Monday, January 30, 2012

Is it possible to be refined in a really hot fire when everything around you is frozen?

January 30, 2012 (email)

Hiya! Or maybe I should say howdy because of the cowboy/farmer life I've been thrown into. But certainly not Ya' Teh...because they don't particularly care for Navajos....

To be completely honest, this has been the absolute hardest and most miserable week of my mission. I'm trying to stay positive and play the glad game....I'm not winning the game. :)

Its always hard to leave your first area, but this is particularly nasty. I was in love with Shiprock, the scenery, and the people...But here, everyone keeps saying, "Oh you came from Shiprock, you must be so happy to leave" or "You are so lucky to be here" or "Isn't this place just prettier and better?" ....Ummmm....NNOOOOO!!!!! You booger faces! That is where my heart is! That is were the people I love are! That is were I was accepted and there wasn't blatant prejudice against my skin! It has been really hard to hear them be so derogatory about somewhere I adore so much. That is where there is actually a lot of work to do, and paradise for missionaries.

Can you tell it has been a rough transition? But here is the glad game stuff: It IS really beautiful here. And there ARE nice people here. and the wards are EXTREMELY supportive and organized. and I AM lucky to be here, because this is where the Lord trusts me to be and where he wants me to learn more lessons. Yes its pretty, yes you are awesome, and yes I'm lucky, but please stop putting down Shiprock.

My companion is Sister Rachel Patrick. Ready for the Small Mormon World Connection: she is a cousin of Sister Katherine Cottam!!!!! WHAT!!!!!!?????!!!!!!?????? It took us 3 days to figure it out. I put up my photo wall and there were photos of me and Katherine and she said "That's my cousin!! how do you know her?" Oh, I only lived with her for 3 years and went to her house all the time, and had her little brother as a valentine and went to the temple when she was endowed! no big deal. Cool connection huh?

Sister Patrick is from Minneapolis, Minnesota. And not just a town nearby, but the actual city itself. She went to BYU-I and is a Music Major. She plays Oboe (not the bassoon...they are different...I learned that really quickly...the oboe is like a clarinet) and is phenomenal at it. She is in practically EVERY performance group at BYU-I. She is ridiculousness smart, and the poor thing has to put up with my blond moments, afternoons, days, or weeks. She has been out for 3 months and has been here the entire time. To be honest, she is really burned out on Cortez, because she has only seen discouragement and things falling apart. They have had the WORST opposition I have ever heard of. It involves investigators, murders, suicide, and police...I don't care to go into more detail.

The roads here are ridiculous. They are kind of on a grid system, but because of the mountains and lakes there are jogs in the roads. The North/South roads are USUALLY a letter and the East/West are USUALLY a number, but then there are the little branch offs that are decimals, or where the road doesn't connect all the way through because of a ravine or other crazy mess. For example, we live on the road 29.75...kinda like platform 9 3/4.

We live in the garage loft apartment at a member's home, way out in the boonies. It is tiny compared to Shiprock's giant ark of a trailer...but I got all my stuff to fit, so I'm ok. The bed is like sleeping on clouds...hooray. Finally. But when I got there she said the shower drain didn't work and we should take quick showers because it gets backed up so bad. Well...I know it is impossible for me to take a quick I became determined to fix it. I started to do my thing, and got up to ask Sister Patrick if anyone had used a drain snake to clean a clog before. "No, because we can't get the plug thing off. Even the family who owns the place doesn't know how to get it off." I smiled and giggled. "Well, I don't think that will be a problem, because I just got it off, cleaned the upper clog, and used a wire hanger to unclog the pipe." Smirk. :) Look at me go. Not even a full day in Cortez and I fix something that has eluded grown men. Yes, I am that awesome.

Well, there is much to talk about, but I don't have the time to mention it all. And I'm sorry I don't have pictures to include, because I don't have an uploader for my card with week. If you have any questions about Cortez, please let me know, and hopefully I can address them next week.

Love you lots!
Sister Melinda Wilkins

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Beginnings

January 23, 2012 (email)

Well....Goodbye Shiprock. We got transfer news....I'm going to Cortez, CO....its just north of Shiprock. Actually, it is the ward that touches Shiprock, but it is a completely different Stake. I'm kinda bummed, but at the same time I am at peace. I was indifferent to staying or leaving. I knew I would be happy either way. And I actually felt like I might go to Cortez if I was transferred. (There is a lady in the Cortez ward who we run into a lot here, and she really likes me and said she would pray really hard that I come up her way soon...she must have been given the gift of prayer.)

Elder Buynak is going to Tohatchi, NM, which is north of Gallup. Sister Kesler is going to be "step-training" meaning her companion came out one transfer back. Elder Wise is getting an Elder who knows EVERYTHING about Disney (probably more than dad) and I'm pretty sure if I stayed he would get on my nerves because he knows more than me :)

Well, Mom said way back in a letter not to tell her the scary things about my mission until I came home safe and sound....Well since I'm leaving Shiprock tomorrow, I thought I could send a picture of what part of our area looks here is the burnt out house. There are 2 entire neighborhoods that have NICE houses like this one, but the gangs didn't like something about the whole situation, so they burned them all out and destroyed them. Most of the homes have extreme profanity on them, so I didn't send any of my other photos. I was pretty shocked when Sister Tsosie drove me through the area my first day, but now it doesn't even phase me. I was always really curious about the layout of the houses, so one day Sister Kesler and I explored was pretty spooky....but now I'm moving to Ute I shouldn't have to worry about the Navajo gangs much. :) Have I got you nervous yet? Here are 2 more "scary" details.... 1) I was given pepper spray and I carry it everywhere....among other things.... 2) the Elders in Toadalina had their trailer and vehicle attacked by a drunk man this week. He broke all the windows on everything. They called the police and then President Jones. Our President is a cowboy, and he suggested that the Elders rope him and sit on him until the cops come :) They would have done it too if they had any rope.

This week we had the Baptism for Angelia (Angie Garcia). I included LOTS of photos of her baptism. She is a stud. She is amazing. She was planning on her whole family coming, but then at the last minute they were all "too busy" and NO ONE came! It was her, us, the Elders, and the ward members we had presiding and helping out. She was changing after being wet, and her mom and brother walked into the church and asked for her. Angie's mom walked in the bathroom, and told her it was time to go. They had some family activity out and about, and they were her ride there, and they didn't want to wait anymore. I was shocked. Angie came over and asked me if we had to finish the rest of the program. I didn't know what to do, but the Elders and the Ward Mission Leader decided we could have a closing song and prayer and call it good. Wow.

Yesterday I bawled and bawled at church. I did pretty good until I had to say goodbye to April Yazzie and her girls. She and I are truly sisters. She says I am a Beligana version of her. (A beligana is a "white person" in Navajo.) Church time wasn't enough, so we went back over last night to say good bye. We cried and cried again. I love that photo of me and all her girls.

The last picture is me burning a jacket....IT wasn't mine....The tradition for elders is to burn a tie, a shirt, slacks, and an entire suit, every 6 months. Well, for sisters there isn't a set thing, at least that we know of...but I didn't want to burn anything of mine! I like it all too much. So I found a REALLY UGLY jacket that a sister of long ago left in the closet and we burned it this morning. It had crazy chemicals and dye in it, and the smoke is NASTY! It was on my clothing, so I changed my clothes. IT was on my hands, so I scrubbed them forever in the shower. Then I thought it was gone, but I kept smelling it in the trailer. I realized it was my hair! I washed it and everything and it still stinks 4 hours later!

I love you lots! I'll let you know how Cortez is!!

Love, Sister Wilkins

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Winter in Shiprock...Ha! Funny joke! We skipped winter here

January 17, 2012 (email)

Hello friends and family!

This week was all over the place. It felt like a long, miserable week, but we were finally able to meet some of our big goals, and I feel rather accomplished. Finally!

We have decided that Satan has moved to Shiprock. Everyone and their 15 rez dogs has felt miserable. Its like he is trying to ruin everyone's life here. We ran into so many broken hearts and families this week, and I think I cried very day. (I'm usually pretty tough, but this week the tears were flowing. Thank heavens Sister Kesler is kind and willing to let me cry in her lap.)
We went to visit a family of recent converts, the Smiths. Mom and daughters are members, dad is not. He's drunk all the time, and it is completely destroying their family. Sister Kesler has had lots of experience with alcoholics, and she took the reins dealing with him. She was so bold, and I just tried not to shake in my boots. She knew exactly what to say, and totally channeled the wrath and strength of heaven down. The women of the family came to understand how much we care for them and how much Heavenly Father cares. I think they were given the boost to keep going, and keep pushing to conquer this challenge in life.

On Wednesday night we got a call from another recent convert, Lisa Begay. She is 9 months pregnant, and was at the hospital. We didn't understand why she would want us instead of the Elders for a blessing. When we walked in and her husband was sitting next to her, we were REALLY confused....Her husband was there, but he wasn't really there. He was totally exhausted from watching their twins and working 2 jobs with crazy hours, and sitting in one place for that long made him conk out. She was pretty much alone, and was kind of scared. Her twins were delivered by C-Section, and they wanted her to try this one on her own. She didn't know what to think, hadn't planned for that, and didn't know what to do. She said her water had broken, and they put her on medication to start the contractions. She wanted someone who could cheer her up, and let her know what was going on....So she called us. Obviously we are rather cheerful, but I found it really funny that little me, who has never given birth, could give her all sorts of info on what to expect and what her body had to do and how it had to change to get this sweet baby here. We stayed with her until they kicked us out so she could sleep. Then we went back in the morning, and there was still no baby. After 24 hours, with really no change in anything, the doctors figured out her water had ruptured but not broken. She was bummed, and was kind of silly as she complained about going home again to wait out the next couple of weeks. Oh I hope we are here for the delivery of this baby! I have been waiting since my first day in Shiprock when she announced she was pregnant!!

We had stake Conference on Sunday, and our Beloved Angie Garcia drove the hour to the stake center, and then got situated between a bunch of our ward members, who took her up to meet the mission president, temple president, and the visiting member of the 70!!! Oh they are studs. She is a stud. We have the most amazing and golden investigator I have ever met! I'm so excited for her baptism this weekend. Please pray that she stays strong and can fight off the adversary this week.

We went hiking to a waterfall for P-Day. I thought it would be boring the 2nd time around, but not this time! IT had frozen over completely, and was one of the most incredible and beautiful things I have ever seen. oh, and we took Sister Kesler to 4 Corners because she had never seen it before. That was DEFINITELY NOT exciting the 2nd time. We were in and out in 10 min...and it would have been 5 min if the wind hadn't been blowing so bad.

The biggest thing of the week was a growing experience I had. I won't go into detail, because it was really intense for me...But I was thinking about humility and wondering how to become more humble. It was in my prayers, which is a dangerous thing to mention in prayers. :) But I had an experience where Heavenly Father let me experience what it is like to not have his light around. My eyes were opened. Being humble is knowing how much you need God in your life. Well, from that experience, I realized how critical it is to have him nearby. Without his light, I can't be myself. My bubbly, happy personality comes from the light he gives me. Without him I am nothing. I am not me. I need him just to be myself. It was amazing to figure it all out. I get it.
I am going to attach lots of photos this week. Things that I wanted to include from long ago without a camera, and things from this week.

I love you all. I hope you have fantastic weeks. Transfer news comes this Saturday. I'm trying not to think about it!

Sister Wilkins

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January in Shiprock

January 10, 2012 (email)

Everywhere else there is probably snow and gloomy misery...not in Shiprock. Its in the mid 40s every day, and the sun is always out. It still looks like a brown dead place, but at least the sky is always colorful. The sunrises and sunsets have been absolutely stunning the past couple weeks. We have tons and tons of photos of them.

We had a lot of good things this week! On Wednesday, we "butchered." A recent convert's family let Sister Kesler cut the throat on the sheep. Did I ever mention that EVERYONE has sheep and they love mutton!? Mutton this, and mutton that. I can't stand it anymore. ugh. Anyways, she was over the sheep ready to go, and I was in charge of recording it on her camera. I was a little nervous, because I have never seen anything die in person...but I wanted to be tough. I didn't have to be, because the Elders showed up and one recorded up close, while I stood behind the other watching through my fingers. (I may have been squealing the entire time) but I never passed out or got sick. Not even when they cut the intestine off of the stomach, and that repulsive smell filled the air.

Then Heavenly Father permitted us to be angels in another woman's life. We just showed up, and she was feeling so lost and lonely. We didn't say much, we just listened and loved. It is such a blessed thing to be a part of.

We also started working with a new investigator who has been completely prepared by the Lord. I met her a few months ago, and it just didn't work out. But now she is flying. She has shown more dedication and excitement than anyone I have ever met. She came to church and LOVED the entire experience. She started reading the Gospel Principles book and the George A. Smith book. Then she said she has only read a "little bit" of the Book of Mormon....SHE READ 17 CHAPTERS IN 4 DAYS!!!!!! I've never seen anything like it before! She has a baptismal date for the 21 of January! Her name is Angie Garcia, and I absolutely adore her.

We (the missionaries) gave talks on Sunday...we all focused on the Book of Mormon, and I think it went well. We just finished a challenge to read every day and had teams within the ward to see who could read the most, and it totally changed the ward. Now we are trying to get every member to read it within the year. We are so excited.

I got the camera from home! It is fantastic. I'm having way too much fun with it.

And the biggest news of all.....I got my driver's license!!! HALLELUJAH!! I wasn't sure if it would ever happen.

Yesterday we had interviews with president, and he hinted that unless the spirit told him otherwise, he didn't have any plans to move me from Shiprock next transfer! Yay!!

Love you!

Sister Wilkins

Oh, and I include some photos of fun.
We were messing around with the camera at lunch after district meeting, and took one of an elder by accident on the "poster" setting. It gave us an idea, so we did another shot later....

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year

January 3, 2012 (email)

Hello hello hello!

I hope you all had a fantastic New Years! Mine was lame. We were home by 9 and we went to bed at the normal time. We slept through the illegal fireworks, and were bright eyed and bushy tailed at church the next morning. We may have been the only people that awake.

Last Monday for P-Day we had a Nerf war with our district. Everyone one had gotten Nerf guns for Christmas, and a couple of the Elders had some HUGE refill packs of bullets. We set up tables and chairs and walls and had an all out battle. It was WAY fun. I was obviously the wuss who screamed and squealed with every shot. I don't know why I react so badly, because they really don't hurt that bad. At one point I got so fed up with everyone aiming at me, that I started hiding all the bullets, and then was left with an entire armory at my disposal. No one can shoot my face if I am sitting on all the bullets :)

Monday night we also had an experience that wasn't very full of missionary work, but it was Heavenly Father using us to bless one of his daughters. We wanted to visit a recent convert who has been struggling, but it didn't look like anyone was home. We tried them anyways, and just as we were about to leave his mother opened the door. She is a very kind religious woman, but not LDS. She invited us in immediately and sat us on the couch. Something was obviously wrong, and it took a little probing, but we were able to learn that her family life was falling apart. Her soul was wounded and her heart was heavy. She didn't need a lesson from us, she just needed someone to talk to and to let her know she was loved. We didn't do much missionary work, but Heavenly Father used us to help lift the broken hearted and strengthen a lonely daughter. It was an amazing thing to be a part of.

We have been having problems with our heater going out. Its not too big of a deal, because we have 2 space heaters we can put in our room and it gets right toasty. Its just a frustration. Well, Elder Buynak does construction work and knows a lot about wiring and electrician stuff. He was able to fix it a while back, but it kept giving out. This week I called him and had him talk me through how to fix it. I did all right the first time, but the problem kept getting worse. I called again during the week, and he had me start re-routing some of the wiring in the heater. BAD PLAN. It was fun, but I blew up a couple wires by sending energy to the wrong place. It was quite entertaining. I eventually got the dumb thing fixed and all the wires going where they should, and we haven't had any problems since.

We also have had more problems with our truck. We kept getting a flat, so we put on the spare. We did it all by ourselves!! it took a really long time, longer than it should have, but we did it. Then we took it to a member to get it patched. The tire was pretty much shot, so he said to just get a new one. We told the new vehicle specialist, and he said take it to a certain shop in Farmington. We drove all the way in, I told them what the tire specialist in our ward said (that if he patched it, the thing would just blow out again). they PATCHED it and sent us on our way. Nobody listens to the little one. Nobody. Then on our drive back, KABLOOIE!!!! Lucky for us we were near a gas station and could pull over. Our Jack was busted, so we thought we were in for it. The wind was blowing like crazy and we were about to give the world a show as we tried to fix the tire. Thank Heavens some members from that area saw it blow and followed us to help. They didn't know we were sisters until they were half way done. It was such a blessing to have them there.

Yesterday for P-Day we went on an exploration of a bunch of deep washed out holes. It was like an Indiana Jones style adventure. We would climb down the 20+ foot river wash, and climb into the caves...crawl around in the dirt and cobwebs, and then when it opened up into a giant space (open to the sky) we would have the elder's climb out free style, and then Sister Kesler and I would climb the rope they tossed down. If it was too much for me to climb, I would get as high as I could, and they would reach down, take my hand, and pull me out like I was a rag doll. Sister Kesler didn't trust that they were strong enough to do that for her, so we tied the rope around her hips and the three of us pulled her out. Really, Elder Wise and I kinda held onto the rope while Elder Buynak pulled by himself. She was completely shocked he did it. He doesn't look that strong, but he must be, because she is kind of a giant.

Well, that was my week. I hope you all have a fantastic week. I know I'm really behind on writing snail mail letters, but I'm working on it. I have not forgotten, there is a pile that I'm slowing making a dent on. Love you lots!

Sister Melinda Wilkins