Week 7: Milagros!

       Thanks everyone for your faith and prayers in my behalf!! And your emails too!! Know that I am strengthened by them!!

       This week has been awesome. I love this work!!!! These first weeks  have to be the best because there is no better position to be in than The Vulnerable Gringa  That Can’t Speak That Great. I think it sets the tone right when people realize I need help too! It makes it easier to demonstrate that my companion and I are not as much their teachers but truly their sisters. There’s a unity I feel when they realize how much I need them. I am seeing hearts open because I am so not threatening. Haha.
       For example, one brother has, in the past, not wanted anything to do with the missionaries. His wife joined the Church but had to be taught outside her home. I don’t know what changed him, but he heard my companion and I singing in a home nearby (other plus to cardboard walls. Haha, just kidding, they were concrete) and he came over and asked us to visit him. We have been teaching him nearly every day since then and he is on fire!! I was scared of him at first from the stories I had heard, but now he is a dear friend. He has helped me so much with the language.
       Things have been pretty crazy in Piura because this weekend was their independence day, and so the whole city was a gigantic fiesta. My companion and I went with an investigator and about 25 people from the ward to a neighboring ward last night to watch a baptism. The Spirit was so strong in that meeting as we watched the ordinance, sang hymns, and listened to testimony.  Afterward, our investigator asked if she could change her baptismal date to this week!! It was so exciting, and when all of us from the ward were walking home there was such a feeling of unity. There was loud music coming from every direction and drunk people everywhere, but in our little band with the powerful Spirit we had just felt and the exciting news about our investigator, there was just such a feeling of love among us. We were all so content and safe.
       I love this work and I love our Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that He is at the head of all of this, it’s a knowledge that burns within me and drives me to seek His will. I am learning the truth of the words of M. Russell Ballard that as Jesus Christ is becoming more of a reality in my life, it isn’t that He is somehow making me do things I don’t want to do. It’s that I am finding myself wanting to do what He would do, wanting to respond as He would respond, in an effort to bring my life more in harmony with His. The interesting thing that is happening to me is that as I am trying to follow the footsteps of Jesus (in caring, loving, serving, and obeying as He did) I am finding that this path is leading me directly to where I want to be. The people I need to talk to, the words I need to say, the hands that I can lift. It is a milagro!! A miracle!
       I love you all! Thank you for the emails!
       Hermana Cardon

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Week 6: Piura!

       Wow. I have so much to say I don’t know where to begin!
       Chronologically, I got to Lima on Monday night around 11. The lady sitting next to me on the plane from Miami was so awesome, she didn’t speak any English so I got to practice Spanish with her a lot! Her husband died three years ago and has been suffering a lot since then. I taught her about the Plan of Salvation! It was awesome! She wants to learn more!
       Lima was so creepy at night, and smelled really bad! I thought our hotel was really scary too… Little did I know we were staying at the Ritz Lima. Haha. My traveling companion and I left for Piura at 7 a.m. and I got to say goodbye to Hermana T. one last time before she got on her flight for Cuzco. Me and 9 other missionaries arrived around 12 in Piura. It is AWESOME here! Haha but super different. It literally is its own little world.
       Piura is REALLY dusty. And there are dogs and cats everywhere! You can tell if they have an owner if they have a t-shirt on. The wind is always blowing and by the end of every day I feel like I took a dirt bath! Our apartment is really interesting. One of our walls is made out of cardboard (which is awesome because we share it with some people who are investigating the church so we could teach them from our bedroom if we didn’t want to get dressed haha) and one out of plywood and two out of cement. The ceiling is a bunch of bamboo(?) poles with a piece of sheet metal wired to them. This means that we can see the outside world through our roof and the cats can crawl in (when they are walking on the roof it´s so scary it sounds like thunder!)  But you can tell that my companion and I are well taken care of because our floor is made out of cement and not dirt! How grateful I am for the levelness of a cement floor! The shower head is literally 2 feet away from the toilet which means that if you drop the shampoo you better hope the lid is down! The bathroom is like a little hut within our hut! Hutception!!!
       My companion is learning to speak English but her accent is so thick that I don’t understand it, so we stick to Spanish and then during language study she practices English. She is awesome though! She is from Lima and is a convert to the church! Her dad was shot at work a little while after she joined the church, she says that the gospel has been her strength ever since!
       I had an exchange where I got to go to the ritzy part of Piura! There is grass over there, and more people have hard floors. One of the members showed me her washing machine and asked me if I had seen one before… I didn´t know how to respond so I was just like,”Yeah, I think so!”
       The members are so loving! They call me Hermana Barbie because I’m white and tall. Literally though, I am a giant here. I don’t know how the boys handle it, but I’m only 5’6″ and I am at least a head taller than everyone I have met here.
       The food and water here are straight poison! We are only allowed to eat what our pincionista cooks for us and what we buy at this grocery store called Tutto(?). It’s a lot like Walmart… like as in if it’s not owned by Walmart, then they straight up plagarized Walmart’s slogan.
       One thing that is funny here that drives me kind of nuts is the complete disregard for copyright law. I see advertisments with Tweety Bird and Dumbo and Shrek and all these characters MIXED… So ridiculous haha. I shouldn’t think that much about it, but it looks so weird to see Kuzco from Emperor’s New Groove riding Donkey from Shrek and stuff like that.
       As far as missionary work goes, it is awesome! I have to pinch myself that I am a missionary here! The members are angels and so excited about and devoted to the work. I’m not the greatest at speaking, but I’m conversational and can always say what I want even if it takes more words than necessary sometimes. (For an embarassing example, I just told my companion I have onion breath and I had to say my mouth is like an onion.) The kids love teaching me new words and stuff. On Friday I started teaching English classes at the chapel as a way to find new people to teach the gospel! The bishop also asked me to start offering piano lessons, but so far I don’t have any students for which I am grateful for because I’m much better at English than the piano.
       A lot of things have happened this week that are sad. Someone we know drank the water and died, and then one of our friends lost her baby. The beauty of the message of the Restoration, however, is not that our lives can be perfect and nothing sad will ever happen. The message of the Restoration is that there is hope and happiness ahead. God loves us, He has a plan for us, and all of our trials can be for our good. It’s not a matter of seeing things optimisticly or trying to convince people to do that, it is about seeing things as they really are! In the right perspective, with the enabling power of the Atonement, our lives can be happy! The people here don’t have very much (and by that I mean that when I am sitting in someone’s house I can usually see 80-100% of everything they own) but the members definitely get that. I am constantly inspired by the fire of their testimonies here.They are setting fire in others because they are on fire themselves!
       Thank you for your prayers and emails! I love you all!
       Hna. Cardon

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Week 5: T-minus 4 Days!

Hola!
       This week has been wild! A roller coaster of emotions! My district has been busy making guesses on where we are getting reassigned. There were a bunch of Peru missionaries that got reassigned to California last week and then a bunch who got sent to New York! I was hoping that my reassignment would be to one of those places too.
       On Monday a bunch of sister missionaries we don’t know but that are apparently going to Peru came to Dinner with their TRAVEL PLANS to Lima. We were all so jealous, we were like, “Oh, we’re waiting on our reassignments because we don’t have VISA’s yet.” and then Elder Toolson was looking at their travel plans and he was like, “Look, this is interesting Sister Cardon.” and I went over and looked at it and in on the top of the page in big bold letters it said, “YOU ARE TO MEET WITH YOUR TRAVEL LEADER, SISTER ALYSSA CARDON, BEFORE DEPARTURE. SHE WILL GIVE YOU FURTHER INFORMATION.”
       My heart was pounding so hard and fast! My whole district ran to the mail room, we were pretty sure I was leaving but didn’t know about anyone else. We quickly said a prayer together that all of us would have travel plans and then we opened our mailbox and there they were! All of us are on different flights pretty much except for Elder T. and Hermana T. are on all the same flights–they are going to LAX and then to Lima from there.
       Anyway, I am so full of emotions. Nervous, scared, sad, happy, suprised…. honestly, I am mostly just really sad to leave the MTC.
        But, anyway, that was exciting and it’s crazy to think that this time next week I will be in Peru! The other exciting thing I wanted to tell you about was that this morning I got to go work in the Provo Temple while it is being closed for renovations/cleaning. I was there with the sisters from my district for three hours, our job was to take apart a chandelier in one of the 12 sealing rooms and clean it. It was painstakingly slow, but really cool! The chandelier was gorgeous– and completely made out of gold and crystal! We were in all white clothes while we worked and the spirit was really strong, suprisingly because there were like jackhammers going on somwhere nearby and it was kind of dark in there. Taking apart the chandelier took like an hour and a half– I would guess that it was somwhere between 1-2 thousand little crystal pieces we had to take off, one by one! Once each crystal piece had been removed and all that was left was the gold frame, we cleaned the frame and changed the lightbulbs– there were probably 30 lightbulbs on it! Then we put on these little white cotton gloves and cleaned each little crystal piece with a micofiber cloth and vinegar solution. Then we got back on the scaffolding and started putting all the pieces back on the chandelier skeleton, one by one! we were probably 1/4 of the way done putting it back together when it was time for us to leave, but the part that was done was shining so bright! As missionaries, it was so good to have that time to just talk and work together. After we finished working, we went to the brides’ room– the missionaries had finished the chandlier and sconces in there yesterday! It was so beautiful! Hopefully our chandelier will look just as good as theirs did when ours gets finished!
       More and more I am just coming to learn that the Lord works that way with us. I could not but help feel that as I reached up and plucked a little crystal bead from the framework of the chandelier. One of the biggest rules we had to follow was “one piece at a time” because if you had two crystals in your hand they could scratch each other or you could drop one or both.
       I don’t have anymore time but Kayla, I might send you my blowdryer and straigtener to get rid of some weight! And, if you have time before Friday night, it would be really awesome if you could send me some lipstick! I need Revlon 080 Strawberry Shortcake– It sounds weird but that is my favorite color and one of the sister missionary rules is you must always have something on your lips and I am almost out of lipstick!!
       Thanks!! I love you all!
       Hermana Cardon

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Week 4: A Hard Week

Hello!
          This week has been a really hard but really good week. The best news is that I am totally better and back on the same schedule with my district!
          Sheri Dew came to teach Relief Society on Sunday and that was awesome! She said, “We are so blessed to be able to participate in this work, because the reality is that we are all just a bunch of flunkies.” That thought actually  really helped me this week– rather than be frustrated with myself and my weaknesses, I just prayed in gratitude for the opportunity to participate and learn. The truth is, I’ve been here for 5 weeks now and everything is still so hard! There are just so many things to think about all the time, and teaching my investigators is so different than preparing a talk or a Gospel Doctrine lesson because somehow trying teach a congregation was easier than now trying to teach to the needs of a single person. Constantly going through my head are worries like, “What do my investigators need? How is their faith being strengthened? Can I make sure this lesson about the Word of Wisdom brings them closer to Christ? What invitations should we extend that would stretch them without overwhelming them? How can I share this scripture effectively? What scripture meets their circumstances best? How can I simplify this concept without losing the purpose?” All that on top of, “What’s the Spanish word for this? How can I explain this succintly while using the words I know? What grammar principle needs most of my attention right now?” AND THEN I have a  COMPANION, and if I neglect HER and thoughts of, “What can I do to be a blessing in her life right now? What could I be doing more to help her come unto Christ? What should I stop doing?” than NOTHING works because if things aren’t gelling with us, all of our efforts are lost because the Spirit can’t be with us! I have never been so mentally busy in my entire life.
          That being said, I have to testify of the power of the scriptures in bringing peace to my soul. I am being stretched to my very core right now! I have never sought for or thought I needed the peace of the Savior so much before! And I can tell you guys that there is something so miraculously calming and healing to my stressed, distressed, stretched soul when I immerse myself in the scriptures. I think we learned at baptism that sprinkling just doesn’t cut it– total immersion is the only thing that works.  For me, where I am right now, that means praying sincerely for help, writing down all the questions I am seeking answers to, and then just searching for inspiration through the words of our Savior and His prophets. I don’t know everything, but I do know this works and I am finding real answers and peace. My strength comes from His Spirit, which comes as I search the scriptures diligently, believing I can receive what I need through them. I could not handle what this training is requiring of me without it.
         I wish I had more time to tell you guys more stuff, but I hope we all remember sufficiently that what we have, the knowledge of the gospel, is a gift.
         Happy Fourth of July!
         Hermana Cardon

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