you are the message

A few of the weird little moments that make a mission magical:

– a street contact, who was not interested in learning more, gave me a sunflower out of her garden.

– I had put my magnetic tag on both my cardigan and my dress, and as I took my cardigan off in an investigator’s bathroom to change into my service clothes, my tag went flying and landed in the toilet. I stood there for a few minutes just appreciating the moment and then took the magnetic backing of my name tag and fished it out.

– zucchini season, aka the season of people leaving boxes of zucchini in the foyer hoping for someone to take some home, is winding down EXCEPT in the case of the 92-year-old returned missionary who is our relief society president’s mom. She has some kind of super-plant and we’ve been going over to our relief society president’s house and leaving with zucchini bread and a list of assignments. A relief society president is truly a sister missionary’s greatest ally.

– a gracious member of the church was having us over for dinner when I noticed that our alfredo got a weird crunch to it. A moment later the cap which had been put on my tooth after a root canal a while ago fell out. There is nothing about lost tooth decorum in the white handbook so I just quietly spit it out into my napkin. I then sat and prayed about what to do for a little while until the sister who was feeding us said, “Aren’t you hungry, Sister Asplund?” and I explained everything. Fortunately I was able to get in with the dentist the next day and have everything put back in order AND I’m proud to say that one of my transfer goals has been diligent flossing and the dentist made a comment about how healthy my gums are.

And now some BIG magical moments that make missionary life extremely magical. First of all, we had an investigator to church for the first time since I arrived in Cumberland. She brought her beautiful children and husband and they fit in so well that everyone assumed they were visiting from another ward. They already have kind of a Mormon glow about them. It’s known as a bit of a slower area but toward the end of any transfer your efforts start to show and the miracles come in.

We also had a wonderful church tour with an investigator who brought his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s brother. They all have a strong interest in learning more. Helping investigators read the Book of Mormon can be hard but when we texted this particular investigator a few days after committing him to read the first chapter, he said, “I think I read up to the 5th chapter to the point where nephi brought zamorn or something back to his father after getting the bronze plate” and when we asked him about it at our next lesson he said, “At first I was just going to read the first chapter like you asked, but then I just wanted to know what was next so I read a little bit more. I just keep wanting to read more and see what happens.” The Book of Mormon is full of great and thrilling stories! AND it brings the Holy Ghost, which means that the Book of Mormon makes people happy when they read it. It’s an instant mood-lifter.

Finally a REALLY BIG MOMENT namely that Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve came to visit the mission!!! Oh it was pretty great!!! I’ll go chronologically: Last Sunday night at 10:28 pm, our (very reserved and formal) mission president sent out a text that began with “SWEET MIRACLE!!!” and we knew something exciting was going on or that maybe one of the elders was ghostwriting the text message. In any case, he announced that we would be gathering in Annapolis (known locally as “nap-town”) to hear Elder Cook address the missionaries. We immediately cleared our Saturday of the zero appointments that were scheduled for the day and arranged to spend Friday night with the nearest other sister missionaries and drive down with them the following morning. We had an excellent sleepover and rolled off of the pile of couch cushions we had been sleeping on early on Saturday morning full of excitement and nail polish fumes.

We arrived at a small chapel buzzing with hushed excitement. Being with the whole mission is always a pleasure. Our mission president’s wife/aka the ultimate queen calls us the “Maryland Baltimore Family” :’). We all stood and sang “Called to Serve” as Elder and Sister Cook entered to give them a warm welcome and when he got to the stand he put his hand over his heart. Is that blasphemous? Probably not. Anyway, we had wonderful talks from President and Sister Christiansen and Elder Gerard of the Seventy and we all lined up and shook hands with Elders Cook and Gerard. Elder Cook had a nice pillowy handshake to match with his very round head.

Elder Cook’s speech consisted of four key points that the wants our mission to focus on. They are as follows:

1: we are ward and branch builders

2: we succeed when we invite, regardless of the outcome

3: we are the message

4: we should focus our spiritual power on teaching, planning, and our purpose

Sister Cook, a skilled choir director, illustrated point #3 by having us stand and directing us in “Hark All Ye Nations” with a fun descant. She taught us that this point could best be fulfilled by our developing Christlike attributes and directed us to list hymns that coordinate with the Christlike attributes featured in Preach My Gospel and to sing those hymns often. She was so cool. He left an apostolic blessing on the mission, promising that we would see how precious our efforts are.

Then, between the closing song and closing hymn, Elder Cook jumped out of his seat (the poor elder assigned to pray didn’t know whether he should continue approaching the stand or not) and said, “I’ve never done this in a meeting before, but the spirit has told me four times now that I should tell you that there are many single people between the ages of 17 and 25 who are ready at this time in their lives to hear the gospel. Work with your members who are young adults and find out which of their friends are interested. Make an effort to find people who will have the opportunity to serve full-time missions.” We drove home in an edified haze and worked during what was left of the evening.

Another wonderful experience I had this week is that I finished the Book of Mormon!!! Oh it’s a good book!! Here’s a confession: that is the second time I’ve read the Book of Mormon in my life. I felt so nervous and guilty that I did not know the Book of Mormon very well before my mission, but I knew enough. It really does read easy and more importantly, it will bring you closer to God. Becoming close to God is the most important thing you can do in this life.

You are all treasures to me. I hope you know that. I express my love for you and I pray for you and I hope to hear from you when you get a spare minute. My address is 923 National Hwy, LaVale, MD

Hugs and Handshakes,

Sister Astrid

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god’s power

I’m just going to tell you an important fact about missions that every email I write suggests, but that I want to make explicit: on a mission, God’s power is made manifest, and it is made obvious. You really can’t miss it. Well, you can, and people do, but the veil between our lives and God’s life becomes translucent. The kinds of spiritual experiences that in my civilian life would be the highlight of a month are a daily matter.

I suppose this is because we are coworkers with God, because we are constantly in prayer and supplication, and of course because we need something to get us through how hard and heartbreaking the work is by nature. There are as many lows as there are highs (perhaps more) and this week I have been focusing on being vulnerable, which is both a fun buzzword and a legitimately useful quality. In my civilian life I made a habit of protecting myself from disappointment and heartbreak by not getting my hopes up too often. I would try to have minimal expectations and avoid becoming emotionally invested when other peoples’ actions could let me down.

This was probably the right course, I’m not really sure. But as a missionary it’s a different story. In Preach My Gospel there’s a long section on the importance of having high expectations, which I was originally a little skeptical about. Appointments are about as likely to fall through as they are to hold, people are about as likely to neglect their commitments as they are to keep them, and rejection is far more common than acceptance. I got in the habit of trying to be emotionally prepared for these inevitable experiences, which kind of translates as becoming jaded. But here’s what I figured out when a promising new investigator didn’t show up for church on Sunday: the work should break your heart. It’s allowed to break your heart. We are coworkers with the Redeemer who is “anointed to bind up the broken-hearted” and we are allowed to feel our disappointments fully because we can trust Jesus to make us feel better. As I took the sacrament on Sunday, watching the entrance to the church closely for someone who never came, I felt the healing power of the atonement bring me all the way home from my disappointment.

This week we had a wonderful manifestation of miracles, specifically in the form of two beautiful young families and a young man who is now in the care of the elders. The young man was someone who we talked to on the street. He seemed so interested in meeting with us again that I (still a little jaded) wondered if his intentions were in the wrong place. When we went to knock on his door with no answer, I felt a familiar resignation, particularly when one of his neighbors shouted: “He isn’t interested!” Another neighbor, who was on the grass playing with her kids, shouted back, “Leave them alone, Maggie!” and we started talking to her. She manifested a strong interest in the gospel and we set up an appointment for another visit, which went wonderfully. Our second lesson with her will be today. When we first met, she looked at me closely and said, “You look familiar. Have I met you before?” Finally, the original appointment arrived and we had an amazing first lesson with him and then explained that the elders would be taking good care of him from then on.

I also had the great pleasure of going on exchanges, aka having a slumber party. Sister Moore was my temporary companion for a few days and we slogged through the torrential rain, sharing an umbrella like good companions and teaching our now-weekly Bible study class while puddles formed at our feet. Exchanges are important opportunities to try out the work with a fresh perspective and I learned a lot from Sister Moore.

Yesterday we saw another miracle. A member of the ward had called and mentioned a friend who was feeling overwhelmed with her new baby and her toddler and who had accepted her offer that we come by and help her clean up a little. This sister also mentioned that we could share a little spiritual thought with her before we left. After scrubbing the toilets and mopping (which is actually my favorite chore) we taught her a little about the Holy Ghost and asked if she would be interested in learning more. She was! Her kids already have Mormon names, so I think it’s meant to be.

We had a wonderful Labor Day picnic yesterday. I want to write a dissertation on the deep spiritual value of Mormon potlucks, which I’m still exploring. It was just a sweet time of fellowship and most importantly, I joined a game of Scrabble with the Relief Society Scrabble Champions. I won’t say who won.

I’m nearing the final chapters of Moroni currently. SO GOOD. Go read them!!!! That’s all I can say. Also, while you’re at it, go write me a letter. My address is 923 National Hwy, LaVale, MD 25102.

With hugs and handshakes,

Sister Asplundetta

a good miserable day

On Friday we had one of those days where everything goes so wrong it’s almost right. I honestly ended the day feeling very amused and entertained because our day had taken such an impressive turn for the ridiculous.

To begin, we texted someone who we had street contacted last week to confirm our appointment and he replied with messages that were increasingly flirtatious. This is honestly just a hard situation for a missionary. When he said, “which one am I texting? yall are both beautiful” I said, “This is Sister Asplund. What did you think of the pamphlet we left with you?” and when he said, “send s picture” (sic) we just called the elders and asked them to come to the appointment with us so we could hand him off. Shortly thereafter, we got a call from the bishop saying that there had been a death in the family of the planned speakers for Sunday and that we would need to quickly plan talks on the subject of fasting.

Before our lunch hour was over, all three of the lessons we had planned with our investigators had fallen through and our busy day was suddenly very open. Open to calamity, that is. We went to our first appointment with an investigator the elders had taught several lessons to but had decided to pass off to us, and she immediately let us know that she was no longer interested. Our standing appointment with a less-active sister was cancelled when we got there and after failing to get in with anyone, it was time for us to pass our investidater off to the elders. When we met at his home, the flirtatious fellow we had planned to meet with was not home. I was then reprimanded for dancing by my district leader, who is a great missionary and who also I think comes from the town in Footloose.

When we got home, we discovered that we had locked ourselves out for the second time since our landlord went out of town, and we had to call the neighbor of theirs again who held the spare key. He patted me on the shoulder and said gently, “We have to stop meeting like this.” Finally, the calamity of all calamities and also my least favorite Baby Animal News to report: spider season has begun and there was a real whopper on our mantle. Probably the size of a frying pan. My resourceful companion had the idea that perhaps 409 was toxic enough to kill a spider and sprayed it on our new friend Aragog. He fell out of sight and my companion said, “Well, out of sight, out of mind!” which is her carefree philosophy when it comes to spiders. My philosophy when it comes to spiders is, “Out of sight, could crawl on my at any moment” I went to sleep laughing and a little shaken. Most days on the mission are pretty amazing and even during this day, which featured many strange and unpleasant circumstances, we saw the grace of God manifest at many moments. A terrible day on the mission is still a pretty good day, in the end.

The following morning as I furiously wrote my talk, Sister Madsen started to put on her shoe and quickly stopped. “Something doesn’t feel right,” she told me. She put her hand into the shoe, pulled it out quickly, and then peered into its depths. When she gasped I said, “A spider?!” and she said, “THE spider.” She was very composed and threw the shoe into the bushes outside but I learned some important things from that experience. First of all, 409 does not kill spiders. Second of all, spiders have a highly vengeful nature and will hide in your shoe if you try to kill them.

Speaking in church was an eventful experience itself. When we got to church, we anticipated that three of the missionaries serving in the ward would speak. Then a young man walked in who had returned from his mission a few months prior but due to family circumstances had been unable to give a homecoming address. Our bishop let our district leader, one of the three speakers, off the hook and privately invited the recently returned young man to bear his testimony in place of this elder speaking. After my talk, the bishop stood up and forewent my companion’s talk as well as my district leader’s. He said, “This day will go down in history as the Sunday of change.” We also started off sacrament meeting with a beautiful and unplanned baby blessing. I left the meeting grateful to have a bishop who is so skilled at thinking on his feet. The experience of speaking was also very mildly eventful because I had mentioned The Spider Incident to our ward mission leader and he had suggested that we should talk about spiders over the pulpit, assuming we would just laugh about it. However, a missionary never says no to a request from their ward mission leader and so I made a very brief mention of spiders during my talk. As I spoke I heard my ward mission leader start laughing and then start coughing and choking, in strong contrast to the congregation who mostly had their eyes closed peacefully, probably because they were enjoying my remarks so much.
This Sunday we had a Linger Longer which is a very important feature of Mormon life. As I passed the children’s table to go sit by my companion I heard a cute little voice say, “Sister Applesauce! Come sit with us!” and OBVIOUSLY only a monster would turn down that request. As I ate with them, one of the 9-year-olds said, “My mom said I could only have one dessert. How many desserts are you allowed to have?” and my heart swelled with pleasure as I said, “As many as I want.” Her eyes got huge and I thought to myself, sometimes being a grown-up seems too hard. But maybe it’s worth it. And then I ate three desserts.

This week we also started up a Bible study class. I’m very excited about it and have been inviting everyone I see. When I suggested the idea to my companion she said, “I’ve always wanted to do that!!!” and when I mentioned the concept to the elders, they said, “We’ve always wanted to do that!!!!” so what I learned from that experience is that you shouldn’t lock your ideas up in your heart because maybe other people have those ideas too. This coming week we’re learning about the birth of Jesus. Merry Christmas to us all.

I mentioned someone who we had found miraculously last week. We had our first lesson with him yesterday and it was pretty amazing. I look up to this person so much already and teaching people about the Restoration for the first time is like seeing it with new eyes. There’s no greater joy than sharing good news with people, especially when it’s The good news.
I have been reading the book of Ether this week. It’s a really good one. Ether is its own little narrative within the grander context of the Book of Mormon. I’m not sure why it’s placed where it is within the sections of the Book of Mormon. Does anyone have ideas? Write me and let me know what they are!! At 923 National Hwy, LaVale MD 21502

Love,

Sister Crabapple

where are you hiding your wings?

Title excerpted from one of my favorite people who we are working with, who is making a triumphant and glorious return! We love her. And everything she says.

This week brought a few major events, one of which was a sporting emporium??? It was one of those moments where I just had to forget my identity and follow orders. It ended up being fun because all the other missionaries were there so I could see past companions and other missionaries who I wanted to catch up with. The event was the annual “Mormon night” that the Orioles host. It was my first time in Baltimore, and I just loved it there. It’s been a long time since I was in a city of that scale, and I felt wonderful looking up at all the tall buildings. We had a few hours to just sit and chitchat and catch up and not be busy with something and there was also a baseball game happening. I think the Orioles lost. The only downside was that we are in the most remote area of the mission and it was a two and a half hour drive home. We finally crawled into bed at two in the morning and I awoke the next morning with a burning testimony of the missionary schedule we normally follow.

The other major event of the week was zone conference, when we gather at the stake center for a little seminar with the mission president and his wife. This was very inspirational, and much needed. The mission president and his wife have a special talent of giving us a lot of candy, which I never realized was an important leadership skill but it is. They carried around baskets full of (full-size!) candy bars (and a ~healthy~ basket full of granola bars and fruit leather) that had stickers on them that read “feel loved.” We’re obedient missionaries so of course we followed that order. We got to meet the two daughters of the mission president and his wife who are joining them on the mission. We love their family so much. As a missionary, when you’re far away from everyone and everything you knew you often have to cling to the people around you for support and we are blessed to work with some very supportive people who fill not only the roles of a boss and a spiritual leader but also of our family away from home.

At zone conference we received some much needed inspiration and motivation for the coming weeks and months. Sometimes missionary work can get to feeling a little aimless if you don’t have a strong sense of direction, so guidance from leaders helps me know how to focus my efforts instead of spreading them around according to the whim of a particular day. Having a vision for an area or a transfer is very important because it helps us use each day as a building block toward a greater whole rather than a period of time with little impact on the future or on people’s lives.

In this particular context we developed a vision to begin teaching more people. We’ve been engaging in a little more street contacting, which is my least favorite part of missionary work. Usually if you feel awkward or scared of doing something that means you should do more of it and street contacting extra has proved very fruitful. One night we were traveling to visit a sister who is on our records but whom we have never seen or heard from before. There are many such sisters in the ward, so usually we take direction from the relief society president in which sisters to visit. In this case, I just saw her name in the directory and felt a strong prompting that we should visit her. My sweet companion put her skepticism aside and agreed that we could try by her home. Her house was completely dark but her neighbor was outside with his family. We got to talking to him and he agreed to meet with us. He said, “I’ve been praying and praying for a month and felt like God wasn’t responding to me, but not I know that His answer was to send the two of you.” We are so excited to start teaching his family and regardless of what kind of progress he makes with us at this time in his life, he will always know that God is there for him.

In baby animal news, I met a dwarf hamster this week. I thought hamsters were already dwarfs, but there it was, rolling around in its little ball. I also stopped our car in the middle of the street to see if I could catch a frog. I could. It was a wonderful frog.

I also had a CUTE conversation with a 4-year-old in my ward. She said, “Hey sister missionary!! wait… what is your name?” and when she seemed a little challenged by the prospect of pronouncing my last name I said, “But you can call me Sister Applesauce if that’s too hard.” and she said, “Or I could call you Sister Rainbow…. OR SISTER MORNING GLORY!” And then she told me everything she knows about morning glories, which is a lot.

Finally, this week I read from 4th Nephi! Oh how I love 4th Nephi. The beginning of the book describes this society that was so edified by the visitation of Jesus Christ that it enjoys 200 years of utopia. To me this is a great model to build a home and family on because families have their own little cultures. I would invite you to read from 4th Nephi (it is very short) and think of a utopian or Zionic family as you read. I promise this exercise will be fruitful in your own present and/or future families.

I love you all, my friends and family. I pray for you often and desire all the blessings of heaven in your life. I love hearing from you, and you can write to me at 923 National Highway, LaVale MD 21502

Love,

Sister Morning Glory

#godpranks

This week was a true whirlwind because I got myself a new companion! Sweet Sister Madsen. People are already saying we look like sisters. She is three months into her mission, which is amazing. New missionaries bring special skills and talents because they have the “beginner’s mind” and are free of some of the assumptions that many older missionaries allow to limit them. I am learning a lot from her. She has a radiant kindness and sweetness that I want to cultivate in myself. She and I are also kind of a brilliant companionship because we are absent-minded in many of the same ways. Coming into my mission, I noticed that I had companions who were very well-organized and punctual Type-A sort of people. I was relieved because I usually don’t even know where both of my shoes are or what day of the week it is, and so far I have completely relied on my companions for this sort of thing. Naturally, my time spent in my comfort zone was to be short-lived because, as the oft-repeated MTC proverb tells us, “There is little growth in a comfort zone, and there is little comfort in a growth zone.”

I would say our companionship has many elements in which we support and compliment each other easily and comfortably which I love, but what I love most about our companionship is that it is putting me in a gentle growth zone. I am learning to empathize with my past companions and most importantly I am learning about what steps to take in order to be on time or to create a list of things we need to take with us when we leave so we don’t for example, lock ourselves out. (Did that happen to us this week? I’ll let you decide). This is the genius of having a companion. Companions provide so much support and so many opportunities whether we are different or similar, or a lot of both as the case usually is.  This is what I like to call a “God Prank,” or a prank initiated by God not only for our mutual amusement (if we can have the right attitude) but also for our growth and edification. God has a brilliant and loving sense of irony, for example in giving me a companion with whom I can learn to overcome my own challenges because we share them. I’m deeply impressed by our placement together.

In Baby Animal News, I met a tiny kitten this week! The self-proclaimed crazy cat lady in the ward had us over and I got to bottle feed her newest, whom she has named “Survivor” because his parents and siblings all died but affectionately refers to as “the baby.”  In further Baby Animal/Elder Shenanigan news, we have a greenie serving in the ward now who is a former master of the rodeo and who grew up on a cattle ranch. The first time I met him I noticed a little red soaking through his white shirt and I said, “Elder, you’re bleeding!” to which he replied, “Ah man, that’s my rope burn again.”

This past week included the six month anniversary of my mission! It’s hard to believe I’m already 1/3 of the way in. I feel about as experienced as Survivor, but I try to remember that I have the divine equivalent of a crazy cat person bottle feeding me every step of the way. My mission has been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life, and I feel closer to God than I ever knew I could. I am becoming someone who is more loving and competent than I ever thought I could be through the Atonement. Are you thinking of putting in your papers? Do it! Serving a mission is one of the least-regretted decisions in the world.

I’m in the climax of the Book of Mormon, just soaking in the goodness. 3 Nephi is one of my favorite things I have ever read. It’s a real cryer, too. Go give it a peek, you’ll be glad you did. It especially picks up around chapter 10 or 11.

I love you all, I hope life is what you need it to be. Good luck recognizing the pranks God sends us. Write to me about them at 923 National Hwy, LaVale MD 21502

Love,

Sister Asp

the queen of queen city

The final week of this transfer just flew by! Yesterday was the moment of truth when we found out who is staying and who is going. I am the only missionary in the ward who is staying for the next transfer. One elder is going home, the other elder is being transferred, and my beloved companion is leaving me! Cumberland will be all mine!!! Not really, Cumberland is in the Lord’s hands and I am but a humble servant. I’ll be getting a new mystery companion on Wednesday. I’m sure she’ll be wonderful.

Speaking of new companions, we had a mini missionary with us this week! She was a young woman from a neighboring ward who was with us for a week living the missionary life. Having her with us was amazing. She was just a fabulous addition to our companionship and it was so much fun to show her our area all proudly like a new parent cat. We were all sad and hugging when the week ended and her family came to pick her up. This is something they do yearly, but I think they should just circulate mini missionaries whenever they feel like it. Seriously, I would love to have one every week.

Our sweet temporary companion also brought some amazing miracles to the area. One of the highlights was that we started teaching a new family! They’re the dream. They are so curious and excited about the gospel. We’re giving them a church tour this week. If you want to know how to be an effective missionary, the answer is to give a lot of church tours. I’m not sure why, they just work. They have two cute kids and when I met them I asked the seven-year-old “When’s your birthday?” and he said, “The eleventh of Christmas!!!” I have high hopes for him.

Before my mission, I had a dream that my companion was a baby. Well, my beloved brethren/sistren/siblen, that dream came true this week. The baby was a very redheaded 10-month-old who belonged to a sister who had us be he visiting teaching companions for the day on Wednesday. It was amazing. In other baby animal news, that day we also met a giant bunny. I should have taken a picture of it. Anyway, this bunny had a roommate who was a guinea pig to keep it from getting lonely. Isn’t that cute? I just loved that.

Sister Nish, my soon-to-be long-lost companion has continued in her ill health, so we have had some quiet days this week, which is kind of a departure from the usual missionary schedule. The great news about that is that I read a whole box full of copies of the Ensign! Wow. I have learned a lot this week from that experience.

I will be sad to see the elders in the area leave, as they were a source of both inspiration and entertainment. For example, this week their water was shut off for the day. Sister Nish said, “Oh no! What did you do?!” and they said, “We thirsted and held in our bathrooms.” I would not have thought to phrase the experience like that. This is why we need the diverse talents and gifts of all the different missionaries.

Something I’ve been pondering a lot this week is the importance of member friendship. Friendship is something we can’t provide as missionaries, so if you want to be a great member missionary, be a great friend. This is important to every phase of the work.

I’m also getting into 3 Nephi! So exciting! Jesus makes His appearance soon so I’ve been on the edge of my seat. Stay tuned. I’m predicting that He will be wonderful and wise and bring many miracles.

Finally! Write me lots of letters: 923 National Hwy, LaVale MD 21502

Love,

Sister Asplundh

The Goal

Last Sunday I looked at Sister Nish and said, “We are going to have a really good week.” That’s exactly what we had! We experienced so many magical miracles. I don’t even know where to begin so I guess I’ll start with the most important news, which is Baby Animal News. There is a wonderful brother in the ward who is a beekeeper. Obviously when I found out about this I was thrilled and offered him service for days. On Tuesday we were able to go out to his beautiful garden and hives. It was a wonderful experience. He was extracting honey from the hives and putting honeycomb in a big machine that twirls around to pull the honey out. When he opened the whirring machine to show us what was inside I was hit by a gust of honey and beeswax-scented air and I just felt so at home. We got a tour of some of the hives (no veils because we live on the edge) and I was just overwhelmed by how much I love the sensory experience of beekeeping: the aforementioned fragrance, the hum of the hive, the beautiful golden bees and their honey, and of course the delicious fruits of their labors. Speaking of which, this generous fellow sent us home with fresh honey straight from the extractor and armfuls of produce from his garden. We also spent lots of time at his blueberry bushes, eating straight off the vine. I looked around and I thought, “Ah yes. My future.” The members of the ward are so good to us.

My sweet companion really helped me reach my goal of visiting the hives and I was so inspired by her service that I decided to call and ask around for a violin. Sister Nish would talk a lot about her love for playing the violin and I knew that having an instrument around would make her happy and bring the spirit. Our wonderful ward mission leader found us a violin to borrow for as long as we are in the area not a day after I asked him. We are way too blessed. Since then We have been having lots of jam sessions, aka singing and playing hymns. It’s wonderful to have a house full of music.

This week we had our semi-annual mission temple trip. The relief society president and her daughter drove down with us and we enjoyed a really beautiful experience worshiping there. If it’s been more than a week since you were at the temple, I would recommend going posthaste. It’s a place of peace and miracles. While we were serving in the DC temple, Sister Nish’s brother was getting married in the Salt Lake temple. It can be really hard to miss important family events on the mission, so we wore her brother’s wedding colors and visited the sealing rooms in the temple so she could feel close to her family that day. On our way home, we had quite the adventure when the tire of the car we were driving blew all the way out. We were all in our skirts and dresses at the side of the highway trying to change it. Fortunately our relief society president’s daughter is a person of much practical skill and took control of the situation quite impressively.

After our wonderful day at the temple, poor Sister Nish was pretty tuckered out and an illness she has been trekking through all week came to a head. She was just all nauseated and sad and wanted me to hold her hand. Our mission president’s wife, one of the nicest people I have ever met, gave us good advice and recommended that we stay home from church and rest all day. It was a sweet experience because our ward was so helpful and supportive in reaching out to us.

On Saturday, I experienced one of the best things about mission life, which is that someone I taught was baptized! I couldn’t be there because it was in Charles Town and we’re pretty far away and had to be working all day, but I just felt all warm and tingly all day. I loved thinking of this amazing person who I had come to love so deeply taking a step that will bless her life forever. I love thinking of how the gospel will make her so happy and how much she has to offer our community. She’s on the best journey there is and it is a privilege to have a front row seat to that kind of experience.

Last night, the Assistants to the President called us and said, “Hey Sisters, we’re calling to let you know that you’re being shotgunned out of the area tomorrow!” I almost fell off of the couch until they said, “Just kidding, but you are having a mini missionary come serve with you this week!” Another of so many moments when I am keenly aware of how many teenage boys have authority over me. What a strangely educational experience. In any case, we are so excited for our little friend to arrive this evening! I can just feel the miracles coming on.

Speaking of miracles, we had a major breakthrough with our investigator! She has been really resistant to reading the Book of Mormon and would often say that she was just too old to get used to a new book of scripture. The member friend of hers who we were taking to our lesson suggested that we do a good old-fashioned reading of 1 Nephi 1 with her, explaining it really slowly and simply. Surprising to nobody, when we sat back and let the word of God take the reins, it went beautifully! It was so important to have a friend there to make her feel safe and comfortable as she tried something new. She was just loving the Book of Mormon by the end of it. Keep in mind, this is after a year of various missionaries trying to talk her into reading it. I’m not sure what changed, but I have already seen the Book of Mormon answer her questions. It is, as our favorite missionary reality show/training DVDs say, a “pure vehicle of the spirit.” A member friend in a different lesson long ago gave a wonderful testimony of the Book of Mormon in which he said that he reads it every day because he is hooked on how happy it makes him feel. That is so real! It’s a mood-enhancing and soul-strengthening text. If you don’t have a copy, here’s where you get one: http://www.mormon.org/free-book-of-mormon Yes, FREE! Sidenote: we often try to get to know people by giving them pass-along cards, which are basically business cards with the mormon.org site and our information. I knew a missionary who would always say, “Would you like a free card to our church?” I don’t know if a free business card is necessarily a very exciting prospect, and it just made me laugh to imagine him street contacting.

In terms of my own Book of Mormon reading, I just started 3 Nephi. This is just where it starts getting really good! It’s the part with Jesus! Anyway, dearelder me or write me at 923 National Hwy, LaVale MD 21502

Love,

Sister Asplendid