Monday, July 28, 2014



 We taught Talie and Tammy while they were chilling in their pool the other day. They kept asking us, "Can't you just get your feet wet? Or your arms? What if we splash you, is that against the rules?" bahahaha, temptation. I love those girls to death. <3 it's so incredible to watch how they grow.

 I don't have a lot of time today, so quick updates on the people here and PICTURES! C:

 Merry and kids: THEY HAVE POWER AGAIN!! God has blessed that family with so many miracles, it just boggles me. Seriously, credit for their electricity came out of nowhere and they have enough to get them to the end of the month. They have air conditioning again! Members of the ward are also working together to find them school uniforms, shoes, school supplies, etc. and within like three days they had pretty much everything they need for school! And Merry has been able to resume her job search! We made a family home evening chart witht hem and we're going to come by tonight to hear a lesson from the oldest daughter, who's 11. It was fun to teach her how to make a lesson plan. She still wants to serve a mission someday!
 We also sat down and made motivational posters witht hem the other day. It was very hard from them not to get discouraged with all the things going on, so I drew a picture of their family in battle armor looking awesome and battle-ready.

 Talie and Tammy: Are enjoying young women's!! C: Talie has been reluctant to go, but everytime she says she won't enjoy herself but goes anyway, it ends up being a perfect activity for her. The other day they went to a thrift store and bought an entire outfit under 15 dollars. She was able to get a whole princess costume thing, shoes and tiara and dress and everything, for very cheap. She loves costumes, so that was fun 

 I love this work so much! It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, but it's also my favorite part of my life so far. I've never been happier, and there's nothing else I'd rather be doing. I miss you guys a lot, and I look forward to seeing you guys again in a year and two months (I turned four on Saturday!), but I know that Christ lives and that He's real, and I love sharing that strength and peace with others, even if they're not really listening. c:


 fourth of July:

and then from the MTC on! C:

Monday, July 21, 2014

Temperature Control: Liahona Style

It's been a long, hard week, but it's also been an amazing week. That's a pattern that never fails: the hardest weeks are the weeks we see the most incredible, amazing, unbelievable miracles. I should just start getting really excited when I get down...unless that'll counteract it....

 So Merry and her family has been having a problem with the power, not being able to afford electricity. They've been pushing through the Arizona July heat without AC. They have no car to go anywhere, and have been driving each other crazy, and it's been a really, really hard time for them, even through all the miracles of being able to get food. So one day we went to teach them during hte hottest part of the day. We were mentally preparing ourselves and joking, "ready to sweat?" and as soon as we went in, we braced ourselves....and it was cool. We asked, "did you guys get power?" and they said no. The back sliding door was wide open, and they were using the barbecue as a stove to cook lunch, with a huge woodfire in it. There was no reason for that house to be cool at all.

 We chalked it up to weird physics and sat down to teach a lesson. Literally, Whenever we were reading scriptures and being nice to each other and the kids were running around playing and getting along, it was cool in the house. But the second someone said something mean, or they started to fight, and stopped getting along, the temperature rose. And as soon as they stopped, it got cool again. It's one of those miracles that you expect you can only read in the Bible, it was really awesome. The next day, we talked about the Liahona, how it only worked when people were being righteous, and we talked about the Spirit and how God was teaching them (better than we could) how it works and how to keep it around to protect you.

 That week we met a 16-year-old girl named Alisha. She's in a group home temporarily and misses her family terribly. She saw a pair of elders writing their family on Monday and thought, "hey, those look like Mormons...everyone tries to avoid them. I wonder why?" So she walked up and asked what they believed about God and all that. She lives in our area, and we get to teach her. She has such a super powerful relationship with God, and she knows He's the one who has gotten her through a lot of the hard things. She was super excited about the Book of Mormon when we introduced it to her. She had heard a lot about Mormons and asked us a lot of questions about chastity and the Word of Wisdom and all the "weird" things we do. She said it had a lot of rules, but after thinking about it for a moment, she said, "I like it. They're not midnless rules, they make a lot of sense. They sound really smart, they'd protect you from doing a lot of dumb things." She told a friend about us, and now Amy is sitting in on the lessons, too. Her mom converted about a month ago, and she wants to know what it's all about. 

 We've been teachinga  lot of youth, and it's been really really fun.

 Talie and Tammy got baptized on Saturday!! Talie said she felt so relieved, but also super cautiosu. She feels something different, and she knows that some of the things she hears or sees can make that feeling go away. And she doesn't want it to go away. Tammy feels the same way....they say finding good anime, and anime parodies, is going to be harder now, haha. But they're so amazing and powerful. And it's so cool they made the decision as sisters, and now they can keep each other strong and help each other out. They're looking forward to going to the temple, finally! c:

 Tammy said she also thinks everyday about whether or not she's going on a mission. She's like 13, but she wants to decide early. Super cool! She wants to go to Japan, of course. Haha! She's been surrounded by people who know people who serve/are serving in Japan, which is very much reinforcing it. XD I hope she does go. She'd be awesome.
 Talie would be too, if she wanted to. She didn't answer that question, though. :p I wish I could just hang out with these girls. SomedayI'm coming back and we are hanging out and talking about anime and eating ice cream and making up stories and RPs. I'm going to miss them too much.

 Also baptized on Saturday was Merry's kids who are old enough...three of them! So we have five baptisms that Saturday and five confirmations that Sunday! Sooooo powerful! There's something special about seeing kids getting baptized, too. I haven't been able to experience that so much yet on my mission, they're all usually older than me. But kids are so sensitive, and they describe how they feel in simple but perfect ways, and I love them all so much, it was just so cool and powerful. It's amazing to watch them as a family work their way back to God and to make all those hard changes in their lives. They all want to follow Christ's example and are always helping each other out. And it's amazing to see how visible God's hands are in their home. 

 And one last miracle: Sister Amary has been on the fence about baptizm for years. She's basically already Mormon--she even holds a calling!--but something was always holding her back. I don't have a lot of time, so I can't explain in as big of detail as I would like, so maybe this won't seem as big of a miracle as it is to me, but SHE'S GETTING BAPTIZED!!!!!!! 

 One miracle that contributed, we asked Merry who she wanted to have talk at her kids' baptism. She looked around, and saw her good friend Sister Amary, and said, "I'd like her to give the talk on baptism." She had no idea she wasn't already baptized (half of the ward doesn't know). So we could hardly contain our excitement as we agreed that that was a great idea and would ask if she was willing to do it. She looked a little shocked when Merry asked her (and we're grateful it was Merry who said it was her idea....the last thing we wanted was to make her think we were trying to force her into baptism. We've really not been pushy at all and didn't want to be), but she agreed, talked to us and did a bit of reading/study about it, and gave a really amazing talk about baptism at the baptism.

 ....there were a ton of little miracles this week that helped her, and it was really fun to sit back and not be pushy and see God just move things around to encourage her towards the choice of baptism. Super cool. Our Father is a God of miracles, and I wish I could express them all.

 The greatest miracle of all, though, was the Atonement. I haven't had time to say everything that happened this week, and I wish I could, because I can promise you that the Atonement really is a very real and very powerful thing. Christ changes lives, breathes life back into people who don't even want to get out of their car, and gives us the power to get through the hard times. He can keep us from getting discouraged, and He can keep us from giving up. Watching people apply His sacrifice, watching lives change for the better, is the greatest thing I've ever experienced. There's really nothing cooler than this.

 Thanks for being awesome, and thanks for all that you do! You are all amazing and I miss you! C: Love you all!

 -Sister Stratford

Monday, July 14, 2014

Moar Miracles!

Missions are awesome and life is awesome and Laveen is awesome!! C:

 I promised to talk more about the family we're teaching. Mom's name is Merry, and she's awesome. My companion found her on a miracle last transfer. She's been working really hard at coming back to church, stopping smoking, and letting God back into her life. Lots of hard things are happening, and her problems keep growing, but I"m so amazed at her strength and trust in God. I really try hard to express that to her, because I don't think she realizes how strong she's being. She often feels down and discouraged. She knows God's there and that He loves her, but she also knows she can't take much more and frequently wonders how long God's going to wait. It's soooo hard, it's like in Casa Grande, I want to help so badly, but there's only so much I can do. I can....give you a scripture? Pray with you? :C I want to do more. 

 That family has had so many miracles, though. God has been with them so strongly, every step of the way. We helped a woman move out (FINALLY, someone lets us do something!! 8D it feels so good to actually do some hard work!) and she was moving out so quickly that she didn't know what to do with all her food, and she asked us, "is there anyone who needs food?" and we were like, "uh, yes, we have a family of six who need a miracle." So we brought them two big trashbags and a full box of food. 

 Trials are there, and they're real, and they're scary. But God is there, too, and He's even more real than anything that scares us. And it's hard to see sometimes, but He has so many tender mercies and so many little miracles. I just wish I was better at teaching and helping people see that. I wish I was better at communicating that the negative stuff you feel in the moment shouldn't redefine all the good stuff you've felt in the past. being a missionary is awesome, but I always wish there was more I could do.

 We're still trying really hard to find more people to teach. Finding people is really hard when no one is outside and you're in a car anyway. Every now and then we get a miracle and we get to teach someone, but they're not really interested and they don't want to meet with us again. We've been praying hard and working hard, and we have to trust tht this is the Lord's work and He'll help us find people who need Him. this letter getting too negative? I feel like it's getting too negative. :)

 It definitely wasn't a negative was seriously one of hte coolest week of my life. Miracles always seem to come when things get the hardest.

 There's a family in our ward who owns a small farm, the Aramy's. The husband was less-active but has pretty much already come back. His wife isn't a member, but is studying the Bible and the Book of Mormon and praying and has been contemplating baptism a loooooooooong time. She actually asked the missionaries to stop coming by, because she doesn't want any pressure or sway from either side while she tries to figure it out herself. She didn't want a lesson from us until after she's finished the Book of Mormon. 

 Which is fine. We usually go over once a week anyway to help her out on the farm (WHICH IS SO FUN YOU GUYS YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW HAPPY THIS MAKES ME) and we talk a little bit about the Bible and Christ, and we just don't talk about baptism.

 ....she's basically Mormon, anyway. haha. She loves the CHurch, she comes every week, she even holds a calling as the emergency prep  and food storage specialist--and takes it more seriosuly than anyone in the church I've seen, except maybe an Apostle.

 One time she admitted that her BoM reading hasn't been going well. "I fell asleep last night somewhere in 2 nephi."

 "yeah, that's what we were afraid of."

 "not getting very far?"

 "No, not being able to get through 2 Nephi....lots of people can't. XD"

 So we set up a time and we're reading 2 Nephi with her, until she gets into Mosiah where it gets all fun and story-ish again....she wants to have lessons again! Which is awesome! :D

 Baptism still scares her, because her family really really really doesn't like Mormons, and she wants to be able to defend herself when they talk to her, but at the same time, she knows she shouldn't be putting it off when she really feels it's right.

 Missions are awesome and there are so many miracles. :) I know this is the Lord's work, and I love being out here to serve HIm and His children!

  I love you all! Stay awesome! :D

 -Sister Stratford

Monday, July 7, 2014

Habuubsicles! C:

So I'm in Laveen, Arizona!!! And it's AWESOME and I love it and I could very well be living here someday, it's that awesome.

 My companion is Sister Nelson. She's awesome and I'm super grateful for her. C: She's just one transfer "older" than me, which worried both of us originally, but it's worked out well so far and it's nice no longer being a greenie (or at least not super green). It is a little odd to not be with a companion who has been through ten others and have gotten suuuuuuuuuper unusually Ent-like patient, so this is actually really fun and exciting. We rub each other's rough edges off, and that's really fun to watch! I'll have to send pictures soon, we have a lot of fun together C:

 Speaking of fun, we got to experience a habuub, which is like Hildago/The Mummy style dust storms. THey're massive and fast and I took a million was really fun to watch it press against the mountains, build, and then just spill over and roll towards us. Then we were stuck inside a member's home for like an hour watching roof shingles getting torn off and streetlamps being broken and lightning and thundering and it got a little less fun, haha. Adventures can be scary sometimes.

 Sister Nelson and her previous companion had been working with two families arlready, and FAMILIES ARE SO MUCH FUN!!! At first it was awkward and a little nerve-racking when one daughter bursts into tears to see Sister Forsen gone, and in the opening prayer the other little girl prays for Sister Forsen to come back.....hahahahahah kids are great. But I hope they've warmed up to me by now. We teach the two teenage girls alone, and they're suuuuper awesome, and we've gotten really close with them. We've been reading the "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet with them, and they absolutely love it. The whole family has been working on cleaning out their movies, music, anything from "the old life." It's so cool to watch. I don't have much time left, but I'll talk more about them later. I'll be talking about them a lot.....I've absolutely fallen in love with them. I wish I could just hang out iwth them and get ice cream or something. Teaching them is amazingly spiritual, though. Just being in their home, you can really feel the spirit and that they all love each other (kids always fight, but you can tell when tehy really do love each other) and that they're all trying to get closer to God as a family. It's so awesome.

 The other family, we're teaching two older teenaged girls, Tammy and Talie. They're a joy to teach and watch grow! They're scared of making promises, so getting them to commit to anything is really hard. They've finally just become comfortable with the idea of covenants and being baptized, but one of them said she'll only keep the Word of Wisdom until she's 35. Not because she wants to break it, but just because absolutes worry her. Haha. But one of the huge blessings of being in South Phoenix is that we're not super duper far from the temple. So we were able to go to the Mesa temple with them this week, and we went through the visitor's center and saw the Joseph Smith movie and saw the Jerusalem model of what it would've looked like in Christ's time, and we sat out in the grounds and wrote in our journels, and then we all gathered together in front of the big Christus statue they have there and talked about Christ and God's love.

 It was an amazing, amazing experience. And at the end of it, I really felt bad for the people who don't live close enough to temples that they can do this with the missionaries. There are full pages in my journal about the moments I had with those girls by the temple. 

 I'm running low on time, and I have so much more to say, haha. But I love missions, and I love Arizona, and I love the people here. I'm so grateful for a God who loves all His children, for His miracles that I've seen, and for the chance to see Him at work with these people. There's still nothing I'd rather be doing, and there's still nothing better. I love this work, and I know God lives and the Gospel is true.

 I love you all!! C: Thanks for all the prayers and letters and support! You're all amazing!

 <3 Sister Stratford