Monday, December 12, 2011

Regarding the future of this blog....


To Sister Madeleine Ary’s friends and readers:

A new mission rule was announced which deals with posting letters from current missionaries on the internet. I will no longer publish Madeleine’s weekly letters on this blog, BUT Madeleine said it is fine for me to distribute her letters via e-mail. She has asked me to collect e-mail addresses from those who would like to continue reading her weekly missive.

If you would like to me to send you her “Letters from Slovenia” each week, please e-mail me [] with your name and e-mail address and I will forward her letter each week. I look forward to completing this small task for her and will send you today’s letter, 12/12/11, as soon as I receive your response.


Sister Madeleine Ary’s MOM!

Monday, December 5, 2011

My first week in Slovenia

My friends,

Wow, this has been an amazing week. Sometimes I still can't really believe that I am here.

I live in a small city (the second largest in Slovenia) named Maribor up near the boarder of Austria. It is a beautiful place with red tiled houses and onion-domed church towers and a large lazy river [Drava River] flowing through the center. Bridges span the river to keep the city together, and swans and coots swim placidly along its shoreline. We live on the fourth floor of a Communist-era apartment building right near the center of the old town. From the windows we can see one of the mountains and much of the city.

I can understand the language all right and can communicate what I need to say most of the time. When someone is talking to me, I understand the gist of his or her meaning and can generally respond correctly, though my grammar is atrocious. We teach English classes as a way of finding investigators and as a service to the people of Maribor. It has worked pretty well so far because we have about 9 investigators and four of them are progressing. This is about what is the norm in a place like Virginia where the work is generally much easier.

But it is easy to know why we are successful-- I have the world's most wonderful companion, Sister Oakley. She is a really kind, genuine, and caring person who is strong in her testimony, intelligent in the way she conducts the work, and good with the language. She loves the investigators and they can feel that, and she is able to keep the focus on the Gospel. She is a convert of just over three years now and will be going home in only about a month. I am really sad about that because I feel there is much I can and want to learn from her.

There are only 12 missionaries in Slovenia, 6 Sisters and 6 Elders. 5 of us are brand new, and in a couple of weeks, there will be 3 more new missionaries and 3 who are here will go home. So, in just a few weeks 8 out of the 12 Slovene missionaries will be almost entirely new. With the way the schedule with the Slovene Sister missionaries has evolved, there is a possibility that I will be training a new sister when Sister Oakley leaves (although that is unlikely) so I really want to make certain I understand it all now. So I feel some pressure to really learn the language though I know that God has been helping me out a ton because I understand far more than is expected of a new missionary of only five days. I've never really been that great at languages before so this is an incredible blessing. If I will be the senior or co-senior missionary in only 5 weeks, I had better be able to understand what is going on around me or we will be completely lost.

Our investigators are truly incredible. However, in Slovenia one of the biggest problems is retention as very few people who have been baptized still come to church. After 20 years of missionary work in Maribor, only 8 of the 55 members attend church regularly. But this is something that we are going to work on and I know that the Lord has a plan for this beautiful country. Elder Nelson just recently [Sept 6, 2010] [ ] rededicated Slovenia as a place for the work and in that prayer he said that it would begin to blossom. I truly believe that. The people we are working with are ready. We just recently found a new investigator who is completely accepting of literally everything we teach. She is incredible. And some of the investigators we have, two in particular, are just so ready to be baptized but for a couple of unusual reasons can't be baptized just yet.

I am so excited to be here. I feel like I am really consumed in the work and that I am facing a great challenge that it excites me to try and, with the Lord's help, overcome. It’s like a giant puzzle: why are things this way or that way? What is the root of this problem? How can it be solved? I have always loved being faced with a nearly impossible task and trying to surmount it. But this time is different because I cannot succeed if I do not rely wholly on God. It would simply be impossible. There are too many pieces, to many variables, and too many things I simply do not understand. I am in a different land with a different people of a different culture and the only way someone like me can know what to do is through inspiration from the Lord. So I must rely on Him. And, any prayers which you, my friends, can offer for the people of Maribor, would be wonderful.

Well, I love you all. I love speaking Slovene-- it is really quite fun. God is awesome. I already know I will be sad when I have to leave some day.

Thank you all for your love and support. God be with you!

Z ljubeznijo,

Sestra Ary

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I arrived in Zagreb, Croatia -- BRRRR!


I made it safely on the flight and landed in a foggy Zagreb, Croatia this afternoon. The air was so cold that we form little clouds around our faces as we breathe. The Mission President and his wife, President and Sister Rowe, are wonderful and very welcoming.

I am currently sitting in the mission home in the center of downtown Zagreb amongst all of their famous buildings and statues. I've already seen one Elder I knew from the MTC and am looking forward to the drive up to Slovenia tonight. My first area will be in a city named Maribor, which is the second largest city in Slovenia and right up [next to] the Alps just below Austria and Hungary. I've been told they have a heavy Austrian accent there. My first companion will be Sister Oakley about whom others rave so I am terribly excited to meet her.

I am exhausted, naturally, but that comes with the territory and all the excitement of being here is keeping me awake. I already had my first interview with the mission president and am leaving just about . . . now! I love you all! I will write again soon.

z moj ljubezen,

Sestra Ary

Sestra Ary's mailing address & postal rates

[yes, her address is 7 lines long...!]

Sestra Madeleine Ary
Adriatic Mission
Crkva Isusa Krista Svetaca Posljednjih
Svacicev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

Post cards
$ .98
First class letters
1 oz $ .98
2-3 oz $ 1.82


Before missionaries leave the U.S. for foreign countries, they are often permitted to phone home and so yesterday, (11/29) Sister Ary called collect from the airport in Washington, D.C. just a few minutes before she boarded the plane which would fly her to Zagreb, Croatia (the Slovenia/Croatia Mission Home is located in Zagreb). She was thrilled to finally be Slovenia bound and grateful her visa (and the visas of the other Elders and Sisters in her group) was issued. She told me they learned the Slovenian Embassy in D.C. is set to shut down for the month of December and had they not been issued their visas in now, everyone would have had to wait until January to finally get permission to relocate to Slovenia. Blessings are abundant for those who cry unto the Lord!

Monday, November 28, 2011

I leave for Slovenia TOMORROW!


Well, the day is finally here. I don't really know what to do with myself because I thought that I would remain in Washington, D.C. for another four weeks at least.

Today is my P-Day and I was having a meal after a day of sports with other missionaries when I got the news my visa had come through and will therefore depart for Zagreb, Croatia tomorrow!!! Zagreb, Croatia is where the Mission Home is located.

I have mixed emotions about leaving here. We currently have 14 investigators and I love them all and will miss them. I don't think they will take the Sister missionaries out of the Annandale Ward, which is good, since I don't believe some of our investigators would want to meet with Elders (they are single women and such). We have experienced so many miracles with the people whom we have been blessed to meet. Every time we go tracting we find at least one person who wants to learn about the gospel and seems ready to hear about it. Of our investigators, four are progressing, which is an unusually high number (people have a hard time deciding to do the things asked of them. It takes a while for them to catch the vision of what we are trying to teach.) I am really going to miss them as well as Brother and Sister Evans who have been so kind as to house Sister Holt and I, and the general atmosphere of Northern Virginia.

What a blessing it has been to be here when the leaves were red and yellow and orange and were falling like rain! Now the trees are bare, but the days have been warm like California, and the sky full of the strangest looking clouds I have ever seen. I am so glad that I was able to go to tour some of the monuments in D.C., and I wish I had a way to send the photos that I’ve taken of my time here to you all before I leave for Slovenia but I can’t for lack of time. I will be sending photos home as soon as I can by email, so it shouldn't be too long.

This week for Thanksgiving we had THREE Thanksgiving dinners. It was awesome. The first was with a member family and their member and part-member friends. They had spent a lot of time preparing for their Thanksgiving dinner so the food and the decor and the general atmosphere was incredible. I ate way too much even though I knew I would soon go to another dinner. The second feast was at the house of our Pakistani investigator (who came to church this week! It was wonderful. She really felt the Spirit and even cried during Sacrament meeting). I didn't eat very much there because I was so full, but I did have some of the pie. Of course… She really wanted us to meet her son with whom she is trying to set an appointment. We were careful to explain about the rules for missionaries and how we don't flirt or anything. She is so sweet.

The third Thanksgiving dinner was somewhat unexpected. We were going over to a former investigator's house to show her a movie about Christ just as was done for her last year but with the elders. But when we got to her place, she had not yet had her Thanksgiving meal and had only really cooked the turkey. Her husband's car broke down, so she had no one to share her Thanksgiving with. So we stayed and taught her the first lesson while she cooked the rest of the dinner and then stayed to eat dinner with her. She is really a sweet woman and we were glad to be with her in her apartment. We have another appointment with her soon.

Since Thanksgiving was last week, I am going to list some things that I am grateful for:

~My beautiful, wonderful family who is so supportive of me in all the things that I do, and all the crazy places I go. I could not have asked for a more wonderful Mother and Father and siblings. The Lord has truly blessed me in this life with them as my foundation.

~The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because of this faith I know who I am and why I am here. I have the answers to the major questions of life, and not simply because it is what I have been taught, but because the Father of the Universe has testified it to me through the Holy Spirit so that I could know within my own heart that it is true.

~My incredible friends that I have made throughout my life. These people have been here for me throughout the times that I have been slightly (or really) crazy, and have been people who have built me up and pushed me to be a better person. They are examples to me of how I can live, and how I can be closer to God. My friends are hardworking and noble souls, and I am honored to know them.

~The opportunity that I had to go to Brigham Young University, Cambridge University, the Jerusalem Center in Israel, and now to go on a mission. These things are by no means cheap, and my family has always been willing to support me in them. I know how richly these opportunities have blessed my life, and I know that the Lord has allowed me them so that I might learn the things that will lead me to be a better person who can help more people come unto Him.

~The direction God gives to me, even when I don't realize it. I have noticed throughout my life that things just tend to happen for me and they always happen for the best. I know it is not because I am particularly anything, but because the Father of us all is watching out for me. I am so thankful for that. I never have to wonder if I am doing what God wants me to do because He directs me in everything.

~The beauty and wonder of this earth. I will never get over how fabulous it is to be alive. Everything around me is beautiful, interesting--- a testament to God who made it. I am so grateful that though the Lord wanted to test us and to help us find our way back to Him, He still created beautiful things that we can see and feel edified by.

~The atonement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that the Savior of the world died for me and because of Him and what He did, I can become perfectly spotless again. I know that it is only through His mercy and grace that I am saved, and I will be eternally grateful and eternally indebted to Him for it. He is the reason for life, the light that infuses all things and which fills my soul with life. Because of Him, I not only am but can continue and can find perfect joy. I can never express my thanks enough for what He did for me, and I will serve Him eternally because of it.

I love you all, and I will write next from the great country of Slovenia. I pray for you every day and every night, and know that God knows you and loves you and will care for you all in my absence.

With all my love,

Sestra Ary

Monday, November 21, 2011

Knocking on doors, teaching about Christ and actually READING the scriptures


I had just written most of this email when mysteriously it disappeared. I don't know what happened to it. I can't seem to retrieve it anywhere and the trash folder doesn't have it at all. Unfortunately, because of that little glitch, now I don't have as much time to write, but I will endeavor to do my best.

We were able to find five new investigators this week. Four of them are a family which we met by knocking on doors my first day here and we were finally able to have a meeting with them. The 13-year-old daughter knows several of the girls in the Young Women's group at church because they are on her soccer team. It is really exciting to be teaching them and things seemed to go very well. We taught them about the nature of God, and told them that they should pray every night as a family. We also invited them to church but they weren't able to come.

In fact, no one was able to come to church this week, even though one of the families we teach had been assuring us for 2 weeks that they were going to come this Sunday. It was really disappointing to have no investigators show up again. I don't know exactly why it is so hard for people to come to church, but to help remedy this we are taking two of our investigator sets (one is a man and his wife, and the other is a family of five) on tours of the church building over the next couple of days. We want them to feel the spirit that is there, to know how to get there, and to understand how everything works so it is not so intimidating to come. We had the opportunity to have a really good meeting with the family who was going to come to church but then didn't. We stopped by their apartment to see what had happened, and it turned out that they had gone to a race for their 10-year-old daughter and it had been such a big ordeal that it took a lot longer than they had anticipated for it to finish. But we were then able to watch The Testaments with them and it went beautifully.

I really think they felt the spirit. Toward the end the mother was crying and she said she felt sad but she felt happy at the same time--she couldn't really explain it. Even the younger children became quiet when Christ descended. It was so cool. The Mother is going to watch it with her husband in Spanish soon so he can share in the spirit. We are hoping this will be a good set-up for tomorrow when we have our next appointment with them. We will take them on a church tour and will show them that this is what the restored gospel of Jesus Christ looks like.

We also have a new investigator who has investigated the church in the past. She is from Pakistan and is the only Christian in her Muslim family. She fell and damaged her hip, shoulder, and knee yesterday when we were going over to help her with her 95-year-old mother. We are praying she will get better soon and that she will have the willing heart necessary to read the Book of Mormon. We also pray she will make it a priority to know if the things in the book are true.

There is nothing at all we can say or do which will convince people that the things we are telling them are the truth until they undertake the necessary action of reading and praying. But when someone does do this with real intent, willing to act on the things they have heard and been taught, they will receive a confirmation and everything changes. SO it sort of just comes down to getting people to read. That is probably the most difficult thing we do. I am not quite certain why that is.

We went to into the Washington, D.C. for our P-day today. It was awesome. I got a lot of pictures but now I just have to figure out how the send them.

I love you all!
Sister Ary

Monday, November 14, 2011

Week 10: In our nation's capitol and AMAZING things are happening!


The week has been incredible. It was hard to begin with and is still hard sometimes, but something happens when you ask for the Lord's help...

When I am tracting up a street at 8:30 at night and all the stars are out and the moon is bright, and everyone who answers their door is in their pajamas and annoyed that we are there, if I say a prayer, then something amazing happens. It is as if all the rejection, all the rolled eyes and closed doors don't matter as much anymore. The night suddenly becomes beautiful and even though I am cold, I feel at peace and feel warmth radiating inside. I am happy to see the people at every door and even happy when they tell us to leave. I love the people I meet from the moment I learn their names and I wonder about them and pray for them. It is incredible how the Lord is able to show His love for me by making something as hard as tracting late at night into something I can enjoy. 

A lot of astounding things have happened this last week. We found SIX new investigators! We are "white washing" the area (which apparently means starting fresh without any investigators or former knowledge of the area). Therefore, every person we’ve found is someone whom we’ve met by ourselves through tracting. But we already have SIX investigators, and one of them is even progressing! It is so cool. 

Four of the investigators are a little Bolivian family whose mother wants the children to learn about how to pray and be closer to God. We have our next appointment with her on Tuesday night. She allowed us inside after I offered to help her carry in her groceries. She didn't want the help, but did say we could come back later to tell her about the church. Her three children speak English very well and sometimes she needs her oldest daughter, who is ten, to translate for her. But she is so kind. She said that she and her family would definitely come to church next week (they were planning to come last Sunday but it turns out that she didn't want to go when she didn't have what she considered “proper” clothing for her children to wear to church). We are so excited to see them again and try to keep in contact with them as much as possible in the intervening days. Generally, you're supposed to have daily contact with your investigators. We brought them cookies one day and they were really grateful for them.

Another of our investigators is also a man from Bolivia. He lives in the same complex and has a sweet little family: a wife and two little girls. He really wants to know God and to become closer to Him. He has been taught by the missionaries before but he said that they all ran away because he “had too many questions.” We were fortunate to have an exchange person (someone who comes with us to a lesson who is not a missionary) who is fluent in Spanish. She returned from her own mission to Texas in April. It was really helpful she was with us because she was able to explain all of the things that he couldn't understand in English. He asked us his first questions, so we have been studying them to answer him when we meet with him on Tuesday just before with meet with the other Bolivian family.

The other investigator we found is a wonderful young man who was kind enough to let us in to talk with him. He is probably in his mid twenties and he works for a moving company. We are relatively certain that he is in a gang, but he sincerely wants to change his life around. He said that he feels a great emptiness when he wakes up in the morning and guilt for the things he has done. We told him that the Lord can forgive all things if he is willing to repent, and that with the Lord he can have peace in his heart when he wakes up in the morning and peace with him always. He says that he isn't ready to change yet, though he knows that he needs to and he knows that he will eventually. He committed to pray every day until we see him again on Wednesday. He said that he definitely would, too, and even though he was embarrassed, he let us say a prayer at the end of the lesson. He deeply admires people who turn their lives around and are able to get out of situations like he has found himself in, but I don't know if he truly believes that he can actually do the same thing. We want to give him that hope. He doesn't read very well, so I don't know how we are going to assign him things to read from the Book of Mormon, but we will figure it out somehow.

We also have a family who wants to meet with us but who hasn't found the time yet. We met the father the other day while we were going to an appointment which fell through. It was good though because before that time, we had only associated with the mother and their little boy. There are four in that family and they live in a pretty small apartment. They are very family oriented, and the mother wants to make certain that her teenage daughter does not get in with the wrong crowd. We told her about the Young Women's program and are going to drop by a couple “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlets tonight.

There is yet another person we are very excited to teach. She is a friend of one of the ward’s MIA Maids [teen girls who are 14-15 years old] and she’s been reading the Book of Mormon on her own already. She really wants to find the right church because she says she has been feeling quite sad lately knowing she doesn't have God in her life. A minister from another church once offended her parents and they didn't want to have anything to do with religion since…but she still does. We are hoping to stop by her house a few times a week to help her with reading the Book of Mormon. We are going to have a dinner at her friend’s home along with her parents hopefully sometime next week. I am really looking forward to it. The girl is incredibly sweet and thoughtful.

We also had a lesson with a Muslim family. The son knew a lot about the church and has great respect for it because he said that he noticed that Mormons live what they preach. He wanted to know what it was we believe exactly and so we gave him a Book of Mormon accompanied by specific places to read.

We found a man who loves to read and is interested to hear more from us. He is a dog walker, so we walked with him as he walked someone's dog and we explained about the Book of Mormon and the restoration. We gave him a Book of Mormon and he assured us that he would read it. I pray that he does.

Another woman we met said she would come to church but then didn't show. We hope that she will let us talk with her again soon so we can get to know her better. Every appointment we have had with her she’s cancelled. I would love some prayers for help on this.

I made some cookies where I accidentally added 3 times the amount of salt it’s supposed to have (those darn abbreviations of Tablespoon and teaspoon!). So my companion and I made another double batch of cookies and gave many of them to our investigators and prospectives.

Our first investigator whom I mentioned last week, Dolly from Egypt, is having her birthday on Friday. I tried to make a cake to give her but it sort of epic-ly failed. It was a spectacular mess. So I think now we are going to give her a card.

I have to go now but it has really been a great week. The Lord blessed us immensely. It is hard much of the time, especially when people cancel appointments (which happens almost constantly) but the Lord is with us. If anyone wants to send me a letter while I am here in Washington, D.C., you can go ahead and send it, as I am fairly certain I will receive it before I depart for Slovenia. So please do! I would love to get something in the mail!

Z Ljubezen,

Sestra Ary

Sister Madeleine Ary
Washington D.C. South Mission
5242 Lyngate Ct.
Burke, Virginia 22015

Monday, November 7, 2011

Week 9: I'm almost to Slovenia, w/ a detour to Washington, D.C. AGAIN!

[NOTE: The missionaries from the MTC assigned to Slovenia are now patiently waiting for the Slovene Embassy to issue their visas. While they wait, they are preaching the gospel to the good folks of our nation's capitol and environs in Virginia.]


Finding myself assigned to the Washington, D.C. South mission was certainly a surprise. It is beautiful here with all the leaves changing colors and falling in carpets of yellow and orange.

My new companion and I live with the Stake Patriarch and his wife. They are so welcoming and helpful. They have had sister missionaries living with them for a while, but there was a short time between July and now when they did not have sisters living with them so they are glad to get us. No one knew that any of us Slovene's were coming until the day before we arrived, last Friday (the same for us) so it was amazing how well things were coordinated when we got here. The Mission President and others arranged places to stay, companions, area assignments, and everything else in under 24 hours.

My companion, Sister Holt, and I are opening a new area so we have no previous investigators but plenty of people who were once investigators whom we are checking on again. We spend most of our time tracting. I think because we are female, people are generally gracious to us but there is still a lot of rejection. The hardest times for me are when I know there are people inside but they don't even open the door or give us any sort of a chance. Fortunately, we have met some pretty amazing people. First there is Dolly who is from Egypt and is a solid Christian. She runs a homeless shelter and works to build up people and get them back on her feet. Although she is probably in her eighties, she is still really active, very vivacious, and very open. She invited us in to give us some bread with we were able to donate to the Annandale Christian Charities (Annandale is the city we are in in Northern Virginia). There she spoke with us for about a half hour about a variety of things and wanted us to wait hoping we could meet her friend Samira and taste her stuffed cabbage, and so we could try to convert her to Mormonism. When we meet with Dolly again I hope that we will meet Samira too.

While Dolly is our only real investigator right now, we do have an appointment with a mother of two who lives in an apartment complex we were kicked out of yesterday (we live with the Evans family and his father knows someone who manages that complex who can get us back in). We are meeting with her on Thursday – hopefully -- because that is when her husband will be home. If we can just get them to understand about praying, church attendance, the restoration and/or the Holy Ghost, and then have the father pray, it will be amazing. They have two children: a daughter and a son, and the daughter is old enough to go to Young Women. This is the primary reason the mother wants us to meet with them because she wants the daughter to get involved with good people who will keep her moral and clean. There are about thirty Young Women in this ward, so it should work well, right? I am really praying a lot that this new family will be willing and able to meet with us and that our lesson/discussion will go well. I pray for this with all my heart. We are hoping to have one of the ward members come along with us. She got off her mission three years ago and loves missionaries, and she has a little baby girl. Please pray that we will be able to have the appointment with them. I don't know how long I will be here in Washington, D.C., but I want them to know their way to God and their way into the church before I leave.

The ward here is so wonderful and receptive to us. They were really excited to have sister missionaries again since they have not had sisters for a long time. There were two different testimonies shared during yesterday’s testimony meeting which talked about this. The ward sisters are eager to volunteer to help us with appointments and we are glad to have them. We also got some brethren who are interested in going with us to appointments should we need them.

My next goal is to get the ward involved in suggesting people for us to teach. We are meeting with the Ward Mission Leader tonight and he will help us to know how things are going in the ward.

Today is our Preparation Day. We met up with the Elders for study, then played a little soccer and washed the cars. I had a lot of fun. Then we all had lunch together (pizza!) and came here to the library.

I find that I need the encouragement of positive stories and the scripture’s to keep my spirits up when the tracting is hard. Anything anyone can send me like that would be most welcome. Please just send it to the Washington D.C. South Mission Home:

Sister Madeleine Ary
Washington D.C. South Mission
5242 Lyngate Ct.
Burke, Virginia 22015

I love you all, and hope things are going wonderfully for you!

Sister Ary

Thursday, November 3, 2011

BIG NEWS: Departing 6 A.M. on Fri 11/4 for.....D.C.... again

NOTE: Madeleine phoned home at 8:30 P.M. tonight, Thurs., Nov. 3rd for a full 5 minutes to announce that all the missionaries bound for Slovenia will leave the MTC tomorrow morning at 6:00 A.M. bound for Washington, D.C. once again. Remember, all who apply for a resident visa to Slovenia have to appear in person at the Slovenian Embassy in D.C. twice before they are granted one.

Sister Ary said that the news about their travel and visa plans was announced just this morning to the Sisters and Elders who have been in the MTC since the beginning of September. However, since no one knows how long it will take for the Embassy to actually issue their visas, the missionaries will stay at the Mission Home for the Washington, D.C., South mission until their red tape is cleared. Her best guess was, "We have no idea how long it will take!" so that answers all of your questions as to how long they will be waiting in the nation's capitol, right? RIGHT!

As soon as we hear from her about a new mailing address, we will let everyone know. Thank you all for supporting Sister Ary as she embarks in the service of the Lord, helping to share the Gospel to a world thirsty to know the truth.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Week 8: My last week at the MTC (sort of...maybe) & quick jaunt to D.C.


What an amazingly crazy and awesome week! Before I write about my time in Washington, D.C., I have to tell you about the talk that Elder Richard G. Scott (a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles) delivered just after the last time I sent out an email.

He came and spoke here at the MTC, mostly about how we can be closer to the Lord through scripture study and prayer and so forth. But the amazing thing was that the entire talk was pretty much him asking questions to the people who lined up at the two microphones. I eventually got up, realizing that the entire talk was going to be people answering his questions with him commenting on their answers. So when I got up to the microphone, it was just me, Elder Scott, and the 2,500 missionaries in the MTC. My face was projected on the big screen so everyone could see it and was broadcast throughout the campus to the overflow rooms. Needless to say it was a little nerve-racking. But I had to get up there because I didn't know if I would ever get a chance again to speak face to face with Elder Scott, one of the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ.

He asked me to comment on a verse in the Doctrine and Covenants which says that you should not seek to preach the Lord's word, but first seek to obtain His word and then you can open your mouth to speak and the words will be given you what to say. I pretty much said that I believe that means that we must apply ourselves heavily to the studies that we do so that we might obtain the word of God, and thereby be able to speak it. Without study, we cannot have an abundance of the Holy Spirit and it is not us which teaches (or if it is, it usually goes really badly) but the Holy Spirit which speaks to the person whom we are teaching. So I said that with study, we can have the spirit and the spirit can then communicate to the person being taught the truthfulness of the message. He asked me a clarification question, and then I moved on. It was amazing though. I really felt like I was just talking to him, and like everything else was blurred out. When I sat down, I spent about the next half hour asking my companion over and over again if I was clear and if I answered the right question and so forth. I am so grateful to have had that opportunity.

And I went to D.C... visit the Slovenian Embassy.

You know, them's the Slovenian rules in order to get a visa.

There is so much to say about it but I only have 15 minutes left to write.

I fasted the day before I departed so I would have the courage to open my mouth and would know what to say. When I got to the airport early in the morning, it was just me alone having to find my way around. I was able to speak with a couple of people, help a woman find her car, help a man who had fallen off the escalator, and speak with a woman from the Philippines who works in Saudi Arabia. I wish I could have given her a pass-along card, but for some dumb reason I had stowed my cards in my backpack. She disappeared before I was able to get them out. I sure got them out for the rest of the trip.

I ended up sitting next to two Mormons on my flight to Chicago, so I wasn't really able to preach the gospel to them! But when I was in Chicago, I felt strongly there were a few people I should give cards to. I wrote a note to them on the back of the cards and gave each of them a card with a note written just for them. Usually the note said something like, "God is your Heavenly Father and He notices you and appreciates everything you do." I spoke with one flight attendant on the plane about the Ankh earrings she was wearing. She said that she loved the symbol of the Ankh because it represents eternal life and eternal happiness, which is everything that she wants. I was really excited about this, and so I wrote on the back of another card that the doctrine of eternal life and happiness is central to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that in this at least the Egyptians had it right. I asked another attendant give it to her because I wasn't able to get to the back of the plane again.

Then when I was on another plane, a plane from Chicago to D.C., I sat next to an agnostic astronomer with whom I spoke about the logic of the Gospel. I don’t think I did as well as I could have, but I did tell him that if he becomes interested in religion again, he should pick up the Book of Mormon to read. Then the same man whom I had sat by on my flight to Chicago, who happened to be a Bishop from Salt Lake City, helped me find my way to the Washington, D.C. North Mission President and his wife who were waiting to pick me up. They are such wonderful people, President and Sister Matsumori (I don't know if it that is spelled correctly)! First they took me to dinner. When we finished eating, we needed the check so the President Matsumori went to find our waitress. He couldn't find her, so he spoke with a different one. When he told this other waitress that he is a missionary, she said that she used to be an investigator of our church and she had wanted to join but her father had not let her. But now she was looking for that same feeling of truth and peace again and she was out of under her father’s control so now she could make her own decisions. She said that she would take the presence of the Mission President as a sign from God and wanted to be taught by the missionaries again. How cool is that!?! President Matsumori told me he was only there because of me and therefore said this is pretty much my first convert! Whoa. I actually did nothing, but he was really gracious about it. He is going to e-mail me to tell me how it goes with her. That was so awesome!!! The way it sounded, she is probably going to want to get baptized soon. : ) : ) : )

The Matsumoris took me to the Mission Home. The next day, after I slept wonderfully under their hospitality, the President had a fabulous senior missionary couple (who were on the first day of their own mission) take me to the Slovenian Embassy. All I really had to do was give my papers, my fingerprints, and then leave. Then this lovely missionary couple drove me to all the most important memorials, so I was able to see them at least. I was able to take pictures in front of the our nation's Capital and the Washington Memorial. They were so wonderful to me and so obliging. I really owe them a lot. It was a terrific experience.

President Matsumori asked them to take me to the D.C. Temple afterwards so I could attend one session and then he would pick me up. The Washington, D.C. Temple is just incredible! I was stunned by how beautiful it is on the outside and the inside. The stained glass, waterfalls, the walkway with windows overlooking the forest, the Celestial Room--it was, really was magnificent. I was so blessed to be there. I had lunch in the downstairs cafeteria and then went to the Visitors Center where the President called to see if I was ready to be picked up. While there, I spoke with the Sister missionaries who are assigned to the D.C. Visitors Center. They were wonderfully sweet and also obliging.

President and Sister Matsumori weren't able to pick me up, so he sent his three Assistants to the President to fetch me. They told me some fascinating stories about their work and really seemed excited to teach. They were also incredibly gracious. When we arrived at the airport, they took me to my gate and gave me some more pass-along cards because I had run out of the ones I had purchased from the MTC bookstore. On the tram to my terminal I met a woman whose mother is about to die. I spoke to her briefly about how we believe there are eternal families, and asked about her religious background. I gave her a pass-along card too. I really hope things go well for her and that she turns to God.

Then on the plane I think I really messed up because I had to opportunity to speak with someone but I didn't use it to talk about the gospel. Instead I just asked about his life for two hours. He was great though, and I gave him some pass-along cards too. I should have done better though… I hope he has another opportunity to hear about the Lord’s church.

Then when I finally arrived back in Salt Lake City, I was waiting for my car to take me back to the MTC. I spoke with a woman who doesn’t know much about our church but says she always notices something different about people in Utah--how they are somehow more thoughtful and considerate. I told her about how we believe that everyone is a child of God and is precious in His sight and how service is important in our faith. I gave her a card too, but I wish I had given her my Book of Mormon instead. I should have talked about Joseph Smith, but I fooled myself with the excused that I was too tired. I could have, should have done better. I ended up leaving my Book of Mormon with the driver of the car who drove me. I left a note in it for him about what parts he should read and how the Lord loves him.

It was an awesome time, but I could have done better if I had spoken more about the Savior and about the Restoration of the gospel. I will do better next time.

I love you all!

Sestra Ary

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Week 7: A sudden trip to D.C. and Slovenian visas

[NOTE: The application for a resident visa for Slovenia is long, complicated, and fraught with hidden pitfalls. Slovenia requires two physical appearances to their embassy in Washington D.C. as part of the visa application. Missionaries bound for that country have to fly to D.C. once while they are in the MTC, and a second time by making a stop in our nation’s capitol on their way to Slovenia. Because California lost Madeleine’s criminal background check, which had to be re-issued, the Apostille from the California Secretary of State was very late in coming. Hence, Madeliene’s companion’s visa application was sent to Slovenia weeks before Madeleine’s paperwork was even completed. Now it’s Madeleine’s turn to head to the District of Columbia.]


I am heading off to Washington D.C. on Monday [10/24] and will be there until Tuesday evening [10/25]. Therefore I won't be able to write my usual Tuesday e-mail. As I have a little bit of time now I received permission from my District President's First Councilor to send an e-mail today even though it is not my Preparation Day (a.k.a. “P-day” in missionary-speak).

I will be flying there alone via Chicago and arrive Monday evening. Someone from the North Washington D.C. Mission will pick me up from the airport. I’ll be staying the night at the mission home with the mission president and his wife. Then I will be driven to the embassy in the morning where I will make my appearance. My flight back is not until about 5:45 P.M. so I have been told I will be able to see a few sites (hopefully!). That would be awesome. A couple of weeks ago when my companion, Sister Tanner, was in D.C., she saw the Lincoln Memorial and the White House. I will be back to the MTC by 11:30 P.M. or so on Tuesday evening. An adventure! No Slovene, but that's okay because I'll be talking to some real Slovenian people.

I pray that the Lord gives me courage to open my mouth and speak about the gospel to the people I meet. I am so excited!

I love you all & I'll write again next week.


Sestra Ary

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Week 6 -- Fasting & trying to learn the language...learning the language...

Moji Prejatelji,

Kaj je to! I can't believe I’m beginning my 7th week here. I can't believe I will be expected to communicate with people in Slovenian not too long from now.

My Slovene is improving, but I am still rather wretched with the complicated grammar. If you want to learn about something strange and confusing, look up “Slavic Cases.” They are one of the most peculiar things I have ever seen, and they are pretty much the backbone of any Slavic language. However it IS rather awesome to be speaking a Slavic language because I can understand about 90 percent of what the Croatian Elders say, about 40 percent of what the Czech sisters say, about 40 percent of what the Russians say, and Bulgarians and Poles and so forth. It is amazing to realize how similar these languages are. With English, we don't really get a good concept of what it is like to have a sister language. English's closest relative is German and that isn't even very close. But this Slovenian is way cool. It is almost like the difference between speaking English like Californians do and those speaking with a heavy accent from some more remote part of the English speaking world. But anyway…

This has been a wonderful week. I had a "sugar fast" last week because I felt that I needed to understand the Word of Wisdom better (we were teaching it to our investigators). It was intense, let me tell you. Then, when I started eating sugar again, which was last night, I felt sick for about half the time. The candy was great though (Thank you Mom!) That Halloween candy really did make me feel loved. I made sure to share the majority of it with others. I have realized there is a high correlation between how healthy you eat and how close to the Lord you feel. I want to have a clean mind, body and spirit, and this partly entails good control of what I consume.

Now Sister Tanner and I are on an “English fast.” This means that we aren't speaking English at all for an entire week. This is our third day of doing it and it has been pretty good. Sometimes it’s a little hard because there are times when we need to communicate with people who don't know any Slovenian or Croatian, and they can get a little frustrated when we try to pantomime the things we're saying in incomprehensible tongues. A woman behind the counter where I was trying to ask for green beans eventually just turned away from me and loaded a plate with them, handing it to me without a word. I still don't think she understood what I was saying, but I was lucky that she was pretty much right…though I really didn't need that many green beans…

I still haven't heard when I’m going to travel to Washington, D.C. to get my visa. The assumption is that it will be sometime late next week because then it will have been about a month since we finally got all the documents turned in (thank you so much Mom!!!!)

So here is some big news: the church has changed the name of our mission. Before it was the "Slovenia/Croatia Mission” and now it is the "Adriatic Mission.” I think that is a pretty wonderful name, but the major downside is that no one knows where Slovenia is already and this won't help much. But the Adriatic is beautiful. There is some speculation the reason this happened is because they are planning on opening BOSNIA! How sweet that would be! I heard (on the wind) that there was one entire Bosnian family who were baptized into the church, and so this is might be some of their reasoning for opening it. If Bosnia is opened to missionaries, it is highly unlikely I would be sent there. The church generally doesn’t send sisters into an area at first because the priority is having enough people who can fulfill Priesthood ordinances. Also, Bosnia isn't the safest place in the entire world. Sisters still don't go into Serbia at all because things are still really crazy there. Also, Bosnian is almost exactly the same as Croatian, but Slovenian is a lot different from both of them. So it is unlikely. Nonetheless, if they did open it, it would be awesome!

Going to the temple today was just so wonderful. I read Isaiah 26, which talks about trusting in God. I also read Ether 3, where the Brother of Jared is asking God to make the rocks shine with light for his people to have light in their boats. I realized something cool there: because the Brother of Jared says that it is because of the fall that we are all continually wicked. But then, when he sees the hand of the Lord, and the Lord is about to reveal Himself to him, the Lord says that because the Brother of Jared knows that the Lord is the King, and knows that the Lord cannot lie--because of his faith, he is redeemed from the fall and can return to God. If you get the opportunity, it is a wonderful chapter of the Book of Mormon to study.

I have found something amazing. I discovered when I study during my personal study time with diligence--we have one hour a day for this--the things I study have a direct affect on the things that happen soon after. In other words, it always seems that when I study diligently, the things I study are the things I need within a few hours of that study. The Lord leads me as I take the time to come to know His word. I love that He has promised that as we come to know His word and treasure it up in our hearts, we will have the ability to open our mouths and say the things we need to say in the moment we need to say them. This is exactly what I need right now as a missionary. I know that the times I try to do anything without preparation or without the Spirit, I fall flat on my face. The Lord has chosen the weak and simple of this world to proclaim His gospel. I think I've said that before, but it runs through my head every day, reminding me that it is OK that I am so bad at so many things here at the MTC because choosing people like me to serve here was intentional. The Lord wanted to use these things to demonstrate His power, and to prevent the "greatness" of man from getting in the way of what really matters: the eternal Holy Spirit communicating with the eternal souls of God's children.

It is amazing to see my investigators, even though they aren't real investigators (though soon there will be!) turning their hearts to God. It is also amazing to see my own heart turning to God. I echo what Elder Payne has said--I am amazed at how little I understood of my own religion prior to these few months. Everything we do has a purpose, and everything we are asked to do is for a good reason. It all makes a whole lot of sense, but we can't necessarily understand it without the Lord. With the Lord though, we can come to see how everything is related, and remember that the purpose of it all is to lead us back to God so we can live with him in Eternity.

I am so happy to be on a mission. I woke up this morning just feeling giddy about the opportunity to go to the Temple and fell asleep last night thinking about the people I am going to have the opportunity to teach. I am so incredibly blessed. If you are in the church, I ask you to not be hesitant to share. The gospel can change people's eternity. It is the single most important thing they can even learn. And if you are hesitant, then study the words of God, and He will give you the portion which shall be meted unto every man in the very hour that it is necessary. Trust God, learn His words, and be happy. I love you all!


Sestra Ary

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Week 5 -- Living in the world of the MTC

Hello friends and family!

I can't believe that I'm in week five. Living at the Missionary Training Center is really just so strange.

Life here is sort of like you are living on an entirely different planet. Nothing is the way that it used to be. People aren't made as individuals on this planet—no, they're made in pairs. Seeing someone walking alone is sort of like seeing someone without an arm.

The day begins at 6:30 a.m. for 2,500 19-year-old missionaries and now, after having become so accustomed to it, we all spend our free time sitting at our desks in our classrooms when the weather isn't nice outside.

The intrigue dominating this culture surrounds desk stealing, flag hiding, and treasure map making.

Meals are a series of long lines and stratagems to make sure you're not in the longest line but you're still getting the food you want.

The world ends at 10:30 p.m., and everything goes dark, only to start again with a series of blaring alarm clocks at 6:30 a.m. the next morning.

The game to play in gym is “four square,” where the intensity supersedes even that of the basketball or volleyball games all around.

People stand in line at 5:00 a.m. in the morning to get sack lunches for their Preparation days.

And the most important thing that you're preparing for all week is talking to people (who are really your instructors but pretend to be investigators) thus helping you become a better teacher.

All of it is absolutely FABULOUS.

I cannot even tell you how much fun it is to be around these elders all the time. I have so much respect for them and everything they're doing with their lives when most of them haven't even lived away from home before. They're all so kind, spiritual, and goofy, it makes the days go a lot faster.

For example, one of our elders might get into an intense discussion with another surrounding whether bananas grow on trees or shrubs. It goes something like this:

"My grandmother had a banana tree"

"Bananas don't grow on trees they grow on shrubs."

"No they don't."

"Yes they do, and they're all clones of each other,"

"They grow on trees--they have wood. Sister Ary said that a tree has to have wood. Wait, what did you say about clones?"

"They might be like palm trees, they’re actually just overgrown shrubs who pretend to be trees. They're lying."

"Do you mean clones like the attack of the clones? I can speak mandalorean."

"Say something."

"weoikrwoenwe. That means a mandalorean never forgets."

"Yes, they're all clones, so if they get a disease, they all die."

"Did you know that mandalorean is spoken as a series of short words put together with dashes? For example..."

"Bananas don't grow on trees."

"I lit my socks on fire once because I swear one of them was possessed. I was wearing them on my feet."

"Why are we talking about this now?"

"I wore like 6 pairs of socks, and so when I lit them on fire I could dance around for a while. But I had a bucket of water there to put them out. So when it got too hot, I just put it out."

"You jumped in a bucket?"


"What if it was a chemical fire? Then it wouldn't have gone out. What would you have done then?"

"What if an alien came down and ate your face?"

And so it goes. That is sort of a smushing together of conversations I’ve heard over the past few days. We have been trying to keep it down so that we can at least try to concentrate. It is difficult to concentrate when dialogue like that is going on. Sister Tanner will be reading the scriptures and then start to smile and laugh silently, so we're both just sitting there with our faces buried in our work shaking in our chairs with laughter.

I took a little too long on that conversation, so I haven't much time to write. It has been a really good week though, and the best part of it has been that we've been teaching our investigators about how to keep the commandments and what they are. It turns out, though, that one of our investigators likes to drink occasionally, and smokes, and drinks coffee every morning. We were a little concerned about that until we found out that our other fake investigator is into more hardcore word of wisdom violations (remember these are personas that the teachers invent, they're not real people). We didn't believe him for so long when he was telling us about his addiction, that it took about 10 minutes longer than it should have just because we had him repeating the same thing over and over again until he was practically punctuating every single word. Suddenly we gasped in unison then having to figure out some way to tell him about how the Church and God can help him get through these addictions no matter how hard they are to quit. Now, I am not exactly certain what we're going to do, but he is really trying to change his life for the better, and sometime soon he is going to be clean.

We attended a session at the temple today which was wonderful. I LOVE THE TEMPLE! I am so sad that I won't be able to go to one in Slovenia since there isn't one within my mission boundaries.

I have been sick with a cold for the past few days. It has settled in my lungs and is making me cough all the time making me sound like a heavy smoker. Brilliant timing for the Word of Wisdom and forgoing tobacco discussion, I know.

All told things are great. I am probably going to fly to Washington, D.C. in the next 2 weeks to make my first required appearance at the Slovenian Embassy. That will mean I’m one step closer to getting my visa in order to live there.

I love you all!

Sestra Ary

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Week 4: What a WONDERFUL conference!

Greetings my friends!

This has been an amazing week. Hearing conference was just everything I needed. When I went to bed on Sunday night, I felt the Spirit burning in me so strongly that I didn't want to fall asleep and lose it.

On Sunday afternoon, following the conference and before an evening devotional meeting (which was amazing: The speaker was Chad Lewis who played with the Philadelphia Eagles, won the Super Bowl in 1999 with the Saint Louis Rams, and was a former BYU football player), Sister Tanner and I walked up to the temple grounds where we memorized a scripture in Slovenian.

Then after the incredible devotional--where this tough, famous football player spoke of how much he loves his wife and how his wife is the best thing he has ever had, and his children the most important thing to him--we watched the movie, “The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd” in the large auditorium. The last five minutes, as those who have seen this film know, are probably the best and most powerful moments of any movie I have ever seen. When Jesus touches Helam's face, I couldn’t help but feel the Spirit so strongly, and want more than anything to be with my Savior. I will do anything for Him. He is my light and my life, my Redeemer, my All.

When I was about to fall asleep, the words of the conference talks played through my head and the image of Jesus descending to Bountiful Temple, as well as the words of the scripture I had memorized. Every time I thought about those words, my heart wanted to sing. I repeated them so many times, feeling the comfort and peace and love of the Spirit of God. I know this is true. And what JOY it brings me! What absolute happiness and peace! Oh, I want nothing more than to be clean, a pure vessel of light from God to the people of this world, helping them to see that they are not alone, they are loved with a deep and pure love which transcends understanding and which can fill their lives so that all that is dark is cast away and they can hardly stand the joy that fills them. I feel this joy, I bask in it here, and I am just so continually grateful for everything my great God, my Father, has allowed me.

“Ja, Resnicno, Povem Vam, ce boste prisli k meni, boste imeli vecno zivljenje, glejte, ponujena vam je moja roka vzmilosjenje, in kdor koli bo prisel ga bom sprejel, in blagor tem predejo k meni.” 3 Nefi 9:14

“Oh, truth, I share with you, if you come to me, you will have eternal life, extended is my arm of mercy, and whosoever will come, him will I receive, and blessed are those who come unto me.” 3 Nephi 9:14

(FYI: There are a lot more commas in Slovenian than English!)

I am so grateful that I am allowed to go to the temple here in Provo. It is such a blessing. We're going to attend a session there in a few minutes and I am so excited! I wish so much that everyone I knew believed and felt this for themselves, and could enter the temple of God. If they would come unto Christ, be forgiven, and follow His path of faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end, they could receive every blessing that God has to offer. They could feel the immense and indescribable joy that comes with the Gospel and the constant companion of the Holy Ghost.

Conference was wonderful. It was amazing to sit there in a room with 2,000 other missionaries and to hear the words from the prophets and general authorities. All of the sessions’ talks are online now, so anyone can see them. I would suggest to every girl I know to see the talk by Elder Uchtdorf. It was perfect for women; just what we need to hear and remember.

I know that I should talk about what has happened this week other than this all, but since I don't have much time, I wanted to focus this letter on what is truly important.

My companion, Sister Tanner, is currently in Washington, D.C. for visa stuff, and I will probably be flying out there as soon as Jaime at the Church’s Travel Service office receives all my visa documents and has sent it to the Slovenian Embassy in D.C. We have to make two physical appearances at that D.C. embassy in order to be issued a Slovenian visa. It is sort of ridiculous. Slovenia is the only country that requires this.

Did you know that Slovenia has the word love in it? SWEET!

I love all of you! Thank you to everyone who has sent me letters, every one of them makes me so happy!

z ljubezen,
Sister Ary

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Week 3: Still in the MTC but an adventure today!

We learned that Madeleine's request for a Criminal Background Check from California never arrived. Therefore, Madeleine's Slovenian visa application is seriously stalled. The Church's Travel Office instructed her to phone me to figure out which forms are still missing and how we could reconstruct the whatever items are necessary for her visa application to be completed.


Today has been an adventure, the biggest adventure of my week. I had to phone my home plus I left the Missionary Training Center campus for about an hour. Speaking to Mom on the phone today was great, though stressful because of the stuff we're trying to figure out. Then going off campus.... that was something!

We took a shuttle to the Provo Police Station and I had accidentally left my name-tag at the front desk so I was wandering around the police station without one. Sister Tanner had hers though, so things were good. It took the woman at the front window of the police station about 5 minutes to do my police background check. Compare that to the two week wait that they have in California. And the fee was 10 dollars, not $60 like it is in California. Good grief! But it was nice to drive around Provo a bit and see the place where I resided the majority of the last three years. It’s hard to believe all my friends are just down the street but I never see them even though I’m in Provo too. The MTC seems like a different city, actually a different world. And when we go to the Provo Temple it seems like I couldn’t possibly be in Provo—my life is so different from when I lived here as a student going to BYU.

Our meetings with the investigators have been off and on. Some of the time we are really able to invite the Spirit and have a wonderful meeting with them. I love those times; they're definitely the best parts of the week. But there never seems to be enough time in a day to plan for our meetings and still learn Slovenian. Even as our language becomes better, we're constantly reminded of how little we can actually say. We probably know a couple of hundred vocabulary words and now we're learning how to apply them. Cases are the primary structure of Slovenian and most Eastern European grammar, and that's something that doesn't even exist in any form in English. It makes things considerably more complicated until we really get the graphs down and learn how to use them well.

There are SO MANY graphs to memorize! We sit in the classroom for most of our waking hours, with the little seats and these slanted desks off which everything falls. I sit by the window and have a view of Mount Timpanogas as the sun rises and strikes the southeastern side and throughout the day until the last pink rays vanish. It is a strange thing to know that I've seen the entire progression of the light on the mountains throughout a day from sunrise to sunset--from the same position. But we learn so much here so fast and we have such dedicated teachers. Sister Kelly, one of our teachers, has been just wonderful with Sister Tanner and I and comforting us when we're feeling like we're not doing as well as we should be. Sister Okoren, who used to play the part of our first investigator, is really intense about wanting us to just say what we're doing and mean it, and to not be afraid. Brother Johnson is probably the best Slovene speaker that the mission has produced in at least 6 years (so says sister Okoren) and so he is a great asset to us when we're confused about anything with the language. Besides, he is always really excited about what he teaches when he teaches about the language, and so it is pretty great to have him as a teacher. We don't feel like we're getting through to him with the gospel yet, so we're hoping to fixing that. (He is playing our shy Slovene investigator, Milan).

You know, having multiple investigators throughout the week role-playing the part of real Slovenes is a new addition to the MTC. It only changed as recently as August. It means that we have a lot less time on our hands to mess around because we have to be planning all the time for the two lessons we have to teach per day. And if we don't do well by making the gospel relevant to the investigator or by helping them to see the benefit of it in their life and how they can make a connection with God themselves, then the investigator will ask us to stop coming. Which means there are real consequences for not doing well. This already happened to the Slovene Elders and Sister Tanner and I are terrified that it will happen to us. We hope so much that the Lord will be with us. I know that these aren't real investigators, but we know this is much what it will be like in the mission field of Slovenia so it is important to us that we learn how to teach well and help people find their way to God.

I don't think I've ever said this, but the sister who sleeps on the bunk bed above me is the same sister that I met at IHOP when I was having breakfast there with my Mother and friends the morning I entered the MTC. She is going to go to the Czech Republic for her mission and she is awesome. All the other sisters in our residence hall are awesome. They’re all going to the Czech Prague Mission and they're all friendly and focused. Everyone desires to be obedient so we start quiet time and go to bed on time practically every night. We also always get up before 6.30 A.M., which is wake up time. It feels great. Every night we have a group prayer together and then we each say something about the person who said the prayer aloud. This week was “colors,” and I was shocked by the colors people assigned me: I got maroon, magenta, red, bright purple, and pink. I did not anticipate that at all.

Remember how last week I wrote that Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke to us? Well this week Elder Russell M. Nelson was our guest speaker. It was so cool! He spoke of the Book of Mormon and about how it is relevant and necessary in our work. Specifically he talked about the new special issue of the Ensign magazine that focuses on the Book of Mormon this month (Ensign, October 2011). He told us it's an incredible resource for us and that it must be a keepsake for every missionary. We were all given one issue of next month’s Ensign. AND there is an article specifically about the Book of Mormon being translated into Slovenian! How cool is that? It was so awesome to read – an entire article about Slovenia! :) Everyone should read it.

I am not worried about the fact that I’m going to be here for another 6 weeks. Like I said, time is weird here so I don't think it will feel like 6 more weeks. It hasn't even felt like three weeks so far. I don't know what it has felt like… Just time outside of time, I guess.

But I am learning so much. This is awesome.

Vse moj ljubezen,

Sestra Ary

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

WEEK 2: From the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT

Hello everyone!

I am so happy to be here. The first few days were as hard as everyone said they would be, what with the language being the only thing spoken and the immediate teaching opportunities in Slovenian and all new people and having a companion with you constantly and everything. But my goodness, I have never been so close to the Spirit in my life. I feel like it is all around me all the time and that in particular when I am going to the teaching opportunities the Spirit speaks through us so even with our dreadful Slovenian, the investigators can understand that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them, and that they are important, and that their life can change if they want it to. They can over come everything they have been facing, and they can go forth with the light and knowledge of truth, their hearts and minds turned to a loving creator and the Savior of the world. It is so beautiful to see them become interested in the lessons as we speak truth and the Spirit speaks to their hearts, explaining what we don't have the capacity to say. I know so much more Slovenian, but there were two days last week that we didn't have an investigator so my learning stalled because I didn't have the pressure of needing to speak for a half hour straight.

I am working with two of the Elders in my district on a song that we are planning an audition to perform in the MTC devotional. We are singing, "Abide With Me, Tis Eventide." One of the elders is fabulous on the piano, and the Elder I am singing with Starsina (Elder) Mills, has a beautiful tenor voice. I sing the first voice as a solo, then he joins in the chorus, then he sings the second verse and I join him in the chorus, then we sing in unison and a capella the third verse, and then sing a rousing last chorus together and a capella on the last phrase "tis eventide…." It is a wonderful song to sing and I really hope we are chosen from the audition. I would love to have this opportunity to perform.

Did I tell you last time that Elder Russell M. Ballard came to our Tuesday evening devotional? I don't think I did because the devotional was the evening after I wrote to you. He was awesome. We are never told who will be speaking beforehand and if it is going to be an Apostle, we can only guess because they don't show who it is up on the giant screens until only seconds before the speaker begins. I was sitting in the choir (which was huge! 400 missionaries, 4/5ths of which were Elders) and suddenly, when the doors opened, everyone in the front stood. Then it was Elder Ballard who entered! It was awesome. He spoke about how we need to be our first converts and what we are learning from being on a Mission. I wrote a lot of notes. It was fabulous. Everyone was so excited that he was there.

Yesterday we had the first new investigator. It was one of our Slovenian teachers, Brat (Brother) Johnson, but he was playing the part of a Slovene named Milan. It is amazing how little he seemed like himself when he was doing the part because I really felt like I was teaching Milan and not my teacher. We knew nothing about him when we knocked on the door, so we were expected, through asking questions and trying to figure out through what he answered in Slovenian, what part of the Gospel he most needed to hear at that time. It was intense, but the Spirit really was there to help us. I felt strongly that he knew that what we were saying was true, and that he could feel the Spirit as we spoke. It was a beautiful experience. I floated on a cloud the whole rest of the evening and even dreamed about teaching investigators last night. It is such a joy to teach, I cannot even believe it. And the best part is that it doesn't even really matter how good I am at Slovenian or anything else. What matters is how much the Spirit is there and what he communicates to the investigator. As long as the Spirit is present, the investigator will learn, and I don't have to panic about failing. Only when the Spirit is not there is there a problem.

The food is getting a little intense here, meaning, I am getting tired of it already. They try to have a lot of variety, but when you eat from the same cafeteria every day for every meal, it can get repetitive. Fortunately, we have been making friends with the wonderful Elders in our district and so it makes the meal seem not as bad. I am still hungry all the time of course, but I am trying very hard to eat healthy food and not overeat. Our cafeteria is like Jerusalem at rush hour, meaning I always feel like I’m about to get into a head on collision with one of the various heavy-laden tray carrying Elders. Seems I always suffer at least a couple of fender benders. It is ridiculous. We only get a half hour to eat every meal, which is not enough time when you are me and you (apparently,) eat quite slowly. An Elder sitting across from me can finish two hamburgers, a plate of French fries, a bowl of ice cream, a banana, and four cups of Gatorade in the time it takes me to finish a salad! I'm even slower than my companion, and it's not like she has abnormally fast eating skills or anything.

Relief Society this week was wonderful again and so was a workshop we had on Friday. Once again, the things I am praying about are the things I am taught. This week I prayed about developing a stronger testimony of the Joseph Smith story and then we had a workshop only on that and I really felt a peace and joy about it, the Spirit testifying to me of its truth. It was just fabulous.

One of the Elders said that my Sacrament meeting talk last week about olives, olive oil and the symbolism with Christ and the Atonement was the answer to one of his prayers. It was amazing, he said, because he had spent a lot of time wondering why it is that we use oil when giving a blessing to heal the sick. He said that was a question that had bothered him for a while and that it was answered during my talk when he realized that it is a symbol of Christ and His atonement, and the healing power of the Atonement. It made me so happy to be part of the answer to someone's prayer.

I am so glad that I am here. I am learning SO MUCH!!!!! !! It is the COOLEST THING EVER!!!!!!!!! Thank you to everyone who supports me. I want nothing more than to keep learning and serving.

Z moj ljubezen,

Sestra Ary

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

1st week of my mission


I have been here in the Missionary Training Center (MTC) for less than a week so far but things are already so different from how they were before and I have learned so much. I can now pray, speak, and bear testimony in Slovenian, as well as teach a lesson (which I've done three times now to varying degrees of success). I have a wonderful companion. Her name is Sister Tanner and she is from North Hollywood. I know, what are the chances? She is a BYU-Idaho student and is planning to be an English teacher when she graduates from college. She is a really determined person with a wonderful, bright face and vibrant green eyes. It is fabulous to be a companion with someone who wants to learn the language as much as I do and who is as determined to succeed. She and I have been through a lot already together, several ups and downs, and I am learning a lot from her. It is “Preparation Day” today, and I am writing this in the laundry room (the biggest laundry room I have ever seen). But, let me start at the beginning…

The first day was extremely intense. Actually, everything about the first few days was intense. It felt like an absolute eternity from Wednesday to Saturday. When we arrived immediately our Slovenian teachers (who only spoke in Slovenian from the first moment onward) greeted us. It was more than a little discombobulating. First up was a meeting with the Mission Presidency and all the new Elders and Sisters. There are several hundred of us. Following the meeting, we were sent to dinner and then to unpack before our first real Slovenian class.

Every class is three hours long and we have two classes a day, five days a week. After classes we have personal and companion study, then language study. All of it has to be done in the classroom, which means we spend about 10.5 hours every day in the same room. The rest of the time we are either in the gym, eating, sleeping, or getting ready for any of the above. Time to write in my journal is even limited. Ten and one half hours in class in a single day is enough to start to drive one crazy, and it certainly did that for the first few days I was here.

On the third day, at about noon, we had to teach our first lesson in Slovenian to a native Slovene. Maya was an "investigator" but even though she really wasn’t, it was an incredibly nerve-wracking and stressful thing to teach her. Unsurprisingly, we knew how to speak very little that first lesson and we understood even less. The investigator didn't respond very well to our testimonies, but we had her pray which went well.

The next day we had our second meeting with her, but she hadn't done the tasks we had asked her to do so our planned lesson sort of flew out the window. We realized that a big mistake we made was in not giving her a sheet that explained exactly how to pray. Even though we had taught her how to pray, apparently she had forgotten so we didn't make any progress, though our Slovenian had already improved. I could understand more what our teachers, Brat ("Brother) Johnson and Sestra (“Sister”) Kelly said and we began to better understand how to teach.

Being in a language immersion program, we are sort of clueless half of the time, which can be really frustrating. Sestra Tanner and I realized that we were being too focused, that we weren't having any sort of fun and thus weren't happy. We have been working on lightening up. Our Elders in the Slovenian part of our district (there are three of them, they're a triple companionship) are wonderfully fun so I’ve been trying to be more upbeat like them. I think that could really help.

Our saving grace was on Sunday when we didn't have any classes or language study and instead we had wonderful things such as a huge joint Relief Society meeting, MTC choir (which consisted of about 500 people of whom only 100 were Sisters) and Sacrament Meeting. Every Sunday we are supposed to write a talk on a topic assigned to us. The talk has to be exactly five minutes long, and you only get about 30 seconds warning if you are called upon to present yours. The President of the MTC, President Brown, attended our Sacrament Meeting, which apparently doesn't happen very often. He reorganized our Branch Presidency and then stayed through the rest of the meeting. Surprise! It turned out that I was the first person asked to speak (about a 1 in 60 chance that it would be me). It turned out well though.

My topic was the Atonement, and while that is about one of the largest topics under the sun, it was still wonderful to speak about. I had planned on talking about Jerusalem and what Gethsemane and the Garden Tomb are like and how, when I lived in Jerusalem, we turned olives into olive oil as a symbol of the Atonement. I had about 15 seconds to get my stuff together and walk up to the stand before I spoke. Fortunately I had my talk planned, and I was grateful that I had not chosen to read from “Preach my Gospel” because I only realized afterwards that I only had the Slovenian version with me. I spoke for the five allotted minutes, describing in detail the symbolism of olives and the process of making oil, and how the oil has been used to heal, to light the way, and is still used to consecrate. I also bore my testimony of the Atonement and my gratitude to Christ for doing something so extraordinary for me. I used a few verses in Alma to talk about how the Atonement was necessary (a great and last sacrifice) and then ended. President Brown said, “Thank you,” as I walked down and afterwards told me the talk was fabulous and that I have a wonderful understanding of the Atonement. That meant a lot to me. I really felt God was directing me on what to say and how to say it. I never felt nervous or alone, even though I was speaking in front of the MTC President and all these Elders and Sister whom I have never met before.

Yesterday (Monday) we had another lesson with Maya. Sister Tanner and I were planning it when I suddenly felt we ought to explain the concept of eternal families. We did this, and I hope that helped Maya recognize the necessity of the Gospel in her life. When we were meeting with her, I suddenly felt that we should not have her read the section we had been intending her to read, but instead we should have her read something in 3 Nephi about Christ. I was looking for the chapter on Christ blessing the children but could not tell which one it was because it was all in Slovenian. So I just picked one, hoping it was good, and asked her to read it. It turned out that it was 3 Nephi chapter 11 which is the section where Christ descends and the people feel the nail marks on his hands and feet and get to meet him face to face. I was astonished that it was such a good section to have her read and really felt like we had the Spirit with us. But it was not all good, she still hadn't prayed, and we missed something critical she said in her long Slovenian speeches. Sister Tanner and I were pretty discouraged, so we had to pray for help that we could have the Spirit with us in all things and that the Lord will be our constant companion. We felt better after that and were able to cheerfully prepare for today, which is “Preparation Day” and has so far been really relaxing.

Well, I have only 3 minutes left. Let me say that I am so grateful that I am on this mission. Though it is hard and discouraging at times, I have already learned so much -- not only about the language but about sincere prayer, about the Spirit, about humility, and sincere love. I am so excited to learn and grow more because I want to be better than I am and spend the rest of my life serving the Lord in any way I can.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me to prepare for and pay for this mission. It has meant so much to me. I am so glad I am here!

I love you all! Thank you Mom and Dad!

Z ljiubezen,

Sestra Ary

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Week 6 -- My birthday and riots

Monday—I had class at 2 so I spent the morning preparing for it. I think I had to so some reading of the people in the class, and such and so forth.

Tuesday—My birthday! It was a really fun day, mostly thanks to Amelia. She was kind enough to take me and Cherry down to Grandchester, which is this little village down south of Cambridge. You would not believe how beautiful it is. It is really the perfect little place—thatched roofs of white walled cottages, overgrown with climbing roses all in full bloom, beautiful little country lanes which lead off to fallow fields full of seagulls, an old church with a tall spire and a gray-stone graveyard, and, finally, the little place called “The Orchards” which was our destination. It is a small tea-house which is quite famous throughout England as the place that Rupert Brooke, the author, liked to spend his time and take his tea every day for several years. He even wrote a rather long and ambling poem about the orchards of Granchester. Virginia Woolf, Alfred Keynes, Tennyson, and other such people also spent a good deal of time there.
This is a special place because you don’t eat inside, mostly, though you can when it rains, but rather you eat under the shade of the apple trees at little reclined cloth chairs around old wooden tables. The Cam river runs behind it, and there are various little nooks and sheltered places you can sit where you’re largely out of sight of everyone else and can have just that little bit of peace to yourself. We bought scones. I got a salad, and Amelia and Cherry a BLT. I also had a ginger beer which was quite good. We sat outside for a minute until the bees realized we were there, and Cherry and Amelia had lemonade. Cherry has a fear of bees, so it wasn’t long until she was screaming and waving her arms, and we were moving inside behind glass doors. We were there for less time than I would have liked, particularly considering how incredibly delicious the scones were, but I had to get to a class. So we took a taxi so we wouldn’t have to repeat the long 2-mile walk there although I wouldn’t have minded. Though the walk was along a hedged road and had no real sidewalk to speak of, making us have to strain to hear cars and become quite adept at leaping back into bushes, it was a beautiful day and quite a perfect time for a walk through the countryside. It is amazing how quickly the buildings of Cambridge disappear, replaced by acres and acres of farmland and fields. There were the occasional large home and cottage, but not much else except vivid blue sky and us singing hymns in terrible harmony until we got to Granchester.
I spoke with the taxi man as he drove us back. He told us that he guessed we were American because American’s are always nice, unlike English people. This happened again yesterday, same scenario, but different driver.
When we returned to Cambridge I rushed to class only to find I had an hour before it began and had simply misread our ridiculously confusing color coded schedule. I really get paranoid about that schedule and check it multiple times a day just to make sure I haven’t missed anything because things are so easy to miss. I didn’t have any homework with me, so I simply chose to walk around Cambridge for about an hour. I went to places I hadn’t been before, like a park next to the Cam. I stood for about ten minutes within 3 feet of a swan who really didn’t seem to care that I was there, and I watched it preen. Its long, phenomenally flexible neck was fascinating to watch as it stretched and turned every imaginable direction as the bird rearranged its feathers. It would lean its head all the way back, stretching out its long neck, until it could reach its tail feathers with its beak and move them this way and that. It would lift its head like a snake from a basket, then coil up again and reach all the way around its side to its feet. Sometimes it would look at me, and make a little head bob, saying, almost, that I see you and if you get any closer I will bite. I stayed where I was, even as a woman came and stood right next to it, and it did start to bite her hand. She didn’t seem to mind terribly because she wanted a picture with it, though it didn’t want a picture with her. It refused to move even when people tried to touch it. I was impressed.
I ambled along further and sat by a little canal and watched as hundreds of half-foot, mud colored fish hung lazily in the water and flicked their tails now and again, putting along in a slow trancelike way. Some had lost a few scales, so when they turned, their sides flashed in the sunlight. The wind picked up, soon rippling the water and the trees until I could see little more than amoeba brown shapes. I left, and watched a man play with his dog. He teased the dog for a while, pretending to throw the ball, but then not actually throwing it. The dog would spin as soon as he saw his masters arm fling, but then would turn right around when no ball fell and start barking at his master’s hand. The master did this five or six times, the poor dog barking and spinning in circles. Finally, when the master did let the ball go, flying in a high, lazy arc, the dog didn’t notice and kept sniffling his master’s hand for the ball.
Class finally happened and things went well. After class, I didn’t want to do a single thing having to do with school because it was my 21st birthday after all and I insisted on wasting it. I must have managed that quite well, because I have no idea what I did do until the guest lecture that evening. It was in the Society Chamber, as is typical, and was a new author and her literary agent speaking about how to publish a book. Right up my alley, I know. I took plenty of notes, and really enjoyed the precious information. Right after, Amelia had planned a little party for me up in her room. Most of the BYU people had decided to go to a pizza party at first, so for the first hour and a half there were 5 or 6 girls there and Amelia and I. Amelia had bought a stunning little cake, topped by glazed, colorful fruit, and edged with a wall of chocolate. The inside of the cake was a fluffy white mix, whipped cream and more fruit. It was delicious and everyone gasped when she brought it out. She had also bought some plastic wine cups and some fruit juice for us all to share. When Mohammed came, he brought a cake, which was fortunate because it wasn’t long until the rest of the crew thundered in, all 20 or so of them, and there wouldn’t have been anything left for them with just the one cake. Amelia had bought me a beautiful little notebook I picked out in Scriptorum in Oxford, as well as a book called “Al Qaeda in its Own Words” and some very peculiarly flavored chocolates from a nearby chocolatier (violet, rose, and chili flavored among others). People hung around for almost three hours, and I felt really happy that it was such a good party. Amelia was really happy about it too because it was the first party she has ever put on, and she wanted it to be good.
I went to bed quite satisfied that evening.

Wednesday—Having done absolutely nothing on Tuesday referring to school, I really had to pick it up Wednesday so I could have something to show my supervisor. I spent the afternoon and evening writing the first 10 pages of my paper. It was a long haul, and hard to get motivated to do it because I already knew what I needed to write, having already done the interviewing necessary, but I just had to do it. I was able to go to the Mosque that evening so I could get another interview, which went quite well. The woman I found turned out to be someone of some use to the police in Cambridge and the UK in general in reference to interactions with the ethnic minority populations.

Thursday—On Thursday it turned out that I was supposed to have submitted my second 3000 words for the review of my classmates, but I didn’t realize it due to some of my own idiocies. Fortunately, it wasn’t bad as I had written it all already and had it online. I was able to read it to the class, therefore, and they all simply sent me copies of it with line by line annotation that afternoon. I was ridiculously fortunate in that regard. I had to spend the rest of the afternoon writing my paper, so I went to a coffee shop on Mill Road just out of the off chance that I would see someone I knew or could begin a conversation with who may be someone I could interview. By this point, I had 10 interviews from the whole 2 months, and ten had always been my goal (though in the fairyland where I am a superwoman, I had hoped for 30 interviews.) I sat in the shop for several hours, sipping on chamomile and apple cider tea right across from the Mosque, and wrote another ten pages of the paper. It was good to finish that. When I was done, I had everything finished that I could based on the interviews and previous work I had done. Now, it is a matter of doing the work from the Police’s perspective on the situation, and that has been really hard to get established. I have spent, on and off for the past 3 or 4 weeks, quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to get permission to interview the Police officers who are relevant to my work. With the beginning of the riots, however, the chances that I would get an interview were pretty much snuffed out (except that I might now that things seem to have settled down). The riots sort of took us all by surprise and had some really peculiar effects in the parts of Cambridge, near the Mosques, where I spend my time. First of all, the first three people killed in the riots were three Muslims who were leaving the Mosque and tried to defend the shops of their neighborhood when they were run over by a rampaging group of looters. That was tragic and on the minds of many of the people I spoke with. Also, the riots spread throughout England and tried to find a foothold here in Cambridge. There was a mini riot attempted at the local mall, Primark, but the police put it out almost immediately. The next day Mohammed went to Primark to shop and saw people being stopped and asked for their ID at random throughout the mall. There were police everywhere. Then the next day, I think this must have been Wednesday, there was an attempted riot on Mill Road where they tried to get into at least one store. They were also stopped by the Police, but it turns out that they had been there only moments after I had left the Mosque that evening. The next day I saw police everywhere, just walking up and down the street, as I sat in the cafĂ© and did my writing. It has been a fascinating thing considering the topic of my paper.
That evening my class had a guest lecture by Brian Keeney who is the author of one of the books we read for the course. He was a witty sort of fellow, self-deprecating in a superbly British way, and full of excellent tidbits of advice for aspiring writers like us. After the meeting I rushed down to the Devonshire Mosque, which is a mosque a bit farther away than the Mawson mosque and much smaller. There I was able to get another two interviews with some very kind women who told me all about their understanding of the police.
I think I’m getting my evenings mixed up. O well.
I didn’t get home until late again, and had my meeting with Caroline early the next day

Friday—Supervision meeting. We pushed back the deadline for my rough draft because of the lack of interviews with the police. It meant that I am going to have to work really hard on reading theories about the police instead of hearing from them directly. Fortunately, Caroline has given me some sources I can use, so you can guess how I’m going to spend the next two days. After the supervision meeting, I had my writing class. It was once again in the room that Virginia Woolf had based her lunch in the beginning of “A Room of One’s Own.” Afterwards I went out with a girl named Samia who is from Punjab (a north-western province of India) and Mohammed to dinner. It was a fascinating conversation because Samia is a Hindu, Mohammed is a Muslim, and I a Mormon. So I spent most of the time asking Samia about her beliefs and how they relate to Islam and what I believe. We ate at a place called “The Bedouin” which is a Moroccan restaurant on Mill Road and is awesomely decorated on the interior to look like a Bedouin tent. The food was pretty good, and the conversation really quite interesting. Samia belongs to the highest caste of Indian society, the people who have historically been warriors and rulers. She, therefore, even though she is a practicing Hindu, can eat meat (though she can’t eat beef of course). She can also drink, though Brahmans, which are the priests and either the equal or the next lowest cast to the warrior caste, can’t. She went to a boarding school for four years and got a great education, and now she is going to UC Davis for economics. She explained that Hinduism is a polytheistic religion and they believe in the trinity of Gods, those being Brama, Vishnu, and Shiva. Of course, there are numerous other Gods, but these are the greatest. After dinner, we went to a Turkish shop for some sort of sweet of grains soaked in honey and rose water. We talked there until 12.30. When we finally walked back, there were hoards of drunk people on the street. It was really a striking thing to see. One man walking behind us managed to stagger the full width of the 5 foot wide sidewalk every time he tried to walk in a straight line, groups of women in skirts so short they’re pretty much shirts walked with long, thin arms slung over each other, giggling, and wobbly in their platforms, a man stood screaming profanities at a woman who screamed right back, it was insanity. The only place open other than the overflowing clubs and the taxi stands was a kebab shop glowing white in the empty market square.
It was a strange evening.

Saturday—I should have and would have gone to London but I had already planned not to because my full paper was supposed to be due on Monday. Therefore, I had made plans with people to take them to Iftar at the mosque and had already ditched them on two occasions so wouldn’t do it again. They weren’t able to come to the mosque though, so the whole day was pretty much a waste. I did go to iftar anyway, after a long day of riding my bike around and eating at tea shops. But I had already had dinner by the time iftar started and the talk on hope (also at the Mosque and given by a friend) had ended. So I left the mosque and tried to find a church I could look through. Unfortunately, the one I had intended on going to wasn’t open. So I walked by another church and saw people entering and got really excited. Then as I got nearer, I realized that there was a green seal in Arabic on the wall, and that this was actually a Mosque. It turns out the church rents out to some Muslims their equivalent of the cultural hall during Ramadan so these Muslims will have a place to go. I decided I would go in there, since I hadn’t realized there was another place like that. Naturally, having gotten into the habit of blending in, I pulled on my scarf like a hijab (it is just respectful to go into a mosque with a scarf over your head). I walked across the road and looked for the ladies entrance. When I couldn’t find one, I asked someone where it was. They said there isn’t one, but the men and women pray in the same room. This is something I’d not come across before, so I was hesitant to open the door and enter. I noticed immediately that this was different. The woman prayed behind the men, which is completely acceptable in Islam, just not typical, and the walls were lined with women who weren’t praying because there wasn’t room. Most of them appeared to be wearing their hijabs as a sort of respectful but not permanent thing, with the scarves only sort of covering their hair. I sat next to some of them and said Salaamu Aleekum, which is a fairly typical greeting. Later, when another women came over to talk to the women I was sitting next to, she only said Salaamu. Everyone replied the same. I realized I must really stand out here. Then I noticed that the women who were praying would wear a sheet over their shoulders and up over their heads like a hood as they prayed. Also, everyone had a small pale disk they would place their foreheads on when they prostrated. I was beginning to really wonder why this was different and had my question at least partly confirmed when I realized that they were standing with their arms at their sides instead of across their chests. This is something I had heard that Shi’ites did. I then saw a bucket in the corner which said “children in Iran fund” and had my theory confirmed. This was an Iranian Shi’ite mosque. This also explained why they were still praying when the Sunni’s I knew had already begun Iftar (broken their fasts). The prayer was the longest I have ever been to, continuing for more than 20 minutes. Typically a Sunni prayer lasts only 4 minutes. They had parts I had never heard, like the repetition of some phrase that said something or other about Mohammed before they started over again. By the time I left, they had only just finished the prayer and were about to begin their iftar. Mohammed who was at the other mosque I had left texted me to tell me he had finished iftar and I could come out when I was done. He was supposed to walk me home. I sort of ran back, hoping the way would work, and had to stop for a bathroom break in a bar. It was a strange sort of juxtaposition, this very English bar and the Church converted into a Shi’ite mosque that I had just been in.

Sunday—I went to church, naturally, on Sunday and only remembered after I had sat down for Sacrament Meeting that I was supposed to be teaching the CTR 5 class that day. I was lucky though, and was able to get the lesson manual after the Sacrament had been passed and the first speaker had finished. The lesson was not too hard to prepare on the fly, as most of the materials were crayons and so forth. They are pretty helpful in giving you a lesson plan. I sat through Primary with my class and really enjoyed it. It was on the Word of Wisdom. Then the class was on obeying the law. The kid’s didn’t know what law was, so I had to explain that. The lesson had them draw pictures of farm animals. Then I asked them what people do to keep farm animal’s safe. They immediately replied that you have to put a fence around them so they don’t get out. I did that with a little fence I had made during primary and explained how the law protects us and our family and we should follow it even when no one is looking.
Afterward there was practice for two songs that a group of us were doing that evening for the musical young adult fireside. Someone was kind enough to pick up me and my friend was we walked back to Kings. Amelia and I then went back in a taxi a few hours later so we could practice for our part of the performance that evening. We were singing “If You Could Hie To Kolob.” We got an amazing pianist last minute who was able to even make it into a little arrangement. Both Amelia and I had solo parts. She was really nervous, but it turned out great. It was her first time doing a solo, she said.
I went with Amelia and Cherry to Amelia’s room after the fireside and we played with the camera on her computer for a while before I finally went to bed.
And now it is today! Yay!
11.30 Friday is my meeting with the chief of police!!!!!!! WOOOOT!!!!!