Monday, October 16, 2017

“I’ll be good; it’s Sunday tomorrow”

It snowed this week!  I say that not out of excitement, but out of devastation.  Thanks goodness it didn't stick.  It has around some parts of town, but not too much; it's coming though.  The temperature right now is 30 degrees, which is nothing compared to what I know is coming.  This week went by fast, but at the same time, I can hardly remember the beginning of it.  Here are the highlights:

Exchanges with the STLs:  So there is a trio of STLs down in Anchorage who all came up to Fairbanks to go on exchanges with all of the sisters up here.  We picked them up at the airport and ended up giving them the keys to one of the trucks we had been using to get our car fixed for them to go get lunch while we did our emails at the Church.  We, of course, played volleyball with the zone and played scum the card game and even spoons.  Later for FHE we played basketball.  Woot, woot.

Tuesday:  All day Tuesday we had Sister Cox with us.  We had district meeting and elder Paulson asked me to train, but when he found out the Oceanview sisters were coming, he asked Sister Oliver to train instead.  Heck ya!  I kinda liked having an exchange with a trio where Sister Richards and I can stay together.  We had a lot of fun with Sister Cox and talking about all sorts of things while in the car traveling from house to house finding less actives.  We worked on our talent for the zone conference talent show for Sister Cos when we retired to our house and she loved it.  We perform that for the Zone next Monday so our P-day will be Tuesday, not Monday next week.  We met with a less active named Spencer for the first time that day and we scheduled to meet with him for Friday.  We invited Kaiana and Rachel to our lesson and afterwards him and Kaiana talked for a good 45 minutes after we left.  They are already good friends.  We are doing really great work with less actives up here and bringing them back to church.

Nanana Service:  So a continuation of the service we are doing in Nenana.  We went to help out at the Senior Center with a luncheon and we talked to quite a few people.  Old people love to talk.  We had Merry with us which was good because once she says "Verhagen", they instantly know who she is.  We then helped Amie unpack when she came home from a month-long trip to Utah to visit her family.  We saw this book written by this lady who talks about "Dressing Your Truth" and we gabbed with them about it for a while and even when we went to Nenana on Sunday for church.  It's a lot of fun and something I want to look into more when I get home.  We then helped out at the library shelving books and then helping to set up for a kids craft day that happens every month.  The big project we did was later to help clean out a multi-purpose room.  I cleaned the sink with this poly-zag stuff.  It worked miracles, but I had to hold my breath while using it because it was that toxic.  We didn't finish shampooing the carpet but, man, shampooing the carpet takes a long time.  No wonder people usually hire other people to come and do that for them.  On our way home we saw the amazing Aurora Borealis, which was like rainbow across the sky, and then it turned into a huge clump that was dancing around - so pretty!!!

Second Exchanges:  We needed to do exchanges with the sisters and it needed to be this week even though we just had Oceanview up here.  I stayed in the area with another sister while Sister Richards went to their area.  I was losing my energy to keep the conversation going because it kept dying.  I then didn't talk much.  Our day turned into an all finding day which those days can be hard and long anyway.  It made me really appreciate Sister Richards when we were back together.

Nikki:  After church in Nenana we drove back to have a lesson with Tim which we could only stay for a half hour because we had dinner with Rachel at 7pm.  Her roommate Nikki joined us again and we decided to talk about the Book of Mormon using the pictures at the beginning.  At the end Rachel invited her, if she wanted, to read the Book of Mormon, and she accepted a copy and said she wanted to read it!

It is so good to be able to share the gospel with people who don't know it.  It is like a light bulb experience with them.  With less actives it is rekindling the light already in them that just needs more fuel and fanning.  Either way we are doing missionary work and both are rewarding.  The title of this post was a quote from a lady we tracted into.  It just make me think that we are not Sunday Mormons.  We don't just live our standards when we go to church, but our religion is a lifestyle we live everyday.  That is what Christ taught.

Sent from ALASKA!

Sister Shelley Willden

Monday, October 9, 2017

Wikipedia is to knowledge as the internet is to religion.

Fun week.  Quite a bit has happened, but only have time to share the highlights.  They say it is going to snow this week. :/  Not looking forward to that.

P-Day:  We finally played chair soccer with our zone.  Well it turned out to be just our district this week as the North Pole District decided to go hiking for P-Day.  We also did Carmel Apples for the holiday and for FHE, we made sugar cookies and decorated them for Halloween.  In the picture, I decorated the cookie with red food dye and had a little bit too much fun.

MLC:  So we flew down to Anchorage this week for our missionary leadership council meeting.  We stayed with the Oceanview sisters with the Colony sisters coming again as well.  All the same sisters, plus Sister Burdick.  We were tired in the morning, but made it through all of MLC.  We had training's and talked about mission stuff, but had a fun activity.  We played keep-the-balloon-up and played it with different rules.  We eventually divided into two teams and had to toss it over President Toone's head.  One elder couldn't do it to save his life and our team won with flying colors.  We of course applied this to missionary work and had a discussion come from that.  When we fly back, Sister Richards and I had dinner and just talked about our futures when we go home.  Makes it kinda stressful to think about, so I usually try not to.

Car Probs:  We finally winterized our car.  No sooner time than before it snows.  Our car needed a block heater so we took it to the dealer and had them put one in while we took a spare truck around to work.  We took Rachel to our lesson with Mack and this friend of his came over and started telling us things he was very passionate about and cussing here and there.  The funny part about it was Mack was cringing every time he cussed.  So funny.  The next day we had an appointment to get our tires studded. They put winter tires on for us a week or so ago but we realized there were no studs in the tires so we had to go back. Everything is ready to go, through, for the winter.

Try the tracted:  We tracked into this guy named Sam a few weeks ago and every time we tried to go and share a message with him, he was always about to leave the apartment.  This time we got him home and he wasn't planning on going anywhere. We visited with him and he shared with us that he wants to consider himself agnostic but is atheist.  Having that religious background, we made sure we explained everything about the Restoration as simply as we could and asked him questions to make sure he was understanding.  The lesson was going so well and he completely was understanding of it all, but then when we asked him to read the Book of Mormon to see if what we are teaching him is true and he said no and wanted to do his own research.  It was like a knife puncturing my heart.  It is sad that we can present the gospel to people, but people can use their agency not to accept it.  We did tell him the websites he should go to learn more.  Just like any English research paper, you don't get your information from Wikipedia.  The same is with the truth of a religion - you have to go to the right sources.  We told him about and  Any other other site is most likely going to be anti material and not a valid source of information.  Hopefully we can visit with him in a couple of weeks to see what his thoughts are then.

DJ:  We received a text from DJ on Sunday saying that he has gone through some hard times in his life recently and that he wanted to drop the lessons with us but now feels like he needs them more than ever.  We visited with him right after that at the library and he just laid it out to us what has been going on and his feelings about things.  It is hard to tell people that Jesus Christ and His gospel can help us in our lives.  It is one thing to say and testify of it and another to show them.  It takes effort on people's part to receive Christ's help.  He is always reaching out to us, but it is through our actions that distance ourselves from Him.  Repentance is turning us away from our old life and towards the life Christ wants for us and to see us truly happy.

Sent from ALASKA!
Sister Shelley Willden

Monday, October 2, 2017

We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet

I fear this might be the last week of Fall.  There's a lot of rumors of snow coming soon. Here are some of the highlights:

P-day fun:  There's a member in our Branch who likes to play the card game Magic so we played with him.  This is my first time ever playing, so it was a bit hard for me to catch on.  I realized that it has it's own language or lingo.  With the game you really need to know the language to play well, but the great thing about the gospel is that i can be taught for even a child to understand.  Mosiah 2:40, "O, all ye old men, and also ye young men, and you little children who can understand my words, for I have spoken plainly unto you that ye might understand ... " and 2 Nephi 31:3, "For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth The Lord God work among the children of men.  For The Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for He speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding."  We are taught line upon line, precept upon precept for us to understand the mysteries of God.  Later for FHE we played charades and then went to the stake center to play basketball with some members with the branch.
Lessons with Less-Actives:  We had a lesson set up with Walter and he wanted to meet at the Steese chapel.  We asked the ZL's for the key, and when we got to the chapel we realized it was the wrong key.  We just waited for him to show up and have him follow us to the stake center.  Fairbanks is small enough for us to travel to all the chapels fairly quickly.  He said he wants his life to be back to how it was when he was investigating the church.  That would mean for him to put Christ first in his life over his worldly tasks.  He said he is willing to do whatever it takes.  We had another lesson with McKinley, but he said he wants to be called Mack.  Him and all the boys and my companion were talking about video games prior to the lesson.  I didn't have much to contribute to the conversation.  We saw Cory this week.  He has been reading the BOM!  We met Alex who has been a convert for only a couple of years.  The member present we brought was Laura who is new to the branch and she, herself, is a convert for a little over two years as well.  We are doing fairly well with working with less-actives in our branch.
Service in Nenana:  We are going to Nenana every Wednesday that we can and are trying our best to help serve the people in the area.  We helped out at the Library, weed the Garden in front of the church before winter comes, and then helped out with this service project with some nonmembers cleaning their trash from their house construction.  There was a lot of us helping which made a huge impact to the pile. They were very gracious for all the help.  The members wanted the missionaries there to help and have presence with these people.
General Conference:  Conference was amazing.  The talks were a lot about the natural disasters going on and how we can help by mainly helping with our families and our communities.  After the Saturday session, a member took all the missionaries out to lunch at Denny's!  That was a lot of money.  This same member took us to dinner the other day and paid for us to get winter boots.  We told him we were good, but he insisted.  On Sunday, in between sessions, we had pancakes that the branch made. Chocolate chips and bacon in the pancakes!  Heaven!!

Conference was really good and I'm glad we get to watch it twice a year.  President Monson is really sick, so he's watching it from his home, but it is so cool that we know that we have a Prophet who is leading this Church under the direction of Jesus Christ through revelation.  Apostle Robert D. Hales passed away during the conference which is sad, but we know he's in a better place right now sent back to Heavenly Father.

Sent from ALASKA!
Sister Shelley Willden

We ARE doing The Lord's work

The weather is starting to get to us.  It isn't, by any means, cold as Fairbanks can get (average is 40 below), but it is definitely chilly.  The dark is upon us as the sun goes down sooner and sooner.  Fall was gorgeous, but all it is is a sign that winter is coming. In a way it is like the Second Coming of Christ.  We, right now, are in the "Fall" stage; having a lot of signs (like the changing colors of the leaves) to show that Jesus Christ is about to return, i.e., "wars and rumors of wars", natural disasters, people will find bad things good and good things bad, a marvelous work and a wonder, etc.  Winter is coming ... are we prepared?
Apples to Apples:  I grew up playing this game and I never win at it.  I'm usually always in the boat that I draw the best card for the green card after I already placed a card down, or I am always a close second who never gets picked.  We played it for our FHE activity and I surprisingly won!  With some of them I really was just playing my "discard" card to get rid of it from my hand and it won.  I was excited but it was just a lot of fun to have so many of us sitting around this round table playing apples to apples in a YSA branch activity.

Tuesday:  This day started off pretty rough.  The North Pole sisters had to spend the night before because their CO detector was going off and the firefighters said they wouldn't be able to fix the problem that night.  It was cool to have them spend the night but we ended up going to bed a little later than we planned, which made the morning difficult.  Neither of us were in the best mood and when we sat down to plan out our day we had nothing planned except one lesson in the evening that we weren't too sure if it would pan out.  We put in some stuff to do, but scheduled in four hours of tracting split up into two hour segments. Tracting is not the most effective way of finding people to teach, but when we have nothing else to do it bides our time and exercises our faith to find.  We figures that the YSA (Young Single Adults) would most likely be living in apartments near the University so we started there.  The first complex we went to had a lot of opposition.  Not exactly like a "fourth-floor-last door" situation, but close enough was a lady who answered the door and allowed us to share a message with her.  After talking to her she shared this story of an elder 16 years ago who passed by her on the street, paused, and then turned around and handed her a pass along card say, "I am supposed to give you this card".  16 years later and she still has the Christ pass along card on her fridge.  Awesome story; she was excited for us to give her a Book of Mormon and another pass along card.  The sad part about it is that she is out of our stewardship.  As YSA missionaries, we teach only the members who will attend our ward/branch which will be people 18-30 living in the Fairbanks Stake boundaries.  Afterwards we tried more apartments and found YSA-aged guys all in a row.  #miracle.  Later that day we met up with Aisha.  I had taught Aisha (pronounced Asia) in Palmer while I was being trained and just recently found her up here in Fairbanks working at Taco Bell.  We had her records moved to us and we made her a new investigator!  Then the crazy lesson happened.  We had dinner with Laura and asked her to come to our lesson with Sergei afterwards.  We were talking with him and getting to know him better when it came down to talk about the gospel.  We planned on going over the Restoration, but didn't get passed the first principle because he shared with us that he doesn't believe in God.  Mind you this is a less-active member, so at one point he must have believed.  We asked him questions about how he came to this conclusion and he shared with us his hard life growing up.  The lesson was solely guided by the Spirit because even minutes after leaving I couldn't remember certain questions I had asked him that helped propel the conversation to address his concern.  With a bold invitation we committed him to pray to God to receive an answer about what we were teaching him was true.  A day that seemed would dredge on turned out to be a very productive, miracle-filled day!
Nenana:  We went to Nenana this week which we plan on going to once a week.  They, Brother Verhagen and his daughter Merry, took us around to visit with a lot of people who have some sort of leadership in the community to elicit service opportunities. Our branch mission leader is a strong advocate of the Ammon theory.  He said tracting does not work in their won and that they have brought a lot of people to the gospel through service.  The only thing is that all the people they convert have to move because of the lack of jobs there.  This is a very small town; and I mean small.  If you are driving to Anchorage you'll miss it if you blink.  We have a service project we are helping out this Wednesday there and they are super excited that we are coming to help and meet the lady they are helping.  Also, they said a new member moved in with a non-member husband who said would like to help with the service so we can meet him too.
Dance:  So we texted DJ on when we can meet up with him this week and he invited us to come to a dance he'll be at.  On our missions we can't really dance especially ballroom dancing because we aren't allowed to hold hands with members of the opposite gender.  We came to just support him and to talk with him a bit about meeting up to have a lesson.  He comes up to Sister Richards and asks her to dance ... Awkward.  We had to tell him our rules and it was just awkward.  We did talk to him for a bit and he said he would come to church if he had a ride.  We squared everything away for him to have a ride and he came to church!
Rabbits:  Oh the crazy things we do at Dawson's place.  Last time we were over there for dinner, he and some other YSA members were blowing stuff up for us and melting metal.  This time after dinner we watched them "dispatch" (their words) rabbits.  I held a baby bunny while Dawson hit the rabbits over the head with a 15-pound steel rod.  Then we watched them prepare it by taking off the hide just as I learned in Soldotna.  Sister Richards really wanted to see how it was done because some day she wants to own her own homestead and live off the animals she raises.  She still needs to taste rabbit to see if she likes it but as of right now she is sold.

Lessons Outside:  We set up a lesson with Craig to meet at the library because we couldn't find anyone to come with us.  He said it was a nice day outside and that we should jut go out to a picnic bench for the lesson.  While he was sharing some of the experiences he had on his mission a drunk, native guy came up to our table.  He originally asked us for money or food which we had neither on us.  He then began to harass us by saying some inappropriate things so we asked him to leave.  It took him a while, but he eventually started to leave cussing at us as we walked away.  Craig saw him pull a knife out and was very concerned about a drunk guy carrying a knife around the park.  We waited for him to be far enough away from our car to pull out and leave to head to see the Women's Conference broadcast.  General Conference is this Saturday and Sunday.  Again, this happens twice a year where the prophet and the apostles speak to us as a whole broadcast from Salt Lake City.  If you would like to watch it, it will be on BYU TV or on

Sent from ALASKA!
Sister Shelley Willden                

Monday, September 18, 2017

AAM in Online

We received transfer calls on Friday this past week and the crazy thing is that I kept forgetting they were happening at all.  This transfer has just gone by so quickly.  Sister Richards and I will be staying together for another transfer.  A lot happened this week, but here are just some of the more prominent things:

LDSSA:  UAF has this new program called LDSSA which I believe is Latter-Day Saints Student Association.  It's a group that helps with the school that gets our name out there.  So they asked last Sunday for volunteers to help with a tailgate party for the UAF/UAA Girls Volleyball match.  We handed out free t-shirts and other school brand things like lanyards to people who came up to the booth as well as free pizza. It was all first-come-first-served and people will come for food.  We told people about the game to have them come support the girls volleyball team at UAF.  One of the members of the Branch is on the team.  It was a lot of fun and we were able to talk about the church to those who asked.
General Authority:  We had Elder Foster from the Seventy and his wife come visit our mission.  They shared with us insights about working more with members to propel missionary work.  Also he said we are going to start online proselyting so that means our mission is getting Facebook.  I haven't wanted to have Facebook in our mission just because I feel like I would go back into bad habits with Facebook and it is just something else to add on top of all the things we have to do already.  But the more I think about it the better I feel it will propel the work faster.  Some will fault our mission because we have cars and have IPads, which definitely seem like a luxury for some other missions, but it is a blessing to have to reach more people in a quicker manner.  We are on The Lord's errand, and we don't have too much time to do it. Facebook can be a great tool if used properly, so we'll see how that goes once we are trained with it for the use with our mission.  We had a Double MCL this month because of Elder Foster's visit.  We did a sort of Skype call for those in remote locations away from Anchorage to have a discussion with all the Zone Leaders, STLs and the District Leaders.  The meeting didn't last as long as they said it would have, so we went out to lunch at Denny's.  The Denny's up here says on their sign, "The Northern Most Denny's in the World".  That is something definitely to photograph.  Sister Richards loves bacon; so all she ordered was bacon!

Food bank:  Thursday we show up and they said there were not too many orders for us to help with, but that they had another job for us to do.  We were to sort through the break and throw out any moldy bread.  At first it was one here and there, but then it got to the point where a whole box was full of moldy bread.  I smelled awful and it was making me cough so I worked with a mask, but then they just asked us to throw it away still in its wrapper.  There were a lot of garbage bags filled with bad bread.  At least they don't give out bad bread to the people.  We went back to help with the orders before we were finished.
Cory:  So we were trying people on Saturday and had the thought to go and visit Cory at work.  He works at this Dice Pawn Shop from Tuesday through Saturday.  He was there and very welcoming to us coming to visit him.  He is just very open about his past and has a desire to build his relationship with God again after his mother's passing.  We met his father who, same thing, just told us his life story basically of how he is at a point where he is not ready to come back to the church yet because of some issues and also with his wife passing.  We talked to Cory a bit more and asked if we could visit him the following day.  We brought a couple of guys from the branch to come visit him with us and that went okay.  Hopefully we helped him a little bit with his relationship with God and gave him some commitments to do.  When we asked if we could visit with him again next Sunday, he said, "how about I just come to church?" Awesome !!!
Out with the Missionaries:  Rachel, one of our branch missionaries, was off work on Friday and Saturday, so she took some time on Saturday to come out with us.  We wanted to have lessons with single males so that we could best use our time with her. We had a lesson with Craig which went really well.  He has a desire to come back to Church, which is awesome.  Our next lesson though ... we met at the stake center and he had opened up about his concerns and said he was just happy right now with the way he is living.  We shared with him how the BOM and having good friends who influence him for good can be a benefit, but I think it was too much for him, so he said he wanted to leave.  He and his nonmember girlfriend left.  I said a prayer of comfort to help ease my sad feelings.  We tried by some other less actives in the spare time and got in with a member we have been trying to get a hold of.  He said he could come to the activity tonight, but ended up canceling again.  The Activity was a success though.  A lot of people came and Neva came with Sister Wright.  Hopefully we can talk with her more about religion.

Michelle:  We had the thought to call this girl named Michelle that we had called before, but she forgot and made plans.  We called her while we were calling a lot of former investigators and she was crying.  Her neighbor died in her arms and now she has his cat.  She was very traumatized by what happened just earlier that day so we were trying to help her through the phone.  The scripture we read to her Alma 7:11-12: "And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.  And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities."  We aren't counselors, but what we do know is that the gospel can help people.  The Savior can help people.  We, most likely, won't know what people are going through, but Jesus Christ does.  Let go and Let God.

Sent from ALASKA!
Sister Shelley Willden       

Monday, September 11, 2017

"I don't know any nuns"

Fall is here.  The leaves have changed so quickly in just one week.  It is pretty, though I wish the trees would have some red because it is all orange and yellow.  I feel like I can't enjoy it because I know Winter is just around the corner, which is accompanied by the darkness.  It is already starting to get dark now at night.  Again, that is normal back home, but I know it is only getting darker day by day.  Here are the highlights for this week:

P-day:  We did some Labor Day shopping at sears and value village.  I got a cute dress for only $3.  We went to the church and played a little bit of a nerf-gun war.  Pretty fun.  We played volleyball after that and I just love volleyball.  We had roasted weenies and s'mores at the Maynes' house.  We played a little bit of spike ball, which I need way more practice with; it is harder than it looks.

MLC:  We had our Missionary Leadership Council this week.  The Zone Leaders and STLs from all the zones come down to Anchorage for an all day training and counseling about mission matters.  They needed someone to drive down a car from Fairbanks, so we volunteered.  It was a pretty drive; it rained the latter half.  I now want to go visit Denali.  Driving through there was legit.  We stopped by the Hensons and Bobby D in Wasilla as we drove through.  Also got fireweed milkshakes!!!  Oh how I missed those so much!  That night we spent the night at the Oceanview sisters apartment with the Colony sisters coming down a day early as well.  It was a party, but my companion and I still went to bed on time.  Sister Jewel and I did these facial masks that were exfoliating or detoxing.  So fun.
At MLC we had spiritual discussions about certain topics like faith and companion exchanges.  We played this game that we play a lot at EFY which is clumping together and grabbing each others' hands to then untangle everyone.  They had the elders do it all together and the 6 sisters do it.  We were done in less than a minute.  They took over 20 and still didn't accomplish the task. One of the APs (Assistant to the President) ended up splitting his pants.  Great day. We flew back around 6pm after the meeting.
Cult:  We were texting people we knew in the Branch about the activity happening on Saturday.  One of the phone numbers we had was not a correct number.  The person texted us back asking who we were.  We told him we are the sister missionaries  He replied saying, "I don't know any nuns", and looked up our church online. Automatically he said we sound like a cult.  Just like you wouldn't look for information on Wiki for an English research paper, you shouldn't look to anti-Mormon material to learn about our church.  That, of course, is skewed and not a good representation of our Church and our beliefs.  The best way to learn about our church is by reading and praying about the Book of Mormon.  As cliche' as that sounds, it's true.  We don't call it the keystone of our religion for no reason.
Tracting Miracles:  Who says tracting doesn't work?  Yes, it is not the primary focus of a mission, but we can't teach people if we don't find people to teach.  This week we were gone for basically two days straight in Anchorage, so this just makes it even more sweet that these things happened in a shorter time frame.  We tracked Thursday and with one person they said we could come back and another we gave a copy of the BOM to him.  A couple of days later we were actually trying to find a former investigator, but didn't have her apartment number.  We decided to just tract the apartments there and hopefully, if she was prepared at this time, would greet us and say that she has met with missionaries in the past. Well on the very last door (not necessarily "4th floor, last door"), was a lady named Ellen who invited us in to talk about religion.  She said she hopes to find a church she believes has the correct teachings.  After a little while she said she is thinking about being a follower of our church.  She already had a copy of the BOM.  The only sad thing about this is that we are YSA, so we teach people between the ages of 18-30 as our branch is consistent of those people.  All other wards are family wards so it doesn't matter the age.  We had to refer her to the 5th sisters to begin teaching.  She is very promising though!
Activity:  We had an activity at the Wright's house this weekend making nachos and then spray paining canvases with leaves.  Dr. Wright invited his Medical Assistant from work to the Activity and she came!  We got to meet her and she is pretty cool.  Had a fun night!  Had to give a talk the next day at church, which went well.  I spoke about how the BOM has increased my testimony of Jesus Christ.  We even watched a devotional broadcast by Elder Bednar about linking our families and keeping our future generations in the Church.  Pretty good!

Sent from ALASKA!
Sister Shelley Willden       

Monday, September 4, 2017

Exchange Miracles

I wish I could remember what happens all in a week.  Thank goodness for our area book to tell me what actually occurred.  Here are some highlights:

Institute:  I love institute.  We have two in a week.  The first is for the Old Testament. The lady who is teaching is very knowledgeable and has a very organized structure with the class.  I'm excited to learn more about it since I have never read it cover to cover.  The other class is on the Book of Mormon.  After the first class I realized that our mission has basically been a BOM institute class.  All of the material that we covered we learn over and over in our district and zone meetings.  There were only two YSA members who attended the Old Testament class and also attended the BOM one.  One is Caitlin, who is the Relief Society President and the other is Kaiana, who is up here for the Air Force.  I was impressed that this guy, who works on the AFB, and is a student at UAF, would come to both institute classes and participate.  He just got called to be our new Branch Mission Leader.  So excited to work with him.  According to President Wright, he seems so enthusiastic about missionary work.   He served his mission in South Korea and loved it.

Service:  I love that we get unplanned service opportunities that arise throughout the week.  We have glam nails on Tuesday (which I realized I am not good at painting people's nails and should just stick to removing their nail polish), and Food Bank on Thursday's.  This week we received a text from a girl in the YSA Branch needing help moving her stuff into storage for the winter as she moves back down south till next Summer.  We got some of the elders to come help and we loaded our cars with furniture and boxes and got done pretty fast.

Lessons:  We had another lesson with Tucker for his new member lessons.  We had the lesson after dinner at Rachel's house.   Her roommate Danny came to dinner and she even participated in the lesson.  Hopefully we can work with her soon.  We had lessons planned for DJ and Terry, but both got cancelled this week.  Hopefully we can meet with them again soon.  Terry will be gone until mid September for work though. We drove to Nenana for a lesson with this lady Robin.  She had us go on a little goose chase to meet with her.  We brought a member from the Branch who met with us while at this restaurant.  We started sharing what the BOM was to her using the pictures in the front and she cut us off to do this later.  Though she said she is interested.  She flaked on coming to church, but hopefully we can continue to meet with her and help her anyway we can.  We also had Church in Nenana.  It was interesting.  The Branch is mainly made up of one big family:  the Verhagens.  The "parents" have 9 children who still live in Nenana.  They were very emotional on Sunday.

Exchanges:  Exchange miracles never fail.  I went on exchanges with Sister Burdick who came out on her mission the same time I did.  We stuck around the North Pole area because it is helping their area and our area since our area is everywhere.  We tried by some people and got in touch with a less active who had more information about a recent-convert-less-active member whom we just found out about earlier that same day. Amazing.  We went tracting later and found some YSA-age people and a potential investigator for them.  Two birds, one stone.  It was really fund to visit and catch up with her about our mission lives.

We did visit someone who had opinions about our "Mormon culture". This Church is a hospital for the sick, not a palace for the perfect.  I know people have been offended by Mormons before and I apologize if anyone has.  We try to live what we preach for this is not just a Sunday religion, but a way of life; and we are not perfect people.  No one is except Christ.

Sent from ALASKA!
Sister Shelley Willden

Monday, August 28, 2017

"That's not my name"

There is a lot that happened this week, so this is probably going to be really long. Here are the highlights:
Pioneer Park:  So apparently this park used to be called Alaskaland but people got the wrong idea about what kind of place this is.  It is not an amusement park but a historical park with a lot of different museums and gift shops.  And the best thing about it is it's free (not the gift shops obviously).  Free parking and free museum besides the air museum.  It was finally a sunny day on Monday so we did a lot of shopping and I got a cross stitch pattern for puffins (this type of bird that is in Alaska that I love), which I'm excited to do when I go home.  Sister Richards got a kuspuk, which is an Alaskan native jacket for $15.  We told that to a lady who fed us dinner with the FBX 5th Ward sisters and she couldn't believe it.  Then she realized it was the end of the season with Pioneer Park, as they close after Labor Day, and then she understood the pricing.  She said she would make us one of we just bought the fabric and the trim.  Sweet !!!  Later that evening we had to leave FHE early to bring a guy and his girlfriend some food.  We saw that the missionaries have taught them in the past, but their teaching record said they resurfaced once in a blue moon when they need something like a ride or food.  They are really young single adults who are living off of food stamps and in a tent.  We tried talking to them about the Church's self-reliance program which would require them meeting with us and coming to church which they agreed to do but their body language told us otherwise.  People tend to take advantage of missionaries because of all the service we do for others.  We are her to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.  We helped them out this time, but told them straight up that we can't do this anymore because it will only enable them. We thought about what is really the Christ-like way of handling this situation.  The thought came to us, "give a man a fish - feed him for a day; teach a man to fish - feed him for a lifetime."  We tried calling them for church but their phones were dead. We'll see what happens this week.
Concerned about Marriage:  We finally had district meeting since we had zone conference last week.  It was fun.  I was asked to do a get-to-know-you training.  It was interesting that it needed to be a training.  But you know me, I went all out.  I had done this thing as an EFY Counselor where I would toss a ball covered with numbers and when the person catches it, they look at what number their thumb lands on.  The number corresponds to a get-to-know-you question.  The EFY kids usually have a blast and the district seemed to like it as well.  Later that day we had our lesson with DJ - we had soon on his teaching record that the elders tried teaching him the Restoration lesson but only really taught the first principle, which is God is Our Loving Heavenly Father.  We thought that wouldn't happen to us but it did.  We only go through the first two principles in the lesson because DJ had a lot of concerns, especially about marriage.  Now, I stress about marriage mainly because as a member of this Church we talk quite a bit about marriage and making sure we marry a good person who will accompany us to the temple and help raise our children with the knowledge of the gospel.  That leads to stress in making the right choice.  DJ, who is not a member, shouldn't have the exact same concerns.  That's crazy.
Food Bank Twice:  We did it twice this week.  The second time was our normal food bank experience we have each week but the first was helping in the back.  We got a lot of our zone to come and basically work the assembly line.  We got it done really quickly which was good.  Afterwards we stuck around for lunch and we were coloring a thankful card that was going to go up on the wall.  A lady who works there was talking with us and as the sisters were leaving she told me she was a less-active member. She said that she wants to come back to Church and bring her family who she raised in this Church but needs to talk about it with her husband.  I told her to first start reading the Book of Mormon again.  The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion.  Every teaching in our Church comes down to whether or not the Book of Mormon is true.  She said she would start that again.
Lessons with "Gators":  So we had two lessons back to back with our investigators on Wednesday which was amazing.  Days like these are what makes a mission so worth is. I just want to teach people the gospel.  The first lesson was with Terry.  We met up with him at UAF (University of Alaska Fairbanks) and he was a breath of fresh air.  His beliefs go along with our beliefs so teaching him is really just having a gospel discussion where his inputs are him basically teaching himself the lesson.  After that we drove out to Salcha to go see Romano or should I say Romario?  This is our third time visiting him and he just now tells us, mind you at the end of the lesson, that  his name is not Romano but Romario.  What?!  You are just now telling us?!  He is Romano to me, not Romario.  Even now I get it mixed up.  Well he is moving back to Jamaica this week so we are transferring his teaching record there.  Hopefully they will be able to find him.  He was only up here for a summer job program.  We had new member lessons with Tucker.  But he first wanted to buy us milkshakes so we had the lesson there.  We had Sid and Dean come.  A family ended up paying for our meal there.  They turned out to be members.  That was so sweet of them.
Nenana:  So we are the missionaries in charge of the Fairbanks YSA Branch, as well as the Tamarack Branch in Nenana.  It is about an hour drive away and such a tiny town. They were having a Branch BBQ Friday and wanted missionaries there.  Us, the Zone Leaders and FBX 6th Ward elders were there.  They each gave a pass-along card with our phone number on it to nonmembers.  There were a lot.  Sister Richards and I were busy going around trying to introduce ourselves to everyone.  We are now in contact with the Branch President and the Branch Mission Leader.  We got there a little bit early (like 2 hours early) so we went around trying to find the church building and visited some former investigators.  We thought we were late trying to find their house but it turned out we were an hour early.  We helped to set up the BBQ then and got to know our Branch President a little bit better.  Tucker and Sid were there from YSA which was cool.  They knew the Verhagens (a family of nine who basically populate the city of Nenana with all of their children and their children's children).  It was a lot of fun.
Sunday:  Wow!!  So our branch mission leader, Jeremias, is leaving this week because the military is moving him to Colorado. He invited a lot of his military friends (soldiers) which packed the meeting.  His talk and Laura's, who spoke before him, were so on point with missionary work and the power of the Book of Mormon.  I felt the spirit so strong and would hope the nonmembers felt it too.  We really are going to miss him. He is a convert to the church of almost 2 years but is so well-versed in the gospel already.  He knows more about the Book of Mormon than some life-long members.  We joke about him being the next apostle but seriously, if all ward mission leaders were like Jeremias, the work would be on fire.  Speaking of fire, later that day we were invited to a dinner with one of the YSA members.  He had some other members over for dinner too.  YSA experiences are a lot different from family wards. What do you get when you have a room full of boys?  Destruction.  Just because they wanted to, they lit aluminum and iron on fire and then melted lead.  Crazy.  Boys just love blowing things up.  The saying "they'll grow out of it" is a lie.  "Boys will be boys" is on point.

Sent from ALASKA!
Sister Shelley Willden

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Just walk on a military base?

Wow, what a crazy week!  Looking at our area book to see what did happen this week and some things don't feel like it happened just this week.  Let's see if I can be concise enough for everything.  The weather has been crazy.  It rains, then it stops, then it rains ... then it stops.  My goodness.  Am I in Juneau?

Tender Mercies All in One Day:  So we were working on our training for zone conference for this Friday, and for our personal studies both Sister Richards and I found the same talk that touched on what we wanted to train about so that was so cool and inspired.  We spent quite a bit of time trying to fine one of our investigators house and couldn't find it for the life of us.  The street wasn't marked and we thought we would just try by a house to ask what street it was and it turned out to be his house!  #blessed.  Later that day we wanted to go try by the less actives on the military base.  We had asked some people what is the procedure to get on base, and by golley, that was so easy!  Who am I?  How do they know I'm not a terrorist?  They just see the badge and that's it?  How do they know I didn't just steal the missionary badge and put on church clothes?  Once we got signed in and we were on base we visited everyone on our list.  Lastly for the same day we saw the tender mercy of not getting ourselves shot.  We show up to an appointment with a less active with our mission leader and the Relief Society President and once we were out of the car this guy approached us with a gun.  It was the guy's brother who said there have been burglaries lately.  Once he knew who it was he put the gun down.  So we are all good. What a great day!
Lessons with Everyone:  We had a lesson with our only progressing investigator name DJ, with his best friend Hudson, who is a member who introduced him to the church. It was great and we taught about the Plan of Salvation.  He has a lot of questions that can be a little deep.  He wants the meat, but he first needs to swallow the milk we are trying to give him.  He is doing great though.  He prayed at church and apparently helped out during the Elder's Quorum lesson!

We went to visit a potential investigator the elders found who works at the knotty shop in the North Pole. (BTW, there is a North Pole, Alaska!  The place has light posts that are candy cane decorated and we visited Santa Clause's house !!!  So cute.)  So the potential investigator, his name is Roman, is from Jamaica and will mostly be returning but we talked about the Book of Mormon using the pictures in the front and committed him to read it.  Later that evening we had an appointment with a member in YSA to visit and we talked with her now husband about the BOM and he said the way we taught him was more clear and helped him understand it a bit better.  Because they are now married, they "graduated from YSA" so we are passing him over to other missionaries.  They are moving at the end of the month into the FBX 5th ward so he will have sisters there too to help him. We had a lesson with our recent convert named Tucker.  He is great and fits right in with members of the Branch.  He and another member stayed after church a couple of hours for a lesson we were having with a less active and Tucker invited him to institute.  That was awesome.  It is cool to have recent converts help with missionary work.  In a way they feel they were in the same shoes and know how to relate to the less actives and investigators more.

Zone Conference:  We had interviews and zone conference this week.  Interviews were a bit different since President Toone counsels with me more about STL stuff.  I am glad I can contribute to the mission and help make it better from my perspective on things.  For zone conference we presented our training and listened to others' too. It was really good and Sister Richards and I are implementing all that we can into our missionary work.  The following Sunday we were asked to teach the Gospel Principles/Doctrine lesson while the teachers had a meeting.  We combined the two classes and a few minutes before, decided to teach on something else.  We decided to just teach what our training was about which was mainly on prayer but following a pattern that we emulate from Christ creating the world.  The pattern is counseling with our Heavenly Father, executing what we had counseled about, and then returning and reporting to Him about our day and being accountable to Him.  It went well and we got some people to participate in the lesson/discussion.
Activities:  With YSA, we got a lot of activities to invite people to.  They had a wii night Monday and we just played Apples to Apples with some of the members. Saturday they had karaoke which was fun, especially since they didn't do it A Capella but we just sang over the peoples' voices.  This coming week they are starting institute.  They are actually having two classes.  One on Tuesday's which is on the Old Testament and another on Thursday's which covers the Book of Mormon. I am so pumped. Institute is basically just a scripture class where we dive into the scriptures and talk about it more in depth.  They are wonderful.

For the spiritual thought of the week I'm taking it from our vehicle coordinator: Because of the solar eclipse today, today's thought comes from Chapter 35 of, "Jesus The Christ".  "Jesus was nailed to the cross during the forenoon of that fateful Friday, probably between nine and ten o'clock.  At noontide the light of the sun was obscured, and black darkness spread over the whole land.  The terrifying gloom continued for a period of three hours. This remarkable phenomenon has received no satisfactory explanation from science.  It could not have been due to a solar eclipse, as has been suggested in ignorance, for the time was that of full moon; indeed the Passover season was determined by the first occurrence of full moon after the spring equinox.  The darkness was brought about by miraculous operation of natural laws directed by divine power. It was a fitting sign of the earth's deep mourning over impending death of her Creator.  Of the mortal agony through which The Lord passed while upon the cross the Gospel-scribes are reverently reticent. 

Sent from ALASKA!
Sister Shelley Willden

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Biggest Area In The World

Wow ... so much has happened!  I hardly remember leaving Memory Lake and the flight to Fairbanks.  It has been very busy and productive.  I wish I could write about it all, but "ain't nobody got time for that", so here are the highlights:

Last P-Day In Wasilla: I got the majority of my bags packed and we played tennis at this park out in Willow with the zone.  I mostly just sat and wrote in everyone's transfer journal and had everyone sign mine.  We had to leave a bit early to go hiking with the Henson's and Bobby D.  He really wanted to go hiking with us so the Henson's drove us to Thunderbird Falls. That probably was the best hike he could ever hike because he could hear the waterfall.  Usually hiking is a scenic adventure but with the roaring of the waterfall, Bobby was able to experience a hike the best way a blind and hard-of-hearing person can.

Fly to Fairbanks:  We had changed up our logistics a bit as Sister Peterson felt that she should stay with Lazy Mountain where there are three beds and she needed to finish packing.  I had spent the night with Sister Johnson in Eagle river prior to driving to Anchorage. We showed up to the Brayton chapel and saw the 20+ new missionaries outside taking a picture with their trainers.  There are only two sisters who came out and one is named Sister Willden.  I got to talk with her and take a picture with her.  I want to find out how closely we are related.

We drove to the airport and got on our flight.  The plane was half full, so I got the whole row to myself.  Great time to nap. There are 6 sets of missionaries just in my district (the norm is 4) and 3 sets are being white washed including us.  Also majority of our zone is training new missionaries. This is going to be an interesting transfer. We probably have the biggest area in the world as a companionship; as we are YSA Sisters, we can go anywhere our skate goes. Our skate is huge as it covers Fairbanks, North Pole, Delta Junction, and all the way up to Barrow which is the highest city a person can go to in the world...It is huge !! 

Food Bank:  We have a weekly service helping out at the food bank.  This week we actually did back-to-back days.  The first day we helped to shop for orders.  I had to pretend basically that I was the mom of the family and get the amount of food I would need for a family of 2 or 4 or whatever number we were given.  It was a lot of fun. We got fed lunch afterwards, which was wonderful.  We also are allowed to take home 10lbs of produce and bread which will help me to save money on groceries.  The next day we helped a lady in the back with packaging up boxes to ship to some of the villages.  This cook machine they have puts this plastic band around the boxes to secure it shut.  It was a lot of fun and I never got tired of how much it excited me.

Other Service:  We helped out with bingo at the Pioneer Home which FBX 2nd Ward Elders showed up to as well, because it was in their area book.  Sisters used to be in second and elders used to be in the YSA, but we switched this transfer.  So the elders who are now in the 2nd ward have what the sisters used to do for service.  We decided to let them continue to help out with bingo and that we would just help out with glamour nails for the elderly ladies on Tuesdays.  The elders were cool with that. Thought I think one was okay to help out with nails :)  This week we also helped out at the fair.  Our Church had a Family History Center booth there that rotated the missionaries and some members to help run it.  We took over for the North Pole sisters.  What little training I have with, helped quite a bit.  We had people come by who were interested in genealogy and liked that we have a site that is free to use.  I talked to one lady about why we do family history in the Church and she seemed interested in the fact that we do it in an eternal perspective.  We enter this world in a family here on earth and our families can be perpetuated beyond the grave. Family History work is very important and it helps to bind families together to last after this life.  Matthew 18:18, "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven:  and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."  God is bound by certain laws as we are.  Our families won't be together in the after-life without being sealed together and that only happens in our temples.  Family history work helps us to find our ancestors to bind them together for eternity.

YSA Branch:  So what I thought was a YSA Ward (Young Single Adult) is a YSA Branch. All this means is that it is a really small ward.  They said the Branch's size will shrink in half by mid September when most people leave to go to school down in the lower 48.  We do a lot of activities though in a singles ward.  They have finished the summer semester of Institute last week and we don't know when the fall semester will begin, but those are Thursday nights.  We have FHE (Family Home Evening) every Monday. Normally families will just get together to have a spiritual discussion and then do a fun activity together as a way for the family members to bond.  Well, in a singles ward (branch), we don't necessarily have our families with us so the ward (branch) as a big family that comes together to do the same had we had our families here.  On Saturdays they plan extra activities for the Branch members to participate.  The best thing about it is that it is a lot easier, and less of a commitment, to bring non members to.  It's something fun we do and all friends are welcome.  When we talk to people who are between the ages of 18 to 30, we try to invite them to the activities to meet members of the church and have some fun with people who live in their same area. We have been doing a lot of less active work, trying to know who the members of the branch are, and trying to meet all of our investigators.  Most investigators we will have will be referrals which is good because they already have a friend in the church.

Sent from ALASKA!
Sister Shelley Willden