Monday, February 24, 2014

Heavenly Father Loves Us Even More Than Satan Hates Us

1:12 PM
We have seen so many blessings this week!  For one, our amazing gator (Floridian for investigator), Caitlin, brought her IDENTICAL TWIN to a lesson!!!!!!!!!!   Imagine an elect investigator and cloning that investigator and you get Caitlin and Kristen!  I love these girls so so much!  We taught the Restoration to Kristen this week... or rather Caitlin pretty much taught her sister and we helped clarify a few things.  It was beautiful!  AND we weren't able to get a member to go with us to the lesson, but YSA Elder's gator came and bore her testimony.  Yes, the twins are identical, and yes, we can tell them apart.  (I knew ya'll would ask :) )

We got permission from President Craig to continue teaching Pete. On Saturday we served Pete again cleaning up the yard.  I thought it was funny Dad was just writing me about pruning the apple trees and then I get to help prune a palm tree... more or less...  The Elders and Pete chopped off the old leaves and I dragged them off to the road.  The funniest moment was when Sister Hale pulled this huge piece of plywood out of the dirt and swarms of cockroaches came scampering out.  Sister Hale started singing, "Come my little friends as we sing our happy working song."  We all about died laughing!  And we found a snake, and carpenter ants... all sorts of fun stuff!  Pete took care of the snake with a machete. 

One more miracle.  We were visiting a less active YSA brother and an older man answered the door.  He said the brother we were looking for didn't live there and started asking about our church.  When we asked what church he went to he said, "Mormon."  He was joking with us the whole time and the brother we were looking for was actually there.  He told us this brother is very shy and probably wouldn't come talk to us.  Then his older son came to visit.  The man sent his five year old grand daughter in to get the YSA brother.  Surprisingly he came out!  I think it helped that this sweet girl went to invite him out.  We were able to talk to him and he opened up a lot more than his parents thought he would.  As we were leaving. the father came out and waved us back.  As we were talking, we saw lights floating in the sky--they were lanterns!  Like the ones on Tangled!  They brought the whole family out to see them!  With that stall we were able to stay long enough to talk to this brother's parents and found out this brother had been through a traumatic experience and they were so surprised he even talked to us.  Both of his parents began to cry as they thanked us for coming by, and his mother gave us huge hugs.  We will definitely have to see what else we can do to help this brother open up.

Finally, I have to brag about Jacob for a minute!  He was completely inactive when we first got here and now he is coming to church every week!  He gives our investigators rides!  He even makes institute a priority and makes comments every week!  Seeing his progression back on the gospel path is amazing!  It makes me so happy!

I hope ya'll have a blessed week!
I love all ya'll!!!  (Look how good I'm getting with the mission language!)

Sister Murray
PS    Sister Chappell, will now be serving with us, so we are a threesome.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

We Love YSA!

This is what happens when Sister Hale takes the tape off of our white board during my weekly training conference call. (I'm done with training now!  How crazy is that?)

Just a sample of the member's delicious cooking!  Black Rice with mango and chicken!  Yum!  These YSA's know how to cook gluten/dairy free!  I should be coming home with some good recipes!

Look at these masterpieces!  Would you ever guess they are gluten and dairy free?  Sister Hale and I are going to be the pros at baking without gluten and dairy!  Thank goodness for rice flour and dairy free chocolate chips! :)  Next time we'll just add some applesauce so they're not as dry :)

Happy transfers!  Sister Hale and I will be staying together, serving in the Jax YSA Branch.  We will no longer be in Arlington, but will cover the East AND West stakes of YSA.  That includes 12 wards so we're going to be staying busy.  The other set of YSA sisters have been moved to a home ward so it will just be us and the Elders in YSA now.  We're super excited to be staying!  We love the members, the leaders, the missionaries we work with... everything!  Even with the occasional love drama... Oh, we will be staying in the same apartment too.

It's been a rough past few weeks for our companionship... we're not sure why.  We just decided that Satan hates us... which means we must be doing something right!  Right?  Haha, but we are looking forward to another transfer together.  This morning in our studies we sang the hymn We are All Enlisted and decided it should be our theme song (just read it!).

Even with some bumpy times there have been so many miracles!  This week we stopped in to meet a less active YSA named Teritia.  As we got there the Atlantic Beach Sisters were just leaving!  Neither one of us had set an appointment, it just "happened" to work out like that.  As we talked to Teritia she broke into tears because she knew we loved her and God loved her enough to send her two sets of sister missionaries in one day.  She is such a sweetheart and is wanting to get some good friends in her life.

A huge miracle this week happened in Dunn Ave.  We were literally backing out of our apartment to go to an appointment at Jacksonville University with our investigator there when our District Leader, Elder Dean, called and told us to get to the Dunn Ave building, "Right now!"  We explained we had an appointment, but he said we needed to be in Dunn Ave.  So we put our trust in our leader, canceled our appointment (did I mention we even had a member coming with us?), and made the 20 minute drive to Dunn Ave.  When we got there we saw Elders Dean and Parker sitting on the church lawn on some chairs with a YSA woman.  Her name is Shelby and she is amazing!  Here's her story:  She was raised going to Christian schools and loves the Bible.  In fact, it's her refuge in a home that is less than ideal.  She's been through some hard times and has felt so alone.  She had been praying for God to send her some good Christian friends, and this morning she had felt it would be "the day!"  She said she just felt so happy and didn't know why.  Well throughout the day some things took a turn for the worse and she ended up at the library where she sat down and began crying.  That's when Elder Dean approached her and asked what was wrong.  The Elders had been doing Facebook at the library (which is not where they normally go.)  They began talking and Shelby considered them her answer.  They walked across the street to the church, but couldn't be alone inside so the Elders pulled out some chairs and began to teach the Restoration.  Sister Hale and I got there in time to add a bit to the lesson.  You would have had to be blind to not see the light in Shelby's eyes.  She told us she knows what we were teaching is true because God answered her prayers by sending us to her.  She kept asking why she hadn't heard these things before, but she fully accepted what we taught her.  She was so excited when we gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon.  (The Elders saw her about two days later and she had read 16 chapters!)  She wanted to know about missionaries, and she asked if she would be expected to serve a mission.  She was totally willing to drop everything and go serve like we were!  Elder Dean invited her to be baptized and she accepted a date in March!!!  We are so excited for her!  We waited with her at the church waited for her ride to come.  While there Elder Dean came to us and said he had a feeling the Dunn Ave missionaries needed to teach her.  We all prayed about it, and Dunn Ave will teach her, but we are hoping to get her to YSA Family Home Evening or institute so she can begin to make those friends she was praying for.  Over time she will likely transition to YSA.  

On our way out the door to District Meeting Elder Dean called and asked if I could do a musical number on my flute (are you seeing a pattern here?  haha, he really had meant to ask me earlier he just forgot).  I was so excited!  District Meeting began, and who walks in but President and Sister Craig, along with their niece who will be leaving on a mission soon and came to get a preview of mission life.  Sister Hale gave a great training on using Preach My Gospel, and my musical number went really well... especially for no practice!  It was fun to have the Craigs join us!

I had the best Valentine's Day of my life last week!  Jeremy from the YSA Branch took all four Sister missionaries to dinner at Chipotle (which is kind of like Costa Vida).  The Elders' investigator came too.  She was going to invite the Elders, but we're not allowed to eat with the Elders so we avoid looking like a date. Have I told ya'll about this investigator?!?!  She was investigating last Spring I believe, and for a few months she stopped coming to church.  She's a bit of an eternigator, but she's ready now!  Elder Calder (Sister Hale's boyfriend) actually was one of the Elders who taught her.  The light in her eyes is incredible!  She comes to church each Sunday and she makes institute and other activities a priority.  Visitors have no idea that she hasn't been baptized yet.  Her baptism is in March and we're so excited for her!  So it was Jeremy and 5 women... we hope we didn't send the wrong message about Mormons...  haha.  While we were in line a woman behind us said to Jeremy, "Looks like you've got your hands full!"  We had a good time together!  

After dinner Sister Hale and I went to University of North Florida to teach Caitlin.  We had a great lesson on how the Book of Mormon and Bible work together.  She really had her eyes opened about their connections.  Then she asked about temples.  We had the wonderful opportunity to bear testimony about eternal families.  I can't think of a better way to spend a Valentine's Day night!  

Saturday afternoon we had three sets of sisters go to Pete's house for service.  It felt so good to get outside and do some yard work.  It is really warming up here!  It feels like April in Utah!  Only the calendar reminds me it's February!  That evening Sister Hale and I taught Pete the Plan of Salvation.  It went really well and we set a baptism date with Pete.  He came to the conclusion that he should come to church.  We were going to invite him anyway, but his own conclusion was so much better!  Have I mentioned Pete's cooking hobby?  He made all six sisters a full meal to take home of roast beef, beans, potato salad, coleslaw, brownies, cake....  Mmmmm...

Sunday was a full day!  We went to an Arlington meeting before church.  Pete and Amy came to church!  He cried in Sacrament meeting!  He didn't want to leave when it was over!  We had time for dinner before driving to YSA.  After church was a linger-longer, and then we had a fireside on missionary work with President and Sister Craig.  THEN there was a fireside for investigators with President Craig and some recent converts speaking.  We pulled some strings, said some prayers, and got an investigator to come!  This girl is friends with someone the Zone Leaders are teaching.  She has sat in on some lessons, but hasn't really connected with them.  Lately, however, she's been talking to me on Facebook and we've gotten to know each other better!  The fireside was really great! We also got to see Shelby again!  

Missionary life is hard, but those miracles make it all worth it!  I love ya'll!  

Sister Murray

P.S.  The Zone Leaders are staying, Sister Fife is staying in Arlington and Sister McCleary is going to Hendricks.  Elder Dean is being transferred and will be a Zone Leader!  And his companion, Elder Parker (who came out with me) will be our new District Leader and will be training a new missionary!  

P.S.S  I forgot to mention that last Sunday Sister Hale and I did a violin/flute duet in the YSA ward.  It went really well and it was so fun!  Sister Petramolo accompanied us on the piano.  We played I Know That My Redeemer Lives.  The first speaker was asked to choose a hymn to speak on and she chose the same one!  It was such a wonderful tender mercy!!!  

AND THANK YA'LL FOR THE VALENTINE'S!!!  I've felt so much love from your notes, treats, gifts, cards, letters, and prayers!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Monday, February 10, 2014

New Technology Hastening the Work

JAX East Zone Conference
With President Craig at Zone Conference

Here's a bunch of the JAX YSA Branch at Ashley's baptism. Sisters Petramolo and Pasko (purple shirts on the right, in front of me) taught her. Jacob Rutland is in the back far left. He is the one who stopped working on the golf course on Sundays for church. If his life is the only one I change on my mission that will be enough! I LOVE all of these people so so much!
Look what we found on the way to Zone Conference!  Sister Hale has officially decided I am Rapunzel.  (I have magical hair that glows..Bad lighting Sorry!)

Feb 10, 2014
It was another slow week.  It was also another week full of laughs, but this week there were a few more headaches if you catch what I mean. :)  But that's ok.  Sometimes we need a hard time to help us grow and to help us appreciate the good times.  Aaron will not be baptized at this time, and that's been hard for Sister Hale and myself, but we do have other investigators that are progressing!  And it's important for me to remember that they all have their agency.  All we can do is guide them to come closer to Christ.  They have to actually chose to take each step or not.

A highlight of this week was Zone Conference.  Since Jax East is the smallest Zone, we met in the Fernidina building with the Kingsland Zone.  Elder Young was one of the first missionaries I saw there!  He is doing great, and he had some really wonderful comments during the meeting.  Tell his family he is a great missionary (including on Facebook!)  At Zone Conference every missionary got his or her own IPad Mini!  I LOVE THEM SO MUCH!!! 
     Just a few of the benefits of having an IPad:
       -No sheets of paper with important information getting misplaced, which means previous investigators don't fall through the cracks!
       -Our planning book calculates how many lessons we had, and decides if our investigator is actually progressing
       -All of the missionaries in an area can be in a conversation in IMessage instead of trying to text each   companionship individually
      -We can show videos in lessons
      -We can facetime or skype lessons: which means we can have a lesson with a single man if we can't get another girl to come and we could even do a lesson when someone is out of town or during a work break
      -Someone suggested pulling up to the church (for internet access) to see who's on Facebook then asking to come by in a few minutes (wouldn't you rather learn about your Salvation than waste hours on Facebook?)
      -Soon priesthood leaders will be able to get online and look at all of our plans and teaching information
      -If we have a referral for missionaries in another area we can send it directly to them rather than going through the mission office

The list could go on and on, and the best part is that there are ideas yet to come!  Our mission is the third in the world to get them, so wish us success! 

At the Zone Conference we watched a clip of President Kimball talking about hastening the work with technology.  He must have seen our IPads and not have known how to describe them!  He compared radio towers to King Benjamin's tower which allowed people all across the land to hear the gospel.  I know that Heavenly Father is providing means for the gospel to reach every corner of the earth.  I would encourage each of you to use it for such a purpose!  Post a favorite scripture on Facebook, email a Mormon message to a friend... the possibilities are endless!

Our miracle with technology this week was that we were able to share a Mormon message with our investigator, Caitlin, when our appointment fell through.  She messaged us back on Facebook and told us it made her cry.  She then opened up about reading the Book of Mormon!  It was amazing! 

Well, ya'll I wish you the best blessed week!!!

(Also, transfers are on Feb. 18th so please don't mail anything that would get to me after Monday the 17th.  So probably don't send anything after this Wednesday to be safe.  By the way, thank you so much for the letters and packages!  They really brighten my days!)

Sister Murray