I am in the Visitor's Center in Oakland on my first P-Day in the field writing you an email! Crazy! Obviously there is a lot to tell you.
First, I had to wake up at 3 am- 3! To get on a bus at 5 to go to the Salt Lake City airport. It was dark and cold, and when we got there, I pinched my finger in my luggage so bad it was bleeding everywhere with little blood blisters. Sorry, that's probably gross...but I thought what a terrible start. But I was so wrong! One of our elders in our travel group (13 of us total going to our missionthat day) had a mom who works at Delta. She paid for all our bags, overweight or not. Then she told us they had breakfast waiting for us at the gate. WHAT?! We were basically treated like rockstars. Then her and her coworkers lent us their cell phones to call our families so we didn't have to pay! I called mom and dad. Then they pulled out Halloween candy, cheezits, caramel corn, etc to make ourselves large treat bags to take with us. I have never been so impressed with Delta haha. Also in the airport, we talked to a couple from Arizona who had tons of Mormon friends, but said they didn't really want missionaries. A man came up to Sister Olsen and I and said he shed tears just standing next to us because he thought of his daughter who is 19 and putting in her papers, he said he texted her to let her know he was standing next to sister missionaries :). The elder I rode with on the plane was one of many of the elders going with us who are Tongan. Let's just say he took up his seat, AND half of my seat.
We all came down the runway in Oakland airport to see President Meredith and his wife smiling and waiting for us. They are some of the kindest people I have ever met. Apparently the last president had to clean up the mission and send several missionaries home and he was a lot stricter with rules and obedience. President Meredith is very patient and kind. Someone said he is like a cool grandpa. Their story is so interesting. He never served a mission due to military (air force), and they wanted to serve after seeing their kids go. They were in Richmond, VA for only 4 months when Elder Nelson happened to go to their mission conference, instead of the next state over for his original plans. Elder Nelson knew that the supposed-to-be-new Oakland/San Francisco mission president's wife was too ill to fill the calling, so he was looking for new one. President Meredith said he wouldn't stop looking at them almost the whole conference. Later they got a call from Elder Holland and were asked to fill the calling. They were given much shorter notice than most mission presidents are, but they accepted. On the first day, we took care of paper work, a quick interview, a buffet (where sister olsen and I tried chicken feet because the Asian sister told us it would give us good skin haha), a temple walk around the Oakland temple, a quick tour throught the visitor's center, a talk standing on top of the temple overlooking San Francsico and the whole mission (I will send a picture), and then HOMEMADE chili/chips/cheese and pie. I was so spoiled allll day. The area is absolutely beautiful though.
That night, I got assigned my first companion/trainer- Hermana Hewett! I say Hermana, because she actually speaks spanish and just served in the spanish areas. Her tag still says Hermana too. I will talk more about Spanish later...but she is so welcoming to me, and we are getting along great. She is actually a convert of only a year and a half, and she left behind a job in China and dumped her boyfriend because she got an answer to go on a mission. She is from North Carolina, and we are both blonde haired blue eyed and serving in the English speaking Walnut Creek area!
Walnut Creek is in the Oakland zone, and is very warm in the day and very cold at night. We are staying with a family called the Greaves, who are from South Africa, and they joined the church only two years ago in the States, but they knew when they moved in, they wanted to build a place for the sister missionaries to live. So we live with members who are so kind and have cool accents and adorable children! They also have two cats! I couldn't have asked for a better living situation, especially after hearing about the scary apartments the other missionaries live in. Our apartment is actually really cute. We had Mongolian sisters live there before us, so they left a TON of blankets and clothes we had to go through, not to mention random mongolian books that are hilarious.
We have been talking to a few people who speak mostly spanish, so Hermana is trying to teach me some things, like basic testimony phrases. We also are teaching a mongolian couple, so that language barrier is tricky, and we are giving them mongolian pamphlets and Book of Mormon. Already we have seen such diversity. Why did I only get trained in English?! A language would have been very helpful. Also, they rotate the missionaries here no matter what language, so I have heard that I could very much go into a Spanish area . And just like my trainer, Spanish go English, etc. Also, my companion said she did not get called to the Visitor's Center, but she served there anyways for her first transfer. She said all the sisters must work there during Christmas because it is always full and busy, so I will definitely have to work there sometime, which I am very excited about. I wish I would have gotten better training for it in the MTC though, you get a whole week of Visitor's Center/Tour guide training. Also, currently only spanish and chinese sisters are in san francisco, no english. I really hope to get to work there anyways though.
Our ward is the BEST I could have asked for. We have had members tell us they love missionary work and WANT to come with us. They call US and approach US. They really are so pumped about missionary work! We talked to our bishop, and he told us a small reason why. The last bishop was only 42 and died of a heart attack on a scout hiking trip this summer. His first counselor is our bishop now and he is no older than 30 probably. He said there is a "rawness" about the ward right now, and he said he had felt a stirring inside that something big was about to happen in the ward, and that when us sisters came over to his house, he felt that stirring again! We actually were going to make contact to a referral from the VC (Visitor's Center) when this shiny black Prius pulls up with a young guy who reminds me of a mix between Hugh Dancy and Mark Zuckerburg from the social network, straight skinny pants, stylish sunglasses and he calls out "sisters!". We were just shocked and said "biiiishop?" We went to his house later for dinner where they fed us pizza and told us about five names of people to see (all in the ward, less actives/focus families, but he has a friend we are seeing as well). The next day in church we had to bear our testimony about 3 times and afterwards, Bishop Oyler announced to the combined Sunday School he had full trust in us and told us to refer their friends to us. MTC told us different ways to build that trust up, but its already so easy actually, because the members are ready and willing to talk to their friends! Everyone is also excited because they can pronounce our names unlike the mongolian sisters before us haha. A very dynamite, put together ward. They have a HUGE Halloween party/chili cook off this Saturday, where they said it is so well organized and attended, that out of 300 people that go, 20% are usually nonmembers from the neighborhood-- perfect for us to set up a welcoming booth with displays, a video playing, pamplets, mormon.org cards, etc We are so excited. Also there is a photo booth where they are going to have to retrieve their picture online with a question asking if they want to hear more from the missionaries. The ward has this thought up already, we just have to come and be the missionaries haha. Once again, spoiled. Also a lady in our ward teaches like 15 Zumba classes a week and in the past told us she hosts some IN the church building so the sisters can have a booth set up in the foyer. Seriously, I have never seen this much natural missionary spirit in one ward.
However, we still have empty blocks of time where we tract or try to find people (Sister Hewett is new to the area as well so both of us don't know where we are going and the area book is a little messy still). I didn't realize there would be such...awkward times to try and fill. Hopefully that will pick up though as we are getting to know people and get new investigators. Usually, the converts around here are actually found through street contacting though. My first time doing it, we talked to a guy fixing a show car outside in his driveway. He was very open, nice, religious, etc. He is not even doing anything right now, he is taking off of work for a year he said. So since he has time and is looking to do right things with his life/read scriptures or uplifting things, I gave him a Book of Mormon, he said he would read it, and we are going to go back this week. It actually was a Book of Mormon from EFY, so a teenager from Texas had their notes/testimony in it that I had been wanting to give away. So if my EFY kids, or Mary Tony reads this (it was one from your kids)- a guy in California has it! What a cool connection of my life in Texas and now in California.
Our investigators are great. Annette basically is a member. She is having trouble giving up coffee, but loves church and we see her just serving and being the last person still cleaning up at ward activities. Korina loves her husband and kids and wants them to have good traditions and religion in their life. She is looking for guidance right now, and when her car broke down in front of the sister missionaries before us, she saw it as a sign. I invited her to be baptized (on my third day in the mission!) and she said yes! We are working to get her baptized Nov 11. Norman Su is married to a member, Mandy, from Salt Lake City. We are seeing them tonight, but he talked to us in church on Sunday and he seems very willing and excited to meet with us. Zaya and Peter are our mongolian couple, they heard the sisters say "Jesus Christ" and they wanted to know more. They are so sweet and have two little kids, one of which are the largest cheeks I have ever seen on a baby :).
Sorry this is so long, there was a lot to tell. But I am well, this area is exciting for missionary work right now, and the church is true!
p.s. enjoy my pictures finally! pic 1) mom and dad and i at the slc temple, thought they would like it 2) my mtc comp, sister olsen 3) the sisters in our district 4) sister coulsen (gwen) and i. she is going to russia, this is also a good picture of my tag, which is rare because my hair covers it up a lot. i will put more pics in a separate email.
that last email, i forgot to say that the last pic was my district, going to oakland/ san fran, san fernando cali, and salt lake city. these pics are me and our favorite teacher, sister winters! we seriously loved out mtc teachers. sister loie benson and i were able to be at the mtc for a week together! the last pic is the sisters in my zone (going to texas and arizona), we are not really ready for the picture...
also one at the temple, you can see sister dyreng's personality a little.
1)at the airport, with the table of breakfast and treats! how fun
2) mom, you can give this pic to sister williams for the ward board, this is me on top of the oakland temple which overlooks san francisco and oakland mission.
3)President and Sister Meridith, me, and Sister Hewett
1)a mongolian language book we found that says "let's make our country up!"
2) a bearded dragon lizard (like the ones todd mom and i saw at petco!) that belongs to a family in the ward and the son really wanted us to hold it. i was smiling right until sister hewett took the picture he scared me cause he started to crawl up my arm.
3)it was cold and rainy today, so we both wore scarves. a close up of sister hewett and i in our apartment.
4)mom you would be so proud. i have made my bed every day. also the greaves already had cute matching bed sets for us.