Monday, November 25, 2013

The Work Goes On!

Going into the last week of this transfer! WHAT?!?! Where did the time go! I'll find out in a week if I'm going or staying. I hope I stay.
I keep forgetting it's Thanksgiving! The life of a missionary. It's all the same, year round. Plus it's like 60-80 degrees everyday, so it's hard to remember it's the end of November! Plans just changed with transfers being next week; President is really busy trying to figure out where each missionary will go, so we are going to spend Thanksgiving with the Stake President and his family instead! They are super super nice so we are excited :)
On Tuesday, we had Zone Conference! Incredible! We did all sorts of things: President and Sister Castro spoke, we heard testimonies from the new missionaries (myself included), had lunch, had training, and got to see missionaries we don't see too often as well. It was wonderful. I learned a lot! Here are some take-aways:
-Just like Christ changed water to wine, he can change us! He didn't just turn the water into wine, but the best wine. He will transform us into our best selves if we do what He asks.
-John 4:35... The field is white already to harvest. NOW. Not in 4 months when you learn the language or the lessons.
-We are an instruments in the Lord's hand, a sickle. What kind of sickle are we? Are we sharp? Can He make a clean cut with us?
-Love the people you are talking to. Fight for them! Fighting for them means being persistent and letting them know what this message is.
It was really great seeing Hermana Coleman again. She is going home soon! Her family lives in Katy! She is the Sister I was with my first day here :) I told her to find my family. Maybe y'all can go to her homecoming? She's amazing.
We visited Jessie quite a few times this week. She is so amazing and I love her so much! She was supposed to come to church this week, but the person who was supposed to take her never came. We went by to see her that evening and she was devastated. She wants this so badly. She really loves learning and we mean a lot to her. She says that she prays for us each day: that we'll find good husbands and have good children that obey us. She's a sweetheart! She also likes to give us marriage advice (she was married 42 years).
Wednesday we saw a less active brother in our ward. He has a lot of concerns that missionaries have tried to resolve in the past. He gets hung up on little details. This was my first time meeting him, but Sister X was not excited to see him. We weren't sure exactly what we were going to do besides give him a copy of True to the Faith. I ended up just very boldly telling him that he needed to set aside time each and every day to read his scriptures and to start his study with a prayer. It suddenly became so clear to me as we talked with him. I know that his concerns will not be resolved any other way. Answers are something you have to work for. Pray and ask God, then open up the books and look. I asked him if he would and he kind of avoided the commitment, turning to my companion saying I was like an Hermana he knew a while ago. I then said, "Well, will you do it?!" He said "Wow, she really is the hammer!" He laughed and said that he would try. I promised him that as he made that time that his questions would begin to be answered and also that his relationship with his girlfriend (who is also a member) would be better. I told him we'd follow up with him as well. As soon as we got out of sight, Sister X threw her arms around me and said, "Now that's my companion!" :) We ended the night by walking through a trailer park, looking for a less active in the rain. We finally got there only to be told she didn't want anything to do with the church anymore. Really wet, we returned to the car. All you can do is laugh sometimes. We find ways to enjoy those moments.
We had the opportunity to help a Sister in our ward unload her stuff from a moving pod. Lots of heavy lifting, but it was awesome! Lots of fun.
We had lots of dinners with members this week. One family played a game with us where we drew a picture of something we were grateful for, passed it to our neighbor, and they had to guess what it was. It was a lot of fun :) Makes you feel like your home sometimes. We also had dinner with a partially less active family. The mother texted us afterward and expressed that it was a miracle that her son joined us and talked with us. She was so grateful that we had come and for the message we shared.
Saturday was an interesting day. The first man we ran into, JP, has had several missionaries come to his door. He wasn't interested, but said he'd leave us with a joke:
"It began to rain really hard, and the people began to realize there was going to be flooding. Evacuations started happening. A jeep spotted a man and told him to get in so they could leave. The man replied, "No, the Lord will provide." The water rose and the man had to go to the 2nd story of his house. A person in a boat saw him through the window. Calling to him, he told him to climb into his boat and he would take him to safety. The man replied again, "No, the Lord will provide." The water continued to rise. At this point, the man was on the highest point of his roof. A helicopter spotted him and called to him to grab the rope so they could take him to safety. Once more the man replied, "No, the Lord will provide." Well, the man drowned. He got up to the gate and met Peter. Peter asked what he was doing there. The man said "It was raining and I was waiting, I thought the Lord would provide!" Peter then said, "We send a jeep, a boat, and a helicopter! What else did you want?!" Sister X and I just laughed as we walked away. How ironic. JP is going to get there and say "Where was the truth? Why didn't you show it to me?" The response: "We sent those 16 sets of missionaries! What more did you want?"
A 12 year old in our ward took us to visit his neighbor who had asked him about the church the other day. He is going to be such a great missionary :)
I've learned a lot more about Sister Xayadeth this week! She really is incredible! We decided that after our missions, in 2015, she is going to come visit me and we are going to go to the Houston Rodeo. It'll be fun! Today, before we went grocery shopping, we took pictures in a little photo booth. It's the little things :)
Time is flying. Really, really. Thank you so much for the letters and prayers! They mean so much. I hope everyone has an amazing week. Keep trying to do and be better :)

Sister Shipp

Monday, November 18, 2013

God is Good

Highlights of the week:
We have a new investigator with a soft-set baptismal date of December 14th! Her name is Allison and she has 3 small children.
I'm getting really good at declaring (telling people briefly about the Restoration) to people in Spanish! When all else fails, hand them a card :)
I got a package from the Valentine family :) That was so sweet!
We taught several lessons to Jessie this week and they all went well! She is continually progressing!
Speaking in Sacrament meeting! I and the other 3 sister missionaries all spoke in Sacrament meeting yesterday. It was wonderful. We saw many Less Actives we have been working with come. It was a miracle.
We got so excited about finding a family who legitimately seemed interested. We set up a return appointment for the next day. The fiance' met us on our return appointment and said that his fiance' was not interested and that we shouldn't be doing what we're doing.
Funny moments:
We are experts at finding particular addresses! It seems we still have work to do because sometimes it seems like it takes quite a while. There's one address we are convinced doesn't exist. We'll try and find it again this week :)
We were trying to contact a less active last night. We got out of the car and a cat ran at Sister X who is allergic to cats, so she dodged it rubbing against her legs. At this point, I guess the cat decided we were playing a game. It started chasing us. It was following us and literally would not leave us alone. Sister X ran and jumped in the car and then it started chasing me! Like literally running at me. It eventually got distracted and so I ran into the car. Then I realized I had to get out and back my companion up. Luckily that cat had run down the street.
I wanted to spend most of this email talking about the talk I gave in Sacrament meeting yesterday.
"I never cease to be amazed by how the Lord can motivate and direct the length and breadth of His kingdom and yet have time to provide inspiration concerning one individual."
Have we ever really though about this? This God is our loving Heavenly Father. He is literally a parent to us. We learn that we are children of God in Romans 8:16-17. Because of our heritage, we have a divine potential! We can become like our Heavenly Father! THIS is why we are here!
Any parent knows that in order to teach a child to walk, you can't keep them in their arms forever. Eventually you have to even let go of their hand and try it on their own. Through it all, though, you stay right by to give them the help that they need.
In many ways, this is our relationship with our Father in Heaven. He has sent us here to learn and to grow so that we can reach our divine potential. Like a parent following close behind their newly walking child, arms extended ready to help, so is He near to us and providing CONSTANT support.
He also provides for us the way. Just this last week, I found out I had to fill out forms and get fingerprints done to obtain an FBI clearance. Looking at the instructions from the travel office, I was getting really overwhelmed. I spent most of last Monday stressing about it. On Tuesday, I received a package from my sweet mother. She sent me addressed fed-ex envelopes that I needed to send things in, the instructions more simply explained step by step, the forms I needed which she had filled out already. She even put little sticky notes with arrows telling me where to sign. She did everything that she possibly could for me and gave me instructions on the part I needed to do myself. She knew that as a missionary, I don't have time to stress over paperwork, and she provided the way for me to accomplish what was needed.
This is what Heavenly Father does for us. He knows our circumstances and He knows what we need. He has provided the way for us to be happy in this life and the world to come. This way is found in the scriptures, words of prophets and apostles, and personal revelation we receive from Him. He has given us a way to communicate with Him. Do we really understand how amazing prayer is? We are literally talking with Him. He, the Supreme Being of the universe, listens and responds to us. It's like the first 3 weeks I was at BYU. I called my mom everyday. She knew generally what I was up to, but it was up for me to fill in the details. She wanted to know how I was doing and what I was up to. Heavenly Father wants us to communicate with Him! Anything that is important to us is important to Him.
The greatest evidence that we have of His love for us is that He sent His Son. We cannot comprehend how much He loves us. His purpose is to help us to be happy. His love is always there for us no matter what. He weeps with us when we are sad, and rejoices when we are happy.  His joy comes from us. I think this line from one of my dad's emails perfectly explains it, "One of the greatest joys as a parent is watching your children grow."
We show our love for Him and gratitude for all He has given us by our choices, by following His commandments and using the tools He has given us. One of these is families! Families are a place for children to learn and to grow. They are our greatest source of joy. They are meant to bring us joy. In 3 Nephi 22:13 we read, "And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord and great shall be the peace of thy children." They gospel of Jesus Christ is that way that "Home can be a Heaven on Earth." The key is the Spirit. When we follow Jesus Christ and have a gospel centered home, God can be with us through His Spirit. This Spirit is the source of joy, peace, and love.
Within this church is also the authority to bind or seal families together forever. Looking back at the days leading up to my departure to BYU and later to the MTC to begin my mission as well, I am reminded of the final things my family did together. Sure, we went out to eat, went to a movie, and went to a golfing range. But the nights before I left on each occasion, what did we do? We had a Family Home Evening, my father gave me a blessing, and we had a family prayer. These final things gave us the strength to say goodbye, this time for 18 months. We could do this because of the knowledge that we have that whatever happens, we WILL be together as a family forever as we live the gospel.
I know that this church is His church. I know that through this church, families can be together forever and families are blessed in countless ways. I know that Heavenly Father is our father and loves us. I know that He did send His Son here. I know these things to be true. This gospel has blessed my life and my family more than I can describe.
Sister Shipp

Monday, November 11, 2013

Heavenly Father Understands

What a week. So it was brought to my attention that I really haven't said much about my companion! Her name is Sister Xayadeth (Sigh-uh-debt). I cannot tell you how many times I have heard her explain to people how to say it. Basically she's "X" and I'm "boat" you know, pretty great! She is from South Jordan, Utah and is a U fan as well. She is 19 and has not done any college yet. She is great and we have a lot of fun together :)
This week was humbling. I was sick Tuesday and Wednesday so had to stay in. Sister Xayadeth got sick Thursday so we basically lost 3 days this week. Being sick as a missionary makes you feel guilty; all you want to do is be out! I was feeling pretty down while Sister X was sick because I just wanted to be out. I was reading conference talks and the thought and overwhelming feeling that came over was that Heavenly Father understands. It's okay. He knows us and He knows that we have limitations, but He also knows when we are doing our best. Feeling the approval of Heavenly Father is the best feeling in the world.
So basically the week was lessons with Jessie! We taught her 4 times! She is doing so well and began to live the Word of Wisdom this week. She has so many good questions that the gospel answers. The Gospel (and specifically the Book of Mormon) answers all those questions we struggle with from one time to another! It's incredible. She still has a baptismal date of December 14th and is planning on coming to church this week! Which is especially great because Sisters Bennett, Stoker, Xayadeth, and I are speaking this week (All the missionaries serving in the Ventura 2nd Ward). All the members were encouraged to invite a friend, so hopefully they follow through! It's going to be really powerful :)
This week, we gained a couple strong potential investigators. We met the girlfriend of a new investigator! We were trying to contact her boyfriend, but met her instead. They have a Book of Mormon and have read parts of it. She seemed excited to learn more, so we will be trying to teach their family this week!

Saturday was a great day! It was so good to be working again! We went to visit a potential investigator that we found in the area book and met Rosie. She is awesome! She grew up Catholic, but then started going to a Christian church and understood concepts a lot better. She still has lots of questions though and does not attend church currently. We taught her a lot of the Restoration. She asked us where our church is and said she wanted to come and see! She wasn't there yesterday, but we are hoping to get her there this week! The rest of the potentials we contacted near her only spoke Spanish. I did my best to communicate with them. Basically I can tell them we are missionaries and what church we are from. After that, it's like a battle in my head trying to remember Spanish and keep it separate from Portuguese. I really should just start speaking Portuguese to them and see if they understand. Maybe one of these days.
I learned a lot this week! And have had some really neat experiences. I can now truly say I love being a missionary. I was struggling to be able to say that before. It's definitely a big adjustment! I've been praying for experiences that will strengthen my testimony of missionary work, and I have seen major changes in my life. I love it! I love it! Heavenly Father is amazing! I've also been beginning to realize I may not mind staying here. I love it here. This is my mission! This feeling probably came at a good time seeing as visa requirements are changing and so I've got lots of papers to fill out and more fingerprints to acquire and such. I may be here for Christmas! We shall see!
Another thing I didn't truly realized is how powerful the Restoration really is. Every member knows the story, Joseph Smith... grove of trees... lots of churches... but do we really KNOW the restoration? Do we understand the significance? I would invite each of us to really study the Restoration! Grab a Preach My Gospel! That's an excellent study source. Chapter 3, Lesson 1.
I love you all! Thanks for the prayers and the letters! They are so appreciated. More than you could know.
Sister Shipp

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ventura - Birthday Week :)

I had the best week ever. Really. Y'all are the best.
Monday after emails, I found out that we were going to go to the temple!
So Tuesday, I woke up, opened presents from my family (stickers, magnets, TX to-do list, pictures, pumpkin mix, cream cheese frosting, candles, and a book by Thomas S. Monson) as well as cards! Thanks to everyone! The thoughts really meant a lot! We studied a little bit, then left for the temple. Okay, IT'S HUGE. Like Gigantic. It was incredible. As I was sitting waiting, I was filled with SO MUCH love and gratitude to Heavenly Father for so many things. We ate at the temple cafeteria (which was awesome) and then drove home on the PCH. This area is so beautiful! It still amazes me! I love the ocean and all the different trees everywhere and the hills/mountains. Incredible! We got back just in time to head to dinner with a member of the ward. She put a candle in my piece of pie and they sang happy birthday. After that, we taught a Book of Mormon class at the church. We took an hour discussing 11 verses. After each verse, we stopped and made an application. I love that exercise because it really helps you to realize that each verse is in the Book of Mormon for a reason and you really can learn something from each detail! After that, I hurried and packed up my stuff! We did a 24 hour exchange with the Sister Training Leaders, so I got to sleep over at their apartment while Sister Bennett slept in my bed. It was fun :)
So all of Wednesday, I was with Sister Stoker. She is incredible. She is from Idaho. My goal for that day was to work on door approaches. The goal was to ask people 3 questions to get to know them. It was hard. We started off near the beach. Rejection. After rejection. After rejection. We stayed there until it was time for lunch. Before leaving, we walked down the rest of the street to look at the beach. We're not allowed to be on the sand, so we stood on a cement square and took a picture. It was so fun to be so close to the ocean though! We went to Chick-fil-A for lunch with Sister Bennett and Sister Xayadeth. Sister Bennett bought my ice cream for my birthday. The rest of the day was just knocking. I completely froze a couple times. The thing about knocking on people's doors are, once they open it, your mind has to go really fast. We practiced in the car to help me get going again. Sister Stoker acted like a person who had just opened the door. It really helped actually! I did a lot better practicing than in real life, but I could tell it helped later in the day. That night was the Trunk or Treat! We had a good turn out and had some good food as well. I was so grateful for the day I spent with Sister Stoker. I learned so much. She is an amazing example. She is so loving and so willing to help. She was able to answer lots of questions and give me ways to become even better.
Thursday was Halloween! We had District Meeting. My District found out I'm a visa waiter and also that it had been my birthday. Luckily, my District Leader had made a cake for Halloween and got everyone to sing to me as well. It was really sweet :) I have a really great district. We did more tracting afterwards. I am so much more confident talking to people now! I even pointed a guy out that we should talk to. He was raking leaves. We offered to help, but we ended up just talking. He has had a lot of interaction with the church! We had a really great conversation and invited him to read from the Book of Mormon and to pray. He didn't want to set up a return appointment, but that's okay! Planting seeds. We'll probably go see him in a couple weeks. We had to be in by 7, so while I was doing language study, Sister Xayadeth made the pumpkin bars that my family had sent me. It was awesome! I got to blow out candles as well.
Friday was weekly planning and it took most of the day. It was kind of a rough day for some reason. After a few hours of planning, the doorbell rang. It was a package. From Elder Valentine. He had led me to believe that the card and letter I received a couple days prior was all he was sending for my birthday. Wrong! What a surprise. I opened the package to find about 15 wrapped (interestingly wrapped ;) ) presents. The first one I opened was a tape recorder with instructions on what to do and a sweet birthday message. The rest of the presents included postcards, candy, a kid toy story ring, a scripture marking pen, pictures, a picture frame, a super-hero shirt, Brazil shirts from the MTC (which are impossible to find), one of his Cali shirts, a DC hoodie, and a compilation of notes and journal entries from the past couple months. Amazing. It completely turned my day around!
Saturday, we visited Brenda, a less active. She opened up to us and told us about problems her sister is having. Throughout the visit, I kept thinking of James 1:5 for some reason. I shared that scripture with her and related it back to her life. I have no idea why I needed to share that with her. Hopefully one day, I'll know!
Sunday was a good day! Maybe because of the extra hour of sleep. We ended up having an extra hour before church we hadn't planned for. It was tempting to stay at the church and just wait, but I felt like we really needed to be tracting, so we went. It didn't yield any new investigators, but my confidence really increase. We had some good conversations and I'm getting so much better at talking to people! I had really hit a road block before, it seemed. Church was good. One of our investigators came to church! Yay! First time that has happened! We also saw our investigator, Jessie. She is in a nursing home. She had open heart surgery not too long ago and lost a leg as well. She is so sweet. We taught the Plan of Salvation. She has a baptismal date for December 14. She offered the closing prayer. She prayed for us, that people would be drawn to us so we could teach them. She thanked Heavenly Father many many times for us and the messages we bring to her. She also prayed that she would be able to make her baptismal date. She's incredible.
Thanks for all the thoughts and birthday wishes! Y'all really made the week so special.
Sister Shipp