Monday, April 28, 2014

A baptism, parade and a lot of help from above...

Hi everyone! 

Another week here in Oregon!  I can't believe it's almost May!   

The best part of the week was probably the baptism for Gloria. I think I explained last week  she's 71 and totally paralyzed on her left side. It was a beautiful baptism. They had a little trouble with the physical act of baptizing her because of her paralysis but, after a few tries, she was baptized. She was so happy and cried afterwards while we were talking about the Holy Ghost.  It was a really special experience both for us and for her. 

Another really fun experience we had this week was when we had dinner with the Burton family. The mom is a life long member of the church but was not active until a couple months ago when she walked up to the Elders at the library and asked them to baptize her kids. They are such a cool family. I was particularly impressed with one of their sons who is about 13. He just expressed so much excitement for the gospel; so much happiness and enthusiasm. After the dinner, I found out that he's kind of the reason all of this happened. He had been bugging his mom about how their family needed to start attending church so when she saw the Elders in the library, she knew she had to go talk to them. We watched the Mormon Message "Dare to Stand Alone" (which my companion is actually in, by the way) and he shared a really similar experience. 

Hayley's companion plays the girl in the movie theater
 who leaves after her friend does

He talked about how when he first started learning from the missionaries he was so excited about everything but was a little nervous because he thought he was the only Mormon at his school. He said that after he started coming to church and youth activities he realized there were all these people around him who he had always known, he had just never known they were Mormons. He said it made him feel like a part of something and not alone in what he believed.

So, I was in a parade this week? Like, kind of by accident? We volunteer at the Centro Cultural here in Cornelius teaching English classes and on Saturday they had this big event called Dia de Los NiƱos which is a highly celebrated event in Mexico. It's "Day of the Kids" so basically just a day to celebrate children. We were volunteering at it and, at the last second, the people said, "Hey, will you hold this banner and lead the parade?" It was pretty cool. 

We're starting to teach our own free English classes at the church this week! We advertised a little bit across town so we're hoping to get a lot of people there. We were feeling a little overwhelmed as to how to start this, how to teach, etc. Last night we had dinner with a family and found out that the dad is a full time ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher and has a Master's in it. It's so funny how that happens; literally he was the exact person we needed to talk to and Heavenly Father put him in our path.

This has happened before. A couple of weeks ago the other Hermanas started teaching a family who has a deaf son and they really wanted to learn sign language to try and teach him. A couple days later, we were at dinner with a family and it turned out that the mom spoke fluent sign language and said she'd be willing to go teach this family with them. It was President Spencer W. Kimball who said, "God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other.”  I've definitely seen that here. 

We're working with Ishmael right now to try and help him quit smoking. It's going pretty well! He's only smoking seven cigarettes a day (sounds like a lot but he used to smoke 10 a day). We're hoping he'll be able to break that habit completely in the coming weeks.

We taught Primary yesterday again and it was really fun. The Loza boys were in there (the family in one of the crown pictures) and after it was over one of the older ones said to the other "Can you believe the MISSIONARIES were our teachers today?".   It was super cute. The youngest one calls us the "missies" and it's adorable. 

Sister Barrios said she woke up in the middle of the night the other night and I was in the middle of bearing my testimony in my sleep in Spanish so I guess that's a good sign, right? 

Congrats to Nic!!! He's going to love the CCM. (Nic was just called to serve in the Texas Houston Spanish Speaking Mission and will be going to the same Missionary Training Center Hayley attended in Mexico City).  I don't have any advice off the top of my head but I'll think of some. 

Congrats to Nicki (Hayley's cousin who just gave birth to sweet Grace) and Amelia (on her engagement) as well. That's so exciting. 

 Love, Hayley

Note from Mom:  We sure wish we had a picture of Hayley in that parade!  I just ordered an adapter for her camera so, hopefully, we'll start getting more pictures.  Here's a picture of the family she had Easter dinner with:

  as well as a random photo of them with a cute baby:


Monday, April 21, 2014

Sweet Sacrifice and Sister Who?

Hi everyone! 

This week we had more opportunities to teach Ishmael's kids. I LOVE those kids. They are so incredibly sweet and they love learning about the gospel. We usually have to end up saying three opening and closing prayers because all of them love saying prayers so much. We taught them a lesson about how God has a body of flesh and bone and, just like we look like our earthly parents, we look like our Heavenly Father as well. The kids just grasp and understand things so quickly and Ishmael and his wife, Esmeralda, are so grateful that their kids are learning more about God and Jesus Christ. 

We have a baptism this coming Saturday! Her name is Gloria and she's approximately 70 years old. She's been learning about the church for about six months and finally decided she was sure. She's totally paralyzed on one side so, for her, getting over the fear of physically going down into the water and coming back up was a huge barrier. A couple of weeks ago, we had been planning for a lesson and decided to ask her to pray about April 26th; specifically, to be baptized on April 26th. During the lesson, Hermana Villalobos started to ask her but chickened out at the last second and asked her to pray about April, in general, as the month for her to get baptized. After she said that Gloria said, "Yeah, April is usually the month I make big decisions." And we were like "Oh really?".  She went on to tell us how APRIL 26TH was her deceased husband's birthday and the day that she quit smoking many years ago. Hermana Villalobos and I just gave each other a look like "Are you kidding me?"  We explained to her what had happened and how that was the specific day we had in mind, too.  I'm really excited for her! 

There are seriously so many nice people here.  The English ward's and the Spanish branch's members are just so incredibly nice. I would be just fine if I stayed here my whole mission. The one thing I've realized from meeting many new people all the time is that our last name is so stinking hard for people to say, English and Spanish alike. In the English ward, there are very few people who call me by name; the majority just call me "Sister Philly" or even better "Sister Philly Cheesesteak". That nickname started a little bit in the MTC but surfaced even stronger once I got here. The Hispanic people use a variety of different names. Carlos actually calls me "Sister Mouse" but that's not so much a nickname as just what he thinks is the right way to say my name. I actually tell people to say "Hermana Maize" (literally "Sister Corn") because it's the closest thing. But using that sometimes earns me the nickname "Hermana Tortilla" (Get it?  Corn tortillas?) 

The branch I'm in right now is super tiny, 30 people max. A lot of those people are part of the Canales family: the oldest, Brother Canales (who is actually the Branch President), all his grown children and their families.  But since the branch is so tiny, we're wearing a lot of hats right now as missionaries, Gospel Essentials teachers, Primary teachers, leading the Branch FHE (Family Home Evening), planning parties, etc.  It's a little crazy to be honest, especially because most of the time they ask last minute.  We found out we were teaching in Primary when they announced it at the end of Sacrament Meeting yesterday.  I know it's hard to discern tone in emails so I'll just clarify and say I do not mean this to sound like I'm annoyed because I'm not.  It's a really cool experience to serve in such a small branch and I'm happy to serve in whatever capacity they need. There's a Spanish ward in Hillsboro and I guess some of the people who live in the boundaries of the branch are having a hard time leaving the ward. I think once those people start coming we should be up to around 50 or 60 in attendance. 

Yesterday, we had Easter with the Alletto family and it was really good. Brother Alletto is our Ward Mission Leader and they have this little baby who is literally the cutest thing. He's around eight months old so he reminds me a lot of Hudson.  Sister Alletto made this cake that was really cool.

Another thing we did this week was go sing at a nursing home. One of the less active members of the branch works there and so we figured it would be a good opportunity to serve and also stay in contact with her. She was really grateful we came. And the residents are so cool! It's a dementia home so everyone has memory issues but so many of them lived these amazing lives. The person who runs the home was telling us that one of the residents, Jane, had a really interesting part in World War II. When she was a little girl, they lived at the beach and it was her job to walk up and down the beach and report anything that could be a bomb. She was sent by herself because they knew no one would suspect or harm a little girl walking on the beach by herself. Crazy, right?

Alright, well, we're off to teach a lesson! Talk to you via email next week and on Skype SO SOON!



Note from mom:  Still no pictures (sigh).  She's still trying to figure out how to sync the Wi-Fi on her camera with her Ipad.   We found out about a "six degrees of separation" occurrence for her recently.  The group that came into her mission at the same time as her included a sister who was born in our area and whose family attended our current ward, leaving before we moved here.  The Kinneards, for those of you D-town old-timers.  We have many mutual friends in common.  Such a small world sometimes!  We are excited to Skype with Hayley on Mother's Day.

Monday, April 14, 2014

These are a few of my favorite things...(this week)

My favorite thing about the week was probably going to the temple this past Thursday. The Portland temple is absolutely gorgeous and it was really cool to get to go.

My favorite thing about my mission so far has been the people and my favorite people have been Carlos and Maria.  They're the same family I talked about last week who were baptized in September.  They are just so incredibly nice.  They don't really have anything but every time we go they feed us and tell us, "This is your home; please eat like this is your house."  It's one thing to meet humble people, but it's another when they show you such incredible kindness and generosity.

In addition to our branch in Cornelius, we also attend an English ward.  Both the branch and the ward are responsible for feeding us so we have dinner every night, sometimes twice if we stop by a member of the branch's house for dinner and they insist on feeding us.

We've been teaching this man named Ishmael.  He is such a good guy and trying so hard to learn. He's the one who came to Conference with us a few weeks ago.  This week, we taught Ishmael's kids.  He has nine-year-old twins and a five-year-old.  We taught them how we are all children of God and that, because God is a king, we have divine worth.  We used the Primary Manual and it was really fun.  At the end, we made crowns to help them remember they're divine and they really liked it.  We did a similar activity with another family for a dinner message.

Note from mom:  This week, she was short and sweet.  She's trying to figure out how to load her photos onto her Ipad so this is all we got.  Not sure who took these.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Burying my fears and forging ahead

Hi Everyone!

Everything's going well here in Oregon.   After a really long day of travel, I arrived here at 8 pm Tuesday night.  We were picked up by the mission president and his wife and, let me tell you, he's just as incredible as everyone has been saying. They are so, so kind, funny and wonderful. 

The next day, we went to the office and met a bunch of the elderly couples that work there.  They were all really sweet as well. One of the couples then drove us to the Portland temple where we met up with the missionaries coming in from Provo. We spent a little time in the Visitors Center there and it was great.  I actually ran into a girl from my dorm hall my freshman year at BYU who is a missionary in Portland!  She doesn't spend all her time at the Visitors Center; they kind of switch off days.

After that, we went out to go see the Coast. It was such a beautiful day. The sun was shining, there was a little bit of a breeze, seriously gorgeous.  

We all sat around in a circle and President Samuelian, his wife, and the APs (Assistants to the President) all spoke a little bit.  It was really powerful. One of the things president said was that if Satan can't get you to sin, the next thing he tries is to get you to be afraid. So we talked about fear and how that can really be such a detriment to our faith and success. Then, we all went to different parts of the beach and took 20 minutes to write down our fears.  It was a really sacred experience to just be so prayerfully introspective. After that, we all took our pieces of paper with our fears on them and buried them in a hole in the sand. Then we set off again back to Newberg!  That night, we had interviews with the mission president and, again, he's seriously amazing.  

My companion is Hermana Villalobos. She's a native speaker, obviously, which is great but also a little hard because she talks really fast to everyone.  I have a hard time developing thoughts in Spanish fast enough for them to be useful.  I'm trying, though.  I've met a lot of people and they're all super nice. One of my favorite experiences this week was when we taught a lesson to recent converts, Carlos and Maria. It was beautiful hearing them talk about "their angels" (the Elders), how much they love the gospel and how much it's changed their family. It reminded me of why I'm here: to help people have the peace the gospel brings into their lives and families. 

Right now I'm in an area called Cornelius. They actually just had a Spanish Branch open up here in January so it's very new. There's only 50 people that go and it's mostly a couple of families.  They had their first baptism two weeks ago so that's exciting. It's cool to be the first sisters this branch has ever had.

We also live with another companionship so our apartment is SUPER cramped but it's actually a lot of fun, too.

Now to answer some of mom's questions...
What is the area like?  How is the weather?   I haven't been around the area too much but it does look a lot like Pennsylvania because of all the trees.  It's mostly pine trees, not leafy trees, though.  Some days are really rainy and cloudy but some days are super sunny, like today! 
Where did you watch General Conference?  We watched three sessions of conference at the stake center and one at a member's home. We had a visitor come with us to one of the sessions so that was exciting.

Are there any familiar restaurants around?  Not really any familiar restaurants but we did have some pizza the other day that was really good!

The area is really big because we're covering half a stake since we're the only Spanish sisters but we mostly stay in Cornelius which is just a little town. It's nice and I like it!

Love you all and thanks for the thoughts and prayers! 


Note from mom:  Couldn't resist sending her this:

First assignments in Oregon

Dear Brother and Sister Meise:

Sister Samuelian and I were so pleased to get to know your missionary.  Shortly following her arrival, I interviewed her.  She is most impressive and will be a real asset to the Oregon Salem Mission!  Out of all the assignments a Mission President has, none are taken more seriously than the assignment of their first companion and trainer.  With inspiration from our Heavenly Father, your missionary has been assigned to labor in the Cornelius Spanish Ward in Cornelius, OR.   Her trainer is Sister Anna C. Villalobos from Springville, UT, a seasoned and well respected missionary.

We have attached a photo of them both … they will make a very good team in the Lord’s service.

As I mentioned a few days ago, please send all letters or packages for your missionary to the Mission office listed below.

(Your daughter’s full name here)
700 Deborah Road, #260
Newberg, Oregon 97132
(503) 487-6387

We thank you, once again, for raising such a good women.  She will be a good missionary.  We will take good care of her as will the Lord.

Kind Regards,

President Michael Samuelian
Sister LuAnn Samuelian
Oregon Salem Mission

Sunday, April 6, 2014

She arrived!

Dear Brother and Sister Meise:

Sister Samuelian and I were so pleased to greet your missionary at the Portland airport!  Upon her arrival we had the opportunity to take her to the beautiful Portland Temple.  (Attached you will find a photo of her and her MTC group.)  She will have the opportunity to attend the Portland Temple while serving here in the Oregon Salem Mission.

Tomorrow, I will have the opportunity to interview and find out more about her.  After careful thought, consideration and inspiration from our Heavenly Father, I will assign her Sister Trainer.  In the next few days, we’ll send you a picture of them together.

All letters and packages for your missionary should be sent to the Mission office listed below.  We encourage you to correspond weekly via e-mail or letter with your missionary.  We will ask that they also send you an e-mail every week on their preparation day, which typically is on Monday.  If you feel there is an emergency which requires you to speak with myself or a member of our office staff, you can contact us at the address and phone number below.
(Your Missionary’s Full Name)
700 Deborah Road, #260
Newberg, Oregon 97132

(503) 487-6387

We thank you once again for sending your missionary to us.  We will take good care of her and know the sacred trust you place in ourselves and in the Lord.

Kind Regards,

President Michael Samuelian
Sister LuAnn Samuelian
Oregon Salem Mission