Letter 13: "Changes"

Sonsonate, El Salvador
March 10, 2011

Cambios de mi vida!
Changes in my life! This week has been crazy! Especially yesterday! But I guess we'll start at the beginning!

So we had cambios* (Transfers*), I'm in the same place, but a lot of our district changed... so [many] new faces, a lot of gringos! Every companionship has at least one gringos.

I'm speaking a lot more English, which I don't like, but also my Spanish is a whole lot better... it's hard to think that I spent five years learning French , little by little, word by word, lesson by lesson... and in less that six months BAM! I speak Spanish waaaaaaaaaaaay better than I ever did speak French!

That is the power of God right there! It's amazing!

Anyway... so lots of new faces and a new District Leader. He's great, and he has a lot of animo (Enthusiasm or excitement) and he holds us accountable to our goals. So that's nice.

This week we taught a lot... it wasn't much different in that aspect from any other week... but yesterday was insane!

So, the assistants have been breathing down our necks for fechas* (dates)... for baptisms. Yesterday they came to our zone specifically to put fechas.

There were four investigators in sacrament meeting and I had no faith that we could put fechas with them... we had only been teaching them this week. We only taught half of the first lesson to one of them, and the other we had only met with twice.

Long story short, they put the fechas [anyway]...

Two things I've learned: (1) Miracles really do happen! (I knew this one before... but it's always nice to have it reaffirmed) and (2) I have a lot to learn about teaching!

I guess I better get to it! So here I go

I love you. God Loves you. what else really matters!?

* "Cambios": Spanish for "Changes" but in this context it means "Transfer"
* "Transfer": When a missionary is being move from one location or job to another.
* "Fechas": Spanish for "Dates" : missionary-lingo for 'reporting' the progress of investigators.

Letter 12: "A Day With Hermana Pappas"

Sonsonate, El Salvador
March 10, 2011

This is my life
Have you always wondered how it would be to be one day with me, Hermana Pappas? Well, wonder no more, here we go:

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6:30 am: Awaking
The alarm beeps and Hermana Bermudez and I jump out of bed (in reality we slide off the bed onto our knees... some days we jump out of bed because if we don't we wouldn't wake up)...

I am actually amazed that I have been able to do this really, it is a blessing. And Hna. B. is great because she told me the first day: "Don't think, just do it..." and it works!

7:00 am: Cockroaches time
Usually I take a shower at night, but if I don't want to deal with the cockroaches I will take one in the morning. I don't know why but the cockroaches LOVE the bathroom.

Perhaps because it's the darkest place in the house... most especially they love the shower! I don't get it and i don't like it. Before the mission I never. NEVER saw a cockroach, but here it's a daily event.

I think at the beginning I hated cockroaches more than I hate spiders (for real!) but I'm getting more and more used to them and RAID has become my best friend... speaking of which, I think I need to get some more today.

7:30 am: Breakfast time
My diet has changed drastically here, I must say the food is definitely a highlight! Platanos are my new favorite food, I have them almost everyday.

Platanos fritas (Fried Platanos) or platanos con carnela... mmmm Magical! I need to learn other ways to make them too... oh and beans. Always, always red beans. They are delicious!

8:00 am: Self Study
ESTUDIO PERSONAL!!! I love it. I can't believe " never spent an hour a day before the mission studying the scriptures! There is so much to learn!

I always learn something new and I always find something that helps strengthen my testimony and can help me teach others.

9:00 am: Companionship study
Estudio Compañerismo... Also a highlight. We are supposed to share what we learned in our personal study and read and learn something together, but a lot of times we never make it past talking about our personal studies.

Like [happened] this morning, I studied "Our Purpose as a Mission" and she, Hermana B. studied "King Benjamin's Speech"

Anyway, she started talking about service which led us into a half an hour talking about how we can serve the ward we're in. It was pretty enlightening.

10:00 am: Language study
Idioma....hmm...it's hard! But I am surviving. Sometimes it hits me that I feel like I've known Hna. B since forever but we've only known each other five weeks and have never spoken English...

It's amazing to me that I have been able to get to know a person through another language... I don't know why but sometimes I have no idea how I communicate with people... but i'm learning... slowly... (very slowly...)

Yesterday we taught Relif Society and I'm pretty sure the sisters just pitied me. But I'm alive and grateful for this hour... even though I really only get it three or four days a week.

11:00 am: The day begins!
We usually spend this hour visiting MARCs (Menos Activos y Recien Conversos) (Spanish letters for Less Actives and New Converts)

Not too many people are at home and we are lucky if we find three before lunch. I like visiting the New Converts (NC) because they are thirsty to know.

The Less Actives (LA) always have excuses that they feel they need to share with us. I like it though when we can call them out on it.

Usually we try to serve them mostly. There is a family with three little kids that are CRAZY! So, we go share a message with them at least once a week and help around the house.

There are a lot of old men that live alone, Enrique, for example, supposedly lives with his son, but his son is never there and Enrique can't do much.

So we go clean his house... most people don't let us serve them, and the people that do it's because we don't listen to their "No, thank you" and just do it anyway.

1:00 pm: Lunch
Almuerzo!... We have a Cook for lunch. Her name is Hermana Arminda. [The food] usually is really good. Sometimes it's not.

There is always rice of course! And fruits and vegetables that [before my mission] I've never had before... There is this one vegetable that I love, but I never remember the name and I've come to find that I hate, hate, hate papaya... I will be quite alright if I never eat it again! :)

Anyway, our cook is great. Hna. Arminda is always happy to talk to us and her family is really nice.

2:00 pm: Back to work!
From 2:00 pm until 9:00 pm we find, teach, pray, listen, pray and hope to Heaven that there is somebody that will listen to the message. It's pretty hard here.

The people are so nice and helpful, they are willing to listen but they don't understand and they...[?] hear the message.
I can't tell you how many times we explain about authority and how we need the authority in the Church of God, prophets and all that... And they "Understand" but then we ask them to read the Libro de Mormon (Book of Mormon) and pray and go to Church, they say "Oh, I have a church," "Oh I've already been baptized"...


I'm getting used to this whole patience thing, but sometimes I have relapses... on a great day we will teach 9 or 10 lessons but usually it's 6-8 and we've had a few days where we have only taught 3 or 4...

It's hard to imagine that there are missions where you are lucky if you teach once... I am greatful for my calling here... I couldn't imgine going to a place where I didn't know the language, and where the people AND the weather were cold! I am blessed to be here!

I love the warmth too... I am going to be in trouble when I get home I love the heat! Good thing I still have 15 months! Whoa! I've been out three months!!!! I can't believe it! Anyway. ...

9:00 pm: Back at the house
Planning for tomorrow. Not really all that interesting.

9:30 pm: Dinner time!
We eat dinner when we get back to the house at night because the time that the handbook says to eat dinner is prime time for contacting...

We usually eat pupusas three or four times a week.

Iif we don't eat pupusas, weeat platanos and beans... this last week I got spaghetti to change it up a bit, but we ended up making it for a family that is investigating the Church... I made Hna. B some garlic bread, it's the first time she's had it and she loooovvveeed it!

10:30 pm Bed time
I'd be lying if i said it wasn't one of my favorite parts of the day! And there you have it. day in day out. This is my life.

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"But at the end of the day"
This week though was different because ever day we had something different to do, on Monday we had p-day, on Tuesday I had to go to San Salvador (and hour and a half by bus!) to get my visa, on Wednesday we had a District and Zone conference, Thursday we had a conference with Elder Fallabela (Area Seventy... Awesome!!!!!!!!!)

Friday is our weekly planning (we don't start proselyting until 2:00 pm) and Saturday we helped out with a Primary activity...

So this week was crazy, but you get the idea... it's hard... dirt, tears, and a lot of sweat!

But at the end of the day...it's amazing!

Letter 11: "I'm alive... and all is good"

Sonsonate, El Salvador
March 14, 2011

"Are you serious?"
So on Tuesday I woke up thinking about the topic "ask, seek, knock."

It's hard to explain the way I felt when I woke up, but for some reason I [felt] I needed to study it and apply it to missionary work from members, so I did...

Saturday night, the bishop told us that one of us was speaking about Missionary Work on Sunday. Hna Bermudez lovingly told me that I HAD to do it...

Holy cow! [Then] it hit me like a brick! When for some reason I felt I needed to study about "ask, seek, knock" was to learn and teach this to the members on the sacrament meeting!

Something like that, [feeling that I was an instrument in the hands of the Lord and say something He wanted me to say to the ward], was actually the first time that has ever happened to me. It was pretty sweet...

"The talk"
When we told the bishop that I was the one giving the talk he looked at my companion like "Are you serious?"

My spanish wasn't perfect but I didn't write out the talk and I was able to give it!

I think I gained at least a little of the confidence from the members. It was a pretty cool experience... I wasn't nervous at all until two minutes before the talk... [when i got a little nervous.

During the talk I was fine, but the walk back to my seat [after the talk] was heck!

Tsunami scare
As far as the tsunami scare... we didn't get anything! The members told me about the scare and that parts of California and Oregon were on alert! Yay!

Life is good, God is awake. I am in Sensunapan with Hna. Bermudes for at least six more weeks... which is good cause we got a lot of work to do!

Working hard, I love you all!

Have a great week!

Tsunami Alert

March 11, 2011
San Salvador, El Salvador


Following the massive earthquake off the coast of Japan today, El Salvador is under a tsunami alert.

A wave is expected to impact El Salvador around 4:00 pm local time. Hermana Casey Pappas however is currently serving in higher grounds in the city of Sonsonate, El Salvador, 20.2 kilometers (12.5 miles) from the pacific coast.

The alert covers virtually all countries around the Pacific basin including Seaside, Oregon.

As a country, El Salvador is prone to earthquakes and with a low-lying coastline, it's vulnerable to tsunamis.

According to El Salvador's National Earth Studies Service (SNET), the last "micro-tsunami" to be measured in El Salvador was January 13, 2001 and originated from an earthquake off the coast of Australia.

Letter 10: "Luis' decision"

Sonsonate, El Salvador
March 10, 2011

This week has been...eventful... (!) On Saturday I had my first real heart break moment.

Luis was supposed to get baptized on Saturday. We had been meeting with him everyday and then on Thursday we couldn't find him. On Friday we looked for him for two hours and still couldn't find him.

So, on Saturday morning we went to his house at 8 am, with two elders, to talk to him and see how he was doing and what was going on. We talked about the baptism and he said he thought he should wait because "he wasn't ready."

We explained that baptism is a step in the right direction and they indeed he was ready. We then asked him to pray right then and there with us. We got on our knees and he asked God directly if he was supposed to be baptized today.

The spirit was so strong and everyone knew the answer. We continued to talk a little about baptism and what it means and he even talked about how he felt 'good'... but in the end he chose not to.

"Free agency [Sucks]"
I love love love my agency and wouldn't want anything to compromise it. But sometimes I really hate that other people have it! Quite fittingly (it's that a word?)

The Relief Society lesson [given] yesterday was about "Libre Albedrío" (Free agency) and its role in the Plan of Salvation...

I wasn't depressed about Luis because we missed out on a baptism or I felt like a horrible missionary, I was sad for him because I know what is that he's missing out on.

He doesn't know exactly, but I do. And it stinks for him. cause he needs this in his life! bah! He did ask if when he thought he was ready, if he could be baptized. We said "of course!" and it might still happen.

We can hope and pray, but ultimately it's [still] his decision...and that sucks!

On a brighter note. I thought when something like what happened with Luis happened on my mission I would get discouraged, however, it did quite the opposite.

After that meeting with him I was even more determined and eager to share my testimony with everyone in Sensunapan...

THE GOSPEL IS TRUE!!!!!!! And it really does bless your life.

I've been here a month... a day feels like an eternity, but right now I feel like I've only been here a day.

Thank you everyone for supporting and loving me. I can't tell you how much it helps me to know that you are there for me.

I love you all...until next time!