Wednesday, July 29, 2015

July13th, 2015 New York missionary work

Yesterday we had a fun church service. Elder Vi and I walked into the church early for ward council only to discover the lobby to be dammed off by the zone leaders, who were frantically sweeping a river of sewer water out the side door into a drain. Someone had really clogged the toilet. Pretty soon sewer  water started coming up out of the drinking fountains of the first floor as well. We would have loved to stay and help, but unfortunately we had a meeting to attend....

Later that evening we had a stake priesthood meeting in Lynbrook. The meeting was translated into four different languages, and most of the translators were missionaries. It was a great meeting - if you spoke English! I grabbed a headset just for fun, and wow.... I'm convinced that anybody who only spoke Spanish gained absolutely nothing valuable from that meeting.  The two poor Spanish elders up there translating were sweating bullets for more than two hours looking like they were on the edge of a nervous breakdown. One of them was a native Spanish speaker, even, but being bilingual and being able to do a live translation are two different things. From one of the talks, about twenty five minutes and  very inspiring, the only intelligible concept I got from the headset was "había un hombre..... que fue al templo". I was just glad that our companionship wasn't doing it.

On Saturday we had a really exciting event - Hermanas Urizar and Snow and Elder Vi and I took the Mateu couple to the temple! They are older, probably seventies or eighties, and have a goal to be sealed in the temple in less than four weeks, so we went to the temple to start preparing them for that. Getting there was a nightmare - something happened to all of the R trains, so we were trying to figure out how to get to Manhattan using everything else... ended up in the Bronx... and by the time we got there the Spanish 9:30 session was full. So we hung out in the church side of the building until the 11:00 session, which was English, so the Mateu's had to use headsets. I also took a headset, and that really worried me there for a second. I was sitting there listening to something I could not understand one bit, thinking "man, I really thought my Spanish was better than that...". It didn't take me long to realize I was on some sort of Chinese channel. Unfortunately, once I got it working min Spanish, a lady here needed a replacement because her headset wasn't working. So I didn't get to listen to it in Spanish. But it was a super neat experience and the Mateu's were just so, so happy. It was marvelous.

We had interviews with president Reynolds this week and he's a really cool guy. Couldn't be more different from President Calderwood, but I'm sure that's exactly one of the reasons they change every three years. He and his wife will be a fine couple to preside over this mission.

Our investigator situation hasn't changed much.... Although Benjamín is now out of school and shows  more promise with increased time. We are trying to respark ward activities here so our investigators and members can connect with each other. It's hard in New York, people are even busier than they are in  Utah, but hopefully we can get things to pick up. Part of what makes it difficult is that our Bishop is only here every other week right now, and half of the ward council is not very strong. Being able to have  lessons with our ward mission leader and turn them in as lessons to a less active is a little bit of a step down from having Bishop Wooley as a ward mission leader.... but he's making a lot of progress! He's come to church almost every week for the last couple of months and we have a goal to get him to the temple for the first time!

We also don't have any active ward missionaries. Elder Vi has an interesting perspective on Jamaica because he trained here a year and a half ago, and now he's back. The ward really isn't big enough to be a ward anymore, and he said that one big reason why is that more than half of the active members  when he was here last time have moved to Utah! Super funny. We've got at least two families in the ward right now planning on moving to Utah soon. So it will be interesting to check out some Spanish wards when I get back and see how many came from New York!

It has been an interesting experience starting the first quarter of this mission so far in the two infamously stagnant areas among the New York missionaries.... but I know that my being here is inspired. I can feel it, I can see it in the experiences I have daily, the small ones. I've learned some valuable things here. I have experienced for myself, just like Elijah learned, that the voice of the Lord is not in the great wind, it's not in the earthquake, but it is found in a still, small voice. I've been obligated to develop faith, that is, hope for things not seen. I hope to never stop increasing my faith, something that I know cannot be developed without adversity. I love this work. I love the people of New York. I give my testimony that I know that this work is true, and that Jesus Christ stands at the head of it, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Sirrine

July 6, 2015 New Mission President!

Well,  President and Sister Reynolds are here! We had a mission conference this week to meet them. It will be interesting to see how this changes things! In any case, I'm excited to get to know  the Reynolds, and I can feel their love for us. I have faith that the mantle of that great calling will make them as great as the Calderwoods.

The New York summer is as brutal as ever, which at least makes the Latino community happy. They all come from very hot places and aren't fans of the NY winters.  Occasionally we get the relief of rain. Well, it's relief for me, anyway. Most people refer to it as bad weather. Rain is a little bit different here, though. Most the time it ends up trapping the stench and creates a muggy, stinky air thick enough to drown in.

Sorry I can't write more, but I want to leave you all with my testimony. I love this church. I love the fruits of this church. I testify that this is the only church that lines up exactly with the blueprint of Christ's church laid out in the Bible. I know with all my heart that the Book of Mormon is good, that it does testify of Christ, that it does teach His doctrine, and that a man will get nearer to God by abiding by it's precepts than by any other book. Those things I know. And because I know those things, I know that it is the very word of God and is proof that this Church has the restored authority of God and living prophets. I wish I could be there with each one of you and declare my testimony with all the energy of my soul. I can't be there, so I hope it will suffice to say that manner in which I write these things is in the name of Jesus Christ. And I know what it means when I say that. Amen.

Elder Sirrine

Sunday, July 19, 2015

June 29, 2015 Buenas!

Lemonade elliptical! This was our best one yet.

My six month temple trip! I love the Manhattan temple

Well I am continuing my "English fast", but I will write you all in English. I figure that's an exception since not everyone reads Spanish. I've come to appreciate out here what it means to speak a language, how much of a skill it is. It's crazy realizing that eight year old kids have mastered this skill which is so difficult. I've also come to appreciate the value of reading. It's an important skill. It is something that gives you the ability to learn anything. I'm so grateful I was raised in a home where books were important. Because of that, I can read well. By my second transfer I could read Spanish better than most adults here. Simply having the ability to read has given me an advantage learning Spanish, along with most other skills I have.

 For example, eating pop-tarts. I've always loved to hear Brian Regan's discourse on pop tart instructions, but it's so much more meaningful now that I know somebody did it wrong and ended up with second degree burns because he didn't read the directions. Another companionship walked into our apartment with pop tarts, only intending to commandeer our toaster, and walked out with only half of the companionship having the ability to shake people's hands for the next three weeks. Elder St. Rose's hand has finally made a recovery.

On a more serious note (than melting multiple layers of soft tissue), the inability to read well (i.e. read fluently and comprehend what is on the page) is a serious problem for the progression of investigators and members of the church. Many people cannot even effectively read the church's pamphlets, and the scriptures are yet more difficult. It's left me scratching my head since I arrived in New York. Investigators cannot progress if they do not keep commitments, and reading the scriptures every day is an irreplaceable commitment. Yet however difficult it is for good readers sometimes to be committed to reading the scriptures, think how difficult it would be if you could only read at half the rate and still understand just about nothing. I feel that illiteracy is one of the principle underlying factors for members becoming less active. Like we learn from the Savior's parable, the gospel had to have deep root in our hearts if we want to survive hard times, and you get that root by studying the scriptures. It's been a tough problem as a missionary here.

This is a picture of Hugo. He's my Puerto Rican grandpa. Elder Vi says he's never had so many homeless investigators before, but some of them really have a special place in my heart. This picture about describes the work for me right now. There's a lot of work to do in New York. A lot of weak to be succored, a lot of hanging heads to lift, and people that stand in need of comfort.

I've discovered that gluten is actually kind of an American thing. We eat beans, rice, and chicken. And things normally made out of flour are made out of corn flour in e Hispanic world. 
Notice the type of employment

June 22, 2015 Only pictures this week

Flashback to our first day. With Elder Vi.  So weird being the small companion. Oh and yes I've lost weight. About ten more pounds. So that makes twenty pounds lost since I hurt my back. Stay tuned for the next season of "the biggest loser".  

 Our apartment is on the first floor. This is Elder Honey and Neuenschwander's pad.

June 15, 2015 Buenos Dias a todos!

Buenos Dias a todos! Pues, desafortunadamente, yo he comprometido de hablar solamente español hoy. No me di cuenta de que tuviera que comunicar con ustedes. Entonces.... Lo siento. En verdad - lo he sentido. Espero que entre los bilingües allá pueden traducir mi mensaje. Espero que todo está yendo bien, como ha sido Israel? Quiero ver mas fotos! Un acontecimiento interesante que nos pasó anoche es enseñamos una familia de Brazil! No tenemos misioneros de Portugués aquí. Tuvimos una cita de cena con la familia (son miembros), pero no dimos cuenta de que hablan Portugués! Hablan español muy bien, sabíamos que no fueron nativos, pero pensé que fueron gringos porque son blancos y hablan ingles fluentemente. Pues, llegamos a su casa y la madre de la hermana estuvo allá y ella solamente habla portugués! Tuvimos que tratar de comunicar bien con ella para la lección para que entienda. Entonces los niños están hablando ingles, español, y portugués con fluencia, aun no tienen que tratar de nada! Es increíble. Yo quiero hablar español en casa con los niños futuros. El otro ejemplo de esto es nuestro obispo. El no es latino - parece latino y suena totalmente nativo, pero realmente es de India! El habla español perfectamente. En serio - pensé que él fue nativo. Pero él aprendió español en la escuela, y entonces servio una misión hablando español. Después, se casó con una mujer que también servio una misión de español y ellos vivían en barrios españoles. Cuando tuvieron hijos, siguieron hablando español y asistiendo a los servicios españoles en la iglesia. Ahora, los niños son bilingües, la esposa (es gringa) habla casi perfectamente, el él habla perfectamente, y es obispo de un barrio de español. Pues, para terminar, solo quiero dejarles con mi testimonio de que sé que Jesucristo vive y se dirige esta iglesia. Sé que esta iglesia es verdadera con todo mi corazón. He gustado y experimentado el fruto de ella, y sé que es bueno. Les invita cada uno de leer el discurso "Gustar la Luz" (tasting the light) por el Elder Lynn G. Robins de la setenta. Es un discurso del CES. Les invito de leerlo y considerar en cómo podemos llegar a un conocimiento del evangelio, y como pueden ayudarles a los demás de aumentar su fe. Les testificó y les invito en el nombre de Jesucristo, amen.

Elder Sirrine

Google Translate English Version of the letter (unedited)

Good Morning to all! Well, unfortunately, I have committed today to speak only Spanish. I did not realize I had to communicate with you. So .... Sorry. Really - what I felt. Among bilingual hope there can translate my message. I hope all is going well, as was Israel? I want to see more pictures! An interesting event that happened last night is teach a family of Brazil! Portuguese missionaries we have here. We had a dinner appointment with the family (they are members), but did not realize that speak Portuguese! Speak Spanish very well, we knew we were not natives, but I thought were gringos because they are white and speak English fluently. Well, we got home and the mother's sister was there and she only speaks Portuguese! We had to try to communicate well with her ​​for the lesson to understand. Then the children are speaking English, Spanish, and Portuguese fluently, although not have to try anything! It is incredible. I want to speak Spanish at home with the children's future. The other example is our bishop. He is not Latin - Latin looks and sounds totally native, but it really is India! The fluent Spanish. Seriously - I thought he was a native. But he learned Spanish in school, and then Serbian Spanish speaking mission. Then he married a woman who also Serbian Spanish mission and they lived in Spanish neighborhoods. When they had children, they talked Spanish and Spanish attending church services. Now, children are bilingual, the wife (is gringa) speaks almost perfectly, the he speaks perfectly, and is bishop of a ward of Spanish. Well, finally, I just want to leave you with my testimony that I know that Jesus Christ lives and leads this church. I know that this Church is true with all my heart. I have tasted and experienced the fruit of it, and know it's good. Invited everyone to read the speech "Liking the Light" (tasting the light) by Elder Lynn G. Robins of the seventies. It is a speech of CES. I invite you to read and consider how we can come to a knowledge of the gospel, and how they can help others increase their faith. They testified and I invite you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Sirrine

June 8, 2015 זה טוב לשמוע ממך‎

 Elder Galke's comp was at the temple so he came to Jamaica where he knew he'd have cool comps! The return of the trainer

זה טוב לשמוע ממך‎   So uh... I think that's Hebrew for "it's good to hear from you"! Thanks for all the emails. It's been fascinating. I'm thinking that either you had a great family counsel in which the participants really felt the truth of the subject matter, or each of you has had a separate experience with this, but everybody has testified to me of one point - that the Spirit works everywhere and is dependent on our attitude and willingness to seek, not our access to special circumstances or knowledge that the general public doesn't have access to. So thank you for the thoughts. I'm glad that Israel is going well! Don't worry about spending time writing me while you area there - just take advantage of every moment there.

As for a quick recap on New York - I had an incredible academic opportunity as well! We were volunteered to provide service at the Global Family Reunion and the New York science center. It's not a church thing, but familysearch was a big sponsor. I'll have to tell you all about it sometime, but it was so cool! I can't honestly say I've ever been excited about family history work before. I had forgotten how much I missed University where you can chill with groups of the smartest people world has to offer and just learn. I met one of the speakers who was a linguist, and I'm with Danai - I want to learn Hebrew (he was actually Israeli). Unfortunately Chinese might have to come before that one and right now I'm focusing on Spanish.

Also tomorrow is transfers and elder Vi and I
are staying, while Elder Honey is out. We were all a bit surprised that Elder Vi is staying. He is famous for he fact that he has done a one-and-done with every single comp except for his trainer. So I'm his first one that's going to last at least two! I'm excited to be staying in Jamaica. Love you all!

Elder Sirrine

Sunday, July 12, 2015

June 1, 2015 The life and times of Jamaica

Wednesday we had some researchers come from Salt Lake to learn and get feedback about missionary resources and programs. Pretty interesting stuff. One of the researches observed our nightly nightly planning. They showed us three new pamphlets. They look super amazing! But… They said maybe our grandchildren would see them released. So kids: Yep - Papi seen those a long time ago. Thursday we started off the day with a significant upgrade in our standard of living when maintenance finally came and got our power working. We only had about one and a half outlets working in the entire apartment, which also meant no oven and such amenities. When Elder Honey came in it took me about two weeks to convince him to light the stove burners by hand. "Are you sure it won't burn my hands?" Well.... not if you're fast.... I suppose you can hardly blame the man after just leaving the care of Elder Buckner. Oops. Hand joke. Too soon?

Anyway, more importantly, we met with Benjamín on Thursday. This teaching pool, (like all others, I suppose) has been like you progressing investigators, even though we have several super solid ones – they just aren't coming to church and progressing towards baptism. So Elder Honey and I were teaching and felt to reestablish expectations. We invited him to be baptized again (at least I dearly hope this is not the first time).  He wasn't sure he could commit to a date, but it's because he realizes how serious the matter is, which is good. It was a great lesson, and he really wants to progress towards baptism. Before that, our only progressing investigator was Chris Melchor. We've been worried for a while now, because his baptismal date is this Wednesday, and he has been a little bit shaky about it. He said that he knows he will get baptized one day. But doesn't know if he can do it right now, because of his girlfriend. She doesn't care for the church, and makes it really hard for him. Well, on Thursday we found out that he was fasting for the courage to talk to Judy about it and to live the law of chastity. Wow. So we decided to fast as well. We found out on Sunday that he is going to delay his baptismal date. If it were just him, he would be able to do it. But having enough faith for two is a tall task. He will get there one day, but not yet. It's so sad to see how hard people's hearts can be - the positive change that the gospel has brought to Chris's life is incredible, and he appreciates that so much, but his girlfriend doesn't even see it.  Chris was heavily involved in gang activity, alcohol, and illegal drugs just one year ago. He is so grateful for how the atonement has enabled him to change, but Judy just sees it as him not going to the bar with her.

Here in Jamaica we do "finding" events a few times per week with the other districts in the area called ellipticals. On Friday our elliptical was a shoe shining/sneaker cleaning event. We set up shop right outside of Jamaica Center and essentially tried to compete for attention with all the other street vendors. You'd think it would be easier since we were the only ones offering something free. I think our most successful sales pitch was something like "have YOU ever had a white guy (yeah that would be me) shine your shoes?" I swear sometimes you could see a tortured thought process going on in their mind as their conscience was torn in half between wanting a free shoe cleaning and avoiding well dressed people promoting something - "hmm.... I'm black.... I clean my shoes..... so no, I have never had a white guy shine my shoes. Argh, what do they want!? Is it worth it? I might be more comfortable with that guy that does it for $10.... Ahhh where are my feet going.... oops ok I guess I'm getting my shoes shined." I'm about 95% sure that's what was happening. It was pretty fun though and we got 7 contact information in less than an hour and a half, which isn't bad.

Later that day, we were on splits, and Brandon and I were in the church trying to call or FaceTime people when a man walked in whom I didn't know.  I asked how we could help him, after which he proceeded to tell us quite the story. He had just gotten out of jail two days ago, and now he had nowhere to stay.  All his family either would not permit him to stay with them, or lived with someone who had a court order of protection against him, due to violent anger problems.  It was so sad to see.  This man was so sweet and humble, and had good desires, but obviously something is wrong with his brain that makes it difficult to keep his temper.  He had come across us during the shoe cleaning event earlier that day and still had our card, so he came to the church looking for help.  Anyway, we taught him a real solid lesson and then swiped him onto the subway system and gave him directions so he could go to the nearest shelter which is in Manhattan. He also told us he would come to church on Sunday, which we were a bit skeptical about, but he showed up! We went to the English ward just in case, but headed home after waiting in their lobby for fifteen minutes. Well the English elders described a man to us that came to sacrament meeting and it was him! They said he was about thirty minutes late, so we missed him. Much to our dismay, nobody had even said "hi" to the man. As a missionary, we beg the members to be as friendly as possible to any new faces, and here three sets of English missionaries reported that our guy came and didn't so much as shake his hand.  "Um excuse me, can you help me understand why you did that?" Please, please, please - never do that. This guy doesn't have a phone or a house so the only way we are ever going to see him again is if he comes back to church.

After church on Sunday we had a nice rainstorm of Biblical proportions. Well kind of. If it had continued another forty days I would be wanting a large boat. My walking shoes hold water impressively well, it felt like I was wearing ankle weights.  Anyways. Many of you know that I love the rain, and let me tell you that was so refreshing and energizing after the energy-draining heat. I don't know how Danai survived the Philippines. I do not do well with the heat. And it's nuts because Elder Honey is from Vegas, so he hardly feels it, and Elder Vi literally is cold when I am woozy with heat. He still wears sweaters. So that rainstorm was beautiful.

To close, a thought that's been on my mind since I met Johnson (the man that needed a place to stay) is how much God has given me. It's sobering to think that he never really had the same chance as me at a lot of things. His dad died when he was just a baby. He never had an education or a stable home. Life was never meant to be fair, at least not this one, but I am so grateful for the vision and eternal perspective the Plan of Salvation gives me. In the Book of Mormon we find that the first will be last, and the last will be first. The Book of Mormon, along with modern day revelation give me the comfort that God in fact is no respect or of persons, and is unchanging yesterday, today, and forever. I testify of that. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Sirrine

.....One little homemaking tip for everybody out there: microwaving hard boiled eggs is some seriously risky biscuits. I did so several days ago, and then when I tried to bite into the peeled egg, it exploded. Big time. Anybody ever gotten burns on the inside of your upper lip and front gum? Yeah that's a thing. That egg injected concentrated, high-energy sulfur steam right in front of my teeth and it doesn't feel good. Chemical warfare is not over.

May 25, 2015 Forest Park

Forest Park

It's been a great week! Last week for P day we went to Forest Park. Yep.... It's a forest! I must say New York has some good parks. It was super fun - it felt so good to be back in the great outdoors! Max is a member that just returned from a mission and really wants to go out with us. That's super awesome in a trio, because one person can take him and the other two are still a companionship by themselves, so we can split up and cover twice the ground! Max actually attended our district meeting Tuesday – he doesn't have a job and is waiting for school.

Tuesday we decided to stop by a less active. She was there, and asked us if the state president had sent us. She said she had been trying to talk to him about getting help for her son, Brandon. He's sixteen years old and he isn't making the best choices right now. So we told her that we would love to take him out teaching with us. She got so excited about that, and Brandon accepted. So we split up and he was out teaching and finding for six hours, and said he would do it again tomorrow! He's come out with us every day since then. Wow! We pick him up as soon as he gets home from school and take him until 9:00 at night. His mother is so grateful - he has been talking about how excited he is to go out with the missionaries and is wanting to get a strong testimony and is talking about where he wants to serve a mission! It's been a huge miracle. Not only a blessing to them, but between Brandon and Max, we have literally been on splits the entire week covering twice the ground. Losing elder Buckner was a little worrying because there is so much work in Jamaica, but trio life has totally worked out.
Area around the church
Well I guess I never ended up having time for part two of this letter,  So I will
just leave you all with my testimony that I know the Book of Mormon to
be true. I love this church and I love my Savior. I want to feed his
sheep. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Sirrine