Sunday, April 28, 2013

From Trainee to Trainer

The week of April 15 was, according to Brae, "an awesome week" because they broke a lot of records and got a lot done! They taught 21 lessons in a week (the previous high was 18), and they still got two new investigators after getting twelve last week. He said, "I'm stoked about the work here and am starting to feel like I am actually making a difference in people's lives. I love it! I went on an exchange with our district leader, Elder Gwilliam on Wednesday, and it was fun. I got to take the reins in Cameron again. We started the day by picking rock for a garden and then helping an elderly lady move all of the stuff out of her house so they could redo the floors. She was so thankful. It was awesome! Side note about her and her husband: They probably attend church more than anyone in the branch, and they have strong testimonies. They were both converts over fifty years ago, and he told us this story of how he was reading the Book of Mormon to know if it was true and wasn't getting an answer. So one day, he went up to Gray Mountain (in our area) and was reading the Book of Mormon there. He heard all of this fighting going on around him: lots of yelling, weapons clashing and noises like that, and he was scared! He looked around but couldn't see anything but his Book of Mormon. So he closed the book and all of the war noises stopped. When he opened his scriptures again he realized that he was reading in Alma during the wars between the Nephites and the Lamanites, and he realized that he had actually HEARD what was happening in the scriptures. I thought that was a sweet story! The rest of my day with Elder Gwilliam was pretty normal...nothing exciting until we challenged a family to be baptized and they accepted! It was really cool because I was totally led by the spirit to know what to teach them, because my plans changed mid-lesson to exactly what they needed to hear. The lesson turned out to be about faith. We read Alma 32 and it was awesome!"

As a reward for meeting all of their recent goals, Elder Beck and Elder Tolman got spend a day in Tuba City with the zone leaders. They bought native American flutes at a flea market. Brae said that they were playing them constantly, which was true, knowing Brae! Sister Robertson emailed me several pictures that week, one of which was Brae playing his flute. Some things never change! And good boy that he is, he sent me some beautiful Indian turquoise for my birthday too! 

They were excited Sunday to have 53 people at church, which was the most since Brae has been in Cameron. The LDS Family Services missionary couple gave a presentation to kick off the addiction recovery program. They had eight people come to piano lessons on Saturday, and Brae said, "I didn't think teaching people to play the piano would be so hard! Especially on a group basis. It was interesting...haha!" Elder Tolman was able to help, but Brae said that it was likely that he would be transferred in a few days. He was really hoping to become a trainer for a new elder if that happened. He said, "There are only five new elders entering the mission this transfer, but I can always hope!"

And while his dad, uncles, and friends were stressing over beets freezing at home, he was enjoying the 80 degree weather with wind that he described as "CRAZY".

They have two people planning to be baptized on May 4, three on May 11, and five investigators who are close to setting a date. They feel extremely excited and blessed because in the past nine months there have only been two baptisms in the area.

April 22, Brae said, "Big news! Saturday I found out that I'm staying in Cameron and I am going to be a trainer! I'm thoroughly stoked! Today I'm heading to Farmington to spend the night with the AP's and then tomorrow morning I will meet my trainee! The sad part is that Elder Tolman is leaving. He is heading to Chinle, Arizona, or "Deep Res." as they call it. This past week was really good. We had 50 people at church, which was awesome for Elder Tolman before he left. We had a little potluck after church for him, and it was awesome too. Elder Tolman finally drove me over Gray Mountain, which is a tradition passed on from the first Cameron elders. This week we taught...drum roll please...27 lessons!"

April 23, Brae said, "Wow! What a day! Last night I stayed in Farmington with the AP's and it was really fun. This morning was the training meeting where we were trained on how to train! Then they had us all in one room where they would call a trainer up, have him/her explain about their area, and then President Batt would call up the person they would be training. I had a feeling when I was in the room with everyone that I would be training Elder Booth, but I kinda just brushed it aside. Little did I know, I'm training him! It's crazy because he felt like he would be with me too. President Batt is a very inspired man. Elder Booth is awesome. He's from West Jordan, Utah, and did track/cross country in high school and madrigal choir. He also...drum roll please...has played the piano since he was little! Woo hoo! We have been getting along really well, and I'm so stoked to be training him. He's actually called to serve in Brazil, but he's waiting for his visa, so he's serving here until it comes. It's sweet because we get to have language study for an hour every day. I know without a doubt that he's supposed to be serving here in Cameron, and he knows it too." 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Time is Flying!

Ya'ah'teh! For the week of March 11, Brae said, "One of the biggest hassles this week is with the time change! Arizona doesn't observe Daylight Savings Time, but the reservation does. However, Cameron is a border town, and half of the kids go to Flagstaff to school (standard time), and the other half to to Tuba City (savings time). So half of the people are on one, and half are on the other! We are going off of standard Arizona time ( so no daylight savings) because that's what our church goes off of, but our district meetings, etc., are on savings time, so it's just very confusing! More confusing than it needs to be! Haha!" He was worried that their appointments for the week would be all messed up, but it must have worked out, because he didn't mention the time issue again. All I can say is that time is flying!

Elder Beck and Elder Tolman's companionship survived transfers, a fact that they were happy about because they have been making great progress. Brae has been learning more Navajo words, just picking them up as he goes, because there is no time to study the language. He enlightened us on some more interesting Navajo traditions. For instance, they cannot cut a baby's hair until they can talk. They also believe the baby will have the personality of the person who makes them laugh for the first time. That person is responsible for throwing a "First Laugh" party for the baby. He says that birthday celebrations and baby showers are a very big thing. Another superstition requires people to burn their hair after it is trimmed because there are people who will take it and use it to perform voodoo rituals. There are many medicine men that people visit to be healed. Brae says, "It is very sketchy!" Many people believe in "skinwalkers": people who shapeshift into animals like coyotes, dogs, and wolves at night. Apparently someone has to kill a loved one to become a skinwalker and sell their soul. There is a ghost that lives at a hotel that is also the residence of three of their investigators. Seriously?!! Brae says,"It is hard to convince people to forsake their traditions, because it is so ingrained in their culture. But it's like it says in the Book of Mormon: they must forsake the false traditions of their fathers. And the REAL traditions of their fathers are in the Book of Mormon."

Brae has been very concerned about a particular family, consisting of parents and two children. The mother,  is one of the strongest members in the branch, and the father is a recent convert. Just as the father was preparing to be able to baptize one of the young sons this month, Satan went to work thwarting those plans. Apparently the paternal grand father is a medicine man. Elder Tolman was strongly warned by many of the members on the reservation when this family's father was baptized, that his family would "do voodoo on him". He went from wanting to baptize his son and preparing for the blessings of the temple to telling his wife that the church was all a big lie and leaving the family to work in another town. The missionaries have been praying for this family to be shielded from the influences of Satan, and Brae asked me to keep their names on the prayer roll at the temple as an added protection. He told me many stories of events that have happened with members on the reservation which are not appropriate for me to share in this blog, but that were very frightening to me. Brae's quote sums it up pretty well: "You wouldn't believe Satan's power on the reservation. It is CRAZY. Sometimes you can just feel the darkness here. These voodoo people have power, and I just don't understand it. I never thought Satan had so much power until I got here. Crazy stuff. How do you get people who have been healed by medicine men believe that it was priestcraft?" That gives you a little bit of an idea of the issues these young elders are facing every day! It is real. And it could be scary. But they are valiant. They have strong testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are his representatives. They are guided by the spirit. It reminds me of something Elder Holland said: "In the gospel of Jesus Christ, you have help from both sides of the veil., and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection."  As a mother, I have no doubt that these young missionaries have that kind of protection! And regarding the war with Satan, we all know who will win in the end.

The highlight of the week of March 18 was the arrival of Paul and Becky Robertson, couple missionaries from Paul, Idaho. Brae said, "They are the absolute best people! I just love them! They are always feeding us and talking to us. For Sunday dinner, we had roast and potatoes! It was DIVINE!  They are SO excited about the work, and are going to be great missionaries! They are mostly over the gardening project, which is where the church helps people plant gardens and become self-sufficient." He also said that he had to drive to Flagstaff, Arizona, to pick up their new zone leader, and that a guy at Taco Bell whose wife grew up in Burley bought their lunch. Small world. Good people--people whose names Brae hardly ever tells me! (I have been getting after him for that!) He said that they taught eighteen lessons, which was the most they had ever done in a week. He said, "We could easily teach more if we had fewer people who forgot or ditched out on appointments. Navajos don't like to plan ahead or follow a schedule." He is teaching a beginning piano class at the church on Saturdays and helping the branch president start an addiction recovery program meeting in Cameron, hopefully by the end of April. He says he doesn't know how successful it will be because people have to know that they have a problem to seek help, but they are going to give them that opportunity. He also told me that the church has surveyed the people on the reservation to find out how many have been abused. He asks, "Guess what percentage of girls under eighteen have been victims of molestation or incest? 100%. I didn't believe it. And for boys it is 75%. We live in a sick world. There is definitely a lot of work to do."

Time is still flying! The week of March 25, Brae was sick for most of the week with terrible allergies. Thanks to a visit to the doctor, a steroid shot, and TLC from Sister Robertson, he is feeling better. He said, "We really got going with the garden project this week. The Tuba City stake started the garden project three or four years ago to help people on the reservation become self-sufficient. The church provides fencing, fertilizer, a drip irrigation system, and seeds, and then senior couple missionaries help teach them how to garden. Anyone is welcome to participate, and it has helped open a ton of doors! This week we have been helping the Robertsons take the rototiller around to people. We aren't allowed to run it because of liabilities, but we fertilize and do other things. We helped a lady pull out a dead tree. The garden project is really awesome, and I guess there have been articles in the Ensign about it. It has grown into a world-wide thing that the church does. And it all started here in Tuba City. In Cameron, we have about thirty gardens, which will keep the Robertsons and us busy." Brae also said that he learned that his mission is the second largest senior couple mission, next to Nauvoo, mostly because of the garden project. He says he has been thinking about how awesome it would be for some couples from Burley to come and serve there. Most of the senior couples go for six months over the summer. So there you go, senior couple blog readers. Brae is calling....

They had stake conference, which was really good, but not very well-attended. Brae said that there were more people at his farewell. They did have some investigators come. They are working with many who are trying to find their way back. They experienced disappointment this week, when an eighteen-year-old young woman's baptism had to be postponed because she had not kept the Word of Wisdom. They are hoping to baptize her two brothers as well.

On April Fool's Day, Brae said, "I've had an interesting day so far! This morning we went out to this lady's house where they are having a cultural exchange with a bunch of Mongolian people. Navajos and Mongolians are "cousins" apparently, and so these Mongolians are all staying here for a week to learn about Navajo culture. We helped butcher a sheep this morning, which was pleasant! I got to take the intestines and squeeze the chant (poop) out of them! Then they made this Navajo specialty with the intestines wrapped around pieces of fat. It's called ach'ee." Thankfully, Brae said he didn't have to try it because it was not done yet, but he ate a lot of mutton, frybread, and drybread, and it was all really good.

They were excited on Easter Sunday to have over forty people at church! Brae gave a talk on the atonement and played "I Stand All Amazed" on the piano. They set a baptismal date of May 4  for two kids who have been coming to church with their grandma. (Notice that he didn't tell me their actual NAMES again, so on the prayer roll at the temple I wrote, "The two kids who want to be baptized May 4 on the reservation in Cameron." I am sure Heavenly Father knows them, but seriously, Brae....NAMES!)

They did a lot of gardening this week and didn't teach as many lessons as they hoped. When they got back to their trailer Saturday evening, they found a note on their door which started them on a scavenger hunt prepared for them by the Robertsons. (I seriously want to hug them!) He said, "It was really fun! They are always spoiling us and giving us lots of goodies." He also shared, "Funny story...we went and visited this less-active guy yesterday. His granddaughter gave me an Easter egg and then he wanted to give Elder Tolman one too. This little neighbor boy was walking by with his Easter basket, and Elder Tolman asked if he could have an egg. The boy said, 'No,' because they were from his house. Then the less-active guy yelled, 'It's for the Lord! He rose today!' and he stole an egg out of the kid's basket and gave it to Elder Tolman. We thought it was really funny. So now we still have that egg and we call it 'The Lord's Egg'.

April 8 Brae said, "What a week! My allergies have mostly cleared up thanks to Zyrtec and that lovely steroid shot! Tuesday I did an exchange with one of our zone leaders, and it was an amazing experience! Elder Ward came here to Cameron and I got to take him around to teach people. The beginning of the day we moved a fence for a seventy-nine-year-old lady who likes to butcher sheep. Then we started visiting people and NOBODY was home! Then we were driving on the road, and a thought came into my mind to have Elder Ward look over his shoulder and see if this lady's pickup was home, and it was. We turned around and went and visited her, along with her two kids. We were totally led by the spirit to be there. They had just lost their grandpa and were having a really hard time with it. Elder Ward was prompted to have each of us kneel and offer a prayer. I could practically taste the spirit in that room! It was amazing! That day we taught four lessons and got five new investigators! A few weeks ago, our zone leaders gave us the goal to double our investigators in the next four weeks. The previous four weeks, we had gotten nine, and we thought it was impossible to get eighteen in the following four weeks. But the spirit totally led us to find people! Yesterday was the end of our four weeks, and we had nineteen new investigators! We and the zone leaders were the only ones that made the goal! I was so happy! When you prayerfully set goals in your life, the Lord will help you achieve them!"

They had zone conference, during which Brae played the Sally Deford "Come Thou Fount" on the violin, accompanied by Sister Batt on the piano. He was really strengthened and uplifted by zone conference as well as all ten hours of General Conference. He loved Elder Uchtdorf's and Elder Holland's talks the most. He was feeling pretty great after the spiritual feast of a week! On a lighter note, he mentioned that he did Insanity: Insane Abs, which "almost killed" him. Haha! He is happy that it is no longer suit jacket season, so he has three pairs of pants from which to choose instead of two. He asked for more ties and said, "P.S. I like color and I am no longer afraid of paisley." Wow. If he has already overcome the fear of paisley, there is great hope for him when the tarantulas and scorpions come out of hiding!