Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Week One in the Field

Dear Family, 

I made it safe and sound to Vegas! I feel like I haven't written in forever - we weren't able to email last P-Day because we were traveling to Nevada all day. I basically have 2 weeks of news to cover, so I'm sorry if this email is a bit scattered!

First things first. I have been assigned to serve out of valley in Lake Havasu City, AZ. Fun fact: it is the hottest inhabited place in the U.S. I arrived at just the perfect time of year, ha! My trainer is Sister Emily Cook from Phoenix, AZ. One of the first things she said to me was, "So usually missionaries who serve so close to home have health issues or something of the sort, buuut I'm totally normal! I'm just as shocked as you that I was called to serve just a couple hours from home. My only request for my mission was to get out of the desert, but I guess the Lord knows best." Crazy, right? I couldn't imagine being so close to home. She even has family in Vegas - I don't know how she does it. She has been out for about 5 months. As I've gotten to know her, I really feel like one of the main reasons she was called to Vegas is so that she could be my companion...I have already learned so much from her and I love her dearly. I was thinking about it and I realized that if I had left on my mission after a semester of school like I had originally planned, I probably would've been in her wave of missionaries at the MTC and we would've come out together. We have a special companionship and I am SO grateful. A little more about her: Her personality is a mix between Holly (as in, my cousin) and Gracie Johnson. Her laugh is literally a replica of Gracie's and it makes me so happy! We laugh all the time (mostly because she starts laughing and I just laugh at her laugh - an incurable round of giggles). She got her cosmetology license before leaving on her mission; she cuts hair, does facials and makeup, shapes eyebrows, paints nails... the whole deal. I'm going to be a beauty queen missionary at the end of our 12 week training ;) Our birthdays are 3 days apart (she's Sept 27 and I'm Oct 1), and we're both 19. She is so, so good at talking to people and striking up conversation. She also has such a good relationship with the ward members of the area we're serving in, and it has helped so much. Our ward mission leader, Brother Hauck, is so awesome, and so is our bishop, Bishop Hansen. Even within just the first week here I have realized that those 2 leaders are PIVOTAL for successful missionary work. We need their love and support or we can't do our jobs to our fullest potential. 
All the new sisters and their trainers! Sister Cook is to the left of me. (Sister Browning is on the far right with her trainer, Sister Luke)

The day I got to Vegas was crazy. Sister Bell, Sister Unsted, Sister Browning, and I got up at 3:30 to get ready and check out of the MTC. We met up with 10 other missionaries (the 3 elders from our district, 2 sisters from Mexico, a sister serving in the Salt Lake City Temple Square mission who's from Taiwan - I LOVE her! - and will be serving in Vegas for 2 transfers, 2 Spanish speaking elders from Washington and New York, and then 2 other sisters from American Samoa and Tonga) headed to Vegas on a shuttle for Salt Lake. We arrived at the airport around 6 with a few other districts of missionaries (most of which were heading to the San Antonio Mission! I told them to keep their eye out for any Robinsons). Our flight to Vegas was just a little under an hour and it was the most exciting/surreal experience. I was so ready to be there. We arrived in Vegas and met the AP's and some members of the mission presidency. President Neider and his wife were unable to come because Sister Neider recently found out she has a return of cancer, so they were out of town for her health. President and Sister Snow arrive tomorrow, so I won't be able to meet the Neiders, which I'm really bummed about. 

Our Zone at the MTC! (With the Elders heading to Canada who came in on week 2) 
My friend from school, Sister Jessica Smith, and I at the MTC. She's serving in Poland!

Sister Unsted and I on the plane after landing in VEGAS!
We loaded up all our luggage into 2 large pick-ups, then headed to a member of the mission presidency's home where we were served a large breakfast and received some training (by this point I was like, "Okay, we've been in the MTC for 2 weeks - we've had our training! Send us out!") We each had an interview with President Cavalieri (not sure if that's spelled right; he's the first counselor in the mission presidency), and he was the one who assigned us our trainers. Speaking with him was a really neat experience. He asked me to pray before our interview and in my prayer I asked Heavenly Father that each of us new missionaries would feel peace about where would be assigned to serve and with whom we would serve with. Afterwards, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said: "Sister Robinson, this is my first time to make these assignments in place of President Neider in my 5 years of service in this calling. I am new to this, but I can promise you that these assignments are inspired. I have felt with pure revelation from God as I've met with each of you and consulted with President over the phone... I promise where you are placed is where you are supposed to be." Once he said that, I immediately felt peace. And I have felt the truth of his words as I've served this first week in Havasu. I am exactly where I need to be. 

Meeting President Snow and his wife at the MTC

The next days were insane. We had to stay in Vegas overnight because our area is 3 hours (!!!!) out of valley, and we had to be there Thursday morning for MORE training. We stayed with some sisters in Sister Cook's first area. We had a dinner appointment with some ward members that evening, and then we met with 2 other ward families before calling it a night. Walking into the first home as a missionary was so interesting. I have learned that that will be one of the most thrilling parts of the mission for me - seeing how other families live, decorate, cook, and interact with one another in their homes. 

So the rumor is true - we are fed SO well here. I look forward to dinner every night because everything is just so delicious! The members in Havasu love the sisters and many are very involved with our work. The first night here in Havasu we had a dinner appointment with a family of recent converts, the Sanchez's. Brother and Sister Sanchez are probably in their mid-50s and they have a daughter, Kalie, who is 20 and a student at ASU. They got baptized about 3 months ago and their conversion story was powerful. They had been so prepared for the Gospel, especially Kalie (who was the first to show interest in the church after meeting a member at ASU). I had heard it before, but as I heard their story it became very apparent to me that I need to be actively seeking those people who are PREPARED and READY to receive the Restored Gospel. I think of D&C 4, which talks about the field being "white, all ready to harvest." It's hard to help those people who just aren't ripe yet, whose season hasn't come. But it so very easy to help those who ARE ripe, who ARE seasoned, who WILL be receptive to our message of truth. The key is to be led and guided by the Spirit to those who are ready, and to get the members to be guided as well. 

Our apartment in Havasu is nice. We each get our own bathroom, we have an office, a bedroom, a living room, and a kitchen. Mom, my bike was at the mission office when I arrived, and I picked it up as well as my packages. It is a beauty! A few sisters complimented me on it as we loaded it up on the car to head out here. The sad news is, it's too hot and hilly in Havasu to ride bikes. So we have a car! A beautiful, red 2014 Toyota Corolla. I feel so spoiled, but I'm not complaining! 

Arizona is so beautiful, especially at sunset! I look very focused there in the corner, don't I? Haha.
Coming out to Vegas, I was nervous about learning how to talk to people. I was mostly afraid of going door to door and trying to share our message with people who just don't want anything to do with us, and who view Jesus Christ as some name that's thrown around in modern religion. I told Sister Cook last night that I think my fears stem from feeling that our message is so sacred and special that it's hard for me to try and share it with people who just look at us like Jesus Freaks. I don't know if I'm making sense, but essentially, I'm just fearful of others not seeing our sincerity and our passion for the Lord's truth and discounting us and Him because of it. Sister Cook is so good at being bold and talking to others, and I'm learning that my reservations are just going to have to be put to the side or else I won't be as effective as I want to be these next 18 months. 

I almost forgot to tell you! We had a baptism this past Saturday - my first as a missionary! I really didn't have much to do with it - I just came in at the perfect time. Her name is Toni, she's about 50, and her son is a convert to the church who served a mission in Oaxaca, Mexico, and is now a student at BYU. It was SUCH an incredible experience. I feel like I now see baptism through completely new eyes because I have studied and understand the doctrine behind it so much more. It is remarkable to witness someone experience a complete change of heart and decide to devote their lives to living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sister Cook has a beautiful singing voice, and somehow I got pulled into singing "When I Am Baptized" with her at the service. It was my very first time singing in public! My voice pales in comparison to Sister Cook's, but I kept thinking, "Dad would be so proud." Haha! 

Sister Cook and I are both so thrilled about the work out here. We are still getting our feet a bit (being sent out here in the middle of everything feels like being thrown into a pool of water without really knowing how to swim), but within a few weeks I just know we will be flying. We both are huge planners and visionaries; we know exactly what we want to do here in Havasu and we will both work hard to accomplish it. There are about 200 active members in our ward of 630, so needless to say, we will be busy not only finding, but reactivating members.  

Yesterday after church, Sister Cook and I were driving around, making stops at less-actives' homes, and we were DYING of thirst. One thing about this area I learned very quickly: you have to drink water constantly. It is so dry and hot that you get dehydrated and wither fast, even if you don't realize it! We ran out of water at the apartment (it's not really safe to drink from the tap), so we hadn't had water all day. Sister Cook turned to me and said: "Sister, we should pray for water. I've learned that as a full-time servant of the Lord, God will grant us even temporal desires that we may think silly." She proceeded to tell me about how in her first area, she had really been wanting some coconut oil to use on her skin and hair, but because it's so incredibly expensive (especially for our minuscule missionary budget), she'd never bought it. One day, she was leaving a member's (who just happened to be a hair dresser) home, when she mentioned something about wanting coconut oil and the member was like, "Oh I use that on some of my patients' hair! Let me just give you some!" She disappeared for a minute and returned with a bottle of coconut oil that Sister Cook has used regularly since. She then told me about another time, when she was about to leave her first area, that she passed by a nice pizza restaurant that she'd been wanting to eat at before she was transferred. She said, "It looked so good, and I made a mental note that I'd eat there soon. I kid you not, Sister, the very next night, we had a dinner appointment with the famly in the ward, and there was a change of plans and the mom said, 'Hey, let's go to this pizza place!' And we ate at the restaurant. Basically, God is aware of us. And because we are on His errand 24/7, He will grant us even the smallest temporal desires. So let's pray for water." We prayed. Not 10 minutes later, we stopped by a member's home to drop of a baking pan we'd borrowed, and they offered as us bottled water as we talked. And then another when we finished the first bottle. And then as we left they said, "Here, just take this whole case!" And before we knew it, their son was carrying out an entire case of bottled water for us out to our car. As we got in the car and buckled our seat belts, it hit me. "Sister," I said, "We just prayed for water." She looked back at the bottles in our back seat, gave me a knowing look, and smiled. Small, but a miracle nonetheless. 
This is my view everyday: Sister Cook in the driver's seat laughing at something I said, or texting someone for an appointment, or singing as we drive around in this dry Arizona heat. I love her :)
I feel the power of God's love for me and for everyone each day that I am out here. I don't know how I got so lucky to live a life so FULL and THRILLING and SATISFYING, but all I can say is that sometimes it just feels like I'm living in some sort of magical movie out here in the desert. The work is demanding, but so, so rewarding already. And of course Sister Cook keeps me laughing the whole time, we are having all kinds of fun.

So much to say and so little time! Please pray specifically that I can be more bold when talking to people, that others will see that we have God's full truth, that we will have the strength to be effective teachers, and that we can continue to enjoy every minute of our service. Thank you for the letters and the love! I think of you daily and pray that you can recognize God's hand in your own lives.

My favorite time of the day.

With love, 

Sister Robinson

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