Monday, September 30, 2013

Just Incredible

Time is flying by. Yesterday was my 4-month mark. It's crazy how fast those months have gone by. In some ways I feel like I've learned so much and changed so much, and in other ways I still feel like a brand new missionary who has no idea what's going on. Talking with missionaries that have been out longer than me, I don't think that feeling--having no idea what's going on--is ever going to go away. A mission is just so unpredictable. I'm just amazed at how much God guides us and protects us. Every once in awhile, as we're out during the day, I'll just stop and look around and think "How in the world am I doing all this?" I'm a 19 year old girl from Provo, Utah. I'm out in the middle of South Carolina. And yet we find our way around this huge area we have, and we talk with perfect strangers all the time. It's just incredible. 

We just found out on Saturday that we're going to be having a Sisters' Conference, where all the sister missionaries in the mission meet for a day, on my birthday. So I'm excited about that; it will be a good day. 

We went on an exchange with the sister training leaders this week. It was the first time that I've left my area to go on an exchange. I went with Sister McNeely to Goose Creek, which is right south of our area. It was fun. It was interesting to see how their area has a lot of the same problems our area has; they don't really have any progressing investigators either. But their area is the exact opposite of my area in terms of size, it's tiny! Like, they could cover their entire area in a day if they wanted to. Which is such a foreign concept to me, since I haven't even been to half of my area. It just showed me that each area is challenging in its own way; missionary work is hard no matter where you're serving. 

I was really kind of nervous about leaving Sister Bell during the exchange. I knew that it was going to be a good experience for her and that she needed it, but I kept finding myself thinking about her, thinking about what she'd be doing at this specific time and how everything was going. She was very nervous about the exchange and didn't think she would be able to handle being the only one who knew the area and the people. I knew that Sister Prior would help her and she'd be fine, but it was still really nice to see her the next day and have her tell me that everything went really well. She did a great job, and I think that exchange gave her a lot more confidence because she's been talking more and participating more in decision making, which makes me really happy. 

We haven't had a whole lot of luck with investigators this week, but one of the members is still really progressing. She came to scripture study and church again, and would have come to the Relief Society Broadcast, but she was out of town. So we'll still be working with her to keep her coming and help her build her testimony. 

Today for P-Day we've had a lot of fun. We went over to a member's house and spent the morning baking cakes- one for their family, and one for another that always lets us do our laundry at their house. This member is so awesome. I love her. She's one of those people who can just talk for hours, and she has such a solid testimony, she's such a good member of the church. We had a very good time together, and we all ate way too much cake and frosting. It was so good though. Sister Bell is a great baker. 

I'm very excited for general conference this weekend. We watch it at the church, they broadcast it, although most of the members don't come to the church; they just watch it at home online or on BYUtv, which a lot of members have. 

There's just so much that happens in a week that I can't possibly tell you all about everything. But we're doing well, we're working hard, and I'm growing and learning so much. My mission really isn't about me, and I don't want it to be about me, but I have already seen so many blessing from my mission. My testimony has been strengthened, I've met so many incredible people, and I have learned so much about how to be a better person- how to manage time and money, how to set priorities, how to work hard, and especially how to overcome obstacles and discouragement. There's still so much ahead of me, and I'm so excited to learn more and serve more. I love you all, thank you for all your prayers and letters. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Better than Christmas

We've had a very good week. We saw a couple really big, very unexpected miracles this week involving a few less active members in our ward. The first started on Tuesday when we went to visit a less active member. We've visited her quite a bit since I've been here, and she's never shown any sign of wanting to come back, in fact she once told us that she felt we were wasting our time by coming to see her. So I wasn't feeling very optimistic about going to see her, but we had some time and we were in the area so we stopped by. And she started talking about why she doesn't come to church, but then also said that she felt like she should come back. Which absolutely shocked me. We invited her to scripture study the next night, and she actually showed up! And then she called us on Thursday and asked if we'd like to come over for lunch. It was crazy. I don't know what happened, but she's made a total change. We had a really good discussion with her on Thursday and then she came to church with her two little boys on Sunday (her husband is a nonmember and not interested in church at all). She was an hour late, but she still came. I think she's noticed that there's something missing in her life and I'm so glad she's recognizing she can fill that void by becoming more active in the church. I think things will continue to go really well with her. Because she's willing to act, which is really refreshing. I don't think I've ever seen someone make so much progress in one week.

We also had another less active family at church this Sunday. They're a younger family, and we've been trying to get them back to church for a long time. We stopped by their house on Friday night and talked with the mom; she told us her conversion story which was really neat. They are one of those families that have testimonies, but let other things get in the way of coming to church, normally their excuse is that they've had a super busy week and so they just need a day to sleep in. But the mom's been telling us for awhile that she knows they need to come back to church and so yesterday they actually did it! They were late as well, so we didn't see them or the other member until after sacrament meeting. I was so excited when we walked out into the foyer and saw them both there. It was better than Christmas. 

Smile for the Camera: Sister Bell and Sister Rudy

While we've had a lot of success this week, it hasn't really been showing in our numbers, since working with less actives doesn't really count for much. Sister Bell has been getting a little frustrated with that, and I can understand why. We put just as much work into the less actives as we do investigators. We visit them, we teach them, we invite them to keep commitments, we pray for them, we go through this whole emotional roller coaster while trying to get them back to church. And when they come it's so exciting. I really can't imagine that it feels much different to watch an investigator be baptized than it did to see these members at church on Sunday. But it doesn't count for much when we're reporting our numbers. We're seeing success, just not in the form of baptisms, which is kind of how success is measured in the mission field. But that's ok. Our purpose is to bring souls to Christ, whether that's through baptizing or reactivating, it's still the same great work. So even though next Zone Training Meeting we're going to have to stand up and report 0 baptisms for September, I know we still had a successful month. 

The elders are still doing really well, they had two investigators at church again, and one of them is going to be baptized this Saturday, so we're really excited for them. 

It's finally starting to cool off, almost to the point where we'll need to wear a jacket in the evenings. I'm really excited for fall weather here. I think it's going to be really nice. 

We had zone conference this Friday, which was so good. I love President Holm, he's amazing. And it was good to see everyone, all the other missionaries. Sister Clemons, who was in my district at the MTC, is now in my zone, which has been really great, I love having the chance to talk with her. I can't believe next week we'll have been out for four months! 

Sister Bell and a picnic dinner without a park

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cane Gully

September 16, 2013

It's been an interesting week. I think I can count on one hand the number of times Sister Bell and I have actually been able to go in and sit down in someone's house. We haven't been having a lot of luck catching people at home lately. We've been trying a lot of leads and less active members, but so far haven't been very successful. We were able to talk with a couple of less active members we've been trying to contact for forever, but not much progress there yet. 

We're still really trying to get one sister to come back to church. We went over there last Sunday with another member and it went really well and the sister was so sure she was going to make it this week. But then we went by on Saturday night, because I knew she would be wavering, and sure enough she told us she couldn't do it. We talked with her for a long time, and she said she felt better, but it wasn't enough to get her to church yesterday. She just can't take that first step back. She knows she'll be fine as soon as she gets in the building, but she can't bring herself to come. We don't know what else we can do for her, except pray and continue to encourage her and support her. She just needs to realize that the longer she puts this off, the harder it's going to get. 

We didn't have a very successful week, but our elders sure did. They had three investigators come to sacrament meeting and two of them stayed for the rest of church. They seem really awesome. One of them is on date to be baptized September 28. He seems really prepared and he really liked church. We're really happy for the elders. It was an exciting Sunday. Along with the elders' investigators, we had a new family that just moved in, as  well as several less active members show up, which was really great. Now we just have to keep all those people coming. 

Sister Bell and I taught a really interesting lesson to a man who's a Muslim. We had a very interesting discussion with him. He's very well studied in lots of religions, so he already knew a lot about what we believe, but we were able to answer some of his questions, and at the end of the lesson he said he had a greater respect for our church because of what we shared with him, and that he was particularly impressed with how much we, as young girls, knew about our religion. He gave us both a Qu'ran, and we offered him a Book of Mormon, but he already had one. He said he'd read it some more though. 

Sister Bell and I had a very adventurous evening last Monday. We felt that we should go visit this woman I had taught when I first got here, but hadn't expressed much interest in changing churches. We tried to find her, but we couldn't figure out where she lived. There are three roads that are very similar to each other- Cane Gully, Cane Gulley, and Cane Gully A. And we couldn't figure out which one she lived on. So finally I just turned down Cane Gulley. That was a big mistake. It's a forest road, which means it's basically a large trail in the middle of the woods. It was pretty scary to drive down, and it was so narrow we couldn't turn around. There were potholes everywhere so it was a very bumpy ride. When we finally managed to get off it, Sister Bell was walked around the car to make sure it was ok, and when she got to the front of the car she said "You killed a dragonfly!" Somehow, a huge dragonfly had gotten its head stuck in the grill of our car. It wasn't dead and we were able to get it out eventually. That was the perfect ending to that adventure. I think we're going to avoid all the Cane Gully roads for a while. 

Thank you for all the letters and emails, I love getting them. I miss you all. I love you all. 

New Companionship: Sister Bell and Sister Rudy

Monday, September 9, 2013

Alligator--Tastes Like Chicken

I completely forgot to mention last week that I ate alligator! The Langdons fed it to us the night before Sister Winsor left. It was pretty good, they'd fried it and we put lemon juice on it. It was a little chewy but tasted a lot like chicken. Also, Sister Bell and I saw an alligator while we were walking around this subdivision on Friday. So I've now eaten alligator and seen an alligator. 

My new trainee is here and she's awesome! Her name is Sister Bell, she's 19, she joined the church when she was 12, and she's from Las Vegas. We've been working really hard and getting along well, so it's been a great few days, although there have been plenty of interesting challenges as well. 

Sister Bell and I both feel that something we need to work on this transfer is covering more of our area. We have a huge area and not a lot of car miles so it's a little hard to get to some of the far reaches, but we really feel like we need to make that a priority, especially since there are a lot of referrals that haven't been contacted who live out in those areas. We hope to be doing a lot of exploring this transfer.So we've been doing everything we can to make sure that we'll be able to get out to those areas. Sister Bell is still adjusting to the humidity. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. So, on Tuesday this week Sister Winsor and I went up to Irmo for transfers. I think I was about as nervous about training as I was when I first got off the airplane in South Carolina. I did not feel ready at all. All the trainers had lunch with the trainees and then we randomly paired off and went out tracting in a nearby neighborhood. I ended up with a really sweet sister, Sister Burbank, from Logan, Utah. We tracted for about an hour and a half, and we didn't have that much success but I think we both felt a lot better afterward. It wasn't nearly as scary as I expected it would be, to be the "experienced" one. Although I was still really nervous the next day during the actual transfer meeting. But things have gone very well with Sister Bell. We're still getting used to each other, how we do things and personalities, not to mention my driving is a little rusty, but overall we're doing really well. 

Our biggest problem the past few days has been our GPS, Nigel. He's decided to stop working and stop charging in the car. So we've been having to navigate without him lately.  But it all worked out fairly easily and we never really got lost, so I think we're going to be all right, even if Nigel keeps dying on us.

Stake Conference was this weekend, and it was wonderful. We got to go down to Charleston, which is where the stake center is, so was a lot of fun, although we weren't in the downtown area. Still, it was further south than I'd ever been before. After the Sunday session, Sister Morris, the member we were riding with, took us across the big bridge that connects Charleston and Mt. Pleasant, and we got to see the battleship in the harbor. 

We've been able to have several good lessons with less active members lately, most of them assignments from the bishop. Some of these people we'd been trying to get in contact with for weeks, but we've finally caught some of them at home. We had an awesome lesson with one sister.  We were able to get a member to come with us and it really helped. 

I'm really excited to have Sister Bell here. She's definitely got a lot of determination and desire to teach, so I know she'll be willing to work hard, and I'm sure we'll be successful. I love hearing about everything that's going on at home, it sounds like it's been a good few weeks. I love you all, and I love being a missionary! 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Transfer News

September 3, 2013

This is going to be very short, because Sister Winsor and I are leaving in about an hour and a half to go up to transfers. We couldn't email yesterday because the library was closed and we had a lot of cleaning and packing to do.Sister Winsor is being transferred. And I'm going to be training a new missionary.

I'm excited, but also pretty nervous. I barely feel like I know what I'm doing, and now I have to help some new sister figure it out too. This next week is going to be very interesting. But I'm just so glad for prayer. I keep thinking about all these "What if" scenerios in my head, and the answer is just about always "Well, then we'll pray and it will all work out." I know that's true. I don't feel at all qualified for this new assignment, but I'm trusting that God knows what I'm capable of and that it will all work out just fine. Pray for me. I need all the help I can get. I hope you're all doing well. I love you all.