Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Week 9: In which I speak in church, eat Choripan, and invite people to experiment

Hola! Toda via es mi Espanol maso meno, pero toda via estoy tratando.
[Hi!  My Spanish is still so-so, but I'm still trying.]

I gave a talk this last Sunday (in Spanish, of course). That was interesting. It was only 5 minutes, and I was speaking about how the Old Testament testifies of Christ. I found out afterwards that I kept pronouncing "bronce" (meaning bronze) totally wrong the whole time. Uh, oops? I was pronouncing it with a hard "C" apparently, which I didn't realize. Hehe, yep. That's my Spanish for you all! Don't ask why I kept talking about bronze in a talk about the Old Testament.

The brother in charge of leading the member participation in missionary work, Brother Clive, is fantastic. He served a mission in Argentina (sorry Mom, I forget where exactly), and his Spanish is sooooo good. He's just a great member, and super inspired. This last Saturday, he organized a ward party. It was basically just an excuse to eat food, and guess what he made (it was the center dish)? Choripan. Probably not many of you know what that is, but I will tell you right now: it is a totally fantastic Argentinian dish. It's basically an Argentine Chorizo sausage stuffed in a piece of bread with this delicious chile sauce. Man... oh, I wish I could have more of that stuff.
This last week was pretty normal, which means crazy. Yep. Crazy is the new normal here. This is not the easiest area in which to share the Gospel, by the way. Many, many people are very set in their ways. I think a lot of people have the misconception that missionaries go around trying to force people to join the church. That's just not true! I suppose I can't speak for all missionaries everywhere, but our purpose seems pretty clear to me. It's one of the greatest things we can do: choose for ourselves. All I can do as a missionary is offer service, share my beliefs, and invite others to find out for themselves if what I share is true or I'm just crazy. Okay, I'll admit, I'm sometimes a bit crazy, but I've also actually tried for myself the things I tell people I believe, and I've seen evidence of it. If I hadn't done so, I wouldn't be here sharing it right now.

It's interesting sometimes how hard it is for people to just read a tiny bit and "experiment on the words." It's exactly that: an experiment. So many don't want to give any other belief a chance. I can't convince anyone of what I share; that much has been made abundantly clear. However, sometimes, when Elder Wunderlich and I share some of the most precious truths, the spirit, like a feeling of incredible peace and quiet, rushes into the room. It's almost like electricity, but instead of electrocuting you, it brings a feeling of peace and joy unlike any other.

It happened this last week as we were teaching a family. Brother Clive was with us. The daughter in this family has been really great, and has been acting on all of our invitations to her. She's read in the Book of Mormon, wanting to know if it is true, and she's prayed about it. She's preparing for her quince [15th birthday debut], so she's pretty busy, but she still takes the time to experiment on our message. She's even told us that she's felt that same confirmation of the spirit as she prayed and read. 

As we were teaching the story of the restoration of the full Gospel of Jesus Christ to her family, things were pretty rowdy. The baby was crying, one of the little boys was staging a fight between superman and robot action figures (I think Superman won), and people kept coming into the house. I knew that with such chaos, it would be hard to feel the spirit.
As I sat there watching all of this, I just looked around. I then bowed my head, and said a short prayer as my companion was speaking. I just prayed asking for the house to be blessed with peace as we taught. I looked up, but continued to pray in my heart. Seconds before I began one of the most precious and inspiring parts of the lesson, the account of Joseph Smith's vision of God and His Son, the house went suddenly quiet. The mom of the family took the crying baby outside, the final showdown followed, and the other brother fell fast asleep. It was almost all at once.

As I then began the account, the spirit rushed into the room like a giant wave knocking us all over. This was no normal feeling. I felt so much more love and peace. I could also see the other people in the family clearly felt it. When I asked them afterwards what they felt in their hearts, the father answered "tranquility." I looked over at Brother Clive, and his eyes were watering the whole time.

I don't have a ton of time, but I wanted to first say thanks a ton for the package! I love those suits. I've already worn the gray one (Sunday). Between the MTC and here, we've also got some pretty awesome Kinder egg toys. In the MTC we got a micro-squirtgun, but unfortunately it was in the egg of one of my MTC companions. We did get a launchable mini-racecar, a launchable top, a throwable thing, and a sweet plastic motorcycle that if you pushed it forward went really, really fast for a while. Unfortunately, I accidentally melted bits of the motorcycle by making it go so fast. The chocolate was also delicious, so thanks!

Finally, I want to share my testimony that I know the things I am sharing are true. I believe everyone has the right to worship how, where, or what they may. Even so, I have experimented for myself, and have seen too much evidence of these things to discount or deny. I love this work, and I love every one of you.

I forgot my camera in the car this week, but the pictures were not too new any way. I hope to give you a virtual tour of the apartment next week, though!

Love you all!
Elder Adams

Monday, July 18, 2016

Week 8: In which I play a tiny cello, clean up a house, and meet Prospector Bob.

Hola! Estoy muy feliz en esta area. Wenatchee es fantastico, y los miembros de la iglesia aqui son persones incredibles. Mi Espanol is toda via no perfecto, pero siempre estoy tratando a aprender mas. Con la ayuda de Dios, yo se que es possible a hacer todas las cosas. Este trabajo aqui en Wenatchee es un milagro. Esta ultima semana, los miembros invitaron tres persones a asistir la iglesia! Esas personas sentieron inspiracion, y estamos muy entusiasmados para visitar con ellos esta semana.
[Hi! I am very happy in this area. Wenatchee is fantatic, and the members of the church here are incredible people. My Spanish is not perfect yet, but I am always trying to learn more. With the help of God, I know that it is possible to do everything. This work here in Wenatchee is a miracle. This last week, the members invited three people to attend church! Those people felt inspiration, and we are very enthusiastic to about visiting with them this week.]
Bueno, pero mucho de ustedes no entienden Espanol. Estoy un poco similar con eso. Voy a hablar en ingles aurita, pero yo se que es bueno a hablar mas en Espanol.
[Alright, but many of you don't understand Spanish. I am a little similar with that. I am going to speak in English now, but I know it is good to speak more in Spanish.]

But yeah, this week was pretty awesome. Elder Wunderlich is a really great companion, and we match up pretty well. He is rather musical, and loves everything about music. He plays bass pretty well, though I have unfortunately not had the opportunity to hear him as of yet. He's also a Star Wars fanatic, which, of course, is really nice. We know bits about different parts of Star Wars, so it's hard to say who is more fanatical (but, for the purposes of this email, let's just say it's me). He's from Colorado originally, which is pretty cool. We get along pretty well, as you can all probably imagine.
I'm going to be able to play a cello today! It's really awesome, but there is one catch: it's a 3/4 size instrument. Yeah, that will be interesting. I'm not sure how it'll go, actually, because that's significantly smaller and squeakier than a normal-size cello. Still, I've tried out some pretty small normal cellos, almost that small, and so I may be able to pull it off. Heh heh. We'll see. After practically accosting the poor lady who is in charge of special musical numbers in our ward, I was asked (translation: I asked) to play a special musical number in 2 weeks. It's happening! I'm just so ruthless at asking people to let me play cello that they'll start buying cellos to get me to stop pestering them! Yeah!
I kid, I kid. That would be awesome, though. The members are so awesome here, which you will know if you read Spanish (or if my mom is so kind as to actually translate/correct that bit I wrote in Spanish). I'm always working on being better, especially at sharing my thoughts simply. I tend to like to repeat things to be sure others understood them, which is sometimes good, but sometimes just not very helpful. The most important thing is that the spirit is totally there as we talk. It just feels different. The way the spirit feels is slightly different for everyone, but it's always this awesome, comforting feeling of peace, love, and inspiration. It's very quiet, but very strong. It isn't a normal feeling, either. It's amazing how often it is present as I am a missionary, with a quiet confirmation that I am supposed to be right here where I am, and right now.
I feel so much at peace here, despite the craziness of life. As I go from day to day, I am constantly being bolstered up. The joy inherent in seeing the joy of others as we meet with them is very, very strong. I feel a different, sincere kind of love for every single person I see walk by. I just see people; real, individual people. The message I'm sharing has made me so happy, I want everyone else to have the chance to learn for themselves of the joy it can bring. People often look at us and marvel at how many rules we follow, but those very rules help free us to be even happier. It's funny how that works, but I have seen firsthand how it is true.
This week, I've met so many more awesome people. We have done a whole ton of service for a couple of people. First, we went and helped clean up a house owned by Glen, who lives elsewhere, but rented his beautiful property here in Wenatchee out to someone. Guess what? He was notified later by the police here that the place was in utter ruins. Whoever rented the place totally trashed it. The shed burned down, the yard was literally only weeds and no grass, there was writing on all of the walls, trash filling the house, the walls were molding and fading, and everything imaginable had been inflicted on this poor house. The renters then abandoned it entirely. Glen then came back, on his vacation time, to clean it up. It was just truly awful. We helped weed the yard and tear down the shed and fence, both already demolished by fire.
A couple of days later, we helped a lady to weed her garden. The next day, we helped move rocks in another lady's yard so she could plant there. The day after that, we helped a guy named Bob (I'm not making this up) who has a huge black beard and likes to pan for gold. He had a hole that undermined his shed a bit, so we closed it up and filled it in. It totally felt like we were prospecting for gold or something. I have never come across a real prospector before, but I think I can say I now have. He even bought a pickax to help us dig. I didn't know before meeting him that there is actually a gold prospecting club here in Wenatchee. He had an old beat-up pickup truck filled with gold-findin' supplies. I mean, dang! Who would have thought there were still prospectors wandering the earth?
We ran into quite a few new people, and it's such a cool experience to share with them our message. Many people just decline and walk off, but when we get the opportunity to share a bit of our message, the spirit comes very powerfully. Peace, love for others, comfort, and happiness. Those are the fruits of the spirit. It's crazy sometimes when you realize you're not speaking your own words, especially when you don't really know what you're saying. You just open your mouth, speak what comes into your mind as inspiration in the moment, and feel the spirit confirm what has been said.
I love it here, and am very excited to continue serving here.

Now, for pictures! This is one of the zone leaders who lives with us, Elder Call. He's new to this area, but a veteran:
This is me sitting in a chair:
This is the view of Wenatchee from the church parking lot:
This is some of the members of the zone doing email:
This is my trainer, Elder Wunderlich:

Aaaand this is the other zone leader, Elder Brassanini. He's Elder Call's companion, and they both live with us.

I think that's all. So, until next week! Les quiero mucho!
-Elder Adams
[Editor's note: The following pictures were gleaned from the Mission blog, and one was received as a text message.]
The mission president's wife texted this photo to Tammy.
Ben with some of the other missionaries

Ben at a training session for new missionaries and their trainers
Ben at lunch at the training session (Ben is top right)
Mingling in the hallway at the training session

Monday, July 11, 2016

Week 7: In which I arrive in Yakima, meet my trainer, and get really sick

Entonces, estoy aqui en Yakima. ¡Es incredible! ¡Estoy muy feliz, por causa de Yakima is bonita! La fruta es delicioso, y los miembros del barro aqui son fantastico.

[So, I am here in Yakima. It's incredible! I am very happy, because Yakima is pretty! The fruit is delicious, and the members of the ward (congregation) here are fantastic.]

Allow me to elaborate a bit. As you are all painfully aware, I am terrible at taking frequent pictures. This week was crazy enough as well that I don't have anything to show you all. However, I shall endeavor to do the best I can with my descriptions. You're probably wondering where exactly I was assigned. Well, heh heh heh. Patience is a virtue, after all. I'll tell you, don't worry. All in good time, all in good time.

Okay, where to start. I ran into my parents at the airport; it was pretty crazy! Crazy awesome, of course, but it was actually a total coincidence. As it turns out, they had a flight home from a family reunion near where I was training at exactly the same time on exactly the same day that I was leaving. They scheduled their flight long before any of us knew my own flight plans, but here's the crazy bit: we were actually on the very same flight to Seattle! They ended up treating our whole flight group heading to Yakima to a very nice lunch in the Seattle airport before we parted ways and I headed off to Yakima with my compatriots.

So, fast forward a bit through the plane ride (which was pretty standard, generally; I talked to a couple of people near me). I am now in Yakima. Woohoo! I got to meet President and Sister Lewis; they are totally awesome people. I had a short interview with the Mission President where we got to know each other a little bit, and I filled out some forms. Pretty fun. Afterwards, though, I had an experience I am not likely to forget for a little while. That would be - you guessed it - dinner.

It was heavenly. Not only is Sister Lewis an excellent cook, but she had a lot of help from the fruit here. The fruit here is divine. It's not apple season quite yet, unfortunately, but the Ranier and Bing cherries are to die for. They're right in season, too. Those are probably the best cherries I have ever had. Peaches are just as awesome; totally fresh and juicy, and they're not even quite in season yet. I had some of the best watermelon I have ever laid my teeth into, and the apricots are truly incredible. I don't know if I've ever really HAD an apricot before after eating that. We also had hamburgers with angel food cake for dessert. All with fruit, of course. The mouth-watering intensity of the fruit was definitely a highlight. I think I'm going to like it here.

Are you all hungry yet? Yes? Good. My goal is to make you all want to start drooling on your keyboards, because I nearly am even while thinking about it. After the sumptuous dinner, we had a little bit of training followed by a brief devotional. We then retired to our beds, which for us Elders was a little collection of mattresses on the floor. It didn't matter at all; they were very comfortable.

The next morning we all got up a little late (President Lewis told us to, since he didn't want us getting sick; we'll get to that later) to another awesome breakfast with homemade syrup and - that's right - more fruit. After breakfast, we went downstairs for a little more training, including a little safety video about driving. They even showed us a picture of some Elders in this mission who had crashed into a cherry tree and totaled the car. Ouch. More on that later.

After the training video, we went upstairs to find out where we were going. President Lewis opened up the map with all the assignments on it and told us to find ourselves. He had made the assignments the night before. So, are you ready to know where I'm going? Yeah you are! I'm in the Mission Ridge Spanish ward in the Wenatchee stake. Boom! I bet you didn't expect me to stick it in the middle of a paragraph! That'll teach you to try to skip to the best parts! My companion, Elder Wunderlich (pronounced wonder-litch by everyone, including him) is the District Leader, and we're staying in the same apartment as the Zone Leaders for Wenatchee, who are in our district. Their names are Elder Brassanini and Elder Call.

Oh, remember the picture of the Elders who totaled a car with a tree? That's Elder Brassanini. He can't drive any more, don't worry.

So, I got here, did a little work the first and second days, and had a great time. Then, the second night here in Wenatchee, I woke up twice at about 4:30 and 5:30 because I got - yep, you're way ahead of me - sick. Pretty darn sick, actually. My dwindling lingering cough turned into a veritable death-banshee-wail, and my nose was totally full. I felt pretty awful too; I think, based on an event on the first day, that I may have eaten too many cherries. My companion said I was sick enough that we had to stay in a bit. That, I tell you, was the worst! All we both wanted to do was go out and talk to people! I tried to go out the second day (Saturday), but I got really tired really fast. I actually hurled a bit. So, guess what? We went back to the apartment. Being sick is awful.

Yesterday I think I scared off everyone in the ward with my scraping death-cough. I ended up calling the mission nurse because my cough sounded so bad (and had been around for more than 2 days), and I totally expected her to tell me to call a mortician. As it turns out, I was a bit disappointed when she told me to do exactly what I was already doing and hang on. I wanted it to be something a bit more harrowing, right? Oh, well, I suppose I can live with my mediocrity at being sick.

Thankfully, I'm feeling a bit better today, and I now have got you all caught up. I don't have much time as I've rambled on a bunch, but I'll give you a few quick notes more. We ran into a girl in high school named Natalie while walking down the street; we told her a bit about our message, handed her a card, and asked if we could drop by later. She said yes. When we did drop by for a doorstep lesson, we handed her a pamphlet about the Restoration. She looked at it a bit, and saw a small picture of the Book of Mormon on the back. She then asked us if we had one of those books. My companion and I were a bit stunned, as that's a tad unusual. When we didn't answer super promptly (because our mouths were hanging wide enough for a train to pass through), she told us we should definitely carry at least one around with us. At that, we both answered that we did have one with us, and we gave one to her. She was surprised that she got to keep it. So, she's hopefully going to read a bit in that as well. We then said a prayer and left. There are other people, too, but I'm out of time now.

Oh, before I go, one quick story: As we were leaving our lesson with Natalie, we saw like 5-6 police cars pull up right near us, including the sheriff and a K-9 unit. Yep. And that's not all. We saw one of the policemen come out of the car carrying a fully-automatic machine gun and another come out with one of those door-rammers. I think it's called a key. As we left, one of the policemen gestured towards the back of a car, looked at us, and told us to leave relatively quickly. So we did. Turns out, there were about 3 policemen, guns drawn, taking cover behind the car. I think they were doing a drug bust on a neighboring house. It was certainly not Natalie's house, so nothing to fear there. I also am totally fine, so tell Mom to stop worrying. It was a cool story, that's all. I didn't hear a single shot when we were going down the street. Then again, the policemen did have silencers...

I'm kidding, I'm kidding! Well, they did, but my companion and I are totally fine. Nothing to worry about. I'm getting better from being sick, I saw a pretty interesting situation, and I avoided getting in the middle of it. We're all good here!

Well, time for me to go. I love you all. Have a great week; I know I will.
[Editor's Note:  Even though Ben didn't send photos, his "mission mom". Sister Lewis, (the wife of the mission president) has shared many photographs of the new missionaries arriving in the mission.  She publishes those on her blog here, and we have copied some of them featuring Ben below.]


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Week 6: In which I learn more Spanish, arrange to sing our hymn, and prepare to leave

(Again, no Spanish keyboard)

Hola desde el CCM! Yo se que mi Espanol es todavia muy horrible, pero estoy tratando a hablar con gramatica correcta. Esto es mi ultima semana en el CCM, y estoy un poco triste sobre la idea que tengo que salir mi distrito. Unfortunamente no pude tocar el cello otra vez, pero estoy muy agradecido por la opportunidad que tiene antes. Estoy muy divertido por llevar en Yakima. 

[Hello from the MTC! I know that my Spanish is still really horrible, but I am trying to speak with correct grammar. This is my last week in the MTC, and I'm a little sad to think that I have to leave my district. Unfortunately, I couldn't play the cello again, but I'm very grateful for the opportunity I had before. I'll be very happy to arrive in Yakima.]

My flight leaves at 10:40 AM from Salt Lake, and I can hardly wait until I am in Washington! I've arranged to sing our new hymn as a special musical number tomorrow (as a closing hymn). I'll be sure to send you all recordings if I can, as I convinced one of the sisters in the branch presidency to record it so you can hear it.

I apologize that this email is shorter than usual, as I've had a somewhat busy day this time around (with packing, etc.) The last week has been pretty normal, though. It was mostly just a lot of classes and reviews about Spanish. We taught our teachers a bit (I know it sounds funny), and attended the In-Field Orientation. Oh, man. That thing is looooong. It's about 8 hours of learning how to be smart when you're in charge of your own schedule. There's only one small break for lunch.

I've got to go pretty soon, unfortunately, as it's about dinner time here. Still, I'm really sorry I couldn't find more time today. At the very least,​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ I have a bunch of photos this time to make up for it. Hasta ver!  [See you later!]

Elder Adams
My district, with our teacher Hermana Vargas (in the middle)
My companionship with Hermana Vargas
The Hermanas in our district, with Hermana Vargas

A belated portrait of our New Mission President Seminar choir