Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Week 3: Yippee!!

Hello Everyone!

I have arrived in Wisconsin!  My new address is: 1224A Northpoint Dr. Stevens Point, WI 54481.  

I'm attaching a picture of me and SIs. Pearson wearing a Packers scarf that one of the members made for me!! :) Happy St. Patricks Day!!!! (hahah there will be lots of alcohol about wisconsin today) 

The mission home is super cute!!  I LOVE my mission president! He is the sweetest, most kind man ever. In my interview with him he offered such a powerful and wonderful prayer on my behalf, blessing me that I would grow and develop many new talents on my mission.  I wish I had recorded it, it was cool. I got to tell him about why I came out to serve a mission and told me he thinks i'll get some opportunities to use my cello talents.  Throughout the interview I felt that he really understands and loves me.  Sister Cutler is a super good chef and made us delicious food, including homemade french toast with berries for breakfast in the morning! We stayed at the mission home for just one night.  I love them both.  

There are about 262 missionaries in my mission.  Our schedule is the standard missionary schedule except until General Conference we work out an hour instead of a half hour.  MIssionary work is VERY disciplined and structured.  I'm getting used to it still, but I love it! And we get 2 hours to email on p-day.  The good news is I can wear chapman shorts every morning if I want when we work out in the laundry room (we jog outside if it's "warm" enough... I walk fast and Sis. Pearson, who did track in school, runs in circles around me :P), but even on p-day I have to be in my skirt and tights!! It's not TOO bad, though.  I can see it's important to dress nice becasue it makes people more willing to talk to us.  

I am in a small town, called Stevens Point, right in the middle of WIsconsin.  THere are only about 27,000 people who live here and not even 300 members.  There is only 1 small branch which will hopefully become a ward in months ahead.  maybe while I'm here! It's just 1 set of elders and us. There were only like 5 people in Sunday School yesterday, hahah.  This branch is fun sized! 

My companion, SIster Pearson, has been here since the beginning of August.  She is from Cedar City, Utah.  She is the second oldest of five children in her family.  THis is her second transfer in Stevens Point.  I am actually just 1 month older than she is.  She is a runner, and likes to eat healthy, like me.  But maybe not exactly like me.  She is nice enough... though it's taken me a few days to loosen her up a bit.  I admire her calmness when talking to people.  

The weather here has been freezing! Well, according to the Wisconsin people, it's hot! It's been around 20 degrees every day and it was lightly snowing this morning. I saw a guy running outside in shorts and a t-shirt!!! I've been freezing, I'll just say it how it is.  I'm learning that I need my big coat everywhere we go! I don't know if it's worth buying the super big boots yet.  I can jsut use my Welly's.  Sis. Pearson's quote of the day yesterday when it was 20 degrees outside: "This is the perfect weather for tracting." Haha, not!!! And people say "cool beans" lots here. 

Speaking of tracting, we do LOTS of tracting in this mission! It's rather unfortunate, because referrals would be best! We desperately need some. 
I have actually had really good tracting experiences so far. No one has slammed a door or anything! The people are very nice here, all things considered.  The meanest thing so far was one guy interrupted and said "no thanks, ladies" and closed the door. I can handle that. :) Lots of people say they are Cathollic or something.  But almost everyone is willing to hear us out.  

 I'll start out with the best tracting find.  I was feeling rather discouraged yesterday, plus it was freezing. But then, we met Owen!! He is a vet, very nice, has a spiritual family, and was very open to our message.  He was about 25, I think.  But we gave him a Book of Mormon and told him how it would bless his life and give him guidance and direction in his life.  And he was way into it! His Mom is also a potential investigator, but she wasn't there that time! Anyways, we always say a prayer with them at the end (people love to say prayers outside in the cold in Wisconsin).  So we prayed with him and he said he felt all warm inside. We were like, that's the spirit!!! He wants to meet with us again,so we are excited.  :D Tender mercy! 

But this week we've  mostly been working with less-actives, who live in SUPER smoky houses!!! I've had to hang up my clothes to air them out.  My first tracting experience... it was "fun-kward!"  Awkward, but actually quite fun.  I've been really bold (not afraid to teach and talk), and enthusiastic, according to SIs. Pearson, who is assuring me that I'm doing really well.  Most missionaries are afraid to talk at all when they first start out. But, I still need to work on being confident when I first talk to strangers.  They told us not to do that when we were little! Cause it's awkward.  But in the mission field, awkwardness abounds so you might as well embrace it.  It's fun not to care what people think! Hahah. :P Oh, and I invited some people to baptism this week! That was the goal.  :) cool, eh? They said they'd try.  

There are 2 potential, quite likely baptisms that will be happening next month, though!! One is Brian, who is in his early 30s. He just had nose surgery and is a little different, but he's awesome.  We need to help him feel forgiven before his baptism on April 12.  And the other is Skylar, who is 11.  He lives far away and his mom has been out of town so we need to find a way to get him to church each week and meet with us more regularly.  He doesn't have a date yet.  

I did get a chance to play the cello at sacrament meeting in the MTC. That was great! People liked it.  And, yesterday I introduced myself at our branch.  I said that in addition to being a full-time servant of the Lord, I play the cello and would be beyond willing to seranade anyone who has a cello for me to borrow.  So... they want me and SIs. Pearson (who plays piano) to perform for Easter and Stake Conference!!!! It's not for sure yet because they still need to secure me a cello.  Most people here do not play instruments.  But everyone has a dog here! 

I'm running out of time here, so I'd like to mention some things I learned in 2 wonderful talks I heard this week.  One is "My Grace is Sufficient" by Brad Wilcox.  If you haven't heard it, stop what you're doing after this email and read it!! It will change your perspective about the Atonement and grace.  I loved how he applies the concept of the Savior's payment for us to a parent who pays for piano lessons for her child.  We aren't repaying the Savior for what he did, just like as the child, we aren't paying our Mom for providing the lessons. We don't repay the Savior either.  He already paid the price.  All we are doing is determining how comfortable we will be in the next life. How do we prepare? We practice!!! Ask any musician when he/she will be done practicing and they'll tell you... never!! That's how it is with us, too.  We never stop refining ourselves.  The purpose of the Atonement is change, not punishment or repayment. The atonement was an investment... for us! So we could become what we need to be to live with God again.  We aren't earning heaven, we are learning heaven!! So, while on my mission, I'm learning a new instrument... a spiritual one! One that I will keep practicing for the rest of my life and applying to all areas of my life.  Also, Christ isn't at the finish line waiting to make up the difference after all we can do, He is there with us, every step of the way! I love that.  

Sorry this is a long email! But I will admit I was feeling anxious and worried a bit this week and I want to share something that lifted my spirits.  Leave it to Elder Holland to do that! He has a great talk called, "Remember Lot's Wife." It's a good one, look it up sometime.  So what did Lot's wife do that was bad enough to make her turn into a pillar of salt? At least part of it lies in the fact that she looked back longingly, and wanted to go back to the city.  How often do we get caught up remeniscing about the past and forgetting to worry about the present and future? Lot's wife also doubted the Lord's ability to give her something better than she already had. After a dream, I was thinking about the good old days I had in high school where all I had to worry about was playing the cello and homework, (what I'm best at) and wondering how it is that I got here on a mission, where things aren't always super exciting.  But we must remember that faith is ALWAYS pointed to the future.  In that brief though process I was guilty of the same thing as Lot's wife.  I had to kick myself in the rear and remind myself that God doesn't care nearly as much about where you have been as He does about where you are and where you are willing to go with His help. I had to reremind myself that my purpose as a missionary is to bring others closer to Christ and thereby grow and learn myself!! As it says in Genesis 18:16, (this is a paraphrase), is anything impossible to the Lord? He can do anything for us, and make us as mighty and awesome as we are willing to let Him.  So let us all look forward with an eye of faith toward the future and a willing heart, and above all, trust Him!!! 

I know that the church is true!!! I have felt the Spirit testify to me more than ever out here!  

I love you all!!!!! 

Sister Woods

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