Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Camarillo, California"

I'm alive and well, in the beautiful city of Camarillo!  This really has to be the prettiest place I've ever been.  It's about 75 degrees year-round, with just a little bit of a breeze.  Basically, it's beach weather all the time.  Great, right?!  Everything is so green here, too!  There is every kind of tree, ivy covers all the walls and buildings, and the ground is seriously covered in flowers!  It's got the nice, homey feeling, because it's a pretty small town, and I'm so lucky to get to walk around here.

My trainer/companion is Sister Cox.  She's from Orem, she's about a week younger than me, and she's been out for nine months.  At first, she seemed pretty quiet, but I found out pretty quickly, she's secretly got Ashlyn's sense of humor. :)  We have SO much fun, and it reminds me so much of home.  I am definitely blessed to get to work with her.

Our daily routine is something like this:  We wake up at 6:20 every morning, and run until 7:00.  On our run, we meet up with one of our investigators, Brooke,  because she hates walking to school by herself.  So, we walk her to school, teach her a lesson on the way, and run home after. :)  When it comes to missionary work, we get creative!

We teach Brooke's family once a week.  Her mom, Doenice,is a member, but is recently becoming active gain.  Doenice is getting married on Saturday, to Pete.  So we're teaching them, and helping prepare Pete to be baptized!  They treat us like family, though.  Doenice makes us sack-lunches all the time, and sometimes brings us breakfast in the mornings!  Brook also makes us Mac n' Cheese for dinner, some nights. :)  I love them all, but Pete reminds me a lot of Dad, so I think I love him a little bit extra. :)

Our ward is holding a "40 Day Fast" for missionary work.  Each day, a family fasts for someone in particular, and for the courage and strength to share the gospel with that person.  Then we follow up with them and see how it went, or what we can do to help.  We've already gotten so many referrals this way, and have seen so many miracles!  I'll share just a few with you. :)

Miracle #1 - An elderly couple in the ward, the Romneys, had the wonderful idea to fast for a missionary opportunity, on a specific day (April 3rd).  They fasted and prayed, and the morning of April 3rd, a new man came to the pool that they hadn't seen before.  They introduced themselves, got talking, and brought up that they were Latter-Day Saints.  This man responded with "I used to have a friend who was Mormon, and I've always wanted to know more!  I just didn't know how!  The Romneys referred him to us, and we now get to teach Peter once a week. MIRACLE.

Miracle #2 - The priest quorum in our ward decided to fast for their friend, Sean.  He had gone to church with them in the past, but his mom didn't support it, and moved him to the Simi Valley, about a year ago. The boys had barely seen or talked to him since, but fasted that he'd get the chance to hear the gospel.  The next day, Sean called one of the Yong Men to tell him that he's be moving back to Camarillo with his aunt, and asked if he could come to church with them.  Yesterday was his first day at church, and we got meet him.  He asked to set up an appointment THAT night, so last night, with the help of the priest quorum, we taught the Restoration.  He asked if he could be baptized for his 18th birthday. :)  We're meeting with him now, a few times a week, so he can be baptized at the end of the month!

Miracle #3 - We actually met Rob, tracting.  We knocked on his door, and he was so friendly and nice!  Missionaries had gone by a few times before, but he was a Born-Again Christian, and wasn't interested.  But this time, he said "Hey! I was hoping some of you would come by soon!"  He had been emailing back and forth with a friend from Utah, and had been asking her all kinds of questions about the church.  He asked if we could clarify the Joseph Smith story.  After explaining the story, we told him about Moroni's promise, that we can pray to know if the Book of Mormon is true.  He smiled at us, told us he would read, BUT that he could already feel it.

He told us a story about a long time ago, when he was told he had a long lost daughter he had never know about.  He said the day he got to meet her, and the moment he saw her, he felt this "overwhelming, unexplainable, unconditional, indescribable emotion, and love."  He said that even though she didn't know him, she was his, and he loved her more than anything.  He then said, that as we told the story, of the Restoration, he felt that same overwhelming emotion, and feeling of love.  But this time, it was love for him.  He could feel that God felt that love for him, and wanted this for him.  He told us he knew this was the direction he needed to go, but that he needed to know a little more so he could be a good disciple.  We'll be going back this week!

Now of course, I can't say the whole week went as smoothly as those three stories.  There have definitely been harsh comments thrown our way, doors shut in our faces, and many discouraging moments.  The wonderful thing is, though, even if THEY don't get why I'm here, I KNOW.  And because I know that, anything hard or discouraging I may have to do is NOTHING compared to the blessings that come from the work.  It may be the hardest work I've ever done, but for more importantly, it's the most rewarding!

Mom, I absolutely love the quote you gave me, and it hangs in my room, to read EVERY day.
 "I promise that because of your faithful response to the call to spread the gospel, he will bind up your broken hearts, dry your tears, and set your families free.  This is my missionary promise to you, and your missionary message to the world." Oh, Elder Holland is wonderful.  But I love what he says:  He will bind up your broken hearts, dry your tears, and set your families free - what a wonderful message that I feel privileged to know, and even more privileged to share!

I know it's just my first week, but I love being a missionary!  I'm so happy to be in this wonderful city, and to meet so many amazing people.  I'm sure there will be days much harder than these...
So, every morning, I wake up and remind myself, even if I had NO other successes on my mission, It's okay. :)  I have met Sean, Pete, and Rob!  No matter what happens, they would make this whole 18 months worthwhile!  It's hard to explain, but I really do love each of them.

Don't worry, though.  I love you guys most. :)  I'm so blessed to have such a wonderful family. Your letters make my days, every single time!  As much as I love it here, I'm excited to give you all the best hugs I've ever 18 more months. :)

Love you all!
Sister Shaylie :)