Monday, December 26, 2016

My Christmas Email

Hi Family!

It was so good to talk to y'all yesterday!  It was mostly fun to see your faces and hear your voices.  It looked like everyone was doing so well!  I told you a bit about this week, but I'm hoping to be able to give you a little more detail now that I am emailing because, unlike Nephi  who is not "mighty in writing" like he is unto speaking (2 Nephi 33:1), I am much better at getting my thoughts across when I can write them down.  I think this is why the Lord sent my to a "no iPad" mission.  He is definitely showing me this weakness so that hopefully I can turn it into a strength during this next year.

This week was super busy with Christmas.  I would have liked to have more time to contact people, but I did get to have a chance to have fun with some missionaries and I learned a lot along the way.

Last Monday was Mission Christmas, so the entire mission got together and had a dinner, played games, had a devotional, all sorts of fun stuff.  I finally got to have funeral potatoes again--a Utahn delicacy that I have definitely missed.  We played a bunch of Minute to Win It games, and I got to see all my friends from Bella Vista and Desert Ridge--most of the Desert Ridge friends have been transferred to other zones, so that was weird.  My favorite part was the slideshow of all the baptism pictures from this year.  In the Arizona Gilbert Mission during this year, we've been able to be part of helping almost five hundred people come closer to their Savior Jesus Christ through being baptized by proper authority.  I  was watching each picture, and it made me realize just how much of an impact we can have, even if this is the second smallest proselyting mission in the world.  I made a new goal to be more focused on "teaching repentance and baptizing converts".  I reorganized the pictures on my wall by my desk to be only those that remind me of the Savior, my purpose, my "why" for being on a mission, and those I have been able to help them receive that essential ordinance of baptism.

After the slideshow, President Wheeler talked about Luke 2:7: "And she brought forth her first born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because their was no room for them in the inn". He was able to teach us so much about the Savior just out of one verse.  I think Dad would have enjoyed it a lot.  President told us about what the different words meant and helped us understand the Nativity in a new light that made me all the more thankful  for my Savior.

Afterwards, all the missionaries got to go out on the field.  We each had two balloons that had lights attached to the bottom of them.  Each balloon represented one convert in the A.G.M. from this year.  It was absolutely stunning.

This week continued on, and we got to have some laughs and bring smiles to others.  We met a sweet baptist couple one night and they asked us, "Are you LSD?" That awkward moment when you get asked if you are a drug.  Sister Miller and I had a good  laugh over that.  On December, we were invited  to a member's home to make sugar cookies to take to people in the ward.  We had a wonderful time talking to  Sister Kerr as we made the sugar cookies.  She has a daughter serving right now, so she is so kind in making sure we are taken care of as she hopes someone is doing for her daughter.  She asked us who we wanted to take them to.  I had a list of people that we had been trying to  contact, but I kept thinking of the Green family--a referral who had since told us they were not interested in our message, but they were still very nice.  I decided there had to be a reason why I kept thinking of them (i.e. a prompting, perhaps?) and added them to our list.  We went and the wife answered the door.  We gave her the sugar cookies and she told us this was perfect because their dog had eaten their sugar cookies not thirty minutes earlier.   The Greens have two little kids, so it must have been quite the ordeal for them to lose their sugar cookies.  It made me happy that the Spirit prompted us to help them in that way.  We sang one verse of "O Holy Night" and went on our way.

The night before Christmas, we had to be inside after 6 PM.  The Highland zone met at a stake center, and we got to watch a movie that president had approved.  We watched the Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  It was definitely a highlight because 1. I love movies--it was a tender mercy that I got sent to a mission that gets to watch a movie on Christmas Eve--and 2. I noticed many more gospel truths that had gone over my head previous times I had watched the movie.

Christmas Day was pretty spectacular as well.  The sisters in our house all got  up and opened presents together.  I felt so much love coming from my family as I read the precious notes and opened the presents.  After, we had church, and  it was only three hours for us--each ward just had sacrament meeting.  Then I got to FaceTime with my wonderful family, and I definitely enjoyed their funny and wonderful personalities--even if I didn't do that well at telling y'all what I've been up to. (I'll practice being better at that for Mother's Day.)

Well, that pretty much sums up my week.  I just wanted to finish with one more story that demonstrated remarkable faith in one of the members in my area.  On Christmas Eve, we couldn't be out unless we had set appointments.  We had a couple in one of our wards.  Since it was half an hour bike ride from our house, we stayed at the Kerr's home between appointments.  Sister Kerr had actually thought of a member who could use a visit and asked us if she could set up an appointment for us to go over. We gladly agreed.  We went to talk to a single sister, and it was such a special experience.  We got  talking, and she alluded to bits of her life story that Sister Miller seemed to know more about than I did, so I asked what her story was. Oftimes, we talk about being persecuted for our beliefs and our minds immediately turn to the early Christians in the first century of Christianity or to the pioneers being driven from their homes in Missouri.  As much as we would like to think of that that persecution as past, listening to this sweet sister made me realize that sometimes we do still have to stand up for our beliefs a lot more that I had see growing up in the Mormon Bubble of Utah County.  This sister had married her husband after meeting at BYU. They were sealed in the temple and she thought she was set.  Well, turns out that wasn't the case.  Her husband over time began questioning his testimony of Priesthood power, which eventually spiraled until he has now completely lost his faith, even in Jesus Christ.  She went along with it, wanting to keep her marriage together, and they raised their children outside the church.  After a while, she began seeing a difference between her children and their cousins, and she realized exactly what was missing. She started with simply watching General Conference.  Her husband would notice this and turn the TV off, telling her she was not to watch that.  But she knew that she wanted that spirit in her life.  She continued trying to quietly invite the Spirit into her home.  Eventually she built up the courage to go to church.  That Sunday morning, she got ready.  Her husband noticed and told her that he did not want her going to church.  When she was ready to go, he physically blocked her from leaving.   She found a way to get around him when he yells at her that if she leaves, she is choosing a divorce, and proceeded to tell their young children that their mother was choosing a divorce.  Unfortunately, her story does not have a picture perfect ending.  She eventually filed for divorce and is slowly working to have her children learn to love and trust her after the terrible things their father would say about her in front of them.  But this sister, despite the bombardment of manipulative control from her husband, continued to keep her faith in the Savior.  Her life is far from perfect, but she has peace.  I know that it is because of her faith in Jesus Christ that she has that peace.  I found a quote a while back, and the basic idea was that while the world sees peace as an absence of troubles, the Savior offers peace amidst our trials and heart aches.  I'm not always the best at allowing Him to do so--sometimes I'm stubborn and won't let go--but I know that that is true.  My goal as I go into 2017 is that I will learn to more fully learn to trust the Savior in order to develop the charity and faith that only He can give  me to do this amazing work.  I love you all so much!
Sister Emily

1001 N Burk Street
Gilbert, AZ

7-1/2 months later with my MTC sisters

Releasing the balloons

This bird hates me.

Christmas morning

Mission temple trip

Monday, December 19, 2016

Is it just David Archuleta or is it hot in here?

Family mine!!!

I am beyond excited to talk to you in six days!!!  But for now, I shall just email you about my week.  Before my mission, my dear friend Chandler told me that I should learn absolutely everything I can from my mission.  This week, I guess the talent I learned was improv on piano because the old folks wanted to sing songs that I did not have music for.  I also learned that one of my ward mission leader's knows Jon Schmidt (aka the response I gave when people asked me what I wanted to be what I grew up).  But that's quite off topic.  For this email, I guess I should probably start with explaining the title of my email, so here goes that:

Once upon a time back in Bella Vista, Elder Green was doing a training.  He was trying to teach us about blessings that can come from focusing on the work alone by talking only about the work (obviously I'm still working on that one, but stay with me, this has a point).  He told us a story of some Elders who wanted to test the idea out and at the time they happened to really want some steak.  They decided that they were going to try talking only about steak when they weren't teaching and see what came of it.  And that's what they did.  They talked about different kinds of steaks, how to cook steak, anything that was about steak. And for the next three weeks they had steak at every single dinner appointment. Every single one.  His point was to have us imagine what we could accomplish if we were so focused on the work that all what we talked about was the gospel, baptism, and things pertaining to missionary work.  Like I said, we are still working on that.  Now what does David Archuleta have to do with any of this?

There is one sister in our house (who for the time being will remain unnamed since she is still a missionary for two more transfers) who loves David Archuleta's music.  And as good friends, the other sisters and I have taken it upon ourselves to make every comment known to man about Brother Archuleta with the intent of seeing this sister's reaction.  Well.  Let me tell you that Elder Green's story was not as crazy as it seemed.  One night at dinner, we were talking to the family we were with, and they mentioned that they were going to a David Archuleta concert on Monday night (that night being tonight).  Sister Miller and I smirked to ourselves and asked where this concert was at.  Family, David Archuleta will be in Mesa just down the street from the Mesa Temple.  And the best part is that this sister that likes him was initially scheduled to help at the Mesa Temple Lights tonight.  I guess that what we talk about really does affect the world around us.  It was a funny experience, but it's also made me want to take Elder Green's invitation a little more seriously and see what miracles become of that.

This week has been crazy busy getting ready for not just one, but two baptisms.  We finally got to meet Patrick (the one being taught in Alabama who wanted to be baptized by the person who befriended him in Arizona).  He is so stellar.  His mom and his grandma even came to the baptism and were so supportive of him.  At his baptism, he even shared his testimony and I just wish y'all could have been there.

We also got to have the baptism of Rachel this week!  She was so excited and it made me so happy to see.  She had been working to give up a coffee habit and her testimony has definitely grown through that.  So this week, we decided to do something fun with Rachel and teach her the Mormon way to Starbucks.  I have a recipe for hot chocolate that tastes like Starbucks, so we went over and made it with her.  We had a lot of fun with that.  Then on Saturday (yesterday), Rachel entered the waters of baptism.  There was so much love and support from the ward.  After she was baptized, immediately after coming back out of the water, Rachel's 3 year-old son, Devin, shouted, "Yay!!!"

We've also been busy trying to find new investigators.  We followed up with the "back-to-Jesus" girl (Kaden), and her dad is interested in setting up a time for us to come tell their family more about the Book of Mormon.  We also met a guy named Steve at the Temple Lights.  He would not be our investigator, but we were able to give him a copy of the Book of Mormon, and never have I ever heard someone tell me with such sincerity that they are going to read it.  There's also Robert who was such a golden street contact.  He straight up told us he doesn't understand why God would let his wife die when He had the power to save her, so after giving him a Book of Mormon, he asked us what part he should read.  I also want to follow up with Jason (the skeptical seeker of truth) and these two people we met named Kim and John.  I'm excited.

To close, I just wanted to leave you with some revelation I received at Patrick's baptism.  I was sitting there thinking about why baptisms are such a highlight of missions.  Everyone wants to know about the baptisms.  While I was there at Patrick's baptism, I realized that baptisms aren't the incredible experience they are because someone is wearing white in a font of water and getting dunked.  Baptisms are the sacred and amazing experience that they are because they are the epitome of the actual best part of missionary work: getting to watch people change and come closer to the Savior, Jesus Christ.  That is the best part of a mission, and I am so thankful that I get to be a missionary.

I love you so much family, and I can't wait to talk to you more on Christmas!
Sister Emily

1001 N Burk Street
Gilbert, AZ

Patrick's baptism

Rachel's baptism

Gilbert members don't let their sisters go without Christmas

Missionary shoes

Monday, December 12, 2016

Countdown to Christmas!!

Hi Family!

Christmas is just around the corner and I could not be more excited!  I just have to get passed the fact that to people visiting it feels like the middle of summer and to me it feels more like late fall.  Other than that, there is a lot of Christmas excitement and it sometimes inclines others to be a little nicer to us missionaries.  Sister Burden and Sister Wells have been caroling to people as a way to share our message of Jesus Christ, so Sister Miller and I decided to try it.  It's been fun to see the smiles on peoples faces the majority of the time.

One really festive thing that I am loving about this area is something called Christmas on Comstock.  Comstock is a street that I live near, and they won a competition for best lights a few years back.  Every single yard is decked out in lights and they sync it with music while people drive or walk through.  The line of cars was so long that it was causing traffic on a main road!  It's nuts!  Sister Miller and I try to go any night we can and talk to people.  It made me realize just how well known missionaries are in Arizona.  I'm used to members yelling, "hi Sisters!" as we bike by, but I wasn't expecting to hear people of other faiths yell, "Hi Mormon Sisters!" as we rode past.  It definitely made me happy.  Christmas just makes people friendlier.

This week at the Old Folks home was a blast!  I've gotten to know a lady by the name of Jean there.  When our zone went, I got to help her watercolor a picture of a Christmas tree.  I think I've been adopted as her unofficial granddaughter.  She gave me the picture that she painted, so I have it proudly hanging on my wall at the house.  The Old Folks home that we go to is for memory care, so a lot of the times, I have the same conversation with them every 15 minutes.  It's so sad, but you can't help but just love them so much.  Jean has to keep asking my name, and she lets me know that she really likes the name Sabey and that my mom did a good job.  It's the sweetest.

I had another conversation in Spanish this week with a girl named Luz, and I love seeing how the Lord helps me so I can say what I need to.  Luz told me my Spanish is very good.  She just moved from Chicago and is looking for a church, so missionaries are going to go teach her!

As for Rachel, she passed her baptismal interview, so if all goes smoothly, she will be baptized this Saturday!  She could not be more excited!  We also have a miracle baptism this week for someone named Patrick.  Patrick grew up in one of our wards, had lots of LDS friends, and is now taking the missionary discussions in Alabama where he is going to school.  He wants to be baptized by someone he knows back here, so we get to meet him tomorrow.  I'm excited for him as well.

That's all for this week!  I hope that y'all are doing well!  I love you so much!

Sister Emily

1001 N Burk Street
Gilbert, AZ

Because I'm in the Highland zone

What is Gilbert?

Christmas on Comstock

Monday, December 5, 2016

Good News: I'm Not the Grinch!

Hey there family!

I feel like I don't have much to report on this week, so I want to tell you about the Sister Missionaries that I live with. I already told y'all about my companion, Sister Miller.  She's a lot of fun. She has a fascination with fire, so she almost always has a candle lit during studies.  She also likes a lot of similar things as me.

The other two sisters in my district are Sisters Burden and Wells.  Sister Burden is like the mom.  She wants to make sure everyone is okay and makes sure everyone is included in the house.  She's usually the one I talk to when I have questions about how to missionary.  She's also an incredible singer.  Sister Wells is a lot of fun.  She makes me laugh and she loves to quote the movie Ephraim's Rescue.  She's a little nuts and it makes me happy.

We also live with two other sisters in the Higley Zone.  Their names are Sisters Irvin and Angeloudis.  They are both Sister Training Leaders.  Sister Irvin reminds me of my little sister Sarah to a "T".  She's focus on the work and quirky in the same ways as Sarah.  Sister Angeloudis is from Australia and she does a scary good American accent.  She is absolutely hilarious and I love her a lot.

Anyways, I suppose I should tell you what I did in the work this week.  This week was hard, but I totally learned (once again) that God is so ready to bless us.  For a few days this week I felt like I had no motivation and all I wanted to do was stare at a wall and not talk to anyone ever again, which was especially stressful to me since I felt that I should be the good example as the senior companion, especially where Sister Miller just finished training (eek, responsibility).  But even though I didn't want to, we kept going out and working, and I did what I could even if it wasn't much some days.  But the week ended off completely amazing, and I know that is wouldn't have happened if I had just quit and gone back to bed like I wanted to.

We had a lesson with a recent convert named Leslie who is struggling with her testimony.  I also learned a lesson in humility at her lesson.  We taught her the Plan of Salvation again, and it was going pretty well . . . and then Sister Miller would go off on a tangent.  I would sit there like, "where is she going with this?" and wait until I, the "experienced" missionary, could reel things back in (please note the immense amount of sarcasm in that statement).  But every time she would go off in a direction that I didn't understand, it always seemed to end with the exact words that Leslie needed to hear.  Boy, did I rethink my life when I realized that.  It helped me remember not to be prideful and that the Spirit speaks to different people in different ways.  By the end of the lesson, Leslie put together that the reason she has been struggling is because she lost sight of the bigger picture.  That was really awesome to see.

Sister Miller and I had another shift at the Mesa Temple Lights.  One lady asked me how long I had been out, and I told her almost seven months. Her response was "Oh! Almost half way!" NOOOOOOOOOOO! Other than that, our shift was wonderful.  I love the Spirit that is ALWAYS at the Temple.  It's awesome.  As part of our job at the Mesa Temple Lights, we are given referral cards to give to people who want missionaries to come teach them.  Even though it happened last week, usually people don't magically come and straight up ask.  That's where the missionaries come in.  We were talking to one guy who was there.  I asked if it was his first time visiting, and he said it was.  Long story short, I asked if he would like representatives from our church to come teach him more and he said YES!  I don't know what happen from that, but it was cool to see how differently the conversation went because I listened to the promptings of the spirit and opened my mouth.

The missionaries in the Highland Zone get to volunteer and help out at a memory care center each week.  I think that is going to be one of my favorite parts of being in this area.  We went and I got to talk to so many wonderful people, and I could see how it just made them happy.  One lady started crying and kissing my hand because of how happy it made her.  I'm excited to go back. I hear it's a different adventure every time, so I'm sure there are stories to come.

Last story of today, we had a lesson with Rachel.  We went through all the commandments so we can make sure we have taught her everything in time for December 17, when she will be baptized.  Her testimony is so solid that is amazes me every time we teach her.  She is so dedicated to following the Lord. We also went over to her house yesterday to watch the Christmas Devotional with her and Alex.  Their little son, Devin, informed me while we were there that I am "not the Grinch".  Apparently Sister Miller is also not actually called "Sister Miller".  We are "Sisters".  I don't think Devin has figured out that we aren't actually his older sisters.  It's too cute.  Anyway, Rachel loved the Devotional and we went over a few things to get ready for her baptism, and she is so ready.  I love teaching Rachel and being a missionary.

I hope everything is going well at home and that everyone is getting excited for Christmas!  I can't wait to talk to you! Twenty days and counting!  I love you and I am excited to hear from you soon!
Sister Emily

1001 N Burk Street
Gilbert, AZ

December 1st of #LightTheWorld: Jesus Lifted Others' Burdens and So Can We
Here's Sister Wells and Sister Miller lifting Sister Burden

Me at Mesa Temple Lights

This is our Christmas Tree