Friday, November 30, 2012

That’s what I will miss the most about my mission. The people. [From 15 OCT 2012]

This week was great! Sister Liston's root canal went well. We had a Spanish Conference Wednesday and then went to the temple Thursday. It was cold and windy but so nice! Then bass derby this weekend was eventful. We helped a sister paint her fence. Saw fireworks Saturday night. Yesterday was my last day in Rio Vista because next week is Stake Conference. We taught Relief Society. It went really well. We taught chapter 19 in Teachings of Presidents of the Church.

We taught Javier the Word of Wisdom. He explained he drinks a cup of coffee every day. I just kind of continued teaching about the blessings of following the Word of Wisdom. He then said he would try not drinking it. We’re excited to see how it goes! He really wants to understand the doctrine and have a firm testimony. He understands that baptism is not something small. He knows it is something you must be prepared for. I’m so grateful he understands that.

We also taught Guadalupe and Juana. They are amazing! We taught once again about prayer and the importance of teaching their children about Christ. They really want to help their two children know Christ, to know that it's only through Him we receive a remission of our sins. They are very good people. When they found out I leave next week they said, "Well, you could just stay here and become our oldest daughter!" I thought that was very sweet of them. They might be teaching us how to cook this week!!!

So it still hasn't sunk in yet that I will be going home. Every once in a while I will get that glimpse but then I just continue working. Packing some boxes is weird. Knowing I won't be out knocking doors in just over a week seems weird. Not that I’m not excited to return home to you. :) I can't wait! It will be a difference, a change. My life has been missionary life and soon I will be returning to "normal life."
But I will continue to enjoy every moment and every person. That’s what I will miss the most about my mission. The people. The area is beautiful, the life we live is great and challenging, but I will miss the people I associate with daily. Thankfully technology has made it a little easier to continue those relationships across the country. I hope you will all get the chance to meet those I have come to know and love so much.

I realized this past week the great importance of parents, that both of them are there and are united and the home is filled with love and gospel learning. Too often I see children lead astray and exposed to the world in unnecessary ways because the home has been broken, because that central family unit is not in place, a father and mother who love one another and love their children. Things that are not even a temptation or even cross my mind are continually bombarded on those families that have been broken. I am so grateful for a family that is close and united. For parents whom love and respect and serve each other. I am so grateful for siblings that have high standards and help me become and do better.

I have also learned the importance of surrounding yourself with good friends. Too many times our standards are lowered or bent because of those we surround ourselves with on a daily basis. We become like those with whom we associate. We are affected by everyone we meet.

Now that I think about it this might be my last email. I don’t' really know. I haven't received any information about my last few days in the field. The extent of what I know is that Monday night I have dinner with the Alba’s and all the other missionaries who go home the following day. I’m excited for that! I love being with the Alba's!

So a few boxes will be sent home today. You can go through them. There are a couple neat things in them. I was going to tell you but you'll just have to see for yourself!

If it's possible I would like to go to the temple before I am released. I don't know if you have talked with President Anderson yet, but if we could work it out so we go the 24th and then I am released that afternoon/evening. If not it's fine. I just want to get to the temple as soon as possible. I’ve been dreaming about being in the Boston Temple again. :)

Also, no sweets or goodies of any kind, I am looking forward to good clean food that will help my body heal and become strong again.

But I’ll tell you soon enough all about everything else. :)
I love you!!!!

You're not trunky at all! [From 8 OCT 2012]

HI! It took me longer to email President Alba today. I did it in Spanish again. Apparently my Spanish is already getting rusty. :(

We had a good week. We saw the couple I told you about, again Saturday. It was a really good visit. They were very happy to see us. We taught them about prayer. They liked the thought that songs can be a prayer. So they had us sing. :) Sister Liston doesn't enjoy singing. So there was a lot of giggling and laughing. We began teaching them again. They talked about helping their two kids becoming better and good people.

We’re emailing at Heather’s today. The library is closed.

This week will be very eventful.
Tuesday: District Meeting and Sister Liston has a root canal
Wednesday: Spanish Conference
Thursday: temple
Friday, Saturday and Sunday: Rio Vista Bass Derby

Yup, a root canal :) she was shocked when she came out of the dentist the other day. I’ve been laughing and prepping to help her on that day.

My mind is filled with what I learned at conference. It was a really neat experience!!! So I went to conference with a couple questions and within the first hour they were answered. So I asked if there was anything more the Lord wanted me to learn/know. It was neat as the spirit worked in me and taught me. One question was what I should do when I return home. I gained a vision of what He wants for me. What He wants me to become. More of what He wants me to do. It was pretty neat! As the speakers spoke I had images of my life, as it could be if I continue to follow the Savior and serve others. I’m excited to apply what I learned and continue progressing.

Hey! Anything you all want from California?!!

I got a cool compliment this morning from a brother in the branch. He had no idea I was going home in two weeks. He turned to me and said, "You're not trunky at all! I’m impressed!" I’ve had a couple other people say something similar. President Chandler had no idea.

It seems weird that I will be coming home in two weeks. It seems unreal. I haven't really thought about it. Well, I have in terms of being far away with lots to do still. Which of course there is. That probably makes no sense at all. Oh well!

So my mind is pretty jumbled right now. There’s a lot running through it and I need to organize it all.

I love you forever!!!

Heather says hi. So does Sister Liston and a few other people from the branch.

Hermana Stephenson

Heather is doing so well. She loved conference. We warned her about anti stuff and she told us about she was beginning to read something and realized it wasn't good so she stopped. She’s amazing!
Love you!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Heather got baptized and confirmed yesterday!!!!

So it looks as if I will be arriving at MHT 11:30 pm October 23. I got my itinerary, kind of a weird and surreal experience.

Guess what? Heather got baptized and confirmed yesterday!!!! We were/are so happy!!!! The Branch was very supportive and loving. While she changed we sent around index cards for them to write a note and their testimony on. They all loved the idea. The Spirit filled the room as the piano played and everyone was quiet as they wrote. It was a wonderful baptism!!! She was so excited to be baptized. She also came with us the Relief Society broadcast Saturday night. She loved it. We all did. It was fun to sit as a Branch and enjoy the conference.

We had a few investigators drop us. One was after a very powerful lesson. We taught powerfully about the restoration of the priesthood and especially the atonement. We believe the wife would have accepted the baptismal invitation had the husband been a little more open. After testifying boldly about the power of the atonement and of Christ, he said he wouldn't be able to believe there really is a God until he can touch the prints of the nails in Christ’s hands.

He has been dealing with health problems. Under the direction of the Spirit we promised him; if he would follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized by the proper authority of God he would be healed. Completely healed. He said he couldn't believe that. It was very powerful! They felt the Spirit testify to them the truthfulness of what we taught them. We were filled with the Spirit and we knew they felt it too. But they still choose to not accept it.

We were talking afterward about it and we realized they had been prepared by the Lord to receive the gospel message. He had prepared them. He placed us in their path. We taught them. We did our part, all we could. It then came to their decision to accept or reject what we taught them.

Heavenly Father is preparing his children everywhere to receive the gospel in its fullness. He places his servants in their path. They then use their agency and choose to receive it with full purpose of heart or not.

It was kind of neat because we realized we had no regrets as far as teaching them. We did everything we knew how to do to the best of our abilities. And now their blood is not on our hands, just as Jacob teaches about in the second chapter. He teaches the people so they may know what the right path is and what the Lord expects of them. He is then guiltless before God. It relates to being parents too. Parents need to teach their children right and wrong, correct principles and then let them govern themselves. Because, if they didn’t teach them then the sins of their children will be upon their heads.

It is such a great feeling to know you have done your very best, that the Lord will not hold you responsible for not teaching some principle or not testifying with power and authority. We have been called to be a light unto the nations. How can we be a light if we are not willing to tell others what is right and what is not? When we have the Spirit and are filled with charity, boldness is not scary or offensive. We correct because of love, because we truly desire their salvation. That is what we felt with our investigators. We saw them in white in the temple. We want them to have their family for eternity. That is why we were so bold with them. We did everything so they could understand the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I hope that all makes sense. It was a powerful experience. One I won't forget.

I too am so excited for General Conference!!! I’m curious to see what they talk about. Saturday was very much about personal preparedness. I loved the example given of the sister who only had enough strength to finish the trek but not enough to run back and help her sisters. That gave me a visual that I hope to achieve. I want to be strong enough so when hard times come I can help those around me. So I can lift them up.

I too am excited for seeing you all at the airport. But I must admit every once in a while it makes me nervous. Now I have to go home and make decision that will impact the rest of my life and my eternity. Scary!! But I turn it to the Lord and He takes it away. He tells me not to worry and gives me His peace. I’m so grateful for that!

Forever love!!!
Hermana Stephenson

We went golfing! [From 24 SEP 2012]

This is what we did this morning. :)

Can you see it?! Yup! We went golfing! We went to the driving range in Trilogy; an older, gated community with two brothers from the branch. It was really fun! Sister Liston, as you can see, is pretty good. She played in high school. All three of them were giving me pointers. I thought Nana French would enjoy the fact that I went golfing. My first time! Yeah!

I didn’t' get any hole-in-ones because we just shot at the range. About half the time I missed the ball. The other half was off and on, as far as distance and angle. :) You all know me and my famous hand-eye coordination abilities.

I didn’t yell anything [“fooouurr”]  because there were only geese about 150 yards out and I never even made it to 100. So they weren't ever in any danger of losing a wing. :)

We had a great week! We had a conference with half the mission and Elder Gavarret. It was really good. I learned from the spirit that I need to improve my prayers. Every once in a while I get kind of lazy about them and forget what great power comes from them. So I’ve been improving my prayers this past week.

I’ve also begun learning more about the person I want to continue becoming. As a missionary you see the members in a different light. You get to really see the difference ways of living the gospel and true discipleship. So from the many examples I’ve seen I am forming the kind of person I want to be. Sister Liston gave me a talk entitled, "the fourth missionary." I can't remember whom it's by at the moment. But it's really good! Everyone should read it. It’s actually 25 pages long. So I’m not even half way through. But it's great! I’m learning lots.

We’ve had such a great week! We are surprised at how quickly we have become great friends. We are both pretty different. Our lives are different. But I love how the gospel and our mission bring us together. We will be friends for the rest of our lives. I don't know if you remember but she's the one that has less-active friends in Bedford. She’s been to NH before! She’s the only one of my companions who knows about Fisher Cats. :)

We laugh a lot. Our stomachs are getting smaller just because we're laughing so much.:)

I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!
Hermana Stephenson

The picture is from your Whitney Bunny :)

a zone blitz here in Rio Vista [From 17 SEP 2012]

Such a great week! We had a zone blitz here in Rio Vista last Saturday and got 12 referrals. We’ve contacted half of them. They are amazing! One was a lady we see walking in the mornings. We had prayed to find her during the day so we could talk with her in something more than our sweats. When we knocked on her door and her face came around the corner I was so excited! I was beaming and so filled with gratitude. I wanted to tell her but I thought that might freak her out. So we'll tell her when she gets baptized. Not sure when that will be. We didn't even really teach her at that time. She was busy but she'll be baptized.

We have so many really solid people. Not many have come to church yet. The adversary likes to use that a lot to stop people’s progression.
Sister Liston is amazing! She wants to learn Spanish so badly. We’ve been working on it like mad. She’s able to read and pray. Up until being my companion she couldn’t roll her R's. Now she can do it. :) She really wants to become a Spanish missionary. I think she can do it. She’s tested my knowledge of Spanish. I realized not being immersed in the language I don’t learn as well the “every day” language. So together we're learning and having lots of fun doing so. For example we were looking up a word and happen to look over to the next column and saw the word litterbug. We thought it was funny it was in the dictionary but our laughs got even harder when we saw the translation. Litterbug - una persona que ensucia las calles tirando papeles rotos.   All that for litterbug. Literally it means "a person that dirties the streets spreading broken papers" we still laugh about it!

We’ve had such a great time! We’re almost always laughing and loving the miracles we see around every corner.

A blitz is when the missionaries in the Zone come for a couple hours and go see less-actives or potentials but mostly they go tract. So each companionship came back with someone they had seen that we needed to go see. Each companionship had a miracle. We were very grateful that they all came out here. It’s a 48 mile round trip from Fairfield to Rio Vista, so time and miles out of their areas. But we all enjoyed it. Everyone was excited to see Rio Vista. There’s not much to see but it is pretty cool! Especially driving the levees. Our area consists of many little man-made islands. You can't tell you’re on an island but when you look at the map you see it.

One day we went to see a woman; she was busy so we went on our way to see another a few streets down. We were going to drive but decided to walk. We passed two houses and the third had the garage open and a man was sitting at a desk finishing up a drawing. We walked up and began talking with him. He’s a retired police officer and a gentle man. He’s going through some hard times but he has had some neat spiritual experiences. We talked with him for a while. As we talked with him Sister Liston just kept having this impression to lean forward into the garage a little more and look at the bookshelf. She had no idea what she was looking for but she kept looking. At one point her eyes got big and bright and she turned to me. I wasn't sure what she had seen but I asked her as soon as we walked away a little while later. In return she asked me, "Did you see that?" "What?" "The Book of Mormon on his shelf?" "No." How cool is that?! The Spirit prompted her to lean forward and look. I’m so grateful she heeded that prompting and kept looking. She didn’t understand why she was receiving that prompting. If you think about it it’s kind of strange. To lean forward and look at the bookshelf. That was it.

From that I learned a little more about how the Spirit works. We may not understand the reason for why we feel prompted to do something. It may seem ridiculous and weird. But as we listen to and follow those whisperings we will find great treasures. We knew before that the man we talked with would be baptized, but seeing the Book of Mormon on his shelf solidified that fact. The Lord has been working with this man for years. I love his work! And his plan.

Hermana Stephenson

Do you think he could baptize me? [From 11 SEP 2012]

Sister Thomas got transferred. My new companion is Sister Liston. I will miss Sister Thomas so much! But Sister Liston and I are having a good time already. She loved seeing all the windmills on our way home. It reminded me I need to get a picture.

I’m not an exchange sister anymore. It was the best being one with Sister Thomas! We had so much fun working together to help our sisters. We had some neat experiences with new investigators accepting baptismal dates. We have two new ones. The first being Max. We talked with him about a living prophet and the Book of Mormon. We left him Alma 32 to read. We stopped by the next day and he had read the whole chapter. The day before he had said it would take him days to read it. As we talked about the restoration and the priesthood he nodded. We invited him to be baptized and asked when we were having a baptismal service. He told us he would read the Book of Mormon every day until he finished. Amazing!

The other, Javier, understood pretty quickly the importance of the priesthood and being baptized by it. Out of no where, I mentioned his neighbor down the road and that he held the priesthood. He responded, "He does?! Do you think he could baptize me?" We said of course and invited him for the 14th of October. He said, " Well, the 12th is my birthday." "We could do it then if you wanted." "Yes, I would like that." Incredible!

Another lady we invited to be baptized for Nov. 11th said she would pray about it. We read the beginning of 3 Nephi 11 and she loved it! And I mean loved it! She couldn't stop saying how beautiful it is and that it makes more sense than the other bibles. She is so excited to read it.

And all three of them are Spanish. Yay! It felt so good to teach in Spanish. Poor Sister Thomas was lost and falling asleep sometimes, but I tried to keep her a part of the lesson and involved. And now with Sister Liston I’ll try even harder to help her be a part of it.

The Branch is growing! We have more at Sacrament meeting than we did 6 weeks ago. Also this past Sunday was my first Sunday translating. Ahh! I was so nervous! I was shaking! My studies that morning were not focused or very productive. Sad to say but true. I didn’t have anything to read from. I didn’t have copies of the talks. So I was doing it on the fly. I’m afraid I missed about half, but at least I got that much! The Sanchez family was grateful. I’m hoping we'll have more Spanish next week! I have a vision of a Spanish branch out here in Rio Vista. We met so many people this past week! It was amazing!

Time is almost up.
Hermana Stephenson

bore her testimony [From 3 SEP 2012]

So this week was another great one! We had miracles! Heather, whom we just started teaching last week and has a baptismal date for the end of the month, bore her testimony yesterday! It was so powerful! She said she has decided to stop fighting Jesus and let Him into her life. She expressed how much happier and at peace she is. Her little boy is very cute! The other day when we got up to leave after our lesson he started crying. He saw us grab our bags and started crying. Heather had opened the door but he pushed it shut and continued crying. It was the sweetest thing ever! We love them!

This past week we had a sister’s conference/training. It was very good! Sister Alba talked about stepping into the light and "taking our place on the stage of life." It was so fun being together as sisters. Sister Thomas and I were asked to give a workshop about nutrition. We had so much fun!!! The two of us just love it! Sister Thomas has a degree in exercise and sports science with a minor in nutrition. Soooo we get along really well. :) We had so much fun preparing for our workshop. We brought basically all our food to show the sister what they could eat. We learned so much!  I know the Word of Wisdom is not just for our physical health it is for our spiritual health. When our bodies are clean and don’t have bad substances in them or junk food or too much of one thing we have the Spirit more abundantly. We have noticed within ourselves that we are even more sensitive to the Spirit. We are better able to receive, recognize and follow the promptings of the Spirit. We are happier, less stressed, and little things don't bug us as much. We are more able to see the miracles in each day. It is amazing! I love the gospel!!!!

We have so many less-actives coming back to church and going to the temple!!! It is so exciting! Yesterday the chapel was pretty full. When I first got here there weren't very many coming each week. Now we have increase, a little. It is so cool!!! The Branch is growing! :) We have members returning and new ones coming in. I love seeing the work of the Lord progress. It makes me so happy!!!

Transfers are next week so who knows what will happen. Hoping we'll stay together. Crossing our fingers. :)

I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hermana Stephenson