Monday, November 17, 2014

Malo e lelei!

Malo e lelei!! My new companion is Sister Liu! :) She is from Pittsburg, CA - the bay area. She is Tongan and full of the best one-two combo: Island love and love for the work. I love her! She is the oldest of 13 kids in her family. She is the leader of the pack. I love serving with her. She is HILARIOUS and we have the best time together.

She came right when Washington Fields needed her!! When we were in the car driving to our area for the first time I kept telling her of all the people that were going to benefit from her strong testimony and Polynesian characteristics - because a few days before we found a whole less-active Tongan family with a non-member Hawaiian in the home!!

Here's the story: Sister Calves and I had a ton of our appointments cancel one night and we had already tried all of our back-ups. I remembered hearing about a family named the "Katoas" from one of our ward mission leaders and it just popped up in my mind so we decided to go on over there. Kind of random. Before we went in we said a prayer and Sister Calves prayed that we would be able to find a new investigator. Now I have never heard anyone pray for that while entering into a home full of just a less-active family. But you never know I guess. That little french sister is full of faith because right when we walked in the Tongan mom greeted us and immediately this cute 22 yr old Hawaiian named Kalii came up to us and said "Hi sisters!" I just thought she was a daughter or something. So we went into the family room and started talking with them and then Kalii told us she wanted to be baptized and asked us what she has to do in order for that to happen. *jaws drop* "Well, ehem, uhm..." That's always a "catch you off guard" moment!! Anyway, long story short, Kalii has a baptismal date for Dec. 13. She is the girlfriend of the family's son - so we will have a little wedding before she gets baptized :)

I couldn't believe that right when we walked in she just started gravitating toward us and talking with us. She took the missionary discussions when she was living in North Dakota with some elders, and even though she wasn't prepared at all then to change, those elders really did prepare the way for her. We asked her what had changed between then and now, what suddenly sparked her interest in wanting to get baptized. The first thing she told us about was family prayer.

So here we are sitting in a less-actives home and their occasional family prayers that they said together had the BIGGEST impact on Kalii. the spirit of love and unity that she felt created this yearning within her to want to have more of that spirit in her every day life. She has the CUTEST baby named Lion. And she wants to do everything she can to be the best mother for him. She has kept all of her commitments and came to church for the first time last Sunday to all three meetings!!

What a miracle that was. And Sister Liu of course is just absolutely perfect for this family. They already have so many connections with one another!! In one of our lessons Kalii just kept telling us over and over again with tears in her eyes "Thank you for coming. Thank you for coming." She told us that she feels she has known us before - and I feel that I was sent here just for her!! I can't wait to see her again this week for our lesson!!!

I have found that when praying for one thing, Heavenly Father of course knows best and will answer us with another. there is a great description of this pattern by Elder Bednar:

"The stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon (see Alma 53: 56–58) prayed earnestly that God would strengthen and deliver them out of the hands of their enemies. Interestingly, the answers to these prayers did not produce additional weapons or an increased number of troops. Instead, God granted these faithful warriors assurance that He would deliver them, peace to their souls, and great faith and hope for their deliverance in Him (see Alma 58:11). Thus, the sons of Helaman did take courage, were fixed with a determination to conquer, and did go forth with all of their might against the Lamanites (see Alma 58:12–13). Assurance, peace, faith, and hope initially might not seem like the blessings warriors in battle might want, but they were precisely the blessings these valiant young men needed to press forward and prevail physically and spiritually.

"Sometimes we may ask God for success, and He gives us physical and mental stamina. We might plead for prosperity, and we receive enlarged perspective and increased patience, or we petition for growth and are blessed with the gift of grace. He may bestow upon us conviction and confidence as we strive to achieve worthy goals. And when we plead for relief from physical, mental, and spiritual difficulties, He may increase our resolve and resilience."

I love this!!!!! I have seen it time and time again throughout my mission. One of my favorite scriptures that relates to this trust we must have in the Lord is found in Doctrine & Covenants 123:17 "Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed."

Much Love, Sister Martin

The typical missionary fridge.
Sister Liu opened it this morning and shouted at the top of her lungs, "THIS IS SO DEPRESSING!" 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Overwhelmed with love

Dear loved ones,

My heart is so full right now! In the words of Ammon, "I cannot say the smallest part which I feel." I feel overwhelmed with love for my Heavenly Father, love for this great work, love for those we're serving, love for my angel companion I've had the privilege of serving with, love for all of you!!

Sister Calves has hit that 18 month mark and is going back home to Bretagne, France on Wednesday. Boy, am I going to miss her! With Sister Calves I felt like we had the perfect combination of laughter and hard work. I have never worked harder than I have this transfer with Sister Calves. Nor laughed as much as we did! She has instilled some great French work ethic in me.

My new companion will be Sister Sesilina Liu! She's from California and is Tongan. And she is CRAZY!!!! In every good way possible though. I served in the VC with her for awhile. I'm really excited for this next transfer :)

As I was studying this morning, I began to look back on the past six weeks of this transfer that I've been with Sister Calves. I began to see from a further out perspective all the miracles that we've witnessed and all the lives that have changed. Including ours.

While in our leadership meetings and zone meetings this week it dawned on me actually how much I just absolutely LOVE my mission! I love it! There is nothing more invigorating than sitting in those meetings and discussing with so many wonderful missionaries the ways we can improve as a mission and as servants of the Lord. The spirit is always incredibly strong when we're united with those who have the same purpose as us: bringing souls unto Christ. We wake up at 6:30 every morning in unity, we study the scriptures in unity, we plan in unity, we rescue in unity.

Something I've really been focusing on lately is patience in the work. As amazing as Alma 26 is, I never fully realized how this chapter is essentially all about the blessings of patience!! So here is a story of something we've had to have a little patience for:

Last week I think I mentioned a little bit about Vincent Lynch. He is in his 40's and has moved up here from Florida, where he was a lawyer for a number of years. He is an extremely spiritual man; he moved from Florida because he felt that he needed to escape the lack of morals and values that resided there. When he got here he had a tour with one of the sisters in the VC and requested to have the missionaries to come teach him more!

It's really amazing because he feels so strongly that he has had the administering of angels in his life before - witnesses that God is there and that He loves him. He expresses his desires to us about following the commandments more diligently and strengthening his relationship with God. You guys, he is absolutely amazing. Never have I met someone, even a member, who has such a strong love for God and is constantly striving to please Him. He is such an example to both of us - we learn SO much as we have our discussions together! And our Senior couple we work with here in the Fields are the PERFECT fellowshippers for him. He comes to church every Sunday for all three hours, he has the strongest desire to be baptized and receive the priesthood and my goodness I could just go on for hours about everything he does!

So what you're probably thinking is "when is his baptismal date?!" Well, that's what we have been struggling with. We invited him to baptism our first lesson, and he accepted! But he doesn't feel comfortable setting date yet. He knows he wants it to happen, but just not when. And this is because he feels he does not understand the Book of Mormon and he feels he has not received a confirmation that it is true. That is how awesome he is, that he recognizes the importance of gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon before baptism! He read up to 1 Nephi 21 the first night and just could not understand any of it. He prays about it constantly. So as Sister Calves and I were preparing our lesson to read the Book of Mormon with him we were struggling with what we should read with him. I didn't understand at the moment WHY he just wasn't getting the Book of Mormon yet. We had read some with him before, explained the what why how and everything else! I knew that the Book of Mormon was exactly what he needed at this time in his life - I knew it contained all the answers and hope he was searching for. I wanted so badly for him to recognize how much this book could enrich his life. It was so hard for me to exercise my patience and just rely on the Lord. During the planning I felt frustrated and felt like I was going to cry. Which is never a good sign. In the middle of our planning I asked Sister Calves if we could just say another prayer to REALLY know what we should share with him. Shortly after we both decided on Mosiah 3.

Holy cow was that ever inspiration from the heavens. Vincent had tears in his eyes the whole time as we read Mosiah 3. The whole chapter is about Jesus Christ and what we need to do in order to come closer to him.The spirit was so strong the whole lesson. He closed with a beautiful prayer thanking Heavenly Father for sending his son, Jesus Christ, to the earth to set an example for him and to die for him. Everyone in the room had tears streaming down their cheeks at the end of the prayer. He read the whole book of Mosiah that night and came back for a lesson the next day talking non-stop about how much we loves Mosiah 3. He told us it was everything he needed and more at that moment. We did a fast with him this past Sunday for him to recognize an answer to all his prayers and a few other things. We are seeing him tomorrow - we are so excited.

What an answer to a prayer, many prayers, that was!  As Ammon so beautifully puts it: "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 all power, 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.

"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, wanderers in a strange land."

I know that God is not only mindful of Vincent and his individual needs, but each one of our needs. With enough prayer, faith and patience, miracles happen.

Love, Sister Martin

Me in Washington fields! Literally loads of beautiful fields. 

The "Onidah" district! We have so many senior couples, it's the best!! 

Cold rain storms in St. George!

Hot chocolate and biscoff cookies :)

Sister Calves and I in the tabernacle.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Glory in His service

Wow family - I really do love you. A whole lot. I hope you all know that.

And I hope you know that I also miss all the Missouri colors in the fall... we don't have that here in St. George. Quite the contrary actually, we have loads of palm trees and tumbleweeds and red dirt. It's really growing on me here!! You know that I'll never become a desert rat but I sure do enjoy warm weather. Speaking of warm weather it's disappeared and now it's FREEZING! It's 50 degrees outside!

This past week with all the Halloween parties and everything has been a jackpot for us missionaries. "Trunk-or-Treat" never sounded so sweet as it does when you're a missionary. Basically translates into "Find more investigators and contact more referrals in one hour than you would in a whole week." While covering 11 wards, that means we have a LOT of Halloween parties to go to! On Tuesday night we went to 3 in a row. I was really tempted to dress up as "Encarnacion" - the nun from Nacho. But that didn't quite work. A lot of kids thought we were actually normal civilians dressing up as missionaries.... Which means I probably look like a "teeny bopper" as dad calls them. No one thinks I look old enough to be an actual missionary! Maybe my 20th birthday this month will help me to age a little.

I love wearing a name tag because it gives us the perfect reason to go up to anyone and everyone and start up a conversation intertwined with the gospel. Most of all though, I love who's name is on our name tag.

Real quick: Our new senior couple serving with us at the Visitors' Center and other cites in town is George Durrant and his new wife, Susan Easton Black (now known as Elder and Sister Durrant). Both are accomplished authors and Sister Durrant was a professor at BYU for decades. They will be giving a series of lectures at the tabernacle each week on the Prophet Joseph Smith as well as Jesus Christ and Brigham Young in addition to the service at the sites. This morning we had an early morning meeting with them at the tabernacle. As Elder Durrant was speaking, he kept mentioning having "Christ's confidence." He told us as we are representatives of Jesus Christ, as baptized members of his church, we do EVERYTHING in his name. We don't just end prayers in his name, but we say "Hello!" in his name, we teach in his name, we serve others in HIS name. For me, it seems that as we have confidence in Christ, as we exercise our faith in him, our countenances and actions show that we have "Christ's confidence."

So as his name is on my name tag, as I point to his name and show children and parents, it constantly reminds me of who's name I am doing this work in and, most importantly, who is helping hasten the work right by my side.  The talk "Act in All Diligence" by Henry B. Eyring helped me to understand how to remember our Savior in all that I do in the work.

And now it's almost the end of this transfer... we receive our transfer call this Saturday! Sister Calves, my lovely companion and friend forever, will be returning home to Bretagne, France as it is the end of her mission. Boy, we've had a great 6 weeks together. I've loved every day of it. At the very beginning of serving in Washington Fields together there wasn't a whole of people to teach. The work was a little slow. We were in need of some great miracles. So that first Sunday we fasted. We fasted to find those whose minds and hearts would be prepared to receive the message of the Restoration and who would have the desire to follow the example of Jesus Christ and enter the waters of baptism. As we fasted, I had the words of Alma 17 in my mind, when Alma and the sons of Mosiah reunite together:

"They had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God."

"They fasted much and prayed much that the Lord would grant unto them a portion of his Spirit to go with them, and abide with them, that they might be an instrument in the hands of God to bring, if it were possible, their brethren, the [people of Washington Fields], to the knowledge of the truth."

That Sunday we received two texts from investigators that they didn't want to meet with us anymore. A little unusual to get the texts back to back... But on the bright side they both said it very kindly! And instead of feeling devastated, Sister Calves and I felt excited (as odd as that might sound). We were excited because we knew that Heavenly Father was helping us reorganize our teaching pool, making us aware of those who were not ready to receive the blessings of baptism. So we knew there was something really GREAT in store - that there was someone who was ready to receive these blessings!

Sure enough, we got a call a few hours later from one of our Ward Mission Leaders telling us that there was a 13 yr old boy named Jake who moved in that had already been attending church for 2 years and already had all the missionary discussions in the past and he was tired of waiting to be baptized and finally they were just ready to do it! Imagine that! So we went straight over to their home, asked him to tell us the story of Joseph Smith, asked him to tell us why he wanted to be baptized, and then set a date for baptism. It was a literal miracle. I have never seen a 13 yr old boy more ready to follow the example of Jesus Christ. There were about 40 people at Jake's baptism - the spirit was so strong. And especially strong in his confirmation in sacrament meeting in the Sunday after. My eyes were filled with tears and my heart was filled to the brim with love for our Savior and the many marvelous ways Heavenly Father accomplishes His work through His children.

We have also met another who is prepared for baptism! His name is Vincent Lynch. His story is an amazing one. I will have to email you about him next week.

It is amazing the ways that I have seen the hand of the Lord in my life this transfer. I could go on for days listing the ways he has helped our investigators, my family, and myself.

I glory in being in his service and wearing his name every single day.

"He must increase, but I must decrease." -John 3:30

With Much Love,
Sister Martin