Tuesday, December 23, 2014

December 22, 2914 -- Merrrrryyy Christmas!!

Dear Family!

This week has been fabulous. 

Tuesday we got to go to our Zone Conference, and I really liked the trainings.  I learned a lot and was very inspired and motivated!  We talked a lot about taking responsibility and personal goal setting, and also exercising more faith in those we teach, and therefore leaving more commitments.  It was great!  Then we had a lot of fun with skits, dodgeball, and watching Frozen.  I was like a little girl the whole time, I absolutely LOVED it!!!  

That night Sister Parkinson came up here with me for an exchange - she is a great friend.  We had a great time at the ward party and saw Santa Claus.  We taught a lot of really great lessons together and talked all night about life and missions and everything!  I'm sad to see her leave the TKM.  I missed Hermana Loper on the first exchange so we were both happy to get back together. 

We had dinner that night with some members who'd asked me earlier what my favorite thing is that my mom makes in passing, and I'd said Pot Roast.  They totally made us amazing pot roast!  I owe the future missionaries in my life big time after the way we've been treated by the members!!

We also had a meal with a kind older professor and another family in the ward, and were able to have a great Christmas message.  On Saturday we had a really good busy day.  We taught Seth and Alissa, the Plan of Salvation, and committed them to come to church.  

So we've been working with Paige Cloud.  She's been learning about the Church because of curiosity, just to be informed, since June.  She has two little boys that are crazy!  But she works with a member of our ward at the local community college, and is fascinated with how he came to have his testimony.  So we worked it out to have a dinner and lesson in their home with her on Saturday.
We showed up and waited, and waited, and Paige and the boys hadn't come!  Finally she called saying she'd thought it was an hour later, but was on her way.  So she finally showed up!  We had a great meal, and taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ and committed her to come to church Sunday.  She said, "It's the boys you'll have to convince!"  So we said, you know what? We'll take care of that!  Sunday morning we woke up, got ready and studied a little, then went to Paige's.  We picked out clothes for the boys, got their cereal ready while Paige got ready.  She also cares for the 2 year old daughter of a friend, so we got her all dressed too and got everyone buckled into the car and then they followed us to church.  Only 12 minutes late!  

Seth and Alissa came too!!!

It was a GREAT meeting.  There were beautiful testimonies and I played a musical number and there were other great musical numbers.  

The elders had an investigator and their daughter come, too, so we had four first-time investigators in Gospel Principles, plus a couple of clingy children.  Something really struck me while I was in there, how prepared the people of the South are.  I never realized before my mission, how much of what we believe is contained in the Holy Bible.  The teacher started a sentence, and Seth and Alissa and Paige and the Elder's investigator, Angela, ALL could finish it for her - all of whom have taken just a couple missionary lessons.  These people KNOW their Bible and that makes them so much more ready for the gospel, if they can just receive the message of the Restoration!  

After church we helped Paige clean up her house a little, and I was doing her dishes when the sink started leaking like crazy! I thought of a kind member and he drove from 30 minutes away, and had the part in his car to fix it.  

So I am so blessed to be serving here and with these amazing members and investigators and missionaries. 


Love Mads

December 15, 2014 -- The Week Before Christmas!

Cute puppy!

Hi family!

Okay, so Mom asked what Middlesboro is like, what are the people like.  So I just want to give a couple of snapshots for examples.  

1. The middle-aged man next to me in the library is watching The Electric Company show from the 70s and jamming out to it! Reliving his childhood I suppose.  The library is full of men doing this.  

2.  In McDonalds there were a couple of distinct groups of people around us.  One was a Pentecostal family - (you can tell they are Pentecostal / Holiness, cause the women have long hair and always wear denim skirts).  I have a lot of respect for many of them because these people are very family-oriented, devoted and faithful.  Then there are two groups of locals - the men (former miners) sit and drink coffee and talk about who knows what.  Then there is a group of classy, rich women who are on their lunch break.   So there is quite a variety of people from all walks of life here, and I am learning to love it.

By the way, the local crazy man came up to us and told us that when he talked to the missionaries that they led him to a UFO where he found 2 aliens, and he's going back to the UFO and wanted us to come meet his alien friends!  As he told us the local men all were laughing at our reactions to him.  Haha!

So we've had a good, busy week. On Tuesday we went to Johnson City and met and heard from Elder and Sister Renlund.  They had the Spirit very strongly with them, and gave us some beautiful advice.  It was really cool when President Griffin stood up to give a training and related to us how he had prepared almost the exact same training Elder Renlund had just shared, and he said, "Elders and Sisters, when the Lord wants to give you a message, He'll make sure it is sent to you, no matter who the messenger is."  So I learned a lot about teaching and testifying, and becoming who the Lord wants me to be on my mission.  Oh, and they're Titans, too--they know you, Mom!

The family from Honduras that we met last week, the Woodrings, had us over for dinner this week.  We got to go and experience their beautiful house and eat frijoles and fritas and other delicious Honduran food.  When we sat to bless the food, they held hands and broke into a beautiful Spanish song to bless the food.  The wife and her parents, who are Honduran, are Mennonites, and the dad who is American but has perfect Spanish, is Christian.  They met as missionaries and have traveled the world doing missionary work.  So we talked about missionary work and practiced Spanish. It was so fun to see other cultures in the midst of a very American little area!  

We got to teach Shanda, our returning member, again this week, she is coming so strong and has come to church for 3 weeks!  We committed her this week to work to enter the temple a year from now and she is very excited.  The ward is fellowshipping her, so that's great. She has a friend that she wants us to teach, so we're super excited.

Okay, now for the miracle of the week.  It was 8:40 pm after a lesson one night but we decided to visit one more investigator on the other side of town.  We went over and saw a young couple who was there to babysit.  He saw us and told us he's been looking for us!  He's been curious about the Book of Mormon.  Their names are Seth and Alissa, they're 20 and newlywed.  We taught the Restoration and invited them to church, and they almost came but their alarm didn't go off, but I know they'll come soon.  Pray for Seth and Alissa!

Thanks for all you do. 

Love you, Mads

Monday, December 8, 2014

December 8, 2014 -- With Hermana Loper in Middlesboro

Ward float in the Middlesboro parade
Hello familia!! 

I had a great last couple of days with Sister Behunin.  Kinda crazy she's gone now, I'll miss her.  She suprised me the last 24 hours by leaving little notes around the house telling me what she liked about me then she gave me a long hug and hung on at transfers.  So she's in Rockwood TN now I think she'll do fine.

Well my nuevacita is Hermana Loper!  From Coos Bay Oregon - she is a very cute ginger, she likes dancing, and just got out of the CCM in Mexico which she really loved.  So that's awesome.  Our first week together has been great.  I was a little nervous how she'd feel about the messy and smoke-filled investigators houses, but she's a champ!  She sees the vision for the work and has a strong desire to work hard and see success, and she's fun too.  So we're having fun together.  

We taught a lesson to Paige Cloud, a woman who's been investigating for a while now, and helped her with what seems to be many trials in her life right now. She promised to come to church on Sunday and we even went to her house to remind her before but didn't show, so we just keep praying for her!  We also taught Chris who is progressing really well.  He called and told us that he really feels the Book of Mormon is true.  So we're going to commit him for baptism this week hopefully and make sure he's solid.  

We've met some great new investigators this week as well.  He is the Gift is our new big push and I think it's been really successful, so I'm excited about it!

On Saturday we went to volunteer for the Middlesboro Parade.  The guy in charge, Isaac, loves us missionaries and is so grateful for our help.  It was really fun, our ward did a float that was so darling - complete with a primary nativity scene, and a little couple standing in front of the temple :).  It was rainy and cold and dark all morning, and the poor kids were shivering in their cute little costumes, however, right when the float arrived to the presentation spot, the sun broke through the clouds for a short amount of time.  The children stood and sung "He sent His Son".  It was beautiful and the Spirit was very strong in the streets of Middlesboro! 

That night, the head of the volunteers insisted that we assist the community sing-along of the Messiah.  I really loved it because I love that type of thing, my companion was a little less in love with that idea, but anyway, after we heard a family speaking in spanish.  We went up to them and they were so happy to hear us speak Spanish!  We talked for a bit and then they invited us right over to their house.  Oh and we also met a cute little lady that works at the Mexican restaurant here that we're teaching now!  So the Lord is placing little miracles in our path!

Isn't hermana Loper cute!?  Elsa and Ana :) Oh by the way I get to see Frozen in a week! We're watching it at our Christmas zone conference!! Can't wait!!

Last night the Christmas devotional was very beautiful and brought the spirit, and then we're excited to hear tomorrow from Elder Renlund of the Seventy.  (Not as excited to wake up at zero-dark-thirty to drive there!) 

Hermana Collier

December 1, 2014 -- Changes in the Air

Hello family! 

Well Sister Behunin and I had another good week again.  We are great friends and I really love her.  Middlesboro is still Middlesboro, we met some creepy people but it's all good!  
On P-day we found the murals on the side of the business of a member.  He's one of the first members in the area, and when he made his business he decided to do these big book of mormon murals on the side!  I thought they were pretty legit!  The elders were less impressed...

Thanksgiving we participated in a ward tradition: pie for breakfast.  that was the beginning. Then we went to another members home, had the classic feast, and more pie, and then another member called us and made us come visit with them and sent us home with more food!  My cup runneth over!  We also did a little bit of proselyting that day, just dropping by and taking cookies to people and wishing people a Happy Thanksgiving.  It was great, they were a lot more receptive than I expected!

Friday we spent most of the day driving up to Whitley City KY where we had district meeting, for the last one of Sister Hansen.  She returns home this Wednesday and will be missed!

 We had a great meeting.  We learned about the "He is the Gift" Initiative.  This is a big deal!! We as missionaries are making it a big part of proselyting so the Brethren can measure the success of it.  I have seen a difference, people love the message of focusing on Jesus Christ around Christmas time.  So it's exciting and it shows us that His work is truly Hastening! The only thing that'll leave us behind is ourselves.  Share the gift, y'all!

We got the chance to meet and begin working with Shanda this week.  She is a returning member.  She is amazing!  She joined when she was 19, and became a YW leader, then got with the wrong guy and fell away.  Years later, she has a little 2 year old, Ellie, and realized a month or two ago that her life isnt the way she wants it to be.  Members of the church reached out to her, and now we have the blessing of knowing her.  We got to go over and help clean, and then we shared a lesson about the Atonement.  She understood it immediately, but is having a hard time forgiving herself.  Last night Bishop Hinckley had us over to dinner and we taught the Restoration.  She was crying as we bore our testimonies, a lot of regret was filling her, but I know that she'll make it through just fine.  I am excited to see Shanda return to full activity and, most importantly, raise her daughter in the gospel!

Family is so important.  That's really what the gospel is all about!  It's also a way I was able to really understand Sister Behunin--the more I learned about her family the more I understood about her and it all made sense.  I have seen on my mission how raising your family based around the teachings of Jesus Christ is the most important thing you can do!So Saturday the transfer call came, and I was suprised to be called as a trainer again! I am excited to receive a brand new missionary but I am sad Sister Behunin is leaving.  We came to truly love each other.  I won't forget the things I learned this transfer.  I know we'll be friends forever.  But I definetly trust the Lord needs her somewhere else and that my next companion will teach me invaluable things as well.

I am very excited yet nervous to train again, I would greatly appreciate your prayers!  
Love you all!
Hermana Collier

p.s. I missed you all on Thanksgiving and thought of camp Tracy on friday.  But not too bad.  :)

November 24, 2014 -- Continued Learning

With Jim doing our "serious faces"
Dear Familia!  

This week was really good.  Things really felt better with my companion.  I've had the great chance to spend a lot of time studying this last General Conference, which has been SO amazing! I am so grateful for these inspired talks.  I have learned a lot.

So this week we've had some good success.   We got a few new investigators from a bible referral - people who ask for a bible, and we brought it by and a book of mormon as well.  It is so great to see people read the book of mormon and see the light go off in their minds and begin to really love it.  There is so much power in that book!  

Every p-day in Cumberland Gap, our friend and eter-nigator Jim feeds the missionaries (He loves mormons, missionaries, the church, but doesnt believe he needs to get baptized).  We just have a good time together.  Anyway, somehow we got on the subject last time, and I said, "Is it true that you believe in Jesus Christ Jim?"  And he went on to explain that he does, but he thinks he was just a good guy basically, not the only Begotten Son.  I don't remember how, but it ended up that Sister Behunin, who is often quiet, began to share her experience how she'd come to the knowledge of her testimony.  She tearfully explained about an experience she had with her family, and was very emotional.  You could hear a pin drop after, and Jim was clearly affected.  The Elders have tried to teach him and they said that every time they do, he just retorts with some scientific answer - but he had nothing to say after Sister Behunin powerful shared her witness of Jesus Christ.  It was so cool!

Chris, our catholic friend, was one of the highlights of the week.  We taught him with a sister in the ward who converted from Catholicism.  He came with a list of questions and doubts - we were very nervous - but they ended up just being questions about what to expect if he were to go to church, and some questions about the priesthood and the sacrament.  We were able to answer all of them and satisfy him.  Then we taught the Plan of Salvation - he was kind of blown away!  As we talked about the Spirit world, he said, "I've always believed our spirits would live on, but no one agreed with me."  He went on to say that he felt like he was very led to the message.  He called on Saturday wanting a ride to church, but turns out his aunt passed away Sunday morning so he didn't make it!  He is slowly learning and I think he'll come around fast.

I have really re-committed to the work this week and feel very gun-hoe about going forward and working our hardest.  I love getting lost in the Work of Salvation, although it's one that you can't always see immediately fruits of!

We also went to randomly visit an investigator this weekend unscheduled, and she had friends over - one of whom is a less-active that we've been trying to get in touch with forever!  So that was great. We had a miracle today too!  At Wal-Mart I started talking to a lady, and then a man approached us after and he asked if we're mormons.  Turns out he was baptized as a young boy and would like to return to church, and he wants us to meet his girlfriend too.  So hopefully we can begin teaching them.

So this week went smoothly.  It's just a constant effort though, got to keep on my game.  

Love, Sister Collier
Cumberland Gap District.  Biggest in the mission!  E: Ruth, Bradshaw, Searle, Edman, Bright, Farnsworth, E& S Funk. Sisters Behunin, me, Rindlisbacher, Hale, Hansen, and Linford.  Love them!

November 17, 2014 -- Weaknesses into Strengths

Before the exchange service project in Middlesboro with some elementary kids.  SO COLD!
Dear Family,

This week has been hard, but I'm realizing it has been kind of refreshing.  Like putting rubbing alcohol on a cut.  I am really experiencing the power of the Atonement and seeing God's hand here.  It has brought out many of my weaknesses. Sister Behunin and I get along good personality-wise.  However, I guess the differences come in our opinions about the work.  So she apparently has been discouraged with the way we work. However, I never knew that she was struggling with these things!  

 We had one awesome experience - we were invited to a catholic mass service by an investigator, trying to do a church-swap.  However we got there and he was a no-show!  Anyway, after the service, all the members of the congregation turned to us missionaries and welcomed us, as we introduced ourselves.  Afterward, a guy named Chris approached us, and asked if he could have a Book of Mormon.  We gave him one, and he said he's a free mason and he's been interested in the LDS religion for a while.  Sister Behunin got to teach him on exchanges and they set a baptismal date for January!  So pray for Chris!! :)

Anyway, then the rest of the week went as usual, but I could tell that Sister Behunin was really struggling.  I asked her over and over what it was and she kept saying that everything was fine.  Friday night I went down to exchange in Oak Ridge.  I was with Sister Parkinson, and two other sisters came up here to be with Sister Behunin.  I love Sister Parkinson and we had a blast together.  Anyway, come Saturday, I was pretty suprised when they called saying that she was having a break-down- about me.  When I found out, I was so emotional, because I felt a bit like a failure.  We prepared to talk together that night.  It was hard to have this at the front of my mind - wondering what my companion was struggling with - as I went throughout my day in Oak Ridge.  But as I went about praying and teaching people about the Book of Mormon and seeing their lives change, I also felt the love of Heavenly Father and my Savior sustaining me through the day.  There was this moment when we prayed in the car before a lesson, and I don't think I've ever felt so trusting in my Father in Heaven or so much power and support from Him.   

So we went up and had a talk.  I told her how I felt- that I really love her and am willing to do whatever to work things out, then I asked her what her concerns are.  She told me some things, but I felt like that wasn't all.  Finally she broke down and said, "It's just been really hard to see all these baptismal dates drop."  

I didn't realize how new of a missionary she is-her faith is so good!  I didn't realize how much faith she had in each of these people.  I didn't realize a lot of things, and I didn't know how deeply she felt about these things.  

I have honestly never felt so exposed and really like I have so much to improve.  I know we're companions for a reason.  I pray that I can be of some kind of help to her in some way.
It's painful at times, but I know that we aren't supposed to hide our weaknesses.  In Ether 12:27 he says that he GIVES unto us our weaknesses that we may be humble.  He's GIVEN them to me, I shouldn't feel like I need to hide them.  So this brings a new level of honesty and integrity to our relationship and to the work here.  

The Savior is really there to help us learn and grow and progress.  I know that is true.  I challenge you all to acknowledge your weaknesses and put your faith in God to help you overcome them and see the change in your life.  

There is no comfort in your growth zone and there is no growth in your comfort zone!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014 -- FIrst Week of November

Hey family!

Well not too much to report on this week from Middlesboro. We've had some good experiences, and some not-so good. We had a good lesson with a former investigator named Frances.  We talked about temples, and showed her pictures, and she says she really wants to go into one someday.  I miss the temple a lot!!  

To be honest, there were a lot of hard parts of the week - we dropped a lot of investigators.  One or two dropped us, but the rest we've dropped because of not progressing.  I know that shouldn't be a sad thing because it just means God's preparing more people out there, but it's hard to start from Square 1 sometimes.  

But I do want to share a sweet experience.  Several weeks ago we drove by a house with a girl walking her dogs outside.  I knew we needed to go talk to her, so I parked the car around the corner, but when we arrived, she wasn't there.  Fast forward to this week, the Elders knocked on a door in their valley (Harrogate), and taught a bit to a girl named Ashley, and she said she'd be interested in learning more, but she lives in Middlesboro and just cleans a man's house in Harrogate.  So we received this referral and knocked on her door and talked to Ashley.  She seemed open and receptive and scheduled for us to come back.  It wasn't until walking away that I realized it was the same girl I'd wanted to talk to weeks ago.  I didn't tell her about the earlier experience but I will!  

Saturday we found the local rest home and sang and played music to the patrons.  I love doing this as service hours, it gives me the most warm feeling and positive outlook on life!

We also had our investigator Keller come to church for the last time here on Sunday - he's heading back home to Chattanooga.  He is very innocent and funny and accepting.  You know when you have an investigator sit through a gospel principles class that ends up veering off to gay marriage and other crazy things, and is still positive after that, they're golden!  :)  After he asked some of the brothers from the ward to give him a blessing, and it was such a sweet experience where the Spirit was really strong!  

We got fed every day for the last week and a half.  That has hardly ever happened on my mission, so it's pretty fun. In fact last night we got to this member's home and they said, "Well, we decided to have an early thanksgiving dinner!"  So we had it all, from turkey and stuffing to pie.  Holy cow!

Hermana Collier

Monday, November 3, 2014

November 3, 2014 -- Happy to be here

Hello Familia!!

Well this week has been great.  I really love this area.  Last p-day we went up and enjoyed the leaves from the Pinnacle where you can stand in Cumb Gap National park and see Virginia Kentucky and Tennessee all from one point.  It was SO gorgeous!  It's super fun to be serving with Elder Bradshaw from Holladay.  He went home for 5 months cause of a broken leg and just recently returned.  We took a picture to honor our alma-mater. 
Go titans :)

We also met a Cherokee man who plays the flute! It was cool.  

Anywho, the work has been going well here.  We have had some cool experiences.  The other day we went to contact a referral, and they didn't live there (turns out I'd put it into my GPS wrong-but it wasnt a coincidence!) At the door was a lady named Judy, and we talked to her for a minute and she explained that she wasn't really looking around at other churches at this time.  But then she started talking about her family-she has a young teenage daughter who's making really bad choices.  We talked with her about how God loves us and He gives us these trials to learn and grow from.  She told us that she's never explained that much detail to anyone cause she doesn't feel comfortable, but she feels comfortable with us  I told her that it wasn't us that made her feel like that, that it's the Holy Ghost - and she can have that feeling more if she'll read and pray.  She said that she's busy but she'll try.  Even if we never see Judy again I'm just glad we had that experience and impacted her life for the better a little bit. 

Things with my companion are going better, I believe.  I really like her to be honest.  She is a good missionary, loving, funny and easy-going.  I tell her that all the time.  Her love for me, though, on the other hand, is not as strong, I believe.  I have a lot to learn from her about patience, so that is what I am working on.  More patience especially with investigators.  We have this one named Shirley who's mentally challenged.  You have to meet her to understand, cause she acts like she believes everything and understands it, then she'll thrown in a comment like "Ya, the Book of Mormon was copied from the Bible." I, being my impatient self, just want to drop her.  But Sister Behunin teaches her slowly, sweetly and with no problems.  I need to learn how to be that patient!

This week we got to have pumpkin-carving fun, and watched Legacy with some members because we had to be indoors after 4.  We had so much fun!  

 There's a sister here from Idaho named Rachel White and she is like my favorite, she made us breakfast this morning, and then we went to a Relief Society exercise class.  Cumberland Gap is the life.  I am very humbled and grateful for all the member love and support.

On the other hand, Middlesboro is still Middlesboro - the other day while running in the morning a bearded man hollered out his car window to me, "I love you!" and I jumped out of my britches! and it startled me so bad!!  My companion was laughing pretty hard at me.  
We met two hispanics, hope we can contact them again.  I feel a bit like a stalker cause I talk to everyone I see that even kind of LOOKS hispanic.  One time, at a stoplight, I rolled down the window and talked to the guy next to me and then I asked him if he knows spanish and he was like way offended, he said, "Uh, no, I'm from Chicago and I am not even Hispanic."  It was a good thing the light turned green right after, I drove right off!
So I am still learning how to listen, love, lift, and be patient.  Pray for me.

Hermana Collier

Sunday, November 2, 2014

October 27, 2014 -- From Middlesboro Kentucky

Dear Familia,

Leaving Sevierville was hard and sad as I mentioned last week.  The last couple of days were spent saying goodbye and extensive cleaning of the good ol' house. If you are one to be bored with details then I wouldn't suggest reading this!

At transfer meeting one of the departing Sisters, Sister Peck -- who I replaced -- came up to me, hands me the keys, and says, "Your beds have bedbugs, but that's ok!"  Then I was "cast out of my garden of eden" and left all the missionaries and members that I love and know so well and got into the car of the members that took us, and we drove all the way up along the Cumberland mountain range, passed our church building (which is really nice), drove through the Cumberland gap tunnel (which was really cool the first time, it felt like Disneyland!), and finally arrived in Middlesboro Kentucky.  

Mi companera is Sister Behunin.  She is 21, from Bountiful, has never moved away from home before her mission, really loves animals. We have some things that are not in common. She is very quiet, in fact she doesn't enjoy talking to people.  She also does not like walking quickly -- at all.   But she also is very smart, and has a strong testimony.  I'm not going to say that it's all perfect in our companionship -- it'll take some work and patience.  But I am excited to work with her and try to help her get out of her shell a little.  I can also see that I will have to exercise love and patience and grow in those ways.  Please please pray for me to be able to love and be patient!

We live in the heart of this little town.  Our apartment is in the upstairs of some window shops.  It's actually very spacious -- I realized this is the first time I've ever had my own bathroom!  Cool!  And I haven't noticed any bed-bugs yet.  It is so nice to have our own SPACE though, I feel like I can breathe!  OK so walk out of the doors and you see Middlesboro -- old, poverty-stricken, about as hick-town as it gets -- with drugs and crime mixed in.  (There are no hispanics that I have heard of - except some Spanish restaurants that apparently exist so I have plans to go visit!)  Anywho, the people are poor and very humble! We have many to teach.  After my first day of teaching people, I had this moment of awe -- many of these people don't know how to READ!  I don't realize how blessed I am.  It breaks my heart.  But there is plenty of work to do and the field is very white.  We have an investigator named Keller who is 22, and so ready.  He has some issues to work through, but has already started reading the Book of Mormon and he loves church.  

That leads me to another upside, the ward! We go to the Cumberland Gap ward, about 10 minutes away from us down the road in Cumberland Gap, TN.  It is a wonderful ward.  The church here began with 2 families, and has grown and grown until the local university, Lincoln Memorial University added a Medical School.  That attracted all the westerners, and thus the Mormons!  So we have an unusually big and strong ward of about 200 people attending each week!  It's probably about 2/3 students and 1/3 locals.  I enjoy it a lot.  The mix of westerners and southerners makes a great diverse ward. They are also willing to help us out.  
"LDS Doom" ride at the ward party.  how we do here!
We had a ward party when I first got here, chili cook-off.  It was super fun!  On Saturday Keller came to see a baptism of a young girl in the ward, (that's where the brother took my pic and sent it to you) and then he came to church on Sunday.

Well I have to go but that's the gist of what I wanted to tell you about Middlesboro.  Basically some of these people are crazy!  And then the members here just make me feel like I'm at home, so it's really an odd mix.

Anywho, I've wasted my time with details.  But my spiritual growth even just in the last couple of days has been great. I have reviewed Pres Eyring's talk from Priesthood and Elder Holland's talks from GC and I have learned a lot about love.  I really am committed to look at the positive side of all these situations and make the best of it! Love you!

Love Hermana Collier

Saturday, October 25, 2014

October 20, 2014 - Adieu County of Sevier

My last time going to church in a theater! 

Hello family,

Wow.  Well this week was good.  

Thursday we had a cool experience.  We were finding, and decided to head down a dark, semi-creepy road where there was a big log house at the end.  Outside sat a lady named Andrea reading her bible.  She talked to us and explained that she's going through trials in her life right now- her son has Celebral palsy, and she is a single mom, and looking for answers.  We told her of the ways the gospel can bless her life.  She told us that she knew we were heaven-sent and we had a purpose there.  So we got her information and hopefully the elders can teach Andrea!

 We've worked with the Elders to move all our people to their teaching pool, and so we had a lesson with Mexican named Jorge that I met a couple weeks ago in a gas-station.  He's kind of a miracle, he is very humble and is accepting the lessons, although he doesnt say much during our lessons.  But we can see this message is affecting his life cause he came to church on Sunday!  It was great!

We also taught and handed over a sweet lady for the last time named Cindy.  She really loved talking to us sisters, and had really good questions, so we hope she'll continue progressing.  I have truly come to love this investigator so it was a little sad, but I'll keep praying that she'll receive her answers through the Holy Ghost.

On Friday we taught Nikki Singletary for the last time, then helped and ate with the Turley family who we love.  Saturday we could tell people the area's closing.  We went through our appointments and they were all good, and then we had dinner with La Familia Figueroa.  I came up to Maryuri, my first Sunday here and asked if we could come practice Spanish with her sometime.   We've gone to their house to eat and practice English/Spanish almost every week since then.  They have such STRONG testimonies - they are 25 and 26, Josue is  a RM, and they speak almost no english yet come to church each Sunday faithfully and raise their little son in righteousness.  This family has changed my life.  Anywho, we ate and talked like we always do on Saturday, then we sat down to share a spiritual thought - I wasnt even thinking about the fact this was our last time.  But as I began to speak, Maryuri immediately burst into tears.  She said she'd never forget me and she was so grateful for me.  We just sat on the couch and held each other for a tender moment.  It affected me deeply.  Here I am, a young, silly 20 year old girl, who has come to this family's house to eat and talk and enjoy of their spirit for 6 months, and yet they are thanking me!?  I was so humbled and amazed at their LOVE.  That is the true love of Christ.  Afterward we dropped by Bonnie Murphy's home and told her, and she as well immediately burst into tears.  I just got into the car after and said, "Hermana, it's so true, this work is not about me, it's about these PEOPLE!"  Which is something I've always known, but sometimes I forget.  It's easy to get caught up in little unimportant things about me and myself, when in reality I should always be centered on others!

Sunday was emotional for me, everyone was very devastated that there won't be sisters in Sevierville anymore.  But mostly, I know that the Lord has a plan for this area, and I mostly just felt the LOVE from the members.  Sevier county is truly a unique and wonderful place.   And it was crazy knowing this is my last time going to church in a theater!  Across from the Titanic.  I can't fathom a normal church building :)  I will really miss our ward mission leader Brother Sheets, and the missionaries here so much!   

We didn't get the chance to hear the transfer call so I dont even know what my OPTIONS are for where I'm going.  At first I was a little upset about this but I have to keep reminding myself that I've always wanted to know what it's like to go to transfer meeting and know I can go ANYWHERE with ANYONE in all of Eastern Tennessee!  So I am kind of excited. That being said, I am also scared.  The blessing I received last week said that I have trials ahead of me and I have felt the Spirit telling me that a lot recently so I am just a mix of emotions.  

Well anywho, I love you all a lot!  

Love Mads

October 14, 2014 - It's Fall, Y'all

This was a very soggy soggy week.
Hello family!!!

Thanks for all the emails and words of encouragement.  Sorry I missed y'all yesterday, we had zone meeting and so today's p-day.  Mother thank you for the hummingbird umbrella it has gone to extremely good use, as Sevier county has had severe thunderstorms almost every day!  (how puny)

But we had a good week--it included a lot of planning and practicing for the musical fireside.  So rewinding like 3 months, when I first got here I planted the idea of doing a musical fireside for the ward, especially because we meet in a theater it would be ideal!  After it got changed and pushed back several times, this last Sunday was the most opportune day.  So we called everyone who had agreed to perform, and made arrangements for the refreshments, and got together a couple numbers between the missionaries and the youth.  The Lord REALLY helped us!

On Friday we got to teach Nikki, she is doing so great, and her husband is so close to agreeing to meet with the missionaries.  She is so solid and is going to get her patriarchal blessing any day now!  We saw Raisa - she is so tough for me, but I have seen a change come in myself as I have taught her.  She has taught me a lot of patience, and for that I am grateful.  We also had a lot of service done this week, from stripping wallpaper to organizing rooms and more.  Saw some HUGE spiders this week, one the size of my hand while tracting. Happy Halloween!  Sister Guevara gave an amazing training on Friday about losing ourselves in the work of the Lord and it taught me so much. I am so humbled at the way she's grown on her mission, her great attitude about it, and her abilities.  She's great!
Anywho, Sunday came along and what a day it was!  Went to early meetings, then after church went to the Murphy's pool where we had Brianna's baptism.  We prayed so hard all morning that the rain would stop in time for the baptism and it did!  For the whole beginning of the service and the baptism, it was fine.  When she came back out afterward, it started pouring down.  All the members at the baptism crowded into a tiny gazebo and we sang and prayed together, and we were all smiling and laughing and I felt such a strong bond of unity!
​Sister Whitehead took us out to eat! When we told
Ward council this they were going crazy!!
Not long after that, we headed up to the theater-church for the Musical Fireside - little did we know that the traffic would be horrible!  It usually takes us 30 minutes to get there, it took us about an hour.  When I walked into the theater church, sitting right there to my suprise was our 90-year-old investigator Lisbeth! Her daughter brought her.  It made my night to have her there!

Anyway, it was very very stressful, because everyone who was performing was supposed to be there early but all were stuck in traffic.  Everyone who was performing came eventually though, and then some people came to watch too.  The turn-out from the ward was less than we had hoped, but once it began, everything went very smoothly!  I was SO overjoyed and grateful!  I just know that even though it was a last-minute effort, Heavenly Father really cared to support me in this desire and everyone who came really enjoyed it.  Brother Sheets performed some beautiful recitations, the Bishop sang, I did a violin duet with another sister, the missionaries sang, the Young women, and some other members.  We ended with a powerful Mormon message, "The Hope of God's Light".  Many were in tears by the end, including me a bit.  So I was happy with our Pigeon Forge musical fireside.

Yesterday Bishop and Sister Cole had us over for dinner and fed us 1-lb burgers.  INSANE!  They are so fun and I love them and will miss them! 

I love Bishop Cole and his wife!
I wasn't feeling to great yesterday and so I got a priesthood blessing last night, and it was so very needed.  Do you think Heavenly Father can make people get sick just cause He needs to tell them something in a blessing? Possibly!  Even though it spoke about trials I'll face in my future, it was just so powerful to know that God cares for me enough to tell me about them, I suppose.  I don't know if you know what I mean, but point is, I am grateful for the priesthood!

I love you all.  Have a great week!
Love Mads :)

​I love cows!

Monday, October 6, 2014

October 6, 2014 -- Celeste's baptism, General Conference, etc.

At Laurel Falls on P-day
Dear familia!

Well this week was eventful.  On monday we hiked a place in the smokies called Laurel Falls, and had lots of fun!  Not only was it beautiful, but it is so fun to talk to the tourists and people from all over the US who are visiting.  October is the peak tourist season here because of the phenomenon called "The colors".  AKA looking at the fall leaves.

 Then we got a media referral that we contacted on Tuesday.  His name is Austin, and he's been looking for a church to go to.  He spent the last year at school, and he had an LDS friend from Cincinnati, and she asked if he'd be willing to learn more, and he said yes.  When we went to go contact him, we were all out of Book of Mormons, but I finally found one under my seat, before we knocked on his door.  And the Book of Mormon is just what he'd requested, so it worked out perfectly!  We taught him the Restoration and then a lesson on the Holy Ghost with a sweet member of our ward, and he is already excited about it.  We asked if his family may be interested in learning more and he said yes, so hopefully we get to teach the rest of his family next time.  He almost came to General conference too, but ended up cancelling, but it will be great to continue to teach him!

Wednesday was Celeste's baptism!  So Brianna, the elder's investigator, was supposed to be baptized too.  At the last minute she called us telling us that her baby was sick and they had to take him to the ER, and she wouldn't make it.  We had to call the elders and tell them this, and so they were held back, and they had the music for the baptism.  Once everyone got there it was all so crazy and the missionaries were all running around setting things up - the music we'd chosen wasn't working out. Finally, the service started, and we felt the Spirit come in.  The sun was setting  around the pool and pretty backyard, and Celeste looked so happy in her white dress.  We all bowed our heads and said a special prayer for Brianna and her baby, then the service for Celeste continued.  We'd planned to sing Celeste's favorite song, "Come unto Christ", but the music hadn't worked out. But right before Celeste came out, we'd figured out a way to do it.  God is a sound technician sometimes! We went up with some of the Young Women, sang the song, and there was SUCH a strong spirit.  It was amazing.  I'll never forget how calm it felt.  Afterwards, Bonnie, her mom, who was baptized a year ago, said "I'm so happy that Celeste made the decision to be baptized, because now we can be sealed, and that is what it's all about - living together forever."   It was one of those slices of heaven.

Celeste's baptism

General Conference this weekend could not have been better right?  I thought it was amazing how many of them talked about prophets, and personal revelation, and my favorite scripture, Hel 5:12 was quoted like 4 times! I was amazed.  It was great bonding time with the missionaries and brother sheets too because that's basically all that came to watch at the church-theater.  :)  Except some faithful, returning members.  I am truly astounded by the quiet, strong testimonies of members who fall away and then return again.  An example of one that came to conference was a man named Gary, who's in town for about a year working at a local theater.  You can tell he's into show business, and is a city guy, but he hasn't been back to chruch in many years and stopped by to pay a visit.  Brother sheets noticed his last name is Mckay and when he asked if he's related to the prophet, he teared up and said "Yes. I am sort of the black sheep of them though." and wiped his tears, and then "Sorry, I just feel the spirit here very strongly." Then quickly walked out of the door.  I was impressed by his desire to come back to church. funny moment of the week. I sat down to teach Sister Whitehead on her porch and somehow just fell right off into her yard!  Legs flying in the air and probably gave my companion and her a good show. 

Miss ya love ya make it w great week--
Hermana Collier

Laurel Falls with Hermana Guevera

September 29, 2014 -- Southern Harmony

Doing some southern harmony at the local Fall Festival on P-day
Hello family!

Well I had a great week.  What happened? Well.......

We taught some fun people, including Jafet, the 18 year old.  We hope he'll continue to progress, when they work on Sunday's it's really hard to see their progression sometimes!  But it's ok!  On Tuesday night I got to go exchange with Sister Steiner, in Maryville for a day.  This sister is so fun and hilarious, we have loads of fun on our exchanges!  We knocked on this one door and the lady said that she was sick so she didn't have time to listen to our message, and then looked back into her house and complained about her children.  I said, "Well we love to clean! Can we just help you out for a minute?" She just looked so surprised but said we were welcome to do so.  We just went in and tidied and washed her dishes and put them away, and by that time she'd completely changed.  She was so happy we'd cleaned that she almost begged us to stay and teach her and then invited us to eat dinner, but we had an appointment so we just said a prayer and they scheduled to go back the next day.  It was super cool.

Then we had Zone meeting on Friday.  This was fabulous! We mostly just talked a lot about finding and we're setting goals as a mission to really talk with everyone and spend more time out of our days finding.  In interviews with President, it was so funny!  You know how we told you that the sister we live with says we're very noisy whenever we walk down the stairs? Well anywho president said to me, "What does that dear sister think, that you can just fly out the window?" haha!  It took such a burden off of me cause I knew I could be honest with him and tell him it's been hard.  He said that after this transfer (Oct 22) no one will be living there, they're actually closing our area, not because it's not productive, but the ward can't use three sets of missionaries and so we will be leaving and elders will take in Seymour.  I was truly so sad to hear this! Although I have little complaints here and there, my heart is here in Sevierville, I don't want to leave these people.  So just don't come Oct 22.  But I do know that the Lord has greater plans, and I trust Him!  President Griffin is so so great, it's always such a treat to to talk with him.

At the end of Zone meeting we got a special viewing of Meet the Mormons! (popcorn included:) It was a really good show!  It truly was one of those shows that both entertained and uplifted you, inspiring to be better, so I'm excited for y'all to see it as well. 
Speaking of people here we spent a lot of time this week serving and teaching at the Murphy home, Celeste's family.  I love this family so much!  They were all, except Celeste baptized a year ago.  We had a lesson in their home for Celeste and the elder's investigator Brianna, and Bonnie helped us teach everything - a recent convert herself!  It was so awesome to see her explaining about the Priesthood being restored and how our church has is the only one with the right authority.  So the pool baptism is going to happen on Wednesday and both Celeste and Brianna are so excited. Should be great!

On Saturday, Brother Sheets was in charge of entertainment at a local Fall Festival.  I got to go and play some great fiddle songs and sing a couple too.  Of course I am up there with seasoned Southern gospel country artists that have lived in Tennessee all their lives, and it could've been a lost cause! But thanks to growing up on Uncle Howard's Western music I could follow along pretty well with some of the classics like "Ghost Riders in the Sky" and "Tennessee Waltz".  There is a LOT of gospel music out there!
The General Women's meeting was really great, I loved Sister Marriott's talk, the temple presentation, and Sister Pike Tall's beautiful choir. So great.  

Today we're going hiking in the smokies, I'm excited! 
Well love you all.  Pray for us, we're praying for you! Make it a 

Hermana Collier

September 22, 2014 -- Grateful in Any Circumstance

Rose is a member of our ward.  She's 89! 
Hello family!!   
Hope you all had a great week!  Happy birthday mom!!  Everyone in my ward knows it was your birthday cause I kept on telling them! 
Well this week was up and down.  
The ups first.  We taught another lesson to Jafet, a young man who's 18, and he did the reading assignment (holla!) and he said there was one verse that stood out to him.  He showed us the verse and it said, "Repent and be baptized".  At this point we had not even mentioned baptism!  Another cool experience has been working with the Christensen family - a less-active couple.  Sister Christensen attended with the ward to the Nashville temple on Saturday, and she is all back into the church now.  She was SO excited about her experience at the temple!  It was great!  One of the hardest things about being here is testifying to people every single day of the blessings of temples, and knowing firsthand of them, yet not having the chance to attend!  It has changed my view on the importance of temples and the appreciation we should have for them! I am SO excited to go to the temple in the future! 
Anywho, remember that guy who payed for our meal when we went out to eat a while ago with one of our investigators? Well on Tuesday we dropped by Wendys to grab some dinner on the go, and he was there again.  We talked for a minute, his name is Jim, and he said he'd be interested in knowing what it is that we teach.  We taught him right there and at the end he prayed in the Wendys, a very spiritual prayer!  So that was the hand of the Lord for sure, hopefully we can bring many people to help fellowship him. 
  We also taught a man and his son, this man Jorge lost his wife years ago, and so we (well, I, Hermana Guevara is still coming on her spanish)...taught him the Plan of Salvation.  Despite our cheesy paper-creation to explain it and my broken spanish, he and his son felt the spirit strongly.  As he talked about being with his family forever, tears started coming to his eyes. It is moments like this that make it all worth it!  
 The Adversary just really doesn't want our ward to baptize, though!  We had Celeste and the elders had a girl named Brianna scheduled for this Sunday, and we were all going to travel to Maryville to use their font.  On Celeste we found out her dad couldn't make it on Sunday so he wanted to reschedule, and on Sunday morning, Brianna's family let the elders know the couldn't make it so both were re-scheduled!!  But we've rescheduled Celeste's for October 1st, a Wednesday...and are praying very hard for it!
We also got the chance this week to help a sister in the ward who just had a new baby, to just go over and scrub her toilets and clean her bathroom.  I am all about service, y'all,.  And the greatest service we can do to anyone is letting them know of the glorious news of the Restoration! 
Yesterday I got to go play violin at the rest home, one of my favorite things because the ladies are so so sweet.  We also had dinner with a wonderful family, and had an amazing deep gospel discussion which always makes me feel so much stronger afterward.  
So anyway despite hard moments I am truly loving every minute here in Sevierville, and being grateful in every circumstance.  It makes me a happier person and missionary.  
I know that Jesus Christ leads this church. I know that we can all be cleansed through Jesus Christ and his Atonement!  I am so grateful for y'all, for the people of Tennessee, for living prophets.  Which reminds me, let the General conference countdown begin!! 
Love, Hermana Collier 
OK now for the pics explanation...these occurred with   WE ARE BEST FRIENDS.

Rose  has us wear japanese slippers in her house so as to prevent scuffs on her floor.

Monday, September 15, 2014

September 15, 2014 -- A Week of Miracles!

 I learned how to make apple pie!
Hello family!

Well I feel very humble and grateful this week.  We saw some great miracles.  

The first one was on Wednesday -- we had plans to go see a less-active family.  Basically, right before we were heading over to teach them, the sister called and told us that she wanted us to teach her neighbor who was coming over. "Get your pamphlets and Book of Mormons and all your thingies!"  So we came over and met Nina, and they were both so excited to sit and learn about the Restoration.  It was a very spirit-filled lesson and Nina really liked it!  We didn't invite her to be baptized yet but we have an appointment with her tomorrow that we hope goes really well!

Thursday's miracle came in a text late at night.  So remember Stacy?  The one who had a daughter and they were like good to go and then all of a sudden dropped us?  Well, her trial was on Friday, so we prayed about it and decided to text her telling her good luck.  She texted us back and said she misses us and as soon as she gets out of her living situation she'll call us!  We were jumping up and down because we'd thought all hope was lost!!  Sad thing is she doesn't move until January.  But things went well, and she won her hearing, and we know she isn't completely lost anymore.

Friday night we had a meal appointment in Sevierville that got moved an hour later and then an appointment cancelled, so we had nothing to do and we weren't in our area!  So we went to the city park, sat on a bench and prayed that we'd be led to the right people to talk to.  We both felt prompted to approach a young hispanic mom, and talked with her a bit.  It was going well, when all of a sudden a young dad came up to us and said, "You're the Mormons, right!?" We said yes and he said, "I am too!  I've been wanting to come back to church!"  So it turns out that he has like 6 kids between his wife and him and he was raised in the Sevierville ward, moved away, and came back.  If we hadn't been talking to the young mom then he may not have seen us.  I am just learning the importance of following the Spirit in ALL our activities.  It is so important!

This is my comp and I studying at the "theater-church" before district meeting.  
We're funny.  But she's a very good teacher, she's very very smart!! It's tight!
Saturday, we took our bishop's wife to see a less-active sister who is a returned missionary.  I may have mentioned her before.  Anywho we went into her home and talked, then when we started to really share what we'd prepared, she opened up, and the spirit was so strong.  She feels inhibited by her marriage situation, and bitter towards God, and told us she was so grateful to us for bringing the Spirit into her home.  I am so grateful for the prompting to go visit her, because the Spirit was there and it was perfect.

Sunday's miracle was the Elders have a baptism set for next Sunday - and Celeste's date of the 25th hasn't been working out.  So after church we drove to Celeste's and invited her to be baptized in the same service as the elder's investigator next sunday and she accepted!  So now we get to start teaching her all the lessons all this week!  We are just praying that it happens, she's had many dates that have all fallen, but faith remains!

Last night we put on a ward fireside where a psychologist/member of the church came and talked to us about communication in marriage.  It was the greatest, and I love getting these perspectives before I've entered into that stage of life, but when it's still completely applicable!  I believe that explicit communication changes everything, and it is vital to missionary work.  Listening and understanding before talking is vital.  

Well, we had a great week.  Hope you all did too!  I know our Heavenly Father is watching over you and loves you more that you know.  Every one of you. 

Love, Mads