Monday, April 30, 2012

Miracles happen on Sisters Exchange!

Hello Houston!
Such a strange week, I don't even know how to begin. We had my very first Sisters exchange this week! I went and spent 2 days in Peterborough with Sister Sutton from my district, it was an awesome experience. I love how much you learn from different people, especially since she's a newer missionary than me and yet I still learned so so much. There were alot of cool experiences too. We talking to this guy who was on his way to go fishing and he said he was spiritual but didn't follow any specif religion. Sister Sutton asked if he was take 3 minutes and listen to our message, and if he wasn't interested we'd leave and go our seperate ways. So he said yes and we ended up having an awesome talk about the plan of salvation and how God has a purpose for all of our lives. He wasn't interested afterwards, but he did take a pamphlet and said "normally I'd say this would be better used in someone else's hands, but I guess I can at least look at it." We then went to a park and talked to a woman on a bench. We started talking about different Bible stories and she ended up talling us about a nephew of hers who died a few months after he was born. So once again, we talked about how God has a purpose for all of our lives, and she took a Book of Mormon and set up a time to meet again. Afterwards Sister Sutton told me she'd never taught someone on the spot like that before before, let alone 2, and I told her I'd only done it once before. So we were both thinking it was the other person driving it but we were both being blown away by what was happening, it was pretty funny. But miracles happen on Sisters exchange! I came back to Bowmanville and Sister Casner had had basically the exact same experience with a man at a bus stop, so hopefully we'll be able to teach him regularly soon.
I had one of my most powerful teaching experiences this week. I love when you're speaking with someone who is sincerely seeking answers, the Spirit is so different. We dropped by the couple we're teaching and they let us in, and we just spent 45 minutes talking about how the Book of Mormon teaches of Christ and how we can know if it's true. They had amazing questions about what the Holy Ghost feels like and how to get answers, and the Spirit was so so strong because of the real intent in what they were saying. We invited them both to be baptized and they both said yes, but when we challenged them to set a date they said it was too soon because they wanted to come to church and do some reading first. I'm pretty sure she would have set a date if he would have, because she said "It might be too soon but who knows. I could get that feeling by then." But once they're able to come to church I think they'll want to set a date, because they are genuinely listening for answers so they're going to recognize it when it comes! And, upside, they're ADORABLE kids colored us pictures and wrote us notes asking us to "come bake", "bring a game to", thak you" (translation: come back, bring a game too, thank you. I just about died I was so happy.)
So I need to finalize it still, but we'll probably have dinner on Mother's Day at 5 here, so I'll probably call at 3 or 4, so 2 or 3 your time. I'll let you know exactly next week!
Sounds like everyone's having a pretty happening week! Good luck to everyone in school/job interviews. Mom thank you so much for your comments about kneeling prayers and obedience, I love it. Tell Becky it's awesome she has that reverence for God and that love and commitment where she wants to show that through even her body language- it's definitely taken me a long time to develop that, and I admire people who feel that way. I hope you keep on feeling better Mom. Also, I don't know if I've told you this, but the quote on the bottom of all your emails is like the theme of my mission president right now. He's asked us all to work towards 65 baptisms in our mission in the month of June and raising the bar in our mission to acheieve it. He sent out an awesome email this week, he said "We recognize and appreciate the focus that many of you are directing toward the 65 baptisms in June and the steps that have been suggested to improve our faith, unity, planning, and teaching.  I hope you recognize that, more important than the 65 baptisms, will be the things you learn about yourself during this time of focus and unity. Will you participate or watch from the sidelines? Will you give up old habits that have been holding you back in order to achieve something you have never achieved before? Will you be even more diligent in all aspects of the work so that you might expand the vision of what we can achieve as a mission? When we do what is required, we will see miracles.  It will be important for us to do our part. The Lord will only bless us with “that which (we) are willing to receive”. (DC 88:32)  “Someday” a group of missionaries will achieve 65 baptisms per month in the Canada Toronto Mission. We need to decide if it will be us or someone else." I LOVE that! So yeah, all of your emals make me grin now.
Well, that's just about everything. Have a great week! Have a missionary opportunity for me :) Love to all!
Sister Casner quote of the week: "You know what they say- it's easier for a rich man to fit through the eye of a needle than it is for a camel to be baptized." (We were not talking about camels, rich people, or baptism.)

Monday, April 23, 2012

My week of service in Bowmanville

So I'm sorry that the one week you're all rushing to write me in time, I write about an hour later than usual. Sorry, Sister Casner and I were having a little too much fun making a scripture chain for a less active family and our companion study went long this morning. But I'm glad I pulled you all out of bed!
I'm super jealous of your amazing weather, it's gotten COLD again here! Super unhappy about it but oh well, no snow yet knock on wood so I won't complain. I loved the different reports I got about the events of stake conference, the different views are always hilarious and appreciated. Sorry to hear about your sad day Erin- I'll pray extra hard now that you get a job ;)

This was my week of service in Bowmanville. We spent almost 3 hours one day pulling up an overgrown garden for a less active woman who's son died recently, 2 hours helping a member family prepare their garden in the back, and 2 hours picking up sticks from the yard of an old woman who's neighbors with a member family. So I guess I shouldn't complain about the cold, because at least I'm not all sunburned or anything. My hands were swollen this weekend from it though, I got a little carried away with the hoe in one of the gardens. Highlight of the service: I moved a big log at one point, and the guy directing me said "The wasn't enough, let me fix it for you." Then he walked over, looked at it, and said "Never mind, that's perfect. You're awesome." I now feel justified in telling Sister Casner at least twice a day that I'm perfect.

So Kathy, the world's most perfect investigator, is amazing as usual. We're coming up with games and activities to do for all of her lessons, so my creativity is definitely blooming in this area (mostly thanks to Sister Casner, who gets super creative with all of her lessons anyways). She's really excited about being baptized on May 13, so we're praying that she continues to do exactly what she's doing! Unfortunately we weren't able to teach our family, Adam and Tasha, this week, but we did see them and they said they were coming to church and were really touched by our first visit. Unfortunately, she then got really sick so they couldn't come. So we're waiting another week to see them, which is always scary but we're excited to teach them more. We also found 2 new people to teach, a father and a son. The dad is a former investigator that we dropped by who was sitting on the porch with his son and let us sit down and talk to them about the Book of Mormon. His son had some really awesome questions, about why we had the Book of Mormon and how it went together with the Bible. We left them a Book of Mormon to read and are going back this weekend. We aren't positive how interested the dad is- he's catholic and seems pretty comfortable with his beliefs- but the son said that he considers himself mostly Catholic but wants to learn about other religions and figure out what he really believes, so he seems very genuinely open to learning.

We had interviews with the mission president and skills training with the zone this week, which is always awesome. There's these 5 things President Scott has been asking us to do, I don't remember if I told you about them or not, but we practiced those and talked about how they're important. My favorite one is probably saying a kneeling prayer at the beginning and end of a lesson every time. We had an awesome experience with our investigator Gloria this week with that. She's been in touch with missionaries for over 6 months at this point, and she's always refused to say a prayer with them. So we've been kneeling during the opening and closing prayer every time we've seen her- she doesn't kneel with us, so it's kind of awkward, but she's been fine with us doing it. So this week without even asking, when we knelt she did too, which was AMAZING progress in our eyes. Then we asked her to say the closing prayer, as we always do, but we asked if she just wanted to start it- address Heavenly Father and say whatever comes to mind, but when she runs out of things to say let us know and we would continue and finish the prayer- and she AGREED! So she said probably one line and then asked us to take over, so all 3 of us said a few things and then we closed it. It was pretty awesome, and I absolutely believe the only reason she agreed to even try to pray was because she was on her knees. It's one of those principles I don't totally understand- to me a prayer should be a prayer no matter where or how you say it- but I'm definitely gaining a testimony of the power of a kneeling prayer, and ESPECIALLY of obedience. Do what your mission president says, no matter how unimportant it seems, and you'll see blessings. (Only sad part of this story is Gloria's phone was disconnected, so we have to just drop by now to catch her and we haven't seen her in almost a week now. But eventually we'll time it right!)

Sister Casner and I are at the point of our companionship where we can now read each other minds and finish each other's sentences. It's really useful in lessons, really creepy in real life. We no each other too well, she opened the car door the other day after backing me up and said "I could tell you were either singing or burping. I figured burping." She also has a hilarious habit of exaggerating/lying to me and then instantly calling herself out on it. After one of our gardening parties she told me "This is so nice. People don't garden in Nevada I'm such a liar, yes they do." I died laughing. So it makes me slightly hesitant about transfers because we're having a little too much fun, but thankfully I don't have to worry about that for another 3 weeks.

Basically Bowmanville is perfect, we're perfect, the work is perfect. That's pretty much my whole life.

 Love y'all tons! Have fun in Utah Dad! Thanks as always for being such a faithful writer Mom and Melissa :) love you!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bowmanville is just perfect

Howdy folks! Good to hear from so many people, I love weeks with multiple emails! Sorry if this ends up being a bit short- Sister Casner doesn't have a library card yet so we're sharing the time today.
Glad to hear eveything's so well at home. Sorry if I gave the wrong impression of your genealogy knowledge Dad, but if you don't know anything about the Jensens then you're welcome for giving you a good excuse to do some genealogy :) I love how in Canada that seems to be a big focus of the members, maybe this is just a poor reflection on me personally but I feel like at home that wasn't as much as a priority as it is here because so so so many people and families are recent in the church. Someone made a comment in relief society on Sunday about how no one in the room was more than a 3rd or 4th generation in the church and I was like, uhhhh.... Haha but it's cool because I think I'm catching the genealogy bug, hopefully I'll be better at that when I get home. Glad to hear school and work and everything is going well! If you do make it to Utah Dad, tell everyone I say hello and send my love. (As if I don't know you're going to email this to everyone anyways...)
This week has been AMAZING, and this weekend rocked so hard! We started seeing alot of our efforts start to really produce fruit, it's amazing. We found 2 new people to teach. One was a referral from the missionaries in another city, Oshawa, named Kathy. They OYMed her (open your mouth- aka randomly talked to her) at a bus stop and passed on her information to us. She's super sweet and the had already committed her to be baptized before we even met her. So she set a goal for May 13 and is progressing really well, she came to church this Sunday and they announced a single adult activity for that night that she came to. She's a bit shy but I think she loved it. Best lesson with her- we made a puzzle that said "the gospel of Jesus Christ" on it, because we thought an object lesson would help her understand better. So we had her put it together and then took pieces out of it and explained how that's like the great apostasy- after Christ died, pieces of the gospel were lost over time so while people still had the general picture, some crucial points were missing. Then we put them back in and explained how that's like the restoration- God put the pieces back on Earth by calling Joseph Smith to be a prophet. We also talked about how prophets and scriptures are like the picture on a puzzle box- they give you an outline to follow so you can know how to put the pieces of your life together. It was sweet, even if we made it way harder than we meant to- we thought it would be too easy so we added random stars and colored half the letters different colors so you wouldn't think they went together. So now it takes about 4 adults working on it if you want it to take less than half an hour. And the elders that referred her to us gave us another contact last night, so we're hoping she's equally as prepared!

We're also teaching someone named Adam. We OYMed his roommate, Max, but when we came by to see him he was a sleep and Adam opened the door. He said he remembered going to our church for youth activities as a teenager, and invited us back to tell him about activities his kids could go to. So we went back the next day- again to see Max, who again was asleep- and Adam invited us in to talk. We had the puzzle we made for Kathy with us, so we gave it to the kids to do. They gave up after about 5 seconds, so again it was 4 adults, us and Adam and his girlfriend/wife (not sure yet) Tasha, putting it together. it was perfect though, because Adam started asking what made our church different and since we were sitting there doing a puzzle we had a  good excuse to talk. We ended up teaching them all about the restoration and committed Adam to be baptized. We don't know yet if Tasha is super interested, but she was definitely listening- I didn't think she was until we talked about baptism and why we don't baptize until the child is 8. Then she made a comment about how she'd heard that because then they're old enough to choose. She was talking to the kids when we committed Adam to be baptized and set up a return appointment, so we're praying she'll be there and interested as well but we're not sure. But I'd be so excited to teach a family! Dream come true for missionaries! So yeah, the Lord is amazing how he sets things up for us. I don't know how else Adam could have gone so perfectly, I love it!

Other than that, Bowmanville is just perfect. Gloria is still good, though she again wasn't at church which was too bad, she would have loved it. We had ward conference and just talked about the temple basically the whole time, so the Spirit was really strong. Made me miss the temple, the missionaries had a trip last weekend but Bowmanville is too far away by about 15 minutes so we didn't get to go! So sad. But every time I think about the temple I think about what one of the Assistants told me my first night in Canada- "at this time in our life, our work is among the living not the dead, so don't miss the temple too much." For y'all though, that isn't true, so you better be taking advantage of the temple for me!
Sister Casner continues to be hilarious and fantastic, I want you to meet her so bad. Family trip to Nevada and Canada when I get home!!

That's about it. I love you all bunches and bunches! 

Also, it's probably about time to start arranging this: Mother's Day call! Any request for best time to call? I believe I get to skype again :)

Pictures of the week: 

Sister Casner and I, after accidently eating blue jolley ranchers right before an appointment

With our pet, Rufus. He was hanging on our fridge when we came. Silly Elders didn't want to keep him!

Gas station graffiti is the best!

White washing after Elders means buying aLOT of stuff- our cupboards were empty! So our shopping list was the size of me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bowmanville is Amazing!

Bowmanville is AMAZING, I love it. It's very small town, you can cross the whole city in about 5 minutes, and we drove to one of the other main cities in the area and I don't think it took even 10 minutes. It's going to be such a change from Owen Sound, Sister Casner keeps making fun of me because I worry about the kms and time and then realize that doesn't matter here, because I have way more kms and alot less space. She says to me "Oh, you're SO Owen Sound...." at least once a day. It's also small town because every one here talks to every one, by our second night here we were getting calls from members excited about having Sister Missionaries again and inviting us to come over. Or we'd drop by someone and they would say "Oh, who's from Owen Sound?" How do they know that?? It's pretty funny.
I don't remember what I told you about the area, so sorry if I repeat myself. We're white washing, there were Elders here before us, and this area LOVES sister missionaries. They keep saying how much they missed us and talking about how we're much more successful here than Elders. (Which, btw, I find a little sad- going through the area book, all the sisters worked with member referrals and the elders only found people through tracting- that's why the sisters tend to be more successful here, member work ALWAYS goes better! I don't know if the break down came because the elders didn't do member work or if the members didn't work with the elders, but it's a really huge difference.) Sister Casner keeps saying that she feels like she served here already, because everyone keeps saying "Welcome back!" It's kind of perfect though, because Sister Casner and I both felt we needed to start working with members more, and then we got sent to the best place in Canada to do member work! And remember how I asked about the family mission plan? Well, The bishop here has asked everyone to write a family mission plan for 2012 and turn it in to him, so when we got here he asked us to ask members about their plans when we see them. How perfect is that?? (Thank you for preparing me Spirit!)
We came into the area and had 1 investigator already. She's been going to church for so long she already has a home teacher! She just doesn't feel ready to be baptized yet, so we're excited to help give her that final push she needs. She has 3 kids, and they're so adorable! But crazy, teaching her is a circus, I spent the last lesson having my hair attacked and trying to keep the entertained with my plan of salvation pictures without letting them tear Spiritual Bob's head off. I think I spoke twice and wasn't even sure what was being said, but Sister Casner said it fit really well so that's good at least. We're working on setting up baby sitters for her lessons from now on. We've also already had 2 referrals we'll hopefully start teaching, although 1 may not be in our area so we may have to give her to other missionaries.
In case you haven't picked up on it yet, I LOVE Sister Casner so much, we're basically the same person. Actually, it's like hanging out with Erin...combined with Melissa...and Joey too actually....I just realized she's our whole family rolled into 1. It's hilarious. Our favorite thing to say to each other is "That's a great idea! You're perfect. I'm perfect. We're perfect." (We're really going to have to work on our humility here....) We laugh so hard it almost kills me every day. We came out from the MTC together, she was in the classroom next to mine, but we both thought the other was a quiet sweet polite professional perfect person. Oh how VERY wrong we were.... But in a good way! She's super powerful when she teaches too, I love it. And we complement each other so well, everything I've wanted to work on she's good at and she constantly tells me I just did something she's not good at, so we're both going to teach each other so much! Our goal is to baptize EVERYONE, so every time we go to talk to someone we whisper "let's go baptize that person." We decided we baptize them with knowledge, then later we get them baptized by water and the Spirit. It's perfect. We're perfect.

Okay, so one of the COOLEST things about bowmanville is the LaFrance family. Brother LaFrance is a Jui Jitsui master- he's the top jui jitsui grappeler in North America, and has been creating his own form-"spider jui jitsiu"- that is being recognized as an official style of martial arts! I wondered if Erin Martinez would have heard of him, though maybe not if she doesn't care about Jui Jitsui. But funny thing is, half of his dojo is rented out as a dance studio- so I'm living your childhood dream right now Melissa, of having a dance/martial arts studio. The missionaries go twice a week for a 45 minute class as a finding method- and the best part is that it's even worked, Brother LaFrance has brought 5 people into the church through his dojo, including his son in law. Their family is so cool, their 14 year old daughter is a junior black belt only because she isn't old enough to be an actual black belt. I'm pretty sure their baby grandson could beat me up even, he already knows how to kick and yell "hi-ya" and he can barely walk! So our first class is tonight, so hopefully I'm not dead by the time I email you next week.
Okay, I really have to go write to my mission president so I'll go now, but I'm glad everyone had a happy Easter!

Monday, April 2, 2012

So, drum roll please....

Greetings every one, once again and for the last time from Owen Sound! Yes Mom, we are very close to transfers- I leave tonight to stay in Brampton, and tomorrow morning I head off to my new area: Bowmanville!  So good thing you haven't mailed my box yet, I have no idea what the address is lol sorry, you can just send it to the mission home if you want or I can tell you my address next week.
 The red star above Toronto shows the location of Bowmanville

So last night was super unexpected- we were pretty sure transfers were happening, but I was stunned that it was me, I was positive I was here at least one more transfer. The call was hilarious though, it came from President Scott which means that it's a leadership call and Sister Arnold knew it was for her- her shoulders squared and she sat up straight and she snatched the phone and was super professional, I was cracking up! But then he told her she was training a new sister in Owen Sound and I realized it was actually me going...I stopped laughing quite as hard then.

But that call went along perfectly with my thoughts this week about the spirit- one of the speakers from conference (I don't remember which) talked about how the Spirit has always throughout history communicated in the same way: feelings of peace and warmth. I've really been thinking about that in my life and realized how true that was- when I prayed about the Book of Mormon and received my answer it was such a warm feeling and when I asked if I was supposed to serve a mission it was like being hit by a wall of fire, it was so strong and warm. But more often I feel the Spirit just by peace, which was hard for me sometimes, especially in high school. I remember praying about where to go to college and being terrified because I didn't know how to know what answer Heavenly Father was trying to tell me- I knew if you ask yes or know you can have that warm feeling, but my question was so open ended since I had no idea that I really didn't know how to get an answer. But when I got my acceptance from Utah State, from that point on I just wanted to go there. It felt right, which was super weird because it was in Utah, and I was excited- basically, I had peace about it. And it took a while looking back on that before I realized what an answer to prayers that was since I nearly had a panic attack every time I thought about college before that.
Anyways, there is a point to this tangent- after the call I was telling Sister Arnold how surprised I was about going and how unprepared I was for that. And she said "Yeah, but it felt so right when he was talking, didn't it?" And I realized that was so true- I haven't had any strong, unusual feelings confirming to me that Bowmanville is where I'm supposed to be, but when president Scott was telling me I was totally at peace and I know that was the Spirit's confirmation.  Besides, I should have expected it more, everyone says as soon as you really love your area you have to leave, and I have been in LOVE with Owen Sound the last 6 weeks.
General Conference was awesome huh?? One of our investigators told us that after the first session we were just on fire and he was jealous because the way he felt in conference ended after he left the chapel and he could tell it didn't for us- I guess you're right Mom, I'm on SUCH a spiritual high right now. Sisters Conference was so good, Sister Arnold and I realized a few tiny things we needed to change, particularly about how we plan, and so we started implementing that immediately and the difference is crazy- even though we're doing very little different, we've been seeing the Lord just blessing us like crazy for our obedience, it's been such a help. And then general conference has just recharged me for the next 6 months. What a defense of the family huh? Every single speaker somehow tied back to the gospel being about families, I loved it. And I loved the themes you saw Mom, I totally agree!
Gosh, I don't even know what else to say about my week, it's been so surreal with everything... But it was really good! Owen Sound is being left with such awesome potential and in such good hands.
I do have a question and a request for you- do y'all still have a family mission plan? Can you email it to me, either an old one or the current one? And if you don't have one for 2012, update it! I know I was terrible about following the family mission plans we made but seriously that was so cool that we had one, that was pretty amazing. I've been thinking about trying to use those as a way to do member work. Studying the ward mission plan as a family and then praying and making one up specifically about how your family will help the ward meet it's goals for that year is such an awesome way to invite the Lord's help in your efforts to do missionary work, because you're showing real intent. So if you can send one so I have an example and remember the kinds of things we did with it, I'd appreciate it!
Well, glad everything is good at home. Erin, congrats on your new choice of going to school in Virginia, good pick lol. Seriously though, a weekend trip to Virginia sounds way cool, hope y'all had fun. And I'm glad everyone got home eventually! Have fun with your new assignment Mom, that's sweet that you don't have to worry about Sundays anymore. And since it's Easter weekend, I probably won't email till Tuesday again. Love you all, talk to you next week!
Pictures from Sister's conference:
 At sisters conference with Sister Arnold and our mission president's wife, Sister Scott- she's the cutest woman in the world!
 This picture is super funny- it's a super cheesy family stair picture! So this is with my mama (Sister Tuisku), her 3 babies (Sister Loar, Sister Anyushya, and me), and her grandbabies (Sister Turvaville and another Sister who I won't attempt to guess how to spell her name, I'm sure I'd be so off it's nicer not to lol). Sister Tuisku goes home this week, so this is her mission family!
 With Sister Arnold.....This picture cracks me up every time- in the back is Hermana Entes, who I came from the mtc with, she's hilarious. We had no idea she was there.
With Sister Tuisku.....What we thought was the last time we'd see each other- except I'm spending tonight at her apartment, so psych!

Well, glad everything is good at home. Erin, congrats on your new choice of going to school in Virginia, good pick lol. Seriously though, a weekend trip to Virginia sounds way cool, hope y'all had fun. And I'm glad everyone got home eventually! Have fun with your new assignment Mom, that's sweet that you don't have to worry about Sundays anymore. And since it's Easter weekend, I probably won't email till Tuesday again. Love you all, talk to you next week!