Monday, January 26, 2015

Maaan, this week was a blur and I don't remember any of it!! haha. I wish I had news about transfers, but we didn't get our transfer calls last night, and apparently they're not coming until Tuesday. So. Yeah, we have no idea what's happening at transfers :p I'll let you guys know after it happens.

 This'll be a short letter, I'm way running out of time :C Also I forgot to take notes this week on what to write, soooo...this'll be crazy.

 Lacey has been going through a TON. Everything just started piling on her, but it's been the coolest thing, because the light behind her face is just growing. And her family members have noticed and have been asking questions. It's so cool.

So really cool exchange miracle!! Exchanges are notorious for being perfect for miracles. There's a young man in our records who was just baptized less than a year ago, but his address was wrong, and we didn't really know what to do about it. So while we were on exchanges (trading companions for a day with another companionship), I was looking at our areaboook when my temporary companion said, "WAIT!! Go back!!!" And she looked at the name and freaked out. "I taught him!!!" She said. "Then he moved and we had no idea where!! He has some really hard trials, and wherever he is, his ward doesn't know he's there! They don't know they need to help him!!!! does he have a number?!" He did. She was soooooo excited, she called him and told him she missed him and to call us back so we could get his ward involved and help him out. It was so cool. 

 We started teaching the Spanish bishop's nephew!! He's basically been teaching himself. He has a BoM And he's read passed Alma already. ANd he's not just reading it, either, he's really studying it intensely. He looooooves studying the Bible, not just reading but studying, and so he's been trying out the same thing with the BoM. In every prayer he asks God if it's true. When we asked if he got his answer, and he said he had, and that it was true. Not every day you get to teach someone who already knows it's true, haha! He said he wants to get baptized after he's finished the book.

 ....Sorry for the short letter, I"m a little pressed. But thank you guys so much for the letters and the prayers!! I love Arizona and I'm so grateful that I get to serve here!! God is real and Christ is our Savior. There's no denying it at this point! :) Love you all!!

 -Sister Stratford

Monday, January 19, 2015

Power of prayer :)

So it's MLK day, meaning the library is closed, meaning I'm on an iPad
using the church's wifi to try and type all my emails. And I'm slow at
this touchscreen keyboard thing. It's kinda like texting entire
emails, actually, :p so this one will be pretty short. Also if there
are a thousand run on sentences, sorry, the period and coma are too
close to each other.

So we're teaching the Spanish bishop's nephew. We got a call from
him that said, "I gave him a BoM, he's already past Alma, and he's
expecting you guys now." We had a really neat lesson with him, it's
not everyday you get a first lesson where they pretty mush already
know everything you're teaching is true. He's had a lot of really neat
spiritual experiences with both the Bible and the BoM, and he's
getting really excited about God.

We had our third lesson with Aria. And she told us she was actually
already baptized. When she was eight. "But we never really went to
church and I did not know what was happening, so I'd actually really
like to do it again." Haha! So that's pretty golden, right? :p so we
explained to her that she didn't need to be baptized again and talked
about the Sacrament and she was really happy. So last time I said it
was as if she'd just been waiting for missionaries to show up; she
literally was, haha. She was excited to come to church, but hasn't
been able to make it because of some family problems. It's been really
fun to teach her about Christ and His Gospel, though. It's like a
treasure box for her.

We had a neat doorstep lesson with a teenager the hermanas used to
teach, but he totally speaks English, so we get to teach him now. We
talked about how he just takes life one day at a time, and he felt
like he'd done pretty good for himself. He didn't really feel like he
was looking for God. He didn't need the extra help or strength right
now, didn't see any reason to involve Him in his life right now. We
talked a little about prayer and how God loves us and the blessings
that come from having Him in our life. We asked him, "do you think
you'd be able to pray?"

And he said, with a smirk and a shrug, "yeah, I'm capable of it."

Okay, yeah, we know exactly what that means, and that's not an
acceptable answer! Haha. He was really hesitant to commit to praying.

So we were going to end that lesson in a prayer, like we always do,
and we invited him to pray. He was nervous to, so we offered to go
around and each of us say a prayer, if it would make him feel more
comfortable. We each said a really simple prayer, and after a little
hesitation, he said a beautiful, humble, powerful prayer. It was so
neat. At the end of it he said, "wow, that felt really good." Then he
started asking more questions. How often do I pray? Do I need to say
the words out loud? Does He hear all my prayers? How does He answer?
Before we left he said, "I think I want to try that again tonight." IT

That's as much as I'm able to you guys, thanks so much
for your prayers and letters and notes of encouragement! I still have
the little cards I got from Christmas hanging in my desk. I still love
being a missionary! :D God is real and He loves us, and Christ is our
Savior, and it's so exciting to get to be here to tell people that!

Love you all

Sister Stratford

Monday, January 12, 2015

Arizona in January

is the best ever. Honestly. It only rains a little bit, just enough to make it "fresca" as all the Spanish people call it. c: And Arizona smells SOOOO GOOOOOOD after rain!! Seirously it's the best smell in the world. <3 I could just stand outside and breeeaaathe all day long.

Yesterday I went to all three wards at church. All three of 'em. The two that we go to, then my companion had a meeting she had to go to so I was with the Spanish sisters in the Spanish ward. :D It was exhausting, haha. but also really really fun.

 So we met an AMAZING family this past week! Sister Morris and I both felt the need to ask God to lead us to a family. The Gospel really is designed to bless and help families, not jsut individuals, and it had been a while since we'd been able to teach a whole family. So through a CRAZY serious of little miracles that were weeks in the workings, we knocked on Aria's door. The person we were looking for didn't live there anymore, but it was seriously like she had just been waiting for missionaries to visit her the whole time and welcomed us in. She had visited the Mesa visitor's center and met with missionaries before and had gotten a Book of Mormon, but then moved out here to Phoenix. Within the first two lessons her main questions and conerns were, "I've wanted to start reading the BoM again, but I've only read the little passages missionaries have given me in the past. Where should I start? Can I start just from the beginning like a regular book?" or, "My husband always kinda teases me when I look into this Church. But I really feel like it's the best place for our family. How do I tell him that?" And her kids are absolutely adorable, and she's taught them how to pray and they like being in the lesson with their mom, and it's really, really fun., writing  short summaries just doesn't capture the awesomeness as well as I'd like. :p It was such a cool experience to meet and teach her. 

 Also, there's someone the Spanish elders ran into like months ago that they kept following up on. From what they told us, she was "golden," but every time we went she seemed disinterested or to busy. But they were insistent we kept visiting her, and so we tried again. She was too busy again, but she set up an appointment for us to come back.

 So we come back, and it's an AMAZING lesson. her house was crazy, so we had the lesson on her porch. Which meant I stood the entire lesson. I was really hurting by the end of it, but I was supported and we were able to teach an INCREDIBLE lesson about the Restoration and a little about the Plan of Salvation. At first she didn't really seem too interested about learning about the truth--"If God asks for a fox, that can be interpreted many different ways. One of you will bring the animal, but someone will bring a pair of Fox shoes, and maybe someone from my generation will bring a woman. God doesn't judge us on whether or not we interpretted right, He judges our heart, that we tried. So why would it be important to Him which church is true?"--but when we shared Joseph Smith's experience, she really started to want to know for herself. She wanted to try and find the correct definition of the word fox, so to speak. :p And watching that change was really neat. 
 She's been searching for a church her whole life, so she's studied with a lot of religions. And when we invited her to say the prayer at the end of the lesson, she was surprised but also really happy. "No one else I've studied with wants me to pray, they all want to say the prayer," she said. Haha. 

 And what was really cool is in her prayer she said, "Thanks for supporting these girls so they'd be able to stand through their trials." XD hey, that's my prayer, too!! lol

 Then she liked praying so much she asked that everyone take a turn praying!! :p It was so much fun!

 Terra read the articles of faith and doesn't like the 3rd one. She believes in faith in Christ alone is all you need to do for salvation, and we're like, "k, we do too, but what does faith's believing in Jesus Christ, and when we believe in Him, we trust His commandments, so we keep His commandments...therefore we're not really having faith if we're not keeping the commandments, right?"
 "Commandments are important, but we're not saved by works."
 "No, we're saved by faith, which faith drives us to do things. Like obey the laws and ordinances of the Gospel."
 "You're still just saying that we're saved by works, that's exactly what you said right there."
 K, well, we're not here to bash Bible verses together. :p When she's reading the Book of Mormon, everything's okay. And you can see the difference when she doesn't. When she reads it, she really enjoys it, and she feels the Spirit and knows by the power of God that it's a true record of real people who actually lived and experienced God. When she's not reading it, she wants to debate and picks apart our words and just gets really contentious. And the Gospel just can't be debated. You have to experience it, and then you know for yourself. 

 Well, I think that's it for me...running out of time. :p Thanks for all your prayers and support!! I've loved hearing from you guys and seeing pictures from home. 

 Missions are awesome! ^^

 -Sister Stratford

Monday, January 5, 2015


2015!! Woo!! :) Halfway through the decade, aw yeah!

 We had a good New Years. we had to be in early on the 31st cuz safety, so that meant we got to go to bed early :) :) :) :D
 that's how we party when you've gone 9 months feeling utterly exhausted, haha
 ALso, apparently it snowed on New Years eve!! We didn't get to see it, we were asleep. But I'd heard that it happens very very rarely, and I'm excited that it snowed in Phoenix while I was serving my mission here. 

 So now I"m talking more about the people we're teaching, haha!! Soooooo Mandy has kinda a sad story. :C We knocked on her door one night and she still still had kind of that darkness behind her eyes. So we knew, we just knew that she had kept reading whatever junk the internet has instead of reading the Book of Mormon and asking God. On top of that, she had finally gotten around to asking her pastor about what we've taught, and he gave her quite a passionate earful about us missionaries. And she told us she didn't want to learn anymore. She really really liked us, and liked how she felt around us, but it was clear that she saw us as poor brainwashed children that she couldn't help. She was just as sad as we were to say goodbye to us. 

 Part of me wanted to just shake her and say, "You had all these amazing experiences, you were impressed by how our members followed Christ's example, you felt the Spirit at church, you felt the power of a priesthood blessing, you even had a dream, and you're letting stuff you read on the internet erase all of those experiences from God?" So that was really sad, but she's still got God in her life. She still attends her church and wants to raise her girls knowing Christ, and she loooooves the FInding Faith in CHrist movie we gave her, she's watched it like 15 times. :p And she made some good friends who can help her out while Dave's gone. She's in God's hands, so she's in good hands, and so while we'll miss her tons and it's sad that we won't be teaching her, we're happy for her.

 I'm grateful for Facebook, and that I'll still be able to be in contact with her after my mission. <3 I've fallen in love with teh people here, I"m grateful I don't have to say goodbye forever.

 So Terra got into some ugly stuff, too. :p We knocked on her door, and saw some of the same dimness behind her eyes, and we were thinking, "Oh no, not you too...." ANd she sat down with us and said, "You know I love you girls, right?" And we were like, "No no no no nonooooo!"

 But....she felt the Spirit really strong when we talked with her, and when we read from the scriptures and testified of Christ as our Savior, and it was SO NEAT, to watch that brightness and spirit slowly grow and come back. She came to church again and really seemed to enjoy it. She loved that there's no one pastor who gets up to preach, but that it's all member taught. So she really, really enjoyed testimony meeting this fast sunday :)  

 Something I want to share because I"m excited about it...I"m slowly, slowly overcoming my fear of talking to random strangers. :p We've seriously had so many really cool experiences just talking to people we pass on the streets, and I'm getting more confident. I wish it didn't take until halfway through my mission to be able to step up at do it, but y'know, better than waiting until I'm 16 months in.

 So there's this woman we're teaching named Sara. We've taught her a few times, and her main feelings are, "I'm comfortable where I'm at, but I'm also open to God's will." And she's sooooo fuuuuun to read the Book of Mormon with!! Just because of all of her crazy awesome Bible knowledge, she's pulling things out of the BoM and drawing parallels I wouldn't have thought of, it's mindblowing!! And it's really strenghtened my testimony of the BoM, too, haha! She just gets it. Buuuut, even through all this awesome stuff, she says, "I know all this already from teh Bible. What does the BoM have that the Bible doesn't already teach? They both testify of Jesus Christ, I get that they're different civilizations who recieve the same teachings from God because He speaks to everyone, but....why do we need it?"

  We asked her how she would feel if the Savior came and visited her. She bore a passionate testimony of who He was to her and what that would mean to her, and that she wouldn't be able to contain it. She'd want everyone to know. We explained that that's what the BoM was, people in a different part of hte world who spoke with God and were visited by the resurrected Christ. They wanted everyone to know how they felt and what that meant to them. Their testimonies and their experiences were recorded for our good, as an additional witness. It doesn't replace or add to the Bible, it's just more testimonies.

 Reading it with her was seriously one of hte coolest experiences, though. I hope I get to read more with her in the future. Man, I just want to read the whole thing with her, haha! She just understands it so well.

 I think that's it for me.....2014 was a good year, and 2015 is going to be awesome!!! We don't have to wait until January 1st to have a new start, though. We have a Savior who gives us a brand new beginning whenever we ask for one, we can set goals everyday, and He helps us reach them!! :) I"m excited I don't have to stay where I"m at, but that I can keep growing and learning. Being a missionary has been an incredible adventure of ups and downs, and I love it. I've still never been happier in my life. <3

 Love you all!! Thanks for your support and your prayers!! I love and miss you! <3

 -Sister Stratford