Monday, March 31, 2014

Exchanges, Baptisms, and Looking Forward to General Conference


This week was our exchanges with Sister Randall and Sister Cusick. I stayed with Sister Randall in Ventura and it was such a great day! It was a little strange being with her again, and it was even more strange because she also whitewashed this area just about 6 months ago. It was great being able to teach together. It was almost unbelievable how much we have both changed in the past 9 months! I have calmed down and she is so much more bold now! It was just so great to see! It was a pretty typical day, but I wanted to work on using the Book of Mormon more when contacting people, and sharing meaningful scriptures with them out of it.
One wonderful thing that happened was when we went to see a less-active woman. We have been trying to visit her for the past few weeks, but have been unable to meet with her for whatever reason. It was great to go over to her house with Sister Randall because she had a really great relationship with this woman when she was here. We were able to meet with her and I got to know her more! She was so excited to see Sister Randall and she even started to cry when we left. It was really precious, and it was great to see that this exchange opened at least one door for us!

My reunion with the wonderful Sister Randall!

We had a great lesson with T about the Law of Chastity and the Word of Wisdom. This was Sister James' first time teaching this lesson. I just let her go ahead and teach the Law of Chastity, and she did such a great job! She was very nervous and felt really awkward about it, but she did absolutely wonderfully!
He understood everything we taught him, and why we ask him to live these things, but he is really still struggling with quitting smoking. We are meeting with him again tonight and he will be getting a priesthood blessing to help him quit. I am really excited for that because I know it will truly help him so much.
Pray for him that he will be able to stop smoking! I know that prayers definitely work because I have felt all the prayers from back home pushing me along, even when times are hard or I am too exhausted to even think straight! Keep him in mind!
He came to church again this week and he stayed for the Gospel Principles class for the first time! He really enjoyed it and it was great to have him there. I really think that coming to all the meetings each Sunday will help him progress faster and help him feel the spirit more in his life!
We are really excited for him and how he is progressing, but we are just praying that he will be able to quit smoking ASAP.  Tomorrow he will be coming to the baptism of Isaac, an amazing man who Sister Hegstrom and Sister Bartschi are teaching. We hope that will inspire him even more as he prepares for his baptism!
Sister James and I decided to throw everyone off and switch our hair!
She went for the straight Sister Mason hair and I went with the curly Sister James hair :)

Funny thing about the baptism tomorrow... Sister Hegstrom and Sister Bartschi asked Sister James and me to sing at the baptism. Sister James and I are basically just average singers, but I think it will be great! We are singing "Savior, Redeemer of My Soul" (the version from the 17 Miracles movie) "a capella". Wish us luck! Honestly, who would have ever thought that I would be singing duets here on my mission? Not me!
There are so many things we do every day that I would've never imagined me doing in any other situation! This mission has absolutely blessed my life. I am so thankful that it takes me way out of my comfort zone every single day and pushes me to become a better person! I truly have learned so much about myself and about my Savior. It has been such a wonderful experience and such a blessing!

We were able to meet with D again this week! Sister Randall and I saw her on our exchange and we reviewed the Plan of Salvation with her. We basically had her teach us the whole lesson, and she did such a great job! She was a little confused about the spirit world, and what happens before the resurrection, but the young woman we brought with us was able to explain it more to her. D really thought that was interesting. Honestly, she is doing so well! We are thinking that we will ask her if she would move up her baptism by a few weeks because she has been taught everything and she is SO ready. She is really one of the sweetest girls ever!

We have been helping a member organize tons of things in her house.
Our latest project has been going through documents and such that
were drenched in the rain a few weeks ago and are all mildewed.

This week we had many great experiences with some less-active members! One was with a sweet less-active man. An incredible member came along with us. We make sure in every lesson we teach him to tie it back to how it will help him prepare to go to the temple and be endowed. We are really persistent with him because we want so badly for him to have the blessings in his life that come from going to the temple!
This week we had a lesson on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and talked the whole time about preparing to go to the temple. It was honestly one of the best lessons we've had because the spirit was so strong. The member we brought is such an incredible person. She helped so much, and also the whole time we talked about the blessings we have seen from being able to go to the temple.
We made a few Rolo pretzels and gave them out to people
this week with information about watching conference!

 We made little handwritten handouts with the information about how to watch General Conference, and we have been passing those out like crazy. We have been going around to many less-actives who aren't really keen on talking to us. We have just shared with them about General Conference and left them with that information. It has been really great to use that to visit a few more people this week, and who knows, maybe little efforts like dropping off information about Conference will soften their hearts!

I absolutely LOVED the General Women's session of General Conference. It was so inspired! One of our investigators came and it really touched her heart! She has been having such a hard time with her daughter and granddaughter and it was just really what she needed to hear that day. I loved that they  talked about uniting together as sisters no matter our ages, and how much they talked about keeping covenants! I was teary-eyed the whole time. It was so great! I am more than excited for all the wonderful things they will talk about in General Conference this weekend!
My donut obsession in Ventura :) 85 cents of pure delight!

It has been an all around great week! We are struggling right now trying to find new people to teach, but we are trying really hard to talk to as many people as we can, and trying different ways of finding people. We hope and pray we will be able to find some new investigators. Sister James and I are still working hard and enjoying every minute of it!
Much Much Love,
Sister Mason

Monday, March 24, 2014

"Let the Book of Mormon do all the heavy lifting"

Mom and Dad,

This was another great week here in Ventura! I truly love it so much here! This week was a little sad because two of our investigators with baptismal dates dropped us. One told us that he no longer wants to meet with us, and that he wants to go back to his Roman Catholic roots. The other told us that he doesn't have enough time to meet with us anymore. It was sad.
Besides that it was a pretty great week! Zone Conference was such a blessing this week! It really hit me how important the Book of Mormon is in this work, and that we are really in the middle of gathering Israel. The whole Zone Conference was based on the Book of Mormon, and using it more effectively in our missionary efforts. One quote from President Castro was that we really need to "let the Book of Mormon do all the heavy lifting." Also, it is the greatest "sifter" for finding sincere investigators. We also need to let everyone we meet FEEL the power of the Book of Mormon. It was absolutely a fabulous day and we left that meeting so excited to go out and try everything we had learned! 

The Ventura English Zone

We met again with sweet D this week. We had the opportunity to read the Book of Mormon with her. She really has been learning so much lately and is still excited for her baptism. She is really the perfect investigator. She reads the Book of Mormon and prays every day, comes to church every week, and attends mutual. Sometimes I wish that everyone we teach was like her!
The other day we saw some sweet little girls selling fresh squeezed orange juice.
Of COURSE we had to stop and buy a glass. They became our little best friends!
They wanted to know what we were doing, and if we were really sisters. Too cute!

We met with L again this week. Last week I told you about how we miraculously showed up at her house exactly when she needed it. We came by again and it was a little strange because she didn't remember anything about the last time we came over. She must have been in so much distress.
We were able to have a short lesson with her and then set up a time for us to come back. We came back and she was so precious because she told us that she had been looking at the clock all day, waiting for when we were coming over. We had a lesson with her in her backyard and she was so happy because it was the first time she has been outside in a few months (because of her back surgery).
Before we left she asked us if there was any way to tell the missionaries in Santa Maria to go visit her sister who is going through a hard time. We told her that we would be able to forward that information to the missionaries there. She was so excited because she said that she really wants her sister to listen to the missionaries because they have brought her so much peace throughout the years, and she just really wants her sister to be able to feel that too.
Only in California do you see murals like this!

This week we had two more lessons with T! We went over the Plan of Salvation with him and it went really well! The best part was that we had planned on meeting with him at the stake center last night (Sunday). On our way there we noticed that he had called, and showed up 45 minutes early to our appointment. We were a little worried that he would be really bored waiting around, but when we got there we found him hanging out with the young single adults at their potluck. He said that they invited him to join them (because he is single). So he had dinner with them and made some new friends! It was perfect that he ended up coming early because he told us that he really enjoyed himself there! Our  meeting with him was really great and he told us that he has been able to cut down his smoking almost in half!
At church yesterday we introduced him to an investigator "I" that Sister Hegstrom and Sister Bartschi are teaching so that "I" could give him some inspiration by sharing how he was able to quit smoking. It was really great to introduce them to each other, and T was much more motivated to quit smoking after that. What really is holding him back is his smoking addiction. We are praying that he will be able to quit smoking really soon so he will be able to make his baptism on April 26th!
It was also great when we met with him because we talked just briefly about why we have temples and what ordinances are done there. After we shared that with him he was really excited and told us that his brother had died when he was really young and he didn't think that he had been baptized. T shared that he would really want to be able to go to the temple so that he could be baptized for his brother. That personal connection was so sweet because it put the whole Plan of Salvation into perspective for him, and he really wanted his family to have the blessings of the gospel like he has had. He tells us also that he feels like a completely different person and he thinks about his baptism every day!

This marque just kills me! This is something that Dad would come up with!

We were also able to spend some great time with a few less-actives. We were able to do some service for one of the families by helping them clean. We also met with this really sweet woman who is 94 years old. She is the cutest and sweetest lady, but she can't really leave home. We were able to spend some time with her and bring the spirit into her home.
We also met the sweetest man P this week! We met him in his neighborhood as he was taking his daily walk around the block with his walker. He is 94 years old and his wife is 93. He told us that he had met with missionaries many years ago and that we were always welcome to come over and teach him. He completely made our day because earlier that day we were doing a lot of tracting and weren't having any success. Sister James had a prompting to talk to this one man working outside on his lawn. That man wasn't really interested but then, because we went this certain way, we were able to meet P! It just shows me that Heavenly Father is so aware of the little things we need, and that he put this sweet man in our path just to give us a little hope and brighten up our day!

Welcome to Ventura!

Everything is going just great here in Ventura! I absolutely LOVE Sister James and we get along so well. She is really so easy to get along with and we teach well together. It has definitely been easier training this time around because Sister James is willing to go outside her comfort zone, and she is just easy to be around. I have definitely learned more and more each time I've trained. I have learned how to take it a little more seriously and work a little harder each time.
Our two investigators with baptismal dates are staying strong and I absolutely love this ward. Really, life is so good out here! I honestly can't believe that I am half way done! It seems like time goes so fast out here! (Well, it goes pretty fast except for some days where we don't have any appointments and the day seems to last an eternity!) I can't believe that I will be home in just a few months. Some days I just don't want to think about that!
Much Love,
Sister Mason

Monday, March 17, 2014

Tons of Tracting

Mom and Dad,

It has been another great week here in Ventura! We ended up doing lots and lots of tracting this week, which is always interesting. The best part is the look on people's faces when they open the door and see who we are. Sometimes we get the most disgusted faces from people and I just want to say, "Hey, now what's that face for?!"
One gem was when we knocked on this door and a lady started running down her stairs and said "Girl Scouts?!" We said "No" and before we could talk she made a very disappointed face and shut the door. Hahah, she was so disappointed that it was just us. It's okay, that's just a typical day out here! We were able to meet some great people through tracting though, so we are very excited about that!
Happy St. Patty's Day everyone!

 One absolute miracle happened this week as we went to visit a former investigator. We had planned on seeing her that day, but earlier in the day we were really close to her neighborhood so we decided to stop by her house before we went back home for lunch. When we knocked on her door she talked to us through her open window and told us to come in because she needed us to pray for her. It turns out that she had knee surgery just about a week ago and she has been really worrying that she might get an infection in her knee. She has been praying really hard all day for God to help her and she was so thankful when we showed up a little later at her door.
She told us that it was also strange because she and her husband had been talking just the night before that they haven't seen the missionaries in a long time. She also told us that she knew we were an answer to her urgent prayer. It was just one of those moments where we knew that we were at the right place at exactly the right time, and it was just a blessing to be a part of that. Heavenly Father truly has impeccable timing, and the blessings from following the spirit, even when we aren't sure why, are incredible!

This dog started following us the other day. When we got out of our
car he just decided to jump in. We had to coax him out, but then
he followed us for a while as we were walking around.

Another miracle was this man that we met on the street. We were walking in a neighborhood on the way to visit someone and we saw him walking towards us, so we stopped him and talked to him for a while. It turns out that he met with missionaries about 2 years ago in Arizona. He was very close to his baptism, but then he ended up having to move to California and never got in contact with the missionaries again. He also told us that he still has a copy of the Book of Mormon and he reads it very often!
We talked with him and invited him to church. He came to sacrament meeting yesterday and he loved it! This was his very first time coming to church. He told us that he was so excited all day Saturday to be able to come to church on Sunday. We were able to meet with him again yesterday and we set him with a baptismal date in April. He has really been though so much in his life and he realizes that he needs to start going back to church. On Sunday so many members came up and talked to him at church, and he felt really comfortable. We are excited to see how things turn out with him!
Our District
Elder McKinley, Elder Anderson, Sister Bartschi, Me,
Elder Leavitt, Elder Potter, Sister Hegstrom, and Sister James

We met with D again this week too. She is really the best! She told us that she really wanted to learn more about the Word of Wisdom, so we met with her again and went over the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity. She just wanted to make sure that she was living them completely, so she is just great. She is still on track for her baptism! She is truly a treat to teach because she is so willing to follow whatever her Heavenly Father wants her to do, and she also wants to make sure that she fully understands everything that we've taught her.
We also were able to talk to another former investigator, and he is seriously awesome! He told us that he loved meeting with the missionaries before because whenever they read something out of the Book of Mormon it always touches him and he believes exactly what it teaches. He is a Latino and such a sweet man! I am excited to be able to meet with him again soon!

This weekend we didn't have anyone sign up for dinner so we decided to make a
movie night out of it during dinner by using a Subway gift card a member
gave us, making popcorn, and watching the old classic The Testaments!

This week we also had some great lessons with some recent converts and less-actives. We had dinner with a recent convert family and they are so sweet! We talked to them more about going to do baptisms for the dead, and preparing to be sealed in the temple later this year. They are just so sincere, open, and absolutely in love with each other. They are just adorable. It was wonderful that we were able to spend more time with them.
We also met with this sweet less-active man. We have really been persistent with trying to get him ready to go to the temple. We taught him the Plan of Salvation and really focused on how getting the Melchizedek priesthood and going to the temple will help him and his ancestors in this plan. He is really another great man and we are trying to do everything we can to keep the temple as his goal and help him prepare for that.
We were also able to meet with another less-active family too. The best part was that the
mother claims that she does not believe in God or in the church anymore, but her husband told us that she prayed the other day for comfort. It was a complete breakthrough because she has not prayed in years! We hope she will start to be more accepting of the gospel little by little, and she is definitely on the right track!

Living the beach life out here!

I still absolutely love Ventura! I have to admit that it is a little strange having the Castros in our ward and to have President and Sister Castro in our Gospel Principles class on Sundays. It is great to be so close to them though! We have zone conference coming up this week so it's going to be another great one!

Tons and Tons of Love,
Sister Mason

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ventura! Ventura! Ventura!

Mom and Dad,

One of the most powerful things that happened this week is that we were able to meet with a member "A" who was endowed and sealed in the temple this weekend. It was such a great experience because her mother was with her when we came over, and they told us about their stories. "A" was raised LDS but soon fell away. She has been through everything you could ever think of but has recently come back to church. It was all because of a wonderful visiting teacher and a few persistent missionaries a while back.
It is incredible to see the change in her life and how bad she wants to be with her family forever. It is a very special occasion because she was able to be sealed to her parents and then also be sealed to her husband and daughter. It was just incredible to see how far she has come to be able to go to the temple and be sealed to her family forever!
It was such a great way to start off our day because we were reminded why we are doing missionary work. It was an inspiration to hear her success story and to remember that the temple and eternal families are really the goal of all this. It just makes all the effort we put in so much more worth it when it is put in this perspective!

It's great when complete strangers happen to work for Hershey's
and also happen to be very generous!

Our investigator D is absolutely doing wonderful! She is just the sweetest! A family from the ward was so sweet and invited us, D, and D's grandmother over to their house on Saturday for lunch and a lesson. We overviewed the Restoration and watched "The Restoration" video. It was just so wonderful because we were able to explain that all the things we have talked about (baptism, temples, the priesthood, etc) are all made possible because of the restoration of the gospel.
Another wonderful part of that meeting was that D's grandmother, a less-active member in our ward, even bore her testimony about how having a prophet on the earth today really gives her peace. It was just such a great time that we were able to spend together and the spirit was so strong! I am so thankful for this family for setting everything up for us, and for all the great work they are doing in this ward! D is on track to be baptized on May 3rd. We are more than excited for her and the wonderful decisions she is making!
Just another adorable house here in Ventura!

We had a couple of great meetings with one of our investigators. We were able to go on a tour of the church with him earlier in the week and he absolutely loved it! We showed him all around and explained what happens during all of our meetings.
The absolute best part was that we stopped by the family history center to show him around and one of the workers there actually sat him down and was able to find a census with information about his father, his aunts and uncles, and his grandparents! The look on his face was just priceless because he was so happy! That trip to the family history center sparked his interest and he loved it. He was really shocked that we do so much genealogy and he is interested in going back to find more!
We were able to meet with him again and he just really wanted to know what would be expected from him after he is baptized. We told him that we would definitely be going over that with him, then we talked to him briefly about the law of chastity, the word of wisdom, and the 10 commandments. He was so sad to hear that we do not drink coffee and tea. He was really excited though when he found out that he could still watch tv and drink root beer ! Hahah, he was really nervous that he would have to give up everything!

Hermana Linford! I have a nice collection of random
pictures with this wonderful Hermana!

He also explained to us that he knows that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that he really likes the things he is learning. He told us that another reason why he wants to join the church is because the LDS people he came in contact with over the past few years have been some of the greatest and nicest people. I am always so happy to hear when members play such a huge role in other people's conversion without even knowing it!
The sweetest part was at the end of our lesson, when we taught him how to pray, and he said the most sincere prayer. He even prayed that he would be willing to give up coffee! He is such a great man and I feel really honored to be able to teach him.

Sister James and me!

Everything is going well here in Ventura! I absolutely love it here and I love being able to work with Sister James. She is such a hardworking and strong missionary. Her grandfather passed away this week. I am really proud of her attitude towards her grandfather's death. She told me many times that she would much rather deal with his death while she is out here than to deal with it back home. She is doing really well and learning quickly! She is too much fun to work with!

Just a little taste of paradise!

We were able to have dinner at a family's house near the beach! I absolutely love it here! We have been able to meet and work with some absolutely wonderful people this week. There are incredible things happening here every day!
Tons and tons of LOVE,
Sister Mason

Monday, March 3, 2014

I'm in Love with Ventura!


First of all, I love Ventura and I absolutely love my companion Sister James! She is 19 and from Orem, Utah. She is amazing and absolutely adorable! I'm pretty sure that Ventura is my favorite area so far! It's a total beach town here and it is beautiful! We are so close to to the beach that we can hear seagulls.
Aah, I just love it here!

It's also so fun because Sister Bartschi and Sister Hegstrom (2 of the Sister Training Leaders) are in our ward here! I love both of them so much! Plus, it basically has been raining like crazy and it has been too much fun! We have been soaked out in the rain talking to people, but it has been such a blessing because California has been in such a drought lately!

Near the beach! Notice the seagull in the sky.

So one crazy thing is that we took Sister Snow and her companion's place here. It seems like I keep following her to my new areas! It has honestly been such a blessing that Sister Snow took the time to have everything set up for us when we got here. She and her companion had many appointments set up for us. For the first few days we didn't really know what we were doing, so we just showed up to the appointments with investigators that were already planned for us. It has been so much easier than I expected because the sisters before us had everything scheduled for us!
This is Sister Snow (3rd from left) with all her companions so far.
I was her MTC companion. The Ventura stake center (where I go to
church and where we have transfer meetings) is in the background.

It's kind of strange, but I really like whitewashing (both me and my companion new to the area) and training. I thought it would just make things a lot more stressful, but I think it is great because it puts Sister James and me on the exact same page! We both end up having to figure out things together and it has just been great! Believe me, we have been making fools of ourselves calling people the wrong names and not having an idea what we are doing. I have loved it so far and it has been keeping things very interesting!
Sister James is a great missionary already so she makes things much easier! She is bold with people, especially less-actives, because she will ask people point blank what their problem is with the Church. She is also really willing to do uncomfortable things, and she really likes learning! She is such a blessing and we have been getting along wonderfully already! She is honestly such a great person to be around and she reminds me a lot of Lolo (my cousin Lauren Zaharis). So of course that makes her even better! We actually confessed to each other a few days ago that we both had been praying for a companion like each other. Too precious!  I am so excited to see what this transfer has in store for us!

Me with Sister James! Isn't she adorable!

This week we had a lesson with one of our investigators D. She is 17 years old and she is just the sweetest girl! We went over to her house and read 2 Nephi 31 with her and talked to her more about baptism. We set a baptism date for her on May 3rd and she is so excited! We are seriously just so happy for her and she is basically soaking up everything we teach her! We came back for another lesson later in the week and taught her about temples, family history work, and doing baptisms for the dead. She was getting so excited to be able to do baptisms for the dead after she is baptized. It was great to see! We are really excited to be able to work with her because she is so nice and so sincere.
We also were able to visit with one of our investigators A and his family. It is frustrating because his mom has recently become reactivated in the church, and his dad was baptized 2 years ago, but he feels like he isn't ready for baptism. We went over and taught a couple of lessons there this week, and it is so interesting because he is so smart and knows all the lessons front and back by now. He also is really looking forward to serving a mission, but then he doesn't want to be baptized right now. I love this family. They are really great, so we are just working with all of them to prepare to go to the temple, and for A to be baptized!
Look who I get to see at emails every Monday! Hermana Linford is serving in the
Spanish branch in our stake, so it looks like I will be running into her more often!
It was a little embarrassing because I actually squealed when I saw her today!

We had a lesson with another one of our wonderful investigators R. He has only been meeting with missionaries for a month and he has a baptismal date coming up in 3 weeks. He is just such a faithful man and really wants to know if what we are teaching him is true! He has been reading lots of the Book of Mormon and has been coming to church regularly. He is just so great because he listens so carefully to what we teach him and nods his head throughout our whole lesson. He really has great potential and I am looking forward to being able to get to know him a little more. Hopefully we can help him, if even just a little way, to come closer to Christ!
Lehi - I think they spelled it wrong though

Another wonderful thing was that Sister Snow and Sister Parker had set up a few service opportunities for us this week! We were able to go over and help clean for this less-active woman who is pregnant and cannot do a whole lot right now. It was a great opportunity to be able to talk to her and her family and also find out what some of her concerns about the church are. We were also able to help another woman organize things in her house while she is trying to move into a new house. It was so great to be able to spend a little bit of time with some families from our ward and get to know them better!
I really love it here and things are just going great! We are still trying to figure out what in the world we are doing, but it has been so fun and we have seen miracles already!
Much Love,
Sister Mason