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Friday, June 28, 2013

I am in Argentina!  Its very much a foreign country and I am learning a lot very quickly, but the first few days were definitely a bit overwhelming.  Even though I got off to a rough start, missing my flight and arriving a day late, I have an absolutely wonderful companion.  Her name is Hermana Costa and she is from Brazil.  She speaks Spanish and Portugese. Hardly any English.  Yes, that means we speak Spanish allllllll the time.  Yes, it is hard.  Yes, I am learning a lot very quickly.
A few reflections on my first week in Argentina...
- no heaters.
- your shower can last approximately 3 minutes before the water goes ice cold.
- You kiss cheeks all the time.  I have kissed a lot of women.
- there are wild dogs EVERYWHERE (do NOT pet them).
- I cant read food labels, so I never know what on earth I am eating.
- I also dont really know how to use the money.
- The collectivos (buses) dont really like to come to a complete stop.
- Thank you, mom, for teaching me to look both ways before I cross the street.
- The castellano accent basically sounds lie ja ja ja ja ja ja ja.... and if its thick enough, I cannot understand a single word.
- The real shocker- I can actually handle eating the beef.
As you can tell, I am already having quite an interesting experience.  It might take a while to be completely accustombrado to everything here, but I am coming to love it.

I found out my first day here that it is very likely that I will be training another sister (I will have a brand new companion that I have show the ropes of missionary work to) at the next transfer, because of the huge influx of sister missionaries.  Almost everyone is training.  The second youre done with training, you train someone else.  I am only slightly terrified, but I have 5 more weeks to figure out how to get around here and speak a sufficient amount of Spanish that my companion and I can communicate with others.  We will see how that goes, but for now I am very happy to have an excellent companion to help me along the way.
We are also lucky to have an absolutely wonderful ward.  I do not know too many people yet, but they are wonderful, very hospitable and welcoming.

I love you all and hope you are well!  You are in my thoughts and prayers always.
-Hermana Walton

Sunday, June 16, 2013

June 10 2013

This has been quite the week.  First of all, I got to go to Girls Camp!  That's right, another year.  Okay, well technically I only went up for an evening, but get this:  we went for their testimony meeting, and my companions and I got to sing for them!   It gets better... we sang "I Am His Daughter" and I accompanied on guitar.  Uh-huh, three years runnin'.  It was so cool to be able to carry on that experience into my mission and share that with the young women here.  They're so sweet and it was great to see their reactions as they were touched by that song.

That was really cool, but that wasn't even the highlight of my week.  We have a baptism date set for two of our investigators!  They're actually the other sisters' investigators, but I've taught them a couple of times, too, and they're the sweetest.  I was in the lesson that we gave them the baptismal date, because we were on exchanges.  It's a mother and daughter from Belize and they are just incredible. 

I also had a very interesting experience this week helping a hoarder move out of his house.  I've never seen a house so full of stuff.  There was just stuff everywhere.  Hermana Rohm and I were literally sifting through garbage: old plastic bags, food containers, paper towels, and more.  It was not exactly pleasant, but it was incredible to see the transformation of his house within just a few hours. There's still a lot to do and we'll probably be back there this week as well to help out.

Sorry for how frantic this probably is... my time is tight today, and I've only shared a portion of my adventures this week!  But I hope everyone is well and I send my love to you all.

Until next time,

Hermana Walton

P.S.  According to the Buenos Aires West mission blog, they're supposed to be getting tons of new missionaries in in the coming week or two!  Apparently the issues that the Church was having with visas got resolved and the process is picking up.  I could be out sooner than I thought, but I guess we'll see next week!  I don't know if I'm prepared to leave yet, but whatever happens is for the best, I'm sure.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

April 23, 2013

Hola, madre.
FIRST THINGS FIRST:  Lynette Lewis says hi.  She's been bugging me for weeks to tell you hello when I email you next and I kept forgetting.  So there you go.  She loves you.
Anyways, I got your letters this week.  As always, I appreciate all of the updates on how everything is going at home.  Seriously, my district thinks I'm really popular because I get so many Dear Elders from you. haha.  I love it.  I'm glad you got to visit with Rihanna for a bit and I look forward to getting those letters.
Most of this letter will be dedicated to talking about things you could share in your talk this Sunday about the mission thus far... you can kind of pick and choose and this is also a general email, I guess?  I'll let you sort that out. ;)  Love you, mom!
So the mission so far is wonderful!  It's definitely stretching me as a person, but I'm learning so much everyday and go to bed (almost) every night feeling satisfied that my time is being well spent.  This week, especially, has been a roller coaster.  I feel like I say that every week, but it's true.  And I guess there really is opposition in all things, huh? (2 Nephi 2:11)
Two of the biggest highlights this week for me:
There were two major highlights from this week: the first was that Elder Richard G. Scott came to the MTC to speak. Absolutely incredible. He spoke about prayer and revelation, and it reminded me a lot of my favorite talk by him, "To Acquire Spiritual Guidance". But this was even better, because I felt like I learned not only how to receive revelation for my own answers, but how to help my investigators with it as well. Not only that, but I was also in the choir singing for him, so I got to share my love for the gospel with him through the song, "Nearer, My God, to Thee". Needless to say, it was a great night at the MTC.
The other big news this week is.... we committed our first "investigator", Ryleigh, to baptism!
For those of you who may not be aware of how we are trained in the MTC with our teaching skills, our instructors roleplay with us acting as either investigators they taught on their mission, or real people in their lives right now.  Even though you're not teaching the actual person, it feels very real and the Spirit is certainly present as well.  Regardless of what it is, the Spirit will always testify of the truth.
So anyways, it was amazing! The spirit in that room was so strong as I said, "Seguirá el ejemplo de Jesucristo al ser bautizada?" (Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized?) We could see a change in our investigator's face as she realized that it was exactly what she needed in her life to come closer to her Heavenly Father. I can't wait for the opportunity to do that in the field.
Now about my experience out here in general:  the mission stretches you in ways you never could have imagined, but it really helps you grow.  I know the sanctity of the calling that I have and I can feel the Spirit so strong in this work.  Through my studies, I feel closer to the Spirit and feel that I'm learning more and more every day.
A scripture that has come to have a special meaning for me out here is Alma 29:1, where Alma the younger is speaking of how he wishes he could call all people unto repentence.  I used to think that verse had almost a harsh, judgmental connotation, but I've found that it is completely out of love.  Repentence is such an indescribable gift from our Saviour.  Through repentance, we are able to come closer to our Heavenly Father.  As a missionary, it is my wonderful opportunity to teach the people of Argentina of how they can use the power of the Atonement to enrich their lives.
For the record, I have no further update yet on how my visa is coming, but it is VERY likely that I will receive a reassignment somewhere state-side for a while before I go to Argentina.  Está bien, porque yo sé que eso llamado será inspirado, tambíen.  Placentero me es trabajar!  (It's alright, because I know that that call will be inspired as well.  The work pleases me!)
Now if there was one thing I would want to ensure that you say to the congregation is directed to the youth, especially the lovely young women of Springfield 5th Ward.  Tell them how great this work is.  I know that this is the best thing I could be doing with my life right now.  I know the divine, eternal impact I am able to have on the lives of others through my efforts and I know that this mission will change my life as well.  I encourage the young women that if they have even the slightest desire to serve, they do so.  Read Doctrine and Covenants 4.  Feel the power in those words and the great duty of missionary work.  My time in the MTC has been excellent preparation for the challenges set before me and I know that the mission won't be easy, but Heavenly Father shapes the back to fit the burden.  My dear sisters, if you have any desire, pray to know if that's what Heavenly Father wants of you.  You have no need to fear anything on the mission, because Heavenly Father will bless and sustain you and your family in your efforts.
I'll conclude with my testimony.  I know that this is Christ's church on the earth today.  I know that through the power of the Holy Ghost, if we pray with real intent, we can know the truth of this Gospel.  There's nothing more worthwhile in this life than to come closer to our Heavenly Father.  I know that Christ atoned for our sins, and it is only through Him that we can return to our Heavenly Father.  I know the power of the priesthood is real.  I know the Thomas S. Monson is the true prophet of God on the earth today.  I know that, although we may not understand everything that happens in our lives, or why we are asked to do certain things, if we are willing to submit to God's will, He will bless us.  We will have the strength to withstand all our trials and will feel His love.
I love you all and hope this finds you all well.  Have a lovely week, and mom, buenas suerte con su discurso esta semana. (good luck with your talk this week.)
Con sinceridad,
Hermana Walton

May 2, 2013

Hola familia,
How's everyone doing?  Is dad doing any better?  I really appreciate all the dear elders to keep me up to date.  I'm sad that I might not be able to receive those come another few days, but I'm grateful for any updates! 
I got your package this week.  Thank you so much, that was very sweet of you!  I'm currently working on some letters home to all of you individually.  I really enjoyed getting to hear from you all in the package and via my phone call.
I should be receiving my new mission call today, with any luck!  My visa hasn't come, so I'll be reassigned.  My companion received her reassignment yesterday... she's going to Portland, Oregon!  I told her I was envious and that she's extremely lucky.  Two elders in my district got called to Boise, Idaho... I'm hoping that means that all of the reassignments for Idaho are already done and that I've dodged that bullet... I mean blessing.  I love Idaho.
This week has been kind of a weird one.  Other than the news from home, which made a few days a little bit rough, our schedule got completely switched around.  Our Preparation day was changed to Thursdays instead of Tuesdays, which is why I'm emailing today instead of two days ago.  Sorry for the scare!  It's made things interesting.  We also have had a lot of changes with our teachers.  My favorite teacher, Hermana Coleman, got a promotion, so for our last week in the MTC, we have a brand new teacher and new investigator.   The typical 6-week MTC missionary has 2-3 investigators they teach.  Our teachers have been gone so much or our schedule has been so weird that we've had probably 6-8 different investigators.  It's been crazy.  But I guess it's good practice regardless.
Despite the crazy schedule, my companion and I committed one of our investigators to baptism this week!  Our second one!  It was pretty exciting.  But that might be the last chance we had to teach him, soo.... that's kind of a bummer.  But it's all good.
At this point, I'm just ready to get out into the field, so I'll let you all know as soon as I get my reassignment!  My spanish is not perfect, but it's improving every day. I think it will be a whole new challenge when I'm actually speaking to native speakers. 
I love you all and hope you're doing well!  I send you my love and you're in my prayers!  I know my work is blessing the lives of other people and I can't wait to get out to the field.
With love,
Hermana Walton

May 9, 2013 - Transfer to LA - final week in MTC

Hola, familia y amigos!

This week has been good, although kind of really weird. My entire district (minus me and Hermana Reid, my current companion) left earlier this week for the reassigned missions. Our classroom feels so desolate without them. I had no idea how hard it would be to say goodbye to all of them. I really do love my district and I'm so glad I'll get to see all of them in Argentina.

Our experience this week as a two-person district has been weird. We're supposed to be combining with another district in our zone, but our teachers still wanted to teach us, so we've been having our own classes. It's been really nice to have such personal assistance and instruction with our language and our teaching skills. As sad as it is being in a nearly empty classroom, it's been nice that we get to set the pace. I've been trying to make the best of my time in the MTC, although it's been difficult, because I'm kind of antsy to go! But our devotional this Sunday was by Chad Lewis, some NFL football player that is LDS. It was surprisingly really good. He talked a lot overcoming hard things, which is relevant to everyone always, I think.

Now for the much anticipated news.... I got my reassignment! I'll be serving in the Louisiana Baton Rouge mission! I am leaving the MTC at 3 am on Tuesday. I can't believe I'm going to the deep South, but I am so stoked about it. I know there's lots of work for me to do down there.
Anyways, I think that's about it for this week. I love you all. Thank you for your continual support and prayers. 

Con amor,
Hermana Walton

LA Temple, Baton Rouge LA Mision Home 5/20/2013 Welcome by Sister Missionaries in Kenner, LA

Here are some pictures from this week:

1.  The zone leaders decorated our apartment door to welcome Hermana Rohm (the other visa waiter for Buenos Aires) and I to the mission!  This is us in the streamers.

2.  They wrote on the ground in sidewalk chalk, too.  Translation:  "Welcome, Hermanas Walton and Rohm!  Thanks for being in our zone!  Don't leave to Argentina!"
We have a great mission.


May 20, 2013 - Temporary Assignment until Visa arrives - Louisiana Baton Rouge Mission

May 20, 2013

Hola, familia y amigos!

Mom, I'm going to print off your email and reply to it by hand, because I don't have too much time for email right now, but thank you!  Also, there are tons of other experiences I want to share, but really just don't have the time for!  I'm sorry, but I love you and will try o include them in my handwritten letter!

Thanks to everyone who's written me and made effort to stay in contact!  I really do appreciate it!  I had a flood of emails today, so I'm sorry if I didn't get to respond to yours yet, but I'll email you next week, or I could possibly be writing you by hand instead!

So this week has been quite the experience.  My first week in the field!  I'm currently in Kenner, which is just right outside of New Orleans, in the suburbs.  It's surprisingly green here, but super hot.  My companion (Hermana Walker) and I are on bikes, so that makes it seem even hotter.  My mission president (President Wall) makes a concerted effort to have all of the sisters in cars, but since there are so many visa waiting missionaries here right now, things are a bit unusual.  I'm technically in a quadpanionship, bu we don't do any work together.  We share an apartment and have one car, so technically my companion and I are assigned to be on bikes all the time, but we occasionally get access to the car.  It's kind of unusual, but I guess all of the biking will stave off any potential weight gain. haha.

Our ward here is very small... I couldn't tell you how many people are in it, but when you look out in the congregation, it looks about 30-40% missionaries... there are 16 missionaries in my ward!  The ward covers a pretty large area, too.  It's a pretty unusual situation, but we're trying to make the best of it and still reach out to the members.  Most of the people in the ward are from Honduras, with a few people from Mexico, too.

We don't have dinner with the members too often (on account of the sheer number of missionaries, as well as the fact that many of them are not as financially stable), but yesterday we had dinner with the Paz family, which was wonderful.  They're from Honduras.  They made us a traditional dish called baleatas... so good!  I haven't had any southern cooking yet and probably won't from any of the members, but I'm sure the other missionaries and I will have some before I leave.

It's been a little weird because the two trainers in my quadpanionship were companions beforehand, so they have to divide the work up between the two companionships now.  That means we don't have a lot of people to work with right now, but we've been trying to find more people and to reach out to members and less active members as well.  It's been hard, but it's been good.

The other day we had a pretty cool experience.  We were biking home at about 8:30 and had about 6 miles to ride before we got home, and our appointment for the evening had fallen through.  It was a pretty slow day, but we biked past a bus stop and a woman saw us and waved us down, calling out "Mormonas!"  We turned around and talked to her.  It turns out she had read the entire Book of Mormon before, so we set up an appointment to visit with her the next day.  It was cool to see that we really are placed in certain locations at certain times to help people.  Hopefully we'll be able to visit with her soon.

Well things have been very busy here and we're working hard to further the work.  I love you all and hope you're well.  Thank you for your prayers and support.

Hermana Walton

P.S.  We might be moving soon, but here's my address for right now:

Hermana Lauren Walton
3350 Grand Lake Blvd. Apt. A204
Kenner, LA 70065

May 28, 2013 New Address in New Orleans, LA

May 28, 2013

Hello family and friends!

Things in Louisiana are hot and humid and despite that, excellent!

First of all, this week, we moved.  For those of you who would like to write me (I know that's all of you), here's my new address:

3550 Grandlake Blvd. G307
Kenner, LA 70065

I even bolded it for you.  Now don't you forget it.

This last week has been kind of an unusual one.  All four of us sisters were sick for the better part of three days with food poisoning.  One of the member's cooking didn't sit so well with us, but we're all better now!  That just threw us off a bit, as far as our plans went.  

Last week we met an incredible woman, Lorena, who was actually referred to us by one of our current investigators, Elizabeth.  Elizabeth had been teaching Lorena about the Church on her own and then invited us over to teach them both.  We talked to them about the Book of Mormon and I don't think I've ever seen someone consider so deeply a passage of scripture as she did when we shared Moroni's Promise (Moroni 10:4-5) with her.  Lorena is awesome and we're so excited to teach her more.  Elizabeth, as well, is absolutely incredible.  She's come a long way and is so receptive to learning new things.

Yesterday was Hermana Walker's birthday, so we went out to Olive Garden with one of the members here for dinner.  There were actually two members from Utah that happened to be there that night and came up and introduced themselves.  They ended up paying for our entire table!  It was too sweet of them.  My companions and I resolved to have the "pay it forward" mentality and look for more opportunities to serve others as well.

I'm coming to know the area better little by little, but I've still got a lot to learn.  I'm a little nervous, because the two sisters (Hermanas Walker and Blauer) that are training me and the other visa waiter (Hermana Rohm) are sister training leaders, so they're going on exchanges this week.  That means Hermana Rohm and I are on our own for the exchange, on bikes.  Since I'm the only one of the two of us that has done any biking, that means I'm in charge of getting us around.  I'm only slightly worried that I'm going to get us completely and utterly lost, but that's okay.  We only have a couple of appointments this afternoon once the exchange begins, and we have a map.

As far as the language goes, I feel slightly more confident each day.  The hardest part for me is understanding what other people are saying to me.  They all speak so fast and tend to be pretty soft spoken as well.  Especially the Hondurans and Ecuadorians.  That's going to be another challenge for me and Hermana Rohm this week- without our more experienced companions, we're going to be on our own as far as figuring out what people are telling us.  But it will be a great learning opportunity!

I think that's pretty much it for this week.  We're headed to District Meeting right now and then making boleatas for lunch (a traditional Honduran dish... I would highly recommend it!).  I hope everyone is well and I send you my love.  Thank you for your continual support.

Con amor,
Hermana Walton