Monday, January 30

#7


What-ho, Utah!  Or whoever else is reading this... you are all welcome.  :)
This week, commandment is: "Thou shalt not wear thy gator without first brushing thy teeth." 
No explanation needed, I'm afraid. 
This week has been all very topsy-turvey.  Highlights include:
1. On Wednesday we went to a well-loved pizza shop called Politos.  It was there that I first experienced macaroni and cheese pizza.  For those of you who know me, you will understand what a momentous thing this is. 
2. We spent the second half of the week up in Appleton!  President Jones decided it might be fun for me and Sister Johnson to go and do some exchanges with the sister missionaries up there.  I spent the first day as a Sister Kirkham's companion.  She loves Scotland, so we got along quite well.  She is going home in about 2 months!  It was interesting to talk with her about it--she is rather nervous about going home, and it gives me hope that perhaps in a year or so I'll have a similar mentality.  (As it is, I admit, I have my moments yet, and going home is a lovely prospect.)  We did a lot of tracting, but it was good fun and not too cold.  Then we spent the night and the next day we got up, studied, and then went to do service at the Appleton Paper Discovery Center before heading home.
3.  During the aforementioned service opportunity, I got to MAKE PAPER.  :D  It was awesome.  Really.  Go try it.  We taught several groups of 4th graders how to make it, and helped them to make their own samples, but in our spare time we got to make some ourselves.  This will definately become a hobby of mine when I get home.  The process is awesome.
4.  We spent Saturday going down to Madison for a baptism.  In her last area, Sister Johnson taught a woman named Sharon.  She'd been investigating for quite a while, so when we heard she was getting baptized, we were both ecstatic.  So President Jones let the Bowrings drive us down to attend.  It was fantastic.  :)  It's funny how the smallest things can give you sufficient encouragement to push through the rest of the time.
In other news, I look like an Amish girl.  I've been told so a few times now while we've been tracting, and I guess I have to accept it.  I guess it's how I do my hair... or... something... anyways.  It's pretty much awesome. 
That's pretty much it... hope all is well for each of you!  I'm beginning to feel at home here.  When we drove back to Steven's Point from Appleton, I really felt like I was coming back home, so that was pretty cool.  Our poor branch president has taken over as our branch mission leader, but he's amazing so I have no worries other than the fact that he has so much to do!  One of our investigators--a darling girl named Liz--has accepted the commitment to baptism, so hopefully we can get things rolling with her.  :)  I'm so happy to be out here!
It's so incredible to see how Heavenly Father works with this little branch.  The members are so strong and positive, and I have high hopes that--whether now or after I'm gone--membership in this area will really take off.  I just need to keep planting seeds! 
I want you all to know that I have a testimony of this work.  It's for everyone!  No matter your circumstances, your questions, your worries, or your hardships, the gospel can transform your perspective and beautify the mundane.  It really is good news.  I hope you each will take the opportunity to seek opportunities to share your faith.  Members are the key to missionary work.  They really are!  And I've come to see that I am merely a tool to be utilized in the process.  I love this gospel with all my heart and soul, and I hope I can learn to give everything I am to it.  :)
Pictures: We made Duct Tape Ties for our District Leaders, Mac and Cheese Pizza, and Sharon's baptism (we're with two other sister missionaries, one of whom was also trained by Sister Johnson.)  Cool stuff. 
Almost February... 0_o
Love you all!


-Sister Black

Tuesday, January 24

#6

What-ho? Commdandment for this week: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's pelican."

Seems like everyone has cool lawn ornaments here. I've seen three houses with giant pelican replicas outside of them, and I want one desperately. So if any of you have one by chance and are going to toss it, hold on to it for me. :)

This week has been about the same as last week, but I decided to start writing down things that I could mention so these posts won't be (as) dry. So, rest assured, I have more to talk about. Whether any of it is at all interesting is an ENTIRELY different matter. But here goes:

This week we had dinner with an Armenian family. They have been investigating for a while, and I'm not sure if things will ever start working out, but they love the missionaries and are happy to see us whenever we come. We had an Armenian meal--my favorite part of which was the grilled green peppers, onions, tomatoes, and eggplant. I'd not been a fan of egg plant, but it seems grilling makes everything tasty. :) So that's about as foreign as I'm going to get, it seems like. But it was delicious. We watched the Testaments with them afterwards. They had a lot of questions, so that was awesome. :)

Wednesday and Thursday were a bit tied up with mission business. We had interviews with President Jones and then a "new missionary and trainer" meeting in Osh Kosh for most of Thursday. The church has recently (within the last year) implemented a program called "first twelve weeks". Each new missionary gets a trainer and the two of them go through a program to review and focus on the fundamentals of missionary work. It's pretty awesome, especially because we get an extra hour of companionship study to do it 4/7 days of the week. :) Anyways, the meeting was to follow-up on how that's going. It's crazy to believe I've been here for 3 weeks now--1/4 of my training! We're told to be ready to train new missionaries by the time we finish OUR first twelve weeks. I don't mind training missionaries so much as I'll mind driving in the snow/finding my way around this place... I miss the Utah street/block system. Thank heavens for GPS...

To celebrate month marks, sister Johnson and I go to the nearest Culvers and get kids meals ("scoopie meals") and a free scoop of custard. :) Culvers is a fantastic fast-food joint. I think they may only be in Wisconsin... but I guess a missionary who WENT to Wisconsin opened one up somewheres in Utah, so I challenge each of you to find it and eat there. You can even do it on the 14th of February--which will be my 2 month mark. And you can think to yourselves: "I'm eating in the same fast-food place as Sister Black on the same day that Sister Black is." Haha, or not. Not is fine too.

Another Wisconsin-ite terminology lesson: when you offer someone something, say: "Do you want X or no?" For example, "do you want another biscuit or no?" I'm trying to use it daily.

Sister Johnson caught some manner of bug on Friday, so we were apartment-ridden for Friday and Saturday. Needless to say, I kept myself busy by doing my favorite thing--cleaning the bathroom and kitchen and reading Jesus the Christ. It's funny how much I miss my computer during those slow times. I am constantly wishing I could google something. Funny how I took that for granted... so next time you have some random curiosity like: "How do people make homemade pasta?" and you get to know within the next five minutes, think of me. I need to keep a "to google" list for when I get home...

Last night we had dinner at a member's house--a scrummy beef and potato stew! I love eating at members houses. :) Always excellent fare. The Carlsons have two big dogs-Jackson (who comes up to my waist) and Tucker (who comes up to my hip and lays on the floor like a frog.) Now I really want a big dog. :) Don't remember what the breeds are called, sorry...

Thank you all for the sweet letters and well wishes. :) Each and every letter is a much needed tender mercy. Sorry if I don't get back to you quickly--I keep getting letters two weeks after they are sent (not sure why.)

You're all amazing! Hope things are going well for each one of you.

Pictures include: Zone from conference last week, and the collage poster we have on our bedroom door. I think it's pretty snazzy. :) I need to make one when I get home.

Love you all,

-Sister Black

Wednesday, January 18

#5

Hi all!

Ok, so NOW it's cold. Geeze, I guess I complained a bit too much about the disappointing Wisconsin weather. ;) Needless to say, the air is full of salt-sized crystal pieces of ice that blow relentlessly through my hair, up my coat, and into my face. In a good way! Somehow, having so much snow makes having a warm apartment to return to each night so much lovelier.

This week has been pretty slow, so I don't have much to talk about... it's hard to keep busy this time of year I guess. We have a few progressing investigators, and they are always the highlight of my week! I find myself missing homework on such a regular basis, that I have to wonder what's wrong with me... I just need to dive into the work.

Uhm... yep. I will try harder to have things to actually talk about next week. And, of course, if you have specific questions you can always write me... ;)

We're making honey candy tonight with the Bowrings! We're using a recipe from a book they got when they lived in Blanding. When Sister Bowring turned to the page, I was so excited to see who it was from! Ida Mae Hurst. :) So, needless to say, I'm excited to make honey candy... I haven't tasted any from Grandma Great's recipe in ages!

Love you all! I miss everyone so much!

-Sister Black


Monday, January 9

#4

Hey ya'all. :)

This week I learned my first Wisconsin word. It's "beg". As in, today I bought a new canvas beg or I have a beg of groceries or what have you.

That appears to be all the awesome vocabulary I get to pick up here. Everything else is pretty normal. Still. Awesome.

Well, this week I actually started doing hard-core missionary things. We've taught a few lessons and thanks to Sister Johnson's awesome skills they've been wonderful experiences! Whenever I teach I blabber quite a bit but the idea seems to get through. And Sister Johnson is always ready to pick up the pieces. Haha, but it's lovely. I've already met so many people--it just blows my mind to be in a place where I'm one of the only Mormons in any given building. Happy valley Utah, right?

We've already been working with a few investigators. It's so crazy to just offer up truth to people who have never been able to find it. We were teaching about the Plan of Salvation and about the fall of Adam and Eve to a couple we are working with, and everything made so much more sense to them than it had before. The gospel really is pure and simple. :) I just need to figure out to teach it that way. I'm a little too fond of deep discussion. XP

It's so weird that it's p-day again. So much has happened since last week and yet it feels like nothing has happened at all. Time does flow so quickly! Might have something to do with the fact that every morning we have a very stable routine that takes us all the way to 12:30 or so, and then we just go out and teach until we run out of things to do and it gets too dark to tract. (Stupid winter.)

Speaking of winter, it's up in the 40s! So warm that we're going around without coats today. I met the branch yesterday and everyone kept talking about how lucky we were to still be experiencing such mild weather. Apparently this weekend it will end abruptly. I've got my layers in order, though. We'll be ready. Sister Johnson is from St. George, and she seems a lot more nervous about it. We bought "gators" the other day to cover our faces (so no more clumsy numb mouths.) Pictured below. :) Who WOULDN'T want to hear an important message from a couple of creepers like us? :D

Anyways, there's not much to tell. Everything is so routine! We have zone conference this week, so that should be fun.

We went to Rudolph's Cheese Factory this week for ice cream. There are so many kinds of cheese curd... I think I've died and gone to heaven. :) And chocolate cheese! (Dairy Fudge). There's a picture for you. I love it all.

Also, here's a picture of my badge. Because... yeah, so you can see my badge. And my lizard. Sister Johnson gave him to me. He's good for squeezing and flinging across the room.

-Sister Black






Tuesday, January 3

#3

What-ho?

Guess what? I'm in Wisconsin. 0_o Yep. And it's a happy 12 degrees outside. Cold cold and CRAZY cold. Surprise, right? ;) Yesterday (Monday) I went tracting for the first time and by the third house my face was so numb that when I tried to introduce who we were, I was slurring all over the place. Good times, right?

Everyone here is super friendly... which means basically they're either too nice to tell you to scram or they are very polite while they do so. Still, we managed to catch a few people who said we could come back another time (like... not right after New Years.)

I'm very excited for P-day. Very VERY excited. Even though it's only been the one day I am in need of a break. I know it's only going to get harder, but I will take what I can get when it comes.

I guess I'll backtrack a bit. Saturday I woke up bright and early (3:00) for the ride back to SLC. So 5 elders and I took a van up to the airport. Very uneventful, as was the plane ride. (I still love being on planes though. I'm a bit weird I guess.) We got to Minneapolis for a four hour layover and just chilled/called home. I had a bit of trouble with my phone card so I was only able to get a bit of time in. XP But all good. The rest of the trip was as boring as the first, and we arrived with no difficulty.

Our "entourage" was waiting for us in the Milwaukee airport, and I was so grateful to finally see them. President Jones and Sister Jones were so welcoming and loving! The APs were also there to meet us--an Elder Averett (Mr. Stuart from high school, actually for those of you in my grade! :D) and an Elder Black. (Haha.)

The mission home was lovely as well. We had a lovely dinner and testimony meeting to prepare us for the next day.

Sunday we got up bright and early to biscuits and gravy (made by the Jones' and the APs.) We went in for some training and met our new trainers! My new companion is Sister Johnson. She's awesomely down-to-earth and has been a great blessing to me already. I'm excited to work with her!

After sacrament meeting we drove to my new area--Stevens Point. There are about 150 missionaries in the mission--all strewn across the state. The drive was a little crazy--snow and wind and such. I guess Wisconsin had been as deficient weather-wise as Utah for the last bit. But apparently the usual freeze came with the new transfer. The 3 hour drive went well, and we were able to go meet the senior couple missionaries for Steven's Point--the Bowrings.

After a day of travel and nerves the Bowrings were a tender mercy--they're so crazy and funny about everything. In an area where the church isn't EVERYWHERE (which, as you recall, is all I've ever known) I was feeling a little unhappy but they reminded me of home. They served us a yummy dinner and talked about the mission with us.

Then we drove to the apartment and I got settled in. (Pictures below.) We did some planning for Monday and then settled in for an early kip--much needed, I daresay.

Monday is usually p-day, but this week it was switched around for some... reason... I don't remember... so we got up as per the routine I will follow for the next year and a half. (Crazy!) Then we went out to try and contact some potentials that Sister Johnson had. Then we went out to do the tracting I mentioned before.

Crazy stuff. Crazy cool stuff. We went back to the apartment to warm up a little and I got a chance to look through the Area book and get a better idea of what was up. Then we had an FHE with some of the senior single adults in the branch. We talked about New Years Resolutions. :)

And then today has just been usual p-day-ness. Laundry. Groceries. Etc. I'm very happy to have food now. :0

Sister Johnson said that one of the Elders she knew used to say something profound: "Before my mission, I was a lump of useless clay. Now, after all of the Lord's molding and crafting, I've become something greater.

...

A less-useless lump of clay."

Haha, that's really how it is, isn't it? I guess what's struck me most in the past few days is that changing is hard. And this whole experience is going to be a ton harder than I thought it would be. But the Lord is preparing me each day for what lies ahead. I can only pray that I will have the courage to be prepared. :)

Anyways, that's life so far. I daresay things will get a little less exciting from here on out. ;) But I'm living the dream.

-Sister Black