Thursday, July 31, 2014

Happy Birthday Sister Murray!

My birthday was Sunday, the 27th. Thank ya'll for your birthday wishes and presents!  I am so spoiled!

Monday, July 21, 2014

What Makes the Work Worth It

Hello ya'll! 
 It's been another good week, but there wasn't too much  out of the ordinary. The main news for the week is Caleb.  He is seriously doubting the truth of the Book of Mormon.  We met with him at Sister Moffett's on Saturday and had a lesson about the Book of Mormon.  He says he is  open, but I can just feel the wall he has built around his heart by studying online about Mormons and by not doing the things that would have built the foundation for his testimony (church attendance, prayer, daily scripture study) He did agree to spend two hours reading the Book of Mormon using the Pray, Read, Write, Pray method in Power of the Every Day Missionary. We are praying his heart will be softened this week as he does that, but if not we will not be meeting with him anymore.

 During the 90-day challenge to read the Book of Mormon one thing I tried to pay particular attention to was the state of the peoples' hearts.  I marked the word, "heart" whenever it appeared and paid attention to the different contexts it is used in (hard heart, lifted up in the pride of their heart, broken heart, etc.) On Sunday, the day after we taught Caleb last, I read Alma 12:10, "And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full."  That same day in Sunday School the teacher compared the phrase, “broken heart", to breaking a horse. When someone breaks a horse they train it to trust them, and to follow their will. I know that Heavenly Father is constantly teaching us to trust him. I see that in my own life every day. It's not until we truly have a broken heart that we can receive the "greater portion of the word." That applies to our investigators and ourselves.

The spirit really came into the lesson when we shared "a testimony of the Book of Mormon" Mormon Message.  We needed Elder Holland to help us bring the spirit in to that lesson!  It is really nice to have an apostle join a lesson!

Sister Stitt and I began looking at apartments a bit more.  Apparently, Bishop Lowry fought to get us into this apartment and he is not happy about the Sisters moving somewhere else.  He called the missionary over  housing and said if he had a daughter on a mission he would want her in these apartments.  So we might have a possibility of staying, but we're still looking around. We wouldn't be moving until August though(if any of ya'll were sending birthday cards this week... hint hint... haha, just kidding!)

My new bike is BEAUTIFUL!  I was joking about how it's like going from riding a pony to a stallion and Sister Stitt dubbed my bike, "The Stallion!"

We unexpectedly dropped in on Chrissy, a less active member, this week and she ended up coming to about an hour or so of church. It was so great!

Also, Saturday morning Elders Greenlaw and Lewis had their gator, Tina baptized.  I played piano and Sister Stitt sang (on special request from Tina).  It was such a sweet moment!  Tina is amazing!  For a
while she thought she needed to know everything before getting baptized, but she soon learned there is a lot to learn after baptism still!  She has read the entire Book of Mormon--in English AND in Chinese to make sure she understood it all.

Funny story from the baptism: Elder Greenlaw forgot to drain the font. he was all dried off when the ward mission leader came and told him he needed to drain it.  So he had to get back in his wet clothes and climb back into the water to pull the plug. Tina was all dressed and out before him.  It was pretty funny!

This week I learned that several recent converts, less actives, and members I came to love in Jacksonville are struggling with various trials at this time.  It seems like everything hits all at once sometimes.  I was so grateful when I got the following message from Jacob.  He had been inactive for about 9 years before Sister Hale and I visited him.  He started coming back to church, but hasn't been able to take the sacrament yet because he was still overcoming his addiction.  Today he messaged me on Facebook:

"Sister Murray, I am excited to be able to finally tell you that I am nicotine free and hopefully for good. It is still not exactly easy to forget just yet but I know that I am on my way. I thank you soo much for everything. From the moment ya'll came to my house that one night  my life began to change. Even though our discussions were brief, I want you to know that they could not have been more meaningful to me. I often thought about how wonderful it would be to visit the temple again. It just seemed like some kind of dream, and now it is a reality. It has been rough, by far the toughest thing I have been through, but now I have the strength to continue. I will never forget this, ya'll helped me prepare to climb a mountain when I could barely walk up a hill.  I could continue on and on forever but all I really want to say is thank you. Thank you for being a friend, a real friend."

And THAT my friends is what makes a mission worth it.  Worth all the sweat, heartbreak, bugbites, lack of sleep... everything.  This gospel, not missionaries, changes lives.  I know the Atonement of Christ can strengthen us to do all things.

I love ya'll! Keep looking for missionary moments!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Children of God

My New Bike
My goal of eating a Georgia peach is about to happen. Thanks Trader Joe's
Florida Creatures
Gainesville Stake Pioneer Picnic
What happens when the Elders use your ipad for a mirror while applying mustaches.
Watermelon Eating Contest
Where are your ancestors from?

Can I just say I LOVE being in a ward with children!  Holy cow!  I didn't realize how much I missed being with those Celestial Beings!  I got a lot of opportunities to do things with kids this week (well as much as you can get being a missionary!)
This week we were trying to visit a potential investigator we found while riding our bikes last week.  She didn't answer so we started knocking the doors around her.  We knocked three doors and the first two only spoke Spanish.  Sister Stitt knew just enough to explain who we were and what we were doing.  One invited us to come back, and the other invited us in.  We found out she had a Book of Mormon!  We are sending the Spanish Elders over there for sure!  There are a TON of Spanish speakers in that complex for some reason.  The third door was a super nice woman who spoke Spanish and English, I believe she was Cuban.  She wasn't interested in our message, but wanted to know more about what we do.  She was very impressed.  Before we left we asked to leave her with a prayer.  She accepted then said she wanted to leave us with one also.  In her church you stand and raise your hands when you pray (apparently they take the Bible very literally.)  It was almost more of a chant compared to how we pray, but it was very sweet.  She told us to stop by any time we wanted.

I also got an investigator on Facebook!  I have been praying to find someone to teach online!  I got a friend request from a man named Suleman and decided to start messaging him.  It turns out he lives in Pakistan.  He has talked to other missionaries and wants to be baptized, but he does not have access to the church, and the Book of Mormon has not been translated into Punjabi.  We'll keep sharing lessons with him, and praying for him to be able to live the gospel as he desires. 

Thursday we had dinner with Michael and Mallory Gooch, and my bike from CTRbikes was shipped to their home that day so we biked over early to put my bike together.  It worked out perfectly!  The bike comes mostly assembled.  I just had to add pedals, handlebars, and lights.  Unfortunately it wasn't as easy as I had hoped.  I was able to get it together except for the pedals, but we were running late for an appointment with a less active member, Sister Trench.  Gratefully Sister Gooch offered to drive us to the lesson and stay for it.  She needed to bring her daughter, Allison, though.  Allison is ADORABLE!!!  (and not just because of her name)  She is almost 1 year old and she is just so darn cute!  The lesson went so well!  Granted, Allison was a little distracting, but that is so ok!  She kept coming to me and reaching for me to pick her up!  But that's against missionary rules... so sorry Allison!  On the way home Allison was getting grumpy.  She was tired, and she had a cold, and it was past her bed time, and she was NOT ready to get back in the car.  She screamed and screamed.  We sang songs, I was in the back seat by her so I read her stories, but no go.  After a few minutes of crying so hard she threw up!  It's a good thing Heavenly Father helps us with weaknesses, because one of mine happens to be a weak stomach.  We pulled over for Sister Gooch to take care of poor Allison and once she calmed down again we headed out again.  The only thing that calmed her down was for Sister Gooch and Sister Stitt to sing songs from Shrek the musical.  I've never seen that, but it did wonders for Allison.  We made it to the Gooch home and Sister Stitt and I biked like mad women to get home on time... without lights on our bikes.  It was an adventure!  I had to leave my new bike with the Goochs for the night since there wasn't time to put pedals on.  We had the car on Friday so we drove to the Gooch home and picked up my bike.  I have since put the pedals on and am excited to take it out! 

Saturday the Gainesville had a HUGE stake Pioneer Picnic to celebrate church and Florida Pioneers.  There was a pioneer town set up in the gym with different shops, a church, a jail... and square dancing!  There were pioneer games and good food!  They took a huge picture of everyone who was there even!  Sister Stitt and I were in charge of the room where children (or adults) could make bonnets or get a neckerchief and a fake mustache.  It was super fun!  The kids especially got so excited and I loved being able to help them! 

Saturday evening Sister Moffett picked us up for dinner and a lesson.  Sister Moffett is amazing!  She went to Ireland for a study abroad program and ended up meeting her husband in a ward there!  They got married, but soon her visa was going to expire so what do they do but move to China together.  Eventually she needed to come back to America and his papers still haven't gone through.  But he should be able to come in the next couple weeks or so!  We are so excited to meet him!!!  I can't imagine how hard that would be to have your husband in another country.  About a month ago Sister Moffett started talking to a 19 year old man on a bus.  His name is Caleb.  The Sisters started teaching him and he was pretty much Bible bashing them all over.  He knows his Bible!  He is studying for a Christian ministry.  Finally Sister Stockett (who was here before me) told him they would only teach him if he was willing to listen.  Then I was transferred here and he has been very receptive.  He has been studying and praying, and on Saturday we set a baptismal date with him for August 9th!!!  He still has to gain a testimony, but he has a date to work toward which is very important!  Also, because I followed my prompting to start reading the Bible again I was able to help answer one of Caleb's questions!  Thank you Heavenly Father for preparing us!

Sunday Sister Stitt and I taught primary sharing time!  So, so, so fun!  I was kind of nervous to be honest--it's been a while since I've taught children.  We used a ball from the nursery and taped numbers all over it.  Then I threw the ball to the kids and whatever number their hand was covering connected to a question about baptism.  Then we looked up the answer in the scriptures.  The junior primary was pretty wild and the Senior Primary was pretty dead quiet, but it was fun.

It was a good week.  The work is still going slow, but it is going to pick up.  I know there are great things in store for the Gainesville 3rd ward! 

P.S. Elders and Sisters can no longer live in the same apartment complex so we are looking for a new apartment to move into.  I'll keep ya'll updated for an address change!  Pray we can find an apartment with a good location and that isn't too expensive!  Most of the nice ones are a long ways from our area.  Unfortunately the ones in our area are pretty sketchy.  Even the one we thought was the nicest had policeman and firemen outside of it.  Some of them had on those protective uniforms... they must have found a drug house or something... fun stuff!  Don't worry though, we'll find a safer one!  :) 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Facing Your Fears

On the little bikes

Results of Florida Rainstorm
Water anyone?

4th of July Breakfast    Red, white, and blueberry! Mmmm...

Do you really wish you were here?

  Not only are there more bugs in Florida, but they are bigger too!

I decorated our missionary meal calendar during Sister Stitt's weekly
conference training call. I thought it looked so great... Until I saw
the 2nd ward's board. Haha!
My forehead looks huge in this picture because of the light, but the
bamboo in the background was pretty cool!
Is there something wrong with this picture?
The wrong way truck is being towed.

Hello ya'll!
Let's start with Monday... On our way out to do shopping with the Gainesville 2nd sisters we stopped by to let Sister Stitt put the garbage in the dumpster.  When she got out she pulled a muscle in her lower back and could hardly stand up.  She hobbled around like an old lady for the rest of the day.  We were supposed to be on bikes but since she could hardly walk we called our dinner appointment to ask for a ride.  Sister Tams was so sweet!  She picked us up, and then she spent the rest of the night trying to fix Sister Stitt's back with heat, ice, stretches, gosh she even had some kind of device that sends electrical pulses into your back.  She was the right one to go to!  I hung out and talked to the family, and   got to wash the dishes so Brother Tams could get baby Zoe to bed. Before we went home Brother Tams and another brother in the neighborhood gave Sister Stitt a blessing.  Tuesday night a chiropractor in the  2nd ward came over and looked at Sister Stitt's back. He does in home calls so he literally brought his  practice to us. He has a fold up table and everything! His wife came along so they could come into our apartment.

Tuesday we had district meeting.  I think I am the only piano player in the district so I should get to play a lot! Yippee skippee!  We talked about fears.  I love the definition of fear in the Bible Dictionary: "fear is spoken of as something unworthy of a child of God, something that “perfect love casteth out” (1 Jn.:18). The first effect of Adam’s sin was that he was afraid (Gen. 3:10)... Ever since the Fall, God has been  teaching men not to fear, but with penitence to ask forgiveness in full confidence of receiving it."

Our challenge was to choose one fear to face this week.  So many choices... :) One thing I wanted to work on was tracting in Haile.  We made it towards the end of the week, but we had all sorts of  scheduling conflicts so we only had about 15 minutes. The first door we knocked on was empty.  The second, however, was a woman from Pakistan who is Muslim. She came out on the porch and we took turns talking about our beliefs. She agreed to let us come back and talk more.  I'm not sure if she would be willing to change because she loves her religion so much, but if there is anything I am learning on my mission it is that the gospel changes lives and that we can never judge who will accept the gospel.  My last week in YSA Sister Fife and I ran into a man named Andrew. He is covered in tattoos and has big gauges in his ears, and he belongs to a band. Not to be judgmental but he didn't seem too interested.  Well, I read Sister Fife's email last week and he is getting baptized on July 20th! How amazing is that!!?! This gospel truly is for everyone.

We had a really great Zone meeting too! Also, the miles have been cut all across the mission so we are now allowed 450 miles in a car for our companionship. In YSA we had unlimited miles so I'll have to be really careful now!

Biking was so much better this week! I've been doing a lot of exercises and stretches and I can ride a bike across our area without feeling like my knees need WD40 to keep moving. I think a mission also really teaches the truth found in Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."  Missions are hard in all areas- physically, emotionally, spiritually... But the rewards are eternal!

I got to face another fear Sunday evening after our dinner appointment. When we looked outside we knew a storm was coming in. We borrowed plastic bags to protect our iPads and started home. We stopped to see a less active member, but they were busy eating dinner. We had been hoping we could talk to them and take shelter from the rain, but so goes missionary life.  We started home and the lightning started filling the sky.  It's a really good thing I'm from Utah because lightning scares me... Especially when the thunder is loud enough to literally shake the ground like it does here. I really don't mind being wet but I saw too many lightning documentaries in my junior high science classes to feel safe being outside in a lightning storm.  Recently in my studies I felt like I needed to read the Bible more regularly... I'm serving in the Bible Belt so it makes sense I would need to be prepared. A couple days ago I read Matthew 14 where Peter walks on water. We also talked about this in our district meeting training about overcoming fear so I guess there was a message I needed from this story. I love Peter's faith to start walking. But how often do we, like Peter, start moving on one path and then we begin to doubt ourselves and even the Lord? Well, as the ocean dumped on my head I thought back to this story and I knew that we could make it home through this storm.  I know that like in that story Christ is always there to reach out and save us when we turn to him.  I started singing "Master the Tempest is Raging"  in my mind and rode as hard as I could. Soon the lightning began to fade and all we had to face was the torrential water pouring from the sky.  We were literally driving through 3 or 4 inch deep rivers of water that were running over the sidewalks.  My shoes filled with water and I could hardly see past the rain.  We made it home safely, drenched, but safe. When I stopped I realized that along with the water spraying up from my wheels I had sand all over my bag and back, clear up to my neck.  Hey, who needs to go to the beach when you can ride through a storm in Gainesville?

Another eventful story happened to the 2nd ward Sisters, Sister Winkler and Sister Montgomery. They were doing service for a member by building a fence. I guess they didn't have anything to hammer bars of metal (I'm guessing some sort of rebar) into the ground so Sister Montgomery thought she would step on it to push it into the ground, she had done that before. The only problem is that she had boots on the last time and this time she just had a pair of Converse on. The bar went right through her shoe and right into her foot. They called 911 and she had to get stitches. She will be on crutches for a couple weeks too. We are trying to figure out if they will need the car more than very other day now.

We didn't really do anything different for the 4th of July. Friday is our weekly planning day so we spent most of the day organizing and planning. We did eat some candy and I  made red, white, and blue oatmeal for breakfast. We went tracting at night. The only people home were: A. Sleeping, B. Not interested (I already have Jesus!) or C. Didn't speak English. We did get to see a few fireworks through the trees on our bike ride home though so that was fun. And Sister Stitt  broke into a chorus of God Bless America. So that's how missionaries  celebrate the 4th of July! The ward had a breakfast on the 5th which  was really fun! Stefanie Manners, a member of the Jax YSA was there visiting a friend so we got to talk to her. That was so fun!

The work is going well, but it hasn't really taken off yet.  I'm excited to see miracles here though! I really appreciate all of your prayers!

Thank you! I love ya'll!

 PS- Brother Tams's aunt lives in Paradise, Utah. She was our substitute band teacher a lot and she is in Janese's ward!