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...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Marsha's Miracle

This has been one of the happiest weeks of my life! This week Sister Trawick and I have been blessed so much! So after the miracle of being led to happen upon Marsha at her apartment in the beginning of September, we continued meeting with her about once a week throughout the month. She started the Book of Mormon and fell in love with it! (After we helped her to see that the Book of Mormon does indeed contain the teachings of Jesus Christ- she loves 3 Nephi, especially). :) She expressed that she had always wondered about Jesus Christ ministering to other people besides in Jerusalem and surrounding areas, and she said she hoped so much that it's true! She read fourteen chapters of 3 Nephi in three days, then started from the beginning, studying carefully and praying every day to ask God if it's His word. She said she hadn't received a clear answer yet, but that God did tell her, keep reading. So that's what she plans to do! She trusts God and His timing so much, which I truly admire! At one point in a lesson, we invited her to be baptized. However, she did not understand why she would need to be baptized again, in this church, and we realized that she still did not understanding the need for the priesthood or a modern prophet. We tried to explain, but her confusion remained and our time was up, so we said we would address it the next time. During this past week, Sister Trawick and I prayed and studied diligently each day to know how to best help Marsha understand those vital doctrines and concepts. We prayed that she would receive answers to her prayers and have a desire to be baptized with the proper authority. When we finally met with her this week, I felt that although we had no idea what would happen, that we were spiritually prepared and the Spirit would guide us. We began discussing her concerns and reading some scriptures. Brooke Mcsheehy, a returned Sister missionary in our ward, was with us and asked, "Have the sisters talked with you about General Conference?" Marsha said yes, but that she didn't feel comfortable watching something like that when she didn't yet agree with the idea of modern prophets. A thought came to mind that we could show her just a clip right then and there. Marsha agreed, and Brooke pulled up the only video of a conference talk that was already downloaded on her phone, "Loving Others and Living With Differences," by Dallin H. Oaks. We listened for about seven minutes, and I told Marsha we could pause whenever she wanted. "Just a few more minutes," she said. When she finally paused it, she said she hadn't wanted to stop listening, that she had never heard anyone speak that way before, and that she believed everything he had said. She recognized that he was speaking God's words, with His power and authority! She was so excited!! We testified to her that Elder Oaks is truly called by God and that he was indeed speaking God's words. Then she agreed to have us over to watch the Saturday morning session of conference with her!

The next day she said she had been listening to old conference talks all evening, and that her questions were being answered! We watched a session of general conference with her and afterwards she expressed that she knew every man and woman who spoke had spoken God's words with His power, and that she was filled with the spirit and the love of God. She said she now completely understands the need for modern day prophets and leaders, as well as priesthood authority. She said she had given up looking for a church like this because she thought she had looked everywhere- now she feels like a hole has been filled in her heart! She said, "People have always known me to be a happy person, but now I really have something to be happy about!" I will always remember the image of her grinning with tears in her eyes as she recognized the witness that she had received that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is God's church on the earth, the same church established by Jesus Christ and restored through Joseph Smith. Now understanding the priesthood, she accepted the invitation to be baptized! She is so excited!!! I AM SO HAPPY FOR HER!!!! This morning we helped her officially move, and today when she unloads the truck in Georgia, the missionaries will be there to help- little do they know what's coming for them, the lucky ducks! I wish I could see her through her baptism, but I am so grateful that Heavenly Father blessed me to be part of this incredible experience! My faith in Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, the Priesthood, and the restored truths of the gospel have been strengthened so much. It was absolutely no coincidence, but a miracle, that God led us to knock on Marsha's door and that in one short month she is ready to make eternal covenants with Heavenly Father. I now truly understand the powerful feelings described in Doctrine and Covenants 18:15: "And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!" I know this God's work and that He lives!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A New Chapter

The days leading up to Sister Stephens' departure were jam packed with saying good bye to everyone. It was sad, but Sister Stephens and I were kinda just floating along because it hadn't actually hit us yet that she was leaving Fort Walton. On Monday we had another awesome lesson with Jim and Vicki at the Nystroms on keeping the Sabbath day holy. Yogi was able to relate with Jim about feeling out-of-place in the priesthood class during church, but encouraged him to go and promised he would learn from it. Jim agreed to go with Yogi to the third hour of church, yay!

On Tuesday we had district meeting, visited some more people, and finished up packing Sister Stephens' belongings. We left for Tallahassee in the late afternoon and had a fun drive of laughing and singing together, telling stories, and drawing as much training advice from Sister Stephens as I could. We met the Sister Training Leaders at the Institute building that's used by the students at Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College, which is where Sister Stephens will be serving. It was so weird to be on a college campus again- some of the students were there and one of them had cooked up some racoon for everyone to try! It was super greasy, but didn't taste too bad! We stayed the night at the sisters' apartment, and in the morning we drove to the church building. I went to a trainer training meeting for the missionaries who would be training the new missionaries, and President Smith's remarks put me at ease a little bit. Boy was I nervous! Then we went into the chapel where he announced the companionships and their areas. My companion is Sister Trawick! She's from Monterey, CA and she's awesome! I said goodbye to Sister Stephens, and then Sister Trawick and I were on our way back to Fort Walton. I was sad to see Sister Stephens leave, and it's been hard without her; but Sister Trawick has a strong testimony of the gospel and strong desires to serve God the best she can. It's a little difficult being the only one who knows the people we teach and the members, and weekly planning was interesting, but Sister Trawick has a positive attitude that I really appreciate. She encourages me when I'm feeling stressed and is a willing learner. I'm learning a lot, too- I'm learning quickly to put a lot more trust in Heavenly Father to guide me. I can feel Him guiding us to know what to do, where to go, and what to say as I try to do my best to help Sister Trawick become the missionary God wants her to be.

On Wednesday, we had dinner with Laura and her husband and son. As we were clearing the table, we heard someone honking in the driveway. When they went out to see who it was, their next door neighbor jumped out of her car and declared that there was a bear in her driveway! Laura's husband grabbed his shotgun ("just in case") and asked us, "Do y'all want to see it?" I did, but I also wanted to keep Sister Trawick alive- I didn't think it would go over well to have to tell President Smith that the new missionary had been eaten by a bear... So I said no, and we ran inside until Laura came in and escorted us safely to our car out front. That was pretty exciting!

Yesterday, we had an amazing lesson with Melissa about repentance. We read Alma 36:18-21 and discussed the incredible change that Alma experienced as his sorrow and guilt was replaced by joy. I testified to Melissa that I know the Atonement is real and that repentance works because I've experienced my own sorrow replaced with joy- and the Spirit was so present and warm as it confirmed to me the truth of what I was saying. Melissa said she wanted to experience that change and joy for herself and said she could feel God's love for her at that moment. The gospel is so true! I know that by living the teachings of Jesus Christ and by accessing the powers of His Atonement daily we come near to God, become like Him, and can receive the ultimate blessing of eternal life with our families. That is what I want for all of God's children, and that is why I am a missionary. I love you all!