Monday, March 26

#15

Hi all!

Well, this marks my last week in Stevens Point. Sister Johnson and I are going to be taking some final pictures around the town so I will put those up next week. :) For now, I'll just tell you a bit about what's going on.

Yesterday we set a baptismal date with a girl we've been teaching for several weeks. She wanted to wait until July when her boyfriend (who is in the army) could come, but we talked it over with her and she recognized that she had a strong desire to be baptized now instead. :) We are very excited, but I'm a little put out because I am moving on Wednesday and I won't be here to attend! But I guess we'll have to wait and see.

On that note, we finally recieved transfer information this morning. I'm headed to Northern Milwaukee! Crazy stuff- I'm going to be in a tripanionship with two other sisters, so that will definitely be a new experience. Sister Johnson trained one of the sisters--a Sister Huber, and she loved her to pieces so I am excited to get to work with her and Sister Brady (who I don't know much about at all.)

The weather continues to be crazy fine--all the trees are budding and everything is turning an ethereal shade of green. I can't get over how beautiful it is already! Much as I miss my mountains, I'm a sucker for all the greenery and the trees and the fields... however, trees are usually budding in May, and the temperature is supposed to drop back down. We have a few members with orchards and it's going to be scary if they lose their crops!

On an unrelated note, Sister Johnson bought some marshmallow maties and the marshmallows have CHANGED. When did that happen?!

Anyways. This week has been difficult. I've really had to crunch down and remember why I came out here. It's funny, we always pray for Christlike Attributes--such as charity, patience, humility, faith... and as missionaries we are constantly seeking to improve in all these areas because they will completely determine our success as servants of the Lord. This week I was having a particularly hard time and as I was praying to recieve greater faith to push on, I realized that the experience itself was building my faith. The trials that keep falling into my lap are the means by which these attributes are being grown! We always joke that you should NEVER pray for patience. Why? Because the Lord will give you a reason to be impatient that you will have to overcome. That is how you gain patience.

By extension, when we pray for humility, we recieve greater opportunity to be humble. When we pray for charity, we are given difficult circumstances under which we can exercise our charity. When we pray for a better understanding of the Atonement, as I have been trying to focus my studies and prayers around recently... we are given the opportunity to experience a tiny particle of it. And this is how we grow.

Perhaps it was always obvious to everyone but me. I guess I knew these things, but I know them more now. That's how the gospel works, right? ;) President Holland said the following (paraphrased):

"Salvation is not a cheap experience. It isn't meant to be easy. It was not cheap, easy, or painless for the son of God, of whom we testify. If you are going to be His missionary, how dare you feel sorry for yourself. A gift was given in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross of Calvary. If we say we've been sent by Him, we better have evidence of it by having a taste of it! There is sacrifice in serving our Heavenly Father. Don't ask to get by without a tiny piece of suffering."

He has a vivid way of laying it out, doesn't he? He sounds harsh, but this quote gives me strength. When we suffer through the trials of life, we are "standing with the best life this world has ever known" (also Elder Holland). And I may weep. I may fall to my knees and plead for some measure of strength to get through each day. But I can always find strength in recalling these things.

I am here for Heavenly Father and His Son and my brothers and sisters in Wisconsin. I want everyone who reads this to know that I have no regrets about coming. I refuse to have any, no matter what happens. I am honored to be here and suffer the will of the Father--whatever that may be. I love this gospel. It is my lifeblood. I testify that if any individual is willing to allow the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be the core of their existance, then they will find the same release that I continue to recognize in my own life. I could never consider living the rest of my life without having had the experience that I have been blessed with these next 15 months.

Many of the people we meet seem a little horrified by what we as missionaries have come here to do. Perhaps that is because they suppose we are being forced to do it. Certainly, some people may view it that way. But I want everyone to know that I was never brainwashed or coerced into this experience. Coming on a mission never really entered my expectations until just a few years ago. It is hard, sure. I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss my bed and comforts of an empty schedule. But I am grateful for the opportunity to leave these things behind. There is no sacrifice here. I am recieving more than I give on an hourly basis. We have the truth. The only true church on this earth. How can we not extend it?!

I hope all is well with each of you. Sorry, this post turned into a bit of a speech. ;) I just wanted to set some things straight with the world and with my Heavenly Father. I love Him. I love His son. And I am overwhelmed to know that they know me personally and will help me see this through. I could never do it otherwise.

Thank you for your prayers and letters. Each loving message is a blessing. :)

-Sister Black

p.s. Pictures: Sister's Training picture. :) The one of me, Sister Johnson and three other girls is a "progeny" picture for Sister Johnson. Her "children" and "grandchildren" (according to training). Pretty fun. ;) Then an old playground we found... the background is pretty much what all of Wisconsin looks like unless there are more trees. Cool stuff. ;) Aand.. a picture of us being minnows... and... our last distrct meeting before transfers! :( Sad days. Sorry this is rushed, I'm running out of time. ;)

Loves!





Tuesday, March 20

#14

19 March 2012

Hello all! This week marks my last week as a "trainee" of any kind. The first 12 weeks are officially "training" weeks, and they are carefully organized into particular studies and challanged which the new missionary must undertake. And after this week my "12 week training" and my second transfer will be done.

Makes me feel a little weird! And, needless to say, incredibly unprepared. ;) But I know that I am prepared as much as I can be, particularly if I can be humble and let the Holy Ghost guide my work.

This week has been somewhat interesting (though not VERY interesting, I'm sorry to say.) I've begun to exhibit carpal tunnel symptoms in my right hand, so I apologize if my handwriting gets progressively sloppier or my letters get progressively shorter. It's a bit hard to coordinate my hand movements and deal with the numbness that comes whenever I write. So... apologies in advance.

Hmm. On the bright side, I've acquired a small species of "hedera helix" Ivy so I am no longer without a plant. (I've lasted 3 months, you should all be proud.)

We've kept relatively busy this week. The temperature has been up in the high 70s (no, really) and I can already feel some humidity coming on. I got my frist mosquito bite this week, and I am positive there are legions to come. ;) Being from Utah, I must say, humidity is a new experience. I'll probably get my fill of it in the coming months.

Because of the temperatures, we've been able to do some more contacting--people are actually outside and meandering about. It's crazy how lovely tracting can be when your face isn't going numb and people aren't grumpy about the weather. I've never been refused so politely and positively as this last week.

I attended my first funeral this week as well. There was an amazing elderly couple--the Cousineous--in our branch, and they've always taken the missionaries out for lunch each Friday. The husband died this past week, and it was heartbreaking. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father put me here just in time to get to know him a little and to appreciate the sweet relationship he and his wife had. They were always so kind to us! I was invited to play the piano for the service, and I was grateful for the opportunity.

We now go by the "sisternaries" instead of the "sister missionaries" thanks to one of our member's little girl. :) I'm quite taken with the title. I consider myself a full-fledged sisternary.

I've been very blessed these last few weeks to have increased focus and to feel an increased love for this area. This next week we will find out whether Sister Johnson or I will be transferred and where, so I am a little nervous. But it's always a wonder to take a step back and recognize that our entire existences--as particularly evident in the mission field--are exquisitely crafted lessons. This week I was encouraged to read Alma chapter 5, and to sincerely answer each question contained therein. It was an eye-opening experience, and I recommend it to you all. :)

My prayers and thanks go out to each of you. I couldn't do this were it not for the love and support I feel from home, as well as the strength and guidance of the Holy Ghost.

-Sister Black

Tuesday, March 13

#13

Well. :) Another week gone by. I am greatly astonished when I think about how fast time is going. Everyone always said it goes by fast, and during the first week or two it felt like FOREVER. But each time I lay down to go to bed in my bright orange sheets I feel a little surprised that "here I am again..." I told Sister Johnson this the other day and she smirked at me and said "and it gets faster".

It's a little scary. 0_o

Anyways, not much in the way of actual excitement happened this week. A few months ago we had black boxes called "Tiwi" put in our vehicles, which we assumed serve to regulate the where the vehicles are and such. This week we found out that several missionaries have already been "red dotted", meaning they are no longer allowed to drive on the mission, because whenever anyone speeds or does anything reckless, the Tiwi sends it back to SLC and SLC texts President Jones about it. Within minutes.

The ex-convict we've been teaching always draws comparisons between his situation and ours. Sometimes I have to genuinely agree with him. ;) Except I'm happy to be in my situation and he is not so much...

Anyways, the highlight of this week would have to be the sister's training we got to go to in Osh Kosh! All the sisters in the mission (18 out of the 150 or so total missionaries) got to get together for a special training with President and Sister Jones. It was crazy to meet so many other sisters--some of them "younger" on the mission than me! (That's weird.) It was a lovely time though. :) There is so much spiritual power to be had. President had each of us stand and introduce ourselves, and then explain what we most appreciated about our companion. The Holy Ghost filled that room and testified to me that each sister with her unique gifts and personality, we perfectly suited to be here... as was I. :)

It's been up in the 60s this week. 0_o We are utterly shocked and delighted. Last night we had to sleep with the window open to listen to the rain and feel the cool air. Sister Johnson says we have to enjoy open-window nights while we can... because once it gets "warm" then the bugs and particularly the giant mosquitos become a particular trial--even with screens. (Between the humidity and the bugs, summer sounds like a nightmare. I guess I should be thankful that I only have one "real" summer out here, even if I get two full winters!)

But, frankly, I'm beginning to love it here. :) I thank you all for your sweet prayers and especially the letters I've been getting. They help ground me and remind me of who I am and that life goes on outside of the little bubble of industry we are trying to maintain... and they serve to remind me that I am loved by my family and friends, as well as my Heavenly Father. :) Hope all is going well! I wish each of you luck in your endeavors.

-Sister Black

Wednesday, March 7

#12

Hey all!

This week was pretty random. We did a lot of service, painting and cleaning especially. I learned to take apart the heating implements we find so commonly here, and how to clean/vaccumm them out. :) Sister Johnson and I went home and immediately set about taking our apartment's apart and cleaning them as well. They obviously hadn't been cleaned since before the area was occupied by Elders, because we found a mini action figure and 20-30 air-soft bullets inside. ;) Sometimes I wish I could've seen the apartment when they were living in it. I already reap great benefits from the perfect push-up thingies they left, and other such awesome, and I'm very excited to have a new mini figure.

We continue with teaching efforts, though it seems as though many of our investigators are in a "dead end" spot. The Chinese boys are both pretty stuck on their parent's opinions. The boy with the baptismal date was officially told he couldn't take lessons or attend church/institute anymore, so we are keeping him in our prayers as he tries to decide what to do. They both have a strong testimony of the church--sometimes it feels like they are teaching us! I'm sure that even if not now, in the future they will both be a great resource for Heavenly Father in China. It is so frustrating to see the tough decisions they have to make, but it helps my faith to grow... keep them in your prayers please. :)

This week I am trying to improve my desires by studying more specifically and having greater faith in the power of prayer and the Holy Ghost. I already have a better outlook, I think. It's funny, because the more focused and effective my study hours are, the greater my desire to serve and teach. The greater my desire to serve and teach, the more effective I want my study to be. And so on. :) It's amazing to feel Christ working within me--changing my heart as only He can. I don't know how I--or anyone--could make it in this work without that continual influence.

Uhm.

We also got to go to a Lantern Festival dinner (the Chinese boys are in the CCC at the university, and they bought us tickets to go as a special treat.) It was pretty awesome. Just working with these two young men, I really feel a strong desire to learn more about the Chinese culture--not to mention learn Chinese itself. Perhaps I will humble myself enough to do so when I get home. :)

Well, I'm about halfway through my second transfer. Pretty crazy to think I only get 12 of them... time is flying by in a way I never really anticipated. Hopefully I can take the time to really enjoy and use this time as best I can!

Love you all, thank you for your prayers. :)

-Sister Black

p.s. Pictures: We made decorations for the "casino night" fundraiser (questionable, I know) for the Children's Museum. Pretty fun! Though... I'll never rid myself of the glitter. Jeeves and Wooster are seen with the giant mouth that I want to take home. Also pictured is me (happy to have my picture taken as always) inside our little church! (This hallway serves as our foyer, pretty much.) Lastly, Sister Johnson and I with the Bowrings at the Chinese Lantern Fest. :D