Monday, July 21, 2014

Week 41: Sudden surprises

This week didn't have too much happen, so I was going to enlighten you all on the craziness of a Sunday in the life of a Salt Lake City missionary.
Instead, we got a phone call from President Hansen this morning.
Sister Bill has been called as a Sister Training Leader and is going to Centerville with Sister Shields!
Which means....
Sister Lwin, Sister Banaña, and I are in a trio over the whole stake again!!
Woot woot!
Sister Lwin will move into our apartment with us. It's an Emergency Transfer - one of the sisters is going home in the middle of the transfer and so Sister Bill is replacing her. Sister Lwin is done with training but we do have language study now! Sister Banaña has been out 9 weeks, Sister Lwin 6 months.

Basically, it's been a super overwhelming morning.
I'm super excited about being over the stake again. Just overwhelmed by all that needs to happen today. So it's going to be a little short today.

The scriptures of my mission thus far. I love these two places so so much.

Our appointments fell through one night, so our super fast bathroom break turned into an invitation from the Spanish branch to join their Book of Mormon study group! It was SO COOL! My Spanish is a little better than I thought it was :) The best part was being able to feel the Spirit testify of the truthfulness of what was being taught, despite the language barrier. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know the prophecies and the promises contained in that book will all be fulfilled, and they have been! Alma 37:17 I love the spiritual power that comes from reading, studying, pondering, and praying about the Book of Mormon every single day.

We had a rough time this week where most of our investigators dropped us - they either ignored us for long enough, stopped keeping any commitments, or told us they didn't want to meet anymore. It was really hard to see these people I love so much choose to not accept the gospel - the one thing that can really allow us to experience joy in this life. It just breaks my heart. I can't even begin to describe it. Our Heavenly Father loves us even more, and I just think of how much it must hurt Him when we choose to not follow the commandments He has given us. Yet, He still allows each one of us to choose for ourselves. Our job as missionaries is to teach clearly, simply, and powerfully enough to help our brothers and sisters make the correct choice.

Like I said, short email this week. The gospel is true! It is the only source for us to enjoy true, lasting happiness both in this life and in eternity. I know our Savior, Jesus Christ lives! He loves us! Through His Atonement, we can return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father. I love being a missionary. I love sharing this joy with others! I invite each one of you to pray, to read the Book of Mormon each day. This is the greatest blessing in my life, and I am so grateful for this time I have to share the gospel with my brothers and sisters.

I love you all! Remember to smile and expect miracles!
Sister Holbrook

A lovely rainbow to close a beautiful, rainy Sunday.

Happy First Encampment! There's a park in our stake commemorating the spot where the first pioneers came and camped after Brigham Young said, "This is the place." They have a celebration 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Week 40: Shall we not go on in so great a cause?

I realized this week just how much I love my mission. "The attitude you have toward your mission experience is a reflection of your love toward your Heavenly Father and His Son and your respect for the priesthood." Preach My Gospel page 151

I never want this time to end. I am exhausted and frustrated sometimes, but I love these people so much. If only they would use their agency correctly... oh well. I love being able to devote all my time and attention to serving and helping and teaching my brothers and sisters, these other children of Heavenly Father. I wouldn't trade this time for anything. 

Carly was baptized back in December. She got a calling early in February (an assignment to serve in the ward) and hasn't been to church since then. We were finally able to get an appointment set up with her this past week. We had an AMAZING visit with her! She knew the gospel was true the first time she heard the story of Joseph Smith's First Vision. We talked with her about some of the concerns she has, mostly with being overwhelmed right after she was baptized with various things, and then school and work and starting her own business became consuming, too. 

This week, we'll be reading the Book of Mormon with her, and she is so excited! She read all the pamphlets, but the missionaries before never really taught her official lessons. So we're going to go through the lessons with her and help her progress to the temple. She committed to work towards the end of August for going to the temple to do baptisms. We are so excited for her! Her testimony is incredible, and her love for the gospel is already inspiring. I am so blessed to be surrounded by such faith-filled people and to have the opportunity to work with them to strengthen that faith even more.

We had fun adventures visiting people in one of our wards with Sister Abraham, a ward missionary. We met Coralia (see story below) and some Young Men-age boys who she invited to an activity that night. Afterwards, she fed us lunch and we just visited and heard her life story. And learned to say a few things in American Sign Language :) It's amazing to see the difference between those who have been truly converted to the gospel and let Christ be at the center of their lives, as opposed to those who let everything else in the world get in the way.

"Our mortal lives are a constant struggle between choosing a oneness with God or a oneness with the world." -Tad R. Callister, "The Infinite Atonement"

We had a blast helping Sister Larsen, one of the widows in the ward, clean out her sewing room. We found old treasures, lots of dust, and learned lots about sewing and quilting. She shared lots of wisdom about how we can't just talk the talk, we've got to walk the walk before the Lord can truly help us.

This week I brushed up on my Spanish! We went and visited Coralia, a sweet sister from Guatemala who is not a member of the Church. Her two kids go to church every single week and absolutely LOVE it. We visited them with Sister Abraham, and she agreed to a return appointment despite my rusty Spanish translation. We returned with Sister Fletcher (who speaks legit Spanish) and just talked for a bit. Coralia gave us delicious Guatemalan tamales. And then the Spanish Elders arrived and took over. 

What stood out to me from that experience, though, is how her heart has softened because of the examples of her children. Mosiah 3:19 counsels us to become as little children. Their faith and their desire to follow Jesus Christ has brought the Spirit into their home, and Coralia's heart has slowly softened over time.

Prayer, especially praying in faith, has been a huge theme for me this week. Just study pages 93-95 in Preach My Gospel. "You can teach in the Lord's way only by the power of the Spirit, and you receive the Spirit through the prayer of faith." This is His work, and it must be done in His way. I know that as we continually seek the guidance of the Spirit and follow those promptings, the Lord will guide us in where we need to go, what we need to do, who we need to visit, and what to share with each of them. I know that prayer is a sacred time to talk with our Heavenly Father, and I am so grateful that we can take that time to pray any time, any day. Hopefully continually every day! 

3 Nephi 5:13 "Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life."

I love this gospel. I love you all! I know our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live! I know that as we seek His help and guidance and comfort, He will lead us in all that He has for us to accomplish. I know His will is far greater than ours. This is His work. He will not let us fail. 

Remember to smile! 2 Nephi 9:39

Sister Holbrook
(the super duper old one)

You all should explore The front page is packed full of incredible articles and talks that I don't have time to read. So sad. You all should do it for me instead :)

This is a fantastic article that just gives a little extra boost of motivation to share the gospel!

Funny story of the week: Oceanus the Titan and Idaea the Nymph
Congratulations, Holbrook family. We're related to legends.

A few things we learned from Sister Holbrook’s hand-written letters this week:
Her quote from Pres Hansen last week  – SCUFF means Short, Simple, Clear, Understandable, Frequent Lessons.  Sounds like a good thing to use when teaching anyone!
The Utah missions are not allowed to tract – as in knock on doors.  So they try to talk to people in the streets.  Most people are really nice even if they aren’t interested.  They don’t yell at them or call them names, so that is good.

Sister Larsen and me. I love this sweet, wise, tells-it-like-it-is sister. 

Companionship picture!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Week 39: The Miracle of Air Conditioning

I have to be honest. 
We had a lot of amazing things happen this week. 
But the best was definitely when the Smith's were able to get us an air conditioning unit. 
I am so incredibly grateful.

New companion
Sister Banaña is absolutely AMAZING. I am so grateful for her motivation and desire to make miracles happen. Sometimes she's totally scared to do something, but she does it anyway because she knows it will help her to be a better missionary. She loves the Book of Mormon and isn't afraid to share her testimony. 

From a logistical perspective: She is from the Philippines but has lived in Brooklyn for five years. She is fluent in both Tagalog and English. She wants to study graphic design. She did 3 semesters at a college in the Bronx. She has 4 siblings - 3 older sisters and a younger brother who is also working on his mission papers.

Happy Fourth of July!! Today... is our independence day! 
As a missionary, we had a normal proselyting day. It was definitely an interesting way to spend the holiday - none of the usual outdoor picnic with a late fireworks show. 
BUT. There was a different perspective. In the Book of Mormon, this is considered the promised land. And being a missionary, you have a whole new appreciation for religious freedom. Being with Sister Bill, Sister Lwin, and Sister Banaña from different nations of the world, I have learned an even greater appreciation for the freedoms and luxuries we enjoy here in the United States (especially air conditioning). I am so grateful for those early settlers and leaders who made this country into the nation of freedom that it is today. I love America, and I love this gospel!

What we did do that day: normal morning studies, weekly planning, then a rocket launch! We talked about the principle of obedience, how this is the promised land where the Restoration of the gospel in the last days occurred, and how we need to have faith to go to farther heights. Then our regular zone meeting (BELIEVE in the promises of the Lord!), met with one of our less-active members, grabbed Jimmy John's for dinner, and met two new investigators! 

Miracles of the Week

CarlyCarly is one of our recent converts who hasn't been to church since a few weeks before we came into the area. We have been calling, texting, awkwardly stalking, knocking the door, and working through her roommate to try and get in touch with her these past few months. No luck. 
Saturday we had a few minutes before our next appointment, and I felt that we needed to go see Carly. We knocked on the door, AND SHE FINALLY ANSWERED!! Oh my goodness I almost cried I was so happy. We got a return appointment set up, and later she asked if she could feed us that day, too. The Lord truly is in charge, and He never forgets His children. 

Shando: We had a fun experience this week with them. Their neighbors downstairs told us they had moved and no longer lived there, and then Shando's mom wouldn't answer her phone. We were freaking out. Turns out they just spent the holiday weekend with her mom in Bountiful. That was a HUGE sigh of relief when they showed up at church yesterday. 
On the bright side, Maki (Shando's older brother) is showing more interest now! He has been pretty against the church until now, and so we are going to start teaching him as well! Hopefully he and Shando can be baptized on the same day :)

GenerallyThe area is doing really well. The ward mission leaders are working more closely with us, especially this past week, in helping us to get members out to lessons with us. They are doing visits with us and starting to even set up appointments for us! The members of the wards know who we are and that we want to help. I have been able to really see a mindset change these past few months as the members have grown more excited about missionary work and sharing the gospel. It is an exciting thing to be a part of the hastening of the work!

Teaching Lesson 5

I love Preach My Gospel. I love the miracles that follow as we fully apply the principles in that book. The First Presidency recently made a change so that we teach lesson five - the Laws and Ordinances, more commonly known as the new member lessons - before baptism as well as after. This allows us to teach about Priesthood and Auxiliary organizations, like the Relief Society, Youth, and Primary, the importance of missionary work, temples, family history, eternal marriage, service, and continually enduring to the end before they are baptized, setting the expectation for continuing on in the gospel throughout their whole lives. 

I know that we are going to continue to see new and returned members stay continually active as they learn about and recognize their role in continuing to stay true to the gospel their whole lives! I was able to help teach a youth lesson yesterday about covenants and ordinances. I know that we will be protected and far happier as we do those things that allow us to keep our covenants - our promises with God. I know He blesses us as we do that. see Alma 47:5-18. Think of the mountain as the temple!

The gospel is true! Fasting and prayer in faith brings forth miracles. Families can be together forever, if we live according to how our Heavenly Father has asked us to live. This gospel is meant for us all to return to live with our Heavenly Father and be eternal families. I know the Plan of Salvation is the plan of Happiness. I know He loves us. I know the Atonement is real. I know Jesus Christ lives and loves us! I know that as we turn to Him and rely on Him, He will help us through all the trials of this life. 

I love you all! Remember to smile and expect miracles!

Sister Holbrook

PS Mr. Frederickson (the old guy from UP) lives in one of my wards. But he goes by the name of Bro. Prescott and he teaches Sunday School. And he used to be a baptist preacher. He's great :)

Our first companionship picture! Sister Banaña is the best :)

Our district with our Fourth of July rocket! Elder Meza, Elder Carillo, Elder Lopez, Elder Jensen, Sister Banaña, me, Sister Bill, and Sister Lwin! #districtbforever

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Week 38: The people, the miracles, and transfers

The results are in and..... I'M STAYING IN WELLS!!!
I'll have more information on my new companion next week. I think she's been out six weeks so I'll be finishing her training. Her name appears to be Sister Banaña. It's going to be amazing.

You want to know the best part of this story, though?
The only person leaving from our stake is Sister Tucker. And she's whitewashing with another sister who she was in the MTC with. IN BOUNTIFUL. 
The other five of us missionaries 

Oh the excitement of transfers. 

"Change is part of the doctrine of Christ." -Sister Banks
As we repent, we overcome the "But that's just who I am" and become "That's who my Heavenly Father wants me to be." I love the process of repentance and becoming more like our Savior and Father in Heaven! What an incredible blessing to be able to apply the Atonement in our lives!

Also you all should look at page 40 of the July Ensign because those are some dear sisters from this wonderful mission! Love them all. And it's a great article. 

Moral of this week: drink at least 10 water bottles a day if you want to be a fully functioning missionary in the heat and no air conditioning. 

My family (aka parents) wants to know about how my Sunday was. Get ready for the half-craziness of being 

Ally is doing amazing!! We had a Temple Square lesson with her on Saturday about following the prophet and the importance of family history work and eternal families. I love Temple Square. The Spirit is so strong there. Ally basically bore her testimony of every single principle we taught her. She accepts and soaks up everything. She is so prepared to be an active member of the Church and to let the gospel bless her life! I love her so much! It was kind of sad, because we had to pass her on to the YSA Elders that day. But we're still keeping in touch and will definitely be at her baptism in a few weeks!

Shando is a nine-year-old boy the Elders were teaching before we got here and we were finally able to get in to their house! We had a powerful lesson at the church building with them on Friday. We had them sit in the very front row right in front of the sacrament table. We then talked about the importance of coming to Church and why we need take the sacrament. They all were able to feel the Spirit testify to them of Christ and His Atonement. It was an amazing experience, and I hope to use the church building more with our investigators.

Sister Ash is a member who I was visiting with one Sunday before Relief Society started. She asked us to stop by, so we thought we would just get to know her and share the first lesson and see if she knew anyone in the area. As we started visiting, it turns out she has some real concerns with her faith. We shared the first lesson - the basic principles of the gospel - and bore our testimonies that this gospel is true. We invited her to read the Book of Mormon every day, and so far, she has been doing it.

That visit had me thinking for a while - how many of us keep the outward commitments that we need to, but inside we doubt and question and don't really know? I know we can receive those answers for ourselves if we are willing to put forth the effort and ask our Heavenly Father. He will answer our prayers. He is always there. I know the gospel is true because I have asked for myself. I invite each one of you who may be struggling in your faith to pick up the Book of Mormon, read and study, and then ask God if it's true. Believe that He will answer you. 

Our choices define our destiny. We can choose to act or be acted upon. It frustrates me when people we're working with blame all these outside circumstances on their inability to come to church, to read the scriptures, or even to pray. There are some circumstances that merit the excuse, but when those excuses become the norm, that's when it becomes a problem and faith begins to decrease. I promise that if we choose to make those things the priority in our lives, we will see our faith grow and strengthen until it cannot be shaken. Helaman 5:12

Funny moments:
We had a great visit with two activity day girls this week. The quote of the week comes from them: "Why is your face so pretty?" and "Is your car prettier than you?"

Sister Bill and I may have re-enacted all three High School Musicals for Sister Lwin... It was pretty fantastic. "In the movie, she doesn't fall." Good times :)

Also one of our Relief Society presidents made caramel popcorn and it was SO GOOD. Mom, yours is better, but it was still a wonderful treat that I have missed.

1 Nephi 1:20 - Tender mercy of the week: Bro Arnold invited us to the youth's last camp night that was at the church building because of rain. We came, and they gave us literally ALL of the leftover food. Which was amazing because we had just run out of food in our fridge. 

Basically, this week was a testimony builder of the promises in Doctrine & Covenants 84:80-88. And you should all read verses 76-80. SO POWERFUL. The section about "Follow the Prophet" in lesson 4 of Preach My Gospel is pretty amazing, too. 

I love you all! The gospel is true! Life is absolutely amazing. I love this work. I love being a missionary and serving with all that I have. I love this area and these people. I love my Heavenly Father and Savior. I know They live and love us!! I know that as we turn to Him, He will lead and guide us in all we need.

Remember to smile and expect miracles!

Sister Holbrook

Mosiah 14/Isaiah 53 is one of my all-time favorite chapters.

Our last visit together to 7/11 - a Saturday night post-correlation tradition.

Elder and Sister Larsen, my mission grandparents. They have helped us so much with some of our investigators! They will finish their mission in a few weeks.