Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Week #13 - The Lord calls, and the Lord releases...

Hello everyone!  

I assume that since I didn't email on my regular P-day yesterday, people are guessing that I got my VISA and left to Argentina. Sorry to quench that exciting rumor, but I'm still in good ol' Tennessee :) Although, the story behind why my P-day was changed to today is equally exciting as if I had actually gotten my VISA :)

On Saturday night, we got a text from our zone leaders, telling us that Pday would be changed, and that there was a mandatory meeting called for Monday in Franklin, just by the TN temple. Since missionaries happen to be some of the best information collectors in the world, rumors started to fly pretty quickly - guessing ranged from an apostle visit, to splitting the mission, to more mission changes. It was getting pretty nuts :) I don't know about the other missionaries, but I was pretty blindsided by what was actually announced:  Just as President McKee was called by a prophet to serve as the Tennessee Nashville Mission President, he received a phone call from a prophet of God on Friday informing him that he would be released a year early. Sister McKee has had all sorts of health complications these past few months (namely 2 strokes and a heart attack - more on that story is posted on the Tennessee Nashville mission blog);  She was on the mend from the worst of it, so everyone relaxed a bit. Everyone was pretty blindsided by the news of them being released a year early, so that she could fully recover; it was pretty unexpected. Many tears were shed that day, and Hna Smith and I have talked a lot about it since then, especially since Hna Smith has served under him for a year now, and has really grown to love this man. However, this whole scenario can be fairly well summarized from a line in Preach my Gospel pg 122: 
Obedience is the first law of heaven. It is an act of faith. You may sometimes be required to do things you do not completely understand. As you obey, you increase in faith, knowledge, wisdom, testimony, protection, and freedom.

It's been a powerful last couple of days - hard for everyone in the mission, but powerful nonetheless :) Lots of thought concerning the timing of the Lord, and all that He has planned for us. In the meantime, we are all determined to make the month of June the BEST and HIGHEST baptizing month yet - the McKee's will be leaving, and the new mission president comes on July 1st. We've got a lot of work to do in the meantime! :)  

Highlights of the week:

1) This conversation with Paisley, the 4 yr old daughter of our Ward Mission Leader)

P: Sister Lake, are you married?

Me: No - I'm a missionary, remember?

P: Oh. Well, do you have any kids?

Me: Nope - still a missionary!

P: Well, when are you going to have kids?

Me: I don't know - after my mission eventually

P: Are you going to have them in Utah?

Me: Maybe

P: Well, I know the BEST place to have kids!

Me: Oh, really? Where?

P: (glances around to make sure no one hears her secret, then whispers) Manchester, Tennessee. Sister Lake, you should have your babies HERE!

At this point, I was laughing so hard that I never answered her request. The moment was 10 times funnier because of what Paisley's younger brother Whitten was doing during this time. The little 2 yr old had been grabbing at my backpack earlier, so I let him take his pick of the pamphlets I had in there - can you guess which one he chose? Yep :) During this whole conversation with Paisley telling me that Manchester was a magical place to give birth, Whitten was waving around a Chastity pamphlet and trying to get my attention by bellowing "LAKE!" as loud as his little 2 yr old voice could muster. It was a pretty hilarious moment :)  

2) Hna Smith and I deciding that Sarah Moore's DVD player is clearly anti since it was refusing to play the Restoration movie we were trying to show her. It worked on every other movie we tried, except that one!  

3) When Meghan's ring tone went off while we were driving with her, and it was "Ships in the Night" by Mat Kearney - Sister Snailio, I laughed and thought of you!! :) 

4) Having a 10 min conversation with Sarah about Duck Dynasty - apparently, it's near criminal to be serving in TN and have never seen/heard of Duck Dynasty. I've been forced to promise to watch at least one episodes of the Redneck millionaires once I get home :) 

5) The hilarity and irony of walking up to Sarah's house to see her holding a cigarette in one hard, and her Book of Mormon in the other. We laughed at that one :)  

6) THE LIGHTING BUGS/FIREFLIES ARE OUT!! (name depends on who you talk to, and whether they are 1) from the south, or 2) have seen Princess and the Frog or not :) We were driving back from Beech Groove last night, and driving on the freeway past all the fireflies made me feel like we were in a Star Wars movie - just streaks of light as we zoomed by! 

As you could probably gather, it's been a good week :) I love the work here in Manchester, and am excited to readjust and learn what I need to do in this next month! Always remember that Obedience is the FIRST law of heaven - when we are completely and willingly obedient, the Lord blesses us immensely. 

Love you all! As we learn from the ever profound movie "Meet the Robinson's", just keep moving forward! Sometimes, it's all we can do, and all the Lord desires us to try :)  

Hna Hillbill 

P.S. Shout out to all the family! Happy memorial day weekend - it was so fun to see the pictures of everyone having lunch at our house!  

Karis, I'm impressed that your face isn't too puffy from having your wisdom forcibly removed - feel free to carry on the tradition and suffer through watching "10th kingdom" again :) That's what Mason and I did!  

Mom and Dad, thanks so much for the package! Those pistachios were actually a life saver, since I hadn't eaten in a while once I got them, and scarfed them all down right there! They were yummy indeed :) Also, I'm excited to start reading the General Conference Ensigns! Thanks for that - you're the best :)  

Eden, I sure hope there's a letter on it's way! :) I love you, and love the pictures you send! You look so lovely.  

Jameson, Mom told me that you're going to do leadership! That's SUPER exciting! You'll be really good at that, and I'm excited to hear what fun stuff you end up doing :) Do they have any camps or things going on during the summer? I know they have winter camp - is there a summer activity coming up as well?  

Eli, high five for track! Sounds like you're working wonders only capable of a little Indian looking boy :) Tan enough for both of us, since you'll be the only one getting the sun :) In fact, tan enough for our whole family - you already do anyway :)  

Jaylee, I had a conversation with the little Basurto girls about those Rainbow Magic fairy books that you love so much - they love them too! We talked about Junie B Jones, Percy Jackson, and all these other books that you've talked to me about. It was fun to see them loving the same things you do - made me think of my cute mini me! :)  



Friday, May 24, 2013

Week #12 - Which way to Winchester?

I'm not sure why I always preface my emails home with "well, this week was another crazy one!!" It's as if there's a part of me that thinks someday, I'll have a week that's NOT crazy. After these past few days, I've definitely given up on that subconscious hope :)

 On Tuesday night, President called and asked Hna Smith and I to head up to Winchester for the week, to just stay with members and to tackle the Spanish work up there. Sticking with mission stereotypes, when we asked when, his answer was "can you head up there tonight?" The next day, we dove in headfirst. We quickly realized that part of the work that desperately needed to be done, was organizing and evaluating all the referrals from Dogwood. This started off a blur of organizational mayhem as we tried to gather all the referrals back (to make sure didn't lost any), sort according to town, whether they were contacted, response, and follow up appointments, and then start tackling the list of about 60 people who only put numbers and needed to be called. 3 days and lots of paper cuts later, we finally called President to report the numbers we'd figured out. Overall, it really was an awesome experience - partially because all the members were spoiling us rotten, and also because it allowed me a chance to really see how well Hna Smith and I could work together. We were put to quite a test, and had some of the BEST teamwork ever. Overall, super good :)  I'm honestly not entirely sure what the turning factor really was, but something clicked over the weekend - it makes me SO excited for this next transfer, because now I know we are ready to buckle down and work! I don't know how much longer I will be here in Manchester though - I was praying the other night, asking the Lord to let me be here in Manchester long enough to see the Basurto family baptized. I had an interesting sense of peace - I'm fairly sure that I will miss the Basurto kids' baptism, and will end up leaving around the middle of June. I love being here in Tennessee - if I had control over my call, I would wish that I could stay here longer! It's an interesting emotion being a VISA waiter - I have such good relationships with people in my ward, and feel so involved in the work here - especially in Winchester! However, as connected as I feel to the people here, I still feel out of place - I know that I have not yet reached my "home". For example, I love and appreciate President McKee and his example - but I still don't feel like I have met my "mission dad". It's an interesting experience, and really makes me reflect and wonder what things I came to Tennessee to learn - from the members here, and from my companionship with Hna Smith. Clearly, there were things I needed to know here, that I couldn't have learned otherwise :)


Chris was baptized
Also, Chris got baptized this weekend! I can't write too much about it, because I'm cutting it close on time. Overall, it went amazing, and really was the pinnacle moment for Sarah to come to being active in the church. She pretty much cried the whole weekend, and when we went to visit her Sunday night, we walked in on her reading the scriptures. So awesome! When I asked Chris what he thought of the weekend on a scale of 1 to 10, he said it ranked around a 120 :)  
Anyway, life is good! I had an AMAZING dinner at the Vaughns house last night, that was probably the most homey meal I've had while here on my mission! I'll bet you can guess what it was: a giant salad with black beans, avocado, peppers, tomatoes, chicken, cilantro (and lots of it!) with some lime avocado dressing on top. I had 3 servings, and felt more at home than ever before :) I told Meghan Vaughn to open a "Cafe Meghan" in Winchester - I would go there everyday!  My goodness, but I miss giant delicious salads! Most of the time, that's all I ever want to eat - too bad produce is always expensive :)  

I love you all!! Thankfully, a picture speaks a thousand words, so according to my normally ridiculously long email, those pictures should put me right on track :)  

Love you all!!

Hna Lake

Monday, May 13, 2013

Week #11 - Feliz dia de Madre!

Hola ya'll!! :) 

Another week in TN - though it seriously has flown by. Hna Smith and I laugh about how quickly/slowly this week has gone, and how freakishly weird it has been. We've pretty much been dancing back and forth between Winchester and Manchester, and things are nuts! I can never really remember how much I've updated on the whole Winchester business, so I'll recap - did Dogwood festival, got hundreds of referrals, was trying to figure out how on earth we're going to contact them all before they "go stale", asked President McKee, and was told to make Winchester a priority over Manchester. Soooo, we've been in contact with Chris Moore/Basurto fam, but have been spending all our other time up at Winchester knocking on referrals! It's been awesome! 

Actually, something that is quite the neat-o deal-io about Winchester - often times, when we got to try and contact someone that we have a referral for, they won't be home. So, we'll improvise and talk to their neighbor who's sitting on their porch (everyone chills on their porch in the South), so we'll end up talking to them and getting another referral! It's a blessing/super overwhelming - even as we contact one, we got 2 more from their neighbors! What a wonderful problem to have :) There are already 5 people who have committed to baptism on the first visit from the missionaries after Dogwood - it's amazing to see the hand of the Lord!!  

On the note of baptisms, Chris Cassidy (or Moore, as I may have called him before) is getting baptized this Saturday! It's a little hard - it's almost as if I want/expect him to understand everything perfectly before getting baptized, because I want him to stay strong in the church and really understand. Even as I start worrying about that though, I'm reminded of something my MTC teacher told me - "Do you remember when you got baptized? When you were 8, did you really understand everything about the gospel and know exactly what you were doing?" I don't know about others, but I certainly didn't :) That's slightly comforting as we're trying to prepare him as best we can for this weekend, though we try to help him as much as we can. In the end, we have to have faith in him, faith in the Lord, and the ability to recognize his own faith - he has SUCH a desire to get baptized, and started fist pumpin' when we reminded him that his baptism was less than a week away :)

On that note, it really is amazing to see how quickly you can come to love these people - I've known Chris for almost a month and a half now, and love him dearly already. I think about him and his family constantly, pray about what we can do to help them, and plead to the Lord on behalf of him and his family that they may have the faith to endure trials. Literally, everything I do on a mission centers around people that I met about 5 weeks ago - it's strange when you think of it that way, and yet feels to be the most natural and necessary thing. Especially when it comes to our little Hispanic families - those kids are so loved by Hna Smith and I, it's almost creepy :) (Not that you can guess that, based on the 5 pictures I send home each week of just those kiddos!)  

I love these people!
On that note, I just remembered - when we were at their house last week, I showed them a picture of my family. After marveling over how blonde we all were, little Adela asked who my Mom was, and all the kids tried to guess - they all guessed Eden, ha! I wasn't entirely sure how to respond to that, but it was hard to respond to anything anyway since I was giggling so hard :)  

Overall, it's been a wonderful, crazy week! Sorry I can't really include more specific details, but it's honestly because I can hardly remember what I did yesterday, let alone 7 days ago - this Winchester madness is killing memory cells, me thinks. And those were pretty scary to start out with anyway! :

HMA SMITH GOT POOPED ON BY A BIRD! Ha, it was so funny :) We were wandering down Coffee street, when some bird on a telephone wire let one go, and it dropped right between her two fingers. We got quite a laugh out of that one :) When we told our little Hispanic children, they acted like she had contracted the plague.

I love you all!! Happy late mothers day - especially to all those amazing women I have known in my life! I was thinking about it last Sunday, and trying to figure out how to express my gratitude for my Mom, Sisters, Aunts, Grandmothers, and Friends who have been such wonderful influences in my life. I had the thought come to me, and it almost made me laugh in the middle of Sacrament meeting, but it's true! Perhaps the best way I can put that into words is through this wish: I wish that I could take you everywhere with me in my mission, because I know that if I approached you with my precious investigators, you would take care of them. You would put your arm around them, even though they smell like strange mixtures of cigarette smoke and squeezy cheese - you would welcome them to the ward. For those who have served missions, they understand what that means - to love and have such confidence in how wonderful of a person you are, that we would trust you with those we love, and understand that others might have a hard time recognizing their worth. I was thinking this especially as I sat in the back pew with Sarah Moore and her son Chris, practically pulling teeth to get anyone in the ward to talk to them. How grateful I am for those woman who have provided examples of charity and love through the years - I will be grateful for that, and still strive to meet your example! :)  

Love you all! 

Hna Lake

Monday, May 6, 2013

Week #10 - Anyone for Dill Pickle soup?

Hello all!! 

For starters, I'm going to have to keep this letter a little shorter. Hna Smith and I have LOADS to do, so we're going to try to actually get out of the library before an hour is up :) 

Anyway, just the same as every week I've had since I've been here, this week was nuts! For starters, my Dad was awesome enough to buy/send me a new camera battery charger since I lost my charger while I was in the MTC. It came last P-day, so I have all sorts of exciting pictures to send out! Ironically, later that week, it was dumping rain, and I was putting my ever-so-feminine rain boots on, I felt something hard and VOILA! My camera charger :) Daddy, sorry that your daughter is nuts and decided to stash her camera charger in her rain boot, then forgot about it. Sorry :) On the plus side, now I have TWO! :)  

Compliments of Carissa!
(side note about the rain boots - they're plain forest green, and slightly manly looking. Then, you'll notice they have a really random gold buckle on the top of the boot - when I was putting them on the other day, I started laughing so hard that I fell off my bed. I had the Doghouse diary comic (Riss, you know which one I'm talking about - you should send it to my Mom, so she can put it on this thingy and people won't think I'm nuts) about the "cute" "super cute" difference. I thought it was funny :)  

Just for fun, here's some more fun facts about Tennessee for the week: 

1) EVERYONE wears scrubs here. I haven't yet decided if it's because everyone wants to feel intelligent and wearing Wal Mart scrubs makes you look like a nurse, or if it's merely an excuse to wear around the same thing that you slept in earlier that day. Either way, going to Wal Mart every P-day is always a hilarious adventure - someday, I'll keep track of how many scrubs-wearers I run into :) It's probably in the 30's, at least. 

2) I forgot to mention this last P-day, but we actually had a tornado warning in the middle of the night last week! Round 1:30am, we got a text telling us to take shelter, so Hna Smith and I headed to the only room in the house that didn't have windows - the broom closet. We somehow managed to stuff ourselves in there, along with Hna Smith's mattress leaning over us, so that we'd be protected if things started flying. Luckily though, the tornado didn't touch down in our area, and all was well :) Actually things were BETTER than well (awfully grammar, lo siento) since Hna Smith and I were having the time of our life crammed back there. Everything was hilarious since it was 2am, and something about being crammed into a 5'x5' closet with a mattress is really bonding. Mothers, if your kids are ever fighting too much, just skip over the "sit on the couch and hold hands" maneuver, and just throw them in a broom closet, slap a mattress on top, and they'll be golden in about 30 min. I'm serious here - super bonding :)  

3) I tried some "dill pickle soup" this last week. Truthfully, I haven't got much else to say, besides the fact that it was super weird. And yes, the name of the soup really does describe about 60% of the ingredients. Like I said, weird. 

4) HA! Okay, I'm already giggling just thinking about this story: when I was in church this last Sunday, one of the member families introduced us to their cousin, Marissa Benson, who is inactive. We were getting to know her/finding a time we could come visit, when we found out she was super busy because of her job. She is the manager over a clothing branch her in the East (I can't remember the name, sorry), and they have a big show coming up that she's busy planning for. Then it gets good - 10 min after finding out that tidbit, Hna Smith and I walked out with a phone number to call her later in the week, so we could organize coming to her store in Tullahoma for a fitting - she asked us to be models in her fashion show coming up. HA! We'll have to get it okay-ed by President, but we said she wants to introduce us as "The Mormon missionaries" and have us set up a booth in the foyer for after the show. Stay tuned for updates on this one - I'm still giggling just thinking about it. That would be the best mission story ever :)  

Okay, okay. I should probably get down to explaining why this week was so nuts. Because it was.  

Thursday - we had an awesome zone conference that we drove out to, and were pretty much at all day. Our car got inspected by Elder Rodak (one of the senior missionaries here, who is actually retired secret service. One of the Elders in our zone is scared of him, and when I asked him why, he just whispered "Hna Lake - he's killed people. He's just got that look in his eye". I couldn't stop laughing :) Anyway, you think keeping your car clean is hard? Imagine having it checked by the guy who used to inspect/drive the President's limo. That makes things a little tough :) It was an awesome training, plus I ran into Elder Lindeman, who was in my MTC district and was reassigned to TN as well. It was super fun to see him, and meet everyone else in the Zone too.  

Friday - this was the first day of the 9th annual Winchester "Dogwood Festival". As for why it's called that, I've no idea. Pretty sure dogwoods a tree. Or a carving of a dog out of wood. Or a band. Really, I've no idea.  

Anyway, this was actually pretty cool - we were doing a program called "Prepare the way" - it involved setting up an awesome booth at the festival for the LDS church, having all the missionaries from our district come up (so, 10 total) armed with clipboards and surveys. We approached people and asked if they would fill out a 4 question survey, to submit their name to a drawing for a free picture of Christ (giant one, from the stake center) or 2 trees (now that I think of it, pretty sure they were Dogwood trees. That would make sense...) The questionarre was very simple, and I'll try to attach a copy if I can - it pretty much consisted of asking if they would be interested in learning more about Christ's restored church, revealed modern day scripture, how they can be with their family forever, and if they're okay with people coming to visit them to teach them more about these things. They then left their name, address and number, and that was it. We had AMAZING success! After working for 12 hours between Friday and Sunday (more on Sat later), we contact about 300 people, and only 11 of them said "No" to all 4 questions. Basically, we've got about 289 referrals to contact between the 10 of us missionaries - AWESOME!  

Saturday - again, we went to Winchester to work the Dogwood festival, but it was cancelled because of rain. So, we just changed plans, and set out to start contacting people who were referrals from the day before! Hna Smith and I had slightly less luck than the Elders - they got invited in at every door, and taught them each about a 90 minutes less, while our experience involved a pack of 10 golden retrievers who really wanted to give us some love, a pit bull (that was legitimately scary - Hna Smith was convinced she was going to have to beat it to death with her umbrella), flooded dirt roads (it was REALLY raining), and driving loooots of miles (we went 120 from that day alone - we're only allotted 1,200 for the whole month, so we'll be walking for a while these next few days :) Basically, it was an adventure - pictures to follow :)

Sunday - Stake conference (which was also an adventure - apparently, there was a miscommunication between SLC and the whole east coast, and everyone got the wrong start time for the broadcast - we started watching it an hour later than it started, but caught the tail end of Uchtdorf's talk, which was awesome :) We also had some investigators there, so that's good.) and more Dogwood festival. Dogwood was awesome that day, though we had to leave early since another storm was coming in (that seems to have been happening an awful lot lately, now that I think about it...). Hna Smith and I headed back to the home base to start organizing/counting referrals, while the rest of the missionaries stayed behind to try and catch some more people. About 30 minutes later, there was good news and bad news - good news is, the rain stopped. Bad news in, the hail started. And I'm talking hail. The missionaries were troopers and helped run around to cover other people's booths (one sister got stuck shielding leather belts for 30 min), but got soaked. They finally trickled in, looking soaked and bruised from the golf-ball sized hail. On the plus side, there were a lot of vendors that tried to pay the missionaries back for their help, but the missionaries refused to accept their money, and made them promise to read the Book of Mormon instead. Hehe. Whatever works! :)
Basically, it was a crazy week! We've got a lot of work ahead of us - 290 referrals!! However, we're all super pumped to see the growth that's going to come from this. I seriously recommend doing this program to anyone that would like to try it out! Spokane mission, Brazil, whatever. It's worked wonders here. If people want to know more, I can email out a more detailed game plan if they want - it's pretty amazing! When Brother Dubose (one of the members in Winchester) did this program during his mission in Boise Idaho (that's where the idea originally sprang from), they contacted 40,598 people (though only 17,805 were home), have 416 first discussions, and 101 baptisms come of it. Super cool! This works, I'm telling ya :) 

Anyway, I've got to get going - my "short email" ending up being pretty long :) Hna Smith's still going strong though, so I don't feel too bad :) I'll finish off with this - I love being a missionary. The longer I am here, the better I love people, and the thinner the veil becomes. I love being a servant of God, in the most literal and complete way possible. If any of you are considering missions - Senior missions, or otherwise - don't hesitate. Do it. I look back on the hesitancy and apprehension I had of "sacrificing" to go on a mission, and am sickened by the thought that I could have chose to not come. Nothing in life will be more of a blessing than your mission. As for leaving behind those you love - do not fear. I have learned repeatedly the lesson of how perfect God's love is. I promise that the Lord will take much better care of your family than you ever can - I realize that when I had left, I had pridefully thought it a sacrifice for my family to see my go, so "they needed me there". Posh. My perfect Heavenly Father takes a heck of a lot better care of my loved ones that I ever can. It's an amazing blessing, and it truly allows you to work :) I love being a missionary, and know you will too! :)  

For those who are home with families, or recently returned - don't think this doesn't apply to you! Members make ALL the difference. Without the support of members fellowshipping or supporting investigators, they are MUCH less likely to stay active in the church - that's a sad fact that is blatantly obvious in my mission here.  SO many are inactive or forgotten because they were never loved and accepted by the ward. Don't ever allow that to happen in your area. When I hear stories of investigators feeling unnoticed or unappreciated in their efforts to completely turn around their life, it breaks my heart. They need your love and acceptance in your ward - that is something a missionary, though specifically set apart as a missionary, cannot do. That is your job :) So, do it, and do it well! You live in that area for a reason - just as much as missionaries are specifically sent to areas to find people, so are members of a ward specifically meant to fellowship others around them. Pray for the Lord to guide to those that need you - I promise you someone does, and there will be things you can do that no one else can. Pinky Promise :)  

Basically, life is great. I love the Lord, I love my family, and I love living amongst the rednecks of TN :) Seriously - they make life interesting.

Love you all!  

Hna Lake
The awesome older lady who goes outside her house everyday, and cuts her lawn with scissors. We've talked to her before - she super nice, and really likes mowing her lawn with scissors.