Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January 12th 2015

Such good things happening!
Our mission has instituted an idea from the zone leaders serving in Madison. It is called the "Hour of Power." Every day from 5-6, we focus solely on inviting people to be baptized. The purpose invite more people to be baptized and to get the timid missionaries out of their shells. Miracles have been coming of this from all over the mission.
Tuesday was hectic, and we were scrambling in that hour to find people we could invite to be baptized. President's letter last week discussed "living on the margin." The idea is the miracles happen in the last 20 minutes, the last door, all that. In the last MINUTE of the hour of power on Tuesday, we were in downtown Florence, and I saw a man sitting on a bench. We engaged him in gospel conversation, and I invited him to be baptized at 5:59. Nothing happened. He wasn't ready or interested. As we continued to walk, Sister West sees something shiny in a little boutique. The boutique closed at 6, but the girl working there let us in. He had a great conversation with her. She had recently married and moved to Florence. She is Catholic, and her husband is Methodist, and she was interested in the church. We have been in contact with her and are going to lunch this week. Talk about living on the margin. We were blessed to find other people who allowed us to teach them.

We had an awesome lesson with Jeanine, she finally opened up to us about how difficult it is for her to get over her baptist background, and coming from only hearing anti about the church, to attending and seeing it's good. She agreed to start the lessons over again with a clean slate. We taught her the next day with the assistants who came up and offered to work with us. There were a ton of kids in the house, so it was kind of crazy. She has gotten a little distant from us since then.
Her sister Destiny wants to be baptized so badly, her mom's heart just needs to be softened to allow her to do so.

A good sister from the ward took us out to meet the many less-active Spanish speakers in the ward. It was a good time. There is a family who quit going to church, but still believe. They have two teenage kids who have not been baptized. They agreed to take the lessons as a family again. I'm excited for the chance to have regular lessons in Spanish.

I can't remember if I had talked to y'all about Erica and Keneie. A few weeks ago on a prep day, and while Sister West was looking for blackberries, I started talking to this young couple. They were hilarious and agreed to have us over. The first lesson was awesome. Erica has an incredible mind. She has a military background and despite her being so young is wise beyond her years, while maintaining a playful, childlike demeanor. Keneie was just funny and seemed like a good guy. They had only been dating for a few months. Erica is 6 months pregnant from a previous engagement. They were committed to becoming a family, and we kept family as a focus during the lessons.
Our second lesson, Erica responded great, and Keneie didn't seem sure about it anymore.
We got a text from Erica on Friday and knew something was wrong. She called us and informed us she and Keneie were no longer together. We didn't hesitate to secure some chocolate and meet her at the library. She explained unfortunate circumstances, and we discussed that as well as the gospel. She had told some of her friends she was thinking about converting to Mormonism, and they responded with anti. Erica said that wasn't anything she had read from or any of the literature she got from us. She wasn't phased by it, and simply asked how she should respond. This girl is golden! We invited her to be baptized, and she has a date for January 31st. We just came from her house, and she read from the introduction of the Book of Mormon to 1 Nephi 8. She gets excited by the story, and related it to herself. She is so solid. She was stoked to come to church yesterday, but got called into work. She has a hard time making ends meet, and is a little nervous about providing for herself and her coming daughter. She told us, her second job had her scheduled most Sundays, but she specifically asked for the 31st off for her baptism. We went over Sabbath day today, and told her in order to be able to be baptized, she has to come to church. She responded with such faith, and will get Sundays off no matter what. Erica is incredible!

Wednesday we had interviews with President Hanks in Tupelo, about a 2 hour drive from us. The gps we have doesn't help in the least for long distance trips like that, so driving there and back was an adventure, and rather stressful for me. Hermana West has great trust in me. We determined to see a part member couple we have been trying to get in with all transfer. They managed to avoid our calls and texts. They work in scouts and we had tried to catch them at the church on Wednesday nights before, but hadn't managed to get more than a minute exchange with them. The bishop said that was normally about as good as it got with them. We went directly to see them when we managed to get back into Florence. We were both so tired! We brought cookies for them to the church, and somehow I ended up talking to the husband Joe about cars and guns. Hermana West talked with Bethany about wedding stuff. We were in. They didn't hesitate to schedule a dinner with us. Joe made seasoned chicken strips and I made tortillas, refried beans, and Spanish rice. It was delicious. We were even more in. They love us now. Bethany agreed to start the discussions. Miracles!

Another reason for being so tired after interviews is that Hermana West got the news that she will be training this coming transfer! She is SO nervous. I know she will be an awesome trainer, and we have been going hard in her training. God has been blessing us so much. Our teaching pool has increased tremendously this week, Hermana West is spiritually maturing right in front of my eyes, and we are just seeing miracles everywhere we work. Tracting has been even more effective, and it is just incredible to see what is happening here in Florence right before our eyes.

Yesterday. Oh man. Ward conference, and it was awesome. After the block we were part of a new member lesson for a 50 year old recent convert named Amanda who was baptized just before we got here. Amanda said she couldn't help but wonder how her life would be different were she raised in the gospel, perhaps she would be married and have a family. WE assured her God still has those blessings for her. She then got determined and said she wanted to get off her butt and do more, and asked about our schedule for team-ups. That has blown up recently also, and we will have 5 team-ups this week, including her now. She is excited. It's awesome to see the gospel continues to change her.
We had a team-up after her lesson with a woman in the ward. She has a beautiful, musical laugh like Grandma Sheffer's and uses it often. She is delightful to be around. Our plans for where we intended to go changed after a sister in the ward asked if we could teach part of a RS thing for this activity Tuesday. We were to pick up a packet from a sick sister in Killen. We decided to go out there, and then work that area with our team-up, Sister Young. When I looked over what members lived in Killen, Diana stuck out to me. The elders had been seeing her, but had only managed to get a ride out there once this last transfer and didn't seem too enthused about how things were going with her. We asked Sister Young if she knew her, and she gasped and said, "I haven't seen her in YEARS, I LOVE Diana." We went, and once Diana realized who she was, she was overcome with joy. She has an incredible conversion story, and immediately committed to coming back to church, especially since she learned her old, dear friend was now in her ward, and she expressed her lifelong desires to be a missionary, and to go through the temple. This is her year. That was an amazing experience.

God is so good!!!

Sister Liz Sheffer

Monday, January 12, 2015

January 5th 2015

Hey y'all, this week FLEW!

All of our investigators who lived a ways out have dropped, which is a blessing because the Lord is leading us to work a closer proximity around our own residence and the church, which will save us on time and miles, and help us to find the elect who can make it to church on their own. We have spent a lot of time tracting and have found awesome people.

Hermana West and I were walking down a street, originally planning on walking a ways down before starting to knock. We passed this house with three red trucks, and a sign that said, "Alabama fans parking only," and a UA flag proudly waving over the porch. Hermana West is still getting used to the football culture here, so we figured we'd knock it and get more acquainted. A man walked out of the side door, and I said something like, "hey sir, we're the local mormon missionaries, and we came to say, 'Roll Tide!,' and we have a unique message about the Savior that will bless your life. What do you think happens to unbaptized children?" Something like that, I don't really remember, but he let us in. He had strong misconceptions about mormons that we straightened up, and we have a wonderful conversation with him. His wife was very soft spoken, and would occassionally try to correct some of the myths this man was expressing about mormons. Upon engaging her more in the conversation, we learned that she was mormon herself! She was baptized in the 60s, and hadn't attended church for decades. She is adorable. It was fun to meet them, she gave us all of her info so we can find her records, and her husband committed to read the Book of Mormon and let us come back.

As we were making visits encouraged by the ward council, we passed a street that had several mailboxes that said "West." Naturally, Hermana West wanted to tract them, and we had good reception from one woman who we are going back to. Hermana West is so excited! I'm excited too.

All of Thursday was spent in Mississippi for a zone training. It was amazing! I had never been to MI before and was happy to set foot there. Also, the training itself was fantastic. We were all jazzed, and the training was put together so well. It really made me proud, especially since one of the STLs was in my zone when I was an STL, and I had worked closely with her. I reflected and was proud to see that this training was better than any I had helped put together when I was an STL. That was a good feeling to see those I helped train grow into such wonderful leaders. I am also so thoroughly impressed with all the new missionaries. These kids are incredible! I know the mission will be left in such good hands. At the end of zone training, I was invited to give my testimony as a departing a missionary. That was really weird. I had seen many other missionaries give their departing testimonies, and never really thought about when I would stand and give mine. My emotions got the best of me, and I promised these missionaries that every sacrifice of the mission is worth it. Every bible bash, every failed appointment, every moment of frustration, every headache, the allergies...everything. Alabama will always be a hallowed place for me because it is where I learned to love the Lord and His children.

Elder Westling works in the Florence ward with us, this is his second transfer. He is hilarious, but loves the work. He promised me that Jeanine, a non-member in a part-member family we've been working with will be baptized. I know that. He promised that she would be this transfer while I am here. She absolutely could be. I have faith she could do it, but I see it differently now. If she is baptized this transfer, awesome, if she is baptized January 31st, or even the next month, awesome. I don't really care what Saturday she gets baptized on, I just want her to make those covenants and secure her family for eternity.
I remember looking at our mosquito bite-covered legs last summer and joking with my companion that with each bite, our husbands got a little hotter. We were instructed by our zone leaders to go home immediately Saturday around 5 because of a storm. The skies were clear, so we decided to contact a referral on the way that was super close to our apartment. WE had a good conversation, and took a polite rejection, and during this, it starts POURING rain. We were biking and soaked by the time we went the short distance to our apartment. I had to spend just a minute or two playing in the rain in our parking lot, before we went inside and the thunder and lightning started...all out of nowhere, good old Alabama weather. We reported to the zone leaders that we made it back to our apartment safe, sound, and soaked. When they learned we were biking, they told us our husbands just got a little hotter. I honestly don't care if there is a reward anymore. Every little sacrifice itself is just worth it. I'll take the mosquito bites, the biking in the rain, the tracting in the cold, because the work is simply worth doing. It's a privilege, really. I'm happy. Alma 37:34 teaches me that the only way we ever can be truly rested is if we work our tails off. Work bring happiness, especially work for the Savior.

We spent lots of time tracting yesterday between making short visits and lessons to both active and less-active members. We have met mostly the nicest people I've ever met. We have a few return appointments and are excited to see what comes. I love tracting at night.

I absolutely love this work. So privileged to be here.


Sister Sheffer

Thursday, January 8, 2015

December 29th 2014

Last Monday I was writing a letter and pondering on whom the Savior would be seeking during Christmas week. I was convinced that Christ spent much of his time with those who others wouldn't. I thought about all the times I have heard people say they don't associate with certain people because they are 'weird,' or unattractive, or creepy, or smell funny, or something of the like. I wanted to find those people who really needed to feel love and who would be transformed by the atonement of Christ. The day before Hermana West and I accidentally ended up in a sketchier part of town (result of being double transferred and unfamiliar with the area). We were talking to someone on the sidewalk. Given that we were in a neighborhood, we were in front of someone's house. The house had one of those "Forget about the dog, beware of the owner" signs with a picture of a gun. A man inside the house slowly and repeatedly defogged his house. Both Hermana West and I felt a need to leave that area promptly. Hermana West was thoroughly creeped out by any and all houses with similar gun signs.
Monday night, we were biking to a center to contact, and got lost(another result of being double transferred). We changed our plans and tracted in the neighborhood we ended up in. After getting a few rejections, one house stood out to me. I start to approach it, and Hermana West frantically says, "Sister Sheffer!!" She pointed to a gun sign this house had. We were in a safe area, and I highly doubted they would be intimidated by a couple girls on bikes. She was still very hesitant, but walked with me to the door and I knocked. The family there is super nice. They belong to the Church of Christ. We had a good talk with them, and they invited us back. Hermana West is now convinced that we need to knock any and ALL houses with gun signs on them.

Tuesday we had another wonderful district meeting, and then met with the family history consultant as part of Hermana West's training. It was such a wonderful experience. He asked us to close our eyes and try to lift the veil. He asked what we saw. I saw passed family members busily working, but they were SO CLOSE. I know that we all have loved ones that are working WITH us, and they are closer than we realize. I got excited about it, and look forward to spending more time with it.

We met with a wonderful lady, Jeanine. Her husband and kids were baptized early in 2014, and we heard different reasons for why she was not. We were able to establish a good relationship with her. Her house was a little chaotic, and we didn't have an opportunity to ask her, but we did a Christmas lesson with her family. We both feel really good about her. I wrote my talk with her in mind. I was disappointed when she didn't make it to church, since she is normally there. She is so neat. Pray for her, we both think she could be baptized soon.
That same night, we were out contacting, and Hermana West suggested trying Joann's (craft store). WE were on our way, but were distracted by people standing outside. We approached them, and had a good talk about Christmas and keeping Christ the center of it. They were from out of town, but committed to looking up He is the Gift. Without thinking we were continuing to walk in the same direction, when I remembered Hermana West had suggested we go to Joann's. We turned around. It was getting late, and stores were fixin to close. When we walked in, I almost doubted for a second, there didn't seem to be a single person in the store, but we walked all the way to the back to see a woman frantically throwing things into her cart, and scouring the shelves for something. We asked what she was looking for, and helped her find a special kind of yarn she was looking for. She was so stressed and frazzled. When she found everything, she breathed for a second, and we gave her a big hug. She started crying and said we were angels. She then told us of hard other things that were going on, and said she had just been praying for help from God. She readily accepted our invitation of bringing a message of peace and God's love. God's timing is amazing.

Christmas Eve, we tracted and contacted. The public areas were PACKED. Before we went into a store, a vendor outside said she would pray for us. Haha. Hermana West met her first super nice people who say we are deceived and that they will pray for us to come to know the 'real Jesus.' I was surprised it over two weeks, the people in this area are so kind.
That night we went to the extended family Christmas party of the Hispanic family in the ward. There were a ton of people, so they gathered at the church since they couldn't fit in a home. So fun. So much food. Lots of non-members and less-active members we were able to meet. All such neat people. We had to leave when temptation got too great with all the dancing going on. :)
My love has grown so much for the Bishop's family. They are so so neat, and I was so glad we got to spend time with them on Christmas Day. I think the wife needed it also.

Friday was amazing. There is an older convert in our ward named Martha who joined the church in the 1970s. She is the sweetest person and loves the missionaries. She invited us over for breakfast and asked if we could help her with a few things. We more than happy to, since she has a hard time getting around. Poor Hermana West has a hard time with spiders, and there are lots of them here, and were lots where we were helping Martha. We finished the tasks she needed assistance with and she told us she wanted to take us to two homes to teach the gospel. She drove us out to a far area to see her great niece. We came into a cute trailer, and a girl my age and her mother were tending to a bedraggled dog. Chelsea, the 22 year old, had seen the dog on the road, and seeing what poor condition is was in, got it into her car and took it home. While we were there, her mom was squeezing a sizable ablasion as mucousy, smelly liquid ran out of the wound. I thought I was going to throw up, it was disgusting, and I was amazed at the heart of these people to help such a pitiful creature. They are good souls. Martha boldly told them, they needed to bring Jesus into their lives, and raise Chelsea's baby right, and the only way they could do that was through the church that had the priesthood. Martha is awesome. We got to know them, and of past happenings that made the mom especially feel something like that dog, and completely abandoned by God. We shared scriptures from 3 Nephi 22  with her and it brought her and her daughters to tears. They both agreed to work toward baptism and meet with us regularly. I love those ladies so much. So excited to work with them.

Saturday we weren't feeling well. We got a text from the Bishop's wife saying she was home with sick kids, but they had signed up to clean the church. She asked if we could help with that. We love that family, and couldn't turn down a chance to serve them, so we smiled and did it. We then went to an appointment with Barbara. Barbara had rescheduled twice. Someone else answered the door and said, "Barbara wants to know if y'all can come back later." I'm out of patience for that. I knew Barbara was sitting in the front room listening, and I politely but firmly told her our time is valuable and if she couldn't keep her appointments, she at least owed us the decency of a phone call...somewhere in the middle of my tangent, Barbara said, "okay, y'all can come in." We met with Barbara, her daughter Rika, her niece Sharieka, and her grandbabies Breanna and Malaysia. In our 'How to begin teaching' with them, Barbara expressed desires to change, she said she can recognize Satan working on her, and just wants help to come out of the darkness. She and Rika expressed confusion with the different things they hear from all these pastors, and an inability to know what the truth of it all is. So prepared. They were transfixed the entire time we taught the Restoration. Barbara says she already knows it's true. Rika said this answers all the questions she has had. It was such a neat experience. Barbara accepted the baptismal invitation, Rika, is holding off for some things. Sharieka isn't into it. I love these girls. They color my world.
Kind of crazy that during that appointment, I don't remember feeling sick, but IMMEDIATELY after, I felt that I was about to throw up. We had an appointment with the family we met MOnday night, and were deliberating as to whether or not we could make it. I hated that I didn't think I could. The elders called, answer to prayers! I asked if they could take that appointment for us and they did. We have some great elders. They showed up to our apartment later with pepto-bismol. I had never tried it, but they swore by it. They're testimonies of pepto reminded me of Elder Bednar's story of his son sharing a medicated soothing ointment with his brother and friends. I tried it. I don't really know if it helped at all, but it was really kind.

Sunday we were the only speakers for sacrament meeting. The talks went well, and we are feeling better and better acclimated to the ward and area. Excited for another week with holidays and sickness behind, and people coming back to their lives, we'll hit it hard.

I love y'all.  Y'all inspire me.

Hermana Sheffer