I did it! I´ve completed one whole transfer in the field!! The first is naturally one of the hardest--you´re getting used to real mission life, which entails total immersion in the language, culture, your companion, living conditions, and reliance on the Lord. You have the least amount of knowledge and experience, but you have the most energy! You´re working so hard physically and mentally; I´m so grateful that the Lord has promised me that I will have a strong body that will be able to heal and do whatever is asked of it. If you haven´t figured it out already, my mission and particular area are extremely physically demanding. I don´t think I have ever appreciated quite this much the fact that I´ve had basically no medical problems in my life, and I´m glad I had drill team and all other physical training to prep me for this!
I´ve been asked about the language a lot, so here´s Dominican Spanish 101. First of all, just because it´s not a language with a whole new alphabet like Japanese doesn´t mean that Spanish isn´t hard--it still is. Spanish in general has a million rules and a million exceptions. There are masculine and feminine forms of everything, and sentences are spoken like Yoda; it´s all backwards, like "I love you" is "You I love." The hardest parts of speaking are figuring out the order to put each word in a sentence and saying the right tense. Because of all the different tenses, the Plan of Salvation is one of the hardest lessons to teach. Most words end in a, e, o, and s--it´s very lulling, and vowels aren´t used as in many ways as English, like "world" is really hard for them to say. Like English, if you change just one letter or the way one letter is pronounced, the word totally changes. For that reason, the 3 easiest sets of words to get mixed up for me are fish & sin, marriage & tired, and pregnant & embarrassed. Now take all that information I just told you, and then imagine speaking a whole new form of that language. Seriously, Dominican Spanish is totally different--even Latinos from other countries have a hard time here. The people don´t pronounce the letter s most of the time, but then they add in random s´s wherever they feel like it. They speak ridiculously fast and often mumble, so entire sentences sound like one long word of jibberish. They use many different words than traditional Spanish--what I learned in school was Mexican, so previously learned vobac doesn´t help me a ton out here. Basically, this language is crazy.
Guess what?? They just took the Elders out of our area permanently!! And our district leader only had one transfer left before going home! So now there will be just two companionships of Hermanas in Ocoa, and the rest of our district will be an hour away in Bani. So our proselyting area just got a whole lot bigger, which means more people to share the Gospel with!
Yay for General Conference this past weekend! Our district totally called it--Elder Rasband is one of the new Apostles, wahoo! The last time 3 new Apostles were called in 1 General Conference was 1906. I have never truly appreciated until now the significance of having a living prophet who provides modern revelations for us from God; it really is so cool. When we teach about prophets in lessons, Hermana Dibble and I like to point out that God is unchanging and loves all of His children in all times and places of the world. If that is true, then why would God only call prophets to preach the Gospel in ancient times? So yeah, if you didn´t know, we have a prophet! Poor President Monson seemed to be struggling, and everyone looks so old, it made me feel old. I loved when Elder Bednar talked about Presidents Hinckley, Faust, and Packer and Elders Perry and Scott. What wonderful, faithful examples to us they were.
I coudn´t understand every word that was said, but what stood out to me as the theme of this Conference was the Atonement. As missionaries, that´s one of the things we talk about quite a bit; it´s part of the Savior´s earthly ministry in lesson 1, the Plan of Salvation in lesson 2, and repentance is the second principle of the Gospel, which is in lesson 3. The Atonement is central to the Plan of Salvation; it is through the Savior´s atoning sacrifice and mercy that we have the ability to repent and be forgiven, and eventually, we can return to live with our Heavenly Father and Christ himself. As 1 Nephi 10:21says, ¨No unclean thing can dwell with God.¨ It is through Christ that we can be made clean, whole, and worthy to enter God´s presence. I´m so grateful for that knowledge and for all the Savior has done for us. I´m grateful for this opportunity to better know Him through studying the scriptures, specifically The Book of Mormon, which truly is another testament of Jesus Christ, and through teaching His doctrine & testifying of Him. I know that my Redeember lives! And He loves us infinitely! I love you all, and may you have the Spirit with you this week.