Howdy? Hola? Hello? I don’t quite know how to start this one.
I am in Texas! Can anyone believe that I am here? I sure can’t. I think I have written that in every email so far because I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE I AM ON A MISSION. I love life. Okay so let me start with some things unique to Texas:
1. Sometimes you randomly find horses tied up to things, and my area isn’t even in the country, haha.
2. When it rains--IT POURS. Exactly like Florida, except worse. Mini story . . . sometimes we use the rainstorms to our advantage. We tract a whole bunch and we try to tract when it is raining because then people feel bad for us and let us in. Is that manipulative? Nah. But seriously, a few days ago we were so wet. We looked like we had jumped in swimming pools, but it is way warm outside; so, it's fun.
3. I found a frog.
4. There are puppies and kittens EVERYWHERE; so, I think I’m in heaven . . . except they are all super malnourished and flea ridden and stuff. Pero, esta bien.
5. I might as well be in Mexico; the only Caucasian people I see are missionaries. I am not exaggerating. I think we have talked to one, maybe two, white people. My area is 98% Hispanic, and the other 1.9% is African American.
6. Little kids speaking in Spanish is hands down the cutest thing in the whole world.
7. I feel terrible because none of the Latinos can say my name.....
Okay, so now let me tell you about my first few days in the mish. We arrived to the Houston airport at about 2 on Wednesday afternoon. Our mission president, his wife and the Aps [editor’s note: Assistants to the President] were there to greet us. My mission president MIGHT be the greatest man who has ever lived, besides my Dad. He is awesome, and so is Sister Pingree. They are young, probably early 40s, and they have their whole family here with them. They have one daughter who leaves on a mission in just a few days for Seattle! :) Their youngest son, Joseph, is 11. I want him to marry Emmeline. He is the best. I could have life discussions with that kid. Anyway, so we landed and that whole day we sat and talked with President and such. We slept at nearby members’ houses and then the next morning we met our trainers.
My trainer’s name is Hermana Parry. She is super cute. She is really bubbly, excited and positive. She is 19, too, but turns 20 in Sept.—and get this—she has only been here for 6 weeks. Yup. One transfer and she is training. That should tell you how awesome she is. There is only one other person in the whole mission who has/is doing that. Pero, neither of us speak Spanish very well. Hers is way better than mine, but it is still definitely an experience teaching with VERY limited Spanish. We are working, working, working though!
I was assigned to Gulfbank! Gulfbank is the very bottom area in the mission, as far south as our borders go. What up Houston North Stakeee! I am in the ghetto! YESSS! I was so hyped to be in the ghetto. The area just recently (like one or two transfers ago) opened up, again, because it was too dangerous antes. Mom, don’t freak out; I am safe. The Lord protects His missionaries, but yeah I’m in a pretty sketchy place. I love it though! These people are so humble. They have nothing. Sometimes I drive down the street and really do think I’m in a third world country or something because people live in like the most terrible conditions – hand-built scrap metal/wood houses on dirt roads. It is crazy. I remember hearing missionary stories like "And then they dropped us because a family member was killed last night" or "Their daughter was assaulted last night, so they can’t meet with us today", etc., etc. I didn’t realize I would be THAT missionary, experiencing those things. But those are the things we deal with every single day. It is remarkable how much people are willing to tell missionaries in the first 3 minutes of meeting with them. These people deal with more than I can even imagine. They are things I had only ever read about in books or seen on TV and these people are living it every day. Please pray for the people of Gulfbank. They need your prayers.
Like I said earlier, Hermana Parry and I have been working hard! We have basically a negative teaching pool (so like no one to teach), but since Thursday afternoon we have found 14 new investigators! You guys, that DOESN’T happen, at least not in our area. It is honestly a miracle. I will tell you one story, even though there are many similar to it. One day, we were on a way to an appointment with a man named Manuel (man I wish I could tell you every story because his is AMAZING). Anyways, we were walking down the street to get to his house and I saw this cute, green trailer with flowers and plants all over the place. It kind of looked like a really beautiful jungle. We decided to knock it. We hadn’t even gotten to the door when this old lady came walking out and calling "Hermanas, misinoneras!" We walked up and she immediately hugs and kisses us. (You get kissed a lot here, but not by people you just barely meet.) We told her "Somos misioneras del la iglesia de Jesucristo de los santos de los Ultimos dias" (aka the only thing I can say in Spanish, haha). We asked if she had heard of our Church before. She goes "Oh si, si, aprendiendo antes." She then basically recites to us the first vision. We ask how she knew the story . . . you guys . . . she had been meeting with missionaries 21 years ago in Mexico; but, she moved to Houston and hasn’t seen or talked to them since. YOU GUYS –THAT'S A MIRACLE. We went back yesterday and taught her. She is the absolute sweetest old lady in the whole world. Her name is Marta. We read with her in 3 Nephi when Christ comes to the Lamanites. I don’t know what the outcome will be with Marta, but I have high hopes.
Life is great in Gulfbank. Missionary work is hard. People laugh at you. People avoid you. Dogs hate you and chase you away from like every house, haha, but those few moments, like the one with Marta, make everything so worth it. I’m not going to sugar coat things, a lot of times are really discouraging, but you always have to keep a smile on your face and press forward "With steadfastness in Christ."
I love you all
Te quiero muchisimo,
Hermana Alivia Burnham