Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Friday, September 23, 2016

Goodbye, Dyker!

Hipster Park Slope
Hello hello hello! I hope everyone is just peachy keen today. My week has been absolutely insane (but I'm doing very well, no need to be concerned). First of all, I'm moving! I feel like I just got used to the Bay Ridge/Fort Hamilton area. We learned to jog frequently, I finally knew how to use public transportation to maneuver, we managed to convince people not to give us dinner appointments (well, it's a work in progress, but we managed to successfully evade them this week!). It's like in Up, where one is in such denial that they move their entire house to a new continent. I'll just have to pack up Dyker to go with me... Oh wait, Dyker *is* going with me. Or at least, the people who live there are.

Our stake just made huge changes to the ward boundaries, and now we will no longer be the Dyker Spanish sisters, but the Brooklyn Spanish sisters. They took Park Slope and Red Hook out of our area, and added in Bensonhurst and the rest of Brooklyn East of it essentially. Our chapel will now be the Bensonhurst chapel as well! They wanted to give the Spanish ward their own church building given how large the ward is, which is great. I think the ward is strong enough that most people will still decide to come even though the chapel is quite a bit further away from a lot of the members.
It complicates a lot of mission-related things though. Like the fact that we have t- oh I mean *get* to move to Bensonhurst (I'll miss the washer and dryer more than I can say). ;) Also, the Chino Elders and Sisters are staying in Dyker. Which means, essentially, we won't see them very often, and it also means that they won't be in our district (group of missionaries serving in the same area). I'll miss them quite a bit, I can't lie. :( Luckily, our Spanish Elderes are moving to Bensonhurst as well, though. So Elder Creager and I will be completing training in the same area. Also, this means we are almost certainly getting a new set of Spanish in our district - which I'm super excited about! (Why will we get a new set? Because there aren't allowed to be districts of a set of elders and sisters in the NY-NYCS mission. So to be a Spanish district we need another set.)
I played the organ for the first time last preparation day! It was an adventure, and it took some figuring out, but I'm ready to play to Bach Toccatas! (Note: this is a joke. I played Come Thou Fount, and Hermana Gourley can attest to how sketchy it was.) I feel like if I started playing the organ it would count as my daily workout. Feet, hands, arms, neck, eyes, sides as you reach out for notes, etc.
We planted fences in Prospect Park on Wednesday. Essentially what one does to plant a fence is take the seed (pole), hold on to it for dear life while the Elders pound it into the ground and stand up while
ones' hands are still shaking a bit and move on to the next one. Think: the Screaming Baby Mandrakes in Harry Potter.
English classes each week are hilarious. We essentially taught the word of wisdom this last week as we talked about health and food. We were talking about good foods and bad foods and a lady tried to
mention tea for the good side. Hermana Gourley said, "hmm some kinds of tea are good, some are bad, but we don't have any more room on the good side so we'll put it on the bad." The lady was terribly confused, to say the least.

The church building in Park Slope
We had deep clean this last week. I scrubbed floors as I sang "A Happy Working Song". Hermana Gourley laughed at me, and then we sang Disney songs together for the remainder of the time. Cleaning can be fun when it's done properly with Disney songs and cheerful attitudes!

An interesting and singular experience this week was carving out pineapples, freezing them, and heading to 7-11 to put Piña Colada and Mango Pineapple flavored Slurpees in the pineapples. It was delicious, and I highly recommend the experience. As we went into the kitchen in the church to consume them, we saw Elder Weisler opening a 7-lb can of tomato sauce for his spaghetti. Sister Gourley and I have been working on one jar for the last month and a half. Needless to say, the can was not finished, and our church has about 6 and a half pounds of tomato sauce for the next lucky pasta eater at the church. :)

My pineapple creation!

Slurpee Fun!
We attended an emergency training this week. It was wonderful information, and I understood almost all of it, even though it was conducted in Spanish. A lot of non-members went which gave us excellent missionary opportunities.
A less active who has been coming to church with us since my first week here got her first calling this week! I am so happy for her. She got emotional when we told her the bishop was going to call her, and it was a special moment for all of us. Also, we have a member who is planning on going through the temple next month, so we are teaching her the lessons. We can't wait to see her take that big step in her life, and know she will feel the spirit more powerfully in her life as she makes and keeps sacred covenants. Church was even more exciting since one of our investigators came. She has such a sweet spirit, and it was beautiful to have her.
Pretty Cathedrals in my area
Lastly, I got a package from my family this week! The little emails, messages, pictures, and items I get from my family make me so happy. <3
Life isn't always constant or easy. Changes and shifting circumstances may turn us upside down, but if we are founded on the rock of Jesus Christ we are promised we will survive and thrive "because of the rock upon which [w]e are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall." (Helaman 5:12) I testify that if we are anchored on the rock of Christ we will stand strong and will one day receive the glory and exaltation our conduct has merited.
Yours truly,
Hermana Ally Voss

Post Script:
Grammar Interest of the Week: go to Alma 8:19. Read the verse, and figure out the implication of the article usage. Read it aloud, if necessary. Report to me your findings if you wish at and tell me if you are as in love with it as I am. <3
5th Avenue Parties

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Recipe for a Good Mission

This last week has been one of exquisite happiness, though I'm not exactly positive why. In my speculating as to why this week was so enjoyable, I think my conclusion is that if the beginning of the week goes well, the rest of the days follow in suit. Without further ado, here is my recipe for a good week and perhaps a good mission. (Keeping in mind that I'm more of a Rachel Ray guestimator type than an exact follower of amounts)
Missionary work in Park Slope

Hermana Ally Voss' recipe for having a ridiculously good week:

7 cups of reading the scriptures daily. To make this basic ingredient more interesting, add a dash of scripture markers to turn your scriptures into a veritable coloring book. For example: instead of marking God's promise in Noah with a boring yellow highlighter, draw a rainbow.
7 cups of teaching lessons to less actives and meeting with new investigators. A curiosity for the gospel and no preconceived notions of Mormonism may make this ingredient a bit sweeter.
3 cups of seeing the same person from Utah three times. This ingredient tastes far better if the person gives you donuts from Darn Donuts where he works, if said person is a nonmember, and if the donuts are flavored Apple Cobbler, Caramel Pretzel, PB&J, and creme filled. (The donuts, as the store name implies, were pretty darn good.) Just remember: donut accept candy from strangers. But if it's donuts you're probably good.
These donuts really were darn good
2 cups of chopping down trees at service in Prospect Park. Including holding a machete, axe, yelling "timber!", and learning how to tie an Alpine Butterfly Knot. This ingredient may begin to smell a bit nasty near the end, but it contributes to the character of one's week.
1 cup of zone training. This ingredient is a bit sour when one of the Zone Leaders is going home, but the sour flavor can be covered up in constructive and edifying workshops and comments.
1 cup of District Meetings. This ingredient tastes both bitter and sweet when the District Leader is leaving to Flushing to go train a newbie like myself, and when a new Chinese Sister is coming into the district to be trained.
Hermana Gourley and I glamorously ride the subway
5 tablespoons of daily morning jogs to work off all the food we eat.
5 more tablespoons of Miles Walking to Busses and Trains. Should be equivalent to about 10 teaspoons of Miles Walked Per Day as a substitute.
1 teaspoon of random men saying, "you two look like sunshineeeeee." (Light of Christ for the win!)
1 tablespoon of ridiculously cute videos of missionaries' siblings. ("If you could just send Abby in a package, that'd be great."-Elder Creager {pron. cray-ger} )
Weekly Planning Fun!

I Love Hermana Gourley!
1 sprinkle of asking an old lady what she is knitting. This ingredient may take one aback a bit if the response is, "um, well I guess it's none of your business."
A dash of not having hardly any dinner appointments (food anxiety: eliminated). This ingredient is even better when the one dinner appointment is Chinese food.
1 McDonalds McFlurry
2 McDonalds Strawberry Banana smoothies
1 single packaged Mexican Cinnamon Brownie gifted by a member who bakes very (very very very very very) well. (Shoutout to Dead Poets' Society, who would infer by using the word 'very' that I am lazy. And yet, I'm not trying to woo any women, so I believe I am doing just fine!)
A couple drops of Patriotic Pride.
1 teaspoon of A Moment of Silence for our beloved American people.
The Chapel
Subways are my life...
2 slices of beams that go into the sky to commemorate the twin towers.

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly, shake a bit, bake at 350 degrees for 7 days, and enjoy! If so desired, add a thin layer of icing and cover in sprinkles of spirituality.

Icing on the cake:
Ward Choir Director. You have never, nor will ever, see such ingeniously creative conducting techniques. I was stunned, surprised, gleeful, and overwhelmed in a glorious way while the priesthood sang on Sunday and He conducted. I don't anticipate ever feeling such extreme joy again in my life. I was taking diligent notes through the duration of the song. I cannot emphasize this enough: I. Love. The. Members. (Specifically the choir director, though.)

Sprinkles of Spirituality:
"The thought 'someday I will' can be a thief of the opportunities of time and the blessings of eternity." -Eyring
Carpe Diem! "Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary." The way I see it, time won't wait for us, and we shouldn't wait for time. There are places to be, people to see, things to do, service to administer, prayers to be said, answers to be acted upon, music to be played, songs to be sung, smiles to be shared, and so many other marvelous things to be done! I don't want to wait for my life to be beautiful - I want all the blessings I can possibly have right now! I want every door and window of opportunity open to me. We don't need to wait to have the blessings of eternity, there are actions we can take right now that will lead us to our heavenly home. Say your prayers, read your scriptures, go to church, smile! :) Life is as beautiful as we make it.

All my amor,
Hermana Ally Voss
My room and our laundry

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Four Minutes in Manhattan

"In a sense, your four minutes have already begun. The clock is ticking. The words of the Apostle Paul seem so fitting: to run the race, that you may obtain the prize." -Gary R. Stevenson

Many of you (dearly beloved) will look at the title of this post and think "wait, I am 99.9% sure Manhattan isn't in Hermana Voss' mission boundaries, and can only go there every six months for temple trips, why was she in Manhattan for four minutes?" That would be a very good question (and one I will answer).

Hermana Gourley and I were on the way to a trainer-trainee meeting at the mission office in Queens, coming from Brooklyn. If you know New York City well, then you would know Subways don't run from Brooklyn to Queens, so one has to go under Manhattan. This wasn't the problem, going under Manhattan was pre-authorized by the mission president, plus one is never actually above ground in Manhattan. The problem comes when you hear a voice in the Lexington Station stating that, "due to a stolen train car, all queens-bound N, Q, and R trains are not running in this station." My first thought was "someone stole a train car? How odd." In the following *train* (ba dum tsh) of thought I realized how this foiled our plans. We had to figure out a new way to get to Queens. Now, there was a station six blocks down with different trains running to Queens, so we figured we should go to that station, but the only way to get to that station was either an hour and some detour under Manhattan going through heaven knows how many stations to make a loop (and we were pressed for time to make the 10:00 meeting, despite leaving at 7:30am) or to go above ground and walk the couple of blocks. 

We called our zone leaders, who laughed at our situation and told us to get back underground as very quickly as we possibly could. And then we walked the six very short blocks along Lexington from 59th to 53rd. Spanish word for skyscraper? Rascacielos (scrape the heavens) which I think is darling. It was very applicable, given in those short six blocks we saw around twenty. It was absolutely awe-inspiring - I LOVE NEW YORK CITY. We were very focused on getting to the train station quickly so we didn't see much, but what we did see reminded me of how beautiful cities are. Brooklyn is
amazing and Atlantic Avenue is pretty gosh-darn cool, but Manhattan truly does have a different feel. 
Our moments of freedom in Manhattan!

After our four minutes we went underground and luckily all the trains were in working order there and we got to Queens safely, soundly, and only ten minutes late. Trainer-trainee meeting held a lot of gems of wisdom as well. One thing I love that one of our Assistants said was, "If we want to have
power, we must work within the keys." The keys of baptizing in our mission are held by our president - if we want to have the power necessary to convert and baptize, we need to work under those keys,
and obey the mission rules. At the MTC I learned that "obedience brings blessings, exact obedience brings miracles, but living the higher law brings power." My goal is to not only exactly obey, but to go above and beyond to obtain the spiritual strength and power I need to find, teach, and see others through to baptism.

After we successfully went back to Brooklyn entirely underground, we visited the church for a dinner appointment that involved pupusas. I don't really know how to describe the flavor of a pupusa, but I think it's probably a little like heaven. Nevertheless, there can certainly be too much of a good thing. We were given very petite, small plates "so that you can be skinny and go home and get married". In the Hispanic culture, we heartily approve of this mentality, given one is often very over-fed (note: the guest is always given more than the host eats. And they serve you to ensure you eat enough). Our goal is certainly not to be "gordita", and at all our dinner appointments thus far, they have alluded to making us skinny, so hopefully we are already too gordita and their goal is to get us in shape! After two pupusas we were pleasantly full and happy, but she misunderstood our satisfied smiles for, "oh they want more, I'll go give them more." She got up to retrieve more, as my compañera and I looked at each other in dismay. Hermana Gourley in haste asked, "wait - but what about being skinny?" "Oh honey," she replied, "you can be skinny tomorrow. There's always tomorrow." Needless to say, we ran a total of four times this week to perhaps fend off the averse effects of eating more than necessary for two not terribly large 19-year-old girls.

What the member said afterward, though, touched me. She said, "also, your mom is praying for you to have a good dinner tonight." My mom expressed in her email to me how she prayed for me to have good meals this week, and I testify the spirit speaks through others all too often. Thinking of home is always wonderful (sometimes I fondly look back on having Frosted Flakes and watermelon for every meal and cry silent tears of nostalgia). But being here is such a blessing as well, and I'm glad I'm in the hands of members and missionaries who only wish for my happiness.

The last couple of nights my sleeping habits have been very consecrated. I've been waking up approximately two or three times a night thinking it was 6:30am, praying, and brushing my teeth. Each time my companion followed, then suspiciously looked at her watch after I went through the motions, and told me to go back to bed. However, my prayers are more frequent than ever, and I'm glad that even when I'm hardly awake, I try to be exactly obedient to the missionary schedule. Oh, and for my first time ever, I saw a nun. Naturally I burst out into "how do you solve a problem like Maria?" the moment she stepped out of sight. Actually, I burst into song fairly often. That's not too
uncommon. But it was still cool. :)

We also are working with a darling little Hispanic family right now that we found last week. We love them! They have a 5-year-old and 7-month old that are the cutest things. Since they are currently
rooted in Catholicism, we are trying to help them see for themselves the truth of which we testify. We are doing a lot of finding, given our pool is very very small, we talk to hundreds of people each week,
but finding people who are willing to listen makes it all worth it.

And finally a happily ever after story to give you old maids (*cough* McKinney *cough*) some hope and also for my personal felicity and inner romantic. Elder Weisler, one of our Spanish-Speaking Elders (whose birthday is today), told us how his parents met and it was super cute so I'm relaying it here. His mom came from Britain for a church history tour, and met his dad in Utah where she stayed for nine days, and they went on a couple of dates and such. She asked him to drive her to the airport so she could fly home to Britain, and he turned to her when they got to the airport parking lot and said, not un-awkwardly I'm sure , "so.... Will you stay? I guess what I'm asking is... Will you marry me?" And she said yes. :) I just think that is so darling. Disclaimer: Don't worry mom and dad I have absolutely zero plans to do anything of the sort in my life.
Rainy day without an umbrella in Bayridge

Thank you for all of your support! I love getting your letters, emails, and the little things you send that make me smile. You are all wonderful!

"Dear friends, you are in the midst of an exhilarating journey. In some ways, you are racing down the half-pipe or sled track, and it can be challenging to perform each element or navigate each turn along the way. But remember, you’ve prepared for this for millennia. This is your moment to perform. This is your four minutes! The time is now!" -Gary R. Stevenson

-Hermana Voss, "La Jefa"
(what pretty much everyone calls me. It's a decent little joke since everyone knows at least a little English, and given "V's" are pronounced as "B's" by Spanish-Speakers.)
A few pictures of my apartment

How do You Cook your Vegetables?

Hello you very attractive and charming readers!

This week, I'm going to begin with a story. To give some background, there is a large Jewish population in Brooklyn, New York. Jews dress very modestly, in dresses and skirts that are around as long as ours (at least from what I've seen thus far of the Orthodox Jew religion). So, to the innocent Jew passerby, we typically look Jewish. The only distinguishing factors are our name tags, the fact we don't wear stockings in the crazy humid summer, and upon closer inspection that we don't speak Hebrew. So we get a lot of inquisitive looks from Jews, and some even try to talk to us before realizing we aren't Jewish. We are, indeed, quite Mormon. (Conversation normally cuts off around the
time they see the name of Jesus on our tags.)
Gorgeous Sunset in Brooklyn

Occasionally, though, some don't realize we aren't Jewish. This happened on the bus the other day. A middle-aged Jewish man looked at us and asked us in a booming voice, "how do you cook your vegetables?" I was caught off guard, Hermana Gourley was beyond befuddled. And we weren't the only confused ones - approximately half the bus had noticed the odd question. Feeling as though this was some form of test to see how well versed we were on Jewish faith, and aware that at least ten people were listening for our answer, Hermana Gourley and I looked at each other briefly, and turned back to the man. "We don't? We serve them raw...?" Hermana Gourley hesitantly replied. "Don't worry, I'm not trying to hit on you!" He laughed. "I have a girlfriend." At this point we were genuinely concerned (and trying very hard not to laugh, especially given the smirk on the Hispanics' face next to him).
As we recollected ourselves for a moment, we realized he was for some odd reason trying to talk about how to serve vegetables, giving a basis in Songs of Solomon. Now, I'd never read Songs of Solomon before, but I was almost 100% positive it didn't talk about vegetables (also, I read it in my personal studies, definitely no vegetables mentioned.) We were considering how to tell him we weren't Jewish, but it was a fairly interesting lecture, so we kept on looking at him with wide, puzzled eyes and even more puzzled ears. After further Isaiah and biblical discussion (Note: apparently Moses was called *twice*, once as a prophet and once as a Jew) he informed me of how to properly serve vegetables as I awkwardly nodded and smiled. There's some oil and vinegar involved and pepper too, I think. As we reach our stopped we smiled at the Jew (grimaced might be more accurate) and walked away from the bus feeling just about as bewildered as we had ever felt. So, moral of the story: if you're ever asked how to cook your vegetables, turn to Songs of Solomon and read from there.

My week was lovely, though. Now that my companion and I are completely over being sick, we've been able to run twice in the morning! Since we live so close to the ocean we actually jogged over there in about ten minutes and saw Staten Island. It's a gorgeous area, with many breathtaking cathedrals. I never would have expected the amount of religious worship centers I see, and on the scale I see them! Specifically there are a lot of Catholics and let me say, they really know how to make their churches. But personally, I prefer Mormon temples. ;)
We went on exchanges with the sister training leaders on Tuesday which was very enjoyable. Sister Shiobara and I ate dinner at a lovely young families' home from Utah. They had a darling white little dog named Scout after Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, which reminded me a good deal of a white little dog I had at home who went by the same name. Also they had two darling children (though I find most children darling, it's true). We ate burritos and root beer - a very inoffensive first dinner appointment for my mission! We afterwards went tracting in a park where I looked a good deal like Elder Calhoun in the Best Two Years (definitely watch it).
Splits with Sister Shiobara!
District Activity

On top of the world!
The next day I was with Sister Fields. We went to go see a returning member (euphemistic language is my favorite) who had three very energetic under-four-years-old youngsters. They were very sweet.
Exchanges taught me a lot. First of all, that Carvel's ice cream (vanilla with rainbow sprinkles, whipped cream, and a cherry) is always a good idea. Also New York pizza. That stuff is pretty great.
Also, I learned the importance of talking to everyone. I've always talked to someone, waited a safe distance, and then talked to someone else. Sister Shiobara taught me to go right down the line and talk to every soul that crossed my path. We actually talked to a terribly interesting lady who studied theology at Harvard. She had an awful lot of respect for religion, and we adored hearing all of her

On the way back to Bay Ridge with Hermana Gourley we had a mini miracle. We were talking to a Hispanic lady on the bus and felt a prompting to give her a Book of Mormon. As we got out the book to hand it to her we heard three voices on the bus pipe up as surrounding Hispanics asked for the book as well. We only had two on hand but we promised the others books as well if they called us. It was such a blessing to have people receive us and the Book of Mormon so well.
One of my favorite aspects about life using public transportation are the rare action-movie-worthy moments. On Thursday we learned a good deal more about that than I would have liked. We were very close to missing curfew as we got on the N train headed towards Manhattan. On the next stop we knew we would have to catch the R for Coney. We arrived, and saw the R pulling in on the opposite side of the station. We looked at each other with big, round eyes as we both knew it was
time to prove ourselves. The moment the doors opened we sprinted out of the train in leaps and bounds as passerbys shouted encouragement. We took the stairs four at a time, with a singleness of mind on our purpose: to make the R. We ran down the stairs on the other side as the doors were closing, but I refused to let almost-closed doors discourage me. Mid-sprint I stuck my hand in the door and it bounced back dramatically as we breathed in victory and smelled sweet success in conquering the train. As the train left the station we nostalgically looked back over our shoulders at the quickly disappearing station as we pondered what it truly meant to triumph, which naturally lead us to think of our savior triumphing over death. Sound dramatic? Well it definitely happened and is pretty much a depiction of my daily life. Later that subway ride, we had a car all to ourselves as well. It was a good day. #killedit
A subway car to ourselves!
Service at the senior center.

Tortas at Los Margaritas!
For Preparation day today my district went to the Dock and looked over Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty! It is gorgeous by the sea! We also climbed trees, played catch with footballs, and had a picnic (I am a firm proponent of the Oxford comma, for any wondering). Also for any wondering, I have the best district (and best mission) in the world. #NYNYS
Manhattan Skyline!

Hermana Gourley and I always have fun!
Tree climbing

And I can't have a blog post without a spiritual thought, so here it is: " 'The bright side of it is,' said Puddleglum, 'that if we break our necks getting down the cliff, then we're safe from being drowned in
the river' " -C.S. Lewis 

We may be falling down cliffs and having difficult times in our lives, but with Christ by our side we can always see the positive and endure through it all!
¡Tenga un buen semana! (Have an enchanting week - loose translation)
All my love,
Hermana Ally Voss
Our hilarious elders!