Monday, June 29, 2015

Muli Bwanji!!! Dzina Langa Sister Thueson!

Muli Bwanji!!! Dzina Langa Sister Thueson! ife ndife ma missionaries poti mpingo wa Yesu Christo wamasiku! Zikomo kwan bili! Tuanana Mawa.

or in English...
How are you? My name is Sister Thueson and we are missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints! Thank you very much! See you later!

I wish I could tell you how many times those words have come out of my moths... haha seriously I just walk around all day saying muli bwanji muli bwanji or if it is morning i'll say "masuka bwanji" or if it is evening I say "maswela banji!" and they always respond "dilibwino ka anu?" and then I saw "dilibwino zikomo!!" yeah... that happens
probably every minute of every day haha.

Welcome to Malawi... where everyone speaks Chichewa and broken English. but we are able to talk to most people, I've just really learned how to simplify my English!! Okay so for those of you who aren't my family and haven't heard... I'm in the Blantyre Malawi zone! Seriously it's the best zone. but it's been a pretty interesting
experience. My companion and I are white washing (which means neither of us have been in the area before) + we don't have an area book because our area wasn't assigned to a companionship before + i'm a greenie and I don't know anything + we have the biggest area, but the smallest branch in the zone. STRUGGLE IS REAL MY FRIENDS... but I'M HAPPY HAPPY. and we walk at least 10-15 miles a day.

Fun Facts about Malawi:
1. it's currently "winter" here... I'm sweating bullets and everyone is in like 3 sweaters. haha so I'm very interested to see the Summer.
2. I want to be an African woman in the next life. They seriously are walking up hills everyday with like 50 pounds of who knows what on their head, and a baby on their back. They are my idols. (Jane and Kari could do it)
3. Everyone is nice... and everyone will talk to you about Jesus Christ... seriously everyone, so we never really get doors slammed in our face (and because they don't really have strong doors to slam) But because they all talk to us, they get my hopes up that they're interested when they really aren't.
4. There are like 40 different religions and church buildings in just our area. And we're not allowed to proselyte near another church soo..... it kinda limits us.
5. Malawi was the poorest country in the world a little while ago, but they're making their way up I think:) The inflation is crazy here!! 1 US dollar = 465 Malawian Kwacha. They have a 1000 dollar bill, and my wallet is just packed with cash.
6. Blantyre = utah. ish. it has mountains and that's all I care about:) but that means that we are walking hills everyday. It's like a never ending hike haha. But I love hiking so it's great.

So there is a quick overview of Malawi. But I have lots more to tell you so buckle in:) oh and I'll break the news right now... I brought the wrong cord to the internet cafe so.... no pictures this week:( next week I promise. 

MTC: So the MTC was great!! I forgot my journal as well, so I can't really remember a lot of details about the last week at the MTC, except that it was a great experience and I already miss all of the people from there! 

Traveling to Zambia: So we had to wake up at 4 so that we could get to the airport, and we had one last goodbye with everyone, and the 5 of us got taken to the airport. 3 sisters and 2 elders! For some reason none of the African elders and sisters wanted to go to Malawi... they said it was too rural. like what? they're the ones from Africa and
they were the ones scared to go there... so it became the joke about who would get sent to Malawi. but the flight was good... dad the pilot was bad... very shaky take off and landing, and he turned too sharply in the air. BUT they did give us lunch for just a 2 hour flight...
Africa >>> US. and I had my very first macaroon... who would have that I would have my first macaroon flying from Joberg to Lusaka. But then we landed in the smallest airport ever... and we met the AP's and our mission president and his wife!! We got to the mission home and had some lunch and then the president talked to us for a while and same with the AP's. President Erickson is awesome, seriously the spirit was so strong while he was talking. He made a very interesting point about how we aren't here to "spread the gospel" because if that were the case then we would just go to every tiny village and we could baptize hundreds... but what good would that do? they have no chapel, no one to fellowship them, etc. We are here to establish a kingdom. We need to make center of strengths in the areas we are at.... we need to be full purpose missionaries. This work is not just about baptizing, it's about helping the less actives, the recent converts, the members, and strengthening the branch. We need to keep the end in mind when we are teaching, it's not just about seeing them in white at the baptismal font... it's about seeing them dressed in white making covenants in the temple. just food for thought. Then he told us where we would be
serving and who would be our companions. Sister Owusu-Afriyie and Elder Essilfie were staying in Lusaka, Sister Bingham and Elder Tema were heading to the Copperbelt, and i was going by myself to Malawi. We were all very happy about where we got picked to go:) Then we had one on one interviews with the President!

The STL's then came to pick us up and took me and sis. Bingham to their flat for the night. Sis. Bingham and I were able to talk for a long time and we just laughed about all the funny things that happened at the MTC** Seriously I really hope sis. bingham and I get to be in the same zone at some point... I already miss her, and I bet she is doing amazing in the Copperbelt:) We became so so close in just 2 weeks... ahhh she is just the best. The next day we flew to Lilongwe and had a 6 hour layover there... there were 5 of us traveling to Blantyre together and it was the longest 6 hours haha but then we finally got to Blantyre and got taken to our flat.

My Flat: There are 4 of us sisters in the flat. Me and my companion Sister Solomone, and then Sister Muthengi and sister Browning! Sister Browning has been in Blantyre her whole mission (8 months) and the rest of us are brand new. They are the best. We are all seriously sooo different but we get along great... we just listen and sing wicked
songs like 24/7. I guess the music rule isn't super strict... just anything uplifting:) since we have to be in by 5:30 we have a lot of time to be together, laughing about dumb things. it's just great:) My companion and I get along really well! She has been out 10 months and she has been in the Copperbelt her whole mission so neither of us know chichewa:) so it's a struggle but it's good! We have clean water in the kitchen of our flat, and then the bathroooms... no one really knows because it could randomly freak out at some point.

Our Area: so I briefly explained our area earlier. It contains Napiri, new napiri, Mt. Pleasant, Cholaclosa, Mandala, Queens, Waterboard, and probably some more but we don't know anything about it because we don't have an area book haha. So we don't have any lessons or investigators... we just contact all day long! wahoooo I just talk to
everyone I see. on Friday the ZL's took us around a bit to see our area and we met some people that they had been working with, which helped a little... but we don't know our way around the area so we don't really know how to get back to their houses hahahahaha. I was frantically trying to write notes down to remember but.... it didn't
work to great.

Teaching makes me happy: So I have a couple cool experiences about how God truly prepares people to hear the word of God. We have met 2 golden investigators while contacting (well... who knows if we'll see them again, but the first lesson went great) the first was William... we were just walking through the village/town/area/thing and his whole family was just outside so we just introduced ourselves and started talking. They had some time so we just sat down outside and started teaching. Then it started getting good... then he asked the golden question of "where do we go after we die?" My face just lit up and i couldn't stop smiling. helllooooo plan of salvation baby! so I whip
out my pamphlet and started teaching him.... and he liked it. he was a little confused with the 3 kingdoms but we left him with the pamphlet and he said he would read it with his family. MONEY. Then... later that day we started heading home, and for some reason we were kinda heading home early (I repented don't worry) but we were walking through town and this artist came up to us and asked if we were mormons... cha-ching. and he just kept walking with us, we got to know him a little bit and I told him that my brother was an Artist as well (thank you Steve) and he started asking us questions, and some how the Book of Mormon got brought up. I whipped one out and explained it briefly to him, and then he kept wanting to know more and more. So i taught him some random things (guided by the spirit of course) about the atonement, and about joseph smith. and then he asked about polygamy... ahhhh but i answered it by just saying we don't do it anymore and he was just like "oh that's great, I was just really
looking for the truth about that and you answered my question" halleluajh. he was money.

He left and gave us his number so we can teach him again. I get seriously so giddy after we teach a lesson... i don't know what's wrong with me. But my companion says it's contagious... so that's good!! The coolest part about teaching by the spirit, is literally I can't tell you what I said after I taught the lesson. I have no idea really what came out of my mouth, but I just talked and the Spirit filled my head with words. mission rocks.

Our Branch: So... we were soooo excited to go to church to meet the members of our branch so that we could use them while we were teaching and help strengthen them. I had to lead the music... and during the first song there were serioulsy only 10 people there. eish. I had to bear my testimony which was great, and then by the last song we probably had 50 people. Oh did I mention that we have a chapel?? It's beautiful. Everyone knows our church as "Top Mandala behind Indebank" don't ask... that's just how it is described. There are another set of elders in our branch, and then the Beals are working in the branch as well. 

Funny stories: Here is the best part of the email:) soooo the kids here call white people "azungu" and so whenever they see me they say "azungu bo!" (bo means hi in chichewa) . but a lot of the kids are too scared to say anything directly to me, so you can just hear them whispering to eachother "azungu azungu azungu" it's hilarious... i'm
pretty much a celebrity. But you can only say "bo" to kids... because it would be disrespectful to say it to an adult, but when I say it to kids we always end up having a competition who can say it lower and who can say it longer... it's pretty funny.

another funny thing is that whenever I speak Chichewa to adults... they laugh at me half the time... maybe i'm saying something completely wrong, or maybe it's my accent I have no idea... but yeah there's that.

So at church we sing accapella unless we're in the chapel, and the conductor will always sing the first line by themselves and then go, "1, 2, 3, sing!!" I dunno why I find it funny.. but I do. Let's hope I never have to do that because i'm tone deaf.... eish.

Whenever I tell investigators that i'm not married they always get so confused, and always tell me that I should just get married to a Malawian.... hmmmmm ayi zikomo.

We didn't have power my first day.... welcome to Malawi!

I tried blow drying my hair.... and it exploded. never doing that again. Don't worry, i didn't get hurt.

Mosquitos are real. But Doxy seriously makes you invincible. but of course my mosquito net had holes in it, so I had to cover those with tape. But don't worry... the Beals brought me a new one today.

I already have a shoe tanline!!!!!! The sun is real here, and were walking in it for hours every day. once again... we walk  A LOT.

okay... so my companion and i were walking through the market one day and out of the blue everyone starts freaking out!! screaming, celebrating, giving each other high fives, running up and down the streets and it totally threw me off guard. I quickly figured out that two Malawian futbol teams were playing each other and that the Bullets had just scored and everyone at the market was listening to the game over their phones. So me, just trying to be the white tall girl fitting in with all the Africans, started running around giving everyone high fives and yelling and celebrating with all of these guys. And the people were getting so hyped that I was cheering for their team (at the time I had no idea what team was what... but i figured out later) it was hilarious and probably the highlight of my
week. Just try to picture me running through a tiny african market. yep hilarious. Turns out I was cheering for the Bullets... but I shouldn't have done that because they were playing the Wonders, and one of the recent converts in my area is on the Wonders and when i met him I told him that I would be his biggest fan.... so i accidentally lied. eish.

That's about all the funny stories I have for you all. at the end of everyday I sing "It's a great day to be alive"  It's a country song. but yeah it really is a great day to be alive when you're serving the Lord in Malawi. Church is seriously true and I see lots of tiny miracles every day, I hope I answered many of your questions!! once again, I'm sorry for no pictures. but next week for sure:)

ndi ku ma ko ndani!!! (I love you!).
Sister Thueson:)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Til Malawi Meet Again!

Maren with President and Sister Erickson

June 23

Heeeeyyyyy family!!! I'm here in the Zambia mission office right now:) this country rocks. The MTC rocked and it was the best. I don't get that much time to email, and I couldn't read any emails, so I will tell you more next week on p-day!! Sister Erickson is going to be emailing mom and dad with a picture and with the address of the mission home:) The plane ride was really short, and the airport is tiinnnnnnyyy here. I didn't get to see much of the country...  and who knows when I'll see it again.... because.... 

I'M GOING TO MALAWI!!! I'm gonna be serving in Blantyre zone!! I'm the only new person flying out tomorrow, but i'm pretty sure some other sisters are headed from Zambia to Malawi so I shouldn't be flying alone. My trainer is from Fiji!! how cool is that?

Can't wait to talk to you all later:) I love you!!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Maren is so excited about the South Africa MTC that she can't stop writing...

In front of the Johannesburg Temple

Manahoana!!!!! (Hello in Malagasy)
Family and friends what's up??? Okay so my P-day is Thursday here in the MTC, but I'm flying out Tuesday morning for Zambia!!! I'm not sure what time, but the MTC president's wife keeps emphasizing that it's gonna be really really early... not sure what that means because we already wake up at 6:30, so does it get earlier than that? I guess so. but I'm actually doing really good with waking up at 6:30!!
Okay I'm gonna give a quick synopsis and a little more details about traveling here for those of you who aren't my immediate family and didn't hear the scoop. Okay so I left SLC Tuesday morning to fly to Atlanta. Turns out there were these crazy huge thunderstorms in Atlanta so instead of circling around it forever, we landed in Alabama and had to wait a couple hours there.  I sat next to this super nice old man who let me borrow his phone on the plane to call my mom. He overheard me say that I was starving to my mom, so when I hung up the phone he tried to give me money to buy some food. He was adorable, and then every time they would come around with snacks, he would grab some extra for me. It was pretty awesome, when he heard I was a missionary he told me that the work would be more fun if I kept some whiskey in my purse, and to never start swearing because "damn it's hard to stop" hahaha so we got along pretty great. then... they started letting airplanes land in Atlanta, but they made us wait an extra hour until we could take off because there were so many planes trying to land.... When we got to Atlanta we looked at the connections board, and our flight (me and an elder who is coming to the Johannesburg mission... his name is Elder Morrill) to Johannesburg had departed 20 minutes ago. Wow.... the Thueson luck is pretty great right??
There were 6 other Elders who had just finished training at the MTC and they were on their way to Panama, and their flight had left them as well. So we called the church and started making arrangements. It took a loooooonnnggg time to figure out when our flight was scheduled, so we were waiting around and we started talking to this couple. They were strong Catholics from Ohio (go buckeyes) and we asked them what they knew about our church and all they knew was that we were super service oriented. The cute little elders straight out of the MTC gave them a pass along card, but they weren't too interested in the church... but that man LOVED telling stories... i'm pretty sure he talked for like an hour. but he did tell me something that was really nice. he said, "There is just something about you, you're just very enthusiastic, and people will love to listen to you... you just have this light." now I know what you're thinking.... this happens to every mormon ever and everyone has been told that, but growing up in Bountiful, Utah everyone has that LDS "light" so it was just nice to hear in the middle of all the chaos that was happening.
So we found out that our flight wasn't leaving until Thursday night, so all of us missionaries got a cab to go to a hotel. Let me give you a quick rundown on the situation.... 6 elders out of the MTC, one elder on his way to the MTC, and me. It was interesting. but they were all the nicest guys... but let's just say they  felt so so awkward at first. But I broke them in and started talking about normal things like movies, and getting to know them and then we all became like best friends. In the Missionary Handbook on page 33 it talks about how you're not supposed to flirt with the opposite sex, so whenever i would spend too much time talking to one of the elders... the rest of them would hold up their handbook and just yell "page 33 page 33..." yep... they're the worst. They were just kidding of course, but it made for a good laugh.
Thursday we got to go to the Atlanta temple as we were waiting around, which was really cool. It was tiny!! Then we got on our plane and safely arrived in Johannesburg. Thueson luck came in again when i got a middle seat in a completely full flight. but I made it work:)
Now..... I can FINALLY tell you a little about the MTC! There are 17 missionaries here total.... so compared to the thousands at the MTC it's tiny. But I really like it small, I know every single Elder by name and we all know each other really well!! So I got here and got my name tag.... (literally the best moment ever... I love that thing) and I met my companions. Sister Bingham (who I knew at BYU... she is the best best best) and then Sister Owuso-Afryie! She is from Ghana and she is 19! We're the only sisters here at the moment and we're all going to the Zambia mission. (oh and by the way.... Sister Bingham, Elder Morrill, and I are the only Americans, and i love that)
My District/The other missionaries: My district is us 3 sisters, and then Elder Thusi (Tusi) and Elder Mpiakhe (sounds like teriyaki) they're going to the Johannesburg mission and then Elder Tame and Elder Essilfie (sounds like "a selfie" no joke) He speaks english... but I probably only understand like 20% of the wordy as that come out of his mouth. and Elder Tema and Elder Essilfie are coming to Zambia with us! The rest of the elders here are so hilarious. They are always smiling or laughing about something, and they are so laid back. oh... and THEY ALL HAVE GIRLFRIENDS BACK HOME. Every single one of them.... it's hilarious to talk to them about it. and they all are planning on getting married and most of them have only been dating the person like 1 month! wowza. Like one elder (elder Tema) just walked in and told me that he is talking to his "wifey to be" Another funny story about him... we were sitting in class the other day and the teacher asked what the difference between stressed and distressed was, and the first thing he said was... "AMERICANS????" Hahaha you probably won't laugh, but i thought it was hilarious. And then another story, every night when I'm saying goodnight to the Elders I always say.. "Love you, but in a missionary way" and Elder Tema responded last night saying, "love you, but maybe more than a missionary." he kills me.  

Teachers: I have the best teachers ever. Sister Ramakwhoe and Brother Kubekah (my favorite) Brother Kubekah makes me laugh like every 5 minutes... he has only been a member for 4 YEARS. and he knows the scriptures wayyyyyy better than I do. He served in Zimbabwe. I wish I could tell you how amazing he is.... literally like my idol. He speaks 9 languages. OH MY GOODNESS PEOPLE IN MY LANGUAGE SPEAK CLICK. Sis. Bingham and I have tried sooooo hard to learn it and it is really hard. Everyone here can speak like 3 languages at least, and us americans just sit here like "uhhhhhhh we speak english" yeah it's pretty great. Elder Desouza will always dance with me, so that's fun. And then Elder Diogo is soooooo flexible. He can do a heel stretch, so we're gonna get a picture:)
Companions: Sister Bingham and I are like the same person. seriously. except she is cooler than me. But i've just learned to accept that hahaa, every night we have to stop each other from talking so much or we never have time to write in our journal and we end up going to bed late because we talk so much. Sister Owuso-Afriyie is from Ghana and she is just this tiny little cute person. She speaks soooooo quiet, I literally have to focus so hard on what she is saying to comprehend everything. But i'm pretty sure I scare our "investigators" when we're teaching lessons because she'll talk in her small cute little voice, and then I come in with the loud obnoxious voice talking about who knows what. it's pretty great... it's a good contrast haha. But she knows SO much about the gospel... i'm pretty sure she could teach the whole lesson by herself.
It's so weird to always have to be with your companion... it's a hard adjustment for me. I can't just run to my room and get my journal, or a pen or something... all 3 of us have to go. But it's a rule and I'm being obedient. 

Food: The food isn't the best... but it's not awful. the best way I can describe it is that it's wannabe American food... but executed in an African way. We had fish sticks for breakfast one time... that's all I have to say. We get snack time every night though, and they have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and they have quickly become my favorite food. I crave them. 

SundaySunday was such a great day. Our alarm didn't go off BUT MISSION MIRACLE NUMERO UNO..... Sister Owuso-Afriyie just woke up on her own. church is true. and then we had sacrament, and we have two elders who came in knowing absolutely NO english. One from Tonga and one from Madagascar. And they blessed the Sacrament in English after being here only 3 days. Yep... it was amazing. made me cry. Then after the 3 meetings we got some personal time... and guess what that means? NAP TIME BABY. Sister Bingham and I were stoked but Sister Owuso-Afriyie did her laundry like the good person that she is. 
The president's wife gave us all candy bars.... I GOT A SNICKERS BAR. 

Monday: We were doing this stress management activity and so we had to go outside and race different districts. It was great.
Tuesday... I forgot to write in my journal so I can't really remember what happened besides that our teacher gave us an oreo and it was a tender mercy.
Wednesday: THE BEST DAY EVER. first off... in our fake lesson with our fake investigator. We committed him to baptism... and we were so stoked. hahaha like I was dancing around. so that was a fun glimpse into what it is really like. Then the area 70 gave us a devotional which was cool! Then... we got to go to the Johannesburg temple! 6 of the Elders hadn't been endowed before and one of them had never even stepped foot in a temple before.... Seriously I have been so lucky to always have a temple close. the Johannesburg temple is tiny... and sitting in the celestial room and watching the Elders who hadn't been endowed before come in, was something I think I will always remember. Sister Bingham and I got pretty emotional.... I guess African's don't cry or something because no one else cries ever.
And then we had a devotional from President and Sister Collins, and it was on exact obedience. (classic) but it's always a good reminder... especially for safety reasons. Then we got to watch the devotional that Elder Holland gave to the Provo MTC a couple weeks ago... side note. Remember that guy I kissed on the kiss cam at the BYU football game... well he gave the opening prayer and I accidentally yelled "I've kissed him!!" yep.... good thing the president wasn't in the room hahahaa. but on a more serious note... Elder Holland is the man. Learned a lot and hopefully I can apply what he said to my mission.
And then we got red velvet cupcakes because it was one of the Elder's birthdays... seriously could the day have gotten any better?
FUN FACTS: (I promise this email will be over soon) So my OCD has kicked in, and with my new scriptures I've been able to color code them to go with each missionary lesson. WAHOOO.
I wake up every single night like 3-5 times because I think i'm gonna be late for a lesson with an investigator (so if you can't tell... our teachers have really emphasized the importance of being on time) Like it will be 2 in the morning and I'll look at my watch and I don't even process it and just start getting out of bed. it's weird.
Oh, so you know how I call everyone babe? yep.... I have definitely called the elders babe a couple times. It's been hard to explain that one.
Instead of saying darn it... the Africans say "eish!!" and it's slowly rubbing off on me.
If you ever come on your mission to Africa... LEARN THE BIBLE. Wow, do these people know their bible backward and forwards... seriously they know every story and every verse and every chapter. and I don't even know the books in order.... Definitely should have taken seminary more seriously. 

Sorry that this was the longest email ever... if you made it through the whole thing. Congrats. I really just wish I could bring you all here so that you could feel of the special spirit that is here and have you meet all the amazing people that I've met. My emails will probably get shorter when I get out into the field, but we had some time today so hopefully this answered all of your questions.
Sadly, we aren't able to upload pictures to the MTC computers:( but I will send you some when I get into the field.... I'm not sure when I'll be able to email you next, because we'll miss the p-day next week!!
Ngiyakuthanda (I love you in Zulu)

Monday, June 15, 2015

South Africa MTC

Here is Maren's group in the South Africa MTC, kindly sent from Sister Collins, the MTC mom (President's wife).  Maren hasn't written a letter yet - I will post it when she does later in the week.  Sister Collins wrote, "they have taught investigators and are focusing on those things that are necessary for them to be the consecrated missionaries the Lord wants and needs.  We will take good care of them and do our best to prepare them for their missions in Zambia, Botswana, and Johannesburg.  This is a photo we took after our Sacrament Meeting Block.  It is a beautiful winter day here in Joburg, as you can see."