Everything I’ve been doing for the last 18 months has been . . .

Boy, it’s always tricky to try and put a week into an email!
Last week I mentioned a man who is trying to quit smoking.  This week — on Wednesday — he told us he went the whole day without smoking!!  We were so excited!! Thursday he smoked zero cigarettes, Friday, still zero.  Saturday didn’t go quite so well, but I was grateful that he was honest and up front with us, and that he still met with us with a sincere desire to keep trying.  He won’t be able to be baptized before I leave, but that’s okay.  As long as he is willing to keep repenting, he’ll be all right.  🙂  He said he WILL be baptized, and we know he can!!
Every week we seem to find ourselves in funny/awkward/unexpected circumstances.  We had a couple pretty funny experiences with our dinner appointments.  One night we figured we probably didn’t have a dinner appointment, because a really sweet woman in the ward who doesn’t speak English very well had signed up.  We were pretty sure she didn’t understand what the sign-up was for, because she also put her name next to someone else’s on another line.  And she seemed pretty confused when we tried to talk with her about it.  So we figured we’d go out to eat, but as we got out of an appointment, we saw that someone had been trying to call us for almost an hour.  We called back, and it was this really sweet older woman in the ward who asked if we were coming over for supper.  She had signed up, but her day wasn’t for like another two weeks.  So we went over and ate the spaghetti that had been sitting in her sink for about an hour before going to our ward pie night.  It was just such a funny, random evening of miscommunication, but it all turned out okay. 🙂
Sister Woodward and Sister Luk and I were talking about how many awkward experiences we have as missionaries — one sister put it pretty well when she said that a mission is pretty much one long, prolonged state of awkwardness, punctuated with some really special miracles.  Sister Woodward said, “That’s probably why returned missionaries are so awkward when they come home, because everything they’ve done for the last two years or 18 months has been–awkward.”
Every area typically has some kind of community service that the missionaries participate in once a week.  In our area, we volunteer at Hawthorne school, a special school where we get to help immigrants learning English.  Hawthorne will be closed this coming week, so last week was my last time going to Hawthorne.  I figure it’s also been my last time going to some of the family’s houses, so I’ve been trying to take pictures with everyone.
I think I’ve mentioned before how our bishopric takes us out on visits twice monthly.  This week was especially great.  The whole bishopric met Sister Luk, Sister Woodward, and I, and all six of us went into a little apartment to welcome a new couple into our ward.  This ward is so great!  🙂
I got to give a training this week on being open and trusting companions.  I really appreciated that opportunity because I feel like working with a companion is something that I’ve definitely grown in over my mission.  (I sure feel bad for my first time with Sister Gotchy — I’m glad we got another chance.  🙂 I do love her A LOT!!) I have certainly felt like I’ve learned a lot over the past 18 months about caring less about myself and trying to focus outward more.  I think that companions are part of the awesome genius of missions — the qualities that you need to develop to have a good companionship seem to all come back to becoming Christlike and developing charity.  I still have a long way to go, but I think I am becoming a better companion and developing greater charity.  It is so important to learn to be selfless, to get to know and truly care about others.  One of my favorite quotes of all times is “There are two kinds of people in this world: those you love and those you don’t know.”  I invite you to try a little harder to get to know and come to love someone a little better this week.  🙂  I’m so grateful for this gospel.  I’m grateful that the Savior’s Atonement can help us change and become better.
P.S. We got to watch the solar eclipse today with super awesome glasses Sister Woodward’s mom sent us!! Woo-hoo!  We were really stylin’ in downtown Rochester with all the city’s employees coming out for their lunch break to all look up at the sun.  That was pretty cool.  And sharing our sweet glasses turned out to be a pretty great opportunity to talk with people! 🙂
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So much life experience . . .

Dear Family and Friends, Miscellaneous Blog-Readers (especially future MMM missionaries!!), and President Barney (since I found out this week that he’s been reading the blog, too), 

I remember in cross country in high school, Coach Martin told us to look at a spot several strides beyond the finish line, and make that be your mental finish line, that way you will cross the actual finish line at full speed.  Some missionaries really hate acknowledging that their mission is coming to a close; I think for me right now, I feel like being honest about where the finish line is helping me focus on getting everything done that I want to do — coming through full-stride.  Somehow it seems like when it comes to the sprint at the end of a long race, there’s always more energy than you thought you had.  

We have a couple investigators we’ve been focusing on a lot this week.  We’ve been praying a lot, and I chose to fast one day this week. One investigator has expressed how much he wants to be baptized, but one of his biggest struggles right now is smoking.  We explained how, in our mission, he needs to be keeping the word of wisdom for at least two weeks leading up to his baptismal date.  We’ve been seeing him pretty much once a day and talking to him throughout the day.  In one meeting with him, he said, “I want to do this for you.”  Of course, Sister Woodward said, “Do it for you!” And I said, “Do it for Jesus!” But the fact that this guy wanted me to be able to see him be baptized before I leave enough to motivate him to really want to take on his nicotine addiction touched me.  He hasn’t been able to totally stop yet, but that’s okay.  He’s really been cutting back.  We had a neat lesson with him after church yesterday after ward council.  In ward council, we’d mentioned him and what we’re trying to help him with.  That was incredibly helpful.  It helps to have a couple pulmonary specialists in the room, as well as someone who had been a smoker who offered to share his experience.  We thought that would be really good! “It’s a good thing I smoked!” he said, which made everyone in the room laugh.  We talked in our lesson about change, how most of the world probably doesn’t see change as very probable, but this is a gospel about change.  We know that Jesus Christ’s Atonement makes it absolutely possible for us to be truly changed.  

The other investigator who has really been on our minds has been praying about being baptized.  He told us he hasn’t gotten an answer, but when we asked about what he’s felt when he’s prayed or read from the scriptures or come to church, he describes his feelings as “peaceful.”  This guy is so awesome!  He’s been coming to church regularly for about four months.  He went to the cities Saturday night for a Coldplay concert and had the idea — on his own — of going to visit the temple, which he did!  A temple worker talked with him and showed him around a bit (the areas he could go).  Then he went to the concert, got home at 2:00 a.m., and came to church the next day! He’s so great.  We bore our testimonies that, as Galatians 5:22-23 talks about, the peace and good feelings he is experiencing is a witness of the Holy Ghost.  Very rarely are our prayers answered dramatically; we each build our testimonies from the quiet, gentle, peaceful and loving feelings and impressions of the Spirit.  He is also concerned about being able to continue keeping the covenants he will make at baptism when he returns to China.  Sometimes living the gospel can be hard and unpopular, but we know he can do it!!

A few other things that happened this week: we got to drive to the cities for new missionary training — road trip in the Rochester missionaries minivan – woohoo! The zone leaders, who had been using our car that day while we (along with a couple other companionships) had their van, washed and vacuumed our car for us!  And somehow they stole a name tag from each of us and returned the name tags the next day, encased in jell-o.  We got permission to drive to Austin to visit a man I’d been teaching in Eden Prairie who just moved to Austin, which is a town in the Rochester zone.  A young woman in the ward drove us out – we are SO thankful for her!!  I think Elder Bednar has said that there are no such thing as coincidences, and it is certainly interesting as a missionary to see how transfers and companionships and certain people we get to connect with in certain areas all work out.  Anyway, it was interesting how this situation worked out so I got to see this person again, and it was neat to be able to go visit him.  

Sister Luk has been especially concerned this week by the number of friends she has getting married.  (I have actually been hearing lately of some of my friends having babies, which I am very happy to hear about!! 😃) She seems concerned about being “old” and not married, and has made several funny comments directed toward my age and marital status.  First off, she has told me multiple times that she thinks I’m “so faithful” for coming on a mission.  She has also told me that her mom says her companion is “so mature,” which I know is code for “old.”  She also said, “Sister Winters, you have a lot of life experience — like my grandpa.”  Great.  Thanks, Sister Luk. 🙂

We got permission to go with of my friends from YSA who is in Rochester for the summer down to Austin today.  What’s in Austin? SPAM!! I can’t say I’ve ever felt particularly connected to SPAM, but Sister Luk and Sister Woodward have been dying to go to the SPAM museum . . . and while we’re here, Sister Luk even consented to go to a Nature Center and I just got to help tag a monarch butterfly hopefully heading to Mexico! I guess we have slightly different interests in our companionship . . . But we all agree on Flapdoodles, which is I think where we’re headed next! 🙂

I love being a missionary, I’m excited for this next week; I know this church is true and I know that this is the Savior’s work!

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How Our Mice are Doing, and Other Updates :)

We’ve had a good week.  I confess, I’ve been a little stressed.  I thought I’d become a little less uptight over the course of my mission . . . I think I still have a ways to go. 🙂 It felt like we didn’t have enough time this week! Zone Conference took up a lot of Wednesday.  It was good; it was my first Zone Conference with the Barneys.  Sister Barney is pretty cute.  For one of her trainings, she had a chocolate cake laid out, asked for a volunteer, and took a handful of the cake, smashed into a dog food bowl, and offered it to the elder who volunteered.  After nicely cutting another piece and serving it on a nice plate, she told us how we have the best message to share in the world, and we don’t want our presentation to make it unappealing.  Her training was on dress and grooming.  Sweet Sister Barney, who is always dressed so nicely, told the elders to make sure their socks matched their pants and their shoes were polished.  She did it very nicely and lovingly, of course, and I couldn’t help feeling slightly amused as I wondered if she might think we sometimes look like a bunch of raggamuffins in our worn-out clothes and scuffed shoes.  My shoes are looking pretty tired.  I should probably polish them or something.

It was my turn to give my “dying” testimony at Zone Conference.  That felt weird.  I had imagined that would be a really great spiritual and emotional experience and I’d have a great and meaningful accumulation of insights to share.  I remember other missionaries I served closely with breaking down in tears as they gave their final testimonies, realizing that this precious time as a missionary was coming to a conclusion.  I thought I’d feel like that someday.  But that feeling didn’t really come.  I just felt like a normal missionary at Zone Conference, asked to stand up and share my testimony, which I love to have the opportunity to do.  Maybe that’s okay.

We are still teaching really awesome people! We often refer to the people we teach as “investigators,” which is a term I guess I use with caution, not wanting anyone to feel like they are some kind of project which missionaries refer to with weird code words.  But my efforts to not seem weird don’t seem to be working.  We had quite a few “investigators” come to an Elders Quorum (and families) barbecue this Saturday, and one of them — the one who is a doctor from China who gave us a tour of his research lab at Mayo — referred to himself and the others he knew we were working with as our “mice.”  He told Sister Luk that he’s noticed her missionary work has been getting better.  He’s a pretty sharp one.  Sometimes when we talk with him on the phone, he asks us what we’ve been doing and how our missionary work has been going that day.  We told him once he’s baptized, he could be the new ward mission leader. 🙂

I have to tell a funny story about one of the other visiting researchers from China we’re teaching. This cracks me up just thinking about it.  We met with a Chinese family one evening (they fed us dinner, which was great), and invited the nephew to a YSA activity that night.  We called this other Chinese investigator to see if he’d want to go — he said he was in the research lab, but sure, he’d come.  I have a friend from YSA, actually one of the converts from that ward, who is in Rochester for the summer, and he was able to come pick up the Chinese nephew, and follow us downtown to the building where the other investigator said he’d meet us (since we can’t give people rides). So already, the situation was just kind of spontaneous and bizarre; this YSA guy showing up at this Chinese family’s home and driving off with their nephew, who whose English is limited, and then we pull up to where the other Chinese investigator is waiting for us, and Sister Luk just rolls down her window, says, “Hey, can you get in the car behind us?” And the guy is like, “Okay,” and he just hops into this car with two strangers and we drive off to the Stake center to play volleyball.  And they seemed to have a great time. 🙂

In a recent conversation with our ward mission leader and his wife, I made the comment that I am  so excited for the day when China will be open for missionary work.  “It is,” said Sister Petitta. “You’re doing it.”

Another quick comment — there was a man who Sister Spiers and I started teaching before I left Eden Prairie.  His wife was a member who hadn’t been to church much in a while, but she had requested missionaries online to come teach her husband, and he was very open to our teaching.  I found out that he was baptized a week ago Saturday!
It is really exciting to hear about baptisms.  I don’t think baptism seemed as significant to me before my mission as it does now.  We teach people how Jesus Christ set the example of being baptized and commanded others to follow his example.  Baptism is how we witness and formally covenant that we are followers of Christ. It is so significant that that ordinance is done in our church with the restored Priesthood authority of God.  We are praying that some of our friends, investigators, mice, whatever, will be able to receive and recognize answers to their prayers and be able to be baptized — and I am reallyhoping that, if it is in God’s timeframe and with respect to the agency of these individuals, that can happen in the next few weeks.  It’s definitely possible. 🙂
It was so awesome to hear about Merek’s (my cousin’s) baptism this past weekend!  And the priesthood ordinations in the family!  Wow!  What a neat day!  I know that missionaries receive great blessings and joy in the service they give; for me, some of the things that bring me the most joy are the neat things that I hear are happening at home.
P.S.  A couple weeks ago, I extended an invitation from an Elder Ballard article to stop doing one thing you know you shouldn’t be doing.  The next invitation Elder Ballard gives is to, starting today, start doing one thing you know you should be doing.  I have something I’m working on and want to pass that invitation on to you as well! I know Heavenly Father knows what we can become and has a plan that will strengthen and shape us; the Spirit can help us know what changes we may need to make in our lives as we seek to follow that plan, and I know that change and progress is possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  This morning I got to see a butterfly just coming out of its chrysalis; how amazing are God’s miracles of change and growth and becoming! Those miracles are present in human lives, too!
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Days Never to be Forgotten; also “You Just Need to Know How to Make a Good Meal Calendar”

This has been one of the best and most memorable weeks of my life.  We are now a trio!! Sister Woodward, from Orem, Utah, arrived in Minnesota fresh from the MTC Wednesday, and joined Sister Luk and me in Rochester! We are having a great time together.  Trios are so much fun!!  And things are going GREAT.  I wish I could do a better job of telling about all the awesome people we are teaching — I feel like I don’t have enough time to tell everything about them all, and also I try to be careful to not include names or personal details in these group letters; I’ve thought of making up pseudonyms, but I think I would just confuse myself and lose track of them all.  But I’ll tell a few highlights of the people we taught this week.  One lady who is fairly busy and hasn’t been able to meet with us very regularly texted us out of the blue on Saturday to ask if it would be all right if she came to church — YES!!! Sister Luk and I cheered and whooped and jumped around the room and had to try and explain to Sister Woodward why we were so excited.  She did come to church, and so did several other people we’ve been teaching, as well as a few friends of members! It was a great Sunday! Well, it was stressful, too, because we were teaching both Gospel Principles class and Young Women’s — welcome to Sundays as a missionary, Sister Woodward!  (Sister Woodward did a fantastic job — she is wonderful!) Last night we had an awesome lesson with one of our Chinese friends, one of our favorite people in this area, and he is praying about being baptized.  He is awesome. We’ve taught him Law of Chastity, Word of Wisdom, even fasting — and he has no problem with anything.  He even comes up with some supportive insight from a doctor’s perspective (because he’s a doctor) as to why such-and-such commandment would actually be quite beneficial.  He just needs to feel and recognize what steps God wants him to take in his life, because we don’t want anyone to do something just to please us.  Except maybe get baptized.  Just kidding — especially get baptized!  I do really, really hope he will be baptized before . . . well . . . before my time here is up.  This is it — the final inning! Gotta make the absolute most of it! 

Poor Sister Woodward — she probably got about two or three hours of sleep Tuesday night before she came here, and she was so tired!  We decided, given the circumstances, it would probably be good to schedule a nap.  We did put it in our plans, but it never happened. We’ve just been so busy!  Sister Luk and I hope she doesn’t have a rough time when someday she gets transferred to a new area that doesn’t have more people to teach than we have time for and doesn’t have meals with members scheduled every single night.  Well, actually, this week was kind of strange. We had quite a few people cancel dinner — I think maybe they were just overly excited to put their names on the beach ball.  So the ward mission leader’s wife took us out to Texas Roadhouse one night, Bishop’s family had us over another night and sent us home with a bunch of leftovers, and now we keep hearing that the ward was rebuked by Bishop in the third hour of church yesterday (while we were with the young women) for the travesty of not doing their job of taking care of us.  One sweet sister called us today and said she had groceries for us — bags and bags of fresh fruit and vegetables!!! And a bag of M&M’s. 😉 Really, this ward is incredible.  Throughout my mission, I’ve been so amazed at how much people do for missionaries.  At the end of our young women’s lesson, we had a little missionary Q&A.  One cute young woman asked if there were any skills we recommended developing to prepare for a mission, such as cooking or sewing.  Sister Luk quickly responded, “You just need to know how to make a good meal calendar.” 

Our lives are so perfect right now.  🙂 We are so blessed.  I hope I do not sound flippant in talking about how well things are going in our area – I know that success is a gift from God.  Sometimes missionaries go through really trying periods, and I am just really happy that that doesn’t seem to be what Heavenly Father thinks we need right now.  I will keep praying that things continue to go so well — unless he has something greater in mind. 🙂 But things are pretty great! 

So now that you know how things are going right now, I need to tell just a little bit about Tuesday and Wednesday — truly, some of the greatest experiences of my life.  Since I am going home a week early and will not have the opportunity to take part in the traditional departing missionary activities the day before I go home, I got to take part in those events with the missionaries who just went home this past transfer.  It was a big group of departing missionaries, many of whom I’ve gotten to work with closely at different times in my mission and who I respect and appreciate a lot. There were a couple others, like me, who, instead of going home, would be going back to missionary work for just a few more weeks.  We all met in Bloomington Tuesday morning.  We had classes on education and dating and watched Elder Holland’s talk, “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments.”  Then we got to go to the temple.  We had was an entire session full of missionaries, including President and Sister Barney (it was their first time in the St. Paul temple). I cannot really convey in an email what that experience was like, or what it was like to gather back at the mission home, and, after an excellent dinner, have a testimony meeting and hear the testimonies of men and women who have just spent two years or 18 months in full-time service of the Lord, having gone through challenges and grown in many ways and shared experiences that no one else would probably really be able to understand.  The spirit present in that room, and the love and gratitude I felt, were palpable.  I feel a little like the Book of Mormon writers who said that that no tongue can speak, neither can words be written to describe their experiences. 

The next day, the departing missionaries loaded up their suitcases and themselves and pulled out to head to the airport.  A few hours later, since Sister Luk and I are training, we got to meet the new missionaries that had just flown into Minnesota.  It was a super surreal experience to be a part of both ends of mission life within the same day. I am so grateful for these experiences. 

I am so grateful to have the experience of serving a mission.  I know I will look back on this period of my life as a sacred time in which I have experienced God’s power and felt His Spirit and have come to gain a greater testimony that this is His work.

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Begin Last Transfer of the Golden Companionship

Sister Luk and I performed a musical number in Sacrament meeting yesterday.  We were practicing all week and inviting as many people as possible to come hear our number — definitely getting full leverage from the event.  🙂 We actually did have a good number of people who came to church, including one family who we have been inviting the whole time I’ve been here, and yesterday they finally came!!  It was a pretty neat number.  The ward council had talked about how it would be nice to have more musical numbers; Sister Luk and I figured this was something we could help with (and hopefully win the hearts of the ward members even more!), so we told Bishop we could do something.  Bishop asked if we could do a song about pioneers, since we would be doing the number the day before Pioneer Day.  What on earth is a musical-number-worthy song about pioneers?? I mean, we could sing about the oh-how-slow oxcart or the little pioneer children who sang as they walked and walked and walked and walked and walked and walked. (I do love those songs, though.)  Luckily, I thought of a song that is on a CD Megan sent me about a year ago with random songs from her mission.  We didn’t even know the name of it, but some members looked it up — “Prayer of the Walking Child” — and Bishop approved it and downloaded the music for us.  There is an optional violin part in the music, as well as the potential to have a small children’s chorus sing “Come, Come Ye Saints” in the background of the last verse.  We actually got some parents who were willing to have their kids come practice with us, and it turns out, our Elders Quorum president plays the violin! He is in his residency, and he told us he was on call Sunday, but he could play with us if he was there. (When we got his text, Sister Luk said, “The men in this ward are so unreliable!”)  Our prayers were answered, and we had the violin and the kids and everything we hoped for on Sunday.  I think it turned out pretty well. 🙂

We also passed out our new meal calendar yesterday.  We had to somehow top the beach ball we used last month, and, since August is my last month, we wanted it to be good.  I’ll send pictures — we put maybe too much effort in this time.  As we were staying up later than we should have to finish Saturday night, Sister Luk said we probably put the most effort into our meal calendars of any missionaries in the world.  I asked Sister Luk what her parents would think of our ridiculous meal calendar.  She said that they would probably feel so bad that they are paying so much money to support their daughter on her mission so she could have great spiritual experiences, and she’s wasting her time making a meal calendar. 🙂 So I’ve corrupted my companion and am crushing the hopes and aspirations of some poor family in Hong Kong.  The ward liked it, though.  In Ward Council, Bishop asked if anyone had ever done anything like that on heir missions.  A counselor said, “One time we printed our meal calendar on blue paper instead of white.”  As we were making it, we were really hoping we wouldn’t get transferred – transfers are this week, and the calendar is pretty personalized, so that could be potentially awkward.  The ward council expressed their hopes that we wouldn’t get transferred, either.  Someone called us the “golden companionship.” Probably because Sister Luk is Asian. 

Last Monday, one of the people we’re teaching from China invited us to play tennis with him. (He knew Monday was the day we have “off” missionary work.  It was pretty fun.  The three of us kept rotating.  Well, actually, Sister Luk and our Chinese friend kept rotating, because I kept winning.  I’m really not good at tennis.  At first, the friend said that I would win if I got 5 points before he got 10.  I won.  The second time we played, he said I’d need 7 points before he got 10 to win.  I won again.  Finally he said we both needed 10 points to win.  I won again.  They decided Americans are better at tennis than Chinese.  I think that’s racist. (I tease Sister Luk about being racist all the time.  It seems to me that Americans are a lot more concerned about not being racist than people from other countries.). Yesterday at church, this friend saw our meal calendar — “You have people to feed you dinner every night?!” Yep. Hopefully his impression of us as benevolent, self-sacrificing missionaries hasn’t been totally crushed by the realization that we are so spoiled.  We pretty much have the best gig out there.  As I saw on a poster once, “This isn’t missionary work — its missionary fun!” Haha!  

We had some really good experiences this week as we reached out to some less active ward members from a list Bishop had given us.  One man was living in an adult foster home.  I had never met him before.  We stopped by, and he seemed really happy to see us.  He said he had been wanting to come to church, but the elders had been coming a while ago, and for some reason he told them to stop coming, and he didn’t know how to reach them.  He said he prays every night.  Before we left, he reminded us multiple times to get a ride for him to come to church, which we assured him we would!  He came and we sat by him during Sacrament meeting.  “You know, you can come visit me any time you want,” he whispered to us not-so-quietly during the Sacrament. 🙂

Once a week, we’re supposed to have an evening scheduled for visits with the ward council.  This past week happened to be the bishopric’s week to go out with us.  They had scheduled to visit a super cute little family who just moved into the ward.  While we were there, the Elders Quorum presidency showed up!  They joked that the Relief Society would come, too, but then realized that the Relief Society had probably already visited, which was true.  This ward is on the ball! 🙂

We had some really hot, humid days this week. We also had some good rain and lightning, and a tornado warning.  Before one teaching appointment, the guy we were going to teach texted us to say it looked like it was going to rain.  We usually talk with him outside, so maybe he was implying we should reschedule.  We went anyway and just made it through as much of the Plan of Salvation as we could before raindrops started to fall, trying to ignore the the beeping tornado warnings from his phone.  Then we hurried back to our car and stopped by someone who we could visit with indoors.  Much to Sister Luk’s chagrin, we still got drenched just running from our car to the door.  “I hate raining!! I hate it so much!” — a common declaration from Sister Luk. Sister Luk also hates being out in the sun.  She does NOT want to get tan.  She told me that people in Hong Kong often carry little umbrellas around on sunny days.  And sometimes little tiny fans when it’s hot.  🙂 I love hearing about interesting little cultural things about China or Hong Kong from Sister Luk. 

Well, the transfer board just came out! This morning as we left our apartment, Sister Luk said, “I don’t really understand why we have to have transfer.” 

“What do you think we should do?” I asked. 

“Just don’t drive to Bloomington. Just stay in our apartment.” 

But it’s all okay — we’re both staying, and the transfer board says Sister Luk will be a trainer, which means we will be in a trio with a new sister fresh from the MTC! I’m really excited — I’ve never gotten to train on my mission; I wanted to stay with Sister Luk, but it looks like we’re getting to stay together and get to train too! :). Don’t worry, I think we’ll be able to incorporate he new sister into the August meal calendar. 🙂

This will be my last transfer.  I started MyPlan this week and got to reflect a little on some of things I’ve learned and gained thus far on my mission.  I am so grateful for this opportunity.  It will be interesting to see how the world has changed when I come home — I’ve become aware that since I left, the “dab” is a thing, everyone loves Moana, the Star Wars movie chronology has become even more confusing, and fidget spinners are in.  It will be funny to see what else has changed.  (Although, honestly, I don’t usually know much about what’s going on in the world anyway.)  I do feel like I have changed.  One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is how really, this gospel is all about change.  It’s about realizing that Heavenly Father has a plan for us to progress, and having faith that through Jesus Christ’s Atonement, we can truly let go of the things in our life that are holding us back from that progression and become new.  It’s about how our hearts can be changed, more converted, as we repent every day.  I was reading an article from Elder Ballard this morning — I love the way Elder Ballard talks about goals and personal improvement.  This particular article is from the June 1983 Ensign magazine; it’s called “Do Things That Make A Difference.” (It’s an especially great article for young adults!)  In the article, there is a sentence that says, “Beginning today, stop doing some one thing you know you should not do.”  I thought about this, and at first I thought about little ways that I could be more exactly obedient to the missionary schedule or missionary rules, but as I said a little prayer to maybe think of something that Heavenly Father would have me change, I thought of something that I could do differently in the way I sometimes interact with others.  I know that the Lord can teach us through the Spirit how He wants us to change, and as we seek His correction and turn to the Savior, we truly can become better, as Ether 12:27 teaches.  I invite you to take Elder Ballard’s invitation and write down one thing you can do differently, beginning today.  🙂

Have a great week!! 

Mom, good luck with Girls Camp!  (And, to everyone else in the family, good luck making it through this week!) 🙂

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Crowbars, Scurvy, and a Freshly-Waxed Car

Here are a few of the fun things that happened this week: Sister Robinson took us out to eat last p-day and let us come over and do laundry and play with little Zoey, who is one of Sister Luk’s very favorite little kids. (Sister Luk LOVES kids — she always gives them her cute Chinese stickers before we leave.)  Sister Luk had her first experience using a crow bar as we helped someone tear up some sub flooring — she said it was “super fun” — like the lawn mower. 🙂  We had a Relief Society activity this Thursday.  I was a little bit confused about it at first — it sounded like we were just going on a walk.  But we met at the church together to start, and we had a neat little spiritual thought on pioneers, so then the walk made a little more sense.  It was really fun to walk and talk with the women in the ward — I love these ladies!  

There’s a lady we’ve been visiting who has lots of hard things to overcome.  We invited her to read 2 Nephi 2 from The Book of Mormon and watch the talk Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders Among You.  When we came back, she had inspirational quoted posted around her house inspired by the talk, and she had read the entire chapter and had pages of notes and insights.  She said, “I hope it’s okay, I sort of put myself in these promises and applied it to me.”  Yes!! That’s exactly what we are supposed to do with scriptures–“liken” them to ourselves!! (1 Ne. 19:23)  We shared with her one of my favorite quotes by President Benson, which I have a strong testimony of:

“It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called ‘the words of life’ (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance.”

This woman said she’s already seen aspects of this promise be true in her life. 🙂 

We had exchanges this week.  I stayed in our area and Sister Luk went to the Roch 3 Hermana’s area.  That ended up being a tiny bit problematic, because we got an email from a Chinese mom who wanted  to take her son to the 11-year-old scout activity at the church.  Right now, she has her mom and a friend staying with her from China who speak no English.  So we went to her house– yeah!  of course!  you can totally come! we’re so excited! And then got back in our car, and, as she drove behind us, following us to the church, we panicked, trying to call everyone we knew who speaks Chinese because the two women who speak only Chinese were coming to the church, too, and we wanted to be able to talk to them and give them a tour of the building.  As we’re frantically trying to call people (our list of Chinese speakers really isn’t very long), and I’m trying to drive and not lose the Chinese family following me, we totally got lost and took a super long, weird way to the building.  It was crazy.  When we got there, Brother Ebert, the 11-year-old scout leader (who we’d texted about the situation) was waiting in the foyer with Wesley, the only other 11-year-old scout who came that day.  That day, the scouts were working on a public speaking merit badge, and Wesley had prepared a presentation on scurvy.  (Yes, he chose his own topic.) So we sat and listened to the scurvy speech — it was hilarious — and then Brother Ebert found out that ZiQi, the Chinese boy, likes basketball, and we played some lightning.  Probably the highlight of the whole crazy situation was one of the cute Chinese ladies coming into the gym, all dressed up, and shooting the basketball.  

We are super excited that a Chinese man and a woman who served her mission in Taiwan recently moved into our ward — we invited them to joint teach with us this week, and they are awesome!! 

Sunday (yesterday) was pretty fantastic — we had nine investigators come to sacrament meeting — including the Chinese family from the crazy exchange day!  Poor Sister Luk was struggling to try and translate the meeting from English to Mandarin — neither one of which is her native language (Cantonese). We also went out to the Kasson branch, where we’d been asked to speak.  That was the most unprepared I’ve ever been for a Sacrament meeting talk, but we were supposed to speak on repentance, which is something we think and talk and teach about a lot, so I guess we were prepared with things we’ve been thinking about throughout our missions (and lives).  One of the things that I’ve learned about repentance recently is that it is really synonymous with conversion.  In my talk, I talked a little about the role the Sacrament plays in repentance.  There is a fantastic talk I read this week on the Sacrament.  It’s called “This Do in Remembrance of Me,” by Elder Holland in a 1995 Conference address.  There is a Mormon Message based on that talk that is one of my favorites — you should definitely watch it.  It will help you appreciate and understand the significance of the Sacrament even more!  It’s called Always Remember Him

We just got done waxing our cars.  The zone leaders made us do it.  We were pretty salty about it, but the zone leaders did buy the wax and help us, and in their defense, they were just trying to avoid the wrath of the new vehicle coordinator who apparently has been coming down hard on these things.  (I’m pretty sure no one in the mission has hand-waxed one of the mission cars before — that’s okay, we’re repenting now!)  It wasn’t so bad. 

Love you!  Hope you have a great week at the Hansen reunion!!

p.s. Sister Luk and I are doing a musical number in Sacrament meeting next week — the day before Pioneer Day!  We’re really excited.  Our song is called Prayer of the Walking Child, and it’s beautiful.  🙂

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Our Life Is So Perfect :)

It seems like this was a pretty short week with the p-day swap.  Probably the most notable thing that happened this week was that we had interviews with President Barney.  It’s interesting to see how he does things a little different from President Forbes.  It was a really neat experience.  We had an opening prayer and knelt together for a closing prayer.  I definitely felt the Spirit.  

Have you seen the new Ask of God video?  Well, it’s not that new–it came out a few months ago, but it’s a newer video depiction of Joseph Smith’s first vision and it’s a little different because it draws upon some of the accounts of that event that a lot of us are less familiar with. One thing that I really like from this video is that it includes some of the things Jesus Christ said to Joseph Smith.  Another thing that I like is, as the vision has just ended, Joseph stands, and his voice in narration says, “I was filled with love.”  I’ve thought about that line this week.  Galatians 5:22-23 talks about the “fruit of the Spirit” and mentions love, joy, peace, among other things.  I’ve noticed a few times after an experience which did help me feel the Spirit and feel my Heavenly Father’s love, such as an interview with the mission president or a session in the temple, I do come out feeling happy and, well, more full of love for the people around me.  I think that’s pretty neat.  I like that phrase, “full of love,” and my experience has shown me that experiences which bring us closer to the Spirit can help us feel more “full of love.” 

Speaking of love, I LOVE this ward!  It’s so great!  We were invited to teach the Young Women on Wednesday night about teaching, which was fun.  The primary classes must have had lessons on missionary work yesterday, because we were invited to come talk to the four-year-olds about preparing to be a missionary, and another little class all drew us pictures! So cute!

Our ward mission leader is out of town for a few months, so we had a new assistant ward mission leader called.  Brother Pettita is great! He and his wife are only here for the summer.  They had us over for dinner in their super tiny apartment and after we left, an investigator texted and asked if we could meet–we knew he’d probably appreciate meeting a new friend, so we went back and asked the Pettitas if they wanted to come, and they did! So we had a great lesson with him and they were able to give him a ride to church yesterday.

We have great things going on here! One of the people we’re most excited about comes to church faithfully every week. Yesterday Sister Luk and I taught Sunday School, and, since we knew he’d be there, we planned to teach about the Word of Wisdom — commandments that relate to our physical health including eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, and abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and harmful or addictive drugs.  This particular individual hadn’t been taught about that yet, but the class went super well, and he even made a comment about how he notices people drink coffee and tea when they are really tired and their body is probably trying to signal that they need more sleep.  He added that he doesn’t drink coffee or tea.  We know he has been thinking about being baptized, and he would need to be living the Word of Wisdom to be baptized.  After that class, we figure he is basically set . . . Unless he has a secret Law of Chastity problem we don’t know about — we’ll have to bring that up. 🙂  He is so awesome!!

Well, that’s about what I have to say for this week! Time is going by so fast! Our ward feeds us pretty much every day (“so yum!” – Sister Luk), Sister Luk had her first experience picking blackberries and using a lawn mower this week (“so fun!”), and we get to see fireflies pretty much every night!  And share the gospel of Jesus Christ every day.  President Forbes pointed out once that there are two groups of people whose lives are dedicated to the gospel full-time: the General Authorities and the missionaries!! It’s pretty cool to be in that category right now. 🙂 As Sister Luk says, “Our life is so perfect!” 

Love you! Have a great week!  And HAPPY BIRTHDAY HANS AND SARIANNE!!!!  

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