Monday, January 27, 2014
Family! January 27, 2014
Wow... so many miracles have happened this week that I don't even know where to begin!
I think that I mentioned in another blog that Sister Bracken ran into a less active lady a couple weeks back that had been praying that the missionaries would come find her because she had lost contact information and then we showed up at her door the next day! Well, we had our second visit with her this past week while we had exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders. I was running the area for the day with Sister Ward and was a little nervous about our second lesson with this less active sister.... she had expressed her faith being shaken by a lot of anti websites that she had come across earlier this year and that she was apart of another church as well as ours... but Sister Ward and I prepared a lesson that definitely was inspired. Before we started the lesson, this sister answered a question that I had asked the week before: What DO you KNOW is true?? She listed off about 5 things that she had received answers to her prayers- including the Book of Mormon to be true, Jesus Christ as the Savior and Joseph Smith being a prophet of God. We immediately led into our lesson which was based totally off of Elder Holland's April 2013 General Conference talk 'Lord, I Believe' and she was floored by how much it applied to her. She had come to church the week before and had felt the spirit very strongly while she was there and you could tell that she had already progressed so much already. At the end of the lesson, we told her that we were having a Regional Conference and that Elder Nelson from the 12 apostles was coming to speak to us. She was conflicted about whether to go to our church, or whether to go to her other church because of some things that she wanted to do... I just responded with the simple question, "what is the spirit telling you to do?" I kid you not... we sat in silence for about 5 minutes as she pondered and tried to discern what the spirit was telling her to do. There is so much power in inspired questions and in silence. You could tell that she was fighting what the spirit was telling her to do and her own will... so we just left her to think about that question. Well, she came to church this Sunday!! It was so great to see her. It was a very powerful lesson... I haven't had the strong of a lesson in awhile. It was great.
As I mentioned before, we had a very busy weekend with all sorts of conferences. Saturday morning, we had the opportunity to hear from Elder Russell M. Nelson from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at a mission conference. We all met at the church building across the street from the temple. It was so fun to be there again! I was asked to play the piano for the meeting. So I played the prelude music and continued to play as Elder Nelson came in and all the missionaries lined up to meet and shake hands with him. I could not totally see how long the line was from where I was seated at the piano and didn't realize that the line was finished until I heard a voice behind me say, "Sister, may I shake your hand?" I turned around to have Elder Nelson face to face, bending down beside me to shake my hand! haha it was pretty neat.
Elder Nelson had a lot of great things to say. Because I was playing the piano, I got to sit dead center, front row to hear him speak :) I took a lot of notes, but I don't think I could give any of it justice- but I'll try and talk about some of it:
He began by talking about how this is the Lord's work and so we need to put our full trust in Him that He will help us. He said that not only do we have help from the Lord to do this work, but that the ministering through the veil is very real and that be better believe that our loved ones on the other side of the veil are there watching over us and helping us. He even made a funny joke by saying, "we call the people on the other side of the veil dead.... but I don't think they like that! They are still very much alive :)" haha It was a sweet moment to really think, "wow! I really am not alone! Of course I have the Savior and Heavenly Father helping me the whole way.... but to think that I have Grandpa and Grandma Kirkham, Uncle Jim and Aunt Ruth, and so many others on the other side that are helping me :) Isn't that an exciting thought?! I wish I could just send them a spiritual letter through the heavenly mail box and give them a 'thank you' hahaha It did make me think about that experience I had last summer with a member seeing an angel standing behind me as I spoke in church. It is so reassuring to know that our loved ones are still here. I know that they are here to help each of you personally as well. Don't ever forget the love that they have for you. They are watching over you :)
Elder Nelson also taught us the importance of the Book of Mormon and how it truly does bring the fullness of the Christ's gospel. I pointed out that the word "atonement" only appears once in the New Testament (Romans 5:11) but that there are COUNTLESS times that the word "atonement" appears in the Book of Mormon. How blessed we are to have the resources to learn so much more about the Atonement as we accept the restored gospel. He then began to talk about the growth of the church. We are currently at 15 million members... but he said "this is only the beginning- there will be an exponential growth!" It is exciting but also scary to think about the growth of the church skyrocketing so quickly! haha! He didn't put a time limit on it, but did mention that they are preparing for it to go from 15 million to 30 million. Don't know exactly what that means... other than that it is going to happen quickly! The Lord truly is HASTENING His work. There is no other way to describe it!
After Elder Nelson spoke, I went back up to the stand to play the closing hymn and postlude. As Elder Nelson stood up to leave, he walked over to me, thanked me for the beautiful music and said, "you play very well!" It was neat to play the piano for an apostle of the Lord as well as to receive 'thanks' and compliments from him.
We had a luncheon after the conference and I was given a third opportunity to talk to him! It was great! I mentioned that Mom had seen him at our local grocery store, 'Winegars' back at home, and he had given me some advice while I was on the mission. I was given the opportunity to tell him ' thank you' and that it had been a great reminder and motivator to keep working hard.
After all this excitement, we then went to an adult session of stake conference where they announced that it was the first time that the youth 12-18 years old were invited to join the adult session! They will be attending all the adult sessions from now on as they are now emphasizing the theme "Hastening of the Work" and that the youth are so much apart of it. Pretty exciting!
Sister Bracken and I have had a really big struggle with finding new investigators to teach... so we fasted and prayed on Sunday that we would be able to find some one. We were out tracting Sunday trying to talk to everyone that we could and we weren't finding any success... I said a prayer in my heart asking for help. I had been reminded in conference that by our FAITH we will be able to find success... I told him that I was trying my best to exercise my faith but that I was unsure of how to do so.... as we continued to be diligent, we finished tracting to the end of this street and started to walk back to our car. As we were walking back, we talked a man that was unloading wood out of the bed of his truck and found out that he was really good friends with members in our ward! ... but he was interested in learning more...Sister Bracken and I were continuing to move forward with the best faith we could to find people... As we got in our car, we got a phone call from Brother Dayton, the Young Men's President. He said that his girlfriend, Crystal, (who had taken lessons last spring and got anti-ed really badly) had gone to the Regional conference that morning and wanted to retake the missionary lessons!!!!!!!!!!! =D I was SOOO happy!!!! I have known her since September but I never would have thought that she would open her heart to the gospel again. It was one of the moments, where you just KNOW that Heavenly Father specifically answered my plea of help. We were so excited! We didn't have any immediate appointments at that time, so we sped on over and had a lesson with her. She is so great and there is so much potential!! Please pray for her that she will be able to recognize the spirit testifying of truth and that she will be able to get past all the sad things that have filled her mind. She is so great and I love her so much. I'm really happy for both of them and am hopeful that this will be a happy ending for both of them :) God answers prayers!! If you ask specific questions, continually have a prayer in your heart and do all that you can to follow God's will, He will help you :)
I love you guys so much. Always stay close to the Lord and know that when the hard times come, to be patient! Move forward in faith knowing that Heavenly Father is preparing you for something far greater in store. Have a great week!!! Love you!
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Family! January 21, 2014
It's been another tough week of finding but we are hanging in there! At the beginning of the week we knocked on a less active's door and the moment she opened it, she started crying. She said that her best friend had died just the night before and she had prayed that the missionaries would come see her... she didn't have anyway of getting in contact with her so she was desperate. It truly was an answer to prayers that we would show up at her door the very next morning! It's always so neat to recognize the Lord guiding us as missionaries to where we most need to be. :)
Another cool miracle that happened this week is that we an appointment set up with a member to talk about missionary work. Every other time that we have gone over, the member's non-member husband would always be put off and keep his distance from us missionaries... but as we were getting ready to start the lesson I invited him to join us. He protested a little and asked what we were going to talk about...and to my surprise the word "faith" came out of my mouth... which is not at all what we had been planning... hahaha We had to immediately change our lesson from missionary work to something that would help this man.... we definitely had a prayer in our heart as we began the lesson! We talked about faith in Jesus Christ and it was a very powerful lesson! This wife and husband hadn't prayed or read the scriptures together in years but their hearts were softened and they agreed to begin doing so. The husband made a comment that joining with us made him miss coming closer to the Lord... it was really sweet to see the Spirit working on him and softening His heart to the message and to us missionaries. Although there was no sign of accepting the restored gospel, I truly felt in my heart that it was a big step that needed to happen for this man to accept it later on :)
We had dinner with Ed and Michele this past week. After dinner, Ed really wanted to show us his testimony/conversion story that he had written up on the computer. It was still a rough draft and no one else had read it yet but him. We all gathered around the computer and Michele read it out loud to us... Ed was crying through most of it. It was the sweetest testimony that I have ever heard. It touched me so deeply to hear how the restored gospel has changed his life... He started out by talking about how his marriage with Michele was practically over... but as they felt the power of the Atonement in their lives, they came to love each other more than ever. At the very end of it, he pretty much proposed to Michele again by asking if he could take her to be sealed in the temple next year.....! ahhhhh..... I feel like I talk about this every time I write home.... but I just can't explain the joy that I feel from knowing Ed and Michele. They have touched my life forever and I will never be able to forget them. I am so happy for them and the life that they are leading! That same night they showed me that they have hung up that First Vision picture right next to their front door :) They love it!! They are both doing so well!! Michele is planning on giving a lesson in Relief Society next week! woo! (she's pretty nervous) and Ed has been sharing the gospel with people in the gym, waiting for a car oil change, etc. They are both so awesome and so excited. :)
Well, I better get going... but I love you guys!!! MUAH!
P.S. the mission is having a training by Elder Nelson this Saturday on online work! woo! It will pretty awesome :)
Hey Family! January 16, 2014
Transfers are tomorrow! I kind of knew I was already staying in New Smyrna Beach another transfer because I'm training, but it's official now! I'll be here until the beginning of March... weird. I have a feeling that I will be leaving after these next 6 weeks though. Can't believe that I will have served here for 1/3 of my mission... but I've seen so many miracles here! I will never forget this place. I need to live it up and work hard with the time left that I have here.
This past week we have seen more miracles and blessings come our way. Lately, there has been a bigger emphasis on finding more people to teach. That means that the work can be more difficult, but you do see quite a few miracles of how you can to touch people's lives in so many ways! This past week was a historical moment... I have started using Facebook as a missionary tool! It may sound funny, but I was shaking the first time I logged on. I almost felt like I was being disobedient!! haha! But it has been really cool to see the potential of using it as a missionary tool. You'll have to be patient with me, there have been some challenges with getting a new Facebook account started but I think it's all working out ok :) We are one of the missions that is pilot testing online proselyting. It's cool but also kind of crazy being the guinea pig for something new like this. haha! On January 25th Elder Nelson is coming to give the mission training on online proselyting. It will be a cool-but very different experience to hear an apostle talking about Facebook.. hahaha Mom, didn't you say that you saw Elder Nelson at Winegars and he said that he was coming to Orlando this winter? When you said that I didn't think he would really be here for the mission, but I guess he is! Pretty cool. :)
We had a potential investigator that we hadn't taught anything yet come to a scripture study class. The whole lesson went really well and I think she really enjoyed it! The funny part was when a member started bearing testimony about how the Book of Mormon had helped him find strength to give up coffee, tea, etc.... haha! The investigator definitely perked up for that part...As missionaries, you are always being kept on your toes! It's so funny. I think it will all work out. It was pretty funny/awkward to have her find out about it that way.
Ed came to a lesson with Jesse and Meradith! The lesson went really well and Ed was super good at bearing testimony and helping them. This might sound weird, but whenever I hear Ed talk about the gospel, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, etc., I feel like a proud parent or something hahaha I'm just so happy to see his progression. As I was listening to him talk, I just couldn't wrap my head around the reality that I had actually been apart of such an amazing conversion like Ed's.... wow. I feel so blessed and fortunate to have witnessed the changes that have taken place in him. I love him and Michele so much!
I found some scriptures in my personal study the other morning that I felt I really relate to. In Thessalonians 2:4, Paul expressed his gratitude and awe that God would trust someone like him to share the gospel.... sometimes I feel so inadequate for the position or call that I have.. .but I feel so much love from God as I know that He really does trust and love me enough to let me share the greatest message one could give!
In Thess. 2:8, Paul says, "so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us." When I read that I knew EXACTLY the way Paul felt. I really, honestly could EASILY say that I would give up my whole soul in order to help Ed and Michele. Sharing the gospel with them has been so fulfilling and wonderful but i feel like I just want to do more and more for them. It's like an eternal need of trying to fill that void of serving them... I don't really know how to explain it.. but it's super powerful-nothing like I have ever felt. At the end of chapter 2, Paul talks about the pure joy that missionaries receive from their converts. Our converts- especially Ed and Michele- really are my "glory and joy" (Thess. 2:20)
Thess. 3:9-12, says that they just wanted to tirelessly help their converts to perfect their faith. I truly feel that way as well! There is so much I want to show them!!! Anyways, I loved those chapters. They explained my feelings for the work I have been doing here in New Smyrna Beach and more specifically for Ed and Michele. I don't know what I am going to do when I have to leave them.
Saturday night was a great lesson with Jesse and Meradith. Sister Bracken and I had felt impressed to have them watch the Restoration DVD... It took some effort to find a member that would be willing to watch it at their home (Jesse and Meradith don't have a t.v. )... but with diligence and faith we figured it out!! We watched the video and at the end we asked them what they felt the Holy Ghost had told them. Meradith said that she needed to exercise her faith and strengthen her relationship with God through reading and praying. Jesse said that during the movie, a numbing feeling went from the top of his head all the way down to the end of his toes.... he was so lit up and filled with the spirit and understanding after the video! We had been worried about Jesse for a while because he just didn't seem to accept everything that we were saying like Meradith was... but that seemed to do the trick! The Spirit truly is the ONLY way to teach. About 40 minutes after the lesson, we were on the phone with them and Meradith said that Jesse was very engrossed in reading the Book of Mormon already. haha! YES! Jesse and Meradith are coming along :) It's been fun to see their desires change. With out us saying anything, Meradith is dressing more modestly and both of them are trying hard at living the Word of Wisdom. Keep them in your prayers!!!
Things are going well here. Thanks so much for all you support and love! You are all in my prayers everyday. I LOVE YOU!!!!!
Family! January 6, 2014
I really have gotten bad at writing down all the miracles that happen every week. When it comes time to tell you about them, I can't remember! ah! Scold me all you want.... I promise to be better! haha
To be honest, this past week was probably the hardest week I have had here in New Smyrna Beach. We had a lot of really promising lessons scheduled and our week looked to good... but almost EVERYTHING fell through. It was so crazy! I don't think I have ever had anything that extreme happen to me since I've been out on the mission. It's all okay though! We are looking forward with faith that the Lord has something great in store. You always have to remind yourself that when the times get rough, it's because the Lord sees that you are capable of being tested so that you can grow and be prepared for the next major blessings that are awaiting us. So just remember, when life gets hard, push through with a smile on your face knowing that it's only for a little while and there is something great awaiting you :)
We focused a lot more on member missionary work this week. We saw a lot of blessings come as we helped them feel the spirit and supported them in the missionary work they want to do! One of my favorite families in the ward just moved back to Arizona (bittersweet) but there was a great miracle that came from that! They had been sharing the gospel a little with their next door neighbor and they gave us permission to go over and try and talk to her. We went over the next day, told her who we were, what we do and asked if she would be interested to learn more. She said, “no,” but said that she would definitely read the pamphlets that we gave her. Later, we got a call from the member family saying that right before they left their old home, they went over and gave her a Book of Mormon not knowing that we had gone over that quick! Apparently she began to cry as they told her about how much she meant to them and how much the gospel would bless her. I guess she still isn't to the point of meeting missionaries.... but wow! What a miracle! I truly believe that the Lord's plan is so perfect. We were probably there to help prepare her for the member talking to her. Back when I was serving here with Sister Pitts we had a great lesson with this family. We felt the spirit very strong as we shared D&C 100: 3-8. They had only lived here in Florida for 6 months and had been kind of questioning why they were supposed to even come to Florida. As we read those scriptures, they were very moved as they realized that their main purpose was missionary work. It was so cool to see that come to pass as they left! When members reach out to people, the people are so much more prepared and closer to receiving the gospel. If it is extended of love, they will not take it offensively but feel how much you care for them. Never be afraid! Miracles will happen!! :)
This past week I think I've just learned the importance of patience in God's will and enduring. With the right attitude and faith... it can still all be seen as fun work! :) Finding is obviously not the best part of missionary work… but it's also exciting to know who the Lord is going to lead us to next that is prepared.
Thanks for all that you guys do. I sure love you!!! Stay close to the Lord. Pour your hearts out to Him and continue to learn more about Him and His gospel. The mysteries of God truly are opened up unto you as your read, prayer and act in faith.
I love you guys!!! :)