The Work Has Begun!

Hey everyone,

I’ve experienced a week in Strasburg! And I love it:)

Last week we were able to go to the Denver temple! It’s actually in the Denver South mission, but they let us go anyway. It is so beautiful, and I loved being able to feel the Spirit so strongly there.

SisstraandsiskastUs Strasburg sisters have the best service in the whole mission. Know why? Donkeys. Yup, donkeys. I don’t think I’ve really ever seen a donkey up close before, but now I have walked them, weighed them, even taken them on obstacle courses. It’s pretty sweet! They can be a little stubborn and very loud, but they’re awesome:) The mission office called while we were there, and we were having a little trouble talking on the phone because the donkeys were kinda trying to tie us in knots with the lead ropes, so we were like, “Sorry we’re trying to take these donkeys through this obstacle course. Can we call you back later?” And we just heard this laugh and then, “Only in Strasburg.” Haha that phrase is actually used a lot out here!

We may have to trade our pickup for a Jeep. So yeah kinda sad but also cool.

I think everyone here has five dogs or more. More often than not, a few dogs and maybe a cat sit in on our lessons (and sometimes sit on us). I pretty much just pet dogs all day long and it’s great:)

The stars are so clear out here! Sister Kastner and I were looking at them last night and it’s a spectacular view. It’s so crazy to look at the Milky Way and think about this endless expanse of space and stars. Looking at the stars always makes me feel closer to Heavenly Father somehow.

Okay so now to the good stuff: the people! I love the people out here so much and it’s only been a week! Our investigators are awesome, our members are awesome, basically everyone is awesome. I feel like I generally like people pretty well, but it’s amazing how much trying to help people come closer to Christ helps me love them. Sister Kastner and I spend so much time thinking about each person and what they need and how we can help them, and it’s so different from what I’m used to but it’s a great way to live. It’s really helping me to have charity and be more Christ-like.

We do a lot of tracting here, which I didn’t think I would like at first. I’ve heard a lot of stories about knocking doors for hours at a time and how almost no one lets you in and how some people get annoyed. And that’s all true, but I’ve found that I like it anyway because we get to meet so many people. And even though most people refuse us, almost all of them are very polite and some even commend us for the work we’re doing! And of course, sometimes people say yes. Or at least tell us when we can come back. So even though it’s tiring, I think tracting is kind of fun:)

Another thing that’s awesome about people is that we’ve gotten to know so many people who love God. There are a lot of religious people here, and it’s inspiring to see their faith. We still want to help them receive the restored gospel, but it’s amazing to see how they’ve seen God’s hand in their lives so far. I just want them to see that we can help them find even more light and truth!

missionmintsAt the MTC, one thing that was hard for me was teaching by the Spirit. I knew how important it was, but it was hard for me and I didn’t usually feel like I was relying on the Spirit and letting Him guide the lesson. And I still don’t usually feel like that I guess, but I’m learning! There have been a few times over this past week where I was just teaching and then I said something that I hadn’t even planned on saying, and it turned out to help the investigator. I know that when we do our best to study His word and have the Spirit with us, and we open our mouths, Heavenly Father will give us what we need to say. And that’s because He loves His children, and He knows what these investigators need to hear to help them receive the gospel so they can find the peace and joy they need. I want to be the best instrument in His hands that I can be:)

Today I was reading in Alma 34, and I love the part in verse 33 where it says this day of life is given to us to prepare for eternity. Our lives here on earth really are so short compared to our eternal lives. But the amazing thing is that this life has so much influence on everything after. We chose to come to earth so we could become like our Heavenly Father, whom we loved so much. Now we’re here, and it’s so easy to forget that purpose. But it’s so important to remember! Now is the time to prepare for eternity. This life is an incredible opportunity! This, right here, is where we start to become like our Father in Heaven. I’m going to try to remember that more:)

Well I love you all! Have a wonderful week:)

Love,
Sister Stratford

P.S. The pictures are of Sister Kastner and me and of some awesome mints I got at the church bookstore that say, “Open your mouth and it shall be filled.”

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Hello from Colorado!

Hi everyone,

I’m finally here!!! The MTC was amazing, but I’m so happy to be here in the field. And by field, I mean literally a field. But more on that later.

I got up at 3am Monday morning, and I think we left the MTC a little before five. We were on this bus full of elders, and then there were two sisters besides me. The sisters were both in my MTC district, and there were three elders from my district as well, so that was really nice to have some familiar faces! As the bus left the MTC parking lot, the Provo temple was right there in front of us. Since it was still dark outside, the temple was all glowing and beautiful. It was like BAM you’re doing the Lord’s work and it’s awesome.

Then we took two trains to the airport and flew into Denver. As we were starting to come down over Denver, Sister Walker and Sister York and I couldn’t see any mountains or lightning or snow. Since that’s all I’ve heard about my mission, I was a little confused, but it turned out we were in the right place. We came into the airport and saw these signs for tornado shelters, so that was slightly worrying too, but it sounds like tornado season is coming to a close and we should be good until around April. So it was just this huge group of elders and three sisters coming off the plane in confusion, but then we met President and Sister Mendenhall and they are awesome!! They met each of us and talked to us for a while, and then we took a couple pictures with them. I think those pictures are on a facebook page for the Colorado Denver North mission. Anyway, we all loaded up into cars and drove for a while until we came to the mission home.

Oh and by the way we found the mountains. That was reassuring. They were just on the other side where we couldn’t see them from the plane. They were kind of in the distance though.

Everyone in the mission home is super amazing and nice! I love all of them. We went through some orientation stuff, and then we had lunch since we were all faint from exhaustion and hunger, and then we met our trainers!! We went up one by one, and when I went up, President Mendenhall said “And Sister Stratford is going to Strasburg” really meaningfully and all of the missionaries who had already been in the mission were like, “Ohhhhhh” and I was like is this good or bad?? And then I met Sister Kastner! She is my companion and she’s the best!! She’s from California too, AND she went to BYU last year too, AND she’s into art too, AND we even had the same Book of Mormon professor last year! We’re going to hike the Y together after our missions.

Sister Kastner and President and Sister Mendenhall filled me in on Strasburg. When they found out I’m from San Jose each of them said something to the effect of “Wellll hmm this will be a fun new experience for you!” So Strasburg is like COUNTRY. It’s so flat, you can see the curvature of the earth! It actually takes up over half of the entire mission area. Out here, it’s just me and Sister Kastner, and five small towns, and prairie. Oh and our pickup truck! Haha I love our pickup truck:)

After we left the mission home, we drove for a long time. And oh my goodness the sky was putting on a show. The clouds just soared above us and they were so breathtaking I couldn’t stop looking at them! And they seriously have not stopped putting on a show since I got here. Sister Kastner said the sky is always gorgeous:)

Also there are prairie dogs here. They don’t just live in zoos!

Finally we got to our apartment, which is super cute! And then we went to do cool missionary things!! We went to dinner with a member family first, and they were awesome. And then we went to an investigator’s house and we *cough*prettymuchjustSisterKastner*cough* taught a lesson about the Plan of Salvation! I really felt the Spirit. And then we went back to the apartment and I got settled in.

It was a very tiring day, but also so exciting!! I already love being here and can’t wait to meet the rest of the people. Sister Kastner has been telling me about our members and investigators and they sound amazing! And I still can’t get over how beautiful it is in this area. Out here under the sky you can’t help but feel the Spirit all the time:)

I’ve actually been thinking a lot about the Spirit. It is so crucial to have Him with us to guide us as we do missionary work. Heavenly Father knows people’s needs a lot better than we do, so when we rely on the Spirit, we will say exactly what people need to hear. I’m not very good at that yet, but I’m learning!

I know that Heavenly Father is real and that He loves us. And because He loves us, He has a plan for us to be as happy as we can possibly be! That plan is called the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we have it! Isn’t that amazing? I know that through Jesus Christ, we can learn and grow from our mistakes in this life and become better people because of it. We can become who we want to be. When we come to Him, He turns our weakness into strength. That definitely brings me happiness and hope right now, when I don’t quite know what I’m doing just yet! I know that Jesus Christ’s gospel was restored through Joseph Smith, a prophet of God. We are incredibly blessed to have the gospel, and it is essential for us to share it with the world. Everyone everywhere deserves to know that Heavenly Father loves them, that He has a plan for them, and that they can find peace, comfort, and joy in this life and the next.

I’m going to make sure the people in my five little towns can know that:)

I hope you all are doing well! You are amazing! And thank you for your support and prayers. I feel them with me:)

Love,
Sister Stratford

I’m Going to Colorado!

Hi!

So this is just a quick email to say that I’m leaving Monday morning! I am so excited to go to Colorado!! It’s crazy that it’s so close. Monday is just two days away!!! But I have to say that I am going to miss the MTC. It was so sad to say goodbye to my teachers today! Sister Thompson and Brother Scherck are AMAZING and I learned so much from them and felt the Spirit so strongly.

Yesterday was one of our best lessons yet! We taught an inactive member, Jan, who fell away from the church soon after she was baptized. It was a great lesson because we really tried to understand where she was coming from and teach her exactly what would help her in her life, and by the end, we loved her so much and the Spirit was so strong!

Then when we were teaching our investigator Erika that night, she told us she much preferred Satan’s plan. More than once. So, that was a little disappointing, but at least she felt our love for her.

Today we taught our progressing investigator Ryan, and last time we taught him he was super apathetic and sleepy, so this time we asked him lots of questions, especially ones that helped him examine his own relationship with Heavenly Father and how having a stronger relationship would help him with his challenges in life. And he was acting totally different! He really was interested in the lesson, and I could tell he felt the Spirit teaching him. And I felt a much greater love for him than I did last time since I was trying so hard to understand what he needed.

I love Sister Choo and the rest of my district more than I thought was possible from just a week and a half together. It’s amazing to see how much the MTC is changing all of us. It seems kind of cruel to split us up, half to Denver and half to Washington, after learning so much together, but we all exchanged emails and we’re going to keep in touch:)

All in all, I am learning a TON. There are definitely hard things about being here, but it is completely worth it. I’m so excited to go to Colorado and use all of this amazing knowledge I’m collecting! And it’s not just knowledge. I have truly become more converted, and I hope that I can become even more converted every day for the rest of my life! I know that Heavenly Father loves me and is with me. I could not do this without Him! Jesus Christ is my Savior, and every person on earth can find what they need by coming to Him. That’s why I’m out here:)

I love you all SO much!!! Thank you for all of your love and support, and have a fantastic week!!!!

Love,

Sister Stratford