Tuesday, July 26, 2011

an unwavering testimony of the plan of salvation

To my beloved family and friends,

This week has been a week of miracles.  Of tender mercies.  Of prayers answered.  Of confirmations from the Spirit.  Of healing.  Of prayer.  One specific miracle that has blessed my life this past week has been the discovery that I, in fact, have an unwavering testimony of the Plan of Salvation with Christ's Atonement being at the center of that plan.  On Saturday morning I woke up and prepared myself to attend a funeral that was being held at our church building for a less active boy that drowned in the local lake.  Although we didn't know the family it seemed like an opportunity for us to offer service and support as the missionaries in the area.  When we decided midweek that we were going to attend the funeral we had to cancel our highly anticipated plans to go with our entire zone to Bainbridge Island to watch a free showing of the church movie, "Legacy."  A member on the island owns the theater and offered it as a fun activity for Pioneer Day weekend.  But we thought that the funeral would be a more effective use of the Lord's time and that we should go to that instead. 

However I was surprised to wake up feeling that we shouldn't go.  We had already cancelled our ride with our district leaders that were going to take us and we had already commited to attend the funeral.  But I felt really uneasy and told Sister Mills I don't think we should go.  Luckily, our 10am appointment with a recent convert cancelled on us, freeing our schedule.  We got in the car and made the 40 min drive to the island.  The sky was cloudless, perfectly blue.  The sun was shining and for the first time in a long while I felt warmth.  The drive was picturesque.  Just absolutely beautiful driving on winding forest roads overlooking the beautiful sparkling Puget Sound.  Mount Rainier was visible in the distance.  We ended up having a wonderful time.  I never thought that while on my mission I would be sitting in a movie theater with popcorn on my lap, happy as a clam.  There was a high level of excitment as myself and all the other 15 missonaries squealed with delight to be there.  There was a Pioneer Day BBQ that followed.  Life was so good.  I was so happy and content and just feeling that there was nothing that could bring me down.

So when we received an unexpected call from Sister Weaver and the mission President, I assumed that the day was just getting better and better.  I absolutely adore the Weavers and any time I can see them I am beside myself with happiness.  They exude Christlike attributes.  They were coming up to Bremerton for a baptism and wanted to see us while they were up here.  We rushed to meet them at our church building, gladly leaving the BBQ early.  The last few relief society sisters that had helped with the food at the funeral were cleaning up as we arrived.  They said it went well but understood that we couldn't come.  President and Sister Weaver arrived minutes later and greeted us warmly with hugs.  We proceeded to sit in the RS room and I began to wonder what we would be talking about.  Maybe we were going to be briefing them on our area.  Or an emergency interview.  I was not expecting what was said next.

President Weaver turned to me and wasted no time letting me know that Grandma Margaret had passed away.  I can remember my response was, "Ok, I understand."  The moments that followed were a teary blur.  I was not overly emotional or hysterical but I sat there a bit frozen, looking around at the tear filled eyes that greeted me.  Sister Weaver immediately hugged me and held me there for a while as we cried together.  She told me in my ear that Mom had spoken with her earlier the previous evening and that there was no way that should could tell me the news in any other form than in person with a hug ready for me.  In that moment I realized that this was a devastating blow and I had a few moments to decide how this was going to effect me.  We had a teaching appoinment in 20 minutes and the Weavers were going to be leaving to attend that baptism.  I had to choose to let this tragedy devastate me.  To allow myself to be crippled and lose all energy.  Or I could draw from my faith and testimony that she is alright and that I will be alright too. That my knowledge of death and the Father's Plan of Happiness can sustain me at this time.  President Weaver asked if I would like a blessing and I graciously accepted.  What a once in a lifetime opportunity to receive a blessing from my mission president, but also an opportunity for healing and strength that comes from the Spirit through the hands of a worth Melchezidek priesthood holder.  He blessed me with comfort and peace.  For the strength to be able to carry on.  For the energy restored that will surely be drained from me.  He blessed me that I will have an even stronger witness of the Atonement and that this will be an even powerful witness that will have converting power with the people I will find and teach.  He carried on and said some very beautiful, simple, yet powerful promises and words that I know helped get me through the rest of that day and evening.

It really wasn't until yesterday, Sunday, that I was able to even stop for a moment and acklowedge Grandma's passing and allow myself to feel sorrow and to cry about it.  I decided that morning as I was on my knees in prayer that I needed to fast that day.  To fast for comfor and peace, but also for a confirmation of my testimony of all that I knew and believed about this mortal life and death.  About the life hereafter and the power of the Atonement and knowledge of the resurrection.  I strongly reccomend keeping a fasting journal.  I have  notebook designated specifically for fasting.  I write about why I am fasting and all the questions I have or whatever I am in need of or seeking.  And throughout the time that I am fasting I record all things that I felt were revelations, inspirations and things that were answeres to whatever I was fasting for.  So by the end of yesterday I had scriptures, hymns, thoughts and mentionings in other's prayers that were all things that helped me find what I was looking for.  That lended me the peace I was seeking. 

One thing that I found to be extrememly revelatory to me was a collection of scriptures that I found during sacrament meeting.  In the Doctine and Covenants 76: 50-70 lists the Glory and Rewards for exalted beings in the Celestial Kingdom.  These brought great peace and comfort to me knowing that she was far too great for this life and the condition that she was in. 

v. 55 They are given into whose hands the Father has given all things--

v. 59 Wherefore all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ's, and Christ is God's

v. 60 And they shall overcome all things

v 62 They shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever

v. 63 These are they whom he shall bring with him, when he shall come in the clouds of heaven to reign..

v. 65 These are they who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just.

v. 66 These are they who are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place, the holiest of all.

v. 67 These are they who have come to an innumerable company of angels...

v. 68 These are they whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all.

v. 70 These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all...

I know without a doubt that all of these promises and blessings pertain to her.  I know that she is deserving of the highest place in God's Celestial Kingdom and she is reunited with her loved ones.  Before President Weaver gave me the blessing he asked me to briefly tell him about my relationship with Grandma.  I told him that from a very young age I felt that she was an example of someone that lived her religion and her testimony.  That she could stand before the judgment bar and say that she had done her very best and endured to the end.  That she was truly an example of the believers. With tears in his eyes, President Weaver said that was the highest honor that I could pay anyone and that I will be strengthed from her as my own angel in Heaven.  Sister Weaver said that everything I stated about Grandma right then is her biggest hope and wish that her grandchildren could someday say about her..

With yesterday being Pioneer day, I couldn't think of a more honory Sunday to think about a pioneer in my own life.  While she didn't cross the plains to the Salf Lake valley she fearlessly forged a path of righteousness and faith for all those that followed her.  She taught me how to be obedient and how to love the Lord.  She taught me how to pray sincerely and how to rely on the Savior for help and for guidance.  She taught me how to be a better person, a better friend, a better sister, a better daughter, a better student, a better member of the Church and made me want to be a missionary.  I owe so much of who I am today to the living legacy that she left me with.  I felt that each time I do something good, each time I serve, each time I bear my testimony, each time I reach out to someone in love, in the name of Christ, I am honoring her.

I know that it was a tender mercy from God that I had fun that Saturday morning.  That I didn't have to attend a funeral only to be told soon after that there would be a funeral in my own family.  I know that He is mindful of me and that as one of His missionaries I am able to be extremely close to the Spirit.  On Friday morning, the morning that she passed,  I was at a Filipino woman's house that we had miraculously found tracting helping her sort through her two deceased daughter's personal possessions.  They were 21 and 22 years old and both unexpectedly died of cardiac arithmia.   She had not touched their things for seven years, since the day that they died.  I felt extremely close to the Spirit that morning as I bore powerful testimony of the Plan of Salvation with her in her garage.  I told her about Grandma Margaret and the knowledge that I have of His plan allows me to be ok.  I told her that we pray to find people like her. That it was no coincidence that two girls the same ages as her daughters happen to show up on her doorstep the morning they received the coroner's autopsy they had been awaiting for over a year.  We cried together and offered her support and told her of the comfort and peace that comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I think that I must have had Grandma's spirit with me helping me find the words to say as I spoke with this woman.  She allowed herself to grieve and wants us to come back and begin teaching her the gospel.  Everyone we had met that week while tracting had all had experiences with losing a loved one.  I truly feel that we had so much success with them because I was able to be so close to the Spirit as Grandma Margaret's life was slowly drawing to a close.  I feel her around me very strongly.  I know that I do not need to worry about her anymore.  Tell  Grandpa that I love him so much and that everything will be ok.  That he can still have joy in this life and that we will see her again on the other side of the veil.

I want to bear my solemn witness that this life is a probationary state.  A time for us to prepare to meet God. I know that this seperation is only for this life and that I will see her again.  I know without a doubt that Jesus is the Christ.  That He lives.  That God is our loving Heavenly Father and that he loves me.  I know that all grief, heartache, injustice, sin, sorrow, and pain can me made right and lifted through the Savior's Atonement.  I know that there are still things to hope for and things to be joyous about.  I know that there is a life free of pain and suffering or wrongs and evil and it is the life eternal.  I know that I am working toward the same place that Grandma so faithfully has made her final resting stop.  I believe in prayer.  In honest and sincere pleading with the Father, we can receive the peace that we all so desperately need.  I know there is a work here for me to do and that I can and will face the future with faith.  That I will be a pioneer here on my mission for people that are preparing to meet me and for me to find them.  Keep pressing foward.  Keep believing.  Keep the faith.  Keep trusting in the Lord.  Keep Positive.  I love you all so much.  This gospel means everything to me and I know it can for you, too.  Cleave unto Him and he will carry you through this time.  I love you all so much.

Sister Baylon

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

despite the untraditional setting, the spirit was there..

Hi family and friends!

Today has been such a great day so far.  We started off the day doing the "Insanity" workout DVD at one of our favorite member family's house.  Laundry, wrote a couple letters, then had a BBQ at a park with our entire zone and then the neighboring zone of missionaries.  There was a couple in our ward that recently got married and they had a BBQ style reception and had tons of leftover hamburgers and hot dogs and chips and buns so they gave them to us and we fed nearly 40 missionaries. So fun!  The other set of sisters and us just went and got Cold Stone ice cream and then came here to email.  I LOVE my zone!! I have made some really good friends so far and I will be bummed if I get transferred out or if some of them get transferred out, because I will miss seeing them! I saw Elder Homer today at the BBQ. haha so good to see my "son."
Some little fun facts of the week:

Dad!! We were tracting and met this Filipino kid (which is like everyday) and his Dad went to Carson High!! Hahah go figure.  His last name is Itchon.

We met a Filipino lady that lives across from a Less Active Samoan family that we visit.  She is always out watering her lawn and says it's her "therapy" (say it with a Tagalog accent) haha. Guess what her name is? Zena! And her sister's name is Azucena just like our Grandma Cena.

There is a girl in our singles ward named Katy Porter and she knows Katy Andrews from the BYU X-Country team!  Her family is on our list of "Focus Families" that we go out to make regular visits to.  She wasn't coming out to the singles ward but on the first visit that we went over there I invited her to come out and she came that Sunday and has been coming ever since.

Mom, do you remember the Stanges from the Vista 8th ward?  Well there is an Elder Stange in the mission!  I met him my first day in the field, actually, at the transfer meeting.  He looks just like his siblings.  He came up and was like "Hey, you're from Encinitas?" We got to talking and we totally know a ton of the same people.  He goes home soon though.

There is an LDS chiropractor that has his own practice here in Silverdale and gives free adjustments to missionaries.  So on Pdays we get to go get worked on.  He even does the neck adjustment where it looks like he is going to snap or break it off and pops it.  Haha but it actually feels really good.

Ok, so I think it has been a while since I have shared a nasty dog story.  Yuck.  Ok so we go and visit this recent convert named Deorbrah (Dee or brah) that is from Georgia.  Thick southern drawl accent.  The first time we ever came in to visit her I go and sit down on the couch.  A second later I hear the jinglig of dog collars in the next room.  Not one, not two, not three but FIVE miniature pinchers come barreling out like those little dinosaurs from the second Jurassic Park movie and descend on me like a frisky wolf pack.  Five little dinosaur dogs jumping on me from all angles.  One on each shoulder.  My lap and one on my leg. I may or may not have swatted one with my scripture case and not even felt bad about it.  She calls them "min pins" for short.  I call them heinous miniature reindeer from the underworld.  They are way ugly and yip and sniff and bark and jump.  So nastyyyyy.

So this past weekend was the best weekend ever!!! We had lunch with my favorite Japanese lady ever, Sister Warner!! I told you about her last email.  She is moving this week to Utah and I am so sad.  I requested her homemade yakisoba noodles and she offered to teach us how to make them.  So good!  I went to this specialty supermarket and bought her some Soba noodles that I thought would be perfect for the lunch.  But apparently I bought the wrong ones.  They were the kind that "you make on New Years" according to her.  I guess they go in some type of noodle soup like the Udon noodles do.  She makes her yakisoba with spaghetti noodles that she stirfrys.  She even makes her own sauce.  Sooo good. I got the recipe from her and she even wrote it in Japanese.  (and English too). She also made us delicious fried rice, fresh fruit slices and even home made creme puffs for desert.  Since all of their stuff was pretty much packed up in boxes we ate on a little card table and she used a larged furushike as a table cloth! Haha so Japanese!  While Sis Mills and I were eating she wrote in my Testimony Journal.  It's a journal that I bought in the MTC that is specifically for people that I love and new members and our investigators to write their testimonies in.  Kinda like a missionary yearbook.  So neat.  She wrote her conversion story so you'll have to read it when I get back!

After that we got to go down to Tacoma for the first ever Sisters Conference!!  Our mission president's wife, Sister Weaver, wanted all the sisters in the mission to come and spend the night with them at the Mission home in University Place. So we carpooled down with the sisters from Port Angeles and all met there.  (I got my blue card so I can drive now!!)  Sister Weaver is seriously the sweetest lady ever.  It was such a nice gesture for them to invite 24 sisters into their personal home and to spend a part of the weekend with them.  I remembered when I first met her that she said her first week was really hard so I could totally relate to her being new and the fact that we arrived in the field a week apart.  She had mentioned that she lovvves chocolate, so naturally I knew I needed to get her some chocolate.  At Central Market, that specialty market I told you about, they have the hugest candy section.  All kinds of foreign, local, and unique sweets.  So I bought her two bars of chocolate by a company called Seattle Chocolates and a cute note pad and tied it up with ribbon and a card.  She LOVED IT. It made her so happy and we were able to connect on our common bond of being new in the mission.  Sister Warner taught me a greeting in Japanese that I could use towards President Weaver when we were at her house for lunch.  He served his mission in Japan so I thought he would like it.  She taught me to say, "Konichiwa, dendo bucho san!"  Which translates to hello mission president.  But she said that the "san" denotes a very high and respected status almost like a master. I bought him that little brick of azuki bean that you had bought that Japanese lady that you knew, Mom.  He was so happy to get a little something that he remembered from his mission. I We spent the first 45 min- hour all just talking and laughing and chatting and visiting.  They fed us a delicious dinner and breakfast and we had a fireside and morning scripture study together.  So funnnnnnn.  It was so great to meet all of the other sisters and of course to see sister Eichenmiller and sister Robinson from the MTC.  The elders found out from all the sisters in their zones that this sleepover extravaganza was going on and they got so jealous and even annoyed.  Said that it was a waste of time and why didn't they ever get invited to do that.  Before we were all about to leave the mission home, President Weaver said this: "As your mission president, I have been trained and instructed to have you as missionaries have everything you do and say pointed towards baptisms.  So how might I justify this time we have spent together?"  For the first time, I saw my mission president get emotional and he even shed a few tears when he said, "We invited you to our home because we love you.  We know how hard this is and know that some of you might feel alone.  We wanted for a weekend to have you here in a place that will make you feel like you are loved and appreciated.  If you can leave feeling encouraged, uplifted, motivated, and rejuvenated so that you can go off and continue on in the work, then this Sisters Conference was not in vain."  I couldn not agree more.  It felt good to do something fun and to feel loved.  I could tell that the old mission president was not very affectionate or particularly warm and loving.  This mission president is the total opposite.  He has told me several times how much he appreciates and loves me and that he is so proud of me and my work that I am doing.  He is the greatest!

One day while we were tracting we knocked on this one door and this Japanese lady opened the door.  It was obvious that she was upset and had been crying.  Her eyes were wet, red and puffy with tears.  There was sadness in her countenance and she looked like she was in distress.  Before we could say anything I else, I asked her if she was alright.  She proceeded to tell us that she had just gotten in a fight at the grocery store because some lady carelessly cut in front of her in line.  They got in an argument and it escalated and became pretty heated.  The lady at the door said she was cursing at the woman and so much hatred and anger inside of her.  She had been home from the store for a while and continued to cry because that angry and hateful feeling would not leave her.  She said that when we knocked on the door the feelings went away and she was able to stop crying.  Her name was Toshiko and she is a Japanese buddhist.  She was not interested in the gospel at this time but she thanked us for coming by her door so that she could have that awful feeling go away.

I probably am making it sound that everyone here is Japanese or Filipino. Hahah I guess it is true but only half true.  Caucasian people haven't made for as interesting stories so far.  The following story doesn't really help the cause haha.  So last week when we were tracting we met this Chinese man.  When he opened the door it was pretty obvious after the first couple words that we managed to say were not understood by him.  He told us he did not speak english and we clearly did not speak Chinese.  Well, Sister Mills actually spent a couple months in China as a foreign exchange student so she was able to say hello and how are you.  Although he didn't have any idea what we were saying he didn't send us away either.  All I could think of was that we needed to come back tomorrow.  "Tomorrow," I said, "Tomorrow we will come back."  It's funny how you can think that saying it slower and louder will make english suddenly understandable.  He repeated, "tomorrow," and we hoped that he really understood what we meant.  I saw that we had one of two options.  Either we come back with a Chinese Book of Mormon or we come back with someone that speaks Chinese.  Lucky for us I was able to come back with both.  I made a few phone calls to a lady in our ward who recently adopted two kids from china and she gave us the name and number of a lady, Sister Batchi, in a different ward that served a mission in Taiwan so she spoke Mandarin.  She happened to have a simplified mandarin chinese BOM to give to us.  I thought of a few simple phrases that I wanted to say to Mah (the name of the man) when we presented him with the book so she translated it outloud and I wrote it down how it sounded phonetically so I would be able to read it back to him.  So here is what I told Mah when we went back to the door the next day (keep in mind that it is spelled how it sounds and not how it is actually spelled)

Song gay knee (This is for you)
Jay bun shoo hun how hway gay knee hun do-wah kwigh la shing fu (I promise that if you read this book you will have much happiness in your life)
Shun eye knee (God loves you)

He really seemed to like it and was shocked that we not only came back but we returned with a gift for him, spoke some Mandarin, and had Sister Batchi on the phone ready to speak to him.  She told him that we were missionaries and we were inviting him to learn more about his Savior Jesus Christ.  The conversation over the phone went on for about 15 minutes.  While my companion and I stood there on his porch we were offering silent prayers that something Sister Batchi was saying would cause the Spirit to  touch his heart and that he would want to know more.  He told us after he hung up that he had a son.  A son that spoke english.  Then he wrote some Japanese characters down and said "work" "sushi" "go" "son" english" "talk".  We were able to figure out that he had a son that worked at a sushi restaurant nearby that spoke english and his dad wanted us to go visit him.  We took the slip of paper with the Japanese on it and scowered the streets of Silverdale until we found it.  We knew that we needed to find and speak to his son.  We had no idea what he looked like or what to say but we knew we needed to meet him.  So we had a legit stake out.  We sat down like regular customers and asked to waitress to tell us when Ma was getting off work because we wanted to speak with him after she brought us the check.  We waited for him for nearly an hour and when we finally were able to speak to him, we realized that he didn't really speak english either.  Turns out the sushi chef was actually chinese so he translated for us right there at the sushi bar in front of a bunch of loud navy men drinking sake.  Despite the untraditional setting the Spirit was there and I was able to bear powerful witness infront of all those people.  I don't think anything will come from it at this point but I know that a seed was planted and that at some time, some where they will be ready and harvested in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sister Baylon

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

miracles through service

Hello family!!

So I forgot my treasured little black study journal that I keep a running list throughout the week of everything that I want to include in my emails at home in the apt! Rats!!! I had quite the list going and I carry it with me everywhere so that I don't forget anything to tell you in my weekly email home.  So I will have to go from memory this week.  I sent all of you guys a handwritten letter in the mail so a lot of what I won't write in the email this week for the sake of time will at least make it out to you in a card.

The ants here are HUGE. Giant black thick ants that can scurry and climb sooo fast.  I have been bitten by something or other multiple times on both ankles when tracting and I would assume that they were the ants, because I haven't really seen any mosquitos.

I still have not adjusted to the concept of dogs here.  Their smell and their constant shedding of fur.  I have not taken to the abundance of cigarette smoke in various homes that we tract around either. 

I saw my favorite guy ever last night, Brother Elkington!! I just love him and his family, even though he is the only one that talks to us.  I told him that you knew a Raiha Elkington and that is totally his cousin!! He was pleasantly surprised that you knew some of his family!  His family sounded like spiritual giants in every sense of the word.  We didn't think he was home when we circled his neighborhood for the 50th time that day, because his black truck wasn't in the driveway.  But I had the impression that we should still stop by anyway, because his wife's car was there.  We were going to knock on the door and ask if he was there (even though we assumed he wouldn't be) so that we could maybe say hi to his wife and try to build a good rappore (sp?) with her.  His son Noah answered the door and said that they had just gotten home from a soccer tournament down in Vancouver and that his dad was home!! Score.  I was so excited.  I had left my scriptures in the car, because we assumed he would be gone so we started off with just a casual visit.  I told him that you might send him a paddling shirt and he got so excited!  He said he wears an XL.  His club is prepping for the "Gorge" race this next weekend.  After visiting with him for a while I felt prompted to share a couple scriptures that I had read in my personal study a couple days before.  It was in Alma 49: 8, 19-20.  It was talking about the Lamanites and they're preparation to come in and just annihilate the Nephites with a vicious and merciless attack.  But the Nephites were lead by Captain Moroni and were prepared.  In just those three verses alone the word "prepared" comes up I think like 6 times.  It stuck out to me that that particular word was used so frequently.  So it got me thinking about how we too must be prepared.  The Lamanites tried as they might to penetrate any and every portion of the Nephite's fortresses but to no avail.  They tried to force entry from the front entrance but were forced to draw back because they were not making an advances.  We asked Brother Elkington how he prepares and fortifies himself to keep the adversary from penetrating him.  Like his usual self, he tried skirting the question and began diverting to ways that others prepare themselves.  Sister Mills had to just keep repeating the question and each time being more concrete and asked "what is ONE way that YOU safeguard yourself from the world through preparation?"  He finally managed to talk about service and how it makes him feel edified and humbled to do things for other people.  Especially preparing lessons for the High Priest group.  I told him that just as we are constantly having to come up with ways to prepare and strengthen ourselves and our homes, so is Satan.  If he can't force entry through the front door, he will try to come through the back.  Through an open window.  Any chink in our armor, any vulnerable part of us and our homes he will try to pierce us.  I told him that we look forward to coming over and visiting him everyweek and that I love him and his family so much.  I was nervous that the last time we had come over I might have laid down the hammer, but I guess it turned out to be just what he needed to hear because his response surprised me. He said that he loves it when we come over and appreciates our visits.  He said he loves giving service but has a hard time accepting service, but our visits leave him feeling happy and inspired so he likes having us over.  The last time we were there I had cried a lot so when I introduced myself to his wife my eyes were red and puffy.  He said that his wife told him to "Stop making the Sisters cry!" That gave me hope. That she has acknowledged us and that maybe over time we can gain her trust and she will be more open with us.  I am planning on baking something for her and the family the next time we come over.  She is Samoan so maybe food will at least earn me some points.  I told him that I have a half Samoan half Japanese cousin and that he refers to himself as "Jamoan" and Brother Elkington thought that was super funny.

We were tracting in one particular area and knocked on the door of a family in our ward named the Hew-Lens.  When I saw them at church they looked like some type of Asian-Islander mix and I thought that they would be a good family to get to know.  The wife first answered the door and did not seem all too excited that we were there.  Not annoyed or anything but just kind of wondering what was the purpose of our visit.  She said they were on their way out the door soon en route to Seattle to visit some family that had flown in from the Big Island of Hawaii.  Sister Mills asked to use the bathroom so she let us in the house.  While she was in the bathroom, I started looking at their family pictures and things on the wall.  Not gonna lie it was kind of awkward at first because no one was talking, but I felt like there was no way I could leave this house and not establish some kind of relationship with them as the new missionary in the ward.  She seemed like a pretty private person and her kids are very quiet as well so it was up to me to keep my foot in the door while my companion was in the bathroom.  I asked if they were from Hawaii as a lot of the framed pictures on the wall were on Hawaiian-esque things and the conversation slowly began to blossom.  I contunued to keep the conversation about her and her family, and sure enough she told me more and more.  Turns out she is half-japanese half-filipino also!! Once she found that out she got increasingly more friendly.  She even gave us two bags of Washington cherries. Soooo GOOD.  One bag of Ranier and one bag of Bing cherries.  She told us her conversion story and how her and her husband met and their journey to be sealed in the temple.  That never would have happened if I didn't open my mouth and start talking.  I had no idea what I was going to say but I trusted that the Spirit would guide me to ask her inspired questions that would help me gain her trust.  I would drop little things about Hawaii that I knew or remembered and she lit up when I asked her if she was going to stop for malasadas at Leonard's when they go to HI next month.  Boom, we got invited back for shave ice next Friday.  Mom, you'll have to send me names of our family members and the cities they live in Hawaii so that I can sound credible when I tell people that I have family in HI.  Haha they ask me for names of people and places and then I look dumb when I can't think of any.

There is another Japanese lady in our ward named Sister Warner and she is the best.  She is orginally from Yokosko, Japan and speaks in pretty broken english but she is so missionary minded and so cool!  Her and her husband were out of town for a while so I just met them and then I found out they are moving to Utah next week.  Lame!  When she finally found out I was Japanese she was like "Wha? Why you no tell me till now?? We kindred spirits!  I make you Japanese food!!"  Haha she is going to make us home made Yaki Soba or Spam musube.  She totally helped us out with a small miracle that we experienced this week. So our new mission President, President Weaver (who is so RAD by the way. Awesomest mission president ever) really challenged us to do one act of service a day.  Big or small.  But that we will see miracles when we give service stemmed from the pure love of Christ.  So the other day we were driving out of a neighborhood of a girl we just visited and taught a short lesson to.  We turned on to a main road to drive to visit an elderly woman whose husband just passed away.  It was maybe a 1 mintute drive.  On the way, we saw a man on crutches hobbling down the road.  I felt for the guy immediately.  He was no where near anything.  The town wasn't for at least another 2 miles.  But we proceeded on to visit the elderly lady.  She ended up not being home so we drove back out to the road we were on to try to visit another family.  10 minutes or so had passed from the time that we had first noticed the man and he had barely moved.  Maybe 30 feet max.  He had stopped to rest.  It wasn't a particularly sunny or warm day but he was sweating and looked exhausted.  Sister Mills goes, "Man, I feel for that guy" and we proceed down the road in the opposite direction.  I watched him from the side mirror and felt like we needed to go back.  "Stop," I said, "We need to go back and see if he needs our help."  We flipped a U-turn and parked on the side of the road.  As soon as she put the car in Park I ran out down the road to try to catch up after him, skirt and all.  I asked him if there was anything we could do to help him.  Knowing that we are not allowed to give rides to anyone in our car besides other missionaries or members, I tried to ask or offer services to him that didn't include a ride.  Like "Do you need to use our cell phone?" "Where were you heading? We could go get you whatever you were going to get and bring it back to you?"  "Would you like us to call someone for you?"  But to him it just made sense to ask for a ride.  He was planning on walking 4 miles into town to go to the grocery store to get some food.  On crutches with a broken ankle and torn ligaments.  I looked at my companion and realized I needed to make an instant judgment call about what we would agree to.  I felt the Spirit prompting me to allow him to ride in our car and I told him "sure."  He had on jean shorts, a long pony tail, facial scruff and a mustache.  He looked pretty clean but at the same time this was a total stranger we were literally picking up from the side of the road.  But the Spirit continued to whisper to me that this was ok.  Sister Mills proceeded to move our stuff out of the backseat to make room for him, leaving me with him to have a brief conversation before we pulled out.  Before I could even introduce myself or ask him his name he asked, "What church are you from?"  My hair and scarf was covering up my name tag so I had no idea how he knew who we were."  I pulled my hair back and pointed to "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" that was engraven upon a piece of plastic that I wear over my heart.  "Oh, he said.  You're Mormon?  I met some sister missionaries 5 years ago.  I didn't really have any interest in religion at the time, but I didn't want to be rude so I let them in."  Next thing I know, we are off and on our way to the store.  He obviously needed a ride home so Sister Warner agreed to drive her car with us inside to go pick him up an hour or so later from the store.  When we dropped him off there were almost tears in his eyes.  He said that countless cars passed him that day and he was just wishing one would stop and even just offer him help.  Never did he expect that two young ladies in skirts and with missionary name tags would be the ones to pull over and offer help.  It was the best rule breaking experience I have had yet while on my mission.  He said that he had been attending AA type meetings at a church in a neighboring town and was delighted to hear that our church building had an Addiction Recovery Group of our own.  He said he would love to check it out and even has an interest in coming to church!! Miracles through service.  Heavenly Father blessed us that day and I will never forget that.

So many other things I am forgetting and want to tell you but that will have to wait until next week.  I love you all so much!

Sis Baylon

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

''i need to surrender my heart''

Hello family and friends!

I can't believe it but I writing to you on a beautiful, sunny, warm day in Washinton state.  Family, I am going to print off all of your emails so that I can read them later today since I only get 1 hr of time on the computer and don't want to end up with no time to write.

Today has been the best day ever!  We had new missionary training in Tacoma today! So all the new missionaries and their trainers got to go down to meet with President Weaver and his wife and have an orientation meeting and bunch of trainings and break-out sessions.  It was really great to see all of my MTC district after our first couple of weeks and to hear about how they are doing.  All the elders have no longer been able to evade the "missionary hair part."  They all had pretty conservative hairstyles before, but today they all had the very straight-edged combed hair part.  Hahah it was sooooo good to see them.  They were so excited to see me, too.  It was so hard not to hug them all.  Some of the elders that I thought would be powerhouses from the moment we landed ended up having a really rough couple of days or first couple of weeks.  But that is to be expected.  After our meeting we got to go over to the mission home (where President and Sister Weaver live) and all eat a great lunch.  We had lasagna, salad, garlic bread, and brownies and ice cream for dessert.  It was such a nice day that we all got to eat outside on their deck in the backyard. So fun!  I was supposed to get my blue card today that lets me drive a mission car, but I forgot some paperwork at the apartment so I was not able to get it today.  Bummer!! Therefore I am banished to the passenger seat and backing the car.  Did I already explain this to you guys?  So every time the car is in reverse, one of us (aka me) has to be behind the car to guide them backing up.  Even in a giant empty parking lot.

I really hope that I get called to serve in Tacoma or Lakewood.  Just driving around Tacoma today I know I will love it.  More city-like.  A lot of black people and Samoans.  Haha so it's more diverse.  I wish you guys could see some of the places we have tracted or some of the member's homes we have gone to.  It was something you would see on an A&E reality TV show.  Either middle class or way ghetto.  With the occassional super nice house. 

There is a lady named Keiko, our YSA ward's bishop's wife.  (did I talk about her before?) Anyway, she is so cool I will tell you about her again.  She is Japanese! From Yokohama and the sweetest, cutest lady.  She has us over for dinner or breakfast like once a week and is such a good cook.  She make really unique but simple and complex things at the same time. Hahah hard to explain it.  All very fresh too.  She reminds me so much of Grandma Margaret.  The way she walks around her kitchen.  Her cadence in her voice.  But she has an accent though.  She even keeps her vitamins in one of those little ceramic dishes!  Warms my heart every time I see her.

So I have been praying and I fasted on Sunday to help me have a change of heart and attitude to help me take on fully what it means to be a missionary.  Sister Mills gave me an article that was written by the WA-TAC mission's former president who is know a member of the Seventy, Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge.  It is called, "The Fourth Missionary."  It describes 4 different kinds of missionaries, their attributes, attitudes, their successes (or lack thereof for two of them) and their happiness.  I won't describe the first three missionaries, but I will tell you about what it means to be a "fourth" missionary because that is the kind of missionary that I want to be.  That I know I can be.  That the Lord knows I can be.  That He expects me to be.  A fourth missionary is obedient and is obedient not because he wants to outwardly appear so, but because he understands the principles behind obedience.  He wants to be obedient not for the mission president or even for himself, but because he loves the Lord and knows that the first law of all things in Heaven is obedience.  Through his obedience and faith he has a complete change of heart.  He no longer desires to do what he wants, when he wants, how he wants.  But instead thinks of what the Lord wants him to do, when to do it, and how to do it.  This does not mean that he is exempt from frustration, exhaustion or never feels like the work is hard but he presses forward because he knows that this will be for his good and that blessings will come.

An excerpt from the talk said: "If you aren't happy, if you are frustrated or resentful, look inside.  It is within you.  The Savior said, "The Kingdom of God is within you."  It is in your head and in youur heart.  It starts in your head and your heart follows.  You only need to say to the Lord in your head, "I give up.  I surrender.  I won't fight anymore.  Here it is.  Here are my desires.  Here is my will.  I want noly to do what you want me to do.  That's enough for me.  That's all I want, because it's the only intelligent thing to do."

I learned an important lesson this week.  I need to be willing to fully consecrate myself to this work.  To my mission.  To my wards.  To the members.  To the people I am serving.  To my companion.  To my investigators.  To the Lord.  I have to not only serve with all my might and strength but I need to surrender my heart.  For the first two weeks I did not surrender my heart.  I was being a "third" missionary.  I was doing everything I was supposed to.  I was even being effective.  I had the Spirit with me.  I did good works.  Taught well.  But I with held my heart.  And it made the work far more difficult than it ever had to be.  But now, I realize that for 18 months I agreed to give all of myself to my misson, to Heavenly Father, and his children who are looking for the truth and "know not where to find it."

I had an interesting discussion with my favorite, Mauri, Brother Elkington.  I felt like we needed to go visit him after we had an appointment with a member that lived near his home.  We went over.  His son, Noah, 12, is the only one that his wife allows to come to church on occasion with his dad.  He is always so excited when we come over and let us in.   We originally were going to share a scripture from 1 Nephi but I was prompted to ask Brother Elkington what we call in the mission "inspired questions."  Questions that unlock and uncover so much more about the individual, their spirituality, needs, and concerns.  If truly insspired questions are asked with the Spirit present, your mind is enlightened with how to discern what they are telling you and what to say that they might not even know they need to hear.  So someway, somehow I was able to find out that he is very troubled, dare I even say unhappy.  He has given up hope on his wife who is not a member and feels like there is little to look forward to or no reason to work on his individual progression and salvation.  He feels this way because he thinks that what kind of place would Heaven be if he could not be there with his family.  He thinks that his ability and privilige to exercise the Priesthood ends at the door when he walks in the house.  Several other things came pouring out and I really felt for him.  I told him about you, Mom and how you have set such a great example for me and our family by being worthy and working to receive your own endowments and have not let yourself get discouraged.  I can't even remember all that I said, but what I do remember was that the Spirit spoke so, so strongly through me to him.  I was bold in a way that I have never been before.  It was a call to action without being overbearing.  I told him that regardless of his situation with his family that the Lord is bound when we do what He asks.  That if Brother Elkington was to prepare himself to enter the temple again that not only him but his family would be blessed.  If the we are living the gospel and doing all that we possibly can on our own, the Lord will fulfill our righteous desires.  They just might not be on our time or they exact way we envisioned them to be fulfilled.  I told him to NEVER, EVER give up hope.  Change can happen.  And it starts with him.  When we put the Lord first and trust in His arm that all things are made possible.  He is a very talkative guy.  Always trying to divert the attention away from him and speaks a lot so that he can put the attention back on us.  But for the first time he was quiet.  He was pondering.  Reflecting.  You could see the trouble in his eyes and the pain in his heart.  But I assured him that the hope that we so desperately need in this life is through the Savior, Jesus Christ.

I was reading in the latest Ensign magazine and this quote by Elder Uchtdorf caught my eye so I wrote it down in my journal.  It's called

"The Ultimate Formula for Happiness"
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has the answers to all of our problems.  The gospel is not a secret.  It is not complicated or hidden...It is not someone's theory or proposition.  It does not come from man at all.  It springs from the pure and everlasting waters of the Creator of the universe, who knows truths we cannot even begin to comprehend.  And with that knowledge, He has given us the gospel-- a divine gift, the ultimate formula for happiness and success."

I love this gospel.  It is simply beautiful and beautifully simple.  It can heal broken hearts.  Lift heavy loads.  Wipe our teary eyes.  Give us a perspective vision as we navigate this life.  It brings justice to those that have been wronged.  It extends mercy to those that have done wrong.  It builds.  It strengthens.  It comforts.  It unifies.  It gives hope.  It brings peace.  It can change our hearts.  It can ease our minds.  It can bring us joy.  Let us experience love and teach us how to love others.  Even as the Savior loves us.

Please, please pray for missionary opportunities.  Think of people to share the gospel with.  Open your mouths and testify of what you know to be true.  Invite others to church or to your home. The Lord will bless you. Help in the efforts of one heart, one mind, one church.  Allow the missionaries to visit you.  They bring a message from the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords.  They carry with them the Spirit and will fill the walls of your home with that very spirit.  I promise that you will not regret it.  As the Lord's missionaries, we are united and working towards the same purpose.  So by helping them, you in turn, are helping me.  You are supporting some missionary that is just like me.  But ultimately you are supporting your Heavenly Father.  Rejoice in the gospel together.  As families. With friends.  There is so much to be grateful for and to be happy about.  "In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

I love you so much,

Sister Baylon