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!!!