Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Filled with Charity

Dear Family,

Wow, your plans for the Utah trip sound like so much fun! I know Dad has it planned to a tee. I can't wait to see pictures and hear about it. 

I am so proud of Wendy for keeping up with her bee hobby. I am dying to visit her and all her beehives! I'd love some of her honey if you can send it. Tell her I love and miss her and her family. 

We weren't able to visit John and Suzie this week again, which was actually a big let down for me. I have been praying for them and studying hard to determine what exactly to teach them next, and they were never home when we stopped by. I felt the same feeling I did in school when I'd work really hard on an assignment, just to come to class the next day and find that the due date had been pushed back. It's frustrating, but we're looking for a good opportunity to teach them some more. 

Last P-day after we emailed at the church, we did our usual runs to the 99 Cent store and Wal-mart for groceries. As we walked out of the 99 cent store with our bags, Sister Cook reached in her bag for the car keys. When she couldn't find them after a few frustrated minutes of rummaging through her things, she looked up at me with a panicked expression. She looked in the driver's side window to see them laying on the seat. Great. Locked out of our car with no spare key, and loads of groceries. I had us gather everything and head back into the store to figure out what to do. We called the mission home to see what we should do. The hardest thing was that we were all the way out in Havasu... 3 hours from Vegas. What were we going to do?? It took about 30 minutes, but finally a woman at the mission office called an emergency help business to send someone out and open our car door. So we sat and waited until they showed up. Sister Cook was pretty upset because apparently she has a history of locking her keys in the car; I just tried to make a joke out of it and lighten her up. We always have to remind each other, "We're on an adventure!" Haha! The good news is, it didn't take too long to get in our car, we didn't have to pay for it, and it made for a great picture :) 
Getting locked out of our car... new day, new adventure!

One month down

Dear Family,
Wow, it's already been another week already?? To begin, I'll answer your questions.
1. My daily schedule looks like this:
6:25 A.M. - Wake up and exercise until 7:00. Sister Cook and I like to rotate our workouts between yoga/stretches, indoor cardio, outdoor cardio (running around the block), and strength (the apartment already had some weights and an ab machine when we got here... I really do feel spoiled).
7:00-8:00 - Shower, get ready for the day, and eat breakfast. We love making omelets, oatmeal, breakfast burritos, smoothies.. the works.
8:00-9:00 - Personal study. We study from Preach My Gospel, the Bible and Book of Mormon, and the approved missionary books (True to the Faith, Our Heritage, Our Search for Happiness, and Jesus the Christ). Oh and Sister Cook loves reading the stories out of the Ensign.
9:00-10:00 - Companionship study. We shared what we each learned from personal study, review our plans for the day, practice teaching to each other (occasionally), and sing (I love singing together. I bought a mini hymn book in the MTC and I've used it every day since).
10:00-12:00 - We're out and about, making visits to ward members, less actives, potential investigators listed in the Area Book, and progressing investigators.
12:00-1:00 - We come back to the apartment and eat lunch.
1:00-8:00 - We're out again, working until dinner, which we usually have with ward members for an hour.
8:00 - We head back to the apartment for "12 Week", which is extra training that new missionaries get. We study from a manual and watch some of The District videos (we have a portable DVD player). All the missionaries in my district tell me that you get to know the District videos really well and really fast, haha.
9:00 - Daily planning. We review the day, make note of what we can improve on in contacting, teaching, etc, and write in our plans for the next day.
10:00 - We get ready for bed, write in our journals, relax, and then go to sleep at 10:30.
2. Our budget as missionaries is really limited, so we have to be strategic about our shopping. We make a list of what we need, then go to the 99 cent store first and get what we can. They have a surprising good selection of produce there... a few weeks ago we got blueberries for $1?? What groceries we can't get there, we get at Wal-Mart. And we have a washer and dryer in our apartment, so we do laundry at home.
3. As for the apartment, we sleep in the same room and each have a twin bed. Across the hall we have another bedroom, which serves as our "office"... we have a desk and chairs where we study, and a large white board up on the wall where we keep lists of people in the ward, investigators, baptismal dates, plans for the week, etc. I'll send pictures next week! Also, we each have our own bathroom (have I mentioned that in previous emails? I can't remember)... which has been so nice.

Also, I did get the letter from Samantha - the mission home forwards mail to me if it gets sent there. Thank goodness! I got a letter from her and Elizabeth in the same day and I was jumping up and down at the mailbox in excitement, haha.
Yes there are other missionaries in Havasu - 2 other sisters serving in the other ward, Sister Schumaker (spelling?) and Sister Lowry. They're both over half way through with their missions. We're going on exchanges with them tomorrow and I'm a little nervous about it, but it will be a good learning experience.
It is pretty crazy that I've already got one month down... The time keeps picking up the pace! I'm trying to savor my time with Sister Cook because I've been so blessed in our companionship.

This week was really interesting and very fun. I finally feel like I'm getting a grasp on the area and the ward, which has given me a whole lot more confidence. Again, we had some memorable experiences in people's homes. One day we decided to visit an older couple in the ward, Brother and Sister Rader. Both of them are probably in their mid-80s and have poor health. The moment we walked in the door to their home, we were surrounded by baby dolls. I kid you not, they were lined against every wall, on every table, on every shelf, filling up the entire house. Hundreds and hundreds of dolls, in strollers, carseats, cribs, you name it. It was like CC's collection of dolls times a hundred, but they were only babies. I stifled laughs as we sat down on their couch. I looked at Sister Cook thinking, What is going on?? We sat and talked to Sister Rader, who was basically bedridden on their love seat with a large blanket around her. It's so funny making visits with older people in the ward because they love to talk, and talk, and talk. Sister Rader was no different. We shared a scripture with her from the Book of Mormon on mothers and she loved it. She said, "Oh yes, I have loved being a mother. The time that my kids were little was the happiest period of my life." I think she's collected so many baby dolls as a way of coping with the fact that she no longer has her own babies at home. It was sweet, but also very sad. Keep her and her husband in your prayers - a few days after our visit, Brother Rader had a heart attack and is currently in the hospital recovering.

We met a man street contacting this week named Mickey. He was sitting in a chair on his porch, just watching the beautiful Havasu sunset. He's older, in his 70s, and lost his wife last year. We talked to him about his religious background and his belief in Jesus Christ. We shared a scripture from Matthew with him and then said a prayer. He seemed to really enjoy our visit, and agreed to have us come back and meet his family on Friday evening (he lives with his granddaughter, who's 23 and pregnant with her 3rd baby boy). When we met with them on Friday, his granddaughter, Ashley, opened the door and said, "Oh, you're here. Come on in." She didn't seem too excited or thrilled that we were there, but Mickey did. We sat and tried to get to know them, but Ashley's little boys (3 and 6) were running all over the place, which was so distracting. We tried to share the message of the Restoration, but it was hard to teach because Sister Cook and I were just off. Mickey was extremely receptive because I think he likes us, but we felt disappointed after walking out of their home because we hadn't taught by the Spirit as much as we would have liked. We're meeting with them again tomorrow, so we're hoping it goes better than last time.

I'm running out of time, but I want to share one last experience before I go. There's a couple that the missionaries have been teaching for a few years who are good friends with our bishop, Bishop Hansen. Their names are John and Suzie, they're about 50, and they've recently taken in their young grandkids to raise (ages 6 months and 2 and a half). We visited with them on Saturday night, which was my first time to meet them and get to know them. They're both very kind. From what I'd gathered about them, they'd shown interest in the church for years, but have never been baptized. So i told Sister Cook before going into their home that our intention should be to get to know where they stand spiritually and figure out what's holding them back from joining. We went in and struck up good conversation with Suzie immediately. They taught us in the MTC to get good at asking inspired questions to get to know investigators and discern their needs. So i decided to basically just ask Suzie questions the whole time so that I could really get a feel for where she and John are at. After about an hour, it came down to this: they haven't joined the church because they struggle to accept that only one church can have the whole truth. All churches have some truth in them, but they can't accept that ONE church has it all. Suzie said she's liked a lot of different things that different religions and churches teach, so she's essentially gathered what has resonated with her over the years and developed the ideal set of beliefs. I asked her, "So, I don't mean to sound argumentative, but this is an honest question from person to person... Say everyone were to do as you're doing: pick out or decide what sounds best to them and deem that as the truth. What kind of world would we live in?" She stopped to think about it and gave me a smile. "You know," she began, "you're right. I don't have an argument for that. If everyone were to think this way, who's to stop someone from saying, 'You know, I think smoking marijuana is right. So I'm going to do that.' I don't really know how to answer that." She also struggled with the concept of tithing to a church - she understands the intent, but she asked, "Why does it have to go to the CHURCH? Why can't it just be to the community or someone in need?" And she also doesn't want to give up her alcohol. I kept thinking of the word sacrifice, and how John and Suzie both need to understand that law. My head has been spinning with ways to teach them, and I'm so excited to meet with them this week again and share with them some thoughts that Sister Cook and I have had after visiting with them Saturday night. It was the first lesson I've had on the mission where I really felt like I was "teaching people, not lesson" (a concept they drill repeatedly into our brain at the MTC). John and Suzie are both SO CLOSE to realizing the fullness of the truth. Keep them in your prayers as well.
Also, on Friday we got to head into Vegas to go to the temple with all the new missionaries and President and Sister Snow. It was incredible, and absolutely stunning. I wrote you more about it in a letter home, Mom.
I love you all so much! Have a wonderful week.
With love,
Sister Robinson

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Getting Settled in Havasu

Dear Family,
Wow! Your 4th of July celebrations sound like so much fun!!! I love the pictures you sent. Our family is cute.  Sister Cook has never really celebrated the 4th of July, so when I told her all about my experiences with it growing up she was like, "Wow, people actually do all that??" Crazy to think some people don't even leave their homes on the 4th - much less play games, BBQ, and go watch fireworks! I am so grateful that we've made such fun traditions on Independence Day.

I am finally feeling settled out here and getting the hang of things. It's interesting - Sister Cook and I have realized this week that HER strengths are MY weaknesses, and MY strengths are HER weaknesses. She does an excellent job of meeting people and boldly stating, "We're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints! We go around uplifting people's faith in Christ..." I struggle with that; I'm not exactly sure why. She struggles with teaching the lessons and doctrine; that's where I feel the most confident. It's like she gets us in the door and once we're comfortable, I take it from there - perfect teamwork, haha. It's great because we learn so much from each other.

Sister Cook and I have been eating sooo well. We prepare our own breakfasts and lunches each day, and I've been showing her some of my favorite meals to prepare. We make omelets, egg sandwiches, wraps, oatmeal, snack plates of cheese and crackers and veggies, quinoa and potatoes... all kinds of delicious foods. The other afternoon as we sat down to eat she said, "Seriously Sister I have been missing out. This is so good. You are changing my life!" It sure made me feel good to hear her say that! We also love to get in good workouts in the morning and she jokes that I'm her personal trainer, haha. And like I said, she's a cosmetologist, so she teaches me all her beauty tricks. We're having fun together :)
We see miracles every day. I'm always so frustrated that I have such limited time to tell you all about them! I'm out of time, but thank you so much for the detailed letters.
I think of and pray for you everyday! Have a wonderful week!!!

With love,
Sister Robinson

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Week One in the Field

Dear Family, 

I made it safe and sound to Vegas! I feel like I haven't written in forever - we weren't able to email last P-Day because we were traveling to Nevada all day. I basically have 2 weeks of news to cover, so I'm sorry if this email is a bit scattered!

First things first. I have been assigned to serve out of valley in Lake Havasu City, AZ. Fun fact: it is the hottest inhabited place in the U.S. I arrived at just the perfect time of year, ha! My trainer is Sister Emily Cook from Phoenix, AZ. One of the first things she said to me was, "So usually missionaries who serve so close to home have health issues or something of the sort, buuut I'm totally normal! I'm just as shocked as you that I was called to serve just a couple hours from home. My only request for my mission was to get out of the desert, but I guess the Lord knows best." Crazy, right? I couldn't imagine being so close to home. She even has family in Vegas - I don't know how she does it. She has been out for about 5 months. As I've gotten to know her, I really feel like one of the main reasons she was called to Vegas is so that she could be my companion...I have already learned so much from her and I love her dearly. I was thinking about it and I realized that if I had left on my mission after a semester of school like I had originally planned, I probably would've been in her wave of missionaries at the MTC and we would've come out together. We have a special companionship and I am SO grateful. A little more about her: Her personality is a mix between Holly (as in, my cousin) and Gracie Johnson. Her laugh is literally a replica of Gracie's and it makes me so happy! We laugh all the time (mostly because she starts laughing and I just laugh at her laugh - an incurable round of giggles). She got her cosmetology license before leaving on her mission; she cuts hair, does facials and makeup, shapes eyebrows, paints nails... the whole deal. I'm going to be a beauty queen missionary at the end of our 12 week training ;) Our birthdays are 3 days apart (she's Sept 27 and I'm Oct 1), and we're both 19. She is so, so good at talking to people and striking up conversation. She also has such a good relationship with the ward members of the area we're serving in, and it has helped so much. Our ward mission leader, Brother Hauck, is so awesome, and so is our bishop, Bishop Hansen. Even within just the first week here I have realized that those 2 leaders are PIVOTAL for successful missionary work. We need their love and support or we can't do our jobs to our fullest potential. 
All the new sisters and their trainers! Sister Cook is to the left of me. (Sister Browning is on the far right with her trainer, Sister Luke)