Monday, June 8, 2015

last letter

These past few weeks have been full of tender mercies of the Lord. My heart is full. It is incredibly hard to leave those I love here, to leave this marvelous work and these places where I have truly come to know my Redeemer. I had an amazing experience the other day in the Visitors' Center that helped me to gain a stronger witness of the truthfulness of God's plan for His family and helped me look forward to reuniting with all of you :)

Here it is:

Jackie and Kha Dang came into the Visitors’ Center without any knowledge of the church or our beliefs. They were on a vacation trip in Zion’s National Park and were going to travel to Salt Lake City to see a family member.  As they came out of Zion’s they were going to head north toward Salt Lake but then mistakenly went south toward St. George and they came directly to the temple grounds and felt to enter the Visitors’ Center. They were curious to learn about the church and, more specifically, the temple. Jackie and Kha grew up in the Buddhist religion. As I began to gain a better understanding of their religious background, Jackie opened up about an extremely spiritual experience she had about four years ago. This experience brought her to believe very strongly in Christ. She told me, “I was at the lowest point of my life and then Christ saved me. I know He’s there.” Ever since then, she has attended a Christian church and has read from the Bible. Kha seemed to be open to learning more about Christ, but he has never changed his religious beliefs from his Buddhist upbringing.

They had questions about the temple so we began to talk about the church of Jesus Christ being restored on the earth today and thus, the sacred truths of the temple were restored to the earth. To everything I told them, they responded with smiles, nodding their heads in agreement. This continued after each ordinance I taught them about in the temple. From baptisms for our ancestors, to learning more about our purpose in life and making promises with God, to the peace and clarity of mind in the Celestial room. They had no concerns with any of it, only complete agreement. It was great!

As we walked to the picture of the sealing room I explained how the main purpose of the temple was to unite our families. I told them of the sacred opportunity we have in this room to be sealed to our families, to live with them forever. I bore testimony of the hope and peace it gives me in life to know that I will see my loved ones again, even those who may pass before I'm ready. As I spoke these words to Jackie and Kha, Jackie had tears running down her cheeks and Kha wrapped his arm around her. She continued to cry and I gave her a hug. Kha explained to me that their nine year old son Vince, their only son, had passed away unexpectedly 20 days ago. They told me of the grief they have felt since his passing. Kha quietly said, “This has helped us to believe in Heaven.”  As we spoke more about the reality of life after death, I told them about the movie “God’s Plan for His Family.” They both agreed to watch it.

After the movie had finished, both Jackie and Kha were in tears. Jackie told me how she and Vince were the only ones that believe in Heavenly Father in their family. I asked if she felt the passing of her son has brought her closer to God. She then started to weep a lot and told me that she hasn’t picked up her Bible once since Vince passed away. She also said that she hasn’t gone to church at all either. Jackie continued to tell me that she knows she needs to be doing these things, but it makes it so much harder to do it without Vince. I testified to her of the love of God and the solace and answers we find throughout the words of the scriptures. I opened the Book of Mormon and read Alma 40:11-12. As I read these verses, Jackie smiled and looked at Kha. I felt the prompting to ask them if they would like to receive a priesthood blessing. I explained what the priesthood was and the purpose of the blessing. Eager to receive one, they responded with a hopeful “yes.”

They came into a teaching room where Elder Cleverly (the director of the Visitors' Center) and I talked to them a little more about the assurance we have that they will see their son again. She asked us if people that don’t believe in God will be able to see Him again. We explained in more detail the opportunity for them to learn about and accept the gospel in the spirit world and even have their baptism performed for them here on the earth in the temple. As we spoke of this, Jackie once again looked to her husband with a sweet, hopeful smile on her face. Elder Cleverly then gave Jackie a beautiful blessing.

After the blessing, I told Jackie and Kha that I thought it was no coincidence that they came into the Visitors’ Center this evening. Kha began to speak and told us that his son had spoken to him not long ago and told him to take his mother on this trip. He told us that he was sure that his son had led them here to the Visitors’ Center. Such a wonderful miracle of our Fathers tender mercy. Jackie agreed to have the missionary discussions in her home when they returned from their trip. She filled out a referral card and seemed to greatly appreciate the idea of me calling and emailing them throughout this process. We ended our visit at the Christus, where we played the message of Christ. The reverence they portrayed while listening to the words of Christ was a humbling experience to watch. With smiles on their faces, they again thanked us profusely and left with a Book of Mormon and Family Proclamation in hand. God's plan is perfect!

This was an experience that I will remember forever. The spirit comforted their souls and bore witness to me that this is real. We will see each other again after this earth life. Christ will welcome us home. And I know with all my heart that we will recognize him. I wish I could convey the feelings I had during this visit in text but it is near impossible. What a joy it is to share the message that we can be with those we love through all eternity. This mission was the perfect start to the rest of my journey home. It is so sacred to me and something I will treasure forever.

I am SO excited to see all of you again!! 

See you soon :)

Love, Sister Martin

We went up to the second highest mountain peak in St. George today with our senior couple and our recent convert, Alan! Alan drove his truck up there.... It was kinda scary... But we made it!! Beautiful

view from 8300 feet up :)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

coming home!



Thank you for all the prayers, letters, and support of our cute, little Miss Madeline! We are so excited to see her!

almost finished!

So we had something way exciting happen here as well! Alan (the good friend of our recent convert, Vincent) got baptized last Saturday! Oh my goodness what a joy that was. Vincent even gave an outstanding talk on the Holy Ghost. It was a very sacred experience and one that I will never forget. I have learned so much from those I teach, especially Alan. Something that has always touched my heart is the simple, fervent prayer of one that is new to the gospel. When Vincent and Alan pray, they are really and truly talking to their Father in Heaven. Something that really touched me in one of Alan's prayers was when he thanked God for putting people around him who love him. The ward has been so great at making sure he is included in everything and has supported him so much through all that he has gone through to get to this point. They truly do love him, and Sister Hooson and I do as
well! These are friends that I look forward to seeing again, even in the eternities.

I love seeing the change in ones countenance when acting upon the teachings of the gospel. The light that enters their eyes and the glow on their faces. It's physical evidence that the gospel brings forth good fruit in our lives, and brings about a change which we could never invoke in ourselves, but only through Christ, who is "mighty to  save."

I love you!!!!!

Sister Martin

Alan Prinkalns baptism. Sister Hooson and I and then me with Alan and Vincent.

 Sister Parton (crazy Auzzie!), Sister Hooson (total Brit) and Sister
Archambault and I!

Our zone during a hike today. We love our zone!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

no effort is wasted

I love being companions with Sister Hooson!! She is from York, England and has the most beautiful English accent ever! And she has a lovely singing voice! We have a lot of fun serving and singing together :)

Even though we have a cheery companionship, this week was a bit of a rough one in Washington Fields 2... We didn't have a whole lot of lessons. Which was a bit difficult. People haven't been responding to our calls/texts and not many doors have been opened. Even out in the pouring rain. (Yes, it rained in St. George practically all week ...Weird.)

As we had our weekly planning session this past weekend, we tried brainstorming many different finding ideas. We then fasted on Sunday to find new investigators - specifically people that will receive the message of the Restoration. I remember from one of our meetings, Sister Center (our mission presidents wife) trained on fasting and we talked about how fasting has to be paired with action. So we hit the pavement that afternoon for a few hours before our VC shift. We planned to contact some referrals that day, but as we were driving down the street to go to the next neighborhood to contact them, I realized we just passed about a dozen different people outside. Some were washing their cars, sitting outside, and others were moving in. I had a feeling like we should just park the car and go where the people are instead. So we walked up and down the street talking to everyone that we saw outside. We were able to have many great conversations with those on the street However, no one was willing to accept us in their home or even to meet with us again. So, unfortunately, we didn't find any new investigators that day.

For some reason I was getting discouraged easily. There's nothing I would want more at this time than to find, teach, and baptize. Not just knocking doors all day every day. We have been trying so hard to work with leaders, members, etc. it's interesting how when you think you finally got a feel for what missionary work is like, everything starts to go down hill a little. Am I not doing something right? Do I not have enough faith? I was reading over "No Effort Is Wasted" in Preach My Gospel the other morning and this phrase really stuck out to me: "When people do not accept the gospel, do not be discouraged. You have raised a warning voice. You have given them a clear choice. Disciples of Christ feel sorrow when people choose not to repent, but they maintain a vision of who they are and what they are doing. They continue to diligently move forward." I do try asking after each door contact, "Did I raise a warning voice? Did I give them a clear choice?" There is still a lot of room for improvement. But I did notice that in that paragraph was my answer: I need to diligently move forward. I have come to realize the importance of not measuring your success by the choices of others - I simply cannot control whether or not the people in my mission will accept the gospel message. But I know that I can control the type of missionary I want to be. And I strongly believe that success as a missionary can be judged by your willingness to repent and your determination to keep working.

Sister Hooson and I will continue to try our very best and I KNOW the numbers will go up, but most importantly, ordinances will increase.

Speaking of ordinances, Callie was baptized this past weekend!! It was so sweet to see the tears in her eyes during the baptismal service and the smile she had on her face the entire time. It was a ray of sunshine amidst all the rain and lack of teaching we had last week. I'm excited to see her progress towards the temple :)

That's all for now, I love you!!

Love, Sister Martin

Sister Hooson and me!

At Callie's baptism: Me, Callie, and her boyfriend that baptized her, Cody!! I always look forward to our lessons together!!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Snow Canyon

Hiking in the lone and dreary wilderness...

last transfer


Sister Archambault and I will be staying in the area... BUT... our area will be split into two areas now and we'll both be training!! Eeee I'm so excited! Sister Archambault and her greenie will be taking half the stake (6 wards) and my greenie and I will be taking the other half! And we are called to serve back in the visitor center (which I am also SO excited about! I haven't served there in almost 6 moths!) so we'll go back to spending half our day in the area and half the day in the visitors center. We had a ton of work going on here in the whole Washington Fields stake in the last few weeks. This is the first time ever that the stake is being split into two areas! It's hard to leave the other six wards and the people that we were teaching together... but it will be nice to just focus on 6 wards instead of 12 all at once. It's crazy because for my last transfer all I wanted was to stay in Washington Fields, to train, and to be back in the VC!! Sister Archambault and I will still be sister training leaders, just solo ones. 

We don't know exactly who were training yet until this Wednesday. I have to pack today but we still haven't found a solid apartment sooooo... hopefully a miracle will happen with that. 


Oh my goodness I feel I have so much to update you all on it's crazy! I don't know if I can fit it into one email! 

So first thing first - Sister Archambault and I have been praying like crazy to find more of God's children that are prepared to enter into the covenant of baptism. A few weeks ago we were on splits and all of Sister Archambaults lessons cancelled so they went to go contact some referrals. One was a media referral of a woman named Callie. She is in her twenties and has a little girl. We had tried her seriously like 5 times the week before and never got an answer. She felt inspired to go there after all her backups fell through. When she showed up to the door, Callie answered and said that she had been waiting for us. She told her that she has wanted to be baptized for a few months now and that she wants us to come back. We both went to the appointment the next day and Callie asked that golden question, "What do I need to do to be baptized?" She wanted to start with the first discussion right away - the Restoration. As we bore testimony of Joseph Smith, Callie opened up and told us that the morning before we came to her door, she had been praying to know if the church was true and if she should still follow through on her desire to be baptized. She said that when we knocked on the door that night, she knew that it wasn't the neighborhood friends coming over or anything else, she knew that it was going to be an answer to her prayer. She told us that for almost an hour after the conversation we had at the doorstep, she felt a constant warmth with her. She knew her prayer had been answered. The whole lesson I was trying to hold back tears - the spirit was there, no doubt about it. When we officially committed her to a baptismal date that first lesson, she told us that she knew this is what she needed to do and there was no going back - the decision had been made. She told us, "This is a permanent thing. I've already made my mind up." Her boyfriend who is a member, Cody, has been helping her and teaching her and bringing her to church. They are both just amazing. I feel that I learn more from Callie in the lessons than she probably learns from us! We always look forward to going over there. Her baptism date is set for May 9th. 

Remember Vincent Lynch? One of our recent converts who I was teaching before I left for Manti. The one who was a lawyer for the longest time in Florida and left because of the lack of spirituality he was feeling back there and moved here. The one who got the priesthood the other week. Well, his good friend Alan, who he has been taking to church, met with us a week ago. We had a lesson with Vincent and Alan in their fellowshippers home. Alan doesn't know a whole lot about the church, he was raised as a Southern Baptist. But Vincent has been helping him a lot. We taught Alan the Restoration that first lesson. In the past when we were teaching Vincent the restoration before he was baptized, he had a LOT of concerns about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. We had some really spiritual lessons and experiences with helping him to gain a witness of the truthfulness of those two things. In the lesson with Alan, we asked Vincent to share the story of Joseph Smith. it was so uplifting to hear his testimony from where it was then, to where it is now about the restoration of the gospel. Vincent had a huge smile on his face the whole lesson. You could see the joy and excitement in his face in sharing these truths with such a close friend. Alan told us that he believed the message we shared was true and that he wanted to continue to progress. He told us that he felt so at peace when we talk about the gospel and he has seen the change that it's brought into Vincent's life. He accepted a baptismal date of May 30th. Alan said the closing prayer for us and I don't think there was a dry eye in the room. he thanked God for sending his friend, Vincent, to introduce him to this new way of life. He thanked God for the spirit of peace he felt in the room. He said other things in his prayer that were so touching. There wasn't a dry eye in the room. These two men, Alan and Vincent, are in their 50's. And they are such an inspiring example to me of seeking after righteousness. 

The next miracle I wanted to share is about a couple in their 70's named the Hennes. They are a non-member couple.The first time we went to their home we talked at the doorstep. They were a little abrasive and standoff-ish. Had some questions about the Word of Wisdom, the temple, and the Book of Mormon. He has a neighbor that gave him the Book of Mormon and let's just say he wasn't too impressed and felt he was just reading about a lot of wars. They refused to let us schedule a time to come back and read the book with them. So about a week later, we just randomly swung by anyway and went to see how they were doing. They actually let us IN their home, but we just stood and answered a few more questions for them and once again, bore testimony of the Book of Mormon. We asked them at the end of that short visit if there was anything we could do for them and Mr. Henne jokingly said, "You could build my shed for me." We jumped at the offer and a few days later we went over to build their shed. And lets just say that I am so very grateful that Sister Archambault is my companion because she was able to read those instructions and put that thing together like none other. I attempted to read the instructions but it seemed like it was practically in a foreign language so I just visited with Sister Henne and played with their cute dog :) And then Mrs. Henne accidently fell in their freezing pool... but that's a whole different story... Anyway, they were so touched by our willingness to help (and Sis. Archamabults ability to help) that they wanted us to come back for DINNER!! Mr. Henne said, "i just really love visiting with you two gals! Put us in your schedule for 2 hours on Saturday night for dinner!" Well, our schedule doesn't really permit us to have a 2 dinner hour appointment, but we couldn't believe it had gotten to the point where they wanted us to come back! So we had a great dinner with them Saturday night. At the end we explained that it was typical of our dinner visits to share a spiritual thought at the end. We shared Alma 7:11-12. We bore testimony of the purpose of Christ in our lives and we asked them in what ways they were able to strengthen their relationship with Christ. It was then that Mrs. Henne mentioned that she tries to pray every day. She then looked down to the ground and said with tears, "But at times, I don't feel worthy to pray. I don't feel worthy for Christ." We showed her a picture of Christ holding the lamb and taught her about the love of Christ and the redeeming power of His atonement. We asked them how Christ had supported them in their trials before. Mr. Henne responded with a near death experience he had and a very spiritual moment that accompanied it. As tears streamed down his cheeks he explained how he had never shared this with his wife before, but that it was something he will never forget. We were able to testify of the Plan of Salvation and the purpose of our lives here on earth.

It's these moments that I live for, that I labor for and pray for and love. 

Seeing hearts soften, minds enlightened and lives changed in these experiences we've had recently is indeed an answer to prayer and fasting. And without a doubt is the hand of God extended in love to His children.

In my personal study I have been reading in the book of Alma where Ammon and Aaron take part in teaching King Lamoni and his father. Because of the service and persistence of Ammon and Aaron in teaching these two kings, a once wicked and ferocious people were now a converted people. In Alma 19:14, Ammon is overcome with joy because of the answers to their prayers that they had received and the spirit of the Lord that was poured out upon the Lamanites, resulting in thousands of conversions. Ammon "fell upon his knees, and began to pour out his soul in prayer and thanksgiving to God for what he had done for his brethren; and he was also overpowered with joy."

I could never relate more to a verse of scripture. My heart is full with gratitude for the marvelous work that the Lord is bringing forth in Washington Fields. When I was called to come back and serve here, I literally felt like I was being called to Ammonihah again. I was fearful that like the time before, there would be no work, no progression, no seeds to harvest. But with great patience, faith, and diligence, we have finally seen the fruits of the efforts of all who have served here. There is no such thing as a "dead" area. I want to leave off with the words of Ammon is Alma 26:

 "35 Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has allpower, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name.

 36 Now if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo. Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of this people... yea, I say, blessed be the name of my God, who has been mindful of us...

 37 Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of everypeople, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen."

I love you all :)

Sister Martin

grace of God

I know I've written this in a million emails before but.... The weather here is so nice. I really love it :) We usually just park our car during the day and walk to appointments since it's so perfect feeling outside. And that helps us meet a whole lot more people on the street, in their garages, etc. This weather is providing us miracles for street contacting. Everyone's outside!!

This past Sunday we had the opportunity of seeing one of our recent converts, Vincent Lynch, receive the Aaronic Priesthood!! I was able to teach him when I was in Washington Fields before and even back then, before his baptism, he was SO excited to receive the priesthood. I wrote a few emails about him and his progress before. On Sunday, He brought his non-member friend, Allan, with him to all three blocks of church so Allan was able to witness the ordination. We will begin teaching Allan soon this week :) It was such a spiritually uplifting experience to be able to see the power of godliness manifested in that ordination. I love the priesthood; I'm grateful for the guidance and healing I've received in my life because of it.

I've been studying a lot out of Preach My Gospel ch. 3 this week and I've had some much needed insights. I was reading under "God is our loving Heavenly Father" and got to the "Belief about God" box. It led me to a study of Ammon and Aaron, two missionaries in the Book of Mormon, who taught Lamoni and his father - Neither of them had a Christian background. As I was reading I realized Ammon and Aaron taught so clearly the nature of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. There was no room for confusion concerning who they are and what their roles are. They taught simply and spiritually.

I followed a footnote from the chapter the study included in Alma 22:14, about how we cannot merit anything ourselves, it's only possible through the grace of Christ.  The footnote explained more on grace. It was Ephesians 2:8-9. I was a little confused at first because it sounded like it was saying we are saved by grace, and our works and efforts have nothing to do with it. I've always had an understanding that salvation is only possible through Christ, but that doesn't eliminate our personal responsibility.

So I went exploring into different manuals and found an explanation that really put things into perspective for me. "Our ability to perform good works stems from the change that the grace of Jesus Christ causes to take place within us when we turn to Him in faith." I'm not sure why this didn't dawn on me before, that of course it's only by HIS grace that we're enabled to do good works in the first place!! Then followed a scripture that has become my new favorite: "But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." 1 Corinthians 15:10.

I love this scripture. It has been sitting in my mind ever since. "By the grace of God I am what I am." I have been tempted time and time again to look in the past of what I once was and be brought back to the state of mind that I will never be good enough or worthy enough to fulfill the potential I've been given here on earth. But as I look briefly to the past and ponder on the present, it amazes me to think where I am today. I'm brought to remembrance of the quote in General Conference, "Twas I; but tis not I." I once was lost and fallen from the path. But I know Heavenly Father has placed loving leaders, friends and family in my path so that, though far from the flock, I could recognize the masters voice when he would call.

He called, and I finally answered.

And here I am today, realizing now more than ever the grace, the enabling, strengthening, and healing power of Christ, that has led me to where I am, who I am. The grace of our Savior helps me to "labor abundantly." I will admit, I have been absolutely and completely exhausted this week, sometimes thinking of how I can possibly go
another day. But somehow, someway, I feel a rush of joy in my life. Constantly. Sister Archambault and I are able to do things that I thought were above my abilities. But I too, like Paul, can say that it is "not I, but the grace of God which [is] in me."

I have felt this grace fill me with love; love for those I serve, those I serve with, and those I lead. I know that Jesus Christ is our captain, He is our Redeemer, our friend. These past few weeks I've been able to ponder upon the Easter message, "He Lives." These two words had more of an impact on me than ever when I realized exactly what this means. We WILL see him again. That day WILL come. And when it does, what joy will fill my heart.

Much love, Sister Martin