Monday, May 26, 2014

"Come to the edge, allow Him to push, and fly."

Hi Everyone!

The mission meeting...with Elder and Sister Holland and Elder Hallstrom...let's see if I know how to begin...

I hope this letter doesn't come across prideful or boastful in any way, even though I do have great pride in this mission and all of the hard work everyone here puts in. The reason I am sharing this much is because this was a time that has changed not only my mission, but my life. I hope to share some points that may stand out and also influence those who are reading in some way.

I'm going to apologize in advance because the mission meeting is going to take a while to tell about--I've been dying to tell about it--it was amazing. President Packard encouraged us for months to be spiritually prepared for that day, and one thing is for sure--we all prepared. When the time arrived, we were all seated in the chapel, reading and praying 40-60 minutes early. We also had a strings quartet and piano playing prelude arrangements. The moment President and Sister Packard, Elder Hallstrom, and Sister and Elder Holland entered, we all stood, as I couldn't help but feel the immense amount of love coming from them. I couldn't believe Elder Holland was right there! I found myself among many other missionaries shed tears of gratitude and love for all that they do. Row by row, we went up to give Elder and Sister Holland and Elder Hallstrom firm handshakes.

The moment flew by, as I couldn't help but shed a few tears and be dazed, wondering how it was all happening. They gave friendly hello's and welcoming smiles as they locked eyes as Elder Holland later said, "Interviewed us with a handshake." Elder Hallstrom observed the name on my tag and he made sure he knew my name. I observed that he did that for every missionary. It was so cool. :)

The meeting began as President Packard conducted. The opening musical number by the string quartet and piano was (Great Grandpa Derrick's favorite)--Oh Divine Redeemer. The spirit felt so pure. It was powerful. It was breathtaking.

Elder Hallstrom began. He said the Packards--out of the 23 (or so) missions he is over, are as good as it gets. We all felt so much love for the Packards as weren't surprised to hear him say that. He and Sister Holland gave sweet talks about their love for us, the work of salvation, and how we are qualified as full time missionaries as we love Heavenly Father, the Savior, ourselves and those we serve with all of our hearts. When Elder Holland's turn came to speak, he began with how terrified he was to speak to us. He was filled with emotion and told us that when he shakes our hand, he is interviewing us. He said with tears coming down his face, with the exception of one or two (I hope it's not me) that this mission "gets it." And then he said, in all of his 25 years of being able to attend how many hundreds or thousands of missionary meetings, shaking the hands of thousands of missionaries, he had NEVER been to a better missionary meeting.

I think every heart in that chapel almost stopped beating at that point. President Packard must have been beaming.

Elder Holland took it from there--speaking in great power and conviction. He spoke about how his mission changed his life forever as he wants the same for ours forever and ever. He then continued by quoting the scripture "No man (or woman) having set his (or her) hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." He began to speak in his calm, firm voice about how we must stay true and then he exclaimed, "We need to you forever and ever!!" (Then pounded the pulpit) "Don't you deny the power and majesty of your mission. I cannot deal with that!! As we seek for these sheep, please tell me we don't have to worry about the shepherds! It's a given--we have always counted on the shepherds--and we have to count on you!" Elder Holland let out a desperate plea for not one of us to ever walk away from the truth and what we are teaching. He meant every word he said as he continued on the importance of returned missionaries never going inactive, as he "couldn't accommodate or manage it." Every hand in that chapel must have been hurting from scribbling notes as we soaked in every word to remember it for our lives.

A few other bullet points I wrote down during the meeting: We are God's investigators--everything we want for our people he wants for us. Forgive and repent. Forgive and repent. Forgive and repent. God is easy to please and hard to satisfy. Be persistent--be persistent without being obnoxious. Preach my Gospel was born to convert the missionary. There are examples in the Savior's life that demonstrate the process of going where the investigator is. In other words, to figure out what can connect them from where their understanding lies in their state of ignorance and apostasy, and lead it to where it needs to be through a spiritual experience. Near the end of the meeting, he emphasized Christ's words as many people judged who could have their hearts turned to "lift up your eyes" as "the fields are white, already to harvest" and however effective we are as missionaries, we are not effective enough as we must always strive to improve. By the end, Elder Holland reemphasized, "You are the finest mission I have seen in years...ah, I wasn't going to say that because I don't want your heads to get too big, but now I just blurted it out." This means that more will be expected of us, not less. Again, lift up your eyes, and be part of the solution and never part of the problem. Embrace and know the gospel. Find the link that will take them from the world they've been given to find the spiritual key that will touch their heart. No matter the question, the spirit is the answer. This work is not easy, "because Salvation was not a cheap experience" and how "the road to discipleship always goes through Gathsemane...Discipleship is to walk where he walked, talk what he talked, and to go through a little of what He did. We are not invited to bleed--we are invited to hurt a little for the sins of this generation." Elder Holland said much more on how our experiences don't compare to the Atonement's amount, but that we walk a similar path the Savior did.

Elder Holland spoke about how sometimes we are afraid to make large decisions or do things out of our comfort zone, but sometimes we need to come to the edge, as the Lord invites us to do so as He'll push us to fly. He said, "I came to the edge and was able to fly...I challenge you, in the name of the Lord, to fly." He left a beautiful apostolic blessing on all of us present right there and then, closed by inviting us to "come to the edge. Allow Him to push. And fly."

After Elder Holland closed, we all sang "The Spirit of God" as we all shed tears. Even Elder Holland appeared to be crying. It was powerful. It was emotional. I felt more moved and motivated. The feeling of Celestial glory in that chapel within its enclosed doors was unforgettable. Sister Harris and I couldn't help but put our arms around each other, embracing this moment. Before I knew it, the closing prayer was being said. Afterwards, when we all stood up when Elder Holland did as he blew a kiss and waved us goodbye, we all stood there. We couldn't help but feel the yearning desire for him to stay as the Nephites felt when the Savior was about to leave them as "he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them" (3 Ne 18:5). Once Elder Holland left, the sacred feeling remained there. Nobody sat. Everyone soaked in the powerful, Celestial feeling. Minutes passed. Then more. (If there wasn't carpet) a pin could have been heard if it dropped as everyone stood, pondered, and reminisced.

Slowly, President Christensen from our mission presidency went up to the pulpit and said in his meek and humble tone, "Thank you for coming spiritually prepared. I don't know if President is coming back, but we will dismiss the meeting, but if you'd like, you can write down the feelings you have and what you are going to do." There were so many feelings and emotions I wanted to record. I prepared in the best way I could for the meeting. During the meeting, I couldn't help but feel such a love from Heavenly Father, as He is pleased with what I have been doing, but to not give up in His work--to keep going. Keep improving. I couldn't help but remember right then the time I opened my call--hands trembling and the world seeming to spin as I read the Massachusetts Boston Mission--as I knew without the shadow of a doubt I needed to be here. It is a true blessing to be here at this time, surrounded by other disciples of Christ with these experiences and blessings poured from heaven. Sometimes I just need to remember to "come to the edge. Allow Him to push, and fly."

For such a time is this. As I could hardly breathe that afternoon while being engulfed by overwhelming feeling of peace, power, and the Savior's majesty, the quote came to mind "Life isn't measured by the number of breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away." How true that is. :)

There is seriously no greater work than this!

I love you all so much. I know Heavenly Father is mindful of each and every one of you--your needs, desires, concerns, and all.

As Elder Holland said, "Come to the edge. Allow him to push, and fly."

More next week.
Sister Roy

P.S. I was reading Elder Ballard's talk the other day about following up, so how is everyone's Preach my Gospel study coming along? Any new insights or ideas?

Here are a few pictures from Zone Conference:

The Restoration Display

One of the Portable Visitors Center (PVC) Displays

Sister Nielson

Our posterity! So much love is right here!

Monday, May 19, 2014

More Lessons Learned and Great Strides

Sister Harris and I at CF Great Strides Walkathon

Hey hey!

It's been another great week. I feel like the experiences from this week are a little all over the place so bear with me.

This week Sister Harris and I had another lesson with Yuri. We began to teach the Plan of Salvation as we discussed the Pre-earth life, the Creation and Fall, and why we're here on earth. During our lesson, Yuri would break in and share experiences he's had to follow the Savior's example by reaching out and serving others, and loving them no matter what. We tied his experiences as to how we can follow Jesus Christ while we're here on earth, because that's exactly what he's doing. He has a pure heart and wants to keep learning. His English continually improves and he's working to become a lawyer here in the U.S. We are blown away with how well he is progressing.

We also had another lesson with our investigator Mike at the Hovey's. I used to have a hard time understanding what his learning method was or how he was understanding what we taught. I've come to realize he shows his progression differently, but oh now I love that kid! Heavenly Father sure opened my eyes last night to see him for who he is. Since he is leaving for college soon, he opened up in last night's lesson how he wants to stay on the right path and make right decisions. He knows how many college students make poor choices by turning to the wrong sources or substances, but he wants to follow the Savior steadily. Our lesson last night was focused on the Atonement as we are in the middle of "Earth Life" in the Plan of Salvation. At the end of the lesson, I asked Mike how he would like to develop a more personal relationship with Jesus Christ, or in other words, what more he would like to do. I was going to ask if he would be willing to follow His commandments as he learns about them, but then Sister Hovey asked without fear "Mike, what about baptism?" We weren't going to bring it up before since his mom said at one point she did not want him to become Mormon (we will face that later--I know it will work out in the right timing), but holy smokes this felt so right at this time!!

Mike continued on how he was already baptized, since he was Catholic, so Sister Hovey taught about how the restored priesthood is vital and how children under 8 are not held accountable. He agreed that he didn't make the decision himself--that he's grown since then and thought more about what he wants in his life. At this point of the lesson, everyone in the room was still. The lesson was running over and I had to get home for treatment, so I told how we will teach more about baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost next time. I gave a brief explanation on what the Holy Ghost does, as it's the second part of baptism and would not be complete without it. Before I knew it, the words "As a representative of Jesus Christ, I testify to you..." spilled out as blessings were promised to him on how the Holy Ghost would fulfill his desires, ambitions, and provide direction for his future. I could tell right then, as I wasn't sure what was coming from my mouth, what he needed in his life and that he was ready. I was able to understand how he needs the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost in his life, and how he wants to follow Christ's example. Before we left, he promised he would set a few minutes aside to find a quiet spot, kneel down, and sincerely ask Heavenly Father if this is the right decision for him.

This morning I came across the scripture in Isaiah 55:8-9 that fit perfectly. "For my thoughts are‍ not your thoughts, neither are‍ your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 9 For as‍ the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

There are times where I may stubbornly assume or jump to conclusions on what will happen or how things are, whether it is based on what I observe of how situations seem to be going. However, I was reminded again of how the Lord often has a much more marvelous plan than what we can imagine. We may find ourselves setting boundaries based on what we see and observe in the moment. There's only so much we can comprehend or picture as to what He has in store. However, faith can step in as we can trust in how much more our Heavenly Father may have planned, simply out of love as He wants to give the provide the best He possibly can.

The rest of this week was filled with organizing area information and becoming involved in service opportunities to lift others up. It's been a little bit of an emotionally-draining week regarding CF matters. Some heartbreaking news that Sister McGill shared with us was that her family's close friend with Cystic Fibrosis passed away this week. He was also their son Tyler-- who is on a mission--'s best friend. Sister Harris and I weren't sure how much we could do besides praying for them, so we came up with the idea of making something for Sister McGill involving her all-time-favorite...Reece's. That's when the brilliant idea came--peanut butter cookies with chopped up Reece's inside. Ohhh sweet sugar they were so good. You have got to make them! Sister McGill said they were the best, so we were glad that we were able to help in a small way.

Something else happened this week I never thought would happen on the mission--Sister Harris and I were able to attend Great Strides! There was a family who was in our branch with a couple of teenagers with CF. They hadn't been to church in a while, but we thought we could support them by joining their daughter's team for the event. We got permission a while ago, so we headed to the Cape. I prayed hard that morning as it was pouring rain with strong winds that it would clear up in time. Surely enough, it did. 

The Cape Cod Canal...Great Strides Walkathon route along this
The walk was beautiful--right along the Cape Cod canal. We didn't think there would be much sunlight at all, but we were wrong, and there was an wasn't until we got home that we realized we were lobsters. Whoops. We tried to keep a safe distance from the two kids with CF, but I'll admit it was still very very nerve-racking. Sister Harris made a very good body guard and kept a good eye out. :) Overall, though, it was a good event and the family was glad that we were there to support them.

Well I better get going but I hope you all have a wonderful week. Did I mention that I CANNOT wait for Friday????? :D

Love you all so much,

Sister Roy

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Best Skype Call :)

Skype call with the whole family on Mother's Day...Alicia and new baby nephew, Josh on mission, everyone at home

It's been a great week!

Transfer meeting on Wednesday was a powerful one. Once again, all of the missionaries being transferred as well as the departing missionaries were there. However, now they allow members and investigators to also attend to feel the peace and spiritual strength from the talks by Sister and President Packard and the departing missionaries' testimonies. I'll tell must have been the most incredible transfer meeting I've been to. Sister Packard spoke on the importance of having desire for everything that we do, and that anyone who "has a desire to serve God is qualified for the work." A few of the testimonies born by the 16 departing missionaries had other missionaries, including myself, as well as President and Sister Packard moved to tears. A theme that seemed to carry throughout the meeting was how our lives can be changed as we place ourselves on the full altar of God, as it takes time. If we give our heart, then our Heavenly Father will help us through the difficult times and help us reach our full potential. There was also a Sister who got up and had to go home due to health challenges she faces. Her unwavering knowledge of the Savior and His plan for her, and her strength of faith, was very moving. One quote she said that stood out was "This was one of the hardest decisions I had to make, but I didn't make it--the Lord did." I always looked up to this Sister and you would never guess she faced the inner battles she did. She also somewhat knew of the challenges regarding CF, so there has been a connection between us while we've both been here. Overall, the testimonies born moved me to feel a greater desire to follow the Lord's will during my mission and thereafter.

At the end of transfer meeting, I joined with Sister Harris. It was also her Birthday! We are both "fun-size" and are very different but get along well. I'd say she is probably more quiet than I am, but I've already observed how she has a strong, powerful, growing testimony of the Savior and His Atonement. She is darling and must be one of the nicest people I've met. We are adjusting to figuring out what is best to do for the area, but are taking everything one step at a time through goal setting, organizing area information, working with the members, and more. We're already an awesome team.  

A great part of this week was our lesson with our new investigator Yuri, who I started to talk about last week. We finished the lesson on the Restoration. Thanks to Sister Harris's inspiration to watch the Restoration DVD with them which took up the majority of the time, but brought the Spirit in even more. (As a sidenote, his wife Solange said on Sunday that he made her watch it again after we left!) We can see how much Yuri wants to learn more and feels the confirmation that all that he's learning is right. We extended a baptismal date for him in June, but he's going to wait it out and see, as he wants to keep learning and to make sure he feels ready. He knows it will happen and is looking forward to when it comes. :)

The best part of this week was the call home for Mother's Day!!! Pure warmth still fills my soul from it. :) It was so neat to talk with everyone over Skype from California, Salt Lake, Georgia, and here in Massachusetts. It was a powerful experience while we were setting up to hear each other's voices from all over when we couldn't see each other, then one by one would appear. I also nearly teared up when I heard little Connor's cry for the first time, and to observe how close he is to Alicia. He sure is precious. :)

 I love how we all spoke about missionary work as Josh and I are both serving our missions. I loved how we shared neat experiences, laughed at times and somehow ended up singing Grandpa's songs at one point. It was a special Skype conversation I'll never forget. I truly am grateful to be part of this eternal family. :)

The quote I mentioned in our brief family testimony meeting over Skype has stayed with me over the week, especially since the Transfer meeting on Wednesday seemed to have a similar theme: "Consecration is the only surrender that is also a victory."  As we devote our lives with all our hearts to the Lord, challenges become more bearable, we gain understanding in His plan, and we enable ourselves to see us how He sees us.

I love you very much.

Sister Roy

P.S. #1: During our mission webex on Tuesday, President Packard shared a little bit about his experience of spending time driving Elder L. Tom Perry and Elder Rasband a couple of weeks ago. The main reason they came to Boston was because they have a particular concern that within 30 years, the freedoms of religion would be eroded and the government functions would make it more difficult. There's no need to worry about it to the point of causing fear, but they want community interfaith counsels to be more involved with each other. I found it interesting and decided to take note of it since they receive revelation from Heavenly Father.

P.S. #2: What else am I excited for in a couple of weeks? To hear and meet Elder Holland here! He's coming for a "Mission Meeting" for several hours. I simply cannot wait. :)

Monday, May 5, 2014

I'm Going to Miss Sister Nielson!

Behind the scenes...this is us.  You're welcome.

This week was pretty good! I'm surprised by all of the changes taking place, though. 

The news came in a few days ago...Sister Nielson is getting transferred! 

She is going to Revere (Reviuh), so I am truly happy for her to experience the city life, but sad to have her go. She was hoping to go to Boston at some point. More than that, she and her companion will be the only English speakers in the zone, as the others are Spanish Speakers. Hence, she will be able to eat much more spicy food. I also reminded her she'll be surrounded by black people in the city. All I can say is she was pretty thrilled to hear that. :)

My new companion will be Sister Harris. I'm not sure where she's from, but she's been out in the mission for 6 months. I know this branch will welcome her in--I just hope that I can do the best job that I can introducing her into the area. Leading the area can be stressful at first so all I can do is take it one step at a time by making plans, phone calls, setting up appointments...the list feels endless but I'm grateful there's a lot to do. 

Church yesterday was very good and uplifting. It was very emotionally tiring, though, so I'll explain why. To sum up Sacrament Meeting:

Picture a packed full branch, whose Branch President was about to submit the form to become a ward as we finally had enough people...all sit in shock with hearts sinking as a member of the Stake Presidency announced they are adjusting the branch boundaries. Fourteen families are moving to the Cape Cod branch (including the family I've shared about who I've had high hopes for who I can relate to through our similar lifestyles) and five are moving in. There were quite a few tears shed in testimony meeting as the families leaving expressed their love and gratitude for the branch members. Even more than that, there were a few youth, including Amy, who got up to let Sister Nielson know how much she has changed their lives and helped them through the hard times over the last seven and a half months. I know it was exactly what Sister Nielson needed to hear all along, as she had tears streaming down. I couldn't help but fight back tears as well as she has most certainly impacted my life.

 After Sacrament Meeting, Brother Blackwell pulled us aside to help out with his Sunday School class for the 14 and 15 year old's. Once again, he shared wisdom and sincere boldness that increased our motivation. He taught about several pointers, but one thought he kept emphasizing was "A testimony allows me to harness the wind." He shared how we should each strive to create an environment where the other individual--whoever it may be whom we are with--wants to change through the spirit we can invite. Once Brother Blackwell related this to what we do as missionaries, he complimented on the spiritual strengths he's seen for Sister Nielson and I. Since Sister Nielson didn't have the chance to bear her testimony in sacrament meeting, Brother Blackwell asked her to bear it. The emotional day continued. The tears came again and spiritual power filled the room. Sister Nielson related to the youth and shared how she's come to know over the mission the importance of having the gospel, and how they are already doing so. We were all uplifted right there and then through the power and her witness of the Restoration and the love that Jesus Christ extends to us.

During the rest of church, more people bade goodbye and expressed their love for Sister Nielson. There were a few who came up to me as well to show their gratitude and encouragement, which meant a lot as well.

There is a scripture that reminds me of all of these experiences. During my Book of Mormon studies this morning, I came across a verse that I've come to love more on the mission. Jacob 1:10 reads "The people having loved Nephi exceedingly, he having been a great protector for them, having wielded the as word of Laban in their defence, and having labored in all his days for their welfare--11 Wherefore, the people were desirous to retain in remembrance his name."

I felt that I could relate to Jacob as he wrote this. I bet Jacob felt he had huge shoes to fill, as he saw the influence Nephi played in his peoples' lives. Nephi protected them in every way he could spiritually. He did all that he could for them, which made them look up to him. Who knows if Jacob sometimes felt like he didn't do as much as his brother, but as he stated in verse 8 "I, Jacob, take it upon me to fulfil the commandment of my brother Nephi." I could sense he felt a great desire to take care of his people as Nephi did. To be honest, I can say that I can relate to Jacob in this sense, where he saw how much the people loved Nephi because how much Nephi took care of them. However, he had faith that the Lord knew how much he could do with the strengths and talents he was blessed with. I am still striving to discover all of them, but I know that the Lord still has a great work for me to do in Plymouth. I also know that we can look to Nephi's example in this scripture as we can do all that we can to protect those we are with--our families, our friends, investigators if we are missionaries, those we are in stewardship of for our callings...the list can go on. We are all surrounded by sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father who we can reach out to as we seek the Lord's help, as He knows them best.

For more shenanigans this week...we got a new investigator! He is the boyfriend (who we found out they got married secretly recently--that's another story I wish I had time for!) of a member from our branch. It is such a miracle!!!!! He is from Cape Verde so he is working on learning English, but it is coming along very well for him.  He began reading the Book of Mormon a couple of weeks ago, and he's already in Alma 11. He wants to gain knowledge for himself and to draw closer to Heavenly Father. As we started the first lesson last week with him, I once again felt the reassuring, peaceful, warm presence of Heavenly Father's love and understanding in their living room. Teaching a lesson like that was a moment I have been yearning to experience for a while!

There are a lot of potential investigators through media referrals, more church related events coming where people may attend, recent move ins and more that Sister Harris and I will be busy with for a while. There's going to be quite a bit of prioritizing and figuring out how to accomplish what's most needed. I'm not going to lose hope that we are losing quite a few families because I know that there's still so much good that can come from those moving in. :) I hope to fully apply Nephi's wisdom to spiritually protect Heavenly Father's sons and daughters here in the Plymouth Branch. The people here truly are amazing and my love for them continues to grow.

I love you all! Have an excellent week!

Sister Roy