Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Week 30: Christmas and a Wedding

Dearest family and friends,
First off, I LOVE you a lot!  It was heaven to talk to you on Christmas and see your cute faces.  I forgot to congratulate Rebekah on finishing her college applications (seriously, I remember that being a huge stress, but you did it!), but other than that I think we hit all the major news points.  Even more than that, thank you for your personal messages to me that I received in our Christmas multi-zone conference!  And the family photo was another wonderful surprise.  HOORAY that we get to be together for eternity!
So, here in Nicaragua, Christmas means fireworks, parties, and a big dinner.  Also, lots of alcohol, but let´s not focus on that. :)  Everything happens on the 24th leading up to midnight instead of in the morning on the 25th.  For Nicaraguans, the ¨cena¨ is a more common form of celebration than presents.  We had two Christmas dinners in a row, first with Santiago and Elizabeth, then with Hermana Gladys.  Wow, we were stuffed to bursting!  Traditional Christmas food is pollo relleno (you can look it up, I´m not sure everything that it includes).  It was a good day, although we didn´t work very effectively.
On the 25th, I Skyped the fam!  Thanks for being yourselves and being such great people.
The 26th was our multi-zone conference.  We listened to inspired messages by President and Sister Russell, then had a three-course meal in the cultural hall.  After that, we changed into ¨ropa P-day¨ and played volleyball and broom hockey, which was ridiculously intense and super fun.  Then we changed back to our missionary clothes and had a gift exchange, watched a slideshow of pictures of every missionary´s family, and received gifts from the mission.  You should have seen how excited that room of missionaries got when President Russell announced that each missionary would get his or her own jar of peanut butter and jelly!  Haha, we know how to party in Nicaragua Managua Sur!  But in addition to our sandwich fixings, we also received these cool carved wooden pencil / missionary name tag holders, 72-hour kits, and ziploc bags to protect our scriptures.  The gifts really were perfectly suited to our needs and very thoughtful, which I loved!  The other highlight of the multi-zone was seeing and talking to Hermana Richins again after over three months.
We got home from the multi-zone at 7:00 PM, and that´s when things get crazy.  We went to see if Elieth and Juan Carlos were home, since Elieth was our possibility for baptism on Saturday.  However, we had kind of given up on the chance that she would be baptized this week because her mom told us on Thursday that she wasn´t home and that she and Juan had gotten drunk to celebrate the 24th.  Wait, I already summarized this in my letter to President Russell, so let me just copy and paste to save time:
¨Elieth and Juan Carlos were super indecisive about the idea of marriage.  They wouldn´t give us a firm answer until Tuesday that they wanted to get married instead of separated.  To our deep disappointment, Juan Carlos drank guaro all last weekend after staying sober for a month, so we knew he would have to wait to be baptized. Then, we thought our baptismal candidate Elieth had fallen through on Thursday morning when we went to review the interview questions and her mother told us that she and her husband had celebrated the 24th by getting drunk (like the rest of Managua, it seems). However, on Friday night after the Multi-zona when we went to search for them one last time, we found out that Elieth was still clean with respect to the Word of Wisdom. One quick interview later, and we were left with a little under 20 hours to plan a wedding and a baptism! I was a world-class procrastinator before my mission, but with all the stress of these last-minute baptisms, I think I might return home forever cured of my bad habit.¨ :)
So, to spare you the stressful details of contracting a lawyer at 9:00 AM for a 5:00 PM wedding and buying a cake and decorations and searching for witnesses and finding baptismal clothes and reminding our investigators that they needed to go to church in the morning... Saturday happened, and Elieth and Juan Carlos got married!  How fitting that my first wedding in the mission should happen on Mom and Dad´s wedding anniversary?!  Then Elieth got baptized.  Ah, they were so happy.
Anyway, that was my week!  I hope yours was wonderful as well!
Hermana Hansen
1) Christmas dinner number 1
2) Christmas dinner number 2 (note the looks of apprehension)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Week 29: Stress ´n Blessin´s

Hola, Familia!

I think this week wins the prize as the most stressful week of my entire mission.  The good news is that with the greatest opposition come the greatest blessings!  Here we go with the ¨stress and blessings:¨

Blessing: Betania got baptized!  And she had the support of her father in the baptismal service, although hardly anybody came.

Stress: We couldn´t find Betania all week for her scheduled baptismal interview and were completely stressed out of our minds about it.  I had a great study of Jacob 5 and we talked in our companionship about how God is the Lord of the vineyard and that we can do all we can, but sometimes we have to work and prune and then wait a little longer for the good fruit to come.  Then on Friday night, one of the APs and one of our zone leaders came to work with us, and we finally located Betania at 8:50 PM.  After a speedy interview, the elders told us she´d be getting baptized at 9:00 the next morning.  Woohoo!  But the stressful part: finding her father to sign the baptismal record to give permission (she´s 17), calling the ward mission leader and the bishop (and we didn´t have ¨saldo¨ so we couldn´t call anyone), filling the font (and there were no keys, so we had to hop the glass and then the Elders helped us by filling countless garbage cans full of water and hauling them to the font to fill it in time), finding baptismal clothes, giving talks and a musical number, etc.... By 10:00 AM, we were completely exhausted, but happy.  And then we cleaned the church with sweet Geovanny (recent convert) for two hours.

Blessing: Miguel Briones continues to be a miracle.  On Thursday, he opens the gate with a big smile and his three grown children and wife all gathered to listen to us.  He read his pamphlet and the chapter we left him in the Book of Mormon.  He had good questions.  We felt the Spirit, and laughed, and committed them to come to church.  They fed us dinner and gave us cake because it was the son´s birthday.  And again on Sunday, he and his wife were all ready and were at church before we were.  Ahh, investigators like this make missionary work easy!

Stress:  We moved on Monday.  And we don´t know anybody who has a pickup truck, so we walked around in the street looking for pickups and asking if people would be willing to move our stuff if we paid them.  Talking to people is what missionaries do best!  Mission accomplished, and it was less painful than expected.  The new house is BIG and far away from the church and our lunch appointment.  It also smells like cigarettes.  But hey, it has TWO working sinks, which makes it the most luxurious place I´ve lived on my mission.  We had a hard time sleeping the first few nights because of the noise and smell and unfamiliarity of it all, but now we´ve basically adjusted.

Blessing:  We had a surprise Stake Christmas Music Fireside on Sunday.  Wow, it was powerful!  Forgive me for thinking Nicaraguans can´t sing. :)  The biggest highlight was seeing ¨mi gente¨ from Barrio Monte Fresco.  I got to see Yasmina (wife of Elmer) who got baptized after I got transferred.  Wow, she is so changed!  Before she was very emotionally guarded and rarely smiled.  Yesterday, she was the one who greeted me and gave me a big hug and smile.  AHHHH!  The gospel changes lives.  It makes us HAPPY!  Let it make you happy!

Stress:  We visited more less-actives this week, because the ward is seriously struggling with church attendance.  We learned some things that make our job a whole lot harder... but we´re going to press forward with faith.  The gospel is perfect, even if members and church leaders are not.  Hold fast to the scriptures, to prayer, and keep the faith!

Ah, so much more happened, and I can´t tell it all.  I guess we´ll have to wait until Thursday to fill you in on the rest!

I love you!!  Merry Christmas!

-Hermana Hansen

1) We found this giant, artistic Nativity scene in a house on a dirt road in the middle of Nicaragua.  Too bad the owners don´t want to come to church with us.

2) Betania´s baptism!

3) Happy birthday to my favorite little brother!  I hope you have a fantastic day!

4) Here´s my new bathroom!  The shower is basically like a strong drinking fountain, but at least there´s running water. :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Week 28: And I`m back!

Hey, all!

So, the Lord loves us a lot.  We decided to look for the miracles this week instead of expecting disappointments.  As a result, it was a fantastic week!  We also had some major stresses/frustrations/sadnesses, but it`s all part of the process to help us become better missionaries and better people.


-Miguel Briones!  We contacted him in the street.  He`s about 50 years old and has attended church once before.  We set up a return appointment and asked us to bring a Book of Mormon.  The miracle part: when we went back for the return appointment, he was actually home!  And he was ready to receive us with his two grown daughters.  He hesitantly accepted a baptismal date for January 10th.  We haven`t taught him a lot yet and he couldn`t come to church because he had to work, but it was a tender mercy for us in the moment.

-Evelin Ruiz!  She`s been inactive for seven years and we just happened upon her house.  She let us in and was super happy to listen.  She said that she felt the Spirit when we were there, and that she missed that in her life.  Another tender mercy!

-Maura Artola!  She`s one of our investigators (about 50 years old) who had committed to come to church this week.  When we passed by on Sunday morning, she wasn`t going to come.  But we did all we could to get her excited about church and all the blessings she would receive for coming.  And then at 9:30... she walks into Sacrament Meeting.  Woohoo!


-We passed by Miguel and Clarissa`s house (an older less-active couple, the husband is blind.  The same one who had the injured toe several weeks ago, remember?)  and saw Clarissa trying to climb over the gate because it was locked from the inside and Miguel couldn`t find the key.  So I offered to hop the gate to help them out.  My companion boosts me up and Miguel tries to help me over from the other side.  The issue is this: I was wearing a skirt and Miguel is blind.  An awkward moment followed.  And in the end of it all, Miguel found the key on his own and the whole mission was for naught.  My companion couldn`t stop laughing.

-Hermana Gomez stepped on a giant dead rat and it was the grossest thing I`ve ever seen.

-Our ward mission leader invited us to his son`s sixth grade graduation party and asked me to give a spur-of-the-moment spiritual thought.  You might be surprised to know that ¨graduation¨ doesn`t appear in the topical guide... I settled on Ammon`s glorying in the Lord instead of boasting in his own strength.  I hope all of the non-member friends and family members present were inspired...  The mission teaches you to think on your feet!


-It was interview week with President Russell!  I learned that I need to be more effusive.  You know that quote in Preach My Gospel by Elder Holland that says we need to be devastated when our investigators don`t keep their commitments?  In our mission, we call that ¨the show.¨ When people make good decisions, we get super excited and give them lots of praise.  When they don`t, we really show our disappointment.  They need to see how the Lord feels when we sin.  It`s something that has been hard for me to learn to do.  However, I followed President`s counsel and as a result, Maura came to church!  I realized that in order to be effective, we need to be willing to change.  Complacency = pride.  Pride impedes progress.  The Lord is most able and willing to work with us when we are humble and teachable.

-I went on divisions with the sister training leaders on Friday.  Ah, it was such a nice break to leave my area and not stress about the numbers or anything - just focus on preaching the gospel and learning from the example of my leaders!  Wow, these sisters are powerful.  They make missionary work look easy!  I came away with good ideas to put into practice in my own teaching and area.

Anyway, time to go because I have to move into a new house today.  That issue deserves its own hour of email time, it`s been such a complete headache and stress.  But the good news is, we are not homeless for another month or so until we get to move again.  Woohoo!

I love you lots!

-Hermana Hansen

P.S. I only took photos of houses this week... maybe I`ll include a couple photos of the bathrooms to give you a feeling for why I`ve been stressed this week.  Don`t worry, we`re not going to live in either of these places...

1) This one`s not bad.  The only problem is that we`d share it with four other people.

2) The shower of that same house.

3) The shower is behind that blanket on the left, but there`s only running water for a few hours in the middle of the night. And the toilet is brand new!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Week 27: Pura vida y purìsima‏

Dear family and friends,

Phew, it`s been a long week!  We`re working hard, but are struggling to see the blessings from our labor.  It`s all part of the process, I guess.  The Lord seeth fit to try our patience and our faith!  Afterwards, we receive the testimony (and the miracles, I hope!).  

But let`s focus on the positive!

- Hermana Gomez and I have broken through that initial companionship awkwardness and are now working in unity.  Adversity can bring you together! We joke and laugh and have some stellar practices in companionship study.  Whoo!

- We DIDN`T clean the church this week!  The young men banded together and gave the chapel a good scrubbing on Saturday morning.  Now if we can just figure out who we need to contact to order more toilet paper for the women`s bathroom...

- I took a trip to Costa Rica on Friday!  I`ve had visa problems, so I had to cross the border in order to be allowed to stay another 90 days while we wait for documents to arrive.  The power went out in all of Managua that morning, but we were still able to get up and out the door before 6:00 AM.  My companion went to work with the hermanas in Monte Fresco and I went with Hermana Betty (the missionary paperwork ninja of Central America) on a 3 hour school-bus ride to the border.  Basically, I spent twelve and a half hours sitting on buses and waiting in lines.  But hey, now I`m legal for another 3 months!  I gained a greater appreciation for the privilege it is to do missionary work every day, because it was pretty boring to not be able to study, teach, and contact.  The good part is that I got to talk with Hermana Betty.  Hermana Betty is a wonderful lady; faithful, knowledgeable, spirited, stubborn, and loving.  She`s one of the pioneers of Nicaraguan members!

Now the lows:

- We have one week left to find a new place to live.  It`s been a two and a half month process searching for a house to rent, still with no success.  It`s pretty much the biggest stress of my life right now.

- On Sunday, nobody came to church.  We had an all-time low church attendance of 61, and not a single one of the 16 investigators that we passed for on Sunday morning came.  Why?  La Purìsima.  It`s a celebration of la vìrgen Marìa and is basically grown-up trick-or-treating.  People wait in long lines all night and all day to get buckets of food (rice, beans, oil, sugar, etc.) and sing songs in front of shrines to honor the virgin Mary.  Also, there are lots of fireworks at all hours of the day and night.  Anyway, my companion and I felt basically destroyed after our 2-hour Fast Sunday morning hike to bring investigators to church only to have nobody there.  How is it that we can commit people to come to church all week, verify those commitments in every visit, and pass by on Saturday afternoon or evening and have people tell us that they are for sure going to be there on Sunday, and then everyone has an excuse in the morning?  What are we doing wrong?  Aaaahhh, patience!  It`s the hardest thing to develop, and the thing I think I have developed most on my mission.  Seems like the Lord would have me develop a little bit more!

I have faith that as we continue in diligence, obedience, and humility, the Lord will magnify our efforts and we will eventually see miracles according to His will.  He is always blessing us with miracles, but sometimes we`re not opening our eyes to see those miracles.

Anyway, sorry for the downer email.  I think I promised a more faith-promoting letter this week... whoops!  Next week I`ll tell you more about our investigators (when I`m not feeling quite so broken-hearted at their poor decisions).  Sometimes I want to yell, ¨Can`t you just understand that living the commandments will make you happy?¨ Agency is a crucial part of our Heavenly Father`s plan.  Obedience brings blessings, and disobedience leads to misery, but all of these consequences come in time!  Try it and you`ll see!

Well, I really love you all a lot and love to hear about your happy happenings!  Keep the faith!


Hermana Ali Hansen


1) Thanksgiving round 2 with the hermanas of Monte Fresco!

2)  Christmas package and letter from Hermana Claire Forste (whom I love dearly and will soon find a way to send a letter back!!)

3)  Mi arbolito!  The best $4 I`ve ever spent - baby tree and lights with 8 different settings of flashing, fading, etc.  It makes me way too happy!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Week 26: ¡Felíz Acción de Gracias!

Hey, all!

This week´s email may be a short one, since I spent more time reading and responding to all your happy news and sweet emails.  I really do have the best family and friends!  Heavenly Father must love me a whole bunch!

So, transfers!  It was hard to say goodbye to Hermana Estrada after 12 weeks together.  Luckily, a thoughtful recent convert made sure to pray that I ¨would be able to survive the emotional trauma of separating from my beloved companion,¨ so I think I received extra blessings for that heartfelt prayer.  But seriously, it was a bittersweet parting as I sent her off to reunite with her family and meet my new companion.  We have become good friends!

My new companion is Hermana Gomez from Guatemala.  She has almost 5 months in the mission and is excited to work hard.  We´re still trying to get in the flow of teaching together, but it will come with time and practice!

Our new district is super ¨young¨... Hermana Gonzales and I both have 6 months and are the oldest in the mission.  The district leader just finished his training.  It´s good, because we´re all excited to work and progress!

We had a Thanksgiving dinner as a zone on Thursday, which was super fun.  It didn´t even make me trunky, because I realized that I only have one or two opportunities in my whole life to eat Thanksgiving dinner in Nicaragua instead of all the regular Thanksgiving traditions at home.  I´m definitely thankful for each one of you wonderful people and all that you add to my life!

Church cleaning has become a weekly service, but we´re trying to train the ward to do it and work ourselves out of a job. :)  This Saturday we were accompanied by Elizabeth and Yorlieth (the recent converts in last week´s photo) and it went a lot faster.  Woohoo!

Sorry for the lame email, I´ll try to be more inspiring / positive / eloquent next week.  But I´ll attach pictures now to make up for it!

Love you all immensely!

-Hermana Hansen

1) Further evidence that Nicaraguan niños are adorable!

2) District activity: cooking eggs over a fire in the mountains of the Elders´ area!

3) First photo together

4) Distrito Loma Fresca is full of ánimo!

5) Thanksgiving dinner close-up

6) Happy Thanksgiving from Hermana Hansen and Hermana Gomez!