Monday, June 16, 2014

Que es la fe?

Mi familia,
My goodness, this week started out slow. We had nothing set and just went by people and knocked and contacted and drove and drove and drove...But it ended up being a good week. We've found some neat people. Some are truly interested and some aren't yet, but we've noticed that a large percentage of the people we talk to show signs of being elect, of being people who will accept the gospel. Maybe not while we're here, but someday. We really are being led to the elect, even if they don't know that's what they are. They are being put in "favorable contact with the gospel" and will recognize it someday.
This week I tried to follow anything that even might be a prompting. Because the worst thing that can happen is nothing. One day we were driving down a highway in the middle of nowhere trying to find a referral. We passed the street and had to turn around in front of a trailor. I said, before really even realizing it was a prompting, "We're gonna knock this trailor."
So we did. It was really run down. As we walked up to the door we heard some woman yelling that she was going to throw something at someone's head or something. We knocked and a little woman came out. We talked about a living prophet or something and asked if we could come in and teach her and the other people in there more. She said they wouldn't be interested, but ended up letting us in. When she opened the door we smelled smoke and alcohol. There was a little old lady and two men, one of which was completely drunk. As we walked in, I thought to myself that we must be crazy. I even whispered out of the corner of my mouth to Sister Regan, "I'm scared!" Don't worry, we really do try to stay out of dangerous situations. We skip doors when we even kind of feel like we should. But sometimes you just know you'll be protected.
Anyway, we went in and sat down. The drunk man was mean and mocking and loud. But I felt strongly impressed to teach them about repentance. It was a powerful lesson. We taught and testified with power and the Spirit was strong. That run-down trailor was a holy place for those couple minutes. We gave them a Book of Mormon and set a return appointment, but we didn't invite them to baptism. I felt constrained from doing that; the drunk man was just too irreverant.
It wasn't until we left that I realized how much we had truly been guided and directed there. From stopping to knock on the door, to actually getting in, to teaching and testifying with power, it all felt almost effortless. Like a dream, almost. I have learned that that only happens when divine assistance is involved. We went back for our appointment and they weren't there. I don't think we'll end up teaching them. But I know we were meant to be there that night.
Another time this week I felt like we should stop and knock some doors in the middle of nowhere. We found and incredible woman who is totally prepared. We hopefully have another appointment with her tonight.
My whole mission seems to have been centered on one thing: faith. I keep thinking I've finally figured out what faith even is, and then I realize there's so much more to it. Or that it's so much more simple. Somehow those two ideas work together perfectly. This week President gave a training called "Faith in Finding." He expounded on an analogy he shared a while ago; I might have already shared it in an email. But I'm going to share it again.
Say you're standing at the edge of a cliff. A huge wind comes and blows you off the edge. You manage to grasp a branch sticking out from the cliff and hang there. Then you hear God's voice saying,
"Do you believe I made the wind that blew you off the cliff?"
"Yes, yes! I believe, Lord!"
"Do you believe I made the branch that you're holding onto right now?"
"Yes, or course, I believe!"
"Do you believe I can make another wind to blow you back up onto the cliff?"
"YES, of course! I believe!!"
"...Then let go."
That's the difference between belief and faith. Are we willing to let go? Do we trust enough in God?
President added this part in his training:
So you let go. And you fall. And you think, "Hey! Where's the wind?" And you hit the ground. Where is your faith now?
We don't have faith in future events. We have hope in future events, and that is important to the growth of our faith. But we have faith in God. Period. When we do exactly what He says and things don't work out the way we had hoped, we STILL have faith in and trust in God. When we're at the bottom of the cliff with two broken legs, we still trust Him. Our faith is outside of our situation. We trust that His ways are higher than ours. And we can always retain the final hope that we will one day be perfected and have eternal life.
That really changed the way I think. It's ok to hope for miracles, to hope that today we will find a family that is ready to be baptized. And it's ok to pray for that. But I don't put my faith in that. I put my faith in Christ. I have faith that those things can happen, through Him. But if they don't, my faith isn't shaken. Hope comes from faith and faith comes from hope, but my faith is in Christ and nothing else.
I thought that was neat.
I love you all! Have a fantastic week and put your faith in the one true source of truth.
Con mucho amor,
Hermana Lund 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Just Out With It!

Mi Familia,

What a fantastic week. I heard from President 3 times! On Tuesday we had a zone meeting/President interviews, which is always really nice. Then on Friday we had MLC and on Saturday he spoke at our stake conference. He wanted us to be there because we were doing some role-plays with the members, right there in the chapel. Anyway, it was a really good week.

At Stake Conference he showed us really simple, easy statements members can use to share the gospel, with friends and strangers alike. There are: "Would you be willing to listen to a brief message about_____?" (The key words being "willing" and "brief") and "We would love to have you and your family join us at church this Sunday!" Easy, right? And he talked about how we make it SUCH a bigger deal than it is. We think we need to "prepare" our friends for the gospel. But, as Preach My Gospel says, the LORD is preparing his children. We need to have faith that He will put them in our path. 

He told a story about a woman (actually one of Sister Regan's converts) who was working at a blood bank. She was complaining about relationships or something with the man who was giving blood, who was a member and had brought his Ensign to read with him. He said to her, showing her the cover of the Ensign which had a picture or a happy couple, "You need a husband like THIS. You need to come to our church!" And she did! And she got baptized soon after. 

He also talked about his 15-year-old son who felt prompted to invite a rough-looking boy at school to church. When he did so, the boy told him that he was also Mormon, but that he didn't go to church because his dad wasn't a member and he didn't allow him or his mom to go. But the two boys planned together to have the missionaries come over and teach his family. They did come over, but the dad stormed out of the house. A little later, however, the missionaries got a text from him saying that he was sorry, and that he was ready to listen to them. He got baptized this Saturday. 

And President himself talked about an experience he had at a restaurant. His server was a Mexican man who introduced himself as Jesus. President said, "Jesus. I like that name. I've taken that name upon me. (leave it to President to say something like that) Would you be willing to listen to a brief message by some of my missionaries?" The server left the table and came back with his address and phone number written on a card. He said, "I haven't gone to church in a long time. Thank you for inviting me!" See? It isn't that weird! Y'all can do it, too!! 

He also talked about what to do if they say no. Just make it natural! Just say, "Ok, that's fine! How 'bout those Spurs?" (even us missionaries know the Spurs are killing it right now) or, "Ok! Well, just know the invitation's always open." It's only as big of a deal as we make it. And more people will say yes than you'd think.

Switching gears, I wanted to share a couple of my journal entries. The first one was written on November 5, 2013. About my 9-month mark.

"I cannot believe how slowly the work is going here right now. We're honestly about to sipe our investigators completely off of the board and start over. (I then proceed to write a long list of all my investigators and the woes we're experiencing with them.) I feel at a complete loss. Planning and setting goals is awful. I feel like we're scraping the bottom of the barrel. It's impossible to not think you're doing something wrong, especially when the Elders, who work in the exact same area, are thriving. What?! It's hard."

Sorry if that depressed you. Here's one from June 7, 2014, about 7 months later.

"Phew! Missionary work's been a bit rough lately. No progressing investigators, all the members are too busy for anything, and it's HOT. But I've never loved missionary work more. It doesn't hurt that we had MLC yesterday and that I went on an awesome exchange with Sister Breakall, either. Or that we just got back from an INCREDIBLE Stake Conference where President taught. I love being a missionary! I will always be a missionary. It's just the best! It's crazy that you can feel so good and successful with so little to show for it. But we work hard with faith every day. We talk to everyone. We are obedient and strive to improve. I feel successful, and that's because I am!"

Same kind of situation, completely different attitude. What's the difference? I think it's my faith. I have such a stronger conviction now that God is working miracles, even when I can't see it. I trust that He's with me and that He will give me the strength I need to do His work. I know that this church is Christ's church and that I am literally His representative. I still have my moments. I can do more and I can trust more. But my goodness, am I a changed person. It's my constant plea that I can keep what I feel and only build off of it when I get home.

I have so much more I could say! I can't wait to just sit and talk to y'all when I get home. I love you all! Have a fantastic week.

Hermana Lund

Monday, June 2, 2014

Texas Tornados (almost)

Mi Familia,

What a week. Really long..and short. I should probably just stop trying to fill you in on how time feels. It doesn't ever make any sense.

It rained quite a bit this week! On Tuesday there were tornado warnings. For a little while we were knocking a little neighborhood and it seriously looked like a tornado was forming right above us (I'm slightly exaggerating, Mom, don't worry.) and there was lightning striking within a couple miles all around us with super loud thunder. It was crazy! I was really hoping to see a tornado, but I was disappointed. 

We've been talking to EVERYONE and we're finding people, but they generally aren't sticking around long. That's ok, though. We're looking for those who will receive us, and we'll find them. We did find a really sweet, sincere couple this past week, though. He read 9 chapters of the Book of Mormon in 2 days! And they've been looking for a church! Perfect. It's hard here though, because, since it's so spread out, you can't visit people as often as you can in other areas. So we're hoping to see them again soon and keep teaching them! 

Mari bore her testimony in church yesterday! It was such a sweet, sincere testimony and that soul-filling joy that I've been so spoiled with these past 16 months hit me again. I was grinning from ear to ear. It reminded me of a quotation from Heber J. Grant:

"I believe there is nothing in all the world that can compare with the joy that a man feels when he realizes that he has been the instrument in the hands of the living God of reaching some honest heart, inspiring in it a love of God and the desire to serve Him."


I've been surprised to see that, the further I get into my mission, the more I've knocked and contacted. It's not that I've stopped doing those other more effective things, it's just that we've learned how to teach shorter, more powerful lessons and to fill in the time talking to anyone and everyone. I don't make excuses and I actually want to talk to everyone. That's not to say that there aren't times (daily) that I just really don't feel like talking to another stranger on the street, but I've become a missionary who talks to everyone, and for more than just because I know I should. Which is really cool because I specifically prayed and fasted for that a month or two ago. God really does hear you and He will change you into the person you desire to be. It starts with a lot of "fake it til you make it," but He'll always make sure you make it. Honestly, I'm still not there. There's a lot I still want to add and become before my mission ends. And I'm sure I won't feel completely "fulfilled" when I go home. But that's ok, because I won't be! There will still be so much to do and learn. 

Life's good. I'm tired, I'm uncomfortable, and I'm happy.

Love you all! Have a good week!

Hermana Lund

Monday, May 26, 2014

My Heart Belongs to Texas

Mi Familia,

Good week. It's been raining quite a bit lately, which is good because it's been really humid. The air is finally just braking and letting it all go. Oh, yep...there's the thunder, just now. :) Thank goodness. Heat is one thing but humidity can be just downright uncomfortable. 

Our mission has some very specific goals for this transfer since a ginormous group of missionaries will be going home this transfer and the next. President has scattered all us old people all over, even creating some split zone leaderships where the zone leaders are in two separate companionships, so we can "spread our music" before we're all gone. It's pretty smart, actually. 

Anyway, as a mission we're focusing hard on 3 things in exchanges, district meetings, zone meetings, and other trainings. We're focusing on effective and meaningful nightly planning, effective and meaningful morning studies like Preach my Gospel outlines, and on teaching short & powerful lessons, especially the Restoration. When the Mission Department visited our mission they taught us how to teach the Restoration with the pamphlet in less than 10 minutes, asking them what they see in the pictures and teaching according to their answers. It's POWERFUL. I used to think teaching simply meant making sure they understood every little detail. But simplicity means focusing on short, clear declarations of pure doctrine, cutting out the fluff so the Spirit can testify. It has made such a difference in our teaching. We've had a lot more opportunities to teach people we meet on the street right there and we can see very quickly if they're interested or not. Usually they're not. But that's ok because the sooner we figure that out, the sooner we can move on to find those who truly are ready to receive us.

So all this rain and thunder outside is reminding me of a couple weeks ago after I was so sad to be transferred. We were driving home and it started just down-pouring. We were both in kind of a bad mood and, even though we both would always talk about how much we loved the rain and wanted a Texas thunderstorm, we just weren't in the mood for it at the moment. We ran out of the car to get the mail and I was annoyed to be running through the rain. But then I thought, "Wait a minute, I love the rain!" and suddenly I realized how cool it was to be out there stuck in the rainstorm. Such is life, such is the mission. You love it when you're not stuck in it, when you're looking back on it or looking forward to it. But the trick is to learn how to love it when you're in it. It's the storms that make life meaningful and interesting. It's the storms that make it a challenge, that make it fun. 

Anyway, the mission is good. Exciting and monotonous, heartbreaking and overflowingly happy, frustrating and miraculously smooth, way too slow and way too fast. And all good.

Love you all! Have a fantastic week and find the good in the bad.

Hermana Lund

Monday, May 19, 2014

Stereotypical Texas

Mi Familia,
I'm in Pleasanton! It's a middle-of-nowhere, 300-square-mile area south of San Antonio. I'm with Hermana Regan, who was in my MTC district! We cover an English ward and a Spanish branch. It's the first time I haven't shared a ward with other missionaries. We are literally the only missionaries for everyone within the enormous bounderies of our ward and branch. It's fun!
This area is completely different from any other area I've ever been in. Right now we're actually living 30 miles out of our area so we drive a TON. In a truck! So fun. I can't begin to tell you how beautiful it is. There are quaint little towns like Lytle, Von Ormy, Pleasanton, and Poteet, and there's lots of country. There are horses, donkeys, goats, and cows (lots of longhorns, even) everywhere. It's the stereotypical Texas area, the area I always wanted to serve in but didn't think I ever would. It's great!
 The people are great; the English speakers aren't necessarily hicks--more like bumpkins, as Hermana Regan calls them. I LOVE all of them will all my heart already. The Spanish branch is tiny. There were maybe 20 of us in sacrament meeting. There were 6 of us in Relief Society, including us missionaries. I have already been appointed piano player for everything, and one of the leaders of the primary/nursery pulled me out towards the end of Relief Society to play some music in there. There were 2 leaders, 3 kids, and a baby. We along with the leaders, one of the girls, and the baby all gathered around the piano to sing songs while the other girl cried and clung to the dress of one of the leaders and the little boy threw a little fit on the other side of the room. Haha, it was so different and fun. I've excited to get to know everyone in the branch really well.
And Mari's in this ward!! She's living with her mom right now and I saw her yesterday in church! It was her first time coming to this ward. It was so good to see her again. I'm so lucky!
This area requires a different kind of work. It's hard to visit and find people because everythings so spread out. And if you find someone but they don't have connections to members it's hard to get them to go to church because it's a good 50 miles away for some of them. We're trying to get to know all the members and work through them by stopping by for quick 20-minute lessons and helping them do their own missionary work and to learn about their family & friends, and in the meantime we knock whatever doors we can when we get to an area that actually has more than one house every 20 acres. But even most of those are gated and have very scary dogs and NO TRESPASSING signs that must be taken seriously. These people are private folk and it makes it a little difficult. But I have no doubt it can be done. I can see that there's a ton of potential here. My goal for this area is to never get discouraged and to just keep working hard. There isn't enough time for anything else; I'm leaving soon!
And we have been working really hard. It feels so good. I don't know exactly what happened, but Lake Austin was the area where I finally became the missionary I always wanted to be. It took about 15 months of non-stop effort and prayers, but I feel like I'm there. Obviously I have plenty of ways that I can improve, but my mindset is where I want it to be. I have no fear of talking to anyone. I WANT to talk to everyone. I have faith in God's promises and know we'll see miracles. I know that I have the constant companionship of the Spirit, and I know I have power and authority to do what I'm doing. And I recognize the miracles that happen every day. The mission is fantastic and I'm so happy to be here. 
I love you all! Have a fantastic week.
Hermana Lund

Monday, May 12, 2014

Never Feel Comfortable

Mi Familia!

It was so good to talk to you yesterday! It felt totally normal. I'm afraid that when I come home it will just felt like I've woken up from a crazy, crazy dream. :)

I'm being transferred. I can't believe it! I did NOT see that one coming. Sister Egbert is staying for her 5th transfer here! This will mean that, best case scenario, I'll have three 2-transfer areas right at the end. 

I am SO sad to leave Lake Austin. By far my favorite area. I love these people so much more than they will ever know! I wish I could stay here and gain stronger relationships with them. But I guess there's more to missionary work that making friends. 

It's ok, though. I know and Heavenly Father knows that my greatest, purest desire is to serve Him in any way that He wants.I know He knows that I will do ANYTHING He wants, no matter what it is. I mean it with all my heart! So, I guess I'm leaving. 

You better believe I'll be giving it all I have in this new area. I want to squeeze all the juice I still have out of me these last two transfers. I'm leaving it all on the court. I'm excited!

I love you all! Have a fantastic week!
Hermana Lund

Monday, May 5, 2014

Seeing All the Colors

Mi Familia!

I have seriously been feeling guilty lately. It feels like P-day is every day; I'm taking too many breaks! Time is just flying too fast. Plus, we had MLC on Thursday and tomorrow we're having our first ever sisters' conference almost all day in San Antonio. We get to go to a temple session with President and Sister Slaughter! I feel way too spoiled. I think it will definitely be an adjustment going home. I'm going to have to find a lot of people to visit and to give Book of Mormons to if I'm going to feel of any use at all.

MLC this week was incredible. Two representatives from the church mission department came and spoke to us. They gave our mission a lot of praise and opened our minds to better ways of doing missionary work. Basically they told us to get back to the basics. It's ridiculous--as missionaries we are taught and trained in the beginning how to plan, work, and study in a very simple and thorough way. But somewhere along the way we decide that we have a better way of doing things and start doing it that way. But they showed us how the simple ways we were taught are really the best ways. And since most of us are pretty seasoned missionaries, we were able to see how much more effective it really is to do things the way we were taught in the first place, since we have months of experience of doing it "our way" to contrast it to. 

Also, Sister Slaughter shared an experience about when she was younger. She's almost completely color blind, and when she was learning ROYGBIV in school she was surprised to learn that the rainbow had 7 colors. She had always thought that it had only 2: blue and yellow. But her mom assured her that, yes, there really were 7 colors. And she just had to take it and believe it. She says she remembers taking her test at school and spelling out "red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet," just taking in full faith what her mom and teacher had taught her. 

That's what it often is like for us. We don't see all the colors and we have to trust those who do. She compared it to the apostles who wrote Preach My Gospel. They know and see far more than we do, and the source from which they got that knowledge knows even more than that. But it applies to everything. Is it really necessary to read from the Book of Mormon every day? To have Family Home Evening every week? To actively share the gospel with those around us? To pray always? To go to church and be faithful in our callings? To stay away from coffee and tea, to keep our thoughts and words pure, to stay away from television or music that doesn't uplift, to dress modestly, to have food storage, to listen to Conference, to do Family History, to pay a full tithe? Is it really important? Yep, it is. Why? Because prophets and apostles counsel us to do it. Because God said to do it. Sometimes we don't get much more of a reason than that. But we have faith in God and trust His judgement. And we do it His way.

I have prayed so many time on my mission for things I didn't end up getting. I still have progress to make, but now I'm much better at accepting God's will because I've seen how His judgement has always been better than mine. I don't worry about transfers anymore because I know that He knows what I want more than I know what I want. Sometimes it takes some serious self-talk to convince myself that I trust God's judgement, and I have to remember the simple truths I know for sure: God loves me, He wants me to be happy, He always answers prayers, and He always keeps His promises. 

Missions are hard and, I'll admit it, I think about going home at least a little bit every day. But I've gotten to the point in my mission (15 months tomorrow!) where I can really look back and see the hand of the Lord. I have felt more pure joy on my mission that at any other time of my life. It's not something you feel all the time, but it comes up often enough for you to fall on your knees and just thank Heavenly Father for everything, good and bad. I've received so much more than I've given, and I know that that will become more apparent as time goes on.

We doubt not the Lord nor His goodness; We've proved Him in days that are past. :)

I love you all! Have a fantastic week!

Hermana Lund