Sunday, December 10, 2017

New Companion

I read a quote in the December Ensign that really stood out to me from the Portraits of Faith series (page 75). This woman said:   "Truth is truth, regardless. You don't have to argue it. You don't have to prove it. It just is. It's real; and it's real for everyone."  So many people think truth is relative, but we know it's not. I'm grateful for that understanding.  

 I also received new insight from Jeremiah 31:35. It mentions "the ordinances of the moon," and I was confused, so I looked at the footnote. With 'ordinance' there, the footnote says, "OR established courses." When explaining ordinances to people on the mission, I've always said that it's the steps we need to take to achieve exaltation. But in reading this explanation of the word - 'established courses' - I was struck by how Christ established the way and course for us. Of course, this was something I already knew, but it helped me understand and have more of an appreciation for the word itself and what it really means - each of them is part of the Lord's established course for us.

It was a bit of a slow week for a few different reasons.  I'll miss Sister Fuimaono (she's getting transferred) I'm looking forward to getting to know my new companion and new transfer! 

 But we saw some HUGE miracles this week!! The first was with a sweet couple that I met OVER A YEAR AGO with Sister Cedeno, and I've ended up serving with them in my area for the majority of my mission (they're right on the border of the branch and the ward). I've been trying to get in with them for that whole time, because the few times that I did catch them they always made appointments and were super open and seemed like they would be really receptive - they just have busy schedules and were never actually there when we went for appointments.  But this Tuesday, we had an appointment, and they were there and they let us in, and after A YEAR of trying to teach them we taught them the restoration - and they were super receptive! They said they'd pray about it and read the pamphlet (we didn't have a lot of time and didn't teach the whole lesson). They already have Books of Mormon, and they've actually been to Nauvoo of all places (they have family that lives in Illinois and they went by one day, just curious). They went to the Gilbert temple open house twice and loved it and are very open to learning more.  It was just incredible to me, that over a year later, they finally became investigators! I almost cried when they let us inside the house and we sat down, I've had so much love for them since the first time I've met them and really have wanted to share this with them! We're trying to go by them tonight, their schedules really are a bit unpredictable, so pray that we'll get a hold of them!​  ​

We also had a great lesson with Gloria and her daughter, and it was so cute to watch Gloria teach her daughter about Joseph Smith and bear her testimony without even really knowing that was what she was doing. Ana was very engaged and interested, and we talked a lot about how she can pray and receive answers to her prayers.

  ​The choir is sounding good! We had a rehearsal going through all the numbers last Thursday and it
went well.  Sister Wheeler said she could really feel the spirit, so that's what's important!​

​We've been able to get in with some less actives who NEVER open the door and melt their hearts a little by offering to cook dinner for them! Service really does go a long way, which is why #LightTheWorld is such an inspired initiative.  As we serve people and show our love for them and the love that God has for them, it will warm their hearts and they'll remember it when the time is right.  They're our brothers and sisters, and we get so much joy out of serving them ourselves!  

Sister Neahusan (my new companion) just came into the gym and literally ran up to me screaming, "Are you so excited to be companions????" before tackling me in a hug. Pretty good start to the transfer haha​ 

Love,
Hermana Garner

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Thanksgiving Dinners

We were able to talk to a lot of people about the Christmas concert this week. I love that Christmas is coming up! It's an easy way to get people to be more receptive, and the Christmas concert is an opportunity I'm super excited about. There's a special power in music, a special power in the Christmas season, and a special power in missionaries bearing testimony - and when you have all three at once, it's a powerhouse. It's truly exciting and humbling to be able to be a part of it.   

So ... Thanksgiving.  ​It was a really great day! In the morning, we had rehearsal for the Christmas concert, and it's sounding really good! I'm humbled that I got to be such a big part of it and as always with anything I put on, it's fun to see it start coming together. It's been a little stressful, adding that onto regular proselyting work, but also brought me a lot of joy and helped me be more in tune with the spirit.   The rest of the day was basically dinners. We weren't allowed to leave the house without having an appointment, and the only appointments you get on Thanksgiving are for dinners. 


    First, we had an early dinner with some of Hna Fuimaono's extended family - she had no idea they lived here, had never met them before, but found them while tracting with Sisters Hanson and Neahusan.  They were so welcoming and it was so fun to be at their house. We got to share a short message about gratitude, and I prayed in Samoan, which touched them. It wasn't very good haha but at least I tried! Sisters Cedeno and Weyand were also there, it was so fun to be able to see them so much this week while they were visiting! We still have leftover cornbread and sweet potatoes from them in our fridge, the sweet potatoes were reeeeealllly good.   

Then we went to the Aguirre's - that's the family that sent you the picture. They're an amazing family,
they're converts to the church of about five years and incredibly strong. The oldest son just got back from his mission in the Dominican Republic, and Brother Aguirre is the assistant ward mission leader. They took us to the Christmas lights with Gloria and her daughter on Friday, which was so fun!  
  Next, we went to the Hoffman's. It was just us, the elders, Brother and Sister Hoffman and their son. It was a tender, intimate dinner where we were able to really talk about the purpose of the season as we sat there. They're from Venezuela, and they made a traditional dish that they make for Christmas there called pan de jamon. It was AMAZING -  as soon as I ate it I was in love. They gave me four pieces to take home, and I enjoyed it even more for breakfast the next day when I wasn't so stuffed haha.  

Those three were pretty traditional Thanksgiving dinners, but then we went to the Lopez's house for our last one and I got to see how hispanics celebrate Thanksgiving! It was so much fun, there was music and dancing and a really, really good cocoa. Everyone was just hanging around and enjoying each others' company, it was the Lopez's whole family and then a bunch of their friends from the ward. They're such a great family,

Sisters Cedeño and Weyand came to surprise Gloria
   Compared to Thursday, Friday was very slow, but we had an awesome experience at the Mesa Temple Christmas Lights with Gloria and her daughter. she was obsessed with taking pictures of everything, which was cute to see, and you could tell that both of them felt the spirit as we walked around and looked at the nativities and talked a little about what it all meant.  Gloria is so happy to have her daughter here finally, it's sweet to see. Gloria is jumping right into teaching her everything, and she's already set aside a night every week for Family Home Evening and really wants to keep that spirit in her home always and help her daughter feel it.   Going through their presentation of nativities got a little emotional for me, to be honest. It was like a mini (VERY mini) version of the creche in Morristown, and it made me miss New Jersey. It also made me miss setting up my nativities with you, Mom, and wish I could be a part of that. But I wasn't exactly feeling homesick, just feeling love for all of you!
with Sister Weyand

  Saturday we got a surprise call from some of the sisters in our zone asking me to accompany one of them for a musical number for a baptism. She already had a song picked out, and it was one I'd never played, so I was really nervous I wouldn't be able to do it. It was definitely rough ... but in general, I can see how my sight-reading has improved a lot with being on the mission and being asked to play all the time. Still, I wished it was better. But the spirit was there! It was a sweet old man getting baptized, he just started coming to church on his own and the first conversation he had with the missionaries started with, "I like this church, how do I join?" Why can't that happen all the time??? lol​  

Love,
Hermana Garner



Lunch with mi mamá de misión!!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Working With Lots of Great People!

Monday night, we didn't have a lot of time, but we decided at 8:00 PM to try to go by a family. We showed up just as they were pulling into their driveway. We were able to get their phone numbers, then they said, "Do you want to come inside?" We all sat down around the table, and it turns out that one of them has been independently searching for a church and had decided to come to ours on Sunday.  We talked about our purpose as missionaries and how we can know that God is really there and taught her how to pray. We asked her if she would be baptized if she knew this was all true, and she said yes and committed to be baptized on December 9th! ... The only sad part of this story is that they didn't come to church like they said they would, so we're going to go by tonight and hopefully figure out what happened. 

 One person did come to church, whose going to an English ward closer to their house, but they went with Sister McKeen and are excited about it. We've started teaching the daughter and she has a lot of questions. It's so fun to watch her mom teach her, and be so excited to share the gospel with her daughter. She's already set a night for family night and wants us to come whenever we can. This Friday we're going to the Mesa Christmas lights with them, which I'm excited about!​  ​

Hermana Garner with one of her new friends! 
Another young woman we are teaching didn't get to go to church (she also goes to an English ward closer to her house) but her father said he would go WITH her next week, which we're excited about. She has great support in that ward. The Young Woman's president is amazing - she took her to Deseret Book and bought her her own set of scriptures with her name on them, and has been willing to drive to Phoenix to pick her up for church when she's with her mom over the weekends! I want to be that devoted to service when I return home. We sometimes have trouble getting in touch with her, but we're going to start having regular lessons before mutual, so that'll be great. She's already telling everyone she's going to be baptized.  She went to the New Member Fireside with us last night  and said she felt the Spirit a lot and felt direction from the Lord.  ​

As we were trying to contact some potentials and new investigators, we met a man (who I'd actually met before, but never had a full conversation with). We'd talked to his wife a couple weeks ago and she seemed super interested, but when we were talking to him he kept saying he already knew about the church and saying that we needed to study the bible more. It wasn't in an antagonistic way, he was just emphasizing how much he believes in the bible, but he was talking about how the bible says not to add to the gospel, and he thinks the reason his wife's interested in what we're saying is because she doesn't know the bible as well as he does and doesn't know that we're adding to it. Though I didn't say that, I was struck by the truthfulness of that scripture - that we must not add to the gospel of Jesus Christ. What people don't understand is that the Book of Mormon doesn't add to the gospel at all - it's the same gospel, just another witness of it. We didn't try to argue with him about it, though, but we did talk about the importance of relying on the Lord to help us understand the scriptures, and by the end he agreed to read a pamphlet and pray about it, which to me was a small miracle. 

The choir is sounding great for the Christmas concert, I'm so excited about it! We also had a review of all the small group numbers this Saturday, and I was super impressed by them - they sound so good!  They're all so talented! 

I've been really bad at sharing my scripture study the past couple of weeks, and I apologize for that! But here are some of the thoughts that have stood out to me the most recently. 

 In Isaiah 28:24-29, Isaiah talks about how the plowman doesn't treat every plant the same, but he knows that they each need something different to grow. He compares this to how the Lord will harvest the earth, and it made me think more about our individual journeys to conversion. Everyone has a different story, and what brought me to Christ and to know of the truthfulness of the gospel is very different than what has brought others that I know to that same knowledge. But the Lord knows exactly what we need to grow, so that He can harvest us up to Himself. 

 I shared D&C 64:33 a while ago which is the one that says, "Be ye not weary in well-doing..." and while reading in Isaiah 40:28-29, I was reminded of it. Isaiah says, "Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?" Well, duh, right? But what's important to us is the next verse - "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength." It's so comforting to know that we can and do receive strength from one who never wearies, who is always strong. Thus, the commandment of "Be ye not weary" can really be seen as an invitation - "Come to me, and I will strengthen you, that you may do my work." 

  ​Last fun little tidbit for this week - I've been learning how to pray and testify in Samoan! So I say most of my prayers in Samoan now, though it's very broken Samoan haha.

Ou te alofa mo otou uma lava! (I love you all!) 
 Hermana Garner

Monday, November 13, 2017

More Miracles!


It never ceases to amaze me the miracles I see on the mission. I don't know why I'm always surprised, but I constantly am by just how active the Lord is in His work. It's because we are His children, and He truly loves us and wants us to come back home. It's humbling to be able to feel a portion of that love and help Him in this important work. 

 Wednesday was zone conference, and every zone conference we have car inspections. So we got there a little early so we could refill the coolant and things (they always have supplies available) and when we went to open the coolant it started boiling over. So ... that's not good. After zone conference we ended up having to go all the way to the dealership to drop it off, and then we were stranded in Gilbert and had to find a ride back home.  
flat tires from running over goats head thorns

And as a result of all of that, we didn't have a car on Thursday for exchanges, so we were on our bikes all day. And as you can see from the pictures I sent  ... that didn't turn out so well haha. We ended up stranded halfway to an appointment and had to call the other sisters for a ride back to the house.   




But then, we were walking to WalMart to buy tubes for our tires and I heard someone call my name! Natalie Giddens (one of Herman Garner's young women's leaders forom when we lived in GA) came up to us! Turns out she lives in our area, and she actually ended up giving us a referral. We stopped by the next day and also made a dinner appointment, so we're eating dinner with them this next Thursday :) 

 We finally got the car back that night, and headed to an appointment. We had a great lesson, reading Mosiah 18 and talking about becoming converted and the choice to be baptized. We extended December 2nd as a baptismal date, and they both accepted!!  The spirit was so strong! They are both diligently seeking truth! 

  Friday night, we organized a night of going on splits with a bunch of ward members, and I went out with Sister Dickinson, the relief society secretary. She's from Ecuador and she's absolutely hilarious, and really sweet. That morning, Sister Fuimaono and I had planned what we each wanted to do while we were on splits, but as Sister Dickinson started driving none of it felt right. So, we said a prayer, and eventually ended up at the house of a family that's been on our potentials list for a while. When we got there, the 13-year-old daughter answered the door, and she was clearly happy to see us. Long story short, she had taken her mom's Book of Mormon and started reading it, even though it was in Spanish and she doesn't really know how to read Spanish. So she was thrilled when we gave her an English one. We taught her how to prayer, and in her prayer before we left she said, "And please help me because I really do want to know if the Book of Mormon is true." We have an appointment with them tonight and are excited to get back in! The older sister came out at the end and asked for her own Book of Mormon as well, and they both told us that the dad has been hoping we would stop back by soon.  

  We're definitely looking forward to this week and hoping that we'll be able to put more people on date and help them to find the joy of the gospel! 

Love,
Hermana Garner

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Tender Mercies 6 & 7: Finding Happiness and Learning to Forgive

First day of 6th grade. New state, new school - new life.

It would be an understatement to say that I was nervous.

But I went in with high hopes. When I saw Rachel in the hall - the one person I new in my grade, since she was a member of my ward - I smiled and waved, but unfortunately she wasn't in my class.

That's okay, I thought. I'll just make new friends.

Sitting down, the shocking realization that everyone around me was speaking another language momentarily put me into a catatonic state. I knew we lived close to Mexico, but I hadn't really thought about how close and that I would suddenly be a minority in my community.

It was overwhelming.

But again, how exciting, to be able to have this new experience and learn about a culture that was different than what I'd always grown up with!

The day went by quickly, and before I knew it I was in line waiting for the bus. Two girls sat in front of me, chatting away in Spanish. One of them turned to face me, and I felt my heart jump a little with the anxiety any new kid feels.

"Do you speak Spanish?" she asked brightly.

"No," I said with a bit of a sheepish laugh. "I just moved -"

"Oh, good!" she said, sounding relieved, then turned and continued to animatedly talk to her friend.

***

A few months passed, and I felt like I'd begun to find my place in this new world. I was learning a few Spanish words, but still couldn't join in many of the conversations my peers were having. But that was all right, they all spoke English too!

I'd joined a few school clubs - band, music appreciation, theatre - and was enjoying developing my talents. I'd also made an amazing friend - we'll call her Sandra - and spent most nights at her house playing with her dad's old typewriter and recording equipment.

She was in my classes, and we were almost inseparable. Every activity we did, we did it together. She even came to some church parties with me and enjoyed them!

Things were much better than they had been at the beginning of the year, and I was starting to feel like I fit in.

***

I don't remember when it was - sometime about halfway through the school year - but I arrived at school, and no one would talk to me. Not even Sandra. I told myself I was imagining things, but when we went outside to recess, and I went to the usual spot to hang out with my friends - no one joined me. In fact, they moved to the opposite end of the field, and kept moving further away from me when I tried to join them.

What is going on?

I ended up giving up on trying to join them, and went to sit on one of the swings. The playground almost immediately emptied of all the students in my grade. I watched them scatter from my presence like wild animals that sense danger.

Finally, after about 10 minutes, Victoria started heading towards me. She seemed somewhat hesitant as she sat on the swing next to mine, but managed a smile.

"How are you?" she asked.

"Confused," I said, frowning as Sandra and I made eye contact for just a moment before she immediately turned away. "Why is everyone avoiding me?"

Victoria hesitated, but then sighed. "Because of what Sandra said."

My eyebrows shot up in shock. "What - What did she say?"

The rest of recess, Victoria told me how Sandra had spread all my secrets throughout the school (as horrible as a 6th graders secrets can be) and dozens of lies as well, saying I said things I never did, that I stole from her, that I was a liar - and many more horrible things I never thought people actually said about each other.

That night, I went home and cried for hours. I cried every night for at least a month.

***

Victoria was practically the only person who talked to me at school. I was grateful for her friendship, but that didn't make everything else that much easier. Still, she was someone to lean on.

But I was not happy. I wanted to go back to Utah desperately, where I knew I had friends and I wasn't ostracized by my class. Or at least, I wanted the school year to end so I could move on to middle school and hopefully make friends with people who didn't think I was a thief and a liar.

It was in the middle of all of this that I turned 12 and joined Young Womens. I was immediately introduced to the Personal Progress Program.

Well, I had no friends to really spend time with, so what else was I going to do with my time?

I jumped head first into completing my projects to get my medallion. And suddenly, I found that I was happy again. People still didn't really talk to me, and they still made fun of me, but as I developed my faith, divine nature, individual worth, and other values, I didn't feel alone. I started to recognize who I was, that I was a daughter of God, that my family was still there for me, and that they always would be.

And that, above all, Heavenly Father had a plan for me, and that plan included being happy.

The next year was full of rich, rewarding experiences that brought me closer to my Father in Heaven and healed broken bonds with my friends and acquaintances at school. I did move on to middle school, and I met some amazing people. And before I turned 13, I'd earned my Personal Progress medallion.

***

As 7th grade ended, so did my time in South Texas. The last day of classes, I boarded a plane with my family to our next stop on our journey - New Jersey. I didn't know what to expect, but I was looking forward to a fresh start - and I knew that, no matter what happened, Heavenly Father would make it all work out, because that's what He did for me in Texas.

But as we got settled in our new house, there was a weight on my shoulders dragging me down - the bitterness I felt towards Sandra for what she'd done. There were so many things that would have been different if it hadn't been for her! I wouldn't have struggled so much, I would have had more friends, gone to more activities ...

One day, as I was again reflecting on this, a scripture came to my mind: "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men." (D&C 64:10)

Letting out a deep breath, I asked for strength from the Lord to forgive Sandra, a girl who I at one point had called my best friend. And when I'd worked up enough courage, I picked up the phone and dialed her number.

"Hola?"

"Hi ... is Sandra there?"

"Yes she is, just a minute ..."

I let out another breath until I heard her voice on the other line.

"Hello?"

"Hey, Sandra," I said softly. "It's Tiffany."

There was a long, uncomfortable silence. "Hi ..."

"So, I - I just wanted to call to say sorry," I muttered out.

There were plenty of things I'd said over my time in Texas in my anger that I shouldn't have, and the spirit was helping me recognize that and feel sorrow for not being more Christlike, whatever another person's actions had been.

"Sorry?"

"Yeah, for being rude to you," I said. "And ... I wanted to let you know that I forgive you, too, and I really, really hope you have a good school year."

Another awkward silence followed. "... Okay."

After a few more awkward exchanges, we both hung up. And the burden I'd felt on my shoulders was gone.

I couldn't stop smiling, feeling so much gratitude to my Father in Heaven, and truly wishing the best for Sandra.

A little bit later, I called Victoria, my one really close friend from Texas. A couple minutes into the conversation, she said, "I thought you would miss me more, but you sound so happy!"

I just laughed, smiling widely. "I do miss you, but ... I am happy. Really happy."

Monday, November 6, 2017

Jesus, Others and You

Not that much to report on for this week. It was a bit slow - we weren't able to get in with a lot of people, and both Sister Fuimaono and I have been sick - but we persevered and did see miracles from it!   

Yesterday we had a regional conference where Elder Cornish, Sister Marriott, and Elder Christofferson spoke, so it was STACKED. It was all about service and how service is what brings us joy - the other 70 that spoke said that 'Joy' can be broken down as am acronym: Jesus, Others, and You. When we focus on things in that order, that's when we find joy. It made me rewrite 2 Nephi 2:25 In my head: "Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might serve."  

 The ironic thing about all of that is that, while serving this week, I got a concussion. It was really stupid. I was under an overpass picking up trash and didn't think about the fact that there was a road right above me, so ... I banged my head. So Saturday was spent in Urgent Care getting checked out. It's a very minor concussion, nothing to really worry about, but it's definitely made it a bit hard to focus and typing this email isn't very pleasant. But I'm grateful I can still work!  

Highlights of the week, though - Tuesday, we got to go to the temple while everyone else in the world
We got to go with Gloria to the temple to do baptism for the dead
was trick or treating, and it was such a special experience. It was definitely one of the times that I've learned the most while in the temple, and I got to talk to Sister Wheeler in the celestial room about some of the symbolism and came to understand and appreciate it better.

Friday, we had an incredible lesson with a new investigator. She's very strong in her own beliefs, and you can tell that she has an earnest desire to follow God. As we were speaking, she acknowledged that she'd never heard any of this before and expressed her concerns, we testified of how she could know for herself and she immediately agreed to read and pray. Despite her doubts, she wants to know the truth and is very open to not knowing everything and gaining a better understanding. She's so humble! She also just has the cutest
I saw one of my STLs from the MTC at the temple
family ever and a genuine light of happiness and gratitude to our Savior.

 Thursday was awesome with choir practice - we were really focusing on the words of the songs, and I expressed to the missionaries that I wanted to feel their testimonies as they sang. We were about to sing Joy to the World, and we just talked about the wonder and majesty of the Lord's birth and what it means for all of us. When they started singing, I was hit with a wall of the spirit - dozens of missionaries bearing their testimony with the power of the spirit behind it at once. It brought me close to tears, and I actually had to take a step back and just breathe when they finished singing the song. I feel so privileged to be able to work on this concert and have such a testimony of the power of music!

Love,
Hermana Garner

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Tender Mercy 5: Pushing Through

I had planned on focusing on past experiences and writing them in story form so it was a bit more engaging, but today is different. Because today, I have a concussion - MINOR concussion, mind you, but it still hurts. It's been hard to focus and my head has been pounding all day.

This morning, after a meeting we had with the bishop, I asked the elders to give me a blessing. In that blessing I was promised strength to be able to overcome what I was facing as I put forth my best effort.

So after dinner, when I felt like I was going to throw up what I'd just eaten and couldn't even imagine trying to teach the gospel, let alone in Spanish, I resisted the urge to tell my companion I needed to go lay down. I thought to myself, "You can do it, at least for a little while."

After each person we visited, I found myself tempted yet again to say, "Sister Fuimaono, my head is killing me." And she, being the observant person that she is, wasn't ignorant of how I was feeling (and on another note, didn't feel great herself today). She kept asking me if I was sure I was okay, and I thought back on the blessing and said yes.

I can knock one more door.

Almost 3 hours later, we headed home to do our studies. And after that last door - spending all the time we could proselyting - my headache subsided considerably. Yes, it still hurts, but much less than before.

I know that's a direct blessing from the diligence I showed today to the Lord. I wish I could say that every day I'm that diligent - the sad truth is, I'm not. But we don't ever have to wonder if our effort is worth it, no matter how painful the process - there's always something better waiting for us on the other end of the trial.