Wednesday, December 17, 2014

If you're curious what I'm doing with my life now that the black nametag is off, you can find out at my blog-

There and Back Again

I've been home from my mission for a week now. It has been a wonderful week. I've loved being able to see family and friends, and my dog, and be home. It's been good. It's also been a little hard, and a little sad. I can't believe I'm not a missionary anymore. I miss it.
What I'm realizing now is how much my mission has prepared me for the rest of my life. I've learned so much during the last 18 months, and I've developed so many good habits, and it's been really cool to see how my missionary self can fit into my "normal life", although I'm still definitely adjusting and learning to make myself fit in here again.
Before I left on my mission, my mission prep teacher gave us some really good advice. She suggested that when we get to the end of our mission, we take a minute and think about the things that we know now that we didn't know before. During my last personal study on my mission I did that, and I'd like to share some of what I learned.

  • Missionary work is all about following the spirit. If you don't listen to the spirit, you will never succeed. If you do listen to the spirit, you will always succeed. 
  • Make decisions with the big picture in mind, think about what's best in the long-term, not just immediately. 
  • We can have hope even in hopeless circumstances because of Jesus Christ. 
  • Life is about learning to make the best of less than perfect circumstances. 
  • The gospel is for everyone, and any point in their lives. Living the gospel is always the right thing to do. 
  • To be a sister means to love unconditionally, to always see the good, to forgive quickly. 
  • Never postpone a prompting. 
  • If you want something, make it happen. 
  • Being clean means we clean up our mistakes quickly. 
  • Miracles don't always have picture perfect happy endings, and it takes effort to make miracles happen. 
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not the only good church in the world, but it is the only true church. 
  • As we use the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we will become so much more than we though we were ever capable of becoming. 
And then this was the biggest thing I learned, the theme of my mission. 

Trust in the Lord. 

His plan is better than my plan. His timing is better than my timing. His way is better than my way. His measure of success is better than my measure of success. 

I will always and forever love South Carolina, and always and forever be a missionary. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is true, and it has made all the difference in my life. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to dedicate 18 months of my life to sharing it. 

To everyone who wrote me, prayed for me, fed me, served with me, and in any other way helped me, thank you so much. I couldn't have done it without all the support I had. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Best and Worst of Times

This is a really hard email to write. I can't believe it's my last one. This week has been so incredible and so sweet and also so hard. But everything has worked out so well. We were able to say goodbye to everyone we wanted to, which is a miracle all in itself since we had so many people to see. And everyone has been so wonderful to us, and said so many kind things. And Mom was right, saying goodbye makes it easier to leave. With each goodbye I've felt a little more closure. 

It's hard to leave because there's so many good things that are about to happen in the next month in this area. But, my work here is done. And it's been so sweet how many members and other people have told us that they're not going to forget us, because I think that's the thing that I fear the most right now, being forgotten and forgetting my mission. I want to move forward, but I don't want to forget these people and my experiences I've had. This ward is such a special ward, and in a lot of ways I feel like I'm leaving home all over again. I guess the best way for me to make sure I won't forget my mission is to apply the things I've learned when I go home. It's been amazing how the people here have prepared me to come home. I've had so many good examples of faithful families to help me recognize what I want my home to be like.

The best part of the week was going to the temple with our member. It was a wonderful day. It was just us, her, and her escort. Her husband came as well, and waited outside for us. She was so happy; we all were. It was great to be in the temple after so long, and it really helped me remember that that's what this is all about. The fullness of the gospel is found in the temple. It's amazing how the temple completes everything else that the gospel and the church does for us. I'm definitely excited to be able to go to the temple more often, and especially to eventually come back someday and see them sealed in the temple. I know it will happen.

Sunday was really special. The fast and testimony meeting was really powerful, and there were several people who mentioned how much they appreciated the sister missionaries. Needless to say, I cried a lot. Saturday night we found out that they'll be replacing us with elders instead of sisters, and it was funny and also sweet that when we told that to people they all expressed a bit of disappointment and sadness to be losing sisters. We definitely know that we're going to be missed. It was so hard to say goodbye to people after church, especially two of our sisters. We've gotten so close to both of them.

After church we went to say goodbye to one of our less active members. She doesn't come to church because of health challenges. She said exactly what I needed to hear, telling us how we had made her life happier and that she wasn't going to forget us. What she said really helped me to feel that I have accomplished enough on my mission. We've brought light into people's lives, and strengthened their testimonies. And that is enough.

I'm excited to see y'all soon. Hopefully I'll be able to fit everything in my suitcases:) Thank you for all the sweet emails. I also got a wonderful letter from Grandma Terry this week, and that really helped me a lot too. I love you all, and I'll see you soon!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Stop and Think

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Actually, a couple great Thanksgivings. On Wednesday we had dinner with a family; there was a lot of good food, and it was fun to be with their family. The Elgin sisters spent the night at our apartment on Wednesday night, since we were all going to a service project together the next morning. We had a lot of fun together. It's nice to have sisters in our district so we have someone else to talk to. 

We got up early on Thursday and went to a Methodist church and helped put together dinners for elderly and shut-ins. It was a lot of fun, and we made some good friends with the other people who were volunteering. One of the girls took a picture with us and put it on Facebook, so when I get back I'll be able to show it to y'all. After that, we had dinner with the person we had planned, and her daughter surprised us by coming down from Virginia. We had a lot of good food, and the pumpkin pies we had made turned out very well, so we had a good day.

We also spent a lot of time this week updating our records and the map of our area. We want the missionaries coming after us to know what's going on. We don't know yet if they're going to have sisters to replace us, or another set of elders, or if there's just going to be one set of missionaries. It will be interesting to find that out.

Telling people this is our last week has been very effective at getting us appointments with everyone. So we're going to be very busy this week. I hope we can get to everyone that we want to say goodbye to.

One of our returning less active members who I love is hopefully going to go through the temple this Friday, and President Turner gave us permission to go with her! We're so excited for her. We're just waiting for her to get her temple clothes and then everything will be set. We went over there this week, and she was so excited to show us her temple recommend. 

She said something that really made me stop and think. As she was showing it to us, she said, "I didn't think I would ever have one of these." When she said that it really made me stop and think and ask myself if I think of having a temple recommend as a privilege. It made me think about how much I take the blessings of the gospel for granted sometimes. Being able to have a temple recommend is such an accomplishment and such a blessing. I am grateful to have a temple recommend.

Yesterday at church was so wonderful. Bishop asked Sister Torino and me to bear our testimonies. And as I was standing up there, looking out at everyone, I realized that this ward feels so much like my home, bearing my testimony was like being at my mission farewell all over again. Everyone here is so wonderful, and I love them all so much. I'm going to miss this ward a lot.

I'm excited to see y'all soon. It's crazy to think I only have one email left. It's a good time to come home, since I'll have so many opportunities to see people at Christmas gatherings.

I hope you all have a great week, thanks for all the prayers and letters.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Time and Study and Teaching

November 24, 2014

It's been a good week. We continue to face the normal, predictable problems of not being able to stay in very frequent contact with people. It's an annoying pattern. We'll have a really good lesson with someone, schedule a return appointment, and then for whatever reason they'll have to cancel, and then we won't be able to get another appointment.

But other than that problem, we've had a very good week. We were finally able to teach some people that we've been trying to teach for a long time. One was a family I met my very first day in the area. We finally sat down with the mom and briefly went over the Restoration with her. They aren't really interested in considering changing churches, but were interested in learning more so we'll probably go by there again soon. The other was a woman that the sisters have been trying to teach since before I got here. We've gone by plenty of times, and she's been reading the Book of Mormon a lot, but never had time to talk with us. We finally sat down with her and had a good discussion, hopefully we'll see her again tonight.

I think the most interesting lesson this week was one with a lady we met about a month ago. Our first visit with her was very interesting, and at some points was on the verge of being contentious, although neither of us meant for it to be that way, we were just having a hard time understanding each other. There were moments when the Spirit was in the first lesson, but for the most part I felt like we were debating rather than discussing the gospel. She asked us some questions that we didn't have very good answers for (where could we find Joseph Smith in the Bible and about Lehi's lineage), so we promised to research them and come back with better answers. When we went back, the feeling in the lesson was entirely different. The Spirit was there the whole time. Ideas that had been major stumbling blocks for her before we were now able to explain clearly. 

We had put a lot of time and study into her questions, and she really appreciated it. Her question about Joseph Smith I studied a lot. I knew that I wasn't going to find his name spelled out in the Bible, but there were some more subtle references I found. But the most valuable thing I learned from what I studied was how to better explain Joseph Smith's role to people. So many people down here think we worship Joseph Smith, and when we try to explain that it was through Joseph Smith that Christ brought back the truth, they either think we're saying that Joseph Smith had to finish Christ's work because Christ couldn't or that Joseph Smith introduced a different gospel than the one Christ taught. It really confuses them and puts them off. But as I studied for her lesson, I realized that we could explain that Joseph Smith had the same purpose as John the Baptist- John came before Jesus Christ to prepare the people to receive Him, and Joseph Smith did the same thing. Explaining it that way made the Restoration much clearer to her.
I think the difference in this lesson was that we had a mutual respect for each other, and she had really warmed up to the things we had shared with her, and we were more firm in what we believe. We were really bold with her, and instead of turning her off or offending her our boldness is what helped her to feel the Spirit. When we ended the lesson, she had committed to come to church in the next couple weeks and to read the Book of Mormon. I love how God can soften hearts, and how as people open their hearts the Spirit helps them to understand.

These next couple weeks are going to be really busy for us. We've got a lot of people to teach, as well as Thanksgiving. We're having two Thanksgivings, one on Wednesday and then the following day with Patty. We've gotten a couple other invitations to dinners, so we may go to a couple on Thursday.

I love y'all, thank you for all the letters and encouragement. I'm looking forward to seeing you soon. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Good Plans

I wish you could hear the thunder and the rain outside right now. The rain is pounding down and the thunder is booming. I think that's one of the things I'm going to miss most about the South, is the rainstorms. They make the ones in Utah seem pretty weak.

We have had a good week here, and it looks like we're going to be really busy this week as well. I'm glad, because it makes it easier to stay focused. Whenever we don't have a whole lot going on it makes it really easy to start thinking about how close December 10 is.  

We went on an exchange this week. Sister Earl came to Camden with me, and we had a lot of fun together. We had a lot of appointments, including teaching our Book of Mormon class. We had a good amount of people there and we got into a really good discussion. The topic was patience. After that we were able to see a part member family we taught a lot, but hadn't seen in a couple months. Since we've seen them the nonmember has finished the Book of Mormon. She loved it and wants us to start studying it more with her, so that she can understand it better.

One of the things that I've admired about all the missionaries I've served with who were about to end their missions was their determination to keep improving to the end. I've been trying to have that same attitude this transfer. And it's amazing how God is helping me to have opportunities to check my progress. And I'm seeing that I am still improving and there's still things I can work on. It reminds me of something Sister Titus said the last week of her mission, "We're never really done. And it's never too late to be the best missionary you can be." I love that the gospel is all about eternal progression and striving for perfection.

We also had a really good lesson with another part-member family this week. We taught them at his grandma's house, who is a very strong member of the church. We talked about who God is and our relationship with Him. Both of them said they feel like their relationship with God isn't as strong as they'd like it to be, so we committed them to pray together every day. I think they're starting to realize how much being a part of the church and living the gospel is going to help them, and help their family. We're seeing them tonight, and hopefully we'll help them get to the point where they'll be willing to come to church.

We're going to have Thanksgiving with one of our less active members. She didn't really have plans and we hadn't had anyone sign up for Thanksgiving yet, so we decided it would be fun to have Thanksgiving with her, and she's really excited about it. So we should have fun.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pretty Amazing Week

We've had a pretty amazing week. Tuesday evening we had an appointment with a part-member family. He is the member, but he's been less active for a long time. We showed up for our appointment, and as we were knocking on the door, they pulled up in their car. They had forgotten we were coming, and weren't in the best of moods, but they let us come in. We weren't sure how much time they'd give us, so we taught her the Restoration pretty quickly. We asked her if she had any questions, which she didn't, but then she asked him if he had anything he wanted to say. And then he really opened up, and told us all about why he wasn't active in the church, but that he still had a testimony. He said he knew what he needed to change, but for some reason he just hadn't yet. So we made plans to start teaching them at his grandma's house. We're still trying to pin down a date that works for everyone, but we're really excited to start teaching them. It was an amazing lesson. At first, the feeling in the house wasn't very peaceful, but then the Spirit came in, and it was amazing how quickly the feeling in the room transformed. They couldn't stop telling us how happy they were that we'd stopped by.

The other really amazing thing that happened this week happened on Sunday. We were sitting in Sunday school, which is right across the hall from the bishop's office. We saw a man come into the church, and heard him and bishop talking, then bishop pulled us out of class and introduced us to him. He's from Egypt, and he was looking for a church to start attending with his family. He stayed for the rest of church, and loved it. All the guys in the elders quorum were so excited to tell us about how much he'd liked the lesson. We're going to go over on Saturday morning and teach him. We've already had at least three people offer to come teach him with us. It's great to see the members of the ward so excited to get involved.

This Sunday was also really fun because the ward had a missionary come home, who served in the Dominican Republic. It was kind of interesting to be at a missionary homecoming a month before my own. The whole ward was so excited to have him back. He gave a good talk, although you could tell that he was kind of struggling to speak in English.

So, we're excited that we've had a little more success finding new people to teach this week. This next week is going to be pretty busy, with an exchange and a lot of other things going on.

We also had a ZTM this week, and it was a really good meeting. It was good to see some of the other missionaries in the zone, especially to talk with some of the other sisters who are going home with me. I'm starting to get a little sad at the thought of leaving. I'm excited to come home, but I'm not excited to leave my mission. I know these next few weeks are going to go by really fast. And since my travel itinerary came in the mail on Saturday, my departure is starting to feel more real. So, the last transfer is proving to be a bit of a roller coaster, but I kind of figured it would be. It's hard to avoid when I have a lot to look forward to, but also a lot I'm going to miss. I'm going to do my best to take Mom's advice and just treat this like any normal transfer.