Monday, September 9, 2013

Super Exciting News!!!

We received a letter from Mara this morning which was a surprise because she usually doesn't write until after 12:00 p.m. On the subject line it said, "MOMOMOMOMOMOMOM- READ RIGHT NOW!!"  Of course, you can imagine how my heart skipped a beat when I read that.  This is what followed.

Doing things different today.  I have serious news so I´m going to share and ask that you send me all the info you can find in the next hour and a half.    President Essig called us Saturday night... which never happens unless it´s something really important as we learned the last time I had a change.  You will never guess where I am going.  For the next three weeks I am going back to my first ward - Lo Zanartu in Quilicura.   Then me, and my new Mexican companion Sister Antunez, will be the very first sister missionaries of all time to preach the gospel in the Juan Fernandez islands.
I AM GOING TO LAS ISLAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chris and I  got on the internet and frantically searched for all the information we could about the island of Robinson Crusoe where we assume she will be serving since the other Juan Fernandez islands look like they are uninhabited.  After sending her all we could find about the island plus some amazing pictures, I included some questions of my own.  I ALWAYS have questions.  Most of them she couldn't answer but I did find out a few things.

I do not know much. This is what I know.  There have always been elders out on the island. The church has something like 16 members and 10 active.  But never fear, they will all be active when I convert them.  The elders say that the work is impossible and that you basically just do service all day.  And I say pish-posh.   That´s going to have to change.

In my reading about the island, I discovered that they had a tsunami there in February of 2010 that seems to have destroyed much of the main town of San Juan Bautista. Not really something that a mother wants to read about so I am trying to not go there in my head.  They seem to still be rebuilding from this disaster which is fine because Mara has always loved to get down and dirty and help pick up the pieces from a good disaster. We sent her some pictures of the island that look absolutely beautiful- at least the landscape does.  Very mountainous.  The pictures of the town look incredibly poor and humble.  We are super excited for her.  Apparently, this is quite an honor as sisters have never been allowed to serve on the islands.  She and her companion will be the first sister missionaries to ever serve out on the island.  The mission president announced a few months ago that in September, he would start sending sisters out to the islands.  Since then, Mara  said that the chatter among the hermanas has been high and that everyone wants to go. After a few exchanges back and forth with island information, this is the letter that followed. 

Ok- now I finished reading everything so I´ll write my real letter.
I´m still in utter and compelte shock.  I cannot for the life of me understand why or how the Lord decided to choose me to take on this task.  I feel so humbled, in a way that I have never felt before.  How can I, the nuevita, that only has three months in the mission and makes  mistakes every single day, be chosen to serve in this calling?  It´s almost unbelievable.  There are so many other deserving sisters that wanted this opportunity with all of their hearts.  They prayed for it, fasted for it even, and I, the only one who KNEW it was an impossible option for me, was called to serve there.  I´m just.... speechless.
I am so filled with gratitude.  A year ago, the thought to go on a mission had never even crossed my mind.  Three months ago, I thought that my mission had ended in the MTC and that I had failed.  And now...
Wow.  I´m just honored.  That´s all.  Truly honored.
I´m also a little bit devastated to be leaving my beloved Renquita.  I am just so in love with Renca, with our little branch that sometimes has 70 people in attendance and sometimes 25.  I am in love with Renca hill that says RENCA LA LLEVA as if it were Hollywood.  I am in love with Hornitos de Renca, the panaderia (bakery) that we visit WAY too much.  But mostly, I am just in love with all of the people.  I should be getting a  ton of facebook requests right about now (She has received many FB requests from all her friends in Renca).  Wow- I am just in love with them.  Sister Mora and I have worked so darn hard, and it literally hurts to leave it all behind, but I know that I am leaving it in the hands of the most capable missionary - Sister Mora.  She will be training another gringita like me who has six weeks in the mission.  Hermana Antunez, my new companion, has been in Lo Zanartu for nine months and will serve as my senior companion for the entire time that we are together.  I met here when I was there, she seems like a really great girl.  I am excited to go back and see the families in Lo Zanartu again.  I was only there for one week so I really didn´t get to know them.
Sister Mora and I have been together for 8 weeks.  And we have been through a lot together.  A whole lot.  I am going to miss her SO SO SO SO MUCH.  Like I can´t even explain how much.  She is such an amazing person and missionary.  When I come home, I am going to do everything in my power to help her and her family achieve their goals and dreams.  She deserves it.   I just love her.  I know that she will take good care of our work here and not let any of it go to waste.
This past week we had a pretty interesting expereince.  September 18th is  Independence Day for the Chileans.    Turns out independence is a pretty huge deal here.  LIKE HUGE.  People take off the entire week of work and just drink and party.  Unfortunately, other parts of September are used to protest and demonstrate and be angry.  Sister mora and I accidentally got caught right in the middle of the whole shabang this week.  We know that on 11 of September, we are not allowed to work after 7, because it´s not safe.  Look it up.  It´s pretty crazy.  Turns out that 40 years ago, there were tortures and murders and an absolute disaster, so every year people decide to do demonstrations again.  Don´t worry, the sisters are always in safe areas, but we just have to go inside in case the police cut the lights to avoid more problems.  Anyway, what we forgot about was that they were going to do some demonstrations downtown on the 5th and 6th... just in time for our very well planned exchanges... oops.  The bus ride that should take 30 minutes took two hours (People were literally peeing in bags), went outside of our mission, and dropped us right in the middle of a war zone.  There were police with shields and masks and armed vehicles and crazy people.  And every one was looking at us and wanted to be near us and said "Hey look at those rich kids" (why think we´re rich is beyond me...).  But anyway, we took off running without a clue of where we were going, searching for any metro.  Yep.... turns out there weren't any.  (Oh- P.S. missionaries, under no circumstances are allowed to be near demonstrations or protests.)  So we kept running until we realized that we were very lost and would have to pay for a taxi (those things are DANG expensive).  But we paid anyway and arrived three hours late for our exchange.
Sister Mora left me with another gringita who doesn´t speak or understand very well and is also tall and blonde.  Talk about attention callers.  We went back to our normal bus stop and the place was trashed with fire in the streets and whatnot.  We waited with about a million other people for a bus, any bus to come, and it never came.  After about a half hour, I felt really strongly that we needed to go try another stop that was far away but could be worth it.  As we started walking who showed up but an angel.  IGNACIO.  You know, Brenna´s best friend?  He was coming home from English classes and helped us find the other stop (I didn´t actually know where it was).  You all know how stressed I get when I don´t know where I am or what´s going on.  Like throw up sick.  He literally saved us.  We were protected by a Chilean  who knew his way around.  Even though he is only 18, we felt safe.

Anyway, the bus  never came and after waiting and waiting we decided we would have to travel in Colectivo.  So we went to a corner and waited and waited for a colectivo that wasn´t full.  They were ALL full with people trying to get the heck out of there.  Without Ignacio I literally would´ve been bawling.  He suddenly remembered that there was a collectivo "station" or corner where we could find more.  We walked... quickly... through the craziness, including through a tear bomb or something of the sort (still not really sure what it was that we passed through) and arrived at a line about a million miles long for the collectivo.  But in the end, we boarded and now I have a cool story to tell.  It was pretty interesting.  Crazy but cool!!
And we were super blessed because we had just barely taken out cash.  Wow.  Seriously, we are so blessed.  God sent us many blessings that day.  And really every day.  I´ve got some crazy weeks up ahead of me, but I am super excited to see what the Lord has in store. 

I am so proud of you and everything you have been doing to advance the work of the Lord.  Much love to all,
Sister Thomas

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