Monday, June 30, 2014

Converting Members

I turned 3 last week. Which is insane, there's no way that was three whole months. And then I was thinking, in another 3 i'l be a third through, and another three I'm halfway done....what is this madness? I'm having way too much fun to leave!! well, maybe not fun, but....missions are awesome. I'm having the time of my life. I'm enjoying myself, but the word "fun" doesn't fit. I dunno, English is weird. this is not the language they taught me at the MTC.

 We got transfer calls last night, and I'm leaving Casa Grande....which is really, really sad to me. I don't quite feel I'm done here yet, and I really love the people here, everyone we're teaching. A lot of hard stuff just came down on all of our investigators and recent converts, and suddenly everyone's having family problems, medical issues, discouragement, old friends, avoiding us all of the sudden without telling us why, etc. etc. etc. and I've been thinking about them all the time and praying for them and about them and trying to figure out ways to help them....and now I'm leaving them. And I really don't want to.

 But I know that this is the Lord's work, and whichever sister is taking my place has been handpicked by God to help these people. I just hope she's not overwhelmed.

 And I'm really sad to be leaving Sister Westfall. She's so awesome.

 Anyway, because it was a bit of a slow week and we don't have a lot of people to teach, we started setting up appointments with members to teach them. We teach them about the doctrine of Christ, the Gospel of Christ--faith in His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end--and try to convert them to missionary work. There's a handful of members who work with us, but we wanted the rest of the members to get excited about all the Hastening things going on and to get involved. Not sleeping through the Restoration, as President Uchtdorf would say.

 Turns out, all many of them are suuuuper missionary minded and are always looking for opportunities to uplift people and talk about Christ......they're just so discouraged. Either no successs has come from it, or they've been slapped down, or some awful experience, or whatever, and when we talked about missionary work, their shoulders just slump and they say, "We've been trying so hard."

 Well, our job is to help you too, not just nonmembers. :) That brought a lot of joy, too. Encouraging members, getting them excited again. Because really, I keep talking about how amazing and indescribable it is to watch people light up when they discover Christ, to see people who thought they were unworthy of love or so harshly condemned by God and seeing them discover God's love for them, and I really want every member to experience that, too. And it was so great to sit down with them and help them make baby step goals for themselves and get them to read Preach My Gospel and share examples from The Power of Everyday Missionaries. I feel like there should be missions just to members. "Sister Stratford, you have hereby been called to the Hillside Ward mission." hahaha. I'm sad to leave the members here in Casa Grande. They're so awesome.

 One investigator, the guy who really wanted to know if the Book of Mormon was more true scripture and if there were apostles today...did I name him? His name is Bob. 

 We taught him again this week, and we learned that he still hadn't read from the BoM or prayed to ask if it was true. And we're thinking, "alright, this is like the fourth time we've invited you to do this, what is it going to take?" He says he did a lot of reading about Mormonism and Joseph Smith and the BoM. But not actually praying or reading, not going to God about it, just man's wisdom. He didn't know if he could attend any church because of his peers and his neighborhood he can't get out of. "I don't know if I can really start a new life while I'm still living here. But I like learning about God."

 So while we were planning the lesson. Sister Westfall said, "We need to get him to read the BoM and feel the Spirit testify that it's true."
 And I said, "We really need to teach him about Christ's Atonement, and how it can pull him out of anything if he's willing."

 So we did both and read Alma 36 with him, which is Alma's conversion story. And that was super, super powerful. The Spirit was so strong. I watched his face changed as we read, and we really had a comfortable, amazing discussion about the purspoe of Christ's sacrifice, why we needed a Savior, how much He loves us, and how He frees us from bondage. It was such an amazing, personal spiritual experience. At the closing prayer, he told God he was sorry for not praying or reading to find out if it's all true, and promised he'd actually do it this time.

 One of the coolest thing as a missionary is when people stop promising you things and starts promising God. Developing that faith in Him, and not in us. 

 Missions are the greatest thing ever. 

 I'm really excited to find out where I'm going next. i'm looking forward to meeting new people and finding out why God sent me there. As President Uchtdorf said, and I'm quoting him a lot but he's my favorite: "There are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings." 

 Love you all! Thanks for being amazing influences in my life! :)

 -Sister Stratford

Monday, June 23, 2014

"Ask and ye shall receive"

This week was so awesome!! I'm here to testify that God answers prayers, that He uses weak things to accomplish His purposes, that He's real, that this is His church and His work, and that amazing things follow rough times if you push fact, usually times are rough because the adversary knows an amazing thing is about to happen and doesn't want it to happen. God is real, and He is amazing and loving and merciful. If I don't get in every story I want to tell, at least there's that.

 One night, we didn't have set lessons and I was looking at a map, because our set plans didn't feel right to me. We had an hour left and I didn't want to waste time, so I quickly picked a random neighborhood and we started off. While I was driving, I got a distinct feeling, "We need to stop." It was a busy highway and no real good place to park, so I turned at the next light and looked for a little neighborhood where we could park safely. When we turned, I realized where we were and thought, "Well, this would be a great place to walk around!" so we parked and bowed our heads to do our prayer.

 It was my turn to pray, but I couldn't. Something still didn't feel right. I knew God didn't want us there, he wanted us somewhere else. So after a few moments I turned the car back on and said, "We need to visit this person." I knew she lived around there.

 When we showed up, they were surprised to see us, because usually we call ahead. So we had to tell her, "We really just felt we needed to visit you. Is everything okay?"

 Nothing was okay, it had been a rough day, and she needed to know that God was aware of her, and loved her, and would send people to her to comfort her and make her feel loved. God is a God of miracles, and He really wants to help His children. He wants them to know He loves them, and He answers prayers. He's always reaching out, no matter how weak or horrible we feel. My testimony of that just keeps snowballing with every person I meet out here in Arizona.

 Speaking of prayers, I have to say taht I knew there would be people who wouldn't want to pray and ask God if the Book of Mormon was true, or if He had called a prophet on the Earth today. I expected that. I expected them to be either atheists who didn't believe in a God and so had no reason to pray, or theists who didn't believe God spoke to man anymore.

 Never in my wildest missionary daydreams did I think I'd meet people who knew God loved them, that God answers prayers, that He desired to give them truth and light and knowledge, and that He would give if they asked.....and still not pray. I never expected that. 

 One man we talked to said, "The most important truth you can ever know is that God is real and that He loves us, right? God is truth. Once you know that, you don't need any other truth. If that's a truth I learned from the Bible, what does it matter to me if the Book of Mormon's true? How would that affect me?" When we tried to talk about Apostles and Prophets and a Church that Christ Himself has set up and leads, he waved his hand and said, "so what if there are Apostles and proplehts? good for them, their relationship with God doesn't affect mine. They walk their path, I'll walk mine."

 A couple we talked to enjoyed their comfortable church where they wear jeans and have barbecues afterwards and doesn't require anything of them except show up and enjoy a fun service. They'd met with missionaries before and have read from the BoM, but when we asked if they'd prayed, they admitted they hadn't. "The whole Mormon faith thing just isn't for me," she said, and gave a long testimony that had a lot of "comfortable"s and "casual"s in it. 

 And sandwiched perfectly between these experiences was a man we were teaching who held the Book of Mormon in his hands and said, "my neibhgors think it's weird that I keep meeting with Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses and anyone else who talks about religion. But I need to find out the truth. If God has called a prophet, if there's more scripture to learn from, I need to know that. I need all the truth I can get, y'know?"

 "Ask, and ye shall receive. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you." That's the most reccurring scripture in the scriptures. I was so surprised to meet people who claimed to be avid scholars of the Bible, who know God will answer their prayers and that He loves them, and simply refused to ask God for truth and knowledge, whether out of fear of getting an answer or pride thinking they have everything and don't need to recieve anything else. Or they think that God will be which case, they don't know what the word "upbraideth" means in James 1:5. We read and love the same Bible, but they don't like hearing about the Bible from us. I guess they expect Mormons to only ever talk about the BoM, and it's weird to them when we're familiar with the Bible.

 I love the people of Casa Grande, and I love being on a mission. I love talking about God and Jesus Christ. It hurts me when I talk to these people I've come to love, and they refuse to turn to God for answers. I want them to be happy, and to know the comforts that I know. I know life only gets tougher, and it hurts to know that they don't have what I have. But at the same time, you can't get upset that people have their agency. I'm grateful for a loving God who lets us make our own choices--and who gives us more than just one chance to come to Him.

 In other, adventrous news, there is a family in our ward here who raises peafowl....!! Ahhh, that was so fun to see! I had no idea that Indian Blue weren't the only kind of peacocks. They come in all sorts of fun colors---even pure white!! So pretty! There's a Gospel principle in there somewhere...anyone want to make a parable? XD haha!

 There was a baptism in the Spanish ward this past weekend. I don't remember if I said this, but a few weeks ago another sister and I sang at a baptism. It was well recieved, and we were asked if we could sing at another Spanish.

 So we learned the pronunciation and sang "Mas Cerca, Dios, de Ti." Hopefully we didn't butcher it; if anyone said anything about it afterwards, I had no idea what they were saying, compliments or otherwise. Haha!

 Even still, it was really cool. The Spirit was there so strong, even though I couldn't really understand what was being said. That will always blow my mind, how you can feel the Spirit when someone is talking to you in another language.

 I love people, and I love the Gospel, and missions are awesome!  :) There were rough days this week, but there were also amazing miracles, and there's nothing else I'd rather be doing! Thank you for your letters and your support. You've all blessed my life so very much!!

 God bless!

 -Sister Stratford

Monday, June 16, 2014


Missions are seriously the greatest thing ever, and everyone should go on one. There can't be many things that are better than sharing the Gospel and seeing God's hand do His work up close and personal. 

 We met with Seph again. His family is still unhappy he's looking at the Mormons, and on top of that, there are a lot of problems going on that doesn't have anything to do with religion. He really wants his family to stay together and he loves them so much and he's really doing everything he can for them. It's so inspiring to watch. He told us he hadn't been able to do any reading or praying because he's had to work out a lot of these things first and wants to wait until his life calms down. Which, when you think about it, is like planning to fix your ax after you get this tree down, or planning to fix your bow later before this deer gets away. We promised him God would help him if he put God first and committed him to praying and making time for just five verses of the BoM each day.

 A few days later we met up with him again, and he said, "boy, you just can't read five verses, can you?" 

 He had plowed through like six chapters since we last saw him. He loooooooves Nephi and finds him so inspiring! He still doesn't know about actually joining the Church, but he really relates to Nephi and Joseph Smith and is really open to learning.

 Have I said anything about Sherry? We introduced the Word of Wisdom to her a while back, and she at first looked taken aback, but then after thinking about it, said that it made perfect sense. She committed to living it, and later had an experience that made her want to live it even more.

 So we come in to teach her this week, and she says, "you should see my pantry!! :D" 

 She did a lot of research about what's good for your body and what isn't....everything in her fridge and pantry is totally and completely fresh, organic, raw, unprocessed, etc. etc. Haha!! She is DEVOTED to the WoW, and it's really neat! it made me want to live it better.  She's even started having food storage, just because she felt like that would be something wise to have with all her healthy foods. She was delighted to find that that was also something Mormons did. 

 One thing that we've talked about in meetings is how we need to stand out. How does anyone find the light when it blends into the darkness? How can anyone find the truth when the ones who know the truth try not to bring any attention to themselves and look like everyone else? When you wear a little black nametag and a skirt, sometimes it's scary because it feels like you've painted an archery target on your face. But that's kinda the point (lol puns). While we were on the street talking to someone, we said goodbye and turned to go to find someone else kinda hovering around behind us, looking like they wanted to say something but didn't really want to. So we shook his hand and introduced ourselves. he had overheard a little and seen our skirts (and now our nametags) and asked, "is this about God?"

 "yes," we said. "And Jesus Christ, and how They love us."

 "....can I learn?"

 Uh, yeah, you can!

Moments like that make looking really weird and different worth it. 

 And it doesn't have to be a skirt and a little black nametag. There was one man we sat down with to teach. He didn't speak a lot of English, but he understood Jesus Christ and we could teach him about the Restoration of Christ's church well enough. At one point he said we were "very peace in the face. Very happy face!"

 The Gospel is so amazing, and I love being out on a mission where I can see all of this happening. I wish more members were missionary-minded, so that they could have the same experiences. They seem so scared to come out on lessons with us, and we're just like, "no, seriously, you have to see this, you'll just see his face light up and you'll feel God's love like never before!" 

 I talk to people on the streets because I want them to feel God's love so badly, and to have the Gospel work in their life. Now I talk to members because I want them to feel God's love so badly and have some of the joy I have when I share that, haha!!

 Missions are awesome. There's still nothing I'd rather be doing. My companion is amazing and I love my God more than I ever have before. 

 You guys are all awesome and I love you all so, so much! God's love and the Atonement of Christ are so real and so tangible! There is power in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon, and I love this Church! I know that this is Christ's church, and that He's at the head of it.

 If He wasn't, then us 18-21 year olds would've messed it up a long time ago. ahaha.

 I love you all!! C: 

 -Sister Stratford

Monday, June 9, 2014

Too hot for a scarf :C

It finally's just too hot :C Even for the tiny one I made that just has a pendant and a clasp in the back like a necklace.....oh well, I'll pull them back out in September or something :C

 But on the bright side, miracles still work in 108F weather, so it's all good! C:

 It was such an awesome was those kinds of weeks where everything you plan falls through and nothing goes the way you planned it, and because that's happening you see like ten times as many miracles and it's clear that everything went how God planned it. It was awesome. It doesn't look like it on paper, but in reality, it was a very successful week!

 it was also STAKE CONFERENCE!!! Which was awesome!!! Maybe it's just because I'm a missionary, but every church meeting (and conference especially was just so amazing) has just been so amazing and spiritual. I guess if you go in looking for the Spirit and prepared to record things with a pen and paper, it's easier to get what you need.

 The people we're teaching are so awesome! C: Vince is still eager to get baptized, haha. He went to another one to see what it was like. Because he has seizures and his sister was the only one home, she reluctantly went with him. And they both looooooved it!! It was one of the most spiritual baptisms I've been to. She started out a little grumpy her brother dragged her to church, but she ended up really, really enjoying it. She said she'd never felt like that before. "I should be getting back into the church thing," she said. She's been kinda scared of us before....hopefully now she'd be a little more open to us teaching her, haha.

 Their mom has been nervous around us too, but something happened and she's suddenly super welcoming and nice. She brings out gatorade or stuff like that and makes sure we're comfortable. At one point she said she might sit in on one of Vince's lessons.....Families are awesome, and families are forever, let's just get that whole family back to God! C:

 We're still trying to work with Jose.....things keep coming up in his life, and he doesn't have a phone or computer or any way to communicate with us or people he's met from church, So we've really only been able to rely on the Spirit to know when to go and make sure everything's okay. :C He's baptized, but it never ends there. It's a new beginning, and for a lot of people it's a whole new life. Which can be both refreshing and hard. It's worth it, though. He has a powerful testimony, and he knows it's true, and he's had miracles and blessings and he's not letting go of those just because of some hard times. He's awesome.

 I don't remember if I gave him a name, but Seph? The guy who let us in and read the introduction to the BoM with us a few weeks ago? Turns out we showed up about the same time his family was starting their own church....and they want him to get baptized in their church, not it was a rough/perfect time to meet him, haha. Perfect, because his friend also started a church, and then the day we met him he'd gone to a Catholic church, and he was so confused by all these churches and the fact that anyone can start one and, even crazier, they all had the same textbook, the Holy Bible. Basically, the same questions Joseph Smith had. He expressed a strong desire to ask God for truth long before we had suggested anything of the sort or told him the Joseph Smith story. We met with him once since then, and we gave him the Restoration pamphlet...and he pulled out a pen and started marking it up like a college textbook, making notes and circling things. I've never seen anyone do that before, haha! And those pamphlets have study questions, which I never really  had much faith in because who actually does those....but when we checked up on him he said he had pulled out his Bible and Book of Mormon and was doing the study questions. 

 We haven't been able to meet with him since then because his family's been giving him some flack, and he's really having it rough. We text him a scripture reference every night, though. And he takes a lot of courage from Nephi, who endured a lot from his family. There's a reason Nephi's story is the first in the BoM. 

 My favorite stranger this week was a woman who was unpacking camping stuff. She rejected our offer to help (everyone does it because we're in skirts? :C the elders don't have this problem!) and when we tried to talk to her, she got really defensive, "I don't know who you are or what you want, you can't come in the gate!" We told her we were from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and she was like, "ohhh Mormons, I hate Mormons, every Mormon I've ever met has been a horrible person" on and on (she could only name one Mormon she knew, haha.) But as we went on talking to  her about God and her family, we could literally watch her change right in front of us. Seriously, it was like her skin changed color, it was that drastic, but I can't describe it. She totally opened us and talked a ton. After a while we asked if she was familiar with what we believed, and she admitted, "I've heard some, most of it's probably not true though." She didn't want to learn about what we believed, but it was really cool to watch that change. 

 Missions are still awesome, and I keep saying that, but every week I relearn how awesome missions are and learn a new reason why. This is the Lord's work! And it's awesome! C:

 I love you all!!

 -Sister Stratford

Monday, June 2, 2014


Jk no pictures, this computer doesn't have an SD reader :C




What can I say, Miracles continue to EXPLODE out here! I don't have a lot of time left, so I'll probably just end up posting pictures, haha.

 But we continue finding people who are so prepared to hear the Gospel and it's awesome. What I've kept kinda close to my chest, because I didn't want to freak my Mom out, is that every city has "that" part of town, and God sends missionaries there. A member who's an officer talked to my companion one time and pointed out all the streets and neighborhoods that we should avoid, and she was like, "hey, look, it's the boundaries of our area...."

 But that's what's so great about this area. That's part of what's so miraculous, and why the Gospel of Jesus Christ is so visible in their lives. The people we teach or just talk to have been attempted murder victims, shot, stabbed, on drugs, a few of them are drunk when we talked to them (and how fun it'd be to wakt up with a hangover and a Book of Mormon, LOL), and they haven't even really thought about God for so long, if at all. They've been in a darkness for so long, that when you give them a little bit of light, they just THIRST. These people are actually so, so nice to us. Hardly anyone will turn away a hopeful message about Christ, because they see the good and they want it so badly. And they're so prepared and humble and eager to learn, and it's absolutely amazing. 

 And God's watching over us. He made our bodies, He knows how hard it'd be to preach with a switchblade in my chest, so He's very heavily involved in where we go and who we talk to. There have been a handful of times where my companion and I say, "Hey, someone's home in this trailer, let's go talk to them!" And we've felt God tell us very clearly, "no, there's danger there, don't go." So we don't. He's watching out for us, and He's not only guided us away from danger, but towards those who are ready to listen.

 This is God's work, and it is an absolute joy to be a part of it. I thought I was happy enough to understand when I read "their joy was full" in the scriptures, but I didn't really understand it until I came out on a mission. These people are awesome and incredible, and missions are amazing. There may be some problems getting me to come home in the end. C:

 I love you all!! Thanks for your prayers and letters and support!

 -Sister Stratford