Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Live from Jamaica. Sort of.

Well hello there family, friends, and fans.
Is it hot in here or is it just me? No wait, IT IS RIDICULOUSLY HOT! I never knew 85 degrees could feel like 120. I'm trying my best to get used to looking ugly and sweaty for a year and a half. Not an easy task.
I trust everything is fantastic back home! I have so much news its nuts so I'm gonna try my best to get going here.
First off, we're isolated mail wise. All our mail goes to the mission home in Kingston and my area is in Lucea or Hanover, which is on the total other end of the island. So I only get snail mail at zone conferences and the like which is gonna be every 4-6 weeks. Because mail is so hard here, President Graff has made it that as long we e-mail home first we can e-mail others as well. That means you can send me e-mails! I get an hour on the computer every monday, which still isn't a lot, but any timely information is best to come that route rather than via letter because I won't get letters for awhile. Still send me snail mail, just make the information in those letters less important than the information in the e-mails. Ya feel me? Also, if you e-mail me I'll e-mail you back. If you don't e-mail me well then, I probably won't email you. All right.
So, our mission here covers Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, The Bahamas (Nassau), The Grand Cayman, and Guantanamo Bay Cuba. We cannot go to Cuba, but the members that are there are looked over by Pres. Graff as their ecclesiastical leader. To go off island is an extreme privelege. You have to be highly trustworthy. You aren't really looked after out there. Most companionships serving are the only missionaries on the island. I most likely will not go to any of those areas as a sister, they need to keep a close eye on me. But it is still cool that those places are included in the Kingston mission. President Graff has kicked this mission into gear. He has doubled baptisms here with less missionaries than there were before. We only have 60 missionaries in the entire mission, and only 6 of those are sisters (2 Jamaicans, 4 Americans). My trainer is Sis. Smith from Utah. She's only been here 6 weeks, and was trained by Sis. Meddows. Sis. Meddows is the Jamaican sister who was serving in Georgia, and on her flight back to Jamaica her plane crashed and she walked away with a couple bruises. It was kinda big news. I got to meet her - she's AWESOME. So she came back to train the first 2 American sisters, then we came six weeks later. So you have four white girls running around Jamaica. It is hard work. Thank goodness we are serving in the same area as the senior couple The Russells. They feed us, and give us rides out of town, and give us rides at night so we don't have to walk around after dark. Elder Russell is the branch president here and Sis Russell pretty much does it all at church. It is a huge blessing to have them in our area, especially since we got white washed in here.
Oh yeah, so our area. Lucea is very very small. It is what they call a bush area, meaning there's a lot of jungle and such and very little city. Most houses are up on giant hills that are a challenge to get to, and we do our lessons outside in the dirt. Most people build their own houses up here and they don't have electricity. If they're lucky they have cement and mortar to build their house, but most have wood and sheet metal holding up their walls. They have a very struggling branch here. Out of 48 total members in the area, we have 34 less active. Many disappeared and we can't even find them anymore. They don't have addresses here, or names for their roads. And most people have their birth name and then a street name that everyone knows them by. It makes finding people extremely difficult. There are crazy rocky roads here. They have huge pot holes everywhere you go. It is like riding the indiana jones ride except not as fun anytime you take a drive. There's goats and dogs that randomly just roam the streets. We have a goat right outside our house that wakes us up in the morning. Bahhh... All the dogs have fleas. We're told not to touch any animals here. People drive like madmen here, and yes it is on the left side of the road which is actually awesome. We're not allowed to drive ... yet. They may just change that but we're not sure as of right now.
The area of town is called the Hanover Parish. Our specific neighborhood so to speak is called Malcolm Heights. They do baptisms here in a little beach area known as Bull's Bay. There must be a kajillion 7th day adventists here. Sundays no one is out in the streets - so we can't hardly contact anyone. They're either in their homes observing the Sabbath, at church, or downtown in another city partying. Saturdays are slower too cause of the 7th day people. There is a rule that we can't proselyte within 25 yards of another church. That's hard here - there's churches on every corner.
There's tv programs here that slander the church. In fact one less active member refuses to have any contact with us because she believes we are vampires, thanks to whatever Jerry Springer type show she was watching on TV. Lovely eh? People carry machetes around here all the time which at first totally freaked me out, but then I realized a lot of people have jobs just going out to the bush cutting down fruit and selling it, or cutting yards for people. So now everytime I see one I just think "that's their lucky machete".

A lot of times since I've been here I've stepped back and thought "WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING HERE?" And you know what - I still don't know. But I do know that I am where the Lord wants me to be. Never before in my life have I gone to bed every night so comfortable with the stage I'm at in my life ... knowing that if I died tomorrow I'd be in good standing. That is a really good feeling. I've been thinking a lot about something Glenn L. Pace said at a fireside before I left the MTC. He said that in the premortal life, we most likely made a commitment to those that we are going to teach on our mission that we would bring them the gospel. That changes my perspective on a lot of things. It is easy to be scared, or feel like giving up. But when I talk to someone, even if they don't end up getting baptized, knowing that I fulfilled my end of the commitment is huge. Speaking of the MTC, I got to give the closing prayer in our departure devotional - in front of the MTC president and his wife. INTENSE!

Okay now what everyone is waiting for... the patois I've picked up since I've been here.

Well it has only been a week so it isn't much. But "chat" - as in "let em chat at ya" - means to give a hard time or make fun of. "bush" is a real jungle area, vs "cush" that is a real rich area (ie Mandeville or upper Kingston). "jah" is a reference to Jehovah, so they use it to mean God a lot. It is mostly a Rasta word. "scandal bag" is a grocery bag. People say "good night" as a greeting, and use "all right" to mean absolutely everything. "i'rie" means all right. And they say "lata" instead of goodbye. I can understand most poeple when they're talking to me. But when they're talking to eachother? Forget it. Totally lost.
I have so much more to write about but I'm about out of time! I will write it all in my next letter I'm sure. For now, just know that I'm safe and all is well. It is hard - the hardest thing I've ever done, me thinks. But I know that the church is true. I know that God is watching out for me and I know that he loves each and every one of the people I'm meeting out here. What a huge testimony builder it is to me to see God's children, who are so different than I, still need the same assurances and still needing to follow the same gospel that Jesus Christ set up - for all of his children. You are all in my prayers. I miss home, but I'm focused on the work. The Lord qualifies who He calls, and He's called each of us to something different. Exercise your faith in Him and He'll take care of you through His grace. He's really made it easy on us. We just have to trust Him.
I commit all reading to go an entire week without complaining. NOT ABOUT A SINGLE THING. The people here have so little. They are so poor, you cannot even imagine. Not all parts of Jamaica are like what you see on the travel channel - in fact Lucea is nothing you could even imagine. And they save up their money to take a taxi to church on Sunday. They walk through rain to go to work at 7am til 7pm, just to feed their families. Their culture doesn't respect them, their government is more corrupt that you could even think (there are far worse things than socialized medicine, believe me I see it everyday). So just try it. Don't complain. You have plenty of food, air conditioning, hot showers, a chapel to worship in, and clean clothes to wear.

Count your many blessings.

All my love. Cool runnings,
Sister Payne

(the pics are out of order.. i think. ) enjoy!

me and the boy - cutest little boy! he's related to a member of the branch. He LOVED taking pictures on Sunday :)

the group in front of the house - elder roberts, sister speakman, me, and elder hoffman - the morning before we left for all of our areas. elder roberts is in mandeville, sis. speak in montego bay (mo bay), and hoffman in spanish town and me in lucea (pronounced lucy). we all came over together from the MTC.

some of the most gorgeous sunsets i've ever seen here! Sis. Smith (my comp) and I when the Russells took us to Bull's Bay where they do the baptisms

Sis Smith and I on Sunday in front of our church building.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Letter #2

Well HELLO AGAIN! It is I, your favorite missionary, sending you warm wishes from chilly Provo.

Allow me to tell you all about many things in a very disjointed manner. The first thing I want to relate is how the Atonement of Jesus Christ has taken on all new meaning since I have been here. I encourage you to reread all of the talks from General Conference, and rewatch or watch for the first time the video from an older talk from Elder Holland called "And none were with Him" - I believe it is on MormonMessages. Powerful stuff. I am so grateful for the Atonement and have made a personal goal to try to understand it and apply it more each day that I am on my mission.

Also, there is an Elder Here - Elder Mackey - who looks just like Clay Aiken, American Idol Season 2 days. We called him Elder Aiken. He brightens our days.

We have had two opportunities now to teach what is called a Law and Order lesson, where our whole district goes into a room where we can look in on a teaching situation and talk about what is happening, while the people teaching inside the room cannot hear or see us. We then rotate in and out when we feel we want to take the lesson a certain way, use a certain scripture, or just save one of our fellow drowning missionaries. It really is a cool experience to have a Benson and Stabler view of a missionary lesson. I have memorized D&C Section 4, Joseph Smith's account of the 1st vision, 3 Ne 17:20-22, Alma 32:27, and John 3:16-17 since I have been here. I promise to be a scriptorian when I get home. We have had two companionship inventories since we've been here - with nothing really to talk about. They end up being like "this is what I wish I was better at so I'll tell you to be better at it so it helps me in turn" sessions. I am falling in love with the resource that is Preach My Gospel. It is truly amazing the tool that I have had for so long but never really utilized. I wish I could just memorize the whole book. I swear if you could get everyone in the world to read that thing, we've convert the Earth. In my personal study I have been making doctrine sheets, for each principle of each lesson that has the main points, scriptures, questions, commitments, examples, hymns and keywords that you could use in the lesson. To put that in perspective there are 8 principles in the 1st lesson, 8 in the 2nd, and 6 in the 3rd. I haven't even gotten to the 4th or 5th. It is very time consuming but my organizational tendencies from Mesa High have stuck with me and I just have to make them for any sort of sanity in making my lesson plans. I've gotten used to the chivalry of the MTC - Elders always opening doors for you, taking your trays after meals, calling eachother Elder and Sister. That will be a hard transition once we're back in the real world. I like it!

Oh speaking of Mesa High, I thought I came out here packed with resources since I'm a teacher, but teaching here is a totally different ball game. Key ingredient? The Spirit. Without it, it doesn't matter what kind of preparation you have or teaching skills, the lesson and the investigator will totally pwn you if you don't have the Spirit. Our companionship learned that the hard way in this ridiculous TA experience with these ladies who intentionally were trying to make us screw up in our lesson. Kept bringing up polygamy, offering us coffee, etc etc. I became very grateful instantly that I wasn't serving stateside, when they knew all this stuff about the church that was false and we had to correct. But we have had good teaching experiences too. We got to teach another TA to Dave and Louise, these "investigators" who were an older Christian married couple. It was our follow up visit. We taught the 2nd lesson - the Spirit was so strong, I totally cried as I bore my testimony about the Kingdoms of Glory of all things, and we sang "Families Can Be Together Forever" and committed them to baptism and they agreed! We also got to teach our teacher, Brother Haslem, just as him. We had to prepare a lesson for him, and we did it about making choices and feeling God's love for him and committed him to go to the temple that week. We have a follow up lesson on Saturday. It went really well also.

Speaking of Brother H, the guy is AMAZING. He's so funny first of all, and has a problem of making up statistics during class. Like "90% of investigators will do this" but CONSTANTLY. It has become a funny inside joke in class now to count how many times he does it. He also had us do this plan of salvation activity one night, where we went around looking at pictures of missionaries and the Savior and wrote about what we really thought the plan of salvation was all about. He taught this amazing lesson about why it is called the plan of happiness, how truly merciful our Heavenly Father is because of the grace of Jesus Christ, and what we truly have in store for us after this life. I cannot do it justice in this e-mail, but suffice it to say it was a life changing experience. I will be forever grateful for Brother Haslem for following the Spirit that night and teaching me something I really needed to hear.

I've had many struggles since I've been here - gotten down on myself about my abilities, about why the heck I'm even out here. But I'm glad to have strong companions and amazing teachers that keep lifting me up each time I feel like giving up. I haven't felt anxiety out here as much as I thought I was going to, and I'm thankful for that. I had to give a complely impromptu talk on faith in Sacrament meeting on Sunday which normally I would have been terrified about, but I just got up and spoke. I actually liked it, and being the only sisters in our zone gives us advantages because the Elders automatically listen to us cause they think we're some sort of strange species that must be studied. We also had to give an impromptu talk on humility in our zone activity, which also went well. We got to go walk around the temple on Sunday and take a lot of fun pictures - it was nice to feel free! We've gone to the temple twice now, just got back from there actually. It was kinda sad thinking today was the last day I'd be at a temple session until after my mission, but it gave me motivation to work my tail off in Jamaica so my brothers and sisters there could have a temple built. I felt really sick this morning too, and thought I wasn't gonna even be able to make it. But thanks to prayer and drugs the second I sat down in the session I felt 100% better! Thank goodness :)

I have hymns stuck in my head constantly. My favorite hymns of all time are Be Still My Soul, How Firm a Foundation, Abide with Me tis Eventide, Praise to the Man, and I know that my redeemer lives. I haven't really felt the sacrifice of all the little things like I thought I would - music, tv, etc. I haven't even missed it all that much. The mantle is real as long as you do your best to fill that gap between who you were before and who the Lord wants you to be now. There are real sincere blessings of being here that I couldn't even picture before. You can't even imagine if you aren't doing it. I'm so happy every single day, even during the hardest parts, that I'm out here and I'm doing this. My head hits the pillow at night with the knowledge I'm where God wants me to be, and it's only gonna get harder but it's only gonna get better.

This is my last e-mail in Utah. On 4/20 (hahahahahaha. I know) at 3:00am we leave here, head to Dallas Ft Worth, then to Miami, then to Kingston Jamaica. We arrive in Kingston at 8:00pm and I officially hit the big time. I'm scared. I'm nervous. But I am excited and I hope to keep being able to work hard and love what I'm doing and invite people to come unto Christ. I get my visa and all my travel stuff the day we leave. Hopefully it all goes well.

I want to commit everyone reading this to make a solid effort to slow down the closing of your prayers. As you close in the name of Jesus Christ, really think about whose name you are closing in. Think about what it means, why we even do it. Don't rush it, and I promise you'll feel a difference as you pray.

Joseph Smith gave his life for the work. As did so many of the saints. As did my Savior. I hope to do everything I can to remember that while I'm out here. Jesus Christ suffered for the sins of those He knew wouldn't accept Him, and would not repent. I hope to waste and wear out my life for everyone I meet, regardless of whether or not they accept the message I have to bring them.

I've loved the song CALLED TO SERVE since childhood. It was the first hymn I memorized. I love it even more now.

Log on to watch the MormonMessages video of the Apostles Testifying Today of Christ. It is AWESOME.

I have so much more to say but I am running out of time. I love you all. Thanks for all the letters and encouragement. Keep those dearelder.com's coming. They get here lightning speed and they'll still be free and fast once I am in Jamaica. It really is the easiest way to contact me.

Hope everyone is safe and happy.

The church is SO true!

All the love in the world,

Sister Payne

D&C 123:11-17

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Greetings from Provo!

I only have 27 minutes YIKES here we go. this keyboard sucks. dangit they keys stick so forgive me.
Dearest family friends and fans,
Well, the MTC is an experience. One week in and i'm starting to feel a little more comfortable with my surroundings. The first few days were very hectic and I got lost plenty of times, but after singing many renditions of "we're all in this together" from high school musical I began to calm down. This is the hardest thing I have ever done and this is still the easy part! It is rewarding though, no doubt about that.
My biggest fears at this point in the game are not knowing the material, and not being a good missionary. Those are the same fears I had before I came out here so hopefully I can quench some of that action before I leave. I'm in district C-21. My teachers are Brother Haslem and Sister Thomas. Bro Haslem looks like a young Corey Feldman, without being a weirdo. And Sis Thomas has eyebrows of death that she will not hesitate to raise at you if she thinks you are saying something stupid. They're both great though, really helping us make some good progress. There are 7 people in my district. Four elders and a sister all going to Fresno, CA. Elders Dutson and McLaren (or as we call them Baby Bednar and McLaryingitis) are companions, from Utah and Yuma Az. Elders Yandow (our district leader, who we call Ed J. Yandow) and Anderson (Anderson the Manderson) are from Georgia and Colorado Springs. Sister Bolliger from Austin Texas is awesome. Her companion is from Tonga and didn't speak English, so she got reassigned districts and now Sis Bolliger is in a tripanionship with me and Sister Speakman (AZ acquaintance. Not surprising we were comps huh?) I know Heavenly Father played such a huge role in the formation of our disctrict and our companionship. We have complementary personalities and spirits, and that has been a huge strength for us during this crazy week.
We also found the two elders who are going to Jamaica with us, Elder Roberts and Elder Hoffman. They're in a different district but they seem way cool and I'm looking forward to getting to know them better in the field. The food here is pretty decent; they feed us like its going out of style so it seems like every hour we get food shoved in our faces and its totally buffet style. I've never eaten so consistently before in my life, it has taken some time getting used to it. The first day we were here we didn't understand the system of trying out different showers to find one with hot water, and taking showers at night when the pipes weren't frozen; so we all took icy cold showers at 6am. That was totally ridiculous. Thank goodness I've learned my lesson. Waking up at 630 am is not easy - not at all. In fact my stomach kinda gets sick every morning. But I'm just pushing forward. It's 7:04 am right now, and I've been up for an hour -- doing laundry.
Our zone leaders just got switched. They were Elder Barrett and Elder Graham - but they took off with there district to Oregon. Now we have Elders Platt and something else. Elder Platt looks like he's 45 years old if he's a day. Stress wrinkles and all! Picture Martin Short, and you have Elder Platt. I've never laughed so hard in my life. Sis Bolliger and Sis Speakman keep me on my toes and say the most hilarious things -- it is nice to have the humor aiding the transition into missionary life. It has been icy frozen tundra since I got here. Glad I have that coat, it literally snowed everyday thus far except for today. Beautiful, but ridiculously cold. In the mornings, we try our best to shout "Feel the rhythm, feel they rhyme. Get on up - its mission time!" I'm getting really excited for Jamaica. I ordered a Jamaica shirt at the bookstore here - all the cool kids are wearing the shirts from the country they are serving in so I wanted to get on the bandwagon. We had a jumper day as we called it, where we wore our jumpers with pride as any good sister missionary does. And we accidentally switched out our linens on a day we weren't supposed to, so now none of us have sheets while we sleep until next monday. AWESOME!
I know this is really long so if you're still reading congratulations. Our residence hall is 4m, 3rd floor. Our classroom is 8m, 3rd floor. We've been climbing A LOT of steps. I have calves of steel. We've had chances to practice our street contacting with Brother Fereday who was absolutely amazing in demonstrating how to go about it. Any time we practice a skill or get instruction like that its called a TE - teaching experience. We also had one TA - teaching appointment, with these solid volunteer investigators who were an old married couple. It felt just like teaching a real investigator the first lesson. It went well, and I'm looking forward to our next chance to do it. The scenario we planned for they ended up switching on us, so we really went in blind to the "house" and just followed the Spirit. I also got my blood drawn for an HIV test for Jamaica. Thrilling.
I wanted to share a neat and scary experience I had my first night here. As a laid down trying to fall asleep on my bunk, I began to get a deep and dark feeling of claustrophobia. I've never felt that fear before in my life, but all of the sudden I became very aware of how small our room was, how small our beds were, how small the MTC was, and that I felt trapped, and needed to get out of here as soon as possible. When Joseph Smith talked about the unseen power siezing him in the sacred grove while he prayed, I never really understood that. I know I still don't, but I felt like this was my version of a dark power siezing me. It was scary - and alarming. But it left as soon as it came, and I know it was the adversary's attempt at scaring away a servant of the Lord.

Conference was amazing. I don't even have time to talk about that other than to say Scott's talk and Wilford Andersen's talks were BRILLIANT. I was challenged to ask questions and look for my answers in conference. I got every answer and then some! I have felt the Spirit so strong here and also felt so many hardships and difficulties. I've really been contemplating the atonement, my Savior, my salvation, and my purpose. I am here to invite others to come unto Christ. I am so aware of my weaknesses, but look forward to learning even more to rely on my Heavenly Father to get me through what trials may come.

This is the best decision I have ever made. Sister Jones, our orientation sister just left for her mission in New Zealand. The advice she gave us was advice she received from a Korean sister at temple square. "PUNCH THEM IN THE FACE! PUNCH THEM IN THE FACE WITH THE SPIRIT!" So that is what I'm going to do :) I know there are people God is preparing for me in Jamaica, who are ready for the gospel and looking for answers - whether they know it yet or not. I am striving to move forward with confidence.
I commit everyone who is reading this to HELP YOUR LOCAL MISSIONARIES. This work is hard and we cannot do it alone. Try to do something this week that will help them invite others to come unto Christ.
I also want to ask -- what can I do for you? Let me know and I will do my best to help - through prayer and whatever else.

Keep the prayers and letters coming. They are sincerely and deeply appreciated. I cannot check email but for one half hour on P Day and as you can tell I try to use most of that for writing. So utilize dearelder.com and write me dangit!

I love you all. Keep in touch. I am off to change my laundry.
Love always,
Sister Payne

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I look like a missionary!

Here she is, long skirt and everything! She has reported to the MTC and should be there for the next few weeks before she heads off to Jamaica. Be sure to write her!