Monday, December 21, 2015

We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

Hello, all! I should really learn how to say "hello" in Tongan, since my companion is fluent in it...

CAN YOU BELIEVE IT'S THE WEEK OF CHRISTMAS?! Man! Where did December go? I certainly have no idea. It's so weird to think that it's almost 2016! What on earth are we going to do with this new year?

This week has been pretty chill. Literally, actually. We've been blessed with some chilly weather! I can't help but laugh while we're driving through the hills of Purvis listening to "White Christmas" when everyone here is still watering their lawns, wearing t-shirts, and wearing sunglasses. I've gotten away with just wearing a scarf and cardigan for now -- we'll see if that holds until January! 

Speaking of hills, we biked all over Purvis this Tuesday! We're running a little low on miles we can drive for the month, so we're trying to budget them by biking. I think I biked around nine or ten miles on Tuesday. Those hills are killer -- if you want great legs, just come bike in Mississippi! 

Missionary work is a little odd this time of year. Most people don't want us to teach them until after the holidays. We still tract and increase our finding efforts; we know there's someone out there who needs our message, regardless of the time of year. Everywhere we go, we do our best to share a message about the Savior and His restored gospel, even if it just means giving them a pass-along card and a candy cane. It is by small and simple things that great things come to pass. 

We've done a lot more service than usual, and I do think that's a consequence of the season. I have loved doing service here! People actually let us help them! People want our help with moving them into a new house, raking their lawns, and simply carrying groceries inside. With the gift-giving spirit of the season, people are more receptive to receiving gifts like a small act of service and love. This always reminds me of the Savior, and how He has given so much to us, and how He was always seeking ways to serve others during His ministry on this earth. 

Christ accomplished huge acts of service: He healed the sick, helped the blind see, raised the many things I cannot do. I am so grateful to be His disciple. My heart is warmed every time I am able to serve one of my brothers and sisters. I have seen so many miracles come from simple acts of service. A gift of love can change someone's heart forever. What are ways you serving your fellowmen? Especially during this season, it is important to remember the giving love of Christ. Christ never did anything for Himself. Everything He did was for others. His love stretches farther than we can comprehend! How amazing is that! I am so grateful to know of the Savior's love in my life. 

I've seen it here with the ward members in Purvis. Some of these members don't have much to give. Some of them don't live in the best of situations, and yet they still make time to feed us missionaries. Some have even wrapped and given gifts to us to put under our little trees in our apartments so that those missionaries who might not have something to open on Christmas can have a gift from someone who loves them. 

I cannot think of a greater call than to give to others. As disciples of Jesus Christ, it is expected of us to give what we can to further the work, to increase the love of Jesus Christ in the world, and to build up Zion. What can you give, brothers and sisters? What can you do to show that light of Christ that I know is in all of you?

This year, the Church released a video called A Savior is Born. The Prince of Peace, Emmanuel, God of Israel, the Christ was born for us so that we could have a Savior to break the bonds of death and release us from captivity. He was born to help us. He was born to uplift us. 

He was born to give. 

What were you born to do, brothers and sisters?

Have a great week, and a merry Christmas! 


- Sister Rose 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Winter Wonderland?

Happy December, everyone!

Sister Matealona and I have decorated our apartment for Christmas with as much as we can. (Thank you, Kelly, for the lights and the tree and the window things!) People around Hattiesburg, Oak Grove, and Purvis have lights all over their lawns and houses. I've noticed that Purvis people seem to want to pile every decoration they have into their lawns to see who can have the most stuff for Christmas. So far, one of my favorites has been someone who lives nearby us that has a rather large and prominent light display of, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS."

In-town Purvis decorates for Christmas with "MERRY CHRISTMAS" signs strung between trees, angels attached to lamp posts, and tinsel candles hanging from stores. Purvis is very quaint and country; it makes Christmas feel very different, especially since we haven't gotten any snow or hardly any cold weather! It's been pretty warm this week, and I start sweating wearing my lighter scarves. (Maybe I should stop trying to force the weather to be what I want it to be and just accept it ;]). 

The ward members here have been trying to make us feel warm and loved this season. We had investigators give us some delicious fruitcake. That fruitcake was absolutely life-changing, everyone. Just sayin'. The ward members basically fought over us for Christmas and Christmas Eve, so some people are having us over before and afterwards so they can celebrate Christmas with us, too! I feel so blessed to be here, and to be in a ward that loves its missionaries so much! 

We had Zone Conference this week! Elder Kopischke, one of the General Authorities came to speak to us. Usually, a Zone Conference is just a single Zone gathering to hear from the President. However, because we had a General Authority coming, the Zones of Gulfport, Hattiesburg, and Jackson all converged and gathered at the Oak Grove building. This meant that I got to see my mission grandma and my mission mom -- Sisters Garry and Harrison! I was so excited! Especially since this is Sister Garry's last transfer. :( I was also able to see a bunch of other missionaries I served with in Jackson, along with others I knew from the Gulfport Zone, like Sister Winkel! I was so excited. 

Elder Kopischke is amazing, just so y'all know. He told us to ponder and write down a few questions as directed by the Spirit. These were questions we might have had about ourselves, about investigators, missionary work, etc. I had quite a few. He then invited us to ask these questions. "You cannot learn if you aren't prepared to learn," he said. "So, what are you prepared to learn today?"

We heard from President and Sister Olson, and talked with Elder Kopischke. The Spirit was so strong in that meeting. I learned so much. I suddenly knew everything I needed to do better; I knew exactly what I needed to do for my investigators, how I could improve my finding, how I could improve myself as a companion. I needed that Zone Conference, and I'm sure plenty of other missionaries did, too. 

Ever since this Conference, I've been able to be more in tune to the Spirit. Multiple spiritual moments have happened this week -- from small answers to my prayers, to finding and teaching efforts rewarded after weeks of finding nothing. For instance, we decided to tract along a main road that had houses spread out across it. Most of the people who lived across this road owned farms and ranches, and probably didn't get too many knocks at their doors. With no sidewalk and plenty of ant mounds to dodge, Sister Matealona and I happily made our way along the road, trying our best to find a house with those who were prepared to hear the message we bring. 

And we found some. 

The lesson we had was amazing. We were teaching three brothers, all attending a church and all very insightful. While teaching about the Restoration, they understood points of doctrine before we even said them. Right then, I knew the Spirit was teaching, not us. I am so grateful to be able to be an instrument in the Lord's hands and give people the evidence of the Restoration of the gospel, and to give them the fulness of the gospel. There are so many good people out there who need the fulness, and I know we are here to bring it to them. 

The Christmas season is a wonderful time for service, for family, friends, and the love of our Savior. This month, my heart has been overjoyed with the love my Savior has for me and God's children. I have been rather strongly prompted to read in Doctrine and Covenants, and every time I do, I always find scriptures that impress me. For instance, in Doctrine and Covenants 98, verse 3, it reads, "Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name's glory, saith the Lord." 

I'm always reminded of the Savior's love for me. Peace fills me whenever I think about it. He is my Savior, my Rock, my Salvation. I love Him so much, and He loves me more than I can comprehend. We have a Heavenly Father who gave His Only Begotten Son so that we could live again and be free and be happy! What a selfless cause! I am so happy to be able to serve a mission for my Savior. I know I have been called of a prophet of God; I know I am doing the Lord's work. This is what He would have me do. I know it. There is no greater work we can do than bring souls unto Christ. 

I am so happy to be a missionary. I am so glad I'm here in Mississippi. This is a wonderful place, and I am so blessed to be here. 

What blessings has the Savior brought to you this season? How has Heavenly Father expressed His love for you this week? 

Remember the Savior in all that you do, and you will be able to see Him right there, walking beside you, far better than you ever have before. 

Have a blessed week, friends. 


- Sister Rose 

Sister Matealona washing the car in the dark. With a mop. And a flashlight in her mouth.

BEST SIGN #SouthernServin'

Our tree with all the presents :) Thank you, family. And thank you "Santa" who sent those presents to Sister M!

This dog's name is Frankie! He's so sweet! He tried to kill our car while we drove away! Aw!

Monday, December 7, 2015

So Much To Do!

Greetings from the University of Southern Miss! 

This week has been totally NUTS. Since it was transfer week, Sister Matealona and I have had to scramble around to get me settled in to a brand new place. We have quickly discovered that there just aren't enough hours in the day for us to do everything that we need to. 

Even so, I am loving Purvis! My new district is very different from my last one; we have less missionaries in it, and they're new people, so they're definitely different! My district consists of Elder Stokes and Elder Lovell, who are in Purvis with us. Elder Lovell comes to us from Guyana! He's a lot of fun, and rather obsessed with cricket. The other two elders are Elder Petersen and Elder Dubosz, who are actually Spanish-speaking! We have a Spanish Branch at the Oak Grove building, so they get to help out these members and travel all over the Zone to help teach Spanish-speaking investigators. I am so grateful to have these wonderful elders in my district! 

As a quick tangent, usually when I type up these e-mails, I have my journal open in front of me so I can recall everything that's happened this week. However, with transfers and how much Sister M and I deeply enjoy talking way past our bedtime, I only have two entries! Ha! It's making it rather difficult to remember everything, but I am doing my very best. 

This week, we helped the Oak Grove Stake put together and run a Christmas nativity event. This event included dozens upon dozens of nativities donated by people in the ward on display and presented with flickering, electronic candles and surrounded by gorgeously lit Christmas trees (also donated by a member who actually owns a tree farm!). On the stage was a live nativity, where couples played the parts of Mary and Joseph, coddling little baby Jesus while the visitors ogled at the nativities. 

In the chapel, the Stake President told the story of Jesus's birth, and introduced musical performances by people in the stake. One of my Zone Leaders ended up playing the piano for everyone, actually! (Awesome job, Elder Stanford!) They were all beautiful performances, especially the finale put together by a local Methodist church. This choir, combined with some members of our stake, sang beautiful Christmas hymns and truly invited the Spirit to the event. It was gorgeous! 

My companion and I did different things on both nights of the event. The first night, we worked in the Old Bethlehem Marketplace. This was a hands-on area for kids, where they could write or draw something they'd give to baby Jesus on His birthday. We'd then roll it up and tell them to keep it under their Christmas tree as a reminder of their gift to Him. These kids came up with the most adorable things! Some of them said they'd give Him money, while others said they'd "give Him a hug" or "love." I remember one girl very carefully spelled out "hope" on her piece of paper and happily handed it to us to roll up and tie. 

This touched my heart. It reminded me of 3 Nephi 17 in the Book of Mormon when Jesus Christ is blessing the children. Christ blessed every single one of the children of the Nephites and He is so touched and is so consumed with love for them that He cries. Jesus Christ truly has a special place in His heart for little children, who are so innocent and close to the Spirit. They don't even realize it sometimes, but they are. We all have a tendency to grow away from our Father in Heaven as we get older. While some of us may be aware that He's there, we struggle to feel Him, and feel the influence of the Savior in our lives as we are tossed to and fro by the waves of the world. It's terrifying, to be carried away in that. How scary is it to think that we, just like these children, were so close to our Heavenly Father and by our own choices and influences of the world drew away from Him ever so slowly?

This makes me think of Peter when he went to his Savior on the water from his ship. In Matthew 14, we read that Peter "was afraid" and "beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me." The next verse has one word in it that strikes me: immediately

Immediately, the Lord reached out and caught Peter. Immediately, the Lord helped him and raised him up. Immediately -- without hesitation or second thought, the Savior stretched forth His hand and caught this fearful disciple and with love in His voice He said, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"

In a world of tossing waves and stark confusion, we must always remember never to doubt the fact that Jesus Christ will always and immediately stretch forth His hand to catch us when we are drowning in the raging seas of trial, temptation, and affliction. He will always be right there, ready to help, if all we do is stretch forth our hand and ask. 

With the Christmas season rounding the corner, remember the Savior's role in your life. Just as we had given thanks to our Heavenly Father and all He's done for us this past Thanksgiving, don't forget that Christmas is a season for Christ. This is the time to remember why the Savior was born for us, why He came to this earth, why He even bothered with such a wicked people! We are His brothers and sisters; we are children of God and all He wants to do is help us! How amazing is that?!

Give thanks to your Redeemer, your Rock, your Giver. He gave His life for you. It still astonishes me just how much our Savior suffered for us. His suffering began long before He was nailed to the cross. Remember what He's done for you, and now think of what you can do for Him and for your brothers and sisters, whether they be followers of Christ or not. Your Heavenly Father loves them just the same as you. 

Give. Serve. Do all you can to invite the Lord's light into someone else's life by giving your time to another. Show your love this Christmas season by giving the gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and understand what He would have you do. 

Have a wonderful week, brethren and sistren! 


- Sister Rose 

A nativity on display

Another nativity

The live nativity set!

Old Bethlehem Marketplace! (Well...half of it.)

Some of Purvis

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

New Area!

Hello from Hattiesburg, Mississippi! Sorry this e-mail is coming on Wednesday; we had no time to e-mail on Tuesday!

Two things from this week: I had scuppernong juice and learned that "white elephant" parties are called "dirty Santas" down here.

As you can already tell, I've been transferred. It's not unheard of for new-ish missionaries to get transferred after they're done training, but it is possible...especially if they close your area! Which is, sadly, what happened to Flowood. 

Saturday night, Sister Harrison and I received a phone call from President Olson. He said they'd decided to close Flowood and give it to the Pearl elders. This happened for many reasons, but we know everything happens for a reason. The investigators we had in Flowood will be split between Brandon and Pearl; those people are now under their jurisdiction, and we trust them just as the Lord does. 

We spent the entire weekend packing up our apartment, saying goodbye to members, and cleaning. We made it to the Clinton transfer point, hopped onto our transfer vans, and went to our new areas. Sister Harrison is proudly serving in Picayune down in the Gulfport Zone! And I have been happily stationed in Purvis in the Hattiesburg Zone with Sister Montealona! She is the SWEETEST! We've been companions for less than a day, and I know she's going to be a fantastic companion! I can't wait to see what we'll accomplish here in Purvis! 

One thing I've noticed is that miracles always happen the last week of a transfer. People are more receptive; they happily set return appointments; they're more interested in the Book of Mormon. It's so cool! The Spirit is so strong then, and it really makes you so happy to be able to end on a high note. Even if baptisms don't necessarily come out of the seeds we planted, we still planted. You cannot have a harvest if there are no seeds in the soil. In John 4, verse 36, we read, "And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that he that soweth and he that reapeth shall rejoice together." 

I think oftentimes people look down on missionaries who may not have accomplished many baptisms on their missions, or did not achieve any. While baptism is crucial, and most definitely a necessary step toward salvation, it is not the point of a mission. A mission is a time for a person to serve the Lord, however and wherever the Lord may guide them. You may hand out a hundred Book of Mormons and not a single baptism will come, but I will guarantee that somewhere in there, someone was touched. Maybe not immediately -- but maybe their kid finds that Book of Mormon lying around, reads it, and discovers the truth. That wouldn't have happened had you not been there.

Missionaries serve all kinds of purposes on a mission; they are all united in one desire: to invite others unto Jesus Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel. Heavenly Father recognizes their efforts and loves each and every one of them. Do your best to help out your missionaries, too! The Lord recognizes all the seed-planting and reaping you do, too. 

I want to bear my testimony on the Book of Mormon, and how it is the proof of the Restoration of Jesus Christ's church on the earth today. Missionaries all around the world are handing out copies of this book and inviting others to read it, so that they might know their Savior and what He wants for them. I know that the Book of Mormon changes lives; it gives others the desire to change and be clean and closer to their Heavenly Father. I know that this book is the most important book on the earth today, and I want all I meet to have the opportunity to read from it and allow their hearts to be changed by the Spirit of the Lord. 

I know that this is the true Church. I am so excited to share this with the people of Purvis! 

Sorry for the short e-mail! Godspeed!

- Sister Rose 

Sister Harrison and Sister Rose

Sister Harrison and Sister Rose

Turkey Bowl!

Bro and Sis Turner~! 

Sis. Martin! 

The MJM sign on the Brandon building!