Monday, July 22, 2013

Come thou Fount of Every Blessing

Hola mi Queridos!

Hermana Boren. Week 3. I must begin with thanks--thanks to all of you for your beautiful emails, the gift of your words and loving thoughtful things you say to me. I so appreciate every word!

Another week in Argentina, I can hardly believe it. I have to tell you some more facts about my time here. Firstly, all the native--spanish--speaking missionaries call Americans¨"Jenkies" (zshjankies). At first I wondered if it was derrogatory, but I´ve come to understand it´s an endearing name. Sweet white blond blue eyed people who don´t know how to talk yet . . . like me! Also, all the church members here call Utah the ´fabrica´, or factory, because it produces so many missionaries/members of the church. Some of my favorite words in Spanish that I have never heard before Argentina are ´coso´, which means thing or stuff, and ´fa´, which means wow or huh. It´s fun to learn spanish in such an informal light, at times. I catch so much from conversations, facial expressions, hand gestures, etc. Everyone here talks like a song. At times I realize I need to focus on the words instead of the beauty of the intonation, but it´s so hard to concentrate when you feel like investigators and church members are going to burst into ´bella notte´ at any moment and invite you to dine on spaghetti with their pooch. The language is spanish, but for the sing-song voices I feel I´m in italy. And everyone is so caught up in love--what for all the besos (kisses) and talk of marriage and whatnot. Hermana Ferraez had a lesson with a woman in her mid 70´s, and she expressed to us that her greatest trial in life right now is not having a companion to share life with. Her husband passed away a decade or so ago (I think . . . it´s all bits and pieces right now) and she kept expressing how much she wants a boyfriend. It was the oddest thing. After the lesson Hermana Ferraez explained that this is normal--almost every one of the ´viejitos´ (grandparent aged people) who are single long for love. So with that said, Argentina truly is the France of South America.

I think culture shock really hit this week--there are some things here that just aren´t the same. Truly, appointments are so hard to fix in the afternoon hours from 12 to 4 or 5. The whole world shuts down to sleep! I got used to running, running fast in washington--appointments for every hour of the day, teaching, proselyting, sharing what I love and what has brought me so much joy! It´s killing me to have to be okay with the afternoon hours running slow. Appointments in the states were usually never longer than 1 hour and a half, tops. Here, that´s a normal appointment. These people sure love to talk! I´m adjusting and not complaintant, just wanting--so deeply--to work hard, as the Lord would have me do. I don´t want to waste any of his time or miss sharing the gospel with anyone. But Argentina, Rosario is different that Tacoma Washington. A different culture, a different people. Right now I´m struggling to find a balance between becoming accostomed-acclamated to their culture, and keeping my identity and drive to work. I know all things will come in their time, in God´s time. I know he called me to both places for a very distinct reason, and I´m comforted by that. Right now I´m searching to do his will in Argentina!  He is with me always! This, more than anything, brings me peace and joy. The Spirit is real, as is the Atonement. I feel it in affect all the time.

First story of the week--Saturday. I felt so alone! Amongst all the angry dogs in the street and the angry wind tearing through our coats, and It was amidst all these emotions, all this angst and frustration at not being able to share my testimony or worried about working hard and whatnot, that I found myself walking alongside Hermana Ferraez in the chill Venado Tuerto night to the home of Hermana Puck. She is in her mid 80´s and immigrated to Argentina from Germany when she was 24 years old. We have cena (dinner) with her every Saturday evening. She greeted us with her green eyes and snow white hair, inviting us into her home. And to my surprise, laid out on her couch, was a guitar! She had remembered me mentioning my love for music the week before, and my mentioning that I played guitar. Before I knew it I was tuning, humming, and strumming strings while singing hymns of the restoration. It felt so good to put my fingers to work on a fretboard again. After seven or eight songs--my singing in english, Hermana Puck and Hermana Ferraez singing in Spanish--Hermana Puck smiled at me and said (in Spanish) ´This is a balm for your soul, isn´t it?´ I could have cried. Instead my eyes and smile lit up and I offered her sincere thanks. It was, truly, a balm in my tired heart that day. Hermana Puck then proceeded to direct us to her electric keyboard and we took turns playing a song or two for each other. When I began to play loch lomond and sing the words, she suprised me by singing along! In her young years, she memorized many tunes and poems in german, french, english, etc. alike. Her grandson, Matias. age 8 (he´s the spitting image of Ian Johns, Mom, it´s incredible!) surprised us with a visit as well. We began composing a song, the four of us, about Hermana Puck and our adventures singing and sharing the gospel. I felt home, home all around me, in that moment.

I realized in this sweet, simple, moment, how much God loves each of us so individually. Through his sweet daughter, Hermana Puck, he rescued my soul on a chilly Saturday evening, through music. Such sweet music. This was, truly, a manifestation of God´s love for me!

Right now we are teaching Carolina, age 17, with eyes like melted chocolate and a smile like sunshine. I don´t know why, but she reminds me so much of Casey! She runs a little kiosco (little shops. In parts of Venado far from the center of hte city, many people have their own mini store with food, candies, etc.) with her parents and brother in the front of their home. Hermana Ferraez encountered her wiht previous companion, Hermana Castillo, a week or two before my arrival. Her parents are members but haven´t been to church in years. She attended church my first sunday, and it was her first sunday as well! After Sacrament meeting, Hermana Ferraez and i walked with her to the little classroom for sunday school for all the young men and young women. There are only a handful of youth, maybe 6, in this branch. I prayed, with all my might in my heart, as we walked away to Gospel doctrine. Normally, I can use my words to offer comfort and welcome to new people. Or introduce them to others. In this moment, I was a stranger myself. How could I Help Carolina feel welcome when I couldn´t speak myself? So I prayed with all my heart that one of the young men or women would reach out to her. Off and on during Gospel Doctrine I wondered and worried.

Much to my surprise and delight, Carolina and one sweet young woman in the Branch, Candela. After we came out of class, they were in the hallway, chatting and laughing as girls do. Candela is 14, and to me, is an angel! Later, that day, walking back to our apartment to study and have dinner (we study at night on sundays) we encountered Carolina, Candela, and 3 or 4 other youth from the Stake chatting in the park and drinking matte together. I felt like a little kid, I was so giddy to see such friendship and fellowship blooming so fast! Since that first Sunday, Candela and Carolina have become fast friends. Carolina has attended nearly all the ward activities, and is even starting Personal Progress. She wants to be baptized, but is still looking for an answer as to whether or not she should make this covenant. She is a responsible, lovely girl, and she wants to do the right thing and make sure this is a committment she can keep. I have so much hope for her.

Another investigator--Daniel. He is 10 years old, and instead of shaking our hands normal, he has his own handshake for the two of us missionaries! His baptism is this Saturday! I´m reminded of my sweet first baptism in Washington, Josh Huey. It seems that both my missions--Washington and Argentina--begin with a Baptism of a good, wonderful, 10-year-old young man.

I am so grateful, every day, for Hermana Ferraez. Every companionship study, we practice the lessons in spanish, one principle at a time, back and forth. She quizzes me in the street, what is this thing called? or that thing? She gently corrects my conjugation when I need it. Our lessons with investigators--usually 4 or 5 times daily--she does the same as we do in Comp study. one principle upon one principle, I am involved with my simple testimony at least half of the time. It´s incredible, I understand so much more clearly when we´re talking about the gospel. There is a language barrier, but it´s breaking more and more all the time. Last night we retired to bed in fits of giggles. I´m grateful that no matter what happens or what words I say wrong, at the end of the day I have a friend who helps me out and helps me learn. It´s not always easy--there´s some definite differences between our cultures!--but we have learned to overcome it and press forward. We are united when we´re both striving to serve the people we teach and each other.

Much love to you all!
Hermana Boren

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Venado Tuerto

Hola Querido Familia!

 Oh my goodness, firstly I have to say what an incredible mother I have. Mom, thank you so much for helping me prepare everything I would need for my mission. The tights, the boots, scarves, EVERYTHING has been so essential. Thank you for helping me find the very best things to be prepared and ready to serve here in Argentina. I love you! Also, I love the pictures you sent. Thank you so much for keeping me updated on life at home. I can´t wait to someday see the MOA video the boys are working on. Jordan, my goodness, you little movie star. And Ty guy, you go for it with those Editing talents of yours! I love hearing everything about home. Thank you for every detail.

Secondly, God loves me. That´s all there is to it. I´m learning and growing so much in my time here, and I´ve only been here for 2 weeks! My area right now is Venado Tuerto, it´s about a 3 hour trip (by bus) south and west of Rosario.

I need to tell you, firstly, some peculiar things about Argentina. This place is enchanting. Argentina seems like a portal for time travel, somewhere caught between worlds and times. There are streets and cars, but very few traffic lights and no painted lines on the streets to separate lanes of traffic. Stop signs, I think i´ve seen maybe 3. You thought my california stops were bad, Austin? You should see the flow of traffic here! There are cars everywhere, some more modern VWs and Fords. But at least half of the cars here could belong in Herbie. Motorcycles and bikes are essential here. On any given motorcycle you might find 3 to 5 people. Commonplace to have that many, really. The Bikes, surely, must be from Mary Poppins, with their wide handlebars and baskets afront. Young couples that could be from Top Gun, kissing over their motorbike wearing leather jackets and hair like the 80s. It´s enchanting and confusing all at once! My taxi ride that first night, from the bus station to our apartment, I didn´t stop praying from the moment we entered the cab til the moment we hit the curb. It was like Indiana Jones at Disneyland, except it isn´t a ride, it´s real life! We made it safe and I won´t have to ride in a taxi again until next transfer . . . I hope!

Dogs. Dogs everywhere. Dogs in houses and stray dogs in streets. In this respect, Argentina is just like Washington (the land of dogs) except the Dogs here are scary! Dirty and raggedly bony from life in the streets. And leaving their traces everywhere. Dad, you should know that I will never procrastinate cleaning up after Jack again in my life after my experience here! One little dog has followed us several time, he looks somewhat like a dalmation. We call him Pecas (freckles).

The keys to front doors (all front doors, ours included) are like those in Scarlet Pimpernell, cerca 1860 or so, complete with old fashioned teeth on either side of the key. Wood burning stoves, in some homes, to keep the house warm. Shutters, on many windows. Bars on most others. A basket seated on a tall pole stands in front of each home, for trash. Trash here is collected every day, from these little baskets seated up high in the front yard. Tiny little washers, no dryers. Clothes are hung on a clothes line outdoors, for us on our little apartment balcony. No dishwashers, but always fridges.

Cobblestone sidewalks at times, other times straight pavement. The food! Goodness, sweet Sister Sanders certainly helped me prepare. The Empanadas are stellar, the pan (bread) supreme. Mom, I bought some authentic alfajores on Saturday, and I´d have to say that we were spot on when we had that cookie alfajores making fest before I left. They tasted almost exactly the same! I´m afraid for my health, but luckily we walk nearly everywhere, which equates to 7 or 8 miles or more a day. That makes me feel a little better. Almuerzo (lunch) is the big meal here, eaten at 1pm or so. Cena (dinner) is usually about 8 or 9 pm and is very small. My American stomach is angry with me at the moment, craving food at 5 or 6. But I´m adjusting. All in good time!

We never knock doors. Always clap. We always clap and stand away from the door at least 7 feet, to wait for´folks to come to their doors. It´s the weirdest thing to me, after knocking doors in Washington for 3 months, 2 hours a day. But I love it! Many houses have a courtyard with a gate. Other homes are right on the sidewalk of the street, like in the Cosby Show.

I think the boys will squirm at this, but everyone greets you with a kiss instead of a hug here! Men in the church are asked to give us handshakes, but the women and children always say hello with a kiss on the cheek, always the right cheek. Stranger or friend. One or two times we haven´t been able to tell a male investigator the rule fast enough, and so I´ve gotten kisses on the cheek from them, too.

At 12 pm, everything closes. I mean EVERYTHING. Media dia, from 12 to 4pm, everyone closes up shop. To eat, to rest. Life runs so much slower, here. At some moments as a missionary it´s killing me, especially in the afternoon hours. I like to work and work hard, and Argentina is forcing me to take things a little slower. I´m thoughtful, wanting to know what Heavenly Father would have me learn, and what he wants me to contribute from my heritage and missionary esperience in the States.

My first week in Argentina was the hardest week of my life. It was incredible, for all the new and exciting things I was seeing and doing. It was so hard, though, not to be able to communicate. My first morning, I almost cried while saying our companionship prayer. I used what little spanish I knew to offer the most simple of supplications to Heaven. Throughout the first day, my Companion had to point to everything while she was saying it, and use lots of hand motions to express herself. She´s from Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, and as part of that she speaks very, very, very fast. Bewildered, I did my best to respond, mangling my conjugations. After offering many prayers that first day, I felt this impression that I should just go with the flow. Do my best to understand, but take everything in. I was in culture shock, for sure. So many new things all around me, and a tongue I hardly understand. But Hermana Ferraez is so patient, and patiently explained things several times over for me to understand. Within a few days our little apartment was covered in little yellow post its of every kind of word for wall, floor, ceiling, shower, faucet, etc. I´ve started taking 3 by 5´s everywhere, writing down all the words I hear or see that I don´t know. Then I ask Hermana Ferraez, and she uses the simple words I do know to help describe it to me. That first week she pointed to everything on the street, corners, chickens, gates, etc. And named it for me.

I am like a little child again, learning to talk. It´s incredible, really. I always took for granted the ability to talk, express myself, and be heard. It´s humbling. But I hold fast to that truth that God can bring everything to our remembrance. For this reason, I´m striving to study like crazy!

I´ve really begun to learn Spanish, though, while teaching. Hermana Ferraez is adamant about me sharing my testimony and taking part in the lesson. She´s a Godsend! Every companionship study, we study and practice one the basic 4 missionary lessons. 1, the Restoration, 2, The Plan of Salvation, 3, Gospel of Jesus Christ, 4, The Commandments. Principle upon principle, she bears witness, and then I bear witness. I´m learning so much, so fast, with her as my buena maestra.

Yesterday I gave my first talk in Catillano (Espanol). Talk about stage fright! Our Branch President called us Thursday night and asked if I would speak. Good golly, was I nervous. But The Spirit is real, it works. I offered my testimony talk about Missionary Work to this small group of 35 church members. After the meeting, several members of the branch complemented me on how quickly my language skills have improved. With God, nothing shall be impossible. I´m concerned to have a good relationship with the Members of this branch, because Hermana Ferraez will take off for home in only 4 short weeks, and I will be here with a new companion to continue the work. I want to be ready, willing, and armed for the challenge (Highland 33rd ward youth activity when I was 12). Most especially to be there for these good people we´re teaching, and we can only do that with the help of the branch members.

God is very aware of me and answers my questions and pleas for help. I was reading in Mosiah 1 and Jeremiah 1 this week, and both gave me the sweetest comfort. Take a look at the first 10 vesrses of each chapter, especially what it says about language!

Right now we have two investigators with a baptismal date, Carolina (age 17) who is an absolute doll. She reminds me so much of Casey! Daniel (age 10). Both are working towards baptism on the 27th of July. Unfortunately, my time is up, but I can´t wait to tell you about the miracles we´ve been seeing with them next week. I have considerably less time to write here than I did in Washington, so I apologize to all who have sent me emails and I can´t respond. Know that I love you, you are in my prayers, and I thank God every day for the opportunity I have to serve. You might be thousands of miles away from me, my dear family. But You are closer than you know. I think of you and all you have taught me, all the memories we share, all the lessons learned in our home growing up ALL the time. I have had no idea how blessed I have been my entire life until my mission.

Con mucho amor,
Hermana Boren

Hola mi querida familia!

hola mi querida familia!

I write to you from la Bella del Sol! I am finally in Argentina, serving in a tiny rama (branch) called Centro I. My companion is Hermana Ferraez, she is from Mexico and doesn´t speak any English. My goodness, this has been such an incredible week, and my heart is full with so much gratitude at everything that has transpired over the past two weeks. I have so much to tell you!

Last Monday dawned in Washington, a hot, Sherbet Orange sky. All my things packed in my bags, I said goodbye to the little blue house on the bay with my dear Sister Young. We listened to lower lights (my new favorite mission music! It´s folked out hymns and I love it) all the way to the mission office. Once there, I was blessed to receive a priesthood blessing from sweet President Weaver in my last moments in the WA-TAC. I was blessed to be watched over, and placed in the hands of the Lord throughout my time in Argentina. I was also blessed to "win many hearts" as I love them with persuasion and kindness and teaching the Good word of God. President Weaver also gave Sister Young a blessing of comfort. We have had such success in Gig Harbor, there are many investigators and many details she was left with. She was blessed to know that she can do it! That she has the capacity to care after everything and everyone in our beloved part of the WA-TAC in Gig Harbor. Saying goodbye was hard after those amazing 5 weeks together. Tears in her eyes and mine!

Elder Higginson and Elder Decker couldn´t believe it. When they pulled up and saw I was there, both exclaimed "You got your VISA!" Soon, President Weaver and his Assistants were driving us to the Airport. There was a bad accident that transpired on the freeway just left of us as we drove, we missed it by only a little bit. Thanks be to Heavenly Father for our safety! He takes care of his missionaries. This I know! Once at the Airport, both my checked bags were exactly 50 lbs.on the dot!  Again, God takes care of us. I needed everything that I brought to Argentina, and was afraid they´d be too heavy.

Our journey began. A 5 hour flight practicing Spanish with the Elders en route to Atlanta (family! It was so good to talk to you, my goodness! Especially to catch so many of you before leaving to Lake Powell. I sure love you, each one of you! Sorry to cut it short, again, there were 30 or so japaneese missionaries waiting to call home). Once in Atlanta, we encountered Elder Hill from the MTC, and that was a joyous reunion. We exchanged stories and laughed and reminisced while we waited to board our flight.

The longest night of my life was the 11 hours overnight on the plane. Kind of awkward, my seat was right next to Elder Decker´s. It just feels especially weird as missionaries not to have a companion of your same gender while traveling. We tried to make the most of it by talking about why we came on a mission and attempting to nap with our seats upright through the long voyage. I did enjoy some free time to write in my journal.

And then we arrived, encountering Elder Topham and Sister Whitaker in Customs. What a joyous reunion!!! Our passports and visas were checked at long last, and our group of about 16 new missionaries were met by a bus driver sent by the mission office. He checked to make sure we were all there, put our suitcases on the bus, and we boarded. 5 more hours of chatting, sharing stories from our stateside experiences. Everyone but 2 of us sisters in the Rosario group served Spanish speaking. I was very intimidated!

Soon we found ourselves at a victorian looking building, the mission home. We met president and Sister Giuliani, wonderful wonderful people. We were blessed to spend the night in the mission home after a dinner of something like mancotti, but Argentina style.

The next day we met our companions, and were off. I was so intimidated at first, my Spanish is more limited than I thought, and Sister Ferraez speaks only Spanish. At first, I could hardly understand her, she speaks so quickly! We embarked on another journey of taxi rides and a bus for the next 4 hours. Finally, about 9:30 pm, we arrived at our little apartment. Oh, man. What days of travel!

Already my time is up. I wish I could express to you more of the transformation my life has taken in only a week! I once had a wish to never grow up. I think it´s been granted, because I speak as a little child once again! It is humbling, frustrating, enchanting, and confusing to be thrust into a new language. Spanish here is a little different, it´s Castillano (cast´ish´ahn´oh) with lots of sh sounds. But I love it. I´m understanding more and more each day, and I´m delighted to be here. I feel so grateful for all I´ve been given, truly, and look forward to all I have to learn. God is Good. He is watching over me all the time. I have no need to fear for anything, I have felt his hand guiding me already in my short time here.

I´m sorry this is so brief. I will send more details about this amazing place next week when I have more time to write. I love love love love love love love all of you!

Hermana Boren

Monday, July 15, 2013

June 24th (continued

Hand written with a request that it be included.

Firstly there is a Hymn that has come up in my brain so much lately.  It is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” kind of strange to be thinking of that Hymn in the middle of the year isn’t it?  But there’s a line in the song-two verses actually, that came repeatedly to mind this week.

“Then in despair I bowed my head,
there is no peace on Earth! I said
for hate is strong and mocks the song,
of peace on Earth good will to men.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead nor doth he sleep
the wrong shall fail, the right prevail
with peace on Earth good will to men.”
                                    -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I’ve thought of these words over and over.  At the beginning of my time in the WA-TAC, I was taken aback by how much alcohol I smelt and tattoos I saw and how many broken families I met.  I’m still sad to see those things.  But I also know that God will always win.  There’s a whole lot of Good, a whole lot of light, a whole lot of wonder all around us.  I thought that today with all those STARFISH I saw, the cool water of the Puget sound brushing against the shore.  I think of it when I hear primary kids sing.  I think of it when I read your letters.  GOD WILL ALWAYS WIN.  Remember that when satan tries to get you down.

Also, I forgot to tell about Mission Tour!  Elder Piper of the 70 is AWESOME! I dearly enjoyed his dry sense of humor and his powerful testimony.  He is missing the last segment of his two middle fingers on hos right hand-he lost them  to a snow blower while doing service splits with the missionaries.  He said when he puts his right arm to the square, he’s the only one who can say he loves and sustains the brethren at the same time!  (His missing fingers make it look like he’s always saying I love you.) He was adamant about meeting each one of us.  He sure is observant.  As soon as he shook my hand and I said “Sister Boren” he said back “Muy Bien.” He must’ve seen my nametag lickedy split, I never saw him glance at it.  He offered profound council on helping our investigators make commitments not to us, but to the Lord.  That will enable their conversion to be more self reliant, self led, and more in tune with the spirit.

I’m writing this next page a few days later, June 27th.  I received some unexpected news Tuesday afternoon.  Sister Young & I went to the Library to print off a few articles for Asan when we got a phone call from President Weaver.  He was just then exiting the Olympic Drive exit to come talk with us in person- we told him we were just down the street at the Library.  As soon as we hung up, Sister Young turned to me with a look of shock and worry “you got your visa” she said plainly.  I wondered, and waited anxiously for President Weaver.  We spotted his white shack of hair from across the parking lot, and after he said hello in his cheery way and gave us both a hug, he held out a white paper and said, “Do you know what this is? I saw three bolded black letter names of Elder Decker, Elder Higginson, and then my own – travel plans, just like it looked when we flew to Tacoma.  I couldn’t believe it.  My visa came.  President had known on my birthday, but didn’t tell me at the fireside because Sister Dean has not received hers yet.  She is the fourth member of our Argentina-bound WA-TAC waiting group.  She’s far more anxious to leave than I am.  I ache for her! 

I report to the Mission office at 8:00am this Monday Morning, July 1st.  I fly into Atlanta with Elder Higginson & Decker, where we’ll meet several others of our MTC district and then we’re off to the Buenas Aires Airport. A la bella del sol.

I can’t believe this day has finally come.   I love the WA-TAC and I’m devastated to leave our 25+ investigators and Sister Young.  We work as such a team!  I will forever love my memories here and count them an integral part of my mission.

And at the same time, I’m overcome with excitement and anticipation and love for my Mission in Argentina!

I’ll be calling from the Airport on Monday! I can’t wait to hear your voices again!  How I love you Mom, and Dad, A, T, J, C!
Con mucho Amor,
Hermana Mikayla