Monday, February 24, 2014

It's a Castle! - Week 4

Dear family,

Well I'm in DC! Or technically, Maryland right now.  Maryland is so pretty.  I'm in Germantown and Poolesville which is the very top of mission boundaries and I could easily accidentally end up in Virginia, which I won't because I'm obedient. It doesn't feel like I'm on the east coast, it feels keep like I'm in California. Except there's no mountains, just lots of hills and trees and roads that don't make sense. I can never tell which direction I'm facing because there's no mountains to direct me.

Tuesday morning I had to get on a bus at 4:30am with Sister Hansen to go to the airport. They took us to the Provo front runner station where 50 of us had to get on with all our luggage which took us to salt lake and then we had to get on the trax to the airport and it was just long and stressful. Finally we arrived at the airport and Delta was cool and was on the far side so we had to walk a long way and our arms were killing us. Fun stuff.  

We arrived in DC at 3:45ish.  There, the President's assistants met us and then President and Sister Cooke did.  They gave us each a Book of Mormon to give away and then we got on the metro to go to the Temple Visitor's Center.  On like the second or third train(?) we got on, a Russian man sat next to me who goes to the Russian-Orthodox church.  We talked for a while and I told him a bit about my church and missionaries.  He was very nice. Before he got off, I gave him a DC Temple VC card and told him to come by some time.  Missionary status!

The Temple is GORGEOUS, like it doesn't even look real.  It's a castle! I haven't done a session yet because I haven't had time, but I will this Friday I think. We took pictures which hopefully you've seen and went inside the VC for a bit.  Then Sister Hansen and I drove with President and Sister Cooke to the mission home.  It's such a beautiful home. There, we had interviews just about health and our interests and we had dinner and a testimony meeting which was great.  I absolutely love President and Sister Cooke, they are so sweet.

Sister Hansen and I slept at a senior couple's house that night which was nice.  Then the next day we had dinner at the mission home and then went to the VC for transfers.  There's a huge auditorium there and I met my companion. The departing missionaries bore their testimonies which was cool but weird since it was my first day there. Apparently I got called to the best mission in the history of life according to everyone there(: Others get called to distant lands but I'm called to the capital of God's chosen land so beat that.

My companion is Sister Johnson.  I love her so much.  She's like my mom because she tells me what to do, drives me everywhere, and doesn't let me fall asleep (which is actually good now). She's also very athletic and makes me run up steep hills at 7 in the morning. She does MMA [mixed martial arts?] and her mom is a body builder.

Our area is Seneca.  We share it with two elders.  They get east and we get west. It's a brand new are for sisters, Sister Johnson and Sister Bascom (hi Denise!) opened it up last transfer.  Sisters haven't been here in 15 years.  Apparently in our part of the area, Poolesville, lots of elders have been sent home in the past because there are some very pretty girls here... Good thing it's sisters now!

We have 3 investigators we've been teaching.  First is Candy.  She's friends with Sister Hancock who's a member in our ward.  Candy has had a really hard life.  The first time we met with her she opened up about everything and it was so intense.  She's such a miracle. She met Sister Hancock and at first she didn't want to learn anything about the church but Sister Johnson and Bascom and the ward fasted and prayed for her and a couple days later she said she wanted to take the discussions.  She accepted a Book of Mormon after a few tries but hasn't read it yet.  But she goes to church! She's so sweet, I adore her.  We're gonna have to take things slow but I know this gospel will absolutely bless her life and make her happier.  

The next is Dee.  Her daughter was baptized 3 years ago. She's a drama teacher and so awesome and was also at church yesterday. She's gonna get baptized as soon as her son's friend returns from his mission in Texas in April so he can do it.  She's so cool I love her so much. 

The third is Susan. She's older and her late husband was a Mormon. She's on date to be baptized in March.  The only problem is tithing and we're not sure how much she actually understands.  She's been taking the discussions for over a year but she might not be totally there.  As long as she has faith then she's good to go, we just want to make sure she really understands first.  I think she's good, she's very excited.  She's a funny woman.

It's weird and fun being a missionary because I have this overwhelming love for everyone I talk to and especially my investigators.  I can't even explain how much I already love these people and I haven't even been here a week yet.  It's so great.

The ward we're in is so great.  We've had some member meals so far and it's great.  Everyone was going up to me and introducing themselves on Sunday and they're so on board with member missionary work.  It's honestly member referrals that work the best because the people they know will have an anchor and a friend at church and are so much more likely to join with us.  We still tract a little bit, like last night, but it's mainly member work and reactivation of less actives.

I just need you all to know that Heavenly Father is so incredible and there's always a reason for everything.  I love it! He's helping and protecting us.  Let me tell you a few of the ways.  First, on the freeway a semi truck merged into our lane without looking and missed hitting us by a couple feet! It was so scary, I literally thought we were gonna be hit.  Angels, man.  Also, Sister Johnson and I were driving down a dark, windy road (there's lots here) and someone was tailgating us.  He turned off and not even ten seconds later Sister Johnson decided to turn on her brights RIGHT when a family of deer crossed the road.  Once again, we barely missed hitting something. This time a baby deer by inches following after its parents.  If she hadn't turned on her brights right then, we wouldn't have seen them in time.  And if that car hadn't just barely turned off, it would've rear ended us.  

Also, this morning Sister Johnson was making me run up another hill and I way dying.  She told me to make it to a stop sign which was maybe 100 ft away but it seemed forever away and I felt like I was in a dream where I was running in place.  She told me not to stop and so I did not stop even though I wanted to.  I gave a quick cry up to God to help me (I'm not a wimp, even she was struggling) and a few seconds later I started to speed up.  It felt like it does when you're walking and an impatient parent or friend pushes on your back to make you walk faster.  Like it literally felt like some cute, poor angel was pushing me up that hill.  It was so amazing and insane.  The last 20 feet He let me do it on my own to prove to myself that I'm strong. Love it. I totally sound weird but I'm not making it up!!!!

Finally, the crowning jewel. So last night Sister Johnson and I were trying to find the apartment of a less active woman.  We had the apartment building but not the number so we went tracting which was terrifying when she nodded at me to knock on a door.  We didn't find her.  But anyway, we realized later that we had locked our keys in the car so we called Sister Hancock to give us a ride.  Our roommates wouldn't be home for an hour to let us in the apartment so she took us to her place. We talked for a bit and her inactive son was there. Usually he ignores the missionaries but this time he stayed up there and also their recent convert friend, Jeff, was there.  After talking for a while, Sis Johnson asked me to share a message.  I frantically thought of something to say and then thought of my favorite scripture, Micah 7:7 so I read it and bore my testimony.  Sister Hancock started crying, and her son Nathan listened and I made eye contact with him a couple times.  It was so powerful. After, she thanked me so much for that and Sister Johnson and I thanked God that she locked the keys in the car so we could teach Nathan. And then this morning when we got the spare key, we were afraid the car would be towed away. But it wasn't because we had unknowingly parked in the guest parking. What?

Anyway, that's my week! I love the VC, I go there Wednesdays and Saturdays and it's so fun to talk to people and give tours and learn and bare testimony! I still get tired but I've discovered the magic of mints.  Feeling tired? Pop a mint in your mouth and it wakes you up! And I just need to remember to forget myself and go to work.  I love it here.  I haven't actually been to DC yet but while we were landing I briefly saw the Washington monument and the capital.  I'll go there maybe next week.

Psalms 48:14

Love, Sister Black

Celeste and Sister Johnson

She Has Arrived

Celeste has arrived in DC. Click on the link below to see the mission website where they show all the new arrivals.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Scariest Moment Yet - Week 2.5

Dear familia,

This is my last week at the MTC!  Finally.  I've only been here two weeks and I love it, but I'm read to go preach His gospel!

So there are lots of missionaries here that are speaking Chinese and going to Taiwan.  It's kind of funny because they're all at the same level as me about except they know more church words and I know more day to day words.  So when they're talking to each other in Chinese thinking they're cool, I like to eavesdrop.  One time at lunch, I heard an Elder saying, "how do you say orange?" and I was thinking to myself, "cheng se."  There's another girl in my district, Sister Galgiani, who's been to China and so knows a bit of Chinese.  She, like me, thought she'd go Chinese speaking to Taiwan but instead she's going to Temple Square English speaking.  We like to talk in Chinese to each other sometimes.  It's so fun, I love Chinese.
The food here is making me sick.  One night I just ate ice cream because everything else was gross.  One day they had fish and chips for dinner.  The English and Australian sisters in our district were pretty upset because the fish and chips looked like overcooked chicken nuggets and apparently didn't taste that good.  Sister Orndal said to me, "how would you like it if we took American food like a hamburger and messed it up?"  It was so funny.  Poor sisters.

The Elders in my zone left on Monday which was sad.  I got a little attached to them, imagine that!  This is a like a longer, more hardcore EFY without all the flirting and hugging and smell and it's sad because when we leave we can't just go home and facebook each other and cry in bed all day.  So sad.  But we have work to do!

They talked to us a lot about modesty.  Maxi skirts are not allowed for anyone who's wondering.  I know it's been a rumor but they told us here.  Except apparently in my mission we're allowed to wear them.  Yay!!  Apparently some sisters here get mad when the ladies try to tell them they're not dressing appropriately and argue or complain.  Like seriously?  We're asking people to change their lives but we can't change our wardrobe for 18 months?  Ridiculous.

Tuesday night I had the scariest moment yet at the MTC.  My heart was pounding and I thought I was going to die.  We had a devotional by someone from the seventy.  He said he was going to try something different that night.  So, he walked off of the stage with two microphones and went around to random missionaries in the crowd, asking them questions on the spot in front of thousands on missionaries and while on camera.  Me, Sister Wog, and my new companion Sister  Hansen were sitting in the front of the bleachers where he would have very easy access to us.  He started to walk around, asking questions, and we got nervous.  At one point while he was talking, he stopped right in front of the three of us while talking.  All of us sat there frozen and tried not to make eye contact while everyone else looked at us with sympathy.  However, God answered our prayers and he moved on after 30 seconds without asking us a question.  And then we burst out laughing.  Quietly and reverently of course.

I'm having a bit of a hard time getting up in the mornings.  I'm always the last one up.  Imagine that.  Sister Galgiani acts as our mom every morning and is the one that turns on the lights at 6:30 and says "good morning sister!  It's time to get up!" while the rest of us roll over and ignore her.  Sister Wog gets up before me so while I'm struggling to wake up she hands me my shirt and socks and shoes for gym since I'm on the top bunk and can't even think of climbing down for at least two minutes.  She's so sweet.  Some days I'm more tired than others.  One day during personal study time, I was forcing myself to stay awake.  However, one minute I was reading my scriptures and then 5 minutes later I woke up super confused and to see three sisters sitting on the floor studying instead of their seats.  Usually if I accidentally fall asleep I wake up within 5 seconds.  I think my body was so tired that it forced myself to shut down because it literally felt like I passed out because I had no recollection of going to sleep and I was out cold.  That was fun.

Sister Wog and I have another companion this week.  Her name is Sister Hansen.  She's from Denmark, Spanish speaking, and is going to my mission.  She's been at MTC west for 6 weeks so she came over here to join us for a week for visitors' center training.  She's super nice and cute.  The first thing I noticed about her is that she was wearing old converse with her skirt and that she does every day.  I don't know if it's against the rules but I think it's funny and cute and different.  Maybe I should get some converse (kidding).
Visitors' center training has been going great.  Wednesday morning we all went to Temple Square to have a quick tour and overview.  There are 24 of us.  Most are going to Temple Square.  Sister Hansen and I are going to DC, two are going to SLC East so they'll have the Park City visitors' center part time, and three are going to the Mormon Battalion place in California (San Diego?  I can't google anything!).  These sisters are from all over the world.  Two are from Taiwan, two from the Philippines, one from Mongolia, one from Brazil, Peru, England, Australia, Mexico, Sweden, and Norway.  It's so cool, they're all so cute.  I love how we all come from different places but we have the same purpose.  It's great.

We've started doing online proselyting which is my FAVORITE thing so far.  Sister Wog and I each get on the website and list each other as companions and then wait for people from to chat with us.  I know Mom told me not to chat with strangers online but the Prophet says it's ok... so sorry.  The first person we talked to was really pleasant.  He went on and on about how we're the devils' deceivers and leading people down to hell and how Joseph Smith is a false prophet and that one day we'll be judged by God because of what we're doing.  We just encouraged him to read the Book of Mormon and told him that if the book isn't true, then Joseph Smith is a false prophet and he needs to find out for himself.  The next guy was the same, except a little more polite.  He said "no offense but.." which means it was totally fine.  He told us how Joseph Smith was a mason and the masons worship the devil so we're devil worshippers and whatnot.  I told him that Joseph Smith was a mason at one point and so were many of the founding fathers but back then it was more of a brotherhood and no our church isn't affiliated with them and never has been.  I encouraged him to read the Book of Mormon as well.  Honestly we weren't even mad or offended or anything.  We just thought it was so much fun.  Also, a creepy feature is that we can see what they're typing before they send it.  So we'd see that they're typing "your church is..." and we'd try to guess what they're going to say.  We'd be like, "oooh, a cult?  a devil's church?  crazy?"  It was kind of funny.  Another lady just needed help knowing how to find and contact the bishop of a man who attacked her daughter.  She said she didn't know who to turn to so we helped her because "ask the missionaries, they can help!"  Yesterday was a bit better.  We had a discussion with a girl from England.  She had questions about the translation of the Book of Mormon, why "Mormons think Jesus was American," polygamy and that she didn't think "people should be Mormons as an excuse to practice polygamy," and why we don't drink tea.  It was mainly misinformation except for the tea.  By the end she told us she understood and thanked us.  She then said she wanted to join our church but she's lesbian.  We said that's alright and we'd love to have her and directed her to  She logged off before we could get her email.  But that was nice I feel like we helped her.  Every time she said "ooh I understand now" Sister Wog and I high-fived each other.  I could seriously do online proselyting all day.  It's so much fun.  I love sharing the gospel with people from around the world rather than pretending to in class.

Last night, we had TRC where people came in and pretended they were at a visitors' center and we had to go up to them and talk to them and teach them for 15 minutes.  The first couple was hard because apparently Sister Wog and Sister Hansen couldn't hear what they were saying.  I was wondering why they weren't helping me or backing me up.  Oh well.  The second group was a guy and girl who were members and apparently the guy just barely returned home from his mission to Argentina.  We're taught that at the visitors' center, we're not just there to help out nonmembers.   We're there to bring everyone closer to Christ regardless of who they are.  So basically we're not supposed to blow off members which is nice.  Anyway, we got talking and I had prayed to know what to say and so I started testifying about revelation and how God is very involved in our lives and that if they keep a journal where they record where they've seen the hand of the Lord in their life then they will look back and realize that He was always there even if it didn't seem like it at the time.  I guess I did a good job because the woman starting crying.  Score.  I love helping people!  Then we talked to two girls who looked 15 but were apparently 18 and 20.  Weird.  We talked about the light of Christ.  Honestly, I didn't even want to do TRC but I loved it because I enjoy helping people out.  This is what it's all about!

Tell everyone who asks that I love being a missionary and everyone should do it!

I leave this Tuesday for DC.  I have to leave the MTC by 4:30AM and then my flight is at 9:45. Also, I don't know when my next P day is.  So sorry about that.. haha.  My next email will be from DC!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Being a missionary is the coolest.  Go out and be a missionary today, it's fun!  Joshua 1:9

Love you all!!!!!!!

-Sister Black

The extra one in the picture with me and Sister Wog is Sister Hansen.  Also, the picture with all of us in front of the map has the sisters in my district and the elders in my zone that left on Monday to North Carolina.  I miss them :(  K love you talk to you later.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Orange Dork Dots - Week 1

Dear Mom and family,

I miss you all so much!

OK so I've officially been in the MTC for a week now!  We were one of the lucky districts that didn't get a P day until today so we had to wait a whole week!  Life is so hard.  

First off, I'd like to say that the first day at the MTC wasn't bad at all.  The next couple of days were.  So on the first day when I was waving goodbye and turned the corner, my host led me to a building.  She took my luggage and told me to go inside and go up to the ladies.  The ladies directed me and the other missionaries down a hall where we met more ladies who directed us to more ladies inside of a room.  Lot of ladies.  There I went up to someone who gave me an envelope with lots of goodies inside like a name tag and MTC ID card.  Next I went to another lady in the same room who made sure that I've been set apart and been to the temple then she put my name tag on me.  She told me it goes right over my heart so I'll remember to put my heart into missionary service or something.  It's a magnetic name tag which is really nice.  I also have one that's a pin.  They then activated my MTC ID card and sent me outside.  I found my host who was struggling to move all my luggage and then she took me to my room.  I dropped off my stuff, put my scriptures, PMG, and notebook in my bag and then she led me to my class.  Right when they got there I had to go to the computer lab and do an orientation which basically spent 10 minutes teaching me about gym time and making me feel depressed because the video was taken during the summer and it looked so nice and warm.. oh well.  
Then I went back to the room and met my companion!  Her name is Sister Wog (woah-g) and she's from Oklahoma going to Temple Square.  There are 4 other sisters in addition to us in our district.  Sister Orndal (urn-doll said in a British accent) from England and Sister Fiso (fee-so said in an Australian accent) from Australia. Then there's Sister Lytle (lie-tle) from St.George and Sister Galgiani (gal gee ah nee) from California.  I don't know why they all have weird names.  Anyway they're all going to Temple Square except for me so multiple times a day people will ask "where are you sisters going?" and they all say "Temple Square!" and then I pipe up "but I'm going to DC!"  Sometimes I don't even bother.  I'm the black sheep.  So yes we are an all sister district. That doesn't happen very much but it did.  In my zone there's just another district with 5 elders all going to North Carolina and we should be getting like 12 new missionaries in our zone today.  So there are 4 districts in our zone.  

The first day we went to a light meeting first where they welcomed us.  We also went next to three different rooms with about 30 of us in each room and a fake investigator at the front with a microphone.  We all took turns raising our hands and trying to teach them together and address their needs.  It was interesting.  For the first day or two they were really pounding into our heads that we need to listen to what they're saying and teach them based on their needs and it's all about what they need to hear.  We would listen to people talk and then analyze them (like Sherlock) and then decide from there what they need to hear.  Oh also, on the first day EVERYONE we passed said "Welcome to the MTC!" because we were wearing the orange dork dots on our name tag.  It was nice but got old.  Every time someone passed us I would say to Sister Wog "I don't feel welcome here yet" and then sure enough the missionaries would welcome us to the MTC.  It was so thoughtful.  I saw Hillary Nielsen at the book store so that was nice.  It was hard calling everyone Sister or Elder at first instead of saying "guys" or like Sister Wog "y'all" but we're getting used to it.  The first night I said "duuuude" to Sister Orndal then I paused and said, "wait no.. Siiiiisssterrr."  It was funny.  I promise.

I enjoy exercise time a lot.  Even though today is P day, the 11 missionaries in my zone went and played volleyball at 6:45 since we had to be up at 6:30 anyway.  It was so fun.  Also, I have a thing for diving for the ball which I know is against the rules but sometimes I don't think and just go for it.  I have two massive bruises on both knees and a scab on one knee that started bleeding today after another (successful) dive to the floor.  I love volleyball.

Speaking of volleyball, my companion injured herself on Friday.  We were playing volleyball and all of a sudden she started crying.  We went to medical and had to then go to the health clinic and she had torn her muscle.  Ouch.  So she was in a sling.  I felt bad and it gave me an opportunity to serve her as well.  She's doing much better today, no sling!  

I'm getting used to not having a phone.  But a couple days ago our teacher, Brother Nottingham's, phone started buzzing and all six of us looked around frantically for a phone.  Sometimes we catch ourselves checking our pockets haha.

Thursday was a good day but so long.  I was dying I thought it would never end.  And then Friday was really bad.  It was long, Sister Wog hurt herself, we were late to everything, I spilled juice on my hand and then had to shake an Elder's hand who I knew which was gross, I was super tired and falling asleep in class, the Spirit was gone the whole day, and I just wasn't happy.  Also, learning experience for the Elders.  So Sister Wog asked two Elders if they would give her a Priesthood blessing for her arm on Friday.  One of the Elders, Elder Lete (luh tay) started going on about how she had to choose who she wants and blah blah blah and didn't say yes.  Sister Wog got pretty offended at that and me and two other Sisters were like "what??"  So during dinner, I decided to go give Elder Lete a talk.  Sister Wog didn't want me to but I told her it's better one man perish than a whole nation dwindle and perish in unbelief.  So I went up to him as he got up to leave and let him know that he hurt Sister Wog's feelings and that next time someone asks for a blessing, just say yes.  I know it was a misunderstanding but I didn't want him to do it to someone else on his mission and offend them.  Also, Elder Lete is a bit strange.  Everyone agrees so he needed to know that he was wrong.  Yes I was nice when I talked to him.  

The next day, Elder Powell and Elder Coons gave Sister Wog a blessing while the three other Elders in their district, Elders Allen, Gardner, and Kiddle, stood in the circle.  It was so powerful. The next morning her arm didn't really hurt anymore.  AMAZING.

In the MTC we do a lot of role playing.  We've been teaching our teachers, Brother Nottingham and Brother Sanders, as they pretend to be real investigators and it feels so real.  We prepare lessons and invite them to be baptized.  Some go better than others.  One with Brother Nottingham Sister Wog and I came out hitting our heads on our scriptures.  It was so bad.  But we're doing well.  We also had our first TRC yesterday which is where someone from outside the MTC comes in the be taught.  About 15% of them aren't members so we don't know.  It went really well.  Actually our first one was on Monday but she didn't show up :(  Sad day.  We were so pumped too.

The food's decent.  It's a lot and I might be getting fat.  Good thing I exercise every day.  The food is like a step above school lunch.  Yesterday Sister Wog and I got a meal, took a bite, and almost choked because it was so weird tasting so we put our plates down and got something else.  I have pineapple at almost every meal so I'm extremely happy about that.  

We've been getting along with our district and the Elders in our zone so well.  I love them all.

Yesterday, Sister Wog and I had a bit of a bump.  I understand she's having a bad week with her arm but this hasn't been easy for me either.  Also she's a convert of only a couple years so she doesn't know as much as me.  I've told her over and over that I'm here to help her and that we're here to learn and that she knows enough.  Well we were practicing teaching each other about the Book of Mormon.  It was her turn to teach me and I asked her a question and she said yes when it was a no so I just lightly said "that was a no by the way, but carry on!" and she got upset and threw the Book of Mormon down and refused to try.  I kept on telling her she was great and not to give up but she wouldn't listen.  This wasn't the first time it happened, whenever she gets frustrated she just gives up and gets all mad.  All my frustrations will her boiled up and I just left the room to go have a cry in the bathroom.  Sisters Orndal and Fiso came in the talk to me to make me feel better then I talked to a couple teachers about it.  Finally I went and talked to Sister Wog.  We talked it over and she apologized and promised to do better and not to give up.  We talked more about how we can help each other and be a better companionship.  45 minutes later, we taught the best lesson ever to a girl named Sarah.  We've never worked so well together.  Honestly ever since that, we've been even closer together.  It feels good.  I've heard everyone has a freak out with at least one companion, for me it happened to be my first.  No big deal. (:

So far I love being a missionary.  Waking up at 6:30 is hard but not too bad.  I love teaching.  I love my district and zone and companion.  Being a missionary is the best decision of my life.  I'm so excited to get out in the field!  I won't be leaving until February 18th because after this week we have a week of training at Temple Square which will be fun.

Also, I've seen lots of missionaries I know like Elders Hayden Dorrance, Brandon Wardell, Jason Anderson, Mike Evans, Ian Jensen, and then Sisters Sabra Giles, Chelsie Crazchek, and Eliza Westergard.  Also one of my teachers, Sister Knowlton, is the older sister of a guy I know, Zack Beckstrand, who leaves to Ireland/Scotland on his mission in a couple weeks.  It's been fun and weird seeing all of them in this new world.

Send me Dear Elder letters!  They're free!  Some missionaries get so much mail every day and I'd like some every now and then.  You just go to the website and need to know
 Sister Celeste Shannon Black
FEB18 Washington DC North
2009 N 900 E Unit 169
Provo, UT 84602

The days are a lot shorter and easier now.  I love what I'm learning.  It's incredible, I feel like I've grown so much.  Now I get to go welcome the new missionaries to the MTC.

K I think that's it.  Love you all!!!

Love, Sister Black


The blond is Sister Lytle and her companion is Sister Galgiani.  The polynesian is Sister Fiso and her companion is Sister Orndal.