Monday, December 30, 2013

Merry Christmas Ya'll

Me with my gifts. We are so spoiled!
Thank you so much Torgesens for the beautiful live tree!!!


Our Christmas Nook - a final look

Our Christmas Eve dinner. Yummy!


Sister Missionaries

USS New York    It's construction included metal from Twin Towers.

On the USS New York
Coming on board
How do you steer?
Looking below on the USS New York

A Memorial piece 

In Memory.....So Many Names!

This is Elder Draper, goodness we love this man!  He drove the van I was in from the airport to the mission home on my first day here, and he set up our beautiful apartments!  Then he and the zone leaders came over to dedicate our apartment which was a very powerful experience.  He does so much for us!  He and his wife are the military relations missionaries.  We're looking forward to finding military YSA's so we can bring them to the Draper home for dinner!

Dec 29, 2013   10:05 AM
I hope ya'll had the merriest Christmas!  I sure did!  What spoiled and blessed missionaries we are!  This was definitely a Christmas to remember.  

First I need to backtrack to last P-day.  I'm not sure how much I wrote, but we were able to get a tour of the USS New York.  The style of ship is the second largest in the navy.  It was a new experience for me, and it was incredible.  The most meaningful part however is that the ship is really a memorial in itself.  A majority of the metal is made from scraps from the twin towers.  There are reminders of 9/11 all throughout the ship, including a poster with the name of every person killed in the attack.  Signs from New York and murals are all throughout the ship it was a beautiful reminder of the people who lost their lives that day and the people who are, at the very moment, dedicating their lives to protect our country.  I am so grateful for their efforts!

Christmas Eve was wonderful!  (After spending the day lost in Dunn Ave.  We had a district meeting and planned to visit YSA's in the area after, but our gps couldn't register the addresses.  We borrowed the senior missionaries' gps only to find that it couldn't pick up where we were.  Long story short, we spent the whole afternoon driving the backroads of Dunn. Ave without finding one single person.  It was an adventure to say the least.)  Sister Hale and I managed to make a delicious Christmas Eve dinner.  We had mashed potatoes (with coconut milk since Sister Hale is lactose intolerant. . . it brought a new meaning to "sweet" potatoes and was actually really good), rice, broccoli, ham, which had been in our freezer from Christmas parties, sparkling cider, and Sangria (a Hale family tradition--and we promise it was non alcoholic!!!  Haha, we didn't know that it ever had alcohol in it, until she tried to order it at a Mexican restaurant one day.  You should have seen her face when they asked to see her ID.  We even had matching pajama pants to wear!  (We bought them on p-day at Target!)  After dinner our zone got together to go caroling.  We were able to bring the group to one of our investigator's homes.  Our singing wasn't always pretty, but it was wonderful to see the joy we were able to bring to so many people (and we got a good laugh at the people who walked away from the door or awkwardly hid behind the door because they didn't know what to do with a whole group of us singing to them). 

We started out the morning by picking up the Ft. Caroline sisters during exercise time to secretly deliver a 3 ft Christmas tree one of them had and a variety of treats from the rest of us, to a family who wasn't getting much for Christmas.  We knew they didn't have a tree and we wanted to do what we could to make it a special day for them too.  It was probably the best exercise time I've had yet!  After that Sister Hale and I opened all of our presents.  We had presents from different wards in the area (everything from toothpaste and floss to lotion and gift cards).  The gifts we had looked forward to most were the ones from our families and loved ones back home.  Thank you all for gifts and love you've sent our way whether in packages, cards, or prayers!  Did I mention that we had a live Christmas tree?  I'm pretty sure we must be the only missionaries with a live tree thanks to the Torgesens!  I thought this would be my first Christmas without a live tree so it meant a lot!!!  Thank you!   Hopefully the pictures will tell the rest of our Christmas morning story.  I've really enjoyed the recordings of everyone wishing me a Merry Christmas.  I didn't know there was anything recorded onto the SD card already that's why I didn't know about it when I talked to you!!!  

We had the other Arlington sisters and the Ft. Caroline sisters over for a lunch of whatever we could find before going to the Williams for visiting and snack food.  We show up and realize we were confused on the time and the whole family is leaving.  But it all turned out alright.  We didn't feel like we were intruding on the family and we had a lovely dinner with Sister Williams as she read a touching story she wrote for a short story competition.  It takes place in Winter Quarters and her family told her she'd never win because it was about Mormons.  Well she turned it in and she won! Now she reads it to her family every year.  It was truly touching, and we all asked for a copy of it.  I definitely plan on reading it to my own family some day.  

After that it was time for some more caroling with the sisters and elders in our area.  Then that night we got to call our families!  After some technical difficulties, we had a wonderful video call through facebook messaging.  It was so good to hear your voices.  And I didn't even cry this time!  Aren't you proud of me?  haha.  

Yesterday in the Arlington ward Sister Williams gave her traditional end of the year talk.  At the end of every year Sister Williams gives a talk for the entire sacrament meeting where she sums up major events of the year in the ward (missionaries, baptisms, some callings, deaths), and events in the world.  She talked about how we all must learn to weather the storms.  It was really powerful.

In the YSA ward Sister Hale and I were asked to speak on a hymn of our choice.  Sister Hale chose "Nearer my God to Thee," and I chose "How Firm a Foundation."  As different as they sound our topics were nearly the same, and we didn't even compare notes before hand.  We both testified that through Christ's atonement we can find strength in our trials.  I know that we are not give trials beyond what we can handle.  Heavenly Father knows what will help us become the sons and daughters he sees us becoming.  We recorded our talks and hopefully I'll be able to send them home soon.  It's a little hard to hear though  because we couldn't hold the recorder up while we spoke.

I want to leave with a thought we've been giving to most of the people we've met with lately.  In D&C 50:24 we read that, "That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day."  I know that as we live righteously we will continue to come closer to our Savior who is the source of light in our lives.  Here's the challenge:  What are three things you can do this upcoming year that will bring you closer to your Savior?  Write them down and look back on them throughout the year to see how you're doing.  We have had many amazing answers!  If any of you want to share with me your resolutions for the year I'd love to hear them.  Yesterday it hit me that while I had been asking others this question I had yet to ask myself.  So far I have two, which I will share with you. 
1. Have more sincere, and specific prayers
2. Pray for the attribute of charity and work for it by serving with my whole heart and striving to see others as Christ does.
3.  (I'm still pondering on this one!)

I love ya'll so much!!!  

As we say in the south,
Have a blessed day!
God is good!!!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Failed Plans and Language Barriers

December 23, 2013

I was not able to write earlier because we were getting a tour of the second biggest ship in the US Navy. .  the USS New York.  I'll send more details and pictures next week!  It was amazing!!!

To start off let me describe some a not so perfect day as a missionary.  Sunday was going to be the bestest missionary day ever!!!  We had an investigator coming to our church, and afterwards we were going to go to his church.  (Kinda like the premack principle: if you do this then I'll do this. . . who know education/parenting skills were used in missionary work! haha!)  We had rides planned for two less active YSA members to come to church.  We had a dinner appointment with a wonderful family in the Arlington ward, then a movie with an eight year old non member and the ward mission leader and his eleven year old daughter were coming.  Then we had lesson with a less active YSA and an Arlington member who just got back from her mission was coming with us.  Those were the plans. . . beautiful right?  Well. . . the non member didn't show up.  He actually texted us during sacrament meeting asking which church it was because he was outside looking for it!!!  But we didn't see it until after the meeting.  So we went ahead and went to the YSA ward rather than going to his church this Sunday.  On the way we get a text from one less active saying his ride didn't show up.  (apparently the address we gave him didn't work), and at church we learned that the other less active hadn't answered the door when his ride came to pick him up.  After church we're sitting in a missionary meeting when we realize we're late for our dinner appointment.  We show up a half hour late, and they waited for us, which meant the other sisters were waiting too!  We felt so bad!   Our less active YSA appointment fell through, and we ended up rescheduling the movie with the eight year old.  Since our night completely opened up we were able to go with a YSA member to meet a family he referred to us, only to realize they live outside of our family ward boundaries (we only cover 2/3 of the family ward, but the entire zone for YSA's) so we talked to them, but we'll be turning them over to the missionaries in that area.  But that's not the end of our adventurous day. . . we end up getting home 5 minutes late after meeting with that family.  I hope this will be a reminder to all of you as it was to me, that not everyday is going to be perfect. You just have to look for the good, and do the best you can with what you have!  And don't get stressed!  Boy have Sister Hale and I laughed about the changes in our plans that day!  We still enjoyed our church meetings, one of the less active YSA's got a last minute ride, our dinner was spectacular, and we got to spend time with a really great family who needs some extra support right now.

The gospel is truly going to every nation!!!  This week we were able to teach a family from Syria!!!  I was so excited!!!  People used to ask me if I thought I'd serve where my dad did.  Switzerland?  nope-it's closed to people outside of specified countries.  Lebanon?  definitely not right now.  But who knew I could actually be teaching a family from Syria who speak Arabic?!?!  Dad, do you remember any Arabic phrases?  The husband speaks English quite well, but his wife is still struggling with it.  We've ordered an Arabic Book of Mormon and I'm so excited for that to come for them!  They have a beautiful daughter who is almost one year old.  They told us that in Lebanon the most recent leader's daughter just became a Christian, which is a big step!!!  How amazing!!!!  We were also able to meet a family from Sudan.  The mother and her five children are so sweet, but there's a bit of a language barrier as well.  When we asked what we could do for them the mother just asked if we could help get clothes for her children who are growing too fast for her too keep up what with all the bills and everything.  I think about all of the presents I've received over the years, and these children just need clothes.  

We had an amazing lesson with a less active YSA.  We talked to him about the importance of the sacrament and he came to the conclusion ON HIS OWN that he needed to come back to church and read the Book of Mormon!  He said he'd as his boss the next day to have Sundays off!  We were so excited!  We were ecstatic when he was even able to get that very next Sunday off!!!  When we try to follow God's commandments he will provide a way!!!  Blessings will come even if they aren't ones we notice at first glance. 

With Christmas coming I've spent some time reflecting on all the gifts I've been given.  I wasn't sure I'd have presents to open on Christmas.  I should have known my family, friends, and ward members better!  But there are so many other things I've received and I wish I could point them all out.  This year alone I've been so blessed!  I could list specific names of people in my life, but due to time restraints it will have to suffice to say my friends and family.  I found a job that taught me so much more than cashiering.  I had the opportunity to go to the temple and receive my endowment.  I'm in Jacksonville, Florida sharing the gospel!  And the knowledge I have of the gospel is such a gift in itself.  I'm grateful for the Atonement, for prayer, for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and for so much more.  What more could I ask for?  

I hope you can all remember all the gifts you have this year, not just the ones wrapped under your tree!

Have the very merriest Christmas!  

Love, Sister Murray

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Activities and Reptiles

Sisters Murray and Hale decorating for the Arlington Ward Party
Missionaries at Arlington Ward Christmas Party Sisters Fife, McCleary, Hale, Murray. Elders Frazier and Collins
A familiar face at the Mission Christmas Devotional. Elder Young is my neighbor from across the street

Our adorable  President and Sister Craig.   We love them!

Our District
Elder Collins (ZL), Elder Sharp, Elder Parker, Sister McCleary (STL), Sister Hale
Elder ???, Sister Schmidt, Sister Ashcraft, Sister Call, Sister Fife (STL), Sister Murray
Elder Schmidt, Elder Frazier (ZL), Elder Dean (DL)

Lizard Visitor at our Apartment
Our pet frog I captured in a glass

Our beautiful apartment is my favorite color. A  good sign


Planning and Preparations

Monday, December 16, 2013      

This week was full of planning and preparations so next week we should get to teach!  Yea!!!  It's hard not being able to teach very much, which might sound weird if you haven't been on a mission.  I really want to be out doing work, and we didn't get very much of that this week.  I know numbers aren't everything, but ours were pretty low this week.  Sister Hale has been recovering from a sinus infection and Tuesday was a bad day for her so we stayed home most of the day to let her rest.  I got some really good studies in though.  Wednesday we were busy with district meeting in the morning.  I got to play piano which was wonderful!  I miss my piano and flute!  I was so excited when President Craig said I could have my flute sent  to me!  So hopefully that will work out sometime in the near future!

Thursday was AMAZING!  We had a Christmas devotional for the ENTIRE mission!  Every one of the 264 missionaries met in one church for a talent show, dinner, and an uplifting devotional.  (speaking of food, apparently the average weight gain for the FJM missionaries is 35 pounds. . . time to work out a bit harder!!!)  We were reminded to let the joy of Christmas fill our hearts every day, and to focus on what we have.  President Craig shared his experiences of past Christmas days spent serving in homeless shelters in Salt Lake.  It truly is eye opening to hear how little some people have, and it is a wonderful reminder to be grateful for what we have.  Each companionship was sent home with a bag of gifts from various wards, a Florida Jacksonville Mission pin, and an apple pie!  Someone donated pies for everyone!  The pie is heavenly!

Friday night and Saturday we had trade-offs with the Sister Training Leaders.  I was with Sister Fife and Sister Hale went with Sister McCleary. It was good to see how other missionaries work, and it was a good experience to meet other people.  Saturday night was the long awaited for Arlington Ward Christmas Party.  It was a big hit!  The food was delicious, and most importantly we met a lot of great people--both members and non members.  Several members have asked for my mom and dad's address/phone numbers to send letters and pictures.  It is so sweet.  One ward member even made gluten free brownies for the party so Sister Hale could have dessert!  They take good care of us here!  The Elders even bought one-piece pajamas to be Santa's helpers!  Did I mention they also went caroling to their investigator's house in them?  Yep!  Those are our zone leaders!!!  

Saturday after the party Sister Hale and I found a little friend in our apartment.  A frog!  he was hopping around on our carpet. . . I was able to catch him in a cup and we let him go outside.  it was raining hard that night and we were running some cookies to the other sisters and the elders apartments.  On the way a huge toad was right in front of us and startled us!  Some of the elders cookies may or may not have ended up on the ground outside the sisters' apartment. . .  It was huge, and we were definitely not expecting it!  haha, we had a lot of fun with frogs that night! 

On Sunday night I extended my first official baptism invitation!  We've had a competition this week to see if the Elders or Sisters in the East Jax Zone can get more invites.  Sister Hale and I were teaching a sweet, elderly African American couple we had found in the potential investigator sheets.  Between all of the woman's stories we got in a pretty good restoration lesson.  I guess we didn't quite get the whole "proper authority from God" part into their minds though because when I asked if they would be baptized she said "I've already been baptized!"  This is a pretty common answer in the South.  So, no go on a baptism quite yet, but we have a return appointment and we're so excited to meet with them again!  

Can I just say I LOVE serving a mission in the South?  Basically EVERYONE LOVES Jesus and is willing to talk about their faith.  It's a great conversation starter.  I'm really trying to work on bringing up the gospel in conversations, and I think it's going to keep getting easier.  I encourage ALL of you to do the same!  I've been reading the book Power of the Everyday Missionary!  It is wonderful!!!  It teaches how simple missionary work can be, and testifies that each one of us is capable of sharing the gospel.  I would definitely recommend buying and reading it!  What better gift could you share with someone this Christmas than the gospel of Christ?  We're praying for a "White Christmas" full of baptisms in the Florida Jacksonville Mission, and I hope each of you will pray for opportunities to share the gospel as well.  

Have a blessed day!!!

Love, Sister Murray