Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"Even when you are tired": a lesson on diligence

" Salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith, even unto the end of his life. If ye do this ye shall always rejoice and be filled with the love of God and always retain a remission of your sins: and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you..." Mosiah 4:6, 12.

SAN DIEGO — This week Heavenly Father answered my prayers. I asked him to help me understand the Christ-like attribute of diligence more clearly.

He gave me ample opportunities to practice! A few days ago, I was in the urgent care with one of the sisters from 11:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. Two and a half hours later, I was up and doing morning exercise. If you don’t already know this, sleep is a precious commodity in missionary work. 

And missionary work is just that — WORK! 

Put those two together, and I was one sleepy missionary.  I felt like I was trying to stay awake after taking an Ambien or something!  As I was reading about diligence earlier in the week in Preach My Gospel, one line stuck out to me: "Continue until you have done all you can, even when you are tired." 

Those words kept flashing across my mind as my eyes would droop in tours or lessons, but Heavenly Father helped me continue to be steady, consistent and energetic in His work. His promise came true that, "when you are diligent, you find joy and satisfaction in your work."

I have found a lot of joy this week in the work. I want to tell you about the miracle of the Avocado Ward starting to transform.

If whoever is reading this knows anything about my Dad and Mom, they are very very organized, and very hard working. In fact they are so organized that we have an alphabetical and numerical system to organize the collection of DVD's in our home. Also, family vacations would usually consist of a planned out calendar of our itinerary that Dad would email to us before we would leave on vacation. I bet you can imagine I picked up on a few of those characteristics.

I have found that the phrase, "God is a God of order" is essential in our quest to become like Him. In the Avocado Ward, we have been working so hard these past three weeks to get organized and gain the trust of the members. We have visited every member of the ward council and have plans on how we can work together in missionary work. We are teaching the ward members how to invite their friends to activities and church. And we have reorganized our reporting in ward council so the members can better understand our efforts in their ward. 

Just those simple things have transformed the spirit here. We were able to have 18 lessons this week with only 4 half days in our area (A full time missionary needs to get 20, so we were very blessed)! We are now teaching three part-member families, and Tracy and Amber have a baptism date for July 28th! And hopefully by next week, Sean (a different family) will have a date too. I'll keep you posted (Dad, you asked about Peter- he is a YSA, so we had to pass him off, but I'll let you know if I find anything else out about him).

I just want you to know my testimony of this work. There has been a transformation of what has been happening since I last wrote. Just look back and see the letters! It is the power of Heaven plain and simple. No one can claim that just literally a few weeks ago, this ward didn’t trust missionaries, they didn’t like missionary work, and we had no investigators to teach. Heavenly Father has sent us an army of angels to help us in this work, and because of that, we are seeing an explosion of miracles. 

There is rain falling on the scorched earth of Avocado — the rich soil that comes from burnt earth is sprouting fruit! I can’t wait to update you next week.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Trying to become the Fourth Missionary

SAN DIEGO — It's amazing the lessons you can learn in only a week's worth of time.

As I mentioned last week, it was one full of challenges. I am grateful for them. Heavenly Father has been teaching me a lesson about how to make my will His will.

My favorite story in the Book of Mormon is about Nephi (Lehi's brother, Nephi). I've always wanted to be like him. I've wanted Heavenly Father to trust me like he trusted Nephi, to have that kind of faith, that kind of diligence, that kind of courage. The other day I decided to read about him from the Book of Mormon.
"Blessed art thou Nephi, for those things which thou hast done, for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou has not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will and to keep my commandments."

Okay, so honestly I read that, and thought, "Oh great, if this is Nephi, I am totally in the great and spacious building!"

I most definitely did not start this transfer with "unwearyingness" like Nephi did. I’m pretty sure the words, "I'm tired, I’m so tired" were flashing across my mind in big bright letters the whole last week.

And though I don’t fear these new people, I sure have been wary of them. I mean for heavens sake, I was reciting the First Vision to a less-active lady and she starts rolling up a cigarette and proceeds to lighting it and smoking it right as I am telling her that God and Jesus Christ themselves appeared to Joseph Smith!

The last part says that Nephi sought God's will. I felt like I have done that all my life, but I have learned that I have not quite hit the mark.

I was reading a talk by a General Authority called "the Fourth Missionary" It describes the characteristics of four different kind of missionaries and how you can become the fourth type of missionary. 

He said, "In the end, your heart and will is all you have to give that the Lord does not already have. It is the only true gift you have to offer. It is as easy as changing your mind. Tell Father, I give in, and I give up. My heart is yours. My will is yours."

This was my aha moment! In order for me to become like Nephi, I have to make it up in my mind. I wrote Heavenly Father a letter. It is special to me, but I want to share it with you:


"Dear Heavenly Father,

I was reminded today of how much you love me. Today is Fathers Day here on earth and my mind has been turned to you and my dad here. It’s always hard for me to know what I can do for you. I think that’s hard with all dads. You already have everything you could want. I read a talk today about aligning my will with thy will. I want you to know that I give up. I give all of it to you, Father. I want to give you my heart this Fathers day.



If you keep reading about when Nephi gave his will to God this is what happened. 

"And now because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold I will bless thee forever and will make thee mighty in word in deed in faith and in works. Yea even all things shall be done according to they word for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will."

I am so excited to be earning trust with Heavenly Father. It is such a great feeling. I have been so blessed this week. I want to end by sharing some of yesterday’s miracles from my journal.

June 18, 2012

Today was such an amazing day. It was our only full day this transfer and we were able to get a lot of appointments. My eyes were opened to the world today, to how real Satan is, and how real the powers of heaven are. I want to share a few experiences I had:

Natik: He is a referral from some sisters in the Carlsbad mission. We stopped by and he let us in. He is a refugee from Iraq as now 1.5 million Christians have been kicked out of his country. He was so open and willing to learn. It strengthened my testimony that every person we talk to matters. I think of what would have happened if the sisters wouldn’t have talked to him. But because they did, he has a chance to hear the Gospel.

Trinity: We went back to teach Julie. Her daughter, Trinity was there. She’s only five years old. We were sitting at the patio outside her apartment, we could see into the apartment at her five-year-old girl. We started the lesson with a prayer. I shouldn’t have peeked, but I did. Out of the corner of my eye I saw two little feet walking from the upstairs apartment down the stairs. Then I peeked again, and I saw her sad countenance. She was looking down, her hair covered her eyes, and her little hands placed a handmade cigarette on the table next to her mom. She slowly turned around, and I watched her walk slowly back up the stairs. I don’t know why, but that vision haunted me. How sad Heavenly Father must be to watch all of this from heaven.

Peter: He is one of the lost boys of Sudan. Last week, we met Peter crossing the street. He had his Bible in hand and his white smile radiated brilliantly against the contrast of his beautiful, black skin. We set an appointment and were able to meet with him today. He told us about his story. When he was four, his mom, dad and uncle were killed in front of him. Thousands of Sudanese children had to flee the country alone. Some of his friends were eaten by lions or lost in the jungle.

Others starved to death. I won't forget the way he looked at us as though we represented all of America, and he said, "thank you, we thank America for what you did". I imagined our Founding Fathers, though I am sure they are sick at some of the things that are happening in our country, at least some good still remains. 

Heavenly Father taught me a lot tonight. About the strength of his children, the hope that comes from the Atonement, and the reality of Satan. This battle is real. It seems like it should be a movie, this battle we are fighting against Satan. I suppose this fight against good and evil is what inspires the entertainment out there. Only this is REAL. It can’t just be shut off at the end of the credits. This is a matter of salvation...

Well, that was a lot to say this week, sorry! Kind of scattered, but I gotta go write my presidents letter.

Love you all!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Newmans do hard things": An Open Letter to my Father

Dear Dad,

This week has been one of my top 10 hardest weeks of my mission so far. You have come to my mind a lot this week, and since this Sunday is Fathers Day, I decided I wanted to write specifically to you.

Transfers were this week. I got transferred after more than half my mission in Black Mountain to a family ward in El Cajon. The difference between the two is night and day. I now have my own bottle of pepper spray. Enough said. I think you probably have an idea of what its like there.

Sister Tanner is my new companion. She is 25, from Canada. She teaches 8th grade English and is a sweetheart. We are the training sisters at the Mormon Battalion.

Dad, I thought I knew what hard was. I had no idea. Sister Kennington and I have been together for five transfers. She is my best friend. I calculated it out, and if what they say about a mission as being a "mini life", Sister Kennington and I have been companions for 50 years. Imagine you and mom not being together anymore and I bet you can get a taste of how much that hurt.  It is so hard to love my new area, but Heavenly Father has a way of expanding my capacity to love far more that what I ever imagined. I have to say I was in complete shock when I heard Heavenly Father still needed me to be training sister.

I'm so tired Dad. So, so tired.

Do you remember when we went on Trek and we had the women's march? My family’s cart got taken and we had to spread out and help pull the other families' carts. I got assigned to one of the end ones that did not have the six to eight people pulling a cart, but we had four, if I recall. I remember looking at Corinne Christensen, who was in the family I was assigned to. Both of us were thinking the same thing, I am sure.

"How on earth will we ever be able to do this?"

We started pulling. I can remember the sweat dripping down my face, the blisters on my palms throbbing, my feet hurt so bad. I remember the poor sister next to me wanting to rest but we just couldn't. She let go, and the wagon started rolling down hill. Tears filled my eyes as the weight of the cart started pulling me down. I wanted to fall to my knees and give up, but I knew if we lost the momentum we would roll to the bottom and there would be no way we could get to the top of the hill. I said a prayer, begging Heavenly Father to help us, I looked up through my watery eyes and there was Brother Richardson, with tears in his, smiling at me and telling me I could do it.

I feel like I re-lived that experience in a way this week. The natural human part of me overtook my faith. All I could think about is how tired I am. Not just tired at the end of a long missionary work day. Thinking about what Heavenly Father was asking me to do, I felt like dropping to my knees and giving up. But he has sent angels to lift me up. It is amazing experiencing the power of Heaven.

I had this image pop in my head of how I have been feeling this week: Imagine one of the laborers in the vineyard. The master of the vineyard gives him a plot of land to cultivate. He digs and digs, sweats, worries and cries over these precious plants. At the end of the day, he straightens out his aching back, leans on his earth-filled shovel, wipes the sweat from his brow, and looks at the beautiful, lush vines growing on his plot. You can imagine his excitement to keep this precious earth that he has come to know and appreciate alive, but alas, the master of the vineyard has something else in store for him: a new plot of land, a new earth to learn, to cultivate, to revive.

Only to the laborers' dismay, this plot of land is scorched by wildfire, only few evidences of growth. This laborer — though tired, aching, and a little dismayed — starts the next day digging and cultivating, and though he's not sure what the master has in mind, knows that with the master's help, even the blackest of earth can be reclaimed and revived into a more lush and green garden that it was before.

To be honest, before I was able to fight the thoughts of doubt and inadequacy that Satan had put in my mind, and replace those with thoughts of hope and faith, I broke down. I cried through all my tours. It took all I had to pray to Heavenly Father to help me stop crying long enough to say my part of the tour. I hate that I am human.

Do you remember those times when I would be so upset because I hated how I Heavenly Father always "made me" do the hard things when it seemed everyone else got to have fun? I remember a handful of times when I would sit on your lap and cry. You would rock with me and remind me that "Newmans do hard things and Newmans do what Heavenly Father asks".

I hated when you said that.

I just wanted to yell, "Well then, I don't want to be a Newman!" But now I am grateful for it. I Know I am a Newman. I know I am a daughter of a King. And we do hard things.

I have the first letter that you wrote me when I got to the mission home. I keep it close when times are hard. I read this part the other night.
"Brittany, I know that oftentimes you have to dig down deep for the strength you need to do the things that you want to do, but just like a mine which has priceless treasures buried deep down, I am confident that you will be able to find those treasures within yourself and share them with other people"...
 I'm digging deep, Dad. Deeper than I ever have. I know you would be proud of me.

I didn't have you here when I was practically on the verge of despair. The Holy Ghost was yelling in my ear, "you need a blessing."

I called Elder Seegmiller, and just like I used to when I would call you up in college when things were hard, immediately I started crying when I heard his voice. He came over to the Battalion and gave me a blessing. I have a testimony of the power of the priesthood.  I could not do this without extra power from heaven. I would have given in. I would have given up.

I want to share one part of the blessing that stuck out to me. I was told that you pray for me every night. And that though you can’t be with me, your prayers reach the heavens and have acted as a fathers blessing to me. Dad, thank you. Thank you with all my heart. I am very aware that there is a power that is going against me. It is real. It is tangible at times. I know that yours and mom's prayers have saved my life.

I love you with all my heart. Happy Fathers Day.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Progression, transfers, and never going back

SAN DIEGO — W-O-W! We just waved goodbye to two sisters going home today. Sister Kennington is going home in six weeks. WHERE IS TIME GOING? Transfers are tomorrow and we are almost positive I will be transferred. Change is always good, but I will miss the branch, and of course Sister Kennington. I guess I will let you know what happens next week.

Here is an update on Cameron: He received the priesthood the same Sunday he was confirmed, he went to the temple that same Wednesday, and he passed the sacrament on Sunday! Can you say PREPARED? He is and always will be the miracle of my mission.

Camilla however, was not baptized on Saturday, because her dad would not allow it. She will be though, one day, she will be.

We had our last district meeting this week. Our district leader and one of our zone leaders (they were on exchanges) made us homemade stir-fry and this banana dessert thing. Then they had us go on a scavenger hunt, which ended in the chapel, and we had a testimony meeting. Elder Smith, our district leader is so funny, and is the best. Seriously, the most humble person I know. It was great.

Since Cameron has been baptized, we have not had a lot of investigators to teach, but we sure have had a lot of members we have been seeing. We have been committing them to make a mormon.org profile and share 5 mormon.org cards. Then we follow up with them and practice talking to people about the Gospel. Just a few days ago, we had a follow-up with a member and practiced how to talk about doing baptisms for the dead at work, because he sometimes goes straight from the temple to work and people ask him why he is so dressed up. It has been amazing to see the fire and excitement of the branch. For testimony meeting, that’s all people bore their testimonies on: experiences they had with missionary work. IT is the BEST EVER!!!!

We also had zone leader council yesterday, which was great. I want to share a thought that president shared with us from a talk Elder Holland gave in the MTC. This thought comes from John chapter 21. This is just after Jesus Christ has been crucified. Peter and the apostles didn’t know what to do, so they decided to go back to fishing:

verse 3 "Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, we also go with thee. They went forth and entered into a ship immediately, and that night they caught nothing."

So these men had been fishing night and day, and nothing came from their labors.

verse 4, 6 "But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. And he said unto them, cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes."

As they listened to the Lord, they prospered....

Immediately, John knew who it was- "It is the Lord" Peter, so excited to see Jesus, jumped off the boat and swam to shore. Jesus had made them breakfast, being sensitive to the fact that they were tired and hungry from a long night. While they were eating, Jesus asked Peter three times "Lovest thou me more than these?"

Peter answered, Yes! I love you! (You can imagine the great love Peter had for Jesus.) Jesus answered FEED MY SHEEP. He replied to Peter, when I asked you to be my apostle it was forever! When he asks us to be his teachers, his leaders, his mothers, his fathers, his disciples, IT IS FOREVER!


That hit me hard. I can never and will never go back to who I was. I, like Peter, will forever be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

After telling that story, Elder Holland said that it was that moment Peter became the great apostle. That’s when Peter strode into eternity.

It is when we learn the great lesson that Peter learned, it is only then we will be ready for eternity and become the great children he wants us to become.

Don’t forget that this is forever! You have His name as yours forever. You are called to lift, inspire, motivate. FOREVER. If any of us go back, we will break Heavenly Father's heart.

So go open your mouths! Don't go back to being fishermen!