Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Exchanging it up

Hi family!

How are y'all? I've decided that springtime is an analogy for missions: you never know if it's going to be warm or cold, sunny or dreary, windy or peaceful, and it could change any second...but you always know that something good is coming :) haha pretty good, eh?!

 super sweaty but happy after our district p-day!
This week flew by, which was good because with it being spring break, we were nervous that there wouldn't be enough to do because so many people leave! It was good though. Last Monday, we had a district p-day. We were going to have it up in Osceola, but we don't have enough miles to get there so we suggested coming down to Lamoni and the elders were all game! It was a BLAST. We were going to play soccer and sand volleyball at Graceland, but it was too cold and windy so we went inside the gym and had the whole thing to ourselves! We played knock-out, basketball, indoor soccer, and "chair soccer". Sooo fun - which was good because we were a little nervous that it would be somewhat miserable being these two old ladies playing with a bunch of little boy elders :) But they are awesome and so good to us, so it was a ton of fun. And I fell during soccer and got two HUGE bruises on my knees that I have been very proud of. Unfortunately it got cold again so I have to wear tights again and can't show them off. ;) but don't worry, naturally I took a picture!

They're better in real life :)

On Tuesday, Sis. Etherington went on the departing temple trip to Nauvoo since she'll be leaving the mission soon, so on Monday night we went to Des Moines and slept over at Sis. Call and Sis. Brown's apartment, and then I spent the day in DSM with them! It was really fun. I learned so much just from being in a different city with different missionaries - it's crazy how different the mission is depending on where you're at! We went on the "skywalks" downtown and walked around there for a bit (they are these indoor sidewalks that connect all the buildings so that you don't have to go outside to get from place to place...they're super sweet!). It was pretty overwhelming, especially being used to serving in a tiny town! The sisters kind of laughed at me because at first I was trying to say "hi, how are you?" to every single person but hardly anyone said anything back, let alone look up at me! They were all in their fancy business outfits and walking really quickly and plugged into their ipads and smart phones and such. It was hard to get anyone to talk to us, to say the least haha. We visited three less-active people, and that was fun and interesting. Then we had a dinner appointment with this couple (they are super nice but talk SOOOO much!) that lives in a BEAUTIFUL house that was built in the 1890's and is full of antiques! It was a fun day but I was surprised by how exhausted I was - even though I didn't have to plan anything (which is one of the hardest things about day-to-day mission life, at least for me), it was just tiring having so many new things in my day! Sis. Etherington didn't get back until about 9:30 so we slept over again and left the next morning.

 cows by the Iowa state fairgrounds in DSM
Des Moines really isn't very pretty haha...but I took this from a skywalk. There's the beautiful state capitol, and the arches on the left!

That next day (Wednesday), the hermanas (our sister training leaders) from Des Moines came down to Lamoni for exchanges! It was stressful planning for that, especially since we had just gone to DSM the day before, but things worked out really well. I went with Hermana Howell. We had a lesson with four students on prayer, then went to Leon and had an awesome lesson with another couple. They are sooo sweet! They basically compete with each other as to who can read more from the Book of Mormon haha! Holy cow, they are so fun to teach. They eat it up! In the evening, we went to some apartments and ended up having a little lesson with a girl we met outside, so that was fun. It was a really good day. And mostly I'm just proud of myself (slash really grateful to Heavenly Father!) that I didn't cry and I didn't feel overwhelmed or super stressed like I often do during exchanges! Anyways, by the time the hermanas left the next morning, Sis. Etherington and I were very happy to be back together after two days of serving with other sisters :)

Oh, on Monday night we also had another little miracle! We didn't have a lot of proselyting time before we had to leave for DSM, and I just really wanted to teach a lesson before we had to go. We went to those apartments to talk to a potential, and as we were leaving, this young man (I think he said he's 24) opened his door and asked us what we were doing. He kept asking us questions so we stopped to talk to him more. We asked if we could set up an appointment to come back, and he asked us if we had time right then! We said that we couldn't go inside, but we taught him on his porch (it was so cold haha) and he was so sweet!And guess what? He and his brother were adopted from Russia! It was so cool to have that connection! He was adopted when he was 11, and he said that it was really hard to adjust to being in a family after being in an orphanage for so long, but he seems like a really good kid and plays baseball at the university. He LOVES his parents (the ones who adopted him) :) Hopefully we'll be able to teach him more!!!

On Saturday morning there was an additional Relief Society meeting (they only do them quarterly, since everyone lives so far away) and a lady we have been teaching came! It was so great to see her there and to see the sisters fellowshipping her. She told us that she and her husband went shopping for church clothes the day before! She is so sweet - she leaned over to us at one point and said, "You know how you asked me if I've seen changes since coming to church? Well, this morning my husband complimented me. He said 'You look very nice!' That is NOT like him." So sweet :)

At our Relief Society Meeting
Saturday evening, we went with a family to the Community of Christ building in Pleasanton (TINY town...like Lamoni is really big compared to it!) for a dinner fundraiser for their 4th of July parade. People were giving us really funny looks - looks like we need to work that area a little more, people here in Lamoni are totally used to seeing us haha! It was really fun being there with the family. We also went to the "beach" at the nearby Nine Eagles State Park for a couple minutes before heading back. So beautiful!
With a sweet family at Nine Eagles

Yesterday Sis. Etherington and I taught sunbeams - which was really easy because there was only one boy! He was SO cute. The topic was "I am grateful for animals." Gotta love sunbeams haha! Church was pretty good, and I love Bishop Graves - he is so great :)

We're getting transfer calls today, though we haven't heard anything yet. But we pretty much already know what should happen...Sis. Etherington goes back to Nauvoo on April 9th or 10th, so we'll be getting a third sister on Thursday! It will be interesting being in a trio, and we both know we're going to have to work hard to make her feel really comfortable and welcome, because we are so close and don't want to make her feel like a third wheel! I am going to miss her so much when she leaves!

Like spring, I definitely had my ups and downs this week, but it ended on an up as we skipped home in the dark singing hymns last night hahaha. We are so weird sometimes. I love it! I love being a missionary and sometimes get scared of it ending - but I don't worry about that too much :) I just love the Spirit that comes from sharing the gospel and serving Heavenly Father's children! I know that we are all part of His family and that He loves all of us and wants us all to return home to Him. I love Him so much and am so grateful for a knowledge of His plan for us! I love you all - thank you so much for being the best family ever!

Sister Whipple

Sunday, March 23, 2014

We will do it. The Lord will bless us.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

With our Zone leaders
Oh boy...this week was definitely more of a rough one! There were lots of miracles too though, for which we are grateful! I was thinking about writing the subject line as "...help thou mine unbelief" because it goes perfectly with what I wrote last week haha - but that seemed too much of a downer. :) 

Something that was hard but just part of life was that Bishop got released! We talked to him on Friday when we were at the church for zone training meeting, and knew that he would be released because he was cleaning out his office and was pretty obvious about it haha (and he served as bishop for 6 years). We asked if we could talk to him about one of the people we have been teaching, which I was scared about, but he was so loving and understanding. At the end of our short conversation, he assured us that he is proud of us - that made me feel so good because I was worried about telling him (like I said, you just feel guilty about these things!). He is such a wonderful bishop - we will all really miss him! But, I am excited and happy about the new bishop, Bishop Graves. He was the first counselor in the bishopric, so he already knows a lot and knows us and it makes the change seem less drastic. Oh that's where the subject line came from - The Stake President said that when he extended the call, Bishop Graves hesitated for a second and his wife immediately said, "We will do it. The Lord will bless us." This is more amazing when you know them - they are farmers and are soooooo ridiculously busy (he was up almost all night with cows that were in labor), AND Sis. Graves is the Relief Society president and loves it, but this means that she will be released. Also, Bishop Graves has been bishop before, though it's been a long time. Quick funny story...he has (or, had) a huge white Santa Clause beard that is AWESOME and that he grows every winter. We found out that he shaves it off on the first day of spring every year, so we asked if we could take a picture with him and his wife on Sunday before he shaved it. Saturday night we got a text from Sis. Graves telling us that he was shaving a week early, and we were like...nooo!!!! haha. We were pretty sure he'd be called to be the bishop at that point. Anyways, I will miss Bishop Bair a lot but love Bishop Graves - especially his huge farmer hands that engulf mine when I shake his hand :)

Oskie (Oskaloosa) zone! look how happy everyone looks...haha :)

The other thing that was hard was I was sooo tired from daylight savings! But it's been SO nice having it light in the evenings :)

I better go into bullet-point mode or else I'm going to end up writing a novel and running out of time...
  • It's spring break! Which is a bummer because that means Lamoni is a ghost town, and it that will make things difficult this week. 
soooo many deserted houses in Davis City (and in Leon)...it's kind of sad sometimes
  • Zone training meeting was so wonderful and was what I needed to hear! We had trainings on more meaningful prayer, faith, developing Christlike attributes, and a short one on more effective comp studies. I LOVE our zone!
Davis City...the houses on both the left and right of me are both deserted. But I still like the town!
  • I'm really grateful that I can play piano! I played for primary yesterday, as well as the first two hymns in Sacrament mtg because the organist was late (he comes from way out in the country). Actually, the piano in the chapel is TERRIBLY out of tune, so after an awful-sounding opening hymn, I switched to the organ and was able to play on that, which was fun! Hardly any members here can play, so I am grateful that I'm able to serve in that way :)
  • We went to the monthly ministerial alliance meeting. It was entertaining. The Community of Christ reps and Restorationist reps went at it for a couple minutes before things simmered down a bit. Sis. Etherington and I just sat there thinking, "I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! I know who I am, I know God's plan..." it was a good time.
  • Super sweet new investigators!!! They are from Ghana! They are wonderful! They are married and have the CUTEST 2-year-old, Josephine. Unfortunately they will be moving to Osceola next month, but at least they will still be in the ward, and will be taught by wonderful elders - and actually the elders are the ones who found them (met them at WalMart and referred them to us), so I can't feel too bad about them going back to the elders. But, we met with them last night and they LOVED it. The husband said that he wants to translate the Book of Mormon into his language and take it back to share with his people in Ghana! What?! The wife was a bit more skeptical but still very sincere and interested. We were talking about prophets and she explained very clearly why we need a prophet, and then he was like, "I want to ask you. Do we have a prophet today?" YES! love it.
The Church is still true and miracles still happen! It IS worth it. I'm so grateful for the Sacrament and for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I'm grateful for the peace that comes through prayer and reading the scriptures and words of the prophets. I love you all!

Sister Whipple

Monday, March 10, 2014

"Lord, I believe"

Hi people I love so much!

Wow...where do I even start?! This was a week like none other. On Tuesday, one of the girls we've been teaching told us she wanted to be baptized...in four days. On Wednesday she was interviewed. Then she told her mom and Wednesday night began the long days of her being anti-ed like crazy and basically disowned by her mom. Saturday night at about 8 PM many prayers were answered and she said that yes, she still wanted to be baptized after all. On Sunday she was baptized and confirmed!

So that's the low-down of the week! It was seriously one of the longest, most stressful weeks for Sister Etherington and me haha - and I don't know the last time I've had a normal night's sleep - but it was so, so worth it! Here are more of the details:

Sunday was her baptism! Baptismal days are so fun but so stressful - especially when they're right after church (which is easier for most people here since the drive is so far, rather than going Saturday night and again on Sunday). It made me so happy when I saw her and her friend both walk into church :) We made it through three good meetings, then she changed into her "swag suit" or "karate outfit," as she called her white baptismal jumper hahaha. She was so cute! The baptism was sooo beautiful. Her friend gave the talk on baptism, which was so sweet and just amazing. Also it was soooo funny because she was really nervous to speak, so she was gripping the armrest of the pew, and as she leaned on it to stand up, she forgot to let go and literally broke it off! She throws weights for the track team and goes to state tournaments for that, so she is incredibly strong. I died. Anyways, she gave a beautiful talk and then a group of us sang "Beautiful Savior." Right before she went into the font to be baptized by Elder Jackson, she pulled Sis. Etherington and me into the sweetest hug; she was shaking SO badly! It was such a tender moment. She was stiff as a board but the baptism was beautiful. We made sure that she had her friend to help her get changed after she came out of the water(she's really been like her mom this whole time - they are sooo cute!), and Sis. Etherington and I taught the Restoration. Then another member gave a really sweet talk on the gift of the Holy Ghost, and she was confirmed by Bishop! It was AMAZING. Seriously, I feel like Bishop's going to be like a patriarch or something someday. She was told in her blessing that her baptism was a fulfillment of a covenant that she made in the pre-earth life that she would be the one to bring the gospel to her family, and that many members would accept the gospel. She was also blessed with many other blessings, including that her children will take the gospel to the far corners of the earth. It was incredible. Bishop asked her to bear her testimony/share a little about her experience afterward. She was kind of confused at first and was like, "what do I say?!" and Bishop told her, "listen to what the Spirit tells you." She was quiet for just a second and then bore one of the most powerful testimonies. I wish I had a recording of it so I can remember it all! She talked about how she never ever ever thought she would join "the Mormon church" and how she wasn't sure why at first she kept going back. She talked about how scary it was when she started believing the things she was learning, and how she finally made the decision to be baptized. She talked about how her family doesn't accept her like this, and how she was always told "family before anything," but how sometimes you have to put God first so that He can bless your family. She bore testimony of Joseph Smith and of latter-day prophets and of how this is the true church - which was a miracle because on Friday she said that she wasn't sure if it was the true church. She talked about how all churches (generally) believe in the same God, but that this church has the fullness of the gospel and has so much more to offer - it was sweet to hear her talk about the Articles of Faith and the Word of Wisdom and see how those played a part in her testimony as well. She is so cute and quiet and soft-spoken sometimes, but at the end of bearing her testimony, the Spirit was so strong and she was so confident as she said, "and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ" with so much conviction! Ahhhhh so amazing. 

After that, our sweet Relief Society President welcomed her into Relief Society, and Bishop welcomed her into the ward. He had all of us "Lamonites" stand up in the front, and it was amazing and humbling to see so many young adults staying strong when they are so few in number! I'm so proud of these students. Bishop had me recite the First Vision again (I'm so glad I remembered it haha) and talked about how we're the lights down here in Lamoni. Basically, my heart was really full, it was almost too much to handle, and it was one of the happiest moments :) And was followed by many treats and much happiness. She is one of the strongest, most courageous people I know!! Oh and thank you for your prayers - I really felt them sustaining me and know that her baptism was an answer to many prayers!

Anyways, here is the rest of the week! :)
  • Today it is in the 60's. I hardly know what to do with myself, it's so wonderful!

  • Another huge miracle...a lady and her daughter came to church!!! I didn't know if we'd ever see that happen! When we were over in their home on Friday, we talked about baptism with the daughter, and her friend (who is a member of the church)who was spending the night and said something like, "I can totally see you going on youth trips and going to the temple with us! You would love it!" Such a sweetheart. And then, she slept over on Saturday night to ensure that they would have to come to church haha! We went over Sunday morning and made waffles for them :) It was so fun having breakfast and being at church with them! they just seemed to belong.
  • FHE was really fun. We played a "question game" and I actually beat one of the members! That's kind of like beating Chantelle at "dippity dippity dip." Big deal, I know ;)
  • I bought a side bag at the thrift store for $2 and it is a perfect missionary bag! yay!
  • District meeting was so great! It was really uplifting and motivating. I gave the spiritual thought, and chose to talk about and read the story in 2 Kings 6:13-17. They loved it, and it was a lot of fun haha - one of the zone leaders was like, "how did you find this?! I swear this wasn't in the scriptures before!" Read it - it's an amazing story, and it totally applies to us as all as we go out into the world and try to be examples and bring people to Christ!
  • We also finally had a good lesson with the a certain family again! We watched the Restoration DVD and even though most of the kids were psycho crazy like usual, their little girl sat and paid attention and answered questions and was awesome! 
  • Sis. Etherington and I tried to be real Iowans this week! First we made "bean green casserole" (as Sis. E kept accidentally calling it), and then on Saturday when we visited the Verro's out in the country, they gave us some ground venison so on Sunday I cooked that up and we ate it in tortillas with tomatoes and kale. It was good! I'd never had venison before, but I've heard that it is often really gamey-tasting...but I also hear that the venison here is much better and more sweet, which is how ours was.
  • The high school basketball team is going to state champions today, so the whole town is celebrating. It's real cute.
  • Daylight savings was fun. But hey, it's much better for missionaries - lighter in the evening! 
  • We talked to a man who wears a cowboy hat and smokes and drinks and lives, in his own words, "in a shack by the river." But he was also super sweet and when we gave him a Restoration pamphlet, he loved the picture on it (Christ holding a lamb) and said, "now that's the God I know." 

This Church is so true, it's incredible. I'm soooo grateful for it! I'm so grateful to be an instrument in Heavenly Father's hands. He could do this work on His own if He wanted, but He doesn't. He works with us imperfect people and allows us to be a part of His miracles. I love Him so much! and I love you all :) Have a wonderful week! And don't forget that "they that be with us are more than they that be with them" ;) 

Sister Whipple

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

clever subject title...


You know what's crazy? Today I have been out for 8 months! Crazy.

We had zone conference on Tuesday! It was sooo fun!! Sister Etherington and I were asked to play "Savior, Redeemer of My Soul" with another sister, Sis. Brown. I played piano, Sis. E played violin, and Sis. Brown sang. It was super pretty (if I may say so myself ;) ) and I wish I had a recording of it! 

Since ZC started early and was in Des Moines (about 1.25 hr drive), we got permission to drive up there Monday night and sleep over at Sis. Brown's apartment so that we could practice together before ZC started to put the piece together, since that was the only time we'd have to all play together before we performed it. And, guess who Sis. Brown's companion is? Sis. Call, my mom (aka trainer)! Needless to say, it was so much fun. 
 they made us breakfast! sooo good.
Also the Des Moines apartments are REALLY nice haha. I hardly got any sleep that night - not from talking a lot, just from not being able to sleep - but the next day was still wonderful. We had lots of good trainings, and of course I had a lot of reminders that I'm really not so great of a missionary and I really should be doing better! Haha but I also had a lot of reminders that Heavenly Father loves me and will help me with the work as I do my best. I am trying to get better (again) at talking with everyone and being more bold, as well as being a "finisher" and helping our investigators be "finishers" as well. Anyways, ZC's are always so fun to see other elders and sisters as well as President and Sister Jensen! Love them.

 And guess what? Sis. Etherington and I got 2nd cleanest car! Which is funny because the outside is filthy...but they only checked the inside because it snowed. We were still really surprised though...but now we get 100 extra approved miles! yay. In addition to doing the musical number, I also played the mission song ("A Marvelous Work") while everyone sang. It was a little stressful, but really fun!

We had such a good lesson with a young lady on Friday! We went through the baptismal interview questions with her, and when we asked the 2nd question ("Do you believe the Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ have been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith? Do you believe that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God?"), she said yes! It surprised all of us, including her I think haha! It was so cool. She answered positively to all the questions, which was amazing - the Spirit was so strong as she talked about how she really has come to believe these things and she doesn't care so much anymore what her family will say. She is still hesitant to be baptized now though, so she said that she'd fast and pray about it. All the member students fasted for her yesterday too! :) We haven't been able to talk to her since, but we're praying a lot for her. She'll leave for spring break in less than 2 weeks and it would be so good for her to be baptized before then...but it will work out.

frantic pic of a horse and buggy. We can't let them see us taking a picture so it gets stressful trying to snap one while on the road haha (though from everything we hear, it's totally ok to take one from behind). also let me assure you that that buggy was NOT going 55 mph hahaha
Another highlight was "church" yesterday! I say it in quotes because church was actually cancelled. WORST thing ever - AND it was Sis. Etherington's birthday! So that was a really big bummer. But, we got permission from Bishop Bair to have church in Lamoni and for a couple of young college guys to bless and pass the Sacrament, so that's what we did - and it was amazing! The Spirit was SO strong. One of the guys conducted the meeting, and then they administered the Sacrament. It was both of their first time blessing it, and they did amazing! I was so grateful to be able to partake of the Sacrament - I needed it! (I don't think I've ever appreciated it so much as since I've been on a mission!) It is so amazing to see how these young men just step up to the plate in fulfilling their Priesthood duties - no one really told them how to do anything, they just did it. We watched Elder Scott's General Conference talk, "Personal Strength through the Atonement of Jesus Christ," then had testimonies  One of the young men talked about how happy the gospel makes him and how he just wants to share it with others and try to be more like Jesus Christ every day. Another also bore his testimony and talked about how he's so grateful to be able to hold and use the Priesthood. The other testimonies were so good too. There were only a few people there, but it was a special experience for all of us.

Other things that happened this week...
  • The lady who we set up the trampoline for last week is now a new investigator! We had a really neat first lesson with her - she had read most of the Restoration pamphlet beforehand, and as we went through it and asked her questions, she basically taught it to us! When we invited her to be baptized, she said "Sure!" and understood authority really well! The next visit wasn't AS good because she didn't read (makes SUCH a big difference!) and her 16-month-old was all over the place, but she has a lot of potential!
  • FHE was fun, and a young lady gave a lesson on budgeting and finances. So sweet because another student was there and she talked about tithing and how it's important...and we STILL hadn't taught her that lesson! Love that.
  • We helped out at "The Spread," a free dinner put on for the community at the Community of Christ church. Sis. Etherington had a hilarious super awkward moment when the guy in charge, who had asked us to help out and who is HUGE (seriously like 6'9"), tried to give her a hug to say thank you. I LOVE those moments as missionaries hahaha
  • We had dinner a delicious dinner with a family! We weren't able to teach as much as I would have liked (it's hard over dinner sometimes) but it was a good visit and we're hoping to be able to go back and teach them more and help them to find the truth for themselves!
  • We got permission to go to Liz's last home college basketball game! I was really surprised they let us, but I think it was good to go support her because she's done so much to help us. It was fun, and we got to get to know some of the members better. We also had dinner with her last night, and it was fun to talk about the amazing experiences we've all had together.
  • We had a really great lesson with a recent new member last night. We read the Book of Mormon with him and helped him understand some things better (such as what "righteous" means - I take these things for granted still sometimes!). We also watched a clip from hasteningthework.lds.org, which was awesome. Do you know about this website? It is seriously so great! It surprises me how many people don't know about it so it's been fun to share with people. Actually I think I told you about it last week haha my bad. But anyways, they are so inspired!
  • Heavenly Father protected us last night when our car slid a little on the ice and almost ran into a stop sign. We were both surprisingly very calm and I really felt Heavenly Father's hand watching over us as we came to a stop inches from the stop sign, and then were able to back up and get home with no problem. Remind me again why people live in snowy areas? haha. No but I was soooo grateful that nothing happened to the car!
we're super cute. also we love driving through the countryside of Iowa!
ever wonder how we look when we wake up in the morning? no? well here ya go! my eyes didn't want to wake up yet so they're still closed. but I did manage to get some "happy birthday" sticky notes up haha :)
  • Sister Etherington's 22nd birthday was yesterday! That was fun. I put sticky notes all over the apartment, which she had fun finding and reading throughout the day :) We also had delicious cake last night. It was fun being able to celebrate together!
Thank you for all your prayers and love and support! I love you all so much. This Church is true! It is amazing! 

Love always,
Sister Whipple