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