Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Feeling breezy in St. Geezy

Bonjour famille et amis! 

Yes, that is french. Why? Because more than half of the sisters in the Visitors' Center speak french! My companion is from Leon, France and the other sisters I'm close with are from Canada and speak french. Needless to say, I've gotten to put to use some of my french... since that's all anyone speaks around here! But there is also a sister from Germany, Columbia, France, London, and some remote island in the Philippines which I cannot remember... Anyway, I LOVE IT HERE!! I love all of the sisters I'm serving with, especially my companion! 

Oh where to start, where to start... There is so much I want to say and so little time! For starters, I went to the beautiful St. George Temple this morning. Let me give you an idea of what it's like where I am: You have the temple, then the visitors' center right next to that, and then across the street is where all the VC sisters live! So every morning my companion and I run around the grounds of the temple. It's still cold and dark outside, but guess what? There are still people going through the temple in the early am. And lots of them. Such dedication! I couldn't ask for a more beautiful run in the morning.

So as I was saying before (sorry, I get side tracked easily...), I went to the temple this morning with my companion and a few other sisters. The inside is SO BEAUTIFUL and the spirit was so strong. I feel so lucky to have the gorgeous view of the temple from my apartment and from the VC every day. 

About the VC, it is pretty big! My favorite thing about serving there is talking with all the cute kids that come in. Teaching them, singing primary songs with them, and telling then of the love that their Heavenly Father has for them. I get tears in my eyes every day from the inspiring words they say and the sweet spirit that they bring with them. Makes me miss little Seth more and more, especially when kids come in and go straight to the Chinese Book of Mormon in our Book of Mormon display! 

One of my favorite events so far has happened in the VC. We were taking four sisters (ages 4-12) on a tour and showed them the video "God's Plan for His Family" This is the one where you move from room to room, and it really focuses on how families can be together forever and how the temple makes that possible. During the very last segment, it shows the family working together, praying and reading together, resolving issues together, and serving together. The oldest sister would read all the words like love, diligence, patience, charity, that would come up on the screen. It was so sweet. So of course I started to get a little weepy. I just love families, sisters, and the temple and it was so apparent that these sweet little girls felt the same way! 

Did I already tell you guys that I served on temple square one evening before I left the MTC? LOVED IT! But it was slightly overwhelming because there are two VC's and I didn't know where anything was and there was about 10,000 people (literally) on temple square that night and people kept asking us questions and my companion couldn't speak English very well because she was from the Philippines andddd...yeah. But I still had fun! I'm glad I'm serving on a smaller campus though ;) 

So when we first got here, Sister Center (mission president's wife) greeted us and said, "Welcome to the 30 lb mission!" 

Ahhh -.-

Well, sadly, she's totally right... the area we're serving in is pretty nice and everyone feeds us like it's thanksgiving. I mean don't get me wrong, it's great food, I love all of it! But I'm just going to have to up my exercises in the morning. Especially when members bring us Cafe Rio to the VC weekly. And our elders bake us cookies weekly. But you know what, I love food. And I love all the generous and hospitable people here. And they are all so enthusiastic about missionary work. So I think the Lord will provide a way and means for me to not look like a manatee upon my arrival home. 

So I better wrap this up, there's just so much I want to say! But in closing, I've learned a LOT about exact obedience this week. My companion is extremely obedient, and for that I am very thankful. My first night here I was running on three hours of sleep and all I wanted was to take a shower, write in my journal, and go to bed. But we only had 5 minutes left till lights out, 10:30. So I was just going to go to bed a little later. But then Sister Brenders said something that kind of shocked me. She said, "Sister Martin, we have to go to bed at 10:30. So you may want to choose what is more important in the eternal perspective of things..." And of course my initial reaction was to shower so I wouldn't scare off our investigators. But then after a little pondering, I realized journal writing may be more important ;)

You know what they say: Obedience brings blessings, but exact obedience brings miracles. And you want to hear a miracle?! We have a baptism this Saturday! Yay! I have found that our exact obedience has led to many little miracles this past week. I have also found that if we ALMOST keep the commandments, we will ALMOST receive blessings. As simple as that. I know that when we are obedient, it shows our love and respect for our Heavenly Father and He in return wants to bless us more than we can even handle! He loves each of us SO much and is just waiting to pour blessings down upon us.  

As we say in the VC, the church is true and the book is blue :)

Love you all! Thank you for your continued support and letters! I promise I'll get back to each of you, it just may take awhile :) 

Much love, Sister Martin 

P.S. I'm serving in the Sun River and Bloomington Stakes :)

Madeline's companion at the
Salt Lake Temple Visitor's Center
with Sister Torino

Sister Roberts

Madeline's zone at the MTC

Elders from London going to Sweden

In front of the St. George Temple
Sister Benders

Madeline gets to drive a big red truck ...
which is literally the scariest thing I have ever seen since
Madeline's not exactly known for her driving skills ... 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Last week in the mtc

Surprise! I have visitor training this week so I have P-day today instead of Monday :) 

Well, for starters, this week has just been GREAT!! I'm so excited to go out into the field next week, but then again, I will be very sad to leave the MTC. I've made a lot of good friends here from all over the world and I feel that my teachers are like my family. It's going to be hard, but I'm excited for the adventure that lies ahead :) 

On Wednesday we started our VISITOR CENTER training! Yay! We went up to Temple Square that morning and got a tour from the sisters there. It's so weird to think that I am actually living here right now. Isn't that weird?? Anyway, there were a total of five of us who went up to temple square that morning. There's me, Sister Rizzo, and Sister Garcia who are going to St. George and then Sister Ye and Sister Occolier who are going to be serving at Temple Square. They. Are. Amazing. Let me tell you a little bit about them! 

So Sister Ye (pronounced "Yeh") is from southern China. She was so excited to here about Seth and how he is learning Chinese! She joined the church a few years ago when she was studying in Australia. We asked her how she joined the church and she told us the most beautiful story. She started off by saying that she knew her parents loved her, but it was a different kind of love. They sent her brother to a school that provided a great education and they sent her to school where the education was...not so great. She said it was really hard for her and that she felt very lost. She had a hard time in knowing right from wrong. During her high school years, her mom became very ill and they found out she had cancer. She said there were many others who died from cancer in her family and that she felt everyone around her was just dying. She told us that she went into one of their Chinese church buildings and cried and cried and cried. She prayed to God and told Him that if He could save her mother, she would devote her life to God and do anything she wanted Him to. The next day her mom had surgery and she was cured. She then went to Australia to study, found the missionaries, got baptized, and decided to serve a mission. The church is not allowed in mainland China though, so they have to meet in hidden locations. She is so dedicated. 

Sister Occolier is from the island Martinique in the West Indies. We became friends right at the start because, apparently, I'm the first person at the MTC to know where that island is!! I think it has to do with the fact that we eat on place-maps every night haha! Anyway, she said she joined because her older brother went to France to study. There, he met the missionaries and joined the church. He came back and served a mission in Quebec (coincidentally Sister Garcia is from there and knew her brother!). He taught her the gospel when she was 14 and she wanted to join immediately! However, she was still living with her mother and unfortunately, she was against the church. So Sister Occolier waited 5 YEARS to get baptized. Wow. She has such a strong testimony and desire to serve help others and serve God. I just love her. 

Both sister's have the most beautiful accents - Sister Ye's is Chinese and Sister Occolier's is French. What's funny is that they both so badly want an American accent!! They think the way we teach the gospel is so smooth, gentle and loving. It's so funny because we feel the exact opposite! Since they still do not know English very well, they use simple words. But the way their sentences are pieced together and the inflections in their voices emphasize certain words is just BEAUTIFUL! They do not use words of sophistry, but simple words. When they bear testimony of what they believe, the spirit is so strong. I feel so blessed to be placed in a class with such inspiring people. 

Here's something you guys probably didn't know though! Part of the whole visitors center thing includes remote proselyting - which is sharing the gospel via mormon.org on chat and through telephone calls. This way, anyone, anywhere, anytime can learn the gospel. We started this on Wednesday. We chatted with people from India, New Zealand, and South America. And let me tell you, it was really hard at first. There are many trolls and crude people. It was making me very discouraged. I voiced my concern, and lovely Sister Occolier said something so profound. She told me all kinds of people rejected Jesus Christ. He was despised by many. Are we greater than Him? No! We must face rejection as well; we can't expect everyone to accept our message, because not everyone accepted Him.  

The next day made it all worth it though. I was paired with a sister who is going to Russia. Her name is Cecpta Macbeth (Cecpta = Sister in Russian). She was adopted from Ukraine a few years ago. Crazy right?! We're already besties. But anyhoo, we got a call through mormon.org. The woman who called had a friend who was in need of some serious help; she had just been evicted from her home, had some serious health issues, and was in need of a priesthood blessing. She lives in California and the sweet friend who called lives in Arizona. We got her friends information and we were able to locate the missionaries in her area and send them to her! It was awesome!! Cecpta Macbeth and I were so excited! 

On a more random note, the MTC bookstore is AMAZING! It literally has everything you need to survive the mission life. From no-flame candles to archival pens. Okay okay, and maybe the essentials like clothes, books, food, first aid, etc. Sister Rizzo and I went the other day to pick up some laundry detergent and guess what I found?! My favorite drink!! Sangria! We got back to our dorm and then I realized that I didn't have a bottle opener. Sooo we went back up to the bookstore. And we found out that they sell bottles that require a bottle opener but they didn't have any bottle openers... So I found a group of about 20 Polynesians and asked if someone could open this bottle for me! Apparently it was like sealed shut because this bottle of Sangria (which was starting to get warm...gross) went through every Polynesian/Tongan/Samoan elder in the bookstore. There was a little shedding of blood, but we finally got it opened. And suddenly it didn't seem so appetizing to me anymore. 

I just wanted to let you all know that I feel I've gotten the full MTC experience this past week. "Full" as in full of trial, experience, learning, and growth. I have grown in ways that I never thought I would. For starters, my companion and I are now best friends! That was a true miracle. We laugh till our stomachs hurt every day. We have so much fun meeting new people and teaching the gospel to others. Despite our differences, we've found the we have the same humor and love for Christ and His gospel, so thank you for the prayers and kind letters :)

I came on this mission thinking it would be a bit of a breather from the hectic and stress-filled schedule I followed before, but I was a little selfish in thinking that. A lot selfish. I've been thinking lately about how Christ went through so much in Gethsemane and on the cross to pay for our sins. I don't think it's fair for me to take upon His name and think that I don't have to suffer through even the smallest trials that are really nothing in comparison to His. It wasn't easy for Christ to bring us closer to Him, nor should it be easy for us to bring others closer to Christ. Just as Sister Occolier put it! 

This MTC experience has helped me realize that our Heavenly Father gives us trials in life not so that we can wallow in sorrow and self-pity. He gives us these experiences to refine us into the person that we are capable of being. To bring us closer to Christ and closer to Him. 

I know that my purpose as a missionary is not to watch and see how much I can grow in the gospel, but to help others realize their own potential in life and the love God has for them. He loves them so much that he has provided them the means to be baptized in Christ's name and has given them the Atonement so that they may to return to live with Him again.

Thank you for your prayers and kind words, it makes all the difference :) I don't have a whole lot of time to reply to them here at the MTC, but I'll try to get back to all of you when I make it out to St. George next Wednesday :)

Much love, Sister Martin

With Elder Kim and Elder Snow ... in the snow

One of Madeline's teachers, Brother Martin 

Madeline's teachers:  Brother Mullen, Brother Starkie, and Brother Tiatia

Spent this week training at the Salt Lake Visitor's Center with
Sister Occolier, Sister Ye, Sister Rizzo, and Sister Garcia 

Remote proselyting 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Getting the full experience

Madeline didn't have a whole lot of time to write this week, but she is doing amazing. 

I just wanted to let you know that I feel I've gotten the full MTC experience this past week. "Full" as in full of trial, experience, learning, and growth. It's not everything I expected it to be, but I have have grown in ways that I never thought I would. 

I think being able to help others has helped me (or forced me...) to realize the Christlike attributes that I need to work on. It has also helped me realize those spiritual gifts that I never knew I had. 

This MTC experience has helped me realize that our Heavenly Father gives us trials in life not so that we can wallow in sorrow and self-pity. He gives us these experiences to refine us into the person that we are capable of being. To bring us closer to Christ and closer to Him. 

I know that my purpose as a missionary is not to watch and see how much I can grow in the gospel, but to help others realize their own potential in life and the love God has for them. He loves them so much that he has provided them the means to be baptized in Christ's name and has given them the Atonement so that they may to return to live with Him again.

Thank you for your prayers and kind words, it makes all the difference :) 

Madeline and her companion, Sister Rizzo

Her district

Is this not one of the cutest things you've ever seen? :) 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Overly Excited "Greenie!"

Hello family and friends!! Greetings from the Provo, Utah Missionary Training Center!I'll start off by saying I looked like a typical newbie coming in last Wednesday. I had the biggest smile on my face for the first hour even though I was completely lost for most of it. And every time someone would ask my name, I would reply with an overly-excited "Madeline!" Don't worry, I've figured out that everyone refers to each other as "Elder or Sister so-and-so." The embarrassing part is when a group of elders walks past and shouts "Hey sisters!" and I accidentally reply back with "Hi Sisters!" ...oops.  But everyone here is SO nice and welcoming so after asking a few questions, I found my way around.There is a strong spirit here at the MTC. A spirit of love, learning, and unity. Our teachers always compare it the amazingness of Disney World, and if you know me, you know Disney World is my heaven on my earth. Well, I think the MTC comes in a very close second. Nothing like learning the gospel, eating great food (in my opinion at least), and meeting amazing people all in one place :) 
I met my district when I first got here, and ohmygoodness, I never thought I would grow to love people so much after just five days. They are like my second family. Knowing that everyone here loves the gospel and has the same life plan as you for the next two years or so makes it extremely easy to grow really close to everyone you meet. I was also assigned a companion, Sister Rizzo, that I'll be with for the three weeks that I'm here at the MTC. She's of course serving in the St. George Visitors' Center as well. We spend every waking minute of the day together and always have to be within sight of one another. She's from Alaska and is Italian. Go figure! She's about my height and is super energetic. We get along really well! We;re both super goofy. However, it's really hard to work with someone that you're with 24/7. You can get annoyed, offended, rude, the list goes on. It's been a huge learning experience for me.  
We watched a talk by Elder Bednar last night tilted "The Character of Christ." Hands down one of the most inspiring talks I have ever heard. He talked a lot about how Christ turns out to others and not in to himself. How he turns out in love, service and compassion, and is not self-centered one bit. This really helped me in my struggles to get along with my companion and those in my district. Because, let's face it, even though we feel like family, we all have our moments. It's so motivating to see others trying to focus less on themselves, and more on those around them. 
I have a firm testimony now that in order to find yourself, you must lose yourself. Lose yourself in service, love, and compassion towards others. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Accept their weaknesses and differences. Kindness should permeate all of our words and actions. I know through service towards others, we not only become closer to those we are serving, but we come closer to our Heavenly Father. He loves all of us more than we can imagine. And He wants us to love His other children too! There is SO much more I would like to write, but we have a limited emailing time. I love and miss you all!! I can feel your prayers every step of the way :)  
Love, Sister Martin 
P.S. I'll send pics next week!!                

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

She's off!

We dropped Madeline off at the St. Louis aiport this morning around 7:00 am.  We're so excited for this amazing opportunity she has to serve and the example she is setting for all of us! Our family friends we've had since before Madeline was born, the Knowltons, picked Madeline up in Salt Lake City, took her to her "last supper" at Zupas, and then dropped her off at the MTC (Missionary Training Center).

In front of the Provo Temple 
Our good friends, Ben and Lisa Knowlton
There she goes!