Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Week 46: Scatter Sunshine

We sang that yesterday and I thought of my fantastic mom and sisters :) Love you!

This has been a long week that flew by in a heartbeat. 

Renee. One of our reactivated members is this fiery, eighty-year-old lady that I just adore. We had a fabulous lesson with her last week about missionary work and this week about tithing. She has so many questions, and we have a good time trying to figure out the answers together. I also was able to go a temple preparation class with her and Sister Watson (her best friend on the street) on Sunday. She says some of the greatest things and asks the best questions. Her quotes of this week:
"I was born with the instruction book: open mouth, insert foot."
"If you don't believe the Book of Mormon, you might as well jump off a bridge. Because that's as far as you'll ever get."

I always learn something new from Renee because of the questions she asks. I am so grateful that our Heavenly Father promises to answer our questions! We simply need to have the faith to ask and the patience to wait for those answers. I know He does answer.

Julie has been doing amazing! She is being baptized this Saturday and I couldn't be more excited!! She loves the gospel and loves reading her scriptures and praying every day. Her parents respect her decision, though they are not the happiest about it. But they all say that she is good to be baptized this week, and Julie has a great desire to stay faithful and do all that she knows she should. 

It has been a huge testimony builder for me of our examples in our families. The rest of her family may never accept the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but because of her choices, she is inviting the Spirit into their home and helping there be an attitude of love and respect that hasn't been there before. We all have an incredible influence on the people around us, but especially our families. I know our families can be together forever!

We had a powerful lesson on tithing with Anne, one of the first people I met in this area. Tithing truly is a principle of faith, not money. I know our Heavenly Father's promises are certain when we give our all to be exactly obedient to the commandments He gives us. He wants to bless us! We just have to choose if we will let Him do so.

We also went to Temple Square twice this weekend - once with Ben and then Sunday with the Ballenger family (see attached picture). With Ben, the member who came with us was able to bear bold, powerful testimony of the importance of the Book of Mormon and how our families can be together for eternity. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know that no matter the questions we have, if we come to know the Book of Mormon is true, then this gospel must be true. I also know that there is no halfway in this. We must either choose the side of God or the other side. I pray that each one of us will ultimately choose the side of God so we may return to live with Him.

Finally, zone conference. We had the incredible opportunity to hear from Elder Mervyn B. Arnold of the Seventy in our zone conference yesterday. I know God speaks through those He calls to do His work. I know we can each receive revelation - meaning, we can each know what our Heavenly Father needs us to know. Just a few key points from the meeting:
  • We cannot do this work alone. We need our Heavenly Father's help. But we also need the help of every single member. We must go out and earn the trust of the members, doing all within our power to do so.
  • This is the time to drive combines, not to throw around sickles when it comes to the harvest. The Lord is hastening His work, and there are people who ready to receive the message of the gospel, IF we will ask them!
  • Talk to everyone. Never leave them without an invitation to do something, because that invitation (or commitment) is an invitation to repent, which we all have to do to return to live with our Heavenly Father.
  • Commitments extended are sacred. We must help them become commitment-keepers so that they will one day be covenant-keepers.
  • Let everyone feel your love. This is a gospel of love and joy, and when people know you truly love them, they will have a desire to keep those commitments.
We are as busy as ever and doing our best to stay on top of all that needs to be accomplished. We could not do this work without our Heavenly Father's help, and I am so grateful for His hand guiding every aspect of this work. Thank you for your prayers, letters, love, and support. I have the best family and friends I could have ever asked for. This time to serve the Lord is precious, and I will forever treasure the lessons, the people, and the change that I have experienced here.

Mom asked me to share this story about Sister Lwin's family:
Sister Lwin's family was baptized in Myanmar when she was 11 years old. Her dad's friend invited them to come to church - that's the only way they can do missionary work in Myanmar - and they converted from Buddhism to Mormonism because of the Spirit they felt. Her dad had a dream of the Salt Lake Temple and everyone being in white, and so when they saw the picture of the Salt Lake Temple, they knew that was where they needed to be. Sister Lwin's dream is to have her family all together in the Salt Lake Temple. When she submitted her mission papers, she prayed and prayed that she would be able to come to Salt Lake so she could see the temple. And here she is! Her faith amazes me and inspires all around her. 

The gospel is true! Our Savior, Jesus Christ lives! I know these things because I have found out for myself. I know that each one of us is a loved daughter or son of God. I know He wants each of us to return to Him. I invite each one of you to begin today in praying to Him each day. I know that as we pray every day, His Spirit and His love will be abundant in our lives, and we will feel of His guidance in all we do. 

I love you all! Remember to smile and look for miracles :)
Sister Holbrook

One of the families we're teaching are all band geeks and color guard nerds. So I still got my fair share of band camp this year. I can't escape.

Great things: Share Goodness and here's the text for the talk

Temple Square with the Ballenger family!

Companionship selfie while we were waiting to pick up some other Sisters. I love these two :)
Missionaries like to have fun, too :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Week 45: #wellsmission

This is one of those humbling, chastening, miraculous, exhausting, fantastic, and interesting weeks that dragged on for a long time and has brought about a lot of change, both outside of and within ourselves.

Friday we got a text from our zone leaders at 3:00pm that said "Hey can you Sisters move at 9 tonight?" 

I freaked out. It was the cherry on top of a very large pile of whipped cream that week that made it all topple over. Second meltdown of my mission: check. 

I love this area with all my heart. I am so grateful for the trials and the lessons and the change of heart that has happened to me these past several months. I loved my first area because it was easy to love. I love this area even moreso because of the fight it's required to truly love this area and these people. I am so excited for these next weeks here, for the challenges and the growth that Heavenly Father still has in store for each of us. The people here are amazing. I love them so much! 

I have been slightly discouraged with my health the past few weeks. I ended up with a bad head cold this weekend once I thought I'd completely recovered from the dehydration of the weeks before. The Lord asks us to give our best, and I'd been feeling that I just couldn't give more because nothing was there to begin with. I have been really striving to be more strictly obedient, more focused on the people, and really giving back to Him every ounce of what He gives me each morning. I had several humbling experiences this week with various people essentially telling me I didn't know enough, I wasn't good enough, and that I hadn't given enough. Essentially, the past few weeks have left me with a bit of a shock to my personal self-worth.

Sunday night we had a family home evening with a family that we've been helping to come back to church. The mom shared with us as we were eating dinner how the timing of when we came, the messages we had been sharing, and even something as simple a song we sang in a lesson had confirmed the fact that she needed to come back to church. She and her husband are on track to be sealed in the temple next May now, and they are all on board with that plan. She still has questions, but she remembers why she joined the church, and she feels the need to be back active in living the gospel. She had no idea, but I needed to hear that. 

I know our Heavenly Father is in charge of this work. I know I am not perfect. But I know that He will give me His strength and guidance in all things. I know He is aware of each one of us and exactly what we need. He knew I needed someone to tell me that what I was doing was worth every single second of rejection, criticism, and struggle. Seeing someone choose to follow Christ and to let His love into his or her life makes every moment of my mission worth being here. I love this gospel! I love this work! I love these people more than words can say. I will forever be grateful for that experience, and for her following the Spirit to share that with us.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is just as much for YOU as it is for the person sitting next you. It's just as much for the missionaries as it is for who they teach. Our Father in Heaven loves each of us, and He wants to help and bless us all. We simply must do what He asks of us - to keep His commandments and give our very best while relying on His help.

I was reminded this week of a quote "Life is hard. Not the gospel." At first, these commandments may seem burdensome, or perhaps even ridiculous. But when we start living them in faith, Heavenly Father can then pour out his blessings upon us. We come to learn that the gospel actually makes our lives easier, more fulfilling, and we experience true joy as we gain the guidance and strength of heaven in our lives.

Well, the rest of it all is basically funny quotes:
"He tore his ACL and MCL and his MC Hammer, and you just couldn't touch this." Bro. Ballen
"But she got it right so she won a hug." -Kara
"What happens at the end of the Book of Mormon?" "Jesus comes in and saves the day!"
While wearing my "Everyday is game day" BYU t-shirt "Everyday is SUNDAY." -Sister Lwin
I love you all. The gospel is true! God lives, and He is in charge! I love this work. Miracles do happen as we act in faith!

Sister Holbrook

to finish the moving story, we switched apartments with the Spanish Elders in our stake because of a housing situation in the Liberty Stake for the missionaries serving there. The excitement of our lives :)

I've got some U of U spirit in me :) That one's for you Dad!

Everything the light touches is our kingdom. I love our area. This is the view from the retirement building across the street from us.

WE MOVED!!! Us with Sister Pearson and Sister Tranchina who ended up staying the night to help us out with things.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Week 44: Trust in the Lord

Transfer results are in (get ready for the biggest shock ever):
We're staying in the Wells Stake IN THE SAME TRIO!!

We were not too happy when we found out. We have been ridiculously busy with appointments and checking on the people we already know about. We have had no time to include member visits, contacting referrals, finding new people, etc. It's been nuts. We were all convinced that they would split the stake again simply because we have too much to do and not enough member support to be able to do it all. 

But after a nice talk with President Hansen, we're sticking to it. This transfer will be a refiner's fire. The three of us have become best friends, but we'll be pushing ourselves to our limits this transfer. There will be a refining and improving in our teaching skills, in planning, in working with members, in following the Spirit, in every aspect of our work. Especially planning. I'm excited for the trials that lie ahead to see how we all grow!

Julie. We had an amazing experience where Julie's "dad" came up to us at sacrament meeting last Sunday and said that Julie wanted to be baptized and that they were okay with it!! We had a lesson with her on Friday and asked her why she wanted to be baptized. She said, "This is the church I really want to go to, and I believe in Jesus Christ." I love the pure and simple testimony of these children. I love that they recognize the light that comes from living the gospel of Jesus Christ. I love their desire to obey Him and do His will, no matter what their parents say or think about it.

Member Missionary Work. I've pondered a lot about what makes a member an awesome member missionary recently. I also started a list in the back of my study journal of ways I want to be a more effective missionary when I do ultimately return from this time in SLC. Here are some ideas that I thought I'd share with all of you:
  • Be a good neighbor. Introduce yourself and invite people over.
  • Set aside time to spend on missionary work, whether it's an appointment with the missionaries or having a visit with someone or doing family history work. Put it in the schedule.
  • Recognize my role as a member is to testify of a principle, not to teach.
  • Study Preach My Gospel at least once a week.
  • Set goals and make plans page 146 Preach My Gospel.
  • Seek for Heavenly Father's help. Ask about specific people or specific actions to take. 
  • Send encouraging texts to the missionaries :)
  • Have a personal/family mission plan that we actually follow-through on.
  • Offer to help in little things. Sit with an investigator at church. Call someone to follow-up on their Book of Mormon reading. Send a text to someone going through a hard time.
  • Find opportunities to testify of Christ and our Heavenly Father's love.
  • Provide opportunities to help others and myself attend the temple.
Page 162 in Preach My Gospel also has great suggestions. This list has come as I've been interacting with so many different members in so many different teaching situations. The principles remain the same. When we seek Heavenly Father's help and guidance in fulfilling our responsibility to share the gospel, He will help us!

Family history. This Sunday was just as crazy as the last one I described. Except I got called on to teach and play piano last minute in several places. Oh how I love Sundays :) So we had an awesome discussion about family history... How are you all doing on that by the way? Dad shared an awesome experience in his email - thank you! Family history is an incredible way for us to invite the Spirit into our homes and help us to feel of our Heavenly Father's love for His children.

Atonement. This week, I finished reading The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister. I know the Atonement of Jesus Christ was done for us. I know our Savior, Jesus Christ lives! He loves us perfectly. He understands us perfectly. He wants to help and lift us. I know our Heavenly Father's plan is perfect. I know that it is only through Jesus Christ that we can become clean and ultimately perfect so that we may live with our Father in Heaven again one day. I know it is possible to repent. I know Christ wants to help; He wants to bless us! Through righteous choices and continually building our faith, we can access that help. I know that as we keep our covenants, we invite the power of the Atonement into our lives to help us become far better than we could become on our own. I love my Savior. I love my Father in Heaven. I know that you can know these things for yourself, too! Pray. Ask Heavenly Father if it is true. I know it, and I know He will answer.

I love you all! Remember to smile! Heavenly Father loves each one of us, and He will not let us fail. Miracles happen as we continually act in faith.

Sister Holbrook

Doctrine & Covenants 68:3-6

These training videos are absolutely incredible. Learn and live Preach My Gospel and the scriptures.

Quilting with Sister Larsen! Oh, how I love her. I am officially her adopted granddaughter.

The kids at one of the apartment complexes always come out and join whatever lesson we happen to be having. The kids here are Kyla, Savannah, Julie (who's going to be baptized on August 23rd!), Sister Lwin, Sister Banaña, little girl whose name I don't know, and Ayden. Oh and I'm the one the kids are all hanging on ;)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Week 43: Hearing Mom's Voice

Note from Renee:
Friday night at 11 pm Lauren called (via the mission pres wife – Sis Hansen) because she was in the emergency room.  It was so fun to chat with her.  She assured me that she had everything under control and was where she needed to be.  After not sleeping well that night and not hearing anything by late afternoon Saturday, I checked with Sis Hansen.  No news is usually good news.  Happily, Lauren was resting and feeling much better.
Sis Hansen grew up near my father in Kensington Maryland. Sis Hansen took piano lessons from my Grandma Hyde (Lona) and was fellowshipped as a teenager into the church by Grandma and family as well as by many others.  Sis Hansen talks of the great love she has for Lona and Osmond (my grandpa) and how they embraced her and her family.  She enjoys being around Lauren because it reminds her of them.  (Of course, it could be Lauren’s rosy cheeks which she and I both inherited from Lona.) Small world isn’t it?

Her email:
Happy August!! Crazy how the time flies.
Wow, you've heard from me 43 times now.
Hope you aren't sick of me yet.

Speaking of being sick... This was an adventurous week for me and my companions. They had slightly different reasons than I did. 

The Lord needed me to be sick this week - Sister Banaña and Lwin have been able to realize that they are capable of being independent missionaries and can totally handle everything. It's been so good for them, and I've seen them come a long way this past week. They did amazing, and we found a solid new investigator this week! She just started coming to church and loves it, but she doesn't know much about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'll keep you posted on how things go with her.

Julie. Julie is a ten-year old girl (different Julie from the one I sent a picture of) who has an... interesting family situation. I won't go into details. Basically, her mom and dad are both less-active members, but respect their kids' agency to choose their own religion. Julie has been having lessons and has come to church twice now. She loves it! Her dad (who comes to church with her now) said he and her mom talked about it with Julie, and they are ok with her being baptized!! We are SO EXCITED! We haven't picked a specific date with her yet, but hopefully it will be the 16th or 23rd. I love this girl so much and couldn't be more excited for her!

Hospital Adventures. Don't freak out. I'm fine.
Wednesday I was having bad back and stomach pain, so I asked for a blessing and rode out the pain for the night. Thursday I spent the day with Sister Larsen and her granddaughter, which meant my adopted grandma only let me eat crackers and chicken noodle soup. Love her so much :)
Friday morning, I felt fantastic, but by mid-afternoon, the pain came back along with nausea and all that sort of fun stuff. Long story short, I ended up feeling severely dehydrated, called my docs, and they said to come in to the ER.
Scrambled to find a ride - ended up calling the Bailey's, service missionaries in one of our wards who live in Bountiful. Left my wonderful companions to finish out the day (which they did an amazing job of) and take care of business in our stake. Sister Hansen called on the way up to Primary's, and she and President Hansen met us there.
While waiting to go in, we had a wonderful chat about family history and connections and mission stories. Got back, as always it took forever, but ended up with an IV (first poke woo hoo!), some fluids, and a few extra heart tests because one of the med students thought they heard an irregular rhythm. Such is life. 

Basically, I'm fine. BUT there were a few extra adventures from the visit:
Sister Hansen had me call my mom, who in wonderful fashion wasn't freaked out at all. Everyone thought it was quite entertaining to see our relationship in our super short conversation :)

After a while, I attempted to send the Bailey's and the Hansen's home since Sister Hansen said I would be fine at a hospital alone since people are always around me. Instead, she ended up calling my Sister Training Leaders (Sister Pearson and Sister Taylor) to come spend the night with me, which ended up being a huge blessing. I love those Sisters so much! We had some entertaining conversations, contacted basically everyone who came into the room (asked them about their interaction with the Church and if they'd ever been interested) and had some cool conversations with the doctors and nurses, and ultimately got about 30 minutes of sleep before they discharged me at 4:00 am.

So that's my week in a nutshell. I rested one more day then attacked another crazy Sunday head on. It was great. And today, I am back to my crazy normal self! Still eating crackers and soup - nothing too crazy yet :)

Oh, I also helped Sister Larsen with her family history! Family: WE HAVE WORK TO DO. If you haven't yet, get on FamilySearch and start searching. It's amazing the things you can learn about yourself as you go through your ancestors.

I know the gospel is true! I know Jesus Christ is our Savior, our Redeemer, and our Friend. He never leaves us alone. He only asks that we turn to Him. I know that through His Atonement and His gospel, we can experience true joy in this life. I know He supports us in our trials. Our Heavenly Father loves us. He really, truly does! This is a gospel of joy! I know we can be with our families for eternity. And I am so grateful for that testimony.

I love you all more than you know. I love being a missionary here in Salt Lake. It is the hardest thing I have ever done and I wouldn't trade one single second of it. This gospel is true. I invite each of you to study it out for yourself, to pray about it, to ask the missionaries your questions, and to feel of the joy for yourself. I know you can receive those answers if you truly seek them.

I love you! Keep smiling! Miracles happen every day!

Sister Holbrook

This new Mormon Message is absolutely incredible! God lives - and you can know it for yourself.
Philippians 2:14-15 Don't murmur.
John 16:33 We have great reason to be cheerful!

We went to a Thai restaurant with five senior missionary couples who served in Myanmar/Thailand and knew Sister Lwin! It was really cool, and she loved seeing them all again!

Julie, Peggy, and me! Julie was baptized about a year ago, but the family was forgotten when those Elders moved out. So here we are helping them get back into church!

Sister Lwin, Sister Banaña, me, and Sister Elkins! Basically the best member missionary to ever walk the face of the planet. We helped her move out. So sad. 

Abby, Brownie (the monkey), Sister Larsen, and me! We had a great day together where I slept and wrote letters and Abby did a bunch of drawing and sewing.

Sister Hansen, Sister Bailey, and Elder Bailey. The Bailey's brought me to the hospital, and President and Sister Hansen met us there. They were all so sweet to stay with me for a good portion of the night. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Week 42: Pioneer Day and Burmese Lessons

This has been an interesting week of miracles and trials. I am so grateful for the lessons I learn every single day here in the Wells Stake. It has been one of the most challenging times of my mission and life in general, and the growth of faith and testimony over these past several months is something I would never trade. I know the gospel is true. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know that no matter our challenges, the gospel of Jesus Christ will help us through those trials, if we will only choose to obey and turn to our Heavenly Father.

Megan has been coming to church almost every week for the past year or so. She and her husband both grew up atheist in Indiana. She was drawn in by the sense of community and service, but mostly because of an experience her brother had with some members of the Church out in Indiana coming to help remove a tree that fell on his house. It was an amazing lesson. It's a different experience to teach someone who has no concept of who God is or that He even exists. She's finally reached a point where she can acknowledge the idea that someone is out there, and she does pray every day! We had a short visit with her learning about her background, but we were able to testify and share experiences when we have seen God's hand in our lives.
I know God is our Father. I know He lives! I know He loves us. I know this gospel is His plan for what we need to do to return to live with Him.
Moral of the story: go out and serve because you never know who's life you are changing.

Exchanges with Sister Taylor was how I spent my Pioneer Day! So no parade. But lots of teaching appointments and meeting with their golden investigators. Such a great day! I love Sister Taylor so much, and she answered basically every single one of my questions that I didn't even realize I had until I was with her. I am so grateful for missionaries who know more than I do and for all the lessons that I learn from them. 

Sunday. I know I've been threatening for a while, so I'm just going to give you a power recap of how our Sunday went yesterday.

Up at 6:20 for zone conference call/morning prayer. 
All three of us showered and ready to go by 7:24. Dropped Sister Banaña off with a split at Whittier ward council. Sister Lwin and I went to Belvedere ward council. Where I saw some Mueller Park people! Crazy coincidences. Got a ride from the Plastow's, the Jefferson ward mission leader, to the McKinley ward which starts at 9am. Sister Lwin stayed at Belvedere, and Sister Banaña went and taught the Whittier Young Women's lesson. 
After the first hour of meetings, Sister Banaña got a ride over to the Temple View retirement branch, and me and Sister Lwin stayed in our wards. For the third hour, Sister Lwin and Sister Banaña stayed where they were, and I went from the first five minutes of sacrament meeting in one ward to the ward council of the Jefferson ward with the Relief Society president there. 
The Plastow's then gave me a ride back to Belvedere, I picked up Sister Lwin, we drove to get Sister Banaña, went home for 12 minutes where I opted for a nap and they chose lunch. 
Then it was off to the McKay ward where I dropped my two companions off and the Plastow's came back to pick me up again to actually go to Jefferson ward. I was roped into playing for Primary during ward council, so I played piano and had a blast with sharing time. And three of our investigators were there, too! Then had the Primary President walk me to Gospel Principles where I was then companions with one of the service missionaries. Then to sacrament meeting where I had been asked to lead the music. After sacrament meeting, the Plastow's again (oh how I love them. Dad - he actually reminds me of you a bit!) drove me back to McKay ward where I picked up my companions and then we drove to Sister Sina's home for our dinner at 4:30.

And that's just the meetings of the day.

Faith. I learn about faith every single day. On the last page of chapter 6 in Preach My Gospel (page 126), there is an activity to evaluate where you're at in various Christlike attributes. One of the statements you rate yourself on says, "I have enough faith in Christ to accomplish anything He wants me to do - even miracles if necessary." Sister Lwin has that faith, and it has been amazing to see what follows. If we truly believe in the promises of the Lord and then give our all for Him, He blesses us in ways that we can't even begin to imagine.

My time is up. The gospel is true! This is a life of happiness, even in times of trial and growth. I love being a missionary! I love you all! Keep on smiling and finding those miracles :)

Sister Holbrook

Alma 7:22-24
Helaman 3:35

Sister Banaña, Sister Lwin, and me! The terrific trio :) 

Burmese lessons when no one showed up to our Book of Mormon study group.