Monday, September 28, 2015

Companions




Sister Stratford

Sister Eggleston and I were playing a card game and got in a little
scuffle over one of the cards. We tried to settle it by who got the
bigger piece, but it was torn so evenly that it was a draw.

I think it's a very accurate representation of our relationship :p

Funny pics


Wuss. There's a medusa in mine.



Learned how to curl my hair with a headband. But it looks ridiculous in the morning.


Sister StratfordWhat's that, Woody? There's a snake in your boot?

Moar pics
















Sister Stratford

Pictures!
















Sister Stratford

GENERAL CONFERENCE!!!!!!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!!!!! I love you and miss you and eleven days!!

Just got back from Elder Scott's funeral. Just read one of his talks today, actually. I'm going to miss his talks in General Conference. 

 The women's conference was SO GOOOOOOD!!!!! Oh man, I think that's been the best one. If you didn't get a chance to see it, check it out here: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/sessions/2015/10?cid=HP_SA_9-26-2015_dPTH_fGC_xLIDyL1-A_&lang=eng it was all about loving life and finding ways to be happy, no matter what! I got so much revelation that I wrote down. So good. 

 It's made me really excited for General Conference this weekend!!!!!! I am BEYOND stoked for this! When it happens this Saturday and Sunday you can check it out at the same link. I'm really grateful for modern prophets and apostles who can talk to us through broadcast don't have to travel all over by boat and chariot like Peter. :p MODERN DAY PETER AND PAUL I get SO a excited about these things!!! I've been writing down questions and thinking about a lot of things.....kinda nice that my last weekend before I go home I get to have all this outpouring of revelation. Also, temple trip this week!!

 It's great because I have no idea what I'm doing with my life. 

 Birthday was awesome! :D thanks for all the birthday wishes, and I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to email everyone last week. I'll try to get to everyone again this week. 

 The night of my birthday, we went out to work and started following our plans. But we felt a strong impression we were going the wrong way. It is the hardest thing to describe, but it was a really cool experience. We were guided together as a companionship to know where exactly we had to go and who to talk to. We were led to two separate homes in two co platelet different parts of our area. We haven't been able to see what has happened because of those contacts, but the Spirit was so strong, telling us that we did all that God wanted us to do that night. I don't have to see, when God says it I know it's true. I may never see either of them again, and that's okay. God gave me a birthday present! :D

We still haven't been able to work much this week. We're both sick still, which is kinda frustrating, because we both would much rather sprint to the end and spend our last week as missionaries. But we're doing our best. 

Peter came to church yesterday!!!!!! He ducked out right after Sacrament meeting, but hey, he came!! 

 I had an awesome insight this morning in studies. So I was reading a talk by Elder Scott about accessing the Atonement and the role of the Savior in our lives. (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/personal-strength-through-the-atonement-of-jesus-christ?lang=eng) I've been asking God how to better access His power to get me through and to overcome my fears, so stumbling on this talk—which references Alma 53, the chapter I read today—was a miracle. God taught me individually that what Christ did is there for us all the time. No matter what. He doesn't wait for us to notice that it's there, or for us to beg for it. It's just there. All we have to do is see it. Then we know how it works and what it does. Then we work as a team with God, and we work things out together. It was a comfort to k ow it was already there. 

 Man....after so many emails for eighteen months. It doesn't feel real. 

 I look forward to seeing you guys you guys at the end of next week. I love you all and I'm so grateful for such good friends and family who have loved me and supported me all this time. You are all awesome! Thank you so much!

Sister Stratford

Monday, September 21, 2015

What even happened

I dunno about you
But I'm feeling twenty-two

This Saturday, sister Eggleston and I are celebrating our 18th
missionary birthday. We will be officially 18 months old and it will
just be a matter of MTC time before were home. Weird. It's fun to be
doing this together, though. Especially since we were twins born to
the same mom (trainer).

Okay this this week was kind of a blur, and it was a little crazy, so
bear with me as I try to explain it al in less than 15 minutes :p

Okay so first off we were like sick all week. Is this something that
happens to missionaries just before they go him? Why? .....can it,
like, not? :p sister Eggleston had a horrible migraine on Tuesday,
then something happened to my stomach on Wednesday, then in Thursday
sister Eggleston had what I had on Wednesday, so when we did weekly
planning on Friday we were kinda discouraged because nothing happened
at all this week. On Friday we did a massive, understaffed service
project basically all day and didn't get any lessons again. And we
were like, "shoot, I don't even remember this week happening because
we were stinking SICK all week," and then our bodies hurt really bad
because service project.

And then crazy stuff started to happen. Saturday was our real day of miracles.

So our mission started trying this thing where w're required to tract
(go door to door) for an hour a day. It's been kinda rough because
there are a lot of unfriendly people in this part....were in the
middle of nowhere, which is where people go to be left alone. :p I
miss Phoenix, where everyone talked with strangers. Haha. Anyway, so
on Saturday we go out to tract, and because I'm Sister Stratford and
you k ow me, even with a perfectly functioning GPS I get lost on our
way to the street we decided to tract. But we're driving down, and
there's a house with the garage open, and I'm like, "meh, that's
usually a sign that someone's home. Let's just go knock on it. What's
the worst that can happen?" Random house in a random street.
We meet Pat. She's not interested at all. But she let us in when we
told her about family history and all the free resources the Church
has for all that. She's a very proud New Yorker Irish!! Hahaha. She's
fun, I like her. Anyway, she's an older lady, she sets us down and
tells us about family and gives us marriage advice and mommy advice
and all that fun stuff. Whenever we try to gear it towards the Gospel.
She just has zero interest, but it was fun to talk. And at the end,
when she's going to see us off, she starts to get out of her chair and
then her hip pops out of place.

.....yeah.

So we grab her phone (didn't know where it was, but we went right to
it), said a prayer with her, and stayed with her until the ambulance
came. What's crazy is the phone was high up, she couldn't have reached
it if even if she had been able to pull herself to the ground and
crawl. She couldn't have stood. She lives alone, so no one would've
found her.

Random door on a random street, and it was right where the Lord
needed us to be. That was crazy.

At night we've taken to walking around, because Maricopa is a
commuters town (there is NOTHING HERE but houses and a Walmart! :p so
everyone drives hours to work) and dropping in on people just isn't as
productive, because everyone is either sleeping or grumpy that you
woke them up. :p so we walk around and talk to people who are already
out (people sit outside at night a lot at this time of year in AZ) and
it's a much more effective use of time.

We didn't have a street picked out to visit, so we just kinda drove
around and tried to feel where God wanted us. Turned left when He
said, turned right when He said. We were led right to a really cool
family. They just had gotten home, literally drove up right in front
of us. They spoke Spanish, so they're going to be taught by the
Spanish Sisters, but they're super cool. They're going to meet with
the Hermanas at the church and read scriptures with them. How cool is
that?!

It's been a CRAZY week.

Update on Peter.....he's pulled back again. :c but that's okay.
People are allowed to progress at whatever pace they want. It's sad
though, cuz we haven't gotten to see him at all since our last really
cool lesson. Oh well.

Long email! Haha. Thanks for being awesome! I love and miss you all!
18 days left of my 18 months!

Sister Stratford

Monday, September 14, 2015

Trunky packet!

Yep, it's that time.....we both got our packets with our travel
itinerary and travel checklist and all that junk. It affected both of
us more than we expected. :p were not trunky, but it's suddenly real
now, that we're going home in a little less than four weeks.

Shoot. Man. What the heck.

It'll be nice to be home and whatever, and I miss everyone, but the
mission life is the good life. And it's never going to come back. I'll
never get to do this again. And that's hitting now, that I can't just
be a missionary forever....man, the sons of Mosiah in the BoM served
for 19years, how do I get that ticket? :p

Whatever, life moves on. the next chapter can't be too bad~

SO. Peter is going to get BAPTIZED! We had an AMAZING powerful lessons
with him! Our ward mission leader came out with us that night, and
while we were praying before knocking on the door, sister Eggleston
and I got the strong impression to challenge him to be baptized. But
our wml warned us against it, because last time the missionaries
tried, it chased off Peter and he disappeared for months at a time.
But in the lesson, the Spirit was so strong, and it kept coming, and
kept pressing. I didn't feel it too strongly, but I was being led in
teaching. Our wml and I did most of the talking....sister Eggleston
was quiet the whole time because the Spirit was just hounding her
mercilessly. "Do it! Do it!" And we all felt it was right. Eventually
she finally opened her mouth and in tears, she extended the most
powerful, beautiful, elegant baptismal challenge I have ever heard my
entire mission. Not just saying that, it's true. It was so beautiful.
We all wish we could remember what was said. I sat down to write in my
journal about it and I couldn't remember how she did it. But it was
amazing.

And after thinking about what she said for a long, long time, he
nodded and said, "okay. Let's do that." And he started asking
questions about how one prepares to be baptized and what all happens
and OH MY GOSH he's getting baptized!! He's going to shoot for before
Thanksgiving....sister Eggleston and I are really really hopeful to
baptize him the 6th or 7th. He can't do Saturday's, all of our lessons
have been on weekdays, so it'll have to be a Wednesday or Tuesday
battle ...he's totally ready to be baptized this Saturday if he
wanted. Like, he's been reading and doing his own studying, we can
really do it whenever he's ready.

The Montas fell through. Dang it. Oh well. :p

I've loved reading Alma...it's been super inspiring, and I just love
Alma so much. Alma 36 is my favorite chapter in all scripture, so
reading that this week was really fun.

I love you all so much!! :) thanks for the letters and the prayers. I
miss you all!



Sister Stratford

Monday, September 7, 2015

Alma 32

It's cooled down to the 90s! :p we've also been getting nice rain and
pretty sunsets. Life is good in Copa.

The work continues to be a little slow. Brother Montas obviously
doesn't want missionaries involved, unfortunately. He just wants to
come to church on his own, without any help, and quietly get his sons
baptized. So we're going to back off a little for now. He wants it, I
think, he just doesn't understand our role as missionaries. I think he
sees us as people who solve religion down his throat, or that were
just for people struggling spiritually and he feels just fine.
However, by a miracle, his brother who lives across the street, who is
also less active and also has a wife who isn't a member who flip flops
back and forth, has suddenly decided he wants to meet with us More and
his family needs God. He straight up said, "I want you guys to come
and share sermons, can you do that?" :p I guess all our prayers went
to the other Brother Monta, haha.

Peter is impossible to get a hold of! But he's still doing really
good. He and his wife are still reading the BoM every day and they ask
God as a couple of this is right for them! We still have hope!

This area has so much potential. I can really feel it. We have one
month left, I really believe we could get a baptism. It's easy to get
discouraged because the work is slow and there's a ton of less active
work, but I think it could be done. I remember as a greenie all the
miracles that happened, the people that simply fell out of the sky. I
didn't remember them as well until I was with Sister Eggleston again.
I've been watching the area slowly come back to life, and I can see
someone being baptized this month.

We had a super super spiritual lesson with Danny last night. Danny is
17, his parents are both active converts. His parents brought their
kids to church until they were 14, and then let them decide for
themselves if they were going to come. All of them stopped going at 14
and they've all left the church. Danny hasn't been to church in three
years, and his mom decided she wanted him to have the same experience
she had—she invited the missionaries over to go through the lessons.

We've been meeting with him for a while, but it's been tough. Partly
because every time I've been there I've had a different companion,
with transfers and emergency transfers and then exchanges. And the new
missionary focuses in getting to know him. Also partly because they're
a really talkative family, and the dad sometimes got super contentious
with his son, and we could see him just close off. The Spirit would
not be there, and without the Spirit, we can't teach and he can't
learn.

So we started going over the Plan of Salvation last night. His dad
wasn't there, and we were using pictures we drew....we drew him in the
plan of Salvation, with his spirit and his body. :p but we didn't even
get past explaining pre mortal life before he just felt the Spirit
soooo strong. And he was so open, and he could recognize God talking
to him. God told him it was true, that there was a plan and life isn't
pointless. I don't know if he believed God, but he felt Him tell him.

Missionary work is the BEST.

Running out of time, but I love you all! <3 I miss you! Read Alma 32
today....loooove that chapter. If you're not there, you should skip
ahead and read it today. It's ine of my favorites. Also, alma 36. So
excited to read that this week!

See you in 63-32 days! :p I don't do take math. Miss you all!

Sister Stratford

Monday, August 31, 2015

So about that Copa Chiasmus

Sister Eggleston and I are now companions in Maricopa!! :D oh my
gosh!! It's seriously a dream come true. For those of you who don't
remember, we were companions when we were being trained. Sister
Hutchison trained us both together. We were each other's first
companions, and we're going to be each others last companions. So
crazy!




It's gonna be a fun time!!

Seriously, she just brightens up the whole room and I love her to death!! We found our names on the board t the exact same time and we screamed with excitement, haha! I was literally crying, I was so happy. We've really hit it off and Maricopa won't even k ow what hit it. She is an amazing missionary with an incredible heart. She loves so deeply.

It's also been fun to see the difference since we were greenies together. We haven't served around each other since, not even in the same zone, so it's really fun. She's still Sister Eggleston, she's never going to be anyone else, but she's grown so much. And I feel so different than who I was 17 months ago. And at the same time, we talk as if we never left, like we just picked up the conversation from last night. Ugh, it's been so fun!

Alright, so we've got our efforts set on two particular families. The Monta family has two twin boys we've been trying to help. The dad hasn't been to church in years and wants to come back. He's felt something missing. But his wife, who isn't a member, really doesn't care much for the church or anything religious, really. She's on the brink of it, she flip flops back and forth all the time. Sometimes she lets them all go to church, other times she really fights it. Poor brother Monta looks so tired sometimes. So were just going to show genuine love for that family (because I love that family so much!) and pray really, really hard that she softens her heart and those boys can be baptized and come to church.

Then we have Peter and his family. He's basically flat out told us that he'll be baptized, it's just a matter of time. His wife is returning to the church, and he has a son who is turning 8 in a month. And that's really turned his mind back to baptism....he's been wavering back and forth for a while. He knows it'll happen, it's just a matter of when,and it's a huge leap of faith.

Lots of faith and prayers. Lots of work to do.

I love and miss you all! I read Alma 25 today. Time moves so fast! Five emails left from me.

You are all awesome and I love you! :)

Sister Stratford

Monday, August 24, 2015

Full Steam!!

Sorry for the late letter. We went bowling as a zone, it was super fun. :p

It's actually been funny.....sister Williams is leaving for home this
Friday, she's finished her mission. And watching her pack and get
everything ready and such, as much as I love my mission, I have
moments of, "man, I can't wait until that's me! Just a few more week!"

But we went bowling today, and y'know, loud music and we're all
wearing civilian clothes and hanging out like a bunch of teenagers and
there are ads and music videos playing everywhere. And it was fun not
being totally missionary for a few hours, but afterwards, I was
thinking, ".....maybe I actually don't ever want to go home. Like,
ever...." The mission life is hard, but it's sooooooo good! And, I
dunno, it's nice being separate from the world...were not isolated and
secluded. We're interacting with tons of people everyday from every
walk of life imaginable, but there's still that separate-ness that's
just so special, and thenSpirit is so special. I dunno if I want to
come home, guys. I'd rather just help people and teach them about
Jesus and not pay attention to anything else for the rest of my life.

We had a very special baptism yesterday. Keenan is a 9year old we've
been working with, his family has slowly been coming back to church.
His dad didn't feel like he could baptize his son, and we were
scrambling around to find someone who could baptize him. Scout leaders
couldn't, home teachers couldn't, primary teachers were all
sisters.....and we're getting frustrated and tired (I had a stress
dream that night where I was still calling people :p), and the thought
pops in, "why not get one of the young priests to do it? Perform their
first baptism?" So one of the priests accepts, and he's soooooo
nervous, haha. He invited his friends for moral support. He's like 16,
:p. And all of Keenan's family came, both immediate and extended, LDS
or from other faiths. His grandmother gives a great talk, and his
grandmother, and there was even a musical number, and it was just
awesome. The spirit was SO STRONG, and his mom was just ear to ear
smile, just glowing with joy. Then in the confirmation, the WML was
like, "wait, so why can't Keenan's father confirm him?" After the dad
talkedwith the bishop, they found out it wasn't a worthiness thing, he
just didn't personally feel worthy. But talking with the bishop ironed
some of that out. He was totally worthy to participate in his own
son's ordinance. So he got to be in the circle for the confirmation,
which was super special. It was th first time he exercised the
priesthood in years. It was so cool!

We had another really good lesson with Brother Sausage....but he
basically dropped us. :( he told us he was grateful for all we've
done, and we were key guides, and he believes in God again. He wants
to read the Book of Mormon cover to cover, and then the New Testament,
and do his own study and learning from God. Which is awesome, it's
great when they want to figure it out for themselves. He just doesn't
want us coming by so often, so I don't get to see him so much. So
lame.

THE AMARY'S WENT TO THE TEMPLE ON SATURDAY!!!!!!! I got to go!!!!! IT
WAS THE BEST DAY EVER!!!!! They were just glowing the whole time, they
looked so happy to be together in the temple, and in the Celestial
room together, and basically the whole Ward was there, and Sister
Nelson and Sister Eggleston (they're companions :p two companions I
love very much, haha) were there, and gaaah, it was just the best!!
They're hoping to get sealed later in the year. I really really really
want to be there for that, too. They're just such a great family. I
love them so much!

Well, I'm running out of time....focused and so very not trunky,
mm-hm. I've got one transfer left! Tuesday is the last transfer call
that actually affects me! Though it's anti climatic, since one thing
is certain....sister Williams isn't going to be my companion again
next transfer....:( so crazy. We'll see what happens! I hope I stay...

Love you all!! Thanks so much for all you do! :)

Sister Stratford

Monday, August 17, 2015

ITS TOO HOT












Usually the temperature starts out really high and then goes down to the actual temperature outside after driving around a while.
One time it was 119, and after driving, it went up to 121. So.
Sure feels that hot. Don't know if it actually is, but it feels it!




Sister Stratford

Devil, don't come cuz I won't go

Devil don't come, cuz I won't go!
It's TOO HOT! TOO HOT!
Devil don't come, cuz I won't go!
It's TOO HOT down there!

Haha. I've been finding myself singing a lot of African spirituals
lately. I don't even k ow that many. Anyway, I have a photo category
for pictures I've taken of the temperature in our cars thermostat.
It's been so hot. I though July was the worst. It didn't cool off in
August, monsoons or no. We are baking.

It's been such a good week! We had quite a few lessons fall through,
but we've been getting good quality lessons. The people seem to be
progressing kinda slowly, but they're making steady progress . It
might just be because I'm nearing the end here and I don't have a
chance to stay here eight months like I did in Phoenix, so it's sad
that I might not be here to see certain milestones in their faith. Oh,
well. Going to go through the temple with the Amary's this week, so
that'll be exciting!! :)

Brother Sausage, the brother who is keeping a log and read all of
Alma? It's been crazy to watch the progress. Bit by bit. :p he told us
again that he didn't even know if God existed. We talked a little
about the Holy Ghost and his role in things and coming to know things
for ourselves. At one point he asked, "Do you believe people who
aren't members, or who aren't even Christians, can feel the Spirit?"

We told him, "Oh, definitely. God communicates with everyone
otherwise, non-Christians would never know there was a Christ if the
Spirit couldn't tell them until they did. "

He said, "I believe that." Then after a moment of thinking, he said,
"now, how can I believe that everyone can feel the Spirit, but not
believe in God? How does that work?" Haha.

It goes back to what President Uchtdorf talked about. A testimony is
a jigsaw puzzle—a piece here and a piece there. It's not a light
switch, it's not either on or off. There was a time I knew the Book of
Mormon was true but questioned whether or not Joseph Smith was a
prophet. How was that possible? Well, I had a testimony of one thing
and not the other, and for a while it was just reasoning "if A is true
then B is" until I gained a testimony of B. It was that way with a lot
of things, actually. It's okay to have doubts about things. As long as
what you believe is defined by what you believe, not by what you don't
believe. Because that wouldn't make sense.

There's another family that were teaching. Just a husband and wife
with no kids right now. She is less active and not really interested I
coming back, he's not a member and doesn't really have any interest in
coming. Which was kinda awkward, because when they told us that, we
were like, "okay....we don't really....know what to do then. " but
then we started talking about having the Spirit more fully in our
lives. We talked about the peace the Savior offers in John 14. They
said they wanted God in their lives more, but they were going to wait
until they had kids to actually find a church and determine what they
were going to believe....which is a little crazy. If I had a newborn
or a couple of young kids, I would hope that I would have already
figured out (at least mostly) how to gain my own revelation and
guidance from God, and already determined that He was even there and
that He cared. Seems like life would be crazy and unstable enough,
without undertaking that spiritual journey on top of it all. I know
I'm going to need God and draw on everything I've ever learned in life
and in the mission.

When we talked about that peace, though, and the strength that comes
to families and husbands and wives when they have the Gospel, you
could tell they wanted it. And while they made it clear they're not
really interested in the Church, they're interested in what we have to
say. They wanted us to come back and teach more. We're really excited!
:p it just goes to show, when you've got the why, you naturally want
to k ow the what and how. It'll all fall into place.

I love you all! Read chapter 10in Alma today! Two months feels like a
long time and a short time at the same time. :p I love being a
missionary and I love the people here in Copa!

Happy Monday! God bless! :)



Sister Stratford

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The storms!

Monsoons! Woo! This is what makes the Arizona summer somewhat okay!!

So, sorry this is a day late....forgot to tell everyone pray was on
Tuesday this week. We had a big meeting with Elder Corbridge
yesterday. Yeah, the guy who wrote The Fourth Missionary talk. He's
kinda famous among missionaries. It was so good!! I'm running out of
time, sadly, I spent too much time emailing a bunch of you
separately.....if I didn't get to you, I promise I will next week!

It's been such a good week. Sister Williams and I are loving the area
and loving each other and just blazing through! Maricopa is a little
slower than Phoenix, sadly, but it's also just got a slower feel to
it. There's nothing out here but farms and people. The city is full of
places to work and cars in a rush and things to do. Also, if we tried
to go door to door, every fourth door would be a member. XD

We have a very fun less active friend. His wife is not interested,
we've never met her, she hides in the back when we come. We sat down
with him, and he gives us all these experiences he's had that makes
him question the existence of a loving God, but then he finishes with,
"But I don't know. How do I know if there's a God or not?" He read
Alma 32 several times on his own and likes the idea of the experiment.
I always like to try and get people to journal, because, what's the
scripture that says, "how quick we are to forget the goodness and
mercies of Fod," or something like that? If we don't record our
experiences with God in the moment, then we will always define our
beliefs by what we are feeling in the moment...meaning, when times get
hard, it's easier to question when you don't have anything to look
back on. He didn't like the word journal, so we call it a log instead.
:p he likes science and boats, so journey log or experiment log makes
more sense to him.

He believed at one point. He was baptized as a young man, and he
remembers it fondly. But he doesn't remember why he felt that way. He
remembers the feelings of the Spirit, because that's hard to forget.
But he doesn't know what it was that got him there, feeling the
Spirit. Records are so important. You think you'll never forget, but
you do. It's always good to record our testimonies of Christ, so that
when the doubts come, what we don't know doesn't have to overpower
what we do know.

Woops, soap box. Happens. XD I have to get off now, sadly. Love you
all!! You're the best!

.....write in your journal! ^.^

Sister Stratford

Monday, August 3, 2015

Alma countdown starts on Friday!!

It was going to start Thursday, but I've learned that I'll actually be
going home a day later than I thought, so don't forget on Firday to
start with Alma 1! Again, it's free online,
https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm?lang=eng and you might want to
read the intro too, if you're not too familiar with where it came
from. Or even if you are. Shoot, I didn't read the intro until I was
on my mission and there's some good stuff there. Changed my mind,
everyone's reading the intro before Friday. Or don't and just start
Friday, whatever. But Alma is my favorite book. And Alma 36 is my
favorite chapter of all scripture of all time, so you'll be hearing
from me about halfway through the countdown. Ahhh, I'm so excited!!!!

So, some news....there was an emergency transfer, so I'm no longer
training my greenie :( she's actually in Phoenix now, in the Ward I
used to serve in. Which is super cool, cuz I can think of a few who
might be needing her special testimony. Julio comes to mind. It'll be
awesome.

And even cooler.....I'm companions with sister Williams again!!, :D
and we're basically best friends and just having tons of fun and
working our tails off because we're both near the end of our missions
and we want to make the absolute most of it. But also having tons and
tons of fun, because we just love being around each other.

We're still working on finding people to teach....but we've had a lot
of fun with the less active members in the Ward. It's so weird,
Maricopa is full of church members who are technically less active but
they don't know it. Like, we go by just to get to know them, and they
love the missionaries and were chatting about scriptures and our
favorite general conference talks and it just comes out casually that
they haven't been to church in like a year and they haven't prayed in
a long time and they don't have time to read the scriptures, but they
don't consider themselves less active. I'm used to people just flat
out saying they're less active, or even inactive, and telling us
whether or not they have any interest in coming back to church. So
this is an interesting dynamic that's actually kinda fun to work with.

Did Itell you guys the news, btw? So the Amary family from Laveen?
Still super close with them, probably will be forever. But they're
going to the temple at the end of August, and they personally called
President Toone and asked if Sister Nelson and I could be there. H
said we could! I'm so excited!! :D

Sorry for the kinda short and uniform active letter, lol, were kinda
in a time crunch because we're doing something as a zone....but I love
you guys and miss you! Thanks for the awesomeness that you are! :D
it'll be fun to read Alma together!!


Sister Stratford

Monday, July 27, 2015

pictures!

Me and my trainee!! Fresh off the plane!! :D It's weird because she kinda looks like Sister Hutchison, who trained me. So weird.


We got to go to the Phoenix temple!! IT'S SO PRETTY!!! (obviously, still in Phoenix in this picture)




Me and Julio in the Church yard.


 

#MissionLife #TheDream #LosSeunosDeLaMisionera

We tried to bake cookies at Transfer meeting. And tried again with the popcorn. After 3 hours the cookies were only sorta baked (great for pazookies, if we had ice cream :D) and still a no go on the popcorn. Maybe someday.



Cactus Fruit

Alright so real quick before I forget

 Next Thursday--Not this Thursday, but next Thursday--we're starting the Alma countdown. Countup, actually, because we're starting with Chapter 1. If you don't have a Book of Mormon, or if it's next Thursday and you're too lazy to pick it up, you can find it here: https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm?lang=eng  The book of Alma is my favorite. It has most of my favorite scripture stories. I'm hoping I'll be able to post my thoughts on each chapter on Facebook everyday, but we'll see how that goes. Anyway, nothing in the Book of Mormon makes sense unless you read the introduction first, so make sure you do that.

 October is like two months away. What is this madness.

 So we've kinda been taking this area slowly. We can't really tell who the misisonaries before us were teaching, because the areabook is a small explosion, so we've kinda just been going by everyone and trying to get to know the area. Phoenix is a grid system, so it's weird trying to navigate Maricopa.

 We did have a little bit of an adventure, though. :p So the cacti are fruiting right now, and I asked my companion, "ever had cactus fruit before?" She said no, so we pulled over to pick some from one that wasn't in someone's yard. I love how it tastes, but I've also learned (the hard way) that you have to be really careful picking it, because it's covered in spines. So I warned her, "Don't touch anything that isn't red, or you'll get pricked."

 She got the fruit...but she wasn't careful enough....XD I saw them all go into her hands, and we tossed the fruit into the back seat of the car and pulled cactus spines out of each other's hands. She didn't feel them or know they were there until I pointed them out. They hurt later. They're evil like that. It's sitting in the fridge right now, partly because I'm bitter at it for what it did to our hands, mostly because she decided to try and make a drink out of it. :p It was a fun little adventure.

 While I don't have a lot of cool stories or people to talk aboutthis week, I do have a strong testimony of the tender mercies that come in hard times. God doesn't remove the situation or make things easier, but He does send little messages that He's still there, He hasn't left, and He's still in control. Usually those messages are very personal in a way that only you will know. A bid landed on the window sill while I was studying. A member gave me a jar of raw honey. Little things that don't mean much, but mean everything in the moment, because it means we have a loving Father in heaven who knows just what little thing will give us the strength to keep going.

 Ultimately, life is good. It is good because we have a Savior who makes everything fair in the end.

 I love you all! Thanks for the letters and prayers and encouragement!! You are the best and I miss you so much!! <3

 -Sister Stratford

 

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Copa Chiasmus

So I spend a year in Phoenix and I'm like, "I'm gonna see what else is
out there in the mission! Where will I go?!" And I get sent to
MARICOPA!!!! Wooooooo! I was trained here!! Haha. Oh man, it's so
nostalgic and weird.

Especially since, I'm training!!! Ahhhh!! XD trained in Copa, Went to
Phoenix, trained in Copa. #Copaisdopa

Whitewash training is so, so hard, especially when our area book is a
total mess and we basically have absolutely nothing to work with. :p I
spent the first bit of my mission feeling overwhelmed and stressed and
crying every night (but still feeling happier than I ever have in my
life, somehow), and I feel like I'm probably going to end it the same
way. Yeah!

I'm going home in less than three months, it might as well be hard.
I'd be disappointed if I had it easy at the end. This is the point
where I could probably handle the most.

Ugh, Copa, forgot how beautiful it is here and how amazing the people
are. I miss Phoenix so much, but it's nice to be back in Copa.

(Yes, I did spend some time in Casa Grande, but Casa grande is
basically Copa. In fact, I think a bit of my Casa Grande area is now
in my area.)

It's been a slow moving week, since we're trying to get to know the
area and settle in and figure out what we're doing with our lives.
Some Phoenix news, Fashe was finally able to come to church again!
It's been a really hard couple of months on her, and there's only so
much a couple of kid missionaries can do. Especially when we just
can't meet with her.

Julio is doing okay, but he just looks so tired trying to stand
strong while his family's attacking him all the time. And due to a
house accident, they're all in a small hotel room together now, so
being in tight quarters with each other, it's even harder. I continue
to pray for him....I'm kind of protective of him :p just hoping he's
able to stay strong through all of it.

I'll let you know how this areas doing when we can get around to
actually finding and teaching. We've stopped by some of the members,
and they're great. We actually live with our Ward mission leader, so
that's kind of a tender mercy. He also knows everyone in the Ward and
everyone the elders were seeing, so that helps with the disastrous
area book. There have been so many tender mercy miracles all this
week. God really does take care of His children.

I have no way of uploading pictures right now, but we tried the
popcorn again during transfer meeting, plus baking cookies. The
cookies were half baked after three hours--not good as cookies, but
they looked like they'd be great pazookies!--but the popcorn was still
a bust. Ah, well. That was during the morning hours, we'll try to see
if there's a way to do that during the afternoon or something.

It's been in the 80s and 90s in Maricopa. :) also cloudy and rainy. Love it.

I love you all! The Gospel really is true, and I'm loving being a
missionary! Heavenly Father really does look out for us and carry us
if we rely in Him and not our own strength. All we have to do is pray
and do our best.

Miss you! You're the best! :)

Sister Stratford

Monday, July 13, 2015

Stay by the tree!




Sister Stratford

Took a selfie when on exchanges with Sister Wright. :) that tree is in
the middle of our church building. Wierdest set up ever, but it makes
for good exchange selfies.

Last 12 weeks

This is technically week one of the next transfer, even though
transfers aren't until Thursday. So officially 12 weeks left. 12 is
such a small number. Where did July even go? Last I checked it was
March.

Don't know what's happening this transfer, but I'm fairly certain I'm
going. I've broken records here, haha. Though I've been certain I was
leaving for the last 4 or 5 transfers, so who knows. Logic means
nothing when it comes to predicting transfers.

I'm hoping I train a new missionary. I've wanted that since the start
of my mission.

It was such a good week!! We did so much good work!

One lesson we taught was a family whose mom was a fiery new convert
with a powerful testimony, but the son and daughter in law weren't
really interested. So we taught a little about the Restoration, and
they didn't have a problem with any of it. They believed what we
taught was possible, they had felt the Spirit when the mom had
testified to them before, but something was missing. We offered a
BoM,and they told us they had several copies but didn't have a reason
to read it.

So we asked, "Do you want to know if the Book of Mormon is true?"
Which is one of my favorite questions to ask. It's a soul searching
question, if they really want to know the truth for themselves. And
they get to determine their own level of commitment. And it was cool
to watch them think, and he told us, "I don't think I'm ready to find
out yet. If God told me it was true, I'd have to change my whole
lifestyle. Am I ready to quit [certain habits and activities]? Uproot
everything I do? No, I'm not ready for that, even if God told me it
was true. I don't really want to ask Him if it's true yet."

Man, I just love asking that question. We taught about faith and
trusting God and all the blessings God has to offer us. We had another
lesson with them, where we introduced the BoM in more depth—where it
comes from, what it's about, etc. we read the introduction with them,
and at one point, the husband stopped paying attention. He read the
intro himself, and then he got real curious and kept reading ahead,
got somewhere into 1Nephi....we just let him....XD when we left, he
said he would keep reading.

Speaking of faith and trusting in God, in another lesson we were
teaching a couple who is less active and is trying to get back into
living the Gospel, but are just struggling. They've admitted totally
that they know what they're supposed to be doing, but consciously
choose to not do it. At one point they ask, "What happens to us if we
know what's right and we still choose not to do it?"

I'm not a hellfire preacher, and neither is Sister Williams. We
showed them a video called "Your Potential and Privelege." (You can
look it up if you want, it's really good. I might put a link up on
this blog. We're allowed to have blogs as missionaries, and the
blogger app is good for download now, so I maybe updating this more
frequently....especially during the Alma countdown. I hope you all do
that with me! It starts in like a month :p) You don't need to be a
hellfire preacher, I think it's bad enough to know what you're missing
out on. It hit home pretty good.

Honestly, God doesn't really have to punish us. The laws he set
aren't arbitrary. They're there because He knows the natural
consequences. To put it proverbially, He tells us to it touch the
stove because it will hurt us, and if we do it anyway, there's no need
for punishment. It's just consequence. So when we don't keep His
commandments, the natural consequence is simply, we are not as happy
as we could be. We don't get His Spirit to guide and help us. We don't
get peace. Life is hard, not the Gospel. It will be hard, that's just
mortality. Might as well trust someone who knows the safest and
happiest way through and get His help.

We met with Michelle and got to teach her about faith and moving
forward with trust! We also sang "Come, Come, Ye Saints." She loves it
when we sing. Also, that suing is just so encouraging. It's gotten so
much deeper meaning for me on the mission. Done just right, it makes
me cry. So while you're on YouTube looking for President Uchtdorf
talking about "your potential, your Privelege," check out piano guys
playing come come Ye saints. I cry every time.
She's doing better. It's been incredible seeing her journey.

We haven't heard from Julio, and we're feeling a little worried. :(
if I'm transferred, I plan on keeping in touch via Facebook. He
deserves all the support and encouragement in the world.


And btw, it's still very very hot. But not hot enough to pop popcorn
or bake cookies anymore. :C I hope I didn't miss my window of
opportunity.

Thanks for all your love and support! You are the best! :D there is a
Savior who loves you, and the Gospel is true!

Love you all!

Sister Stratford

Monday, July 6, 2015

Independence and Freedom!!!

Aw yeah, 'Murica!! We had a good 4th of July. We had to be in early,
and we were planning on having some party time, but honestly we all
were just so exhausted that we played two or three games of Boggle and
just wrote in our journals. It was nice to have some rest, haha.

This was my last "go-in-early" holiday of my mission. Weird.

Also, July 2nd officially marked me being here for a full year. At
this time last year, I wrote to tell you all that I was in Phoenix and
that I loved Laveen. I've served in this stake for a year. We
celebrated by having ice cream. And, on that same day, I got my trunky
call. Which is when they call and say, "we have to book your flight 90
days before you go home, so we need to know which airport is closest
to home."

I go home in (circa) 90 days. Gah. You guys, when I first came to
Phoenix, I was bewildered and blinking and had just finished my 90
days of training. I've like spent my whole mission here. So crazy....

We had two people walk into church just off the street, yesterday!!
That was super fun! We have the "visitors welcome" sign, like all
church buildings do, so it's nice when someone takes us up on the
offer :p

Julio got to go to the temple this week!!! Yeah! He loved it! He had
such cool experiences in the temple, and some he said he couldn't
quite describe because words would ruin it. However, his family has
gone from disapproving but supportive enough to come to his baptism,
to not supportive at all, to actively trying to pull him away from the
church. It's so sad! The day after the temple, his family decided he
needed an intervention and they cornered him in a circle to tell him
why this church was evil, showed him some videos, tried to convince
him to leave. He's taking it like a boss, though. He was like, "you
guys don't get it. I just went to the temple yesterday and had all
these cool indescribable experiences. It's the truth, and I can't deny
that." Still, good attitude or no ("well, it was the first time we'd
all been together in years, so there's that!"), we can see that it's
really rough on him—how can it not? I can't imagine, that'd be so
hard!—and we make sure his friends in the ward know somethings going
on and he needs some solid support. No journey or adventure was ever
meant to be had alone, especially when it's this hard. That's why the
Savior did what He did, so even when we feel alone, we're not. He's
there, and wherever there are true Christians, true followers of His
Word, no one ever needs to be without a friend.

Michelle is feeling better, thank goodness! But, when we went
by...man, she just has so many bad influences. There's so much
darkness when we go by to see her, and it's so sad. She's looking for
the light, and she sees it and recognizes it when it's there, but
she's just not strong enough to keep it around with so much darkness
around her. We're trying to see her everyday to try to keep her
afloat.

We've been eager to try the popcorn experiment again, but we've had
such beautiful weather lately, it hasn't been hot enough! Beautiful
clouds and summer rain and thunderstorms, it's been awesome! I love
cloudy weather and wind. It makes me feel like I'm on the brink of
doing something amazing. It's nice when it's warm instead of cold,
too!

I love being a missionary! I love the weather and the people and the
work and the Lord! There has seriously been nothing better in my life.
Serving a mission has been my best decision in my life.

Thanks for the prayers and encouragement! I love and miss you all! :)

Sister Stratford

Monday, June 29, 2015

Officially Monsoon season

The heat is bearable because it's the heat that makes monsoon weather patterns possible. Thunderstorms, warm desert rain, dust storms, it's so much fun! Phoenix has the most fun summer weather, if you can muscle out the heat for it. ANd the clouds and sunsets are so pretty!!

 This week was so much fun!! It's still ridiculously hot, people still dont' ever answer their doors anymore and everyone's out of town (especially with the 4th coming up....HAPPY 4TH OF JULY! I'm so excited! Also, I was in Phoenix for the last 4th of July....full circle. XD), but when you push through, God gives you miracles!! 

 ....Also, when you just choose to have fun with it and keep a good "adventure" attitude about things, it makes God's job just that much easier. And He trusts that you'll see the little miracles and helps He gives. 

 Michelle is still just super sick.....everything in her life is just going wrong. :C We keep praying for her and hope that she'll be okay.

 Fashe's been really sick, too. Another missionary has a friend who served his mission Croatian speaking, so we've been trying to set up a time for him to skype in. But we haven't been able to see her :/ Her whole family is sick.

 Everyone just needs to stop being sick for a second, m'kay. 

 Julio's going to the temple tomorrow!! So excited!! So, I don't remember if I told this story about him, but he was working on building a computer game for years. He was reading a whole bunch of psychology books on how to make an addicting game, and he just felt the Spirit touch him and he asked himself, "What am I doing? I don't want to trap a whole bunch of kids into an addiction just to get money." So he deleted years and years of work and just destroyed the game. Then he used his skills to build a website for his family history. Then, apparently, it evolved into his conversion story and how he found God and why he joined the Church and his thoughts and feelings on his journey. One time he asked us to give the link to our investigators. I'll have to ask his permission to post it here, but our jaws just dropped open when he told us about it. Missionaries only have like three websites we're allowed to go to :p so sadly I probably won't see it until after my mission. I'm so excited to look at it, though. 

 We have a few new investigators! So, we have Dana and Alice. We actually got caught at their house during the dust storm, so we stayed there a couple of hours. It was so what they needed. They had so many questions and we talked all about the Restoration, Joseph Smith's experience, what feeling the Spirit is like, how God communicates with us, how He feels about us, priesthood authority, the Book of Mormon, and everything. We sang "Abide With Me, 'Tis Eventide," because they're another family where just everything is going wrong. They're getting forced out of their home pretty soon, so we don't know if we'll get to meet with them much longer. But singing that song with the storm going on outside and hearing things hit the window, and feeling the Spirit so strong....it was a powerful moment. "The darkness of the world, I fear, would in my home abide. Oh, Savior, stay this night with me; behold, 'tis eventide." 

 They were going to come to church, but they decided to pray about it first. They're used to noisier church environments, where they're singing and praising and shouting. They seemed a little intimidated by the idea of a quiet church meeting. 

 Another person we just started teaching is Alandra. She's in the middle of a very messy divorce, and her cousin, who is serving her mission in Mexico, offered to send us by. It was a very strange experience to knock on a stranger's door and be immediately told, "Hey! Come on in!" as if we'd been visiting them for years. She just wanted us to help her build up a stronger relationship with God so that she could get through this, which is exactly what we're there for. :p She's so excited to learn more.

 She told us she felt bad that this was the moment that she turned to God. "If I was a better person, I would've tried to find him in the good times," she told us. "I almost don't want to look for Him because I feel like I'm being one of those people who just use Him as a 911 emergency line. It makes me want to muscle it through myself without His help and look for Him when things are better again. Maybe this is just a punishment and I need to suffer through it without Him."
 
 .....ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh DON'T SAY THAT!!!! D: It was so sad!! God wants us to turn to Him during the good times, yeah, but failing to turn to Him in the past is not a good reason to fail to turn to Him now! We all have trials in life. We were specially given our own personal weaknesses and challenges for the sole purpose of learning how to rely on him. Ether 12:27, God gives us weaknesses, as a gift. And His Grace is for everyone who turns to HIm, regardless of how late it is or how good we've been before. 

 We're so happy to work with her. It's seriously the BEST THING IN THE WORLD to help people realize just how much God loves them. It's the most important thing people can know. Because then we can trust that He did give us a Savior and a way back home. Then life becomes manageable. It's the best thing to tell people. 

 Missions are awesome. :)

 I love you all!! Thanks for the prayers and support. I miss you!! YOu're awesome :D

 -Sister Stratford

pictures!!


The Ellie Badge!!! 


That awkward moment when you and your companion accidentally match


btw, you know how in all the cartoons the Saguaro cacti are just perfect and neat and symmetrical, with their two or three arms all straight and pretty

 They actually look like this, usually. All twisted and yeah. 



Also, for those who aren't aware, we've been having a bid of a pest problem of bedbugs and got fumigated this week, so we had a graveyard of stuff in our backyard. :p The heat in the black bags kill bedbugs. A good way to make it an adventure instead of an inconvenience is to take good pictures




btw, did I mention it's hot?
The steering wheel is also very hot when it's been in the sun for a while



We tried to pop popcorn



 It didn't work, though. :c It was also cooler that day, though. When we got into the car, the thermostat said 109 instead of 118 like normal. We'll try it another day we're in the parking lot for a few hours. Also, we're planning on using tin foil to turn it into an even more effective solar oven. We will have to try baking cookies one of these days. Maybe transfer meeting. 

 

Monday, June 22, 2015

110+ again. Actually, 115 two days in a row.

It's so hot, hahaha! There's been a little bit of wind, but it doesn't
help at all. It just feels like your getting blasted in the face by a
blow dryer. It's actually been a little rough, because suddenly we've
been having appointments fall through and no ones answering their door
anymore. More so than usual. Like, stuff always falls through, that's
mission, but I was looking at our schedules, how many lessons we
taught a few weeks ago vs. this week and last week, and there's a
definite difference. So, it's hot, and we spend a lot of time out in
it trying to find someone who will open their door. People are
crankier when it's hot. XD

I don't think I've ever drank so much water.

Missions are still the best and dont let anyone tell you different! :p

The mission has totally changed my view on people. I'm driving down
the road, or walking down a stree, and I look at the cars and the
houses and I wonder, "I wonder what's happening in the car or in that
house? There are people in there with a face and a name and a whole
history that spans way before they were even born, when we used to
live with God as spirits. They have a personality, likes and dislikes.
They are feeling emotions right now. They're going somewhere and
coming from somewhere. " it blows my mind sometimes.

Does it ever just really hit you that a divine Being died for each
one of those people? Someone who was completely and totally perfect,
and didn't really need to? I always want to treat people in a way that
shows God I respect that sacrifice. If they were worth all that,
they're worth our kindness and patience.

I don't remember if I've talked about her...I might have. Michelle?
She was involved in a really messy court case. The victim and his
family had all been Mormon, and she was so impressed by how they were
handling everything, she wanted to know more about the beliefs behind
it. She's been going through so much, though. Most of her house
doesn't even have power. :( we were able to bring someone who could
give her a blessing, and it was a really, really powerful experience.
She felt the Spirit so strong. She especially loves, loves hymns. We
try to sing at least one whenever we go. She loves hearing the
harmonies. She plays them on her phone when we're gone using the
LDSmusic app, but she likes hearing is sing.

Julio continues to do really well. He wants a calling in th church
so, so badly. We could see him being an amazing primary teacher or
something like that. He's been praying, asking God to call him as a
ward missionary.

I'm out of time, but I think that's it for me. Everything cancelled,
but we got to see Michelle several times this week and we had some
amazing, powerful experiences with her. We hope she makes it through.

Thanks for your support and your love!! I miss you all so much! :)
HAPPY FATHERS DAY to my amazing Daddy!

I love you all!

Sister Stratford

Monday, June 15, 2015

Keeping notes next week

Seriously, my mind is so mushy busy Monday and the week is just a
blur, I forget what I'm writing home about!

It's pretty darn hot....yeah....monsoon season officially starts
pretty soon, so I'm hoping for rain and haboobs again.

We're actually kinda struggling with our teaching pool. But, that
comes and goes with waves.

Julio got the priesthood yesterday! Yeah! His wife came to sacrament
meeting (which, funny enough, was ALL about the priesthood) but didn't
stay to see the ordination. :c we just try to give him as much support
as possible. It's a hard enough transition, and he's doing it alone,
without any family support.

Fashe.....the language barrier is so steep. No one speaks Croatian.
And she learned English fro. Watching tv, she can't read it. But, God
speaks to her. It's the weirdest thing, because she knows things when
God tells her, and when she asks us about it, we can't explain it. So
we just hope God keeps teaching her. The other day she was telling us,
"I want to be baptized into your church. I want to be a part of it.
God is telling me to be there. But I don't understand why I need to be
baptized again. Why would God be telling me to be baptized in your
church when I've already been baptized?" And then she doesn't
understand our answer.....just keep talking to God, Fashe, you know
what the Spirit feels like. Just keep praying. :)

Her faith is so strong, because God is the only person she can fully
communicate with. He's the only one who speaks her language. I wonder
if that's why she's gotten so fluent at the language of the Spirit,
feeling God guiding her and answering her. She doesn't have anyone
else really to talk to.

We had some amazing miracles last night. It'd been a reaaaaally rough
day for us, and there's a fireside at Tempe that President Toone holds
that we can only go to if we bring someone there. The people we had
invited fell through, and we were praying for the miracle, because we
just really wanted the spiritual uplift we get from those things.
There was a slim, slim chance one guy we invited would make it, but
really, we didn't have anyone. It was a choice between using that slim
chance as an excuse to go for our own spiritual wants, or staying out
to work. We chose to stay.

Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven. I have such a
testimony of that. One guy had ordered a free Bible, but had put down
the wrong address. So when we went to the house, and he wasn't there,
we offered the Bible to the strangers that lived there. The woman
there said, "I've actually been wanting to get a Bible for my
daughter, but I don't have a way to get to a bookstore, and we don't
have the money anyway." And then we called the other guy and got his
actual address. :D everyone gets a Bible! We also got to talk to some
really cool people on the street. One couple from California, heck
yes. And one investigator who we haven't seen in a long time who
reeeaaaallly needed us that night. It was just full of miracles.

Endurance miracles are real! And not just for missionaries, either. ^^

That's it for me. Thanks for the prayers and the emails and letters!
You are the best <3 with Fod in His heaven, what's there to fear?

Sister Stratford

Monday, June 8, 2015

real quick

So I just realilzed I had a LOT less time than I thought and I'm not getting to anyone's email today because my mass email was so long. But, I've saved drafts and y'all are getting them next week.

 I love you all! <3

Moar pictures

Pictures!!

doing it separately now, in case they delete my whole email again >.>



PHOENIX PHOREVER
lol


turn the camera the other way
 Me killing the biggest spider in the world. The bugs in Arizona are so big. It's kinda gross. :p But I feel like a dragon slayer every time I kill something, so that's cool.


Me and Sister Fairburn. We were MTC companions. We've both grown and changed so much. It was fun to see each other at transfer meeting.

Oh, speaking of transfer meeting!! Some mission news. Remember Sister Nelson, my companion in Laveen? She's a district leader now. :p She's one of two sister DL's in the mission.

Guess Where I Am??!?!?!?!

No seriously

 Guess

 GUESS
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
..
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
..
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
NO PEEKING
I WANT YOU TO GUESS
AND MOM AND DAD YOU GOT A HINT ON SUNDAY (thanks to the Amary family :p) SO DON'T GIVE IT AWAY
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Wait but first

while you're guessing

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOMMY!!!!!!!!!

 I've said it before and I'll say it again. I have the best Mom in the world and everyone should be jealous. Thanks for being patient with me and for loving me and taking care of me. Thanks for being involved and unbelievably invested in my life and education and for writing me on my mission, even with a painful arm and frustrating voice-to-text technology. I love you so much, and I'm excited to see you again in October and help out more and play violin with you.
 .
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
..
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
alright, are you ready? Got your guesses?? I haven't served very many places in the mission yet, so it could be anywhere.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
ready?
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
..
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Phoenix.

South Phoenix.

YMA O HYD 

Still in the same zone I've been in since July

 Still in the same ward I've been in since November

 Still with Sister Williams (WOOOOOOOO HOOO)
 
 And I'm actually at the same library with the same computers that I used last year to write home and say, "I'm in Laveen and I love it!" So that's crazy.

 This transfer I will celebrate a year in South Phoenix. July 2nd. I'm actually really excited, I don't think I've ever met a missionary who could celebrate a year mark in one place. To answer your question, Dad, I don't know the record for staying in one area or one zone. I'll have to ask. But I do remember being pretty smug when I passed up this one elder. He'd been in the zone for 7 1/2 months. I do know that there was one sister in Laveen that served in that ward for a full 9 months. I definitely hold the record for this zone.

I'm so very, very bummed that my email home last week got nuked for some stinky reason. So stink. But honestly, I was so certain I was leaving because I'd been there so long, there was just no way I was staying. So it was kinda a "I'm going to miss Phoenix so much" "I love this place" "I never want to leave" (I'm never EVER going to leave!!!! >:D), so maybe it was God's way of telling me I was not going to leave until I finish....whatever I'm still here to do. XD or learn whatever I haven't learned yet. Probably both. 

 I did want to rewrite one thing I wrote, though. Last week was our stake conference. It was so fun to be there, because I've served in 3 wards in the whole stake, and served long enough to get close with a lot of the people there. Near the end, the speaker had all the missionaries in the stake (all like 36 of us) line up in front of everyone. He did a fun little thing, asked some of us questions and commented on our answers. It was whatever. But we stayed up there to sing hte closing hymn with the whole congregation. The closing hymn was "Called to Serve." I know both verses to that hymn (and the first verse in Spanish) by heart. It is near and dear to every missionary. And while we were up there singing that song, I was looking out at all the people I've served for the past year. Some of them I had helped baptize. Some I had helped come back to church and find their faith again. Some were active members who had come out on visits with us, and we had had some amazing spiritual miracles experiences together. I'd helped quite a few of them. All of them had touched my life so deeply, my life will never be the same ever again because I had met them and loved them. I remembered how I had felt God's love for all of them too, and had seen them have such profound experiences with their Savior and his Atoning sacrifice. I was also certain I was leaving them and wouldn't be coming back to Phoenix for a while. So I tried to stand up there and sing "Called to Serve" with them, but I was mostly just crying. It was a very special experience, and definitely one I will never forget. 

 Another really fun experience, so the church building in Laveen had some mechanical issues, and they couldn't have church there. Sooooo they came to have church with our ward!!! :D :D :D It was SO SO FUN To have both both wards there!! I loved everyone so much, and it was fun for them because they used to be the same ward like 5 years ago, so it was like a really fun reunion. The testimonies were really fun, too, seeing members from both wards getting up to bear testimony.

 Alright, running out of time, because I've gone on too much about how excited I am to still be here and how much I love this place. But, one miracle I want to share!!

 So, remember Stacy? I think that's what I called her. Anyway, the family that we were tyring to deliver the Bible to, and the young mom said, "I think I want to join your church." We've been trying to contact her for forever, but she totally disappeared. Every now and again we'll see her, and she'll say "yeah, still reading the Book of Mormon, and I really like it," but doesn't have time to sit down and talk more about it and all of our set appointments with her fall through. A while back she said she wasn't sure if she wanted to join anymore and just had to think about it more, which we were totally fine with. We're here for her, not to get another baptism under our belt. Well, we were able to see her again and we asked her how praying was going and her relationship with God, and she said, "I'm so grateful you guys keep trying. Whenever I get nervous about talking with you guys, I feel God tell me that He loves me. He tells me that I don't have to be Mormon to have His love, but He wants me to listen. Can we start meeting again?" 

 The best part about being a missionary is seeing people build their relationship with God. It's what we're here for, it's our whole purpose. So when they feel God starting to speak to them and that bond between them starts to form, that the best part. 

 I have way more to share, but I love you guys so much!! Thanks for the prayers and support! I miss you all!!

 -Sister Stratford

 (p.s. after this email, you're only going to get 17 more emails before I come home. Is that crazy or what? I only have 17 p-days left. Mm, not thinking about it. ^^ haha)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Ps

I can't tell if that actually sent my whole email, or if it sent a
couple of words and three pictures.....sorry if it didn't send. It was
mostly just gushing about the people in Phoenix and how much I love
being a missionary. The usual.....

Man, I'm so bummed if it didn't send. But I'm alive and well and
happy and I love and miss you all.

Sister Stratford

Rip Elder Perry :(

Sad news that Elder Perry, one of the 12 Apostles, passed away. :( he
was so sweet....he reminded me a lot of President Toone. Not just the
tallness, but the spiritual giant kind of thing. He will definitely be
missed, and I keep his family in my prayers. <3

Sister Stratford

It's the most wonderful time of the year

It's too soon to be June.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Happy Memorial Day!!

no library, playing on a blueooth keyboard I bought a while back.
Sorry if it's a bit clunky.

Happy Memorial day!!! We did some community service helping out for
celebraton on Saturday, and that was fun. C:

This week was SOO COOOL!! We had so many fun miracles!! One Thing
that was really fun, we did exchanges [can'nt fiind paranthesis] [when
we trade companions for traiing and learningpurposes, its an exchange]
and I got to go back into Laveen! I've done that before, but usually
Im justquietly hoping to see some of the eople I know and pretend like
I've never been in the area before, just do a normal exchange. But my
Sister Training Leader actually planned in a lot of the people she
knew would like to see me and who I would like to see again....I felt
guilty a lot because I wanted to focus on being a missionary and not
just reuniting with people I love, but it was really fun. We did do
teaching, anyway, and it was really incredible to see how far they've
come and what they're doing now and to testify and encourage them to
keep going. I missed them so much.

(If you haven't notice, I've definitely given up on the keyboard :p)

Julio continues to be the coolest person ever. He's really excited
about receiving the priesthood and had all sorts of questions about
it. It continues to be rough with his family accepting his choice. It
fluctuates, somedays they're totally fine with it, other days they
have a real problem with it. It's hard on him, but h plows on through.
He seriously has such a strong testimony. We just learned and are
excited to tell him, there was a less active youth who attended his
baptism. We'd been trying to meet with him, but he hasn't seemed too
keen with talking to us. He was really struggling with his testimony
and hasn't been coming to church. But when he listened to Julio's
testimony at the baptism, he felt the Spirit really, really strongly,
and he wants to come back to church and start living the standards
again. It really sparked a big fire in him. Man, I can't wait to tell
Julio! It'll help him feel good. Especially, imagine, what if he
serves a mission now because of Julio's testimony? And all those
people he'll help come closer to Christ in another part of the world,
and their families, just how cool is that?!

At church someone was talking about how hard it was to give up coffee.
Julio told them, "when I had cravings, I would just drink water and
read a scripture or two. That's how I got through it." Hahahaha!

Fashe has been struggling a little....I can't imagine what she must
be going through, she's in a country where no one speaks her language
(who speaks Croatian? We used to have a returned missionary in the
ward who did, but he just moved....gah!), she doesn't speak the
language very well, she can't read English at all, she has no
transportation, she wants to work but can't find a job.....and then
some of the stories she tells from before she came to the States are
insane. She hasn't told us anything about how she got here, but the
stories from her past are nuts. We have to teach one small, basic
principle at a time, with very simple sentence structure and words.
Teaching is going slow, but she loves it, and she's always praying and
learning from God, too. And He understands her, He can speak in a way
she can understand. She's so cool.

We had two really insane miracles this week! Very similar! So now
that we just have one ward to focus on, we can do everything we wanted
to do with this ward. It's a huge ward number-wise, but it's so small
because hardly anyone goes to church. So we just went through the list
and decided to go by names we don't recognize. Which is very easy and
productive to do, because I've been here since before Thanksgiving and
know a lot of members, including all the ones who moved out months ago
and who's new to the ward. So we fill in our appointments and who we
want to teach, and then fill in backups with members we don't know. So
one day, everything fell through so no sweat, we go to meet this
unknown member. She comes out and answers the door and tells us that
she doesn't really believe, but....she keeps talking to us, so we keep
talking to her. Eventually she admits, "normally I don't answer the
door for Mormons. Ever. But I don't know what I believe anymore, and
I've been praying so hard for the last three days that God would show
me the way to go. When I saw you through the window, I thought about
not answering, but....well, I'm not that stubborn, if this is His
answer I'm willing to take it." Then it was really cool to see how
relieved she was when we told her, "we're not here to present material
and tell you that you need to believe everything we say. We're here to
help you find the truth for yourself. We're really just guides to help
you look for and recognize those answers from God, and we never want
you to just take our word for it. Always pray and ask God for
guidance." She was pretty excited to set up another time with us. It
was so cool!

Second miracle, there's this door we've knocked on a few times
before, a referral from the Spanish elders, but no one has ever
answered. They've always just kinda been a backup to appointments in a
place we don't have a lot of people to work with. Suddenly my
companion has a little freak out, "what if we're knocking on the wrong
door? Wasn't it 22? Are you sure it was 21? I'm certain it's 22."
Nothing I'm saying is helping her, so she eventually just pulls me to
knock on this other random door. Meh, best case scenario, someone
there wants Jesus whether it's who were looking for or not, worse case
scenario, they don't want to hear it and say no.

So we knock on this door and it's not the one we're looking for, but
we find this random member whose name we don't have and who hasn't
been to church since she was 16. And, whenever we asked her why she
stopped, it was all social reasons. Imperfect people, especially
imperfect children and teenagers. She doesn't remember anything about
the doctrine. We showed her the Book of Mormon and she wasn't too keen
on reading it. "I never wanted to open it again, if it allowed so much
hypocrisy in a church." But when we told her it was a record of a
people in ancient America written around the same time as parts of the
Bible, and that God wasn't just talking to a small group of His
children in the Holy Lands but was talking with all His children, she
got really interested. "I don't remember that," she said, "but it
makes a lot of sense. Yeah, I'd like to read it again, actually. Maybe
I'll understand it this time." She was very happy to set up another
time to meet, too.

My companion, man. :p she was so right when she said that that was
the door we were actually supposed to be knocking at. Haha!

I think that's it for me. I've never been happier. We went through a
few rejections this week, but the miracles were way better. There is
nothing better than helping people come closer to the Savior. I love
wearing His name next to mine on my chest. I love watching lives
change, there's just nothing better than a mission, guys. It's really
the best thing ever!

I love you all! :)

Sister Stratford

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mormon Battalion Hike Pictures



 I know I took some on my camera, but I can't find them....here are some from my companion's camera.
Man, what a week. :)

 JULIO GOT BAPTIZED!!!!! wooooooooooo!!! :D It was such a great baptism, too. For those who haven't served a mission yet, you'll learn that the best baptisms always start out looking like they're going to go horribly wrong. No worries, they'll be the most spiritual baptisms ever. His wife got to come!! And his parents, too, they were so angry when he first told them, but they came to his baptism and really seemed to enjoy it!! And when he bore his testimony at the end...man. There was so much stuff he hadn't told us, so many miracles all lining up in his life. He bore a bold and powerful testimony to his family. It was just the greatest.

 We were looking through his teaching record. We seriously just taught him 5 lessons. And even then, he already knew everything because he found the baptismal questions and studied them and prayed about them himself. So he had a testimony about everything before we had even taught it. Julio, why are you so cool?!

 He had a really neat comment in the sunday school class yesterday. He said something along the lines of, "For a long time repentance didn't make a lot of sense to me. I"m allowed to be weak, no one is perfect. And God made me that way for a reason, so it must be okay to be that way. But the sisters shared Ether 12:27 with me, which tells us that God gave us weaknesses so that we can learn and grow and become strong through overcoming them. So giving us a weakness is like assigning us a project. I realized that's what repentance was, and why we had to change." That was a really cool thought, and one I really needed to hear. 

 Being imperfect is a crazy adventure, and we're destined to overcome it. The odds are stacked in our favor, all we need is a Savior and a determination to not give up.

 The mortal experience is great fun!

 So fun news....Ramon is no longer couch surfing! Or at least, the place he's at right now is more solid than it's been in a good long while. He still wants to move back into our ward. But guess what?! He's in the ward I served in in Laveen!!! That's a good ward, and they'll take good care of him. C: we got him in contact with the sisters there and they've started working with him again. I've been so worried about him, it's nice to be able to breathe again. He's doing okay, still enjoying the Book of Mormon, still focused on going to the temple one day. That's really how you know they're solid, when their goal isn't just baptism, it's getting to the temple with their family.

 So we've picked up someone new. Or kinda new. I don't think I've written much about her. Her name is Fashe, we'll say. She's from some European contry I can't remember or even pronounce. I want to say Yugoslavakia, but that doesn't exist anymore. Y something slava. Anyway. She doesn't speak a lot of English. she's never taken a class. She came to AMerica and learned by listening and watching TV. So sometimes teaching is hard becasue of the language barrier. Basic words, basic grammar, as simple as you possibly can. But we got her a Croatian Book of Mormon, and she was just the happiest person in the world right then. She was so excited!! We also got her a Restoration pamphlet in Croatian, and that was awesome too. We'd been trying to teach the Restoration, and she wasn't completely understanding it, but she read it in Croatian and prayed about it and she knows it's true and she's so excited to be baptized!!! She's so neat. She was raised Muslim, but discovered Christ when she came to America. She's very close to the Spirit, recieves impressions and promptings all the time, and has told us the whole guiding process of finding her Savior and then finding this church. It's been really fun to work with her!

 I think that's it for me.....it's been a really fun week, and I've been so happy being a missionary!! Also, it rained this week :3 always a good thing when it's May and summer still hasn't come! We were getting worried in April there. Should be coming right round this corner, though. 

 Thanks so much for your prayers and support!! I love you all so much!! <3

 -Sister Stratford