Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Learning Heaven, Trusting God

SAN DIEGO — It seems so unreal that I have come to this point in my life and on my mission.

Is this really the last email I will write while sitting in San Diego? I have come to love this place with all my heart.

I love the people.
I love the missionaries.
I love the sights.
I love the experiences that will forever be in my heart.

Sister Kennington always says, "San Diego is my sacred ground." I am beginning to understand exactly what she means.

At the beginning of this last transfer, I struggled A LOT with "what ifs" and "should have beens":

"What if I spent five more minutes each day studying the scriptures?"

"I should have done this or that for my companion."

"Why wasn’t I more patient with people?”

I felt this blanket of regret weigh down on my soul.  Just as I began to let myself think I have not made a difference, I realized something —If I hadn’t messed up with teaching, patience, loving, working, listening and all of the other things I could have done, I would NEVER be the person I am today. 

Those trials, those moments of 'failure' were God's tender mercies to help me live the Atonement. through Jesus Christ, I have been able to change, to learn, and to grow. And THAT is something I have come to realize will never end. I will forever be learning, and growing, and becoming more like the Savior. I will forever embrace my inadequacies and trials, for they are what are refining me. What a beautiful thing that there is no expiration date to progression.

I have thought a lot about the lessons I have learned. I suppose if I were to make a "top ten list" It would be something like this:
1. Stay Pure in heart
2. Be the best version of yourself, not a bad version of someone else
3. A leader takes take the lead, he makes the lead
4. Exact obedience brings exact blessings
5. To prove to God you are worthy to take care of His prepared one, talk to EVERY one.
6. Work hard AND work smart
7. The Holy Ghost will not prompt a messenger that will not act
8. Specific Prayers get specific answers.
9. By small and simple things, great things come to pass.
10. Love people into doing what’s right.

I want to share one last experience I have had this past week. I have taught a Young Single Adult (we will call him Bill) for my whole time in the Helix Ward. He has had so many ups and downs, twists and turns, trials and triumphs. Every time I teach him, there is something in my soul that tells me I promised him I would find him. He has a special place in my heart. I hope as you read this, you too can feel what I feel as I have taught him.


December 13, 2012

Just again tonight, I saw as the powers of Heaven helped me in this amazing work. Sister Jarrett and Crawford were together having their own adventures in the boonies of Jamul while I was with a member teaching Bill. 

We started talking with him, as I did my very best to listen to the promptings of the Spirit. There was a somber feeling in my heart. I could almost hear the hosts of heaven holding their breath, waiting to see what happened at this lesson. This is the first time he has met with us for over a month since we last spoke and he felt he needed time to himself. I felt the need to give him an overview of the Restoration, Plan of Salvation, and Gospel

After, he said, "When I was learning from you at first, I just thought you sisters were full of crap, but I just kept listening because you were cute, but now my heart feels different. I know it, and I want to keep learning." 

I asked him what living the Gospel to him even meant; his reply was the generic, "Be a good person, live right...." 

My heart felt like shouting out —WHY CAN'T YOU JUST GET IT????? 

Calmly I told him, "Bill — that is what every Christian church teaches. We are not like every Christian church. What makes us different?" He thought for a minute and then said, "What I love about you Mormons is that you live what you believe." 

HOORAY! My spirit took courage as I realized the Holy Ghost was enlightening his mind.

"You are right, Bill. We do live our religion. The reason we do is because we make covenants with the Almighty God that obligate us to follow and bind us to Him. Unless you make those covenants, you might as well go to any other church you wish." 

I looked at him and told him that the whole time we have been meeting, from what he has been saying it sounds like, "Well God, it's a great plan, but I just don’t trust you." 

By this time I was shaking in my boots, I couldn’t believe the Holy Ghost wanted me to say all of this! Then, this thought came so strong: "Bill, your test is to trust God. We will have the baptismal font filled next Saturday, we will meet with you every day, and if you trust God, I know he will prepare you to be ready to make a covenant with him. What do you say?"

The room was dead silent. We knelt in prayer and he asked God to give him the strength to trust him. After the prayer, He looked up at me, and said. "Okay. I think I can do this."


That was a sacred experience for me. I want you all to know that I have seen the powers of heaven this past year and a half. I know that will continue.

I have heard and seen and felt Heavenly Father in my life. That doesn’t have to stop.

I have learned lessons that are preparing me to return to live with God. I am learning heaven, not just earning it.

This work is true. It is our responsibility to learn it. Live it. Love it. And share it.
"That is your mission, my brethren and sisters of the Church, that is your responsibility. Freely, you have received and our Heavenly Father will expect you freely share with his other sons and daughters theses glorious truths. We will attain our exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom only on the condition that we share with our Father's other children the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and observe the commandments that will enrich our lives here and hereafter." - Joseph Smith

I testify of the truths I have shared with you today and the past 18 months and end this chapter of my life in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

May you all continue on in this cause — Courage brethren, forward not backward and on to the victory!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Helping Larry Remember

SAN DIEGO — I feel like this week, I need to share my experience at the Mormon Battalion. I think my journal entries will say enough.  
December 5, 2012
Every day at the battalion is a new adventure. Some moments are spent helping less-active members once again feel the Holy Ghost penetrate their long-overdue hearts. Others are filled teaching families how to build and strengthen relationships. Then there are the times where Heavenly Father sends His precious children to learn and feel of the Restored Gospel they once knew before their mortal lives on earth.

Today, Heavenly Father gave me the adventure of helping Larry remember. 

Jimmy from Taiwan walked into the Battalion this morning. Despite his broken English, he was able to understand that we could tell him a story of a group of soldiers who had the courage and faith to follow a prophet of God. He agreed to come with us and was rather excited that we told him we could give the tour in Mandarin. Just as I walked Jimmy to the first room, Larry from China walked in with Sister Jarrett. He too, wanted to hear the promised story of service, sacrifice, and faith.

We finished the tour and walked them both into the resource room. I stood in front of the glass case that holds the Book of Mormon and the Bible as Larry told me how his wife encouraged him to travel the world to get a new perspective of life other than that of Mainland China. He spoke and I listened (and prayed) with all my heart knowing that the thing he needed to hear the most was sitting in a glass case right next to me.     
He spoke of his dear wife and his little boy and how they have made the difference in his life. As we talked about the families in the Battalion, he choked up, “I am just so scared to die and leave them behind,” he almost whispered. 

I took him to the teaching room, and on the back of one of the comment cards, I sketched out the Plan of Salvation as simply as I could. Tears streamed down his face as I told him that God was a real being, his actual Father and not just some unseen power floating in the universe. When I spoke of temples and eternal families, I could almost feel the excitement trying to escape from his heart, knowing he could have his wife and little boy forever. I knew he needed to see and feel the power of eternal families, so we watched the God's Plan video together. I tried to sneak glimpses of his face, every time I did, he was mesmerized. I only wish I knew what he was thinking.

After the film, he was silent for a while. When he looked up at me, I will never forget what he said.

“My parents are part of Communist China. Many of my people don’t believe in God. They believe in proving themselves by getting to the top no matter what it takes. I never could hug my parents. I don’t want that for my little boy. When he grows up, I want him to know that he can hug his dad. I just don’t know how to love.”      

I testified that the gospel of Jesus Christ would strengthen his family, and teach him how to love. He just kept nodding his head. He told me that as he was walking around Old Town, he got the feeling to walk up the hill to see the town better. Just at that moment, my sweet companion, Sister Jarrett got the same feeling that she should walk to the statue to find guests to welcome in which is where she found Larry. What a divine intervention from Heaven. Larry left today with a Book of Mormon, knowledge of the plan that God has for him, and a desire to love.
December 7, 2012
I was taking pictures of my tour in the resource room this morning when Sister McNeil told me  “A Larry was here" to see me.

“Wait a minute. Larry? Like, Larry from China?” I thought to myself.

No way could it be! I walked up to the front and yes indeed, it was Larry from China. My heart started pounding. Something inside me told me that this meeting was really important.

We walked to the teaching room and before I could even sit down, he started talking about how he had been reading the Book of Mormon and was having trouble understanding it, but he really wanted to know more. He talked to his wife last night. She was mad at first, but after he explained what he had learned, she wanted him to learn more. In China, he explained, the way you say “Mormon” can also sound like the word “Evil”, so many people think Mormons are an evil religion (What a pest Satan can be!).

He was so excited learning about families the other day, he asked me to help him understand more where we came from. Once again, I got my handy dandy referral card out and sketched a simple diagram of the Restoration. At the part of the great apostasy, he slapped his hand on his forehead and exclaimed, “Oh! I get it, I’ve seen that part in the movies!’ (He was referring to the Dark Ages).


I played the Restoration movie in Mandarin and we watched it together. It was amazing to me the Spirit and power that filled my soul, even though I couldn’t understand a word of what was being said. I know he felt it, too.

After the movie, I asked him what he felt about it. He said, “I think I will be like Joseph Smith and study this out for myself." I looked him in the eye and testified that if he would do just that, God would answer his prayers. He got a thoughtful look on his face and then asked, ‘Sister Newman, when I go home I want to share with my class what I learned from you today. Is that okay? I don’t want to force them to be Mormon, but I know that this can help them change.”
I told him that I knew he would be an influence for his family and all of China, and that he would need extra help. So we knelt down together in the teaching room and I taught a man, that just two days ago learned he was a Son of God, how to pray.

Shivers ran down my whole body as I listened to Larry speak to God for the first time here on earth. “Heavenly Father” he said. “The other day I wanted what Sister Newman taught me for my family. But today I ask that you help it sprout through all of China."

And through all of China I know that someday, it will. I can feel the power of this work. I can see it hastening on. And I am so grateful to Heavenly Father for letting me be a part of it. And especially for letting me help Larry remember.
I know God is in this work. He is real. I know it with all my heart. These are things to share. Please don’t be afraid!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Harry Potter and the Convert from Hong Kong

SAN DIEGO —This week was AMAZING. Brady got baptized!

Let me start you off with a laugh:

The day Brady was supposed to be interviewed for his baptism, we set up splits (we split up as missionaries and go teach with a member). Our district leader forgot about the interview.

Long story short, Neil, one of our members who always rescues us, drove to the church to be our district leader’s companion so the other two elders could teach their lesson and we could still have Brady interviewed for the next day. While we were waiting for Brady to get done, I practiced with Neil and Adrienne how to bring up the Gospel in everyday conversation. They were practicing at a grocery store when Brady came out of the interview. He listened as they finished. I felt the need to ask Brady to practice also so I turned to him and said, "Hey Brady, you are almost a Mormon, why don’t you come practice sharing the gospel!"

He picked the scenario to be at a bookstore. Adrienne was pretending to read a book (She only had Preach my Gospel so she was using that).

Brady asked her, "What book are you reading"

"1984, she replied".

"No your not!" Brady said, as he took the Preach my Gospel and started scanning it over. "This is printed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!"

I thought to myself, "oh dear, what have we got ourselves into: He doesn’t even know how to pretend!" (Remember Brady has only spent four or so weeks in America, after living in Hong Kong all his life).

After teaching him how to pretend we started again.

"What book are you reading?" Brady asked.

"1984" replied Adrienne.

"Oh! What kind of books do you like to read?" asked Brady

"Oh all kinds, history, adventure, action....” replied Adrienne

Brady sat for a second, "Well have you ever read Harry Potter?" (At this time I was thinking, where is he going with this?)

"Yaw" she said, "I love Harry Potter!"

"Well you know how the pictures move? There is a cool place in Old Town that has talking pictures that move too. It’s about Mormons. I’m a Mormon too! And I would love to invite you!"

I looked around the room. Elder Clarke's jaw was to the ground, Adrienne had the biggest grin across her face, and Neil looked stunned! YESSS! Our soon-to-be recent convert shared the gospel in a bookstore using Harry Potter. THAT is what I am talking about doing missionary work!

To tell you more about Brady, I want to share my journal entry from his baptism this Saturday:


December 1, 2012

"It is amazing what a single action can do to change the life of an individual. Sister Riggs and the Hudsons made that single action just a few weeks ago as they listened to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and street contacted Brady. A single "hello" and a start of a conversation brought him to the waters of baptism today. 

Brady has already paid that single action forward. This morning, he and his friend, Steve walked into the Elder’s Quorum room this morning where the font is. We were introduced to his friend who sat down with us while Brady was getting changed into his white clothes.

Steve looked at me and said, "I want to know how Brady, who has grown up all his life going to Christian schools and not changed a tiny bit, wants to be baptized into your church after only a few weeks."

He continued, “I have never felt anything from a church before, and I don’t expect to. But I want to learn more about what you taught him."

A single invite to a baptism, and Steve has been introduced to a message that will change his life forever.

Baptisms are always filled with the spirit. Brady's was no different. 

Oscar and Parker talked about following Jesus Christ and enduring to the end. Corey sang a beautiful song. There is no way anyone sitting in that room could doubt the powers of Heaven were present. I watched Brady walk into the font and be baptized.  Someone who holds the restored Priesthood of God baptized him. I wish I could have had a glimpse of the angels in heaven rejoicing as Brady made his first covenant with God. His testimony was so powerful. He talked about his life in Hong Kong — growing up in school, he felt forced into Christianity and so he fell away. He decided that the wanted to lean towards the sciences and math, and just be a good person. Then, just a month ago, he came to America and met the sisters. He talked about how his friends kept asking, "How can you do this?" "Why do you believe this anyway?" Brady's reply has stuck in my thoughts these last few days. He looked at us as he was sharing his story and said,

"I could have told them a lot of things. But I knew the most important thing to say was, I feel it. I just feel it."

I felt it right then. All I can say is, I too felt it. I felt it as he was baptized. I felt it as he shared his story. And I felt it as a young single adult from China bore his testimony that he knew the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God..."


The Holy Ghost is the only one who can seal our testimonies. Think of Alma. He said, I know of a surety because of the Holy Ghost, not because I saw an angel. I want you to know that I know Jesus is the Christ. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. And I know that Joseph Smith was called by God to restore the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth.

Just as President Monson counseled in General Conference:  IF you don’t have a testimony, find it. If it’s not as strong as you would like, fix it. And if it is strong and deep, keep it that way.

You don’t have to know everything. Notice what you feel inside. Especially as this month is centered on the Savior. Notice how you feel as the world testifies of Him. It is no wonder to me, that there is a different spirit during this month — because the Spirit is testifying to the world of the testimonies that are being shared of the Savior of the world.

I love you all! Merry Christmas!