Thursday, September 12, 2013

At the Airport

My brother-in-law was at the airport flying to DC the same day as me and we found each other!  He was able to meet and talk with the other missionaries traveling with me while I called home. 

 Text to both sisters at midnight from a stranger with these 2 pictures:
"I saw your Darling daughter at the airport today.  She was just so happy and excited, thought you might like to see her."

Day One From the Mouth of Sister Hall-Mission President's Wife

Day 1, Part 1:  Bob Hope Burbank Airport 

The Delta flight from Salt Lake City arrives around 12:15 p.m.  El Presidente and the Assistants and I are there waiting.  Burbank is a small airport, which we are very grateful for, and we stand out from the regular flying public.  Ken gets asked a lot of questions about the airport since he looks so official.  We spend the wait time reviewing the hows and wheres and whats of the logistics of getting 25 people and luggage sorted and picked up.  We wish that Burbank would consider installing chairs to wait in (it is a small airport).

Finally the plane lands and people begin to come out through security.  The missionaries will be last--they always are last.  Partly because they are polite and let the others off first, partly because someone will need to use the bathroom so they will all wait, but mainly because they are terrified and once they walk through that gate they are really here. Often other passengers will let us know they are coming.  "There's a whole bunch of people in nametags on their way."  If there are members on the flight they always let us know that the new group looks good. 

We greet them, shake hands/hug as appropriate and begin to gather the luggage.  Since they have stalled as long as possible getting out, the luggage comes quite quickly.  Elder C, half of the amazing Elder and Sister C team, meets us at the curb with the king-cab pickup and a trailer for the luggage.  Other senior missionaries (as necessary) are there for transport and we get everyone in a seatbelt and head off to the North Hollywood Stake Center.

At this point the new missionaries are still nervously chattering with each other, some trying to ask questions, some in awe of the weather and palm trees and some are really, really quiet.  I think I would be one of the quiet ones.  (Rita, stop laughing)

Part 2:  North Hollywood Stake Center

The stake center is only about 10 minutes from the airport.  Waiting for us there are the awesome Elder and Sister J and awesome Sister C.  They have come with food.  Pizza and pudding cups!  There are some administrative things that simply must be done on day 1 and so while eating their pizza they watch a safety video, turn in/fill out/lose paperwork all while looking like deer in the headlights.  I always feel so nervous for them because no matter who you are or how prepared you start, this is nerve-wracking.

After lunch?  Miracles.  Seriously.  It's on the schedule.  We schedule miracles and the Lord, in His infinite mercy, blesses those new missionaries with miracles.  Meeting us at the stake center are some of our very best Elders and Sisters and for an hour and a half, our brand new missionaries will have a temporary companion and they go out into North Hollywood and find people to teach.  And they do!  They are scared and don't know what to say and don't really speak Spanish yet, but they find people to teach! 

And that changes everything.

The hardest part of missionary work is starting.  It is opening your mouth that first time and asking a complete stranger if they would like to learn of Jesus Christ.  It is learning that you can do this. 

Part 3:  Mission Home

Between finding and paperwork/training, President is interviewing each new missionary.  He needs to briefly get to know them and receive inspriration on who their training companion should be.  This is getting trickier since the groups are getting larger.  Sometimes the interviews go through and after dinner.  He has already reviewed their application and knows a bit about them, but it is nice to meet them in person. 

I leave North Hollywood before any of the real action takes place--I have to get kids from school and make sure I haven't burned down the mission home cooking dinner for a billion people.  One nice thing about cooking for new missionaries is that they have just come from the MTC and so they think I'm an amazing cook.  I'm really not.  It's just Mexican pulled pork and Suzanne Paylor's super salsa.  But it is food and there are actual couches to sit on and so life is good.

There is a difference in their faces from lunch to dinner.  There didn't used to be.  We just started the proselyting in the first hours of landing a few transfers ago.  Before it was all administrative and there was only tiredness.  Now, they are missionaries--still nervous but not terrified.  It is a miracle.

We send them off to their temporary beds (no one stays here--we have a teenage boy so no sisters can stay and a teenage girl so no elders).  They are exhausted.  Utah to California isn't a long flight, but emotionally it is a long day.

Day 2:  Transfer Day

This is the great a dreadful day.  Great because you finally meet your companion.  That's why it is dreadful, too.  It is a scary thing to be assigned to some stranger to live with 24/7.  You don't even live with your family 24/7.  Now you will always be within sight and hearing of this person.  You will be a part of every conversation, every phone call, every text message.  There is no escape except the bathroom.  It is a hard adjustment.

President Hall meets with the trainers for 90 minutes before the Transfer Meeting.  The Assistants and I meet with the New Missionaries.  By the way, they are New Missionaries, not Greenies.  President Eyring personally instructed us when he extended the call that we were never to call a new missionary a greenie (also it is in the handbook under not using slang).  So we don't.  In fact, when you come to visit us we will ask you not to do it either.  I think one reason Presdient Eyring mentioned that to us is because these new missionaries have the same power and authority to teach--they just are new, and we need to respect that.

I have no idea what the trainers learn besides Follow the 12 Week Program.  The Assistants teach about companionship study and I teach about being Anxiously Engaged (anxiety). 

Finally, finally! It is time for the Transfer Meeting.

Transfer Meeting

Everyone who is getting a new companion comes to the transfer meeting.  Some will be training, but most are part of a companionship where one, or both, are being transferred (no, we don't say whitewashed, either).  It is often over half of the mission.  As the new missionaries come in, everyone is standing and singing Called to Serve.  It is really a good welcome to the mission.  The new missionaries briefly introduce themselves (I'm Sister Smith from Palmyra, New York) (No, we don't have a Sister Smith from Palmyra, but wouldn't that be awesome?!)

President Hall then starts in with the actual business of transferring.  "In the Canoga Park Zone, Elder A will be transferring out and Elder B will be transferring in, etc."  It takes a while to go through it all but it is fascinating to watch.  Hope, joy, sadness and terror--all in one meeting!

The unspoken odd thing is the names that don't get called, but rather get said good-bye to. Those who have finished their missions are now sitting, companionless but together.  It always makes me sad and happy to see them as they say goodbye to not only their companions, but to the mission.  They will have going-home-training, dinner and testimony meeting with us later in the day, but for now they have the bittersweet task of helping others on their way.

After the meeting everyone heads out.  Well, the new missionaries and their trainers have to get yet another picture taken to mark the historic day.  But then they all grab their two suitcases and one backpack and off they go with a new companion and/or a new area to good deeds (note to mothers everywhere, your missionary really is limited in what they can haul around--keep that in mind before sending the giant packages).

We'll see the new missionaries and their trainers in a week for some training they might actually remember and to see how they are doing.  By that time they will look even more different.  And by the six-week follow-up they will be indistinguishable from the trainers--they all will look like what they are: Missionaries.

Sep 11th, Welcome to the Great California San Fernando Mission!

Dear Parents of the New (and Historic) September Transfer!

Welcome to the Great California San Fernando Mission!  We have 50 new missionaries who have joined us this week, one fourth of the whole mission!  Sorry for all the exclamation points, but this is amazing!

It is Wednesday morning and all the missionaries are in their areas, and since it is 8:41 a.m. they are all doing their individual study.  At 9 they will have companionship study to prepare for the lessons they will teach today.

This is the biggest arriving group in the history of the mission, and most likely will be the biggest group ever to arrive.  In the olden days (last year) a large group would have been 15.  That wave Elder Nelson spoke about is more like a tsunami.

This transfer was a little trickier than usual.  New missionaries go through a 12 week in-field training program.  Last transfer we had 30 missionaries who are now half-way through the training. 50 + 30+ 80 (the trainers)= 160 missionaries who are studying an extra hour a day with the in-field training.  We only have 205 in the mission!  So we are studying!  The 160 number is not quite accurate, we have a few missionaries being trained in trios and a few that are finishing their training with another 6-weeker.  We even have some trainers of your missionaries who have only been here 6 weeks!  When the Lord said he would hasten the work, He wasn’t kidding around.  The great news is that the missionaries are up to the challenge and are working miracles!

 Included in the group are 7 visa-waiters.  We love our visa-waiters.  They are a great addition to the mission and really work hard and encourage us.  We don’t know when their visas will come, but we secretly hope never.  Generally they come within a couple of months.  We’ve had visas come within days and we have some who have been waiting six months, government red tape moves slowly sometimes.  But even if we don’t know how long they will be with us, the Lord knows and we can testify that those that wait with us have been called to serve here as well as their final destination.  Truly it is a blessing (even if it seems disguised).

We see miracles every day in this mission!  Next Monday you should receive your first email from your missionary.  Ask him or her about the miracles in this work.  Ask them about their first afternoon in the mission where they went out finding people to teach after landing at the airport.

Along with praying for your missionary, please pray for you missionary’s companion.  To bless the lives of Heavenly Father’s children, companions must work in unity.  Adjusting to a companion 24/7 is always a learning curve.  Pray for both halves of the companionship.  It makes a huge difference.

We love this group already, they are going to be amazing!

Love, Sister and President Hall

Sep 7th, Change of Plans

HELLO! They gave us quick time to email today since we leave Monday. Our flights got changed! I don't have any numbers or time but we are now leaving the MTC at 6:00 and still flying into Burbank so I guess you'll just have to check flights and see which one we might be on. I will still try and call anytime after 7. No idea if I'll have time to email that day/night at all but we're on our way!!! I am SO excited!

We went to our devotional Tuesday night and we found out some interesting facts I thought I'd share:
Missionaries on October 6, 2012: 28,500
Missionaries as of last week: Over 76,000
Missionaries by Fall (including TANNER MAN!): 86,000
58 new missions have been created since the age change
Devotional was so cool! It was this building experience of being part of this huge "army." Literally when we were all out walking and crossing the streets.... It's so fun to think of being a part of something like this!

 In the picture is our whole District so we're all going to San Fernando even though it doesn't look like it. I LOVE THESE PEOPLE! We've gotten super close and it's sad to think we're leaving already but at least we're all in the same mission. And yes it was unintentional match with your companion day for the sisters....

We were up on Main Campus Thursday for in field orientation. I kept my eyes peeled ALLL day for Sister Unga and finally found her right as we were leaving!!!! She saw me first and came running across the crosswalk. I love her! So glad I got to see her and have time to talk for awhile.

The moment where we'd been companions for exactly one week. I am so grateful for Sister Humpherys! We have had SO much fun and super spiritual experiences. The Lord knew I needed to start off with a good one.

My companion Sister Humpherys and I with our Zone Leaders Elder Cooper and Elder Law. They are awesome! Elder Cooper gets pretty emotional and Elder Law does NOT do well with chaos or "winging it" jajaja

Celebrating my one week in the MTC (to the exact minute) by going to help host the other new missionaries who had just shuttled down to MTC-West.
This is Elder Carrol. He just left for Las Vegas. I had a huge grudge with this kid my first 2 days in here cause I thought he was obnoxious and rude to some Elders playing volleyball at gym. I knew I'd had a change of heart and me in general when I PRAYED to let it go and we actually became good friends while he was here.

I LOVE this kid! Krys Gardner is teaching at the MTC Main so this is the first time it was actually really hard to shake hands with a male.

Thank you to Jax man and everyone else for the treats :) :)

This Elder is 7"3 and going to Ventura California
God is goooooood. Good luck at your farewell tomorrow Tanner man! I am so proud of you and wish more than anything I could be there.I'm excited we get to be doing this at the same time though. It's awesome! I will definitely be thinking of you! You're gonna tear it up!  Love you all!
With faith in every footstep,
Sister Olsen

Sep 2, YOMO *You Only MTC Once*

Holy crazy (almost) week here in the MTC! I was so excited to get on today and have emails! :)) I feel like I've had so much to tell everybody so hopefully I remember it all!

Things have shockingly been going incredible! I love it! I love the spirit here, I love how happy I am and I love how friendly and happy everyone else is! I love hearing all the different languages as we pass each other out walking. I love feeling like I'm being pushed and learning so much. I love my companion and I LOVE my district! I'm glad I got some good advice before coming and in Taylor's letter my first night. It's helped a ton!

We had a few shockers already... Turns out, my alarm clock does NOT work! We set it the first night here, went to bed, and the sisters we live with finally woke us up at almost was still ticking and everything but for some reason just never went. I SWEAR I did nothing to tamper with it. Our second day here we have interviews with the Branch Presidency and at the end my companion and I got pulled back. We got put in as "Sister Training Leaders" which is the equivalent of Zone Leaders for the sisters. So it's been a bit of an adventure to try and balance MTC life with trying to get to know the other sisters in our zone as well. We don't get home until 9:30 every night and have to go do sister visits, get ready for the next day, journal and be in bed by 1030. It's been a challenge but it's been good! I liked my district right from the start but on Friday, one of our Elders went home. :( It was so sad! He left at 10:00 that morning and we felt it right from the beginning. We were super down the whole day. Saturday night, my companion, Sister Hughes, had a total breakdown! She couldn't stop crying and was ready to go home. Like, packing her bags ready to go home. After three hours, I finally talked her into letting the Zone Leaders give her a blessing. It helped a ton! She passed out almost as soon as we got home. Thankfully, she's still here and seems to be doing really well! I think that's the biggest reasons we're sister training leaders.

I can not even begin to explain all of the tender mercies I've had! IT HAS BEEN MIND BLOWING! I know I am supposed to be here, without a doubt. And I know the Lord is blessing me like crazy because of it. Our first night here, we were in the chapel by the football Stadium and when we walked out, the band was out practicing on the field. I thought I would suddenly get homesick but I was fine! I had this feeling where I knew the Lord was gonna bless me to be here. Waking up in the morning? As soon as I decided not to throw a fit that we have to get up a half an hour earlier than anybody else (BUT SERIOUSLY?! What are the odds?!) I haven't even struggled with getting up early! And I'm not a beast about it either once I'm up! I think I have prayed more in the last five days than I have the whole 23 years I have been alive. Constantly! Praying to stay awake, praying to stay alert, praying to feel the Spirit, praying for patience with other sisters, praying for my companion to feel comfort, praying for our investigator, praying over our food, praying at night, praying to start meetings, praying to end meetings.....we are always praying!!!! And when we aren't praying? I feel like we're singing.

Our first night here we had a new missionary fireside with the MTC Presidency. We sang some of those really powerful hymns like "As Zions Youth in Latter Days", "Called to Serve", "Hope of Israel"... at the end of the fireside we sang "We'll Bring the World His Truth" but they had changed "and we will be the Lord's missionaries" to "and NOW we are the Lord's missionaries." It was one of the most powerful moments of my life I would have to say! It was amazing! Everybody had so much feeling behind it and there were probably over 100 of us so it was super loud!

I love that I finally made it here! When they handed me my badge, I seriously couldn't stop smiling! I don't think I've ever worked harder for anything in my life and I am incredibly grateful that I did! I love getting to be a part of this work. I love and miss you all! Saying goodbye was probably one of the HARDER moments of my life but I have to admit that it was already worth it. See you soon!

With faith in every footstep,
Sister Olsen

 I did get the package!! THANK YOU! We have only gone to the main campus today. The Temple was closed, and the bus that takes us to the Temple wasn't running so we walked from our campus up today just me and Sister Humphreys. It was great! Even though we went at 7am in the rain. I FINALLY got my pictures by the plaque they always talk about :) :) :) We go to the main campus Wednesday for in field training (???) but other than that our church, classes, cafe, bookstore and everything is down here.
Our district started as 8 then we had one Elder go home. Then we lost both of our teachers because of BYU schedules. THEN we had 2 of our sisters get sick and go to instacare. So today we were laughing that our District was dropping like flies and took a sad picture we're only down to five.

 My companion Sister Humphreys and I outside out door the end of our first night. With out little orange "We're brand new" dots!