Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Musings from Buddy the Elf... er, Ally

Hello! Bonjour! ¡ Buenos Días!

I'm writing this in the rain, so my first order of business will be to say how very extraordinarily much I adore the rain. Also, I love getting sopping wet about two hours after I take a shower because (and
my apologies to the inordinately kind Elder and Sister Johnson for saving us) I forgot the key to our apartment. Oops! Also, I love singing in the rain. ("I love singing. Singing's my favorite!" *Name
that movie.*)
Ally in the big city

Getting to Know You:
Hermana Gourley - Grade-A trainer, ballerina, soccer-player, singer (she doesn't believe that one), mean public transportation rider, hair-flipper extraordinaire, and testimony builder (like a body
builder, but with testimonies).

The not-so-boring business part:
Tuesday was pleasant because we had interviews with President Reynolds. Talking to him and his wife is always so comforting and spiritual. Sister Reynolds makes one feel so comforted and happy. Talking with her brought so much peace to my heart. Also, our Assistants to the President (two elders who, as aforementioned, assist the President) gave a wonderful workshop on the technology in our mission.

In addition on Saturday we had a "zone conference" (see 'zone' definition in Cultural Awareness) in the which we taste tested from some sweet, some bitter, and some bland batches of technology, agency, and other assorted flavors of topics.
Public Transportation

My District
Entertainment and food:
What was super fun is that our Spanish Elders (Elder Creager and Elder Weisler) had two baptisms this week! And Spanish culture denotes that after any activity of significance, food is requisite. Therefore we had two fiestas, and one was a legitimate barbecue! (Hermana Gourley told me at church last Sunday that there was no way it would be an actual barbecue - rather there would be rice and chicken, and perhaps fruit if we got lucky. The ward did amazingly though, and I 100% think it counted. The lack of barbecue sauce was perhaps questionable, but there *were* hot dogs to be fair.) Also, I love how the Chino Elders in our district came and tried to talk to the members. The members
here just love missionaries and it is so lovely that though they can't really talk to our Chino Elders, they still kiss them (something I'm acclimating to day by day) and speak to them in broken (or fluent)

In other food news, we ran into a member on the street and she said she would walk us to the bus stop we were going to, since she was going to a small produce store right behind it. What we didn't expect
was to be coerced to go inside, coerced to accept half of the store's fruit and drink contents as a gift, and then left with a kiss, smile, and apology she couldn't have made us real food or given us more.
Hispanic hospitality is so genuine!

As a last item in regards to food, we pretty much have to buy half our meals in the city. We are hardly ever actually at our apartment since it is so far away from everything (like an hours public transportation or a bit less on a good day). It's very nice that we have a grocery store across the street from us, but I fear we underutilize it by a far cry.

Cultural awareness:
My district (group of elder and sister missionaries that work in the same area and use the same church building) consists of a Mandarin and Cantonese speaking trio of Elders, two Mandarin and Cantonese speaking sisters, Hermana Gourley and I (Spanish), and two Spanish-speaking elders in our same ward. I absolutely love coming to church on Sunday and seeing them all! We see our Spanish Elders, Elder Creager and Elder Weisler, almost all the time. With all the languages, I feel like I'm still in the MTC. In fact, our Zone (group of three districts) has Hatian-Creole speakers, English speakers, and Korean speakers, too. That's six languages! The diversity is so amazing here in Brooklyn!

English class was amazing again. I feel like teaching English really actually helps me improve the way I speak. There are some grammatical features for which I forgot the functions, and going back to the basics is more humbling than I ever would have expected.

Musical Moments:
I got to conduct the music in both baptisms and church this last Sunday. :) Elder Weisler played piano, since not too many members play, (I've yet to meet one, though I'm sure that's not always true!) and I was allowed to use the skills gained in my conducting class. Honestly, I think choral conducting was one of the most profitable college classes I took, and I've used it in practice probably more than any other class!

Also, Hermana Gourley has a lovely voice. When we were locked out of our apartment we decided to sing (for once I was able to harmonize - my skills in that regard are rapidly improving), and were stopped by several people who told us how much they enjoyed it! I love sharing the gospel through music!
My Crazy Awesome Zone

Near-death experiences:
In exciting news, a pigeon tried to kill me this week. We walked by, and naturally I expected the pigeon might, you know, move or something. Well, it didn't. In fact, it flew pretty much right into my
face. So that was fun. Also, we walked into an apartment building, and felt the spirit go away in a noticeable *whoosh*. Needless to say, we walked out pretty quickly.

In additional experiences, what's fun about being a companionship that stands out so much is that people come right up to us! It happens *all* the time. Just this week we had probably three people walk over to us and ask to know more about the church. My companion says it never happens, every time it happens. It feels almost normal to me now, though. However standing out doesn't always end extremely well. For example, the drunks are fun, and many others enjoy getting in our face a little. Luckily we have a force field of the spirit surrounding us (think Wizard of Oz with Glinda in her bubble or The Incredibles with Violet's powers) so no one has yet tried to kill us.
Me and Hermana Gourley Weekly Planning
An Empty bus at 9:00am on Sunday morning.

Spiritual insights:
One of my insights from the week I gained in our zone meeting. One of the workshops was on submitting to the will of the Father. I remembered something I learned in Book of Mormon that our Heavenly Father has access to everything we have right now or ever could have in the future. The one thing He does not have the capability to take from us is our agency. So us submitting our will to Him is giving Him the only thing He doesn't already have. I think it is so beautiful that we can give up the very central feature of our personalities and lives, and present it as a gift to the God we love. I heard a quote this past week from President Thomas S. Monson, which states, "The greatest decision I ever made was to give up something I dearly loved to the God I loved even more. He has never forgotten me for it." I know with a surety that God will bless us as we submit our will to Him, and as we allow our lives to be steered by His loving guidance.

So long, farewell, auf weidersein adieu,
Hermana Ally Voss
Some MTC Pictures I received this week

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Brooklyn, New York!

Well! Start spreading the news! I'm being a part of it here in New York, New York!

My first area is (drumroll for dramatic effect): Brooklyn New York!

Me on the street in Brooklyn
The city is crazy. We use subways and busses to get everywhere, and we talk to people from every country, language, lifestyle, and religion. A new street is a new country and a new people. I have had conversations with Russians, Chinese, all kinds of Hispanics, Jews, Catholics, Africans, etc. My area is Bayside/ Dyker Heights region, but we extend to around Coney Island, and up above the Manhattan bridge in the Park Slope area.

The church is in the middle of Chinatown, which is kind of hilarious. It wonderful for the Mandarin and Cantonese elders and sisters in my district (group of about ten missionaries who one sees almost every day serving in their area), but my favorite part is how the white church steeple sticks out above the apartment buildings.
Me and Hermana Gourley in Jewville.
My outfit and tag.

I also love seeing the huge cathedrals right in the middle of the city! There are so many different religions here, and I adore seeing how they all come together to form all these many walks of life. My favorite moments, though, are when Hermana Gourley and I are talking or standing in front of cathedrals or in the city when a thunderstorm rolls through and epic lightening lights up the sky. I feel so powerful - like I'm in an action movie or something. Also, I get to enjoy singing in the rain which is delightful.

My first two days here were insane. After Delta airlines had their power outage our flight was delayed six hours to New York, so we waited in Detroit (and ate McDonalds and Chick-Fil-A thank the good heavens after all that MTC food). We got in at 9 and met President and Sister Reynolds, who are the sweetest, kindest people pretty much on earth. They are small and quiet, but have a kind of gentle power that one doesn't find too often in this hectic world. I got a heavenly nights' sleep on a mattress that felt like a cloud, and upon awaking we ate croissant sandwiches and walked around in a lovely back yard filled with flowers and bees and all the greenery I so badly missed in Utah. Also, the air here on the east coast is so wonderful! Humid, thick, and breathable. The humidity is a bit much occasionally, but for the most part I am quite thrilled to be back. After a devotional on our goals in this mission and our abilities to baptize and change lives, we received our trainers, and I am with Hermana Gourley! She is great - we are very alike and it has been wonderful getting to know her. (She is from Utah) We got to Brooklyn around three o'clock after our leisurely morning. Brooklyn, however, was everything but leisurely.
Pictures of the district: Mandarin, Cantonese, and Spanish companionships.

My first day in the field.
You see, we were 'blinded' into the area, in some missions I think they call it whitewashing. Regardless, it means two missionaries were taken out a transfer and a half ago, and we came in with a dead pool. So we have essentially no investigators, or people to teach. It's been fun building our list of people back up. On Tuesday we were supposed to teach English class, but we were unable to figure out the lock on the door of our apartment for two hours until our elders helped us, and then we got on the wrong train so we ended up not teaching, given we were an hour late. We ended up planting seeds. {A note on this, for all who are highly confused, wondering why I would be gardening. 'Seed planting' is our way of saying being kind, saying hello, and helping people get to know Mormons. We try to get the name of the church out, and be congenial and friendly. Some call it proselytizing, but for the most part we are just trying to talk to and be sweet to others.} Another very fun aspect of life here is running to catch busses. Which happens basically daily. One time we ran almost a mile to catch the bus which felt ridiculous to me, but it was better than walking three more miles! (Running is especially not my favorite right now because I have a cold my MTC district left me as a parting gift.)

Also, I am a Facebook missionary. I do not anticipate posting, but I'm using it to friend investigators and teach them lessons and all that jazz (cue jazz hands). We have taught several lessons, planted many seeds, brought a less active member to church, and met so many people this week. I am adoring the field! Like President Gordon B. Hinckley always enjoyed saying, working and praying can solve almost any problem. I am praying and working like never before, and I can wait to see the fruits of all my labor. :)"
President and Sister Reynolds.
My first picture in the mission home.
Also, our freezer freezes very oddly and my water always freezes
around the outside and not the middle so I get these lovely
glass-shaped ice sculptures.

I love you all! Keep being wonderful!

¡Nos vemos!
Hermana Voss (pronounced Bós by pretty much everyone)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Power in Perspective: MTC Week 2

¡Hola todos!

The Missionary Training Center here in Provo is terribly exciting, but I'm afraid to say I leave next week! We got our travel plans on Wednesday, and I'll be gone by 7am on Monday the 8th!
Hermana Pace and I are kinda cute

My father asked me, jokingly I'm sure, if I had any baptism commitments yet. I'm sure he expected me to say, "Alas, no, I'm sorry for disappointing you Father." However, I am exceptionally astonished to say I have! So, story time my wonderful friends.

I started teaching in the TRC here (I believe it stands for Teaching Resource Center) on Tuesday. Investigators can range from members or teachers to true investigators. I'm almost 100% sure our investigator is an actual investigator. Especially given what he has said, his emotions, how he wants to keep in contact with us as we go on our missions, and how we go almost an hour over in every lesson. I teach in Spanish and feel fairly inadequate, but needless to say the spirit is always in the room extraordinarily strongly. Teaching Ryan (name has been changed) is such a pleasure. When we walked into the room on Tuesday it was like a wave of the spirit hit us. He testified to us after we had talked about how he knew we were truly his sisters and how he felt in his heart that he knew us before. He committed to be baptized that first day. His tears and spirit touched my heart, and his curiosity and questions are so genuine and heartfelt. He mentioned how many missionaries he had talked to before, and how he felt we were the first missionaries to make the gospel make sense to him. He has had several wonderful spiritual experiences since we began teaching him on Tuesday, and I am so excited to keep up with his conversion throughout the next week as we teach him and as we go into the field the week after! His testimony is so strong, and I know he will do wonderful things.

That's not the only exciting thing to happen to me this week, though! I played in a musical number on Sunday. I played with Elder Gomez in my zone, and it went marvelously! It was so exquisitely refreshing to have a last hurrah with my instrument. I played 'If you could Hie to Kolob' and it sounded every bit as thought provoking and lovely as I could ever imagine. Choir was also absolutely amazing. We sang 'Where can I Turn for Peace?' and it was so powerful and amazing to sing with the missionary choir. When 2,000 missionaries sing, there is enough strength to spiritually overwhelm almost anyone.
Traditional name tag-at-the-Provo-temple
missionary picture
Our wonderful, fantastic zone!
Hermana Aguilar and I matched in class on Tuesday :)
Hermana Pace loves me (and we both love the temple).
Listening to Elder Bednar's talk, "The Character of Christ" gave me so many thoughts and questions. The primary question that I came out of the devotional with was, "If our goal as mortals is to gain the mind of Christ, then how would I do that? How could I possibly ever gain the mind of Christ as an imperfect human?" I went to the temple this morning with that question in mind, and obviously it would be impossible to gain the mind of Christ all at once, but I came out of the session resolute that my first effort would be to obey perfectly, as Christ, and my second would be to always give everyone the benefit of the doubt, of which I am not always completely phenomenal.

One of my favorite things I did this week was an in-depth study of the atonement. I decided to read through all of the four gospels' perspectives on the atonement and pick out words and phrases that were different. I then researched the backgrounds of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and attempted to depict why the differences were significant based on the writer and the purpose of the writings to the readers. Through this I learned so much about the power in perspective. It applied to the gospels, and it applies to us. Our perspectives and contributions are so powerful, and some of our impressions and thoughts will change the world.

Gym time is still some of my favorite time of the week. Playing volleyball, knockout, foursquare, and running laps and jumping rope are all wonderful ways to release my energy and give me endorphins. In the words of Elle Woods, "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don't kill their husbands."
We love endorphins!
My companion got deathly sick this week, which was fun. Pretty much half of my (pretty dang amazing) district did as well... Luckily, I am still quite healthy, though we shall see if that changes!

Quotes of the week:

"People say, 'I was born in the church.' Well, I was born in a hospital, but my parents took me to church pretty quick after."- Brother Nilsson
"It's good to obey, it's better to be exactly obedient, but it's best to follow the higher law. Like Samuel, we need to stay on the wall in the places the spirit can continually reach us." - Brother Nilsson
"Take that you doubting French - we have witnesses!" - President Condie on God and Christ being witnesses to the Sacred Grove experience of Joseph Smith.
Pioneers.... of laundry.

On Wednesday we wear pink! (the Elders humored us)
Have an extraordinarily exquisite week,

Hermana Ally Voss