Monday, June 29, 2015

Happy Independence Day!

Good morning, sweet people!
It's a great day to be alive. The sun is shining, it's not yet 1,000 degrees, so we're doing pretty well!

This email might be pretty short, then again, that is usually my intention and it never quite works out as such. This week we tried to fill our time visiting people we hadn't seen in a while, which was luckily successful on most accounts, and we were able to see many miracles. We still met with Amber, she still blew our minds with her rapid progress, but I have another story to tell about her...kind of.

After we went to see her one night last week, we walked outside and saw her next door neighbor getting out of his car. It was one of those moments where we were just a little bit too far away for it not to be an awkward approach, but you just kind of learn to embrace the awkward and do it anyway, so I yelled,

"Hey! How're you doin?"
"Good!" he yelled back, "How are you?"
"We're doing great! Can we come talk to you for a bit?"

Ha, which is probably a rhetorical question at that point, so we walked up to him, found out his name was Rolando, and set up a time to come back.

When we went back, his wife Chastity opened the door, said they were on their way out and asked us to come back, so we scheduled another time to come back.

Then we went back for the third time and they weren't home. This isn't largely uncommon, so we did what we usually do and left a sticky note on their door. "Hi there! It's the missionaries. We stopped by for our appointment and were sad to have missed you! Give us a call so we can reschedule." Then we left our phone number. This is usually the routine, so it's surprising how many phone calls we don't receive. Actually, to be honest, it's surprising when people DO call us. :) But she did! A couple days ago, she called us and apologized up a storm for standing us up. She said she would make us brownies if we would come back.

When we got to her house we found out that she had been talking to Amber and Amber had been testifying to her about the change that had happened in her life. Chastity told us that ever since Amber started meeting with us, she's a completely different person; she has more confidence, she has more faith, she can feel the spirit, and she's cut out all kinds of negative from her life. She's just happy. Increasingly happier every time we see her.

So this sparked Chastity's interest and she wanted to learn why we do what we do. We explained our purpose a bit and then taught her the Restoration, but eventually all of her questions gave way to the Plan of Salvation. We had already been there for about 40 minutes, so we asked her if we could come back and teach her something that would answer more of her questions, like

"I don't think this is in the Bible, but I don't really believe in the type of Hell where there will be fire and burning. I'm sure it exists, but I don't think many people will go there"


"I have always wondered why I'm even here. Where did we come from?"

We wanted so badly to answer her questions, but we had to leave, so we set another appointment for this upcoming Tuesday. I love being able to answer the questions of the soul, and helping people find the answers to their own questions!!!

This week in my studies I found this scripture particularly poignant in Alma 38,

"And it came to pass that I was three days and three nights in the most bitter pain and anguish of soul; and never, until I did cry out unto the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy, did I receive [help/answers/comfort]. But behold, I did cry unto him, and I did find peace to my soul."

I wouldn't say that I'm currently in the most bitter pain and anguish of my soul, and I'm sure anyone reading this isn't either, but we all know to some degree what that feels like. But whether we're in the depths of despair or woke up on the wrong side of the bed, this scripture is proof  that prayer works. That when we humble ourselves, and get on our knees, and ask for specific help, he will come to us to comfort us. It is required that we come to Him when we need help. And I don't know why we are too stubborn to do so at times, but the minute we lean on the Lord, assistance comes immediately.

"There is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ."

It's easy to deal with problems by turning on the TV, or gossiping, or venting to your companion, which is my solution, but when we turn to the Lord, he is always first to shed light on the situation and help us overcome whatever we're going through, be it physical, emotional, spiritual, or otherwise. He is the source of all comfort.

I know he answers prayers. I know he loves us. In the name of Jesus Christ, AMEN.


Sister Best

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Shotgun Wedding Planners at it again!

Good Morning!

It's been a long, crazy week. After a jam-packed, Satan-attacked day on Saturday, Amber and Victor got married! So many events transpired that kept it from being a day of smooth sailing, but when it all worked out, it was marvelous, and they looked so happy, and they invited about 30-40 of their non-member family members and friends, so the church was full! It was a blast. I'll attach some pictures. Their kiddos were freaking out, so they all look incredibly unhappy, but usually they're little beams of sunlight.

After their wedding, literally that night, somebody came to their house, beat up Victor with a hammer, and he had to get some staples in his head... Eeesh. Sometimes I remember what a sad world we live in; how many people need the Gospel. But he's healing. They let us come over yesterday and have a lesson with them on the Family Proclamation. We talked about how true happiness is founded upon the principles that Jesus Christ taught, and that we cannot find it in any other way, at least not lasting happiness. They both agreed that they felt that was true, and that they wanted to eliminate bad from their lives. Even Victor who, before we met him, didn't even think Jesus Christ was real, nor did he believe in God. They vowed to come to church every week. We let it slide this week because he was in the Emergency Room... Lllll.

The biggest turning point for Victor was when Bishop Gillespie had Amber and Victor in his office at the beginning of the week. Bishop wanted to interview them before he married them, and he let us sit in. Before this, we hadn't really been able to get Victor to sit down and talk to us. He would usually get in the shower when we came, or go outside in the garage to work on things. But Bishop Gillespie really helped them feel the spirit and set goals for themselves. He invited them to pray with each other every night, he told them how to find happiness in marriage. And when he was done, he said, "Victor, have the Sisters told you that the Book of Mormon is a record of your ancestors?" He perked up and we sat in awe as Bishop recounted the entire Restoration of the Gospel to Victor. He promised Bishop that he would listen to us and step up to be a better husband and father. Woah.

This has been glaringly evident to me. There is such a dramatically stark contrast between those who keep the commandments of God and those who do not. Sister Garner put it really clearly while we were talking about this the other day. She said, "God's not going to punish you if you don't keep the commandments, but if you're not being obedient, he can't protect you." I thought that was a pretty good answer to the question I have heard so many countless times. "Why do bad things happen to good people?" It's not to say that bad things don't happen to commandment-keeping people, but I know that we are infinitely more protected physically, spiritually, and mentally if we if we are obedient. I wish I were perfect, it would make life incredibly easy, I feel like I fall down every fifteen seconds, but the Lord is pleased with improvement. He's pleased when we stand up for our beliefs.

And sometimes we still have bad days. But we are working towards eternal happiness. This scripture really helped me this week. (Read the whole thing, the first part sounds like a soft rebuke, but it gets encouraging.)

"Remember and always retain in remembrance the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come! If you do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God... and grow in the knowledge of that which is just and true."

Mosiah 4:11-12

Sometimes I think these emails are for me. :) I just write down my feelings and hope that they're coherent.

I love you all very much!

Love, Sister Best

Oh, PS, last night Sister Garner and I found out that we're staying together for my last transfer, which really wasn't a surprise. But I'm excited! Another 6 weeks with my partner in crime in our area that is on fire! :)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Where We Should Turn For Peace. :)

Seeing Amber progress has been the highlight of the century. She is growing leaps and bounds. Her boyfriend Victor doesn't believe in God, but when we went to her house the other day, we started talking to him and he said,

"I love that you girls come and talk to Amber. She's always been a good woman, but she is an even better woman now. She's just happier; more patient with our kids."

And Amber has said that many people have commented on that. This week, she had been begging us to teach her the commandments, so we taught her the Law of Chastity, the Word of Wisdom, and the 10 Commandments. It's was interesting to teach the 10 commandments because in Oklahoma, everyone is well "versed" in the Bible. (See what I did there?) When we teach them things like the Atonement or the 10 Commandments, they have a hard time understanding any difference between what we believe and what they believe because it's already quite clear to them what it means. But Amber has no religious background whatsoever, so she soaks everything in, recognizes that she feels the spirit, and deems it as truth.

We taught her the commandments using hand signals so that she could remember them, and when we taught her the third one "Thou shalt not use the name of the Lord thy God in vain", she blushed and got all worked up.

"That's a sin?!"
"Well, yeah."
"OMG! I feel so guilty!"

We giggled a little and then just looked at her.

"Oh man... this one's going to be tough for me. But I can do it!"

She is so humble. So ready to learn. When we teach her something, she applies it instantly. She came to church again yesterday and brought her two littlest kids, and they sat reverently. (It might be because we brought 6 bags of Cheerios, crayons, and Gospel Art books to keep them entertained.)

Yesterday, we found out that the Bishop is going out of town for a couple weeks, but Amber wants to get married before her baptism, so the Bishop is going to marry them this week. Sister Garner and I are getting really good at planning Shot-Gun weddings. If anyone needs to elope, contact your local missionaries. We're excited for them! Excited to see Victor inside the church. So many of the members already love Amber, I'm sure they'll love Victor as well. :)

We're been spending a lot of time with Jayme and Amber, trying to get them ready for their baptisms. Jayme wants her husband to baptize her so we're going to delay her baptism for a little bit, but she's still on track and going strong. The work of the Lord is progressing rapidly and everything is going so well.

Something that was made glaringly evident to me this week is the Lord's individual love for each one of his children. It seems like He is always striving to push His way into our lives and we are always fighting against it, but He wants us to rely on Him, He wants us to forgive ourselves so we can love ourselves like He loves us. Not in a prideful way, but in the kind of way where you feel good with who you are because you recognize that you matter, that you have purpose. And that your ultimate purpose is to be of service to others.

This was made obvious to Sister Garner and myself a couple weeks ago. We went to a Jimmy Johns (because it's my favorite place in the universe so sometimes we splurge) and were sitting in the lobby. I looked up and read a poster on the wall that told some long anti-climactic story. I finished reading it and shrugged and looked down at the table, then Sister Garner looked up and read the same thing. She shrugged and looked down as well. So I tried to evaluate why we both had had such apathetic responses to this poster. I realized it was because we're so used to being saturated in the Gospel! Everything we read in the scriptures, everything we talk about with others is uplifting. That poster was so secular, it had no point, we didn't feel the spirit when we read it, so we shrugged and went on to talk about the Gospel because that's the source of all patience, truth, and happiness.

Seek for the good.

I have loved this song this week. The lyrics are so powerful.

1. Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?
2. Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.
3. He answers privately,
Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.
Constant he is and kind,
Love without end.
Text: Emma Lou Thayne,

I love you guys. I pray that you had a blessed week and were aware of your blessings.


Sister Best

Today we went to the Tiger Safari in Tuttle, famous for the 2015 "Tigernado". If you're unfamiliar with what that is, and I'm sure you are, Google it. We got to feed tigers! And Llamas! :)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Miracles with the Oklahomies


I've never been good at not exaggerating. I guess I just rested my case with that statement. But I'll rest it again: I have never been so happy in my entire life.

This week was incredible and I hardly know how to start. Sister Garner and I have been hitting the ground running, and the Lord has blessed us every inch of the way. We have been trying to devote ourselves to the activities that are the "best" use of time. However, sometimes we forget to eat all day and then we have to reevaluate, hahah. But we're both just so excited. There's so much work to do in this area, and the Lord keeps throwing it on our laps!

There are three main things that happened this week that I want to talk about, but that's not even a glimpse of the miracles we saw.

The first was on Tuesday. We had told our investigator Jayme that she and her boyfriend (who's a member of our church) would need to get married before she got baptized if they wanted to continue to live together, and they do, because they've been together for 8 years and they have a daughter together. <--Run-on sentence of the century. So on Tuesday, we went over for our appointment, and they asked us if we could come back later that day. We shifted some plans around to accommodate that, and when we returned, they surprised us and told us they had spent the day ring shopping and getting their marriage license.

Then, on Wednesday, they met with the bishop, and because of extenuating circumstances, we all learned that he planned on marrying them on Sunday! This Sunday! Like, yesterday. So Sister Garner and I had four days to plan a wedding. That was a challenge. Luckily, the ward we serve in is incredible, and they all stepped up and pitched in; especially the relief society. It was such a great display of charity to see people who hardly knew them bring gobs of food and decorations to help set up. Their wedding was very simple, but it was cute. They both wore cowboy boots and their cake was made out of cupcakes. :) Jayme's getting baptized on the 20th! Yay!

The second also happened earlier this week, the Spanish Elders gave us a referral for a girl who had flagged them down and asked them what they were doing and if they could teach her about God. She lived in our area, so they gave us her information and we made her top priority. Her name is Amber, she's barely a year older than me, but she and her boyfriend have 3 kids and have been together for 7 years. She said she had been praying for someone religious to knock on her door and teach her anything about God because she wasn't raised religiously at all, but she has such great faith in Jesus Christ. She said flagging down the Elders was the answer to her prayers (talk about being proactive in receiving answers!)

In our first lesson, we didn't have much time, we barely taught her any restored truths, but we testified of our purpose, and that we wanted to help her gain the relationship with God she was looking for. She was captivated. The spirit was so strong that we said,
"Amber, we want to help you work toward baptism"
"I would love that! I've never been baptized before!"

So the next time we went back, we explained simply the Doctrine of Christ. She knows a lot more than she thinks she does, but we talked about faith and repentance and it answered a lot of her questions. When we started talking about the spirit, and how the spirit talks to us, she said, "Oh, I don't have that."
"How do you feel when we're here?"
"I can't even describe it! I feel warm and happy and peaceful. Honestly, it's the best feeling ever."
"Amber, that's the spirit. And after you're baptized, you can receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and those feelings won't leave you."

Her jaw nearly dropped to the floor.

The next day, we went back (Yes, 3 times in a row) and she had invited her Sister-in-Law, Italia, to join us. Amber said to her,
"These girls are helping me learn about God just like we've always wanted! And I'm getting baptized on July 11th! You should do it with me!"
"Okay!" said Italia.

Then our jaws nearly dropped to the floor.

Amber helped Italia brush up on everything she had learned so far, and then we taught them both the Restoration and they were both captivated. They said they had both always wondered why there were so many churches and that the Restoration really helped them understand that. Amber said,

"you guys could tell me anything and it wouldn't offend me."
"Amber, the church you're about to join is lead by Jesus Christ"
"Woah. I believe you. I'm excited!!!"

Every time we say something that usually makes people hesitant, she just perks up and gets excited.

"Church is 3 hours long"
"I have 3 hours to give to the Lord every week!"

"We believe in a latter-day prophet"
"I felt the spirit when you said that!"

Then she came to church! She brought two of her own children and two of her nieces, (an 8-year-old, two 3-year olds, and a 1-year old.) and she handled them like a champion. It was kind of awkward because we're in the mission president's ward, and he was sitting right behind us while we practically babysat her kids during Sacrament Meeting. But it all worked out; we even caught him making faces at her baby, Julian. :)

She faces the same issue as Jayme and Timothy, living together with kids and unmarried, but during relief society, she leaned over to me and said, "I told my boyfriend that I want to marry him before I get baptized and he agreed! Will you help me?" "Of course!!!"


A couple weeks ago, I wrote about David and Kimiko, a couple who wanted to get baptized at the end of June, but we lost contact with them! He sleeps days and works nights so it's hard to ever catch them. Earlier this week, one of our appointments got rescheduled, and we had Conor with us, and Sister Garner, who is utterly inspired, said "Let's go see David and Kimiko." We agreed that this would kind of be a last-chance opportunity for them so we could focus on those who are truly receptive, so right as we pulled up, David's car pulled into the parking space. "Hey David! Long time no see, can we come talk to you two for a bit?"
"Sure! Come on in!"

We walked inside and sat on the couch for a few minutes until finally David left. We looked around, confused, and then Kimiko walked out of a dark room, rubbing her eyes. She had just woken up, but she came in and plopped down on the couch and we started talking. Her demeanor changed nearly instantly and she started to share some personal insights about why she felt that God didn't listen to her prayers. Her words nearly had me in tears. We tried to explain God's unceasing love for His children, but no one did a better job than Conor. He sat quietly thumbing through the Bible until he found what he was looking for and then he sat in silence.

"Do you have something you want to share?"
"I really do. Everyone always reads John 3:16, it's every Christian's favorite scripture. But no one ever reads John 3:17: "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved."

Kimiko started to cry. Conor bore his testimony in overcoming sin and weakness. We bore our testimony of the Holy Ghost's role in all of that; that he's the comforter, and that devoting herself to Him will help her remove all feelings of guilt and shame. She confessed that she still really wants to work toward baptism,, so we re-commited her to it, setting a new date. She was thrilled. She even offered a prayer, one of her first prayers in a long time, and it was humble and simple, but perfect.

Then we left, and Conor made the comment,
"Wasn't it interesting to see her countenance change?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, when we first got there, she was tired and impatient with her kids, but as we kept talking, she became much more patient and loving, even though her kids were just as rambunctious."

Conor was spot on. This is the most exciting part of missionary work. When you get to see someone change. We see it two ways, we see it gradually over time (watching someone drink and smoke and be mean to really cleaning up physically, emotionally, and spiritually) and we see it immediately, just as Conor described. But either way, it's a testimony to me that drawing nearer to God is the best way to change. It's the only way to truly change for the better. Heavens, I've seen that within myself! Just devoting my time and energy to God had helped me love others, helped me love life, and helped me love myself so much more. Loving God entails keeping His commandments, especially serving others, because that is the source of all happiness. I have been FILLED with His love. I'm full, about to explode. This world is beautiful, the people in it are incredible, and we are all so blessed. Yes, there's some bad in the world, but the miracles and the positive things outweigh the negative ten fold.

This was a theme in church yesterday, even though it was difficult to fully pay attention, it was often said that we all go through phases, no matter what phase of life we're in. But we have to trust that through it all we are improving. Sometimes we trust God more than other times, but no matter how we feel, no matter how far away from Him we feel, the truth never changes, we can always rejoice in our Savior Jesus Christ, even when there's seemingly nothing more to rejoice in.

I know that's true. I know that He lives and that his atonement was infinite, to save us not only from our sins, but from our bad days, our negative thoughts, and our sadness. He is there to succor us and help us understand why we're going through what we're going through.

I love you. Thank you all for the shining lights you are. :)

I know this scripture is well read, but it just rings in my brain every hour of every day,
"Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God...then ye may be perfect in Christ." Moroni 10:32

He's not here to condemn us, but to lead us to perfection. I know that to be true.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Pictures: Anderson's wedding! Jayme, Timothy, and their daughter Hauna. :)

Monday, June 1, 2015

We Believe and are SURE

It was another wonderful week.

Are you sick of me saying that? :)

I guess it's really just a matter of perspective. I was looking back on earlier emails from Wichita Falls and recognizing that I used to admit when certain weeks were hard, but now it's just a matter of perspective. We can't afford to get too down in the dumps if something hard happens because it wastes too much time, and it causes us to dwindle in unbelief. If we really trust God, it's hard to assume that anything that happened was an accident. And I've started to see patterns. Anything that we perceive as bad always ends up well in the end. This truly is the Lord's work.

But with all that being said, it really was a marvelous week.

Last week, we met a sweet girl named Shiyun or "Shi" for short (Pronounced "She"). She [or Shi, whichever you prefer] lives in our apartment complex and just moved here from mainland China. She goes to school at the community college across the street and we met her while doing service at the Christmas Connection, a free department store for people with financial needs. I've had very few experiences teaching people who don't believe in God, but Shi was the first person I'd taught, especially in Oklahoma, who didn't have any understanding or knowledge of who God or Jesus Christ were whatsoever.

Sister Garner and I were baffled as we planned for her because the Gospel can either be complex or it can be simple. But teaching her about God, you have to teach her about her purpose in life. And teaching her about Jesus Christ, you have to teach about Adam and Eve, you have to teach about WHY we need a savior, you have to teach about the commandments and their attached blessings. So what seems simple to us becomes complex in no time.

But the most important part of teaching is the spirit. We've come to that conclusion over, and over, and over again. Especially this week.

And as we taught basic truths to Shi in her living room, she tried to find words in her limited vocabulary of how she felt. I thought the words she used were thought-provoking. "I feel warm. Moved. Inspired." That's how the Gospel makes me feel too. We brought Conor with us and he was able to explain the spirit. He was able to explain how it feels to go from kind of feeling the spirit, but not identifying it as such, and knowing that the spirit testifies of truth.

Then we taught Shi how to pray. Shi/e offered up a powerful, peaceful prayer. Her first prayer ever. I tried to hide my tears, but there's something so sweet about hearing someone talk to their Father in Heaven for the first time, especially as resolutely and inquisitively as she did.

We had a lot of wonderful teaching experiences this week, and most of them really forced me to rack my brain. On Tuesday, we taught Vania and Rob and their friend Mike again in their living room. They have so much knowledge about the Bible, that their questions have a tendency to bombard the dynamic. But I've been in situations where it feels like people are trying to defend their faith and disprove ours, Vania's questions aren't that way at all. She sincerely has a desire to learn and know if this is true.

She explained it to us last night, "This has eternal consequences. If what you're teaching me is true, I want to know it, because it's the difference between salvation and damnation, and I want to teach my children the truth!" Then she started to tear up. She has such a desire to know that it's true. But she's struggling to unlearn the things that she's known her whole life as a protestant and replace them with what we're teaching her. So the Godhead, prophets, eternal families, these are all such foreign concepts to her, and the challenge has been to help her set aside knowledge and focus on faith.

Yesterday, Vania came to church, and after church she and her husband and their five kids came over to our Bishop's house, who has six kids, and we all ate dinner and had a lesson in their home. It was noisy, but it was powerful. Our Bishop has a general authority demeanor about him, I guess you could also call that the spirit. ;) And our lesson went all over the place. Their questions are so deep and the vocabulary we use is completely different than that which they are used to, everything from the light of Christ to testimony to grace to et cetera et cetera et cetera...

Finally, it was evident that they need to pray about Joseph Smith. If a person can get a spiritual witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet, everything we teach makes sense. Baptists believe that if you believe that the Bible is the word of God, then you can believe that everything in it is true. This is no different. If we can help someone receive an answer as to whether or not Joseph Smith was called of God to restore His church, then they can't deny that it IS God's church, and that He still loves and speaks to us today.

I love being able to look from the outside at people's lives and see the Lord's hand in their lives. It's a special ability we have as missionaries to recognize God's presence in the lives of others, even when they struggle to recognize it themselves.

I know that this is The Church of Jesus Christ. The church that, if you actually try it out, if you actually live by its standards, you can know that it is true. And there is no other way to know it. Until you see that His Atonement can change you through living advanced and higher commandments, it is hard to recognize that those elevated commandments are from God, given to us for the enhancement of our lives. The Spirit has testified to me too many times that this is His church, that He governs it, and that it teaches the principles of eternal life.

John 6:66-69

 66 ¶From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

 67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?

 68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.

 69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

This is, alongside Peter, my testimony. I believe and am sure that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. And that he still offers us the words of eternal life. When we study them and gain them for ourselves, it is a path to eternal bliss and blessings. I love you all. So much. So much.


Sister Best