Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Good Morning Baltimore

     I know I've sent long emails, but this one is about to top the
charts. (iPad mission perks- enjoying it while I can.) But I figure
I've been out almost a year and a half, the only readers anymore are
probably my family and hunter and maybe two friends haha. So here is
     Haha, lots of changes happened this week. Said goodbye to
President and Sister Johnson Friday and met President and Sister
Christiansen the next day. It was really strange saying goodbye to the
Johnson's, we had our final interview and everything. President
Johnson loves mountains almost as much as I do though, each of our
interviews always included places we needed to go. He's given me a
pretty solid list. They will be close in Logan, so I'm looking forward
to hiking with them one day. They have been so kind through this whole
change, I am forever grateful for them. They've played a huge role in
my mission, and I really will never forget what they taught me. They
truly do inspire missionaries, like their own children to keep their
covenants. They have their hearts and lives set on the temple. They
have a unique way of teaching by their own experiences, in every zone
training, conference, MLC, interview, etc I've ever had with them,
each began with a life experience of theirs or their family's. I
really do feel like I know them like family, haha. They've had a life
full of adventure, they've lived all over the states, Europe, Canada,
and have travelled just about everywhere else. All about making
memories. It's no coincidence my mission president was the CFO of REI,
loves mountains, and loves making memories. President Johnson knows I
have a desire to do many of the very things he's done in his life and
has shared with me treasured counsel about achieving it. They make me
feel like I can do anything in the world if I set my mind to it, haha.
As I hear of other missions and mission presidents, I recognize that
the Johnson's are a lot different than most. I would not consider him
one to be known for cracking down on missionaries. He really does give
missionary's the ability to use their agency. Yes, I've seen it be
both good and bad in some missionaries. But I definitely know that I
was meant to serve here under his direction. When missionaries are
called a great deal of the decision is made by assigning to the
mission president, not the mission. I am so grateful for all they've
done for me, eternally grateful. I have a great love for the
Johnson's. Also, Pennsylvania will always have my heart. I could write
a novel about how much I love this beautiful place, but I have lots to
write. So I'll save it for another day.
     And now, to President Christiansen. Wow. I really didn't expect
to like them much due to how much I love the Johnson's, but I was so
surprised the day we met them to how quickly I felt like I had already
known them long before. Seriously, they are amazing. And I don't have
to say that. SO kind and understanding. President Christiansen is
world's different than Johnson, I have not seen him smile yet. He is
quiet, everything he says is very thought out. But I realized quickly
how in tune he is with the spirit, and how much he cares about his
missionaries, even the ones he just met and inherited. My first
interview with him was 45 minutes long. He wanted to know everything I
hoped for in the last transfer of my mission. When I say he was
understanding, I mean he was willing to do whatever I felt like was
right for me. He gave me the option to stay in Lancaster or to leave
and spend my last in Baltimore. He was also so willing to work with my
release date, giving me four different options, some of which I'm sure
would require more effort on his part to make happen. Honestly,
personality/ spirituality-wise, he is a lot like me. And Sister
Christiansen was so kind. She and I got to talk for almost the entire
time other missionaries were being interviewed, and yes, she was
great. I know that this day was a confirmation to me that all is
exactly as it is supposed to be. I left not feeling sad about leaving
behind the Pennsylvania Pittsburgh mission, but so excited to learn so
much more from the Maryland Baltimore mission.
     I am so impressed by the vision of the Maryland mission. The APs
gave us an introduction as to what the goals are of the mission
president and the mission as a whole, what the mission is like,
answered questions, etc. In January there was a missionary broadcast
about "teaching repentance and baptizing converts" and their mission
really made huge changes afterwards. They have shifted their focus to
primarily focusing on teaching converts and leaving retention efforts
as the responsibility of the wards. This will be a huge change. I've
spent 95% of my mission with that as a huge emphasis in my purpose.
Their mission baptizes more than double we do. This mission is
definitely a lot 'stricter,' and I am really, really looking forward
to being a part of and learning a lot from the mission. Okay.. The
best part.. THERE ARE HERMANA AREAS. I don't ever have to be an
English missionary again! (No offense, hahaha) with Lancaster there
are now four Spanish- sister areas, and currently eight Spanish
sisters including Smith and I in the mission. So every Spanish called
Sister will serve in a Spanish area! When President Christiansen and
the APs (who both happen to be called Spanish speaking as well) heard
we, and most missionaries in the ppm spend the majority of our
missions in English areas, they were shocked. Spanish isn't dead!!
And, the Spanish sisters are not banned from serving in inner
Baltimore city like sisters were in Pittsburgh. And, there are
currently two native speaking Spanish sisters. There's a lot more we
learned about the mission, but I've already nearly written a novel. So
I will leave it at this. I am excited.
     Alright back to the greatest place on earth, Lancaster. We are
working with some solid, amazing people.. Like wow. Whatever happens-
if I leave or if I stay, it will be so bittersweet. If I go, there are
so many opportunities waiting, and if I stay, I will potentially get
to work with and see four of our investigators get baptized. I will be
happy no matter what happens.

     So beginning with Suzie. Tuesday we arrived at her house, and
from the moment we came in we knew she was not happy. We sat down, and
she handed us her skirts we had given her to come to church and she
told us she didn't want them, that she wasn't ever going to come to
church, and she wanted us to stop coming. She said she doesn't have
time for us in her life, but clearly there was much more to it. Her
house felt dark, and she was clearly distraut. I really didn't know
what to say- I kind of went into fight or flight missionary mode-
deciding whether we should take the clothes and leave with a prayer or
if we were supposed to stay and talk to her. We stayed. The adversary
is working so hard on Suzie.
     "Before you came here today I was so mad at you. I didn't want
you come. Whenever you're not here I don't want you to come. But then
when you get here I don't want you to leave. What is that?"
     She opened up to us about how anytime she had tried to come
closer to God through church something had gotten in her way. On her
way to church once she had a near death car accident, another time she
tried her son was shot. Her son is now paralyzed, it really is a
miracle he is alive. He died three times on the table, he was bleeding
out through the artery in his heart. She said she was terrified that
if she went to church something would happen to her family. And again
she just said she didn't understand why when we were with her she felt
so good, and light, but felt a literal "darkness" when we weren't
     It was one of those moments I was praying so hard to know what I
needed to say, or not say. The situation felt so fragile, like walking
on thin ice. I ended up sharing Galatians with her, about the feelings
that come from the spirit and reminded her that any other feeling is
not from God.
     "I feel like God sent you here to save me." We were able to
continue to counsel with her, and after more time talking with her
which I won't talk about, she asked us to come back next week. She
knows the Book of Mormon to be true, and that Joseph Smith was a
prophet. Which could only mean that she will very soon connect the
dots and gain a testimony that this is Christ's church. But satan is
working tirelessly with her. And I truly believe it's because of the
potential she has for good. Like I've said, he works hard with those
we meet, but we have to work harder. Light will always overcome
darkness, and we hope that we will continue to carry that light into
her life with time.
     Alma 19:6: "the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from
his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the
light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his
goodness--yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the
cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of
everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had
overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God--"

     We had an incredible experience teaching Pablo this week as well
with a member. This member was so inspired and bold with him,
promising Pablo that God had a calling for him at this time, and even
that one day he would hold the priesthood and lay his hands on his
family's heads and bless them. They were like best buds by the end of
the lesson, and Pablo ended up going to Saturday morning basketball
that the elders do, and church on Sunday. This lesson had its fair
share of distractions as well.. From a parked car blasting music that
made our ears want to bleed (luckily with only 20 days here from the
Dominican Republic Pablo doesn't speaks English,) a street fight that
broke out in front of his house, fireworks shooting off everywhere
through the streets, and a rat that didn't seem to want to leave (the
rats are everywhere in the street now,) yet was still one of the most
powerful. Pablo is so young with so much potential.
     We started teaching another young guy named Benjamin, from
Mexico, father of five this week. You don't meet many fathers like him
here. So anxious to be an example for his kids, and to give them a
better life through the gospel. As we taught outside at a public park
his kids played on the playground, and we saw how much he cares for
those kids. He really wants this for himself and his kids. We are so
excited to keep teaching him with the help of the branch.

     This week has been so inspired, perhaps the most inspired week of
my whole mission. Every aspect of our work seemed to have perfectly
prepared us for our own changes and the changes those we are teaching
are experiencing- from personal studies that turned out to be exactly
in line with the outcome, to seeing the opposition in their lives, to
coming to a perfect understand of why challenges come in life, and
being able to help them understand this.
     For example, in personal study one morning as I was studying the
Plan of Salvation for a lesson we taught, I told Hermana Smith I
really felt like we needed to adapt our teaching because she had lost
someone close, and that we should ask her about it. It turned out she
had just lost her boyfriend, being left with a month old baby. She was
so prepared.. And when I say prepared I mean she not only had studied
out the entire pamphlet we had left her and all the scriptures, but
she shared how she had always known there was a time between life and
death where we would "remember the things we had done good and bad in
our lives," and went on to explain the spirit world better than I've
ever heard it in the church.
     The morning before we had taught Suzie I had been studying in
Helaman 3 about the "great sufferings, persecutions, and afflictions"
the people were dealing with at this time. However, it also speaks of
the result of their trials. "35: Nevertheless they did fast and pray
oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer
and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with
joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification
of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding
their hearts unto God."  The power that trials have to "purify and
sanctify" us, and bring us to God really resonated deep with me. I
have never understood so clearly until this week the answer to the
question that many consider cliché "Why God allows bad things to
happen to good people." Because He knows it is what refines us and
ultimately brings us back to Him. Trials don't just come to those who
need to change, but they do have the power to humble us to our knees.
"For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.." This week I also re-read
two of my favorite talks- one by Elder Christofferson, "As many as I
love, I rebuke and chasten," and one by Elder Eyring "Mountains to
climb." I highly recommend them.(:
     Hardship in life doesn't mean God isn't here, or doesn't love us.
Trials refine us into beings capable of inheriting all that God hopes
to give us. If He did not love us, our lives would be perfect. In
fact, without the trials I've had in my life I would not be here on a
     Understanding this prepared me to be able to ensure this very
thing to Suzie that same day. And though my mission change is not
really consider a trial, only change, it has brought me more
confidence in making it. Sometimes the Lord's hand is so evident in
this work it's almost visible.

     I think that's all for now. Oh, and by the way, Maryland
Baltimore is not an iPad mission so I'll need to send my iPad home or
give it up soon here. I'm going back to paper! Super excited about
this, I've continued to study personally with my paper scriptures my
whole mission, but I'll get paper planners back. I miss those! I
remember the first two or so transfers I was without an iPad here and
how much I loved being out of the worldly technology game. Haha most
of the missionaries don't know what to do with themselves with this
change. If that's the case it's probably an issue, haha. While they
were a great tool that did make many things very convenient, I've
always preferred my Book of Mormon.

Love you all,
Hermana Sears
Maryland Baltimore mission
(Though I will always be a PPMer for life!)

Ps. Happy fourth!! I'll be sending pictures later

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