Sunday, August 6, 2017

Carry on! :)

Monday July 31

First and foremost: Tristian was baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! :) It has been such a gift to be a part of her journey, which is just starting! During the 55 days since meeting her, she has developed a relationship with Heavenly Father that wasn't really there before, and strengthened her faith in Jesus Christ to the point of Him being the source of real power to change and to have joy and peace in her life. She now knows her purpose in life and her direction has eternal perspective. Her language, thoughts, and actions reflect her knowledge that she is a daughter of God. And she is so happy! 

Everything went smoothly, and many members from the ward came to support Tristian. A couple of her cousins came, too. It was a very nice, spiritual service. Tristian chose "Carry On" as the closing hymn, which, if you know it, is a very peculiar choice! :) She had heard it at church once and loved it! The baptism gave a lot for Samantha to think about, too. Yes, she came to Tristian's baptism! Last Monday we had met with her for the first time in a couple weeks- she told us she has read the Book of Mormon almost every day and has received a testimony of its truthfulness. We told her we'll need to meet with her more often to help her progress towards baptism, and she said she would try to get work off on Saturday to be able to come to Tristian's baptism. Then, throughout the week, she didn't respond to any of our texts or calls, so we didn't know if she was able to come. We were worried, so on Saturday morning we attempted to find the house her family is renovating to move into- I had never been to her actual house (we always meet at the library), but a couple weeks ago she took Sister Kirkham and I to see this second house. Anywho, I tried relying on my memory to find it, but we couldn't. Thankfully, she showed up at the baptism! Turns out her phone had run out of minutes, so she couldn't respond to us. :) 

And it was meant to be that she couldn't! Here's the other half of the story- when Sister Evensen and I couldn't find Sam's house Saturday morning, we looked in the GPS to see if there was anyone nearby we could visit, since we had drove all that way. The first heart we clicked on was the Bosbys, a former investigator family. I had met the dad when I first arrived in Fairhope, but we hadn't been able to get a return appointment and had kind of forgotten about them. We knocked and the mom Tracy answered the door, excited to see us, and told us to come back that evening. We did; it was just us and Tracy, who told us that just that morning she had pleaded with Heavenly Father in prayer for guidance- we knocked on the door just hours later. She has such a strong desire to do what God wants her to do, to find peace and joy. She clung to everything we said and trusted us, which really made me feel the mantel of my calling as a representative of Jesus Christ- that's what she saw us as. At the end she prayed so sincerely. On Sunday she came to church and loved it. 

Throughout this week, I have felt so strongly how much God loves His children. That is why He allows us to serve each other. What an incredibly joyful privelege it is to be a missionary. What did I do to deserve to be a part of these miracles? Of being God's small, weak instrument in helping bring His children peace and joy, and some day home to Him? We don't "deserve" anything- God gives us a taste of the joy that He has because He loves us. His perfect love is His pure motivation. What is our motivation? He wants us to serve each other, to love each other, to become like Him by becoming like His Son Jesus Christ a little bit more each day. Jesus Christ is our perfect example of how to return to live with God and receive all that He has. He lives! Carry on!

This is the best thing in the world!

 Monday July 24

This week was busy and happy! Here are some highlights:

Wednesday was zone conference in Daphne. It was one of the best zone conferences I've been to, and I've been to quite a few! I think it was because we followed the counsel of Elder Uceda to "talk less, do more." We did a workshop on finding with six five-minute trainings, each followed with 15 minutes of role-playing/evaluating. One district leader even incorporated a clogging competition in his training to illustrate the point that as missionaries we each have unique talents to serve with. :) That evening we had dinner with the Spencer family who made the best banana pudding I've had, and I've had quite a bit of naner puddin here in the South. 

Thursday we helped Sister Wilson who makes quilts with a group to give to war veterans. 
That evening we met with Robert and Ruthie, who told us very frankly and firmly that they will not ever join the church, nor pray about the Book of Mormon. I was sad to see it end there, but thankful for their honesty, as we are to find and teach those who are willing to act. They said they'll still love to have us over for dinner in the future. We love them!

Friday we felt like we needed to try to visit Mary, a friend of Brother Winberg's who he had asked the missionaries to visit several months ago. There was no answer when we knocked, but the door of the adjacent apartment (a duplex) opened and a boy told us to knock on Mary's patio door instead. As we were about to try this door, we saw through the glass that Mary was taking a nap on her couch, but we decided to embrace the awkward and knock on the door. We did wake her up, but boy are we glad we did! She let us right in, we answered her questions, taught the restoration, and she loved it. She is so open to additional truth and was so touched when we gave her her own Book of Mormon. 

Saturday morning, we did yard work for Deirryah and Erriah, and their mom Diedrah, (use phonics). They're two young women that are good friends with some members in the ward. It was super fun! We hacked some gnarly vines, clipped hedges, and Brother Palmer from the ward mowed the grass in their back yard. Alabama is such a jungle! We saw two huge spiders the size of the palm of my hand... 

We've been doing a lot of planning for Tristian's baptism- pray that all goes well for this Saturday! The ward has been reaching out to her with so much love and support, and she feels ready. She is so wonderful! 

This week Alma 33:11 stuck out to me- Heavenly Father is perfectly mindful of all that we are struggling with. His Son Jesus Christ is the source of joy and peace- it is a choice we can make to allow him to take our afflictions and let them be swallowed up in His joy. It is such a reality!

Unplanned opportunuties

Monday July 17

This week was transfers! I was sad to have Sister Kirkham leave to Daleville, AL- I had such a wonderful transfer with her; but God knew my expectations were high so he sent me Sister Evensen! And I love her just as much! She is so joyful, motivating, and has such strong faith. She is from Alpine, Utah, just came here from Fort Walton Beach (woohoo!) and loves nutrition and health.

Funny experience of the week: one morning for our run during exercise time, Sister Evensen and I took a route that Sister Kirkham and I frequented. However, this time I wanted to lengthen our run, so I decided to take a left turn at the bottom of a hill. I figured that it would loop back and come around to reunite with the main street. As we entered this new street, I had a thought to turn around and go back the way we had come. "No," I thought, "we would have to go back up both of those big hills if we did that; this way will be easier." And at first it was, a nice constant slope. But it was sure a long street, and eventually I didn't recognize where we were. But I was confident that it would come out on the main road again. Finally we saw a street light ahead, and ran towards it with our might. We had not looped around to the main road, but rather found ourselves far north of it! To get home, we were required to finish the square, running along that parallel road, then down another long street that finally took us to that main road, near our apartment. We ended up running closer to 45 minutes than our scheduled 30 minutes. If only I had known how much more difficult that road would make our run! :D That day I learned a very valuable lesson: when we choose to ignore the promptings of the Spirit, we choose to increase the difficulty of our own path. 

Wonderful experience: We had dinner with Tristian at the Amares' home on Saturday!! (By the way, she is alive and well! She had just been out of cell range last weekend, unplanned.) She said they felt like family. The elders were there, too, and there was a lot of laughter. I love the Amares because they're fun, the Spirit is in their home, and they are real at the same time. You know they're not perfect, but that the gospel is working for them. They shared comments/testimony as we taught about prophets and the priesthood. Tristian is doing wonderful! She came to church, and she's already inviting people to her baptism. She has changed my life with her example of faith and recognition of the peace, understanding, and positive changes she is seeing in her life. I love her!!

Also, on the way home from that dinner, we decided to stop at the Fairhope pier (not planned) to show Sister Evensen. On the pier we met a woman name Daisy who shared with us the challenges she is experiencing in her family. The message of the Book of Mormon and Jesus Christ's restored gospel gave her hope. God places us where we need to be as we simply desire and try to do good and be good. 

Last thing: the Jurgens family invited us over for dinner last night where their oldest teenage children had invited their friend Ben to come. He had been asking questions and accepted their invitation to hear our message. It was incredible to see the change in Ben as we taught the message of the restoration of Jesus Christ's gospel and Church- each family member helped teach simply and testified, which invited the power of the Spirit in a very real and tangible way. Ben changed from initially having questions and having an "I'm right" attitude to being humble, willing to find out for himself the truth, and being excited about the Book of Mormon. The Jurgens had been praying for 2 years to find someone who would agree to hear the message we missionaries share. What a joy to be a part of that!

I love you all! Keep pressing forward in faith!

"Preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15)

Monday July 10

Hey y'all!

On Tuesday the 4th, we drove to the mission home in Tallahassee where we would stay the night for a leadership conference the next day. That evening we had a classic fourth of July meal of hot dogs and hamburgers, played a game, and watched part of a seminar for new mission presidents. It was so good to be with those friends and with President and Sister Smith, who I have really come to love and admire. The next day we had our conference at the church building right next door; the point that stuck out to me the most was that when we are prepared, we allow the Spirit to work through us most effectively. "Success is where preparation and opportunity meet," and it is through the power of the Holy Ghost that we prepare ourselves with prayer, study, and willing hearts to act in faith on His promptings to do God's work. I'm so grateful for the gift of the Holy Ghost! 

After the conference, we drove about 5 hours to Semmes, Alabama for an exchange with the sisters there. We stayed the night in the trailer they live in on the farm land of a member... they live on a farm! :D We woke up in the morning with horses outside that we went out to treat to some Top Rammen. The members who live in a house also on the large property invited us to come see the animals which they teach children about for a learning program. SO fun! We did weekly planning with the sisters, did some service at a community center, and headed back home. 

A miracle from Saturday- I saw a Northrop street (last name of some of my cousins) and we pulled onto a side street (a cul de sac, nonetheless) so I could take a picture of it for my cousin. We got back in the car and circled the cul de sac to get back onto the main road. We passed a house where a man was out sitting on his porch. After a few moments, Sister Kirkham pulled the car over and voiced both of our thoughts that we needed to go back and talk to him. So we did- his name is Clifton and he was very kind and accepted a return appointment. There's something about cul de sacs, or there are just a lot of them in Fairhope!

The past few days have been a little hard because we haven't been able to get in contact with our investigator Tristian- we know she isn't the kind to ignore us. So we are praying for her, and trust it will all work out! I have learned a lot recently about trusting in God- to do so is an act of faith in Jesus Christ who frees us from doubt and fear. A quote from Elder Dallin H. Oaks from his talk "Sharing the Restored Gospel" October 2016 general conference: "Sharing the gospel is not a burden but a joy... [it] is not a program but an attitude of love and outreach to help those around us. It is also an opportunity to witness how we feel about the restored gospel of our Savior. " Have a blessed week!

The Holy Ghost

Monday July 3

Happy Fourth of July!

On Tuesday we had district meeting, then had a lesson with Tristian, who we saw three times this week. She is on fire!! Without us even talking about it, she has been going through her music to get rid of songs that swear or are otherwise degrading and she's trying to quit swearing! She is SO COOL! Even though she works and goes to school full time, she's been reading the Book of Mormon almost every day, takes notes, and asks us her questions. Also, she came to church on Sunday and asked if she can invite her friends to her baptism. It has been so neat to see the change in her since we first met her. She can feel and see Jesus Christ through His restored gospel making her more patient and kind, more like Him. :) :) :)

Wednesday was the first of three related experiences this week that Heavenly Father gave us to teach us more about following the Spirit. Sister Kirkham and I went to visit a potential investigator who lived on a cul de sac (three separate words?) Anywho, we had passed a house with some people out on the front porch. After seeing if our friend was home (she wasn't), we went around the rest of the cul de sac and passed that other house again on the way out, the people still sitting on their porch. A thought came to mind that we should go talk with them, so I told Sister Kirkham. She pulled over- we had already passed that house twice- awkward- and to add to it, Sister Kirkham had been there once before and talked to someone who lived there- even more awkward. The more we questioned the thought, the less we wanted to go back, but I remembered the joy I had felt when I had first had the thought to go talk to them, so we decided to embrace the awkward and go back. SO glad we did and that God knows best! We met Sharonia and her mom Sandra who are Catholic, but Sharonia (coolest name, right?) is leaving the Catholic church and looking for a new one- we set a return appointment and she is so excited! 

The second experience came on Friday. We were in a neighborhood near Fairhope High School when we remembered the names of a couple whose had simply been written as "behind the high school" by previous missionaries. And their phone number didn't work. Well, there are a lot more than one house behind the the high school, but we decided to go try to find it anyway. We drove to the neighborhood behind FHS, felt to turn down a certain street, and drove to the end (it was a cul de sac), where the high school was in view, and decided to knock on the door. But right after we had that thought, we thought, "oh, but it'll be awkard- what if they don't live there? We are so crazy..." but we punched Satan in the face and knocked on the door anyway. Anita and Bill did not live there, but the woman who answered the door was- get this- the clerk of the church they attend, called Bill right there, asked if she could give us their address, and Bill said, "yes, and make sure they have our number, too!" Oh, and by the way, Bill and Anita live three streets away from the house we knocked on. 

Experience number three came Friday evening when we went to see if Gilvonia was home. We circled around her cul de sac (do I sense a pattern?) to park the right way in front of her house, and saw a couple and their daughter sitting on the bed of a truck in front of another house. After parking and discovering that Gilvonia was not home, we felt we should go talk to the couple we had seen. We started walking to the end of the cul de sac, but then saw that they were now in a group talking to some other neighbors. We stopped, out of their sight, and debated- it's so awkward to approach a group of adults, we don't want to interrupt them, wow this is awkward- and we turned around, telling ourselves we would just knock on their door another day. As we drove away, we both felt unsettled and knew that we had made the wrong choice- so we turned the car around, parked, and walked back towards the people. However, the group had dispersed and the couple was again sitting on the edge of their truck, just them. Wow. Soon after introducing ourselves, the husband Craig told us that he and his wife Kim had been arguing just an hour ago, decided to come outside and cool off, and he said that he knew God had led us to them. YEAH. They live in Mississippi, but are going to get in contact with missionaries there, and said we could come back to visit Craig's mom who they were staying with. 

Three lessons learned from three experiences about the third member of the Godhead: 1-The Spirit prompts us with very gentle thoughts, and all thoughts to do or be good come from God. 2- The Spirit speaks to us through a thought and a feeling (D&C 8:2), and immediately following, Satan tries to dissuade us with thoughts of negativity and doubt and feelings of fear, including fear of awkwardness. 3-The longer we wait to act, the more appealing inaction (fear) becomes. So- there is a God, and He is incredibly involved in the smallest details of our lives, and He has given us the perfect gift of the Holy Ghost to guide us to do His will. And this is what I so dearly want people to have. In his talk "Let the Holy Spirit Guide" from the April 2017 General Conference, Elder Rasband said, "We must be confident in our first promptings. Sometimes we rationalize; we wonder if we are feeling a spiritual impression or if it is just our own thoughts. When we begin to second-guess, even third-guess, our feelings—and we all have—we are dismissing the Spirit; we are questioning divine counsel. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that if you will listen to the first promptings, you will get it right nine times out of ten.17
Now a caution: don’t expect fireworks because you responded to the Holy Ghost. Remember, you are about the work of the still, small voice." I know that the Holy Ghost is real and that He can be received by and as the constant companion of anyone who follows the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized by someone holding the priesthood authority of God. I am so grateful to have Him with me, for without Him, this work would be impossible. For those with this gift: are we striving each day to live worthy of Him being with us? For those who do not yet have this gift: imagine life with it- what are you willing to do to receive it? I love you all!