Monday, December 31, 2012

Hump Day


Friday, 28 December, was Hump Day!  Sweetie's daughter and granddaughter were in town so we didn't celebrate but I did clean out our shower drain... well tried to, it was quite the project.  Sweetie. finally had to come in with a plunger to clear it all out. Surprisingly plungers are amazing at that kinda thing.  Who knew?
  
Oh, the best part of Hump Day?  Zaria has a baptismal date!!  It's set for the 3rd of February.  We are slightly concerned that she and Eric won't stop playing house until they understand and commit to living the law of chastity.  And, I got to talk with Sister S. because she had a huge part in starting to teach Zaria.  

Saturday morning we went and cleaned up a less active's front yard before the snow came.  And boy, are we glad that we did!  We got over 8 inches that night!  All missionaries in Connecticut were told not to drive around after 4 pm because of the roads being crazy.  Pops still took us out to Chili's to celebrate Hump Day though.  It was a fun time.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

MA-Boston Mission Christmas

Sister Kanani and Sister E. will both remain in Waterford for the next 8 weeks, at least. There are mixed feelings, but there is a lot of work to do still.

The Mission President hosted Christmas devotionals on two separate weeks. Sister Kanani was able to attend the Temple and then spend time with other missionaries in the Boston area. Packages from home were sent ahead of time so that they would be there for each missionary to open. Most received letters and pictures from home.

Christmas Day was spent with several different families eating, sharing gifts, and teaching.  One family gave the Sisters huge packages of Lifesaver candy because they had been their lifesavers.

 And, of course, time to call home. It was WONDERFUL and Sister Kanani looks great!!!  There was a small bit of trouble with the Skype video transmission at first, but all worked out.  She was able to talk with her mom and dad, her grandmother, her two sisters and one of her nieces.

One of the gifts sent from her home Ward was a huge "Ward hug" signed by the Ward members.



And, what Sister Kanani called a miracle of the week:  “Bob passed the Sacrament on Sunday.  I didn't realize that he was going to until about halfway through the opening of Sacrament. Then I looked up and saw him sitting on the front row.  I almost started to cry.  I just felt so much joy at seeing him use his priesthood worthily.  It made it all that much better because he passed it to Stephanie, who took it for the first time since going inactive.  And to me who was sitting next to her.  It was an amazing experience and one of the happiest of my life.  I wish every moment could be like that.”

Monday, December 10, 2012

December - Week 2


Transfer notices are this week.  So far the P & S W's have voiced that I can't leave until after Christmas and the R & C W's are praying that I don't leave just yet.  Mind you, the next transfer is in 8 weeks. I don't know how I feel yet.  If I don't get transferred I might spend at least the next 12 after that here.  We were told on Thursday that all of the English Sisters will be training in February.  So there are at least 13 English Sisters coming out then.  
The irony in that:  I was just thinking that I can no longer serve anywhere longer than a year, unless I stay in Waterford.  Heavenly Father will probably keep me here just because I thought that.  lol.

Exciting happenings this week:

We went to church services at St. James. We were invited to the celebration of Father Michael's 15 years of ordination, so we went.  It was pretty interesting.  I had forgotten how different the services are. But the people we work with at the food pantry were really happy that we went.
  
The second thing that was exciting was that a few of the St. James people came to the Ward Christmas party!!!  It was really just a dinner with some lights for decorations, but they still came!!  Meaningful contact with the Church is what counts.

The third exciting thing was that Bob Austin went to the Temple to perform baptisms for the dead on Saturday!
It was just an amazing experience to be a part of.  Not to mention that Sister S. was there so it was even better =}  But Bob was just glowing with excitement and peace.  It was a wonderful experience.  

The Gospel is amazing and I love the joy that comes from living it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Transfers, Changes, & Growing in the Work

Transfers in November found Sister S. leaving for Boston and Sister Kanani staying in Waterford. It has taken some time to adjust to the changes that come with a new companion, not only for Sister Kanani, but also the members, the people at St. James, and the contacts. Sister C. has served her whole mission in the Boston area, which is often referred to as "the city." Areas where Sister Kanani has served is referred to as "the country." Sister C. came with a whole set of great ideas that she wanted to implement because it had worked for her in the YSA Wards where she served. This has led to some frustration for everyone since Family Wards are typically very different than YSA Wards, not only in the demographics, but also in the resources. Missions are a lot about changes and growing and this situation has plenty of opportunities for growing.

A few days before Thanksgiving, the Sisters helped Stephanie sand and paint the walls of her bedroom. Sister Kanani said that "it was a lot of fun and Stephanie shared that she has regained her testimony that this Church is the only true Church. Yay! Progression."

On P-day last week, "we went to the Submarine Base in Groton to go to the Nautilus submarine.  It was awesome.  It was even cooler to look across the fence to the Base and think that Grandpa was trained there.  Subs are tiny and I am glad that there are people who can serve on them, and that I don't have to."

A couple of experiences from this week:  

"We had dinner with the W's.  We had a lovely discussion on what their family needs and how they can start scripture study."

"On Saturday we went and helped rake some leaves for a member's neighbors.  It was a lot of fun.  Frustrating because Sister E. has never raked leaves before but good because service is always good and a lot of people saw us doing it and planted some seeds.  Then we helped out with the Community lunch that St. James puts on every 1st Saturday of the month to help out the people who don't have food.  There are some people there that I just want to take to the Church and teach.  They look so skittish and timid and scared.  I just want to teach the Gospel to them and help them have hope." 

"Then we meet people like Heidi that make me want to yell in frustration.
We were trying to contact a referral down in East Lyme, usually a pretty nice town, when we met this woman.  She seemed pretty nice and everything.  She made some off-comments like 'I didn't know Mormons could be stylish,' and 'I didn't know Mormons could wear perfume.'  Anyway we gave her our card with our number on it and as she walked away she yelled, 'I bet dollars to dimes you won't call me back!'  
'I'm pretty sure we will!'  I yelled. 
 'I bet you won't!  The least you could do is give me a ride!'  She was going to pick up her 13 year-old son.
'I'm sorry we can't give rides,' I yelled back, because she was a good 70 feet away.
'NOW YOU'RE GETTING IT!'  she yelled back ever so rudely.
Oh dear...
While we were trying to contact some members, we got a call from a CT number that we didn't have programmed.  I quieted it because I didn't want to deal with craziness at that point but when we got home we called her.  Sister E. put her speaker phone and, yes, Heidi was crazy.
She yelled at us for 30 minutes calling us liars and charlatans because we wouldn't go see her right then.  And that we didn't give her a ride, and because we had appointments and were trying to make one with her on Tuesday instead of right then.  'GOD DOESN'T MAKE APPOINTMENTS!'  And that we were trying to sell her something.  I think my favorite was 'Go take your paycheck and something-something(she didn't say anything bad, I just can't remember what she said).' 
'Ma'am, we actually volunteer to teach people about Christ.' I was talking by then.
'You VOLUNTEER to make God's appointments?  You're charlatans and liars.  You don't really care!'
'I'm sorry that you feel that way. I hope you have a blessed day and that Heavenly Father continues to bless you.'
'She hung up on you.' says Sister E."  
    

With the new influx of missionaries to the MTC, some of the transfer times are being adjusted in December. News arrived that transfers will be the week before Christmas instead of the week after. The wonderful family that have the apartment where the Sisters live is not happy about this. They have grown to love Sister Kanani and was looking forward to her being around for Christmas.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Janna & Bob


In October, Sister Kanani and Sister S. began to visit with Janna & Bob. Janna has been a member for 7 years and Bob has been "looking into it" [the Gospel and the Church] for that long. It was only recently that he really started to take a deep interest in it.  They have been teaching lessons to them both for a few weeks. He called the Sisters on Friday, 4 November and said he wanted to be baptized on Janna's birthday, which is November 11th.
Because of the whole Mission volunteering in the Mormon Helping Hands clean-up, this presented a bit of a scheduling challenge, however, it all worked out. The Sisters left the clean-up project early.

Sister Kanani's wrote: "We had to leave early to get back in time for Bob's baptism.  Which is the best one that I have had on my mission.  Everything went smoothly.  Bob was so touched by the Spirit.  There were lots of people there, a lot of non-members were there.  It was a good baptism."




There have been some great experiences with Bob since he was baptized in November. “Bob was ordained a Priest and invited us to be there for it. It's the second ordination that I have been a part of in my life so it was really special.” 


"Did I mention he just got a package from his step mom with his dad’s family history dating all the way back to the 1700s?  I love blessings of the Lord.  Someone in Bob's family is anxious for their work to get done!"

Bob also was able to go with his Stake to New York as a volunteer in the ongoing Mormon Helping Hands clean-up from Hurricane Sandy.

His family and friends have noticed the positive changes he has made and is making in his life. He has been discussing ways to be able to talk to his neighbor about the Gospel.










Monday, November 12, 2012

Mormon Helping Hands

We learned that the whole Mission is going down to New Haven area Friday night through Sunday night to help clean up.  We are trying to juggle Bob's baptism and this amazing chance to serve.  But it will all work out in the Lord's way.  Cause the baptism has certainly been on God's time schedule.

November 9th: Friday
We had Ward Correlation early in the morning with Brother W. and then went to Sister R’s. She is a less active in the Groton Ward but we go see her because her husband is on a boat right now.  
We had a good time there and then ran some errands to get ready to go down to New Haven for the night so we could help with clean-up the next day.
And then we packed and headed to New Haven area.
We arrived at the Madison chapel and had a Mission Gathering.  Normally those are highly discouraged but because we were going to help out Mormon Helping Hands, President Packard got special permission for it.  It was amazing to have all but 4 missionaries from our mission there.  All of the Packards spoke and it was just amazing.  

Then Sister S. and I drove Sisters E. and H. to the Madison apartment and then drove to a Church member's house and stayed the night there.

November 10th: Saturday
We picked up the same Sisters at 6:20 AM and drove to the chapel to have a Mission breakfast and to find out where we were going to be assigned to work.  
We went to the Stake Center and were organized into groups and sent on our way.
We were stationed in Milton.  We helped scrub a basement so mold wouldn't grow, we helped a member pack up the things on their ground floor that weren't water damaged, and we helped take out insulation in a basement that had been flooded.  Did I mention it was a dirt floor basement so it was mud at this point?  We had great fun.  The houses neighboring that house had been washed out to sea, quite literally. The foundation and everything had been swept out during the storm.  There was nothing left of them.  And people now have sand yards instead of grass for about a hundred yards in from the beach.  It was a lot of fun to be able to help with the clean up.



We had to leave early to get back in time for Bob's baptism.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sandy Follow-up


So this past week has been interesting.

On Sunday evening we went up to Providence to spend a few days with the Providence Sisters.  
Monday we were told to stay inside all day. Which we did.  There were 6 Elders (the ZLs have their apartment in the same building, Groton, Our DL, and another pair were there with the ZLs), and us and Providence Sisters.  
Tuesday we came down to access the damage in our area.  There actually isn't that much damage around here.  Some houses next to the beach are now on a beach. We drove around with the ZLs and checked out New Port and Narragansett areas.  Then we checked on members in our area since Providence wasn't hit with anything except some wind and rain. 
The W.’s (our apartment) were still out of power so we drove back up that night and slept in Providence. We were the only apartment of the whole mission still without power, or at least in our zone.  All other missionaries went back to their areas. Wednesday we once again drove down and started to actually help people. Sister S. and I helped a couple shovel their driveway free of sand and another woman clean off her lawn of all sorts of debris in New London.  Then we had to drive back up to Providence because we had to be in early because of Halloween.  We didn't really do anything fun because we were so tired and had to debrief with the ZLs.
Then there was today.  We went back to our area and helped clean up again, along the same road.  Did I mention there was 2-3 feet of sand in the roads?  The city had mostly cleaned off the roads but home owners have to clean it off their property and people’s basements were flooded. 
Then we once again drove around more of our area and Groton's area looking for areas that had been "wiped out."  We couldn't find those areas.  We drove and drove and drove.  Nothing was found.  Apparently these "wiped out" sections were greatly exaggerated by the press.  We are now calling the cities to see if we can find opportunities to serve that way. 
The W.'s got power today!!  Which means no more driving up to Providence!!  So that is were we stand right now.  Tired from service and driving.
For now the service has died down in our area because a lot of it now is waiting for insurance to evaluate.  Plus we didn't get hit as hard as the lower half of the state. 
We might get to be part of Mormon Helping Hands in a week or so down in New Haven and Bridgeport.  If needed the whole Mission will be down there.  How cool will that be?  If that happens I will have been all over Connecticut and Rhode Island (roughly 2/3s of the mission) in two weeks.  It's awesome. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Storms

Sister Kanani and her companion have been evacuated ahead of Hurricane Sandy's arrival. They are currently assigned to be with the Spanish Sisters in Providence, Rhode Island. The dear, sweet Relief Society President of the Ward where Sister Kanani has been working called tonight to assure us that she and her companion were safe and well prepared. She also told how wonderful Sister Kanani is and how she is making a difference in many people's lives. The Relief Society President also said that if she had any influence, both Sister Kanani and her companion would be able to stay right there for the rest of their missions. The members love them and they have helped many less active members through loving and teaching them.

If the power is not affected, we anticipate hearing from Sister Kanani either Thursday or Friday. Otherwise, we may not be able to correspond for quite some time.

And, the request: please pray for those people on the East Coast through these storms.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

September - October


Sister Kanani has been serving in her new area in Connecticut area since the beginning of September. The Waterford area is in the Providence, Rhode Island Zone and Stake. Her companion is from Utah and they have been told by many people that they look like sisters. They have taken advantage of this as they have given presentations in District and Zone conferences on Unity.



Since being in Waterford, Sister Kanani has had the opportunity to visit the Boston Temple a couple of times. The trip is long, but well worth it. It is great seeing members of the Church from her previous area of Manchester and the Hartford Stake. The opportunity to reconnect with Sisters and Elders that she knew in the MTC and has worked with on her mission is also great.

Sister K. loves and admires her mission president, President P. “ He is an amazing man.  He is going through a lot and I love him.  He is expecting great things from my companion and me and I know that we can meet that  expectation.”

She also loves where she is serving and who she serves with. “The Elders in our District are awesome.” And, “My companion and I are super amazing together.  We both just want to work and are trying to do the best that we can.  We are also having so much fun together.  We've had great experiences with the investigators that we have but we've also been able to help each other out a lot as well.  It's been awesome.” 

A few weeks after transfers, Sister K. wrote: “Several less actives have called the Ward Relief Society President and expressed that they want to start coming back to church, yay!, and so we are going to be working with her closely and start to teach them and uplift them. Bishop also gave us the names of some less actives he would like us to work with. And we should be finding out some more from the other auxiliaries soon. The work is going to start BOOMING soon, and it's going to be epic.”

Within a few weeks: “The work with the members is coming a long great! Not only do they have the opportunity to strengthen and uplift the members, the members are actively involved in sharing the Gospel. “We actually have to juggle appointments. We had at least 3 people want to have FHE with us tonight. As it is we are participating in two. One is with a less active family and the other is with an active family and their non-member friend.” 

And soon after that: "We have started to work with another less active/part member family. Their names had been brought up in interviews with Auxiliary leaders, but we were unsure of how to contact them. Well, they were at Church on Sunday because their son was speaking. We had a wonderful conversation with them but nothing really solid. We got a call from the non-member wife on Saturday inviting us over for a family birthday party. It was slightly awkward at first, but got much better. They liked us! And there were good indications that the husband feels comfortable with us.” 

In another email: “We went home teaching with the Bishop to a less active sister. Apparently she hasn't really been open to Church talk or inviting anyone over from the Church besides the Bishop, but we got to share a thought and she told us we could drop in any time. Gotta love it! Things are going great here.”

Each area has certain opportunities for service. “I love the service we get to do here.   We help in a local food bank kitchen at St. James Church in New London. It's  a lot of fun.” St. James Church was built in the 1800’s and has amazing stained glass windows. There is also a Quilting Guild that meets at St. James Church. “Sister S. and I poked our heads in during a slow moment at the food bank and we got sucked in! It was so awesome. There are some really talented older ladies in there. Like really, really, award-winning kind of talented. They cross stitch, they quilt, they do other awesome things.  So we are going to go sit with them every other Wednesday as they work on charity stuff.  How awesome is that?!  It's basically like Relief Society only with out the fulness of the gospel.  It's cool.”

The missionaries have also helped at horse stables. “The stables is an equine therapy place that needs their fencing replaced before winter.  So we are helping them out with that. We helped them dig out rotted posts and replace them. We were so dirty. But it was so much fun digging, cutting posts and rails, ratcheting, drilling, much fun. 

Sister K. & her companion are also working with a woman that came to an LDS Chapel by mistake and has become really interested, a college student that referred himself to the missionaries through Mormon.org, and a member that is working to attend the Temple.

And General Conference: “Conference was amazing. The news that young women can now go on missions at age 19 brought tears to our eyes and excitement to our hearts. It will be awesome. Oh and it's also cool young men can now go at 18.  All of conference was amazing!” 

“The work is going forth here and it's amazing. God answers prayers and He loves each one of us.” 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Baptism, Activities, Transfer



Sister Kanani was able to see the first person she and her companion have taught from beginning contact baptized. From her email on 30 July 2012:  “T. was baptized on Saturday!!! .  It was amazing.  She was so excited and to see her come out of that water...  She was so bright and excited.  And her confirmation on Sunday was beautiful.  Thankfully the Ward is opening their hearts to her and really helping her out with CJ and such during Sacrament and things.  I know that as people talk with her they will fall in love with her.  You just can't help it.”



The following week they were able to have another baptism. This woman has a sheep farm and the Sisters have been able to help her out some of the work. They have even had the opportunity to “tatoo” the sheep (mark them on their ears for identification, similar to branding, but with ink in place of a hot iron) and trim off some matted wool. These are sheep raised for their wool, not for food.

One woman that they have been teaching has been coming to Church, Book of Mormon Study, and Relief Society activities. She has even given a referral to a woman she met in a store with whom she had started talking about Christ. That person wanted to meet with the missionaries. Sister K. writes: “E. has really picked up in reading the Book of Mormon.  We fasted with her from Saturday to Sunday to give her a spiritual boost to quit smoking.  She also came to Church and to the baptism.  She had plowed through Jacob up to Mosiah 15.  She is reading every time she has the urge to smoke.  She might not have been ready in May but she is ready now.  She is so excited about the Gospel.  It was a really neat experience in Relief Society on Sunday. Our Ward is putting on a King Benjamin speech event next month.  Basically someone will memorize King Benjamin's speech and recite it to the ward who will be sitting in "tents" and dressed up as Nephites. Our RS president was announcing some details and E. leaned over to me "I just read about him!"  It was just a fun experience.”  And, “ E. now hates the taste of cigarettes because they leave a funny taste in her mouth. Fasting really works, it's amazing.”

“We are still doing our best to find people.  Our mission is now really focusing on working with members so it's going to take a while to get used to it but it's going to be awesome.” In another letter, Sister K.  wrote that it is very much the “theme with President P. That we should stop categorizing people we know and meet into member/ less active/ non-member.  They are all people that we are able to help come closer to Christ.”

At transfer time, Sister K.  found that she was being transferred to Waterford, CT, about an hour southeast of Manchester. “I'm excited to go but at the same time it is heartbreaking.  I hadn't realized how attached I had become to so many of the people here.  It's even harder when the people start to tear up as you tell them.  But it will be good.  Someone in Waterford needs me.” In her first email from Waterford, she reports that things are going superbly with her new companion. Waterford is a lot smaller than Manchester.  It's still only one Ward, but the towns are closer together and smaller.  New London, which has a larger population, is in the area and has two Spanish speaking Elders assigned to that area specifically. 

She also reports that the members are awesome. She and her companion have an apartment in the home of members. He is the Ward Mission Leader and she is the Ward Relief Society President. Very convenient for working together. 

Sister K. suggests two challenges: “I think something that has really helped solidify our companionship is that each night we say at least one miracle that happened that day.  This usually leads to a very long, wonderful discussion.  I would challenge you to do this as well.  It's much like a gratitude journal, but better because it's sharing it with someone. [Miracles are] Just small things that are blessings in our lives.”

“As another challenge, for anyone who may be reading this, would you look around at who you could lift spiritually and do something for them?  It doesn't have to be big, but just do it.  Love them and allow them to feel the love Christ has for them through you.”  

This week is going to be super epic and awesome.  I love all y'all!!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sister Kanani has reminded me that an update is long overdue.  Instead of trying to catch up, this post will jump in to current happenings.

Thank you for the cards sent for her birthday. Although she tried to keep it a secret, the members in her area “treated” her very well with cookies, candy bars, cards, and dinner complete with a banner and some signs. 

Service: 
On Memorial Day, Sister Kanani and her companion helped a recent convert/less active put flags on Veteran’s graves at St. Bridget’s Catholic Cemetery. (This is a big step out of her comfort zone because otherwise the only time she would be caught in a cemetery is if she were dead.) Most of those buried in the cemetery were Irish from the 1800’s & early 1900’s. 
There have been a lot of opportunities to help people move, members and nonmembers. The Sisters have cleaned and sorted through a basement for a member who was getting their home ready to sell. They have helped neighbors of a contact move. And they helped a Ward member move plants around her house.  Their set  service is to wash used clothes and rags for a local children’s museum. 


Tracting: 
The weather in Connecticut has been more like April instead of June and made tracting interesting.  Sister Kanani describes the rain as “like walking through a plant mister” mixed with slightly larger raindrops. There have been some good contacts with really nice people like the older spunky gentleman who “had us pull up a chair” on his front steps.  They were able to get a copy of a large print Book of Mormon for him to read.  Another contact is an older lady who lives next to the church.  “She is hilarious and while she might be 84 she acts like she is still 40.  She's awesome.”
  
Teaching: 
There is a lot of work being done with less actives.  They read the Book of Mormon with them and teach lessons to strengthen them.  Sister K. said of one, “She may not be coming to Church, but there is a growth of  testimony there.” 

One woman that Sister Kanani and her companion have been teaching is progressing.  She has been trying hard to do what is right.  She is reading the Book of Mormon, attending Church, and has set a baptismal date.  She recently gave birth to a baby girl and named her Saraih, after Nephi’s mother. “How cool is that.” 


They have been able to have some good lessons with referrals from members.  They met with couple of young women that were interested in learning more about the Church. Angela said, “so it was a nice change.” 

Another woman had been trying to read the Book of Mormon in English, but the words were hard for her, so they were able to get her a copy in Tagalog.
One night a week, they have a Book of Mormon night. More people are coming, mostly recent converts and those that have just moved into the area. 

There have been those hard weeks, where there have been a lot of cancellations and some disappointments. 


Two couples that had been making great progress are experiencing some setbacks. 


A less active member that had been attending Church, reading the Book of Mormon, and stopped smoking, began smoking again. Sister K. wrote, “It broke our hearts. We had a lesson with her, but it still broke our hearts.” She also has made a lot of excuses not to come to Church. “It is hard when you love someone so much and you can see what will benefit 
them, but they just won’t do it.” 


One of the positive things happening is that a Sister Return Missionary has moved into the Ward for the summer for an internship. She has been able to go out to a few lessons and help with appointments. “We are so grateful for her and that she understands how missionary life can be.  ...how sometimes appointments aren’t just lessons, but helping people out....” 

Sister K. & her companion were able to take two recent converts to the Boston Temple for the first time to do baptisms for the dead. “I miss the feeling in the Temple so much.  It truly is a blessing to live in Utah and have so many so close.  TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT!!!” 

A few weeks ago, Sister Kanani asked if we would pray for the approving of the Hartford Temple. “The Hartford [CT] Temple will be built in Farmington. It is before the zoning committee right now and we are praying every day that it will be passed. We read the article in the newspaper about the concerns.  But since the Boston Temple had the same concerns, we are hoping that the neighbors in Farmington will realize that not all 14 million members will be attending their Temple.” 


Sister Kanani tells us “we are still happily going along.”  And, “...we are relying on each other and the Lord.”  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Catching up with Sister Angela Ford:

From her weeks in the MTC...

The MTC is awesome!!  I absolutely love it here.  I really wIsh you could know what it's like here.  It's just so amazing, the sense of purpose & direction that everyone has?  I wish every place could have that.  I love it!  God lives and He shows us tender mercies every day. 

My week was awesome.  I have seen a lot of people I know here and am really growing close with my zone and district.  It’s so wonderful here.  Everyone is “Sister” or “Elder.”  I can see why people love the MTC.  To me it is a preview of what Heaven must be like, everyone knowing  each other & having direction.  I love it!

Easter was amazIng.  We had three General Authorities come.  President Packer, his son Allen F. Packer, and then another person from the 70.  The Packers spoke and it was pretty amazing.  We had the really special opportunity to have the Sacrament in that meeting too.  So everyone here was able to have the Sacrament with a member of the Quorum of the Twelve.  Pretty neat, huh?

I have gotten some letters from the ward.  It was a nice surprise...

Yesterday for the fireside we had Elder M. Russell Ballard!  It was really powerful.  

...to the Massachussetts-Boston Mission.

On the flight from Salt Lake City, we talked to a young man going on his second tour in Afghanistan. He's from Preston, Idaho and is a member but not active in the Church.  He said he lost his faith in God after some of his unit was blown up right behind him.  Though he has found some of it again when a bullet stopped in the Bible he had in his front pocket.  He was a cool person to talk to.

My companion is Sister Caldwell from Payson.  We have gotten along great.  Our current area is Manchester, Connecticut.  We went tracting the first night and it was hard for me because I had no idea what I was doing and I was jet lagged.  But we went out again on Saturday and had a few awesome experiences.  We talked to these two guys about religion in general and about halfway through the one on the porch said "This is great! I feel all relaxed"  I should have jumped on the chance to talk about the Holy Ghost but alas, we did not.  We did, however, give them a copy of the Book of Mormon, so hopefully they will read it.  Speaking of, we've given away at least four copies of the Book of Mormon!  I know that's not a lot, but it's still awesome to me.  

So far I have had three meals with members, 1 real lesson with a potential investigator, a baptism (she was 8 and was waiting for her father to be worthy to baptize her), and a couple of less actives come to Church on Sunday.  Sister Caldwell says it's been a really great week.   

Tracting is hard.  Especially that first night when I was so overwhelmed with getting placed in Connecticut.  But it's gotten a little easier, especially since my confidence level in teaching is going up.  We still get a lot of "We're all set"” (a polite way to say buzz off) or "I'm happy with my religion" or even "GO AWAY!"  but I think as I get more comfortable with the idea that they aren't rejecting me specifically it's easier.  That and the thought you have to go through a lot of hay before you find the needle, which we may have found.  Her name is Kristianna and I'm pretty sure she's from Jamaica.  She seemed really interested in the first lesson and accepted to be baptized when she comes to know the truth for herself.  There isn't a date and hopefully she'll want to meet with us more, but I'm excited for her.

I'm studying “Diligence” in ch. 6 of Preach My Gospel.  It's helping a lot with calming down some of the overwhelmed feeling.  Now I just have to get used to talking to everyone and their cat.  Literally. Everyone here has one or they have a dog.  It's crazy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A few Milestones

So a week and some odd days ago, I gave my farewell talk (it can be read in the post below this one).  I had dreaded this moment since I turned in my papers.  Why? Because I get intense stage fright.  The first time I spoke in Sacrament meeting when I was 12 I got hives.  That's how nervous I was.  In each subsequent talk I've mostly cried through the talks.  This time however was much better, yes I still cried at parts but I think it was mostly because I realized that this was really happening.  I'm really going on a mission.  But overall the talk went swimmingly, I think mostly it was because the Spirit was helping me out a lot.
A lot of people turned up for the farewell too.  My Poopah and his wife showed up, along with my wonderful aunt.   A lot of friends came, some who I  haven't seen in a long time.  Of course my immediate family was their with their husbands and kids.  (Okay Klah's husband wasn't because he was flying in later that week but close enough).  And family from my Mum's side that I don't get to see a lot were there.  Oh and my wonderful Uncle Jean Luke!  Okay that's not really his name but we call him that because he looks a lot like Patrick Stuart and we were really big Star Trek fans. Georgia Boy was there too.  It didn't hit me until after he left that this was the last time I would see him for 18 months, possibly forever....
Anywho.  The day went really great.  I got a lot of wonderful advice from those around me and from those in my ward.  It was amazing to feel the love that everyone was sharing with me, last week and this week.
I go into the MTC tomorrow.  I have everything I need.  I still have to pack it though and say final goodbyes, most were said on Sunday and yesterday.  I get set apart for my mission tonight.   I'm excited/scared/happy/nervous.  I can't wait to start this next adventure though.  In conversations with my friend Jaime, she's waiting for her call as I write, I've grown more and more excited for a mission, and become more confident that I can do this.  I'm doing it for all sorts of reasons, but I know as I focus on doing what the Lord wants me to do, this will be the best experience I'll have. 
So the next time you hear from me I'll be a full blown missionary who has actually started down the path of this new adventure!! 
Just remember: dearelder.com is you're best friend when writing to missionaries *coughmecough*. 
I'll see all y'all at the end of September in 2013!

Farewell Talk

 {It is tradition that before a missionary leaves for the MTC they give a farewell talk in their ward the Sunday or two before they go.  This was mine}

What is a missionary?  I mean, we toss that term around a lot, and we had two young men stand up today to announce that they will become a missionary soon.  So what does that mean? Well in Preach My Gospel it says that a missionary is someone who “Invites others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Chrsit and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”  Or in other words, someone who leaves their family for two years, or 18 months, so others can spend eternity with theirs.
That’s awesome, but before we can be Missionaries we have to be missionaries.  Let me say that again because some of you have befuddled looks, before we can be Missionaries we have to be missionaries. 
In 1959  President David O. McKay proclaimed  “Every member a missionary.”  But what does that mean exactly?  As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we are not given a full time call to serve with suites and skirts.  We are however, called to be friends and neighbors to those around us. 
In Mosiah 18: 7-10 it reads:   Yea, all were gathered together that believed on his{Alma’s} word, to hear him. And he did teach them, and did preach unto them repentance, and redemption, and faith on the Lord.
 8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
 9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
 10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
Basically, when we are baptized we promised to follow the two great commandments Christ stated in the New Testament.  Love God, and love thy neighbor as thyself.
President Hinckley stressed this principle in most of his addresses.  In one in particular he said “I plead with you … that you will put your arms around those who come into the Church and be friends to them and make them feel welcome and comfort them and we will see wonderful results. The Lord will bless you to aid in this great process of retention of converts.”

Now some of us may have disregarded that wonderful statement because of one simple word: converts.  As we live in Utah, some may have the attitude that all of us have all been born into the gospel and there is no need to fellowship those around us as we are not “converts.”  I would like to propose, however, that in fact, we are all converts.  Each of us have had experiences where our hearts have been softened and we have come closer to God.  And, at times, we have had experiences where we have hardened our hearts and have edged a little farther from God.  We never know who around is struggling, or who we can help.  We are blessed to have a ward goal that encourages us to get to know one another.  You never know who’s life you will touch.

Another simple way we can be every day missionaries is temple attendance.   We are blessed to have 13 temples in Utah, most of which we can drive to within two hours. We are even more blessed to have a temple that is less than ten minutes away, and one that is being built just as close. How awesome is that?
 I have heard some of those who are not endowed say, “I can only do baptisms.”  However, baptisms for the dead is an amazing opportunity for missionary work.  It is not “only a” baptism, for that person you are representing, that is their baptism.  That is their first step towards the Kingdom of God, it is their ordinance.  So whether you are endowed or not, the temple is the temple, and attendance is a great act of missionary work and will invite the Spirit into your life.

Speaking of the Spirit, why is it so important to have the Holy Ghost in our lives?  Why would we, as members, especially as every day missionaries, want to have the Holy Ghost’s influence?
There are many reasons that we want to have the Holy Ghost as our constant companion but here are just a few. 
He brings us comfort and joy.   Elder Henry B. Eyring once said “The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Truth. You feel peace, hope, and joy when He speaks to your heart and mind that something is true. Almost always I have also felt a sensation of light. Any feeling I may have had of darkness is dispelled, and my desire to do right grows.”
In Doctrine and Covenants 11:13 it states “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy”
Peace, hope, and joy?  I might be a little brash in saying this, but I think all of us could use more peace, hope, and joy in our lives.
Another reason we would want the companionship of the Holy Ghost is that the Holy Ghost testifies of truth.  When we are in tune with the Holy Ghost He will give us the witness that the things we are taught are true, or if they are false.  We can gain personal testimonies of the principles that are taught by ancient and modern prophets by asking the Lord, in faith, if these things are true.  The Holy Ghost will give you that testimony of correct principles.  However, once that testimony is obtained we have to continue in faith with that principle.  Think of gaining a testimony, whether it be of Jesus Christ is our Savior or of your own personal worth or a testimony of prayer, as riding a bike up a steep mountain.  You are either progressing up that mountain or you are slowly rolling backwards.  There are no breathers, if you start to take a break, Satan will gladly hand you a glass of water and slowly start to drag you down the mountain.  That is why it is so important to gain a testimony now, while you are an every day missionary.  Because if you wait until you are a set apart full time missionary, Satan will have a hayday pulling you down with him. Why?  Because missions are hard and Satan will work his hardest on you so you can’t help others up to that mountain’s summit, where our Heavenly Father and Christ are waiting for you, you specifically, so they can throw their arms around you and say “Welcome home.”

Sometimes it can be hard to get up that mountain, alright let’s be honest, most of the time it’s really hard to get up the mountain.  But the Holy Ghost is always there for us as we press onward. 
Sometimes this upward battle is made harder when we don’t understand why we are doing certain things other than the Lord has asked us to do it.  However, if we keep pushing through with faith we are greatly blessed. 
Take for example, Adam.  He has been recently cast out of the Garden of Eden and is given a commandment in Moses 5:5-6. 
And he {God} gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.
 6 And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
We don’t know how Adam reacted when he was first given the Law of Sacrifice. Whether he doubted or had a discussion about it with Eve after it was given.  All we know is that he pushed up the mountain and was obedient to the Lord.  And for this he was rewarded with the angel giving him the understanding that the sacrifices were a shadow of Christ and through Him we can repent. 
“I know not, save the Lord commanded me.”  This very simple statement from Adam resonates very strongly in me, because I am making the very same statement.  I was not happy when I started to get the impression I should go on a full time mission.  In fact I was very distraught.  I was happy with were my life seemed to be headed.  I was actually coming to terms with the very real, and very immanent, opportunity to marry.  So when that very first prompting came I ignored it, then the second prompting, and the third, and the fourth, and so on.  When I proved to be as stubborn as a mule, the Holy Ghost took a very different approach, he went through my boyfriend.  We broke up, and I started to talk to those of my close friends that had previously served missions.  It wasn’t long before I was talking with my Bishop to start the process.  So, here I stand before you, saying “I don’t know why I’m serving a mission, except that the Lord commanded me.”  I know that there are eternal blessings waiting for me because I am choosing to follow the Lord, for me and for my future family. President Hinckley has given us a glimpse of what those blessings could potentially be when he stated “Many young women are serving missions, many are preparing to serve, not because they aren’t married or have nothing else to do, but because they have a desire to serve and therefore are being called to the work.  The reason so many are going is because in the next generation Heavenly Father will be sending His priesthood army to the earth and wants to send them to mothers who have been properly trained and taught the gospel.  What better training can a young woman have than that of serving a mission” I know that when we choose to follow the Lord’s commandments, especially when we might not know the full reasons why, we are blessed both temporally and spiritually, and we will be taught the reasons why.
{Here I bore my testimony so I don’t really remember what I said so I’ll just leave it at this piece of advice: Go on a mission for whatever reason, stay for the right one.}

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I love to see the Temple

 Deciding when to go through the temple was tricky.  There were several people that I wanted to be there and had to coordinate with.  The first was my sister, Klah, since she lives two states away.  She could come almost any week in January, none in February, and the week before I enter the MTC.  So Mum hit the calenders and figured out the best week for us too.  Since everyone was giving the advice to go through as soon as possible so I could go as often as possible (not knowing how often I can go during my mission), we decided to go in January.  There was a debate between the 21st and the 28th so I called the second person that I really wanted there, Love.  As mentioned before, Love has had a really huge impact on my choice of serving a mission, and on me in general, so it was natural for me to invite her.  The 21st turned out to be the best weekend for her since she would be in Logan at a conference and thus 2 hours closer than normal. Perfect!!  The plans were then made known to everyone, January 21st at the Provo temple, be there by 6:20. 

Jump of plot points but stick with me.  Everyone was really curious which temple I would go through for the first time.  To me there wasn't really a question,  the Provo temple is the one I have grown up with.  It was the temple we went to when I was first able to do baptisms for the dead, the one that Da goes to every Saturday for his shift (he's a temple worker), it's where my parents were married.  There was the small question of "My sisters and Mum went through the Salt Lake temple, should I as well?"  But it was quickly ruled out because I don't feel like I have a real connection there. 
Jump back to main story.

The week before I went through the temple I did a technology fast.  No computer, no tv, no smart part of the smart phone.  I did the fast so I could clear my head of distractions and focus on the gospel, Christ, and the temple.  It was one of the hardest things I have done.  Though my room did get cleaned really well that week.  And it was a lot easier to keep a good schedule.  So hard, but totally worth it in the end.

Llama and Georgia boy came down from Idaho on the 20th and we met up at Beauty's house (I was "kidnapping" Georgia Boy for his birthday).  I think the best part about this meeting was that no one knew that I had cut my hair.  All of their reactions were awesome by the way. 
Anyway, that night was pretty fun.  Georgia Boy slept at one of my friends house and I picked him up the next morning.  The night before we had decided to go do baptisms for the dead with Kwistin.  She and I had been going every Saturday for three weeks prior and I really loved it.  Plus it was suggested that it would be an awesome experience to go through all the ordinances, excluding sealings, in one day.  The baptistry was overflowing with ladies as usual so they pulled those that couldn't fit into a side meeting room and we sang hymns.  It was a really amazing experience and I'm really glad my day started that way.

The weather of Utah is usually odd but this year has been even more so.  Winter has seemed more of a late Fall, cold but no snow, until, you guessed it,  January 21st. The 20th was great weather, so was the 22nd, go figure.  When we arrived at the temple that morning for baptisms it was raining pretty hard, we even had to jump over some small lakes.  Coming out of the temple nothing had really changed.  But I didn't really think about it.  I had been praying really hard that everyone would be able to make it so I wasn't really worried.   However that changed when Love called around 3:30.

It was snowing in Logan and one of her classmates had said that the canyon out of Logan was pretty scary due to the weather.  She couldn't make it, she wanted to but she couldn't.  I told her it was fine, I would rather have her safe and sound rather than her almost dying trying to get to the temple. 
I was a little upset, I had been really looking forward to seeing her, but I shook it off.  Like I had told her, I would rather her be alive and well.

Less than thirty minutes later Georgia Boy got a call from Beauty and he handed the phone to me.  You know something is up when she starts out the conversation with "You're pretty =}"  She wasn't coming, Llama wasn't either.  Llama had apparently almost spun off the roads a couple of times dropping her chilluns off at her in-laws and then going to try to meet Beauty to come down.  We then got a phone call from Llama a few minutes later.  Both gave their biggest regrets but like with Love I would rather them be safe than dead.  Specially with both being moms already and then expecting. 
At this point I was pretty devastated, but with a long hug from Georgia boy and the knowledge they were safe I focused on the temple. 

We left about an hour later, it was lightly raining, almost snowing. 
All I can say about the temple was it was amazing.  I was a little nervous but after it all I can really say I love the temple.  I can't help but smile when I'm in the temple.  The handful of others I had invited, close family and friends, had made it safely and it was wonderful to have them there.  It was the first time that my immediate family, My parents, my two sisters, and I, could and were in the temple together.  It was amazing. 
When we left the temple, say three four hours later, there was something like four to five inches of snow, if not more.  Roads were slightly tricky but not to bad for Utah. 

I'm proud to say that I've been back almost every week since.  I just love the temple.  Not to mention almost every time I've gone I've gotten the answer that I'm still supposed to be going on a mission (and yes I still ask if it's the right thing to do). 



35  days until the MTC

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Preperation Time

Now that I have my call it's time to do one thing that I don't like to do: shopping.
We held off going and getting anything until a letter from my mission president. After it arrived the shopping started.  We've been doing it in spurts, thankfully my Mum understands that I don't last long shopping, unless it's for books.
So far we've gotten good water proof shoes and boots (apparently it rains a lot in Boston), a full length coat (I wasn't so sure about it when we bought it but now I love it), a new set of scriptures with my full name on them, a sling bag that I have dubbed the Mary Poppins bag (seriously that thing has so many pockets within pockets, and it's a lot bigger than it looks), the missionary "library", sheets, professional looking shirts, undershirts, a small sewing kit, laundry basket, and other little things I'll need.  I'm glad I'm going in the states though, at least I know the general stores where I can buy things I forget to take with me.
I'm also trying to re-read the Book of Mormon before March 28th.  I completed my goal of the summer of finishing it before the end of the year so re-reading I am.  I'm already in Alma but I still have 300 pages to go.
This next story relates to preparing I promise:
I've been ward hopping ever since I got back from school.  Maybe hopping isn't the right word.  I'm only attending two wards.  My singles ward and my home ward.  I love the singles ward but since I'm "leaving" from my home ward my records are there.  The singles ward starts at 10:30 and the home ward starts at 1.  I usually make it to both.  Sacrament and Sunday school at the singles ward and the full block of meetings at the home ward.  It's a little tiring but I figure I might as well get used to it, I have 18 months of this kinda stuff ahead of me.
Anyway, about two weeks ago I got a call from one of the members of the Bishopric in the singles ward.  I didn't really think anything of it until he told me why he had called.  He wanted me to speak in Sacrament meeting.  I really wanted to blurt out that I wasn't even in the ward.  I get really nervous about speaking see.  The first time I had to talk in Sacrament meeting I got hives, I was so scared.  But I said I would do it.  After all I need the practice right?  My subject was Doctrine and Covenants 115:5.  I spoke with a guy that I had known in high school, who just got off his mission.  It really was my pre-farewell talk.  A missionary leaving and a missionary coming home.    The best part was my heart decided it didn't want to escape this time, so my legs weren't shaking as bad as they usually were, my voice was a lot steadier, and I didn't cry through the whole thing.  Yay!

 Oh and the other thing I did in preparing for a mission?
I cut my hair, surprise!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Receiving the Call

I was told that I would have to wait at least a week and two days after I had turned in my papers for my call to come.  It was easy for the first week to ignore the fact that my life was hanging on receiving this call because it was a. finals week, b. I was getting ready for graduation, c. packing and cleaning of the apartment, and d.  boy drama/awesomeness.  It was the next four days that killed me.  Tuesday came and I tried to forget that this was the day that my call was supposed to come.  It didn't go so well.  My stomach was in knots the whole day, they didn't go away after I checked the mail either.  My call wasn't there.  It didn't come Wednesday either.
Wednesday night I gave up on my call coming that week, it was easier than waiting each and every day.  That night I prayed, and prayed, and prayed.  Mostly how I would serve anywhere in the world the Lord wanted me to.  It was one of the best nights of prayer I have ever had.
Thursday morning I drifted in and out of sleep to the ringing of the phone (Mum was out on errands).  Then Mum burst into my room telling me to get up.  I must have groaned or something because she said something to the effect of "That was Brother Van Houton on the phone.  He's been calling all morning.  He's on his way over!"
Background:  Brother VH works in the Postal Office and if you warn him about the call coming, he keeps an eye out for it and delivers it.
I jumped out of bed, ran out to the kitchen/living room excited as all get out.  I even was running around in circles for a bit.  I quickly got dressed and waited anxiously by the door.  Brother VH dropped off the envelope and I resisted the urge to rip it open.  It was delivered around 10, and phone calls were quickly made to arrange a time to open it up.  We decided on 5 o'clock sharp.   We decided on 5 so my sister, her husband and family, my da, two of my close friends, and my neighbor could be there.  My other sister would be joining us by Skype, Llama would be on the phone.
The other phone calls were to Llama, she was super excited and may have hung up on her sister to answer my phone call.  I cleared it with her that we'd open the call around 5 and I would call her.
I then called Beauty (nicknames are hard to come up with, specially when their already nicknames would take a lot of explaining to use them... I'm trying to think of a less generic one...), who Llama hung up on to explain why.  Her reaction was pretty great.  I think the conversation when something like this.
"So there's a reason why Llama hung up"
"Oh reaaaally."  I think she was expecting an engagement
"I have a white envelope sitting in my living room and I would like you to be here when I open it."
"Wait, what?  What? When did this happen?"
I was laughing so hard while I explained what had happened.  Sadly she wasn't able to come.
Then I phoned Love and she was super excited as well.
And I called Georgia Boy.  He was going out to be with friends at the time but he wanted to know as soon as I would want to call him.

The next 7 hours were torture, with the envelope sitting in the Christmas tree.  I showered, I dressed, I got all gussied up.  I was ready by 11.  I tried to distract myself and it kinda worked.  But all day I was trying to convince myself that i was going to Russia and that was okay.  (Russia and I would not get along, too cold, way too hard of a language and too many stories).  I even tried to peak at my call.  All I got was a peak at a map that I couldn't decide if it was Europe or South America.  It was a very small not detailed peak at this map.  I then continued my mantra of "It's Russia, and that's okay.  The Lord wants me there."  over and over.
5 finally came around. Finally!  Everyone was there, except for Kwistin.  She was running late.  While waiting for her I got a text from Georgia Boy asking if I'd opened it yet.  I think he was as nervous as I was.
Kwistin finally arrived and we got right to it.  I got Klah , my sisiter, on skype.  Llama and Georgia Boy were on the phone along with my Aunt.
I was so nervous I had a hard time opening the stinkin envelope.  I finally got it open and I started to read.  As I read Massachusetts Boston Mission, relief flooded through me and extreme excitement.  I've wanted to live in Boston for a few years now, not to mention it wasn't Russia!! Plus I know it's where I'm most needed.
I promised Llama, Klah, and Georgia Boy I would call them back soon and just sat and talked with those who were there for a while.  Then the phone calls started.  I honestly don't think I've ever used the phone so much, not even working as a Secretary in Human Resources. 
There were so many people to call, it was crazy.  But it was so much fun.  Everyone was so excited.  It added to the experience, this being the first mission call opening that I remember being a part of it.
That night I skipped around singing "I'm going to Boston.  I'm going to Boston!"
Opening the envelope
Reading the call


It's Boston!!!
Talking with Llama and Georgia Boy
Oh and it turned out the small section of a map I saw?  It was on the front cover of the booklet they send out to all missionaries, and it was of the whole world.  Oops. 
Reading the Packet. You can kinda see the Map
 
I finally know!!!