Monday, December 2, 2013

It's official! I'm a missionary in Florida!!!

December 2, 2013           9:55 AM

Saturday:  I had my first experience teaching a Less Active member.  It's a little tricky figuring out where to start!  But it was really good practice, especially now that I realize, sadly, that's what a lot of our missionary work is.

Sunday:  I just love Sundays at the MTC!  We had another enjoyable walk around the temple with our district.  It was also great to have sacrament meeting again!  Each of the districts leaving get to choose a farewell hymn to sing for a musical number.  Our district did the Missionary Medley.  It is basically like the EFY medley, but the sisters sing a version of Sisters in Zion that has new words just for sister missionaries!  It talks about going forth with Helaman’s Army to share the gospel!  I love it!  I would definitely suggest looking it up.  The movie we chose that night was the Joseph Smith movie which is always so touching.  I'm amazed by the sacrifices he and so many others gave for the gospel.  It really puts things into perspective for me.  I am so grateful for all of those people, and their strong testimonies!  Through their sacrifices I can live with the gospel in my life today.  That night we said goodbye to "our Elders."  They had become like brothers to us, and to think that the first few days they wouldn't even talk to us.  We said a final prayer together and shook hands goodbye.  Almost all of us (including Elders) were crying.  The best was when we looked over after the prayer and one of the Elders was facing the window, "just fixing his tie."  Well he "fixed his tie" for a few minutes, then dug around in his bag for another few before he could face us.  When they walked down the hall all of the sisters sat in the room crying and laughing about how silly it was we were going to miss them so much when we hadn't even known them that long!  The spirit really strengthens relationships.  I know that's true!  I've seen it in my own family as well.

Monday: It was super weird only having four sisters in class, but it was great to get more of a one-on-one with our teachers, Brother Windmer and Brother Nottingham.  Sister Yeakley and I were able to talk to the Elders teaching our investigator, Jose and had about 20 minutes to leave him with a few final words of advice and some of our favorite scriptures.  What a sweet spirit he has!

Tuesday:  We had to report to the travel office at 2:30 am!  I'll just say we made it!  I hadn't been on a plane since the last time we went to Hawaii (so I was about 8).  I thought I would be fine, but it was a bumpy ride and I felt like I was back on a crazy roller coaster at Lagoon that was going to drop or spin any minute.  It was pretty rocky, and I didn't get much sleep.  We'll just say it wasn't a fun ride, but I am so grateful we were kept safe.  We just barely caught the second flight in Minneapolis!  This flight was significantly better, and I got a seat next to the window which was so fun!  I was sitting by a sister who had been home for medical reasons and was returning for the second time!  What a dedicated missionary!!!  

My first view of Florida, once we broke through the clouds, was like something out of a movie!  I seriously think the movie Gone Fishing fits pretty well!  There are so many trees!  What surprised me the most is the variety in trees.  There's palm trees, deciduous trees (which I hear will stay green until January), and even coniferous!  I didn't even think about seeing pine trees here!  Supposedly a lot of the pines were planted as tree farms so that makes sense.  

President and Sister Craig were there with the President Assistants to pick us up.  We were tired and hungry (I basically lived on fish crackers, pretzels, and peanuts that day!) and it was wonderful to finally see our Mom and Dad away from home! :)  As I came out one of the Assistants came to take my bag for me.  I realized it was my FHE brother from BYUI!  I was so excited but I asked if he went to BYUI and he said, "no."   Oh, that makes me feel smart.  Then he says, "but my little brother was there and he looks just like me!  Yep!  Elder Tuft's little brother, Jake was my FHE brother!!!  It's good to have a familiar face around!

A sweet lady came up to Sister Craig to ask who we were.  An Elder handed her a pass-along card and I realized I could give her the copy of the Book of Mormon I had from Marisa and her kids with their testimonies in it!  I offered it to her, and she said she already had one.  We talked a bit and then Sister Craig and I caught up with the rest of the group.  We had some time in the airport waiting for another plane of missionaries so we were told to go to work.  Sister Yeakley and I weren't having a lot of luck finding people who wanted to talk so Elder Tuft decided to show us the ropes.  In the South we use something called a Harvest Blessing.  We simply ask if people would like to have a blessing upon their home.  One woman agreed and we got our first referral!  The other President Assistant, Elder Clark, came over and asked if anyone had a Book of Mormon!  I gave him mine and he gave it to a woman who is about in her twenties.  She said she would read it!  So Carters, your copy of the Book of Mormon is being put to great use!

On the way to the mission home the gps led us astray.  So we got to see all over Jacksonville!  The Elder driving the van said we were seeing more in the first hour than most missionaries see their whole mission!  (The Craigs are wonderful!  The seem a little intimidating at first, but they are so loving and so much fun! We were fed a delicious Southern style dinner: grits, biscuits, shredded pork, salad, and fruit. YUM!  

Wednesday:  Sister Yeakley and I spent the night at the sweetest members house.  She and her husband are recent converts and are just the cutest grandparent couple!  They were so welcoming!  And it was wonderful to have a good bed to sleep in!  In the morning we went to the Mandarin church building for some training, and to receive our assignments!  My companion is Sister Hale.  She is from Pinetop, Arizona!  She is AMAZING!  I had been praying for the trainer I needed and boy did I get her!  She is so happy, fun, sweet, caring, and she is a wonderful missionary.  She has been out for 6 months, but actually went home in the middle for medical reasons.  She's been back one transfer and this is her first time training.  We're basically best friends already!  We find we have so much in common!  We love Disney, organizing, mint life savors :), we both have three sisters and one brother.  It's also really fun that we both have a special someone at home writing us! :D  This is the kind of companion she is:  the first night I get in bed and she says, "Sister Murray?  I have to tell you why I love you today."  Every night we tell each other three reasons why we love each other that day.  It was exactly what I needed that first night to not feel overwhelmed!  

Sister Hale and I are opening the Arlington/YSA area.  

Thursday:  We got invited to FIVE Thanksgiving dinners!  (you totally called it Alex!)  We only made it to four.  They were delicious!  The strangest thing was saurkraut, and apparently everyone here puts pecans in their sweet potatoes.  

Friday:  We helped a family move, but we're still trying to get all organized and everything.  That night we went to track down some potential investigators.  At the first one we said a prayer and it felt really weird.  Sister Hale seriously felt someone standing staring at her outside the car.  The notes said this woman might have gone to jail so we decided to try again in the day.  We did find two people who said we could come back.  One of them was a sweet sister named Sequioa.  She ran onto the porch and gave us hugs and kisses.  We said a prayer with her, and said we'd come back Monday.  (unfortunately she wasn't there Monday)  

On Sunday we were talking to the Elders and realized we had gone out of our area and were in the place called Sin City.  The one place we're not supposed to go!  I am so grateful for direction that night.  I know Heavenly Father kept us safe!

Saturday: We helped a family move which was really exciting!  There was really heavy furniture but the Elders did it!  

Sunday:  We went to the Arlington Ward first.  I've got this lovely cold and woke up without a voice, but I still managed to introduce myself and bear my testimony!  The ward is so great!  One man gave us all a huge box of oranges and chocolates!  

In the YSA ward the other Sisters were teaching a Relief Society lesson on Charity.  As an object lesson I took off my name tag and sat by myself to see if anyone talked to me.  Two sisters in the ward did.  One actually took me to my Sunday School class (before my companion got there!  We were both a little worried when we couldn't see each other!) and picked me up after for Relief Society.  The lesson was wonderful!  When I stood up and put my name on in front of everyone there was an audible gasp.  I.t was a beautiful lesson!  I'm not even sure what I said, but I felt the spirit speaking through me as I testified of Charity.  It was beautiful!

Florida is wonderful!  I'm learning lots, like don't drink the water, the roads are super crazy. . . and it's NOT warm!  I've been so glad I have tights and a coat!!!  But it is wonderful!  I'm loving the work and the people!  I love you all and you're in my prayers!  Thank you for your prayers in my behalf!

Love, Sister Murray

Read Alma 34:38 and live in Thanksgiving each day!