Monday, October 28, 2013

I Love Santa Maria!

Mom and Dad,

I love Santa Maria! It is very different from my last area but the people here so far have been very receptive to us and seem to have been waiting for us. We just kept meeting people this week that were 100% prepared for us to meet them. I have been surprisingly shy this week as I am trying to get to know the area and the people here but hopefully this week I will be feeling much more comfortable and feel a little bit back to normal. This area has such great potential and so I am so excited to see what the weeks ahead have in store!

In the Lord's Vineyard
Santa Maria is basically a farm town. There are broccoli, cauliflower, and strawberry fields everywhere! As sister Higgins says, "We are literally in the Lord's vineyard out here!" It reminds me a lot of a "farmy" Mesa.  I really really love it here! We are living in a basement of a member's house and it is great! I love living with members!
I transferred from Agoura Hills (red pin in center of map)
to Santa Maria, 125 miles up the coast

 I absolutely love working with Sister Higgins too! She is so motivated and bold it is incredible. People are sincerely drawn to her and her personality and she is just a great example of a wonderful missionary. She is also so easy to get along with, has a great sense of humor and it just all around solid. She is from Chandler. It has been great to be with another Arizona sister!  Her family is probably only 20 minutes away from you! (They love El Charro so you guys should go on a double date or something!)
Sister Higgins and I found this great new investigator

This week has been a wonderful week in Santa Maria! We have met some of the most prepared people! One of the most exciting things was when we met a woman I'll call "C'. We were near her apartment complex talking to another woman and she walked by and told us that she wants our card and phone number because she wants to get baptized. It turns out that her sister is a convert and that her sister and brother-in-law have been working with her and telling her to join the church. I was in shock because I have heard of something like this happening before but I had never met someone like her!

We were able to meet with her just two days later and teach her The Restoration and Word of Wisdom. It was so great because while we were teaching her The Restoration she just kept saying that she agreed with everything we were telling her. She said that she just really has been wanting fellowship, to feel the spirit more in her life and, and to live a clean life. She also said that she had been reading parts of The Book of Mormon before we ran into her! We told her that she could get baptized in 3 weeks (November 16th) but that means that she would have to stop drinking coffee and smoking by the next day and to come to church every Sunday before her baptism. She agreed and decided right then she would stop smoking. She was also given a priesthood blessing the next day to help her overcome her smoking addiction. She has been going strong and came to church yesterday! She is very excited about her baptism. The crazy thing is that I never expected to see her!
Elder Collard, Elder Welker, me and Sister Higgins! We were all together in the MTC.
This week we had a little reunion at a combined ward mutual activity.

We were also able to meet with a less-active woman and her 3 children and 1 step-child who are about 16, 15, 13, and 9. We taught them The Restoration because the son "M" wanted to learn more about the church. The children have never been baptized and have only gone to church a few times in the past. It was a wonderful lesson and the kids had great insights and experiences to share (especially "M" who is 15). They started to ask us how they would know that the church was true and we told them how simple it is to know! We explained that by reading their scriptures, going to church, and praying, they can know that it is true! At the end, we committed them to read a chapter in The Book of Mormon and we gave the youngest daughter a children's Book of Mormon. She was so excited to read it. I really cannot wait to see them again because they are so young, but they are sincerely looking for the truth!

Another miracle happened when we went looking to find where this man lived that Sister Snow and Sister Higgins had met in the park. We were around where he said he lived and knocked on a few doors. A man we met said that he and his family had been looking for a church. We told him about the primary program this Sunday and he was interested to know if there were programs for his two young daughters. We told him about primary and the different classes on Sunday and he was really excited. He started to ask us if there was like a 101 class to learn about the church and if there was a website that he could go to to learn more. We told him that he was one step ahead of us! We told him that we would love to come back and teach his family about the history of our church and our beliefs. Plus we told him about where he could learn more before we meet with them. We will see how that goes!

This week was also the Primary Program! It was basically the cutest thing ever and the spirit was so strong! All last week we were handing out flyers inviting everyone we could think of to come to the Primary Program.

Transfers were just great, and it was wonderful to see everyone! Sister Randall is now a Sister Training Leader and Hermana Linford is a Spanish Sister Training Leader! We have the best mission ever and by far the greatest leaders!

Sister Randall                                         Hermana Linford

I wish I had about 5 more hours to write so I could just tell you about all the miracles and great things that happened this week!

Sister Mason

Memories of Agoura Hills

Here are some of the wonderful people I got to know and love and serve during my time in Agoura Hills.

(Click on any picture to enlarge)

From left to right:
Sister York - she is absolutely wonderful and was always there to help
Gabby and her dogs that we would walk
The great Sister Mahterian!

 The sweet Rays
 The Harts - one of the nicest families ever!

The Hulls. I love this cute family!
The Olsons

Pam - one of our recent converts. I love her so much and I will miss her!
The Pauls

Monday, October 21, 2013

I'm getting transferred! Plus, one of the best weeks ever!

I am transferring tomorrow! I am going to Santa Maria and my new companion will be Sister Higgins! Sister Higgins was in the MTC with me and she is straight up hilarious! I loved the time I spend with her in the MTC and so I am so excited that we will be together!

She is from Scottsdale or Chandler, so it will be a companionship of Arizona sisters. Crazy thing too, she already graduated from ASU before she came. I can’t believe that 2 Sun Devils would end up together. She is a couple of years older than me, but besides that we are almost twinners. I can't wait for all the adventures and miracles we will have in Santa Maria! I will send you pictures of me and Sis. Higgins soon. I know that I took a few pictures of her at the MTC, so she will be a familiar face.

Our MTC Sisters, including my new companion Sister Higgins
and my replacement, and MTC companion, Sister Snow
(click to enlarge)

Sister Mapa is staying in Agoura and Sister Snow (my MTC companion) will be her new companion! Sister Snow and I are just switching spots this transfer because she is now companions with my last companion (Sister Mapa) and I am going to be companions with her last companion (Sister Higgins). Crazy huh?

The switch-a-roo companions. Sister Snow, me, Sister Higgins, and Sister Mapa

Mom, thank you for the Halloween package!!! I absolutely loved it, and my roomies just kept telling me that I have the cutest mom ever! It is so true! Thanks for all the cute missionary Halloween quotes on the adorable treats!
Mom, you are the best! We loved the Halloween package!
Even sister missionaries need a little Halloween candy

This week was a week of miracles! Last week I told you that Sister Mapa and Sister Bennett, on exchanges, found two new investigators! I’ll call them B and K, and they are the son and daughter or a former investigator T. We went back to teach B and K and their mom T was there too!

First of all, one of the biggest miracles happened when we were trying to pick the perfect member to come to the lesson with us. We looked through the ward directory to find someone about the same age as the son. We decided on this young man Ammon from the ward, who is a senior in high school and is preparing for a mission. He met us near their house, and when we told him who we were seeing he said that he is really good friends with B and that B even came to church with him before!

The investigators were so excited to see Ammon, and even though this was Ammon's first time coming to a lesson with the missionaries, he did a wonderful job! How perfect was that? It looks like they have automatic fellowshipping from the ward!

We ended up teaching them a brief overview of The Restoration and then taught them the Plan of Salvation. They were all so fascinated with the things that we were teaching them and B (the 17 year old son) was even taking notes! The mom was last taught about 5 years ago and now she says that she is very open to listening to what we had to say. She was basically the perfect investigator and told us that she really wanted to find out if everything we taught her was true! They committed to read the Book of Mormon as a family, and they were excited for us to come back to teach them next week. They have amazing potential!

The Agoura Sisters in our p-day attire

 Another miracle happened when we went to go visit a former investigator P. My companions and I have been trying to catch him home ever since I've been here (starting 4 1/2 months ago). I have never been able to see him and I have been to his house over a dozen times. We've called him many times and have left  him messages. We have had no response but we tried again Saturday morning to see him. Miraculously he was home! Even better than that, he was still interested in investigating the church and we set up an appointment with him to come back later this week! What a miracle! I had been thinking this whole time that he was avoiding us, but it turns out that he just works a lot and has been out of town. I am so excited to see what comes of that!

Our last district picture together!

One other miracle is that one of the less-active members we've been teaching came to church on Sunday! Her name is J and she had told us before that she really wanted to try coming back to church, but it had been years since she has been to the ward. She kept her word this week and came to church! The great thing is that Sister Ray, the member we took with us to visit her last week, called her the night before to tell her where she and her husband would be sitting in Sacrament Meeting, so she could sit by them. Sister Ray also stuck right beside her throughout the meetings so she would never feel alone. J absolutely loved church yesterday and I was so happy that she came!

One last picture with my great companion Sister Mapa

Sunday's meetings were absolutely amazing! In sacrament meeting Sister Mapa and I both gave talks on one of the past General Conference talks about missionary work. Sadly none of our investigators came to hear us speak.  A high councilor spoke too. There was also a fabulous piano, cello, violin, and viola musical number of "Consider The Lillies." It was just wonderful.

Dad, thank you so much for sending me the printed versions of the General Conference talks along with the CD’s that I asked for. The printed versions helped me so much when I was preparing for my talk yesterday! And you didn’t even know that I was speaking.  You are the best missionary dada ever!

During Relief Society we had a Visiting Teaching Conference! We had a brunch and heard great talks on visiting teaching that were so inspirational. The room we had it in looked like a wedding reception. It was totally decked out with beautiful tablecloths, all kinds of cake platters for the food, and many beautiful floral centerpieces. Mom, you would've been in heaven! It was so beautiful and so much fun! It was especially great for J because it was a more interactive class so she was able to meet a lot of sisters from the ward

Planner covers I made for all the sisters in our apartment. They are the best.
You slide your planner in a flap inside and you can also hold cards in it.
Props to Sister DiLiberto for showing me how to make these :)

Besides all that, it was a Plan of Salvation week. We taught that lesson so many times that Sister Mapa and I could probably teach it in our sleep! This week we also started going to members homes to teach little Restoration lessons, and teach them how to share the gospel and introduce the missionaries to their friends. We have focused on families that have high school age kids and it has been great! It has helped them practice to invite their friends to different activities and helped them think of referrals they could give us.

Seriously though, miracles upon miracles are happening in Agoura. I can't even express how different it is now from when this transfer started. At the beginning, we had only one investigator and another investigator that was completely avoiding us. All we really did was walk and tract all day. We were able to find a few more wonderful people to teach, and within the past week or so people are just coming out of the woodwork. We even found a few former investigators that are interested in meeting with us again! It has honestly been one big miracle.

I am so happy for the time I have spent in Agoura. Agoura really became my second home. This transfer was tons of walking and hard work, but I have seen great changes because of our hard work. Splitting Agoura 1st and Agoura 2nd Wards into 2 areas was truly inspired because with all our time dedicated to the 2nd ward, we were able to find new people and see miracles every day.

Happy early Halloween! This week I found one of the biggest pumpkins I have ever seen

I have learned so much this transfer as well. I definitely learned how to work hard and how to have patience. It was hard at the beginning to be all sweaty and exhausted from walking around all day, but sometimes when you have nothing else to do, you just have to knock doors and testify. I know that I have been a stronger person because of this, and I am so happy for the things I have learned here!

I also have basically learned all my flaws this transfer thanks to Sister Mapa. It has been good though because she helped me realized weird things that I don't even realize that I do. It seems like I am starting to get the hang of this whole missionary work thing!

Agoura will be missed, but I am so excited to join Sister Higgins in Santa Maria!

Sister Mason

Monday, October 14, 2013

Exchanges, Reactivation, and Service

Mom and Dad,

It's been another wonderful week here in Agoura Hills. We had exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders this week and it was such a wonderful experience! I had the pleasure to stay in Ventura this week with Sister Burwell. I had a great experience and learned so much from her. She is such a great missionary and she taught me how to be a little bit more persistent. I noticed that she tried to leave something with every person we met. Even if a person walking their dog hurried past, she would stop them and at least hand them a card. She is a wonderful example and she just showed me other ways to be a better missionary.
Me and one of our wonderful Sister Training Leaders Sister Burwell!

Sister Burwell made missionary work look so easy and flawless so it was great to work with her for a whole day. We saw some wonderful miracles in Ventura that day. It was actually very strange to be in a place where the people we talk to actually want to hear what we have to say. In Agoura it seems like most of the time we are trying to convince people why they want to listen to us and why they would want us to come back, so it was a breath of fresh air to talk to many people on the streets who were really interested in what we had to say. Back in Agoura Sister Mapa and Sister Bennett had great success and were able to find two new investigators for us that day! It was just a wonderful exchange overall!
During exchanges I tried to work on listening. I have realized that I am not a very good listener, plus I don't have the best memory either. That has been sad for me to realize, so I really wanted to work on listening better (especially listening for people's concerns).
One day this week was so cold and rainy that
we had to break out the rain coats and tights!

This week we were able to meet with many people, but one of my favorites is a less-active member I'll call J. I think I have told you about her before. We found her name on the ward list about a month ago and decided to go visit her. She is the sweetest woman and we found out that she was baptized a few years ago, but soon after her baptism she went inactive. We have been teaching her almost every week and she is making great progress! We decided to teach her like an investigator and go through the missionary lessons again with her. Yesterday we met with her and taught her The Plan of Salvation and a wonderful sister from the ward came with us. Sister Ray was wonderful in our lesson and really reached out to J to fellowship her.
We found out that J has been regularly reading the Book of Mormon and that she watched General Conference last week! She also said that she is going to come back to church this Sunday, so we are so excited! We realized that she wasn't fully converted when she was baptized, but now she is really taking the time for herself to find out if this gospel is true. She is such a sweet woman and she is definitely one of the best miracles I have seen while I've been here. We will see if she comes to church this week, because if she comes this will be the first time in about 6 years that she has been to church! We also told her that Sister Mapa and I are speaking in church this Sunday, so hopefully that sealed the deal for her!
The members have really been wonderful this week at inviting people to come over when they feed us for dinner. It has been great to see them reaching out to people!
Overall it has been an average but great week! We have really been begging people for service opportunities, so it was great to do more service this week. We were able to do some service for one of our former investigator's by walking their dogs. They are all rescue dogs. It was definitely a sight to see when we first walked them. One of them had diabetes, one had two broken legs, and the other is just hyper and kind of strange looking. Two of the dogs only made it to the house next door before they wanted to go home, so we only ended up walking one of them. Hahah, the things we do for service here!
One of the dogs we are starting to walk

By this time next week I will know what is happening for transfers! I am excited to know what is going to happen this transfer. I am starting to think that I will never leave Agoura Hills. I love it so much here, but if I am here another transfer I will have been here for 6 months! That is a third of my mission! Where in the world has the time gone? I am hoping (a little bit) that I will be transferred, but we will see. I also realized that next transfer will include Halloween and Thanksgiving!
Exciting times are coming up. but even more amazing things are happening here in the great California Ventura Mission!!
Thank you for being the best missionary parents ever!

I love you so so so so much! 

Sister Mason

Monday, October 7, 2013

General Conference Week!

Mom and Dad,

This week was another great week! One of the best things was that we really tried to have daily contact with our investigators. It was great to stay in regular contact with them, and it even provided opportunities to help and serve them more.
One miracle because of daily contact is that one of our investigators came to the stake center to watch general conference with us! She came to the morning session on Sunday and I was so happy to see her that I almost couldn't contain it. She hasn't been to church with us yet, so I was happy that she came. I was mostly happy because I know that some of the talks were just perfect for what is going on in her life right now. Afterwards she told us that she was watching some of conference online on Saturday too. She told us that she had felt the spirit while watching conference and that she has been able to feel the spirit more in her home lately. We were so excited to hear that! I attribute this miracle to our daily contacting efforts. We got to know her so much more and I feel like she was able to trust us more and really take in the things that we are teaching her.

What a wonderful conference weekend! Most of all, conference was just incredible!! We were able to watch every single session. It was hilarious though because we watched it at the stake center, which means that the only ones there were the missionaries from the stake (there are now 9 sets in the stake) and a few other people.
Our district!
Sister Thurgood, Sister Miller, Sister Proctor, Sister Casper, Me, Sister Mapa,
Elder Atkin, Elder Holthe, Elder Reese, and Elder Kleinman

It was so interesting to listen to conference seeking answers for all our investigators and less active members instead of just listening for myself. Some of the talks were absolutely perfect for some of the people we have been working with lately so Sister Mapa and I were just praying the whole time that they were watching it.
I love Sister Mapa!

Conference was another great excuse to talk to EVERYONE. It seemed like we invited every single person we met to watch general conference. It was a great excuse to drop by and talk to people we haven't seen in a while about conference. Hopefully the investigators and members who watched conference were able to have as great of an experience with conference as I did. Mostly I just feel so blessed, and conference reminds me that God does care what is going on in my life and that he really does want to answer prayers.

A few of my highlights from conference: 
David A. Bednar: having the eyes and ears of faith to recognize blessings in our lives.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf: Why would someone want to join a church that requires so much of its members? This talk seriously helped me with some of our investigators and some less active people that don't really feel like they fit in. There is truly a place in the church for everyone!
Kevin S. Hamilton: he was amazing in general. Fun fact is that he was in the Agoura 1st ward and is now a Seventy in Africa. I was able to meet him very briefly here before him and his wife left for their new calling a few months ago!

Elder Kevin S. Hamilton of the Seventy
From the Agoura 1st Ward

What about all the talks about MEMBER MISSIONARY WORK? Are you all now going to go out and do it? Seriously think about the one person you will share the gospel with before Christmas. I know that if every person sincerely does this, miracles will happen! I hope to hear about your personal member missionary game plan!

We were able to have a lesson with M this week and it was wonderful! The lesson didn't go quite as we had planned, but it was still such a great experience. The best part is that a semi-active member came with us to our lesson and she just contributed wonderful things to the lesson. She was able to share her conversion story and experiences from her life that really helped M with some concerns she had. She really emphasized how important it was for M to read The Book of Mormon to find peace in her life. It was a great lesson and I was mostly happy because I believe the investigator and the member were both able to benefit from it.

We were also able to meet with one of our investigators S. She is the sweetest lady ever. Last week we got the sweetest voicemails to reschedule our appointment with her. She said that she needed a few more days before we met with her because she really wanted to go through and read the material that we left her (pamphlets of the restoration and plan of salvation and the introduction to the Book of Mormon). She seems so sincere and really wants to know if what we tell her is true. One sister from the ward was able to come with us to our lesson and she was incredible! She and S have the same personality and temperament so they instantly got along very well. S accepted the invitation to be baptized and when she prayed at the end of the lesson she prayed so sincerely to know if The Book of Mormon was true and that if what we had taught her is true. I can't wait to hear if she was able to watch general conference this weekend because I know that some of the talks would be complete answers to her prayers. She is absolutely wonderful and I am already so happy to have met her.
Another view of the beautiful Agoura hills!

I still am in love with the beautiful Agoura Hills and the wonderful people we meet here every day! Sister Mapa and I have been getting along tremendously and have already learned so much together.

Sister Mapa and I ordered a brownie sundae to share and
definitely didn't expect it to turn out this ginormous. Mmm!

Love you love you love youuu!!
Sister Mason