Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June 24th 2014

Last week...and the week before that, but especially last week, my email time was cut short. Busy times.
So picking up where I left off with Samantha--she didn't want to admit to us that she was pagan because she normally gets negative responses. She said she would like to continue to meet with us, and will finish the Book of Mormon, but she wanted to push her baptism back, because as of now, she doesn't understand baptism and church attendance as commandments. We haven't gotten to see her this past week as she's been busy, but we contact her regularly via phone. Love her.
Most exciting news: MerryAnn was baptized on Saturday and confirmed yesterday!!! I love her so much. Every time we come to teach her, she asks, "have you been good?" we say, "yes," then she asks, "all day?" We say, "so far," she says, "good. Be good all day." She does the same thing for herself, because enduring to the end to her, is being good all day today, then doing the same thing tomorrow. It's a good way to look at things. All of the questions she has had revolve around how she can serve more and live higher standards. She is already a very strong member, and will be a great asset to the church. We have been amazed at her standards and desires to serve. She is so much fun. We get to go to baptisms for the dead with her on Friday.
Another miracle. I brought a sister from Gadsden to Leeds for exchanges, and we just had a few minutes before our next set appointment. I had been thinking a lot about Anthony and his parents. Anthony is 13, at the beginning of the transfer when I was on an exchange in Leeds, I taught a family in a trailer park, previous sisters had taught, but the family hadn't made much progress. The first time I went to meet them, I felt impressed to reteach them the Plan of Salvation. We taught them, and they had lots of questions, but weren't terribly focused. Anthony, who lives nextdoor to them, was at their trailer, fully engaged in the lesson. I could feel his spirit, and talked to him after, and he said he wanted his parents to hear this lesson. I met his mom, Gina, briefly who struggles with many health issues. In the weeks following, we stopped by several times, and were never able to meet with her. We volunteer regularly at the civic center in Leeds, and met a woman named Cora. She agreed to let us come over and share the message of the restoration. When we did, it just so happened to be neighbor trailers with Anthony's, and Anthony just happened to be over with his dad for the restoration lesson. Since then, we still keep in contact with Cora, but she hasn't progressed, and we hadn't been able to meet with Anthony's family. There is a lot going on in that trailer park, and Anthony is surrounded by all kinds of chaos and issues, and I have always had a strong feeling about him. HIs composure and manners are amazing in stark contrast to what goes on around him. He is a special kid. Back to this past week on exchanges, I decide to drop by once again to try to catch Gina and Anthony. Gina was outside (a good thing, since if she's inside and we try to knock, we typically get someone who lives with her, who will just swear at us and slam the door), in seeing us approaching, she pointed at me and said, "I've been praying that you would come! I know there's something about your and your church, and I knew that you would come back!" We had a discussion and brief lesson with her, and asked if she would bring Anthony to the church that night for mutual and we could give her a church tour since she wants to start coming. She agreed. Anthony's dad dropped him off at the church just as mutual was ending. We introduced Anthony to the young men, and asked one of them to help us give him a church tour. It was an amazing experience. Hayden, the young man who helped us was very nervous, but bore a beautiful, sincere, powerful testimony. This was the first time we really got to talk to Anthony in a quiet place apart from the chaotic surroudings he lives in. The chapel was the last place we went, in talking about the messages we had shared, he said he knows they are true. When we asked him how, he explained his feelings. This kid knows how to feel the spirit, he is so remarkable. He said the closing prayer, and accepted the invitation to discuss baptism with his parents for July 19th. I talked with his dad, who had been waiting and smoking in his truck for us to finish with Anthony, and asked about Anthony's being baptized. He said he didn't have any objections, and that he doubted his wife would, but they would talk it over. He agreed to bring Anthony to church every week.
They are hard to contact, and didn't bring Anthony or come at all to the baptism on Saturday or church as they said they would, but I know that Anthony so desperately needs the gospel and positive influences in his life. We are trying to figure out how we can get a stable person to bring him to mutual and church every week, since his parents say they will take him every time, and his mom says she wants to come, but never does.
Another miracle. Before I came into this area, the sisters got a referral from a member for a 24 yr old girl named Nicole. We have had contact with her since then, and have found times to briefly meet with her at work, but have never been able to teach her...until this week. This week we finally taught her at her Grandma's house, and it was so powerful! She says she knows that God sent us to her, and wants to be a part of the restored church. We talked about baptism during the restoration lesson as we always do, and she was receptive. We invited her to come to MerryAnn's baptism which was the following day. She said she was determined to be there.
We got a phone call the next morning from the member who referred her. He asked if she was seriously getting baptized that day....we were confused, we told him she wasn't, she hadn't even been to church yet, and would have to be taught three more lessons, and quit smoking before she could be baptized. He said that she called him seriously wired, and said that she was being baptized that day. Apparently she misunderstood our inviting her to MerryAnn's baptism, as it being a service that she could also be baptized. It's a good problem to have, I suppose. We called her and cleared up the confusion. She came to the baptism, and we gave her a church tour afterward, and she came to church yesterday. She LOVES it. She said one of her favorite things that she hasn't heard in other churches is that people so often say they know it's true. Most people here choose churches for the features--the pastor, the programs, the choir, etc, but seldom do they choose a church because they know it's true. I love this girl so much.
Another miracle.
Y'all remember Mark? Great kid, 19, horrible family situation, has been living with an old neighbor friend, finally found work through someone he met coming to church. Cool stuff. He has no trust in man, and doesn't trust the bible, wants to trust the Book of Mormon, but doesn't want to be taken for a fool, and doesn't believe in Christ yet as the Bible and Book of Mormon talk about Him. He does believe in God, and has a relationship with Him. He has been having a very hard time, hearing so many people bear their testimony and talk about these powerful feelings they have and their knowledge of the gospel to be true, because he doesn't feel like he's gotten any answers as he's come to church and read the Book of Mormon. We have been relying on the Book of Mormon to give him the foundation of believing in Christ, and he has loved reading the Book of Mormon, but says he still can't say he knows it's true. Sister Dodini told me before our last lesson with him, that she felt that perhaps the reason Mark hasn't been getting answers is because he is still smoking and possibly doing other things that have been dulling his spiritual sensitivity. Neither of us had ever seen Mark smoke, or had reason to believe that he did, but as soon as she said it, it felt right. We decided to focus on obedience to the commandments in the lesson and read with him wherever he was at in the Book of Mormon. The lesson got intense (it normally does with Mark, he thinks very deeply about things), and he expressed how aggravated he was that he wasn't getting an answer. Sister Dodini was also aggravated in trying to explain things to him, and finally and brashly, told him that she could promise him he would get an answer if he would do one thing. He said he would do whatever it was, as he so badly wants to believe the church is true, and just wants an answer. She said, boldly and brashly, "quit smoking." The spirit overcame me as she did that. Mark's face fell, as he admitted his addiction, and said he would go to a dark place if he did that, not be able to be amiable with people, etc, all the real things that do happen in a process like that. He asked her how she knew he would get an answer if he quit, she said "I just know." I told Mark about the spirit I felt when Sister Dodini promised him that, and that it was not her promise, but it was the Lord's promise to him, that as he goes through the process of quitting, if he relies on the scriptures through it, he will come to know and rely on the Savior. Mark agreed to do it.
Since then, as we've made contact with Mark, he's been pretty short with us, he left the neighbor's home he has been staying in, and it sounds like he is sleeping in his car, and looking for a place to live. Please pray for him. I have a tremendous amount of love for this kid, and know he is suffering, but God will bless him with his answer, and help him work out his living situations as he commits to his sacrifice.
So many other things happening, but I dare not make this too much longer. I love my calling. In preparing for trainings, I have studied and felt impressed to share things, and then learned later when giving it, that while it was meant for everyone, it was meant for one missionary in particular, who has also been answer to my prayers. God answers multiple prayers with us, and allows our prayers to be answered in the process, it's been such a sweet experience.
So interesting that I used to be a little down on myself for not having baptisms. Then I came here, and we had Selena and Tim, but I still didn't feel like I could consider them mine. Then MerryAnn was the first one who was baptized and I was there for the whole process--I still don't feel like I can consider her mine, she was already prepared, she is just the Lord's. They're all the Lord's. I don't feel any more successful as a missionary, now that I do have baptisms. We're here as missionaries to give our all in service, and if we see baptisms along the way, great. While I have learned to find, teach, and prepare people for baptism more effectively than I used to, I still have so much to learn, and have always done my best, so I don't feel any more successful now than I did before. I sure love this work. It is an absolute privilege that God allows us to be His instruments.
Sometimes, when Sister Dodini and I are planning our next day, I say, "We have to be crazy! Normal people don't do this--leave their careers, education, families, loved ones, lives to wander around and talk to people in hopes that someone will let us talk to them about Jesus. The church has to be true. It is. The gospel is so true. Sometimes we don't feel the spirit super powerfully, because it works so subtly, and sometimes the spirit is overwhelming, but the gospel is always true.
Sister Liz Sheffer

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

June 11th 2014

Last Monday it was way cool to be with missionaries near Montgomery, they live close enough they can get together every week for sports at the church. They're a tight-knit unit, one of them was my roommate in the MTC, so it's always good to see how much my MTC district has grown. awesome missionaries. Sister Edwards and I taught a lesson with the ZLs, which felt almost like a panel discussion, it was interesting, but pretty neat. It's good to see how others teach. We have awesome teachers in this mission.

I got to attend my first MLC--Mission LEadership Council, which was so neat, it lasts all day, and then we get together with our zone leaders and condense the information to a couple hours for zone training. Zone training was way fun. We kept a pretty good balance of having fun with the missionaries, while having a powerful spiritual experience in the training. ONe of my favorite moments was probably when we trained on companionship unity. We roleplayed companionship inventories--a weekly activity we're supposed to do to discuss the strength of your companionship, share goals, and also get out any bones to pick with your companion. We staged it with the zone leaders where Sister Dodini and I would start (as a sister would say it), and then pause in our role play and pan over to the zone leaders (as an elder would say it). It was pretty hilarious, but also effective since most of us are scared of comp inventories. We have gotten to be part of a Summer Camp. We volunteered to teach bible study and get to do that weekly. The age group is 13-15, so it's almost like teaching Freshmen again! Of course, they're a crazy bunch, but they all love God, so it's neat to teach a class that we can start and end in prayer to these teens.

Pray for Samantha, she has been reading the Book of Mormon, and came to church yesterday and enjoyed it--but she seems to be forgetting the powerful confirmations she has had that it is true, and just refers to things as 'interesting' and 'enjoying observing' in church. We don't feel the spirit as strongly in the lessons with her recently, but we are trying to bring back the feeling that was there the first night we taught her when she felt the spirit so strong and knew it was true.

We did two exchanges this week and at the end of our last one, helped our sisters in Gadsden with their investigator's wedding. It was pretty awesome. It was held in someone's yard--they have a lot of land and a creek runs behind their house, so it was pretty even though it was hot and humid and muggy. Right before Ethel was about to walk down the 'aisle,' there was a mad scramble to get music for her to walk to. One sister suggested we sing, and an elder threw out that he could play the piano. Someone ran out of the house with a keyboard, and they found the Bridal march programmed in. An elder just held the keyboard with speakers toward the 'aisle' as she walked down. It was awesome. The bride's brothers walked her down clad in their Crimson tide polos and khaki shorts--so awesome! I can't even describe my great love for the South. It was fitting for Ethel--who is getting baptized on Saturday.

Possibly my favorite part of the week...Our newest, most promising investigator is named Merry Ann. She was a friend of a sister in the ward, who had extended invitations to learn about the church when they were teenagers. Now she is divorced with a 22 year old daughter and a 2 month old grandson, and was feeling the need for more direction in her life. She remembered her mormon friend from years ago, and called her, asking if she could come to church. She came last week, and we met her, and arranged to teach her the discussions. Lessons with her are awesome. She asks great questions, which are exactly what we are about to teach just minutes later. She is reading the Book of Mormon and already progressing so greatly. She came to church yesterday, and as we were sitting down for Gospel Principles, the Sunday School president comes up to us and asks if we have read through the lesson. We hadn't--it was a mad enough scramble for me to get my sacrament meeting talk together as well as singing time for primary and reports Bishop and Relief Society President asked for such little time since our schedules are crazy. We admitted we hadn't, and he asked if we and the elders would use the spirit and teach the class--we would have been happy to, but Merry Ann, volunteers, "I read the lesson, I can teach, I have notes!" She got up and TAUGHT SUNDAY SCHOOL! She was the most prepared of anyone there, and did a great job. I love this woman, she is so cute. The last lesson we taught, we invited her to be baptized (we didn't give her a specific date) and she said, "My answer is yes, but I don't feel ready to do it this Sunday. She is phenomenal.

Well, this is absolute madness, the crazy schedule with exchanges and trainings has caught up with me. Sister Dodini and I are super tired, but super happy and grateful for a preparation day.

The gospel is so true! People are amazing and changed to be even moreso through the gospel.


Sister Sheffer

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

June 2nd 2014

My first week of this transfer before district meeting, the sisters brought our attention to a cockroach in the Women's restroom. I thought, "Shoot. I'm a Sister Training Leader now, I have to be the man and kill the roach." God qualified me to do something I normally wouldn't and without any sissy squeals I disposed of the creature. Snapshot of last preparation day: I'm sitting on the floor leaning against my dresser writing letters when I feel something on my neck. I fling it off in front of me, and peering into my soul are the beady eyes of a 3 inch cockroach. Within a split second, (mind you with no sissy squeals) I'm on my feet, my letter-writing materials are strewn over six different parts of the room, and the roach is drenched in hairspray. Roach Wars Episode III: Two nights later: Sister Pratt is sleeping over on exchanges and at 5:30, I awake to feeling something swiftly crawl across my arm, it made its way down my blanket and across my foot, down my bed and onto the floor. While tempted to just be a pansy and sleep the last hour on the couch, I realized that would not only be disobedient, but terribly disloyal to my dear friend Sister Pratt. Thus, I chased the nasty thing out of the room with windex, stomped it like a man, drenched it in Windex for good measure, and after lots of self-talk, disposed of it. If the Lord can help me get over my fear of roaches, He can help me do anything. I now sleep with Windex by my bed. Darn Bama Bugs.

This week was pretty crazy. I got to do exchanges in my area starting Tuesday morning with Sister Pratt, who was Sister Wells' companion in Huntsville before I got there. She is a great friend, it is crazy the connection we have. We actually ended up extending to a 48 hour exchange, because we felt the Sisters needed it, and that was definitely needed and made a big impact on all of us. She is definitely one of the reasons I got this calling, and I love seeing that. She is a wonderful missionary. While in Leeds, we taught our investigator Mark--a 19 yr old kid with a crazy past. He has hardly any trust in people and can't trust the Bible since it's written by men, and is loving the BOok of Mormon so far, but having a hard time recognizing answers to his prayers that it's true--he doesn't want to be taken for a fool. We really love this poor, broken kid, and he is progressing immensely, coming to church, and continuing to read and pray. He was even able to get a job through networking through members he met. We've had pretty awesome lessons with him recently. Also while on exchanges, we taught almost all the commandments in a night to Tim, who got baptized yesterday. He received them so well! He's a rockstar.
If y'all remember Samantha, who I met with Sister Dodini my second night in Leeds, Sister Pratt and I also taught her and she committed to be baptized on June 28th! That was an awesome lesson.  When introducing the Book of Mormon, we always stress that it's a testament of Jesus Christ, because many people here don't realize that, and think it's something completely different. We went through the pictures at the front and I asked why she thought the first one was a picture of Christ. She said, "well....," and then flipped to the cover, and pointed to "Another Testament of Jesus Christ" Favorite moment of the week. She just gets it! She loves the gospel!
While in that neighborhood we were able to teach the husband of an investigator who wasn't interested in the lessons before, and hope to teach he and his wife together. He was amazed at the concept of the priesthood and said he wants to see it in action--come to church! We also were able to have a great lesson with a less active member who can't make it to church much due to serious health problems. We had something different planned, but the spirit prompted both of us to reteach the Plan of Salvation. That was powerful.
We did lots of contacting and met super awesome people, we're good friends with some gamers down town, and I've gained an appreciation of how creative they are to create these games, and this super cute lady who works for a boutique downtown. So prepared!

Finally switched back, and Sister Dodini and I got to work together for the afternoon Thursday and Friday morning before our district meeting where we met the Locust Fork Hermanas to do exchanges with them. It was way cool to get to do an exchange in Spanish in Locust Fork and Oneonta (Hermanas always cover huge areas). We got to wake up at 4:45 to help with a pancake breakfast with the Young Women. It was nice to get to know the branch the Hermanas serve. I love the YW there! I hope to get to work with them again sometime. Hermana Nuckols is the sweetest person in the world. She's from Mesa, so I'll get to see her again. She is a gift to recognize everyone's needs, remember every detail about every person, and minister with an abundance of love to meet everyone's needs.

Saturday we switched back just in time to help with the wedding of Tim! Tim started investigating after he started dating Kathy--an active member in the ward. Saturday was his wedding, and Sunday his baptism. I got to play for both of them, which was neat. The wedding was so beautiful. Kathy thanked everyone at the reception, and said they would be taking pictures in the Primary room, and invited whoever was cutting cake to do that while people at their leisure would take pictures with the wedding party. No one seemed to be assigned to do that, so I jumped up as well as the Relief Society President, Sister Witbeck. She cracks me up. I was cutting what I felt were pretty generous pieces of the ice cream cake while she handed me plates. She kept softly saying under her breath to me, "you know, there's a whole other cake, you can make the pieces bigger than that." I kept making them bigger and bigger, and she said, "Honey, we're in the South, you've got to make them bigger," "Oh goodness, it's all I can do, not to just take my finger, and lick up this extra stuff here. So funny. She took away the utensils when we were done, and said, "Okay, now I'm going to pretend like I'm going to wash these, and I'm going to lick them." Funny you say I'm keeping healthy mom, because I'm trying, but have definitely obtained some 'southern squish.'

We're trying to implement a new contacting idea with the sister called "pit stop." On our way to appointments, we pull into a gas station, or any parking lot with people, roll down our window and just tell people we're not from here, briefly tell them our missionary purpose and ask if they anyone who would be receptive, even them to a unique message about Jesus Christ...and whatever else we're prompted to say. It's a fun way to get contacts in on the way to our appointments. Awkward, but so is everything else in missionary work, eat the TOAST. We've racked up quite a few potentials doing this the past few days.

After the amazing baptism yesterday, other sisters (also STLs) who came down for it, pulled me into another room to talk about some stuff going on with a struggling sister, and now I'm in Milbrook, just outside Montgomery on emergency exchanges. Crazy stuff. Someday I'll see my companion for more than a few hours at a time.

Thank y'all for writing and praying, and being awesome. I love hearing about all that y'all are doing.

Anyway, the church is so true. God is so good. I want to give EVERYTHING and then some to Him, because this is the greatest work ever. Y'all are doing so well with the work in the home and in the kingdom.

Sister Sheffer

May 27th 2014

It's been a pretty awesome week. Sister Dodini and I met with the Relief Society President to discuss how we can help on a stake level and we were able to discuss neat ideas about how the missionaries and relief society sisters in the ward can work better. I love how closely we can work and it becomes so much more effective. We made great contacts at the civic center we do service at, and are getting involved in a youth summer camp to help teach a bible study class. It'll be really cool. Service goes  a long way in gaining people's trust.

We had our zone conference and it was phenomenal! We have such a great mission president and such great missionaries. They are all super inspiring. I love that President Hanks went through the Plan of Slavation from a parent's perspective and made it make more sense. Sister Dodini and I got to do a training on being an example of the believers through the doctrine of Christ.

WE exchanged afterward, and I can't believe how much work can be crunched into a small amount of time in our area. Kevin was right when he said that even though we don't get to spend as much time in our area, the time is magnified. The work of God is going strong! Immediately after the exchange we did another exchange in Anniston. I got to be comps with Sister Houston--sooooo awesome. She is my grandma, she trained Sister Wright and we served in the same ward in MOntgomery, so I was ecstatic to spend some time with her. She is a jedi of a missionary and I learned a lot from her. It was also a great biking area and I love that since Sister Dodini's bike is not usable, we just walk when we can't drive. I love to bike! Anniston has some fun characters, they have some awesome investigators preparing to be baptized, and it was awesome to talk with them.

We got to teach a family Sister Dodini found in our area on exchanges, so it was nice to be able to teach them together. The teenage daughter WEndy, is particulalry receptive, we know she's the reason we're there. So neat. sister Dodini has a great sense of purpose and recognizing the prepared. Saturday was full of parties that we got to attend for kids in the ward and meet lots of people and make lots of contacts. Those are the greatest! We found some great new investigators.

Sunday Selena was baptized. It was great to part of it. Southerners love to talk, and a few missionaries got permission to come and were busy talking to other members and missionaries, when I saw Selena looked a little nervous. When I approached her she said, "Sister, I don't know what I'm supposed to do." I encouraged her to get changed and we would go outside for pictures. It was great to feel of her spirit and to feel of the difference after she received the Holy Ghost. Her son got to baptize her, and they are just the neatest people. She is moving to a branch near Greenville in a few weeks, but I know she feels supported.

More baptisms to come this week! And still prepraing more. Mark, I think is close. Interesting as he's the first one I've met who distrusts the bible and believes in God, but we just discovered doesn't have a solid belief in Jesus Christ. He has come to church the last two weeks, attended the baptism, and has been reading from the Book of Mormon. Excited to teach him today on exchanges! More people to talk about, but not time.

Love y'all! I love this gospel so much!

Steadfast in Christ,

Sister Sheffer