2 Corinthians 4:5

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Week o' CRAZINESS!!!

Hey everyone!

Last time, I told y'all about Elder Kikuchi coming down to take a tour of our mission. I gave my little three minute spiritual thought on the Atonement, and really, all I did was quote Elder Holland's article from the March 2008 Ensign. I read Orson F. Whitney's dream about the Savior, and then bore my testimony. That part wasn't so bad; I really was flipping out over nothing. Still, it's not everyday you are asked to speak in front of a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy!

Anyway, he asked our district leaders a bunch of questions, and lovingly but firmly encouraged us to be "100% missionaries." Listening to him speak, I felt about three inches tall. Don't worry, I haven't been goofing off or anything, I promise. But he helped me see I wasn't doing all I could be, even though I thought I was. There's always room for improvement, and I guess I'd forgotten that.

Elder Kikuchi spoke to us all morning (10 to 1-ish), and then we had lunch. After lunch, he instructed us some more, and had us practice some different approaches for street contacting and such. I was chuckling to myself, because all the other sisters were being called up to be practiced on and to practice and such, and I wasn't. Then Elder Kikuchi walked by Sister Pennock and I, and asked us both to come up to the front. Well, so much for getting off scotch free, I thought. He had us sit in two chairs in front of PRESIDENT AND SISTER WOODS, and he asked us to teach them a first lesson. Can I just tell you, I think my heart dropped to my toes? Well, Sister Pennock and I taught a brief first, and then Elder Kikuchi critiqued us gently. He told us that we were going about 75 mph, and that we needed to be going 20. Oops...apparently I have a lead foot...er...tongue? Whatever. Then Elder Kikuchi stared right at me. He told me how he wanted me to tell them about Joseph Smith's vision. He told me to make gentle eye contact, and to go slow. He emphasized that this is where conversion would start, that the Spirit had the potential to knock them off their feet if I would go slowly.

Now I have to pause this story to explain something that will make the story even better. For quite a while, I had been feeling like there was something wrong with me, because I didn't think I was feeling the Spirit at all. I knew I must be, or at least I hoped I was, and that I just wasn't recognizing it. But it was very frustrating, and very discouraging. I mean, even my trip to the temple didn't seem like anything special, and that really worried me. (Okay, calm down...this is crucial to the story, and you'll see why.) Now, back to Elder Kikuchi...

After Elder Kikuchi was done explaining, he had Elder Stratton turn on (of all things!) a VIDEO CAMERA. Needless to say, I was panicking just a bit. No pressure, right? I frantically glanced over at Elder Kikuchi, and he just smiled, and repeated, "Go slow." So, Sister Pennock started off giving a brief background of Joseph Smith's life, and what lead him to the grove of trees that day. Then she turned to me. As I started to quote Joseph Smith History 1:16-17, I began to cry---I mean really cry. This amazing warmth, real physical warmth, spread from my...actually, my heart. Funny, I just realized that. Anyway, it spread from my heart out, until I felt like I was wrapped in an electric blanket. As I bore my testimony to President and Sister Woods, I told them through my tears that I KNEW this was true, and that I KNEW our Heavenly Father and our Savior were real. I looked right at them, and they were both crying too. Later, I found out I had most of the other sisters in tears, and who knows? Maybe even some of the elders.

I finished my testimony, and Sister Pennock added hers, and then commited President and Sister Woods to pray as a couple to know if what we had told them was true. Then Elder Kikuchi stopped us and said simply and lovingly, "Good." His only advice was to slow it down even more; he said I was going 30 mph instead of 20 mph. Then he let us go back to our seats, and called two elders up to do the same thing. After I sat down, I was pretty much in my own little world. I silently thanked my Father for letting me feel the Spirit as strongly as I did. It was an answer to prayers. That spiritual blockage, whatever it was, was at least broken in pieces if not gone entirely, and it took me the rest of the afternoon conference (30-45 min.) to completely compose myself. I was very, very grateful, and I doubt I will ever forget that feeling that was in the room with us when we testified of that sacred experience.

That was Wednesday. On Sunday, Elder and Sister Kikuchi and President and Sister Woods all spoke in sacrament meeting in our ward. When we got there, I was very surprised to see my name on the program. They'd asked Sister Pennock to give the closing prayer, but I guess they'd gotten confused or something, because they had me on there as giving the closing prayer. That was a little nerve-wracking, but I was mostly okay with it. After all, it was at the very end of the meeting, and all I really had to do was thank Heavenly Father for the meeting.

So we sat and listened to the speakers, and when Elder Kikuchi got up, I smiled and was excited to hear what he had to say to the members. I wanted to compare it to what he had told us. He was a little over halfway through his talk, and he'd just finished talking about Joseph Smith again, when suddenly I heard, "Sister Pedersen." I looked up, and he was staring right at me! I thought I was nervous before. Elder Kikuchi said, "Could you come up here please?" I swear, my heart picked up to mach 5! (I'm not entirely sure how fast that is, but I'm pretty sure it's really fast, and I'm pretty sure my heart rate matched it!) I slowly stood up, and walked up to the front, and joined Elder Kikuchi on the stand. He smiled at me, and told the congregation, "She didn't know I was going to do this." I was too terrified to crack more than a tiny grin. He turned to me and said that he wanted me to tell Joseph's vision again, and reminded me that last time I went 30 mph, and he wanted me to slow it down to 15. I think he must have seen the panic grow in my eyes, because he gave my arm a reassuring squeeze, and whispered, "Go slow." I then turned to the microphone, and gave a very brief history of the events leading up to the Sacred Grove. When I began to repeat the Prophet's words, I teared up again. I tried to go slow, and I made eye contact with many people in the crowd. I especially looked at Alicia, the office elders' investigator; out of everyone, I wanted her to feel the Spirit's power most of all.

After I was done, Elder Kikuchi thanked me, and I went back and sat down. I was very shaky, and my breathing was very quick. It's a good thing I didn't have to stand up there very long! He ended his talk, and I said the prayer. I turned to shake his hand, and he thanked me. He told me I had still gone 30 mph, and he promised me that if I slowed it down even more, the Spirit would be very strong. I thanked Elder Kikuchi again, and gave Sister Kikuchi a hug good-bye. I shook President's hand, and gave Sister Woods a hug. She saw the tears in my eyes that had welled up from Elder Kikuchi's words, and she smiled and said, "Well, you've had quite a week haven't you?" I laughed, and then went to class after giving her another big hug. I love Sister Woods! She is an amazing lady. I love President Woods. They are incredible, and I'm SO grateful I get to spend my entire mission with them!

And that, ladies and gents, was my week o' CRAZINESS! :) Apparently, I still looked very pale and shaky or something after sacrament on Sunday, because Elder Jamsa asked me like five times if I was okay. I told him I was, and that I was just trying to get my heart back to normal speeds. Other than that, not much has happened. We're still struggling to find new investigators (big surprise), and the investigators we do have, we're having struggles meeting with them anyway. Please pray for Shawn, Becky, and Honor. I feel like we've hit a wall with them, and I want so badly for them to keep progressing! They are all so close! Also, could you pray for Alicia, the office elders' investigator? We had a really cool get-together with her at a member's house last night, and she's promised to pray about a date for baptism, but there are still some hangups that she has. The elders have done all they can; now it's just up to her. It all boils down to free agency. Such a gift...and yet it's so frustrating sometimes. Oh well. The Lord will provide a way for His work to be accomplished. All we have to do is search around until we find that way.

HOLY CROW, I am out of time! I love y'all! Until next week---

Your Friend in the Faith,
Sister Pedersen

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Week...um...something? Dang it.

Sorry about the one day delay, everyone! Yesterday apparently was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and the library was closed. Actually, I was surprised it was open today, seeing as how it was President Obama's inauguration. There were a lot of people down here who were very excited about that today. It's probably a good thing we had district meeting this morning; I'm not sure how much success we would have had proselyting during the inauguration.

Moving on...I wish I had more cool people to tell y'all about! Our teaching pool is stagnant at the moment, and probably going to start shrinking, unfortunately. That's all right. Finding will always be the trickiest part of missionary work. We've just got to be relentlessly optimistic! It's all good.

We did get to catch up with Becky this week. She started teaching middle school science this week, and has been understandably BUSY. We got to talk to her husband Greg for a bit, which was a first! He seemed a little stand-offish, but that's nothing we aren't used to. He warmed up a little toward the end of our conversation. We're going to try and start including him as often as possible when we go to talk to Becky. She told us that he was having struggles with the idea of Jesus actually existing, which made some of the questions he asked us a lot clearer. There is potential there, I know it! So we've just got to find a time when they're both home so we can try talking to Greg too. We're going over to Becky's house on Friday to help her with some school stuff. (Thanks to my mom, I am well experienced in that area! And now it's coming in handy out here too! Mom, YOU ROCK!!!) Becky loves to talk, so we should have no problem steering the conversation towards gospel principles.

Before Sister Dansie left, she and I were truly inspired, and we planned out this really awesome lesson to share with Honor. However, the only catch with that is the fact that we haven't seen or really heard from Honor since before Christmas. We never seem to be able to catch her at home, though we did have a good talk with her mom once (she's Buddhist). So we're still trying to get in touch with her. Really, I think she's the closest one to baptism, so we're trying our guts out! If the Lord says it'll happen, then I believe Him. I've just got to do my part.

Other than that, I have two exciting things to tell y'all about before I run out of time today.

First, I got to go to the temple on Saturday! HOORAY! Sister Pennock had a member from her last area who she had re-activated get to go through the temple, and lucky dog that I am, I got tag along! Can I just tell y'all how much I LOVE the temple?! I can think of no other place that brings that feeling of pure love and peace into one's life faster or more fully. Also, I am very grateful for the chance I'll have to go often when I get home. I'd forgotten a lot since I'd last went when I was in the MTC, and I made a promise to the Lord that I would attend as often as possible when I got back so that I would always remember the promises I made there, and the blessings that are within my reach because of those promises. All in all, Saturday was my most favorite day of the week last week!

The second exciting thing I have to tell y'all about will probably be a two-parter. See, tomorrow we get to have a special mission conference with Elder Kakuchi of the Seventy! He's taking a tour of our mission, and he's going to talk to us about...well, I'm not really sure because it hasn't happened yet, but I'm sure it'll be really really good! I'll tell you all more about it next week for sure. The only part of tomorrow I am NOT looking forward to is the three minutes I get to speak. I know, shocking to all who know me well---I normally LOVE giving talks. However, this time is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. Normally, I'm given at least a direction to head, and normally, I'm not speaking in front of a General Authority. Needless to say, I'm slightly freaking out because I've been racking my brain all day, and I've still got nothing. I know the Lord answers prayers, but apparently my time schedule is very different than His right now or something, because He's blessing me and letting me sweat this one out. Oh boy. Good thing it's only three minutes. Still, they have the potential to be the longest three minutes of my life. We'll have to wait and see how that turns out. TO BE CONTINUED....

Well, that's all the time I've got for this week! I love you all, and keep those letter and emails coming! They make my day!

Your Friend in the Faith,
Sister Pedersen

Monday, January 12, 2009

Week 1 of Transfer 3! (It's so much easier to keep track of the weeks this way!)

Hey y'all!

Sorry, there was no big email last week. Needless to say, transfer week is freaking INSANE, so I was just glad I got a quick note off at all!

I am truly blessed---I had an amazing trainer, and now I have an awesome follow-up trainer! And now, I have a cool nickname---"The Assassin." See, I "killed" Sister Dansie, and now I'm "killing" Sister Pennock. I just feel lucky because I get to glean as much wisdom as I can from these awesome women! (That's still weird to me, calling girls my age 'women'...yup, I still think of myself as a girl. I'm not that mature yet!)

Sister Pennock and I are going to have a really fun transfer. She is very smart, and she's an artist! She said that if I wanted, she'd paint something for me, which, if you ask me, is freaking sweet! :) I would be lying, however, if I said I didn't miss Sister Dansie. And it's totally okay, because Sister Pennock served with her too, so she understands, and she misses her too. However, she's probably more optimistic about it, because seriously---she'll be home in five weeks, and can go visit Sharon. (THAT'S SO WEIRD!!! It's Sharon, not Sister Dansie! AAAAHHH!!!) ;)

Transfer day (Wednesday) was a VERY long day...probably the longest I have yet experienced here on my mission. Sister Pennock was coming down from DeRidder, so she wasn't going to get there until 5 or 6 that night. And since Sister Dansie was leaving, we had to be there at 6:30 that morning. Plus, I'd stayed up with Sister Dansie that night. I told her I was there to help her; mostly I just talked with her a bit, and cleaned the apartment, and helped her get stuff down to the car. In the end, she stayed up all night, and I got an hour nap. It was pretty crazy, to say the least. And then, once we were at the church, she left and returned three or four times. We were not sure which time would be the last one I saw her, so I spent most of the day either in tears, or fighting back tears. I'm such a girl, I know! :) So add emotional stress on top of everything else, and I'm pretty sure I had every elder in the building nervous to be around me. Ha ha ha. To their everlasting credit, they were all very sweet, and kept asking if I was okay...which of course made me cry harder and made them feel even more uncomfortable. Go figure, huh? :) Big Elder Jones (not office Jones) told me that he wished he could give me a hug, and gave me a "hand hug." That made me laugh. A hand hug is this: hold your hand out like you're going to give someone a high five. Then, instead of slapping hands together, you keep them touching, and fold your thumb around the other person's hand, while they do the same. It was pretty funny. And Office Elder Jones gave me a "man" hug---you know, where you grab hands, pull in, and bump shoulders---and that made me smile too...though mostly cry in that case. :) I was an emotional basketcase...oh well. I'll get to do it all over again in five weeks, when Sister Pennock leaves. Hooray. (Yes, I can even type sarcasm.)

And even though Elder Jones is now gone, I still get to talk with my good buddy Elder Jamsa a bunch---he's our district leader now! Yup, that's right; on top of all his crazy duties and responsibilities as senior companion, fleet manager, and office elder in general, now he has to worry about two crazy sisters. Poor guy. We promised we'd try and keep his worries (about us, at least) to a minimum. He said he'd appreciate that. :)

This week has been a rough one. Of course, all weeks that include transfers are a little crazy, so it wasn't totally unexpected. We've just had a plethura of problems getting a hold of our investigators, and our recent converts. It's a little frustrating at times, but I just keep reminding myself of Sister Dansie's motto---It's All Good. To give them credit, our investigators have (for the most part) all had legit reasons to keep them busy. It definitely could be worse, and since it isn't, I am counting my blessings. We did get to pick up a new investigator, which was cool. Her name is Blaire McCracken, and she's got two little girls, Grace and Eve. They are a handful, that's for sure! But in spite of them running around all over the place and being typical kids, Blaire listened to our message, and said she'd like to learn more. So there you have it---as long as we do our part, the Holy Ghost picks up the slack!

No other real exciting news to report for this last week. But never fear---next week's letter will be full of fun stuff to tell you! I love you all, the Church is true, and God ROCKS! :)

Sister Pedersen