Monday, March 24, 2014

Julia Down Under (week 2)

G'day mates!

Second P-day already! How did that happen??

I feel more like a real missionary this week! We've done more tracting and teaching real lessons!

Tracting is terrifying. Just knocking on strangers' doors and talking to them is sooooo scary. A lot of times people are nice, but they hardly ever want to meet with us. But we always leave them with a pamphlet or a pass along card with our number and hope for the best!

We started teaching Mimi, our new investigator, this week! She and her family are from Sudan, and their whole family is absolutely gorgeous. We came over on Tuesday to help her clean for her inspections and she was just so happy to see us! When we came back later in the week to teach her, she opened up to us about her strong belief in God and her hard life in Sudan. She told us that she had been praying to find friends in Australia, and then the missionaries knocked on her door!! We told her that we're sent to her by God to be her friends and to help her! I can't wait to watch her grow and progress.

We also worked on contacting some of the many, many less actives in our ward as well as former investigators. We came across Ayan, who is a former investigator, and is also from Sudan. She totally welcomed us in and fed us lunch and let us pray with her and her kids! She told us that the elders who used to teach her just left without saying goodbye, so we don't really know what happened with them. But she seems really keen on having us back in her home, so hopefully we'll get to teach her more too!

We did exchanges with the sister training leaders this week. I went out with Sister Williams, who is also from Utah. We drove out to the very edge of our area to visit a sister in Sister Williams' ward, and it was like being out in the outback! We drove on dirt roads and saw tons of horses! We also spent a lot of time finding, so we just walked around neighborhoods and talked to people who were outside. Gosh, that was also really scary. I'm not very good at thinking of things to talk to people about, let alone start talking to them about the gospel! But I'm working on being bold and just opening my mouth and trusting that the Lord will fill it. I'm also making a list of things to say to people in case I panic and my mind goes blank like it usually does when I try talking to strangers.

I remembered my camera today so I can finally send pictures!! The top one is my last meal of Cafe Rio for a year and a half :'( and the bottom one is me and my companion, Sister Leota, at the Melbourne temple!

I love you all heaps!!
xoxoxox Sister Larsen

Sunday, March 16, 2014

From Down Under (March 16, 2014)

Hello all! Greetings from my first P-day in the land down under!

Australia is great! I'm serving in the Point Cook area, which is about an hour and a half west of Melbourne itself. The neighborhoods around here are quite nice (or "flash" as the Aussies say) and the people are really great. I live in a flat with another companionship of sisters, which is super fun. Our flat definitely needs a deep clean so hopefully we'll get to that today. 

My companion, Sister Leota, is awesome! She's from New Zealand but her family is Samoan. She only has a few months left on her mission! She's super nice and funny and so warm and so good to me. The sisters here call each other "Sis" or "Soa," which is Samoan for "companion." Sister Leota sometimes calls me "little flock" because my favorite scripture is D&C 6:34. Look it up! ;)

We have been so busy this week, but hardly any of what we've done has been real bonafide missionary work. We've had a district meeting, a service project with members, lots of meals with less actives and other members, splits with the Relief Society presidency, and a temple trip! I loved being able to go to the temple so early in my mission, even though it probably means that I only get to go two more times. The drive from my area to the temple is about an hour and a half without traffic, but we ran into some crazy traffic in the city so it took a little over two hours. 

Oh, and did I mention that I'M DRIVING?! My companion doesn't have her full license so she's not allowed to drive, but apparently having an American license qualifies you to drive on your first day. So I drive to my first area on my very first day in Australia. It was pretty terrifying, but we're still alive and haven't gotten super lost yet, so I'd say we're doing pretty well. The roads here are super narrow and the stoplights are in different places than in America, not to mention that they drive on the wrong side of the road here. It's an adventure every day.

The people in my area are just so wonderful! Nearly everyone is an islander or their family is from the islands, so the culture is really different from what I'm used to. Everyone is so warm and welcoming! All the sisters greet us with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, even if we've just barely met! The food is pretty interesting, too. On my very first night we went to a homecoming dinner for a girl in our district who just came home from her mission, and there was so. much. food!!! Aaaaaand a whole pig. An entire, roasted, head and ears still attached, pig, just hanging out on the counter. And we went to a luau at the church on Saturday, and there was another entire pig!! It freaked me out so much, but everyone else seemed to love it. Everyone eats tons of food, too, so they look at me funny if I don't fill my entire platter-sized dinner plate and always ask if I've had enough to eat even if I'm full to bursting. I haven't been properly hungry in the last week because everyone feeds us so much!

People here eat a TON of meat, which is an interesting experience for little vegetarian me. The members are all really accommodating and willing to put an extra salad on the table or cook fish as well as chicken. On Saturday, though, we had lunch at a less active sister's house with two of the other sets of elders in our district, and she cooked us steak. And not just regular sized steaks, either. They were "massive as" (as they say here...I'm still not sure quite what they are as massive as...) rump steaks that she just hacked off a giant hunk of cow and threw on the grill. She seemed like someone who would probably get offended if I didn't eat her I ate my steak. Oh, man. It was the first red meat I've eaten in YEARS, and it made me so sick! I was nauseous for the next day and a half. Now even the smell of meat makes me feel queasy. So, no more meat for me.

We spent a lot of time this week the the Ta'ala family. They have been less active for a long time, but are coming back to church and working towards getting their family sealed in the temple!! They fed us twice this week, and we got to talk with them about the importance of family and temple covenants. Sister Ta'ala is quitting smoking so she can go to the temple! They've had to completely change their lives for the gospel, and I admire their sacrifice and dedication so much.

We only did a little bit of tracting this week, and all of it was totally unsuccessful. Hopefully next week we'll be able to do some more finding and get us some investigators!

I love you all! Best wishes to everyone back home! The church is true!


Sister Larsen

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

First MTC letter

Dear family & friends,

I can't believe it's already been a whole week at the MTC! But at the same time it feels like I've been here my whole life. Like I'm in some sort of netherworld where I didn't exist before I was a missionary and the real world was just a dream. It's super weird.

Everyone is so wonderful here. My companion, Sister Kruyer, is just magnificent. We became instant best friends and I love spending every day with her. We have some funny similarities, like both of our brothers' names are Jonathan, my dog's name is Coco and her dog's name is Chanel, and both of us want to be princesses at DisneyWorld. We sing "Let It Go" probably every day. When it comes to teaching, we work together really well. I'm good at knowing the lessons and she's good at following the Spirit and testifying, so we help out with each other's weaknesses and make a really good team, especially when we invite the Lord to be our team captain.

Our district is super great. We have two sets of elders in our district and then just Sister Kruyer and me. Three of our elders are going to Nashville, and one of them is coming to Melbourne with us sisters. Everyone in my district has such an incredible conversion story, and my testimony has been so strengthened by theirs. It's amazing how much I love everyone already. We've all become so close and I'm sad that we aren't all going to the same mission!

The food here SUCKS though. I am so hungry!! So thanks for the brownies, family. They're the first really good thing I've eaten in a week. And none of the stuff they serve us ever has cheese, which is the worst. Also there's no pizza. I think I've developed a more sincere love for pizza since I lived in London and all the pizza sucked. Now I'm even in America and there's no pizza! What is life without pizza?? 

But despite being hungry, I'm learning so much here! Missionary work is about so much more than just knowing the lessons. I could sit down and tell an investigator the restoration simply and eloquently, but it wouldn't matter to him if the Spirit wasn't there. I really had to learn that my first couple of days. I came in thinking I had it all in the bag because I knew the lessons well, but God served me up a big ol' piece of humble pie and told me that I really can't do it all by myself. I need to listen to Him to know what my investigators need and how to teach them in a way that they will understand and a way that the doctrine will matter to them. I keep thinking of Brigham Young's conversion story. He wasn't convinced by the people who could speak well or use fancy words. He was converted by the simple, honest testimony of an uneducated man who said what he knew was true by the power of the Spirit. And that's what I need to do as a missionary. The Spirit changes hearts. My words don't.

The Lord has blessed me so much since I've been here. One of the huge blessings I've noticed is that my fear of talking to people has been incredibly diminished. I'm not afraid to talk to elders and sisters I don't know, or ask questions or comment in class, or teach our pretend investigators. It honestly is a miracle. I couldn't do this without the power of God on my side.

Big thanks to everyone who sent me Dear Elders and letters! Mail is the absolute best! it makes me feel like a real person again! I promise I'm going to reply to all of you. We're just so busy all the time here! Every minute of our day is scheduled! 

I'll send pictures a little later; the computers here can't seem to read my camera. Oh, and number one BIG news..... *drumroll*

I'm flying out to Melbourne on MONDAY!!! I'm here for less than two weeks, and everything with my visa came through so I'm headed straight into the field in four days!!! I can't begin to express how excited/terrified that makes me! So the next letter you get from me will be all the way from the Land Down Under. 

I love you all!!

G'day, darlings!

xo Sister Larsen