Monday, June 26, 2017

The Rainbow Tastes Gross

Wow !!  So much has happened this week and this week just flew by.  This was Sister Williams' last full week on her mission. She is coming to the reality of it all and is getting a little too anxious about everything that she's been less wanting to go home. 
She'll be on a plane Wednesday night on a red eye flight.  Here are highlights of the week:
FHE:  So the Ronnes are a part-member family in the ward who have quite a few recent converts.  Sister Ronne has been a member for a year now and her two daughters have been baptized within the last 6 months.  Braden, their son, is the youngest and who we are teaching.  We teach him while we teach Nerissa, the new member lessons.  This past week they fed us dinner for the first time and wanted us to teach them how to have FHE (Family Home Evening).  This is basically family night with a spiritual thought.  We were thrilled to be able to teach them how to have FHE. This happens normally on Monday nights where the family comes together, sings a song, says a prayer, shares a spiritual thought or lesson to facilitate a discussion among the family members and plays a game or something fun that the family enjoys doing together.  A treat is optional, but it adds the cherry on top.  The home is the best environment to teach our children the gospel and what better way than to set aside a time out of our busy lives to come together and teach one another principles The Savior taught and have some fun.
Temple:  We had the opportunity to go to the temple again this transfer.  I love going to the temple.  I always seem to go in with wanting guidance and while I read from the scriptures in the temple, I read certain verses that teach me what I need to work on. Our P-day was then on Wednesday, so while we were in Anchorage, we did some shopping.
Interviews:  We had our last interview with President and Sister Robinson.  This time they kept us together in the same room to talk to us together.  They talked about treating the missionaries like we treat our investigators and other people with whom we come in contact.  Wasilla and Palmer interviews happened the same day the sisters normally get our transfer calls, so because we had our interviews then, he told me my transfer call right after the interview.  I will be receiving Sister Pike who is coming from the Jewel Lake area in Anchorage. She has been out for about 9 months.  I'm excited and can't wait to see how this next transfer goes.  Sister Williams had her exit interview a couple of days later.
Service:  At Hannah's, we were burning more carpet and organizing tires and cutting sheet metal.  After some other missionaries left, we were talking with the Willow elders and realized Elder Birth singed a part of one of his eyebrows and that same eye's eyelashes. The hair turned blonde and was curling a bit.  I don't know if he is just going to cut the ends of his eyelashes off or put mascara on.  We'll see later today.
Bobby:  Bobby is back !!!  He was gone for a month down in Kentucky and Texas for his mother's funeral. He got back Wednesday, so we visited with him Thursday and helped mow his lawn a couple of days later.  It's crazy what a month does for grass left alone.  His back yard was a shock to me.  Of course Alaska has been having a lot of rain lately.  It is so good to have him back home.  We missed him so much!
Skittles Game:  So we had dinner with the Morin family. There is never a dull moment with this family, and we laugh basically the whole time we are there.  While Sister Williams was having their whole family sign her transfer journal, we played Apples to Apples Bible Edition, and then played the skittles game.  It's basically like a skittles game of chubby bunny, but with a twist.  So you pass around a bag of skittles and have to pull out three.  If they are not all the same color, you have to put them in your mouth and say, "I love skittles".  If you ever get all three skittles the same color you put them on the table and you can either swallow all the skittles in your mouth or just spit them out.  I fortunately got all three the same color one time, but decided to swallow the skittles ... bad choice. Later the skittles kept piling up that the sugar from them all was making my stomach upset that I literally wanted to throw up.  All of them complied together in our mouths started to make them taste gross.  I don't want to taste the rainbow anymore.  A couple of the kids bailed out during the game which was wise, but because I had already gone so far I couldn't quit. We were all dying, but Austin and Sister Williams, the entire game never pulled out three of the same color. Sad.  We went through two whole big bags of skittles and the majority made it to the end.  I never want another skittle again.

Enduring to the end seems like a chore or an undesirable thing to do for your life, but when you have the gospel and are constantly working on improving ourselves and learning more about The Savior and His teaching, then it is enjoying to the end. The Plan of Happiness (aka Plan of Salvation) is not just a hopeful plan to be happy in the end.  We can be happy while we are still living.  This gospel or the things we know and understand and do in this church are not always easy.  Heavenly Father never said it would be easy, but He said it would be worth it.  Serving a mission for a year and a half, not to mention elders serving for 2 years, is hard work, but is so worth it.

Sent from ALASKA!
Sister Shelley Willden

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Children are like pancakes

The title comes from an analogy from one of the sister missionaries serving here.  I don't remember how we got on this subject, but she was explaining that raising children is like making pancakes; the first one is a practice one and is not the best pancake; the second is much better, but by the third you have mastered it; the last is the left over batter pancake.  This analogy has been brought up three times this week in a matter of a couple of days.  This week, though, Sister Williams, and I thought this was going to be the longest week of our lives, but it flew by.  The Henson's went out of town to go to fish camp down in Kasilof by Soldotna for the majority of the week, but we kept busy in their absence.  Here are the highlights:

P-Day Fun: We had planned to hike Lazy Mountain again and have those from the zone who want to participate come with, but due to the weather we decided against it.  We ended up playing Laser tag with our district. It was so fun.  We played three games back to back.  This first game we played was basically the missionaries against this other group of people who slaughtered us.  This particular laser tag game had these modes that went along with it which would give you special abilities in the game; something neither of us were familiar with.  We learned as we went, but found out that you needed to take advantage of the modes in order to win.  The second and third games were just four on four:  missionaries against missionaries.  So much fun and each team won a game.  We were getting pretty hot in there running around shooting people. After that we went hiking with the Henson's and friends.  Kemalie, the Hensons' granddaughter who we are somewhat teaching, really bonded with Sister Williams and I, so hopefully that will help with teacher her more in the future.
Sisters Training Meeting:  Wednesday we went down to Anchorage for a training meeting just for the sisters in the mission.  This is my second time doing this and I think we are doing it now because this would be the last time we could do it with our mission president and his wife before they go home and we get a new president in a couple of weeks. They tried out this new video conferencing this that worked the entire time!  Normally with PVC that we have been using in the past there would always be problems.  We videoed in people from Fairbanks, Juneau, and Soldotna.

Service:  We had a lot of service opportunities this week.  We helped moved this family from the Colony area to Wasilla's area with the help of some missionaries from the zone and the Colony sisters. They said they wouldn't have gotten it done in time had we not helped.  Done in 2 hours:  moving out and moving in.  Later that night we had dinner with Sister Gogan in our ward.  Every time we are over at a member's house we ask them if there is anything we can do for them.  Majority say no and some joke about us doing really hard electrical work or something similar to it.  Well Sister Gogan joked about us cleaning her house and we actually helped her.We helped her wash her dishes.  She likes them washed by hand.  Of all the chores around the house to do, doing the dishes is probably my favorite because it is very therapeutic and I love the warm water.  So I washed all of her dishes by hand in an hour and a half. Spontaneous service.  She called the next day just thanking us so much for the help. It always feels good to do something nice for someone else.

Saturday:  Saturdays on a mission are like Mondays in the real world:  no one likes them.  Saturdays just normally seem really slow and long and Mondays on the mission are our P-days so they are fun and go by really fast.  Well especially with the Henson's gone we were worried that we would want to pull our hair out, but I think we are overcompensated ourselves with appointments.  One right after the other is how time goes by fast and you feel accomplished because we are being productive. We started teaching Nerissa, the new member lessons while teaching Braden vicariously.  The best news they gave us was that Braden was going to come to church !  We did service for Ruth Ann and she took us out to lunch at Taco Bell.  We stopped by the church to get the baptism key from the elders to use for a family needing baptismal clothes to have a baptism down in the lower 48.  We met with the new family in the ward and they really are great.  Not an awkward moment and we could seriously talk to them all day long.  We had dinner with the Wargos after that and had a lot of fun with them and their kids.  Sister Williams is in the process of saying goodbye to members now since she goes home next week.  Crazy fast how this transfer flew.
Father's Day:  WE HAD 4 INVESTIGATORS COME TO CHURCH SUNDAY !!!!!  Lonnie was there, a recent convert, so that is one. Braden came with his family = 2. And the craziest of them all: Mary and Barry.  Morgan, who is a recent returned missionary in the ward, was running late to church.  She contemplated on even coming but decided to come and found Mary and Barry walking on the side of the road walking to any church. She picked them up and took them to our church !  Sister Ronne had asked us to go with Braden to Primary and help answer his questions and just be with him so we asked Morgan if she would accompany Mary and Barry to class and help them.  It was crazy but we did it.  Working with members really does help. Later that evening the Henson's got back into town so we stopped by and visited with them.  Brother Henson is like our mission dad so we made him a candy board as a Father's Day gift.  He said he would not eat the candies and keep it forever !  That night we stopped by the Georges; Sister Williams said goodbye to them and had them sign her journal.  We were about to leave and take pictures outside when Cruise, their Australian Shepherd peed on me.  No one saw it happen, but I just felt my foot get really warm.  They apologized up and and down, but I laughed and said it would make a great story and experience.

I am so grateful to be serving in Alaska and more and more do I see that I was called here to teach the people of Alaska. There is no other mission that would teach me the things I've learned here or helped me increase my understanding of Christ's Atonement.  I feel blessed to come on a mission with the knowledge of the gospel I had because there are quite a few missionaries who learn the gospel on their missions.  What comes with an increase of knowledge of the gospel comes an increase to share it with others.  That is what pushed me to come out here for 18 months. Others have a lot of faith to come out on a mission with very little knowledge of the gospel but the best way to learn something is to teach it.  Every missionary can testify of that.

Sent from ALASKA!
Sister Shelley Willden

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

President Nelson!

Wow, what a week!  The other weeks are going to seem slow in comparison.  We had a lot go on but the major highlight of the week was being visited by an apostle of The Lord, President Russel M. Nelson !  We got to shake hands with him and hear him speak to us about The Book of Mormon and his testimony of the gospel.  So cool.  He is the president of the quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  He could possibly be our next prophet which makes it so much cooler that he came to visit our mission !!  He originally was going to come up to Alaska to visit with the youth of the church, but decided to come a day early to visit the missionaries.  Most missionaries who were in driving distance to Anchorage got to see him in person while missionaries in remote places and in Fairbanks and Juneau watched a live feed.  Something to tell the kids in the future.  Here are other highlights:
Hiked the Butte again:  This was my third time up this mountain, but my first time up the steep side.  Normally we've taken the stairs side, but it was a lot more fun climbing the rocks up.  Faster too.  We had Brother Henson come with us, as well as, Aaron, the investigator friend whom we passed off to the YSA elders.  They came along as well as a way to get to know him better.  We had a lot of fun and it is starting to become easier to hike this mountain.  Hopefully that means I am getting in shape.

Haircut:  So we were texting one of the YSA elders about getting the baptismal font key for a baptism we had to prepare for and he asked us if we knew of anyone who cuts hair.  Well Sister Williams went to beauty school to learn to cut hair but he was meaning someone who could cut his hair. He said that one of the elders in our district gave him a bad haircut and he needed it fixed.  We say him the next day to get the key and from the front, it didn't look bad, but the second he turned around, we both gasped.  Sister Williams said it was probably the worst she has ever seen someone's hair cut.  Well one of our members, luckily, cuts hair so she got him back in better condition but that was later that evening.  That means he spent all day visiting people and having the YSA fun day at the park with his haircut.  He was a good sport about it and it'll make memories for him in the future.
Fastest Baptism:  It wasn't fast in the actual ordinance of the baptism (thought it only takes a second to go under water and back up), but fast in the preparation of this baptism. Normally when we have investigators getting baptized we plan at least a week in advance of arranging people to speak and other logistics of the baptism program.  Well we were told about this youth baptism on Sunday and the baptism was occurring that Wednesday.  They asked people to speak that day and we made the programs and got the other parts all planned out in time to fill the font that day and have her baptism.  It was a great turnout and all went well.  Great preparation for when my children get baptized!
Talk:  So Saturday morning we get a call from the executive secretary of the ward pleading for one of us to give a talk in sacrament meeting the following day.  I answered the phone so I volunteered.  He asked how come I didn't pass this on to have Sister Williams speak.  I told him that she would have not like me if I did that to her and it is her last two weeks on the mission; I don't want to stress her out even more. Besides, I don't mind giving talks, especially when I have a talk already prepared. Lately for our zone conferences, President Robinson has asked us to prepare a 3 minute talk about something in particular.  I am always afraid I'll get called on, so I prepare a talk.  Comes in handy when you are asked to speak in Church.  I spoke about how the Book of Mormon has influenced my testimony of Jesus Christ.  In the scriptures, the prophets are always talking about calling people to repentance - "repent ye, repent ye" - and yesterday giving my talk, I felt a little taste of that.

I truly feel the Book of Mormon will help us in our trials and is our guidance from The Lord to us if we but study his words DAILY.  I know we all have lives that keep us busy and struggles we go through that take away our focus, but if we put The Lord first and read our scriptures daily, everything else will fall into place and we'll be surprised how we have the time to get all accomplished.  "It won't be enough for you and for me" to be occasionally reading the scriptures.  We can't brush our teeth once a week and think we are good.  It doesn't work like that.  It has to be holding fast to the word of God.  People struggle with understanding the Book of Mormon.  A girl we are teaching said it best:  "It is like Shakespeare:  once you understand Shakespeare, you can understand anything he writes."  Scriptures have their own language.  Not that it is in a foreign language, but that it is still foreign to comprehend.  Their use of symbolism and whether we take what they say literally or not is confusing and that is why there are so many Christian churches when they supposedly teach from the same Bible.  But once you understand it, it becomes easier to read.  I am starting to feel this way.  I definitely read some things to help clarify the culture or what the prophets are trying to say to help, but now I can see the pattern and how The Lord communicates.  Music, they say is a different language.  But once you can read and understand music, you can sing anything from any piece of sheet music.  The Lord has his own language. Once you understand Him, it becomes easier to understand what He is trying to communicate to you through the scriptures.  Read it, everyday, even if it is just 20 minutes.  I sometimes wished we could study from the Book of Mormon 2 hours a day.
Sent from ALASKA!
Sister Shelley Willden

"There's nothing lazy about it"

A lot of stuff has happened this week and I was sore for half of it.  The days are long, but the weeks just keep flying.  Before we know it, Sister Williams will be flying home to Utah.  Here are the highlights:
Lazy Mountain:  I have wanted to hike this mountain since the time I served in the lazy Mountain Ward and lived on this mountain.  The one time our zone planned to hike it, my companion and I ended up going to the doctor.  Now that I'm back in the Valley we finally made plans to go on Memorial Day because some members wanted to go with us and they had that day off.  We were up and down in 6 hours and 40 minutes.  We started right after emailing and I think I was in over my head trying to hike this mountain only accomplishing the top of the Butte prior which you can see in some of the pictures taken from Lazy.  Everyone we talk to says, "There is nothing lazy about it."  We all question the naming of this mountain.  It is over 3,700 feet!  We did the switchbacks going up but came down the basically vertical trail down which started the pain of different muscles than on the way up.  So fun though.
Pass-off:  We had our pass-off lesson to the YSA elders.  It is a lot harder to teach in front of other missionaries.  We would testify here and there but we let the elders teach the lesson so that Aaron could become more familiar with them.  We still keep in contact with Aaron and his mom since they are good friends with the Hensons. After the lesson Sister Henson had me use these body massages which made me feel like a new person the next morning and I was able to walk much better after that.
Judith:  We did some yard work for one of our potentials named Judith.  She is just so nice to us.  We were able to have a gospel discussion with her.  She reads the Bible everyday and I feel that because she does, she has a better understanding of the nature of God and of Jesus Christ.  Many people who go to church don't read the scriptures all to often and now have a skewed view of who God is and of Jesus Christ. We know they are two, separate individuals who are "one" in that they are one in purpose.  They are united in their goal of having us all become more Christ-like (being better people) and return to live with them again.  God is the Father of our spirits and Jesus Christ volunteered to come down and be our Savior so that we could return to live with our Father again.  If you know Jesus Christ than you know the Father because Jesus does everything the Father would do not because He is the Father but because He has the eternal perspective to do the same, good things that His and our Father would do.  They both love us and want the best for us just like our earthly parents.
Service:  We have done a lot of service this week.  We helped out at Hannah's organizing all this Styrofoam that was everywhere.  The next day we had back-to-back service opportunities.  While on exchanges Brother Henson wanted all for of us to help out with a non-member's garden in the Colony area which she was most grateful for.  As from my understanding, the Colony sisters will be helping her out on a weekly basis.  Sometimes it takes service for peoples' hearts to be soften to then listen to the message we have to share.  Right after that went to another service.  That morning we received a text from some sisters serving in the Chugach zone needing our help with members who were moving things out of a storage unit in Wasilla who couldn't lift any heavy boxes because of injuries they have had.  This family called us and we went over to help right after with Brother Henson wanting to help as well.
Morins:  We were eating at the Morin's and while at dinner, one of the sons who is very much the class clown and can make jokes up on the fly was egging on his mother.  She then poured the remaining of his soup on his head and his clothes.  The youngest children were laughing up a storm.  Our spiritual thought with them was doing the prayer knot.  After 40 minutes of them trying it and not wanting us to tell them how to do it they looked up on YouTube how to tie a knot without letting go and this guy was doing it not the way we teach them how.  They still couldn't figure out how to do it on their own so we finally gave them the solution and all of them left saying they were done because of how simple it was.  So funny.

Miracle:  We went to visit this one family while on exchanges that we had called and set up an appointment with to visit.  When we got there the Relief Society President and her husband were there talking to the mother about some crazy neighborhood threats going on and we ended up just talking with her kids outside the entire time. The RS President came and apologized to us on Sunday about being there while we were there which was fine.  Then she told us that the mother told them that she has been praying a lot and that her children really want to come back to Church.  We haven't seen this family since the beginning of last transfer so it was definitely us being led by the Spirit to go and visit them now.  I see more as a missionary how much we are being led by our Heavenly Father through the Holy Ghost to certain people and being an answer to peoples' prayers.  But it is not just us who are being led.  Everyone is being led to help those around them.  God could come and visit every single one of his children but He allows us to be the answer to desperate prayers.  We can be apart of this work and gain Christ-like attributes that maybe we wouldn't receive if we were just focused on our own lives.  We also gain the blessing of helping those in need. Pray for opportunities to be led to those in need and the ability to share the gospel with everyone.

Sent from ALASKA!
Sister Shelley Willden

Zina, our TIWI

This week flew by way, way faster than last week which is a good thing.  So much has happened that I don't think even the highlights will cover them all, but here are a few:
Hatcher Pass:  We plan to go hiking almost every P-day because Sister Williams does not want to be doing anything she can be doing back in Utah which mainly consists of playing anything in the Church gym.  Almost the whole zone came and we hiked Hatcher Pass.  We were told that we could get free parking if we parked by the lake, but because there was still snow on the mountain that path was closed and we had to pay to park by the mine.  This, by far, was my favorite hike.  The snow added a different experience.  Elders being elders starting a snowball fight that would continue on for the duration of the hike.  We hiked around this old mine which was very cool.  We took a bunch of pictures.  Also, it hailed on the last part of the hike down.  Really strange.

Bobby Gone:  On Sunday, Bobby's mother passed away so Bobby got himself a ticket to Kentucky and will be staying for a month.  Saying goodbye was really hard because he may or may not see Sister Williams again before she leaves for home.
TIWIs:  At our tri-zone conference, they installed in our cars, TIWIs, which is a device normally used for teenagers to help coach them to be better drivers.  The reason we are getting them is to help keep the cost of vehicle damage down to a minimum to save on tithing funds.  We, thankfully, are the last mission in the United States to get them.  They were ready this past Winter, but nobody wants to be installing those in to every car in negative 30 degree weather, so they pushed it back until this past week. We call our Zina (it was a name I saw on somebody's license plate).  She will yell at us to "check our speed", if we are going over the speed limit and if we are being "aggressive drivers".  Fun.
Service at Hannah's:  We had quite a few elders come and help out over at Hannah's. The elders were mainly working around the fire burning stuff and we were clearing out space for a shed to be moved because they sold a car that is parked behind it.  We got rid of the trash and then we whacked the weeds.  I didn't necessarily wanted to whack the weeds with this manual weed whacker, but Sister Williams made me.  If felt so good, thought, just hitting something that hard and that did a lot of damage.  We got all the weeds out of there in no time.  We then had some of the elders helping to move furniture and organize stuff to put into another trailer they had because of a leak.
Lessons:  We had lunch and dinner over at the Henson's and while there we were able to teach 4 people.  They invited Miriam and Aaron over for a bible reading so we read 2 Nephi 2, with them and talked about our agency; our ability to choose.  Miriam felt comfortable asking questions about life after deaths and why we have certain trials which was great.  We love questions because 9 times out of 10, we have an answer. She has been less active for some time now and has forgotten a lot of the stuff she was taught before getting baptized.  I love this scripture that highlights on the importance of continual learning:  2 Nephi 28:30, "For behold, thus saith The Lord God:  I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have."  She is trying to learn more and come back to Church.  We also taught the Henson's grandchildren when they came over after dinner.  We did an object lesson with pencils and numbers helping them to look to God and avoid the distractions of the world.  They are still kids and kids will normally put their friends above any Church requirements.  We are slowly working on it with them.
Teaching the Lesson:  We got asked to teach the lesson in Sunday School 10 minutes before we left for Church because the teacher's wife and newborn baby were sick. It's a good thing we are missionaries and we do this all the time with minimal preparation at times that this was a piece of cake.  The lesson was on service which seemed to go well mainly because it was being led by two others who had a lot to share in participation.

Christ's teachings and other doctrines of the Church cannot be learned all at once. Just like a muscle that takes quite a bit of time to tone and shape, and constant working out to keep its shape or even increase in size, the same is with our testimonies. Our testimonies will wither away if we don't have our spiritual "exercise" by continuing to study the scriptures and increase our knowledge of the gospel. It is, simple, our testimonies of Jesus Christ that keeps our faith and creates a desire in us to want to change.  We go to Church every Sunday because we want to change.

Sent from ALASKA !
Sister Shelley Wilden