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