Monday, February 26, 2018

"To Love Another Person is to See the Face of God"

Last night, I had a bit of a hard time sleeping, and for some reason I started thinking about Les Mis. I really don't know why. But as my mind ran through the lyrics, this line from the finale stood out to me:  "To love another person is to see the face of God."  

In church on Sunday, I was asked to bear a short testimony since it would be my last Sunday in the branch, and I felt impressed to share the story in John 21:15-17 ... "So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.  "He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.  "He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep."  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is love. It is looking beyond yourself to something greater and far more important than the day to day - to eternal salvation. And our own eternal salvation is found as we focus on others. 

 For the past eighteen months, I have been privileged to devote my time to serving my fellow men and to serving God. I have seen people at their worst and their best. I have celebrated with them, mourned with them, and helped them through the day to day. They've helped me through the day to day as well. I have seen the Lord put me in people's lives - and put others in mine - at exactly the moment when they were ready to give up. I have felt sorrow as they have decided to turn another way, and rejoicing as they've accepted the love of our Father in Heaven and allowed it to change their lives. I have felt my own love for those around me expand to measures that I hadn't imagined were possible.   And as I have loved these people, I have seen the face of God. I have seen His hand in their lives and in mine. And I have felt His love for me more than ever before. 

 This isn't an experience that only missionaries can have. The commandment that Christ gave to Peter remains in force for each and every one of us. If we truly love Christ, we will serve Him by serving others (Mosiah 2:17). And as we do so, we will find that we love Christ even more than before, and that we are loved by Him in ways that we cannot fathom.  I want to continue being a tool in the Lord's hands for the rest of my life on earth and in the life to come. There are so many around us who are in pain and searching for the truth. Let us not leave them groping in the darkness, but be a light to lead them home - whether or not we wear a badge.  

Hermana Garner

service project

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Bit of a Tough Week

We've been struggling a bit this week. We haven't been finding anyone to teach, and the people we have been teaching have either plateaued or dropped off the face of the earth.   One investigator really seemed to be having a breakthrough in his personal understanding of the gospel. But on Saturday, he sent us a text asking to meet up in the morning for just 5 minutes. With him, just 5 minutes isn't possible, so we were a bit worried that he wanted to keep it short. We met him at the church, and he told us he was going back to Mexico to help his family with a transition - and he didn't know when he'd be back.   We were disappointed, but said we'd see him when he got back and we'd keep in touch. He doesn't have Facebook or Whatsapp or any communication really other than text, and he said his phone doesn't work in Mexico. So at this point, we're praying for missionaries to find him wherever he is and that he'll keep building the desire on his own and not forget what he's experienced here. He was so sweet, though, he gave us a card saying thank you for everything and a $50 gift card to Applebees.
  Saturday night, we went to another investigator's house and helped them in the yard, and afterwards played the Gospel Game of Life - we took the game of life and made our own cards for it with choices related to the gospel. It was actually super fun! The point of it was to help see how the decisions we making now can move us forward or hold us back. Life really is so much easier when we follow Heavenly Father's plan for us! 

 On the bright side, I found out that someone who was baptized is going back to church!!! I'm so happy!! 

It's weird to imagine not being a missionary. I'm not sure I'll know what to do with myself. Everyone keeps bringing up how little I have left and I kind of just want to forget about it haha. But as bittersweet as it is, I am looking forward to the next chapter. And it's amazing that I'll get to still be easily in contact with those I've come to know and love here in Gilbert!

Hermana Garner

Sunday, February 18, 2018

An Incredible Week and a half of Missionary Work!

So much has happened since last p day that I don't even know where to start! But the blessings and miracles of the Lord never cease to amaze me, and I have so, so much joy in serving the Lord! 

We have a fairly new investigator that we've started getting in with, and he's incredible.  I see in him a true desire to find the truth. He has real intent, and though he's incredibly busy with work, he's making time for us and doing all he can to keep his commitments. Yesterday we had a lesson with him, at the time that he set up, and learned that it was right in between his two jobs. He had worked all night, slept about two hours, and then met with us at 10:30 when he had to work again at 11:30. I was shocked when he told us that. He's truly willing to make sacrifices to find the truth. 

  We've seen a lot of progress with another investigator this week. He's opened up to us in incredible ways, and he came to church this past Sunday with his son! We talked about baptism, and he's praying about getting baptized on March 3rd! He seems pretty iffy about it, but he's getting closer and closer and starting to recognize the blessings of the gospel in his life. I also just love him and his kids so much -  his son, picked out a giant jar of Red Vines when they were at the store, and gave it to us when we showed up for our lesson that day. It was so sweet! 

 I've felt so much love from the Lord and the people in this area this week! We went by a potential from back when I was serving with Hna Cedeño, the Ruelas family - the one with the kid who gave me a rock from his collection when I was sick. They remembered me and let us in, they were very friendly. As we left, I complimented the nativity that they had sitting on their end table - and they picked it up and GAVE it to me! I tried to tell them no, but the mom said, "Take it - So you can always remember the Ruelas family." It touched my heart so much. 

I felt great love from the Erazos this week. The Erazos are one of the families in the branch, and I've
become very close to them. Hna Erazo is the one who taught me to make pupusas, and she's been such a support to me. When I went home, she got my number from Hna Cedeño and texted me to check in the whole time I was home.  Well, this weekend we had dinner at their house. She made pupusas because she knows how much I love them. We enjoyed just talking, all of us together, and then Brother Erazo (not her husband, her brother) went inside to get the dessert. He came back out with a cake, and set it in front of me. On it was written, "Thank you for your service Sister Garner." I burst into tears.   It's hitting me more and more that this is coming to an end. And as excited as I am for the next phase of my life, it's incredibly bitter sweet. There's nothing better than being a missionary and being completely devoted to serving your brothers and sisters. You feel so much love for the people around them and can see their divine potential even when they can't. I want to continue to foster that as much as I can for the rest of my life.

Hermana Garner

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Lord Leads and Guides Us!

First things first - p-day won't be on Monday next week (I know Mom, I'm sorry!! I was looking forward to emailing on your birthday!) It will instead be on Wednesday, Valentine's day. I don't know exactly why, but that's what they're doing.  ​

Celebrating Sister Barlow's birthday, which is this Wednesday (hence why she's wearing a crown)
We had a really incredible lesson last Monday night. It was with an investigator I'd never met. We decided to teach the third lesson, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ - Faith, Repentance, Baptism, The Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. She was on board the entire time, and very much wants to learn. As the lesson came to a close, I felt really strongly that we needed to put her on date for February 24th. We hadn't talked about that at all, but then Sister Hanson extended the invitation for the exact same date I was thinking about, and when we left told me she'd felt that the moment we walked in for the lesson. It's amazing how the Spirit lets us know what's right and the witness of knowing this is the Lord's work when we're completely on the same page.  

We had a number of experiences like that throughout the week, including another great lesson with a potential who turned into an investigator.  We taught the restoration, and he was engaged and attentive the whole time and said he wanted to come to church.  He said that if he knew it was true he would be baptized, but we didn't bring up a date or anything yet.  

I've been running into quite a lot of people that I worked with in this area before, who had since fallen off the map but are not coming back out of the woodwork. It's interesting. One of them is is someone  who Hna Cedeno and I were helping prepare for a mission. Well, he had completely stopped coming to church and said that he wasn't ever interested in coming again. But we had an incredibly spiritual lesson with him and his mother on Saturday night. In the middle of the lesson, I just felt overwhelmed by the spirit and looked at him and said, "God loves you." I could tell it touched him, and the feeling was so strong in that room. The next day, he came to church!! And he set up an appointment for this Wednesday. He says he still has some questions for us but he admitted that he feels something different when he's at church.  

Everyone keeps asking me if I'm trunky. I keep wanting to say, "Well, if you'd stop bringing it up, I wouldn't be!" But generally, when I'm working, I'm not. There are just sad moments when I realize how little time I have left.   

​Favorite quotes from Sister Hanson this week: "Did the bank try to get robbed?" and, when we saw a helicopter and she was joking about flying it, she said, "Who needs a license when you have video games?"​

People had mentioned the Super Bowl this week, but Sister Hanson and I both completely forgot and planned to go knock doors RIGHT in the middle of it ... We walked up to the first door and froze as we heard the announcer and just looked at each other. We quickly changed our plans haha. We knocked a couple doors, but people weren't exactly happy with us lol.  It's not as bad as Sisters Showalter and Shaffer, though - they interrupted a wedding this week!! The door opened and they were having a wedding in the kitchen of the house and everyone just stared at them. AWKWARD!

Hermana Garner

Monday, January 29, 2018

Last Zone Conference

It was really strange that my last zone conference was this past week. I sang "I Will Not Be Still" as a special musical number, intending to leave that as my testimony rather than bearing a departing testimony with the rest of the missionaries going home with me. In the end, I caved and bore a quick testimony as well, figuring I'd regret it if I didn't. It was emotional, thinking about how much joy I've found being out here. As excited as I am to move on to the next chapter in my life, I'm also sad to leave this one behind.  

 But the good news is I still get a whole month! And there's a LOT of work going on in this area. We've been finding a lot of people in miraculous ways, just pray that we can get BACK in with them, because that's often what happens - we find them, and then never see them again.   

We had a lesson with the woman who accidentally made appointments with us and the other missionaries at the same time! It went well, she was open to listening, but she asked some questions that make us think she was given anti material. At least she's still willing to meet with us and not just take someone else's word for It! 

 A couple days last week were rough - I ended up catching the flu and couldn't keep anything down for 2 days. It was miserable, I didn't want to work or do anything at all. We had exchanges the second day I was sick and Hna Shaffer got me to go out for most of the day. It was hard, but we did see miracles, which goes to show that the Lord rewards our efforts. But yeah, not fun, I had the fever, aches, chills, vomiting, everything.   

We're headed to lunch right now with an investigator! He's seriously awesome, and so sweet - he thought he wouldn't be allowed to stay and eat with us because of the rules about being with the opposite gender, but he wanted to come pay for us and then just leave. He also refused to let us choose a fast food place. 

Hermana Garner

This is a bench on the Gilbert strip.  We went street contacting on the Gilbert strip Saturday night. My social anxiety was through the roof, it was so awkward and so much worse than just knocking doors haha.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Back in the Branch

Oh my goodness, I'm SO happy to be in the branch! I love the ward and miss members there but I missed the branch too! I was able to surprise a number of members as we showed up for dinner and at church, and it was wonderful to see how happy they were to see me! I was happy to see them, too! It's been a really fun week, and it's also been full of miracles!

 The area is very different from when I was last in it over a year ago. They've found so many new people and it's been exciting to see the growth that's happened and get to know them a bit. We've also found some people just in the past few days and it's just been so much fun! 

 I'll start with ​a miracle, then a tender mercy​ , and then move on to perhaps the most hilarious moment of my mission.  ​Miracle: We went to visit a former investigator on Friday night  (I'm actually the one who found her when I first got to the mission field). As we were walking up to her door, we passed a mother and her two daughters. We said hi, but were late for our appointment so we moved on. Turns out, they were walking to the same door - they're friends of hers, and they had come over at the same time for a visit. Well, we didn't want to take time to do a whole lesson, but we shared a spiritual thought - and, the mother, was incredibly interested.​ She took a Book of Mormon, gave us her number and address, and set up an appointment for us to come by Sunday night.  But the miracle didn't stop there - not thirty minutes later, we got a set of texts from her saying how God had put us in her path and that she needed Him in her life now more than ever. Then, before we even had the chance to respond to the texts, she called us - we hadn't even given her our number, but she had asked her friend for it and contacted us of her own accord. So the same night that we met her and shared that thought, we went to her house and got to know her better, and shared a little about the restoration. She prayed that the Lord would lead her down the path He wants all of His children to be on and thanked Him for sending us. Sister Hanson made a comment later quoting Preach My Gospel about how we're told to go to people who will recognize us as servants of the Lord - she is definitely one of those people, and it was humbling to meet her. She has a major surgery this week, so keep her in your prayers! 

 ​Tender Mercy: there is an investigator that the sisters have been teaching for a few months, and I got to meet him for the first time Saturday night. He's incredible - we got there and he pulled out his Book of Mormon, which was all marked up and highlighted, as well as a notebook where he'd been taking notes and recording his thoughts and impressions. I've never seen an investigator so eager and dedicated to learn! In our lesson we had a major breakthrough with his understanding of what faith is, and he came to the New Member Fireside last night and we saw a step forward there as well from everything Hna Hanson has told me.  But the tender mercy was much more personal to me than any of that. In the course of our lesson on Saturday, I learned that he had been to the Christmas concert last month, and that the spirit that he felt there motivated him to continue learning and taking the things the missionaries were teaching him seriously. He said he'd felt "Magic." It was such a tender mercy for me to know that the concert had not only touched people, but that it had served its purpose of helping bring people closer to Christ - at least for one person. I felt so much love from my Father in Heaven at that moment and feel so privileged to have been a tool in His hands. 

 Hilarious Moment:​ This might have been my favorite moment of the week. We met a potential investigator and made an appointment to go back to her house Thursday morning at 10:30. We drove up, parked the car, said the prayer, and got out - only to find that two other women had walked up to the door and were waiting for her to answer. They stared at us as we approached, and we introduced ourselves - and learned that they were missionaries from another church.  We stood there a little awkwardly until the investigator opened the door, surprised to see all four of us there. She looked to the other missionaries and said, "Didn't we say Tuesday?"   As awkward as it was, Hna Hanson and I just thought it was hilarious - but the other women did not. They looked to her and said, "You made an appointment with them as well?" When she confirmed, one of them said, "Well, we believe in the Bible."  "So do they," she immediately retorted with a smile.  The woman who spoke seemed flustered. Hermana Hanson and I just stood there smiling. The investigator invited to have all of us come in, but we politely said we thought it would be better if we came back another day. Then she said, "Well, we can all say a prayer together!"  It really did seem like the least awkward thing to do in that moment - and yet the other missionaries immediately looked uncomfortable. One of them muttered, "We're not accustomed to praying outside ..." but when the investigator came out onto the doorstep they apparently decided to go with it. She held out her hands so we could all hold hands, but the other missionaries refused and just shook their heads at her until she put them down.  One of the other women offered to say the prayer, and she prayed for a blessing on the investigator and that she could learn the truth. But as she finished, the investigator immediately picked up the prayer where she'd left off and said, "And bless Hermanas Garner and Hanson as well, because they are also Your servants and prophets carrying Your word to the people. Bless them with safety and success. Amen."  Sister Hanson and I were both touched, and we gave her a hug before turning to leave. The other missionaries seemed very upset, but in all honesty Sister Hanson and I just couldn't stop laughing once we were in the car driving away. Throughout the day we'd just remember it and start laughing all over again. It was a great moment, and what made it even better was the way the investigator defended us.

Hermana Garner

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Test

Today marks the start of my last transfer ... and I'm getting transferred

This was one of the hardest weeks of my mission. Physically, emotionally, and mentally it was exhausting and more than once I found myself at the breaking point. But whenever I started to get really down, the Lord would always send me a tender mercy and comfort - just enough to keep me going.  

One of those tender moments was Saturday night. I was feeling extremely discouraged. I had been sick from my IC and a possible infection all week and was struggling with the motivation to push through it, particularly because one of my recent converts had been saying that she wanted to go back to her old church. I was laying on my bed during dinner hour feeling incredibly down and listening to music on my phone, when I heard the voice of my angel mother come out of the speakers. I listened as the words of the song rang through the air and penetrated my aching heart:  "Didn't He say He sent us to be tested? Didn't He say the way would not be sure? But didn't He say we would live with Him forevermore, Well and whole, If we but patiently endure? After the trial, we will be blessed! But this life is the test."  It brought me to tears as I lay there reflecting on those words, on the love I could feel from my Heavenly Father and the love I could feel from my earthly parents as I thought of how much they've done for me and continue to do for me. It was particularly tender to hear my mother's voice and be reminded of her strong testimony which has helped me to make it to where I am today, and has always strengthened me.  The Lord is truly mindful of us. 

 I also saw this principle in an experience that same night as we were out working - we had planned to go by a few potentials, but for some reason or another I felt like we needed to go by a member, but none of the members in the area were sticking out to me. We said a prayer, and as I was praying I had one of the English members we'd met in the area come to mind. I disregarded the thought (I love her as a person and thought I must just have wanted an excuse to see her) because she's strong in the gospel, she has her own son on a mission, and she's not even our stewardship since she's in an English ward. However, when I opened my eyes, I immediately saw her name on my phone - in the exact moment that I had finished praying, she had sent us a text asking for prayers on her behalf. We went by to visit her, and it was so clear how much the Lord knew she'd needed a visit that night, and how mindful He was of that and used us as His servants to fulfill that need, regardless of our assignment. We were available, so He used us.  

Though I've been in this area for a long time and am looking forward to a change my last transfer, I am also growing increasingly sad to say goodbye to all the people I've been working with since July. And we did see progress - two investigators came to church again and we had an incredibly spiritual lesson with them, we got back in with another investigator and were able to discern what he really needs with much more clarity, and one of our less active families came to church all together for the first time! With as hard as the week was, it was also full of miracles, and I pray and hope that I will be able to keep in contact with these people and continue to help and love and support them though it will be from more of a distance. 

Hermana Garner