Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sister Melanie Joins with the Catholics and Competes with the Liberty Sisters

Dearest Family,

This week, it really hit me how fast my mission is passing by (at least to me, I hope that it is the same for you). As I was sitting in Sacrament Meeting this Sunday, I realized that in not too long, I will only have a year left of my mission. I think back to how fast the last 2 transfers (3 months) have gone and realized that that period of time times four more and I will be on my way home. That is not very much time! I haven't even gotten anything done yet! I hardly feel like I am even starting to develop as a missionary yet. I still have a lot to learn, a lot to do, a lot to experience, a lot of people to help before I am done, so I better get to work!

Last Tuesday evening, two men came into the Trail Center. Of course, we all started talking to them (we had only had a couple visitors so far that afternoon, so we were excited to see some new faces). They proceeded to tell us that they were traveling from the East Coast to Arizona, where they are from, and were stopping at all the Church History Sites on their way (a fairly common occurrence). The problem came when they explained to us that while they were in Liberty, the sisters there had sung to them before taking them on a tour and expected that we would do the same for them. Sister Baker, Coats, Askren, and I were trapped. We took them back to the Memorial Room to sing for them. Keep in mind that none of us are very excellent singers. After we were done, one of the men told us that we sounded great, but we might want to invest in a pitch pipe for future performances. We had some good laughs after that. It was true though, we were really low, really low. Don't worry, no more musical performances planned in the near future.

On Thursday, I spent most of the day on mormon.org chat with Sister Askren and then with Sister Bown because Sister Askren was getting really tired and needed to get some rest. While Sister Bown and I were on chat, a man named Eric came on to chat with us. He lives in London, which made both of us pretty excited (Sister Bown also went on a study abroad to London this last summer). We were able to answer a lot of his questions, resolve some serious concerns, and set him for baptism right there on chat. It was crazy because both of us felt so connected to him as we messaged each other over the internet. It really showed me how important it is to be patient when trying to understand other people because at the very beginning, based on what he was saying, I thought that he was a troller. (Someone who gets on to just waste our time by asking questions like "How do magnets work?" and pretending to be interested in learning about the truth and then arguing with us, etc). But, because we just went ahead and chatted with him, trusting that he was sincere, we were able to share a really awesome experience with him. We were able to set him for baptism, send the missionaries to meet him, and told him that we would keep in touch through the mail. I am excited to see what happens.

At the Trail Center, two of the sisters on shift go every morning to the Catholic Retirement Community/former Convent down the road from us for an hour to do service for them. On Thursday, they were having a ribbon cutting for a new wing that was just completed, so Elder Watson sent us over to represent the Trail Center. What we weren’t expecting was the number of people that were there - lots of politicians and various people that had helped with the project, which makes sense. Afterwards, they invited everyone to go into their lunchroom for treats. What we weren't expecting when we got there was that they were expecting us to help serve. Of course, we jumped right in and started refilling platters and taking orders. They gave us big sticky nametags that said "Mormon Sister" on them. It was pretty funny. It was probably a very uncommon sight to see a bunch of LDS missionaries serving coffee to priests and politicians at the opening of a Catholic function, but we had a good time. The residents and staff there love us and tell us that between the Trail Center, the cemetery, and the Convent, we are a historic "stronghold" for Florence.

Yesterday, Monday, we were again serving in the Trail Center. It was about 70 degrees outside, a beautiful day. Right as we got there at 3, four couples came in all within about 1 hour of each other, so all four of us that were on shift were able to take one of them. The couple that I took was a couple in their twenties, not married, one a member and the other not. Their names were Mia and Jarem. They were visiting from Florida. When we were in front of the Nauvoo temple, I felt impressed to talk about baptism. I shared Mosiah 18:8-10 and bore my testimony about the purpose of baptism, then asked Mia to share about her baptism. The whole time, she kept staring at Jarem, the non-member, intently. When I stopped talking, he asked to hold my copy of the Book of Mormon. As I handed to him my very worn, marked copy, he carefully took it from my hands and held is softly, resting on his palms and just stared at it for a few moments, then carefully handed back to me. He didn't even know what it was, but he could feel the importance of the book. Later, I gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon to take with him. He asked me what it was. After I explained, he asked me how much it cost. I told him it was free and Mia added "Christ already paid for that with his blood." He promised to read it and Mia told me that they were going to have the missionaries over to their house when they got back to Florida. Wow! It was such an amazing experience for me to remember the importance of the Book of Mormon. It is such a treasure.

Ok well love you so much!

I hope you are doing fantastic! And have nice weather like we are having here!

Love you!

Sister Melly

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sister Melly emails about Humility, Exchanges and Day Care

Dearest Family,

I always think of the primary song that goes "dearest children, God is near you, watching o'er you day by day. . . whenever I begin writing my emails, except I replace children with "dearest family". . .

I LOVE YOU! I love you so much.

Well, look at that, another week gone by. This one has been fairly busy. Last p-day, Sister Askren went to the doctor and found out that her sinus infection has gotten worse and had now spread into her eye. They gave her heavier antibiotics and said she should be all better in 2 weeks (now 1 week). She looks and is feeling much better, but she gets tired very easily. I spent most of last p-day being carted around by different missionaries so that I could get all of my p-day things done without my companion. I did laundry with Sister Arnold, emailed with Sister Graham sitting next to me, and took Sister Bergeson and Sister Monson grocery shopping with me. It was an interesting experience, especially for the missionaries that were with me, because it was not any of their p-days. (They had had p-day on Monday.) Then, I spent the rest of the night in the Trail Center writing letters and things and trying to take a nice p-day nap, although that didn't work out too well because everyone kept coming and talking to me. (I think that they were in cahoots.)

Wednesday morning, we had district meeting. Sister Runyon and Sister Askren dropped me off at the Martha Street building (in view of the other sisters, of course) and then headed back for the apartment to sleep for the rest of the day. I felt like a kid being dropped off at day-care. I feel like I compare being with a companion like being in day care a lot, but that is what it feels like sometimes.

District meeting was about humility. As we talked, I was reminded of an experience that I had towards the beginning of my mission (which I guess you could still call now the beginning of my mission, but I feel a whole lot more grown up than then, so I am going to pretend that that is not true). I was having a tough time and Sister Kusnerik and I went to opposite sides of the apartment to pray and then come back together and talk about what changes we needed to make. As I kneeled down to pray, I could not begin. I knew that I was not ready to ask for help because I was not willing to do what would be asked in order for me to receive that help. I knew that I was being stubborn and that I needed to make some changes, but I did not want to admit that to the Lord and certainly not to my companion. I sat there for 15 or 20 minutes, just fighting with myself. I feel like I know what Enos was talking about when he says that he wrestled before God. It took me a long time and it was some serious hard work, but I had to humble myself before I was ready to move ahead. That is when the true power of the Atonement is felt, when we go from feeling completely justified in our sins and then turn completely away from the person we were before and truly become a new being in Christ. It was a very powerful experience. I also realized that humility is not losing faith in yourself. It is understanding that through Christ, you can do all things. The key phrase there is "through Christ".

Wednesday and Thursday I spent in Ralston with Sister Ford. Her companion, Sister Unice is sick, so we left her with Sister Runyon, Askren, and all the other sickies and headed out. There is something about missionary work that if something is going to happen, it happens in the last five minutes of the day. When we were in Ralston, we had five minutes before we were going to go home, so we tried one last potential (someone who the missionaries had met before and was willing to learn, but they had not actually taught her a lesson). Sister Ford said afterwards that she was sure that no one would be home. But, surprise! She was home and we were able to teach one last lesson. The only problem was that by the time we were done teaching, it had gotten too late for us to be able to drive back to North Omaha before curfew, so we ended up staying the night at their apartment in Ralston. I borrowed some PJs and everything turned out fine. Then, on Friday, when I was able to spend the day in Oakview with Sister Arnold, the same thing happened again. The last door that we tried, a woman who had told us to try back after Christmas, and who we had tried several times before, answered her door and we were able to teach one more lesson for the day.

The amazing thing that I have noticed recently is that even though we have so little time in our area recently, we are still able to produce the same % of the weekly standard that Sister Kusnerik and I were producing at times during my first couple of transfers. Granted, we had just opened the area then, but I still feel OK about it.

Sunday, we had probably the best Sacrament Meeting I have ever been in. I learned a very vital difference between our church and other churches. Like it says in the scriptures, the greatest leaders are the ones who are the servants of the people. Everything in the church is set up to support the members of the ward. The bishop, missionaries, auxiliaries, programs, etc. are there to support the people, not the people there to support the leaders and programs of the church. The people exist first and the leaders and programs step in when there is a need, whereas in other congregations you may see a church set up and a pastor hired who then invites people to attend. Of course, we do do some degree of inviting, but it is only for the benefit of the people being invited.
Things are starting to look up. Sister Askren and spent 3 hours in Oakview earlier today. She is pretty worn out, but it is a good start. I just pray that we are still companions next transfer so that we can do some serious work together (transfers are next week!). Who knows what could happen! Pretty scary.

Alrighty, the good thing about not a lot going on right now is that instead of running out of time to finish up my emails, I am more likely to run out of things to say! Ha ha

Love you so much!
Sister Melly

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sister Lamb Learns a Little Bit about Patience and Blowing Snow While Blowing in the Wind in Nebraska

Dear Family,

Look at that! I actually put a subject in the subject line this week. Pretty impressive, I know. The email system always asks me before I send an email if I want to put anything in the subject line and I always decline, but I thought I would try something new this week.

I usually bring my planner or journal with me when I email so that I can look through it so I know what to write, but I don’t have either this week, so I am just doing this off the top of my head. Hopefully I don’t forget anything very important.

Last week, I walked into Saturday morning training at the Trail Center and one of the senior elders told me an interesting story. His brother, I think, had died and he and his wife had gone back to Utah for the funeral. While they were in the church building, they were looking around while there was nothing going on and found themselves looking at the missionary plaques. Guess whose they found? Mine! How crazy is that? Out of all the buildings in Utah, even in Sandy, Utah, they were at our ward building, looking at my missionary plaque. It was kind of funny, a little weird.

I have learned a little something in the last little bit about snow. Out here, the snow is very different. When it first starts snowing, it doesn’t stick or melt, it just blows around on the ground. It’s very pretty, until it eventually sticks to the roads and is ice. Even just a 1/4 inch of snow on the ground can mean some serious ice. Last week, the cars were grounded by the snow. In Utah, we would hardly think it was anything, but here the roads were very slick. We had about an hour warning before the cars would be grounded, so we quickly started for our apartment so we would not be stuck in the area for the night. The normally 20 minute drive to our apartment took over an hour. We saw several slide offs and accidents. The nice part was that we got to drive through a very pretty part of town because we were avoiding the highways. We drove past UNO campus. In the neighborhoods around the campus, the houses are gorgeous. They are all old and cozy looking. It was great. We also listened to several conference talks.

Sister Askren has still been sick this week. We are doing the best we can with the situation, but we are just confused about why this is taking so long to resolve. It looks like she now has an eye infection. The Watsons are taking her to the doctor's office today. The difficult part is that we just don’t understand what we are supposed to be doing. Anything we are supposed to be learning from this, we feel like we have learned. The work needs to go forward, but it is moving pretty slowly under the circumstances. I keep looking at the calendar and noticing how far into this transfer we are getting. Then I look back at how little we have been able to accomplish, and almost panic a little. At the same time, it is what it is. We can't change the situation; we can only do as much as we can with what we have right now. I have been doing my best lately to make things happen and to be out doing missionary work, even if it is not in our area or I am in a threesome. It is what it is. I have a feeling that the reason that Sister Askren and I are companions is because anyone else would be going crazy if they were in the situation right now. I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing that it seems I am the one for the job.

On Sunday, I went to church with the West Maple Sisters. It was really bizarre not being in my ward. Then I spent the rest of Sunday and Monday morning with the Old Mill sisters in their area. I realized two things. One, I love talking to people. People are all so unique and each person has a story to tell. I could just sit and listen to people and learn about their experience all day. Unfortunately, while we do get to meet lots of people and learn about them, we aren't really able to do it to the extent that I would like. Second, I have spent enough time on exchanges that I am starting to feel comfortable in their areas. While I was with the Old Mill Sisters, I recognized many sections of their areas and I know many people in the West Maple Ward.

SO, such is life lately. I just kind of go wherever the wind blows me. (As long as I am with at least one other missionary). My plans can change on a moment’s notice, which makes it pretty difficult to plan ahead. But, we keep going. I don't know where the time goes, but it goes somewhere. I am trying to be patient and "cheerfully flexible" as Randy Boothe would say. There is a reason that this is the way that things are going right now, but I have no idea what that is. One day I will figure it out.

Love you! Love you Lots and lots!
Love, Sister Melly

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sister Melly Teams Up with Member Missionaries and a Fire Pit

Dear family,

Love you!

I received your letters and pictures from Christmas. It looks like you have been having a lot of fun!

This past week has gone by very quickly. The time is definitely starting to speed up. It is hard to believe that this transfer is almost 1/2 way over already! The time has gone by very quickly.

The biggest problem that we have been having lately is that I keep losing my planner! I think I lost it at least twice this week. After 3-4 days looking for it the first time, I found it in the bottom of my bag. I guess Heavenly Father didn't want me to find it because I am sure that I looked there at least a couple of times previous to that. The second time, I left it at an investigator's house and we had to go back and get it the next day. This normally wouldn't be a big problem because my companion should have all the same things written in her planner, but because we have been on exchanges so much, there is a lot of information that is only in my planner (including when we have scheduled appointments). The result of this is that we have accidentally missed a couple of appointments. Then, I feel terrible and make a whole long apology to whoever we missed the appointment with and then it ends up being not a big deal, but it still feel terrible afterwards.

On Wednesday, we saw James Joyner, a less active in our ward. He went to a Sacrament Meeting with his family in San Diego a couple of weeks ago and the topic was service. One of the things that they mentioned was feeding the missionaries so Brother Joyner, who loves to do service, decided to go with it. He called us a few days later and said he wants to come back to church and play basketball with the ward and invited us over for dinner. Turns out, he is the regional manager for Red Robin. Between him, the Farfans (regional manager for Panda Express), and another less-active we just found out about that is an area manager for Jimmy Johns, we should be getting fed pretty well. Brother Joyner fed us Red Robin for dinner and sent us home with a large bag full of leftovers that lasted the next few meals. Yes, please. He also told us that he flies airplanes in his spare time and offered to take us on an airplane ride, which would be so awesome, but the White Handbook specifically says that we are not to ride in private airplanes. Every time I have read that rule before, I just laugh and think "When would that ever happen?” Well, now I know. But, really the most important part was the lesson, silly. We brought Katelin Jensen (a 20-year old girl from the Oakview Ward who was home for Christmas from Snow College) and talked about prayer. It was so powerful and really had an affect on both Katelin and Brother Joyner, especially as she testified to him of the power of prayer. That is something that I have been learning this week, the importance of having ward members with us as team-ups. They are usually a little nervous, which means they really think about what they want to share in the lesson and in the end; all of us are edified and grow closer to Christ.

On Friday, I got to go on exchanges with Sister Arnold (one of the sisters that came to the mission the transfer after I first arrived in Omaha). We decided the night before that we were going to find someone during the first half of the day to baptize and then go to the California Street building (where they were having Zone Leader Council) during our dinner break and have one of the zone leaders interview them and then baptize them. But then we realized that we had a dinner appointment, so it didn't work out.

That morning two of the sisters were driving to the Trail Center when a ladder fell off a truck in front of them and landed in their lane. They did not have time to stop or swerve, so they drove right over the top of it and cracked their fender. When they called Elder Lund, the senior elder in charge of cars, to tell him what happened, he told them "Oh I know why that must have happened, it is because you are Ladder-day Saints." We all thought he was pretty clever.

That night, we went to go check on a couple of referrals in an apartment building that were given to us by the Cold Springs sisters. While we were there, we went to go try to contact a less active member who I had tried to contact several times before, but had never found her at home. When we got near her apartment, I could not remember which door was hers and then could not even remember her name. We decided just not to worry about it and started walking away. We were just a few steps down the hall when we passed a woman. She looked at our nametags and said "Oh you must be looking for me". Sure were. It was Sister Kinkead on her way home from work. We were able to go in and get to know her and a teach her a lesson. That same night, we went to Beth and Sam's house with Sister Thomas. We went in and talked about their expectations for us and our expectations for them and then Sister Thomas just laid it down for them. I have never seen Beth so in tune with what was going on and paying attention and everything was fantastic. The Spirit was strong and the lesson could not have gone better. It was a serious turning point for Beth. So powerful. Sister Thomas just repeated over and over again and testified until what she was saying really sunk in. She said "The Gospel is beautifully simple and simply beautiful". I think that she must have said it 10 or 12 twelve times and then related it to other things and explained how much God loves us. Afterwards, she told us that she had been praying all day to know what she should say. Again, another example of how important members are in missionary work. Missionaries have a lot of responsibility in missionary work, but members do as well, and when they really go out and do it with focus and passion, it can be very powerful. I am so grateful for the spirit of missionary work that is spreading through the Oakview Ward and for awesome member missionaries.

On Saturday, we went to an appointment with a man that we had helped with a service project a little while ago, but this was our first time teaching him. When we got there, he led us to his backyard where he had a fire going in his fire pit. We sat around the fire and taught him the Restoration. The lesson went pretty well and we had a member team-up with us that was perfect for the people being taught, but the craziest part was that we were sitting in someone's backyard around a fire pit and perfectly warm in the middle of January! In Omaha! As soon as we left, it felt a lot colder outside all of a sudden. Maybe it was just the spirit keeping us warm.

Love you! Hope that any of my emails make any sense! I feel like I am just rambling on and on and not really coming to a conclusion!

Love you!

Sister Melly

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sister Lamb Gets a New Address and a New Calling - Nurse Maid

Dear Family,
Love you! As always! I hope that you had a great Christmas season! It hardly seems like Christmas here because we don't do a whole lot of celebrating and when we do, it is a bit different than what you would do at home. Christmas we spend just visiting people and eating lots of food (which is fairly typical missionary stuff) and I just now connected the pieces together of why things seemed a little strange  one night in the Oakview area (with Sister Baker) this last week. Surprise! It was New Years Eve. We were actually able to find most people home and teach a few lessons, which was great. That night, I got home and went to bed early. I didn’t even put things together until later as to why people were making comments about being home that night. Probably because it was New Years Eve and they felt like they should about doing something fun. But missionaries are fun! Right?

Sister Askren (my new companion) has been sick for almost two weeks now and every time she tries to get up and do something, she ends up feeling much worse. The general solution is that we find Sister Runyon (who has bronchitis and also needs to rest) and then I take them to our apartment and I find something else to do for the day (either studying or working at the Trail Center or going out with another sister who also has a sick companion). I have starting calling our apartment the sick ward and I am the nurse maid. Anyone who is sick comes to our apartment and I take care of them. My other major responsibility is making sure that Sister Runyon and Sister Askren actually rest. They are both Trail Center Trainers and are constantly convincing themselves to feel disobedient about getting the rest that they need, so convincing them to sleep is a constant struggle. Sister Askren told me that it is a good thing that I am her companion because she probably would not listen to what I tell her if it was coming from anyone else. I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

I hope anything that I am saying right now makes any sense. I feel like I am rambling on and on and not getting anywhere.

We are starting to see some of the fruits of Sister Kusnerik and my work in Oakview. A couple of days ago, we got a call from a less active in our ward, James Joyner. In October, Sister Kusnerik and I went to visit him, but he lives in a locked apartment complex and we did not have a phone number for him. Right as we were trying to figure out what to do (and if he even still lived there because we were doubting it); a woman walked up and let us into the building. We went up to his door, but he was not home, so we left a note with our phone number. We have not done anything since to try to get into contact with him. A couple of days ago, he called us and said that he wants to come back to church. Because he will be out of town for the next couple of weeks, he invited us over for dinner with him tomorrow and asked if the ward has a basketball program. I don’t know what changed all of the sudden, but it sure seems like he wants to get involved, so that is great! I guess we will find out more of the story tomorrow.

This last week, I have gone to the Old Mill area twice with Sister Baker. Right now, they are teaching a woman named Mavis who is being baptized this Saturday. The sisters just started teaching her a couple of weeks ago. She was a referral from the Gingerbread Festival. Both nights I have been with Sister Baker, we have gone to see her. She is so amazing. Every time she brings up a concern, we just testify to her that everything will be alright, and she just believes it. She asked me to do something in her baptismal service, so Sister Askren and I are working on getting one of our investigators to attend the baptism so we can go too. I hope it works out!

Well, there goes the time again. I think that I am getting faster at typing. I don’t know if my emails are getting any longer though. Maybe you will have to compare them.

Love you sooo much!
Sister Lamb

New Mission Address:

Sister Melanie Alyse Lamb
Nebraska Omaha Mission
11027 Martha Street
Omaha, Nebraska 68144-3107