Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Good Morning America!

Children at the Primary Program!
Well, with the passing week several very historic events have occurred:

1. We have elected he-who-must-not-be-named to the presidential seat of power.
2. I suffered a near-death experience with jabeñero, jalapeño, and red hot chili peppers.
3. I visited Jamaica.
4. I tried funnel cake in the form of fries.
5. I took part in the first ever meeting in a grandiose church in Flushing, New York.
6. We set up our Christmas tree.

Personally, I enjoy a good story. So I'll start with an event that took place on Saturday the 12th of November, 2016. It was a cold, blustery day. Leaves blew all around us as we walked up to a brilliant red door surrounded by pumpkins and scarecrows. As the door opened, a seemingly harmless member of the Mormon church greeted us with a kiss and a hug. She babbled in Spanish as we walked around a daycare in her home. The visit continued in a relatively benign manner, as we fixed drapery and shared a thought filled with spiritual ingenuity and gospel of every kind. Then I saw a paper bag out of the corner of my eye. It appeared to be filled with edibles... We hadn't eaten lunch yet so we agreed to partake of her food after a short blessing. She pulled out very innocent and pure sandwiches. Or so they appeared. She placed five of the specimen on a large, white porcelain plate, and gave us each a small, round matching plate on which to eat. I grabbed a sandwich made of the heel and noticed it appeared to have cheese, lettuce, tomato, and Italian meat of some sort.
A crazy amount of peppers in a plate made from our  insane sandwiches!
I succumbed to my natural man, vigorously digging in to my first bite. I promptly stopped short. My eyes widened and teared up a bit. I swallowed and waited for a glass of water. "Tan rica, hermana!" I muffledly exclaimed as my nose began to run. What she perhaps didn't know was that I had just swallowed the contents of a bonfire. I continued to bite and chew and I looked over at my compañera whose eyes were as round as glass plates. She, too, was eating the sandwich and smiling through the water pooling in her eyes. The burning in my throat only escalated as I proceeded to eat. Our host, who had just begun her own, began to cough. I gulped down a full glass of water, and my Hermana McDowell began to laugh as she looked over at my expression. She picked up a glass of soda to drink, but in her laughing she inhaled several jabeñero pepper seeds, and spewed soda all over the floor. We all began laughing (including our host) as we commiserated over how insanely hot the seemingly innocent sandwiches were. She blamed her husband but it turned out each sandwich had about five or six assorted jabeñero, jalapeño, and red hot chili peppers. I'm fairly sure I will never find anything spicy in the rest of my life. My lips were burning about three hours after the fact, and my sinus system had cleared in its entirety. Many of you probably think we were just being gringo, but it is a fact that a woman who lived in Mexico for years found the victuals to be just as offensively fiery. I am proud to say that though we were a bit shocked, we survived the encounter with only a few burns.

Breaking news: two investigators came to church! One of them is the darling Fanny, who feeds us ice cream and galletitas when we come over. She is the frail wife of a new convert, and this was the perfect week for her to come, given it was the presentación de la primaria! She loved it, and kept saying, "¡Ay! ¡Que linda!" (This is also what she says whenever we sing during lessons with her). Also, Allen Poe (name changed) came to church! Allen Poe is doing super well with breaking his smoking addiction, and is learning so much every week about the gospel.
Us in our car at zone conference
Weather Report: rather too sunny and warm for my liking. In blatant disregard to the weather, though, we have begun to sing Christmas songs and even set up a Christmas tree. Granted, at night it's in low 40°s and high 30°s. This makes knocking doors quite fun. Our teeth kind of chatter as we introduce ourselves and hear remarks like, "I have to go... my oven is burning," and "WHAT? WHAT? YOU TALK I CAN'T HEAR HER! COME BACK TOMORROW IT'S TOO LATE."

Traveling information: Well, Long Beach is still fairly gorgeous. And Port Washington's majesty hasn't decreased either. I visited Jamaica (in New York - the city, not the island sadly) for interviews and Flushing for Zone Conference which has a new church that looks basically like a cathedral. Also, the Catholic Church owns the land on either side... We'll be lovely neighbours I'm sure.

Zone Conference: Besides us being the first meeting in a four-level gorgeous church, I learned quite a bit from our mission leaders. 1) Plan for one's investigators thoroughly, the devil is planning for them each and every day. 2) #LightTheWorld (CHRISTMAS!) 3) Faith to find! More faith! The faith one has is never sufficient until it becomes knowledge.
Us in P.S. Burgers
Food recommendations: P.S. Burgers in Mineola. They sell funnel cake fries. Which are very excellent, if a bit pricey. Also, chocolate and caramel covered brownies. And I hear they sell Dulce De Leche Churros, but I'll have to wait till next time to try those. Pupusas, it should be noted, are always a good idea with native El Salvadoreños. Also, we had interviews with our mission changed to do them every month which is crazy busy for President Reynolds, but we love it! How this relates to food is that Sister Reynolds asked what we were doing for Thanksgiving and we admitted that no one had invited us over. This look of intense concentration came over her face as she apparently was trying to think of any possible person that could have us over for Thanksgiving. This lasted maybe three minutes until President began to talk to us and interrupted her thinking. We plan on having our own dinner still, but the look that came over her face was so sweet.
Fun at Long Beach!

Long Beach at night - the moon was huge!

And...we got strawberry ice cream!

Random experiences: In a five minute interval we saw 29 police, SWAT, and undercover police cars go past us on the other side of the freeway.

Autumn colors are brilliant and leaves are falling at the speed of light. Especially in Little Neck and Glen Cove. Both are darling areas. Visiting is highly recommended.

I bought stamps for the first time... (email me if you want a letter. Sending letters is my favorite.)

That is all from this week! (Honestly, tell me if you want a letter. We can be pen pals.)

My amor,

Hermanita Ally Voss

From the Quaint Town of Mineola

Well, I transferred!

In other words, Brooklyn is a dream. And now I am here in lovely Mineola in Nassau County, NY with Hermana McDowell. Mineola is the central point of our hugoginormous area. Our area includes the darling Port Washington, beautiful Long Beach, ravishing Great Neck, colorful Little Neck, glorious Glen Cove, happening Hempstead (also a little bit ghetto, but you didn't hear that from me), fashionable Freeport, comely Garden City, and of course the splendiferous Mineola. (Oh, and that's a real word. My new favorite, naturally.)

My Awesome New Companions
We only cover some of those areas if there is a need for us, since we are the only Spanish sisters for both the Mineola and Freeport Spanish branches. However, since I have come here, there has been a need for us in each of those areas which is most excellent. We went to Port Washington (which is my favorite place now) to visit an investigator. The bay is jaw-dropping and the little downtown is a picture out of something from the early 1900s. Also Long Beach is exactly what I would picture a beach in New York to be and I love crossing the little strip of water to get to it. Going island jumping makes my heart happy.

Hermana McDowell is from Gilbert, Arizona and is a total sweetheart. She plays soccer, sings with me, is smiley, and I love her. She is so nice and sneaky. If I go to the bathroom in the morning after my prayer, my bed is made. When I do my makeup I come out and my breakfast is sitting on a plate. Things like that every day. I love her. She is possibly the most charitable person anywhere. I anticipate fully enjoying this transfer.

There's so much to say! To start last Monday Hermana Gourley and I made caramel apples for super preparation day. Basically we were locked in from 6 o clock and on. And on Tuesday I made my final trek from Brooklyn to Queens for transfers. I just adore the D train and going above ground over the Manhattan bridge. It is my favorite thing! As we cross over we can see the skyline of Manhattan and the water and the Statue of Liberty. It's basically a wonderland. I adore it. Speaking of wonderlands, it's November now which means: it's almost Christmas! Hermana McDowell and I are super excited!
Our last subway ride together
Caramel apples with Hermana Gourley on super p-day

I really do love it here in Mineola. We live in a nice part near a school. The church is super tiny and there's not even a chapel. It's just a decently long room with chairs set up and a pulpit and table for the sacrament. We have two electric pianos for the capilla. Humble, but perfectly darling I think.

Pretty much the gist of our area.
Our apartment is nice, probably as big as my last apartment in the city, with less high of ceilings. Hermana McDowell loves to cook, so we just went to Costco to buy all the desires of our heart, and we have been very house wifey this week! Basically in the last six days I have cooked more than in the last three months. Hermana Gourley and I just ate quesadillas. All the time. Here we have made actual meals. That is, when the members don't feed us.

So since being on my mission, I just don't like food quite as much, especially in the Hispanic culture where we eat as much for one meal as I would want to eat in a day. I mean I like the food itself. Just not the quantities in which we eat it. I ate four and a half huge pupusas the other day. And I've eaten probably a thousand calories in candy in the last week... it's a problem.
Food we got from service at a Bishop's storehouse arrangement here in Little Neck.

House wifey dinners

Make do college style hot dogs with hamburger buns.
Being in a driving area is very different from what I'm used to with busses and subways. We have this little speed monitor thing that they put in every church missionary car called Tiwi. It says things like, "check your speed" every five minutes. Tiwi makes sure we are safe and sheltered and never ever get a speeding ticket. So we can be good Mormon missionaries who are very law-abiding.
Days one and three in the car

We have several excellent investigators here. One has quit smoking after thirteen years. He is on his eighth day of not smoking! Also a cute couple whose baptism date is in two weeks! I am so excited for them! We are meeting with several other amazing recent converts and investigators as well. This area is booming!
And we GOT LLAMA SWEATERS FROM PERU (Chompas) from a recent convert who said her daughter won't wear them. We are in love with them.

Scenic East Coast highways with pretty autumn colors.

Final spiritual thought/tribute:

Thank you to my parents for being such wonderful member missionaries. As I work with members here and see how a missionary like me can work with the members to find people to teach, I remember the example of my family. I remember helping Miss Mary to be baptized and helping her find the light and truth of the gospel. I remember Andy when my dad was Young Men's President. I remember my sister's friend, and I remember inviting every possible member of my social circle to church, dances, mutual, and events put on by the church. I remember how hard I worked to be an example, and sharing the gospel at every opportunity. I would talk about religious themes at lunch, I had to stand up and walk out of class several times when non-professional or vulgar material was shown, and I tried to stand as a firm example of my faith and my beliefs. One of the greatest blessings I have felt is the fact that in going from member missionary to full-time missionary, I honestly haven't noticed too great of a change. There is a lot that is different, yes, but there is also a whole lot that is exactly the same. And I attribute my attitude toward member missionary work to my parents and the spirit of my home Ward (Frederick 1st). And I want people here to reach out and talk about this gospel, and it is so difficult sometimes, but I encourage every single one of you to try to do something to share the glorious message of Christ and the gospel this week. No matter how small! Even if it is simply praying to have an opportunity to share the gospel. When members and missionaries unite, the work of the Lord progresses far more rapidly than it possibly could otherwise. Our Mission Vision in the New York New York South mission states: "members are the key." I testify that you are.

Have a blessed week,

Hermana Ally Voss

Saturday, November 12, 2016

"Hermana Voss: OUT."

Hola mis guapos y bonitos amigos,

Big news! I am leaving Brooklyn! Evidently the Lord needs me elsewhere, because this morning we connected to the conference call that determined our destinies and, to the surprise of all in our district and zone, Zone Leader Elder Morris declared, "Hermana Voss: OUT." I'm glad Hermana Gourley will be staying to continue the work here, and I'm sad to be thrust out of the Promised Land like this, but I know the Lord has more work for me in Lamanite territory (or wherever I'll be serving next!) I'll stroll into transfers tomorrow and walk out with a new compañera and a new area. It's exciting! And scary. (How appropriate, given it's Halloween today!)
When the N Train runs the D Train line and we have no idea what is going on

It's that time of year folks - sunny and 70° one day and rainy, windy and 35° the next. Also, apparently not the ideal time to get one's flu shot. I got it last Monday and it really does appear that I'm quite under the weather. :/ alas.

"Four seconds left. WE CAN DO IT, LET'S GO!" *runs across intersection that's about a block long, leaving my Compañera no choice but to follow*

In case the casual reader is wondering, this is our go-to approach when we see Hispanics. If they're on the other side of the street, we will normally sprint to the end of the block and walk normally on the other side to maintain a cool and casual appearance so that we can talk to them. The huffing and puffing normally just blends in with the mediocre Spanish so they don't notice it's odd.

My Spanish is still doing rather well, though. :) Most people we talk to say, "hablan bien el Español." (they speak Spanish well) It's one of our most effective marketing tools; the fact that two white, blue-eyed girls with crazy hair and overly-large smiles walk up to Hispanics and start speaking with them in their language. They are typically a bit confused and taken aback (which is most excellent, if they stop and don't speak then we can stop with them and start talking about our message).
Me in front of our rad apartment!

Singingggg in the rain, just singing in the rain!

Me enjoying the splendors of the D Train one last time!
Speaking of our wonderful Hispanics, we visited one of my favorite families in the Ward this week, the Arvisus! So basically their food is always top-notch. This week they fed us Abuelitas hot cocoa with cinnamon and pastries while it was pouring rain and 30° outside. In weeks past they have fed us their Arv Mexican brownies and banana bread of some sort and pretty much I go into a food coma (a delicious one) every time I go over.

Also, one of my favorite experiences this week was getting a call in the middle of studies by a less active asking if we could go over in 45 minutes. Despite the fact that we weren't fully dressed, and it took 40 minutes to get there, and we hadn't finished studies, we miraculously made it over and administered to her needs. By the time she asked us to be there, even!
Breadberry = Jewish Costco
And Lenny's pizza is our favorite! Especially since the Hispanic staff call us their amigas!
"Life is Pain", but it's a lot less painful with the gospel.
As good citizens, we make it a point to not be litterbugs. We prefer being litterbugs, thank you very much.
We have long thought this sign awkward and felt it was at last time to reenact it.
Funny Stories:

We went with Elder Creager and Elder Weisler to a sick less active lady at NYU-Lutheran hospital and here is a short transcript of of seeing a nun:

*Sees nun when walking up to NYU-Lutheran Hospital on Saturday to give blessings and lessons*

Hermana Gourley: "The hills are alive with the sound of mu-----"

Me: "AHHHHHHHHHHH--------"

Elder Weisler: *gets reference* *beams*

Elder Creager: *what on earth are you doing* *why are you singing* *why did we get the weird sisters* *stop*

Elder Creager is out of Brooklyn too, though, so he won't have to worry about Hna. Gourley and I's weirdness much longer!

-Hermana Gourley went up to a lady and said, "Hola, me llamo Hermana Voss" yesterday. I was so confused I just stuttered and furrowed my brow until she realized her mistake and corrected herself! Haha

-Light was coming in from one window in our apartment on Friday. So I naturally declared, "but soft! What light through yonder winder breaks!" And then my compañera and I died on the floor. Mistakes made when quoting Shakespeare *seam* to be the best. *ba dum tsh* (reference to second pun can be found in Hamlet)
Ward Missionary Activity
When we found out we would be splitting...
-The stars aligned so that I was walking up to the D train platform while a Jew wearing his pinecone hat walked below me. I got an aerial view of a pinecone hat and it's hollow center - I feel blessed beyond measure. I also wish I knew the proper name so I didn't sound so uneducated. :/  (Editors note: Shtreimel)

Happiest of Halloweens to all you folks. Don't forget about the best ghost - the Holy Ghost - and it's empowering influence in your life! ;)

A soon-to-be non-Brooklynite,

Hermana Ally Voss

"No, We're Mormon!"

Lame joke of the week to break the ice:

After 10 minutes of trying to open a jar of salsa for Hermana Gourley's quesadilla.
Hermana Gourley: "How many sisters does it take to open a glass of salsa?"
Me: "One Elder."

Good morning!

Well, I am now one week away from finishing the new missionary 12-week program! Week 11! How crazy is that? I'm excited to see what transfers will bring next week (if I haven't explained before, changes in companions and areas happen every six weeks at 'transfers' in Rego Park in Queens which is why I moved to a different apartment five weeks ago). All things considered, Hermana Gourley will probably leave me and I will likely stay here in Brooklyn with a new companion and zero idea what I'm doing, but anything can happen!

Hermana Gourley and I - Selfies in the City
October is a very exciting month here in Brooklyn. One of the reasons it is so exciting is because we live down the street from a Jewish synagogue and Brooklyn has the second largest Jewish population in the world (behind Israel). They've been out on the streets wearing their pinecone hats (these huge brown pine-needle looking fuzzy hats that are hollow in the middle. I am told that when it rains they put plastic bags over them, though I've yet to see it) and top hats, blasting Fiddler on the Roof-esque music at 10:30 at night whilst the missionaries down the street are trying to pray. It was also interesting because one day as we were walking past their worship center to grab umbrellas from the house several young Jews got pretty close and talked to us in Hebrew as we walked. We evaded them but had to walk past them on the way back at which point they still came alarmingly close and (rather flirtatiously) asked, "hey, are you Jewish?" *hint hint, nudge nudge* Looking back over my shoulder as we walked on by I replied, "no, we're Mormon!" They jumped back with all due haste though I'm afraid I wasn't able to see the extent of their reaction given I was trying to be an "urgent, consecrated missionary" (AKA Hermana Gourley and I basically speed walk/run everywhere. It's good exercise, in the very least) but I wish I had! Jews don't normally flirt with us, but they do give us a good number of odd looks. It's quite entertaining.

Also, I had a sour cream experience this week. My compañera says it's 'Mexican Cheese' when people feed it to us, but whatever this stuff is (and for the record I'm 99% sure it's sour cream) it is just as awful.* We went over and a member had just about a thousand taquitos covered in it. Given they were messy and we couldn't eat with forks I was able to pick each up in a paper towel to slightly wipe it off and eat all but one served to me! After we got out of the apartment I looked to heaven and said a million silent 'thank yous' to a Heavenly Father who must have given me more strength than I've ever had before! I guarantee before my mission there would be no way I could have eaten such! The food was quite delicious, by the way, this is in no way any disgrace to the cook, it was simply the item on top that so dissuaded me. Also, this family knows how to cook dang well. I'd lie if I said I haven't eaten too many of their products far too often.

We had a rather awkward missionary activity on Friday. Ten people came.... We were going to do rotations but kept everyone together given the light crowd. In the very least there were darling Hispanic twins at the end, and Elder-made brownies!
Hermana Gourley and I went to go get Costco pizza! :-)

Autumn is upon us and I finally get to wear tights and boots!
Also, a truck got stuck underneath the train tracks. I've never seen that before...
Saturday we ate donuts bought by kind Elders coincidentally on the one day I hadn't eaten dinner since I had zero cash and one can't buy hardly any food with a card here in Brooklyn. Because, you know, all the food places probably aren't legal.... It used to concern me, and I'm still a little bit skeptical, but I've mostly accepted it. The point is, the elders (and the Holy Ghost's promptings) knew just what I needed that day! Which was food. Side note: Here in the city, we are always hungry. Walking everywhere works up one's appetite (and metabolism too, I pray).

This week had excellent missionary work! We were able to contact several referrals, have plentiful lessons, get three new investigators, and we had tons of less actives come to church! Esmeralda came even though she didn't know how to get there on the train, and it took her an hour and a half, but she came! With two of her kids! One wants to be baptized, so we passed him over to the elders so they could teach him the lessons. It made me so happy to see her and several other less active members come to church. It is a huge step in so many of their lives. Esmeralda hasn't come to church the whole time I have been here, and some menos activos have been inactive for years upon years. To see them come back is wonderful. We are called to find new people to come to church, yes, and to spread Zion; but we are also here to strengthen our ward and to bring the lost and wandering sheep back to the fold. Every time one of those sheep comes into my care, every time I meet a less active, they are every bit as much of a priority for me. I wish I could convert the whole of Brooklyn, but the members need to be converted as well! I have so much love for everyone here, be they member or less active or investigator or referral or random Jew or Russian I can't speak with. Brooklyn contains more diversity than I've seen anywhere, and every one of the sheep here in this pasture are so important to me and my Father in Heaven. New York, a melting pot? Well, maybe more like a stew, but at least all the flavors manage to work together! :)

Spiritual Thought:

2 Nephi 26:25 "Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price."

The gospel is a priceless, omnipresent, beautiful gift from a loving Heavenly Father to us. As I learn to follow Christ in every way possible, I have seen how easy it is for me to be grateful for every aspect of my life and to want the gospel more and more to improve those areas in which I am lacking. I am truly learning how "thirsting after righteousness" feels. I tried to make a list of all the things in my life I am grateful for a few days ago, and I continually noticed I was writing down even those things which irked me. All the same, I was grateful for them. I'm grateful for them because they help me to improve, to learn, and to grow.
The mission with Elder Jeffrey R Holland!
Close up of where I am...
I would invite any who feel their life is difficult or feel they are carrying heavy burdens or are just having a rough time to write down those things for which they are grateful. There are, for me, an endless supply of items to write. After three quarters of a page, I realized it was impossible for me to write down every moment of my life - and honestly that's what I would have had to write. Because I am grateful for each and every moment of my life.

All my love from Brooklyn, New York!

Hermana Ally Voss

*oh, to those who aren't aware, I despise sour cream. It's texture, it's flavor, the very essence of the substance. In eighth grade I even wrote an anti-ode to sour cream:

"Sour cream, oh sour cream. I hate you, don't you know? You really aren't my closest friend, I might call you my foe.

You are too gross to gaze upon, your smell makes me quite sick. And you, my little enemy, I would not want to lick.

Sour cream, oh sour cream you really are disgusting. With a creamy surface, too-smooth texture and a taste I am not trusting.

Sour cream, oh sour cream if you were as I saw fit you would not be in the world, and I would throw you in a pit."

-Ally Voss at age 13

Friday, November 11, 2016

Jeffery R. Holland Visits Humble NYC

Dearest friends and family,

I am pleased to say I had the extraordinary pleasure of having Jeffrey R. Holland visit my mission yesterday! Did you hear that correct? Jeffrey R. Holland! (If you don't know who he is then look him up - he's kind of a big deal) Better yet, he shook our hands! And looked into our souls! So, forgive me, but this week I will primarily be addressing his comments and wisdom and how it touched me.
Note: I rarely was able to write down quotes exactly as he stated them, given he was looking into my [poor and unworthy] eyes so often. So maybe believe the quotes were what he said (because 95% they were), but still take them with a grain of salt.
District Pumpkin Carving Activity
"We always have resurrection Sunday after crucifixion Friday. The road to salvation goes through Gethsemane. Maybe you won't spend too much time there, and you won't go straight to the center like our Lord Jesus Christ, maybe just spend a couple moments on the outskirts, but you've gotta spend some time there. Joy will come - in the meantime welcome to your mission." -Jeffrey R. Holland

For those who haven't heard, my mission has been very difficult for me these last few weeks. Elder Holland coming was, in a way, an answer to many unsaid prayers. This Tuesday I learned that my grandmother passed on. This affected me profoundly. It has been difficult for me to think of much else. I still, of course, went about my proselyting. I talked to all who I saw, I taught lessons, I tried to be bright. But in so many ways my heart was being squeezed and pressed and wrung and I couldn't hardly go an hour without reflecting back on it. Just hearing of Elder Holland coming was a major blessing for me. It was something I could look forward to, be excited for in all my pains and trials. I
feel blessed beyond measure to have this experience, especially so early on in my mission. "LOOK. This is real life!" -JRH
Hermana Gourley and I when we met ELDER HOLLAND!
The first thing that was adorable was President Reynolds speaking to us before Elder Holland arrived. We could see how excited and nervous he was. "What a favored people!" He exclaimed. "Just like it says in the scriptures. Get excited!" Oh. We were most definitely excited. Hermana Gourley and I landed ourselves some second row seats right behind the Assistants to the President (perks of arriving two hours early). He arrived and a hush came over all present as we stood to receive him.
"[Elder Holland] has this vibrancy and love for everyone, and I know it's because of his love for the gospel!" -Sister Holland
He let us shake his hand. He looked into our eyes as we did so. He called this an interview with our soul. Shaking his hand was wonderful as well. It just *felt* like touching an apostle. It was worn and
withered a bit, but it was a hand that knew hard work and the hand of a man who was a servant of God. A man who knew of God's love for me.
As the devotional started, President and Sister Reynolds spoke on drawing near unto God and sanctifying our hearts. We then had the pleasure of hearing from Matt Holland who related a hilarious story about his son Danny (who I gave a fist bump to) when he was around 5. His father noticed him playing an awful lot with the girl next door, and when he asked Danny if he was going to marry her he said, "dad, we don't even know the way to the temple!" How perfectly darling. One day I hope to raise kids with that kind of gospel foundation. :) He related how strongly he felt the spirit in our mission, and how tender it was for him to be with missionaries as his son was newly in his mission. He encouraged us to bear pure testimony of the restoration and the Book of Mormon.
"There is magic -no, we don't use that word - there is majesty, spirit, chemistry, eternity in reading that book!" -JRH
A huge theme of the meaning was the Book of Mormon. As Elder Holland began to speak to us all I could think was, "wow!". He speaks with so much power! Pretty much everything he says should be put in all capital letters, because either in intensity or love or loudness or determination or soberness everything he says leaves such a striking impression. As he spoke on the Book of Mormon I could feel the strength of his testimony and how he knew of a surety the veracity of it. He asked for a chalkboard and chalk and, crazy awesome theology professor that he is, taught us so many ridiculously fantastic things about the Book of Mormon. Even if he was "writing in reformed Egyptian" as he put it, he laid out the first bit of that Book in astonishing detail.
In terms of reading the Book of a Mormon, he said that he couldn't imagine any more important pages for someone to read of the Book of Mormon than the first 14 pages. "The Book of Mormon has a spirit itself" he declared. If an investigator hasn't read he told us to, "throw a fit! Now that I'm older I say be devastated, but *you* throw a fit!" I restarted the Book of Mormon a few days ago and am glad to be feeling its spirit every day in my life.
All the sisters in Zone #1 (the best Zone!)
Humorous one... :-)
Zone Training Meeting
He told us how glad he was to feel of our spirit, especially in a mission where, "you could break so many rules in 24 hours that we could write a volume of church history about you." We could go to
Times Square and camp out and be back in our mission by morning. Of course, though, he said we aren't perfect, else we would be levitating out of the room. He said that while perhaps a few were struggling, as he shook our hands and looked into our eyes he could see our worthiness and desire for the work. He emphatically dictated that he never wants to ever see a single one of us return from our missions and go less active. "You cannot go back. You can never go back." When I return home from my mission I hope to have the drive to love and live this gospel for the rest of eternity. While I'm on my mission I strive to "just be the missionary that a missionary is supposed to be!" This mission is a point of demarcation in my life. It separates me from who I was before and who I will be after. I plan to never put down or desecrate that change. Rather I will integrate it into my nature.
I want to be as Elder Holland and say, "Give me a river to swim or a mountain to climb, there is nothing I wouldn't do to find out more about my savior." I love my savior. I am so grateful to have seen one of His chosen apostles and be edified by him. In the words of Nephi in 1 Nephi 14:28 "And behold, I, Nephi, am [limited by space] that I should write the remainder of the things which I saw and heard; wherefore the things which I have written sufficeth me; and I have written but a small part of the things which I saw."

But in closing, one moment that meant quite a bit to me was one of the many times he looked, individually, into my eyes. Addressing all, but looking at me, he said, "YOU are one of the witnesses of [the Book of Mormon]." It touched me and I will always remember how warm and loved and happy I felt in that moment as he looked into my eyes for longer than I could ever have hoped for and told me of my importance in declaring the Word of God.
We knelt for a final prayer, all of us, and as the last words were said, tears of gratitude ran down my face. Before he walked out he turned to us. He said, "Love you. Work hard. Go home." What a glorious experience. How inspiring!

Everything else this week save my pain at my grandmother's passing is insignificant, all I can say is that we had a ward Hispanic Heritage night which was lovely (the pictures convey all you need to know) and we just barely finished carving pumpkins for a district activity. We gained a couple of investigators, as well, which is exciting.
Hermana Gourley and I with our pumpkins
NYNYS and 567 Pumpkins (567 related to our mission goals)
Messy hands whilst carving pumpkins...
My love for you all is real and bright. Thank you for your testimonies.
In love and gratitude,
-Hermana Ally Voss