Monday, January 4, 2010

Transferred. Drumroll please...

Hola Familia!

Haha, can you guess where I am now? Let me help you out. It's not Beeville, it's not in the north, and it's practically all Spanish. I got transferred to Brownsville, TX, which is in the very tip of South Texas. It is right along the Mexican-American border. Actually, something interesting, you can actually see the border fence from a certain part in our area. A street we are contacting on is on the border and you can literally walk up to the huge fence, see a row of trees, and then obviously behind that is the Rio Grande. CRAZY! It's pretty sweet. I'm excited for this area. We are SO busy, all the time. I don't really have time to think about anything other than missionary work. I don't really have time to eat. I'm lucky if I can remember to eat 2 meals a day, but right now I'm kind of just working off one (because I don't like eating after 6, so when we get home, I just prefer not to eat). It's pretty intense. Beeville was a bit more casual and laid back. Not in a bad way, I guess. But it's just WAY different. The people in Beeville are not really interested in talking to you. It's slammed doors all day long. No worries, there are prepared people everywhere and it makes it that much more fun of a treasure hunt to look for them.

My new companion is Sister Iris Lopez from El Salvador. So Mom, I know you have been not the happiest that I haven't been speaking Spanish or whatever, so apparently your prayers were answered. She came out a transfer behind me and is learning English, although, she's been in Spanish areas her whole mission and is learning it slowly than it takes the other missionaries to learn English. No worries. I hope one day she can go up north, but not now because she's super awesome. She is super petite and just a slender, skinny-framed girl. I heard Sister Call say one time that she told Sister Lopez that she dressed like a school teacher and Sister Lopez said, "Oh, thees es funny because in my country I am a school teacher." She's SO cute and an amazing missionary. We speak Spanish with each other all day long because that's easiest for her and it's not really a problem for me. So don't worry that I've been out of Spanish for 6 months because I really don't notice it. Maybe the first day was a little hard, but other than that...nope. No worries. I'm so excited, all ready my Spanish is getting way better just in this past week.

Well, can I just tell you a few things about the apartment here? Well, first off, in Beeville, we lived in a palace! It was just me and my companion, two bathrooms, super clean, etc. When Sister Call came, we completely gutted the place of all clothes, junk, supplies, etc. It's pretty barren now, but honestly, who wants old T-shirts with armpit stains? Or Jodi dresses from the 90s? No thanks. We would always have candles lit and classical music playing in the background; so peaceful, so peace and love. But when I got here...yikes! I felt like I had walked into a dungeon. The apartment is dark, dingy, DIRTY, cluttered, messy, random Mormon-ads slapped on the walls, NO room in the fridge to by the 3 oranges that I took with me, a bit smelly. I was not a fan. I thought I was semi-organized before my mission, but definitely being here on the mission, I've become ridiculously organized and clean. Personally, we were so comfortable and at ease in Beeville, because we could feel the Spirit so much. I believe that the cleaner and more organized that we are, the more of the Spirit we can feel. The Spirit is organized and clean and dwells in places that are likewise (as a result, we need to not only keep our bodies clean and pure so that the Spirit can dwell, but also our homes). I have such a testimony in stewardship's. Doctrine and Covenants 136:27 teaches us, "Thou shalt be diligent in preserving what thou hast, that thou mayest be a wise steward; for it is the free gift of the Lord thy God and thou are his steward." I love the principle that this teaches us. We are all stewards who have been given dominion over many things. If we have been given a house, car, family, etc, it is our duty to take care of that thing that he has endowed us with. If not, the Lord will not bless us and even will take it away. I believe this is true with the missionary apartments. So immediately over the past week, I have taken the majority of my breaks to start doing little projects, organizing here, throwing this away, fixing that. I guess some people say, "This break is my time," but what I learned from Sister Call is that there is so much joy in cleaning. It may take time initially to do, but the blessings and peace that come are lasting, desirable, and worth it. Today, we cleaned the apartment in the morning. I took on the responsibility of the kitchen. I started deep cleaning the stove and such. Over the week, I'd been telling the girls that I planned to completely "gut and clean this place" and asked that they not be offended in my doing so. They said they didn't care. Even as I started doing these little projects, they would walk in and say, "Wow, it's so much cleaner and nicer." They started helping to and slowly the apartment is changing. Let's be honest, this isn't the nicest apartment--think Raintree but WAY more ghetto (there are all these stray cats that hideously meow all night, our front door has a HUGE gap in it so you can hear anything anyone says as they walk by). Anyways, this morning, I was working on the burners, cleaning them, putting new foil on them because I'm pretty sure no one had cleaned the thing in years. Then Sister Farr came in and joined me. She started throwing away old food--well, it really ended up being ALL the food--from the fridge. People's food who had been transferred, old smelly tupperwear's of rice and beans. Who knows what was in there. We cleaned out the pantry too and organized and divided up the space so we could each have a shelf in the fridge and pantry. Wow, we threw away 5 garbage bags of old food. Pretty much, if it didn't belong to anyone, we got rid of it. I scrubbed out the fridge and wow, it's so clean and bright! I feel way better. We're ALMOST done with the kitchen (she and I are now reorganizing all the cupboards), and when it's all said it done, this place is going to turn out to be all right. I'm excited. It's a little bit of service that I can do for the Lord, the mission, and the future missionaries who will come here.

Well, the people here are SO cool. They want to talk to you and we--of course--want to talk o them. Even the white people are nice. I'm excited. The branch here is SUPER small. We meet in this strange bright blue building and there are about 20-30 people (including kids) that come. Probably about 7-8 families total. Crazy.

We had a baptism this past weekend of a little boy whose parents are less-active. I guess his brother was baptized the week before and his two older teenage siblings will be baptized in about 2 weeks. This household is very volatile and angry whenever we come (not at us, but that's just the tone of the home because the parents are having marital issues), but I know that through the baptisms of their children, they will grow stronger as more of their members of the home have the Holy Ghost to guide them.

We met a family named Garcia last week. It was really cool. In this area, no one is SUPER poor, everyone has homes, but some areas are SUPER nice (think White Wing or The Groves). Well, we had some time by one of these nice areas and started contacting. At first I was thinking, "Oh wow, here we go again, just like Beeville." But the first door that we knocked had an 18-year-old boy in it. We sat outside and talked about what we do as missionaries and started having a lesson with him. Richard really opened up to us and expressed that there was a death of a family friend recently which has been really hard. We started explaining about the Plan of Salvation when his parents and other siblings drove up. I was a bit worried that they'd say, "Why are you talking to these people? Get inside!" But they were so nice and gracious and invited us in right away. We started talking to the whole family and they were very interested. They never had heard about the sealing power or eternal families and said that they wanted to learn more. They are very happy Christian type of people who go to this family Christian church every Sunday. They are doing a 21 day fast (just liquids and the father is even doing it to give up coffee because he's addicted. Pretty sweet). We came back but we both were a bit scared to go back and teach them. I know that I sometimes have a tiny bit of anxiety about new situations, people, and places, but I immediately recognized this as Satan. So we went, but the mother was called into work and he said that she wanted to be there. We came back later that night (at 8:50, yikes!) and they were excited to learn. We shared part of the Family Proclamation with them and they loved it. At the end of the lesson when I asked them how they felt, she said "Peaceful" and he said, "Relaxed." I helped them recognize this as the Spirit. They said that they always pray that they can learn more about Jesus Christ and have their hearts open to them. I'm not going to lie, I was a bit skeptical about them because they were English, white, and lived in a nice home, but now I know that I need to repent for that. They are AWESOME and want a happier, stronger family. We committed them to pray as a couple and they were excited to do so.

So that's what's going on with Brownsville this week. I'm excited for the new Gospel Principles book for Priesthood and Relief Society. One reason I think there is a change for these next two years is because the first presidency wants a greater focus on member missionary work. The Lord wants all the members to learn and KNOW the basics so that when their friends ask them questions or they have missionary opportunities, they can readily share the correct information. I'm excited for it and I hope that everyone sets a goal to read the lesson beforehand. This is something that Elder Neilson of the 70 committed us missionaries to do once we get back from out missions. Jesus Christ even taught this to the Nephites when he said in 3 Nephi 17:3, "Therefore, go yet unto your homes and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and PREPARE your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again." I know that this is true and if every member did this before each Sunday, we each would be SO much more edified together. Instead of having to explain basics or read paragraphs, we could have open discussion in which the Spirit guides the lesson. I hope that everyone can set this as a goal and I can promise you that your Relief Society and Priesthood classes (also Gospel Doctrine for the Old Testament) will be so much better. It will be a joy for all in attendance and the Spirit will teach you so much. I know this is true and this is Christ's only true and living church.

I love you all, and I'm off to wash the car and get away from the smelly smoker man who's sitting next to me. Love you!

Sister Burt

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