Monday, September 30, 2013

Three Month Anniversary

Anniversary's are happy times, joyous celbrations and often in connection with relationships. Well this past week on September 26th I celebrated my three month mission anniversary, and let me tell you I have never been in a more dedicated relationship with my purpose in life than I am right now serving a mission.
Like all relationships there are ups and downs, this was one of those weeks; but I am still in LOVE with missionary work and I am still developing my relationship with my Father in Heaven.
It rained a lot this week, and we didn't have a lot of set tracting it was! Tracting is not my favorite. I have seen very little success from it, and honestly I struggle with the whole getting doors shut in my face thing. But, my purpose is to bring others to Christ and when it is raining and there is no one outside to talk to, you go and knock on people's doors with faith that one or two of the twenty you knock on will open up and let you share the most important message on earth. Thankfully, Sister McFarlane and I were able to find two people that rainy day who expressed a desire to have us return and talk more about Jesus Christ. Only one of those two actually kept their appointment, BUT that one soul we found was worth wet shoes frizzy hair.
Then there are ups! Thursday night we taught our friend Lawrence. We taught him part of the plan of salvation, answering the questions: Where did I come from? and Why am I here? It was amazing to feel the Holy Ghost settle into the lesson and truly testify that God has a plan for us. That we were not just sent down to earth to wander aimlessly on our own. Then as we prepared to leave we asked Lawrence how he was feeling, in which he replied, "Well, y'all must be doing something right. I smoked my last cigarette on Sunday." Oh my goodness did my heart fly with joy as I quickly told Lawrence that him not smoking anymore had NOTHING to do with us, but EVERYTHING to do with our Heavenly Father!
Sunday was Ward Conference (where leaders of our church come and talk to the congregation) and I just love how the Lord speaks to me, even when I am far from home in a ward I am just a temporary member of. Temporary or not, I am a member of the ward and the Lord has things He needs me to know. In Ward Council (congregations leaders) we were taught by President Chase about how the Lord is hastening the work. Then in Relief Society (women's organization) President Chase spoke to us again. He had us read in Philippians 4:6-7. In verse six it says "let your requests be made known unto God." And my whole soul felt at peace. Peace because I have been wondering whether or not my asking to be able to leave by October 17th 2013 was a righteous desire or selfish; but this verse put my whole heart, mind, and soul at ease as I came to realize Heavenly Father wants me in Brisbane as much I as want to be there. As long as I work my hardest here in Georgia, I will be able to get to Brisbane by October 17th. I have faith in that, because I know Heavenly Father is hearing my prayers and all the prayers of those who are praying with me to get to Australia by October 17th. Heavenly Father loves all of us, wants to help us, so please just "let your request be made known unto God!"

Sunday, September 29, 2013

One Day at a Time

This week has been the longest week of my mission, but only because so many good things were packed into short seven days.
Tuesday we were able to go to the temple as a Zone (an area of missionaries) and it was one emotional day, perhaps because we had to get up at 4:30am, or possibly because the Holy Ghost was gripping my heart the whole day. Either way by the end of the day I was tired and emotionally drained and more motivated to be a better missionary,where ever that may be.
(Insert picture here with Caption: Sister McFarlane and I at the Georgia, Atlanta Temple)
Wednesday was exchanges! I went to Catersville, Georgia for the day with Sister Lowder; what a blessing that day turned out to be. I was able to learn new techniques in teaching, and to really see what a busy day looks like and how to plan correctly to have busy days like that. Not saying I haven't been busy, but there is definietly a lot Sister McFarlane and I needed to improve based off of my observations of Wednesday.
Thursday Sister McFarlane and I were able to rock it. We were both highly motivated to improve after exchanges and so we did. We were able to surpass most of our weekly goals and I could literally feel the Savior cheering us on as we sought out ways to improve our missionary work.
Friday night I encountered a miracle, but it was scary at first. We were teaching one of our newest investigators, Lawrence, and the Spirit was surrounding us like a thick blanket. We taught him about Joseph Smith and then set a date for baptism on October 12th in which he said he was willing to work towards. Then we started reading 3 Nephi chapter 11 with him. That's when his daughter walked in, listed to us reading, and once we had finished decided to test us on why it was we need a Book of Mormon, when what we had read was in the Bible. My heart dropped, as did my confidence, because I am no Bible scholar; but I began to say a prayer in my heart that the Spirit would be able to stay in the room and help us resolve this woman's concerns. Then our member who came with us spoke up and said exactly what this loud and proud woman needed to hear. By the end of everything the woman said she was willing to read the Book of Mormon. Members are awesome and so vital to miracles occurring!
Saturday and Sunday were probably my favorite days of the week because Lee came to church...TWICE! and with his son Jared! The first time was on Saturday for a church tour, we felt this very essential because last week when Lee didn't show up it was because Jared convinved Lee to go to church with him. Not this week! No, we had them tour the church and by the time we ended the tour in the chapel Lee was so, so excited to come to church.
Sunday morning, I was passing out flyers, when I saw Jared's red truck pull into the parking lot and my heart about melted it was so warm with happiness. Lee was wearing a tie Sister McFarlane gave him and Jared looked sharp too. I ruched to the door to welcome them in and showed them where to sit. I don't believe I have ever been happier in my life than I was at 11:00 when church started and Jared was on my left and Lee was on my right hand side. What a glorious day it will be when Lee is baptized. I know that Lee is the reason I needed to come to Georgia. Yesterday, when he took the sacrament, the Holy Ghost made that clear to me. What a blessing from my Heavenly Father teaching Lee has been, as I see him grow and as I see his inner light mature. He calls us his "adopted daughters." I call him my brother, because we both have the same Father who is watching over us from above.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pulpit Moments

When a missionary comes home and gives their homecoming talk in church it is full of miracles they were able to witness while serving a mission. Sometimes, it is hard to believe some of the things that you hear, because it just seems so darn impossible; however, I am here to testify that miracles happen and this week I was able to witness some mighty miracles!
We always here about that long hard day of tracting, with no success until the last door. Well this week on Tuesday Sister McFarland and I only had one appointment on Tuesday and so the rest of our time was spent knocking on people's doors, trying not to look like two creepy, but cute, strangers sitting on someones doorstep trying to share a message of Jesus Christ in the Bible Belt where everyone already knows Jesus Christ.
It was hot, it was humid, and I was sweating. Doors were closed on us. One person yelled through her door window that she was not interested. Another ran inside and when we rang the doorbell no one answered. There were a few who allowed us to pray with them, but none were interested in the message we had to share. Then, we decided to eat a late lunch at Zaxby's (thanks Dad!) and as we ordered the cashier says, "You know my best friend from high school is a Mormon." Ahhh, how our Spirits pricked and we engaged in a conversation with this guy named Ray. We set up a time when we could meet and answer the questions he had. I am excited to meet with Ray later this week.
After our encounter with Ray, our energy was re boosted and we went to tract some more...with the same results. Then just before we were had to turn in to go to our appointment we decided to try one last neighborhood. Feeling slightly defeated, and frustrated because at the moment we were no where near meeting the goal of new investigators we had made. Nevertheless, we knocked on this one house's door to begin our tracting. A short blond lady opened the door, warmly she invited us into her home to pray for her. We prayed, her husband came down and we talked. Then we made a return appointment with Cheryll and Phil, and we accomplished our goal in that last neighborhood. What a miracle!
Wednesday, well it was rough, but Thursday was another pulpit moment. Our investigator, Kieth, has been smoking for 40 years and been drinking coffee even longer. Last time we saw him he was on the Nicotine Patch trying to quit smoking. That was great, but we knew he needed to be off the patch if he is going to be baptized. Sister McFarlane and I had been fervently praying that Kieth would be able to quit smoking without the patch once we committed him to live the Word of Wisdom. Thursday we pulled into his driveway, after being scolded by our member for not having taught the WOW yet (she was converted in the old flip chart days).
We begin talking with Kieth to find out his Nicotine Patches had been expired the whole time he was wearing them, but he still hadn't had a cigarette in 11 days! Then Kieth goes on to tell us that he's quit drinking coffee as well. We asked him why he had quit all these things without us asking him to, in which he replied, "Well I researched it on if I really wanna give this LDS thing a try, I figured I would do it 100% with no coffee or smoking." It was hard not to let my jaw drop and hit the floor. What an answer to prayers. The Lord is not going to wait on us slow pokes to further his work. Kieth is on tract to be baptized in early October. He still has to find out for himself if this is the church for him, but things are really looking good.
I know that this gospel is true. I have received my own personal testimony of the Book of Mormon and all the commandment. As I am watching the people we teach progress and gain their own testimonies, my testimony is growing as well. Some would say that after smoking for 40 years there would be no way to stop, but I know that our loving Heavenly Father gives no commandment, "lest he shall prepare a way" as it says in 1 Nephi 3:7. I have now memorized this scripture in English and Chinese, so that I can recite it to anyone I may teach, because it is true. God loves His children, so he leads and guides us with commandments that are we can do. I love you all and would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

When One Door Closes, Another One Closes, So Knock Once More

This week has been a week of much learning as my beginner's luck has run out.
It seems like every appointment we made was cancelled, and then our backups cancelled and sometimes our backup's backup cancelled. However, this was a week of many miracles.
My first lesson occurred on Tuesday when our appointment cancelled so we decided to go see our "golden" investigator. We knock on the door and he opens it up with tears in his eyes and tells us he doesn't feel like he will be able to pursue our church anymore. I was devastated. My heart was tearing up into a million pieces as he explained he just didn't feel like he was wanting to continue on investigating the church. This guy has so much faith, why was he trying to drop us?
My companion and I told asked him a lot of questions about why he was feeling this way, and we were able to get to the nitty gritty. It wasn't because he didn't believe what we were teaching. It wasn't because the church wasn't true. It was because he was scared of the battle ahead. The possibility of him being the only one in his family wanting to join the church right now. We left saying we would come back. I know we needed to see this guy and that is why our first appointment fell through. One door was closed and Heavenly Father just opened up another one for us.
Wednesday everything that could go wrong went wrong. All appointments were cancelled and we were left with the Area Book and a lot of prayer to lead us what to do next. We tracted for a little bit and had no success. We finally pulled out the area book and prayed to find someone in past investigators that would now be ready to receive the gospel. We were led to two names. One was a very inactive girl who's husband had taken lessons from missionaries before. We drove over to their neighborhood and just as we were about to walk up the steps, the wife came outside. She didn't seem surprised to see us, but she was headed out and her husband wasn't home. She set up a return appointment with us and then told us that eight months ago they had a baby and now they both felt it was time to go back to church. What a blessing it has been.
Lastly, our goal this week was to find six new investigators. By Sunday we had five and only one appointment left with a part member family where the wife wasn't a member. She had seen missionaries before and not been interested. So, we prayed for the Lord's help and went over. She was very happy to see us and as we started talking we discovered she doesn't really understand the church too well, even though she has been married to a member for 10 years. However, at the end of our lesson, she agreed to let us come back the following Sunday to teach her. In the knick of time, Heavenly Father helped us achieve our goal of getting six new investigators this week.
This week I learned: No matter how many doors close, there is always going to be one door the Lord will open for us to walk through.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hey Y'all

First thing is first, I am in an area new to me with people I am unfamiliar with and I need to support of family and friends, so please write me at my new address:
1175 Old Harris Rd.
Apt# 818
Dallas, GA 30157
Secondly, the work here in Gerogia is so exciting! I have already witnessed so many miracles and am working hard. My very first night was spent without a companion--which was weird--and then the next day I recieved my new companion, Sister McFarlane. She is 21, went to BYU-I, and is from Orange California. My very first night with her was not spent in our apartment because she locked the keys in our 2013 Chevy Cruise. If anyone is looking to buy a car that is impossible for a theif to get into, this is the car. Three cops all tried, and failed, to get into the car. Not even a slim-jim, worked. So, we spent the night at a member's house who didn't have any kids, and then the next morning, we had a lock-smith come and let us into our car. What an adventurous and sleepless way to begin my time in Georgia.
An exciting story: The very first day we went tracting for real, knocking on door after door, we prayed that we would be able to find a family to teach. The very first door I knock on a Dad opens the door with two kids wrapped around his legs. He invited us in and his wife came to meet us, and she was pregnant. Meet Bo and Anna. They aren't currently active in a paticular church, but they are willing to let us come over and teach them. We taught them a quick lesson right then and there and then set up a return appointment for this week. We prayed with them and left. Then as we circling about the neighborhood, Anna came out and gave us come water bottles. It was a blessing because it is so very hot here, but also a confirmation that they didn't think we were completely weird!
That very same day, as we were leaving the neighborhood, we found a golden investigator. His name is Lee and he has been taught by missionaries before, but they were slackers and played video games with him and socialized. However, he loved them and was happy to see that "Jesus sent girls out to teach the word." He is very learned in the Bible, but in a way that has caused him to question why people think ministers can be paid, why aren't people preparing for the end of the world, and why isn't there more than just the Bible. He is asking all the right questions, sometimes too many at one time, but wonderful questions. We taught him Sunday night with a couple from our ward and things went fantastic. He has committed to be baptized this month! He reads all our assignments and more! The only obstacle is that he has so many deep questions and we need to establish a foundation before we introduce him to deeper doctrine. He's awesome though and hopefully we can get his family on board as well.
My last story is regaurding a Chinese restuarant and our Ward Mission Leader Brother Drew. He wanted me to have an opportunity to speak my language, so he took my companion and I to lunch at a Chinese place. I was able to talk to our waiter and leave him a pamphlet that was in Characters. It was awesome. I can't wait to get to Australia. Please pray that I get there quickly.
This gospel is amazing and I love it!

Wenhede (Tender)

This has been a bitter-sweet week of goodbyes and accepting new realities.

Wednesday Sister Goldrup and I were selected to demonstrate teaching to all the new missionaries. It was weird to think that two months ago I was the new missionary and others were showing me how to teach. Of course since we were teaching a big group, we taught in English. I was so nervous! I kept thinking of all the things I wanted to say, except the words were all in Chinese. Then it hit me, Natali! You have are going to be teaching in English in just one week. Wow, that was something else to hit me over the head. It also made me realize that I will have to figure out a way to put in 100% effort teaching the word in English, but also 100% effort in keeping up my Chinese. I talked to some teachers and they said it is manageable, but requires a lot of diligence. I guess Diligence is the Christlike Attribute I will be working on these next couple of weeks. Sister Goldrup and I are going to email each other every week with new goals that we want to do with Chinese, that way we will be accountable to someone other than Heavenly Father.

Thursday was In-field Orientation and it was another eye-opener. We learned about the hardest parts of missionary work and then best parts of it. We also learned the importance of including members in our search for investigators. My favorite part was that we learned the only way to have a successful mission is to be obedient with a passion. Passion in our work is essential because we won't feel tired if we truly love what we are doing. Passion will help us love those around us and will help us connect with them in a special way that will help them come unto Christ.

Friday I received my temporary reassignment to Atlanta Georgia. Awesome.

Saturday was such a tender day for me. My emotions spilled out quite a lot. I had to say goodbye to Tang Laoshi (Brother Townsend) and it was harder than saying goodbye to my family (sorry y'all). But I don't know if I will ever see this man again who has done so much to help me learn Chinese and has provided multiple Spiritual settings in which my understanding and testimony of this gospel have grown. Luckily I have pictures and his e-mail, so there is a chance we will see each other again, or at least stay in contact. It is during these times of good-byes that I remember what my Mom has said multiple times, "Isn't a blessing to have loved and been loved so much it hurts?" I can testify that it is indeed a blessing to love. 
Inline image 1
(Left to Right: Sister Goldrup, me, and Tang Laoshi!)
Inline image 2
(We love Zhi Hui yu! aka Word of Wisdom)

Saturday night was also an emotional night. We had our final District meeting with President and Sister Dunn and we did an exercise that I believe will impact the rest of my mission and hopefully the rest of my life. With our companions we did a role play of the time when Jesus asked Peter three times, "Do you love me?" As Sister Goldrup asked me that three times, I felt that I could honestly reply to both her and my Savior, "I do love you." By the time I had asked her that same question three times we were both in tears and my feelings were, at that very moment, wenhede (tender). I could see, more clearly than ever before in my life, that all the Savior really wanted from me was to love those I come in contact with. Love my companion now, and my future companions in the field. Love my family. Love my investigators. And show this love by inviting them to come unto Christ so that they can feel the great capacity of His love for all of us here on Earth, and for those from the past and for those who are getting ready to come down. Yes it was a tender moment for my companion and I, one which I will always remember.

I just want everyone to know that the rumors you hear about the MTC being terrible are not true. I LOVE this place. I have had some of the worst days of my life here, but I have learned so much from those trials. I have loved learning from my teachers and my peers. I have loved studying the scriptures and praying all the time. Saturday I finished reading the Book of Mormon, cover to cover, which I started my first day in the MTC. I have started reading it again. I encourage all to read it, and to love it. It is the keystone of my happiness in my life here on Earth. Love you all and feel free to email me!