Monday, July 28, 2014

More Exchanges and Miraculous Things Here in Simi!


This was another great week in beautiful Simi Valley! Sister Snow and I am more than excited for M and L's baptism tonight! We had another great lesson with them this week to finish up the lessons and to get them ready for their baptism. We taught them about missionary work, callings, and service, and they just loved it.

They talked about how their family has been really hard on them for changing religions and wanting to get baptized. They said that it has been really hard on them, but they just can't deny the Spirit they felt that told them that it is true. They told us how they have gone to many churches, only to continue to feel like something is missing, but now that they are here they feel complete. They are so strong to be able to stand up to such opposition. They have strong testimonies and it seems like there is nothing to shake them or make them deny the witness they have that this is true! 

We also gave them the Restoration video to watch and they told us that they both watched it about 6 times. They loved feeling the Spirit as they watched it, so they would watch it over and over in Tagalog and in English. 

This is M and L's precious little girl. I love her so much!
  I love just playing with her during our lessons with them.

We also had some great exchanges in Moorpark this week. I got to stay there and go on exchange with Sister Evans. She and I worked on using "How to Begin Teaching" in every setting where we interacted with people. She did such a great job! She gave out her very first copy of the Book of Mormon when I was there. She did so well about being bold and sharing her testimony with everyone. 

Sister Evans is so sweet and she really wants to do the best that she can! She was a joy to be around and her love for this work is just contagious! She is very new to the mission, I could just tell how excited she is to be here and how she wants to learn as much as she can.

[By the way, Sister Hardman, who went on exchange with Sister Snow in Moorpark this week, is another blog fan! She told me that she loved reading the blog before she went out on her mission, and she was glad that she finally got to meet me! Hahah. Good job again you two!]

Me and Sister Evans

I also had an awesome exchange with Sister Thurgood here in Simi. Her goal was to ask questions to see if people understood what we taught them. We worked on teaching for understanding and that was great. We saw how God placed a variety of people in our path that day. We had the opportunity to teach many children throughout the day, along with people of all other ages. That was neat to see how we really had the opportunity to teach everyone according to their understanding and in a way that would relate to them. 

Sister Thurgood and me

The VERY best part of the whole exchange was at dinner. We had talked to this less-active woman E  a week or so ago, and she said that her friend J (who lives outside our area) was really interested in the church. We purposely set up a dinner on the night we would be on exchange with the sisters in J's area. 
We had such a great dinner with them. We were able to answer many of J's questions. She has been reading the Book of Mormon and has been getting a lot out of it! We were able to teach her the Restoration, and the spirit was so strong! E was tearing up at one point as she saw her friend really accepting the gospel and have a desire to know that it is true. Sister Thurgood even invited J to be baptized, and she said yes! Sister Thurgood and Sister Woodland (her companion) will now be teaching her.

It was such a powerful dinner in so many ways. It was honestly the perfect use of an exchange. We were able to have dinner at a less-active member's house, and she invited her best friend, who actually lives in Sister Thurgood's area. There really could not have been anything more perfect than that!

The Little Free Library. There is a little place in a neighborhood
here where you can leave a book and take a book in return.
Of course we left one of our favorite books in there!

We also had such a wonderful lesson with one of our investigators D. She has had a really rough time lately with tons of health issues, but she is staying really strong considering. Last week we were able to go over there, read the Book of Mormon with her, and answer some of her questions from what she has read so far.

One of her questions was "Well, how can I know that the Book of Mormon is true?" We had such a big smile on our face as we flipped to Moroni 10:3-5 and shared with her exactly how she can know it's true. We shared with her about truly reading and praying about the Book of Mormon, and she was really excited to try it out. She admits that right now she is really searching, and she is willing to give this gospel an honest try!
Paletas! When in Moorpark, I just HAD to get a pina colada paleta
(ice cream) from the paleta man! Mmmm :) Plus I got to steal Sister
Hardman's sunglasses all day while I drove their car around Moorpark.

This week was such a treat because we started working with our recent convert Gianna on her Young Women Personal Progress. We have really been wanting to keep in contact with her, and be able to help her in any way, so we decided that we would work on her Personal Progress with her! 
She was so adorable because she was so excited for us to come over! She set up their dinner table with drinks, snacks, and even name tags for where Sister Snow and I would sit. She also had her personal progress book and her scriptures out for when we would come over. She is so precious and I love her! 

Sister Snow and I were able to do some
service this week painting brick columns.

One miracle was that one of our investigators B finally read the Book of Mormon for the first time! We have been teaching her for about 4 months and she has never read it! We went over and read a little with her and her husband, and she loved it! She is finally making some great progress, and she is loving what she is reading! 

We also had a lesson with one of our investigators L. I love her! She has been taught by missionaries off and on for a very long time. She has had a hard time because she feels like everyone always tells her "Oh, just have faith" instead of giving her real answers. We were able to really explain things simply and in depth this time. She was so excited because she told us that she felt like this was the very first time that she has gotten some real answers to her questions. She also said that she has really been the happiest she has been in such a long time, and she is now really wanting to be baptized. She is just happy about what she is learning and is soaking up the Spirit!

CAITLIN. Oh my goodness, I love this woman! She is in my
ward here in Simi and she is one of my very best friends. She is
getting married in the temple this weekend and I am very excited
for her, but it just breaks my heart that she is moving away!

There are so many wonderful things that are happening in this area! Some of our investigators are making great progress. Our weeks have been so crazy because of exchanges and the many things happening here! It has been such a blessing for me to be able to serve the sisters in this mission, and to also be a part of so many miracles happening in the lives of our investigators.

I Love You, I Love You, I Love You,
Sister Mason

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cupcakes, Exchanges and Miracles upon Miracles

Mom and Dad,

This week we had some wonderful exchanges! 

I had such a great day on exchange with Sister Morrison. We were in the MTC together. I haven't had the opportunity to spend much time around her since, so it was really great to see how she works. 

Sister Morrison and me at the MTC

We had a great day and talked to some wonderful people! We talked to some people that we probably wouldn't have come across in any other circumstances. 

We worked on giving out a certain number of copies of the Book of Mormon, and it was a great experience. We tried to give one to everyone we talked to. Honestly, I have never been rejected so many times while trying to give out a Book of Mormon, but it was a great experience to try to introduce it to everyone we talked to. I kind of felt that the rejection showed how hard we were trying. Overall, was a great and miraculous day! 

I was really impressed with Sister Morrison! There is something about her that is just captivating. It is the way she is so friendly and connects with people, and also how simply she explains things, that just naturally makes people want to talk to her. That is a gift, and I was able to see that all day with her. 
I was also really impressed with how much love she has for her companion Sister De Vries. She is so patient with her and it was great to see! We honestly have so much in common, so it was great to spend a whole day together!

Sister Morrison!

It was also such a blessing to go on exchange with Sister Karatassos! She has only been out on her mission for a few weeks, but she is doing incredibly well! I could tell that she already knew the Restoration really well and she wasn't afraid to share it! She has a wonderful, quiet confidence about her. She know her stuff and knows the gospel, but it doesn't come off as arrogant or overbearing at all. She has such a sincere desire and loves to share the gospel.

We had such a great day together. We worked on extending invitations to everyone we met, and she did so well! She passed out 2 copies of the Book of Mormon in the first 20 minutes we were out. She was incredible! She said that it was her first time ever giving one out, but I never would have never guessed. This sister is a natural! I was really impressed with how well she is doing for only being out for a short while! She is already such a great missionary, so I just can't wait to see what she will be like in a few months! She is on fire and has such great potential!

Sister Karatassos. Do you just love our matching outfits?

Sister Snow and I both stayed in these sisters' areas for the exchanges, so we were away from our areas for two whole days, but when we came back we saw so many miracles! It really was Heavenly Father going out of His way to bless us for the work that we did in these sisters' areas. The morning after we got home we met a man while we were out exercising. We were just coming back to our apartment and he was out walking his dog. He yelled to us "Hey, are you girls Mormons? I want a Bible." We told him that yes, we were Mormon missionaries, and we found out that he had been wanting a copy of the Book of Mormon.

Even though it was about 6:50am and we were in our exercise clothes, he said that there was something about us and he knew that we were the missionaries. We immediately went over to our car and pulled out a Book of Mormon to give him. We taught him about it, and a little of the Restoration, and invited him to church on Sunday. That man came out of nowhere and was an absolute blessing from God!

At our Youmg Women cupcake activity!

 That same day we had an activity with the young women of the ward! I taught a cupcake decorating class and we talked to them about missionary work. After a while, while I was demonstrating the cupcake decorating, Sister Snow started talking to the girls and sharing mission stories. One of the girls invited her non-member friend. Sister Snow talked to this friend about the Book of Mormon and ended up giving her one. She is now a new investigator and is excited to start meeting with us! Her member friend has been such a great example to her and has already shared verses from the Book of Mormon with her. That was another miracle!

All the cakes from the cupcake decorating class.
Didn't these young women do a great job!

Our investigators M and L are doing so well, and they are ready for their baptism next Monday! We had a lesson with them at M's cousins' house, and it was incredible! We taught about baptism, and the members there shared such powerful testimonies. They are truly so excited for their baptism! We also taught them about the priesthood, temple work, and eternal families while they were at the church for their baptismal interviews. They both were so excited to hear more about the temple and how their family can be together forever!

The lesson during their baptismal interviews was really cool because we decided to teach the lesson to one while the other was being interviewed, and then we switched. Our Zone Leaders and our District Leader's companion were there, so we were able to have their help and had all 5 missionaries teach the lesson. That was such a powerful experience! Sister Snow and I taught, but we had input from the other missionaries. At the end, while we were waiting for one of the interviews to finish, we had all the elders bear their testimonies about how the temple and priesthood has blessed their families. That was incredible, and it is something that I will never forget! They are the sweetest family and I can't wait for their baptism next week.

At the stake Pioneer Day activity we saw this truck in the parking
lot of the church. Only a Mormon would start up this company :)

We had so many other great lessons this week! We were able to meet with our investigators J and B and read the Book of Mormon with them. J is currently recovering from surgery, so he is having a bit of a rough time right now. We read the introductory pages of the Book of Mormon with them and they both absolutely loved it! B has always been along for the ride during the lessons, and is still working on having a desire to be baptized. They loved reading the Book of Mormon and she kept making comments like "Wow, really?" and "That is so interesting!" while we were reading. Her heart is really softening! They both also came to our stake Pioneer Day celebration this weekend, and they loved it! 

We also had such a great lesson with a less-active woman, and we actually had another less-active woman come with us to the lesson! It was great. You could tell that the woman who came with us was so excited to be a missionary to her friend and share what she knows! 

We also were able to teach the Restoration to a Hindu man, and that was fascinating. We shared with him what we believe, and how it can help his family, and he shared with us the basis of his Hindu beliefs.

Melia Street here in Simi Valley

Overall, it was another fantastic week here in Simi Valley! So many great things are happening here! Sister Snow and I are working really well together and are still getting this Sister Training Leader thing figured out!

So Much Love,
Sister Mason

Monday, July 14, 2014

Exchanges and Such

Mom and Dad,

There are so many great things happening here in Simi Valley! 

First of all, were able to meet with our bishop's father-in-law. He is such a sweet 88-year-old man. On our exchange Sister Higgins and I were able to teach him, and it was such a great lesson. He had so many questions. He kept asking if we thought he was a lost cause, and if it was too late to teach him everything he needs to know. We help telling him that he already knows so much about the gospel, and he has such a sincere heart. 

I just loved being with Sister Higgins again! It is honestly
going to be too much when we are back together in AZ

The very best part was at the beginning of our lesson, when we showed him the "How Can I Know?" page in the Restoration pamphlet that shows you how to pray. We showed it to him before we said the opening prayer and he just loved it! He kept saying, "That is so easy! I have heard so many people pray before, but I didn't know it was that easy!" Throughout the lesson he held on to the pamphlet and kept looking on that page. He was so excited about that and he told us that it was his favorite part of the lesson. Sister Higgins told him that we will give him more pamphlets, and that page is in every pamphlet. When he heard that, he looked like he was in heaven. We explained more about the Book of Mormon so it made more sense to him, and he was really excited about that too. He is such a sweet and sincere man! 

The really sad part is that his son is less-active and now very anti. His son started talking to him after our first lesson and started persuading him not to meet with us anymore. It was really sad so see how someone's agency can ruin everything, but I know that if this is the right time for him he will be able to overcome it. He seems so ready after many many years of exposure to the gospel, but this is a pretty big dip in the road for him. Right now he won't be meeting with us for a while, but we hope that things will change.

The MTC Gang all back together!

M and L are doing so great and are getting really excited for their baptism on July 28th! That is just two weeks from today. They are doing so well and they just have so much faith! They finally gave up drinking coffee completely. Right when we told them that they would need to quit drinking coffee to prepare for their baptism, they were completely ready and willing. It is a temptation for L to drink coffee at work, but he said that he now drinks hot chocolate or herbal tea instead. 

Last week we had such a great lesson on keeping the Sabbath day holy. Last night we taught them Follow the Prophet, and we were able to teach them more about Joseph Smith and Thomas S. Monson. They talked about how they know that Joseph Smith is a prophet, but they really want to learn more about him.

Last Sunday they were so sweet. They came late to church and the sacrament had already been passed. M said that she almost cried because she was so excited to take the sacrament, and she was frustrated that she was late. They have such strong faith and they are willing to do whatever our Heavenly Father expects of them. I love this little family so much and they are an inspiration to me. I honestly can't wait for their baptism in two weeks! I still can't believe that the Lord has allowed me to be there from their very first lesson all the way to their baptism. 

I feel like all the sudden the Lord has been pouring out all of the blessings for my hard work throughout my mission. At times I felt like I was working so hard without seeing any results, but now I see that it was just a test of my faith and now I am seeing the blessings! I feel like such a blessed missionary these days!

We helped our investigator get ready for his garage sale. In return, we were
able to take anything we liked. Here are some of the gems we got.
We have lovely matching Disney hats and Sister Snow grabbed
a nice Slurpee tank top. Hahah, it was too much fun!

One of my new favorite investigators is L. She has been taught by missionaries before, and I actually met her about 3 months ago. When we went over to her house I thought that she completely hated us because she was in such a bad mood and just said, "I will get in contact with you when I am ready to take any lessons." 
Sister Snow and I texted her a week or so ago to see how she was doing and if there was anything we could do to help. This week we went over and sorted some clothes for her and were able to talk to her. She told us that she really wants to be baptized, and that she knows that this gospel is true, but it is hard for her to take the steps needed to be baptized (for example, live all the commandments). 

We were able to have such a great talk with her about how we can help her and how she would like us to start teaching her. She is just such a real woman and tells us exactly what she thinks. We came up with a plan perfectly suited to her needs so we could begin teaching her and help her read the Book of Mormon. 

She told us that she wants to start taking the lessons again and that she would probably want to meet with us two times a week! She came to church for all 3 hours this Sunday and last Sunday and she just felt so good to be back in church! I love her so much and we get along really well. 

Exchange in Thousand Oaks. I was with Sister Higgins
and Sister Snow was with Sister Giambattista.

 Sister Snow and I were able to go on some great exchanges this week!

I went on exchange with Sister Higgins and we worked together here in Simi. We were able to teach many wonderful lessons together! We realized that it has been about 9 months since we have been companions and it was so great to see how much we have both changed. It was such a dream being able to spend time together and teach together again. She is such a strong missionary and knows how to not take things too seriously. She is bold but makes everyone around her feel comfortable. I am so grateful for the time that we were able to spend together and the things that I was able to learn from her!

Another Thousand Oaks exchange!
Sister Solarzano, Me, Sister Snow, and Sister Heslop

I also went to Thousand Oaks on exchange with Sister Solorzano! She has only been out on her mission for a few weeks, and she is so sweet! She loves being on a mission and she is so happy every minute of the day. We had a great time together and were able to see many miracles and talk to many people throughout the day. She also worked on asking inspired questions and connecting with people, and she did really well! I could also tell how bad she wants to be a great missionary as soon as possible. She really focuses on becoming better and better every day, and she studies over and over the teaching skills that will help her become a better missionary. She has only been out a few weeks but I am so impressed with her and her dedication!

A member's beautiful horse!

We just had so many great things happening this week! Exchanges on back-to-back days are a little exhausting, but Sister Snow and I are getting used to this new schedule! We have been seeing so many small miracles throughout the day, and also so many huge miracles too. 

We're in horse country in parts of Simi!

This week I am looking forward to teaching the Young Women about cupcake decorating! It is going to be so much fun. I love the Young Women in this ward!

SO Much Love,
Sister Mason