Sunday, November 6, 2011

Learning to Love Schedules

As you can imagine, I am not a schedule kind of a person.  So, it is kind of tough for me now but it is and will continue to get better.  I am probably going to be lost without a planner when I get back.

Here’s my daily schedule:
  6:29am - Wake-up.  Roll out of bed onto my knees in prayer position. 
                        Then I exercise for 1/2 an hour and get ready for the day. 
  8:00am - Personal study time.
  9:00am - Companion study.
10:00am - My training (which will happen for 12 weeks).
11:00am - We begin teaching others or looking for people who are interested
                         in learning more about The Church. 
12:00pm - We have an hour break for lunch. 
  5:00pm - We eat dinner with a member family from church.
  9:00pm - We have 30 minutes of daily planning for the next day.
10:30pm - In bed, with the lights out. 

Once a week, I have P-day (short for preparation day).  This is the day missionaries take care of all their personal needs like shopping, laundry, letter writing, and so on.  Most P-days I have from 10am-5pm as P-day.  On Halloween we had to be in by 7pm (no dressing up or holiday parties!) so our P-day was mixed around and it was from 1pm to 7pm.

The church members are taking care of us well here.  They are so excited to have sister missionaries.  We have had reports that they haven't had sister missionaries in this area for the last 41 years, but then we had reports of some sister missionaries…but not for a long time.

One of the hardest parts of the mission right now is knocking on doors.  Sister R says that that is her favorite part.  After knowing that, I have an even harder time doing it.  We made a goal that I would do it every other time.  (I came up with that goal.) 

The rainy season is kind of starting.  It is often foggy in the morning and the rain is really light.  It is like when you sit at Grandma Layton's house and the swamp cooler is spitting on you a little bit.  That is how the rain is.  Or at least the rain I have been in.  The misters at Six Flags have more water coming out of them than the rain I’ve been experiencing so far.

Here are some random facts (based on my limited experience) about Oregon:
There are hardly any sidewalks in neighborhoods. 
Lots of houses just have car-ports. 
There are tons of cats and almost every house we knock at has 1+ dogs. 

I want to finish by sharing my testimony.  I know this church is true.  I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and that through him we can return and live in the best way possible with our Heavenly Father.  I love the Atonement; it is the best thing ever.  I know and can recognize how the gospel can help everyone I talk to.  As a missionary, I meet many people who have been humbled or have had hard lives.  While people have their own agency to decide what they believe, I want to share my testimony that Jesus Christ can help them.  I am grateful I get the chance to do this.  <3 Sister Cluff

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pink Washing

Here I am in the Oregon Eugene Mission!  President Y and Sister Y are the missionaries who are in charge of the missionary work in this area.

I am so happy that I finally get the chance to write you again.  It has been awesome here.  I see sooo many miracles and most of them I don't even realize as miracles at the time.  We had 26 referrals given to us in the last week!  Sister R (my companion) says it is a good week if you get like 5.  I have not been too phreaked out and haven’t acted like a newbie too badly.  It is kind of funny to see people's responses when I tell them that I have only been on my mission for like 6 days.  I should probably stop telling people even though I think it is fun.  People just want to tell me all of the pranks that they have played on greenies (brand new missionaries).  Sister W told me that President Y said he would send any one home that played a trick on a greenie so, I am safe. 
So, Sister R is amazing!  She is stellar, she has only been out about 4 months and we are white-washing, I guess it is technically pink-washing because we are sister missionaries.  White-washing is when the missionaries who have been in the area are both replaced.  So, there is a lot of work to be done.  I think that we are showing the people here we are really going to work hard.  The area is so grateful to have sister missionaries.  We are fed every night.

Back to Sister R, my missionary companion.  Sister R is from Utah.  She is a niece of one of our Texas friends.  She says to tell you that she is BOMB.  (Bomb means super awesome here.)  I have never really heard this term until I got here.  She has 6 siblings; 5 sisters and 1 brother.  She worked in a hospital as a CNA (Certified Nurse's Assistant) in the NICU (Newborn intensive care unit) at a huge hospital.  She is going to be going back to school to get a nursing degree.  We love laughing together.  I sometimes think that we are having too much fun while we are on our missions, but we are working really hard.  She keeps saying that I don't need any training.  Usually for the first 12 weeks a new missionary sticks with the same companion (aka "trainer") in the same area.  I get an hour of training time each day.  I guess I am keeping afloat pretty well.    So, don't worry about me.  We joke that pretty soon we won't know who the senior companion is, but I still get to back out the car.  I am not that good yet, but just give me four months.

The weather has been super sunny here.  I keep thinking this isn't Oregon, because it is so sunny.  I guess in the "winter" (or the rainy season, November to March) it is either raining or foggy because of all of the hills.  I hear it is drizzle rain, so I am thinking it must be kind of like Germany.  I thought it would be like a rain forest here but maybe that happens in the rain.  There are lots of spiders here.  Eww.  Luckily it is mostly spider webs, instead of spiders.

I just wanted to let you know that I know this church is true and that it can benefit everyone.  I wish more people would be willing to listen, but I am grateful for the chance to state my testimony with boldness.  I love wearing my black name tag.  It reminds me of who I am and why I am here.  <3 Sister Cluff

Oregon, USA

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Questions & Answers

What is your favorite part of the day? 
That is an awesome question.  I am not sure.  Some days I love teaching my investigators and some days that it is not my favorite part.  Gym is usually pretty fun.  I have been playing volleyball recently.  I actually got hit in the head , but I was fine and kept playing.  I have had Gym anywhere from 8am-9pm, and it is really hard to go and "exercise" when I am feeling exhausted by the end of the day.  I have felt myself grow more and more.  It is hard work, exhausting, and stressful but it is so worth it!  My mission is forcing me to be the kind of person I want to be.  I am not perfect, but I have progressed soooo much in the last 2 weeks I have been here.  And I can see all of my district progressing too.  (A district is my class that I do everything with.)  Our district has 3 companionships of elders and 1 companionship of sisters.  There are about 2000 elders and about 400 sisters here at the MTC now. 
 How are you getting along with your companion? 
Awesomely.  We are two different people and have lived very different lives.  She is a rough, tough, and loveable country girl with a country accent and I am a sweet, stubborn, sometimes klutzy city-girl.  I have been a lot more klutzy lately and she laughs with me about it.  I pretend to be offended or embarrassed.  Almost all of our interests are different.  She likes football, hunting, fishing, westerns, etc. 
We both have fun senses of humor.  We love laughing together and being together.  We are both kind of quiet; I am probably more vocal when teaching.  I am trying to learn how to share the talking time and not interrupt her.  When that happens, we work together to try to fix those problems.  We are both putting our all into this companionship.  We have learned that we need to be open, loving, and on the same page to teach most effectively. We also have both felt under the weather (only slightly-don't worry mom).
 Have you had any spiritual experiences?  Haha, funny question.  I feel like I have one every hour.  Yesterday Sister W and I taught the plan of salvation to a less active brother named Melvin.  He hadn't been to church since he was little (he is probably in his 80s) and it really brought peace to him.  His wife had been dead for 1.5 years and he hadn't prayed since then.  We were able to share the joy of the gospel with him.  Let him know that God gives us second chances.  We were able to teach these concepts with clarity and the spirit.  It was awesome!  And that is just 1 hour’s experience!
 I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior.  He loves me and has suffered my pain so that I don't have to.  Heavenly Father wants us back with him and he gives us second chances.  It is never too late, but that doesn't mean a person should procrastinate.  It is all about love and Christ.  Try to be like him. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Awesomely Challenging

Awesome is the word of the week!  They keep us all really busy here [at the MTC – Missionary Training Center].  This is an awesome place where you can feel the spirit so much.  Every activity is inspired and all of the materials we are given to learn are awesome.   I have been having 6 hours of classroom time a day. I am teaching 4 investigators [people who are seeking more information about The Church] and we have a lot of time to read scriptures and Preach my Gospel [a study guide for sharing the gospel].  It has been awesome to be surrounded by people with a common purpose, especially when we are all singing together.  I am in the MTC choir.  I can´t remember the words right now but we sang the song “I´m Trying to Be like Jesus.”  Every word rang true and applied to me right now.   We are a mighty army.
I enjoyed conference.  [Referring to the world-wide, semi-annual conference broadcast from Salt Lake City.  Kevin, Kendra, David, and Adam attended various sessions.  Andrew and Laurie watched from home.]  I heard the tentative plan for who was going to each session of conference.  I watched the broadcast from the MTC.  I picked out a couple of talks that I thought were good info for my family attending those sessions.  I then had to remind myself to look for things for me.  It wasn't very hard to do. (smiley face)
            I am doing good.  There are times when I am feeling discouraged and times when I totally feel like I got this missionary thing.  I am fitting in pretty well with my clothing, personality, and testimony.  And yet I am uniquely me.  It is great!
A funny thing happened this week.   The power went off.  I was taking a turn in the shower at this time.  Luckily, a lady came in and said those of us in the showers didn’t have to go outside for the fire drill.   I was really glad I didn´t have to evacuate in a towel!
            I have a great companion, Sister W. from Arizona.  She has 6 brothers, loves horses, hunting, and fishing.  We love to laugh and nicely tease each other.  We are pushing each other to be better.
            The most fun things I did this week were:
1.  Singing in the missionary choir.
2.  Going to the temple. (really nice)
3.  Taking a kickboxing class for the sister missionaries. (hard but cool)
            There are hard times too.  One night I was feeling super depressed and I was able to pray and ask Heavenly Father to help me use the Atonement to feel happier.  It worked!  I testify that the Atonement can heal hurt, loneliness, and disappointments.
            My next week schedule includes a lot of classes, teaching, and personal study time.  I only get part of a day to do laundry, write letters, have a little free time, and go to the temple.  I plan to leave for Oregon on Oct. 18. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Leavin' on a Jet Plane...

A sad and happy day!!  Sad, because we won't be seeing her cute face and or hearing her tinkling laugh for awhile.  Happy, because she will be busy doing good works for others.  Sister Cluff enters the MTC (Missionary Training Center) on Wednesday, Sept. 28th.  She will be writing home once a week. 

It's Official

I am "officially" a missionary now.  I was set-apart which means I had a special blessing from my stake president.  He layed his hands on my head and gave me the authority to serve as a representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Oregon-Eugene mission.  During the next 18 months I will be helping and supporting people who choose to join The Church.  I will also be doing service in the community and teaching people who want to know more about what Mormons believe.  I am excited!  (P.S.  My Mom will be the one posting excerpts from my letters and photos from here on out.)

Dress Up

My Mom and I spent a day playing dress-up.  Since I will be limited to 2 suitcases and 1 carry-on bag during the next 18 months, I have to make my wardrobe stretch.  There are some general guidelines for missionary clothing.  As a representative of The Church, all my clothes need to be modest and not too distracting.  I have chosen clothes with sleeves and skirts that fall below my knees.  I want to look neat and clean while wearing a missionary tag.
I began my dress up adventure by bringing all the possible items into my Mom's room and putting them on top of the bed.  For the next few hours, I tried as many combinations as possible... different scarfs, jackets, beads, shoes.  I posed for pictures.  The acceptable ones were put together on cards and labeled by item.  The pictures above show about half of the ideas we had for wearing the brown skirt and my plaid skirt.  I also have cards for my blue skirt, black/white dress, and grey skirt.  I hope when I'm in a clothing slump, I can be inspired by some of the pictures we took.         

Let's Eat Cake!

Aunt Shawna made a great cake for me.  She is following the tradition set by Aunt Brenda, who made a cake for Uncle Eric before he left on his mission.  The cake was very cute as you can see in the photo.  She designed it to look like me.  It was almost too pretty to eat.  Thanks Aunt Shawna for the delicious memory!

Surrounded with Love & Support

I feel so blessed.  I gave my last talk at church before my mission starts.  So many of my family drove or flew in to see me.  I was both happy to see everyone and also nervous to speak in front of so many people.  My Dad and I also invited some of our neighbors to come to the church meeting.  Many of our closest neighbors came.  It was great to have their support too.
My speaking assignment was on a subject I will spend the next 18 months experiencing for myself -   Service and Love.  Some of the questions I asked myself are:   “Do we serve because we love?”  Or “Do we love because we serve?”   I think the answer is both.  We serve because we love God.  We also come to love people as we serve them. 
One of the stories I told was about my personal experience in learning to love more.   Here’s the quote from my talk notes:  “…living in an apartment with 6 girls can be tough, especially when it is time to clean.  One time, I was going throughout my life, working on homework, classes, and work and I noticed for about 2 days the sink was getting piled up with dishes.   As the dishes were getting higher and higher in the sink, I began getting irritated at my room-mates.  One day I finally did the dishes and a funny thing happened, I began to get happier with every dish I washed.  By the time I finished washing the dishes I loved my room-mates more than ever.”  My service helped me feel joy, love, and peace.
I also liked one of the stories about Jesus from the Bible.  It inspires me to serve even when I don’t feel like it.  Again, here are my notes:  “When Jesus Christ heard that John the Baptist, his cousin, was beheaded he went off by himself in the desert.  When the people heard he was going out, they followed him.  Matthew 14:14 says, ‘And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.’  Not only did he heal their sick, but when the disciples urged Jesus to send the multitude away so that the people could buy food, Jesus would not hear of it.  He told the disciples to feed them. There were only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes, with this they fed more than 5,000 people.”  When I feel sad or discouraged and just want to nurse my own wounds, I try to remember my Savior’s example.
How blessed I am to be surrounded by people who love and support my decision to serve a mission.  Thanks to all those who made a personal sacrifice to be with me.  Thanks to all the other family who couldn’t visit me in person but have sent their love and prayers my way.  I love you all.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Red Shoes Match Everything!

Having my mission call in hand, I was excited to begin my preparations.  Since my Mom and sister Kendra were in Germany, I went shopping the first time with Aunt Shawna.  I quickly fell in love with these red shoes.  Red goes with everything....  Right?  It took a little time to convince my mother of this fact.  I wanted some fun shoes to wear on my mission.  I didn't want to only wear black, practical shoes.  I bought them.  I still love them.  They're perfect!!  (P.S.  I have a pair of black shoes too.)