Monday, August 25, 2014

change can be good :)

                                                                                  Sisters in the Billings Zone

The last three days, I have felt like I was in Ohio. We didn't see the sun, and it was pretty much constantly raining. And it was super cold! We even got down into the 40s. This morning we finally woke up to a blue sky and sunshine, hallelujah! I was worried that fall was already here...and around here fall doesn't last long before the dreaded winter.

Transfers was a little sad, it was hard having Sister Bateman leave. She is the only companion I have had here in Lake Hills! We worked so well together and I felt like I was really able to help her. And we helped each other. So I am sad she left, but already Sister DeBry has been able to help our investigators and our ward tons.

So transfers were Wednesday, but they don't ship out the new missionaries to their areas until Thursday. And so we were asked to host a new sister missionary for the evening. Guess what we discovered as we were driving to and from appointments?

All THREE of us are AGGIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Oh, it was so awesome!
Apparently Sister DeBry was there the exact same 3 years that I was there. She's Greg's age, however, and she spent her first two years taking generals in Price.
I was just so happy to spend some time with Aggies, it is annoying that so many in our mission went to BYU or BYU-I. Everyone keeps saying that USU is a party school, it drives me nuts. We just know how to have fun.

It was really fun having the new missionary that night. She said that she was nervous that morning, but we had a great evening visiting the Tennessee family, teaching Young Women's, and introducing Sister DeBry to our ward mission leader. Honestly, despite the recent struggles with them, the Tennessee family is perfect for new missionaries - they are super nice and friendly and love talking about Jesus Christ and the gospel. And so she told me that the evening helped her feel less anxious about her mission. 

Office responsibilities. Lake Hills is still leading the office sisters and the weekly meetings. But we lost one of the companionships. And so it's just us and Rimrock - Monad got let go. So my weekly responsibilities did increase, and President indicated that he will be giving me more - he wants me to eventually key in the baptismal records. Right now I'm just the baptismal record collector. I harass missionaries and turn them in to the assistants & President when they don't get the records in timely. Super fun. I feel like a money/tax collector haha

The biggest ordeal in the office is that our longest standing senior missionary couple is leaving next week, and we don't have anyone to replace them. So everyone is getting more responsibilities. This will be an interesting period of transition... which is why I am surprised Monad got let go. But hey, whatever President wants.

Sister DeBry is a talker, which I'm not, but I had to be while I was companions with Sister Bateman because she wouldn't say much unless she was super prompted. So it's going to be a definite transition, but we already get along great. Honestly, I can get along with pretty much anyone. I take mom's philosophy that if it doesn't matter, there's no point getting your undies bunched over it. (Did I quote that well enough?)

Right now the big focus is on getting the ward involved! Remember the recently reactivated couple that just went to the temple? They are new ward missionaries! And they are going to be fantastic! We also got another ward missionary who is actually a less-active man that was begging for a calling so he would have more motivation to go to church. He is already offering and trying to be super involved. It's great! Sister DeBry and I are brainstorming more ways to get the ward involved. Our ward is super friendly, but because there are so many multi-generational families, it is rather fragmented. So we want to increase ward unity and help them be more missionary-minded. 

Honestly, I feel like half of the work of a missionary is being a social worker.. We are trying to improve relationships,help families strive for their greater potential, work around potential mental illnesses, etc.. And we are so not qualified. All we really know what to do is teach correct principles and rely on President packer's quote:

"True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior." PMG pg 19.

Hey. BTW. Y'all should be studying Preach My Gospel regularly. Because all of you are missionaries, even without a nametag. And you have a family member out on a mission.

Honestly, that's just the highlights this week. There was tons of crazy. 

Sister Griffin

Monday, August 18, 2014

a taste of charity & a hint of crazy...

Big news first: I am staying. Sister Bateman is getting transferred. Not going to lie, I am rather bummed she is leaving. We have honestly had an amazing companionship. My new companion is Sister DeBry. She is actually coming from the Rimrock YSA ward, so I know her pretty well because we have been working in the office together for the last two transfers. I forget where she is from. Sister Bateman is leaving for Whitefish. Slightly jealous there- that's in the Kalispell area.

The preferred place to send mail is probably the mission home still, but we did finally get a key for our mailbox. So you can mail stuff to : 1223 Benjamin Blvd. Billings, MT 59105

Last Monday, Sister Bateman & I went to the Montana Fair for preparation day! She had never been to a fair before. Crazy Oregon girl. I actually was not that impressed; the fair food wasn't that good and there were hardly any animals. The best part was the 4-H huckleberry ice cream. Have a raved about huckleberry yet? Huckleberries look like small blueberries but they are much sweeter and way more delicious. But they only grow in the mountains in Montana. (or at least primarily in Montana...) They are pretty iconic for Montana. Anyways, the fair was way fun and we got seen and talked to quite a few people! 

About our Tennessee family. They are back to wanting to be baptized. Here is the story - 

We haven't been able to meet with them the last two weeks. They have been super stressed and backtracked on the gospel. And we could see the stress and anger in them when we did drop by briefly.

So we schedule a lesson at the church to watch "Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration" projected in the chapel with their family, our zone leaders, and a member. We figure if his problem is Joseph Smith, we'll do our best to help him know more about Joseph Smith in the simplest way possible. We call that morning and he kept giving excuses because his wife got called in to work. But eventually we get him to agree to accept a ride.

He was bawling by the end of the movie. He then tells us how stressed he has been and how he has felt like he wants to give up on God because he feels like God has given up on him. We explained to him that he ran away first- God's hand is always outstretched. By the end of the lesson - and it was a long, powerful lesson - he finally agrees to work his way back. He shares that two weeks ago he had 100% doubt about Joseph Smith and by the end of the lesson, he had maybe 25%.

They did not come to church, but we did have another lesson with them on Sunday at our ward mission leader's house. It was another long lesson. We went over Alma 5 and discussed faith and action. Anyways, he shared with us that he now does believe in Joseph Smith as a prophet and wanted to know if he could get baptized on Wednesday. We explained they needed to come to church more and quit smoking first. So their new baptismal date is his upcoming birthday in September.

Honestly, this journey has been a roller coaster with them. I keep reflecting on this experience and note how we care about this family SO MUCH. We're so worried about them making correct decisions, about them developing a closer relationship with Christ and their Heavenly Father, about them being happy. We are always worried if we are teaching by the Spirit well enough and if there is any more that we can do. They are constantly in our minds and in our hearts.

Well, the lesson in Relief Society this Sunday was about raising your children in the gospel. Comments were made about always worrying if you are doing enough and teaching them well. I instantly drew the connection to how I felt about my investigators. Obviously, the relationship I have with those I teach is a mere shadow of how parents must feel about their children. Their worry and concern is a many manifolds larger than my concern for those in Lake Hills. And honestly, I can get transferred, I don't always stay with these people. But when you are a family, you are always with them. They are always yours, no escape, for better or worse. And I thought being a missionary was exhausting! 

But wait, there's another level! What about how Heavenly Father feels about all of his spirit children, all of mankind? And He loves all of us perfectly. 

While maybe cheesy, it reminds me of the Mormon Message, "Earthly Father, Heavenly Father". Look it up on Mormon Channel or on Gospel Library. 

But really, the love I feel for these people is just a small taste of charity. I will learn more about it later when I have my own family and when I become more like God. 

One of our zone leaders talked to us about charity. He was saying how you may have many different motivations for being on a mission and serving honorably; you know you should, you want to be a good example, etc.. But as it discusses in 1 Corinthians 13 and Moroni 7, "charity never faileth". All other things must and will fail. But love is the ultimate motivator. A large part of this life is learning how to love how Christ loves.

"Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." (Matthew 22:37-39)

This led me to develop a parody of "What is Love?" by Haddaway into "God is Love!". Don't judge or roll your eyes, I'm a missionary. But I haven't gotten too far into it. I think Peter should work on it for me.

Anyways, love you all much :)
Those chickens need some charity.
Sister G

Monday, August 11, 2014

nothing is ever the end of the world!

THEY GOT SEALED!! And their two-year-old got sealed to them! It was so amazing. And the little toddler was so cute. I did get pictures, and I shall send those along. We are going to print off one of them and frame it and give it to them as a congratulations. 

We have not been able to see the Tennessee family at all this week. Granted, we have been trying them a lot less. But we have been praying about them, and we feel good about stopping teaching them until Bro. Tennessee's culinary classes are over. It's just sad because we know they received so many witnesses of the truth and now they are choosing to deny and ignore it. We figure that we will allow the ward to see what they can do.

Good news though - we have been able to reconnect with the mother and daughter that we were previously teaching. There was about 3 weeks where we did not see or speak with her. She said she was just going through a whole bunch of doubts, but she ended up where she was originally - wanting the gospel for her kids and family. 

We laid out very simply what one must know (lessons) and what one must do (commitments&commandments) before baptism. That really helped her understand our purpose in helping. 

She is also going to try to get her husband to listen to the lessons. He does not want to become Mormon - he is worried about what others will think (according to her) - and he likes tattoos, etc.. But she wants to make sure he knows and has the opportunity to hear the gospel. 

Other great news about her - our ward mission leader is her neighbor. Score! And they really respect each other. The investigator sees and admires the family that the members' have, and the members respect the drive the investigator has to do the right for her family. And they have kids at about the right ages, and so they are setting up play dates.

We had a really great experience this weekend - Elder Russell M. Nelson came to Billings! I never got to see him in person. He was in a special stake conference on the West End that they broadcasted up to the Heights. So we got to see and hear him, at least! His message was so very simple. It was simply the message of the Restoration - as outlined in PMG, with a huge emphasis of teaching the Restoration to your children.

Afterwards we had a very productive meeting with our ward mission leader and bishopric. We are going to get this ward back into missionary-shape. Which will be such a relief on our part. We feel like we've been swimming upstream all alone.

But we had walked to the conference, and Sister Bateman and I had a very interesting discussion while walking back. Actually, we have interesting discussion quite frequently. She's a deep thinking and is very intelligent. Anyways, we were just noting how much rejection you get used to as a missionary. And I am not really even referring to tracting rejection.

We get so used to people cancelling lessons on us. Or not being home when we come to appointments. Almost everyone forgets to read their scriptures. So many will say they will be at church and then do not show up. And recently, we have people ready for baptism and they back out. 

And yet, life goes on. We find people more ready to commit. We help build people's faith so they feel like they can commit. And so nothing is ever the end of the world. Nothing should ever get you angry or down. 

Then we related it to Christ. He was the most rejected, the most despised. He too experienced having a large band of less-than-devoted that later dissipated as they later realized what following Christ meant and entailed. Even his most trusted, the apostles, struggled to have faith and comprehension. 

Christ really does know everything we have ever felt. 
And he was the perfect example of handling every situation.
It makes you want to think twice before losing your temper or letting yourself get discouraged.

Sister Bateman and I also spent some time reflecting on our time here in Lake Hills. This is the last week of the transfer, and we think that Sister Bateman will most likely leave - she has been here since December, and we have been companions since April. 

But when Sister Bateman showed up, the sisters largely did not do missionary work, with an inappropriate excuse of health. Sister Bateman quickly turned that around.

Then when I showed up, the teaching pool was draining. The only ones interested and willing to progress were the family that just went to the temple. We now have many families we teach and several potentials. We have done good work with less-actives. Coordination with the ward is working towards improvement.

It is a good feeling to know that even despite the many disappointments and struggles, we have done good work here. We have helped the area to be better than we found it. And who knows, maybe we will stay together for another transfer. But it is rewarding to know that we have done good.
(And look, dad, I actually used "good" in the correct way!)

Sister Griffin

Monday, August 4, 2014

& that's why!

Our recently reactivated couple received their endowments on Saturday!!! And we got to go!!! And half of the ward was there!!! (Okay, half is an exaggeration, but still...!)

This couple has made leaps and bounds. They have made so many amazing changes in their lives. They constantly tell us how they have never been happier. They were just completely glowing during the endowment. It was so sweet to be with them in the Celestial room. That right there is why we do missionary work!!!

An even better part. They randomly texted yesterday about how the Tennessee family was doing. We told them they were struggling. Immediately they agreed to stop by to visit and/or bring by cookies/goodies for them. We thanked them, and they merely said that fellowshipping made all the difference to them, and so they wanted others to have that opportunity as well.

So here is Bro. Tennesee's latest.
He cannot deny that he feels the Book of Mormon was true. And he even feels that the priesthood was indeed restored. But he doesn't like the Doctrine & Covenants. He says it is choppy and doesn't flow. And so his conclusion is that Joseph Smith did translate the Book of Mormon, and that the priesthood was restored, but that Joseph Smith was not a prophet. He feels that after the translation, Joseph Smith got a big head and wanted to make a name for himself, and so he took everything as a revelation from God and wrote it down to be made into the Doctrine & Covenants.

I'm just going to leave the Tennessee family at that. They are starting to close off to us, especially Bro. Tennessee. But it also does not help that he is at school 8-3 and then working most nights 4PM-1AM. That has been making meeting with him really hard.

The ward floored us yesterday, though. Two different families made the point of visiting with the Tennessee family. One family went over to invite them over for dinner later on in the week, and the other family brought them a lasagna. So the ward is trying to help!

Other news, we had exchanges this week. That really helped us to come up with ways to help our investigators. All of them have so much potential, but none of them want to fully commit to changing their lives to fit the gospel. So during exchanges, we developed some game plans to more fully meet their needs.

Sorry, I do not have a picture of the car yet... and we were not able to get pictures with the couple that went to the temple because we had to dash off to make it to dinner. But their sealing is on Wednesday, and we will get pictures with them then. So expect pictures next week!

Sister Griffin