Thursday, December 22, 2011

So I’m the head of it and directing everyone

Mission Conference was amazing!!!

I LOVED THE PACKAGE!!!!!!!!! I'm so excited for everything. I’ll be wearing the shirt today. (Elder Brower will love it. He's a Patriot’s fan.) I love the shirt! I laughed when I opened it. I’m excited to put it on. Just imagine me giggling as I put it on and then see myself in the mirror with it on. I'm very excited!!! I found the bunny!!! I love it! I've used it during study every morning. I also slept with it last night because my head was cold. The tights are great. The socks are too! I love the puzzle/advent. I put together the part with William and Rachel's signatures on it. Pretty funny!

I'm so excited for Christmas!!!!!! It’s hard to believe that it's less than a week away! This Friday we'll be having a crèche exhibit. Our ward mission leader asked me to pull it together. So I’m the head of it and directing everyone on what to do. It should be good. The zone is excited and so are some of the relief society members from different wards. It’ll be small but we have to start somewhere. :)

Then Saturday we'll be caroling as a zone. The logistics of it haven't been worked out but it'll be fun to be sure. Then Sunday we're having a brunch with the Monsons. Church is at 11. The 4th and 5th and Spanish groups are coming. We’re doing just Sacrament meeting like you. Then dinner at 5 and an "after party" with the zone at Brother Beauchaump's house. It’ll be a lot of fun!

Be thinking of things you want to ask me and tell me on our phone call. I’ll be making a list this week of everything I want to tell you and ask you. I’m excited beyond measure to call you! I love you all. All I want is to hug you all and laugh with you as we quote the Grinch. It’s hard not to count down until 1:00 on Sunday. Which reminds me... What number should I call? Home or someone's cell? I remember the home number. Cells are little rusty.

Random fact: today it's 60 degrees. Can you believe that Dec. 19 it is 60 degrees?!!! It finally feels like October!

One more random thought: yesterday was my 7-month mark. My half way mark is just around the corner. Crazy!!! How does time slip away so quickly. I still feel most of the time that I’m just barely figuring out how to be a missionary.

Thank you for all you do!
Love forever,
Hermana Whitney

Saturday, December 17, 2011

We did have a little miracle this week.

My week started off being sick but I got over it quickly. My stomach was doing some weird things, nausea and stomachaches. The whole thing. I'm better now. Overall I’m healthy. In the blessing I got it said the Lord wants me to be aware of my body and not push to hard, to know my limits and not be afraid to take a rest if I need it. It also told me that I know what I need to do and should do it, along with following the Lord's rule of health. It was a comforting blessing.

We definitely have way too many treats from everyone! Although our favorite thing right now is homemade pomegranate jelly from the Berkheimers. It’s so good! And the Lord will take care of me. There are many nights when I don’t think I could take another bite but somehow I make it and can walk away not in agony. :) Dinners on the mission are one of a kind. There’s nothing else like it! We have so much fun!

This week was amazing! We’ve had more lessons this week than the past two combined. We didn't have any baptisms ourselves but the zone did have two on Saturday. Hermana Robinson and I have started a new thing to help us speak more Spanish. The rule is only Spanish in the car and as much as we can as we walk to and from appointments. Already it's been fun and we've had some laughs!

We did have a little miracle this week. We stopped by one of our investigators at an unscheduled time and were so grateful we did. She had just lost her job and was very distraught. She’s a single mom with two children. We comforted her the best we could and read the story of Joseph Smith in liberty jail. She was comforted and felt better. She was so grateful for our love and service. We were just grateful to be instruments in the Lord's hands.

I am so excited for mission conference!!!! Elder Brower and I will be singing. No one else in the zone wanted to sing so it’s just us. We’re singing Beautiful Savior. Not a traditional Christmas song but it will be good. The entire mission is excited about mission conference! Everyone has been practically counting down the days. I just can't believe Christmas is two weeks away!!! Hermana Robinson and I took our Christmas picture this morning just before emailing. It’s in front of the Monson's door. We’re excited to send it out.

Right now we have two baptismal dates. One is a referral from the elders in the fourth ward and the other is a former investigator that found us walking down the sidewalk. He’s excited and really wants to be clean. Right now we have 12 investigators. Which is really good. It keeps us busy.

Oh! Also, Slacks is going to the Teranzia Mission, something like that. His brother just came home from Taiwan speaking Mandarin Chinese. He gave his homecoming talk yesterday. It was cool to hear him speak in Mandarin. According to Aaron he's having a hard time remembering English. He’ll be going to BYU-I in January.

WE LOVE THE ADVENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's getting pretty big! Every day I’m excited to see what it comes out to be. As far as Christmas, I was thinking a pocket dictionary; Spanish-English of course. It would come in handy while out of the house. Also warm tights. Its getting cold and bare legs are no fun. Yesterday morning there was frost on the windshield. Thankfully the defroster works really well.

I just thought of this and I can't believe that I have less than a year left!!! This time next year I’ll be home! Crazy!!!

Well we're off to play games with the zone. It’s going to be loads of fun! We’re a pretty close zone. I hope you have a great week! I love you! And I will defiantly take pictures at mission conference!!
Forever Love,
Hermana Whitney

Monday, December 5, 2011

called by a prophet of God to teach

I’m doing great! It's been a crazy week! I wasn't in my area Wednesday to Friday. It's been so fun. Wednesday was exchanges with Sister Lewis to Cordelia. Thursday I was in Windsor with Hermana Ordonez and Sister Thomas while Hermana Robinson was at leadership conference. And then Friday we had Sisters' conference. But we've had some great lessons and some new investigators. Also the weather has been nice. One day it was 70. :) Mostly it's in the 50 or 60's with wind. No rain so far.

I can't tell you how excited I am for Mission Conference! I might be singing. I still need to see if Elder Bacon will play for me. Any suggestions as far as songs? I was thinking Stars Were Gleaming (children's songbook).

I love the advent puzzle!!!! I like the elder’s signatures and the Grinch and the bunnies! I’m so excited to see what it all looks like! You worked hard on it! I’m so impressed and pleased. Hermana Robinson and I have been loving it! The gingerbread house does have some cracks but it'll be okay.

We had an amazing lesson Friday night. We had a young man who is preparing to serve his mission in Brazil in February come with us. His name is Aaron but we call him Elder Slacks. I may have told you about him, but the story is he was wearing some nice pants one day and all the elders commented on them. So from then on he was known as Elder Slacks. He comes to all our district meetings and even some of our zone meetings. He goes out with fifth ward elders all the time. He’s started coming out with us too. We’re nested with the fifth ward so their people are our people. Anyway, the lesson on Friday night was amazing! Slacks was with us. We went in planning to teach a recent convert/less active and ended up teaching his brother. He had so many questions and the three of us worked together and answered them. We felt so unified and the spirit was pretty strong. (The lesson was in English. They're fluent in both languages.) Towards the end Slacks bore his testimony about he Book of Mormon and how he came to know the church is true. When he finished the nonmember, Silverio, said, "I want that. I want to feel that way." We explained to him how he can have that. We also used Alma 32 about letting the small seed of desire work within you until you believe. He also said all his life he's been praying and wondering which church is right. Slacks pulled out the Joseph Smith story. Still Silverio wasn't sure. I was praying the whole time that we would be able to help him and know what it is he needed to know and feel to act and read the Book of Mormon. Then the Spirit came over me and I looked him in the eye and said something to this effect, "I can promise you, Silverio, that us sitting here is your answer. We have been called by a prophet of God to teach you about the true church of God. We are here to help you come unto Christ and have your questions and concerns answered. The Book of Mormon contains the answers to all the questions you have." It was so powerful! Usually he would interrupt us with a comment or question but as I said that and a little more he was completely silent and still and never broke eye contact. The three of us, Hermaan Robinson, Elder Slacks, and myself were ecstatic afterward! We’re still so excited about it. It’s a testament to me that we are guided by the Holy Ghost and that I have been called by a prophet of God and the message I share is true. What else, besides the power of God could change a man?

Okay so about Hermana Ordonez. She speaks English really well. She’s still learning but she knows it. She’s really fun and crazy! We had such a great day. She’s a really good teacher. I tried to get out of her what she'd miss about Christmas at home. She says she loves the music and just the lights. She likes Skittles. At least she had a small bag that she shared on Thursday. She’s very friendly and outgoing. I really enjoyed spending the day with her. I don't really know what you could do for her but I’m sure anything will be nice. I did notice she was cold, so maybe a warm, classy, but fun scarf or gloves. She’s about the size of Olivia.

So Tuesday night Vacaville had Merriment on Main. It was so fun! I stood in the cold and served hot chocolate for five hours straight. My hands were freezing and cramped afterward. But it was so fun!!! We talked with so many people, we as a zone. We actually got some lesson appointments out of it. So cool! I didn't get any pictures but there wasn't much to see anyway, just a table with a cooler of hot chocolate and cards and some pamphlets with 14 missionaries milling around.

Thank you so much for all you do. I know you're busy and have much to do and yet you take time to send me things. I can't tell you how much your packages and letters mean to me. Just looking at the empty box makes me smile. Remembering what you sent me and knowing how much time, effort and love went into it. This transfer is flying by but it's wonderful! There are so many adventures each day that it's hard to write them all down. I look forward to telling you all about my adventures! No. I’m not trunky or homesick I’m just looking forward to the future with faith and joy. This life is a great life! I love the progression and learning that I am making and will make. Just remember to find joy in the journey and love every minute and yourself.
That’s something President told us at Sisters Conference; to love ourselves, to not try and be someone else, someone you're not. So off I go to be Hermana Whitney Stephenson! And I’m so happy! It’s a wonderful life!

con amor para siempre,
Hermana Whitney
over and out

We explained to her how simple a prayer is.

This week has been a little rough taking over the area, but Hermana Robinson and I are having a great time. This transfer will be filled with many opportunities to serve and be in the community. Taking over the area means I’m senior companion. I’m the one who knows the area and therefore, at least for a while, am just showing and introducing my companion to our people. So it can be stressful but Hermana Robinson has been very helpful.

Elder Spendlove and Hermana Christensen went home. It is kind of weird when I think back to when I got here, they had a good chunk of their missions to do. I can hardly believe I have a year left. Time flies and I think this transfer will go by quickly too. We have a lot going on. We have Sister’s conference this week with President and Sister Bunker. We are all so excited!!! It's going to be amazing! Mission conference is on the 15th, and then Christmas and New Years. Also, Vacaville has a Festival of Trees that we are a part of setting up and taking down and (new this year is) we participate in it while it's going on. It was started by a young woman 20 years ago. She gathered 5 trees and decorated them and auctioned them off. The profit went to the Opportunity House, which is for mostly young mothers that are destitute and other people that don’t have anything. Now there are 50 trees and they make over $150,000.00. It has expanded to selling baked goods and crafts. There’s also a dinner/gala thing one night. There’s also a "Merriment on Main" that kind of opens the festival of trees where people can go in and bid on trees. The church has a booth that we'll be helping out at tomorrow. It’s going to be loads of fun! Saturday we helped sign people and their trees in to set it all up. It seems weird to have Christmas without snow, but it's going to be great!

I just thought of this, Hermena Robinson’s mannerisms remind me of Mom. I love it! I can't imagine having any other companion for the holidays. Can you believe I get all the major holidays in one transfer?! How did I luck out?!

We actually live with the bishop of the fifth ward, Bishop and Sister Monson. We just have a room upstairs and then another one downstairs for our study room. The Monson’s have four sons. All but one is married. Their youngest is serving a Spanish-speaking mission in Kennewick, Washington. Same place as Adrian, but I don’t think they know each other. Elder Monson got there about this time last year. So it's very homey. Hermana Robinson and I were just talking about how it's so much nicer to live in a home for the holidays. It doesn’t seem as lonely or empty. It’s the best!

Thanksgiving at home sounded fun. I had three meals. Thankfully they weren't too huge so I wasn't too overly stuffed. :) We served for a couple hours at the Veteran’s home with Elder Brower and Elder Miller. We served meals and talked with people. The elders got put on coffee duty for a while. We had been looking for them and when we found them pouring coffee to people we just had to laugh! It was pretty comical to see our missionaries serving coffee! We laughed about it for a while. We ate there and then had another meal with the family that houses the sisters in the single’s ward. They’re also a part of Elder Brower and Elder Miller's ward so the six of us joined their family for a meal. Then from there we went off to a family in the fifth ward (that we're nested with) for another meal. Everything was delicious! And after that the whole zone went to the home of the high councilor over missionary work, for snacks and desserts. It was a great day! Just being with other missionaries and the members was great! That and being able to serve in some way helped me remember my blessings and what is really important.

I love to see the work progressing. You had another baptism?! Cool! I can’t wait to come home and meet all the people that got baptized.

Something I really enjoy is hearing the miracles of other missionaries. Every time we have a miracle we send out a message to the entire zone telling everyone about our miracle. It helps every one be motivated and excited about the work. It’s always fun to hear the excitement of the other missionaries and to know there are miracles happening and people are accepting baptismal dates.

We don’t have any baptismal dates right now, but we're hoping to extend a few invitations this week. We have so many people that are prepared to hear the gospel. One sister we have started teaching is amazing! I may have told you last week but it's still amazing to me, so I’ll tell you again. Her concern was that God wasn't answering her prayers because she wasn't praying right. We explained to her how simple a prayer is. There’s also another lady that her question was how can she have the Holy Ghost with her. There are people prepared to hear and accept the gospel. All we need to do is be ready to receive and act upon the impressions of the Holy Ghost to know where to go, what to say, and who to talk with.

Well, my time is up. I love you and have a great week! I hope you get more snow! :)
Hermana Whitney

they could feel the Spirit [From 21 NOV 11]

Hna Anderson got transferred, to Windsor! Where I came from! I’ve been telling her about the branch and the people she'll meet and grow to love. We said our tearful goodbyes not an hour ago. She’s become one of my best friends and will be forever.

The Monson’s are out of town this week. They’re in Guatemala, the Bishop's mission. So we have the house to our selves, which reminds me... my new companion is Hermana Robinson. She came out with me. I’m excited to work with her. I’m actually not with her right now because another sister in the zone got transferred so Hna Anderson and she drove to Santa Rosa together and I’m with the other sister. So it's kind of an exchange thing for a few hours. Basically the whole zone except one companionship got changed. It’s going to be fun!

I can't remember too much from the past week. The past transfer seems to have flown by. I keep thinking it's still September. Not that Thanksgiving is this week. So crazy!

Carlos got baptized Wednesday night! It was amazing! His wife who has not been very friendly to us in the past and was against him getting baptized was very friendly and crying. She told us, “thank you”. Everyone there could feel the Spirit. Both Carlos and his wife were crying. The 5th ward elders knowing we wouldn't have very many people show up, if any at all, called their members and asked them to attend even though they don't know Spanish. We were so surprised and touched beyond words that they would do that for us! A number of people showed up and supported us. They all said that even though they didn’t know the words that were said, they could feel the Spirit and were touched. Carlos was so grateful and happy. It was a wonderful experience!

Well the time has flown.
Thank you for the little notes. I love them the best. I treasure every little note.
Hermana Whitney

Monday, November 14, 2011

Shouldn’t I feel whole and completely happy in the temple?

Can you believe that on Friday I’ll have been out 6 months! How amazing is that?! To me it doesn't seem that long, but I’m sure it seems like forever at home. I remember what it was like waiting for Andrea to come home. Some days were easier than others. But I was okay as I found things to do and filled my time with meaningful things.

Read Doctrine & Covenants 50:41. I love that scripture because it reminds me that I am a daughter of Heavenly Father and He will help me. There are so many times each day as I go up to someone to talk with them and I feel so nervous! But then I remember who I am and whom I serve. I don't have to worry about what I’m going to say because he will help me. Never mind that all He really wants me to say is that I know Jesus Christ lives and that as we follow Him we can have peace and happiness in our lives right now, and that we can live with our families again. All Heavenly Father wants us to do is be ourselves and bear our testimonies. There’s a quote in the little mother daughter flip-quote thing mom sent me that says, "Be yourself, who else is better qualified?" YOU'RE AMAZING! I talk about you all the time to the missionaries! I tell them how you’re such a great example of charity. They all think I’m charitable but it's because I learned it from you. Don't have fear but choose faith. Have faith in Christ that he can comfort you. I love you!

We have two baptisms scheduled for this week. Miracles are happening! Three baptisms in one transfer is amazing! We’re very blessed. All week we've been telling ourselves, "We're just workers in the vineyard. It’s not our work. The Lord is in charge. It will all work out." There have been many times when we've wanted to just cry or scream in frustration and worry. But we remembered who we work for and we were lifted up.

This week we had Elder C. Scott Grow visit for a half mission conference and then last night we had our area seventy, Elder Packer visit. Both were excellent. Elder Packer gave a fireside for the stake about how missionary work is changing. Basically we're getting the ward even more involved than before. We’ve been instructed to visit all the members on the ward list. Especially the less active, part member families, and recent converts. We’ve had some neat experiences already.

One morning a sister came with us to an appointment, but it fell through so we went with her to see some of the sisters on her visiting teaching list that she hadn't seen. At the first door the husband answered and was very nice and welcomed us back at another time. The second was where the miracle took place. As we pulled up we realized we had talked with this lady before. We had felt impressed at the time to talk with her and afterward felt it didn't do much. She didn't give any indication that she was a member. So we forgot about her until we went with Sister Davidson, then we remembered. So we knocked and the mother answered because the sister was sick. But as Sister Davidson (the sister with us) introduced herself the sister heard and asked, "Are you married to Steve Davidson?" She answered, “Yes.” And the sister said from inside the house, "He baptized me." They continued chatting for a minute and set up a time for Sister Davidson to come back. As we walked away Sister Davidson was so touched. She was moved to tears. It was amazing to see how before this sister was not receptive to us but as soon as she had a connection to Sister Davidson she was open. It’s so neat to see how the Lord works through his children to help his other children. We reported this to the Relief Society President and she was amazed too. Because she had no idea they had a connection. It just goes to show you that even in a seemingly "random" selection of who should visit who, it is not random at all. The Lord is very much a part of His work; the saving and exaltation of His children.

It’s so important to be happy. Hermana Anderson was looking at a picture of her family this morning and at one point turns to me, shows me a picture of her brother's wedding and says, "Look at these people. I love them. I get to spend eternity with them." My eyes almost filled with tears because I thought of you all and how grateful I am to know that we will spend eternity together. There isn't anyone else I would rather spend eternity with. I’m grateful for the ordinances of the temple. I remember sitting in the celestial room of the Sacramento temple and loving it. But I felt only a shell of what I could be. At first I was a little troubled by it. Shouldn’t I feel whole and completely happy in the temple? Then I realized that you weren't there. My family, my heaven, wasn't with me and therefore I wasn't whole or truly happy. I would rather be in the darkest, coldest, wettest abyss with all of you, than to be in the sun, warmth, and comfort without you. I compare it to premortal life. We lived as one great family. We were happy. But we knew there was something more and therefore we wanted to come to earth and gain bodies and have families, and to then grow and progress and return to Heavenly Father as families. Do we have that vision? Is that our goal? I think it is, but what are we doing today to achieve that? It comes down to the very small and simple things. Shall we not go on in such a great cause?!!!

I’m glad you like the blog entries. I’m trying to be better at updating it every week. Oh one more thing. Elder Packer said President and Sister Cook were at his house ten days ago!! How cool is that?! When he asked me where I was from he replied with, “What stake?" he then said, “Oh, I'm very good friends with your last stake president. We grew up together." It was so nice to meet someone who knows someone from home.

Hermana Anderson is great! I’m enjoying every moment with her!! My cold is gone. Friday morning was a little rough. I’ve had stomachaches off and on. Transfers are next week. Crazy how time flies.

I love you all! You’re amazing! I love every little thing I have that reminds me of you.
Forever and Always,
Hermana Whitney
over and out

No one should be called that!

Next week I’ll be out six months!!! Time flies so quickly! Although I know it may not seem that way at home.

This week was amazing! We carved pumpkins as a zone Monday night. Tuesday we had zone conference. Wednesday was district meeting. Thursday was a day of teaching. Friday we taught some more. Saturday we went to the Sacramento temple. Amazing! And yesterday was a great Sunday with zone leader council in the evening.

Zone conference was great! He talked about real growth and what that means personally, for our area, and just in general. President told us we need to have a vision and work towards that. Doing something without a vision is drudgery. But with a vision it's a dream.

We had president interviews after conference. Mine was really quick and good. He just asked how I was doing and told me he doesn’t think the lord will let Hermana Anderson stay another transfer. (She’s been here her whole mission, since June.) So he told me to enjoy her while I have her. That was pretty much it. As we ended he said, "Thanks for being easy." He's such a loving president. He really does care about us and wants us to be happy as we serve our missions. It was a good meeting. I love President Bunker!

Transfers are the Monday before Thanksgiving. I think it's the 21st. It will be a sad day, but we're enjoying our time now. It’s an adventure every day with Hermana Anderson! She’s amazing and we have a lot in common.

This week we had a number of funny moments that made us laugh really hard. The other night we were talking about names that could be for both genders. (We had just returned from the temple and were talking about the German names we were pronouncing as if they were Spanish, which was funny in and of it self!) At any rate we were listing off names like Jamie, Jessie, Kim, Courtney, Whitney, etc. I suggested “Frances” and Hermana Anderson said, "Oh no, that's a no-gender name. No one should be called that!" I kind of chuckled and responded, "... that's my middle name." There was a moment of silence as we looked at each other before we both started laughing and holding our sides because we were laughing so hard. It was hilarious! She put it as her status and we've got some comments about it yesterday. We are still laughing about it. :)

… I'm so glad it made you all laugh. I had to contain my laughter here in the library as typed it.:)

Tell Nancy I loved her letters. They came in one day but it just made it better. I love the photo of her and of the three picking blueberries. That’s a pretty cool picture. I’ve been trying to take more pictures. I haven't been as good as I want to be but at least I’m remembering.

Yesterday, I was reading in Alma about all their wars and the destruction. But what stuck out to me is it said that there never had been a happier time among the people. It reminds me of today. There is so much to be unhappy about. There are wars, natural disasters, and evil all around. And yet we have every reason to be the happiest we have ever been. I am happy and my heart is full. I know Jesus Christ lives. I know that as I live his gospel I have the direction, peace, and joy I need in my life. There never has been a better time in the history of men where we have every reason to be happy. We have the fullness of the gospel. We have a living prophet that speaks to us. We have temples on the earth that seal families for eternity. We have the Bible and Book of Mormon and other modern day scripture in our homes. There is so much more to be joyful about. How can I not be happy? My Heavenly Father loves me. He knows my name. He knows who I am. My heart is joyful!!!

Thank you for your support and love. There have been times when I just look at your pictures and reread your letters just to remind myself my family is rooting for me and knows I can do what I have been called to do. I love you and am grateful that we are an eternal family. The celestial room in the temple was wonderful but I could feel the void of having my family around me to share in the abundance of the Spirit and love of the Lord. I suppose that 's what the premortal life was like. We were happy to be with Heavenly Father but we knew there was something more and we wanted to be together as families for forever. I felt close and far from you all at the same time as I sat in the celestial room of the Sacramento temple. It gave me a greater desire to return with honor and love you more.

With all my love and gratitude
forever your
hermana whitney bunny
over and out

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

we marveled at how the Lord works through us

I have a cold. But am doing great otherwise. I haven't read your emails yet.
Our schedule for today was flipped upside down. Because of Halloween President Bunker doesn’t want us out. So instead of working tonight we worked this morning. We’ll be having a zone meeting tonight. It’s going to be fun day. We’re going to carve pumpkins afterward!

We did have the baptism. It was great! The missionaries in the zone sent our messages and invites to their wards to let them know about he baptism. The YW room was almost full! It was great! Hermana Anderson and I with two elders; Elder Spendlove and Elder Brower, sang I Know That My Redeemer Lives in Spanish. It was really good. We’re thinking we might record it today on our cameras. I’m hoping we get the chance.

We’ve had some great lessons this week. We set another baptism date with a man who's been taught for a while. The spirit was really strong. We basically told him that he knows it's true and what he needs to do and if he doesn't get baptized it'll be a greater sin. In the beginning he said he wanted to wait until next year sometime. By the end, after much testifying and reading some scriptures he thought hard about it for a while, looked at a calendar, and then said, "How about the fourteenth? In three weeks?" We were filled with joy. On our way home we marveled at how the Lord works through us, 20 year olds that are weak and simple, to bring His children back to him. He uses us, his weakest tools/instruments, to bring about the greatest work possible. We’re just grateful to be a part of it and to watch the miracle of a life changed because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

My zone is amazing! I love the missionaries and am grateful to be serving around such fine missionaries. Elder Bringhurst, my zone leader in Santa Rosa transferred here with me. And I found out he served in Napa when Rorey went home. So he knows Rorey! He said he loved hearing his homecoming talk. He also said that Rorey went out a lot with them and was great to have in lessons. Apparently he helped and was a good influence on Elder Bringhurst. It was very fun to find out they know each other!

There’s a family we are teaching that the mother has a cake business (so we get along really well!) and she made a Halloween cake for a class she took. It was really cool! Then she gave it to us. It’s a lemon cake with pistachio custard filling. So good! She also made cupcakes to look like candy corn. She took different cake batters (yellow, orange, and white) and poured it in the cupcake tins. They were pretty neat looking and delicious. She also gave us the biggest, thickest, softest, and most delicious snicker doodles I’ve ever had! She spoils us to no end. The other week we had peach cobbler from her. And dinner with her is like eating at home. They’re the best family. We also got to serve them this past week with a few missionaries. They needed the garage emptied out so they could get the fridge in the back to the front so she could use it for her cake business. It was emptied, fridge moved, and everything replaced in an hour. With four elders helping, the job was done quickly. We all love it when we can put on our yellow [helping hands] shirts and serve someone.

We have zone conference tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to seeing President Bunker and all the mission office staff again. We have interviews following that too. It’s going to be a great couple of weeks, because we'll be going to the Sacramento Temple within the next couple weeks. We’re hoping to go as a whole zone.

I’m glad to hear Dad made it safely to and from Canada. The snowman sounds so fun! Right in front of Nana and Grampa’s door?! How do they get out? I love the idea that he is a ghost! How cute! I’m excited for Andrea! I’m glad she got housing! And she'll be babysitting a harp! How cool. Tell her I’ll be sending her a letter this week.
I can't believe you have snow!!! Crazy! I’m enjoying 70-degree weather at 10 in the morning! :) I keep forgetting it's October. That November is tomorrow is weird. I think I might be in a perpetual state of summer. Which is perfectly fine with me! I love the warm weather!

Well, I hope you're all staying warm and dry. Keep being amazing and having fun. I wish I could be so good with my ... I can't think of the word in English :) with my meals, that's it! I don't have much choice as far as dinner is concerned. Oh well. Breakfast and lunch are fine though. We’re eating fruits and veggies too. I am taking vitamins and staying away from sweets and dairy. We have almond milk at home.
Sorry if my emails today don't make much sense. I don't feel myself with my head cold. Hermana Anderson's went away quickly so I’m hoping mine does the same.
I love you all and love looking at your pictures every day on my dresser. Thanks Dad for your most recent letter. It really helped me. I’m learning who I am. What it is Heavenly Father wants me to be. It’s a crazy journey! And fun. And I’ve never been happier! Thank you for you support and love. I’m grateful I have a family that supports me.
Hermana Whitney

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Do I really get to go out and be a missionary?!

It's been another great week! Our little group is slowly growing. We've found a number of really good investigators this week. We have a baptism this Friday. Hopefully you'll get the SD card soon. I might wait until after the baptism to send it.

We were out trying to find our people but no one was home. It was getting dark and we both started feeling really weird and scared. Finally we just went home because we were both freaked out. Nothing happened but the streets were empty and it was Friday night. So who knows what may have happened but as soon as we were home we both felt better.

Hermana Anderson is the exchange sister so we go to the Zone Leadership meetings Sunday nights. I love it. It’s a chance to see how our zone and district leaders work and how much they love us and worry about us. It’s made me appreciate the work they do better. It’s also made me want to be a better missionary.

Yesterday in church we had a native speaker give a talk. Its’ the first one! Usually it’s just us and people from around the stake that speak Spanish. He was so nervous but he did so well! It was great to see one small miracle for our group growing. He’s an amazing guy. From what Hermana Anderson tells me he's made quite a change in his life since coming back in contact with the missionaries. Oh! Another thing about him! On Monday he was able to go with the elders to an appointment. (He speaks English fluently.) He’s still talking about it! We got to talk with him the next day and his eyes were still glistening. When we called him to see if he had time to go with the elders his response was, '"They would let me go with them?!" He continued by asking what he should wear and what they would want him to do. He told us how he has always dreamt of being a missionary but never got the chance to be. In his words, "I always wanted to be a missionary and yesterday I got to be one!" We made some reference to it being like Christmas and he said, "It's better than Christmas!"

It made us think how much we’re excited to be missionaries. Am I that excited each day to go out and teach people about the gospel? To help them come unto Christ? Do I react as him and say, "Do I really get to go out and be a missionary?! Will Heavenly Father allow me to be his servant?" We've changed since that day. We’re more energetic and excited to serve, to find, to teach, and to love these precious children of God. We’ve made so many goals and are becoming better missionaries. We’re overcoming fears and finding joy in the journey. We see miracles every day. I can't remember them all right now, but it's amazing! They’re there. Just open your eyes and see them!

So today we're celebrating Elder Spendlove's birthday by going to Fenton's, the ice cream place in the movie UP. How cool is that?! I am very excited! I’ll take pictures for you!

I forgot to write down everything that happened this week as it came so I’ll do better about it next week. I’ll probably think of something in 15 min. so you'll get another card!
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY Mom & Dad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hermana Whitney

over and out

"Wish Fairies?"

The bishop and wife's youngest son is serving a mission in Washington I think. So it's just them and the two of us missionaries in the house. They’re a fun couple! Today is his birthday.

I don’t miss the new mattress because the bed I have here is good. I’ve slept so well this past week. Our bedtime and rising routine has been perfect except for one night. Yeah! I feel so good!

We don't have enough members for a Branch yet. In fact all our members are less active and most deal with addictions. We’re working on getting an Addiction Recovery Program started. It’s a long process. Hermana Anderson has been trying for months. This is her first area. Last transfer she had an English missionary so she’s been doing all the teaching by herself. We’re working on teaching together. It’s so much fun! We’ve laughed hard every day!

Our teaching pool is pretty big considering they didn't have very many people just a few months ago. When Hna Anderson first got here they had 2 people at church. Yesterday we had 4. Last week there were 8! The people we are teaching are great. We have a baptism scheduled for Saturday. Yeah!

Herman Anderson is from Chicago. She’s just a transfer older than me. We actually met in the MTC. When I came in we met in the hall in passing and talked for maybe 10 seconds. She’s' amazing! I've learned so much from her already! It’s been the best week of my mission.

I’m still an online missionary. I wish you could see my Facebook page. It’s easier to update that then my blog. I’m working on an entry though. I need to get into a routine. That and figure out what to write about. I think I’ll have a lot of miracles to report on this transfer. Both Hna Anderson and I feel that something great is going to happen this transfer! It’s been such an amazing week. The Spirit has abounded and I feel I’ve grown more in the past week than I have in the past three months.
Which reminds me... tomorrow is my 5 month mark. How did that happen? This transfer I’ll complete 6 months. Which means I’m 1/3 done with my mission. Crazy! It goes so quickly!

Our house is a mile from the Stake Center, our chapel. We meet with the 5th Ward at 11:00 am. We go to church with the 5th Ward and then right after Relief Society we have Sacrament meeting with the Spanish group. I gave a talk this Sunday. I was informed an hour before. I followed the Spirit and talked about Alma 5; keeping our testimonies burning bright and sharing it with others.

Our group leaders are amazing. They are brethren that served Spanish missions and they are so willing to help. Throughout the week they'll go visit the less actives and our investigators. Amazing! The ward and stake are so willing to help, too. This zone of missionaries is pretty tight. We’re like a little family. Well, there are about 14 of us. So I guess not that small.
Last night we had a special fireside with the Stake Presidency and just the missionaries.

On Friday I got to work with Hna Clayton!! Hna A and two other sisters had to go to Santa Rosa for leadership training so I got to work in Napa with Hna Clayton! She’s doing so well! We also had a new missionary as of last week from Japan with us. She’s really cute and we had fun as a trio for a day.

So one lady we talked to asked if I was from France. I was kind of confused, but she explained that I sounded like I was from France. Han A said that she has thought that a couple times, too. So I guess I have a French accent when I speak Spanish!!! Now every time I speak Spanish I ask Han A if I sounded French. I haven’t sounded French since that day so I’m not sure what it is that I say that sounds French! Hna A said my talk was really good and I didn’t sound French, so I don’t know. I wish I could hear myself speak Spanish with a French accent. I’m sure it would be funny!

We eat dinner with the 5th ward elders and their member. It's a big change from eating with Latinos. It was very strange at first. But I’m enjoying it much better now. It’s nice to have familiar food. The members are so good. I’m enjoying getting to know them. It was also nice to hear church in English. I almost cried when I heard the sacrament prayers in English. It’s nice/cool to hear and understand things in another language, but it's something different entirely to hear it in your own language. It means so much more.

We do laundry at the Monson's (bishop. I know! so cool!). E-mail is at a library. So hopefully the Internet works better/faster.

The other day we were walking down the street and a boy about 10 years old asked if we were girl scouts. We told him we were missionaries. He must have miss understood because he said. "Wish Fairies?" It was so funny! I’m still laughing about it!

I think the zone is going on a hike. The elders want to try and catch the mountain lion that was running around Browns Valley this past week. Just kidding! We also might play tennis. I don’t now how many racquets there are though. We’ll see. But it's beautiful and sunny, so hopefully something outside.

LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Have fun playing MagBlast with the elders. And have fun with school this week. I’m so happy to hear all is going well. I’m happy your FHE’s are working out to be more meaningful. That’s what I’ve been working on too. Making my studies more effective and meaningful.

LOVE YOU FOREVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)
Hermana Whitney Stephenson

over and out :(

Thursday, October 13, 2011

continually amazed at the giving nature of the Spanish people

I'm being transferred to Vacaville. Hermana Anderson will be my companion. It’s about 1 1/2-hour drive. I'm excited even though it's raining! We are meeting at the Stake Center here at 12:45 (in 1 1/2 hr). I believe it's just a Spanish group, not even a branch in Vacaville. I’m not sure though. From the looks of it we cover a big city. The entire city of Vacaville. It’s going to be fun!

I met Hermana Anderson Saturday at a Relief Society Conference in Vacaville. Saturday was amazing! I don't know if I’ll have enough time to explain the whole day! The conference was amazing because Julie B. Beck came!!! [General Relief Society President] President Bunker gave us permission to go if we found a ride. So we rode with Sister Bunker! And afterward "President treated us to lunch" :), there were eight of us. It was so fun. But the conference was amazing! I have a few pages of notes. She talked about Daughters in My Kingdom and how it's our Title of Liberty for the Relief Society. She also let some sisters ask questions and then she answered them in her talk. She also knows Spanish and Italian. Pretty cool! One of the sister missionaries described her as the Elder Holland of the sisters. She’s bold and straightforward. She’s also funny, her husband is too. It was an amazing conference.

I also saw the Garrett’s!!!!! And Hermana Clayton. Hermana Clayton is not in my Zone but we'll be closer than before! It was so very good to see her. I almost ran across the room to hug her. I had to control myself and not shout her name in the chapel.

We had our last district meeting on Tuesday. We had a great district! We took pictures after and there are some very funny ones! We had a crazy group of elders! But they're great!!

I also went on another exchange. This time I was in Windsor with Hermana Robinson. She came out with me. We had a good day. We found a few people and had a couple doors closed in our faces as we were tracting! It was hard not to laugh out loud when it happened. There were some houses that we walked away laughing but trying to stay composed and dignified. As missionaries we do some pretty awkward things. Like asking random people how their faith in Christ had helped them. We also do some weird things. Like go over to people’s houses for dinners every night. Who else does that?! Where else in the world would people be fed every night by people they hardly know? I guess wherever missionaries are is where it happens but it doesn't happen in any other group or corporation that I know of. I guess the life of a missionary is just awkward and weird.

I hope Dad feels better soon. I’m excited to hear about G's eagle project. What else have you been doing? A night with the Witham’s sounds great!
I attached a photo of me and Sister Garrett. It’s not the best but it's of the two of us. I wish I could go apple picking! That sounds so fun! Our p-days usually consist of errands and writing letters. I’m not sure what I’ll do in Vacaville but I hope it’s fun!

Yesterday all the members said their goodbyes. It was kind of surreal because I’ve seen so many missionaries do the same at home. And now that I’m in that place it was very strange. It’s a mix of emotion. I’ll miss the members and those we teach but I’m looking forward to getting to know new people and loving them, too. One member who is amazing and has the biggest heart, she's very giving and loves without thought; she said she had something for me in her car. I thought maybe something small or just a note. Nope, she had me go through two boxes of bags and pick one. I quickly brought the choice down to two but couldn't decide. I asked for an opinion and decided on one. Then with preamble she just put the other one on my arm. I tried to give it back but she wouldn't have it. I’m continually amazed at the giving nature of the Spanish people. They give so freely and willingly. I’m trying to better develop that talent. [And yes, Dad, I have two more bags. I’m still the bag lady :)]

Have a great week and reach new heights.
I love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, you all forever and always,
Hermana Stephenson

Over and out!

Monday, October 3, 2011

We really enjoy serving.

Yesterday it was about 70 degrees and today it's raining. So I think the rainy season has started. Which means I’ll most likely be wet until the next General Conference. Or longer. Oh well, I have my raincoat and umbrella!

I watched the first session of conference in Spanish. I understood maybe half of what was said. But the others I watched in English. A cool fact though is that Elder Scott translated his own talk!!! How cool is that?! We listened to last conference in the car to get us prepared and excited for the weekend. I found I really enjoyed it. Sister Dalton’s talk was great!!!! Hers was one of my favorites. I also liked President Monson's when he said, “Hello”. So funny!!! We were all laughing pretty hard!

Well, this transfer ends on Monday. We get transfer calls Saturday. Hna C has been teasing me that I’ll train the new missionary coming in. We're getting a native Spanish sister and she thinks I'll be training her. I’m just not going to think about it.

I don't remember if I told you or not but Hna C is the Exchange Sister, so that’s why we go on so many exchanges. This week I was with Hermana Rupp in Rohnert Park Spanish. We had a good time and tracted an apartment complex that ended up having one Spanish person and the rest were English. Oh well. Who better than to tract the bilingual places than us?

On Thursday we got new mattresses!!!! Yay!! It of course is not my memory foam one from home but it's nicer than the one before. Elder and Sister Murray came by with them that afternoon. They asked if we liked hard or soft better. I told them I had a memory foam one at home. Elder Murray’s comment was, "well you're not at home." I laughed and explained that I don't know which one I prefer because I’m used to the memory foam. It was kind of funny.

We had conference at the Stake Center so almost all of the missionaries in the Zone were there. It was fun watching conference with all the missionaries. I’m glad we're all so close and see each other often. It helps us be more united and it lifts us up. We have some good times!

We helped a member of another ward move on Friday. At one point there were 14 missionaries there packing boxes, moving boxes, hauling furniture, moving a baby grand piano (don't worry. There are a couple piano players amongst us and they know how to handle a piano.) Our service project lasted from 10 to 4 and they were still going when we left. We had appointments to get to otherwise we probably would have stayed longer. Service is given just when needed. We usually will get a Zone wide message and do our best to help out. We really enjoy serving.

I love using calendars and stickers! We make calendars for our investigators, recent converts, less-actives to help them get in the habit of reading scriptures every day. It works most of the time!

I hope Dad feels better soon. And that you can go swimming once more!! How fun that you went in between sessions! I ate a meal provided by a sister in the Stake. She fed us both sat and sun. It was very nice and delicious! I enjoyed knowing that on the other side of the country you were all watching the same thing as me and doing the same thing. I imagined you all snuggled on the couches and chairs with snacks and the smells of dinner wafting from the kitchen. I hope we can continue to keep that tradition. Maybe conference weekend can be when we have family reunions!

I’m so jealous that you're watching football!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I saw part of some game and had to hold in my desire to sit down and watch. AGH!!!! I miss watching football with you all! Weird I know coming from me, but I love football!

I don't do a ton of cooking but when I get the chance I sometimes go crazy. I love it. I’m a little afraid I might forget how to cook. I’m always asking if I can help.

I love you all!! I love hearing from you!
All my love forever and always!
Your Whitney Bunny / WB (thank you N for the abbreviation:)

Monday, September 26, 2011

my teeth fell out

This Thursday we had exchanges and I was left with the area and an English sister, Sister Cottle. Ahhhhh! I did okay. The Spirit definitely helped me. I taught the entire first lesson to a lady and I was able to understand her. That and tracting went well. I’m more confident in my Spanish and I realize that I do know some Spanish. I was really nervous, but just went out and worked. :)

We've begun teaching a less active member that is amazing. He wants to return and never leave again. He has so many questions and desires to attend the temple. We teach him on his back patio. He lives in a vineyard. It’s so beautiful! This last Friday we sat and watched the sunset with a cool, gentle breeze; the sprinkler going, birds singing, wearing sweaters, and discussing the gospel. It was amazing! So peaceful.

So we call our investigators and less actives to remind them about church and we hear all kinds of excuses and reasons for not coming. Yesterday we had one that still has us baffled. He said to us, "se callo mis dientes." (my teeth fell out) What? We’re pretty sure he said something else but we can't think of what it could be. So his reason for not attending church is that (as far as we know) his teeth fell out. He has great teeth so I’m not sure what to think. We’re asking him the next time we see him. Hopefully tonight!

I loved the Relief Society broadcast. We watched it in Spanish to be with our sisters. So I’m sure there are things I missed. But I understood about half. At least I think I did!

Bonni and Ken look very happy. Everyone does. I was thinking about you all throughout the day. I’m so happy that they could be sealed!!!

I’m so proud of Nancy for writing in her journal! I got her postcard saying you were drinking hot cocoa on a day when it was 100 degrees. I was drinking horchata! So yummy! I hope you're having a great day and enjoying the weather. It rained yesterday in the morning. More like sprinkled actually. And it's cooler today. Which is nice after the 100 degree weather last week.

I love you all. I pray for you daily. I’m so grateful you are my family. Whether immediate, extended or "adopted." I'm grateful for the things you've taught me. I couldn’t have asked for better family and friends.

As you wish,
Hermana Whitney Stephenson

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

They are on fire!

Hi! I am so excited for the RS broadcast!!! It'll be fun knowing you're doing the same thing at the same time as me. :) And general conference will be amazing! I can hardly wait!!

No baptisms of ours, but the Redwood Single Sisters had three. Well one was Friday, one Saturday and one tonight. They are on fire! We found some great guys while tracting this week that we'll have to give over to them because they are YSA age. It’s hard giving them up but it'll be good for them to attend an YSA ward.

I had exchanges with Sister Skroski and we stayed in Windsor and Healdsburg. It was a great day! We had so much fun! She reminds me of Marisa. She’s from North Carolina. Seeing her work has helped me to be more confident in being myself while I serve. It’s what the lord wants and expects me to be myself. He called me not someone else. So I'm trying to be myself more.

I can't remember if I told you or not, but we tract from 3-4:30 every day, well almost every day, not Monday, or if we have appointments, but anyway. We’ve had some great success with it. And I enjoy it much more than I thought I would. My Spanish is still rocky and needs much improvement but I can understand most everyone. Except when they speak fast, or on the phone.

We named our white Corolla, Jace after Elder Felix our District Leader, but we had to give him away on Thursday. New cars are coming in so right now we have an old red one. It smells bad. I get sick just smelling the inside. :( Once we're done driving I’m grateful to get out and smell the fresh air again and not feel carsick. I’m okay with all the walking we do because it means we aren't in the smelly car. We haven't named it yet.

I got two packages this week!!! One from Linda and the other from Olivia!

Hermana Christensen is reading a book (authorized by president) called "The Continuous Atonement." She tells me all about it every day she reads it. It sounds amazing! A few other missionaries have said it's great. I know it's early but can you send that to me for Christmas?! :)

I hope you all have tons of fun for A's birthday. It came up so quickly!

I’m hopefully doing a blog entry tomorrow. And the daisy picture was completely accidental. It was my favorite, but I think I’ll keep it. At least until I find some daisies to take pictures of. I haven't seen any though. I wonder if they even grow around here. I hope so!

It’s still eighties and beautiful here. We haven’t had any rain, but once the rainy season comes I guess I won't be complaining. Not that I am now, I just miss the water. The only water I see is in a glass. :)

Hermana Whitney Stephenson

Thursday, September 15, 2011

“A Joy Full Heart” -

I'm doing great this week.

I watched this video. It's amazing! We were all sent the video from President Bunker and asked to watch it. I've met Elder Harrison. He's great. Our missionaries are great. We've had a few missionaries lose family members while on their missions. They are strong examples of pressing forward.

I have some good stories to tell if the computer will continue to work. The keys of the keyboard are acting strange so sorry if something doesn't make sense!

I had another exchange to Rohenrt Park with Sister Simnit. (They have a nice library!) We saw many miracles as we tracked and contacted. We were led by the spirit to doors and had one amazing mini lesson with people. I loved watching their hearts soften and begin to accept our message. I'll tell you all about them in a letter because the computer is being annoying. grr.

I started a blog! “A Joy Full Heart” -

Bonni has already found it and commented on it. She's getting sealed this month?!!!! I am very excited for them! I would have shouted for joy if it weren't for the fact that I was in the library. :)

We had zone conference and it was amazing!!! President wants us to love our missions, every minute of every day. So that's what I’m doing, finding joy in every day and laughing.

It’s been a good week. Still not to bed on time, but finding the energy I need. We’re working on it. It’s a work in progress.

The church is true and the sky is blue! (something hna. c says sometimes)

Hermana Whitney Bunny Stephenson
over and out

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Lord has something grand in mind.

Working in Windsor and Healdsburg is fun. They remind me of Wolfeboro and old towns like that. They are beautiful towns. I love working there.

At transfers everyone meets at the Peterson Lane chapel. Even though we weren't being transferred we went to see everyone there. And I saw Elder Kent!!! It was like seeing family! He’s doing well and having fun. He said he got an email from Hermano Penailillo with an announcement of the baby being born.

Han Christensen reminded me I have to memorize all 42 principles (the things we teach in the 5 lessons). I'm so nervous because apparently at zone conference, Wednesday, I will be called upon to recite them all in front of everyone. And because I’m a Spanish missionary I’ll have to do them in Spanish! My stomach is turning at the thought. I hope I survive. :)

We had our last week with Nathalie. She left this morning for college. This week was especially fun because we went to find someone and we found that the driveway was one way, up hill, and dirt. As we drove up Nathalie commented dryly, "This is going to be epic backing." it was hilarious! Knowing we had to back down it was enough to make us want to park at the bottom and walk up the hill, but we continued on and made it to the top. It was good we had the car because after knocking the door we were turning the car around (both myself and Nathalie were out of the car helping Hna C, funny to see!) anyway, just after we got in the car two big, scary and unfriendly dogs came running around the corner. It was a moment to remember. The view from the top was beautiful! They live right in a vineyard and there are vineyards all around. Very pretty.

Last night a member prepared dinner for the missionaries. It was take out. :) So we met up with the elders at their apartment so we could take some home, but it was a little trickier than we thought. Thankfully, Elder Van Gilder and Elder Hansen (the new missionary from Arizona) live right next door to the Neuenschwanders. So we knocked on their door to see if we could eat at their table. Sister N said it was the easiest meal she's ever had to prepare! We brought the food, plates, utensils and the elders even brought over a couple chairs. It was great to eat together and at the Neuenschwanders. They are amazing. They work in the office with another couple, Elder and Sister Adamson. They take care of us. I feel better having them around.

Yesterday at church I turned around and saw President Bunker walking down the hall. It was SO good to see him. He’s very loving and cares about us. He remembers things about you. Like he asked about me getting more sleep. I told him it was a little better, but we were still working on it.

Oh... I can't add Andrea to Facebook. Rules. No friends or family from home. There are some special situations, but you have to ask president if it's okay. You can check my blog... when I start it :) I’m trying to figure out what to call it. When it's up you can put a link on my NH blog to mine in CA. We’re still working on fitting online time in every day. It’s hard when there are only a few select places and times to work.

We had a great lesson with a man, Gustavo, in a park in Healdsburg right by the river. He’s been in the USA for 10 years. But in Mexico he was studying with missionaries for 4 years. He remembers most of the teachings. We met him at our service project helping a member move. He called us and we set up an appointment. As we taught him his friend, Beto, came over and asked if he could join us. It was great. We had a great discussion about how we can have a personal relationship with Heavenly Father. Beto was really surprised that was possible. I guess I’ve just taken for granted that we have the opportunity to know God personally. We’re excited to teach both of them more. It’ll be great to see their testimonies grow.

In my studies this week I was studying 1 Nephi 16-17 about how Laman and Lemuel are tired of traveling and want to return to Jerusalem. It reminded me of having a vision of our future. They couldn't see where they were going. They new where they had been was comfortable and they wanted to go back. But they already had come so far. My thought was that I have come so far already. Do I want to return home just because it's hard now and home is comfortable? Or do I have a vision of the future and faith enough that I can take one more step forward and continue progressing and growing? The Lord has something grand in mind. I just need to trust Him enough to continue pressing forward and holding fast to the rod and the truth.

Hope you have a great Labor Day weekend!
Hermana Whitney Stephenson
over and out :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

"mormon helping hands" t-shirt [From 29AUG11]

WHAT?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm crying! I'm so happy for the Ortons!!!! The baby is so cute! I can't wait to meet him! Please give them my love and let them know I'm SO EXCITED for them!

It was transfers this week. I'm not transferred but our area has changed. Instead of having the northern part of Santa Rosa (College Street and north) and Windsor and Healdsburg we'll be exclusively in Windsor and Healdsburg. Elder Van Gilder will have the north of Santa Rosa with a new missionary coming in today! And Elder Hatch will stay in south Santa Rosa with Elder Rollins. So we'll have six missionaries in the Branch. Very exciting. It was hard to give up those we were teaching in the Santa Rosa area. We've come to love them and enjoyed teaching them and their families.

I had exchanges again this week. Instead of me going somewhere I stayed in my area with Sister Thurston, an English sister. She speaks very little Spanish. So I was in charge of teaching. Thankfully we had Nathalie with us, so she helped me a lot. She translated when I didn't understand and then when I didn't know a word she would help me. But I realized I know a bit more Spanish than I originally thought. Of course I relied on the Spirit and felt it's guidance and felt it lose my tongue. When we exchanged back we met at the Institute building for free milkshakes. So yummy!

For my personal study time I take some time to study specifically for one of our investigators. It’s been working really well because I’m more a part of the lesson and not just testifying. I actually teach. And sometimes I begin teaching. Its’ so fun! It was also good because one time I told our investigator, Pancho that I studied for him that morning. He was very surprised, but pleased. I think it made him feel cared for and he accepted our message better than before. Because he knew I had taken time to plan for him he was more receptive. It was a good experience.

On Friday we had an opportunity to serve. There is a couple that is moving so we helped them pack up their dishes while the Elders moved boxes and other heavy things from upstairs. It was very fun and so good to serve. Also, I got to wear my "mormon helping hands" t-shirt! I took a couple pictures. It was so fun to put it on! I’m very excited to have one. I’ve always wanted one!

We had a baptism on Saturday! It was great! Carlos was nervous but happy to get baptized. When he got into the water the Spirit hit me and I could see how much he's progressed and what a great life he has ahead of him, because of the gospel. I’m so grateful I could be a part of teaching him the gospel. It’s a great privilege to help someone along the path towards eternal happiness and Christ.

So I made a funny Spanish mistake the other day. Thankfully I was talking with a member on the phone and she understands, but anyway it was pretty funny! Instead of saying "le llamaremos" (we'll call you later) I said "le amaremos" (we'll love you later) So funny! We were laughing throughout the day. Oh, good times!

Olivia looks gorgeous and so happy! And the cake is amazing!! Better than mine! I love it!

I'm so grateful you have power.  I did hear about the earthquake and was excited to hear what happened. I’m sad the monument, cathedral, and especially the temple have some damage. Did you feel anything? And the storm? I didn't know about that. How much rain did you get? Was it really windy? I’m sure you had fun playing games and having fun with family.

I forgot until this morning about Old Home Day! How could I?! I’m glad most everyone could join you. I love Old Home Day!

No time left.
I made it through a transfer! Let everyone (family, the ward, anyone who asks about me :) know I love them. And that I’m grateful for their support.

We’re off to get laundry and then who knows what. We aren't quite sure. Actually for sure we're washing our car. Whether in a car wash or by hand, we'll see!
Here’s a photo of me, Carlos, and Hna. C.
Hope your birthdays were great!

over and out
hermana whitney bunny stephenson :)

Friday, August 26, 2011

the best sound to a missionary’s ear is the sound of water in the font [week 14 - 22AUG11]

We didn't end up going to the ocean, but we played ultimate Frisbee instead, with most of the zone. So fun and hot! I actually played and had some good throws and catches. The Elders were impressed. That is, when I actually had the Frisbee! It was fun just to be in amongst the Elders and their playfulness. I think there were about 5 or 6 companionships. Then there was us and Nathlie, our member that is always with us! The Redwood Sisters showed up at some point. We didn’t get any pictures because it was sooo hot and we were all sweaty. Sorry.

We had cantaloupe water... blended cantaloupe with some sugar and water. So yummy! We made watermelon water at home. We had extra so we froze it in our ice cube trays and put toothpicks in them. So fun and delicious! You should try it!

I’m hoping I can send the SD card today. Hna C wants some pics from it. But we don't really have time today. It may get out tomorrow. Almost all of the space has been used up! So 400 pics! It should be fun!

LOVE the package!  Thank you so much! It was a bright spot in my day. Did you know that I now have 40 postcards?! So fun! I did get Rachel’s postcard. Very cute chipmunks!

We went to the temple on Thursday. Perfect timing. In between Olivia’s endowment [Wednesday] and sealing [Friday]. I also met in the celestial room the Bocks? or Bochs? They work with Nana and Grampa in the Boston Temple. They know the Orton’s. Are really good friends. They visit our ward every once in a while. So good to talk with them.

We had a baptism on Saturday. We got to fill the font. The plug wasn't working well so we got something to put over the drain. So I got to go wading! Up to my ankles! Wahoo! Then later to check the temperature I got to go in almost to my knees. So I went wading! In the font.

And the saying is right... the best sound to a missionary’s ear is the sound of water in the font. LOVE IT! The baptism was amazing. The spirit was so strong. The brother baptized was the boyfriend of one of our recent converts. It was a very special experience. We didn’t' actually teach him because he works just outside of our area so the Elders in that area taught him. He lives in our area hence why he was baptized in our area and he was technically our baptism. Although we did none of the teaching, it was a great experience! I got to bear my testimony and I felt the spirit come over me. The words just rolled off my tongue and it flowed. Everyone afterward was impressed with how my Spanish had improved. Little do they know that it was just the Spirit working through me and not me at all!

We were also asked by the Redwood Singles Sisters to bear our testimonies at their baptism yesterday because the family of their convert is Spanish and wouldn't understand the talks. That too was a nice experience. Once again the spirit worked through me and words flowed out of me. I love feeling the Spirit work through me and hearing Spanish come out of my mouth! Amazing!

Oh we finally found a water pitcher with a filter! So excited to use it! What we've been doing is saving all the water bottles from when people give us water and filling them at the church. It’s pretty funny! Carrying 20 bottles around. I have pictures of them all. It’s always a fun time filling them all up. It takes a while!

This week was rough with lack of sleep, but I made it! I'll take your advice and forget myself and get to work. I need to serve others. I need to focus on those I teach. It’s hard but I’m going to work on it this week.

I finished the Book of Mormon this morning! One of our investigators is trying to read it in a month too.

I love you all and hope you have a great week!
Happy Birthday Dad!

Hermana Stephenson / Whitney / Bunny / Minnie!!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

"stick to my guns" [From August 15, 2011]

Sunny day here and loving the tan lines I'm getting!
The picture of Lila worked. So cute!

We may be going to the beach next p-day so I might get sea glass, but I’m hoping to go see the redwoods soon. I really want to send a pinecone home! :)

Elders Hatch and Van Gilder are lending us an AMAZING album; "A Nashville Tribute to Missionaries; The Work." Love it! A couple songs almost made me cry.

I love the postcards!!!!!!!!! I now have 32! My New England wall is expanding!

Sooo much has happened. It was a busy, crazy week...
I had my first interview with President Bunker. I loved it! He’s amazing! He suggested I read Lehi's dream and pay attention to how I can apply it to my life. He imagines it as chaos. With people wandering everywhere. It was interesting to read it again with that image. I took a couple pages of notes and marked up my scriptures some more. I don't have my notes with me right now, but what I do remember is that I need to fear God more than man. I can't worry about what others think, I need to go forth and work and do what I do because I know it's what the lord wants me to do, because I’ve had a conviction for myself. I found it interesting that Lehi didn't even realize there were people mocking until he saw people wandering away. He feared God more than man. So I’m trying to implement this into my life. I think it will help me when I want to homeschool my own children and others think I’m crazy or when I want to be vegetarian and I’m mocked. It’s a work in progress, but I’m taking steps. That’s something else President mentioned is that the people were continually pressing forward. They were progressing. So we need to make plans, goals, etc. have something to work towards and do it. They weren't on a moving sidewalk. They had to move themselves. So good! I need to stick up for myself and "stick to my guns" because I know what's right and what the Lord wants me to do. Therefore, I have been working on it ever since. I'm making very little progress, but it's progress. I’m thankful for President Bunker asking me to read it. I am changed, better, because of it.

President knows about not getting to bed on time. He told us to do planning for only 30 minutes and get to bed on time. We’re to report to him every once in a while. He’s concerned about us. I’m grateful he understands my need for sleep. He knows about Lyme and my weakened immune system. He’s very loving and caring about it. Oh, Hermana C. and I had matching outfits when we had our interviews. He really liked it! I have pictures on my camera. So fun!

Things have been going a little better since Wednesday. We still haven’t gotten to bed on time every night, but it's better. Progress! One night we had a member with us and when we went to drop her off her family wasn't home, so she was locked out. We couldn't just leave her outside so we sat in the car until her family returned fifteen or twenty minutes later. Which of course meant getting home about 10:20, or something. (I don't really remember.)

So one morning the water was having trouble draining and I knew it was because of hair in the drain. So I tried just getting it out with my fingers thinking it wouldn’t be too much. I got some out but there was still some in there. Anyway I got some scissors because it was wrapped around the drain and I pulled it out. IT WAS NASTY! I gagged a couple times. It was basically a hairy rat that came out. I have no idea how long ago it had been cleaned but it was a long time! GROSS! We bought one of those hair catcher things for the drain. It’s working well so far.

The branch had a picnic on Saturday. It was good to have a relaxing atmosphere to get to know the members better. They’re great! We love having meals from them and having time with the Elders.

I love you all.
Thanks for your support. Thank you for all you've taught me.
Transfers are 29Aug I think. I don't think I’ll be transferred though. We’ll see.
Off to do some errands and hop from door to door.   :)

Love you,
Whitney Bunny

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I love helping her see the joy... [From August 8, 2011]

This week was a little tougher than last week. We didn't have as many lessons, but the ones we did have were very good. Our investigator with a baptismal date is progressing well. He's excited for baptism and continuing to read and pray daily. Another of our new investigators is excellent! She always has really good questions. Most of the time they follow the outline of the lessons in Preach My Gospel. (Just one more evidence that they are inspired!) I look forward to our appointments with her because the spirit is always strong and she has a real desire to learn and apply it to her life. I love helping her see the joy of living the gospel and the peace and comfort it brings when we let it sink into our souls.

We did have a bit of a scare last night when we came home. We found our carbon monoxide detector beeping, not going off, but beeping. As if it needed the battery changed, but it was the one plugged into the wall. We called the Redwood Singles Sisters (Sister Thurston and Sister Kahrs.) They helped us by bringing theirs over to see if ours was defective. Thankfully theirs didn't go off. We think it had something to do with the outlet. Anyhow, we're fine and grateful to be alive!

From this experience I have a slightly different view and outlook. I am even more determined to do all I can, to be exactly obedient, and I am especially grateful for all the little things. I'm grateful I can hear music, the sound of birds in the trees, laughter, and especially the voices of little children. I'm grateful for the many blessings that I receive each day.

I had exchanges this week. It was really fun. I went with sister Kahrs from Las Vegas to the Redwood Singles area; which is basically from the San Francisco Bridge up to Ukiah. We had a blast! We were instant friends! We laughed all day and found out we both know Ashley Gentile!

Facebook is going okay. All I’ve done is add friends; all the missionaries in the mission. I don't feel very productive, but it will come with time, never mind that I don't know very many people and the Spanish people don't have Facebook, never mind computers. Well, some do, mostly the teenagers or younger people.

I haven't started a blog yet; I wanted to get Facebook up and running first. Also I have to finish my profile. I think my thing will be blogging. But we'll see.

Your canoeing and kayaking sounds so fun! I miss doing things as a family. We don't have much occasion to get together with other missionaries. Its always fun having Nathalie come with us to lessons and seeing the two other Spanish elders at dinners each night. All the missionaries are great. We see the zone missionaries every Tuesday briefly at district meeting.

I can't remember if I told you or not but Charles Schulz lived here in Santa Rosa so there are Snoopy and Charlie Brown characters all over town. I haven't gotten any pictures yet, but I hope to soon. They’re fun to see. Kind of like the horses at the Outer Banks.

Oh! I have a wall of all the postcards you send me. It’s fun to see them. I also have a wall of Jackson’s drawings. I love them. I really enjoy having the quotes all over the walls. They help me to remember what I’m doing and stay focused.

I have a leaf to send grampa to ask what kind of tree it is. Very interesting leaf, only four points. It’s pressing in my scriptures right now.

I am a little worried about getting sick. I’m still trying to figure out when I need to rest or just keep working. Pray that I’ll be able to get to bed on time and then get up on time. Also that I’ll know when I need rest or not. I don't want you to worry. I really am doing okay, just trying to figure out what works.

Say hello to everyone for me. Thank nana and grampa!
Say hello to Naqueilla. She'll be all grown up the next time I see her :(
LOVE YOU ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Whitney Bunny/Minnie

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

We taught three sisters, [From August 1, 2011]

I'm back. I told President about the talk I gave yesterday. The branch was impressed that I actually knew some Spanish. They were all proud of me. It was fun to see Hermana Christensen's face beaming.

The talk went well. The elders, Hatch and Van Gilder, were asked by someone if one of the missionaries could speak. They nominated me. This was Friday. So thankfully I had Saturday morning to prepare. I used a lot of quotes. It was of course about missionary work and how it blesses our lives. Everyone I talked with liked it.

We taught three sisters, the youngest our age. They were a referral from a recent RM [return missionary]. He gave us basically his whole family! The elders have half because they're in their area. We taught the three sisters. It was a great lesson. The spirit was so strong and we could tell they felt it. We had a good discussion about the restoration. They are very interested to learn more.

We’re actually at the mission office today emailing because we found out we couldn't do it at the Neunschwander's when they aren't there. The computer seems to be working faster. We may not even set up Facebook today because so many things are closed. It will probably happen tomorrow. But I’ll have a profile, Facebook, and probably a blog. Everything will be mostly in Spanish.

I'm so excited for Olivia!!!!!!!!!!! Sometimes I forget she's getting married. I want to do something, but don’t know what I can do. I may send you a letter for her, so I can be there too. Is everyone excited?! I’m excited to see photos of all the fun!

I absolutely love all the postcards. We came into the office one day and one of the sisters says, "Oh! You’re the sister with the 10 or 12 postcards!" they forwarded them to me and I had SO much fun reading them. I put them on a wall. It’s fun to walk by and see all the different photos.

The country is beautiful! There are vineyards more north in Windsor and Healdsburg. But we're usually driving by and I haven’t taken a picture yet.

There's a YW [young woman] that just celebrated her baptism year mark that has come out with us a few times. She’s great to have at lessons. So much has happened, but it's mostly lessons, lessons, and lessons.

I kind of forgot to write it all down. But the photo of our tags in the rose bush has a funny story. Once we took the photos before we could reach back, mine fell right into the thick of the thorns. I got a stick and pulled it out, but it was pretty funny. Hna, C took pictures. It’s comical of me kneeling on the ground reaching into a rose bush full of thorns. I only got a couple minor scratches.

I'm doing okay. Could be better, I’m tired all the time, mostly because we never get to bed on time. We’re working on it and making a real effort. We’ll see how I’m doing after this week. I’m working hard on being healthy and being exactly obedient. Pray that we'll get to bed on time. I think that's all I need.

I'm glad people love the letters. I love writing them. It’s kind of like writing in my journal and therapeutic. I can't think of anything else. I probably will in ten minutes!
I love you and hope you have another exciting week!
Love you all and have fun!!!
Whitney Bunny

I’m in the Spanish Santa Rosa branch. [From July 25, 2011]

I’m at the house of a missionary couple, the Neunshwanders (long cool name!). We do our laundry here and do our emailing. They are office missionaries. Elder N. is in charge of the cars. He’s the one we called on Tuesday right after leaving the chapel on our way home. We got a flat tire 2 min from the chapel! Thankfully Elders Spendlove and Epps were right behind us and stopped to help and change the tire. It was an exciting way to start the day and mission for that matter! Never had flat tire before. New experience. Glad elders were there.
Hna. Christensen is very cute. She does a couple things that remind me of Bonni. She’s about 5 feet tall and from Alaska. She is great!

I’m in the Spanish Santa Rosa branch. There are two elders with us, Elders Hatch and Van Gilder. The area is split in two. They have the south part and we have the north part, which covers Windsor, therefore we are the Windsor area.

Hna Clayton is in pres. Garrett’s branch. Actually all the Spanish sisters were told by him to keep an eye out for Me. He's been looking and waiting for me to come! Hopefully I’ll be in that area at some point. As far as I know there are only four Spanish sister companionships and thereby only four areas. So there’s a likely chance I’ll be there at some point!

I’ve been trying to take pictures, but we don't really have opportunities. I’ll try to take some today of the apartment and the area. I saw my first orange tree!!!!!!! I was very excited. Along with palm trees, cactuses, and vineyards. Beautiful! Weather is perfect! Cool mornings warm afternoons, cooling off at night. Wonderful! The food is great too! I’m excited about real food again. I did gain some weight at the MTC, but I’ve already lost some of it already. Thankfully! Fresh fruit with every meal! Love it! So good. Have peaches from a members tree! So good!

We’re teaching so many people! Planning each night always takes forever! It always runs late. We’re trying to be to bed on time, but finding it difficult.

We always have fun adventures finding our way around. We get lost a few times a day. Our area is actually pretty big. There are a few English missionary companionships that we cover. A singles ward too. So half of Santa Rosa, up to Windsor and including Healdsburg. Those we teach are great! We have some English lessons, too. Because of children who speak English but the parents don’t. My first contact and lesson on Tuesday was crazy! I wanted to throw up I was so nervous. But I made it through! Hna. Christensen pushes me just enough and helps me when needed. It’s fun teaching and finding people on the street.

Thanks so much for the box!!! I love the cards, lotion, popcorn, and especially the bunny and teddy!!!!!!!!!! Love them! Smile every time I see them!

Church was hard because I had to concentrate so hard to understand the language. I didn’t get most if it. Had a major headache afterward. My Spanish improves daily and my understanding. But it's not really me. The spirit is doing all the work. I’m not listening to the Spanish language I’m listening to the language of the Spirit.

And I have VERY exciting news!!! You ready? I'm an online missionary as of Friday! We have training tomorrow. I’ll have two blogs; one Spanish the other English; and a Facebook. I think you can be my friend, family & friends too, just to see how I’m doing, but I can't communicate through Facebook. We are very excited. We’ll have an hour or two each day to update it and such. We’ll find out more tomorrow. All the sisters will be online missionaries by December. So cool! What do you think about the online missionary? I am SO EXCITED! It should a  great tool for staying in contact with investigators and converts and less actives. You’ll be able to see pictures too online. It’s going to be so fun!

We have some baptisms planned for 20 Aug! Cool hugh? Which reminds me.

I have taught in Spanish, basically bearing my testimony. It’s very simple teaching, which is good because the mission is trying to get back to the basics and teach simply. President Bunker harped it into us. He's very strict. Exact obedience is expected. Love both the Bunkers! Sister bunker was declared clear of all cancer the Friday before we came. Yeah!

Yesterday had an experience with a brother that is less active. I understood about half of what was said. I was praying for him and my companion. And all of a sudden a warmth and light of love just came over me. I felt the Savior's love for this man come over me. I felt the great desire for him to return to Christ. I felt that Christ missed him and that he knew he could return and be strong. It was Amazing! I, of course, almost started crying. My eyes filled with tears and I felt a great need to bear my testimony about the savior and his love. I fumbled slightly but they understood. I have no idea if it helped or not, but I’m so grateful for that experience. Now I know, in part, what the savior feels for each of us; for me. Repentance isn’t a bad or negative thing. It’s a returning unto Christ. Coming back to him. It’s just turning around to find he's always been there and holding us up.

Say hello to everyone who is there and their families for me. I love receiving mail from the ward and family. I love any and all pictures and drawings.

I don’t feel older or more mature. In fact I’ve never been so aware of all my faults and weaknesses and realize just how far I have to go to perfection. I’m grateful we have a lifetime to prepare and learn all we need to learn. My teachers in the MTC said they could see the growth in us just in the MTC. Because we're living it, it’s hard to see. But I’m not so nervous to meet people. I thought I would dread it, but I actually enjoy it and sometimes, on good days and moments, I actually look forward to it.
My time is about up but I love you all very much. It sounds like so much fun with all your travels and fun activities. Everything except the fleas. Sorry that happened. And so many! Crazy! Hope it is taken care of soon and quickly.
Whitney Bunny