Monday, July 17, 2017

"Embrace the Awkward, Love the Crazies"

We need more than two hours to email everything that goes on in one week.  I'm caught up on my journal so I can remember it all years from now.  Here are the highlights:

P-Day Adventures:  We plan on hiking every P-day this transfer, so we hiked a trail at Hatcher Pass.  This trail was fairly short, but it was basically a trail leading to heaven. The Bible condemns the people who tried building the Tower of Babel that would lead to heaven, so then why do we always seem to hike the mountains that just keep going up and up?  This hike was basically vertical.  I don't know how I made it up, but I did it and it always seems to take no time at all to get back down.  Thankfully I could walk the days to follow.  Afterwards we went to the church to play glow-in-the-dark capture the flag.  It was a lot of fun and we ended with a tie before we all had to go to dinner.

6 days of Summer:  This summer really has been an extended Spring but for 6 days in a row we have had sunshine and people are booming at the parks.  We have cleaned out our area book and realize we only have one truly progressing investigator, so we are doing a lot of finding.  It is a lot of fun OYMing (opening your mouth) at the Park. We meet some interesting people and only a few crazy ones.  The crazies make the best stories to write home about.  My trainer would always say, "Embrace the awkward, love the crazies." Nothing too crazy this week.  Nothing really beat a drunk native who proposes to your comp while on exchanges last week.  Haha.  We went tracting and talked to this lady named Debbie, who was interested in our message, accepted a copy of the BOM, and wants to meet with us again later this week. :)

Service as Always:  We got a call from the STLs in Anchorage telling us they ran into a lady from our ward while at the temple who needs help with her garden.  She told them they she didn't want to bother us for help, but they said for us to show up in service clothes and offer our help.  We did and even though she seemed to not want us there, by the end she seemed so grateful.  We did service for one of our potential investigators and afterward her and I talked for a long time and were able to talk more about how the gospel can help her in this difficult time she is going through.  The last service was at Hannah's.  We helped to separate the good from the bad tires and then re-stack all of the tires.  The elders were making so many jokes and playing around that it started to change Hannah's mood. :)  Service always softens people's hearts.

B-Day Dinner:  Elder Morley in our district had his birthday on Saturday.  We get a text a few days prior from the Wasilla elders asking us if we had a dinner Saturday.  We said no but asked if they had food for us ;).  They came up with the idea to celebrate Elder Morley's birthday by having a district dinner because none of us had dinner signed up.  We ate at DQ and brought gifts.  Sister Pike and I got him some beer ... root beer ;) for his 21st birthday!  The other elders all pitched in to get him some pretty sick basketball shoes.

The trials we go through are a way for us to be closer to our Savior, Jesus Christ, and to make us more Christ-like.  If you aren't having trials, then you are not progressing. Pray for help and God will help you.

Sent from ALASKA!
Sister Shelley Willden

Monday, July 10, 2017

525,600 Minutes

I have been out on my mission for a year !!!!  This day seemed light years away, but looking back, this year has flown by and I can hardly remember what happened yesterday.  Here are the highlights:

Gotta be crazy to climb Lazy:  I don't know why I allowed people to talk me into climbing Lazy Mountain again.  I died the first time, but this time was a bit better and a very different experience. The first time it was just Sister Williams and I and two members. This time we brought the whole zone with us and a member.  Before we climbed up the switchbacks and down the basically vertical slope, but this time we did it reverse; up the vertical and down the switchbacks.  It had rained a lot on Saturday and a tad on Sunday prior to the hike that I was nervous about the excess of mud hiking this mountain.  Well we climbed it anyway and oh yes, there was mud, mud, and more mud.  Our group ended up splitting in two and I was in the second group trying to climb mud which I kept slipping. Some of the elders stayed behind to help me get up. We get to the picnic table and I am ready to throw in the towel, but continue on.  We get to a point where the first group is heading back and some go back up the rest of the mountain with us.  We took tons of pictures and had a lot of fun.  Was able to walk fully on Thursday.
4th of July:  We had district meeting that was happening during the city parade, but got invited to a ward BBQ for lunch. They roasted a pig and a guy came and played the bagpipes for us.  We are always down for free food.  That is definitely something I will miss about being a missionary.  No one is gonna want to just feed me all the time when I no longer have this badge on.  We OYMed (opened our mouths) at the park and we ran into some of our neighbors.  They invited us to play Settlers of Catan with them, so we played and we answered a lot of the questions they had about missionaries and the Church.  It was awesome.  This was probably the best holiday when it came to missionary on the mission.  For Christmas and Thanksgiving, people are usually in their homes and don't want us coming by, but when they are outside enjoying the sun it is much easier for us to approach them.

Exchanges:  So we had exchanges on Thursday which was my year mark.  One of the elders in my district entered the MTC the same time I did and so we wished each other a happy year mark.  He asked what I did to celebrate and I replied, "giving out 3 Books of Mormon."  I don't know what it is about exchanged, but something I call exchange miracles happen every time.  I exchanged with Sister Jewel who was my companion for a week in Anchorage before I was emergency transferred to Soldotna. It was so good to see her again.  We got to know each other so well in the one week we were together and it is almost like we picked up the last place we left off.  We OYMed at the park and talked to so many people and were able to share the BOM with three people.  We are going to follow up with them soon.  Some crazy things happened with drunk natives and Sister Jewel getting proposed to but it was all fun and laughs after each situation.
Extended Spring:  This weather we have had this summer is crazy.  In May we had so much sunshine, but in June we have had the most rain ever as if this Summer is just an extended Spring.  It rained ALL day Saturday which made tracting a blast.  But Sunday the sun came back out and was so warm that we did our studies outside at the park.  We pray so much for the sun to shine everyday if it be God's will.  Please pray for Alaska to have a good Summer.  After this harsh Winter we need a fantastic, sun-filled Summer.
It is hard to believe that a year has come and gone being on a mission.  I feel like the time flew, but definitely see how the year tool a long time to her here.  There is just so much stuff we do in one day that it feels like I've been out here for years.  My life back home feels like a dream, but at the same time, I feel that I will wake up one morning and this mission will be the dream.  It is hard to really put into words my feelings about it all.  I have a tad over 6 months left of my mission, which everyone says will come and go so fast that I will be worrying about my life back home sitting on a plane.  I am so grateful I had this opportunity to come here to Alaska to serve a mission.  It has been so rewarding and at the same time so difficult. High School was difficult, college was difficult, but they are all difficult in different ways.  What I have learned here on my mission I may not have learned anywhere else. These experiences, lessons, and relationships I have made will carry with me through the rest of my life and will impact my future no doubt.  Anything that will stretch you and mold you into a more Christ-like character is definitely worth it.  No one can adequately describe the difficulty of a mission, but once you have experienced it, the same attitude at the end emerges:  a stronger love for your Savior and a love for the people you serve.  They all say it is worth it even though it is hard.  No one I've met ever says they regret serving a mission, but they all say how grateful they were to serve.  I too, can say the same.

Sent from ALASKA!
Sister Shelley Willden    

Sister Missionaries are Unicorns

The title of this post comes from members visiting a ward that meets in the same church building as ours and said "unicorns" to us.  He was referring to the fact that there are a lot more elders than there are sisters.  "You always hear about sister missionaries but never see any."  This week was transfer week, so of course, it was very long.  So much just happens in one day that the days seem like weeks.  Here are some highlights of what is happening in Memory Lake:

Sister Williams' Funeral:  Sister Williams went home Thursday morning so we gave her a proper funeral on Monday.  We had some of the elders speak and I sang a rap that I changed the words to fit with Sister Williams.  It was a lot of fun and we all were laughing so much.  We will all miss Sister Williams.  We did journal signing as well before half the zone left.  We played a little B-Ball too.

Transfers:  We swapped companions at the Eagle River building and the first thing we did when we came back was help finish Bobby's lawn.  Because of lack of time, Sister Williams and I weren't able to finish mowing Bobby's front yard, which looked kinda funky.  It was mainly just the ditch that needed to be mowed. We had borrowed Brother Henson's week whacker and because Bobby ended up working on the blade of the lawn mower we used the weed whacker for as much as we could to cut the grass down.  Finally we went over it again with the lawn mower he fixed.  He never seems to stop surprising me of how much a blind person can do.

Four Lessons in a Day:  The following day we had a lot of appointments that got pushed to that day because we were going to be busy until after Wednesday because of transfers, so it was really cook that we taught four lessons in one day.  We even did service.

Service Galore:  We did our weekly service over at Hannah's and we got so much stuff done.  Hannah came out and realized nothing was really being done in between our weekly visits so she started directing us on what to do.  We did more in 2 1/2 hours that a crew she hired for 4 days to do did.  The day prior we received a call from this lady who was referred by her aunt who needed help with moving things around and cleaning.  We got everything taken care of and got the whole district involved to find out later the address is in Palmer.  Whoops.  So we had to call Colony and our district leader to figure all the logistics out.  We still ended up going but then with Colony's district.  She fed us hamburgers which was awesome and we played tag with her kids. I hope the missionaries in her area keep in contact and hopefully one day be able to teach them the gospel.

Lonnie's Baptism:  Susie, his wife, has been a recent convert for a few months now and Lonnie was a member way back in the 1970's.  The sister missionaries found them tracting and taught them the gospel.  Lonnie finally got baptized yesterday and it was wonderful.  The program was put together so fast and both Sister Pike and I gave talks at the baptism.  I love it when people get baptized and truly have a testimony of their Savior, Jesus Christ, and you can see the light in their eyes for the joy this gospel brings them.  Moments like these are why I am out here.

It is not about baptizing the nation, but it is about helping others gain a firm testimony in Jesus Christ and what that can do for them and their family.  Baptism is just the first step.  There is so much more than the gospel has to offer and bless our lives.

Sent from Alaska!
Sister Shelley Willden