Monday, January 30, 2017

New Companion! New Adventure!!

Well as they say here in Wales, this week has been as "crazy as a box of frogs" but hey, that's a mission for ya!

Monday we had a great district p-day. We went to Cardiff and did some shopping and ate at a really nice world buffet. Then we went bowling and I'll have to admit after a long time without bowling I was terrible the first game... but you'll be happy to know I absolutely crushed the elders the second game and won by a landslide!

Wednesday night we had a worldwide missionary broadcast where they announced some exciting changes for the missionary schedule and key indicators! We won't know how it affects our mission until we have a mission leadership council to discuss the changes and adapt them to our mission, but it was definitely a big shock to hear the announcement! One thing that was discussed was success as a missionary. They quoted from Alma 26 about how "it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance." The brethren explained that God can not give success to every missionary and as it explains in verse 27, we must "bear with patience [our] afflictions" regardless of if the Lord is blessing us with success. I really felt like this was for me serving in Blackwood. I've almost been here for 6 months and we have been working SOO hard with little to no success. But as it was expressed to me in a blessing last week, God knows that and He knows how hard I am trying. And to know that I am doing all that I can is true success in His sight.

Well the craziest news is that after some emergency changes this week I now have a new companion here in Blackwood! Her name is Sister Smirnova (smear-nova) and she is from the Ukraine! Her first language is Russian, her accent is adorable and despite the fact that she looks 12 she's actually 25! She has been a member of the church for 4 years and she's been on her mission for 6 months. And she just came from her greenie area...the best greenie area... Nottingham 4! So we've had a lot to talk about!

Before Sister Smirnvova came to Blackwood she had permission to call me and when they called us they were at my recent convert's house, Catherine! I got to talk to her on the phone and it was such a tender mercy and made my heart soooo happy! My little family in Notts 4 is doing sooo well and Catherine is enjoying her new calling as relief society first counsellor!! God is so good!

I just LOVE the fact that my mission is SO diverse! Not only have I taught people from all over the world but I've had companions from all corners of the world as well! This is my third companion in Blackwood that is foreign and what an adventure! I've loved learning about Italy, South Africa and now Ukraine!  How lucky am I to mix with these wonderful people from all around the world and to learn about their lives. Last night for language study Sister Smirnova explained to me what it's like to scuba dive in the Black Sea, how cool is that? It's truly remarkable and I'm in awe how diverse this beautiful world we live in is! But I guess sometimes the diversity only works one way because I'm Sister Smirnova's 3rd Utah companion in a row haha. But I guess it's needed to help her learn English!

I've also come to realllyyy appreciate a good accent! I wish you could all sit in on a lesson here in Wales and just listen to our friends and members speak. I think it would have you in stitches... and by that phrase I mean laughing a lot! The welsh accent... my American accent (yes I still have it and no I'm not coming back with a British accent you have no idea how impossible that is) and whatever accent my numerous foreign companions have had makes for a very interesting lesson! I've had 3 companions in a row now with super cool accents and it just amazes me. Sometimes it's impossible to understand each other with so many different accents and with how fast we all talk but we somehow make it through. I'll be honest, the first few hours with Sister Smirnova I could not understand her at all! But I just prayed really hard and now I can understand her and help others we visit if they didn't catch what she said.

Thursday was a really hard day because I had to say goodbye to Sister McAravey whom I have come to love so much. She was really the companion I needed in Blackwood these last 8 weeks we were together and I learned so much from her. It was a little overwhelming coming back to the area with a new companion that I couldn't really understand. The pressure to help her understand the area before the actual transfers happen in two weeks (in case I move on) really began to sink in. I'd just helped Sister McAravey to know the area and the members and our friends and things we going so well... in fact better than ever in Blackwood. But at the mission office I received a heaven sent parcel from home and inside was a calendar with daily quotes from my amazing grandma. And the quote for Thursday could not have been meant for me more: "it is often in the trial of adversity that we learn the most critical lessons that form our character and shape our destiny" (President Uchtdorf). So bring on the challenge of a new foreign companion in Blackwood because this is just God's next plan to help me grow!

The rest of our week included lots of tracting in the rain with little success. Saturday we went district finding in Caerphilly and during lunch we walked outside the castle walls to show Sister Smirnova. We were walking on a path and a castle maintenance car started coming our way so we had to step off the path and it was super muddy and I slipped.....and that's how I almost ended up swimming in a dirty castle moat! Only in Wales haha!

Love you all, thanks for keeping me in your prayers!

Sister Cebollero xx

1. My new companion! Sister Smirnova from Ukraine

 2. Bowling with the district!

3. Good-bye to Sister McAravey!! Love her so much!

4. Last picture with all the sisters in our district!

Monday, January 23, 2017

One year that gets more and more crazy!

Well it's been a very bittersweet week here in Blackwood B.

Monday we didn't do much for p-day, just did some errands in our little town, played some board games with the elders and emailed. After that we went and visited Marcia since our lesson cancelled and we had left some things at her house on Sunday.

Tuesday we did service for Iulia and had lunch with her. We were all quite exhausted so we weren't as chatty as usual but it was good service. Then we met with our less active friend Chantal and she showed up at the cafe with her new we were just eating ice cream and I just invited him to meet with the Elders in Cwmbran where he is from and he accepted so we passed them on a sweet referral. Then we had another lesson cancel so we went home for dinner and I studied for my driving theory test.

Wednesday morning we went to relief society and had a lesson about Esther. We stayed at the chapel for lunch and I used the computer to do some more practice for my theory test. It's so different over here because there's this part called hazard perception where it shows 14 videos and you have to click the mouse as hazards progress and get a certain amount of points. You have to notice them way in advance and it's actually really hard! The questions are really hard too so I've been studying the different street signs and laws and such. We did some visits and then came back to the church for coordination.

Thursday was one of the craziest days of my mission thus far and I'm sure I'll never forget it. We started off the day with our district for district meeting. We had some really good trainings and played some card games during lunch. Then we walked down to the bus station to catch a bus to Newbridge. The time for our train to depart was speedily approaching and these buses in Wales are just not reliable! The bus finally came and we were just praying so hard as my watch ticked closer and closer to us missing our train. We got off the bus a minute after it was due to depart but we decided to run like it was still coming and keep praying. Across the road, up the many steps to the bridge over the tracks and we saw it coming! Across the bridge, down the steps and we sprinted to the platform and thankfully the conductor saw us and saved the train for us! We had a nice dinner and lesson with the Davise Family! We used the Book of Mormon picture book to teach the kids about where the Book of Mormon is from and then we introduced the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ian asked when they can be baptised! Amy still isn't too sure about the kids being baptised since she hasn't been baptised herself so they said they would pray about it! Ian also brought up everything we had discussed in ward coordination about their family without us even asking! He wants to progress in the priesthood and really has a desire to go to the temple! We were cutting it close for the train back so we had another sprint down the hills of Llanhilleth and also caught it just in time. Then the STL's came and picked us up and took us on an ice cream date.

Friday we had a dinner appointment with one of our favourite members; Jenny, and she invited our best friend Marcia. I have SO much love for these two women. As I saw around the table with 3 of my best friends I was just overwhelmed with love for them.

Saturday was my one year mark! We got some ice cream sundaes with the elders during lunch and it was really nice. Then we had a lesson with David and Madeleine. After that we had dinner and worked on our area book.

Sunday was commotion at church! We had the Davise Family come again so that was super exciting and also just crazy! Also I haven't mentioned but we are having SO many move-ins in Blackwood. Our ward has almost doubled and we haven't even done it! One thing Amy didn't like about Blackwood was all the old people and she missed their last ward because it was more family oriented. Well we've had 4 young families with kids move into our boundaries in the last month and they keep rolling in! It's so exciting and there's sooo many babies and pregnant ladies in Blackwood at the moment.... it kinda feels like Utah, but not quite. We taught gospel principles and it was on temples and Ian loved it so much he went to bishop after and asked for temple classes and help going to the temple! Then in relief society the lesson was on President Monson's talk on the word of wisdom. This was the perfect lesson for Amy as she just asked us for help to stop smoking! We went to the Spragg's after, another couple that I just love to death. They are so sweet and kind and she even offered to go buy us some thermals since it's been so cold this week! Brother Spragg gave us both a priesthood blessing and I am just SO amazed and so thankful for the power of the priesthood.

I can't believe how quickly this year has gone by! I'm so thankful for all the experiences I've had and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world! See you in just 6 short months!!

Love, Sister Cebollero

1/2. Happy ONE year mark to me!

3. Celebrating my one year mark with ice cream!

4. My companion Sister McAravey is awesome!

5/6 . Our District

7. I love these ladies!! Marcia and Jenny!! Seriously my best friends here!

Monday, January 16, 2017

A One Day Welsh Winter Wonderland

Monday we had a very rainy p-day and with limited options here in Blackwood we decided to take a historic tour of our little village, Pontllanfraith. We went to a little candle shop in a cottage that has made candles for Harry Potter, pride and prejudice and loads of other films and TV shows. Next door is a little mill that received one of the first SOS signals from the sinking Titanic. All in a quaint little corner of our village, who knew?! By the time we made it to the church we needed that email time to dry out because we were soaked through and through. After p-day we went and visited some less active members by the church. Then we stopped by our ward mission leader for a visit. We had a good talk about the area and then they bought us fish n chips on the way home!

Tuesday we spent lots of time in Oakdale. We did a lot of tracting and no one was really too interested.

Wednesday morning relief society has started up again and it was a lovely morning with our favourite older sisters. We had a lesson on goal setting and planned some of the activities for the year. Sister McAravey and I are in charge of it in a fortnight (two weeks) so send us some ideas for a lesson/activity we can do with the sisters! Then we went and cleaned for Iulia and had some lunch together. We came back to the church for coordination and the oldest two Davise kids came to the Faith in God activity for primary so that was great!

Thursday we travelled to the valleys in a downpour of rain! We trained to Llanhilleth and then walked a few miles to Six Bells to visit our friend Glenys. We had a lovely visit with her and then we started down the forest path to get to Aberbeeg to do some more less active visits. Well much to our surprise the rain softened and then we noticed big white flakes coming down and before we knew it we were surrounded by a beautiful snow fall! I haven't seen proper snow like that for over a year! We were just walking through the welsh valleys admiring the river below us and the hills above us with this beautiful and peaceful snow and I felt right at home. Then we had dinner and a lesson with the Davise Family. We had some minted lamb and veg and their daughter also treated us to a makeover and did our nails for us. We had a beautiful family prayer before we left and helped the kids to pray. They all wanted a turn of course, and it was the first time praying for the youngest two! We trained back and headed to Pentwynmawr to stop by Jon’s to continue our lesson on the Book of Mormon.

Friday we woke up and it was snowing again, with an ever so slight blanket of snow on the pavement. We travelled to zone meeting and much to the zone's disappointment we were one of the only areas that got snow! We had a really nice zone meeting and lunch. Then it was straight to exchanges with our new STL's. They moved the Wales STL are from Merthyr to Pontypridd so we were the first sisters to go on exchange in Pontypridd! I was with Sister Jones and the other sisters had the car so we did a lot of walking! Since they are whitewashing we did a lot of less active stop-bys and then it took us a long time to find our dinner appointment. Then we went and taught a part member family that has a daughter preparing for baptism.

Saturday we switched and Sister Jones and I got to use the car. We drove up to their furthest away valley to do some work. We found more snow and met some very interesting less active members. Then we did some tracting and met some nice people. After that we picked up the other sisters and had lunch together. They dropped us off in the Penllwyn to visit some less active member referrals. None of them were home so we stopped by some potentials and did some more tracting. After a quick dinner we went to see David and Madalaine. They have almost been taught for a year now and before I came into the area the relationship had turned into mostly social with no big commitments. They're so old and want company but it was something we have been brainstorming and working hard to change so that we can still fulfill our purpose when we visit them. We felt like we should start over and teach them about God as our loving Heavenly Father. We had a beautiful and bold lesson and as we were talking I had the strongest impression to bring up baptism and we were able to put them on a baptismal date. They have a lot to work on, but we feel strongly that they can reach this goal and we're excited to help them along the way!

Sunday the Davise Family couldn't come to church because they caught the flu so that was a bummer. But we had a really nice ward conference and the theme of the whole block was ministering. After church we went to the Manning's and I'll never need to eat trifle for the rest of my life once I leave Blackwood. Then we went and visited our dear friend Marcia since she didn't make it out to church. A member made us an apple pie so we stopped and picked that up and got our bikes that the Elders have been fixing. We're going to try some biking in the areas that aren't too hilly so pray for our safety!

It's been a great week and things are really looking up for Blackwood B!

Love you all, hope you have a fab week!

Sister Cebollero xx
1. P-Day visit to the Candle shop that made candles for Harry Potter movies
2. Sister Ceb loves Harry Potter! All these movies feature candles made in this tiny little shop!
3. This Mill got one of the first SOS signals from the sinking Titanic
4. The Mill
5. Love our Blackwood little friends
6. Exchanges with Sister Jones
7. Blackwood got snow! Yay!
8. Sis Ceb, Sis McAravey, Sis Jones, Sis Funl

Monday, January 9, 2017

Be Excellent to each other!

The weeks in Blackwood just seem to get crazier and crazier my friends. Honestly, I can't even put it into words, you have no idea... so here's an update from this week! 

Monday was a glorious first p-day of the year! Our stake patriarch and his wife; Brother & Sister Elliot, took us to where he was born in New Tredegar for a scenic hike! It was a beautiful (windy) day. Brother Elliot is someone I really look up to and it was so powerful to hear his stories and memories and he was just so passionate about his home village. We hiked and hiked all the way up to the valley peak and the view all around us was remarkable. Thank goodness we get practice hiking the hills everyday here or it would have been a bit rough! We had made some homemade rolls and the elders cooked the turkey we were supposed to have for thanksgiving and we had a nice picnic at the peak! After we emailed and finished p-day we rushed back towards Pentwynmawr to teach our friend Jon. We lost contact for a long while and we've just started to teach him again. We invited him to just step away from his concerns and questions and to try reading the Book of Mormon with a clean slate again from the beginning. 

Tuesday we luckily dodged the traveling of transfer day so we decided to push forward with our new transfer goal and venture out to different parts of our area. We have a major transportation issue in this area and we want to try and figure out how to get more places more effectively. We started off our morning with a failed attempt to heart attack.. meaning the door swung open as we were placing hearts and we ran away giggling!  We caught a train to Llanhilleth and then walked about a half hour to Aberbeeg to visit a less active member we'd never met named Debbie. We had a great visit with her and she told us about a shortcut to see another member named Glenys. We walked through a pretty Forrest and over a river to Six Bells and had a nice visit with her. Then it was an hour walk back to Llanhilleth and some tracting before our train came. We got home and had a much needed dinner and then went and visited some young recent converts who have gone inactive recently. 

Wednesday morning we went and did service for Iulia and did some therapeutic cleaning! We had a nice lunch and a much needed chat and headed to the church. We had coordination and then stayed for young women's since we had a nonmember young women there. It was a fun evening, we made homemade juggling balls and Jim Smith tried to teach us how to juggle!  Who knew juggling was so hard? Also the homemade juggling balls turned into good stress balls for the rest of our week!

Thursday morning we had a nice district meeting at the chapel. We all treated ourselves to some much needed Chinese food during lunch. Then we visited Marcia for some more love and another therapeutic visit. Then we caught a bus and then the train to Llanhilleth to see the Davise Family! It had been sooo long and she called us Tuesday (we had actually planned to see her Tuesday so that was cool!) and invited us over Thursday for a visit! It was as mad as ever in their home with the kids showing us all their new Christmas toys. Amy asked us to help her stop smoking and it was good to continue teaching them after such a long break. 

Friday I got to spend the day in Caerphilly with the sisters there! We had a nice little surprise exchange and it was fun to spend the day with them. We taught a recent convert in the morning. And then trained right back to Blackwood for lunch with the elders and some district tracting. It wasn't planned around the best time to tract and it wasn't super effective. We travelled back and visited a less active member and then when my companion got back we trained back home. It made for an interesting day of travel. 

Saturday we just did our weekly planning and pretty much everything else fell through. We ended up spending a lot of time working on the area book more, we're still working on putting it into our new app. 

Sunday we somehow managed to help the Davise Family of 6 make it to church! After some arranging for rides, lots of snacks for sacrament and lending my iPad for colouring it wasn't as hectic as the last few times! The older two really love church and the younger two really struggle with their disabilities so we're just working with the primary president  a lot to help them. After church we went to eat with Brother and Sister Spragg. She just kept hugging me and she said she was sooo happy to see that I hadn't been transferred, bless her! Then we went with them to visit a sister named Janet in the hospital who has cancer. 

After much prayer we were able to make it through a long and stressful week. We're hoping everything worrying us can start to be worked out this week so that we can move forward with the work here in Blackwood! 
Thanks for your prayers in our behalf!
Sister Aubri Cebollero 

1. Sister Cebollero in Caerphilly Wales for the day! 
This saying is from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure!

Monday, January 2, 2017

A New Year in Blackwood Wales

HAPPY NEW YEAR! We've had quite the... uhh... interesting week here in Blackwood! I know it's a long one this week but stay tuned to hear about: a miracle on the train, getting kicked out of a house (yeah I still can't believe that actually happened) and TRANSFER news! 

Monday was Boxing Day and a member day in our mission since it's a pretty big deal over here. We went to the Elliot's for breakfast and they made us AMERICAN PANCAKES WITH AMERICAN MAPLE SYRUP. Yes, actual maple syrup for the first time in 11 months and not golden syrup! Then they dropped us off at the church to email. Most of our mission used our p-day to shop some awesome deals but unfortunately we live in the middle of nowhere and there was no public transport available to get to Cardiff to shop…but no worries we quickly thought of something to do... and had full blown nerf gun war at the chapel with the elders! All was going well until I was chasing after my companion (because sight and sound) and all of a sudden I started falling in slow motion and landed right on my face. Let me quote all my old lady bff's and say that I had quite a bad fall this week! Haha and quite the beautiful bruise later on but it was hilarious! Then we went and visited Marcia because our dinner appointment was cancelled. 

Tuesday was a bank holiday (public holiday that's super random and doesn't mean anything) so again there was no transport. It made for a pretty rough day trying to figure out who would actually be home, where we could actually get with no buses or trains and people trying to enjoy their time off. We went and visited Sam and had a good chat. Then we taught David and Madalaine and shared more scriptures with them. Then the STL's came to have a sleepover at our flat!

Wednesday we got up early and went with the STL's in their car to a multi-zone conference with Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Europe area presidency and his adorable wife, Gill. It was a very long, but very amazing meeting! Because we didn't have the whole mission there it was a bit more personal and we had quite a few discussions we were all able to participate in. We had a short break for lunch with made my heart very happy! I was able to see a sister from my MTC group that had gone home for a few months and also my baby, Sister Knudsen! My greenie is no longer a greenie, she's been out for like 7 months now which makes me feel SO old! It was so nice to catch up with everyone in this half of the mission. We talked a lot about yield and maintenance and how we can be high yield, low maintenance missionaries. It was all very spiritual and uplifting! 

Then we had to train back from Cheltenham but we didn't have tickets like the rest of our zone since we'd arrived in a car. By the time we waited in the cue most of our zone had gone and we'd missed the train so we were stuck there for an hour with some missionaries we didn't really know. We got on a very crowded train and sat across from an older couple and quickly struck up a conversation. (We had set a goal Tuesday to teach a lesson on the train so this was perfect) They had quite a religious background and we started teaching about the Book of Mormon. All the while the 4 elders were across the row gaping at our full blown lesson with these random strangers and not helping at all with their difficult questions. 

It fizzed out a bit and I felt prompted to ask them if they were into family history. Their eyes lit up and the husband pulled out a huge folder from his bag with stories and pictures! We had been asked to bring our "my family" booklet to our conference and so I had spent some time Tuesday to fill it out more and add some pictures. But then we never even used it for the conference! This was definitely why I had been prompted to fill it out and I was able to share some pictures and memories with them. We testified of the importance of family history work and their hearts were softened as we spoke about it. It was a cool little miracle for our missed train we had been so upset about! 

Thursday we were supposed to do some service for a member but it got cancelled. Our weekend was pretty booked so it gave us the opportunity to sit down and do our weekly planning and talk about how to better our area. Then we had lunch with the Gabb's and they showed us some super old pictures of the members in Blackwood. After that we had to go to the chapel to fix some issues with our area book app. Also I told my companion we didn't have kettles that plug into the walls in America and she was such in shock that she didn't believe me until she called the district leader, zone leaders and the sisters in Caerphilly. 

Friday morning we had breakfast with some new members in our ward, the Hutchinson's. The wife Amy is also from South Africa like my companion so it was really fun to get to know them. From there we went straight to Jenny and Clive for a really nice ham lunch. We pretty much rolled out of their house we were so full from both meals! Then we went and visited some less active members but they were all busy with the holidays. The fog came thicker than I'd ever seen before and it was quite gloomy. Our dinner appointment cancelled (not that we needed another meal Friday anyway) and so we decided to go follow up with some potentials and do some finding. That's when we both had an experience that was a mission first and hopefully a mission last. Let's just say...


We're still... 

a) in shock.

 b) not sure what even happened and.

c) confused at WHY we keep getting yelled at this transfer... seriously Christmas is supposed to be a nice time of the year but people were so rude this transfer! 

Prettttyyyy muchhhh we go to our most solid potential, he let us right in (things were going TOO good), his girlfriend/partner/witch comes in and asked who we were, we explained we were missionaries, she rolled her eyes and left, we began teaching the plan of salvation and BAM out of nowhere she comes into the room and demands that we leave with a whole string of rude language and an unnecessary volume. THEN he starts yelling at her for yelling at us. And we're just scrambling trying to get out as fast as we can while I'm just wishing them a happy new year in the most angelic voice I can muster. Somehow we made it out alive. Alive... but feeling like we'd just been shot. It was the most random and unnecessary thing ever and it just hurt! 

This was also right after our most solid new investigator (who we dubbed Future Bishop Reese) texted us to tell us he finally found work BUT he has to LEAVE for 6 months.... Life. Is. Hard. aghghghghghghgh

Saturday morning to lift our spirits we went and heart-attacked Marcia and the Elders and it was good fun as always! Then we went and had a lunch with the Gilmore family. After that we went and visited some less active members. Our dinner appointment cancelled so we did some area book work. Then we had to be in by 6 for New Year's Eve. We played some card games, made homemade cinnamon rolls and most definitely were too tired to stay up until midnight... but hey we were up for midnight in our motherlands of South Africa at 10 pm and for Utah the next morning at 7 so we technically did!

Sunday was New Year's Day and a member work day! We had a baby blessing and so the ward was packed full which was a nice change. We had lunch with the Manning's and then visited some other members. Then we came home for call-ins, made some homemade rolls during dinner and waited for transfer calls. They finally came in around 10 and THE WHOLE DISTRICT IS STAYING! That's right, it'll be 6 months for me in Blackwood ward! I'm so excited to have a bit more time here, especially with Sister McAravey! 

And pretty much that was our crazy week here in Blackwood! Wishing you all a most happy New Year! I guess I can say now that I'll see you this year! 
Sister Cebollero xx 

1. Blackwood missionaries LOVE Wales!

2. Us with the Elliot's

3. With my sister!

4. Such a beautiful way to start the new year! 

5.  From the peak of the hills
6. Flag pic on top of the valleys! 

7. My Baby Sister Knudsen!!
8. Our homemade cinnamon rolls were a HIT!

9. We are Pro-Bakers!!

10. Some of my favorites!