Monday, December 30, 2013

Trilingual Tripanionship

Try saying the title to this letter three times fast. Serving as a missionary in Lake Charles has only intensified my obsession with the South. I'm coming back here after my mission the quickest I can. Lake Charles is so cute and quaint; it is a completely different world over here. You just cross the border and there must be something in the water because it's overflowing with Southern hospitality on this side of the mission. I was shocked by how much of a drastic change it is from Tejas.

In place of giant Texas stars plastered over every surface, there are smartly placed fluer de lis sprinkled throughout the neighborhoods. Baton Rouge and New Orleans square in Disneyland call my name every time we drive around the city. The culture here is different, Cajun customs and traditions have a major influence here. I truly feel like I'm serving a whole nother mission.

Our companionship is a hybrid. We have three different name tags in three different languages: English, Portuguese, and Spanish. We embody the gift of tongues. I have grown so accustomed to speaking Spanish 24/7 with Hna St. John that we have this comp goal, we speak mostly Spanish, but I've also picked up the habit of speaking mostly in Portuguese. Surprise! Obviously, I'm not 
fluent, but I figure if I speak it with Sis Muñoz daily, then in 6 (or 13 however many I have) weeks I'll be fluent! (kind of) I still catch myself introducing myself as Hna Flores, and I will always be an Hna at heart. It's taken some getting used to to be a Sister. I feel guilty everytime I speak in English, I just want to speak Portuguese 24/7. & I kind of just feel like I'm on an eternal exchange...

My companions! They are so great! Sis Johnson is from Colorado Springs, CO. She's been out for about 7 months, she's tall and a gymnst/diver/circus performer. Her laugh is kind of my favorite. She also can't have gluten so we have some interesting snacks lying around the apartment. :]

Sis Muñoz is from Cypress, TX waiting on her visa for Brazil. I have now officially served with every full-bloded Latina in the mission. Sis Muñoz is serving close to home right now and has been out 5 months. She went to BYU before the mission, instant friends. Brown people that went to BYU tend to have this natural connection. :] The ward yesterday thought that we were here to start a branch and they were super excited to have two "native" Spanish speakers.

Lake Charles is such a great area, it's an old area though and the Area Books, yes there are 3.5 area books, need some major cleaning out. Guess what my project is going to be this transfer?Papa, you will laugh at this Sis Johnson calls me the "throw-awayer" because of all the junk I've been getting rid of in our apartment. I can't help that I love me some orderly and cleanliness! & maybe I'm slightly OCD. 

I felt disoriented when I first got to my area because of how unorganized things were. I think the reason for the disorder is this: Every time a companionship entered the area they would color code and organize things a certain way, but never left a key AND never threw things away so we have tons of color-coded, scribbled on ward lists that make sense to no one save the missionaries that created them. Let's just say I have my work cut out for me, but I am so excited. Line upon line, Precept upon precept. 

it's christmas! A Cajun Christmas!
Love you!
Sis (formerly Hna) Flores

Saying bye to the Mendozas. They gave me a cute stuffed cow!
The other Mendozas, branch president and his family.
Saying farewell to Tejas at the border.
First time eating Gumbo! Those are crab legs we're holding up. crab legs.
Planner from last transfer (& week one of this...)
The entire mission! stolen from my companion's memory card.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Kind of like a Second Mission call...

I'm being transferred.  .  .
& usually when I'm being transferred or changing companions, I start off with a list of hall of fame memories. But, I kind of have a bombshell to drop. Because you see, I kind of know where I'm going. I may have to order a new name tag, because I'll be spending my last two transfers in...


It hasn't hit me yet, at least not fully. Christmas in Louisiana. New Years in Louisiana. For 13 weeks, the last 13 weeks of my mission, I will be serving as an English speaking missionary. Everything about this is different. State. Language. Companion. Food. & an English speaking ward! I don't even remember what it's like to go to church in English. I'm going to be singing English hymns. I'm going to be conversing with people in English.

It's a big secret.
Only my companion and I, President Crawford, and the assistants know. & it's kind of the best secret ever.

President Crawford called yesterday at around three. It was my driving day and so Pres. Crawford told Hna St. John to have me give him a call when I wasn't driving. Hna St. John was so hilarious, as soon as she got off the phone she yelled, "PULL OVER!" After pulling up to our next appointment, I called President, took the phone off speaker and listened as my heart beat tremendously fast. President Crawford said, "Hna Flores! I have a special assignment for you! If you could go anywhere in the mission where would it be?" Instantly Louisiana came to mind, but I didn't respond. I was just caught off guard. President Crawford explained that the "special assignment" would require me to serve English my last two transfers. I accepted. I was shocked and after we had tried our appointment without any success, I felt impressed to text President Crawford. I wrote, "President, to answer your question, probably Louisiana." After three minutes time I got a phone call and the first thing President said when I answered was, "Hna you guessed it!"

Louisiana has ALWAYS been a mission wish for me. I feel like Heavenly Father's favorite child right now. I will be serving in a trio in Louisiana, and trios are my favorite. I'm so so SO excited. Also, I guess third time is the charm. I have almost served English speaking twice before. Once at the very start of my mission, the second time recently when I was almost paired up with Sis Haynie. As I explained to President about how this had been something I had always secretly wanted he said, "Hna I feel SO good about this. I just know this is what needs to happen."

On the other hand, I am quite sad to leave Baytown. I know however that I'm leaving Baytown in wonderful hands. I am so PROUD of Hna St. John. Ah, if you all could just see how far she has come along. My heart is filled to the brim with joy. Baytown seriously has been the best. I admire so much the strong leadership here in this ward, their dedication to the Lord will forever be engraved in my mind. I can't wait to get my happy little self back here, and hopefully soon because there are two baptisms lined up! I only hope that I can find a kind member who would be willing to make the drive from Louisiana to Baytown. (Pray for me!)
& without further ado...

Hna St. John (San Juan) & Hna Flores Lil' guys in Bayberty.
1. The brakes on this Toyota are so touchy!
2. I haven't gotten one subway gift card.
3.There's no repeat button on our car stereo.
4. People keep giving us water bottles and there are half full water bottles all over the place in our car.
5. We always have a tough time pulling up to the key pad to our gated apartment.
6. Our district leader only speaks English. How is he supposed to interview someone that only speaks Spanish?
7. It's 8 o'clock at night and we have to knock doors in a sketchy part of town because it's Sundaynight and we have no gas.

& others...
8. Hna St John's bed time stories, novel of choice: Hna Flores' pre-mish journal
9. The one time we got packages galore? Christmas in October?
10. Being mad at Sassy Jesus.
11. "I'll just write a book, make a religion, and get killed." -said no one ever
12. The time President Crawford asked us to speak Spanish 24/7
13. Asking Hna St. John to memorize our phone number. Hna S: "Hna, I don't need to memorize it, I'm never going to forget my planner." Next day, forgotten planner.
14. Our pet cat: Taza. Tazita.
15. Having an in-depth Spanish grammar convo in the bathroom @ Texas Roadhouse because of the "lava tus manos" sign.
16. Knocking into a man, then seeing him the next day at zone meeting lunch. Um, server?
17. Every dog is named either Max or Brownie. Every cat, Tom.
18. The time we discovered Chick-fil-A sauce.
19. Mystery referral from the English elders, "She didn't speak any English but..."
20. "Classic"
21. "Lo peor!"

Made all my companions EVER (minus the two at home, and one in another mission) a little Christmas gift. Content: two burned CDs, a handmade planner, a Christmas letter, and the cutest mechanical pencils known to mankind.
Exchanges in Mont Belvieu. Just a little color-coding/organizing fun. :] The Hna Flores touch.
Christmas Conference! E. Sully, Hna Tonga, and Myself.
Katia! Our sweet investigator who left us for the tropical temperatures of the Dominican Republic.
The Aguirres! A family that is actually from my home stake in Long Beach. small. small. mundo.
Edgar & Esperanza Hernandez! & Analia! Love these three way too much.
The Rodriguez family, aka Ward Mission Leader.
Hno Pomeroy. Sad thing about going to Louisiana, no more Spanish classes. :[ 
The last Spanish class of my mission. :]

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

inner liahona...

So many things to comment on, and I'll try to make it all coherent. As of late, Hna St. John and I have been talking a whole lot about obedience. Obedience is the mark of a missionary. As a mission there are all these little guidelines we should be adhering to (i.e. washing the car every Monday, going to the store only on Pday, the music we listen to, etc). What's been surprising for me is to see how sometimes missionaries "pretend" they don't know the rules.

We all have an inner Liahona. We all have the gift of the Holy Ghost the difference is that sometimes we conveniently choose to ignore it or we choose to drown out the promptings we receive with justifications. Often times we "talk ourselves out of doing the right thing..." On observation we made is that really, how obedient a missionary is on the mission correlates with how well said missionary followed the guidelines of the ever classic booklet, "For the Strength of Youth". I never had made the connection up until now. My mission has embedded in me even more strongly the desire to do what's right. I have the desire to do what's right because I love my Father in Heaven and know that therein lies the key to true happiness. I feel that my mission has caused me to feel what the people of King Benjamin felt,

"...Yea, we believe all the words which thou has spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually." (Mosiah 5:2)

I'm not perfect! But I'm trying to be through patience in the Lord.

Not last week, but the week before I mentioned Katrina. She was a referral from a friend in Pennsylvania and came to the branch's thanksgiving dinner. good news and then not so good news. Good news! Katrina is progressing so well! She loves and has accepted everything we teach her. The spirit is always so strong in her lessons. Not so good news! Katrina is leaving this Thursday to the Dominican Republic for a month. :( Katrina has however accepted a baptismal date for February 1st and depending on when she gets back exactly that date could get bumped up! We are praying that she comes back sooner rather than later. :]

I love y'all!
Hna Flores

Hna Mellor and I were on exchanges so that we could drive up to MLC together. We had a gift exchange for Zone Pday, we were blessed with these shirts.
Outside the mission home. :] Classic. Also, the stripped shirt has become my lucky MLC shirt!
Hna Tonga is an STL now! Like Mother, like daughter. :]
MLC, love everyone in this photo. Especially the couple up front! Mission Parents, lo mejor! 
District Christmas photos. :]

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Instead of a Lengthy letter...

We had dinner this week with the Eslava family. Cutest children ever who are just so enthralled with everything we say and do! They were having little arguments about who's turn it was to speak with the missionaries. This is contrast with another dinner appointment we had this week. A little boy said in his prayer, "Heavenly Father, please bless me so that when the missionaries are here I won't feel bored." classic. After he finished praying he said, 'I hate missionaries.' Hna St. John and I died of laughter. He explained that his parents don't let him go upstairs and play with toys while the missionaries are here. worst punishment ever.

We were supposed to take Eren (left of Hna St. John) out to lessons with us this week, but found out that youth have to be 16 to ride in our car. Worst thing ever. We were so bummed, so to make up for it, we ordered Whataburger for her and her mom and had lunch with them on Wednesday. Also, Hna St. John said, "I've never eaten so many burgers in my life!" That's what happens when you become companions with someone who's favorite food is burgers. nom. nom. nom.

We were invited to Thanksgiving at the Pomeroy's home. Brother Pomeroy used to be in the mission presidency, but was released because he was called to serve as a sealer in the Houston temple. Brother Pomeroy hosts us every Wednesday for a "Spanish" lesson at his house. Although, we sometimes sabatogue the time and use it to tap into the extensive gospel knowledge storehouse he has.

And finally, this is what missionaries do on an all day Pday on Thanksgiving day. Gather together to play board games.

  & make planners for Christmas gifts.

With love,
Hna Flores