Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Why are you still here?" and apartment scares

SAN DIEGO — I'm glad you are all doing well. I bet Dad and Sara are getting excited to go to Finland. Relax, and enjoy- No stressing out, okay?! :)

Honestly, today has been a rough day. I am so tired. I still haven't caught up on sleep from getting up at 4 to take Sister Haggerty to the airport. We had exchanges a few days ago, we stayed up until 12:30 talking about things. Definite lack of sleep going on.

Transfers are tomorrow, which I am bittersweet about. Of course, I am going to miss Sister Kennington. She is my best friend. We have been through the best and worst together, that is for sure. I think we are both very worn out of being trainer sisters, but of course are willing to do whatever Heavenly Father asks next of us. Stay tuned next week to see where I end up!

I think this week I will share some excerpts from my journal. This first one is an adventure from last Tuesday night.

April 17, 2012

....We drove up to our apartment on tonight and the lights were on. We thought about it for a minute, and realized that both of us double and triple checked the lights and they were off before we left. Sister Kennington was SO scared. She has a HUGE imagination to say the least.

Elder Seegmiller was at the Battalion, so we asked him to walk over with us to check things out. The dead bolt was locked: something we NEVER lock, which didn't make things better with Sister Kennington. I could almost see the images of robbers and burglars racing across her mind. Elder Seegmiller checked it out, and all was well, but that didn't calm any minds. 

Sister Kennington was still so scared, she made me check every nook and cranny in the house. Imagine the times when Sara and I were in the basement and we saw a spider and Sara would freak out and make me go kill the spider even though I hate spiders myself. Just imagine me tiptoeing towards the spider, tissue in hand, slightly shaky because Sara would be so scared it would start rubbing off on me. If you picture that in mind, you can picture exactly what happened with Sister Kennington and I. She's a great cheerleader, but she stood at the doorway, ready to book it as I looked throughout the house for our supposed intruder. Needless to say, Sister Kennington wouldn't have gotten an ounce of sleep, so we got to have a sleepover at the Seegmillers. A first and last, I am sure.....
Brittany had to arm wrestle Elder Seegmiller after the apartment scare.

We also had interviews with President this week, I thought I would share some thoughts from my journal from that.

April 18, 2012
I love interviews! President always picks a question to ask all the missionaries. He told me that he usually asks new missionaries why they came on a mission, he wanted to know why I stayed on a mission.

I've thought a lot about this and I think there are a lot of reasons why I am still here.

First, I know that I promised Heavenly Father in heaven that I would serve a mission. Second, I know that these precious moments are the ones I get to prove to God who I am. Third, I feel honored and privileged to be helping Heavenly Father build up His Kingdom, and I don't want to waste a second of this privilege.

I don’t remember everything we talked about but two things stuck out to me. We talked about where true happiness comes from. It doesn't come from getting recognition or approval from peers. True happiness comes from getting approval from God. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father has taught me that lesson long ago. It is a sweet experience knowing that God has accepted all you can do.

I don't have time for any more, but I wanted to give you an update on how Cameron is doing. We taught him the Word of Wisdom the other day, and after we asked if he had any concerns about it and he said no, Sister Kennington asked, "Cameron, are you living the word of wisdom already?"

He looked her straight in the eye with a grin on his face and said yes! That is something I am beginning to understand as a missionary. There are those out there in the world that really want this. It is not about pulling teeth or lassoing someone into the Gospel, it is about welcoming them with open arms, and reminding them of what they already know.

Love you all. You are all in my prayers. Hope you are happy. If you're not, something's gotta change and no one can do the changing but you!:)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The henna tattoo and the Atonement

SAN DIEGO — This is the last week before transfers. I have spent nine months in the Black Mountain Young Single Adult branch. It has been an amazing experience, and I have seen a lot of miracles.

Next Wednesday will be transfers. I feel like I will probably be transferred and I think Sister Kennington and I will also not be the training sisters, either. There are so many wonderful sisters here, I am so excited to see who I get to serve under.

I guess I will get the sad news over first. Sister Kennington and I were up at four this morning to drive to the airport with the Seegmillers and Sisters Burden and Haggerty. Sister Haggerty's headaches came back and is not able to stay. It has been really sad, but we all know Heavenly Father has other plans for her. Elder Seegmiller took us to breakfast, it is always an amazing experience to spend time with him.

Let me tell you something about Elder Seegmiller. He always tells us, "You always have to ask when people refer to the Bretheren, is it a bretheren with a little b or Bretheren with a Big B?" Sister Kennington and I were talking about him the other night, Elder Seegmiller used to work as a go-between with mission presidents and the Twelve Apostles. Just being in his presence, you know you are learning from a man inspired of God.

Sister Kennington and I were laughing last night because we decided Elder Seegmiller is a "bretheren with bold, italicized and underlined" Definitely not a little b and not a big B, either. Heavenly Father has blessed me a lot to learn from him. I write down his words of advice often, I'll share a couple with you right now:

"If you know he won't get invited to the meeting at Adam-Ondi-Ahman, don't say "yes!"

"When talking to the Lord, never ask why, ask what!"

"Girls should go on missions, and the guys should wait. Just tell the guy, a year and a half is a perfect amount of time to save up money, go to school and prepare everything so that when you walk off the plane, you and he can have your first date at the temple!"

Anyway, he taught me a great object lesson about my henna tattoo the other day. We were talking about the Atonement and how I was trying to take the burdens of all the sisters upon myself. He said I should never cry to watch someone be given the opportunity to use the Atonement, but it is when they choose not to that the tears should freely flow.

He looked down at my hand, the henna much faded by now, and told me that my tattoo was an example of the Atonement. I had messed up, I didn't realize what I was doing and the consequence of my mess up was a bright reminder of what I had done. Every time I would give a tour, I would shake a hand, I had to deal with questions and looks of concern or questioning. Just looking at it myself I felt like an idiot every time.

With a lot of work, and with ENDURANCE, the henna has slowly started to fade. With time, I will have a completely new hand. The skin cells will renew and not a single mark of my mistake will be left.

That is the Atonement.

Oh how I wish I could have it scrubbed off that night. Then I wouldn't have had to account to president. Then I wouldn't have had to explain to my peers. But that is not how it it meant to be. I have never been more grateful for the slow and steady process of the henna fading. It has taught me a lesson: just like my hand, with endurance, hard work, and patience, I can use the Atonement in my life to become a completely new person.

As I was thinking about tattoos, my mind has completely 180'd to a really funny story that happened this week that I think you will appreciate. Since Sister Haggerty has been sick, we have been going on exchanges with her companion, Sister Burden, to cover her area as well as ours. We went to stop by a man named Dave in the ghetto of El Cajon. Just to give you an idea, he is a big African-American man that would scare the pants right off of you if you didn't know that inside he was a big teddy bear.

We met him in the parking lot of his apartment complex, and honestly he was being a little rude, washing and waxing his car and not really listening to us, even though he set an appointment. He made his nephew come listen, which was really great, but I was getting frustrated with the situation as we had promised both Dave and Heavenly Father that we would teach him the Restoration.

Well those of you that know my spunky great-grandma Dinah, I have inherited a diluted portion of that spunk (gumption?). I left the conversation with Sisters Kennington and Burden with Dave's nephew, and marched right up to Dave's car, took the wax and the rag from him and told him I would shine his rims, and he would walk over to the sisters and listen to something that would make him really happy.

(Now to give you a little perspective, we were all in pencil skirts because we had to go to our ward that night and be flight attendants for a FHE activity).

So here I am in a pencil skirt shining a guy's rims, all the while, more of his friends are coming up to watch and laugh at why on earth a little white girl is shining Dave's car. I wasn't paying attention very well. All i could think to do was pray with all my might that he would listen. But looking back on that, I can imagine how funny that must have been.

Oh, the crazy things we do as missionaries! It is so great!!!!

Before I go, a quick update on Cameron. He is doing so well. He hopefully will move his baptism date up to the end of April. He went to church again and we are meeting with him to teach him the Gospel at the temple tonight. Keep him in your prayers!

The work is moving forward on my end, I hope it is on yours.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The power of a prompting (and a henna tattoo)

SAN DIEGO — Hope you are doing well. It was so good to hear from all of you!

Hannah: Thank you for the letter. I am so sorry to hear the hard things with your family, but so happy about school. Those pictures were adorable!

Juli: Thank you for your letters, pictures and journals- I can't believe how much those two are growing up! I miss them soooooooo much!

Aunt Kathy: (please tell her this if she doesn't get to read the email) I got your letter and it made my day. Thank you for thinking of me! Love you so much!

Mom: Hope you are enjoying being off track:) Thanks for the updates on everyone. And THANK YOU FOR THE PACKAGE!

I was thinking back when I used to be on the other end of these missionary emails and I'm not sure if I answer all the questions you have. I think I am just so used to being a missionary, I forget what you may want to know about. Will you let me know any of those things? I'll answer, promise. I just don't know what is interesting for you to know.

As for today, I think we all should start out with a good laugh don't you? Well, I actually have two for you:

Yesterday, we stopped by an Indian couple's home that we had helped move in a few months prior. They got so excited to show us about their culture, they gave us Indian candy, showed us their Indian shrine, their wedding pictures, and then they sat us down on the floor and started painting on sister Kennington's hand with this gooey brown stuff. As she started on my hand, her husband pulled up online what it was she was painting with... We got a Henna tattoo! Ooops! We tried to get it off since we had a sisters meeting at President's home the next day. Even soaking it in bleach for an hour didn't help! Windex and fingernail polish remover didn't work, either.

Another funny was a few nights ago, we were talking to a Russian visitor for a few minutes. We continued on talking with another family, and when we turned around to walk inside the temple, there was a dead BIG FAT RAT in the middle of the walkway. (A crow had dropped its dinner- yuck!) We had to guard it until security came to take it away. They took a while and Sister Kennington got bored, so she started singing a Broadway musical about this rat who could end up in the Celestial Kingdom- it was pretty hilarious.

My next story is the soap opera and miracle all rolled into one.

Last Tuesday after I emailed you, Brother Bryant called us and told us he had a referral for us. His name is Cameron and he is the ex-boyfriend of Brother Bryant's daughter, Chrissy. We set up a time and met with him a few days later. We had dinner at the Bryant's home and taught him about God, Prayer and the Holy Ghost. The next day, Brother Bryant's daughter called us and asked if she could be taught the lessons, as she has been inactive for 10 years. We set up a time to meet with her the next day.

When we walked up to Brother Bryant's home, we met his other inactive son, Josh, who is super friendly. As we taught her, the first thing that she said, with tears rolling down her eyes, was, "I want the Spirit back in my life". We were able to teach her and committed her to read from the Book of Mormon. The next day we were back at the Bryant's, this time for Cameron. Things got a little sticky when Chrissy got home earlier than thought and we had dinner with both Cameron and his ex girlfriend, Chrissy, at Chrissy's house. Heavenly Father helped everything work out.

After dinner, we had one of the most life-changing lessons I have had on my mission. We sat down (Josh, Brother Bryant's less active son was with us also) and taught Cameron about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Everything we have been learning from the General Authorities that have trained us came together, the Spirit was there, and as the scriptures say, when we teach by the Spirit, "both are uplifted and edified together."

We committed him to be baptized, which he agreed, with the biggest grin on his face. His grin got even wider as Sister Kennington promised him blessings of greater happiness than he could imagine. He responded to her comment, saying "I can already tell." As we were leaving the house Sister Bryant got a text from Chrissy, she gasped and with tears filling her eyes told us that Chrissy just put in her two weeks notice at the bar. What you could call the cherry on top, was when on Sunday, Chrissy who has not been to Church in ten years and Cameron who has only been one time prior in his whole life, walked into sacrament meeting.

God is real. His power is real. There is nothing in the world that could have done this for Chrissy and Cameron, save it came from God.

Brother Bryant listened to a simple prompting to call Cameron. Through that act of faith, and that seemingly small action, there have been many lives changed.

I often ask myself how many of those opportunities I have decided to not listen to. How many promptings have I let slip by? God has a work to do. We can be a part of it, or we can be a bystander. It is up to us to listen and to take action.

Personally, I want a chance to participate in any part of the work of God He will trust me to do. I promise from personal experience that when we listen to those promptings, we earn the trust of a loving Heavenly Father, who will continue to call on us to run His errands.

I invite you to join in the work. To be there for Heavenly Father. Become a dependable and trustworthy servant of the Lord.

There is true joy and satisfaction, one that I didn't even realize by being trusted by God.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Apostolic insights and lessons in leading

SAN DIEGO — I sure hope you are doing well. I pray for you all the time, I hope you know that. For some reason, It has sure hit me harder than usual how much I love and miss you! It sounds like you had a great General Conference. I hope your Easter is great too!

This week has been a crazy one! We were super busy with General Conference and we also had MTE (missionary training event) this week as well. I feel like I have been soaked with doctrine, now I just have to keep it all in!

As part of MTE, they always have either a health training or safety training, and this time it was a car safety training on what is called "TIWI". The Church is launching a new program to keep the missionaries better obeying traffic laws, so we now have GPS tracking devices in all the cars and we have to log in to them every day. If we speed, stop or start too fast, or anything like that it gives us a mark on our record and the GPS talks to us and tells us to stop. We have to keep in the "green zone" in order to be able to have driving privileges. Crazy huh?

It sounds like everyone loved Conference. I did as well. Some of it got interrupted having to take a tour, so I will have to watch it again later or wait for it to come out in the Ensign. Do you remember Elder Perry's talk? About Scott giving him a new tie each conference and about how bold he was in talking about the Book of Mormon? Scottie is Elder Zwick's son. The one who said one of the prayers in conference and who came to our mission to inspect it the other month. The one who we had an interview with.

I don't remember if I told you about Scottie, Elder Zwick's son, so I want to share a story that he and Sister Zwick told us about him and why he was on the plane that day, talking to the man about the Book of Mormon. Because Scott has a mental disability, he was unable to serve a mission. But when his little brother decided to serve, he promised Scottie that he would serve his mission for the both of them. So every week Scott would get word of what his brother was doing in their mission together.

At one point during that time, I think it was something like Elder Zwick had to do on another mission tour close to where his son was serving, and he asked the mission president of his son if they could visit or something. The mission president replied, "You can only come on one condition. If you bring Scottie. The whole mission has heard everything about Scottie from your son, and I want him to come serve with his brother for a week." 

Scott, in Elder Perry's talk, was already being a missionary on that plane, and continued to serve side by side with his brother as a full time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for that week. I just love that story so much! I'm not sure I got it exactly right, but super close.

About what else is going on: we are still working with our investigators, and they are slowly but surely moving forward.

I also wanted to leave you with something that has been on my mind lately. As this transfer draws closer to an end, I will most likely be transferred, and it will most likely be time for someone else to take the role of being the sister trainer at the Battalion. I have been looking back and asking myself what I could have done differently. I want to share a learning experience I had this week, as being a "coach" during MTE for some of the sisters.


March 29, 2012

Today, I coached two of the sisters. It was a very good learning experience for me. As a coach, I sit on the sidelines as the sisters teach and afterward, guide them to focus on what we learned at MTE to incorporate it into their teaching. We had lessons that went pretty well.

The sisters are amazing at asking everyone for referrals. We had a dinner appointment with Wilbur and Edna, Wilbur is a non-member married to an active member, but he goes to Church with her every Sunday. Long story short: it was a pretty rough lesson, of which I shouldn't have talked, but I did- first lesson learned once again about being a leader: LET PEOPLE LEAD!

We had a tense few minutes in the car on the way to our next appointment. One of the sisters was crying along the way, and I started feeling a sense of despair and not knowing how to help the situation. To make matters worse, because we left Wilbur's late, we missed the next investigator for our next appointment, so tension was really high. Second lesson learned tonight: don't try to fix the problem when the environment is not right for the Spirit to be present!

I decided we needed to pray. I asked if I could say a prayer. I desperately begged Heavenly Father to send the Holy Ghost to guide us and help us know where we needed to be. It was so great to feel the Spirit once again with us, and I felt instantly that whatever happened next would be okay. We went to one of the backups they had, which happened to be a 14-year-old girl (whose parents they were trying to contact). As I sat on the sidelines and watched the sisters teach this girl about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I was hit harder than I ever had that this little girl was God's daughter. I walked away from the lesson, with a sure knowledge in my heart that God does know and He does care. 3rd lesson learned: I cannot lead without the Holy Ghost as a constant companion.


I share this with you because each of us are leaders. Each of us are most definitely inadequate. If you think you are up to par, think again. God needs us to lead, and we must lead according to God's will, not our own. What you do makes a difference: how you interact, what you say, how you teach.

The missionary handbook teaches that we must minister to those around us. There is a difference between administering and ministering. To minister is to encourage, lift, inspire and bless. Administering is accomplishing the tasks to get something done. What kind of leader are you in your homes? at school? at work?

I feel like leaving you with an invitation from our Savior Jesus Christ: "What manner of men ought ye to be? Even as I am."