Saturday, April 30, 2016

week 66

One year ago, I was moved to the Tampa 2nd ward. One year ago is when I began serving with Sister Huber. Over the course of a year we have: served in two wards together, been STL companions for 5 months and actual companions for two months. For 9 months of that year we did NOT get along. At all. We have since talked about it, and it's been interesting to see how much we really hated each other and how much our hearts have softened. 
Our companions could attest to it. I can remember multiple times where I said to my companion, "I really don't think we are capable of liking each other". It seemed that everything she did, seriously bugged me, to no end. 
Back in September, we were made STL companions and when I found that out I instantly thought, "Oh no... This is isn't going to work". I began to earnestly pray for the capacity to love Sister Huber and to be able to show my love to her. The next day, the Lord sent me a direct answer to my prayer. Over the course of the following week, under very odd circumstances, I was given the chance to show my love for her. It was a humbling week to say the least, but I realized that I really did love her and care about her.
However, after that week was over, it seemed like things went right back to how they were. But this time I knew that I loved her, and that if I tried, we could make it work. The next couple months were better, but it was still VERY rough. 
In January, we both had a change in our companionship and suddenly we started to get along. We realized that we did like each other and that we really could work together. Over the next two months, we saw a complete change in how we interacted. We finally realized that we were on the same team and that if we worked together, we could do a lot more good. 
I will never forget the day that we were on the phone and my companion and I were in Land O Lakes, which Sister Huber had predominately worked in. She told me of a couple formers and less actives to go and see in the area we were in. Sister Huber and her companion were over in Wesley Chapel in an area that I had worked in a lot, and I did the same thing- referred them to a few people to go try. We got off the phone and I said to my companion, "That's how to work together in an area. That would have NEVER happened six months ago". Miracles. 
Then, at the start of March we got a call from the assistants and we were suddenly companions. In the last two moths I have learned SO much from Sister Huber. She is an incredible example of how to truly work with members. She is perfectly bold as she teaches but does so with the utmost love. The amount of effort that she puts into the work is at least three times as much as the normal missionary. Now that I've served with her, I want to go back and start my mission all over again with the knowledge I have. 
The biggest lesson that I have learned over the past year is that it is truly through our Savior, Jesus Christ, that our hearts can be softened and we can love others. Sister Huber has had a profound influence on my life and I will always be grateful for her. We're both off to different things now, but I know I needed to come to Florida to serve with her. I can honestly say that I love Sister Huber.
It's possible to make your enemies your friends. The end. 
Sister Mal

week 65

Elder Anderson, the priests and who's my companion?

Well family! Hello!
Update on the companion: I've been in a trio since last Tuesday with
Sisters Sutton and Nasman. All we know is that there is a transfer
happening later this week. I am absolutely positive that I will stay
in this area, but as to who my companion will be... That's a
completely different story. Stay tuned until next week :)

Update on the priests: So about half of them had kept their commitment
to read, better than none! Also, five of them didn't show up this
week. We scared them off. Haha! We started class with each of them
sharing with us their biggest doubt about the gospel. It ranged from:
"Why can't we drink coffee?" to "How do I know that Jesus Christ even
lived?" and everything else in between. The rest of class we talked
about, "Why does it matter if I found out?" It was absolutely
fascinating. But I want to go back to the coffee question. We had two
of the boys ask about it. We asked them if they were to rate their
testimony on a scale of one (you're an atheist) to a ten (you're
Joseph Smith), where would you rate it? Thinking they were all that,
they said, "umm 9. Yeah definitely a 9". Then, being the brat that I
am, I gave them a little perspective. Joseph Smith lived and died for
the church. Everything he did in his life was because he KNEW without
a doubt that this is Gods church and that he was doing exactly what
God wanted him to do. He only came to this because He prayed and asked
God for himself. He gained his own witness of the truth. I love the
line in Joseph Smith History where he says, "I knew it and I knew that
God knew it and I could not deny it". We asked these two young men if
they would be willing to die for the gospel.... Silence. One of the
boys started laughing and said, "alright, I take it back. I'm not even
CLOSE to a 9". We want to help them see where they are, so they can
move up the scale. Not one of them has ever prayed and asked God if
the church is true, or if God even exists. They are all going to do it
this week. Stay tuned.

Update on Elder Anderson: did you know his wife is from Tampa? They
came down this weekend to meet with mission presidents in the area and
spend time with family. He use to be the Tampa stake president, so he
called a special fireside for all of the Tampa stake. Mariah and
Prisicilla came and we all got to sit on the front row. We talked to
them about who he was and they were so excited. Mariah, she's 10,
decided she really wanted to meet him. I asked her what she would say
if she met him and she said, "Hi sir, my name is Mariah and I have
been learning about Jesus Christ with the best missionaries in the
world, Sister Sackley and Sister Huber. One day I hope to be
baptized". I could not believe it. We grabbed Sister Cusick and had
Mariah practice on her. Sister Cusick thought it was the sweetest
thing and she said she would make sure Mariah met him. At the end of
the meeting, Sister Cusick had us go up. Sure enough, Mariah went up
to him and shook his hand and said exactly that. He was surprised and
then looked up at Sister Huber and I and smiled, and then turned to
her and said, "You keep listening to what they are teaching you and
you will be baptized one day!" She was on cloud 9. Priscilla shook his
hand and said it was one of the best days of their life. It was a
moment that I will never forget and definitely a moment those girls
will never forget. They are amazing.

We taught the girls about the temple this week and why we have them.
They were quite interested in being able to be married forever, so we
shared some pictures of sealing rooms. They saw the mirrors and were
curious. We explained how you can see forever back and forth with our
iPad. The girls had never seen that before and were SO intrigued. At
the end they both said, "alright. Looks like we'll have to get married
in the castle". We sure do love them.

week 64

Two Sundays ago we received a call from our Bishop. He expressed his concern as there are five priests graduating from high school this year and not one of them currently has plans to serve a mission within the next year. He had been praying about it and told us that he needed our help. For the next 6 to 10 to however many weeks it will take, he wants us teaching priests quorum every Sunday. The biggest worry is that none of these boys have testimonies for themselves. We are to teach them like they are investigators and help each one of these boys figure it out. 

Yesterday was the first time we taught them. There is a couple that sneak out each week, so we grabbed as many as we could and took them in Bishop's office. 10 boys in total, plus Bishop and the Young Men's President. 

They were dead. Literally, half way through the lesson I made them all stand up and jump up and down. They had no energy and really not much of an interest in what we had to say. We straight up told them from the beginning that they would be stuck with us until we get through it all, and if there is no participation, then we would be in there for the next year with them.

Of the 10, we got two of them to open up a little. They didn't give the Sunday School answers that get you by, but real questions and answers that they are clearly trying to figure out. Two out of ten. We'll take it.

Nearing the end of the lesson, I had a thought hit me, that I have had come to mind MANY times on my mission. So I shared it with these priests and I feel like it sums up what we want each one of these boys to do, what each of us need to do! It went a little like this:

Think of Joseph Smith. He was 14 years old. At 14 years old, he didn't know what in the world to do. His parents were trying to lead him one way, and everyone around him was trying to convince him to join with them, but he had no idea what to believe. He wasn't going to take anyone's word for it, and we don't want you to take anyone's word for the church, either. So Joseph prayed and asked. He posed a question to God. Think about it. This ENTIRE church is based off a question. If Joseph had not asked, you and I and everyone else in this church building would not be sitting here today. But the fact of the matter is that he did, and we are here today, but that doesn't mean you have to take everyone else's word for it. We want you to do the exact same thing that Joseph Smith did, ask a question and figure it out for yourself. If you really want to know, God WILL give you an answer. 

We then had each one of them text us how often they were going to read from the Book of Mormon every week, while we are teaching them. We let them pick whatever amount of time they wanted, but they were told that they HAVE to keep their commitment and we will be following up with each of them. Their answers ranged from, attempt to read a verse a week to 10 minutes a day. We'll take anything we can get. 

For the next 6 to 10 to however many weeks I still have, I'm going to send a little update each week as to what happens with these priests. One of my favorite things that I do when I teach investigators, I try and picture them in white in the temple. It helps give me a greater perspective on the end goal we have in mind. Yesterday, I imagined all these young men in white, a little more lively, and with THEIR OWN testimonies of the truthfulness of this gospel. Dad- I'm beginning to see what you're trying to do with all the young men at home. You can't force anyone, you can only invite and encourage them to ask the question for themself. I'm excited for what the upcoming Sundays have in store! Now we have to pray that we didn't scare them all, and that they will still come back next week.... 

Love you all
Sister Mal

week 63

this letter will be in three and a half pieces:

transfers: STAY, both Sister Huber and I, we figured that would happen. We have a ward to build and an area to crush. We are pumped for another 6 weeks here.

testimony request: family, I am requesting that each of you send me a little letter of your testimony on one of the commandments. What I was studying in Preach My Gospel this morning told me to ask my family for testimonies, so here we are. If anyone else wants to join in- feel free. I want to know how you have been blessed for living a specific commandment (ie: tithing, word of wisdom, scripture study, the 10 commandments, pick a commandment, any commandment works) thanks :)

the holy ghost: Madison told me a couple weeks ago that when I listen to General Conference I have to mentally think, "How does this apply to me, come August?" Let me just tell you. It was a struggle to do so, which I guess is a good sign. But this is basically what I learned: I received the gift of the Holy Ghost when I was 8 years old. I had it before I came on a mission. As I have been on my mission, I have gained a whole new appreciation and understanding for it. I have learned how the Holy Ghost works in my life and I have learned the blessings that come from really listening to the promptings I receive. I know where to go for comfort and I know when I am being warned. I know how the spirit speaks to me. But do you know what's so great? I don't have to leave it behind in Florida. I get to take it with me, wherever I go, as long as I do my part. And that's the best thing ever.

As a missionary, you try and help others have this same gift. I think the longer I serve the greater desire I have to make sure others have this guidance in their life as well. When we were teaching Priscilla and Mariah this last week, we went over the baptismal interview questions with them. I was absolutely amazed with their answers and the testimonies they have gained as we have worked with them. It's been incredible to see how their lives have been influenced by the power of the Holy Ghost and after hearing what they know to be true - I can only imagine what the gift of the Holy Ghost will do for them. We are praying that their mom will allow them to make this step! Receiving the Holy Ghost is literally the greatest gift you could ever receive. 

If you didn't watch General Conference- go watch it. The end.

Love you!
Sister Mal