Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! I love this time of year when everyone focuses on the blessings of life:) We truly have so much to be grateful for!
We celebrated Thanksgiving with four families (2 for dinner and 2 for dessert!). Haha Sister Kastner and I had to make sure we didn’t stuff ourselves because there was a ton of food at both dinners:D It was so good!! It was fun to spend the day taking it easy and getting to know these member families better.
I learned a valuable lesson about our purpose this week! The missionary purpose is in Preach My Gospel, and it’s this: “Our 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.” We’ve been teaching a woman (I’ll call her T) for a while now, and until this week she did not understand our purpose. I think she thought we just kept going over to talk to her about Jesus. She definitely didn’t know we were there to baptize her and bring her into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Soo that was not good on our part. But we realized our glaring mistake and planned out how we were going to re-explain the priesthood and invite her to be baptized by someone with that authority (her previous baptism in a different church means a lot to her). So we approached the lesson with a little trepidation, but we just opened our mouths and the Spirit took over! It was beautiful. We invited her to be baptized, and she promised to pray about it.
It turns out she WAS confused because she goes to a Baptist church and she didn’t think we went to the same church. So remembering the Joseph Smith story, she had already been praying about which church she should be a part of!! So despite the fact that we were kinda (okay definitely) bad missionaries, the Spirit helped her do the things we should have been teaching her. Isn’t that amazing?? I need to hold up my end better, but I’m glad Heavenly Father didn’t let her suffer because of it!
And after that lesson, she came to church for the first time! And here’s another miracle for you: I love singing hymns in sacrament meeting. Yesterday in church, the opening hymn was awesome, the sacrament hymn was spiritual, the rest hymn got me all pumped up… and then the closing hymn was “Choose the Right,” which is a great song, but I felt like it didn’t match the topics for the meeting at all. But after the prayer I turned to T and asked her what she thought, and she said, “You know, it’s funny. I’ve been praying about what church to join. I want to be sure to make the right choice. And then I come here and we sing Choose the Right. Maybe that’s God telling me that this is the church I should join.” And I was like, “Yeah! Yeah it is!” So God works in mysterious ways and definitely do not try to judge them!!
And throughout the rest of church T was really involved and making comments and telling everybody about how Sister Kastner and I had changed her life and it was just AMAZING and very humbling. I love missionary work!!!
How have you been? Any fun plans for Thanksgiving? I hope you have a wonderful holiday!:)
This week was pretty exciting:) On Monday, we went to a member’s house and she taught us how to do some crafts and also made us homemade pizza and bread and stir fry and it was delicious:) And she gave us aprons she made for us and a book of her recipes and homemade chutney. Oh and supplies for us to crochet! She’s the same one who taught us how to make bread a couple weeks ago:) It’s seriously like Christmas when we go to her house. She teaching us homemaking skills and I love her to death!:)
Then Monday night, the roads got really bad. And when we woke up on Tuesday, we had no power and were in the middle of a blizzard! We did our personal and companion studies, training, and had an early lunch, and by then it had stopped snowing, so we decided to brave it:) We stayed in the town of Strasburg just to be safe. It was definitely a learning experience driving in snow! We went pretty slow:) Haha and it was very fun tromping around too:) We went to visit a part member family and got the car stuck in front of their house, so after they finished laughing at us they got out the chains and pulled us out:D And… then we got stuck the next day too. Sooo we’re not that great at driving in snow. But we’re getting better!!:)
Also on Tuesday, we started tracting a neighborhood, and at the first door we knocked a woman answered and let us share a message with her! She explained that her neighbor is a member, and they like to talk about God together. So because this member opened her mouth and shared the gospel with her neighbor, that neighbor let us talk to her, and now she is interested in learning even more! Member missionary work is the best!!!!!
This week, we got to go to the temple! It was an amazing experience:) This week I read that spirits who accept the gospel in the spirit world are usually there in the temple when their ordinances are done. I always thought that was probably true, but it was nice to have it confirmed by a general authority:) It’s so wonderful to think about. There are people on the other side of the veil who are so eager to have their work done! So go to the temple!:)
We taught a lesson about family history work that gave me the opportunity to really reflect on my ancestors’ strength and examples. I can’t remember if I told this story already? But I was thinking about my ancestor Martina who lived in Norway in the 1800’s. As a teenager, she accepted the gospel and left her family and home to join the Saints in Utah! That journey across an ocean and the plains must have been difficult. She was only 16! But she did it. I thought about her a lot when I was preparing for my mission. It was hard to come on my mission, but I knew that I could do it because I saw Martina’s example:)
Note: if you have never seen Elder Holland’s talk “Safety for the Soul,” watch it. It’s so good!!
Now a few things I’m grateful for:
I’m grateful that I get to hear people’s beliefs and testimonies all the time! Everyone has an incredible story, and I want to know them all:)
I’m grateful for the Plan of Salvation. This earth life has no meaning without it. We are eternal beings of divine nature. Our lives did not start here, and they will not end here. This life is a short period of time, but it matters so much. This life is the time for us to prepare to meet God! (Alma 34) Everyone deserves to know that God is their Father, that He loves them, and that He has a glorious plan for them.
I’m grateful for the stars. It’s an amazing view here. I love to see the north star and the constellations and the milky way. It’s breathtaking. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are so beautifully creative!
I’m grateful for the members! They take good care of us. I think we’re getting three Thanksgiving dinners:D
I’m grateful for member missionary work:D There is tracting, and there’s street contacting, but President Hinckley said that anyone who knows something about missionary work knows that there is a better way, and that way is through the members. Share the gospel with your friends. Invite them to church or activities or both! God places us where we are because there are people around us who are prepared to hear about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s a message of hope, and everyone needs to hear it!
Most of all, I am grateful for my Savior. This week, a less-active we were teaching asked to hear our conversion stories. It made me think about how I have grown in the gospel, how I gained my testimony. It was an amazing experience to talk about it and share those things that are so close to my heart. I truly know that Christ is my Savior. I know Him. I know that He suffered everything for me and for the rest of Heavenly Father’s children, my brothers and sisters. He loves us so much! I love Him too. I want to show that love in my whole way of life.
This gospel is truly Christ’s gospel restored to the earth. This Thanksgiving, remember the blessings you have that have come from knowing and living this truth!
It’s getting harder to tract at night because everyone thinks we’re CRAZY for being outside in the cold:D But we are learning to bundle up…and to try to have a solid 8pm appointment every night haha:)Tuesday we had a really good lesson with R, the man who came to church a couple weeks ago. We have a member who comes with us to his lessons, and it is awesome!! They get along really well, and the member helps R understand everything better than when we explain it:) Members are so important in missionary work!! R is progressing so so SO much better than he would be if we were just trying to teach him by ourselves.
Wednesday was really cool:) First, we had our first blizzard in the morning! Yay!!:) It had stopped snowing by the time we had to go anywhere, so that was good (Sister Kastner prayed for that to happen). It’s funny because Sister Kastner and I, being native Californians, are not used to snow at all, so the couple of times that it’s snowed here, we are so excited and run around in it and in our prayers we thank the Lord for it and I’m pretty sure people think we’re a tad bit insane:D But it’s so fun!Then later that day we taught one of our less actives. She comes to sacrament meeting but can’t stay after that for health reasons, so we’re going through the Gospel Principles lessons with her. This week it was on tithes and offerings, and as we discussed the lesson with her, she kept telling us how much she needed that lesson at that moment and how grateful she was that we were talking about it with her. It was an amazing experience! We didn’t know that she needed a lesson about tithing, but Heavenly Father knew. And He takes care of His children.
Then that same day, Sister Kastner said, “I’ve been picturing this street all day. We need to tract it.” So we started tracting, and a few doors down, a woman opened the door and said, “Are you Mormons?” My heart sank because I knew she was about to turn us away, but then she flung the door wide and said, “Come in, come in!!” She proceeded to sit us down on her couch and offer us stew. It turned out she was a less active member! We asked her why she had turned away from the gospel, and she immediately burst into tears. Sister Kastner and I were taken aback, but we listened as she talked about the things she didn’t agree with in the church. Then she started talking about her life lately, and she was going through a really hard time. It was heartbreaking. We talked with her for a little while, and I could see that she was hurting so bad but was afraid to try coming to the gospel again. But I really think that talking with us started the healing process. I know that the Lord loves her so much and led us to her when she needed Him the most.
It is incredible to see these experiences where I know that we are instruments in God’s hands. It is so important to follow promptings from the Holy Ghost, because we may be an answer to a prayer!
Thursday was really great because we did exchanges again, but this time I was left in Strasburg! So I had to run the show, which was a little scary but turned out fine. (I mean we were only 20 minutes late to our dinner appointment from getting lost. That’s not so bad, right?) I was with Sister Smithson, who is a fabulous missionary:) We had a lesson with one of our less actives who is preparing to go to the temple, and it was really awesome. She knows that Heavenly Father wants her at the temple, and she’s going to work to get there:)
Also a while ago we met this man, and we left him with a Book of Mormon and committed him to read and then haven’t been able to contact him since. But on exchanges, we stopped by, and he had read AND prayed about it!!! Just so you know, THAT NEVER HAPPENS. We were like, “Whaaaat that’s awesome!!!!” We tried not to look too surprised:D He hasn’t received an answer yet, but he’s going to keep trying:)
Friday was really really really dull haha. We taught zero lessons. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Well, there was our dinner message, but those don’t really count. We had one appointment scheduled, but it fell through, and nobody we stopped by could meet, and no one was home when we tracted. It was so hard to be motivated to keep going! By 8:00 we were so done, but we had to keep going. So then Saturday morning we prayed that we could teach lots of people, and we had 8 lessons that day!!!!! (That also NEVER happens.) The Lord takes care of His missionaries:) So by that evening, we were completely energized and ready to teach the world:D Before my mission, I was a little worried that I would just be drained every night from talking to people because my me time is really important:) But it’s kind of the opposite. When we don’t get to talk to anyone, I’m exhausted. But when we teach a lesson, I get all pumped up! It’s great:)
Now for an interesting thought from the Book of Mormon! I was reading Alma 36, which is where Alma the Younger is telling his son Helaman about his conversion. I love it because it’s so clear that turning to Jesus Christ was what made all the difference. It turned his agony into exquisite joy. I’ve always loved this chapter, but I also thought it was a little unrealistic to expect that quick of a change in myself or others. But then I read something from Alma 5, which is Alma the Younger teaching the people:
“Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?
Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit.”
That change was not instantaneous like I thought. It wasn’t like the flip of a switch. His experience with the angel was just the beginning! He had to keep going. He had to fast and pray many days. And that’s how it is for us! Once we open our hearts and let in our Savior, we don’t stop there. We do those things that bring us even closer to Him. And we can always come closer to Him, because none of us are going to reach perfection in this life. And He will be there with us every step of the way because He loves us and He knows how to lead us home:)
The gospel is true! It is the same gospel that Christ established on the earth, and He restored it through Joseph Smith. Through living this gospel, we will be able to have peace in this life and eternal joy in the next. I know this is true!
I love you all and hope you have an amazing week!:)
So first I’ll tell you about the best thing that happened this week! I think I already talked about the mother R and her teenage daughter J who are taking lessons. R has been investigating the church off and on for nine years. Yup you read that right. Nine years!! But we only met her daughter a little over a month ago. And when we started teaching both together, everything changed. First J decided to be baptized, and R was really supportive, but we wanted her to get baptized as well. And this past week, we met with them, and R said she had decided to be baptized too!!! Sister Kastner and I left that lesson absolutely giddy:) They are amazing people, and it’s so cool to see their testimonies growing. They have a lot of faith in Christ, and they are learning more and more from the Book of Mormon. They came to church yesterday, and the ward was super supportive! Lots of people introduced themselves and expressed their support, and it was a really great experience for everyone involved:)
It’s so so great to have investigators come to church:) It’s happened a couple weeks in a row now and I love it!! Last week, it was actually a miracle. It was fast Sunday, so I fasted for our investigators to come to church. And we had this list of the ones we thought would come, so we were anxiously waiting for them before sacrament meeting. And then in walked our investigator R, who was actually the last person we expected to come!! It was awesome:) He was only able to stay for sacrament meeting because we had forgotten to tell him that church was three hours long(oops!), but he had a good experience.
And you know, I think people are way more likely to come to church if their friends in the ward invite them rather than the missionaries, so invite your friends to church! We love when our members do that:)
It snowed this week! Just a tiny bit, but still. We were pretty excited. And now it’s warm again, but it is getting pretty cold at night. When we’re tracting or visiting people at night, they’ve started telling us we’re crazy to be out and we should do it during the day instead:D And we just tell them we do it all day every day!
As a missionary, I’m studying the Book of Mormon more than I ever have before, and it’s amazing because I am loving it more and more every day! It truly is the word of God and contains Christ’s gospel. Through studying it and living by what it teaches, we grow closer to our Savior and more like Him. Sometimes we forget how huge of a blessing the Book of Mormon is. I need to be better about that! Through the Book of Mormon, we can feel how much Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love us:)
Donkey update, THERE ARE BABIES AAH THEY’RE SO CUTE. When we went to do service this week, we basically just scooped poop and played with babies the whole time. Awww:D It’s hard out here because missionaries aren’t allowed to hold human babies, but there’s nothing in the handbook about baby donkeys! Not that I could hold them.. but still it’s soo so fun to play with them:)
We had interviews with President Mendenhall this week! I have to admit, I was a little intimidated by the thought of it, but it turned out to be really fun. The first thing he said when I walked in was, “I’m sorry Sister Stratford, we can’t give you a tortilla press.” That was a little disappointing. You see, the mission office gets us whatever kitchen supplies we need. So a few weeks ago, Sister Kastner and I asked the zone leaders for a tortilla press so we could make tortillas and fiesta all the time, but nothing came of it. But now we know for sure that the mission office doesn’t give out tortilla presses:( But anyway, the interview was really good! President Mendenhall is THE BEST. He truly cares about all of the missionaries here and wants the best for us:) And we also got to talk to Sister Mendenhall, who I’m pretty sure is the kindest person in the world!! I love her so much:)
So this week was a little difficult because some of my favorite investigators dropped us:( It’s tough! I love them all so much and can so clearly see how the gospel would bless their lives! But I can’t force them to do anything. It has to be their choice to pray and read the Book of Mormon and come to church and be baptized. So I guess now isn’t their time. I believe that sometimes we’re just planting seeds, and these people will be ready to accept the restored gospel when future missionaries come along:) That actually happened with my MTC companion! She and her family joined the church several years ago, but they had met with missionaries even years before that. They just weren’t ready yet. But now they’re baptized and sealed and really strong in the church! So I still have hope:)
Last week, Sister Kastner and I met this old man who let us talk to him. It turned out he used to go preach at revivals all the time, so he pretty much talked to us like one missionary to another and just gave us a bunch of advice:D It was good advice too! Like he talked about how we’re planting seeds, and about studying God’s word a ton, and about how we have angels around us helping us:) It was great! And then he wanted to show us a preacher on TV to enlighten us a little, and we didn’t know how to say that we weren’t allowed to watch TV, so I prayed that the TV wouldn’t work. And then it didn’t!! He was like, “It was working 10 minutes ago!” And then after the lesson, when Sister Kastner and I were walking away, we were talking about it and realized we had BOTH been praying that his TV would break. So basically we broke an old guy’s TV through the power of prayer. We felt a little bad, but I’m sure it started working as soon as we left:)
Sister Kastner and I have been in an Old Testament mood lately, and it’s great!:) I’ve never just read through the O.T. before, and my faith is really being strengthened from seeing the examples of the prophets like then, like Adam and Abraham. They gave up a lot for the Lord!! And also, we’ve found some gems. For example:
“Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll.” (Zechariah 5:1, #foodfight)
“And they despised him, and brought him no presents.” (1 Samuel 10:27, #naughtylist)
“Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing.” (Proverbs 18:22, #doesntgetanyclearerthanthat)
“Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff.” (1 Samuel 10:22, #hideandseektime)
“A living dog is better than a dead lion.” (Ecclesiastes 9:4, #whatishappening)
So read your Old Testament, kids!
Today I was reading in Joseph Smith History, and I love verse 25 so much! Joseph was only 14 years old, and he was going through persecution because he had seen a vision from God. But through it all, he would not deny it. “For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God, knew it, and I could not deny it.” He stuck to what he knew, no matter what. I want to be like that! It is so powerful to read through Joseph’s testimony of what happened with the First Vision and translating the Book of Mormon. I know that Jesus Christ restored His true gospel to the earth through Joseph Smith, a latter-day prophet of God. I know that President Monson is our prophet today, and that he leads this church under the authority of Christ. This is Christ’s gospel. Through it, we can find peace in this life and eternal life in the life to come. We can be eternal families. I am so grateful that I have the gospel in my life! And I want to share it with everyone:)