Tuesday, May 26, 2015

God IS a God of Miracles!

The Switzers 

Lori's baptism.  Sister Elliot, Lori, her dad, Sister Murray

Lori and Jaden! I have to come back and visit so I can hold this baby! :)

Zone Conference

Elder Riley (Folkston), Elder Wall (Kingsland zl),
Elder Beard (folkston), Elder Strait (folkston), Elder Neilson
(Fernandina dl), Elder Bell (Kingsland zl), Elder England (Fernandina)
Front row: Sister Elliott, Sister Strait, me!
Horses and Sister Balkcom
We found this poster in our closet. Love the South!
Milkshakes on President's orders!

Love Georgia!

This was one of the most draining and most incredible weeks of my mission. Last Saturday Lori  talked to us and told us she had some choices to make. These choices would determine whether or not she would be baptized as planned on May 23rd. Monday night she met with Bishop Tucker and then Bishop and her dad joined us for a lesson. That was the hardest lesson I have taught. Bishop was a huge help. Then Bishop and Brother Wills left and we talked with Lori alone. As we spoke she realized she had another option she could choose from that would allow her to still be baptized. We knelt and prayed together and invited her to continue to pray about the choice she needed to make.

Tuesday we had lunch with a less active sister and talked about family history. We started doing yard work for another less active sister when a sudden lightning storm hit and we determined it wasn't safe to be weeding under her metal ramp. We had just done a super in-depth cleaning of our car for zone conference. The cleanest cars win extra miles. We avoided dirt roads and wore plastic bags on our shoes to keep the car clean.  We followed up with Lori this day and she gave us the good news that she would still be baptized! Part of her decision included moving to Alabama Saturday evening so we started getting everything ready for the baptism Saturday afternoon!

Wednesday we went to the church bright and early for car inspections and Zone conference.  In the past, two zones get together for conference, but each zone had their own this time. President trained on being a disciple of Christ and working with the ward council, and teaching and learning by the spirit. Sister Craig trained on the Book of Mormon. It was an incredible day. We did a lot of role playing- about an hours  worth.  I learned a lot!  

After Zone Conference we had Lori's baptismal interview, ran to dinner with the Kirklands, drove back to the church for Ward coordination, and then taught scripture class. 

Friday we got to help the Balkcom's with their horses before they took us to lunch. Then we drove to the church for  Matt's baptism. The Elders have been teaching him for three years and he was finally able to be baptized!  We taught Lori again and did role plays with her to practice standing up for standards when our friends try to convince us to do otherwise. We also saw Cheyenne. She is still doing great!  We taught Ronnie that night too! 

Saturday morning we were visiting some potentials when President called. We had a ton of questions we needed to ask him. It was funny he kept trying to get off the phone and we kept saying we had more questions! Poor President I don't know how he puts up with all of us ;) We told President about the miracle that Lori was being baptized! We also told him how stressful it had been getting her there this week. He told us not to stress and to go get a milkshake, and I always obey President Craig! After some ice cream we went to set up the church. Lori was already there so we were able to have the Elders help her and her dad practice the baptism too.  It was a beautiful day.  After she was baptized and was changing the second counselor in the Bishopric pulled us into the hall to ask if Bishop had given consent to have Lori confirmed at the baptism instead of on Sunday. We had been trying to do that all week and Bishop said it should be fine but he was going to check on one more thing and get back to us, and then he went out of town. Long, stressful, story made short-we called the first counselor and he gave permission to have Lori confirmed.  It was a beautiful blessing.  I was able to give the talk about the gift of the Holy Ghost. We had refreshments and then Lori headed to Alabama!

Immediately after she left we got online to find the number for the missionaries in her new ward (her face lit up when we told her there was a ward there.) We couldn't find their number though, so we called the Bishop there. He is super nice and said they have both Elders and Sisters in that ward! 

Mighty Miracle May did bring about many mighty miracles.  There were 22 baptisms this weekend alone.   44 this month so far, and 14 set for next weekend. I am so grateful for the miracle I was able to see! We really weren't sure if Lori would be baptized, but it came together and she really felt the spirit. There are more miracles to come in the following months--I am certain of it!

Sunday was great! I love going to church. We didn't have any gators come, so that was sad.  President called us late Friday night and told us where we could find the sister missionary’s  number so we looked that up and gave them a call. They are super sweet and are excited to meet Lori! We exchanged emails and I told them to stay in touch with me because I plan on keeping in touch with Lori from the time I get home!  Those sisters are in the Tallahassee mission but they knew an Elder in our mission.  It is such a relief to know that Lori is in good hands.

Monday we had district meeting. It was strange to be the one giving the "departing missionary testimony."  I have loved this district even though it has been a short time serving with them.  We spent the rest of the day saying bye to people (best excuse ever to teach a ton of lessons!) We also spent some time tracting. You know, I'm not sure I will miss knocking on strangers’ doors, but I will certainly miss hearing strangers‘ life stories. The people here are aware of a god in their lives and I love that!

Also, we have been teaching one of my friends from home through email. He has been busy with work, but he has been keeping all of his commitments. He told me this week that he is so grateful for all we have shared. His faith has been strengthened. I hope I can keep sharing my testimony with him once I am home. I will always be a missionary now!

The transfer call was really fuzzy and hard to understand, but still great! There were a lot of changes.  The sister coordinators area is being whitewashed and now just a set of stl's will be assigned to trade off with new stl's. Sister Elliott's new companion is Sister Trusty. She has only been out about three months. Sister Stitt is going to Gainesville YSA as a sister training leader with Sister Montgomery. I am so excited for her! There is definitely a great transfer ahead! My transfer will be a bit different, but I am excited!  Terrified, but excited.

There are really no words that can sum up the most draining, rewarding, fun, tough, spiritual, joyous, and sacred experience of your life. The past eighteen months have been the biggest blessing I could have ever asked for.   18 months ago I thought I was making a huge sacrifice to leave home and go to an unknown land. I didn't want to leave.  Now I can hardly believe eighteen months, ten companions, and five areas have come and gone. I find myself again feeling like I don't want to leave. It's funny how feelings can change, but not surprising. I've learned that serving our Savior changes us. It changes our nature it changes our hearts.  I hope to come home a better disciple of my Savior Jesus Christ.  I have felt the forgiving power of his Atonement, the enabling power of his grace, and the warmth of his never-ending, perfect love. I have seen his gospel and atonement change lives.  I know it continues to do so.  Bringing one soul unto him truly is a great joy. It is a joy I hope to have throughout my life. 

Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer. He lives! He was sent to us by a loving Heavenly Father who know us by name. Our Father does know what we want in life, but He will always give us what is best for us.  Joseph Smith is his prophet. He translated the Book of Mormon--the most powerful book I have ever read.  Its’ words change me constantly. We are never done learning from it’ pages, and it is through this book that we can truly come to know that The Church of Jesus Christ is Christ's church again on the earth. These things I know to be true! In the name of Jesus Christ amen!

Sister Murray
3 Nephi 5:13

111 of the many things I learned on my mission:

1. Florida Water is gross. The drinking water tastes like metal the sprinkler water smells like rotten eggs.
2. Don't touch Spanish Moss unless you want chiggers. And you don't want chiggers. The bugs here are crazy big and nearly all of them bite!
3. If it is sunny in the morning there may be a lighting storm that night. Never plan on weather and don't trust the weather forecasts!
4. Southern food is good!
5. Drug dealers love "Jesus People."
6. How to bike, wash a car, shop, walk, run, sleep, garden, and live in a skirt.
7. How to layer thick fuzzy socks and two pairs of tights to stay warm in the winter.
8. I love humidity and heat. I am going to freeze next winter.
9. How to prune a palm tree with a machete.
10. How to clean a swimming pool. 
11. Florida doesn't have dirt... Just sand.  Weeding someone's garden is like playing in a sand box.
12. How to back my companion in a car.
13. How to drive on the highway with crazy Florida drivers who don't signal and don't have any fear. Also, cars in Florida only have license plates on the back.
14. How to get creative in the kitchen when the food is running low and no members signed up to feed you.
15. I can't breathe if I put an orange in my mouth. I do it anyway if a member offers.
16. I have no idea what direction I am facing when I am in Georgia. Also, it is really frustrating having no sense of direction! Be grateful for the mountains in Utah.
17. How to play warrior ball. 
18. Mothballs can be used to keep poisonous snakes away, but I hate the smell of moth balls. 
19. How to stay on top of keeping my apartment clean... usually.
20. Say "yes ma'am" and "no sir!" And use the word y'all.
21. Be careful who you trust. Unfortunately not everyone is who they say they are. The spirit will help you know who to trust and who you should not even talk to.
22. There are many ways to pronounce names such as "Darrell." 
23. Help with the crazy roads in Florida? Dts and Aprl (drive, terrace, street... Goes north to south. Avenue, place, road, and land go west to east)
24. How to clean an apartment in less than an hour.
25. I still love animals! So does nearly everyone in the South. Pit Bulls are the most common pet selection. 
26. From President Craig: you choose if you have a good day.  God doesn't expect you to be perfect, just to be your best. Sometimes missions are more for the missionary than anything else. Biking 20 miles is nothing! If President Bikes for an hour every morning we can. Always learn something when you go the temple. You are never done learning! How to invite and follow the spirit's promptings. Remember he little things to show people you care about them. Finally, It's ok to go get a milkshake on a hard day--even during prime proselyting time.
27. From Sister Craig: the spirit helps us discern the needs of those under our stewardship.  Success is not measured by numbers.  Everything relies on the Book of Mormon! It is the greatest tool in conversion, including our own conversion. We must strive to have daily aha moments and personal revelatory experiences. 
28. I am more important to God's plan than I could ever imagine. I have a part only I can fill, as does each one of His children.
29. From Sister Yeakley: always smile! A big smile and faith will get your through anything. Work hard, exercise often, and eat lots of grapes. 
30. From Sister Hale: Always place God first and trust him. See the best in every situation. It's ok to ask for help-we aren't meant to go through life alone. Having fun and working hard go hand in hand.  How to use eyeliner and do a sock bun.  How to eat gluten free, and to be grateful I don't have allergies.
31. From Sister Chappell: to never give up. Even when things are hard, you keep fighting.  You rely on the Savior and press forward with faith. Defy the limits the world places on you. Also,  let the spirit guide your words and you will never be too bold. 
32. From Sister Stitt: open communication is essential for a strong companionship.  We all have a lot of growing to do, and Six months from now you will be a different person so be patient with yourself and forgive others. Work hard, 18 months is too short not too! How to eat like a Vegan, and Oreos are vegan!
33. From Sister Fife: To have fun and work hard at the same time. Use your personality in your missionary work. You have strengths needed for the area you are called to. Always ask how the work in your area could improve. The relationships we make on our mission don't end after our 18 months. Yes, we do open gates to knock on people's doors.
34. From Sister Martinez: there are new ways to do things. Think outside of the box or you limit what you can do. Study lots and share what you learn. To be strong even during hard times! How to be excited about football. :)
35. From Sister Kloepfer: rely on the Savior during your hardest times and your easiest times. You are never asked to do more than you can handle.  Heavenly Father enables us to fulfill all of our callings! When you break open a sand dollar little birds are inside. Always put family first.
36. From Sister McCook: Be patient with yourself. Your trials today will prepare you to help someone in the future. Put all your energy into serving God! Serve with all your heart, might, mind, and strength and miracles will come. Talk with everyone and wave to everyone. 
37. From Sister Gillman: God knows who we need and why we need them. Rely on the spirit and you will know what to say.  When we have hard times it means miracles are ahead. Hard work brings the greatest joy. Laugh at yourself and your companion.  
38. From Sister Elliot: Love studies and love those you serve. With God's help we can do tough things. Don't expect perfection, see what you are doing! If you add "Ja" "Sha" or "La" to the front of your name it sounds like a Black name! (I know all y'all are trying it now! It's true, isn't it?)
39: You can't expect perfection from yourself. Perfection comes later, not in this life.  God is more concerned with who you are and who you are becoming than who you once were. 
40. From Jax YSA: now is the pivotal point in my life. The decisions I make now affect my life and my eternity. Have fun, but never lose the bigger picture. When you do that you are in more danger than you can imagine.
41. From Arlington: be a member who loves missionaries. "We are all family. It don't matter if you are Black or White, we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord." -"Crazy" Calvin. Love and service (and sticky noting doors) changes hearts.
42. From Gainesville 3rd: when you put God first in your life everything else falls into place. Even when your husband is gone all day for school and you have three little children to chase.  Also, coming out with missionaries is a spiritual boost. It strengthens members almost as much if not more than it strengthens the investigator. Also,You don't have to have dessert with every dinner! 
43. From returning to Arlington: God knows the desires of our hearts. He grants us the righteous desires.  Sometimes his answers come in ways we didn't expect and it may take time for us to recognize those answers, but they are there.
44. From Hendricks: WML really a stands for "weapon of mass love." Take advantage of every moment because you never know how long you will have with someone.
45. From Kingsland: It's ok to take things slower in life.  Slow down enough to be aware of the needs of those around you and reach out to everyone, not just those who come to you.
46. From Jeremy: Share your enthusiasm for the gospel with all your friends. be honest in all your dealings. 
47. From Caitlin: put aside what makes sense for what the Spirit tells you. You will never regret it. Surround yourself with good friends!
48. From Pete: charity never faileth.  Always serve those around you. When things aren't working the way you want them to maybe you need to change your course of action and do things the way God wants you to.
49. From Aileen: the Atonement truly changes us when we allow it to work in our lives.  When you find the light of the gospel you cannot keep it to yourself. 
50: From Kristen: Heavenly Father is patient with us as we strive to learn. Keep learning and let your faith burn bright. 
52. From Angel: love others no matter who they are! Become as a child!
53. From Brother Zielinski: it is never too late to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ.
54. From the Switzer family: no sacrifice is too great for the gospel. The gospel brings true joy. Don't underestimate the help from those on the other side of the veil. The gospel really does bless families. 
55. From Lori: When we do our best to be obedient God will provide a way for us to keep the commandments and to be happy. If we choose to obey God's commandments we receive the blessings associated.  Miracles do happen!
56. I love tough things. But sometimes I love them more after they are over and I see the growth they caused.
57. To put others before myself. Even when I don't think I can keep going. 
58. You are "too blessed to be stressed."
59. When you make comments in classes or meetings you show the spirit you are ready to learn.
60. When you make comments in classes or meetings you show the spirit you are ready to learn.
61. How to talk with everyone. And to teach simply and use terms people understand.
62. How to stand on a street corner and offer Books of Mormon to throngs of people. To be excited when people accept and to shrug off rude comments.
63. Don't be discouraged when people are mean. It just means someone elect is coming and Satan wants to discourage you.
64. Don't cast your pearls before swine. If someone won't listen don't talk.
65. It's ok to readjust goals when we recognize they are unrealistic. Set and achieve realistic goals and then raise them.
66. Music influences the spirit so much! Listening to the most spiritual music will make it easier to feel the spirit.
67. How to talk with everyone. And to teach simply and use terms people understand.
68. How to stand on a street corner and offer Books of Mormon to throngs of people. To be excited when people accept and to shrug off rude comments.
69. Don't be discouraged when people are mean. It just means someone elect is coming and Satan wants to discourage you.
70. Don't cast your pearls before swine. If someone won't listen don't talk
71. It's ok to readjust goals when we recognize they are unrealistic. Set and achieve realistic goals and then raise them.
72. The necessity of understanding the apostasy, and the confusion that comes from not understanding it.
73. The family is of God. It is the most important social unit now and in eternity.
74. When you put God first, everything else really does work out.
75. When we have faith we act. That action will cause an increase in our faith, and we will be more prepared to act in faith in the future.
76. God has not ceased to be a God of Miracles. Mormon 9:18-21
77. Music influences the spirit so much! Listening to the most spiritual music will make it easier to feel the spirit.
78. Some people legitimately believe Jesus is Black and won't listen to you if you give them a picture of a white Jesus.  However, what Jesus Christ looked like is not as important as his actions and his message. If someone is stuck on what he did or did not look like he or she will miss the bigger picture.
79. How to keep technology as my servant, not my master.  When we know how to do that we can take the internet back from the adversary. 
80. I LOVE teaching.
81. I work harder when I focus on others. "Forget yourself and go to work," is some of the best advice a missionary could receive.
82. If you make plans you can achieve your goals. When you achieve your goals you will accomplish your vision.
83. When the spirit speaks , as you are teaching, you  will learn things you didn't know.
84. How to have "aha" moments in the Book of Mormon.
85. The adversary's power is real.  He hits the hardest before spiritual events.
86. The Savior's power is always enough to overcome these spiritual whirlwinds. 
87. The Atonement changes lives. I have seen men and woman turn their lives completely around by relying on His atonement and living His gospel. 
88. The Holy Ghost is constantly seeking to guide us. Elder Golden taught us that the spirit speaks to our minds more often than we realize. We should follow our first thought.
89. Don't be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Shout out your beliefs! Talk with everyone about your testimony!
90. We must read the Book of Mormon every single day, and we should continue to pray about it. As Elder Neil. L. Anderson said, we must read it every day to, "renew the courage."
91. The greatest peace on earth is in the temple. I never want to go this long without going to the temple again.
92. Service softens and changes hearts. Serving Him will change our own heart.
93. God has a plan of happiness. Within that plan he has an individual plan perfectly tailored for each of us.
94. The greatest miracle is a changed heart. My heart has changed and I have seen others changed
95. The power of your mind and attitude, especially in hard situations.
96. How to follow the spirit to discern needs and to offer counsel while being both bold and loving.
97. To study the scriptures, not just read them.  The scriptures never use the phrase "read the scriptures." We are told to feast or study, but never just read.
98. How great an influence one person's choices can make--both for good and for bad. Agency is a powerful gift. One that God will never take away.
99. Satan is working to destroy families. I want to do all I can to strengthen those families and to have my own strong family some day.
100. Always respond with love, even if the other person does not.
101. How to be a loving companion and try to be a lovable companion.
102. The joy of bringing even one soul unto Christ.
103. Hard isn't bad, it's just hard.
104. The different ways the spirit speaks to me. I better understand how to recognize and follow these promptings now. 
105. I will always be a missionary.  For the rest of my life, and in the life after!
106. When we put our whole heart into God's work we are most happy.
107. How to let the spirit lead in offering counsel  to a struggling investigator or sister.
108. Baptisms don't make a happy missionary. Obedience, hard work, and looking for miracles do.
109. Heavenly Father always knows what is best for us. If we follow the spirit, things will work out for the best, even if it doesn't seem to be what we want to happen. 
110. When we live as disciples of Jesus Christ we can call on the powers of heaven to work miracles. As we do our part, the angels of heaven join in and events will come to pass we never would have imagined.
111. Heavenly Father loves all of his children. He does not love the obedient any more than the disobedient. He does not love those with the gospel any more than those without the fullness of the gospel.  He is sad when we choose to disobey and we cannot qualify for the blessings associated with the commandment we choose to break, but his love does not waver.

Love all y'all!
Sister Murray