Monday, June 8, 2015

Livin Life in Lancaster

(what is up with mormons and always using alliteration) 

Well I'm here in Lancaster and I can only describe my first week with three words...
Everything. Is. awesome.
My companion is awesome. Our Spanish branch is awesome. Teaching a bazillion lessons a week is awesome. Walking around Lancaster is awesome. Seeing the hand of the Lord is awesome. Our apartment is awesome (though smelly... we're working on that). Our branch President is AWESOME. The street names are awesome. The amish buggies are awesome. 
Everything is awesome.
I can't think of one thing that is not awesome.
Oh wait, I thought of one. Okay it's not awesome that we don't have a treadmill in our apartment because now I don't know if I'll ever run a seven minute mile. 
Aside from that... 
This place is pretty spot on.

First off, transfers were hilarious. When they announced that Hermana Tolman and I were serving together again, I'm pretty sure there were some jaws that hit the floor. It was great. There was gaping and gasping. Heads turned. Eyes bugged. The redaction was priceless. I wish President Johnson could have been there to witness it. He would have been so proud of his work.

Secondly, things are going way better than I expected. It's funny cause Hermana Tolman and I totally talked about this as I was unpacking my things on Monday night. We both kind of knew that we'd be serving together again and honestly we were both really apprehensive about it. It wasn't that we had disliked one another or anything, cause honestly we didn't. But we also weren't like the greatest friends or anything when she left Lebanon. We didn't really stay in contact, and sometimes seeing each other at mission meetings was slightly awkward. So when we first found out/suspected that we were going to be put together, we were a little more than apprehensive. I was just praying and praying that things worked out okay. They could either go really good or really bad.
So, after the initial eye-bugging reactions, we loaded our things up in our little ford and drove off and just started talking and talking and talking and we haven't stopped since.
It is the most wonderful thing in the entire world to serve with a former companion or just to be around them. And honestly, it's exactly what this area needed.

What's happening in Lancaster is unprecedented, there's nothing else like it in our whole mission. A new Spanish branch is opening up and being organized, and Hermana Tolman and I (along with two Elders from the West York area) have been given the daunting assignment to assist in the organization and strengthening of the branch.
The intimidating thing is that apparently this has already been tried before but it didn't work the first time. So what we have is a branch whose boundaries cover the entire stake, and four missionaries working in it... So Hermana Tolman and I cover the northeastern part of the stake and the elders cover the southwest side. It's a HUGE area. But we're ready for it. 

We had this incredible meeting with our branch president yesterday that seriously has not left my mind. He won me over as our leader during our combined priesthood and relief society meeting where he bore his testimony about how he knew that his Spanish wasn't very good and he knows that he's a white guy but he's pretty sure he's got Argentinian blood running through his veins and it was so hilarious and spoke to me on a personal level because sometimes I'm just positive that I'm part Mexican somehow. (Actually, fun fact. We were out street contacting yesterday and we taught a lesson to this family of people and one girl asked us if we were Latinas. It made my whole day.) But what really moved me was when he told them "It doesn't matter who I am or where I'm from. What matters is that we're in this work together, I'm one of you now." And I just started crying because I'm a baby and I can't control myself. And then when we met with him after the block of meetings and asked what his vision was and what we could do to help with the work, he said he wanted baptisms every week and reactivations and so much work that we couldn't possibly handle it by ourselves so that President Johnson has to send in more Spanish speakers to help with the work. We seriously just started getting so pumped. He said he wants the work to move so crazy fast that in 18 months we'd be two wards instead of two branches.
It was highly motivating.
I felt like I could cry repentance to the whole world. 
That night we went out and picked up a family of investigators. Nothing can stop us in this work, and the harder Satan fights us, the faster we're going to run, because I will stop at nothing to help these wonderful people and insure that the branch does not fail this time!! 

I seriously felt like one of the early saints on Sunday, you guys. Sitting there in our little chapel with only 20 members, at best. You think that would make for an awkward testimony meeting but no. Almost every single one of those members got up to bear testimony and to thank God for the incredible opportunity they had to bear testimony in their native tongue and to be organizing a branch, and whatever it took they were going to try to have the strength and courage to reach out to those around them to build up the kingdom of the Lord. IT WAS SO INSPIRING. 

The work in Lancaster is like nothing you would believe. We seriously just walk around and teach lessons all day. It's like being in Lebanon all over again, except bigger and better. We taught 13 lessons this week! Which may not seem like a lot to you guys, but I can tell you right now that it's a big deal. Especially on a transfer week when no weekly planning happened the week before. There are great things happening in this portion of the vineyard, and I am seriously so humbled to be a part of it.

The funny thing is... It's totally an "accident" that I'm here. (I put quotations because I know that nothing in this work really happens by accident). What happened was that President Johnson sent Hermana Tolman here in hopes that she would be training this transfer, because he thought that she was staying until August. But when he brought it up to her that this was his vision, she told him that her mission ended in July and he was just so confused. So right now, if President Johnson had gotten his way, I wouldn't even be here. I'd still be back in Hanover and Hermana Tolman would be training some lucky son-of-a-gun Hermanita nueva that would get to start her mission in the gold mine that is Lancaster.
Instead, Lancaster got Hermana Bills :) or, "Hermana Pagos" as I was called yesterday. Actually, I've also been called Hermana Billetes and Hermana Cuentas, too. So I've got a lot of names. 
But anyway! I'm so grateful for the misunderstanding. Without it, I wouldn't get to serve here right now! 

It's seriously just been the most incredible week, you guys. I don't even know what else to say. Just so amazing. The funny thing is, the boarder of our area touches Lebanon, so we're totally planning a pday trip to go there! Hopefully! Our best friend from Lebanon actually came down to Lancaster and had lunch with us this week. That was an incredible blessing for me. 

Ugh. I don't even have any more words.
Everything is awesome. 

I love you guys. 
Party hardy in the good ole 801. 

I'll talk to you kids next week. 

Hermana Pagos :)