Monday, January 27, 2014

Reactivating The Whole World (well mostly just our ward)

Dearest Wonderfulest Mason Family,

This has mostly been a week of talking with really frustrating people and working with many less-active members. Mostly if we don't have any appointments at night, we end up going around to visit less-actives in the area. This week, many of them let us talk to them for a few moments before they wanted us to leave. 

We met some of the nicest members, but they had such sad stories. Many of them had served missions, worked at the temple, or were just life-long members, but for some reason have fallen away from the church. It has been so sad to talk to them and for them to say that for whatever reason they do not "believe" anymore. It was heartbreaking. Some of them even said that they know they will come back eventually, but for now they try to stay away.

Anyways, we seem to have been having a lot of success with the less-actives and the Focus 15 families. We have been seeing some great improvements in those people we are teaching and we were so happy to see that at least 3 less-actives came to church yesterday, and 3 of our investigators came as well! Sometimes it doesn't seem like we are doing a lot here, but then we just have to look back and see the little successes we have here every day and every week! 

These are the things that get me through our weekly planning sessions
(usually about 4 hours of going through what we are going to teach
everyone, how we are going to get investigators to come to church,
and setting up appointments) on Friday mornings. My choice is
ginormous suckers and "Belly Flops." Belly Flops are all the
defective Jelly Bellys that they sell in bags here.

One family that we saw this week are recent converts. They are the most adorable family ever. They have 3 little children that are really bright. Two of the children basically taught the whole Restoration lesson when we went over there. One of them is 9 years old, has only been a member for less that a year, and still knows more about the gospel than I do. They are such a wonderful family and the children have just been a blessing to the family. 

This family has been through periods of activity and inactivity in the church, and the last time they decided to come back to church was because of the two oldest daughters. These daughters also told us that every morning they have scripture study together out of the Book of Mormon while everyone else is getting ready for work or school. The mother said that they just started doing that one day and they actually understand what they are reading. I was just really impressed with this family and I am so excited that they openly welcome us back to teach them! 

We actually are going to teach all the lessons to the 7 year old who is getting ready to be baptized. The rest of her family got the lessons, so she wants us to come over and teach her too! She is the cutest, and she is one of the ones who reads scriptures every single morning. You should have seen the absolute excitement on her face when we gave her a Restoration pamphlet to read before we come back, and when we told all of them that they will get to go to the temple soon and be sealed as a family! The two girls were more than excited for that because I told them that I had to wait till I was almost 21 to go all the way inside the temple, and they get to go when they are only 8 and 9! They are just too adorable!
There are many old people here that have started to go ALL OUT for
Valentines day. There are many senior mobile home parks in our area
and those are the places that people seem to go all out decorating.

Also, we were able to meet with M again this week! We taught her the Word of Wisdom and really went over why the Lord has asked us to live that. She has been trying to quit smoking for years now and actually hates smoking. For some reason or another, she still hasn't been able to quit. We were able to give her a game plan of how to help her quit, which involved at first decreasing her smoking to only 5 cigarettes a day and then whenever she had a craving she was supposed to listen to the Book of Mormon, pray and ask for help, or call us.
It has been really frustrating though because this week she said that she hasn't been able to cut down at all. We are still trying to do everything we can to help her quit, but with all the stress that is going on in her life, it has been really hard for her quit. One great thing she told us in her lesson though was that she said, "You know what is weird? I was listening to the Book of Mormon on CD on my way home from work yesterday and I only smoked 2 cigarettes on the way home when I usually smoke 4 or 5." We told her that wasn't weird at all but that was Heavenly Father taking away her desire to smoke.
M has such wonderful potential, but stopping smoking has just been such a trial for her. (Do you have any suggestions of how to help people quit smoking? We will take any advice!) Also, she stayed for all 3 hours of church for the first time! We have been trying so hard to get her to Relief Society because we know that she would just LOVE it! She came and she did love it! Sometimes it's just baby steps with her but she has made such GREAT Progress!

This week we got a brand new car! That also meant that we had to borrow
the Zone Leaders' car while they drove down to Ventura to pick up our car.
Of course for the few days we had their car we just had to listen to all
their CD's and wear their sunglasses as much as possible!

Our old district! Hermana Eastman, Hermana Brown, me, Sister Blanchard,
Elder Jenkins, Elder Clough, Elder Santos, and Elder Passey.
The crazy thing is that the only person who was transferred was Elder Jenkins,
and that was only because he became a new AP. Our district is all
sticking around this transfer, so that is crazy but so exciting!

So for the frustrating people. There were many people that would talk for us for so long just to prove everything we believe is wrong. Although this is not new to me whatsoever, I feel like this week was full of this type of people. I was really proud of Sister Blanchard and me though because no matter what they told us, we were very persistent and wanted to explain to them what we actually do believe. It was a great experience. I am not one that likes to argue. In fact, in many cases if people begin to argue with me like this, I would rather just say okay and walk away instead of trying to help them understand our point of view.

Couldn't help but send this one.

We had our fair share of people who wanted to argue with us but we were able to remain calm and help them understand that everything that we believe (no matter how crazy the belief might seem) comes down to the question of if Joseph Smith was in fact a prophet of God, called to restore His true church, and if the Book of Mormon was true. Although those people were downers of the week, they were moments that proved how much I have truly learned out here on my mission, and they proved to me how much I love and believe in this gospel.

Sister Mason

Monday, January 20, 2014

Service and a Few Excursions!

Mom and Dad,

This week hasn't been too eventful but it has been a great week! We were able to do service for an inactive member of our ward. She is a very sweet lady but very closed off to the gospel. She has invited missionaries in the past to come over and do service for her. We were able to go a few times this week and help her pull weeds in her front yard. It was great to be around her. She would open up to us a little bit more and we were able to share a few things with her. We invited her to a relief society activity this week and she declined. We just hope that through the ward reaching out to her, and her letting us come by, her heart will soften. She is really going thought a lot right now and she just desperately needs the gospel!

A little gardening

We also were able to meet for the first time with one of our new investigators B. He is really a great story of how much a great example of church members can impact people's lives. He knew a member from work that he has been really good friends with over the years. This man had also previously been a bishop and was always sharing the gospel with him, but more importantly he has been a really good example to B just by the way he lives his life.
This man gave B a copy of the Book of Mormon a few years ago and he has actually picked it up and read it a few times. He told us that sometimes when he read the Book of Mormon it just really hit home for him, and then other times he just found himself confused. When we met him he said that he wanted to learn more about the Book of Mormon.
The best part of our lesson was that he told us that because of his friend's example of great family values, and how he lives his life, he wants to be a part of this church. He has actually been wanting to visit a sacrament meeting to find out what it is all about. He was just a really nice man and sincerely searching for the gospel! I am just so thankful for his friend, for being a great representative of the church, even when he probably didn't think anyone was watching him. I am really excited to see how things go with B because he has a sincere desire to read the Book of Mormon and he is excited to come to church when he is in town for the weekend. 

Good old Sisquoc. It is basically a little town out in the middle of nowhere and has
chickens and a few scary dogs roaming around on the streets. Couldn't get any better!

We had a lesson with M again this week and she was able to get a priesthood blessing! I didn't know what to think because right after her blessing all she said was "well, that was strange." It was neat because she was told in her blessing that she has had many opportunities to accept the gospel and now is her time to humble herself. She got a little chastised in her blessing, but it was wonderful. She also said that she has been thinking and praying a lot about baptism, so we will see! We had a Relief Society activity where a member who is a psychologist taught us about emotional self-reliance, and we made cards. M came and absolutely loved it! She stayed and socialized with the sisters from the ward afterwards too.

This Saturday we had a wonderful experience going around with a young woman from our ward. She is 18 and planning to serve a mission at the end of next year, so she has really been looking for missionary opportunities. She went with us to go to an appointment with one of our investigators, then contact a few other people and also try to find other people home that we hadn't seen in a while. Well, the appointment we had fell through so she just went around with us doing the typical things, like declaring to people on the streets and trying to talk to people we haven't been able to catch home. It ended up not exactly going as planned but she was able to have a real missionary experience and practice talking to people. She absolutely loved it and we are excited to try to arrange something like that again. I am really so impressed with young women that are already preparing to serve missions!

The Rices! They are a family in our ward that are the best! It is always an
adventure going to dinner at their house because they live basically out in outer
darkness in the mountains and have tons of goats, chickens, and a few horses.

This week we were also able to contact many less-active members that were actually really receptive. Many less-actives we meet with aren't very happy when we show up to their door, but we were able to meet with some wonderful people that we are very hopeful about! Also, we had a great opportunity to meet with a less-active man that has been very sickly. He has been basically confined to his home because of his health issues. We were able to teach him the Restoration, and he was tearing up by the end of the lesson. It was just wonderful to feel like we even made a little difference in his life that day. He was just such a sweet man to meet. Besides that though, it has really just been a typical week of trying to find new people to teach and having many many appointments fall through.

An antique restaurant in Los Alamos

We also took a trip out to Los Alamos, a little city we cover that I have never been to. It is honestly THE CUTEST. They have the most adorable little houses. It kind of reminds me of Main Street at Disneyland the way that the little houses and shops look.

An adorable bed and breakfast out in Los Alamos!
This is just a tiny glimpse of how adorable the houses are!

I love it here with Sister Blanchard in Santa Maria! It is such a relief this transfer that I already know her so well, and that we already are used to teaching together. It was great because we are just able to continue working hard together without any type of awkward period of trying to get used to each other. It really has been great so far, and there are always great people here just waiting!
I have really learned a lot here. One thing I've learned would be patience. I have really had to learn how to be patient in many ways, especially with myself, my companion, and our investigators. I am thankful every day to be here and to be trusted to do this great work!

Much Much Love,
Sister Mason

Monday, January 13, 2014

One More Transfer in Santa Maria!


SISTER BLANCHARD AND I ARE BOTH STAYING TOGETHER HERE IN SANTA MARIA! I love Santa Maria and I am sincerely excited to be staying here for another transfer! I am so excited about the people we are teaching here, and the ward is as great as always! I was actually so sad yesterday at church thinking that I might be leaving. Lucky me! I get to stay here and stay with Sister Blanchard to finish up her last 6 weeks of training! This is my first time staying with a companion for more than a transfer!

Our family history center has a sign that says "Heavenly Father
is planning a great Family Reunion... and we are helping!"
Also, on this day I found out that I am a real Mesa girl. This was the first time in
my life that I have ever worn a scarf AND a coat.. that's a little embarrassing.
This week we were able to have a wonderful meeting with one of our investigator D. For a while we have wanted our ward mission leader, Brother Terrazas, to come with us when we visited with him, but it hasn't worked out. This Saturday Brother Terrazas was able to come with us, and he and Doug were really able to connect. It was a great lesson on the Plan of Salvation and it was incredible to have Brother Terrazas there to help answer some of his questions and better understand where D was coming from.

We also had another great lesson with K this week! We taught him the Plan of Salvation, and it was another lesson where we were so glad to have another member there. Sometimes it is hard to gauge how much he understands what we are saying. He has Down Syndrome but is very high functioning and he lives on his own. A sister from the ward came with us and she was such a great help! She has served a mission and she is just a very patient woman. She did such a great job at helping us teach simply, and direct the lesson to his needs. It is always great to meet with him. He also came to church again this week and stayed all 3 hours!!

A great back yard
There are so many great things happening here in Santa Maria! Yesterday we found out lots of exciting news! There is this one former investigator N who has had many LDS friends over the years, and has studied a lot about the church, but didn't really want to take the lessons from the missionaries. Her friend that is in our ward told us that she is finally ready for them! I haven't met her yet but her friend says that she has already read all the standard works and will be a joy to teach. We are so excited to meet her soon! 
Also, our investigator A is going to be available again next week for us to teach him! (Remember him, and what a miracle he was? He's he's the military guy who had to go away for a while.) We are excited to meet with him again! He has amazing potential and we hope that he has really been taking the time to read and think about the Book of Mormon while he's been away.
So there are banks here called Rabobank ("ROB A BANK").
They make me giggle every time we drive past them!
We also had another great lesson with M! We had a lesson on the Plan of Salvation this week and she admitted that her goal is to be sealed in the temple! She lived in Utah a few years ago and has always been in awe of the Salt Lake Temple. She knows that what we teach her is true but she is still having a hard time acting on the answers she is getting. She also came to Sacrament meeting this week!  She has made SO much progress just in the past month and so I am excited to see what the next 6 weeks has in store for her!
The good old Burrito Loco! We have gone there so many
 times with members that the workers there recognize us.
This week we had many great lessons with Focus 15 families and other less-active members. We were able to have members come with us to many of those appointments and it was just wonderful! I feel like we have really been working on member involvement this week and we are seeing great success. This ward is truly a great and welcoming ward, so they have been such a blessing for us here in Santa Maria.
A member from the ward got Sister Blanchard and I "Sister Teddy" bears.
We were dying because they are just too cute and they also even have little missionary bags!
I honestly am excited to work with Sister Blanchard for another transfer! She has taught me so much already, so I know that the next six weeks are going to be great! This transfer I have learned more about sacrifice and it has all been because of Sister Blanchard. She has taught me how to love and care for everyone we meet even more, and she has shown me how she willingly gives up all her time and thoughts to our investigators. We have had such great times together and she is really making great progress! This week we have really been able to teach together and work together well, so I am excited that we can just let this continue on next transfer!
By the way, there are a few people in my ward here that will be going to the Gilbert temple open house! I told them to say hello to my family for me!
Much much love,
Sister Mason

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Brand New Year

Maam and Dad,

This week we had many wonderful and interesting lessons. One was with the girl who was planning to get baptized this coming weekend. We went over and met with her and her mom to arrange everything so she could be ready to be baptized this week. It was really sad because she ended up telling us that she wasn't ready and that she "didn't have a good enough reason to get baptized." That was really sad but she just wants to keep learning more and maybe in a few months she will want to get baptized.
We ended up having a great lesson with her about the Holy Ghost and how to get answers to prayers. The best part was that her mother is less-active and usually refuses to contribute to the lessons. This week she uncharacteristically explained how the Holy Ghost works and basically bore her testimony of it. Afterwards, her mother, of course, tried to play it off like she doesn't believe any of this anymore. It was incredible because we know that the mo always listens and feels the spirit when we are there, but she still tries to pretend like she doesn't believe. I think it is finally getting to her because this time she was so much more open to sharing spiritual experiences. So although it was kind of a sad meeting, we were able to make major progress with the mom.
A cool painting at a Lutheran church near our apartment.
It is just so colorful and I love staring at it whenever we drive by.

One amazing thing was that we had 3 investigators come to church this week. This is the first time that one of them has been to church in about 6 months, so we were so happy that she came! She came by herself and ended up coming late to sacrament meeting, but she made it! She has been pretty stubborn and hard to read in the past but now she is warming back up to the church. This week she told us that she had really been thinking about coming to church but other things have gotten in the way.
We had such a great lesson with her last night too! We brought a member who is a convert and has a powerful testimony. This member was able to share so many experiences about how she felt the exact same way about going to church and the culture of the church. Plus, our investigator finally told us that she had really been praying about what we taught her and she has been getting answers! Just the night before she had stayed awake all night because she was a little caught off guard about the answers she got. She wasn't able to sleep because she had just been thinking about it all night. She said that Heavenly Father had told her that she is moving in the right direction and that this is what she needs to do.
She also slipped and admitted that she knows that what we have been teaching her is true! The only problem is that she admits that she is stubborn and is having a really hard time wanting to do what God wants her to do. She has made SO much progress in just the past month. It is incredible to see! She is just a testimony to me that some people just need a lot of love and perseverance to finally accept the gospel. I absolutely love her and I am just so happy about the changes she is seeing in her life!
Sister Whiting. She is absolutely one of the most hilarious people
I have met here! She is absolutely the best to bring with us to
lessons because we never know what she is going to say!

This week we were also able to meet with one of our new investigators. The great thing was that one of her best friends that is a member was able to be there for our lesson. She was such a great help because she is a convert from Catholicism as well. This member helped explain so much in a way that she could understand, and it was just another great meeting! She had been taught by missionaries before but I think this is the perfect time in her life that she is open to hear the gospel. It has just been so great to see all these people that Heavenly Father has completely prepared so that we could teach them.
We have been meeting with a less-active member. We visit her a few times a week to read the Book of Mormon and have lessons with her. She is reading the Book of Mormon cover to cover for the first time in her life and she is making major progress! She has also been coming to sacrament meeting for the past couple weeks in a row!

This week was sad for two reasons. One is that the father of a Focus 15 family passed away and this week the family held his funeral services. We had our district meeting during much of the services but we were able to go over and show the family support for a few minutes after our meeting. It was just a really sad situation because he is only 40 and his death was very unexpected. We have been trying really hard to show all our love and support for that family especially right now in their great time of need.
Also, the other sad thing is that another less-active member we are working with is have a really had time in her life and is in the middle of a family crisis. Her family is basically falling apart and she is just devastated. We are really proud of her though because she is a recent convert and even though she is going through the hardest time of her life, she holds on to why she got baptized in the first place and she realizes that the gospel of Jesus Christ is really what she needs to bring her peace. We were able to meet with her a couple times and we are really proud of her.
The last time we visited her, we shared a really powerful scripture about the Lord easing our burdens so we will no longer feel them upon our backs. We also explained the story about the pioneers and all the trials they faced. After that, Sister Blanchard [remember, she doesn't like to sing] and I sang "Come, Come Ye Saints" for her and the spirit was just so strong. It was just a very powerful experience and we are so glad that we were able to be there to help her.
Cheers to a new year!

This week was also NEW YEARS! We had to be back at our apartment at 7pm so we had about 2 hours of almost free time. The first thing I did was come back and take my sweet time in the shower! Who would've thought that would be something that I miss? After that, we had a craft night working on little lesson ideas. We had a great girls night/craft night to party up New Years Eve. It is honestly so weird that Christmas and New Years have already flown by. PLUS the fact that I have been out 7 months already is a major shocker! Oh how fast time has flown by!

Oh and also, we meet with lots of Hispanics that only speak Spanish, and I have always been a wimp and have been too shy to try my limited Spanish on them. This week I have decided to just do it. I have definitely made a fool of myself speaking Spanish out here but I am really trying! It is actually really cool and it's totally okay because I am really used to making a fool of myself all day every day.

We started off the new year right by chasing down the ice cream
man in the ghetto to get some super tasty ice cream bars

I am so excited that you all will be going to the Gilbert Temple open house. Hopefully you can take some non-member friends with you. Maybe miracles will happen when they enter the temple! You never know. That's what happened to a man in my ward whose wife was a member and he was opposed to it. They attended the open house of the Hawaii temple. When he was in the celestial room he suddenly knew it was all true!
I still love it here in Santa Maria and I am just more and more impressed with the Santa Maria 2nd ward every day. They are very helpful in this work and I don't know what we would do without them. Sister Blanchard and I are still getting along really well and have been getting some great work done together. She has made AMAZING progress over the past couple weeks and I am just really proud of how tough she is. I have been absolutely loving my mission so far and I just feel SO blessed to see so many miracles every day!

I love you soooo much!
Sister Mason