Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Mission Marathon

Hello from the mountains of Assomada!

Week two here in Cabo Verde was full of highs and lows. It's like my dad's email said, every morning you wake up and have a moment of remembering where you are and what you are doing. "It's 6:30, I'm on a mission, I'm halfway around the world in Cape Verde, alright... time to run!"

Every morning my companion and I run. Right as we leave our apartment we are greeted with a "Bom Dia!" by the women who sweep the streets. As I've been adjusting to the area and the culture and mission life, I can't help but compare a mission with a marathon. Just like running, on a mission you improve one day, one lap at a time. It's a lot of hard work, but the finish line is so worth it. 

When I first started training for the Big Cottonwood Half Marathon last year, I could barely run a quarter of a mile. I remember thinking that running wasn't for me, it was never going to get easier, and my half marathon goal was too big to be realistic.
But running was for me, it did get easier, and crossing the finish line last September was the best feeling ever!

And so, I have plastered the walls of my apartment with many running quotes and others as reminders that the beginning is always a challenge, but it gets easier, and then becomes fun! And our greatest accomplishments begin with our greatest challenges. So it's time to work hard!

This week my companion, Sister Friaca and I taught some great lessons. We taught a girl named Melanie on her birthday.  When we found out she was lacking a cake, we quickly ran to the nearest "loja" and purchased a mix. She chose orange flavored and it was the best orange cake I've ever had. We taught while it baked and then had a birthday celebration.
All of us gals on Melanie's birthday, Melanie is the one next to me
Portuguese is still a huge challenge for me because..... the people of Assomada don't speak Portuguese! They speak Creole, and are all pumped to help me learn. They always ask me, "Do you speak Creole?" and when I say no they all say, "It's easy! I'll teach you." And then they say something I don't understand and I try to repeat it and they laugh and obviously a lot of progress is being made. But, this week at "Noite Familiar" with Lucia (our mom in the branch) I taught the lesson all by myself, in Portuguese! I taught of the people of King Benjamin and how we can relate their enthusiasm for the words of King Benjamin to our attitude about the up-coming General Conference. We then taught her family how to play "Ninja", which I have a feeling will be a very popular game on the mission.

Playing Ninja with Lucia and her family
We also had "Noite Familiar" with Vera and her family this week. I love Vera and her family. We watched the sun set over the plateaus of Assomada on her roof while her family cooked dinner (also on the roof). It was gorgeous! Pictures do not do justice but I will attach one anyway. Off to the far left of the picture is the island of Fogo. We played "Ninja" with them as well on the roof. Epic. 

Have a happy week!

Sister Hanzel

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Boa Tarde from the lovely island of Santiago!

I'm writing you from an internet cafe and I have 150 escudos worth of time, I have no idea how long that is and so I will just type really fast until my time runs out.
Flying in was crazy. You could see the tops of three of the islands over the clouds.
When we arrived on Santiago, President Matthews and his wife picked us up. First thing we did was eat at King Burger. For the first night we stayed at the Sister Training Leader's apartment in downtown Praia. 
The first morning we had training in Praia and we were assigned our first area and trainer. My mom is Sister Friaca- she's super cute and goes to BYU-I. We get along really well. She's been out for three months so we're both really new, which makes for an interesting go of things, but she's pretty fluent which is good because I can't understand anything anyone is saying. My first area is Assomada, up in the hills of Santiago. We took a ÿas to get here, no chickens but I did experience some loud Cabo Verdean music.

My Trainer - Sister Friaca

Our apartment is on the fifth floor of one of the nicest buildings right in the heart of Assomada, across the street is what looks like a giant farmer's market where they sell all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and if you buy a chicken, they'll slaughter it right there for you. Oh so fresh! The only thing that is really hard about Assomada is its cold - really cold. And of course I only packed for the hottest of hot. So, today we are going to go see if we can find any cardigans or sweats or socks (or anything really) at the Chinese shops that are on every corner. The senior couple serving here dropped off some warm stuff earlier in the week so that's been a huge help at night. It's just that lack of things to bundle up with while proselyting that make the evening hours a challenge, but hopefully we'll find some things today.

Our apartment
My companion and roommates - left to right, Sister Simbambi from The Congo, Sister Coelho from Portugal, my comp Sister Friaca, and me

Market across the street from our apartment
On Thursday I contributed in my first lesson, I horribly butchered the first vision, and the family kicked us out. Not because of my Portuguese though, because the grandma came in and is strong Catholic and wanted us and our Book of Mormon out. 
I met Vera on Thursday.  She's a member and one of my favorite people in Assomada. She's 17 and has the biggest heart, she always goes out of her way to make me feel welcome. At first she thought that I was Sister Turner (Michelle Turner, someone needs to Facebook Michelle for me and tell her everyone here thinks I am her. They all freak out and go "Sister Turner!", and then realize I'm not :). My nickname here is Sister Turner II, guess I've got a legend to live up to. Thanks Michelle! Vera is so sweet, she comes to a lot of our lessons with us and then when it gets dark she lets us wait at her house for our taxi man to come pick us up.
Assomada looks like you just plucked it straight out of a movie. I wish I could take pictures of EVERYTHING but I don't understand the culture yet and what's acceptable so hang tight for culture pictures.
Here is Assomada, all the kids love to fistbump. You say, "Check!", and then they fistbump you. The women all wrap a colorful cloth in a circle so it looks like a pot-warmer, place it on their heads, and then carry anything and everything on top of it. I've seen women with just about everything on their heads: bundles of wood, water jugs, cinder blocks, you name it. I even saw a woman carrying a gas stove on her head.

In Cabo Verde, the women all greet each other with a kiss on each cheek. I've been kissed a million times already.
There's lots of Nigerians here, and they speak English. It's nice because they understand me. The Branch President (President Zelmar Santus) speaks some English as well. We taught a lesson at his house on Saturday to two teenage boys, Outlindo and Jerson. You could tell their home had the light of Christ in it and it was really nice to be there, but it also made me miss home. After our lesson I just broke down and balled my eyes out. But we ran into some members on the way home and they were all about making me feel better. I absolutely adore the members here. Coolest people ever. 
The first church activity I attended was a Relief Society activity on Friday. The activity went as follows: we all met at the church (a building that looks like a renovated apartment complex) on time- all the Sisters showed up half an hour later, there was a lot of yelling in Creole, and then they started some activity but no one was listening so they moved on, a sister got up and started shaking her bum to a couple of drums, and then another Sister got up and showed everyone how to check for breast cancer (and all the Sisters immediately started checking), and then they closed! Just some ideas for your next activity mom. :)
First week as church was great. We had about 35 members come, but none of our investigators. :( I was asked to play the piano spur of the moment and will now be the pianist every week.
After church we taught several families. Amilicar is a Rostifarian who lives with his Grandma in a little cement house.  His grandma seems like she has a really amazing story. I would love to get to know her better.
Stephanie is 22 and has two kids. Her home is a cement box with nothing but a table in the front room, however she does have a Blackberry phone. Everyone here has a phone and a TV, no matter the living conditions. 
We had two "Noite Familiar" 's on Sunday - that is "Family Night" with a member. So much fun! First was at Neih's house. She's got six kids and one on the way. Their family is so much fun! Their oldest son, Code, has mission papers turned in and he's awesome! He also mistook me for Sister Turner the first time he saw me.

"Noite Familiar" round two was at the home of Lucia. She's super sweet too. She's like a mom to the Sisters. She's got three kids and her two youngest had a ball taking pictures with my camera, we just laughed and laughed at their selfies, they were in heaven. I seriously love all the kids here. So many women are either pregnant or have a newborn and their little newborns are the cutest babies I've ever seen.

I get a lot of stares here, because I am the only white person I have seen here, especially from the kids. But they all play with me anyway and we have a blast. Everyone here is super nice and happy to talk to you, especially the Rostifarians. It makes contacting people really easy.

People here also have a really hard time with my name, so most of the time I am just, "Seester". 
Adjusting this week has been hard, but I love Cabo Verde! The country and culture is so, so different, but the Church is 100 percent the same, and that's a nice comfort. 

I love you all!
Sister Hanzel

Saturday, March 21, 2015

I Have Been Changed for Good

MTC in a Nutshell:

The MTC started off rough, for the first few nights I wondered what I had gotten myself into. The boys all ate hamburger patties in between two glazed doughnuts for lunch and study time turned into story time. I wondered how I would survive. I remember reminding myself over and over, "If Jesus started off his ministry with a 40 day fast, I can make it through six weeks at the MTC."

After the first few days though, spending most of my time completely turned inward and worrying about me, myself, and I, I realized that this was God's training center and He was going to train His missionaries how he wanted them to be trained. So I stopped worrying about whether or not the methods or language studies would work, and I just trusted. I trusted and loved, and that's when God's grace stepped in to my life.
I grew to absolutely love all the Elders and Sisters in my district. This past Sunday we all took a group shot of Elders hugging Elders and Sisters hugging Sisters because we are all going to miss each other so much! 
My companion is one of my favorite people in the entire world. Boston is getting one of the coolest and funniest missionaries ever.
I love Portuguese, I'm far from being close to speaking the language, but my brain automatically replaces English words with Portuguese words now, and it's super cool.
I've never laughed as hard as I did while here and I've never felt such great love for my Heavenly Father. 
There is a difference between testimony and conversion. Many members of the church have a testimony, but fewer are those who are truly converted to the Lord. The difference between the two is the direction you face. The natural man inside us turns inward, and life is all about what you want and how things affect you, it is possible to be this way and still have a testimony, it's called being human, nobody is perfect. However, true conversion comes from constantly trying to learn from the character of Christ, turning outward when the natural man inside us would turn in. This is how the Savior lived his whole life, and this is how we learn to be truly happy. 
This is the kind of missionary I'm trying to be, and the feeling you get from turning outward, not in, is the greatest thing ever! A mission is not about you, and what a blessing that is.
I love you all! 
Have a great week!

Sister Hanzel

P.S. Try a doughnut burger, they're delicious. Seriously. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How Lovely is the Life I Lead!

This week was practically perfect in every way. Which means it was 100% normal, nothing crazy or out of the ordinary happened. Which is how they like to run things here at the MTC, and it's great! However, because of the repetitiveness of the MTC, we all relish the smallest changes to our schedule. 

A few examples:

On Wednesday our district was assigned to host again, but this time we were on traffic duty. We were required to wear bright yellow coats that clearly needed to learn some subtlety. Watching new missionaries get dropped off makes me feel like it was just yesterday I was being dropped off, but, I also feel like I've been here my whole life - so it's a toss up.

Drop off Traffic Duty
On Sunday a bat decided to join us for Relief Society! He probably heard Sister Carol McConkie of the Young Women General Presidency was speaking and wanted to attend. And who can blame him right? Relief Society in the MTC is combined with all the sisters and it's awesome, they are all clearly soldiers in petty coats, ready to charge to the front lines and win the the war against the adversary.
On Friday we were all surprised to see our flight plans in our mailbox, and nowhere was there a more happier crew! The nine of us headed to Cape Verde next week will be flying from Utah to Georgia to New Jersey to Portugal (with a nine hour layover, but who cares it's Europe!) and then to Cape Verde. So this trip has the potential to take me on five different flights if my first area is not on the main island of Praia. But we are so excited we can hardly contain it. Send us soaring.... up through the atmosphere, up where the air is clear… Oh let's go.... fly to Africa! 

Flight Plans
With the countdown on, all of us are getting a little anxious. We are stoked out of our minds, and we are also realizing that in one week, we will be in a new country with a people who only speak Portuguese. "Nossa!" (This means "Oh my!", "Gee whiz!", "Golly!", etc.) But when in doubt, I'll just shout "Supercalifragiloustiexpialidocious!" Because as the song goes... For when the cat has got your tongue there's no need for dismay, just summon up this word and then you've got a lot to say.
*Bear with my musical connections for one more week, in the MTC we create our own fun. :)

This week all the Africa-bound sister missionaries (there are seven of us in the MTC, two sisters are headed to Mozambique and the rest of us to Cape Verde) started pulling out our Chacos and wearing them. As we admired each other's choice of Chacos, we all started discussing whether the thin sole was better than the thick sole and if it was worth it to have the toe strap or not. Pretty soon we were all second guessing our Chaco choice! At the end of this discussion, I remember thinking, "During Jesus' earthly ministry, I bet he never once wondered if He should have bought the sandals with the thick sole and the toe strap." And while the thought made me laugh a little, it also reminded me that it's not the type of sandal that is important, but it's whose sandals we're following. 
President Monson said, 
"As you and I walk the pathway Jesus walked, let us listen for the sound of sandaled feet. Let us reach out for the Carpenter's hand. Then we shall come to know him. He may come to us as one unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside he came to those men who knew him not. He speaks to us the same words, "...follow thou me..." (John 21:22), and sets us to the task which he has to fulfill for our time. He commands, and to those who obey him, whether they be wise or simple, he will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in his fellowship; and they shall learn in their own experience who he is.

We discover he is more than the babe in Bethlehem, more than the carpenter's son, more than the greatest teacher ever to live. We come to know him as the Son of God. He never fashioned a statue, painted a picture, wrote a poem, or led an army. He never wore a crown or held a scepter or threw around his shoulder a purple robe. His forgiveness was unbounded, his patience inexhaustible, his courage without limit. Jesus changed men. He changed their habits, their opinions, their ambitions. He changed their tempers, their dispositions, their natures. He changed men's hearts."
When Jesus had completed his earthly ministry, and finished his Atoning sacrifice, He appeared to His disciples and said, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19)." Well I am called with the same authority with which Christ called His disciples, and therefore am called to teach all nations - even if those nations start with a tiny group of islands off the coast of West Africa, and if I do He promises to "be with [me] always, even until the end of the world (Matthew 28:20)."

Life is so lovely! Even within the 60's brick walls of the MTC, because life is lovely when you have a calling and a purpose. I love my God, I love my Savior, I already love the people of Cape Verde. Fredrick Beuchner wrote, "The place God calls us to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." and I know there are people who are hungry for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Cape Verde, and I already feel a deep gladness for the ministry I have been called to.

I love you all!
Tchou for now!
Sister Katherine Hanzel

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sister, You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile!

Leaping Lizards! It's been a great week. As I've gathered from all your emails, there was a blizzard hitting Saratoga this morning. It's been snowing up here too! We walked straight through that winter wonderland to the temple this morning and it was beautiful! My district is directing traffic for incoming missionaries in the morning however, so hopefully the sun'll come out tomorrow!

"Little girls, little girls", meet the newest mother of the year!
This week I was called as a second Sister Training Leader for our zone! Our zone is one of the biggest in the MTC with seven districts and so Sister Jones and I are in charge of the health and happiness of over 25 sisters. We're basically mother figures for the incoming sisters (training them on the ins-and-outs of MTC life, providing a listening ear, and providing bed sheets!) We also attend all the meetings the zone leaders attend, which means, a lot of meetings :). But it's a blast getting to know all the sisters so well and Sister Jones and I have a phone! So we're really cool. 

"We got Annie!"
Well, we didn't get Annie, but we did get a lot of new missionaries this week! And my district was assigned to host! It was a ton of fun. I can't believe I've been here long enough to host new missionaries- but I hosted two darling sisters who are on their way to Mongolia and San Francisco. 

"It's a hard knock life..."
This week both of my district's teachers were sick. Our morning teacher Sister Smith was in a minor car accident and found out that she had a concussion and was pregnant in the same day! Oh my goodness oh my goodness! She's been married for six months and said both announcements were a surprise. And so! As a result she's been consistently nauseous and class has been a no-go for her. Our afternoon teacher Brother Lefever had the flu for a few days. So this week was an interesting one with substitutes and combined district lessons. I'm pretty sure we've been taught by every professor in the Portuguese hallway... kinda fun!
Portuguese is coming slowly but surely! We've starting moving past the Caveman phase, "You read", "We missionary church Jesus Christ", you get the idea. This past week our district started having "SYL" or "Speak Your Language" days. On these days we are only allowed to speak Portuguese. Muito difficile, mas, muito importante! (You understand that one right? :)

"Let's go to the movies!"
Every Sunday after the Devotional is movie night! This week Sister Jones and I watched, "Meet the Mormons" with Elder Katipunan and Elder Hilton because none of them had seen it, and all three of them loved it! (Even though Elder Hilton didn't want to admit it, he did). The movie took on a whole new meaning watching it as a missionary. It reminded me of the potential in everyone and how being a missionary fulfills the wish I've had the past few years to help the world be a better place. Sharing the gospel is the only change I can make that will be lasting and have the largest ripple effect. On a mission, you have to work as if it all depends on you, but trust, because it all depends on Him. 
Well! That's about all for this week. The great thing about the MTC is it helps you develop and get used to a routine, but the repetitiveness makes emails home a challenge. But stay tuned! Africa in two weeks!!! Thank you for all the love and letters, and remember, it's what you wear from ear to ear, and not from head to toe that matters!
Sister Hanzel