Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Wonder of wonder, Miracles of Miracles!"

Sorry, cheesy subject but I've been singing that line of that song a lot and it sums up the week pretty well.
Okay first off thank you everyone for emailing and writing me, I really mean that. I'm sorry my email replies aren't very long but know that I really do appreciate them so much. I start counting down to email around Wed or Thur. Not because I'm homesick but because I just love you all so dang much!!! I brag about my family and friends way too much. I can't even express how excited I get to email. Amy- I love reading your letters so much, I laugh a lot and it's so nice to hear about how things are going for you. I'm hoping I can write a letter back sometime today!
Sister Bessy- Thank you for your letters as well! I loved hearing about that Youth Conference, it's always uplifting to read the thoughts you send me :)

DAD! HAPPY FATHERS DAY! I can't email you before next Sunday so I'll do my shout out now. Basically I think about you all the time and love you so much. This week I have grown to appreciate you and mom so much. Every time I see any father or guy in a nice shirt and pants I think about you and how awesome you are. I wear the necklace you gave me every single day. You really are the best dad any person could ever ask for, I can never thank you enough for the lessons you have taught and the patience you have had with me. I hope your poison ivy, or whatever it is goes away soon, I will keep you in my prayers :)

So this week I decided to take notes in my planner so I wouldn't forget things I wanted to say. Hopefully that works out I'll take it day by day. This week went by REALLY fast, feels like just yesterday I was emailing about my first week in the field. Even though it went by quickly I feel like I've been a missionary for about 10 years.

Monday- P-DAY! We had so much fun as a zone. There are only 4 sisters in my zone which is surprising because the other zone has pretty much all of my MTC friends and their companions plus some. Get this- I played sports for about 3 hours straight with the elders. I know, I've changed, because I actually had fun doing it. I read in the handbook the next day that we aren't supposed to keep score and my zone does so I might not be able to play today :( Oh well, greater blessings come with obedience! The elders really like Sister H and I, they said we are the first pair of sisters that has ever played with them. Our zone leaders told us that we are leading the zone with missionary work! I don't know if I believe that, they were just impressed we met the goal of 20 lessons our first week in the area. (I didn't take notes this day so yeah....... that's all I remember) We bought a lot of food at the store.

Tuesday- We had meetings with our Zone Leaders and they talked about how impressed they were with how hard the sisters were working and since we were doing so well they challenged us to invite someone to baptism every single day. Wait what- that scared the heck out of me because as the missionary being trained I have to do all the invitations. But I was only afraid for about 3 seconds and then decided I'd just do it because they promised us that we would be blessed for it. At this point I hadn't invited anyone. So Sister H and I prayed that we would be able to accomplish this goal. The only problem was, after that meeting we only had one appointment and then we were going to be doing a mini exchange so the two of us wouldn't be together until the day was over, and that appointment was with an active elderly lady in the ward who we just wanted to check up on. When we got to her house, guess who was visiting? Her 9 year old great-granddaughter who wasn't a member! The whole time I was thinking "Thank you Heavenly Father for starting me out easy, I can invite a 9 year old" haha. So I did, and she said yes! (Of course it was an easy yes, she's 9..) God really does hear our prayers and if we have faith he will provide a way.
I wrote down to mention the skies here. They are beautiful! The clouds are always perfect and fluffy and the sky is pure blue. Occasionally it gets cloudy and rainy but only for about an hour or two. I took a lot of pictures of the clouds, it doesn't capture it but I will try to send them.
When we are either teaching or contacting people we often get the response, "maybe later" or "I don't really need it right now" or "I don't want to commit to coming to church every weekend" and I just am thinking to myself, this is eternal life, what do you mean you don't want to commit, you've already committed! This isn't just some church to attend, this is the way you get back to your Heavenly Father, you do need this, we all do!

Wednesday- The reason we had mini exchanges is because all of the new sisters (the 19 I came with) have been having a hard time with homesickness and everything. I get to see my MTC friends more than I thought and I was sad to hear that they had a hard week but they are all so amazing and I know they can do it. My MTC companion talked about how she hated knocking on doors and one time she thought to herself "I bet Sister Knowlton loves doing this." It's true! I love tracting, you never know what child of God will be behind every door.
One of the really less active girls we visited last week called to cancel our appointment with her but said "Oh, i read that chapter you told me (Alma 32) and most of Alma. It really reminded me why I believed in the first place" SCORE. Missionary pay day.
Around 8:30 at night we still hadn't invited anyone to be baptized so do you know what we did? We knocked on a door we felt we should go to and I invited the woman to be baptized right there at the door. HAHA if you think tracting is awkward try doing that! I laughed for about 20 straight minutes after that. She said she was already baptized but took a Book of Mormon and agreed to let us come back.
I'm the youngest sister missionary in the mission!
Mom- have you picked up my contacts yet? Pretty sure they've been ready to be picked up for the whole time I've been gone. No rush, I still have some old prescriptions just mail them when you can please :) Also, if you ever send a package, Sister Hand and I would love some more Mo Tab CDs. So far I have "Men of the Mo Tab, Come Thou Fount, and Called to Serve" If you see any more we could always use some variety. Not that we don't love jamming out to Alex Boye every change we get.

Thursday- was really eye opening. We started our day by doing a couple of hours of service in a less active woman's yard with the elders. I planted a garden for her mom, you would be proud.
We have a pair of Elders in our ward which I think I mentioned, and we see them all the time. Somehow they are always the same place we are. What is the point of two sets of missionaries if we go to the same place? But we are great friends with them, I'll try to send pictures. Sometimes I feel bad for them because everyone is So excited to have sister missionaries. Anyways- I get so side tracked- my letters are rambly sorry. So Sister H and I felt like we should go meet this one lady (K) the elders told us to visit and when we got there they were of course talking to her outside already. If you could imagine a group of really ghetto apartment buildings with a bunch of beat up people chilling outside smoking who knows what, that's where we were. (Every time we go there people tell us to be careful. But don't worry mom, we are only ever there in the day time with the elders) To describe K- she had no teeth (somewhat common in this area), tattoos all over, she even has tear drops tattooed under her eye which makes me sad, she was smoking a cigarette and drinking her coffee. When she spoke it sounded like she was always about to cough up a huge cloud of dust just because of how smoking had affected her lungs. After chatting for a while I found she is pretty funny. She told us all about the drug fight that has been going on in the apartments the last few days and I was just in awe that people actually lived this way. I knew they did but it's different when you meet them. This is when I gained a huge appreciation for you mom and dad, I'm so thankful I grew up in the environment I did because these kids that live here have no chance.
In this area missionaries are really popular, everyone knows us and likes talking to us. The Elders told K about her friend who had agreed to be baptized and she said "Oh yeah!! Good for her! I'll go over and give her a high five!" then she proceeded to tell us all the apartments that had people who "needed Jesus." I love when people say that, it makes me laugh really hard.
Later that evening we taught the M family the Restoration. The young mom and her sister are less active and the dad and 6 year old daughter are not members. After watching the Restoration DVD we asked what they thought and the dad said it answered a lot of his questions and the sister said it reminded her of everything she knew before. Then I felt the spirit really strongly and was able to bear my testimony of how I knew Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon was evidence of that.
Then around 8:53 that night I invited another random girl on the street to be baptized. yay. I love doing that. so much.

Friday- Sister H felt like we should go talk to a less active family we've been meeting with (the A family). The mom and oldest son are the only members and then they have 4 other kids. The mom isn't active but she really wants her kids to all be baptized because they aren't doing very good things right now and she thinks that will solve everything. Although it does help, baptism is not the foundation, the foundation is a testimony of Jesus Christ and a desire to follow him. We talked with the two kids who were there (S-10 and N-11) about baptism. They said they thought it was scary and we told them why being baptized is not scary and it's importance. We asked S to say the closing prayer and it was so adorable. She said "thank you for bringing the girl elders and having them tell us that it's not scary" So presh. We get called girl elders a lot. Also, I invited both of them to be baptized and they both said yes so we are working on that :)
That evening we taught another investigator F (mom in a part-member family) about the Restoration and I think it went well, it was the first time she was able to open up. When we told her Christ was killed when he was 33, she started crying. It was so sweet.
You know the missionary voice that people get in the habit of doing? I'm trying to fight it so badly. Sometimes I catch myself doing it and then I want to slap myself. Also, now I know why people gain weight on their missions. I swear the members have meetings where they plan how to make the missionaries fat by feeding them all the greatest food in the world and dessert at every meal.

Saturday-Funniest moment of my mission so far happened on Sat and it probably won't be that funny unless you were there. Our zone went to go sing at a retirement home for service (Sis H and I +12 elders) and when we got there, none of the old people wanted to listen to us. The workers finally convinced one lady to come in a sit, so we all introduced ourselves, her name was R, and then started to sing the hymn "There is Sunshine in my Soul Today" About 2 seconds into the song she gets her walker and slowly walks across the room and out of the door. And we just kept singing as she made her way out the door-so slowly- so much rejection. I was literally crying laughing for the next 3 songs but it was okay because we were singing to a giant empty room. By the end we had a lot of people and the spirit was pretty strong
Aly- we don't serve in Nebraska anymore, not in the Denver North mission
Kenna- you are leaving so soon!!!! I'm so excited you will be awesome!
The rest of the day we went to one of the elders baptism and there was a ward talent show where I sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I'll send the video.
I also invited K's friend N to be baptized that day.

DAY OF MIRACLES- I only have 20 more minutes and this was the best day. Why do I take so long to email.
We had a lot to do because we had to meet our weekly goals and this was the last day. Saturday night I just had a feeling that Sunday would take a lot of faith to get everything done. I think that was the most earnestly I had ever prayed to have faith enough to be guided where to go. I'm going to leave out some details which could take out the magic of it all sorry.
We prayed before everywhere we went so we would know where God wanted us to go. Sister H felt we needed to visit a less active member. When we got there it seemed like her hadn't been home in weeks so we decided to knock on his neighbors door. The last door we knocked on was a 13 year old girl named V. We taught her the Restoration and I invited her to be baptized on July 7 and she said yes.
We again prayed where to go and Sister H thought of a street that stood out to her lately (I like to think she gets the revelation because she drives;) When we got there we found that there were 2 names on the ward directory for one house so since our directory is a little out of date we went to find out who really lived there. The woman who opened said "oh hi sister's come on in" long story short, she was just moving in and was neither of those two people. I was tripping out, God specifically sent us to her. She was a return missionary but hadn't been to church in over 20 years. what are the chances we found her??? It was incredible I was so shocked. Then we went to her neighbors and he was a return missionary as well who hadn't been to church since who knows when.
Dang I wish I could say more details.
Then we felt like we needed to visit someone named R. when we got there we realized it was the same house as an older couple in the ward the D's. We only talked to him so I didn't know why we had to be there but he is a convert and told us all about the missionaries who tried to talk to him for 12 years and he would have nothing to do with them. But now he wishes he could go back and thank them because they don't even know he joined. I felt like he was an angel talking to me, like God really needed me to hear that. Then we left, prayed and I felt to go a certain house, we weren't able to find it and Sis H said we should go home. As we were driving home I knew we needed to do something else tonight so I grabbed one of our lists and the 3rd or 4th name lived on the street we were on and I said "wait! lets go to this house". We turned around and visited with a lady who had previously "studied" the church (I don't think that means much) I again felt the spirit strongly bore my testimony about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. She told us she wasn't interest but I knew we were supposed to be there. And I knew we were supposed to be at the D's and hear how we will change people's lives even though we can't see it.

That was so scattered and not as amazing as it was in real life but This week was full of miracles. I'm sorry I can't talk about everyone we meet with because there are SO MANY. We work hard and teach a lot we have investigators, not totally progressing but they are there! I love you and miss you so much! write me letters!!! byEfbdjksagbsjkdf

Monday, June 3, 2013

Collette's first week as a missionary - "Hastening the Work!"

AHHHH BEST WEEK EVER! I love being a missionary so much. Thank you everyone for wondering whether I would have a great or horrible week. It's been great, no worries. I don't really know where to start. Summing up a week in the mission field is so much harder than a week in the MTC. I will try to address all questions but that won't happen.

Sister H and I get along super well. She's basically really chill and extremely stubborn so when we are debating something I've learned to jokingly say "You're right, I'm wrong. You're big, I'm small" Apparently it's from a movie. Hopefully I have time to put on pictures this time, I tried to take some creeper shots so you can see what she looks like. We were talking on Friday or Sat night, I can't remember, all the days are a blur, and she slipped in the conversation "Oh yeah, I was engaged for a year before I came on my mission" and I was like "WHAT THE HECK why did you wait this long to tell me that!!" So there's a fun fact about Sister H, got engaged at 18.

Sister P., the lady we live with is seriously like my favorite lady ever. She loves to talk-and I mean loves. Since she lives by herself I don't blame her. One day she told us "I wasn't able to get a dog, so I got sister missionaries instead!" It made me laugh so hard. Now whenever we come home I say "Sister P! Your dogs are home!" We sometimes have a hard time studying because Sister P comes in and talks and we can't really tell her to leave, but she's so precious it's okay. Speaking of dogs, everyone here has one and I love it, it's like I have a billion pets.

The ward is..... really different than Felicita. There are about 600 members and I think 100ish are active. Guess what that means, the missionaries say a lot of prayers and are asked to make a lot of comments in class. Even though it's small I'm growing to love them. This area is really humble, like I said earlier, a lot of people live in apartments and for most dinners we have sat on metal folding chairs. Since basically everyone is less active, Sister H and I spend a lot of time visiting very single dang person in that ward directory and 95% of the time they don't come to church, so it works out well! This week was basically all finding. There is a pair of elders in our ward also who had already been there so they gave us our only 3 investigators (2 are 11 and 13 year old girls in a part-member (less active) family) and none of our investigators are considered "progressing" since we've only been able to meet with them once.  I'm going to try and talk about all the cool things that have happened this week but my brain starts to explode when I think about typing it all.

The spirit REALLY guides us. A lot of the names we visit in the ward directory don't even live there anymore and I'm pretty sure every single time we've gone to a house like that, the people who live there now showed interest and we were able to set up an appointment with them for this coming week. How cool is that? One time we were driving off a street and Sis H said "wait, does anyone else live on that street?" I found one name that did and we turned around to go see them. When we knocked a 23 year old girl who looks about 16 opened the door and just let us in without us saying anything. The house smelled of smoke (most houses here do) and we were able to talk to them and they showed interest in coming back to church. Things like that happen a lot, we just always seem to be in the right place at the right time.

We rarely go knocking on doors, just sometimes because there are more effective ways to find people which I will talk about later, but after meeting with our investigator S. we went to knock on her neighbors door, Sister H skipped one and went to the next and I knew we would have to go back to the one we skipped. When we did go back, a tattooed woman holding a baby answered and we just chatted for a little then asked "We're sharing a message about Jesus Christ, would it be okay if we came in?" Then do you know what she said? SHE SAID SURE! I was really confused for about 5 seconds because I'm not used to people letting us in. Sis H still makes fun of my face when the lady said that. She said she wanted to tell me "Sis Knowlton, pick up your jaw" We talked to her about her family for a little and then gave her a Book of Mormon, asking her to read the Introduction, she read it in front of us and seemed to really like it. She told us she was Baptist so I was scared she was going to start a Bible bash but she was really open to it.

One of my favorite moments was on Wednesday, we went to meet with our investigators the B's. The mom, dad and oldest daughter are all less active members and they have two younger daughters who are our other two investigators. The oldest daughter is 16 years old and has a 2 year old baby boy because she got pregnant at 14. Apparently this situation was the cause for the family to be offended by some people in the church. The mom is renown for the one time she made an elder cry after he tried to tell her, the gospel is perfect but the people aren't and even though it's hard she would have to forgive the people that offended her. That most definitely was not the right thing to say so she told him off big time. As we sat there and listened to her story and situation I have never felt more love for someone in my life. I was almost crying when she would cry, talking about her daughter getting pregnant. She expressed that she feels guilty because she let that happen and as we talked to her, I knew exactly what to say and when I opened my mouth, I didn't know what I was going to say next, it just happened. As she expressed her guilt I had a very clear prompting to tell her that she needed to forgive herself. If she was truly sorry and had repented to God, he had already forgiven her and the next step was to have faith in Christ's atonement and forgive herself. The spirit in the room was so strong, it wasn't me or Sister H talking. I don't know how to describe it without sounding weird but I know this is God's work because he helped me very directly. He needed to communicate something to her and as a missionary I was able to be the mouthpiece.

Moments like that are really cool but unfortunately we don't teach many lessons right now since we are finding people. I wish I could tell all the cool finding stories, generally people are pretty nice when we knock on their doors and I've been surprised at how many people show interest. I think most people here are having a really hard time so they are open to anything they think would help them. We have been praying to find those 5 people who are ready for baptism and I feel like yesterday we found one of them. After trying to meet with a less active member we saw a man and his wife working in the garage and went over to talk to them. They were both really nice and chatted with us for a super long time. Finally the man said "So, what church are you from?" we told him, and he said "Oh, my neighbor (the less active man) invited me to his mom's funeral at your church and I really enjoyed it. I'd definitely like to try it out" I tried to keep my cool but inside I was like OH MY GOSH THIS IS A MIRACLE! YOU'RE GETTING BAPTIZED! Obviously I get a little overexcited sometimes. While visiting another less active, there was another couple with their door open and we stopped to ask if they needed help since they looked like they were moving. After chatting for a little we asked if we could give them a Book of Mormon, the wife seemed really cool with it and her eyes lighted up, she said she had Mormon friends and had never read it, but the husband wouldn't have it. We kept talking and gave them one anyways. Although they are moving and we will never see them again I could tell that Book of Mormon was going to do something in their lives. As we walked away Sister Hand said "see you on the other side Donna."

The mission president called a surprise zone meeting and talked to us about a meeting the mission presidents had had with Elder Cook. He was telling us about how we HAVE to work with members and instructing us how to do that. Elder Cook told them that with this mission age change this is now the time that the work will hasten. We have seen people joining the church in the thousands and tens of thousands but now it will be in the millions. That's a promise from an apostle!! Holy Cow! SO COOL! There are double as many missionaries because there are now double as many people being prepared my the Lord to hear the gospel. We now meet every single night with members and work really closely to get referrals from them. So far, they have all been really excited. Mom, I did bare my testimony in church, the Bishop had all 4 missionaries in the ward come up and talk. Bishop E is really helpful, he is all about the missionary work. The ward really loves Sister H and I, I kinda feel bad for the elders because they are all mainly excited to have Sister missionaries. (Especially little girls, little girls love us haha) We are becoming really great friend with our elders, we do a lot of things with them. Also we are required to do 10 hours of service a week which is kinda hard.

Some moments of the day can be discouraging and exhausting because no one will answer the door and we just drive around trying to find people and I get discouraged for a little but then I get over it pretty fast. Sister H and I have a good time, she's finally starting to think I'm funny ;) We love listening to our MoTab CDs. She makes fun of me because I didn't know we couldn't eat in the car and I was in the middle of eating a cookie so I stuck my head out the window, took a bite and said "strict obedience!!" So now she says that all the time. Okay I gotta go soon.

I love you all and appreciate your prayers, the church is true, the Book of Mormon is true and I know it. Now go read it and give the missionaries a referral! BYEEEEEE

Sister Collette Knowlton
PS I got my hand stuck in the seat of the car for a long time and we laughed really hard. The end. bad story sorry.