Monday, September 7, 2015

The Whole World Speaks Portuguese

Dear friends, family, neighbors, enemies, frienemies, teachers, fellow field workers, and creepers,
this was the week of a lifetime.

It started off with the worst transfer of my life. This was an experience I would not wish on anyone. If the same circumstances arouse for any other missionary, I would stop whatever I'm doing and board the next train to help this poor, pitiful soul. It was the lowest point of my mission.

Remember that one week months ago when I wrote that awful email because I was in the midst of creating transfer plans? It's a rough responsibility for sure! It is the very least fun activity you could do as a missionary. I say this as a missionary who's cleaned the fridges, toilets, and air conditioners. Every week I was in Chiba (from April to September) I got down on my hands and knees and moped the floor. All these combined are still more fun that making transfer plans.

This transfer something happened. Maybe these poor sisters got exhausted with the chore and only had the energy to do it half way. Perhaps they wanted to try something new to spice up transfers. Whatever the reason, the result was that I, had to transfer alone. 

As a missionary this is troubling. As a sister missionary it's a little scary. As a sister missionary who looks the way I do, carrying crippling bags, this was a horror. 
The plan was I had to travel two hours alone. I had to leave my companion in my area and then travel to the heart of Tokyo and find my way northward, near my very first area to find my companion who would be waiting for me. 

It was hard for many reasons. I didn't have a phone. Should something go wrong (and believe me, everything did) I had no way to contact anyone. I would have to leave the train station, drag my bags up cement stairs and find a pay phone out in the open. I wasn't about to do that on account of reason number two being the amount of bags I was carrying. Yes, this could have been helped. As a sister missionary in the Japan Tokyo mission I can ship three things. Two bags and one bike. So that's what I did. I wasn't a great packer, I just focused on packing these big suitcases as fast as I could so I could ship them as fast as I could then helping me receive them in my new area as fast as I could. By the time I had sent out this two big suitcases, leaving behind all the toiletries I would need for the next few days, I received news of transfer plans. It was very late notice. There was nothing I could do! I had already shipped out my stuff and I was on my own to carry all my extra bags when I thought I would always have someone at my side. And of course, to top it off, it was raining. 

Just these things alone would have made it a hard trip. But of course, everything went wrong.
Before I got to Tokyo, half of the handle of my suitcase was detached. I had ripped and twisted the metal so bad it fell off. By Ikebukuro I ripped it completely off. I was carrying a wheeled carry on without pulling it by the handle. Every bump knocked my suitcase onto its side. I was sweaty. My bags were heavy. My heart felt broken.

I had heard stories of people helping random strangers in train stations. Maybe the determination I had had twisted my face into such a grimace that everyone was two scared to help. Maybe on Wednesdays all those nice people have work. In the end, no one would help me on this long, scary, journey that would turn out to be three hours long.

This whole time my mind was going crazy. Every muscle of my body was tense. My toes were curled into little balls of stress. My hands would develop stinkin' callouses from this trip. And all this time I was suffering just so I could be met with the second half of my soul sucking mission. I had so many crazy thoughts as I wandered Tokyo alone. I pondered simply returning back to Narita, checking all my crazy stupid heavy bags into the next flight to America. I considered locking myself in a phone booth, calling President Nagano, and refusing to move until he sent the two biggest elders of the mission to carry me and my stuff all the way to Oizumi. It's the strangest feeling, to feel so alone in a crowd of people. To be feel invisible even though people are staring at you. 

The only thing that kept me going was that gorgeous gift of the Holy Ghost.
Even though I can't see God, I knew He was with me. He took the time to comfort my heart when my body was tired. I knew that even if there wasn't anybody but me on the train I wasn't alone. They don't call it the COMPANIONSHIP a of the Holy Ghost for nothing.
I was near the end, I was stepping off the final train before I would meet my companion when a Nigerian man named Keal grabbed one of my bags and mumbled: "Don't worry. I got it." 
Family I have never been more tempted to hug a black man than I was at that moment. I was so happy so so happy.

And then I reached the final escalator that would take me to my companion.
My suitcase exploded at the bottom of the escalator, with all my stuff scattering everywhere.
In the end, all I could say to my new companion when she saw me sobbing, dragging my feet those final steps was: "Do you remember the day you received your endowment in the temple? Wasn't that a hard day? Everything went wrong, right? But it was SO GOOD in the end. That's what happened today. Oizumi is SO AWESOME that today was terrible. Satan tried really hard to keep me from coming."

I thought it would be funny to weigh my bags so you could know how much they weighed. I wanted to count the steps I took and the kilometers I crossed and the hours I spent standing but I don't think it would matter.

Just yesterday we were eating dinner at a member's house and her and her friend started arguing. If I know one thing, I know that Latinas LOVE to compare. In this conversation, these women were comparing suffering. They had both raised children as a single mother, but they argued about who suffered more. But the thing is, suffering is innumerable. How can you measure the lowest point in your life? How can you count sadness, or happiness for that matter. I used to be the kind of person who would think: How can his friend of mine be sad when there are children in my mother's own country starving to death? But, silly, pre-mission Jenny, you can't compare suffering. Telling someone they can't be sad because someone else is sadder is like telling someone they can't be happy because there's someone happier than them. ITS SO TRUE. I might have read that on Twitter but IT'S SO TRUE. I heard an elder challenge someone once: "Try to find someone happier than me. There's no one on earth that's happier than I am." That was so true too. This elder, I'll give him a name, Elder C. was at his absolute happiest. He was on his own plane, probably because he has a glimpse of God's perspective. No one could compare to his happiness, his happiness was his own.

So, I can't put a number to it folks. Just know I suffered a lot. I suffered a lot according to me, Sister Jenny Goldsberry at nineteen-years-old. 
But along the way, I had reminders that I wasn't completely forgotten. When my suitcase exploded, I noticed a small bag Sister M. minha mai, the love of my life, my previous companion had snuck into my suitcase. It had a nice note and a little plush toy that I squeezed really hard to relieve stress. Later that night, an email from a friend would appear in my inbox. While it was midweek and very much against mission rules it wished me "a great transfer day." These were proof to me, that God knew me, Christ already knew my suffering, and They decided to make Themselves known to me through two very dear friends. God answers our prayers through PEOPLE. 

It hasn't even been a week and these few days have already made up for the suffering sack clothes I wore as I trumped through Tokyo, Japan. These next few sentences have NOTHING. AGAINST the members of my past areas. But they are fact. Just like we can't compare happiness or suffering we cannot compare church members, alright? We had more meal appointments in my first two days in Oizumi than I had in the total three transfers I was in Chiba. TWO DAYS. Whereas before, nobody could pronounce my name, let alone memorize it, here, they call me "daughter" or "Princess Goldsberry." Everyone loves me already and I love them back! They think I'm SO SKINNY. (They just don't remember what the sisters looked like here before they engorged them by feeding them so much.) They tell me my clothes are too loose and they can't believe I'm only 61 kilos (134 lbs). I have been compared to just about every Brazilian singer and actress. I've heard Spanish proverbs like:"She won't eat the banana so she doesn't have to throw away the peel" that make me feel like I'm back home with my mom. Every face here looks SO FAMILIAR. It's like I'm home. I AM SO HAPPY. This email was actually hard to write because I can't even remember my suffering anymore. I love you all and I'll see you soon!

Don't forget my birthday is Friday!

Sister Goldsberry

1 comment:

  1. Happy Birthday Jenny!! We love you and hope that Japan is treating you well! We are doing great. Seattle is gorgeous, we love it! Have a wonderful day, and know that we are thinking of you!! Love, Jason and Bryan xoxo