Sunday, October 1, 2017

The old and the humble

Monday September 25

Here are some highlights from the week:

Tuesday, we went to contact a former investigator. We couldn't find the right number in the trailer park, so we decided to embrace the awkward and approach a group of about 5 people who looked related somehow- they pointed us the right way, all but one accepted Book of Mormons, and two are interested in learning more. When we finally knocked on the door of the woman we had come looking for, she slammed the door- at least she made it clear how she felt. :) Then we met Mahogany, another woman standing on her porch, who was interested in meeting with missionaries in upper Alabama where she lives. The uninterested woman led us to others who are interested! 

On Wednesday we had in interesting lesson with Ellis and his daughter Kendra. Kendra said she was open to listening, and then called us a cult and said that she and her two year old son are prophets... After she went inside, her sweet dad simply laughed and told us he believed our message. He came to church on Sunday, too! He is so humble and sincere. 

On Thursday we taught Mildred (an investigator, different from the Mildred who was recently baptized.) She is in her 70s, she met with missionaries a couple years ago, believes the Book of Mormon is true, and is very humble and open to our message. We're teaching quite a few "older" people right now, which really goes to show that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone, you're never to old to change, and God looks on the heart, not on the age, race, gender, etc. And so should we!

Friday was a conference in Bonifay, FL for all the Sister missionaries! It was so wonderful! The theme was "The Errand of Angels," taken from the line "the errand of angels is given to women" from the hymn "As Sisters in Zion." The messages were about how God works through us with all our strengths and weaknesses, accepting and loving us completely, and we ought to do the same. We discussed how to overcome negative self-talk and turning outward and focusing on others. Thoughts are so powerful! I learned that when we are thinking about how others feel about themselves, (rather than what they think about us, what we think about them, or ourselves) we are filled with love, we are turned outward, and we have great positive influence on those around us, as the Savior did. I invite you all to turn your focus more outward this week- it brings real joy! I love you all!

Follow the Prophet

Monday September 18

Hey y'all!

Last Tuesday, Sister Russell and I were running for our morning exercise and we saw a teenage girl standing on her driveway with a back pack on. We were sweaty and gross, but we knew we needed to go talk to her. Her name was Darian, and she was waiting for a friend to pick her up for school. As we spoke, her mom Wandra pulled in, after dropping off another child at school. She said we could come back to talk any time her van was home! So the next day we did, and taught the first part of the Plan of Salvation, which she had not heard before but said it just made sense to her. She is really interested in the concept of a modern-day prophet, and hopefully will come to the women's session of general conference this Saturday!

That evening the Fairhope sisters drove to Atmore for an exchange. And wow did some miracles happen on that exchange! We were finally able to contact Jason who we've been trying to contact for weeks; we set up a lesson, and Sister Coon came, who grew up Baptist just like Jason did. Jason has such a strong desire to do better to please God in His life- he thought it was interesting that we asked him so much about his feelings, as he reads the Book of Mormon, hears our message, etc. He recognized a powerful time that he felt the Spirit through feelings of comfort, peace, and joy in a very dark time, which will help him recognize answers to his prayers. 

We also had a lesson with a family, two of whom know Mildred and want to come to general conference, too! They are super interested in a prophet, too- what better timing!

Thursday evening we met with Deborah at the church with Sister Akins- she is becoming more comfortable there so she can come on Saturday, too. Sunday after church we stopped by with the Morris's who made her feel so loved! They're perfect for her, especially since they grew up in Atmore, too. Members are priceless in this work! 

Our Heavenly Father loves us so much that we have a living prophet today! Think of it- a man called of God Who tells Him how to guide us- what specific things we must do to stay close to God with the unique challenges we face in the world today. I know Thomas S. Monson is God's living prophet, with twelve apostles who also have the power and authority to act and speak in God's name to give us a clear direction. That is the structure of the Church of Jesus Christ. I invite all of us to prayerfully consider questions we have- they will be answered as we listen to the speakers and the Spirit at General Conference. I love you all!

Faith over fear!

Monday September 11

What a week it's been, in crazy and wonderful ways!

Last Monday we drove out to the boonies of Stockton with Mildred to the Morris' home where we had a Labor Day barbecue with all the good Southern fixins! Mildred showed us all how to grill ribs done right. :)

Tuesday our district meeting was cancelled last minute, which was a very inspired decision by President Smith. Around 9am, Mildred called us to tell us she had been throwing up all night and all morning and wanted to go to the ER but was unable to drive herself.
Brother Albritton drove right over to take her and we said we'd drive over to be with her once he left.As we closed the door to our apartment, I realized I hadn't grabbed the keys and we were locked out! But then we realized we live right across the street from the hospital, so thank heavens for that! We walked over to check on Mildred, who was resting in a room after the doctors had drawn some blood for tests. Eventually we had to leave for an appointment, but dear Sister Spencer drove down to be with her for the rest of the day, as well as much of the next day which was a huge blessing to Mildred and us. (Mildred ended up having an awful stomach virus, but she is out of the hospital and is doing much better now after good rest, medicine, and a priesthood blessing). Anywho, walking across the hospital parking lot, I had a strong impression to look down the far right side where there would be a person we needed to talk to. Sure enough, I looked down a row of cars and saw a woman sitting in her truck. So we embraced the awkward and walked over to talk with her. Jenifer was so kind, told us she has been looking for a church to join, and happily and sincerely accepted a Book of Mormon and an appointment. We later found out she didn't live in our area, so we referred her to the Brewton sisters who have since taught her and her family (four children) a lesson, and they are very receptive!! And we would never have met her if not for Mildred being in the hospital and us locking the car keys in the apartment! 

On Wednesday we drove to find the house of a family who had been taught by missionaries in the past. As we were looking for the house number, a dog suddenly shot out from the bushes near an entrance of a trailer park and began chasing our car! A little frightened and
mostly afraid he would run into the tires and hurt himself, we sped up a little bit to lose him, and he finally turned around after a good while! We wondered if the family had lived in the trailer park, but not wanting to risk being attacked by the dog, we turned around and began heading home. But it didn't feel right. So we prayed and instantly thought of our own and other missionaries' experiences praying for help against dogs who were standing in the way of a person they felt they needed to talk to. So we again turned the car around to face the dog. We parked the car, prayed for protection, and walked outside, trusting that God would provide a way for us to do what He had prompted us to. We heard the dog bark, but it didn't come. A car was pulling out of the trailer park, and it was the father of the family we were looking for! Had we been one minute later, he would have been gone! He said, "don't mind the dog, she won't hurt you." We were able to get his phone number and plan to go back! 

Satan tries to motivate us with fear, which is inaction, while God motivates us with love to act. 1 John 4:18, " There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." Satan uses fear to try to keep us from doing God's will, from doing things that will build our faith in Jesus Christ and allow God to work through us. Don't let him have that power! Let's all yield our hearts to God and allow His love to motivate us to act with the kind of faith that produces miracles. I love you all!

Hurricane Irma

September 8
Dear wonderful families of our FTM Missionaries: President Smith has suggested that in regards to the approaching storm, Hurricane Irma, please refer to the following website. He said, "Please assure (parents and families) that we are watching and preparing for a possible hurricane hit. They can get updates on the FTM Facebook page. This is the site where you can get the latest on the storm and how it might affect us. As of today, 5 Sep (Tues) it is sunny and clear here in beautiful Tallahassee. Blessings, Sister Heaton

The Good Word

Monday September 4

It's been a happy week! Here are some quick highlights:

-We met Deborah, a sweet woman who we met while she was sitting on her porch. She accepted a Book of Mormon, and when we came back for a lesson, she told us that in those past few days since meeting us, she had felt a kind of peace and love from God that she hadn't felt in a long time; she had been reading in the Book of Mormon. It will bring us closer to God than any other book!

-We went to go visit Felicia with Sister Hall, and Felicia told us that her brother and cousin had both died on Wednesday; we had no idea what to say or do besides hug her and say we were so sorry, so thank heavens for Sister Hall who just loved Felicia and was able to empathize with her a bit as she herself had just lost her father and a friend. God knows His children's needs and often works through others to answer our prayers. 

-The Poarch Creek Indian Reservation is in our area, and one day we went to contact a former investigator who lived there. We couldn't find the address, so we decided to stop at house where a family was outside, to ask for directions. They guided us the right way, and talked with them about the restored gospel, of course! They were so interested in the Book of Mormon which is "a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas... [who] are among the ancestors of the American Indians." We, and they, thought that was so cool! The dad is the minister of a church there, and he invited us to come speak to his youth group about what we do as missionaries- we're so excited!

-Saturday was Mildred's baptism! She was glowing so much, especially as she shared her testimony after being baptized. I wish you all could have heard it! A strong peaceful spirit filled the room as she spoke of the love of the Savior she has felt increase in her life through the power of the Book of Mormon. 

The word of God is the answer to everything! Because as we feast on His words and choose to live by them, the power of Jesus Christ begins to change our desires, thoughts, actions, and hearts. This week as I pondered how I could develop greater love for God's children, a kind of love to replace any feelings of pride, I found Doctrine and Covenants 38:24-25, "And let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practice virtue and holiness before me... And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself." How? In verse 30, the Lord then tells us to "treasure up wisdom in your bosoms." Treasuring up the words of Jesus Christ gives us His power to become like Him. I love you all!

I've Got Jesus in My Heart!

Monday August 28
Hey y'all! I'm settling into Atmore, and learning to love it here! It's very different from Fairhope- a small old-fashioned town that has a 60s kind of feeling to it. I think the areas I've served in on my mission have become more and more Southern with each city. :) Atmore definitely takes home the corn bread! 

The zone leaders called us at the end of the transfer day to make sure we were all settled into our new areas. After asking if we needed anything, I jokingly said, "some Blue Bell ice cream sounds good right now." A few days later they drove up to bring me some things I had left in Fairhope- we left them an extra key to our apartment to drop the stuff off since we were busy doing service at the time they were coming. On our way home after a couple of hours of being outside, we were sweaty and tired and ice cream sounded really good. I suddenly thought, "What if-?" I came home, opened the freezer, and my speculation was correct! There in the freezer was a tub of beautiful Blue Bell ice cream, Blackberry Cobbler flavored. It was a small thing, but it sure brightened our day! 

We had a sweet lesson with our investigator Felicia. I realized I sometimes make assumptions when people are raised in the South with a strong Christian background. I asked her, "how have you felt joy through Jesus Christ?" which is maybe not the most inspired question. She responded, "I haven't before." I suddenly felt humbled and grateful for the joy that I personally have felt because of Jesus Christ, and at the same time a strong desire to have her experience such joy, too. Even though these people know who Jesus Christ is and have been singing about Him since they were in diapers, they have so much potential to feel His full cleansing, peace-bringing, strengthening, joyful power in their lives! Felicia is so excited to reach that point.

Someone who has reached that point is our wonderful investigator Mildred who is getting baptized this Saturday! Oh, she is such a joy! She has been investigating the church for two years and often says things like, "I have finally found what I have been looking for for the past 60 years- I found love!" And later said, "If y'all are foolin me, continue." :D She told us how as a child, she wondered why people couldn't get along like the animals tend to do; she now knows what love is possible and has felt it from the good people of the Atmore branch. She tells us, "this is the happiest I have ever been in my life!" and it is so visible- she is full of light, life, and bursting with joy! At the end of one of our lessons, as she was sharing her sweet, strong testimony with us, she began singing a song in her rich voice: "I've got Jesus in my heart!" Ah, I wish you could all meet her! It's such a joy to get to know so many wonderful people as a missionary!

The word "gospel" translates to "good news," and that's definitely what it is! "Men are that they might have joy!" (2 Nephi 2:25) Our Heavenly Father's ultimate purpose for us is to return to live with Him and to receive all that He has, which is a fullness of joy. But we don't have to wait until the next life to experience joy- He has provided His Son Jesus Christ Who if we look to and follow, will bring us joy. I know this because I feel it every day, even on the hard days. I love you all!

Fairhope Farewell

Monday August 21

This week I'm getting transferred from Fairhope to Atmore, Alabama, which is a little town about an hour and a half northeast from here. Words cannot describe how much my heart is in this place, how much I love the ward, the people, the places, and I will miss it so much- and I know that Atmore is where I'm meant to go next! I've only heard good things, so I'm excited to see what adventures lie ahead, what people God wants me to give my heart to there! I will miss Sister Evensen like crazy, and I'm excited to be companions with sweet Sister Russell who will teach me so much!

This week I've prayed for opportunities to become more patient, and boy is there truth in the promise,"ask and ye shall receive!" On Wednesday of this week, Sister Evensen and I went to see if Tracy was home. For a week and a half, she was MIA, not answering either phone and not at home. This time, her fiance Dwayne was there, and told us she would be home later that evening. However, when we came back later, no one answered. We knocked some doors in the area and received a lot of (mostly kind) rejection from fellow Christians. After about an hour in the hot sun, with one last awkward conversation with a lady who clearly didn't want to talk with us, we got in the car to head home, feeling a little sorry for ourselves. So we prayed in our hearts for a miracle. We soon saw a couple outside trimming their trees and bushes and waved. We continued driving, but knew we had to turn around- so we did, jumped out and offered to help the couple who gladly accepted. Leandro and Elsie, an older couple from Cuba and Puerto Rico who told us they met with three nice young men from our church last year! They invited us inside, where we met a preacher Pedro and his wife who were staying with them for a series at the 7th Day Adventist church they all attend. They gave us water, Leandro played his harmonica for us, and we spoke of our shared belief in Jesus Christ. It was such a refreshing experience in contrast with the rest of our day! I was so impressed with the fact that even though they didn't show super interest in our message, they showed us true Christlike love anyway, welcoming us into their home, serving us, praying for us. They were some of the truest Christians I've ever met. Sister Evensen and I wondered, if I met two Jehovah's Witnesses, would I let them into my home to show them kindness and generosity, even if just to let them feel loved? 

They agreed to do a church swap with us, so on Saturday Sister Evensen and I went! The people there were so kind to us! Pedro presented his study of health according to the Bible, which was basically the Word of Wisdom! However, he backed the Bible verses with scientific research on the harm of tobacco, alcohol, etc. It strengthened my faith, knowing that God revealed this law to Joseph Smith decades before people knew how harmful those substances are! 

Back to Tracy- on Thursday we decided to see if she was at the pizza place where she works. She was!! We set a return appointment, had an awesome lesson where we promised her that she would receive answers to questions at church, and she and Dwayne came! They told us that on the way they had to stop for gas. There, they met a woman who walked up to Dwayne (who has dreadlocks) and told him, "After getting gas, I felt that I needed to stay here a little longer and look for a man with dreadlocks- God told me to tell you that your family situation is going to get better." WHAAATTT??? And on their way to an LDS church service, nontheless! If that's not a direct answer to prayer, I don't know what is! One of Tracy's questions has been, "is this where You want me to be?" And also, she has been pleading for help with her broken family. God's promises are real, friends!! Ask and ye shall receive! God is simply waiting to pour out blessings upon us- instead of putting up the umbrella, let's let Him shower them down! All it takes is asking in faith and doing what He asks of us. I love you all!
Here's the link to a video about receiving God's blessings that y'all should watch: