Monday, December 30, 2013

Dear Family,

Let me first of all start by saying that I am still on cloud nine from talking to you. I can't tell you how much I loved the time that we got to spend skyping. I really miss all of you so much and so being able to see your faces and talk was the best Christmas present I can imagine. I just wish it could have been longer. I thought that I was different from everyone else and that when I was at home I thought that I was pretty good about appreciating all of you (I know I wasn't very humble back then) but being separated from you I really understand just how much I love and adore all of you. Heavenly Father honestly blessed me with the best family ever and I can't wait until Mother's Day when I can talk to all of you again. 

Now for the week. Monday for P-day we went on a hike through this redwood forest and it was incredible. I still am in awe of the beauty of this country. After that we went to the ward Christmas party which was really a huge BBQ and bonfire at our Bishops house because he lives out in the middle of nowhere. I just love the ward that I am serving in. I feel like I am at home because I feel like I fit in so well with all the members. I also feel like I have my own fan club with all of the little girls that follow us everywhere. I tell you when you put on a missionary badge you become an instant celebrity to kids. So I really enjoyed spending time with my new ward family.  Now I know that we talked briefly about our Christmas Eve and Christmas day activities but I thought I would just write it all out again. For Christmas Eve we just had a normal day of proselyting except that during our dinner break we decided to make our own "fancy dinner". Our logic is that one day we are going to be in charge of the Christmas festivities at our house so we better start practicing. Sister Doole made bread-sticks and mashed potatoes, Sister Pongi made otai (which is a Tongan fruit drink) and I made chicken fried steak and a dessert called "banoffee pie" (It's supposed to be a banana toffee pie) I must say that I was pretty impressed by the food because it all turned out amazing. Maybe there is hope for me to one day be as amazing as the women in my life when it comes to Holiday parties :)

Christmas day was great because the members in our ward are just so amazing. We had a couple invite us and the elders over for breakfast and it was wonderful. This couple is so sweet and they have been married for seven years and are struggling to have children so I told them our story and they said that it gave them a renewed hope in the plan that Heavenly Father has for them and their family. After breakfast we went to the home of an investigator that the elders in the other ward are teaching so that Sister Pongi could make otai for them. These investigators are a Samoan family and so it was a lot of fun to experience a part of their Christmas. Lets just say that they really like their loud music and dancing. After that we went out to our Bishops house for Christmas dinner. He and his wife have five kids, one boy and four girls with ages ranging from 7 to 15. It was just so much fun to spend Christmas in their crazy house because it reminded me of our crazy house on Christmas day. Another family from the ward also came over and they have four kids all under the age of 10 so it was just very loud and fun. I honestly loved it. We spent the rest of the day visiting other members and then we went for a drive up the mountain that is in our area. I have to say that it was a much better Christmas than I could have imagined. I opened all my presents Christmas night and I am still so grateful for everything I received. I have the best friends and family. I also know that my companions loved the gifts that you sent them too. I was also overwhelmed by the love that we felt from the ward and our investigators. Everywhere we went people had gifts for us from huge boxes of chocolate to nail polish to sentimental cards. It really was a Christmas that I will never forget. 

As for the rest of the week it was pretty good. Everyone was still in the holiday mood so it made the work a little harder but we did our best. We had a lesson that we were going to where we were going to teach the word of wisdom to our investigator that wants to be baptized but has a smoking problem. She already knows she needs to over come it but we thought that if we taught her the doctrine behind it then it would help her. So we went to the house but when we walked in there were all of these extra people over visiting. I mean there were cousins and aunts and uncles and grandchildren of this lady and they all sat down with us for the lesson. I started to panic for a second because I knew that we couldn't teach the lesson that we had planned. I said a quick prayer in my heart and then I knew instantly that we needed to teach the plan of salvation but there was still one problem, my companions thought we were going to teach the word of wisdom and that was the lesson we had practiced and had all figured out. I said another prayer and I calmly pulled the Plan of Salvation pamphlet out of my bag and showed it to my companions during the opening song. Both of them looked at the pamphlet and at me in terror but I nodded to assure them that everything would be ok.  As we started to teach things just started to flow and the spirit was so strong. They asked us hard questions but we always had an answer and when I didn't know what else to say my companions were there to back me up. It was so incredible. At the end of the lesson everyone kept commenting on how it all made so much sense. The lady we were there to teach really really wants to get baptized now and we are hoping to set a date with her this week. The rest of her family is interested in learning now too. It was an awesome experience for all three of us. 

We had another great experience this weekend when we got to be a part of the baptism of this teenage boy. This boy named Mannie has been coming to church faithfully for over six months but his mom wouldn't let him get baptized because she thought it was just a phase. However it wasn't a phase and he stuck with it for six months and then out of no where she said that he could be baptized on Saturday. It was so cool! Now Mannie lives in the elders area so technically he is their baptism but we all taught him together so it was another joint effort. Mannie said he liked the lessons more when we were there than just the elders :) But he was baptized by his best friend and it was such a spiritual experience for everyone that was there. He had waited so long and he finally made it. He just kept saying over and over again that it was worth it. He is already planning to serve a mission when he turns eighteen and then devote the rest of his life to living the gospel. It was just see someone his age have such a determination to do whats right because of the testimony that he has. I feel so blessed to even be a part of it. 

Well that is about it for this week. I love and miss you all and I hope that you had a great Christmas. Thank you thank you thank you for the gifts and the love! I love you!!!!!!!

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