This week was INCREDIBLE! On Thursday morning we drove to Charleston West Virginia for transfers. Sister Ostler and I were SO SAD to leave each other! We have had a fantastic transfer! We have worked hard together, and it has been an incredible experience! I am so thankful for her example as a trainer and as a missionary, I have learned so much from her! My favorite aspect of her teaching style is that she uses analogies and metaphores all the time! She thinks of incredible object lessons on the spot! I love it!
Transfers brought the largest set of new missionaries in the history of the West Virginia Charleston Mission! 31 new missionaries - 12 Sisters and 19 Elders! Amazing! The "greenies" crowded to the front of the chapel and introduced themselves and then were assigned to their trainers. My "greenie" is Sister Larkin! When we were assigned I ran to the front of the chapel (a reverent run) and grabbed her in a massive hug of squeeling excitement! She is from Layton Utah, and she is filled with energy! She is always smiling and laughing - I love it! We have the same constant, overwhelming energy and excitement for missionary work and for life; we are perfect for each other!
When the meeting ended all the missionaries gathered in the hallways and shuffled out to the parking lot to load suitcases and melt in the blazing sun and humidity as we prepared for our journeys home. President pulled me aside in the missionary-filled hall, and gently whispered, "You have a great companion. The moment she walked into my office for our first interview I knew exactly who her trainer was going to be, it is very rare that revelation comes that powerfully. You both have great energy, and because of that I know that your companioship will do great things in Pikeville, and I promise that as you two channel your energy that you will see miracles and baptisms in Pikeville."
WHOAH! That is a loaded promise! I was definitely excited to hear that from my mission President, and I am eagerly anticipating the coming transfer!
I was initially a little bit nervous to be a trainer at only 6 weeks I know that if He trusts me to train a brand new missionary, I can do it. I am learning to understand that I should never be the teacher or the senior companion or even the trainer! The Holy Ghost should always fulfill those roles. I am a mouthpiece for the Lord, therefore I must allow Him to work through me by the power of the Holy Ghost.
The Lord has promised us that as we trust in the Lord and open our mouths, not thinking beforehand what we will say, our mouths will be filled with words as the Holy Ghost works within our minds to guide and direct us. I have witnessed the fulfillment of this promise! On Friday, Sister Larkin's first full day as a missionary in the field (woot woot!) we taught one of our investigators who has been struggling with baptism. He has been on date before, but he never comes to church. Each week he commits to come to church, but he is never there. He KNOWS the church is true, and he KNOWS that he needs be baptized in this life (he has numerous health problems and he is dying) but he will not act!
On Friday we focused on the atonement as we taught him. We explained that Christ suffered the pains and afflictions and sicknesses of each person on earth "in the flesh" (Alma 7:13). Christ was a mortal man when He suffered the pain of the atonement! Yes, He is the Savior of the world, He is "God the Son" as Elder Holland has said, but he had a mortal body! He suffered for your pain in the same mortal bodily structure as you! He understands your pain! Furthermore, He suffered such great pain for you because He has faith in you! If the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, has faith that you can do something, like come to church, then you can do it.
As we were teaching, I told Heavenly Father that I wanted Him to really teach this lesson. I cleared my mind and literally felt the windows of heaven open up! I didn't know what I was going to say, or where the lesson was going to go, but the Spirit put exact words and phrases in my mind, and they seemed to spill from my mouth! It was amazing! The Spirit was prompting me to say exact things, and promise exact blessings. It was powerful! The blessings that the Lord promised him were so powerful, so specific, and I felt absolutely certain that they would be fulfilled as he lived worthy of receiving them. The gospel is true! I have never felt anything so powerfully!
Sister Larkin is so ready to teach and learn and work and do! We laugh all the time and enjoy every moment together! I love it; we are alike in almost every way, and we have come to love each other so much already! President Pitt's promised blessing is already being fulfilled. The day of transfers none of our investigators were on date for baptism. Within two days after transfers, we had 4 baptismal dates! We have been finding, teaching, inviting, and committing relentlessly and we have seen blessings, miracles, and tender mercies almost every moment! I know that President is an inspired man, and I am so excited for this transfer and the blessings and miracles that we will witness. My faith is growing as I recognize more and more blessings - I love the gospel! And I love being a missionary!
This week Sister Ostler and I really focused on our prayers and on exercising faith as we pray SPECIFICALLY for our investigators. We witnessed some incredible miracles as a result of it! We taught one lesson in particular where we felt the Spirit powerfully leading the lesson, he was definitely the senior companion that day! That's how it should always be! Sister Ostler and I relied on prayer a lot as we prepared for this lesson.
We taught about the importance of not procrastinating the day of repentance and baptism, and that those who have greater light and knowledge will suffer severely greater condemnation if they do not act on the knowledge they have and the witnesses they have received. Sister Ostler and I were very nervous that we would offend our investigator, but as a missionary you HAVE to be bold - we are representatives of Jesus Christ, and I don't think he sugar coated any of His doctrine; he taught boldly, truthfully, and in love.
Sister Ostler and I were nervous as we started the lesson, but we taught in faith that the Spirit would guide us. Sure enough, the Spirit kicked in as we read from the Book of Mormon, and throughout the entire lesson Sis and I were able to be very bold, very loving, and we were blessed to witness the Spirit teaching our investigator. It is remarkable to witness the Spirit working within someone's heart and mind. As we taught our investigator, his brow furrowed in humble understanding, and his eyes glistened with recognition of the Holy Ghost. Suddenly we felt a surety that we were no longer teaching him, but that a much greater teacher had taken over. I could see the Spirit working within him, and I could feel the Holy Ghost burning within Sister Ostler and myself. It was an amazing lesson that was not led by us.
I know that specific prayers are answered with powerful force. Miracles and blessings come as we humbly pray in faith for specific desires on behalf of our investigators. As we humble ourselves and plea with the Lord to help us become soft clay in His hands, and sharp tools in His work, He will fill our minds and we will know exactly how to help our investigators. We are messengers of His gospel, we are His angels on the earth to spread the message of everlasting joy and to bring others unto Christ, but we cannot do that until we understand our purpose and understand the atonement. This work is amazing!!
A few unexpected things also happened this week. The new missionary training program is 12 weeks, or two transfers. Sister Oster and I knew that we would be completely safe because the training is a 12 week, two transfer program, and it is very rare to change trainers half way through the program. However, Saturday night, our phone rang. The Zone Leaders told us that we would need to find a ride to transfers. Sis and I freaked out! We had no idea who was leaving, or WHY. I was so scared! We are so sad to be split up because the work is really picking up here in Pikeville, and we are definitely becoming united as a companionship as we teach. We were so sad! We did not expect this AT ALL. Sister Ostler said, "At home when I am mad I tear up paper and throw it on the floor!" So that is what we did!
Sister Ostler is going to ChristiansburgVirginia, and I will be training. He told me that my training would not be completed, but I would be expected to train a new Sister, fresh from theMTC! I am VERY humbled to know that President Pitt and the Lord trust me as an incomplete trainee to be a trainer! I pray that I will be able to fulfill my calling as the Lord wants me to, I will need lots of prayers! Sister "Greeny" will need lots of prayers as well! The gospel of Jesus Christ truly has been restored and it is truly led on the earth by a Prophet who has been called of God. If this gospel was not true, it would be impossible for a simple little Sister Missionary like me to begin training after 6 weeks, but because this gospel IS true, and because I KNOW it is true, I know that all things are possible with the atonement of Jesus Christ, and that this is the greatest work I could possibly do at this time in my life. I love KNOWING. That is one thing that we are blessed to have as Latter-day Saints - we don't believe, we KNOW. That is greatest thing to share with these lost sheep here in our little section of Israel called Pikeville Kentucky. The work is great, and I love it!
Thank you family for your support and love! You are the best! I love you!
Thank you so much for the packages, letters and pictures! I never realized how much missionaries love mail! So thank you for all the amazing mail, you are the best! I have been so thankful this week for the support of the Ashland ward. I have received letters and thoughtful notes and emails from so many members of our ward whom I love so much! I can feel the support and love of my ward family back home and it is an amazing blessing. Please give the ward a huge "thank you" for me!
This week the Assistants extended a committment to me. They challenged me to recite Joseph Smith's first vision three times before the week was over. I have quoted the first vision in many of our lessons, and it is a POWERFUL aspect of the first lesson. I was excited about this challenge and for the next few days I literally recited the first vision to almost every person we came in contact with. Sometimes it seemed super random; I quoted it to a man on his doorstep, and to the guy cleaning our carpet, and to nearly any other person I saw! But in each situation the Spirit seemed to rush into the room with undeniable power and force.
At the end of one of our lessons, I told our investigator that I wanted to remind him of Joseph Smith's experience by quoting the first vision (He is having a hard time gaining a testimony of Joseph Smith). His 8 year old son has ADHD and every time we teach Dad, the son is bouncing off the walls, the tables, the couches and every other surface! The moment I began quoting Joseph's words, the son sat down next to my Companion and was completely still, intently listening for the first time that day, as the Spirit powerfully testified of the truth of those words. It was a remarkable experience to witness his sweet spirit recognizing the truth that was being taught and the presence of the Holy Ghost.
I hope that I was able to help these people understand the gospel a little better, and to understand that God loves them, but my testimony grew immensely through this experience. I KNOW that Joesph Smith's prayer was answered in that grove of trees, I KNOW what he saw, I KNOW that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ did appear to Joseph that morning, and I have felt just a little tiny bit of what Joseph felt as he recalled that experience and recorded it. I love quoting the first vision. The Spirit cannot refrain from testifying powerfully of the truth and divinity of the gospel as you say those meaningful words.
This week we got our carpet shampooed! However, our landlord did not tell us that we were getting our carpet shampooed, so the carpet cleaner unexpectedly knocked on our door during our morning companionship study! We hurriedly moved all the furniture and attempted to study as he cleaned the carpet. Soon he ran out of soap and had to wait for one of his co-workers to bring him some more. We gave him some water and he sat in our living room waiting. Our apartment is covered in pictures of the Savior and pictures of temples and quotes from General Authorities, so he began asking who we are and what we do (our study table was covered in scriptures and notebooks and other religious materiel which seems to be unusual around here). He was very intrigued by our role as "missionaries" so we began explaining what we do, and telling him about the gospel. We ended up talking with him for over an hour about the gospel!
He asked many questions, and we taught him ALL of the basic gospel principles. He also asked about many of the not so basic gospel principles. We showed him our General Conference Ensigns and taught him about the Prophet and the Apostles and the organization of the church, that we have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, the same gospel that He established during His earthly ministry. We taught about the restoration of the gospel, about Joseph Smith, the Priesthood, baptism, the sacrament, the atonement, tithing, church, and so many other great principles of the gospel! He said that he had been searching for religion, he had never been baptized before but he wanted to follow God. We are teaching him this week and we plan to commit him to baptism. We are excited! I guess if we aren't led to those who are prepared to hear the gospel, the Lord will lead them to us!
There is an organization in Georgia that sets up a Vietnam War Memorial in various locations. They travel with this transportable memorial wall with all of the names of those were killed or MIA in the Vietnam war. They also had some other exhibits like helicopters from the war and other memorial exhibits. Sister Ostler and I had heard a lot about the memorial from nearly everyone that we taught or met, so we decided to go see it. The wall was amazing. It was a very reverent place to be. I was able to find a Shumway on the wall! His name was Geoffrey R Shumway from New York.
I love the work here! This week was busy and filled with the Spirit! I love being a missionary, I don't ever want this to end! I came out on a mission with the hope that I would become a great person. I have learned not to focus on that! As I channel all my efforts, studies, and energy on the people we teach and on the people here in Pikeville, I know that the Lord will allow me to naturally become the person He wants me to be. You cannot be selfish and be a successful missionary! I have a testimony of that! I love the people we teach, they have influenced my life in an incredible way. I love feeling such love for people who I have only known for a short period of time, and I feel so blessed to be here in Pikeville with these people specifically. I love the gospel, and I know that this is the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
I love being a missionary, and I am so thankful for all of your love and support from home. I have never been happier in my life!!
I just realized this week that there are NO sidewalks here! There isn't enough room for sidewalks! Any and all flat land is used to build a house, and everything else is covered with trees - even the cliffs are carpeted in trees! It is amazing, my love for this area continues to grow every day: I love the fireflies and the GREEN everywhere, and the humidity, and the daily thunderstorms, and especially the people. This is such a funky culture, it is a wonderful place to live, and an amazing place to be serving the Lord and His people.
On Tuesday we did exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders. Our exchange was on Tuesday afternoon and lasted until late Wednesday night. It was a fabulous experience! Sister Wines came into the mission field 6 weeks before I did, so we are both still being trained, but we had so much fun working in Pikeville! It was a very productive day and a half, I was able to learn so much from her! We taught a new investigator named Miss B on Wednesday. She had a hard time understanding the restoration. Sister Wines and I went to teach her the restoration again. Miss B was great! She is a very outgoing person, she was willing to open up to us (as many people are.... sometimes I think people misunderstand that we are missionaries, not therapists, but it helps us teach in a way that can resolve their concerns). She was able to feel the Spirit and RECOGNIZE it. She was so excited! I loved watching her enthusiasm increase as her understanding of the restoration was clarified. She has been reading the Book of Mormon, and she was eager to go onto LDS.org and to read the pamphlets we gave her.
As Miss B was feeling the Holy Ghost testify of the truth of the restored gospel, Sister Wines extended the baptismal commitment to her. The Spirit was so strong as we waited for her to say yes! But then her concern became clear, she explained that she had already been baptized, and she didn't see a need to be baptized again. Immediately I felt the Spirit filling my mind with what I needed to say. I reminded Miss B about the Priesthood Authority that we had taught her about, and why it is vital to have that authority. She said she understood and we discussed it a little longer. We read from the Book of Mormon and from the Restoration pamphlet, and when the Spirit was strong again, I re-extended the baptismal invitation. Miss B' s response was "Absolutely!!" We were so excited! She offered a beautiful closing prayer, asking for confirmation of the truth of the things we had taught her as we knelt around her coffee table. It was an amazing lesson! We met with her again on Saturday to make sure she is staying strong; her excitement for her baptism is continuing to grow! It is an amazing thing to watch. Because she has felt the Holy Ghost testify of the truthfulness of the gospel, she is willing to do anything to be baptized. Literally everyone here smokes, so it was no surprise that she is a smoker, but she quit smoking on Saturday, the day we met with her! She has done great so far. We are so exited for her baptism on August 3rd.
We are teaching a boy who has been meeting with the missionaries for 6 months. He is 11 years old, and he loves the gospel! We were teaching his whole family (his Mom, Step-Dad and a random male roommate), but the other three have made it clear that they do not want to learn anymore. However, the Mom, is perfectly fine with the missionaries coming to their home to teach her son. She cooks in the kitchen while we teach him in the living room.
They in live in a trailer deeeeeep in a holler. The trailer looks abandoned from the outside, and the holler road is hardly a road, it's more like a deer trail. This young man is so excited to learn about the gospel that every bumpy, scary drive up to their small trailer is incredibly worth while. He reads the Book of Mormon and prays every day, without fail. He has to hide his Book of Mormon from his Dad when he goes to stay with him on weekends, but he reads it and understands it. He is a fairly quiet kid and he often sits on the floor in front of us, with his chin in his hands, looking up at us eagerly as we teach him about the restoration, the Plan of Salvation, the Doctrine of Christ, and the Commandments. He has already been taught everything, and he understands it all very well, but he can't get baptized because his Mom doesn't want to take him all the way to church (they live about 35 minutes from town). We are working with the Branch members to coordinate rides for him because he wants to come to church and he wants to be baptized so bad!! I love watching his sincere testimony of the gospel grow each time he feels the Spirit. He is an amazing kid, he knows what it means to choose the right and to be valiant in following the example of the Savior. His family is so blessed to have him. I know that he will be baptized someday! Even if he has to wait until he is 16 and has his license, although I pray that he will be able to do it much sooner than that.
I love being a missionary! It is hard work, but Mom, you are exactly right! Hard work results in the greatest happiness! It is such a tender mercy to have people stop us on the street, or in a WalMart aisle and tell us that it is refreshing to see people like us. Almost on a daily basis we will be stopped by people who tell us that we look different, that we look like good people. This tends to happen on the days that we work the hardest and strive the most to be obedient and happy. We have the light of Christ with us as we are valiant in our calling, not because of our own grand nature, but because we represent Jesus Christ, and as we live worthy of the privilege of that mantle, people are able to sense the Spirit that we carry with us. It requires effort on our part, lots of effort! We must always be obedient and diligent, but we love it. It is truly the most remarkable work, and the Lord is supporting us in every aspect! Missionary work is amazing, I love being a witness of the Savior and of the truth of this gospel! Thank you for your love and support, I love you!!