Tuesday, August 30, 2011

everything good comes from God

Hello everyone,
Kimbo, I just wrote you today!!

So good to hear from everyone this week.  I did not get ONE letter in the mail this week.  Oh, wait I take that back.  I got a letter from Daryl Farnkoph from the ward.  So nice of her to write to me.  I still am so happy for her that her husband, John, was able to get baptized.  Whenever I have attended a baptism or I have had a baptism for an investigator I feel so much joy.  Not even for me or for the other missionaries because we worked hard to see this happen.  But because the person being baptized has been brought closer to Christ and now they get to feel what I feel everyday.

This past week has been so awesome and this next week should be just as great.  I get to be apart of my first "shifty" or I guess most people know them as "exchanges."  Where an entire zone or district swaps companionships and areas within that zone or district.  So basically everyone rotates and shuffles around for teaching/learning/experience purposes.  So the neighboring Bremerton zone is doing a shifty and they want their set of sisters to be able to participate.  Since sisters can only swap with sisters and lucky for them our zones are very near eachother, we could help them out by agreeing to swap with them.  So I am going to B-town!  So exciting haha.  I'm seriously just going like 3 miles away but I'll be spending the night at their place, driving in their car, seeing their investigators, etc.  So it's kind of like a baby transfer.  Except you get to come back to your area and comp.  Sister Mills is staying here and they will bring her the greenie that just came to Bremerton. 

Ugh.  This has been the week of nasty old granny food.  Guys, I seriously was dry heaving at the dinner table.  I was sly about it though so I don't think anyone noticed.  One day we were fed by this recent widow in the ward.  Sister Mills actually ate at her home with her husband the first week she was in the area.  She warned me that the food might be on the "mushy" side.  Not much has changed.  Mushy central.  I never in my life had experienced green jell-o with...wait for it....wait for it....CABBAGE.  Yes, you heard correctly.  Green jell-o w/cabbage.  Gag.  Then we had these ridiculously mushy carrots that were served in this like orange jelly glaze.  Oh man, my stomach is turning just thinking about it.  Then we had this chicken noodle casserole.  Followed by gummy rhubarb pie. MMM!!!  The next day we had another meal with an older lady in the ward.  Sketchiest kitchen ever.  Things stacked and cluttered on the counters and stove.  Open containers of things everywhere.  Just not exactly up to Health code.  We had burnt pizza and Crook neck squash.  It was like 50 times worse than that burnt pizza Grandpa Ted ate at the hospital.  Just black.  The cheese was cardboard.  She scooped about a gallon of yellow goopey squash on my plate.  Gulp..... I basically just mashed it up on my plate and then just swallowed it down with some room temp orange flavored SunnyD.  I may or may not have scooped some of the squash back into the bowl when she got up to get the phone.  Shh...don't tell.  The next day we ate a family's house that are siliac.  They can't eat anything with gluten.  They also are allergic to nuts, dairy, soy, and fish.  Basically what can they eat? Oh they can eat vegetables.  Lots and lots of vegetables.  Oh want some more peas? ok here is 4 ladle full.  Want some more Brocolli? Oh here let me fill a cereal bowl of it for you.  You don't look like you have enough caulliflower Sister, Let me scoop you some.  Save me!!! I have never had so many heaps of soggy steamed vegetables in my life.  I thought that week of food would never end.

Mom, Brother Elkington knew every single person in your pictures!  He was so excited.  A good number of those people were his first cousins or close family friends.  He said that you looked vaguely familiar.  He didn't go to BYUH he just grew up in Laie but he went to school actually in California on a football scholarship.  I forget which UC school it was.  I can't wait to tell him that you got him a shirt he will love it!!!

This week we spent some time studying mormon.org.  We are allowed an hour a week to study the website, watch video clips on it, and know what all is featured on the site so we now how to use it with teaching opportunities.  Have any of you reading this checked it out lately?  If so, that's great! If not, why not??  It's SOOOO user friendly and they totally redesigned it so that it actually looks interesting and not such a visual eye sore.  Dad, there is this video you would love.  It's under the section "Our People" and then there are a bunch of different videos about different members of the church.  If you scroll down to the very last one click on the video about a guy named Steve Brouggy.  I believe he is from New Zealand and he races motorbikes.  They have so many really just inspiring and amazing stories of members from around the globe, from all walks of life that tell their story from an interesting perspective.  There is even a video on a  cute Japanese girl with the last name Adachi and she's a high school senior.  I would invite all of you to make a member profile on Mormon.org.  You can decide what you want to write about or what you want to share, but it is a great way to let the world know and our communities know who we are and who we are individually.  Puts a more relatable and recognizable face to the Mormon name.  Here are some notes I jotted down after watching a few of the video:

-There is a point in our lives where we have to have God.  Because we have nothing else.

-God has given us everything that we love.  That inspires us.  That gives us energy.

-Life shouldn't be sad.  You can always find the upside and the humor in everything.

-I'm still young.  I have a chance to change.  To be better.

-Good things take time. 

-Whatever I do, put 100% into it

-Do I give my best to everyone else, so that when I go home my family gets my leftovers?

-If I believe in God, how can I possibly become depressed?

-If you are weak on the inside, you won't last for any time at all

-I will come to understand who I am and who God is through adversity.

-Everything GOOD comes from GOD

-The most happiness we can experience is often found within the walls of our own homes

-Embrace challenges rather than avoid them

I know that they are pretty fragmented and sound pretty cliche but if you watch the stories and lives that coincide with these basic mantras and principles, there is real power to these words.  I've said it before and I'll say it again:  The Gospel is beautifully simple, and simply beautiful.  How many times do we complicate our own lives with things that are of really no importance?  I know it is hard for many if not all of you to have an hour of personal gospel study each morning, but if you can designate some time with the scriptures, or the Ensign, or even writing in your journal as you eat your breakfast in the morning, your day will be less likely to unravel.  I love my personal study time in the morning and cherish that hour that I have designated before I begin my work day by being able to invite and feel the Spirit.  I can totally tell a difference in lessons with investigators or other members when I either have or have not done a very good personal study that morning.

This week I have had to learn a lesson with forgiveness.  Forgiving others.  Forgiving myself.  Allowing the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to take over where my own idividual shortcomings end.  I love Elder Holland.  I read a talk he wrote during one of my personal studies and he said that "Forgiveness was the key to the meaning of all the suffering [ Christ ] had come to endure."  I don't know why, but there were 6 different people this week that told us that they were victims of sexual abuse as a child and how they are still dealing with the aftermath of those events.  There is so much hurt and mistrust and sorrow in their eyes as they each told us their stories.  The people and the places and times were different, but one thing was the same.  That it was not their fault and that the Atonement covers them too.  The innocent that was wronged just as much as the guilty that had wronged them.  A big hurdle they have all had to jump was not only forgiving the perpetrator, which sadly was usually a family member or friend, but they really struggled with forgiving themselves.  Feeling like somehow it was their fault.  President James E. Faust had said, "Keep a place in your heart for forgiveness, and when it comes, welcome it in."  I would invite all of you to take a look at today, this past week, this past month.  What are some things you could ask forgiveness for from God?  From others?  Who are some people you could forgive?  What are some grudges you have been holding on to that you need to let go?  I have seen the power of forgiveness though Christ's Atonement work miracles in my life.  Burdens and guilt carried for me.  Sorrow and pain erased.  He loved you enough to die for you,  He loves you enough now to want you to live through Him.

Love you all,

Sister Baylon

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

spirit, power, boldness

Hey everyone,

Glad to hear that everyone is doing well.  I got so excited to hear that Grandpa Ted was going to write me an email but then got way bummed when there wasn't one from him in my inbox.  Hmm, maybe he hasn't gotten around to it yet.  Man...This past week has been interesting to say the least.  Remember how I mentioned that Sis Mills and I were going to be trying our best to be exactly obedient?  And that we were pretty sure that biggest hurdle we were going to have to jump with obedience would have to do with leaving a member's home on time? WRONG.  This past week has been the week of failed appointments and so much ANTI-mormon sentiments.  Where to even begin.  It seemed like the first two weeks of this transfer were just steem-roller weeks.  We saw baptisms, we found people to teach, we gave church tours, basically everything that we could hope for in missionary work.  We were on such a high that the test, we found out, was to be able to carry that same momentum despite major opposition.

The adversary held nothing back this past week.  Particularly at the door when we were out finding.  People had such hate in their eyes.  Looking at us like fools, people that didn't even deserve pity.  Fools for believing such "garbage."  For believing in a "ridiculous science-fiction story."  Scoffs and scorns that "we were out wasting our time when we could be out doing something to better the world, because clearly [you're] just making it worse."  It hurts to hear words like this.  To feel someone's spirit trying to attack and antagonize and demean ours.  I guess I experienced a microscopic percentage of what Christ endured almost every day that he walked the earth.  The lesson or point that I feel like Heavenly Father wanted us to learn was to be obedient "at all times and in all things and in all places."  To "stand tall in crying and in suffering" as put by Elder Holland. 

Earlier in the week, we had a training by one of our zone leaders (and one of my favorite elders in the mission) Elder Topp.  He spoke on the topic of attitude.  That our attitudes really are an indication of our faith; our trust in God.  He shared the story of Abinadi in the Book of Mormon and how he returned to the wicked people he was crying repentance to, even after they had kicked him out of the city.  Paraphrasing, he said, "Touch me not! For I still have a message to deliver.  God will spare my life until I am able to deliver this message! "  He had so much faith, such an unbelievable attitude as he is being tormented and ridiculed and had his very life threatened and he still stood tall in his suffering.  You all know the story reveals that in the end Abinadi is ultimately killed but he valiantly bore witness and testified and warned the people of their fallen state.  That when he had completed his mission he had said in Mosiah 17;19-20 "Oh God, receive my soul..."  I hope that by the end of my mission, when I have the opportunity to attend a session in the temple with the other missionaries that I will be going home with, that I can turn over the mission to the Lord in His Holy House.  That I can say "Oh God, receive my [mission].  That I did all that I could with the time given.  I served this mission for thee.  I hope it is acceptable."

Something really great happened this week though.  It was the shining star amongst several dark nights.  Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles came and spoke to the Tacoma and Seattle missions. Nearly 400 full-time missionaries gathered in the Federal Way stake center to be instructed and inspired by someone so close to the Savior.  The first two rows of the chapel were reserved for the sister missionaries and my companion and I arrived early to guarantee the best seats.  I got to sit within 7 feet of an apostle!  How powerful of an experience to one day be enduring mockery and ridicule on someone's porch to not even 24hrs later to be addressed in the flesh by an apostle of the Lord.  That really the person that should be felt sorry for is them.  They who rejected the glad message that is the Gospel.  Not me.  That they were so far from the truth, with hardness in their hearts, when at one time they knew.  That they had agreed to the Plan that the Savior put forth and that they came to earth wanting to return to Him.

Here are a few notes from his address:

- He said that as much as he wanted to say that he came just to see us (the missionaries) he did not.  He came to address the Bishops, High Priests, Ward Mission Leaders, and Stake Presidents.  The church is growing so rapidly, that it needs more Priesthood holders, specifically Melchezidek priesthood holders.  This is totally the case in our YSA ward.  With Rob, our ward mission leader getting married, there is an opening for that calling.  With such few Melchezidek priesthood holders in the ward to begin with, it doesn't help that most are going back to school for the fall semester.  The others are either aaronic priesthood holders are if they do hold the higher priesthood they are not worthy.  Bottom line;  We need more priesthood leadership.  Did you know that 75% of stake presidents, 66% of bishops, and 60% of Elders quorum presidents are Returned missionaries?

-He mentioned the Broadway show that has caught the world's attention.  Every bus stop, taxi cab, and building marquee had THE BOOK OF MORMON plastered to it.  He said the church's public affairs office in Manhattan has never seen more inquiries than as the time following the broadway show.  The world is becoming more aware of who we are.  Of the power we hold.  The Lord expects a lot of me as a full-time missionary, but he also expects a lot of the general members of the church.  Now is the time to be opening our mouths and bearing witness of the truth.  To help bring the less actives back in to the fold.  To strengthen our recent converts.  To invite our friends, family, and neighbors.  To cause a mighty change of heart of the people in the world today.  He stressed the importance of unity in the church.  To be part of a team that works together with the SPIRIT, with POWER, and BOLDNESS. 

-He reminded us that the Head of this church is not Thomas S. Monson.  He is merely a designated Holy messenger.  The head of the church has been and will always be Jesus Christ.

One of my favorite scriptures that I read this week during personal study is in Alma 29:1-2 "Oh that I were an angel, and could have the wish of my heart, and that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people...Yea I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.

That is my prayer for my mission.  For all of you, I hope that you could stand before someone and know that you have a testimony of the living God.  Of Jesus Christ.  That the boy Joseph Smith beheld a vision.  That the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ.  And that there is a prophet on the earth today.  So that when you are ever put in a position where that testimony could be questioned, that you can stand in faith, immovable in the Gospel.  Make your testimony solid if it isn't today.  Elder Holland counseled, "May we declare ourselves to be more fully disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, not only in word and not only in the flush of comfortable times but in deed and in courage and in faith, including when the path is lonely and when our cross is difficult to bear."  I know that  "I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  I have been called of Him to declare His word among His people that they might have everlasting life." (Helaman 5:13)

Love you all,
Sister Baylon

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Finding joy through loving service


Ok so I switched it up today and actually read your emails before I started typing mine.  Good thing I did, so many good things going on at home!! Scott, that is so awesome you are making it big with the video production skillzz of yours.  Keep it up.  All those hours fiddling around on iMovie are paying off.  That's so great that Dad sat in with the elders.  Are you so excited the missionaries are meeting with you each week??  That is so cool, I wish I was one of the missionaries coming over.  Haha I loved hearing that there is a ginger elder serving in our ward.  Wait, which on is Elder Cazair? The one from Montana or the one from Rigby, ID?  There was a whole district of elders that I was in the MTC with me that were heading to Carlsbad and got sooooo excited when I said that was my home mission.  They were like "Who's your family?!?! Tell them to feed us!!!" haha. So keep your eye out for some hungry greenies.  There are a few really missionary-minded families here in the ward.  Just awesome supports to us.  So make the Baylon family one of those for the missionaries in our ward.  There is family full of 5 boys that have us over all the time.  Whenever we need anything, we know who to call.  This morning we went over there to wash/vaccuum our car, work out, got fed a hot breakfast, and left with groceries.  They are the best!!

This week was so amazing.  We had our miracle baptisms with the two Samoan sisters.  We were afraid that there wasn't going to be anyone coming, because the girls are super shy and don't talk much at church and with their mother being less active and their step-dad not a member, their parents don't know anyone in the ward besides us as the missionaries.  Our prayers were answered, people showed up in droves!! It was truly amazing.  The primary president came and welcomed Angelina (10) with a special blanket to represent the "Comforter" as the gift of the holy ghost.  The Young Women President came and presented Kimberly (12) with a white fleece scarf.  Kind of a teen-version of the blanket her sister got.  There was even a couple women that volunteered to do a musical number with a piano/cello duet of "Come Follow Me."  So beautiful.  The Bishop's wife and her kids came along with several other families in the ward.  They wanted the baptism in the middle of the week in the middle of the day so we were having a hard time rounding up Priesthood holders that could make it.  Brother Elkington took work off so that he could come! Amazing.  He gave a talk on receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and just knocked it out of the park.  He brought his son, Noah, and afterwards said that he and his son had the greatest time.  The new senior couple elder and sister came and even President and Sister Weaver.  It was the dream team.  I gave the talk on the Restoration and could not have had it go any better.  The entire room was listening, including their non-member step-dad.  Their mom was even in tears.  Now we are going to start working with their 11 yr old brother that was baptized in their uncle's ward in Bremerton and start getting him back to church.  Eventually, we want to start teaching their 9 yr old brother that hasn't been baptized yet.  They invited us over to house afterwards for a Samoan feast. Yowza.  I felt like a minnow going up against a pack of hammerheads.  They can pack food aaaa...wayyyyyyy. Dang.  There were like 5 kinds of barbecued meat, potato salad, rice, chop suey, steamed bananas, and of course custard pie.  I was the only one that didn't take seconds or clean my plate.  One of their uncles jokingly gave me a hard time about it.  I could never make it as a Samoan.  He said that he lived in Torrance for one year and attended a Samoan ward there.  What ward is Grandpa in? He said they have a ton of family in Long Beach.  Remember that big Samoan gangster from the Italian Job movie?  Totally his cousin. 

Saturday was one of the best experiences of my life.  We got special permission from President Weaver to accompany the YSA ward on their annual trip to Shaw Island in the San Juan islands to help these 7 retired Catholic nuns who run a 400acre farm.  The islands are way outside of our mission boundaries and we are the first ones to ever get permission to go.  Making us the first LDS missionaries, first Sister missionaries, to ever step foot on that island.  Sweet!  Just getting there was an adventure in and of itself.  We all met at the church building bright and early at 4am.  From there we caravaned to Kingston about 40 minutes away where we boarded a ferry that took us to Edmonds.  From Edmonds we got off and drove an hour and 15min to Anacortes.  From there we took a ferry to Shaw Island.  Talk about the edge of the earth.  It was the most beautiful ride.  We passed a place called Orcas island.  Total Free Willy status.  The crazies thing happened.  When we finally made it to Shaw island and were walking off the ferry, we noticed that our group of 38 people looked smaller than usual.  By the time we could start getting a head count, the horn blew and the ferry headed back out to sea.  Yikes.  13 people did not get off the ferry and would have to sit tight for another 3 hours until the ferry made its way back to Shaw island on its round of stops.  Talk about a parable to teach by.  The U.S.S. Bridegroom came and went and 13 virgins were left. Hahaha.  We were shocked they were that unaware.  The nuns came and picked us up in this huge 15passenger van that had clearly seen better days.  It was gutted out without seats or seatbelts so Bishop didn't want the sister missionaries to be without seatbelts so we rode with him in his car while everyone else piled in.  It was about a 3 mile drive to the farm and we saw maybe 2 houses.  Less than 200 people live on the island, but there actually are several members of the church that live there as permanent residents.  Guess what? They have sacrament meeting over the phone! Haha there are so many little islands and very few members, there is not a church building that is close enough that they could all meet at.  I'm not exactly sure how digital church works but I thought that was crazy.

So we get there and are divided up into groups that are assigned different jobs around the farm.  The nuns LOVE THE MORMONS.  They said that groups come up occassionally to help out, but the Mormons are the only ones that show up to work.  And to work hard.  It's true though.  I've never seen so many hands go up when Mother Superior asked for volunteers to clean the chicken coop.  Talk about a crappy job.  Ha. Get it?  Anyway, bad joke. There were actually a few nonmembers that came up, but we were asked by the nuns to not proselyte while on the island.  So while we were not able to verbally proselyte, I would say that we were able to by our actions and attitudes.  I had my doubts the 20-somethings would be less than eager to give up their sleep, time, and free Saturday to do hard manual labor for some old ladies dressed in head-to-toe Habits.  But I was so wrong.  Smiles and laughter all around.  Shy kids coming out of the woodwork, being outgoing and friendly with others.  YSA's branching out and speaking with people they normally don't while bonding over their assigned jobs.  So awesome.  Everyone just exuded happiness.  Truly "finding joy through loving service." (I was assigned to speak on that topic the next day at church)  These two nonmember sisters volunteered to help stain a wooden walkway, benches, and deck so Sister Mills and I didn't wait a second to volunteer to go with them. Hahah we were not doing our duty if we didn't at least try to teach the gospel in some way or another.  There were these two slightly older women that came with us to show us what to do.  Their names were Maryanne and Martha and when I looked at them I thought, "Man, I swear I've seen you at Trader Joe's back home or at Swami's or something.  Turns out they were from Pacific Beach.  Haha and I met a kid that is interning there who is from Vista but he went to the Grauer school in Encinitas.  Sister Mills never ceases to be amazed by how many people I meet that I know, have mutal friends with, or have things in common.  By the end of the day we were EXHAUSTED.  We didn't get back to our apt by 9:30.  Right on time for curfew.  Mom, they had a ton of one-man outriggers on our ferries.  There was a huge inter-island race going on that day.  I felt super cool when I the only one that knew what they were.

So part of our extensive series of recitations that we recite as a mission is our mission motto:

Faith is the power.
Love is the Motive.
Obedience is the Price.
The Spirit is the Key.
The Restoration is the Message.
Members are the means.
Christ is the Reason.
Baptism is the way.
Joy is the reward.

I thought of this idea at the end of last transfer to pick one of these concepts from our motto to make the theme for each individual week of the transfer.  The first week was Faith is the power, second week was love is the motive, and so for this week it will be obedience is the price.  This week we will be making extra efforts to achieve our goal of being exactly obedient.  In the MTC, our teacher told us that "obedience brings blessings; exact obedience brings miracles."  I couldn't agree more.  Obedience predicates everything.  One of the hardest things for us to be obedient about is only staying an hour in a members home so that we can start our 5-7 tracting time right at 5.  That two hour block of time should be consecrated specifically for dedicated finding.  I do not find it ironic that our meal calendar is completely signed up for this week.  Everyday this week we have a meal.  Heavely Father is putting us to the test to see if our faith to be obedient is really as strong as we think it is.  I know that if we can adhere to our goal this week, we will see miracles.  An elder at our zone meeting last week gave a training on confidence.  To be confident we need: Faith, love, skill, and boldness.  He also said that when we don't have confidence we can't be urgent about the work.  So if I don't believe that by fully utilizing 5-7pm as prime time to be out finding, I won't be urgent about the work and consequently the Lord will not want to bless me with his prepared people to be taught.

I truly have come to love my mission.  I love being a missionary.  I love bringing the Spirit in to people's homes.  I love teaching and learning from those I teach.  I love, love, love personal study.  I have truly come to love the scriptures and I know that they are the word of God.  I love saying 50 bazillion prayers a day.  I invite all of you to take more time for the Lord and I promise you will see your world open up.  As will the heavens as "He pours out blessings more abundantly upon you."  It is so easy to be happy when you have the companionship of the Holy Ghost with you.  Nothing can get in your way.  Nothing can bring you down.  It's easier to love other people when you first love Christ and our Father in Heaven.  If you are not happy, if you are not content, if you are lonely, if you are lost, kneel in prayer.  Ask for His help.  Then open your scriptures and he'll speak back to you.  The most common way He'll answer our prayers is through others.  Be the answer to someone's prayer by going out and doing good.  Serve and you will always be happy. 

All my love,
Sister Baylon

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

although the road to the temple is steep, it is the only road i wish to travel

Hi family,

Sorry I am emailing you all a day late!  We came to library yesterday to email and for some reason the email site would not work for me but it worked for Sister Mills.  I was so frustrated and annoyed.  So I just had to sit there while she got to email and use the computer.  But no worries I had forgotten my list of things to email home about so I have them with me now to email you.  Plus, I got the package that you sent me in the mail so I was luckily able to call Wells Fargo and sort out the issue with my credit card.  The lady I spoke with on the phone said that they will submit the claim to the company that charged my card and they have 60 days to respond.  So until then they temporarily refund my card.  So it will be a while before the issue is finally and hopefully resolved in my favor.

Last week was the best week of my mission.  I got to go to my favorite city ever, SEATTLE!!!!!  for our ward mission leader and his fiancee's sealing.  It was the neastest experience I have witnessed on my mission thus far.  As I watched these two recent converts to the church kneel across the altar in the temple where they were sealed as husband and wife for time and all eternity, my role and responsiblity as a missionary came full circle.  Missionaries had found Robert tracting less than two years ago and now he was being promised the greatest blessings he could receive here on earth and in the life to come.  He was able to bring his now wife into the church and they faithfully waited until she was able to go through the temple.  They are both the only members in their families so the sealing room was packed with members from the bishopric, endowed members of the ward, and 6 sister missionaries.  Their wedding reception was very modest and simple.  But the pure love for each other and their love for the Savior was so radiant.  They didn't have the fanciest decorations, or the most sophisticated food, or even the most elegant crowd of people that gathered to support them, but what they did have was the kind of testimony and conviction that is needed to have the dilligence and faith to recognize being sealed in the temple was the only option.  I only hope that whoever I marry will respect, honor, and cherish me like Rob does Carolyn.  That my husband will love the Lord like Rob does.  He has only been a member for 18 months but has just excelled in his callings and role in the church.  They had a wedding picture frame that the guests could all sign and I wrote, "Rob & Carolyn, If everyone had a love and marriage like yours, the world would be a better place to live."  I know that my sights are set only on the temple and although the road to the temple is steep, it is the only road I wish to travel.

Our baptism with Nolan was great!! True YSA style.  People were late, the talks were a little...animated.  Some of the moments could have been a tad more reverent.  But at the end of the day, there was so much love in the room and the Spirit was there.  Nolan was confirmed on Sunday and this coming Sunday will be interviewed to receive the Aaronic Priesthood. 

We have our baptism for the two Samoan girls this week also on Thursday!!!! We set a goal as a zone to baptize weekly and we are totally meeting our companionship goal so far!!  President Weaver might even drive up for the ordinance.  I am giving the 10min talk on the Restoration and Brother Elkington is going to try to take off work so that he can come.  It is going to be great! It's crazy that their mother is less active and their step-dad is not a member but they are both extremely excited and supportive of their baptism.  Their step-dad is home for the week from Alaska where he is gone for months at a time as an Alaskan fisherman (Deadliest Catch style).  That is why we are having the baptism midweek, he really wants to be there and will be gone on Sunday.  Plus he wants to cook us all Samoan food to have after the baptism.  Apparently he is a really excellent cook so I'm excited to see what he'll make. The girls' auntie is currently in the hospital and the step-dad asked us if we would go visit her and say a prayer with her.  She is currently pregnant and there have been come complications so they are hospitalizing her.  Stepping foot into a hospital was a little hard. The same smells and equipment that I had become all too familiar with these past few months with Grandma, all came flooding back when we went to visit her.  But I knew that this time I carried the mantle of God with me as a missionary and I was there to administer to the sick.  She is a member in another stake so she had been given a blessing.  We chatted with her briefly and said a quick prayer with her and her husband.  The girls' family is extremely shy, so it was no surprise that her auntie's family was too.  We heard back later from the girls' mom that their auntie really appreciated our visit.  Brought me a lot of joy.

We have little fake callings in our zone.  Prayer pope (someone that gets to pick who says the prayer) the Holy High-Fiver (someone that gives everyone encouraging high-fives) Miracle Man (someone that you call when you have a miracle happen that you want to share with the zone.  So I am the stewardship scribe.  I get to make the stewardship board at zone meeting and fill it out.  All of our different stats, numbers, and goals for the week.  I also have been self-appointed as the zone baker.  I love baking for everyone.  It is something that I get to do that I really enjoy, plus it makes everyone really happy.  So far I have made chocolate rolo cookies, oreo truffles, german chocolate cupcakes and this week I am making muddy buddies.  I try to make things that are relatively cheap and don't recquire a lot of cooking equipment and time to make.  Our district leader even offered to have the elders help pitch in to pay.  So far I have been able to make treats with what we have lying around our kitchen but if it ever comes to it, I might take him up on his offer.

One of the hardest things on the mission....eating when I'm not hungry.  Sometimes when we stop by members homes they are like "here! eat!"  It is usually just after we have eaten or when I am totally not in the mood for eating.  One time, when the member wasn't looking I scraped some of my food on to Sis Mills plate and she helped me eat it.  The sisters in the mission are doing a health/weight loss fitness program for the next 3 transfers.  It was initiated by Sister Anderson who works in the mission office.  She has gained 18 pounds on the mission so she wants to lose 1 pound/week for the next 18 weeks that she has left.  We are supposed to call in our progress each monday....yeah....we haven't been doing too well.  I love treats too much.  Luckily, I haven't gained any weight.  In fact, I have actually lost some.  There is no way that I would be able to work 15 hour days without the help of Heavenly Father.  There is just no way.  So I could probably be better at filling my body with better fuel.

Last night the new military senior couple missionaries, Elder and Sister Finnegan, invited me and sis Mills over for Family Home Evening. (They work primarily on base with all the navy and military members).  Elder Finnegan used to work as the guy in charge of the MTC bookstore so he has copies of almost every devotional and speaker that has ever given a talk at the MTC.  Last night we watched a recording of a member of the Seventy, named Lynn G. Dobbins.  He spoke on how we can better understand and perpetuate the conversion process for our investigators.  He asked what is our biggest hope as missionaries after we teach a family or an individual the lessons.  Naturally, we all think: BAPTISM!!!!!  Wrong.  Baptism is the third principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We should hope that our investigators FIRST have FAITH in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Because after the missionaries are gone, after ther baptism, after they start attending the ward for a while, if they do not have a foundation in the Gospel that is first built on faith, they will eventually fall away.  Ever heard of an anagram?  It's a word or words that can be scrambled around to have the same letters form a new word.  He put up the words: THE EYES.  The anagram that he made was THEY SEE.  Then he quickly said that this is not true.  That seeing is not believing.  That you cannot gain a testimony through our five senses.  How many times did people in the scriptures see an angel, hear the word of God, taste manna from heaven, feel the tangible gifts from God and so on an so forth and yet STILL DID NOT BELIEVE?  Read these scriptures (3 Nephi 1: 11-13, 22 and 2:1-2)  As missionaries we should not be holding their hands through their conversion process where we are the ones leading them solely, pulling or dragging them to the Christ.  Instead, we should be taking their hands and placing them on the iron rod, where they can then (with our support and encouragement) learn to lead themselves.  Because if we didn't plant their hands there, when we leave, they will be in mists of darkness (Read 1Nephi 8 so good!)

I encourage and invite you all today to read the Book of Mormon.  To read with a sincere heart, with real intent.  Did you know that if you were to read just 5 pages/day from the Book of Mormon you could have read it 3.5 times in one year?? 3.5 times multiplied by however many years we will live = lifetime of knowledge and increased insight from the word of God.  It has brought so much more understanding and recognition of how much my Savior knows and loves me.  Individually as a child and daughter of God.  It is the best conversion tool I have as a missionary for my investigators and I know this, because it has been the best conversion tool the Lord has given me in my personal conversion.  Start today.  The rest of your life and the happiness you can have await you.

I read this quoteby Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and thought I would leave them with you:

" Faith is for the future.  Faith builds on the past but never longs to stay there.  Faith trusts that God has great things in store for each of us and that Christ truly is the "High Priest of good things to come" (Hebrews 9:11) "

I love you all and hope that all is well at home.  Dad, yes I get your emails and love them!  Have you received the cards I've sent you.  I'll write you another this week.  Good luck with everything as you head back to school, Mom.  You too, Scott and Jill.  Love you guys.

Sis Baylon

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

start of the second transfer...

Hello family,

Guess what? I am staying in Silverdale!  Yesterday marked the start of my second transfer in the mission.  I had no idea what or where my transfer assignment was going to be and I was dying on Saturday waiting for the phone call.  Usually the AP's or the President make the calls from 8:30-12:30 am so I figured that I would know at least before our whole zone went out for lunch at 12:30.  The Saturday before the end of the transfer has been nicknamed "Seattle Saturday."  It basically is in reference to the inferiority of the neighboring Seattle mission and how compared to the WA-TAC they don't really do anything.  Kind of ironic in that the Seattle mission actually idolizes us here.  President Weaver said that he is changing the name to "Sowing Saturday."  A day that we can still sow gospel seeds and not waste time, even when to us the transfer is seemingly over.  I was mentally checked out and secretly hoping that I would get transferred.  I felt like this past transfer has been a time of a lot of learning and experience and I hoped that I would be able to take what I've learned here and then asked to apply it in a totally new area with a totally new companion, ward, etc.  But at the same time I had a feeling in the back of my mind that I would be staying.  Not only to learn a lot of lessons that I totally still need to learn here on the mission, but that there are people here waiting to receive me.  There are prepared children of God that I have been sent here to find.

So when 3 o'clock finally rolled around and we still hadn't been called, I got really nervous.  I assumed that I would be staying and I assumed right.  AP Berger called mintutes later to inform both Sister Mills and I that we would both be staying here in the Silverdale zone.  When I heard the news, the Spirit confirmed to me that this is where I am supposed to be at this time.  That the missionaries assigned to this zone are the best missionaries that could be here at this particular time.  Today we had our weekly zone meeting and I received further witness that I was kept here for a reason.  We got a new Zone leader, Elder Coronado, an elder from my MTC district, Elder Pagano, a 300 lb. Hawaiian as my new district leader, Elder Jenkins, and a painfully shy/awkward greenie that came in yesterday, Elder Cook.  They all came from really successful areas and brought with them such a great intensity and fire to do missionary work and to see miracles here in Silverdale.  There are zones throughout the mission that have reputations.  For high baptizing, low baptizing, good wards, bad wards, etc.  They all, myself included, feel like we can boost our zone to become the next "Lakewood" or "Tacoma" zones, which happen to be some of the highest baptizing and powerhouse zones of the mission.  I like to think of Silverdale as a sleeping giant.  Greatness that has been laying dormant for so long and needs to woken up and when it does it will explode.  We set a goal as a companionship that we could baptize 5 people this transfer with the hopes of 6.  Personally, I think that we can baptize 6 people. 

At the start of this transfer it was really hard for me to have the faith to find.  To believe that there are people that are in search of the Gospel and that are waiting for me to bring it to them.  That I can knock a thousand doors and invite every person I meet on the street, but if I don't believe that the Lord has prepared some of His elect for me to find, that I will not find them.  One particular day, I felt like I needed to pray and ask for the faith to find.  No joke, we found like 5 people to teach or atleast come back and talk to again just within the 2 hours of finding time that followed that prayer.  I remembered that "I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  I have been called by Him to declare His word among His people, that they might have everlasting life." (3 Nephi 5:13)  It is part of our 4 recitations that we declare every zone meeting and at every gathering of the mission.  Words and phrases that proclaim our identity, role, and mission here as the Lords servants in the Washinton Tacoma mission.

We found this 84 yr old man named Andy Tuttobene.  He is a retired navy lieutenant and a widower of 5 years.  He lives alone.  Wakes up at 10 am makes breakfast.  Goes to the commecery on base to grocery shop.  Comes home.  Eats dinner.  Watches TV. Reads the paper.  Goes to bed.  We had knocked on his door one day and he said that he wasn't interested in the church but that he said that he had a lot of respect for the Mormon faith and its people.  That he could not think of one bad thing to say about the religion or those that practiced it, but graciously declined our offer for a church tour or even help to do some service for him.  Two days later we get a call from an old man saying that two young girls came to his door and offered him help and that he woke up feeling like he should call them.  He was so impressed by our appearance, demeanor, and offer to help that he felt like he could call us and asked us to come over and meet with him.  He was looking for someone to do some light housework and to "look over his shoulder."  Being that he lvies alone and that he has no friends or family in the area or I think even living, that he feels very lonely and does not know where to turn for some company or help.  We earned his trust in 30 seconds on his doorstep and said that he would like us to come over and visit him once a week in exchange for some refreshments.  We have seen him twice now, left him with a Book of Mormon and have tried to introduce different aspects of the Gospel but he feels like he is too late and too old in life to start having a religion.  We told him that it is never too late and that we know of a way that he could be with his wife again one day and how he could find peace and not feel so lonely while he is still alive on the earth.  This peaked his interest but quickly grew exhausted when we invited him to come to church and how he could find so many answers to his questions there and to receive revelation.  He basically wants maximum results for minimum to zero effort.  I felt so sad for him in that moment as we ate gelato in his living room.  That he had completely forsaken the idea of seeing his wife again or being happy because he was old and too tired to start doing something new.  It made me feel peace to know that my Grandpa would never be like Andy Tuttobene.  That despite losing his beloved wife that he KNOWS and BELIEVES he will see her again and that they can be together forever.  That he has meaning and purpose still in his life today and that he does not have to feel alone.  That he has so many family and loved ones and friends there to "look over his shoulder" and to comfort and uplift him.  The gospel is so powerful and beautiful and I feel sorrow for those that need it so badly but cannot recognize that they do.

Another tracting miracle that we found is a 16 yr old boy named Taylor.  We were tracting this street that was totally dead.  Hardly anyone was home or at least no one opened the door for us.  We saw like one car drive by in like 2 hours of finding and just seemed like there was not a living soul to be found.  Knock on this one door and Taylor opened it.  He looked like he was maybe 13 so we asked if his parents were home so he left the door to go get his stepmom.  She comes to the door and we invite her to church and so on and so forth.  She said she wasn't really interested but then motioned to somone that apparently was listening from behind the door to come talk to us.  She said "Taylor, you've been looking to go to a church.  Here, you should be talking to them."  He steps out from behind the door and we get to talking.  He moved here about 2 months ago from HI and is here living with his step mom.  He used to go to church as a young kid with his grandma in HI and has even attended an LDS church a couple of times.  We invited him to a mutual activity that was happening that night at 6:30.  The young men were helping a disabled man in the ward with some yardwork and that it would be a good opportunity for him to meet boys his age that would be starting school with him at the high school in the fall.  Hesays "yeah sure, maybe."  We tell him to just give us a call if he changes his mind and we leave to go knock more doors.  That all happened at 6:05 pm. We are across the street about to knock on his neighbor's door and at 6:21 see a mini-van pull out of Taylor's driveway.  I look at Sis Mills and go "Do you think he is going to mutual?"  Without waiting another second we run to our car and race to the church on the chance that he might be.  En route to the building he calls us and said he wants to go to the activity and was on his way there. MIRACLE!!!!!!  No joke by 6:35 he is with several other boys pulling out brush and Scotch broom in the yard of a man he has never met.  He loved it and wants to go camping with the young men this month.  We are going to try to put him on date to be baptized this week!!!

Speaking of baptisms we are having a baptism this Thursday!! So this 21 yr old guy Nolan had been baptized two years ago but never came back on Sunday to get confirmed and receive the gift of the holy ghost.  Thus, it is considered void since it has been so long.  So he approached our ward mission leader like a couple weeks ago and we have been meeting with him a couple times and he does not want to wait to get baptized so we are doing it midweek.  So rad.  We have two baptisms scheduled for the following week, too, with two Samoan girls that are part of a less active family.  We are starting the transfer off so strong and will be halfway to our transfer baptism goal!!

I am so excited for Friday because we got special permission to attend a temple sealing for two members of our YSA ward!!!! He is our ward mission leader and they are both recent converts within the past year-year and a half.  We are driving with a member and taking the ferry to Seattle and then drive to the temple in Bellvue.  This will be the first sealing I have witnessed and could not be more excited.  Some of the missionaries that taught and baptized the two of them are still in the mission and are coming too.

Ok, I could not end this email without sharing a dog story.  It's way scary too.  Ok so we got this feeling that we needed to leave this one neighborhood we were tracting and to go to another street.  So we are driving down a street that a ward member lives on.  We were going to park at their house and then walk down and tract the rest of the road.  Good thing we didn't because we would have been attacked by these two giant dogs!!! We were driving along the gravel road and I look in the left side mirror and see this pit bull running after us at full speed.  Just completely exerting it self to get to our car. We are probably driving like 15 miles an hour.  When it catches up to us it is barking and jumping up to the driver window so I just start freaking out.  Slobbering all over the glass and was just trying to bust through the car and rip us to shreds.  Next thing you know a giant brown bull mastif comes up to the passenger side and starts jumping up on the passenger side and just about gives sister Mills a heart attack.  I try driving forward but the pit bull kept running in front of the car or trying to jump on the hood and the bull mastif is just ramming itself against the side doors.  We literally trapped and being attacked by the devil's dogs no joke.  They harassed our car and would not let us go for like 15 minutes until finally I decided I was just going to gun it and if I was supposed to hit them I would but that hopefully I wouldn't.  They kept up with the car at 25 mph!! crazyyyyyy.  We could have died if we had gotten out of the car.  When we were finally able to escape and pulled over we got out to look at the car and there were gobs of gooey sticky slobber streaked along the door panels.  Heavenly Father was definitely protecting us that day.

Well I hope that everyone is doing well and keeping busy.  Write to me!  This address will be good for another 6 weeks so you won't have to send mail to the mission home.  Jordan Miles, if you are reading this I don't have your address.  Write me again or email it to me at sbaylon@myldsmail.net.  All others, thanks for writing me and I am trying my best to write you all back.  If you get a chance read Mosiah 4:9-10  it has been one of my favorite scriptures to share with peope that we meet with and teach. 

Love you all!

Sis Baylon