Monday, May 26, 2014

Another Transfer in Simi


So my new companion is Sister De Vries (pronounced Davreez). She is 19 and is from Far West, Utah (which is north of Ogden). She is obsessed with anything Disney and she was in the marching band in high school. We get along really well and so far she is doing really well!

Gianna's baptism!

One of the very best part of the week was that Gianna was baptized, and it was such a great baptism! There are always little things that go wrong right before baptisms, but everything ended up working out well and the baptism was beautiful! It was great because Gianna's dad, who is not a member, was there and he was watching and listening really intently during the whole baptism. The family really hopes that one day he will want to learn more about the gospel, so maybe one day he will. Gianna's grandmother was also there for the baptism on Friday and the confirmation on Sunday, and it seemed like she really enjoyed it. She is also not a member, so it looks like Gianna is being such a great example to many of her family members who do not have the gospel in their lives!

Mom I hope you had such a great birthday! Do you know what is so special? My birthday present to you is that sweet little Gianna was confirmed a member of the church for your birthday! Look at that, you got a new convert for your birthday

Sister De Vries and me with adorable Gianna!

 We also had a lesson with one of our investigators, D. She met with missionaries many years ago and went to church for about a year. We just started teaching her again and she is such a wonderful woman. She is having a really hard time as she is recovering from surgery, but she is such a sweet woman. We started off teaching her the Restoration and then it turned into a whole lesson on the priesthood. 

She has so many questions from all that she has been taught over the years, and we love it because she is really interesting and usually makes us think. We talked to her for a while about what the priesthood is and how it functions, and she was so fascinated. We are really excited to be able to start teaching her and help put together all the things that she has learned about the church.

I was so excited to see Sister Higgins at transfer meeting!
I'm glad Sister Proctor sneaked in to make a really attractive face! Haha

We had a couple of great service opportunities this week! We were able to spend some time with S in her garden. It is always great to spend time doing service with her because she is such a sweet woman and it gives us the excuse to talk to her a little more about her family and the gospel!

We also have been helping this woman in our ward lately as she is doing some major work on her house. This week we were able to help her clean out her craft room. It was a lot of fun, and the best part is that her husband is not a member. He is not the friendliest man, but it has been great to spend a little more time around him. She also had us over for dinner that night and we shared a quick Restoration lesson as our dinner message. The best part was that he was pretending not to pay attention while he was at his computer, but we could tell that he listened to every but of it, and he did not get up to leave until we were completely finished. 

This week we were also able to meet with another part-member family. We have decided to take the opportunity at these dinners to teach them  a basic version of the missionary lessons as a part of our dinner message. There are so many wonderful part-member families in this ward and we are just hoping that we will be able to do just a little to soften their hearts while we are here! 

We prepared some materials for an investigator. We marked some passages
in the Book of Mormon and left some pamphlets to read and videos to watch.

We also have really sad news about one of our investigators, M. He was a little standoffish when we went over for our appointment with him, and we thought that was a little strange. The next day, our ward mission leader went over to his house to pick him up for Gianna's baptism and M ended up yelling at him and telling him to go away. We went over there and M claims that someone stole his wallet last week at church. He told us that we were to blame for it, and that we basically conned him into coming to church so members could steal things from him. 

He was really mad at us! He swore at us and told us to leave. It was so sad that he somehow blamed losing his wallet on us, and also he has a unreasonable grudge against the church for it. It was really frustrating and now he doesn't want to meet with us anymore. It is really sad because he was such a great investigator and his baptism is coming up in two weeks. We will see if we can figure out what is going on, but as for now we are a little sad about the situation.

Dad, we used the Cold Stone gift card you sent us. Mmmm :)

This was a bit of a rough week, but it was still a great! Almost every single planned lesson we had ended up cancelling on us, so we spending a lot of time trying to find new investigators. We had some great meetings with some less-active members we dropped by to see. 

One woman was really sweet. She hasn't been to church in a while, but she was so grateful that we came over. She said that she had been having a hard week and that it was exactly what she needed. I absolutely love moments like that because it shows that our Heavenly Father is truly aware of everything we need and that He is guiding us in this work! 

Happy Memorial Day everyone!

We also were able to go out with a 19-year-old sister from the ward who just submitted her mission papers! She basically just went tracting with us all Saturday morning, but it was so much fun! She was able to practice talking to some people in their homes and on the streets, so she is going to be so ready for her mission! There is also another girl in our ward who just got her mission call to Frankfurt, Germany, so we are really excited to be able to spend a little more time working with both of them! 

One of the funniest parts of this week was that we taught the high priest's lesson on Sunday. You should have seen the look on all the men's faces when they saw us just siting there in opening exercises for priesthood meeting. It was awesome! We, of course, taught about missionary work, and it was based off the talk "Following Up" by M. Russell Ballard from last General Conference. You would not believe how shy those high priests were during the lesson, but it ended up going really well! 

The community had a "Salute to Arms" program and lunch at our stake
center for Memorial Day. We got to help set up all the drinks
and put together little goodie bags for the veterans.

I love that the members in this ward have been trying really hard to involve us! We go home teaching with the elders and high priests in the ward almost every week. We love it because it gives us the opportunity to meet some ward members that we would have never come in contact with, and it allows them to get to know us and trust us more! If you don't have a program yet to take the missionaries from the ward out with the elders or the high priests regularly, you should get moving on that. It really makes such a difference!  

Everything is still going really well here in Simi Valley! Sister De Vries is really doing well! She has made it through her first week! She is still a little shy, but she loves this work! She is willing to step out of her comfort zone because she knows that she has planned her whole life to come on a mission. She is already doing great. I am really excited to see how much she grows over the next few weeks! She has been a part of a few hard days this week, but I think it has been really great for her to see the reality of being out in the field. Not everyday is about baptisms and people wanting to talk to us.

Much Much Love,
Sister Mason

Monday, May 19, 2014

Baptisms! Baptisms! Baptisms!


So first of all, I can't believe you visited President Castro!! [see the previous post] I love President and Sister Castro with all my heart, and I respect what wonderful people they are. I am so glad to hear that you got to spend quite a bit of time with them! I am so glad that you now know what I am saying when I tell you they are absolutely incredible. PLUS, AGOURA! We basically lived at the Habit Burger there. Didn't you just love Agoura? It's so beautiful there!

This transfer I am staying in Simi Valley and training another new missionary! I am really excited because so much in going on in this ward! The work here has really taken fire the past two weeks! It will be such a great place for my new companion to start her mission!

ALSO, I have such great news! One of our investigators in Ventura, D, was baptized last week. Sister James sent me this picture. 

This has been another incredible week here in Simi Valley! We had a great lesson with G and we were able to plan out everything for her baptism this Friday! We taught her about tithing, fasting, and obeying and honoring the law. She was a little disappointed to hear about tithing and fasting, because it sounded like it would be hard for her to do, but she is already determined to live both of them! On Sunday she was so sweet and showed us that she has already filled out a tithing envelope with a few dollars and change that she could give to the bishop. She is just a great girl and we are more than excited for her baptism in just a few days!!

We took a trip last Monday to Vallerta, a Mexican grocery
store (like Rancho Market back home). I got some really
tasty enchiladas and some watermelon juice, of course!

Yesterday we had a great lesson with two of our new investigators M and L. M is a cousin of a member in our ward and she has had many LDS friends. She is really interested in religion and had so many questions about why we need prophets today. She and her husband are both from the Philippines (about 4 hours outside Manilla). M has already read the Book of Mormon once in Tagalog and she has started reading it in English.

They both came to church this week and stayed for all three hours! They are really loving what they are learning! M's cousin and her husband have already talked to her a lot about the Book of Mormon, the Holy Ghost, and baptism. In our lesson they asked how many lessons we teach and how long it takes to teach them before their baptism. We explained everything and then set them both with a baptismal date for July 13th. They are such a wonderful little family and they have been searching a while for the truth! I am really excited to see how things go with them! 

Magnus. He even let me hold his "secret cross" in the picture.
He holds it every time we pray. He is the best!

This week we also had a lesson with a recent convert. He is such an incredible person. We taught about temples, family history work, and eternal marriage. I was really impressed with his absolute love for the gospel! His wife is a member of the church who is recently reactivated. The whole time he just talked about how excited he was to go to the temple to do baptisms for the dead, and then in a year to be sealed to his wife. 

He also talked about how excited he is to do family history work so he can bring the gospel to all of his family that never had an opportunity to hear about it. He is truly an inspiration, and at first wasn't really interested in the church. Now he is doing so well and has such a strong testimony. Sadly, he is moving to Utah this week to go to law school, but I am so happy to see the wonderful changes he has made in his life, and his great potential!

Laurel. Ah, I just love her!

We also had a great lesson with L. We taught her the Word of Wisdom and Law of Chastity, and she absolutely loved it! She is still a little nervous about baptism, but she has really come a long way! She has a date for July 5th, so we are excited to see how she feels as that gets a little closer. She came to our stake women's conference this weekend and she felt right at home! She was there chatting with all the members, and she loved the things that she learned in the classes. She is making a lot of progress and she really likes all the ward activities and all the things she is learning.

At the women's conference, women from the stake donated handmade quilts.
They made 167 quilts for the women's shelter. They were anticipating
50 or 100 quilts, but they ended up with much more!

This weekend we also met with J and B. We were able to have a lesson at a member's home, and they are such great fellowshippers! The husband and J have both been in Vietnam and have had the same health issues. The wife and B are both teachers. They are so sweet and they all are a fellowshipping match made in heaven! We had a lesson on the Word of Wisdom, and even though it is hard for them they are really excited. J told us that he has really wanted to stop smoking, so he is excited to start now. They are both doing really great and J is excited for his baptism at the end of June.

Joseph and Brenda

We met with some great less-active members this week. We have been going weekly with members from our high priest group to visit some people who they home teach. That has really been a great opportunity to meet many active and less-active members in the ward. 

This week we were able to meet with a woman who is incredible. She is the only member in her family, and she has only been a member for about 3 years. And she is obsessed with aviation. It was great to go with the high priests so they could introduce us to her, because I do not know when we would have had the opportunity to meet with her. She is so friendly and is open to us coming back to meet with her!  

We also met another less-active sister. She AND her husband both work for Disney. She is in marketing and her husband is the fire chief for their movie sets. Their house was completely decked out in Disney items, and I was absolutely in heaven! 

Also, we even had the awkward experience of catching a less-active sister smoking! Hahah, she looked horrified when she saw us walking up the street, and ran to put her cigarette out. (That was a treat.) But she is such a great woman. We talked to her and she showed us all her crafts that she works on!

I'm really going to miss Sister Proctor!

Really, Simi Valley is incredible! There are so many things going on here. Right now we have 8 investigators with baptismal dates. I have had a really great transfer with Sister Proctor and we have been able to see so many miracles! The best part is that we know that none of these miracles and upcoming baptisms had to do with us. The Lord prepared these people and we just happened to be there at the right time. 

I am loving every minute of it here in Simi Valley and I am so excited to be able to stay! Simi Valley is basically "me in the form of a city", if you can imagine that! I am serving in one of the best wards in the whole mission! I am excited for another transfer here and I am so excited to meet my new companion tomorrow!

Much Much Much Love,
Sister Mason

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sister Mason's Parents Visit the Mission Home!

[This blog post is written by Sister Mason's parents, Jeff & Amy.]

When we were in California for our son Brock's medical school graduation we were only 45 minutes from Melia on her mission. We were briefly tempted to spy on her, or "accidentally" run into her, but we knew that it was a bad idea, as well as against mission rules.

We did, however, hope to meet her mission president. Melia loves President Castro and his family. He's being released in July, so he won't be there when we go back after Melia's mission. We asked him if it would be possible to meet him while we were in town. He invited us to come to their home on a Saturday afternoon. We ended up spending 2 hours with him, his sweet wife, and their 2 youngest children.

What a great experience that was! We can see why Melia loves them all so much. We're glad to see that she's in good hands, with people who love her almost as much as we do. We also saw how beautiful the area is where she has been serving. We can see why she loves it so much.

On the way to the mission home in Ventura we passed by Melia's
first area, Agoura Hills. What a beautiful place that is!

We had lunch at one of Melia's favorite places in Agoura Hills, Habit Burger.
We knew that she'd get a kick out of us eating there.

The California Ventura Mission office is located in a church building. The back
side has a gate to the parking lot. We loved that it has an angel Moroni on it.

Check out the shiny copper dome.

Amy with President & Sister Castro and their 2 youngest children

Jeff & Amy with President & Sister Castro

Monday, May 12, 2014



It was so great to be able to talk to all the family for Mothers Day! I can't believe that the whole family will be in California this week! [for Brock's medical school graduation] You will all be so close for a few days!

So many wonderful things are happening here in Simi Valley! One of the great things of this week is that I got to show a family how to decorate cupcakes! We had such a great Mexican dinner with them for Cinco de Mayo, and then we decorated cupcakes with the girls! I made my frosting and I showed them how to frost them like a rose and such with bags and piping tips that I brought. It was really so much fun! I think I enjoyed it a little too much!

Our little cupcake party :)

We had some great lessons this week. We were able to meet with G. Our Young Womens president has been arranging for some of the girls to come with us to her lessons now, which is very helpful! Two sisters that are 11 and 13 were able to come with us this week! The 11 year old was really entertaining us with all of her stories she would tell. We taught Follow the Prophet, the Law of Chastity, and the Word of Wisdom. 

The 11 year old was especially great because she would tell examples about modesty and putting up with bullying. She also told us "I wish that everyone at my middle school watched Conference. My school is so bad that I wouldn't be surprised if one day Heavenly Father decided to bomb it." Hahah, I really wish we could have these 11 and 13 year olds at every lesson because they are so entertaining and they know way more than you might think! I was really trying so hard not to bust up laughing the whole time! It was really so great to have both of them with us! 

G is still doing really well and is getting really excited for her baptism! Her mother is still on fire. She told us that she talked to a woman at a restaurant who was going through a hard time. She asked her "Do you want to live with your little girl for the eternities?" Then she ended up telling her that she needs to meet with the missionaries and they will explain how that can happen! She is just an incredible woman and has such a big heart. She still impresses me every week how she is trying to convert and reactivate everyone she can think of!

A groovy van we found out and about one day!
I'm glad I happened to match the van that day too!

We also had a great lesson with L this week! We had a lesson on baptism and following the prophet. We showed her a video clip about baptism and we talked over everything she thinks about it. She still wonders if she fully believes everything we teach her, and she worries that she won't have enough time to devote to this church. We talked about everything she is worried about, and we were able to set her with a baptismal date for July 5th! She is still reluctant and it is more of a "see until we get there" date, but she is making great progress! She has found that she loves reading the Book of Mormon on her phone, and studying it by topic.

She has kind of a hard time because she was raised culturally Jewish. She is used to Jewish traditions, but she wasn't very religious for all of her life. We have told her that this gospel isn't as different as she thinks it would be, and that we're really here to help her learn more and come closer to the Savior.

She has been coming to ward activities and really has great friendships in the ward, which is wonderful! She told us that she came to church yesterday even though she wasn't feeling like it. She really loved coming to church but her schedule hasn't allowed her to come for all three hours yet. She is doing so great. I know that she might take some time, but she is closer than she might think!

It's getting hot here in Simi! It reminds me a lot of summers back home!

This week we had a lesson with S and her son. We taught her the Law of Chastity and Word of Wisdom. She sometimes pushed the subjects off of her and told us that her returned missionary son should be the one being taught these things instead of her. She is such a wonderful woman. She really doesn't have any Word of Wisdom issues, but she still holds on to her coffee every so often. She told us that she would quit when she had "a good enough reason to quit." She has such great potential and her member son and daughter are such great examples to her! We are just hoping for a miracle that something will happen in her life where she will really know that God is there for her and she will have a greater reason to make little changes in her life and be baptized!

Her husband actually came and taught a little of the High Priests lesson on Sunday. He told about the experience he had with his son on a mission. We were able to talk to him for a little while after our block and he told us something wonderful. He said that every time on the way to his job in Beverly Hills, the light always turns red and he gets stuck right in front of the Los Angeles temple. He was telling us that maybe God was trying to tell him something! We told him that he is right! It is just great because he is such a nice man, but hasn't been too interested in sitting in on the lessons with us. Who knows, maybe soon all of that will change!

Sister Di Liberto (my trainer from Italy) is getting married August 1st!
Crazy, but I am so excited for her!

We also had the chance of setting J and B with a baptismal date for June 28th! J told us that he has really been thinking deeply about the things that we have been teaching him, and he is really close to being ready for baptism. He is just a sweet man and I am excited. His friend B isn't as enthusiastic about what we teach them, but we are hoping that one day something will really click for her just like it did for him. They are both doing really well and they love coming to church! I am really excited to see what the next weeks have in store for them! 

Look what we have in my area! A Corner Bakery Cafe!
Mmmm, we got to eat here this week! I was too happy!

So many people came to church this week! We had 9 in all, including a new investigator couple. It was wonderful! The ward has really been reaching out to everyone around them. They are a wonderful help with the missionary work! This new couple is a friend of a member in our ward, and they have talked with them a lot about the gospel. The wife has already read the whole Book of Mormon in Tagalog (from the Philippines), and the member has already talked to them about baptism! We are going to really start teaching them next week. We are just so excited that wonderful people keep coming out of nowhere!

We also met with this wonderful woman C this week. She is such a sweet lady with such a strong belief in Christ, and she has been through so much in her life. Besides that, we are continuing to have incredible things happen all the time here. We are still moving along with some other great investigators and helping all these others prepare for their baptisms! We also met some incredibly interesting people and also some rude less-actives. But hey, that's a typical week!

At dinner the other night we got to play with little chickies!
All is well here in Simi Valley. Sister Proctor and I are doing really well and we just keep trying to push ourselves and find better ways of doing everything. I can't tell you how much I am in love with Simi Valley! I don't think I will want to leave at transfers next week, but I am just content with the fact that I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen out here! This mission is a whole game of trust with Heavenly Father. I feel so blessed that I have been able to see so many incredible things here on my mission!

Much Much Love,
Sister Mason