Monday, June 30, 2014

Everybody Loves Sisters

Sister Murray and Sister Stitt

I’m  writing this on my iPad so I hope I can get enough details without  too many typos! :).  Transfers were on Wednesday and  I am in the Gainesville 3rd Ward with Sister Stitt. A member of the ward who is attending the YSA branch here in Gainesville, Julie Castillo, picked up us and the YSA sisters in Jacksonville and drove us the two hours to Gainesville.  She just got home from a mission in San Francisco!
Sister Stitt is great!  She is from Woodburn, Oregon.  She is 20 and is the youngest of 3.  She is an amazing missionary!  I wouldn't know this is only her second transfer out if I wasn't doing an extra hour of studies with her to finish her training!  She is a vegan- no animal products.  She only cheats on honey and when members feed us.  We get fed about three times a week.

The ward is amazing!  Coming from a branch with an inactive ward mission leader it doesn't take too much to make me happy :).  The ward is very young for the most part.  A lot of the members are going to school- mostly to become doctors, dentists, etc.  The ward is about 40% children.  It's a little hard to focus in sacrament meeting. Speaking of which, we had an investigator in sacrament meeting!  His name is Caleb.  He is 19 and is going to a ministry school. Apparently, last time he met with the sisters he said he was pretty sure the Book of Mormon was not true. But he still wants to learn! If  he proves promising I guess we'll be handing him over to the YSA sisters.  Gosh, it's weird to say that!  Our sister training leaders are YSA so maybe I will get to go on a trade off in the Gainesville  YSA!
The Gainesville YSA institute teacher, Brother Janson, is in our ward!  His son, Thomas, is the one who lives in Jacksonville that we went to the Catholic church to hear sing!  It's fun to be serving with Thomas's family now!

The work is going great here in gator town.  It's a bit slow, but things are picking up. I really like Gainesville.  Maybe it's because I grew up in a college town.  It's smaller than Jacksonville and people are actually really nice!  Ok... Maybe not when you knock the rich areas...but that's another story.  Haha, our bishop has asked for a push on knocking this high class area  called Hail Plantations.  I  had to laugh when I was studying this morning and turned to the wrong scripture.  It said, " And there shall be a great HAILstorm sent forth to destroy the crops of the earth."  Not on our watch will hail  destroy the fruit of Gainesville souls! Last night we got yelled at in hail for "soliciting."  The Elders usually cover that area. We are just there on request of the bishop.  There are two sets of Elders in the ward- Elder Greenlaw and Elder Lewis, and Elder Lane and Elder Baldwin.

Another important thing to know is that we are in a car share with the Gainesville 2nd sisters, Sister Montgomery from Idaho and Sister Winkler from Alberta, Canada.  We ride bikes every other day to share the car.  There are two bikes in the area for us to use. They both have various problems. Bike one: super short bike for little girls, no brakes (except I did find out you can tighten one brake but it gets loose fast). Bike two is the one I am on: kinda short- the seat is about a foot below my waist, one and a half pedals, loose breaks, no light, and it is pink.  Sister Stitt amazes me! She is so fast I can hardly keep up with her and her bike is shorter than mine! I am so grateful I will have a new bike shipped to me in a few days!   Thank you, thank you, thank you Mom and Dad!

The first day on a bike was Thursday.  It was fun at first! I was so grateful I had brought biking shorts because there was no way my skirt was staying past my knees!  The only problem is that I don't know the area and sister Stitt has only been here 6 weeks so she doesn't know it too well yet... and we got lost.  Super lost.  We biked so far that day that by the end of the day as we were riding home I couldn't decide if it was better to endure the pain of sitting on the bike seat or the pain in my knees when I stood.  And I couldn't see the path because my light was out.  Someday this will be a funny story to look back on and tell my own children when they are on their missions right?

On that same day we stopped to talk to a middle aged man who was walking.  He said he had already talked to two sisters on bikes that day and that we should pray for his mother.  Then he said he would say good bye with a kiss on the cheek... Yep a kiss in the cheek for each of us!  Oh the joys of missionary life!

We taught two Restoration lessons on Sunday and we are getting to know the ward.  The ward mission leader's wife just had a baby so his assistant is filling in for now. I told you there are a lot of babies!  It is so super weird! I just spent 7 1/2 months with singles my age and now I'm with surrounded by people close to my age who are married and having kids! It's weird when you have those moments that remind you you're growing up!

Miracles are happening and I am loving this area! This week we met with a struggling member.  I pulled out a video on my iPad I hadn't seen for a while but that I thought would go well with the lesson. When it ended she asked how we knew what she was struggling with.  I was able to testify that I didn't.  I had never even met her before, but Heavenly Father truly knows his children.  It's moments like that that I live for on my mission- especially when I have a hard day, a hard week, or a hard transfer.  It's been hard to adjust to the transfer but I know I am in Gainesville for a reason and I am ready to  see miracles!

I'll end with two funny experiences   First- at ward correlation Brother John was trying to get us excited
about the 4th of July breakfast.  He said, "Everybody loves..." looking for the words "free food!" but
Elder Lane said, "sisters."   Hahaha, we liked that one!  Second funny experience: Elder Lewis and I were asked to say prayers in sacrament  meeting.  I was asked to say the opening prayer, but Bishop Lowry
introduced us in the wrong order.  I wasn't listening and Elder Lewis decided to follow what was announced so we both walked up to the podium! He got there first though so I just sat in the closest bench.  It was pretty funny!

Have a spectacular week ya'll!      Love you!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bring on ‘em Gators

Aileens baptism. Her friend, Chirag Parikh baptized her. 

My little piece of heaven!  Rita's is definitely a new favorite!   Gelati is the best--italian ice with custard!  I got mint chocolate chip (no surprise there right?) with swirled custard this time. Yum!  Last time I did Alexander's Lemonade with vanilla custard.  If only there was no such thing as calories and they were free I could eat at Rita's all day!  That's also where we were when the Craigs ran into us :)

I'm being transferred to Gainesville 3rd ward!!!  I am so super stoked!!!  I am really going to miss the YSA, but this change feels really good.  I will be serving with Sister Stitt--she has been out one transfer so I will finish training her.  Which means I get 3 hours of studies again!  Oh you have no idea how excited I am for that extra hour of studies! On her first night in Florida Sister Hale and I went to the mission home to take a sister out with us.  Sister Craig asked us to choose which one we felt should come with us, and something about Sister Stitt stood out to me so we took her to the beach and did some tracting!   She is like a combination of me and Sister Hale so this will be great!   I've found several missionaries who served in this ward and that has made me even more excited!  The ward has a vast majority of young families.  Hey, I might actually remember what children are when I see one! ;)  The leadership is great!  Which will be wonderful since the YSA's current mission leader is less active... haha, fun right?  I've been told Gainesville is a city, but smaller than Jacksonville.  Thank goodness!  Driving here gives me major anxiety!   Apparently Florida drivers don't have to take a written test for their license... and they only have to have a license plate on the back of their cars... asking for trouble?  Maybe.  The worst things is that the drivers have no fear!  They also don't seem to know what blinkers are.  Oh, good ol' Florida traffic!   Also, I'm going to have to get to know a bit more about football!  Gainesville is the home of UF-home of the Florida Gators.  Do people in Florida like their football?  Oh yah!  Do I know anything about football?  I know that marching bands only get the field during half time, and when the team is losing, the pep band pulls out "Rocky" and suddenly we win!  Haha, just kidding I know a bit more... :) 

As long as we're on the topic of transfers I'll start off with our Monday.  We got permission to move our studies so we could help a sister in Ft. Caroline move.  Then we had lunch, went to a lesson with our beautiful Aileen, dropped by the Rhoad's to pick up a registration sticker for our car (which still has a huge dent in it.  The agent handling our case went on vacation.)  Then we went to a referral we just got from the Jax Beach Sisters.  This girl is AMAZING!!!  She grew up in Iran and she studied western philosophy in college.  Through her studies she found Christ.  But it is illegal to be Christian in Iran.  If anyone found out she would be killed.  In Iran you cannot even mention Jesus in your email, or on Facebook or the government will come after you.  She also is a political activist.  She was one of the ones leading the attempted revolution a couple years ago.  The government was sending her warnings that they would be arrested if she didn't stop.  She had to go through a ton to get permission to come to Florida to attend UNF.  She is has been attending a Lutheran church and is LOVING being able to learn about Christ and read the Bible.  She is so strong and so great!  She is trying to get permission to stay in the US after her 2 year visa is up. Especially since it could be so dangerous for her to go back.  She also just turned down an arranged marriage to a man in Iran. We had a great Restoration lesson with her.  She agreed to be baptized if she comes to know this is Christ's church.  We love her already!  And we are excited to keep working with her!

That night we had a super fun family home evening. We were just reaching our apartment from the Mandarin building (a 20 minute drive) when President called.  We had been expecting him to call and tell Sister Fife she was training.  Well this was only 10 minutes before the transfer call so we were confused.  He told us he needed us to drive to the mission home.  Due to some unexpected changes in transfers a sister would be staying with us just until transfers.  So we turned around and drove back to Mandarin to the mission home.  We got there just as President was starting to read off the transfer assignments.  We got to go in his office and I was grateful I had good eyes when I was scanning the board with all the missionaries' pictures on it!  I found myself in Gainsville, but I couldn't quite tell who my companion was.  Looking a little closer I realized it was Sister Stitt and I got super excited!  Poor Sister Fife couldn't read the board from where we were so she still had to live with the suspense until President said her new companion will be Sister Yeakley.  Apparently Sister Fife isn't training!  Sister Yeakley was my MTC companion and she is a ball of bubbly excitement and happiness.  Sister Hale and I have even talked about how perfect she would be in YSA.  So we hung out at the mission home talking to Sister Craig and looking at the Craigs' family and old wedding pictures until about 11:30.  Then we took Sister Fenn home with us.  Needless to say I think some naps are in the plan for today.  We didn't get home until midnight!  SUPER late night for a missionary!  I don't know how President does it?  He called us this morning and told us there were more transfer changes.  This next transfer there will not be Elders in the Jax YSA!  Sisters Fife and Yeakley will be covering ALL of Jacksonville!  Go sisters!  Haha, also we're pretty sure that means there will only be one set of Elders in our district.  Lucky elders... haha!  

Sunday was a highlight of my mission!  We were at the church from 1:00-9:00.  Church starts at 2, the linger longer was at 5, Aileen's baptism was at 6, and a fireside for investigators, recent converts, and less actives was at 7.  Aileen's baptism was beautiful!  She is truly shining now!!!  Sister Fife and I did a flute/violin duet of Our Savior's Love.  A recent convert spoke on baptism and I spoke on the Holy Ghost.  Aileen told her father she was getting baptized and he said he supported her.  She invited him to come, but when he said it was at 6:00 he said, "That's the same time as the soccer game."  But... He showed up!!!!!  Aileen told us he was amazed at how genuinely nice everyone was and he kept trying to describe how he felt!  Chirag Parikh is a recent convert and he is the one who brought Aileen to us.  He was able to baptize her!  I talked to him afterwards and he said it was absolutely amazing to baptize his friend!  

Well, wish me luck in my new area!  I appreciate all of your prayers and letters!  I love all ya'll!!!
Sister Murray

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Average Day in the Life of a Sister Missionary in the JFM

6:15 am Good Morning!!!
6:30am Exercise

7:00-8:00 am Get ready for the day and eat breakfast.
8:00 am Personal Study

9:00 am Companion Study

10:00 am Begin Proselyting

Make sure your companion is always backing you !!
Spend one hour online teaching people through Facebook or blogs

Go back to the apartment for a nutritious lunch!
Teach our "gators"  This is Aileen! She will be baptized on June 22, 2014.
Tracting and visiting less actives and recent converts. We can visit active members to teach about missionary work, family history, etc. as long as it is before 5:00 pm,    5:00 begins what we call "Prime Pross" because it's our best time to find families home.
4:00 pm Dinner time

Serving in the YSA we drive alot! We are covering half of the geographically largest city in the country after all! We use about 80 miles everyday. I'm super grateful we have a car!

My trusty Garmin (GPS). I don't know how missionaries did it in the "olden days."

9:00 pm   Head home to plan for the next day.

10:30 pm Time for bed!