Monday, November 30, 2009

First Week in Puerto Rico

Hey everyone,

Well I am officially a missionary now. Well I was before in the MTC but it didn't really feel like it. Now it's the real thing. I got into to San Juan about 11:45 after a really long day of traveling. President and Sister Martineau picked me up from the airport and I spent the night in the mission home. There were 3 other sisters, a senior couple and one elder also there. So we had breakfast, I met with President Martineau for a little interview and then we did practice lessons and recording us teaching. My trainer is named Hermana Venegas. She is from Toronto, Canada but her parents are both from Chile so she is bilingual. She's been out 15 months. She is awesome! We were assigned to open up a new area in Bayamon which is a suburb of San Juan. Bayamon had two elders there before but the area is huge and there was just too much to do. So we now have the bottom half of Bayamon and a town called Naranjito which has tons of hills and trees and winding roads, it is so beautiful. We live in a little apartment in Rexville. All the towns are divided into neighborhoods ours is called Rexville. We live in an apartment upstairs from our landlords and it has its own entrance with steps on the side. Its actually pretty cool, our landlord is named Jesus and he had a dream a little while back. They had this empty apartment upstairs that his father used to live in and he was about to put it up for rent. He had a dream that there would be religious teaching going on in that apartment. So he woke up the next morning and went to the Mission Office and asked if they needed an apartment to rent. So that's where we are living. We are hoping to be able to teach him and his wife. We mentioned it to his wife the other day and she said she wasn't interested but we're going to keep trying to get to know them and maybe they'll let us one day.

The apartment is actually quite large. It has a pretty decent kitchen and a big area with a kitchen table and a table where we study. There are two rooms and a bathroom. One of the rooms has air conditioning so that is where we sleep and the other is where we have our chest of drawers, ironing board and a bookshelf. There is only electricity on the one side of the house but it's not too bad. I fall asleep to the cherping of Frogs everynight. Yes, Frogs. I thought they were crickets or birds at first but then Hermana Venegas told me they are frogs native to Puerto Rico. If its not Frogs it's dogs barking or Regatone (a type of music) blarring from cars or neighbors houses.

We were told that this area is doing really well, that's why they brought in us sisters. The ward is great, one of the largest on the island. The elders had 3 investigators with a baptism date that are now in our area. One of them is named Feni and we went to see her the other day. She loves the Book of Mormon and loves coming to church. She is so excited to get baptized. There are just two problems: 1. She's not married. She lives with a man and they have two kids but he is very proud and doesn't want to get married and doesn't like her taking the discussions. 2. Some Jehovist Witness missionaries came over the other day and told her all things about Joseph Smith and our Church that are making her really confused. She is just confused by what all these people are telling her and doesn't know what to think. We just told her to keep reading and praying like she has been and she can find out for herself and tonight we are going to go visit her and talk to her about eternal families and watch a movie with her and hopefully her boyfriend will be there to watch it too.

The other two women have been really hard to track down. We are going to have to move their baptism dates back because we haven't even talked to them in person yet. One of them was out of town for thanksgiving and she is still missing quite a few important lessons. The other one works on the other side of the island and is never home. So hopefully we'll be able to track them down and continue teaching them.

Other than those three we have no investigators so we have had to start from scratch. We spend a least two or three hours knocking doors each day or doing what we call unplanned contacts which is talking to people on the street, outside grocery stores etc. Well when I say knocking doors that isn't exactly true. In Puerto Rico not many people have doors that are accesible. Most people have windows that are like slats that open up (like Grandma and Grandpa's house in Hawaii) they have porches that are surrounded by gates or bars and they usually keep those locked and then go in through the garage. So we usually stand in their driveway or by the porch and yell "Buenas Tardes" or "Buenas Noches" until they peer out their window and ask what we want. This makes it sort of hard because people aren't really close. You have to talk to them through the bars while they stand in the back of their garage or inside through the window. The whole time you are yelling because there are so many dogs in Puerto Rico. Everyone has a dog some people have like two or three! They are all little tiny dogs like Chihuahuas but they bark so loud. I have never heard dogs bark so loud. So the whole time you are yelling and they can't really hear you. But we have had a few people let us teach them the first lesson on their porch but this weekend was hard because it was Thanksgiving and everyone had family there. We have a lot of appointments to teach for this week though.

It is so ridiculously hot and humid here! Most days it is in the high 80s or low 90s. Bayamon is particularly hot apparently. So we walk around I know people are like what is this tall, blonde haired girl doing walking around in the heat wearing a dress, sweating to death and smelling very strongly of bugspray and sunscreen. Sometimes people say things to me in English, just a few words like I can't understand spanish. Which of course I can't. Everyone here talks so fast and they cut off all their Ss and say the Rs and Ls super weird. About 90% of the time anyone talks I have to ask Hermana Venegas what they are saying. I really love it here though. And people are generally nice enough to let you finish telling them a little about the gospel before they tell you they aren't interested.

On Thanksgiving we went to a Recent Converts house for Thanksgiving. There were 5 other elders there and some ward members. It was definately different than our normal thanksgiving it was fun though. We had turkey, rice, macaroni salad, rolls. It wasn't too bad.

Thanks for the emails. I still don't have Rachel's real email. At least I don't think I do. Will you forward this to her and then send me hers. I'm glad that Thanksgiving was fun for you all and that Spring City was good. I want to hear about what Abby did on her birthday. I'm sorry Erin that school's been so busy but you're almost done right? Rach how's school going? Anyway you can mail stuff at the 500 Marginal Norte Address. That is the mission office and I will get mail from the district leaders every week at district meeting. Love you all so much. Keep sending me emails or letters. By the way you can take off the DR off my blog if you haven't already. I'll write next week.

Love you all tons,
Sister Barker

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm here!

Hey family, I am just writing you a quick email even though my P-day isn't until monday to tell you I am here. I got in about 11:45 last night and President and Sister Martineau were there to pick me up. I came back to the mission home and went straight to bed. There are three other sisters that are new and one elder. We met our companions today, recording us teaching a lesson and watched it and I met with President Martineau. My companion is named Hermana Venegas she is from Canada but her family is originally from Chile. We are opening a new area in Bayamon, which is a suburb of San Juan. So we are really close. It was so good to talk to you yesterday. Love you all. Happy Thanksgiving! Say hi to everyone for me. Happy Birthday Ab! You're 18 I can't believe it. Anyway, I'll write on Monday. Love you all Brooke

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I leave one week from today!‏

It's official I leave one week from today! So crazy! Mom and Dad I am flying out on tuesday on a Delta flight to Atlanta around 9:30. I have a 4 hour layover and then get into San Juan at 11:30 where my mission president will pick me up. I will get to call you from the airport but I don't know when yet. I think I can call you whenever so the best time will probably be during my layover. Sorry I don't have the flight details with me right now but I will try to write them down because I know you will want to know when my layover is so when I will be calling.

Anyway, thanks for the packages! They were great. Hermana Rocha loved the cheese. We put it on top of our salads that night at dinner. Sorry my email was so scattered last time there is just so much to say and not enough time to say it. Thanks for the dear elders Mom, Erin and Dad. I loved them so much. Especially for your advise Erin and the scripture you shared Dad, they really helped me a lot. Even though I love it here I'm not going to lie I'm a little overwhelmed. Not necessarily with the language but with the fact that I am leaving one week from today and we have only been here a week and a half. There is so much still to learn and practice. It's been neat though to see how Hermana Rocha and I are improving in teaching the lessons, we are getting better each time and I am getting more confident with giving them in Spanish. We have also been going to the Referral Center where you can talk to people that have requested Book of Mormons or DVDs or you can chat with people who get onto and use the chat feature to ask questions. The first time we went I was really scared because we were talking to real people. But I have gotten better and I was able to send the missionaries to a lady the other, and had a long chat with a man about the plan of salvation and the atonement (with my companion and roommates around helping me on what to say) and he said he didn't want the missionaries but would try to go to church the next sunday. I am getting better at not being so nervous and worried about saying the wrong thing. I just can't believe that we only have a few days left.

My district is awesome! I love everyone in it and we are all becoming great friends. We are all going to different places, all nine of us, Vegas, South Carolina, Chicago, San Diego, Colorado, Paraguay, Dominican Republic, and Kentucky. I am going to be with Hermana Rocha the whole time here and as of tomorrow Hermana Ruiz will be back with us because Hermana Ricks is leaving. So threesome again. There are never enough hours in the day here to do anything, we are going from class to large group meetings, gym eating and then suddenly it is ten o'clock. I wish I had a few more weeks here to get to the scriptures more and practice the 3, 4, and 5 lessons but oh well I'm still excited. One of my teachers, Hermana Walters, served in my mission so we hear about it quite a bit and I am getting excited.

Sunday was pretty neat because Kristen Oaks came for relief society and Sheri Dew came for the weekly sunday fireside. Sheri Dew gave one of the best talks I have ever heard. She based it off of Abraham 1 i think verse 3 and which says that we should work towards being a greater follower of righteousness and seak out greater knowledge. She said that no matter where we are in our lives we should try to do this. Read the scripture it does it more justice than I can. Also she talked about how satan tries to attack us in three ways, trying to get us forget who we are, not understand how to use the atonement in our lives, and not understanding the gift of personal revelation. She told us that if we 1. Know that we are children of our Heavenly Father 2. Know how to use the atonement in every aspect of our lives, both with repentance and also when we have trials and 3. We understand how to receive personal revelation then we can do anything. I love that! After her fireside we watched the Joseph Smith movie that they show at temple square which was really neat because Hermana Rocha had never seen it before.

Sorry the clock is running down! This is so stressful. But I just want to tell you all I love you and thanks for the letters and packages. Rachel and Abby I want to hear from you too. I don't have your email Rach so someone forward this and then send it to me.

Also I don't have my Puerto Rico Address. Haha, I left it for you and didn't bring it here. Can you send it to me in a DearElder? I would like to give it to some people here. Tell everyone hi. Sorry I can't write more. No email next week because I will be traveling but I will call hopefully.

Love you all so much!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Brooke's First Letter!!!

Wow! I can't believe it's been only a week since I've been here. I feel like it's been forever. So... where do I start? There is so much to tell. So I am in the advanced spanish class, which means that I am one of the few people in my group that are not native speakers and we only have 2 more weeks in the Provo MTC! So I came and they assigned me to a threesome with two other sisters. One, Hermana Ruiz is from Mexico City but she has lived the last 8 years in Houston, TX. She is awesome! She is fun and knows so much about the gospel, and speaks perfect spanish which helps of course. My other companion is named Hermana Rocha (pronounced Roja but the j is pronounced like a spanish j) She is from Greece! Her father is from Bolivia so she is fluent in spanish, greek and speaks pretty good english. She is really quiet and really shy but so nice. She apologizes about everything and asks permission for everything and she has only been to the US once before so a lot of things are unfamiliar for her. But she has such a strong testimony. Well on friday another sister joined our district, Sister Meagan Ricks (Liz Calder, she says hi and we talk about you all the time). She had surgery on her gall bladder and her district left while she was in the hospital so she joined ours and will be here for another two weeks. Well she became companions with Hermana Ruiz and so now its just me and Hermana Rocha. I'm not going to lie, that was hard for me because I love Hermana Ruiz a lot and she was the powerhouse of our companionship. She knew everything. Then here's me who can't speak the language and Hermana Rocha who is so timid. Saturday was especially hard because we practiced Lesson one for the first time, teaching this threesome of elders in another district. One of the elders kept asking all these really ridiculously hard questions to try and trip us up, so much that our teacher made us stop and called him out on it. I was so overwhelmed, forgetting everything I wanted to say and not being able to speak very well but there was Hermana Rocha, who just explained everything so simply and perfect. She was just amazing! I was so grateful for her. I am learning so much from her. She is from Greece, where the church is really small. I mean tiny. There are only 4 branches there and her's is the largest on a good day about 10-15 people will come. The other branches get about 3-5 people. Can you imagine? I am so grateful to have grown up in a place where the church is strong. I am learning so much from her example and I am excited as we get better at teaching.

Our district is so great. We have three other native elders who are in a threesome and then two elders who just learned spanish on their own like me.

I love the MTC! The spirit is so strong here. I've been here less than a week and I have already heard some of the most amazing firesides, church meetings and talks that I have heard. We study all day and there is not enough time for anything. I barely have time to write in my journal at night. I am learning so much about my purpose as a missionary that we are responsible to bringing people to Christ, and helping them establish a personal relationship with him. Its especially hard for us that are leaving in two weeks because we have to learn and practice teaching the first three discussions in the next two weeks and we don't even get to study or practice the fourth and fifth! I am really nervous to go out into the field so if you guys wouldn't mind keeping me in your prayers I would really appreciate it. I need all the help I can get in learning these lessons and then actually being able to say what I want to say in spanish.

Sorry, have to go running out of time.
Love you,
Sister Barker

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hey everyone,

I enter the MTC Wednesday November 4th. My family will be posting my emails on this blog. Please send me letters, I would love to hear from everyone and I'll try to write back as quickly as possible. I'm so excited to serve a mission in Puerto Rico. We'll see you all in 18 months!

Sister Barker