Monday, December 29, 2014

MIssion Christmases are the Best!!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! It was a really fun Christmas!! c: All day Monday we hung out as a mission in Gilbert, and we went to see the Basha southwestern art collection....which felt like home. I loved going to see that stuff with my mom. <3 Have you hear of it, mom? It was a really good gallery.
 Mainly we just hung out and got to know all the other missionaries. We never have time to just hang out and get to know each other, and sometimes it feels like missionaries are our only peers. It feels like THey're the only people who know exactly what we're going through, so it's fun when we get to do that. Oh, also we had like a talent show FHE thing, and that was really fun. I got to sing "Shephard's Carol" and "Beautiful Savior." Our whole zone got up and sang, "On the fifth week of training, my trainer said to me, ALWAYS LOCK YOUR BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIKE" and that number totally stole the show, haha! It was erally, really fun c:

 And it was so nice to hear everyone's voices!!! I was SO BUMMED I had to tell everyone that conference calls weren't allowed, it was almost tempting to just let it slide....I was sooo sad. But, hearing everyone's voices through speaker phone was seriously the greatest. I loved being able to tell my mom and dad and brothers and sister that I loved them, and to hear them say "I love you" back. That was the best part of Christmas.

 Shout out to HIllside ward, too, the package was the BEST!! <3 I looooved reading the card, and seeing all the little notes from the women in the ward, especially my young women's leaders. I miss HIllside a lot. <3 You guys are awesome. 

 Christmas miracles to record! So remember Terra? She's veeeery Baptist, but she also attends Catholic mass with her mom. It's always really interesting talking to her, because it almost sounds like she's just anti, and just wants to fight and argue, but then when we answer, she just accepts it and is like, "oh, okay. Yeah, that makes sense." She went from "that's the Devil's book" to "I really really love Moroni!" haha. A week or so ago, we had basically flat out told her, "This is Christ's church. This is where the authority to act in His name is found. THis is the church that has the authority to baptize." She believed that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that the Book of Mormon was "inspired," and that he definitely was given authority, but she didn't believe that this was the only church to have authority. She had told us, "There's no way I'd ever be a Mormon. There's just no way." So, faith filled as we were, we were like, "Okay, she feels the Spirit, she's close to God, she loves her Savior, she'll find truth. Maybe she'll be baptized 5 or 10 years from now. But we'll probably have to drop her, she's just going to be one of those 'eternigators.'"

 The other day, we were walking up to her door, trying to think about how we'd have to tell her that we can't come by as often anymore. The door pops open immediately after we knock and she pulls us in and sits us down and says, "I threw away my cigarettes and took out the trash and I am never smoking ever again!! I was thinking about what God wants for me, and I realized that I had a window wide open to the devil. I never even liked smoking. My body's special, and I realized I had grieved the Spirit, so I don't smoke anymore. Nope." 

 Well, okay. Spirit just taught our investigator the Word of Wisdom. That's cool.

 Theeeen she started asking questions like, "If I was baptized by someone in your church, would that mean I was Mormon?" And then she opened up the Book of Mormon to the doctrine of Christ scripture (Faith, repentance, baptistm, Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end), and read it to us, and asked, "Which one do you think I"m missing?" And we had a really good conversatoin about it all. When we pulled out Moroni 10:5, she was like, "You guys read this to me like three times already." We read it again anyway.

 ANd it just clicked for her. She realized, "I get why you guys were so persistent now. I need to do this. This is about me ad God and Jesus. It's about getting my answer from Him. If He tells me this is the church, then yeah, I'd join it. Of course, if God told me. I'm not afraid of being Mormon anymore. I got the sincere heart and real intent now. I don't know why I didn't understand that the three times you guys read this to me. I'm ready to pray this now." 

 so that happened. It was so neat. 

 On the flip side....Mandy got into some anti stuff. She went to the internet instead of reading the Book of Mormon and had a huge stack of notes. It's funny, you can really tell...when they're reading and praying and really earnestly seeking, you can see it in their face, they're brighter behind the eyes and their face is bright and it's obvious. When Mandy opened the door, there was a cloudiness or a darkness or something, I don't know. ANd I was thinking, "Oh no...." 

 But it was kind of neat, because she asked about the Articles of Faith, and when we started talking about them, she said, "That's not what I read...." She found someone's antagonistic rewrite of the AoF. And when we explained that to her, she was legitimately upset, she was like, "Wow, this guy really made it sound like this was official, that this was something you actually believed and taught." So, it was a good lesson in that it showed that the internet doesn't have a truth filter. We encouraged her to read the BoM and ask God. That's where the answer would come from. So, praying that she turns to the BoM and Bible and prayer for her answers. It's hard when you're so used to the internet having all the answers, though. 

 Let's see, Que mas....We had a neat street contact the other day. This woman looked down her nose at us, listened casually, then the first thing she said was, "you and I believe verrry differently." 

 Then she basically stated Church doctrine. So. :p Always fun when tht happens.

 Well, I should probably head you guys!! Thanks for all you do for me! THanks for the Christmas wishes and the prayers and support!! I'm still loving it out here! Missions are siously the best thing ever. <3 There's nothing I'd rather be doing right now.

 See you all in 2015! Happy New year!

-Sister Stratford

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Writing this month has been a real struggle...there are seriously ALL these miracles all over the place and I don't remember anything as soon as I sit down.

 Mandy came to church!! YAY!! And what was really cool, she really wanted to go with her family. But her family couldn't come....but she still came alone!! WHich is really cool, if she really didn't want to come, she would've taken that excuse. IT'S SO COOL SHE DIDN'T! She looooved Sacrament meeting, and she especially loooooooved the Gospel Principles class. She would listen to the lesson, but then she'd flip through the book and find something interesting and read that for a bit, then come back to the lesson....we let her take hte book home, because she was so fascinated by what she was reading, and it's the basic stuff of what Christ's Church teaches. She's really gotten into researching it, and we're just grateful she's been going to good sources for her information. Like the Book of Mormon and Gospel Principles book. She's really getting excited by everything.
 We had a baptism yesterday! I don't know if they're named yet...they're the couple that walked into church one day because they prayed and God led them to this church. And they come to all the English sessions of Church, so 6 hrs of church. They got baptized yesterday!!!! :D it kinda reminded me of the Best Christmas Pageant Ever story, where everyone is thinking that everything is going wrong and it's all ruined (our cord didn't work for the TV, couldn't find a pianist, printer failed to print out the programs, water wasn't heating up, some freak traffic, font was too shallow, we were stressing bad)--but then it all works out and everything goes well. Not in spite of the things going wrong, but kinda because everything went wrong. I've never had a baptism plan smoothly, whenever we plan things something happens that makes it bumpy...but then it's really obviosu when God's hand comes in and just makes the mess work beautifully and it's perfect and you'd never have it be any other way. They were so happy at the end of it. I'd never seen bigger smiles...shallow font and all :p

....I don't have a lot of time, I need to get skype all ironed out so I can skype my family on Christmas. :3 I'm sorry these last couple of letters have been really lame and I haven't been able to remember all the cool stuff I've wanted to share. It's seriosly been the craziest transfer of my life. XD BUT Christmas has been awesome, and I love being a missionary. I still love working and I love Arizona and I LOVE CHRISTMAS and having htem all together has been really great. I wouldn't trade this time for anything. I know that this is the Lord's work. I've seen His hand in it too obviously to ever be able to deny that. Thanks for your pryares and your letters and your patience with me not getting back to letters. I love you all!! 

 -sister Stratford

Monday, December 15, 2014

Real quick, What's going on in California?!? Because seriously three people this week asked me where I'm from, and when I say "California," They got all concerned and asked, "Is your family okay?" ?!?!?!?! IS KOREA BOMBING MY HOUSE OR SOMETHING?!? :p haha. I had a little panic, apparently the weather is just going crazy, and I shouldn't say just, but y'know it is a relief when every worse case scenario ever just happened in the space of 1.8 seconds in your head. I strongly dislike being out of the loop on everything.  

SO this week has seriously been a blur and I haven't been able to keep up on my journal very well so my memory isn't very good. I don't remember anything if I don't record it first. :p But it's been an amazing, miracle-packed week. I'm so tired I feel like I'm falling apart, haha! But hard work and all, this is the best thing of my life and at the end o the day and through the stress, there's still nothing that has ever made me happier. MIssions are the best.

 But, some cool stuff. Mandy and her husband (I need to name him. Meet Dave) have been really progressing well. They came to the ward Christmas party and LOVED it!! They said everyone was unbelievably friendly. It was the first time they came to a church for the first time and weren't stared at. They wanted to go to the temple lights right after, but it ended up being too cold (you don't think that you get used to 110+ weather until you're freexing at 60) and they were so excited to get to church the next morning, but their car wouldn't start and they had no phone to tell us . :C next time for certain. But we went by their home last night and they were so excited to see us. We read the Book of Mormon with Mandy while Dave hung out in the back doing stuff pretending not to listen. Near the end he came in and sat down to ask us questions about what he heard. :P He's so fun, haha! But they've gone from really not interested but enjoying our company, to kinda curious, to wondering if it's true, to totally dead set on figuring out if this is true or not. What the heck. So cool. And we don't even feel like we've done anything special, we've taught about Christ and the Gospel and just watched the Spirit work on them. This is so the Lord's work, because as hard as we work, it's obvious that nothing gets done until God's working too. 

 It was really fun reading the Book of Mormon with them. She enjoys Nephi, and they both really like the story of the Zoramites and Alma's preaching to the poor. It's so funny how many people believe that Joseph SMith wrote it, or that it's a modern record, and then they get all confused when we explain how it's an ancient record from an ancient civilization who God loved just as much as His people in the Holy Lands. Then it makes a lot more sense to them why we like it so much. 

 ....I'm running out of time, dang it. Uh, Christmas is seriously the best as a missionary. It's the worst too, because we miss our families a lot. QUite a bit of trunky-talk going around. :p I don't know if it's easier or harder being so close to home. I joke about taking the 10 home everytime we pass the onramp. XD If you happen to see missionaries this week, seriously, give them a hug and tell them God's with them and their families are being taken care of.

 Sorry for the short letter, but I love you all and this is the best thing ever!! If you have the chance to serve a mission, do it, it's awesome. Christ lives and there's nothing better than telling everyone about it.

 -Sister Stratford

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Other Side of the Door

Christmas has been the BEST as a missionary!!!!! Seriously, I thought it'd be the hardest time of the year, and yeah I miss all of you guys, but the vast majority of myself is really bummed out I only get one Christmas in the field. :p This is seriously so fun. I feel a lot more comfortable talkin to people around the Christmas season, for some reason. I'm still talking about Christ and the Restoration of the Gospel, but...I dunno. THere's something different. 

 But we talked to so many strangers this week. It was awesome. :p Even if some were grumpy.

 I don't have a lot of time to write because I got SO MANY PICTURES *squee!* and had to stare at them. haha. But, I'll share the most important stuff.

 Email is so named because a few weeks ago, we knocked on this door, and this crazy guy answered. "You wanna talk about CHrist? Why? What did Jesus ever do for you?! NOthing, that's what! Absolutely nothing, and if you don't know that you're stupid!" Wouldn't even let us talk. Literally, all we could do is quietly testify and leave. When he paused for a breath, we jumped in to say, "Jesus CHrist saved us all. Here's a pamphlet. We'll see you around." It was not a good experience.

 So this week, the hermanas gave us a referral of someone they met on the street. "She's SO COOL!" They said, and just gushed about how golden and prepared she was and the miracle of God putting her in their path. We got really excited.

 So we drive up to the address they gave us, and we go, "Wait...." It's the SAME DOOR. And we're like, "well, there's a house in the back, maybe they meant that one," we really didn't want to go back to knock on that door again. But it was the same door, and this woman really needed us and wanted us to come by, so we knocked on it. Totally bracing ourselves.

 She answered the door and burst into tears. She was so glad to see us and shared so much...she needed this so bad. She asked for a scripture, so we sat and read for a little while. The Spirit was so strong, and she was seriously one of hte most prepared people I've met on my mission.

 And the guy was there hanging out, but he didn't have anything to say this time. :p

 Moral of the story: You never know who's behind the door. Even if the wrong person answers, don't count it out.

 Another cool experience with Mandy! She's really started to get into what we're teaching her, big time. By miracle another friend of hers is investigating the church and has called her to talk all about it, what she's learning and how she feels. We read some of the BoM with her.

 REmember her husband? He never sits in on our lessons, but he's often in the background doing something. He wasn't on his phone now, though. At one time in the lesson, he interrupts us (AGAIN) but this tiem he says, "I just gotta say something..." and shares all these really cool experiences and miracles. "I dunno if it's a sign or nothing, if there's anything to your church. It might be GOd telling us it might be true. But I dunno. Anyway." And he was gone before we could answer. :p Haha! 180s are so fun to watch. But you don't see them if you're not persistent.

 We had a cool zone conference this week. An elder in our mission is a veteran who can't go back to the army for a while until his legs heal up. He shared some really, really cool stuff. One thing I thought was fun is he told us how much he hates civillians. :p He says in the army, there are no strangers, there's a lot of trust, there's a comraderie and a loyalty. 4 million people in Phoenix and they don't care about each other. He said partly why he served a mission was because he needed that loyalty, and missionaries have that for each other. It's rare in this world. 
 ANd it got me thinking, I've studied and read a lot about Charity and have really tried to develop that attribute. But I hadn't really thought about loyalty. When a bomb goes off, are we instinctively mroe worried about the man on our right and left than ourselves? I hadn't thought about it, but loyalty is pretty rare. I've learned that no one's a stranger, and I want to keep that after my mission. I want to develop a loyalty to the whole human family and keep that for the rest of my life. Such a cool story. 

 Anyway, I'm out of time, but I love you guys so much! Thanks for your pryares and support! I'm still happy and healthy, and you guys are the best!! <3

 -Sister Stratford

Monday, December 1, 2014


Just got a text from the leaders.....I'm supposed to remind my friends and family not to send me "unapproved books or excessive Christmas presents." I still need to fit everything into two suitcases and a carryon for transfers. ^^ haha


Names I now answer to:

Sister Stafford (most common)
Sister Strepford
Sister Shephard (I actually kinda like that one)
Sister Stratmore
Sister Straten
Hermana Estratford

I thought my name would be an easy is very English...XD I did not expect so many variations. Haha.

 It's been a good but long week!! Thanksgiving was great, there's not a lot of work you can do on Thanksgiving, so we stayed home all day. That was a very nice break. Also kinda frustrating, except you knew you couldn't do anything anyway. We went to dinner at a member's house. In the evening, Pres Toone approved a movie....SO WE GOT TO WATCH FROZEN!!! AHHHH hahaha. It's really fun to watch a Disney movie with a bunch of people who haven't watched a movie in so long.

 Also, we painted our front window of our apartment. Sister Morris is a boss artist, so she painted a STUNNING Nativity scene. We painted "He is the Gift," "#ShareTheGift," And "" it was a really fun and relaxing activity. It's nice to have my hands all messy with paint again. I think this is something I will do with my windows in the future. *nods*

 Who else is looking forward to the first presidency Christmas devotional on Sunday?!? I AM!! I'm going to miss watching it in pajamas and cookies and hot chocolate with a bunch of friends from teh ward, but, it's going to be awesome <3 I'm so excited.

 Christmas time is seriously the best. Seriously. Everything is amazing. Especially as a misisonary. Everyone is a lot more open to talk about Christ and God and everyone's overall happier and nicer. Talking to strangers is a fear that never really died (yet....? *still hoping*) but it's gotten so much easier, now that I basically just talk about "CHRISTMASSSSSS!!! 8D Do you want to learn more about the first gift of Christmas?!? We'd love to help you come closer to Him!! Embrace the Gift!!!"

  it's really awesome to see the Christmas lights everywhere (Sister Morris laughed so hard when she saw a palm tree decorated with Christmas lights. :p Same as Rancho for me, haha. But it's fun experience Arizona Christmas with someone from Virginia) and all the decorations. I hope I get to see the Mesa temple Christmas lights. We've been inviting everyone to it, and for a lot of people, it's already a family tradition. usually it ends up with them telling us how great it is and how we need to go. Haha!

 Lacey has enjoyed her first week being Mormon a lot. It's so cool, she's so completely different, yet totally the same. She always had such an amazing spirit, but she just glows now. And she's so happy and excited about everything--especially sharing the Gospel. She prayed to God and came up with a goal of bringing 300 souls to Christ. She was excited about that goal for a while, but now she's started to say, "I dont' know if I can reach that number. That's a whole ward." We started talking about the Plan of Salvation again and the temple, and she's gotten SO EXCITED. In the middle of class in church, she raised her hand and asked, "How do I get a temple recommend?" haha. She's so awesome!!

 Terra was found by the Spanish sisters and invited us in right away. She's very fun to talk to...within two weeks, she went from "I would never have that devil book in my house" to "The Book of Mormon is God's word, too." :p Once we cleared up that no, Joseph Smith didn't write this book, it's a record written by ancient prophets who knew God in another part of the world, it just clicked for her. "Yeah, why wouldn't other people talk to God? Why wouldn't they write it down? They did with the Bible, sure, the Book of Mormon is totally feasible. Why's it called that?" It was neat. She says she'd never convert because she doesn't believe in eternal marriage, but everything else she absolutely loves. Even 3-hour church XD

 I think that's basically everything....I love you guys so much! Thanks for your support and your prayers!! I still love being a missionary, it's still the best thing in the world! I know that Christ lives and that He loves all of us, and watching that knowledge become such a power in people's lives has been the greatest experience of my life. <3


 -Sister Stratford