Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It Smells Like Boy in Here

Hey Family!

Howdy from Raymondville! Yep, I’ve been transferred and Sister Farr and I are whitewashing Raymondville. My last area and branch had a few problems due to a MAJOR lack of Priesthood (it caused a LOT of problems), so President switched Elders from Raymondville to Brownsville, and Sisters from Brownsville to Raymondville. It’s a coincidence that I happened to move from the area that was closing to the area that was opening. But we are really excited!

Sister Farr and I were roommates in Brownsville, she was in a different area in Brownsville that I was and was companions with Sister Amitoelau. We got to know each other pretty well, but not that well. She is from Salem, OR and loves hunting. Her favorite animal is an elk (go figure haha). She doesn’t like spiders though; to quote her, “I don’t get it, I can kill an elk, but I can’t kill a little spider.” At first we sort of butted heads because we are kind of both stubborn and want our way, but we really really really want this companionship to work out and we knew that the little differences we had aren’t even that big of a thing. So we’ve made it a goal to talk very openly about all things dealing with the companionship. The first week was a bit awkward because we were getting it all out there, but this week, all the “little” dumb things are in the past and we are SO ready to get out and work. It’s been really good because I tend to be a “ball hog” at times and just prefer to talk and teach the whole lesson by myself. I guess I’ve kind of sort of had to do it because I’ve had some companions who won’t talk or say anything during certain times. I kept cutting her off or talking forever during lessons and that really bothered her because she said that every single one of her companions (besides Sister Amitoelau) did that to her. At first, when hearing things like this, the “natural man” (or woman, in my case) starts shouting up from inside me, getting mad and trying to defend myself. But I’ve really worked on being humble, honest, accepting feedback genuinely, and changing without being stubborn or putting up a big fight. So it’s gone both ways, but just by talking about it openly (she isn’t very confrontational and so with other companions, she had just held it in and it never got better—an attitude which is the opposite of me). So I have told her to just be open and honest and talk about it when it happens, and so that’s been really good for her and the companionship. Now don’t get me wrong, it sounds like we don’t really get along that well, but we actually get along SO great. Just the first week, it’s just the awkwardness of getting used to each other and how the other person teaches. But we are so unified, happy, supportive, respectful and dedicated to each other. That’s the way it should be.

We have really been focusing on what our desires our—something that our last Zone Leader, Elder Reilly (random sidenote: he plays football for Colorado State), taught us. He focused a LOT last transfer about what our desires are: to find out what they are do, if that’s really what we want, we will accomplish them. The human mind is such a powerful thing and if we really want something bad enough, we will do everything in our power to make it happen. That is true for both Sister Farr and I: we have desires to baptize lots of people here in Raymondville, to work the hardest that we ever have before, to be more unified as companions that ever, to build that unity. We have talked a lot this past week about what our desires and goals are and have written them down (because there is so much power in just writing the goal down to help it become actualized). We are EXPECTING to see miracles this transfer because we have faith in our desires, faith in Jesus Christ, faith that they can be achieved and faith that as we go out and show our faith—through diligent, consistent effort—that we will see results.

So more about Raymondville: it’s a small town with about 9000 people. There is one set of Elders and one set of Sisters here; they have the East side (plus a few adjacent small towns) and we have the West side (plus one other small town called Lyford). Everyone in town knows the missionaries. The first day that we were here, we went to lunch with the other Elders and as we were walking to the restaurant, everyone was saying “Hey Elders,” or “How’s it going, Elders?” It was funny: they aren’t members, but it’s such a small town that it’s easy to get to know who they are. I think it will take them a lot longer to recognize us and who we are because we don’t stand out as much (we actually wear colors and different outfits, rather than the same shirt and tie all day, every day). The people are really nice, it’s probably half Spanish, half English. I’m not quite sure. Our Zone Leader used to serve here for a long time and said that he believes Raymondville is one of the best areas in the mission. The branch is growing a lot and he said that he believes (and President, as well) that this branch will grow to become the strongest ward in the stake. They have a lot of faith in this branch because the members and the recent converts are absolutely amazing. So, that got us excited to. It’s been 15 years since Sisters were here.

The branch is pretty small. I’m not quite sure if it’s a Spanish branch or an English branch. Haha, seriously, it’s the most hilarious thing. I think it’s the Raymondville Tex-Mex branch. Sunday was a hoot. The branch president was speaking the greatest mix of Tex Mex you ever did hear. Then for the hymns, the people just sang them in whatever language worked best for them: you speak English, sing it in English; you speak Spanish, hey, why not, sing your little hear out in Spanish. Then one talk was in pure English, another in Spanish, another in Tex Mex. Awesome. Gospel Principles was English, but Relief Society was pure Spanish. It’s definitely probably the most unique branch in the church—at least, that I’ve ever been to.

Ok, so let me tell you about our living situation. So we live in a house that the Elders used to live in: 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 2 car garage—it’s super nice. Well, in theory, it should be super nice…IF the Elders knew how to clean. We got in and it was so dark, dingy and dirty. The first thing I was said was, “Ew, it smells like boy in here.” The floors had stains, mud, dirt, junk all over them. My sink had layers upon layers of grossness and whiskers were everywhere. I cleaned my sink from all the whiskers, but then 5 minutes later, they all appeared again. The kitchen and bathrooms had rust, grime and mold everywhere. And oh…the cockroach problem…special. We got in and there were cockroaches climbing around in the kitchen every so often. We tried to kill them, but of course they keep coming back (it’s definitely a lot more under control now because of the major deep cleaning that we have started). We looked in all the cupboards and there were literally HUNDREDS of dead roach carcasses in them. That grossed us out too much, so we took out all the plates, dishes, utensils, etc and cleaned everything by hand; we bleached the cupboards; bought caulk to fill in all the gaps that the roaches use to climb up into and in between the cupboards. Cleaning this apartment has been a huge chore. At first it really bothered us because we couldn’t really feel comfortable in this home or the Spirit. So during our lunch breaks we clean; for morning exercise, we clean; before we go to bed, we clean; all day pday, we cleaned. We still aren’t done. The best thing has been the floors (we’re ALMOST done), but they are white tile, but they were so dirty, they looked grayish brown. So we got on our hands and knees and cleaned and scrubbed the floors like there was no other. It looks great! We have been organizing and gutting the place of random junk. The best part: it doesn’t smell like boy anymore! Now it’s a mix between cleaning supplies and girl. Oh and by the way, the Elders laughed really hard when we told them it smelled like boy. Later they told us that a few weeks ago, they had a cologne war. Some member gave an Elder this atrocious cologne and then another Elder got a Axe body spray kit, so they went around the house spraying each other with it. By the end of their fun, the stench was so bad that they had to open up all the windows to air out the house. Apparently, it wasn’t enough because the stench still lingered. Oh well, we’re taking care of it now. But don’t get me wrong, I really am so excited for this house; we really are incredibly blessed to have a house. I know that there are missionaries (and people), in remote places like Mexico and Africa who have to wash their clothes using a washboard and don’t have running water. I have no room to complain. But, I still have this stewardship that I need to take care of. It looks like we have 10 talents here, while others have 1 or 5.

The work here has been really great. The people are very open and accepting. We have focused on being BOLD, teaching with the Spirit and not wasting our time with the unprepared. Our time as missionaries is short and so we don’t have time to waste. We are here to find the prepared, not to find people to prepare. It’s been cool to sift threw investigators and potential investigators. We’ve taught lots of people already and in the past we would have counted them all as new investigators, and gone back to try to convince them. But we’ve really been focusing on seeing if they’re ready. Sure, people LOVE to invite the missionaries in and hear the word of God, but that doesn’t mean that they are going to believe it or do anything about the invitations we leave them. We still teach all that will accept us, but by the end of our short, powerful lessons, we are able to tell whether it’s worth our time to come back. We leave them with our number, the address of the church and a pamphlet, for that day in the future when perhaps they are ready to be “doers of the word, rather than just hearers.” (James 1:22).

We have some amazing investigators that we have found as a result. Two of them we found on our first day: Dolly and Carmelo who are brother and Sister. They are probably about in their 60s. It’s so funny to visit them because they live with their 96-year-old mother and all their other siblings. So there is this huge row of couches when your enter and she’s sitting there (completely out of it), and then all the other siblings (apparently, the older siblings, perhaps in their late 70s) are also sitting there out of it. Dolly and Carmelo are very coherent and actually interested. At first, we came and taught Dolly, and Carmelo was sitting in the corner, appearing as though he wasn’t listening. We came back and he was ready and said that he read “a little” of the pamphlet. Immediately he starts going into how he learned about Apostasy, had questions about where the plates were, Jospeh Smith, etc. His main obstacle is that he doesn’t believe that Christ’s atonement covers him. He is a Vietnam veteran and has so much guilt from all the killing he did that he doesn’t think he can be forgiven. It is going to be really cool to teach both of them.

Well, I’m overdue on time. I love you all and am excited to see miracles in this area. This church is true and missionary work is the greatest thing that someone could do with their time. As Hinckley says, “It’s the greatest investment you can ever make on your life.”…or something like that.
Love you so much! Till next week!

Sister Burt

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