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 

September 8, 2014 -- September Has Come

Funfact of the day, people down here LOVE their moonshine.  I thought it was a thing of the past, but nope, the top seller of it bears my last name!

Thank you for your wonderful letters and emails -- they just warm my heart!  I was asked by a sister in your ward to write a letter to VV2, and it definitely got me thinking how grateful I am for the ward in which I was raised and the wonderful folks around there.  I miss it!

Anywho, this week has been a fairly good one here in Seymour.  It is crazy that it is September and I only have one more transfer left here, odds are.  And then I shall die in my next area.  Time really does fly!

So this week we have had quite some experiences, finding and meeting new less actives.  We met one who works at Burger King, but is practically on her death-bed with cancer! But she was a very nice lady, we were just worried for her health. 

One day we were looking at potential investigators in the area book, and we were headed to Kodak (another town in our area) that day.  We saw one from 2007, and felt the spirit strongly telling us to contact Peggy - who lived in Kodak!   So we went, and it turns out she is the girlfriend of a less-active man named Ed who is a little older and blind.  He hasn't been back to church since he was about 20.  We shared with him the story of the Stripling Warriors out of the Book of Mormon, and he said, "Wow! Could you get that book on CD for me?  I really enjoyed that story!"  And he also told us his girlfriend and he would like to start coming to church.  So we are excited to continue to teach them!  

On Wednesday we went with Bonnie Murphy and her family (recent converts that live right next to us) to "church". (No one ever calls it Young Women or Activity Days or Scouts.  Wednesday night is simply "church" down here).  It was SO GREAT because the Murphys haven't been coming to church basically all summer, and the kids have really missed it.  Wednesday night went so well that Bonnie decided she would give church a try again on Sunday.  

We had a very spiritual lesson with Nikki (who was just baptized).  We went with a sweet sister, and talked about the Priesthood.  She started to sob, and said, "Normally I cry because I'm happy, but today, I cry because I want my husband to know of these things so badly."  It was so sweet. I told her that he will come around someday. Then she looked at me and said, "Yes, but I want him to get baptized before you leave!"  I just love her.  Her husband, Russell, is currently reading the Book of Mormon and getting closer and closer, but has a lot of fear about organized religion and actual church attendance still basically.  But we're praying for him!

Yesterday we had a mission fast, to increase our finding efforts and open the hearts of the members to trust the missionaries.  It began with a beautiful, heartfelt prayer by President Griffen on a mission-wide conference call, and I could feel the power of all 200 of us kneeling together throughout Eastern Tennessee.  He then challenged all the missionaries to bear their testimonies in Fast and Testimony the next day.  That meeting was so spirit-filled, and very centered on missionary work.  I can already see the change in some of the members, who are beginning to catch the vision of what role we can play and how much we can truly help them and serve.  So it was a very good meeting, especially because we had one part-member couple we teach, then two more less-active families that we never imagined would come, and then the Murphys too.  Bonnie's concern with church had been that her two little boys have been crazy, but yesterday they were so calm!  After sacrament, Celeste Murphy, the 16-year old daughter that hasn't been baptized, told us that she really wants to be baptized.  She's said this before so we're hoping it really happens, but we talked to her with bishop and set a date for the 25th of September.  Tonight we're going to start the lessons with her.  We've prepared a Restoration jeopardy game, so I am SO excited for that! It will be a very needed review for the rest of the family.

I am so very grateful for the Atonement of Christ - I feel my weaknesses so strongly sometimes, but I find complete satisfaction and peace as I partake of the sacrament weekly.  This ordinance has come to mean so much to me.  

I love you and are praying for you all every every day!


September 2, 2014 -- We Are His Hands

This is where we live -- 1890's farmhouse.
Dear Familia,

I have a bit of a cold today and I'm a bit out of it so forgive me if I do not make much sense.

This week has been HARD!!  But I think it's just proof that the gospel will continue to go forward! First you have to know, Stacy and Anaka, the new investigators, live with a man named Bob who is just a family friend and is very nice to let them stay there. Anywho last Monday, we had an AMAZING lesson with Stacy and her daughter and friend in the Bishop's home.  We had a fun, delicious dinner together, then we sat down and discussed the Plan of Salvation.  The Bishop and his wife are converts themselves, so it was simply perfect.  Stacy did have a lot of questions, but everything seemed good.  We invited the girls to Young Women on Wednesday.

The view from outside the church at night.  Look! the Titanic!
 On Wednesday, we had a good day in Kodak, especially in a lesson with a less-active family, that night the girls didn't show up to church.  Thursday was my 1-year mark, we found a new investigator that day and taught some other great lessons.  However, we began to be a little worried because Stacy had not been responding to our texts as much as usual.  

Friday afternoon, we were finishing some weekly planning, talking about how to prepare Stacy and Anaka and Elizabeth for their baptismal date.  We came to a roadblock of sorts, as we were planning, Stacy called us.  She told us that they'd been thinking about it and decided that they want to look at some other churches.  We were shocked - she was so so solid before!!  We were so surprised.  By this time we'd already had a lesson arranged for Saturday and then a ride for Sunday, so we just asked if she could at least come give church a try.  She said she would.  Five minutes later, Bob called us, demanding that we don't come over again, and that Stacy was not interested at all, and they won't be coming to church.  Sister Guevara talked to him, and apparently he wasn't very nice about it.

So, it was one of the hardest things to see - especially because it felt like it wasn't entirely Stacy's choice.  However, she had told us she'd been looking around on other websites and found some other things, and so we do believe that anti-information could be a huge part of what happened.

Preaching in a primitive baptist church in the smokies.
But it's been a good weekend!  We've taught Margaret, our steady investigator, seen a part-member family progressing, and at church we had a good talk about missionary work in sunday school.  Some members complain about our church building and so we talked about how it doesn't matter where we worship, it matters that we're bringing others closer to Christ, and we must DO HIS WORK!  So it was fabulous! Yesterday for Labor day a sweet family took us up to the Smokies and we had lunch and went through Cade's Cove which was absolutely awesome.  Reminded me of roadtrips with the family, driving around in a minivan and getting out to look at historical signs.  I loved it. And we had a good lesson last night with Laurel.

Hope is not lost even when we're sick and sad for the choices of others!  I know this will be a great week!  Love you all!  

Hermana Collier

Cade's Cove 

August 25, 2014 -- Fish in the Smokies!

P-day with penguins at Ripley's Believe it or Not Aquarium in the Smokies

Dear Family! HELLO!

This week was grand.  We played a jolly game of tennis last p-day, and then visited an inactive family (who barely remembered they were members) and they had a pet hedgehog I got to hold!  Then on Tuesday, we'd planned to go out with this couple in our ward the Bakers.  They are much older, and have served a mission in Utah, and Brother Baker is the most stern and sarcastic person you'll ever meet, and Sister Baker is as sweet as pie.  But we took them to contact a referral we'd received. We got there and met Stacy.  

Stacy is 48, she has a 13 year old daughter, Anaka,whom she loves very much.  A year ago she was in the mortgage business, but after a sudden heart bypass surgery a year ago, lost her job and all her money and has been living on nothing for the last year. Through a patriotic group on facebook, she connected with a Utahn (ex-MoTab member in fact) and he sent the missionaries over to talk with her.  So she was almost set for baptism in Knoxville, and then had to move for financial reasons.  But somehow we got sent her address! The Bakers took us to contact her, and she was crying almost as soon as we walked in.  She told us she knew we came from God and she needed us.  As she told us her story, Brother Baker would interrupt occasionally and say, "don't cry! look at the bright side, everyone goes through these things."   So that was kind of interesting. But we had a good lesson and scheduled a return appointment for Saturday.

One cool experience was Thursday, we called Sister Whitehead (a less active sister we work with) to schedule a visit and she informed us she was very sick that night.  Turns out we were heading to the house of a one of the very few families in the ward with two Melchizedek priesthood holders in the household for dinner that night who lived very near, so we asked if we could come offer her a blessing.  To our surprise she said yes! So we knew that she really must have been sick.  Anyway this family had only met her once despite living a mile away!  So after dinner we went together and they gave her the blessing, she was so grateful.  Priesthood power is real.

Friday we made waffles for the seminary students, it was great fun.  We had leftovers after so we decided we'd share with the elders after district meeting, but we didn't think anyone was coming besides our normal district.  Ten minutes before the meeting started, the zone leaders came, then a minute later in walks President Griffen!  I was very shocked!  We had a great meeting, he helped me with some questions I had as we role-played.  I was also shocked when afterward he stayed and had waffles with us!  What really stood out to me is that he's so personable to every missionary.  He's fun and loving.   It's really a testimony to me that the Lord knows who and what we need out here in the mission.  

Afterward, we had an appointment fall through and I was at a loss of what to do, until the thought came to my mind that our Bishop had asked us to visit a sister in the ward who's gone through surgery recently.  When I called her to ask if we could swing by, she sounded very very hesitant.  But we just walked in and began visiting, and she began to tell us her marvelous story.  She's really one of the strongest members I've met, her testimony has withstood her husband leaving her, some of her children falling in and out of activity, insults that could've offended her, losing all her money and her house, and breast cancer most recently.  And she tearfully told us that she stays strong because she knows what's right and true, and she wants her children to know what's right and true.  We were all in tears by the end, and her heart had definetely changed and I think she was glad we'd come by. That was just a great strengthener for me.

Saturday night we met again with Stacy and Anaka, this time bringing Sister Kennedy and her daughter as fellowshippers.  The lesson was great, we talked about the Restoration, and set a date for their baptism on September 13th!  We know Satan will be working on them hard though in every way-physically, financially, and with bits of doctrine that are hard at first (understanding the role of the priesthood and women, for example), so please pray for Stacy and Anaka!

Today we went with the Maryville missionaries to Ripley's Believe it or not Aquarium in the Smokies and it was ever so fun!!!  We walked with sharks and petted jellyfish and sting rays.  But the best part was the cute penguins.  I loved it!   After we went to eat at a place called Old Mill, corn fritters are my new favorite thing.

I'm not really thinking about my year mark this week too much.  "The past is behind--learn from it; the future is ahead --prepare for it; the present is here--live it"  -President Monson

LOVE you ALL!!!

Hermana Madeleine Collier