Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mission difficulties and the power of prayer

SAN DIEGO —Hello Family!

Someone asked about transfers. Transfers were two weeks ago. Sister Kennington and I are still together and still training sisters. Almost positive I will be transferred on April 25 (next transfers) as I will have spent half of my mission in the Black Mountain branch singles ward. It will be a sad day when I have to leave!

I got to see a few familiar faces these past few weeks! I saw Jed and Annette at the Battalion, and when I was on shift at the temple, none other than Cindy Knowles, her family, and her fiance walk in! Crazy, huh?

Sara asked a good question. She asked what makes it hard about a mission because people always say, "missions are the hardest and best thing I have ever done".

I think for me it is a couple things. I have never been so physically exhausted in my life. Twelve hours a day nonstop. Being worthy and teaching by the spirit is exhausting in and of itself.  I have never had to deal with so many emotions — living with a companion for 24/7, having the weight of people's salvation on my shoulders, having to deal with their agency and their decisions to turn away from the precious truths of the Gospel.

Sara made a good point. She said, "You've done a lot of hard things in your life, why is a mission harder?" I think it is because I realize the eternal importance that where I am now is the most important point in my present and eternal life as well as the eternal life of others.

About this week. Well, its been a week of answered prayers. Sister Kennington and I have been praying with all of our hearts to find more people to teach. I have been learning so much about the power of prayer. I want to share three things that happened to us:

On Thursday, we went to visit an investigator who we added when we were trying to contact her brother (he was a referral from the sisters). Eljien, the brother, answered the door and is actually best friends with a less active we just stopped by a few days ago to see. He wants to learn more, and wants his less active friend to be there.

On Sunday, we were sitting in Fast and Testimony meeting and all of a sudden, one of the members who had already shared his testimony started walking up with a friend he brought with him. To give you an idea of the whole moment, Taylor (the member) in his white shirt and tie, walked an African American guy in a baggy shirt and jeans up to the pulpit.

I was honestly dumbfounded. What on earth? It was like a messed up sort of de ja vu, where I remember what happens in family wards, moms and dads walking their kids up to the pulpit to share testimony, but was what I was seeing real? Believe me I blinked a few times- it was. Devin, Taylor's friend, got up and told the congregation that he knew Jesus was real. He had read The Book of Mormon and learned about Joseph Smith from Taylor and knew that those things were true as well! Holy cow! We had our mission leader, our EQ president, Branch President along with a few more people all turn around in unison and ask us who on earth this guy was. We had no answer! We are now teaching him though, and he wants to get baptized!

Last, We stopped by a former whose Dad hates us. Cranky old men don't scare me, but I definitely don't enjoy going over there. We did anyway and his 19-year-old brother answered. He has cancer and will be at home for the next few months and wants to learn more. It was amazing.

Prayer is so real. God really will answer if we will ask. Take the time to talk with Father. And take the time to listen. That alone will change your life!

P.S. the picture I attached is from last night. Yes, I am a 21-year-old woman on the outside, 4-year-old girl on the inside! (we built a fort in the front room:)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rock climbing and Q & A

SAN DIEGO — I love the questions I was sent this week, so let's get on with them!

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

Funny thing you ask. I was sitting in an interview with a General Authority a few weeks ago, and he sat Sister Kennington and I down and asked us that very thing. Except for he asked, "What is the most important thing that you have learned on your mission that you could not have learned anywhere else?"

I really had to ponder that. Could I have learned the scriptures? Yes. Could i have learned Preach My Gospel? Yes. Could I have learned how to teach? Yes. Without my mission though, I would not have learned the eternal nature of missionary work.

I don't know if that makes sense, but without a mission, I am not sure I would have the eternal perspective of how important it is to talk to some who is less active, or do the life-changing action of sitting by someone on the bus, and just talking with them so that they can get a glimpse of the Spirit. I guess what I am trying to say is without my mission, I think I would be lagging behind in truly starting to understand my purpose here in life and how God expects me to live up to that purpose.

What temple do you want to get married in?
Oquirrh Mountain, most definitely.

Favorite Dessert?
Depends. I am definitely a chocolate fan. Summer time: Chocolate ice cream cake. Celebration time: Sam's Club chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream or hot brownies and ice cream. Holiday time: German chocolate pie. Pretty much, you want a happy Sister Newman? Chocolate anything sounds good to me!

What is one of your biggest fears?
I think this is one that many missionaries have. I don't want to return to be the same person I was. I want to still be me, but be the more refined person that God has helped me work an intense year and a half to become. I don't want to waste the work, the tears, the sleepless nights, the frustration, the joy, the happiness, that I have worked so hard for. I want to live up to my potential.

What is one of your greatest accomplishments thus far in life?
Definitely being here on a mission. I thought nursing school was tough, but there are some days – for instance, last night —when I went to bed with tears streaming down my face. I felt like the Sons of
Mosiah when they said,

"Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us..." 

There have been far too many moments when I have felt my heart depressed and wanting to turn back, but Heavenly Father wont let me of which I am so grateful for.

This week has been a pretty slow week, not much new to report on, so I want to leave you with a memory I have that has brought me great strength on my mission, and something I feel I should share.


Do you remember how much fun Sara, Chris and I would have going rock climbing up Provo Canyon?

I remember when I first started going with them, I was terrified. I love rock climbing, but surprisingly am really afraid of heights. That wasn't going to stop me from doing something I wanted to do. I remember one of my first climbs with them, I got halfway up the cliff, and was getting really tired, so I stopped for a minute holding myself up on the side of the cliff.

I made the mistake while admiring the view of the horizon, and looked down to see Sara and Chris way farther down than I expected. It's a scary thing when your 5'9' sister looks like she's two inches tall! My arms started to shake, my hands started to sweat, and I was for sure I was going to fall off that cliff to my death. Sara saw me crying and started to cheer me on. Despite my begging, they wouldn't let me down.

All I knew left to do was to pray and ask for help. As I said a quick prayer, the thought came to my mind: "Silly Brittany, take a breather, and notice how this relates to your life." As that voice pierced my soul, I did what I was told.

All of a sudden, I saw the rock wall as my life here on earth. I saw spots that were easier and spots that were tougher to climb. Moments I could take a rest, and times when the only option was to keep climbing. And then I looked down at my harness, wrapped tightly around me, and realized that the Book of Mormon was my support helping me through life. The harness was hooked to the rope, my lifeline between me and my brother. I had just used that lifeline, praying to my Heavenly Father for help.

Then my sister, standing right next to him, pleading for me to keep going, cheering me on, and helping me know where to lift my feet, what rocks would be the best to hold onto, because she had just climbed the same thing I was climbing. I no longer had any fear, I looked up, and climbed to the most breathtaking view of Utah Valley.

I share that story with you because of what Sara asked about my accomplishments in life. I feel like the biggest accomplishment we can all make is learning to become who we are meant to become and learning to put our lives in Heavenly Father's hands. I know if you will do that, your life will change.

I love you all. I'm sorry for the lack of stories. Todd went to the temple this week, it was amazing to see his beaming face walk out of the temple! Oliver received the Aaronic Priesthood and will be going to the temple soon as well. HR is still doing great. Cory got deployed to Japan, so keep him in your prayers. And we have a new recent convert named Mark that moved from North Carolina. He is amazing and blessed the sacrament on Sunday!

The work is moving forward! God lives!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Baptism and making use of time

SAN DIEGO — Today, I wanted to just say---> YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!! Oliver and Cory were baptized this week!

Here is my journal entry for Cory's baptism:

Wednesday, March 7th

"Well, for the past two days I have been on pins and needles wondering if Cory's baptism would go through. We hadn't heard from him for two days and I was starting to get nervous. All I could remember was Sister Kennington quoting President Donaldson, our old mission president- "Their timing is according to your faith".

I am so grateful for the blessings that come from having faith in the Savior. Just a few hours ago, I sat in the church building watching Cory be baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was quite fitting that the theme Heavenly Father decided to have us all talk about was the Holy Ghost. That is the whole reason Cory was here tonight. It all started about six months ago when Cory saw some of the guys in the branch home teaching on the base. I'm sure it was a peculiar sight, walking by and seeing five men in white shirts teaching a marine from a book that looked like scripture.

He asked them, "What are you guys all about?" From there, he came to came to church on and off for almost 7 months. Every time Cory left for a while, President Quinn (our branch president) would always reassure us, "He's felt too much, He'll be back". Indeed he was.

I watched as Cory, dressed in white, was led into the baptismal font. I imagined for a second what it would have been like to watch from the banks as Jesus Christ was led into the water by John the Baptist, what a sacred moment that must have been. Tonight was one of those sacred moments, one of those moments that I am sure heaven holds its breath awaiting another child to enter in at the gate. The Spirit was so strong, it was almost tangible. I am positive that if I was allowed an eternal perspective, I would have glimpsed the angels in heaven shouting for joy.

After the closing remarks, Cory was invited to share his testimony. He has no idea how profound his words were. As he was sharing, I was filled with the kind of joy that Ammon talks about in the scriptures. These past few days I have caught myself wondering if Cory truly did have a testimony. As he stood in front of me, testifying of the feelings he felt while being in a "Mormon church", while reading The Book of Mormon, and being involved with the members, there was no doubt in my mind that Cory has a testimony of this Church. How sweet this moment is, for he knows that our Redeemer lives!

I don't really have a lot to say this week. I mostly just want you to know that I too, know that my Redeemer lives. Wow, I had no idea how precious this life is. God is real. He does have a plan for us.

Rudy and Silvia's baptism

There is more to life than Facebook, movies, TV, the computer and all of that. I can't explain to you how I wish I would have understood that more before my mission. Yes, I have been on the opposite end of the computer, reading a missionary e-mail and thinking, Okay, that's great for him, but he's a missionary. Well, I'm just going to say this flat out.  I don't know why, but I just feel like I need to say it: It does matter for you! You are a missionary! And you are held accountable for the way you use your time!

Brittany getting her bangs cut on P-Day
As I have finished another transfer, tomorrow being transfer day, I again have found myself wondering: did I use the precious time Heavenly Father gave me perfectly? Did I love unconditionally? Did I serve faithfully? Did I teach lovingly? Did I make these moments matter most?

A happy memory, a thoughtful word, a moment taken to ponder, study and read, a kind deed, are far more important than an hour later at work, one more load of laundry, an episode on the TV.

Please, trust me. Please Please Please make these moments matter most.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Let your light shine and never give up

SAN DIEGO —Holy Moly, I had so many things to write to president, and I needed to send an email off to my amazing sis, so sorry if this is a little short this week. I want to tell you about the lessons I learned this week.

Lesson 1: Let your Light So Shine
I had an amazing experience this week. There was a message for me at the Battalion that a Rudy and Sylvia Vega wanted Sister Newman to attend their baptism on Saturday. I racked my mind trying to think of who in the world were Rudy and Sylvia? I soon found out that in November, they felt a pull to ride their motorcycles through "the big castle" so they could look at it. Rudy and Sylvia talked with me (though, it is hard for me to remember the details as I talk to hundreds of people at the temple) and though Rudy never gives out his name or number, he decided to this time though.

As I walked into the church that Saturday morning, the first few words he said to me hit me hard. He looked at me, and pointed to me face: "She's the one, I'll never forget that smile!"

I'm not saying this to say anything about myself. There are 20 other sisters here that would have done the same thing. What hit me so hard was that a mere smile truly did bring two of God's children into His fold.

I talk to hundreds of people each week. So do you.

I have no idea the impact I make on them. Neither do you.

But I promise you, whether in this life or in the next, there will be many people who throw their arms around you and thank you for the difference you made in their lives by letting your light so shine.

Lesson 2: Never Give up.

I have written about Cory Woodson before, but not for a long time. He is another marine and Sister Nelson and I taught him. He had a baptism date, but a few days before he backed out and stopped talking to us. Since November, Sister Kennington and I have continued to text and invite him without any luck. Last week, he showed up randomly to FHE, and this Sunday to church.

I felt the strongest feeling that we needed to meet with him, so we did last-minute splits, so Sister Kennington could take our lesson we had planned and I could meet with Cory. After talking with him about his concerns and his thoughts, I asked him if he believed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be Jesus Christ's true, restored church. He paused, and said something very profound. He said, "All the other churches I "think are right", but the Mormon church is the only one that "feels" right.

We invited him to be baptized and he accepted and asked to be baptized three days from our meeting. I know that God never forgets about His children. He has never forgotten me, He never forgot Cory, and I know He will never forget you. Now if Heavenly Father never gives up on us, who are we to give up on anyone?

I'll write next week about Cory and Oliver's baptisms! Please pray for them!