Monday, November 24, 2014

Some quick levity, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for weather that I can comfortable wear a scarf every day of the week. :3 
 Also, there was a little boy who was staring at my nametag, sounding it out. He said all of a sudden, "I thought you were a sister missionary."
 And I was like, ""
 "Then why does your thingie say you're a sister stratford?" Bahahahahahhahaha, kids are great. XD

Lacey got baptized this week!! It was so awesome, she came out of the water and gave a big "WOOPEEEE!!" hahahaha. She's worked so hard to get to this point. And she's so excited to share the Gospel with her whole complex and the whole world and all of Phoenix. She's seriously one of the coolest people I've met on my mission, and I'm so grateful for her.

 A lot happened since Wednesday. Lots of lessons fell through, people we love that we didn't get to see this week, Bernardo dropped us (Which was a sad day for us. He knows the Book of Mormon is true and loved Nephi (they have a lot in common, those two) and loved the baptism we went to and felt the Spirit so strong and had all these super amazing spiritual experiences I wouldn't broadcast over the internet, but he sent us a text that as much as he loved it all, he needed to stay Catholic), and a lot of rejection. But it's so funny, because I can't even complain, I saw God doing so much for us. So many little miracles (and even a few big) and tender mercies. Even when things seem like they're falling apart or things are "failing," it's clear that God is behind everything. And everything just works out for the best when God's behind everything.

We met so many cool new people. A cousin of a recent convert told us she couldn't fall asleep at night unless she was listening to the Mormon Channel online. She loved the music especially, and her favorite hymn was Joseph Smith's First Prayer. She said she felt so much peace when she heard that song and the words and she knew he was a prophet. Just didn't feel ready to make changes in her life yet. She was so much fun to talk to.

 Sometimes as missionaries we come just at the "wrong time" (or how it seems).We knocked a door of a woman who had met with missionareis before but had dropped off the radar for several months. She was super abrupt and scary at first, and we were worried that we had just ruined everything and now she hates missionaries and maybe we weren't actually supposed to knock on that door even when we both felt good about it.....well, missionaries don't like being rushed off without offering a prayear first. So we said we'd come back later and asked if it was alright if we left her with a prayer. She surprisingly agreed, and it was an amazing, amazing experience. The Spirit led the prayer stronger than I had ever felt before, and when we looked up, she was in tears. She had been waiting for us and wanted to bring God back into her life again. She told us that us showing up on her doorstep had been an answer to a prayer she had been praying all day, and she wants us to come back. Things that wouldn't have happened if a lesson hadn't fallen through.

 Don't allow yourself to get rushed off away from the scary people. They need their prayers answered, too.

 There's a woman we're teaching named Mandy. We actually met her the first week I came here, i wish everyone I talked to could make it in the letters (these people here in Phoenix are seriosuly so awesome!) but so much craziness has been happening. Mandy is going into surgery tomorrow and we've been meeting with her to give her support and encouragement. We had someone from teh ward come and give her a blessing, and it was a powerful, powerful experience. God had actually given her some amazing experiences to prepare her for it, and hearing her talk about it....God's doing all the work out here, I'm just lucky enough to show up and see it. It's so neat. The blessing was the perfect thing for her, and she was told some very powerful things. God knew what was in her heart, and told her He did, and totally soothed her fears and promised everything would be okay. She was glowing afterwards. Her husband was there to see it, too. He actually had given us a lot of flack about things--the first lesson we had with Mandy, he was sitting on his smartphone reading about Mormons on the internet (:I) and he would interrupt our lesson midsentance to ask us some wierd question about polygamy, freemasonry, or something. He had told us he wasn't interested because he had "done his research" and was very disenchanted with the Church. But that blessing had a powerful impact on him, too. The Spirit was so strong. He expressed a lot of respect that these men would give of their time and would live in a way that they could perform a blessing for his wife. He also respects us more, when he learned that mission work isn't just something Mormon kids do after school in their free time. God opens doors when the Spirit is there. It's incredible to experience.

 I think that's it for this week. I still love being out here, and it's still the greatest thing of my life. There's nothing better than meeting a whole bunch of new people and reminding them who they are and they have a Savior. I love you all! Thanks for your support and your pryares!! <3

 -Sister Stratford

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Let's just do that. There is SO MUCH to do here, and so many people who are actually looking for God, and want to listen, there are so many that we don't get to see them all in a week and we're trying to hard to not leave anyone behind. It's really fun, this is how I imagined the mission to be. We're being run ragged, talking to everyone, teaching lessons all day, gettig rejected and running into people who don't want to listen, but also experiencing AMAZING miracales as God leads us to those people who do want to listen....I'm tired and I feel a little fried, but it's been such a great time and I love it!! Nothing I'd rather be doing right now. <3 This is the best. The hardest and the best. 

 Trivialness, it's freezing here. Got down to 40 a couple nights ago. Yup. I never thought I'd get used to 120 weather, but then winter comes and you realize you really did adjust.

 So Bernardo had gone to the phoenix temple open house with some friends and was so impressed, he requested missionaries to come and tell him more abou it. He said he felt like a different person in there. Teaching him was the neatest thing, it all just made sense to him. He loved the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith's first vision. We took him to a baptism and he loved that. The idea of a premortal life just clicked. It was so cool. Lots of amazing spiritual experiences with him.

 We're also teaching a HS junior named Lupus. Though we may have to have the SPanish sisters teach him, the rest of his family speaks mostly Spanish. (It was SO FUNNY, the Mom came in and saw we were Missionaries and started speaking Spanish....she was so surprised we didn't speak Spanish. "All the Mormons I know speak Spanish, I just thought you all knew how." haha!! Not far from the truth though.) But he really caught hold of the truth that God could forgive everything. He could be clean. He had been struggling to be a good person but was still haunted by stuff he did back when he didn't care. It was really amazing to see that hope turn on behind his eyes and that eagerness to learn more about Christ. There's really nothing like it. The Spanish sisters went to talk to his mom and said she was very similar, too. She loved what they were teaching. Moments like that make everything worth it. I'm too exhausted to function anymore, but Lupus knows God loves him and he can be forgiven.

 We met with another woman who had been listening to missionaries for 3 :p She said she believed in God but not Christ. So while trying to figure out what her problem was, it came out that she had tried to repent before and didn't feel like it had done any good. SHe couldn't believe in a perfect God, since there was evil in the world, and therefore, she couldn't believe in perfect love and therefore she couldn't be forgiven because God could get tired of her and stop caring. It was the saddest thing I've ever heard, and I felt like there was so little I could do to help her. She had decided to believe in God because she was studying philosophy, and had determined that there had to be some kind of divine organizer. But.....well, one thing that's really important is, as a missionary, I'm not here to answer questions. Techinically. I'm here to help people develop the kind of relationship with their Father that they can recieve their own answers straight from God. But I think people feel so very intelligent when they're confused. They think that it's okay to be confused because it shows how open their mind is. They don't want to have any absolute truth, they feel so wise if they can present a question no one can give them an answer to. It's really sad to be trying to offer the answers to someone who just doesn't want the answers. She told us to not come back until after the holidays because of all the busyness going on. I hope I get to see her again. 

 The world needs to know there's a Savior. :c

So we have a baptism on Saturday!!! :) Lacey is seriously the coolest person ever. She's come so far, she's quit smoking, she's changed her whole life. She's gotten so excited about the Gospel, and she's one of those people who just wants to save the whole world. She's always so busy trying to help out the people in her neighborhood or rescuing animals. She is so eager to introduce us to people. "Everyone needs God," she says. "You'll have to come with me after I'm baptized, I know where to find those people who are hurting. I know, I've been there. I know what they look like." She's eager to teach hundreds of people. :p She's so much fun!!

 I'm running low on time, BUT you're all awesome and I love you!! Thanks for your prayers and your letters, they mean a lot to me <3 I'm grateful to be out here and I'm grateful for the people and I'm grateful for the Atonement of Christ!! Being a missionary has been the best thing of my life.

 Love you all! <3

 -Sister Stratford

Monday, November 10, 2014

Still in Phoenix!!! <3

(before I forget, next week p-day will be on Wednesday so we can go to the temple. So I wont' be able to write until wednesday next week)

I literally moved RIGHT next door to my old area. It's so weird, I know all the street names and gas stations. And We're driving, and I'm thinking, "Man, just down this street, so-and-so lives there...." it's kinda frustrating to be so close to those people and not be able to go visit them, but I'm excited to meet and fall in love with these people, too!

 I even know a few of the people. I'm comapnions with Sister Morris, who's an STL, so I've been on exchanges with her and I met some of these people last transfer. SO WEIRD.

 Also, we're covering two wards. I've heard of htat happening before, but I hadn't realized just how crazy that was. I feel like I've been hit by a bus, especially after 6 hours of church on Sunday, hahaha!! 6+, because of a ward meeting and a stake meeting. It's reeeeaaaally different, going from a place where you knew all the members to where you know no one and twice as many of them and you have to keep straight who's in what ward and even....we share one ward with the elders, so only half of that ward....htekljrdf I might explode. XD But at the same time, it's an adventure, and I'm enjoying it. I have an amazing companion that I already kn ow and get along with, I'm somewhat familiar with teh area already...if God was ever going to do something like this to me, this would be the time. He's cushioned it very well. 

 We've talked to so many people, I dont' even know what to write about....the main adventure this week has been trying to get my feet under me. There are A LOT of people in this area, it's a little overwhelming. But having an enormous teaching pool is as bad of a problem as having not enough storage for all your chocolate :) Good problem to have.

 .....I'll figure out who all I should write about next week, I guess, when I know everyone a little better and all that is happening. So I'll send pictures mostly this week, I guess. 

 Lego temple!!!! OH MY GOSH YES

Birthday fun :p

This Haboob was not nearly as cool as the first one. We ran inside to get in the church as fast as we could, but it was very anticlimatic.

Leaving Laveen was really really hard, but I'm excited to still be in Phoenix and continue working out here!!! By Christmas, I'll be halfway through my mission....and we're beginning to play Christmas music in the appartment! AHHHHHHHH

 You don't think it goes by quick, but then it actually does. 

 I'm so very exhausted, especially after this weekend, but I've never been happier in my life. I love being a missionary. I love these people and I love the Lord. I love sharing these truths wtih people. I love seeing them understand that God loves them for the very first time. I've grown to embrace and even love the awkwardness of talking to strangers, haha. My testimony of the Gospel has grown so much. I'm grateful God let me serve a mission. It has been the greatest thing of my life.

 I love you all!! <3

 -Sister Stratford


Monday, November 3, 2014

Leaving Laveen!!! :c

Sister Nelson and I are both leaving this area....:c neither of us want to go. It's been so hard to focus and do work. We've been stressing all week about all that needed to be done for these people, everything they need, and now we're both leaving so we can't do anything for them anyway. *flop* Totally fallen in love with these people. I'm so grateful home is only a 5-hrs drive away. Too far to come over every weekend after my mission, but it's not impossible to come and visit. Also grateful for Facebook, so I can still send them a message here and there and still see how they're doing.

 It's been such an awesome week!!! It was the last week of the open house. We had this AMAZING investigator we were going to take. We had just met her that week, and it was crazy because when she was telling us her "personal relligious beliefs," she was basically just quoting restored truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That's always a kick as a missionary. We were so excited to talk about the idea of eternal marriage and we were so excited to introduce her to the temple--then she completely fell off the face of the Earth and we learned she didn't really live there, only came there every now and then. We had no way of contacting her. :C it was really frustrating.....

 But even though we couldn't get ahold of her, we were still faith-planning the trip, trusting someone would want to go. It was the last weekend, come on, everyone should get the chance to go to a temple open house and see the inside of the temple. Even though it's not dedicated, the Spirit is SO STRONG and it's such a beautiful, peaceful place. 

 While we were stressing about her, Sis Nelson came up with an idea to invite another really awesome incredible investigator we had met that week. Meeting him was a miracle and a very interesting experience. It was undoubtable that God wanted us to talk with him more. So we took him to the temple. It was SO COOL. God makes miracles happen.

 Something I"m learning as a one's a stranger. That's slowly starting to set in, which is great. XD No one is a stranger, they're a best friend you just haven't seen in a really really really really long time, so they don't recognize you. But you start treating them as a best friend right away anyway. It's really weird, haha, but it's really fun. 

 We had stake conference this week!! Elder Christofferson shared a really cool story about a wise old man who had one son, one horse, and one acre. When his only horse broke out and escaped, he told his friends, "I don't know whether it's good or bad." His friends would have to assure him that it was a very bad thing to lose his only horse. Later, the horse got thirsty and came back home, bringing ten new wild horses with it. Again, the wise man couldn't say if it was good or bad, and his friends had to tell him it was good. His only son broke his leg while trying to tame one of those horses, and the wise man's friends again had to inform him that that was a bad thing. Then war broke out, and the son didn't qualify for the draft because of his broken leg. The story could go on forever, and the lesson I got was anything can be a good thing if you decide it was a good thing, and see the hidden blessings that come from it. Another thing I got from it is to not make final judgements so quickly. God designs our lives, God works with our weaknesses and mistakes, and everything will work out in the end. 

 ....I'm really sad to be leaving Laveen. :( But I know these people will be in good hands, and I'm looking forward to meeting and loving new people. It's been a really good last week!

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

 -Sister Stratford