Wednesday, January 25, 2012

a white washington...

Make sure to read the most recent letter from Sister Baylon... 
posted below all the pictures!!

Hey guys,
So all of the snow has melted.  But yes, it did come.  Last Tuesday evening when we were out tracting, people were so concerned and worried that we were out walknig around.  They made it sound like the end of the world was coming and that we were walking around foolishly.  We woke up Wednesday morning to snow and were advised not to drive at least until later in the day.  Well, the snow did not let up.  It continued to snow and snow and snow.  So we stayed inside most of the morning under President Weaver's direction and headed out on foot to the church a couple blocks away to eat lunch with the Elders.  It was crazy how Bremerton was shut down by the snow.  School was cancelled, work was cancelled, buses didn't run. The place literally came to a halt all because of a few inches of snow on the ground.  The city hadn't salted the roads or plowed that morning so cars that were either brave or dumb enough to go out on the roads were getting stuck or fish-tailing like crazy.  The wind was so frigid!! It rivaled Rexburg winds for sure.  Definitely not as bad but it was a bitter chill.  Especially walking around in a skirt.  We got a text from President around 3:45 telling all the missionaries that from that point until at least 7pm he wanted us out on the streets walking around/talking to people/knocking doors.  He said that people are going to be home so take advantage of it!  Did not sound fun AT ALL. But we did it.  I put on tights, leggings, socks, wool socks, two pairs of gloves, a scarf, a hat, handwarmers, and a body warmer that i stuck inside my skirt and we headed out into the snow for a few hours.  We probably looked so ridiculous to people.  Two girls in crazy snow, wind, and ice walking around in skirts trying to talk to people about Jesus.  Haha totally normal.  We were planning on walking 2 miles to our recent investigator's house, Sister Rice, even after she forbid us from trying to see her because it would involve us going out in this nasty weather.  We made it about a mile down the road before the elders in their all wheel drive subaru came to our rescue and picked us up.
Thursday it was the same story.  Except all the compacted snow had frozen overnight and the roads were ice rinks.  Wreck after wreck.  So everyone was just out walking around or playing in the snow.  President texted the mission and said the news was saying it was the worst ice storm on record, tempertatures were below freezing and that we were to use caution as we headed out.  Luckily, our apt complex was easy to get out of.  Some missionaries that live with members, didn't have that luxury because the houses they live in were set back far from main roads and out in the woods somewhere. 
We still had to go out tracting that night.  We decided to finish these apts that were near ours.  Not a whole lot of luck.  People were way cranky and annoyed that they opened their doors and were letting out all their warm air.  We meet this one guy named Kerry.  Hispanic.  Ex-navy.  Has PTSD and swears like a sailor.  Just doesn't really give off the vibes like he even cares at all what we have to say and I didn't care if I never saw him again in my whole life.  So I was definitely surprised when about 10 minutes after we left his apt he came running after us in the snow looking for us.  He said that he changed his mind and that he wants to come check out the church.  Sister Welch tells him that we can go right now!  We start the 10 min walk to the church building.  She is thinking "Yes! Insta-tour!"  I'm thinking "Oh, great.  I have 10 min to find a male priesthood holding fellowship that lives within walking distance of the church that can meet us here in just a few minutes."  So my comp didn't know that there is a mission rule that does not allow Sister missionaries to bring males into the church alone without a Priesthood holder present.  For obvious safety reasons.  I knew this was a rule and in the heat of the moment I didn't know what to do.  She didn't know that was a rule so she didn't think anything of it.  The entire walk to the church I was feeling way uneasy about this guy and was trying to think of how we were going to get out of this.  No one was on the streets.  The elders didn't know we were giving this tour.  And Kerry started asking us questions that basically told him that we were alone, no one knew we were going to the church, and that no one else was coming. CREEPY.  The entire church tour I said a silent prayer asking Heavenly Father to please just get us out of this situation or to send a priestholder to the church. that was going to happen.  All of a sudden, Kerry's phone rings and he says he needs to go.  Good!  I wasted no time ushering him towards the doors.  We forgoed the part of the tour where we look at the baptismal font and where we commit them to be baptized.  There at the bottom of the stairs like an angel sent from heaven was our Elders' Quorum President Brother Hyde.  What the?  Turns out that on Thursday nights there is open gym for basketball at the church and the EQ is in charge.  Earlier that night Brother Hyde's first counselor told him to not bother heading to the church because no one was going to be heading out to play in that weather.  Even his wife was saying he would be wasting his time coming down to the church cause no one was coming.  Lucky for us, he followed the strong prompting he got from the spirit to still head down to the church for some unknown reason.  He saved us!  Moral of the story: OBEY THE PROMPTINGS FROM THE HOLY GHOST
On Friday the snow was melted away by a torrential rain shower, creating slushees not even 7-11 could rival.  The roads were pretty bad.  But we ventured out into the mush and headed over to our favorite family, The Wahlquists.  For the first time in my life, I shoveled snow off a driveway!! Hahah it was the best ever.  We had just eaten Jack in the Crack for lunch before we headed over there and so I definitely burned it off.  We shoveled the whole driveway and walk.  Took us probably about an hour and a half.  Used muscles I definitely haven't used in a very long time.  I woke up very sore the next day.  We shoveled in our skirts and borrowed snow boots/gloves/jackets from Sister Wahlquist.  We were soaking wet by the time we were finished.  Both from sweat and snow and rain.  But totally worth it!
So, we have this next door neighbor that is the coolest neighbor ever.  It's an older-ish couple.  Probably 60's or so.  The guy is white and the wife is Filipino.  Surprise, surprise.  Anyway they are Catholic and so when you walk up to our neighboring apt doors we both have pictures of Jesus on our doors haha.  Except they look slightly different.  Anyways!  She has been feeding us so much food.  She'll look for our car when we come home for lunch or dinner or when we get home at night and come ring our doorbell and bring us legitimate meals!  The other day we had just finished eating a well balanced dinner of cereal and toast when we get a knock on the door and she sent her husband over with a heaping bowl of spaghetti, a green salad, and a tray of garlic bread.  One morning she asked us when we would be coming in for the night and said she would come over and give us from freshly fried lumpia that she makes from scratch.  So sure enough at 9pm that night, before we even make it to the door, she is standing on the landing with enough lumpia for a football team and a Skippy Peanut butter jar full of her homemade sweet n' sour sauce.  Sweeeet.  She has also made us chicken fried rice, all kinds of soup, and yesterday on Pday she gave us an industrial sized bowl of pansit noodles she had just pulled off the stove.  Me and Sis Welch each ate a decently sized bowl of it and packed a tupperware container of it and didn't even make a dent.  We had just left the rest of zone at the church after playing basketball and soccer and knew the elders were still there.  We brought over the bowl and fed the entire zone of famished, sweaty boys.  It was gone in 2 seconds!  We could have never finished it by ourselves.  We washed the bowl and brought it back to her about an hour after she gave it to us full, and when we gave it back she gave us a Costco sized roll of Pillsbury cookie dough!  Haha what the heck?  These two old peeps that love feeding the missionaries will be so blessed.  Haha she always tells us in her best filipino accent to "share it with the rest of your parishoners."  Haha.
Remember James, the 9 yr old investigator?  He was FINALLY baptized!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  We put him on-date the first day of last transfer and it has taken this long for things to finally come together.  James has progressed and been ready for baptism for weeks but his father who is a returning less-active in the church had wanted to baptize his son.  The process of getting him worthy again to be able to baptize him took him a long time.  He kept dodging appts with the Bishop or not keeping commitments.  So it had come to the point where the Bishop was going to baptize him.  The church handbook advises not waiting on fathers if they are not worthy to perform baptisms.  But literally in the 11th hour, about 45 min before the baptism, James' dad was interviewed and found worthy to baptize James.  for the first time in my entire time knowing him he actually smiled.  HE HAS NEVER SMILED BEFORE, EVER.  Never has looked happy.  Never has made eye contact with us.  Until the moment he told us that he could baptize his son. MIRACLE.  It was one of the neatest baptisms ever.  This family that has endured so much hardship and disappointment finally had something to smile about.
We had another sweet miracle with this investigator, Shanna.  At first I was totally ready to drop this girl.  Just dogging every appt and not keeping commitments.  Just not progressing.  Then we had a breakthrough.  We dropped by and gave her The Lamb of God DVD last week.  Kind of forgot about doing that.  Then we get this text from her asking us if there was a PART 2 to the movie that we gave her because she loved it so much and wants to know more.  We go over to her house and she tells us that before she wasn't really sure she wanted to check out the church but now she felt something really good and she wants to start really taking it seriously.  She came to church on Sunday and loved it!  We softly commited her to baptism and she is willing to make the changes and strides necessary to change her life.  It taught me a lesson.  I don't really call the shots about who is ready and who is not.  God does.  He will let us, as missionaries, know though the Holy Ghost.  And then we can go from there.  DON'T GIVE UP ON PEOPLE!!!
This week was insane.  THE hardest week of my life for sure.  But I had so many miracles and tender mercies happen along the way.  You can't help but wonder at the power and love of God.  The creator of the universe is literally our Father in Heaven.  Blows my mind.  Even if you may doubt your love for Him, never doubt His love for you.  I came to know of the truth of that this week.  During one of my darkest hours, my companion drove me to the chapel and had me sit there alone for a few minutes after she handed me a picture of the Savior holding a newly found lost sheep.  After tearfully admitting to her that I struggle with feeling good enough, she invited me to ask God and Christ if I was good enough for them.  Before she even made it out of the chapel doors, I received an instantaneous response.  "Of course, you are," were the words the Holy Ghost whispered so clearly to my heart.  Relief and peace flooded my soul as tears streamed from my eyes.  For the first time, in a long time, I felt like I really believed that I was good enough.
"The Lord doesn't expect us to work harder than we are able.  He doesn't (nor should we) compare our efforts to those of others.  Our Heavenly Father asks only that we do the best we can--that we work according to our full capacity, however great or small that may be."- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Love you guys,
Sis Baylon

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

keep looking up, He is looking down

Hey from Btown.
It is snowing.  Yes, you heard correctly.  It is snowing. Mrrrr.  Well, brrrrr. Last night tracting was waaaay cold.  Handwarmers save lives.  It is supposed to snow 14 inches by tonight.  Yikes!  Bremerton isn't set up for snow.  No plows, no salt.  No chance of getting up and down these steep hills.  So we'll see, we might be walking.  I know I know, how will life go on.
Well yesterday marked the start of transfer #6. Can you believe it?  I have been out 7.5 months.  All four of us "Manetties" are staying.  Me, Sis Welch, Elder Gowans (my DL) and Elder Christensen.  (For those of you that watched the show "Sing Off, " Elder Christensen's brother was in the group "Vocal Point."  I know, crazy!! So many famous kids in the WA-TAC).  I feel good about staying.  It is so much fun sharing this area with this group. Sister Holman and my MTC comp Sis Eichenmiller got called to open a sister area in Lacey, which is an all elder area, or a "Man-Zone."  There haven't been sisters there in 12 years!  Cool, eh?  Poor Sister F is finally getting relief and President is getting her a new comp.
Now, for a moment of silence.  Let's take a minute and mourn the loss of blue card.  I will not be allowed to drive a mission car for the next 6 weeks.  Because I was convicted (wrongfully) of my ticket from 2 transfers ago, the guy in charge of the cars is temporarily suspending my driving privileges.  Not cool.  Now I have to be co-pilot aka make a billion phone calls.  I get carsick way easy so it hasn't been fun.  I'll get it back at the end of the transfer.
Andrews family! Wow, thank you for the Christmas card and sweet gift!  That was so nice and thoughtful of you guys.  Sounded like you had a jam-packed holiday!  You guys are the best!
Our zone meetings have been really fun lately.  So if you are unfamiliar with zone meetings, they are unique to this mission.  Usually a mission has district meetings where you meet with your district which is usually like 6-10 people once a week.  And a zone conference once a transfer with several zones in your conference.  We have those, but we also have zone meetings where the entire zone gets together once a week to present our numbers for the week on a stewardship board and we have all sorts of trainings and things designed to help us improve.  This past week, zone meeting was super fun.  One of our zone leaders, Elder Alden (skull candy guy), was having his last zone meeting in Bremerton.  He had been in the zone for 9 months so he was going to be getting transferred out. We played a game of missionary clue.  We had different places in the church like the gym, RS room, nursery, kitchen, etc.  Tools (instead of weapons) like Preach My Gospel,, scriptures, etc. and Areas (instead of people) so like Manette, Orchard Heights, and all the other areas in the zone.  We had to figure out who was poaching in what room of the church using which missionary tool.  Poaching is just like it sounds.  Getting investigators or baptisms from an area that you do not belong.  So fun!  We each got to make accusations based off which cards we drew and then headed to different rooms in the church and had trainings in each room.  I was asked to give a training on ettiiquette in the kitchen.  HAHA so random but so fun.  They didn't tell me we were going to be playing Clue when they asked me to do it so I wasn't sure how it was going to all tie in.  I made a way fun game that pitted district against district in a series of multiple choice questions, looking through The Missionary Handbook, physical challenges, and questions they had to huddle up to discuss before they answered.  So fun.
I cut my hair!  It is a little below the shoulder.  There is a lady in the ward that is a hairstylist and I asked if she would cut my hair.  Not only did she do it and do a great job, she did it for free. So cool.
Last week we had some way sweet miracles!  Two super solid church tours that led to two new investigators and two new on-date to be baptized!! Both really young moms.  One is married with a 5 mo old baby and jerky husband and the other is an 18 yr old single mom with 2 kids.  They both really expressed a need for a stronger relationship with God in their life and they both accepted an invitation to be baptized.  Nisa, the married mom, said that she had actually been thinking about how to get baptized for the past several weeks but she didn't know how to go about it and got overwhelmed because she didn't even know where to start.  Then we knock on her door, invite her to come unto Christ by checking out the church, and then invite her to be baptized.  She thought it was perfect timing.  We did, too.
One day we were coming home for dinner and the neighbors below us looked like they were moving out.  One guy was trying to carry out a bunch of stuff.  It had been raining really hard and there seemed to be a brief let up in the rain.  We showed up just in the nick of time to help them load up a bunch of stuff.  The elders luckily live right across the parkinglot from us and saw us helping them and literally came running over to help.  A job that would have taken that man I'm sure hours and several trips, took us about 20 minutes if even.  Many helping hands, make for light work.  They were this black, southern baptist family.  So you know they were "Hallelujah-ing" and "Praise the Good Lord-ing" like no other.  "Oooh, child, here come them Mormons! We can make it to choir practice on time now!  Thank ya, Jesus!!" (Actual quote from the grandma). Haha so cool.
For this transfer's Seattle Saturday, excuse me, "Sowing" Saturday, we all went out to eat at IHOP.  It was one of the Elder's birthdays so I made him a tray of funfetti cupcakes.  Yum.  All of a sudden this elder that finished his mission and just went home a couple of transfers ago comes walking in to the restaurant with his family.  He came to surprise the Elder for his birthday while he was touring the mission with his family.  They are way loaded, his Dad owns a major publishing company.  He footed our entire bill.  When we asked for the checks and the waitress said some guy picked up everyone's tab we were sooo stoked.  Broke missionaries were way happy that day.
Whoever does the bulletin at church always puts a quote in from an Apostle or from Conference or something way inspiring.  I was having a crummy Sunday morning so I felt a little better when I read this quote in the program from Elder David A. Bednar:
"In many of the uncertainties and challenges we encounter in our lives, God requires us to do our best, to act and not be acted upon (2 Nephi 2:26) and trust in Him.  We may not see angels, or hear Heavenly voices, or receive overwhelming spiritual impressions.  We frequently may press forward hoping and praying--both without absolute assurance--that we are acting in accordance with God's will.  But as we honor our covenants and keep the commandments, as we strive ever more consistently to do good and to become better, we can walk with confidence that God will guide our steps.  And we can speak with the assurance that God will inspire our utterances.  This is in part of the scripture that declares, "Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God." "
Hope this week was a good one for everyone.  It was another high/low one for me.  Lots more miracles to report.  I'll have to send them out to you guys individually when I get the time.  I hope that everyone is taking President Hinckley's counsel he gave not too long ago about "trying a little harder, to be a little better."  I try each day to be a little kinder, be a little more patient, love a little more, pray a little more sincerely, and trust a lot better.  One day at a time.  Keep looking up, He is looking down.
Sis Baylon

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy 2012 from wa-tac

Hey guys!
Writing to you all from a soggy, wet, cold Btown pday.  It is nasty outside.  Not a torrential downpour but enough to make you groan.  It's a very wet cold so it's not the best.  The newest finding that i love lately are handwarmers.  They look like those little packets inside of shoeboxes when you get brand new shoes.  Except they get really hot and keep your hands warm in your gloves and pockets.  (or feet if you put them in your socks at night like I do)  If any of you have some lying around, feel free to send them my way!
(Side note: Um,...we watched a members' kids play fruit ninja on xbox kinect.  Um...Waaayyy sweet!!!)
How was everyone's NYE?  Can you believe that it is 2012 already?  2011 was a blur.  President didn't want us missionaries out and about at night, for good reason.  Lots of crazy drunks and just regular ol' crazies out in the streets.  Especially in Btown.  There may or may not have been a stabbing.  But! Don't worry we were fine and safe.  President said that we wouldn't be doing our normal 5-7's and that if we didn't have any set appts after 6pm that he wanted us to return back to our apts.  We finished our last appt at 5:45 and then headed home.  That morning, Brother Large, aka Mr. Venison, called the elders and asked if all four of us missionaries would be willing to speak in Sac mtg new years day.  It was a blessing that we had to be in early on Saturday night, because then we had a lot of time to prepare.  Elder Gowans, our district leader, and Sis Welch hate public speaking so they wanted as much time as possible to prepare.  Elder Christensen and I are more of improv speakers and wrote our talks as bullet points.  That night sister Welch was on a roll and took like 2 hours to write her talk.  I, on the other hand, roamed around the apt for those two hours thinking of what I should speak on.  We did it all general conference style.  No assigned themes or topics, but rather trusting that the Spirit would inspire our minds with the topics that we should address the ward with.  I leafed through the many journals that I have already filled since being on my mission, issues of the Ensign magazine, and the scriptures.  Nothing.  Not a drop of insight.  I wasn't too worried about it. 
Sis Graves made us a bag of New Years goodies.  The best restaurant style tortilla chips that you can buy at a store found only in Washington and some salsa.  A bunch of noise makers and little toys and junk.  Candy.  Little plastic champagne glasses and some Martinelli's.  So fun.  We took it over to the Elder's apt across the parkinglot and had a little missionary NYE party on the landing outside their front door.  It was so fun! Haha we were just laughing and eating snacks and making a racket and it was just fun.  We rang in the the new year at 10:30 pm.  Partyyy Harty.  Sike.  I was so tired and I knew that I was going to be setting the alarm earlier than 6:30 so that I could work on my talk.  Our ward went from 1pm to 9am so I was going to have less time than usual.  Still wasn't worried about my talk.  Right as I was about to fall asleep, a bunch of people started screaming happy new year outside our bedroom window.  It was not midnight and they were way wasted.  Everyone in Bremerton lights off fireworks on NYE cause they aren't illegal to buy in stores.  People bang pots and pans out here too on NYE.  Kinda ghetto but funny!  So needless to say it was not an easy sleep.
I woke up in the morning with the hymn, "The Iron Rod," pumping through my head.  Voile! I had my talk.  I had just read about Lehi's dream earlier in the week as I am starting my third time reading the Book of Mormon since starting my mission.  It was also on my mind because, Robert, an investigator we had dropped earlier in the transfer due to his lack of progression because he was unwilling to read the BOM, called us and said he had read the BOM!! MIRACLE.  In just a week he had almost finished chapter 10.  So we went over there are read 1 Nephi 8, 11, 12, and 13 which talks about the meaning behind Lehi's dream.  Plus, our investigator, Mark, was going to be there.  He had "goofed up" as he likes to call it, the day after Christmas, and started drinking again.  Every time he has little slip-ups he beats himself up about it.  Then he feels guilty and doesn't return our calls or avoids seeing us because he feels he let us down.  But by a miracle, after we dropped off some church DVDs outside his door on Saturday, we saw Mark walking down the street.  His green and orange Miami dolphins jacket gave away his position as we saw him walking towards us about 2 blocks away.  MIRACLE. 
All of our talks turned out great.  We really were able to walk away having gained a lot of the members' trust.  They were able to get more of a personal feel for who we are, what we are about, and what kind of missionaries we are. Sister Welch talked about "how big is your love?"  About how much the Savior loves us and how big is the love we have for Him and therefore how much do we love His children.  Elder Gowans spoke about having the courage to open our mouths and proclaim the gospel, bear our testimonies, and invite people to come unto Christ.  I spoke about securing our place along the Iron Rod and then going after the one.  Sis Welch said that she saw Mark wipe tears from his eyes when I was speaking.  I wrote my talk just for him.  It will be a bonus if anyone else in the congregation got something out of it.  I talked about how we often overlook the fact that Lehi had to walk through mists of darkness and a dark and dreary waste before he made it to the tree.  That we all have to go through hardships and trials before we experience the joys.  Testing and darkness before the miracles and light.  That how many minutes after an investigator accepts a date to be baptized does an old temptation seem twice as hard to resist?  Or how many doubts fill our minds soon after we choose to repent and then follow/serve the Lord.  Elder Christensen spoke on "members are the means" which is one of the lines from one of our mission recitations.  That we can't do the Lord's work without the members.  There was a great power in all of our talks working together to inspire members to assess their testimonies and feel encouraged to help in doing missionary work.
Our investigator, now recent convert, Karen was confirmed on New Year's day, and she said that after she heard all of our talks she better understands and appreciates missionaries and the work that we do.  Before our talks, she viewed us as well trained salesmen and now she sees us as disciples of Christ who are on His errand.  Pretty cool, eh?
Another quick plug/update about obedience. Our 40 min phone call adherence worked.  So, we have two districts in our zone.  One is obedient and one is....less obedient.  The obedient district all had a baptism the week of Christmas!! MIRACLE. 
So here are some of my resolutions:
-Take care of my health.  I had been told in a blessing that I recently got that I need to make a conscious effort to take better care of my health.  The blessing specifically mentioned taking the time to prepare and eat adequate meals.  To take the time to eat in general.  Usually we don't eat a whole lot cause we're busy or we just eat snacky things cause we don't want to spend the time or money prepping/cooking.  I heard that same counsel from several different sources over the past week, including from this past conference address from Elder Boyd K. Packer who had mentioned something along the lines of "those who are more in-tuned with their bodies can draw nearer to God."  So true.  If you think about the kinds of attacks that Satan sends our way of temptations he puts in front of us have to do with our bodies and how we treat and view them.  Drug, alcohol, food, sex addictions.  Tatoos.  Hating the way you look.  Being obsessed with how others view our appearance.  If you hate your own body image and how you perceive yourself, it's probably going to be a lot harder to believe that you were created in God's image and that He loves you.  So today for the first time on my mission....I went grocery shopping.  Like for food to cook.  Not cereal and milk.  And!! We have been running in the morning.  My comp hates it but she is learning to like it.
-I'm going to finish the BOM hopefully at least 3 more times and I want to read the entire Bible as well.  Scriptorian in the making.
-Speak kinder, softer, more loving words.  Less of pseudo-swearing (ex: crap, freak, etc. you'd be surprised how many missionaries still say that).  Not listening/participating to gossip.  Being more positive.
I really liked this quote from President Spencer W. Kimball that was shared with us in RS on Sunday: "The cultivation of Christlike qualities is a demanding and relentless task--it is not for the seasonal worker or for those who will not stretch themselves again and again."  I want to be more and more Christlike everyday of my mission.  To go to bed at night and wake up in the morning just a little bit better each time.  Totally plausible.  What are some of your guys' goals? 
Well, I better get going.  Things are good here in Btown.  Just trying to love and enjoy my mission more and more than I already do.
Sis Baylon

(an investigator)

 (missionaries cars)