I'll never forget how my setting apart closed with the words "We now send you off on your adventure." If the adventure didn't start in Tarapoto with dengue fever and hospitals and baptisms and vine swinging, it sure started this Tuesday at 3:05pm when my plane landed in Iquitos!
I got out waiting to see who was going to be my companion, but I saw 33 Elders and not a single sister. I was confused. I was put with two Elders and sent to the Mission Offices where I waited patiently to be told what on earth was going on.
The Assistants finally saw me and told me to come meet my companion. Funny choice of words, I thought, because I had already met all the sisters in the mission. Then, he put me in front of two young, white, American girls.
I just remember thinking okay Elder, ya they're cute, but what do you want me to do with them? Then one of them read my nametag and screamed and hugged me and yelled "My Compañera!" With all the intelligence I had in this moment, I only managed to look up at the Assetants and say "¿Que PUMAS???" They sure had a good laugh.
So ya, its true. I am training an AMERICAN. And opening up an area in Iquitos without Elders, without a Bishop, and without a Mission Leader. Has it been hard? Yes, oh yes it has!
We didn't know where to start, they just kind of dumped us off at a house and left. So, we walked around and found a house with a Mormon Picture and knocked on the door and the nice lady started introducing us to some members. From there we just started working!
My Companion is really great! We've had fun getting to know each other. We're making the best of a hard situation and really trying to focus on the positive things. For Example:
Elder Cruz, my AWESOME Zone Leader from Tarapoto came here with me and is my Zone Leader here and is helping us a ton. We also have some really cool members here an have found people to teach and 3 of them came to church on Sunday! We're learning a ton and growing a lot, etc.
That first night, our District Leader called me to get to know us and I asked who his companion was and he said it was someone new in the mission...only 7 months of service. I had to laugh. He asked me if I was stuck with a new one too and I explained there were kind of two of us. Me, with 6 months, and my companion with 1 day.
He asked where she was from and then said something to the extent of "Let me get this straight. You're the Senior Companion and Trainer, but you've only been out 6 months. You're American, and your companion is American as well? The two of you are opening a new area without a Bishop or a ward mission leader...and you're not kidding with any of these details?" No, Elder, it's all true!
It was weird for me to see that there were some Latina Companionships that were put in established areas and they all have been out longer than me. I didn't understand how it worked out that way, until a leader reminded me of an important word: Revelation. We have a purpose here.
My Companion, Sister Dickey, is getting used to things pretty well. It was funny when the Bishop welcomed us to Sacrament Meeting and told us to sit on the stand and she asked me if we always sit up there and I told her only when we give talks. She looked a little scared but she did a great job. She was only able to get out about 3 or 4 minutes of the best Spanish possible, but it was powerful.
I was left to try to take up the rest of the meeting, but it was a lot easier than I thought and I got the people laughing a bit and a few crying, so it must have been an okay last minute talk. After church, Hermana Dickey got really sick and we ended up going to the Hospital for about 5 hours. We ran into two Elders there....everyone gets sick when they start out. She was able to find someone to give her a blessing in English and it was cool. It was powerful for me because he said some of the exact same words in her blessing that I received in mine when I was in the same place: Brand new, sick, tired, not understanding a thing, going to the Hospital, etc. It made me reflect on how much I've grown in this time.
It’s amazing how God strengthens us to do the things we're called to do, even when they seem impossible. Even though we started with nothing, we pulled it out and actually exceeding some of the Mission Standards of Excellence with some of our numbers this week, which was really cool. I was able to translate for Hermana DIckey in the Hospital, even though I didn't even know that I knew Spanish medical terms!
Some people have kind of just come to us and it looks like we might even still be able to have a Baptism this month. We also had one less active come to church for the first time in 11 years because we visited him this week. Talking on the phone was always hard for me but I’ve somehow managed to understand everything.
I am discovering lots of talents that I didn't know I have! I was feeling a little down last night (somehow exceeding the Mission Standards didn't keep me from getting yelled at by a well meaning District Leader), when an Elder from a different District called me (he had sat in on a lesson with us the night before) and asked how my companion was, and then he said "Hey, I just want you to know that you two are so special. I started crying last night after the lesson because the Spirit was just so strong. You're amazing missionaries." There are not words to describe how much I needed to hear those words.
Leaving Tarapoto was hard. I was okay until I started saying goodbye to my converts. It really is a special experience to watch how they cry as they say goodbye. But, you know what is even better than tears and them saying how much they love you? Hearing their testimonies. Hearing them quote some of your exact words, but doing it with a power and conviction that you, being their "missionary" don't quite have. I loved how each of them said "It's okay, we'll see you in the Celestial Kingdom!" It was so nice to see how the Lord had made me an Instrument in helping these people.
I tried not to look back as we headed toward the airport, but I did just say a short prayer to ask if my work there was pleasing to the Lord. I received the firmest conviction that said Yes, yes it sure was. With that knowledge, I could leave without regrets.
I love you all! You keep me pushing forward everyday.
Until Next Time,