Monday, February 25, 2013

yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

To the loves of my life,

It's nearly springtime here. It's sunny and beautiful for two days and then it will snow and snow and SNOW. And then it will melt and be sunny again. I cannot wait for it to be full-blown springtime but really I just can't wait for full-blown summer. 

On Friday night our Zone Leaders called us and gave us a challenge for Saturday from President Mullen to invite 3 people to be baptized with a specific date. Since we had absolutely nothing but 'finding' planned for the day  it meant that we would have to ask 3 people we had never even met before!?!! But we are faithful, obedient, diligent missionaries (well, we try and pray to be each day) so we said, "Yes! We will do it." But I'll be totally honest. Quality Gospel Conversations have been really tough for me lately. At the start of my time here in the Valley, we spent so much time tracting and talking to everyone and a lot of people were just not interested and somehow Satan tricked me into believing that QGCs weren't worth it. Needless to say, it's been a struggle for me. Like a battle, actually. Does that sound crazy? Because it should. I'm a talkative, friendly person so it's crazy that talking to people (specifically, everyone!) has been hard for me. But I've been praying lately to have that faith and desire to talk to people return. And then we got the challenge from President. And so all Saturday we prayed to have the faith and courage and words to talk to people. And more specifically that we would have the faith and courage and words to invite 3 people to be baptized on a specific date. And....we did it! We talked to EVERYONE and we invited random strangers to be baptized. And our conversations were easy and natural.  And they said, "sure, if I know it's true." or "probably, yeah."! And it wasn't that anything profoundly miraculous happened like everyone we talked to had a desire to learn more. But the miracle took place in our hearts. My heart especially. I'd been praying for the Lord to change me and He did. Because I don't know who is prepared to hear this message, but the Lord does. Because this is His work. And He likes it done His way. Which means talking to everyone and inviting people to be baptized. It reminded me of Alma 32:28:

28 Now, we will compare the word unto a aseed. Now, if ye give place, that a bseed may be planted in your cheart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your dunbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to eenlighten my funderstanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

I had a desire, just a tiny particle of faith that I could talk to people, and then as the day went on, and we talked to more people, my faith grew and it filled my soul and it began to be sweet and delicious to me. We went to bed on Saturday night so happy and filled with the spirit because we were fulfilling our purpose as missionaries. 

I love our English ward. We know everyone. It feels so good to walk in and everyone know (and love!) the missionaries. We've worked so hard to visit and teach and serve and love the members here. And so it feels so sweet when they come up to us to tell us about their own missionary efforts and people they are talking to or people they know we can go and visit. It feels so happy to earn the member's trust and to help them have their own missionary experiences.

We are planning a really great Spanish activity in the branch for next week. Oh, I'm so excited. Next Sunday, we are having the whole branch fast for missionary work, and more specifically, their own missionary experiences and then after church we are breaking the fast and having a little dinner (a taco bar, duh!) and then we have a three part activity. The Why, the What and the How of member missionary work. Most of our branch members are converts themselves and we really want to light their fire and get their wheels turning to share the message with their friends. I made the poster for it (which felt so great to design and make art!) and I put the tree of life so that members could remember just how sweet the gospel is.

 11 And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the afruitthereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the bwhiteness that I had ever seen.
 12 And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great ajoy; wherefore, I began to be bdesirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was cdesirableabove all other fruit.

I hope you have a wonderful, really great week! Share your testimony and pray for missionary opportunities. You never know who is prepared. 

I love this work. I know it's true. I know families are forever and the only way to have true joy and Happiness is through our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Love you! 

Hermana Em

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

and it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness!

To my favorite people ever!

I am staying in Spokane Valley and so is Sister Sanchez! I knew we would. We just had to. And neither of us had a feeling that we were leaving. I knew when I was leaving Moses Lake that's why I was more surprised when I stayed-but alas, eventually I did leave. I know I keep referring to this but it was our transfer theme and I really feel like the Lord was so, so great to us. We're just two little chiquitas working our tails off and the Lord blessed us with miracles! 

yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.

We had nothing happening at the start of the transfer and just this week we have 3 people on-date for baptism and we are working with so many wonderful, wonderful people. It was miracle week for sure. And the miracles will continue to happen, I'm sure! I'm super glad I'm staying here. We are really earning the trust of our members in both the ward and branch. Oh, I love the members in the ward. There is a young family, the Nielsens, who are just the BEST. There is always a family in each area that you just looooove. Like how Jake loved Elder Davis. The Nielsens love us! And we love them! They have two cute little girls, Brother Nielsen is in law school at Gonzaga and Sister Nielsen is super adorable. And this week Brother Nielsen asked three of his friends to start taking the missionary lessons. How cool is that?! I am constantly surprised by how great and willing the members are to share their testimonies!

My first sunday here, an elderly sister, Sister McCullough, started talking to us about her grandson who was living with her and how he really needed to change his life. It was a long conversation and all that came of it was that she didn't think he was ready to start learning from the missionaries. But then last Sunday we went over for lunch before church. We had just had our training about being direct and bold so we asked him straight out if we could start teaching him and he said, yes! Our first lesson was on Thursday and it was amazing! Thankfully we had the pamphlet to teach with because we had three big talkers with us and we would've gotten nowhere if we didn't have pictures to grab their attention. We were talking about how we know that God never leaves us and that he is always reaching out to us, today even through modern prophets. He said that he felt that same way about himself-God is always reaching out to Him even when ,especially when, he makes mistakes. We asked him how happy he was and he said, "I'm 31 and living on my grandma's couch. That's how happy I am."  He really knew he needed to change and so he accepted a baptismal date for April 6th! It is exciting to help somehow change and repent and feel the power of Christ's Atonement working through them. Our Savior can heal all wounds. We can't ever walk outside the bounds of God's love. I know that's true.

A few weeks back, we visited another young couple in our ward, the Judkins. They are both returned missionaries so they really get the importance of sharing the gospel. Sister Judkins had referred us to visit a less-active in the ward who lives in her complex. So we went to go see him. Chris is 24 and living with his pregnant girlfriend right now. We had the most amazing first lesson with him and asked him to repent and change his life. He grew up in the church and so he felt bad like his life was just so different than what people would expect. He felt guilty walking into church because he didn't serve a mission, he's having a baby out of wed-lock and he hasn't been to church in forever. We explained the repentance process and told him that true peace and happiness comes from turning to the Lord. He's come two sundays in a row now and he talked to the bishop this Sunday. It's amazing. Miraculous! Then we had a lesson this last Sunday before church and his girlfriend sat in too. She was so open to listen and learn more. She accepted a baptismal date for April 6th! I feel so excited for Chris and Jessica because as they change their lives spiritually and as they welcome a baby into their family, their life will be so happy! They will make covenants and grow closer to God. 

Our mission leader in the Spanish branch is really great. He told us about a sister to a sister in the branch and that she had started attending one of the English wards in the Valley. Sister Reyes joined the church three years ago and she is a very strong member. I imagined that her sister, Aridai, was interested because she's seen how it's bless her sister's life. Our mission leader, Brother Lopez, didn't have her contact information but he just told us to ask her sister. Later that night, we had two appointments fall through and we sat in the car looking through former teaching records to find someone to go visit. Wouldn't you know it, we grabbed all the wrong records and we only had the addresses for people who had moved. Which basically does us no good. But then we saw a record for Aridai. And there it was! Her phone number and address. So we called her and set up a time to visit her. We went and saw her on Tuesday and it was incredible. She is so lonely, and so sad. She's been looking for the truth her whole life. She doesn't know if God loves her and she doesn't know the reason for living. I felt so much love for her immediately. We taught her a lesson about the restoration and she decided to be baptized on March 23rd! She's been reading the book of mormon this week and oh, she is so great.

Lots of really great things are happening each day. I wish I could tell you about every lesson I teach. It's amazing to be the Lord's hands. People love the missionaries. I've never felt so loved and appreciated in all my life. Members feel the Spirit we carry with us and they love to have us over. The less-actives we visit love us too. They yearn to feel the love of God and as we open our hearts and share with them their faith increases. I'm just little 'ole me but God allows me to be His hands. 

This morning, we got to fear bust the new missionaries. SO fun! I was only fear busted 4 months ago. Can you believe it? I'll be out for 6 months at the end of this transfer. Boy, time flies. There were 21 missionaries that came in today. The numbers continue to soar. Oh, I'm super excited for all those going out! It's so great that the work is hastening!

I love it here. I reeeeeeally am SO HAPPY I am staying another transfer. And I'm so happy I'm staying with Sister Sanchez. Good, happy miracles to come! I know this church is true. I had a dream last night that President Monson came to visit us. Even in my dream I felt his power and the spirit testify to me that he is a prophet of God. We've been listening to the conference talks in the car all week and I am continually touched by the words of these inspired men. President Monson is an example of Jesus Christ in all he does. He testifies of our Savior and invites us to do the same. I feel my Savior's love and I am so touched that He loves me this much. It's amazing. 

Love you!

Hermanita Em

Monday, February 11, 2013

Therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord

Familia Lindisima!

I could shout it from the rooftops I am so excited! SO, super excited for Jacob. Yesterday, I saw Brother Johnson at church. He stopped me and said, "Are you Sister Judd? I'm Seth Johnson's dad. He was Jacob's roommate at BYU." And the first thing I said was, "My brother  Jacob Judd???" And then the next thing I said was "Do you know where he's going on his mission?? Don't tell me! But do you know?!" And then we chit-chatted a bit but he said "yes, he posted it on facebook". So I pretty much couldn't sleep all night because I kept having vivid dreams of Jacob opening his call. Riverside, California! I know people that served there/and serving there currently I think. I'll be honest, somedays I wish I was in California because I just want sunshine everyday. But I love it here, por su puesto!

I spoke in the Bowdish ward yesterday (which is my English ward). This is my 3rd talk on my mission so far. At this rate, I can look forward to 10 more (one for each transfer)! But I really love speaking in church. We sat on the stand and got to watch all of our sweet members and non-members and less-actives walk in. We have been working with a LOT of less-actives this week. We had a training on Friday about how we need to focus on our purpose and be BOLD and loving. We are here to call people to repentance and invite others to be baptized to come closer to Jesus Christ. It was a training I really needed. And so we've really laid it down for the less-active members we've been teaching. We try to apply D&C 121:43:

 43 aReproving betimes with bsharpness, when cmoved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of dlove toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

Reprove with sharpness and then pile on the love. And it's working! The spirit can be there to testify as we call them to repent and teach them how Christ can heal them. It feels really good, because the Spirit is always there as we fulfill our call and purpose. And because of it, three less-active members came to church yesterday! As each one walked in Sister Sanchez and I could NOT STOP SMILING. It was like the prodigal's son returning. Oh, so sweet the joy! 

The first week I was here everyday was a blank slate. We just had full days devoted to tracting and finding and zero appointments. That was tough. It was super hard to work diligently and not have any lessons. But! the Lord is merciful. He has shed so many tender mercies and blessings on us this last transfer. And we had a really great week. We found so many Spanish speakers to teach. It really felt like out of thin air, people were appearing for us to teach. And people are receptive and happy to hear our message. And now this coming week, I kid you not, is filled to capacity. Every single hour of every day is busy. We have an appointment for every hour this week!?!! It feels great to be teaching so many wonderful people.

I am almost shocked that I was right. When I prayed and hoped that Alma 26 would come to pass here I was just hoping so, but now I am so filled with faith and gratitude. 

yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.

I hope Sister Sanchez and I can stay together in Spokane Valley this next transfer. We both feel like we are staying so hopefully no surprises coming up. But you just never know. Can you believe another transfer has already come and gone? At the end of next transfer I'll have been out for 6 months. That feels really surreal to me. The work is so good. Being a missionary is the BEST. That's why I am so happy for Jake. Oh boy, he'll be such a solid missionary! 

I love serving more and more each day. I love Sister Sanchez. Last night before bed I had a vision of what it was like in the pre-existence and I told her, "Sister Sanchez we must've been jumping up and down to come to Earth and serve our missions together." We are like two little peas in a pod. We just lift and cheer each other up. She makes me miss Mexico so much. One of the Elders serving in our branch got his Visa to go to Mexico this week so he left yesterday. I was a little jealous. It's probably because I tell ya, I love sunshine so much. But also, because the people are so good. I love serving the Hispanic people here. They are my favorite on Earth.

I got your Valentine package today actually. Already opened it. Whoops :)

This letter is no good, I'm sorry. The Elders beside me are being distracting. One is from France and so he's helping the other elder translate his letter to President Mullen to French. And you know how much I love French!

oh I love you!

Happy Monday!

Hermana Em

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Day 132: Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we

Dearest dears,

As soon as I logged off last week I realized that I forgot to tell you I was going to the temple today so my P-day got switched to today. Sorry! I am just dying for Jacob's call. I was certain it would come last week! I'm thinking he's going to Chicago Spanish speaking. Or Peru. Those are my guesses. But truly I don't care where he goes, I just can't wait for him to be a missionary! It is the best privilege in the world and I know it will bring me endless comfort to have my little brother out serving the Lord along side me :) This week was full of sunshine. Both literally and spiritually. 

This is it. I feel it. The week of miracles. Not to say miracles don't happen everyday but things are really starting to happen here in Spokane Valley. Out of the woodwork we are finding less-actives and part-member families. We've found a lot of potential in both of our wards and I just feel a lot happier.

Yesterday was beautiful! Sister Sanchez and I are hopeful that Spring is coming! The snow has been melted for the last week or so and it's just been all around more pleasant weather. Still cold, but much more pleasant. It probably also helped that I bought some better boots last week. (to my family-thanks for that $50 visa card. I bought some water-proof, insulated boots from Kohl's--they have Kohl's!--and so now tracting has been much better without soaking socks!) I remember Sister Hicks telling me that the Monday before temple day always is a day of miracles. This is my second time to the temple and my second witness to this.Yesterday was full of miracles and blessings and tender mercies.

So a couple weeks ago I told you about Liz. We tracted all day and hit our 20 QGCs and then all of a sudden she opened the door and let us in. Anyway, it's been hard to meet with her since our church tour. She's been out of town and really busy but we had an appointment set up with her yesterday. Well, she wasn't there. Typical. But we had planned all our back-ups in her neighborhood and even our next lesson was her next door neighbor so we were in the area for the time. And so we were around when she pulled up with a car full of groceries. We could tell she was stressed out and probably wouldn't want to have even a short lesson with us but we went up anyway. She was trying to get organized in her home and after a weekend of traveling, and a science fair project for her daughter, and her son has Autism, she was just swamped. 

People aren't super keen on service done for them. All people, no matter where you go. It's hard to let someone serve you and even more specifically, it's super hard to let someone clean your house. But somehow the Lord just softened her heart and she let us come in to clean. We felt like Ammon taking care of King Lamoni's sheep. 

"Now when Ammon saw this his heart was swollen within him with joy; for, said he, I will show forth my power unto these my fellow-servants, or the power which is in me, in restoring these flocks unto the king, that I may win the hearts of these my fellow-servants, that I may lead them to believe in my words."

We knew that serving and helping Liz would earn her trust and allow her to see that as missionaries we are truly here to help and uplift her. And so we got to work. We put the groceries away and the dishes away and washed the dishes in the sink and wiped the counters and it was amazing! There isn't a greater high than serving someone else. Especially someone who needs it. She was so grateful and feeling so relieved. We kept telling her that as missionaries, all we want to do is serve and help others and so she felt better about letting us help. But it was miraculous because she just opened up to us. She told us all about her husband (who is deployed in Iraq right now) and her children and her dreams and hopes. And after we cleaned we sat down and casually showed her a video. The girl in the video is a dancer from London and she talks about how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is all about change. How we apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ to change our lives. It was perfect. The spirit was there and it just felt so good. Sister Sanchez and I are just thrilled and excited. Afterwards Sister Sanchez said to me, "those who are prepared to hear the message, will always let you in to serve and let you in to teach." I know it's true. And I know the Lord is putting those prepared and ready to hear the message in our path. 

We have been visiting all of our members here. After tracting a lot with no success we realized that the only way to find people to teach is through the members. Family and friends, do you hear me? You matter SO much to help in the success of building the kingdom of God! We have been trying to have quick 15 minute visits with just about every family. And we've had referrals from everyone! It's been amazing. I feel like I was a chump before my mission. I never had referrals for the missionaries because I was too scared to share the gospel with my friends, but seriously! If you pray for an experience, for a name or opportunity the Lord will bless you. He will give you comfort and confidence to share the gospel. I'm so grateful for the members here. They really get it. People are always sending us to their friends or they make plans to have us for dinner with some friends or they want us to teach their less-active family members. I really, truly believe the only way to work is to work with the members. And perhaps, not every referral we receive leads to something greater, but I know that there is a reason the Lord wants us trying certain people or certain areas. Last week, the Z. family gave us a referral for their Hispanic neighbor, Lorena. When we tried the first time, she wasn't home. We always try to knock the houses around referrals so we knocked those on either side of her, but I had a feeling we should try across the street. I hesitated so we didn't. Then the next time we went to try Lorena, she was home. And not interested. But I had a feeling again to try across the street. It's funny to knock in nicer areas, because most times the people are happy and content with their religion and family. Nothing has compelled them to be humble so they are generally not interested. That's how I was feeling about this house. But we knocked anyway. And we met Jonathan. Super nice guy and interested too. I don't know what it will lead to if more than just a good contact and a good taste in his mouth for the missionaries but it was just a testament to me that the Lord knows better than us. Perhaps the reason He inspired the Z. family to tell us about Lorena is because He knew the only time we would probably knock their street was if we had a referral. 

Well, I always know there is more to say but just never enough time. I am happy. I am loving being a missionary. Last week we spent an hour watching mormon messages on (President Mullen lets us spend a few hours a week exploring and so we are up to date) and we left feeling so spiritually high. I know this gospel is true! I know it with my whole heart. I love the Book of Mormon. I know that we have a living prophet. Our loving Father in Heaven still speaks to us today. I feel so close to my Heavenly Father as I serve as His hands. I just feel so filled with His love and spirit. It's an honor. It really is. 

Welp, I love you! Watch the mormon messages. Especially the one about Dads. And people. I'm not sure if they've gotten a new art director or if different people create all these videos but right now, the latest videos are just stunning visually and spiritually. I am convinced more and more as I serve my mission that God is an artist. And it inspires me. I am itching to get home and create more. If there is one thing I am certain of for my post-mission life, it's that I can't wait to make more with my heart and my hands. I loveeee it!