Monday, March 31, 2014

Maiz: It's What's for Dinner

Fellow daughters of Hra Escalante! I'll take Hra McCuistion for my sister any day! 

Happy last day of March! It's true what they say about March going out like a lamb--a sizzlingly, almost overly roasted lamb. But April is the hottest month of the year here in Honduras (the climax is la Semana Santa) (which is the week of Easter) so we're almost through the worst of it.

To finish up our P-day last Monday, Hra Cumatz and I definitely had a letter-worthy adventure. Upon walking home, she said: Hra Pickett, I want bangs. Will you cut them for me? So we came home and cut some bangs, and I said, I feel like these would work better with layers. And she said, have you cut layers before? And no, I had not, but I told her I was pretty confident  I could figure it out. So we cut layers, too. And you know what? It turned out pretty cute. So, sorry, future children. At least for your childhood, I'm not paying somebody to cut your hair.

Haircutting adventures! 30 Lempira for a haircut is overrated.

This week we once again had the opportunity to have divisions with our Sister Leader Trainers, which is always fun! The only bad part was that Hra Escalante has since finished the mission (Mommy!!!!!!) so she couldn't come, but I got to spend the day with Hra McCuistion, who was also trained by Hra Escalante and who is a total boss. So it was a pretty epic day. The funny part was that, in the evening, upon finishing our baleada feast, there was an awkward moment wherein we had to decide who was sleeping in the actual beds. Being the excellent hosts that we are, Hra Cumatz and I had long since decided that we would be sleeping on the mats that we had borrowed from the elders, but  Hra McCuistion and Hra Morales felt bad about making us sleep on the floor. In the end, Hra Cumatz and I waited until they were both brushing their teeth, jumped on the mats, made ourselves comfortable and yelled "Buenas noches!" Worked.

We passed another fun day of contacting in Santa Rita, complete with an accidental hour spent with an evangelical. Oh, evangelicals. They just make my life more exciting. There is a note in Preach My Gospel about what to do when someone spins the lesson waaaaaaaaaaaaaay off topic and you lose control of the conversation. We tried all of the tactics to get back on the right track, but in the end we had to resort to "Lo siento, Hermana. But if we don't leave now, we'll miss the last bus back to Copán." The plus side is that one of our investigators there, Carmen, sounds 95% sure that she's coming to Church this week. And this week is general conference, so that's a good week to come to church.

I am psyched for General Conference. Epically psyched. Just saying.

The big highlight of the week for the branch was a Branch Movie Night, which had an emphasis in inviting less actives and nonmembers (we are pushing ward involvement in missionary work). Hra Cumatz and I recruited one of the young women from the branch and walked way out to the member's home where the activity would be, in a suburb of Copán called Rincon del Buey, which is like Ox's Corner or something like that, but it is really far away from civilization. But we hiked out there to find this poor sister who now had the responsibility to cook for a branch activity with no one there to help her and she hadn't even finished making a meal for herself and her family. So we helped. We made a lot of tortillas and washed lots of dishes and got beans out of their pods. It's like of like shelling peas, but requires a little more effort. On the plus side, I now know where beans come from. So we spent about four hours there, went back to Copán to teach a little bit, and then hiked back out to Rincón del Buey for the activity. It turned out pretty great. We had a good number of non-members were there (although the elders met all of them first because we were helping with food--I think there will be some compensation blessings for that), we watched Finding Faith in Christ and The Restoration, and we got to sample this very, very good Honduran delicacy called Shepes. It's like a tamale, but just with the corn masa and beans. Really good.

And then on Sunday, one of our investigators came to church! It's the first time in six weeks that we've had an investigator in church! It was great! We went out of Nueva Esperanza to teach some lessons (which fell through--darn) and contact some new people. We met a sweet couple and their children, the fam. Lopez, who didn't have very much interest in hearing about the gospel but are avid lovers of corn and were happy to share their love with us, in the form of toasted corn on the cob (which is really good) and atol dulce (which is really not good--imagine white playdough soup again, but with sugar in place of salt). By the time we left, stuffed to the brim with two cobbs and a large bowl of atol each, we were saying "And for breakfast, corn! And for lunch, corn! And for dinner, corn! And for dessert, more corn!" Think Better Off Dead when Lane's mom is saying "French bread, french dressing, and to drink, Peru!" Because they really do have a drink that that they make out of boiled corn and cinnamon. I'll keep you posted on that one.

Well, I still love my mission. The gospel is still true. God lives and loves us, and this is His true church. I know it, because every time I testify of those words to someone here, the Spirit testifies of them to me. I love the Lord and I am so glad that He has given me this part of His vineyard to labor in, even if these trees are growing on very, very steep hills. I haven't broken my ankle yet, so we're good.

Oh, and next week I won't be writing until Tuesday!

April fools!

Much Love,
Hra Pickett

Monday, March 17, 2014

Wait, How Many Bags of Flour?

Arca de Noe! It's the best! 

The service activity was white washing for the communtiy. The calc took some time to figure out, but it turned out okay.

Youth activity: Edition Copá


Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Blessing of being in Honduras: I can't wear green today, because I only own one green article of clothing and it's hanging on the line to dry. But people don't know about the right to princh greenless gringas today, so I remain unpinched. That's a blessing.

Hra Cumatz and I use that phrase a lot: that's a blessing. So it I seem to be using it a lot in this email, it's just a habit build by the hundreds of times I have said "Es bendicion, eso" this week.

Last week, quite the opposite from using our P-day for rest and recouperation, we had the stressful and yet exciting adventure of learning how to make Tres Leche Cake. Before we even discuss this story, stop worrying: Yes, I will make this cake for you when I get home. Dad and Becca and anyone else who is living gluten free, start to consider now if this cake is worth consuming some gluten. I think it is. But we were taught to make it by a woman who owns a pulperia on our street and after spending a lot more time baking than we had planned, having a misunderstanding about the difference between frosting and whipped cream (which came from a misunderstanding about the difference between powdered sugar and powdered whipped cream mix. Spanish is tough sometimes), and very quickly redressing to look more like missionaries, we climbed into a taxi with a very large cake for a very bumpy ride to our FHE activity. There's a good news and a bad news to this taxi: bad news, we had puctured a hole in our cake pan and all three leches were leaking onto my lap for the ride. Uncomfortable, to say the least, especially when a couple of puppies tried to eat my sweetened condensed milk flavored leg. But, good news, the driver proclaimed "I will wed with this white girl!", so I am now engaged to a Honduran taxi driver named Charlie. But he still charged us a fare. Lame, fiancee. Lame.

Tres Leche Cake with our neighbor, Ruth. It was SO GOOD! 

Our district meeting was combined with the El Dorado district and the ZLs visited us as well, and it was quite enjoyable. Wonderfully spiritual and wonderfully fun. The best part is that we had a while to wait for everyone to show up, and there is a piano/keyboard thing in the chapel where we had the meeting, so I was playing hymns. I think I'll have to take up piano lessons again when I get home. We played the game most beloved by the mission, Noah's Arc. But we played outside and we put the chairs in a REALLY big circle on the lawn, so it was Extreme Noah's Arc. Pretty epic.

We've been working this week to cure the lack of motivation in our members and the really bad attitude about the church held by Copanecas in general. It makes my heart happy to read emails about people at home helping the missionaries. Keep helping the missionaries. Helping the missionaries is good. We visited our investigator Janet and not only got to meet her husband, but her brand new baby boy (yet to be named). Here is the epicness that is the Honduran woman: She went to a health center on Saturday because she was having contractions, had her baby at noon, and when we visited at 2pm the next day she was already walking around and working the home as usual (and looking adorable to boot). We shared a little message but then invited her to go take a much needed nap while we made her tortillas, cleaned up the patio (which is the outdoor kitchen and dining space), and kept her two girls entertained. It was a pretty sweet break to our previous citas, wherein Janet's neighbors said what I can sum up as "You're tacky and I hate you". Oh well.

Our big excitement of the week was a long awaited activity with the youth of the ward. Hra Cumatz has really been excited for this, because she teaches the youth Sunday School class, and she's pretty sure she has a transfer this week (but we still don't know). We spent a lot of time rounding the youth up and getting them excited to come, but once they all got here, it was pretty good. There were two goups: the activity section, being led by Hra. Cumatz and Livis, who teaches seminary, and the refreshment section, which fell into my charge. When my compa and Livis were first saying, we can make baleadas, I was thinking, Yeah. Sounds good. I can do baleadas. But then Livis made her shopping list and sent someone for the ingredients. She looks up from writing and says, "What do you think, like 4 bags of flour?" Important note: when I make tortillas, I use half of a bag of flour. If that. So using eight times the flour was a pretty challenging prospect. Long story short, my back and shoulders ended the day very sore from kneading and kneading and kneading this lump of dough that was bigger than Janet's new baby. But those baleadas were really delicious, everyone ended the night full and happy, and I was once again given my favorite green-light statement, "Sí, se puede casar." (Yes, you are indeed able to get married) It's a wonderful truth of Honduras: if you can cook good food, you have everything you need to have a successful marriage. And I've been told that I have marriage worthy food twice already. Word.

We were supposed to have district conference this weekend, but a power outtage and an internet fail rained a great storm on that parade. Here's hoping that general conference (only three weeks away!) will go better. Power outtages are funny--if it's already dark, we have to come home. So we come home, light some candles, sit out in the hammock and laugh about how utterly exausted we are. Always a good time.

Anyway, I love this work. I love this gospel. I love these people, even when they don't love me back. They're the Lord's children, and He loves them, and He loves me, so that's enough. I testify that this is God's work and His message, and that He is waiting anxiously for every one of His children to come back home to Him. That's why I'm here, even when it's hot and I am struggling to find my self respect underneath all my sweat and Prince Royce is trying to crumble my determination not to dance to that devliishly catchy song, "Darte un beso" (look it up, it's awesome--even if I can't enjoy it until 2015). God wants His children home again, and He sent me to Honduras to invite them to come. And I can put all of my effort into that.

¡Que le vaya muy bien!

Love, Hra Pickett

 So here's how Noah's Arc works: animals are written on slips of paper, and each slip has a partner (think animals entering the arc two by two). Someone throws the slips in the air, there is a mad scramble to snatch one and unfold it, and then each person makes the sound of their animal. Upon locating the partner animal, the pair then must run to an empty set of chairs. Or maybe it's not empty, and then you just have to wrestle the chair's current occupants out of said chair. It's a little dangerous in a skirt sometimes, but it's quite fun.

Shinanigans at district meeting: Elder Wing, Elder Lui (ZL), Elder Pace (DL), Elder Monge, and Elder Perrlman (who is also a ZL, but it pretty tough to spot down there at the bottom of the pile)

Monday, March 10, 2014

El Equipo de las Camisas Blancas

So here are our pictures from divisiones, but you really don't have to use the second one if you don't want to.

Eight months down of the mission! Except I've got a bad habit of rounding up, so when people ask "How long have you been a missionary?" I've been saying  about eight months for the last two weeks. But now it's legit.

Sweet experience from last P-day (which was already pretty sweet from the Mayan temple adventure): As I was pondering which box of descremada milk to buy (skim milk really does not taste good here, but we carry on) one of the security guards in the grocery store walked up to me, looked at my name tag, and said "Pickett. Jesucristo." And I thought, yeah, those are the two names I would like to be identified by. Cool. So I started talking to this guy about the gospel, even though I was in my pants and teaching the gospel in pants is always really weird to me. But cool contacting opportunity!

This week we had exchanges with the Sister Leader Trainers, which meant I got to spend a whole day with Hermana Escalante! It was a beautiful reuion of mother and daughter. But seriously, it was fantastic. It didn't even matter that we were climbing around the city all day (the streets in the city are hills, not mountains, so we survived) and that 90% of our appointments fell through. We spent a day joyfully going about the work of God. It was the best. Also, we ate chupuletas, which are like little dixie cup popsicles (I will be making them when I come home), so that made it even better!

We spent the next day working in a generally untouched area of Copán, which is the neighboring pueblo of Santa Rita. The elders go there with some amount of frequency, but this last week was only our second time going. We took one of the members of the church with us and street contacted for five hours. It was epic! But herein lies the beauty of the Copanecas: We spent about 15 minutes with one very nice woman, Paula, who is from Santa Rita. Sitting with her was a friend of the family, Manuel, who is from Copán proper. Keep in mind, there is only a ten minute stretch of bus ride between the two. That's all. But at the end of a rather nice but quite short lesson, we asked Paula if she would be willing to read our pamphlet, pray about it, and meet with us again. Pretty low risk on her part. She smiled and said of course she could pray about it, and we could come whenever we were close by. Manuel, on the other hand, started with, "Look," and then explained to us he'd been a member of the church his whole life, that being a member of a certain church isn't what brings salvation, he didn't want to take lightly the matters of God, etc. Pretty much whatever it took to shut us down. We like the attitude in Santa Rita better than the attitude in Copán. Maybe it will be contageous.

Side note: one of those arguments that Manuel made, that being a member of a certain church doesn't bring salvation, is one of the more common religious philosophies that we hear here. We hear it a lot. From everyone. It's not just common among one group, it's universals. The Testigos say that, the Evangelicals say that, the Catholics say that--one Catholic lady used that comment as the springboard to divert away from our message and then transitioned into why the Catholic church is indeed the one true Church. So I'd like to put up my witness here. While it is absolutely true that membership of a church alone is not enough to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, there are covenants that we must make with our Heavenly Father which are undeniably necessary to our salvation, and these covenants are only validly available through the power and authority of the holy Priesthood, as it has been restored through the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints.

Okay. Just needed to get that out of my system.

This week has been a testament to one of the lessons of my childhood: that we have to choose to be happy. (Shout out to the parents--turns out you were dead on) Time and time again we have met with people who are so unhappy. Maybe they have problems in their family or in their job, they have a headache or a chronic disease, young or old, male or female, it doesn't matter. They just aren't happy. And they would like to be happy, because they would like a break from feeling so empty. But the ones who are going to be happy and who get to see a change in their lives are the ones who will chose to be positive, to try for a little introspection and change, and actively seek out their own happiness. The ones who will blame everyone else, who will wait for someone to say sorry or for their daughters to start living at home again or for whatever (albeit good) thing, don't find happiness. They just feel emptier and emptier every day, until the good things they want don't ever come because they themselves are driving them away. When Christ preformed the Atonement, He took away the need for us to suffer. But we have to surrender our suffering. He took away the need for us to feel pain and sadness, but we have to let it go. If we cannot choose to be happy, the greatest miracle of all time can have no effect on us. Even though the hand of the Master is only an inch away from ours, if we never reach out and take it, we will struggle through our trials alone, bitterly wondering while no one will help us. Choosing unhappiness consumes the soul. Do me a favor--this week, do not choose unhappiness! Even if it seems like the hardest thing you could ever do, choose to be happy! Trust me, the difficult moment of that choice is so much easier than the time that is wasted in the darkness of self-afflicted infelicity.

Well, that was two pretty heavy topics in a row. Sorry. On a lighter note, we met the sweetest woman this week. Her name is Janet and she has two little girls, Gracie and Myra. She is also nine months pregnant and just about ready to pop. We talked about eternal families while we helped her shell through a bag of tamarindo (which is delicious) and then started explaining the plan of salvation as she gave us glasses of fresh tamarindo juice (which is similarly delicious, as is tamarindo flavored soda. It's just generally delicious). It turned out that she couldn't come to church this week, because of the combination of really bad molar pain and some I'm-9-months-pregnant pains, but she and her girls are very excited to come next week. Gracie has already picked out what she is going to wear. We visited yesterday afternoon with the intent to meet her husband as well, who had not yet arrived, so while we waited we helped her make baleadas. She makes the biggest tortillas I have ever seen in my life. The best part is, it didn't matter to her that ours weren't circular, that they are not of a uniform thickness, and that maybe there are little holes or big wrinkles in them. Just make them big and throw 'em on the pile. Her husband didn't make it home by the time that we had to leave, but we did get to feast on ridiculously delicious baleadas, so it's cool. Sorry, Vincent. Hopefully we catch you next Sunday.

Also, we had another experience with a local dish called atol, which is a soup made by throwing the tortillas that got overly cooked into a bucket of water and allowing it to sit for several days (at minimum). It is then served hot with beans, salt, and chile. It you can imagine white playdough being made into soup, that is pretty much atol. Can't imagine that sounding edible? Don't worry, you're imagining it correctly. I think it is a missionary gift that we can eat the foods we are given, albeit they are playdough flavored. But the sweet and very Catholic woman that shared her atol with us did so out of the kindness and sacrifice of her heart, so I'm not going to complain. It was wonderful of her to share, and I am grateful for that atol.

On Saturday night we had a branch activity with the first councilor of our district (is that word spelled correctly? I haven't had to write consejero in English for a while) and he brought his laptop to show a couple of Mormon Message videos. The last one was about two boys who are the captains of their highschool football teams, and the two teams are rivals. But these two boys are best friends, and the one was able to help the other learn about the gospel, meet with the missionaries, and eventually be baptized. They made the comment that, in the Lord's eyes, we are on the same team, and we are wearing the same jersey. Our member of the district presidency, Carlos, said that we are on the Lord's team to bring about this great and marvelous work, and that the members and the missionaries are on the same team--the White Shirt team. I testify that the players in this great harvesting of souls are not just those with a nametag. We are all on the White shirt (and tie) team, and we can each be MVP. Wherever you are called to work this week, I hope that we can all take the opportunity to move the Lord's work forward.

I know that this truly is the Lord's work, that this is His true church, and His true Gospel. This is when I truly can say know it, I live it, and I love it.

Con mucho amor,
Hra Pickett

Monday, March 3, 2014

¿Está Tortillando?

All of the guys on the monolinths have this same expression. We're not sure why, but I think every single one of us took a turn trying to imitate it

I found out that, even though this is marked as off limits from the front, there is a way to get within picture taking range of this statue from the back. But we had to be quick, because as I was smiling for the shot I could see one of the guards coming to tell us off. 

I climbed that pyramid. It was cool. 


I liked his guy's face. To me, it says, "White girl, what are you doing?"

Happy March! Here's something crazy: Next time it's a new month, I'll be days away from being HALF WAY THROUGH my mission! How insane is that? But we shall discuss this insanity further when I actually hit month nine, because I won't even be to month eight officially until Sunday. Baby steps.

Anyway, we had another full week here in Copán. Maybe it was a little more full of looking for appointments than teaching them, but that is alright! We have a couple of investigators that I am rather fond of at present, but most of them are very new, so I'll include more details as we get to know them better. There's a pattern of teaching here in Copán Ruinas wherein about 3/4 of our lessons fall through...every day. And at first I was thinking, "Oh, well isn't that just rotten luck! But that's okay, it will be better tomorrow!" But now it's more like, "Oh. Okay. That's okay, who needs planned lessons anyway? Let's go lesson hunting!" And hunting we go. If there was a missionary version of a Fishing and Game department (Like the Fishing of Men and Game department), the headquarters would be here in Copán. But as a proud member of the FMGD, I am all for pressing on!

Mostly, we use our unexpected free time to search out service activities. The people here generally respond a lot better to an invitation to serve than an invitation to teach. We wash dishes and clothes (one women laughed at me when I offered to wash her laundry and said, But Hermana, you can't wash clothes! You don't know how! I washed her clothes.) and we carry heavy stuff in the street, but mostly, we make tortillas. Lots and lots of tortillas. Pretty much every time we hear the hand clapping that accompanies tortilla making (because people here in Copán are super legit and they make tortillas with their bare hands) we yell ¿Está tortillando? (Are you making tortillas?) And then we go help. Imagine this with me: you've got your masa, which is ground corn mixed with water until it is in a playdough-ish consistancy, and there's probably about 2-3 pounds of that. There's a little bowl of water which looks and feels pretty grainy from the masa that's floating around in it. You wet down you hands, pinch of a walnut sized chunk of masa, roll it into a ball, and then start clapping your hands together. And that little ball of corn flour dough magically turns into a circle. The first time I did that (or witnessed it, rather) it was pretty much the most amazing and inexplicable thing I had ever seen. But now I've done it probably hundreds of times, so it's less incomprehensible. Still really epic, though.

The four of us as missionaries here in Copán Ruinas are enjoying the blessing of having other missionaries working in exactly the same area. In about three cases this week, we met up and taught investigators as a four person team. In two cases it was an investigator that technically belongs to the elders but we all visit, and in the third it was a family that we teach but is precious to all because the husband is our branch president's younger brother. We set a baptismal date with one of the aforementioned "team investigators" this week, before realizing that the elders had been struggling to put a date with her for weeks, if not months. The bad part is that, after going over all of the baptismal interview questions, she called us up on Sunday night and said "I can't get baptized. I, uh, just got married." That wasn't true, but we told her it's okay if she needs to postpone her baptism, and she destressed a lot. We're not sure if she's had this talk with the elders yet, but that's what teams are for!

We also had a pretty classic mission finding opportiunity this week: one of our investigators said that she had given our pamphlet to her dad, and we asked if we could go meet him and her mom. She gave us some semi-vague instructions, and we set out to see them two days later. But we took a right when we should have gone left and ended up in the wrong house, but what happened there? The woman we encountered told us to come back to teach her son and his family. So we did. Five new investigators, and a super pilas 7 year old who's turning 8 in July. Word up. We did get a little overly excited for a minute, because we thought that this new little hideaway of houses was going to be a min promised land, but after offering to help make tortillas with one of the neighbors (she gave us three to eat, but only because they were too ugly to give to her family, and told us we make tortillas like niñas), we realized that preparation to hear the gospel happens person by person, and sometimes family by family, but not necessarily neighborhood by neighborhood.

I attended a branch mission correllation for the first time in Copán this last Saturday, and it was pretty lacking. The icing on the cake was that we didn't have the keys to the church, so we had our meeting on the sidewalk in front of the church. Cool. We've all got our collection of changes we're planning for the Copán Ruinas branch, so we shall see what comes to pass here in our little corner of the vineyard. The most important steps right now are strengthening the members, building up church attendance, and making the branch more autodependant (for example, having a member and not a missionary teaching primary, even though my lesson on the First Vision this week was boss). If there is room on your prayer list for la Rama Copán Ruinas, we could use some prayer power and faith down here. But the Lord has a great and marvelous work to fill up every bit of the earth, and this little town in Honduras is included, so I'm sure we'll see miracles.

I know that God lives and loves us, and that I am serving as a missionary for His true church. I know He hears and answers prayers, even if we don't see results immediately or just the way we wanted them. The things that we need in our lives come in the way the Lord wants them, and His will is better and wiser than ours. I am so grateful for the trust He has placed in me as one of His servants and I love His precious children that I am able to serve.

I hope everyone has a wonderful week! Keep calm and carry on!

Love, Hermana Pickett

PS Happy birthday, Aunt Debby!

PPS Totally forgot! We were taking a taxi (which is like a drivers seat and a back seat built around a motorcycle and covered--I'll take a picture) on Saturday and the guy was a little bit short on my change. But we said, Here's what you can do to recompense the extra, and we gave him a pamphlet about the restoration. As we walked away, we had a total Legacy moment and said, Well, a man's soul is worth 5 lempira (which is probably just about that one penny that David Walker was short on). Legacy is one of the seven movies that we can watch now it is definitely the one that we watch most often--I just can't wait until the day I can watch that wonderful film in English.

I really wanted to be able to put my face next to these guys, but 1. I'm too short and 2. It's roped off
I really wanted to climb this staircase, but it's off limits in order to preserve the hiroglyphics that are carved into it. There are 2,200 carvings. How cool is that?
That field down there used to be where they played ball. The drawing is what they think it must have looked like. It made me wonder, will we get to the point that people have to draw and imagine what football stadiums were used for? 

  For my primary class on Sunday, we had a coloring activity to draw Jospeh Smith in the Sacred Grove. My kids' drawings looked like this:
 And then my drawing just felt embarrassingly elaborate, so I gave it to Hra Cumatz as a present. We will definitely be drawing more in primary. 
While the elders also make their fair share of tortillas, this week Elder Wing served a family in the ward by killing one of their chickens, all of which are afflicted with summer fever (it's a chicken thing). Elder Wing finally got his desire to use a machete out of his system, and we all learned two important lessons: Hermana Cumatz is evidently an animal rights activist, and chickens do a lot more than just run around after their heads have been cut off.