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

We are amazed at the blessings of the Lord and seeing his hand in His great work! [From 27 AUG 2012]

It's been an AWESOME week!!! So excited to tell you all about it.

What a week! I probably won't have enough time to tell you everything so I'll try and be quick and give you the highlights.

After district meeting we met a less-active to have lunch and teach him. On our way to the car we met a man named Green. He has had such a rough life and made some wrong decisions. As we testified and taught about the power of the Book of Mormon and the Atonement of Jesus Christ tears fell down his cheeks and we saw his true desire to be clean and draw closer to the Lord. We forgot we were in the blazing sun in the middle of a parking lot. So cool! The Spirit was pretty powerful.

Wednesday we had dinner with a less-active. Her husband isn't a member so we were able to talk with him and he expressed interest in learning and meeting with us. After so many years apparently it's quite the change.

Also, this sister, Robin, had invited her friend, Heather, and her two-year-old son to join us for dinner. So our less-active is already doing missionary work and trying to help others! But it doesn't stop there. The branch had an ice cream social Saturday night and Robin invited Heather to come. Which she did and then as they left Heather asked, "So church starts at ten tomorrow?" We answered yes and she responded, "Ok. See you tomorrow!" She came for all three hours and loved it! She had some questions, which we cleared up when we saw her later that day. It was the easiest lesson we have ever taught. She just wanted to know who the Holy Ghost was and what was repentance and what she needed to do be baptized. It was incredible! As we talked about baptism we asked her what she thought about it. Her answer was, "Well, I just feel like getting this show on the road!" We explained that she could be ready as soon as she wanted. We extended the date for September 30th but explained if she felt she was prepared earlier, or even later, then we could move it. We told her she could be baptized on the ninth if she wanted, Her response was, "Well, because I'm just starting I want to be respectful and I don't want people to think I'm joining just to join a church but because I understand everything and it means something to me." We taught her about prayer and the Book of Mormon. She expressed a desire to begin reading it that night and never miss a day. We told her how it answers all the questions she was asking and then some and that a power and love and peace would come into her life that she had not experienced before. She also asked how she would know it was the Holy Ghost and how she would receive her answer. It was just amazing!

Another less-active is also doing missionary work. She brought with her a friend and then we were able to begin teaching her that night. She has a lot to overcome but she is searching. When we gave her the Book of Mormon she held it close to her chest as if it were very precious and dear to her. Something she had treasured for a long time.

Also, we went to check up on and try to begin to teach a couple really solid potentials. The first, before he even said hello he told us, "I'm meeting with my co-worker on Tuesday to talk with him about the church." We kind of blinked in surprise and said, "Oh good!" He was really busy so we set up another time to come by. The following potential opened the door and saw the Book of Mormon in Sister Thomas' hands, outstretched his hand and asked, "Is that for me?" Imagine our surprise once again before we could even ask how he was doing he followed-up with us. He too was busy but told us to keep trying. That one-day we'll meet up. His final words were, "Persistence pays off so keep trying."

Another miracle is with a less-active family that we try and see each day. We haven’t' really gotten to know the son to help him receive the priesthood. This past week when we go by he actually will say hi and talk with us for a few minutes. Their father is almost ready to go to the temple. The greatest miracle this week was yesterday during sacrament meeting. Max, the son, actually came to church! And the two daughters were there for the sacrament. But the best part is their dad blessed the sacrament for the first time in a long time. As I heard his voice pronounce the blessing of the bread my eyes filled with tears and my heart swelled with joy. It was amazing!

Oh! About exchanges with the sisters in St, Helena, Sisters Punaa and Riddle. It was really good! I was with Sister Punaa here in Rio Vista. We saw some miracles of the Lord putting people in our path at the right time. We found a man who had just moved in and he and his wife are looking for a church. We haven't been able to contact them again but we're still trying.

Sister Thomas and I had a really neat experience with the Atonement working in our own lives this week. We had some things that were holding us both back and in a sense worrying us. We didn't realize we even had a burden until we did a quick activity Sister Thomas thought of. We decided to write down all our questions, concerns and everything that was holding us back. All our worries. We put that paper in an envelope and sealed it with a note to not open it until a few months after our missions are completed. The peace and joy that filled every fiber of our beings was incredible! My testimony of the Atonement increased immensely! I love it!

Just one more thing. I love my life! The gospel is amazing! The Lord loves us and He is very much aware of each of us. Sister Thomas and I marvel every single day and every moment of every day at the many miracles we see and at our many, many blessings. Our joy is SO full! We are amazed at the blessings of the Lord and seeing his hand in His great work!
This week was amazing!
I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I might need another SD card :)
Forever love,
Hermana Stephenson

Friday, August 24, 2012

crying during the sacrament because I was so happy [From 20 AUG 2012]

This week has been amazing! Yesterday was incredible!!! We had 11 less-actives at church!!!! A couple were families but still it was amazing! I was crying during the sacrament because I was so happy! A couple we never expected to come any time soon just walked in the door.

We found some really good investigators and had an interesting experience with another guy. He was trying to get us to explain and give proof as to what we believed. At one point I asked him if he were given physical proof that the Book of Mormon was true would he believe it? He said no. That he'd need some more proof. Just before he had been talking about faith and how he has faith. So after he said no I asked, "Then where is your faith?" he paused for a moment. The only time during our hour or so conversation that he paused to think. Then he went off again with something else. Our whole time with him was basically him talking and us reading a scripture or two but basically testifying and telling him to open his heart and pray. With every question he posed, every point he tried to make the answer was always having faith and ask God. It really does all come down to that. Have faith, be humble and ask your Heavenly Father. The answer to any question is found in prayer. And I love it!

Yesterday we taught the second two hours of church. Gospel Principles was a surprise but Relief Society wasn't. It was so cool to teach together and testify together. We do it every day but it was a little different. I learned a lot about observing the Sabbath Day. Something Sister Thomas came across in our preparation was a quote by an apostle from the 70's. It’s in the May Ensign issue of 1975 entitled something like Our Observance of the Sabbath Day. But basically the quote, or at least what we understood is the following. "Our observance of the Sabbath Day is a reflection of our love for the atonement of Jesus Christ." Makes you think huh? a little while ago president bunker said that Sunday isn't really a day of rest, it’s a day of spiritual work. We work on our spirits and relationships. Interesting thought.

[Elder Mark E. Peterson:
In the time of Moses, the Lord impressively declared that the manner in which we spend the Sabbath is a sign of our inner attitude toward him. It is a measure of the sincerity of our faith. “It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever,” God declared (Ex. 31:17), and added: “Ye shall keep the Sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you.” (Ex. 31:14. Italics added.)

President David O. McKay:
We can readily see that observance of the Sabbath is an indication of the depth of our conversion. Our observance or nonobservance of the Sabbath is an unerring measure of our attitude toward the Lord personally and toward his suffering in Gethsemane, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead. It is a sign of whether we are Christians in very deed, or whether our conversion is so shallow that commemoration of his atoning sacrifice means little or nothing to us.]

I feel as if there's so much more to tell you, but I can’t think of much else. Well we had interviews with President Alba. He did mine completely in Spanish. It was neat to be able to do. I was able to express myself and understand him. Cool!

Yesterday Sister Thomas and I got blessings from our branch president and one of his counselors. We had come in contact with some evil influences and just needed some assurance and added strength/help. Within my blessing it spoke about having converts here. Along with other things, but it was powerful and just what I needed. At different times random people and at random times people have told me, you are here for a purpose. I know that. I have no doubt. Now for what purpose? Only the Lord knows, maybe in part to help the Spanish people, but also to help others. This area is just waiting to burst with growth! We are so excited! Every day is filled with miracles! And we love it! At first we couldn’t see them but as soon as we looked for them and wrote them down together we saw more. Now every moment is another miracle. We live life! And we live the gospel!! I know the message we share is true and blesses people’s lives. It changes their lives into something they could have never imagined! Look for the miracles and they will appear in every moment.

I LOVE YOU FOREVER!!!!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM AND DAD!!!!!! You’re the best parents on the earth! No doubt about it.  :)
Hermana Stephenson

we know it was an answer to prayer [From 13 AUG 2012]

Last week was crazy getting a ride to Fairfield to do grocery shopping. We got permission from president to shop after district meeting Tuesday. Yeah! It saves miles and time on Monday.

I love your email!! I love hearing how everyone is doing. I had no idea Isaac had even completed his mission papers! San Jose is my neighbor mission, or at least one of them. Actually Katiuska's sister lives in that mission. She speaks Spanish, but oh well. How cool! I’m glad I’ll get to see him before he leaves. Let Kierra know I love her.

The trek sounds so fun! I’m glad you all made it! And Sister Dalton!?! Amazing! I expect to hear the song from Grant one day.

My companion, Sister Thomas, is AMAZING!!!!! I love her so much! All our conversations have been gospel centered and how we can better help the people in the area and what we've learned. We have some pretty deep conversations. Sometimes we get a little carried away. For instance, last night we were talking on the car ride home so naturally we talked as we came into the house. Our conversation caused daily planning to get pushed back until late and then we had to rush to get to bed. But it was so good! We were trying to figure out how to help this one family. They’re less active. The dad is doing the temple classes. They come from a very rough background and past that keeps trying to come back. Saturday night we drove by their house and felt impressed to call them. We met them and the branch president at the chapel. The lesson we had was so good! The spirit guided us and President Chandler. The family had had a rough day and the father was so grateful we called. This family is just amazing and so close to our hearts. We try to see them every day so they can just have some good influence daily. If we don't see them we call, text, or message them. Just in the two weeks I’ve been here they've progressed. They still have a ways to go but they are on the path. They are such an example to me of perseverance and diligence. They are and will be GREAT examples of the power and love of the atonement of Jesus Christ. I LOVE JESUS CHRIST AND HIS ATONEMENT!!!!!!!!!!!!

As far as my companion and me, we are doing fabulously! I just love Sister Thomas! Every day is a day of spiritual growth and fun and focused completely here and on our people. The more we recognize the miracles and the guidance of the spirit the more we see it. I have no doubt they were always there it's just my eyes and mind weren't trained to see them. Our eyes have been opened and they continue to be opened.

For example, a week and a half ago we met a lady in the library. She approached us, introduced herself and was gone. We kind of walked away stunned. Then we snapped to it, prayed we could find her, and turned around. We hurried back but couldn't find her. Yesterday we stood up after sacrament meeting to find a new sister sitting behind us. She smiled and said hello and introduced herself. Our eyes widened slightly as we realized she was the lady from the library. She explained she was a member and had made a terrible mistake and wanted to return. She told us of how she had felt recently the need to return to church. She has a coworker that goes to our branch and she had talked with her. So when she saw us in the library that day she felt something. She was so excited to be back at church! She couldn't stand still. We quickly got her information (in case she should disappear as quickly as she had the last time, :) and got her to talk with the branch president.

Any one else may have said that was a nice coincidence but we know it was an answer to prayer. We didn't find her right after we prayed, but she found us almost two weeks later. The Lord answers prayers. In his own time and place, but they are answered. And I am so grateful! I love the Lord!

I am so proud of Grant!!!! Every once in a while I look at the elders and think of him. I try and be the kind of sister missionary I want him to have, someone to look up to and be a friend. Someone who helps them grow and become better, more like the Savior.

I apologize for the shortened time. Being at the library really makes you rush. It automatically logs off at an hour. ahhh! Stressful! Oh well. That and I apparently had a lot to say to President Alba today. We had exchanges with Hermanas Robinson and Merkley. She’s new and it was fun to be back in Spanish again. Whenever we see a Spanish person I kind of go crazy. Last night I told Sister Thomas to pull over. I jumped out and almost ran down a Spanish guy. Kind of funny but it felt so good!
My time has almost run out but know I love you!!!!

Hermana Stephenson

I love Rio Vista! I love Sister Thomas! [From 6 AUG 2012]

I love Rio Vista! I love Sister Thomas! We’ve seen so many miracles and progression every day! As you can probably tell it's been an amazing week! Both of us are exchange sisters. We do it now as a companionship. For which we are grateful. It’s been so fun receiving inspiration and revelation for them. We have four companionships. You’ll be very happy to know that Sister Thomas takes lots of pictures so I have lots more. :)

This week has been incredible! I absolutely love the area, the branch, and Sister Thomas! Every day we saw so many miracles and progression of others and within ourselves. The work of the Lord is amazing! Together we're going to start a journal of miracles and amazing things we see and experience. There's so much even with just one week. The branch is so willing to help us. We had a referral from the branch president for his neighbor. Yesterday we finally contacted the family and began teaching them. We have another appointment next Sunday. A young woman in the branch brought her friend to church and we'll be teaching her at her friends’ house. One family whose lives have been very tough is progressing well. They still have a long ways to go, but they're on the path. The father is working towards the temple. Another investigator knows the church is true. Now it's just getting him to act and accept the baptismal invitation and a date. One less-active sister came to church after many years of inactivity. She thought she couldn't go to the temple because she had married a non-member. That same member drove us to Fairfield to do our grocery shopping so we could save miles. As exchange sisters we have felt guided by the Spirit, as we have planned for our sisters and the exchanges we'll have. As a companionship we are so good! I love working with Sister Thomas! She is incredible! Each day is filled with laughter and spiritual uplifting. Our conversations have been edifying and uplifting. Our companionship studies just kind of extend throughout the day. And even go to the next day. My hunger for more knowledge has grown immensely. I love studying the gospel even more! Like I told Sister Thomas the other day, each day I fall deeper and deeper in love with the gospel. With the plan Heavenly Father has for each one of us. I love how He is a part of every little detail of our lives. If we let Him He will guide us and change us. And we will be happy! This past week was the best yet of my mission. And perhaps even my life. I have not had any stress or negative feelings. When things come that in the past would have normally caused me to stress or think negatively I let it go. Sister Thomas and her positive attitude helps. She helps me to laugh all day and to see the miracles. We are continually in awe of the Lord. Of everything He has done, is doing, and will yet do. He is so good! My heart is filled with true joy. And I love it! It comes mostly from, I believe, my companion. Words can't express how happy and grateful I am to be companions with Sister Thomas. Nor can they explain how wonderful she is.

Last night our car wouldn't start. Thankfully we had just talked with a family from the branch as we walked by so we called them and they came to our rescue. They jumped our car and told us to drive straight home. And thankfully it started again this morning.

Rio Vista is amazing! There are windmills. It’s pretty cool. It’s a very small town. We could walk across it in about 30 min. The area is on the border of the mission so we have accidently gone out of the mission a couple times. There aren't too many Spanish people here in Rio Vista, but we saw a good number when we went to Walnut Grove the other day.

I can't explain how much I love this area! The time I have isn't sufficient to tell you all the adventures we had this past week. Sister Thomas got turned around a few times, but each time we ran into someone just ready to receive the gospel. That or we found a less-active; we're doing a lot of less-active work. Right now we're working with 12 families and have been asked if we could check up on a number of others. The branch is pretty small. We’re 30 min away from Fairfield and all by ourselves. I’m used to working in a city with other missionaries, but not here. Last night when our car wouldn't start we texted the zone leaders just to let them know. Not too long after they called us kind of worried. Elder Gifford said, "Well, we were just calling to pray with you." for some reason we found that hilarious. They really wanted to do more but knew they couldn't do anything more. We were very grateful for the members that showed up not too long after we called them. With one try the car was going and we were on our way. Our first reaction after realizing our car was dead was to laugh. Then Sister Thomas said, "Where's my camera?" So we have pictures of us in the cold and wind by our car and the jumper cables. That morning we had both put our winter coats in the car. It had been a little chilly the day before. That afternoon walking around we were hot so we thought it funny we had them in the back seat. But then as we stood by our car at 9 that night we saw how the Lord blessed us and knew what would happen.

It’s little things like that that make me just smile and realized even more how much the Lord is a part of our lives. He knew and the Spirit spoke to our minds. We obeyed, not knowing and then realized later we had followed the Spirit. That just makes me smile! :)

Love you lots and lots! Thank you for your love and support! I hope you have another great week. Have fun on the trek. I’m glad G's eagle court of honor went well. Congratulations Buddy! You’re the best brother ever!
Hermana Stephenson

transferred to Rio Vista [From 30 JUL 2012]

I'm being transferred to Rio Vista. I'll most likely be in a zebra (with English companion teaching both English and Spanish) My companion is Sister Thomas. We went on exchanges once. Hermana Garo is going back to Windsor with Hermana Clayton. So we white-washed out. Very stressful but kind of fun organizing EVERYTHING and cleaning. This week we found five new investigators for Hermana Anderson and her new missionary that will be coming in. The branch was very surprised and gave us lots of love. I love this area and the people. We’re sad to break up the Spanish district. So many good memories!

Well I’ve been stressed since Friday night. Today is not so rushed. Well, right now because we have everything in the car and the apartment is cleaned and locked up. Now it’s just getting to Santa Rosa by 1:00. And then the new stress will come as I enter a new area. I’ll also be an exchange sister again, for three areas. I’m not exactly sure how it will all work out. We’ll see.

Last night we had a branch FHE. It was lots of fun! We played some silly games and just loved being together. Everyone really wanted me to promise I’d return to visit. I told them I’d do my best.

I took many pictures yesterday and Sunday. Not tons but lots. The members were amazing! On Sunday as I listened tears filled my eyes thinking it was possibly my last Sunday in a Spanish Sacrament meeting. So many members were there. The elders said we had 89!

Hermana Garo says you’re the best! For your example and having a daughter like me. And for sending us that amazing box filled with goodies.

People say I’m near the end but I still feel like I’m in the middle. I’ll do my best to keep that state of mind.

I have a box in the mail with some things. One is an early present for dad; it's juice from Brazil. It’s the fruit of cashew. You put some in the blender with some ice, water and sugar. There are directions. It’s really good! I loved it! My journal will come soon for you Mom.

In the box is The Continuous Atonement. The book you bought for me for Christmas. I marked it up. I wanted Andrea to read it. She’ll finish it in a few hours. But also wanted you all to read it and mark it. Highlight it; write notes, thoughts, whatever. I love that book! I read it twice! I love the analogy at the end about the marble.

This week as we were knocking doors we met a lady named Sarah. Even before we knocked her door she told us to come on in. Once we were inside she asked us who we were. (Have I told you this? Oh well, I love this lady so you'll hear it again.) We introduced ourselves and immediately asked us questions. We answered her and asked if she needed help. She looked at us very surprised. Her answer was "really?" We eagerly nodded and expressed how much we wanted to help her. She was kind of flustered and not sure what to say. She was surprised strangers would offer her help. After a little more talking we ended up rearranging her small apartment and cleaning a little. The whole time she kept expressing her gratitude and utter surprise. A few times she commented that she thought we'd been sent by God. Hermana Garo and I looked at each other and smiled knowingly. If she only knew how true that is! We explained to her that we, as representatives of Jesus Christ, we had indeed been sent by God. We are his hands here on earth and it is our privilege to serve her and others. We were there for a couple hours moving things around and cleaning. It reminded me of helping Sister Van Stone and Sister Royce and others. I felt so at home and happy. Funny how much I love cleaning and making things look pretty and presentable. After we were done helping her we sat down to talk about the gospel. She immediately wanted to read the Book of Mormon. She wanted to draw closer to Christ, and know more about him. We had another lesson with her a few days later and it was amazing! She will be baptized. We became immediate friends and there's lots of love.

We had some other really neat miracles throughout the week. But I’ll save that for another time. I love you! Have another good week. Hope you dry up a little. We've had sun all week, in the 80's and 90's. Beautiful!
Hermana Stephenson

zone conference, the first with the Alba’s [From 23 JUL 2012]

We had zone conference, the first with the Alba’s. It was really good. They taught us about sacrifice and obedience.  We’ve had some neat experiences.

I finished the Book of Mormon again this morning. I love that book! I know it's true! Not only reading but also studying and applying what we learn bring power into our lives. It is from God and another testament of Jesus Christ and his divine mission. I have come closer to my Savior through reading this book. I know more about his atonement by reading this book. I know without doubt the message that I share, as a missionary of the Lord is true. I know he lives! My soul fills with joy at the thought.
Elder Noris says he won't be able to make Grant's Eagle Scout thing. He’s sorry and wishes he could go. I don't think I can go either. Elder Noris says he'll go to the next one. :) (I hope you're all laughing at that, because we are. :)

We didn’t have many lessons this week because we're thinning out our teaching pool. We’ve been instructed to "prayerfully thin out our teaching pool." So we'll be doing a lot of finding this week, which means knocking doors and trying to contact formers.

We found out transfer information Friday evening. I’ll probably go. I’ve been here 6 months and have only 2 transfers left. So I’m most likely gone. But this is President Alba's first transfer so who knows what he'll do.  President Alba reminds me of Brother Cote. I love it! He talks like him. It’s so comforting.

Have fun with the guests. Let everyone know I love them. Keep smiling and laughing!

I love you!!!!!
Hermana Stephenson

the pink slip [From 16 JUL 2012]

I'm here! Hope you can find wifi! How fun!!! You’re in Palmyra! A young man from the branch is going out there this week or next. His name is Oscar. His papers are in and he's anxious to receive his call. All of your news is amazing! Aimee got baptized! And she's pregnant! Glad to hear Andrea’s doing better. I’ve been praying all week.

We have been teaching a part member family recently. The family consists of the parents who are members and three sons ranging from eleven to eighteen. The oldest is also a member. However the younger two are not. At first they were just listening because their mom wants them to know more about the church. But last night as we walked in Richard, the youngest, was excited to get his Book of Mormon and show us what he had read and highlighted. (He read 3 Nephi) We asked him what he learned and how it applied to him. As he told us about baptism and showed us he had highlighted the part where Jesus gives the authority to baptize and then teaches them to go and do so, his eyes filled with excitement and understanding. He excitedly told us about how he had also prayed. These are his words, "I prayed about Joseph Smith and I got an answer. When I was praying I heard the word 'prophet,' so I think that was telling me he's a prophet. So I guess it's true!" My heart overflowed with joy, gratitude, love, and peace. This young man read in the Book of Mormon, acted in his faith in our words that he would receive an answer to prayer. As we invited him to be baptized he was matter of fact about it. He said, "Well, baptism is like the gate. If we want to go back to God then we have to open that gate. So yes. I'll be baptized." Then acting upon the Spirit we invited him to be baptized the beginning of September. He accepted and then told us, "I'll have to ask my parents." We smiled and said, “Of course.”

Right now we're at the San Rafael chapel. It’s where we usually do email. The elders haven’t arrived yet. But they should show up soon. Then it will get crazy and I won’t be able to focus. :) It’s like having little brothers that aren't so little around. They make you laugh and roll your eyes at the same time. I’m certainly gaining an education about what guys do. We kind of missed out with only one brother, although our house would have been loco! :) They’re pretty fun. I’m glad I’m surrounded by such good examples of the priesthood and young men dedicated to the Lord. They inspire me.

Andrea, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about from your mission. They certainly impact your life, and then there are those that will be your friends forever. I’m so grateful to be here and getting to know so many people. Think of how many friendships I would have missed out on had I not come! How much I would have not learned, the first being I never would have learned how to make really good salsa or guacamole. Yum! :)

I’m so excited for Ryan and Aimee! The temple is exactly what I thought of when I read she'd been baptized. :) It’s the goal, well, celestial kingdom, eternal life, exaltation is the goal. But it’s only through the temple that we can obtain that. Only by the priesthood can we have our family for eternity. There is no other way, only by the power and authority of God. And I’m so grateful and happy to know we have it again on the earth!!! I love this gospel! And my savior brings me the greatest joy and peace. He lives!!!!!!!!!!!

I got this in the mail this week. Not sure if you're mission had these or not. We call it of course, "the pink slip." It's to ask us if the information for our parents and bishop and stake president is correct so when we go home we'll be released from the right area. Basically it means you're old in the mission and your departure is near.
Hermana Stephenson

Friday, July 13, 2012

My own experiences are benefitting others!

We went to the temple this week. Amazing! We saw some other missionaries from around the mission, a great surprise mission reunion!

I’m doing well. My lower back hurts due to the car. :(   But otherwise I’m good.

YW camp! How fun! I’m excited for you. The girls here are at camp right now. They start on Friday and go until wed or thurs. Not sure. So they get a Sunday camping. Interesting.

Yesterday was good. We had another good lesson with Vicky. She had a hard week but is doing better now that we talked with her. As we taught her I realized something I learned from having Lyme. I can relate to her a little! My own experiences are benefitting others! It’s such a great feeling! I shared my experience about changing my prayers from praying to be healed to gaining strength. Tears fell down her cheeks. She realized that she needs to ask for strength to endure her trials.

We also explained to her that if we didn’t have opposition we wouldn’t be grateful for the happy times. If we never knew sorrow we couldn’t know joy. There must be opposition. That way we're also grateful. If we didn’t know any better then we wouldn’t be grateful for what we do have. Through trials and afflictions we understand how wonderful life is and the many blessings we do have.

Here are some recent photos. The first is the best district ever at the temple. We love being our own district!

The temple was amazing! Just being there is enough to make one happy. And then being with those you love is even better. I love the temple!

The second is me with Pres and Sister Bunker at the mission conference.

I’m so grateful for Andrea’s roommates! Thank you so much! She will be in my prayers. Please keep me updated. We’re emailing at the library today so I actually don’t have much time left. Today is half p-day because we went to the temple. So after lunch we're off to knock doors instead of playing. Although tracting is kind of fun and interesting. :) You meet all kinds of people.

This transfer is going by quickly. I can't believe we're already in week four. And that I have only two transfers left. But I won’t dwell on that so you don't get trunky. ;)
What did you do for the fourth? We were on exchanges. I was in Petaluma. It was just another day of work for us; except no one was home and if they were they were busy. We didn’t see any fireworks. We heard one or two. I had some glow sticks from something so we broke those and had a little fun with those. Basically just took a couple pictures and then went to bed.

We had a lesson with Vicky. Then right after that lesson we called a recent convert we had not seen at church. When he picked up we could tell something was wrong. As he explained the situation I felt the Spirit guiding us in our words. We helped him remember he had a testimony and that if he just trusted in the Lord and continued to keep the commandments he'd be blessed, that all would be well, that he would be strengthened by this trial. He explained that he was struggling with feelings of wanting to drink again. Before his baptism he explained to us that he had drunk in the past but had no desire to do so anymore. So now having this old temptation come up again kind of scared him. He cried as he told us he didn't want to fall into temptation. His tears broke our hearts. But we both know the Lord is watching over him. Later that night we sent him a link to a talk and then a scripture reference just before going to bed. We wanted to do everything we could to help him be strong and resist temptation. It was an experience that helped me trust even more in the Lord. Throughout it all we've had peace. I'm so grateful for the comfort of the Holy Ghost!

If trials don’t come before baptism they come after. But they all help us grow. So keep an eternal perspective and remember our goal; eternal life, an eternal family!

Hermana Stephenson

it was so fun to write the president in Spanish!!!!

As far as I know July 4th will just be a regular day. There have been signs all over the place reminding people that fireworks are against the law in Marin County.

Andrea will of course be in my prayers. How long until she comes home? I’m glad Sydnye is there with her. I’m sure she's helping her a lot.

Hermana Garo and I were talking yesterday about what's really important. The lesson in Relief Society highlighted that. We’ve decided that God is first and then your family. If we have love for them and we do what we can for them, then everything else falls into place. I know it becomes hard when it has to do with your calling, but I do know that if we LET the Lord guide us, He will. As long as we are reading our scriptures, praying, going to church and being regularly changed by the Sacrament, we can't help but have the promise of the Lord that says we'll have the Spirit to guide us. Sometimes it's hard to know if we're led by the Spirit or not. Mostly because we have become so accustomed to having His guidance with us that our thoughts have become in part His, and our desires His desires. It’s something that is different for every person, and that's where I get hung up. Sometimes I worry about what others may think, or the thought that this is what this person would do so it must be right for me too. Not so. We need to search out our own answer and our own priorities. It will be different for every person, every family and in different situations it will be different. But I do know that as we do so with the intent and desire to do God's will, it will be right, and everything will be okay.

We met President and Sister Alba Saturday. They are amazing! As soon as they entered I could feel their love. The Spirit touched my heart and I know without a doubt they have been called by God to be our Mission President at this time.

Hermana Garo and I were talking about how blessed we are to have not just one but two mission presidents. Your mission president and his wife influence you for life. They change you and love you as their own. How blessed are we to have two! I’m looking forward to the next four months with them.

Just a quick side note; it was so fun to write the president in Spanish!!!! My brain sometimes has a hard time with English because I talk with Hermana Garo mostly in Spanish and of course we teach in Spanish. So now it's sometimes hard for me to switch back and forth. Which is fine because when I’m talking with the elders they know both. Our conversations are completely Spanglish. It’s really fun!

Saying goodbye to the Bunkers was hard. We were given the opportunity to have a picture with them and to hug them both. When President wrapped his arms around me it felt like Heavenly Father's arms. As he whispered in my ear how proud they were of me and that they love me I could only express my love and say, “Thank you.“ When he let go I only wanted to be back in his arms. It felt like home. I imagine that's what it will be like when I return home. And even what it will be like when we are judged at the last day and Heavenly Father opens his arms and says, "Welcome home." Can you even imagine what that will be like to be wrapped in the arms of our Heavenly Father?! How amazing will that be?!

We haven’t been able to get in contact with Katiuska. We’ve called, texted, sent messages on Facebook, and knocked her door. Nothing.

No one new to teach this week, but lots of potentials. We have one new person that is progressing really well. When we first taught her she was filled with sadness and deals with depression. She was worried because she just lost her job and doesn’t know how they'll pay the rent. We invited her to read in the Book of Mormon and pray. This past week when we saw her she had changed. Her eyes were filled with joy. A smile came quickly to her mouth. She had been praying and reading and wasn't worried about the rent. And she knew that God is there and knows her. Miracle! It was amazing to see!

Our investigator pool has shrunk a lot but our less-actives are progressing well, as well as our recent converts. I love seeing their progression!

Thank you for your love and support. I couldn't serve without you!

Today is busy. Where we usually do our laundry couldn’t do it today so last minute we were calling members and asking people where the nearest Laundromat is. It ended up that the Relief Society president; Hermana Consuelo let us use hers. So grateful! And then today we're off to play tennis with the elders. Yay!

Love you! Have a good week! Hope the fridge keeps running!'

Oh! One last thing, yesterday we went through a drunk driver license check thing. It was pretty funny! The police officer looked at my license and just questioned, "New Hampshire? You’re a long way from home. Have you had anything to drink today?" I was trying not to laugh. If he only knew how unlikely that would be. :) Life is great!

Each day is an adventure!

Forever Love,
Hermana Stephenson