Sunday, June 28, 2015
Good week. Very busy. No more than 10 minutes of down time. We had Zone conference on Wednesday, more iPad training with everyone. President Johnson surprised me by calling me up to speak! With absolutely no prep, it went really well.
PJ (President Johnson) also hinted I might be training next transfer... I'm still a greenie! I'll just have finished training myself.
I spent two hours watching driving safety videos- waiting for the call/ go-ahead to drive. I haven't driven in three months!
So we got permission to send Thomas- our investigator in prison a letter, where we "taught" the first lesson. A little unconventional, but it works. We have community service with the inmates tomorrow, (Produce to People is once a month) so we'll see him again tomorrow where we plan to teach the second lesson. We are going to find a way to teach him no matter what, haha. I'm dying to see if he's been reading.
Katie's Kitchen was an adventure this week. So there's this girl named Jennalynn... She's practicing "wicken," or witchcraft. All the kids at school think mormons are devil worshippers because she hands out Books of Mormon at school. Nice. She has a history of "casting spells" on the missionaries and stalking them. So clearly we are not allowed to contact her, her number is blocked and the bishop even counseled the ward not to have contact with her. I had never met Jennalynn before.
So we're at Katie's, and we were on exchanges so I was with Sister Duncan. A girl comes up and says she's "never heard of the church before." So she says she wants to meet with us. I take down her number because I haven't memorized ours yet (THANK GOODNESS.) and she says her first name is Jennalynn. Hahaha. I kindly ask her for her last name, sure enough- Jennalynn Fix.
The next day she found us at the library and came up "You forgot to text me last night." We've been discovered. Hahah.
There's a lot of people who do witchcraft and wicken stuff around here. PA is weird. I know.
Katie's is always interesting. There's one guy in particular who doesn't like us, we were talking to someone by him, and he interrupted and said "you know you're talking to mormons don't you?" Haha. I also got asked to marry two people this week. Fun stuff.
This time a lady walked in with no shoes, and she told us she didn't have any. So we ran down the street and bought her a few pairs of flip flops... She was so happy.. She lit up.(:
So we now have four spanish investigators!
We're working with Lamonte towards baptism.
We taught Bill the Word of Wisdom this week, it was interesting. He is still struggling with D&C. He brought his mom to church this week, which proved for an interesting sacrament meeting.
Viewing sacrament meeting from the eyes of your investigators really changes things. You listen to every word the speakers say, hoping, literally praying they won't say anything crazy haha. I have realized what talks are supposed to be, what testimonies are supposed to be. Doctrine. Simple. Imagine someone in the congregation is investigating the church- what would you want them to hear? I love the sacrament meetings where you walk out feeling like you've just taught them a lesson haha.
This week we stopped in to see Phyllis again and surprise her. She is all the way to Jacob 5 (in 2 weeks.) We read a chapter with her, I can see why she understands so well. She would stop us and re read a verse, or ask questions. She then said
"I really enjoy this book. I know it's true. Everything I have read is true. I know without a doubt Lehi and Nephi were called as prophets."
Moments like that are what make a mission.
I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I left 3, almost 4 months ago. The mission has proved to be harder than I ever thought it would be, but I had no idea just how worth it it would be. The experiences on a mission are priceless.
I never talked to anyone about is how much I debated whether or not I was making the right decision before I left, and even my first while out here. Every day was different. I questioned my call so much.
It only took a few weeks into the MTC before I knew I was in the right place.
The answer came to me so clearly that a mission is never the wrong choice. I didn't understand it then, it seemed not the answer I wanted. But I do now. And I can't imagine if I had made the choice not to go.
"If we have faith in Jesus Christ, the hardest as well as the easiest times in life can be a blessing. In all conditions, we can choose the right with the guidance of the Spirit. We have the gospel of Jesus Christ to shape and guide our lives if we choose it. And with prophets revealing to us our place in the plan of salvation, we can live with perfect hope and a feeling of peace. We never need to feel that we are alone or unloved in the Lord’s service because we never are. We can feel the love of God. The Savior has promised angels on our left and our right to bear us up. And He always keeps His word."
That's all. The church is true💜
Friday, June 26, 2015
Another good week in PA. A lot of my time this week was spent entering our area books online. Soooo much work, and our area just condensed two areas so we have two area books to enter, which means we're typing and entering every lesson and person ever taught and recorded. Funnnn. We've tried to keep it entertaining by doing it on Main, wherever we can find wifi. Despite the hoursssss spent entering info we still had a good week.
This week was Jeep Festival downtown here. The Jeep was actually invented right here in Butler of all places, haha. So the road was blocked off and everyone with a jeep could drive down Main. Over 3,000 jeeps showed. The line to drive through was like 5 miles. Kinda cool. I got interviewed by one of the TV crews there representing Jeep, haha. Signed a release form and everything. They asked me who I worked for, and I told them I was a missionary for the church. Accidental advertising haha.
We got to meet the Spanish speaking guy we talked to in walmart on Tuesday! We really don't know how to pronounce his name... but it sounded something like Guacamole, so that'll work for now. He brought his friend Alejandro. They are in the US for the summer working. They helped us with our Spanish, and we helped them with their English. Conversation quickly turned to them wanting to know about the church. What is starting as language practice will lead to something more. They both asked for Libros de Mormon. Fue muy bien para usar nuestros Espanol! Finalmente. Ahora vamos a visitar con ellos cada semana. Las personas Mexicanas son el mejor. Todos son simpatico y amoroso, es sus culturas. Estamos ensendando a las tres personas en Espanol ahora! Estamos haciendo alguna cosa correcta!
We got to see Ivan again this week, he still feeds us dinners haha. Ivan is very racist, he hates Mexicans, and gets a little jealous when we see our Mexican friends, haha. Ivan is a special one!
Bill has made so much progress since we met him. When we first met him I really never thought I would be able to help him, the scientist with all his deep deep doctrinal questions and concerns. He has picked the Book of Mormon apart, word for word, line for line for 20 years, I felt so inadequate for the job haha, my knowledge being very basic. I thought he would need a much more experienced missionary, haha. I've come to realize my basic, simple knowledge is exactly what he needs. He needs to get to the root of it.
Is it true or is it not true?
His baptismal date is still set for July 11, but we still have a lot to teach him, including the Word of Wisdom. He surprised us by bringing his mom to a baptismal service we invited him to on Saturday and to church yesterday. She was nice, and by the end of the day she said "Wow, I'm really shocked. I didn't think you guys were Christians."
Isn't that interesting that nobody thinks we are Christians...? The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter Day Saints? Hmmm. Our religion is possibly the most misunderstood.
Anyway, Bill has really come around. When we first started teaching him, he would tell us how the Book of Mormon was true, but the church today was not. He still has some issues with D&C, but he is really a changed person since we first met him. He understands now.
This week at Katie's we met some more interesting people. We met another nice guy who casually struck a conversation as I poured his drink. "Oh hi, you look very nice today. Oh yeah, I'd throw the Book of Mormon in an incinerator if I could."
Haha. We actually ended up seeing him later this week and were able to teach him and he said he'd read it. (1 Point missionaries)
I got to go back and teach the family of seven. We were on splits that night, so I was with a member in the ward. I was really nervous knowing I would have to do all the teaching on my own, haha. But it went so well, and she will be bringing her family to church this week (hopefully.) Her husband hasn't warmed up to the idea of Mormon missionaries yet, but I think he will.
Kind of funny. None of the members will even go with us into the areas we live in teach. (Downtown Butler) Too dangerous. Hahah.
We had lots of crazy weather this week. Flash floods all week and a tornado went though Butler. The storms are so cool here, it doesn't rain here, it DUMPS. And the lightning and thunder is awesome. Never more than a few second in between lightning. On our way to our dinner appt Thursday we had to stop and walk because a huge tree had fallen and blocked the road. (In the storm.) by the time we got to the members house, they had all their things ready to take downstairs for the tornado haha.
I have gotten to see fireflies for the first time! They are just starting to come out, they're amazing! Feels like you're in a movie.
The highlight of my week was returning to visit Phyllis, the Roman Catholic older lady. First we asked her if she had started reading the Book of Mormon. In 5 days, she had read all of first and second Nephi.. Not only that, but she said she would pray after every chapter. She has been very sick, and has quite a bit of pain when she talks, yet she said she reads aloud every time so she "Understands and doesn't forget anything."
"I didn't know God commanded someone else other than Noah to build a ship." (Nephi)
"I don't like how those two brothers treated their brother." (Laman and Lemuel)
When we first met Phyllis, she told us she does not attend her own church because of her bad back, but when we asked her if she would go with us this week, she said "Well, I don't have any skirts or dresses. Can I wear my blue jeans?"
She is so sweet and cute. She told us she feels comfort when she reads the Book of Mormon. You don't meet many people like her, let alone anyone that actually reads when you commit them to haha.
We're still teaching in the many halfway/ 3/4 houses in Butler, we lost Ryan this week though. The guys are kicked out of the house if they are caught drinking or doing drugs again. We've witnessed some pretty intense fights in those houses haha. One night we were at Ivan's and some of the guys got home and first started yelling at each other, then it turned to screaming, then it got realll physical haha. Pretty crazy. But that's what you get here. Haha. Sometimes other guys in the house will come out to smoke and join our lessons, so we'll be sitting with sometimes five or six guys, all smoking and covered in tats, teaching haha. What a sight.
Our new district is interesting to say the least. They definitely live up to the Pittsburgh party mission rep... I'll leave it at that haha. Don't worry, the only partying I do is at our halfway houses with all our buds. Jk.
I honestly feel like I have smoked after walking out of lessons, everyone smokes here, during our lessons. I'm always struggling not to cough or choke haha. It has brought our some asthmatic symptoms. Most nights when we get home we smell like a casino... yummmmm.
Oh!! My other highlight.. Thomas called yesterday!! We got a call from a number we didn't know and there was a recorded message saying to press 1 to accept a call from Butler Prison. We only had literally 30 seconds with him until it cut us off, but he called to tell us he hadn't gotten out, but to keep praying for him, he has a court date Tuesday and might have another chance. He sounded pretty down in the dumps, I hope he gets out. Sister Davis and I were so bummed when he didn't get out the first time, but then we started thinking- maybe it has given him more time to read the Book of Mormon we sent in. We'll see! If he doesn't get out we will be sending written lessons through the guy in our ward who goes into the prison regularly.
Thank you for all the letters and support! Much appreciated. Keep them coming💜
"...everyone needs to be able to look forward to some respite, to something pleasant and renewing and hopeful, whether that blessing be near at hand or still some distance ahead. It is enough just to know we can get there, that however measured or far away, there is the promise of good things to come. My declaration is that this is precisely what the gospel of Jesus Christ offers us, especially in times of need. There is help. There is happiness. There really is light at the end of the tunnel."
"Now, I wish to encourage those who are in the midst of hard trials, who feel their faith may be fading under the onslaught of troubles. Trouble itself can be your way to strengthen and finally gain unshakable faith. Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come."
Nos vemos. The church is true.
Xoxo Hermana Sears 💜
Sunday, June 14, 2015
Can you believe it'll be three months on Thursday? Wow. Not a whole lot to report this week.
Monday was great, That morning we were planning who we should see that day, we planned it all out. Then the thought popped into my head we should go see Sister Pait, the woman who just lost her husband. So we sat down and completely re-planned out day and our lessons because she lives on the other side of town. When we arrived at her house, to our surprise she answered the door. When I asked how she was doing she said "Today is our anniversary." and broke down. I broke down too, haha. We spent the night listening to her tell stories, show us pictures, etc. We were so glad we were able to be there on such a tough day.
We got to serve dinner at Katie's Kitchen again Thursday. I love it, haha. One guy was talking to us, then realized we were "the mormons." And he went off, haha. Our friends who we serve with every week there chimed in to stick up for us "Don't worry, they're good mormons. Not like that bad mormon." They were referring to the prophet, talk about a back-handed compliment!
I am getting better at handling the.... unfriendly people haha. Sometimes sister davis and I wonder if common sense or courtesy exists here. But I am getting better. Once we convince them no, we are not polygamists, and we are not sister wives, then sometimes they'll listen. Interesting enough everyone here loves Mitt Romney , which makes no sense.
We got to watch L. Tom Perry's funeral Friday. Did you guys watch that? It was so good. Even President Monson spoke.
We met our fair share of crazies this week. Yesterday we found ourselves accidentally in a "mentally disturbed home." Made some friends there, woops.
Also yesterday when we went to one of our appointments the guy's reply was "Well, I've got company upstairs undressed. But how long will this take?" Haha k..... we rescheduled.
I've still got my greenie fire, haha. I talk to everyone still. saw a Spanish speaking guy at Walmart and got so excited I had to talk to him haha, we have an appointment with him tomorrow. I even talk to the people we used to pass by that told us "I'm catholic." "I'm this." "I'm that." I now talk to anyway. This is how we met Phyllis, yes, A GIRL investigator! Haha. She said "I'm Roman Catholic." Rather than leaving after that I asked if she would like to listen anyway. She did. Since then she has begun reading the Book of Mormon, and loves it!
Both Bill and Ivan came to church this Sunday. Bill is a tricky one. It is very hard to try and answer all the questions of a scientist who has picked apart the book for 20 years. We finally just told him none of those questions matter, it all comes down to whether or not it is true. He is getting baptized, but we have a lot of work to do before then. He believes this church is "the most true church, 99.99%" We have to get him to 100% first, haha.
Ivan is so great, he invites us for Puerto Rican food all the time now.
Kind of funny, we're now teaching five different people in three different half-way houses in Butler. Butler made national headlines for it's heroine problem this past week. I guess they broke records for five people dying in ten days. It's a serious problem here.
Good news though, we are now teaching a family of seven.(: So this is what a normal mission is like?
One last thing, I guess my speeding record is finally catching up with me haha. I haven't been able to drive because of my record, but good news- on the 17th I will be watching a two and a half hour video and "going on a drive" with the fleet coordinator to examine my driving. Hahaha. What ,do they think I'm going to speed while they're in the car?
Sorry for the brief letter this week, there's a little update. The church is true!
Sorry for the brief letter this week, there's a little update. The church is true!
Monday, June 1, 2015
Good news or bad news first?
Good news- our investigator Thomas is getting out of prison on Tuesday! We did community service with the inmates on Tuesday and we got to see him. We actually taught him the entire message of the restoration to him. He has started reading the Book of Mormon that we sent into him. I can't wait to teach him.
The bad news- our investigator Rastis is going back to prison. Funny story actually... We walked in Rite Aid one day and we see him so we say hello... And then six cops follow behind him escorting him out hahaha. That's Butler for ya.
Okay so here's some updates and highlights of this week.
We see Ivan all over the place now, our Puerto Rican friend. One day we were walking downtown and I saw a guy way down the street waving us down. It was Ivan, who came to say hello. We went back to the house Sunday night (last night) again for dinner. We love teaching in Spanish. Even though Ivan speaks English very well, we teach in Spanish. There is always a different spirit.
We met with the woman whose husband was just killed in a car accident. We had actually tried to go out and see her many times before this, she is a less active member. She never answered. Kind of ironic that we are coming now. She asked questions like "Where is he?" "What is he doing?" "How do you know?" She and her husband were never sealed in the temple, so we will be working towards that.
Bill, the man we met who had been studying the Book of Mormon for 20 years is great. He came to Book of Mormon class on Wednesday and to church yesterday. He has been studying it for 20 years but somehow has missed the key doctrine. When we met with him Saturday he told us he knew we were the answer to his prayers.
I'm really excited for Lamonte and his family. They are the family that have been taught by missionaries since last year. When the missionaries first found their family it was the dad who wanted to do this for/ with his family, but since has never sat in on a lesson, and neither parent has come to church. Their mom said she wanted to wait until her husband was ready. Last week something was so different. After our lesson, their mom and dad said they will be coming to church this week.
We taught our newest investigator Ron, who we met on Main Street. He even missed "bike night" for our appointment. Haha. He pulled up on his Harley and bandana on, and after recounting the first vision and Joseph smith, we asked how he felt. "Peaceful," was not what we expected to hear. He said he would like to bring his 13 year old son to church this week.
We did encounter a lot of.... Unfriendly people this week. Quite a few anti Mormon people around here. It seems everyone spends so much time opposing our church but no time on what they actually believe. Who get all their information from anti-mormon sources, then throw facts at us. It really wrecks your day and your spirit.
Church yesterday was great. Sacrament meeting was so amazing, if I do say so myself. Jk. Hahah, I spoke along with our newly called ward mission leader and a girl who just returned from her mission early for medical reasons. Here it is!
A little bit about myself... I'm from Salt Lake City Utah, home of the Mormons. Both of my parents were converts, but I was born and raised in the church. I've been here about six weeks now, this is my first area, yes I'm a greenie. I was called to the Pittsburgh Pennsylvania mission, Spanish speaking.
Growing up in Utah I really took for granted that I was constantly surrounded by the gospel and members of the church, it was everywhere. Literally, there was a church on every other block. You can see four temples out our windows at home. There are over 200 missionaries currently serving from my graduating class. It was only when I left home, the "bubble," and came on my mission that I have gained a true understanding and appreciation of the gospel. Any one will tell you that the first person you convert on your mission is yourself. I can attest to that wholeheartedly.
I always had a testimony. I always went to church, and I always prayed and read. That's what they teach you in primary isn't it? I knew the church was true, the Book of Mormon was true, and Joseph smith was a prophet. I had never even questioned questioning the things I had known all my life. It wasn't until I got here that I realized my testimony had to be stronger, and unshakable.
I don't think it's fair to discount a persons conversion or testimony because they were baptized at age 8, nor do I think any great conversion story needs to involve not being raised in the church. 19 years later and I am a true convert to this gospel.
Why do we do missionary work? And I'm not only referring to full time missionaries that wear a name tag. As members we do missionary work because we want to share what we have. We know the happiness this gospel brings.
Assuming that Mormons are only trying to increase numbers is assuming two things; one- we do not care about them, and two- we do not truly believe what we say we do. We have the knowledge that families can be together for eternity, not "til death do we part." We know the purpose of this life, and we hold in our hearts the key for eternal happiness. If we claim to care so much about someone, even to "love them," would we keep that to ourselves? If we are not sharing that with the people around us, it is our own testimonies that need to be strengthened.
As missionaries we have quite of bit of time to study. Four hours every morning- personal study, companion study, language study, and for me, training. The more I study deeper into doctrine the more I realize how simple they are. How simple the doctrine of Christ is. It really all comes down to the five things found in the fourth article of faith:
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are:
first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ;
third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins;
fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
These things are repeated, again and again in the scriptures. It is so simple. What I have come to understand is that even though the scriptures took place more than 2,000 years ago, the people found in it are not so different than you or I. I have always wondered what it would be like to live in their time- the time of Nephi and Alma, Mosiah and Helaman. I realized, how is it any different today? If we were to have "plates," or scriptures of our time, we would read about the great prophet Thomas S. Monson, and the twelve apostles. What we hear in conference is scripture. Think about in the Book of Mormon, you see over and over again a pride cycle. The people are blessed for following the Lord and keeping the commandments, and so they become rich both "spiritually and temporally." They stray from the path and forget what's important. And then they are visited by a prophet, telling them to "repent." Or their city is destroyed, everything is taken back they were given. And again they are humbled and turn to the Lord. We see this cycle in our lives and our world. Although the ground may not shake, or cities be destroyed, we are humbled through our modern trials. We are reminded, told, to repent- by the prophet and his apostles in general conference. And the cycle continues. It is possible that people in the future could read a record of the ancient prophets and apostles- Monson, Holland, Bednar.
We are living in the time of the "last days," where the gospel has been restored. The only thing that's really changed is technology- the way the prophets travel and the way the gospel is now spread.
President Uchtdorf said: "This is one of the most remarkable periods of the world’s history! Ancient prophets yearned to see our day."
"Let us be awake and not be weary of well-doing, for we “are laying the foundation of a great work, even preparing for the return of the Savior... when we add the light of our example as a witness to the beauty and power of restored truth, we will not sleep through the Restoration"
President Eyring reminded us of he promise we made at baptism:
"...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 is why you have a feeling to want to help a person struggling to move forward under a load of grief and difficulty. You promised that you would help the Lord make their burdens light and be comforted. You were given the power to help lighten those loads when you received the gift of the Holy Ghost.
We have been blessed with the burden of feeling others grief, bearing others burdens, mourning with those that mourn. And we have Christ as our greatest example of this, taking on not some, but all of this.
Elder Holland spoke about how focusing on the atonement helps full time missionaries, member missionaries, and mission leaders:
He answered the question as to why missionary work was hard. "Because salvation was never a cheap experience."
"For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.
If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way.
When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived.
To those of you who have been blessed by the gospel for many years because you were fortunate enough to find it early, to those of you who have come to the gospel by stages and phases later, and to those of you--members and not yet members--who may still be hanging back, to each of you, one and all, I testify of the renewing power of God’s love and the miracle of His grace. His concern is for the faith at which you finally arrive, not the hour of the day in which you got there.
So many people speak about when they get home from their missions getting "normal" again. Their friends and family make it their "job" to do so. What does normal mean? In our world today, our missions are the closest to "real life" anyone will ever be.
This last conference you may remember the talk by Bishop Gérald Caussé, where he asked "Is the gospel still wonderful to you?"
He invited us to do three things:
"First, never tire of discovering or rediscovering the truths of the gospel.
Second, anchor your faith in the plain and simple truths of the gospel.
Lastly, I invite you to seek and cherish the companionship of the Holy Ghost."
As a missionary I have heard over and over again, pray that you will love the people you are serving. They do not tell you how much harder, how much more heartbreaking, how much more personal the work becomes when you have this love for them. Each day the weight on my shoulders gets heavier. I am responsible for the greatest work on this earth and in heaven here for this short time. And maybe I am here for one person, maybe I am learning Spanish for one person, but for them it will be worth it.
We have all been trusted with quite a bit of responsibility as members. It is possible we promised someone before this life we would bring them the gospel. Or that Heavenly Father trusted us enough that we were given the knowledge we have, and we were raised with the knowledge of the gospel.
I am here because I love this gospel, which I know to be true. I am grateful for the pure and simple truths that are the gospel.
My favorite apostle L Tom Perry passed away yesterday afternoon. May we remember his words
There's my week, hope you didn't snore through this one! Here's another poem that was shared with me this week. Anyone that has served a mission will understand. It hits home.
"Highs and Lows of a Mission"
A mission is a strange experience
It is a trial and a test
A mission throws at you the worst
Yet, teaches you the best
I've never been so happy
I've never been so depressed
I've never felt so forsaken
I've never felt so blessed.
I've never been so confused,
Things have never been so clear.
I've never felt my Heavenly Father so distant,
He's never been so near.
I've never been so discouraged,
I've never been so full of hope.
I feel like I could go on forever,
I think I've come to the end of my rope.
I've never had it quite so easy,
I've never had it quite so tough.
Things have never been so smooth,
Things have never been so rough.
I've never traveled through more valleys,
I've never ascended more peaks.
I've never met so many nice people,
I've never met so many freaks.
I've never had so many ups,
I've never had so many downs.
I've never worn so many smiles,
I've never had so many frowns.
I've never been so lonely,
I've never had so many friends.
I hope this is over soon,
I hope this never ends.
All is well in PA. Love y'all.💜