Friday, August 30, 2013

"It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad."

- C.S. Lewis

Harvest Time!

Hello Family and Friends!! 

It has been another week already. It was funny to me that twice this week I was asked why I wasn't in High School... Apparently I still look like I am underage. 

Sister's Conference was so good this week! While we were sitting there I remembered what I felt like walking into the mission office the first day. I've come a long way since then. This is my life... I am a missionary! I also love the friendships I have made with the other sisters in the mission. They are all such beautiful, devout, honest, faithful women; I look up to them and their examples. You couldn't ask for a better group of uplifting lifelong friends. 

We had Mini-Missionaries this weekend!! The Hanford Zone sets apart the Laurel and Priest aged young men and young women to serve as missionaries for one weekend. It was pretty awesome. I had a 16 year old companion who taught me so much about being a missionary. Sister Perez was quiet but she broke out of her comfort zone to talk to everyone! She went tracting and handed out pass along cards like it was no big deal. Her faith and positivity was so refreshing. I miss her, and can't wait to see where she serves her own full-time mission in a few years. 

I got to try Superior Dairy Ice-cream this week! Yay for Banana flavored ice-cream. It is delicious, and their scoops are HUGE. The single was easily split between two of us. (I wish that place was in my boundaries for sure... lucky Elders). 

Another highlight of the week was harvesting GRAPES!!! That is dirty work. I came home caked in all the juice and dust, but it was a blast. I doubt I would love to do that as a full time gig, but for one day it was a good experience. We took knives and trays and cut the grapes off the vine and then laid them out on paper so they can dry into raisins. (We will go back in a few weeks to roll them.) I was sad I had forgot my camera so I don't have any pictures but then again thinking how dirty I was maybe it was a good thing haha. 

Hope it has been a good week for all of you! Thanks for all the letters and love you send. I miss each of you!! 

Hermana Miller 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Where the Water is Stinky and the Air is HOT

“Men and women who turn their lives over to God will find out that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends and pout out peace. Whoever will lose his life to God will find he has eternal life.” - Elder Bruce C. Hafen

Well Hello Family and Friends!! 

Hanford 2nd Ward is quite the change from Los Banos. First I have to tell you the rumors of the stinky water have been confirmed. There is some major sulfur in this water... I am not sure if I will adjust to coming out of the shower smelling like rotting eggs haha. And just to get my other complaint out now, our apartment has no A/C. Worst decision ever. Idk who picked an apartment without air-conditioning when it is in the 100's constantly here; but I guess there are worse things to endure. 

Sister Gneiting is a 19 year old missionary... she is like a little sister I feel. In someways we are so similar it is scary, but in others we are still worlds apart. (She is a lot better at being obedient than I am for one.) I am still excited to work with her. We have a TON to do in this area. Everything was kind of a mess when I showed up. The area book was in disarray, all the investigators just think we are their friends and have no intention of keeping ANY commitments, and our map doesn't even have a guide.... sheeze. But so far we have made some progress. I taught her how to really fill out a progress record and then we cleaned and organized all the random papers floating around the area book. She has been out just one transfer shy of me but she still didn't feel like she knew how to teach the lessons though. (BTW we are in an English ward... both Spanish speaking missionaries though). So we just took all of our study time one day and I had her teach the first lesson to me. It was like pulling teeth, but eventually we made it through and by the time it was over she was just crying and gave me the biggest hug and thank you. Other good news upon arrival was some familiar faces! Elder Keys (my first District Leader) and Elder Artal (an elder that worked in the Porterville branch with) are our Zone Leaders!!! Yay! They are both great Elders so I was pretty excited for that. 

Funny story of the week? Yep, got one:
Out contacting and Melissa (a potential investigator we found) was setting her garbage on the front porch so we offered to take it out for her, which led to us talking and praying with her. She was so sweet and said that she felt there was something sincere about our smiles when we waved to her. Well when we get in and are talking to her, her mother makes her divulge the "rest" of the story... she admits to us that she thought we were girlfriends of the Navy guys that live upstairs and that we were trying to scope out our boyfriend's neighbors haha (I still haven't even met the Navy guys, but I think one is an investigator?). Anyhow, I was laughing pretty hard at that one. [So also I guess there is a Navy base kinda near here... but not in our boundary/area. And three prisons? Crazy.]

Green Plums are DELICIOUS! Had my first one this week and now I am wishing that they were more common here, because they are sweet and juicy. I love serving in an area that fruit is so fresh and abundant, and where members and investigators just give it to us all the time. 

Another funny story? Why not: 
Went to the church to make copies of our records and we stumbled upon a youth stake dance... awkward... 16-17 doesn't seem like it was that long ago to me but then again it does. When I realized that 16 was 6years ago for me I think that I about died lol. Especially when that was something my little freshly 19year old companion couldn't relate to haha. 

I would like to know how many sister missionaries are forced to arm-wrestle their companions in Relief Society to open up the lesson on their first Sunday in the area? Yeah that happened to me too. Sad part? I almost lost. Sister Gneiting has a strong arm! But don't worry I held out and neither of us won or lost. The lesson was about how we need to be unified and work together in God's kingdom. 

Humbling moment/experience of the week. Artie is a dear dear sister in this ward. She's older and do to health problems that she grew up with she struggles to walk. Also this week we learned that she can't read either. She was embarrassed in Relief Society because she had a quote but didn't know that is what it was, but obviously couldn't read it. Furthermore, she is petrified because the whole relief society is going to sing "As Sisters in Zion" this next week in Sacrament. So we have been going over and trying to help teach her and have her memorize the lyrics/song because she can't read. I can't begin to describe this special experience to you. She is so excited about every little word she learns. She practices singing what we have taught her to her little dog after we leave. Sometimes while we are there she even sings Lion instead of Zion, but I have to tell you it is probably the sweetest spirit I've ever felt while singing that song when we are practicing in her living room just the three of us. So far she has memorized most of three lines or to the part that is to "the blessing of God". Over and over again I am reminded that I have been so blessed. I have so many miracles in my life and I need to be so much more humble and grateful. 

Last night was a little crazy. Apparently, there was a fire in a Visalia Electricity Plant and so all of town lost power. Meaning that we came home 30 minutes early after trying to visit some families. We ended our night by pulling out our emergency 72 hour kits (and putting them by the door), then taking cold showers by flashlight and trying to sleep in our unbearably hot apartment. Luckily at about 3:15 the power came back on and we were able to catch a few hours of sleep before arising and leaving for the TEMPLE at 6. The new temple video is AMAZING!! That was no joke!! Ah, I miss the temple soooo much. I wish I could go every week still. I can't wait till I can again. But all in due time, I am sure that day will come much sooner than I think.

Alma 39:10

I ADORE this family....
They are seriously the model family I want to create someday

My beloved Lagunas Family... I miss them so much.
(Even Matt is smiling in this Picture!!)
Hermana Miller

Another week in Paradise

It has been another week in Paradise for me here in California serving as a missionary. There is SO much to tell you about this week that I am not sure how I am going to fit it all in in the allotted email time! 

I'll try and go in chronological order so I hopefully don't miss anything. First off we got to watch Forever Strong this week with the Lagunas! Oh how I love that movie. I am so grateful that President and Sister Gelwix are serving as Mission President here and that I get the wonderful opportunity to serve with them. Watching that movie again after getting to know President a little bit better I can tell you that their depiction of "Coach Gelwix" is SPOT ON. At one point Sister Sorensen and I looked over at each other and were like hey President totally says that ALL the time. haha. So when you watch it look for when he talks about "laser like focus".

We were able to go over and do some service at a less active members home this week again. This time cleaning out a shed. It reminded me a lot of all the times we had to clean out the garage when I was growing up. Pull out all the stuff and then reorganize it and put it back in there. Also Dad thank you for always teaching me to be careful around power tools. I was moving a big saw thing and had no idea that 1. it had charge or 2. that it wasn't safety locked. Luckily I was holding it away from me and I didn't chop my leg off as my hand slipped and hit the power button. But then I guess I am still "accident prone" as Sister Sorensen says and later right as we got ready to leave, somehow I managed to nick my finger and was dripping blood everywhere. As we washed it all up Sister Pineda asked me if I had AIDS haha. 

Special Miracles this week. Out tracting or Harvesting Blessing as we call it... we offer to say prayers with people basically and then ask if we can come back and share a message about Jesus Christ. While we were doing this it was going about normal. People would say no or let us pray with them but told us they were strong Catholics. One house asked if we were selling newspapers... talk about feeling like a 12 year old boy haha. BUT I had picked this street the night before and I said the prayer before we started. (It is so easy to have rote/repetitious prayers when we say so many each day.) However I had tried to be more sincere in this prayer and just take a moment to really connect and have it be meaningful. In the prayer I had asked that we would be led to a prepared family... something I don't typically ask for directly. We came upon a house that looked empty, but of course knocked anyhow. The next thing you know and much to our suprise we were being ushered into a living room. We had found a wonderful family of 3 who were looking for a church. Instead of just praying with Melissa, Jasmine, and Heaven we taught the Restoration. The gospel is so beautiful and they were so receptive. I am so excited for them to continue learning. 

It has also been a hard week. Montserrat texted us and told us that do to family conflict about our visits she will no longer be able to visit with us. I don't think that has really hit me as real yet. It is hard to understand how people push away things that obviously bring others happiness. I would just assume that families would be happy that their children are going to church rather than none at all. It is so hard because she is really just starting to grasp all that we have been teaching her. She even met the bishop last week and seemed excited to keep coming. The most heartbreaking part was she said that she will continue to pray and read the scriptures trying to understand them. We are hoping with prayers that hearts will be softened and eventually she will be able to come back. 

The true craziness of the week comes in here.... with a baptism. As I've wrote before it has been difficult to try and get Angelina baptized. Well Satan didn't let up at all this week. It was all looking good despite some conflict. We had even set up the chairs, pulled out the jumpsuits, and checked the font Friday night. As we were driving over to our last appointment for the day to have our weekly meeting with our ward mission leader we got a text from Angelina's mom saying that they were homeless and on the streets and that they didn't think the baptisms could happen. With the help of Brother Tauheluhelu we managed to get them a place to stay and figured things out for the night. (Honestly this is such a watered down version of how Friday was for us.... burnt cookies, law enforcement calls, etc) The next morning the baptism was still on, so we told the District Leaders to make the hour drive to come for the interview. Then we received another text from the mother cancelling again. Even our bishop thought the baptism had been cancelled and was leery to show up and conduct his interviews. We were persistent and wouldn't give up that easily. Finally almost an hour later than the scheduled baptisms, Daniel and Angelina entered the waters of baptism and covenanted with the Lord. They both had to be dunked twice because their feet popped out of the water, but they did it! 

Saturday night we received our TRANSFER CALLS! This is my last day in Los Banos. It is crazy to think that already 18 weeks here have passed. I am headed south again to be in Hanford this time. I am more excited than I am nervous, but I am sure that will pass when I remember how little Spanish I know haha. Sister Gnetting will be my new companion, and I think it will be a good one as we serve in Hanford 2nd. Sister Sorensen will be with Sister Hammer here in Los Banos covering the Los Banos ward and the Mercy Springs Spanish group. The Mercy Springs ward will also be receiving their very own Elders! Yep, they are splitting the area again!! Honestly, I think that is why I am happy to go. I feel like I have played my role here in this area and it would be hard to adjust to that many changes when I am so used to this area being just us. So I feel it is a blessing to be headed out right as all of these changes happen.  

Sunday we were able to see three CONFIRMATIONS! Howie, Angelina, and Daniel were all confirmed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. And then yesterday (Monday) we were able to go over and see Anthony receive the Aaronic Priesthood and become a deacon! I am glad we were there for that, but I am sad I will miss his first time passing the Sacrament. 

We started saying our goodbyes... well I guess really I am the one saying goodbyes. It is so sweet to see the love that these people have for us and to know how grateful I am to have been able to serve with them. I have been surprised multiple times the last few days to hear what they say to me in parting. Little things that I had forgotten seem to have made the biggest impact. People really are always watching and they notice what we do. One member "adopted" us as her daughters and told us to come sleep on her couch when we come back to visit. Another member thanked us for our honesty and not taking money the 1st time we met them when his wife tried to give it to us for gas. Multiple people told us that they were so glad to work with us and see how hard we worked and that despite the difficult area we were able to have baptisms (Crazy to think I saw 5 in my time here). And Brother Tauhelhelu is a wood carver by trade so he gave us each a huge tiki carving... I have no idea how I'm going to get it home haha but I love it. The symbolism of the face is "love one another", and in Tonga having one in your home means good luck. Sister Tauheluhelu gave us both a shell necklace as well. It is hard to leave these people who have become your family, but the work goes on and I know there will be more wonderful people to meet. 

As I reflect on my time here in Los Banos I tried to condence all the things I have learned. I narrowed it down to three things:
1. I can be and am a good missionary (self-confidence and confidence in my ability to teach)
2. I love this work
3. Always look for opportunities to serve with love 

In closing I wanted to also share a snippet of President's letter to us this week:
 “Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing. The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us. Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of “my will and not thine be done.” As Paul said, they “seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” (Philip. 2:21.) Our will in competition to God’s will allows desires, appetites, and passions to go unbridled. (See Alma 38:12; 3 Ne. 12:30.)

“The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives. (See Hel. 12:6.) They pit their perceptions of truth against God’s great knowledge, their abilities versus God’s priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty works. Our enmity toward God takes on many labels, such as rebellion, hard-heartedness, stiff-neckedness, unrepentant, puffed up, easily offended, and sign seekers. The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s. Another major portion of this very prevalent sin of pride is enmity toward our fellowmen. We are tempted daily to elevate ourselves above others and diminish them.” (See Hel. 6:17; D&C 58:41.)” - Ezra Taft Benson (“Beware of Pride,” April 1989 General Conference)

John 14:27 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Please Don't Drop Me!

“A man who is full of the love of God is not content with blessing his family only, but thinks about all of the people in the world, anxious to bless the whole human race.” - Joseph Smith

Wonderful week here in California. We had a Zone Dinner Meeting this past week and it was a great reminder that we are a part of God's Army. After my mission I will be back to working the "civilian sector". I don't think anyone else in that room quite took that metaphor the same way that I did, but it has stuck with me. Even while we were doing our daily run this morning I was laughing as I thought how sometime the Hispanic people think we are FBI, CIA, or Deportation Officers.... All of these agencies have to train they have to be prepared for the physical demands of their work... Why would being enlisted in the Army of Heaven be any different? This thought helped me put a little extra pep in my step as we finished out the run.  

Another beautiful reminder came this week when a recent convert asked me to share with her non-member mother and grandmother the story of how I came to be on a mission. I told that story so much at the beginning of my mission, but it has kind of faded out at this point and  honestly I had forgot that Rebekah even had heard it. Anyhow it was a great refresher on the tender mercies of the Lord and how it was definitely in HIS hands how I got to this point. 

We were able to give a lot of service this week. We helped set up a bedroom and clean for a family in the ward that got an emergency foster child placement. Then we were able to go out to Merced and help the Carter's some more prepare to move by weeding and planting and painting. 

This week has also been interesting to me to see what emotional triggers some people have. It is weird that what is totally normal to one person will send another away in tears and visa versa. Communication skills are hard. So often we think that we are sending one message and the recipient interprets something completely different... and that is even in our native languages. We just need to be more mindful of others and the type of things that we say. How did Christ love, how did he communicate with people?

Beauty doesn't need makeup. Period. It doesn't. We are all children of God. We have to look at ourselves and others in that light. It is so sad to see how some people forget their divine nature... they have lost sight of where they have come from. We are literally HIS Spirit children and we were created in his image. I wish that everyone could see that.  

Howie was BAPTIZED!! It was a crazy fast Sunday and we felt like chickens with our heads cut off as we ran around trying to do everything and make it to all of our meetings. In the end it all worked out though. Noah one of the son's of the family that has fellowshipped Howie performed the baptism. And the best/cutest part was as they walked out to enter the font Howie looks at Noah and says, "Please don't drop me!" haha. He did great and we are excited for his confirmation this next Sunday when he receives the gift of the Holy Ghost. 

We were also so excited to see that Montserrat came to Sacrament again this week and to the Baptism and SHE FASTED?!?! We have taught her a lot and I believe briefly mentioned fasting but she just did it! She is so hesitant to accept the truth that she feels but she is slowly and surely progressing and gaining her own testimony. I truly love the people we serve so much. Their faith in us and willingness to act on what we teach them reminds me of how we all need to be meek, submissive, and humble like little children to enter into God's kingdom. 

Speaking of children.... Angelina is getting BAPTIZED! Having worked with her family these last 3 transfers I am so glad that she is finally going to be able to enter into the waters of baptism. We were so worried for her when she wasn't able to be baptized with her cousins 2 months ago, but it's always in the Lord's timing. And now her little brother Daniel just turned 8 and so they will both be baptized this Saturday! 

This week we also were able to meet a Japanese exchange teacher who is staying with one of the members. She teaches English.... that would be like me teaching Spanish... haha oh it was great to see that we aren't the only ones who struggle with languages though. It also caused me to reflect this week and think about how coming on a mission I thought that it would be so many things. But honestly it hasn't been any of those things that I expected. I thought I would become a scriptorian and fluent Spanish speaker... I haven't. What I have learned though is worth soooo much more to me than any of that. The experiences of serving and loving people, the strengthening of my testimony and relationship with Jesus Christ... these are the things that I have learned and seen that I wouldn't trade for all the world. 

2 Kings 6:16 "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them"

Hermana Miller