Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Happiest Place on Earth/Prison

I love and miss you all SOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH!!! And I LOVE your dear Elder letters. They make me so dang happy oh my goodness I can't even explain it. Thank you so much for keeping me updating with everything that's going on at home:) It keeps me sane in this place.  Can you believe I am already on my 5th week?!!! Like what? Time is weird in the mission. It goes by so fast, it's unbelievable. The week after next I'm going to be in the Philippines for heavens sake! Today we get our flight plans. I'm not sure if I'll be able to email after we get them or if I'll just have to wait until next next Friday. I do know, however that we are leaving on October 29, Nov 4th is when we leave the Manilla MTC and I'll actually be headed for Tacloban. Oct 29th is a Thursday I believe, and word has it that we'll be leaving the MTC around 3:30 and our flight from the airport leaves around 8 am.....ugh. so early. 

The 28th, the Wednesday before we leave, I'll be able to email all day long. It'll be like our last P-day in the MTC - reserved for emails and packing. But...Thursday I GET TO CALL HOME! WOOHOO!!! We get to call when we get to California where we should have a 5 hour layover. At first we were told we'd be stopping in San Fran but now we've heard that it'll be LAX. Which is good because Elder O'Rullian, who's from LA, says that's the best airport because way huge and will be kinda fun.

 This week, the biggest thing that happened was Sister Garcia and I were made Sister Training Leaders of the Zone. That's kind of like Zone Leaders but for the sisters specifically. Sister Garcia is absolutely wonderful with all the sisters. They all completely adore her and want to tell her everything they're struggling with and want her advice on everything, especially the Polynesian sisters - which there's a lot of. Culture differences are definitely something I've never really been exposed to before. All of the Polynesians in our zone are some of the happiest people I've ever met but they definitely have had there differences that have caused some struggles in our zone in the past couple of weeks. For example, one of the elders made a big deal about how they all are too flirty and they're breaking MTC rules because they're smiling too much at the elders. Hahahahahaha. You can imagine the Polynesian sisters were not happy about that. So Sister Garcia is wonderful because her family is from El Salvador and they love talking to her about the culture shock and dealing with us white people:)

 Then there's me. Don't worry, I am my happy self and I'm good friends with all of the sisters, but BY FAR closer with all of the elders. I feel like I have a bunch of annoying brothers for the first time in my life. They absolutely love driving me to the brink of insanity. And yet, somehow I love them all. Honestly though, they hold nothing back from me...we have become to close. It makes me sad for Dad because I realize how much he must be in control of the little boy inside him since living in an all girl family....that poor little boy just waiting to break out.

 Anyways, the whole week I've been joking to myself that they chose Sister Garcia to be a Sister Training Leader because she will be a wonderful support for the girls and they chose me to be a Sister Training Leader because they think that if I have to enforce the rules, I might actually follow them. (Hence, "prison" in the title)  Our zone is known for having the strictest branch presidency in the MTC. You will not believe some of the rules they enforce. Hahahaha it's very humorous though.

I found out this week that our branch presidency were the same people for David Archuleta when he went through the MTC. Cool right?! Poor guy, he probably was told to stop singing all the time. Poor little Archuleta.

 Yesterday, we got to skype return missionaries living in the Philippines! It was so much fun! Each companionship was assigned a computer in this big lab, and mine and Sister Garcia's skype buddy wasn't answering our skype call, so we just got to hang out and look around and all the Philippino faces on the screens. Hehe they are so cute!!!! At first, everyone was super nervous, but when you actually see their faces on the screens, oh my gosh, it's just so cool. When everyone was finally finished, they got someone for us we could talk to. She spoke hardly any Cebuano, just Tagolog and English, so we spoke in English but it was still so fun. I'm. So. Excited. And so ready to get out of the MTC!, I met a missionary who is here for 9 weeks to learn Mandarin, and then another 2 to learn English for some reason. And they just got here. My heart goes out to the poor souls. 

One of the things I'm most excited for is the Philippino food!!!!!! Woohoo! No more MTC food!!!! It looks so good. All of our teachers have shown us pictures of it and wow. Devine.

I love you all so much!!!!!!!!! Keep working hard and be happy!!!!!!

Love Ken

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Kamusta Pamilya! (Hello Family - pretty close to Spanish, right?)

It's unbelievably so true what they say. Each day feels like eternity but the weeks feel like days. I cannot believe I am already HALFWAY DONE WITH THE MTC! This week I get my travel plans too! Woohoo! This thing is gettin' real. So far I know that I will be flying to San Fran - aw, the lovely - and there we will have a 5 hour layover to do nothing but call family on the pay phones there. They have pay phone cards in the bookstore. It's like $5.00 for 500 minutes of time so don't worry about sending a prepaid phone:) From San Francisco, we'll be flying to Hong Kong! I don't know if we're allowed to leave the airport yet but I hope so! I need to see at least one real life Chinese person in their natural habitat. The next flight will be to the Philippines. I think we'll be flying straight to Manila where we'll stay for a week in the MTC. More details on that when I have my travel plans:)

Aw...the Philippines. It's becoming more real every day and I'm SO EXCITED! My Cebuano teacher, Brother Pasikala, served in Cebu where Elder Hair and Elder Tauba from our district are going (Elder O'Rullian, Elder Gervacio, Sister O'Sumo, and Sister Cook are going to the Cebu East Mission. Sister Garcia, Elder Seegmiller, and Elder Guertler, and I are going to Tacloban.) Anyways, shortly after Brother Pasikala returned from his mission, he went back to the Philippines but this time to Tacloban with 40 other return missionaries to assist in the humanitarian aid. He made a video of it and put it on Youtube. It is so cool! He showed it to us and it got me so excited!!!! Look it up. The title of the video is "2014 Help International Philippines Crisis Team". Hopefully you can find it. Brother Pasikala is the tall Hawaiian dude with the beard. 

Each day we just hear more and more stories about the Philippines. A couple nights ago, Sister Cook (who is honestly like the coolest person in the world and I'll probably go backpack Europe or go back to the Philippines with one day) told us about her humanitarian trip in the orphanage last year in the Philippines. She said it was one of the most amazing things of her life. She attempted to try and explain to us how the Philippinos view white people. It's very interesting. She told us about this girl named ChiChi she worked with in the orphanage a lot during the month she was there. ChiChi grew up in an abusive home, and in the Philippines the government doesn't have assist programs for things like that. The owner of the orphanage lets ChiChi sleep there and feeds her and in return ChiChi gets the rooms ready and works all day long. She starts at 4am and doesn't finish until 8pm. Sister Cook told of a day when they were asked to clean the bathrooms. After they finished cleaning the sinks, Sister Cook grabbed a toilet cleaner and went to clean toilets when suddenly ChiChi grabbed it out of her hand. She refused to let her clean the toilet. Sister Cook said that previous to this, she'd tried to explain that she had done chores at home, but ChiChi didn't believe her. Apparently everyone in the Philippines thinks that all Americans have maids and that we don't do anything. There view of us is so...hard to describe. It's not like they think we're stuck up and spoiled, they literally just think that because we're white, we're too good for stuff like cleaning toilets. Sister Cook said that she finally wrestled the toilet brush away from ChiChi as ChiChi was screaming no at her. She got it and started to clean and all of a sudden, this small crowd of Philippinos gathered around and watched her just in pure shock. Sister Cook said she just went home and cried. 

A lot of people have told us we need to be ready for that first moment we get to the Philippines. This is the largest group of white missionaries they've sent in a long time. They said it's almost going to be like we're celebrities or something. Many have told me I especially need to prepare myself because they're going to be fascinated with my hair which is about the color orange for some reason right now. It just sounds like this is going to be the most humbling experience. 

One thing Sister Cook did say was that she took a bunch of those bracelets made out of string and gave them to the kids there. They were a huge hit. Every child would come up to her and just grin and show her the bracelet they were wearing. So, if anyone wants a service project, start making bracelets:)

I seriously have the coolest people in my district. 

This week we found out that Elder Tauba, the Figian, is a national icon in Figi. And he didn't even tell us until we pried it out of him 2 DAYS AGO! We've been here for 3 weeks! And we just found out! He's on the national volleyball team and has traveled all over the world playing volleyball. This is his second time to Utah. The first, he came to play BYU and they smoked 'em:) His mom is a professional singer in Figi and he has sung with her in many a concert. So he's a professional singer and volleyball player. Because of his national identity, Figi airlines have a recorded message of his voice welcoming all the passengers to Figi playing on every plane. AND, there's a giant post of him with his arms outstretched above the airport that says, "Welcome to Figi". ANNNND... Because he's such a cool guy some author apporached him and asked to write a book on him. So he has his own book. I think his Biography is called "Rising from the Beach?" Something like that. His first name is Paneia...something like that. It's hard to pronounce. He also is a convert to the church and because of his missionary work, his family is now taking discussions from missionaries. He has a twin back at home and a year ago was engaged but was left at the alter. This guy has been through everything and he is one of the sweetest people I've ever met. All the Polynesians are in our district. They're just so happy! I'm so excited to go to the Philippines!

This week was my birthday and it was just amazing. I have the best district in the whole wide world. The night before, Sister Cooks grandma sent us all carameled apples, and Elder Hairs mom sent him all this junk food. After class we layed it all out on this table and had a pow wow. Do you have any idea what happens when you get 10 young adults who haven't had a weekend in about a month on a sugar high? It was an insane night. So much fun. We had a blast!!!!! The next morning, I wake up and my roommates had stayed up decorating our door! It was so cute! I sent a picture of it! SWEET Sister Garcia gave me a present. She had filled a bag with balloons and bought me a new notebook and a cute pen at the bookstore. Who knows how on Earth she did that without me knowing. I'm with her 24/7! She is amazing. Inside there was also a card that all the roomies had signed and Sister Cook and Sister Osumo from our district. I just love them all!. 

Then we went to breakfast and then class for some personal study before conference. We didn't see any of the elders at breakfast which was weird, but when we went to the classroom I knew why. Those wondrous creations of God sang me Happy Birthday as I came into the classroom and gave me 2 cards and 2 twix bars!!! All of them had signed both cards. Ahhh! I love them all so much!!! Then we went to conference later that day - both sessions. At the end of the night, we had a district meeting and kind of went over what we learned and felt from conference. That night was crazy. The spirit was so strong and everyone really opened up to each other. Everyone was crying about the Elder Holland talk about moms. We all miss our mommies:) Elder O'Rullians got me the most. He told his adoption story and how his mom found him through facebook. What's insane is that Sister Heath, one of my roommates, found her biological mom on facebook right around the time Elder O'Rullian did, just a month before the mission. Both of them have met their families, Sister Heath's parents are still together. Both of them have had the opportunity to meet their other siblings from these families and their parents, adopted and biological, just love each other. Families are amazing. Elder O'Rullians story got us all. He's another super cool person in our district. The funniest guy I've probably ever met, and super spirtual too. He's also been my coach occasionaly when I decide that my body can handle any pain and I volunteer to participate in his daily ab workout. I'm pretty sure he's trying to kill me. 

One of the best things about this week
has been Maryn Brady:)! 

(I had to add this picture of Makenna and Maryn in 2nd grade in Albuquerque New Mexico... look how cute they are!)

After our district discussion, we all wiped away the tears and told each other we loved each other and went back to our residences. Maryn came and visited me in my room. She brought me a cupcake, a bag of oreos, a sobe, and a card! Aw she is the best!!!! Over this last week, we were visiting each other every night. It is absolutely AMAZING how fast we clicked back. It's been 11 years for heavens sake! 18 months is gonna be nothing! She's already in her mission now in Salt Lake, AND, KAYSVILLE IS IN HER MISSION!!!! So Mom, Dad, if you see her have her over for dinner. She's a bundle of joy. 

Thank you so much for the package. I loved it so much!!!!!!!! I loved all the notes too! Please tell Grammy I loved her note and it made me cry and I love her and Grandpa so much!:)

I loved hearing from all the girls this week! Hahahahaha. Kac and Lex are such funny writers. I was dying laughing on the floor when Lex was talking about the concert and Kacie said that she felt like a baby bird as they squirted water into her mouth. And Tessa's note, just so cute! I read it to everyone in my district. We all loved it! 

Please tell Aunt Sue that I loved the package she sent! That was SO THOUGHFUL OF HER! She sent me a box of candy. She also sent me a letter and I really appreciated it. Tell her thank you thank you thank you and send my love!!

I love it when Dad sends me pictures! Send me more!!!! 

Also, that lullaby from the Cinderella movie has been stuck in my head, and if you have the opportunity to send me all the lyrics, it would be much appreciated:) 

Hope everyone liked conference!!!! My favorite talk was, other than Holland's, the one from Uchtdorf in the women's conference about happiness. It was the last talk. If you haven't watched it, watch it with the family! It's so good!!! The gospel brings so much happiness, it's amazing. 

I feel so lucky to be a missionary. It's the hardest thing I've ever done. I've never EVER been so emotionally and mentally tested. The language is hard. So is keeping your sanity. However, this by far is the best thing I've ever done. As far as growing and learning and developing as an individual goes. There's so many things I'm learning and it's so fun!!! One thing I wanted to tell you all is that in many classrooms, there are one way mirrors. There aren't rooms behind those mirrors anymore so that people can look in without us knowing because they've been blocked off by walls. However, they are there because several years ago, the government sent in people to watch how missionaries were being taught the language. They couldn't get the military to learn it in under a year. The reason missionaries learn it so fast is because we have our Heavenly Father behind us. The gift of tongues is such a real thing it's amazing. So is the gift of prayer. I know that our prayers are heard and that they aren't always answered in the way we want them to be, but they are answered. 

Love you all so much!!!! Always!!! 

Keep me updated on everything! Love love love xoxoxoxoxoxox

Sister Kenna Russon

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Kinabuji ang bola

Hello Family!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you for the dear elder letters this week! And thanks especially for yours Lex. Hahahahaha You CRACK ME UP woman! Love you all so much! I wish I could spend my birthday with you but go do something fun as a family and know i'm there in spirit:)

Here's a picture of Maryn Brady and I. I told you in my last letter I ran into her. We've seen each other at least 15 times and have dropped off notes at each others rooms! I love her to pieces!

The title translated is "Ball is life" in English. Hahaha I LOVE MY ZONE! One of the elders in our zone is from England and he always says Ball is Life in his British accent. So of course, all the guys in my district decided to translate it into Cebuano and say it 50 million times a day.  

Oh I forgot to tell you that Sister Garcia and I have been called as the zone online coordinators. Basically we have to make sure everyone knows what to do and to have chats with those who aren't following the rules, like staying off social media. Elder Laud has been helping us with that because that was his calling before. We were his apprentices:) He and the rest of his district left to IloIlo, Philippines this week. So we're missing a district from our zone. Sad day:(

It's so sad that I'm already dreading the day we leave the MTC because I'll have to leave my district. We had to leave our families to come here, and now we're going to have to leave this family to go to the mission.

The MTC is QUITE the emotional rollercoaster! I'm either dying laughing, or crying because it's so spirtual, or I'm anxious and antsy because I've been sitting down all day, or I will admit maybe slightly annoyed because of all the rules! I'm definitely learning to be obedient:)

This week I had one of the craziest experiences ever. Our district has been teaching fake investigators to practice - they're really just our teachers. But on Tuesday we had TRC's, which is where members in the area that can speak Cebuano volunteer to come and be the guinea pigs for us to teach. The first one was with a sister. She served in Cebu a couple years ago and the lesson went well. We struggled a bit but that's kind of how it is everytime because my Cebuano is choppy. 

The second investigator was another story. I don't know who this man was but something happened. He was probably early 30's and spoke completely in Cebuano. All I understood was that he has a wife who is pregnant with his first baby and he knows our Heavenly Father is so proud of all his missionaries and then everything else was gibberish. And I don't know why but as soon as he began speaking he hardly glanced at my companion - which I kind of felt bad for - but that was a necessary experience for me. Who knows why, but as soon as I spoke I just began to cry. Like really hard. Not because I was sad, but just because. Walking out of there I felt like he gave me something. That doesn't really make sense but that's how I felt. It was crazy. The spirit was so SO strong. 

One of the coolest things that happened this week was Sunday - our district watched Characters of Christ  - a talk for the missionaries from David. A. Bednar. It was amazing!!!!!

My challenge this week is for everyone to find it, sit down and watch it. Don't be rushed, give yourself some time, take notes if you want and watch it with the fam. It is so good. It's definitely catered to missionaries but can be applied to anyone. 

I love you all so much! Thank you for the dear elder letters and the emails!
Think about you every day, 
Hugs and kisses, 
Sister Kenna Russon
Ayo Ayo! (that means goodbye)

Have a wonderful conference weekend!!! Pay attention, take lots of notes, and enjoy watching it on the couch wrapped in a blanket. We're going to be stuck on plastic chairs...the.entire.time.

In this picture, one of the sweet senior couple missionaries dropped off donuts for our district. It was really only for the missionaries going to Cebu East mission, but they decided to share:)


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Second Week of Bootcamp

Hello!!!!! Family family family!!!

I am missing you all like crazy!!!! This week has been absolutely insane. Packed 24/7. No we don't have time to take naps to recover *tear*.

To answer mom's questions: 

What are the showers and bathrooms like? : Huge and pretty nice. The sisters have one on each floor unlike the elders - which they despise us for hehe:) - so there's plenty of time to get everything done without waiting. 

Is your bed comfy? Are you sleeping good?: Bed is super comfy, pillow so fluffy, and sleep is coming easily. Especially because I've been taking NyQuil almost every night for this awful cold I have. I swear the whole MTC has it. There's been an outbreak! Makes me think we're all going to turn into zombies.... But thanks for the meds mom!

Do the districts get to hang out with other districts?: The districts do get to hang out with other districts, and we see them a lot at gym/lunch/in the halls. 

Are all of the Tacloban missionaries going to the Philippines MTC? All the missionaries going to the Philippines are going to the MTC there. So we're all going together! Even the ones speaking Hilango and Tagalog. 

Has your visa come?: I don't know anything about the Visa, they should have it here hopefully!

What is your schedule?: Schedule each day consists of meals - highly looked forward to, studying, classes, reading the scriptures, messing around in the classroom with our district and not staying focuses - haha just kidding. No really though:) , teaching fake investigators in Cebuano (yeah that's right, their expectations are pretty high for the greenies here at the MTC), gym (My roommates and me and Sister Garcia have been doing this intense ab workout everyday, woohoo!, and then I've been running and playing volleyball.

Do you ever get a break in the schedule to just chill or watch a church movie and have popcorn or something? : Only on Sunday's can we watch a church movie and we can only watch it for the hour and a half we get for movie time. Popcorn is only available in the vending machines but that's okay. I swear they're trying to kill us with all the fattening food in the cafeteria. No one is eating snacks much. 

Does your district all have the same p-day?: Yes

What are the other girls in your room like and where are they from and going to? Two of them are going to Tacloban with me, one is going to Cebu. They are hilarious and we're all close friends. I love them!

Saturday was my hardest day so far. I don't know why but it was. So it was good that Sunday followed because I LOVED Sunday!!!!! We had sacrament and relief society like usual. Relief society was so fun because all of us sisters are super close. The sister who taught the lesson is leaving on her mission next week and she had a lot of good advice for us as far as studying and feeling the spirit and growing through this experience. And of COURSE! Guess who gets asked to teach next weeks lesson - mua. So I need to prepare a half hour lesson on repentance. Which seems like kind of a tricky subject. Good thing none of the sisters ever stop talking - I say that in the best way possible - and most of my lesson will probably consist of their thoughts and testimonies. Which is good because getting the discussions going gets everyone emotional and bonding. 

I'm loving my sweet companion:) I'm finally getting her to be opinionated and to eat sweets when she wants, not just to say no because I am, and am helping her to remember things. She bore her testimony the other day about how much she's learning in self confidence from me and that she's grateful I'm her companion. Aw:) We have a great relationship. 

After relief society and meals on Sunday, my whole district decided to join the MTC choir. Best. Decision. Yet. The Choir director was SO funny! And so spiritual! He was cracking me up and then within seconds he's whip us around so that we were all dead quiet listening to the spiritual thought he had. We learned two songs that we got to sing in the devotional that night. What's funny is like at least 3/5 of the MTC is in the choir. Very different than school:) One of the songs we sang was How Firm a Foundation. Definitely my new favorite Hymn. Our awesome choir director - who is an Institute teacher at UVU (teaches a dating class, wish I could take it! He's so funny!) ...and he's also in MoTab  - told us about the history behind that song. He first asked who knows who Amanda Smith is?! And I'm like "ME!!! I'm related to her" Along with 2 other elders across the gym! I guess they're family too:) He said that when her husband was killed at Hans Mill, a lot of the mob took over the area and the camp where the women and children were. They killed anyone who dared to pray. Amanda Smith didnt know what to do, so she went out to the corn field one day and prayed to God to know what to do to be free again and help her boy who had his hip blown off, and how to get rid of the mobbers. She said a voice so clear and distinct came to her as if someone was standing there next to her. Not a feeling or thought, but a VOICE. 

The voice said ," I will not, I cannot, desert you to these foes". 

Which is in the fourth verse of the hymn. 

All the elders sang the third verse, "Fear not I am with thee; oh be not dismayed, for I am thy God and will still give thee aid...". Can you even imagine being a weak little sister missionary, surrounded by none less than 1000 worthy priesthood holding elders singing their hearts out to these words?! And then we get to join in singing the words of my great-somethin grandma?!!! 

That night we had the opportunity to sing it at the devotional. The speaker was Lloyd...something. Hahahah he is the voice that introduces each conference. At first we didn't know what he was talking about but then he says," "Maybe you'll recognize this. This is the 75th conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." Hahaha we all cracked up because he's the voice of the person who says that! Listen to the next conference and you'll know who I'm talking about. 

So Sunday was amazing for me and I've been going strong ever since. The spirit has been so strong. It is so cool. 

One thing I learned this week is that we are the second group of missionaries going to Tacloban since the Typhoon. Only the second! And we're the biggest of the two. We have about 24 missionaries going and there was much less the last time. 

Cebuano is...coming. It's pretty hard. They say we should be learning 50 vocab words a day which is definitely not a possible thing because in all of our class time we're learning grammar and trying to memorize lines for our discussions with our investigators. So I've made a goal of 25 words a day. But, this is so cool! I have been starting to pick it up faster as I've been reading the book of mormon in Cebuano. I'll read a sentence in English, and then the same one in Cebuano and it is AMAZING how fast I'm picking it up! The gift of tongues is real! The church is true. 

This week I ran into Maryn Brady! Hahahaha so happy!!!!!! I still feel like she's one of my best friends. I saw her only 20 minutes after she got to the MTC and I was like, "No way!" and then we ran and hugged each other and took a picture and she had to run off to get stuff done. But it was so fun to see her! I hope I do again soon before she leaves being that she'll only be here 12 days. 

I LOVE THE DEAR ELDER LETTERS! They make me so happy! I don't know if you got the postcard yet but I sent it a couple days ago. 

Love you all lots! Sorry this letter is so long, there's probably a million more things I'm going to want to say as soon as I leave but oh well. Yes I'm writing about everything in a journal:) The girls better flippin write me about stuff thats going on or I'm going to have no idea about anything. 

Love you all so so much! And I miss you like crazy! Just remember Im in a good place and will be home before you know it! Hopefully:)  Stay happy! Stay strong! Goal: Read the scriptures as a family sometime this week. I have realized how much I love reading the Book of Mormon. Because I was reading it so much at home before I left, it feels like a little piece of home and family each time I pick it up. That probably doesn't make sense. But its true:)

Sending love and kisses 24/7 

Love Kenna/ Sister Russon