Welcome to Thornton!

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The sisters in my district at Strasburg!

Hey everyone,

On Tuesday I had to say goodbye to Strasburg. It was sad, but I’m so grateful I was able to serve there. Now I’m in a city called Thornton. That’s like the north edge of the mission (Strasburg was the east edge). It is pretty darn weird to see people walking around all over the place and to have traffic and stuff! I’m in two wards, the Thornton ward and the Cherrywood ward (I was in church for 7 hours yesterday, including two ward councils). My companion is Sister Wick, and she served in Strasburg last spring/summer! So we talk about it a lot:) She’s a spunky little redhead with a strong testimony of missionary work. She actually joined the church a couple of years ago and is really able to understand how investigators feel since she was in the same boat. I know I’m going to learn a lot from her!

Thornton mapSister Wick and her previous companion lived with a member, but this transfer we’re in an apartment. So on Wednesday we got all moved in and cleaned everything up and it was great and then on Thursday… haha we found out that we had moved into the wrong apartment. Luckily the one we were in still belonged to the mission and they let us stay!!:)

We’re teaching the husband of a sister in the ward, and he’s going to be baptized on February 20! We had a lesson with him on Saturday, and he and his wife are super excited:) It’s so cool to see! The ward has been really awesome with giving them support and I’m so happy for their family:)

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  With my new companion Sister Wick!

Well I don’t know where the time went today, but I need to go! I’m really excited to be in this area, and I know that it’s going to be a great transfer. I know that the Lord is preparing people here to accept His gospel, and I know that as I follow the Spirit I’ll be able to find them:)

I love you all!!

Love,
Sister Stratford

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A Full Heart

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Terricito with Sisters Kastner, Sherwood and I! Isn’t he adorable??

Hi everyone,

Today I have a very full heart, for a couple of reasons.

On Sunday, Terry Jr (or Terricito), the nine-year-old son of a less-active family, was baptized and confirmed. It’s the family from Venezuela who gave us those yummy ayacas. 🙂 Terricito was just glowing, and his family was too. 🙂 The baptism and confirmation ordinances were performed in Spanish, and it was very special. I played the piano, and Sister Sherwood and Terricito’s older sister sang “Me Encanta El Arcoiris” (I Like to Look for Rainbows) in Spanish. 🙂 Sister Sherwood and I also gave the talk on the Holy Ghost, and we talked about how he is our contant companion and our best friend and helps us be happy and safe in our lives:) Right before the baptismal ordinance, we walked into the room where the font was, and Terricito’s mom was beaming from ear to ear and whispered to me, “I’m so happy!”

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With Terricito’s amazing sister!

When Terricito was confirmed, Sister Sherwood and I listened hard and took notes, trying to translate from Spanish to English. Sister Sherwood’s mom is actually from Mexico, so she understands Spanish really well. When we compared notes, we had gotten the same things, so that makes me feel good about my Spanish-speaking abilities:) Terricito’s dad doesn’t speak Spanish, so we gave him the notes and it was really cool. 🙂

The other big news is that transfers are here and I’m leaving Strasburg. I wish I could stay here forever, but I’ve been here for four and a half months and it’s time to move on. I have truly grown to love the people here, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to serve them and help them come closer to our Savior. It’s been strange for the past few days, teaching people and knowing it’s the last time. But Sister Sherwood is staying and I know that she will take very good care of them!

Last night we visited Terricito’s family one more time, and it was so special to talk to them about how the baptism was just the beginning, and they can keep growing and keep progressing in the gospel. Sister Sherwood and I learned how to pray in Spanish as a surprise for them, and as I said the closing prayer I really felt the Spirit and how much Heavenly Father loves this family and all of us. All of the people I’ve been teaching are just at the beginning of their journeys back home to Heavenly Father, and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it. But I know that Heavenly Father will continue to place people in their paths to help them along the way. 🙂

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The mother and daughter in Strasburg! They came to the baptism and loved it! 🙂

An eight-year-old boy was baptized on Saturday too, and his grandpa gave the Holy Ghost talk and gave the boy a pencil and told him to try to break it. It was easy to break. The grandpa told him that one pencil was like his baptism. But then he gave him another pencil that represented receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and another one that represented receiving the priesthood, and another one that represented going to the temple, and being sealed, and having a family, and praying, and reading the scriptures, and going to church, and he just kept listing things off and giving him more pencils. And when the boy had a big handful of them, his grandpa told him to try to break them all together. He couldn’t. His grandpa said that when we do the things that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have asked us to, when we keep growing and keep progressing in the gospel, we become spiritually strong. And then, even when adversity comes, we can’t be broken.

I love that object lesson. 🙂 All of us are progressing in the gospel. It doesn’t matter where we are or how many pencils we have, just that we’re moving forward. Because when we’re moving forward, we’re becoming spiritually strong. We’re becoming the people we came to earth to become, the people Heavenly Father knows we can become. And He will be with us every step of the way. 🙂P1010996

I’ve been thinking about how I can keep progressing. I challenge all of you to think about how you can progress, too!

Thank you for your love and support. I love you all!

Love,
Sister Stratford

Time Flies When You’re Preaching, Teaching & Having Fun!

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Don’t let the sun and smiles deceive you. We’re freezing!

Hi everyone,

Can you believe that time is flying by so fast?? It’s crazy!!

I never liked January because Christmas was over, so I felt like winter should be too. That was a pretty okay mindset in California, but I’m having to adjust it a little now. From what people are telling me, we’re not going to have spring until sometime in May. So I guess I’ll just have to get used to it:)

It’s almost the end of the transfer and it’s so weird! People say that when you’re on a mission, the days feel like weeks and the weeks feel like days. It is SO TRUE.

P1010949Guess what? Our investigator T who we were able to talk to after over a month? We had another lesson with her and brought a calendar and asked her when she wanted to be baptized, and as soon as we showed it to her she pointed to February 13th and said, “Can it be this day?” super excited and we were like, “Of course!!” The only thing with her is that stuff ALWAYS gets in the way of meeting with her. She tries so hard to meet with us, but then something always happens. Like one time her phone actually broke and we hadn’t texted her the address yet of where we were meeting and so we couldn’t meet and now she’s trying to get a new phone. So yeah opposition in all things. But she is so amazing and so excited to be baptized!! So it will all work out in the end:)

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We went to  mutual with one of our young women investigators, and we made journals!! One of the leaders was doing a tutorial for how to decorate it, but I felt that limited my creative potential, so I made a frog prince instead. (And our investigator had a great time! 🙂 )

We’re trying to work a lot with the youth in the ward because we’re teaching a few teenagers. It’s really cool! We’re actually teaching seminary for a day this week and I’m super excited:) One of our investigators (J) came to mutual this week and it was really fun!

We’ve been sharing the talk by Elder Jefferey R. Holland “And None Were with Him” with a lot of people.

He talks about how when Jesus went through the Atonement, it was really lonely. Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him. His people, who He only wanted to help and save, rejected Him.

“The Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.

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Off-roading, yess!

“And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man, and say that he hath a devil, and shall scourge him, and shall crucify him.” (Mosiah 4:5, 9)

And in the end, not even Heavenly Father could be with Him. Elder Holland says, “I speak of those final moments for which Jesus must have been prepared intellectually and physically but which He may not have fully anticipated emotionally and spiritually—that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries in ultimate loneliness, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'”

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We see deer and antelope quite often

As missionaries, we hear a lot of people’s problems. And one that a lot of people have is that they feel that they’re alone. But Jesus felt alone too.  Elder Holland continued: “This perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel.” And because of that, He does understand. He knows. He has felt all that we feel. And He is always there to help us know that we are children of Heavenly Father, Christ’s brothers and sisters, and that we are loved.

I am so grateful for my brother and my Savior, Jesus Christ. Elder Holland concluded, “May we stand by Jesus Christ ‘at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death,’ for surely that is how He stood by us when it was unto death and when He had to stand entirely and utterly alone.” I am going to stand by Christ. I love Him so much!

IMG_0185I hope you all have a wonderful week of remembering the Savior:)

Love,
Sister Stratford

The Power of the Restoration

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Hey everyone,

Happy New Year!! Can you believe it’s 2016? Time is flying by SO fast and I don’t know what to do about it!

We were able to meet with our investigator J, the teenage girl, two times this week and she is doing great. She’s been reading the Book of Mormon and praying, and she really likes it! About a month and a half ago, she wanted to be baptized, but she didn’t really have a testimony. Now she’s trying to build that testimony so she can know if this is the right decision. It’s really amazing to see how living the gospel is helping her!

We also were able to see our investigator T who we haven’t seen for over a month because she moved and then she got sick! We were pretty worried about it since she had already felt the Spirit so much and had come to church and had even decided to be baptized. It was so so good to see her again, and the best part is that she still knows the gospel is true and wants to be baptized! We were going to help her set a date for it, but before we could, she started talking about goals and how baptism is her goal and how she needs to set a timeline for it and for the goals leading up to it, like prayer and reading the Book of Mormon! She committed herself to praying about a date and we were like, “Okay you’re perfect.” Then she came to church again, and everybody was bearing their testimonies about the temple and then the Gospel Principles class was about the temple, and we knew it would just go over her head or give her tons of questions because we haven’t talked to her about the temple yet, but she paid attention and participated in the discussion and the members answered her questions, and now she wants to be baptized for her deceased mother! It’s so awesome!!

The reason T is such a golden investigator is that she knows how to pray, and she knows how to receive answers. She is really close to the Holy Ghost without even having the gift of the Holy Ghost yet. So when she prays and reads and comes to church, she feels that witness of its truth so strongly. It really humbles me because I know that I have a long way to go with being in tune with the Spirit!

On Saturday, we had a blitz. That’s where all the missionaries in the district go to a struggling area and we all just tract there for a little while. So Sister Sherwood and I were assigned this street, and we witnessed some miracles! We were tracting for an hour, and we only got to I think seven houses because five people talked to us! At one of the houses we met this young man, and it turned out he lived with a member who had been “working on him,” and this young man had actually just finished praying when we knocked on his door. !!! We taught him the message of the Restoration and left him with a Book of Mormon and the missionaries’ number. Then we met this guy who didn’t even live there and was just house-sitting, and he was quitting smoking and looking for a good book to read to keep his mind off of cigarettes. We were definitely able to help him out with that! We taught him the Restoration too and gave him the Book of Mormon, and he was really excited about reading it and felt that it would strengthen him in his resolution. And ALSO we met this woman who did not look like Mormon material because she had tons of tattoos all over and an atheist husband, but hers was the best miracle of all! More on that in a minute:) Overall it was a really wonderful experience, and there were some other great stories from the other missionaries who were participating in it too. I know that the Lord is truly preparing people to receive His restored gospel!

We talk about the Restoration a LOT as missionaries. To tell you the truth, I don’t know if I ever really appreciated what an important event it was before my mission. But it truly is incredible.

P1010948We know how crucial Christ’s life on earth was. He showed us the way to live in order to live with Heavenly Father again, and He performed the Atonement and Resurrection so it would be possible. But sometimes we don’t think about how He established His church. He called His twelve apostles and gave them the priesthood, the authority and power to heal and bless and baptize. His church, with His teachings and priesthood, was perfect. We like to describe it as a beautiful sheet of glass. And then He was crucified, His apostles martyred, and the glass shattered. Different people and churches gathered some of the shards and did the best they could, but no one had the fullness of the gospel.

But because Heavenly Father loves His children, He was preparing a way for it to come back. He was preparing another prophet.

Joseph Smith was only fourteen years old in the year 1820. His mom went to one church and his dad didn’t go to any, and he wanted to know where he was supposed to go.

“So great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.

“In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?”

So Joseph went to the Bible. In James 1:5, he read: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

When he read that scripture, it hit him hard. He kept thinking about it over and over again. He knew he needed to take his question to God. So one morning he went to the grove of trees near his home where he could be alone. He knelt down and started to pray to Heavenly Father. And then he had this experience:

“I saw a pillar of light, exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other– This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

We always quote that to people, word for word. After we recited it to the woman with the tattoos that we met in the blitz, I asked her how she felt. “Actually, I got goosebumps,” she told us. She listened intently as we told her about how Jesus Christ called Joseph to be His prophet in the latter days and to bring back the Church He had established so long ago. We gave her a Book of Mormon and told her that if she sincerely read and prayed about it, she would receive a witness from the Holy Ghost that these things are true.

Sister Sherwood had a seminary teacher who used to say, “The Spirit aches to bear testimony of Joseph Smith.” It’s really true. The most spiritual part of a Restoration lesson is always when we tell the story of the First Vision. It’s truly a message of hope and of God’s love. He is mindful of His people now just as much as He was in the Bible, so He has given us prophets and His church on the earth today.

If you don’t have a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Restoration of Christ’s gospel, read the Book of Mormon and sincerely pray about it. Because if it’s true, then Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. And if Joseph was a prophet, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth.

P1010976President Howard W. Hunter said, “Sometimes we may feel that our spiritual edge has grown dull. On some very trying days, we may even feel that God has forgotten us, has left us alone in our confusion and concern. But that feeling is no more justified for the older ones among us than it is for the younger and less experienced. God knows and loves us all. We are, every one of us, his daughters and his sons, and whatever life’s lessons may have brought us, the promise is still true: ‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.'”

I know that Joseph Smith prayed in that grove of trees and that he saw what he said he saw. I know that through him, Christ restored His gospel. And I know that we can receive answers from God through the Holy Ghost, whether they be about the truth of the gospel or about other concerns and trials. He loves us, He hears us, and He answers our prayers. Even if it’s in His own time and His own way:)

I hope you all have a wonderful 2016! Thank you for your support and prayers!

Love,
Sister Stratford