Sunday, November 24, 2013

God Has a Really Good Plan For Our Lives

Hi family and friends!!       (11/11/13 email)

It's been a crazy, wonderful week. Lots of stuff going on over here. But learning and growing and loving every minute of it! It is really cool being able to see the Lord’s hand in your life helping shape me into the person that He knows I can become. I swear time is just getting faster and faster. I can't even believe it! 

Found a cute old man
Sooo what did we do this week.... This week we really focused on the less active members. It was great. We saw a lot of miracles. We have been working through the list trying to find those who haven't been contacted. We found this really cute old man named Claudio. He hasn't come to church in a long time, but when we found him he said that he know that God loved him because God had sent us to find him to bring back the lost sheep. It was the sweetest experience. You could just feel how much love Heavenly Father has for him. We are really excited to work more with them. It's hard though because everyone's work schedule is so crazy that it can be really hard to find people again. We just want to help this branch become stronger so badly. They are the sweetest people ever. I really just have such a strong, strong love for all of these people here. They have become such a part of who I am! 

We had an awesome correlation this week with our branch mission leader and members from the auxiliary presidencies. We started putting some ideas together to work on a branch mission plan. It is so cool to see the members catching the vision of the work of salvation! They are starting to learn how to all come together and build each other up.

Awkward (non)teaching experience
It's also hard to see people you love so much struggling with their testimonies. A few recent converts haven't been coming to church lately and it breaks my heart! I just want to help them so badly, but we are having a hard time figuring out what exactly the problem is. Praying hard for them! Manuel is doing really well. He came out to teach with us again this week. We had a former investigator that none of us had ever met before call us and set up an appointment with us. So we invited Manuel and he brought his whole family. It ended up being that man talking to us for over 30 mins basically trying to preach to us. It was the weirdest thing. He didn't even ask our names! Haha whenever we tried to speak he would just talk right over us. It was a bit frustrating haha. I just felt bad for Manuel and his family that they had to sit through that. 

Manuel’s efforts to keep the Sabbath Day holy
Manuel called us last night and asked us if we drink milk haha. We said yes and he told us he was dropping food off for us. We delivered milk, eggs, and frosted flakes! He was like missionaries work so hard and I just want to help them! We asked if there was anything we could do for him and he immediately said yes! He asked us to pray for him. They changed his work schedule so he has to work on Sundays again and he is super bummed about it. He has really been missing church and really wants to keep the Sabbath day holy. We are all praying for him and he said he would talk to his boss again today, please pray for him. It is soooooo important that he can keep coming to church! He has been really coming to all the activities though.

Juan and Ana are still just doing wonderfully. Their two older boys started listening to the lessons too! They have come to church for the past 3 weeks and said that they think it's true. They have so much faith, but they are nervous about trying to really figure out if it's right or not.

Sheep and going above and beyond the call of duty
We had exchanges on Friday with Sister Frishnecht. She is so sweet! It was really fun and a great, spiritual experience. We got to go to Yesenia's wedding with her. The wedding was great! We pretty much we're in the back the whole time preparing the food. Haha, Hna Maighan got to keep her hands stuck in a cooler that had a dead lamb in it for about an hour. I started off doing that, but a few seconds into it I'm pretty sure I grabbed an eyeball so I quit.  Then the next day was Karen and John’s wedding! Yay! It went so great. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. She got baptized! Almost the whole branch was there to support them. Haha there were so many people I couldn't even see her get baptized. It was such a special experience. John is a pretty reserved man, but at the reception he came up to me and thanked the missionaries for all that we have done to help his family. They are so special to me.

The furnace of affliction is good for you.
Well that's about it. Transfers are next week so I will find out on Saturday what is happening. I am pretty sure there will be some changes. I would love to be able to stay in this branch for a whole lot longer, but know that whatever happens, God has a really good plan for my life. Lately, I have just been really thinking about the experiences that He gives us to help is grow and refine ourselves. Sometimes the furnace of affliction is just the perfect refiner's fire to make us just a little bit closer to our divine potential. I am so grateful that I can have Jesus Christ as the anchor of my hope. Because of His Atonement, no matter what I go through or how many mistakes I make or how many flaws I have as a human being, I know that there is a way to overcome all of that. I am so grateful for that knowledge. I love you all so much! I miss you so much and just want you to know how grateful I am for every single one of you. My family is the most important thing to me!

Natalie and Hna. Demille

Love you bunches,
Hermana Haynes

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Gospel of Jesus Christ Changing Lives.

(From email of 11-4-2013)
Buenos dias familia y amigos!                                     

Como estan?? Espero que todo este bien con ustedes.Tuvimos una semana buena otra vez! No es una sopresa :) Just thought I would start off with a little espanol today. Haha but hi! How are you!

We all got iPad Minis.
We had another good week. I really have the hardest time remembering what we do with our time... We have SO many things that we do each week, sometimes it feels like we don't have any time in the field. We have an hour of personal study, companion study, language study, 12 weeks program for Hna Maughan, facebook, lunch, and 1.5 hrs to update records into our area book on our iPads everyday before we get out into the field. Plus district meetings, etc. These are all super important things though to help progress the work. This week the entire mission got iPad Minis! We already had them, but they are going to give us new ones soon with iOS7. So all the missionaries were pretty excited about that! They said soon the mission president, stake president, bishops, etc will all have access to our area books and planners. Isn't that so great? We are going to be able to work with the leadership so much more.

Last week we found a whole less active family that no one knew!
This week we really started working more focused on the less actives and recent converts. We decided we needed to filter through our investigators and only focus on the ones that are really going to progress (pretty much just Juan and Ana, and a few others - they are doing GREAT by the way!), and then focus all other time on the branch. We saw a lot of blessings doing that this week too. Last night we found a whole less active family that no one in the branch knew! The Uribe family! They got baptized 3 years ago and have 6 children. 2 of them are old enough to be baptized but aren't so we are really going to work with them! Hopefully prepare their children for baptism and prepare them for a temple sealing - eternal families! They are such a great family already and were really kind to us. I am so excited to work more with them.

The Relief Society and Priesthood are having a competition to unite the branch.
Yesterday we had this big meeting with the branch with all the leadership of the branch. We got together and the branch presidency talked about the statistics of the church - we have 1/3 people coming to Sacrament, etc. They talked about how General Conference focused so much on the rescue and how that really needs to be the focus of our ward. They talked about all the activities we have coming up before the end of the year and how we need to be focusing on reaching out to others and inviting and fellowshipping them. Then we went through every single person on the branch records - if anyone knew who they were, if anyone knew if their addresses and phone numbers were correct, if they actually were in the branch boundaries, etc... It was SOOOO great! They really want to get the records accurate so they can know who we actually have to work with. We knew a lot about the members and where they live and had a lot of new phone numbers, so we were able to help a TON. It is really nice to know that that information will not be lost now after we are transferred out of this area. It is so great to see the branch catching the vision of needing to help these people here in the branch. These past couple weeks they have really been focusing on Visiting and Home teaching. They have a competition between priesthood and RS that whoever gets higher percentages on their visits, the other auxiliary has to make them a dinner! (awesome idea from Hna Maughan!) A lot of them don't even know how to do their visits, so we are trying to work with the RS presidency to see how we can help teach people how to do that. They are trying to get everyone in the branch contacted soon, because on Nov 16th we are having a branch Thanksgiving dinner, and they are going to drop off a dinner for everyone who is less active! What a great idea! It makes me so excited to see us all uniting our efforts to really reach out to those who are in need. I just want all of these people to have the joy and blessings of living the gospel. I just want them to be happy and to be close to Christ! I know that this branch can really become strong. It will take a lot of work, sacrifice, time, and dedication, but it has SUCH great potential!

Manuel already sharing with others.
We took Manuel out to help us teach some lessons with us this week, and it was so great! He was just so excited about the gospel and all the blessings that it brought into his life. It was really cool, we took him to visit a less active family, and the dad from the less active family got super excited to help teach Manuel this new member, and just was bearing his testimony and teaching Manuel. The Spirit there was so great. We shared a powerful message about the Book of Mormon and how it is a protection in our lives. It was such a great lesson. The mother was crying by the end. And then, the next day... They came back to church! The dad said that his vacation from church was over! Yay! Haha at the end of our lesson, the dad told us to open our bags, and he poured in his kids halloween candy. It was so funny. Now we got a little bit of trick or treating too! Speaking of Halloween, we went to an English ward member's house and she had such a cute little Halloween dinner set up! We had green spaghetti and all this kind of stuff and she called it all kinds of cute names! We made some treats during lunch and dropped them off at the missionaries in our district, and then we spent the rest of the night at home studying. We weren't able to proselyte that day. 
We made little ghosts of each of the missionaries in our district to go with the Halloween treats!

Juan and Ana are reading the Book of Mormon.
Ana and Juan are doing really well! They came to the Visitor’s Center and watched the Joseph Smith movie and really liked it. We read 3 Nephi 11 with them this week,  and that was really powerful. They also came to all 3 hours of church yesterday, and 2/3 of their kids actually went to their classes! Ana is pretty quiet, but seems pretty interested. Juan is REALLY interested though. He always is so full of questions, but asks them out of sincere desire to know more, not out of a desire to deny it or confound us. He is really reading the Book of Mormon. Ana has been reading a little bit, and they have both been praying to find out if it is true. Ana said she has had a few dreams about the Book of Mormon too. They both said that they think it is true, but aren't 100% sure yet. They have such great potential. They are a really, really great family. At church yesterday the lesson was on the Law of Chastity. We haven't talked to them about that yet and they aren't married, so hopefully that went okay for them. Ana's 17 year old brother, Pablo has been learning too and seems pretty interested! He didn't go to church though. They have 5 kids and the 3 youngest are learning and liking it, but the 2 older boys always hide in their rooms and don't talk to us. 

Karen and John are actually getting married and baptized on this next Saturday. I think we should be able to go to it if we can find investigators to come! Karen asked me to speak at her baptism too, but I don't know if that is still happening or not. It would be better if a member did it. I am so happy for them though! They are such a changed family and will be such strength to this branch! 

Learning a lot from having two companions and going to the temple!
Being a trio is an adventure as always. It is really fun, but definitely a learning experience. I have been learning so much about how to have good relationships with people. This is great marriage prep! Hahaha. 

We get to go to the temple on Thursday! I am super excited! We also have a meeting on Wednesday for all the non-VC sisters because we are going to be helping outside at Christmas lights! Yay! I am so excited! On P-Days some of us sisters are have a choir practice because one day we are going to be doing the musical number for Christmas lights. I am excited! Speaking of that, Mom at some point in time (before Thanksgiving probably) if you could send me my peacoats and nice jackets/sweaters that would be nice. It is really starting to cool down and I think that if we are working outside at night for Christmas lights, I will probably be getting pretty cold. Maybe toss in a few pair of gloves? No rush on this though! 

Random side note, but I had dinner at a guy from my BYU ward's house this week! (Dallin Schnepf for all my BYU friends). Such a small world! 

Ways to grow my charity.
Well, I think that's all I got for you this week. I just want to end with the scripture in Matt 22:36-39. "Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." I have really been thinking about that lately. I have been trying to find ways that I can grow my charity and to increase my desire and ability to give selfless service. Sometimes I feel like I get so centered in my own world. But I am here to bless other's lives. I am here to help others and to strengthen and support them. That is why we are all here. I know that as we do that - as we really focus on other people more than ourselves, then we will be happier. It can be hard sometimes, but that is how true happiness comes. I also like to think about Christ and His example. He was so quick to forgive and so slow to offend. He gave so freely of Himself in every opportunity that He could. I want to be more like Him and I want to know Him better. I have been really trying to learn more about His life and to develop more faith in Him as my Savior and center my life more on Him specifically.

Well I love you all so much! And I miss you tons, especially as we are in this holiday season! But I would never trade this time for the world. I am so grateful to be here. I am so grateful for this opportunity to learn, grow, love, and serve. I hope you all have a great week!

Con mucho amor,

Hermana Natalie Haynes

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Beautiful Baptism!

Hi Family & Friends!                                                                       (From email of 10/28/13)

A beautiful baptism.
Oh man... I really can't remember what we did this past week. It’s still been a process of trying to figure out how to balance the two areas and everything, but we are learning! Our investigators have been really hard to find/get a hold of this week, so progress was a little slow, but we did have a beautiful baptism! We really focused on Lupe this week, and helping her get really prepared for her baptism. We met with her everyday and just really tried to keep her strong. On Wednesday, for Young Women's meeting, we went to the YW leader's house, and we taught a lesson on the law of chastity. It was really powerful. The three of us just all have really strong testimonies of how much keeping the law of chastity blesses your life, and how painful it will be if you don't keep it. We really just wanted to have a nice, safe environment to teach that to Lupe in, and thought it would be very helpful for all the other girls too if we could make things clear. Also, coming from people only a few years older than them (or for me - only one year older than some of them!), it would help them see how it is relevant in their lives. It went really well. Lupe's MiaMaids leader, Sister Reed, has been such a help in her conversion process. She has been there supporting Lupe through thick and thin. She is always there to give Lupe a ride, and she helped us out with so much! It is so nice to know that although Lupe doesn't have a family that is going to help her be strong in the gospel, at least she has great leaders that will really help her and love her.
Hna. Maughan, Lupe, Hna. Demille and me.
She already has her temple recommend!
The baptism went really well. We seemed to have a little bit of miscommunication with the branch leadership, so the three of us got there 45 minutes before it started, and the font was empty and nobody was there.... We were a little worried, but everything came together just fine, even though it felt a little rushed! :) Now, she has already gotten her temple recommend and the youth in the branch are going to do baptisms for the dead on Wednesday! She is so excited! Her less active family came to the baptism, and I think it really touched their hearts! I love her family sooo so much. You never really know what to expect from her family, but you know you are in for a good time!
Lupe's baptism

Some progress, some setbacks.
We weren't able to find either Arturo1 or Arturo2 home all week long, but we stopped by and had some really, really good conversations with their families, and hopefully planted some good seeds. Malia, Miguel’s aunt, dropped us this week too we think... She hasn't been answering the phone, and someone that lives with her always says she's not home when we stop by. But Juan and Anna really have some promising potential! They are super interested in the message and really want to learn more.

Also, someone we thought had dropped us, called us back and said he wanted to learn still! His name is Pablo. He is 19 and his girlfriend, Emilia has been taking the lessons and she wants to get baptized. He wants to learn because he knows it is so important to her and he wants to have an eternal family with her. It is the sweetest thing. We are excited to work more with him!

Focusing on strengthening this branch to support new members.
I know last week it sounded like we had a billion investigators, but this week, it seems to be winding down to fewer haha. But yesterday during Sacrament meeting, we just all had a strong impression that we really need to be focusing more on the less active members and recent converts. We need to make this branch strong, and that's the way to start. We are here right now to prepare this branch to be better prepared to bring in and retain the investigators and new converts. This past month, we have seen some recent converts starting to lose faith, or at least lose the action part of their faith. I don't want that to ever happen to anyone that I teach. It breaks my heart! I know that they still believe, we just need to work with them more – make sure they are included and taught, have opportunities to serve, etc. So, I think we are going to focus our efforts on working more with the members who need help, because there are a LOT of them. We have seen huge changes in this branch in the past couple of months, and they are just going to keep on progressing!

The branch president, Pres. Lopez is great. He has 6 kids. He has been a member for 25 years. His wife introduced him to the gospel in Mexico. President Lopez is so dedicated to his calling. He really loves the individual and goes out of his way to serve everyone that he can. I think from the moment he gets off of work until the moment he goes to bed, he is working on his calling (I wouldn't be surprised if he does it even when he is at work!) I don't think his family sees much of him. It is probably hard for them, but they will be so blessed. Hna. Santos is the Relief Society President. She just moved into the branch 1.5 years ago. She has 3 kids, and she is great too. This branch really needs people as dedicated as they are!

Training and clothing swap!
This week, we had a special training for all the sisters in the mission! It was so great! Sister Jenkins shared a great message with us, and then we were taught about nutrition, exercise, and how to properly dress. Haha so cliché but it was fun! And then we brought all the clothes that we didn't want anymore and had a giant grab bag (clothing exchange). We also had interviews with President Jenkins this week. I can't tell you how much I absolutely love and admire President and Sister Jenkins. They are so great. They really love and care for us, and I know that they are so dedicated to the Lord. I feel it is such a privilege to serve in the mission they preside over! President Jenkins is such an inspired man. He always says exactly what I need to hear. And Sister Jenkins just is full of love for everyone. I hope you get the opportunity to meet them at some point. 

How the  branch works and the Trunk or Treat.
On Saturday, we had the ward trunk or treat! It was combined with the English ward that we meet with, the Olive ward. The youth program (Primary & YM/YW) meet with the English ward for the 2nd and 3rd hour of church. The branch isn't strong enough yet to support their own youth program, but they are trying to get some members of the branch into the youth programs to train them. But only the people that speak English can serve in there. It was super fun! They don't really have a carnival or games or anything like back home though. They had a chili cook-off (which the Latinos have no idea what chili is, so they just ate :)) and then the trunk or treat. It was fun!
Natalie and her companions with a couple of recently baptized sisters at the ward Trunk or Treat.

The three Hermanas with Sis. Stewart.  They live right behind Sis. Stewart's house.

Well, that pretty much sums the week up! I absolutely love being in a trio. It is so fun. It is like I am always with two of my best friends! They are both so great, dedicated, and hard working. We are still learning the balance of teaching with 3 people, but it will come with time! I learn so much from my companions and I really love them. 

My testimony of daily scripture study, and how I have changed because of it.
I just want to share with you today my testimony of daily scripture study. There is a quote from President Packer that says a daily study of the Book of Mormon for 30 minutes every day will bring a great spiritual power into your life. I started doing that a year ago, and I can't tell you how true that is. I feel like looking back at myself and who I was in high school, I am a completely different person - for the better. And I know that I was able to learn so much and change so much because of the time that I dedicated to receiving revelation from the Book of Mormon. I know that this book has been given to us as a personal guide for our lives. Study it, Love it, Apply it. Just eat it up! I know that God wants to talk with us and give us revelation for our lives, and the Book of Mormon is how He can. The Bible is so great too. I have started reading the 4 Gospels this week and I love it! It is so great to learn more about the earthly life of Christ. President Jenkins has challenged us all to read all of Preach My Gospel by the end of the transfer. We read 5 pages a day. Today we are on page 100! That book is so inspired. I learn so much from it each day. I would encourage all of you to do this along with us! 5 pages everyday until you finish! Also - STUDY JOURNAL. Just do it. You will thank me later :) 
Studying the scriptures daily has changed my life.

Very special baptism!
Okay! Well, I still love you all! You are the best! OH I just remembered! We don't teach Karen anymore (the elders do), but we had dinner with her this week! She is getting baptized November 2nd! Ahhhhh that family is so special to me. It just filled my heart to be back in their home. Seriously, some of the most special people to me. It is so good to see that they are still doing well! 

Love and miss you all! You are the greatest!

Con MUCHO amor,

Hermana Haynes