Tuesday, April 7, 2015

perfectly perfect in every way

What a beautiful weekend we've had here in St. George!! The weather is PERFECT! Perfectly warm :) do you remember how I always wanted the heat up no matter was I was and I always had the heater in my room turned up so high that it was like a sauna? Well, my wonderful companion, Sister Archambault, is just like me. Except even a little more... (Which is weird since she's from a freezing part of Canada).
The other day we had to drive home at 6 am from exchanges in Kanab (it's also very pretty there) and it was FREEZING in the morning so I had a blanket wrapped around me and then we got back in St. George
where it was in the 60s and she still had the heater blasting.... I thought I was going to melt to death. Now I think I have experienced a bit of your pain with my obsession of heat. I am so sorry. God was really kind though to send me to a warm place :)

So this week has been a little exhausting for Sister Archambault and me. We've been on a ton of exchanges with our sisters (so it felt like we hardly ever saw each other...sad) and have had many meetings and the WORST allergies ever! I think one night we accidentally carried in a bundle of pollen and somehow it got evenly distributed around the house because every night we came home we were sneezing fools. I kid you not one night I sneezed at least 40 times and then did the same in the morning again. We used up four tissue boxes in a week. Crazy. But we're doing a lot better now!

Conference weekend was just perfect. We were able to watch every session with investigator and less-active families that we're teaching. On Sunday morning we ate breakfast with and watched conference with one of our less-active families. The dad joined the church a few years ago, fell away, and then came back and was sealed in the temple with his wife and cute kids. But now he has fallen away
again. He is willing to learn and come back, just has a few things to work through. It will be a long process. We were so glad that they agreed to having us over. As we were watching the talk by Brent Nielson about his personal story of the prodigal son, I looked to the wife who had tears streaming down her cheeks. I was praying and praying during the whole conference that the husband would feel the
spirit, that "music of the gospel", once again and yearn for it even more. I was so focused on wanting him to gain everything he needed out of it spiritually that I didn't even give thought to this strong, active, optimistic mother who, for all I knew, was probably suffering though a lot of grief in hopes of her husband returning. I could feel right then Gods love for her and appreciation for her patience and
never-ending kindness. Yes, the husband needed to feel a sense of urgency in returning, but I think even more importantly, the wife needed to hear that with continued praying and patience, the Lord’s hand would be revealed.

There were so many great things about conference, I don't even know where to start. I'm excited for the Ensign to come out so we can read and re-read them again and again. I loved the theme of families – many of our investigators were really able to connect with that. I am so grateful for our living prophet today, Thomas S. Monson. The words of the living prophets and apostles have given me more direction and peace in my life than I can even express. They have provided me with an anchor of truth. I know without a doubt that those men are called by God and speak with the power and authority of God. They have truly published peace in our world, and even in my own life. I love them.

I want to leave off with this great scripture: "Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly
glad." D&C 128:22

I love you all :)

Sister Martin

Thursday, April 2, 2015

life in pictures

Some of the people we were teaching in Manti:

1. Wendy and Sadie! Wendy was LA and trying to come back and Sadie, her daughter, was preparing for baptism. Wendy has such a strong testimony. We met them because their neighbors invited them over for dinner with us and they never came so we just delivered dinner to them! food always softens hearts. 

2. The Braithwaite family. Oh how I miss them!!! I wrote about them when I was in Manti. They are trying to come back to church and have such a desire to learn. It's a huge step for Brian but he would always say, "I know it will be hard, but I know it will be worth it!" 

3. The Spendlove family. Where do I even start. I love this family so much - they are the prime example to me of integrity. It is a combined family and three of the boys are not allowed to be baptize because their biological father will not give them approval. But what do these three boys do? They go to church every Sunday, they participate in any way they can, by bringing the sacrament bread or even holding the doors open for those that walk in. We would always sit at their kitchen table for the lessons and have the greatest most spirit filled discussions. I know there are great things in store for them!! The day they are able to be baptized I will drop everything and come to see them.

I'm going to miss winter in Manti on our little farm :( it's already fully-fledged summer out here!! 

Some more winter of Manti. In the Valentines (our landlord) house they had a fireplace and I was like a magnet to it. Sister Lasalosi caught a pic of me after a very long, exhausting, cold day. 

Eating at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Ephraim with the Valentines! 

What our car would sometimes look like in Manti because of all the muddy dirt roads we had to ride on...

At President's house after our missionary leadership council. 

During our biking days....

The baptism of Ivy :) 

Baptism of Jade Lunt! 

Sister Lasalosi and I on Christmas day :)

washington fields are white

Can you believe that I've already been back down in St. George now for a whole week?! Im still in shock that I'm not in Manti anymore... And especially that I'm back down in Washington Fields. I've only heard of one other sister in this mission who served in an area and then came back to that same area later on. 
Before I go on any further, let me just give you a brief version of the past 6 months of my mission. I served in Washington Fields for 3 months. We had some miracles happen, that's for sure. But not many baptisms there let alone non-members to teach. It was struggling. With 12 wards to cover and spending half of our time in the visitors center, it was difficult to build relationships with the members. I really enjoyed my time there and was sad to leave but little did I know I had no idea what Manti would be like. Get to Manti and it's almost the opposite of Washington Fields - tons of finding, teaching, baptizing, and the members and our leaders were our best friends. Washington Fields had on average 15 lessons per week. In Manti we were able to have 40-50 lessons a week. It was a sliver of paradise. 
We thought that I would for sure stay in Manti. We had SO much work going on there that none of us could imagine a new set of missionaries being brought in. Sister Lasalosi was going home so we had predictions of who would come up to be my companion. But then President called and said that I'm leaving... He said that Washington Fields was really struggling. Still. At first, I was really apprehensive about this. It was so hard to say goodbye to those we were teaching and the members we were working with. I don't feel I've felt so close to a whole stake before. Preparing everything for elders to come in and take over was a bit rough. There are just some things you can't convey through the area book. Like how very much we love these people and just want them to not be forgotten and continued to be taken care of!! But I know the elders are already doing great there and it's SO reassuring to know that the members will continue in their missionary efforts there.
My companion I was assigned to here in Washington Fields is Sister Archambault. She actually already served with me when we were in the Washington stake so it was also a bit of a shocker that we were being out back together!! But that was the nice part of the transfer, that I already knew the area and knew my companion and we could just get to work. The first day we were together we went over our goals for the work here and made plans on how we would achieve them. Finding new investigators and working with members and ward leaders were our focus. 
The first few days we were together we prayed consistently for Heavenly Father to help us find a family to teach. We did a lot of different finding activities and were having no success. We decided that we just needed to be a little more patient and continue to pray and act. Lessons were continuing to cancel on us and doors continually shut. We were becoming a little discouraged and cynical but we tried to change our attitudes and keep praying specifically. 
One night while walking through a neighborhood and contacting some referrals, we walked by a park. Sister Archambault suggested that we talk to this family sitting under the pavilion in the park with three kids. We went on over and started up a conversation about their cute baby in the stroller. They were super friendly and after some laughs the husband, Chris, looked at us and asked why we're missionaries and what we do as missionaries. You know, those golden questions always catch me so off guard that everything I have studied throughout my mission seems to come out in the most awkward of replies. But as we answered we started to ask them about their own beliefs. They told us they're from "Flarida" (misspelling intended) and had fallen away from their faith, one Lutheran and the other Baptist. We started to teach them the message of the restoration and oh my goodness, I never thought the spirit could feel so strong in the local park! We left them with a pamphlet and they both expressed their desires in meeting with us again. The Cook family was a direct answer to our prayers. It was hard for Sister Archambault and I not to squeal while walking away from that visit. We will be seeing them in a few days. 
We have three lessons with potential investigators tonight so we are super excited!!! I have never had this happen in Washington Fields before. 
On to our second goal: member missionary work. This one we were a little nervous about because this is an extremely wealthy area and it's hard to find families that aren't so busy with work and activities to meet with us. After meetings with the stake president and our mission president, we came up with a way to involve the members more. This program that our stake president suggested has been helping immensely to get in the homes to teach members and help them with their missionary work as well as increasing the communication and accountability between our ward mission leaders and us. We have specifically been praying for our 12 ward mission leaders and bishops and have been trying to build more of their trust. As a result, we have been able to receive many referrals and have extremely productive ward councils and coordination meetings. The whole attitude of the leadership is beginning to change! And us as well. The members and leaders are beginning to communicate with us more and are making plans to fellowship neighbors and friends. The Lord is truly working miracles here. He is softening the hearts of many, including our own. We didn't have the best attitude at first, but we are feeling a great change. 
After receiving my transfer call to come back, I kept having this reoccurring thought that attitude determines altitude. It reminded me of the story of when President Monson was a mission president in Canada and the miracle of "Stony Kingston." Look it up :) great example of the power of ones attitude.
As I was heading back down to Washington Fields from Manti, the spirit brought to remembrance a chapter in the book of Alma, chapter 8. This is where Alma is basically getting transferred city to city preaching the gospel.  He went to one city, Ammonihah, and the people there wouldn't even listen to the words that he had to say. In verse 10 it says, "Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance."  Despite Alma's efforts, the people hardened their hearts and told him he basically should just leave because he's wasting his time there. (What I always felt like before while contacting people in Washington Fields). So, understandably, Alma leaves the city. He was "weighed down with much sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people who were in the city of Ammonihah." 
If he's anything like me, he's probably just thinking that he will move on and find more success in the next area. But then an angel of the Lord appears to him and says (in verse 15), "Blessed art thou, Alma; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God... And behold, I am sent to command thee that thou RETURN to the city of Ammonihah, and preach AGAIN unto the people of the city." 
But my favorite part is verse 18 where Alma SPEEDILY returns to Ammonihah and enters the city "by another way." This verse really hit me that upon my returning to Washington Fields, that I too might need to enter "by another way." Lately, Sister Archambault and I have been thinking that this other way is by Family History work. We still have a lot of pondering, studying, praying, and coordinating to do on this but I know it's not coming into my mind again and again for nothing! 
I am so very grateful to be back in Washington Fields. Especially with Sister Archambault. Before we were only together for one transfer. It was alright, but this transfer is so different now. Instead of being just companions it's like we are best friends working towards the same goals. I love serving with her!! We can talk for hours and I can be open with her about anything and everything. We have the same mindset on goals and she really helps me out in achieving them. Plus, she makes me get up and run with her every morning at 6 :) I need that!! 
I know that I am here for a purpose and that the Lord has great things in store for the Washington Fields stake :) sorry this email was so long... I just had a lot to say! Things are going swell and I'm SO excited for tonight! 
Thank you for your prayers, they made all the difference in coming back with a better attitude this time :)
Much love, Sister Martin 

The Valentines, our landlords in Manti, and their cute dog, Bella!! Oh how I miss the Valentines! They were the best landlords anyone could ever ask for. They are like family to me.

come into the fold

One of the investigators we have been teaching recently is named Pamela. Pamela comes from an extremely rough background of abuse, neglect, and even more. When she moved to Manti she was at a point where she was ready to change her life around and start anew. We've been teaching her ever since I got here. She lived in the Manti Motel for a long time and just recently moved to an apartment a few blocks away.
Teaching her is an absolute joy! Despite attending school at Snow College and working at Walmart, she still manages to have us over and keeps all the commitments we leave with her. In fact, she even goes beyond that!
Just to give you an idea of how awesome she is: She was reading through all the war chapters in Alma and started to question the reason for including all of it in the Book of Mormon. Right then she was going through an awful divorce and issues with school. She prayed about what Heavenly Father wanted her to get out of these chapters and the next time we came over she told us that she knows why she needs to read about all of these wars. She said that she's been going through her own wars lately (overcoming smoking, forgiving, the divorce, schooling) and God was helping her to understand the importance of fortifying herself with righteousness. I feel like we are more of the ones getting taught when we go over!! 

One of the lessons we taught Pamela was about missionary work. We committed her to sharing her testimony and what she's learning about with the man who lives in the hotel room right next to her. The man, named David, is very lonely and loves talking to Pamela outside. Pamela had a big smile on her face and told us that she had already been talking to David about the gospel. In the past when we tried contacting David he has slammed the door on us and other ward members that would come by. Well, that Sunday guess who came to church? Pamela and David. Everyone was totally shocked. He went to all 3 hours! Pamela told us that she would continue to prepare him to meet with us.
As Pamela was in the process of moving, we went over to help her clean the rest of the room out. We got to the door and no one answered. So we went next door to David's (a little hesitant to do that) and asked him if Pamela had already moved. While we were talking we asked him how he liked church and if he had nay questions about it. He told us that he felt weird since he hadn't been to church in 50 years. Later on in the conversation, we asked him how he feels about his relationship with God. He told us that he feels really shaky with God. He then really opened up and started talking about the death of his wife and how now he just feels lost. We testified of God's love and the importance of the scriptures and the foundation they lay for us in life. He told us that he has never been able to read so the scriptures would be useless. We then quickly offered to come to his home and read to him. He was excited about that!
So that was a complete miracle right there. The next week we were preparing for Pam's baptism. She was actually on probation for a few years but we were able to get permission from Salt Lake to have her baptized after a few extensive interviews. So the process took awhile but FINALLY we were able to set a date for her. Her baptism was this past Saturday. She invited David but he was really unsure about going. We called him that morning and invited him once again and HE CAME! button up white shirt, slacks and everything.
The baptismal service was just beautiful. The ward is magnificent and the entire relief society room was packed full of neighbors, fellowshippers, and friends. I have never felt the spirit so strong in a baptismal service before. As Pamela walked into the water the scriptures in Mosiah 18 came to mind.

"As ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;  Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God."
Pamela is the epitome of these verses. I don't think there was a dry eye in the room. I know without a doubt that God led Pamela to Manti. I have seen the Atonement in action through this whole process of preparing her for baptism. You can see the change in her eyes and in her countenance.

She received the gift of the Holy Ghost the day after in sacrament meeting. When she came back to sit by us after receiving the blessing she said, "Wow! That was wild! That was just amazing! I've never felt that so strongly!" She was all smiles all weekend. She is a perfect example to me of diligence, humility, patience, and charity. I just love that lady. 
David enjoyed the baptismal service and committed to coming back to church next Sunday :)
What a great weekend it was. I love you all and appreciate the kind words that are sent my way :) I can feel your prayers daily. I love you :)
Love, Sister Martin