Sunday, May 29, 2011

Church surprises...

So, some of you may not know some of the latest turn of events in my here goes. This is really more for journal purposes for I won't blame you if you just browse through the highlights!

Some of the biggest challenges we have been given here have been church-related.

When we first arrived here, our tiny little ward had just lost its Gringo Bishop (he returned to the states), and a wonderful Mexican friend was put in as the new Bishop. He has been actively reorganizing the ward into a more functioning body, and we were almost immediately put to work.

Jared received the calling of Elder's Quorum President, which holds a lot of ward responsibility. I don't believe this ward has even had an Elder's Quorum President for 6 years! One of Jared's biggest struggles has been that all of the Elders in the ward are Spanish-speaking only (and Jared only knows a couple dozen Spanish words). Thankfully, the new High Priest Group Leader is bilingual, and he attends the Spanish-speaking Elder's Quorum lessons, while Jared attends the High Priest Group's lessons (in English). They have to work together to get things managed...and it is never easy.

Jared began attending Bishop's meetings, and warned me that they had a good calling in mind for me. I said, "as long as it's not Primary!" He said, "Oh no, it's WORSE than Primary!"

"What could be worse than Primary?" mind wandered for a couple of weeks, and finally they called me in. It turns out, the original calling they had in mind for me had been dismissed, and instead they called me to be...

Can you guess it?

Primary President.


Does Heavenly Father like to call your bluff, too?!

Thankfully, I have two wonderful counselors whom I adore! One if fully bilingual, and the other can communicate with me pretty well, but we don't catch it all (in either English or Spanish)!

I have discovered a few big challenges...

1. The previous Primary President was president for about 15 years, which means that things have been done one way for a very long time.

2. The children don't know any songs. And I mean any. (Not to mention the adults don't know the Primary songs, either!)

3. The children have major reverence issues. They have not been taught to stay in their chairs (they leave to go to the bathroom at any given moment both during classes and Sacrament meeting).

So, I have made some changes:

1. Music is a major part of class--we are teaching the best that we can!

2. We switched to having divided classes first and Sharing Time second (this has solved a problem regarding a lack of classrooms, and it has also thrown the kids off guard--which is good, considering they don't fall into all of their old habits)!

3. We switched the setup of the room so they can't exit as quickly--and we guard those doors like nobody's business!

4. We started a Nursery, which has been a total flop so far. We can't get the young children to leave the Mother's alone in class, which makes for a very noisy Sunday School and Relief Society. We called 2 Nursery leaders, who only do 1 hour each. One hasn't been to church (with her nursery age son) in probably 2 months. The other just got called, but one child has been gone for several weeks, and the other kids won't go to Nursery.

My Sunday responsibilites are:

1. I give the Sharing Time lesson once every 3 weeks (switching off with my counselors who also teach the 2 different Primary classes we have--Primary 3 and Primary 7).

2. I also give the nursery lesson, when there are actually children. This forces me to try to teach some very basic gospel principles in Spanish. Thank goodness I can access the English and Spanish manuals online, so I can compare the manuals and know exactly what is going on!

3. My first counselor and I also do Music Time for 20 minutes each week. It has been tough to teach the kids each and every song from scratch. Even "I am a Child of God" (or "Soy un Hijo de Dios") has been a big feat! They don't know the Birthday Song, the "Hello" song, or anything!!!!!!!!!!!! I play a cheapo keyboard that I bought at a garage sale for $10 years ago (they've only used CD's in the past) I got at a garage sale for $10 3 years ago). My counselor teaches them in Spanish, and I find it very difficult to memorize words in a different language! THANK GOODNESS for great counselors!

Another challenge came up immediately upon receiving the calling: The Stake Primary Presidency informed us that they were having a special event (in Guadalajara, where every other ward is located), and they wanted us to prepare a dance for the event. Each ward was asked to select a country (US was taken) and present a dance in a few months' time.

So, we set out to teach them a dance from Spain. And we quickly realized the task was impossible. Our 15 active primary children were never there at the same time (sometimes only 7 showed, or 10, or the dance teacher didn't show). That, and with our major reverence issues we have, they simply would not listen to the teacher.

We gave up, and decided we wouldn't go.

But then a new Stake Primary Presidency was called, and they came to visit us the week before the event. They were not happy that we were missing the event, and they insisted we prepare something.

So, we told them we could sing the Easter songs we had just done in Sacrament meeting just a few weeks earlier. They said, "It would be nice if you could sing a Mother's Day song, since it is also to celebrate Mother's Day". Haha. Yeah. As if we could teach them a new song THAT DAY, to sing THAT WEEKEND. Yeah--this--when our children don't know ANY songs (heck, they didn't even know those Easter songs, but luckily some of our children are old enough to read and can follow our flipcharts!).

So...go, we did. We stuffed all of the families we could into various cars (the majority of our ward membership doesn't have cars) and made the 1 hour drive to Guadalajara for the special event.

We got up to sing our Easter songs, and discovered that they keyboard they had next to the stage didn't work. "You will need to sing without music". HA!! AS IF these children could sing WITH the music?! HA!! But...the kids did the best they could (speak-singing), and they were proud of themselves, and we were proud of them for sticking it out.

And then we watched the other wards perform their elaborately choreographed numbers, and we oozed with jealously that their children were capable of listening to an adult long enough to learn how turn in a circle or rock their hips.

The other wards had full, sometimes elaborate, costumes, and at one point I turned to our Bishopric Counselor and commented, "I think our budget would allow us to buy one of those shirts in a couple of months"... haha!

Only 4 of the (perhaps) 7 wards in the Stake performed their dance number (so hey--we couldn't have been the only ones to skip out), and of course the music was BLASTED (Mexican-style). I was deaf by the time we left.

There were also some young adults helping that served all of the mothers a snack.

Cantelope with vanilla ice cream and a chocolate stick. Would would 'uv thunk? Not a bad treat!

I admit that every Saturday evening is a night for a mental breakdown as I prepare lessons and music, and wonder what the heck I am doing in this calling.

On the other hand...I look forward to the day when I will look back at these moments and laugh, and think "You remember when they called me to Primary President in a Spanish-Speaking ward, and I couldn't even speak Spanish?! Not to mention understand it all?! Hahaha!"

Ha. HA.


And so...the story of our survival continues...


GayLynn said...

I can't believe all that you guys have on your plates! I was recently released from being a counselor in the Primary Presidency of an English speaking ward and I thought we had it hard. Hang in there. You are doing great and the Lord will continue to help you through it all. And someday you will sleep again. Maybe.

Cara said...

Prayers and hugs!

leadatortilla said...

I think you are awesome Alisa! Way to go - and it makes me want to come and sing there. Although, I struggle with memorizing english myself - I did manage to learn a few primary songs in spanish! Head Shoulders Knees and Toes can be used over and over and over and more. ;-) Keep it up - and I'm envisioning that day of "remember when" for you....

Liesel said...

Holy Cow! I can't believe how similar our wards sound. I am just laughing becaues I think I know exactly how you feel! Our YW dance presentation is this Saturday, and in trying to figure out what kind of costume, it was like, nobody could even figure out the same color shirt, and like I'm going to suggest they get a new one when their dads are embarrassed because they can't come up with enough money for a white shirt and tie to wear to church after how long? Anyway, Keep it up! You are making a HUGE difference in these kids' lives!