Monday, December 30, 2013

Acting on the Spirit Daily

Dear Family,
It was great seeing you on Skype! Thanks for singing to me, I really loved that.
This week I saw a coyote walking alongside the road. Being closer to the mountains, we see a lot of deer, but first time to see a coyote here.

For Christmas, We had 2 breakfasts, a lunch, and a dinner. We spent the day with members, but we took time to always share a message, invite them to pray to share the gospel and invite others to meet with us. Looking at this ward's past, the only converts have been through members, and its been over a year since they had any. So with that said, some new year's goals Sister Olsen and I have are to just work hard and live the rest of our mission with happiness and satisfaction. I want to enjoy it and see miracles. We want to start off the Alamo 1st ward's new year by having baptisms and reactivations. This quote from President Uchtdorf's Talk, "Your Potential, Your Privilege" sums up a goal of mine for the whole year of not letting a day go by without acting on the Spirit.:
"The words written in the scriptures and spoken in general conference are for us to “liken them unto [ourselves],”7 not for reading or hearing only.8 Too often we attend meetings and nod our heads; we might even smile knowingly and agree. We jot down some action points, and we may say to ourselves, “That is something I will do.” But somewhere between the hearing, the writing of a reminder on our smartphone, and the actual doing, our “do it” switch gets rotated to the “later” position. ...let’s make sure to set our “do it” switch always to the “now” position!
As you read the scriptures and listen to the words of the prophets with all your heart and mind, the Lord will tell you how to live up to your...privileges. Don’t let a day go by without doing something to act on the promptings of the Spirit...If we are not seeking to use this channel of revelation, we are living beneath our ...privileges... Let us earnestly seek the light of personal inspiration. Let us plead with the Lord to endow our mind and soul with the spark of faith that will enable us to receive and recognize the divine ministering of the Holy Spirit for our specific life situations and for our challenges and ...duties."
I had a day this week, where I did a lot of work of tracking down people, knocking on doors and trying to talk to many. However, by the end of the day it was not very fruitful. This made me ponder what went wrong. I realized I hadn't really asked the Lord where He wanted me to go, instead I focused on checking off what was in the planner. While this is good, it could have been better, because He knows where His prepared children are. I read a story about some missionaries who prayed at every single street and house until they both confirmed for sure that a particular house was the one that was prepared. They knocked, said they were representatives of Jesus Christ and they had a message for them, and they let them right in!
Then on Sunday we had a general authority randomly come to our sacrament. It was Bishop Davies from the presiding bishopric. It was an amazing meeting, the Spirit was so strong. He apparently used to go to our ward, but he hasn't been in our chapel in 21 years. He said he remembers when he was here last time, one of the being-released bishopric members didn't get a chance to share his testimony, and so at the pulpit on the spot he called up this brother. So after 21 years, he was able to give his departing testimony haha. I think about how general authorities always have to rely on inspiration and act on it with how many people they visit. Sister Olsen and I also got to talk to Sister Davies his wife. She was so amazing! She talked to us about their time as mission presidents, and she talked to our members asking them if they were finding for us.
Anyways, so summary of the week, I have been setting goals to rely and act on the Spirit even more, and I know that the Spirit acting through the members and missionaries, will do the Lord's work, and do it right.
Much Love,
Sister Martin

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry and Bright

Happy Christmas Family!
Christmas Online 
Did you forget the challenge from general conference?! You still have 2 days.
For you to please watch, this is so beautiful and moving, it really made me think about how Christ's miraculous life really did start in a manger.
Catholic High School
I really really love this season. The Spirit is so strong. I love my Savior and all He has done. My life is the way it is because of Him. I love being His missionary and getting to share His message.
This week we had a unique experience in getting to share that message. We were asked by a local Catholic high school world religions class to come answer questions. Sister Olsen and I were asked to help with this, so we went one morning to stand up in front of an all girls class. They presented their report and slideshow first (which only had a little false doctrine ;)) , the slideshow being titled "The Mormons", and then said they had some guests here to answer questions. They had soooo many! They asked why we were called Mormons, and I explained a little about the Book of Mormon, and how we got out nickname from a prophet who wrote in it, and I said I didn't mind being called that, he was a pretty cool guy :). They mostly asked about serving missions, but when they asked about crazy or scary experiences, we talked about the Holy Ghost, and that spurred more questions on what the Holy Ghost felt like. Afterwards, the girls in charge of us escorted us back to the office, and told us on the way that we were the most interesting and exciting religion that has presented to them :)
This week was also another wake up call to the reality of the Savior and the Plan of Salvation. One of the recent converts in East Bay ward passed away this week. He was just baptized last year in September, and transferred to our ward. We never got to teach him, he said he didn't want the lessons from us, he wasn't comfortable with sisters. However, now I know he was suffering from schizophrenia.This Sunday he took away his life (which is apparently common when people who suffer from this reach middle age). We attended the funeral on Saturday, where his completely nonmember, mostly Catholic, family was all there. They chose to have an LDS funeral in honor of his decision to be baptized. His parents were great in expressing how much the church helped him find peace and knowledge that God was there. He had said he wouldn't be able to keep going in life if he didn't know God existed. He was an all-American guy, a leader, played water polo and track for UCLA, so a lot of UCLA athletes were there, as well as his coach from high school. His girlfriend from East Bay ward was there as well. We stayed around and served there all day. We talked to some people and had great conversations. Offered missionaries, they kindy declined, but readily accepted our invite to learn more from or talk to missionaries on the streets when they see them. They said they liked the scriptures read from the Book of Mormon (Alma 7 and 40 were quoted frequently). I know this good brother is no longer suffering and that he will be made whole one day due to Jesus Christ. His girlfriend told me later she knew that the messages shared at his funeral were what he would have wanted his family to hear. I know hundreds heard the word of God and the Plan of Salvation and this will affect them all one day. Also, interesting I had to do a presentation on this particular affliction at BYU, the Lord really has prepared me in so many ways to better understand things and serve my mission here.
I am grateful that the Savior makes things more merry as we experience the joys of this mortal life, and also that He sheds brighter light on the harder times.
Merry Christmas! Talk to you in 2 days--face to face!
Much Love,
Sister Martin

Monday, December 16, 2013

Miracles and Moral Authority

Dear Family,
Thanks for your emails and prayers. I have truly been blessed to have you as my family, I can't thank you enough. I love talking about what my family does at Christmas and holidays to others here. And to be able to testify how the gospel has blessed my family is always hearfelt and true.
The fancy thing I did this week was attend a ward council "get together", aka have a catered dinner in a mansion. They served us appetizers, then basil chicken, steak tips on a stick, samon, rolls, fancy potatoes, fancy flourless chocolate cake thing with cream sauce on top, etc. I felt like I was at a wedding. Everyone here is so successful. You have to be to afford it! And yet, you wouldn't think we would find people to teach---wrong!!!
This week alone we had many miracles. First, after seraching through the area book and finding a name and address but no other record about one person, we decided to stop by. I was on exchanged when this happened, but SIster Olsen told me what happened. This woman answered the door and said right away "You're Mormons." After a pleasant conversation, learned her family had JUST moved in 3 weeks before. They took a Christmas pamphlet and said we could come back. So the next day when Sister Olsen and I were back together, we took a member and went to their house. Turns out it was a family of 7. Only 6 lived there, but still, how cool that big of a family let us in. The husband is Jewish and the wife grew up southern baptist. But they had us sit around their table and talk. We just wanted to get a feel for how interested they were, and when we invited them to church the husband said they would like to see one of our services. They are going to talk and consider learning from us this week. PLEASE PRAY HARD FOR THEM. They would be such a wonderful addition to our ward and such awesome people, totally searching. They are new and looking for community as well.
Also, miracles of visiting our members. As soon as we come over, they are like "sit down sisters, we have some people to talk about." and they launch right into referrals. Recently our stake presidents were taught by area 70 to have"moral authority", which means you cant just stand up at the pulpit begging members to share the gospel, you have to be able to say "look what happened to me" so now they (the stake presidents) all have to write and email and report to the area 70 about their personal missionary experiences---weekly!  And that is trickling down to the stake presidencies reporting to the stake presidents,etc. We happen to have a member of the stake presidency in our ward so he is all fired up and ready to help us now that he is having experiences. Our area 70 told us about this at last weeks zone conference, it's so exciting, the stories we have heard are incredible. The area 70 asked us as full time missionaries to help members know how to pray for opportunities. Some of our members are finding families! I love Alamo!!
Ok, speaking of zone conference, the time we spent with the area 70 was the highlight for sure. Before he even started, he just walked around the room and walked right up to random sisters and elders and asked them where they were from and what they wanted to do with their life. He just got to know us before he ministered to us. Such a great example of love and leadership! He says its always best if you ask someone 15 things about themselves before you get them to listen to you. So then he told us about his childhood, and he brought in a larg bag of marbles. He said he was the marble champion, but one day at school the marbles all spilled out of his pockets, and he got in trouble. So his mother made him a drawstring bag. He said usually we can help all our scattered problems with one thing. In this case, it is the Book of Mormon. He challenged us to study the questions of the soul more, and how we can answer them with the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is like the drawstring bag. I don't know if I typed that right or if that made sense, but basically use the Book of Mormon more to help people resolve their concerns(the marbles). Then he taught us about moral authority, and what our own stake leaders were doing to share the gospel. And he didn't say it, but it was clear from the Spirit that that is how we ourselves help people into the gospel. Love them and invite them, share experiences, not just talk at them. Same with us also working with members, help them share the gospel by loving them and saying look at what we are doing, not convincing them. It was so so good. I had been feeling stressed the entire conference, which made me a bit sad seeing as it was my last zone conference. I was stressed with constantly having to last minute play the piano for everything, including multiple special musical numbers, and also giving a training 3 times. So to have such inspiration from a leader was so uplifting. Part of the reason I know this is God's church is by the fruits of the leadership. How can they not be men of God?
Sister Martin

Monday, December 9, 2013

#ChristmasDevo and Alamo

Dear Family,

First, I thought it was hilarious that during the 1st presidency Christmas devotional, in the corner was a little twitter sign, "#ChristmasDevo" --so hip church! Hashtag the gospel!!!!

#Alamoisamazing. #Ilovemycompanion
This week has been THE craziest!! Every day is an adventure with Sister Olsen. We are constantly laughing and having a blast, but yet we are stoked to be together and work hard and turn around Alamo! Our first day, we had to take care of one of our sisters we are over in my new zone. She was training, and had to wait to pick up her new companion, so it felt like a giant trio slumber party! And we saw miracles on the first day! The first man we walked up to at his garbage can let us in his house with his wife. She said they have never let in missionaries all these years until now. Then we visited some members, and I don't know what people are talking about, but this ward is doing amazing with missionary work! One of the couples in our ward told us about how they just got a mission call to Hong Kong, only to be personally called from Elder Oak's office a few weeks later!! Then they had a video conference with President Uchtdorf!! They are now being called to serve as a mission president and wife!! They will be so amazing! So President Uchtdorf told them"You only need to know 3 things. Preach My Gospel. Preach My Gospel. and Preach My Gospel." when she shared that with us, it just reminded us how amazing that book is. So anyways, they are having us teach them the lessons to help them prepare! They are so cute, they have all the PMG videos, pamphlets, etc sitting around in their house. AND this means they are praying VERY diligently to have missionary experiences. The sister said she had to go to the bank for the first time in 10 years (I will discuss the richness of this place later), where she ran into an old neighbor from like 22 years ago!! After saying her name, which she completely remembered, they caught up on each others lives. Turns out the neighbor had JUST lost her husband, and was now mad at God. Our member testified about the Plan of Salvation, and when the neighbor didn't want to believe her, up comes ANOTHER MEMBER in the parking lot. She came over, and our member told her what was happening, and the other member just looked at the nonmember and said "It is absolutely true." BY THE MOUTH OF 2 WITNESSES! How cool is that?! Reminded me why we go in companionships. Anyways, so now our futuremissionpresidentwife went over to her house later with chocolate offering chocolates and a hug. They talked some more and then our member invited her to our fancy relief society dinner. She accepted the invite and totally came. We were there, and just got to know her a little. Eventually, she is going to invite her to meet with us!

Sooo speaking of rich, this place is loaded! We are the richest part of the mission. The member I was talking about earlier who said she hadn't been to the bank in 10 years, is so funny and just says"my husband is my ATM. Whenever I want money I just take it from him." I think I have been in like 20 mansions since I got here. One time was for our relief society dinner. It was the men serving us in matching cumberbuns (sp?) and bow ties, with a full blown meal on porcelain plates with wine glasses.  We even had the men chauffeuring and parking everyone's cars. However rich though, they did good in bringing nonmembers, which was the idea. In our last ward, a sister commented how she went out with a rich guy once, partially to use as an opportunity to share the gospel, because quote "missionaries can't get to that door". So profound! We are going to be working really closely with the members here. We will work as hard as we can to find as well, but we know the miracles will come through the members. Even if on Sunday, literally 95%of relief society has gray or white hair. They can share the gospel too! :) Also, I love older people, they are hilarious, which made Sunday so funny. You know our ward is old, when they have an electrical wheelchair lift on the stand in sacrament. And I had to use a microphone to even make a comment in Relief Society. I love it here :) Also, please pray for our investigator, even though there are old people here, we are teaching my first teenager on my mission. She is 14, and the only nonmember in her family. But her family is less active.

Also, Sister Olsen and I had to be on bikes for a day! The elders had to borrow our car to go to Oakland, and so we said "ok we need your bikes then, we have appointments." So we took them. So. Painful. Here is Sister Olsen's version/account of that day for you:

"It's been SO cold here!!!! I'm freezing my buns off!!! Last thursday was the coldest day of the year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And guess what we got to do all day..............................WE WERE ON BIKE!!!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I hated every second of it! haha just kidding! It actually was REALLY fun and it was REALLY FUNNY to watch sister martin struggle on the bike because she's so short!! hahaha we were in our fancy fur coats with tights on and our nice shoes...riding elders bikes. I kept looking back at her and each time I did I almost crashed because I was laughing so hard. I bet we looked RIDICULOUS!! hahaha it was the funniest day of my mission! The elders had to borrow our car to go to Oakland and so we were like okay sure! Give us your bikes and they couldn't believe we wanted to ride bikes! We were like "Well, we have places to go, people to visit! We have appointments all day! We aren't walking!" haha half way through the day I repented and said a prayer for all the missionaries on bike. I take being in car for granted. I now have a new respect for elders and sisters on bike. "

I think that is enough said. Except she was kind enough to not mention when I fell off trying to contact a sweet Asian couple on the street. Haha. Thank goodness our members gave us rides in the evening. Alamo is also super hilly. And riding a bike is so dangerous!We of course had Mission Leadership Council the next day, which was a bunch of sitting for hours!!

We call our car the Jaredite boat. It is a Chevy Malibu, therefore, tight like unto a dish. Horrible turning radius. We miss our Corolla. But we are grateful to not be on bikes!
Sister Olsen and I are also giving a training! AT ZONE CONFERENCE! This is one of the biggest training opportunities, and one of the assistants specifically told me they counseled with President who needed to give the training, and they picked us for our conference! Thankfully we don't have to do it al 3 days, just our own zone conference. We were given the topic of "asking inspired questions". We are so excited, and already have an object lesson planned.This is also the funnest zone conference of the year! We get to do missionary Christmas things, like a white elephant exchange, and our mission president's wife is reading us a Christmas story, and we have a bunch of Chirstmas special musical numbers. We have been soooo busy with meetings and trainings, we are excited to get into more proselyting time together and exchanges this week. I have been feeling so much anxiety about how fast this part of my mission will go. I am so happy, and I don't want to stop being a missionary!

Sister Martin

We are so excited and happy to be together again!! Especially for the holidays :)
1. We were in a trio for a day...funnest night ever!
2. we love bikes:)..hahaha
3. Santa already loves us!!!! :)

More pictures for those of you who can appreciate more pictures of me...:
1)This first pic is at our first district meeting together. We ate these things called "Dropeys" ? Our district leader brought them to us. They are basically licorice with salt. Suuuuper nasty.
2)We have too much fun. This was our first official companion picture.

Monday, December 2, 2013

God Works in Mysterious Ways

First of all, TRANSFERS.
I got transferred to Alamo!! haaaaah I kid you not. Heavenly Father must really want me to learn to do hard things. But I am excited as well because SISTER OLSEN will be my companion! We were MTC companions!! We will be paired-up Sister Training Leaders for the Walnut Creek Zone. We have been praying to serve together again but we started to think we would both really be training our whole mission. Alas, the Lord listens to specific prayers! Hopefully we can help fire up Alamo. I already plan on many Texas/Alamo jokes with the members...
I am sad to leave Sister Evans. She was a huge blessing and example to me of humility and obedience. She has grown tremendously these past 3 transfers. We have laughed and cried through a lot of hard things, relied on the Lord to bring some less actives back, build up a new ward, fired up a few members,and we were even blessed with a miracle baptism. East Bay will be in good hands. She will be receiving a Tongan companion!
Sunday was interesting. We had a scary start to fast and testimony meeting, and we HAPPENED to of course have a random nonmember walk in our doors just to see what it was like. Sister Evans and I both shared our testimonies, and the end was about missionary work and the Atonement, so I hope they left with a better feeling. The guy was not interested in meeting with us, but we gave him and Book of Mormon, our number, a pamphlet, and let him know he was welcome anytime.
Oh yeah, Thanksgiving. We ate a fancy dinner with our bishop and his family. I got to see Katie Ruefenacht again (their daughter, a good friend of mine from BYU). We had a fancy green jello square on a lettuce leaf for an appetizer, multiple silverware, candles, and nametags to our assigned seating. Very fine dining experience! And the only one I needed. Last years four dinners I think were a little much. This one was perfect and delicious. We also did some service and raked our elder's nonmember neighbors yard. Service is the best! I am thankful I get a chance to do it so much on my mission.
Sister Ruefenacht, Bishop's wife, was particularly sad to see me leave. When I told her, she said "oh my gosh....seriously?!...well I guess the church is true...."
Well, my mind is a mess with stress. A lot to do today. So there will be more next week!
Sister Martin