Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Baptisms on Easter day in Galveston

I hope everyone had a great Easter!   Our side of the area is mostly college students because we are by UTMB (university of texas medical)  I think one of the members overheard me say to my companion right after Relief Society "No one signed up to feed us "in reference to the calendar.  She was about to invite us but we ran off to do something, later she came back to us and asked if we had any dinner plans.  For easter this nice family made red mashed potatoes, green beans, french bread, pork chops, and white cake with coconut chocolate frosting.  Yesterday we baptized a members 4 children. Yay for Baptism!!! 

At the baptismal service I had to give a last minute talk on "The Holy Ghost." Because the person assigned didn't come back into town for the Easter holiday like he had planned.  I was so happy to give the talk that I told them "I would be doing a happy dance right now if missionaries were allowed to dance."  I felt so happy and felt this amazing joy, not because I got a baptism but because THEY were getting baptized.  I told them "this is the beginning of your happily ever after"  Soon after the thought came into mind "And where are all your investigators?  How many came to church?  Who do you have to see today?  Who has a baptismal date? who is progressing? You have so much work to do!"  We had 5 investigators at church, 4 of which got baptized.
We have been fasting sugar to show the Lord our sacrifice for receiving baptisms and it worked!  Easter candy felt like a bucket of frosting, quite sickening and not as enjoyable as I hoped.  So in a way that is a blessing, not desiring, granulated sugar, corn syrup, bees wax, and the huge list of crazy ingredients I can't even pronounce that is in candy.  I hear "blue bell" ice cream is amazing and huge in TX so we will eat that today and then begin another sugar fast. 
I eat healthy.  I make breakfast 6 days out of the week. I love to cook!  And I hate washing dishes.  The dish washer is not very good so we wash dishes all by hand.  But my favorite breakfast to make is smoothies, I make those like 4 times out the week and all sugar free!
This week in District meeting my khuu and I gave a training on "Relying on the Spirit"  It took longer to prepare than I would of liked.  Primarily because our lesson planning for the day was affected.  And the night before she said she didn't feel like we taught in Unity, so we made a goal to lesson plan every day to decrease the result of that.  And then it didn't happen.  I feel like I get stressed very easily and worry a lot.  I am not sure if that is normal.   A mission is stressful, no matter what language I speak.  My companion says I worry too much and over think a lot.
I am glad this mission doesn't have "house money" which a companion has to budget and document and request a reimbursement for things such as:
All travel expenses
water bill
electrical bill
office supplies
cleaning supplies (laundry soap, 409 etc)
kitchen tools
- basically anything you need as a missionary to fulfill the 'work'
The missionary saving fund (MSF) included items such as food, product for self, like soap, and anything not listed above but here there is no housing fund or need to keep track of the numbers or calculate . We just use MSF for everything!!   No reimbursement, just a set amount I have to figure out to finance. This requires the need for budgeting which I have limited experience with in my life!  All house utility and rent bills are paid for, but EVERYTHING else you have to manage to pay out of MSF which is a very small amount of money, less than I had in Thailand actually.  And as you know Thailand costs are a fraction of what they are here.  So I now have to budget my money.  This is very stressful.  Any tips?
There are a lot more "key indicators" here too.  Like a number of people you have to talk to per day, which is 10, a total of 70 a week.  which is called "OYM= 70 per missionary per week" OYM= open your mouth.  I talked to (OYM’d) 70 people in 2 days.  And man, that was intense!  I wish I had more time to write in my journal.  People aren't very nice like even before you start speaking "I'm not interested in what you have to say" and many similar responses "I have already accepted Jesus as my Savior" "Why are you telling me that,  I already know that"  From the 70 people I talked to only 5 of them chose to have us contact them again later. Plus those 5 are not in my area, yeah, none of them will be taught by me and my companion.  How do you keep a smiling face and positive attitude and outlook when this happens?
This week we had a total of 24 lessons, and at one point we had 18 people with a baptismal date.  Most days it's like "We have so much to do and no time to do it all" then others are like "shoot, what do we need to do, no members can come teach with us, we can't get a hold of anyone to teach, we are out of phone minutes.  All of our teaching records need to be updated; but what can we do right now?"  I am not very good at prioritizing and worry ahead of time a lot.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Teaching Successes in Galveston

My trainer, that sounds so weird since I have been a missionary for over 6 months now, finishes her mission in July.  She actually got an extension, she would be only having one transfer (6 weeks left) but she extended so now she has 2 transfers left. 
I can't believe I have less than a year left!  Time has been so slow.  3 months in the MTC, and 3 in Thailand. Both felt like it lasted forever, I hope time goes fast because we are sure hitting the ground hard.  We have 15 with a baptismal date. 
Last week we had 8 investigators attend church however on Saturday we had 20 confirm "I will be there for sure" "I promise" and only 10 came.  Sunday morning is always crazy frantic arranging last minute rides, being everyones alarm clock, etc.  Hopefully people will come on Easter. 
Also a family just walked into church, we thought they were just new to the ward because the mom said she was a member, back in the 90s. None of her kids are members so we have been teaching them.  The dad is not too open, even though he was a member a long time ago too.  He seemed to get upset when he shared the plan of salvation, about the judgement.  The kids are scheduled to be baptized Easter Day.  In this mission it is required that investigators attend church at least 3 times before they are baptized.  The children ages are 9, 11, 14, and 17.  The 14 year old has the most questions.  She likes the plan of salvation, and she said in the church she is in if someone is not baptized they go to hell she said "what if both your parents didn't believe in God and you didn't learn about it, I don't think God would make you go to hell forever just because you never had the opportunity to learn about it".  I asked her what she thought.  Which was great, she understands great that God loves all of us and there are many people who die without the knowledge of the true church of Jesus Christ.  We explained everyone will have the opportunity to accept it. 
We told the family when they offered us sugar we weren't having any until we got a baptism, the 17 year old said "oh, so that's why you are pushing this whole baptism thing, huh" lol.  So yeah, haven't eaten sugar, and members don't really feed us so I have a feeling I will be shedding some pounds.  We have a car in this area but only to get to church on Sundays and like once a week to go off the Galveston Island.  Our area covers Galveston Island and some of Texas City but most of the time we are working in Galveston.  I am not getting too sore from biking, my back does, but my legs are good, and I haven't fallen off yet, well almost, but we don't talk about that.
Since we teach most people between the hours of 4 and 8pm we never eat dinner.  But I like to cook, so I make breakfast.  It is so nice to have a kitchen not covered in black mold and micro ants. It is also great to have more than just a hot plate and a microwave, and there is hot water that comes out of the faucet, its amazing! We even have hot showers, such a blessing!  So I cook in the morning, I make sugar free smoothies too, I have a blender!  I make eggs, and omelets, and waffles and pancakes and turkey bacon. I have a waffle maker! My companion told me today "your husband is going to love you"

This week we had our temple trip too, on Friday. This mission has a temple trip every time there is general conference and when a missionary leaves to go home.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Miracles in Texas

I have a testimony that Heavenly Father loves everyone and has a plan for each us, that is very individual and personal.  I know he provides a way for all of to have happiness in this life.  It is hard and kind of disapointing when members and other missionaries ask "oh, why are you here?" Answering, the Thai language was destroying me isn't the best response to give so I say, truthfully "the Lord has a work for me to do here"

Members so far have only fed us once, my weekly funds are much lower here because it is anticipated that we won’t have to provide for all meals.  Most days we choose to eat or accomplish our goals of 3 lessons a day and inviting 10 people a day. The mission president sent out a "standard of excellence" for becoming excellent missionaries. One is to be exactly obedient among others but the one that worried me the most was extending the baptism commitment during every first lesson.  This checks for desire and among other things, such as what concerns they may have that we need to overcome early on etc.  I would never do that in Thailand they don't even know how to pray, but I see why in the bible belt that is needed.  It doesn't make it any easier though. 
We have five new people with a baptismal date this week.  WooHoo!  But, in order for them to be baptized they have to go to church.  If they don't go to church, they can not get baptized.  Because after baptism we make a covenant to always remember Him and renew our baptismal covenants through partaking of the sacrament weekly.  If they don't go to church they can not renew their covenants they made at baptism.  If baptism was a drivers license then church is the DMV.  You can't tell the cop you once had a drivers license and let it expire.  Same with Baptism, in order to go to heaven we have to keep our Covenants or promises we made when we were baptized.
I am so blessed to witness and now hear (in english) the miracles.  People still exercise their agency, for freedom of choice though.  On Saturday a girl wouldn't let us into her home telling us we aren't the person she is looking for. I told her we prayed less than 5 minutes ago and testify about prayer, God, his love for us, and answers to our prayers.  She was touched by the spirit and began to cry and told me about the day she had that God answered her prayer.  Her sons skateboard was stolen and he was beaten up and a Mom in the neighborhood, no idea how they got it, returned it.  Even after we brought the spirit and touched her she still refused to let us in.  What could I have done more?  I know no amount of education or beautiful sermon or anything that would let us into anyones home but only the spirit of the Lord will touch and soften someones heart.  But even after we did that she still said no.  I remember reading an article about agency and how God loves us so much he will let us go to hell if we choose.  He lets us choose for ourselves to come unto him or to continue trying to achieve happiness on our own. 
I know I am guilty of trying to find happiness in every thing but the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I tried finding peace in computer time or Facebook. I tried finding an escape from stress in the TV.  I tried having energy from Sugar and joy in shopping for material things of the world.  I know those things worked for a quick jolt of relief but none are as lasting as the peace, joy and happiness I feel in the teaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I have never had more energy.  Which is ridiculous because when we loose sleep as missionaries we don't ever take time to make up for it.  I have never been happier in my life than serving, and laboring, on behalf of my fellow brother and sisters.  We are all children of God and He loves us all.  I find invisible hugs and peace in prayers.  I find joy and energy in reading the Scriptures and the words or the prophet, modern and old.  I love seeing the mercies of the Lord in all his children lives whether 400 BC or 2000 AD.  He is the same yesterday today and forever.  And this is what I get to share every day.  How great is my Joy!  It does sadden me though when people choose not to have this peace, joy, love, energy, relief and happiness that can only be found through the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I know what their life can become and what greatness they can have in their lives and they choose to reject it with a line of excuses attached.  If they only knew that if they gave up those excuses they could have all the happiness in the world!  How can I, as a missionary, daughter, sister, and friend express the anxiety of my soul for them? 
This week in District meeting I shared what worked for us in Thailand how we got people to church.  We had a record number of investigators who attended church for the district.  Next week I hope to break the record for this mission!   

I love this quote from Gordon B Hinckley from "Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley"- The trouble with most of our prayers is that we give them as if we were picking up the phone and ordering groceries- we place the order and hang up.  We need to mediate, contemplate, think of what we are praying about and then speak to the Lord as one man speaketh to another"  I love this quote because I have said prayers like this.  It is true I have listed thanks and blessings and close.  Now I am finally getting to a point where it is no longer vain repetitions.  It takes effort to pray and really "mediate, contemplate, think... then speak to the Lord" 

In the Bible dictionary under "Prayer" it says, "The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but are conditional on our asking for them"  How many times have I on my knees and in my heart tried to have God align my will with his or change His?  "Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other."  It also says that prayer becomes natural and instinctive when "we learn the true relationship in which we stand towards God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children)"  I never knew that when I didn't want to pray that I had not remembered this.

April 5, 2011 First update from Texas

I am already seeing miracles!  It's amazing!
My last Sunday in Thailand - Since conference isn't until next week in Thailand due to the translation we had fast Sunday.  We fasted that a girl we were teaching for a while would be able to come to church because she was working.  And our fast worked!  She got a better higher paying job and has sunday off.  She said she would accept a baptismal date when she gets moved into her new apartment and saves enough money for the down payment to move, so yay!  It's great.

Monday- Travel 25 plus hours and arrive in Texas, United States and it's still the same day, with time difference and all, so weird.  I obtained 3 addresses while traveling. 
Paul- I met him on the Thailand to Tokyo flight, he was doing some Christian thing like teaching english in Cambodia, there for 3 weeks, from Nebraska.  Wants to do the good thing in life.
Barb- I Met her on Tokyo to Detroit flight, she was the flight attendant. This was an over 12 hr flight so she was one of the few who actually stayed up.  I didn't sleep on that flight either.  She wants to find happiness, she flies as an escape.  She is from the hoppin' city in Tennessee.
Steven- I Met him on the Detroit to Houston flight. I taught him the restoration and plan of salvation lessons.  He had lots of questions and spiritual experiences with prayer and receiving guidance.  He lived in Utah for a while and wants to go back because it is a beautiful place to live, although he didn't have a good experience with members trying to convert him. I helped him see where they may have been coming from.  He seemed very open.  He has a daughter who is 9 and a wife named Brandi.  I gave him the baptismal commitment and he said yes! He expressed how if he could really have the gift of the Holy Ghost all the time that would feel awesome and he would want that if he really could. 
I am so blessed  I have the opportunity to be a missionary and serve the Lord in the capacity that I am.  I know he answers prayers and truly wants his children to be happy.  He has a plan for everyone to have happiness in this life and the life to come and family can truly be together forever and I get to share this amazing message! 
So I just interviewed with President Saylin yesterday when I arrived in Texas. Wow, the Lord's hand is truly in this work!  President said while he was trying to arrange where to fit me and place me with who and where when I arrived, he said "I wanted you to be with Sister Rogers but I knew that wouldn't really work because she is training her greenie but I got the prompting that is who you should be with" and then her companion unexpectedly went home that morning!  While I was traveling here, I was on the plane, they didn't even know they would be a missionary short before and I was already on my way, and thus an opening was made. Heavenly Father knew this and saw the need for me before anyone else did and even knew who I would be with.  I have a testimony that Heavenly Father truly has a plan for each of us and there is always a way for his great and marvelous work to go forth among the children of His.
My companion is Sister Rogers and she is amazing.  This would have been her last transfer but she got an extension.  Right now it is 3 weeks into their transfer,  She is from Idaho and the only person I have met that is paying for all her mission by herself like me.  She is ready to hit the ground running too.  I told her when she asked "aren't you going to eat it" I was doing a sugar fast, she said "Oh I should do that too" so we can be more unified and get baptisms, "I'll do anything for baptisms" she said.
It's weird not conversing with people of the Buddhist faith, they say things like "I already got baptized.  I'm already saved" and "It doesn't matter how we come unto christ as long as you know Jesus is your personal savior" this was in the airport, in Detroit actually, but crazy, because the people of Thailand never say that.
After spending the last six months working only Thai (3 in the MTC and 3 in Thailand) it feels really weird to be back in America. Upon arriving I am in a van that actually has seat belts in the back seat and on my way to the mission office of Texas Houston south Mission.  We ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant and they give you water in a pitcher with lots of ice verses buying bottle water and pouring it into a 6 oz. stainless steal mug (like one from REI you would take backpacking with you).   I also thanked the waiter for ordering me the best Mexican food ever, since I hadn't had it in over 6 months and asked if I could send him a Book of Mormon and he gave me his address. I told him two 19 year old boys would be delivering it.  I love being able to share the gospel and follow the promptings I receive and have the confidence to speak.  We are truly finding people who are being prepared to hear the gospel and they are being put into our paths. :)
It felt different showering and using two knobs to turn it on, yeah, hot and cold!  I felt very weird drinking water out of the tap. :) When I was doing dishes my companion rotated the faucet, "you know it can go hot" "Oh, I totally didn't realize."  I also kept looking for ants in the kitchen and there were none! And there are no mosquitos when sleeping. 
The next day it felt funny being in a Toyota Malibu on the wrong side of the road sitting in the front of the car and seeing stores like Marshals and going to Walmart to do grocery shopping where you can order photos at the same place you buy food.  So weird! Stores are like warehouses, but in Thailand if you wanted to go to a place like the electrical center in Walmart you went to a elec store, same with shoes, or stationary, individual stores, but here- it's all in one place. I keep forgetting I'm in Texas and can't just drive home.  America is home and I feel like I am home since I see familiar stores and huge highways and roads and all the people aren't asian.
Also across from the mission president home is a Thai couple the missionaries are teaching, and I can help! It's not my area though, I am on an Island, and my apartment is right next to the beach, we can see it as we drive out of the parking lot, so cool! 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Big News .....A Mission Transfer

I have a new mission call! I have been called to serve the remaining year of my mission in the Houston South, Texas Mission-English speaking. President Smith says he has never seen me quite so perky and cheerful. I feel a huge relief from the stress of this very difficult Thai language. I know that we learn and grow from challenges and the challenges in the MTC learning Thai and then the three months of trying to overcome the challenge and obstacles here in Thailand will only make me a better person. It was such a joy to attend the baptism of the cutest family of 3 whom we taught from start to baptism, however it broke my heart that I couldn't understand their wonderful testimonies.

I am looking forward to serving the needs of the wonderful people of Texas.
Here is the Map of my new mission.

For now, the weather in my new mission is about 10-12 degrees cooler than Bangkok, with highs in the mid 80's rather than the upper 90's. Thailand is just starting to enter into their hot season and so is Houston. Soon, I will find out if I will be in a bike area or not.

March 28th Updates

I must be weird or something because the more I am on a mission the more I think about family.  Grandma Amero, Grandma and Grandpa Hallstrom, Cindy, Jaeden and Sachi, Telisha and of course my parents.  I also think about what can help them the most and how the gospel can help everyone with the challenges that we have daily.  I think about how I want my relationship to be with my future spouse and through having companions I learned how important communication is.  I have also thought how I want to raise my children.  And how there are people, in the pre earth life cheering me on in this missionary work so they can be born into the covenant.   How my decisions not only affect me but those I interact with and those I should interact with.  Like meeting a friend through church, if I didn’t go to church the persons prayer of having a friend would be delayed or marrying the correct person, basically doing what’s right and following the prompting or council I receive form the Holy Ghost (the spirit of God).  And most of all I have thought about the eternities and what that really means.
The eternities- yeah, the forever.  Mainly this week I thought about raising kids.  And how I read that our children will love and revere us (parents) throughout all eternity.  We never stop parenting and we never can say "well, honey, all our kids are grown up, we are empty nesters, they are too old to listen to us, and we are done.  They are on their own".  Heavenly Father is our parent and I know he would never say that to us!  We rely on him just as much no matter what we age are and probably even more as we get older.  I think back of when have I needed Heavenly father (my parent(s)) most in my life?  Always.  I know I will revere my earthly parents throughout all eternity.  There is no end that I seek their council, wisdom, or experiences.  Just like Heavenly Father, I love them forever and I want to know what I do or don't do is acceptable to them.  Just how Heavenly Father speaks to us, through a prophet in the scriptures or from our modern day prophet.   There is no end to parents.  The same cancel we give a child at age 11 or 13 applies when they are 18 and 24. 

In "The Family: A proclamation to the world" it says in paragraph 6 "Husband and wives have a solemn responsibility to love each other and their children.  "Children are a heritage of the Lord (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness... and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God... Husbands and wives- mothers and fathers- will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations"
This is a lot of responsibly, no wonder so many of us are afraid of getting married and starting a family, I know I am! 

This week I have also thought a lot about scripture study and wondering "why do I think this is so important?  Why do I empathize to my family members, why do I tell them it is important and they need to do it?"  It is because I love them and it makes me happy.  Real happiness is through Jesus Christ so I love to study him and his teachings.  I love to see how others overcome their trials and hardships and it is through relying on the Lord. This week I read the talk "The covenant of Baptism: To be in the Kingdom and of the kingdom" by Robert D Hales, he said " As I studied the scriptures during this critical period of my life, the veil was thin and answers were given to me as they were recorded in the lives of others who had gone through even more severe trails" I, too, delight in the scriptures as did this apostle!  I have such a desire to share what has made me happy and the first people I want to share it with is my family, my current family and the one I will have in the future.  (Hopefully within the next 5 yrs)