Rain and rumors of rain

9 Feb

Well, I’m starting to believe that the groundhog was wrong last week- we are definitely enjoying some springtime weather right now! It’s been in the 50s quite a few days this week, and positively gorgeous. It actually feels a lot like Oregon/Washington weather- lots of rain and clouds and milder temperatures. No complaints from the missionaries though!

Do you all remember Mary and Jessica Rider that we taught and baptized back in November? They’ve been pretty good about still coming to church in 4th ward, and recently they’ve been much better about keeping their appointments with us. So we went to teach them one of their new members lessons this past Tuesday, and their mom Pauline sat in on the lesson like she does occasionally. Over the past few weeks, her interest has been growing and growing, and on Tuesday we started actually teaching her! She is so ready for the gospel, and she set a baptism date for March 7th. Her biggest obstacle will be overcoming smoking, but all things are possible through Christ. (Philippians 4:13)

Our recent convert Brett had a much better week this past week. Unfortunately, he moved on Saturday! We knew he would be moving soon, but weren’t sure when. Thankfully we got to see him off Saturday morning before he headed down to Tuscon, Arizona to live with his brother. I think this will be a really good move for him, but it was still sad to see him leave. We’re gonna get him set up with the ward and missionaries down there, so he should be set. Karen, another recent convert, taught her very first lesson in gospel principles on Sunday!! Ahh, it was wonderful. We met with her the day before, Saturday, and helped her map out a lesson plan and give her ideas. Our other recent convert, Eboni, is still doing great too- we’ve been doing weekly new member lessons and her testimony is definitely growing a lot.

On Wednesday and Thursday, we had another sister missionary with us, Sister Bouchard, while she was waiting for her new trainee to arrive. Sister Bouchard and I are basically the same person- it’s awesome. We discussed what the titles of our mission memoirs would be: “Constantly Covered in Cat Hair”, and “A Series of Awkward Events”. (It’s funny because it’s true). I’m accompanying her for a musical number next week, so we got to practice that which was very helpful. With transfers, we got all new elders in the area that we share with. Their names are Elder Buntrock, Lancaster, and Cheney. It’s unusual for them to be “tripled-in” like that, but they seem to be adjusting well and seem like they’ll be fun to work with.

This week was seriously a revelatory week for me. As I look over my journal entries, it seems like the Spirit taught me new things everyday. I gained a new appreciation for prayer and scripture study yet again. I realized that they don’t change the actual circumstances of my day, but they change me and my attitude. Another revelation happened during the sacrament on Sunday. I was reflecting on my week and how the Savior had played a role, and my mind was consistently drawn back to 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, which says: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

As I was reflecting on those verses, the Holy Ghost taught me that Christ doesn’t always take away our weaknesses permanently, but rather they are taken away only when Christ is with us. So if I were to reject Christ, my weaknesses would return in fullness again. But so long as I have Christ in my life, He will strengthen and uplift me. I also realized that I need to be more grateful for my weaknesses/shortcomings/trials, because in them Christ’s power is manifest and made perfect!

My random story of the week is that we ate dinner with a member from the YSA ward who has a pet duck. Yes, a pet duck named Hermes. And it wears a diaper. Hahaha. I asked her if she just especially loved ducks or what, and she told me that she didn’t even really want a pet, but the duck imprinted on her and thinks that she’s it’s mother, so she feels obligated to keep it.

That’s all I have this week! I love you all lots. Have a fantastic week!!!

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Missoula for life!

3 Feb

Transfer news: I am staying in Missoula with Sister Moore! This is my fifth transfer here in Missoula now, so that makes it my longest area… but it feels like the shortest because time is going by wayyy too fast. There were a lot of changes in our zone with the other missionaries though- we are one of the few companionships still “intact”. I am so happy that I got to stay, and I am just hoping and praying that I will stay through next transfer too and finish my mission here.

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Last Monday for preparation day, we hung out with Karen (a recent convert) and went to lunch and ice cream, and then she came over to the stake center with us to play games with the other missionaries. So fun! On Tuesday, we met with the less-active that called us last week, Brittany. She decided to move back home to Reno because she and her boyfriend broke up. I really hope that she stays true to her good desires. I committed her to three things when she gets down there: (1) read and pray everyday, (2) meet with her bishop, and (3) meet with the missionaries. I set a daily alarm on her phone for her to remind her…. hahaha. Our recent convert Brett is doing a lot better this week. He also made the decision to move in a couple of weeks, which makes us really sad, but I know that it will be good for him. He was kind of just drifting with no purpose in his life, which contributed to his depression. He’s headed to Arizona in a few weeks to live with some other family and find some work (Missoula isn’t the best place for finding work right now). I’m not too worried about him- if we can get him connected with missionaries and the ward down there, he’ll be set. Brett told us that the next thing he is working towards is going on a mission…!

I had a good learning experience with the Spirit this week. One thing that was really impressed on my heart is that it’s important to be where you planned to be, when you planned to be there. On Thursday, we got a little off schedule of our daily plan because some things ran long. We missed our scheduled lunch hour, and let me tell you, lunch hours are sacred on the mission. Our next activity was an hour of tracting, and my natural self told me, “yeah, don’t go tracting… take your lunch hour instead”. I felt in my heart though that we needed to go, so we did. In just forty five minutes, we found a new investigator and two potentials! I am constantly reminded that God honors the plans we make if we stick to them.

This week, we had an OYM competition in our zone between the elders and sisters! (OYM means “open your mouth”, and it is where you talk to someone brand new and actively try to have a gospel centered conversation with them). Needless to say, we all got a little competitive, haha. We ended the week with 56 OYMs, which is a mission high for me. A lot of those came from a family history booth that we did on Friday on campus. It was fun to get to talk to people about family history and see them start to get interested. One of the best things about family history booths is that less-actives come out of the woodwork and introduce themselves… pretty great!

What people think missionaries are like.

What people think missionaries are like.

What missionaries are actually like!

What missionaries are actually like!

Funny story: On Friday, we had dinner and a new member lesson with Karen. She introduced us to her fish, named “Melchizedek”. I asked her, “Ok, when did you get/name this fish?”. She told me the she got it the day after our very first lesson with her, and she named it Melchizedek because we had talked about the Melchizedek priesthood during the first lesson, and she thought it was fun to say! She also told us, “My fish usually die within a few weeks of me having them… but Melchizedek is still going strong! I took that as a very good sign while I was investigating the church”, bahaha. Karen also accepted a calling as one of the gospel principles teachers, and she is going to do amazing!! She’s on track to get her patriarchal blessing soon too… ahh, she is wonderful.

My trainer Sister Bateman finished her mission this week! We got to take one last picture together. :)

My trainer Sister Bateman finished her mission this week! We got to take one last picture together. 🙂

Another way the Spirit helped me this week is that I was guided to talk to someone at church. We’ve been going to both the YSA ward and 4th wards recently, and I’m still learning all of the ward members in the 4th ward. During Sunday school, I saw a lady slip in late and sit at the back. I felt this intense urge to go introduce myself. After class, I bounced over to her and said hello and something about how I’m trying to get to know the ward better. She looked up at me and said quietly, “This is my first time at church in eleven years…”. Not even phased, I sat down next to her and said, “Ok, let’s talk about it!”. We proceeded to talk for a good long while, and I introduced her to some ladies in Relief Society and the Relief Society President, all of whom immediately adopted her into the ward. We got her phone number, and I dearly hope that she comes back again. I feel so strongly that everyone needs to be included, and who knows what her experience might have been if she had slipped into class and slipped out with no one ever meeting her. The black nametag I wear everyday makes things like this a little easier to do, but I know that there are people who need to feel loved and included in every single ward in the church, and we can personally minister to each of them.

I sure do love you all so much! Thank you for being you. Because YOU are GREAT!

Missoula miracles!

26 Jan

It is positively balmy outside! Fifty degrees is pretty wonderful for the end of January. Thankfully is was a slow warm-up this week, so there wasn’t a ton of flooding from the melting snow. Patches of grass are showing through now and the streets are almost clear of ice! Count your many blessings. We had another super busy week here in Missoula, and a very successful one! So let me just jump right in and tell you about some of it.

Last Monday we had interviews with President Mecham, and it was wonderful like always. I always leave those interview feeling like I can conquer the world! Then that afternoon for preparation day, we invited the sisters in our zone over to our house for “lunch and a movie”. We watched 17 Miracles together, and I made Mom’s recipe of Easy Tortilla Soup- it was a hit! It was fun to do something kind of different for preparation day. Tuesday felt like Monday all day because I got to email, so that kind of threw off my week.

Here’s our cool miracle of the week. So I had something happen that has never happened before…. a less-active called us! Her name is Brittany. So here’s the story: she was in Walmart a couple of weeks ago and saw two sister missionaries (not us, but the sisters from the Ronan ward in our zone). She had been thinking a lot about coming back to church, but she wasn’t too sure yet. She stood behind them in line, and she told us that she decided that if they talked to her, then she would take that as a sign that she needed to come back. And like good missionaries always do, they talked to her! They had a really good conversation, and the Ronan sisters gave her our phone number. Fast forward to this Wednesday now. We were driving to an appointment after district meeting, and our phone rings. We start talking to her, trying to figure out kind of who she is and her interest level. She asked us if there were any ward activities going on that she could go to, and we told her that there weren’t any until next week. Then, I felt to ask, “umm, would you be interested in meeting with us?”. She said, “yeah! Do you have time today?”. “Yes!”, we responded with probably a little too much enthusiasm! Anyways, so we met up with her and got to know her. She used to be super active in her old ward, but then she got a boyfriend who took her down the wrong path and she moved up to Montana with him. They broke up this weekend, and she is on track to returning to the gospel. She told us, “I was trying to remember the last time I was truly happy… and it was when I was active”.

A slightly sad but funny story related to Brittany is that while we were teaching her, her dog chewed off part of my leather purse! Oh well. It’s not too noticeable I think….? Here’s another funny story from this week. We were having dinner with an amazing family that joined the church last year, the Dempseys. (You’ve definitely heard me tell stories from their dinner appointments before). Their oldest son, Sam, told us during dinner that he thinks his younger brother Able looks like an alien. “Why?”, his mom asked. “Because he has curly hair!”. Elder Montague (part of the trio of the 4th ward elders that we share areas with) and I made eye contact and just busted up laughing because we both have curly hair. I guess my hair makes me look like an alien?

Our recent convert Karen is doing amazing. Her friends in the ward chipped in together to buy her a quad with her name engraved on it- so beautiful! We are hanging out with her today and going out for Thai food. 🙂 Karen and I are already planning our after-mission visits… it’s gonna be great. Brett is still struggling with depression, and it’s sad to see. But we’re meeting with him regularly and hopefully he can fight through it. Our investigator Eboni got baptized this week!!! She is the girl that grew up LDS, but had to wait until she was 18 to be baptized because her Dad isn’t a member. We crammed about eighty people into the primary room for the baptism… it was a beautiful event. She’s talking about going on a mission in a year when she’s 19. So great!

Sister Moore, Eboni's brother, Eboni and me at her baptism.

Sister Moore, Eboni’s brother, Eboni and me at her baptism.

Ok, one more miracle from this week! A less-active that we work with a lot via Skype, Rachelle, came down to Missoula this weekend and she brought her roommate Suzanne with her. Earlier in the week, Suzanne was going through a really hard time and Rachelle read the Book of Mormon with her and they had a crazy powerful experience with it. We met together at the institute, and we taught her most of the first lesson. Suzanne is Blackfoot native american, and has absolutely zero Christian background… but as we taught the Spirit bore witness so strongly of Christ. I really felt like Aaron teaching King Lamoni’s Father in the Book of Mormon…. we identified that she believes in a “higher power”, and taught her about God. Then we talked about parts of the plan of salvation, and the restoration. She told us that she’d never felt as happy or as peaceful as she did right then. She asked us what she could do to keep that feeling always. We told her that it was the Spirit, and that the gift of the Holy Ghost comes after baptism… and she is now committed to baptism on February 21st!

Sorry my letters have been massively long recently. There’s so much going on! I love you all and hope you are doing well. Thank you for your prayers, support, and love. Have a happy week!!!

Carry on, carry on!

21 Jan

Well, it’s another Tuesday letter! As I reflect back on the past week, it seems like it flew by, but also so many things happened.

First and foremost, Brett got baptized on Saturday!! It was a beautiful service, and there was so much love in that room for him. We met with him everyday this past week in preparation for his baptism. He had a particularly hard day on Thursday, and my heart just ached for him. During that lesson, I received a strong prompting that I needed to fast for him on Friday. As I fasted for him, I was able to receive revelation to teach him that night about the redeeming and reclaiming aspects of baptism. Fasting also increased my faith that God will fulfill His promises to Brett. He had an amazing baptism service on Saturday and a beautiful confirmation on Sunday. We met with him last night, and unfortunately he was feeling very depressed again. I left the lesson feeling fairly discouraged myself, thinking, “Why didn’t the gift of the Holy Ghost help him? Why is he still having these trials?”. The Holy Ghost came to me during that quiet drive home, and taught me that it is all a part of Heavenly Father’s plan. We can’t “pray away” people’s trials… sometimes they are there for a reason. My role in the situation is to pray to God to know what I can do, and then courageously act on the answers I receive.

Brett's baptism!

Brett’s baptism!

Last night’s lesson at Brett’s turned out to be more for his sister Tamara than for Brett. One of Brett’s fellowshippers, Bro. Backlund, came over and the two of them went on a walk. Sister Moore and I, along with the 1st ward sisters, stayed with Tamara. She was struggling with how to help Brett and was really needing support. I don’t remember what all I said, but I just remember holding eye contact with her and talking to her about Christ and testifying of the Atonement… “because Christ already paid the price and felt what we felt… we don’t have feel it anymore.” Tamara was prompted to say a prayer together, and when she gave her burden to Christ there was a tangible release of tension in the room. She told us that she sometimes sees us sisters as her personal angels. We are called as emissaries of Jesus Christ, and it’s amazing to experience Him working through you.

Our investigator is doing great, and she is all set to be baptized this upcoming Saturday! She posted about her baptism on her Facebook page, and had over 60 likes on the post… so awesome. Let me tell you, I have never been so busy in my entire mission. The Hastening of the Work is so real! But it’s real because we are willing to put in the effort and faith to make it happen, and not just sit around and wait for it.

On Tuesday, we had a return appointment from a tracting contact. When she invited us in, I quickly observed six rather fat and mangy cats lying around… and those were just the ones we could see. I spent the rest of the day with my dress smelling like dirty cats… I sure hope people understand that missionaries can’t always control what they smell like!

Found while tracting! Unfortunately they weren't home... I need to meet them though asap!

Found while tracting! Unfortunately they weren’t home… I need to meet them though asap!

I had a series of unfortunate events this weekend regarding my watches, haha. On Sunday, I put on my favorite watch (and the one I’ve worn basically everyday) and the last little leather strip that holds the strap down broke. “Bummer!” I thought, and switched to my backup watch. Then, at church, my backup watch’s battery died. “Ok”, I thought, “I’ll just go back to wearing my regular watch”. When I get home, the battery had died on that one as well!! I guess the devil really didn’t want us to be on time or something…. haha. I told my sad tale to the Hendersons who we live with, and Brother Henderson made the comment, “Well Sister Hoggan, it looks like your time is up- you’ve been on the mission too long!”. Needless to say, I was able to get both batteries replaced on Monday. I am also feeling pretty proud of myself for fashioning a new “strip” out of a kid’s hairband that I cut and melted back together… mission life teaches you so many new skills.

It works, right?

It works, right?

Oh yeah, so we had an awesome tender mercy this week! I made the mistake last Monday of forgetting to pick up one of my prescriptions from Wal-mart, so we had to go over there on Tuesday morning. I picked it up no problem, and while we were about to leave the parking lot of Wal-mart, a nicely dressed man came jogging up to our car. I rolled down the window and he said, “Hello! Hey, go get yourselves a NICE dinner,” and handed us a fifty dollar bill! I was in too much shock to say anything but “are you sure? Thank you!!”, as he quickly jogged back to his car. People are so kind!!

I sure do love you all, and hope you are doing well! Keep on keepin’ on!

Busy in ZooTown

13 Jan
One of our investigators lives right at the base of the mountain by the river. So beautiful.

One of our investigators lives right at the base of the mountain by the river. So beautiful.

Hello again from Mi-ZOO-la, Montana! Missoula is definitely in the heart of winter right now, but thankfully this week was just some snow. It’s really not too bad… I mean at least it’s warm enough to snow. A few weeks ago, it was too cold to snow. Count your blessings! So I was talking this week with another missionary that I came out with, and we created “The Seasoned Montana Missionary’s Guide to Winter Clothing”. Here is how we determine what to wear:
Above 40 degrees – Maybe a cardigan, maybe not
32 to 40 degrees – Light jacket
20 to 32 degrees – Coat
10 to 20 degrees – Coat plus scarf
-5 to 10 degrees – Coat plus scarf plus hat
Below -5 degrees – Prayer and sunshine in your soul
It’s funny how your body really does adjust to the local climate! I think I’m going to die during my first Oklahoma summer when I get back…

Oh my, the people we are teaching had some roller-coaster weeks. But that’s what satan does, he tries his hardest to stop people when they are getting closest to the truth. Thankfully, God is always stronger! Brett was really struggling with his faith during the first half of the week, and we had some lessons where we had to completely follow the Spirit and just testify. Slowly, he has been receiving his witness, and now he is one hundred percent on board for baptism on Saturday! We really saw the the fulfillment of “ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6). His sister was baptized in 1st ward on Saturday, and I think it was really big for him to see that and feel the Spirit there. When we taught him the Law of Tithing and Fast Offerings on Sunday night, he was a totally different person than he had been earlier in the week… his heart has been softened and he is prepared to accept the word! Ahh, it’s just amazing to see how he’s changed. We were talking to him and his sister about what it was like when they first met missionaries on their doorstep months and months ago. They said that they feel terrible that that first set of elders who knocked on their door might never know that they eventually accepted and came to love the gospel. We testified to them that even if they don’t find out in this life, they will know in the next. It really inspires me to always leave a good impression on every doorstep, regardless of if they accept the message or not. You just never know!

Hmmm, what else happened this week? We were on part-time “dog-duty” while the members we live with were out of town. We would take them on walks every morning for exercise, feed them in the mornings, and let them out a few times during the day. The girl from the ward who used to live with us, Lacey, helped out feeding them in the evenings and letting them out when we were out teaching. During one of the morning walks, the white American Eskimo named Gracie slipped her collar! I mustered all the “mom voice” that I could and yelled, “Gracie Lynn-Marie Henderson, come back right now!”. So, the dog doesn’t actually have a middle name that I know of, and funnily enough that middle name is my old companion Sister Jones’ middle name… bahahah. Anyways, it worked, and she came back! At one point during the week, I pinned down the other dog, a Siberian husky name Kiya, and brushed her out as best I could. I think I could have made another medium size dog out of the amount of hair that came out…. gross!

Gracie Lynn-Marie Henderson!

Gracie Lynn-Marie Henderson!

Friday and Saturday, we had exchanges with our Sister Training Leaders, and I got to work with Sister Martin in my area. I love her to death! We were unofficial companions our first night in Montana while we were waiting to go to our new areas, then we got to serve in the same zone in Wyoming North for 6 months, and now we’ve been serving here in Missoula together for the past 5 months. 🙂 I meant to get a picture of us together while we were on exchanges, but didn’t get a chance to. Anyways, exchanges were great and we have been so busy with teaching appointments all week. Our evenings have been solidly booked from 4pm on! Such a blessing. We have been so busy, I can’t even tell you what all we’ve done.

I have added yet another strange food to my mission experience…. I ate moose tacos on Sunday! It tasted like taco meat that wasn’t quite taco meat… not terrible, but not my favorite either. But hey, I’ve eaten moose now!

Moose tacos!

Moose tacos!

Can I just tell you all how much I love the Book of Mormon? I am so enjoying my studies right now. After doing the four mission markings of references to Christ, Christlike attributes, Doctrine of Christ, and Words of Christ and an additional marking of covenants and promises in the Book of Mormon, this time through I am making general commentary of my thoughts, notes, and impressions. As I was studying in 2 Nephi, I was struck by the great power of God. As I was praying after my studies, I always report to Heavenly Father what I learned about that day…. and suddenly it all clicked. I was praying to the exact same person I had just read about. Ok, I know this is super obvious, and I already knew it… but I didn’t know it. I felt that witness testified so strongly to me right then, and every prayer after. I love the scriptures, and they provide so much guidance and revelation for me. If you aren’t reading the Book of Mormon right now, then read it!!

I love you all so much! Thank you for your support, prayers, and encouragement. Have a happy week!

Snow and Sniffles

5 Jan
My new skirt!

My new skirt!

Playing with trains on Christmas Day.

Playing with trains on Christmas Day.

Well, Missoula is just about buried in snow right now! Over the last two days, we’ve accumulated at least nine inches of snow. It is finally above freezing today so it might start melting, but now the roads are a big slushy mess. I guess that’s what comes of living in Montana, no? 🙂 The first part of the week was just bitter cold. Nothing like a brisk -15 degree wind chill to make you scurry inside as quick as you can. Sister Moore and I were bundled from head to toe! Unfortunately, it didn’t prevent me from getting sick. I started feeling stuffy on Saturday, and now I have a full blow cold which is not fun. Thankfully it is preparation day today, and I think I will just take a nap on a couch at the stake center while everyone else plays basketball and pod-ball.

Karen, who was just baptized last week, is doing great! We texted her this week and asked her how she’s been feeling since her baptism. This was her response: “I keep trying to find the right words to describe it but I can’t. I definitely feel different- good different. I think about my actions more. Oh I had such a power experience during my confirmation.”. My heart is still glowing over that text. I couldn’t be happier for her! We have been working with our investigator Brett a lot this week. The first ward sisters found Brett a while back, and just recently transferred him over to us. Brett is still struggling to have a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, but he made some good strides this week. Brett is on date for baptism for the 17th, and we are going to make sure that he makes that date! We also have a new investigator this week- her name is Eboni. Her situation is kinda odd- her mom is an active member and her dad is not a member. Her dad didn’t let any of his kids get baptized until they were 18 years old, and Eboni just turned 18 a couple of weeks ago and now wants to be baptized! She grew up going to primary, and while she hasn’t been very active while she’s been in high school, I think that this will help her get back on track. So yeah, she’s the most golden investigator a missionary could ever dream of! She’s on date for baptism for the 24th.

Oh yeah, Happy New Years! We had a pretty relaxed evening for new years eve. We didn’t have a dinner appointment, so we treated ourselves to chicken from the Walmart deli (#missionarylife) and then hung out at the institute building until 9pm with the other missionaries in our district that didn’t have anything to do. We were home and asleep by 9:45- it was nice! On Sunday, our Relief Society lesson was about making resolutions to become rather than to do. I really enjoyed that perspective, and it made me reflect on the goals that I want to achieve before I leave the mission and for after I am home.

I made a christmas tree out of the sheddings of our actual christmas tree when we took it down.

I made a christmas tree out of the sheddings of our actual christmas tree when we took it down.

We also had a break-through of sorts with one of the less-actives that we work with a lot, Rachelle. She has been making some pretty poor life choices for the past few months, and I think she finally realized that it wasn’t making her happy. We had some lessons over the phone and the Spirit was so strong. She even came to church with us on Sunday for the first time in probably three months. I really hope that she can keep going strong and get her life back on track. She’s awesome, and we’ve grown really close while I’ve served her in Missoula. She made me a gift this week- an adorable little elephant necklace made out of a silver fork! Ahh, it’s my favorite. I’ll attach a picture.

Soooo cuuuute!

Soooo cuuuute!

Well that’s about all I can think of to write this week… I love you all and I’ll talk to you later!!!

Happy New Year!

30 Dec
This place is so beautiful!

This place is so beautiful!

It feels like this week went by both really slowly and really quickly, if that makes sense. The first half of the week was spent talking to everyone we could about “He is the Gift”! We spent all of Tuesday afternoon street-contacting in downtown Missoula. There were lots of last minute shoppers to talk to on the street thankfully!

Christmas Eve was the best. We had District Meeting in the morning, and was just really special. Our district leader, Elder Braden, gave each of us short passages in the scriptures about Christ’s life to read, and we made a massive list of Christlike attributes. Then we gathered as a zone and had a testimony meeting. It was such an uplifting experience. For Christmas Eve dinner, we and the elders went to a 4th ward member’s home, the Howards. Sis. Howard is a single mom of four and we had a blast over there. We played Apples to Apples after dinner, and I haven’t laughed that much in a long time. The BEST part of the night was after that though. We went with Elders Burnham, Kennedy, Braden, and Bird to carol to the houses surrounding the stake center. Everyone we caroled to was so kind and excited to see us! People were trying to give us money even! (Which we of course declined). One family invited us in for a solid ten minutes and were taking pictures with us and putting them on Facebook… we seriously felt like the rockstars of Christmas. As we left each door, we couldn’t help smiling and remarking on how we all just felt like a million bucks. It was the best way to spend a Christmas Eve!

A Merry Montana Christmas!

A Merry Montana Christmas!

And then it was Christmas!! We even woke up to a white Christmas, which was unexpected. We had Christmas breakfast with some different 4th ward members, then we came back and skyped our lovely families. 🙂 Then we spent the afternoon at the institute building with some of the other missionaries playing ping pong and pool and such. Then we had Christmas dinner with a different family, and then came back home and studied our scriptures until bedtime. 🙂 I finished the Book of Mormon again on Christmas! I had set it as a goal to finish on that day, and it worked out perfectly. In this past reading, I underlined all of the covenants and promises in the Book of Mormon… it was awesome. This time through, I am going to write in the margins and record principles, thoughts, and general notes. On Friday, we had interviews with the new member of the mission presidency, Pres. Holmes. I had met him briefly at Stake Conference, so it was good to get to know him better- he is a great man! This week, the first ward sisters transferred us a YSA guy named Brett that they have been teaching. When we started teaching him this week, he opened up about a lot of his concerns and doubts… he didn’t tell the other sisters because he didn’t want to let them down. That made me really sad that he didn’t feel like he could be honest, but we are continuing to work with him and to help him through this trial.

Karen's baptism!!!!

Karen’s baptism!!!!

Ok, here’s the BEST news of my entire letter! Karen got baptized on Sunday!!!! It was such an amazing day. So back in late August/early September, Sister Gold and I ended up hanging around the institute building later than we usually do after an institute class. And Bishop Blair also happened to be there, which is crazy because he was only there during the day TWICE the entire semester. In walks Karen, and she wanted to ask someone about her questions. Bishop Blair talked to her first, and then he introduced her to us…. and we’ve been teaching her ever since! It wasn’t the smoothest path, but conversion rarely is. Karen is amazing, and is one of my closest friends even apart from the mission. I feel so privileged and blessed to have been able to be with her since the start. Her boyfriend, Tylor, was able to baptize her and Bishop Blair confirmed her. The baptism service was at 9am on Sunday, and then we had church at 10am! Ahhh, it was just perfect. I am not worried about her staying active at all- she has great support and she is also self-reliant in her testimony. Sunday was just the start of her new life!

Eh, it's just a little snow.

Eh, it’s just a little snow.

This weekend, true winter finally hit! It was colddddd. We got about 5 to 6 inches of snow yesterday, and the wind was just blowing like mad! We kept a positive attitude about it while we were out tracting though, and I think people invited us in out of pity at times… haha, oh well. 🙂 I wore my heavy duty snow boots yesterday too for the first time in a while. I hope you all have an awesome New Years!!! I’m not quite sure what our plans are yet… we’re allowed to be out until 10:30, but we will probably go to bed at our normal time because we have to wake up at our normal time. Love you all, and have a happy week!

22 Dec

Merry Christmas!!! ‘Tis the season of our Savior! Missoula is so beautiful at this time of year. A lot of people put up Christmas lights and decorations, and city made the downtown area very festive. As I see the Christmas lights lighting up the night sky, I am reminded of the day, night, and day that were one day in the Book of Mormon at the time of Christ’s birth. My thoughts have also been drifting back to the connection of Christmas and Easter. I love this quote from President Hinkley: “I bear witness [of] the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. Without it life is meaningless. […] The sorrow of death is softened with the promise of the Resurrection. There would be no Christmas if there were no Easter.” I hope you all take a moment to reflect on Christ’s Atonement this Christmas. I know that Christ was born to this Earth, and that he lives today! And that means for my life that I will live again and one day be like Him.

Well, like I mentioned last week, we had transfers this week and I stayed and got a new companion, Sister Moore. She’s been in the field now for about 6 weeks, and I will finish training her for the next 6 weeks. She is from Houston, TX and she’s 22 years old like me. Since I’ve been in and around Houston so much, we’ve been able to connect about random places that we’ve both been. The last few days with Sister Randall were really good. Last Monday, we made gingerbread houses for FHE! Some of the guys in our ward thought it would be funny to made a gingerbread graveyard instead for theirs…. oh goodness, haha.

Our gingerbread house!

Our gingerbread house!

The transfer happened on Wednesday, and Sister Randall left on the “outgoing van”, so I had to wait about 4 hours for the “incoming van” to bring Sister Moore. In that time, I got to be temporary companions with Sister Jones again!! So fun. We cleaned and organized our room like mad so that it would be neat for Sister Moore. Why have I accumulated so much junk on my mission?? Sister Moore got in around 4pm, so we dropped off her stuff and then hit the pavement!

Ok, so here’s a miracle! Karen is getting baptized this Sunday!!!!!! Finally!! I know I say this everytime, but I really feel like I’m in Missoula for her. We had a lesson yesterday, and she told us that Saturday wasn’t going to work after all for her baptism because she had to work. But she said that she really didn’t want to move it back either. So basically at the same time, we both receive the inspiration from the Holy Ghost that told us… “why not Sunday morning right before church?”. So that’s what we’re going to do! She’s having her baptism interview tonight at FHE, and then she’ll be all set. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been with her from the start of her conversion.

Here is our other miracle for this week! All week, we have been tracting up a storm with the He is the Gift cards and video. We’d been able to show it to people, but no one had been really all that interested. On Sunday, I suddenly realized that we hadn’t been praying about where to tract- we were just going where-ever. So I included that in my morning prayer, and some less-active girls in our ward popped into my head. And I realized that it was their apartment complex that was where we needed to be. So Sunday night, we had a little over an hour to do some tracting. We drove over there and when we arrived I got a scared, weird feeling, especially because of the “no soliciting” sign (we’re not solicitors though!). I decided to park anyways, and we offered a prayer to see if we should stay. Both Sister Moore and I got a strong confirmation to stay. So we started with the nearest apartment, and we saw amazing success! In that one hour of tracting, we had eleven OYMs (Open Your Mouths- a gospel centered conversation), TWO new investigators (both of which are YSA!), and a potential family of four. We are feeling so blessed right now. It really reminded me to always act on promptings, and if there is doubt, just pray about it! In my very first interview with President Mecham back in November 2013, he told me, “If it is good, and if it could bring someone closer to Christ… then do it!”.

The Fantastic Four!! (yes, we may have named ourselves that over the course of the past transfer.... haha, good times)

The Fantastic Four!! (yes, we may have named ourselves that over the course of the past transfer…. haha, good times)

I am so excited for Christmas! We are having District Meeting on Christmas Eve, so that will be special. I think I’ll make some cranberry bread or something to share. We are having Christmas Eve with a family in fourth ward that I haven’t met actually, but the Elders know them and said that it will be great. Then we have Christmas breakfast with a single mom from fourth ward, and Christmas Dinner with the Kershaw family from fourth ward! The Kershaws feed us 1 to 2 times a week, and they are just the best, so we’re excited to get to spend Christmas with them. Other than that, our day is kinda up in the air. We’ll see what the Lord ends up needing us to do!

I love you all sooooo much!!!!! I hope you have an amazing Christmas.

And a partridge in a pear tree!

16 Dec

Well, it’s transfers once again! The verdict is… I’m staying! Sister Randall will be heading up to Columbia Falls (near Kalispell) on Wednesday. My new companion is Sister Moore, who I know because she’s been serving in our zone this last transfer. She has been out on her mission for 5 weeks, so I will be finishing training her. I’m really happy that I get to stay in the YSA Ward. I had the distinct impression this weekend that my work wasn’t done here or done with particular people we are teaching. This next transfer will be great! I’m excited and nervous to train, but hopefully it goes well.

Sister Moore (my new companion!), Sister Martin, and Sister Jones.

Sister Moore (my new companion!), Sister Martin, and Sister Jones.

Monday night’s FHE was a blast last week! Our ward did their Christmas party and there was lots of food and socializing. At the end, they did a White Elephant gift exchange. The way it worked is that they read a special version of the Christmas story and every time it said “right” or “left”, you passed your gift either right or left. About halfway through the story, somebody peeked inside of one of the gift bags and announced, “there’s fish in here!”. Haha, yep, someone brought live goldfish. Missionaries of course cannot keep pets, so it was pretty hilarious when Elder Inman ended up getting the fish at the end!

Elder Snell: an elf that poops jelly beans Elder Inman: fish- real live fish... well except for one- he didn’t survive the game. :( Elder Burnham: an electric fly swatter. Sister Hoggan: half carton of egg nog, so generously given by Elder Burnham… Sister Randall: 2 nerf guns. Wayy too much fun for two sister missionaries.

Elder Snell: an elf that poops jelly beans
Elder Inman: fish- real live fish… well except for one- he didn’t survive the game. 😦
Elder Burnham: an electric fly swatter.
Sister Hoggan: half carton of egg nog, so generously given by Elder Burnham…
Sister Randall: 2 nerf guns. Wayy too much fun for two sister missionaries.

Sister Randall definitely got the best gift I think- two small nerf guns! We may or may not have had a shoot-out between us… hahaha. This week, we turned our whiteboard into a target. To make it missionary related, we made each of the circles represent something: the biggest was OYMs, then lessons, then sacrament meeting attendance, and then the bullseye was baptism! Oh my, too much fun.

Don't shoot!

Don’t shoot!

I just love the Christmas season! We got our tree up in our room and got it all decorated. I’ve been enjoying the lights on it a lot. The institute is festive as well- I got a pretty good laugh at the ghetto Christmas tree they made. I will attach a picture of it.

Ghetto tree at the Institute!

Ghetto tree at the Institute!

Christmas has also been great for helping us start conversations. Sister Randall and I have been caroling to people on their doorstep while tracting, and while it’s terrifying sometimes, it’s great! People don’t immediately shut you down when you sing them a Christmas song. We’re gonna be caroling-tracting like mad this next week probably, all while spreading the He is the Gift initiative. The zone leaders started a competition between the two districts to see which can have the most OYMs related to He is the Gift. Our district is totally dominating right now, which is nice.
We have a new investigator! You’ll never guess what his name is. No seriously, it’s awesome. You ready?… Joseph Smith. YEP! His driver’s license proved it and everything. He goes by Joe, and Sister Randall and I always laugh because we feel like the “bad people” in the Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration video because they would always call him Joe Smith. Bahaha. Anyways, so Joe is legitimately great. We’ve taught the first two lessons, and he’s just soaking it all up like a sponge. He wasn’t able to come to church this week, but hopefully next week! He’s a huge nerd like me, so we instantly clicked. He’s not for sure about baptism yet, but we’re going to keep talking to him about it. We also have a new less-active that we’re working with, and her name is… Dana! Talk about confusing. Every time my companion says her name I find myself turning my head. Our investigator Adriana is home for Christmas break in California, so we’re working on getting her hooked up with the missionaries down there. We also saw Karen this week, and she told us that she’d talked to her kinda less-active boyfriend about baptizing her. He knows he needs to get his act together, so this might be the push he needs.

If the scriptures had a soundtrack, it would be Handel’s Messiah. That music just makes my heart sing! The Missoula Stake Choir did two performances of parts of it, on Friday and Saturday night. The choir and orchestra has been practicing since June apparently. I was actually really impressed with the quality, particularly with the soloists. We had people we are teaching attend each night, so we attended both nights with them. On Friday night, we also got to hand out programs and usher. Pretty fun!

I need to own at least 5 snuggly dachshunds when I get home!

I need to own at least 5 snuggly dachshunds when I get home!

Christmas is quickly approaching! Love and miss you all. Have a happy week! Stay safe and warm!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

9 Dec

Hello everyone! I hope the holiday season is treating you all well. Have you had a chance yet to watch the new video the church put out, “He is the Gift”? If you haven’t, stop reading right now and go look it up on YouTube! You will not regret it, promise.

The investigators we are teaching are still doing well, but no real new progress to report on. We weren’t too sure where we stood with Adriana for a while because she wasn’t returning our calls or texts, but it turns out that she had lost her phone. Whew! She’s trying to decide right now about whether to go ahead and get baptized this Saturday, or wait until she is home in California to do it. Her dad and uncle are both active members, and they naturally really want to be there when she gets baptized. We told her that the choice was totally hers, and we actually feel that doing it down in California with her family might be best and make it special for her. We shall see!

Karen still hasn’t set a date, but we also dropped the ball on talking to her about it this week… oops! We taught her about prophets again this week, and she seemed to have a much better understanding by the end. Mary and Jessica, who were baptized two weeks ago, are still doing well. The ward mission leader in 4th ward picks them up for church every week, which is awesome. One of the less-actives that we are working with in 4th ward, Becky, received a priesthood blessing this week. It was so great!

The first part of the week was a little hectic with trying to prepare everything for the Christmas Zone Conference on Thursday and our event on campus on Friday. Here are my helpful hints that I learned this week:
1) If you ever think it’s a good idea to rehearse a musical number over Skype… it isn’t.
2) If you ever think it’s a good idea to volunteer to host 6 other sister missionaries for a night… it isn’t.
3) If you ever think it’s a good idea to share one bathroom with those 6 sister missionaries… it isn’t.
4) If you ever think it’s a good idea to individually cut out over a hundred paper ornaments… it isn’t.
5) If you ever think it’s a good idea to schedule four lessons back to back with no allowance for driving time… it isn’t.
6) If you ever think it’s a good idea to do ALL of the above things in one day… it isn’t!!!

It all worked out though thankfully! Wednesday night before zone conference, Sister Randall slept in a teepee that the our host family set up in the living room (it’s been a lifelong dream of her’s to sleep in a teepee, bahaha), and I slept on the couch. We left Missoula Thursday morning around 5:30am so that we could arrive in Helena on time for the Christmas Zone Conference. The meeting was so wonderful! Music was a huge part of it. I was the resident pianist for most of it too. I played during the choir sectional practice, played for one of the actual choir pieces, played for a musical number, and played for a congregational hymn. Whew! I really enjoyed it though, and it definitely helped me feel the Spirit.

Missoula Zone!

Missoula Zone!

Another highlight of the conference was the picture slide show. They had us all submit “Book of Mormoning” pictures which they showed first, and then they showed all the childhood Christmas pictures for each missionary. I really enjoyed it this year in particular because I finally know a decent number of missionaries! During the lunch hour, I got to see a bunch of friends that I hadn’t seen in a while. We also got to read the letters from our families- thank you all so much! I was really touched reading each of your testimonies.

Cocoa the Campus activity

Cocoa the Campus activity

IMG_0034

On Friday, we did our “cocoa the campus” event by the Griz statue outside on campus. We had free hot chocolate that we were handing out, and we also had people write on a paper ornament what Christmas meant to them and hang it on a Christmas tree. It was a great success! The snow was the perfect type for snowmen, so the elders built one during the event and put it by the Christmas tree. There were also other snow sculptures on the oval by students that were pretty impressive! My favorite was the massive Jabba the Hut that someone made. We did more Facebook exchanges this week too, and those all went well. I’m woefully behind on submitting my paperwork for them all… oh well. I much prefer the “ministering” part (working with people) of being a missionary to the “administration” part (aka paperwork and numbers). We had another stake conference this past weekend, because they called a new Stake President. Elder Fallabella from the Seventy came and spoke, and it was great. We also met the new counselor in the Mission Presidency, so that was cool. Poor Sister Randall has been sick since Thursday with a cold. My immune system is still holding up strong, so hopefully I don’t catch it.

Well, that’s about it for this week! I hope you all are enjoying this Christmas season. Stay warm and safe! I love you!!!