Monday, June 17, 2013

Editorial Note

Emily's younger brother Alan received his mission call to serve for 24 months in the Texas Fort Worth Mission speaking Spanish.  He actually leaves Sept 18th, not the 11th, and is going to the Missionary Training Center in Mexico City. He sent an email to Emily with the announcement but did not have a complete address, hence the confusion.

Oh That I were an Angel

Dear Family,

Congratulations Alan!!! I'm assuming from what I've deduced of Mom's and Dad's letters that you're going to the Texas Fort Worth mission, Spanish speaking via the Mexico MTC, leaving September 11th? I don't know if the email was never written, never sent or misdirected, but I didn't actually get it.  Congrats all the same! That's so exciting! I did forget to include my guess in my last email, so you'll have to trust me that I'm being honest. I guessed Texas for state side and Mexico for foreign!! haha. I've been working on my discernment skills (make way for the lightning!!)  ;)  If I got any of the details wrong, I'd love to have them corrected. I'm so excited you're coming to Texas! I actually had a dream this week after thinking right before bed "what if Alan got called to San Antonio?" that we were in the same mission and I saw you at a mission meeting. You had grown to be 6'4" and when I ran up to give you a hug, I felt like a midget. Maybe it's symbolic for spiritual growth. :) You're going to be such a good missionary. 

Dad, Happy Father's Day!! I realized yesterday that this year is the second of three Father's Days that I wasn't able to/won't be able to call home. The upside is, right after the next one, I'll basically be able to tell you in person. In our Sacrament meeting yesterday, Sister Forsyth spoke about Fathers and she asked a question that made me think. "Why did we need to leave Heavenly Father's presence in order to learn and grow?" She compared it to leaving home and learning how to appreciate your parents more. So true!! Both points. One thing that I am increasingly grateful for every day of my mission is my wonderful, Priesthood holding, Christ exemplifying Dad. I can't even begin to express how many scummy men I have met on my mission, and how downright floored I am to be the recipient of such a blessing as such a Dad. Thank you so much for being who you are and always being an example, and always being my Dad. I love you. I also know that Heavenly Father loves each of us and is mindful of us. He did send us to earth to grow and I am increasingly amazed to realize more and more how perfectly he knows us and teaches us. Life is hard, but I'm so grateful to be here, because it's so worth it.

I enjoyed hearing about all of the yard work changes this week. I vote for a cookout pad beneath the deck. I think that sounds like a lot of fun!! I can relate to the bug bites too. Every night we go out (which is every night) we come back in with a few new red, bumpy, itchy battle wounds. I've got a massive bite from something or other on my wrist right beneath my watch strap that bled when I first got it and turned into a super itchy, semi-purple goose egg. It's looking like it's getting better though, so I'm not going to worry about it too much.

Congrats on the new RS presidency and surviving Father's Day. It's so fun to hear about the Sister Missionaries in your area as well. We've talked about this a couple of times this week, one of the ways going on a mission changes you, is you understand the missionaries, because you literally walk several thousand miles in their shoes, haha. All of those years the missionaries would come over and we would ask them how their day had gone and they would give a vague, nondescript answer, I now know exactly what they were thinking and could have said if they had wanted to. I feel for Sister B. She'll be great. Training is hard at first, but it's not really as bad as we freak ourselves out to thinking it's going to be.

I'll start with the sad news first and then move on to the happier stuff. We got dropped by I this week. We had an appointment set up with her for 6 and even had a member there to teach with us. When we got to her house, she was on her way out to dinner. After asking if we could reschedule for a bit later, she told us she had decided that she wanted to stick with her church and didn't want to read the Book of Mormon any more. We gave each other hugs and said goodbye, and that was that. Ouch!! That was a heart breaking moment. I love that woman so much, and I know that the answers to questions she has had for years and YEARS are contained in the Book of Mormon. And her questions aren't just gee whiz kinds of things, they are questions of the soul. It just killed me to have that moment of hugs and goodbye. When that happens, you just have to turn your investigator over to Heavenly Father and trust that he really does know what's best for them, and in their own time and His, it'll work out. I may never see her again, but I sure hope she'll be ready someday, and I'll give her a big hug when I see her in Heaven. 

An RCLA named K is really struggling with the gospel right now, and I'm crying for her as well. She has always struggled with her marriage and was hopeful that when she joined the church, it would help things to improve. Unfortunately, J likes to blame her participation in the church for their problems, and so whenever she goes or we come to visit, problems flare up. Her faith is really wavering, and it's so hard to know how to tell her that she has to keep the commandments in order to receive the guidance that she needs when all she sees is that keeping the commandments cause problems. She hasn't been to church in a month, even though she knows it's true, and without the Sacrament to apply the Atonement and invite the spirit, she's really having a rough time. So pray for K.

We had a great lesson this week with J. We taught her and L the plan of salvation, and her biggest problem with it, is that it's too good to be true. J has had a hard life and her attitude, while surprisingly not bitter, is just very realist. "Life's tough and then you die." To her, the idea that there's a loving Heavenly Father, that we lived with him before we came to earth, that the Atonement is real and allows us to return to live with him again is "too much of a fairy tale." She doesn't think it has any grounding in "the real world." However, she did feel the spirit as we were teaching her, and I'm having faith that eventually, it's going to sink in. That lesson also made me realize once again how blessed we are to know about Heavenly Father's plan for us. It truly is a beautiful, loving and merciful plan, and I am so grateful to be a part of it. I'm so grateful for the Restoration of the gospel that brought the knowledge of that plan back to full light. I'm grateful for the Atonement that makes it possible.

Dad, I really loved your thought of the week (surprise, surprise, I always do.) Poor Sister L is so sick of hearing how much I love the commandments, but I really do. I love them. People are always trying to find loopholes to living the commandments, but really, commandments are the loophole. They allow the Atonement of Jesus Christ to be applied in our lives which is the great loophole to avoiding the consequences of eternal laws that we can fulfill by ourselves. I also really loved your point about the increased maturity of Nephi's thoughts and about the difference between being in the MTC and in the field. The MTC does fill you with a lot of unrealistic expectations, and I understand why. But every missionary struggles when they get to the field with trying to decide if they're really doing enough or if the reason they're not seeing success is because their faith is wavering. I know that Heavenly Father has provided a way for all of his children to receive exaltation if they choose it. I am part of that plan, but all I can do is keep the commandments and invite others to do the same. That's all there is too it. Sometimes, it doesn't work out the way you think it will in the MTC, but that's ok, because it's Heavenly Father's perfect plan, and not the faulty one I would choose if I were in charge. "Oh that I were an angel! But I do sin in my wish, for I ought to be contented to the things which God has allotted me." (something like that.)

I love you all so much. We see miracles every day, even when they're just little ones. For example, an investigator we passed over to the Elders after a lot of non success finally came back to church this week. I was teaching gospel principles this week, and since he was the only investigator there, I was able to completely revamp the lesson we planned and tailor it specifically to his needs. Blessings. We were knocking yesterday and found a woman named L who was baptized when she was 13 and always wanted to be a missionary, but got married to a man that didn't like the church and hasn't been since then. I'm sure she's not on anyone's records and has been MIA for many many years. We're going to see her tomorrow morning. Blessings. Stuff like that. Little things that happen all the time that just let you know that Heavenly Father is mindful. He loves us and he has a plan for us.

Keep up the good work everyone! I love you all so much!!!


Monday, June 10, 2013

Amazing how often you walk out of the closet and find that you match

Hermana Christensen and Sister L


One night Emily and her companion noticed a rustling in the grass when they got home and found giant frogs!

June 10, 2013

Dear Family,

Who has the cutest niece in the whole wide world? Sister Christensen does!!! I can't wait to get pictures of her! Every time they show up in my email, I show all of the other sisters and we have an "awwwww" moment, and then remember we're in the library and ought to be quiet. Well done Steven and Lisa.

Glad you all survived the great move-a-palooza. Everyone is off safe and sound, and hopefully for the better. This week I actually used the nail file Sister B gave me at my farewell and I thought about her for a few minutes. Sad to see (figuratively) the Es go, but this means I'll get to see them more in the long run when I'm back at school!! Woohoo for me!

Transfer news . . . 10 points for me for guessing everything right. Sister L and I are staying together in Del Rio for another transfer (yay!!!!!!!!!!!), as are Sister I (who is also the new Sister Training Leader on the Border) and Sister A. Elder Cl is flying home on Wednesday (that one wasn't so hard to predict) and Elder Cr is being transferred. Elder H and Elder S (their companions respectively), are both staying here, and we will have a new district leader. I'm excited for the change. I've always liked changes, but I think they're really important in missionary work to keep ideas and motivation fresh. You learn a lot from the people you work with, so if you get more chances to work with more people, it makes sense that you would learn more.

I also realized that this week, I will be 25% done with my mission. At the end of this transfer, I will hit my 6 month mark, which means I'm basically done. Oh my goodness, where has the time gone?!?!?!?!? It's crazy! When you're working hard, you feel great and the time just slips through your fingers. Before I know it, I'll be facing the same fate as Elder Cl. 

I'm not sure where to start this week. It was a weird one, because we celebrated Hermana L's birthday on Tuesday, and then she was sick on Wednesday and we had to stay home the whole day. I learned some things from that experience though. First, a missionary is happiest when they are working their tail off. Second, Heavenly Father really loves us enough to arrange even the insignificant things for our good. Tuesday night, I was feeling so great about being a missionary. I couldn't wait to get up the next morning and go out to work and teach the whole world. When I woke up, I was not feeling it at all. Honestly, I think think this was a tender mercy to help me be patient with a whole day of being at home and cleaning/studying/cooking. Sister Lalso got sick not on her birthday, but the day after, and because we were home, we were able to receive a package with perishable items in it that came later than it was supposed to, and that would have been a disaster if it had been left out in the heat. All in all, it was still a good day, but when we got back out on Thursday, I realized how much happier I am when I'm working. Even when your investigators drop you and your RCLAs don't come to church, Heavenly Father blesses you with satisfaction so that you know you're still doing ok. 

He also blesses you with chastisement when you need it. Friday, we had the marvelous opportunity to participate in a live mission broadcast with Elder Tad R. Callister of the presidency of the seventy. He's the one that spoke in General Conference a few times ago about the Bible and the Book of Mormon and used the analogy of two dots on a page to talk about how they support and clarify each other. I used that analogy ALL THE TIME to explain to people that we really do believe the Bible, but the Book of Mormon is also the word of God. Anyway, for his closing remarks, Elder Callister talked about how to become a consecrated missionary. I took detailed notes about everything he said, the whole time feeling acutely everything that I should be doing better to become a better missionary. Chastisement is great, because it helps you to progress. But Heavenly Father knows we are still human. Right before closing, Elder Callister talked about the difference between Elders and Sisters. In essence he said "I'm sure all of you sisters have a detailed list of all the things you need to do to improve (I did), and all of you Elders, if I asked you, would scratch your heads and say, 'Well give me a minute. Maybe I'll be able to think of something I can do better.'" I realized again that yes, I can always improve, but as long as I'm doing my best, as long as YOU are all doing YOUR best, Heavenly Father is proud of you and will help you to be better. Before I was done, "patience with self" was added to the top of my list.  :)

I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. We are trying to focus more on reading it with our investigators from the get-go and having them read it themselves to receive their own answers. As we have done so, we still don't have anyone getting baptized, but the quality of our investigators has improved. Saturday, we stopped by and visited I (the one who did the quinceanera for her daughter) and asked if she had been able to read the Book of Mormon or not. She said no, that she isn't convinced it's true because the language is "so modern." We read in 2 Nephi 31:3 and talked about God and how he wants us to be able to understand, so he speaks in simple language. I love that! I love that the BoM is so simple and understandable. Heavenly Father really and truly does not try to complicate things. He wants it to be straightforward and understandable, so he gave us the BoM. Don't complain because of the "easiness of the way." I's desire is to find faith and for God to be able to use her. She said she prays every day "God, show me what I can do. Use me!" but that he never answers her. We told her, "I, this is your answer. God sent you two white girls that can barely speak Spanish to give you this book so that you could read it and know for yourself that it's true. The reason that nothing else you have tried works, is because it's all the same. The fact that this is different should be a sign to you." We told her she's not allowed to give up on the Book of Mormon until she has read and prayed about 1 and 2 Nephi. If she hasn't felt anything then, we'll talk some more. That was enough to get her to church on Sunday. She came for all three hours and still wasn't convinced at the end, but she had read a lot of the BoM overnight. We told her that we can't convince her, and we won't even try to. The Spirit has to testify that what we are saying is true, and that is the only thing that will make a difference. I'm praying every day that her heart will be softened because I know that the BoM is true and has incredible converting power from the spirit it invites as we read, but it won't make a difference if she doesn't give place in her heart for that seed to grow.    

On a similar BoM note, we found out that J believes the Joseph Smith story, but hasn't ever read in the BoM. I'm sure that's why she doesn't feel comfortable coming to church, because she hasn't experienced the converting power of the BoM. We're going to start reading with them tomorrow as a family, and I just pray that she will gain a testimony as well. Her son, A, who is 8 still comes to church with us every Sunday and loves it.

We've started teaching a woman named C and her twins S and S (who are 12 and adorable!!!!) from the BoM. We only ever have about 15 minutes at a time to teach them, but they are all reading from the BoM and C always says "seems to me like it's the same kind of stories and teaches the same things as the Bible." Finally someone who gets it!!!! What a breath of fresh air.

 Today's title of the week is sponsored by many of the less actives here in Del Rio, and really everybody else we teach as well. Whenever somebody knows they need to do something but doesn't want to do it, they say "I'll try." That means no. That is the biggest self deception I have ever heard in my life. "I'll try." Yoda had it right 100%. Do it, or don't do it. None of this "I'll try" business. If you know you need to be at church, get your lazy rear out of bed and get there. If you know you need to read your scriptures, open them up and read them! It's a skill most of us learned by 1st grade! If you know you need to pray more, get down on your knees and do it!! If you know you're miserable and the gospel will make you happy, live it!! It's not that hard. Heavenly Father makes it simple and easy to understand and possible through the Atonement. Just do it! And stop making excuses. Do it. Do it, Do it!! Live your covenants. Keep the commandments and be happy! J and B G- know this works. Every time we're over there, they bear us their testimonies of how the gospel has blessed their family, and I have seen miracles happen in the 12 weeks I have known them. J said he knew he needed to change when he thought about his kids and the life he wanted them to have. He quit drinking, they started coming to church, now they're paying their tithing and starting to read scriptures as a family and pray together. Every time they start keeping another commandment, the blessings come more and more. They love it! They love going to church and are preparing to go to the temple as a family. J tells us about the sacrifices he has had to make, but that it is so worth it to him. It makes me think of my ancestors and the sacrifices they made so that I could grow up in the church and serve a mission. I am so grateful for them for making those choices. If your testimony and your conversion aren't where they need to be, what are you going to do to fix it? It's worth the sacrifice, and that's a promise. So do it!

I love you all. I love the gospel. I love being a missionary, and I'm so grateful that Heavenly Father trusts me enough to have this opportunity. Be examples. Live what you know to be true. You'll be happier and so will everyone else around you. Just do it! I pray for you all the time, and I love hearing about what's going on.

All my love,