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.