Tuesday, December 27, 2011

pics from washington...

Here are a bunch of pictures! 
Also--make sure to check out the post below to hear about
Sister Baylon's first (and only) Christmas in the mission field!

Christmas in Washington...

Hey guys!
Man can you believe that Christmas 2011 has already come and gone?  My first and last Christmas in the mission field.  It was a pretty legit one at that.  SO GOOD talking to you guys on the phone.  So nice to hear your voices and to talk about some lighthearted stuff.  The time went by waaaay too fast, but I don't regret sticking to the time limit.  I talked to some elders today that said they spoke with their families for 31/2hours.  Not obedient!!  Exact obedience brings miracles.  My mission is too short to rob myself and my companion of that. 
So this email might be a repeat for you, family, but to all those that I didn't talk to on the phone yesterday, this is how it went down.  President Weaver said that for our Christmas gift, the missionaries could sleep in.  Wait, what??!!  Sweeet. Of course, I woke up at 5 am and couldn't go back to sleep.  So I laid awake in my bed/half-dozed off until my comp woke up at 7:45.  Then we opened gifts on the floor around our 3 ft Christmas tree.  After it was all said and done I thought to myself, "...well, that was weird..."  Just didn't feel like Christmas morning.  No family.  No old familiar feelings.  So I was a little Scroogey in the morning.  More like trunky I guess. 
We got dressed and headed over to our WML's house at 9:30 for waffles.  We ate and hung out there for a while and then headed to round people up for Christmas church.  Despite the holiday and everyone being out of town or having double the excuses why they wouldn't be at church, we managed to get 2 of our investigators to church.  One of which, Karen, was baptized right after Sacrament meeting.  Soooo special.  We have come on such a far journey with her in such a short amount of time.  She is a 64 yr old former member of the Reorganized LDS church.  Highly intelligent.  Kind of stubborn.  Very blunt.  But!  She was baptized.  MIRACLE.  She bawled like a baby in the font.  Elder Njord, one of our ZL's baptized her.  A family that has been her fellowship during the lessons came to her baptism and invited her over for Christmas dinner.  Score! Member missionaries at work.
It was at church and especially at the baptism that I truly felt like this what Christmas is all about.  Not the gifts or the trees or even having my family not be there.  Feeling the spirit helped remind me that it is all about our Savior Jesus Christ and all that his Atoning sacrifice has done for us.  There was thiq quote by President Gordon B. Hinckley that I copied down out of the program:
"For each of you may this be a merry Christmas.  But more importantly, I wish for each of you a time, perhaps only an hour, spent in silent meditation and quiet reflection on the wonder and the majesty of this, the Son of God. Our joy at this season is because He came into the world.  The peace that comes from Him, His infinite love which each of us may feel, and an overwhelming sense of gratitude for that which He freely gave us at so great a cost to Himself--these are the true essence of Christmas."
We had the opportunity as a zone on the Monday before Christmas to go caroling during our 5-7.  The entire mission got together in zones and caroled to people, hoping to bring them the Spirit and a little joy in their lives.  It was so fun and so successful the first time we did it, we decided to do it again on Christmas eve.  Combined with both times we handed out about 40 copies of the Book of Mormon!  So great.  So many people commented that they haven't had carolers in sooo long.  That it was a tradition that they assumed had just died, so it brought them a lot of nostalgic joy to see and hear carolers singing songs that reminded them of Christmas in their youth.
Tracting miracle!  I felt prompted to drive down this one road and then my comp felt prompted to tract this one little off shoot street.  We knock on this rickety old trailer home and this lady lets us in.  We start talking to her and quickly determine that she is not interested.  There was a girl maybe about 28 yrs old sitting next to the lady with her back to us and we get to talking and just asking her questions.  Turns out her grandpa who she was really close with had just passed away and that she had just found out earlier that day.  We shared with her some scriptures in the Book of Mormon out of Alma 40:20-21 about what happens to us after we die.  She started crying and thanked us for coming.  That she felt so sad and that she needed to hear something like what we had told her.  We plan on following up with her later this week.
I got pretty sick this last week.  Aches, chills, loss of appetite, fatigue.  Just really felt like junk.  I thought I could shrug it off with some powerade and saltines.  By the third day, I asked for a Priesthood blessing from my District leader and his comp.  I almost immediately felt better.  I have a testimony in the healing power of the priesthood.  May those of you that hold the priesthood always be worthy of it.  You never know when someone needs your service!!
Well my time on the comp is coming to a close.  So much to say but always not enough time.  We have another baptism this week.  Hopefully.  We are needing our investigator to kick the habit of chewing tobacco.  Nasty stuff. 
I love you guys!
Sis Baylon

Monday, December 19, 2011

perfect love casteth out all fear

One last email before Christmas day! I just checked the mission facts for this week and President Weaver has asked that we all call home between the hours of 2pm-5pm.  I will be calling you from a member's cell phone at their home and still have to lock down a time.  We get out of church at 2pm and have a baptism so it will probably be closer 3-5pm.  The missionary handbook says to keep phone calls home 40min or less and President Weaver is sticking to that.
Lots to talk about this week!
Big thanks to the Meiling, Rhodes, and Kakadelas families!  Thank you all so much for sending me letters and updates on your families.  So fun to hear!
Ok, so Sister Welch got special permission to go down for a baptism of this guy she was teaching down in her last area.  So we went down early Saturday morning to Lakewood aka LakeHOOD.  Haha.  The sister's area in Lakewood is called Steilacoom (still-ah-come) and is actually pretty nice.  I was really surprised president let us go down.  Usually its pretty common knowledge that missionaries are not allowed to attend convert baptisms once they are transfered out of the area.  Anyway, so the guy that performed the baptism was this big Samoan guy.  I knew who he was cause Sister Mills would talk about him and his family all the time.  They were one of her favorite families and told me that if I ever get to serve in Lakewood to look up the Stowers family.  Guess what?  They know you guys!!! I was talking to Brother Stowers after the baptism and he said that he served part of his mission in the LA area.  I told him that's where I was born and that a lot of my family still lives there.  One thing led to another. Boom. Grandpa Ted or they knew him as Bishop Hino interviewed his wife Tati Toa for her baptism when she was 8.  Brother Stowers was a convert to the church but he and his wife knows Grandpa Ted and all his daughters (you, Val, Allison).  But what got me the most was how much they talked about Grandma Margaret.  Sister Stowers spoke of her fondly and with reverence and even cried about her passing.  It almost got me crying.  She said they were so sad and felt so helpless when they found out and knew they couldn't come down to attend the funeral.  She described Grandma in a way that fit her even up until the day she died.  Loving, kind, sweet, gracious, and a believer of Christ.  Goes to show she lived righteously her entire life.  So cool.  Small world, eh?
Lani, I met your friend Elder Bowser who is cousins with my comp, Sister Welch.  He is a pretty cool kid!
Alright so the Christmas party was pretty sweet.  I'll have to upload pictures to fully describe what it all looked like.  So many missionaries!  The gym was totally decked out.  Row after row of decorated tables.  Christmas trees and stacks and stacks of all our Christmas packages.  (What the heck, you got Sis Homan something??!! Hahah she was like "Baylon! Look, your mom got me a gift!!)  We started the day with a white elephant gift exchange.  Basically a swap of a bunch of miscellaneous junk from missionary apartments.  I ended up with a green sweatshirt on it with a golden retriever with reindeer antlers on strung with Christmas lights and the words "Christmas Kisses" under it.  Haha I'll probably wear it Christmas morning.  I originally wanted the Snoopy Snow cone maker that Holman brought, but in true white elephant fashion it got stolen from me right after I stole it from someone else. 
At every place setting at our dinner tables there was a small pile of WA-TAC gifts.  Santa Hats that had WA-TAC printed on them.  Hobo gloves that had WA-TAC stitched on them.  She hand sewn us all those bags full of corn that you heat up in the microwave or put in the frige.  And one of my Bremerton zone leaders, Elder Alden's dad (who is the founder of Skull Candy Headphones) got us all custom socks.  He got each missionary two pairs of these really cool striped Stance brand socks (they retail like $14/pair)  that have Angel Moroni on them with 2011 under it and on the underneath part of the foot it says Washington Tacoma Mission.  The WA-TAC is the most special mission!! So much unity and mission pride!!  
After lunch (which surprisingly wasn't that good. I hate ham!!! it was prob good to everyone else but me and Holman who hate pig) we watched a bunch of performances.  All of the international kids were asked to do something along with Elder Mauss who is the World's number one jump roper!  He pioneered all these jump rope moves.  Look him up on YouTube!  Sister F performed a hula dance.  Um.....worst idea ever.  A girl up there shaking it in front of a 190 boys trying to keep their minds focused on the work.  I talked to a bunch of elders that said it was so awkward for them.  But she did a great job.  It was just not the time nor the place. 
One of my favorite parts of the party though was reading Moroni 10 as a mission and finishing the Book of Mormon for my second time.  It felt like I accomplished something so great.  I love the scriptures!  President had selected a few missionaries to come up and bear their testimonies about their experiences and they all were very grateful and humbled by the experience.
Someone in our ward is doing the Twelve Days of Christmas for us!! It's so exciting coming home each night after a long day and finding a surprise on our door with a rhyming note.  So far we have received: one loaf of homemade bread, 2 giant candy canes, 3 chocolate muffins, 4 rolls of toilet paper, 5 fudge brownies, and 6 bottles of Rootbeer.  They all had little sayings on them.  All of which I can now no longer remember.  I wonder what we'll get tonight!!!???
Speaking of tonight, tonight we are going caroling as a zone.  We are going to the other sisters' area that is in our zone.  Hopefully we can have enough stamina to sing for 2 hours and that we find some people through it!!
Speaking of stamina.  I have been craving to go running lately.  But my comp doesn't really like running and it is pitch black and FREEZING outside in the morning.  And it usually requires waking up a little earlier than usual.  I really need to get in the habit of working out again.  I need to build up my energy plus it's a great stress reliever.  So if any of you know any good workouts especially cardio ones that I could do in our apt that would be great!! Hit me up.
Last week we started working off my ticket debt this week at the Bishop's storehouse. SO fun!!!! For two hours we bundled up 1 lb bags of grapes, wrapped heads of lettuce, and packaged 5 lbs of Idaho potatos.  The workers are all these older volunteers from around the stake.  They were all so nice! They all are friends that just work and snack together on treats that they all bring in.  I tried egg nog for the first time when I worked there. Yuck.  The first couple of second that its in your mouth it tastes like bubble gum.  So we will be going back every wednesday in the mornings.
Haha ok so this week's funny story involves animals but stuffed ones and not living ones.  So one night when we are tracting we meet this guy named Brian outside as he was rummaging around his van.  He is like 4'10" and I swear he looks like his name should be Mauricio or something.  Super thick mustache.  Scurries and scuttles around and doesn't look at us while we talk to him. Has some kind of accent that fluctuates everytime we talk to him.  He tells us to come back the next day. So we come back thinking that it was going to be a bust.  Turns out his kids are way interested and were even begging him to let them come to church.  So they are coming to church next week on Christmas!  Here is where the animal part comes in.  They had about a dozen or more stuffed animals and dolls and all kinds of other creepy things that were staple gunned to their ceiling.  Um...ok?  I took a picture of it and I need to upload it to send to you guys so you can get the full picture of what I saw.  Haha.  It looked like somethiing out of Toy Story with Sid the kid that tortures all those toys.  The kids apparently are staplegun-happy and their parents aren't too concerned about stopping them for stapling everything they own to the walls or ceilings.
Well my time is running up.  The lesson I learned this week is that "perfect love casteth out all fear."  When you spend all your time judging or fearing someone you have no time to love or serve them.  Think about that.  Can't wait to talk to you guys on Sunday.  Merry Christmas everyone!!!
Sister Baylon

Monday, December 12, 2011

finally, finally, finally i am feeling like myself again

Greetings from Btown!
The holidays are approaching fast!  Can you believe that it is already my missionwide Christmas party tomorrow?  Ahhhh I can't wait! All the missionaries together in the Tacoma stake center for hours and hours and hours all just hanging out and enjoying each other's company.  Yes, please! We will all get our gifts tomorrow as zones.  I am pretty sure we are not opening them there but I'm sure some elders might not be able to wait till the 25th.  But I can.  I have no intention of opening them tomorrow.  I want to put them under our tiny fiber-optic Christmas tree that we have in our apt!!  The other day we were going through one of the storage closets in our apt and we found this like 2.5ft tree that dazzles all rainbow-y when you plug it in.  We also found two WA-TAC woodcarved ornaments and two red stockings that we hung on the wall.  All the decorations are on top of a brown, wooden desk so from far away it kind of looks like a little ghetto fireplace!  Haha perfect Btown style.  Sis Welch bought a strand of multi-color lights at the dollar store that she framed it all with so our apt has a little wall of Christmas spirit.  I love how humble and ghetto it all looks.  Perfect mission style Christmas decorations.  Last night, Sister Graves fed us dinner at her Dad's house who is in our ward and she brought us a nativity display that we put out on the "fireplace."  So I will put my gifts under our little tree.
This first week was full of miracles.  Finally, finally, finally I am feeling like myself again.  Sister Welch is a total Godsend.  She wants to work equally as hard and be obedient and we just have a lot of the same goals and desires for the work here.  We are really different but we get along great.  We can laugh together, which is always a good sign.  We have different senses of humor but we find a lot of humor in the same things.  She is a really bad speller.  Hahah. The other day she asked me how to spell "shadow."  Hm.  Ok.  No big deal. 
I guess Silverdale was the land of dogs and Bremerton is the land of cats.  I know that I have shared a couple cat stories already but how about another one?  Ok so we go knock on this one door.  Like most houses here in Bremerton they are old and small and square with 4 foot chain-link fences all around their little yards.  We go in and knock on this guys' door.  He is huge and old and out of breath.  Before he could tell us that he wasn't interested, this giant fat black cat comes darting out between his legs.  He starts freaking out because the cat got out and we are just standing there like "uh...so you aren't interested in coming to check out the church?"  The cat seriously looked bloated or like it swallowed 10 other cats.  It was the largest ugliest thing ever.  The guys' daughter comes out.  She has like no hair.  What little hair she did have was corn-row braided down to her scalp and I know this because I watched her take her wig off to come try to capture the cat.  She comes out with a towel to throw over the cat because apparently it was a very vicious and tempremental cat.  I have never heard the kind of hissing and screeching cat noises that came out of that animal other than on TV.  She couldn't catch it and just began chasing it all around the little fenced off area until she was able to corner it and throw the towel over it.  You know in the cartoons when there is a cat in a bag and it tries to get out and it just looks like a lumpy mass all squirming around with crazy noises coming out of it.  That's pretty much what it was.  Two sister missionaries, one bald lady, one screaming fat dude, and a hissing cat.  And a partridge in a pear tree.
Later that night we knocked on this guy Greg's house.  I totally have  testimony in opening your mouth as a missionary and allowing the Holy Ghost to testify and teach through you if you listen to its promptings.  In the span of about 6 minutes we went from totally not interested to him taking a copy of the Book of Mormon and wanting us to come back in one week's time to talk about it.  He has read it before but admitted to reading it without believing or hoping that it could possibly be true.  We read him Moroni's promise to read with a sincere heart, with real intent and he agreed to doing that.  I asked him if there was anything that we could do for him between then and the next time that we would be meeting him and what he said surprised me: "Pray for me.  Pray that my heart might be softened to the Book of Mormon."  MIRACLE.
That very same day we were driving to an appointment and we had a little bit of time to kill so I wanted to drive Sis Welch through The Villages.  The Villages are the projects.  Subsidized government housing.  Probably one of the saddest places I have ever been.  A giant horseshoe loop of the smallest rundown apartments that just exude desperation and hardship.  I am not exaggerating when I say that just about every single resident that lives there has either had one or more of the lessons, been on a church tour, or is a lessactive recent convert that was baptized and never came back.  We were driving through the neighborhood and I was pointing out some of the members homes that I knew lived there.  We were driving down one particular street and there was this hoodrat looking guy on Sis Welch's side of the car.  I tell her to invite him to check out the church and we pull over and talk to him.  Turns out he was looking for a church to take his kids to.  Yes!!!!!  We set up a church tour for the next day.  ( Funny side note: We go to drive away with the car in park and the most awful screeching noises ensue.  Basically rivals the sound of the cat that escaped except this time it sounded like the cat was going through a meat grinder.Embarassing!!)  Flash forward to the next day.  Its about 40 min before the scheduled church tour and we text Adam to remind him about the appt.  He tells us that his mom actually goes to our church and that he will check it out with her.  I ask him who his mom was and that she could come along on the tour.  Turns out she is a recent convert that has been on my mind of someone to go visit but just had never gotten around to seeing.  He starts saying that his life is really crazy at the moment as he just returned from his job in Alaska as a fisherman to find that his girlfriend and mom of his kids has left him.  He was just so upset and angry and said he was just trying to look for some peace.  I decide to textify.  Testify through a text.  I told him that the lasting peace that he is looking for only comes through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That God is completely aware of him and his circumstances. That maybe Heavenly Father placed him in our paths yesterday because He knew that we would be able to help him.  His reply:  "alright...I'll pick up my mom and we'll be there in 5 minutes."  MIRACLE.  He came on the church tour, it went great.  We invited him to be baptized on Christmas day but he said he would have to think about it but would like to come to church.  He came to church on Sunday for all three hours and even brought both his kids.  MIRACLE, MIRACLE, MIRACLE.
We haven't had a baptism yet but we have one this Sunday.  A 9yr old of a recent convert.  His name is James and he and his dad just moved into the ward about a month or so ago.  They actually live in the Villages.  James' dad was just laid off from work.  He got injured on the job, the doctor said it didn't look like he was going to be making a speedy recovery so his company let him go.  He seems like he is weighed down by 15 million pounds of pressure, guilt, and worry.  Each and every time James says a prayer or answers a question in one of our lessons he makes mention about how he just wants to be able to live in a house and that they can have enough money to buy food and the things that they need.  Breaks my heart.  I wanted to go home and raid our pretty meager shelves and give them everything.  Instead I gave them a box of Reese's puffs cereal that Sister Graves had accidentally left in our car.  Made James soooo happy.
Another miracle is Mark.  Mark is another wounded soul.  He was a referral from our zone leaders.  They found him on the west side, in their area, but Mark just moved into a halfway home on the east side, our area.  A halfway home is a place where recovering or recovered addicts or those that have gotten out of jail all live together and are trying to get back on their feet and make changes to their lives.  Mark is a recovering alcoholic and just the neatest guy you'd ever meet.  His heart and hands hang heavy though with the feelings of guilt and shame that he has wasted so much of his life as a slave to this addiction.  He wants to badly to change but everytime he has the tiniest slip up he beats himself up over it and slides back 10 steps.  After talking with him for just 10 minutes my heart ached for him.  Here is a man that needs the healing powers of the Atonement so badly in his life.  He said that his whole life he has done it his way and look how far it's gotten him.  He realizes that now maybe it's time to do it God's way and that he can change for the better.  He is supposed to get baptized this coming Sunday but he didn't come to church yesterday so he fell off-date so we are going to try to put him back on for Christmas day. 
We have another baptism on Christmas day! This lady named Karen was a referral from one of the wards in my last zone in Silverdale.  This 64 yr old lady was going to be moving from Silverdale to Manette and she has no car and no friends and no family in the area.  She has a daughter that is a member and lives in Canada. She called the bishop in the area that Karen was living in and asked him if there were some people that could help her move.  Hours later, a fleet of missionaries in white shirts and ties come to her aid and move her out in one day.  She said that she had no idea how she was going to move and had no money to pay movers.  Her baptism is a biproduct of love and service. 
President Weaver wants a white Christmas.  Everyone in their baptism whites.  So we are having two baptisms and one confirmation on Christmas day.  It'll be my first white Christmas ever in my life.  Way better than snow!!!  I am really loving the holidays out here in the mission field.  The commercial aspects of Christmas have disappated and the real reason for remembering the season has come out full force.  In Sacrament meeting on Sunday we sang, "Jesus, Once of Humble Birth."  So powerful.  It was the song I sang in the MTC choir when I was there and brought back a lot of sweet memories as well as thoughts of the Savior and His birth.  Hopefully, the Savior's love for each of you has inspired you to be His hands on earth this Christmas and do the work He would do.  What a special time of year.  I love it.
Love you guys,
Sister Baylon

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

a week of miracles

So I'm emailing you all on a Tuesday because that means yesterday was Transfer day!  My transfer assignment was to stay here in Manette and Sister Faoliu was transferred down to the another area that sisters just opened last transfer down in the Gig Harbor area.  She was not too happy about that because of the companion that she was getting.  Her companion has a notorious reputation.  Being late for her own baptism (and the mission president was there!, chronic tardyness.  Like we're talking showing up an hour and a half late to a meeting that is only two hours long.  Poaching baptisms from areas that are 30 minutes away.  The list goes on.  So pray for Sister F and her companion!  My new comp on the other hand is a dream!!  Her name is Sister Welch.  She's from Centerville, UT.  Super nice, kind of quiet, mild mannered, soft spoken.  She came out into the mission the transfer after me, so we are both still pretty young.  She told me this morning that she is studying to be a Forest Ranger at Utah State.  Sweet!  Haha.  So Lani Poppleton had written me a letter telling me that she is going on a mission and has been called to serve in the Cleveland, OH mission!!! Congratulate her when you all get a chance!  Anyway, in her letter she told me that she had a friend named Elder Bowser that was coming to the WA-TAC and that he has a cousin that is currently serving in my mission, named Sister Welch.  I had told her in my letter I wrote back that I didn't really know Sister Welch but that I had seen her before at transfer meetings and at the Sister conference but that she seems really nice.  Bam, now she's my comp!  Small world.
A lot of people were really upset with their transfer assignments and a lot of that anger stemmed from their mistrust in President Weaver.  I was asked to give the closing prayer at the end of transfer meeting and I had a strong feeling like I should include in my prayer that President Weaver has been called by God to preside over our mission.  That he hold the keys and rights and authority to exercise that stewardship.  That we should trust and willingly accept whatever counsel and calling he extends towards us because it is coming from Heavenly Father through President.  We teach our investigators in Lesson One that whenever people ignore, reject, or criticize the prophets or priesthood authority and leadership within the church, apostasy ensues.  In the prayer I asked for all of us to be able to look forward to this next transfer with faith and hope as we head to our new areas with our new companions or return to our areas with our same companions and that we will be ok with our assignments.  Several people came up to me afterwards, including President himself, thanking me for making mention of this.
On Sunday our zone headed down to Port Orchard to attend a stake-wide nativity display.  Hundreds of members' personal collections of nativities were beautifully put on display with lights and stands all throughout the cultural hall.  The stake choir all dressed in black and red were singing in the background from the chapel as the partition was opened to allow the guests to hear beautiful Christmas hymns as they went around to look at all of the displays.  It was the neatest thing to see so many different depictions of one of the most holy and beautiful events in history, the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  That even the displays from foreign countries and far away lands all had the same sense of reverence and awe as the various statues and figurines were anchored around the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.  Some were very simple. Carved by hand in wood.  Others very ornate and fragile.  All very spiritual nonetheless.  After everyone was able to make the rounds at the displays they broadcasted  the First Presidency Christmas broadcast in the cultural hall.  I really appreciated what Elder Uchtdorf had said about essentially the "reason for the season."  That often we are too busy caught up in what we idealize in our minds as the "perfect" Christmas.  This usually entails the perfect tree.  The perfect gifts.  The perfect dinner.  The perfect family.  But how often do we really put our focus on the perfect Son of God born in an imperfect stable?  That the perfectly served all those he met.  That he perfectly loves each one of us so much so that he was the perfected and infinite and eternal sacrifice for sin?  One of my favorite scriptures from the Book of Mormon comes from the last chapter of the last book:
"Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind, and strength, then in his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God." (Moroni 10:32)
As a mission we are all reading the book of Mormon together so that we can all end and read Moroni 10 together as a mission at our Christmas party a week from today.  This has been the neatest experience.  It has been by far the fastest time I have ever read the Book of Mormon in.  I have truly come to know that it is from God and that by abiding by its precepts and applying the doctrine from its pages into our lives we can become "perfect in Christ" just like Moroni had explained.  I was so caught up in the fact that it was looking like I was going to be here in Manette for Christmas.  And this was really getting me down.  This brand new area with most likely a new companion, with members that don't even care if I'm there, and a struggling testimony.  My family isn't here.  This sucks.  But then I changed my heart and my mind when I fasted on Sunday to have my heart softened.  To allow the spirit to reveal to me how I could better love, teach, and serve our investigators.  Something about the power of Hymns coupled with the Holy ghost really pierced me to the very center.  As the stake choir so angelically sang, "Silent Night,"  I was quickly reminded of the reason for the season.  The reason why I get up every morning.  The person who's name I bear and who's work I am doing.  The Savior of the World, the Prince of Peace, the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  As much as I am going to miss having a stocking, or decorating the tree, or being with my family, I know that I will be doing a far greater work.  Helping lift the hands that hang down and warming the hearts that have waxed cold.  Mom, thanks for giving me reason to think about tracting on Christmas.  Of being rejected by the ninety-and-nine to find the one. 
It was crazy to wake up last week and realize that December 1, 2011 marked 6months on my mission.  The tradition for commemorating that milestone for a sister missionary is burning a pair of tights.  I live on the third floor of our apartment building and I was afraid some freak fire accident would occur and burn the place down.  So I'll have to do it some other time down in the parking lot or something and pretend like it was December 1st all over again.  But in all seriousness, it was a bittersweet moment to look back on the past six months to know that so much has happened and that time will only get faster from this point on.  I felt joy when I was thinking of all the sweet moments and I felt sadness when I reflected on the times that I didn't try my best.  I don't want to waste another moment.  No other time like this will come.  The mission has become sacred to me and the Washington Tacoma area has become holy ground.  I would say all missionaries feel that way about where they served.  Yesterday, during one of the final testimony of one of the departing missionaries, the elder speaking brought up a small rubber ball with him to the pulpit.  He bounced it up and down and related it his mission.  That there were ups and there were downs but overall it was a ball.  Sister Weaver in her great wisdom added in her closing remarks that like the ball, the harder we go down, the higher we then rise.  Wow.  I couldn't agree more.  This morning at zone meeting, one of the activities we did was to take a fresh new copy of the Book of Mormon and go to a room in the church building where we could be alone.  We were instructed to open it to the first picture which is a picture of the Savior.  For 10 minutes we were to look at this picture and reflect on our testimony and relationship with Him and to jot down in the inside cover pages the impressions, thoughts, and feelings we received as personal revelation.  I chose to go in the chapel and no sooner that I sat down and closed my prayer to ask for the Spirit to be with me did the melody and words to the hymn, "Be Thou Humble" quietly yet boldly enter my mind.  I wrote the words to the hymn down as well as the scripture that is referenced at the bottom of the page in the hymn book. 
"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they might be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things strong unto them." (Ether 12:27)
Ether 12:27
Speaking of humbled, I was humbled in the court room!  Haha.  It went as well as it could have minus the fact that I still have to pay in one form.  So long story short they reduced my fine down and said I could pay in community service.  We actually are supposed to do one act of service a day per request from President Weaver so it really should work out nice.  We could do it in the morning when it's a little slower in the work anyway.  I'm thinking of trying to get in and volunteer at the Bremerton Food Bank or something along those lines.  I hear there missionaries are asked to take off their tags, but there is supposedly a Bishop's storehouse nearby so we could work there and wear our tags.  So I think I'll try to find out more about that.
Mom, I had Sister Faoliu read your last email to me while we drove down to Tacoma yesterday.  I think I cried and laughed, cried and laughed.  I especially laughed at the very descriptive story of the vermin attacks in the pantry.  We laughed so hard when we were imagining Dad shaking up the mouse in the paper bag with the sticky trap at the bottom.  Shake and Bake rat. MMmmm!!  You would freak out here in Btown.  There are the largest sewer rats you have ever seen that just run free around here in the streets.NASTY.
This last week has been a week of miracles.  We finally have people solidly on-date to be baptized.  Feels so good.  So joyous again to see the fruits of our labors ripe for the harvest.  We are building our teaching pool day by day and exercising our faith that Heavenly Father has prepared people here for us to find, teach, and baptize.  It's awesome.  Sister Welch is a breath of fresh air that this area needed and I can't wait to work with her for the next 6 weeks.  Shauna, thanks for all the words of wisdom that you shared with me.  50 lessons/week???? Holy cowwwwwww.  Dang that is incredible.  I am trying to be more like you!  Kim, and you are a referal queen!  Yeahhhh for your doorman getting baptized!!  Remember they don't have to be perfect, they just need to be worthy.  And have the faith and desire to act on that faith and follow Christ.  Amanda! Thanks for writing me!  Tell Morgan that "nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels!!"  (right, like I actually follow that)  Someone tell Nikki Tracy that she is awesome for deciding to serve a mission.  MIRACLE!  I love you guys.  Thanks so much for all of the prayers and support. 
sister B

Thursday, December 1, 2011

six months out!

Hey everyone,
I turn 6 months old this week on thursday!  December 1st marks the completion of one third of my mission.  Crazy how fast time goes.  One week from today starts the next transfer.  To clear up some confusion from my last few letters...I do not hate my companion or my area.  Both are different than what I'm used to, both require patience, both require attention, both require love.  But I do not hate either of them.  It's hard when you loved your first area and "birthplace" and came off a golden transfer with your favorite companion, because then everything can become a comparison game in which it either succeeds or fails to "measure up".  So I try to keep the two separate.  Just because you struggle and because you hate certain days doesn't mean that you hate everything and everyone. I also feel fine walking around the streets, even the ghetto ones. There are times where I felt a little nervous at first about certain streets but I haven't really ever seriously felt unsafe.  Good judgment and the Holy Ghost are safety enough. Don't worry about me!
Thanksgiving. Hmm.  I think Thanksgiving backslid behind Halloween on the ranked list of favorite holidays.  I hate eating when I'm not hungry and especially the same type of food over and over and over.  We had 4 dinner appointments or rather 4 different houses and families that we said we would come stop by and see.  Bad idea.  We figured we would start the day at one of the Samoan family's house. Oh man, eating that heavy of food at 1pm should be illegal.  I didn't even that much but I felt super sick because I was mentally and physically gearing up for the following episodes of food that were scheduled throughout the day.  I've never seen stuffing that was wet.  I've never been served bright blue bubblegum icecream with pumpkin pie.  I've never been given so much SunnyD to drink.  Until the mission!! Haha lots of firsts happen on the mission.  It just so happens that most of mine involve odd food.  I was so full and sedated from food that early in the day that I told my comp we were NOT going to the second Samoan family's house.  Plus, I felt way awkward rolling in there with our proselyting clothes on and our tags and the whole family is way religious and who knows who we might have made uncomfortable.  Plus it was their WHOLE family and they'd probably be thinking who are these random mormon missionaries?  I finally was just like let's just go to the Graves'.  She ended up making the green beans and they turned out way good.  Sister Holman and her comp were there so it was nice seeing them and just hanging out all together with the rest of the Graves' fam.
Thanksgiving morning I made about 6 batches of chocolate chip cookies (Sis Graves' recipe) and me and Sis F went around and delivered them to people in the ward. Less actives, recent converts, members.  Just whoever we thought would appreciate a nice little suprise holiday treat.  I am sugared out. 
I am going to court this week on Wednesday at 2:45 to fight my ticket.  Pray for me.  My friend that used to be a cop said that the odds are stacked against me.  The only way I could essentially win is through these loopholes that I don't know are enough to sustain me.  So I might be out $124 bucks.
I am not looking forward to Christmas actually.  The Holidays out here are making me really trunky.  If I was in Silverdale I would enjoy them a little more because I knew everyone and it felt more homey.  Out here I still don't know a ton of people and it's hard enough spending the holidays without family.  I kind of just want Christmas to come already so that it can go.  We are having our mission Christmas party on December 13th so I think it'll feel like Christmas is over once that passes.  I don't know if they'll have us go tracting on Christmas.  I hope they don't.  They didn't have us go out on Thanksgiving so maybe Christmas will be the same.
None of our investigators came to church yesterday.  So frustrating and sad.  We did everything we could to make sure that they would come.  Called them to remind them, stopped by their house, got them rides.  And then no one shows.  The worst feeling ever.  I know they have their agency but it makes you feel really helpless.  The commitment level is indicative of their faith and level of conversion.  So I guess we have a lot to work on with them.
I wrote a lot of you letters today but I don't know where I'll be a week from now so I put the mission office as the return address.  I am kind of hoping that they'll transfer me out or atleast bring either Sister Holman or a more experienced missionary to help me really jumpstart this area.  I'm run ragged and I need a new burst of fresh energy.  President is making it sound like the only reason he'd take me out is if I asked to leave.  So we'll see what happens.  I feel like it's a big waiting game until Saturday when we'll get our transfer assignments.
Sorry for the short letter today.  Hope everyone has a good week.  We'll see where I'll be emailing you from a week from now!
Sis Baylon