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

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Going from Being Discouraged to Seeing Miracles

On p-day last week, I was feeling a little discouraged - I felt like I'd done all I could do  and out of ideas. But the Lord lifted my spirits that night in a miraculous way.  We got a call from a set of English sisters saying that one of their members had set up a lesson with a young woman from Ecuador for that night. That was all we knew when we showed up (with the English sisters, since we weren't sure what language she'd want to be taught in). Turns out this girl, had called her friend that afternoon at 3 ... And told her she wanted to be BAPTIZED.  She's never come to church. Never read the Book of Mormon. Never met with missionaries. In fact, she told us that she'd turned away the elders in her area over and over again. But she shared how she'd slowly come to feel the spirit tell her this was the path the Lord wanted for her, how she'd already talked to her mom and gotten permission, and how she was prepared to do whatever it took to accomplish that goal.  The spirit was incredibly strong, and the English sisters put her on date for the 27th. She was ecstatic. She kept telling us she had chills and just knew this was right.  We won't be the ones teaching her, but I needed that experience that night. I've never seen someone so prepared, and it was inspiring. Not only that, but as she expressed how sorry she was for turning away so many missionaries before, I thought of how many people I talk to each day and how what they say about planting seeds is really true - and I got to see the fruits of that.

 And the miracles of the week didn't stop there. We made a goal to find 5 new investigators, but when Friday rolled around we'd only found 1. Elder Welch, our district leader, promised us that if we focused on our goals we'd find a new investigator that day ... And we didn't. But we had faith that the next day that promise would be realized.  The second door we knocked on Saturday was a man who immediately came out and talked to us, and told us how he hadn't found a church that felt right, that he was frustrated by the corruption of men. We read the end of the introduction to the Book of Mormon with him, and the spirit was so strong. Afterwards, he was quiet for a minute and said, "If you don't mind me asking, where did your religion come from?"  We taught him about Joseph Smith and the restoration. The spirit was overwhelming, and he immediately said he'd read and pray about the Book of Mormon. We made a return appointment, and left his porch beaming from ear to ear. It was amazing to see that promise from our district leader realized as we really strove to focus on our goals and be the best missionaries we could be.

 Another fruit of our labors we were able to see was Rossy and Kimmy's baptism. I've never taught
them personally, but all the other sisters have. 5 years ago, their aunt joined the church, and she's slowly been followed by the majority of her family members - They're the ones who I got to see sealed back in July. Well, the other sisters have been teaching these two girls and their mother for months now, and the girls finally decided to get baptized. Their parents are incredibly supportive and come to church each week, it was tender to see the excitement in that room, the majority of the ward was there because these girls have already been a part of the ward family, and it was very emotional.

 Perhaps the biggest miracle of the week happened yesterday. With the new year, our ward now starts at 2, which gives us the entire morning to go around and invite people to church. Well, yesterday we went to a part member family's house, who we've been trying to get to church forever - since before I was in the area. The mother is really nervous to go back to church, but the two daughters wanted to go, and she let us find them a ride last minute so they could come. When Sister Showalter saw them there, she flipped out! It was such an incredible miracle, and we went around and introduced them to people in the ward. At the end of the meetings we asked them what they thought, and they both LOVED it!!  One of the best parts of the miracle was that right after church another one of the young women called us asking for the daughter's number so she could invite her to an activity! Fellowship is SO essential, and it was amazing to see things falling into place!

 So this week I went from being discouraged and tired to being shown that the Lord truly does work miracles, and even people who haven't shown progress in the past can begin to progress with continuing work and support.

 Another cool thing - we started temple prep classes for recent converts and people who have just been reactivated. Missionary work doesn't end after baptism - people need continuing support to endure to the end and receive the ordinances of salvation. It's humbling to be the smallest part of helping them get there.

Hermana Garner

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Happy New Year!

New year, new starts!

 I hope to see a number of people make new starts through baptism before I finish my mission! It's coming up so fast, I keep being surprised as I look at the calendar. But I'm still loving being here and have been so humbled by the opportunity to serve. 

 I've been reflecting a lot on miracles this week, because we saw so many and we watched the movie 17 Miracles, which is about the handcart companies and the miracles that they saw as they crossed the plains. Some of the miracles were absolutely incredible, but what struck me the most was that almost without exception they were personal - they were one-on-one miracles that weren't meant to draw attention, but to reward the faith of those who were asking for them. That is so often how I've seen miracles on my mission as well - very personal, one-on-one interactions and experiences that have grown my faith and the faith of others.  

Saturday, we had a day FULL of miracles. We were biking all day because we'd just about run out of miles, and though we didn't find any Spanish people to teach but we were able to talk to a lot of people and give out a number of Books of Mormon. We really pushed ourselves to talk with everyone we saw, no matter how awkward it was, and we were rewarded for it -

Some of our investigators who have never been to a baptism, came to one on Saturday afternoon, and the spirit was so strong!  That night was another incredible miracle. As I said, we'd just about run out of miles, so we called Sister Allred (the Relief Society president) to see if she and her daughter could come out with us. She said yes and she later told us that she'd had other plans but felt very impressed to cancel them. We were so humbled and grateful! And THEN, we went to try to see two of our investigators who we haven't seen for about a month, they were right outside when we showed up!! They hit it off with Nicole (Sister Allred's daughter) we were so grateful for that miracle!

  We also had exchanges this week. I was with Sister Baggaley (who I love to death, she came out with me and goes home in two weeks) and we spent the morning in her area biking. We experienced another miracle where the first person we talked to was crazy prepared and immediately became a new investigator for them!

Hermana Garner

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Miracles Never Cease!

Monday night was a night I will forever remember, for many different reasons. It was a night filled with every emotion, from utter despair to elation. It was a night where the Lord truly showed His hand and power in the work, and when my patience was tried.    

 ​It started out really, really rough. ​We decided to tract in an area we'd never been in before, and knocked two entire streets. Neither of them were friendly. We were rejected at each and every door, and not very nicely, either. As the last door closed, I broke down, right there on the woman's doorstep. Sister Neahusan just wrapped me in a hug and tried to calm me down, but I was really discouraged. You'd think it would have been the other way around, given that she's just barely finished her training and I'm close to going home, but I guess even 'seasoned' missionaries feel the sting and pain of rejection. The hardest thing about it is how much love you feel for these people and how much you want to give them such an incredible gift, and they don't even consider it.   

Hermana Garner's grandma
 and cousins got to attend the concert
  So we got back in the car to go somewhere else, and said a prayer to ask for guidance. I asked Sister Neahusan where to go, because I personally didn't feel like I was very in tune with the spirit at that moment, I was just wishing for the night to end as soon as possible so I could just lay down in bed. She responded, "No, I really think tonight is your night, and I feel a miracle coming on."     I tried not to laugh at her. I'd just broke down, I wasn't feeling any spiritual direction whatsoever - in fact, I was at a point at that moment where I just didn't want to be a missionary. Of course, I didn't discount the idea of a miracle happening, because I know that God is a God of miracles, but I was sure that He wouldn't be able to use me as a tool that night, because I did not feel spiritually in tune or capable in any way of being an instrument in His hands.  

But I started driving, heading out towards the main road, just wanting to get out of that neighborhood. As we drove, we passed an unlit street, and I had the thought to turn down it. Not trusting myself, I kept driving - until the spirit very quickly and clearly said, "Turn around."     I did, still not really trusting that it was the spirit and thinking that I was just making things up myself, and did a u-turn to go back to the unlit street. There were only four houses on it. We drove past the first two, which were completely dark, and then the third, which had a lot of cars there and obviously had some sort of party or gathering going on. So I stopped in front of the fourth house, which had one light on inside from what we could tell.      

Family friends, Anna and Julien Williams
spent some time
 with Hermana Garner this week
and were attended the concert
We said a prayer, then when we stepped out of the car saw a man standing outside. He looked up at us, and Sister Neahusan called out, "Hello!" He didn't respond, staring at us, and I, on a whim (since we couldn't see him at all) said, "Habla espanol?"     "Si."     We were both a little shocked that we'd pulled right up to the house of someone who spoke Spanish and was standing outside - and that he then accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon and a return appointment. It was such an incredible miracle, and I felt the Lord saying to me, "See? They are out there, trust me, I'll lead you to them."   

   We had a number of miracles like that this week, and found four new investigators! Still working on getting the investigators that we have to progress, but we've been finding a lot more people, which has been a blessing. I hope that a bunch of them came to the concert, it was hard to tell because there were so many people and a lot left right when it was over.  

It was a little tough being both a missionary and directing a concert this week. I tried to just not worry
too much about the concert.  It's hard not to wish I could really put my all into it and polish it, but in the end that's not what it's about and I always knew that. So I didn't spend that much time on it, it ended up being a bit thrown together yesterday with sound and bringing in risers and things, but the spirit was strong and the small groups did a great job and it was a full crowd! One of our members told us she brought TEN nonmembers, which is just amazing! 

Hermana Garner

(We got several reports from family and friend about how wonderful the Christmas concert was, they said the spirit was strong and Hermana Garner sang beautifully!)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Whirlwind Weekend

I LOVE working with Sister Neahusan! We hit the ground running right from the get-go and have seen so many miracles. Honestly, this past weekend felt like an entire transfer, but I know the rest of the transfer is going to go by so fast! 

 We've been able to get back in with an old investigator - I saw him twice this week, once with Sister Fuimaono and once with Sister Neahusan. A lot of things in his life are turning around and he's started reading the scriptures we send him daily. 

  We also saw another investigator twice.  She's been praying about a date and chose December 28th. We're praying that will go through

 We saw some other investigators that we hadn't seen for quite a while, and we were finally able to stop by after transfers. As we were planning what to do, Sister Neahusan was intent on giving them another baptismal date. I was much more hesitant - I didn't know if it would be the best thing for them, and I was sure it would be too pushy. We agreed to consider both sides and pray more about it later that day.   That same day we had the New Missionary Meeting (since Sister Neahusan just finished her training) and in one of the training sessions, we were roleplaying with another companionship. We decided to pretend to be these investigators, and at the end of the role play the other sisters invited us to be baptized on December 23th.   The moment they extended that date, I felt the spirit rush over me. As much as I didn't want to extend a date to them, worried about how they would react, the spirit seemed to be saying in that moment that that was what we needed to do. Hermana Neahusan felt the same, but we prayed to confirm the feeling before entering their house - and again felt the spirit confirm that yes, we were supposed to invite them to be baptized on that date.  I was terrified. I care so much about them and want the best for them, and I didn't know how they would respond to another date so soon, especially when we hadn't seen them in a while. But we followed the spirit, and at the end of our lesson with them we asked them to pray about being baptized on December 23rd. They said they would, and in the closing prayer, prayed right then in front of us to know if that was what the Lord wanted for them.  It was a huge testament to me of the power of the spirit, and that the Lord knows His children so much better than we do. It's why as missionaries we simply cannot rely on our own knowledge and abilities - we HAVE to turn to the Lord and rely on Him, because He knows so much better than we do.  

We were also able to have some great interactions with Gloria and her daughter this week. Her
daughter has a LOT of questions, but she said she'll think about baptism and pray about a date. She came to the Christmas party and got a doll from Santa, she was so excited! It was adorable! And then, yesterday at church, she absolutely loved it, she looked completely comfortable and was glad that they were going to a Spanish ward. Gloria was so happy to see her so happy!  She loves nativities like I do, so I told her she can come with me today to pick out the nativity I'm getting as my Christmas present.

Ezekiel 2:6-7 felt really personal to me as I read it Sunday morning. ..........  

6 ¶ And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.  

7 And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they aremost rebellious.  

What first caught my attention was the mention of dwelling among scorpions, since that's been very true of my mission :P But applying the rest of the scripture to myself, it made me think of the nature of the calling that I have - that it doesn't matter if I'm accepted or not, my calling is to declare the word, and to do so without discouragement. Sometimes that's hard for me to remember, I want everyone who opens the door to just accept the gospel, but that's simply not the way it is. But that doesn't change my calling and responsibility as a missionary, and I can trust in the Lord, despite the scorpions that surround me :P

Also, in studying Sister Eubank's talk from the General Women's Session of conference, I was really struck by her admonition to be articulate in expressing why we believe what we believe. I decided to write down her questions.  

1. How do you feel about Jesus Christ? 
 2. Why do you stay in the Church? 
 3. Why do you believe the Book of Mormon is scripture? 
 4. Where do you get your peace?   
5. Why does it matter that the prophet has something to say in 2017? 
 6. How do you know he is a real prophet? 

We learned how to make pupusas!!
This is the first one I made, it was good!
I love, love, love pupusas!
 I'm still working on articulating my exact thoughts on each of these in my study journal, but I invite each of you to ponder the same thing. Expressing our faith and testifying to all those around us is how we're going to change the world!  

Love you!! <3
Hermana Garner 

This was the mini stocking I got from one of the couple missionaries, and it reminded me so much of our stockings that I got a little emotional to be honest haha

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​ 

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​  

Hermana Garner

Lunch with mi mamá de misión!!