Monday, October 27, 2014

Families and Halloween!

The awkward moment when you forget everything you were excited to tell everyone on Monday. XD

 So, Cindy has been in the hospital most of the week. Her health had really taken a turn for the worst. She came home just a few days ago, and we've been trying to go visit her. But her friend in the congregation has been visiting and taking care of her. She says Cindy has finally hit that point where being sick is worse than recovering, and she finally wants to quit drinking! :) Yaaaaay! 
 I don't remember if I wrote the story, but a few weeks ago she asked for a priesthood blessing. She said that blessing has been carrying her through a lot of the hard things, and has been on her mind. It was so hard for her to believe God loves her, but maybe she's starting to feel it now!! We're excited for her. Things were looking really grim for a while there.

 Remember the two teenage girls?! Turns out the most talkative one didn't actually live there, so we haven't been able to talk to her,  BUT when we came back (we brought the Young Women president with us, we wanted her to meet the girls) we met Monica and her family. Monica has only just recently discovered God after ignoring Him all her life and realizing she needs Him. She's started to look for a church for her and her kids. She's struggling as a single mom trying to take care of 11 kids (5 are hers) and she was very, very grateful to hear our was seriosuly the coolest thing. She was getting so excited, and she felt the Spirit so strongly and told us she was feeling something incredible that she only feels in churches...and all her girls were outside listening and participating and getting really excited to hear about Jesus!! They're such a sweet family, I've totally fallen in love with them. The girls were too shy to talk to us, but they came close and listened and got really excited when we asked them a question or asked them what they thought. When we visited them again last night, Monica was gone, but one of the girls was home and she wanted us to stay and wait for mom to come home. She sat outside with us. 

 Families are AWESOME. Two of a family is cool and everything, but watching a family grow close to God together, and to learn together....there's nothing like it. I've really grown a testimony of families, and why they're so important to God. He's so strict about it because this is how we grow, learn, practice, find support in one another. It's just amazing.

 Merry has a strong testimony of a Gospel-centered family, as well. the YW pres really hit it off with this family, but we're really excited to introduce her to Merry, as well.

 Merry and her family are doing great! They got to see the temple open house and were so excited!! They loved every bit of it, and asked so many questions! Cari isn't 12 until the beginning of next year, but she's so excited to go there when she's old enough. Merry really wants to get a recommend and get started!

 And a funny side note for Merry....the kids have no idea that there's such thing as "boy missionaries." All they've known are sisters, so the girls are excited to grow up and serve missions, and whenever we bring it up to the boys, they're like, "but boys can't go, can they?" Bahahaha!! We tried to get them to meet the elders who are also in our building at church, but they didn't have time. Next time. :p

 We finally got to see Lizzy! She's not doing well. She still feels like God is being silent to her and she doesn't know's a little frustrating, because she was making such good progress....miss church for a couple of weeks, and she's back where she started. :/ but, she's still reading the BoM, or listening to it...quick side note, I LOVED what Elder Scott said in General Conference this year, "Don't yeild to Satan's lie that you don't have time to read scriptures. It's more important than sleep, school, work, or social media. Get your priorities in order." Man, I loved that!! Haha. And Lizzy is such a testament to that. Soooooooo much is going on in her life, and she still finds a way to read the BoM. 

 Saturday was the trunk or treat!! it was really fun!! I actually stressed about it all week, because I am NOT a social person, and I felt kinda responsible for everyone who wasn't a part of hte ward to feel included and have a good time. But it went really well. Lizzy and her daughter seemed to have a really fun time! Merry got to know a few more people in the ward, and it was so nice to see her kids running around with their friends. It's a relief when a new family seems to be solidly in the ward. Sister Fox convinced her family to come, even though they don't really like her coming back to church. I was very sore from standing and walking the whole time (and earlier that day we had done a service project), but it went really well.
 Also, funny side note.....two 9-year-old friends were missionaries, wearing their dads' old nametags. :p And it was actually really good, because I was watching, and they never left each other's side the WHOLE TIME!!! Hahahahahaha. 

 I think that's everything...I love you guys!! Thanks for all you do! :) Missions are the greatest thing in the world, and I love being out here! 

 -Sister Stratford

Monday, October 20, 2014

Miracle week!!!

Literally, everything went right this week. It was insane. What the heck.

 Unfortunately, we weren't able to contact a lot of hte people we were working with. They were busy, or they cancelled last second, and everything with them fell through. Really hoping that meeting with Cindy would be the start of weekly lessons again, but I guess those things can't be rushed. She's still feeling down. Lizzy was dealing with a lot of things all week.

 BUT, we had a TON of RANDOM miracles, so many I couldn't even get them all down into my journal, and I definitely won't be able to record them in the short amount of time I have left. :p But I'll kinda try....let's do three. Just three.

 So there's someone who's been on our list forever. He's a recent convert, apparently. and we don't know how we missed him, we look through that list all the time and we knew everyone there, and all the sudden one day we realized, "holy cow, who is this guy? Why dont' we know him?" So we had to go over there and see.

 Turns out he doesn't live there. The guy who does has lived there for years and years, so....we still don't know who that guy is. We were feeling like horrible missionaries, but we were talking to this guy and had his attention, so we started talking to him. We asked if he believed in God or practiced any kind of religion.

 "Yeah, actually," he said, lighting a cigarette. "I'm actually a Latter-Day Saint. What church are you guys from?"

 Well. XD 

 He was SO EXCITED to talk to us!! he was baptized when he was a kid. there was a foster family he was just so impressed with, and he loved the Church, and he still considers himself Mormon even though he doesn't attend church or live the lifestyle at all. He was happy to talk to us and really liked the idea of coming back to church.

 Another miracle, we ran into some teenaged girls the other day. Normally we don't lilke to talk to minors because it can be pretty dangerous and you don't want to freak parents out, but we've been really working on talking to everyone and they were super willing to talk. They were older teens, anyway. At first they really weren't interested in listening. Wehn we asked about tehir beliefs, they said, "We believe in God, and we're Christian, but we don't like any of the churches. They're all wrong, the original teachings of Christ have been so screwed up and twisted to fit what people want. Like, don't get me wrong, I"m sure your church has a lot of good stuff--most churches have some of the truth. But we don't go to any church in our family." 

 They got so excited when we talked about a Restoration of the Gospel. they got really excited when we talked about prophets and apostles. They were just really excited about the whole thing. It was really fun to talk to them! 

 ...jk, I'll only do 2 miracles. :/ It was a reeeeaaally good week, though! Even though everything fell through and it wasn't the week we were hoping for....honestly, it was WAY better than the week we were hoping for. :p It was a good reminder that God's in control, that when we are trying our best and things are hard, He's there every step of the way. After all, in the parable of the Lord and His servants working in the vineyard, the Lord works alongside His servants. And I love that. This is His work, and we are not left alone. I love being a missionary! It's been an amazing experience with the ups and downs, and I'm grateful I still have so much time left! Thanks for your prayers and for your letters!! I love you all!!

 -Sister Stratford

Monday, October 13, 2014

Phoenix Temple and Meet the Mormons!!

The temple is GORGEOUS!!! Love the baptistry, especially!! None of you are in Arizona, BUT if you ge the chance, go check out the Phoenix temple when it's in its open house, it's amazing!!

 We also got to screen the Meet the Mormons movie that came out on Friday. Missionaries aren't allowed to go into the theaters, so we got to see it early. and it was seriously so much fun to watch!! President Toone told us to beware of the last segment because it was going to get us trunky. Honestly, the football one made me the most trunky, haha. The Football and the Ping Pong tournament. 
 Though yeah, hearing a mom talk about how much she misses her missionary and how hard it'll be to part with him did make me miss home a little. But whatever, my parents write me awesome letters, so it's cool.

 THIS WEEK WAS SERIOUSLY NOTHING BUT MIRACLES!!!!!!!! It was an insane lineup of miracles that made it possible to go to the temple with a handful of investigators (we had to go on splits!).

 So, remember Lizzy? Having a Biblical Job kind of experience? Going through a lot, fell in love with the Gospel Library app? She's been enjoying the BoM and the Bible and all the videos on it. She still doesn't like organized religion, so whenever we've invited her to church it's been a flat no.

 So something happened in one of our lessons, where the Spirit COMPLETELY took over the lesson, and we invited her to church again. Which was crazy, she doesn't like church, she wants to worship in her own home.

 This time, it was like she was just waiting for the invitation. She said she'd love to, that maybe that's the thing that was really missing in her life. God had been silent for her, and if Church was a place where she could find answers and feel the Spirit, she'd go.

 So she came to church with a notepad and pencil. I was a little nervous because the topic was missionary work, but she was writing like crazy! And she LOVED it!! She said things were finally making sense that didn't before, things were starting to click! She asked if it was alright to come every week! OF COURSE YOU CAN!!! 8D 

 AND WE FINALLY GOT TO TALK TO CINDY!!!!!!!! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!! She still doesn't ever want to come to church ever again, which is sad. Working with her has been really sad...when we finally got to sit with her again, it's been clear she is not doing well at all. Spiritually, emotionally, physically. Working with her has been both the best joy and the biggest heartbreak in my life. We had a lesson prepared about how much God loves us and how we can know it, and she asked out of hte blue, "can I get a blessing? I really need one."

 it came out of nowhwere, we had hardly even explained what a blessing was. So we called someone over and explained about priesthood blessings to her. And it was everything she needed. The room was so full of the Spirit, and tears were running down her cheeks. She feels so unlovable, like she's botched her life for good and there's no way out, but every now and then she sees those glimpses of how much our Father in Heaven really cares for us. I just want to give her all of it, everything, please receive the Gospel of Christ! :c

 Talie and Tammy are doing good! They loooove being in the cultural celebration! And it's incredible, they're slowly pulling their inactive family back into activity. Scripture reading is common in their home now, even their grandma who wasn't a big fan of the Church (hasn't gone in 20+ years) has been reading the war chapters in Alma and discussing them with us like a good book! Which it is, I love the stories in the war chapters, haha. Moroni and Teancum are boss.

 I don't have a lot of time left, but I love you all!! thanks for everything you all do!! I still love being out here, and wouldn't trade this time for anything!

 -Sister Christina Stratford

Monday, October 6, 2014

October's the BEST!!!

One of the reasons this is true is because I can wear scarves. :) Back down to the 80s, and the scarves can come back out!!

 Today is the 6th. In exactly a year I will be flying home. Weird. I have exactly a year left.

 So general conference was AWESOME!!!!!! We call Elder Robbins a mini Elder Holland, haha. (Or was it Elder Klebingat? The suuuuper to-the-point just-lay-it-out-there, six steps to happiness talk) And Elder Bednar always hits it out of the park, and Sister Esplin might have just changed my life forever. Conference is always awesome. October 2013 remains my favorite Conference ever, though.

 We still haven't been able to contact Cindy. At all. Which is awful. And absolutely heartcrushing. I don't think I can properly express how heartcrushing that is for me.....she was starting to be so happy again, and for a week she was so hopeful and excited, and now she's sunk back so low. It really is the saddest thing.

 But, we have been able to meet with David a little. Most of what he talks about is his missionaries who taught him years ago. He misses them...he was almost baptized several times, but just never went through with it. And we were finally able to hear from of those concerns from him, he was finally comfortable enough to talk about that. He may be willing to try again...he lost his BoM, so we gave him another one and we'll see if he reads from it. 

 So for some news taht I didn't get to tell you last week, there's a sister we've started working with, Sister Fox. She had a wrong address in the Church records, so there's no way we ever would've found her if it hadn't been by miracle. The Spanish sisters were working in her area and she was outside, so they started talking to her. Learned taht she had been baptized years and years and years ago but had never gone to Church, really. So we went over to see if there was anything she needed and if she had any interest in coming back, and....well, it was every excuse you ever hear from a less-active member who is visited by missionaries, and she didn't seem so happy to see us, so we figured she wasn't interested and we didn't want to bother her. We gave her a BoM and later asked if she had read it, she said it was too hard to understand, so we offered to read it with her, and she said no. So....okay. We got her a ride to church, and when her ride came, she said she had hurt her foot and couldn't come, and we just kinda left it at that.

 Well, one of our ward missionaries has family who lives in that neighborhood and decided to stop by. When the door opened, Sister Fox burst into tears and gave her a huge hug and said, "I've been waiting and praying that someone would stop by!!!" Her phone really was broken (it really was!) and she hadn't been able to contact us. But she had started reading the BoM, and she remembered why she joined. She felt the spirit so strongly when she read, and she remembered that it was true, and she plowed through 1st and 2nd Nephi in like two weeks. She missed the Sacrament and she was eager to come back. She had never been to the temple her entire life and wanted to get her lilfe in order so she could go.

 She came with us to the Women's session of Conference and they had a display for family history work, and with the help of the specialist she found a name she could start with. And she was absolutely ecstatic, couldn't stop talking about how excited she was to finally get started on HER family, HER line, the people that had made her HER...she was just so excited. She's been a whirlwind, it's crazy.

  I love you all! Thanks for your prayers and for your support!! I'm still very happy here in Arizona, and there's still nothing I'd rather be doing with my life!! This Gospel is incredibly, and sharing it with others has been the best thing ever!! You are awesome, love you all!!

 -Sister Stratford