Monday, October 9, 2017

Where is all the green?

October 8, 2017

Hello, everyone!  This is my last group email, though I will still send updates to my missionary friends :)  I just wanted to update you all on the last week of my mission and let you know I got home alive :)  So the last week of my mission was probably the craziest.  Of my life.  Here goes:

Monday night was great; we had a really good lesson with Keke and she showed us some of her cool gymnastics moves.  After that, Sister Barkdull felt we should stop by a less active member she had never met who has a daughter who is not baptized.  They were home!  We got to know them, shared a video, and set another time to come back.  They are awesome and Jordan seems to want to learn.

On Tuesday we had my last district meeting and then got in a car accident on the way back.  Everyone was completely fine, but it was scary.  We got a ride home from a member but left the house keys in the car so had to get a ride with another member back to the car.  Then we went to institute with Kaci.  So small back story...I had been having some abdominal pain for a few weeks.  During institute it got worse and we had to step out.  I ended up getting a priesthood blessing from some elders who were there and then after saying a prayer we decided to go to the emergency room.  I had never been in the emergency room before!  It was interesting.  They were able to figure out what was going on and kept me in the hospital for a couple days.  They let me out on Thursday evening and I just need to rest and watch what I eat now until I recover.  But on Saturday I was still sick so that night I went to stay with some sisters who work online, Sister Jensen who was my companion before and Hermana Whitlock who flew to Florida with me.  We got to watch General Conference at the Coopers the next day!  It was amazing and Sister Cooper took good care of me.  Then on Monday, it was my last day in Florida!  All the missionaries who were going home had a meeting with President and Sister Cooper in the afternoon and then had an opportunity to share our testimonies after dinner.  It was sad to say goodbye.  I love so many people there.

On Tuesday morning we woke up early, got ready, and headed to the airport!  We sang hymns the entire car ride there.  It was so weird to leave.  But I'm here with my family, and honestly not much has changed!  But I have, and I am trying my best to apply the things that I learned on my mission and not slump back into my old self.  So far nothing much exciting has happened.  We had a nice dinner (which I couldn't eat) with my family and grandparents the night I got home and then I got released from my calling.  It was not nearly as scary as I thought.  I miss Florida, though!  The world is not so green over here.  But I know I am where I am supposed to be.

1. last district meeting!
2. emergency room!
3. saying goodbye to my companions 😢
4. Conference at the Coopers!
5. Me with some of my old companions!
6. the group of missionaries going home
7. saying goodbye to the Coopers.  I love them!
8. driving to the airport!
9. at the airport
10. I'm home!
11. Got to see this girl!

Florida, you've changed me

September 25, 2017

Hello, everybody!  I cannot believe that I will be home in 8 days.  I am excited to see and talk to you all!

This week has been, as usual, very exciting.  We had zone conference on Tuesday and during the musical number Sister Robertson and I were doing, as if I wasn't nervous enough, the last page of my music fell off the piano right before I needed it.  But we made it through somehow.  It was a great meeting and I had the opportunity to share my testimony and what my mission has taught me.  That night we went to Kaci's house because her grandpa had taken a turn for the worst and she was struggling.  Near the end of the lesson she was quite a bit more cheerful.  Her dad listened for the whole lesson and prayed with us, which Sister Barkdull said was unusual.  But during the closing prayer her mom walked in crying and said she just got a call that the grandpa's heartbeat was slowing down.  They headed out for the hospital and Kaci told us he passed away that night.  It was really sad, but I know that God's plan is intricate and whatever happens is for the happiness and benefit of all of His children.  He loves us so much, and he is helping this family through this trial.

On Friday I went with the Lake Hamilton sisters, Sister Densley and Sister Gustafson, because my companions were going to do a lot of service the next couple days and I was not feeling well enough to do what they would have to do.  We had a great time!  On Saturday, we did a little service picking up branches and raking a member's yard and later went to a baptism in Winter Haven.  That night we watched the General Women's Meeting broadcast.  It was amazing!  I know that God knows each of us individually and inspires the leaders of the church.  The things that were said were wonderful and applied to things that I specifically need right now.

On Sunday, there was a huge miracle in the Lake Hamilton ward!  A woman got up to share her testimony and the other sisters had not met her before.  She is not a member of the church but her sister is and has brought her to church before.  She spontaneously showed up with her daughter and wants to learn more about the church!  She shared comments in the Sunday School class that showed a lot of faith in God and a strong spiritual background.  She is amazing!  We are really excited for her.

Well, folks, this is it!  I am excited to see what miracles will happen as we work to find people who are prepared to follow the example of Jesus Christ in this last week of my mission.  I have loved my time here, the people that I have met, and the experiences that Heavenly Father has allowed me to have.  They have made me into a better person, a person more like our Savior Jesus Christ.  I have learned to be more charitable, more willing to serve, more patient, more strong, and more faithful.  John 17:3 says, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."  I have grown to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ a lot better on my mission, and though I still have a long way to go, eternal life is worth it!  I'm so glad that I have been able to help others even in some small way come to know them better as well.

Sister Porter

Hurricanes and Hope

September 18, 2017

Hello, everyone!  It's been awhile.  Sorry I wasn't able to email last week.  As you probably know, Florida had a big hurricane and it put quite a lot of excitement into our lives.  Here goes:

On Monday the 4th, we had dinner with Sister Thoman and her daughters.  One daughter is less active and the other is very curious to learn more about the gospel.  She had a lot of questions.  The food was delicious and we had a nice visit.  On Wednesday, we were asked to prepare for the hurricane so we did a little last minute food shopping.  We also taught Dustin and were able to get more of a feel for how much he wants to know if God is there.  He feels he needs some big sign.  He came up with his own goal, though!  It was really awesome.  He said he would pray and read the Book of Mormon every day for 7 days and if he got an answer, he would be baptized.  Unfortunately we haven't been able to get in contact with him since.  After that we taught Kiki, Tiffna, Junie, and Falda again and they all said they wanted to be baptized!  We set a date but they're not going to make it with everything that happened with the hurricane and last we heard Kiki is in the hospital.  

Here's where all the fun starts!  On Thursday all of the sisters in our zone were asked to sleep in our apartment and then we would evacuate to the mission office in Tampa the next morning.  So we had 7 sisters in our tiny apartment and then the evacuation was postponed a day.  So we had some crazy exchanges and split up around the area.  On Saturday we headed out.  We were in the church until Monday night.  The storm was at its worst on Sunday night and we really didn't see much of it.  We were sleeping :)  On Monday night when we got back, there were tons of trees and power lines down and a little street by our apartment was flooded.  Our apartment didn't have power.  We were going to just deal with it, but when the night came, it was really dark and we only had one candle and a couple little flashlights. us wimps, but we ended up staying at the mission home with President and Sister Cooper for 4 nights!  That was really nice.  I really love the Coopers and their house is really nice!

There have been so many cool service opportunities from the storm.  We have been doing service all week, just going out in our jeans and t-shirts.  On Tuesday, we helped an older couple in our ward clear out their banana trees that had been destroyed.  Then we were going to go help at the Bishop's house, but on the way we saw some people cleaning up their yard and offered to help.  They accepted and were very grateful.  Their names are Debbie and Bob, and they said we could come back anytime!  It was cool because their neighbor came out and saw us working and came over to help.  After that, we helped the Hawthorne family clear out their backyard.  The Vickerys, who we had helped with the banana trees, let us come over that night and shower and eat and do some laundry.  They are some of the kindest people!

On Wednesday, President Cooper suggested I stay with Sister Cooper for the day so I could help her and have my last interview with him.  My companions went with the Tampa 2 sisters back to Gibsonia for the day, and I helped sort through leftover hurricane supplies at the mission office.  I had my interview and it went really well.  It was mainly about goals and things to focus on upon returning home.  Sister Cooper and I went home for dinner and I helped her make some delicious tortellini soup and ate it with her and President when he got home.  It was really special to get some one on one time with them and get to know them better.

On Thursday, Hermanas Anderson and Mortensen came with us to Gibsonia because they had been staying at the mission home too because their power was also out.  We saw a yard that had a lot of debris in it and went and knocked on the door but there was no answer.  So we decided to clean it up anyway!  Then a man and his mother saw us working from across the street and came to help.  It was really cool.  That day our power came on, but then went off again.

On Friday, we left the mission home for good because our power was back on.  We went to a church near our apartment and helped pass out food and water to people. That night we went to a fall wreath making activity that the Relief Society president had put together.  On Saturday we helped clean up the church in the morning but I wasn't feeling well so we got some herbal tea and headed home.  I slept for a long time.  I'm still sick, but I think it's just a nasty cold.

Well, that's about it!  It has probably been the craziest 2 weeks of my life.  I think I have whiplash from the roller coaster, haha.  But it has been good.  We couldn't know joy without knowing adversity, and Jesus Christ has suffered all and can strengthen us through all of our trials.  That is how we can have hope.

1. Boarding up windows at the Lewises
2. We stacked all our mattresses and put the bikes in the kitchen.  Everything was away from the windows and put up high.  We were prepared!
3. Lakeland sisters represent!
4. Heading out to Tampa!
5 and 6. All the missionaries in the shelter
7. Sister Robertson and I
8. Getting a taste of Irma
9. Banana tree debris at the Vickerys
10. Huge pile at the Hawthornes
11. Us with the Hermanas at the Coopers
12 and 13. Sunday selfies 

Leaping Lizards!

September 4, 2017

Hello, everyone!

This week was quite eventful.  On Monday night we watched Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration with an investigator named Bill Stacey (that's my great-grandpa's name ☺).  He seemed to enjoy it and believes Joseph Smith is a prophet but doesn't have motivation to change.  It was cool to feel the power of the Spirit in the movie and the testimony of the members who came with us.  After that we taught a recent convert whose name is also Bill.  He's really cool!

On Tuesday we had district meeting and then taught an investigator named Dustin.  He is 18 years old and has been reading a verse of the Book of Mormon almost every day for awhile and was strongly committed to come to church - his stepdad even said he would drive him - but he ended up having to work.  He seems willing to learn but he is also comfortable where he is at and doesn't feel the need to change.  We taught him on Thursday too and he seemed a little confused about the three kingdoms of glory.

That night after dinner we switched companions because Sister Barkdull and Sister Graham had a meeting to go to the next day in Tampa.  Sister Frye, Sister Robertson, and I went to an appointment with a young man named Isaac that Sister Barkdull had met a couple weeks ago.  We called him right before to confirm and he gave us his address and said a woman would be there.  When we got there, his parents answered and said he doesn't live there and hasn't for several months.  It sounds like there was some kind of falling out between him and his dad.  They were concerned about him but hopeful that he had reached out to us.  They had been praying for someone to help their son.  We taught them about the Book of Mormon and they said they would like to read it.  We gave them a copy and went to leave, when Isaac's brother comes inside and says that Isaac is sitting outside waiting for us.  Long story short, we go and talk to Isaac for awhile and he is very open to learning and wants to strengthen his relationship with God.  We taught him the Restoration and he seemed to understand it well.  When we gave him a Book of Mormon, he started reading it right away.  We ended up having the elders teach him but it sounds like he is doing well!

On Thursday night, we finally found Kiki!  She is really cool and she has family who are also interested in learning: a 16-year old aunt named Tiffna, an 8-year old aunt named Falda, and an 11-year old brother named Junie.  We met them and set an appointment for the next day.  Kiki has good memories of the church from before she moved and said her favorite thing that she learned was about Joseph Smith.  The even bigger miracle is...they came to church!!!  Kiki, her little aunt Falda, and stepsister Arianna were late but seemed to have a really good time.  Kiki is planning on coming to the youth activity on a Wednesday.  We are excited to see what happens as we continue to teach them!

Other than that, not a whole lot happened.  Sister Frye was sick for most of Friday and Saturday so we were in the apartment a lot.  But we went to 2infinity today, an indoor trampoline park that is owned by some members of the ward.  It was pretty fun!  Pictures to follow 📸

Something I have loved this week is the miracles we have been able to see, and the fact that they don't happen by our efforts but by Heavenly Father's power.  We are "instruments in the hands of God" (Alma 26:3) and sometimes I feel like we just get to sit back and watch the miracles happen.  Of course, we do need to act in faith and follow the promptings of the Spirit.  But we can do everything in our power and nothing will happen without the hand of God.  I know He loves His children so much!  Have a wonderful week!

1. This picture actually describes our relationship pretty well...
2. My companions are silly.  They took this while I was in the bathroom.  😝
3. Sister Frye at 2infinity
4. Sister Barkdull at 2infinity
5. Me at 2infinity
6. Emailing at the church

Three Nephite Women

 August 28, 2017

Hello, all!  Here we are in Gibsonia.  It's a very interesting place.  The people are very humble and kind of odd country folk.  It's super cool, though!  Everything is more spread out and run down from the places I have been before.  Sister Barkdull and Sister Frye are both amazing and super fun, not to mention gorgeous.  We make a fun team :)  I forgot how fun trios are!

Monday was a miracle night!  Sister Durrant and I kind of spontaneously decided to go way to the bottom of our area where we had never been to visit a referral we had received and stop by some less active members we hadn't met.  It went really well!  We met the referral and his family.  They speak Spanish but we were able to communicate enough to set up another appointment and tell them where the church is.  We then stopped by a couple other families and were able to get to know them a little and set up appointments back to back for Saturday.  I hope they all went well!  It was super cool and I know God led us to that area.

Tuesday was a delicious dinner with Sister Gardner and her daughter Karli and her son Joey, and then Wednesday was transfers.  We got stuck in bad traffic on the way to Tampa and were pretty late to the training meeting Sister Durrant was going to.  Somehow Sister Frye and I were able to stuff all of our luggage in our little car and we headed off!  That night we went to mutual and got to meet some of the members of the ward.  There is a good group of youth here!  There are hardly any in Apollo Beach.  We had cupcake wars!  One member called us the three Nephite women.  I thought that was funny.
We received a referral for a 15 year old girl named Kiki who just moved here from another area in the mission and was about to be baptized, but haven't been able to find her address.  We have tried multiple times with different combinations of numbers and street names.  We called over and over and were finally able to talk to her once but it's her dad's phone so we are afraid of bothering him.  It sounds like she's in a crazy family situation.  Please keep her in your prayers!

On Saturday we did an exchange and Sister Robertson who just came from the Missionary Training Center was with Sister Frye and I for the day!  She is really, really cool and she and I are going to do a musical number together at zone conference!  We were able to meet a less active recent convert and help her sort through clothes a little bit.  We set up a time to meet with her and help her do some family history this week.

Yesterday we went to church and the ward is really great!  The people are really nice and there is a lot of diversity.  Sister Frye and I and the new elder were asked to share our testimonies in sacrament meeting.  That night we visited a family who Sister Durrant had told me about.  It is a mother and 2 daughters, but only the mother was home.  We were finishing up about to leave and then her daughter Lee walked in with salad for us (which was a blessing because we hadn't had time to eat dinner yet).  She played the guitar and sang for us because she is super talented.  Her sister is currently trying out for American Idol.  They still have Sister Durrant's signature on their whiteboard on their fridge :)

Anyway, that was pretty much our week.  I'm excited to be here and get to know the people.  It is a really special place and I know there are multiple reasons I came here.  A scripture I found this week that I really liked was 2 Nephi 10:20:

"And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea."

Maybe I feel as if I have been driven out of the land of my inheritance, but I have been led to a better land.  I have felt the strength from Heavenly Father to get me through all of the adjustments and trials that I have gone through, and I know I don't need to hang down my head but I need to remember him.  I love the scriptures and I know they are the word of God!  They have brought me peace and comfort countless times.

Thank you all for being so awesome!  I love you and hope you have a great week!

1. Sister Durrant let me wear her hat...last day together :(
2. Transfers!
3. On our way!
4. Dinner with a recent convert Kaci.  We actually came here to her baptism when I was companions with Sister Jensen!
5. Sister Robertson's first big Florida rainstorm!  We didn't get that wet because the member we were visiting walked us out with umbrellas. 
6. The Sabbath is a delight :)

Last transfer in...Gibsonia!

August 21, 2017

Hello, everyone!

So first off, this week is transfers.  We found out today that I am going to Gibsonia out in Lakeland.  I will be in a trio again, with Sister Barkdull and Sister Frye!  I know Sister Frye and she is awesome and really sweet.  Sister Durrant will also be in a trio and training a new missionary!  

We had the last district meeting of the transfer on Tuesday and then went and taught Toni at Dunkin Donuts.  It was one of the coolest lessons I've had on my mission!  She is amazing and so willing to learn.  She loves what we teach, wanted to come to church, and committed herself to read from the Book of Mormon.  She asks great questions, too. 

We taught Brother Lambru on Wednesday and he seems to be doing better.  On Thursday we weekly planned, had coordination, and practiced for a musical number that Sister Durrant is doing next week.

On Friday we taught Toni again at a member's house and it went well!  She had read some of the Book of Mormon and said it made sense to her.  She was still set on coming to church but didn't show on Sunday and we haven't heard back from her.  After seeing Toni we went to Sister Valdez and she gave us delicious chicken and vegetable soup!  That night we went on an exchange.  I was with Sister Graham on the USF campus for the day.  It was pretty cool!  On the way home on Saturday we got stuck for almost 40 minutes on a road because of a bad accident.  Adventures!  At least there was a little lightning to watch.

Yesterday we talked to an inactive member named Sister Gardner who I had met briefly before but only been able to catch her daughter the other times.  She was really cool and we came just as she was putting bricks in the yard so we were able to help her.  Then it started to rain so we went inside and she told us about herself.  She wants to change her life and knows that some of the choices she is making are wrong.  She invited us over for dinner on Tuesday and her daughter who is also an inactive member and her son will be there.

Well, I'm excited to see what Gibsonia has in store!  I'll miss Apollo Beach but I know someone else is needed here now and it will be for the best because Heavenly Father's plan is loving and perfect.  I hope you all have a great week!

1-3. The district
4. Studying at the church
5-6. Exchange!  A big group of us had dinner together.


2 Npehi 2:25

August 14, 2017

Hello, everyone!  It was an interesting week to be sure.

On Monday night we had dinner with an awesome cute little family we had met a few weeks ago.  It was delicious soup and they are so cool!  They have a family member who is a member of the church and had cool questions about what we believe.  It was one of the only times on my mission that the dinner conversation was on topic!  Haha.

On Wednesday we met with President Cooper.  We talked about my health and my going home date.  Long story short, I am coming home October 3 and I was able to get a doctor's appointment for the next day.  After we got back we helped a member of the Valrico ward's grandmother who just lost her husband get a bunch of heavy trash bags from the garage to the curb to be picked up.  She is so sweet!  We taught Brother Lambru and he is overwhelmed with all of the things he is learning.  We are trying to help him focus on the most important things.  He went into the hospital yesterday morning.  We think it has something to do with his blood sugar.  He blames not drinking coffee.  Please keep him in your prayers!

We met some cool people on Thursday and had breakfast coordination at Brother Young's house on Friday.  Not much else notable happened.

On Saturday Ray politely told us he really wasn't interested in learning more and gave us back his Book of Mormon.  Afterwards, two teenage boys had told us to knock on a specific house so we went.  The person who answered turned us away, but we had an awesome conversation with a man across the street!  He has a relative who recently became a member of the church and has seen the happiness it has brought her.  He said his family has been looking for a church and he would definitely look into the information we gave him.

Yesterday we taught Relief Society and went to a wedding!  A less active man got married to a sweet girl who is not a member.  A lot of their family and friends were there which was awesome.  It was a beautiful ceremony.  The groom's mother had invited us to the reception, but they didn't know the address so they told us to follow them.  Something came up so they had already left by the time we were leaving, so we texted the dad for the address to see if there was any chance of still going.  Before we hardly knew what was happening, the groom had driven back to the church to meet us so we could follow him.  What?!  We felt bad but I guess he didn't mind.  It wasn't far.  It was a nice dinner and we got to talk to some people there.

Last night we were walking in a neighborhood and decided to go past Toni's house.  (We met her awhile ago and she wants to meet with us but it hasn't worked out.)  Well, it turns out she was outside!  She had missed our appointment on Tuesday because she broke her foot.  She hobbled along talking to us and asked us about church and why our church was different.  We were able to set up another appointment and are really excited to meet with her!  She seems really interested in learning more and coming to church.

There are miracles all around and I am so grateful to be able to witness so many of them!  Heavenly Father is aware of us and loves us.  Everything is part of His great plan for our happiness.  I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Cake and tamales!

 August 7, 2017

Hello, everybody!

On Monday night we taught Sister Figueroa with Sister Barahona, who was a great interpreter and fellowshipper.  Then we received a referral so we went to see her.  She ended up being an 16 year old girl named Naudia who is really sweet and was referred by her best friend in Nebraska, where Naudia and her family just moved from.  She has been to church and other activities with her friend and enjoyed it.  She wants to feel more strongly that God is there.  She and her family belong to another church and seem pretty set in it but we'll see how it goes!

We had district meeting at the mission office on Tuesday because of interviews.  I got to see Sister Lesuma and talk to her for a little bit!  Sister Durrant got to see her last companion, Sister Zinck.  Interviews went pretty well.  After we got back we went to see Sonia (Nina's mom who we've been trying to teach) and talked about the Book of Mormon.  She is open to reading it and meeting with us.

We stayed for most of Wednesday in hopes of killing Sister Durrant's cold.  She is better now.  We had coordination that night and a meeting with Bishop.  Both went well.  That night we had about half an hour left and we were walking around our apartment complex.  We needed up meeting some really cool people and giving away 3 Book of Mormons! 

Thursday...was my birthday!  We weekly planned, ate cake, and weekly planned some more.  We had a lesson with a less active member named Sister Doniaz, who has been really struggling since her husband's death 5 years ago.  But during the lesson she really felt inspired to come back to church and said she might be late, but she would be there on Sunday!  She also invited us back for dinner next week.  

We saw Sonia again on Friday and she was asking questions and seemed interested in the Book of Mormon.  At the end of the night we had stopped by a woman named Rebecca who we had met awhile ago but nobody answered.  We passed back by her house and her son was outside starting the lawnmower.  He went and got Rebecca and we had a great conversation with her, showed her the Prince of Peace video, and gave her a Book of Mormon.  She asked kind of out of the blue if there was a way she could receive a blessing for the family's upcoming move to Virginia.  Some nuns had blessed her sons when they were babies and she had really appreciated it.  We said sure, we know some elders who would love to come by!  So we will probably be going on Wednesday night.

On Saturday we were finally able to go to the Mary & Martha House thrift store to serve again.  It turns out they were open an extra hour for a sale.  We ran into some members of our ward who we hadn't met before.  They gave us a referral and introduced us to the employees who they knew.  We had a great discussion with two of the employees about what we do as missionaries.

On Sunday I met another Natalie Porter at church!  She and her husband were visiting for their honeymoon.  Brother Lambru wasn't feeling well and Sister Doniaz didn't make it either.  The elders had some people there, though, which was awesome!  After church we stopped by a woman who we had met before and she let us in for a lesson on the spot!  It went pretty well.  We read the Book of Mormon with Tammy after dinner and she seemed to connect with what was being taught.  Finally we saw the Cordova family and got to know Roxanna, the super sweet 15 year old daughter, a lot better.  She has been through a lot but is always smiling.  We gave her her own copy of the Book of Mormon and showed her a video.  We are excited to see what happens; she likes to read!  At the end Sister Cordova gave us authentic tamales.  They might have been a little too authentic for eyes were watering and my face was burning up, haha.  But it was delicious!

There was a scripture that stuck out to me this week as we and all the missionaries in the mission joined in a mission fast.  I know that Heavenly Father loves us and wants to help us in any way he can.  I have felt his love many times and I am so grateful for the blessings he gives me even when it feels like nothing can help.

Alma 31:32
"O Lord, wilt thou comfort my soul, and give unto me success, and also my fellow laborers who are with me--yea, Ammon, and Aaron, and Omner, and also Amulek and Zeezrom, and also my two sons--yea, even all these wilt thou comfort, O Lord. Yea, wilt thou comfort their souls in Christ
1. Eating lunch at the mission office before interviews
2. Happy birthday to me!
3. My snazzy cake making skills
4. It's a marble cake!