Monday, December 29, 2014

Merry Christmas Y'all!!!

Christmas Skyping!! Some of my family.
With some of the Williams family
Meet Sister McCook after an epic Pday volleyball game
Sister McCleary! Good luck RM
Finally got a Winn Dixie picture. It's going in the front of my Because of Winn Dixie book.
In case you need a smile! A Mail Manatee

I hope it was a very merry and white one for you!  It was a great week here in Sunny Florida!  It's 75 degrees today!  Who wants to come visit? ;)

Monday we had a zone p-day playing games together and eating pizza.  Then we went caroling from 6-8 in a thunderstorm.  We were soaked, but Sister Kloepfer and I were able to talk to a lot of people at their doors after singing and now we have a ton of great potential investigators to go visit!!!  We ended the night at the home of a member who invited us in for cookies and hot chocolate.

Tuesday was our trade off with the Ft. Caroline Sisters.  I went to their area with Sister Clay again.  I just love her so much!  She reminds me of Sarah (my cousin) and they even have the same first name.  We saw so many miracles together!  We were able to teach 8 lessons that day!!! We decided that we will just have to be companions before I go home!  

Wednesday we had a lovely Christmas Eve dinner with the Dains family.  We had potato soup and Sister Dains famous bacon wrapped chicken!  Yum!  We did some more caroling with the Ft. Caroline Sisters and our Elders.  It was so fun! We went around to a lot of the recent converts in our ward and sang them a song and left them with the DVD Joy to the World.  We even got some caroling done in "Sin City!"  (Don't worry Mom- the Elders had their tazer :) )

We also stopped by to see Karen and taught her two nieces!  They are now new investigators!!!

We pulled our mattresses out under the Christmas tree and opened the present with our matching pajamas inside.

Christmas was the best!  I love being able to focus on the real meaning of Christmas on a mission.  I know that doing so really allows us to feel the spirit!  We started off the morning using our exercise time to doorbell ditch some gifts from the ward to a less active family who didn't have gifts for Christmas.  It's actually the same family we did it for last year, but this year the ward provided the gifts so they will be much better :)  Then we went to the Ft. Caroline Sisters' for a quick sticky bun breakfast before running back to the apartment to open the rest of our presents. Thank y'all for the sweet notes, gifts, and prayers!  They were very appreciated!

After studies we came to the church for Facebook time.  Then we tried to visit a widow in the ward, but she wasn't home so we knocked on the doors of her neighbors. We actually found one family who said we could come back!  They live in the Elder's area so we'll reassign them!

Then we went and visited with the whole Williams Clan!  It is so fun to be with them--just like being home.  Then we drove over my favorite bridge (Dames Point) to the Relief Society President's house, Sister Thomas.  I played my flute for them and we used her flannel board to tell the nativity story.  We had a lovely dinner before driving back to the church to call home.  I always forget how nervous and exciting I get to call home!  It was so fun to see all y'all even if I didn't get to talk to everyone for very long.  That hour went way too fast!  But we'll talk again in five months!

After some happy tears and wonderful conversation we headed out to visit Brother and Sister Pete Weber.  We couldn't stay for long but it was good to wish them a Merry Christmas.  Then we met up with the YSA sisters and our Elders for more Caroling!  It was the best Christmas ever!

I know God hears and answers our prayers--though they may not always be in the way we expect.  Last year at Christmas time I was having a hard time being away from home.  I don't feel the same now, but then I just wanted to be home for Christmas in 2014.  I was praying one day and just felt great peace so I went on with life and almost forgot about that.  I came to love being in Florida and didn't want to go home.  It wasn't until this month that I realized I feel completely at home in Arlington.  I already loved the area and the people.  I really was home for Christmas--just in the way that Heavenly Father always knew was best.  It is hard sometimes but we really do always need to put our trust in him.  

Friday morning we had a service project cleaning up an Elderly couple's lawn.  Then we had weekly planning all day.  We had dinner with Sister Giffen and Sister Fresh which was so fun!  Then we were driving back to the church for more caroling when President Craig called us!!!  So many missionaries needed to go home for school they decided to have a mini transfer and make necessary changes.  We didn't think it would affect us, but President released Sister Kloepfer as a Sister Training Leader and called her to be a Sister Training Coordinator.  She was practically in shock.  I am going to miss her, but I know she is going to do so many great things!!!  And now she's my leader so I get to go on trade offs with her!!!  

Saturday was filled with packing, saying goodbye to people, and trying to stay busy so Sister Kloepfer didn't have to think about her sister's wedding that was happening back home.  We were able to see Karen again.  She cried when Sister Kloepfer told her she was leaving.  It's going to be hard for everyone to see her go.  

Sunday we had a wonderful service.  Sister Joan (Grandma) Williams gave her annual talk reflecting on the past year.  She mentions world events and ward events.  She lists all the missionaries who served in the ward that year (so I got mentioned twice!) and those serving from the ward.  She lists baptisms, births, deaths, and just about everything else I never would have thought of.  It was really great!

This morning we drove to Mandarin to trade companions.  There was no transfer meeting--we just met up with our new companions and traded in the parking lot.  I am now serving with Sister McCook who is from Tuscon Arizona.  She has been out 10 1/2 months.  I've been with her 5 hours now so I don't know a whole lot about her, but she is a sweetheart and so excited to be a Sister Training Leader.  I am excited to work with her.  

Have an amazing week!  I love y'all!!
Sister Murray

P.S. Our total mission baptisms was around 450. I will likely get an exact number at MLC this Wednesday!  We didn't reach 1000, but sometimes our vision is raised by our leaders and we work harder than we would have and we achieve what we might not have without a high goal.  On Wednesday we will be setting goals for the mission for 2015.  pray for us please!  

Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas All Y'all!!

MTC Sisters together again at our mission Christmas Conference
My neighbor, Elder Young.
A prop for our zone's skit
For the Door Decorating Contest
We went to a member's Hanaukkah Party.
The food was so good

Caroling Missionaries at the Williams

It was another great week in Paradise :)
Tuesday we held both district meetings in the Arlington building and afterwards we ran through our Zone Skit for the Christmas party.  Elder Payne rewrote T'was the Night Before Christmas to a story in Dunn Ave.  It was so funny!  I'll try to send some of it home :)
Then we had a sisters' lunch at Blue Boy's sandwich shop.  We have some great sisters in the zone and we are excited to get to know them more!  Right after that we started our trade-off with the Dunn Ave Sisters.  Sister Parshall stayed in Arlington with me.  We came out together and we were in neighboring wards in Gainesville so it was fun to have a day together.  We had some awesome nerdy band conversations too since she did marching band in Las Vegas!  Don't worry though we got some great work in too!  We were able to stop by and see Sister Makuei.  Last Christmas we left some treats on their door on Christmas morning because we knew they wouldn't have very much.  No one in the ward seemed to know about them so we stopped by and they are still there!
Wednesday we had lunch in Dunn Ave with our Relief Society President.  She has been super sick for a long time and so we haven't seen her hardly at all since I've been here.  It was good to get in touch with her again.  She told us stories from her mission which was fun too!  We are planning on getting a sign up going in Relief Society to go on splits with the sisters in the ward! 
Thursday was the Mission Christmas Conference!!!  This is one of my favorite days!  Seriously--Christmas as a missionary is the BEST!!!  We started the meeting with skits, then we had dinner and a slide show.  And lots of visiting with mission friends too!  It was great to see all my MTC sisters! (the Elders that were in my MTC district are in South Carolina.  I've had some contact with them and they seem to be doing well :) ).  After the fun and food we head into the chapel for the devotional.  This really brings the spirit of Christ into Christmas.  I was asked to lead the congregational songs so that was fun too.  The music was beautiful and President and Sister Craig gave great talks!  I received some beautiful revelation that night.  Then we get packages, letters, presents, etc from family and friends.  And someone always donates a pie for every companionship!  Yum!  We didn't get home until about 9:00 and it made for a great day!
Friday morning we got a call from the Sister Training Coordinators.  They had a trade off planned with one of the other STL companionships but something came up and they needed to reschedule so they asked if we would mind trading off that day.  We didn't have any plans so we agreed.  After weekly planning we met at the church and Sister Petramolo stayed in the area with me and Sister Kloepfer went to Mandarin with Sister Blotter.  We had a great day together!  We were able to go teach the Makuei family.  There must have been a huge language barrier when she was taught because she doesn't know who Joseph Smith is.  We tried to speak very simply. She speaks Dinka and Arabic.  We are hoping to teach them some more and find them a ride so she and her 5 children can come to church again.
Funny thing on the trade off--We went to see the Gibbs, a less active family.  I wasn't very clear about who we were seeing and Sister Petramolo treated them just like investigators!  It was actually really great because it helped us find out that her daughter who was visiting was not a member!  And we determined it would be good to review all the lessons with the family anyway.

Sunday our ward had a wonderful Christmas program.  All of the missionaries sang in the choir which was way fun!  I was able to do a duet playing flute for the First Noel with Sister Thompson singing.  Our investigator Karen came.  She loved the meeting!  She has been making friends with the members and we are continuing to teach her!  She is working towards being baptized in February!!
One sad note from this week--a recent convert in the ward, Sister Barger, passed away this weekend.  It was sad, but she's been going downhill in the hospital for a couple weeks now so it is good to know she is at peace.  I'm sure she is doing some amazing missionary work on the other side! 
Well, I hope y'all have an amazing Christmas!  I'm looking forward to calling!  I LOVE YOU!!!
Sister Murray

Monday, December 15, 2014

Another Week in Paradise


Angel's baptism
Service! We planted a garden in Dunn Ave! It felt so good to get in the dirt!  

Decorating Veronica's tree (recent convert and her mother)
Decorating for Sister Weber with Sister McCleary
Ward Christmas party: standing sisters- Sister McCleary (YSA), Sister Kloepfer
Elder Searle, Santa, Elder Payne
Sister Murray, Sister Yeakley (YSA) 

Sister Kloepfer's mother made ornaments of us!
 This was a slower week, but we did have some miracles.

We were able to visit a less active sister and a recent convert sister who were both in the hospital. We got a great work out wandering all over the hospital trying to find their rooms! It was sad to see them in there though.

This week we were able to have two members of the ward, Brother Fletcher and Brother Hairel, give Karen a blessing for her back. It was the most beautiful member present lesson! They taught her the basics of the priesthood so perfectly! And we all really felt the spirit during the blessing. 

Karen came to church this Sunday and loved it. Bryson Dains just got home from his mission his week and Karen loved his talk!

The ward Christmas party was Saturday evening. It was fun, but none of the families we invited came. However, there were some members who invited nonmember neighbors!!! That is always the best! 

Today Summer Dains took us ice skating at the rink she works at! I must say, that's not something I thought I would be doing on my mission in Florida! It was so fun!

Sorry to keep it so short this week! I love all y'all!!!

PS- I forgot to tell y'all last week- after emailing on P Day we walked out of the church to find a semi in the parking lot! We went up to the cab and started talking to the driver. Turns out his son lives across from the church and he was stopping in to see him while he was driving through. We had a lesson with him as he sat n his cab and he said we could send missionaries to him in Georgia! 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I’m a Real Missionary Now!!

Wednesday was Sister Kloepfer's 20th birthday! We started off the day with Zone Meeting. It was the first time for each of us to give a training in zone meeting. I taught on being a leader. There are some things I think I could do better, but it was a good meeting. Then we went to lunch with Sister Dains and Summer. We had sandwiches from Blue Boys, fruit salad, and her yummy melon ice cream dessert. 

We got dinner that night too with Sister Ford and Sister Manning. They took us to Carabbas- Italian food! It was very good and fun! As we were leaving a man stopped us and said he was a member from Salt Lake! We gave him a pass along card to leave at his table with the check. 

One evening we were tracting a neighborhood near the church. We had an older man tell us about a family in the neighborhood with six boys. Of course we start thinking six future missionaries! Well... No go on that one. They are extremely set in their religion. The wife told us she was concerned for our souls, the husband tried to tell us why our doctrine wasn't true. Then out of no where their 15 year old son pops into the doorway with Bible in hand and says, "Let me share this scripture in Isaiah..." Who are these people? Man, they would sure make great members, but they weren't willing to listen and we don't cast our pearls before swine so we had to run away when we got the chance. 

I was backing the car out of a driveway. Sister Kloepfer backed out and was almost all the way back to the direction she wanted to be going. Then I looked up and saw a pit bull running towards the passenger side of the car. I don't get why people down here like Pitts so much! It didn't look like it was in attack mode, but since Pitt Bulls are known for fighting I didn't want it to think my leg was a chew toy. I ran around to the opposite end of the car and tried to open the back door so I could jump in, but  unfortunately the new Toyotas have this fancy feature that lock the door whenever the car is not in park. So I started banging on the door and poor Sister Kloepfer was so confused, but she unlocked the door and I hopped in just as the dog ran over to the driver’s side where I had been standing. We drove around the corner then I got out and ran to the front seat. Haha, I guess I'm a real missionary now that I've been chased by a dog!!!

Saturday Angel Castro was baptized! He is a nine year old boy with a mother and brother who are members! He was so excited! His stepfather and grandfather, who are not members, came. He is a good example for them. I was able to speak about the Holy Ghost. It was a simple but beautiful baptism. He was confirmed the next day in church. Then he bore his testimony! It was so sweet!

Sunday night we stopped by Amisty's. Her mother is not really interested in learning at this time but wants Amisty to continue. It's hard because Amisty can't be baptized if she doesn't have support at home to get to church each week. They both promised to come to family home evening Monday night. They even pinkie promised... But no go. Looks like we will be dropping them, but Amisty will remember what she has learned and felt. Maybe that will help her in the future.

In order to watch the Christmas devotional we had to have a less active member or an investigator with us. Everyone we invited was bailing out! With only about ten minutes before it started we called up Karen, our investigator, and she said we could come over and watch it on her tablet with her. It was just what we all needed!

Transfer calls brought some surprises! All the Arlington missionaries are the same though. And we learned that in January Elder Neil L. Anderson will be coming to speak to the whole mission!!! So excited!

Have a blessed week y'all! 
 16 days until Christmas (but who's countin?)
Sister Alyson Murray

Monday, December 1, 2014


My plate at the Williams. Way too much good food!

Pumpkin cheesecake and banana pudding (a Southern stable along with
  macaroni and cheese)

The Elders picked up a couple watermelons they found growing on the
side the the road. They weren't ripe so the boys had fun throwing them
around in the backyard. This is Landon Dains cutting into one.
Happy Missionary Thanksgiving Ya'll
Thanksgiving Dinner 2
The Elders being bored. - Elder Searle (left ) Elder Payne
Sister Kloepfer and Sister Murray
The tree we decorated for Sister Giffen
Over 300 snowmen!!

This week was full of service and celebrating the holidays.

Tuesday we helped some new members rip tack board out of their house so they could put new flooring in.  That was a fun service project! 

Wednesday was MLC.  It was the first full one for both me and Sister Kloepfer.  President Craig, Sister Craig, the Assistants, and the Sister Coordinators all give trainings.  We will take what we learned and present the information next week in Zone meeting.  I get to train on being a leader.  It should be fun! 

Thanksgiving was amazing! We had dinner with the whole Williams Family at noon. Being with their family is just like being at home! Everyone brought something yummy to share! The Elders and the YSA Sisters were there too. Elder Searle, Sister McCleary and I were all there for Thanksgiving last year too! After eating our fill the sisters, Summer Dains, and Sister Kloepfer and I went to a nursing home to visit some elderly people. Most of them had been taken home for the day, but there was one lady in the cafeteria that we talked to. Sister Kloepfer suggested we sing Silent Night. It would have been great, but we started way too high and we're practically screeching by the end! We were also able to visit a man named David. He actually asked us a lot about what we do and he accepted a Book of Mormon! He was very nice!

Then we went to Thanksgiving dinner: round two. The Elders were here, but dinner was running an hour late so they had to go to another dinner before eating. Linda was feeding us, she is Miracle’s mom. She was sweet enough to turn on one of the old missionary videos about our purpose, we kept trying to talk to her visiting relatives about it, but they weren't all too interested. Linda called us all over to stand around the table and to hold hands and pray.  I ended up standing between Sister Kloepfer and this huge Black man. We all held hands and then Linda said, "Wait we need so and so over here." And so we were all standing there holding hands and I couldn't decide if it was worse to keep holding this man’s hand or to let go!  Haha, so awkward!  I think I've held hands more on my mission than I have my entire life!  And the South is probably the only place you can randomly stand in a parking lot or on someone's porch and hold hands praying!  That dinner was… unique :)  Haha, we had our first experience of collard greens... not a tradition I want to keep up...  We were so full that we just got a little of some things, but Linda noticed we hadn't gotten some of everything so she brought us everything we had missed. Yea...

Friday Sister Kloepfer went to the temple!  I got to serve in a trio for the day with Sister Clay and Sister Hendricks.  That was a blast!  We divided the time between the Ft. Caroline ward and the Arlington ward. It was fun! We got to teach Pappi--the Sisters met him tracting one day and he claims he was baptized but there is not a trace of his records anywhere!  Sister Hendricks and Pappi had a lovely conversation about their dreds (dreadlocks)!  Haha!  I love serving in the South!  

Saturday we did some service for nonmember friends of Pete Weber.  We put up Christmas lights on their house!  Best service project ever!  Then for lunch we drove out to Jax Beach to surprise Sister Hendricks for her birthday!  We stopped at Publix to buy a banana cream pie (her favorite) but they didn't have one!  We went with a cookies n' cream cake instead and it ended up being her favorite cake!!! It really made her day.

That afternoon the Elders set up a family history booth outside of Luca's Italian Restaurant (Luca is good friends with Pete so it worked out perfect!) Things were going slow so they asked us to make a sign for them to wave.  We stopped by Sister Pennington's and she whipped one up for us!  We went and helped the Elders for about an hour.  Around 4 people said they wanted to learn more that day!  The only problem is that you run out of things to yell while waving a sign for family history really fast.  Please let us know if you have any great ideas!!!

Then we had another fun service project!  Decorating a tree for Sister Giffen!  She is the sweetest!  Sister Kloepfer and I are loving the holidays!  They fed us dinner afterwards!  Then we went to the Penningtons for ward coordination.

Sunday our ward choir sang “For the Beauty of the Earth” and I played flute with them.  It came together really well!  Miracle with the limited time I have to practice!  

Can you believe it is December?  I am so excited for Christmas!  I always love the spirit that is in the air, and I am excited to be able to talk to people who are thinking about Christ EVEN more than usual! 

 I know that sharing the gospel brings the greatest joy we can receive.  If you will do these two things this December I know you will have an added measure of the spirit in your home this Christmas.

1-      Watch the new Christmas video put out by the church and share it with a friend who needs a reminder of their Savior's love.

   2- Please pray for the Florida Jacksonville Mission to have a White Christmas!  Not white with snow necessarily, but white with children of God dressed in white ready to be baptized!  We are short of our goal for 1,000 souls and we know there are many who are still out there ready to receive this gift: the Savior!  We feel the power of your prayers!

I love all y'all!  Have the best December!!!  
Sister Murray

P.S. Transfers are next week!  I'll talk to all y'all next Tuesday!