Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Golden Chapter

Family! Friends! 

Why hello there! Guess what? It's p-day! So I get to write another letter! Yay! Guess what else? The field is white! Literally. It's a flippin' blizzard outside. Only in Tennessee is the weather 50 degrees in the beginning of February and 25 degrees at the end of March. I swear, it's almost more erratic than Utah! But that's not important. Just thought I'd make a mission pun. I'm chuck full of those.
OOOH speaking of mission puns! Funny story. I apologize for the language, but that's what makes it funny. I promise it's not that bad. Sister Stone, Sister Mortensen, and I were out meeting our neighbors because we had a little extra time before our dinner appointment. We were knocking on doors to introduce ourselves, and we knocked on this one lady's door, whose eyes grew super wide when she saw us. She looked slightly mortified. Here's kind of how the conversation went:
Missionaries: "Hi! We're your neighbors, and were coming by to introduce ourselves!"
Lady: *examines nametags* "What Church are y'all from??"
Missionaries: " . .The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints."
Lady: "Nope, nope, sorry, can't do it."
Missionaries: "Oh it's okay, we just wanted to introduce ourselves . . ."
Lady: "Yeah, yeah, it's nice to meet y'all and everythang, but quite frankly, it scares the Hell out of me."
And with that she slammed the door. Can't say I've gotten that reaction before! Well we crossed the hall and knocked on someone else's door. That's when Sister Stone muttered, "Well...we could get the Hell out of her."
And that's when all three of us erupted into an uncontrollable fit of giggles. So much so that we couldn't regain our composure for a solid five minutes. It's a really good thing nobody answered the next door.
I also have another funny story, but sadly I wasn't actually there to witness it. This is a story from Sister Mortensen when she went on exchanges. She and Sister Bowman tracted into this black rapper who gladly invited them in. He didn't seem too interested in their message. They kind of struggled teaching him the Restoration, because apparently he wouldn't stop talking. However, when they told him the story of the First Vision, he finally got silent. He leaned forward and looked deep in thought. Sister Mortensen was pretty sure the Spirit was working with him, and they both stayed silent as they waited for him to speak. Finally he spoke up: "Alright alright alright. D'ya know what Ah thank et was? Ah thank, et was a U.F.O."
That's when they gave up and left. It took me a long time to recover from that one.
So! I s'pose I'll start talking about my week! I hesitate to say it was slow, because it seemed slower than usual, but we still saw a lot of good things happen! I guess I'll start with Monday.
Monday we went to Target and I was so flippin' tired of grey skirts that I bought another skirt because it was bright blue and on sale. And it kind of makes me look like the tooth fairy. I figured I'd do something to protect my title of "climbing fairy" while I'm out here and deprived of rocks to climb. Just thought I'd share that. After our p-day activities we went over to Larry's and Marlene's and we taught them how to conduct Family Home Evening. We watched the Testaments together, and they both loved it. They got a copy of their own so they can show it to their kids. We're working with two out of three of their kids now, and they're definitely progressing! But I'll get to that later. This letter is gonna go in chronological order.
Tuesday we spent most of the day doing what we like to call "roster clean-up." Our ward roster is 8 pages long, because after they merged the two wards, naturally the ward got freakishly huge. And it's nearly impossible for the leaders in the ward to keep track of everybody, because ward boundaries are scattered over several cities. So the ward mission leader wants us to try to meet with every family in our area on our roster, figure out if they still live there, if they need help, if they're less-active, part member, etc. We tried to visit about 12-15 families, and only a few of them were home. The best part was when we got lost in the middle of the woods. That seems to happen a lot in Tennessee. You know you're not going the right direction when you suddenly see all these "No Tresspassing" signs on the road. And when the road turns to dirt. I'm grateful for Gloria and everything (our GPS) but sometimes she likes to take us to these obscure back roads. At least it makes every day more of an adventure! Yeah. So that was Tuesday.
Wednesday was fantastic! We went to do some service at Larry's and Marlene's (yeah, we like to spend a lot of time there) planting seeds for their garden, and then we went to visit with their daughter, Sheila. Sheila is doing really well! She is always reading and studying from the Book of Mormon, and she knows it's true. Poor thing is still struggling with her husband, though. She doesn't want to go to Church unless he's okay with it, and he still wants nothing to do with the Church. We'll keep her in our prayers, I know that his heart will soften one day. Hopefully it's sooner rather than later.
After teaching Sheila we went to teach Travis, Sheila's older brother. Travis is so much further along than I ever thought! We've tried to teach him in the past, at the same time we taught Marlene, but it was really hard teaching their whole family at once, because they were all on different planes of understanding. That's why we're teaching all the children separately. And now that Marlene has been baptized, she has been a huge help with teaching her children. As we sat down with Travis, we were going to teach him the Plan of Salvation, but Sister Stone had the feeling we should read out of the Book of Mormon with him. So that's what we did. We turned to Helaman 5 and read that chapter with him. Oh my goodness. I love that chapter! There's an incredible Spirit that will flow into any room as you read and study the Book of Mormon together, and it was certainly present there. At the end of that chapter we asked him what he got out of it, and he gave us a very profound answer that I had never even thought of before, even after reading that chapter at least a dozen times in my life. We asked him to apply what he learned to his own life, and he came out and said, "I need to get baptized." Whoa. Wasn't expecting that one! He practically committed himself. It was so incredible! We all got so excited! Travis is going to be baptized!! Ah, I just love this family. I love seeing how the Gospel has blessed not only Larry and Marlene, but their kids as well. We have another appointment with him tonight, and we cannot be more excited! I'll let all y'all know how it goes!
Thursday was kind of weird. We were going to go out tracting, but the Spirit led us back to Larry and Marlene's. We caught them in the middle of their gospel studies. I just love these two. They are perfect examples of what it means to feast upon the words of Christ. They study every chance they can get, and they grow happier and happier as they read. I wonder if at times I take the Gospel for granted. Sometimes my studies and prayers aren't as sincere as they could be. We are so blessed to have the Gospel. These are the words of life. These are the words of salvation, the words that will bring us the most happiness and fulfillment in this life. I have learned so much of the importance of study as I have taught Larry and Marlene. What an example. I just love them.
That was an unplanned tangent. Anyway, they referred us to a couple of their friends, so we left to go referral hunting. Now, here's the problem with Tennessee. It doesn't have a grid layout. We all know that's a western thing. So all the roads have obscure names and wind all over the place. And some roads, I kid you not, will change names right in the middle of the road with no warning whatsoever. So, needless to say, we got lost again. Plus, Larry didn't really know the address, so he gave us directions. He told us he had friends who lived on this one road, but the problem with these roads in Tennessee, they are miles and miles long. And he said they lived in a small white house, surrounded by about 8 acres of land, by a pasture of white cows, just past a huge curve in the road. That's just as helpful as distinguishing an elder in the MTC as "the one in the white shirt and tie." So that was an adventure! We knocked on several doors and talked to a couple confused people. Apparently it's not normal for three sisters in skirts and black nametags to knock on doors in the middle of nowhere looking for someone who needs the Gospel. Huh.
But the best part of getting lost on the back roads of Tennessee is finding all sorts of obscure animals in the middle of the road. Like a couple of stray llamas we found walking down the road. You think I'm kidding. It was really funny. Sadly I didn't have my camera; I'll have to steal pictures from my two lovely companions. Tennessee. It's a strange place.
Thursday night we went to go visit Sharon. Her sons, Quinton and Trevin, were sadly not there. They will take a little more time, but I know we can reach them. During our lesson Nicole came to visit, who sat in on part of our lesson. After we finished sharing a spiritual thought she said, "So...I got married last night." Just thought she'd throw that out there. We are so excited for her and Shane! They are the cutest couple ever! They didn't make it a grand wedding, they just did it kind of last minute. They gathered their family and had the Bishop marry them in their parents' house. I'm so excited for them to go to the temple in a year to be sealed together! Oh they are the cutest little family ever. I just love those two!
Friday we had dinner with Larry, Marlene, and Travis, with the four other missionaries serving in the ward. It was so fun to see everyone! After dinner we gathered together and watched Finding Faith in Christ and the Restoration video. Those never get old. Except for maybe the latter. I've seen it about 20 times. But don't tell anyone I said I think it's old. It's still really good!
Oooh OOoh OOh guess what else happened Friday? We got to meet up with Caitlyn again! If you remember, Caitlyn is the girl around my age who goes to her local Baptist Church, but absolutely loves learning about Christ. Even though her friends tell her not to meet with us, she loves talking to us and learning more about the Gospel. We were going to teach her the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but Sister Stone had the impression again to read from the Book of Mormon with her. So what chapter did we read from? Helaman 5. Naturally. And again, it was such a good experience! She got something out of it that was completely different from what Travis got out of it, but it still spoke to her personally. And then we invited her to be baptized. She said she had just been baptized into her own Church the Sunday before. It was followed by an awkward silence, but the Spirit prodded me to speak, so I took the leap of faith and opened my mouth. Words just began flowing. It's incredible how the Spirit works that way. I told her about how this baptism will only add to her baptism, and how it will be different because it is done by the proper authority and will be followed by receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, which she really connected with. She accepted to be baptized April 20th! Happy day!!! Happy missionary!! Three of them, actually. We have a little baptism dance we like to do every time we commit somebody. We got to do it twice this week! Helaman 5. It's the golden chapter.
We got to see Kathy and Jerry a little bit this week. They want to come to Church! We just need to get Kathy a dress. Hopefully we'll see her come to Church next week!
Saturday we put on an Easter egg hunt for the primary kids, and it was so fun! I just love kids. They're adorable. We were told if they couldn't find all the eggs we got to keep the leftovers. Did I hide eggs in super obscure places after I learned that? Yes. Yes I did. Only a few though. I just gotta have my M&Ms.
Saturday we also found a new potential investigator! We were going through the roster again and we decided to visit a less active/part member family. The dad wasn't home, but his niece was, and she said she's really interested in learning more about the Gospel! We are going to try to see them again next week. Hopefully it'll go well!!
Saturday night we went to Cracker Barrel. Oh my heavens. If all y'all wanna experience Southern food, go to Cracker Barrel. I think there's one in Provo, or somewhere South of Provo. I know there's one in Utah. It's delicious. Just . . .prepare your arteries.
Sunday was awesome! Travis came out to Church again and he enjoyed his experience more this time. Except now I have to get up on my soapbox. Because he mentioned something that was kind of sad to me. He talked about how he loved the meeting, but he couldn't help but see that a lot of the people in the congregation were sleeping, doodling, texting, or simply not paying attention. He said that really bothered him. In the house of the Lord, people should be worshiping Him and doing what they can to obtain His word. That really hit me. How many times have I found myself falling asleep or not paying attention in Sacrament Meeting? Too many times to count. We have the blessing of the Gospel. We have the special opportunity to worship God at His Church every Sunday and obtain His word. Are we taking advantage of that opportunity? Or are we texting? Going to Church can be a powerful spiritual experience, but only if you make it one. And you never know who is watching. If you were sitting next to an investigator, would you be acting differently in Sacrament Meeting? I'm starting to ask myself that question now. Because a lot of the teaching we do is by example. As we feast on the word, and show through our actions how feasting on the word makes us happy, others will be more inclined to feast on the word as well. I'm getting down from my soapbox now. Just food for thought. =D
Speaking of sleeping in Sacrament Meeting, I myself was jolted awake when they released Bishop Rose. At first I was super sad! I absolutely love Bishop Rose; he has been so helpful in the missionary efforts. But then they called Bro. Blankenship as the new bishop!! Now that made me excited! The Blankenships were the first family I met out here, and the first ones to feed us dinner. They were both missionaries, and I know they will both be super helpful in getting the ward excited about missionary work. And they invited us over to their place to watch General Conference! Now I was already excited for General Conference, but that invitation just about tripled it!
Sunday night we finally got to have a real lesson with William and Amanda for the first time in over a month! We hadn't been able to talk to Amanda since her blessing, and she has been doing a lot better. We were thinking about dropping them because they weren't progressing, but we thought we'd give them one more shot. We had an incredible lesson with the both of them. We brought out the Book of Mormon and decided to read with them. What chapter did we read? Helaman 5. We asked what William got out of it and he said not much. Worth a shot, though. But something we taught him that night stirred in him, and we committed him to read the Book of Mormon. I have a feeling that this time they both will really start progressing. We're excited to see what happens with them!
And that, my friends and family, was my week. I just love being a missionary. I love this Gospel. I know the Church is true. There's nothing quite like preaching the Gospel and completely immersing yourself in the words of Christ all day every day. Words can't do it justice. It's just an incredible experience. And it's unbelievably challenging. All my letters are positive, because the work rocks, but that doesn't mean that the mission still hasn't felt like the refiner's fire. But what gets me through those difficult times is knowing who the Refiner is. We teach people over and over about the importance of coming to Christ through our trials. Because He understands. He sees the big picture. He sees our potential, and knows exactly what we need to get there. I received an incredible letter from my very gorgeous older sister talking about how Christ is always blessing us. He knows exactly what we need, when we need it. He will help us become the best people that we can be. And He will make of us, immeasurably more, than what we can make of ourselves. Of us we will create ordinary men. He will create a masterpiece. He will create a God.
I stole that from a talk entitled "The Fourth Missionary." Look it up, it's good!
Thank you all so much for your letters! I just love them, and all y'all, so much. I'm so grateful for all the prayers said on my behalf, I feel them strengthening me each and every day. I pray for all of you as often as I can. I love knowing that my prayers are being answered. Always keep the faith, and know that God loves you, because that will get you through anything. Until next week my incredible friends and family!
-Sister Fox

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Silver Dollars, Blossoms, and Baptisms


Family!!

Friends!!

Guess what? This week rocked!

And there are no items of business this week, besides a public THANK YOU! to everyone who sent me letters this week, so we can jump right to the good stuff! Isn't that great?!

I s'pose I'll start with transfers.

Transfers were great! We got ourselves a third sister! It is so weird being in a trio. But it's also fairly awesome. It's like a sleepover every night! And the three of us have hit it off pretty well. Sister Mortenson is super awesome! She is just what the doctor ordered. She has brought so much more laughter and joy into our companionship, and even though it's harder to teach with unity with three of us, we have all been able to connect pretty well with our investigators. I knew Sister Mortenson in the MTC, so it was super nice to bring a friendly face into our companionship! I love it.

After transfers we got right to work! We got to visit a lot of people this week, and so much has happened! We were first able to visit Quinton, who I think I mentioned last time. He is Sharon's son, and Sharon is a recent convert. She has two sons who she really wants to see accept the Gospel. They've been pretty closed off, but Quinton is slowly opening up. We showed him the Restoration video and it went really well! He was raised Baptist, and he said our religion is so different from his, but he has liked everything we've taught him thus far. He said the movie felt different, and he loved the feelings of peace that came from watching it. We committed him to come to Church! Sharon was in tears. It was an incredible lesson. I just love being a missionary!

We were also able to meet with my three favorite little girls this week! Mary, Kaitlin, and Bethany all came to the Church for the Baptismal interviews Wednesday night. Kaitlin even handpicked tiny yellow flowers and put them behind my and Sister Stone's name tags. It was so adorable! I just love these three little girls!! As we were waiting for their interviews, we played a pretty intense game of keep-away with a basketball. Kids. They're the best.

And I need to freak out about Shane for a moment. Shane is so awesome! He received the priesthood this week!! We didn't get to see his ordination, but we got to see him afterward, and he was just glowing. He went with Nicole to the ward temple trip on Saturday, and he was able to do baptisms for the dead for the first time. He absolutely loved it! And what's extra awesome, he did over 20 family names! I love this Gospel. Not only was Shane baptized last Saturday, but now the work is rolling fast for his family on the other side of the veil. It just goes to show that one soul brought into the kingdom can create a huge snowball effect. It's the best feeling! I love being a missionary! The Church is true!

Thursday we had an incredible zone meeting, followed by a lesson with Kathy and Jerry. Kathy isn't doing too well. She found out her cancer is really bad, and she has been trying to keep herself occupied to keep her mind off of things. We invited her to come to the Relief Society activity, and she accepted! She followed us out to the church with her friend Theresea, and they both had a wonderful time! It made me so happy! I believe the two of them will progress fairly fast. With Jerry it's a little harder, but I think he'll get there too. We just need to be patient with him.

Ooooh guess what? This is completely out of the blue, but we're doing a scripture memorization activity throughout the duration of our missions. If you memorize one scripture a day for two years you will get a photographic memory. There's a certain method you go about memorizing and reviewing, it's pretty cool! I've been doing it for a while now. And guess what?? I memorized 3rd Nephi chapter 11!! The whole thing! I feel so proud of myself; it's the longest thing I've ever memorized! Anyway. Sorry. Just had to get excited a minute there.

Saturday was fantastic! We went to have dinner with Marlene and Larry, and their whole family was there! We haven't been able to teach their children in a really long time, but we were finally able to commit Travis and his girlfriend Angel to take the lessons! He also saw how a priesthood blessing had really blessed his father and he wanted one too. He was able to receive one at Marlene's baptism, and I think it really made a change in him. He's eager to learn more about the gospel and follow in his parents' footsteps. We're super excited for him!

Larry did something Saturday night that was really touching to me. He said he wanted to give us something to remember their family by, and as a token of appreciation for bringing the Gospel back into his home. He gave each of us a silver dollar, and said he had kept these all his life. They were a gift from his grandparents I believe, from the year they were born. Mine was from 1922. It was really touching to me that he would give me something of so much sentimental value to him. Words still cannot describe just how happy it makes me, that I was able to bless the lives of an entire family by being an instrument in the hands of God and taking them the Gospel. What a blessing! I will keep that silver dollar forever.

Update on Amanda and William, we finally were able to see them for the first time in a month. Every time we went over there they weren't home or needed to reschedule. We finally dropped in when Amanda was home, and she was going through a really rough time. We had the elders come out and give her a priesthood blessing, and she said afterward she was speechless. We committed her to come to Church, but unfortunately she changed her mind. However, I believe that blessing did a lot of good, and even if she does drop us, it was a seed planted.

We also got to see Ruby again this week, and we found out she's not as interested as we thought in learning more about the Gospel. We'll keep trying though!

Sunday was fantastic! It was Marlene's baptism. AND it was the baptism for Mary, Bethany, and Kaitlyn! AND it was the baptism for two other investigators that the Elders were working with! We had six baptisms in one day! And it was the most incredible service. Don't worry, I took tons of pictures! AND the trees are starting to blossom!! I hear Tennessee in Spring is absolutely gorgeous. I can imagine!!! I'm kinda sick of dead trees. Bring on the colors!

It was such an incredible experience. When I had first met Marlene and Larry, I was able to clearly envision them both in baptismal jumpsuits. I could see her clearly in white, and I could see Larry in white, baptizing her. What a blessing it was to see that vision come true yesterday. After 30 years of inactivity in the church, Larry was able to baptize his wife, whom he thought would never accept the Gospel. When she came up out of the water I burst into tears. I have only cried tears of joy 4 times in my life. But I can tell you, this was one of the happiest moments of my life thus far. As I expressed in my last letter with Shane's baptism, words cannot do justice to the incomprehensible joy that overflows your heart when you see someone accept the Gospel, and see their lives changed by coming closer to Christ. Marlene and Larry are completely different people. Their relationship is so much stronger. They are both glowing. They are so happy! Marlene was confirmed right after the service and was promised beautiful blessings. She gave me the biggest hug, told me she loved me, and with tears in her eyes thanked me for bringing her into the Kingdom. I will never forget that moment. Ever. I can't find the right words to describe it; nothing can do it justice. You don't understand the joy of missionary work until you experience it for yourself. Being an instrument in the hands of God is a feeling unlike any other. Bringing other people the Gospel and seeing their lives changed by it is one of the most incredible blessings I have been able to enjoy. I know days like yesterday won't happen every day on my mission, but days like that will carry me through my mission. AH! I wish I could just describe to you how incredible this feeling is! The work is expanding, and it's expanding fast! It is such a blessing to bring souls to Christ. Changing lives has changed my life. I've been out only two months and I feel like a completely different person. It's just incredible. The only thing that I can really use to describe my joy is Alma 26. Read it. It's good! =D I can't remember if I already told you that last week. As a missionary, your brain also gets fried. But it's okay, because it's worth it.

God lives. This is His true Church. You wanna know how I know? Because it would not feel this good bringing others into it if this Church wasn't true. And it would not feel this good saying it. I know the Church is true. I have witnessed first hand just how much it has blessed the lives of others. It changes people. It softens hearts. It mends broken family relationships. It brings insurmountable peace and joy to all those who accept it and diligently study it. It's also amazing how much you learn from investigators out here. I have learned so much from Larry and Marlene about diligent study. Not only do they read the Book of Mormon together every day, but they've been reading in the Sunday School manuals too. They've been asking questions and diligently searching for answers. They truly hunger and thirst after righteousness, and feast upon the words of Christ. They've inspired me to be more diligent in my own studies. I haven't just taught them, they have taught me. They have incredible testimonies, and I am so grateful that I was able to help them discover those testimonies. They will be the source of bringing many more into the Kingdom of God, and they will bless the lives of many others, I just know it.

I cannot express it enough. I just love this Gospel. Men are that they might have joy! This life is not just a life of trying to tough it out and survive until the end. This life is about finding joy! The Plan of Happiness is not just meant to secure our happiness in the next life, it's meant to secure our happiness in this life. Christ atoned for us so that we can find relief and happiness. Our knowledge of the Gospel brings us happiness. Living Gospel principles brings us happiness. I've seen that in the lives of others, as well as my own. The Gospel works. Living by its precepts blesses your life. No matter how hard it gets, be grateful you have the Gospel. And take it to others! Everyone needs the Gospel. Share it. You'll be glad you did! :)

I suppose it is now time to close this letter. I love you all so much and hope you all know just how grateful I am for you, your prayers, your letters, and support. I would not be the missionary I am today without all of you and your love and support. I'll talk to all y'all next week!! Keep the faith!

-Sister Fox

Monday, March 11, 2013

"How Great Shall Be Your Joy"

Family!

Friends!
Random Citizens reading my mission blog!
Hey y'all!!! Oh my heavens!! Can I just say how much I LOVE missionary work?? Because I do. A lot! This week was Fan. Tastic. Could it have gotten any better? I submit that it could NOT! Actually it could have. But I digress. The important thing is that it rocked. Lemme tell you why!
But first, items of business!
So. Y'all have probably heard. And if not, all y'all are gonna find out the new emailing policy from me. The missionary department has released a new emailing policy for missionaries. We can now send emails to, and receive emails from, family and friends. Yep! Now, before y'all get too excited, I have been given more time on p-days to write emails (90 minutes) but I am going to spend the majority of that time writing these weekly emails. I will respond to personal emails, but I can't promise a novel. But please, if you're too busy to write, please send me emails! I would absolutely love to hear from all of you, even if it is just a couple of lines. And it's free!! My address isbrianna.fox@myldsmail.net. And friends, I can't email any of you because I have no addresses. So send me emails so I have your addresses. Please and thank you! Or you can send me just a quick email with just your email address so I can start sending these emails straight to you.
Jason, even though I'll be sending these out to all of my friends, I still want my letters on my mission blog. Please and thank you! =D You're the best!
I do want to take the liberty right now and express my preference for dearelder/handwritten letters. There's just something about letters in the mailbox that make missionaries the happiest people alive. Just sayin'.
Also. Some people tend to make fun of Sister Stone and I because we get anxiety. Me? Anxious? Never. :P
Jacob 1:5. Validated.
I think that's all the business I have this week! Now on to the good stuff! Not like that wasn't good and exciting. Especially for Marissa, I'm sure she's freaking out right now. ;) But now for all the joy that was my week! Buckle. Up.
I'll have to write it day by day so I don't leave anything out! Last Monday was P-day, and it was so much fun! We got together as a district and played basketball. Can I play basketball? No I cannot. But that's what makes it fun. Sister Stone and I also took the liberty to go to Wal-Mart and get bright orange t-shirts for the University of Tennessee. Now we have matching Tennessee football shirts! I feel so acculturated ( I think that's the word I'm looking for . . .). It's great!
Monday night we got to visit Caitlyn again! I just love this girl. Even though she's Baptist, her mind and heart are so open to the Gospel. Her relationship with Christ is so strong, and she loves learning everything she can about Him. We taught her the Plan of Salvation and she soaked it in like a sponge. And what's absolutely fantastic is that she's reading the Book of Mormon! AND she got one of her friends to start reading it too! We're meeting with both of them tonight to teach the Restoration. Exciting stuff! Wish us luck! And pray for us. Prayer works. I have a testimony of that.
Tuesday we had exchanges! It was my very first exchange (naturally) and it was quite the interesting experience! It felt weird leaving Sister Stone for a day, but it was interesting working with Sister Cluff for a day to see how she likes to go about doing the work. The only problem was that it was POURING rain, and Sister Cluff didn't want to tract in it. But, we spent the day visiting less-actives and members in the area, and it was fun meeting all sorts of new people! In fact, I got to meet a German rocket scientist who once shook hands with Hitler. You think I'm kidding. You meet all sorts of cool people out here! He and his wife are really neat people; they're strong members of the Church who love the Lord and His gospel. We also met an older woman who likes to make her own candy out of granola. It was . . . a new experience. Bless her heart.
Wednesday was fantastic! After exchanging back, Sister Stone and I went to visit Marlene. Oh my heavens! What a change. It was an hour of pure joy and sunshine. She was glowing when we walked in there! It was certainly a huge change from when I had last seen her. After the fire she was at one of the lowest points I had ever seen. But after she received her priesthood blessing and we talked to her more about personal revelation, things started clicking into place. She began reading more of the Book of Mormon on her own and with Larry, and it sparked a huge change in her. Sister Stone and Sister Hatch were able to teach her the rest of the Plan of Salvation on exchanges, and apparently she absolutely loved it! After that lesson she knew it was true. By the time I got to see her, she was a glowing ball of sunshine! She knows the Book of Mormon is true, and she recommitted to being baptized! She'll be baptized on Sunday with five, yes FIVE, other people! We're so excited for her and Larry! Larry has changed a lot too. He says he keeps having more and more flashbacks about his childhood in the church. He glows more and more when we go over there, and he and Marlene have grown so close together.
I cannot even begin to express the love I have for this family. As a missionary, even you are surprised by the immense increase in your own capacity to love. It's a true blessing to be able to feel the love God has for His children. As I teach Larry, Marlene, and their family, I can feel God's love for them fill my heart. Words can't even do it justice. I love being a missionary. I love seeing how the Gospel has changed this home. Where once it was a hopeless place of shattered dreams, it is now a place  filled with the Spirit of God, with the light of the Gospel, and with the joy that comes from bringing Christ into the home and the family. How humbling it is to be an instrument in the hands of God to make this all possible. I feel so immensely blessed to have had the opportunity to work with Larry and Marlene. Not only do I feel God's love for them, but I feel God's love for me as we teach them. The Gospel is incredible. It changes lives, it softens hearts, and it mends family relationships. I always knew it had this power, but there's something so different about witnessing it first hand. Words can't do it justice. I just love missionary work. Consider a mission. The choice is between you and God, but if you feel like you should go, do it. Don't be afraid. It's the hardest thing I've done and I've only been out two months. But it is also the most rewarding thing I've done. I can tell you how joyful it is all I want, but you can experience that joy for yourself. And if now isn't the time for you to go, pray for missionary opportunities. Yes, even you, living in Mormonville. Because there are missionary opportunities all around you. Even if you're surrounded by members, there are people who need you. They may need more of the light of Christ in their lives. A lot of the work we do is with the less actives. Missionary work isn't about just baptizing. It's about bringing people to Christ. And it's almost even more urgent to work with those who have been through the temple and have made those sacred covenants. Now is more important than ever to bring these people into activity. They need friends. They need a listening ear. They need to feel loved and validated. I promise you, yes you, that someone needs you. Pray for a missionary opportunity and you will find it. And you will feel the same kind of incomprehensible, exquisite joy that comes from bringing a soul closer to Christ. Changing lives will bless your life.
Missionary commitment of the week. I like committing people to do things. :)
Wednesday night we had dinner with one of the members, and they have this little dog I just have to tell you about. Now, everyone here has a dog. Like, everyone. And not just any dog. A tiny dog. That yaps. And yaps. And yaps. And not just one. But several. I love dogs. I do. Just. Not the ones here. I kind of want to punt them across the yard. But I digress. They have this dog that seriously, I kid you not, sounds like Daffy Duck every time it barks. It's so funny. I was laughing so hard! They call him their "little duck." I was dying all through dinner because it wouldn't quit quacking/barking. I just had to share that.
After dinner we had Shane's baptismal interview! When he came out he said he got an A++, so I guess he passed! =D He was glowing. He is so excited to be baptized! He is so solid. I just love him so much. Then I came home to a stack of 12 letters. Happy missionary!!!! Thank you all so much for sending me letters! I try to respond to all of them, but I'm swamped on P-days. I'll do my best though, I promise!!
Thursday it snowed! What the deuce? And it stuck!! There is a white blanket of snow in Tennessee. Snow. I thought I had escaped it. But hey. I didn't let it ruin my week because my week rocked. Take that, mother nature!
Just watch, there'll be a tornado or something next week.
Thursday we met with Sharon, a recent convert. She is the sweetest woman, and has a really hard story. It has been a huge blessing, being able to administer to her. She talks a lot about her sons, Trevin and Quinton, whose hearts are closed off to the Gospel. They were almost baptized, but something happened and they wandered. Well, we were visiting with her, and before we knew it, Trevin and Quinton both walked in the door within 10 minutes of each other. It was nuts! We had been meeting with Sharon for 5 weeks and we had never seen her sons. They stay away when missionaries are over. But they stayed! And they didn't even lock themselves in their rooms. They pulled out chairs and began to listen! Sister Stone and I were shocked. But very pleasantly surprised! We taught them a little bit about the Book of Mormon and invited them to take the lessons. They said yes! We were in awe. So was Sharon. When Sister Stone and I left the apartment we turned to each other and asked, "What just happened?" It was so awesome! Totally made our day. The work is hastening, and more people are prepared than you think!
Thursday night we met with Sheila, Larry's and Marlene's daughter. She is still working on her husband; he still isn't too wild about the Mormon Church, he being a devout Baptist and everything. But we're still praying for her, and I have a feeling of optimism in my heart about her situation. I know that his heart will soften and he will let her be baptized. It's just a matter of when. She really wants to be baptized. I know she will. It will just take a little more working with her husband.
"And where do you think he said we should go? The Gro-cer-y Store."
So, Sister Stone and I were hungry after our weekly planning on Friday morning. So we went to the grocery store. "Indigestion." "Inspiration!" We began talking to Brittany, the girl putting our food into bags. We asked her how her day was and she said she was actually going through a pretty hard time right now. She stared at our name tags for a solid 10-15 seconds and said " . . .Maybe y'all can help." Can I just tell you how much I love hearing that sentence? Cuz I do. A lot. "Ask the missionaries! They can help you!" True statement. We talked to her a little about the Church and how turning to Christ can help her overcome her trials. She accepted our number and we invited her to Shane's baptism. Unfortunately we didn't see her there, but she did say we could drop by sometime and teach her the lessons. You can find investigators just about anywhere you go! It's awesome to see just how white the field is over here in Clinton.
Friday night we visited with Kathy and Jerry. Poor Kathy is going through a really, really hard time right now. Her cancer is in a really bad state, and she doesn't know what to do about it. Friday night was incredible though. Sister Stone and I had a dinner appointment with Sis. Brewer, a solid member who was a missionary herself several years ago. At the last minute she decided to team up with us to visit Kathy. Turns out that Sis. Brewer's mother had the same type of cancer Kathy has and fought it. She and Kathy were really able to connect, and Sis Brewer started whipping out scriptures that really helped calm Kathy down and regain a sense of hope. It was absolutely incredible. All of our team-ups are inspired. It's amazing to see the hand of God everywhere we turn. Half the time we don't even know we're working by inspiration. It's another testimony that God puts specific people into the paths of His children in order to bless their lives and minister to them. It's truly amazing.
Saturday was Shane's baptism! That was easily the happiest day of the week! Sister Stone and I were singing all the way to the Church (which is saying something because it's a 40 minute drive). It was a beautiful service. I got to play the piano! Hooray! It feels good, being able to contribute your talents. The service went so well! The talks were fantastic, Shane was glowing, and Nicole was ecstatic. I just love them! They're planning on being married soon, and they'll go to the temple a year from now to be sealed! AH! It's all so exciting I can barely handle it!
Words cannot express the amount of joy I felt as I watched Shane be baptized. As he came up he started crying a little bit, and I almost lost it right then and there. Sister Stone and I were smiling so much it hurt. My skin was the only thing keeping me from going just about everywhere at once. It was, seriously, one of the happiest moments of my life. I know I've said it many times before, but it is such a joyful experience, being an instrument in the hands of God! As Shane entered the waters of baptism, I felt so humbled to have been the one, along with Sister Stone, to help him make it this far. I am richly blessed. I just love it. The Church is true!!
Saturday morning we got our transfer call! Oh, Sister Stone and I were dying. I really really really really didn't want to leave Pleasant Ridge. I am too much in love with this area, and with the people, to leave it. Luckily, I don't have to! But guess what blew my mind? We're getting another sister. We're gonna be a trio!! Now I have mixed feelings about that. I have never been in a trio, nor have I ever known anyone in a trio, so I have no idea how to even be a trio. With three sisters teaching instead of two, it may be hard maintaining unity. But we'll see how that goes!
Sunday rocked! Shane received the Holy Ghost and Larry received the Priesthood! More happiness and joy followed! I LOVE MISSIONARY WORK! Yes. This merits All-caps. And we're gonna have 46 baptisms in the month of March in our mission!! The Church is true! I really connected with Alma 26 this week. Read it, it's good!
I wish I could say more! Time is running short. I hope you know how much I love all y'all and how much I appreciate your letters!
God is hastening His work! The Church is true and blessing lives is the best!! I love you all so much! I can't say it enough!
Until next week!
-Sister Fox

Sunday, March 10, 2013

"Before you ladies showed up..."


Family!

And friends. Can't forget friends. 'Cuz I love all y'all!

And Tennessean accents. I'm actually starting to talk to myself in a Tennessean accent. And I am already using tons of southern slang. Apparently if you say "bless their heart," you can insult just about anyone. Not like I ever do that! I'm nice to people. I promise. :) The first time someone said "Bless your heart" to me I knew whatever was coming next probably wasn't going to be all that friendly. But I digress.

I also use "all y'all" all the time. And "honey." Everyone here calls you "honey." That one is catching on really fast.

I still am not, nor will I ever, use "fixin ta" or "done." Not gonna happen.

This week was nuts! Can I just say how much I love missionary work? The field is so white here in Clinton and Powell, and I feel so humbled and abundantly blessed to have the opportunity to serve here. It's a true blessing. We have met so many people this week and have seen the hand of the Lord guiding us every single day! We plan every night for the next day, but our daily plans rarely work out the way we think. God inspires us to deviate, and when we listen to the Spirit, we are led to people who are seeking the truth. We saw a lot of that this week, and it's both humbling and exciting!

So, I heard they are opening up 58 new missions?? That's so incredibly awesome!! The Church is growing fast! I am so unbelievably excited to hear those statistics in April. General Conference is coming up soon! Now that is going to rock. 'Cuz it always does. "General Conference is great . . . they teach everything good...yeah...yeah..."

Haha sorry. I am on one today. It has just been a really great week! And I'm on a sugar high. I had enough cake and pie this week to kill the average bear. But what does a missionary do when her investigators keep inviting her over for cake and pie? Ya can't say no. And ya gotta eat it. So I do. It's delicious! And gives me all this energy. Which is good, I guess, because being tired is not that fun as a missionary. But I digress again.

I don't even know where to start! I'll probably start raving about Shane. He is so golden! We finished teaching him all the lessons this week, we went over the baptismal interview questions, and he is so prepared! He is so excited for his baptism this Saturday. I just love teaching him! He glows more and more every time we visit him, and he has been so diligent in his scripture study and personal prayers. It's truly amazing to see how much he has changed and how accepting he has become just in the last two weeks. Nicole is so excited to see him get baptized!! I just love missionary work. It's a blessing to be an instrument in the hands of God and bringing them into His fold. What a blessing. Sis. Stone and I are really attached to Shane. As he walked into Church yesterday, he saw us, lit up, and exclaimed, "It's my FAVORITE sisters!!!" AH! I just love him. He's the best. :)

This week we finally got a hold of Marlene! I just love Marlene. She has been going through a really rough time, but Sis. Stone and I finally tracked her down and were able to have a really good lesson about personal revelation with her. But I should rewind a bit. Wednesday was the first time we finally heard from Larry and Marlene since they cancelled our appointment Sunday. We called on Wednesday to find out that their chimney had actually caught on fire the previous evening. Their house is already in pretty bad shape, and this just added to their pile of stress. It ended up being a blessing in disguise, though. Marlene was lucky enough to see the fire at an early stage, and so they put it out pretty quickly. And it gave the ward a perfect opportunity to come and help. They had only been to church once and didn't know many people. Sis. Stone and I were able to call the elders, the Priesthood leaders, and several sisters in the Relief Society, and we all went up there and started working on the house. The elders were able to assess the damage and start doing projects while the sisters helped clean smoke off the walls. This was a great opportunity for Marlene to see how willing the ward is to help and just how loving the members are. I feel like it was a huge turning point for her. On Friday we were able to visit with Marlene and she was still having a hard time dealing with stress. We called her home teacher, who happened to be just five minutes away! Coincidence? I think not! He came by and gave her a blessing. Even though he didn't know her situation at all, he still addressed every concern that she had disclosed to Sister Stone and I just ten minutes before. It's experiences like that that really strengthen my testimony of the power of the priesthood, and of personal revelation. That blessing was directly from God, and Marlene was able to recognize that. This is a huge turning point for her; she is getting so much stronger and is really growing in the gospel. She still has concerns about her baptism, but she'll pull through.
Yesterday was fantastic; Larry bore his testimony for the first time in 30 years. It was so touching; he talked about how we had changed his life and the life of his family. He finally had hope, after so many years, for his family to receive the Gospel. I was so touched and so humbled to know that I was an instrument in God's hands to bring not just Larry, but his whole family closer to Christ. A phrase I have come to truly adore out here is "Before you ladies showed up." We hear that a lot as we teach Larry and his family. "Before you ladies showed up, my husband wasn't even praying," or "Before you ladies showed up, my mother wanted nothing to do with your Church." I just love hearing things like that. It's a huge blessing to know that we have blessed others' lives by bringing them the Gospel. Hearts have been softened, and people have come so much closer to Christ. Their family has been brought closer together as well. That's what missionary work is all about; it's about changing people's lives. And it is an incredible blessing. The mission is tough, and sometimes it feels like the refiners fire, but it has also been one of the most incredible blessings I have experienced in my life thus far.

We're also working with her daughter Sheila, who is so prepared to receive the Gospel. We gave her a Book of Mormon and she already bought highlighters and bookmarks to mark her favorite scriptures. She has been diligently studying it, and we know she's ready to commit to baptism. The only problem is her husband; he's a devout Baptist. He wants nothing to do with the Mormon Church, so poor Sheila feels super stuck. We're all praying that her husband will soften his heart and allow her to be baptized. I've seen so many hearts grow soft out here, and I truly believe in miracles. She'll get baptized, I know it! I don't know if I will be here to see it, but I do know her whole family will be able to one day grow and progress in the Gospel. And I'm so grateful for that confidence; I know it comes directly from God.

We met more new investigators this week! We met Ruby, who is an elderly black woman who is affiliated with the Baptist Church. There are lots of Baptists here. Shocking, no? But her heart is pretty open to the Gospel. We taught her the Book of Mormon and the Restoration, and she said that she is pretty sure it could be true. But she wants to know for herself. We committed her to read and pray, and we hope that she will be able to recognize her answer. We keep inviting her to be baptized, but she says she has already been baptized. She hasn't quite grasped the idea of priesthood authority yet. We try to teach her, but we haven't been too blunt about it yet. We'll keep working with her. I'm excited to see where the gospel takes her!

Another rockstar we met this week is Caitlyn. She's about my age, and she is also affiliated with the Baptist church. She has an incredible spirit about her, and a profound love for God. Her friends told her that she shouldn't be meeting with us, but she let us in because she saw that we were here to help her strengthen her relationship with Christ. She said she doesn't plan to be converted, but she loves how we teach the doctrine of Jesus Christ, so she has been letting us come over. We taught her about the Book of Mormon and she's excited to start reading it! She's so awesome. She's the most loving, non-judgmental person. I just love her to death already!

We were also be able to get a hold of Kathy and Jerry this week! They were working with the elders, but since the elders left the area we haven't been able to get a hold of them. Finally we called Kathy and she said she was feeling sick and didn't feel well enough to meet with us. Sister Stone leaped at the opportunity to do some service, so we made some soup and brought it over. Kathy was really touched by our service, and she invited us back! We went there just last night to celebrate her birthday, and her whole family was there! So we had the opportunity to share a little gospel message with her whole family! Kathy and Jerry are an incredible couple. They just love the missionaries, and they said they want to try to come to Church next Sunday! That made Sister Stone and I pretty excited. They are so golden! I love them. So so much.

Last night we also were able to visit a new part member family we hadn't met yet. We met with Brother Braden, who is a member, and his mother, who is a Baptist. We didn't even have to ask her to take the lessons. We were only there for about five minutes before Bro. Braden turned to his mother and asked her if it would be ok that we come by every once in a while and teach her more about the Church. Wasn't expecting that. But she accepted! Bro. Braden was super happy. He followed us out to our car to get a copy of the Book of Mormon and got emotional as he told us that he has wanted his mother to accept the Gospel for the longest time, and now he feels like she's finally ready. He really loves sister missionaries because sisters had converted him to the Gospel. Now sister missionaries are in the area and he is really excited for us to teach his mother! We're so excited too! Ah! I just love how white the field is here! It's fantastic!

We've also been working with less active members, and we committed two less active families to meet with us and take the lessons! We are really excited to work with them. They're very open and blunt about their feelings toward the Church, but their hearts are still open to receive the word. Teaching them is going to be a great opportunity!

Ok, I think I covered mostly everything that I wanted to. This week was just so great! Investigators are popping up all over the place, and it is so humbling to see how prepared this area is to receive the Gospel! The work is progressing, and I can't say it enough; it is such a blessing to be a missionary. I love being a missionary during a time when God is hastening His work. I can see it all over the place. For March we have 6 baptisms planned already in our ward alone, and we are hoping to have many more as we continue working with all our investigators!

I want to thank all of you for your prayers, your letters, and your support. I love all y'all so much and pray for all of you as often as I can. I can feel God answering your prayers for me, and I am so grateful for it. The Church is true! Go tell the world!

Lots of love,

Sister Fox