Monday, March 29, 2010

One of the cool kids! :)

Buenos dias! Como estan? Last night at about 11:50pm we got the transfer call and...Hna Evens is getting transferred out and I'm staying. Lots of mixed feelings right now...going on 4 transfers here...I never thought back at Thanksgiving when I joked with Hna Andrews that I would be in Morristown for my birthday that it would actually come true! Haha. But yeah, Hna Evens is really sad. We went to IHOP this morning as an apartment to celebrate our time together. Sister Child isn't getting transferred either so we have still lived together my entire mission so far! I have a guess as to who my next companion will be, considering there are only 2 other Spanish sisters getting transferred (there are only 7 Spanish sisters in the whole mission), but I won't say. We'll just wait and see it out. I'm really excited I get to stay though because we have so many investigators right on the brink of baptism! Let's see if Heavenly Father will bless us to pull these through. It's been a pretty tough area up to now but it's one of the more expensive Spanish areas so the people are complete work-aholics but we are knocking those barriers one by one. :) Miguel and Darwin are still progressing beautifully. Miguel won't let us set him with a baptismal date yet but I think he'll be the type of guy where when he decides to get baptized, it will be basically a "next day" type of deal, so we're not too worried about that. He knows where we're headed. :)
This week had weather that was just bouncing around lots. We were walking down the street one day and saw one of our investigator's kids so we started talking to him and all his friends came up and showed us their bike tricks and everything...and then we got in the cool club, apparently, because they started letting us pick out which of their SillyBands we wanted. Whoa. :) SillyBands are these things that are way big out here that are colorful rubberbands that hold the shape of any number of things like cars, dolphins, flowers, and anteaters. Are they big out west? I swear, these are like the Pokemon cards of the new generation. Anyway, that was kind of fun. Then we offerred that the next time we were in the area and the ice cream man drove by, we would get them some ice cream (considering Ice Cream Man Sam is our friend and always hooks us up if he sees us wandering around :)
We had some major break-throughs this week with eternigators/inactive members. This branch here in Morristown is filled with eternigators who have been coming to church steadily for years but can't get baptized, usually because of marriage/legality issues to their home country. So we usually just visit them as if they're members and ask them every once-in-a-while how their papers are coming along. Last week, we visited one such family. The parents are Carmen y Isdeyber, with a 9-yr-old daughter Michelle. I've probably only visited with them twice since I've been in Morristown because they live kind of far away but we went to see them on Saturday because an appointment feel through. We sat down and were talking, then Hna Evens started saying the opening prayer. I had my head bowed and this voice basically told me, "Michelle needs to get baptized. Set her with a date." I ignored it at first because I remembered that the sisters here in the past were really close to having her baptism but then something happened. But then it came again, "Set her with a date. She's ready." So Hna Evens finished the prayer and I looked at Carmen and Isdeyber and just opened my mouth and said, "So, we wanted to talk to you about Michelle getting baptized..." and the discussion went from there and before we were out of that door, Michelle had set herself a baptismal date for May 1. I love the spirit! We had NO IDEA before we walked into that lesson what we were going to teach them but we were led in what to do.
So I wonder what another transfer in Morristown will hold? I am really excited to see. I love this place. We have been teaching so many little men for so long now, I was almost positive the area was preparing to get elders in here, but I guess not. Like it says in Helaman 3:7 "And there being but little timber upon the face of the land, nevertheless the people who went forth became exceedingly expert in the working of cement; therefore they did build houses of cement, in the which they did dwell." This has been the theme for my time here in Morristown. There are few women to teach (as of right now, at least... :) but we are going forth and becoming experts in working with and teaching men. Haha, work with what you have, I guess. But the miracles we've been seeing from it are amazing and will only get better the more we put our trust in the Lord.
I hope everyone is doing well. I pray for you every day and know the Lord is blessing you in more ways than you can see. Have a wonderful weekend watching/attending General Conference. We'll be having a potluck between sessions with our branch out here! :) I am so excited for this chance we get to hear the prophet of the Lord speak to us and for the chance to bring my investigators to hear as well. Pray that they can come and feel of the Spirit to know that Thomas S. Monson is called of God. Take care this week. I will obviously be thinking of all of you and of Anthony as we approach his birthday. I miss you tons but I love you more!
Hermana Jackson

Monday, March 22, 2010

Samoan Sway = Guatemalan grab-n-go

Hey family! How are you all doing? I haven't heard from many of you in a while so I'm just hoping things are going well. I've heard from Mom and Dad that Michael and Cari are heading to Oregon? That's way fun. I loved being in the northwest when I was there and I could see you two just loving it as well. Have fun and take lots of pictures!
So this week was gorgeous weather! (except today, of course, which is raining). But I got back out the short sleeve shirts and we used the air conditioning for the first time in months in the car. What a blessing! :) People are out wandering the streets and everyone is a little more upbeat. But of course, the downside of the nice weather is that all our little men we've been teaching that have been out of jobs all winter have just started up again with their gardening companies so they're a little harder to catch home. Oh well, we'll just track them down somehow.
Yesterday at church was AMAZING! Miguel and Darwin came and loved it! Miguel just knows so much about the Book of Mormon now. He got up in Gospel Principles class and started answering someone's question about it...he drew a map of the world and showed how the Bible came from Jerusalem and the Book of Mormon from the American continent and was just going on and on. It was awesome! And then he told about how God is so aware of all his children and about when he was taking out the garbage and we were walking by and stopped to talk with him the first time. The branch mission leader just came up to us afterward and asked if he was an inactive member or an investigator or what. Haha, I am so glad they had such a good experience. He won't let us set him with a baptismal date yet but we'll keep working for that.
I feel like along with the start of spring this week I've gained about 500 pounds because everyone is just happier and wanting to give us more food...or something. I ate a PB&J sandwhich on Wednesday before heading out and felt sick afterward for some reason. So then we went to an appointment with a new investigator, Claudia, from El Salvador, and found she was preparing lunch for us (people always do that without telling us...and then they stare at us as we eat and get offended if we don't eat their food). So I told her, "Oh Hermana, I don't know what's wrong but I'm just not feeling good today." Mistake #1, don't tell a Hispanic you're sick. She comforted me by saying, "Oh that's ok, I've got something you can take. It's from my country." Uh-oh. Then she pulls out a thing of alka-selzer (which luckily is NOT from her country but still...GROSS!) and gives it to me. As soon as I'm done downing that, she asked if I felt better. I, of course, said yes, in the hopes that she wouldn't make me drink another glass of alka-selzer. That was mistake #2 because then, she brought over to the table a full plate of food for each of us...fried chicken, rice, beans, tortillas, and a tall glass of some nasty Salvadorian drink that tasted like grits and coffee. Mmmm. Love the mission. :)
Then the rest of the week people just kept giving us all sorts of randoms sweets and foods and such, enough to keep making us sick. So we came up with some little sayings for how to fit it all in. If you've ever heard of the Samoan sway or the Tongan twist, we now have our own. Columbian crunch (a couple crunches between meals never felt better). Mexican mash (to them, it just looks like you're dancing, and they love to dance), the Honduranian hide (the real reason we carry such big bags...), and the Guatemalan grab-n-go (oh no, we're late to our next appointment! Can we wrap this in foil and take it home?). But really, we eat it all and are just so grateful to them. These people give their best for us every time. I always remember that when we had the missionaries over to our house for dinner growing up, Mom would always say that she hoped that one day in the future, people would take care of her kids the same way on their missions. That, for sure, is happening.
Well, I hope everyone has a great week. Enjoy the spring time. I miss you tons but I love you more!
Hermana Jackson

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Power of the Book of Mormon

Hey everyone! How is everything going? After a couple of days of gorgeous weather here, we had 2 days of just absolute torrential downpour this weekend. Trees were falling and power was going out and we just kept praying that people would let us into their houses. So yeah, it was exciting. And amidst all the craziness, we still had tons of amazing lessons and experiences. This might have included, but is not limited to: a possom running in front of our car (but I did not hit it), watching part of "Our Heavenly Father's Plan" in lots of different languages while waiting on a member, eating dinner at a British family's house (they are in the English ward here and we bonded when I told her my dad is from England), watching St Patty's Day fanatics darting around decked out in green gear in the torrential downpour as their annual parade got cancelled, hearing bagpipes warming up for the parade, and watching my companion sew in hair extensions for one of our investigators. Yep, good week. And now for the spiritual part, because it was amazing!...
Last Monday, we got a phone call from one of our investigators, Miguel. We have been teaching him and his roommate, Darwin, a lot but they have been kind of making slow progress. Miguel takes the logical/intellectual perspective on everything. He loves to ask questions and has to really know for himself all this stuff, which is great, but he won't accept reading assignments from the Book of Mormon, he just wanted to read it from the beginning. And in the last month we've been meeting with him, he hadn't made it past 1 Nephi 3. Lately we had felt like he was getting anti-ed and that we would have to drop him soon. Anyway, he called on Monday and said, "Hey, can you come over for a visit tonight? I need to talk to you." We were kind of worried, thinking it might be a trap with his pastor there from his church or something. We just prayed and prayed and went over for the appointment. He was outside waiting for us and then we went inside to have a lesson on the steps (because we didn't have a member with us). Darwin came and joined us (he doesn't say much but loves the lessons) and we got to talking. We prayed and I asked him, "So, what can we do for you?" He held up his Book of Mormon and said, "Well, I've been reading..." He opened up to where he was and he was in Helaman 13!!!!! That's about 400 pgs in Spanish! He continued, "When you guys come in here and talk to me about the Bible, I know that, I understand what you're saying. But when you come in here and talk to me about Nephi and Alma and these names, I don't know who they are. I decided I wanted to know. I haven't understood everything I've read, but it feels good. It's like the Bible. I go to my church but there's something about this book...I just can't explain it." The spirit we felt at that moment was amazing! I don't think any of us in that little stariwell wanted to be anywhere else in the world. We explained to him about the Holy Ghost and how that was what he was feeling, the confirming power of that witness that it is true. We then explained about baptism and how after baptism, he can feel the Holy Ghost all the time. He was loving it. We said, "Miguel, it will be hard for you to leave behind your church and what you have been doing, but when you feel that it is right, like you do now, you will want to. Do you believe that Jesus Christ can help you to make those changes and come unto him and be baptized?" To which he replied, "I know He can. Life wasn't easy for Jesus. Why should it be for me? He sufferred for me. The least I can do is follow Him."
Follow-up lesson with Miguel and Darwin on Friday night. We had a member with us who kind of talks a lot and controls the lesson but it was still really good. This member was just talking and talking and during it, Miguel kept looking at me to see if I was confirming what the member was saying. Finally, when I was able to speak, I just bore a short testimony to him about...I don't even remember what. He was staring me right in the eyes and then he said, "Wow, you speak really strongly. I felt something." And I said, "That wasn't me, it was the spirit. I don't even know what I just said." It was just an amazing testimony to me of the Holy Ghost working through us to say what needs to be heard.
I love this mission. It's interesting because at the end of last transfer, I was so ready to leave this area, move on to something else, I felt burned out here. But being left here another transfer, we've really gotten things going here and I have truly grown to feel for these people what I felt in Paterson. We may not be having lots of baptisms, but we have been doing tons of foundational stuff in the branch to help future misisonaries. We finally got our branch mission plan done last week, we had our first Gospel Principles class at church for our investigators, and we are getting all the member to read the Book of Mormon. I just love everybody here and would not mind at all to stay another transfer.
Anyway, that's it for today. I hope these emails don't bore you at all. I guess I'm kind of using them as a journal for me as well since my journal isn't too detailed. :) I love you all and hope things are going well. Happy anniversary to Chris and Megan. Next year, I'll babysit the girls for you so you can go out but for now, Mom can enjoy that job. :) I miss you tons but I love you more!
Hermana Jackson

Monday, March 8, 2010

Would you give your LIFE for it?

Hey, how is everybody doing? Is it warming up in Utah yet? It sure is here. I love it! This is a long one, but it's worth it, I promise. :)
Miracles happen, everyday. Sometimes you wonder as a missionary if the work you are doing is pleasing unto the Lord. Sometimes I wonder why the heck he is trusting me to teach His children the gospel. None of us are perfect, but Heavenly Father knows that and He works with that and He leads us in our imperfections to become better, to be led by His Holy Spirit and be sanctified. And when you can look back at a week like this and see the way the Spirit guided without you even realizing it, you are just humbled again and again at the power of the Lord. I'm just going to hit day-by-day the little miracles:
Tuesday: Miracles of Finding. Exchanges among the sisters in my zone; I was with Hna Minetto! She served here in Morristown for 3 transfers last summer so as we were walking around the town, we ran into tons of people that she had taught previously that had just fallen through the cracks because they moved or something and got their information de nuevo.
Wednesday: Miracles of Challenging. Set 2 baptismal dates! One with Ranferi and one with Martin! They are awesome. Martin still has some doubts but at least he knows now that this is where we're headed. But Ranferi's lesson was so powerful! The spirit was so strong and he didn't even let us finish the baptismal challenge before he said that he wanted to get baptized!
Thursday: Miracles of Testimony. Absolute exhaustion but lots of new investigators. We ended up with 4 lessons back-to-back with guys who LOVE to a lot. Hna Evens was just staring at me and I was getting a headache just staring at them. Wow. But one of them, Sergio, invited us to give a lesson to his youth group at the Catholic church. Haha, he liked what we were saying. We were trying to get across to him about how this is the only true church and then he looked at me straight in the eyes and he said, "Would you give your life for it?" That was the first time I had ever been asked that and I was so grateful I was able to look straight back at him and say, "Yes. Yes I would." He had nothing to say after that. I was grateful for the chance Heavenly Father gave me to strengthen my testimony so much by bearing it.
Friday: Miracles of Diligence. I was not feeling too great all day and was still exhausted of Spanish from the day before but we just kept going and working hard. Some good appointments throughout the day but the clincher came in the last appointment of the night, a power visit with a member of the branch, Angela. She is one of my favorite women ever and she has been struggling a lot lately. Life is so hard for these people we teach. Their families are in their home country, they think they have come here to chase after the "American Dream" and then they realize it's all false. Angela goes to work, comes home and spends the evening with her 10-yr-old son, and goes to after day. And then church on Sundays. There are no nice things to go to in the community, no other good families to hang out with or go to the movies with. So we started sharing a message with her, having no idea what we could say to help, and my scriptures fell open to a part in Alma 43 that I had marked after Dad cited it in a letter to me. It was random, about some wars of the Nephites and Lamanites, but it spoke right to her. She started crying and so did I as we felt the spirit of the Lord fulfill the promise to "open your mouth and it will be filled."
Saturday: Miracles of being in the right place at the right time. Popped in to visit a recently reactivated member of the branch, Walter, who had been praying that someone would show up that could give him the spiritual boost he was seeking. He wanted to call us but didn't want to pull us from our lessons so he went for a 15-minute walk instead. We felt like we shoudl go visit him and happened to go over right after he left, and left a note on the door. He called us 10-minutes later and we had a great lesson on faith.
Sunday: Miracles of Prayer. Ranferi came to church! Need I say more? Ok, well, maybe one kind of un-miracle...we found out he's not married to his esposa...roadblock major. And also Hector came to church and talked with the branch president and they are getting his records transferred up from Honduras after 13 years!
Well, I think this email is long enough. :) Thank you for your continued prayers and support to me and most especially for your prayers for our investigators. Prayers really are answered, and the more we recognize the answers, the more we get them. I miss you tons but I love you more!
Hermana Jackson

Monday, March 1, 2010

Snow plows are like missionaries...

More snow this week! I don't even know where they are going to put it all! We still were able to go out and work though, but once again the muscles are sore from shoveling. Don't judge the picture of us shoveling doesn't look like we did a lot but we just really wanted to get a picture of us shoveling in front of that house because that is one of our houses of many men that we are teaching. We just write in our schedules "19 Henry St" as back-up a lot of time and catch whoever is there (Ranferi, Luis, Jose, Ezequiel). Maybe one day, they will all come to church together! We're working on that. :) Right now, getting people to church is seriously the only thing stopping so many of these people from getting baptized. Pray our investigators can come to church! Everybody here just works their tails off and that includes on Sundays, so they can never come! And it seems like the harder we work at it every week, the fewer that come...hmmm...
So we had some really neat experiences this week where the Spirit was leading us when we didn't even know it. There were a couple of nights when all of our appointments fell through and we had about half an hour before going inside. Since it was the end of the month, we didn't have too many miles left we could go on our car so we had to be really creative with where we went. One night, we decided to go by for this guy we had contacted about a month ago but never gotten ahold of. We go to this house, knocked on one door, and asked for Jorge. They didn't know who he was and told us to try the back door (remember, every door is a different household). So we go to the back, knock on the door (it's snowing, by the way) and some guy answers the door and lets us in. We asked for Jorge and they had no idea who he was but then we just asked if we could share a message with them. They let us sit down and introduced themselves as Leonel, Benjamin, and Hector, all from Honduras. We got to talking and before long, Hector says, "I had some friends back in Honduras named Elders. We became really good friends and they baptized me. Actually, they baptized my whole family, but the rest of my family is still in Honduras. When I moved here to make more money, I had to work on Sundays so I have never been to church here, but now I only work on Sundays sometimes." What the heck?!?! And not even to mention that that was the 2nd person we found this week who had been baptized in Honduras and moved here and gotten lost along the way. It is crazy how that happens. Records get lost a lot along the way but it is just a testimony to me that the Lord knows His sheep. Like it says in Doctrine and Covenants 50:41-42, "Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me; And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost."
In other news, we met with Wilson again (our fast little Ecuadorian man) and he starts out by asking, "Do you believe people can change and be better? Because I think...." And off he went with all his ideas and stuff and it was awesome. So we taught him about faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end and he was just loving it. We invited him to be baptized and he said that in a year he will, once he has read the whole Book of Mormon, unless he feels like God tells him to get baptized sooner. Haha, we can definitely work with that. We also invited him to church but he said he wants to look nice when he comes so he needs to save up and go shopping for some new clothes. Haha, this guys just cracks me up and he just loves the lessons. Everything just makes so much sense to him. More updates to come... :)
To explain the title of this week's email, that is a bit of wisdom I came up with while driving around the other day with Hna Evens. The streets are covered in snow and you see snowplows just driving right over them without the plow down (I saw it a lot in Utah too). I felt like saying, "Hey, there is snow all over this road that needs to be moved and you have the ability to do do it!" And then I thought, that's like many times, missionaries just walk right on by people who need help and we can help them! If we just put the plow down and go to work, it's amazing the difference we can see in what happens. I love the tools we have as members of the church to help and lift people in need. Use them! :)
I guess that's about it for today. I hope things are going well back home. Take care on tour, Malcolm. And Megan, don't worry about sending the last part of the package, we're fine. :) I miss you tons but I love you more!
Hermana Jackson