Tuesday, May 25, 2010

FRESNO WEEK 5: Couches, Pianos, being Schooled, Thus the effects of Hymns and Scriptures

Well, it has been another humbling and eventful week here in the Riverview ward.

I have been ill at I think seven members houses so far. Haha. Lying on someone's couch while your companion leaves the spiritual thought is always a humbling experience. I call it instant humility. I can usually gauge how prideful I have been in the previous hours based on the severity of the attack. Haha.

The most random thing I have to share is how much I have played the piano thus far on my mission. It is ridiculous. NO ONE seems to be able to play. I have played at Zone Conference, in Relief Society, in Sacrament Meeting (MTC), for special musical numbers, etc. I have played hours of prelude and postlude music and have come to seriously enjoy the crazy random hymns. Somehow word has gotten out that I was a piano teacher, and I am now being volunteered to play. It has been fun though! Several members have grand pianos and it is such a joy to be able to play on them. Too bad I don't have a memory--playing some old pieces I studied would be fun! (but probably not very missionary..lol)

I would like to discuss the hilarity and validity of the phrase: "You are being schooled." :)

A school is a place of learning, an opportunity for growth. However, as with most anything that is valuable, it requires a degree of sacrifice. You give up doing the day-to-day so that you can learn something of importance. You go consistently and have daily assignments that help reinforce concepts taught and provide steady progress.

While all of that is fine and dandy, there is a hilarious definition stemming from the American vernacular. If you are "schooled" it means that you have been completely demolished by another entity, put in your place, and made aware of your own insignificance or lack of skill when compared with another.

With that said, Sister Bolliger is truly being schooled by her mission.

On the one hand, the mission is a place of incredible learning, of growth, and of light and knowledge gained because I am giving up the trivial day-to-day worries and schedules to learn something of importance. I study consistently and have daily goals and tests to reinforce the truth I testify of--which should all generally provide steady progress.

I am also being "schooled" because I am constantly made aware of my own insignificance. That truly, everything is up to the Lord. That no matter how many Old Testament stories I can explain, how many scriptures I can color code, or how many doors I can knock--my commitment to the Lord isn't to be the best and make others convert, but to be the best I can be--only compared with my individual potential--and provide the choice for others to exercise their agency.

Next week is transfers--which totally weirds me out. Wasn't that an eloquent way of sharing that time is flying by? That change is part of the plan--so I should learn to accept it? :)

In retrospect of these last few weeks...I feel like I am living in a movie. There have been so many seriously weird, awkward, hilarious, random, and just odd experiences that I constantly look around searching for a video camera, a microphone, something to indicate that this situation was put together by a comedic mastermind searching for his or her box office hit. Because it would be a hit. People are just so weird. Haha. And I totally know that I am one of them...I'm part of this movie. Don't even worry.

Well .. obviously I am losing my ability to be coherent. But no matter, the spirit is the teacher, right? :)

Last but not the least, we have started to sing a hymn at the beginning of our lessons, during companion study, etc. and my word how wonderful the hymns are! I have just recently started to actually pay attention to the lyrics and oh my--that is all one needs to learn about the gospel! The truth, the advice, and the ability to succinctly share testimony through a few verses completely takes me aback!

I used "thus" in my prayer last night. Reading the scriptures constantly will do a number on your vocabulary. Haha.

All in all --- The work continues to go forth. Craziness continues to amuse. And the Spirit continues to edify.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fresno Week 4: Sista Bolleeguh, Being Made Whole with Pain, Standing Tall, Humility Attacks

Dear People.

I am writing you from an elementary school library. One of the members of the ward is a librarian here and I feel so insanely privileged to be typing on a Mac as we speak. Oh how I have missed technology, even though I don't think about it.

There comes a time I think in everyone's life, when you begin to question that status of your brain---is Alzheimer's kicking in? I believe it may because as I am racking my brain for a hilarious story or vignette about my precious missionary service, I can't even remember what day it is. I forgot my companion's name and had to sneak a look at her tag. I may have even been surprised to see my curly hair. So I think we all have a good idea about how all-encompassing this malady is.

To remedy this, I have taken to writing EVERYTHING down. As in EVERYTHING. But I have found a flaw in my system--when the notes are no where to be found, you are lost. Literally.

Oh, one just came to mind. Remember that bus...that almost killed me? Definitely saw it yesterday and yelled at it with all the "quiet dignity" I could muster. Let's just say I don't think it would even dare to show it's face anymore.

The other day Sister Tupou (yes I looked at her tag again) were rushing from some service we were doing for a recent convert to our Missionary Coordinating Meeting. When we finally returned to our vehicle, showered, and looking far too haphazardly put together for Sister Missionaries, and on our drive (which all of the speed limits were maintained, btw), I realized that I had forgotten my nametag. "Urrrrghhhhh," I grimaced, in the most refined way. "Sista Bolleeguh," Sister Tupou laughed, "Not again!!" Perhaps this was not the first time that I have forgotten my name tag for this meeting. Haha. Thank goodness for long hair carefully placed over my left shoulder! As we walked to the home where the meeting would be held, I noticed that Sister Tupou's tag ended in an "r". Thinking that my eyes were playing tricks on me... I looked again. Ta daaaa!! Sister Tupou was wearing myyy name tag! In a situation eerily reversed, Sister Tupou grimaced and I laughed, and I reached over to retrieve MY tag. Yes this was a defining experience of the week. No it was not lame. Yes missionary service can make you readily juvenile. No I do not feel embarrassed sharing this message with y'all. Yes I say y'all like there is no tomorrow.

Needless to say, I am getting progressively loopier as I enter my fourth week of missionary service here in Fresno.

I am so grateful to be here on my mission. I know that sounds highly average, but, I am so surprised at the skills and lessons that I am not only learning to communicate through teaching, but that are changing the very nature of who Sister Bolliger is.

I realized the other day that our Heavenly Father loves us enough to let us suffer. I know that at first glance that can seem a bit off, but it really is so true. He loves us enough to let us go through trials, for it is through this process that we are able to grow the most. By putting all of our trust in the Lord, we are able to not be cut short by our own perceived limitations, but grow even stronger as we allow the Lord to test us and prove us more than we ever could have imagined. Through this process it is not easy--in fact it burns sometimes. But how else can we be cleansed and refined? How else can we exercise our spiritual muscles and strengthen them in exercising our faith? We are here on earth for those very experiences. We are here to be taken out of our comfort zone. We are here to fear God, not man. We are here to learn by experience and to essentially struggle.

With my health problems I have been able to learn that our Heavenly Father does answer our prayers, just not in the ways that we are always looking for. :) As I have prayed as fervently as I can to understand how my health problems are to teach me, I have been blessed to see glimmers of understanding at different times.

With my health problems I am randomly immobilized for any length of time, suffering in excruciating pain. But, what I have found, is that in every instance, I have been able to feel and see the outpouring of love from my companion, missionary leaders, ward members, and Heavenly Father that I would not have otherwise recognized. I am able to receive blessings from incredible priesthood holders that I would not have otherwise been humble enough to ask for. I am continually humbled, recognizing that this is truly a work directed by the Lord. I have felt that the promises that I have been given, that I will be made "whole" have been fulfilled--but not in the way I thought. I have not been relieved of my problems. I have not been absolved of pain. But I have been made whole through the others around me who give of themselves continually, who impart of their time, love, substance, and kindness which when combined with the imperfect, needing person that I am--makes a whole. I have been so blessed from these problems. I am praying more earnestly. I am being more honest. I feel my Heavenly Father's love for me more strongly as I allow myself to feel this love.

I have concluded that I will not pray for humility or patience again, because my prayers always seem to be answered in the most effective ways. Haha. :)

I am so grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for the members all over the world that realize that sharing the gospel is supposed to be uncomfortable and a bit scary--but that do it anyway. I am grateful for people that open their mouths and share of the good news of the gospel. Missionary work is not something that can be done effectively independent of all other church organizations and people. The Church is set up for missionary work and as such, is done best when members and organizations understand their role in assisting us in the work! We are only temporary (18 months or 2 years) missionaries in an area, but members get to be there permanently, understand the culture of the area, and have the relationships that best transition to gospel learning.

Phew! That was a random tangent.

Ready for another random thing?

Sister Tupou and I are the same height and shoe size. People are always startled when we stand up from sitting because we are both 5'9". Let's just say that the rest of the 21 sister missionaries in the California Fresno Mission are......SHORT LITTLE THINGS. I think the average height for the other sisters is around 5'2" or so. Yeah. A great difference. There are only four of us that are not snack sized. Haha. But really. The chances that I will be with someone who reaches my waist is very high.

I have also not been able to keep myself from correcting the incredible spelling mistakes that plague our mission handouts. Seriously. In fact, I am going to buy a dictionary today so that when I present the Mission President with page numbers and words that they could correct if they wanted to, I will be assured that I will be in the right.

Oh geez. That paragraph will probably warrant me a health attack soon. :)

Love you all!!!

Sister Bolliger

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fresno Week 3: Helping Hands not Heads, Write That Down, Alma 26:27, FRES-YES!

You know you have left the state of Texas when you remember Cinco de Mayo on May 9th. So sad. So sad.
Well this week has been an interesting one. All over the state of California there was a "Mormon Helping Hands" service thing. Different stakes were assigned to different stake parks, volunteering to beautify and give some much needed attention to this gorgeous areas. We were assigned to Woodward Park clearing up maybe 10 to 15 years of overgrowth. Gah! There were chainsaws, weedwackers, pitchforks, those things that you use to dig into the ground that there is a song about or something--gold diggers use them?--aka intense! It was odd being around ward members in pants, let alone jeans, but we sure worked hard! There was a fence and probably 10-14 men (as in men) on one side clearing the brush, pruning trees, and going to town on the vegetation. Sister Tupou and I were on the other side. The brethren would throw their branches, debris, trash, craziness over the fence. Our job was to move it from the fence into a big pile so that the bulldozer/tractor thing could come and pick it up and put it in the back of a dump truck. I got hit in the head with a tree branch. Another tree branch has royally bruised my shin. But I consider them all badges of honor. We kept moving, collecting, raking, and pitchforking the dead growth away from the fence and into huge piles. Sister Tupou at one point was standing on top of the pile (probably at least four feet high) and almost got lost inside. Haha. I ate a few bugs. But hey, that's protein!
Sister Tupou (too-po') has continued to teach me Tongan. Teu 'Alu Ki Tonga! (aka I want to go to Tonga!) I also insisted I learn another phrase, 'Teu 'Alu Ki Toileti' (I think it is easy to imagine why this one was necessary..haha). Something funny is that 'kata' in Tongan means laughter. It gives added meaning to my first name I think. Lol. 'Fefe hake' means 'how's it going'? Oh it's fun. The best phrase is 'oiaue' (oh-ee-ya-weh but said really fast together). It's kind of like 'oh my goodness' or 'ahhhh this is ridiculous'. We might have said it a lot at the service project. Haha.
Fresno is so so so gorgeous. Things actually grow here! (besides weeds) I have concluded that we watch football in Texas because there's nothing else to look at outside. Haha. But really. One sister in our ward has the most beautiful yard ever. Roses, snapdragons, lots of other flowers whose names are exotic but I have no idea what they are--it reminds me of Grandma Johnson's yard! There are tons of trees--especially palm trees--which always throws me off, but it's a wonderful reminder of the beauty here.
So I have turned into a crazy person here on my mission. Hard to imagine I know. One of the weird things that has transpired is that I write EVERYTHING down. EVERYTHING. One night Sister Tupou and I were chatting before 10:30 PM and she was talking about how we both needed to buy stamps on our next p-day. I responded, "Oh I already have that written down." Sister Tupou hilariously replied, "Good job, Oliver Cowdrey." So now I am the official designated scribe in this companionship. The kicker was, though, that as soon as she said that I got up from my bed saying, "I need to go write this down." Oh dear. It really is true. :)
The scripture of the week is Alma 26:27. Sister T and I were getting a bit discouraged with a slump in our area this week...and we came upon this scripture which I am typing by memory--so no hating or judging on the comma placement--:
"Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us and said: Go forth amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success."
Ta da! I don't think any scripture could more perfectly describe how we felt, what we need to do, and the assurance we needed to continue on.
I am so grateful for the Book of Mormon. Holy cow it is seriously seriously awesome. I can't wait to read it. I am excited to hear the stories. It seems as if everything has become 20x more real--and was already pretty stellar to me before the mission. I have read Helaman this week. And go back and study by topic for the other portions. I thought that not having other reading material than the scriptures, Jesus the Christ, True to the Faith, Our Heritage, and Our Search for Happiness would be boring--but boy was I wrong! I have already read Our Search for Happiness and am halfway through Jesus the Christ again. And wow. Is it incredible or what!?
If I thought the MTC was a planned curriculum to make you humble, it pales in comparison to the mission field. Probably because one of my biggest vices is pride, I am continually and drastically humbled. Whether it is looking in the mirror and realizing that the Church is true because no one in their right mind would talk to someone dressed in my get up, or making a gross mistake, or talking way too much or way too little in a lesson, or forgetting my nametag---I am, it seems, given an opportunity every fifteen minutes or so to be brought done from a self-created podium of pride and reminded that, as Ammon says, "as to my strength I am nothing." Haha. But this is a good thing! I get to be rebuilt by the Lord and tutored and strengthened by the Spirit. All while trying to remain humble. I am almost painfully aware of the great void between where I am now, and where I need to be--where I operate now spiritually, and where the mantle is. There is so much that I need to learn, so much I need to sacrifice to allow myself to truly become a consecreated missionary. And this is where another kicker comes in--patience. Oh yes. Patience. If I thought that waiting three months to come on the mission was enough of a time to give me the best patience ever (notice the pride sneaking in..lol) I was wrong. Again. Haha. I want everything to be at the highest level now--scriptural knowledge, memorization, area book, understanding of the streets, knowledge of mission rules, the correct attitude--everything NOW. But it only gets that way through consistent, diligent practice and learning and growth from mistakes.
All in all, I'd like to change the name of my mission from Fres-no to Fres-yes! Because honestly, things are going to get better, I am going to continue to learn, and for every slammed door or negative change in interest, there are blessings just waiting around the corner!!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fresno Week 2: FAKATOMALA, HHOONNKK, Red as the U of U, Punched in the face with the Spirit!,

Well hello again. Might I just add how odd it is to be emailing wearing a skirt in a public library the size of our family room that is "decorated" outside with graffiti? The librarian is Laotian, a bit too flirty, and has the longest hair and strangest tatoos I have ever seen. Haha. Welcome to Fresno.

Well this week has certainly been another interesting and miracle-filled one. :) I would like to start off by telling you more about Sister Tupou. She is hilarious. She's been teaching me Tongan words and I much prefer them to their English counterparts. In Tongan, repent is "fakatomala". That's right. FAKATOMALA. We sometimes say that to people as we breeze past them on our bikes--but only to the drunk ones.

Speaking of bikes, I almost got hit by a bus yesterday. That was quite the experience. Sister Tupou and I stopped to talk to a lady who was just standing on the side of the road. She was apparently waiting for a bus, but we didn't see the bus stop sign (very small and not noticeable). Sister T went on the sidewalk to be able to hear what she was saying, but I stayed on the road on my amazing bike. All of a sudden... HOOOOONNNKKKKKKKKKKK. I turned over my shoulder and the bus was right there. As in right there. As in, heavenly assistance helped me power out of reach of the killer bus. :) I always share such uplifting stories that will make my Mother feel calm, don't I?

Mother's Day quick interjection. There is a family (actually another missionary momma) who offered to let me use her home to call you. I'm so excited to talk to y'all! And about writing questions? I already have a list of things that I am going to mention to y'all. So like Mother like daughter. :)

OHHH. Guess what. Your paleface daughter is not getting along with the California sun. We have been riding bikes a lot since I arrived here, but it has been randomly overcast. However, this week it returned to clear sky time. And I have paid severely for it. Hahahah. We were at a coordinating missionary meeting with our Ward Mission Leader, and boom. All of a sudden I look down and I am red. As in red. As in the color of that university that shall not be named. Here's the kicker. It was only ONE arm. And it was a massive farmer tan. And only one arm. And the watch line was there. THE WATCH LINE. My other arm? Relatively unscathed. Another beautiful note, I got sunburned THROUGH my pantyhose. Hahaha. I have lines from my mary jane style shoes. Oh boy. That was a hilarious discovery. It turned out to be a blessing because the church building was really really cold and all I had to do to warm up was just touch my sunburn. My own personal heater.

President Gonzalez called to tell me about John's mission call. Even though I already knew. I feigned innocence. It was still glorious.

We have been seeing the members come out of the wood work and JUMP on the missionary bandwagon like nothing before. They are calling us and asking when we are available to come and teach their friends in their homes.

We have seen miracles as at least three different investigators have reached out to us explaining that they are ready to be baptized. Now. Oh, the blessing of the area book! The son of a recent convert went over to a member's home last week and told them that he wants to be baptized. This is real. We start teaching him and his friend on Wednesday! Gah!

We received a referral for a woman whose son converted to Mormonism about 30 years ago when he married his wife. This Grandma decided to order "Finding Faith in Christ" and see what it was her grandchildren believed in. We went to her home and my goodness is she so sweet! We were definitely led by the Spirit to contact her. When we received the referral, we called the phone number, but it was incorrect. At this point, even though there is an address, we were a little wary of going there. But, I just kept feeling like we NEEDED to go there. Riding our bikes over to the street where she lived, my skirt kept getting stuck in the tire, and the brake kept fiddling around so we would stop and I would fix it, probably go another 300 feet and have to do it again. We entertained the idea of just going back to our apartment to drop our bikes off and then go by foot to contact some less-actives in nearby apartment complexes, but I just thought it was funny and we continued on. As soon as we got to her home, she was gracious, invited us in, and then began drilling us with your typical preconceived questions. :) Sister Tupou and I just jumped into the Restoration and as we liked to say in the MTC "punched her in the face with the Spirit". Haha. It worked. She wants us to come back, and we're going to help her read the Book of Mormon. She said she had tried reading it before but found it "boring". Haha. So we gave her 3 Nephi 11. Boom.

This is a random question/informative statement---If y'all have been sending Dear Elders I haven't been receiving them...I don't know if you have at all, but I thought I'd just send a little message that mailed letters might be the most reliable way to contact me. Haha. I need people's addresses.

(Side note from "the Momma".... oops we've only been e-mailing. DearElder.com and snail mail to the Fresno Mission Home will work great! We didn't realize the extra letters would be appreciated... :)

California Fresno Mission Home

1814 North Echo

Fresno, CA 93704

(Back to the true creative writer...)

The members have been so awesome! I am now actually enjoying rice. I get excited when I eat vegetables and I have kind of lost my taste for chococlate. I knoooooow. Miracles do happen!!! Haha. I still have the chocolate memories, but whenever I taste like frozen yogurt that's chocolate it doesn't have the same appeal. My body is super benefiting from the healthy diet though. I'm still losing weight. Haaha. I think every single Sister in Relief Society has asked about my condition--it is still awkward to talk about.

I miss y'all so much! It is odd that a mission is kind of becoming a reality now. My goodness is Ether 12:27 the mantra of my life or what! I have come up with a "light and knowledge" plan for my personal study. I have scheduled every minute and divided it between: reading Jesus the Christ, consecutive Book of Mormon reading, Deep Study Doctrine (this month is the Atonement for me), reading Our Search for Happiness, selecting and memorizing scriptures, PMG studying, scripture marking, and general miscellaneous study. I wake up excited to go and increase my knowledge!

I am still Area Book happy. I read it every night--and we have been having such success as we go and find those people that have fallen through the cracks!

The Elders in my zone are awesome. There is one person from Texas in every companionship in my district. It's hilarious. There are lots of "y'alls".

I don't know if any of this has been informative or not!? I am crazy. Might I just end with a slight dichotomy of my life. The other day we were riding our bikes in a particular area of our boundaries...that makes me glad for the protection Missionaries receive. BLASTING from people's houses was music that I might have been privvy to listening to previous to my eighteen months of serving the Lord. Let's just say the Lord knew what he was doing putting me on a bike. I started to bounce my head to the beat (completely invoulntarily) and...I might have lost my balance slightly. Sooo funny how those little things keep me in check. :) But really. I keep telling Sister Tupou, "I knew that song when I wore pants!" It's very precious.

I love you ALL! And miss you dearly. Be nice to the missionaries and offer to give them hand soap. Because sometimes they forget to buy it on P-day. And they suffer severely for it.


Sister Bolliger (who has finally stopped looking around for her Mother when people call her name)