Tuesday, March 24, 2015

El 23 of Marzo

the lord knows that i needed a filter for my testimony, and he found one in spanish. it's quite frustrating some days to try and share my testimony about some deep doctrine, and not be able to, but that's the thing: my job is not to teach the deep doctrine: its to share the simple truths of the doctrine, and let the spirit do the testifying of the other stuff.

i started teaching some of the jovenes piano lessons on Saturday, and the hope is that they bring their non-member friends as an opportunity to assimilate them into the gospel using music. i am soo excited, and it's a great opportunity to learn new words as well!

for all those that want to know what a day in the life of a Nicaragua Managua Sur missionary looks like, here is Tuesday of last week. We were supposed to have divisions this day, which means we were supposed to work with two other sisters, and split the work in the afternoon, but that fell through, so we ran from appointment to appointment, trying to get them all in. and by some great miracle of faith, it happened.

this cutie, is andres. he is the little boy of two recent converts, Elizabeth and Santiago, who are preparing to enter the temple in June. he is absolutely crazy, and loves me. he wanted to wear my plaque, but i only would let him hold it. so of course, we had to take a picture of the new Hermana Graves.

another great miracle this week: hermana asucena was cleared to be married! we found all the information we need for a divorce, and got it to a point that she could be married to hermano luis on saturday, and be married later that afternoon. it's kind of sad, but it was a quaint ceremony. she, her husband, one of her boys, two friends, and two of her sisters in law and their children. i am so glad for the blessing of the knowledge that my wedding can be for eternity and for the opportunity that i have to help hermana asucena have the same experience. her baptism had a small crowd, but that's exactly how she wanted it. she's so incredibly humble like that.

​these are my favorite nica food. they are called tostones, and they are fried green plantains. fried yellow plantains are sweet, and when fried are not my favorite. (the picture would not load)

there is one way back to live with God: living the gospel. as missionaries, we invite others to come unto Christ and receive the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. this is the same Church that was on the Earth in the times of Jesus. I know this to be true. the book is blue, the church is true, and i have the amazing opportunity to share this message with the whole wide world of Nicaragua.

i love you all, and wish you the best this week,
the tennessee hermana

El 16 de Marzo

this week showed me just how much is possible when i put my faith in the Lord, and not in my own abilities.

for one: i got a package! third one of the mission, and one that i was waay excited to see. it had all my bedding in it! so i don't wake up with a crick in my neck, and i have been sleeping through the night, and not waking up three and four times in the night, having to readjust my makeshift pillow. a picture of my bed, and my three american luxuries: a pillow, sheets, and a fan!

monday night we got a call, that i had an interview scheduled for the following morning at eight in ante gracia with President Russell. this phone call meant three things: 1-we had to get to the house asap to start cleaning, because with interviews, comes inspections of our apartment. and not that we hadn't cleaned, we had just cleaned a little bit. so we had to hurry and repent in the final hour. 2-we needed to plan real quick for the following day and get to work. 3-we had to get up early and get ready, to be at the church in ante gracia at seven thirty. which is about a thirty minute taxi ride away. we passed our inspection, which means brownies for Hermana Graves and Hermana Gomez!! Sister Russell took our weight, and turns out that I only feel fat. I weigh the solid 138 that I weighed when I started here in Nicaragua/left the MTC weighing. After that, an interview with President Russell, and an opportunity to talk in English. There is something about talking with and being complimented by a father figure that is just soothing for the soul. 

the assistants that night, tuesday, came and interviewed Angel and Frank because they were struggling a little bit to feel ready for their baptisms. can i just say, that amazing things happen when you pray for something specific and then go and work for it? we had been working with Angel, and been trying so hard to get it done ourselves, and even had had the Zone Leaders come and talk with him, but most of the time, the Lord doesnt want us to do it alone. we need the help of others in the work. thanks to those elders, a little bit of spiritual pixie dust, and a whole lot of prayer, the elders get the permission from franks mom, and got both angel and frank on the bath to baptism. they also visited hermanita emily and gave her a packet with some pamphlets of the church about baptism, confirmation, and the path that she would be starting on. super pilas. with some hard work, and several hours of prayer, we were blessed with the miracle of three baptisms saturday.

this week is something that we could not have done without the Lords help. it seriously would not have been even remotely possible. but we can do all things in Christ, who strengthens us. i know that i was called to be a disciple of Christ, THE SON OF GOD, to preach this Gospel, His word, to the people of Nicaragua to help them achieve eternal life. only when we as missionaries walk by faith will we have success, because testimony and knowledge only come after the trial of our faith. the field is white, all ready to harvest, and all those who have a desire to serve are called to the work. this work, HIS work, is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. eternal lifesalvation. the greatest of all the gifts of GOD. and i have the opportunity to share to open my mouth and preach it. there are changes in the works here in nicaragua and the great thing is that something never changes: God´s plan for us. its never going to change. the tomb is empty, man is free, Christ has won the victory.

con fe
hermana graves

El 9 de Marzo

i have figured out how i am going to countdown my mission, something that i really didn't want to do, but everyone here does it. i will be counting transfers, because months is too long, and there are waay too many weeks between me and home. transfers are six week periods in an area, and i will be with hermana gomez for two of them. i will spend another transfer here in loma linda after, so in total, i will spend about 4 months here in loma linda 1. this week marks one and a half transfers of the 12 i will have in my mission. woo hooo!

i have decided that missionary work is hard, but that i can do this. its very interesting to plan for 28 investigators on thursday morning and then have 13 fall through on their baptismal dates on sunday. but we did it, and we will be passing by every single house to let them know what happened. it's really hard to keep track of that many lessons, and what pamphlet you left for homework with which investigator, so god made planners. and thank goodness for that.

we will be holding three baptisms as a companionship on Saturday: Angel, Frank, and Emily. Emily is the most likely for this goal to actually happen, because Angel and Frank have kind of lost the flame for it all. we have appointments with both of them tonight to hopefully get them back over the flame, and to help them in their struggles and doubts. Emily is very excited to go, though. her original goal was the 21st, but we felt that she was ready, and friday afternoon talked with her and came to a decision to hold the baptism this week. she is really excited, very receptive of the doctrine, and totally on board for Saturday!!

a new word for the week: the spanish word for "burnt offerings" is holocaustos and i found this very depressing/interesting/disturbing because it looks likeHolocaust.

helado means "ice cream" in spanish, but in loma linda, helado is really just frozen juice. and it's amazing on a hot day!

i found out yesterday that the universitaria stake will be taking a temple excursion the end of june, and it will cost USD $37. to do the math for you, thats about 1,100 cords. a lot of money, but the stake will do fundraisers and such to help those who would like to attend, do so. i really would like asucena, frank, angel, and some of the other recent converts attend. because the temple is amazing. no questions asked.

it rained here on friday, and i thought i was going to die and go to heaven. it was probably around 70 degrees, light breeze, and very little humidity, and i was soo happy. hermana gomez was freezing, but i was in heaven!! and then it was hot the next morning, and i was dying of heat again. one day i'll get used to the heat

but that's all for this week, folks! 
thanks for your prayers. love you all!

hermana graves

El 2 de Marzo- First Baptism

the exchange rate here is about 27 cordobas to US$1. We don't go prosetlying with more than about 50 cords in our pockets, and you don't carry US dollars with you, unless you really want to get mugged. 

traffic here in Loma Linda gets a little crazy. there are hardly ever wrecks, but there sure are the fair share of close calls. they don't obey the two way street ideal, and if you aren't going fast enough, move over cause here we come, oncoming traffic or not. everyone, bus drivers included, shoots the gap and prays that it stays open. 

sidewalks and streets: lots of street vendors, with warm fruit, and always bananas. little shops have everyday things, and there is quite a big division between Coke and Pepsi. the two are not sold in the same shop, and people shun you when they found out you don't like the same brand as they. Elder Weyand, my district leader, has it right when he said the people here are kind of stuck in the 70's. for the most part, there is quite a lot of trash in the street, but the kids don't play with it. they play with a few toys, but for the most part make due with little knick knacks and makeshift balls. most of the streets are dirt, but the people water the street like we would grass in the US each afternoon. they sweep it, water it, and make sure that it looks nice. the inner streets are hilly, and if i don't leave Loma Linda with killer calves, I am seriously doing something wrong. some days, i think Hna Gomez is a mountain goat, because one minute she's at the bottom of the hill, and the next she's at the top waiting for little gordita me to struggle up the mountain path.

some nights it's rather hard to sleep because there the lovely neighbors' roosters and dogs. most mornings, around five am, the rooster next door decides that the whole world needs to be up with him, and he goes for about two hours straight. slowly, i have been able to tune him out, but ever so slowly.

the people here love to sing, and sing they do. one of the things that I have taken for granted is a piano in the main classrooms in the church meetinghouses. here there is one digital piano in the chapel, and it is programmed to play the hymns. i know how to play the piano, and the people get really excited when they figure this out. like really excited, and everyone asks you to sing the songs. for the most part, i can remember the tune and sing it, but sometimes the beat is changed to help with the number of syllables in the Spanish translation, so it's a little difficult. the people here love to sing, but they all make Hannah, my little sister, look like a rockstar, because they can't carry a tune in a bucket. love them, but it's a little rough. but, i love to sing while we walk from appointment to appointment, especially when Hermana Gomez let's me sing in English :)

the women here, seriously have no problem showing everyone their goods. they nurse their 18 month olds wherever they want, and just kind of whip it in and out. the first couple of times it completely took me by surprise, and unfortunately, i've kind of gotten used to it. you just look them in the eyes, and don't look down for anything.

hermana gomez! time for a more proper introduction. she is from Guatemala and has been out on a mission for almost eight months. she has been working in Loma Linda for about three transfers now (which translates to about four months) she has a twin as well, but they look exactly like, and she doesn't believe me when I tell her I have a blonde haired, blue eyed twin. she doesn't think it's possible! she doesn't like english, and gets frustrated with the word upon in the scriptures when we read them out loud together. she is about five years my senior, yet I have about a foot on her. she's a great trainer, and i feel honored to be her first daughter. she pushes me just enough to the edge to help me grow, and is very patient with my very tiny vocabulary. 

Asucena has got us on a manhunt. Literally. she was married to a man about thirty years ago, and they lived together for about six months before he moved out, to go who knows where. now she lives here in Loma Linda with another man, and their son. She is getting ready for baptism in a couple of weeks, and has to get a divorce, before she can be civilally married to her current spouse. it's a little hairy because we don't have a lot of details on him, whether he is dead or alive, and whether she is still married or if he filed for a divorce a long time ago. we don't know! but that's what we get to help her do before her baptism on the 21st!

Emily got permission to take the lessons, so we are going to continue preparing her for the 21st as well! Friday we were trying to decide which less active member to visit, when I got the prompting to visit Emily. Her mom was home, so we were able to talk with her about church and such. they committed to attend church and after some dodge attempts, Emily commited to baptism and mom gave consent for the lessons {because Emily is a minor, we need parental permission for lessons and her baptism}. we have some progress charts to help investigators see what things they have learned and what we have talked about and she got really excited when we gave her that. we told her when she has all the litle boxes marked off, she can be baptized and the fire inside her grew. 

Frank is another new investigator this week, and is progressing well. he is very receptive during our lessons, and understands and then asks great questions to help us guide our lessons to his needs. he likes his little bit of coffee in the morning, so we are trying to help him stop that. one thing I can say, is thank goodness that I started studying the Book of Mormon before I came out and knew where to find the account of Moroni's vision to Joseph Smith, or we would have been in some deep doo doo with one of his questions.... 

ANDY: my first baptism! we had the opportunity to teach him the law of chastity, and can I just say, it's very difficult to teach a nine year old about chastity, when he doesn't want to say the only word for procreating in spansih?! needless to say, we commited him to never have any sort of relations with a woman until after marriage. well done, andy! Saturday was a little hectic, getting everything set aside, and ready for Andy, but that night was special. A lot of his family came, and his less active father was able to be there. His father doesn't have the proper authority, much to Andy's suregrin, so his Uncle was able to perform the ordinance. Sunday morning, he was confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and given the gift of the Holy Ghost. he really couldn't stop giving Hermana Gomez and I hugs after that.

me and the baptismal boy!      and then the whole family!

people here don't know how to give a firm handshake, and give you a dead fish always. if you are really lucky, you might get a little squeeze. maybe.... i've been in Nicaragua two weeks, and a native has given me a firm handshake twice.

hermana gladiz feeds me well, so rest assure, I will be gaining my mission 20 here in Loma Linda. at zone meeting on Friday, we were asked what our favorite NICA food is, and I would have to say fried plantains. I don't like grilled or plain plantains, but give me one sprinkled in salt and fried in corn oil, and I could eat them for days... yumm!!

hermana gomez found my first tan line yesterday, and my feet are slowly finding the sun as well. with as much sun as there as been, thankfully I haven't gotten a sunburn. knock on wood! i am still very white compared to
everyone else, so I still get cat calls, but it doesn't bug me quite as much!

hermana gomez and i at the transfer meeting!

i took my first bucket shower this week because some nights, and we don't know why, but there is no water to be found in the pipes. and it's just too hot now to use shower. waayy to hot for that. 

but i know that this gospel is true. the reason i feel comfort here in nicaragua is because i know that it all is about the Lord. I am on the Lord's errand, and my wants and needs are futile. thank goodness for a Savior who lives and died for me. thank goodness for a God that allows me to grow and invites us to the edge: 

"Come to the edge," He said. 
"No, we'll fall."
"Come to the edge," He said.
"No, we'll fall."
"Come to the edge."
So we came to the edge.
He pushed us. 
And we flew.

What has been your biggest challenge this week? keeping up with our daily goals for numbers, and finding the balance between quantity and quality
What has been your greatest concern this week? our non-progressing investigators
What has been your greatest success? my first baptism!
Who has been your favorite person this week and why? andy, and his great decision to follow the Lord Jesus Christ into the waters of baptism
What has been your most significant tender mercy? the hymns and the simple messages they hold
What is your favorite scripture this week? phillipans 4:13
What are you looking forward to this coming week? teaching lessons, and knowing where the heck i am headed in all the winding streets!
Do you have any goals set for this coming week? memorize a scripture to use in each lesson, and use it!

thanks for listening to this week's ramblings. love you all!

until next week friends!
the tennessee hermana

Safe Arrival

February 24, 2015
Dear Brother and Sister Graves:
Hermana Janelle Sara Graves arrived safely in the Nicaragua Managua South Mission and was assigned to serve with Hermana Gomez, in the Universitaria area of our mission.  We are attaching a photograph of your missionary with us taken on arrival morning. 
 Hermana Graves and Hermana Gomez

Hermana Graves with President & Sister Russell
(Mission President & Wife)

Leaving the MTC & Entering Nicaragua

no way is it february. and why do i say that? because it's literally 95 degrees here, every single day. all that has passed in a week and a half?                    

let's start with leaving the MTC:
leaving everyone behind was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

  saying good bye to the teachers. hermano ostler and hermano chambers. the best teachers they have at the MTC, if i had any say. they told me up front: the spanish you speak here is different from that spanish you will speak in your mission and i didn't understand how. but now I do. the nicaraguese use their tongues to speak, and drop the final s. no matter what they tell you in the US, it happens. sorry to burst that bubble.

these would be the one of the other hard things: saying good bye on sunday. elder muirbrook and elder jungers are my favorite companionship at the MTC. they just got it: your companion is your best friend, you have to love them and you get to love them and that's final. you might as well enjoy it. 

then of course, my favorite sister outside of my district: hermana nistler. she also just gets that we are here to do the Lord's work and this is His time. not ours anymore.
and then a picture of the district, where we all are acting ourselves for the most part...

ermana millett and hermana garcia, the other two sisters in the district c. got to show them some love.
an awful picture with the best branch presidency wife a sister could ask for. like really. hermana price is the best person for this calling. I LOVE her! she was such an amazing shoulder to cry on when i needed someone to talk to and my parents were too far away. love her to pieces.

this is where it all gets good: heading to nicaragua! four thirty in the morning report to the travel office. five fifteen, roll out of the parking lot to get to the airport. while unloading the truck of luggage, i heard "hermana graves" and there in a church van was Elder Graves. i screamed and waved, and said i was doing great. the lord knew i needed one last hug before i left for two years, so he let me hug my grandpa. he whipped around the circle again, i cried, he started crying, and then we took the world's worst selfie. then while checking in at the desk, i heard "there she is!" grandma was checking Sister Whitfield and her travel companions into the United terminal so that they could go home! the lord knew that i needed to talk to at least some family before i parted ways for the next 17 months. thank goodness!

getting to atlanta was the easy part, but it was all down hill from there. first, the atlanta airport doesn't have payphones any more so i wasn't able to call home. huge bummer. major bummer. the plane ended up changing terminals, and being delayed twice all before we loaded the plane. we were supposed to leave the ground at 5:59pm, and it was almost 7:30 by the time it was all said and done. needless to say, it was 12:30am Tuesday before i get to crawl into the bed at the mission home that night. 

the next morning was training, and it was given in spanish for the other sisters and elders that had come in that morning from the Guatemala mtc. they gave the english speakers headphones and had some elders translate for us. it was very interesting to say the very least... i got sick with an upset stomach that day, so i didn't really get to enjoy my first nicaraguan meal or the pizza that president bought. major bummer. 

transfers and the first day in the field. lots of missionaries, talks in spanish, and meeting my companion. i don't have a picture, but she does and i love her the mostest. hermana gomez is a God send and she doesn't speak a lot of english. 

this is the last picture i have with elder jungers before he went off to serve with two of the zone leaders, the others sisters were off with their companions, and i got to stay here, close to managua with hermana gomez.

the lord knew that i needed to stay close to the city, and gradually descend into third world territory. the people are still poor here in Loma Linda, but it could be worse. you can tell how weathly a family is by how much tin their home is made of, whether or not they have a car/motorcycle, and how well fed their dog is. dogs are everywhere here, and they always look underfed. 

i get whistled at here, for three reasons: i am above five four, have white skin, and if i do say so myself, am smokin' hot. lol, it's kind of degrading and has given a whole new meaning to the supposedly endearing term gordita. also when people find out that i am from the states, they guess two places: texas and utah, and they have no idea where Tennessee is. always, always great. 

the food here is hard to eat some days, because there is only so many times in a week you can have beans and rice. hermana gladis does an amazing job though, and even made spaghetti one night! 

our apartment here in loma linda is nice, by their standards. actual doors that lock, a toilet, running water, and a shower that usually gives out cold water. 

the hardest trial this week though is the blisters that have made their home on the bottom of my feet. right under the big toe on the pads, have developed the greatest blisters ever from wearing closed shoes for 10 hours every day in the humidity. ibuprofen and some gold bond will hopefully help the pain.

one quick goal: as a mission, we have been invited to have 2000 baptisms by the end of 2015. the zone with the most baptisms gets to spend the night in the mission home (which is like staying in a mansion by US standards). we as a zone want to have 70 baptisms, which is about 5 per set of missionaries for the month of march. with fuego in our hearts, we can do it!

i love you all, and this work is hard, but worth it. this is salvation after all!