Thursday, June 25, 2015

Week 17: Last days with Hermana Valenzuela

Hey Family!

Firstoff, I`m really jealous that you all got to be together this week. I`m glad it was a good time, but where are the pictures?? #picsoritdidnthappen

Anyway, this week was good! I feel so emotionally stable it`s awesome. I mean it`s pretty much just normal now, but I guess I didn`t realize I was "not" completely normal until I am again now. It`s still weird because I`m in a different culture/doing completely different stuff with my life, but it`s really all about how you feel anyway. We all know it`s not about what you have or where you are, it`s pretty much just about your core belief system and your adherence to it (which then brings about strong purpose and sense of self.) 

Mission conference: So this week we had a little more than half our our mission get together for a big conference with Elder Gonzalez. Our district leader told us we had to be in Asuncion by 10, so we left pretty early to get there on time. Then, we found out that it didn`t actually start until 12:30, so we just kind of hung out by the temple and got lunch and stuff, which was a good time. So then we all went to the sacrament meeting room of the chapel we were in, and it was PACKED with missionaries. I can`t believe it wasn`t even our whole mission that was there, because there were like 170 missionaries there. Anyway, so then we were just hanging out in there and Elder Gonzalez ended up not getting there until like 2. So then President and his wife spoke, followed by Hermana Gonzalez followed by her husband. All in all, that took like three hours, and we were all sort of losing our attention spans and were super tired of sitting. So he goes to conclude his remarks (we think), and he`s like "Ok, we`ll take a 10 minute break for our half-way point of the conference." Omheck. But overall it was good, and I understood most of it, so that was chill. So we didn`t get back until like 9pm, so that was our whole day on Wednesday. Oh, and side note, I was asked to conduct the music, which is like NBD, except for it was actually kind of scary standing in front of so many people seeing them all watching me. 

#thecommoncold: So Hermana Valenzuela got pretty sick at the end of the week with a cold, which has actually been kind of funny (it`s a bummer too, of course), because she like never gets sick and said she literally doesn`t even remember having a cold like this. And I`m loling all over the place, because I feel like I`ve just had a lot of colds in my life and know how to deal. But she`s just like "What are these feelings I`m feeling? My nose is stuffy and my head feels all clouded." Hahaha, so I`ve been trying to nurse her back to health. It was pretty cold this week for a few days, though, so we ended up staying in for most of the weekend because she wasn`t feeling well enough to go out. Which I respect, because legitimately she is the one who has to do most of the teaching. But she`s doing a little better today, which is good because she has her final interview with President. Crayzee.

Well TBH, that`s most of what happened this week. It was pretty chill on account of the conference/the sickness. In way of sad news, we had four fechas of investigators fall this week because they didn`t attend church. Sadz. It`s really hard to balance working with/encouraging people vs supporting them so much that they don`t do anything without us. 

This coming week is going to be nuts. We`ve pre-dubbed it GLORY WEEK. It`s my comp's last week, so for sure it has to be hecka special. And, in the most exciting news of all, we might be moving! The lady who owns our dispensa ALSO owns a house a few doors down that is a HECKA UPGRADE! I know this might not sound like that big of a deal to you, but trust me, it is. It`s like a freaking mansion compared to the not-house we are living in now. It has a kitchen with a sink! And windows! Also, ROOF ACCESS. Omheck, I`m low key stoked. Also, we`ll probably get pizza at some point during the week (Hna. V`s favorite food), and also maybe make a cake or something. It`s definitely the little things that bring me joy these days. Plus, she has to say all her goodbyes to the people here and pack all her stuff (except for actually it`s just repack, because she`s been packed for a while #lolz #literallydefinitionoftrunky). So yeah, all that and more coming next week. 

Well, I love you so much! Glad the fam is doing well and that there`s exciting stuff going on at home. Representing #rossisboss best I can down here in the dirty PY. Enjoy your summer, because it`s the equivalent of the end of December here. 

Hermana Ross

p.s. I`ve been thinking a lot about repentance especially in light of the mission and all the ways that I`m legitimately not the perfect missionary. And I was re-reading a BYU Devo I have, and was also already reading in the scriptures, and in both places I was reading about how regardless of what we do or how far off the path we may be, "His hand is stretched out still." (Isaiah 5:25; 9:17, 21). I was reading it I think in 2 Nephi too (quoted from Isaiah), and all the people are not even just sinning a little (like wasting language study time), but are super, super unrighteous and wicked, but this promise is extended to them in those circumstances. And in the talk I have, Jeffrey R. Holland says "To all of you who think you are lost or without hope, or who think you have done too much that was too wrong for too long, to every one of you who worry that you are stranded somewhere on the wintry plains of life and have wrecked your handcart in the process, this conference calls our Jehovah`s unrelenting refrain, "My hand is stretched out still." Anyway, I know all of this is well-known doctrine, but it`s just something that`s been more internalized for me the past few weeks. It`s just really nice, ya know? It`s funny that I never appreciated the promises of the atonement more before. I guess I just didn`t know how to and now life has prepared the space for the answers I was praying for. 

Pre Conference Lunch

Hanging out at the Temple

Hermana Valenzuela's exit interview questionaire

Winter time cold season hits Hermana Valenzuela

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mish Week 16


Well, this week was really good. Honestly. I really feel like I`m adjusting well these days. It`s a huge blessing. I wish I could email throughout the week, because then you could get the day by day vs the summary at the end of the week. I feel like on p-days I`m always just stressing a little and it clouds over my emotion from the week that was actually very positive. I`m in a pretty solid mood right now too though #streamofconsciousness #cantstop #wontstop

Dalma y Lucy y Hector: So, last week I mentioned to you that Dalma and Lucy (the hijas de Joel y Lucia) are now taking the discussions. Well, turns out that Dalma also has a boyfriend named Hector that is actually TOO PREPARED, and he was asking way deep questions and actually seemed pretty smart (relatively speaking). So we taught all of them together and Joel joined and it was just really good. Unfortunately, it rained hecka hard yesterday aka attendance at church was really bad, SO we had to change their fechas (which sucks, because it was going to be on my birthday, if you remember. But whatevs, I guess it`s not about me anyway... lolz.) But anyway, things are going well there and it`s just such a miracle. We`re visiting with them again tomorrow so look forward to a sweet missionary-status update next week. I honestly wish I could describe things better, because I know it pretty much just sounds like "missionary writing about investigators," but what can ya do? 

Paraguayan culture: So it`s been brought to my attention (by myself) that I could do better with loving the culture of Paraguay. Even as I write this I can think of several things I`d like to say that could be improved. BUT, I decided that I need to really, really focus on the things I do like so that I can love the people more. Firstly, I really do appreciate how tranquilo everyone is here. While it sometimes translates into negative actions (such as being lazy, not taking action, etc.), it also has a positive side that results in general acceptance, general laid-backness, being mas o menos chill and open, etc. I really am blessed to be in such a mission where we always have tons of people to visit and things to do and finding opportunities #thefieldiswhite. But really. In general people will accept us, and almost always they believe in God. That`s super awesome. That really is something I appreciate about Paraguay. People just have faith. Even if they don`t understand why sometimes (or even act accordingly in the way they should), they are still willing and open and try their best to make God a part of their lives. It`s chill. 

Also, other "less important" aspect of the culture, which I actually appreciate GREATLY is that everyone here blasts music all the time. People will literally live in a one room hut on a dirt floor with one bed for the whole family, and they somehow manage to afford some pretty swanky stereo sets. Like, definitely nicer than the ones most people have in the states. I`m talking legit DJ status speakers. How can they even afford those? But anyway, I`m for sure not complaining because they always play music super loud and it`s a good time. As we walk around all day we just get to hear tons of music and it makes me really happy. A decent amount of it is Polka Paraguaya, which is usually in Guarani and not really anything I would ever listen to in real life. BUT, you know me, and I`m all about loud music. So I love it anyway. And sometimes it`s just normal Spanish music, which is better. They also play a lot of music from the states, which is prime. They freaking love Ariana Grande and Ellie Goulding and Iggy Azalea. The dispensa across the street from where we live must have played "Love me like you do" more than 200 times in the past two month... Anyway, so that`s for sure something I appreciate about the culture #taylorswift4lyfe

Food: So I keep forgetting to tell you what I eat here and Rachel`s asked me like three times now, so... Anyway, for the most part it`s been 100x better than I had ever hoped. I`ve been really, really blessed. I was so worried about it beforehand, and thus far it hasn`t relaly been a problem. In the morning I just eat cereal (mostly Froot Loops. Side note, I just figured out as recently as last change that you spell Froot Loops like that) or I make crepes with dulce de leche RIP Nutella. Then for lunch we usually have appointments with members or investigators and they make us meat with rice or noodles. So essentially I just eat rice/noodles. Food here is really, really average and mostly not super delicious. Hermana Valenzuela actually hates it, which is really funny. She`s pretty passionate about it... So yeah. And then for dinner we pretty much si o si eat quesadillas. I think I`m actually becoming addicted to them because of how much I just always, always feel like eating one. They are so delicious though, honestly. And it`s a blessing that my comp and I are just on the same page about them, because we always just look at each other and are like "you want a quesadilla?" "yup, sure do." Sad note is that it`s really hard to eat anything healthy here (not that I did before, per se), because they are seriously lacking in the fruit and vegetable departments. They have some natural fruits and stuff, but other than that nothing really. But I`m for sure getting calcium and protein, so that`s chill. 

Rain: So I just feel the need to quickly comment that whoever said that I wouldn`t need rainboots in ¨Paraguay was a dirty liar, because I sure do. I am so grateful I brought a pair, and if anything I wish I had another one. I would have had pique 1,000x (NO LIE) if I didn`t have them. We are walking in straight water and mud that would goes up to my calf every time it rains even a little (they don`t have good drainage systems here), so it`s a dang good thing I brought them, Mom. 

Typical apartment happenings: So this actually happened last week, but I forgot to mention it. So it`s nighttime and I got to open the front door to make sure the gate thing is locked and this HUGE spider crawls OVER MY FOOT (I was wearing flip flops) and then proceeds to crawl super lighting speed across the floor and hide behind our desk. And I was freaking out because of the sensation of it being on my foot, ya know, and Hna. Valenzuela is freaking out too because there had been a tarantula in the apartment before, and it looked like this one was too. Well, turns out it wasn`t quite a tarantula, but it was definitely EXTREMELY big and terrifying and we found and killed it and were stressing out She`s the Man status. lolololol. 

So those are the general happenings of the week and things are good. My comp is definitely reaching the end here, and she`s feeling it #17days. I can`t believe she`s going to leave and I have to serve the rest of my mission without her #breakupstatus. It`s for sure going to be an adjustment no matter which way it goes. It`s never a good time to do a hard thing, but I feel like I`m as prepared as I can be at this point. I`ve also been trying to continue working on taking things day at a time, not thinking about the end of the mission, and focusing on charity. All of those things went pretty well this week, so hopefully I can keep up momentum #workhardplayhard #ahustlersworkisneverthrough 

Keep it super real in the US of A and appreciate the little things that such an organized culture provides, because I sure do. Hindsight is 20/20. 

Love you!!
Hermana Ross

p.s. This is from a talk about patience by Neal A. Maxwell. I really liked what he said here and I felt that it really applied to my efforts in trying to appreciate the mission for what it is in the moment instead of wishing I was a year into the future already having had all the experiences that await me. If I really have faith, I have to prove it to myself and to Heavenly Father by chilling out and really trusting Him. 

"Patience is a willingness, in a sense, to watch the unfolding purposes of God with a sense of wonder and awe, rather than pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstance. Put another way, too much anxious opening of the oven door and the cake falls instead of rising. So it is with us. If we are always selfishly taking our temperature to see if we are happy, we will not be."

Hermana Valenzuela's drawing of Holly

Fun times ironing dollar bills

Bed Jumping Good Times: Enlarged for added effect!

Enjoying a shake they invented

Talking on the phone in creative ways

Monday, June 8, 2015

Week 15

Hey family <3

Well, I gotta start this email with a disclaimer. I`m super, super tired. I feel like I`m always saying something like that, but it`s true. Today we went shopping in San Lorenzo (a city not too far from where we live) and honestly it was exhausting. It is so hot today, and where we went it was just liked this PACKED market-type place and we went up and down looking at a bunch of not-even-that-cool junky stuff. It`s hard to find stuff of any quality here. So in theory it was a fun idea, but it just resulted in me getting minor heat exhaustion and being hecka tired. 

This week was pretty solid. It went by at a relatively normal pace and I was pretty happy for most of the time. Nothing crazy went down, so I`ll just hit the minor highlights.

Hna. Valenzuela`s birthday!: SO Hna. V turned 22 this week! So that was exciting! TBH, as a missionary it`s really hard to do anything for your comp's birthday. Surprises are pretty much out of the picture on account of she literally knows everything I do. But she also loves birthdays a lot, so I tried to do what I could (which ended up just being writing a letter and decorating. Kind of on the tranquilo side, but what can you do?) It was on Thursday night though, which is when we have English classes, so I had told the Elders without her knowing and told them to bring a cake or something. Which they did, and it was so precious. Anahi is a really good area. And English class went super well and we had the biggest turn out we`d ever had, so it was really fun.

Spanish: So mostly it`s just a test of endurance at this point. I`m kind of over it, but I obviously can`t be since I LITERALLY have to learn it in order to be able to function in this society. I have been praying to love it more, but it`s been semi ineffective at this point (like I said, test of endurance). I feel really lucky though, because I feel like God is kind of sparing me this trial right now (which is really, really nice). So it started with the adjustment to living in a third-world country, and I feel like when Hermana Valenzuela goes home it will be onto other things (like the language, etc.) But in the meantime I try so, so hard not to let it get me down. People here think it`s so funny to talk about how I don`t know Spanish. It`s like a joke made at least several times a week in very public settings. And I literally, literally have to just smile and laugh (even though it`s not funny and it makes me low key depressed.) Like do they think I don`t want to know Spanish? Or that I`m here for a fun vacation? #angst. But whatever, like I said, trial of patience, nothing more (AND NOTHING LESS). 

Zone conference: So this past Friday we had zone conference and it was also interviews with President. When I met with him I mostly talked to him about how I am trying to love the mission more and really, really leave the "surviving stage." It`s a struggle. And I talked about how I feel like time is going SO slowly and that I feel like I`m just barely moving forward at all. And then he told me that when we feel like time is going slowly, it`s because we are thinking about the end (and he then told me to stop doing that...) Which honestly is somewhat obvious, but good advice. It`s true, I think about the end a lot more than I should. In my defense, it`s really hard with my companion going home in less than a month. But anyway, I am aware that I need to focus more on the moment. It`s kind of always been in my personality to look more towards the future though, ya know? #workingonit. Also, he said that the best way to love the mission is to love the people. Which again, I have heard a million times. But I just recomitted to really, really working on that. Because I know that it`s true. And it`s not that I don`t love the people, per se, but I could be doing better. Also, it`s hard when honestly there`s not a ton I like about the culture here. But these are all just things to work on, and I know God purposely calls the weak and unqualified. I am going to make more conscious efforts to pray and fast for charity though, because I really do feel like that`s a huge key to loving the mission/doing well.

D and L: In other news, we were able to teach a lesson to the daughters of J and L (our recent converts), and they agreed to a baptismal date of July 3rd (my birthday, yo!) I can`t really express to you how big of news this is, but it`s for sure a tiny miracle. They were the ones we practically dragged to Meet the Mormons with us, and they are just really typical and teenager-y and were just not having it. But I was talking with my comp about them, and I was like "have they ever even been really talked to by the missionaries? I mean I know both of their parents are baptized, but we`ve never talked to them since I`ve been here, and I feel like we really should. How embarrassing would it be for us if in like 10 years someone asked them about the mormons and they were like "Oh yeah, my parents are LDS and the missionaries were at our house all the time, but they never really talked to us and we don`t know what they believe."" It would be really, really bad on our part. So anyway, we went and taught them and it was just really good. Sorry I can`t explain the situation better, but it was for sure inspired. 

So that`s the gist of what went down this week, even though really there was SO MUCH MORE and I would need hours to tell you about all of it. It`s just nuts how different my life is here. Really, really different. 

Love you!!!!!!! Thanks for the support. 

Hermana Ross
Hermana Valenzuela turns 22 

The whole district in Anahi celebrating the big 22 for Hermana Valenzuela
La Familia N

Monday, June 1, 2015

Week 14


What`s up? TBH, I don`t have a whole ton to say this week. I can see where all of missionary life just kind of blends together into a never ending span of time that has no beginning and no end.

Baptisms: SO the biggest thing that happened this week is that we had two baptisms on Saturday. One was of Joel, our investigator who is SO sweet and was SO ready to get baptized. The other was of an eight year old girl named Kimberly Nicoll in our ward who is from a menos activa family, but the dad is an RM and such. Technically the family is supposed to be in charge of her baptism, but they pretty much just had us as the missionaries do everything on account of people in Paraguay don`t really know how to do work/make stuff happen. Anyway, so her baptism is supposed to start at 3, but the bishop was like two hours late and there were like twenty people waiting and it was just REALLY bad PR. I would go into more detail, but it would end up just being me complaining at how unorganized everything is here. So I`ll just sum it up and say it was quite frustrating and my comp was maybe even more frustrated than me, so it was a high key unfortunate situation. Then in the evening it was Joel`s baptism, which went much more smoothly, but I was already in kind of a weird mood, so that was a bummer. But it was sweet and everything worked out in the end.

Lessons from the mish: So I continue to learn lots of lessons pretty consistently from being here. There are just so many and I try to write them down when I think about them, so I have a running list. I forgot my list at home today, but it`s pretty solid. One of the biggest things I`ve learned so far is that I am learning to do things I`m not "ready for." I am naturally predisposed to be a cautious person, and so I feel like my whole life I`ve always tried to take opportunities as they come up, but have also tried to "prepare" for them super thoroughly. I don`t really like to put myself in situations where I`m going to be on the spot/unprepared (who does, amirite?), but I always kind of viewed it as a limitation in my life because I just lived with more fear/anxiety than I needed to. Since being here I`ve literally had to do 1,000,000 uncomfortable things (every day), and I can pretty much never anticipate them. And of course with Spanish, I always sound like an idiot and can pretty much not plan in what situations I`m going to have to speak in/what I`m going to have to say. Even just the other day I had to talk to our district leader on the phone and I was like freaking out. Which is dumb, because he`s nice and there was literally like 0 pressure, but I just feel so stupid when I can`t understand what people are saying/can`t think of how to respond, etc. But anyway, because I have to do so many uncomfortable things here/without planning ahead, I really feel like I`m gaining that as a life skill. I sort of feel like I am going to be able to go back and do anything (mas o menos) without worrying about it too much beforehand. It`s just kind of what the mission forces you to do. Anyway, I don`t know if this makes perfect sense, but I just feel more ready to do stuff I`m not ready for #marriageprep #lifeprep. 

Losing myself: So something I was talking to Hermana Valenzuela about this week is just the continuing feeling I have that I have no personality and don`t even remember what it`s like to be in a situation where I can be myself/when people like me. It`s not that people don`t like me here, per se, but just that no one knows me because I can`t speak their language, and then even with other missionaries that speak English I feel like I just forgot how to be sociable and cool. And I was expressing all of this to her and saying that I just don`t even remember what it`s like to "feel cool" or even super useful as a person. And then she said that the exact same thing happened to her the first few months of her mission, and she felt like she just was a totally different/more boring person and just kind of lost herself. And THEN, she said over time and continued effort in missionary work, she eventually found herself again. And she felt like she was awake for the first time in her life, and that before the mission she`d just been asleep and now she finally knew who she was/what the gospel was. And the way she said it all of it just finally connected in my mind with the whole gospel concept that you have to lose yourself in order to find yourself. DUH. And I`m in the "losing myself" stage, but I really believe that eventually I will come through on the other side with increased gospel knowledge/life skills. It`s kind of hard to write about spiritual/mental breakthroughs in such a short amount of time, but I hope you get the gist of what I`m saying. So anyway, I`m not past this trial yet, but I`m working through it and really believe that it will all work out in God`s timing. (I think the scripture I`m specifically thinking of is in Matthew, but I found another one in Luke 9:24 that says "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.)

I love you all so much!!! I hope you have a great week and also Mom/Colin have 2 much fun in Hawaii. Imagine the weather there but like level x10 more humid and you have me in Paraguay. Good news is it`s starting to get closer to winter here, so it`s not actually cold, but it`s getting less hot. And there have been a few days that are rainy/chilly, so that`s cool #pray4Holly

Keep it real, 

Hermana Ross
Baptism of Kimberly Nicoll

Baptism of Joel

Baptism of Kimberly Nicoll

Jessica Martinez

Trees and Flowers