Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Power of Prayer

Hi everyone!!

So let me tell ya, serving in the Visitors' Center on Valentines Day is...well, not the most ideal of situations for a sister missionary. Of course every Saturday at the VC is "wedding show Saturday" (where we can see all the brides from inside the VC and pick which dresses we like the best), but on Valentines Day weekend, HOLY COW! So many brides, so many people getting engaged, and so many couples wanting to watch God's Plan for His Family. It was too much for me to handle. At first it was really cute, but after the fifth giggling and flirtatious newly engaged couple walking in, it got a little tiring.

That weekend was PACKED! But now it has died down a lot because the temple is closed for cleaning (and we get to clean it and get a tour of it tomorrow! yay!). Recently we have been going through bus training because we get a little under a thousand buses in the summer time. About 550 of them are French buses. And they always come to the VC because we are the number one attraction in St. George! So I am mentally, physically, and spiritually preparing myself for loads of foreign buses and scorching hot weather this summer. Bring it on, St. George!!!

This week we had scheduled quite a few lessons, but the majority of them fell though. You know, it was a little disappointing, but we know that we've been trying our very best, and sometimes we just have to come to grips with the fact that we cannot control other peoples agency! When a few of our investigators cancelled we would just bake them our missionary cookies (best cookie recipe ever) and try to set up another appointment.

Part of our area is in a retirement community called Sunriver. It is the cutest and most beautiful quaint little village ever!!! And the homes are beautiful! We are not allowed to procelite in there so all of our investigators are member referrals. One of them is actually a 34 year old boy who is living with his mom in the community. We were told that he was autistic (so that's why he's living with her there) but I can hardly tell!! He works at Deseret Industries and his mentor suggested that he take the missionary discussions. I guess he would express to his mentor that he wanted to become a better person and live a righteous life... how inspiring! His mom is a very spiritual person and before he goes to work everyday they pray. We asked him if he has felt an answer to those prayers. He then told us how he prays every morning for strength to react kindly to his co-workers and to turn the other cheek. So then we learned that he really struggles with anger management. But he told us how he can feel the influence of God in his life and the strengthening power of prayer throughout his day. He was so sincere and had a strong desire to make the most out of his life.

I never expected to learn so much while being on my mission!! Learning from our investigators, our leaders, our fellow missionaries, and most of all, learning from the spirit. It is only through the spirit that we are truly converted to the gospel. I realized that in order to keep the same uplifting experiences that I have here on the mission in my life at home, I need to do everything I can to keep that spirit with me! I am so grateful for the tools we have to help us keep that spirit as a constant companion every day - from prayer to scriptures to the temple and church and even lds.org!!

Much love, Sister Martin

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A new perspective

Hello my dear family and friends!! 

This week has been an interesting one... We've had our high ups and our low downs. A mission is a funny thing because one moment you are as happy and joyful as you could ever imagine and your cheeks even hurt from smiling so much! And then the next you feel as if your heart has never ached so painfully in your life. Regardless of the many emotions I have experienced while being out here, I have never felt the influence of the spirit so profoundly in my life. 

Our day started like this: We had a wonderful lesson with our recent convert, Mollie, and then a lesson with our investigator, Alexis. Alexis is what we call a "golden" investigator; she is searching for all the right things in life! Baptism is in her near future and it's only been our second lesson with her - the Lord truly has prepared the hearts of those in the Bloomington Stake. With the help of a lot of members, of course! All the investigators we are teaching have been found by the members. They. Are. Awesome. And I could go on forever about that but I need to move on... 

So after those two lesson my companion and I had so much hope for the missionary work in this area. We were smiling, laughing, holding doors open for one another, etc. Until I accidentally shut her thumb in the car door...and the poor older lady who was driving us around just about fainted. She's all better now, though :) We were on our way up to a lesson with the Feltchs - a family who's parents are extremely inactive and their teenage children are unbaptized. And guess who found this family?! Our Ward Mission Leader, Brother Olsen!! And MEMBERS!! 

When you have seven different ward mission leaders at once, you begin to kind of notice the work and effort that certain ones put in their calling. I thought about Brother Olsen earlier this week and how he has found about five of our investigators! He is someone who magnifies his calling. It was so cute, about a week ago he called us and left a voicemail saying, "Hi Sisters! It's Elder - I mean Brother - Olsen!" We laughed and laughed. It was so obvious he was fired up about this missionary work and we LOVED it! We had a great relationship with him, contacting each other regularly and working together with each investigator, he was like our best friend! 

So back to our lesson with the Feltchs, we were teaching it in a members home and Brother Olsen and his wife were going to join us. And then we were going to all eat dinner together afterwards. Fun night! Well, when we walked in I first of course asked for an ice pack for my poor companions thumb... but we also realized that everyone was here and sitting down except for the Olsens. We learned that ambulances and fire trucks were at their house... My companion is so sweet and asked if she could offer a prayer right in the middle of us playing picture telephone with them (which leads into the lesson of the apostasy and restoration). We felt better and continued to teach all the way to the importance of the Book of Mormon. Then we got the news that Brother Olsen had unexpectedly passed away. The room fell silent and we all sat there tears streaming down our faces... Here was a man who brought this family back to the knowledge of the gospel, who was a dear friend to these members and who helped with his whole heart to move the missionary work forward. We sat there quietly and pondered about what just happened. The member with us then talked about how the Book of Mormon can help us find the answers to the questions of our soul: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? 

My companion and I then bore testimony of this book and the Plan of Salvation. We talked about how it is so important for us to prepare IN THIS LIFE to meet God. We told them why the gospel is so very vital in our lives - it helps us make the steps necessary to return to live with our Heavenly Father. We talked about how the Book of Mormon is essential in helping us meet our celestial goal, in helping us feel prepared to stand at the judgement bar and look our Heavenly Father in the eyes and say that we are ready to live in his presence. I don't personally know anyone more ready to meet our Heavenly Father than Brother Olsen. The spirit was very strong and at the end we knelt in prayer and Brother Fetch offered a very heartfelt prayer; he cried as he spoke and we joined him as we reverently folded our arms. 

My companion and I then went to visit Sister Olsen. We gave her hugs and talked about he fun times we had with her husband as our ward mission leader. But I couldn't help have the thought pass through my mind that I am only 19 years old - how am I supposed to comfort this dear woman who just lost her wonderful husband? There wasn't much I could do but put my arm around her and tell her we love her and are always here if she needs anything - anything at all. She was just worried if the salad she sent over for our dinner that night turned our okay. We assured her that everything was delicious and now to worry about a thing. It's still hard to realize that we can't call Brother Olsen anymore reporting to him of our progressing investigators he found... But I am grateful for his great influence he's had in this stake. I am grate for the way that has been prepared for us by our perfect brother, Jesus Christ. I am grateful for the Atonement and that by it we are able to fully repent and be forgiven of our sins. I know that He lives and the He is my Savior, my Redeemer, and my everlasting friend. 

I love you all so very much, thank you for your prayers and your support :)

Much Love, Sister Martin 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Home Sweet St. George

So yesterday morning I was in the Visitors' Center sitting on the couch and studying since the place was about as lively as a graveyard. When I sit there I face a whole wall of just windows with the best view ever of the temple. So I treasure my time there when I can sit and study in silence :) But then the phone rang and when I answered someone on the other side said, "sorry to make you get up from that comfy couch you were studying on, sister. Can I ask a favor?" And my reply was, "Uh...who is this...? And where are you??" And they replied, "It's temple security. We see all and we know all." And as creepy as that sounds, it's actually very comforting to hear!! Because believe it or not, there are some strange people who come into the VC... Just another one of the perks of serving in the VC!!

 Another one is that we have a Book of Mormon closet filled with practically every translation of the book. And it not only serves as a closet holding the keystone of our religion in a hundred different languages, but also a crying closet for the sisters!! Which sounds so silly, but it is very useful when you don't want to go into the bathroom and have your cries echo across the whole VC. And even though it's used for when you're homesick, when you don't feel like you're making any improvement in your area, and when you're just down right frustrated, it's also used quite often when we are just overwhelmed with the spirit.

Although the VC has it's pros and cons (cons as in it's really difficult to work our proselyting schedule around it, to schedule appointments and find time to teach our investigators, and to get enough study time in), the pros would definitely have to be that the spirit is so strong there. Teaching those who come in thirsting for spiritual nourishment and being able to see their testimonies not only strengthened but seeing them more converted to the Lord is a beautiful thing. The experiences we have there are very sacred. The spirit is strong as we discuss the Lord's atoning sacrifice at the Christus, as we talk about families and why the temple is so vitally important, as we express our gratitude for a modern day prophet. You can see the tears in their eyes, feel them in yours, and then quickly go cry it out in the Book of Mormon closet. It's great.

So guess who came to St. George last Sunday for our stakes mission prep class?! Elder S. Gifford Nielsen!! You remember that former quarterback for BYU that gave a great talk last conference about hastening the work?! Yep, HIM! Since there are only two sets of sisters covering our stake (of 14 wards....) and the others sisters were at the VC, WE were the missionaries that represented our area! And we got to talk to Elder Nielsen about the missionary work in our area before it started. I swear, he shook my hand for what felt like five minutes...and his hand is about three of mine. I couldn't stop smiling. And my head hurt from looking up for so long. He's a pretty tall guy...

Him and his wife said some great things about missionary work. It was so interesting actually being a missionary at one of these talks... you see everything from a whole new perceptive. it gave me an insight of the kind of missionary I want to be right now and the kind of missionary I want to be when I get home. Because our whole lives are missions, right?? :) And let me tell you, Sister Brenders and I haven't had to find anyone to teach since we got here. The members have done it all. Our bishops, ward mission leaders, and stake president are AMAZING! And they are so ready and excited to see St. George flourish with members and missionary work!

I better get going, but I love you all!! And I'm lovin this mission!!

Much love, Sister Martin

P.S. My companion lost her wallet last p-day and someone named "Moroni" returned it...only in St. George, right?!

"Greenie" meal

Sisters out for Chick-fil-A!
They give them free cookies -
we always knew Chick-fil-A was the best! 

The beautiful Madeline we all know and love

Pictures Madeline took of the St. George Temple 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Somethin' bout a truck

Hi everyone! :)

It's so weird to be driving in our big red truck through all the red rock while listening to "Called to 
Serve" thinking to myself, "Wow, I'm on my mission right now..." I think it has finally kicked in. And I love it! Absolutely love it. 

To start off, we had a lovely baptism on Saturday for Mollie. It's amazing to see how the Lord has been preparing her for this day her whole life. Sister Brenders and I sang "I Stand All Amazed" at the baptism. And we're singing for another baptism on Friday. And then sacrament on Sunday. She keeps volunteering us... But I really do love it so it's okay :) 

I feel so fortunate to have her as my companion because she loves food and classical music just as much as me! It's always hard to listen to songs I have played in symphonies or quartet in the past...It makes me really miss my viola!! But we do have members in our area who have instruments so I'm sure I'll be able to borrow someones. OH and she also puts up with all of my sleep talking. She's said that I've said things like, "Why do we need a Bible?!"  "blahblahblah weekly planning..." "SISTER!" and more... Guess I'm on a mission, huh?! 

Sister Brenders and I are over seven wards. Yes. SEVEN! And that's because the concentration of nonmembers is not super high so it takes seven ward boundaries to provide us with enough investigators. It's slightly overwhelming at times and you don't get to know the members as well, but then again, you are exposed to so many great people around the community all at once! So it has it's pros and cons. 

One of the people we are about to teach escaped from a polygamist family. (BTW I saw my first polygamist in Target the other day...) He is living with the mayor of St. George, who is also a member of our stake presidency. The boys name is Teancum Benjamin. T-Ben for short. I'm excited to teach him!! 

About the Visitors' Center - some nights we have a lot of reservations and some nights it's pretty empty. Just depends. For instance, Superbowl night the place was vacant. But Monday nights (Family Home Evening) and activity nights are pretty packed. And we also get our fair share of RM's who like to "learn"... don't worry, I've bluntly stated that my heart is locked while on mission. I haven't seen them since. 

There are a lot of amazing sisters serving in the Visitors' Center. Sometimes it's hard not to compare yourself with others. Thoughts like "they teach better than me, they're friendlier than me, they're cuter than me, they're more confident than me" often come to mind for ALL of us. But this week I have been studying a lot about pride. It came across in my studies of Alma  5 (great chapter) and just caught my attention, so I decided to look more into it.

While reading, I noticed that often times I am being prideful without even knowing it. Pride is more than just thinking you are better than someone else, it is also comparing yourself to others. It is putting the vain things of the world above the great treasures of knowledge. It's comparing our talents, looks, professions, and possessions with another. When in reality, God does not measure us by such things! He loves us all equally and cherishes us all dearly to His heart. I read over something by Jeffrey R. Holland that stood out to me. He said, "The race is against sin, NOT against each other." How true is that! It also reminds me of one of my favorite scriptures in Samuel 16:7: "For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." 

I know that the Lord has sent each of us sisters to the Visitors' Center because we have individual and unique talents and attributes that, when combined together, can make it a place of unity, love, safety, and learning. And most importantly, a place where the spirit can reside. 

When all of us sisters are working together, teaching together, and smiling together, the Visitors' Center is our Zion. I know that we can make our homes, our church buildings, even our workplace Zion if we "strip ourselves of pride" and have the pure love of Christ. 

As President Monson so beautifully puts, "Life is perfect for none of us. Rather then being judgmental and critical of each other (or even ourselves), may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life." 

I love you all! 

Love, Sister Martin