Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas!

This week has definitely been memorable.  It started off pretty normal, with work in our area and two exchanges.  We had a wonderful miracle with a part-member family we're teaching, the familia Lopez.  The dad is working on coming back to activity and his three daughters recently moved in with him.  We started teaching the two younger daughters.  On Wednesday we had an awesome appointment with the 20-year-old daughter.  We taught about the Book of Mormon.  It was amazing to see the Spirit teach her about the connection between the Book of Mormon, revelation, and knowing that the Church has been restored.  It all seemed to click for her.  I was on exchanges with a brand-new missionary that doesn't speak much Spanish, but the lesson went just about as perfectly as I could have hoped for.  The Spirit was strong and she accepted the invitation to be baptized on January 20th!  We feel like the Lord has been prompting us to work more with the part-member families in the ward, and in this lesson we saw what I'm sure is part of the reason for those promptings.
The rest of the week was very different from any other week on my mission.  Sister Jensen came back from our second exchange and was basically dead on her feet.  She has been really, really sick.  I don't think I've ever seen anyone as sick as her.  She received doctor's orders to not leave the house until Christmas.  That was on Thursday so we've been inside the house since then.  That's the other reason why this email will be short--we're not supposed to be out for long today.  We haven't been able to do any prostelyting work this week, and we had to skip out on the ward Christmas party and even on church yesterday, but it's still been a good week.  I've had lots of time to think about my purpose, to study the Book of Mormon and to think about the Savior, especially as we're approaching Christmas.  I've had many spiritual experiences this week, for which I am grateful.  I've also been blessed to remain healthy!  Despite spending 24 hours a day in the same room as Sister Jensen, I've come away without illness.  I felt a little sick one morning and started to get a cough, but took a short nap and I feel fine.  Sister Jensen is improving as well, which is an answer to many prayers.
Yesterday we had the sacrament brought to our apartment.  It was probably the most spiritual experience I've had taking the sacrament.  Because it was just us two taking it, it immediately became more personal for me.  The Atonement is so infinite and reaches all of us, but I really felt in that moment as I took the bread and water that the Savior would have still done what He did even if it were only just for me.  It was humbling and a very personal experience with the sacrament that I won't forget. 
Anyway, while it's been hard for both of us to not be able to go out and work in our area or go on exchanges, I think it's renewed our love for the work and the blessing it is to be able to preach the gospel.  This has certainly been a very memorable Christmas as a missionary--not in the way I'd planned it or envisioned it, but in many good ways. :)

zone conference, Elder Packer, and trials of faith

This week was really good, and full of spiritual experiences.  We had our Christmas zone conference, which was absolutely amazing.  I always learn so much from zone conference, but this one was especially significant for me.  We watched a talk given by Elder Holland, probably when Derek was in the MTC.  He talks about the same story of Paul and the apostles that he shared at this past conference, but applied it more forcefully and directly to missionary work.  I'm so inspired by the way he speaks.  I think the source of his ability to be bold and loving at the same time is that the "loving" part comes from his love for the Savior.  I want to be better at that--to say what needs to be said, in the way that the Savior would have me say it.  We also got to have a little fun with a gift exchange at zone conference, just like last year.  The missionaries who are going home this transfer and next gave their testimonies.  I remember that a year ago at the December zone conference I was shocked that they could say that they didn't want to leave their missions, or that time had gone by quickly for them.  This year, I felt I could relate.  Time has gone by way too quickly, and right now my goal is to wear myself to the bone until the end.  I love this work and I love being with missionaries.
So remember how in Derek's last letter, he talked about a mission tour with Elder Packer of the Seventy?  The same Elder Packer spoke in our sacrament meeting this week!  He has great Spanish, so it was perfect.  He talked about the Book of Mormon.  He told the ward that if we want to fill the chapel every week on Sunday, the way to do it is by reading, studying, and pondering the Book of Mormon at home.  There is so much power in the Book of Mormon.  When we really seek to understand the scriptures, they help us to change more than anything else.
This week has been one that's required a lot of faith and endurance in our area...  We also had a couple exchanges that were a little taxing.  On our last exchange this week I felt like I didn't fully fulfil my purpose.  I've had to do a lot of reflecting and repenting this week to find out what I need to do to be better as I work with investigators and as I work in my assignment as sister trainer.  It's been a trial of my faith in the power of revelation.  Sometimes I feel like I have no clue what to do.  While it's not very comfortable to feel that way, I'm grateful to my Heavenly Father for giving me those moments where I have no choice but to turn to Him for revelation and help.  So many times this week I've been put in places where I HAVE TO believe and know that the Lord will intervene and show me what to do.  I've come to understand the doctrine of Christ so much better on my mission, especially lately.  Nothing happens without faith and repentance.  Nothing is satisfying without making and keeping covenants with God.  And the blessings of the Spirit are so essential if we are to make it through to the end.  I'm so grateful for the experiences that are helping me to understand the gospel and help others to understand it and live it as well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

This week has been pretty intense.  We had three exchanges this week, and it was kind of a wild ride.  This transfer has been so different than other transfers with exchanges.  We have quite a variety of sisters in the mission, with different situations and problems that require different types of attention.  I've sometimes felt like I have no idea what to do or say to help them, but I've really felt the support of the Lord this week.  In some situations I've felt like I've been teaching investigators as I've talked with the sisters.  I've really felt the need to follow the Spirit and understand what the Lord wants these sisters to hear to be able to overcome their problems and answer their questions.  It's been very humbling and has opened my eyes to the importance of doing the Lord's work in the Lord's way, even among His missionaries.
We had a great zone leader council this week.  Since it's the end of the year, we got the opportunity to review the mission's efforts over the past year and think about our baptismal goal for the coming year.  We were discussing our numerical goal together as a council and eventually the time came to decide on what the goal would be.  As we were talking about our mission baptismal goal, I felt very strongly the sacredness of the work that we're doing.  This is the work of salvation, and the goal we set for baptisms represents our vision and efforts to bring souls unto Christ.  As we were about to set the goal, my wonderful companion raised her hand and asked if we could kneel to pray as a group before we set the goal.  She offered the prayer, and I think all of us could feel the strength of the Spirit encouraging us and helping us to see and feel that the Lord is ready for His work to move forward, and that we are to be a part of that work.  It was an incredible experience in seeking revelation and understanding the Lord's will. 
We also got to help a lot with a Relief Society activity this week.  The sisters took bread and a Christmas message around to all the less-active sisters, and then had a posada (basically a Christmas party) on Saturday.  It was great to see the ward get together and be more unified.  And it was also great to see that Latinos know how to party!  :)  I love them and their energy and spirit.  Someday I'll be able to really party with them, but for now I'm content to just watch.
Our area has been struggling a little and our teaching pool is low.  We've been blessed to be able to find more new investigators than usual, but none of them have turned out to be solid.  I feel more motivated than frustrated, which is good.  The Lord is preparing people to receive the gospel.  Like we talked about in zone leader council this week, the Lord is ready to hasten His work, and all we have to do is show Him that we're ready too.  I feel like there's a lot of growing I need to do right now.  I've been working hard, but I need to progress more in my ability to do His work in His way, not just in the way in which I'm used to doing it.  I'm glad to have a great companion who is willing to have that as her goal as well.  Poor Hna. Jensen has been very, very sick this week, but she is a trooper and has continued to put her shoulder to the wheel, even with three exchanges this week.  I'm really grateful for her. Please keep praying for her and her health.  (P.S. I'm doing a lot better and feel almost at 100% again, thankfully!)
I feel immensely blessed to be a part of this work, and all I want to do is to give everything I have to Heavenly Father and the work of salvation.  I think back to the beginning of my mission, a little over a year ago, and how doubtful I was that I should even be on a mission.  At that point, the thought of 17 more months of feeling inadequate and overwhelmed was almost too much for me.   Now I feel like time has passed too quickly.  The Lord has been merciful in helping me change my heart and learn how to submit to His will, and in helping me grow.  I have honestly never felt more satisfied or happy in my entire life.  I feel that like the Savior said, in losing my life for the sake of His gospel, I have saved it (Mark 8:35).  Better said, He has saved it.
Wow, this week was so full of amazing things, all of which were full
of the sweet and the bitter.

First of all, saying goodbye to Hermana Osborn.  WOW.  It was almost
as hard as saying goodbye to all of you when I left home.  She really
has become like a sister to me.  It was so surreal to give her a hug
and see her get on the van to go to Oakland.  I'm glad I'll get to see
her soon.

My new companion is Hermana Jensen!  She's really great, and we get
along just fine as well. :)  She's just an impressive missionary all
along and I feel blessed to be her companion.  I know I'm going to
learn a lot from this experience with her.  I've been so blessed with
my companions on my mission.  I've never had a companion who was
difficult to get along with, which makes things so much easier!

We saw incredible miracles this week.  One miracle happened while I
was on exchanges in my area with Sister Boac.  Our appointment with
our recent convert fell through on Friday, so we went to our back-up
plan.  I was surprised at the back-up I had planned, because
logistically it didn't make a ton of sense, but we decided to go with
the plan we'd set.  We ended up knocking doors in the rain.  We
knocked on the door of Jessenia, a 21-year-old girl.  We started
talking to her and I asked her what was important to her in her life.
She said, "Is that a trick question?" I said no, and she eventually
started opening up and we began to talk about the restored gospel.
After a few minutes, she invited us to come in and talk with her.  We
got to know her a little and started teaching about the restored
gospel.  She told us that she felt something different from us, and
that she was sure that God had sent us to tell her it was time to go
back to Him. We told her about the Book of Mormon and she requested a
copy before we could even offer one to her.  She said that she
couldn't explain what she felt but she knew it was from God. We
invited her to be baptized, and she accepted a baptismal date!  It was
incredible.  The Spirit was so strong and it was all I could do to not
cry.  Within 30 minutes of us knocking on her door, Jessenia showed
incredible faith and accepted the invitation to be baptized.  It was
an experience I will never forget, and it taught me that it truly is
the Spirit that does the work, and that there are people who are ready
to receive the gospel. I think it was a blessing for the sister who
was with me on exchanges as well.  She's had a difficult mission, and
it was a tender mercy to be able to have such an amazing miracle to
build our faith in the Lord and His work.  There will definitely be
opposition in working with Jessenia.  We knocked on her door last
night and her mom answered and told us to get lost because her
daughter wasn't interested, then slammed the door in our face.  We're
praying that Heavenly Father will soften her mom's heart, or at least
strengthen Jessenia's, so she can make the choices she wants to make.

Another miracle is that Liborio (apparently I've been spelling his
name incorrectly all this time) came to church again!  We were
disappointed because he hadn't showed up yet, but he walked in about 5
minutes before sacrament meeting started.  Just like last time, he was
greeted by lots of members and had a great experience.  We'd been
praying all week that he'd be able to come to church, and he did!
He's progressing more and more each time we meet with him.

It's been a little crazy to try and work in our area this week.  It's
been raining like crazy--literally pouring night and day--which makes
it a little difficult to contact people at times.  It's also pretty
fun though. :)  We had Hna. Rodriguez, an elderly sister, come out
with us to visit people a couple nights ago, and she was a trooper,
running through the rain and giggling like a little girl.  It was
memorable!  Unfortunately the rain and cold are not helping me get
over whatever illness I have.  When I wrote last Monday I felt like I
was getting over it, but unfortunately I got the second wave of it the
next day shortly after sending Sister Osborn off.  Sister Jensen is
sick too, poor thing.  But DON'T WORRY--we're being well taken care

It's been a challenge being the senior sister trainer and getting
exchanges all arranged for the transfer.  I've truly felt the help of
the Lord as I've tried to do things that I've felt are way over my
head.  This is pushing me a lot, and making me rely more on Heavenly
Father.  It's definitely humbling, and also wonderful to see how much
help He is giving me to help me overcome my weaknesses.  I feel
blessed to be here, and I know that this work is a sacred work.  I've
felt that reality many times this week.  I don't ever want this to

New transfer

This has been kind of a crazy week. We got to be together in our area the entire week, which is something that rarely happens.  We were really blessed to find new investigators through a lot of different sources, and it felt good to be totally focused on the area together.  We're making another big push with the members to help them be more involved in missionary work, and it's awesome to see them get excited to share the gospel.  It's been such a good week!  I did get a little bit sick on Saturday and had a temperature all yesterday, but I feel a lot better today and this week is going to be great as well.
We were blessed to be able to go to the temple on Tuesday.  Every time I go to the temple, I'm amazed at how close I feel to my Heavenly Father as I'm there.  The connection seems so much closer because of the beautiful environment of the temple.  There are no distractions from the outside world.  I was thinking this week that being on a mission is kind of like being in the temple for 18 to 24 months.  It's a very sacred experience, and we're so blessed to be able to eliminate many of the distractions that sometimes keep us from feeling the Spirit.
We had a good Thanksgiving.  Originally we were a little bit worried because our schedule was almost totally empty.  We were not allowed to tract on Thanksgiving, and many of the members, active and less-active, were out of town (most of them in Utah) for the holiday.  Some wards have a lot of members that can be visited, but we have a very small ward and very few members that live in our area, so we were nervous about not having a very productive day.  We'd been looking for service projects but hadn't had any luck.  We finally decided to just put on our jeans and work gloves and seek out some service.  We ended up at the house of a sister who hasn't been coming to church lately.  We'd been trying to contact her for weeks with no success.  We went and started pulling weeds in her flower beds.  After being there for about 20 minutes, she noticed us and came outside.  She wasn't very warm toward us, but didn't tell us to go away, so we kept working in her yard alone.  We were there for about 2 hours, until we had to leave to go to another appointment.  She came back out as we were leaving and again was not very nice to us, but told us a little about what's going on in her life.  It ended up being a very valuable opportunity to at least have contact with her and help the bishop and relief society president know a little more about how they could help this sister.  It was kind of an odd experience, but taught me that we should serve as the Savior did whether or not that service is appreciated.  I walked away feeling that I had been an instrument in the Lord's hands in a small way, and that is all that I want to feel.
We were finally able to meet with Livorio last night after a whole week of canceled appointments.  The poor man is going crazy with work and some pretty serious issues with his ex-wife and custody over his 10-year-old son.  We talked to him about his baptism and I was touched at the thoughts he shared.  He said that baptism is a serious commitment to God, and that he wants to be ready to keep it for the rest of his life.  He said it was a promise to always keep the commandments, including going to church every single week.  He talked about how he felt at church last week when he came and how he wants to keep going back.  Livorio probably won't be baptized when originally planned, but I know that he understands the covenant and wants to make it.  We'll keep working with him to be able to rely on the Lord to help him through the issues in his personal life and to keep moving towards baptism.  He's so sensitive to the Spirit and it's great to see that he's gaining a personal conviction of the gospel.
Today is my last full day with Sister Osborn. :(  She gets on the transfer van tomorrow morning, and then it will be "hasta luego."  I'm really sad to see her go.  She's been an incredible example to me my whole mission.  She's the only senior companion I've ever had, and I feel so grateful for everything she's taught me.  We've become so close and have been so blessed to be companions for so long.  She's my hermana for life, for sure.  The only bad thing about being so close is that it's really hard to say goodbye.  We've been crying off and on for a couple days now, haha.  I hope you can make it to her homecoming talk!  We've decided our families should be friends. :)
Transfer news came on Saturday night.  I'll be staying in San Mateo as sister trainer, and my new companion will be Hermana Jensen, from Cottonwood Heights!  She went to Brighton and the University of Utah, but I'm sure we'll still be great friends. :)  I've had the chance to go on exchanges once with her, and she's an outstanding missionary, and definitely prepared to be a sister trainer.  I'm excited to be her companion.  We have an exciting transfer ahead of us with lots of new sisters we'll be going on exchanges with.  Arriba y adelante!

Happy Thanksgiving!

This week was really good.  We were blessed to find Livorio, our investigator we lost track of last week.  Sister Osborn and I went to his house once again because we saw his van was there.  We went up to the gate and his 3 dogs started barking at us, as they always do.  He usually is there to put them away and save our ankles from being chewed, but this time he wasn't.  Liviorio knows we're terrified of his dogs and thinks it's hilarious.  We debated the pros and cons of putting our feet through the dog version of a paper shredder, and decided finally that we just had to cowboy up and go knock on his door.  We prayed for the beasts' mouths to be shut, I opened the gate, marched past our snarling furry friends, and knocked on the door.  Livorio opened it, looked at me, and said, "Que valiente!" ("How brave!") Since then we've been able to have consistent contact with him.  He came to church this Sunday for the first time!  It was cool to see him recognize that church really is a place where he can receive answers for his personal questions.  He had a revelatory experience and told our ward mission leader that he'll be coming every week to receive more good teachings. :)  He's still looking great for his baptismal date, and we feel like he's felt the support of the ward and wants to keep moving forward.  It's wonderful to see the Spirit keep working on Livorio.  I was reading his teaching record from when he was an investigator in 2009, and it's astounding to see all of the changes in his life that have prepared him to be at this point and to accept the gospel.  I wish those missionaries who first started teaching him 3 years ago could see the progress he's made in his understanding of the gospel and his willingness to show his faith and live it.  One way or another, all the work that every missionary does is part of God's greater plan for His children.
This week we were also blessed to be able to attend a fireside on member missionary work given by Elder Packer of the Seventy.  He talked about how members can apply the principles of Preach My Gospel.  Preach My Gospel truly is an inspired work.  President Meredith shared a quote from a General Authority (don't remember who) that says, "Preach My Gospel was designed beyond the veil and put together here on earth."  That's very true!  I've seen so many miracles and found so many solutions by reading and applying Preach My Gospel.
I also had a cool experience with teaching a new couple we found.  We taught them the message of the Restoration.  Their kids were making a mess and breaking things, their food was burning on the stove, and everything was super distracted when we started the lesson. The husband was defensive and skeptical at first, but as we started to help them see that the confusion they've felt and the questions they've had about religion could be answered through the Restored gospel, we saw huge changes in them.  The distractions were still there, but the Spirit was cutting through them like a knife. The husband was a different person by the time the lesson ended, and I know there's nothing that could have made that change but the Spirit of God.  It was touching to hear him pray out loud for his family and to see the excitement they had to learn more.  Heavenly Father knows His children and His Spirit is touching their hearts and leading them to the truth in ways that no missionary can understand.  This is His work and I feel so blessed to be a part of it.
I can't think of a subject for this email because this week was full of many varied and unusual experiences.  Sister Osborn asked me this morning what good things I would write about in my email home this week, and I couldn't really label anything from this week as "good" or "bad."  So I guess I'll just tell you what happened!
This week exchanges were a little bit crazy.  I was here in our area with a brand new missionary, and her enthusiasm for being part of the work just blew me, and everyone else, away.  She's a great example of being truly excited to serve the Lord.  My personality might not be as "excitable" as hers, but I definitely learned that I need to always keep in remembrance that there is nothing better than being able to serve the Lord and God's children.  From Wednesday to Thursday I was in the San Francisco Chinese program.  We did a street display in Chinatown for two hours in the wind and rain.  We were trying to spread interest for the English class that the Chinese district uses to find new investigators.  I think I said "Free English class!" in Cantonese about 7,000 times.  I wished I had the ability to actually talk to people instead of just handing them a flyer, but I did what I could when English-speakers passed by.
Friday brought one of the most intense exchanges I've had so far.  There was a lot of disobedience going on with one of the missionaries in the companionship, and President Meredith had asked for our help in investigating the extent of the problem a little bit.  I was here in San Mateo with the companion who was struggling because her companion was being disobedient.  It was heartbreaking to see how much the actions of the other companion were hurting this sister, as well as hurting the members and the sister herself.  I don't think we ever understand the extent of the influence our actions have, good or bad.  It was a blessing to be able to help this sister, who has literally been suffering all transfer.  After we ended the exchange we had a chance to talk with President Meredith about the future of the mission and what changes will be made with the sisters who are coming in.  It's so exciting!  It gives me chills to think about how many good experiences and miracles are in store for the sisters who are coming in and the sisters who will be training.
Sunday was a little disappointing.  We had talked with Livorio the night before church, as well as Sunday morning before church, and he was very solid and was fully planning on arriving at church.  We waited and waited for him, but he never showed up.  Then we went by for our lesson in the evening after church, and he wasn't there.  It was strange because we had driven by his house just 5 minutes before arriving for the lesson, and we saw that his car was in the driveway.  When we got there for the lesson, his car was gone and so was he.  He didn't answer our calls either.  :(  We're not sure what happened, but we're going to do everything we can and trust that the Lord has great things in store for him.  Livorio is a great person and has felt the difference the gospel can make in his life.  We'll keep praying for him and trying to have contact, and in the meantime keep searching for more people who are ready to accept the gospel.
This week has been a week of re-evaluation for me.  Things are still going slow in the area, and I've realized that instead of getting frustrated and just plodding forward, this is an opportunity to re-assess my teaching abilities, my self-discipline, and--most importantly--my personal faith in the Savior and His work.  There's a phrase that a sister in the ward here uses that's going to be my theme for this week: "Arriba y adelante!" ("Upward and onward!")  That's the purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ: to help us not just pass the time here on this earth, but to reach upward toward our potential as sons and daughters of God, and to move onward from the mistakes and weaknesses of the past by utilizing the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  Enduring to the end should be joyful and full of satisfaction, despite trials and disappointments.  As I was reading this morning in Preach My Gospel, I encountered a quote that goes along really well with this:
President James E. Faust taught:
“Hope is the anchor of our souls. . . . Hope is trust in God’s promises, faith that if we act now, the desired blessings will be fulfilled in the future. . . . The unfailing source of our hope is that we are sons and daughters of God and that His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, saved us from death” (“Hope, an Anchor of the Soul,”
Ensign, Nov. 1999, 59–60).
Keep the faith, and keep moving upward and onward!


I feel like there's not much to write about this week.  Like Derek's week last week, it's been kind of a struggle.  We too have had a lot of contacts and investigators that have been avoiding us and canceling appointments.  It's alright though--a trial of faith is always preparation for a miracle, and we're working for and expecting great things in our area this week.
We are teaching a man named Livorio who has been a joy to teach.  He's a very humble man, by nature and because of his experiences.  He's going through a very nasty divorce, but it seems to be producing the change that he needed to be ready to accept the gospel.  He was actually a former investigator years ago, and has gone through several sets of missionaries, but he is in a different situation now and is very humble in learning about the gospel.  He's showing a lot of faith in reading the Book of Mormon and praying very sincerely.  He has a baptismal date for December 2!  We're hoping we can move it up to a little sooner because he's already living the Word of Wisdom.  We're praying he'll be able to come to church and continue preparing himself.
We also had an awesome Zone Leader Council this week.  We got to talk about lots of the things that will be happening as the new missionaries come in.  It's such a blessing to be a part of the process of preparing this mission to receive these powerful missionaries who are ready to come and set the work on fire.  It's astounding to see how so many things came together in this last general conference.  The new systems for youth Sunday School, family history work, and missionary work are all preparation for the big leaps that are about to be made in bringing the gospel to all the world.  There Spirit has been so strong as we've thought about these new missionaries that will come to our mission in the next year or so.  The Lord is preparing His servants to do His work, and they will astonish the world as they carry the gospel throughout the earth.  It gives me chills!  We're going to see an increase of about 70 missionaries in the next short while in this mission.  It's so exciting!
It sounds like you all had a pretty quiet Halloween.  Ours was quiet too.  We actually had to stay inside after 6pm, and we were given a deep-cleaning checklist to complete during our time in the apartment.  It was pretty fun, and very refreshing. :)  It was a little scary at times too (especially when we cleaned under the oven), so we got our Halloween frights in.