Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Houston, again.

This Thanksgiving season, I was feeling especially grateful for my decision to serve a full-time mission. Not so much for the actual mission experience (although I do love that!), but specifically for the people that the mission has brought into my life. The mission is the gift that keeps on giving.

In late August, Hurricane Harvey made landfall on my mission (Texas Houston East). It was my first week back to school, and I was glued to Facebook, hungry for updates on my friends and loved ones there. I remember sitting at a study table in the law school and feeling helpless. It wasn't enough for me to tell people I was thinking about them or praying for them—for some reason that felt hypocritical.
I had to go. I had to go to Houston.

I thought to myself, "What kind of a missionary would I be, if I had the means to go and help, but didn't?" My problem was time. How could I make time to go while I was in my last (and arguably craziest) year of law school? At the exact moment this thought entered into my mind, a voice whispered "placement break." After a quick text message to one of my Uncles, I booked a flight to Houston for my week off of school, reserved a car, and that was that.

I had no super solid plan. I just made the decision to go, and in the following weeks, everything fell into place. JaNae and Parker (two fellow former missionaries) ended up joining me on the trip—Parker literally days before. I honestly didn't know either of them super well at the time, they were both older than me in the mission, and English speaking. Although, JaNae had served in Pasadena at the same time as me...But, let me tell you, spending 10 days together, driving for hours all over the mission boundary in a little Toyota Yaris, it just binds you.

I arrived in Houston the first week of October, almost two months after the hurricane, and yet there were still piles upon piles of trash lined up on street curbs. Mormon Helping Hands had stopped operations, but I found Operation Blessing, another nonprofit-interfaith service group we could volunteer with. We stayed in multiple homes, dined with and visited various families we had taught, and drove ALL OVER THE PLACE. Parker & JaNae left a couple of days before me, and I used those last three days to visit with people I loved form Spanishlandia. It just felt so good to drive down familiar streets and see faces I know and love. I've now been back a total of three times, and Texas/Louisiana really do just feel like a second home. I just fit in and feel in place there (Not enough to move, let's not get crazy).

Last year, while my family was visiting Louisiana and Houston, I told myself, "I won't be coming back here until I'm married," But, looks like jokes on me because God definitely had other plans in mind.

*The majority of these photos came from Parker's phone. He was the designated photographer on this trip. 
^^sweaty, humid, and tired after a full day of clearing out a home. 
^^(L) reunited with my compañera Hna Morales! (R)with JaNae's family at one of her nephew's baseball games.
^^This sweet family offered to have us stay with them. I didn't think they would remember me, but one of their youngest daughters said, "wait. Weren't you at a get together at so-and-so's house, and wasn't it your last Sunday??" Y'all she was SIX at the time!!? Amazing memory and definitely made me feel special. 
^^The Moores. I love these women! They were one of my favorite families to visit in Louisiana, hands down. 
^^The Ortiz. I definitely feel like Dionicio was one of the main reasons Heavenly Father sent me Sis Muñoz to Louisiana, Dionicio needed to be taught by Spanish-speaking missionaries. 
^^(L)The Garcias from Pasadena. Maritza always made us the yummiest food (R) This is Isis! We were bus buddies during our middle school years. When I booked my flight to Houston, one of the first things I did was plan a meetup with her. We hadn't seen each other for 14 years (!!!), but it was so amazing to catch up with old friends. We talked about our dreams to help Latino youth achieve excellence. Isis is a PhD candidate at U of H, so proud of you amiga!!

Before leaving to Houston, Melinda sent me snap below, and it made my heart so happy! Melinda visited Houston the week before, and asked the current Pecan Park hnas if she could take a quick peek at the apartment. I started a picture wall in each of my apartments on the mission. I was always so curious about the hermanas who had served before me, I'd see their names on past teaching records and get really curious. It made me so happy to see the tradition I started continues. The first three photos are of my companions and I, and my original sign is still up! 🙌🙌🙌


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