March 25, 2013

One Month on a Mission

Hi everyone!

This Wednesday marks one month on the mission for me. I can hardly believe it! Time flies. On the other hand, it feels like an eternity since I was at home living the pre-mission life. The important thing is that I´m here, working in the present to earn the future. Hope that all of you feel the same!

Perhaps I could describe more about my every-day life in Lirquen. Our mission schedule is different here, so we wake up at 7:30 and return home at 10. The morning starts with an ab workout and pushups, about all the exercise I can motive myself to do so far. All the parks here have brightly colored elipticals, so maybe someday in the future we'll actually leave the house and do something more. Plug in the little water heater, spoon out some instant milk and a little sugar, and eat cereal for breakfast. Take a shower and pull my hair back in a ponytail (good thing I didn´t bring a blow dryer! I doubt I´ll do my hair very much here.). We wear our flip flops around the house, because the floors get dirty easily. Shuffle back into our room, flip on the little heater that we have under our table. Study the scriptures and Predicad Mi Evangelio, search for scriptures to share with investigators, seek answers to my personal questions, fortify my resolve to do this missionary work.

Companionship study- sing a hymn with the other Hermanas, pray, recite our purpose, read the Missionary Handbook, plan lessons, do my First 12 Weeks training (more reading and practicing), then leave the house to proselyte. Careful, make sure the neighbor´s dog doesn´t escape when we open the gate! Contact people on the street or make visits. I almost always start the contacts- Hermana Gonzalez is pretty quiet. Talk to the people, answer the usual questions about where we´re from, etc. Bear testimony, note addresses and find a time when we could visit. Try to tie everything to the Restoration! Working on that. After a while of that, it is lunch time! We eat with members every day, which is wonderful for many reasons. It is really helping me to get to know the ward, and it doesn´t hurt to have an easy entrance into at least one door each day. Chat with the members, eat delicious food. I try to ask the same questions I would ask any other family,- where the father works, how many children, how the parents met, how they came into the church, etc. For the most part, people are impressed with my Spanish. There is definitely a lot that I still don´t understand, though. But I do try to talk!

Meals usually start with some type of avacado- "palta" here. Love love love it. There are tomatoes with lime, salads seasoned with lemon, homemade breads. Main dish often involved some type of boiled or baked potatoe, maybe fish, maybe beef or chicken. The cooked veggies here are so delicious- I love them. We usually drink soda. There is almost always dessert, usually ice cream.

Share a scripture with the members. Leave, usually a little late. We need to work on cutting short our lunches! But you´ll all be proud to know, my eating habits are accelerating rapidly. Back out onto the streets, and then we knock doors or street contact or visit people we´ve previously contacted. Such is the work until about 9, when it gets a little more complicated- people don´t really like to open the door after it gets dark, and most of the people on the street at that time are drunk or hurry to get home. We´re working on using that last hour better.

If I were to make some general statements about the Chilean people, I´d tell you that they stay up late, and sleep in late also. They like to talk, and they like Americans. Most work in factories near Lirquen. Their houses are colorful, small, and situated close together. It seems like all of Lirquen is related somehow- everyone has a nephew or neighbor or grandson that is a member of the church. Most people are Evangelical of some sort, or Catholic. They eat a big meal in the middle of the day, then take "önce" at 7 or 8 at night, which means buying some bread from the local vendor and eating a little meal with the family. We´re not allowed to eat "önce"with anyone, so we wait to eat until we get home. By that time, I´m usually just ready for bed, so we don´t eat much then either. But I drink water all the time! Hna Gonzalez thinks I´m crazy, but it is ok.

Return home at the end of the day, hopefully feeling like we accomplished something good. Plan for the next day, get ready for bed. I think I may sleep in a sleeping bag for the rest of my life- I´ve been so cozy and I don´t have to make my bed in the morning! What a time saver. The nights are getting colder, so I wear two layers to bed, but I honestly haven´t woken up at all because of the cold or anything.

We take the bus to Concepcion on P-Day to pick up mail and use an internet cafe here, though there are also cafes in Lirquen. Concepcion is busy and very interesting. And the buses! Wow, they are fast and fun to ride.

Hmm, anything else? As for an overview of the week, it was another big learning curve, this time with my companion. We´ve discovered quite a few differences between us, and we´re working on bringing them together. In many ways, she is kind of disenchanted with missionary work. She doesn´t like to knock doors, doesn´t like to start contacts, doesn´t like to speak in front of people, doesn´t feel like she is a good trainer or example for me. She gets a lot of comments about being from Argentina, and that rubs her the wrong way. By some small miracle, she opened up to me this Sunday and talked to me about it, and we´ve set goals to improve. I pray for her a lot, and try to do what I can to help her. I hope she feels more successful this week!! This last one was really hard for her.

As for Sunday, this week we presented in RS, Preisthood, and the youth SS class about missionary work and making visits with us. I play the piano in Sacrament meeting, which is fun but nervewracking, considering I have no time to practice. The members are so nice and I love church. The Spirit is so strong, and it is such a testimony to me that the church is true no matter where we are! During church, I´ve also been pondering on the members and their strong testimonies. How can I help bring someone from Point A, Evangelical that already has their religion, to Point B, active member of Christ´s church? It is a long road, one I have yet to walk all the way.

I love you all and pray for you all the time! I hope that all is well and that you´re safe, happy, and hard-working.

All my love,

Hermana Oldroyd

Erica in front of their house in Lirquen


Erica called this a "completo", which must mean a subway-type sandwich with "everything" on it.

March 18, 2013

First letter from the field!

Dearest family and friends,

Someone pinch me- I think I´m in Chile! Wow, so much to write. Our plane rides here were a bit crazy, considering the Travel Office didn´t quite buy me a ticket to Atlanta... But we worked it out. Once in Atlanta, our plane had a slight "malfunction" with the airplane bathrooms, so we had to find a new plane and wait about three hours. Missed our connecting flight in Santiago, but we did eventually make it to Concepcion. Please excuse any punctuation errors, by the way. I promise I´m still an English major, but the keyboards are different here! I´ll try to cram as many stories in here as I can, so here goes!

First and second mission experiences here in Chile. While waiting in Santiago for our flight reassignment, we decided to sing hymns in line. Crazy? Maybe just a bit, but I was super nervous and it helped calm my heart and prepare me for this big adventure. One of the airport workers kept eyeing us, and eventually I got up the courage to talk to him (in Spanish, just in case anyone was wondering). We chatted a bit, and I accidentally told him that I would be here for 80 months instead of 18, but no matter! He asked another question, but there was some word at the end that I didn´t recognize. I communicated to him that I didn´t understand, and he tried to explain, but just about that time, my companion joined us and worked everything out. After we left, I asked her "What does pollola mean?" Turns out pollola is the Chilean word for boyfriend, and he wasn´t actually as interested in my religious message as I had originally thought. We had a good laugh about it... Remember that returned missionary that I met at Institute that told me I should just prepare to be hit on by every Chilean man from 16 to 60? Touche, random stranger. He was more right than I anticipated.

Second experience. I got to sit by myself on the plane, which was what I wanted. (What better time to talk to people? They can´t run away!) I started a conversation with Jimmy, the man next to me and it turns out he had visited with missionaries previously. We talked the whole plane ride (in English! Whew. Last time for a while.) and he was very open with me- he agreed to meet with the missionaries again. He seemed to realize the gravity of our meeting, and told me he had originally been on another flight, and when I told him my flight had also been changed, he felt it even more. I was amazed by how prepared he was, and so grateful that I had the chance to talk to him.

Arrived here in Concepcion. My companion´s name is Hermana Gonzalez, and she is great. Her personality kind of reminds me of Kristine, though no one is quite as amazing as Kristine is. She is from Argentina, has been on the mission for 6 months, and this is her first time as a trainer. I know she is nervous about it, and that she was especially nervous that she was about to get a companion who didn´t speak very good Spanish... Oh dear. Actually, though, she seems pretty pleased with my level of Spanish proficiency. She likes my accent, at least! (Thanks, Mom!) She doesn´t speak any English, and neither do our two roommates, Hermana Mendoza and Hermana Joglar. This is exactly what I wanted, so we´ll see how it turns out. We live in a town about 20 minutes away from Concepcion, called Lirquen (pronounced L-ear-ken). It is BEAUTIFUL. We're nestled right in between the sea and the green, green hills, and there are lots of stairs. It is hot during the day and cold at night, and I have my first Chilean blister and sunburn. My shoes are great, though.

As for the ward here, they are so fantastic! There was a Relief Society activity to celebrate the anniversary of RS, and it was amazing. We met in an abandoned building with a view of the ocean, and all the sisters cooked chicken, homemade bread, and other food. We ate together and chatted, and sparks flew! I don´t know what happened to me or my Spanish, but we got along so well, and I love love love the ward. They seem impressed with my comprehension, though I really don´t feel very fluent. In fact, it is a good thing I didn´t get to write you an email my first night- the first day was hard. That sudden collision of mission dreams and expectations and mission reality was really hard, but the next day I was up with minimal whiplash. I feel better now, and I love it. It is still a lot of work, and the days are long.

(Hermana Cortez)

This isn´t a testimony meeting, where everyone wants to listen to your feelings and end with an "Amen". The mission learning curve is huge- I have to learn a language, a culture, a new way of living, a new schedule, a new way of teaching, a new way of sharing my testimony. Everything is new, except for my relationship with Heavenly Father. That is the same, and stronger than ever, thankfully. So grateful for that. And I feel Him here too, in the streets, in our home, everywhere. Even when the "Évangelicos" quote the Bible to us and tell us we´re crazy. It is all good!

What shall I tell you now... daily living, or more mission stories? As for daily living, we drink powdered milk here, but I don´t think warm milk and corn flakes have ever tasted so good. Syd, you would cry if you ever came here. There are dogs everywhere, most of them just strays. I think I attached a picture to illustrate my point (there was another one behind the car.)

Lirquen has lots of stairs to climb, so it is a good thing BYU gave me a nice taste of those before I came here. Aaaand... what else? More stories.

I love this one. We were knocking doors, (Hna Gonzalez thinks I´m crazy, but I like knocking doors. It is a surprise, and a test of our charisma. Still working on that with the language barrier, but it is coming easier.) and a man answered, telling us he was too busy. He had met with the missionaries before, but didn´t feel like he received an answer to his prayer. He said if he prayed, then received a bonus at work or won thousands of dollars, then he would feel like he received an answer. Sign seeker, anyone? Well, we talked our way in and sat down to share a message with him. Just a couple seconds after I started to pray, all the lights went off in the room. I finished the prayer and could tell he was a bit shaken up. We joked about it a bit, he played with the lights, and they came back on. We continued to talk, but just a few minutes later, when the Spirit was especially strong, the lights went off again. He was really surprised this time, and Hna G and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows. He doesn´t live in our area, and I´m not sure he´ll take that for the sign he wanted, but I think it was.

Another story, to illustrate my primary Spanish goof of the week. We were talking with Ricardo, who speaks super strong Castellano. Castellano is basically the Spaniard version of Spanish, and I´m struggling with it a bit. He is older, speaks rather softly, and was telling us why he couldn´t come to church on Sunday. He was talking about a bunch of family members, and when he stopped talking, I said something like "You could bring them to church with you!¨ You should have seen the looks he and my companion gave me... Somehow the conversation had drifted to his family members that had passed away, and then I jumped in with "Oh! Bring your dead relatives to church!" Ohhhh..... I still laugh when I think about it.

(Hermana Joglar, Mendoza and Gonzalez)

Last story for now. We went to visit one of our older investigators, Mercedes. Her son, Rene, who has also met with Hna Gonzalez before, answered the door. His drunk brother was also inside, and started making comments. Promptly tuned him out, then began talking with Rene. He wasn´t receptive at first, saying he was busy and they were visiting. I was trying really hard to focus- when we meet with investigators, it is my goal to think of two people, the investigator and Heavenly Father. If I can feel the connection between those two people, I can use the Spirit to find the right words to say. I was really listening, and then I saw it in his eyes- he was really worried about something. I jumped into the conversation and asked him- "Are you worried about something?" He seemed surprised, and mentioned a trip he was about to take. Tomorrow he travels far away to work in the mountains, and he hasn´t felt comfortable about it. He mentioned it briefly, and we reminded him that Heavenly Father is aware of all our worries. After another moment, he invited us to visit him in his home, which is just on the other side of Mercedes´. The lesson we had was amazing. The Spirit was so strong, and I know we were an answer to his prayer. I invited him to pray about his trip, to pay attention to his feelings, and then to follow the prompting he receives. I also told him that if he receives an answer to this prayer, then he could also seek an answer to his prayer to know if he should be baptized. He accepted the invitation and said he would like to be baptized if he receives the answer to his prayer. We´ll see exactly what happens with him, but it was an amazing amazing experience.

I love you all so much. The consequences of our actions are huge, and I hope each of you know that. Every time we speak to someone, every single thing we do during the day, could have an influence beyond our imagination. I believe that Heavenly Father´s plan is infinitely more intricate and deep than I could ever fathom, and I know I need the Spirit to help guide me to the Lord´s chosen path. Please try very hard, all of you, to be close to Him. He is everything. I love you all more than I can say, and I pray for you every night.

Love and prayers,

Hermana Oldroyd

March 13, 2013

Word from Pres Humphrey

Dear Brother and Sister Oldroyd:
Sister Humphrey and I had the great pleasure of welcoming your daughter, Hermana Oldroyd, to the Chile Concepción Mission. After we met her at the airport when she arrived on Tuesday, we enjoyed lunch together with the other missionaries. 

We held an orientation and Hermana Oldroyd met her first companion, Hermana Gonzales, who will train her to be a missionary. They will be laboring in the sector of Lirquen and located in the zone of Penco. 
 A mission is a wonderful experience filled with challenge and success that strengthens the testimony and spirituality of each missionary. The greatest support you as a family can give your daughter during her time as a missionary is that of uplifting letters. Missionaries look forward with great anticipation to each letter from home. In addition to using email, you can send packages and letters to our address. The U.S. Postal Service and the Correos de Chile do a good job of delivering packages.
 Hermana Erica Oldroyd
Misión Chile Concepción
O’Higgins 940 Oficina 502
Concepción, Chile.
 You may also send letters (and only letters taped shut; no envelopes) via the "pouch.
                                                Hermana  Erica Oldroyd
                                               Misión Chile Concepción
                                               POB 30150
                                               Salt Lake City, UT 84130-0150
We encourage each of our missionaries to write to their parents each week. Please let me know if a reminder to her is needed.

We invite you to look at our blog.

 It will be our privilege to work closely with Hermana  Oldroyd as she serves here in Chile.  We are blessed to have her join us in this mission and know that she will have many life changing experiences as she proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank you for your support and for sharing your daughter with us.
Neall Weston Humphrey                                                                                         
Mission President

March 8, 2013

MTC Day 9

Mom! Family! Friends! Thank you SO MUCH for all of your emails, letters, thoughts, and prayers. It is so good to know what is going on and how everyone is. Our communication time is so limited, though!! Now I understand a little bit more why some missionaries write such short letters. I've kept a bullet point list throughout the week of things I need to tell you, so hopefully I remember everything important!!
Guess who spoke at Sunday Devotional? President Daines!

Day 9 here in the MTC, and only three left! I am so extremely happy that I don't even know what to say! This week has been crazy busy but I love it here. I'm learning so much! (Sorry if this seems repetitive from last week, but all of the above statements are still true!) My Spanish is improving, and I feel much better about my speaking skills. I'm definitely not perfect, but I know that Chile will be the best thing to help me progress from here. Last Sunday was wonderful, one of the best days here. It was fast Sunday, and we had a really great bilingual testimony meeting with our branch. Who wants to guess what language I bore my testimony in? Oh yes, my friends. First public testimony in Spanish! I was very nervous, but I suppose it came out alright.

As for my companions, they have both been kinda stressed with the MTC schedule and some other situations that would take too long to explain. We've been working through things and
I am becoming a better person because of them. Turns out some of the advice I received before coming on a mission about finding a balance between working hard and still taking time to breathe was fairly valid. I try to slow down enough for my companions to have time to breathe, so it is a work in progress. Who knew I'd ever be such a big advocate for studying?
One interesting detail of the week: the Travel Office almost forgot to book us a flight to Chile! All of my zone was put in the wrong category somehow, so they had to change us around and rush to get us a flight. The good news is that it all turned out, and we're leaving on Monday! We report to the Travel Office at 10:00, (which is a dreamy hour here at the MTC- many have to leave at 3 or 4 in the morning), and then we fly to Atlanta at 1. About a four hour layover there, then we fly to Santiago, another layover, then a flight to Concepcion. Needless to say, we will have lots of time to chat with people on the plane and in the airports. Excited for that! And a bit nervous... I'll keep praying that my Spanish-speaking-speed will somehow accelerate in the next couple days.

I just want to wrap up by expressing how loved, happy, blessed, and looked after I feel. Don't tell any of the other missionaries, but I am not joking when I tell you that I picked up FIVE packages on Thursday. Five. I am overwhelmed by all the support I feel from you wonderful friends and family. Thank you so much for your letters, thoughts, and prayers. The Spirit here is so strong, and I hope you won't think me sacrilegious or hyperbolic when I say that God is with us here in the MTC. I can testify of that in the most personal way possible. He loves us, looks after us, and makes sure we never feel alone. He uses wonderful friends and family like you, but even more, He sends His spirit here to teach and guide. I pray for each of you with all my heart, and I know He hears those prayers, even in my simple Spanish. I pray that you each feel the immense blessing that this gospel is- for it is everything. The knowledge of our Savior is a treasure, one only limited by our desire to access it. Please know, all my dear friends, that He loves and knows you. I love you also!


Hermana Oldroyd

March 2, 2013

Week 1/2 (MTC) First Letter home!

Familia!! I love you I love you I love you!!! How exciting. Over the past couple days, I find myself thinking "Ooh, I need to tell them about this." Or "Ooh! I could say that!" And here I am. I'm sorry I didn't even look back and wave at you- I realized that on Wednesday night and felt bad. But I love you!! So here comes the general email.

Dearest family and friends-

I'm here in the MTC!!! And I LOVE IT HERE!! There are so many things going on and so much to do, and so many things to feel and think about and learn. As for the general news, Wednesday was crazy. They pushed us through a giant assembly line and then stuck us in a classroom, and I met my companions! Yes, there is an "s" at the end of that word. I am in a triple companionship with Hermana Call and Hermana Holland. Hermana Holland is 21, from Iowa, and an English major. She has a boyfriend that SHE SAW IN THE MTC!! Not on purpose- he was volunteering in the TRC and they passed each other as we were walking to our classroom. Poor sister. Hermana Call is 20, from Mexico/Utah, and her younger brother is in our district. Needless to say, they are struggling a bit to call each other "Elder" and "Hermana".

  Hermana Call's Spanish key is perfect, which is intimidating and soooo helpful, but she is trying to be patient with me and all my questions. Hermana Holland's mother is Bolivian, so she was raised with some Spanish in the home. Most of my district have either grown up with Spanish in the home or have lived for an extended period in a Spanish-speaking country, but there are two others that just learned it in school. Our district has 11 missionaries- 7 sisters and 4 elders. The tables really have turned, no?

I am learning SO much here. From my teachers and in class, but mostly just from the experience of being here and being with companions. That was a big change, but I feel much better about it now. We pray together, work together, buy candy from the bookstore together. (Well, they buy candy. Believe it or not, they felt more tired than I did and it was their precaution to keep them from falling asleep in class!) They like to chat and joke around, and they talk about how they're tired all the time or how long class is. But I love them and love being with them. I'm the Senior companion, which really doesn't mean much in the MTC- as Hna Call put it "You'll just initiate things, like you already have been!" The good news is that they both love our "Companion Trivia" during lunch- whew!

My dear people. I love the gospel so much. Already, I have felt your thoughts and prayers, and I'm so so so blessed to be here. The longer I'm here, the more I realize that this is exactly where I need to be, exactly what I need to do in order to become the person that I can become. I love my Heavenly Father with all my heart, and I love the idea that I can be his missionary. I love all of you, and I pray for you daily.

The Spanish Detail of the Day: (Yes, sisters and cousins, I was serious when I said I was going to do this! I love Spanish and want to help you learn. Everything that I say may not be perfectly correct, but it will be Spanish!)

"Me como mucho aqui! Me encantan las donas!"


p.s. Hermana Holland is in the blue striped sweater in our map picture.

All my love,

Hermana Oldroyd