Wednesday, September 25, 2013

#3 Mexico City MTC

 Today has been such a good day! I accidentally slept in til 6.45, we went to breakfast, did all our laundry, then at 9:15 we went to the tennis and basketball courts and played games with our district until lunch basically. I don´t really have a logical flow of ideas here, so I´m just going to start writing.

One thing I left out of last weeks email was that I have been sick (what else is new, right?). One of the hermanas en mi casa was getting over a cold, so I figured I caught it from her. So I had a bit of a nasty cold, which was then mixed with minimal sleep. Thursday was miserable. I wanted to stay in class though because I didn´t want to fall behind, and we had an appointment with a new fake investigator, Iván. Iván, by the way, is my favorite person ever, but more on him later. During our appointment with Iván, I could barely think or hear and I couldn´t stop coughing. It just wasn´t great and Hermana Fox basically had to teach most of the lesson. So  afterwards I asked if anyone had consecrated oil and if anyone would be willing to give me a blessing. All the elderes were so willing and excited to do so. Everyone studied how to give a blessing in the missionary handbook, and I´m sure it was the first time for a lot of them. So I received a blessing, and all of the elderes in my distrito, plus one that was transferred out of my district the first week,participated, so there were nine elderes in all. I had such a feeling of peace, because I had been so worried that I would be sick forever and never get better unless I took a day off and slept it off. I really didn´t want to do that, so many hermanas and elders have had to stay in bed all day. During the blessing, a district across the hall started singing "Señor, Te Necesito" which sounds about a million times more beautiful in Spanish. It was just a really sweet experience to receive that blessing and to know that the priesthood of God is on the earth today, and is held by teenage boys who are willing and worthy to exercise it in my behalf.
I woke up the next day and while I was still sick, it felt like the final few days of a cold, whereas usually I am in a cloud and completely worthless for a week or more. I didn´t have a voice for about 2.5 days, but that didn´t stop me from participating in all my classes and on three disastrous occasions, I attempted singing.  My teachers were so sweet though! Hermana Martinez has been teaching less and less, and more and more often Hermano Sanchez is taking over. Hermano Sanchez is about 21, and then there´s Hermano Rangel. Everyday, first in the morning by Hermano Sanchez then after dinner with Hermano Rangel, they ask me how I feel, if I need medicine, if there´s anything they can do, etc. Hermano Sanchez also teaches primarily in español, and has only been teaching about a month. He´s so nice and he´s so grateful when we help him learn a little bit more English. Iván, our investigator, is also our teacher at night, Hermano Rangel, and I have never seen someone smile so much or express love so much. As an investigator, he gives great responses to our questions and he helps us when we struggle with conjugations or pronunciations of words, which is so much better than just hearing "no entiendo" all the time. As a teacher, he is always making us laugh, and he teaches us a ton though his lessons but also through him just being who he is. In the mornings with Hermano Sanchez we work primarily on language and then just a little teaching, and with Hermano Rangel it´s mostly teaching with a little language (still, always in Spanish though). Hermano Rangel is always smiling and when we leave the classroom at 9:30, Hermano Rangel says "Smile at eberyhuan. You shood smile at eberyhuan because you have the Gowspel! Buenas noches, I love you all!" He tells us periodically during his lessons that the loves us as well. I have never met nicer people than my teachers here.

Lately I´ve been getting frustrated because I haven´t been able to say when I want in Spanish, and when I´m frustrated I usually end up with a really red face and I look like I´m about to burst into tears. Whenever this happens (which has been more often than I would like), Hermano Sanchez comes over and talks to me in his broken English and tells me that he believes in me, and that even with my pathetic Spanish, I can teach with the Spirit. Usually the encouragement he gives makes me actually cry juuuust a teensy bit too, but I really love learning and teaching. I don´t know why I let myself get so frustrated, because my Spanish is probably better than most the people in my class, but I guess I´m just not used to doing something that I´m not naturally good at. I can, however, read and understand Spanish pretty well. I can ready Predicad Mi Evangelio and know 99% of the words and I only have to look something up every couple paragraphs. Hermano Sanchez & Hermano Rangel have both heard me translate out loud and have told me that I can translate spanish very well, I just can´t figure out how to say what I want back. But it will come, and I am working on not getting so frustrated.

We have another fake investigator, Mia. Mia is Hermana Martinez. We have only met with her once, and it was difficult, because Mia doesn´t believe that God loves her because of a really sad backstory (it´s worth noting that all of our fake investigators take on the characters of people close to them, usually investigators they taught on their missions or possibly their own pre-conversion selves). When we first met with "Mia," and she was explaining how she felt about God and churches, Hermana Martinez/Mia cried telling her feelings, so of course I cried too (I´ve been doing that a lot lately....). We don´t teach her again until tomorrow, but I´m still trying to figure out exactly how you teach someone like that.
Sundays are always great. They are the longest days ever, but they are so full of good things. Hermana Pratt is doing a two-week lecture on faith for Relief Society, and I just love having her as a teacher. She is amazing. We watched a devotional that Elder Scott gave at the Provo MTC, and then at night we always watch a church video. This week we watched the story of the Tanner dude with the bad leg who was healed and then gave all that money to the church and ahhh I love that story, and then we watched the old "To This End Was I Born" video. We also have branch meetings, sacrament meeting, study times, and class with the CCM Presidency. Presidente Pratt taught about the priesthood and of course I loved it, especially because of my recent priesthood experience. I am really enjoying all of my time in the CCM, and I´m kind of sad that I´m already halfway done! 

Oh yeah! Yesterday, Hermano Sanchez and Hermana Martinez made us teach with one of the latino districts. Walking up to them was so intimidating, because most of them knew barely any English, and we hardly know Spanish, but they were so sweet. For some reason, there were like four people watching me and Hermana Fox when all of the other groups had maybe one person watching them, but whenever we would struggle with a word or say something that made no sense, everyone would smile encouragingly at us. It was so intimidating, but they were all so sweet.

My camera has randomly stopped working. It says lens error every time I turn it on, so I only have one picture to send today. It has no reason to be trippin either, I have treated that camera like a human baby. Hopefully it will snap out of it because I have a million pictures I want to take!
So, one of the weirdest things about Mexico City is that it will be a beautiful warm day, then you read a page of your book and you look out the window and it´s dark and it is dumping buckets of rain. Me and Hermana Fox got caught in one such torrential downpour yesterday. We had gym time, then we go straight to our weekly service project (this week and last week we´ve just been washing the rags used to clean the windows in the comedor), but on the way home it started raining the harder than I´ve ever seen it rain before (however, the record was broken later on that night when things got really crazy...). I don´t know if you can see how wet we are in the picture, but we were running home in the rain and still got ridiculously soaked. I wish I could go outside and play in it! The roadways turn into rivers and we hermanas just take off our shoes because the water comes up to our ankles, even on parts of the sidewalks. The grounds of the CCM are really uneven because the ground sinks so much every year and there are lots of earthquakes, so there are huge puddles in the middle of walkways where the ground has sunk in. It´s also weird that even when it hasn´t rained all day, the ground is still just thick, saturated mud. I love it here though, and I love the random rain. I have learned to bring my umbrella everywhere, even if I don´t see a single cloud in the sky, because that is usually when it´s going to come down the hardest. Last night it hailed for a couple seconds and even with my umbrella, my skirt became soaked through and my shoes are still wet, even though I was carrying them in my hands. Every night and early in the morning, we also hear cannons. At least they sound like cannons, we don´t really know what they are or where they come from, but they are loud! Mexico City is so loud! We still hear fireworks occasionally at night too.

Last night, at the beginning of Tuesday Devotional (we watched a DVD of a devotional Elder Bednar gave at the Provo MTC), President Pratt announced the songs and oraciónes etc. and then said "After devotional I need to see Hermana Natalie Rust in my office." Everyone in my district just turned and looked at me and I had no idea what it was about. My first thought was that I had accidently broken some rule, but then when Elder Hendricks said it was probably bad news, my immediate thought was that Grandpa Skousen died. When I met with President Pratt, he welcomed me into his office, had me sit down, and then told me what you had emailed to him. I told him that I had a feeling before I left that he was going to die while I was on my mission, so I had made sure to tell him that I loved him and to talk to him a bit. I was having a decent cry, and he told me to stay in  his office as long as I wanted and to let him know if I needed anything, but I told him that staying there wouldn´t do me or anyone else any good, and that I would cry tonight but that I will be just fine, and that my district was having a meeting so I needed to go. He told me I was strong, and that he knew I wouldn´t let this slow me down. There´s no way I would let it either, because there´s no reason. I know where Grandpa is, and what he´s doing and that he´s with Brett, and I know everyone at home will be just fine. I did write some things in my journal, and it´s probably the same things that everyone else has said.
One of my favorite things about Grandpa is simply how he says hello and goodbye. He always greets me with a "Well hello princess!" or "How are you doing, angel?" and there´s usually a "You just get prettier everyday" thrown in there. After I got my mission call, princess and angel were replaced with "Natalie" or "Hermana" or my personal favorite, "Querida." He always made me feel special, and he always let me know how much he loved me. He´s so full of love, and I love that he always made sure his family knew he loved them, the temple, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You know that those are the things most important to him, and I want to make sure that everyone always knows that family, the temple, and the Gospel are important to me.

Another thing I thought of was 2 Nefi 32.3. "Ángeles hablan por el poder del Espiritu Santo" y ahora tengo un ángel que habla español. I know that Grandpa will be helping me, and I have already felt his love. I know that he is so happy with where I am, in a country he loves, learning to speak the language he loves, so I can teach others the gospel that he loves. Don´t you think that Grandpa probably had a huge welcoming party of people just waiting to thank him for all the ordinances he did in the temple? And I love to think about his and Uncle Brett´s reunion. El Plan de Salvación is real, it is God´s plan for us, and Grandpa is just continuing the work on the other side. I can´t wait to give him a big hug later and have him call me Princess or Querida and tell me that I´ve gotten even prettier.
Make sure Grandma knows I love her, tell everyone when you see them on Saturday that I love them too.
Hermana Rust

P.S. Have Alexa write me a letter! Holly, add Brooke on snapchat brookie_palookie and tell her to write me too! They promised, and I want mail!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hermana Cefalo, mi compañera Hermana Fox, Hermana Rust (hey that´s me!) and Hermana Chalmers this morning at the temple. There´s a huge fountain in front of the temple and we´re standing in front of it.

Missionaries going to Ecuador Guayaquile Norte that were at the Georgia airport. More missionaries going to my mission showed up later, but these are the ones I got pictures with.

 My y Hermana Fox at the temple. 

 This was lunch today. Oreo cheesecake holla! Did I mention that there´s Nutella at every meal and you slather it on not with a knife, but with a spatula!? Tell Alexa that, she´ll be happy for me.

Me and a stone head that´s in some random spot. 

 The Mexican president does a grito (?) where he says ¡Viva (fill in name of one of the starters of the rebellion)! And everyone shouts ¡VIVA! It´s a very solemn occasion, and we watched it on the news together at 11 o clock Sunday night. This is some of the hermanas that live in our casa, they are our best friends.  Me, Hermana Fox, Hermana Eastman, Hermana White, Hermana Chalmers, y Hermana Cefalo.

In front of the Mexico City temple, this is my district. Elder Baggs & Elder Christensen (our awesome district leader), Elder Scott, Elder Magnessun(Chile Antiwhatever),   Elder Reynolds, Hermana Chalmers, Hermana Cefalo, Hermana Fox, me, Elder Nelson, Elder Hendricks, y Elder Kemp.  Everyone´s from Utah except for me and Elder Scott.

 This is all the hermanas I share a room with on our first real day, the 11th.

#2 CCM Mexico City

My P day wasn´t until today! So here goes!
Once we got here we were assigned our companions and sent to our casas. There are four girls to each room, and 4 rooms in each casa. Each room gets their own bathroom. All the girls are in my district. My companion is Hermana Fox, and I simply adore her. She´s quiet, and very focused which is wonderful. She attended the Air Force academy before this, so she´s diligent about working out which motivates me to get my physical activity in every day. She´s also randomly hilarious. I just love her so much, I´m glad we´ll be in the same mission! She´s 20, and a few months older than me. Other than her, I´m the oldest in the district! The Elders are all 18 or 19! The other hermanas in my room are Hermana Chalmers and Hermana Cefalo. All of the girls are from Utah haha. Hermana Chalmers looks like a ginger Noelle, so I know what N&E´s first daughter will look like. She has Noelle´s looks and Shayna & Tessa´s humor, so I adore her. She really is so much fun. She´s going to Chile Concepcion Sur! That´s Travis´mission, right? Most of my district is going to that mission, except 3 elderes are going to Antofagosta (look up the spelling on that, I probably massacred it). Then there´s Hermana Cefalo. She just turned 19, so she´s very young. She´s going to California. We all have a lot of fun together, and I love the other hermanas in our casa.
I arrived Tuesday night, which was nice because we had the night to settle in before we jumped into classes and what not. Wednesday started bright and early at 630, and we were out the door for breakfast by 7. Everything is so fast paced, there is literally no time to just sit and think for 2 minutes, not even on PDay. On Tuesday we had a welcome meeting with Presidente Pratt. He grew up in Monterrey, but didn´t know Grandpa specifically, but he knew of the Skousens. He´s a cute, funny little old man, but he´s very serious about the rules, which I´m a big fan of. The first meeting, I volunteered to lead us in singing Llamado a Servir. THE FOOD HERE IS THE BEST. Because the Mexican Independence day was that week, we had real Mexican food and I loved it. I feel so bad for the missionaries that are too scared to try anything unfamiliar because they are missing out big time. I have to try a little of everything because I never know exactly what will be at the next meal, and I make sure my plate is completely clean. So much perfectly good food goes to waste here. The first day in class, they brought two real (? maybe) investigators to be interviewed by the whole district. We learned about how the Savior asked questions and let those he taught ponder them and think for themselves. Even on the first day, I was surprised at how much Spanish I knew. I could pray in Spanish by the end of the day!
We spend most of our time in the class room. My teacher is a tiny little Mexicana RM and she´s hilarious. She refuses to speak in English to us most of the time, which was frustrating but now I see how much it has helped us. Her name is Hermana Martinez and she has told me twice that I am pretty, so I definitely like her.
On the 13th, we had our first ïnvestigator lesson. I can´t figure out how to put quotes around investigator with this Spanish keyboard, but he´s not a real investigator, he teaches the class of some of my hermana friends. But we had our first investigator lesson, and the fake investigators are not to speak in or understand English for the entire time we are in there. We´d only been there for three days! But I was able to communicate that God blesses families, and that we can pray to Heavenly Father, and me y Hermana Fox explained a bit about El Libro De Mormon and he accepted the invitation to read it. We didn´t do great, but it was incredible considering that 80% of the words I had spoken I had only learned that day. It was kinda fun! Once the lesson got going, I felt a lot calmer and I was able to think of the words I wanted to say. So, while it wasn´t great, I am proud of myself because doing this was out of my comfort zone in every. way. possible. I wrote in my journal that I can hardly believe how much I have progressed in general after only 3 days.
September 14th was a great day. We played games with my district (I really love our Elderes) during language study and it was nice to not just be sitting at a desk all day. During gym time, we were all just sitting in the bicicle and ellyptical room because the ground outside was soaked and squishy, and I suggested we sing a song, so all the hermanas in the room sang Disney songs together and we had a lot of fun. Then, we had an assembly type presentation we called Mexico Night in honor of the Mexican Independence day. That was the coolest experience ever! It was so cool to see how all the Mexicans were so proud of their country. They showed pictures of the people that led the rebellion, and they would cheer when they came on the screen. We don´t cheer when we see George Washington! But the entire gym exploded each time. They had a ballet folklorico (I have no idea how to spell that) and it was so fun! We stood and sang Llamados a Servir for the opening song, and it was the first time the entire CCM has sung it together. I cried. At the end of the dancers, they stood in the middle of the stage and started singing We´ll Bring the World His Truth in Spanish and all the missionaries that knew it in Spanish joined in. I sang along in English just because I wanted to be a part of it. Everyone was crying. I loved it. It just hit me all at once how lucky and blessed I am to have the calling to be a full time missionary. Singing is definitely my favorite part so far. No one can sing quite like the missionaries here, and everything sounds better in Spanish. I bought myself a Spanish hymn book as soon as I could. The hymns bring the Spirit so fast and so strong, even though I can only understand some of the phrases.
Then came Sunday. When we first arrived, everyone said you just have to make it to the first Sunday. I didn´t really understand that, because I really loved my first week. But Sunday was AMAZING. We had Relief Society first, and we have it with all the native English speakers, and Hermana Pratt, the CCM president´s wife teaches. She is right up there tied with Hermana Bolton for the best teacher I´ve ever had. She compared Adam and Eve´s experience of being cast out of the comfort of the Garden of Eden to tarry in the dreary world to our experience of being cast from our comfortable homes into the CCM, and how we know we have to work but we´re not sure how. Eventually, the CCM will be our Garden of Eden and we´ll be cast out of here as well, because the Lord doesn´t let us stay in the Garden of Eden for long, because there´s no progression. She said all of this a lot better trust me.
Sacramant meeting was different, because it´s only a dozen or so companionship's to a branch. Pace Maughan is in my ward, and the branch president, President Pratt, is related to Arlene Waite and a Kathleen Whetton from Moapa Valley. Small world. Every missionary prepares a talk, and then they just announce which missionaries will be giving their talks. It is supposed to be all in Spanish, but some missionaries filled in English words where they weren´t sure. I did not get called on, thank goodness, BUT I did get called on to say the closing prayer. He just announced my name right before the closing hymn. I get nervous enough praying in English in sacrament meeting, so this was another totally out of my comfort zone experience. But I did it, and it made sense, and I am proud of myself! Sundays we also have a devotional, which is apparently usually just a DVD of one of the Provo MTC´s devotionals. We listened to an Elder Holland devotional which got me pumped of for missionary work even more.
The next day, we had our second lesson with our fake investigator, Carlos. I was really proud of myself, because I spoke only in Spanish and we didn´t have awkward pauses and we took up 35 minutes of time. I felt really good after. Then Tuesday happened. Yesterday was... difficult. We had taught the entire first lesson, because the first appointment was mostly just a getting to know you type dealio. So we taught the Restoration, and I had learned a ton of vocabulary and different verb tenses, and I was truly proud of all my efforts because I put everything I had into learning that lesson. Tuesday morning in class, Hermana Martinez read us his comments. He said congratulations on trying.  But some good came of this experience,  And the Lord has brought me low, so I guess I´m ready to be taught. 
Today, PDay, we actually woke up a half hour earlier because we got to leave for the temple at 7 am, so we had to leave a half hour early to get breakfast before. It´s an hour drive to the temple, so we loaded a bus and left. I´ll send some of the pictures we took. It was such an amazing experience. Even though Mexico City is loud (there have been fireworks, sirens, and the loudest dogs ever every night and on the night of the holiday, we had to hurry home because every shoots their guns into the sky and the bullets can fall on campus), there is an instant peace the second you step even on the temple grounds. I love all the workers inside SO much, because every tries so hard to understand you and they don´t make fun of your limited Spanish and when all else fails they always smile back. I had a headset to listen in English, but I listened to most of the session in Spanish and understood a lot of it. I did the last part in English, but after your first time in the temple, we have to do it in Spanish! And we go every 2 weeks, and I can´t wait to go again. The church is true no matter where you are or who´s running things. This morning was just such a great experience, and I felt the Spirit so strongly, and I thought of some perfect scripture verses to use in the lesson tonight.  
Every second of the day here is planned. There is no such thing as free time. Lights are out at 1030, and you are up no later than 630. I am constantly tired, but I am also constantly happy. This week has been so great, I have learned so much, and I am excited to learn more.
Love you all!
Also, write me some letters! It would be fun to have something in the mailbox to read during the week.

Hermana Rust

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

#1 Letter....Arriving at the Mexico City MTC

These keyboards are all wonky so I don´t know if I´ll be able to write much with the time that I have, but I am safe and sound in Mexico City. I have basically been having the time of my life ever since Georgia. There were over 30 missionaries on the flight from Atlanta to Mexico City. I sat next to a sweet girl (not a missionary) named Dalia from Mexico City. She asked why there were so many well-dressed white kids and I explained about missionaries and the MTC and the church, and she had lots of questions and she couldn´t believe that so many teenagers were willing to serve on their own dime and what not. We talked a lot on the flight and I gave her a pass along card! It was so fun haha. Mexico City is crazy. No one believes in braking. There were people selling candy bars just walking in between lines of traffic.
I met my companion on the flight, and I am wearing a legit badge right now. So exciting! I´ve slept like two and a half hours, I cannot wait to go to bed, but I don´t think we´re going to make it there any time soon. I´ll be sending pictures next time I email! I love it already!
I better go and let one of the elders email, but I love you all!
Hermana Rust

Natalie's Farewell Dinner