Sunday, February 26, 2017


February 20, 2017

This week I was spoiled rotten... seriously so many blessings there is "not room enough to receive them." I  got to do something that many missionaries would dream of- I got to go back to my first area and do missionary work there for a few days. On Monday evening, the Fort Walton 2 sisters drove to Crestview; I went back to Fort Walton with Sister Ramahdar, who was in my MTC branch. She is so fun! She is from Trinidad, has a quick wit, works hard, and has a deep understanding of the gospel. On Tuesday morning, we had heart shaped pancakes for Valentines day. Then we went to the Fort Walton District meeting, which was strange to be back in, although only one of the elders there now was there when I was. We went to visit the Nystroms!!! I saw Tess, Yogi, their darling granddaughter Elana, and their daughter Heather. She has been less active for a while (struggling with the some addictions) and we had started teaching her just before I left. It was amazing to see how much better she is doing! She has been coming to church every week, she's doing really well in an addiction recovery class, and she feels much closer to God. :) 

We stopped by to see Sarah Miller and Sister Highsmith briefly, and visited with a new family in the ward. For dinner, the sisters just so happened to be signed up to eat with the Pilkingtons, some of my favorite members!! The sisters had told them I was coming, so they sweetly bought my favorite barbeque chicken pizza from Papa Murpheys. I told you I was spoiled!! It was such a happy time with them, catching up and whatnot. It feels good to feel loved. 

On Wednesdsay we had an appointment with investigator Rod, and he was so happy to see me! But he was feeling pretty sick, so we weren't able to stay for a lesson. But he is doing awesome! He's working on divorcing his wife (who he doesn't live with) so that he can actually marry the woman he lives with, who he calls his wife... that is dedication, because that's not the easy thing to do! I'm so proud of him!! It really shows how much he wants to get baptized. 

We were in the neighborhood, so Sister Ramadhar asked if I would like to stop by the Brocks (active members) to say hi. Sweet Sister Ramadhar! We stopped in, and they sat us right down, asked how I'm doing, and made me feel so loved. Brother Brock of course pulled one of the many books of his shelf and shared a miracle story from early missioary work in the South, and got teary eyed. He's such a softie. :) Even though I'm sure I didn't make much of an impact in their lives while I was in Fort Walton, they still make me feel important and special, and know that as a missionary I am still a person with feelings. They are wonderful, and they understand the ups and downs of missionary work. 

After lunch, we went to see Leslie Harris, which was relieving because he hasn't been visited since I started training Sister Trawick. He was happy to see us, and we talked about the Holy Ghost. And of course he shared a handful of his famous stories with us. Thankfully the Spirit helped me to tie it into the gospel. :)

We had dinner with the Mathews!!! Some of my other favorite Fort Walton members! It was another very happy occasion! We laughed, chatted, and she answered some of my questions about going into education, which I'm thinking about doing. She was an elementary school teacher for a few years, and she's so passionate about it. The awesome thing is, as interesting as what she said was to me, it was far more poignant to Sister Saunders, who I told it to later. Sister Mathews said that there will always be a need for teachers, and what job isn't stressful or difficult? And no matter what restrictions there are, you can always make an impact on the students' lives. Sister Saunders needeed to hear that, because she has thought a lot about being a teacher! 

Next, we went to Sarah Chapman's and had a lesson with her eight-year old son, who wants to get baptized. Teaching kids is the best, because it forces you to teach the gospel at its purest and simplest form. The gospel is simple enough for even kids to understand! 

Afterwards, we went back to the apartment where I helped tie up some loose ends, logistics-wise. I wrote a list of people Sister Ramadhar and Sister Petersen can go visit, productive activites do to in Fort Walton. So it was helpful for them and gave peace of mind to me. 

Thursdsay morning, our companions drove from Crestview, and we exchanged back. We had a lesson with Quan... he told us he is in a "gang"... no murder or stealing, but he said, "if a brother's in trouble, I'm gonna go and fight for him." Quan. What would Jesus do?? He would turn the other cheek. Be the bigger person. He would tell his brother to leave the situation, call the cops. Quan couldn't seem to get it... but he said he'll pray about what God would have him do. Quan totally does not seem like the gangster type, though... he's too sweet. So we watched a short awesome video on mormonchannel about a gangster turned Mormon. Now that's "sick"!

We had dinner with the Hannons, who are a hoot! We helped them do some family history, which they are so excited about! The youngest daughter brought out her gineau pigs for us to hold, and it peed on my skirt... that was exciting! 

Friday was a PERFECT day. WOW. We drove to Tallahassee for the mission wide conference, which is a super rare occasion. This occasion was because Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as well as Elder Maynes and Elder Parker of the Quorum of the Seventy, came!! We got to shake their hands, and WOW is it true that it feels like they can look into your soul with their kind eyes. When I shook Elder Stevenson's hand, there was such a gentle peace and spiritual power that exuded from him, and I felt that Spirit during the whole meeting. There was a double vocal quartet that sang "Come Thou Fount" and I played the violin part. In front of an apostle of the Lord. Elder Maynes and Elder Parker spoke first, talking about how Joseph Smith was the first investigator and Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are examples for our companionships, as they taught Joseph Smith by answering his questions and teaching him the gospel of Jesus Christ. Elder Stevensen talked about making sure the Holy Ghost is the third companion, and doing all we can to let Him be the teacher. 

After the conference, President Smith gave ALL the missionaries (there are about 250 of us) permission to go to a park in Tallahassee and gather at the ampitheater so we could all visit with each other for an hour. It was sooo fun! I got to see Sister Trawick, a bunch of Fort Walton buddies, and other friends. AND the weather was perfect. AND afterwards we got Chick Fil-a for lunch. So, perfect day. 

On Sunday, Sister Saunders gave a powerful talk on the Plan of Salvation. After church, we went and saw the less active Roller family and had a lesson about the Book of Mormon with the husband and five of the daughters. Five out of seven. :) And one son, who's the youngest. Then we went to see a member nearby we had never met before, and didn't know anything about. An angry man came out, demanded, "Who are you?? Did you not see the no-trespassing sign? You had better leave this property immediately before I call the police." We were quickly on our way. But seriously, how does a grown man yell at two innocent young women wearing skirts? Hmmm. If anything, it fanned our fire for sharing the gospel. 

Something that really impressed me at the conference with Elder Stevenson was the kind of Spirit I felt there; I didn't feel a fiery bosom-burning, but rather I felt a very gentle, peaceful power that was very comforting and filling. Elder Stevenson just exuded this quiet spiritual power, as well as Elder Parker and Elder Maynes. Before the conference, I had been studying a lot about the Holy Ghost, how to be worthy of its companionship, how to increase its power with me once I have it, and what it means to be a more persuasive teacher. I was so humbled when the Holy Ghost was taught about a lot; Elder Parker spoke about trusting in "that Spirit which leadeth to do good"; Elder Maynes spoke about doing all we can to be worthy of the Spirit and being sensitive to it, as did Elder Stevensen, who also spoke about the Holy Ghost as the third companion, and us being worthy and letting the Holy Ghost teach when we prepare ourselves, testify, allow for silence, and letting Him linger at the end of the lesson. I also loved the lines he pointed out in the second paragraph under "A Successful Missionary," and I turned it into a positive statement: "Hope will strengthen your faith. If you have [appropriately] high expectations, your effectiveness will increase, your desire will strengthen, and you will have greater ability to follow the Spirit." From this conference, I am going forward with an increased focus on increasing the power of the Spirit in my life. It's such an incredible gift from our Heavenly Father. Love you all!

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Hello! Super quick- the highlights of this week:

On Tuesday I was in Fort Walton again! With Sister Probst on an exchange. I am yet to be in the 2nd ward area again, but I always have fun going back to Fort Walton. 

Wednesday we had zone conference in Fort Walton where we watched the missionary broadcast (the second time for us). It was awesome to hear how much of an answer to prayers the mission schedule is for everyone! Afterwards, we exchanged with the Niceville sisters. Sister Stapley stayed with me in Crestview. It was super fun! 

Friday was Sister Saunders' year mark!!! We had crepes for breakfast, and after studies we went to see a former investigator Ashley Richards to help her clean her house. It was really sad, because she is paralyzed from the knees down and can't walk. We enjoyed each others' company, and she is interested in taking the lessons again. When we were done, as we walked out to the car, a woman sitting on her porch said, "sister missionaries!" Her name was Josie, and she is a  member that just moved to Crestview, and hasn't been to church for a few months, but wants to start going back. :) 

Then we met another former investigator, Dexter, who is actually Brother Steele's nephew. And we found out that he's going to be at our dinner with them tomorrow night, as well as with his cousin Laurie who we met a month ago, and is also not a member. We're excited! He loves talking with missionaries about Jesus Christ and the gospel, and was very respectful about our beliefs, but feels very strongly against even opening the Book of Mormon to read on his own. And yet when we talked more about what the Book of Mormon is and why it's important, and testified of it, he got super excited. And agreed to pray and ask if God would have him read it. The Spirit ROCKS!

That evening we went to visit Ashley Vanckerkhoven (member). She made chocolate covered strawberries for Sister Saunders' year mark. Her husband Dylan sat in the whole time we were there, and taught us how to shoot a gun... :) It was just a laser gun, that we pointed at an electronic target, and when you shot, the lights on the target showed where the laser had hit. I got a bull's eye, first try!! It was fun! And it also really softened Dylan's heart, and built his trust in us. He helped their daughter Capri say the closing prayer! And he's also becoming best friends with Brother Nelson, who is also in the military, loves to shoot guns, has tattoos, and drives a Harley. The Lord looketh on the heart, and that is AWESOME. So should all of us. 

On Friday, we felt like we needed to just go see if our investigator Angelica was home, because we wanted to talk to her without her boyfriend Jeff (member) there. Lo and behold, she was there by herself with her baby, and had been praying for someone to come help her. She's been struggling with feelings of darkness, and we had a super powerful lesson about the priesthood and the gift of the Holy Ghost. She is a lot more open to baptism by someone holding the priesthood, and she asked for a priesthood blessing. On Sunday, Michael Baltimore, a recently returned missionary, was able to give her a blessing (Jeff is out of town) in Spanish, since that is Angelica's first language. IT WAS SO POWERFUL. Even though we had no idea what was being said, the Spirit was strong and palpable, and I knew that what he was telling her was from God. And she knew that, too. 

Also, today we got permission to go with Ashely Vankerckhoven to Destin beach (the same beach I went to in Fort Walton). We walked the docks, got frozen yogurt, and played in the sand for a bit. The weather was PERFECT, sunny, warm, but a cool breeze, and blue skies. I love Florida SO much!! Ashley is so fun! And of course, P-day wouldn't be P-day without a few rounds of zombies with the elders. We go in the gym and have to shoot whoever is the zombie with nerf gun bullets shot from a pvc pipe, trying to avoid being tagged and becoming a zombie as well. The elders are crazy, but they're fun.

I love the scripture 1 Samuel 16:7, "for the Lord aseeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." God knows our desires. He knows our intentions. And even when we make mistakes, God acknowledges and is pleased with our desires to press forward, to improve, and to learn and grow. In the end, God simply asks that we do our very best, and that our best be founded on the principles and doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. When we strive to look at others' hearts as well as our own, we will find a greater capacity to love, to forgive, to be patient, and to be kind, both to others and to ourselves. I love you all! 

Cool kids

Oh elders...

Smelling the flowers

The red striped window shades at the state capital building!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

World Wide Missionary Broadcast

This week was transfers. On Wednesday we went to the transfer spot in Crestview where the outgoing missionaries meet to get on the transfer van and the missionaries coming to the zone get off. There are two new sisters in our zone fresh from the MTC, so we got to meet them. 

On Thursday we drove to Tallahassee for a missionary leadership counsel, which was awesome!! That evening we had dinner and played some team-building games. We finished the night with s'mores, and all the sisters stayed at the mission home while the elders who were there stayed at the apartments of the Tallahasse elders. On Friday, we all met together at the church where we watched the new world wide missionary broadcast, where the purpose of "teach repentance, baptize converts" was reemphasized. It was awesome!! Elder Oaks, Elder Bednar, Sister Oscarson, and Elder Anderson with some others spoke. I especially love Elder Bednar's powerful boldness! He spoke of how the doctrine of Christ all connects to Him; having faith in Him, depending upon Him (repentance), following Him (baptism), and pressing forward with Him as we endure to the end with the gift of the Holy Ghost. He also taught that we will never be or do enough- by ourselves. So we should "quit worryin about it!" :) We do our best, be the best we can, and leave the rest to God as we rely on Him. 

And then, history was made in missionary work as schedule changes were announced: we now have two more hours on P-day, an extra half hour in our morning schedule to prepare for the day, flexibility in when we study as a companionship, and we plan for the day in the morning instead of the night before! As a result, there will be less stress, more productivity, more time to take care of ourselves! Now, when we come home at night, we can wind down and take more time to either write in our journals, do what we need, and go to bed earlier if desired. These changes are seriously such an answer to prayers!! I feel like as missionaries there are so many good and necessary things we want to accomplish, but some times it was hard to find time to do those things. These changes will help us be more productive, as long as missionaries choose to be wise and remember that we are accountable to the Lord in how we use our agency. These changes show that God gives things "line upon line, precept upon precept," and that He trusts His missionaries to be agents to act for themselves and to do much good according to our own wills. :) Also, instead of keeping track of and reporting on 10 things each week, we only keep track of and report on four things, keeping us focused on our purpose of inviting others to come unto Christ and helping them receive the restored gospel, by teaching repentance and baptizing converts. 

That's all for now! Love y'all!