Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Lord Provides!!!

Longest week of my LIFE!!! P-Day was moved from Monday to Wednesday so we could go to the temple, and we weren't told until after p-day last week, so I didn't get to warn anyone....BUT I STILL LOVE YOU ALL and I am still alive! haha. 

 Not having p-day on Monday was reeeaaally hard, especially when you didn't get to mentally prepare that previous Monday. But so worth it; I love the temple. it's worth every sacrifice to get there.

 And, remember how whenever something gets reaaaally hard, that's when Heavenly Father drops all His miracles on you?! Even though I was absolutely exhausted and spent in every way possible--spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, etc--I was SO EXCITED  and happy and eager to see the miracles!!

 I don't have a lot of time, sadly, so I'll just be quick:

 Merry met with Bishop and she's getting her Patriarchal blessing, on my birthday!!! I'm so excited for her!!Her life has changed SO MUCH and her family is happier and she's happier and oh my gosh it's insane, it's the difference between light and dark and you can just see it. It's so visible.

 Tammy and Talie haven't been reading scriptures because they insist they're boring. 
 Nothing about the scriptures are boring, except maybe the begats, but they don't count. So we sat down and asked, "What kind of story are you in the mood for?"
 "Something with deception and betrayal," they said, confident we couldn't come up with a fun story.
 We sat down and read in the BoM the story of Amilickiah's plots and schemes to become king of the Lamanites (because that has a happier ending than Samson and Delilah), starting with the story of Lehonti. Which I loooove to read and tell. Sister Nelson didn't know the story (WHAT?!?!?!) so I got to tell most of it, and they got into it. After the end of Lehonti, I said, "It keeps going, and the story keeps getting better, but I'm not going to spoil the rest of it, You have to keep reading," and they said they would.
 Their Grandma, who hasn't been in a church for decads because she just doesn't have a testimony anymore, got to hear the tail end of it. She hasn't had a desire to read scriptures in teh longest time, she's told us how she's never going to church again and she won't study the scriptures anymore, but hearing the last bit of the story, she said, "well, now you've got ME curious!"

 As we were leaving, they had stepped outside under the porch light (because it's loud in that house, and sometimes it's hard to get the Spirit in there) and were reading the sciptrues together again for the first time in years. It was powerful.

 There's a woman we've been trying to contact to no avail for weeks and weeks. We didn't want to keep going there when there was never an answer, but something kept telling us to keep knocking on that door. eventually, through a series of pure miracles, we've been able to bump into her and teach her a little bit. THree times, three miracles, over the last two weeks or so. And finally we open the doors, and she's in tears, and she gives a little laugh and says, "Whenever something happens, you guys show up."

 On Monday, we caught her home (again, only by a miracle) and was able to teach her the Plan of Salvation. She looooooved it, drank every bit of it. it brought back that hope that God hasn't abandoned her, that trials have a purpose and an end, that just because you're feeling down all the time and everything seems to be going wrong, it doesn't mean that God isn't there for you. 

 I loooove teaching the Plan of Salvation. Life gets more bearable when you get that kind of persepective, why we're here and what the whole purpose of life is. I love seeing that change in people, watching that hope turn on behind their eyes. 

 It was a long week, but the Lord is there. It's His work, and when things are hard, that's when all the miracles pop up, both small and big. I have such a testimony of that. 

 Thank you all for your kind words and your prayers! I love you soooo much!! God bless! C:

 -Sister Stratford

Monday, August 18, 2014


So we had some really bad flooding this week!! XD It rained for about three hours and there were insane flash floods, walls of water, streets that became rivers (1-2ft deep), and there are still big lakes in the retention basins all around the landscaping of the city. They're designed to be empty within 36 hours, but we were hit HARD with rain.

 We were at a member's house for dinner, and the rain was so thick we had about ten feet visibility. We were going to try and muscle through it and get to Lizzy's house, because we really really wanted to talk to her and we didn't have her number, so we couldn't really call and cancel, buuuut....we were basically boating, so we didn't. We ended up at the Amary's for the rest of hte night and almost couldn't get out. Their fields had all flooded.

 So that was an adventure.

 One of the members of our ward had a sister whose house flooded really bad. several inches deep all throughout the house. Lots of mud and was really sad. But this member called everyone in the ward to come help out her sister, so everyone was there whenever they had time, trying to drain it out and shoveling mud and getting posessions to higher ground or bringing the biggest fans in their house. Her sister isn't a member, and she shook her head and commented to this member, "you and your call-a-Mormon."

 We have limited miles, so we can't drive a lot, but we looked for people who may have the same problem and needed help. The Elders found one, someone who had no connections and had to clean up the flood all by themselves, but we weren't able too.....we hand out our number to almost everyone and say, "call us if you need something," and I always wonder how many actually take us seriously. As we were shoveling mud down the driveway, I kept thinking about people who didn't have any connections in the area, no church and no family, and didn't know that there was a force of missionaries who came to Arizona for this singular purpose, who also knew most of the members in their ward with trucks and fans and shovels or whatever. I wish more people had our number and knew they could call us for stuff like this.

 About six hours before the big storm, we helped a family from Washington move in. They aren't members, either, but their friend is a member in Chandler and called the missionaries (us) in the area they were moving to and asked us to help out. We got quite a few people there and some other missionaries, and we got a 56' long moving truck empty in less than two hours. The guy was stunned, haha. 

 And, here's a miracle, I carried heavy boxes (for me anyway) up and down stairs for several hours, and was only a little stiff and muscley sore (the good kind of sore.) And, remember, there was a rainstorm coming. It's crazy to think that five years ago I wouldn't have been able to get out of bed, never mind help move a family, if a rainstorm was coming. I am getting stronger! Sometimes it's hard to see, but then miracles happen and you can see how far the Lord has taken you.

 Last night was a mission president's devotional!! We took some new investigators, and guess who I saw.....!!! I SAW MY MOMMY!! Not my actual Mommy, but my trainer, Sister Hutchison!!!!! SHE CAME BACK!!! She's been done with her mission, but she came back!! <3 And I saw my twin sister, too! Sister Eggleston is still in Maricopa, never been transferred yet! haha. It was good to see them all there again.

 And the reason they were there....I don't know how much I talked about him, but his name has been replaced in my little list, so I know I have....Do y'all remember Mitt?! He was baptized, and he was bearing his testimony at the devotional!!!!! It was SO COOL to see him again and to see him come so far!! He talked about how his life has changed so much, and how thankful he was that missionaries knocked on his door. We found him from tracting, remember, so that in and of itself is a miracle! Haha. 

 It was a slow week for teaching, unfortunately, because of the flood and because of transfers. But it was still a very productive week, helping people out...we still talked to a TON of people, they just haven't wanted to invite us back to learn more. :C There's a delicate balance between trying to figure out what you could've done better, and just accepting that people have agency and it's a God-given gift that people can make choices. It's satisfying to teach and to share something that's so special to me, something that I know will help everyone in any circumstance, but you have to push through a lot of people not even hearing you out to find those who are ready to listen.

 It's been a good start to a good transfer. C: I'm grateful I get to stay with Sis Nelson and I absolutely love this area. I still love being a missinoary. It's tough, but I've never been happier. C: I know that God lives, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Being sent here to Arizona to teach and help has been an amazing gift from God.

 Thanks for all that you are and do! You are all amazing, and I love you! C: Here's to another good week!

 -Sister Stratford


Monday, August 11, 2014

Not Transferring!!

Sister Nelson and I are staying in Laveen! yaaaaaaaaaay!!!! I'm so glad I don't have to pack everything all up again. Three areas and four companions not counting the MTC. I thought they only did this to the "problem" missionaries, ahahahaha. 

 Sister Amary was baptized this Saturday!! It was so funny, when it was announced that she was getting baptized, everyone was super surprised taht she wasn't already a member. Even the Relief Society president was like, "Wait, what?" haha. Everyone was there, and they've gone through a years worht of missionaries in Laveen before being baptized, and almost all of them were able to get permission to come to her baptism! As a spur of hte moment thing, each missionary who got to work with that family got up and bore their testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel and expresssed their love to this family. It was probably the most powerful baptism I've been to. It was really amazing.

 By a miracle (we weren't even planning to be in that area that night), we found Lizzy. Missionaries have met with her before, but she's been impossible to meet with. She's never home. We were driving by and saw the garage door open, and we were like, "Hey, we've knocked on that door twice, let's go talk to them." 

 Meeting with her was a really, really neat experience. She immediately told us she wasn't interested, she believed what she believed and that was that, but it was one of those times where the Spirit says, "Just keep talking to her." So we did. And she eventually let us in and just unloaded everything. She's been going through so much, and she doesn't understand why doing the right thing comes with so hard consequences. She insisted God had abandoned her and wasn't listening, and eventually, she finally said, "I want to hear a message. If you have any hope to give me, I'll take it from anyone." 

 Once someone is convinced they've been abandoned by God, it takes a lot more than one conversation to try and bring that hope back. But we're continuing to meet with her. She inhaled the Plan of Salvation pamphlet and even hi-lighted it and marked it up. This is the fun part about being a missionary, encouraging people and bringing that hope back, and watching them light up again. Really, it's the reason we stay out here when things get hard, haha. 

 Merry and her family are really doing well!! God has really worked with that family, and they're getting back on their feet. The kids have started school again and we're still having FHE with them on Monday nights. 

 A lot of this week was trying to find people to teach. Which is a weakness of mine....talking to strangers is HARD, haha. It's a fun adventure, too, but I was never a graceful conversationalist and now I have to share something near and dear to my heart. It's tough. But we do work hard, and people do actually listen. It's not days full of rejection, which I'm grateful for. And we do have a higher power on my side; there have been times when something pops out of my mouth and I realize, "wow, that was not from me." Those moments where you simply open your mouth and let God have it come out however He wants it to come out are really neat. Those experiences are the only reason I haven't completely clammed up from social exhaustion yet, haha.

 Missions are the best thing ever. I still love the work and I love this Gospel, and I love sharing it with these people I've come to love. I love sharing my Savior with others. I wish more people could hear, and more people would listen, but my companion and I are limited on how many people we can talk to a day, and people have their own minds and can choose what they want. And I'm grateful God lets us choose. That's an awesome gift.

 You are all awesome! C: Thanks for the letters, and for reading, and for the prayers. I love you all!

 -Sister Stratford

Monday, August 4, 2014


The cool thing about Arizona is that the super heat causes weird weather patterns like surprise thunderstorms :D In calilfornia., summers are just boring because it stays hot all got down to 83 because of the rain!!!! August is a fun time in Arizona C:

 And it poured hard, too! This area needs the rain, so it's been great!

 Sister Nelson and I are getting along wayyyy too well, haha. As in, one of us is probably going to get transferred because that's what happens when we all get along, right? lol. Transfers are next week, so the speculation has begun! :)

 I don't remember if I wrote about the challenge we gave Talie and Tammy, but they were unhealthily addicted to the internet and electronics. As in, they'd bypass food, water, drink, sleep, bathroom breaks because of the computer. Addictions aren't good. So we challenged them to stay off the computer for a week. THey wanted us to ahv to do something, too, and we were like, "well, okay, but....well, we've given up pretty much everything already." So they made us match every day. Which was reeeaaallly hard, because Sister Nelson and I have very different styles and color choices. Yesterday we looked like Halloween because we literally had nothing else. haha. But they did it! One of them slipped up one day, just because of boredom. But it's been really fun, we were talking about developing talents and skills, giving ourselves things to do, because God has given all of us gifts. Even if He hasn't given you a natural ability, you can get pretty good at basically anything you put your mind to. 

 There's a less active member who wants to be coming back to church, we've been teaching. There's spome problems at home that makes it really hard for him to come back--his wife was raised by a minister who told her horror stories about those cultish, devilish Mormons who worship Satan and are going straight to hell--but he recognizes something is missing in his life. he remembered that when he was baptized, he was given teh gift of the Holy Ghost, and he really feels it's loss.

 This is the best part about being a missionary. Being able to encouragea people, and tell them they can do it, that Christ suffered so that they CAN do it, and to talk about God and His mercy and to see their hope and faith come back. It really makes everything worth it. It was really great to talk about how God doesn't expect perfection, He's happy with progress, He's happy with effort, and we're allowed to take baby steps if that's what we need. We challeneged him to just focus on praying, and he did. You can tell when people are actually keeping their challenges, there's something different about them. He was so much happier, and he was so excited to feel the spirit again in his life. So, next step, scripture study...which is daunting in itself.

 So we told him to read Preach My Gospel. :) Everyone should read Preach My Gospel. It's the basics of the basics, it's a guidebook for bettering yourself (I'm currently wrapped up in chapter 6), it's full of scripture references and other study helps, and it's just great. He was super excited when we talked about it, and he has the Gospel Library app, and he was eager to get into it and study on the stuff he knew when he was a kid, but forgot.

 We've started stressing Preach My Gospel more. I wish I had read it more before my mission, but I think every missionary wishes that.

 The other two teenage girls (i don't remember what fake names I gave them, and I don't ahve my little list :C) will be going back home this week! We're sad that they're leaving, but we soooo excited for them to be reunited with their families! THey've missed them so much!

 Merry and her family held an AMAZING family home evening last week!!! The oldest daughter (Cari) gave an amazing lesson--we barely gave her any help, and she had to rewrite it last minute because the notebook got destroyed (happens when you have younger siblings), and it was soooo good!!! She's a natural. She wants to be a missionary, and I hope she does, because she's a good teacher. XD We're having family home evening again with them this week. I love that family, they're so awesome! haha.

 Merry and Cari got up yesterday to bear their testimonies, too!! That was way cool! It's amazing to see how far they've all come and how much they've grown! They love God and this Gospel and they see the miracles happening around them, and they're just awesome. 

 Brother Amary got up to bear his testimony, too! And his first time!!! He had made a promise to a previous sister misisonary that he would never bear his testimony, and if he did, the first time would be if she came down to visit and was there in the congregation. He was laughing to himself, thinking that would never happen, but it did--she drove all night to be here. The funny thing was, she had totally forgotten about that promise, she was just done with work on the Saturday and drove all night to be here as soon as possible, and lo and behold, it just happened to be on a fast sunday. He kept his promise, though, and it was awesome. 

 There's a field we drive by all the time, they planted wheat or corn or some other fast sprouting crop. I've had fun watching it, and I mention to my companion, "i love watching things grow. c:" And she laughs at me because she's from Idaho and I'm from California and watching fields turn from brown to green isn't a big thing to her. But I reallly do love watching things grow, whether it's wheat or corn or Merry or Brother Amary. It's just hte coolest thing. God must really have fun with it, He has the best view.

 I love this work, and while it may be harder to find those thirsty people than it was in Maricopa or Casa Grande, I love being with these people and watching Christ's Atonement work in their lives. There's absolutely nothing I'd rather be doing,this is the greatest. I'm so grateful God has allowed me to experience these things and has allowed me to do some of His work. I know He'd be just fine without me, because He's God, but I love being out here.

 I love you all! Thank you for everything, you're all amazing! C:

 -Sister Stratford