Sunday, October 26, 2008

Just two weeks to go--Will I ever learn Latvian!!!

Well, I have now been taking Latvian language lessons from Sister Howden for a few weeks. She is a very good teacher and is patient and encouraging to me. I can tell that my pronunciation is improving but, compared to her, I sound terrible. Perhaps once I'm in the MTC full time (two weeks from tomorrow!), I will have more time to focus and practice.

This will be my last week serving in the Temple (I'll be back in the Spring of 2010) and it will be hard to say goodbye to so many dear sisters with whom I serve. I have been serving on Thursday and Friday 1st shift since June of 2004 and it has been a great blessing in my life. I recommend it to everyone.

I think I now have nearly everything I need to take with me to Latvia. I haven't tried putting it into a suitcase yet, but am thinking I might be able to get by with just two suitcases, including the carry-on.

So far, this blog hasn't been too interesting or inspiring, I don't imagine, but once I'm in Latvia, I will have so many new experiences and, hopefully, pictures, to share.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I have now had 5 lessons in Latvian, with Sister Howden as my personal instructor. I'm so thankful for the one-on-one lessons. She is patient and kind and says I'm doing labi (good). She is from Latvia, a young married woman who speaks, in addition to Latvian, Russian and English.

I now have my flight plans: I finish at the MTC on Friday, November 21; leave from Salt Lake International Airport on Tuesday at 9:35 a.m. I arrive in D.C. at Dulles at 3:34 p.m. and board an Austrian airline at 6:05 p.m. I arrive in Vienna at 9:00 a.m. and leave for Riga, Latvia at 10:00 a.m. This may be the only opportunity I ever have to be in Vienna so I hope the airport is in an area where I can see the city. I arrive in Riga at 1:00 p.m. (they are on military time, so it will be 1300 hours. I'm not sure which day that will be, but I think it will be Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. I will be traveling alone--no other missionaries.

I have now had 3 of the 4 typhoid capsules, with no side effects, thankfully. I will receive my last two immunizations this week, for the flu and for meningitis. So far the only reaction I've had is to the pneumonia shot and it was bad enough I'm thankful I won't ever have to have another one.

I have been in communication with Sister Harper who will be my companion, until March when her mission will be completed. She is my age and is from Burley, Idaho. We will share a one-bedroom apartment that is walking distance (on cobblestone streets) to the office. It's 4 flights up with no elevator, so I will get some exercise. I will be assisting Sister Gubler who is the secretary to the president, I believe. Sister Harper assists Brother Gubler with the finances. Neither the Gublers nor Sister Harper studied Latvian and Sister Harper wishes she had.

I know I won't be fluent in Latvian (even after 18 months, I'm sure) but I hope to be able to have the ability to communicate on some level.

I enter the MTC one four weeks from tomorrow! And then the adventure really begins.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Going back to the beginning

I want to share with any who read this how this adventure came to be. Just 6 months ago today, minutes after the closing session of General Conference, the Spirit let me know I was to go on a mission. I immediately rejected the idea: I'm living a good life, serving in the Temple and at the Humanitarian Room, and I don't need to do that, I said to myself. The family was coming for dinner and, as I finished preparations, the phone rang. A counselor in the Bishopric, Ken Peck, asked if I would speak in sacrament meeting in two weeks. I asked what the subject would be and he said, "Isaiah 40:31, with an emphasis on 'waiting on the Lord'." The Spirit then confirmed that I was to go on a mission.

I didn't tell anyone until the next Friday, when I was visiting in California. I told my sisters and my Dad. But the days prior to that, I battled with myself. "I thought, no one knows that I am to do this so I don't have to do it." And then, "but the Lord knows and I know." I had wonderful experiences as I studied that single verse in Isaiah. And Dad and my sisters were supportive.

I met with my Bishop the Sunday following my talk in sacrament meeting and he told me he would get the necessary information to me so that I could apply, since the application process is done online now.

I discovered a inguinal hernia the first of July, as I was preparing to go to McCall for a family reunion. That resulted in my having surgery to correct it on July 17. I had indicated I would be available for my mission on July 1 so that had to be changed.

I healed well and quickly from the surgery and then the waiting game to receive my call. The letter arrived on Thursday, August 28--my sister Judy's 70th birthday! And I was leaving for California the next afternoon, after my Temple shift. So, it was a wild night.

My local family gathered at my home for pizza and "the opening." Scott and Julie joined us via telephone. The first response as I read that my call was to the Baltic Mission was: "Where's that?" Julie looked it up on the computer and I found the map included with my call packet. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were not countries I had ever thought of visiting. But I felt excited about my call.

It was late when everyone left the house and then I realized I had to send in my acceptance letter, and it had to be signed by the bishop. Fortunately, Bishop Tilley lives right across the street.

I talked with my grandson, Jake and his new bride, Amy, and they consented to live in my home and care for it while I'm gone. That will be a great blessing for me.

I have been thankful for the two months plus that I've had to prepare. I try to do a few things each day to prepare. There is so much to do.

I have now had 3 lessons in the Latvian language. I travel to the MTC and meet with my instructor, Sister Howden. She is a young married woman from Latvia. She is so patient and kind with me. I don't expect to be fluent, even after living there 18 months, but the Lord is blessing me to understand and learn.

I have now received e-mails from Sister Dance, the wife of my mission president, and Sister Gubler who, with her husband, are the mission couple. And this week, my companion, Sister Harper, has been writing with such helpful information.

Through all of this, as in all of my life, I see the Hand of the Lord in my life. I know, nothing doubting, that this is what the Lord wants me to do at this time in my life. I love the Lord and that is the reason I am going to serve this mission.