simple but not easy

January 27
Have you ever been trapped in a small apartment with a bored percussionist for 72 hours? I have. Have I ever. This week brought the record-breaking winter Storm Jonas, which shut down everything for days. The library is finally open again. Around Friday the snow started coming down and President texted us advising us to “bunker down” until further notice, this of course after all our ward and branch mission leaders ensured we had adequate blankets, food, water, gasoline, and 72-hour kits. Mormons are the best when it comes to storms, actually. If you’re ever in an emergency situation, call a local Mormon. Said individual will absolutely have enough dried beans and cracked wheat to get you through whatever you’re dealing with. Missionaries are very much used to being up to something at all times and we don’t have much access in terms of media and entertainment (that’s right, we were stuck inside WITH NO WIFI are you shaking in your boots yet?) so we had to really put in effort to find good things to do with our time. Here are some examples:

– calling every phone number in our phone and trying to set appointments with them (awkward because they all said, “I’m trapped inside so I don’t know when you could come over)
– going though the area book (aka all our records and files) and grooming it to perfection
– cooking all the food in our apartment
– napping
– cleaning everything in sight
– memorizing The Living Christ (it’s pretty good! Go give it a read!)
– reading Jesus the Christ
– reading Das Buch Mormon aloud for practice
– watching the Restoration film… and… and Legacy… and Meet the Mormons… and the special features of Meet the Mormons (very boring, not recommended)
– face masks, pedicures, etc.
– more napping
– coloring
– trying (to no avail) to arrange a “missionary-related” conference call with our mission leader and the other missionaries just for some company

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Church was obviously canceled and the church parking lots only just got shoveled out today. On Sunday we finally ventured out after calling the branch president and then the elders and coaxing them into agreeing to a tiny sacrament meeting because, hello, I’m way to weak and puny to get through a week without the sacrament. Sister Walker and I walked/trudged about a mile to the mission office where we joined with another trio of sisters and with our elders and had a mini sacrament meeting. Sister Walker and I had both prepared little messages to share and we had a tiny testimony meeting. It a sweet experience. The spirit was so strong there, and I thought of Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” He truly was in the midst of it. I felt it. We all did. The spirit instructed me early in my mission that I should walk out of sacrament meeting a different person than I walked in, and since then I’ve learned time and again that it is always, always worth it to get the sacrament on the Sabbath. After that we just didn’t have the heart to return to our dreaded apartment so we shoveled our car out from its mountain of snow, Sister Walker with the “official” shovel and me with the dustpan and also a broom. I tried to feel like a resourceful pioneer woman and not like a useless embarrassment to the church and to our companionship. Pictures to follow. Sister Walker is also a total service go-getter and talked me into shoveling many people out of the snow with our shovel and dustpan. #betterhalf

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(our car is the one on the right. you can see a tiny peek of windshield wiper poking out)

On Monday night we finally got to really get back to work when a wonderful member took us out in her nicely-tired car. After we had visited everyone on our plans, it was nearly time to go home and we drove by the stake center. The parking lot was absolutely covered in several feet of snow and behind the building we spied a big hill with a huge, huge piece of cardboard, like double refrigerator box sized. We obviously had to go sledding, and it was amazing. Night sledding is the only way. After a deep and intense lull, a little spike in adrenaline was much needed.

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Today is also an eventful one because sweet Sister Walker is 20. Her nickname back home is “Mickey” and so I prayed really hard for guidance and figured out how to make Mickey Mouse banana-cinnamon pancakes for her using a technique that the spirit brought to my remembrance  from a youtube video I viewed in the pre-mission life. I’m not much of a cook so I was pretty proud that I didn’t light anything on fire whatsoever. A companion’s birthday must always be taken full advantage of because a missionary can sneakily incur favor for their companionship as a unit while appearing to be a great companion. Just a little lifehack for all you future missionaries out there. Today was also transfers. Nobody is going anywhere (whew) for another six weeks (which we didn’t find out until 10:45pm on Sunday night, the missionary equivalent of 3:45am). Our area is the transfer hub so we were peripheral to the transfers happening. They decided to do away with transfer meeting in order to free up maximum time for missionary work (and to avoid emotional trauma for outgoing missionaries, I suppose) so everything is weird and different. Fun though.
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In baby animal news, remember Tinkerbell, the blind one-eyed pomeranian? The elders met her for the first time and one of them, a slightly newer (but not really new enough for this to be acceptable) elder crouched down and said, “Come here Tinkerbell! Come to Uncle [first name]!” His companion just looked at us with pure shock and terror and the room went silent and everyone got uncomfortable and finally his companion said, “I don’t know which is worse: that you called yourself by your first name or that you called yourself uncle…. or that you were talking about yourself in the third person to a pomeranian.” It’s okay, Tinkerbell just has that effect on people, especially because her best friend is a fluffy white seeing-eye kitten named Gusgus.

This week we also had a PRETTY GREAT AND I ALMOST FAINTED OF HOW GREAT IT WAS worldwide missionary broadcast. Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is all I have to say. I was struck by the way everyone presented the gospel and missionary work with such intense simplicity. The way they did it, being worthy vessels of the Holy Ghost, every missionary was able to receive personalized counsel from the spirit. Here’s a little report: https://www.lds.org/church/news/leaders-instruct-missionaries-during-video-segments-of-worldwide-broadcast?lang=eng

On of my main takeaways from the broadcast is that living the gospel (especially missionary work, aka the greatest duty of living the gospel) is not easy but it is simple. I love it.

And? I love you! Feel free to send Sister Walker a present at 5455 Columbia Rd Apt 213, Columbia MD 21044-5686

Love,

The Jonas Sisters

 

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the twins

January 19

Greetings from the swankiest library probably in the whole mission/world. The general area I’m serving in is pretty fancy pants, especially this library. I am also presently on exchanges with Sister Reatugi and Sister Garcia, a wonderful pair of greenies. They are in a trio with a sister who just finished her own training experience and then as soon as she was done being green she had twins. Fun! Definitely an adventure for the brave missionary that she is. They’re nice and quiet, that good greenie way.
On the other hand, last week’s exchange adventure brought Hermana Rodriguez into the area and sent Sister Walker into the Spanish missionary life. Same area (the entire Columbia stake) different demographic. Sister Walker’s temporary companion is a former CYSA missionary, and they ended up running into an investigator who she had taught during her tenure here but who we lost touch with and couldn’t seem to get in with ever since. Hermana Hart recognized her and got her new contact info and introduced her to Sister Walker. Every exchange brings miracles. It’s because they’re so weird and different from normal life.
The best part of exchanges in a family ward are the babies, and the second best part is the nice old ladies, for example I went with the twins to visit a lady with a dog named Timpanogos (Timpy for short) who told us her wild and miraculous conversion story and entertained us with tales of her life on the board of La Leche Leauge while Timpy climbed on us. We also got to meet with their Relief Society president who gave me the inside scoop on the YSA-aged sisters. Honestly Relief Society presidents are probably the number one most useful demographic in the entire church. The wonderful upsides of life in the YSA are innumerable, though. For example, when you spend much of your missionary coordination meeting brainstorming potential suitors for your investigators because Mormons have zero power against the temptation to matchmake. Everyone needs a vice, right? Missionaries included.
Yesterday we couldn’t email because of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I hope you all read the Letter From Birmingham Jail for me. If not, there’s still time. With all our free time, we went to a thrift store and I found a dress that almost definitely belongs in the lineup of drape-based play clothes from The Sound of Music. Don’t worry, it still has plenty of wear left in it. We also got Sister Walker a haircut with a member who we then shared a spiritual message with and committed to go on dates with people of her choosing every week this month. Such are the spiritual promptings you receive in the YSA.
In awkward street contacting moments, this week there was a fellow about 20 feet ahead of us, just far away enough that we couldn’t really start talking to him but close enough that we wanted to. In an effort to prevent him from getting in the car too soon, I yelled out, “I like your pants!” before I could stop myself. He made a face like he was trying not to laugh/cry and quickly climbed into his car. They were cool pants, though, with a nice orange stripe down the side.
We also had a wonderful opportunity to have interviews with the mission president. I realize that Mormons use the term “interview” in kind of an unusual way (I kept asking missionaries if they got the job, ha ha) but that just means a one-on-one conversation. I just felt loved and great and I am so grateful for the leadership I have received as a missionary. During my conversation I realized that a humble missionary (as I am seeking to become) strives for Heavenly Father’s approval and is satisfied with it. It’s really tempting and easy as a missionary to set an unreachable standard for ourselves that is based on worldly measurements and that is designed to satisfy pride rather than fulfill our duty. On my mission I have gained a true love for following, listening, and being a disciple.
 I hope you have had an opportunity to see this beautiful video of the new Provo City Center Temple: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/provo-city-center-temple-public-tours?cid=HP_TH_1-14-2016_dPAD_fMNWS_xLIDyL2-2_
To me it is such a beautiful metaphor for the power of the atonement. Before the fire, the Provo Tabernacle was a great building. It was a beautiful part of the culture of the city and was well-loved by everyone. However, it had lost its central tower and in other ways was experiencing disrepair, and although we did not know it, it was being prepared for greater things. I remember hearing about the fire, and for months feeling that there was no return and no redemption. Of course this was not the case. Seeming disaster made way for something greater, for the tabernacle to return to its full architectural glory and not only to be restored but to be glorified to the higher purpose of a temple. Oh how I love and treasure this building. Remember the Provo Tabernacle if you ever feel like you are beyond redemption or if you don’t know why disaster has struck.
I love you my siblen. Write to me always at 5455 Columbia Rd, Apt 213, Columbia MD 21044
Keep the faith,
Mother Asplund (as one of the elders called me today. yikes.)

sister nish the sister mish returns

January 11

We’ve talked to some weird strangers this week. Well, we talk to weird strangers every week. For example, this week we walked by a young man in a beanie and dark sunglasses and I said, “Hello!!” and he silently saluted me with two fingers. It was rather disarming. I didn’t think I would ever see myself speechless, but there I was, speechless. If he wanted to get out of talking to us, he did the right thing.

In another encounter, Sister Walker and I have been calling every name in our phone that we don’t recognize. This practice has proved rather fruitful, actually. Highly recommended. One person we called couldn’t understand us very well (bad connection?) so she just launched into why she couldn’t give us money. We don’t want any money! We just want your time! And for you to completely change as a person! For the better, we promise! Another number we called was not aligned with the name in the phone. Any time I call a wrong number I try to get a return appointment just in case, so I started to say, “We’re sorry for this inconvenience, but perhaps it was not by coincidence that we called you to–” and then he hung up on us. I can’t blame him, to be honest.
This week we went on exchanges with the Savage Mill sisters, including my beloved former companion Sister Nish! Oh, we had a grand old time wandering around in the cold. Miracles included her ward mission leader driving by us and pulling over so that he and Sister Nish could correlate about important business while I put my ear suspiciously close to the heating vent. Another miracle was teaching a great new investigator they have. They were really not sure if this investigator was going anywhere but after studying together we both felt prompted to have faith in her. We had a great lesson and on Sunday I saw her at stake conference!
Speaking of which, this was a highly good fun time. We had some amazing talks by the temple president and the temple matron, stake president, President and Sister Christiansen, and a wonderful seventy. We also got to catch a few minutes of President Nelson’s young adult broadcast. He talked about reading all these cynical articles and studies about the Millennial generation and expressed that Heavenly Father loves us and that he loves us, regardless of what the various articles and research all have to say. SO CUTE!
Oh and for some cuteness, you should all know that I braked for a baby squirrel yesterday and saved its life. Our driving is monitored by some secret mechanism and I got in slight trouble for braking aggressively. Oh well.
Last Monday we also gathered a whole crew of other sister missionaries in our apartment along with one of the mission president’s daughters and watched The Errand of Angels. It’s a really good one. Especially the parts where they’re all speaking German.
OK siblen. I love you all. Go read Alma 29. It’s honestly the perfect chapter for missionary life, especially for developing humility as a missionary. He just gets it. Also… send me letters 🙂 You can reach me at 5455 Columbia Rd Apt 213, Columbia MD 21044-5686
Hugs and handshakes,
Sister Asplud (as our mailbox now reads)

year of humility

January 4

Well, we’ve had a pretty weird and great week together here in the CYSA. It started with zone training, when we gather with a crew of fellow missionaries and roll around or whatever. Sister Walker and I got to instruct and talk about following the spirit. It was actually fabulous because we got to practice teaching by the spirit. In Peach my Gospel (as I like to call it) there’s a section about the things you can do to invite the spirit (pray, use the scriptures, bear testimony, share personal experiences, and express love for God and those you are teaching) and as we practiced teaching with a focus on these elements, I realized that I could express love for those I teach about 100% more. As I did it with fellow missionaries, it really brought the spirit. We often talk about how our testimonies increase as we bear them, and likewise I learned that our love for others increases as we express it. Well good! We really do have such an intense love for those we teach. It takes exactly one and a half seconds with someone to feel the kind of love for them that you feel in family relationships. That is the #1 hard thing about missionary work: everyone around you has the power to just destroy you emotionally, and they do. It’s ok though because the atonement helps you learn to heal quickly and be resilient.

We had our final shift at the visitor’s center this last week. I’m going to miss it. The visitor’s center is a very special place. During a slow part of the day, a family came in with an older couple who didn’t speak any English at all, their son, and his son. The dad wanted a Chinese Book of Mormon for himself and also got one for his mom. It was so sweet to watch him show it to her and as he was ushered into the big secret giant Book of Mormon closet with copies of the Book of Mormon in every language the grandpa and the little baby were just playing and laughing and so happy together. I don’t know why but on a mission everything takes on this intense emotional meaning and I about cried while I watched them.
That night was New Year’s Eve and some missionaries from our mission had put together a musical performance in the auditorium. We originally had a member bringing her friend to the visitor’s center to see the lights and the festivities but she got stood up so we got stood up. Right as we were deciding what to do, President strolled in and said, “You’re not supposed to proselyte this evening anyway. Go ahead and stay! For both performances!” So we got to see those good talended missionaries play their instruments and the “companion’s choir” sing a few tunes. It was just adorable. On the downside, we didn’t get home until 10:30. It was just one of those nights where I had a lot to talk to God about, so I had barely finished praying as midnight rolled around and I crawled into bed with the sounds of yelling and vuvuzelas and fireworks outside. Happy New Year.
On New Year’s Day we weren’t really supposed to be out proselyting but we were allowed to hold any appointments we had. This ended up being a wonderful day because we got in with an investigator we hadn’t seen in a week or two whom we had been concerned about. We lay the foundation for this lesson on Tuesday when we dropped cookies off at her house and she finally got around to texting us back. Cookies work, just sayin’. Anyway we have been on a 3 Nephi kick this week so we read 3 Nephi 11 with one of our investigators on New Year’s Eve and 3 Nephi 17 with another investigator on New Year’s Day. We just wanted to spend our holidays bathed in the spirit and that’s exactly what we did. We shared 3 Nephi 11 with an investigator who is from Haiti and whose English has made vast (even miraculous?!) improvement in the weeks we’ve been meeting with her but who still does better with French. We went around in a circle with us reading in English and her reading in French. There was something touching about it, I don’t know. ~the spirit speaks all languages~ etc.
To remedy the boredom of many of the missionaries who didn’t have anything going on on New Year’s Day, the Christiansens invited us over to mingle at the mission home. We could only stay for a few minutes because we had to rush off to another lesson, but one of our fellow sisters had heard my imitation of President (if you know me you probably can guess that I have spent a lot of time cultivating and refining said impersonation) and decided he needed to hear it. We got a call from these sisters during our lesson and of course we didn’t answer, but as soon as we finished we saw a text from them that said, “It’s president. You can answer.” Terrified, we called back immediately to hear the party continuing at the mission home and President on the phone hoping to hear my imitation of him. I told him that I could only do him justice live, but it was getting to curfew and they were about to send the other missionaries off to bed so we joined them for a prayer on speaker phone.
This week I also brought Sister Tait to the CYSA for exchanges. I missed Sister Walker of course but she did a great job on her first exchange as a leader. She’s such a sweetie pie. They both are. Missionaries have this problem where we have to greet everyone we see (if you’ve ever wondered why everyone in Provo keeps waving at you, that’s why) and as we were pulled up at a stoplight Sister Tait noticed someone in the car next to us who seemed to be waving at us so of course she waved back. Turns out he was just eating while driving and when she made awkward eye contact and waved he slowly pulled forward….. awkwardness is just a condition of the mission. You get used to it.
OK humans. You’re beautiful. Keep sparkling. I hope you sticky note 100 doors this week like I did. Or just sticky note my mailbox… 5455 Columbia Rd Apt 213, Columbia MD 21044-5686
Hugs and handshakes,
.5 of Team Applesky

ring out, wild bells

December 28

Merry Christmas everyone! The day has come… and went! And it was beautiful. We definitely had a week of miracles. On Monday we went caroling for FHE. I learned that people like caroling a lot better when it includes more that two people. Also, our valiant FHE coordinators put together little gift bags with a church-produced Christmas DVD and other materials and treats. We just knocked random doors and people loved it! There was one house with two families of little ones gathered together for some festivities. Sister Walker noticed that they seemed really excited for us to come by because the children kept coming to the window. They were our last stop at the other end of the cul-de-sac and after we sang to them, the mom told us that they had been waiting and hoping that we would come visit them. The kids had drawn and written a Christmas card for our little crew with candy canes taped to it. It was so gratifying. Another family said, “When we were in Germany we had Mormon friends, and they came to carol at our house too! We’ll have to send them a picture!”

On Christmas Ing (as I like to call it) we had our mission-wide Christmas devotional. All the missionaries in the whole mission were gathered together in one cultural hall. You may be able to imagine the wildness. If you can’t, remember that we were 3/4 18-year-old boys. Somebody had the brilliant idea to have Minute to Win It games as an activity with zones competing against each other. I don’t know how I missed this, but people love being competitive and especially the part where they see who can yell the loudest. I don’t know. Anyway there was a lot of yelling and I went to go sit at the senior couples’ table because it was a little too much for my delicate temperament. I tried to be a good sport about it though because I know that managing stress can really help missionaries be more effective and it seems like my fellow missionaries got to release a lot of tension through our activity. I don’t know. We also had a mission-wide talent show. I have long had a Christmas wish to get a group of missionaries together to sing the 13th-century French carol, “The Friendly Beasts” and I successfully bullied our district into helping me make my Christmas wish come true. They were such troopers about it. I’m so grateful. If you know the song, my companion and I played the part of the sheep. Our sweet mission president and his wife decided they wanted us to have scarves and so a bunch of sisters in the local stake and whom the Christiansens knew from home and returned MBM missionaries all knitted scarves for us. Are you crying yet? We all got scarves and a Christmas hug and handshake from our dear mission parents.
Christmas Eve was so cozy and sweet and I got to eat kolaches! It was such a tender mercy. We got together with some member families and another set of sisters and they fed us and we played games. Usually we have to be kind of strict and leave dinner appointments an hour after we get there and the members hate that, of course, because we have to be awkward and rushed but as a special Christmas Eve treat we were allowed to linger a little longer and play games and read the New Era on their recliner.
Christmas was a day of magic, as it should be. President Christiansen texted us and let us know that we wouldn’t necessarily be proselyting in the traditional sense on Christmas but that we should find people whom we could bless that day. For some reason this text blew my mind and forever changed my ~Christmas spirit~ I CAN USE CHRISTMAS TO BLESS OTHERS??? Pretty sure everyone else knew about that except for me but I’m finally in on the Big Christmas Secret. In the morning (after we opened presents and watched The Sound of Music, of course) we visited a nursing home with a crew of other Latter-Day Saints to sing to them. This was the beginning of a day full of caroling. I don’t know why, but I have spent almost every day this month caroling. I love it. We went around and sang to everyone in a big group, and the three  companionships of missionaries would linger in the rooms of individuals to get to know and visit with them a little bit extra. One sister who organized the whole thing brought her friendly baby and everyone lit up around the little one, myself included of course. It was so edifying and satisfying.
After that we… went caroling. We decided that was the best way to visit people without imposing on them. We texted our Relief Society president, branch president, and branch mission leader for ideas of who might be lonely or need a little song and visit and we packed up little treat bags and chased the Holy Ghost all around the stake singing to everyone our leaders sent us to. The spirit also advised us to go visit the family of a former investigator. This former investigator had moved out so we had decided not to stop by anymore but we try to be quick to obey the spirit so we went over. They loved it! We loved it! It was an Oprah Day miracle! I mean a Christmas miracle! They told us that nobody had ever caroled to them ever since they moved to that house and that our timing was “profound” because they had just finished their Christmas movie. Perfect. We also decided to visit our investigator and bring her a Christmas present and sing to her a little. She wasn’t home but her sister, whom we have been trying to get in with was! We sang to her and read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and she agreed to start taking the lessons. A new investigator! The best Christmas present in the world! That was the truest Christmas miracle of them all.
We finished our Christmas at the mission home, where we ate a variety of soups and watched Elf. I don’t know. I helped President do the dishes and we got talking about art history and he was like, “Now, who was the artist who was known for wearing pants and breaking into the male-dominated field of artists at the time and she painted livestock?” and I thought, “You are my best friend” but I said, “Rosa Bonheur.” And then we talked about Rosa Bonheur while doing the dishes. A real conversation about art history: the greatest gift of them all. We also got to Skype with the family!!!!! Oh it was magical. I won’t be trunky and go into detail but I’ll just say that if you’re around my family all the time you should be grateful. Finally, you should all know that it was 67 degrees and raining buckets on Christmas. Don’t ask me why.
We spent our Boxing Day at the Visitor’s center which was a delight as usual. One lady came in and asked about the person on the top of the temple. I told her about the Book of Mormon and explained that it was the angel Moroni, who was the last prophet who helped write the Book of Mormon, and that he has a trumpet to symbolize proclaiming the gospel to the world. She loved it and she said, “Where can I get a copy of that book? I want to read about Moroni.” so of course we fetched her a copy posthaste and I showed her Moroni 10:4-5 and marked it for her. You’ll never guess what happened next… yep, I had to leave and go home. Every time.
This week our focus was receiving referrals because we know that we need to be blessing a few more lives than we are. We prayed for help and the Lord delivered. Some examples:
– one day we started talking to a mom and her nine-year-old daughter. The mom wasn’t interested but we asked her whom she knows who might be and her daughter said, “That family over there!” and pointed. We went by and knocked and a young man opened the door. We talked to him a little and shared a preview of our message and he said that he would like to learn more. He’s a student in Baltimore home for the holidays but we got his information and passed it on to the elders there. Great job, 9-year-old!
– we have been helping our members create personal mission plans, wherein they identify a person they would like to share the gospel with (WHO), a specific invitation they would like to make (WHAT), and a date when we can follow up with them (WHEN). We write these three categories on the back of a picture of Jesus for them. For whatever reason personal mission plans historically have been hit-or-miss in my ministry but this week we were able to make personal mission plans with four different members of the branch, all of whom had friends they are excited to reach out to. The field is white! (Make sure to say “white” with the h when you quote that scripture).
– it was the very end of Sunday night, that weird/awkward time range when nobody really wants to see you and you don’t have a good amount of time to travel anywhere but we decided to go visit one other person whom we have never been able to get in with. The sister who belongs to the YSA branch hasn’t been to church in a while but her mom goes to her family ward a lot and loves it. She said that her daughter was already in her ~nightclothes~ and this wasn’t a good time for her. We were about to leave when I asked every missionary’s favorite question: “What can we do to help you out?” and she said, “Actually, I’ve been meaning to organize a study group with these three friends and also bring them to the visitor’s center and one has a daughter who is my daughter’s age and she needs a more positive group of friends so she should start going to church anyway do you want to come meet them next week after church?” Obviously that was exactly what we wanted. As we were walking away, Sister Walker and I looked at each other and she whispered, “Did that really happen?”
In conclusion (?) happy New Year, friends and siblen! I love celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ but I know that this birth is secondary to his rebirth as he was resurrected. Death is one of those Big Scary Things but in Jesus we have hope that death is not an ending but a transition. In addition to a final resurrection, our Savior provides for us a continual renewal of the spirit through His Atonement. This is my favorite New Year scripture: “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Our is truly a gospel of change. We know that none of us are perfect yet and my imperfections often feel daunting. I know that Jesus Christ is the solution to all my imperfections and is that only way to really change us on a fundamental level. I love it. I love learning to grow and change. Don’t forget to let the Atonement help you accomplish your New Year’s resolutions, and especially the sacrament can be a crucial moment of personal revelation on where you can grow (go read the talk “What Lack I Yet?” for some more spiritual guidance that will be relevant to your New Year).

I love you all deeply! You are so special. I hope you have all had a fulfilling seasonal experience. I would love to hear from you. My address is 5455 Columbia Rd, Apt 213, Columbia MD 21044-5686
Holiday Hugs and Handshakes,
Sister Aslunp (that’s a real one too)
PS: I’m pretty sure my companion is teaching someone she just met near the printer as I write. I think I just heard her explain eternal marriage to this person. I’m so proud of her.

I almost forgot… a Christmas duck and bee, with a reflection of Sister Walker’s planner. Merry Christmas.

good tidings of great joy

December 21

What a week we’ve had! After poor Sister Rowley had the arduous experience of packing up everything she owns with an unhelpful (sleeping) companion and we shared a “deconstructed rocky road” ice cream experience with some of our fave members (try it, seriously) we took the now-short journey to transfer meeting. I don’t know if I’ve ever described the transfer meeting experience before, but for a refresher all the missionaries gather together in the stake center nearest to the mission office and sing “Ye Elders of Israel” but we change the opening line to “Ye missionaries called of God” to be more inclusive :’) and then as we stand and sing they march the greenies in and set them in the front row. The new missionaries, now scared out of their wits, sat on the front row to tremble while they await their turn to stand up and bear their testimonies. They were then united with their trainers who hugged them (the elders advised specifically not to embrace each other violently from the pulpit as has happened in the past) and brought them to their pews.

Afterward the outgoing missionaries bear their testimonies one at a time. This round saw seven sisters whom I love dearly one and all heading home– half of them I was in the MTC with during round 1 and the other half I have been on exchanges with. Pretty spooky. There was also a lone elder. Somehow I guess it was too weird to rope a lone elder in on the musical number, so the sisters all sang “Savior, Redeemer of My Soul” while the Lone Elder sat by himself in the choir seating. As they sang he began to look sadder and sadder and then he began to weep, and then he began to sob. It was one of the saddest things I have ever seen. Because of the strict social norms between elders and sisters it would not have been appropriate for me to comfort him, but it was terrible to watch this poor outgoing elder sit by himself and bawl. Terrible in a beautiful way. After the musical number the sisters all sat in the choir seats with the Lone Elder and they cried together while the mission president gave a rousing speech. We close by singing “Called to Serve,” including the special edition MBM third verse. Afterward we all wander around trying to figure out which is our bike and which is our companion and then we go back to work. It’s a very emotionally exhausting experience. A roller coaster of sorts.

After transfer meeting I took my brand-new (to me) companion to meet our investigator and to teach her the law of chastity. This investigator has an accent that takes a little getting used to so my poor companion spent most of the lesson in the dark while the member friend and I taught and addressed concerns. We are working on establishing a baptismal date with this investigator because we all feel that she is ready and so we were reviewing potential dates and I said, “We could hold the baptismal service next Saturday! Or even that Friday, the 25th!” … because I forgot about Christmas. Don’t worry, I was swiftly corrected and we are not organizing a baptismal service to be held on Christmas Day. That would be kind of fun, though. Afterward Sister Walker and I went on splits with our awesome members. We had received a referral from the headquarters whom Sister Walker went to go teach with our relief society president. We assumed that this person would be a YSA-aged potential investigator but she was actually a member of the church with grandkids. Oops. We made sure to let her bishop know to send the visiting teachers.
I went with two sisters from the branch to teach our other investigator, who is also doing great. One of the most intense and wonderful things about being a missionary is that you love your investigators so much. As soon as you teach them they become like a family member and you care so deeply about every aspect of their life. This investigator is especially learning how to use prayer and the Book of Mormon to receive revelation and during our lesson she told us that she recently stayed up half the night listening to the Book of Mormon and praying and that she finally received direction for where to go to college. This is someone who just a few weeks ago told us that she didn’t feel much of a connection with God. He really is just waiting to be our best friend as soon as we open up to Him.
We had two visitor’s center shifts this week. The second one meant that we had to leave church early, miss the Linger Longer (a fate worse than death), and move several appointments. I was just praying and praying that I would be able to see how these sacrifices were worthwhile and my prayers were answered. A fellow came in (wearing a Santa hat) and told us that his visit was long overdue, and that he had always wanted to see the temple up close. We showed him around and he absorbed everything we taught him. When we showed him the scale model of the temple and photos of the rooms inside he said, “Ohhhhh it’s like the Taj Mahal!” Finally I gave him a referral card and said that he could fill it out if he wanted the missionaries to visit and teach him more and he said, “Yes, that is exactly what I want!” and we got his information. It was such a privilege to work with someone who was so prepared.
My new companion, Sister Walker, is wonderful. We know each other from the MTC and I was thrilled when I heard that she would be my companion. She is a great missionary with a strong sensitivity to the spirit and great integrity. I admire her a lot already and I appreciate her willingness to put up with me. She rolls with the wackiness very well.
Something I have learned on my mission that I have been reflecting on lately is how much better rejection feels than regret. I spent much of my mission shy about talking to strangers and shy about inviting them to learn more. I was scared or rejection. However, every time I am rejected (which is many times per day) I feel so much better than when I don’t make an invitation at all. When I don’t give people the opportunity to say yes or no, I feel a sense of regret knowing that the person I just passed may have had a strong interest or desire for the blessings I’ve been sent to offer. Though rejection stings, it is satisfying to give people the opportunity to learn about the restored gospel no matter what the outcome is. I wish I had known this sooner because it would have helped me with my missionary work, both as a member and as a full-time missionary.
Sister Walker loves traroling and we have been knocking daily on the festively decorated houses in our area. This week we were eating with a member after being dropped off by another member. We failed to mention that we didn’t have a car with us and when our member told us that she had a date right after dinner I realized with a sinking feeling that I had taken no thought to how we would get home. We excused ourselves to go traroling around the neighborhood, awkwardly trying to make ourselves inconspicuous when this member and her date drove by us. Fortunately, our members are amazing and someone came quickly to pick us up but we also had the opportunity to knock many doors and sing many carols. Although everyone in that neighborhood seemed satisfied with Catholicism, one family gave us each a Christmas cookie. Oh, the tender mercies of missionary life.
I feel that I should close with my testimony of the Savior whose birth we are celebrating this week. I don’t know how his birth, life, ministry, and Atonement were possible but I know that they were because of the impact they have had on my life personally. I know that Jesus Christ lives because I know Him personally. He is my friend. He has changed me and He has changed my life. As a Christmas gift back to Him I would invite you to share your feelings about the Savior with those who might need them.
I love you, my siblen and I hope you have a memorable, loving, and sacred Christmas experience this year.
Love,
Sister Aslan
 
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Hark!

December 14

The transfer is coming to a close, which means that we had our final exchange this week. It was so fun! I brought a sweet sister into the area. Exchanges are funny for the YSA because we cover the whole stake and so even though we’re/they’re technically in a different area it’s actually just a different part of the same area. We visited a sister in the YSA but only her parents were home, who were in Sister Giles’ ward, and we said, “Oh, we’re here representing the YSA actually…” kind of awkward to explain but they gave us food anyway, so no worries.

On Thursday we had another shift at the visitor’s center. It was wonderful! Right as it was getting really busy a young lady walked in with her mom. She told me that she is a member and her mom is not, and they arrived with someone who had been a senior missionary in the daughter’s ward when she got baptized. We got to teach them half of an amazing lesson using the model of the temple and then… it was time to go and we turned them over to some other sisters. And I will never hear from them again. That’s definitely the hardest thing about the visitor’s center life. We also had such a weird, fun time doing the online chatting section of missionary work. That’s where all the off-the-wall questions come in.

We also had Elder Teh of the Seventy come for a visit! What an amazing one! He is so great. Even though we had to sit in pews for eight hours it was worth it. I received so much of that good lightning bolt revelation. You know the one.

The YSA also had such a classic YSA activity of an ugly sweater/holiday karaoke party. It was actually great and I got a pretty bad sweater with Santa and his fuzzy beard and the words “I believe…” scrawled across the bottom. I forgot a picture. How could I. My companion and I also experimented with what I like to call “traroling” which is a combination of tracting and caroling. She absolutely did not want to but because Sister Rowley is a great companion we picked the most festive house on the block (it was pretty festive) and sang “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and invited her to the ~Festival of Lights~ at the visitors’ center. I think she loved it.

Finally on Sunday we brought our investigator to dinner at the mission home. It was so chaotic because on Sunday night the assistants and President were calling everyone and telling them where/if they were being transferred. I think our investigator enjoyed it, though. She’s such a good one.

Speaking of transfers! Sister Rowley is leaving me 😦 but I know the sister who is coming in and she is really great. I think we’re going to have a great transfer together. My transfer theme will be TIME, everything from punctuality to eternity with an emphasis on chapter 8 of Preach My Gospel. I will love it!

Okay, send me 100 Christmas cards! For my fridge! 5455 Columbia Rd Apt 213, Columbia MD 21044-5689

Love,

Sister Astluncd (that’s a real spelling somebody came up with over the phone. I don’t know.)