Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Praise to the Man

SAN DIEGO — I feel like I just talked to you! I guess that's because I did :) That was so fun, I'm glad you are all doing well. I don't have a lot to say since I just talked to all of you.

Here is an update on some of the people we are teaching:

Charmaine is doing awesome. She is getting baptized Jan 8. She has had a super hard past. I wish you could see how the Gospel has changed her. IT is the difference between night and day!

Ashli has been MIA. Prayers would be awesome! She is so ready, but Satan is working on her so hard.

Todd is the marine we are teaching. He is hilarious! He is super smart, super nice, and already seems like he's Mormon. He told us the other day that he is so sick of people asking him how long he has been a member, he just wants to get dunked already (he is waiting for the person that introduced him to the Gospel to come, so he won't be getting baptized until the end of January)!

Funny story about Todd: yesterday, we were teaching him the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity. Sister Kennington started out by explaining how we got the Word of Wisdom (When Emma was so upset about the men chewing tobacco and everything). After she told the story, he looked at her and said, "Are you telling me this story because I dip?" Sister Kennington and I looked at each other, two naive utah girls with no idea what on earth "dip" meant. In unison (we are both becoming each other I swear), we asked "What does dip mean?" Apparently it means to chew tobacco. Ha ha- Well Mom, I think you would be proud, I am now educated on what weed smells like and the slang words for chewing tobacco!

The Church has asked all missionaries at historic sites to do the "chat" feature on mormon.org. So Sister Kennington and I are learning so we can teach the sisters. Yesterday, we got online and chatted with a woman from Estonia and taught her the Restoration. Another guy also came online and we got to talk to him about why Mormons are so happy. He had gotten online and watched the I'm a mormon videos and wanted to know if it was just the people in the videos or if it was all Mormons that are so happy. I just love missionary work! I bet Alma and the Sons of Mosiah are having a hoot up in heaven watching us preach the Gospel across the world from our computers!

I was looking through my journal and just wanted to share this excerpt before I go:

December 23, 2011

"I woke up this morning and there was a different feeling in the air. A peace. A calm. A quietness. I Flipped my scripture calendar from December 22 to December 23 and realized that today is Joseph Smith's Birthday. That explained a lot. It was as though the morning was reverencing his birth! We had our missionary Christmas party this morning. This whole day seems to be a blur except for one tiny moment that is still crystal clear in my mind. The moment was a few words that President shared with us in the tiny chapel in Mission Valley, Calif.

"Joseph Smith, the prophet and seer of the Lord has done more save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other men who lived in it." ....."

I just wanted to share that with you. I love Joseph Smith. I love my Savior. I love you all, thank you for everything!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The show must go on

SAN DIEGO — We sent off Sister Christensen this morning. She is a stellar missionary, and it broke my heart watching her leave. What an amazing legacy she has left for all of us. She is an example of a stalwart servant of God and has put true meaning to what it means to "Return with Honor". I was giving a tour with her yesterday and asked her what her last piece of advice would be for me. She told me to remember that no matter what happens in life, "The show must go on".

How true that is! Life goes on, the days come and go, the seasons change, the years pass by and nothing can stop it. Our attitudes, our actions, our desires are what give meaning to the precious time we have. Whatever trials we face, whatever heartaches come our way, it is our attitude that makes "our show" one of despair and disappointment or one of hope and happiness.

On the opposite scheme of things, this week I also sat in the front room of a sister that had no desire to be here anymore — who couldn't wait to pack her bags and go home. I sat in her living room, my heart broken, and sick to my stomach of what that kind of decision would do to this sister. I have learned that just as much as God is real, so is the adversary. Fortunately we are on the winning side!

I told you last week that Sister Kennington and I were going to irritate Satan this week, and I think we can say "mission accomplished." I don't know if you remember Ali. He is the Muslim that we had to stop teaching until President Clayton talked with him. He had his interview on Friday and President said we could teach him. On Sunday, we went over to his house and started completely from scratch. He doesn't even know who Jesus Christ is as he was never raised Christian, so we decided to watch the Finding Faith in Christ DVD with him. I want to share that part of my journal with you this week as it was one of my highlights. 

Sunday, December 19, 2011
Ali couldn't make it to church today, so we asked him if we could drop by later. We went over to the house he is staying at and watched Finding Faith in Christ with him. I can't explain how happy and relieved and thankful and excited I am to be able to teach him again. I can't explain it, but I know I promised Ali in heaven that I would find and teach him the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Of course, I probably have done that for our other investigators as well, but it just seems different somehow. Words can't explain what it was like tonight, sitting with Ali, who has no idea what the Savior did for him. We had to keep pausing during the movie to explain things to him: who the man and woman were who were looking for a place to stay in Bethlehem, who the 12 men were that were following Jesus Christ, and what was happening when Jesus Christ was kneeling down and praying to God in agony in the Garden of Gethsemene. As we paused at that moment, and looked at our Savior performing the Atonement, he looked over at me with tears in his eyes, and all he could say was, "Wow".

The Spirit hit me so hard, it felt as though I could barely breathe. Heavenly Father not only testified to Ali that what we were showing him was real, but he testified once again to me, that my Savior lives, that Jesus Christ really did perform the Atonement. I love this Gospel so much. I love my Savior with all my heart. And I am so grateful for the precious gift Heavenly Father gave me during this Christmas season: a reminder that He loves me and that is why He sent His son to the earth. The only words I have to say, are those of my friend Ali — wow.

Let's not forget:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."
Can't wait to talk to you on Sunday! :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Life is hard, but Salvation is priceless"

SAN DIEGO — Christmas time is definitely different on a mission. I am so thankful to Heavenly Father that He has kept Sister Kennington and I so busy. I have never been so happy to be so exhausted in my life. It is a little hard not to get a tiny bit homesick around the holidays, but it's not a bad homesick. I just love you all so much!
It was our turn to pick up the mail at the mission office. I got the packages Mom and Dad sent (haven't opened them yet) and Jackie Steele sent me one too! Nice huh? 
I honestly can't even remember what happened this week. It was so crazy, I can barely keep my eyes opened writing to you. Every night, I have five minutes to rush and wash my face, and brush my teeth and jump into bed before 10:30. Unfortunately, I have been really bad at writing in my journal. But for some reason, what I had planned to tell you about, I feel like Heavenly Father would rather me tell you about what happened last night. It is a simple story, nothing grandiose, nothing extraordinary, but it is the tiny, the seemingly insignificant things that testify to me that God is real.

I was serving at the Battalion last night. I had just finished up a tour and I was exhausted. We weren't that busy, but the other sisters were watching one of our Christmas presentations we have been having, so after finishing my tour, I walked up to the front and a little girl and her aunt were wanting to go.  Honestly, I was so tired I felt like crying. I had no idea how I would have the energy to take this little girl on the tour and make it a good experience for her. But Heavenly Father practically pushed me into the first room and I knew He needed her to come on the tour. I knew she was special to Him. 
When we got to the outfitting room and Sister Lewis and I were dressing her up like a soldier, it came to the part where we talk about how the men did what they did. How they were able to leave their families, leave their friends, and face the unknown. We brought out the Book of Mormon and the Bible and I got down on my knees so I could look in her eyes and tell her about her Savior, whose life was written in the precious pages. The Spirit pierced the room, it touched my heart with so much force, I thought for sure there must be angels peeking in on this sweet moment. 
Sister Lewis looked at her, and said, "Julianna, Heavenly Father loves you, no matter what, will you always remember that?" "Yes" was all she said. But that "Yes" held a whole new meaning to me as her aunt explained little Julianna's situation: living without the Gospel of Jesus Christ in her life because of the actions of her parents. What a tender mercy Heavenly Father gave me last night.
God loves all of His children. EVERY SINGLE ONE.
I have been thinking about the Savior a lot this month, of always, but this month as His birth is celebrated all over the world this Christmas season. Part of a talk that Sister Kennington shared with me came to my mind. I changed some of the words, but the talk is entitled, "Missionary work and the Atonement."
"Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font? 
You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary. 
Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price."
How much sweeter will Eternal Life be, when we can look back and see how far we've come. When we can say, yes, it was hard, but it was worth it. When we can look our Savior in the eye, and thank Him for reaching down and pulling us up when we had climbed as far as we could.
Life is hard. But Salvation is priceless. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The power of the Book of Mormon

SAN DIEGO — WHOA!! I hardly have any time to write again! Time flies way too fast! There is so much going on and so many things to tell you. First of all, I had to print off your emails because I ran out of time to read them. I will answer your questions and everything next time and If I forget, just ask me again:).

I have never been so tired in my life. Sister Kennington and I literally lay down on our beds at night and within seconds are fast asleep. A tricky thing being a Mormon Battalion sister is we have the work to do in half the time. Having said that, Heavenly Father has helped us see miracles despite the little time we have had in our area this week. We were able to add seven new investigators this week, and three of our investigators now have a baptismal date for Jan. 7, 8, and 22!

Todd is a marine that has been totally prepared by Heavenly Father. We just met him this week. He has been stationed a lot of different places, but in each place, he finds the Mormon church and goes to the activities. He has never sat down and talked with the missionaries before, so this was his first time. We got to know him and introduced that central to our message is Jesus Christ.

As we were talking to him about how Heavenly Father has given us tangible evidence that we can hold in our hands as a testimony to the world that God has once again restored His church to the earth, I felt like we should ask him if he has read the Book of Mormon.

He said he had read parts of it. I felt again that I needed to ask him what his thoughts were about it. He looked up at me with a huge grin on his face and said, "Well, I know it's true!" We were able to explain to him that if the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith is a prophet, and if Joseph is a prophet, then The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's church once again restored to the earth.

We committed him to set a baptismal date, and even before we could set him with a date, he set his own! He already had been thinking about it and wanted to get baptized. The power of the Book of Mormon is real. This man didn't even have the missionaries teaching him, he hasn't learned about the fulness of our message, yet just reading the passages from the Book of Mormon brought a mighty change upon him. 

Ashli is a Mormon Battalion referral. Sister Nelson took her on a tour and since August we have been trying to meet with her. Finally, three weeks ago we found her. We have only been able to meet with her three times because of schedules and things, but already she has read to the middle of 2 Nephi. We are meeting with her this week and committing her to baptism. She has already changed so much, I am so excited for her!

Tyler is also a Mormon Battalion referral that Sister Kennington took on a tour. He is 18 years old and into music and things. His dad is very less active, but wants to come back to church. Sister Kennington and I went over a few days ago and introduced our message and the Book of Mormon to him. Last night, Sister Kennington (we were on exchanges) met with him again and he accepted a baptismal date.

Charmaine: the missionaries have been working with her FOREVER! Even before I came. She went to the Christmas Devotional at our branch president's home, and felt the Spirit so strongly. I know that the Spirit touched her heart and reminded her of the divine potential she has.

She was so different when we met her. She kept saying, "everything clicks, I get it. I get it now"  You would have to know Charmaine, she is the most scatter-brained analytical, spastic teenager ever. From the world's view, she would never change, she would never want this. Yet from God's perspective, she is His daughter, and His love can change any soul.

I wanted to share with you a glimpse of these people's stories because it is a huge reminder of the power of the Book of Mormon, the power of the Holy Ghost, and the power of our Father. This Gospel is real, so much more real than I ever realized. Heavenly Father is closer than we know, and we have angels surrounding us here, now every day. Just as Heavenly Father has a great influence in our lives, so does Satan. Just as I have seen the power of Heavenly Father. I have seen how good Satan is at deceiving, at ruining and destroying peoples lives. He is sneaky and tricky and He thinks he knows what's up. He has no idea.

I want to leave you with an excerpt from my journal, and something that I have been thinking about a lot this week as we have had Zone Leader trainings, and Missionary Training Meetings.

Monday, December 5, 2011

"I have been pondering all week about some things that President Clayton talked to us about in Zone Leader Training. He read us the scripture about the Great Captain Moroni. 
"And it came to pass as the armies of the Lamanites had gathered together in the land, behold the armies of the Nephites were prepared to meet them in the land." 

I had the imagery of all of the followers of Christ being armed and ready to fight against Satan and his followers. Oh, how great this battle has become. I imagined us rushing forward to fight Satan, to defend our families, our friends and our neighbors from the awful grasp of the adversary. I feel so privileged to be God's warrior, to defend this world from the grasp of Satan.

As I read this scripture, I imagined Captain Moroni leading his army — Moroni was a mighty man, a man of God. He revolutionized the strategy of war. He made preparations, he prepared his warriors and he was always one step ahead of the Lamanites. It has hit me so strongly this week that Heavenly Father needs me to be like Moroni. I need to be one step ahead of Satan and predict where he is going to focus his battle. I read through Preach My Gospel this morning and made a list of where I think Satan is going to attack, and my plan to fight back. I know with God's help, I am going to make Satan one angry warrior. He will fail. He is not going to win. And I am going to be one of his worst enemies.

I think this is true in all of our lives. I would invite all of you to pick something that Satan keeps getting you at, and make a plan to fight back! Don't let him win! Just like it says in the scriptures,

"If all men were and had and were  and ever would be like unto Moroni, behold the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever yea the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men. "

Let's shake the the powers of hell, shall we?!?! I feel like irritating Satan this week, Please help me out!!!

Love you all. You are the bestest ever. You can do hard things!!!! Don't freeze (those of you in Utah).