Monday, February 25, 2013

"Ok Gloria, Reroute!"

Sis Stone: "I almost baptized a possum in my last area!"
Me: " . . . "
Sis Stone: "It's true! The Branch President said I didn't need to use the Priesthood Authority for that one!"
Me: "Tennessee is so weird." 
Elder Dreesen: "You'll get used to it." 

Yep. That's my companion!

Hello family and friends! This week has been absolutely nuts. The emotional roller-coaster that makes up a mission is more intense than I ever could have imagined. Some days are euphoric but are followed by days that are less than good. But I've learned that each day brings a new lesson with it, and even though some days are slow and I can't find a single soul to bring closer to Christ, I come closer to Christ myself as I learn to rely on Him more and more. The refining process is hard, but it's so rewarding. And if I've learned anything this week, it's that the Gospel of Christ will always bring a message of reassurance and hope to you if you let it. 

On that note, I will tell all y'all about my crazy week! But first, a few items of business:

First, I must extend a public apology to Elder Davis, from whom I received a plentiful amount of letters the very day after I sent last week's email. Did I feel sheepish? yes I did. Sorry Elder. Patience still isn't my forte, but I'm working on it. Thanks a million for the letters! :)

Also, I would still love to hear from Laura and Jason, but if they're super busy I can write them first. Can one of y'all send me their home addresses? Please and thank you! 

I would also like to extend a public thank you to Grandma and Grandpa for the girl scout cookies!! They're my favorite flavors. Sometimes I just need chocolate in my diet. I love you so much!! :)

I have a side note for Chelise: I went to this Mexican restaurant and discovered something glorious. Vegetarian fajitas with grilled pineapple. Do it. You'll thank me later. 

And I have a funny story pertaining to the title of my email! So, we had District Meeting this week (which was super good by the way, I absolutely adore my entire district because they are the most awesome missionaries ever. End of story), and afterward Sis. Stone and I drove Sis. Irion (The mission president's wife) to our apartment. She has been trying to spend a few hours with all of the companionships, so she accompanied us home to participate in our weekly training activities. Sis. Stone was driving home and she missed the exit she usually takes to get off the freeway. Our GPS's name is Gloria, so she said, "Ah, dang it!! Ok Gloria, reroute!!" Sis. Irion paused and then leaned forward for the GPS. " . . . What is it you want me to do? Oh wait . . . is that the name of your GPS?" 

That's when I found out Sis. Irion's first name is Gloria. It took me a long time to get over the fits of laughter that ensued. Sis. Stone was mortified and told Sis. Irion that she would never call her by her first name. I still give Sis. Stone a hard time about it. Isn't that what companions are for? :)

We had another miracle this week! It was truly incredible. I believe in my last letter I mentioned Shane. He is Nicole's boyfriend, and Nicole is a member of the church. She really wants to be married and have an eternal family, so she has been trying to get Shane to take the lessons for years. He has taken the lessons from the missionaries, but nothing really clicked. He had a lot of questions that made him feel skeptical towards the doctrine. He had a whole long list of questions concerning the apostasy, priesthood authority, the spirit world, tons of random points of doctrine really. Well, he finally agreed to meet with the missionaries, so Nicole invited us over last Monday evening to teach him. We were able to answer a few of his questions and we taught him the importance of seeking answers through studying the scriptures with a specific question in mind. Well, we came back two days later and asked him if he had any more questions. I knew we definitely hadn't hit every bullet point on his hugely long list. To my surprise, he said he didn't have any questions! He said he wasn't skeptical anymore. I was honestly taken aback by that. He was so doubtful for so many months and now his doubts had vanished. I didn't expect them to vanish that quickly. I said a prayer of gratitude and we jumped right into the Restoration. He soaked everything in like a sponge. When we would hit a point of doctrine and ask him what it meant to him, he would talk about why he didn't like it in the past, but now because he understands it, he has learned to love it. Shane is so golden. We asked him if he believed that everything we taught him is true and he said yes! So, we invited him to be baptized. He is getting baptized March 9!! Oh happy day!! That made my entire week. He just gets it. Everything that confused him before has been made clear. He understands the role of the gospel in his life and he is really looking forward to his baptism. In fact, we originally set his date for March 15 so he would have enough time to quit smoking, but he really wants to be baptized the 9 so he can go to the temple to do baptisms on the 15th. He said he is sure God can help him quit smoking before then. He is so fantastic. We will definitely be praying for him, and we look forward to his baptism! 

We had another lesson with William and Amanda this week. It went pretty well; we taught them the Plan of Salvation and they seem to get everything. William just struggles with praying and going to Church. He doesn't want to go to Church because he worries about the judgment of others. Amanda really wants to go, but doesn't want to go alone. She wants William to be there. Sadly they didn't come yesterday, but hopefully we'll get him there next week!

Well, every week has its ups and downs. Marlene has been progressing, but since we invited her to be baptized, the gates of Hell have opened wide. I have found that to be the most frustrating thing so far. Satan is so irritating. When people strive to change, he will throw every piece of artillery at them. Marlene has a lot of doubts and feels really discouraged. She wants an answer but doesn't know how to get it. She cancelled our appointment and refused to talk to anyone.We're afraid that if Marlene doesn't pull through, we'll lose not only her, but her entire family. But I know Marlene will pull through. When Larry called us I was crushed. But something inside me filled me with peace. Everything is going to be okay. I feel like I have truly been blessed with the gift to be at peace when times get rough.

I've learned a lot about gifts of the Spirit this week. Some are given to us, and some we have to cultivate. This week I learned that peace comes naturally, but I really need to cultivate my patience. Marlene's struggles have been a huge test of patience and faith for me personally. But I know God will help her pull through. I just need to trust in Him and be patient with His timing.  We just need to teach with the Spirit and help her recognize how to receive her answer. She feels pressured and rushed. I truly want to be here when she gets baptized, but transfers are coming up so soon and because there are so many new sisters, chances are I probably will not stay here. As much as I want to see Marlene through to the end, I know I need to have faith in God's timing. She may not be ready by the time I leave. But I've learned the mission isn't about me. It's about the people I'm bringing to God. So I need to put all my trust in God's timing. I know Marlene will pull through, but I don't know when. But I do know that God answers the prayers we say in the behalf of others. I have felt God answering the prayers of my family on my behalf, and I know He's answering my prayers on behalf of my family. I know that He will answer the prayers I say for my investigators. It has been discouraging, but it has helped me rely on God and put more and more of my trust in Him. As a missionary I have tried my best with all our investigators. And now it's up to their agency. 

Sunday was discouraging because that's when Marlene dropped our appointment. And when we went to get a report from the Bishop (we weren't at Church because we had a mission conference) we learned that not a single one of our investigators had come to Church. We were hoping for 7. I'll admit, that was pretty tough on me and Sis. Stone. But as I said before in the MTC, when life gets discouraging, the Spirit just has a way of melting your heart. It came more easily in the MTC because the Spirit is everywhere. The buildings are dedicated and you are constantly surrounded by righteous influences. Out in the real world, it's harder to keep the Spirit with you. But you can. And you need to. Because when life gets discouraging or confusing, we need to rely on the Spirit. Sis. Stone taught me something that has made a huge difference in my life, and that is the importance of inviting the Spirit to be with you every morning before you go out and face the world. Just take 15 minutes every morning for a personal devotional with God. Take nothing but a notebook and something to write with. And maybe your scriptures. And say an audible prayer to God. Pour out your soul to Him; tell Him your fears, your concerns, anything and everything. And listen. Have a personal conversation with Him. I promise as you do this you will find God's hand in your life. You will be able to call upon the Spirit to give you the peace you need every day. It has been such a difference for me, and I know it will for you too. 

Missionary mode. I have a tendency to commit people to do things. :)

I've seen God's tender mercies everywhere. Even on the hard days, we find God's hand guiding us. We have found a few potential investigators and we have set a lot of appointments to meet up with them this week. Hopefully they are ready and willing to accept the Gospel!

And now that I have a few minutes left I should probably mention that I met Elder Oaks. 

Sunday evening was kind of depressing, but at least Sunday morning was good! We had a mission conference and I got to see so many friendly faces! I saw all the sisters in my MTC zone that I missed so terribly, and it was a wonderful reunion! Seeing Sister Day especially made my life. She is doing really well and seems to be really happy! I hope I will get to work with her one day! We exchanged success stories and talked about how difficult, yet rewarding, the work is. It's so validating, talking to other missionaries. Realizing that everyone has slow/hard days helps you understand that you're not alone. And it's even better to hear about their success, because it gives you something more to be grateful for!! If there's anything I've learned from the book of Alma, it's that true happiness comes from rejoicing in the success of other missionaries, not just your own. We're not happy that we've succeeded; we're happy that one more soul is entering into the Kingdom of God. What a blessing. 

So yeah, Elder Oaks! He did a Stake Conference in Nashville, and Pres. Irion asked him to give us a special mission conference over here in Knoxville! So he came Sunday and spoke to all the missionaries. It was so fantastic. He gave us a special conference where he talked about personal revelation. He said he has only done this a handful of times and only does it with spiritually mature audiences, but he had us stand up and teach him something we learned about personal revelation. Then he would build off of what we said. It was incredible. One thing that really stood out to me was that we need to teach people what it means to pray with a sincere heart and real intent. A sincere heart means you really want to know the answer. So what is real intent? Real intent means commitment. When we pray with real intent, we pray with the intent to change and to commit to the answer we receive. We can't expect direction if we just sit in the shade and ask God where to go. That is something we all need to keep in mind as we ask God for direction. I found that to be true when I was asking Him if I should serve a mission. I didn't get my answer until I was fully committed to act. All of us, at some point in our lives, will hit a time when we have important decisions to make and we desperately need direction from God. He will give us direction, but we must be committed to act on it. Why tell us what to do if we have no intention to obey? 

Simply put, the fireside was awesome. I even got to shake Elder Oaks's hand! And he said we were a beautiful group of sisters! An apostle thinks we're beautiful. Now that is validating. :) Elder Oaks is such an incredible speaker; he has a powerful presence. And I learned so much from him! This mission has been truly blessed with opportunities to hear from apostles. Apparently, Elder Nelson came and spoke back in December. I'm sad I missed Elder Holland in the MTC, but I'm super happy that I got to personally meet Elder Oaks!

Well, I better close for now. I hope you all know that I love all y'all so much! I have truly felt the effects of your prayers on my behalf. I feel strengthened each day, and I feel so encouraged. It's an incredible blessing to be out here. Even though it has only been a couple weeks, I can say the mission is harder than anything I've ever done in my life. But I know it will be the most rewarding 18 months of my life. It will be something I will never regret. I'm doing what I can to give it my all out here. I hope you know that I do love my mission. I love my Savior. I know He lives and that He loves us. I know that He wants to save each and every one of His children. The worth of every soul is great in the eyes of God. Never lose hope in anyone. God is always reaching out and preparing people to receive the Gospel. Sometimes it takes time. We have worked with people who have been less active for decades, but something in their lives come up and they have a change of heart. It takes time for hearts to change, but they can and do change. This Gospel changes lives. It softens hearts. It brings people and families closer together. It's a blessing to see the fruits of the Gospel in the lives of others. I love you all so much! Go out and do something excellent this week!

Best wishes and lots of love, 

Sister Fox

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Good Outnumbered the Bad, but thte Bad Outweighed The Good


Hey y'all!


     
 Ok, I'm gonna have to be fast, so I'm going to type everything as fast as I can. Because this week rocked, and I have so much to tell, and the library is only giving me an hour and I had to use the first 26 minutes for mission business. So, here it goes! Buckle up!

I got the package! Thank you so much! I actually kind of devoured the chocolate. I appreciate the healthy snacks too! It's ok if y'all wanna sneak a little sugar in there. Some days I really kind of need it. Don't fret about the Easter package, you can just do the same thing. I eat the dried Apricots like candy; I love them so much!
      
Before I get into my letter, I have a request. For letters. I don't want to sound like I'm entitled to letters or anything, but there are a few people I would absolutely love to hear from! You know who you are *cough* Laura, Jason Dahl, Elder Davis *cough*. Just saying. :)

I'm gonna send all y'all pictures soon! I just bought a card reader, so I will back them up on my flash drive and then send them all home. You'll see a lot of random pictures of animals. That's from the Zoo yesterday. We went as a district and it was tons of fun! I really love the Elders and Sisters in my district! They're all the best. I love my companion, but it's good to get to see other missionaries every once in a while!

Ok, so Tuesday. We visited a recent convert named Sis. Capshaw, and her story brings me to tears every time. She has had such a tough life but she is one of the strongest people I have ever met. This is the beautiful thing about missionary work. You see people struggle through so much, but you see just how much the Lord loves them and can make people whole through faith in Him. She has the strongest testimony and she is an incredible example to me. I love working with incredible people like this out in the field, it is a huge blessing.
Tuesday we also met a new less active family. Larry was a mormon as a young boy, but he had some really bad experiences with people in the church. But what's incredible to me is that he doesn't have any grudges against the LDS faith. He had a rough childhood, but he still remembers how being a member of the church made him stronger. He was married in an LDS church when he was 18 and hadn't been back since. He's 51 now, and lives with his wife, Marlene, who is Baptist. Their story is truly incredible. As I listened to their history I could see so many instances when the Lord was preparing them to hear His Gospel. It's amazing to see how the Lord prepares people to listen to you. Their hearts had been humbled and by the time we came to their doorstep, they were both still seeking for truth.  We committed them both to take the lessons and left them with a couple copies of the Book of Mormon to read. What's crazy is that they had missionaries come to their doorstep before. But they would just goof off! They would go fourwheeling and stuff with Larry and would leave Marlene at home. She didn't like the elders much. And of all the missionaries and home teachers that came to their door, no one ever invite them to church. Crazy, right? If all y'all are visiting less-actives, invite them to church. For heaven's sake, everyone needs church. Never give up on someone or refuse to send out an invitation because you're afraid they won't accept it. If they don't accept it, they will in time. Always love them no matter what and never give up on them! You never know what kind of seeds you're planting.

We met Larry and Marlene again on Thursday. It's a very personal experience, but I can honestly say that I have never felt the spirit more strongly in my life, save the time I stood in the Celestial Room of the temple with my family for the first time. Thursday I experienced the pure, exquisite joy of missionary work. I could feel the Spirit speak through me as I told Larry and Marlene things they truly needed to hear. As Sister Stone and I taught them, I saw a light go on in their eyes. I saw a restored hope that they thought they had lost. A hope for a brighter future and a greater plan in store. By the end of the night, everyone was in tears. We committed Marlene to baptism and she said yes without hesitation. Larry just sat there and said he needed time to take it all in. He wanted his wife to be a part of the LDS faith for the longest time but never pushed it on her because he was afraid she wouldn't accept it. And now she wanted to get baptized. It was an incredible, incredible experience.

Larry and Marlene came to church Sunday for the first time! Larry said it brough back really good memories and Marlene was really excited to come back next week. I love these two! This couple is so golden. They have had such a hard past but they can see the hand of the Lord in their lives, and they truly feel like we were sent to them personally to share the gospel with them. One week ago we didn't even know them. Now we're the best of friends and Marlene is getting baptized! AND last night we went back to teach them and two of their children were there! That was also an amazing experience. Their oldest, Travis, told us that his father had never really spoken about religion and his mom had been baptist for years. Now, all of a sudden, his dad is going back to church and talking about religion, and his mom is going to be baptized into the LDS church. He said he trusts his parents and generally likes to follow in their footsteps. So he wanted to take the lessons to know what it means to be LDS. We taught them all the Restoration and watched the Restoration film. I love that movie. 22 minutes of pure spirituality. We gave both of them a Book of Mormon and they are all going to take the lessons together as a family! I'm so happy I'm fit to burst!

And to top that all off, we met an incredible member, Sis Morfey, who is a great member missionary. Just last year she converted three people to the gospel! We went to visit her and she told us about her boyfriend. She wants so desperately for him to accept the gospel in his life, but he is stubborn and so devout in his own Christian faith. She said she doesn't want to push it, so she denied us when we asked her to invite him for a lesson. I told her to pray about it and that the Lord will let her know what action to take. Well, sure enough, Monday afternoon, she gave us a call and said her boyfriend would be over that night and wants to talk to the missionaries! That was an exciting piece of news! So after we had an awesome lesson with Larry and Marlene's family, we went over to Sis. Morfey's and talked to her boyfriend. He had a lot of questions and concerns, but we committed him to take the lessons, to start praying, and to start reading the Book of Mormon. I'm so excited to work with him and see where the Gospel takes him. He really wants to know the truth, and even though he's taking the lessons for his girlfriend, I see so much potential in him and know he will gain his own testimony.

That's the incredible thing about being a missionary. You see potential. I see people wearing baptismal suits the moment I meet them. I see families who are strong in the gospel. I see it all before it happens. And it's incredible to be able to see a little piece of what God has in store for others. It's also a blessing to be able to feel the love God has for His children. There have been so many times I have sat in a lesson and have testified of God's love for them, and I have felt it surge through my veins as I have taught. You really learn to love people out here. Despite their quirks, weaknesses, and flaws. Not just investigators, companions as well. Sometimes Sister Stone and I clash because our personalities are so vastly different. Sometimes it can be difficult to move forward because we both combat stress in different ways. But I have learned so much about loving others who may do things differently than you. The worth of every soul is great in the eyes of God, and I have seen that manifested out here more than ever before. It's an incredible blessing to be a witness of that.

So you may be wondering about the title of the email. The experiences I just described to you were only about 2-3 days out of last week. The other days, I'll be honest, were hard. Several brought me to my knees. We tracted with no luck in a snowstorm. We were cut off mid-sentence again and again as people shut their doors. We have had people drop appointments and ignore our phonecalls. We've tried in vain to get a hold of people who have tried to disappear from the face of the earth. And those days can be hard to get through. But, in the words of Elder Holland, salvation is not supposed to be easy. Missionary work is tough. But these tough experiences are what refine us. One night I was talking to Sister Stone about how hard it was for me to cope on slower days. She told me something I will never forget. The bad days will outnumber the good. But the good days will outweigh the bad days. That is so true. Not just of missionary work, but of life as well. We will all hit bad days that will bring us to our knees, pleading for help. But whatever we are facing in life, help will come. The light of Christ will flow into our lives as we turn to Him. And He will show us our purpose. He will remind us what it means to be a disciple of Christ, and will remind us of the happiness that comes from following Him. I saw that a lot this week. The experiences I had with the Bainum family and with Sis. Morfey's boyfriend. Those experiences with the Spirit made everything worth it. Even the bad days. The good days have outweighed the bad by a huge margin. There's no comparison.

Well, that was my week! Even though we had a bit of snow this week, Tennessee is as beautiful as ever, and I'm looking forward to Spring when all of these trees will get some leaves. I absolutely love it here in Clinton. We spend most of our time in Clinton and don't go up to Lake City unless there's a member present, so if you've been reading up on Lake City, don't worry. We always go by the Spirit and do whatever we can to be safe. :)

I'm definitely in good hands here. The members feed us every night, and they're always really nice, home-cooked meals. The members are super friendly and all really involved in missionary work. It's always a blessing to know that our investigators and converts will be in good hands after we leave.
I love all of you! Thank you so so much for all your letters, prayers, and support! It all means the world to me. Missionary work is tough, but I love it. I love the joy that comes from restoring hope to a soul wandering in darkness. I love that joy that comes from serving God. You all can feel that joy too as you reach out to others in love and service.

Better close for now! I will write all y'all next week! I love you!!
-Sister Fox

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

We're Fox and Stone, and we're here to help you!

Friends and Family!

Well, hello there! It's finally P-day! Going a week and a half without a p-day was harder than I anticipated. Though, I guess spending time at the mission home counts as a break day, because we didn't do much once we got off the plane at the Knoxville airport. We met President Irion and his wife, who are both amazing individuals. I love them so much! Their house is gorgeous. And so is this state. I love, love, LOVE Tennessee! I've been here less than a week and I have already decided that I will live here one day. Maybe retire here. Or build a cabin. It is so beautiful! D'y'all remember the glorious feeling you felt when you fell in love the first time? Yeah. Arriving in Tennessee was like falling in love all over again! The whole landscape is covered in trees! I live in a forest. And I'm really happy about it. Even though it's the beginning of February and most of the trees have no leaves, it is still super gorgeous. I'm excited to see what it's like in the Spring and Fall! I do miss the mountains, but I can't get over how beautiful this landscape is. Dad mentioned once he wants to move to Idaho. No, he wants to move to Tennessee. Because out here, you can live in the suburbs and the forest at the same time. We have a Wal-Mart here and so many other resources, yet everywhere you turn the landscape looks rural. So many huge fields, hills, streams, and meadows surrounded by trees. It doesn't get much better than this.

The weather is gorgeous too. I've been wearing short sleeves every day! But no, I'm not going to brag about it, because in the thick of summer it gets up in the 90's, and it's super humid here. So no bragging. Though I am loving the smooth skin and the volume in my hair. And the fact that I can actually breathe here. If someone nearby isn't smoking. But I digress.

My companion, if you couldn't tell from the title, is Sister Stone. She's been out 9 months and she is awesome! When we met the bishop, he said, "Fox and Stone. That sounds like a law firm. That's how you should pitch yourselves, 'We're Fox and Stone. We come to you! Have you been injured? We have Elders that can heal you!'" Yeah, took me a while to stop laughing after that one. He's a lawyer. If y'all couldn't tell.

And apparently Stone Fox is a really good book with a surprisingly sad ending. But that doesn't mean anything.

I have to be honest, we had a bit of a hard time the first few days out here. Sister Stone and I are white washing this area (meaning we replaced the missionaries that were here so we are both brand new to the ward and the area) and this is Sister Stone's first time training. So we're both a little lost, but we're getting a better sense of the area and the ward. We absolutely love the ward here! They are all so fantastic. The first night we got here we made one phone call to Sister Blankenship and she immediately invited us over for dinner. Since then we have been fed almost every night! And guess what? No fried foods. Nothing drenched in butter or gravy. And a lot of fresh garden vegetables. So put that in your frozen pipe and smoke it (Haha sorry y'all, family inside joke. Please don't break the Word of Wisdom. Besides, you know what they say: You can't smoke a frozen pipe).

This ward is so supportive! Relief Society members are really in to missionary work, and several have already volunteered to go on team ups with us. I feel like we will never be lacking a member in our discussions, so that's a huge blessing from above. The ward mission leader is also really in to missionary work. He already gave us a challenge to visit every member, spending more time with the less actives, and suggested several members who will be willing to do team ups. He has a whole ward missionary plan to get more ward members involved in retention and activation, and is setting goals for numbers of new baptisms in the ward. I am really looking forward to working with him!

Ok, the ward is HUGE! That's the overwhelming part. It used to be three wards, and without knowing why, the Stake President said they had to merge the wards. Three wards in one, yeah. It's gigantic. There are actually 3 sets of missionaries assigned to this one ward, because its boundaries cover three different areas: Pleasant Ridge North (that's where I am!) Pleasant Ridge, and Pleasant Ridge South. Together we are the Pleasant Ridge Ward. It's nuts. There are 200 members in the Relief Society. Yeah, you read that right. 200. And more than half are less active. So we definitely have our work cut out for us here. What's really hard about activation and retention, besides the fact that Satan is working hard on families here, is the location of the Church building. Here in Tennessee there are church buildings on every corner. Think of how many frozen yogurt places are in Provo. And then quadruple them. And you have the churches in this area. Literally, on every corner. All different kinds. But none of them are LDS! We have one building, 20 miles away. It's not even in our area--it's about a 50 minute drive. So, my dear family, when you take that 10 minute drive to church every Sunday, count your blessings. :) I love Tennessee, but I do miss the convenience of church attendance in Utah.

Besides working with ward members, the elders left us a couple progressing investigators and several potential investigators to do some follow-up visits. We met the Brummette family, a family that consists of three adorable little girls (11, 9, and 7) and their father. They are three little balls of energy with the most adorable, thick southern accents you have ever heard. I love them so much! The youngest is turning 8 in March, and we committed them all for baptism! They all want to get baptized on the same day, on her birthday. Three baptismal committments in one day! Woo! Oh they're so cute. The youngest told us in a thick southern accent, "I wanna be dunked in the water and get the Holy Ghost!" Ah they're so cute I can barely handle it. I'm so excited to prepare them for their baptismal date!

We have other progressing investigators but they cancelled on us. It's hard whitewashing because some people get so attached to the elders and you have to work extra hard to gain their trust. We haven't gotten a hold of them yet, but hopefully we will be able to contact them soon. Pray for us!

We have had a bit of success finding potential investigators too. There was one night, after we were fed at a member's home, that I felt we should stop by and visit one of the Elders' progressing investigators named Amanda. She invited us in and we were able to talk a little bit with her. She has a beautiful family and is looking for a church to help her children. We taught her a bit about the Book of Mormon and committed her to read. We're returning tomorrow night to teach her! Pray for us!

We found another potential investigator as we were out tracting. We have an appointment with him tonight, so pray that it goes well!! We have an interesting approach as we tract, one that I've personally never heard of. Because almost every person in this area is Christian, when they open the door we offer the Savior's peace and blessings in the home. We offer a simple kneeling prayer, asking the Savior to bless their home and help them to recognize the truth and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. When they have a spiritual experience like that, they are more likely to commit. So, we tried it. We didn't get as much success as I would have liked, but it does help soften hearts. Remember the night I got set apart? When President Gottfredson asked, "Who can say no to that face?" Well, I'll tell ya who. I got my very first door slam this week by a die-hard Baptist. It was surprisingly funny! We knocked on this door and a man opened it a crack and stared us down. Ha, if looks could kill. I tried to be nice though. "Hi! I'm Sister Fox and this is Sister Stone. We're going around and leaving the Savior's peace and blessings in everyone's homes. What that is, it's a simple praye..." "I KNOW what that is! I've been Baptist all my life! Thank you!" *slam*. Took some effort not to burst out laughing on the doorstep. Sister Stone didn't think it was that funny. My first thought was, "My first door slam! That's going in my journal tonight!"

However, when most people turn us down, they're pretty nice about it. We were able to pray on the doorstep of three different homes, but no one wanted to kneel or let us inside the home. Even though we're two young sisters, they don't trust us in their home. Which stands to reason. After offering the prayer we tried to teach them about the Book of Mormon and they kindly turned us down. We got really close with this one woman, but she's also a devout Baptist and doesn't want to make any changes. That's the tough part of the work here in Tennessee. It's fantastic that everyone has a personal testimony of the Savior and has a love for Christ, but so few are willing to accept the fullness of the Gospel. I am grateful, though, for the opportunity to plant some seeds. Those seeds will spring up when they're ready. Brother Bunch (the ward mission leader) told us Sunday that he believes the South will one day be the strong point of the Church. I feel like if we all have that vision for it, that could be true. The Church is really growing in the United States, and even though there is still so much work to be done here, I know that it can only get stronger and stronger!

Well y'all, that was my week. It has been overwhelming on many different levels, and I've already had good days and bad days, but the Spirit is always here. My patience has been tried and it's hard not to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the work and trying to get to know the ward and the area. But I've learned that when you pray for the spirit of optimism, you can have it. The magnitude of the work that needs to be done here is staggering, but "by small and simple things great things are brought to pass." I know that I'm supposed to be here, and I know there are people out there for me to teach. I know that as I walk by the Spirit I will be able to find them and strengthen them. I just always needs to be faithful and optimistic.

Spiritual thought to end this letter, and that is the importance of missionary work. Each of us should have within us a sense of urgency to spread the Gospel. Everyone has needs that the Gospel can fulfill. We need persistance. In the words of Elder Holland, we need to be more persistant than the Avon lady at the door. Even if all we can do is plant a tiny seed by offering someone a pass-along card or a Book of Mormon, we should do it. I know there are so many members in Utah, but many still do not know about the Gospel, and many are less active. There is no more important work that can be done on this earth. Bringing souls to Christ should be our primary goal. Through our actions and examples, we should all be striving to bring people closer to Christ. Even if they are already members. Because my purpose as a missionary is not to just convert and baptize people. It's to bring them to Christ. Each day we should find someone who needs us. Listen to the Spirit and visit people who need you. Talk to people who haven't been to Church in a while. Talk to that one person who isn't a member. I've learned that through the enabling power of the Atonement, we can all be given courage beyond our natural capacity to talk to those put in our path. I'm still flippin' shy, but I have found so much courage as we knock on every door. We fear rejection, but it's not that bad. As long as we plant that seed, we've done a bit of good.

Well, my computer time is about to expire. I love y'all and hope that all is well back at home. I'm doing splendidly here, and am loving the work! I appreciate all the prayers and support. I love y'all so much! Until next week!

-Sister Fox