Tuesday, December 31, 2013

the latest letter from your favorite sweaty American here in Virasoro!

(her title, not mine)

hi family!

Questions: are there any particular experiences with families you are working with that you can share?
Umm I´m not sure what kind of thing exactly you want me to share. I´ll put a note in about S., one of my favorite people here. He is totally a friend from the premortal existence, and I am absolutely positive of that. He was baptized but had some pretty hard family problems, and is now inactive. We´re trying hard to help get him back, because he´s totally amazing and we need him. He still has his little consecrated oil holder on his keychain. The problem is actually getting him to ACT. He knows what he needs to do but doesn´t want to do it because he knows it will be hard. I can relate to that.

You talked about some least favorite parts of your days when we skyped. What part do you like most?
haha, I was meaning to tell you guys that too. :) My favorite parts of the days are tied between the hour that I get to email you guys and feel your love and support, and the other 7 hours of the week called personal study where I get to talk to Heavenly Father and feel of His love and support.

Are the new missionaries coming in tomorrow?
Yup, cambios are tomorrow and me and hna gonzalez are on edge. Four new zones are opening up with the increase of missionaries, so that means new zone leaders and new sister training leaders. President emailed out and announced that and talked about how with the increase lots of people don´t have a ton of experience but we still need to respect their position, etc. We haven´t gotten the call telling us what will happen yet, but we´re gonna come back to the cyber at the end of pday to let you guys know, assuming we know by then. AH!!

Update from later email: ch ch ch changes…...aren´t happening to us this time!
We get to stay here in Virasoro and stay together for this transfer, which we´re both happy about! The big changes I still don´t totally understand the details but I know Virasoro is a new zone. But our district still includes Santa Tome, and so we´ll be traveling to Santa Tome (an hour away) every week for district meetings because our new district leader is there. It´s even closer to Brazil, haha. A new set of Hermanas is coming to Santa Tome as well, one of them being a sister training leader who leaves in February, and she´ll be training. I hope it´s an American so I can have a friend and someone to help. :) aaand that´s about it.

Did anyone in the ward give you Christmas gifts?
Yup, I´ve started a little stash of gifts and stuff like Dad has from his mission in Chile. The members here are really great!

Okay so I LOVED talking to all of you, minus the part about saying goodbye. Rest assured I was sad for a little and then was quickly cheered up by the Brazilian telenovela that the Moragas were watching in the family room, that made me laugh. 

I attached a few pictures from Christmas, one of us with a family loving the snow
(we sent her a little bottle of “just add water” snow), and the other with my little Christmas tree I set up Christmas eve as tradition.  Also you can see part of my really sweet tan line.

I wanted to read this thought to you that I had during personal study on Christmas while we skyped, but ran out of time. (Seriously it felt like 5 seconds). In Posadas at the Christmas devotional one of the assistants challenged us to think of what Christmas meant to Heavenly Father, how He felt that Christmas night. I honestly don´t think I have the emotional capacity to fully understand that, so instead I decided to think about what WE felt that Christmas night. This is what I wrote in my study journal.
"What did we feel as we watched our older brother prepare to leave our Heavenly Home and atone for our sins? Was all Heaven silent with reverent awe as the Savior of the world was born to Mary and Joseph in that lowly stable? And then did each of us, with all the strength and faith we could muster, burst forth into singing with the Heavenly hosts, praising God and declaring that our Savior had started His Earthly mission? "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Surely we stood with our loved ones there, squared our shoulders, and determined to fulfill our own mission on Earth, to have faith and honor this Perfect Son who came to suffer for us, with us, so that we could be exalted. Surely we bore testimony that only through Jesus the Christ we could have peace on earth, good will toward men. Surely our hearts were full of these glad tidings of great joy."
I have a testimony of that, and am so grateful for our Savior Jesus Christ. 

Also I wanted to tell you more about everything here. Its hard wanting to describe and tell you guys so much and not even knowing where to start! 

my area has random horses walking around. We´ll be walking down the street and randomly men in traditional Argentine clothes or little boys doubled up on a horse will walk by. I really enjoy it actually. :) There´s also this one street where two random goats live and no one seems to claim them so they just wander around, which I think is really funny. And on that same street with the goats, we were sitting outside a members house sharing a scripture and all of a sudden hna gonzalez said "Mira! El mono!" and these two monkeys were climbing around the tree across the street. It´s at those times I stop and go OhmygoshwhatamIdoingwithmylife and crack up a little. Those moments happen a lot here. 

I love you all a ton, and am learning to just go along with the crazy hardness of a mission! Some days that works better than others :)

-hermana Rawlins

OH I forgot I wanted to tell you this morning that it´s so hot that sometimes the cold water supposed to be coming out of our faucet isn´t even cold. Which means that the shower water isn´t cold. That´s right, not only is it hot enough that I WANT to take cold showers, we complain that the water isn´t cold enough. I´m going to melt here, so it was nice knowing you all.

love you a ton!!

Calling on Christmas

On Christmas Day we were able to Skype Amanda for 45 minutes. We loved seeing her and she is doing really well! Below are some Amanda’s thoughts from our Skype call as typed up by our mom.

Because of the heat, we are now on summer schedule, which keeps us in at the hottest part of the day.  (there is no air conditioning anywhere.)  We study in the morning until 10am, then walk to our area in the campo, which takes a half hour walking to get there.  We usually have time for 2 appointments and then walk back.  We study some more, and then head out walking the same distance for evening teaching and return home for planning the next day.

Planning time is one of my least favorite parts of the day. I am physically and mentally exhausted from trying so hard to speak the language that facing communicating to my companion for another hour about my thoughts on teaching for the next day is really hard.

I feel like I understand about 90% of what people say now. It is starting to happen that I don't notice which language I'm in.  But it is SO good to talk to you guys because I feel like myself again, and I've missed being Amanda when I can't communicate.  All of my leaders (trainer, zone leaders, and ward) right now are Latin, so there isn't anyone I can speak English with.  I'm grateful for Sister Gonzalez because she is new enough that we are both just trying to figure out what we are doing and do our best.

It is extremely hot.  All the skirts I have with high zippered waistbands are not comfortable because it is so hot.  The best one is an elastic waist one that can be worn a little lower.

There are many treats here that I like and that is a way I make myself feel better when I’m missing you all, (which is also why the zippered skirts are uncomfortable.)

 Every day we have lunch at the same members' home in a rotation.  So on Mondays we always eat at one home, Tuesdays, another, etc for the week.

It's very different getting used to Argentine time!  For our ward Christmas party, the starting time was announced as 6 pm. We went then, and there was only 1 person.  So we waited around for a while.  It was going to be a dinner and there was nothing started at the church to cook.  At 8 pm, the person came with the meat to begin cooking.  We didn't get to stay for much because we had an appointment to get to.

In Argentina, Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) is a much bigger celebration than Christmas Day.  Pretty much, everyone just sleeps in and recovers on Christmas from the big party of the day before.  So it was tricky because we were required to work on Christmas. We went to someone's house and woke them up so that was awkward.

We had a hard time saying goodbye when our 45 minutes were up, but we know she is doing an amazing job as an instrument in the Lord’s hands. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Feliz Navidad and Yay Wedding!!

yay yay I´m so happy looking at all the pictures (of her twin Allison’s wedding) and everything!! I prayed and fasted it would be a good time for all and minus Emily sounds like nearly dying that prayer was answered! haha :) 
Attached are pictures of how I celebrated! The first is a factura with dulce de leche in the morning and the second mint and chocolate alfajor icecream at night. Maybe you guys should stop doing things without me so I´ll stop gaining so much weight :) Hna gonzalez and I also made a video journal of what we did during the day to record it, but you´ll have to wait like 16 months to see that sorry. :) 

I don´t have much to say that I can´t just wait until I get to actually talk to you all on Wednesday! I´m way excited, and think we should all pray that skype works with the internet here and everything because I´m a little worried. I trust we´ll figure it out though! The plans remain the same as far as I know. 

I want to send a little Christmas message. Like I think the moragas told you, yesterday in church I somehow had the ability to sing acapella, in spanish, as a solo, and not be nervous at all. (talk about The Lord expanding our abilities). I know that was possible because I really wanted to share my testimony of the Savior with these people, and that´s been hard for me to not be able to do with the language barrier. Since I´ve recently been obsessed with the hymn Come, Ye Disconsolate, I translated that to sing, though it´s not perfect with the melody and doesn't rhyme. oh well. Hna Gonzalez sang the first two verses to where can I turn for peace in English  (I taught her :), and then I followed with these lyrics,
Venid descontentados, dondequiera
Venid al su Senor, arrodillados
Traed sus heridos y sus sufrimientos
"No hay pena que no sera´ sanado"
Gozo cuando triste, luz de los perdidos
Esperanza por los remordidos
El Consolador esta´diciendo,
"No hay pena que no puedo curar"
Aqui es el Messiah, nuestro Salvador
El nos guia al trono de Dios
Venid a su amor, Venid y sabed:
Toda pena los Cielos pueden quitar.
I have a testimony of that. Last week Dad said something in his email that stuck out to me, in talking about how it´s what we DO for the Savior that´s how we keep Christ is Christmas. He said "This year you are giving your all to Him". I sure am trying. That´s the only reason I´m here. If this were up to me I´d be curled up on my bed at home watching a movie. But He wants me here and so here I am. I love Him. He lived and died for us, are we living for Him?

I love you all a ton and can´t wait to talk soon!!

factura with dulce de leche

mint and chocolate alfajor icecream

me vanna-whiting my christmas decorations which I´m really proud of

us and a sign that hna gonzalez made to take pics and send to her family

Monday, December 16, 2013

Answering Questions

Ah ok I don´t have much time today for a group email because I was answering individuals!

Here are the questions:

Does your ward have a gospel essentials
(introduction to the church) class for Sunday School that you go to?
Yes, assuming the teacher shows up haha

What is young women's like?
I´m not sure I haven´t been in a class, but we have a really great group of young women who are always willing to go out with us. They´re probably the strongest and by that I mean most-attended organization our rama
(local congregation) has

How much do you cook for yourselves, vs eating at
church member's homes?
We eat at a members home for lunch every day, which we are very thankful for because no missionary ever has enough money to really feed themself for a month. Moral of the story, feed the missionaries. I buy like crackers and fruit for breakfasts and dinners in the apartment.

Do you read your scriptures in English or Spanish?
goodness in english :) I can understand the spanish scriptures more or less, at least the general message of a verse, but Preach My Gospel
(missionary manual) and everyone says to study doctrine in your native language first so I’ll be doing that for my whole mission

How do you do your morning exercise?
sometimes I stretch my feet :) haha no I stretch and run stairs outside my apartment. It really depends on the day, If I´m feeling extra stressed I´ll run and do cardio for longer to help, but also it´s just always so hot that exercise is gross

How is companionship study?
depends on the day. It´s so so frustrating to have the patience to communicate all of the ideas and thoughts I have with a 5 year olds vocabulary.

Do you tract mostly, or go to appointments? mostly appointments with members and less actives. we´re trying to figure out the best way to help this rama (local congregation) with retention.

What happened to my forehead in the picture with the alfajor was just the mark from the headlamp I had been wearing previous to the picture haha. That was when we didn´t have electricity. Who knew that 7 dollar headlamp from walmart was gonna be so useful in argentina! I still have bites but I think that´s going to be normal from now on.

Okay I don´t have any more time. I´m doing well, just needing more patience every day :) our schedule changed this week to the summer schedule so we study in the afternoons which is nice. 

Enjoy the wedding!! Please someone sing I´m getting married in the morning to Alli on Friday night because it´s my personal goal to sing that to all of my sisters when they get married. You are all in my thoughts and prayers!!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Hanging in over in Argentina


I´m still hanging in here over in Argentina! I´m so grateful for all of your love and support, like really. You guys are my anchor. I´m really sorry I can´t respond to everybody specifically, I´ll try harder but know that I print out your emails and treasure them all week! I love hearing about everything you’re doing.

I´m way excited for grandma and grandpa Rawlins! The mtc is one of the best places in the world and I honestly miss it a ton.

I´m feeling better, the health concern of this week is that the mosquitoes appear to only like my legs out of everybody else here. Really I´m the only person with bites even though I wear repellent and no one else does. I don´t think the mosquitoes are too dangerous in town so don´t worry. 

I love hearing about everybody´s Christmas and wedding plans!! Christmas here should be pretty nice, the ward is having a big dinner together the week before, a special sacrament meeting, then on the 23 the Moraga’s are taking us to some big factory thing for our pday (preparation day). The 24 we get to go to posadas for a devotional with a bunch of the missionaries in the area, and then the 25 we don´t have any specific plans yet but we asked the Moraga’s what their traditions were and they said "have the misioneras over" (which is funny because we´re the first :)

I keep forgetting to tell you that Hermana Zapata told me she was in the same district as Elder Lugo in Colombia and that he was a really great guy. Also that padded envelopes currently don´t count as packages, but that might not be the case forever.

This week has been both bad and good, as I´m sure is normal on a mission. I´m still trying to hang in there and have patience with the language, the hardest part is that I feel like I don´t have a personality in Spanish. I don´t know how to be Amanda in a different language because I can´t say the things I want to. My companion can joke around and have better relationships with all the members and I have to trust that my smile and bad Spanish is enough for them to feel the Spirit and my love. I know it is, because that´s what Heavenly Father would have me do right now, it´s just kinda tough.

One thing I´ve been thinking about is how if Christ wanted to, He could have everybody know about the Gospel in one mass meeting or however would work best. That feels like it would be a lot easier a lot of the time. But that is not His way. He works on an individual basis, showing love to each of us individually. There´s a song one by one on the youth lds site that I found during the mtc and meant to tell Kayla to look up. It´s been playing through my head the past few days. We are to do what He would do, and that is to work and walk and sweat for each individual at a time, inviting them to come to Christ. I´m thankful that He loves us enough to do that for us, and grateful for the opportunity I have to participate in His work. 

I think that´s everything I wanted to say for this week! Sorry if I missed questions or left anything out.

Love you all a ton and I am so grateful for you!!

Hey I´m working on pictures I´ll try to get you guys as many as I can!

oh I forgot to say that there are 11 hermanas coming in on the 18 and so that´s up and coming and scaring us all because most of them are American and there are only 11 areas for sisters in Argentina now, where they would have to be placed. I would die if I had to train and neither me nor hermana gonzalez want to leave, so we´re hoping to get an extra and be in a trio if something really does have to happen.

Just landed in posadas!
My thanksgiving alfajor - yes I’m really sweaty and disgusting all the time :)
I took this in the area that´s the most campo of my area. But if you ask the people if this is the campo, they say no. they live here, and people go to work in the campo farther out in the country. I´m fine with never visiting there haha

Monday, December 2, 2013

Getting Adjusted (and Electricity!)

Hola!! Okay wow a lot of questions! I hope I can get them all. Luckily the keyboard this time is way more normal so it´s easier.

There´s actually more than one paved road here, I think the google images must be old. Most of the centro is paved but the neighborhoods branching out of it aren´t. The moraga family, who emailed you, is a really great family. He´s the branch president and since there´s so little priesthood support here, has been in various leadership callings in the branch and district for years and years. They have two 18 year old twin girls who are planning on serving and go out with us a lot. Plus they´re learning English so I really like working with the two of them :)

Here are mom´s questions:
How is it going with the food and the whole drinking the water thing?
It´s fine. The missionaries say the water´s okay, but President LaPierre doesn´t drink the water even in posadas, so it depends on who you ask. Some of the ward members like the Moraga family only drink filtered water and others either don´t or can´t afford it. I´ve been trying to be careful, though I haven´t been perfect, and my health was doing just fine until the past two days when I´ve started to get a little sick. I called this morning and talked to the nurse to get permission to take something (we´re not allowed to self-medicate). So I’m fine.

Did you get electricity yet?
Yes! That was a tender mercy on Saturday. I´ve finally been able to shower in semi-warm water and we have a refrigerator hooray!

Are you soo hot? (Kayla thought you looked really hot in the pictures at the Morago family. And we could see you've had some sun!)
Yes I am. I should apologize for how disgusting I look and will continue to look in all the pictures, glad Kayla could tell :) However everyone here says that this is spring. Apparently there´s still verano and "verano verano" to come. hashtag save me. We don´t have an air conditioner but our fans finally work so that´s nice. our schedule will change hopefully soon to avoid the hottest part of the day outside. And all of the sisters here are so worried about my skin it’s hilarious. They all ask if I have protector and when they think I can´t understand them they ask my companion about it and say "Ella is taan blanca" hahaha

Do you have cell phones or phones at all?
Yes we have a cell phone but I think it´s hard to use cause it´s all in spanish 

Are you walking everywhere? Has it rained?
Yes and yes but only once yesterday, things are pretty red and muddy!

Is your companion a convert or life time member?
Life time member

hna moraga does it for us for now, otherwise it would be by hand, but I think they´re gonna buy us a little lavador thingy for our apartment. which I probably won´t know how to use haha

So I´m doing well. this week has been a struggle of spiritual endurance, but I´ve really found comfort in the scriptures and the adjusting to missionary life resources we get, and yesterday in church I received the thing that´s helped the most so far. I wouldn´t be here if Heavenly Father didn´t believe I could do it. It´s that simple. He called me here because He trusted me to manage and do it well (eventually) and so He will help me along the way. Thinking "I can´t do this" isn´t being humble. I need to be nicer to myself. It´s ok to realize that my best right now isn´t going to get the job done. That´s why I have a companion who actually speaks Spanish. If I keep trying I will eventually be able to communicate in Spanish the way I need and want to, but right now I can´t expect more of myself than my best. And right now sometimes my best is just trying to manage a smile. 

Also a big blessing has been the fact that we've had to travel to posadas twice this past week and once more this Wednesday. It is SO good to talk to American sisters and elders who are going through or have been through exactly the same thing. It´s hard with a native companion to think ¨"you have no idea how hard this is for me" when they were just able to jump right in and start testifying. But that´s not right. It’s also way difficult to have companionship unity when you don´t speak the same language so that’s a little difficult at times. I really have discovered the power of hymns, and my new favorite thing to do is sing the verses to where can I turn for peace, and then continue with the tune but sing the verses of come ye disconsolate. It’s amazing. I got the package!! The elder said it arrived before I even came to Argentina so if don´t know how that even happened. I´ve skimmed through it, love it all, am saving the notes and stocking for Christmas but think I’ll decorate a little today in keeping with our tradition. :)

I love you all a ton and am literally SOO thankful for all your love and support. 

much much love!!