Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The power of the Spirit!

Hi everyone!  I've been excited to write to you all week because there were so many great things that happened this week.  We saw so many miracles and I learned so much about following the Holy Ghost.
Last week after zone leader council Hermana Jensen and I were invited to give the training for our monthly zone meeting, which is usually given by the zone leaders.  We were given the topic of the power of the Holy Ghost in conversion.  It was an amazing opportunity, and I feel like I learned so much about the importance of the Holy Ghost as we prepared for and gave the training.  As we were preparing we felt like we kept hitting walls as we tried to organize the way we'd teach the doctrine and set up the role-plays.  Eventually, as we sat in our apartment a little frustrated because nothing was coming together, we decided to just role play the whole thing as if we were giving the training.  It was amazing to see that once we opened our mouths and started teaching each other, we knew exactly what to say and the Spirit guided us in preparing the training.  We decided that we should apply that to the actual role play and focus more on having a spiritual and faith-building experience with the missionaries rather than focusing just on practicing teaching skills.  We gave the training at zone meeting on Tuesday and we both felt like it went well.  Having to prepare the practice also taught us a lot of things that we needed to learn personally to be able to have some of the amazing experiences we had this week.
On Wednesday night we taught Nancy again.  It was such a powerful lesson!  We felt prepared to teach by the Spirit and to help her understand the role of the Spirit.  At the end of the lesson, she prayed sincerely to know if what we're teaching her is true.  In her prayer, she said, "I know what they're teaching is true, but I want to feel it."  Wow!  At the end of the prayer we all were so excited, including her, because we could feel the Spirit starting to give her answers.  She's so great!  She has a sincere heart and real intent.
On Friday we had the chance to go to a meeting for new leaders that's held every transfer.  Even though the meeting is usually for district leaders, we got to go as well.  It was interesting because most of the meeting focused on preparing the new district leaders to be prepared to give baptismal interviews.  We got to role play with the elders on helping investigators through issues with one of the baptismal interview questions. At first I felt a little weird role-playing something that's not directly part of my responsibilities as a missionary, but it ended up being a great experience.  As Elder Croft expressed several times, a baptismal interview is a wonderful teaching experience.  I felt that being able to do that practice helped me understand the role of repentance and the importance of showing love in helping people prepare to be members of the Lord's Church.
Sunday was a great day!  We were a little discouraged during our morning meetings because all of our investigators had told us they wouldn't be making it to church.  However, as I looked down from my spot at the piano after the opening prayer in sacrament meeting, I saw that literally 75% of the less-active members in our area were in the chapel!  It was astounding.  Some of these people have never been to church the entire time I've been in the area, and they came this week.  A miracle!
Yet ANOTHER miracle Sunday night was our lesson with David, the recent convert that I've written about several times.  We had a lesson with him in the bishop's home with the YSA representatives of the ward.  We taught about the baptismal covenant and it was an amazing lesson.  Sometimes when we teach it feels like there's a lot of separation of roles--that we're the missionaries, the members are the members, and the person being taught is kind of sitting there in the middle.  This lesson went totally differently, and the difference was made by the Spirit.  In this lesson, it felt so much better, and rather than feeling that separation of roles, I felt that we're all brothers and sisters trying to learn and apply the same truths to our lives as we're taught by the Spirit of the Lord.  Everyone was sincerely invested in feeling the Spirit and learning something, and it was so powerful that Sister Jensen and I were both fighting back tears.  At the end of the lesson everyone was in agreement that the lesson was just for them, including David.  We left the house with David sitting at the bishop's dining room table eating cookies and hot chocolate with everyone like he'd never been away from the church a day in his life.  It was such a happy sight. :)
I feel so blessed to be here and to be able to learn so much about our Heavenly Father's plan for us.  This plan is real, and I see His hand helping His children through that plan every day.  The Spirit of the Lord is working miracles daily.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

This week was great.  I think the highlights came from two new investigators we were able to find.  Both of them let us in after we started talking to them at the door.  The first sister's name is Nancy.  She let us in and seemed really skeptical at first.  She'd met with missionaries before and had somehow gotten the picture that we worship prophets instead of Jesus Christ.  It was cool to see the Spirit teach her as we testified of the Savior and of the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith.  I'm amazed at the faith that people show as they feel the Spirit and we invite them to seek and receive their own answers.  We went back for a second appointment with Nancy and read from the Book of Mormon in 3 Nephi 11 with her.  She had invited a friend to come over as well, and as we read, I could feel the Spirit bearing testimony of the Savior and of the importance of baptism.  I could tell that the Spirit had opened Nancy's heart and produced a change in her desires.  She told us she would ask God if the things we shared are true.  She had such an attitude of willingness by the end of the lesson, and her friend also accepted her own copy of the Book of Mormon!
A second investigator we found is named Judith.  She literally has no knowledge of the gospel.  She believes in God but doesn't really know how to worship him.  As we taught her the message of the restoration she started opening up to us about a lot of difficult things in her life.  I was blown away by the faith that this sister has, even with no background of knowing anything about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  She has such trust in God and in His will, and that faith has carried her through experiences I can't even imagine having.  Her heart is truly "prepared ground" ready to receive the gospel.  We're going back to teach her tonight--we're so excited!
This week has been full of really spiritual lessons and also a few lessons that were just really frustrating.  A couple times we walked out of lessons feeling really discouraged because we couldn't feel the Spirit.  It's never good to feel that way, but it's also an opportunity to find out what we need to change.  Even in a lesson where someone decides to not accept the gospel, if we're teaching by the Spirit, we can walk out feeling fulfilled and satisfied.  I feel like I have a lot of growing to do and a lot of charity and faith to develop.  I want to be able to walk out of every lesson knowing that I fulfilled my purpose, and not feeling like I was trying to just convince someone to accept.
We also had zone leader council this week, and as a council we set the baptismal goal for the mission for 2013.  Just like last month, it was a powerful experience to realize the importance of each missionary in bringing to pass the work of the Lord.  I feel so blessed to be in a place where I'm able to experience the power of the Lord's hand in bringing about the salvation of His children in such a direct way.
Other news to report--transfer calls!  Sister Jensen and I will be staying together in San Mateo for her last transfer.  I'm sending yet another companion home!  It will be a great transfer and I'm grateful to have 6 more weeks to be with Hermana Jensen.  She's great and I learn a lot from her every day.

Joy in the work

This week has been fantastic.  On Wednesday we had the green light to go out and proselyte again, and it was amazing.  It felt so good to hit the pavement again, especially after a week of being in what kind of felt like the MTC again--lots of sitting and studying until my eyes were tired.  Sister Jensen is a trooper.  She's still not at 100% but she's doing a lot better and fought through the lack of energy to work hard all this week.  I love her and I'm so grateful for her.  I'm learning a lot from the way she thinks outside of herself and seeks to meet others' needs.  She is a Christlike missionary and I'm blessed to be her companion.

I met Sister Osborn's family this week!  They came to sacrament meeting and dinner with her in our ward.  It was great to finally give handshakes and hugs to her family, and of course to see Hna Osborn again.  I've been so blessed with great companions on my mission!

We were super blessed to find 5 new investigators this week.  It was amazing to see how the teaching pool all of a sudden filled up this weekend.  We were extremely blessed.

One of our new investigators, Maria Eugenia, is awesome, and incredibly prepared to receive the gospel.  We got her name from a cousin of hers that lives in Sacramento and who has been talking with her about the gospel for a long time.  As we were talking to Maria, Hna Jensen asked her what question she would ask God if she could talk to Him personally.  She said, "I'd ask Him which is the church that I should join."  She's definitely a searcher!  She's been through a lot--a daughter of hers has cancer and her son is atheist.  She's looking for the gospel and is really sincere in looking for answers.  We're super excited to teach her.

I've just been extremely happy this week.  It's been so great to go out and work hard every day, to go on exchanges, to knock doors in the freezing cold, to talk to people about what they're looking for and what they need in this life.  Hna Jensen and I have been trying really hard to focus on helping people find what they need through the gospel, and the Lord has blessed us with so many opportunities to make heart to heart connections with a lot of people.  The work has become so much more fulfilling as we've rededicated ourselves to working with all our hearts.