Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sister Melanie's Gratitude Attack on Thanksgiving

Hello Family!
Love you!
Alright, so first things first. As you know, transfers were this last week. We didn't find out what would be happening until Thursday morning. But the results are. .. .. Drum roll please. ... . Sister Davis is going to be serving in Council Bluffs with Sister Jarman (they live just right below us) and I am training one of the new sisters, Sister Anderson. She is from Visalia, California. On Thursday morning, Sister Davis and I were asked to take all the new missionaries on tour at the Trail Center (there are 2 sisters- Holt and Anderson- and four elders). Then, that night, they came to the Thanksgiving dinner at the Trail Center where one of the senior sisters accidentally let it slip that I was going to be training one of them (the new sisters didn't know what would be happening yet- I had a feeling that was going to happen) but then they found out later that night and we had transfers on Friday morning.
Missionaries often call the person being trained the baby and the trainer the mom (or dad). So I guess you have another grandchild! Ha-ha. I actually really don't like when people call new missionaries babies. I think it is weird.
Thanksgiving was so fun! After we took the new missionaries on tour, we completed a master plan to gratitude attack all of the senior couples. The only problem is that most of them live in the same, locked apartment complex. We came up with quite the scheme. We had the Openshaws let us and the Fairview sisters in under the premise that we were going to decorate just the Going's door (Sister Going is the senior sister that has cancer). Then the Fairview sisters played decoy by asking to use the Openshaw's bathroom. When they were gone, we doubled back and let the Millard and Council Bluffs sisters in, then split up to go decorate doors. When we were done, we went to go get the Fairviews from the apartment and left. The other sisters almost got caught by Elder Openshaw when he chased us down to give us fruit snacks. Then they went to decorate the Openshaw’s door. It was probably more of a scheme than was really necessary, but when we were done, we felt like we had pulled off a bank robbery or something. After that, we made rolls and green bean casserole, then watched "Brave" at the Trail Center, had dinner with the senior couples, sang songs, and watched "The Best Two Years". The best two years is about a new missionary that has a totally deadbeat, disobedient trainer. By the end, the new missionary is able to get the trainer going again and everything turns out great, but all I could think of was worrying that that would be Sister Anderson and I. Ha-ha.
But, it has actually been really good. We have been doing the 12 week training program, just like I did at the beginning of my mission, which has been a good refresher so far. When we are in the Trail Center, she has just been shadowing my tours, which is a little scary to have someone watching and copying your every move, but it has given me just enough stress to make me work a little harder and be a little better. It has also helped me to realize that I am doing a lot better than I thought I was. I just had to blast through a couple of fears and I am doing just fine. I hope that I can say the same for Sister Anderson. She is really great. She loves being a missionary and I appreciate her willingness and eagerness to do the work. She is confident and trusts in the Lord. She is going to be a great missionary. The work in our area is already starting to improve and we are finding new people to teach and have a renewed hope for those that we are already teaching. I expect many great miracles in the next few months!
Love YOU!
Sister Melly

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving from Sister Melanie

Hello Family!

Love you! Happy Thanksgiving!

The email that I am using is all different all of a sudden and it makes me feel a little confused, but I guess that I will just type and hope that it all works out in the end.

Last week was a short p-day so that we could go to the temple on Friday

I feel like I keep noticing not necessary last times that things are happening, but just that the number of times that I will do some things is becoming very limited. Like for instance, I will only go to the temple maybe 2 more times before the end. Only 12 p-days and 12 weekly planning sessions. After tomorrow, I will only anxiously wait to hear about transfers one more time. Sometimes time feels like it is going very slowly, but then all of a sudden I look back and it feels like time has flown by. Already, the sisters who I feel like just got here a few weeks ago are moving into their second transfer and two new sisters arrived in Omaha yesterday. Sister Davis and I are going to be taking them and the new elders on a tour of the Trail Center tomorrow morning. 4 sisters- Atkin, Dubois, Rhoades, and Robertson all flew home this morning. Its kind of a surreal thing because we only see each other a few times a week, so in a way it just feels like they are still here somewhere, I just haven’t seen them in a little bit. I remember before my mission, in a mission prep class at BYU, the teacher told us to be careful at the end of our missions not to just work hard the first half and then ride out the rest, but that is so much easier to say than it is to do! It is so easy to just slip into the mentality of "Oh, I only have a couple of months left, so I don't really need to .. ." or "I know that I need to work on. . . but in just a couple of months, it won't matter, so maybe I just won't worry about it." The more I think about it, the more I feel like I still have a lot of things that I need to learn and improve upon. It stresses my out sometimes. This morning, though I was reading through part of my journal from last February- so about 9 months ago- and I could definitely recognize the difference in myself since then. My whole way of thinking has changed, but I still know that I have room for improvement.

This last week, we had zone meeting, led by the zone leaders. They told us about a lot of changes that are coming to the way that we are doing missionary work. What it sounds to me like is that Heavenly Father is hastening the gathering big time right now. What they are asking us to do is to be prepared to share a brief summary of the restoration or plan of salvation (less than 2 minutes) and be able to share it with each person that we talk to. We are also supposed to invite every person that we meet to be baptized the first time that we teach them or talk to them. It is definitely a more bold approach to missionary work, but is helping us to identify the elect and to make sure that the people that we are teaching understand our purpose and why we are visiting them. With this, they also reminded us that our purpose is not to friendship- that is the responsibility of the members- our responsibility is just to teach. We still have a great love for our investigators and care about their opinions and ideas, but we are not there to just sit and chat with them. In zone conference, there was some opposition to the new ideas that were presented, but we were reminded that this is Lord's work and we are to do it His way.

I had a neat experience with prayer this last week. Some days, I just don't feel very satisfied at the end of the day with what I was able to accomplish. I think through my time at the Trail Center or in our area and don't always have a bunch of numbers to show for the time we spent working that day, so I feel like I didn't accomplish anything. In my personal study, as I was studying about faith and humility and obedience, I was reminded again that we are not expected to be perfect. Conversion is a life-long process. I was making myself overwhelmed by trying to think about and work on all of my weaknesses at the same time and making myself miserable. I finally decided to pray to ask Heavenly Father what He wanted me to do that day to be better. It started out with something small: just that I needed to make my bed and clean up our room a little. Then I asked "What more can I do?" Again, it wasn't anything big, just to participate in a meaningful way in Zone Meeting that day. Soon my list also included being first to sit up at the Trail Center when we were on shift in the afternoon and to make calls during my spare time. With only 4 simple things to accomplish during the day, I was able to accomplish all of them and know that I had accomplished what Heavenly Father wanted me to accomplish that day. Over the next few days, I was able to begin improving in small, manageable ways and I was able to feel successful without being overwhelmed. With Heavenly Father's help, I know that I will be able to being taking small steps that will help me to overcome bigger weaknesses and fears that otherwise seem too daunting to take on.

On Saturday, we went to the funeral of the 1st counselor in our Mission presidency- President W. Patrick Clarke- and his son. They were both killed in a tragic plane accident near Fresno on the 10th of this month. It was a sad occasion, but a beautiful tribute to both of them. I never expected to go to a funeral on my mission, but this was the third since just last January. It’s been interesting to see the difference in the three. This was definitely the best attended- filling the chapel and large cultural hall. There were probably around 1000 people there. Maybe more. As we heard about the lives of these two great men, I gained such a great respect for them and their families. I think one thing that really struck me was how close the family seemed to be. You could tell that they had very close relationships and made their families a priority. It really made me think about what I want to be remembered for in life. It’s good.

Ok. Love you so much!

Sister Melly

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sister Melanie Bakes, Cleans and Gives a Reading Assignment

Hello Family!

Love you!

It’s been kind of a crazy day today. We have temple day this Friday, so we have a shortened p-day and have been spending most of it trying to get our laundry done. Take 4 sets of sisters trying to all do laundry in one set of washer and dryer in our apartment building and then add in another tenant who is trying to his as well and things get a little complicated.

This last week, things have been kind of slow. We have been doing a lot of cleaning lately for a lot of different people, its kind of a funny situation. On Tuesday, we helped Carrie- a kind of investigator- with cleaning her home which has in the past few years been slowly filling up with stuff as people have died or for whatever reason, their belongings have gone into her home. Tonight, we are going to be doing a few hours of deep cleaning that are required for our apartments each transfer and then helping Tana - a less active- clean her apartment for a couple of hours. I think that I have finally gained an appreciation for cleaning. I am sure mom remembers the time when I was moving out of my apartment at the end of a semester and she came to help me. She went into the bathroom and came out saying, "You should be ashamed of yourself!" after seeing the bathtub. It was pretty scummy.

But, anyway, I don’t' even know what else we have been doing. The Trail Center has been very slow lately. I have been spending a lot of time studying and trying to find productive things to do, but sometimes we get to the end of the night and I am not really sure if I accomplished anything at all. I can see why some missionaries have a hard time going home. It is hard to feel like you are doing much at all when you are used to changing peoples lives all the time. Nothing else feels that fulfilling anymore.

Sister Brown and I have been working a lot on gingerbread this week. We finally got it finished last night while our companions were helping decorate the TC for Christmas. By the end, we had 8 gingerbread stained glass panels that we had made (only 3 of them are actually going to be used- the rest were mistakes), a whole grocery bag full of extra Dum dums and Jolly Ranchers, some frustration, and a feeling of relief that it was over. It definitely fun at first, but it was also kind of stressful and way too time consuming. But, it’s good. I think they pretty good.

On Wednesday, we had zone conference. The whole thing was focused on the talk from Elder Bednar this last conference about testimony and conversion. Read it. It’s great. I love the subtitle of the talk. It puts the two very simply and says something like "The essence of testimony is knowing that the gospel is true. Being true to the gospel is the essence of conversion." Its funny, one thing that sets us apart from some churches is that we teach that faith without works is dead- essentially that testimony without conversion is not enough, but how many times to do we sit through a Sacrament meeting, even feeling spiritually uplifted, but then leave being the same person that we were before. True, we may have been baptized and read our scriptures every day, but without constant pruning, it all doesn't amount to much at all. Sister Davis shared an analogy with me that I really liked. She compared the changes that we make to ourselves to a spiral. At first, the changes are big and noticeable. They take great effort and produce great results. As we come nearer and nearer to the center of the spiral, the changes become smaller and less noticeable. I think that it can be easy for some people, especially people that have been in the church for a long time, to think that they are doing ok because they are not struggling with the big things, like the Word of Wisdom or the Law of Chastity. I think that what is more important than the changes that we are making is that we are making changes at all, whether big or small. We cannot remain still, we must continue forward.

That's all for this week!

Love you so much!

Love, Sister Melly


Monday, November 5, 2012

Sister Lamb and Service Cross-Training


Hello Family!

Love you!

It’s been an OK week, but it got pretty good at the end. I was a kind of sick the beginning of the week, so not too much was going on, but the end - that’s the good part.

Let’s see, Wednesday was Halloween. We were at the Trail Center and it was a very slow day. A couple of the sisters were dressing up in the pioneer costumes, pretending to be everything from turtles to cowboys and indians. They even found a rope and were roping other sisters as they came in. It was quite a sight. That night, we were all grounded, so we had dinner with the senior couples and made a Christmas craft, and then watched the Errand of Angels. Its funny, I used to hate all Mormon movies because I thought they were so cheesy and weird, but after being on a mission, I thought it was pretty funny and very true. I have definitely changed! Ha-ha!

We had a very revelatory district meeting this week. We were talking about revelation and totally got off topic but started talking about cross training in sports and how the best runners are ones that train not just by running but also do other exercises like swimming and weight lifting. Then we were comparing it to missionary work and how the best missionaries are ones that use all methods of missionary work. The same thing applies to life. When we balance all aspects, we are better able to be spiritually in tune. We are our best selves when spiritual, physical, and mental capacities are all balanced.

On Saturday, we had an amazing experience! We have been working on following up with members who brought friends to the Gladys Night concert so that we can deliver packets to them. One couple in our ward, the Cornishs, had brought a neighbor with them who had absolutely loved it, but had forgotten to turn in her referral card. Last Sunday, we were able to take a packet to her. She invited us right in and we taught her about the Restoration and Book of Mormon. She was excited to learn and readily accepted our invitation to read from the Book of Mormon and to continue meeting with us. As we were leaving, we offered to help with some yard work. At first, she was very surprised that we were willing to help, but when she finally accepted, we were able to go back this last Saturday (just a few days ago) and help do some yard work, along with Brother Cornish. We had a great time and were able to teach her again afterwards.

After we were done, we decided to see if there were any other people in the neighborhood that would accept our service. Brother Cornish suggested a few homes and we started out. We were able to rake leaves for a young family and talk to them a little bit about missionary work, etc. We will be going back soon to follow up with them. We then went to one of the homes that Brother Cornish had suggested - a woman by the name of Renee that the Cornishs have been serving and fellowshipping and inviting to things for the 11 years they have lived in their home. She was thrilled with our offer to rake her leaves, which deeply covered her lawn. As we started, she went to go buy leaf bags and brought us a sandwich. She invited us into her home to eat and we began talking. The conversation naturally turned to missionary work, then what makes our church unique, then to the apostasy and the restoration. As we taught, she was very excited about the things we shared and made a promise to us that she would read the entire Book of Mormon, cover to cover. It was an exciting experience. It really developed my testimony of what it says in Preach My Gospel, that serving others leads naturally into sharing the gospel. From things that Renee said, I know that she would not have listened to our message had we simply showed up on her doorstep to invite her to learn. Service was the key that opened the door for us to be able to teach her.

Afterwards, the excitement only continued. We explained what had happened to Brother Cornish, who was absolutely thrilled and stunned. We were able to accomplish in just a few hours what he had been working on for 11 years! We reminded him that he had been doing the preparing and that we were only the reapers of the seeds he had sown. It made it so much more exciting being able to share the success with the Cornishs, who have a deep personal investment in her learning and progress. The next day at church, the Cornishs were eagerly sharing the story at every opportunity and many were able to hear of our successes. I have great hopes that this will be only the beginning of a new excitement for missionary work in the West Maple Ward. It also got me really excited about working with members. Exciting things are happening every day!

So, in the end, it was a really good week! I hope that you had a really good week too!

Love you!

Sister Melly