This week was fantastic! I absolutely love Bilbao and the people here already, and it has only been a week! Hermana Mendez is just crazy and hilarious! I love her!
During the first six days here in Bilbao, Hermana Mendez and I really worked on our Spanish. Having a native companion has been a HUGE blessing, but also has caused a few headaches, haha! All of our meetings, lessons, and normal conversations have been in Spanish. A few times I even told her, "Okay, don´t mind me, but I am going to just sing some English hymns or go talk to myself in English in my room for a second, because otherwise I think my brain might explode!" Haha, we would laugh about it, but she has really helped me a lot. I was also doing my best to help her with her English, knowing that as a missionary, it is very important to start learning early on (because she just got out of training, and I am only one transfer ahead of her). So I did the best I could to teach her all of the little things, and we practiced a lot. Every time someone would speak to her in English, I tried my very best to translate for her. We were a good team, but it did take some work!
I had to leave this past Sunday for a leadership meeting in Barcelona with the Zone Leaders and other Sister Training Leaders, and we were about to catch the bus when Hermana Mendez said (in Spanish of course), "hey wait, I have something for you!" She reached into her bag and pulled out a note. It read (in English) "Hermana, I am so sorry. I just can´t handle it anymore, I just HAVE to tell you!" I was beyond confused, and the Zone Leaders were videotaping me. Out of nowhere … she just went off to me in ENGLISH! She said, "HERMANA I´M SORRY, I WANTED TO TELL YOU I SPOKE ENGLISH, BUT I WANTED TO SEE HOW LONG I COULD PLAY THIS JOKE. IT WAS KILLING ME AND I FELT SOO BAD BECAUSE YOU HAD A HEADACHE, BUT IT WAS SO FUNNY! ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU WERE TRYING TO TEACH ME ENGLISH THAT I ALREADY KNEW! I´M SO SORRY, DON´T HATE ME!" I was just in shock! I just yelled out, "HERMANA!!!" Hahaha, the WHOLE district was in on it! It was so funny! So yes, she is fluent in English, and is a lil’ stinker, but I love her to death!
At the leadership meeting, I learned so much. What a blessing it is to be surrounded by such exceptional missionaries and our wonderful mission president, President Pace. I will share some of the things I learned next week, because we are teaching them to our zone this week, and I want to see how it all goes! President Pace has trusted us with this responsibility and I want to do all that I can to make a difference, especially here in Bilbao. There is a story I have ALWAYS loved, that makes me think about making a difference:
"Early one morning, while walking along a beach, after an enormous storm the night before, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance, as if dancing, was throwing things into the ocean.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.
He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
The old man, shocked and in a little bit of disbelief, said, “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they will all die.”
Upon hearing this, the elderly observer laughed and said, “Don´t be ridiculous, don´t you see? There are miles and miles of beach and there are thousands of starfish all along every mile. You can’t possibly make a difference! You are just wasting your time!”
The young man listened politely and paused. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, “It made a difference for that one.”
Yes, we will not be able to rescue every soul across the four corners of the earth … but we CAN touch and bless the lives of those within our reach. We can lift and strengthen those around us. All of us have the opportunity, every single day, to make a difference. SO START TODAY, AND SAVE THE STARFISH AROUND YOU! They need your help more than ever, even if it is just a little something every day! YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! I know you all have made a difference in my life! Believe you can, because I believe in you. But more importantly, your Father in Heaven believes in you, and is cheering you on. So am I … and I love you all!