Monday, March 30, 2015

Torn8o Season's Here!

So, I had this really great plan where I wasn't going to mention that we got hit by a tornado this week. But then I realized that it's probably not a secret to anyone who watches the news. But we're fine! Everything's fine. I guess I'll share the explicit details, because who doesn't love a good story?

At the beginning of the week, we went on exchanges with the Spanish Sisters who serve with us here in the city. That was a blast! But when I got in the car at the end of the exchanges, I looked at Sister Hirschi and said,

"I think there's going to be a tornado tomorrow."
"I dunno, I just feel it."

Then we woke up. And the day was fine. The weather was nice, it was really humid. Which is a pretty sure sign that there's going to be a tornado, but we didn't think much of it. As the day went on, it got up to about 87 degrees, and the humidity was increasing. Finally, everyone started to check with each other and make sure that everyone had a place to go in the event of a tornado. We had several appointments that day, then we picked up the Elders for dinner, and walked inside. We ate sitting around a television for the first time on my mission. It was disorienting. The weather channel was changing it's mind like bad, saying that the chance for thunderstorms was high, but the chance for tornadoes was low.

Throughout the progression of the dinner, despite what the weatherman was saying, we all got a bad feeling. The family we were eating with, the Largents, started packing up bags to take into the shelter just in case for their kids, and, once again, I turned to my companion and said, "we need to go." She agreed quickly and we took the Elders to their apartment to get their car so we could pick up the Spanish Elders, who are on bikes. (Poor guys) Then we rushed to the mission home, which is our designated storm shelter, but it was a crazy experience.

We were getting texts right and left that tornadoes had touched down in all the surrounding cities. The sirens finally went off, which means that there is a tornado touched down in your area, right as we got a text that said, "Touch down in Moore" and we saw the sky go from bright blue and cloudless to dark and green and eerie. The tornado formed right above us, but we got to the mission home right in time. Hail the size of golf balls was pounding our car, and that was not pleasant to run through, but we got inside and ducked in the shelter for about fifteen minutes. Then it was over.

And the sky was bright again. The rain went away. We walked outside, and it was surreal. The tornado was only about an EF2. It destroyed the roofs of several houses, a couple gas stations, and the wing of an elementary school, but nobody was injured, and nobody died. The craziest part is that the worst of the destruction was only about 2 blocks from our church building... It left a weird looming feeling for a couple days, but if gave us an opportunity to go out and work. We did some clean up in the elementary school, and we volunteered to go door-to-door asking people if they need supplies or help to restore what was lost (which is pretty much what we do every day anyway).

It was an experience that made me increasingly aware that our natural instincts are not just common sense, the Spirit of the Lord protects us from day to day. He really does warn us of danger and helps us figure out how to avoid it. And sometimes it's right in the knick of time, but he does protect us.

Sorry if this story freaked you out. I promise, we're fine. Everything's fine. But I thoguht about the weird vibes in the air in the days following, and I thought about how that must have been what it felt like after Christ died. I imagine it felt empty and people were craving his resurrection. And it took Him 3 DAYS to rise! I can only imagine that there were people who thought, "Wait! He promised He would come back! And He didn't!" But I suppose that's often how our Heavenly Father works. We can't always predict the outcome or the timing of things that happen, that's why faith that all things are for our good is so vital. We could choose to arbitrarily determine that God wouldn't let natural disasters happen, or that God would never let his son die without rising, or we could have faith in his words and trust that we will gain further understanding at the proper time.

I know Christ lives. I know he rose on the third day. I admire and respect all those who believed that Christ would come before having the event to see or prove it, and I know having a knowledge of it now means that we can be sure that He was perfect, the Son of God, who came to redeem us from the fall and to strengthen us beyond our own capacities. We are not, nor do we ever need to feel alone. He is with us through the good and the bad.

Watch this! #becauseHElives

Love you all! Happy Easter! Happy General Conference!


Sister Best

Pictures: Sunburned and wet in a storm shelter.
Lookin' real awkward in jeans.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Working Works!

Hi there!

I hope the sunny weather is getting to you wherever you may be. It feels like Spring here! Then again, Oklahoma is more weather-bi-polar than Utah. I hereby declare it to be so. But for the time being, I won't complain about how wonderful it feels here. Sister Hirschi and I were able to ditch our car a few times this week and walk our area. It always feels so rewarding to be out on your feet sharing the Gospel with anyone washing their car, mowing their lawn, or sitting in their rocking chair. Also, good weather naturally puts people in a better mood. I'm learning this quickly.

This week, Sister Hirschi and I threw together a meeting for the Sisters in our zone and in the Midwest City Zone. We've had it in the works for a while, and we were so pleased with how it turned out. Each of the sisters gave a short training on basic missionary fundamentals that we prayerfully assigned out to them, and then we trained on trusting in God and communicating with your companion. After the many exchanges we went on, we started to realize that those two things are the root to almost every problem: Lack of communication and lack of faith. The reason that's the root is because if you don't have faith, you don't want to work. If you don't communicate, you can't identify problems and brainstorm solutions.

One particularly poignant thought I've had on my mind this week is the power of work, and how a good work ethic really is attainable for everybody, but you have to work at it. I used to think laziness was an unchangeable part of my being. If I was having a rough day, I could justify sitting in front of my laptop for hours on end. Even on a good day I could justify that! But as a missonary, nothing makes you more miserable than sitting in your apartment all day (even when you're really, really, REALLY tired). There is nothing more engaging or mood-altering than the work of the Lord, and consistent diligence has taught me that I can exceed my own idea of my capacities by just going and doing. I don't think this principle applies to just missionary work. When we are diligent, and engage ourselves in work and education and uplifting activities, our apathy and negativity melt away. We become joyful. Our effectiveness increases when we rely on the Lord, especially when we "consecrate our performances unto Him" through prayer. I used to think there was a distinct line between Spiritual activities and temporal activities. Spiritual being going to church, reading the scriptures, etc... and temporal being doing homework, going on a hike, etc... But there is no reason that the Lord cannot be involved in every aspect of our lives. And when we do involve Him, we are more able to enjoy life in the here and now.

I have a testimony that hard work is the cure to most worldly stresses and feelings of inadequacy. I know it is vital that we are indeed, "anxiously engaged in a  good cause." Time heals all wounds, but action heals them faster.

I really like this quote. I heard it in Sunday School last week:

“The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in.
The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of the people,
and then they take themselves out of the slums. … Christ changes men,
who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior,
 but Christ can change human nature” (“Born of God,” Ensign, Nov.1985, 6).

Beloved family (and friends who are also family) of mine, I love you. I pray for you. I know that our Savior lives and that he died for us so that we could have hope in being changed and cleansed from our imperfections. And I know that he doesn't care what choices we're making now or how low we feel, our Heavenly Father loves us, and is protecting us, whether we acknowledge him for it or not.

Sister Best
Sisters Meeting!
Republicans, y'all.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day. :)

This week has been hectic and disjointed, so the email might be similar. But I'll try to organize my thoughts into categories.

The first, of course, being that CONOR GOT BAPTIZED. And to see it was so incredible. It was kind of a stressful weekend, we wound up on exchanges in Mustang and I had to drive back Saturday morning for the baptism and then Sunday morning for the confirmation, leaving Sister Hirschi in charge of a lot, but it all worked out well, because the Lord pretty much does all the work and we as imperfect human beings just stress out anyway over things we can't control.
Conor was there, and a lot of his family came, which was really awesome! It was standing room only. After he got baptized, and He and Elder Quijada went to get changed, we sat waiting for 5....10.....15... minutes. Eventually, Elder Olson went to check on them and they had gotten locked in the bathroom. Hahaha. That's a day you can't really forget. Also the area seventy was at church yesterday and stood in on his confirmation. When he got up to speak, Conor leaned over to me and said "He's a seventy! And he's here! That's so cool!" I love Conor. I love that he understands things and lets the spirit teach him.

I read a talk by Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge titled "The Fourth Missionary" this week. I read it at the beginning of my mission, but had forgotten a lot of it. So I took the time to read it (even though it's about 30 pages long) and learned a lot of great things. Particularly the following quote, which is something I've been thinking about a lot lately.

"You are the sum totally of all that you think, say, see, hear, feel, and do in this life and before. You change immediately with each good thought, each good act; every good word changes you for the better. When you willingly obey the principles of the Gospel, you are changed by the spirit of God to become incrementally more like Him. The degree of change with each small act of obedience may be small, but it is real and immediate. The full, cumulative, and perfect realization of this process of change or sanctification happens only over time, but make no mistake that you are always changing, and that the effects of your obedience are immediate, whether for better or for worse, depending upon the voice you choose to follow."

I remember having  very secular discussion about this with one of my friends before my mission. We talked about how everything that we are is based off of everything that we've been around. That's true, but our potential is greater than that. But this is why it's so important to stay out of bad situations, bad media, things that interrogate, or demean, or discredit. Not because we're going to start being crude and worldly immediately, but because whatever we witness or listen to is now a part of us. It is a part of what we have become, It is in the timeline of our lives. If we are full of good actions but bad circumstances, eventually one has to rule out the other. We have been developed by our choices and actions and thy continue to evolve as we diligently choose to cleave unto light. Christ. We become Christlike when we do Christlike things. We can never expect to be Christlike if our actions don't reflect it.

I apologize for being so vague, but we're going to the Zoo! And it's not that the family is less important than the zoo, but... I mean... it's a really nice day outside.

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Marvelous Week and a Wonder

Pardon the header. I'm trying to be less light-minded. But come on, that was clever!
It really has been a great week. I think it's important to indicate that the harder we work, the better the week is. So that is where the growth comes from. We are exhausted. We've had back to back exchanges, back to back trainings, back to back meetings and lessons, but it has been so fulfilling. And it has really helped us stay focused. The Lord has blessed us with so many prepared people to teach and with, what seems like, an added amount of time to accomplish everything we need to get done in a day. My companion, might I add, is incredible at staying focused. She goes home in three weeks and she hasn't talked about home once... WHAT.

Before I testify of the joy and gladness that was this week, I just want to preface one of the attached pictures by saying that we definitely taught the Okie-est lesson I've taught on my mission to date. It's up there with the time I taught a lesson sitting on a stack of tires. This time, we taught it sitting in rocking chairs in Choctaw, Oklahoma on a man named Phil's porch. We watched traffic and explained gender equality and the priesthood. He offered us Ginger Ale. Heaven knows why we declined. It only would have added to this momentous occasion. Also, I accidentally said the following phrase when his wife came home. "Would you like to join us? We were just fixin' to say a prayer!" Ohhh no.....

This week I've been particularly aware of the individual love the our Heavenly Father has for each one of his children. I'll give a few examples.

Sister Hirschi and I have been planning a training that we'll be giving on St. Patrick's day, and we were planning on providing lunch at the end of it, but we weren't sure how to do that since we're the ones giving the training. We were kind of stressed about it, but we have a while to think about it, so we set it on the back burner, then we both felt impressed to go visit a sister in our ward, Sister Goolsby. Sister Hirschi had never really met her, and when I introduced myself to her my first Sunday here, she was kind and inviting, but we didn't have much time to chat.

As we were at the Goolsby's home, she expressed how lonely she had been, and how grateful she was to have visitors. She said her home teachers had visited her the week prior and that it meant the world to her. She's beginning to lose her sight and so she can't go out with the missionaries like she used to love to, but she still shares the gospel at the grocery store, and everywhere else she goes. Then she told us that she used to love to prepare meals for the missionaries in the mission home, but she hadn't been able to do it for a while because of some conflicts with her and her husbands health. Sister Hirschi and I looked at each other with lightbulbs over our heads and said, "Sister Goolsby, we might need your help!" We asked her for recipes, and she laughed and told us that she wasn't going to just give us recipes, she was going to come and provide and prepare the food for all 16 of us! Fearful that it would be a large, overwhelming task, we hesitated, but she began to cry and explained that this was an answer to her prayers. That it was an assignment she  missed dearly, and that this project would help her have purpose and serve missionaries, the way she always loved to. We all walked away with glad hearts and joyful feelings. I love knowing that the Lord can answer three peoples' prayers with one simple event.

Something that impressed me most about Sister Goolsby was her desire to serve others. Lately, I've been studying Real Intent, something that Sister Goolsby has a lot of. The concept of Real Intent is one a missionary gets well acquainted with as we tell others that the only way they can know if Joseph Smith really was a prophet, or if we still have prophets today, or if the Book of Mormon is true, is to pray about it and expect a response. And expecting a response with the intention of being willing to change once you do receive a response. That change comes naturally to a lot of people when they recognize that Christ's church really has been restored. They automatically want to align their will with God's because they recognize they are more susceptible to God's promised blessings and bettering their lives if they do!

But Real Intent takes one a whole new meaning as we consider that we much act to receive each blessing we pray for!

I remember when I was in Enid, the branch President of Alva (a tiny, tiny city on the border on Kansas) has a wife who loves sharing the Gospel. She's constantly finding people for missionaries to teach through her own efforts. One morning, she brought us breakfast, and we helped her study Spanish (so she could expand the amount of people she could share the Gospel with... yes, she's that amazing). As we were finishing up, she pushed herself away from the table and said, "Well, I'm going to go write a letter to the prophet." We laughed and asked her why. She seemed shocked that we were shocked and said, "every day I pray that President Monson can feel the love and support of the members of the church. And if I'm gonna pray about it, I have to do my part!" Then she packed up her belongings and marched out the door.

Sister Johnson, that was her name, was an excellent example of Real Intent. It means nothing to pray that we'll find new investigators to teach, or a new job, if we aren't out there looking and diligently trying to find them. Talking to everyone, networking, et cetera... We can pray that we'll get a good grade, but it means nothing if we don't study. We can pray that we'll have a good day, but if we approach it with a sour attitude, we won't get very far. Yet EVERY DAY, we hear people say "I prayed for ____ and it didn't happen, so I'm questioning if God exists." Trust me, no, trust God. He exists! But he gives us agency to make ours lives into what we want them to be. He's not going to force us to live the Gospel, which is why we need to make decision that will help us live the Gospel. It is vital that we pray for the spirit to help us with out day-to-day tasks. And as he accompanies us, we must then heed his promptings. Then we will see the blessings we've requested. Real Intent means out intentions are pure, and we are willing to be obedient in exchange for blessings and to indicate our love for our Heavenly Father.

I apologize if that was incredibly long-winded. My hands hare cramping, so it might have been. Conor is getting baptized on Saturday! Also, last night, the Bishop interviewed him to receive the priesthood and he is SO excited. Also, yesterday at church I said, "Conor! Are you excited to go to OU?" and he said, "my whole life I have been... But now, not so much." I jokingly retorted, "because you want to serve a mission, right?" he looked at me and said, "actually, yeah. That's exactly what I want."

I love Conor Johnson with my soul. He is ecstatic to go to the temple. He has been counting down the days to his baptism. He's already invited his entire extended family and his friends. And it is a blessing to see the changes the Lord has made in his life. The Gospel changes people, makes them better than they were before. And it is because Heavenly Father wants us to feel even a taste of our full potential.

I love where I am. I love being in the service of my Savior. I love all of you for your relentless support. Go scatter sunshine!


Sister Best

The photos, as described. Phil's home in Choctaw. Yee-haw!
And Conor, reppin' his "I am a Child of God" sticker.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Cabin Feva'

Howdy, family and friends of mine!

This week is laughable. So gear up.
We got SNOWED IN. All week. Well, almost all week.

Monday, right after emailing, we had to go straight home and sit in our apartment.
Tuesday we probably knocked 35 doors of random less-active members in our ward, and none of them answered, then I went and worked in another sisters' area on an exchange.
Thursday we had zone conference all day. The messages delivered were powerful and inspired. I will make mention of them at a later time! Oh, and they equipped our cars with "Tiwis", fancy little devices that beep at you in a computerized voice if you're driving too fast or not wearing your seat belt, or driving aggressively. I'm surprised we didn't have anything like this sooner. A bunch of teenagers in brand new cars seems odd.

Friday, we got snowed in. And our cars were grounded Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Church was cancelled for...get this... maybe two inches of snow. Oklahoma is so funny. My companion and I were driving back to our apartment on Monday after it snowed and there were cars that had skidded off the road and turned around and taken our street signs. That's the problem. It's not that the roads are bad, it's that people get all apocalyptic and forget how to drive. However one element that's different is the ice. There's a thick layer of ice across all of the snow on top of cars and trees.

Sister Hirschi and I tried to stay busy and come up with productive things to do. We don't live close enough to our area to be able to walk anywhere, and it's not particularly safe anyway because we live under an interstate, so we organized our ward rosters, labelled maps, went through our entire phone, cleaned the apartment, caught up on our journals, cooked food, made snowmen, got really, really good at Phase 10, planned several trainings that we won't actually be giving for about three weeks, the list goes on and on... Our ward mission leader is amazing, though, and he came and picked us up a couple of times and rescued us from our Cabin Fever to eat food and play games. We were able to teach Conor a lesson on the Priesthood at his house with 4 priesthood holders present, which wouldn't have been the case if we hadn't been snowed in. So the Lord knows what he's doing.

When church was cancelled, we were both pretty devastated. I love going to church. It's not something I've always been able to say, but by the end of a week, I crave church and the opportunity to take the sacrament and be edified by others. We live in the same apartment complex as two of the Elders that cover the Spanish Branch in OKC, Elder Cummings, who was in the MTC with me, and Elder Palacios, Elder Cumming's trainee. They called us and told us they had gotten all of the necessary permission to come to our apartment and give us the sacrament, so we had a mini sacrament meeting in our living room. It was powerfully spiritual. We sang hymns and prayed and they brought a spiritual thought. It was very kind, and much needed. The spirit filled our apartment as they blessed the sacrament and gave it to us. The spirit bore witness to me that the Priesthood really had been restored, and that these two Elders possessed it and were able to use it to bless the lives of others. It was a wonderful experience. That spirit continued to linger for the remainder of the day, and the two of us were filled with gratitude.

Overall, the whole week was reminiscent of a memory from the beginning of my mission. One of the Elders stood up in a meeting and said, "I would much rather have 3 solid member-present lessons than sit in my apartment and play Yahtzee for 3 hours." Back then, being a new missionary, and exhausted, I remember thinking, "good for you! I'd rather take a nap." But I can now fully proclaim that I agree. I detest sitting in the apartment when we could be out sharing the Gospel. My companion and I always joke,

"Should we knock one more door?"
"Yeah, why not save one more soul?"

It's funny, but it's true. the work we're doing is so impacting. And the more fully we do it, the more fully we engage ourselves in the work of the Lord, the happier we are, the more accomplished we feel, the more we grow, and the more people we can help better the quality of their lives.

I love you guys.

Photos: Hermana Best and Snowmana Best
Finding most of the Texas Crew at Zone Conference! ( Which is pretty awesome because a lot of the missionaries I have served with have finished their missions. By now :/ )


Sister Best