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My Joy is Full

20 Apr
They're shipping me off to Oklahoma!

They’re shipping me off to Oklahoma!

“…My joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever. […] And we have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some. Now behold, we can look forth and see the fruits of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay, they are many. […] Now if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo. Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of [us].” (Alma 26:11-12,30-31,36)

I have often told those I have taught that the only words of wisdom I can offer are those of the scriptures. I have been contemplating this morning what I should I write about in my last email, and they only thing that came to me was to just express my indescribable love and gratitude for the Savior, His gospel, and the opportunity to have served Him as a full-time missionary. I know that Jesus Christ lives! He loves each of us perfectly, and ministers to each of us “one by one” (3 Nephi 17:21). I have never felt such joy in my life as I have on the mission. I have felt the fulfillment of every promised blessing given in my call letter from the First Presidency. The Lord keeps His covenants and promises. I testify of that with all my soul- He keeps His promises. I love this work and I love these people. I have developed relationships that will continue far into the eternities. There were plenty of trials and discouraging days along the way, but they each had their purpose. I have learned to rely on my Savior in a way I never could have otherwise. My joy is full!

In conclusion, I echo the words of President Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings.” It’s not really the end of my mission, just the end of one chapter and the start of another. I look forward with great anticipation for the life ahead of me! The gospel is true, and I will remain true to that gospel so long as I live. “Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen.” (Alma 26:37)

Love always,
Sister Hoggan

The Time is Far Spent

13 Apr
Biking along!

Biking along!

I feel like the anthem of my week has been the hymn “The Time is Far Spent”. In honor of this, I’m going to include the lyrics as part of my letter today, and comment on how they applied to me this week.

VERSE 1:
The time is far spent; there is little remaining
To publish glad tidings by sea and by land.
Then hasten, ye heralds; go forward proclaiming:
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven’s at hand.

The time grows ever shorter. This is my next to last letter! I feel like a broken record player in saying that it just doesn’t feel real yet. The little black name-tag that I snap on my shirt over my heart each day is as much a part of me as my right hand. But you don’t really need a name-tag to be a missionary thankfully. I have truly felt the “glad tidings” of the gospel, both this week and every week before! We invited our investigator Sister Williams to be baptized on Wednesday… and she accepted!! She told us that it was the first time that she’s ever felt good about setting a baptism date before. She and her husband are taking a trip to Salt Lake City soon, so that she can, as she told us, “pick out my own set of scriptures”. She is wonderful! Now I just need to figure out how to travel back up here for the baptism…. #RMproblems
VERSE 2:
Shrink not from your duty, however unpleasant,
But follow the Savior, your pattern and friend.
Our little afflictions, tho painful at present,
Ere long, with the righteous, in glory will end.

The Savior truly is our greatest example and friend. I have felt His loving support and embrace with me in an exceptional manner this week. We try to serve as He did and love as He did each day. This week, one of our investigators missed their appointment, which they don’t usually do. We were supposed to meet them at the church, so we hung around a bit and then decided that we’d better do something else. We had the idea to go get her cookies and drop them off at her house. We acted on the prompting, and when we dropped off the cookies, our investigator told us that she had gotten off work really late and had been having a really hard day, and the cookies were just what she needed. We didn’t teach a lesson during that hour, but we did make sure that someone felt loved.

VERSE 3:
What, tho, if the favor of Ahman possessing,
This world’s bitter hate you are called to endure?
The angels are waiting to crown you with blessings!
Go forward, be faithful, the promise is sure.

Tracting. Oh tracting. People are just… interesting. Their “bitter hate” tends be more amusing to us than hurtful. 🙂 And the people in Worland always think that we are Jehovah’s Witnesses… I’ve never gotten that comment so much until I got here.

VERSE 4:
Be fixed in your purpose, for Satan will try you;
The weight of your calling he perfectly knows.
Your path may be thorny, but Jesus is nigh you;
His arm is sufficient, tho demons oppose.

As a mission, we have recitations that we say each morning. One of which is the “My Purpose” statement from Preach My Gospel, which is: My purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. Over and over this week, I have felt confirmations of my purpose and my calling. This is truly the work of the Lord, and I feel so privileged to be a part of it. Sister Wankier and I did a musical number at church on Sunday, and we sang a duet with a member accompanying us. There’s something about music that just always goes straight to my heart- I felt the Spirit so strongly and felt an overwhelming love for my Savior. This week, Satan has worked on me hard, but I know that I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

I love you all. I feel the strengthen power of your prayers, and I in turn pray for the safety and happiness of each of you daily. I know that prayer is real, and that God honors His promises. This work is real! And I love it with all my soul.

Wasn’t Conference Wonderful?!

6 Apr

Well, it’s April 6th, and that means that it’s been 185 years since the organization of the church! And it’s also the actual birthday of Jesus! I happened to be reading the Christmas story in the book of 3rd Nephi today when I realized that what the date was. I thought that was pretty cool. I hope you all had a lovely Easter and enjoyed General Conference. I love when they fall on the same weekend.

carselfie

The feeling when you leave a lesson and you can’t stop smiling… that’s what the mission’s all about. We taught the Williams last Monday night, and it was just perfect. During weekly planning the Thursday before, we felt impressed that we should teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ lesson next rather than the Plan of Salvation, which is typically lesson #2. It didn’t really make logical sense but it felt right, and on Monday night we found out why. As we taught about the doctrine behind baptism and the “why” of the covenant, I felt the Spirit’s guiding hand. After that principle, Sister Williams said, “After so many missionaries teaching me over the years, they never explained why baptism was necessary or really what it was, so I was always afraid of it. I have always felt like I wasn’t good enough for the baptism… but now with the covenant it makes sense that God will help me”. We were able to testify to her about the gift of the Holy Ghost helping us and guiding us after our baptism and that we would be able to renew our covenants through the sacrament. When we got in the car after the lesson, Sister Wankier and I were so happy! We knew that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was exactly what she needed that night.

A beautiful Wyoming evening

A beautiful Wyoming evening

I went to my last zone conference on Tuesday, and it was wonderful as always! The theme was “Companions with the Lord”, and it was all focused on working in unity as a missionary companionship and also having the companionship of the Holy Ghost. I played the piano for the conference, and I accompanied a small ensemble musical number entitled, “Deep, Deep Love”. The lyrics of the piece were about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and there was a video of the crucifixion and resurrection playing silently on the projector during it. At the exact moment that they sang the line, “Deeper than the nails driven into His hands, is the love of a Father who gives His only Son”, it showed that exact scene in the video which I saw from the corner of my eye from the piano. I felt the depth of our Savior’s love, and it’s a miracle I was able to finish playing the piece because I could barely see through the tears in my eyes.

Happy Easter from the sisters! (Sister Wankier's mom sent us bunny mouth suckers, haha)

Happy Easter from the sisters! (Sister Wankier’s mom sent us bunny mouth suckers, haha)

The middle of the week was kind of rough for us because both Sister Wankier and I caught a small stomach bug. We’re pretty sure it was a little bit of food poisoning from a mexican restaurant that some members took us too… Let me tell you, I have not had good mexican food in 17 months! Oh well, this is Wyoming and Montana I suppose.

Oh General Conference, how I love thee! I felt like all of the talks were being spoken directly to my soul. I brought several questions that have been on my mind, and they were unequivocally answered. Some of the highlights that really stuck with me were Elder Renlund’s talk about how “saints are sinners who keep on trying”, and President Uchtdorf’s amazing explanation of how grace “does not move backward, but upward”. The talk that affected me the most with Elder Kevin W. Pearson of the 70’s about enduring to the end. I loved how he said, “hanging in there is not a principle of the gospel!”. He spoke directly to current and returned missionaries, saying, “Do NOT do a swan dive into Babylon!”. I have come to realized that the absolute key to maintaining what I have felt and experienced on my mission is the Book of Mormon. We each have the promise that if we study the Book of Mormon every day, every day, every day, that we will remain faithful and grounded by the “tree of life”. Oh, I could go on and on about what I learned and felt from General Conference!

The only amusing thing from this week that I can remember right now is that it was only us and the elders at the stake center for all four sessions of conference! We held out faith for a least one family to come to the Sunday morning session, but alas, ’twas just us and the elders again. I think the elders weren’t sure if we were supposed to be alone together (it was fine) so they sat at the wayyy back, haha.

Just us and the elders holdin' down the fort at the stake center during conference

Just us and the elders holdin’ down the fort at the stake center during conference

Well, the time grows ever shorter. I realized today that I only get to write you all two more times. But hey, then I get to see your lovely faces. I love you all so much!!! Have a marvelous week!

Wonderful Worland

31 Mar

The weather here in Worland has been downright beautiful! Perfect for biking as well. That is, except for Friday. On Friday, we had the most insane amount of wind! Earlier in the day, it just felt like good ol’ Okie weather, but by the evening, we could barely shut our car doors because of the wind. As we would run between the car and our appointments, we learned quickly not to open our mouths because they would get filled with dust! Haha, good times.

This week we had another lesson with the Williams, who are the part-member family I wrote about last week. They are so wonderful! They’ve been at church every week so far and both parents are progressing a lot. We taught the Restoration this past week, and the Spirit was so strong, even though I totally butchered saying the First Vision, haha. (You’d think that I’d never mess that one up anymore after being out this long… but I guess not! haha). I guess that’s when you know that it’s the Spirit teaching and not you, because if you “mess up” it really doesn’t make any difference.

I also met one of our other investigators finally this week- her name is Taylor. She is a young single adult, so I immediately felt a connection with her since I had worked with YSA’s for the past 7 months. She had a hard week in which her less-active boyfriend broke up with her (which actually sounds like it was a good thing that they broke up), but now she has nothing holding her back from progressing towards baptism for herself! We are going to reteach her some of the basic lessons and help her progress to a baptism date in May!

Sister Wankier and me after church on Sunday

Sister Wankier and me after church on Sunday

Here’s a slightly humorous story for the week. I met one of our recent converts for the first time, and she is a very elderly lady who was baptized about a year and a half ago. As we were walking up to her house for me to met her and have a lesson with her, Sister Wankier turned to me suddenly and said, “Oh yeah, ummm… she might not have pants on… ok let’s go in!”, and she quickly entered the house. Not really sure what to think, I followed and soon realized exactly what she was talking about. No pants! Nothing! Yeah…. she let us get her a blanket though for her to put over her lap. Gotta love the random experiences of the mission.

Well, as the time grows short on the mission, it appears that my letter will as well… sorry! My brain just ceases to function sometimes on Monday. Anyways, if you haven’t had a chance yet to see the new Easter video that the church put out, you should definitely watch it! It is called “Because He Lives”, and it is a big push right now in our mission. Watch it here: mormon.org/easter

I love you all so much!! Thank you for your continued support and prayers. Talk to you next week!!

Bikes and blessings

23 Mar

Hello from Worland, WY! It feels like a lifetime since I last emailed you all. So much has happened! I’ll just hit the highlights of the week I think… we’ll see how the letter ends up. Monday and Tuesday were spent primarily visiting people to say goodbye and some scattered packing here and there. Bishop Blair posted about the transfer for us on Facebook, so most of our ward found out that way. I am so grateful for serving stateside so that it will be easier to come back and visit everyone! We still had some teaching appointments before we left though, and those went so so so good. We were also able to transfer everyone to the elders pretty smoothly- thank you all for your prayers!

My buddy Karen

Leaving my friend Karen

Miracle #1: Andrew. I can’t remember if I’ve written about Andrew in the past or not… hmmm, well he is a less-active in the Missoula YSA ward who started coming back with one of his friends, Tiffany. We’ve been off and on teaching him for about 4 weeks, and he has a sincere desire to know if the church is true. When we taught Andrew on Tuesday night, there was definitely something different than in the past. We were teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and when we started talking about faith, I felt impressed to ask him how he has seen his faith has grow in the past few weeks. He responded, “Well, remember the first time you taught me? When I asked you how you knew that God was real, you taught me about tender mercies. I thought those tender mercies were all just coincidences of nature, but I decided to start trying to identify them for myself… And you know what? They are real. I was driving home this week, and I kept remember all of the mercies that the Lord has given me. And I felt the Spirit… the first time I have really identified the Spirit. I knew that God was aware of me, and I knew that what I was doing was right”. He continued, “You should teach everyone you meet about tender mercies… because that was a game changer for me”. I cried the entire drive home from that lesson… he got his answer!! And to know that I was able to be an instrument in the hand of the Lord in helping him was one of the sweetest moments of my life. I remembered the promise given in my call letter that said, “…more happiness than you have yet experienced awaits you”. That promise has been confirmed to me over and over. The mission is so often accented with these pockets of celestial joy. It makes everything worth it, and so much more.

Miracle #2: I survived a 12 hour transfer van ride from Missoula to Wyoming on Wednesday with only minor soreness and restlessness. It was kind of a mini tour of the mission! haha.

Hello Wyoming!

Hello Wyoming!

I arrived late Wednesday night to my new area, and I met my new companion Sister Wankier. Her name is pronounced like the word “banker”, but with a “w”. She is from Delta, Utah, she is 24 years old, and she has been out 6 months and Worland is her only area thus far. Her past two companions have both finished their missions with her, so I am the third missionary that she will be sending home… I feel bad for her! Oh well, I know that we’ll work hard together right up to the end. The sisters in Worland apparently move between members houses every 3 to 6 months, so we just moved into a new house on Wednesday. We live with Sister Suko, and she is actually a less-active that the sisters were working with! Sister Suko is wonderful. She has 5 kids, but only the youngest still lives at home, and she is a senior in high school. The happiest news about where we live is that we have an actual shower!!! (if you remember, my last area only had a bathtub. I’ve been taking on baths for the past 7 months… so yeah, I was pretty excited about the shower). We drive a beautiful white 2014 Jeep Compass, which was the mission car that I’ve been coveting for the past few months. However, we won’t be using it much now because bike season has officially started. The town is small enough that we can bike just about anywhere in 10 minutes. Plus, biking affords so many more opportunities to talk to people. Which leads to the next miracle…

Miracle #3: Cara. On Saturday afternoon, all of our appointments fell through, and all of our backups. We were back to the drawing board! I am still learning the area, so I felt pretty helpless. However, the Lord always knows where He wants us. I suggested that we offer a prayer of faith and seek His inspiration for where we should go. As we paused after the prayer, I felt the distinct impression to “go to main street”. I had no idea why, or what/who we would find there, but “I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do” (1 Nephi 4:6). As we biked down the main street, I was kind of expecting to get another prompting of a street to turn on. Instead, I saw a mother and two kids walking on the side walk a ways ahead, and I knew that we needed to go talk to them. So we pedal quickly to catch up to them (…that’s only moderately creepy, right? hahaha). I pulled up next to her, and all I could think of to say was “hi!”. She turned, and with a look of recognition, she said, “hello sisters!”. It turned out that she was a potential investigator that Sister Wankier has been trying to contact in person for almost a month! We had a solid lesson with her, right there on the sidewalk of the main street, and she accepted a pamphlet for the first time (which was a big step for her), and accepted a return appointment! The Lord does provided. I have a firm, firm testimony of that.

I feel like I have barely scratched the surface with everything that’s been happening! We have an amazing part member family that we met, and the non-member wife is totally prepared and ready for the gospel. They came to church on Sunday and they are just the greatest! We are meeting with them again tomorrow night. I am so excited for theses last few weeks of the mission. Even with all of the miracles, this area is definitely a lot slower than I’ve been used to lately. My goal is to leave it thriving!

I love you all so much!! Talk to you next week!!

The First of the Lasts

17 Mar

As my subject line suggests, this week started the first of my “lasts” on the mission. Specifically, my last transfer call was on Sunday! With the huge number of sisters that went home this transfer and that will be going home next transfer with me, the mission is having to close sister areas left and right. And unfortunately, that meant us this transfer. Both Sister Moore and I will be transferred and the elders will take over both the YSA ward and 4th ward. I am going back to my roots… Wyoming! Nope, not Meeteetse unfortunately, but I’ll only be an hour and a half away. I will be serving in Worland 2nd ward, and my new companion is Sister Wankier. (No idea how to pronounce that name right now, haha). Sis. Wankier has been out about six months, and I will be senior companion again. I feel very blessed to have been senior companion my entire mission except while I was training and the 4 weeks with Sister Gold. Sister Moore is headed to Helena 5th ward, and she will be with Sister Runolfson who is a sister I came out with.

I am pretty sad to not get to finish my mission here in Missoula. But I trust the Lord enough to know that He has something for me to do, or someone to meet, down in Worland, WY. It’ll be pretty stressful transferring all of our investigators and less-actives to the elders in the next 48 hours, so please pray for us that things go smoothly! Just got lots to do before we leave Wednesday morning. The members we live with, the Hendersons, were really sad to hear about the trasnsfer, especially since they won’t be housing sisters anymore. I love the Hendersons so much! We’re going to take a picture together finally tomorrow night, so I’ll attach the picture next week.

One last family history booth in the University Center

One last family history booth in the University Center

Oh my, I don’t even know what to write about for this week! We had a great lesson with our investigator Cody this week. He is progressing really really well, but he is still reluctant to commit to a date. While I was praying about Cody, I thought of Rodney’s conversion story (he’s my brother-in-law) in which Rodney told me that the elders would invite him to baptism just about every time, but that he had to come to the conclusion for himself. I felt the strongest prompting that that will pretty much be Cody’s story- he knows everything is true and he loves the gospel… he just needs to make the decision for himself. It didn’t stop us from inviting him every time though! haha.

My tender mercy of the week was dinner with our recent convert Karen. When people ask me what I am most excited for food-wise for when I get home, I always say, “Chick-fil-a!!!!”. Well, we go to dinner at Karen’s, and she made us a copycat recipe! It was soooo good. And then this is the sign of true friendship: she stalked my Pinterest account, found the recipe for Raising Cane’s sauce that I love so much, and made that to go with it!! I was in Okie heaven. A lot of our ward members try to feed Sister Moore and I “southern food”, since we’re from the south. One of the best things ever was last week when some of the YSA kids made us Chicken and Waffles! It was the first time they had ever had it themselves, or even made fried chicken, and they did a great job. We converted them to it!

This week we did a lot of contacting referrals, finding, and tracting. One guy we met may only be accurately described as the “mad hatter”. Oh Missoula… such an interesting breed of people. The guy gave us a referral at least! Last night, we were out trying to reach our OYM goal and people were just not happy to see us, lol. My favorite thing is when people open the door, and we’re like “Hi!! How are you??!!”, and they say “good…”, then they see our name tags, and they just slowly shut the door without saying anything else. The mission is just plain awkward sometimes, haha. But after a bunch of really weird experiences, we tracted in to a less-active lady that was so kind and immediately let us in. *blessings*

Well, I have to get going now! We’re going to lunch with Karen and then we’re going to ride on the Missoula Carousel. Should be fun! Love you all sooo much, and I will talk to you next week from Wyoming!

Missionary Work in the Digital Age

10 Mar
A Montana sunset

A Montana sunset

Hello all! So much has happened since I last wrote you all, but for some reason I am struggling to write it down! I’ll do my best, but no promises on this letter being 100% coherent, haha.

Wednesday morning, our zone and the Kalispell zone hopped in vans to travel down to Bozeman for the all-mission meeting. It was amazing to see the entire mission gathered for the first time in ten years. A lot of my mission friends have already finished their missions, but it was still so good to get to see a lot of people I’ve missed. We were all seated thirty minutes before the meeting started, and the reverence in that room was palpable. Elder W. Craig Zwick of the 70 was our main speaker, along with Bro. Michael Hemingway of the missionary department. At the start of the meeting, Elder Zwick asked that he could greet each of us individually! We filed down a line and greeted both of our guests as well as President and Sister Mecham. I am always so impressed by how personal general authorities are with those they visit.

I don’t even know how to fully describe the meeting, except with the word powerful. Instead of the meeting being focused on the ins and outs of iPads and social media, they taught us the principles by which we can govern ourselves online, and ultimately govern ourselves in all things. The overarching question that Elder Zwick asked us throughout the meeting was, “Am I willing to change?”. The thing about iPads and technology is that it’s actually more for the missionaries than for those we teach. Elder Zwick said that no one is going to be more likely to get baptized just because they watched a video. Rather, by using these technologies as missionaries, we are establishing righteous habits that will bless us for the rest of our lives. Yes, there are and will be technological filters placed on the devices, and yes we will always work as a companionship to keep us safe. But the best filter, and the one that will last, will be our hearts.

All Mission Photo (The sun was sooo bright, so we're all squinty eyed. I'm in the 4th row, about the middle, directly above President Mecham)

All Mission Photo (The sun was sooo bright, so we’re all squinty eyed. I’m in the 4th row, about the middle, directly above President Mecham)

Along with purification, Elder Zwick taught us that “exposure brings immunity”. He gave the example of a disease epidemic that broke out in the early 1900s. The people that were most likely to contract the disease and die from it were those from rural communities that had never been exposed to it. On the other hand, the people in urban city areas had been exposed to it and had developed immunity. Such it is with technology. Our missions will not be our last exposure to technology or the evils that can lurk therein- now it the opportunity to purify our hearts for when we are online later. The best safeguard is your heart and personal integrity.

Another thing that I learned from Elder Zwick was to “simplify and intensify” your statements, especially when teaching. I have been practicing this in a more conscious way this week, and I have already seen the effects. We taught a lesson this week to a semi-less-active member who struggles with some word of wisdom issues. They acknowledge that what they are doing is wrong, but they don’t see it affecting their eternal salvation. With startling clarity, the Spirit put in my mouth the words, “No habit is worth not enjoying temple blessings”. The entire tone of the lesson changed from that point on, and we committed them to working towards going to the temple.

There were some new logistics introduced at the meeting, including new iPads! Yep, on Friday I turned in my trusty iPad that had been with me from the start and received a new one. The new ones have 32gb of memory instead of 8gb, and have significantly faster processors (our areabook/planner app actually loads quickly now! hallelujah!). The church is rolling out a new standardized approach to iPads and Facebook, so even though we’ve already been doing it for a year and a half, we will still go through the process and help them work out the kinks. We are taking a mission-wide hiatus from Facebook for a few weeks, at which point we will be trained to use it “officially”. I was pretty bummed about losing Facebook because we were just now really getting it going and effective in our zone, but I know that with this break and the new training, it will be even better. President Mecham also eliminated a lot of our “mission-specific” rules, including that we can now receive MyLDSMail emails all throughout the week! The principle is like that of normal letters- we can receive them at any time, but only respond on preparation day. So, I will now be getting your emails when you send them, but I will respond on Monday like usual.

Oh, there is just too much to tell this week! The elders that we share areas with had a baptism on Saturday, and President Mecham was the one that actually baptized her! The Mechams were in town because it was Stake Conference. Stake Conference was wonderful and we had truly inspired speakers. We had great lessons this week as well, and we are still working with our new investigator Cody- he is great!

I’ll just cut it off here so that you don’t have to read an entire novel of Sister Hoggan’s week, haha. I love you all so much! Have a wonderful week!

Hello March!

3 Mar

March has arrived! Does anyone else feel like February was missing a couple of days, because I sure do. The weeks are ticking down faster than ever… But let’s not talk about that. We are still enjoying the last icy grips of winter here in Missoula. I was surprised at how cold I was this week, and I realized that it was because it was really windy, which it usually isn’t here. I guess Heavenly Father is reminding me of my Okie roots.

Montana's sad attempt at hail!

Montana’s sad attempt at hail!

We saw come good progression from out investigators this week! Pauline, who is the mom of our recent converts Mary and Jessica, finally set a firm baptism date for March 21st. We had visited them on Tuesday and we had a “come to missionary” meeting where we had to re-establish our purpose with them. It went really well, and they all started progressing again. Our investigator Adrianna is also in the midst of making some big decisions right now about baptism, marriage, etc… please keep her in your prayers!

So my cool story of the week starts last Sunday. One of our members, Travis, came up to us after sacrament meeting and said, “Hi sisters, come meet my non-member friend that I brought to church with me!”. We laughed and of course trotted over to meet his friend. The friend, Cody, has gone to church off and on for number of years (we found out later that our bishop actually assumed that he was a less active member). My conversation with Cody essentially went like this: “So what’s your story?”, I asked. He responded, “I really like coming every now and then, I like the people that I meet here, they all seem really great. I’m not a member or anything though.” The response that came to my mouth HAD to have been the Spirit because I said it without even realizing… I said, “So, you wanna join??”. He looked at me thoughtfully and responded, “hmm, maybe!”. We set up a lesson for Wednesday night, and the lesson went so well! We did it at his member friend Travis’ house. We focused on meeting his needs and establishing our purpose and vision. It was really powerful. He committed to reading the Book of Mormon. I followed up with him on Saturday via Facebook, and he was already halfway through 1 Nephi! When we asked about his associated prayers about it, he told us, “I realized that I need to pray more when I read. It helps me understand more and feel better”. Yes, yes it does! He came to church again on Sunday and was still reading the Book of Mormon even during church. (Haha) We are meeting again this week, and I am so excited to help him in this journey!

On Thursday and Friday, we had exchanges with our Sister Training Leaders, and it was so fun! I was with Sister Nonne here in my area, and Sister Moore went with Sister Martin to 5th Ward. Sister Nonne came into the mission field with me, and we talked about how we were both on each others’ dream companion lists, haha. We had a bunch of appointments those days, and it went by so quickly. On Saturday, our zone had interviews with President Holmes, who is a member of the mission presidency. It was wonderful! Pres. Holmes gave me some very inspired counsel and guidance. I am so grateful for priesthood leaders on whom I can rely.

C'mon Sister Moore, take a selfie with me!

C’mon Sister Moore, take a selfie with me!

This week will be an exciting one- we are having an entire mission meeting in Bozeman on Wednesday! This is the first time in TEN years that the entire Montana Billings Mission has gathered in one place. We will be hearing from Elder W. Craig Zwick of the 70 and Michael Hemingway of the Missionary Department. It will be entirely focused on Missionay Work in the Digital Age, so we’ll be talking about Facebook and iPads primarily. We got drafts of the new handbooks for digital use, and as we each reviewed them, we kept thinking, “hey, we’re already doing all of this”. And then it dawned on us… we are the ones who figured out and created the rules in the first place! So I’m not anticipating anything particularly new on Wednesday, apart from information about the new devices that the mission will be receiving this summer. It’s exciting times to be in the Montana Billings Mission!

That’s about it for me this week, so I’ll just wish you all the best, and know that I love you and pray for you all! Have a happy week!

Tender Mercies

23 Feb

feet

Well, winter is back in full force! Hopefully this stint will be the last blast. I’ll just jump right in and start telling you about my week! Personal study time on the mission has been one of my favorite things about the mission. This week in particular was very enlightening. I have been studying recently about the absolute necessity of the learning the Plan of Salvation. In Alma 12:32, we learn that God gave unto Adam and Eve the commandments AFTER having made known unto them the plan of redemption. The plan of salvation provides the why for not only the commandments, but also for our lives. One of my all time favorite quotes is this: “Just as a man does not really desire food until he is hungry, so he does not desire the salvation of Christ until he knows why he needs Christ. No one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind.” (Ezra Taft Benson)

Our week was an interesting one- I wish I had kept count of all of the appointments that cancelled on us, but it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t because it would have been a depressingly high number. As I jokingly complained about it to our district leader, he gave me some wise counsel: “Sometimes we have to have bad weeks so that we can truly appreciate the good ones”. Even amidst our struggles this week, our week was still highlighted by some wonderful tender mercies of the Lord.

Tender Mercy #1
We did a lot of tracting this week, and we had some interesting experiences, as we tend to have when knocking on strangers doors, haha. The funny doors are almost a tender mercy in and of themselves! But among the strange and funny experiences, we do get some really uplifting ones. When we went out on Wednesday, we prayed specifically about where we should go. The first few doors were empty, but the very first one that opened to us was an awesome guy named Eric, and he was very interested in learning! He and his wife had lost their son a couple of years ago, and we were able to testify to him that he would see his son again. He asked if he could give us his contact information… Yes of course! We are teaching him again tomorrow. 🙂

Tender Mercy #2
We had our recent convert Karen come out teaching with us this week for the first time! She was absolutely perfect for our investigator Adrianna. Adrianna is making a ton of progress, and it’s really exciting to see her starting to move forward again. Karen also taught Gospel Principles again on Sunday, and she did such a good job. Bishop Blair leaned over to me after class and said something to the extent of, “your experience teaching her and helping her be baptized will be an experience that you draw upon for the rest of your life”. I couldn’t agree more.

Tender Mercy #3
Another tracting experience… On Friday night, it was just not the night to be out trying to find people to teach, because no one wanted anything to do with us for some reason. After quite a few discouraging doors back to back, and starting to feel the sentiment of “our hearts being depressed and about to turn back” (Alma 26:27), we still kept the faith that there was some one that we were supposed to meet. When we knocked the last door (isn’t it always the last door??) the older lady who answered immediately said “come in!” without a moments hesitation! (We were a little hesitant though because we were so surprised, haha.) The miracle part of this story comes in here: so about two months ago, we helped a lady carry in her groceries… and it was this lady! We had a great visit with her, and she was so kind. Service softens hearts!

This week solidified in my heart the principle of “the Lord will provide”. Because really, it wasn’t that bad of a week, because the Lord had a purpose and plan and we were still able to meet many of our goals, just not in the way that we had planned to reach them. But it worked out how the Lord wanted it, so that’s the best thing of course.

I hope that you will each seek those tender mercies, those “love notes from God”, this week and always. Because I know that they are there, and that they are real!

Sweet Sixteen

18 Feb

Yesterday I celebrated my “sweet sixteen” month mark on the mission! We went to Big Dipper Ice Cream for the occasion, and it was wonderful. It’s so strange to reflect back on the past sixteen months. They seem to have gone by so quickly when looking in retrospect. I am just excited that I still have some time left to serve the Lord full-time, especially in Missoula! It has been like spring here all week. This winter is nothing compared to last winter, let me tell ya.

Celebrating my "sweet sixteen".

Celebrating my “sweet sixteen”.

On Tuesday, we had a big Mission Leadership Training with the Missoula and Kalispell zones. Any day that I get to see President Mecham is a great day! The training focused a lot on the concept of “work”. One thing that I took away from the meeting was “plan the work, and then work the plan”. Because let’s be honest, if your don’t actually go out and work all of the plans you made, then it’s like practicing all week and not showing up for the game. After the meeting, we had another sister come stay with us for the night and the next day while her companion went to Helena for a different meeting…the sister that stayed with us was my old companion Sister Jones! It was so fun to get to work with her again for a day and a half.

The dynamic duo!

The dynamic duo!

Tuesday evening, we had a fairly eventful lesson. We went over to meet with a less-active Bryan and his brother Brad (investigator), and they had two friends over as well. One was Bryan’s girlfriend, Cassandra, and the other was a friend named Lincoln. Well, Lincoln is most definitely under the influence of some alcohol, and he starts trying to bible bash with us. Ain’t nobody got time fo’ that, so we just put on some smiles and practice some patience. I notice that while he’s talking, Sister Jones is teaching Cassandra the message of the restoration, and Cassandra was actually really interested in learning! So Sis. Moore and I occupy Lincoln so that they can continue to talk relatively uninterrupted. With Lincoln, I pulled out a Plan of Salvation pamphlet to be able to give him something to read…. his reaction was one of the funniest moments of my mission. He looks at it in complete puzzlement and says, “But Mormons don’t believe in Jesus…. why do you have a picture of Him on the front of this pamphlet??? Why do you have that??”. (hahaha). In the end, Brad actually stood up for us a ton (which was cool to see from an investigator), Cassandra became a new investigator, and Lincoln left at least knowing that we believe in Jesus.

We had another campus event on Friday, as you may have seen on my Facebook post. We did another hot chocolate stand and invited people to institute classes- we joked that the weather called for more of a lemonade stand though because is was warm in the sunlight! Once again, we found several less-actives and a few former investigators.

Campus time!

Campus time!

For our next campus thing, I think we are going to do a survey about Mormons and then post it on Facebook. So something really big that is happening in our zone is a bigger push on Facebook. Since the Stevinsville stake got added to our zone this transfer, I am still the Zone Facebook Specialist for Missoula and an elder is over the Stevinsville district. My responsibilities have definitely been growing and intensifying since the inception of the assignment back in November. I still go on Facebook exchanges with all of the missionaries in the zone, and now I also collect Facebook key indicators and a report about their Facebook work every Monday, as well as doing a lot more followup throughout the week. The new zone leaders are definitely on board with Missoula being a leader in the mission for Facebook, and we are working our tails off to make that happen! I really have a feeling that Missoula will be known as the “Facebook zone” before long, which is awesome because that is the direction that both the mission and the church as a whole is headed.

For Valentine’s Day this year, we made “heat-attacks” for a bunch of the girls we teach, and we delivered them via ding-dong ditching. We got caught twice, which was lame, but overall it went pretty well. I played the piano for a musical number at 1st ward’s baptism on Saturday as well.

Ok, one quick miracle! So Friday night, we were driving home at 8:30pm so that we could have a skype lesson with a less-active. While we were driving home, we drove by this one house with it’s porch-light on and the Spirit nudged me and said, “you should probably go tract that house”. I was like “ehhhh, this isn’t even our area and we’ll be late…etc”. I make it to the round-about at the corner, and the Spirit’s like, “hey, you’re gonna be held accountable if you don’t go back there… but, it’s your agency”. I do a complete turn around the round-about and headed back to that house! We had to park awkwardly far away from the house and then walk for a minute to get there. When we get to their porch, the door opens and a girl is about to leave and we scared the beejeebers out of her! #missionlife. So after this series of events, we end up talking to the mom, Viriginia. I just straight up told her that I drove by her house, felt like I should come here, and then came back to do it. I think being honest like that really softened her heart. We had a really good conversation with her, and she has a bunch of member friends. Throughout the conversation though, I felt like she wasn’t all that interested. However, when we asked for a return appointment, she said yes! We referred her over to the 2nd ward elders the next day, so I am excited to hear how the appointment goes. I had actually been praying for the opportunity to refer someone to another set of missionaries, because we are constantly blessed with referrals from other wards, and this was definitely an answer to that prayer. Alma 17:9 -9 And it came to pass that they journeyed many days in [Missoula], and they fasted much and prayed much that the Lord would grant unto them a portion of his Spirit to go with them, and abide with them, that they might be an instrument in the hands of God to bring, if it were possible, their brethren, the [people of Missoula], to the knowledge of the truth […].

Love you all so much! Have a wonderful week!