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!