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 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Free Haircut?

Last full week in the Memory Lake Ward, Wasilla Stake.  I've had so much fun in this area and will miss the members greatly.  I feel like I'm part of a big family up here, but all good things must come to an end.  You'll have to keep reading to see where I'm going :). Here are the highlights:

Hatcher Pass Summit:  Why wouldn't we go hiking? This is the 5th week in a row.  I won't get this though where I'm going next.  Need to take advantage now while I have the opportunity.  We get up to the part with four lakes and there is still snow patches on the mountain !! It's been close to 80 degrees the last couple of days and there is still snow on the mountains?!  We climbed higher to just walk the top of the bow. While up there we smelled Marijuana and sure enough there was the plant up there. Crazy.
Painting:  We had a lesson set with Sister Berdeaux but she got asked to help with a project Brother Stolberg was in charge of. We show up to the address she sent us and they were painting the house. We offered our help so we drove back to change into clothes we didn't mind getting paint on.  A family is to move into the house the next day and for some reason, the living room attached to the kitchen had two separate colors of paint on the wall.  A line separating the two was across the ceiling.  It looked terrible. We were re-painting the walls all white which made the old color look completely different than white.  They fed us pizza for lunch, which is always a blessing. 

YW Camp:  We got invited to attend a portion of the Young Women's Camp.  Their theme was "Sharing the Light" so the camp director asked us to come one night and teach about missionary work and how to share the gospel with others.  Before we did that, we got fed dinner and played Ticket-to-Ride.  They didn't have the instructions so I just taught some of the girls how to play.

Free Haircut:  So normally when you hear "free haircut" you don't walk, you run the other direction.  Well, this summer program thing led by some other church would bring in groups from other states to come and help kids at the parks in Alaska. They would feed them and do crafts with them, and this also helped out with the homeless in the area.  We would OYM at the park occasionally and made friends with the head directors.  We showed up on Thursday evening when they normally have their block party.  We completely forgot about it, but we're thrilled to remember when we pulled up.  One of the directors came up to us and offered us food which we declined as we were going to dinner right after.  He then asked if we wanted a free haircut. I had meant to get my hair cut this transfer, but we always went hiking so there was no time.  Sister Pike was sketched out by it, but I was down.  The lady swore up and down that she has a license in cutting hair; that she owns her own salon in North Carolina and has been cutting hair for 35 years.  I just needed a trim so what's the worst that could happen?  We go inside the church with her and she talks our ears off while cutting my hair.  Not too shabby.  Got a free haircut and it actually looks good. We got our calls later than night:
I am going to Fairbanks to be a STL (Sister Training Leader) with Sister Richards (who served in Memory Lake prior to me coming here), but white washing into the YSA ward!  Well, elders used to serve there, so we are actually, what we call, "pink washing". It would be "blue washing" if elders white washed into an area previously covered by sisters.  I have always wanted to serve in a YSA ward my whole mission and I am so excited. I fly up on Wednesday (Aug 9th) with my new companion.  President is doing some changes when it comes to MLC making it more like an actual counsel, which I am excited for as well.  We get to fly down for those!  He is also implementing a new concept called a "traveling assistant" with one of my zone leaders.  Basically, he will not have a full-time companion as he will travel around the mission trio-ing it with other elders helping them out and giving advice. When is is not doing that, he is in a trio with a second set of elders serving in the same ward the the APs.  Crazy, but cool. It will be interesting to see how this works out. 

Miracles Dinners:  For our dinner calendar this week, we had three open days which we were going to have to fend for ourselves, but all of those days were taken care of. The first was taken care of by a new investigator.  She has started learning about Jesus Christ and has asked her coworker who is a member in another ward questions and friend told her to meet with the missionaries.  She fed us dinner prior to our lesson. #Blessing.  The second one we had asked our go-to members if they can feed us.  The last was another blessing.  We were doing service for this non-member family to move this playground set from one house to another and they offered to feed us the next day because they were planning on a BBQ.  It turned out we didn't have dinner that night, so that was amazing. The Lord provides when we are doing His work.

Sent from ALASKA!
Sister Shelley Willden       

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Wow !!  So much happens here, but it's all just little things here and there; nothing too exciting really.  I wish I had time to write about everything but I don't, so here are just a few things that happened this week.

Hike:  We hiked Gold Chord Lake up at Hatcher Pass which was gorgeous.  This, by far, was the easiest hike I've completed and we still did get a great view.  Later that evening, we had our first ward party since I've been in this ward and it was a great turnout.  It was in celebration of Pioneer Day.  The hamburgers went fast, so I ended up with a hot-dog.  We played on stilts and did an egg race with spoons.  The kids ended up throwing the eggs at each other at the end and some of the adults were playing baseball with the left over eggs as well.
Long District Meeting:  We went way over time because the Zone Leaders training took up the entire time.  They trained on goals and we all discussed the mission culture and our standards of excellence.  We all gave our two cents and it took us forever to come up with some solutions to the problem.  All that we talked about is being brought to President in a meeting call MLC which is Missionary Leadership Counsel. They will discuss new goals for the mission.  Exciting changes are hopefully going to be made.

Shopping with Bobby:  Bobby doesn't go shopping all too often, so when he goes shopping he stocks up.  All of his friends were either unavailable or off working on the slope (which is a place where a lot of people go to work up in Barrow for 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off and make quite a bit of money).  He asked us if we would help him shop. The only person we could get to help drive him there and back was Brother Henson. He was coming back from visiting Anchorage and would help after that.  We were then on a time crunch to get to dinner so we had to move fast.  We had helped him write down his grocery list the day before and were then going to get everything.  It was taking a lot longer than expected, because Bobby needs to make sure he gets the right brand of things.  We had Brother Henson get the other half of the items on the grocery list and meet back up.  We were in and out and on with our lives.  Bobby said that was the fastest he has ever finished shopping.  We were only 15 minutes late to dinner because of 5pm rush hour traffic with everyone coming back from Anchorage.

Singing at Church:  One of our members wanted us to call the women in charge of the music and volunteer to sing in Sacrament meeting.  She asked us last Sunday when we could sing, and because of the possibility of me getting transferred, the only Sunday we could do it was yesterday.  We had a week to pull together a song, but we had already been practicing, "Come Thou Fount", from when we were asked to sing at a baptism that got postponed.  We practiced Saturday with one of the elders playing the piano for us and our district just staying in to listen.  Sister Pike had invited President Toone to come watch us perform Sunday while emailing him last P-day.  He emailed back saying he would try to make it.  This week we get a call from Sister Toone verifying the address of the Church and the time our ward started.  They came and so many people wanted to meet the new Mission President.  It was awesome and it felt good that they would drive up from Anchorage to hear us sing in Church.

Ammon:  So in the Book of Mormon, there is a story of a missionary who wanted to preach the gospel to people, so he decided he needed to serve the king.  The king has him and some other servants tend to his flock and have them get water at this well. Some bad guys come and scatter the flock as a fun thing they do and in the past the king kills the servants because they lose the king's flock.  Well, Ammon ends up chopping off the arms of the bad guys to protect the king's flock and is able to bring the whole flock back to the king.  We told this intro to our investigator Mary and then read the following chapter where Ammon is able to teach about God to the king. After we read the chapter she asked, "how many arms did he chop off"?  Haha!  We laughed and told her she could read the previous chapter to find out.  If that interest is what motivates her to read the Book of Mormon, then more power to her.  The Book of Mormon is filled with some crazy stories like the Bible which both testify of Jesus Christ.  2 Cor 3:1, "This is the third time I am coming to you.  In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established."  From the Book of Mormon - 2 Nephi 29:8, "Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word?  Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another?  Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another.  And when the two nations shall fun together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also."  We need both books.  Read the Book of Mormon.  

Sent from ALASKA!
Sister Shelley