Monday, January 27, 2014

Week 16: I Believe in Cookie Jars

We are not sure what her title has to do with anything :) there is no mention of cookie jars anywhere else. But she did add this in a note to mom:
Oh also just FYI - we're having FHE tonight. With Bishop Eyring's family. And yes, he invited his dad. Who just so happens to be President Eyring.
I'm freaking out. And I'm so excited :) I am beyond blessed to be here. Seriously. 
This was another wonderful, crazy, interesting, productive, and slightly weird week. 
Also my alarm clock died. Good thing Sister Juarez's did not... maybe that's not so good. Still deciding.
Love the mission life :)

Happy birthday to Steven, Brad, Emily, and Jeff! You're all one year older and wiser, too :) 
Thank you to mi familia, Rachel, Sister Eyre, Melanie, and Elder Watkins for some fantastic letters this week!

A simple request: send some notes and cards and letters to Sister Juarez! She needs a little extra love :) Our address is 2008 S 1200 E Bountiful, UT 84010.

We've been switching off with some sick days this week - Sister Juarez adjusting to the amount of food and the business of mission life, and me with a sick stomach and an almost flu-bug that went away thank goodness! I'm learning about soy-free food quite a lot with Sister Juarez :) But we were both up and kicking very soon!! And we have seen some awesome miracles!

We spent a lot of time with the youth this week. We taught a priests quorum - well, two of them - the Restoration lesson, and we led a discussion about hastening the work with a young women group the following night. These youth are so prepared, so excited, and so willing to reach out. We are seeing hearts soften and new people to teach as the youth have been reaching out and inviting their friends. I absolutely love them!

I had a visit to an orthodontist this week to fix a permanent retainer... I love being over a stake and knowing literally every single person I would ever need to know to get something fixed while on my mission.

Thursday was an incredible day!! We had interviews with President Hansen - I absolutely LOVE that man. I am so grateful to work so closely with him while I am on my mission. Then we did some service for a sister in our stake. 
We had an awesome Book of Mormon reading with Marilyn!! She is slowly considering coming back to Church!! We had dinner with our ward mission leader who's wife just applied to be a Church photographer. Which meant she had us model for a few pictures. Gotta love the mission life :) Everyone loves us! 
Then an amazing lesson with one of our investigators where one of the members came with us. We were praying so hard as to how we could help this sister understand the importance of coming to Church, and at the end of the lesson the member bore very powerful testimony and said exactly what that sister needed to hear. I love the members here!!
We were running late we were so busy that night! We headed off to our next investigator lesson where we talked about beliefs and how the world doesn't share religion very much. She prayed at the end and the Spirit was so strong! She started crying during the prayer as she thanked Heavenly Father for having us be willing to talk about our faith. 

We have been meeting with Bishops and Ward Mission Leaders, and let me tell you, great things are happening here! The youth are being prepared, we're doing visiting teaching with Relief Society sisters, and we seem to just have people given to us. The Lord truly is hastening His work!

Saturday we had a Relief Society expo with everyone in the stake! It was incredible! I wish I could just give you all my notes from studies and workshops and Sunday meetings. Basically, there were some amazing things that I learned, and I was so grateful that we were able to be there. Plus we had this awesome display (see attached picture) and had several sisters sign up to teach with us! 

Matthew 17:20
2 Nephi 3 and 4 are amazing!
This is pretty much the coolest song ever.

Miracles happen every single day. I am so grateful to be in this incredible place at this amazing time in the history of the world, and the history of the Church. I am so thankful to all of you for your love, letters, and support. I would not be the person I am today without all of your love and prayers. I am so incredibly blessed, and I just want to help others recognize how much the gospel gives to us. I love being a missionary, and that's because I love this gospel.

I know this to be the true gospel on the earth today. I know that through the Book of Mormon, we can feel the Spirit in greater abundance and draw closer to our Savior. As we come closer to Christ, we can become like our Heavenly Father, and that's our ultimate goal. More than anything, I want others to know just how much Heavenly Father loves them. As a missionary, we get to glimpse a very small part of that. I cannot even imagine just how much He loves each individual. You are His child, and He will do all within His power to bring us joy in this life and in the eternity to come.

I have one invitation. For those of you who read these and are not members of the Church, ask to meet with the missionaries, if for no other reason than to come to understand our beliefs. All we want to do is to invite others to come unto Christ and to feel of His love in their lives. Please do not be afraid to ask questions - it's our job to answer them :)

I love you all. Look for the miracles in every day of your life! Keep smiling, and remember that you are loved! A whole lot :)

Sister Holbrook

The coolest balloon creation ever - an Elder!!!!!
This is one of the most amazing paintings ever. It's by Ann Marie Oborn (who lives in our stake) and it's called "The Gentle Army of the Magnificent Priesthood." 
The three boys in the front are a deacon from the ward, the old Bishop's son who is now a priest, and then Kelon - a boy who joined the Church when he was a senior in high school and then went on to serve a mission in Paraguay. His last baptism was his mom when he got home just this past May! We love their family!! 
In the back row, the first two people are President David Beck's sons, then we have Brother Merrill who is an older man in the ward who is just incredible. They have served several missions and are just the sweetest people. The hymn book is in reference to a verse in 2 Chronicles about how those who were victorious sang :)
So cool.
Our awesome board for a Relief Society event!
the balloon fish someone gave to us... we've named him Bubbles.
P-day activity being twins :)
Board (again)
Mom asked about some of the miracles she has experienced:
The fact that we had so many scheduled lessons. That Tia and Ann came to Church. That Ann is no longer sick and can finally talk to us! That the Bishops here are inspired as to how to reach out to those in their wards. That the youth leaders are inviting us into lessons. That the youth are just wanting to be a part of it all. That I read a certain scripture or got a letter or talked with someone that was exactly what I needed to hear. That Sister Juarez is so ready and raring to go. That 12 Week training is for me just as much as it is for her. That the members tell us about their friends and are inviting them to take the lessons. That people's hearts are being softened, both members and not. There's a lot.

Quote from Bishop Belnap: "The youth have 300 days in the youth program. 300 Sundays and 300 activities. They can no longer be squandered."
Love that man. We are planning this awesome missionary experience for the priests and laurels. It's going to be incredible!





Monday, January 20, 2014

Week 15: Happy Always; Content Never!

There have been a lot of emotions and a lot has been going on this past week. I'm pretty much exhausted, and I'm running on a basically empty fuel tank right now. It's amazing how the Spirit helps carry you, quite literally.
I just love being a missionary! I really really do.
I'm just super tired today.

Mostly this week has been a very humbling experience. Last Monday, I found out that I would be a trainer this next transfer. Which meant Tuesday morning, I cleaned up the place, helped Sister Horseherder and Sister LeSueur pack, and then headed off to the transfer building! We had an amazing meeting with President Hansen and the assistants about being an effective trainer, the importance of the 12 week program, and just a million other things. Then I found out who my knew missionary was:

Sister Juarez from Orange County, California! She was baptized a year and a half ago, loves the gospel, and already adores the area. She picks up on things so quickly and easily, and she was totally prepared in our lessons this week. I absolutely adore her! She is quick to smile and laugh, and we are having a good time together :)

There is so much I need to improve on. Sister LeSueur set the course for my mission, and I know that as Sister Juarez's trainer, I'll be setting the course for her mission as well. Kind of a big responsibility if you think about it. 

I have definitely been praying a whole lot this past week. Prayer works. 

This past week I have had some really amazing study sessions about various topics. The Book of Mormon is amazing. Nephi is one of my heroes! Study meekness, healing, and prayer in the Topical Guide and Bible Dictionary.

The hymns are also scripture to me. As we sing them before our companionship study, the Spirit is present, and we are able to stay focused... for the most part :) I love hymn #141, 151, and #45. The 2nd verse of hymn 45 says: 
Father, all my heart I give thee;
All my service shall be thine.
Guide me as I search in weakness;
Let thy loving light be mine

I love that song. Hadn't heard it until Sunday when we sang it in two different sacrament meetings.

Poor Sister Juarez was roped into speaking in sacrament meeting on her first Sunday in the field. She did an incredible job! The members here are reaching out and loving and inviting people, and we are seeing miracles because of it. I love the people here with all my heart, and frankly I would love to stay here for the rest of my mission. Our talks went well, though! We recapped some points from stake conference, went over a few ideas for what we can do to work with the missionaries (see page 162 in Preach My Gospel) and how our ultimate goal is to see people in the temple. 

"Faith can move mountains, but you better bring a shovel." Faith requires ACTION!!

Watch this incredibly powerful Mormon Message. Heavenly Father and our Savior are always with us, especially as we turn to them in faith.

This truly is our Heavenly Father's work. There is no way I would be where I am now without his constant help and guidance. There is no way Sister Juarez would be able to come the incredible missionary Heavenly Father has planned for her to become if she was just relying on me. When we turn to Him, pray in faith, and go out and work, miracles happen. The Spirit teaches, the love of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are present, and faith increases. 

I love this gospel. I know it to be true. I know the Book of Mormon is true and that by reading it we can draw closer to God. I love being a missionary, and I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. Even the super hard days when you're completely exhausted. Every single bit is worth it to see the gospel change the hearts of others. The Atonement is real, and through Christ we can accomplish anything and everything, be healed, and become like our Heavenly Father.

Stay amazing. Keep smiling. Expect miracles.

I love you all!

Sister Holbrook

The beautiful Bountiful temple 

My desk/personal study area 

Sister Juarez, the best new missionary ever, and myself

Monday, January 13, 2014

Week 14: Home is Where the Heart Is... and that's Mueller Park

Best news in the world: I'M STAYING IN MUELLER PARK! At least for another six weeks :)
Heavenly Father is so kind to me.
I will also be training so I have zero clue as to who my new companion is until tomorrow afternoon. Oh the adventures of missionary life. I love it so much. 

We got a new Stake Presidency yesterday, and I am so excited to be staying to work with them! I am lucky enough to know all of them, and I cannot wait to see what their vision for this new year will be.

Two fantastic quotes from Stake Conference this weekend:
"Don't just say love; DO love." -Elder Evans
"The essence of the gospel is to keep ON, not to keep UP." -Elder Stanley G. Ellis

I am officially 21 years old. Weird. I'm getting old. 
I made myself sticky buns, someone hung up an awesome birthday sign. It was a good morning :)
Then we went to zone conference where we learned all about the new Standard of Excellence for the missions, some new key indicators, and amazing trainings on meaningful prayers, bearing testimony, and continually reaching our goals. 
Our mission motto: We improve every day, week, month, and transfer!
So can you! :)

That night we had a meeting with all of the Bishops and Ward Mission Leaders about the vision for missionary work in the Stake. This area is just exploding right now, and I am so blessed to be able to be here to witness it all happening!! We discussed some ideas in teaching opportunities and a few of the goals the stake has. Each ward will be providing 2 lessons every week so that we will reach a goal of 20 lessons each week!! This transfer is going to be amazing.

A quote from Sister LeSueur: "Don't think. Just do. Especially when it comes to the morning schedule."

I also had a lengthy discussion about football this past week. Apparently I'm a Bears fan and can never talk about the Packers again... oops.

People came up to us during and after the Stake Conference this weekend to tell us about people they have that they want us to teach. Our ward mission leaders have been setting up appointments with new investigators. Referrals have shown to be promising investigators. People love members of this Church and want to understand how the Church came to be. 
Miracles every single day.

All right I am out of time for the day. We are heading off to our last zone lunch together! I love you all dearly. The gospel is true, the book is blue, and Heavenly Father always loves you!


Sister Holbrook
 The zone sisters after our temple day Monday! Sisters Poutu, Henriques, Howell, myself, Pratt, Bill, LeSueur, and Horseherder. We were freezing!

Happy Birthday to me!! And Sister Horseherder :)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Week 13: I Know For Myself

This week has been one of the craziest, most interesting, miraculous, and testimony-building weeks of my life thus far. Yes my life, because let's be honest, I haven't been a missionary for that long :)

To start off, mom requested to write down some things that Sister LeSueur has taught me. That is something I am reflecting on this week, so I am happy to share a few of the thoughts that have come. Sister LeSueur has literally set the course for the rest of my mission. Over everything else, she has taught me how to love literally every single person we meet. She has helped me learn how to plan, how to find out people's concerns, what to teach when, how to be an effective sister training leader, how to be confident in your abilities as a missionary, to journal every day, looking cute and staying comfortable in sister missionary clothes, how to serve your companions, and a million other things. I could not have asked for a better trainer, and I hope that I will always apply those things that she has taught me for the rest of my mission and my life.

A recap of the week:

Monday We had a lesson at Temple Square (best missionary tool ever) and our ward mission leader met us there. We had an amazing lesson with this less-active family about the Priesthood and God's plan for the family. And then someone smashed into our ward mission leader's car and we had to follow him home to make sure his car didn't explode. Let me tell you, prayer works.

Tuesday - The final day of 2013!! Sister LeSueur had a leadership training that morning and later had some sister training leader visits to make to her sisters in Salt Lake. That evening, we spent about 4 hours at this family's home watching movies and playing games. We watched.... wait for it... Wreck-it Ralph!! Such a fantastic movie. And it wasn't awkward to watch because there's no weird romance in it. Perfect for missionaries. Side note: animated Disney movies were approved to watch for our mission that day :) After that movie, I watched a bit of Ephraim's Rescue, then went and read the Book of Mormon for a while.

I had a goal to finish the Book of Mormon by the end of the year, and I was able to accomplish it! I have such a great love for Mormon and Moroni - for all that they went through and did to make sure that we could have the Book of Mormon today. It is amazing the hope and faith that they were able to still have, despite everything they saw and experienced, because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I love that book, and I look forward to reading it again this year. I know that through the Atonement, anyone and everyone can be healed if we will only turn to Him.

Also: if you ever read through 4 Nephi to the end of the Book of Mormon in one day, you'll need a little break so you don't get too depressed. 

Wednesday was a day of encouraging, hugging, and listening to some sisters who needed a little love. And we had an awesome lesson with one of our investigators, Lindsey, about the Plan of Salvation! She is so willing to learn, and we are hoping that as she prays about everything with real intent, she will come to know that it is true.

Thursday Something possessed me to start doing 5-10 minutes of Spanish study every day. It's been awesome to learn some gospel-related Spanish! We went to the Family History Center to work on hastening the work administrative items - we have a meeting with all of the Bishops and Ward Mission Leaders tomorrow night to talk about the stake's vision for this year and how we can get the members even more involved in the work! We also visited some stake high council members - it made me think of Uncle Greg and what an awesome job he must be doing down in Sandy :)

Friday - Zone meeting on testimony and keeping our schedules full. We seriously have zero down time, and now we can be sure of that. More Sister Training Leader visits with Sis. LeSueur. And an amazing lesson with Trudy - a woman who hasn't been to church in 40 years and now wants to get back into it! Seriously, miracles happen every single day here and it's all because the members are involved.

Saturday - Exchanges with Sis. Stanford, during which we painted a house and ripped up carpet. I am a pro at doing both now and so stinking sore. Totally worth it. Then more sister training leader visits in Salt Lake... and me taking Sis. LeSueur's place for a bit since she was unreachable during exchanges. We had some adventures helping out some sisters. But I had an awesome dinner with this guy these sisters are hoping to start teaching. I learned all about inversions and influenza vaccines. Me and Sis. Horseherder came home and had a great lesson with Valerie about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sis. LeSueur stayed in Salt Lake for the night with Sis. Hague.

Sunday I love Fast Sunday! We visited three different sacrament meetings, and Sis. Horseherder went to a Relief Society meeting with Trudy. I love hearing all of these amazing members share their testimonies. This stake has truly caught the vision of hastening the work! 

Then come all the miracles. Yesterday I had been fasting that this week we would see miracles. Nothing terribly specific, I just really want this area to take off before Sis. LeSueur leaves so she can see the fruits of her 9 months in the area. So we went to an appointment with this 9-year-old girl who wants to be baptized, and her family wants to come back to Church! We were able to commit her to February 8th as a day for her to be baptized!!! MIRACLE.
Later that night we had an appointment with Tia. A few weeks ago we received a phone call from her saying she had some issues to work through and she'd call us back, then a week or so later she said she wanted nothing to do with the Church. We could tell something was up, so we gave her some space. During that time, we asked the ward and many members of the stake to pray for Tia. So last week when she called us and told us she wanted us to come over again, we knew it was no accident. MIRACLE. The prayers of faithful members make miracles happen!! 
Turns out her brother had been abusive and didn't want her to have anything to do with the Church. Tia and Julia (the member she lives with) kicked him out, and the Spirit is now in their home, and Tia is ready for the lessons again. We had an amazing talk with her. Tia's faith is absolutely incredible. For example:
me: "Would you like a Priesthood blessing, Tia?"
Tia: "Absolutely!"
me: "Do you know what a Priesthood blessing is?"
Tia: "Never heard of it."
The Bishopric came over and gave Tia an amazing blessing. Heavenly Father works through worthy Priesthood holders to give us the strength, comfort, and healing we need exactly. 
We still have a lot to teach her, but her faith in the gospel is so strong. We were able to commit her to be baptized on March 15th!! MIRACLE!! 

This is not just missionary work - this is the work of salvation, and we all need to be on the Lord's team in building His kingdom!

All right, I've got to head out now. We had an amazing morning at the temple, and now we're off to the craziness of P-day. I love the temple and the peace and perspective it brings into my life.

I know that fasting and prayer and acting in faith brings about miracles. I know that when members work with the missionaries miracles happen. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know the Priesthood is the power of God given to worthy men to exercise in our behalf. I love this gospel, and I love you all! Remember to smile!

Sister Holbrook
The fantastic companionship at Temple Square! Only one week left together... we're going to make miracles happen this week.

Watching Wreck-it Ralph on New Year's Eve with my wonderful companion, Sister Horseherder :)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Week 12: Diary of the One Who Wrote Everything Down for Everyone Else

Happy New Year everyone!!!

Ok seriously, where did 2013 go?! This is craziness. I just got used to writing 2013 on my dates. 
Time just flies on the mission. I have no idea how it happens, and it only gets faster and faster as the end approaches... or so I'm told.

Sister LeSueur leaves in two weeks and I am really not sure what I'm going to do without her. Cry I guess. She is so completely loved and adored by every single person here. We'll probably institute a stake-wide day of mourning when she leaves. I hope to one day be able to completely love people as much as she does. She truly has set the course for my entire mission, and I am so grateful to have had her as my trainer! 

A ginormous thank you to all who have sent packages and letters this past week!! Your support and love and prayers mean so much to me!! Thank you to Sister Ward, the Kurihara's (seriously that CD is on repeat right now), Leisa W, the Highfill's, Sister Adams, Mom and Dad, and anyone else who I am forgetting to list by name.

Skyping with the family was seriously the best time. Nothing's changed too much since I've been gone :) I love you so much familia!! Sorry if I don't respond to your emails all the time :)

Something Sis. LeSueur shared yesterday stuck out to me: We love to get letters from home, and the scriptures are like little letters from home from our Heavenly Father. I love the Book of Mormon!

Read through the lyrics of Hymn #141. The very thought of our Savior should continually inspire us to be better and become more like Him. I love that hymn!

This week was fully of meetings, tender mercies, member visits, recent converts, youth lessons, and pure exhaustion. I love every single second of it. 

We had a fantastic zone activity of sledding last Monday! We seriously live in the most gorgeous place in the world. We were on this hill next to one of our wards, and you could see our whole area beautifully. 
(Everything the light touches is our kingdom. What about that shadowy place? That's the Elders' area. You must never go there Simba.)

I had two experiences this week where I truly was able to see how people let the mission change them. I was able to be in a District Leadership Training meeting with Elder Colton, and later in the week I was able to receive a Priesthood blessing from Elder Williams - two friends from freshman year. It is so incredible to see and interact with them as they truly give their all to serving the Lord. I am so grateful for their examples and for all that they have done on their missions. 

This week has been rather reflective on how my mission has changed me thus far. I look at Sister LeSueur who heads home in two weeks, Elder Eyre who just got home, Elder Colton who heads home this week, and President Hansen who still talks about his mission years later. They have truly let the Atonement reach into their own lives and change them in the best way possible. I hope that I as I continue to give my all, the Savior will also change my heart and instill in me a continual desire to share the message of the gospel and draw nearer to Him each day.

Christmas Eve and Christmas we spent with lots of members - who also invited investigators into their homes - and enjoyed plenty of food. I'm still recovering from that. The members here are absolutely incredible. I cannot praise them enough. They are so generous and loving - Mueller Park is seriously my home now. We went caroling on Christmas to all of the Stake Presidency and stake leadership members. They are such incredible people and so willing to reach outward to others! I love being here at this time!

Lastly, yesterday was crazy. We had three young women's lessons and a young men's lesson. I was thrown to the wolves and sent to teach a combined young men lesson all by myself while the other two went to a young women group. Advice for me on teaching young men in the future? Nathan? I think it went well. The young men asked some awesome questions about getting ready to serve. Something we did in both lessons (that I helped with at least) was give them a sheet of paper and have them write down 2-3 things. 

Challenge: pull out a piece of paper and do it, too!
1. Think of a non-member or less-active friend and write their name down. Pray for that person every day this week.
2. Write down one thing you will do to bring them closer to Christ this week.
3. (for Young Men's lesson) Write down one thing you will do this week to prepare yourself to bring others closer to Christ.
4. Sign and date the piece of paper. Then put it in your scriptures or another place where you will see it every day!

My time is up. Know that I love you all dearly. This gospel is true! Miracles happen when we act in faith and pray for people by name. Expect miracles. Look for the hand of God. And remember the love our Savior has for you.

Also read 3 Nephi 11-27. Christ's teachings are just amazing. 
3 Nephi 22:7 especially hit me this morning. The Lord truly has our needs at heart and if we look for them, we can see tender mercies every single day. 
Ezekiel 36:26 The Bible talks about a change of heart, too! :)

A thought from this past district meeting: When we sit down for our daily or weekly planning, we aren't just planning to change someone's hour or day or week; we are planning to change their eternity.

I love you! Keep smiling!

Sister Holbrook
 With JAMPA - the cutest and smartest nine year old ever - on little Christmas Eve with her grandparents. She was baptized earlier this year and is absolutely amazing.

Zone Christmas Breakfast at an old Mission President's home 

 Zone Sledding Activity

Love the Bountiful Temple! 

Post-Sledding ... We found a matching plate! haha 

I am the tallest one of the group 


So Sister Smith and I played Sleigh Ride... except she hadn't played it in 9 years and I don't know the top part. 'Twas fun.