Dear Family and Friends,
Here I am in the islands of Cabo Verde!! I can not believe that I am already here!!! I arrived safely at 2.30 in the morning on Friday in Praia where I was picked up by the AP elders and taken to the mission home to sleep for the night. I have so much to say and dont know where to even begin. I suppose all start from when I arrived:
Sister Holland and I woke up in the mission home Friday morning and first had an orientation with the AP elders at 9am. This is where we had are health orientation about how to NEVER drink the water and how we set up and create filters in our apartments and such. Then we found out where are first area assignments were going to be and who are trainers were going to be. As some of you may know, there are 10 islands in my mission. But of the 10, sisters only serve on 3, Praia, Fogo and Mindelo. They had a projector with a map set up to show us are areas and what would happen is theyd click a button to have one of our names first show up on top of the map, and then again to have the area point to which area we would be in. So first was Sister Holland...she is serving on the island of Mindelo for her first area. We were both super excited for her because that meant she had to take yet another flight to get to her area. Next was me...the Elders asked where I thought I might be serving and I figured Praia. But then when my name came up, the arrow went and point to the island of SAL!!!! In case your not aware, that is NOT one of the three islands that sisters get to serve on and I knew that immediatly. I looked right at the APs in shock and they both had huge grins on their faces and then said, "Sister Beus, you and your companion will be opening a new area for sisters for the first time in over 10 years!!!" I was in shock, but suuuuper excited! They then went on to explining to me that this island has not had sisters in about 11 or 12 years, and even since then, there have hardly ever been Sisters serve on this island. I continued to learn that there have only been one companionship of Elders on this island for months and no one else because it has the least amount of members and the work has not been very successful here. Nontheless, I was excited to open a brand new area for us Sister missionaries.
About 2 hours later, we left the mission home to go pick up my new trainer who had flown in the day before from Mindelo which was her area she had just been serving on before now, and she had been staying with other sisters who were in Praia until my arrivel. Her name is Sister Walker, an American from Washington state. She is this short 5 foot nothing tiny girl who is awesome. We are very different but I think we will get along great seeing that have thus far.
We then got taken to the airport to catch a plane to the island of Sal. We arrived and the other two elders on this island picked us up and took us to our new apartment. As we were driving there, the elders told us that our branch was sooooo excited to be getting Sisters for the first time in years that they were throwing us a welcome party that night at the church. When we arrived to our apartment, we had a welcome party outside waiting to greet us of members from our branch. The branch here is amazing. There is only one on the ENTIRE island and it is made up of lesss then 50 people. Very small. But they are incredible.
As we began to get settled and talked to the Elders about our area, we found out that we had are area book was empty. Meaning our entire area has not been worked in before and we had to start from scratch. We also found out our area is made of the poor half of the island and the Elders are over on the tourist side of the island. So basically, we are serving like in the Bronx of New York. I have never been to such an underdeveloped place in my life. The people are sooooo incredibly poor here. When I was in Ecuador there were serveral poor places and such where people lived in huts...but at least they could grow gardens and such to get food for themselves. Here there is no water, and no vegetation. Everything is imported. Have you ever scene war footage from Iraq where all the homes are cement slabs that are half fallin down and all the roads are powerdered dirt and flat and trashy and ugly....yup, thats my first area!!! Its a real eye opener and Im still trying to adapt. But the people are as humble as can be and incredible.
On Saturday we had a member who is AMAZING and who has helped us everyday take us around and show us all of our zones in our area. This is also when we found out that we have the second LARGEST area in the entire mission. Most areas are made of 3-5 zones....are area has 11 zones!!! It is HUUUUGE and a little overwhelming. But I am excited to start the work and see what happens.
So we have not done too much work yet because when we came on Friday, we had a party thrown by our branch for us and spent our time doing that. Then the next day there was a branch activity at the branch that we went to as well that lasted the entire day. We basically are running the branch here along with the other two Elders because it is a very underdeveloped branch. It is the only branch also in the entire mission that deosnt have a dedicated chapel built for them. But we do have property we found out that the church bought to build one one...only thing is is that it wont be built and finished for two years. So for now, we are renting to a building where we hold church. But since we are the only branch without a chapel, that means we are also the only branch without a baptismal font. So yes, all of our baptisms will take place in the ocean!! I must admit, I am pretty excited about that.
On Sunday we went to church and it was really neat. You know how I told you the members are really happy to have Sisters?...that was an understatement. They are like truly GRATEFUL we are here. During Testimony meeting in Sacrament, there was not one person who got up to the podium to bare their testimony and didnt express their grattitude and happiness for having Sisters serving with them. Oh, one funny thing about Testimony meeting that I have to tell you about:
You know how typically one person at a time gets up to bare their testimony? Well not in our branch. People here get up in GROUPS and all stand at the podium together as one at a time bares their testimony. When one is done, they will step to the side and let the next one go. Then once they are all done, they will all go back and sit down together and then the next group will get up. Groups meaning like one entire family at a time, or all the young woman at one time, or all the young men...it is bizarre and kinda funny. Sister Walker says she has never scene that happen anywhere else where she has served. Its a special branch, lets just say that. But again...amazing. We actually have a waiting list of members who have signed up to teach with us. That thought went right over Sis Walkers head because in every area she has had to serve in up to now, she has had to CHASE members to try and get them to come...and often times failed. Here, we have our ENTIRE week filled with a member coming everyday with us. There is not one hour that we will be out working where a member wont be with us. They are incredible I tell you. We just hope that the new excitement of us being here wont die down quickly and that they will all continue to be so excited about going out and working with us. Because as of now, all the work we have done has been nothing BUT references from our members. We have been able to get into everydoor and teach a lesson to every person weve contacted. And as of right now, we have two baptisms scheduled for two weeks from now just after going out and working half a day. So already we are having success and we have hardly had to do anything. Its great.
So since we are only 4 missionaries serving on this island, our zone is combined with Sao Antao. This means that once a month we have to fly to the island of Sao Antao for zone conferences. Everything about my first area is crazy but very exciting.
One thing I dont think i will ever get use to here is showering. There is only one temperature here...ICE COLD. And the water pressure is basically like a few drips. We have to shower with our head up side down and wash our hair that way. Then we wash our bodies with a wet wash clothe....yea, should have appreciated the gross showers at the MTC more. Sister Walker told me that her other areas all had water pressure with hot water though. She served in the two areas in Mindelo up until now...so this definatly is not your typical area...escpecially not for Sister Missionaries.
Oh another thing, I have yet to meet my Mission President. He was in Fogo making visits the day we were int he mission home in Praia. So it will be 2-4 weeks before he flies either here to Sal or in 4 weeks when we fly to Sao Antao for Zone conference before I will meet him and have my interview with him. Kinda interesting.
Oh and last thing, in order to get inside some of the homes here and to get peoples attention to know you are there, we have to throw stones on top of the rooves because we cant knock on cement. Just another thing I thought youd find interesting that I coudlnt stop laughing at the first handful of homes we had to throw rocks at.
The best part about being here is that nobody really speaks any of the languages that I have learned to speak, English, Spanish or Portuguese. This is the ONLY island our of the 10 that speaks both Sanpadjute and Bedu Creole...all of the other islands speak one or the other mostly of the two dialects...but never both. So another challenge for me that I have to get through on top of everything else...but very excited. I can understand a lot more and communciate a lot better then the average new missionary. My entire branch has told me that they are shocked this is my first area because I can understand and speak the same amount as an Elder whose in their 3rd area. So that has made me excited and determined. The Creole if spoken slow enought I can catch enough of since Portuguese is mixed in it. But its difficult. Usually teenagers and young adults under the age of 35-40 can speak Portuguese. But the older genereation...forget it. And they are dang hard to understand. But Im slowly getting there. The Criole will be a challenge to pick up but I have to learn it so that i can speak and communicate to 70 percent of the people Im teaching.
Well, that is it for now. Happy Mothers day to everyone next week! I want you all to know that I am excited to be here doing the Lords work and would not want to be anywhere else. I have a long road ahead of me and this is only the beginning, but it is an exciting opportunity and I am grateful to have this calling.
Have a wonderful week!