Thursday, April 26, 2012

First Temple Trip and the "cool contact of the week"

Hello everybody!  
After reading through gramma and grampas latest blog entries, it kinda dawned on me that I'm not going to have nearly as many cool pictures to send home!   Oh well, I guess you'll all just get really familiar with the Houston suburbs!
This week we had our first temple trip.  We get to go twice a year (usually a few weeks after conference) and then on our last day in the mission.  The temple isn't actually in the mission, and the Houston temple is one of the small ones, so temple trips are very scheduled and very planned out.  It's not like in Madrid when we could pick which P-day worked best for us.  It's a very pretty temple, and it was fun to go! 
I've also noticed how different the P-days are here.  We have to take care of all the shopping and cleaning and what-nots, but we have managed to find some time every week to write letters and relax.  We never had relaxing p-days in Spain, and sometimes they were the most stressful.  But there isn't that need to see all "the sights" here in Houston like there was in Madrid.  So P-days are just one of the many things that changes from mission to mission. 
It's fun to hear about all the wedding planning going on!  I bet it gets a little stressful, but I'm sure that everything will turn out great!  I sure that Brenna will love meeting Will's family.  I haven't heard anything about San Antonio yet, so I can't tell her what to look out for.  I just haven't met anybody who has lived there or has family there. 
I love hearing about the missionary homecomings!  So much fun!  I feel bad for MaryAndra though.  She spoke with Richie and me when we left.  I hope one day she gets to speak in a regular sacrament meeting without too many extra people!
Well, we eat a lot of Mexican food.  Fajitas and what not.  It's all pretty tasty!  So we eat a lot of meat.  Actual meat, not just chicken.  So if we've eaten with a members a few nights in a row, I can tell that I'm still working on digesting everything.  There are some really good members here who are willing to help us out, and we are still working through the list of referrals we got from the members last week.  It was a kind of potluck event, so there were some Tamales, a Mexican soup (which I think is called might have to check on that.)  And some other pretty traditional food. 
Ready for the cool contact of the week...?  We were out just walking around and talking to some people, when we came across two really tall guys, so we started to talk to them.  Turns out they had both been professional basketball players, and one of them had played with the Jazz the year they went to the finals.  We had a little conversation with him about what he remembered from Utah.  I guess you never know who you might run into!
We had another really rainy day this last week.  And now I don't even really notice the humidity.  Although it does get a little worse right before the big storms come in.  
There are a lot more meetings here than there were in Spain.  At least that I'm noticing.  It was so hard to get everyone together that they would have to do their zone leaders conference via Skype.  But here everyone is much closer, so they come together more frequently.  This week we have zone conference.  I'm very excited!  I love being able to take the time to learn and be reminded of the little things that make the difference out here. 
Well...I guess that's about it for this week!
Love you lots,

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

First photo from Texas!

We received this photo in an email from Sister Saylin, the mission president's wife. It was taken the first day that Amber arrived in Houston. There are some new missionaries, some visiting family members, and Pres. and Sis. Saylin with their 7 children (all sitting in the same row). They range in age from 17 to 10 months. The baby's name is Sam Houston, so I am guessing that he was born while they have been serving there.

Is that really Spanish you're speaking?

April 16, 2012

Hello Family!
I happen to be right in the middle of my first Houston rainstorm. It's really pouring!!!!

We live in Stafford, and I don't actually know the address of our apartments, sorry.
We are definitely in the suburbs. There is no part of our area that could really be called the city. It's a different experience to walk down the street looking for people to talk to and not see anybody. There was almost always somebody in the street in Spain.

It's a pretty good sized ward. Definitely the biggest one I've been in. The boundaries are kinda big, so they've split the ward between Elders and Sisters. So we only work in about half of the ward. We actually do just about all our teaching in Spanish. There are English missionaries in our same area, so we pass the English speakers on to them. Some times we'll teach in English, if they would prefer it, but everyone we teach goes to the Spanish ward, so that's what we usually teach in.

We use plenty of Spanish so it has definitely come back. And some people do wonder where I'm from because I do have a different accent. I also have a very different way of expressing myself. I guess the way they put their sentences together in Spain is different than in Central America, so people have commented on that as well. I can also tell how Americanized Central American Spanish is. There are a lot of words and expressions that have made their way into Spanish, that it's kinda funny to listen to.

I'm doing ok with the food so far. But we are eating in members homes way more than we did in Spain. So that just usually fills me up for the rest of the day and the night. We actually ate in a members home yesterday after church, and I still wasn't really hungry when it was time for breakfast this morning. We do a little bit of cooking, but it's mostly microwave food or sandwiches and things we can eat on the road. It's difficult to get back to where we live and eat and head back out. So we just make do with what we've got.

We ride our bikes a lot, almost everyday. We will usually put them on the back of the car, and then park it in a neighborhood and bike around, but every once in a while we just take our bikes from the apartment. Our apartment is kinda in the corner of our area, so leaving straight from home isn't always the best idea.

We have our district meetings at a local church building. My last district meeting was pretty good, even though it was a little weird that it was in English. Any meeting of missionaries is in English, especially when there are more languages in the mission. Not everybody here speaks Spanish! And I believe that most of the native Spanish speakers speak good enough English, so there isn't really a need to do everything in the mission language. In Spain, all meetings had to be in Spanish, because most of the natives didn't speak any English. So adjusting to that has been a little weird, but good.

We've been looking for some new people to teach, and it looks like we've got a few good prospects...but they are all just starting out so we'll see how that goes.

Love you lots!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

First email from Texas!

April 9, 2012

Hello everyone! Let's see if I can start by answering everyone's questions!!!

First, it doesn't matter what side you wear your name tag, (at least that is what Sis. Earl told me in the MTC.) But because the elders wear them in their shirt pockets, most people just usually put them there. So if I've got something on the side of my shirt I'll switch it! I had also put my hair up for the humidity and the tracting we did, and then forgot about it, so by the time pictures rolled around, I had to wear it up.

The official name of the area is Houston 4 South. There are two sets of missionaries in our ward, (Houston 4) so we've split the area - it's not like Madrid where the two companionships share the whole area. It's a pretty great ward, and they have some good members who are willing to help us out! I guess I never realized just how bilingual these wards can be. The members who grew up here have learned English in school and whatnot, so there are a ton of members who can, and do, speak in English with ust. Not like Spain where if we found a member who did speak English, they would just speak in Spanish. There are also a lot of Hispanics who live in the area. The ward boundaries are actually kinda big, so it helps that we don't have to worry about a lot of travel time. I guess the biggest difference I notice is in the contacts. It's almost like a whole different mentality. We are definitely in the suburbs, and not the city, so we do a lot of riding around and looking for people who are out and about. We also do a lot of contacts in English, and then pass those names over to the English missionaries nearby.

The humidity hit me at first, but now I don't really notice it, although I might just be getting used to it.

I did get to meet the other missionaries. We all flew in together, and we sat right by each other, so we had some time to talk and to get to know one another.
My companion is Hna. Alsup, she's from San Diego. We actually had a few weeks in the MTC together, so she has just a few transfers left. I think she's going home in June. The schedule hasn't been too hard to adjust to. I got so tired after the first few days that my body just sort of reset itself. The first night we stayed with the Senior Couple working in the office. Then they drove us over to the mission office where we had some breakfast, some more training, and got to sit in on transfer meeting. They had my bike already to go, they picked it up with all of the other ones. We actually use our bikes quite a bit!

I know that Erianne Avery is here, it sounds like she's in another zone kinda far away, so maybe I'll get to see her when we all go to the temple in a couple weeks. They have temple trips a few weeks after conference, and you get to go again on your last day, so I'll still get to go, even if it's not as often.

For now, the mission office is a good enough place to send it. The office is actually in our area, so we get the mail frequently here, and packages should always go to the office.

It sounds like everyone is doing great! I hope everyone did have a good Easter! We had a good Easter program, and ate with some members, and then a devotional, so it was a pretty good Sunday.

It has been a little weird to adjust the way we do the missionary work. It's a different place, and the people here respond differently to different things, so the way we do contacts are different, and the way we commit people to stuff is different as well. So while I've had to change some things, there are still some things, like teaching techniques, that I learned in Spain, so I've been able to bring a new set of eyes to lessons. We spent a lot of time looking for people to teach this week. There was a family who got baptized over conference weekend, so they did the confirmations yesterday. We are planning a big missionary activity for next week, so hopefully we will have some more references from the members. We got a few good investigators right now, but not too many. So we are mostly working on finding people to teach. They had a devotional last night for investigators. They had several recent converts speak about their experience, and share their testimonies. They had asked me to play, so we got to go even though we didn't have any investigators.

I think that is about all for this week!

Love you lots!


We are pleased to report that Amber has been cleared by her doctors and was more than ready to return to the mission field!

She was given the choice to return to Spain, but would have had to wait another 4 months for a new Visa. She was ready to get back out, so opted to be reassigned instead. She found out on Thursday afternoon and had to report to the airport at 8:00 am Tuesday morning.

Hermana Lewis was reassigned to the TEXAS HOUSTON SOUTH MISSION. She arrived on Tuesday, April 3. She is excited to be back out serving in the mission field. She will be serving another 9 months, so look for her to return in December!