So Tuesday was another transfer meeting. It was hard to imagine being transferred out of Live Oak Canyon. When my name was called to be transferred, I stood to leave and Sister Ward stood up and hugged me in front of all the other missionaries before I went to join my new companion. I am so confident in her and the great work she will do with her new companion there. Her new companion was in the MTC with her, not her companion then but they have both been out less than 3 months. I also collected a bunch of names from that ward list of who to friend on FB when I get back. Oh we also found out at transfer meeting that MTC time for those speaking English has been extended to 3 weeks, so this transfer is 7 weeks long instead of 6 because last transfer was 5 weeks long (due to plane flights and timing that before the week of Christmas), but now next transfer is also 7 weeks long and then we'll go back to 6 week transfers. So every transfer is a week later than before. I don't know how that will affect those going home from then on, including me, because I was supposed to fly home November 23rd but it may now be November 30th. So I talked to President Ellis (just because I saw him at the chalk walk, which I'll tell you what that is later in the email) and he said we will have a new mission president by the time I go home (which I knew, I just forgot) so things will be handled differently and I'll find out. So now all I really know is that I'm going home sometime in November and that I have plenty of time to not worry about much more than that yet, and it'll be figured out. Now I have been transferred to 2 huge wards again: Aliso Viejo and Wood Canyon in the Laguna Niguel Zone. My new companion is Sister Phinney, and to be honest I bet she will be my favorite companion on the mission. I love her! And I don't even know her that well. She is one transfer behind me, so she's been out 6 months and I've been out for 7. She is from British Columbia, Canada in a little city called Quesnel. She's so cute and I'll send you a picture of us sometime. She's a really really really good baker and so sweet to everyone. She's been in these wards for 3 months now. We totally get along, we can talk openly about ourselves, our studies, back home, experiences, I so enjoy being with her. It's like I wish I knew her in High School or something, we would've been such close friends (like we are now!). I can't wait to get to know her better.
Aliso Viejo and Wood Canyon are huge and constantly changing. But there's so much potential and a lot of work that can be done! I have never served in Laguna Niguel so this is also a new experience. But now I get to draw upon the things I've learned and done in other wards and get things rolling here. My first area in Dana Point and Capistrano is not far at all from here, and that was also 2 big wards at once. But I've never served with someone who's had similar and about as much experience as I have.
The Elders we're serving with are pretty cool. In Aliso Viejo we have the Zone Leaders, Elder Putnam who also just got transferred here and Elder Medina who I ward shared with when I was first in Live Oak Canyon. In Wood Canyon we have Elder Norton (one of our District Leaders) who is training Elder Mask. All 4 of these Elders are great as far as I have seen.
Sister Phinney (and experiences I've heard of on many accounts) tells me that Laguna Niguel is not a very obedient zone. They are very close as missionaries and actually probably have the most baptisms regularly out of the zones throughout the mission. They also don't disobey what would be considered big things or serious sins I guess, but in little ways that add up they have created a culture that rationalizes ignoring some of the standards we've been given. For example, on p-day they go in big groups to public places to hang out, which is discouraged. At ward or stake events and other meetings (like ward council) missionaries will be without their companions because they've said they're with endowed members and in the same building as their companion. Getting in the apartment on time is not a priority. Long dinner appointments with members even without giving a spiritual message happen easily. Basically a lot of things that are not hard to obey are being disregarded and many missionaries are not taking initiative. They still work hard, they still proselyte and refer to the handbook and Preach My Gospel on many things, but they are noticeably lax. It's having an effect on their conduct. I think part of the reason is because the zone used to be made up of a bunch of veteran missionaries that had been out for over a year and so the way they do things is acceptable by default. Some of those missionaries have gone home. Sister Phinney has expressed concern about a few of these things as they've come up since I've been with her this last week, but has not received very positive responses from those she's tried to confront (and she's not very confrontational at all). So we agreed to help each other. Neither of us have been out that long, so we decided to lead by example. It will be the perfect opportunity for us to become more polished in obedience, conduct, and unity ourselves, and may set the tone for the zone again. We are already seeing great things happen, it's considered a very successful are and many baptisms are already lined up. So imagine what more could happen and the greater miracles we could witness if we added greater obedience to invite the Spirit in greater abundance and power! We are working together to look for ways to show The Lord we are His servants and disciples. I am so grateful for a companion that is unified with me in purpose, willing to work more than having just good intention, and still have fun experiences through it all.
We basically don't have much to go off of as far as the work goes. Our leaders are awesome, but the wards are so big and change a lot. That and the sisters before us didn't accomplish much, it is difficult to do a lot especially between 2 wards like these, but that makes it easy to get spinning your wheels without going anywhere, which is what has happened recently. So we are starting by going back on former investigators and things in the area book to try and find people that way first. But we also have a lot to work with when it comes to finding in this area so we will work on that next.
Bishop Weaver (Wood Canyon, or WC) and Bishop Miller (Aliso Viejo, or AV) are fantastic. I don't know how they do it in these wards. Bishop Miller meets with us and the Elders every Friday morning to correlate. Bishop Weaver is putting together a list of names he wants us to visit and try to work with. Brother Turner (WC ward mission leader) is always in contact with us and ready to help. He has us text him every night when we get home to make sure we made it back at the end of the day safely. Brother Parker (AV ward mission leader) also keeps us busy. Sometimes we will correlate while we play games with him and his family at his home, so he is so much fun too. One of the biggest challenges being assigned here is going to be to try and keep all the names straight between wards, let alone remember them.
On Friday and Saturday night the stake did a Christmas activity called the Chalk Walk. Missionaries helped serve cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate, so we met most everyone there and there were a lot of friends that members brought! Artists (members and nonmembers alike) were given parking spaces to do chalk art for Christmas, they were stunning! I was so amazed. I wanted to take pictures but it actually rained Saturday night (of all the times to finally rain here, but we've been praying for it so I guess we can't complain). It was so much fun.
We haven't been able to get into the work a whole lot with transfers happening, but the first day I was here we did teach a now progressing investigator, Jennifer. She is solid. She has been to church the last 3 weeks in a row and has been reading the Book of Mormon daily! She was taught the restoration before I got here, but when we went to teach her she had so many questions we found out she didn't really understand what was taught, so we retaught it to her and it could not have gone better. She even prayed at the end of the lesson without hesitation! Sister Phinney said the difference between the 2 restoration lessons she's had were black and white, and that that experience was amazing. I was so excited after, I get this feeling after we teach a really good lesson that just makes me so so happy. And that was definitely one of those times. By the way, Dad she said she's lived in Virginia most her life, where was it in Virginia you lived and when?
April is a less-active that wants so badly to partake of the Sacrament. Yesterday she got to church just after the priesthood sat down after passing it. The week before she made it for the last 15 minutes of Relief Society. But she has short-term memory loss due to a serious car accident she was in when she was a teenager. And she's actually been baptized a member since then! So she really struggles with a lot of things she can't control, and doesn't have any friends that won't take advantage of her condition. So we do all we can but we're going to see what more others can do since there's only so much we can do for her as missionaries. I don't know much more about her yet.
Julie came to church for the first time in almost 40 years! Well actually she came to the chalk walk, but to the church building was a miracle. She left when it started raining so she didn't stay long. But we had visited with her the day before and she really knows how to talk. She said she may be there, but didn't sound very promising. Her son is having surgery at the end of the month, and this week he was really sick so he won't be coming to visit her until after Christmas. But Julie said one of the reasons she's not coming to church is because she has no skirts. So Sister Phinney and I are going to make a trip to the Sister's closet and pick up some skirts for her to choose from as a Christmas gift so she has a reason to come to church, because she won't wear a skirt to anything else either.
Kynsie would love to visit Shirley with us. She has sooooooooooo much crafting and art stuff. Probably more than Hobby Lobby. I bet it's so hard for her to shop at a craft store because she can't find something she doesn't already have, like it's worse than Ty trying to find a hotwheel he doesn't already have. She helped us make Christmas card while we talked to her about what she was reading in the scriptures lately. It was a pretty neat conversation. She doesn't really want to come to church though, but she's been close to coming so we'll keep working with her, especially since we are some of her only visitors.
We are having Christmas with the AV Elders at the Nobleza home. They are also Filipino! So Dad and I will have both spent our first Thanksgiving and Christmas on the mission with Filipino people and food. Remember Elder Medina is Filipino, so it was probably his request, and I'm excited.They said they are probably going to make rib roast for dinner. But we will spend a lot of time with them so we can call families, help make food, have dinner, and give a Christmas message. I can't wait!!
Speaking of Christmas, I will see you all Friday! Merry Christmas!!
- Sister Shumway