Monday, August 29, 2011

Oh My. 6 Months Left.

Yep, I know. It's nuts. Today marks my 6 months to go. AH! Time to evaluate, set some new goals, think about how I can really make the best of these last months, and come home ready to face the world and to try and do something with my life. Lot's to think about.

I have a watch tan line. And I love EFY music. So sue me.  Just had to throw that out there and get it off my chest.

So I have been thinking a lot about repentance lately (not because I think I need to repent for having a watch tan line or listening and loving EFY music, although maybe I should...)  From the Bible Dictionary,  Repentance is any time we gain a "fresh view" on ourselves, on God, or on something that we need to change or improve. (Not exact words and I only have my Spanish scriptures here with me) So it's interesting because I think about things that I didn't really think were "bad" before my mission that I would do. Nothing horrible, of course, but things that maybe I didn't have a "fresh view" on. I have a fresh view now... meaning, I understand the principles behind why we don't watch certain kinds of TV shows or movies, why we don't do things on Sunday that take our minds away from the Savior, why we keep morally clean before marriage, so now I have a greater understanding, or fresh view, or how God wants us to live our lives. SO that is repentance. But repentance brings out a change, and the change only happens when we HAVE the fresh view, and then to actually DO something about it. And do it consistently. That's the change that Alma talks about in the scriptures. There is the "baptism of fire" bringing a complete transformation. I think we underestimate the power of the atonement. Sometimes I ask people here at the center "How did you use the atonement today?" and I get a sort of perplexed look as if they think I am expecting and waiting for them to spill their sins and tell me how their repentance process is going. But it's so much.... smaller?... for a lack of a better term.... than that. The Atonement is in EVERYTHING! If we say a prayer, we are using it. An act of service, setting a new goal and asking for help, praying for someone else, reading the scriptures, saying nice to someone, sharing the Gospel.... Everything that we do that invites us or someone else to come closer to Christ is because of the Atonement. Whew. It's amazing. I am so grateful for my Savior.

Had a very sweet tender mercy this week at the Visitors Center. This couple came in and I said hi and everything but then on their way out, they noticed my name tag. The woman said "Brinkerhoff...(at this point I'm thinking, NO I DON'T KNOW THEM! But then she said....) from Arizona? Do you know Troy?" So of course I said "Yeah! That's my Dad!" and the woman got very teary. She said "Your dad took such good care of my Mom when she was on dialysis. We love your Dad" And then the husband said "And he took out my Gallbladder. He loves motorcycles, right?" By this point, I'm teary... I told them he had passed away almost 5 years ago and they had no idea. They were really sweet and just told me how much they appreciated everything he did for them. I love my Dad. I really really do. I am so grateful for these tender mercies that the Lord gives us to just see a glimpse of the bigger picture for a minute. I mean, I am on a mission in LA, these people live on Catalina Island and happened to come in... There are no small miracles.

So fun to see THE Rob Gardner here. I thought Sister Macdonald was going to faint. And of course I was thinking "Por favor! He's like.... Rob..... and hes MY friend!" Haha. I sure love that guy! Thanks for coming in :) Even if I couldn't give you a hug.

Things are going well in Bel Air.... just in a mode of finding to try and build a new teaching pool. Most missionaries can build a teaching pool WHILE they are teaching people, but when we have people to teach, that is where our limited time in the area is spent. So it's usually like an all or nothing pattern. Which is annoying, but it's OK cause finding is fun :) Fun is a very positive word to describe it. But it makes for a lot of really hilarious stories.

Simpsons.... He didn't accept a date just yet :( BUT HE WILL! Mark my words! He is sooooo close! I seriously go to bed every night imagining that family in the temple, hoping that having that vision will help. I want to be there so badly with them. I really do love this family very much.

Speaking of families going to the temple. Remember when I did like a music-lesson for the other sisters' investigator? And then I sang at his baptism? And got to know and love his family very much? They came into the VC last night and it was so good to see them. The wife of the Baptizee gave me a thank you card and it seriously brought me to tears. To think that all I did was just do what I love to do. Sing. And she talked about how after the lesson where I just sang for them, that that is when he decided to be baptized. He had started to listen to hymns over and over again, especially the ones I sang. Music is powerful. I teased him that he will be bishop in no less than 10 years. And its true! Completely true. When that family goes to the temple, that will be a very very special day. Ahhhhhhhhh. I love them so much.

Not much else to report on.... Living and breathing gospel. And it's so good. I really really really love this and I am grateful I still get to do this for 6 meises mas! Estoy muy agradecida por esta opportunidad y quiero hacer todo que puedo en la obra del Senor!

Love you all.

Sista Brink

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Who am I? I'm Sister Brinkerhoff!" (of course to the tune of Jean Valjean's infamous song from Les Mis)

We had a Zone Conference this week and Kevin R. Duncan of the 70 was the speaker. A big theme was "Who am I?" with the idea that we should do everything with the knowledge that we are disciples of Jesus Christ, missionaries who are called to aid in His work to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man". He talked about waking up and KNOWING who we are. I've been thinking a lot about that this week, and, inevitably, have found myself singing with the voice of my favorite Jean Valjean who I can mimmick perfectly but of course can't remember his name, "Who am I?! Who am ?! 24601!!!!!!!!".

SO. Who am I? And who do I WANT to become? And who HAVE I become this past year?

Who am I. I am a missionary for Gods church. I am a "bridge builder" as Elder Duncan put it, in helping people to bridge the gap between themselves and salvation. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I am kinda crazy. (Ok I kinda feel like I'm doing a video thing... where its like "I'm a blah, I'm a blah., I'm a blah, and I'm a Mormon. I've thought a lot about what mine would say. I'd probably say something ridiculous like "I'm nuts. You've probably seen me on TV. I'm impatient. And I'm a Mormon." Bahahahahaha.) And most importantly, I am a Child of God.

What do I want to become. Lots of things. Too many things probably. But I'm still gonna try. We talked about talents yesterday in Gospel Principles and someone asked me "Do you think ANYONE can learn to sing?" And I said "Yes." And I really believe that that is true. They might not be Eden Espinoza but they could learn to sing a tune. SO it made me think about how we can truly develop ANY talent if we really want to! And there are so many I need and want to develop that I know God is preparing me TO develop. Like Patience with Children... cause right now, not so much patient. But I am working on it. I want to become a good wife and mother, who knows where the priority is, with valuable skills to be able to help further the kingdom! What a wonderful work we are about.

Who have I become. Better I hope. I think I have... I mean I'm definitely still me, no doubt about it, I think I'm just a little more centered. More aware of the bigger picture. More willing to try and love not only myself but others for who they (And I) are. I'm a little less worldy (although... I still do love shopping. I get it, it's a problem). I try and think about others more than about myself (does wonders, truly). Sometimes I worrrrrry that I haven't changed at all, that I have just "been here" without any real progression so it's good for me to take a look back and realize how much I have grown. Not just in size, although that is much more apparent to me than maybe some of the spiritual traits.

Anyways. Zone Conference was amazing, of course. Kevin R. Duncan is an incredible person. Wow. The spirit was extremely powerful throughout the entire thing, it was really neat. I don't have my notes here with me now, but there are some good things that came from that day! Really made me excited to get out and find more people who are prepared to receive the Gospel.

And we ARE finding people!

For every other area but ours! But I'm not about to fall into the "woe is me" trap because I learned my lesson. SO alls I'm sayin is that we are helping the mission out (especially the Spanish speaking missionaries!) by talking with everyone and getting lots of referrals for other areas. (a Lot of people hang out in our area but are actually from other areas...) And soon we will find someone prepared and ready for the Gospel who lives in our area too!

Bro Simpson is praying about a baptismal date. PRAY FOR HIM! He is so ready, there are just some things holding him back. I have dreams about being with his family in the temple someday. Ahhhhhhh.

Birthdays! Happy Birthday Ty Ty and Stacey! I hope you both had great days. I can't believe it's the end of August. Woa. For your presents I got you lots of blessing for sacrificing a year and a half without your favorite Sister in law! Enjoy :) Love you guys so much.

Just for the record, a friend of mine who I met here who actually was a Brinkerhoff before she was married, has been accepting my friend requests and stuff on Facebook. Don't be alarmed! I gave her permission! I wanted to make sure that anyone could see my stuff because people ask for it all the time.... I'm not breaking any rules, don't worry :)

Hmmmmm...... I wish I had a seriously funny story to tell. But I don't today... I mean there are always tracting stories, but honestly those stories would fall under the "depressing" category, not so much the "funny" category. Although I have learned to just laugh at things, and then it makes it a little less painful. It's so sad that people are very closed off to this... But it also makes it all the more amazing when you find someone who has so clearly been prepared. It's awesome.

Anastasia is still in the picture and still getting baptized, but the other Bel Air sisters are finishing teaching her :( It was my decision, mostly to give them something to work with. I can't imagine jumping into an area and having NOTHING, so to be fair, we said they could finish teaching her. She is wonderful and amazing and brought me a key chain back from her Paris trip. Love her.

Welp... Not much else today. I love being a missionary and I love everything I am experiencing, even though it is hard a lot of the time. I realize that trials and hard things bring us closer to the Lord than anything else. So, bring it on, Bel Air! We have a phrase..."We are doing missionary work Bel Air style". Because really, there is a style that is needed to make a difference in this area... I think I am almost stylish if you know what I mean. So watch, now I will get transferred in a couple weeks. Just when I'm getting the hang. We'll see.

Love you all mucho! Send me letters! :)
Sista Brink

Monday, August 15, 2011

Granny G is a "MORMON" (In her Italian Accent)

Yes. It's true. Granny G was baptized. It was really amazing... She was SO happy. Like almost in tears and if you knew this woman when we first met her 8 weeks ago you would know how amazing it was to see her in that way. She kept saying "I thank God" over and over again. It was so sweet. She said she felt happier than she ever has. THE GOSPEL IS REAL AND IT CHANGES PEOPLE! In such immense ways! Her 2 sons came to the Baptism also and they were really touched. One of them came to her confirmation also yesterday. They said they are so happy for their "Ma" because she hasn't been this happy in a loooong time. So wonderful. I am so grateful I was able to teach Granny G. I attached some pictures... I wore the scarf (one of the many) that she gave me in her honor :)

Yes, I chopped my hair again. So sue me. I like it short, OK?! AND I will have you know that I have much more time for my Spanish scripture study now in the mornings. So there. It's so easy, and people keep telling my I look like Julie Andrews. And I'm OK with that. It's better than looking like Harry Potter (right, Ty?)

Hmmm. It's time to do some finding. With the divide of our area and with the recent baptisms (which is GREAT news!) We are runnin low on numbers in our teaching pool. So we are off and running to find some new people who are prepared to receive the Gospel!

We are working with the Simpsons family still. Bro Simpson (the non member) has come to church 2 Sundays in a row! I guess that is a lot for him from what the teaching record and Sis Pinto-bean have said. So that is great news. The ward is really trying to fellowship him from what we can see.

Me and Sister Pinto-bean. As you can tell from the picture, she is literally half of me. It's pretty hilarious. I am SO grateful for her. She is so wonderful when we are street contacting. She seriously has zero fear and will chase people down to bear her testimony to them. I said "Sister Pinto! You are so amazing at contacting!" after we got a new investigator because of a chase, and she said "Seester. Dis is why I here! For da people!" It really touched me. She doesn't totally know what to say, but she just says anything she can to everyone she can. It's really inspiring...  We also have pretty hilarious situations where she has no idea what I am trying to say and vice versa. We do a lot of sign language and looking up words in the dictionary. Today, I had finished picking my nose (of course) and then Sis Pinto-bean said "Seester. You need look in the...." and then pointed to the mirror. I had a dangler just chillin in my nostril. So today she learned how to say "You have a boogar". It was hilarious. She is OBSESSED with 2 songs: "Footprints in the Sand" by Leona Lewis and "When you Believe" from Prince of Egypt so we listen to them over and over and over again. The song will finish and she'll say "Seester. One more time?" And of course we listen to it again. Then again. I don't mind cause I get to practice my soul-singin it's just hilarious because she is totally loving American things... She takes pictures of everything. It's so wonderful. I sure love my little Pinto Bean. She is a rockin missionary.
We are really working with the other Sisters to try and help the area, the wards, and the work. Together I think we are coming up with some good ideas. It's nice to have another pair of eyes to see what we can do. Hopefully things will move forward at 2x the speed with 2x the sisters!
Being the Sister Trainer at the Visitors Center is a very unique experience and I am grateful for this opportunity. I love these Sisters and I love the work that we are able to do here at the Center. I hope I can help in whatever way the Lord wants me to. Sister Hanselman (my partner in crime)  is a great example so I am trying to follow her lead and do what I can. Learning a lot from every single one of these amazing sisters we have here. Learning and then teaching what I learn. Maybe that's the point. We did a training the other day and highlighted something that each and every sister is good at. I read a quote about being the best we can be and not "shrinking" so that others won't feel insecure. It's really interesting because I now have these "sister trainer" eyes that have allowed me to really see these Sisters for who they are and the power that they have. I was emotional telling them all of the things that we noticed that they are so good at. I am so grateful because I think God might be trying to help me see some of those qualities in myself as I see them in others... which is a very hard thing for me to do. God usually does answer our prayers through Service.

Yesterday we had a rough evening... just some frustrating lessons and frustrating situations. Then we went to the Visitors Center to meet with the other sisters working in our area and a girl came up to me and said "You might not remember me... but I met you at Christmas time and you challenged me to just try to read the Book of Mormon. I did. And I am getting baptized in 2 weeks. You were the start of that." I seriously had to hold back tears when I hugged her and just said "Thank you! I needed this so badly!" The Lord is so aware of us and what we need.
I love being a missionary. I'm not going to pretend like its easy. But I understand why it's not, and I really am grateful for the experiences I am having and the people I am able to learn from... And it's a lot.
Thank you!
Sister Brinkerhoff

Pics: Granny G's baptism, and Sis Bodily and I with a perfect picture that explains our relationship perfectly.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Me and My Pinto Bean

Its pretty hilarious, let me tell you, to be companions with a 5 foot (maybe under to be honest) Bolivian sweetheart.

It's a new transfer.

Enter. Sister Pinto.

Its wonderful. Walking together is rather difficult, being that 3 of her steps is the equivalent to 1 of mine. So I have to slow down a bit. Her little legs just try so hard to keep up with me, its adorable. She is really trying hard to learn English. She doesn't quite understand when I say things like "Silly goose" because then I try and do a translation in Spanish and things like that are extremely rude so I have to try and explain that is just a phrase, and it's just funny. She really is the sweetest thing ever and she calls me "Sister" in the most adorable way. Mostly I think "Brinkerhoff" is impossible for her to say and its' completely understandable. I can't even say it most of the time. Anyways, I call her my Pinto bean and I just love her mucho. And I'm learning a lot of Spanish. I used to carry lip gloss every where I went, now I carry a Spanish-English dictionary. Honestly, I don't know what I would do without it. Mascara and my dictionary and I'm good to go.

I was asked to be the new Visitors Center Sister Trainer. I even have a badge. No, just kidding, but I was given a stick that I'm allowed to use when sisters are acting out. (Obviously I'm kidding, but I think that if there were a beating-stick, I would have to use it on myself probably more than the other sisters. There is an occasional glare from Elder Macdonald when I use the entrance floor to the center as my tap-dancing stage. When he looks at me, I feel like Cam from Modern Family: "I CANT TURN IT OFF, ITS WHO I AM!" Bottom line: I'm not sure why I am in charge, someone needs to keep ME in line) It's been a really humbling experience. As a trainer, I get to observe sisters' tours, talk to them about struggles they are having, present trainings and yada yada yada. I have realized something really special this week being able to do this and its that we really all have something different and amazing to offer to this world. God really did give us very specific things that would help in the progression of HIs kingdom, and while we can learn from others' and adopt some of their qualities, we are still our own person with our own ways and ideas and talents. It's pretty neat. I have such a testimony that "God is in the details" because I believe that every single person I have given a tour to at the VC HAD to be given by ME, and it's the same for other sisters as well. God knows our strengths and he wants to see us use them for good. I love the sisters here at the Visitors Center, each one of them has really affected my life and my work here. Sister Hanselman is the other Trainer and she is just one of the most loveliest people. I really love her a lot. I sure have made some great friends.

Speaking of friends.

SO fun to see the Allen family. My family, really. What was so crazy was that I had had a dream that I saw Kelsey here, and then a few days later here she is. With her ADORABLE baby Lincoln. I gave Bob a hug because I figured it was like my Dad stepping in here and I would NOT miss an opportunity to hug my Dad if he was here. Just love that family so much and it was so fun to see them.

Granny G is getting baptized on Saturday! I feel so overwhelmed with the blessings that we have received in Bel Air. We actually now have 2 sets of sisters in the area which is SO cool because it would have NEVER happened before with the amount of work. Now things are really progressing so it was a good call to have 2 sets in the area. It feels nice to be a little part of that, to know that the work we have done here has made a difference. Bel Air does NOT have to be a "hard" area ever again! I am very grateful.

We have a wonderful family that we are now working with. They actually moved from Sis Pinto-beans old area so that's pretty great. We will call them the Simpsons. They are wonderful and the Dad is not a member. Their daughter, we'll call her Shirley Temple (because she SERIOUSLY looks like her) is the most adorable thing in the world. Curly curly hair and just loves everyone. When we knocked on the door she screamed "SISTERS!!!!!" and it made me so happy. They all came to church yesterday and it was so great to have them there.

Granny G is hilarious. She just tells you how it is, holding nothing back. The other night, we had a lesson with Granny G with a member from the ward and it was great. We went to dinner after and seriously, mid conversation about how good the food was, Granny G says in her seriously Italian accent "Sis Brinkerhoff you have pimple". Thanks Granny G. And THEN I had a little situation with some facial wax. Yes, I wax my face... Anyways... this isn't the first time this has happened (you'd think I would learn) but I am taking some medicine for my face (which is helping a TON Mom!) and it makes my skin really thin. The other night, not thinking, I waxed my face and ripped off a layer of skin on each side of my face and my lip.  Its not SUPER noticeable, just looks like a burn. But Gianna, right in the middle of church practically yells "WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR FACE?!". Just so priceless. Love her so much. And just so everyone knows, yes, I look like a monster apparently.

Other than that. My life is good. I am so grateful to be a missionary. The experiences that I am having are completely unexplainable and wonderful. I am learning and learning and learning. I am so grateful that God knew that I needed to be here at this time. I really am so grateful that God is in control and that he knows me perfectly. we are SO lucky to have this Gospel and we can't take it for granted! I love the Lord with all of my heart.

Sista Brink

PS: Court: in case I forget in my letter that I hopefully will be able to write later. The shakage of the jaw is NOT necessary, it actually means there is some serious tension in the tongue when they are singing. It's not terrible, but its not ideal. A person can still sing really well and shake their jaw, it just would be better if not. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH

Monday, August 1, 2011

August, Seriously?!

That's enough, time. Chill out. You're driving me crazy. Just relax and stop moving so fast. (This was meant to be a conversation with time, but reading it I think it should actually be a conversation with myself. Ha)

Quadra was baptized! And Confirmed! Hooray. It was a lovely experience. Her Mom was there and was very touched, even to tears. She really opened up about her situation and she said "maybe I will be next". It is just amazing how the Lord works and how he prepares His children to receive this wonderful Gospel. Probably the best part was her testimony. Will have to tell you about it in person. 

She is just amazing.

Granny G: She is still progressing although we are taking it slow. She has concerns that we are trying to resolve. The ward is being really friendly, but she is not really receiving the friendliness that well which is frustrating, but she is doing great.

Skeema is still in "avoidance mode" as she calls it. She says she doesn't want to meet with us, only her friend that introduced her to the Gospel, until she is no longer "hostile" to the church. She just feels bad that she ends up being frustrated and doesn't want us to feel bad... we are still in contact and hopefully soon she will be ready.

Anastasia:  WONDERFUL. She is just super prepared and ready. She accepts everything, even before we teach it. She learned, for example, last Sunday that we don't buy things on Sunday so she told her friends she couldn't go to eat with them. We didn't even teach it to her, she learned from a friend. So amazing. She is going to Europe for a couple weeks so she will be baptized end of August.

I spoke in church yesterday, which was also my Dad's birthday. I spoke about a talk called "To the Rescue" by pres. Monson. It's a great talk about reaching out to others and helping them back into activity in the church or just being a friend. I was talking about how sometimes, we want to help someone but we think we have to go about it in this very complicated and extravagant way, when really its super simple and they might just need a note or a smile or just a phone call. I told a story about my sister asking my Dad to draw her a heart and he took it very seriously, wanting to help her, and drew a full - fledged scientific-looking heart. And then she said "I just wanted a Valentines Heart, Dadd". He did what she wanted, but in a way that was completely unnecessary, although very sweet. We might overlook what someone REALLY needs by giving them what we THINK they need. I really thought about that story though and how it relates to our lives. We over-complicate things so much (I am the most guilty of this, promise) when really if we would focus on the bigger picture and really listen to the promptings that come to us, we would realize that life is very simple and that God brings about his eternal purposes by "small and simple things". Great lesson to be learned from my Daddy. I miss him. And I have been so blessed on my mission to receive very special promptings that I KNOW I will see him again. Absolutely. This plan is wonderful.

Fun not-so-surprise visit from Sean, Adam, Jason, Josh and Max Crandall at the Visitors Center. It was so fun to chat and show them the VC! Great friends. Hopefully Sean will be able to last 7 more months without calling or showing up. I love how he has weaseled his way into communicating with me more than maybe anyone else. No more calling the VC, Sean! Love ya :) SO good to see you and all you other boys too!

AND Adam Norberg and his cute family are now in one of the wards I serve in! So fun!


ok a couple funny quotes since I have some more time and no more updates.

Get ready to pee your pants.

This was a man from our wards opening prayer in a lesson with Granny G.
"Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for this GLORIOUS weather. We have it good! While others are SWELTERING like the people in New York. They don't even have air conditioning. we HAVE air conditioning! But we have great weather. So, thank you..."

This was funny. A conversation between me and RWLJ. He's the best.

Me: "Robert. Bangs, or no bangs? You liked the bangs?
RWLJ: I loved the bangs! They were the first thing I noticed about you!"

Granny G said, while we taught the Word of Wisdom :" I TOLD YOU! If you convince the people in Italy to not drink Coffee, you win". (It's funnier in her Italian accent)

This was funny too. Sis Bodily is bearing testimony to her, and she stops her and says "You are a very innocent girl." Then I said "What about me?!" And a quick response :"No." Hahaha.Fun times.

Allrighty well I don't have anything else today. I love the letters (those of you who write! The rest of you probably should send Sista Brink a note!) and I am grateful for all of you! Thank you for the support, prayers, love etc etc. I am a lucky sista!

Sista Brink