Monday, August 25, 2014

Seeking the One!

I Follow Him Facebook Event  The picture is "Seeking the One"
The Gainesville 3rd Ward Primary Children Follow Him
After the One

My past companions. Sisters Fife, Hale, Yeackley
And they say everything is bigger in Texas? Elephant Ear
Aloe Vera
Another doormat
A doggie
A Florida Gator Fan

It was a wonderful week!

Let's start with the title shall we?  Seeking the One.  First- it is the name of the picture I used in the event I Follow Him!  (10,000 came to the event!) It is one of my favorite pictures.  If you look closer you see that Christ is leaving his fold, coming for the one--for me, for you, for anyone who has yet to be found.  I love being a missionary and being one of His Shepherds looking for those lost sheep. 

 We were shepherding in Gainesville this week verifying locations of 4 less active members on assignment of the ward council. We ended up on a dirt road (or maybe I should say sand) going back and  forth over pot holes trying to find the house.  It appeared it had disappeared.  The numbers completely skipped the house we were looking for.  So I followed the wonderful example of my super missionary minded visiting teaching partner, Jenna, and knocked the neighbors' door.  (Jenna and I were assigned several less active sisters and I was shocked when she said we were going to go knock on the neighbors  of the girl we couldn't find.  What a good little RM she is!)  Well the neighbors said we were on the wrong side of the interstate.  But just to be sure we decided to try the dirt road that went parallel with the one we were on.  It looked like there was a gate up the road so we decided to walk in case we couldn't turn the car around once we got to the gate.  We laughed as we walked about going after the one lost sheep.  We assumed there wouldn't be anyone up there but we wanted to know for sure.  Sure enough there was a fence but as I got closer I saw that the road actually turned before the fence and went off into the woods.  Should we try it?  Sure!  So we walk through the trees past a sketchy tree house and a huge banana spider and we find a nice clearing.  Across the clearing is a man by a truck.  By this point we aren't sure if we should be out here alone, but he had already seen us so we decided we had better say hello. Then he surprises us by saying, "Hi Sisters!"  He is an inactive member!!!  We  had a lovely chat with Brother Witt.  He said he knows he will come back, "One of these days."  And he wants us to come back and see him  (at his house not in the woods).  Apparently his father in law owns  the land and he stores equipment for work (building pools) there. He also said it is a great site for  digging Indian artifacts and he is going to give us some arrowheads!  We are looking forward to meeting  with our lost sheep again!

We got members to 3 lessons!  Yea!  One of them was while we were waiting for an appointment.  We took Sister Jepson and talked to a girl sitting on the side of the road.  Her name is Dakosha and she seems really interested.  She didn't make it to church on Sunday but we are looking forward to meeting with her soon.

The biggest miracle was on Sunday morning.  Last week we tracted into a less active man named Tim Shepherd.  Well his wife is Catholic and they have a 14 year old daughter, Tammy.  He has children from a previous marriage who are older, but Tammy is the only one at home (it sounds like she was raised kind of like me!).  Brother and Sister Shepherd decided they would introduce Tammy to both religions so she could choose what she wanted to follow.  Well, Brother Shepherd was offended several years ago and has not returned to church.  Sister Gloria Shepherd called us and asked us to come over Sunday evening! We just so happened to have a dinner appointment with the Rudd family and they have one of the few young women aged daughters so we invited Sister Rudd and Emma to come to the lesson!  It was a great Restoration!  Tammy is an absolute sweetheart!  She is brilliant too! We thought we would be teaching both Gloria and Tammy, but half way through the lesson it became apparent that Gloria will support Tammy's choice, but she is not looking to change religions.  The spirit was really strong and we left them each a copy of the Book of Mormon. Tammy wants to come to mutual tomorrow night too!  Pray for her!  Oh, so after the wonderful lesson the Shepherds got off on so many tangents!  They were telling us about how Tammy used to show dairy cows and who knows what else.  We were there for 2 hours!!!  Finally I cut in and told them what a lovely time we had, but that we needed to get going.  It was great to get to know them better, but next time we will need more strict time restraints!

Also, after dinner Sister Rudd asked to take a picture with us.  She posted it on Facebook with an offer for free dinner in her home with the missionaries for anyone who wanted to learn a bit more about the church.  Isn't she a gem?

Zone Conference was wonderful!  We meet with the Ocala and Lake City Zones.  I got to see a lot of missionaries I previously served with (Sister McCleary, Elder Frazier, Sister Pasko...) it was so great! Cache Valley was well represented!  There was me (of course), Elder Michael Young (from North Logan also- right across the street from me), Elder Caleb Jensen (I believe he is from Smithfield-he  graduated high school with me), Sister Meagan Williams (Millville), and Sister Hannah Corcoran (Hyde Park).  Crazy huh?

We talked about counseling together and reaching goals.  Sister Craig taught us about being a disciple of Jesus Christ.  The senior couple, the Van Blankensteins taught us about thriving in missionary life with  all of the stress and everything.  The assistants taught us about tools and techniques to get investigators to church. Finally President spoke to us about developing Christlike attributes. It was all exactly what I needed!  President used a quote from one of my all time favorite talks, I Will Give Myself to Him, by Brother Osguthorpe (CES Broadcast November 2013).  This is the broadcast where our institute choir sang and the entire talk was based on the opening song.  It has become a sort of personal motto for my mission.  The portion President Craig used is as follows: "The more we follow this path, the  more The Lord will bless us with His love.  And the more we feel His love, the more we know we are succeeding in giving our will to Him."

I had to laugh when Sister Hale sent me the following email about her  Zone Conference:  Sister Murray!  In front of everyone at zone conference President Craig called me Sister Murray twice! Seriously! He was on the pulpit and asking us to read scriptures down in the congregation. Once he got to me it was,   Sister Murra....Hale!       HALE MURRAY forever!  I love yeee mommy (ewwww...)  ;)

After Zone Conference our Relief Society had an activity.  About 50  women came!  It was the brown paper bag biography.  Each sister brought  two items that represented her in a brown bag.  Then we mixed up the bags and guessed who each bag belonged to.  I brought a pack of crayons because I am studying Early Childhood Education and because I love my 20 adorable nieces and nephews.  I also brought a picture of our extended family camping (Thanks for the picture Janese!)  because  I love my family and I love camping and fishing.  It was a really fun night!!!

Thank you for your prayers and letters everyone!  Miracles are just  waiting to happen!
Have a blessed week all y'all!  I love you!

Sister Alyson Murray

Monday, August 18, 2014

I Love the South!!

Join the I will Follow Him Facebook Event on Aug 23

 Why do you follow Christ?  Our mission has a goal of 250k invites to
this event to share our message about Jesus Christ and now we are at

Be sure to...
1- Join the event "I Follow Him"
2- Invite all your friends
3- on Saturday August 23rd, post a photo of you holding your favorite
picture of Christ
4-include the hashtag #ifollowhim and a short testimony explaining why
you follow Jesus Christ.

We appreciate all of your help!

Hump Day
This week the Sisters were given a survey about our mission experience
(so if they make any comments about the age change in General
Conference that info came from us!).  I was so happy I could honestly
answer these two questions this way.  I love being a missionary!!!
Some bugs are actually pretty cool

More door mats!!

A SkyView colors fire hydrant
I am convinced Nephi must have seen missionaries in the Bible Belt as he wrote the Book of Mormon.  Not only did he write, "I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I GLORY IN MY JESUS, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell," (2 Nephi 33:6)  but he also knew how much these people love the Bible: "Many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible." (2 Nephi 29:3). We had a couple memorable completely SOUTHERN lessons this week!  One was with a woman named Zander.  She is probably in her 80's and she is the sweetest little Black woman you'll ever meet. She was a referral from some other missionaries.  We had a lesson with her (Gospel choir music playing in the background and everything) and she told us she didn't need anything more than the Bible.  She was set.  Then we tracted into this pink trailer in the middle of the country and met Essie, another super sweet completely Southern 'gal.  She listened to us before stating, "everything we need is in the Bible." I just wish I could help them see how much we need the Book of Mormon!

Members make a world of difference in lessons and so this week we made a goal to have 5 lessons with members present.  It can be hard to get sisters to come with us because this ward has so many sisters whose  husbands are in medical residency programs.  We called, texted, and had the Relief Society President email the whole Relief Society to get members to our lessons.  An amazing thing happened! We had 5 lessons  set up with 5 beautiful sisters coming out with us.  Then missionary life happened, dashing our hopes and dreams.  Every.  Single.  Lesson. Fell through. :(   Yep, every one of those investigators either called and canceled or didn't show up.  So this week we got 0 member presents.  We are trying so hard!  Keep praying for us!

One thing that will make a huge difference is a challenge the Gainesville Zone and the Jax South Zone are doing! We are working together to lead the mission!  We have a goal to have 100 members invite investigators to church!  So far Sister Stitt and I had one!  We are so excited because members make the biggest difference! If a member invites our gator to church he or she will feel like he/she has a friend there and it is a lot less intimidating than the big, scary  missionaries inviting!

In Sacrament meeting President and Sister Craig spoke about being a member missionary. The Stake President, President Graham spoke also. Their talks were so great! Sister Craig told about an experience when a woman rear ended her and this woman knew it would be ok when she saw Sister Craig's name tag had Jesus Christ's name on it.  Sister Craig posed the question: "Would we act differently if we had Christ's name on our chest?"  Because when we were baptized we promised to take Christ's name upon us so we should be Christ-like whether we have His name visable or not.  President Craig talked about how the gospel will go to the four corners of the world with technology.  I know that technology is an amazing tool we have been given to share the gospel.  Is that how you use it?  Well, there is an AMAZING opportunity to do just that this week!  Go on Facebook and join the event "I Follow Him."  On August 23rd (this Saturday!) post a photo of you holding a picture of Christ.  Include the hashtag #ifollowhim with a brief testimony describing why you follow the Savior.  Our mission has a goal of 250,000 invites to the event so invite your wards and your friends!!! It has also been really great while tracting!  Whenever someone pulls the' "I am already Christian," card we just invite them to this  event!  Even if they don't want to learn more at least they had a positive experience with the  missionaries.

I did the musical number that day.  I played my flute the medley "Amazing Grace/As now We Take the Sacrament/I Stand All Amazed." Sister Mallory Gooch accompanied me on the piano. It went so well! We can only practice on P-Days so that was a miracle. Even my high E worked, which this flute does not play very well.  A lot of people thanked me for the music and  gave really nice compliments. Sister Craig said
my music is what it will sound like in Heaven and President Craig said it was amazing.  I am really grateful that it went so well--music is one of my favorite ways to bear my testimony.  Playing Amazing Grace in the South is going to be a memory for the rest of my life!  In the arrangement Amazing Grace is flute without the piano.  As soon as I started playing the chapel went silent--which is saying A LOT for the 3rd ward!  Of course, a bunch of toddlers can only be quiet for about half of my song, but I was still super surprised at how quiet it was in there!  That is good because I was worried I wouldn't be able to be heard.  I was also a little worried I was going to pass out because our Zone held a special fast that day for the 100 member invite challenge and playing flute takes a ton of air!  Besides shaking a little bit I was fine!  (besides, Sister Craig could have caught since she was on the stand, right?) :)

Sunday night Sister Haynes fed us.  She asked for requests for dinner and dessert so Sister Stitt  requested Burritos (it's easy to make those Vegan) and I suggested the delicious pink lemonade ice cream dessert Mom makes.  She emailed Mom and got the recipe!  Oh my goodness!  That was like a little taste of home!  Heavenly!!!  Haha,  Sister Haynes thought it needed a good name so she dubbed it "Lemon Delight!"  And it sure was a delight at that! Especially after biking!

Oh my goodness, I forgot to write about our miracle!  Last Monday our appointment fell through, but then Rita called us and told us we could come see her.  The sisters met her in a parking lot about 4 months ago but she has been really busy.  We taught her the Restoration that night and she said she will be baptized if she finds the church to be true!  She is amazing!!!

I love all y'all!  Keep reading the Book of Mormon every day and be sure to join I Follow Him!

Monday, August 11, 2014

9 months?!?!

Biking on a sandy road

The other ward was setting up for a wedding during our baptism. Isn't is pretty?
My braiding
Preach to all creatures

 Hey Family and Friends!

Oh my goodness!  The 13th of this month is the 9 month mark of my mission!  Can you believe it?  I can't!  It will also be one year since I went to the temple to receive my endowments.  What an amazing day that was!  I can hardly believe the blessings and experiences I have had since that day!  As they say in the South, "God is good!"  So good!

It's been another great week in Gatorville!  Our new Elders are the best!  They do make a rather interesting combination though.  Elder Baldwin is the only one who stayed.  He is from Rexburg and is your typical nerdy, band geek (he was in the Madison marching band!).  His companion is Elder Tauoa (Tow-oh-ah) is from California and he is a former gang member.  He has the tattoos and everything.  I can tell he can be a really powerful missionary!  Then there is the trio they are white-washing (all of them are new).  That trio is made up of Elder Skoy who is from Harmen, Utah.  He is a greenie and he is... well pretty greenie.  Then Elder Walgomot who is from Midway, Idaho.  He's super laid back and pretty  fun.  Finally, there is Elder Collins.  I served with him in Arlington.  He was my Zone Leader.  He is a really good missionary and he is super nice--to the extent that sometimes you wonder if he can really be that sincere, but he can also be super sarcastic.  They all have such great strengths and ideas.  We are super excited to work with them!!!

This week we had an investigator meet qualifications to be "progressing" for an entire 24 hours before he texted and said he didn't want to learn any more.  Hey-it is a step in the right direction.  That was our gator Trevin who was the one person in Haile who let us teach him.  We are done knocking in Haile.  The Elders are teaching a couple of people from there now.  If anything the people there got exposure to missionaries and we got to face our fear of knocking in Haile!!!  Yea!

On Saturday we had dinner with Tina (recent convert).  She thinks we can eat as much as the Elders!   She made chicken, pork, tuna, beef, vegetables, and rice.  Man, I thought people from China didn't eat much.  I guess I was wrong on that one!  Gratefully she was having the Elders over to eat right after us so we convinced her they could finish all the food we couldn't eat (she had made them their own meal!).  We had a great missionary correlation at Brother Bennion's that night.  The high counselor over missionaries in the stake came and shared a great thought about continually working hard.  We can't control how others respond to our message but we can control how hard we work. He taught us that if we want to be like the Savior we have to do hard things because the Savior certainly did that.  I love tough things!

After the meeting we looked at the clock to realize we only had 15 minutes to bike home!  We didn’t want Sister Bennion to have to load up our bikes so we said we would just bike home as fast as we could.  The Elders offered to take our bikes, but we figured we would be fine. When we got outside with our bikes the Elders came over and tried to hand us the keys to their car!  They said two of them would ride our bikes home and the other three would run so that we could get home safely and on time.  Ok- we probably should have just let Sister Bennion drive us home.  I learned a lesson about accepting help, but we were not going to have three of our Elders running home in the dark so we rode off and biked our hearts out.  I went first so I got to break through all the spider webs and we made it home 3 minutes after curfew.  Having the overly obedient heart that I do,  I felt bad about being a little late, but we will be more careful in the future.  So those are the kind of Elders we are serving with.  Like I said they are amazing!

Liz was planning on coming to church this Sunday.  We called her Saturday and Sunday with no response.  We went to her house before church Sunday and her husband said she wouldn't make it. Apparently her 4 year old chipped her tooth the day before and it turned into a super traumatic experience and the thought of bringing two little girls to church was too overwhelming.  She does really want to come though.  I was really impressed with how much help the members were in preparing for her to come!  Her 4 year old, Quinn, has autism.  She is always in therapy when we teach Liz so I haven't met her.  We told the primary presidency to expect her and the teacher had an extra member to help.  There is a family in the ward who has a daughter with more severe  disabilities.  We had talked to the mother and she was so ready to reach out to Liz to make sure she didn't feel like Quinn was being
a distraction or anything.  So the members have been SUCH a help!  We just need Liz in church now!!!  Pray she will come this Sunday!

Speaking of helpful members,  in ward sacrament meeting the announcement was made that the members needed to step up and feed the missionaries more.  It is hard for a lot of the families to feed the Elders because so many of the husbands are always gone to work and school.  The majority of families in the ward are here for medical residency programs.  Well... Sister Stitt and I realized that we
forgot to bring the calendar to sign up!!!  So we drove home really fast after sacrament to get the calendar and made it back in time to teach Sharing time!  It went really well!  We taught about the
importance of Family Home Evening and how it strengthens our families.  I love the kids in this ward so much!

Well, that is most of the news!  Here is my thought on Faith for the week:

"Like the intense fire that transforms iron into steel, as we remain faithful during the fiery trial of our faith, we are spiritually refined and strengthened... With faith comes  trials of faith, bringing increased faith. The Lord's comforting assurance to the Prophet Joseph Smith is the very same promise He makes to you in your trial of faith: "Hold on..., fear not..., for God shall be with you forever and ever."  Of this I bear my sacred witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.:  ( Elder Neil L. Anderson, October 2012)

I too know that the trial of our faith (whether it be our well of investigators running dry, stress with juggling school, work, callings, and/or family, or anything else that threatens to shaken our faith) can make us stronger than we were before.  Let the trial of your faith be an opportunity for you to strengthen your faith.

With much love,
Sister Alyson Murray


Sunday a stake was reorganized and Elder Christofferson was able to have a meeting with some of the missionaries.  Sister Fife and Sister Yeakley got to go.  This is President's weekly letter:

Dear Elders and Sisters
This past weekend we had the wonderful privilege of attending stake conference meetings in the Kingland Georgia stake for the reorganization of the stake presidency. Elder D. Todd Christofferson
presided with Elder Larry Kacher who accompanied him as his companion. During a last minute meeting Elder Christofferson took a few minutes to speak with some or our missionaries and allow them to ask questions as they typically do. One of our missionaries posed the question" How do we press forward
when we don't feel like our prayers are being answered? His response was, "you just keep going forward and things will work out. Eventually you will be able to look back and see how the Lord was answering your prayers all along."

I have pondered this morning about that a lot because in a world of mixed messages it is oft times difficult to "just press forward." Like when you go to church and you listen to one speaker who says,
"You can't do everything. Don't run faster than you have strength." The next person says, "Push yourself. Give it everything you have. You can always do more." Then another will say, " Don't worry about what you can't do", and someone else says, "You can do anything you put your mind to." " If only I tried harder, If only I had the courage to talk with everyone. Those mixed messages that we have questions about may be more clearly understood as we understand how the Saviors' atonement can empower us
to press forward on our own. 
I remember when I was a boy my mother would give us kid a hard time claiming we when she would give us an inch that we would really take a mile. Brother Wilcox, reminds us that if we "Give the Savior an inch, he'll take you THE mile."  That is how the enabling power works. When we show forth our best effort to press forward even on our own, he increases our capacity to do far more that we could do without him but only after we have expended our own best efforts.

He also taught a wonderful little analogy that goes something like this, " There is a man in a hot desert who sees a fountain at the top of the hill. With great effort he climbs the hill and receives the living-giving water.  What saved him? Was it the climb (his works) or was it the water, (the enabling power)? THINK ABOUT THAT ONE!  What we have to understand is the extent to which the goes to enable us to press forward.  The water may be at the top of the hill, but that is not where Christ is. He comes down to the bottom of the hill and brings water to us. That is how we make the climb to the top- which he requires because he knows it will strengthen us and be for our best good. Christ is not waiting at the finish line: He is finishing our faith. The enabling power is not the prize at the end of the climb. It is the power throughout the climb."    (Continuous Atonement pg 110)

Elders and Sisters the Lord asks us everyday to press forward even if we don't feel we are receiving all the answers to our prayers. He trusts you. He LOVES you. He knows that you are capable of doing his
work. He is the power behind each of us as we make the climb towards him by pressing forward each and everyday.

We love you and pray mightily for you!!
President Craig