Monday, February 24, 2014

Goodbye Santa Maria!

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

(Click on any picture to enlarge)

Left - The wonderful Micaela! I truly am going to
miss her and all her sassiness!
Right - Sister Proskow. We loved all the times we got to come
teach her and have heart to hearts with her!

Left - The Sabeys! I love this family! The husband and wife are ward
missionaries and they are absolutely wonderful people!
Right - The Remicks! They were sealed about a week ago in the San Diego
temple and I am just so happy for this adorable family!

Left - The Beasleys. They just spoil us rotten!
They are such a great and helpful family!
Right - Our great Bishop Sais and his wonderful daughter Lindsay! 

Left - The Kecks. Ah, they are incredible!
Right -  The Hulstines! This is our Stake President and his family.
They spoil us here and are such a great missionary-minded family!
Also notice that Logan is pointing to Santa Maria on the map behind us.

Training Ventura!

Mom and Dad,
So the verdict is that I will be transferred to Ventura and train a brand new missionary! It is going to be intense because we will be whitewashing the area (aka my companion and I will both be completely new to the area, replacing 2 sisters). Let's just hope I don't go insane this transfer! I really love training, and the 12 week training program, so I am excited to be companions with another brand new missionary! I just am really praying that she will come motivated and ready to work her buns off because that will be what makes it the best transfer ever.
Fun Fact: The ward I am going to be in is the ward that President and Sister Castro attend, and we will be sharing the ward with one of the sets of Sister Training Leaders, Sister Bartschi and Sister Hegrstom! I am really so excited about that! Last time I talked to President Castro he told me how sad he was that I was so far away and that we don't get to see each other much, and so I guess he took matters into his own hands and transferred me into his ward! Hahaha.
Thank you Dada!! Sister Blanchard and I definitely got some
delicious treats from Cold Stone with the gift card you sent me!

This has been another wonderful week here in Santa Maria! We had a few wonderful lessons this week and were able to find quite a few new investigators. We were able to meet this woman who started investigating the Church in Pismo Beach, but since has moved to Santa Maria. The elders from Pismo gave us her teaching record and we went over to meet her this week. We were a little worried because we had called her 2 times and left a voice mail each time so we could meet with her.
We decided we would show up to her house anyway and see if she was home. We were able to meet with her for just a few minutes but she is truly incredible! We were only over for about 20 minutes, but in that short amount of time with her I knew I already loved her! She is such a strong woman and has been reading and praying about the Book of Mormon! She was a little miracle yesterday.
We also were able to get many media referrals from church headquarters this week and one of them was such a sweet lady! We just showed up at her house that night and introduced ourselves, and she told us that we could come back! The sisters here will be meeting with her later this week and I am just so excited to hear how it goes! 

The Hitching Post. It is a famous restaurant out here in Casmalia! We were
secretly hoping that one day a member would just really want to take us here

We had a lesson with a couple who are new investigators. It was a rough lesson because they told us that they don't believe that the priesthood just belongs to some men and that they don't believe at all in authority. They also brought out all the typical things about the church (blacks and the priesthood, polygamy, problems with Joseph Smith, and also they said that our prophets in the past have had false prophecies) and barely gave us any room to teach.
It was very interesting and so we just smiled and told them what we really do believe. That was tough and a little frustrating because the meeting was a borderline "bible bash". Those kinds of things keep us on our toes though and help us think later about what we really DO believe on these topics. 

We were so glad that we got invited to eat at The Hitching Post! IT WAS SO GOOD!
That's Sister Blanchard, Me, and Sienna, a member's granddaughter

We also were able to meet with K again this week! We taught him the beginning of the Plan of Salvation and he told us that he always believed that we had lived with God before. He shared with us his life story and how he got to the place he is now. He also told us how much he absolutely loved when he went to church last Sunday! He told us that he knew there was something different about us from the first time he overheard us talking about the gospel. He is such a faithful man and so I am so excited to see how he progresses!

Mmmm! We loved The Hitching Post!

This week R came to church! We were so excited to see her because we had scheduled an appointment with her and her sister M on Saturday, but they never showed up. That was very disappointing because Sister Blanchard and I had been really praying about when they could be ready to be baptized, and so we had figured out a date and were so excited to set a baptismal date for both of them.
We met with R after church and she brought up again how bad she wanted to be baptized, so we talked about her preparing herself to be baptized in 3 weeks. She was so excited and then we went over to their house after church to talk to her sister M about it, and if she would be prepared for that day. She told us that she didn't know enough about baptism and that she hasn't been praying about it like she said she would. It was just so sad because they both are just SO READY to be baptized but they just don't see it yet!

Our District
Me, Sister Blanchard, Hermana Brown, Hermana Eastman,
Elder Archibald, Elder Clough, Elder Passey and Elder Santos

We also were able to have a great lesson with M about how she can feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost. We hadn't seen her or heard from her in a few days and we just thought that she wasn't really interested in taking the lessons again. We went over to her house and found out that she has still been listening to the Book of Mormon on her phone and has been praying about it!
She has just been confused because she feels like she isn't getting answers to her prayers, and that she also has been so busy in her life that she really hasn't had much time to think about it. She is so ready to be baptized and I know that this is really what she needs in her life! The hardest part is just getting her to see it!
Honestly, Sister Blanchard and I have been talking a lot about how nice it would be if we could take away our investigators' agency sometimes and MAKE them do what we know would be absolutely the best thing for them. That would make missionary work SO much easier, but I know that it would just be like following Satan's plan. So that probably wouldn't be the best idea.
My quote wall is growing

One of the best things this week is that we did service for a major HOARDER from our ward. Her house is packed with stuff and it is mostly brand new things that are still in the box. We decided to tackle a little corner in her kitchen and that was absolutely a treat! We worked for about 2 and a half hours going through her boxes and boxes of food that expired about 5 years ago. Most of the things were still in grocery bags, so it seems like she just keeps buying and buying things but she doesn't eat much of it. It was definitely a treat! I wish I had a picture to show.

I made sure to get a Boba drink last Monday before I left Santa Maria! Mmmm.
Sister Blanchard thought our Boba smoothies were disgusting though.
Haha you would think that I tortured her into drinking them

 I have honestly learned so much about myself here! It has definitely been hard and disappointing at times, but it has been the biggest growing experience by far. Sister Blanchard has definitely taught me patience and how to treat others. Some days we have been frustrated by each other, but I have learned so much because of it! I am so excited about the opportunity to whitewash and train another new missionary. I'm excited for what this transfer has in store for me and my new companion! 

Love Love Love You,
Sister Mason

Monday, February 17, 2014

Miracles Upon Miracles

My Lovely Family,
This week was just full of miracles! One of the best days this week was when we had exchanges with Sister Stoker and Sister Bartschi. I was with Sister Bartschi for the day. I really learned so much with her and we kept meeting incredible people! She is such a great example of taking every opportunity to bear her testimony to whoever we meet, and she has really taught me how important it is to use the Lord's time wisely. We talked a lot about always teaching whenever we talk to anyone, and it is true that it really makes a difference and allows them to automatically feel the spirit.

On exchange with Sister Bartschi

We were able to find a few great investigators while on exchange. One was K. On our way to our car we saw this man M outside and started to talk to him about the Restoration. In the mean time, his cousin K walks out of the house and stands outside listening to us from a distance. We taught M a quick Restoration, left him with a copy of the Book of Mormon, and set up another time to meet with him. Then K says, "Hey, can I have one of those books too?" We ended up talking to him too and setting up another time to meet with him.

Between the 2 exchanges, Sister Blanchard and I we were able to find 6 new investigators that day! That was just a miraculous day for both of us! On my exchange I wanted to work on really having the faith to find and talk to everyone. It was a little crazy because Sister Blanchard and I both saw immediate blessings from the goals we were separately working on.  The greatest thing about all these people we found was that we found all of them just on our way walking somewhere, or by just knocking on the door next to where we were trying to see someone. All these people were unplanned miracles!
Happy Valentines Day!!

 We were able to meet with M again this week. We had a really great lesson on prophets and the Law of Chastity with her. She is really good at asking whatever is on her mind so it is always great teaching her. We ended up having a lesson about what the role is for Christ, Heavenly Father, the Holy Ghost, and prophets. She also has many questions about how the Plan of Salvation all comes together and why we have to go through such hard times here.
One of the greatest things she said when we helped answer her questions and explained things was how great the gospel is and how it doesn't leave any loose ends. That is so true and I am just so happy to see the light in her these days, and how much she loves going to church, and how much she loves this gospel!
We also were able to meet with her after church with her young women's leader who is wonderful. We went over the title page and introduction of the Book of Mormon and she absolutely loved it. She told us that her mind was blown that this was a story of the ancient Native Americans. She also explained to us how much she loves the way she feels when she is at church. She is an incredible young woman and usually goes to church all by herself. I have never met someone that young who is so sincere about learning and knowing the truth!
Oh you know, just a whale painted on a pink fence in Casmalia :)

We also were able to meet with one of our investigators C again with a member that lives just a few houses down from her! It was a great lesson and she thinks really deeply about things. We had asked her to read the introduction of the Book of Mormon and the testimonies of Joseph Smith and the other witnesses. She had some really deep questions from reading the introduction. We ended up talking a lot about what it means to pray with a sincere heart, and what things Heavenly Father asks us to do while we are here on earth. The lesson went very differently than we had expected, but it was great!

The Silveiras! They are a Focus 15 family that we see almost every week!
They are another wonderful family here.

We had some really powerful lessons with Focus 15 families. One we had was honestly incredible because one of the daughters is usually doing homework at the table when we go over, or is drawing and not really listening to our lesson. For some reason though, she was completely in tune with the whole lesson and we were able to keep her attention. That in itself was a miracle and we are just hoping that this family will start coming back to church very soon!

We also had a great lesson with a brother from the ward. We had it over at our elders quorum president's home. It was about missionary work and enduring to the end. We ended up mostly talking about enduring through trials and the elders quorum president and his wife just had amazing insights and things to share. This man ended up telling us half way through the lesson that he is going through some really hard times right now. The Spirit was so strong in that meeting and we were really glad that the Spirit guided us all to say exactly what he needed to hear.
This church always has the most random quotes

Also, on Valentine's Day we were able to meet with a less-active woman who is going through a lot of marital problems, and she is devastated. We had a great meeting with her, but the best part was that she came to sacrament meeting yesterday! We were more than ecstatic to see her! We really have such a great and welcoming ward here. It is great to stand back and see how the ward really reaches out to people!

We were invited to a single sisters Valentine's dinner with the ward!
We got to spend time with all the wonderful single ladies in this ward!
It was such a nice night and it was so sweet for Bishop and his wife to invite us!!

So this man K (that I talked about earlier) is so great! We have been trying to see him again and so Saturday we went over to visit him and he "just so happened" to have gotten home about a minute earlier. We taught him the Restoration lesson and he had some of the greatest responses. When we told him that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ he said, "Yeh, I believe him." Then we invited him to come to church and when we told him that church was 3 hours long every Sunday he said, "That's awesome!" No one ever is that excited about going to church for 3 hours, or ever accepts Joseph Smith as a prophet that easily.
The story gets even better though! He came to church yesterday and stayed all 3 hours! Also, we had a great lesson in our Gospel Principles class and he would comment in class the whole time! He absolutely came out of nowhere and we are so excited to be able to teach him. He has had a really tough past but he is now trying to get his life back together and start going to church again.
Look what we have in my area! Remember those weird Boba ball drinks?
We went by this morning but it was closed because it is a holiday :(
I am definitely going to try next week to get a Boba smoothie! Mmm

This week one family from the ward also made my day! I have really been craving Lolo's Chicken and Waffles. This family invited us over to dinner and asked if we had any requests. Of course I went out on a limb and requested fried chicken, waffles, and Kool-Aid! Mmmm, it honestly was so tasty and exactly what I was craving! I made sure to thank them a million times and tell them that they made my day! (Make sure to eat at Costa Vida and  Lolo's Chicken and Waffles for me!)
OK, so I like ice cream

Another highlight of this week was that we were able to go to a little party to celebrate this woman's 1 year of being sober from alcohol and drugs! She has been through all the ups and downs, but she has totally changed her life around. I was really trying so hard not to cry like a baby when she was explaining how everyone there has helped her through the toughest times of her life, and how thankful she is every day to be sober. She has made incredible changes in her life, and it is even more exciting to see the joy in her life that has come from her returning to the gospel! She is now a primary teacher in our ward and is a total inspiration! Also, a recent convert family is getting sealed this weekend in LA! I am more than excited for them and the great things they are doing!
A little glimpse of how adorable Old Town Orcutt is

It has just been another great week here. I still love Santa Maria and there are always great things to look forward to! Sister Blanchard and I are still working really well together. In fact, she and I have become so unified that now we just start to read each others' mind! Haha
Much Much Love,
Sister Mason

Monday, February 10, 2014

Another Averagely Wonderful Week in Santa Maria

Mom and Dad,

One of the best things that happened this week is that two of our investigators, M and R, who are sisters, came to an 8-year-old's baptism in our ward this weekend! We were able to meet with them before the baptism to teach them a little bit more about baptism and about keeping the Sabbath Day holy. During the baptism they had so many questions, but they absolutely loved it and felt the spirit. R just kept saying, "So that's all I need to do? I want to get baptized!" and M also said that she just felt so bubbly that she wanted to giggle during the baptism.
After church on Sunday R came up to us and asked what she needed to do to get baptized. We told her that she needs to pray about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, and talk to her parents more about it. She really loved church yesterday and was excited about many of the Young Women's activities coming up!

We were also able to meet with a new investigator C. She is incredible! She is a young mom and just very calm and intellectual. She has studied many religions and all sorts of religious texts, and has even researched much about the LDS church. We were mostly able to talk to her about her expectations and about the different books in the standard works. We are really excited to meet with her again this week, and even more excited that a member that lives just a few houses down from her is able to come with us this week!
Notice my scripture cover. My brother Blair had it made for
 me while he was serving his mission in El Salvador.
It's one of my favorite treasures!

This week we met with a few former investigators that invited us to come over after just texting them to see if they were still interested at all in the church. One man we met with was very interesting because he is a very strong Catholic. We were able to teach him the Restoration, but it turned into all of us explaining the differences in what we believe. It could've easily become contentious but I was really pleased that we were all very nice and respectful, so it didn't turn into anything over the top! He is a very energetic and nice man so we were thankful that we got to meet with him and that it ended up being a pleasant meeting.
The lessons with the other people we had texted were good but did not seem to really go anywhere. That is okay though because they still may not be ready, but I am so glad that we were able to meet with them again and share a little bit of the gospel with them!
The Santa Maria Sisters! Sister Blanchard, Me, Hermana Brown, and Hermana Eastman.
I just love them all so much! It has just been too fun being able
to spend another transfer all together!!

We had a few great Focus 15 lessons this week too. We were able to have a little Family Home Evening with a little family. The mom is less-active and has two little children who haven't been baptized. Sadly, her husband refuses to even come sit with us when we come over and meet with them. It was a great meeting. We sang "Love at Home" together and the mom just started tearing up. It was precious! It is very hard to keep the attention of the kids, but we were able to have a short lesson on The Plan of Salvation and do some activities together where they colored pictures and did other activities from The Friend.
One meeting that was kind of sad was that we met at another family's house with a member who is single. Our lesson was about temples, eternal families, and the priesthood. We really tried to take the member into consideration and not make it a lesson to make him feel bad about not being married. When we told him what we would be teaching he said, "That WOULD be the topic of tonight." It made him feel bad because he is having a hard time dating. Gah, we tried so hard to avoid that!
 We were also able to meet with another family, and the 7 year old was just too adorable! She is getting really excited to be baptized in a few months. We have these props for The Gospel of Jesus Christ lesson where we have a cut-out of a person and of heaven and then these big stepping stones of things that we do to help us get to heaven. She was just so excited about all of it and she basically squealed every time we talked about a new principle/ordinance and she got to move her little person to the next rock. I wish we could teach people who were this excited all day!

Mountain View Pride - even in  California!

This Sunday we were really excited to see M at church. We hadn't heard from her in a few days. We had asked her if she would be coming to church, but she didn't respond. We were surprised to see her show up to Sacrament meeting yesterday all on her own!
The really sad part was that she wanted to meet with us after church. We went over to her house to talk to her and she said that she really doesn't think she should be baptized and she basically doesn't feel comfortable at church. She says that she has been praying a lot about whether she should be baptized and she thinks that she has gotten her answer that she shouldn't. She also told us that church (especially Relief Society meeting) reminds her of group therapy because everyone shares their feelings.
That was really sad to hear but Sister Blanchard really talked to her about how she needs to keep reading the Book of Mormon and know for herself if it is true. She hasn't dropped us completely, but that was really so sad to hear from her. I have seen many sad and discouraging things in my days on the mission but I have also seen incredible miracles to make up for it!
It's been a little rainy in good old Santa Maria, but we have been loving it!

Here's a little miracle from this week. One day it was rainy and we were in Los Alamos trying to contact many potential and former investigators. We had knocked on this man's door and he invited us to come in. We started talking to him about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon and he told us that he felt bad for us for walking out in the rain. He said that what we are teaching must be true because of the sacrifice we were making to share it with other people! We were so thankful for the rain that day and especially that we were able to see miracles because of it!
We started doing service at an old folks home this week and we just spent time coloring with some of the women and talking to them. It was really sad because many of them couldn't remember much, but we were able to help them for a little bit and just talk to them.
We were also able to volunteer at the food bank a little, and we worked with another woman the whole time. She wasn't very open to talking to us very much, but we were able to have a great time together sorting donated food together.

 It has been an great week overall and I really have been learning so much! Sometimes I wonder if all other missionaries learn this much about the gospel and about themselves in the process. I have come to the conclusion that they probably don't, and that I'm the only one. Haha :) 

Much Love,
Sister Mason

Monday, February 3, 2014

Interviews, Chili Rellenos, and More Miracles!


This has been another wonderful week here in Santa Maria. One great thing is that we worked on getting a lot of service opportunities lined up for this week. We are hoping to start volunteering at a senior center, helping them on their craft day! That will be so much fun! The best part about that is we have a less-active woman who has health problems and lives in that facility, so we will be able to have more one on one time with her while we volunteer! We are going to volunteer too at our local food bank sorting food this week, so we are excited for that too!
Also, we tried a new finding technique. During weekly planning this week we went through our records and texted anyone who had a phone number. We texted many potential investigators, former investigators and less-active members that we have never even met. We had some people contact us back and say that we could come over, and even some former investigators set up appointments for us to come over this week. That was very exciting for us and we got a few great responses because of that! We will have to let you know what else comes of that!

All the great donut shops around here just seem to be out of our area,
so this week members have been smuggling us delicious donuts!
One member even drove to San Luis Obispo to get us these amazing ones!

This week we were able to teach M a few times. She is still trying to quit smoking and she is having a really hard time with that. We were able to teach her about how being obedient to God's commandments will give her the strength to quit smoking, and we also were able to teach her about prophets, the 10 commandments, and keeping the Sabbath Day holy. When we asked her if she would start keeping those commandments she jokingly said "Well that's a lot to ask of me." She has difficulty with any type of change but we are helping with that and helping her really want to quit smoking.
She had us over for dinner and a lesson and she taught us how to make some real Mexican food. Can I just say that I just love it here? We made Chili Rellenos and it was so good! It was the best though because we were able to talk to her more about her smoking addiction and how we can help her. M is still doing great but smoking is really holding her back. It is a little frustrating but she told us that she only smoked 2 cigarettes yesterday! That is a huge reduction from what she usually smokes so we are so proud of her!

Thought I would send you a picture every single time we track down the
sketchy ice cream man. This one was in Tanglewood. The writing on the side of
the van was written in Spanish with a black sharpie. Doesn't get any better than that!

We also were able to meet with our investigator K this week. We had been thinking that he was avoiding us for a while because we had stopped by for an appointment and he wasn't there, and then we had been calling him many times and he wouldn't answer. It turns out that he wasn't avoiding us at all, but he is still doing well and wants to meet with us. That is a relief! Our lesson went very different than we had planned and we ended up just talking to him about all the problems that are going on in his life.
We basically just testified to him that our Heavenly Father really cares about every little thing going on in our lives and He really wants to be able to help us. Many things He blesses us with are conditional on us asking for them and we explained how much easier his life would be if he started involving Heavenly Father more in his plans and decisions.
It is just overall so sad to see because he has lots of things going on in his family and with work and he just tells us every time that he misses his parents every day since they have passed away. It is so sad to see how his life is sometimes but I just know that this gospel can change everything and bring that joy back into his life!

A lady in out ward was sweet enough to buy us a new pair of shoes!
I adore this ward. Mine are the Navy blue ones!

We got to see A for the first time in about 2 months! You don't even know how excited we were to see him because it was the first time we had been able to talk with him! He has been through so much lately and he learned a lot about himself in the process. He has such a great attitude and a greater appreciation for life! It is incredible to see. He also had been reading the Book of Mormon while he has been gone, and he even left his copy with some of his friends so they could have the opportunity to read it. He was being a little missionary without even knowing it! We are going to resume meeting with him this week and we are more than excited about that! He just has incredible potential so I am really excited to see how much he progresses in this beautiful gospel.

We had President interviews again this week! I just love it! In our mission all the sisters close by meet together and have a training meeting from some of the Sister Training Leaders while the sisters are having their interview with President Castro. The training was all about accountability and it was wonderful! I also can't tell you how excited I was to see President Castro! He is just an incredible and loving man. It is amazing because it just felt like I was talking to an old best friend when I had my interview. He is more than amazing. Overall, it was just a great but long day. I was also great to spend time with the Sisters from San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles and have a little extra time to talk to them while we were waiting for President to wrap up some of the interviews.

Look at this absolute beaut I got to see this week! I got to spend some time with
my former companion Sister Casper when we all got together for our interviews!
She is serving in San Luis Obispo, which is only about 30 minutes away from here.

Super Bowl Sunday wasn't the most exciting day for tracting as you could have guessed. Many people would say "I can't talk, we're watching the ball game." Boo. It was a great day though because we have been praying and fasting so hard in this stake for much needed rain in this area, and it finally rained! 

Also, K, M, and M's little sister R came to church and absolutely loved it! The best part was that this week we started having a little Book of Mormon class with them right after church. This week we read some of 2 Nephi 31 and talked a lot about baptism! They both should be coming to a baptism of an 8 year old girl in our ward this weekend and hopefully they can feel the spirit there and know that it's what they should do! Megan, a young woman in the ward, helped us with that class, and it was just really great to be able to explain the scriptures to them in a way they understand and help answer any questions they had! 

I still love it here and I can't believe that I have almost been in this area for 4 months! Crazy how time flies!

Much Much Love,
Sister Mason