Monday, June 30, 2014

June 30, 2014 -- Every Town Has Its Ups and Downs . . .

Lisbeth! sparkling water is good
Hello Familia!  

Well! This week has had many bittersweet moments!   

We saw President for the last time on Monday and now they're headed home! I can not even believe it, but I know they're extremely excited.  So I'm happy for them too!  I just will miss their sense of humor so much.  He had to save a temple recommend thing for Sister Malloy online, and after he did it he was telling us how it read on the screen, "Sister Malloy, you have been saved."  And he just couldn't get over how funny that was!  He sent a text after that said, "After 16 months of serving in the South, you have been SAVED Sister Malloy!"

 The Lackeys, the recent-convert family we always help and act out scripture stories with, got evicted out of their home.  We were kind of their strongest support from the ward and so they were calling us every day with updates.  It's really hard to see a family going through that, but it's taught me a lot, and helped me grow in charity-wanting the best for them, and yet loving them enough to let them go and I guess kind of suffer the consequences.  

Raisa our recent convert is really struggling temporally, which affects the physical, and she's working towards the temple so it's hard for us to see.  She's another semi-missionary-dependent person.  so we're just working like crazy to get the ward to step up and get in there and really fellowship her!  She needs your prayers though!

  The members we live with, the House's are moving in Sept, so the missionaries will be too! So we get to find a new apartment, it's kind of fun cause we're helping find one.  It will probably be around mid-august though so we have a bit of time.  I am a little sad cause I like our big old house but also kind of excited to have our own place.  

  So back to this week!  Along with the Lackeys and Raisa we also got to teach Nikki (twice), she is coming along so great!  She has the Gift of believing the testimonies of others.  We set a date for the 26 of July, and we'll have to have it out in Maryville ( a couple miles down the road from Seymour) because we she'd prefer that to a swimming pool!  

Me and O'very "good" in Loudon
  Oh looks like I have to hurry! I just want to share an experience I had with my Hermanita O'very while we exchanged in Loudon TN.  We went to teach a part-member family- the husband wasnt a member.  We had planned to teach on missionary work, and wow! I just love seeing how sister o'very has grown in her ability to teach since I served with her in Dalton for all that time.  We were able to really just flow through the lesson and they seemed to really be understanding.  As we shared Mosiah 28:3 and talked about why spreading the news of Repentance, I acme to understand the Atonement in a completely different way.  As I summarized the story of the sons of Mosiah, I found myself saying something like, "They understood what it was like to be in the depths of despair, and then get pulled out again, and that's what Christ offers for all of us.  As a human race, we can be pulled out of despair and be made clean because he Atoned for our sins."  It wasnt me saying it though it was the Spirit. Then we shared D&C 18 that talks about how great shall be our joy in the Kingdom of our Father.  When Brother Wooten read the verse, we asked "Who do you think that one soul is that He wants?" And I just saw the lightbulb go off in his mind and he looked at us and said "It's our souls!"  

Love you!

Hermana Collier

June 23, 2014 -- Luckiest Missionary

Hello Familia!

Firstly I just have to say I am the luckiest missionary to be in Seymour TN, BECAUSE it is so beautiful! Our morning runs are covered in a thing blanket of fog, but when the sun breaks over the horizon the mist dissipates, and the cows in the pastures lift up their heads in the green fields.  Then the daytime comes, with hot sun but the big shady trees (and Air conditioning!) keep us sane.  Afternoon usually brings thunderstorms but after it's over it clears to a rainbow or just a beautiful blue sky.  When evening approaches there's always a stunning sunset amid peony-shaped clouds, and then the fireflies begin to come up through the tall weeds before the stars come out.

Just thought I should put my hand to a little creative writing.  

ANYWAYS, this week has been great! New transfer and we're feeling good.  We had a successful week with plenty of lessons to teach and we worked hard which is always a good feeling.  We taught Doris and Bernice.  They are difficult because they're very intelligent but fixed in their ways, and when we have a very spirit-filled lesson, I just want to be like "Snap out of it! You know this is true!" But that probably wouldn't be the best thing.  However, we did make some progress with Bernice because she is smoking like 2-3 packs of cigarettes a day (going into their house is quite the adventure) and so we made a deal that if she'd go down to 1, then we'd go off sweets for the rest of the week.  Which was hard.  But I was super happy when we called her the next day and she said that she felt a lot better.  So they're a work in progress.

We also taught Margaret-our investigator that loves to read.  We challenged them to hold family prayer, even though Margaret grew up very religious she'd never thought of that.  She said it really made a difference in her home that week. They are next door neighbors to the Lackeys, the family that we visit a lot.  The Lackeys have to move next week and their house is, let's say, very unclean, so Sister Malloy and I spend the spare minutes we have in the week helping pack up so they don't take too many of their critter-friends with them.  I'll let y'all to your imaginations on that one.  But I love them a lot, so it's easier to do.

We retaught the Restoration to Nikki this week, which she embraced again, and we set a date for July 19th! I'm excited. She also came to church, but her feet were hurting so she left early.  Not really sure where that'll happen but maybe in Maryville (since theaters in pigeon forge don't usually have baptismal fonts).  So after church we went to a member's house who wanted to make us a meal, and ate with her.  After as we were sharing our spiritual message, she just broke out in tears and told us of the problems she's been having and the ways she's struggling. One thing I've learned on my mission is how very real depression is and how deep some people's trials really are.  I can't even know what she's going through, but as I sat their in her kitchen and just tried to listen with love, I really felt like I was able to be an instrument in the Lord's hands even if just for a couple minutes and even if we were just there to listen.  Before we left Sister Malloy had the great idea of singing "There is sunshine in my soul today," so we did, and it left the house in better spirits.  I am just grateful for moments like that.

OK! Now for the fun part! Funny moments! :

-This little 5 year old boy Thomas is so funny, he is in the family of some absolutely awesome members. Anyway one day we kinda accidentally dropped in on them during dinner, and so we were apologizing, but they insisted we stay.  And it was Thomas' birthday so they said, "Thomas, do you mind?" And he just looks at us with the most refined face and says "Splendid to come."  So now we always just look at each other all serious and say that.  

-our 80 year old investigator, Lisbeth, is just hilarious, this week she said of her dog "Benji" 
" i am going to turn on Animal Planet to keep Benjamin occupied."

-other sweet investigator "I just loved reading about that LiaHOMEa, ya know? Cause it guides you home!"

As for P-day fun, we got to go to Maryville today and hang out with the awesome missionaries there which was the best, played games and laughed.  Life is good. And last week at the music outlet, theres a pic below and next week I'll send you the one of me and my mandolin. AKA future love.

Love y'all! 
Hermana Collier

June 16, 2014 -- Happy Father's Day!!


Les extrano tanto.  Thanks for yall's beautiful emails and pictures and kind words and thoughts, they give me energy and excitement for the following week!  

So this week we were thinking about less-actives to visit, and we thought of one I love, Sister Whitehead, she is SUPER funny with a very dry sense of humor.  Sort of like a Lori Whitmore.  Anyways, we wondered if we should visit her because last time she sort of pushed us out the door.  But I remembered that a member had given us a temple puzzle a while ago and knew that she loved puzzles, so we decided to go anyway.  It turned out to be a great, hilarious, wonderful visit.  Compared to last time, when she told us she had no testimony and didnt like us, this time she bore her testimony that the Lord answers prayers and she needs to come back to church! It was quite the contrast.  As we walked out the door she told us she LOVED us!! Sister Malloy and I were just laughing as we drove away, wondering what just happened, but I know it's because the Lord needed us there.
We were also able to teach Nikki, the sweet(60ish or so) lady who's nephew introduced her to the gospel, and she basically wants to get baptized now! So we taught her the Word of Wisdom and she took it very well.  We're planning for the baptism to be next month some time.

Oh my goodness! We got to eat with the Figuora's again, my favorite members from Honduras.  They are such strong believers in the gospel, and faithfully attend church, some of them without understanding hardly a word of what's being said.  After eating, we taught them an English lesson.  They were like, "Why do you say, "I'm hungry? You wouldn t say; "Soy hambre!" valid point!  I just had to apologize and tell them I didn't invent English. 

Just teaching the gospel and stuff. 
At Zone meeting on Thursday we were able to train on the importance of using the Book of Mormon, and it went pretty well!  I had President's last interview! Sister Irion too. OH man, I just love them!  We had a great chit-chat, and at the end they both gave me a great big hug. It was fabulous. That night we got to eat with a sweet young family from Arizona and their little daughter calls Sister Malloy and I "Missionary!"  it's hilarious!

Saturday we had transfer calls, and NONE of our district's changing! That was pretty suprising, but we're all happy!  That means we'll probably become a trio in another 6 weeks, which I'm excited for.
We got to teach Margaret this week, she is pretty hung up on little minute details of the church, so that was just a difficult lesson because we just want to tell people the truth and then have them act for themselves.  WE DONT want to BIBLE BASH!  Oh my goodness If I had a nickel for every time I said that! :)  

Brother Sheets, (ward mission leader) has a touching story - he was converted at 21 and has never looked back, one of the most gun-hoe members in the Sevierville ward.  His children, however, have not all chosen to follow in his footsteps, and out of his large family, about half are active members.  He was able to baptize his first grandson on Saturday - in his home in the pool, because of the condition of the church! But it was beautiful, the Spirit was so strong, and this young man, Ty, is going to be a missionary someday! His parents dont go to church, but he's strong!  I am so impressed by the dedication of Brother Sheets and his wife.  Ty asked me to accompany the songs on the violin, and Bro Sheets other grandchild, Olsen - probably about 3 years old, was mesmorized by it, and ran upstairs and came back with one of the little fake violins, like the one Caleb had when he was that age!  It was the cutest thing!!
Church went well yesterday, I got to play I feel my Savior's Love during sacrament, and our investigator Bernice came for the first time. Also, Nikki's nephew AND niece who travelled from Georgia came with her to church, which she loved! She stayed all three hours and really enjoyed it.  It was crazy seeing Taylor Curtis and his wife who were on vacation!

Other random facts of the week:  when we were weekly planning this week we finally opened this cabinet that we've never been able to open before, and it reminded us of Tangled! That explains the wierd picture.  Oh, we got a CD with Spanish hymns on it, and just listen to it all day every day! It's soooo good!!  Oh. AND I tasted something this week that has changed my life: they are called Oatmeal Carmelitas.  They are AMAZING!

Happy Fathers Day dad.  Let's just think about why dad's so great for a second.  Every morning waking up to , "Israel Israel God is calling" or "There is Sunshine in my soul today" or any other hymn, then doing prayers and scriptures together.  Every day without fail.  Then he's always positive and driven to choose the right.  He is sensitive to other's needs and kind.  What an awesome example he is!  I have learned a lot this week about the great importance of Scripture Study.  It really can change your life, y'all.  Thank you for your prayers again, I love you all!

Love, Hermana Collier

June 9, 2014 -- Learning a Lot!

With Brother Sheet's grandchildren on Memorial Day -- darling girls.
Hola familia!  

I love all your updates. I am excited that Abe will be coming home soon and looking forward to hearing about Afffrriiiccaaa :)

So this week has been good, and some parts hard, but mostly good.  It started out with another Leadership conference, which was great, but sadly President and Sister Irion's last! :(  A lot of what we talked about in that meeting was living, learning, leading with charity.  It's definetely something I have to continually pray for with all the energy of heart. It was so fitting because that's exactly the way President and sister Irion have been able to lead this mission, is through love.  It's also something my companion is really good at doing-truly loving others.  So I set goals to really focus on loving those we came in contact with this week.  That night we started exchanging with the Maryville sisters, and I got to go with Sister Jones which was great, because she was MY sister training leader my first couple of transfers.  We were able to have fun and work hard and I learned a lot from her, then in the middle of the next day, Hermana Malloy and Sister Benge called from Seymour, and Sister Benge was sick in bed! So we ended the exchange early and returned to our areas.  So it was definetely short & sweet!
Sister Malloy and I were able to do some good finding this week, and set a return teaching/dinner appointment with a Part-Member family that I am really excited about.  We also have been struggling a little bit with being involved with the members, so this week we really took it upon ourselves to invite as much as possible, and try just a little harder to bring members to our lessons and really taking accountability.  We set a goal with the sisters for this next week, and we're hoping we'll see improvement both in ourselves and in the zone as a whole.

Lisbeth, our investigator who is just hilarious.  
This is when the guy paid for our dinner (See June 2 post) -- it was great.
Another good part of this week was when we went to visit some less actives at a resting home with our ward mission leader, I had my violin and Brother Sheets insisted that I bring it in.  I played "How great thou art" and people just gathered, one lady's eyes tearing up.  I just love the sweet, sensitive spirits of the elderly!

So I want to tell y'all about Margaret.  She's a neighbor of some Recent Converts, and wanted to read the Book of Mormon.  After teaching the first lesson, she read it ALL in a week, and was calling us to ask if we could get her a copy of the Pearl of Great Price.  Haha it was incredible!  When we go to teach her she says she knows all of it is true, but believes that when she was baptized that it was sufficient - she says God has told her she doesnt need to be baptized again. BUT despite not committing to baptism, she still came with us to church on Sunday, and loved all three hours.  The members were warm to her which was also very good. 

We also got to teach sweet Nikki Singletary this week.  I just love her a whole lot, she is definetely a dry-mormon if I've ever met one.  She is so ready to be baptized, but really needs to come to church! But I just love her!

The hard part of this week was Raisa, the recent convert that the sisters baptized right before I got here.  We taught her, and she told us of how much she loves us, and described to us all the cool things she's done in her life, which are so many! So anyways, she's missed church about every other week for the last bit.  She expressed some concern that our church has more rules than she thought and that she is not really enjoying membership like she thought.  And it's clear, we can see that her membership is not rewarding her right now - and it's because we havent helped her seen the importance of doing her part- reading the book of mormon every day and secondly, the ward hasn't yet called her to a calling - and she needs to feel needed!

So we're just praying and praying for her.  

I have been so influenced by the examples of good, righteous families on my mission.  We ate on Sunday with one of the elderly couples in our ward and their son and his family, a great family of 3 boys and 1 girl just like mine and in our same order too, and it just made me so happy.  I know that families really are the basic unit of everything and are vital to our Heavenly Father's plan, and raising children in righteousness is really the way to go.

So we're training our Zone on Thursday about how to help others use the book of Mormon to lead to their lasting conversion, and studying this topic has really strengthened my testimony of it!  I know that the Book of Mormon is really our Liahona in this life (Alma 37:35-40ish) and that we really can liken it to our lives. I am learning how to truly 'drink deeply and often' from it. 

Love you!! MIss yall!!

 Hermana Madeleine Collier
Sevierville district.  I have served in Dalton with every one of these missionaries, isnt that hilarious!?  

Monday, June 2, 2014

June 2, 2014 -- El Amor de Dios

On Sunday I looked outside and there were the BLACKS from Dalton! They ran up to me and said, Hermana Collier, you never said goodbye to us! I felt so bad haha!  They were on vacation in Gatlinburg and came to church especially to see me.  It made my day.  They are just some great members.

Hola Familia!!!  

I miss you all.  Sounds like you had a fabulous week with Les Mis at OHS -- wish I could've seen it!  Felicitaciones to Caleb and everyone who was in it. 

This week was super great.  Last P-day/Memorial Day was spent at the Sheets playing corn-hole, which I was actually all right at! And playing with the grandkids and all, it was great fun!
So you know how we gave that journal to Celeste and committed her to write in it every day something she's grateful for? Well as part of the commitment I did the same, but for mine I committed to write how I felt the Love of God/Saw His hand in my life that day.  It has been truly amazing to do this and see how much I've been blessed!

On Monday, we went to dinner with our investigator Lisbeth.  We walked in and as I looked around, looking at potential people to talk to, a middle-aged man sitting alone at a table gave me a big smile, so I smiled back.  He said, "I like your smile!" and I told him I liked his.  Then we were eating dinner and he came to us and said goodbye before he left.  We gave him a pass-along card and asked if he'd like to know more, and he said he would, so we got his info.  Lisbeth laughed and shook her head, "You girls never stop, do you?" Haha.  But when we were done eating, the waiter came up and said your bill is already paid, the man who owns and maintains this building wanted to pay for you!  And he gave us a reciept with a sweet note on it.  Lisbeth was SO touched!  It was such a sweet quick interchange, and we're looking forward to getting to teach him.  And if not, then at least us girls and Lisbeth were able to see the imminent hand of the Lord that day.  So God bless Jim!

I was able to see various other experiences where God obviously was putting His hand out to help and bless us this week.  Whenever we do our part and open our mouth or work our hardest or fulfill our end of the promise, He promises to fulfill his end - D& C 82:10.  This is something I've been learning about Obedience recently-it is just another demonstration of the Love of God, and His commitment to bless us!
Look at my pretty friends! I love them so much!
On Friday we had a sort of last-minute Spanish conference!!!  When sister Malloy and I heard about it we could hardly sleep, we were so excited to see everyone!  It was SUCH a fabulous conference, complete with trainings from local members that spoke Spanish, fellow missionaries, Mexican snacks, games, Hermana Horrocks and I did a musical number, and then remarks by President Irion.  Then, we had the fabulous opportunity to hear from Elder Pino from the Quorum of the Seventy.  He came sort of last-minute to do President Irion's exit interview (wipe away a tear), and so we got the chance to hear from him.  WOW!  He was from Venezuela, and was so excited to speak to us in Spanish because he has recently been doing a lot in English.  He spoke with love and demonstrated a very disciplined character.  I just can't even describe what was so great about it!

But he also spoke the things we really needed to hear -- he talked about how sometimes we think that the doctrine of Christ is something abstract, but we read in 2 Nephi 31 how straightforward and clear it is -- follow Jesucristo!!  And how if we relate everything we do as missionaries to that purpose, inviting others to follow Christ, we will as a result see more success.  He talked about how sometimes we get trapped in patterns - if something didn't work the first time it won't work the second. He illustrated this by saying if there's a big fish and a small fish in a tank, what's he going to do? Try to eat the small fish. But if there's a glass dividing them he won't be able to.  He'll try and try and fail to get to it.  Then if the glass is removed, he has complete access, an opportunity to succeed.  But does he try? No.  He related this to us with missionary efforts, sometimes we get thinking that something won't work, or we give up on someone because they didn't use their agency correctly last time.  KEEP trying, KEEP working effectively.

So I was just grateful for that opportunity to hear from him. Then we got to see all our Spanish amigos y amigas!  Las hermanas son las mejoras! I got to see Mama Button for the first time since Feb., which was great, and so on.  

Also this week, we got to visit a sweet, young less active returned missionary sister.  Haha, that sounds harsh, but if you heard her story it would be easier to understand.  But I am learning out here that no one is exempt from the temptation of the world.  We had a really good moment as she honestly told us that she can't see or feel God's hand in her life -- she feels like she's given everything to the Lord and He isn't blessing her. The Young Women president who came with us was really able to testify of the ways God is supported her through her trials and we could see that it really affected her.  I am excited to continue fellowshipping her.

I can't believe it's already June! Nine months of my mission flew by.  I don't want it to end.  I will continue working and loving this experience for the rest of my time!

Love yall sooooo much! Oh and cool chapter to study about the Love of God -- 1 John 4.

Hermana Collier
Celeste has been awesome - she kept her commitment and is diligently writing in her gratitude journal every day.  She is a really gifted baker so she taught Sister Malloy and me how to make bread this week! It was great.