Christmas 2011 in Poland

I can’t believe how fast time flies. This week and month and transfer and year. There is so much that has happened and yet it feels like yesterday that I was getting off the plane here in Poland with so many hopes and dreams and worries. I am so grateful for the many experiences that I have gained and the people I have come to know and love. During this holiday season I am especially grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ and all that He made possible. He is the hope I have in a better world and a happy and successful life.

I love you all so much. It was so fun to talk to you yesterday. I am getting so excited to see you again. It’s strange, for the last year and a half it has been normal to never see you and only speak to you twice a year, and in a few weeks I’m going to see you all in the flesh. Crazy! You mentioned a trip with Scott and I to Northern California. That would be really fun. I definitely want to get up there soon and visit grandma and Sherisse and Sammy. We’ll figure it out when I get back and when we know the specifics about Scott’s call. I know there are three day weekends on Martin Luther King Day and President’s Day. Those would probably be the best times to go for me.

We’ve been really lucky to have a very loving branch here in Lodz. Today we’re going to have our third Polish Christmas dinner. Yay, more fried carp! But it’s ensured that we aren’t bored through the holiday season and it’s been fun to participate in some of the Polish traditions. On Christmas Eve we got together and had a White Elephant, Pot-luck dinner, and then acted out the Nativity. Christmas on the mission never really feels the same, but it was fun.

President Nielson was in Lodz last week and told me about how they have decreased the allowed weight on our luggage, so last week I sent two boxes of books home so they wouldn’t push me over the limit. I’m debating on how much I want my Polish grammar books and if it’s worth it to me to ship them home too. We’ll see. I sent them home, but not priority. So they’ll probably get there in February.

Thank you so much for the e-mail mom. I am so grateful for your valiant effort in trying to not trunk me out. You are always so encouraging and want me to be doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Thanks for the great example. I love you and I’ll hear from you next week.

Siostra Allen

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Christmas 2011

Hello!
It can’t actually be Christmas yet. I remember receiving that chocolate advent calender in the mail from you and thinking I had all the time in the world until Christmas, and now it’s very quickly approaching. We had a Christmas Conference in Warsaw last week. We had to wake up really early and catch a train in and then come home that evening. It was held in the Warsaw II chapel meaning I got to go back and see it one last time. We had messages from President and Sister Nielson, watched the First Presidency Fireside, sang carols on the streets, and had a delicious meal with our Zone. It was a really nice opportunity to remember the meaning of Christmas. I guess because I’m always talking about Christ, the Christmas season wasn’t feeling special to me. But listening to the words of our prophet and of our mission president was a needed reminder.

I’ve felt really grateful to be busy this past week. In addition to the missionary Christmas Conference, the Branch had their Christmas party as well. There were many many people and we were exhausted by the end trying to talk to everyone. My little choir is preparing for the program. We did a run through yesterday and even though it wasn’t all smooth, I think it’ll go quite well. And then we’ve been teaching a couple of people. We were really hoping all week that one or both of them would be preparing for baptism at the end of the month, but now it’s looking like neither one of them will be ready that quickly. Definitely a disappointment, but they are both great and I hope and pray that they will continue learning about the gospel and preparing themselves. As a missionary, it’s difficult to not see your investigators progress as quickly as you would like, but over the last 18 months I’ve learned that people have to make their own choices. As I’m trying to do my best in teaching the doctrine of Jesus Christ and doing that after the manner of the Spirit, then I am a successful missionary whether or not I’m teaching 10 progressing investigators or none. It’s learning to trust that God knows you and your heart, whether or not there is outward evidence of what you think and feel and believe and love. You don’t have to prove anything to God. He knows and loves you as you are.

Response to your questions:
Yes we do get counsel about depression etc. Our mission president has told us that we are allowed to by disappointed, but never discouraged. Discouragement allows Satan to wear away your faith.
Tell Scott to try and put some structure into his life. The two months before going into the MTC were the hardest things I’ve ever done. Satan is working so hard on you and I was frustrated by being in limbo. That’s part of the reason that I’m grateful to be going right into school, even though, it’s a little bit stressful.
I don’t have your packages yet, but mail in Poland is slower around the holidays.

Love you, talk to you on Christmas.
Sister Allen

Happy Holidays

Hello family,

I’m doing quite well today. We had a good week. It was really busy. We’ve been really lucky lately to be teaching a few people frequently. Thanks for the pictures, it was really fun to see you all together and the house looking so nice and festive.

Wow, Scott’s papers are in. That is crazy. I remember that time, it was so, so exciting just waiting for the call. Good thing he’ll have a lot to keep his mind occupied with for the next week or so. As for my guesses where he will be called I am going with somewhere in Latin America like Peru or the maybe the Philippines. Zobaczymy.

I did get the package of brown sugar and chocolate chips with the chocolate advent calendar. But if you’ve sent something more recently, I haven’t received it yet. I’ll definitely let you know. I’m having to get serious about souvenir shopping now, but the problem is, I just can’t wrap my head around going home. I still feel like I have tons of time to figure that out and prepare, but in just a bit I’m going to have a shock. However,  if there’s something specific anyone wants, please let me know. I still have time get them. And it’s always hard to know what people will like. Do the boys want T-shirts, ties, something else?

I LOVE Christmas time. Which I say at least one time a day as we see Christmas decorations around town. We bought a mini Christmas tree and there are a couple presents around it and I hung up my stocking from last year. So there is some merriness in our apartment for sure. Despite all this, it’s surreal to me that the holidays are so quickly approaching. Missionaries don’t really get holidays. Sure we don’t tract on Christmas day, but if at all possible we try to be with ward members and investigators and testify of the Savior.   It is a wonderful time of year, and Poland has some fun traditions that I enjoy so I’m glad I get to stay for a second one. Our little choir is preparing diligently for our program. We’re going to sing Silent Night in Polish, English, German, and French because those are all the native languages of people in our choir. Cool huh?

You asked about people and lessons we taught. We had a few lessons this week with a woman named Emelia. She is the nicest person ever. The elders met her on the street and when they told her about the Book of Mormon she realized that she already had a copy. Her mother had been a truth seeker and had investigated with many churches. She had read the Book of Mormon and kept her copy. When she passed away Emelia inherited it. The elders set up a time for us to visit her and teach her more and we’ve had several meetings in the last two weeks. She’s actually preparing to move to Canada at the end of the month. But her English is still a little rough, so this is the perfect opportunity for her to learn about the gospel in her native language before she leaves. God definitely has a plan for everything. I’m praying she moves in with a really nice LDS family in Toronto through her schools live-in program.

Life, and a mission especially, is an amazing school. God gives us so many opportunities to learn how to deal with different situations, trials, etc. Right now, several of the people we are teaching are talkers. It’s difficult to teach them doctrine, because if we’re not assertive, we wouldn’t teach anything. It’s been teaching me a lot of patience and charity as we’ve learned how to balance listening to their thoughts and opinions and sincerely caring about them, and then also helping them stay focused on the lesson so that their testimonies can grow. Yesterday we were in a meeting, and the woman was going off on a tangent that didn’t have anything to do with the lesson, I knew that if we didn’t bring it back quickly, she would remain on this tangent for the next 5 or 10 minutes and so I said a silent prayer asking God to help me know how to teach her and keep the lesson on track. About a minute later, God reminded me of a diagram that I had seen used once to teach the principle of the lesson. Having this concrete drawn-out diagram to refer to throughout the lesson helped us keep the topic focused and it was one of the best lessons we’ve had with her! It was a very humbling reminder that this is His work and we cannot do it alone. He makes our knowledge and capabilities enough for the situation.

A member I know from Warsaw who is from Lodz originally, was at church yesterday and I got to see her. She’s such a fun person from the second branch and so it was really fun to talk for a bit.   There will be a Zone Conference in Warsaw on Thursday and so you can look out for some pictures on the Nielsen’s blog. We’re really excited to go in and spend some time with other missionaries. We’ve heard rumors of going caroling there too, so that will be fun.

Well, hope you have another great week. Love you.

Siostra Allen

Sounds like you all had a good Thanksgiving weekend. We did what we could to celebrate the holiday here. Sister Tarasewicz made a huge delicious Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings and invited a ton of people. It was really fun, but I was sitting in between two Polish people and spoke Polish almost the whole time, so it felt kind of surreal to be doing something so American but in Polish. That wasn’t really a bad thing, I love all the people in our branch and it didn’t take away from the taste. In fact stuffing and pumpkin pie aren’t very common here and not very many of the Poles were crazy about it, meaning I had double of my favorite Thanksgiving specialties.

Katie Roundy e-mailed you. I knew her before my mission. Please give her my info. I’d love to get in contact with her. She was one of the last sisters in Lodz several years ago before they reopened it last year. I’d love to hear what she has to say and tell her how the branch is doing. She is allowed to e-mail me directly.

I did get the package. First off thanks for the cookie ingredients. We’ll have to send you pictures of us making the cookies. And I’ve already read 1/4 of the conference ensign. Every day as I read it I have my testimony strengthened that we have living prophets and apostles. I just want to share their counsel with everyone because it’s so pertinent.

The works going slow, but we’re doing well and working hard and that’s the most important thing. I love you all and can’t believe it’s December this week. Probably because it hasn’t snowed yet?!? Weird I know. But we’re not complaining. It’s actually a beautiful day today for the end of November. It’s sunny! Hope you have a great week too. Love you lots.

Sister Allen

P.S. The picture is Sister Stay and I with Maria the RS President here.

Sorry we’re a day late this week. President and Sister Nielson were in town yesterday because they wanted to be at district meeting and so we had P-day together.  I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures from Zone Conference. It was really strange to go back to Warsaw after 7 months. Warsaw has changed so much since I’ve been there last. They’ve done renovations on the train station and it looks really nice, which is why I was so thrown off. It was pretty dirty and run down before, but now it’s very modern. The conference itself was really nice. I got to see old friends and companions and hear counsel from our leaders.  It was really enjoyable.

I’m so excited that Scotts turning in his papers. You have to tell me when he get’s his call. I’m so proud of him.

That’s weird that I got a scholarship. I don’t remember applying for one. Do you know how I received it? Either way, I’m happy that it takes a little off your load. Thanks for taking care of that for me. Thanks for the voice lessons too. That is really good thinking. I’ll enjoy a little bit of singing. I’m not sure about an audition tape. She might make an exception for me, but to be honest it would be a big stress to make the tape and send it and I’ve lost a lot of technique from not singing for a year and a half. So I’m not even sure if I would make it. I don’t mind not doing Women’s Chorus this year, I’ll do it next year. I thought a lot about minors this week and even had the senior couple print out some information so I could make an informed decision. It sounds like the TESOL minor would be the overall best for what I’m going into. There are two that are very similar, but one is through the Education department and that’s the one I want. So as you’re fiddling with schedules, feel free to add a class of two from that.

As far as fingerprints. I haven’t gotten your package in the mail yet. I don’t know why. Hopefully they come this week so I can get them done. However, I called the Embassy and they said that they don’t do fingerprinting anymore. Do you know if it’s okay to have a private company do my fingerprints? I left a message with someone for the FBI in Poland to see if there was anything through their department, but it would be easiest if I could find a private company here in Lodz.

Missions are a lot like life, there are really good weeks and ones that are harder. This was a little bit of a harder week for me. Trying to stay focused, teaching my companion the ropes of a new city, trying to find new investigators. But we actually had a lot of really good things happen this week with some of the people we’ve been working with. So I’m keeping in harmony with the season of Thanksgiving and focusing on those. I love the holidays. Sister Taresewicz is getting things together for a Thanksgiving dinner and we went to Tesco and bought a Christmas tree and lights this week.

Here’s my grateful list this year:

I’m grateful to have a testimony of the gospel
I’m grateful I can read- this also means I can read the word of God every day
I’m grateful that my family is supportive of me on a mission.
I’m grateful to be serving in a very supportive and loving branch
I’m grateful to have a companion that is experienced as a missionary and can help in the companionship
I’m grateful for prayer and the fact that I don’t have to do everything alone. That my Father in Heaven will help me, especially in missionary work.
I’m grateful to have inspired leaders who are working hard to bless us
I’m grateful to be healthy (I’ve learned firsthand recently how much of a blessing that is)
I’m grateful to have investigators
I’m grateful that I speak Polish and can share my testimony with others
I’m grateful that I’m learning how to teach with the Spirit
I’m grateful that I love the people that we are teaching
I’m grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ and that I can hope for eternal life.
I’m grateful to have a relationship with my Father in Heaven to know he lives and love me.
 
Love you all lots. Have a great Thanksgiving.
 
-Siostra Allen