Week 3 – Santa Ana

Mom,

Happy Easter! The only people who really do anything special for Easter are the Catholics and it´s pretty intense. We met up with a 18 year old named Douglas and asked him how his week was. He said, ´´Today is good, but yesterday I suffered.¨ Thinking that that was a weird thing to say, I asked him about it. He showed us his shoulder and back, covered in scars from a whip!! It was awful. He participated in a ceremony where they mimic the last week of the Savior. I tried to tell him that Christ suffered in order for us to be able to avoid suffering. He loves us and doesn’t´t want to do go through the things he did, that that was the point. I don´t know how he took it, but I was shocked to see something I had only read about. Last Saturday we saw a huge processions through the town. Everyone was dressed in white robes, chanting, and carrying a glass casket with a wax Christ figure inside. I felt like I was looking back in time to the Middle Ages.

My camera is broken. I thought it was the batteries but I replaced them and it´s still dead and I can´t turn it on 😦 not sure what to do, if I should buy another one here….?

My second day here we ran into a family on the street and I remembered them because they were speaking English to each other but they were obviously from El Salvador. When he told me his name he said ”Oscar” with an English ”r”. When we went back to their house for a lesson last week, they had already been taught a while ago by missionaries, had the Book of Mormon, all the pamphlets, and even a Joseph Smith video. We taught them the restoration but they already knew everything and said they they felt that it was true! When I asked them if they wanted to be baptized they said, ”caval!”, which is a word they use here for ”Of course” or ”I clearly agree”. Tender mercies! They are getting married and baptized really soon. They really speak Spanglish, it´s pretty funny. They work for Dish network in San Salvador in a call center so the speak beautiful English. It´s nice for me because I always speak Spanish but if I really want to say something I don’t know how to say I can just say it in English! Wahooo

We now have two baptism dates, Nicole and Eliseo!!

I´m officially starting English classes and I´m pretty excited. I get a cute little classroom and everyone seems interested in bringing friends. It´s a lot less threatening than inviting friends to church. And of course I will sneak the gospel into my teaching somehow 😉

We finally had a ward council yesterday; the first one they´ve had in a long, long time. We got a lot more help with our investigators. The ward members are still a little cold with us, but it´s a stepping stone. They are organizing a dinner with the bishop so investigators can get to know him. They only invited the elders though….humph.

Last Friday we had a temple trip!! We couldn´t go in but we brought our investigators to see the temple and learn more about them. It was pretty awesome and they had some special moments. The temple in San Salvador is beautiful. I also got to play the piano for a special musical number which was fun.

All the food here is great, but my companion is Mexicana and so I also get a lot of Mexican food. Usually it´s all good stuff: cilantro, onion, tomato, beans, tortillas, etc. But the other day she made her favorite for me, something called mole. It´s gross. I ate it but I hope she never makes it again haha. I haven´t used a fork in three weeks; they eat everything with their hands and/or a tortilla here. And there´s no napkins. I´ve learned that I have to coordinate my ratio of tortilla and food. If I finish my food with leftover tortilla, they´ll give me more food. If I have food but have finished my tortilla, they´ll give me another. It´s like a sin to eat them separately haha.

A gecho/iguana fell on me in our apartment the other day. I opened the door to our bathroom and I guess he was sitting on the top. That has been my only foreign animal experience. I´ve seen a few parrots but mostly here it´s just bugs and stray dogs.

That´s all I have for this week. It´s a roller coaster, but it´s really rewarding when you see that the Lord has answered your and someone else´s prayers.

Love you all so much,

Hermana Morse

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Week 2 – Santa Ana

No, not everyone smells like bug spray because they´re not gringos 🙂 They think I´m wierd because I put it on three times a day like Sis. Spjut recommends because I don´t want a weird disease! I´ll stop in the middle of the street and spray myself and some people chuckle like, “White girl can´t handle this country.” I´ve only had a few bites though so it´s working. Healthy as a horse, no problems whatsoever thus far.

I don´t need anything that I can´t buy here. I´m not spending all the allowance I get from the mission so I think I´ll be good with funds until I need clothes/shoes or something. The only thing I miss is air conditioning!

Wasn´t able to buy batteries for my camera last week so I still don´t have pictures. Forgive me! I promise them for next week.

Sounds like the English classes will happen, question is when/where. Everyone seems to be excited about it and we´ve already had references for nonmembers who would want to go. There´s a couple here (Marlon and Flor) with two really cute girls. They are both trying to learn English because he wants to move the family to Utah in order to go to BYU´s marketing program.

San Salvador is the capital and is not in our mission. I´m in Santa Ana, an area called Libertad.

The work is hard and frustrating sometimes but I know it´ll be worth it soon. I have a lot of hopes for baptisms in April. We had a baptism for a 14 year old girl, Maria, yesterday. I´ll try to get the pictures that were taken. Her cousin baptized her which was special for their family, but he didn´t know what to do (even though we practiced with him) and he had to do it 4 times haha. I felt kinda bad but I was a good day. It really hard to get the members to cooperate with us. As of now (I´m going to change this) but there is no ward coorelation meetings on Sunday and so there are conflicting ward activities and such. There also isn´t a ward directory so we have to figure out by ourselves who are members, less actives, where they live and their telephone numbers if they have them. Makes our job a lot harder.

Small miracles every day though. This Friday our mission has a temple excursion just for investigators. We had about 2 confirmations for people who could go until yesterday. A mother of an investigator stopped us to tell us that she wanted to take her whole family and her sister´s family to the temple with us! That now makes 13 people and 8 investigators coming!!!

Another miracle has been how fast I´ve been learning Spanish. I´m astonished because I wasn´t expecting really to be able to understand everyone until a couple months into the mission. The gift of tongues is real!! Yesterday we taught an “abuelita” (little grandma) and they´re really hard to understand because they speak really fast and don´t have teeth. We taught her about faith, repentence, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost because she´s been having troubles with her relationship with her daughter. Anyway, I could somehow understand everything she said and answer her questions and take the lead in teaching the lesson! I´ve been praying for the gifts of tongues and interpretation of tongues everyday, pretty much every moment, and the Lord has definitely answered my prayers.

It´s so cool to be bearing my testimony all the time. I´ve felt the Spirit a ton in our lessons and it´s sad when the people can´t because they´re being argumentative or their hearts have been hardened by other things in their lives. I want so much for them to just accept it because I see their lives and their families and I see how they could be so much happier but they reject it because they don´t want to change. They say they want to and say they´ll read and come to church with us, but then they´ll just have excuses. It´s either in our teaching or their faith. I also wish that we could meet with investigators more often. They work so much that they´ll literally have one or two breaks during the week that we can come. A lot can happen in a week. But I still have hope for many people. I know what I´m teaching is the best thing in the world!

Love you all always,

Hermana Morse

It Begins! Week 1 in El Salvador

Mom,

Where do I start? Well, I´m getting used to being sweaty all the time and smelling like bug spray. My compañera sometimes complains that she´s cold and turns off the fan. I just stare at her in awe.

My compañera´s name is Hna. Oy (like “toy” or “boy”) and she´s from Mexico. She eats everything with chilli, like popcorn, chips, vegetables. She doesn´t speak English so that is fun trying to communicate sometimes haha. No, my Spanish is functional enough that when she has to explain what a word means I can usually pick up on it. She´s great and everyone here is really nice and patient with my Spanish. The youth in the ward make fun of me but I was expecting that. They try to get me to say wierd things in Spanish or they just start spurting out everything they know in English, which isn´t much.

Actually, we´re trying to put together an English class that I´ll teach at the ward building on Saturdays because many people we talk to tell me that they are trying to learn English. It could be a good finding opportunity because who doesn´t want free English classes? I hope that works out.

You wouldn´t believe the poverty here. Trash and poop everywhere, people living in scrap metal huts with thousands of bugs. It makes me very grateful for what we have in the States. Our apartement is the best, cleanest one I´ve been in. And the stray dogs everywhere. Oh my, so many dogs. Dogs on the brink of starvation too. The actual landscape is really beautiful; mountainous with lots of greenery, cool birds, and colorful fruits I´ve never seen before.

Our showers consist of pouring cold water over ourselves with a bucket. It actually feels good so I don´t mind that at all. We have a toilet, but there´s no water so to flush you have to pour a whole bucket of water in the bowl. We get the water from a dripping foucet so everytime I have to go to the bathroom and don´t have water, I have to wait 15 mins for the bucket to fill up. The bug net isn´t bad; grateful for it. The mosquitoes are a missionary´s biggest threat as far as safety goes.

Don´t worry about my safety; there haven’t been any issues with the missionaries. Catcalls and the occaisonal creepy guy who we just stop talking to and walk away from are really the worst things that happen.

The food is good like everyone says; mangos and avacados are everywhere! lots of pupusas, rice, chicken, and tortillas 🙂 not low carb, but I can’t really help that.

The people here are super receptive to talking about Christ. The problem lies in actually getting them to do anything about it. They just want to be nice, good Christians so they say yes to everything then don´t follow through on their commitments. So we have tons of appointments and new investigators, but few that are actually progressing so that´s kinda hard. The two biggest challenges here are getting people to come to church and keep the Sabbath day Holy and getting them married! Everyone works on Sundays which isn´t an easy fix because work is hard to come by and they don´t have much as it is. Also, because they don´t have money or for whatever reason, many many many people just move in together and start a family without getting married. We get really excited when we find a family already married that we can teach.

We do have a couple getting married soon though! Eduardo and Kristina are getting married so Eduardo can get baptized. Kristina is already a member. We have two other people that will be getting baptized soon, two young girls named Maria and Nicole.

They discovered my piano playing ability and now I´m being asked to do all these things and events. Its funny because the Latinos are so tone deaf they think every gringo can sing even if he/she can´t. It´s a good time. I really do like the people here. It´s a different culture and I´m not totally accustomed to everything yet but the people here are very kind, humble, and fun. They love to joke around.

Sorry I don´t have any pictures; my camera died last Wednesday, but I´ll try to get you some next week. There are probably more things I´m forgetting but dont have much time so I´ll have to sign off. Love you guys a ton! Eat a burger for me 🙂

Con Amor,
Hermana Morse

Mission President and New Companion

Dear DiMissionary Family,

We are happy to announce that your missionary has safely arrived in our mission. We were able to spend a day of orientation with this new group and they are all excited to begin their missionary work. We are grateful for the sacrifices you and your missionary have made that allow them to be here. We pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will pour out his blessings upon your family. We are very happy to have your missionary with us and know they can be a blessing in the lives of many people here in this beautiful country. Through diligence hard work, obedience and love of the Lord and the people of El Salvador, they can have great success.

Just a reminder about packages:
(Name of Missionary)
Mision El Salvador Santa Ana
Apartado Postal #142
Santa Ana, El Salvador, C.A.

All packages are to be sent through the U.S. Postal Service. They do seem to arrive intact within 2-4 weeks. Other carriers like Fed-Ex, UPS, DHL etc. will be stopped at customs in San Salvador. They charge a high import fee and the package has to be picked up in person. We are not in a position to do either of these things, so your missionary will not receive any packages you send from these carriers. BOTH MAIL AND PACKAGES SHOULD BE SENT TO THE #142 ADDRESS. Our office secretaries pick up the mail at the city post office every Monday and bring it to the office.

Sincerely,
President and Sister Spjut
Companion: Sister Oy from Mexico
Area of service: Libertad, Paraiso Stake

Arrival in El Salvador

Estoy aqui! I´m here safe and sound. It´s hot and humid, there are strange bird noises, and stray dogs everywhere. Definitely in central America! it´s great. My mission president and his wife are so kind and inspiring. I´ll like it here I think; we were contacting in a park today and everyone was very receptive and willing to talk about religious topics. I feel like in the US people would be bothered by our approach but people here love to talk to missionaries. Our challenge then is trying to stop talking to someone who isn´t really interested but obliging us just because they don´t want to be rude.

The apartments aren´t bad. They´re not what I would call clean, but we have showers and flushing toilets and the walls are all painted bright pastel colors, chipping of course. It was interesting sleeping under a bug net for the first time last night. People weren´t lying about the food here; it´s delicious. Today a hermana made us Asian food!!! We´re getting papusas tonight. I won´t know who my trainer is until tomorrow morning. I think Sister Spjut will send a picture. I´m not the only American hermana here, but I am the only blonde I´ve seen so far.

Spanish is going okay; I can understand a whole lot more than I can speak but I can get by. I really hope my trainer in native.

Got to go, but send everyone my love and try not to worry. There are not any episodes of sisters getting hurt or bothered at all besides the mosquitoes. I´ll be safe!

Con Amor,
Hermana Morse

Week 6 – MTC

Mom,

I’m getting to the point where I’m just thinking about El Salvador all the time. I’m trying to stay positive about this last extra week and get the most out of it. I don’t need cookies haha, we get so much junk here it’s hard to resist. If you do send me anything, make it healthy!

I GOT MY VISA ON SATURDAY!! One of our branch presidency members (President Christiansen – I really admire him, I hope my mission president is like him) works here at the MTC pretty high up in the ranks. We were in his office just hanging out after lunch and I mentioned that I didn’t know what was happening with my visa. He made a call and got one of his people to work on it. This was last Tuesday I think. On Saturday, he came running into our classroom to tell me that everything was in and ready for me to travel!!! Seriously an answered prayer because this whole process usually takes longer. So grateful to President Christiansen.

Travel Plans: I leave the MTC next Monday morning at 6:50am but my flight in SLC doesn’t leave until 11:31am. We get to Dallas/Ft Worth, TX at 3:10pm (local time) then our next flight is at 4:55pm, getting to San Salvador at 8:25pm. We’ll have to drive to the mission home which will take a couple hours probably. El Salvador is in the same time zone as Utah, so that’s kinda nice. They allow us to call whoever we want when we’re at the airport, using the pay phones. We can buy call cards. Let me know when you’re free from 8am-11am Monday morning (Utah time) or during my layover in TX and I can call you guys! Also I will be able to email again on Saturday morning, so let me know before then.

Sunday night we had a great testimony meeting with the district and the Elders gave us priesthood blessings. It was pretty powerful. The next morning we got up REALLY early to see off all the missionaries in my district going into the field. Now it’s only Hermana Peterson, Elder Nasilai, and me and it’s kinda eerie how empty our room is.

Elder Nasilai and I met a Hermano from El Salvador and he said the greatest tip he could give us was what El Salvadorians automatically think of Americans. They see us as so high up and rich; when I’m introduced to them they will almost always assume I don’t like them. This hermano said that I needed to take care to tell them about my life before the mission, maybe show pictures of my family, and really try to make them see that I don’t see myself as superior. He also spoke at the speed that they will talk and I didn’t catch everything but I could understand him! Yay! He said my blonde hair won’t be that much of a problem. Another difficulty I didn’t think much about was the level of literacy in El Salvador. He said in our mission there won’t be many people who can read so it usually takes longer to teach them because they can’t read the scriptures or the pamphlets on their own time. I am getting crazy excited.

I’m trying not to picture Dad in skinny jeans, haha. Congrats to Ashleigh! That’s exciting! One of the things I don’t miss about being disconnected from the world is American politics. Yuck.

Tell Maddy she can email me too! I want to hear from all of them too every once in a while. I’ve heard that you can still do DearElders in El Salvador, that El Salvador is one of the countries that does it for free. That way I can save emailing time too. I love getting them!

Can’t think of anything else I need to say, other than I love the work I’m doing. It’s busy, exhausting, and really sad sometimes but the happiness and fulfillment is worth it. We’re teaching a woman named Amparo right now. She is actually a member of the church but when her husband died about 20 years ago, she says he didn’t feel any support or comfort from God or the church members so she went inactive. It’s so sad because she’ll sit there and tell us that she believes in the Book of Mormon and will bear testimony of the gospel but she won’t do anything because her heart is so bitter. I think she isn’t letting the Spirit enter her heart because I know the Spirit has been there during our lessons. Sometimes I want to (figuratively) smack her up-side the head because she is seriously risking eternity because she was offended so many years ago. If she had a real understanding and foundation in Christ and the Atonement/Resurrection, she would not have this perspective.

Also, the gift of tongues is real. I can’t believe I’ve come this far in Spanish in such a short amount of time. Remember how long I struggled with French? I’m so excited to get really good at Spanish. I can understand it mostly it just takes me a long time to form sentences myself. I can’t wait until I don’t have to translate things in my head.

I’ve also thought about how fast this month has gone. 18 months is really not a long time to give and it’s the only opportunity I’ll have in this life to give everything I’ve got. Every second counts!

Love you all so much,

Hermana Morse

P.S. Elder Nasilai says Hi again 🙂

Week 5 – MTC

Mom,

Congrats Maddy! I know she’ll be great there, she’ll be with just as many friends from home as I had. Meagan + Chris, Kailee, Jess + Stephen, Laura, Jena (?), and all the awesome people that are there already. I’m really so excited for her, she’s gonna love college as much as I did I think. It’s the bomb.

I think the talk from Elder Bednar was given at the MTC, so maybe it’s not available anywhere else. It’s about how to be truly converted (and how that’s different than merely having a testimony) and how having a character of Christ is always looking and reaching outward instead of inward. Putting off the natural man and becoming more converted everyday through the Atonement. So eloquent and powerful though, I wish you all could listen to the real thing.

Yes, having a breakdown is a normal thing. It’s a combination of frustration from learning (or not learning) the language, stress from teaching our investigators (especially when they don’t keep their commitments!), and the rigorous study schedule we have. The pressure to do well is big too. That’s why I feel so particularly blessed with peace and confidence because I haven’t felt that way. This might be weird to say, but my spirit just feels so prepared for this kind of stress. It’s not getting me down like others and I can be there to help them through their moments of “I can’t do this!!”. We’ve had some “Sister inventories” at our residence at night where we’ve had to talk through why we shouldn’t go home, but at the same time it’s okay to think about our families and home without it getting in the way of fulfilling our purpose. I haven’t had a moment where I wanted to go home or when I didn’t feel the strengthening and assurance from the Spirit that I’m going to be fine. I do have lessons where I just can’t get the Spanish out and that’s frustrating, but I usually always feel the Spirit in our lessons no matter how bad the Spanish and that’s really all that matters. My companion this last week has been on an emotional roller coaster though 🙂 One hour she is freaking out because she can’t Spanish then the next she’s hugging me and telling me how appreciative she is. I’m definitely learning how to comfort and help others when I can’t exactly relate to their feelings.

I got a haircut today! They have a barbershop here where we get them for free. I got it about shoulder length so I can still pull it up. Not sure how I like it yet because she didn’t “do” it afterward, it was still kinda wet and weirdly wavy but it’ll be good for a hot climate. I’ve never cared less about my hair anyway.

Haha, I was afraid of the facebook moms being crazy. No, that’s not bad 🙂 I wouldn’t want to either. Was that the general one or the one just for my mission?

I do remember Aunt Inabo. I definitely remember Aunt Rita; Uncle Dan has told me more funny stories about her. It must be weird to have almost everyone you know for so long pass away.

Geez, it never ends. I sometimes just don’t get why people make their lives so much harder for themselves.

Last Tuesday night Elder Rasband and his wife came and spoke to us! I never realized how similar the jobs of missionaries and apostles are; they feel a real kinship with us. It was pretty much a big question and answer session. He talked about how the apostles assign missionaries to missions. He said it’s like a picture of a globe and a section of it is lit up in neon. They just look into our eyes and it’s like we’re there. He says assigning missionaries is the most spiritually exhausting and demanding thing he does as an apostle. Cool stuff. In the choir that night we sang an arrangement of “Nearer, My God, To Thee” and I learned the background of the song. It was originally a poem about Jacob, being in the desert after getting the birthright from Esau and Esau wanting to kill him and being warned by Rebekah. He was just wandering, trying to find the family of his mother and thinking that his life was pretty rough when he laid his head on a stone and went to sleep. He then had a dream about a ladder, which modern prophets have identified as his endowment. He woke up praising God instead of pitying himself. He built an alter of stone and named the place “Bethel”. “Beth” means “house of” and “El” is short for the name of Heavenly Father = “House of the Lord”. Go read that hymn with that context and it takes on whole new meanings. Love it!

We had a couple of really spiritual moments during our lessons this week. We have been teaching Andrea and she wants to be baptized but she lives with her boyfriend who is a member but in-active and their daughter. I felt prompted to ask her to share her testimony to him and her simple, new faith brought so much into the lesson! She wants an eternal family so her support won’t only help Sebastian but it will cement it into her own faith too.

Have I told you guys about Elder Steimle? It’s so hard to describe him without actually meeting him. This week he said so many hilarious things. He mentioned that when he was around dogs he starts behaving like one. We obviously asked for a demonstration, so he showed us his pant, bark, and growl. Frighteningly accurate. He also says that female animals are attracted to him. He shampoos his leg hairs (is that normal?). He also said, “I could never enjoy a woman who was so fat that she couldn’t run.” Keep in mind that these comments had very little to do with the context of the conversation. Oh Steimtime.

My next story will demonstrate how the MTC has brought us to the brink of desperation in our forms of entertainment. We decided to start telling people that Adam Sandler had died, that we’d heard it from people at the temple. We very quickly saw the fruits of our labor. We’d exclaim the news and the missionaries in front of us would turn around and say, “Oh ya, from a heart attack, right?” Haha score.

Elder Nasilai says, “hello, you’re amazing. P.S. Go Michigan P.S.S your cookies are even more amazing”. We’re gonna have fun in El Salvador. We were talking about how dangerous our area is and he was joking about how he’s gonna buy guns when he’s down there and eventually become one of the leaders of MS13 (a really scary gang down there). He goes, “Down there it becomes kill or be killed, and I ain’t dyin’!”. Then he goes, “No, I’m gonna come around a corner someplace and I’m gonna see Hermana Morse just curb-stomping someone. I’m gonna go see if she needs help and I’ll just stand there and watch. She’ll leave a Book of Mormon on the guy with a note saying ‘Read this book, it’s about repentance. P.S. I’m sorry’ and she’ll just walk away”. Haha I’m actually worried about him getting into trouble down there though. He’s gonna be with a little white companion and when someone tries something he’s gonna defend him. Honestly though, if I was in a situation and I saw him coming I’d breathe a sigh of relief. Not that any of that is going to happen or that we’ll even see each other there. We also decided that we’re getting donkeys to ride around. Much more of an entrance that way.

Anyway, long email this week but it was a good one. I’ll be forwarding more emails with pictures of everyone. The pictures in this email are of the record board and me with my certificate the MTC gave me for breaking it. Love you all so much!

Love,
Hermana Morse