Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tender mercies and trials of faith. And GO GIANTS! :)

Hi everyone. :)
This week has seemed like an eternity, not because it dragged, but because so many things happened.  I feel like I'm a different person from who I was when I wrote last Monday's letter.  Hermana Osborn and I have been through heaven and hell this week, but at the end of it all, I'm almost overwhelmed by how merciful Heavenly Father is, and how aware He is of the finite details of each of our lives.
Nancy was supposed to be baptized yesterday.  Like I wrote last week, she came to church last Sunday and had a great experience.  The next day, however, we saw a decline in her confidence about her decision to be baptized.  After meeting with her she admitted that she had some doubts about some of the commandments.  We helped her talk through her concerns and then talked about the doctrines of the commandments and the importance of the Savior.  All through the week we met with her daily to help her feel prepared to be baptized.  We rescheduled her baptismal interview and moved her baptismal date because we wanted to make sure she felt comfortable about taking the step of being baptized.  Hermana Osborn and I fasted for her on Wednesday.  By the time Wednesday night rolled around, she'd stopped reading the Book of Mormon and wasn't receptive in the lessons.  She got defensive and started to close off.  On Friday, we went by her house for a lesson.  We were waiting outside because we didn't see her car there.  We called her twice and she didn't pick up.  We texted her to let her know we were waiting for her, and she texted us back telling us that she couldn't make it and there was something she'd left for us.  I ran up to the door and saw a bag hanging there.  In it there was her Book of Mormon, all of the pamphlets and cards we'd given her, her gospel principles manual, a letter, and a manila folder full of paper.  We drove away, pulled over, and read her letter.  She said lots of things that didn't even sound like her and told us she couldn't continue meeting with us.  She asked us to never communicate with her again.  I opened the manila folder she'd left and within reading one sentence off of the first page it was apparent that the folder contained about 25 pages of anti-Mormon literature that she'd printed off the internet.  The Spirit immediately left and we locked the folder in the trunk. We didn't read any of it because it was so apparent that it was absolute poison.
We're really disappointed, of course, that all of this happened, but there's really nothing we can do.  She made the choice to distance herself from the Spirit by stopping her study of the scriptures and looking elsewhere for other sources.  It was a struggle at first, just thinking about how quickly her testimony got shaken and how sad it is that she made the choice to walk away from something that she knew was good. It's very startling to think about the difference between the happiness we felt just a couple weeks ago at the Oakland Temple when we went with her and the sadness we felt as we read the letter and realized that she had decided not to go with what she had found out for herself was true.  Regardless of her choices, I know that Nancy is a beloved daughter of God and that He will of course continue to take care of her.  It's just sad to see her distance herself from the gospel with the choices that she's made.
Even though Nancy was not baptized as planned this week, we've seen an amazing outpouring of tender mercies.  Before all this happened, we had canceled the exchange we would have originally gone on just a couple hours after finding the letter.  It was a blessing to be together and have the support from each other.  This week as I've prayed for understanding and for the faith to move forward, I've felt closer to my Heavenly Father than I ever have before.  I've received confirmation of the things that I felt as I was preparing to go on my mission--that this is the most important thing I can be doing right now and that the Savior is aware of my mission, and that the gospel is absolutely true.  I've realized that no matter what choices others make, I will never be able to deny the many blessings I have received from the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and from being in His church.  This experience has strengthened my testimony that this gospel is absolutely true, and that this church is the church of Jesus Christ.  That knowledge is something I have gained for myself, and it can't be taken away.  I feel a stronger desire to share these blessings with my brothers and sisters.  I can't deny the changes I've seen in myself and in others through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  The gospel of Jesus Christ and the Plan of Salvation are real!
We had another fun tender mercy of being able to go do a service project in Half Moon Bay on Saturday, right after all this happened with Nancy.  We got permission to go with the Daly City ward and our ward to do a beach clean-up.  There was a SHIPWRECK on a beach and we got to help the other volunteers who were there. Apparently the captain, a tuna fisherman from New Zealand, had fallen asleep at the helm and crashed into some rocks on the coast.  He was there at the cleanup and we got to meet him!  We made a giant human chain and carried the pieces of the broken boat across the beach and up a big hill.  It was really strenuous work, but exactly what I needed, physically and spiritually, to recuperate from the other events of this weekend.  Hermana Osborn and I are both super sore now, but it was totally worth it, and such a unique experience!  As missionaries we're not usually allowed to visit the beach, but this was a fun and memorable exception. :)  I don't have any pictures of it but I'll try and get some from Hna Osborn.
Also, last night, in the exact minute we left our last appointment of the night, fireworks started going off all around the city.  Apparently the Giants won the World Series!  Everyone was cheering and setting off firecrackers and pretty big fireworks.  People were driving around honking their horns for a good couple hours after the fact.  How cool!  It was pretty fun to feel so connected to the place where I'm serving my mission.  I think I can call myself a Giants fan now, since I've spent the most important year of my life here in this area.  And I don't even like baseball! :)  Today we're going to the city to buy some San Francisco Giants merchandise. :)  We've got to take home at least some memorabilia.
All in all, this was a crazy week.  It was exhausting, but so good and a week I will never forget.  I feel like a different person, and I'm excited to find and teach those that the Lord is preparing to accept the gospel.  Sometimes things don't turn out how we expect them to, but I know that the plan of God is perfect and that in His love for us, He lets us experience the things that will bring us closer to Christ.  I love you all!  Thank you for your love, support, and your faithfulness in the gospel.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Can't believe it... another week gone

This week was really great.  It involved a few days that seemed slow and frustrating at times, but overall I can't believe how quickly it's gone by.
This week we were really blessed to have Nancy be able to come to church.  She hasn't been able to because of her job, even though she's wanted to be there, but this week she was able to come to all three hours of block time!  She's doing super well and is learning the gospel so quickly.  We've been going over the plan of salvation with her again and it's so wonderful to see her understand and apply all of the doctrines so well.  She's been a little down because her family still doesn't support her investigating the church.  She's very decided on being baptized, but hasn't invited her family to her baptismal service yet because she doesn't think they'll react supportively.  This week at church a sister who served here earlier this year happened to be there visiting.  She has an amazing conversion story.  She was kicked out of her house at age 18 for deciding to be baptized and during her whole mission never had any communication from her family because they didn't support her decision to be a member of the church.  She was able to share some of her story and testimony with Nancy, which was a huge blessing and hopefully will help Nancy have the strength and the faith to move forward.
I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to grow up in an environment that has been centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I've never felt alone in my decision to live the gospel and I've never felt alone in my decision to serve a mission.  Of course Heavenly Father supports those things and is literally beside each of His children as they strive to live the gospel, but it's been such an amazing blessing to have my family on earth support me too. There are so many people who don't have that, and I hope I never take that blessing for granted in my own life.
This week at church we also had a recent convert who has been slowly slipping into inactivity, David, come to church as well!  He hasn't been to church the whole time I've been here--so over 3 months.  It was a relief for us, especially for Sister Osborn, who found him and taught him from the beginning, to see him come to church and immediately be welcomed by the ward.  The YSA swarmed him right away, which was a great sight to see.
I had a cool experience on exchanges with Sister Bram, my old companion, in Daly City.  That day all of their appointments had canceled before I got there, so we had what was going to be a very long and disappointing day ahead of us.  But Hermana Bram is such a positive person, and the Lord is so merciful to us, that we somehow got put in the right place at the right time all night long and all day the next day.  We thought we'd have zero lessons during our 24 hours together, but we ended up having 5 lessons, which is a lot for such a short amount of time, especially in that area.  It was a lesson in having faith that the Lord will let us fulfill our purpose as long as we're patient and diligent in working as hard as we can and following the Spirit. :)
Anyway, that's about it.  I hope you all have a fantastic week with lots of good experiences.  I love you all!  Stay safe and healthy.  I can't believe it's almost been a year!  My mission birthday is coming up....  Wear mourning clothes in my honor.  :/

Wow. I am going to kill Sister Osborn.

This week was full of surprises.  Like Derek, we had transfers this week.  Sister Osborn and I were anxious all week long because we didn't know if she would be released as sister trainer and transferred or not.  We thought it would be impossible that she'd stay another transfer, since she's already been here for 6 transfers as sister trainer and we'd had a total of 4 transfers together.  But apparently she's supposed to be with me in San Mateo as sister trainer, because she's staying for one more transfer!  That's where the title of this email comes from--I will be her last companion before she goes home on Nov 28th.  I get to kill my trainer... in my 9th transfer!  That's pretty much unheard of.  We're both very happy and excited for this transfer.  I love Sister Osborn and I'm so grateful that I've had her as my example literally from day one.
I have to tell you more about Nancy.  We had an amazing week with her.  We went to the Visitor's Center this weekend and it was an awesome experience.  I'm just blown away at how faithful she is at recognizing and following the Spirit.  She recognizes the difference that the Spirit makes in her life, and she's doing everything she needs to be doing to prepare for baptism.  It's so amazing!  This week we had a lesson with her and she shared some interesting things with us about how the Lord has prepared her to accept the gospel.  She said that for a long time, before she even met missionaries, her family would always tease her for dressing modestly and not drinking alcohol.  They would tell her, "You might as well be a Mormon--you live like one!"  She also said that she had a couple of good friends that she loved being around, and eventually found out that they were Mormon as well.  When she first met Sister Osborn in the street, she loved the way she felt when she was talking to her, and didn't even realize she had talked to Mormon missionaries until she got home and read the pamphlet about the Restoration.  It's so amazing to see how many small things have helped her to be open to and prepared to receive the gospel.  AND, get this.... last year, she randomly bought her nephews BYU SHIRTS.  I know, right???  We couldn't believe it!  Haha, it was actually really funny.  Sister Osborn and I were elated.  Her family was like, "Why did you buy them BYU shirts?  Well, at least they have a good basketball team."  Hahahaha,  :D  She showed us a picture of her nephew in his Cougars garb.  We were so proud. :)  Anyway, I've been amazed at how prepared Nancy is, in so many ways.  We went over the baptismal interview questions with her and found her to be so faithful and so ready for taking the step of baptism.  Her heart and desires are in the right place, and she's gained a testimony through the witness of the Spirit as she's read the Book of Mormon.  It's absolutely amazing, and teaching her has been an experience that has strengthened my faith that the Lord is preparing people everywhere to receive the gospel. Thank goodness her Mormon friends were good examples and had the Spirit with them so she could see and feel the difference!
This week we also had interviews with President Meredith.  I love talking with him.  His leadership style is very much based on receiving revelation WITH people, not just for people, in his stewardship.  It was a great experience to talk with him about the needs of the mission and the needs of the sisters in the mission.  I'll be forever grateful to have been called to this mission at this time so I could be with President Meredith, and also with President Wade.  I've learned so much and I've been so amazed to see how the Spirit really is the one guiding this work, because it is the work of the Lord.  And just like it says in Jacob 5, which I read this morning, as we labor diligently in His work, we shall have "joy with [Him] because of the fruit of [His] vineyard."  I feel so blessed to be here and to see the many miracles and gifts of the Spirit daily.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What a week!

HIIIIIII!  Wow, so much craziness this week, right?  I was blown away by the announcement on missionaries being able to leave at a younger age.  Like Elder Holland said in the press conference, the work is hastening, and I'm so excited for so many more missionaries to be able to serve in this great work!  It's the Lord's work, and He obviously has great plans for it to move forward with greater speed and an even larger army.  It was cool to be in a chapel full of missionaries when that was announced.  The only two places I can think of that would have been more exciting to be in are the MTC and the basement at 1692 E. 6765 S. :)  The first person I thought of when the announcement was out was of course Rachel.  I'm excited to see what the future will bring. :)
We had a week truly full of miracles this week.  A lot of them happened last night and are thus fresh on my mind.
We have a recent convert here, David, who has been slipping away little by little.  He had to start working on Sundays right before I got to the area, and things have gone downhill from there.  I can't imagine how difficult or testing it must be to be a brand-new member of the church, especially at age 21.  He's struggled somewhat, and we've been trying desperately to meet with him and also to have him more connected with the ward.  We've been very scared that he's going to slip further and further into old habits.  After two canceled appointments this week, we were finally able to have a lesson with him in our bishop's house.  It was a miraculous 30 minute lesson where we shared some of the things we'd learned as we thought about him during General Conference.  The spirit was so strong and we could feel Heavenly Father's love for David so potently as we talked about the Doctrine of Christ and the Plan of Salvation.  It was a huge blessing to be able to see Bishop Jacobson working under the mantle of his calling as he talked with David.  We're feeling so much relief after this lesson that we've been trying for weeks to have.  Heavenly Father is aware of each of us in our individual struggles and He works things out perfectly for us to be in the right places at the right time.
Another miracle happened with Nancy, our investigator who was preparing to be baptized on the 21st, this week.  On Friday night, we got a very long text from her saying that she couldn't be baptized and she wasn't ready to make the change, and basically that she didn't want us to waste our time meeting with her anymore.  It came completely out of nowhere, and after a series of nearly "perfect" lessons with her.  We were quite shocked and asked if we could meet with her to talk more.  She agreed, and last night we met with her.  This whole experience made me realize that I need to pay more attention to peoples' needs.  Nancy was probably harboring all of those fears for a long time, despite her being very faithful and very prepared to accept the gospel, and I wasn't paying enough attention to recognize that she needed to talk more openly with us!  Leading up to the lesson, we weren't sure what we would do or say, but we spent all of General Conference prayerfully looking for things that could help us understand how to help her and how to approach this lesson.  When we went into the lesson, we felt we just needed to ask questions that would help her express herself, and then listen.  She expressed a lot of doubts and fears and confusion, but also a sincere desire to know for herself that this is what God wants for her.  The Spirit was so strong in this lesson with her, especially when a member of the ward shared about how she had come to know that this is Christ's restored church.  Nancy told us, "I just need to pray and ask Him!"  It was awesome to see her make the connection between her faith, her desire to know, and the need to seek revelation through prayer.  The Spirit was the teacher, and it felt so good to be an instrument in the Lord's hands.  I'm also so grateful for Sister Osborn and her sensitivity to the Spirit.
Overall, the thing that has been the biggest miracle this week is the power of revelation.  Sister Osborn and I decided that we would focus on David and Nancy during general conference and seek out the answers and inspiration that they need to be able to progress.  We also both went with our own personal questions and needs.  As I am every conference, I was amazed to see how the Spirit teaches us through the words of the Lord's servants.  This conference was especially powerful as I tried to focus on the needs of others within my stewardship, and on receiving the direction I need to magnify my calling.  Every day I realize more and more that this calling is so much bigger than I am, and that I'm so inadequate in so many ways--therefore it is impossible to do it without the guidance of the Spirit.  This weekend was an amazing blessing and I really feel that the heavens were opened in many ways for me personally, and for the people we're teaching.  I know that our Heavenly Father is aware of our individual needs and hears our individual prayers, on our own behalf and on behalf of others.

A week full of spiritual (and Tongan) feasts

Like Derek said about his last week, this week was jam-packed with so many things, I almost can't believe it all fit into one week.
Nancy is doing great!  We had a lesson with her on Monday about the 10 commandments, and all on her own she came to the conclusion that we shouldn't pray in front of a crucifix or work on the Sabbath.  She's so prepared and understands the principles behind all of the commandments so easily, and then accepts them with a lot of faith and a willing heart.  She's very solid for her baptismal date of October 21st.  She's already very committed to not working on Sundays and she's in a position where she'll be able to ensure that she has Sundays off, starting in a couple weeks.  It's such a blessing to be able to share the gospel with her and see the very sincere faith that she's showing as she accepts it.  Thank you for all of your prayers in her behalf!  I've felt a little disappionted because I haven't been able to teach Nancy very many times up to this point since I've been out of the area on exchanges for the majority of her lessons.  It wasn't planned that way, but it just happened to work out like that.  I might have even been feeling a little jealous that I couldn't be there to have spiritual experiences with her and Sis. Osborn and the members during the lessons.  But the great thing is that even if I can't be there for every lesson, we still get to be a part of each others' lives and the work I'm doing outside of the area is still the same beautiful work.  There are always different things we sometimes have to give up, even if they're good things, as part of serving, and I need to learn to appreciate all of the opportunities and blessings that I have, and not focus on the things I'm "missing out" on.
We also got to go to the temple this week!  It was so wonderful to go back to the temple and realize the bigger "whys" of the gospel.  Everything we do in the church leads us to the temple and the beautiful promises and blessings we receive as we make covenants there, and I think that was made more clear to me this time as we went to the temple.  It was interesting to me that even though I wasn't there with any of my family members in the temple, I felt close to each of you, and even to our family members who are on the other side of the veil, as I thought about the gospel and the plan that Heavenly Father has given us, and the covenants that literally bind us together.  There is no greater blessing than having those eternal ties.  Our bishop talked about the temple in the 5th Sunday class yesterday, and how those covenants and ordinances should change the way we see and do everything.  Thinking about those blessings and promises makes everything we do have so much more significance, even things like going to work or doing the laundry.  Even day-to-day temporal activities help us to be able to focus on acheiving our eternal spiritual goal of being together as a family forever.  The gospel is true, and the covenants we can make with Heavenly Father change EVERYTHING.  I want to understand that better in my life and be a better teacher as I talk about covenants with those we visit.  There's no greater joy than drawing closer to Heavenly Father and leaving the rest of it behind.
On Wednesday I got to go to the Tongan program on exchanges!  It was pretty awesome. :)  I thought people were exaggerating when they talked about how much food they give you... they weren't exaggerating.  I went to a missionary correlation meeting with the ward, and after the meeting they had a "snack."  On my plate, they put a giant chunk of pie probably 8 inches long, two chicken salad sandwiches on French bread, and 8 or 9 scones.  Then they gave me a big glass of Otai (look it up and make it!  It's soooo good!) and sent us out the door so we could eat our "snack."  My companion that day said, "oh good, they're giving us light food!"  Wow!  Another thing that was amazing and not exaggerated is the singing of the Tongan members.  WOW.  Even in the lessons we taught in members' homes, the harmonies and their beautiful voices floored me.  I almost started crying during the opening song at correlation meeting.  So awesome!  And it just comes out naturally!  Amazing!
We also got to watch the Relief Society broadcast on Saturday.  It was so great!  It's like a sneak-peek of General Conference.  I loved hearing the sisters talk so earnestly and sincerely about the power of the Atonement.  I realized that I need to do more to help others feel of the depth of the power of the Atonement, whether I'm teaching someone who's been a member for 30 years or someone who's talking to missionaries for the very first time.