Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Focusing on Jesus Christ in lessons

From Jessica's December 5 letter.

"This week was Cuh-RAZY. Crazy. People were definitely not lying when they said that the mission is a roller coaster--not just week by week, or even day by day, but hour by hour! I think that's why the days seem so long--there's just so much emotion packed into every single day!

"This week we've really been trying to focus on the importance of Jesus Christ in our lessons. We realized that as we teach, we aren't connecting things back to the reason why we have the gospel, the reason why the Plan of Salvation is possible, and the person in whom we place our faith and in whose name we are baptized--Jesus Christ. I've noticed that as we testify more of Jesus Christ in every lesson, whether it's on the restoration of the gospel or on the word of wisdom, that the Spirit is more present. It's a testimony to me that this work really is His work, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ really is the only way we can receive salvation and a fulness of joy.

"Updates on our investigators: V, one of our investigators who had a baptismal date, [was scheduled to have a] short interview with our mission president on Sunday. Problem though, when we went to wake him up for church, he didn't answer his door! And he has no cell phone, and no car, so we were panicking about getting him to church, both because it's important that he attends church in order to increase his testimony and keep the commandments, and because our mission president was going to drive all the way from Oakland to meet our investigator at the chapel. Eventually we had to leave without him. Sis Osborn and I were freaking out all through sacrament meeting and Relief Society. Finally, we got permission from our district leader to leave church early to go and get V for his interview. We were praying really hard that he would be at home. And when we pulled up to his apartment, there he was, just chilling on his balcony! It took all that was in me not to yell, "Where WERE you???" Haha, apparently he was asleep until about noon. At any rate, we got him a ride to church and he had his interview. It was a miracle that we found him, because it's pretty much impossible to track him down because he has no phone. He had his interview, and President Wade said that he's progressing well toward baptism. He doesn't have a baptismal date right now, but things are looking good for him.

"...We finally got to meet with [two others who have baptismal dates], and we went through the questions of the baptismal interview. They are so prepared! The only thing is that [the brother] is a pretty persistent coffee drinker, like 3-4 cups a day. We talked about the word of wisdom, and he committed to reduce his coffee intake to 1 cup a day this week. That is for sure a big sign of faith--first, even wanting to give up coffee, and second, trusting that the Lord will make it possible to break such a strong habit. Also, we followed up on their Book of Mormon reading and asked [him]what he'd learned from 2 Ne 32. He said, "Well, basically, it talks about how baptism is the gate. And then after baptism, you have to keep going until the end and keep the commandments for the rest of your life. And then you can have eternal life." Sister Osborn and I had to pick our jaws up off the ground after hearing such a stellar explanation of the basic doctrines of the gospel. It's so great to see how the Spirit works in people to bring them to an understanding of truth.

"New investigators: [Another sister] also accepted a baptismal invitation in the first lesson! Somehow I'm always a little shocked when that happens, because even though it's a wonderful thing, it's not all that common. [She] is a very, VERY beautiful young mom who has two daughters. We talked about the blessings of the gospel in families, and she was very receptive to the message of how Jesus Christ can help us improve our families. Sad story though--we haven't been able to talk to her since the lesson when she accepted a baptismal date. :(((( Sad face, big time. It's so sad when people all of a sudden stop responding to calls, start missing appointments, etc. But, like what happened with [sister] last week, all we can do is put forth our best effort to keep trying as many times as is useful, and then we have to trust the Lord that He'll allow the Spirit to continue to work in them even if we have to stop trying to reach them.

"We also started teaching a lady.... She has more Christmas decorations in her house than ANYBODY I have ever seen. It's like a Christmas explosion in there. Twice. We went into her house and sat among the Christmas villages and nativity sets, and it felt like our house's decorations, but on Hispanic steroids. We taught her the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and she opened up to us, and shared her testimony of prayer. She said the story of Joseph Smith's experience with prayer is "beautiful." She said she's excited to learn more and share with her daughter. Awesome. We're praying really hard that she'll be able to progress in the gospel, because her heart is definitely prepared.

"Definitely a good week. It was also tough because we had zero investigators at church, and many, many dropped appointments, but we know that with faith and hard work, miracles are going to happen in this area.

"Hilarious story for the week: we knocked on the door of a person whose name we got from the English-speaking elders. It was for a 15-year-old girl named Elizabeth. She speaks English and Spanish, but her parents only speak Spanish. She answered the door and we explained, in English, who we were. She said, "just a second" and went into the house and started yelling for her mom in Spanish. In Spanish, she said, "there are missionaries here!" Her mom said, in Spanish, "Say something to them!" Daughter, in Spanish: "Should I tell them we're busy and we have stuff to do?" Mom: "Si!" Girl turns back to us and says in English, "sorry, I cant' talk right now, we're about to leave and do something with our family." We then asked her, in Spanish, if we could set an appointment to come back and see her sometime later. Baha, the look on her face when she figured out we speak Spanish and we understood her entire conversation with her mom... priceless :) "

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thanksgiving week, one month mark

From Jessica's Nov 28th letter.

"Mkay, so this week was definitely a rollercoaster week. On Monday night, we had what felt like unreal success. When I wrote you on Monday morning, we had one investigator with a baptismal date. When I went to bed on Monday night, we had FIVE investigators with baptismal dates. Insane! Inviting people to be baptized is a really special thing. I've never really had experiences quite like it. It's amazing to feel the Spirit of the Lord backing your words up when you invite someone to follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized by someone who holds the priesthood authority of God. We had four investigators accept baptismal dates in one night. And on P-day!

"One of them was a lady who we were teaching for the first time.... She very readily accepted baptism, even when we told her about the word of wisdom. She said, "I drink coffee, but I'll just have to start drinking hot chocolate instead." Haha :D Unfortunately, yesterday morning, when we called this lady to see if she was coming to church, she "dropped" us. It was super super super sad. She was prepared, but she said that she can't talk to us anymore because she can't hurt her family by changing religions. Hopefully we will get to talk to her again and address some of those concerns, but for now she's made it pretty clear that she doesn't want to talk with us anymore. Muy triste, but hopefully there's a seed that's been planted there.

"The other three that accepted baptismal dates are a family--[a mother](20) and her husband..., and [the mother's] little brother, (14). They've been invited to be baptized before, but on Monday night they accepted. They're hopefully on track to be baptized on January 1st. We're nervous because they've all of a sudden been a lot less receptive to our efforts to teach them, so we're praying really hard that they'll want to keep moving forward. I'm noticing that Satan works really hard on people who are preparing to be baptized. So I'll keep you posted on them :)

"Tuesday was a great day as well. We got to go to the temple! The Oakland temple is definitely very unique. It's very Polynesian in design. It has teeny tiny cramped staircases, but the ordinance rooms are ENORMOUS. Someone called it a megaplex, and that's a fitting description. It was really nice to go to the temple. I'm really lucky to have arrived here in time for temple week. After the temple we went to the mission office for more new missionary training. We focused on the importance of the doctrine of Christ. My mission president is really a man of God. He's not afraid to tell us where we need to improve in order to be more effective missionaries.

"On Wednesday we had a crazy day. We had a district meeting, which took up most of the beginning of the afternoon, and then Sister Osborn and I had to run to the library to write letters to President Wade. We were stressing out because we were supposed to write them on Tuesday but because of the temple and training we didn't have time. But it worked out great, because at the library, this man came up to us and said, "I'm a brother! I'm a brother!" Turns out he's a member of the church and has been attending different wards in the area because he couldn't find out where the Spanish branch in this area meets. But GUESS WHAT, he totally lives in our area! ... he was baptized about a year and a half ago. We gave him the details for our ward's meeting times and he came on Sunday! It wasn't by chance that we were there on Wednesday writing letters at the same time he was there. I can tell already that he's going to be an asset to the ward. The ward here struggles sometimes because there are not very many men who are active members, and the majority of the ward is made up of very recently baptized members.

"Thursday--Thanksgiving! Oh mannnnnn. What a day. We had three Thanksgiving dinners. Whew! Our first dinner was with the senior missionary couple in our ward. It was straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting--very traditional American turkey-n-stuffing type dinner. Our second dinner was with the Betances family in our ward, and it was "mixed"--mashed potatoes and such with Mexican side dishes and desserts. And then our last dinner--which I wish I could have enjoyed more--was straight up MEXICAN. Loved it! We had this really neat garbanzo bean soup, and tostadas, and beans, and this mango smoothie thing that rocked my world. Unfortunately, by this time, I was literally about to cry because I was so full. And one of the elders that was eating with us WAS crying because he was so full (and because he put too much chili in his soup, haha). The ward members here are fantastic and they take very, very good care of us missionaries. The one thing I missed out on here was pie though. It sounds like you all had a pie party! I was thinking about pie when I was eating Mexican fruit salad. :)

"Other stories from this week--Sister Osborn and I get hit on all the time, it seems. This week a drunk man kept asking us for our phone number. It was pretty funny. We gave him the number for the Oakland Temple Visitor's Center instead. :) Then we had a drunk guy try and get into a Bible battle with us about the words of Paul that say women shouldn't speak in church. A classic. And for the first time, someone literally slammed their door at us! It was kind of cool--like a rite of passage. People here are actually very, very nice, and they're almost never rude when we knock on their door.

"This week it's been really hard to find people to teach, and we feel bad because we feel like we're wasting time when our appointments cancel on us. But like Derek said, you just have to embrace it, give thanks for the opportunity to follow the Spirit and try something new, and then be sensitive enough to the Spirit to know where you're supposed to be when everyone cancels on you. It's a good lesson for me to learn--humility, and reliance on the direction of the Spirit.

"Big miracle this Sunday--we had a brand new investigator unexpectedly show up at church on Sunday. We were discouraged because that morning nobody came to church except our faithful [investigator]. Then, about 30 minutes into sacrament meeting, [a siter] and her two sons showed up for church! It was great! Rachel, you would love this womaan's youngest son. He's 4, his name is Eric, and he is the CUTEST child on the planet! He loved Primary, which is great, because we can tell that the focus on families in the gospel will be key for this brand new investigator and her kids. Such a miracle that she came to church!

"Other highlights of the week--Every day. EVERY. DAY. people think I'm Hispanic. And these are all Hispanic people! Their jaws literally drop when I tell them I'm half Taiwanese! It's really hilarious. Sis. Osborn says it's a blessing though, because people will be more willing to talk to me :D Um, also, our apartment has hormigas (ANTS). We've been battling them this week though, so I think we're good to go. Our house smelled like Raid for a while, but I think it's under control now"

"...I'm unfortunately out of time already. Man, this hour on the computer is the fastest hour of the week! I love you all!"

Monday, November 21, 2011

First week in the field!

We got a surprise today. Jessica's P-Day is Monday, not Wednesday. Here is some of what she had to say about her first week.

"So, this week has been crazy, of course. So right after we got off the plane ... we stepped into the airport and were greeted by a group of missionaries who are going home from the Oakland mission. It was such a blessing to have 3 sister missionaries (veterans) there to greet us as we got off the plane. We were all shaking in our boots as we walked off the plane, so it was great to have them there to show their enthusiasm and happiness for us newbies. Our mission president picked us up from the airport (all 14 of us) and took us to the mission home, which is just across the street from the Oakland Temple. My mission president and his wife are super young, and Sister Wade is actually expecting a baby in January. They also have a 16-year-old son, a 13-year-old daughter, and a 6-year-old daughter. Their kids are great. We went to the mission home and dropped off our bags, then took care of paperwork, and then went out to eat at a Chinese buffet. It felt like home :)

After lunch we went back to the mission home and met the mission office staff, took care of more paperwork, etc. Then we went to the Visitor's Center and listened to the Christus presentation. President Wade gave us a chance to pick a piece of the presentation that would be our "mission statement" for our time here. After the Christus, we went and walked on the terrace of the Oakland temple. You can actually go up onto the top of the temple and walk around the gardens there. It was beautiful. It was actually a clear day, so as the sun was setting you could see all the way across the bay to San Francisco. President Wade shared some thoughts about how he knows we're all in the right place, and that the Lord has called us to this mission for a specific reason. It was really great, and I hope I never forget that chat we had up on the top of the temple. After that we went back to the mission home and had dinner, and met our companions!

My companion is Sister Osborn. She's been in California for about 4 months, and she's been in this area (Richmond) for her whole mission, so she knows it really well. She's just amazing. She's probably one of the nicest people I've ever met, and she's very patient with me as I learn the ropes of being a missionary in the field. Our area is in the north end of the mission, and several missionaries called it the "promised land" of the Oakland area. We do have a car (2010 Ford Fusion!) and our apartment is actually pretty nice. Washer, dryer, dishwasher, giant bedroom, decent kitchen. Not bad!

Thursday we started working immediately. We have a gym in our apartment complex (HALLELUJIAH!!) so we go there every morning at 6:30 to exercise. Yep, late start for a Croft at a gym! :D After we come back and get ready, we have an hour of personal study, 2 hours of companionship study, 1 hour of language study, and then lunch. And THEN we go out and start doing other missionary stuff.

My first morning in CA, we had a miracle! We were walking to visit a 21-year-old investigator who lives in our complex. He has a baptismal date. We were going to go down a flight of stairs, but it was closed, so we had to go around. While walking the round-about-way, we ran into the investigator's dad. His dad told us that our investigator (we'll call him V) was actually in jail. Oooops. We were so glad we ran into him because Sister Osborn didn't know what had happened to V, and she and her companion hadn't had contact with him for a long time. So it was a huge blessing that we were able to figure out his situation and plan ways to help him out. Good news, V is out of jail now (he was there for an offense that happened a long while ago and caught up with him last week), and yesterday he came to church with us and went to the temple visitor's center with us. We had a talk there and he expressed a very, very sincere desire to make changes in his life and keep preparing to be baptized. We watched Finding Faith in Christ with him and he said, "I just feel so good, so relaxed. Jesus didn't use a lot of words, but He said a lot." And as we left the visitor's center, he said, "please give me homework. I want to keep reading [the Book of Mormon] because I just feel so happy right now." This kid is amazing.

And this morning, his dad called us and said he talked to V last night and was amazed at how happy V was, and how willing he was to change. So now V's dad and sister are going to start taking lessons with us too! So amazing. SO AMAZING. I'm just astounded at how people are so prepared to make changes in their lives, and at how willing they are to draw closer to God.

So, I'm getting sidetracked. Richmond is kind of sketchy, not gonna lie, but I've actually never felt scared while tracting. We don't tract at night, of course, so that may be part of it, but we do knock doors in some pretty run-down neighborhoods. I'm normally kind of a quiet person, but for some reason it's not hard at all for me to start talking to someone on their doorstep. Sister Osborn is thankfully a great example of talking to EVERYONE, and the Spirit helps me to not feel the intimidation or worry of talking to people. Aaaaand, I think my job at Vivint, where I was yelled at daily by random strangers, helped me thicken my skin toward rejection. Plus, people here are actually very very nice, even if they don't want to talk to us.

Other stuff... (sorry, this is not organized at all) We're also teaching a family--a daughter (we'll call her Susie) and her husband, and her mom and brother. They seem really eager to learn about the gospel as a family. We're having a hard time getting them to church, but we have an appointment with them tonight. Hopefully they've read more of the Book of Mormon

We also started teaching a girl who is best friends with a member of our ward. The ward here is amazing. Everyone is EXTREMELY willing to help with missionary work, whether that means feeding us (we have a dinner or lunch every day of the week) or coming to lessons with us. They really are amazing in the way they're so willing to serve. Anyway, we went to this appointment and started talking about the Restoration with this girl (who we shall call Dulce). She is super super receptive. She straight up said, "Yeah, I need this in my life. My family's been through hard times and I know this will help us. When you're not close to God, life isn't too bad, but when you're close to God, life is always better." Amazing. She's inviting her parents to come to our next lesson with her!

Que mas, que mas.... It's actually kind of cold here! It's a lot like Grayland in climate. It's not super humid, but it is kind of chilly. Apparently rainy season just started, and yep, it's rained a lot. I feel bad for the bike elders :p

I know you're probably wondering about Thanksgiving. Don't worry--we're taken care of. We already have THREE DINNER APPOINTMENTS for Thursday. Eek. Pray for me! I'm excited though, cuz one of the dinners is straight up Mexican, no turkey. :D"

"Other stuff..... uh... I don't know! I'm happy! I'm safe! I'm well-fed (REALLY well-fed. The members here go crazy at dinner.) and I'm glad I'm here."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Goodbye MTC

Jessica left the MTC at 5:00am on November 16th. She got to call us from the airport and talk for 10 minutes. She said it still didn't feel real. Since she was in a class with native Spanish speakers, she isn't too worried about the language anymore, but she worries whether she is ready to be a good teacher.

We haven't heard anything since that conversation, but should get an email from her on Wednesday [Turns out her P-Day is actually Monday].

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Last Preparation Day at the MTC

Wowww, what a week this has been. The advanced class is CRAZY. I feel a lot more comfortable with the language now, and I've been trying to just open my mouth and talk instead of worrying about grammar. I LOVE my companion. Hermana Escobar and I completely click and it's great. I forgot my camera card so I can't send pictures, but hopefully they'll upload at the airport. Anyway, EVERYONE tells us that we look like sisters! It's kinda weird, cuz she's from El Salvador. So Rachel, I guess Cindy can be your twin and Hna Escobar can be mine!

We've been teaching three progressing investigators [actors who are helping as train]. One of them, Pablo, has been really trying for us. we've both been having a hard time connecting emotionally and spiritually with him, and it's really made us realize the importance of charity. If you have not charity, you really have nothing, because it's hard to feel the Spirit without charity. So we've been praying really hard for charity (see Moroni 7), and our last lesson did go a lot better. Our other investigator, Araceli, is progressing really well. She accepted a baptismal invitation, and it was so cool to feel pure JOY at seeing someone's willingness to follow the Savior. I know these investigators are not "real," but the feelings of the Spirit and of wanting them to have the gospel are real. Our other investigator's name is Hely. We taught her for the last time last night. it was quite the experience. It was our last lesson with her, and we've been inviting her over and over to be baptized beacuse we know she's ready. At the end of our lesson last night, she said that she would like to be baptized, but she doesn't think her husband will agree, so she'll just keep praying and reading the scriptures. It was so crazy to feel such deep disappointment to hear her basically decline a baptismal invitation, because we earnestly wanted her to enjoy the blessings of the baptismal covenant, and other covenants. It was a difficult thing to feel, but it was good preparation for what might happen (and probably will happen) in the field. Derek, it sounds like you had an experience like that this week. It makes you realize the depth of Heavenly Father's love for His children, as well as the depth of the importance of baptism and of making covenants. It's not just about being a baptized member--it's about eternal progression and the infinite love of our Heavenly Father."

"I won't get to write from the MTC again, so this is my last letter from here! I'll try and hand-write some letters and send them tonight, hopefully with pictures. There's just no time! But it's ok because I'm learning and growing a lot."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

New MTC Address

Because Jessica's district changed, her MTC address changed too. Please see the Write to Sister Croft page for the correct address.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Leaving the MTC Nov 15!

Jessica has big news in her first email home:

First of all, I need to share some important news right away. I am leaving the MTC on NOVEMBER 15th!!! Yesterday I had a language assessment and they moved me to the advanced Spanish class, so now I only have two more weeks in the MTC. Estoy bien emocionada, pero very nervous as well! I'll be in Cali before THanksgiving! And I'll also get to call you at the airport really soon!

I had to change districts when I changed to Advanced Spanish, and that was super difficult. Even though it had only been a week, I really got close to my companions, Hna Hunter and Hna Mierow, and also my roommates, Hna Hopkins and Hna Checcittini. We were all crying when I moved to the other class, but it'll be ok because we'll still see each other and be in contact with each other. It was really hard to say goodbye to all of the elders too, because I feel like we became a little family.

So, my new district is great too! There are 4 elders and 4 sisters, including me. My new companion is Hna Escobar from..... CANADAAAA! Yeah! She's actually originally from El Salvador, but she lived in Canada before her mission. I love her already! We're gelling really quickly and it's great. Plus, she speaks Spanish at about 50000 mph, so it's good for me. Actually, EVERYBODY in my class habla muy rapido. The other 2 sisters are not native speakers, but they're both studying to be HS Spanish teachers, and everyone else is a native speaker. So I'm basically the only one who isn't great at Spanish! It's super scary. I think it's good though because I didn't feel pushed in the intermediate class, but now I DEFINITELY feel pushed, like to the limit. I think that it's good for me though, because although it felt super nice to be really confident in the intermediate class, I'm definitely more humble now because I'm the only one who can't speak spanish!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Quick Letter

Jessica had a chance to do laundry and write a quick letter on Saturday October 30. Her first real p-day will be November 3. Here are some excerpts.

The MTC really is a time-warp! It is only Saturday and it feels like I've been here for FOREVER! Not in a bad way, but more in that our days here are super long. We pack a lot of things in to what really isn't a lot of time. The good thing about that is, our district is already becoming really close. There are 3 companionships- us, 3 hermanas, Elder Jones and Elder Mathias, and Elder Hoskins and Elder Davis. Elder Jones is the district leader. He gets our mail, so we have to be nice to him! :)

Ummm, what else... the food is ... ok. They had some type of pie yesterday (cherry? There's no way of knowing), and I tried one bite and almost puked. Don't worry, Rachel, I almost puked. Other than that it's not bad. The entrees are usually brown in color (you'd like it, Jonathan), but they always have wraps and salads, so I'm getting my veggies. And they also have BYU dougnuts and creamery ice cream too (Jared...)

Jessica then shared a cool experience they had teaching a mock investigator and said,
It's so awesome how the Spirit can testify and help us feel the Love of God even in a "mock" situation like this. The person playing Jose is an actor, of course, but the Spirit was still there, definitely, testifying of the Love of God for His children. Very awesome!

So, all in all, life is good. The first two days were hard because we sat literally all day, but yesterday we had our first gym period, thankfully. I'm surprisingly tired even though we're in bed by 10:30 and up around 6:15.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

In the MTC

On Wednesday, October 26, 12:40pm we dropped Jessica off at the MTC. As a father, I think it was a little harder for me to drop off a daughter than it was to drop off a son (that protective instinct), but Jessica is well prepared and will be a great missionary. We received a letter in the mail that she wrote Wednesday not long after we dropped her off. Her are some excerpts.

"Wow. WOW! I'm in the MTC. WOW! It still kind of doesn't feel real! I do feel like I can echo Derek's words though. I've learned so much Spanish! :) Really though, just being around Spanish is so helpful. I have 2 companions - Hermana Hunter and Hermana Mierow. Hermana Hunter is from St. George and Hermana Mierow is from Texas.

There's so much -- I don't know what to say! Sorry you didn't get an email from me. Apparently not all of us get to email the day we enter, but I do get to write you a handwritten letter. So, I'm safe, I'm overwhelmed but happy, and I know I'm supposed to be here. The Spirit really is very strong here, and even though it was hard to say goodbye, I feel comforted. But, just so you know, my P-days are on Thursday. (But not this Thursday, so look for an email next Thursday).

So, I have to tell you about the tender mercies I've experienced so far. Right as I (tearfully) walked away from the car, I saw Holly! She was there to get some things from her classroom. Then, about 10 seconds later, the sister missionary who took my bags for me ended up being Hermana Howard, a girl from my freshman ward and my misison prep class! And then at our first meeting with the MTC presidency, Sister Daye, from Hillcrest, going to Taiwan, was sitting in my row. And during the meeting, Elder McCowan, a kid who I was a TA for, spoke for a few minutes and said hi to me. So that's several people within the first 2 hours of me getting here that I know! Totally a tender mercy. I think the Lord knows that the hardest thing for me is feeling alone, so He allowed a bunch of people I know to be here for me.

I only have a couple minutes left, so I'll stop here...."

Man... this is crazy.

Soooooo crazy.

But so great.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Today's the day

So.  Today I'll be set apart as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  After 8:30 tonight, when i will be set apart, my life will be a lot different.  There's a part of me that feels like this is totally surreal--that I'm not actually going to be entering the MTC in less than 24 hours, that I'm not going to be starting a completely new chapter of my life, that I'm not really going to be Hermana Croft instead of Jessica for 18 months.  However, there's another part of me that feels that this is all normal--that of course this is the next step for me, that it's natural that I'll be on the Lord's errand for a year and a half, and that I can't think of anything else I should do instead.  It's a strange combination of emotions.

People keep asking me what's going through my mind right now, and I keep telling them that I feel like my brain has turned off because my heart is in overdrive.  It's been a very emotional few weeks as I've prepared to leave. My heart is bursting with a lot of things--gratitude for the charity and support that my friends, family, and ward members have shown me; nervousness and excitement about all of the things that I'm about to experience; loneliness because of the people I'm leaving behind; and also an immense love for many people, both the people in my life right now and the people I'm about to encounter in the MTC and in California.  While my heart is very full, and even a little chaotic, my mind is calm (at least in comparison).  For the past few weeks, my mind has been a mess, but today, as I'm very near to departure, my mind is more clear.  I'm realizing that I really only have one thing to think about--my commitment to doing the will of my Heavenly Father.  I don't have to freak out about Spanish or whether or not I have enough clothes, or whether or not my companions will like me.  I don't need to stress about graduate school, or my bank account, or who will be married and gone by the time I get back.  I only have to think about being committed to doing my best to do what I've been called to do, which is to bring others to Jesus Christ.  I'm confident that as long as I am committed, the other things will come naturally.  I'll have the desire and the ability to study, to care for others, to work hard, and to push through the loneliness and let-downs.  What's more, I know that God does bless us for serving Him by serving others.

While I do feel inadequate for what I'm about to do, and while I am quite scared for what lies ahead, I'm also ready to start this.  The biggest thing that's driving me forward right now is the tie I already feel with the people I'm about to meet.  I've never felt like this before--so connected with people that I don't even know yet.  It's very humbling, and very motivating for me, because I want these individuals to be able to hear the message that has brought so much into my life--that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His church.  I can't think of any other message I'd rather share.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Called to serve

My mission call came in the mail on Wednesday August 31st.  I opened it at 10:00 PM and very happily read,

Dear Sister Croft: You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  You are assigned to labor in the California Oakland/San Francisco Mission. . . You should report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, October 26, 2011.  You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Spanish language.
I am so excited!  The thought of serving in California had actually not crossed my mind at all.  Before I opened my call, my best guess had been Canada, but I had never guessed California.  It feels totally comfortable though, and I am so excited to serve!  I am especially excited to become fluent in Spanish.  I know the Lord has given me this assignment because it's exactly where I need to be, and I'm sure that will become more and more clear as time goes on.

So now, some facts I've learned about my mission area (mostly from Wikipedia):

  • Oakland is the 8th-largest city in California.  San Francisco is the 4th most populous city in CA and 13th most populous in the United States
  • Oakland has a Mediterranean climate with an average of 300 sunny days a year.  YESSS.
  • San Francisco has the oldest Chinatown in the United States
  • The racial makeup of San Francisco is 48.5% White,  6.1 % African American, 0.5% Native American, 33.3 % Asian, 0.4% Pacific Islander, 6.6 "Other, " 4.7% mixed race, and 15.1% Hispanic or Latino.  Oakland is similarly super diverse.  Awesome!
  • Oakland has been consistently listed as one of the country's most dangerous large cities.  Nice.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The call is coming!

My mission call should be arriving this week!  I'm not even sure how to label my emotions right now.  (That sounded very therapist-y....)  I'm feeling a little (very) crazy because I've been able to imagine everything up until the moment of me opening that white envelope.  I have no idea how to even comprehend anything beyond that moment.  But hopefully I won't have to wait much longer to open the envelope and read my assignment.  I'm guessing Wednesday or Thursday!  We shall see...