Thursday, July 23, 2015

SO. MANY. BLESSINGS. (July 20 email)

My heart has been full of gratitude lately for the numerous blessings the Lord has been pouring out upon us. These past 2 weeks have been nothing short of miraculous. I wrote last week about our 3 new investigators: Austin, Candy, & Candita. Due to the grace & mercy of God we found 5 new investigators this week: Michelle, Christina, Diane, Richard, & Sergio. We've been teaching more lessons than ever before & witnessing the hand of the Lord to an even greater extent.

Tuesday we had a lesson with Candy. We brought Sister Shook along with us. This lesson as compared to previous one was way better! We were actually able to teach the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her biggest hold-up is mankind. She doesn't understand why the world isn't following the golden rule, you could say, focusing too much on people & things she has no control over. 

After dinner on Tuesday we picked up Sister Haskins to bring her to our lesson with Austin. On our way, we got a call from Sammie saying "just warning you, there's like 7 people here and they all want to talk to you" Oh boy. Just a bunch of kids who want to ask us interrogating questions and think this is all a big joke. We were rightly nervous, but proceeded to the lesson. We got there and met a few of Austin's friends. There weren't quite 7, more like 5 & 4 of them sat in on the lesson. We taught the Plan of Salvation. After 1.5hrs of really great spiritual questions and discussion, we concluded with a prayer & asked Richard & Sergio (who were the 2/4 who ended up staying the whole lesson) if they'd like to learn more. They accepted! new investigators: 2/5 

Wednesday we finally got to visit with Virgie & Diane after not seeing them for over a month! This was Sister Wagner's first time meeting them. We chose to read 3Nephi 11 with them. After reading I felt impressed to talk about baptism and the power to baptize that Jesus Christ gave to the 12 Nephite apostles. Diane (if you remember, is not a member) & I were discussing some things while Virgie was distracting Sisters Wagner & Valentine (our 2-wk missionary). haha. I asked Diane what was holding her back from joining the church. She said her issue was no coffee. I knew there was something more, but I couldn't put my finger on it. She then said "Well, I don't know...." I could feel like that was the truth. She really didn't know what was holding her back. Right then I felt impressed to invite her to take the missionary lessons. A few minutes went by before I could get a word in. They LOVE to talk. Diane even got up & ran upstairs for a minute & I leaned over & told Sister Wagner "I feel like we need to invite her to take the lessons". Diane came back downstairs & in the midst of showing us a ton of family pictures I said "Diane, will you agree to let us teach you the lessons so you can find out for yourself if this is true?" She replied "Yeah, I will try my best." An invitation. That's all it took. Often people just need an invitation to act before they'll do anything. She said "My sister has been trying to get me to do this for years. She'll be so happy." 
new investigators: 3/5

We had dinner at the Oversby's. As we were sitting there eating, Sis Oversby's phone rang & she was talking & asked us "do you have an appointment after this?" "Not a set appointment, we just have people to see" "Okay, now you do." Her nephew Steve was on his way to their house and wanted us to teach him a lesson. Steve is 35 & grew up in the church, but later fell away & removed his name from the records. Recently he's shown an interest in coming back. He's began reading the Book of Mormon and praying. Not until his life was at it's lowest point did he yearn for the peace & joy that the gospel brings. With very little time to prepare, we prayed at the dinner table asking for inspiration as to what lesson Steve needs. Sister Wagner & I both felt good about the Plan of Salvation. When Steve got to their house he didn't even want to eat dinner, he just wanted the lesson. Someone asked him "aren't you hungry though?" He responded that he was hungry for gospel knowledge. The spirit was strong as we taught about God's purpose & plan for us. It was an amazing blessing from the Lord that we were in the right place, at the right time to be able to help Steve feel Heavenly Father's love for him.

Wednesday evening we picked up Kellie to go to a lesson with a 13 year old, K. It's a confusing family situation that I don't know everything about, but let's just say her parents had some trouble with the ward in the past and got permission to move their records to a ward in Hemmett(sp?) with the grandma. There, K supposedly got baptized, but we have no record of it. Last Sunday she showed up to church out of the blue & said she wants to start coming back now that she's old enough to have a say for herself. So we were going over to her house to teach her & get her permission to be baptized if she hadn't been yet. We got there & her dad said that he baptized her a few years ago in Hemmett. Okay, cool, got that straightened out, so  now we'll just teach her so she understands. 
As we were outside teaching her the Restoration, her mom walks out & takes a seat waiting for a break in the lesson. As soon as she could, she started going off in her *outside voice* about what had happened years ago and why they left the ward, blah blah blah.. I tuned her out, silently praying "Heavenly Father, we have to stop this..please help me know what to say..." Suddenly, out of no where my mouth opened & words came out: "We're sorry this happened, but we are here to teach K more about what she can do to strengthen her faith & come closer to her Father in Heaven. She has expressed to us her desire to learn more, so if that is okay with you, that is what we will do." She sheepishly responded "yeah that's fine." & walked away. 
At that moment I felt the true power & authority that comes along with being a missionary. It wasn't me who said those words. I could not have done it if it wouldn't have been for the power of the Holy Ghost within me. In all honesty, at that moment I felt like Ammon or Alma, those powerful missionaries we read about in the Book of Mormon. It was such an amazing experience I can't quite put into words. 

Since we have 3 hours of study almost every day, we normally have lunch right afterwards and then go out at 12. But Thursday was a little different. But it was exactly as the Lord had planned. We got a referral from a member for their next door neighbor, but they told us we need to go in the mornings after he gets back from his run & before he starts drinking. Supposedly he drinks all day every day. (He is in mourning.)
After studies at 11, we went out to contact a few referrals including Dave, Robert, & Michelle. Dave wasn't home. Robert doesn't live there anymore. So our last one was Michelle. She was a referral from a less active member in our ward, Terrayna, who lives in the OakHills boundary, but since she was a referral we had permission to see her.  Terrayna told us that Michelle just LOVES Mormons. We followed the map that Terrayna drew for us & ended up at a house that we felt was Michelle's, although there was no way of really knowing due to lack of address given.  So we got out & a lady was outside. It was Michelle! She told us how she really wants her girls involved in Young Women, even though they're too young right now. She invited us in to talk. 
Michelle is really friendly & outgoing. She calls herself a "hitchiker mormon" She sees values & standards that the Church has & tries to incorporate them into her life. She would sometimes visit other churches & when ministers would talk badly about Mormons, she would call them out & tell them that they're wrong for saying things like that. She has really good friends who are active LDS in Hesperia. We invited her to learn more & allow us to teach her & her family. She said yes & that she would love her daughters to get involved too. She didn't know if her husband would be interested. She invited us to come over on Wednesday for a lesson & said she'll make dinner! We talked to her a bit about the Book of Mormon & invited her to read it & pray. 
Michelle was telling us about her friend Christina, who is having a really hard time right now with some family legal problems. We asked if Christina might be interested in meeting with us, and she said "yeah maybe. Actually she's on her way over here right now, do you have time to meet her?" "Of course!" A few minutes later, Christina came & we went outside to talk to her. We ended up teaching her the Restoration & she said "this makes total sense" & we could see the spirit testifying to her. She accepted our invitation to learn more & read & pray. She'll be at Michelle's on Wednesday. 
new investigators: 5/5

Due to the fact that Michelle lives in Oakhills & has a family, it will be best for the elders to teach them because they are in their area. We're not sure where Christina lives yet, but most likely Oakhills, too. We'll probably end up passing both Michelle & Christina to the elders, but either way, it was amazing that we were in the right place at the right time & had the help of the Holy Ghost in these unplanned opportunities.

Sunday we had 2 investigators at church! Sammie came with Richard, Sergio, & Anthony. Anthony is not an investigator...yet. Austin was supposed to come, but didn't. It's alright though, we'll get him next time. Sunday night we had a lesson with Sammie & Richard, & Sergio sat in & participated.

A few other cool things happened this week! Friday we were weekly planning & got a text from the Samoan elders in our zone saying "so is there a huge fire over there?" We ran outside & sure enough, thick dark smoke all over the sky over in Phelan. Turns out a fire started on the freeway & had spread. The last thing I heard was it burnt 3500+ acres. We went to the Erickson's for dinner & could see the flames from their house. 
Fire from our house
From the Erickson's (notice the flames)
Then on Saturday we were on exchanges & we woke up in the morning to a voicemail from the elders in Wrightwood saying they got evacuated from their house because there was another fire in Wrightwood! 2 fires in 2 days. We're fine though :) Saturday & yesterday it stormed!!! & poured! & there were a few flash floods, but it was awesome. 

Transfers are next week. This Saturday we'll get the call. There's really no way to know whether I'll stay again. This mission is going to be changing dramatically with the 22 missionaries going home & the 30 coming out. I feel like I'll finish training Sis Wagner, but who knows where the Lord needs me!? 
Giving Sis Valentine back to her family
 So that was my amazing week. I hope ya know this email took me so long to write, but I'll gladly do this every week as we continue to see the blessings the Lord has in store for us here in Phelan.

Thank you for your loving support 'n stuff.
Love you!! Have a wonderful week :)
xoxo Sister Viraldo

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Blessings of fasting and prayer

Sorry, I did get your letter last week & it was great! I can't believe you haven't been to the beach. Take advantage of it for me!!

So yeah, it's disappointing about M, but I'm not focused on that. Also, don't worry, sometimes I use phrases like "downright pathetic" for emphasis. I don't dwell on things like that. I can't do that, because if I do it will get me discouraged. But I know there's lessons I can learn all around me. I realize what I did wrong & figure out how I can improve. It's something I've learned to do better. 

We were at the 4-week missionary meeting this week & I was telling that story I told you last week about not following my promptings to President & Sister Hobbs & the other trainers in the meeting, and President said "that's why we have companions!" JUST like YOU said!!  haha

Well, the exciting part of this week begins on Tuesday. After zone meeting & lunch we went to see a former investigator named Candy. We saw her the week before & she said we could come back on Tuesday. So that's what we did! Now Candy is something else. She has tons of questions & she changes the lessons into Q&A's. It was pretty frustrating for me, but at last we got her to agree to read & pray about the Book of Mormon. 

After that we had about 30 minutes until dinner, but had a loose appointment set up with another former investigator, Candita. She's the wife of a less active member in our ward. Really nice lady & we were able to get in her home & teach her a little about the Book of Mormon & prayer. She said she will read & pray & wants to learn more, so we set up another appointment for the next Tuesday. 

After dinner we had a lesson with Austin. I don't remember if I wrote this already, but if not: We normally have lessons every Tuesday with Sammie & sometimes Josh, but Sammie got a new job where she can't meet with us Tuesdays anymore. She texted us cancelling, but then she said "but Austin still wants to meet with you!" Austin is Josh's nonmember brother that lives with them. So of course we were super excited, because the last lesson we had with them Austin was really into it. So we got Kellie to come with us & headed over to his house. We were able to answer a couple questions & introduce the Book of Mormon to him & set up another appointment with him to teach him more. 

Tuesday was really odd, but amazing. 3 lessons & 3 new investigators! I know this was no coincidence & that the Lord blessed us immensely from fasting & praying the week before for new investigators. 

This week we had the 4-week missionary meeting. I got to see Sisters 'Otuafi & Martinez! It was really great. Also, as we were heading out Sister Kroff got there to do something at the mission office, so it was really nice seeing her for a few minutes. She goes home in a couple weeks! Crazy! 
One question/concern I brought up in this meeting was that it's sometimes hard to feel productive as we go about doing our work day to day. Driving to houses, their gates being locked, then moving on to the next locked gate... I've gotten a little more used to it, but it's hard for new missionaries to feel like they're doing good work. President didn't address the issue directly, but he did so by telling a story from his mission. In essence he said that as long as we are out working, we are doing the Lord's work, which makes us productive. He also said, "Sister Viraldo, I don't put just anyone in Phelan." So that was kinda cool to hear. 

Saturday we had the privilege of singing at Jacob N's baptism. This was such a special experience, because he is such a special kid. He has some sort of disease that limits him from walking, but he is still such an active kid who always looks at the positive side. :)

That's pretty much most of my week. I'm happy. I'm loving being a missionary. I can't imagine what my life would be like if I never decided to serve. I know I wouldn't be doing anything with a greater purpose than that of serving a full-time mission for Jesus Christ. Missions are hard work. You're always tired. I've never felt more joy at a more consistent rate than I have out here, and I know it's because I am serving others, my Heavenly Father, & Jesus Christ.  

I wanted to share with you probably the most important thing I've learned on my mission thus far, the importance of doing the simple things every day. On our progression of spiritual development it is so crucial to say our daily morning & evening prayers, study the scriptures, & weekly church attendance. I've met too many people who believe the church is true but are not active for various reasons. No matter the reasons, it all comes down to the simple things. No matter what comes up in our life, if we are praying daily, reading the Book of Mormon everyday, & attending 3 hours of church weekly, we will not fall. The other important thing is to have real intent while doing it. It does us no good to simply go through the motions of doing those things, because if we are doing that, then surely our foundation is not going to be firmly founded in Jesus Christ, and when the winds & temptations of the adversary come our way we will not be strong enough to fight them. Our hearts need to be right. I have a very strong testimony of the simple things & the plainness of this gospel. I know it's true & I know there's no other way to joy or happiness than to follow Jesus Christ. 

Thank you for your love & support. I pray for you daily.
Love you!
xoxo Sister Viraldo

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Importance of Following Promptings (July 6th email)

Another week flew by in Phelan & all of our investigators dropped us/we dropped them.

First off, this week we decided to do a referral challenge to encourage us to ask for referrals from EVERYONE! We kept a point system in our truck. Every time one of us asked for a referral we'd get a tally mark. The goal is to have the most tally marks at the end of the week & the loser gets the winner something. We haven't decided what that something is yet, but I won this week so I gotta think of something good! Since we were focusing so much on asking for referrals we ended up getting 2 referrals! Sweeeeet.

Wednesday was a roller coaster day. In the afternoon we got a text from M saying, "Sorry, my wife will not be joining your group. Thank you." YOU'RE KIDDING. This was a stab in the heart. I didn't want to admit it, but I thought this might happen after her not coming to church/not answering our texts. But I didn't want to say anything & have no faith. The worse thing was that she didn't even text us that, HER HUSBAND DID.

Wednesday night we were talking to our district leader, Elder Wurst, on the phone & explaining our concerns about not know who we're supposed to see. He suggested we fast & they were going to do the same. So that night we began our fast. 
Thursday after my dentist appointment, we did, dinner, and then we went tracting. We were feeling much more spiritually strong & ready to go due to the fast. We knocked into a young guy who is Buddhist. He grew up catholic & "just found" Buddhism. He doesn't go to his local church because it's "sketchy". We told him that we have a message about Jesus Christ & introduced to him the Book of Mormon. He accepted it & said he'd read it. 

Here's the part of my email that inspired my subject line...
After weekly planning on Friday, we headed out to a road to go tracting. In my mind I was thinking this specific neighborhood was tracting friendly, and by that I mean the houses were close together, no gates, etc., but alas I was wrong. I was feeling a bit down & discouraged, feeling like I didn't know where to go or who to see. I was talking with my companion about it, and it was about 15 minutes before our appointment. She said "okay, let's try one more house". I thought to myself "I don't know anybody that lives around here...we're not going to find a house to stop at..." Again, feeling quite discouraged, sorry for myself, & downright pathetic. We were driving down the road & I look to the right & see a young kid outside of a house. I immediately thought "a family" & felt prompted to stop. I ignored it. Again I looked & again felt prompted, all the while I noticed Sister Wagner looking at the same house. Finally, what couldn't have been more than 5 seconds, but what felt like 5 minutes, Sister Wagner said "what about that house?" I pulled over & saw she was talking about the same house I felt strongly prompted to stop at, but because of my mood & selfishness I would've passed right on by. 

So we said a prayer & got out of the truck to see 4 or 5 kids & an adult guy waving at us... So we walk up to them & introduce ourselves. M & A are their names, & they have a couple young kids. A walked out of the house & said "ohhh elders!" Turns out he has friends that are Mormon down the hill & used to go to church with them. He's very open to religion. He started talking about all the craziness that has been going on in the world lately, & as he was talking I knew I had to connect that to the message we share. So I started talking about my life & how the gospel has blessed my family even in troubling times & promised him that it can do the same for him. Then he went on talking more, & I felt impressed to ask him if he's read the Book of Mormon before. He said he'd looked through it but never read it. So I promised again that this book will bring the peace into his life that he's looking for. He asked if he could have one & promised to read & pray about it. We asked if we could come by & teach him & his family, & he said to come by in a couple weeks. 

This experience opened my eyes to following the promptings of the Spirit. I quickly had to repent of my apathy & commit to follow more earnestly. The spirit is amazing & directs every aspect of the work if the missionary is willing to follow it. I'm thankful for my companion's courage to act on the prompting that we both received, but would have gone unrecognized by me.

I've lived in Phelan for about 3 1/2 months & hadn't met our neighbors yet, so we decided to make them goody bags (cookies, pass along cards, pic of Jesus, the Family proclamation, how to be a righteous husband, & Pure religion) & deliver them. We were able to meet the neighbors right next to us. They were super friendly & said if we ever need anything to let them know. The next two neighbors' gates were locked/had mean dogs. Afterwards we left to go visit mostly less actives we've never met before. I think we tried about 6 or 7 & zero of them were home....finally we went by to see Kevin A (Bro A's less active son) & it turns out they were having a family get-together, so Bro & Sis A were there & let us in! Later we had a bbq at the C's.
Happy 4th of July!
 So I can't really think of anything from my studies this week, but I think I forgot to mention a couple weeks ago when I had an amazing experience in my studies. I was reading in JSH 1:8 and 10. I never would've thought these specific verses would still teach me much, but as I was reading them I got the strongest feeling from the Holy Ghost telling me that what I was reading was true. I know that Joseph Smith was & is a prophet. I know that he saw God, the Father, & His son, Jesus Christ, & that through him Christ's church & the priesthood were restored to the earth in all its glory. I'm so thankful for this knowledge & for the Holy Ghost reaffirming what I already knew to be true in such a powerful, yet gentle way. 

Love you! Until next week,
Sister Viraldo

P.S.  I'm a strong believer of everything happens for a reason. Heavenly Father is in every aspect of our lives. This week we got a text from President Hobbs that read "FYI, Elder Williams is doing well but has returned to his home for surgery. He is a fine missionary and will be missed." I've served around Elder Williams for almost 8 months, my whole mission so far. We served in Chino Hills together, then we both got transferred to Victorville B. Getting this text was surprising & confusing.  We didn't know what was going on. It turns out that he crashed his bike and had signs of a concussion. When he went in for a CT scan, they found a tumor on his brain. They were sending him home for surgery. How scary is that. But to me, it's a huge testimony builder. If he hadn't crashed his bike, who knows when they would have found the tumor. It's amazing how God is aware of us at all times & in all places. Prayers for him & his family would be greatly appreciated. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

June 29, 2015 Email

No, I can't believe it's almost July!! Time is just flying by. Yup, I hit my 8 month mark this!

Yeah, meeting with our investigators has been tough lately. We don't know what's going on with A. We try to call her answer. We text F (her mom's bf) answer. Repeat. We're gonna try to make cookies or something and bring them over. 

To answer your question about gates, I'm not sure why everyone has gates here. Partly I think it's to keep their 5+ dogs in. Partly it's because they don't want to be bothered. It is strange & makes it difficult to do missionary work.

This week was a bit better as far as lessons went. We were able to have a lesson with M on Wednesday. We talked about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, prayer & receiving answers to prayers by the Holy Ghost. We started the lesson by singing "Joseph Smith's First Prayer". Sister Wagner can sing & so we sing all the time now :))) Then we watched the Restoration video & asked her what she thought about it. She said she's kind of in the same boat as Joseph was...trying to find what is right. We committed her to read the Book of Mormon and pray to know if it is true. And we also committed her to baptism! She said "I don't see why not" & set a date for July 25! Unfortunately, she wasn't at church this week, but one COOL thing is that when we told Sister H about M coming to church, she said "maybe I should go with her".  Let me remind you, the Hs haven't been to church in 2+ years due to being offended. This is a BIG DEAL. Well, Sister H didn't come yesterday either, BUT we visited them last night and she asked "Did M come to church today? Next week I'll go with her. I can imagine it being hard going to church by yourself."  This. Is. Happening. I have faith that it will!! 

Another cool thing happened this week. Background:  When I first got to Phelan, like the 2nd day, we tried to find a less active family, the Burns. We couldn't find them after trying a few times throughout the next 3 months. This week we were trying a different less active family & came to a familiar street. "Hmm I've never been here before. Valle Vista ct....THE BURNS LIVE HERE!" Yup, we accidentally found the Burns house & Bro. Burns was outside! They love the missionaries and want to feed us, so yay. 

Saturday we decided to start something new called the 'Saturday Special'. This week we chose to go to Stater Bros parking lot & contact! We prepared ourselves spiritually & mentally to "FEAR NO MAN". We got to Stater Bros & fear started to creep in...  Nevertheless, we got out & talked to a guy who was putting groceries in his car. He was super chill he had a Bob Marley tattoo on his shoulder. He not only accepted our card, he said "oh you know it!" hahaha. So we had planned 1 hr for our Saturday Special & ended up being there for just 10 minutes....and then we went tracting! 

We chose a neighborhood & knocked each door, about 5 houses down. Nobody was home until we knocked the next one & a lady answered the door. As I was giving the door contact, she seemed like she just wanted to argue. She asked a few questions like "is the book of Mormon mentioned in the Bible?" & others I can't seem to think of right now. I answered all her questions, solely thanks to the Holy Ghost. I had no idea what I was saying; I just opened my mouth & words came out. That's the miracle of missionary work! She accepted a Book of Mormon & said she'll read & pray. What I thought was at first someone who just wanted to argue actually was interested in our message! Way cool. 

Saturday night we had dinner with Sammie & Josh A. Josh's nonmember brother, A, was there. During dinner he was asking a few questions about what we do as missionaries. After dinner we watched "His Grace" about a guy who grew up in the church, went on a mission, and after awhile lost his way because he stopped reading the scriptures, praying, going to church etc. Eventually he knew that everything he tried to do, such as partying & other worldly things, to replace a void he had in his life never worked. He thought back to how he felt on his mission & while reading the scriptures & knew he had to change. We had a really great discussion about the video afterward & A was telling us how he drinks socially with his friends trying to be happy, but it never works. I bore testimony that the thing that's missing in his life is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

I've met so many people who just aren't happy. There's something missing in their life & they don't know what it is. I've never had this feeling in my life. I grew up with the gospel in my life & I can fully attribute that to my lack of having that missing piece in my life. I know that the gospel is the key to filling the void in everyone's lives. 

A is moving in with Sammie & Josh, so hopefully as we go & visit them weekly he will sit in on the lessons & feel the Spirit touch him & fill the hole that is missing. 

That's about it for this week! I love you & thanks for always writing me! Emails from others have been scarce lately.... 

xoxo Sister Viraldo