Monday, March 25, 2013

Awake, my soul! rejoice, o my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.

hello hello hello!

Lots going on right now. I don't know if I told you or not but this was a 5 week transfer so it's done and over. What?!??! I've been out 6 months tomorrow. CRAZY how time flies.  Sister Sanchez and I are staying in Spokane Valley! The Lord loves us a lot 'cause we are working hard and seeing good things happen. He trusts us here. And I really feel and know that. Anyway, we went fear busting again this morning. Good fun. 22 SISTERS came into our mission today. Only 6 are visa waiters so that means 16 are staying! And 4 are spanish speaking. SO great. Sometimes I get a little sad that I'm over on this side of the mission and not on the west side with all the other Spanish sisters and maybe I even had the thought late yesterday night, "Did God forget us? Did he skip over Sister Sanchez and I? How come we are here again? In the exact same place with no changes?" I love change. I really do. And change on a mission can be both bad and good. And I was hoping/expecting something different this transfer because that is what I want. What Hermana Emily Judd wants. But God knows best. And He didn't skip over me or Sister Sanchez. Probably just the opposite. Because He has seen how stinkin' hard Sister Sanchez and I have tried to earn the trust of members and meet people to teach. It's a blessing to stay here again because I may get to finally see the fruit of the labors. 

I love the Valley. Yesterday we were driving through a hilly countryside and it was majestic and beautiful and I thought back to before my mission when President Palmer sent me a letter and told me that the Washington Spokane Mission encompassed the lyrics to America the Beautiful: "Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain!" And it rang true in my heart and I just thought, "How great that I am here. How great it is to be a missionary here." Every missionary has a different experience. No one mission is the same. And mine is so great. Because God knows me. He knows what I need and I am learning all the things I really need to learn.

I'm at a loss for what to tell you about this week. Lots of good things happened. Sister Sanchez and I continually comment about how much we are learning each day. We really help each other to find new things out about the work and ourselves. We've been pretty good about asking members to come to our lessons but this week we made a resolution to ask a member for EVERY lesson. We will do what ever it takes to bring members. There has been this gap where we teach awesome families but they never come to church. And they need fellowship. We've been hesitant to ask our Spanish members because many of them live in Downtown Spokane about 30 minutes away and we only have about 5 members here in the valley and we ask them over and over and over and over. But finally we decided to involve all our members in the branch. Part of the reason missionary work feels so wonderful and great for missioanaries is because it's a sacrifice for us. We sacrifice our time and families and talents to be missionaries. If we allow our members to sacrifice time and gas to come with us, they will feel the joy of the work too. I've seen miracles come from it already. Some days go by and I think, "wow, I really get missionary work now." I didn't know anything my first transfer. Oh man, I was lost. But I really am starting to get somewhere now. And I have a year left of learning.

I was SO excited on Saturday. I knew Hannah and Jacob were going through the temple and it touched my heart all day. I read "Preparing to enter the Holy Temple" during my personal study and I was filled with joy and love of the Lord. The temple is the house of God. There is nothing that testifies more to me that God loves me than the temple and eternal families. I am so grateful to be here serving and still I am able to feel connected and loved by my family. I imagined the scene in heaven where we will reunite and rejoice together to be with our Heavenly Father forever. Is there a sweeter message than that?
I haven't sent pictures in a long time so here's what's going on peeps:

Best Mission!? Hello! Today as we were sharing experiences from our Fear Busting, different missionaries talked about the miracles they saw as they testified of our Savior and fulfilled our purpose and one of the new Elders said, "wow, this is the best mission!" And I know it's true. I love my mission. I love my mission President. This is the best place to be ever.

 This is my district from last transfer. Elder Hobbs, Elder Legarra (my MTC brother! and we are still staying in the branch together. I'm SUPER happy!), Elder Sherwinsky, Elder Molyneaux, Sister Sanchez and me. Good times.
Sister Sanchez and I! I don't think I've sent home a picture of us two. Aren't we the cutest? I really think that because we are both so small, people's hearts are softened to hear from us. Chiquiditas hermanitas!

This is us TODAY. With the sisters we went fear busting with, Sister Wood and Sister Rasmussen.

This is Elder Magana (from Mexico, we came out the same time and he is such a GREAT missionary!) , Elder Whiting (my zone leader here in the English area) , Elder Lohan ( from Great Britain and SUPER funny. He quotes movies in his funny british accent and I love it!)

Love you all so MUCH!
Hermana Em

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Lord doth give me exceedingly great joy in the fruit of my labors

To the dears of my heart,

I love you! I love that my inbox is filled. Thank you for your support! You are the best! 

This week was the most pivotal week of my whole mission thus far. I won't have the words to describe it. It was an onslaught of highs and lows and higher highs and lower lows and HIGHEST highs. I learned more about myself and the Lord and the Atonement this week than I ever had.

Let's start at the top: I was brim with joy and happiness on Monday. And then something happened on Tuesday. I'm not sure what it was but Satan wanted us to be sad. Both Sister Sanchez and I were just feeling low. Appointments were falling through, we STILL weren't finding anyone new to teach and it just felt like the weight of the world was on our shoulders. And on top of all that most of our plans for the day were tracting. My heart was not in it. I didn't think I'd be able to knock on door after door where people didn't want to hear our message. After an ex-Pastor got done quoting the entire bible to us and telling us that we knew nothing, I was at my breaking point. We parked our car in front of an apartment complex and I could not move. I could not bring myself to get out of the car. We both sat for a time and we decided to pray. I needed God to lift me. I needed Him to carry me through the day. Then Sister Sanchez said, "Why don't we read some from the Book of Mormon?" and so we did. We opened up to Alma 17 to read about the Sons of Mosiah and their mission experiences. The comfort I felt was so sweet. I just felt so calm and assured and loved. My testimony of the Book of Mormon was even more fortified. It gave me the strength I needed to carry on and later in the evening when we had a lesson with Aridai and she talked about her own struggles, I could testify with my whole heart that God knows us and our needs and that He is there for us. 

And then the Lord gave us a huge tender mercy. He knew our day was hard. He knew we had been stretched that day and as if to say, "that'll do, pig, that'll do", we received 9 referrals from the Elders. NINE!?? That's unheard of. We haven't recieved a referral for weeks and then out of nowhere NINE?! I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude. I know that God heard my prayer and that He loves his missionaries. This is His work. And sometimes we struggle and we go through patches of tough times so that we can turn to Him, so we can put our trust in Him and allow the Atonement to work through us. All week I kept thinking, this is my cocoon. I can't rip it open and I can't just let it pass. I've got to grow on my own. 

On Wednesday we had interviews with President Mullen. Bless his heart. His daughter got married this weekend and he just seemed so tired. He was still full of love and joy and energy but I could tell that he had a lot on his plate. But even still he took time to talk with each of us and share his love and testimony with each of us. He gave me blessing and it was very lovely. He just told me again and again that God does know me and He loves me and He is pleased with me.

Then Saturday was the most miraculous day of my mission. It was incredible. Remember Alejandro P.? He called us last Monday during my email time?? Well we stopped by to see him and give him information about the English classes. And he lives like 10 seconds away from the church building so we invited him on a church tour for that very moment. And he came and it was amazing. We walked into the chapel and the Spirit was so strong. There was no denying it. And the end we asked him how he was feeling and he said he was a little confused. He didn't know how to describe the feeling of peace that he was experiencing.  We taught him the lesson of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and asked him to say the closing prayer. He said such a beautiful, sincere prayer. "God I know you are there. I can feel you close by now." He wasn't expecting us. He thought we'd talk to him about some English classes and we'd be on our merry way, but then we invited him to come closer to His Savior, and He felt the love of God. He wasn't able to come to church this sunday but we have a lesson with him tonight. I hope that he can see how this will bless and change his life. 

This week we decided to visit a former investigator named, Federico. We went but it turns out he had moved. But Reyna and Enrique (another set of former investigators who we no longer had information for) had moved into his place. It was a miracle! So we set up time to stop by on Saturday. But of course they weren't there. But Reyna, their 24 year old daughter let us in. We talked to her about her religious background and she explained that she believed in God but she really didn't know how it was that He exists. We testified that she is a daughter of a Heavenly Father and He does know her. Then we invited her to say a prayer and after the prayer to sit and listen to her feelings. We told her that prayer is when we communicate with our Father and that we have to listen carefully to how he answers. Her prayer was sweet and simple. "God, I don't know what I'm doing or if you are there listening but please let me know." Then we sat in the silence. And we quietly whispered, "how do you feel?". Tears filled her eyes. She didn't know how to explain it. It was such a beautiful experience. She had felt God. She had felt Him listening. It was so lovely.

We came home on Saturday so filled with the Spirit. We've both seen many miracles and experienced many joys on our missions but both Sister Sanchez and I agreed that we had never felt quite so happy. It was the happiest moment I'd ever felt. And I thought, how can that be? Tuesday was easily the lowest I'd felt. And then a few days later, my joy had overcome me. I thought of Alma the younger in his repentance process.

 20 And oh, what ajoy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!
 21 Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.
Sister Tippetts sent me a letter this week that made me so happy. Arturo M., Virginia's husband, finally decided to be baptized. We had worked with him so long and he knew he needed to he just wouldn't commit to a date. Right before I left Moses Lake we had talked about how we knew he would get there and that he would be baptized before April. And he was! It's a miracle. The Lord touched his heart. And Sister Tippetts said he is SO happy! He is always smiling and he told his friends that he will never miss a sunday of church for the rest of his life. He is so filled with the joy of our Savior. I am so happy! Sister Tippetts is going home soon which makes me sad because I probably won't get to see her if I'm still in the Valley but I'm glad I get to email her now. She didn't know the week I had but she said some things that really helped me, In her perspective now she says, "I can see so clearly why we have to go through times when it seems like there's no one to teach. I can see why we have to struggle with companions sometimes. I understand a little better why we have to move on from areas and people we love. It's all just part of Heavenly Father's perfect plan to help make us perfect. It works! Little by little we become more like Him. The sooner we can learn to accept His will and submit ours to His, the better." 
She is right. I'm realizing now that I may never have the mission I envisioned for myself. But all my life I've grown to understand that  the Lord always exceeds our expectations. I'm learning the things the Lord knows I need. I am growing in the areas that will shape the rest of my life. My mission won't be the greatest thing I ever do. I'll be a mother and wife and have many happy things happen, but I know that these things that I want and see for myself will come because of the experiences I'm having now. This is the greatest thing I am doing with my life right now.

I love it. I love the Book of Mormon. I love the Lord. I LOVE the Lord. And I love His work.
Love y'all! Happy week! 
Hermana Em

Monday, March 11, 2013

but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.

Dearest loves,

Last week Sister Sanchez and I read a little talk about purifying your heart. It was a story about an Elder who wanted to feel the Spirit more profoundly each day and he talked with a visiting general authority who told him he needed to purify his heart. So he fasted one day and then started a "40 day fast" where he gave up all the things that were distracting him from the work. He committed to live more obediently and to hold to the fast. It wasn't easy  but by the end of the 40 days something changed within him. He was seeing miracles in the work and he was feeling the spirit so closely that many things were bringing him to tears on a daily basis. He was able to discern people's needs and really testify with power. After we read the talk we both felt a surge to do the same. We are obedient missionaries and we strive earnestly to do our best but I know for myself that I let little things slip into my thoughts that distract me from the work. All I know is that I don't want to look back on this time and think that I probably could've given a little more. So we fasted and we've set our list and started our "40 day fast". More than anything, I'm just realizing how imperfect I am. I need my Father in Heaven. And I need my Savior. All I want is to lose myself in this work. 

I feel like haven't told you very much about Hermana Sanchez. She's the companion I've been with the longest and I love her so. We are different. Super different. She's very organized. She loves avocados and granola. She speaks English really well and the other day after I got off the phone with a member she said so genuinely, "hermana, you are fluent in english!" which I took as an honest compliment because she meant it. She thinks I say things really beautifully and eloquently which I love. She leaves me little sticky nice notes all around our house for me to find. It always touches and softens my heart. I love that she is Mexican. She has a humble heart and she loves the Book of Mormon. I always feel the spirit as she testifies of it's truth. Even though we're different, we have the same goals and we want to do our very, very best. I have loved working with her. I have learned SO much in this chapter in my life and I always think, "Wow, if i didn't serve a mission or a didn't get called here, I would've never known little Sister Sanchez." The Lord knows us so well.

On Saturday night I wrote in my journal, 

tomorrow there's more sunshine.

and I meant that because of Daylight savings and how we literally we're going to have more sunshine in our day but then after I wrote it I realized it's true in another sense. There's always something to look forward to. There's always more miracles and love and happy each day. I was telling Sister Sanchez that I felt like I was at my mission prime with Sister Tippetts. I was loving Moses Lake, my companion, our investigators, the work. Everything was jiving. And then I got transferred to the Valley. And I felt like I was in a slump. It was tough. But we worked hard and grew in ways I would've never imagined. It changed my life in so many good ways. And now I'm feeling great again. I'm at my mission prime. Which leads me to believe that over the next 13 months I will have many more valleys and hills and mountain peaks. I will dig low and soar high. There will always be challenges. We're still facing challenges. But God is there. He is besides us in every step of the work. I just feel really content and happy. Someone said that to me too! One less-active sister we met on Wednesday just looked into my eyes and said, "You are a happy, content person. I can tell. You are happy." I felt really at peace with that because everyday is difficult in one way or another, but I truly feel like one of my God-given gifts is hope.


I look forward to good things to come. Right now we don't have anyone to teach. We dropped nearly all of our investigators because they weren't progressing or they weren't really interested. We are only teaching Aridai and her daughter, Emily. And Katelyn Bedolla. We haven't had anyone new for a week. And that's been tough because we are doing all we can possibly think of. We've gone through all the finding ideas in Preach my Gospel and we've visited all the members in the ward. I'm at a loss. I really don't know where to go. But I am really excited for this week. I know that there are people prepared waiting for our message. Pretty soon we'll have more people to teach. Which just means more people to love. And miracles happen so often. Just now, like 20 minutes ago, Alejandro Pineda called us. We've never met him but the other day we stopped at his door and he wasn't there so we left a card with information for the English classes on his door. We don't usually do that. We just hand the cards out to people. But we've been stopping by his house a lot because a former investigator used to live there and we just really felt like we should try again. And then he called us. And we have a lesson with him on Saturday. I almost cried because it was a real answer to our prayers. I feel like we'll continue to see many more miracles like that all week.

And, yesterday Brother Fry stopped us at church and told us he invited a less-active family (with a non-member daughter) over for FHE. The Frys are the cutest and we had dinner with them last week and challenged them to be missionaries everyday and so they took our challenge! I felt so touched like we really are making a difference. And last week, the Poulsen family, who have a son on a mission right now, invited their friend Megan over for dinner with us. I loved Moses Lake and my heart still aches for my home, but gosh I love it here. I love these members. I feel so entwined with the work here. My heart is in it. I want so badly so do all the Lord asks. Which also means this week we'll be knocking more doors. Oh, it pains me. I'd rather do anything than knock doors. But we've exhausted all our other resources. It's come down to this. And not because I think we will find more people through knocking. But it's the effort of submitting my will to God's. I'll put aside my pride and try to be a little humble and show the Lord that I will do anything, anything he asks, to find his lost sheep and bring them back to his fold.

love you muchly,

Hermana Em

Monday, March 4, 2013

But Ammon said unto him: Nay, but I will be thy servant.

To you whom I love,

I'm so happy today. It's definitely March. It was 56 degrees on Saturday and basically heaven. We are putting away our big coats and soon, so so soon we won't be wearing tights! I'm just so happy for the sunshine everyday. It was a really good week for us. We had Zone Conference on Friday and it was so great. I needed the boost, I needed the encouragement and support to know that God does know me. He is aware of who I am as a daughter of God and as His servant. Sister Mullen shared something that really was profound for me.

We love God. 

It is inherent in all of us, as children of God, that we feel love for Him. What we always teach and share with others is that God loves us (which is very, very true!) but sometimes we forget that we, in turn, love our Heavenly Father. We yearn to be near Him and follow Him. That is our sincere desire. We recognize when we sin and distance ourselves from Him and we desire to progress towards Him. We want change. We want to repent. She told us that we love God and I knew and felt it. I love my Father in Heaven. That's why I'm a missionary. I love Him and want to serve Him. I want to return to live with Him. As I've shared that with my investigators, (that they love God) they have felt that truth too. We are children of a loving Father and we love Him.

Anyway, she also had us close our eyes and meditate on our blessings. We have bodies, we can feel, we have families and we have learned in our homes, we have the gospel and our Savior, Jesus Christ. She went on for maybe ten minutes listing blessings. I felt so peaceful and calm. I've been trying to meditate every morning since because it helps me stay grounded and focused. I need to recognize the joy it is to serve each and every day. Today I woke up and just felt so grateful that I am a missionary. I love it so, so much.

Yesterday we had our Branch activity. Oh what miracles. We had been planning this activity for a month but yesterday I just woke up feeling like, "oh gosh, what have we done?? are we ready????" We really wanted the activity to go well and we wanted to leave the Spirit with our members so that they were inspired to do their own missionary work. Church starts at 1 pm and since many members travel pretty far for the meetings, we knew that Sunday was the only day we could really draw a crowd. But that meant after church at 4 pm. On Fast Sunday! Like 5 hours at church! Yikes! So we planned dinner and then prayed that people would be willing to stay after that for three 15 minute segment training sessions. I was stressed all day that it might be a disaster. That perhaps we didn't really know what we were doing. But it was a great success. We planned a taco bar for the dinner. Which you might be thinking something like ground beef with taco seasoning and maybe some taco shells?? No way, mis queridos amigos! This is a SPANISH branch. These tacos were so legitimate. Sister Lopez, our mission leader's wife, is a saint. She made all the meat and beans and rice and then we asked the members to bring the toppings. Pico, guacamole, cebolla, limones. It was definitely the best break-the-fast meal I've ever had. But it didn't start that way. We got to church and there was a package of tortillas and some cilantro sitting on the kitchen counter. I said a prayer in my heart that somehow this meal would be like the 5 loaves of bread and fish story and miraculously the meal would feed everyone sufficiently. And then suddenly, all the food showed up. The Lord inspired Sister Lopez. It was incredible. And what more was miraculous was that all the branch members came and stayed! And they loved it. We had three break-out sessions and taught simply and powerfully the importance of member missionary work. I really felt the Spirit testify to me that this is the Lord's work. Members were really touched and I think it really inspired them to act and think. Our Branch President loved it. I think he was worried too that it would be a flop activity. But we showed him that we are diligent missionaries and that we plan well. It helped to earn his trust. I'm still really grateful that somehow the Lord allowed the activity to work out and be really successful. 

Also, Aridai is the best, best, best! I just love her with my whole heart. We were having a hard time catching her this week and I thought for sure that she was losing interest but we stopped by on Saturday night and we sat down and had a real heart to heart with her. In Zone Conference we talked about asking soulful questions. And to ask with the love of the Savior and so we did. We talked to her about why she needs to read the Book of Mormon and come to church to feel God's love and she just agreed. She wants change so bad. She wants to leave everything behind in her life. We were planning her lesson today and I got so excited thinking about sharing scriptures with her. We will read Isaiah 1:18 and Alma 36:17-20. Sweet, sweet is the joy that comes from the powerful joy of change and repentance. I can't wait to share that with her. 

I really love everything about being a missionary. I have never felt so close to my Father in Heaven. I have been praying this week to be more converted to the Lord and to the work. I want to lose myself in the work. I want to be an Elder Holland and give every fiber that I have to this gospel. And I've felt His help this week. It's hit me hard this week how every moment that we live is short. We've got to live! My one regret on my mission is that I only have 13 months left. I want to savor every sweet bit of being a missionary because this is incredible work. We are the Lord's hands. And more than any sacrifice it takes to be a missionary, the Lord blesses us triple, quadruple. I'm a better person. I was reading in my journal from my first weeks to now and I've changed. My heart has changed. I still have a long way to go but the Lord is helping me to change. 

I'm forever grateful that the Lord trusted me to send me here, to marvelous Spokane, Washington, to bring His precious souls back to Him.

I love you! 

Love, Hermana Judd