Tuesday, October 8, 2013

General Conference is Wonderful!

Dearest Family:

Wasn't General Conference wonderful?!?!?! I absolutely loved it! I hate to admit it but this may have been the first time I stayed awake the whole time. It was totally worth it though to have to be in a freezing chapel wearing a skirt. The talks were all so good. I'm so sad it's already over.

This week may have been my favorite of my whole mission. Things have just been going really well. I love Solvang, the ward and the people here. Hermana Cannon and I are continuing to get a long and I am losing myself in the work further each day. I am so excited to go to Argentina but also so scared. Today Sister Truman called from the office for me and Sister Cannon and I had a slight freak out moment. I have to go be fingerprinted again at the police station here. I don't know if that means things are moving along or that they are finally getting started. As long as I know it is all in the Lord's hands I'll try to be patient.

Our first major miracle of the week occurred on Tuesday night. We had a dinner appointment with a family in the ward and their non-member friends. We had met Mayra, the non-member woman, at the Relief Society Broadcast on Saturday and were so excited to teach her and her husband about the restoration. We both felt prepared after personal study and got to work practicing what we would say. As we EDPEP'd (explain, demonstrate, practice, evaluate, re-practice) we really began to struggle explaining dispensations clearly. We continued to practice but it just didn't seem to come. We eventually moved on and hoped for the best.

The first step in the miracle occurred when I received a letter that day from an old seminary teacher, Sister Egbert. I haven't seen her in a long time but I loved her in Seminary and it was such a wonderful surprise to get a letter from her. She somehow found my address and sent me a beautiful letter talking about her mission and some experiences she had. It was exactly what I needed at this time and I was so grateful for her wisdom. One message from her letter was especially applicable that day, however. She explained how at one point in her mission after teaching about the restoration, she found herself discouraged that they were not getting return appointments. She pointed out that our message is so beautiful people should be begging us to come back and explain more. She began a process of fasting and really focusing on her teaching skills over a month. She then explained how after weeks of study she began to see that the Lord was blessing her with the ability to teach clearly as she had investigators ask questions such as "Where is this pattern now". They really understood how God works throughout history.

This was exactly what I needed to hear right before we went into our lesson. As the evening progressed we realized we wouldn't have the amount of time we hoped we would have to teach the lesson, but things worked out perfectly so that we were left with just two couples and us at the dinner table. We began teaching and the Lord literally filled our mouths with the words to say. The spirit filled the room and this couple began asking questions such as, "So does that mean there is a prophet today?" and "How do you know Thomas S. Monson is the prophet?" It was music to our ears! We testified in unity of the divinity of our message and left them with a Book of Mormon. As we left we knew we had taught by the spirit and that Heavenly Father really had blessed us to teach through him. It was a beautiful experience. Some of my favorite moments in the mission are when I can feel the spirit testifying to people as I teach and I know I am doing what the Lord would have me do.

That day we also had a fun adventure with Louie our Syrian friend. He doesn't understand a lot of English but we tried to teach him a little about the restoration and help him read a little to practice his English. He has five kids waiting in Lebanon right now for immigration issues to be able to come to the US and he misses them a lot. He really is just a nice guy who is super lonely. He kept saying, "You are welcome!" (meaning we were welcome there in his home.) He offered to take us to lunch and so we went to a super overpriced coffee house place for sandwiches. He is so great though. At the end when we tried to set an appointment he said, "You no set appointment. You come all the time. We friends. We best friends. You call and say, Louie we come over in an hour and then come. We eat dinner or lunch." He's just so funny and sweet.

On Wednesday evening we had another miracle over dinner with our investigator Connie. She is the super sweet 78 year old woman we are teaching who kisses us on the cheek every time we see her and is basically like our Grandma. She and Pat Opp, her adorable sister-in-law, took us to Panda China for dinner. We had prepared a lesson about fasting for her in hopes of helping her received her answer about baptism through fasting and listening to General Conference. As we began teaching our lesson she mentioned that she forgot to bring her Book of Mormon and that she wanted to show us something. Connie has been reading the Book of Mormon by asking a question and then opening up to a random page and reading for a few minutes each day. She told us in our last appointment that all of her questions had been answered (which is a miracle in and of itself) but this week we asked her to focus on receiving and answer about baptism. We asked her what she wanted to show us and she told us that she had already received her answer! What the heck?! She had just let us talk all through dinner and for five minutes about our lesson before telling us she knows she needs to be baptized! No big deal. We were so excited! She explained that her next task is to pray to have the strength and desire to accept God's will. She now knows what she needs to do but she needs to accept God's answer. It is taking some time with Connie but we are so excited to hopefully set her baptismal date in our next appointment and see her change her life. She is so wonderful and has so much work to do for her family in the temple. She really is so prepared!

On Friday this week I had exchanges with Hermana Coleman. I had the opportunity to go up to Santa Barbara with her and work in her area. It was wonderful to talk to her as we drove and really learn from her and myself as we talked about our goals for the mission and how to change and become what the Lord needs us to be. Being in Hermana Coleman's area was a great opportunity for me to practice my Spanish since all of her investigators are Spanish speakers. I was nervous but also excited for the opportunity. My goal for the day was to really work on teaching by the spirit. Since my experience on Tuesday, I really want to work on teaching powerfully and I figure the best way to do that is by the spirit.  If I am always listening to Him my teaching will be powerful and fit the needs of my investigators. Throughout the day we had many great opportunities to teach and as I focused on recognizing and acting upon the promptings of the spirit I was really able to feel the Lord working through me. It was such a great learning experience and really helped me to rely on the Lord, especially in speaking Spanish. We both found ourselves saying things in teaching opportunities that might not be "the norm" but we knew because we were teaching by the spirit we were teaching to their needs. There were many people throughout the day who didn't seem interested at first but as we continued to teach and listen to the spirit we were able to see their countenances change and their desire to learn increase, right before our eyes. Hermana Coleman and I also had a great opportunity to talk throughout the day. Through talking with her I learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses and how to be a better missionary. Throughout the day we didn't necessarily have any grand miracles but everything I learned through talking with her and through teaching the people we found gave me a fresh determination to serve more fully. I am so grateful for Hermana Coleman and her wonderful example and the kind way she listened and helped me learn.

Jennifer and Hermana Coleman

One awesome quote I loved from Hermana Coleman was, "If you don't trust your companion you're not really trusting Heavenly Father." I really love this idea. Heavenly Father gave me the companion I have for a reason so if I'm not putting my trust in her I'm not trusting God and his decision to put me with her. Awesome right?

One final miracle of the week occurred yesterday after conference. Toni, a less-active member in our area, had been texting us for the past few days telling us she needed us but she was never able to arrange a meeting with us. We were finally able to visit with her after General Conference on Sunday and really get her story. Up to this point we have talked over the phone and in short visits but we hadn't been able to really hear the whole story and understand her needs. I feel such love for Toni and was so grateful to be able to talk with her. She expressed confusion and sorrow at how her life had turned out. She grew up going to primary and knows the church is true but her life has somehow become something she never planned. She feels trapped in her situation and doesn't know how to get out. She is the same age as you, Mom, and I feel a connection with her like you. It's as if her life is what yours could have been if you hadn't made the choices you did. She married a non-member and didn't stay faithful in the church and things have kind of spiraled. Her husband has also been out of work but without the help of Heavenly Father and the church they don't have the hope that we've had.

We were able to talk to her about the Savior and how through His atonement He can help her and things will look up. We asked her to read her scriptures and pray every day and we are going to make sure she comes to church on Sunday. She has shown such humility to ask for help, when I know it is difficult for her to admit that she is in this situation. I am so grateful that we are able to be here to help her on the path to happiness again. She expressed that she needed sister missionaries and I was once again given a confirmation that I am here for a reason.

On Saturday after conference we were able to drive up to Goleta with our investigator Dane to witness a baptism. It was a beautiful baptismal service and the guy being baptized was so converted and changed. We have decided to push Dane's baptism back a week to the 19th of October in hopes that he will be more ready. He is keeping his commitments but we want to make sure his heart really is changing. I think with a little more time we will be able to see him really further develop his testimony and become a lasting convert. (Hopefully not just because he wants to marry us lol!).

It has been a wonderful week full of little miracles. Sorry I can't tell you everything! Thank you so much for all the letters! I know it won't be as easy in Argentina so I appreciate them all now so I will know I'm loved even when I get there and don't get letters lol. Tell the family and all my friends hello. Thank you for being such wonderful examples and supporters! I love you all SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much. :)

Questions: EDPEP stands for explain, demonstrate, practice, evaluate, re-practice. It's a way to role-play and practice teaching.
Other news:

THANK YOU so much for the wonderful package. I am wearing the slip right now and LOVE it. I also love all of the yummy food. Hermana Cannon and I had fun with the spray cheese and crackers yesterday and I am so grateful for chocolate haha! Thank you also for the soft lips and eye liner.

Just FYI because I think you will think it's cool. The punter for BYU, his last name is Arlano, is from my ward as well.

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