Tuesday, May 28, 2013

No word yet on my visa!

Hola Familia!

This week has been awesome! Last week after I emailed we went to the lighthouse at Windpoint. I love lighthouses and it was beautiful weather that day. We ended up walking along the beach again today because it's just so pretty.
Last week after we emailed we went up to the lighthouse. I love lighthouses. Here are some of the pictures.

No word yet on my visa! I am happy to be in Racine though. I am so grateful I got to serve here before I went to Peru. I love the people in this area so much and I can't imagine not having been able to be with them. We also found out that an apostle is coming to this mission on June 15th! I don't know if I will be here that long but if I am that will be neat.
  This week I have had moments where I have gone through real culture shock. It's just so diverse here and I love it. Every house we go into is different. For example, we visited an older member of the ward named Sister Umhoefer. She was originally from England. We walked into her home and she said "Oh you are just in time for tea, if we were in England it would be customary for me to offer you tea and biscuits."(In a very thick English accent) So she served us herbal tea on a real tea set and biscuits. I felt like I was in England in her home. That same day we went to dinner at the Schapp's home. They are a part member family and we are teaching the husband. She is from the south and has a deep southern accent and fed us some of the best southern BBQ I have ever tasted. When I go over there I feel like I am in the south. Sulema and Josie's family are Mexican and from Texas. When we go over there we speak some Spanish with them and I feel like we aren't in Wisconsin either. Then I come home to Brother and Sister Briggs who have a sure fire Wisconsin accent. I can pick out who is really from Wisconsin pretty easily now if I listen to them talk long enough. It's really neat.
We found palm trees. It's like I'm in Peru? Just kidding.
There is some really neat history here too. We visited a girl named Jennie this week who is about my age. She is living with her boyfriends family in a home that is really old but it has been kept up really well. We were looking for a computer in her house to show her a talk on lds.org and I was admiring the detail in the home. I told her how neat I thought it was and she told us that it used to be a morgue many years ago and that it is supposedly haunted but she doesn't believe it. She also said that this home has secret doors for rooms that hid slaves as part of the underground railroad. We got to see them and that was really cool.

Brother Perkins (the tall, black man who is engaged to Sulema's sister) surprised all of us and said the opening prayer for one of our lessons this week. He hardly ever says anything but Sulema asked him if he wanted to pray and he very slowly agreed. We went over how to pray with him and he said a really simple but powerful prayer. There is nothing quite as sweet as listening to someone pray for the first time. It's just so innocent. He also agreed to have a lesson with us this next week which was huge.
Today we went and walked along the lake! It was really fun.
My companions and I are getting to the point where we read each other well and lessons are getting better. Sister Boone is the master of analogies. She has an analogy for everything and can relate anything to the gospel which helps a lot when we are teaching Josie especially. Sister Caceres has what I refer to as a Spirit meter. I can look at her in a lesson and she will nod her head just slightly and I can sense from her how things are going in a lesson. From her eyes I have enough to know where we need to go next. She is really good at picking out exactly how they are feeling from what we are saying and measuring any influx of the Spirit. I hope that some of their gifts rub off on me while I am with them.
Another one of our investigators that we are teaching is named Kira. She is 23 years old and has three little girls ages 3, 2, and 1. They are so very cute but so busy so we always try to teach her during nap time. She is preparing to be baptized not this week but the week after which is really exciting for our area after not having one for so long. The first time we visited her I thought I was going to die from smoke inhalation in about ten minutes. It is a small home, she lives with three friends who all smoke and buy her cigarettes. But as we sat on the floor and taught her I was so impressed with her faith. When I got here she was having a really difficult time not smoking. I promised her that God would help her stop smoking. And this week she hasn't smoked at all and reported that she hasn't really wanted one either. She moved her baptism date up because it wasn't coming soon enough and is sharing the gospel with everyone she knows. 
Missing lifeguard season

She has really struggled with money lately especially this week. She didn't have enough to buy diapers but her ex husband finally gave her enough for diapers. Kira called us last night and told us that she had seen a girl about our age on the side of the road holding a sign saying that she was broke. She said she felt love for the girl and gave her the three last dollars that she had. There have been moments in my life where I realize what the gospel is all about. Last night was one of those moments. Kira showed me what was really meant by  Mosiah 18:9 "Yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life." It was cool to look back and see that the woman you were teaching has now become such an example to you. I hope I can develop her compassion and love someday.
The message I am teaching is true. It is real. I know that it is. Real miracles are happening everyday.
Con amor,
Hermana Rhoten

Monday, May 20, 2013

Hola from Wisconsin!

Racine, Wisconsin
Lake Michigan
I arrived at about 9am on Tuesday and I was really tired. I finally caught up on sleep and am doing great! When we were flying in I kept thinking that we were getting really close to the water without seeing any land because all I could see was Lake Michigan. But land appeared just in time. I am assigned to the Racine, Wisconsin area. It is the economically poorest area in the mission. We live on the outskirts of Racine with an older couple. Racine has a really neat culture. I was told that it is about 60% African American and that there is also a large Latin population. There is a set of Spanish elders whose area overlaps ours and many of the people we have taught speak Spanish so I have tried to practice it a little bit but we teach the lessons in English. Its been a low area for missionary work and hasn't had any baptisms since February. There have been rumors for awhile that they were going to close this area but they haven't yet. There aren't many places that sister missionaries are allowed to be so we don't knock doors and work mostly through members and one of the main goals is to strengthen the ward because there are so many inactive members. We have a car and I am becoming a professional backer upper.
Hello Lake Michigan!
I am in a trio again! My trainers name is Sister Boone and she is from Ririe, Idaho. What are the odds right? Ririe isn't a very big place. She was surprised I knew right where it was. She has been out on the mission for about a year. My other companion is a visa waiter also but has been here for a month already. Her name is Sister Caceres and is Peruvian! Again what are the odds of that?! She was adopted from Peru when she was little and grew up in Utah. She speaks Spanish/English and is going to Brazil speaking Portuguese. I love them! They are so kind and so patient with me. It has been harder for them to adapt to being in a trio than it was for me but we are making it work.
Sweet Sister Maine and my companions
We try our best to speak our languages as much as we can. I can only imagine what we sound like. In the mornings we sing the same hymn in all three languages and whenever we pray together we pray in our assigned languages. Sister Boone also studied sign language for a few years so she will do that sometimes. I am picking up lots of Portuguese, I can understand almost everything she says because a lot of the verbs are the same just pronounced funny. Sister Caceres will say something in Portuguese and I will reply in Spanish pretty much all day long. She tells me things I say don't make sense but she has a hard time helping me with pronunciation because she will get Spanish and Portuguese confused.
Everyone's Dandelions
My first impressions of Wisconsin were that it is beautiful! It is so green. Dandelions grow everywhere here. Every yard is covered with them and although the people call them a weed and try so hard to get rid of them I think they are pretty. I have seen two deer since I have been here. It is so beautiful that I would consider living here. But then I heard that last winter they got snow up to the top of the door I said never mind. The cheese is pretty dang good. Brother and Sister Briggs (who we live with) have all different kinds and they always offer it to us. My favorite is the mango jalapeno cheese. From what I have been exposed to so far I have realized this area has a mix of Canadian and southern culture. They use words like "beag" instead of "bag" and say things like "Lord knows he gonna need help if he forgets to bring my potato pearls again."
I have had lots of experiences this week so I will just share my favorite. My very first lesson in the field, we were teaching a woman named Sulema and her daughter Josie. They have been teaching them for awhile but they hadn't really progressed. We taught with the spirit and I asked them to be baptized. We talked over their concerns and they accepted for June 29th! My companions said that was the best lesson they have ever had with them. God has more work to do in this area. Sulema and Josie are a testament of why I am needed here at this time.
Our humble abode
Later in the week we taught them again. This time we taught Sulema's sister and her fiance Bro. Perkins. Her sister is a recent convert and is very talkative and animated. Bro. Perkins is a very tall, very quiet, black gentlemen who shows little expression so it is funny to see them together. He is very shy and hardly ever makes eye contact. We taught about prophets and prayer and shared a Mormon message about prayer with President Monson in it. The first time it was interrupted of course because Satan always tries to stop it. I swear we always get interrupted in the parts where the spirit is the strongest. We decided to start it over and play it one more time. The spirit was so strong. I shared one of my experiences that I had as a little girl when I prayed. I felt the Spirit projecting through my words with great power. Bro. Perkins made eye contact with me for my entire story and I knew he felt something. We asked Sulema how she felt. She said that she felt good and she felt tingly inside. Her whole countenance had changed and she was smiling. She said she recognized the feeling from five years ago when her sister was visiting with the missionaries. As I heard the prophets voice in that small, dark, humble home I felt the Spirit fill the room with light and recognized again that Thomas S. Monson was a prophet of God and what I was teaching was true. There was too much power to deny it.
My address is 8508 Braun Rd. Racine Wisconsin 83403. You can send letters there. Hope all is well at home!
Con amor,
Hermana Rhoten

Monday, May 13, 2013

The news this week is that I am leaving today to go to the Wisconsin Milwaukee Mission!

I talked to my branch president yesterday and he gave me permission to email and do laundry today before I head out. The news this week is that I am leaving today to go to the Wisconsin Milwaukee Mission! The travel office told us that Wednesday night our online portals would change if we were getting reassigned. And although we were told Wednesday night we were checking all day. Wednesday we also got a new district so that evening I was with the zone leaders talking to the new district welcoming them to the zone, going over rules, asking questions etc. Members of my zone stuck their heads in and said "Go check your portal!" I hurried to the other room and my flag had changed. I was so excited and a little caught off guard. I have never been anywhere near there. I only had a few seconds so I saw it and hurried back into the room with the new district. I attempted to act composed again but without much success because of the epinephrine and norepinephrine which seemed to be dominating my attempt to be calm and collected.
We went to the travel office on Thursday and got my flight plans. I report to the travel office at 8:30 P.M. tonight. (Monday night) I fly first to Atlanta Georgia which leaves at 1:00 A.M and then to Wisconsin. With the time changes and all I should be there about 9 a.m tomorrow morning. I want to be excited and ready to work when I get there but I have a feeling I will be tired. I will do my best to sleep on the plane.
My Zone
A lot happened this week. It was pretty different because we didn't have a strict schedule since we weren't suppose to be here this week. We still had class for 6 hours every day but we made a lot of our own schedule and helped out other districts a lot. We were investigators for them and watched them try to teach us with their one and two week Spanish which can be entertaining at times. Our Elders were called down to the main office on Monday morning and were asked to participate in an all day service project for most of this week. Moving beds, desks, and other furniture on BYU campus. They are in the process of making an almost separate MTC from the old BYU apartments over there. They told us it will be separate from over here except for devotionals and they will have their own cafeteria and everything. They are expecting an overload of missionaries within the next few weeks that school gets out. The work is growing so fast.
Elder Parsons and Hermana Johnson

Hermana Johnson and Elder Truman
My district is splitting up so fast. Three of our Elders were temporarily assigned to Alabama and left Saturday morning. Two more of our Elders left this morning going to Arizona. I am the odd one out going to Wisconsin. I know that the Lord has a reason he is sending me there and I am excited to find out what it is. Elder Valle and Hermana Johnson have their visas but they don't have travel plans yet so they don't know when they will leave. After today it will just be the two of them. The five of us that were left sang in Sacrament Meeting yesterday. We sang God Be With You Till We Meet Again, and had every hermana in the second oldest district crying.
We got roommates this week! The whole time we have been here its just been my companion(s) and I but on Wednesday we got two new sisters. They are both going to Ukraine and are learning Russian. Their names are Cectpa (pronounced sistra, sorry I cant type my Russian accent) Welling and Gillespie. They are both from Utah. Its so fun to have companionship prayers at night in Russian and Spanish.
We have two class periods a day and during those class periods we always in a way do the same things. One thing we always do is a grammar lesson. The past five class periods we reviewed grammar and we feel like we have it mastered on paper so our teacher decided to have each of us teach our class a separate grammar principle to see if we really understand it. Our teacher was crying from how hard she was laughing at us pretending to make mistakes and asking our "teacher" how to fix them. It was awesome because she is usually so composed.
Hermana Johnson and Hermana Green
Devotionals this week were Elder Gavarrett (seventy) and Shane Littlefield from the missionary department. They both did a really great job. Between our devotional from last night and watching Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration last night I am feeling pumped to just go to work. During Relief Society yesterday we heard from Janice Kapp Perry. She wrote a lot of music/songs for the church and during the middle of her talk she asked all of the sisters to sing a medley of them. We sang A Child's Prayer, Army of Helaman, I love to see the Temple, Love is Spoken Here, I'm trying to be like Jesus, and As sisters in Zion (which she wrote the music for). She said she would never hear those songs sung more to her liking than she did as we sang them. At the end of her talk she told us about new lyrics she had written to As Sisters in Zion music that were going to soon be recorded and published about the announcement of sister missionaries. She told us that we were the first ever who would sing it. It was powerful. All I remember about the words were "The sisters of Zion are called to his labor...and somewhere in the middle singing the angels of heaven are walking beside us."
Also I
forgot to mention that I saw Rob and Rinamay at the temple last week. He just had surgery on his shoulder. But it was cool to see them. I know this work is real. Talk to you all from Wisconsin next week!
Hermana Rhoten

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hola familia!
As you know, I am still here! We were sure that we would get at least a temporary assignment last Thursday but we went in and they said there were too many people that needed reassignments and that we would be here another week. We were sad for about five minutes and then we committed ourselves to having the most productive week in the MTC thus far. We set some awesome goals for this week and we have been working really hard. One of our Elders in our district made friends with a lady that works in the travel office by singing a song in Portuguese to her and she looked at the list and told us we were at the top of the reassignment list even though they usually keep us pretty much in the dark. I should have a temporary assignment on Thursday. I will get to call again for five minutes sometime this week and let you know where I am going if I get it. Keep your phone handy. It was so fun to talk to each of you for a few seconds. It was probably the shortest five minutes ever but I was really happy when I got off the phone. My companion was crying and I was grinning ear to ear. My companion was embarrassed and the lady at the front desk tried to comfort her and said most sisters cry, then she looked at me and said, "Well except for you." But I was really just so happy.
Sisters in our Branch
Goodbye Elder Kent
Silly Elders
Elder Kent left this week so now our district is down to 8. Last p-day we were able to go to do a session together as a district. It was really special, I love to be in the temple. Also yesterday all of our Elders got called down to the main office. They came over the intercom and called each of them by name in our classroom leaving out only the sisters. Since we are here a week past our leave date they got asked to do a special service assignment every day this week all day long moving desks. We wanted to help so bad but they only want Elders so it sounds like we are going to be hanging out with the other districts a lot this week since our district will be gone. It sounds like we will have a lot of study time. One of our teachers said that she could come in one day and help us so that we aren't all alone in teaching ourselves. We also got a new district so I have been working with the sisters in that district to help get them oriented and figure out everything. One of the girls was really homesick the first day. I walked into the room and she was practically in tears. I pulled her out and told her that she didn't have to cry in front of everyone. She opened up to me a lot. I have been grateful that during a few case studies during my internship, the doctors spoke about homesickness and how to handle it at BYU-Idaho because it was something that they dealt with a lot. The things that I learned in my internship have helped me help lots of people in my zone.
Elder Nite and Stuart
On a side note, I realized this week that I have become a master of ties. I have been surrounded by Elders for so long. I know how to tie ties, which ties are good and bad, what all of the different knots are and how to recognize them, as well as brands, fabrics and how to take care of each different kind of fabric. I pledge to only give good ties as gifts for the rest of my life. The Elders in my district would be so proud.
Our branch. The couple standing next to us is our branch president and his wife.
Chad Lewis!
This week for Devotionals we heard from Elder Packer of the seventy and then on Sunday we heard from Chad Lewis! On Sunday my district was sitting right in the front and I recognized his name on the screen so I went up to shake his hand. He asked me where I was going and I told him and he smiled and said "Go get um". At the end of the devotional a bunch of my district wanted to go shake his hand so I followed them even though I already had and we got a picture with him! My companion and I were the very last people to get a picture before security said they couldn't any more. Nothing like getting pumped up for missionary work by a football player. He was awesome and told lots of funny stories. He served his mission in Taiwan  and speaks Mandarin Chinese. His family sat in front of us and he had some of the tallest daughters I have ever seen. His wife spoke for a few minutes at first talking about using our talents. She told a story of her brother in the mission field who had a companion who couldn't speak the language at all but he had the greatest smile in the whole world. They decided to use his talent and he would just smile really big while the other companion did all the talking. She said they got into more houses that way than ever before. In the beginning of her talk she mentioned Elder Emery's talent for basketball. When I was waiting in line with my district I found Elder Emery standing next to me and my district, waiting to go back and talk with Chad. It was awesome. (Marissa would be jealous.) I apologize to everyone who doesn't follow BYU sports but it was pretty awesome.
This week I got to be a host to some of the new incoming missionaries. My responsibility was to help them from the curb to getting everything they need, finding their way to their room, and taking them to their classroom. It was really fun and something different from our normal schedule. One of the best things about being in the MTC is being able to say welcome to everyone in Spanish. The next day we had infield orientation which was wonderful but also super long. It was like sitting in a class from 8 am to 6pm. I also found a new weakness I have this week in the form of street contacting. At first our teacher took us outside and asked us to stand on a bench and preach the gospel. It was pretty scary and way out of my comfort zone. Then we went around and attempted to share the gospel with people around the MTC. Although some people stopped lots of people said they were busy. I was thinking if missionaries won't even stop to listen to us we are in real trouble. But it definitely got better as we went along. My teacher said by the end we were getting good at it.
Laundry Day. My clothes didnt dry all the way today. I feel like i am back in college...  
I am becoming a better missionary every day. There are many times where I feel like I was born to be a missionary. There are lots of people who had a really hard time adjusting to missionary work but I feel that it comes so naturally to me and I am really blessed. I try to recite the Living Christ once ever day and I read it in Spanish each night to practice pronunciation. I love Jesus Christ and that I have such a wonderful opportunity to wear his name on my badge. I hope I am able to do the best I can in this work and spread the gospel like Samuel the Lamanite when arrows are being thrown at me, because I know what I am saying is TRUE and that the Lord will help me.
Have a great week everyone!
Con amor,
Hermana Rhoten