Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"Iowa: A Place to Grow"

Departing Nauvoo Temple Trip--
jumping off the steps in celebration
Dear loved ones,

Well...this is it. It was so crazy to read all your emails and realize that I'm at the end! Thanks for your love and support. It has meant so, so much!

So naturally, even though I'll see you on Friday, I have a ton to say!...
Scary story first...if it'll stress you out, don't read it and I'll just tell you about it when I get home ;) Monday was p-day, and part-way through the day it started snowing. And kept snowing, and kept snowing...the roads got really bad and we ended up getting "grounded" that evening. The departing temple trip was scheduled for the next day, and since I'm the only departing sister on the west side of the mission, Sis. Matley and I had received permission to drive to Iowa City Monday night so we wouldn't have to drive ourselves early the next morning. However, with the snow, the assistants told us, "definitely, do NOT drive tonight!" so we didn't, of course haha. But, with all the snow, we decided to meet the assistants and the departing elder at the stake center the following morning at 5:30 AM ("oh-dark thirty," as Jenny would call it :) )to give us plenty of time to drive. The elders drove in front of us in the transfer van, and we followed behind in the minivan. Everything went smoothly, until we hit some black ice. The roads had been seemingly clear so we had been driving 70 mph at that point (Sis. Matley was driving, not me! :) ), and when we hit the black ice, we started sliding across the freeway worse that I have ever experienced. In the chaos, Sis. Matley yelled, "PRAY!" and I closed my eyes, gripped the door handle, braced myself for the crash, and started praying out loud over and over until we finally just stopped. I opened my eyes and our car had crashed into the cables along the highway divider and was in a little ditch, but we literally had not felt a thing - no jolt or anything like that. Poor Sis. Matley was shaking and started crying when we realized we were safe! A police man pulled up about a minute or so later and pushed us out of the ditch, and we were able to go the rest of the way without any problems (and there was just a small dent in the front of the car...but I do feel really bad about that). We had prayed before we left home that angels would protect us on the road, and I really believe that that prayer was answered.
Departing Nauvoo Temple Trip
Anyways, the temple trip was incredible! Sis. Matley stayed in Iowa City (which was fun for her because that was her old area) and the rest of the missionaries either met us there in IC or in Nauvoo, depending on where they are serving. It was so wonderful to be there with the whole group of departing missionaries - I love them so much! There was so much love and inclusiveness in the group. The temple session was beautiful. It was a really spiritual experience to be there with the other missionaries and with President and Sister Jensen and to reflect on and pray about my mission. Afterwards, we took a couple pictures and walked around a little, but it was SO cold so none of us wanted to take very many pictures haha. Then we all had dinner together at a Mexican restaurant in Keokuk, IA. The drive back was fun; we definitely ended up singing hymns together in the car haha. When is that acceptable except on a mission?! Basically, I loved it. Sis. Matley and I drove the van back to Des Moines that night...we were nervous because we were still pretty shaken up about that morning, and the wind and snow drifts were bad, so we spent the last hour or so singing hymns ourselves to keep us calm. We were really grateful to make it back safely :)

Nauvoo Temple
Wednesday was so frigidly cold (with the wind it was somewhere between 20 and 40 below zero...big range, but people would tell us different things :) )that we weren't allowed to go outside to knock doors or anything - we could only go if we had a car and were going to appointments. Well, Sis. Matley and I had appointments all day, and we ended up finding 4 new investigators, haha! It was sweet! We had a super spiritual lesson with one and he wants to get baptized!!! We will meet with him again tonight, but he talked about getting baptized on the 24th (he's been going to church and studying for about a year now) and baptizing his 8-year-old daughter, the next week :) gah! I wish I could be here for it...but I am so happy for them, they are incredible!

Thursday was KJ's birthday :) We had district meeting, then drove to Osceola for exchanges with the Lamoni sisters. I went to Lamoni with Sis. Zendejas, and it was so wonderful - there were so many tender mercies! We had so many good visits with people. We saw the Slayton's that evening, and the next morning we volunteered at the Lamoni library and I got to see our former investigator as well as the sweet librarian we knew well. Man, how I love that town!

Friday and Saturday were crazy stressful with getting the baptisms planned. And Saturday evening, two ladies were both baptized!!!! It was a miracle!!!! 

I honestly couldn't have asked the baptism to have gone any better. The talks and songs were perfect. The Spirit was so strong. I couldn't believe it went so well. Then the next day at church, they were both confirmed, and the blessings were sooo beautiful! It was amazing to see them both so happy. My heart was so full in Sacrament Meeting yesterday. We had all our recent converts there as well as four investigators. Heavenly Father has been so good to me.

I am so grateful for you all for all you've done for me, especially while I've been here serving - and especially you Mom and Dad :) Thank you so much. I realize more and more how blessed I truly am. I am so grateful for my mission. I know that this was exactly where Heavenly Father wanted me, and where I needed to be. As they say, Iowa truly is "A Place to Grow" :) I have learned so much and hope that I can be forever changed because of the experiences that I've had. Most of all, I know that this gospel is true! The doctrine of Christ allows us to change, to become like Christ, and to be cleansed and sanctified so that we can return and live with our Father in Heaven. I know that we're led by a prophet of God on earth today. I have felt so many times the confirmation that Joseph Smith truly was a prophet of God and that this Church is Christ's church and is led by Him. I know that Heavenly Father loves us perfectly. Sometimes He allows us to struggle, but I am grateful for the struggle, because it's what allows us to become like Him. Most of all, I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and that the Atonement is real and helps us and heals us more than we can even know! Miracles happen every day, and it's all because of Him :)

I read this scripture in one of my first couple of transfers, and it's kind of cheesy but it's also totally perfect for a final end-of-mission scripture!:
"For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my  departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have  finished my course, I have kept the faith"               (2 Timothy 4:6-7).


Sister Whipple

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