Monday, December 15, 2014
I really have no idea how to put into words the emotions I have felt in the last few days! I truly feel so blessed to have spent the last 18 months of my life serving the Lord here among the people of Pennsylvania. There are so many things I wouldn't have been able to dream up that I have experienced, and both the good and the bad are things I wouldn't trade for the world because EVERY experience has provided an opportunity to grow closer to my Savior. Yesterday in the 3rd hour of church, Sister Pugmire and I were invited to join a small panel of returned missionaries for the Young Women to ask questions to about sharing the gospel. It was a sacred experience for me because I was able to pause for a moment and really reflect on my mission. A flood of memories of the AMAZING people I have met, loved, taught, and been blessed so greatly by just completely overtook me and I couldn't help but sit there in awe. I felt such an overwhelming sense of gratitude to my Father in heaven for the love He has for me, in allowing me this opportunity. I feel so blessed.
So many miracles happened this week for Sister Pugmire and I! We had two lessons with Sheila about the word of wisdom, and the law of chastity. Both of them were incredible experiences because Sheila is sincerely preparing herself for the day she will be baptized, and I have never seen anyone so genuinely desire to please the Lord. In explaining the importance of our bodies as special gifts, sacred temples, from our Father in heaven she instantly grasped onto the seriousness of keeping them holy! In the word of wisdom lesson, she started pondering if she should give up sweets as well because she didn't think they do good things for her body! We thought it was amazing how she was so readily applying the teaching in her life, but did explain that moderation in all things is a key part of the word of wisdom. :) She is such a neat lady!! She has grown at such an amazing rate in the last few months, it is such a testimony to the power of the gospel! IT HAS THE POWER TO CHANGE LIVES!! I know that with all my heart.
I was asked to teach our district meeting this week, which was neat. I chose to focus on a phrase that has been a major blessing to my whole mission, told to me by my Daddy at the end of every letter - "Remember Joy!" During my time in State College, I read the Book of Mormon focusing on the word "remember" and it was such a powerful experience, realizing that one of Satan's greatest tools is trying to make us forget the spiritual promptings, revelations, and aspects of our testimony we have worked so diligently to gain! The Lord promises that if we retain in our remembrance the tender mercies He has poured out upon us, that we will not fall into temptation! The greatest tender mercy, or gift, we have been given is our Savior Jesus Christ. If we remember Him then we will have motivation to keep all our covenants and our Father in heaven will rejoice that we are choosing to acknowledge what He has done for us. The gospel is what has brought the greatest joy in my life and the time I have spent here in PA as a full-time missionary has helped that become so very clear! I know that part of my next task will be to remember the lessons I have learned, the experiences I have had, the people who have touched my life, and the relationship I have gained with both my Heavenly Father and my Savior. If I allow those things to propel me into whatever comes next, and to help me continue deepening my love for the gospel and my resolve to become more like Jesus Christ, then I will have nothing to fear.
I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I know that God provided a way for us to receive all the blessings He has by restoring the fullness of the gospel to the earth! I know that the Plan of Salvation give us greater understanding, and by studying it we can gain an eternal perspective that can change the way we see our everyday lives. How amazing is it that we can KNOW that we are loved by a perfect God?! I have come to know so deeply through the power of the Holy Ghost, that each of us are beloved sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. I know that He desperately wants us to return to Him and that we can!! He has provided a way, and only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ can we achieve our divine potential.
I love you all and I cannot thank you enough for the support you have given me!!
Hurrah for Israel!
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
I know, I am the worst email-er on the planet.. sorry! Please forgive me!
I wanted to tell you how amazing it has been using the "He is the Gift" that the church has put out! Everyone needs to be touched by this wonderful message and help Christmas be more focused on the reason the holiday exists - CHRIST! We are so blessed to have this incredible gift from our Father in heaven, so what are we going to give in return? :)
Sister Pugmire and I went caroling almost everyday this week, spreading Christmas cheer and striving to find opportunities to share our testimonies of the Savior with all we come in contact with. We have seen so many miracles, and I wish I had time to spell them all out. Just know, Heavenly Father wants all of His children to come back to Him so desperately!
Things are going so well with Sheila! She is the most adorable lady ever, I LOVE HER!!! She loves the Lord with all her heart and is looking forward to being baptized! She has become a regular among the ward and everyone has enveloped her in love! Also, we started teaching this incredible Chinese couple (I feel like I am in State College again!) who work with a member of the Stake Presidency. They have a little girl and have expressed desire for "God to help their family". Which, we know is possible :)
I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to change any life, and if we allow it to help us with our challenges it can lift us to new heights and bring the greatest happiness available! I love you all so much!! Please reach out in love to someone around you who needs it! #ShareTheGift
p.s. here is a picture of Sister Pugmire and I decorating our cute little Christmas tree!
Monday, November 24, 2014
I cannot even begin to describe what an incredible week it has been!! I started off the week with an exchange with my adorable sister training leader and good friend, Sister Sparks! We served in the University Branch together in State College so we know each other really well and it was such a tender mercy being able to spend a day with her. While we were together we got to teach Sheila about the importance of daily scripture study and prayer. Sheila is incredible and repeatedly expresses her sincere desire to simply do whatever it is that the Lord wants her to do! She is committed to being baptized and excitedly looks forward to that special time, but Sister Pugmire and I are not sure when that will happen. Sheila is very devoted to God, but has been having a bit of a hard time comprehending and retaining the wonderful truths that help her understand that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's one, true church upon the earth. It may take a little longer than we expected or would like, but we are constantly being reminded that everything happens according to the Lord's timing. His timing is always what is best, so there is no point in stressing out about the "when".
I had 2 wonderful surprises also this week - Thursday night a lady from Butler took us out for dinner! Her name is Jan and I think I talked about her quite a bit while I was serving there. She is an ANGEL and has come such an incredibly long way over the past year and a half in her conversion, her testimony is so strong it filled my heart with joy!! Her husband is now actively taking the lessons (he went from avoiding us entirely to sitting in on Jan's lessons during my time there) for himself and has been reading the Book of Mormon on a regular basis! Woot woot! She also has been sharing the gospel with one of her co-workers. So wonderful! It is amazing to see how we automatically desire to turn outward and share the blessings of the gospel when we take the time to recognize them in our own lives, and develop our personal faith!! Then, later in the week I got a surprise visit from 2 of my favorite people from State College!! Sam and Emily took an outrageously long detour after their temple trip to the DC temple and came here to moon to see me :) I about passed out with joy... seeing them didn't even feel real! I sat there holding their hands and listening to them talk about the happenings in the branch, soaking in the feeling of being with them again! I miss that branch so much!
The neatest experience we had this week was with a wonderful lady that I am going to call Mrs. B. She is not a member, in fact she is very active in her own Christian church. She is WONDERFUL!! She is a dry Mormon, and being in her home is such a joy. Sisters met them several months ago because they have a very good friend who is LDS who referred them. Well, they are not interested in taking the lessons right now but we pop in every once in a while to see if we can do anything for them. When we popped this last week, she said it was perfect timing because she wanted our help in decorating her house for Christmas! We were extremely excited, of course, and set up a time to help her. We spent a good chunk of time on Friday helping her and it was such a happy day full of learning about her and her family, and the role that God and religion have played in their lives! She asked us a lot of questions in reference to the misconceptions about the church and we loved having the chance to clear those up. As we helped her clean up after all the decorating, I asked if we could sing her a song before we left because I saw Sister Pugmire eyeing her beautiful grand piano as we put up the tree in the living room. She excitedly said yes and as Sister Pugmire began tinkering around on the piano, Mrs. B called her husband to come home from work right away and called her next door neighbor to come over for a "concert"! haha She was ecstatic that we wanted to sing for her. So, Sister Pugmire got to share our testimonies of the gospel through music :) We sang "We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet", "Savior, Redeemer of my Soul", "Count Your Many Blessings", "Sweet Hour of Prayer" and "God Be with You Til We Meet Again". It brought Mrs. B to tears and after each song she would comment on the beautiful words. Her neighbor was so grateful that she was invited and thanked us over and over for our beautiful voices. It was such a neat experience! We felt so blessed to have had the opportunity to share a little more of our beliefs in a way that means so much to both Sister Pugmire and I. Music has such an incredible ability to bring the Spirit and touch hearts.
I know the gospel is true!! I know that we can accomplish what the Lord needs us to, if we are doing what is needed to have the Spirit in our lives and then acting on the promptings we receive! Never pass up an opportunity to show love to someone.
Have a wonderful week!
Monday, October 13, 2014
This week has been full of so many miracles!
We were able to find a new investigator this week, a cute 45 year old lady named Sheilea who is completely prepared to hear the gospel. She was in awe as we taught her the Restoration and explained that there is a prophet on the earth today, just like Moses or Abraham or Noah. She has been to many churches in the past, but she never felt like they were truly focused on God. She had felt that each church she attended was becoming more and more centered on the "money" aspect, and less determined to help people have faith. We knew that coming to church with us would be crucial, because she would be able to see right away that the ward is full of righteous families and individuals who have the sole purpose of deepening their relationship with God and helping others do the same! Guess what? SHE CAME! It was especially special, because our ward mission leader told me that there hasn't been a single investigator from the sister's area at church for this entire calendar year... Not from lack of trying, just simply because people were not truly interested or satan worked his way in and prevented it from happening. Sheilea was so wonderful and she seemed to glow as she heard the different talks and lessons, fully based on our Savior Jesus Christ and how we can grow closer to Him. Woot woot! Yay for church!
We also had a fun experience contacting a Church Headquarter referral. We had called the guy to ask when would be a good time to drop by his home and leave him the Book of Mormon, and he sounded very young! So, we were excited! We arrive on the scheduled day and out walks this 15 year old kid (named Jake) in a white t-shirt with the print on the front looking like a black necktie and black name tag! As he got closer we were able to see the words on the name tag, "God's Favorite Musical"! haha He had gone to see the Book of Mormon musical a few weeks before with his parents and because of it, was anxious to read the Book of Mormon and see what it is really about! He was excited to meet us and told us that he has been "church hunting" a lot lately but none of them have clicked for him. He was thrilled to set up a time to learn more from us about the church and at the end of the conversation he looked at me intently and asked, "so if I joined your church, would I go on a mission?" haha..... what?! :D We giggled and told him, if he had a desire to go then yes of course he COULD serve a mission.
OH! This last Tuesday we got together with 2 neighboring zones, had a mini zone training, and then got to watch MEET THE MORMONS! Holy cow, it was amazing!! I don't think there was a dry eye in the room, especially during the "missionary mom" section of the movie - it was so real for all of us and it may have caused a little longing for home in the hearts of a few of the missionaries. But truly, what an uplifting, inspiring video! It is so interesting to see how the world's view of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is slowly beginning to shift to a more accurate perception. With the miracle of modern technology we have the opportunity to share what we believe with so many people in our lives, on a regular basis. I hope everyone gets the chance to see the movie soon! Invite your friends to see it! :)
I love you all so much! The gospel is the greatest blessing, and I hope we can strive to live it a little more fully each day and show the Lord how grateful we are for this blessing. I know the Savior loves us! Our Heavenly Father wants us to be happy and He has given us so many tools to find true happiness. Read, pray, serve, love! Have a wonderful week!!
This week has been full of craziness and pure JOY! To start - last preparation day (a week ago today) missionaries serving all around Pittsburgh came together at the Point State Park to play ultimate Frisbee! It probably doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but if you look at almost any well known picture of Pittsburgh or even the fun Pitt t-shirts, so many display the Park with it's massive fountain. It was neat, and it made it very real that I am truly in Pittsburgh! Woohoo!
From Tuesday night into Wednesday, I got to go on an exchange with my Sister Training Leader and good friend who was in the MTC at the same time I was! We had quite the time together! We had a surprise service activity where we spent 4 hours frantically packing up a house. A random lady, who is coming out of an abusive relationship, was leaving to another state with 4 young children and hadn't packed up a single thing in her home. When we walked into her house, I just wanted to burst into tears! Immediately after walking into the house, the living room off to the left had the four children sprawled out over a flat cardboard box that had nothing but a soiled flat sheet over top of it and all around them were the remains of the previous night's McDonald's dinner. The youngest child, just a small baby was screaming at the top of her little lungs and the mother, between giving us directions on where to start, would yell at the baby to cut it out. So, we went to work! There were mounds of clothes, toys, food, garbage- you name it -that we gutted and packed up for her. We had to call in the assistants and another set of elders to come and help, because we knew there was no chance we would be able to accomplish it all on our own. The assistants had helped her the night before as well, and when they arrived and saw the progress we had done, they were amazed by how much better it looked from the night before when they had first arrived! Which was pitiful because we hadn't felt like we had accomplished hardly anything! (in case you can't tell - it was BAD)
After listening to that poor little baby scream for the next little while, one of the assistants looked at me and told me that one of us sisters needed to hold her and that we had permission to give her some love because it was very apparent that what the mother was doing was not working. So, we continued working as fast as we could, taking turns holding the kids and trying to keep them calm. The whole time as we were trying to help, I found myself getting discouraged that these poor little children were in such terrible circumstances and that nothing we were doing would help them to really get out of the problems they were dealing with. Heavenly Father seemed to sooth my worries, and when we were nearing the end, we gave the mother a Book of Mormon. She said thank you over and over, telling us that we were angels for helping her! I don't know if that lady will choose to read the Book of Mormon, but I do know that because of our service and prayers on their behalf, that family will be blessed in some way. If nothing else, it helped me realize how lending a helping hand and being willing to help in a time of need can be an answer to someone else's prayer. It didn't seem like much what we were able to accomplish for her that day, but as Elder Holland helped me remember in conference, "What we do is only a drop in the ocean, but if we do not do it, the ocean will be one drop less.."
Which leads me to the pure joy of this week - CONFERENCE! Holy cow - this conference was truly the greatest I have ever experienced. I was able to see so clearly how the Lord really does hear my prayers and is anxious to help me find answers to them. I was especially touched by Elder Jorg Klebingat's talk about the importance of having confidence before God. His 6 tips to help accomplish this confidence were so inspired and I am excited to readily apply and do better with each of them. Towards the end of his talk, I felt that he was speaking directly to me when he said, "acknowledge and face your weaknesses, but don't become immobilized by them!" The Lord wants each of us to be happy and to provide us with strength to overcome our weaknesses, not to be held down and hindered by them. The Savior's Atonement is REAL. I know that as we turn to the Lord for help, He will send what we need to achieve our righteous desires and goals.
I love this gospel! And I love all of you!! I hope that we can all review over and over the inspiration that we received this weekend. We are so incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to receive personal revelation, and to hear the word of God directly from His prophet! Let's take advantage of the blessings available to us :)
I have been transferred to Moon! It is about 15 minutes outside of Pittsburgh! Woohoo! This last week was really interesting and fun getting to try and learn the area and LOTS of names. We had dinner appointment every night this last week, which my companion said is extremely rare for this ward, and it was such a tender mercy because these members extended so much love to me - and coming into church on Sunday, I felt like I already knew a good amount of them! This ward is really young. So many young families with a lot of cutie pie kids, and many more on the way(it seems like half the ward is pregnant and they are all glowing with joy!)! Needless to say.. I am very happy here :)
My companion's name is Sister Pugmire! She has been out for 14 months, so it is definitely a cool experience to serve with someone who is "seasoned" and has had a lot of wonderful experiences to share. We are ready to tear up this area and find/teach/rescue until we drop!
I don't have a lot of time, next week I will write more! But I wanted to share really fast something that I loved from the General Women's Meeting. Wasn't it wonderful?! I was so inspired by President Uchtdorf's talk, and specifically when he shared with the women about the importance of remembering that we are all children of God! The knowledge that I am a child of God will carry me through the hardest trials and can motivate me to accomplish so much IF I choose to remember it... Being a daughter of God isn't a title I have earned nor will I ever LOSE. How comforting! I know that we are all children of God and that our Father in heaven loves us so dearly. I hope we can all choose to remember that no matter what is going on in our lives, trying to distract us from that precious truth!
I love you all so much and I hope that General Conference receives your full, undivided attention this weekend! We are so blessed to be able to hear these inspired men of God speak directly to us on the most important topics right now. LOVE YOU!!!
p.s. New address:
310 Lee Dr. #59
Moon, PA 15108
Thursday, September 18, 2014
WOOHOO!!! We had an adventure packed, stress-filled but incredible week! Where to start?!Okay, so I need to skip the beginning of the week and get right to Thursday. We had zone conference here in State College, so missionaries came in from the 2 surrounding zones and we had a lot of wonderful training. We reviewed the lessons that we learned from Elder Wilford W. Andersen when he came to visit not too long ago, including the importance of our calling to instruct, edify and act! As people, we cannot learn to rely upon God simply by acquiring the "head knowledge" that could teach us in essence, how to do it. We must also have our hearts acted upon by the Holy Ghost and receive a witness, or "heart knowledge" about WHY it would even be important in the first place. Once the people we teach clearly understand the Gospel in their mind, and then have the Spirit touch their hearts as to why it is necessary in their life, then we act by inviting them to act! It was an incredible reflection of the Gospel as it applies to each of us. From day one of my mission I was told that everything I learned would be important for me to remember, whether or not I was wearing a name tag. How true! This specific training was neat because each day as I am trying to learn more of the teachings of the Savior, it won't do me much good if I am not allowing those teachings into my heart as well as my head, then putting it into action to set that example for others!
p.s. pictures: 1) The four of us university sisters with our Branch president - we are all attempting the very attractive double chin look! haha 2) Sister Bradshaw and I wearing our BML's t-shirts as we made 2 HUGE batches of cookies in preparation for the open house! Woohoo! LOVE YOU!
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
What a wonderful week! Sorry, this email is going to be kind of short, but I wanted to let you know that all went smoothly with Kat's baptism!Codey has family in Georgia and New Jersey and they all came in for the baptism, which made it an even more special experience. Kat's family isn't super supportive of her decision to join the church, so we think it meant a lot to her to have so much support from Codey's family! A cool part about the service, is that Kat wasn't the only one getting baptized! The other University sisters had a baptism as well, which was so cool for our branch!! The program went according to plan and the actual baptism itself was fun, to see Kat's face beaming with joy as she came out of the water and as soon as she could, she turned to her husband and gave him a big kiss! Sister Bradshaw and I giggled because it is something we totally could've seen coming. They are so cute. :) I think that has been the neatest difference in teaching Kat, that they truly have had the temple in mind throughout the whole process. They have an ultimate goal of being sealed in the temple, which made teaching her the lessons seem to take on a greater importance in a way. We, as missionaries, are always striving to see people for their potential, picturing them dressed in white, making covenants with Heavenly Father in the temple. But to have our investigator already have that vision for herself without us having to try and help her establish it, was really, really cool. I love her!
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
"We don't serve because of our callings, we serve because of our covenants." -Elder Wilford W. AndersenThis week was wonderful! On Tuesday, we were visited by general authority Wilford W. Andersen and his lovely wife Kathleen. It was an incredibly uplifting, motivating, powerful experience that the missionaries of our mission were blessed to have! He taught us the importance of teaching by the Spirit. He focused on teaching us how to help those that we teach understand the gospel clearly, feel the Spirit - which will help instill within them a desire to choose the right, then commit them to act on the desire they feel and exercise faith! At one point of the meeting, he opened it up for questions. A senior missionary raised his hand and said, "Elder Andersen, when Elder Holland and Elder Hallstrom came to visit our mission, we were told how long they had been traveling and how much they had to accomplish in such a short amount of time. I was wondering if you could explain what the life of a general authority entails and why your schedules are so rigorous?" Elder Andersen was excited at this new question and went on to describe how they had been area authorities over the Caribbean for the past 5 years and some of the adventures that went along with that. Then Elder Andersen got really quiet as he talked about how amazed he has been in working with members of the quorum of the twelve, and the first presidency. With emotion in his voice and tears in his eyes he simply said, "I revere them.... These are men of God." The Spirit sent chills up my spine and tears sprang into my eyes as well, because I knew that his words were true. The leaders of our church are wearing out their lives in the work of the Lord, because they truly understand it's importance. We are SO blessed to have a prophet on the earth today!
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
This last week we got to visit Amish country and meet some Amish families! A week ago today, a family named the Synders gave us a "tour" which included going into the homes of several Amish families that they have become close friends with over their years living in the area! It was such a neat experience!! There is so much that we can learn from the Amish. They live very simple lifestyles, they are extremely hard workers, they love and cherish their family, and they are genuinely kind people. The only part that stinks is that they don't believe in taking pictures of themselves... so I couldn't get any pictures with them. But I was able to get lots of pictures of the whole experience! The Snyders are wonderful people, and part of what I took away from the experience that I wanted to share with you is the importance of the commandment to, "love thy neighbor." The Snyder family have not been afraid of sharing our values and beliefs with the Amish people they have come in contact with, and simply by being friendly and loving, they have fostered real friendships with these wonderful people. The mutual understanding and open minded attitudes have allowed them to learn from one another and really love each other! Heavenly Father has asked us to love all people, and I found out this week that it is easy to love these wonderful Amish people who live here in Pennyslvania!This week as we met with Darien several times, I felt Heavenly Father helping us tremendously. Darien is having a hard time finding faith, and holding on to it. Because of that, we asked him to read Alma 32 in hopes that he would understand that our loving Father in heaven does not expect us to have unshakable faith right away, but if we have a little faith and are willing to put forth the effort, He will help it to grow! Well.. it ended up going a different direction, which I know is because it is what Darien needed. He focused in on Alma 32:16-17, and was confused that God would ask people to believe and be baptized "without stubbornness of heart." He felt that if he isn't stubborn, but simply accepts everything then it wouldn't stick! He also didn't like that in verse 17, asking for a sign from heaven is NOT good. He looked at us and asked, "is that fair?" He made the point that we live in a world that moves forward based upon the results or evidence that we find, so why would God tell us to go against our nature and NOT look for a sign. Because of this, Sister Bradshaw and I had to really listen to the Spirit in helping Darien with his concern! We answered his question with two reasons:
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Family!Becoming attached to people then having to say goodbye, is one of my least favorite things. Luckily, I am not the one leaving (I am NOT getting transferred! Woohoo!) but their are 2 couples from the University Branch here in State College that are both leaving for grad school in Texas. They, the Hatchs and the Boyers have both taught me so much!! In the email from my mission president this week, he was counseling us missionaries (in regards to transfers) to focus on what our purpose truly is and not get caught up in worrying about what area we are in, if our companion is right, and what leadership we have been asked to fulfill. Instead, he quoted President Clark who said, "In the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve, but how." This immediately struck my heart because I have been given such great examples to follow! Tim and Tavhata Boyer were those members that my companion and I felt comfortable asking for help no matter what the situation was! They were our "go-to" fellowshippers for so many people we were/are teaching because they served so diligently at all times. They have strong testimonies of the Savior and our Heavenly Father's love for each of His children, and they are not afraid to share it with those around them. :) I have truly come to realize that Heavenly Father sent me on a mission, not just to learn how to be a good missionary at this point in my life, but to teach me, by the examples of those I would meet here in Pennsylvania, how to be a good missionary for the rest of my life! When we truly love this gospel, our desire to share it with others will grow! I feel blessed to have met these wonderful people.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Family! :DHoly cow! I'm sorry that I have not sent an email home for a few weeks, they have been very eventful! Heavenly Father has been pouring out the blessings on Sister Bradshaw and I! This has been a huge testimony to me of Heavenly Father's willingness to help us when we are in need and providing opportunities to accomplish the desires of our hearts to help fulfill his work and share His gospel. Last weekend, I got sick. It got to the point that my mission president's wife sent me to urgent care, and because they didn't know exactly what was wrong but my symptoms were worrisome I was then sent to the Emergency Room. It was not a fun experience, and I felt frustrated with my body! There were things that were much more important than laying in my bed at the apartment trying to heal! BUT I learned that by relying on Heavenly Father, trusting that it will all work out, and being humble enough to recognize that I can't always accomplish everything I want to - it all fell into place. Because of that experience, as frustrating and miserable as it was, it allowed me to see even more clearly the incredible blessings and miracles Heavenly Father was waiting to pour out on us!!
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
This week was one of those "roller coaster" weeks. Full of miracles, and one or two heart breakers as well! To start off the week right, last Tuesday we met our new mission president. He is AMAZING! He seems to be one of the kindest people around, with a huge heart and a willingness to invest all his time and energy into us as missionaries, as well as every person living within the Pennsylvania Pittsburgh mission. His wife was so tender and extended her sincere love and concern to each of us as we went up and hugged her. They have been so anxious to arrive since learning of their call about 9 months ago and it was so easy to feel how much they care! After that meeting, we headed to Forums where people seemed especially willing to talk with us (probably because it was gorgeous outside - tender mercy!). We met this one young man named Darien, who instantly filled me with hope as I could truly see him for his potential in the gospel. He is from Philadelphia and has had a hard upbringing in dealing with a heavy dosage of hypocrisy from people who profess to be Christians. It turned him away for a long while, but within the past year he decided to begin his search again. He has been to 8 or 9 churches but hasn't felt that any of them were welcoming, he described the experience at each as simply "not feeling right." My companion and I strongly testified of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ being restored to the earth, and the ability he has to know for himself that there is a church on the earth today that IS true and does feel right! He seemed hesitant, but agreed to meet with us the next day.
On Wednesday, when we met up with Darien for a lesson, he opened up to us a lot more. He explained his hesitation comes from having a hard time feeling that God actually loves him. He feels that he doesn't get answers to his prayers and that a lot of times he feels silly praying because he doesn't know if anyone is actually listening. My heart ached for him to feel the love that his Father in heaven has for him! I could feel it so strongly and I wanted him to be able to feel it as well! We testified, from the bottom of our hearts, that God knows him personally and loves him deeply. We promised him that if he turns to the Book of Mormon searching out that love, he will be able to find it. Towards the end of the lesson he told said, "I can tell y'all have confidence in what you're saying. And I know that generally I am not a happy person, but I can tell that you are! Like.. y'all glow!" :) He committed to taking his questions to God and finding out for himself if He really is there for him.
Skipping ahead to Friday - Darien came to a "brunch" the branch had in the morning to celebrate Independence day! He had told us the night before that he was worried he wouldn't feel comfortable, but the incredible members of our branch (especially the one who came to Darien's lesson on wednesday) really reached out to him and welcomed him right away!! It was so wonderful. As we all left, he kept telling us how happy he was that he came and how he couldn't wait to come to the service on Sunday! He was feeling loved!! We went from the brunch on Friday to help out with the parade that was happening downtown. It was so fun! We were in charge of handling the biggest balloon in the line up and it was quite the experience!! From the time we arrived for "training"/helping set up to the time we left the parade scene was about 4.5 hours. The best part about that whole time, was a little girl named Sadie. :) Her mom was busy helping with all of the parade logistics, so I started asking this little girl questions about herself. She is 9 years old, she is originally from China, and she loves God and church so much! She asked me a million questions about being a missionary and concluded after a few minutes that when she grows up, she wants to be a missionary too! She clung to me the entire day and at the end of the parade, she didn't want to leave my side. My heart was filled with love for this little girl!! She was so pure and innocent, and loved me unconditionally after only knowing me for a few hours. That night as I thought more about how much I needed to meet little Sadie, I felt an increased desire to love the people I serve the way that she immediately loved me. There truly is so much to be learned from the "little ones" around us. :)
On Saturday morning is when we received sad news. We received a text from Darien telling us that he didn't feel the Book of Mormon's teachings were something that he could "follow in good conscience." ...I have been out for a good while now on my mission and as a result, have had to deal with a lot of people dropping us. For some reason though, this one hurt a lot worse than the others. I turned to my companion and I couldn't hold back tears as I asked her what we did wrong? She reminded me of the Spirit we felt in his lesson, and the happiness we could see in his eyes after spending time with the members at the branch activity. I had to then remind myself of my purpose; I have been called to INVITE others to come unto Christ... I cannot force Darien to accept the happiness the gospel could bring into his life, I can only invite him to do certain things and make certain choices that would allow it to happen.
I am grateful that I have the opportunity to use the agency I have been give, to choose to follow my Savior Jesus Christ. I know that He lives, and that He has provided the perfect example that we each should strive to pattern our own lives after. The gospel brings lasting happiness and true joy into our lives if we are willing to live by it's teachings and keep the commandments! I know the gospel is true!
I love you all so much! Have a wonderful week!
Monday, June 16, 2014
I'm sorry I didn't email last week! Last Saturday, on June 7th, Garett got baptized! :D Holy cow.. it was so incredible. I don't know if I told you this either, but the monday before his baptism, he told us that he had finished the Book of Mormon! He read the entire thing in 23 days, and immediately started in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Old Testament. He is such a huge inspiration!! The day of his baptism was so special. Justin Hatch our branch mission leader told us that as he was walking back to the font with Garett, he asked him, "So... are you really ready to do this?" Garett without any hesitiation, excitedly responded, "OH yeah!" At the end of the service, he bore his testimony. In simple, sincere words he expressed his gratitude for the knowledge that he has a Heavenly Father. He knows that God wants us to pray to Him and that He is always going to answer those prayers. He has been so grateful for the Book of Mormon and the many things it has taught him as he has read it. He knows that Jesus Christ is His Savior and that if he keeps the commandments and endures to the end, he will be blessed. :)
His parents both came to the baptism and they seemed, though indifferent to religion, very proud of Garett and happy that he has developed such strong faith. He was absolutely glowing afterwards and kept telling us that he couldn't wait for the next day when he would finally be confirmed a member and receive the Holy Ghost. It was awesome! Then, a few days later we had our first "new member lesson" with Garett and felt prompted to talk about missionary work. It went well, and he committed to start praying about receiving opportunities to share the gospel, and praying about the possiblity of serving a full-time mission! He continued through the week to read at an incredible pace through the scriptures and send us questions he had while reading. He is currently in Leviticus and past D&C 50. Then, stake conference came! Because of the request from the first presidency, the Adult session on Saturday evening was entirely about missionary work!! It was amazing! I got to see Elder Walter C. Selden and he recognized me immediately!! He said he had been looking for me and wanted me to know that Grandma and Grandpa are doing well. It was a huge tender mercy! :) I told him that I had someone that I wanted him to meet (Garett) and he was so excited! He asked me to make sure that I don't leave on Sunday without introducing Garett to him! On Sunday morning, there was a recent convert meeting for anyone who had been baptized within the past 2 years. Garett was the newest member of the bunch and Elder Selden picked him out during the meeting and asked him to share his experience. It was so wonderful to hear Garett share how he, "had never been to church before in his life, but when he started reading the Book of Mormon it was a total game changer, and he knew this was true!" HOW COOL!!! Immediately after the meeting Elder Selden came right up to Garett and thanked him for sharing his experiences. As they continued talking, Elder Selden got a very serious expression on his face and said, "I hope... no, I KNOW by looking in your eyes, that you are going to do great things.." :) As we walked away from the meeting, we told Garett how cool that was, for a general authority to so boldly declare that he will do great things!
I love you all so much!! The work is begninning to slow down here now that summer is in full swing and so many students have left. Sister Moss and I are excited to work even harder and find those that Heavenly Father is preparing for us to teach! The gospel of Jesus Christ has the potential to change anyone's life... just like it has changed mine. :) Have an amazing week!!
p.s. Pictures: 1) President and Sister Topham with me at their last zone conference! They are so sweet and they will be GREATLY missed!! 2) Sister Moss and I with Garett at the baptism!
Monday, June 2, 2014
So this week has been like a rollercoaster. It started wonderfully! On Tuesday we had an amazing miracle happen with a guy named Cody! Here in the University Branch, we very, very rarely get to have lessons in member's homes. We almost always meet on campus. Well, we had a young adorable couple volunteer to have one of our lessons in their home on Tuesday night. We had a lesson planned with an investigator named Anthony who has been investigating for a very long time (way before either of us got here) and is not keeping commitments, he just doesn't seem to really care to figure out if the Church is true and/or he is afraid to act on the knowledge since he knows it would come! Anyway, Tuesday afternoon we got a text from Anthony saying he couldn't make it and we were so sad!! We texted the Mosses (the awesome couple) to let them know and they said that Kade (the husband) had a friend that he has been talking to at wrestling practice that he invited to come to the lesson and the friend, Cody, said yes!! Cody and Kade are on the Penn State wrestling team, and it is incredible because the coaches are brothers from Heber, UT - both wonderful members!!! Along with Kade, there is also another member of the branch that is on the wrestling team so Cody has had plenty of interaction with the church through them! So the lesson still happened, just with Cody instead of Anthony and it was AMAZING!!! Cody has such a genuine curiosity to know what he is supposed to do with his life and why there are so many churches and why mormons are such dedicated people, etc. He came with so many sincere questions and was really taking in and internalizing everything we were saying! Heavenly Father's hand was so easily noticeable through the entire thing. It was such a blessing :)Throughout the week we had multiple lessons with Garett. He is just incredible.. I really don't know how to explain it, other than he JUST GETS IT! He has intently listened to what we say and taken it to the Lord every time so that he didn't have to rely upon us. The Spirit has testified to his heart over and over that this is true and because of that knowledge, he has gotten more and more excited for his baptism and the opportunity to officially make that promise to Heavenly Father that he will follow Him for the rest of his life. He passed his baptismal interview on Friday with flying colors and he happily paid a fast offering on Sunday. Miracles happen every single day!
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
It doesn't get much better than this! :)This week I was very blessed to hear Elder Holland speak! As we all know very well, he is an incredible speaker, and an incredible person. He said so many wonderful things, and I don't have a lot of time, so I'm only going to be able to share a few with you.
There is so much to share!! But I only have a few minutes so I wanted to tell you really quickly how Garett is doing!! :) HE IS INCREDIBLE!! He is absorbing everything like a sponge and really investing himself, it is truly miraculous to see. He is already over halfway through Alma and well on his way to finishing before his baptism! He has been taught almost all of the lessons, we have been meeting with him almost every single day. He has develop friendships with so many members that now at church activities we are not needed to introduce or integrate him into conversation or the activity in any way! He is just part of the crew and everyone loves him :) After reading Alma 34 the other day he texted us and said, "I'm freaking out, everything just clicked!" He told us that Alma 34 helped him realize how awesome the Atonement really is, and how truly NOW is the time for him to prepare to meet God! He said that now he understands what he should do while he is alive!! He was so prepared to receive the gospel and my testimony has been fortified that the Lord truly does either lead us to those who are prepared, or leads them to us. In Garett's case, Heavenly Father did both :)
I love you all so much!! I hope you have a wonderful week!!
I love you all so much!! I hope you have a wonderful week!!
Monday, May 19, 2014
I WISH THAT I COULD ADEQUATELY EXPRESS MY HAPPINESS RIGHT NOW!!! Uh... This week has been one of the best, if not THE best, of my entire mission!! First off - I am sorry I didn't write last week, there was a goof up on the computers and I only got 15 minutes. I will try to make up for it :)
So do you remember the kid I mentioned named Garett? We met him at Forums and didn't really think he was interested but then he came to church! And FHE! Alrighty.... well, he is the main source of my inexplicable happiness this week! Here is a timeline so it will make more sense :)
May 2nd - That Friday that we met him was.
May 3rd - He came to church FHE
May 4th - He came to FHE and totally ROCKED at ultimate frisbee!! he was the star of the night!
May 10th - When we actually sat down and were able to have a lesson with him for the first time. His first lesson went GREAT!! He has never been to church before coming with us, and he has almost zero religious background! His only knowledge of Jesus Christ was "that he died... and that he walked on water". Crazy! As we sat down and explained how God is our loving Heavenly Father and that the fullness of His gospel has been restored to the earth, Garett seemed to understand, not fully but with childlike faith - incredible. At the end of the lesson, we testified of the Book of Mormon and asked him if he wanted to know for himself if the book was true? His response was, "well.. I think I should find out if God is actually there first." Yeah, I guess that is a pretty good place to start ;)
May 11th - He came to church for the second time! While at church he volunteered to drive people to the service project the following Saturday... this kid is amazing!!
May 12th - He came to FHE! That night after FHE, he texted us and said, "Hey! I read the first book of nephi and embarrassingly I'm already a little confused. Could we set up a time for me to ask some questions?" ...of course!! Sister Moss and I (being the unfaithful/lame missionaries that we are) assumed that he meant to say "chapter" instead of "book".
May 14th - we arrived to the lesson to discover he really had read the entire first book of Nephi!!! He had so many questions, little things like what does the word "gentile" and "abominable church" mean? He also wanted us to explain all of chapter 20 & 21 because he couldn't understand them at all ( they are Isaiah chapters so we didn't understand them very well either!). He had really been studying the Book of Mormon! It was so incredible!! We asked him how his experience had been when he prayed to know if God was there and he responded, "well, I didn't get a warm feeling in my heart or anything like that.. but it was like I just gained the knowledge somehow that I had always known he was there! I just didn't know that I already knew!" HE IS RECOGNIZING THAT HE IS RECEIVING ANSWERS TO HIS PRAYERS!!! HE IS SO AWESOME!! Then he shared with us how he really liked Nephi and how no matter how many times his mean brothers bound him up, he always forgave them right away when he got free. So awesome.
May 15th - We met with him again to teach him the 1st half of the Plan of Salvation. We had given him the commitment to read 2 Nephi 1 & 2 in preparation. When we asked if he read, he responded, "yeah! Chapter 2 was a game changer!" ...uhh... we froze a little bit, unsure if he meant in a positive or negative way. haha Then he continued, "it answered the biggest question I've had - if God loves us then why isn't it all happy and good here, but it said in the chapter that there has to be both sides, good and bad, to actually have happiness." AH!! He said that if it hadn't been 11:30 at night when he read, he would've called us! But instead he just prayed and got a few answers he needed! At the end of the lesson we committed him to be baptized... and HE SAID YES!!! GARETT IS GETTING BAPTIZED ON JUNE 7TH!!!!! :D
May 17th - In the morning he came to the branch service project - cleaning up a highway! It was so fun! Really cold and rainy, but that didn't stop us!
Later, we met with Garett at a different location for this lesson and he is the coolest person ever because he didn't think he was allowed to park there since he didn't have a permit, so he walked 30 minutes to come to the lesson!! He said he had to use google maps and it was taking him all sorts of crazy places - down little trails and through "no trespassing" areas, through fields, etc. We were all in total shock that he did all of that just to come and he was STILL on time!! After describing all of that to us he said, "yeah, google maps is the great and abominable church!" HAHA we all died laughing.. :) This was probably my favorite lesson with Garett so far! He told us how he loved 2 Nephi 9: 21 which says, "he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam." Garett shared with us how for some reason in his mind, Christ always assumed the role of a "slave driver" in a way, but because of the Book of Mormon and specifically that verse he now knows to think of him as truly the Redeemer. :) He said that as he has read and is learning about Christ, it just makes him want to learn more and more about Him and the Atonement! Later that night, we got a text from him saying he had finished the 2nd book of Nephi :) Oh my goodness family... this kid is incredible.
May 18th - He came to church for the 3rd time :)
I could go on and on about things that he has said and accomplished, and the incredible, valiant spirit that he is!! In one of his lessons, he said how he feels so lucky that we talked to him out of all the people coming out of the library that day.. I hope I will be able to convey to him and to all of you the strength that my testimony has received because of his righteous pursuit to know God and to know truth. This gospel is true! I know it so strongly and I can never say it enough!! I love you all so much and I cannot wait to give you an update next week :) LOVE YOUU!!!
p.s. Pictures: 1) Sister Moss and I with Garett at the service project!! 2) Sister Wade, Sister Moss and I :) Have a wonderful week!!!
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
MIRACLES! MIRACLES MIRACLES!
Family... I cannot even put into words the overwhelming joy and gratitude I feel!! Life is so amazing because of this incredible gospel!! It gives us so many opportunities to show our faith and as a result, see so many miracles and tender mercies from the Lord placed in our lives! This week particularly, was amazing. :) I wish I could tell you about the whole thing, but I know I do not have the time for it, so I'm going to focus on a few people who were a huge part of a lot of the miracles through the week. Here we go:
ABRIAM! We have been teaching Abriam for several weeks now and he is doing so well! He initially wanted to talk to us because he wanted to compare it to his own faith, but he has been sincerely studying the Book of Mormon meeting with us diligently! Last week he came to FHE and made a lot of friends with members of the branch! It was wonderful! He is unfortunately going home for the summer, BUT he asked us to have missionaries come visit him at home!!! He gave us his address and told us the date he is moving back! When he comes back in the fall, who knows? He could be baptized!! :)
BENAMI! This is a less-active member that the sister missionaries have been working with for months and months but he has never come to church... I had a hard time with that, because we only have so much time everyday and using part of that on someone who isn't taking this seriously didn't sit well with me. So, in our last lesson with him (a little over a week ago - it was my 2nd lesson with him) I tried my hardest to be very bold with him. He knows the gospel. He knows the principles and he knows the commandments he is breaking but doesn't have the motivation to change. He told us that when he graduates in a few years he will move to Utah and then it will be easy to live the gospel and so he will start making changes then..... haha.... The biggest problem though, was that he was feeling that he was getting his spiritual nourishment from his lessons with the sisters and therefore didn't have a desire to get it from church. So, we called him to repentance in a lovingly bold way, and made it very clear that it is our responsibility to act upon the knowledge that is given to us. A light seemed to go off in his head when we told him that he has become "comfortable with sin". He sat there and said, "whoa... you are right. This is bad.." We told him that when he was ready to make changes in his life, we will be right there for him along with the rest of the branch, but until then we cannot continue meeting with him. Guess what.... he came to church yesterday :)
GARETT! I am soooo excited for Garett!!! We met Garettduring forums and he seemed so shy and uncomfortable as we talked to him. So we talked with him for a little while and he loosened up a bit. He is a local from State College and is studying pre-med. When we began talking about God and asked him if he had any religious background, he told us he has NEVER been to any kind of church service his entire life!! ...what?! That is so rare for Pennsylvanians it seems like. So after recovering from shock, we told him about our church service and he nonchalantly said he would check it out. So he took our number, we got his and he went on his way. night we texted him to give him the info in case he forgot, and all he responded was, "thanks" So... we were terrible missionaries and had little faith in him actually coming. But, morning Garett comes waltzing into the Memorial Lounge of the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center (where we hold sacrament meeting) and a huge grin stretches across his face when he sees us :D He stayed for all 3 hours, so many people of the branch reached out to him and became his friend instantly, and he set up an appointment with us for this week because he said, "I love this but a lot of it is going over my head, I'm gonna need you to explain!" :) haha Someone asked him if they would be seeing him next week and without any hesitation he excitedly said yes! He is coming to FHE tonight too!!! Ah.... life is so good. :)
CIARA! Okay... this one is still blowing my mind! This is the same Ciara that I taught when I was serving in Elizabethtown!!!! Ahh!! I don't know if you remember, but she was one of my absolute favorite people!! She wanted to be baptized and worked up the courage to ask her parents, they were super supportive, and then President Topham said no because she was moving shortly afterwards back to Altoona for school! We were so bummed but knew that it would all work out... Well, upon returning to Altoona, she kind of lost contact with missionaries and didn't continue taking the lessons! But at our most recent zone conference, the Altoona elders came up to me to ask me about her (since I was the one that referred her) and I about died because I didn't realize that she was so close! They gave me her phone number to see if I would have any luck with getting a hold of her and we both we so incredibly happy to talk again!! She was so insistent about coming down to see me, which I was so happy about because I desperately wanted to see her too but didn't think it was appropriate to ask her to make the trip, and so yesterday she came to church with me in the branch!! :) It was a huge tender mercy for me because she was one of the first investigators of my mission that I truly developed a deep love for! The best part was that she told me when she gets back to Etown next week (she is graduating this week from Penn State-Altoona) she is going to call up the sisters :) I LOVE THIS WORK!!
So.. I hope that gave you a little taste of the happiness that I feel. I am so grateful to be here at Penn State. I know that I am meant to serve here at this time, and that as I put my trust in the Lord and work my hardest everyday, He will place those in my path that He needs me to share the gospel with. I also know that that doesn't just apply to me! Every one of us, as Latter-Day Saints, have been called to preach the gospel and that if we are open to it, the Lord will provide a way for us to share what we have with those in our lives! I love you all so much!! There are so many incredible women in my life that I look up to and admire with all my heart - please know that I think of you often and especially with Mother's Day approaching, I will be pondering the amazing roles you have played in my life. I am so grateful for you!! Have a wonderful week and happy Mother's Day! Love you mommy ^_^
p.s. Pictures: 1) Ciara and I reunited again! :) love her!! 2) Sister Moss and I with Sister Ying and Sister Wade (the other sisters in the branch with us) out to lunch at the historic restaurant of State College called "The Corner Room"! LOVE YOU!!