Thursday, March 6, 2014

This is my life and my joy!

AHHHH!! ¡Hola familia y amigos!  Today is the equivalent to Christmas.  No joke.  My companion and I could hardly sleep last night, just too excited to hear from all of our loved ones.   This has been the longest week, I feel like I have been here for forever. Everyone said that we just needed to make it to Sunday and then time flies by.  

So, I traveled all alone from Atlanta to Mexico (Anndrea Glendhill and the group of missionaries leaving to Peru were on a separate flight) but I was just fine, my Dad taught me how to get around an airport. ;)  I arrived at the CCM at 9:45pm and the sweetest lady in the world, Hermana Jones, came and welcomed me IN ENGLISH and she gave me the biggest hug, which I needed.  Then my Hermana Training Leaders, Hermana Martinez y Hermana Pollson, helped me take my many bags and showed me to my casa (my home or dorm at the CCM).  

Mi Casa - #10
I went into my room and my companion was in the shower but once she was all dressed I just gave her the biggest hug.  My companion is Hermana Olsen.  She is from Gilbert, Arizona and is TALL, well taller than I am, but that isn´t really saying much haha.  She is wonderful and later on you will see why.

Me and Hermana Olsen

The next day was mostly meetings and learning the rules and meeting the CCM President, Presidente Pratt.  Sadly we can´t listen to music that we brought because we live in such close quarters.  Also we can only take pictures on P-day, so throughout the week we have been taking note on places we want to take pictures. 

The CCM is BEAUTIFUL!!!  CCM is Spanish for MTC or Missionary Training Center.  It is short for Centro de Capacitacion Misional Mexico. The location of the CCM is a 90-acre campus in Mexico City that used to be a private high school owned by the Church called Benemerito de las Americas.  The old Mexico CCM building was near the Mexico City temple and could only accommodate about 120 missionaries at a time.  This new location can handle over 1,000 and is second in size only to the Provo MTC. 

Monument at CCM Entrance

The gardens and grounds at the CCM are amazing.  There are these stunning purple blossom trees that line the streets and are breathtaking.  

Purple Blossom Trees on CCM Grounds

With Hermana Olsen in CCM's Sacred Grove
With Hermana Olsen on CCM grounds
The food is surprisingly good.  Most things may not look as appetizing but they are delicious.  For some meals I have had to just eat cereal because of my wheat allergy but COCO puffs are holding me over until the next meal (for some reason they only have COCO puffs).  There is a fruit called granadilla and you just eat the inside and it is DELICIOUS.  The consistency is comparative to snot mixed with sunflower seeds, but it tastes like fruity goodness.


There was a group of 30 missionaries that came in on February 26, and we went to a training meeting on how to begin a lesson and teach with the spirit.  Luckily this was in English so we were all super excited to teach someone.  

Albert was our first investigator and was referred to la CCM by his friend Mario.  Albert has observed the actions of Mario through their friendship and appreciates the example of his friend.  Albert recently had his father come back into his life, after leaving him and his mom many years ago, and has experienced much hatred and wants to know how he could forgive him.  He kept asking, "HOW can I forgive someone who has neglected me?”

My companion raised her hand and shared a personal story how her parents were recently divorced and her father was disrespectful to her mother, and she had the same feelings of neglect and didn´t want anything to do with her dad.  But she prayed and found the strength to reconnect with her father before coming on her mission.  A few other missionaries shared personal experiences which allowed Albert to trust and connect with the group.  We all taught him about the healing power of the Atonement and to end the lesson my companion offered an inspired prayer to help Albert forgive his father through the Atonement of Christ.  

The spirit was SO STRONG it was almost tangible.  We all talked about how we are now addicted to the feeling of experiencing the love that Heavenly Father has for Albert.  Although addicted usually has a negative connotation, in this case it is definitely positive.  We LOVE the extreme joy we feel to tell someone that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them.  

Friday we met our District, 15C, which is made up of Hermana Shill, Hermana Johnson, Elder Chidester, Elder Ruiz, Elder Allred, Elder Wilson and Elder Olsen (and of course me and Hermana Olsen).  

District 15C 
Front Row (l to r): Hermana Shill, Hermana Johnson, Hermana Bartholomew, Hermana Olsen, Elder Wilson  
Back Row: Elder Olsen, Elder Allred, Elder Ruiz, Elder Chidester

Las Hermanas de 15C
Olsen, Bartholomew, Shill, and Johnson

They are all super wonderful and we get along very well.  We went to the classroom and met our first investigator, Marcos. His parents are baptized members of our church and he is a Catholic.  He reached out to the missionaries because he saw a wonderful change in his family´s lives.  We then prepared to teach him that evening, ALL IN SPANISH.  So hard.  2nd day in the CCM and you still haven´t learned enough to teach someone a full 30 minute lesson.  So we planned to teach him that the change he saw in his family was because of the Atonement of Christ, and prayed and prayed and prayed to be able to express what we wanted to say.  

Prayer works my friends.  When we got into the lesson, we read the questions we prepared to get to know him better and that went into the lesson.  THEN, he brings up the Word of Wisdom and that he LOVES coffee.  Haha.  Hermana Olsen and I just look at each other because we prepared NOTHING about the Word of Wisdom.  So we just turned to the commandments section of Preach my Gospel and we think we taught him why it was important and challenged him to follow the Word of Wisdom.  AND THEN, he asked why Heavenly Father would have a 14 year old boy restore the church.  Well, we knew a perfect answer in English, but in my broken Spanish I tried to explain that through the power of God we can do anything.  No clue what I said, but he seemed to understand.  

Saturday we met our teacher, Hermano Flores, and he is just the coolest teacher there is.  He knows quite a bit of English, but most of the class is all in Spanish.  But I have be blessed with the gift of tongues, not in fully speaking yet, but understanding almost everything Marcos and our teacher is saying.  Which is a blessing.  

During one of our breaks, two Elders approached us and practiced giving a summary of the 1st lesson in 5 minutes, which they did very well and gave us hope that we can learn Spanish.  Wahoo!  After they finished, we asked where they were from and one Elder said he was from Springville, so I asked if he knew any Bartholomew´s and he said ya I think our parents know each other.  I looked at his name tag and realized it was ELDER HULLINGER!!  Elder Hullinger was my best friend when I was like 2 years old.  (My mom actually tended him and his sister during the day when I was little.)  Our dads went to high school and college together.  Crazy small world.  So we planned to take a picture together Sunday because we knew our mothers would be very upset if we didn’t have one.  I think we were even put into an arranged marriage at some point when we were little.  The picture was on his camera so he will email it to me for next week.
Sunday was the most amazing day.  It was Fast Sunday, and at the CCM in Mexico we have a full 24 hour fast, and so our last meal was Saturday lunch and we didn’t eat again until Sunday at lunch.  Since it was Fast Sunday we had a testimony meeting after the sacrament and because we have such a small branch, everyone has to bear their testimony to fill the time.  So I wrote and translated my testimony into Spanish the night before to be prepared.  When I got up I expressed how grateful I was to be in la CCM to learn Spanish because the knowledge I gained of Spanish from Dora the Explorer is not sufficient enough!  Haha, sometimes I can say funny things in Spanish. ;)  Then partly because of being nervous and having not eaten all day, but mostly because the spirit was so strong, as I was bearing my testimony I couldn´t help but cry.  Oh it was amazing.  

After Sacrament Meeting we meet with our Branch President so he could get to know us and he asked the infamous question of how my family was, and I began to cry.  I realized how much I missed you all.  He told me I was an angel, haha how sweet of him.  I am so grateful for you and all you have done for me.  Hearing about how much Brandon misses me, truly touched my heart.  He is my best little buddy.  And I am glad Hailey and Megan are enjoying my clothes. ;)  I love you both so much and miss my not so "little" sisters.  Dad you have been a wonderful example to me through your dedication in church callings and the love and patience you have.  Mom I love you with all my heart and MISS YOU!!  Ahh, you are all so wonderful. 

Monday, my companion got the bug that was going around la CCM and became very sick, poor thing.  So the CCM is surrounded by busy streets.  The natives here LOVE fireworks.  So multiple times a day we hear loud explosions about every 10 minutes.  They sound like the cannons that go off when someone dies in the Hunger Games.  Dead serious.  So an Elder in my district always says, "Another one dead." 

Tuesday we had a devotional and Elder Vieblos from the Quorum of the 70 and his wife came and my favorite part of his talk was, referring to at the end of our missions being able to say, "This is my life, this is my light, my joy and my salvation and redemption."

Wednesday we prepared to teach Marcos without a full lesson plan and fully rely on the spirit and our handy dandy read book.  The lesson went SO well.  Oh my heavens it was our best yet.  I felt that we conveyed our message more sincerely by using our broken Spanish to testify and share our own experiences.  We committed him to read the Book of Mormon but he said that he didn´t know what he was supposed to FEEL.  So we explained what the Holy Ghost felt like and that "all good things come from God."  And after that we committed him to be baptized on the 15th of March.  WOOT! WOOT!  Oh we were so beyond happy.  

We also found out that tonight will be the last night that we will teach Marcos and he ends up being our night teacher.  So although he has already been baptized, his story is true and I am amazed by the sprit we felt even though he wasn’t a "real investigator" and can’t imagine the love we will feel for the people we will teach in Ecuador.  

My favorite funny stories of the week:

One night after teaching Marcos, our District leader Elder Chidester, wanted us to have a team cheer. We all put our hands in and said VERY loudly, "la iglesia es verdadera" (the church is true) With a few “woo hoos” at the end.  As we were exiting our building we realized classes were still going on and there was a priesthood blessing being administered.  All the Hermanas were trying to quiet the Elders down and Elder Chidester said, "We just screamed to the whole world that the church was true and now you want me to WHISPER?!" Which caused a roar of laughter, needless to say you had to be there.  But it was very funny.  

As a district we have told Marcos while trying to speak Spanish that he needs to repent of his fishes instead of sins, and that God eats him instead of loves him.  There is never a dull moment in District 15C. ;)

I am so grateful to be serving shoulder to shoulder with the greatest missionary who ever lived, our Savior Jesus Christ.  I have come to love and appreciate this great work.  I love being a missionary and feel of all your love and support as I am learning Spanish.  I love you all lots and lots.  

La iglesia es verdadera!  

Con amor, 
Hermana Bartholomew 

P.S.  Behind the CCM there is a hill with a "B" for the name of the old school here, Benemerito.  It reminds me of my mom's hometown of Beaver, Utah, and the "B" on the mountain.  A shoutout to all my family in Beaver! :)

"B" on hill behind the CCM

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