Hermana Loftus was still talking to the boy, I walked over a few steps to the van and started talking with the person in it. And it turns out that it was Alberto (the carpet cleaning guy) from WAY earlier in the week (who, we had totally forgotten about because of everyone else on that street that we started teaching). First thing he said was, "Well, I really enjoyed talking to you girls last week. Something you said I just really had a good feeling about. And I just want you to know, that I LOVE and believe in Maria. Nothing will change that. But you are teaching my sister-in-law and the things she said really interested me." So I started talking to him about that and the message we share as missionaries, answered a LOT of his questions, etc. Well, as I was talking to him, I saw the side of his van and it said "Vasquez" on the side. Turns out that this sister-in-law IS the very same Vasquez family that we are teaching. We were teaching them at his house and didn't even realize that it was the same family and house. Crazy. It was just a witness to me that we need to follow the Spirit and talk to those people who we are prompted to. Because honestly, I don't think I would have had the guts to go up to someone who is ON THE PHONE, windows rolled down, and start talking. But we need to follow the Spirit no matter how strange the situation may be. Because we will never know what the result will be.

So last Pday, Hermana Loftus sprained her ankle playing volleyball with our zone. It was really sad. :( We went home (and as a result, I am now the designated driver, which was actually going to happen soon anyway so that I could get more familiar with our area) and the other sisters were home too. This was good news because Sister Madrigal (a sister from Mexico City) is a graduated, licensed massage therapist/sports injury therapist. She did all these crazy things to poor Sis. Loftus. One of the funniest one is when Sis. Madrigal came out with a grilled onion on a fork and said, "Here. Put this on ankle." (She learned English here on the mission and her accent is so awesome). Haha, so Sis. Loftus had to sleep with an onion strapped to her foot because apparently it is a natural anti-inflammatory...She has some pretty interesting Mexican remedies, but they work so we don't complain.

Sis. Loftus's ankle was getting better and a few days later we had another appointment that we were meeting a member to come with us. But as we were at a stop sign, she saw 2 men on the road who she had the prompting to get out and contact. So I sat in the car with the window down while she ran/hobbled over to them. She came back as quick as she could, but then kind of tripped and sprained her ankle again! But this time the pain was SO much worse. It was so sad because I couldn't do anything because we were in the way of the road and so we just drove to the place where we were meeting the member. She was crying and in a LOT of pain. We meet the member and decided to keep with our lesson. It was really hard because Sis. Loftus was still in a lot of pain, but it was the MOST awesome lesson. Claudia is so prepared for the Gospel, shared a lot of personal experiences, said that she's been searching and wanting "more." We were SO grateful afterwards that we decided to go to the lesson (even though it was hard), instead of go home. Satan really does work HARD to make things get in the way. He doesn't want this work to progress. Sis. Loftus is such a trooper. Ah, love it.

Anyways, there's been a ton more experiences like that. Every day I see miracles here. The Lord really really has blessed us. I love the people here: they are so nice, inviting, welcoming, giving. I've already learned a lot from them and the people in the ward. The ward is super tiny (a lot different than what I'm used to back home). The Spanish is coming along quite well, but still it's not anywhere near perfect. But I am able to express myself, talk, teach parts of lessons, etc. I really have put my faith and trust in the Lord because at times have felt that my Spanish has hit a plateau and will never get better. But it is, slowly yet surely.

I love you guys! Thank you so much for the updates from home. Congratulations to Matt on his Bachelor's! YAY! I'm so excited for them. Sorry this letter is short, we only get a half hour to email home (same as the MTC). It's alright, I just try to type as fast as a can.

Love,
Hermana Burt