Monday, July 25, 2016

Baptisms and pancakes!

Another awesome week here in Fort Walton Beach!

Tuesday to Wednesday midday was companionship exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders (they're over all the Sisters in our zone) who live in Crestview 45 minutes away. I got to go to Crestview with Sister Cook, who is super sweet! My goal for the exchange was learning to ask more effective questions in lessons, and I learned a lot! It was fun to be with a different companion for a little bit, but I was glad to get back to Sister Stephens who understands my quirks. :) When I returned to Fort Walton, Sister Stephens said that she and the other sister had visited Rod! Yay! We had thought he'd fallen off the face of the earth! We hadn't seen him since the first week I arrived, and she said he's all the way in 2 Nephi in the Book of Mormon, and he still wants to get baptized- he just has to wait until summer's over so he won't work on Sundays any more and can come to church. And even though he's in 2 Nephi, he's been struggling to read every day. But he said the best time to read is in the morning before work. Sister Stephens said we'd text him every morning to remind him- so he said okay, text me at 5:30 am. Haha! So every day this week, we've been waking up at 5:30 to text him, then go back to sleep. He says he's been reading every day, so at least it's working! :)

On Thursday we had dinner with the Davis family. The husband and wife are both from Utah and they have such sweet kids. They made tostadas for dinner- one of my favorite meals we had often at home- and then after we shared a message about missionary work, they invited me to play a song on their violin! It felt like home away from home! 

That evening we had a lesson with Roderick and Akeria. We asked them if they were excited to get baptized on Saturday, and Akeria sure was, but Roderick just shrugged and half smiled. So we asked, "Why aren't you excited, Roderick?" "I don't know..." We asked if he felt like he understood everything, and he said yes, but finally he said that he didn't feel ready to get baptized. It was the sweetest thing he could have said. So we went through the baptism requirements again, and he passed all of them, and realized he actually was ready. Then he felt good about it! It was so awesome! And the Spirit was really strong during that lesson, probably because it was so focused on their needs. I love those kids so much. Also, Sister Stephens and the sister on the exchange with her started teaching Roderick and Akeria's parents! They seem to be really interested in learning more, she said. 

On Friday, they were both interviewed by Elder Simpson who's the District Leader. Everybody tells him he looks like Justin Bieber, because he does, so we told Akeria and Roderick to tell him, too- and Akeria called him Elder Bieber. :) Saturday morning was the baptism! It went awesome! Sister Stephens and I made about 60 pancakes before hand, because the kids love pancakes! Roy baptized them, their Mom was there, the Elders talked about eternal families, Sister Stephens and I sang, and a ton of people were there! Including our mission President Smith and his wife! They were there for missionary interviews, which were later that day. Roderick and Akeria both said they felt really good and happy. It was such a neat experience! 
After the baptism we had interviews with President Smith. He's awesome and so kind! And Sister Smith is so sweet! Then the roadshow happened! We had to do it twice, though, because the sound wasn't working the first time. It was fun, but boy am I glad it's over. :) 

Yesterday Leslie came to church!!! He came! Sister Stephens sat with him and Jim and Vicky, while I was on Roderick and Akeria duty. Mom, thanks for putting up with me in sacrament meeting for all those years! Kids can be a struggle at church sometimes. They were confirmed members of the church and received the gift of the Holy Ghost! Yay!

Yesterday evening, we went to Danielle's house (she was baptized several months ago) to talk about the importance of having a calling in the church. She doesn't have one yet, but we talked about how God qualifies those he calls. And then Brother Moeller knocked on the door- he's the second councilor in the bishopbric- and he was there to give Danielle her calling as visiting teaching coordinator! It was perfect timing if I've ever seen it! 

This week I've been thinking about how our purpose here on earth is to learn, grow, and have experiences to prepare to return to God's presence, which all happen through living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We're commanded to become even as Jesus Christ is, to develop the characteristics He has, such as kindness, diligence, patience, charity, etc. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to think about all the Christlike attributes we need to develop- but it's crucial to remember that Christ will help us to become like Him as we pray to develop those attributes and conscientiously work on developing them- one at a time. If we don't know where to start, we can pray and ask, "What lack I yet?" The Holy Ghost will let us know what we need to start on, even if it's something small. The rich young man in the New Testament asked Christ that question, but he wasn't willing to act on the answer he got, so he didn't change. God knows what will help us at this moment to become more like His Son- we just need to ask, trust Him, and act. Then we will be able to recognize more of Christ in ourselves. It's just as important that we recognize the strengths and gifts we already have so that we have the courage to improve. Love y'all!

 Roderick and Akeria with the Sisters

The kids at their baptism, with their Mother and Grandfather

With the Mission President and his wife.

They were baptized by their Grandfather (center)

Pancakes for the baptism!

Facial time!!

 The road show!

Costumes for the roadshow

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

I love FLorida!

Florida (pronounced "Flarida" by the natives) is full of fun surprises. This week it was rain! On Tuesday, we had zone conference about 20 minutes away in Niceville and we had the windshield wiper on full speed as cats and dogs were pouring from the sky. What an adventure to drive in! There have been a lot of funny mini storms this week. The thunder is usually super loud and sometimes I feel it even when I'm in the apartment. But conveniently it hasn't rained while we've been biking yet! One day this week, we were standing on someone's porch to see if they were home, and it started pouring like crazy, and in the four seconds it took to get to the car, we were almost soaking wet. :) And then you leave the neighborhood and it's not raining anymore! Or give it a few hours, and the sky is bright blue with huge white clouds. Oh man, have I mentioned the clouds in Florida? There are the biggest, whitest, most beautiful clouds here that I've ever seen. They remind me of God's presence and power in my life every day. 

Jim and Vicky are doing awesome! At our first lesson this week, we taught the Word of Wisdom. After I said the things that God has commanded us to not use or put in our bodies, Jim said, "Oh thank goodness, I thought you were going to say potato chips!" :) He said he's been keeping the Word of Wisdom without knowing it. He said that he used to drink coffee every day, but last year, he just decided to stop drinking it, for no particular reason. He just decided to stop. And years ago, he quit smoking. Yay Jim! We also had a heart to heart with Jim about praying vocally. We got to the core of what was keeping him from praying out loud, and he said he still felt uncomfortable, but he knew he needed to. We talked about how mother birds push their babies out of the nest so they can learn how to fly, and that once he just jumped outta that nest, he could start flying. We talked about how Satan doesn't want us to do things that will bring us closer to God, but that when we do those things anyway, like praying out loud, we're punching Satan in the face. :) Sister Stephens loves to say that. He liked that, so he promised he would work on it and that he would say the opening prayer of our next lesson. 

Well that next lesson came around and he said "Sorry, I'm still not comfortable praying out loud." But after we talked for a few minutes, he said okay, that he would say the opening prayer. It was such an awesome prayer! He said it felt good to finally say it. He and Vicky have so much faith. I love them!

Other awesome happenings from this week: 
There's a guy from our ward who was visiting Utah and asked if we wanted him to bring back anything for us. I asked if he would bring us back a Utah Truffle bar and that we would pay him back. He ended up bring us eight truffle bars and refused to let us pay him back. It was such a good little piece of Utah. 

One day Sister Stephens and I were biking back to the apartment and we passed a guy walking the other direction on the sidewalk, but only said hi instead of stopping to talk to him like we should. Well, missionaries are to talk to everyone, and we knew we had to talk to him. So we turned around and introduced ourselves to him. His name is Isaac and he has five kids and is interested in coming closer to God. He was happy to set up a time that we could come over and teach them! We're teaching them tomorrow and I'm so excited!

We taught Melissa and Nicola again and taught them about the Restoration. They believe that what they're learning is true, and accepted the invitation to be baptized on August 27th! They're awesome! And Nicola hasn't said as many weird things lately, and she's trying to quit smoking!

Roderick and Akeria's baptism is this Saturday!!!! :) I'm so excited for them! Also this week, we're doing two day exchanges with the sisters in Crestview, so I get to be with Sis. Cook (she's one of the sister training leaders) for Tuesday and Wednesday, which should be fun. 

On Wednesday, Sis. Stephens and I fasted and prayed about ten things that God would have us stop doing or do better at to become consecrated missionaries, or missionaries who put their all into the work and hold back nothing. In Alma 34:6, we learn that "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass." I'm excited to see how the small changes we make will affect our effectiveness as missionaries.

Talk to y'all next week!

Monday, July 11, 2016

This is the best!

Hey y'all! Last Monday was the Fourth of July and it was awesome! We had a ward breakfast where I tried meh cheese grits. Later, the Sister missionaries in Fort Walton Beach 1st ward came over and gave us chocolate peanut butter cupcakes because they love us. We went to Bippy's, went to the mall where I bought some awesome cheap socks, then a super quick Walmart trip. Then a couple from the ward was so kind to invite us to their neighborhood barbeque! They picked us up and took us to the air force base community where their family lives. We had an awesome classic 4th of July meal with hamburgers and hotdogs. It was fun! It was nice (and weird, but mostly nice) to just sit and talk for a couple hours. :) We got to see some fireworks out the window on the way home.

On Tuesday we had district meeting and then went to Stewby's for lunch per tradition. I looooveeee Stewby's so much. Free plus delicious food equals happy Sister Jamison. Their shrimp and hushpuppies are the best thing ever. Then Sister Stephens and I went to the birthday party of Yogi and Tess's one-year-old granddaughter Ellana who is super cute (but not as cute as any of my nieces, teehee.) We tried to see a bunch of people, but no one was home. Later, we taught Roderick and Akeria who acted had been fed sugar at their day camp and were bouncing off the walls like crazy and didn't focus very well, bless their hearts. I sure love em.

Wednesday we taught Jim and Vicky about faith, and boy do they both have a lot of it! They read the Book of Mormon and pray together every day. Jim (he's the investigator) used to be really uncomfortable with praying, but he says it gets better and easier every day and he feels strengthened by it, especially as he continues to grieve over his daughter. His faith is such an example to me. And so is Vicky's as she continues to feel the joy of the gospel as she is coming back to church, reading the scriptures, and praying. I love them so much! That evening, we taught Roderick and Akeria about repentance. They are so good at remembering things and learning, but again, they were hardcore struggling to focus. So whenever one of them answered a question right, they would get a piece of paper, and whoever had the most pieces by the end of the lesson would have a treat the next time (hey, this is the first time we've ever had to resort to bribery.) Then Roy sat in on their lesson (the grandpa) and he answered the most questions, so we brought him a cupcake the next time. :) Roderick and Akeria are still working on focusing.

On Thursday Sister Vaughan from the ward took all four sister missionaries to Olive Garden for lunch (so many blessings). Afterwards, Sister Stephens and I taught Darren, a young guy that she and her previous companion were teaching just a little while before I came- they had to drop him because he wasn't keeping any commitments and didn't want to get baptized. But just the other day he called us and said, "Hey, I found that note you sisters left me. When do you want to come teach me again?" We hadn't left him any note and hadn't contacted him for a couple months... But we decided to go see him. After we taught him about the Plan of Salvation, Sister Stephens told me his heart has softened a ton- and when we asked him if he would be baptized if he came to know our message is true, he said yes! And ye had said no several months before! I don't know who left him that note, if there even was one, but it was definitely a tender mercy.

Friday was Sister Stephens' one year mark! She says she feels like she came out to the mission like a week ago, which makes me laugh because it feels like my year mark is forever away. It makes me so excited when she talks about how much she's grown and changed for the better over the past year because I want that for myself. We met with a woman named Nicola that we met at Roy's house. Nicola is a little interesting, she has schizophrenia and says a lot of funny things. But she's a child of God and I love her. :) When we met her at Roy's house, she sat in on a lesson with Roderick and Akeria and said things like, "Did you know Jesus died twice? Once in Jerusalem and once in Africa?" Haha, we had to gently correct that. When we were talking about how Jesus Christ helps us, she said, "Jesus Christ was a good man. But he's dead now." And then I said, "Nope, still alive!" trying to be kind but straightforward, and Nicola seemed to accept that, so I turned the conversation back to the lesson. Sister Stephens laughed about it for the next three days. But anywho, we went to Nicola's home where she lives with her mom Melissa who is way awesome, so now we have two new investigators!

More little miracles from last week:

We saw Leslie on Friday and had a lesson planned to help him understand the blessings of living the gospel actively. His friend Ivan came over while we were there. He's a rocket scientist and mechanical engineer who has a really strong belief in God but doesn't know what to really do with that belief. He asked a ton of awesome questions and seemed really interested in what we taught him. We're hoping to teach him soon!

Also on Friday, we were biking to an appointment and Sister Stephens turned the wrong way, but we stopped to talk to an awesome guy named Tyrone who has been looking for truth and was really intrigued by the Book of Mormon. We're meeting with him today and I can't wait!

We met another man when we were biking one day, named Jacolbey Jackson. Is that not the coolest name you've ever heard? I mentioned that there's a prophet on the earth today, and he was so shocked! We met with him yesterday, and it was the best lesson I've ever had. He is what we call a "golden investigator" because wow has God prepared him to receive the gospel! Jacolby grew up Baptist and has really strong faith in God, has recognized answers to his prayers his whole life, and he and his girlfriend are looking for a church to join as they just moved to Fort Walton. He asked the most perfect questions, I felt like I was back at the MTC teaching a fake investigator who's just too good to be true. But Jacolbey is real! He's "legit" as Sister Stephens says. :) He said, "I just wonder what my purpose in life is, ya know?" "I know God's there, but what does He want me to do?" "Does Satan exist?" "Do y'all believe in Adam and Eve?" Every one of these questions is answered by the Plan of Salvation, and they're all in that lesson, but he asked them even before we even mentioned anything about them. At the end of the lesson, we asked him what he thought. He said he felt like it's all true, and he said, "ya know, I just feel something. It feels good." That was the Spirit! And then he said, "So next time can we talk about me joining y'alls church?" Wowwowowowow! We left that lesson feeling like we were floating on clouds.

Last thing, I promise. Yesterday, I spoke in church about the Book of Mormon, and I think it went pretty well. After church, Sister Stephens and I went to the ward organist/ music director's house to talk about a musical number, and we knocked on her door and waited around for like ten minutes because our backup plan had fallen through. But we saw lights on and her car was there, so we knew she was home and we didn't know how else to spend our time. So we said a prayer, and the second I said "amen," we heard dogs bark in her back yard, and then she opened the front door! It was an awesome tender mercy. We were able to plan our musical number and also visit with her, which I think she greatly appreciated. And I got to geek out over music with her. :)

This week has been incredible! So many tender mercies and miracles! We have three new investigators and we have two potential investigators. We've met and talked to so many awesome people that have a lot of faith. And these are all such answers to Sister Stephens' and my prayers to find the people that God has prepared to receive the gospel. I know that God and Jesus Christ live and that this is truly Their work. I see prayers answered every day. I love being a missionary, it's so fun! I invite you to pray to be able to recognize God's hand in your life and to write down what you recognize. You'll be able to feel closer to Him and know that He is in the details of your life. Love y'all!  
Sisters Jamison and Stephens with Roy

 Sister Jamison is getting lots of driving practice!

Boiled peanuts
Patriotic Sisters on the Fourth of July

The missionaries are well fed

 Its not the beach, so they're allowed to go...

Good ol' southerners

Crazy bike rack stacking!

 A visit with Jim and Vicky

What is the "porpoise" of life?

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Fourth!

Days on a mission are very long, but the weeks are super short. I've officially been out for one month last Friday, which is way weird, but I love it! 

Last P-day after emailing, we went to Stewby's for lunch. It's a super good seafood place that a member owns and lets the missionaries eat at for free, so we go about once a week. Then we went to  Bippy's, a frozen yogurt place also owned by a member who lets missionaries have 10 oz. free on Mondays. I'm yet to meet the owners, but I already love them so much. :) 

Tuesday was Sister Stephens' birthday! While she was in the shower, I made her oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from a mix and we had cookies for breakfast! I love being an adult! ;) That day we taught Jim and Vicky, a really sweet older couple that are so awesome to teach. Vicky is a less active member of the church, but has been coming back and strengthening her faith and helping her boyfriend Jim to learn about the gospel. They're like grandparents to me. When Sis. Stephens and I were almost out of water, they gave us a huge thing of bottled water, and another day they gave us a big thing of blueberry muffins. Little tender mercies! Also on Tuesday, we taught Rodrick and Akiria about following the prophet, and played a game where we blindfolded them and they had to follow our voice to be led through a maze of chairs to find the cookies. :) It's so fun to teach kids! And they're awesome learners and great at retaining information! They love the gospel and Jesus Christ, and their Grandpa Roy is a wonderful example to them. He takes them to church every week and reminds them to pray and read the Book of Mormon. 

On Wednesday, we had lunch with Eileen who's in her sixties and takes care of shelter dogs. She also has a lot of parrots, which is what that random picture of me holding a parrot is from last week. :) We taught her about the Plan of Salvation, which she loves since she has a daughter who passed away several years ago. 

Leslie is a less active member who we've been visiting recently, and he sure loves to tell us long stories. :) He lives in a nice house right on the water, so it's pretty sweet to sit on his deck and look out on the ocean as we visit. The other day he gave us spicy boiled peanuts to try. Boiled peanuts are pretty good! Weird, but good! That's how I'd describe a lot of Southern food. Also this week, I tried cheesy grits, but I wouldn't rate them as highly. 

On Friday we had zone conference, which is pretty much all the missionaries within a sixty mile radius. I think it includes three other cities besides Fort Walton. We got to meet our new mission president and his wife, President and Sister Smith! They're from Mesa, Arizona, and are super kind and chill! Sis. Stephens and I had dinner at a little boat landing dock (technically not a beach, so we were allowed to go there) and had a dinner of muffins and granola bars. :) It was awesome. 

Some other highlights from the week:
When it rains in Florida, it's still hot outside, so steam comes up from off the sidewalk and roofs! It's crazy!
The other day we met a guy named Frederick who told us right off the bat, "I'm drunk right now, but I'll listen the best I can." :) Don't worry, he was nice and was interested in our message, so we met with him the next day and he said he'd be sober then. He was, and he loved what we taught about the Restoration! 

This week I've learned the importance of just opening your mouth to talk to people. We can't give people a chance to learn about the gospel unless we talk to them in the first place! Sometimes it can be scary to talk to random people, but I'm getting better at it! Try going out of your comfort zone to meet new people and get to know them. We're all children of God trying to do the best we can in life. I love that in Preach My Gospel, it says, "No matter what your challenges or concerns might be, the Savior and His teachings- the gospel- will help you." I'm finding that to be so true! Thanks for all your support! Love y'all!