Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Hermana Garner's mission
will be the first to use smart phones,
she has her new phone
but won't be using it until training.

The Lord Guides Us!

The best way to describe everything that happened and everything that I've learned is just to type out my journal entry from Saturday night.  It gives you a feeling of exactly what this week was like for us.---

Sabado, 26 de Agosto, 2017
Today was an AMAZING day!
First, we had rehearsal for the musical number for Elder Andersen. It's sounding so good! And I really do love directing the music. It reminds me of working on Little Women and how proud I was of my cast as they performed. We have one more scheduled practice before the meeting, and I have no doubt they'll be ready ... the Spirit will be strong. It was so strong during the practice today!

We were supposed to have a lesson with Letty and Diana at four, but they weren't there when we showed up ... but Rodolfo was, and we were able to share a scripture with him! 

Dinner was at Panda Express with Hna Ruelas, which was really a miracle because we have almost no food left ... But now I have left overs for at least two meals. The Lord truly does provide for His missionaries!After dinner we went to a baptism with Jimmy. It was really amazing, and incredibly spiritual, and he felt that.  Just before the service started, the oldest of the three getting baptized was embracing friends and crying. Jimmy turned to us and asked, "Why is she crying? Is she nervous?" I responded, "No, she's probably really happy and excited." He was a little surprised by that, and was really engaged and focused throughout every single part of the service. 

After the baptism, it was almost 8:00 PM. We hadn't done any of our plans for the day and were at a bit of a loss, as we always are at that time of night. Sister Showalter felt prompted to go to a specific neighborhood and tract. A few things about that - we don't usually tract in this neighborhood because it's littered with members and doesn't have many Spanish speaking residents. So there's not a whole lot of potential there. Also ... it was 8:00 PM.  I was surprised by her suggestion, but decided to trust her - it wasn't like I was getting a different prompting. So we went, and eventually stopped in part of the neighborhood where there were a decent amount of lights on. The first house we knocked, we saw someone look out the window, but they promptly retreated and didn't make another sound, probably hoping we hadn't seen them. So we left after just the one knock.We knew it was late, so we felt awkward and very unsure of what to do. So, standing on the street in front of the house where we'd just been passively rejected, we stopped and said a prayer. We were both praying we would find someone, as unlikely as it seemed.When we finished the prayer, I looked back up at the house right next to us, one door over from the one we'd knocked. I'd been thinking about going there next before the prayer, but after the prayer it seemed undeniable that that was where we were supposed to go. Without a word to one another, Sister Showalter and I simultaneously walked up and knocked on the door.  A kid about 10-years-old answered ... and immediately said, calling out to his parents, "It's the Sister Missionaries!" They were members, two families actually, gathered together to watch a football game. Just before we left, we asked if there was anyone they thought could use a visit, and they sent us to some other members just around the corner.  As we walked back to the car, I was pondering why we'd felt so prompted to knock their door. It really wasn't our jurisdiction. The members they'd referred us to were not only members, but English speaking. I almost told Sister Showalter we should just pass the information along, but something stopped me.  So, we went to the house. At this point it was 8:30 PM. I was sure we weren't going to find anyone, but trying to trust in the Lord and that He had a purpose for leading us there.  We knocked. We waited. No one answered. I was feeling a bit discouraged, to be honest, but knew we'd been trying to follow the Spirit.  That was when we saw a man walking to his car. We watched him for a moment, and Sister Showalter muttered, "Should we go talk to him?" But we both hesitated, and soon he was in the car, door shut, starting to pull away from the curb.We both felt awful, and chastened. Sister Showalter sounded so disappointed in herself as she said, "We should have talked to him." I was quiet as we started to walk towards the next-door neighbor's house, feeling guilty and wishing I'd been more ready to follow the promptings of the spirit.  His headlights hit us as he turned around, and I waved and smiled, hoping to leave a good impression of friendliness if nothing else. He passed us, but then, to my surprise, we heard a voice calling out to us from behind. He'd stopped his car, rolled down the window, and he was trying to get our attention.  Unable to understand him from the distance we were at, we hurried over to his car. He was asking, "Are you LDS by chance?"  We quickly answered in the affirmative and introduced ourselves. When he spoke next, there was a mix of relief and excitement in his voice, the kinds of emotions one feels when a long search is over. He said, "I was meeting with some LDS missionaries in Missouri, going to church and everything, but when I moved back home I didn't know how to find them here, and I've been looking."He introduced himself as Derek. He didn't live in that neighborhood - he was only there to watch the Merryweather fight with his coach, so we're assuming he's a fighter for his job. In fact, he doesn't even live in our mission - he lives in downtown Phoenix.We exchanged numbers and got his address, and promised him missionaries would get in touch with him soon. We told him that he could walk into any church tomorrow and find a service to go to. He seemed excited and grateful, and after a few minutes he laughed. "You know, it's crazy because just today, my LDS friend sent me a text to see how I was doing."The Spirit washed over me, and I said, "Derek, we were praying really hard tonight about where we needed to be, and this was where the Lord directed us. That's not a coincidence."The whole interaction lasted less than five minutes, and he left. But in those five minutes I had one of the most powerful experiences of my life. There was no logical reason we should have been in that neighborhood, on that street, at that time. The odds of us ever meeting this man were so small I don't think you could calculate them. But our lives crossed paths for 5 minutes - 5 minutes that will allow him to get back in touch with missionaries and continue on his journey to accept the restored gospel.  

It could have been any missionaries that were there to bring him back to the church. But the Lord knew we were available, and were trying to be dependable, so He used us. He directed our paths, because He knew where Derek would be and what he needed, and He loves him immensely. The worth of souls is truly great in the sight of God, and my testimony of that grew with this experience, as did my testimony that this is the Lord's work and we need to let Him direct it, always, and not rely on ourselves.  Every single part of that story was essential to lead us to exactly the right place at exactly the right time. Feeling led to that neighborhood. Saying that prayer. Visiting with those members. Going to the house they referred us to. It was all to lead us to one of God's beloved children - to Derek.  I am so humbled by this experience. Sister Showalter immediately grabbed me in a hug when he drove away, and we were both filled with gratitude in seeing the hand of the Lord in our lives. We said a prayer, and Sister Showalter was so overcome with emotion and gratitude that she didn't even try to say it in Spanish. "I need to accurately express my feelings," she said.This is the Lord's work. He used us to find one of His elect and help him come back to the fold. It is such a privilege to be His servant and see Him work miracles first-hand.

Hermana Garner

Monday, August 21, 2017

25 Baptisms This week in the Mission!

Sister Showalter and I both feel like this week was a day - one of the craziest days of my life, really. 
Every day we were running from here to there with almost no time to think about what we were doing, we were so busy. It's great, as stressful as it can be in the moment haha. 

Gloria's doing great since her baptism last week. On Monday we had a lesson at her house where she prepared the lesson and taught us about faith, and it was so good! She would be a great teacher in one of the auxiliaries, she was so prepared, she used scriptures from the Book of Mormon and the Bible as well as quotes from the Gospel Principles book. It was like she's been a member her whole life!

And we were blessed to have yet another baptism this week! Her name's Diana, and she's 8 years old about to turn 9. She and her mom have been investigating the church for a long time,  it was time for Diana to get baptized even though her mom still can't. It was such a spiritual service, and I got to give the talk on baptism. It's been really fun teaching Diana, too. She has a younger sister who's about 5 and they're both so smart and attentive. We wanted to make the lessons a bit more fun for them, so we started acting out Book of Mormon stories, and they LOVE it! I do too, of course - it reminds me of when I was student teaching in the elementary school.

Jimmy's still doing good, and he's really progressing, but he's not going to make his baptismal date for this Saturday. He's really working hard to quit smoking though and has been feeling and recognizing the spirit more and more. Last night he came to the New Member Fireside, which is held at the church right by the Gilbert temple, and he got out of his car and couldn't stop staring at the temple, he just kept saying, "I feel something ... I really feel something ..." He's so humble as he's working to repent, and acknowledges where he can put more effort in to do so. Keep praying for him, I have no doubt he'll get there it's just a matter of when!

In other news, I don't remember if I told you or not, but I'm now the Music Coordinator for the mission. That means that I set up all the musical numbers for zone conferences and firesides, and will be doing the Christmas program come December. Of course it's something I love, but this weekend has been a bit stressful! We had to throw together a musical number for the New Member Fireside yesterday, and then Sister Wheeler called and told me that I needed to give them ALL of the information about who's going to be performing and what they'll be performing for Elder Anderson's visit next Tuesday ... by this morning. I didn't have time to really look over music, so I just prayed really hard and was able to be guided by the spirit in who and what to choose. It's been a humbling experience, but I'm also feeling the pressure of making sure the musical number is really ready for the visit from an apostle next week! Of course, what I'm always more focused on is the spirit than the sound, but why not be strong in both? :PI'm really looking forward to the rest of this transfer, but I can't believe how fast it's already flown by!

Something that stuck out to me in Alma 29:1-4 was that it talks about how we need to declare repentance to all people, and that as we do that sorrow will leave the earth. What an amazing promise!

Hermana Garner

Monday, August 14, 2017

The highlight of the week was definitely Gloria's baptism!! 

I met Gloria a few months ago on exchanges with Hna CedeƱo.  Gloria has moved a lot, but considers herself mostly from Spain, though she was born in Chile. She's very animated and dedicated to living the gospel - she's been planning her baptism for over a month, but wanted to wait until her actual birthday to do it (partly hoping her daughter would be here from Mexico by then, but they hit a snag with the paperwork so she wasn't able to make it). She was SO excited for her baptism all week, and when Saturday came she was there in a brand new dress she bought specifically for that day. When the ward mission leader asked her if she was ready after the talk on baptism, she immediately said, "Si!" I don't think I've ever seen someone stand up that fast or answer that question so quickly, it was hilarious but also heartwarming seeing how much she desired it and how much it meant to her! She was confirmed the same day, since we didn't have church yesterday and we all wanted her to be able to go to the Tucson temple dedication with us. The spirit was so strong, and it made her really excited to go to the temple to do baptisms 

Another really, really amazing experience this week was being able to go to the sealing of the Quintero family on Saturday morning. They're a family from the branch in Gilbert, but I worked with them a lot when I was there last year and this past April. Hna Quintero was never interested in joining the church, but her husband was a member. He died just a few years ago, and she started taking the missionaries a bit more seriously. Now, they're just the most solid family you would ever meet - Fernanda is 17, Rene is 11, and Willy is 6. I've come to love them so much, and was thrilled that they were finally able to be sealed.  When they brought the kids in to join Hna Quintero and the proxy brother, the sealer looked at them all and said softly, "Do you know what's about to happen?" Fernanda nodded, and said in a shaky voice, "We're going to be sealed to our father." Rene started crying and put her head down on the altar, and I lost it. I don't think there was a dry eye in the entire room. The love and compassion that I feel for that wonderful, wonderful family is beyond anything I've felt before.  While we were there, I also got to see almost all of my favorite people from the branch, since they'd come to the sealing as well. I felt so loved as they all greeted me, all of them kept asking when I was coming back north haha. I miss them! 

Jimmy's still progressing, his smoking has improved a lot and we're proud of him! We took him to the visitor's center yesterday morning and watched the Joseph Smith movie, which we think was helpful - the spirit was definitely there - but we're still searching for how to best help him take that leap of faith. He wants to be baptized, and he's on date for the 26th. 

 Another person on date is Diana for this Saturday.  She's 9, super shy, but she and her mom have been investigating forever. Letty, her mom, wants to get baptized SO bad but has some hurdles. So together we decided to not wait anymore for Diana and go ahead and get her baptized.  Diana's excited about it. 

 In other news - Wednesday was zone conference, and at the end of it President Wheeler got a call then came back in and announced that they were shipping out the smartphones the next day!  I'm excited to be able to use it as a tool in missionary work! Sometime this week Elder Bednar's going to be here to train a small group of missionaries (most likely the ones they choose to be the new 'district' - to follow them around and videotape them to train other missionaries) and then probably next week we'll actually get the phones. Crazy! Elder Anderson will also be here for a mission tour this month, so we're in for some cool experiences!

The scriptures are so powerful and the source we should turn to to find the Lord's strength when we're feeling weak! Some of the things I learned this week:

 - The Plan of Salvation is the key, and part of the reason why the Book of Mormon is so important since it makes the Lord's plan so clear. Without an understanding and testimony of the plan of salvation, why would we do anything in the gospel? 

- Quote from Elder Bednar: "[God] shouldn't have to dramatically shake us to get our attention."

- There are so many incredible examples of charity in the scriptures - specifically charity for our enemies. When Christ said, "Love your enemies," He didn't mean to just not do bad things to them - He meant to actually love them. That's something I definitely need to work on, having genuine love for everyone. 

This morning, I was reflecting on everything I've experienced and learned on my mission, and reading Dad's journal entry that he put on the back of our 2015 Christmas card, and I just felt overwhelmed. I wrote this in my study journal: "I am so humbled by the sacrifice and love of my Savior and Brother, Jesus Christ. My soul is filled with gratitude and wonder. I look at the pictures of my family on my wall and feel close to tears knowing that we can and will be together for eternity - all because of the mercy and love of our Heavenly Father and His Only Begotten. I feel in my heart what President Nelson said in conference last October - 'As our Savior becomes more and more real to us and as we plead for His joy to be given to us, our joy will increase.'

 My heart is full of joy!"
Hermana Garner

Monday, August 7, 2017

It's been a great week! I LOVE Hermana Showalter, she's amazing!

So, a little about her - she's from Buffalo, NY and is very, very proud of it, she's studying industrial design at BYU (if she gets into the program - her portfolio is ready, she'll be submitting it in the Spring) and is a super talented artist. She doesn't like chocolate, she LOVES to read, is a huge fan of Brooklyn 99 and many of the other best TV shows out there, has an unhealthy addiction to McDonald's 59 cent ice creams, and most DEFINITELY a carnivore. Her sister's actually getting married this weekend, so flashback to a year ago in my own situation! I love her so much, I feel pretty certain we're going to be lifelong friends, we just love being in each others' company! I had already been living with her for the past three months, but I love her so much more as I've gotten to know her more personally. She also has an amazing testimony and our comp studies are great, we learn so much from each other!

We have some amazing investigators in this area, too. I've already met quite a few of them from exchanges and from them coming to church (I'm still in the ward, in case you didn't remember). One of them is Gloria, and her baptism is this Saturday (she's SO excited about it!) so that's going to be awesome. She's been investigating since April, but has had this baptismal date for over a month (she very specifically wanted to be baptized on her birthday). Sister Shaffer's going to sing a special number for it, but just asked me to play for her or sing with her ... so I might be doing something as well, we'll see haha. But it'll be fun, she'll be confirmed the same day so she can go to the Tucson temple dedication this next Sunday (there won't be regular church).

And then there's Jimmy. Jimmy is awesome! He had plans to be baptized about 25 years ago but didn't. Then he fell off the grid, and Hnas Showalter and Shaffer just found him again last transfer. The day they found his trailer (he lives in a lot behind his restaurant, still under construction, which is behind the mattress firm in Gilbert) he said, "You found me! Well, maybe you'll be the ones to baptize me." He really does want to get baptized, and has a baptismal date for the 26th. His only issue at the moment is smoking, but we've seen so many miracles as we've worked with him to help him quit. He has, too - he's down to 2 cigarettes a day, and he finds that he can't even finish them,  yesterday, he was only able to take two puffs before he felt too guilty and was too disgusted to continue, and he threw it away! We're certain he'll be able to do it, and we've talked a lot about him finding his strength from the Lord, and he's truly seeking for that. He still has a couple of little doubts, but he knows the church is true so he's moving forward with that faith. Pray for him to keep striving and overcome this!

We had a really cool experience on Thursday. We weren't sure where to go to tract, so we said a prayer. I felt like we needed to be in the Southwest corner of our area, and Hna Showalter had a specific former come to mind, Carina - who just happens to live in the area I felt prompted to go to. Hna Showalter was nervous about it - apparently dropping her was really awkward, and she didn't know how Carina would react to a visit a couple months later. But the prompting was clear, so we went. 

Caught in a rain storm
As we were walking to the door, it opened. Carina walked out - she was about to leave to pick up her son from school. First evidence of the Lord's timing. We told her we were in the area and had just been thinking about her. And in the course of the conversation, we learned that she'd just lost her brother. Second evidence of the Lord's timing. In three years she's lost 2 brothers and her husband, and she talked about how she was praying to God, "Please, no more." I asked her if we could visit this weekend - and she told us she was leaving for Mexico the next day. Third evidence of the Lord's timing. We gave her a Plan of Salvation pamphlet and invited her to read it on her trip and share it with her family to help them find peace. The Spirit was so strong, and when we got in the car Hna Showalter and I just looked at each other and she said, "That was inspired." It was a humbling experience. My testimony truly grew of the Lord's hand in His work. He knows each of His children, where they are, and what they need at this moment, and leads us and uses us as His hands to serve them, often without us even realizing it.

Hermana Garner