Saturday, June 6, 2015

Sister Murray is Home

Friday, May 29, 2015    A Blessed Day
The airport welcoming committee

We prayed with all our hearts for Aunt Alyson (Sister Murray)
My siblings
Lunch after speaking, May 31st.  These are mission visitors, Sister Fife, Summer Dains, Sister McCleary
Some of the family
Fisher of Men

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

God IS a God of Miracles!

The Switzers 

Lori's baptism.  Sister Elliot, Lori, her dad, Sister Murray

Lori and Jaden! I have to come back and visit so I can hold this baby! :)

Zone Conference

Elder Riley (Folkston), Elder Wall (Kingsland zl),
Elder Beard (folkston), Elder Strait (folkston), Elder Neilson
(Fernandina dl), Elder Bell (Kingsland zl), Elder England (Fernandina)
Front row: Sister Elliott, Sister Strait, me!
Horses and Sister Balkcom
We found this poster in our closet. Love the South!
Milkshakes on President's orders!

Love Georgia!

This was one of the most draining and most incredible weeks of my mission. Last Saturday Lori  talked to us and told us she had some choices to make. These choices would determine whether or not she would be baptized as planned on May 23rd. Monday night she met with Bishop Tucker and then Bishop and her dad joined us for a lesson. That was the hardest lesson I have taught. Bishop was a huge help. Then Bishop and Brother Wills left and we talked with Lori alone. As we spoke she realized she had another option she could choose from that would allow her to still be baptized. We knelt and prayed together and invited her to continue to pray about the choice she needed to make.

Tuesday we had lunch with a less active sister and talked about family history. We started doing yard work for another less active sister when a sudden lightning storm hit and we determined it wasn't safe to be weeding under her metal ramp. We had just done a super in-depth cleaning of our car for zone conference. The cleanest cars win extra miles. We avoided dirt roads and wore plastic bags on our shoes to keep the car clean.  We followed up with Lori this day and she gave us the good news that she would still be baptized! Part of her decision included moving to Alabama Saturday evening so we started getting everything ready for the baptism Saturday afternoon!

Wednesday we went to the church bright and early for car inspections and Zone conference.  In the past, two zones get together for conference, but each zone had their own this time. President trained on being a disciple of Christ and working with the ward council, and teaching and learning by the spirit. Sister Craig trained on the Book of Mormon. It was an incredible day. We did a lot of role playing- about an hours  worth.  I learned a lot!  

After Zone Conference we had Lori's baptismal interview, ran to dinner with the Kirklands, drove back to the church for Ward coordination, and then taught scripture class. 

Friday we got to help the Balkcom's with their horses before they took us to lunch. Then we drove to the church for  Matt's baptism. The Elders have been teaching him for three years and he was finally able to be baptized!  We taught Lori again and did role plays with her to practice standing up for standards when our friends try to convince us to do otherwise. We also saw Cheyenne. She is still doing great!  We taught Ronnie that night too! 

Saturday morning we were visiting some potentials when President called. We had a ton of questions we needed to ask him. It was funny he kept trying to get off the phone and we kept saying we had more questions! Poor President I don't know how he puts up with all of us ;) We told President about the miracle that Lori was being baptized! We also told him how stressful it had been getting her there this week. He told us not to stress and to go get a milkshake, and I always obey President Craig! After some ice cream we went to set up the church. Lori was already there so we were able to have the Elders help her and her dad practice the baptism too.  It was a beautiful day.  After she was baptized and was changing the second counselor in the Bishopric pulled us into the hall to ask if Bishop had given consent to have Lori confirmed at the baptism instead of on Sunday. We had been trying to do that all week and Bishop said it should be fine but he was going to check on one more thing and get back to us, and then he went out of town. Long, stressful, story made short-we called the first counselor and he gave permission to have Lori confirmed.  It was a beautiful blessing.  I was able to give the talk about the gift of the Holy Ghost. We had refreshments and then Lori headed to Alabama!

Immediately after she left we got online to find the number for the missionaries in her new ward (her face lit up when we told her there was a ward there.) We couldn't find their number though, so we called the Bishop there. He is super nice and said they have both Elders and Sisters in that ward! 

Mighty Miracle May did bring about many mighty miracles.  There were 22 baptisms this weekend alone.   44 this month so far, and 14 set for next weekend. I am so grateful for the miracle I was able to see! We really weren't sure if Lori would be baptized, but it came together and she really felt the spirit. There are more miracles to come in the following months--I am certain of it!

Sunday was great! I love going to church. We didn't have any gators come, so that was sad.  President called us late Friday night and told us where we could find the sister missionary’s  number so we looked that up and gave them a call. They are super sweet and are excited to meet Lori! We exchanged emails and I told them to stay in touch with me because I plan on keeping in touch with Lori from the time I get home!  Those sisters are in the Tallahassee mission but they knew an Elder in our mission.  It is such a relief to know that Lori is in good hands.

Monday we had district meeting. It was strange to be the one giving the "departing missionary testimony."  I have loved this district even though it has been a short time serving with them.  We spent the rest of the day saying bye to people (best excuse ever to teach a ton of lessons!) We also spent some time tracting. You know, I'm not sure I will miss knocking on strangers’ doors, but I will certainly miss hearing strangers‘ life stories. The people here are aware of a god in their lives and I love that!

Also, we have been teaching one of my friends from home through email. He has been busy with work, but he has been keeping all of his commitments. He told me this week that he is so grateful for all we have shared. His faith has been strengthened. I hope I can keep sharing my testimony with him once I am home. I will always be a missionary now!

The transfer call was really fuzzy and hard to understand, but still great! There were a lot of changes.  The sister coordinators area is being whitewashed and now just a set of stl's will be assigned to trade off with new stl's. Sister Elliott's new companion is Sister Trusty. She has only been out about three months. Sister Stitt is going to Gainesville YSA as a sister training leader with Sister Montgomery. I am so excited for her! There is definitely a great transfer ahead! My transfer will be a bit different, but I am excited!  Terrified, but excited.

There are really no words that can sum up the most draining, rewarding, fun, tough, spiritual, joyous, and sacred experience of your life. The past eighteen months have been the biggest blessing I could have ever asked for.   18 months ago I thought I was making a huge sacrifice to leave home and go to an unknown land. I didn't want to leave.  Now I can hardly believe eighteen months, ten companions, and five areas have come and gone. I find myself again feeling like I don't want to leave. It's funny how feelings can change, but not surprising. I've learned that serving our Savior changes us. It changes our nature it changes our hearts.  I hope to come home a better disciple of my Savior Jesus Christ.  I have felt the forgiving power of his Atonement, the enabling power of his grace, and the warmth of his never-ending, perfect love. I have seen his gospel and atonement change lives.  I know it continues to do so.  Bringing one soul unto him truly is a great joy. It is a joy I hope to have throughout my life. 

Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer. He lives! He was sent to us by a loving Heavenly Father who know us by name. Our Father does know what we want in life, but He will always give us what is best for us.  Joseph Smith is his prophet. He translated the Book of Mormon--the most powerful book I have ever read.  Its’ words change me constantly. We are never done learning from it’ pages, and it is through this book that we can truly come to know that The Church of Jesus Christ is Christ's church again on the earth. These things I know to be true! In the name of Jesus Christ amen!

Sister Murray
3 Nephi 5:13

111 of the many things I learned on my mission:

1. Florida Water is gross. The drinking water tastes like metal the sprinkler water smells like rotten eggs.
2. Don't touch Spanish Moss unless you want chiggers. And you don't want chiggers. The bugs here are crazy big and nearly all of them bite!
3. If it is sunny in the morning there may be a lighting storm that night. Never plan on weather and don't trust the weather forecasts!
4. Southern food is good!
5. Drug dealers love "Jesus People."
6. How to bike, wash a car, shop, walk, run, sleep, garden, and live in a skirt.
7. How to layer thick fuzzy socks and two pairs of tights to stay warm in the winter.
8. I love humidity and heat. I am going to freeze next winter.
9. How to prune a palm tree with a machete.
10. How to clean a swimming pool. 
11. Florida doesn't have dirt... Just sand.  Weeding someone's garden is like playing in a sand box.
12. How to back my companion in a car.
13. How to drive on the highway with crazy Florida drivers who don't signal and don't have any fear. Also, cars in Florida only have license plates on the back.
14. How to get creative in the kitchen when the food is running low and no members signed up to feed you.
15. I can't breathe if I put an orange in my mouth. I do it anyway if a member offers.
16. I have no idea what direction I am facing when I am in Georgia. Also, it is really frustrating having no sense of direction! Be grateful for the mountains in Utah.
17. How to play warrior ball. 
18. Mothballs can be used to keep poisonous snakes away, but I hate the smell of moth balls. 
19. How to stay on top of keeping my apartment clean... usually.
20. Say "yes ma'am" and "no sir!" And use the word y'all.
21. Be careful who you trust. Unfortunately not everyone is who they say they are. The spirit will help you know who to trust and who you should not even talk to.
22. There are many ways to pronounce names such as "Darrell." 
23. Help with the crazy roads in Florida? Dts and Aprl (drive, terrace, street... Goes north to south. Avenue, place, road, and land go west to east)
24. How to clean an apartment in less than an hour.
25. I still love animals! So does nearly everyone in the South. Pit Bulls are the most common pet selection. 
26. From President Craig: you choose if you have a good day.  God doesn't expect you to be perfect, just to be your best. Sometimes missions are more for the missionary than anything else. Biking 20 miles is nothing! If President Bikes for an hour every morning we can. Always learn something when you go the temple. You are never done learning! How to invite and follow the spirit's promptings. Remember he little things to show people you care about them. Finally, It's ok to go get a milkshake on a hard day--even during prime proselyting time.
27. From Sister Craig: the spirit helps us discern the needs of those under our stewardship.  Success is not measured by numbers.  Everything relies on the Book of Mormon! It is the greatest tool in conversion, including our own conversion. We must strive to have daily aha moments and personal revelatory experiences. 
28. I am more important to God's plan than I could ever imagine. I have a part only I can fill, as does each one of His children.
29. From Sister Yeakley: always smile! A big smile and faith will get your through anything. Work hard, exercise often, and eat lots of grapes. 
30. From Sister Hale: Always place God first and trust him. See the best in every situation. It's ok to ask for help-we aren't meant to go through life alone. Having fun and working hard go hand in hand.  How to use eyeliner and do a sock bun.  How to eat gluten free, and to be grateful I don't have allergies.
31. From Sister Chappell: to never give up. Even when things are hard, you keep fighting.  You rely on the Savior and press forward with faith. Defy the limits the world places on you. Also,  let the spirit guide your words and you will never be too bold. 
32. From Sister Stitt: open communication is essential for a strong companionship.  We all have a lot of growing to do, and Six months from now you will be a different person so be patient with yourself and forgive others. Work hard, 18 months is too short not too! How to eat like a Vegan, and Oreos are vegan!
33. From Sister Fife: To have fun and work hard at the same time. Use your personality in your missionary work. You have strengths needed for the area you are called to. Always ask how the work in your area could improve. The relationships we make on our mission don't end after our 18 months. Yes, we do open gates to knock on people's doors.
34. From Sister Martinez: there are new ways to do things. Think outside of the box or you limit what you can do. Study lots and share what you learn. To be strong even during hard times! How to be excited about football. :)
35. From Sister Kloepfer: rely on the Savior during your hardest times and your easiest times. You are never asked to do more than you can handle.  Heavenly Father enables us to fulfill all of our callings! When you break open a sand dollar little birds are inside. Always put family first.
36. From Sister McCook: Be patient with yourself. Your trials today will prepare you to help someone in the future. Put all your energy into serving God! Serve with all your heart, might, mind, and strength and miracles will come. Talk with everyone and wave to everyone. 
37. From Sister Gillman: God knows who we need and why we need them. Rely on the spirit and you will know what to say.  When we have hard times it means miracles are ahead. Hard work brings the greatest joy. Laugh at yourself and your companion.  
38. From Sister Elliot: Love studies and love those you serve. With God's help we can do tough things. Don't expect perfection, see what you are doing! If you add "Ja" "Sha" or "La" to the front of your name it sounds like a Black name! (I know all y'all are trying it now! It's true, isn't it?)
39: You can't expect perfection from yourself. Perfection comes later, not in this life.  God is more concerned with who you are and who you are becoming than who you once were. 
40. From Jax YSA: now is the pivotal point in my life. The decisions I make now affect my life and my eternity. Have fun, but never lose the bigger picture. When you do that you are in more danger than you can imagine.
41. From Arlington: be a member who loves missionaries. "We are all family. It don't matter if you are Black or White, we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord." -"Crazy" Calvin. Love and service (and sticky noting doors) changes hearts.
42. From Gainesville 3rd: when you put God first in your life everything else falls into place. Even when your husband is gone all day for school and you have three little children to chase.  Also, coming out with missionaries is a spiritual boost. It strengthens members almost as much if not more than it strengthens the investigator. Also,You don't have to have dessert with every dinner! 
43. From returning to Arlington: God knows the desires of our hearts. He grants us the righteous desires.  Sometimes his answers come in ways we didn't expect and it may take time for us to recognize those answers, but they are there.
44. From Hendricks: WML really a stands for "weapon of mass love." Take advantage of every moment because you never know how long you will have with someone.
45. From Kingsland: It's ok to take things slower in life.  Slow down enough to be aware of the needs of those around you and reach out to everyone, not just those who come to you.
46. From Jeremy: Share your enthusiasm for the gospel with all your friends. be honest in all your dealings. 
47. From Caitlin: put aside what makes sense for what the Spirit tells you. You will never regret it. Surround yourself with good friends!
48. From Pete: charity never faileth.  Always serve those around you. When things aren't working the way you want them to maybe you need to change your course of action and do things the way God wants you to.
49. From Aileen: the Atonement truly changes us when we allow it to work in our lives.  When you find the light of the gospel you cannot keep it to yourself. 
50: From Kristen: Heavenly Father is patient with us as we strive to learn. Keep learning and let your faith burn bright. 
52. From Angel: love others no matter who they are! Become as a child!
53. From Brother Zielinski: it is never too late to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ.
54. From the Switzer family: no sacrifice is too great for the gospel. The gospel brings true joy. Don't underestimate the help from those on the other side of the veil. The gospel really does bless families. 
55. From Lori: When we do our best to be obedient God will provide a way for us to keep the commandments and to be happy. If we choose to obey God's commandments we receive the blessings associated.  Miracles do happen!
56. I love tough things. But sometimes I love them more after they are over and I see the growth they caused.
57. To put others before myself. Even when I don't think I can keep going. 
58. You are "too blessed to be stressed."
59. When you make comments in classes or meetings you show the spirit you are ready to learn.
60. When you make comments in classes or meetings you show the spirit you are ready to learn.
61. How to talk with everyone. And to teach simply and use terms people understand.
62. How to stand on a street corner and offer Books of Mormon to throngs of people. To be excited when people accept and to shrug off rude comments.
63. Don't be discouraged when people are mean. It just means someone elect is coming and Satan wants to discourage you.
64. Don't cast your pearls before swine. If someone won't listen don't talk.
65. It's ok to readjust goals when we recognize they are unrealistic. Set and achieve realistic goals and then raise them.
66. Music influences the spirit so much! Listening to the most spiritual music will make it easier to feel the spirit.
67. How to talk with everyone. And to teach simply and use terms people understand.
68. How to stand on a street corner and offer Books of Mormon to throngs of people. To be excited when people accept and to shrug off rude comments.
69. Don't be discouraged when people are mean. It just means someone elect is coming and Satan wants to discourage you.
70. Don't cast your pearls before swine. If someone won't listen don't talk
71. It's ok to readjust goals when we recognize they are unrealistic. Set and achieve realistic goals and then raise them.
72. The necessity of understanding the apostasy, and the confusion that comes from not understanding it.
73. The family is of God. It is the most important social unit now and in eternity.
74. When you put God first, everything else really does work out.
75. When we have faith we act. That action will cause an increase in our faith, and we will be more prepared to act in faith in the future.
76. God has not ceased to be a God of Miracles. Mormon 9:18-21
77. Music influences the spirit so much! Listening to the most spiritual music will make it easier to feel the spirit.
78. Some people legitimately believe Jesus is Black and won't listen to you if you give them a picture of a white Jesus.  However, what Jesus Christ looked like is not as important as his actions and his message. If someone is stuck on what he did or did not look like he or she will miss the bigger picture.
79. How to keep technology as my servant, not my master.  When we know how to do that we can take the internet back from the adversary. 
80. I LOVE teaching.
81. I work harder when I focus on others. "Forget yourself and go to work," is some of the best advice a missionary could receive.
82. If you make plans you can achieve your goals. When you achieve your goals you will accomplish your vision.
83. When the spirit speaks , as you are teaching, you  will learn things you didn't know.
84. How to have "aha" moments in the Book of Mormon.
85. The adversary's power is real.  He hits the hardest before spiritual events.
86. The Savior's power is always enough to overcome these spiritual whirlwinds. 
87. The Atonement changes lives. I have seen men and woman turn their lives completely around by relying on His atonement and living His gospel. 
88. The Holy Ghost is constantly seeking to guide us. Elder Golden taught us that the spirit speaks to our minds more often than we realize. We should follow our first thought.
89. Don't be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Shout out your beliefs! Talk with everyone about your testimony!
90. We must read the Book of Mormon every single day, and we should continue to pray about it. As Elder Neil. L. Anderson said, we must read it every day to, "renew the courage."
91. The greatest peace on earth is in the temple. I never want to go this long without going to the temple again.
92. Service softens and changes hearts. Serving Him will change our own heart.
93. God has a plan of happiness. Within that plan he has an individual plan perfectly tailored for each of us.
94. The greatest miracle is a changed heart. My heart has changed and I have seen others changed
95. The power of your mind and attitude, especially in hard situations.
96. How to follow the spirit to discern needs and to offer counsel while being both bold and loving.
97. To study the scriptures, not just read them.  The scriptures never use the phrase "read the scriptures." We are told to feast or study, but never just read.
98. How great an influence one person's choices can make--both for good and for bad. Agency is a powerful gift. One that God will never take away.
99. Satan is working to destroy families. I want to do all I can to strengthen those families and to have my own strong family some day.
100. Always respond with love, even if the other person does not.
101. How to be a loving companion and try to be a lovable companion.
102. The joy of bringing even one soul unto Christ.
103. Hard isn't bad, it's just hard.
104. The different ways the spirit speaks to me. I better understand how to recognize and follow these promptings now. 
105. I will always be a missionary.  For the rest of my life, and in the life after!
106. When we put our whole heart into God's work we are most happy.
107. How to let the spirit lead in offering counsel  to a struggling investigator or sister.
108. Baptisms don't make a happy missionary. Obedience, hard work, and looking for miracles do.
109. Heavenly Father always knows what is best for us. If we follow the spirit, things will work out for the best, even if it doesn't seem to be what we want to happen. 
110. When we live as disciples of Jesus Christ we can call on the powers of heaven to work miracles. As we do our part, the angels of heaven join in and events will come to pass we never would have imagined.
111. Heavenly Father loves all of his children. He does not love the obedient any more than the disobedient. He does not love those with the gospel any more than those without the fullness of the gospel.  He is sad when we choose to disobey and we cannot qualify for the blessings associated with the commandment we choose to break, but his love does not waver.

Love all y'all!
Sister Murray

Monday, May 18, 2015

Blessings from the Spirit

Sketchy Apartment 101-Back in your companion before it gets dark
Move Night-Meet the Mormons
Popcorn Anyone?
Family Home evening was incredible! We asked the Bartling family if they would take Lori as their investigator and they agreed. They invited her and her father  Monday night and we got to come too! President Bartling is the Stake President and Sister Bartling is the Primary president. Their family is incredible. They have four boys between the ages of 12 and 18. The oldest leaves on his mission next month.  Lori really enjoyed family home evening and the Bartlings were just loving her month old baby-Jaden!

We had an appointment Tuesday afternoon in one of the sketchier apartment complexes. We were running around trying to find the apartment and we walked past a group of people. I was nervous to talk to them and we were running late so we continued on. Well our appointment forgot apparently. I knew we had to go back to that group because we need to talk with everyone about the gospel! We went back and one woman named Latricia was really intrigued by our message. Everyone else conveniently had somewhere to go so we taught Latricia part of the Restoration right there, she kept saying, "you learn something every day!" Indeed you do Latricia. We also taught Cheyenne Clark-the 10 year old girl. She is doing very well and is excited to be baptized.

Wednesday morning we spent getting our oil changed and tires rotated. Then we went to the Kirklands to teach them about the Plan of Salvation again. That family is incredible! You would think they have been members their whole lives!

District meeting was moved to Thursday this week. It was a really great meeting! We learned about being a consecrated missionary. It's interesting how the spirit can teach you things that aren't even spoken. The whole training about being a consecrated missionary became applicable for me as an RM in my mind.  

That night we taught Latricia. We only had an opening at 8:00pm and we were kind of scared to go into that apartment at night. It was still light when we got there so I backed Sister Elliott into a parking spot so we could have a quick get away without me having to back her to leave in the dark. It ended up really not being that bad. There were still kids playing outside and such when we left so don't worry Mom!  Latricia is incredible! She loves what we teach! She went to the same church all her life in Brunswick and hadn't found a new church when she moved here. After the lesson Sister Eilliott reminded me of something. Almost a month ago a received a blessing from President Craig. In that blessing I had an impression that here was someone prepared for the gospel that we needed to find. There were probably many we needed to find, but Latricia is absolutely one of them. I feel so strongly she is one we were meant to meet. She and her fiancée will be married in July so we are hoping to set an August baptismal date in our next appointment.

Friday we had a great weekly planning session. In the evening we had dinner with a member and then took her out with us. There is this motel that several members/elder's gators live in and it is like a soap opera. Anyway, this member is obsessed with missionaries (mostly Elders) so we took her out with us and told the Elders to go teach her boyfriend while she was gone. She wasn't very happy to find out she had missed them.... It was a great night though!

Saturday was crazy! We were running all over teaching and finding and then we set up for a movie! We showed "Meet the Mormons" at the church. About 35 people came and there where about 6 non members so it was good. It all came together, but that night i felt completely drained! Also, that night Lori told us she may be moving next weekend... the weekend she was going to be baptized. We went into a classroom and talked. Gratefully the spirit took over, because I didn't know what to say. The spirit was there, and now we will wait and see what Lori decides to do. I love this sister so dearly. It makes me sad to know she is struggling.

Sunday we got to go to "Great to Be 8." It was in the Bartling home with three girls preparing to be baptized- one was Cheyenne. It was a fun afternoon!

I have a lot of people ask me how I'm feeling about going home.  I've been studying D&C sections 6-9 lately and I think D&C 9:9 is applicable and the spirit is protecting me with a "stupor of thought" from realizing how soon I come home. My mind knows I am going home soon so I want to work extra hard, but it definitely hasn't hit me yet that I am actually going to be home sometime soon. So how am I feeling? I am excited to see my family, to be able to go to the temple as often as I want, and to get back in school, but oh how I will miss it here. I love the area-heat, humidity, rain and all. But mostly I love the people! I love their love for Christ and I will miss them. But as Adam and Eve needed to leave the Garden of Eden in order to continue to progress I know I will need to move on at some point too.  But until then I am ready to keep sharing the gospel. When a missionary goes home it's the mission lingo that he or she "dies." Well we have decided that I will never "die".  I will simply be translated and keep working when I am home! I like that a lot better. :)

See all y'all next week!
Sister Murray

Monday, May 11, 2015

Planning for Miracles

Crazy Howling Dog

Monday evening was really strange. We went to the street we had chosen on the map for our golden hour and it ended up being a trailer park with campers and trailers. We didn't feel right being  there so we just knocked a few doors. No one wanted to listen to us. We did have a lady tell us to try her neighbor. We left a note for him and he actually called us back and thanked us even though he wasn’t interested.

Tuesday the Sister Training Leaders came to our district meeting. They gave trainings from MLC. I really liked the focus on Becoming. Heavenly Father is more interested in who we are and who we can become than who we once were. When we try to see others as who they can become too it is easier to really love them.  Right after district meeting we began our trade off. I've missed going on trade offs so I was really excited. I went to Brunswick with Sister Coutts. Sister Pasko stayed in St. Marys with Sister Elliott. I was a sister training leader for both of my current STL's so it's really fun to see how much they have grown and to learn from their examples. We had a nice long drive (our zone is geographically huge!) and had a great discussion about the work and becoming. I learned a lot! We spent the evening tracting, trying potentials, and we had dinner with a less active family. They have this dog that howls when you do. Needless to say we had a lot of fun with it!

Wednesday morning I got to go to Sister Coutts' district meeting before coming back to St. Marys. Then we actually all car pooled to Jacksonville. Tuesday night we realized we both needed to go there for doctor appointments. We had been having a hard time finding a ride and we didn't have the miles to drive ourselves so that was a miracle. We had a lot of fun on our road trip too! As soon as we got back we went to an appointment with Cheyenne. She is learning so much! No one showed up for our scripture class that night so we went out and tried to find some referrals in the area.

Thursday afternoon we went to do service for Sister Pappas. We were weeding under her porch and then laying down weed barrier under the mulch. It was a hot service project, but we enjoyed it. We were supposed to have a lesson with Miss Blake, but she canceled. So we were able to stay for dinner with Sister Pappas. Our STL's taught us about planning for miracles. Each day this month we are to choose one miracle we feel can happen, put it into the area book as an appointment, and then work to achieve it. We had planned to have the miracle of inviting someone to baptism, but in recognizing we wouldn't be out of Sister Pappas's on time to find someone to invite I realized that wouldn't happen. Then Sister Elliott had a brilliant idea! She suggested setting a second baptism date with Sister Pappas--a day to go to the temple to do baptisms for her ancestors. It completely changed our lesson and helped us see what Sister Pappas needs to do to get back in church and back to the temple by the day she chose-June 16th.  We had a Relief Society activity that night too. Not too many women came, but Priscilla came with her girls and Lori came. It was good to have them there and we had a wonderful evening.  We made little purses out of paper bags with quotes and items like in the "Parable of the Purse." That is the story about the young women's purse that is left at the church and the leaders look through it and see what kind of woman the purse belonged to.

Friday was weekly planning of course. Right after weekly planning we got on our bikes to go to Lori's. It started raining when we started biking. And of course that was the appointment she decided to cancel. We didn't get her text until we were at her house and by then it had stopped raining but we were pretty wet. We were able to try some other people in her neighborhood before biking home to get some dry clothes on.

Saturday we were determined to bike all day to save up miles on our car. It was a hot day, but it was really good! We did get to see Lori. She is doing great! She talked a lot in that lesson when she is normally pretty quiet. We taught Ronnie that night too. He hasn't been coming to church so we may have to drop him soon. We explained to him why we leave him with commitments and told him if he didn't start acting we wouldn't be able to see him any more. We certainly hope he will start keeping commitments. 

It was a wonderful Mother's Day! I got to give a talk in Sacrament meeting. I used Sister  Stephens and Elder Perry's conference talks. We had dinner with Brother Jarmin who was just baptized a couple weeks ago. We had just enough time to try to contact a referral before Skyping home.  It turns out  the complex had just renumbered their apartments so it wasn't the woman we were looking for, but the woman who answered was very nice and was familiar with Elders. They come into her work all the time. Her name is Latoya. We were able to teach her about the Restoration. As we were walking away Sister Elliott pointed out that her house was yellow and the miracle we had planned that day was to teach a lesson in a yellow house and her house was yellow!  So that's why we were a little late getting online. It was so great to talk to all y'all! I definitely enjoyed hearing and seeing you! 

Sister Murray

Monday, May 4, 2015

So Many Miracles!

Other than being eaten alive by mosquitos and sand gnats (or as my friend Jacob in Jax YSA calls them "no-see-'ems) it was a great week! 

After p day we were able to go teach a new member named Darla. Her fiancée lives in this Ward and she just moved here from Canada. She is so sweet, and she actually says "eh!" I've never met a Canadian that actually says that! It was fun! Afterwards we did some tracting. When I skype next week remind me to tell you the story about the cops and tracting. It's just too good of a story to tell via email. 

I gave a training in district meeting on Tuesday. I was so grateful to be able to give another training on my mission. It was perfect because Elder Neilson assigned me to give it on Planning- the same topic I did in last months zone meeting!  We were able to see Lori that afternoon. Lori is 21 and she just had a baby boy last month. Her dad is a less active member. We invited her to be baptized on May 23rd and agreed to pray to know if that was the right day. We also found out there is a less active sister that lives in the building next to us, Named Jessica. We were finally able to meet her Tuesday also! She is super nice. We are going to see if we can help her start reading the Book of Mormon again, we are hoping we can teach her boyfriend too!

Wednesday we tried seeing a ton of potential investigators. We met this really nice man named Danny. He was just sitting in his garage. We were able to teach him, but he just moved to Tallahassee and he was getting a new phone so we had no way to contact him again. We are just praying he will call us so we can get the Tally missionaries over there! Lori came to scripture class that night. She was trying to keep her baby quiet most of the time, but we were glad she could come. 

Thursday we saw Lori again! Daily contact brings miracles y'all! We asked if she had prayed about being baptized on May 23rd and she said she had and she felt good about it! I think she still needs a lot of support to get there, but she is starting to blossom with the gospel in her life. It is incredible!  That afternoon we also were able to teach Cheyenne. Courtney is her primary teacher and she told Courtney she wants to be baptized! He mom and grandma are less active but her mom was helping us teach.  Cheyenne is going to be baptized on June 13th!

Friday morning we went to the Balkcom's for service. We were scraping old paint off of an old shed. And! We got to feed their horses, feed the fish in their pond (they have six carp that are at least two feet long and a bunch of other fish) and then they took us out to lunch! It was so fun and so relaxing to be out in a country setting. They even showed us how to have their horses do tricks and then we could feed them treats. Sister Balkcom has chickens too! It was so great! I'm not really missing the city life! I admire Sister Balkcom so much. She has cancer and chronic fatigue. She lays in bed the first three days of the week so she can be up doing things and to come to church at the end of the week. She told us she just wishes she could be healed so she could come out and teach with us. She is an amazing missionary! She gave a Book of Mormon to the receptionist at her doctors office and she gave a Book of Mormon to the waitress when she took us to lunch. 

Saturday was one of the best days ever! We started out teaching a less active sister named Morgan. She came to church last week for the first time in years. Then we had lunch before stopping by Lena's to do service for her. Lena is a nice woman who doesn't want to learn, but she makes us dinner every Sunday. We shared a message with her this time and when we picked up dinner on Sunday she seemed more open to talking to us. Our appointment after that fell through so we stopped by to see a potential investigator. Just then Sister Elliott realized we were on the street another potential lived on that we had really been trying to meet and she was home! Her name is Tammy and we were able to have a lesson with her! Then we went to Lori's. Her dad came out to meet with us this time. Then we went straight to our appointment with Tyrone. Our temporary Ward mission leader, Brother Adams, came with and he added so much to the lesson. Tyrone hadn't been able to read yet so we read with him. He is moving along slowly, but nonetheless moving. We then went to dinner with the Owens. As we were talking to them we mentioned we had received a media referral for someone on their street. Sister Owens said she loved that neighbor and asked to come with us to see her after dinner. So after dinner we walked up the street and Sister Owens introduced us to Miss. Blake. It was incredible! And it worked out perfectly! We had wanted to go a few days earlier but the only Bible in our apartment was missing the book of Revelations... And then the Elders kept forgetting to get us one. We didn't get one for her until that day during lunch. Miss. Blake loves to talk about Jesus Christ and "Amen-Ed" all the way through our explanation of the Book of Mormon. It was an incredible day!

Sunday we were hoping more gators would come to church, but only Lori made it to sacrament meeting. She really is great! Cheyenne ended up making it for primary!  Later that day we were knocking doors. No one was interested until the last house. There was a man sitting in his garage. He told us he had had a good day "fishing and drinking some beers." He was just a little tipsy so we proceeded to share our message with him. He told us he had seen the "boys on bikes with white shirts" and had heard a little bit about Mormons, but didn't know much. He was really impressed by what missionaries do and he was interested when we explained the Book of Mormon to him. His wife is having a baby this week so we will be seeing him again next week!

Then we got a text from Lori's dad asking for information about the CES broadcast. They wanted to go and our night had just opened up so we went to the church and watched it with them. There's no YSA branch around here, but the new institute teachers set up a dessert bar and about 20 YSA's came from the area. Only one from our ward though. Elder Robin's talk was so powerful! Lori enjoyed it a lot, and so did I! I also loved seeing my institute choir and Brother Salmond! After the broadcast we were getting ready to go and I noticed a man there was wearing a USU t shirt. Of course I ran over to talk to him. It turns out he is from St. George, goes to USU and is here for some summer internship in Brunswick. We didn't get to talk much, but maybe we will cross paths again on campus this fall! It was a fun connection. 

This week was truly full of miracles! We achieved or exceed nearly all of our weekly goals. Now we just need to get more investigators progressing and coming to church!  God has not ceased to be a God of miracles. I see his miracles every day. I am also blessed to have a front row seat to the greatest miracle of all! As Elder Oaks taught:

"I have spoken about miracles. I have given illustrations of miracles in the Church as a whole and in many different circumstances involving a few individuals or a crisis of weather or war. But the greatest miracle is not in such things as restoring sight to the blind, healing an illness, or even raising the dead, since all of these restorations will happen, in any event, in the Resurrection.

Changing bodies or protecting temples are miracles, but an even greater miracle is a mighty change of heart by a son or daughter of God (see Mosiah 5:2). A change of heart, including new attitudes, priorities, and desires, is greater and more important than any miracle involving the body. I repeat, the body will be resurrected in any event, but a change affecting what the scripture calls the “heart” of a spirit son or daughter of God is a change whose effect is eternal. If of the right kind, this change opens the door to the process of repentance that cleanses us to dwell in the presence of God. It introduces the perspective and priorities that lead us to make the choices that qualify us for eternal life, “the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7)."

Miracles are all around for those with faith to see them! 

I love all y'all and look forward to talking to you on Sunday!
Sister Murray

Monday, April 27, 2015

April Showers Bring May Miracles!

Georgia Scenery

Close Call with a snake
Southern creature 
Kissing a frog didn't work for Sister Elliott
Our new Georgia T shirts
Hi Ya'll From Georgia
Red is for courage, Yellow for service.....and blue is for purity in thought and deed.
I will be happy for this is my creed.

Time to break the suspense and explain Might Miracle May.  As we learn in Mormon 9:18-21, God has NOT ceased to be a God of miracles. Indeed many mighty miracles happen everyday for those with the faith to see them.  This month our mission has dubbed "Mighty Miracle May." Our goal is for every companionship to have a baptism on May 23rd. That is approximately 100 baptisms! Brothers and Sisters please pray for us to achieve this goal! We are far from where we need to be to achieve our inspired goal of 600 baptisms this year and we know it will take great faith and work to get there. We are all praying and working for this goal to be achieved.

I'm coming to love Georgia more and more every day. It is so pretty here! I love the trees along the roads! Here's some random facts about our area I believe I failed to mention in my last letter. St. Marys is the second oldest city in the country. There is a Navy base here with specialized nuclear submarines. A lot of members here work in the Navy. I don't know how all of the Navy wives handle it! It's really common to see men and women dressed in Navy uniforms. We actually just saw one now as I was writing this!  Our ward covers all of Camden County. There are only about two black people in our ward  even though there are tons of Black people in Georgia. We just need to baptize some!  A normal Sunday will have 125ish people.  The area is very diverse. A sketchy trailer can be on the same road as a huge, nice house. The streets all have  names rather than numbers. Bishop told us St. Marys has the tallest gas price sign on Highway 40. So it's a pretty big deal! 

The first miracle of the week was Monday night when we had to go to this sketchy motel to teach a less active sister. We were worried we might be in danger. When it was dark out and we were leaving, the Elders happened to be outside in the parking lot talking to her husband and brother in law. We felt so much better having someone we knew to make sure we got back to our car.

Tuesday we enjoyed district meeting. We are the only sisters in the district again! The Zone leaders were gone so I got to help check iPads with the  district leader. We also have the cutest senior couple in our district- the Straits. They even go out tracting! So cute!  We also helped a sister pack up her house for moving. That night we had dinner with a family in the Navy base and were able to see some other potential investigators we have on base. We saw some deer that night too! 

Wednesday we went back and helped with more packing. We were working in the three year olds’ room while the mother was in the boys room. The three year old kept trying to join us in the room (which is not in line with the rules of the white handbook) and she was unpacking everything we packed. We couldn't pick her up and take her out of the room (also against WH rules) so I finally coaxed her out of the room and we had to lock her out! We felt so bad but we could not have her in there! Haha, it was really kind of funny too. I felt like I was about seven again when Sarah and I would lock her little brothers out of her room so we could play.

That night we wanted to have a good golden hour, but things kept coming up, and then finally everything fell through. We went to the street we had chosen to knock and it had a whole two houses on it. One was abandoned. No one was home at the other so we knocked some of the surrounding houses. We finally came to another road with three houses. One abandoned, one with a locked fence, and one where a wonderful woman named Lynette lived. We began teaching her and her nine year old son came out. He was so excited about everything we said and when Lynette saw his reaction her countenance changed. We left them with a Book of Mormon and will follow up this week. We also almost stepped on a snake on our way back to our car, but I spotted it before Sister Elliott stepped on its head. That was a miracle too!

We saw Tyrone again on Thursday. I'm slightly worried from some of his comments that  he is going to take the Book of Mormon to his preacher and go look up anti, but he listened politely, and he asked us to come back this week.  We also stopped by the home of a couple that was found by sisters in November. It was 8:50 at night but Ms. Henderson answered the door and said she and her husband had just been talking about us. They wanted to meet again so we set up a day to come back this week.

Friday we had Courtney, a recent RM, come with us to teach Ronnie. It was so good to have a member present lesson!  It really makes a huge difference in the lesson too!

Saturday was a weird day schedule wise. We had a Stake Relief Society activity (well technically they divided our stake into zones for RS activities so it was really only three wards). Hardly anyone came but it was really good. We learned about provident living. Right after that we set up for the baptism of Kevin, the Elders investigator. It went really well! Unfortunately it wasn't announced early enough for many people to come.  That night we were able to go see an investigator named Lori. She had a baptismal date for this month, but she had a baby and it kind of threw things off. Gratefully we were able to stop by and read with her. She is so sweet (and her baby is soo cute!)

Sunday President and Sister Craig came to our ward. President trained our Ward Council before church, and then spoke in Sacrament Meeting and taught a combined third hour. It is always so wonderful to see the Craigs. I just love them so much! I had been having a hard time lately and I was grateful president had time after church to talk and to give me a blessing. I have no doubt that callings in this church come from God and those with keys to preside are led by the spirit.

We are involving our members in Mighty Miracle May also by inviting them to look for miracles each day and share them with their families. Priscilla even helped us make a super cute poster for the primary children to post their miracles on each Sunday in May. We are excited! I would love to hear about the miracles all y'all see each day also! Miracles have not ceased! I see them everyday!

With great love,
Sister Murray

3 Nephi 5:13     Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.

Monday, April 20, 2015

1 Nephi 3:7

Me with my new companion, Sister Elliot

Georgia is gorgeous! Beautiful tall pine trees, smaller roads, and
lots of rainstorms. We have to watch out for frogs when we go running
in the mornings. St. Mary's is a Navy town with a special Submarine
base. A lot of the Ward members work there. St. Marys is the second
oldest city in the country.

Here is the cake we made for the YW auction. Sister Elliott did most of
it, but I got to be the "sprinkle master." We bought these fancy red
velvet cake sprinkles... I kind of ruined it by pointing out that they
looked like bacon bits, but hey it still tasted good!

First "Red is for Courage" package then "Yellow for Service"
Is blue next? 
It is probably a good thing my focus Christlike attribute for the month is obedience, because it was really, really hard for me to leave Hendricks and come to a new area with a new companion.

"And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." 1 Nephi 3:7

This has always been my favorite scripture. I think my mom thought I would grow up and choose another favorite, but this one is always near to my heart. In RS on Sunday I was asked to share my favorite verse and as I read this one it really hit me. God doesn't give us any commandments we cannot fulfill, and then we receive blessings. I know Heavenly Father needs me here in Kingsland at this time for a purpose perhaps only He knows for now, but I am grateful he trusts me to do His work. I was also grateful Dad shared this verse with me explaining that one reason I was transferred might be so I can learn the truthfulness of this verse one more time before I return home. That is absolutely true! 

This week...

Tuesday I was able to finish packing fairly quickly and Sister Gillman and I had a relaxing day including ice cream! I was still in shock that I was leaving Hendricks, but it was a good day. Right after P  Day we had dinner with the Murray's... Maybe we're related! They told us how they met online and Sister Murray had about five men with the last name of Murray from all over the country trying to virtually date her so when this Brother Murray came along she thought it was a scam. Gratefully he convinced her otherwise. We enjoyed being with them and here is my first Georgia Miracle. I was telling the Murray's that I would be going to Georgia the next day. They asked what part. I told them I would be in the St. Mary's area (which I only knew because Mom called the mission office to ask for my address. Otherwise I would have only known I was going to the Kingsland area.) Well Brother Murray said he has a less active uncle who lives in St. Mary's! And his wife is not a member. He thinks they would be willing to come to church! There was a miracle!  We spent the rest of the evening saying goodbye to people.

Wednesday we stopped by the Zielinski's. I brought my flute and Sister Zielinski and I played a little bit together. I think they were disappointed when I told them I wasn't studying music... Oh well. It was fun. Then we headed to Mandarin for the transfer meeting. It was so strange to think that in six weeks I would be one of the missionaries giving a departing testimony. President Craig told us each to pray and study to find our purpose in our new areas so I decided I would do that. 

I was able to find Sister Elliott and we loaded all of my stuff into Bishop Tucker's truck. He and his wife came to pick us up! I just love the Tuckers so much already! They are converts to the church and are so full of love.  Sister Elliott is from Kennewick, Washington. She is going to BYU studying Middle Eastern Studies. She knows Arabic and even did a study abroad in Jordan and went to Jerusalem. She is so smart! During her personal studies she reads from both English and an Arabic Book of Mormon. She is the fourth out of 7 children and says she has too many nieces and nephews to keep track of. She has been on her mission for 14 1/2 months and she also served in Hendricks at one point. Her area was closed when she left and the Elders replaced them. She plays piano and likes to sing and she is 23.

That evening the Tuckers took us out to dinner, and after we picked up some groceries we went to the church for Ward coordination. Apparently our Ward mission leader is gone on a trip traveling across the country... so I may or may not meet him! He has a temporary substitute though named Brother Adams. The Elders in our Ward are the Zone Leaders- Elder Bell and Elder Wall. They are both super nice and I am looking forward to working with them. Elder Wall is from California and Elder Bell is from Rigby Idaho. 

Thursday morning we biked over to a sweet elderly lady's home to help her organize some of her family history work. It was nice to be on my bike (and gratefully the apartment has a bike pump.) and we had fun serving her. We also did service for the sweetest elderly couple named the Ingersons. By this point the members in Kingsland had completely won over my heart! They are so kind and loving and think of others, they just want to take care of you and adopt you into their family. Southern Hospitality is a real thing.  That night we also met the most incredible recent converts- Dan and Priscilla Kirkland.  The sisters baptized them just before I got here. You would think they had been members their whole lives. They have a seven year old girl who can't wait to turn eight in August and a 2 year old girl who is so cute! We hadn't planned to see them that night, but Priscilla texted us asking if there was some kind of "flow-chart" to show the order of the leadership in the church. Yah, she is incredible and she just wants to know everything about the church. We went over and drew a flow chart for her as well as giving her the talk "What is the Blueprint of Christ's Church?" by Elder Callister. 

We had a long weekly planning session on Friday which seems to be normal your first week in the area.  We met with an investigator named Ronnie in the park. He seems to have a lot of questions. It will be good to work with him. He was supposed to be baptized a couple weeks ago, but the sisters found out he is on parole so we have to wait until August when he is off unless he can pay it off sooner. I think it's a good thing though that he will have more time to learn because he really has some interesting ideas. He says God told him he could have Sunday off and not come to church and he has a hard time praying. I think he knows more than he gives himself credit for. 

It seems as though every Ward in the South has a young woman spaghetti dinner fundraiser. Ours happened to be this night. The missionaries get in for free, but we did make a cake to be auctioned. The young woman in the Ward decided to have tacos as an option too... interesting combination, but hey it works! It was good to meet some more members there and I was able to meet some of the Elders gators. We had to leave before our cake was sold (it went for $50) to go to an appointment. Well I misunderstood, this appointment was also a dinner appointment and they made more spaghetti for us! It is a good thing I like spaghetti. The woman we were meeting with has had such a crazy life. She and her husband and his brother live in a motel room with her daughter. It is the saddest thing. It is also the sketchiest area I've seen so far in Georgia. We are definitely going to do our best to plan our visits there for the daytime hours from now on. 

Saturday we planned to do some yard work for a less active sister named Sister Pappas. Well she decided that for service she just wanted us to help her grocery shop. I felt slightly apostate shopping in jeans on a Saturday, but we were able to help her get the things she couldn't from her motor scooter chair. She took us out for lunch after at Sonney's BBQ. I am going to miss the good bbq here in the South!  

We had a hard time getting in our Golden hour (an hour of inspired finding) and I really wanted to get out and find. It's frustrating being new in the area because I don't know where to suggest going or anyone to see, and Sister Elliott has only been here one transfer. So I am learning to balance and apply both patience and diligence. We did get to go to a street we planned to knock on Saturday afternoon! We had a goal to teach one other lesson and find one new gator. Most of the houses were abandoned, no one was home, or they weren't interested, or a huge dog was guarding the door and there was no way to get up to it. On the corner though we met a man named Tyrone. I had seen his cute two year old daughter playing as we drove in and wanted to knock on his door. He was sitting outside watching her and he listened to us. He accepted the Book of Mormon and he became a new gator! God is good! It felt incredible to achieve our goals! 

Right after that we met the Relief Society president, Sister Draper, and a counselor in the Primary, Sister Ingram. They took us to get food and then we delivered dinners to people in the Ward. We learned that the Bishop's wife had cut her hand that morning and had to get stitches. It also meant they hadn't been able to go in the Ward temple trip that day. Sister Draper didn't want Bishop to know she had made the meal herself rather than assigning someone to so we decided to doorbell ditch it. We dropped off Sister Ingram and drove to the end of the caul de sac. As we were driving back to get Sister Ingram, who was hiding behind a bush, we noticed too late that Bishop was standing on the porch waiting to see who would show up. We were caught, but we picked up Sister Ingram and drove away like we didn't see him. We were all laughing so hard. Bishop ended up using the story in his talk the next day so it was perfect timing for him!

It was wonderful to meet more of the Ward on Sunday! Our Ward covers all of Camden County! It's huge, but there are a ton of less active members so the attendance isn't all that high. We have 9:00 church and then Ward Council directly after. We were invited to lunch with Sister Jones, the classiest woman in the Ward. She is so great! She owns two daycares in the area. Here is the second part of my miracle- she lives in a gated community, and guess who else lives in that community! Brother Murray's Uncle Arnold! (If you can remember clear back to the beginning of this novel) We wouldn't have been able to get past the guard if we hadn't had that appointment! So that was great! Sister Jones did feed us some delicious fried chicken, bbq ribs, baked beans, biscuits, the complete Southern works! Yum! We went home and had some time to study before going out for a golden hour... except the street we were trying to find didn't exist! It was an adventure to say the least. Then we were also invited to dinner with the Bartlings (apparently this Ward doesn't feed us much... I'm not convinced). President Bartling is the stake president. He is from Germany and definitely has that strict German air about him. But we had an enjoyable time with the Bartlings and their four sons. The oldest is going on a mission this July. 

We were able to meet with Ronnie again and talked about receiving answers through the spirit. It was a really great lesson in the Murdock's home. Sister Murdock is from Scotland and I love her accent!

Wow, sorry this is such a novel! Guess I just wanted to let y'all experience my mission! Being a missionary is the absolute best! It is hard but it is always worth it. 

Next week I will tell y'all about Mighty Miracle May! Be excited! So many miracles are coming! 

I love all y'all sooo much!
Have a blessed day!
Sister Murray