Tuesday, January 31, 2012

'Not a single moment can be wasted'

SAN DIEGO — This week has been a crazy one! I feel like I start these letters the same way every week, but it is so true. Missionary work is so full of ups and downs. HR (the one baptized in October) finally went to the temple this week! What a sweet experience to have been able to see him be baptized, receive the priesthood and bless the sacrament, and now go to the temple to help others receive those same blessings! It is so neat! All I can keep thinking of is no wonder Heaven will be amazing! We all get to help each other get back to Heavenly Father!

Todd (the marine that just got baptized) received the Gift of the Holy Ghost on Sunday. W-O-W. Future Stake President right there. They are both so solid. I am so grateful Heavenly Father has blessed me with the opportunity to teach them both.

Saturday was Mormon Battalion day. They had a huge celebration in town square celebrating the Battalion making it to San Diego. We marched in the parade and then headed up to the Battalion and gave tours every 15 minutes from 10 am-to about 5 pm. It was crazy! There was a special spirit about the day, having an extra reminder about what these amazing men did.

Brittany with a local member of the Church on Battalion
Day. Photo courtesy of @GreggPrettyman.

Saturday was both a happy and a sad day. Sister Pelfrey's father passed away at 1 pm. He has been really sick for quite some time, but that doesn't take away the sting and hurt of losing a loved one. She is such a strong woman, so kind, so thoughtful, so loving. I was so blessed to be able to sit with her for a few minutes and listen to her tell me about her dad. We sat together and we cried together. There is
no doubt in my mind that Heavenly Father sent special angels to be with His sweet daughter that night.

This experience reminded me of how precious life truly is. We fought to have a place here on earth and we fought mightily, valiantly, courageously. Not a single moment can be wasted.

As a missionary, every six weeks we have transfers. And every six weeks I have the opportunity to look back at what I've done — how hard I worked, how patient or impatient I was, how I treated my companion and the other sisters — I have this great opportunity to look back and report to my Heavenly Father, my mission President, Elder Seegmiller, and myself of how I used the precious six weeks I had. It is a little scary when I have to look within myself and see if I truly reached the potential Heavenly Father has for me.

As I was sitting with Sister Pelfrey talking about how her dad is finally home, I thought about how my welcome will be when I return home to Father in Heaven. Did I love? Did I teach? Did I lift? Did I serve? Everything we do makes a difference. Everything we do we will be accountable for. It matters what we do here! It matters more than we realize.

I just want you all to know I love you. God is real. More real than we know.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Miracles really do happen!"

SAN DIEGO — I sometimes have these epiphanies that, "Wow! I am a missionary!"

There is nothing like it at all. I wish I could explain it in words, but being a missionary is such a spiritual experience, it seems that there are only feelings to describe it. Nonetheless, I will still try my best to write in words what I am feeling.

But first, some shout outs:

Grandma and Grandpa Newman: That was so fun to see you, thanks for the Zucchini bread, the sisters definitely enjoyed it as well:)

Grams and Gramps Morgan: Hope your trip to North Carolina went well. Grams, I just got your letter, but haven't been able to read it yet, Thanks for writing!

Juli: I also got your letter this morning but havent had a chance to read it either, thanks for writing! I cant believe your baby Annalie is 4 today!:) Wow.

Sara:  Got your letter. I'm working on writing you today, so be ready for it! Love you girl!

Mom and Dad: LOVED LOVED LOVED the calendar and all the goodies you sent! Thank you so so so so so so so much. You are the best!

I was talking to Sister Kennington yesterday, and we realize more and more everyday that one of the biggest lessons Heavenly Father needs His missionaries to learn is to realize how precious our families are and to not take them for granted. You know how much I loved you before I left. Now multiply that by 100 and that is how much I have come to love you while being gone for these past few months.

Being a missionary definitely comes with ups and downs, just like life, I suppose. I teach people every day that there is opposition in all things, and that in order to experience joy we have to experience sorrow as well. One thing that is for sure, when the hard times come, there is always something great waiting behind what seems to be a towering wall of trial.

This week has been the "great" that was behind a pretty big tower of trial: on Sunday, Todd was baptized.


January 22, 2012

The only thing I can think to say is how amazing this day has been. It finally came. It finally came!

I remember the first lesson we had with Todd. We introduced The Book of Mormon to him in which replied that he had already been reading it. The Spirit guided us to ask him what his thoughts and feelings were about the book. He looked at us with his military stance — shoulders squared, eyes straight forward and said, "I know it's true." 

And now, a month and a half later, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost and the Book of Mormon have transformed him into a man with hope, happiness and excitement for the future. I sat in the Elders Quorum room, which was completely packed. People even had to stand in the back.

Todd, whose dad wouldn't even come to the baptism because he wanted to watch a football game, was surrounded by family, surrounded by love, surrounded by support. This is what Heaven is like, of that I am sure.

As Todd was standing in the font, Sister Kennington wrapped her arm around me and looked at me with tears in her eyes. That's all words can say to describe the feeling of seeing one you have prayed for, served, taught and loved enter the waters of baptism. I can't imagine how Heavenly Father was feeling: one more of His children found Him again, and is on his way home to His arms. I wish I could have seen Heavenly Father's face.

On Monday, we had our first meeting with Oliver. Here is a little bit from my journal about that experience:

Monday, January 23, 2012

We finally met with Oliver tonight. Oliver is dating Sara, a member from one of the wards in the stake. He was introduced to The Book of Mormon by her six weeks ago, but this is the first time he has met with missionaries. The elders taught him the Restoration and passed him off to us since he is a Young Single Adult.

We were able to have a lesson in our Branch President's home. That in and of itself was a miracle. I haven't been in a home since August. Teaching YSA's, most of our lessons end up at the church, or on the doorstep. We taught Oliver The Plan of Salvation. Every time I teach that to people, it is amazing to see the Spirit touch their souls. It's like something wakes up inside of them and they remember who they are.

Something woke up in Oliver today. When we invited him to follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized by somebody who held the proper authority, he told us he already knew it was true and he set his own baptism date for March 10, 2012. It felt like deja vu again!

Heavenly Father has taught me many many things. Tonight's lesson was that He really doesn't need missionaries at all. Just the Book of Mormon. The Holy Ghost bore witness to his soul that this is real. That this is true. He doesn't even know really who Jesus Christ is, yet He knows that God has witnessed to him of the reality of the Book of Mormon.

I wish I could tell you more of the miracles that happened this week, but I don't have time! I was asked a few questions that I thought I would try and answer in the few minutes that I have left.

Why do you love being a missionary?

There are honestly so many different reasons, I won't be able to write them all. I love knowing that even though it is not nearly enough, I am serving and giving back to Heavenly Father what He has given me. I love seeing miracles every day. I love being able to look back after a difficult trial and realizing that I did it. I love the people. I love seeing the light of Christ shine from one of God's children that before was dark and without hope. I love learning about what Heavenly Father expects of me and who He needs me to become. I love seeing other people realize that. I love watching His children who were lost, find their way.

What is the most important lesson you have learned from your Mom and Dad?

Well, again that is a question with many answers, but the first thing that comes to my mind is diligence. My parents have taught me what it means to work. Work to gain my testimony. Work to become who I want to be. Work to gain knowledge. They have helped me realize that nothing is impossible if you involve anything. Over and over again they have helped me realize that "In the strength of the Lord, I can do all things."

What is the most important thing you have learned on your mission?

Definitely to rely on Heavenly Father completely, absolutely, perfectly. When I give everything to Him, that is when miracles happen. We too often try to rely on ourselves, even just a little bit, when we think we are giving our all to Heavenly Father. It is when we let go completely, giving our all into His hands, that He helps us become, and do what we need to.

Time has flown by. I love you all. Miracles happen. They really really do!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A personal connection to the Mormon Battalion

Editor's Note: The weekend before Brittany wrote this letter, her dad (Curtis) and mom (Teresa) were visiting family in Pocatello, Idaho. While there at church, they ran into a cousin of Curtis', who told them after learning about Brittany's assignment as a missionary in San Diego, that the Newman line had an ancestor in the Mormon Battalion, and how great it was that Brittany was serving there.

It just so happened that this person had been waiting to be found. Curtis had had a prompting for months to open a family history of his great grandmother. It was sitting on a shelf in the basement, but was never touched — until Curtis found out about this family member. We found out he joined the Mormon Battalion at 19, and in 1857, was part of the group of men who held of Johnson's Army at the head of Echo Canyon until Brigham Young was ready to let them enter. He also served a mission in Oregon.

Brittany found out the very next day. Here's her letter:


SAN DIEGO — I started crying as I looked at Oliver Norton on the computer screen. Just yesterday, I was showing a family how to use the roster kiosks and I pulled up Oliver Norton's name. I had the feeling to read his information, but my tour was too big and I got pulled away to take pictures of my group. And now I am sitting here looking at his face. I get to tell the world his story! Thank you so much for telling me that:) It was just what I needed today.

Oliver Norton Harmon, Jr.
Born: Oct. 18, 1826, Erie County, Pennsylvania
Died: Jul. 12, 1901, Milo, Idaho
I wanted to share with you two experiences from sacrament meeting and a devotional we went to this week. 

The first one was the devotional: The BYU basketball team was in San Diego and they always do a devotional before they play in the area they are in. Noah Hartsock and Brock Zylstra talked first (I know I messed up the spelling) and then Coach Rose got up and shared an experience he had. He was in the hospital two years ago after finding out that he had pancreatic cancer. He was pretty drugged, but he still could notice all the goings on around him. He heard people yelling, screaming, crying, and he could hear the nurses comforting and helping these people.

Then his nurse came in and was doing vitals and everything and asked him what she could do for him. He told her he was in much better shape than everyone else and that she should go help them. She replied that he was just as important and that she was there to help him. He described the overwhelming Spirit that came over him that day. He felt Heavenly Father tell him that he needed to be more kind, just as the nurse had been.

I have been pondering on that a lot. What everlasting influence does kindness have on the world? This morning in personal study, I read from the Ensign the talk called HE LIVED AS HE TAUGHT about George Albert Smith. There are a few sentences that illuminated from the page:

"If we truly have a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it will manifest itself in our lives — particularly in the way we treat one another....Kindness is the power that God has given us to unlock hard hearts and subdue stubborn souls.... Sharing the Gospel is the Ultimate Kindness.... Love has the power to inspire our children to live righteously..."

I need to be more kind. I know Heavenly Father reminded me of that these past few days.

The other thing I learned this week from sacrament meeting is the power of change. Our high councilman gave a talk about integrity. He loves Chicago history, and he told us about Al Capone. A member of his gang, Easy Eddie, did horrible things for Al Capone, but he had a son, and he wanted his son to remember him with some integrity, so he acted as a witness against Al Capone in court.

Barely a year later, Easy Eddie was killed by the gang. Before I finish that story, I want to tell you about another man he told us about: Butch O'Hare. (Who the O'Hare airport is named after) Butch was a fighter pilot during WWII ( I think). He and his fleet were ordered to fly to their next target. As Butch was flying, he noticed that his plane had not been topped off and he would not have enough gas to reach his destination. He was ordered to return back to the ship. As he did, he was able to see Japanese fighter planes heading to the aircraft carrier. He warned the aircraft, but all the planes were heading to their target. So Butch flew straight at the Japanese planes and after using all the ammunition he had, started diving at the planes causing them to turn away from the aircraft carrier. Miraculously,  Butch made it to the aircraft safely.

Butch O'Hare was Easy Eddie's son.

That story made me realize how many people have influenced my life by showing their integrity by example. Sometimes I think we think that our everyday actions don't mean that much, but little do we realize that they mean the world. Seriously, I have come to realize that what I do every day effects eternity.

I am so excited for this week. Todd is getting baptized on Sunday! He is the second Marine I have been able to teach that is getting baptized. That alone is a sweet experience. So often the Marines feel like they can never be forgiven for the things they have done, but when they learn about the personal relationship they have with the Savior and that they can be forgiven, their whole countenance changes. I can't imagine how hard it is to be a representative of Jesus Christ in the Marine corps. They get made fun of so bad, yet they stand their ground. I am so grateful Heavenly Father has let me teach both HR and Todd. They truly are already great leaders in the kingdom of God.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Closer to Heaven

SAN DIEGO — I haven't read any of your emails or anything because I only have a few minutes to write today. The place we usually go had the internet down, so we are sharing the computer at the Battalion.

Part of my email time was taken up by a MIRACLE! A perfect thing to be taken up by, don't you think?

Elder Woodbury came and got Sister Kennington and myself from the back and told us there was a lady up front who wanted to know more about the Church. She hadn't even been on the tour yet! She was at the temple and she asked how she could go inside, and the temple workers told her that if she came to the Mormon Battalion Historic Site, there would be missionaries there to help prepare her to enter the temple in a year's time. She told us that she has struggles right now and knows that this can make her happy. We scheduled an appointment for her to come back tomorrow at 10. AMAZING! I love the miracles that happen every single day. They really do happen!

An update on our investigators: 

Charmaine is doing better. She still is struggling with the commandments, but is working through it and really wants to get baptized.

Todd also will be baptized at the end of the month.

Some sad news that happened this week. Ali broke his arm and can't afford insurance, so he has to go back to Iran to get it fixed. I think my heart may have literally broken a tiny bit. I know we talked in heaven. He is so close!

We need your prayers, though. I know there are people — just like this lady that came to the Battalion — that are in desperate need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Missionary work is so amazing. You have moments when you are down on your knees in tears not knowing what to do next, times what you feel like you are on cloud nine when one of God's children accepts the Gospel, times when crushing disappointment takes your breath away as one you've learned to love rejects their opportunity of a lifetime.

Of course, there are moments when the only thing you can do is laugh.

I had one of those moments this week, as I was taking one of the Spanish sisters on exchanges a few days ago. I have heard horror stories at the Battalion of some very interesting food that has been served the sisters. We were having a lesson with a lady, and she decided she liked us, so naturally she wanted to feed us a taco. We agreed and she went to the kitchen to prepare it. As she started walking back to us from the kitchen, my heart sank as I saw on the plate weird squiggly white stuff. The only thing running through my mind was that did NOT look like any taco I had ever seen. Flashbacks of being with Dad in Finland and eating nasty stuff ran through my mind. I held my breath, telling myself it was all mind over matter. Then she gave us the plates: it was Chicken Alfredo!!! Yeah, MAJOR FALSE ALARM.

All the Spanish sisters had a hoot and a half hearing that one, though:) They taught me a new phrase last night when I was on exhcanges again, so sister kennington wasnt with me. "Yo tengo mucho respeto por usted, mujer." Anyway, I was supposed to say it to Sis. Kennington. It means, "I have much respect you, woman"

I'll leave you with part of my journal from last night.


January 9, 2012

I just got off my second tour in a row tonight and saw that Sister Nelson was going to start a tour, so I went with her. We took a mother and her two little daughters through. They were so adorable. The whole time we were unsure of whether they were LDS because the daughter kept saying she had been here before. We finished the tour and still, we had no idea whether she was a member of the Church. 

At the end of the tour, she started opening up: her husband is deployed and her and her daughters come here often because of the feelings that they feel.

Of course they do.

The Mormon Battalion is a sacred place, a place where the legacy of these brave men and women is reverenced and retold to the world. The prophecy that the Battalion would be held in reverence to the whole world is fulfilled here every day. I am convinced that the real members of the Battalion are closer than we know at times. This woman felt that. She felt the Spirit. She felt it touch her heart.

She asked if she could go to church with us on Sunday, which we gladly accepted. What is amazing to me is the contrast of another tour I took earlier today. I took two people, cousins, on the tour. The whole time all they wanted to do was leave. They answered their phone multiple times and most of the time weren't even paying attention. Yet, still by the end of the tour their hearts were changed, and they were so excited to bring their family back.

Wow. The Gospel really does change people. No matter who we are, where we come from, we are all children of God. Our spirits still remember Heaven.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The struggle of agency and the Atonement

SAN DIEGO — Happy New Years! 2012????? When did this happen??? It honestly scares me. I have too much to do before the end of this year!

I am focusing completely on the work, but every now and then it hits me like a ton of bricks how much I love you and miss you! I know you all have busy things going on and whatnot, but I hope you are taking time for each other. I have had to learn being gone how precious and fragile the precious gift of family is. Everything else we do is so good,  but family is something that is far too often taken for granted, and far too precious not to be cherished.

Speaking of family:

Grandma and Grandpa Morgan and Newman: I got both of your letters, but I haven't gotten the chance to open them yet, and it's our turn to email, so thank you in advance for writing me. You are the best grandparents ever!!!

Chris and Hannah: Thank you so much for the card, for the gift, and for the letter. You are so good to me! Loved the stories Hannah!

Sara: WAHOOOOOOOOOOO another semester. Hope you have gotten everything settled! Can't wait to hear how the start of another semester has gone.

This week here in San Diego has gone by so fast — kind of in a blur. It seems like that's what keeps happening lately. Sometime Sister Kennington and I feel like we are chickens running around with our heads cut off! We are so much alike it is hilarious. We say the same things in the exact same tone and the exact same time, and just today when we were grocery shopping we looked down in our carts and realized we even eat the same food! Scary:)

We have honestly had a rough week. We were talking about it in the car today. I have learned so much about how real God is on my mission, but I have also realized how real Satan is.

One of our investigators, who was going to be baptized this Sunday refused to live the Law of Chastity, even though she told us she knew the blessings that would come from it and the happiness she would have. Another investigator broke the Word of Wisdom on New Years and feels so guilty that he won't talk to us even though he understands the precious gift of the Atonement. Another investigator decided to move to northern California to live with her boyfriend. All of them had baptism dates for this month.

The realization that there is opposition in all things and that agency plays a big role in that came crashing down on me this week. I can't describe what I am feeling right now, only that to watch these sons and daughters of God turn away from their Father hurts really, really bad. Sister Kennington and I were talking about how we can literally feel the weight of their salvation on our shoulders. I am struggling with the weight placed on my shoulders, but I know it is nothing compared to what Christ did for all of us.

It took my breath away talking to my companion in the car this morning about how much weight the Savior carried on His shoulders. I don't have any words to explain it. I can imagine that the heavens watched in silent tears as our Savior bled, suffered, loved, and died for us. I felt a reverence for Him I have never felt before. He lives. I know that my Redeemer lives.

We had Zone Leader Training yesterday and we talked a lot about the examples we are to others and how important it is to be exactly obedient. President has been asking us to make visions for ourselves of who we want to be and so I have been thinking about that a lot lately. Interestingly enough, I was reading about Moroni today in my personal study.
"And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding; yea a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery.

Yea a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings  which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.

Yea, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were and ever would eb 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.

Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ. Behold he was a man like unto Ammon, the son of Mosiah, and even the other sons of Mosiah, yea and also Alma and his sons, for they were all men of God."

There is something I have learned here. I used to read that scripture and think, "That would be nice if I could be like that." Now I realize I can. I have a vision of myself. I want to be a Moroni, and you know what? I can be! We are all divine children of God, we have the potential to become like Him. Who are we to think otherwise?!?

There is a quote I love by Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley:

"I don't want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.

I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp.

I want to be there with grass stains on my shoes from mowing Sister Schenk's lawn.

I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor's children.

I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone's garden.

I want to be there with children's sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder.

I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.

That's the kind of person I want to be, and guess what? I can!

This new year is a perfect time to write down your vision for yourself. Who do you want to become? What do you want to tell people you have done on this earth? What difference do you want to have made?

I beg all of you reading this to realize that you can become exactly who you want to be. Don't settle for less. Please, please please don't settle for less! It, of course, can't happen unless you set goals and write it down, but I promise you, you can be exactly who you want to be.

I love you all, thank you for helping me be the person I am today! Let's start this year off with a BANG!!! Lets tell Satan who's boss!!! We are. We are children of a King! Children of great worth!!!

Don't forget it:)

Love you to the moon and back.