Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Last Monday for our preparation day, some of the Elders invited us to play squash with them.  Squash is apparently very similar to racquetball so it was very fun.  Afterwards we climbed the Butte which is one of the smaller mountains in our area but it was still a beast to climb.  We chose to climb the side with the stairs.  After a certain amount of climbing the stairs you reach a point that looks like the top, but there are still more stairs (420 steps). :/. My legs felt like they were about to fall off.  On our way back very close to the bottom of the mountain there was a mother and a baby moose on the trail.  We waited so long for them to move doing everything we could to scare them off but they are so domesticated here they don't care about us.  We were headed back up the mountain to go down the other side when a couple of girls who turned out to be Mormon caught up with us and said they didn't see any moose coming up so we turned back around.

For two days we did service for the state fair working with the recycling crew.  We were split up in a couple of groups and some of the Elders took their truck to pick up cardboard in bulk.  Apparently Elder Oace started to drive before Elder Brown was firmly seated in the bed of the truck so he fell through the back window.  We came around the corner and saw they had taped up the window with a piece of cardboard!  Our vehicle coordinator was not happy.  At least now we can never miss the Elders driving their truck.

This week we had another trainer/trainee meeting, but this time I stayed in Anchorage  to do exchanges.  Exchanges are when you and the Sister Training Leadets switch companions for about 24 hours and work with each other teaching and doing all other things that you normally do on a typical missionary day.  This way you learn from each other and mainly so that they can see how each missionary is doing.  I exchanged with Sister McGre who leaves next transfer.  I love her; she is truly genuine and has a love for the work.  It was really cool to see how she does things so far into her experience as a missionary.

This week has been working out the details on the baptism for Mary and Lizzy.  We came across a complication:  Stake Conference is being held the Sunday following their baptism.  That means she has to be confirmed a week later.  The problem with this:  (1) they are being prolonged to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, but (2) that the baptism isn't complete without the confirmation.  We would move the date of the baptism, but Mary finally feels at peace with the date because all the people she wants to attend will be able to come that day.  We are wrestling with this issue but we are talking with Mary later today to explain the situation and see if she either wants to move the date or be okay to be confirmed a week later, which is not a bad thing.

I'm very excited about how the work is progressing and I know that The Lord really directs His missionaries to find the elect:  ones prepared by The Lord to receive His gospel.

Many Thanks !!!

Sister Shelley Willden

Monday, August 22, 2016

The days are long but the weeks are so short.  If I didn't keep a journal I wouldn't remember what happened yesterday.  Last Monday for P-Day, we hiked Hatcher Pass.  Well, we mostly walked around and took pictures of everything; it's so pretty.  The Elders wait until the day of to tell us the plans for P-day fun, so the Sisters from both districts decided we wanted to hike so we had just a girls outing.  Afterwards we got fireweed milkshakes!  Oh my goodness!!!  I don't think I've had a milkshake that good.

On transfers the zones who are allowed to travel to Anchorage have temple day.  We drove down Wednesday with the other sisters and it was amazing.  A member in our Ward who recently was called to be the Stake Patriarch was our session director.  I love the idea of small temples. Apparently the Anchorage, Alaska, Temple was the first small temple to be announced by President Hinckley.  It is all volunteered run and it is located on the parking lot of a stake center.  It was a neat experience. Following the session, the sisters all went to a placed called Waffle Rush.  These waffles are made with dough rather than batter.  It is most likely not the healthier choice, but it sure was fantastic.

Funny story of the week: We got a cancellation before lunch but we wanted to stay on the mountain, so we looked up some former investigators to see who lived near by. One turned out to be part less-active.  We pulled up but the sign said, "no trespassing".  We parked the car on the side of the road and walked to seem less threatening.  We knocked on one door and they told us the family was the next house over.  As we were walking up, four dogs were lined up like a firing squad barking at us. We decided if they came up to us then we would put our hand down in a non-threatening way.  They did indeed come toward us barking, but like all other Alaskan dogs, they are big softies.  The family wasn't home so we started walking back and a couple of the dogs followed us.  One led the way, almost like a police escort, and the other had this huge stick in his mouth wanting us to play fetch with him.  We kept telling them to go home but they continued to follow us.  We got to our car and pulled away but they stayed in the street.  Sister Nield thankfully went back so we could get them to go back to their home.  We ended up putting the dogs in the car and driving back.  One of the ladies who was checking her mail on the  
street was watching this happen.  I hope she didn't think we were kidnapping the dogs.  Once we got to their house, we let them out and drove away.

We got a new investigator this week.  The story of how we found him is cool: We met this lady a few weeks ago who said we could come back to talk to her so we were on our way to do just that when there was this guy trying to fix his bike. We talked with him and he said he had a friend who is Mormon.  He also said he has always liked the Mormons.  We asked him why and he said it's because they have a better relationship with God than anybody else.  I asked him if he wanted to build his relationship with God and he said yes and agreed to take the lessons from us.  We told him we could meet with him tomorrow.  We then went to the lady's house who we were originally on the way to visit - she wasn't there.  I feel The Lord just wanted us to follow the prompting so we could meet this guy.  We taught him the next day, gave him a BOM and a Restoration pamphlet, and he said he would read both. Awesome !

The best news yet:  We had an investigator drop us all of a sudden about a week or so ago but we asked him if we could come by to answer some questions he had.  He likes to talk a lot so we don't get much word in, but I went off on a rant about our purpose in life and felt prompted to ask him to be baptized and he said yes!  How do you go from a dropped investigator to accepting the invitation to be baptized?  I said the first date that popped into my head out of excitement, which is too soon for him, so we are planning to push it back when we see him next. 

At church on Sunday we had three investigators come:  Mary, her daughter Lizzy, and Cindy who had only been to church once prior to me being out here.  Cindy has PTSD so we tried to accommodate her by taking her out early to avoid the crowds.  Our Gospel Principle lesson was on Priesthood authority, which is exactly what Mary needed to hear, and it turns out Cindy did as well.  We talked to Cindy later that evening and she is already asking questions about after being baptized.  We have a sit down lesson with Mary every Sunday and we talked more about prophets which led into Priesthood authority.  Now Mary has been taught by many different missionaries and hasn't been baptized yet.  She talked about the lesson at church today and said she finally understands why she needs to be re-baptized.  After showing her some videos and talking, I asked her, "Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone holding the Priesthood authority of God?"  She said, Yes!  Her main issue has been that she knows she needs to be baptized, but just never put a date to it.  Sister Nield and I prayed about a date about a week or so ago for her so I said, "We are holding a Baptismal service on September 10th.  Will you prepare yourself to be baptized on that date?"  She agreed.  She is a little apprehensive but feels that she doesn't need to wait.  She said she will pray about it.  Her daughter has wanted to be baptized for a while so she is good to go.  We have three people committed to being baptized this week!!!  The cherry on top is, after talking with Bishop about the things we were excited about and about our other investigators, he asked us if the Relief Society and Elders' Quorum was involved and we said we don't really know them by not attending Ward Council, so he said we are to come to Ward Council next Sunday !!  We haven't been able to go but now he wants us there. 

I am so excited for everything happening here and can't wait to see these people start on their journey to salvation.

Many Thanks!!!!

Sister Shelley Willden

Monday, August 15, 2016

For P-day last week we played this game called scatter ball.  It is like an ultimate dodge ball game.  We are running around like crazy waiting for up to three balls we played with and I even won a game.  First girl to win!!  That day was very fun.
We have a lot of investigators, but we are still trying to find more.  We tracted for 2 1/2 hours one day and it felt so nice to sit back down.

Sister Nield is having, what they think is, kidney problems, so we had to leave our area to go to the doctors.  Because our schedule didn't go as planned it allowed for us to be led by The Lord on what to do.  I find that The Lord changes our plans so that we can be led to the elect and who we need to be teaching right now.

Our Mission President came up to our zone to do President interviews and that went well.  They are so awesome and I love them so much.

Funny story:  We were visiting a less-active family for a while and needed to get going so we said our goodbyes and got in the car.  The smell of dog poop just filled the car and I came to realize that I was the one who stepped in it.  We had to wait 'till we arrived at our destination for me to wipe it off on the grass.  The first time I wear my boots and that happens ... :/  Oh well.  Something to laugh about now; even while it was happening.

We get fed by the members and even our investigators feed us occasionally, but one of the members forgot we were coming.  He had us follow him to the bank and then he gave us $40 to go out to eat wherever we wanted.  Sweet!  We tried a local restaurant that we pass by all the time and it was great.

We do a lot of service and one of the weekly service opportunities we do is serve ice cream to war veterans in a nursing home.  It's great because people are happy when they are getting ice cream.  They are happy, which makes us happy.  Later that same day we visited a lady in our ward with young children and who babysits a lot and I realized that babies look like old people.  Sister Fetters said, "yeah, if you want to know what you will look like when you are old just look at your baby pictures!"  True statement.

People say that the state bird is the mosquito, but I swear it has to be bees.  Due to the lack of strong winters in the past, the bees, wasps, and hornets are not dying off.  I haven't been stung yet, but we were sitting outside with a member when she said that the bees are very domestic and haven't stung anybody.  The second she said that she got stung.  The bees are seriously out to get us.  I am constantly moving around to get away from them and Sister Nield is starting to think I am hallucinating.  

We are having so much fun here and I am grateful to be here at this time.  Later today we are going to go hike Hatcher's Pass which I hear is breath taking.  Can't wait.

Many Thanks!!!

Sister Shelley Willden

Monday, August 8, 2016

Funny story of the week: Sister Nield and I were coming out of a gas station when we said "Hi" to a man filling up his truck. He was smiling big and was moving his head to see us. We took that as he might be interested in what we had to say so we got a pass-a-long card to go give him. While talking to him he told us a factoid that there are 3,000 known Gods that people around the world believe in. We told him that we believe in one God but he said that he believes and prays to all of them. Afterwards Sister Nield went to shake his hand and he kissed her hand saying he was old fashioned. We cracked up laughing in the car from the sheer awkwardness of it all as we were leaving. I find that there are many awkward situations we are put in.

One of the less-active members we were scheduled to have dinner with forgot that they needed to go to a wedding reception so she invited us to eat there. Not that I don't love weddings but it is very awkward being at a wedding reception as a missionary. We aren't supposed to think about relationships or any romantic feelings towards the other gender because we are supposed to be focused on the Lord's work. And now we are attending a wedding celebration which is centered on romantic love. They both served missions as well which was cool.

We have the opportunity to do a lot of service. A way we found that makes it easier for us to talk to complete strangers is offer to help them with whatever they are doing. We met a nice family already members of the Church just from another Ward because we offered service.  We had a great experience with a lady I've struggled with when her special needs son said the prayer. The spirit filled the room as she was explaining the nature of her son and her realization of him picking up words from the Church/gospel that she hasn't even said around him. One of my favorite quotes is from President Boyd K. Packer, "True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior." This rang true with her son. He is behaving better and, while he may not understand it all, he has the Spirit teaching him things that maybe we can't.  We had an investigator ask us some questions that I have never thought about before. We talked to the Bishop of this Ward and after receiving so much spiritual enlightenment I realize that I have more energy.  More energy to go out and teach, walk up the stairs, and go for a run even. I only wish I had this much energy in the mornings right before I need to exercise.

Last thing for this week that I'll share. We were having dinner at a members’ home and the husband had an accent that sounded almost like a German accent but he said it was some kind of Croatian.
They are really funny couple and they have two chickens that are like their pets that they let in the house for a second.  It was time to leave and Sister Nield said that they want to apologize. I said, "apologize for what?" He then said sorry in an American accent and said he was just messing with me since I am a greenie (new missionary). Sister Nield was in on it the whole hour this was going on. At first I thought his accent was fake but I didn't want to be rude and ask. We all had a big laugh about it and now they are one of my favorite families.  

Alaska is so amazing and I am considering living here one day. They have funny terms for the rest of the United States like the "lower 48" and saying just "the States" (as if they aren't apart of the United States).  Also when they say they are "going to town" it means they are going to Anchorage and that is the same no matter what part of Alaska they are in. The people treasure their animals more than anyone and the dogs are the friendliest ever. 

We live next to the Bishop and his family and I have adopted their dog, Cinder, as one of my own. She is so sweet and is a good stand-in for the void I need to fill being away from my dog Oreo.

Monday, August 1, 2016

I love ALASKA!!   I already have a list going of the reasons I love Alaska. Some of them include the amazing sunlight we have all day long and Fireweed: it's a weed that is purple!!

I am in Palmer, Alaska, surrounded by the best mountains ever! My trainer is Sister Nield who is seriously the best.  We have so much in common and we are already best of friends.  She has only been out 6 months before training me so we are basically learning together.  She is from Farmington, Utah and is 19.  She, though, is very mature for her age and is very wise.  I love her so much and I am glad I'll be spending 3 months with her as I am being trained.  The all day and night sunlight is awesome.   The only time it throws me off is when we are in lessons and I think it's only 6pm, when in reality it is time to head back home (9-9:30pm). We have 5 progressing investigators right now and possibly two more.  Our story with that: all of our appointments fell through Saturday, so we decided to do more tracting.  We had already done a district tract in our area earlier that day (the members in the district go to one area to help them tract for an hour which covers more ground in less time).  We prayed and felt we should tract these trailer homes and after 5 people not even allowing us to say anything we came to this door where we talked to a guy for an hour on his doorstep.  At one point I told him that the main event that happens in the Book of Mormon is when Jesus visits the Americas.  He said that the Native Americans have stories about that event which is so cool.  We told him the Book of Mormon is a record of those people.  We now have an appointment to come back to teach him and his daughter!   The Lord gave us time for us to find the elect and, with prayerful thought, we were able to find him.  The Lord knows which of His children are ready to hear the gospel and helps point the missionaries in the right direction if they are willing to listen.