Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Merry Crestview Christmas!

This has been such a wonderful week! It's been so joyful to be a missionary during the Christmas season. I've loved it so much!

On Monday we had dinner with our ward mission leader and his family, the Tews. They're a fun, loud family. On Tuesday we were eating our lunch at the church when a member asked if she could swing by and bring us something. She arrived with about four bags full of groceries for us! We were so shocked and grateful, as we had both run out of money for the month (don't worry though, we hadn't been about to starve or anything near that. Our cupboards are chock full of food.) We went to Sister Steele's home where she had invited sweet Doloris over, who is a less active member. We had a lesson and made peanut brittle together, which she gave us to take home. For dinner, we ate with the Ferris's who made an incredible Southern style meal for us. Sister Saunders said the family opened up to us during dinner in ways they hadn't before, so that was neat.

Wednesday was the CHRISTMAS CONFERENCE  with this half of the mission!! It was absolutely wonderful! We received some training, shared miracles we've seen, read scriptures on the birth of Jesus Christ, listened to musical numbers- I was one of four Silent Nights, haha- then had a fabulous dinner, each district performed a skit- our skit actually didn't bellyflop and was actually pretty funny! We acted out different scenarios of missionaries skyping with their families- one with a missionary that had just come out to the field, one where they and the family cried the whole time, one where everything had changed at home, and one where the missionary tried to teach her family a lesson. Many skits were so funny! It was good to see my friends from Fort Walton. We also played minute-to-win-it games. Such a fun time! I love being a missionary!

Since the conference ended fairly late in the evening and it was an hour and a half from Crestview in Pensacola, we stayed the night in Gulf Breeze with the sisters there. It was super special for Sister Saunders because that was her first area and we stayed in her first apartment. She was so happy! In the morning we woke up early and ran to the dock nearby, watching the sunrise. On the way home, we stopped to see a family Sister Saunders knew, and it was amazing to see how they were able to help each other. We drove home, saw a sweet member named Shirley who recently went to the temple, had dinner, then went to see a sister in the ward whose husband is at a rehabilitation center from an accident. After we sang them some Christmas hymns, we went to the next room over where two patients were visiting, and sang for them, too. One of them was friends with Shirley, who we had seen just hours before! She is interested in meeting with us when she has recovered!

On Friday, which I call Christmas Adam, we raked leaves at a members' home, then went to the baptism of a members' granddaughter. We had dinner with the Fetters, who invited us to come to their home for Christmas morning! We also met an awesome man named Buddy who told us his life story. On Christmas Eve, we delivered treats (compiled from the abundance of treats that people have been giving us the past two weeks) to some less active members, and had dinner with the Curdy family, which made me so happy. They had ham and funeral potatoes for dinner, pecan pie for dessert, and for their Christmas Eve tradition, they read "The Night Before Christmas," which is what my family reads on Christmas Eve!

Our Christmas miracle was this: on Christmas Eve, Sister Saunders and I met a man named Willy who told us about how God has helped him overcome his challenges in life. He is one of the ministers at a Pentecostal church, and he has always wanted to go to Utah where he has a friend, and he loves the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He was very open, and when we invited him to come to church on Christmas, he said he would come. We sure hoped that he would!

Christmas day was so wonderful! At 7 am we went to the Curdys to watch their four kids open their presents, which was the most entertaining thing. Then we went to the Harts for cinnamon rolls, and they so generously gave us some gifts. We went to church for sacrament meeting. We called Willy, who said he was one his way!!! But he wasn't there when it started, and he wasn't there halfway through, either, though he kept texting us saying he was almost there. Finally, 40 minutes into the meeting, with just 20 minutes left, he showed up!!! He left in the middle of his own church service and his car had overheated, but he came anyway and felt the spirit in sacrament meeting!! And now we're meeting with him on Tuesday, and he is very interested in our unique message. Best Christmas present ever!

We had lunch with a family, then I got to skype my family!! That was actually the best Christmas present!! It was a very happy time, and my best friend Camie surprised me by showing up, too! It was a very uplifting time with lots of laughter. That evening, the Crestview missionaries gathered for a devotional and white elephant exchange. It was so joyful to be with so many families during the holiday season. And although the Christmas season has passed to the world, we can and must continue to remember Jesus Christ every day and to celebrate His birth and His life by the way we live our own lives. I love you all!

 Christmas morning with the Curdy family!


Sister Saunders and Sister Jamison

Nicky's new dress for Christmas

Oh Chrismtas tree!

The night before Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

December 19, 2016

What a week! Monday and Tuesday were spent saying good bye to the wonderful people I love in Fort Walton. Monday evening we had a super fun dinner at the Birds' house with the elders. We made homemade sushi and it was sooo tasty! On Tuesday we had a lesson with Rod, who is down to one cigarette every two days and feels confident he can quit by Christmas! I am so excited to follow up on that! On Wednesday, I finished throwing my stuff into suitcases (I feel like I have almost as much stuff as Sister Stephens did when she went to Tallahassee, and she had been out for over a year, yikes!), said good bye to Sister Trawick, :( and Sister Hilton- who had finished her mission and was going home- and I became temporary companions as we drove to the transfer location in Crestview. I pray for Sister Trawick every day and hope so much that she is adjusting well to her new companion, because that is a difficult adjustment to make. Her new companion Sister Ramadahr is so awesome, though, and I know they will continue to do wonderful work in Fort Walton. We spent some good time getting to know the sisters who are new to the zone while we waited for the transfer van to come, bringing missionaries that will be serving in the Fort Walton Beach Zone. 

These past few days have been wonderful! I love being companions with Sister Saunders!! She reminds me of one of my best friends Sarah Jensen from high school, which is really fun. On Thursday we helped serve food at a soup kitchen, which was truly humbling. We talked to a guy named Jimmy who has made a lot of changes in his life to come to know Christ. We had dinner with the wonderful Vaun family. On Friday we went to bingo at a care center where a less active member works. Then we helped a member name Jenoa organize her house. Then, we did family history with a gentleman who serves at the soup kitchen with us, Joe Barley. He has a lot of European royalty in his line, which is nice, since they keep good records, relatively. Then the craziest thing happened. We were just going back and back on one of his lines, going waaaay back before Christ. Suddenly, we saw a name that said, "tribe leader for Judah." Judah? We clicked back again. JUDAH. THE JUDAH. SON OF JACOB. As in the Judah in the Bible!!! Eventually it led back to ABRAHAM. Then we kept going back, further and further...until it got to NOAH, then down a few... SETH... and then..." ADAM, son of God." and EVE. Born: Garden of Eden. He could literally trace his ancestry back to Adam and Eve! I've only heard stories of that happening, but it literally happened! WOW!

Yesterday I was asked last minute to speak briefly in sacrament meeting about being a member missionary. During the sacrament, I was tempted to think about what I was going to say, but instead, I decided to think about the Savior, trusting that the Spirit would guide my remarks. And it did! It seems foreign to feel at peace while speaking in sacrament meeting, but I strangely felt so much peace. I felt that the Spirit was truly speaking through me, and I felt Him powerfully confirm to me the truth of what I said. It was an answer to my prayer that very morning, asking for the Spirit to reconfirm to me my beliefs. Additionally, Sister Saunders said that what I had said helped her so much. The Holy Ghost is remarkable! We are so blessed to have such an incredible gift from our Heavenly Father than enables us to come to personally know Him and His Son Jesus Christ. I know They live! I know Christ was born so that He could set a perfect example for us of how to obey Heavenly Father and live a life full of joy and return to live with our Heavenly Parents. Remember Him as you celebrate Christmas this week. Remember to strive to be even as He is. I love you all! 

Monday, December 19, 2016


December 12, 2016
This was such a wonderful week! Thank you all for the birthday wishes, letters, and emails! I am so blessed to have such supportive and loving family and friends!
On Tuesday, the missionaries had the awesome opportunity to be in the Fort Walton Beach light parade! It was in the evening, so dark outside, and all the floats were covered in Christmas lights! The Fort Walton missionaries joined the cub scout packs from the first and second wards. We had a banner that we painted with "#LighttheWorld: LDS Cub Scouts" and the pack numbers. We walked, and also had a little wagon covered in lights where we stashed the candy canes we handed out. We also handed out ALL of our Light the World pass-along cards, (we had to follow the Spirit to know who really needed the cards) then when those ran out, flyers for our free car wash, pamphlets, other pass-along cards, and even a Book of Mormon. One little girl that I gave a candy cane to asked, "Are you princess Ana?" Hahah, what? :D It was super duper fun!
On Wednesday we had a lesson with Rod and Kevin McSheehy, where he accepted to be baptized in January!!! It has been so incredible to watch Rod's heart change and see him become more and more converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. He also committed to quit smoking by Christmas! He is incredible! He wants the blessings of the restored gospel so much in his life. That evening, we had a combined dinner with the elders at the Wheeldons. Then, Sister Trawick and I went to young women's where we made real wreaths! So fun!
Thursday we weekly planned. On Friday, I had the best birthday ever!!! Sister Trawick baked up my box of pumpkin scones for me for breakfast, then we helped prepare lunch for the homeless at the Methodist church. After lunch, we biked to teach Susan and Sister Vaughan. As we were biking home, we saw a woman sweeping leaves off of her porch. I stopped, and asked, "Can we help you?" "Oh, sorry, no," she said, and went inside. But I felt prompted to ignore her, so we biked around the corner to borrow rakes from Sister Tedone, came back, and started raking her yard. It was freezing outside, but we were having a good time. Then she came out and in her Oriental accent, said, "Oh, no no no, stop, you make me feel bad!" But we weren't done yet, so we told her we would continue. :) She then said, "Well, I know you don't drink coffee or tea, but I'll make you some hot chocolate." It was so sweet of her! She invited us inside, where she had hot chocolate and soft pretzels for us. She began telling us how she grew up in Taiwan and went to high school right next to an LDS church, where she met many missionaries. She had many questions, and eventually it led to us teaching her about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the incredible knowledge we have of God's plan for us. She opened her heart to us, told of us her challenges, and she felt the Spirit as we taught, testified, and comforted her. It was incredible. She thanked us again and again for coming that evening. She was so excited to receive a Book of Mormon, and promised us she will read it. We want so much to go back and continue teaching her, but she said she'll have to talk to her husband first. It was an incredible experience of how being lights to others can help us to lead them to the Light, Jesus Christ.
Next, we went to the Brocks for some quick dessert before heading to volley ball. Sister Brock made me chocolate cake for my birthday! The fun didn't stop there, though. When Sister Trawick and I were home for the night, we got a call from President Smith. He told me happy birthday, then said he had transfer news. He told me I am going to be a Sister Training Leader in Crestview, just 30 minutes away. My companion and I (Sister Saunders, who I LOVE) will be going on exchanges with each set of sisters in our zone. Funny birthday present, President! But actually, I am really excited. I'm going to miss Fort Walton sooo much- it's home to me now, and I love the people here so much- but I'm really excited for this new opportunity.
Saturday, we left the apartment bright and early to put up the signs for the free car wash. Then, we went to a baptism for one of the 1st ward elders' investigator, which was awesome. From 10 to 1 was the free car wash! If I haven't mentioned it yet, it was an idea I had to have a free car wash as a fun service/ member and missionary event and opportunity to share the gospel. It turned out so well! Many members donated cleaning supplies and helped wash cars. All 10 missionaries were there, and we wore our awesome Light the World t-shirts. It was so fun! We must have washed 20-30 cars. After that, we helped set up for the Christmas party, which was Saturday evening. It was wonderful! Delicious food, a classic Luke 2 reenactment, and I accompanied while we all sang Christmas hymns.
That about wraps it up! Focusing on serving others for the Light the World initiative has brought me so much joy. I've loved hearing members share how serving has helped bring peace and perspective to their Christmas activities, and helped them remember the Savior. Every day, keep looking for opportunities to cheer others up and lighten their load. Merry Christmas!

Light the world day at the beach (a while back)

Light the World free car wash!

 Elders with santa!

 Never too old to sit on santas lap!

Former companions/new companions

Silly Elders

 Ward Christmas party

The Sister's Christmas tree!

The wedding cake for Yogi and Tess, after their Temple sealing

Sweet Sisters

Nicky's birthday breakfast

Christmas wreaths 

Nickys bday cards from her nieces

Found a painting of Italy!

The light parade

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Give your all to Him Who gave His all to you

It's crazy that December is already here! I love the Christmas season so much!

On Tuesday night, Sister Stephens and her companion came from Tallahassee for the sisters' conference the following day, and stayed over. It was so fun to see her again! On Wednesday we had a conference with all the sister missionaries in the Florida Tallahassee mission! (which is about 64 of us). President and Sister Smith were there, and it was incredible! The theme was "Anchor your soul in Christ," and we talked a lot about coming to know the Savior more personally, feeling His love, doing our best, and having our efforts strengthened through His Atonement. The love, unity, and Spirit felt with those sisters was so powerful! To close, President Smith sang "His Hands" and I accompanied him on the piano. It was so sweet! I love President and Sister Smith so much! They're incredible examples of loving and serving each other. I also got to see my MTC companion Sister Wall for the first time since June!! For lots of pictures of the conference, go to (the mission blog).

Also on Wednesday, we had a lesson with Rod where he really poured out his heart to us. The stress and contention in his house during Thanksgiving really tempted him to go to drugs for relief, which he hadn't touched for years, and he gave in to it. He expressed the shame and guilt he felt, but also the forgiveness from God he has felt as he's repenting, though his wife hasn't forgiven him yet. We talked about being strengthened against Satan's temptations by daily prayer and scripture  study, as well as attending church. His desire to follow Christ is truly stronger than it's ever been. He has been praying about baptism and said he knows God wants him to be baptized very soon. Guess what?! HE CAME TO CHURCH ON SUNDAY! For the first time in the 6 months or so that he's been taught! Finally, he didn't have work and he found the motivation to come. He LOVED it! Kevin McSheehy sat with him in sacrament meeting, where he listened intently to each of testimonies born. Then he went to Sunday school and Priesthood, too! And he stayed for the linger longer! He said he thoroughly enjoyed it, and said he wants "to keep doing this." He is positive that as he continues on this path, that he will be a positive example to his wife and that her heart will soften. I agree, Rod!

For the world wide day of service on Thursday, all the Fort Walton Beach missionaries helped organize clothes at the Salvation army thrift store, which was fun! Sister Bird came with us to visit Sarah Miller, who came to church out of the blue last Sunday with her three little girls! We hadn't recently seen her or anything, she just showed up, saying her schedule had changed and her daughters had begged her to come to church, so they did! We had a wonderful visit with her. Thursday evening we had dinner with the Birds. Sister Bird wants to set me up with a missionary they knew in Germany, who is now attending school at Utah State... oh dear!

On Friday, we sang Christmas songs at the care center. One of the men there played his harmonica with us again! We later had a lesson with Jim and Vicki, who finally came back from their cruise! It was so good to see them- I feel like they're my surrogate grandparents!

On Saturday, we placed fliers on people's door knobs from the Red Cross for free smoke detectors. Then we all went to the beach to try contacting people about the Light the World initiative, but it was chilly out, so not many people there. But, Tess and Yogi were sealed in the Birmingham temple on Saturday!!!!! They are so wonderful, I love them! The next day at the linger longer, there was a wedding cake for them. SO sweet and joyful! That is truly what we hope for people when we invite them to come unto Christ- we must have a vision and hope of them making their family eternal. That is truly the goal, to have families sealed together for time and all eternity, so they may experience true joy now and in the next life.

Last night as I was watching the Christmas devotional, I thought about how each of us must each pay a price to come to know the Savior. He gave everything- His will and His life, all that He had and was- for us, so that we can live again, and have the opportunity to have peace and joy in this life, and eternal life in the world to come. I love Mosiah 2:34: "ye are eternally indebted to your Heavenly Father, to render to him all that you have and are." The one thing we can give to Heavenly Father that is truly ours to give is our will. When God gave the gift of His beloved Son, He gave the gift of life, peace, joy, and salvation. How can you and I more fully yield our hearts to God and give Him our wills, to thank Him for that priceless gift? I love you all! Light the world!

go to to watch the video if you haven't yet! 

At the Sister mission conference

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Light the World!

This was such a wonderful week! SO many blessings and so much joy!

On Tuesday, our district decided that to increase the love we have for each other, and thus increase our love for God and our desire to obey Him the best we can, this week we focused on recognizing each others' strengths. Often, it is much easier to recognize others' weakness and shortcomings, but it is so rewarding to focus on the strengths- I've found a lot of happiness in seeking to do so!

On Wednesday, we had a zone training in Niceville. Our companionship was asked to bring an entree, so I decided to make funeral potatoes since the ones Sister Mathews had made just made me want my mom's. So I attempted to make them without my mom's recipe... I made them Tuesday evening, and put them in the oven Wednesday morning. Everything was going great- they looked and smelled good, and I took them out a few minutes before they were done to sprinkle on the crushed/buttery corn flakes, then put them back in. When I looked a few minutes later, they weren't quite as golden as I like, but time was running out, so I decided that I would turn the oven from 350 to broil very briefly to get the right goldeny goodness. I washed some dishes while I waited, and when I turned to the stove to check on the potatoes, I saw smoke coming out of the burners... I opened the oven and my funeral potatoes were ON FIRE! I made a commotion, pulled out the rack with the oven mitts, and blew out the fire. All the corn flakes were charred black! Thankfully they scraped off easily, so I put new ones on... the potatoes tasted a little smoky, but other than that they turned out okay. It was a miracle!

On Thanksgiving, we helped set up the meal that the first ward put on at the church. It was for anyone and everyone, whether or not they could bring something to share. It was humbling to be there with so many people who wouldn't have had much of a Thanksgiving otherwise. People donated so much food! There was everything- turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and most importantly, cranberry sauce and sweet potato casserole. :) But I could hardly bring myself to eat dessert! I just thought about how sad it had made me to see Justin smoking again, and choosing to not listen any more when we were there to teach. But I had kept my side of the agreement, and ultimately the elders' pesterings to eat dessert and the temptations of the red velvet cake got the best of me, and I gave in. Sweets are not as good as I remember them! Anywho, Ruth and Tammy Tedone brought their friend Wendy, who I got to talk with. She accepted a Book of Mormon and interested in meeting with us!

After we helped clean up at the ward, we took some of the leftovers to Carol, who hadn't been able to come. She was really happy to see us and have the food. Then we went to our dinner appointment with the Ayers, a young family in the ward (which I had somehow saved room for). :) The second ward elders were there, too. It was awesome! And for dessert- oh boy: pumpkin cheesecake! That broke me back in to sweets. It was soooo delicious, and sure made up for all the pumpkin flavored things I had passed up.

I love this season so much! There are so many reasons to be joyful! This week I was reminded once again of the many incredible blessings that bring me and so many others so much JOY! Namely, number one, Jesus Christ and His Atonement. Because He chose to suffer for our every pain, sorrow, weakness, sin, and sickness in the ultimate act of pure love for Heavenly Father and for all of us, we can be cleansed and forgiven, comforted, and strengthened to endure and learn from challenges, strength to change from weak creatures to Christlike people who love and know God and do His will, so that some day we will be "even as He is." And so that we can experience JOY in the midst of it all, no matter what! I am so grateful for the knowledge that as we have faith, repent, are baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end, we can have access to the matchless power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and have true and lasting joy. Joy comes as we strive to be like Him, as we serve and love others as He did. I invite all of you to serve any one, any way, every day from December 1 to Christmas day, and be a means of bringing joy to others' lives. I love y'all! Merry Christmas!!!

Making those potatoes!

 Little puppy!
Spud derby!!


Monday, November 21, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's been a wonderful week! On Monday we had dinner with the Mathews- they made a Utah dinner especially for me, since they're from Utah, too. :) We had chicken, green beans, and FUNERAL POTATOES!!! Although they were not as delicious as my Mom's, they were still very yummy and brought back many wonderful memories of being with my family.

Tuesday, we had an incredibly powerful lesson with Marlyse! She said she had loved church, and that her favorite thing was how happy everyone was- just like her! She felt right at home! She loved the message of the Restoration, and shared with us some of her personal experiences. She is developing a lot of trust in us, and we already love her so much. She said she has noticed that she feels greater joy and hope since meeting with us. She is incredible! We're so blessed to teach her!

On Wednesday we took Rod on a tour of the church, with Kevin McSheehy and Brooke, who is his niece (members). It was so powerful! Sometimes I forget how sacred of a place the church building is- it is a consecrated building of the Lord and the Spirit is very present there, especially in the chapel. We showed him each of the main rooms in the building, as well as the baptismal font. Rod said he felt very comfortable and welcome there. The Spirit is so real and powerful!
That evening, the young men and young women had an etiquette dinner that we helped serve at. It was fun!

Thursday was the family history presentation and one-on-one help with the Prices! They are the senior missionary couple in our mission who travel around the panhandle giving presentations. There were two nonmembers there who I signed up at the Pow Wow! They loved it- I worked with the wife while one of the elders worked with the husband. They started talking about the gospel, and the elders have an appointment to go teach them! Talking about our families is so powerful, and the Spirit of Elijah which turns our hearts to the hearts of our ancestors is so real, and softens hearts!
Saturday, the ward held a chili cook-off and spud derby! It was awesome! We all made cars out of potatoes, put wheels and decorations on them, then raced them on a pinewood car derby track used by the cub scouts. It was wonderful, especially since Carmela came! It was so good for her to come to a ward activity.

Funny story of the week: Sister Trawick and I were walking down the sidewalk on Racetrack when I suddenly felt something hit me in the back of my knee, hard. I turned around to see what had hit me, and saw a broken egg on the sidewalk a few feet back! Someone EGGED me! I just started laughing, which Sister Trawick probably thought was really weird, but I just thought it was so funny! Especially since it didn't crack on me- that was a blessing. It actually made my day- persecution is real, the gospel is true- whoever threw it at me probably didn't think I would react that way! :)

Our mission has created a new theme: love through obedience, obedience through love. I love this! As missionaries, obedience is stressed a lot, and it is truly important so that we can have the Spirit with us which is what will convert individuals to Jesus Christ and His Gospel. We show our love for them when we obey willingly. I love you all!


Utah reps!!

Etiquette dinner


Sushi lunch!

Utah funeral potatoes!!

Saturday, November 19, 2016


It's been another beautiful week in paradise!

This week- we went to go see an elderly woman named Marie Thomas who hasn't been to church for 50 years and doesn't want to be a Mormon again- she opened the door and said, "How on earth did you find me?"- but she let us read the Book of Mormon with her and said she would come to church! I love how the Spirit softens hearts.

Thursday we went to lunch with Sister Brock and I was able to satisfy the craving that I've had for SUSHI! It was soooo good! We had a very powerful lesson with Rod- he wants the gift of the Holy Ghost so much and is going to be so blessed by it.

Friday- Sister Moeller came with us to go see Marlyse and it was INCREDIBLE! Marlyse GLOWS when she speaks! She is so full of light! She just opened her heart to us and told us how her whole life other people including her ex-husband have questioned why she is so happy- wow, she's practically Mormon! She expressed how she has loved and served others her whole life, but that not a lot of people have returned that to her. We testified that God has a work for Marlyse to do and that she would feel the love she needs at church- Sister Trawick brilliantly remembered that Sunday would be the Primary Program (Marlyse loves children)- and that sure sparked her interest! MARLYSE CAME TO CHURCH!!! She loved the Primary Program so much! We have an appointment with her Tuesday that I am so excited for. I can't wait for her to experience the blessings of the restored gospel!

Yesterday, we had a wonderful lesson with Jim and Vicky at the Dorleys, teaching about the commandment to study the scriptures. The scriptures are truly powerful- I know that they are God's words and that as we study them, they will fill our lives and us with light, just like the light that Marlyse has. As we apply the teachings of Jesus Christ found in the scriptures to ourselves, we will draw nearer to God and become like Him. Wow! We will become even as Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ! That is incredible. This gospel is true!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Family history fun!

Fun fact: the leaves do not change color on the trees in Florida- it looks just as green as it did when I got here. However, there have been a lot of changes going on here in Paradise! Last Wednesday was the transfer- one of our elders left the area, and a set of additional elders came in so that now each ward has its own set of Sisters and Elders, and the 1st ward also has its Spanish Elders. So there are are now TEN missionaries in Fort Walton Beach- the work is gonna hasten like no body's business here!

Last Tuesday we had a super powerful lesson with our investigator Rod. One of the many McSheehys came with us (the dad Kevin) and we sat outside on Rod's porch. We talked about the strengthening power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ that enables us to repent- to change those things in our lives that aren't in harmony with God's commandments, and to become more Christlike. Kevin shared how he was blessed with the strength to overcome several addictions, how he changed the way he saw himself, God, and the world. Then Brother McSheehy told Rod: "Rod, there are very few people like you that I've met, who have that spiritual sensitivity, who are close to God and clearly understand His place in their life. As we've been talking, I am convinced that God has a work for you to do- and you need to come to church so you can get just a taste of what that work is. Because He has much more in store for you than you can imagine." WOW. The Spirit there was palpable- and Rod's heart was softened. For the first time, he didn't come up with excuses when we invited him to come to church as soon as he had work off on a Sunday. He worked this Sunday, but I am so excited for when he can come- because he will!

On Saturday, all the missionaries in our zone (22 of us from surrounding cities) went to the Thunderbird Pow Wow in Niceville where one of their ward members with lots of connections has had a family history booth for the past four years. We all wore t-shirts and either walked around the grounds or stood at the booth, talking to as many people as we could, for practically all day. We invited them to attend the family history classes that will be held in each city in the coming weeks- so many people signed up! (it helps that it's free). There was even one man I talked to who started asking questions about our beliefs and why we were there, and I referred him to the Niceville elders. I had such a fun time!!! I love pow wows! The dancing, regalia, and booths with handmade items were sooo cool! If you've never been to a pow wow, you need to go!

Then on Sunday- church was wonderful, (except we had no less actives or recent converts show up, so that was interesting, and not wonderful...) and we had a Thanksgiving themed linger-longer afterwards. Boy was it hard to say no to all that pumpkin pie... That evening, we drove to Niceville for the stake's performance of Handel's Messiah! It was SO beautiful!! And it satisfied my hunger for a concert, which I hadn't been to for seven months. The singing, the string ensemble, the Spirit- ahhhh, it was perfect. Not quite the Utah Symphony/Chorus, but still- incredible. I love the scriptures used by Handel- "I know that my Redeemer liveth!" Because of Christ, who truly has born our afflictions and carried our sorrows, who suffered, bled and died for us, death has no sting, the grave has no victory, there is joy and there is hope. And that is so incredibly real- I experience that joy every single day. There is nothing like it. I know He lives!

Nicky was very happy to get a package... 
especially with pumpkin food that isn't dessert!

 Sharing about Family Search at the pow wow!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Fall, Y'all! (And Halloween, but that doesn't rhyme)

Another beautiful week here in paradise! One of the elders says "Another beautiful day in paradise!" nearly every time we see him, so I think I'll adopt and adapt that today. This week, I learned a lot about seeing and loving children more as Heavenly Father does. We had a lot of sweet experiences with coming to understand people's needs and meeting them where they are to invite them to come to Christ starting at whatever place they are at in their life.

We finally met our sweet referral Nancy, who ordered a free Bible and Book of Mormon. She has a strong desire to come to church, read the scriptures, pray, stop her bad habits, and be baptized! Even though we were just sitting on the grass, covered in cigarette butts, outside of her trailer, the Spirit was so powerful and I felt strongly the love that Heavenly Father has for her and I could sense her great potential as His daughter. It was incredible!

On Wednesday morning after our run, we came back to find that we were locked out. We knocked on the door of the maintenance man for our apartment complex (thankfully he lives next door), but no one answered. So we said a prayer, started walking, and within seconds he appeared around the corner and unlocked our door for us. Prayer is awesome and it works!

We finally got to see Carol again! We hadn't seen her and Justin for a couple weeks, but we stopped Justin on the street one day and set up an appointment for Saturday. Carol just poured out all of her current struggles and fears to us. I felt so much love for her as we listened, and we sought direction from the Spirit to know what to say. Brother Atris was with us, and as we all spoke, we didn't solve any of her problems, but we promised her the blessings of living the gospel and relying on Jesus Christ for strength through our challenges. She seemed visibly better, happier, and with more hope by the time we left. This is such a message of hope!

Friday was the ward Trunk or Treat! Sister Trawick and I helped the kids make ghost suckers with tissues and string, and also brought oreos for people to play the minute to win it game where you try to get the oreo from your forehead to your mouth just by using your face. :) It's a favorite of mine. Then we went outside, put up our decorations on the trunk, and passed out candy. So many people followed through on the invitation we gave them to invite their friends and neighbors!!!! It was awesome! We were able to meet a lot of them, too. Yay for keeping commitments!

Tonight we have to be in early, so we'll do some letter writing and such. Also, transfers are this Wednesday- Sister Trawick and I are staying here, but the first ward sisters are moving in with us because an additional set of elders is coming to the area and will be living in the sisters' old apartment. Lots of changes- change is good! :) Love you all! Have a blessed week!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Lotsa Pasta

This week we ate a lot of pasta at members' homes for dinner, hence the title of today's blog post. That's the extent of my creativity right now. :)

This week was bitter sweet: I forgot if I told y'all, but our investigator Melissa who we've been teaching since June, moved into first ward boundaries this week. We were super sad to lose her, but so happy and grateful that she's just a hop and skip away! We can still keep tabs on her, and that was definitely an answer to prayers. We had one lesson with her and Sister Tedone about baptism- she has an incredibly strong desire to follow Jesus Christ by being baptized so that she can become clean and become a new person, experience a "mighty change of heart" (Mosiah 5:2) so she can make promises to God and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and the joy, peace, guidance, and promise of eternal life that comes to those who are baptized by the proper authority and keep their promises to God. She is so excited, and we are so excited for her!! Later that week, we had a lesson at her new home with the first ward sisters about the gift of the Holy Ghost, and she seemed to like other sisters well. This way, they will be able to bring members from the first ward to meet Melissa and create friendships that will help her to become a part of the ward. Melissa accepted a baptismal date in November! AND- she got up on Sunday and went to the first ward at 9:00 in the morning!! That's early for Melissa, and although she was tired, she made that sacrifice and was actually there!!!!! Yay!! We're so happy for her! I'm so grateful for the opportunity Heavenly Father has blessed me with to be a part of Melissa's journey in coming to the knowledge of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

On Wednesday, we had a 24 hour exchange with the Sister Training leaders; Sister Saunders came here to Fort Walton with me while Sister Trawick went to Crestview forty minutes away to be with the other sister. It was fun! One of our kind of investigators Eileen took us to lunch to a Greek restaurant, where she is friends with one of the owners. Her friend gave us free baklava for dessert! I love baklava, but I was in a sticky situation! This kind lady had given us free dessert, but I wasn't eating dessert per the agreement with Justin not smoking... so after pushing it around a little with my fork, I asked for a to-go box, then took it home and later gave it to Justin to prove my faithfulness to my end of the bargain. :)

On Friday we sang hymns at a senior center and one of the gentlemen there played his harmonica with us- he was pretty good! It was fun!
This week I've been studying charity and love, the greatest of all Christlike attributes. In St. John 17:3, we learn that eternal life is knowing Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I looked into the word "know" and found 1 John 4:7-8 which teaches that God is love, therefore, to know God we must love Him and His children. God is love; every thought, word, action, decision, and attribute of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is motivated purely by perfect love for all of us. As a missionary, I want love for God and His children to be my pure motivation; as I strive for that, the verses in 1 John 4 promise that the love of God will dwell in our hearts and that we will be "of God."
I love you all!


October 17

On Wednesday, Sister Trawick and I biked to a media referral, which is when we get a text and email from the church saying that someone has ordered something we need to deliver, usually a free Bible and/or Book of Mormon. A woman named Louise had ordered a bible, so went to deliver it to her. She was very sweet, and thanked us for the bible and told us she was excited to take it to her bible study. Then her boyfriend James came outside and started telling us his theories about the bible, and what he didn't like about the church and our beliefs. I told him it was fine that he had his own beliefs and opinions, and that we respected him, but that we would like to express our beliefs as well. Basically, we testified of Joseph Smith and his reality as a prophet of God, that he truly was visited by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and shared how we had come to know that for ourselves by a witness of the Holy Ghost. I could feel the Spirit confirming my words as I spoke, and strengthening me to defend my beliefs. Then Louise said, "I believe that, too. Just because of you saying that- I believe what you just said about Joseph Smith." Wow! What?? I didn't know what to say! So James said, "You do? How do you believe that?" Louise- "Because I can feel that she knows it's true, so it must be true." It was incredible!!! We had never experienced anything like that before. We asked her how she felt- she said she felt good, she felt it was true. Unfortunately, Louise and James had to go before we could get much further, but James even apologized for being abrasive and said he was open to learn more. I am so excited to see how they progress!!

That evening, we went to Young Women in Excellence at the church. There were so many people there to support them, and so many young women received awards. They are incredible examples to me in their faith and diligence- I love them!

On Friday we saw Justin and Carol with Yogi. They both accepted the invitation to keep the Word of Wisdom! Amazingly, Carol had stopped smoking just the week before and said she would give up her twenty cups of coffee a day. Justin agreed to stop smoking, and I said that if he did I would give up something, too: sweets and treats. So of course at our dinner appointment that evening, Satan tempted me with pumpkin pie cobbler... if Justin can turn down a cigarette, I'll turn down pumpkin, which is my favorite. :)

Then yesterday: Carol came to church!!!!!!! She brought Julie and Dimitri (Justin's kids, her grandkids), and Dimitri was a little all over the place in sacrament meeting, but they came! And they want to come back! Yayyyy!

The Holy Ghost is incredible! How wonderful it is that Heavenly Father has given us the opportunity to have a member of the Godhead with us constantly after we are baptized and as we are worthy- what a gift! I am so grateful that the Spirit is the real teacher, not me- we're just the instruments. It testifies of truth, and that witness is undeniable. I love you all!

Monday, October 10, 2016


This week has been so joyful!

On Tuesday, Sister Trawick and I went the home of the Pilkingtons, Tammy and her daughter Taylor who is a junior in high school. They each had friends in mind that they have been wanting to give a Book of Mormon to, so we helped them practice what they would say. It was neat to feel the Spirit there as it led them to know what they might say to their friends.

The miracle of this week was with Jane C'olon, a less active member of the ward. She was baptized about twenty years ago and used to take her children to church, but hasn't attended for many years. Two years ago her daughter was killed and she has struggled and grieved so much from that. Every time I have seen her she has been sad and cries for her loss. I have prayed a lot about how to comfort and help her through inviting her to Christ and making the gospel a part of her life again. This week, the thought came to mind that we should take Ruth Tedone to go see her. Ruth, a member, had a child of her own killed many years ago. When we arrived, it didn't take long for Jane to open up and explain her sorrow and frustrations of dealing with her daughter's murder. Sister Trawick and I hardly said a word for the hour we were there while Ruth listened lovingly to Jane, expressed deep empathy, shared her own experiences, prayed for Jane, and spoke of how she has been healed and found joy through Jesus Christ. Near the end, Jane told Ruth how much hope she had given her, that she hadn't felt this good since before her daughter died, and that she was sure her daughter was sending her a message. I saw Jane smile for the first time since I had met her! Then, she asked Ruth,"Do you go to church every week?" "Yes." "Could I come with you on Sunday?" and she came! And she's planning to come next week, too! But as exciting as it is that she wants to come to church, I am even more excited and happy to see the light, hope, and love that has started to fill Jane- it is incredible. I was filled with so much love for Jane, Ruth, and for Heavenly Father for inspiring this connection of two of His precious daughters.

Another miracle: Justin's mom Carol has started joining us in the lessons! She has a lot of faith, her family is the most important thing to her, and she is interested in finding out more about the gospel. She described that she has seen a big change in Justin since we started teaching him- that he is happier, more patient, and more kind. Wow!

The message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is one of incredible hope, joy, and change- we experience those things as we strive to live as He did and as we make Him the center of our lives. It brings me the greatest joy to see these changes come about in the lives of those we teach! That change and joy are real and they come from God- it is our choice to let the Spirit enter our hearts and to act so we can begin to experience these things for ourselves. I love you all! And as they say in the South, "have a blessed week!"

Sister Trawick and Sister Jamison!!

Beautiful beach view

Tour of the Apartment...