Monday, October 26, 2009

My first baptism!

Dear Family,

Thank you for the email. And yes, I got some mittens for the freezing cold that I'm sure will come soon. You should see Sister Gingrich's combat boots. They are heavy duty. Being from California, she doesn't mess around with the cold.

I've had a pretty amazing week. On Thursday we went to the Temple in Winter Quarters. It is the smallest temple I've ever seen, but very beautiful with all the stained glass windows. President Kunz and plenty of missionaries were there so it was hugs and handshakes all around. Then on Sunday President Kunz gave a talk in sacrament meeting emphasizing the importance of the temple. Just like you said in your email, we should be willing to take the time to attend often, especially with a temple so close. In his talk, President Kunz also gave his "secret to life" which is something that he and his wife have found very helpful. After a session in the temple they sit in the celestial room and discuss how they are doing on keeping those five temple covenants. Then they ask Heavenly Father how they can improve and follow the inspiration they recieve. I thought that was a really good idea so I'm going to try it next time.

On Friday I went to my first baptism! Mary has been investigating the church for a long time and finally was baptized by her husband Billy. Sister Gingrich and I were so happy for her! The spirit was very strong throughout the service and I just couldn't stop smiling. It feels so good to see someone change their life for the better.

This week, we set two more people to be baptized on November 21st! Luka is from Africa and has already been to church twice. We taught him about the Restoration in a member's home and he is excited to learn more. Dianne is a nurse that used to work for a Doctor who is a member. She was also very interested in the restoration and accepted the invitation to be baptized right away. It is on her calendar and everything! I'm so happy for both of them and look forward to teaching them and helping them come unto Christ. Baptism truly is the gate to the celestial kingdom.

By the way, there are a lot of Spanish speakers here. Thankfully, I still remember a little and can converse well enough to get the names and addresses of people that are interested. Then we call the Spanish Elders with our referrals. Dad, I think you would be proud. Even though I stumble over words I can communicate and help these people feel comfortable. It makes me want to learn Spanish again.

One last funny story. Jim is a less active member that we're trying to help come to church. He loves meeting with us but because we are sisters we cannot teach him in his apartment. So we often meet at restaurants or just teach in the hallway of his complex. Well, yesterday he invited us over for dinner. When we turned the corner and saw a table and two chairs sitting in the hall outside his door we had to laugh. And sure enough, he had prepared a delicious meal and set a cute little table just for us. So we ate and read scriptures in the hall. It must have looked pretty weird to those that walked by but we had a grand old time.

I'm glad you all are doing well. I love you very much.

Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, October 19, 2009

News from Nebraska

Hello Family,

I am loving life as a missionary in Nebraska! We (the new missionaries) arrived safely on October 13th (Dr. Sampson said I was well enough to go as scheduled!) and were greeted by President Kunz and his wife. During our first two days we visited the Mormon Trail Center and Winter Quarters Temple grounds, had interviews with President Kunz, received training from the assistants and the Kunzs, ate several meals at the Kunzs, and even went on exchanges for a few hours. While at the Trail Center I received a strong spiritual witness that the Nebraska Omaha Mission (NOM) is where Heavenly Father wants me to be.

President and Sister Kunz are wonderful. They love me and I can feel it. The best part is I'm serving in their ward! My trainer is Sister Gingrich and she is fantastic. She really loves the people here and works very hard. She trusts the Lord so completely and knows that He is guiding us in every aspect of the work. She's from Valencia California (near LA) and loves to play soccer. So we run in the morning as long as it isn't freezing cold. So far the weather has been decent, some rain and plenty of wind, but the snow is supposed to come soon. We have a car and live in a very nice apartment.

For the first time, there are some Elders serving in the Ralston LaVista area with us. I've never heard of having two sets of missionaries in the same ward but I'm sure we will make it work. The other new thing for Sister Gingrich is proselyting full time. I guess I'm one of a handful of sisters here that didn't recieive that extra week of visitor center training at the MTC. So instead of working a day or two a week at the Trail Center, we will only go there on Saturday Mornings for training. President Kunz said my call may change to include the Trail Center, but for now Sister Gingrich and I are "full proselyting."

The people here are amazing. For me the biggest surprise is how quickly I love them. I don't even know the people we are visiting, but as soon as we start to teach about the gospel I feel this great love for them. A man named Jerry Smith moved in with a part member family on my first day. He's had a rough life but accepted our invitation to be baptized because he really wants to change. I was amazed, we had just barely met him and I already felt this great love for him. Even though I didn't know him, I knew that Heavenly Father did and I could feel His love for Jerry. So, we now have four investigators set for baptism! "In NOM we baptize!" And surprisingly, they encourage us to invite anyone that shows any interest at all to be baptized. And we do! Usually in the very first lesson we invite them to prepare for baptism on a certain date.

I love you all very much. Be sure to help the missionaries at home. We love it when members can join us for lessons or let us teach investigators in their home. And visiting teaching and home teaching are the same thing as missionary work so do those too. It is all the Lord's work so He will help us do it and everyone needs to be reminded of Heavenly Fathers love for them.

Sister Mortensen

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Guess who is in Nebraska!

I guess all is well and she made it to Nebraska. We got a letter and pictures from the mission president saying she made it, her companion is Sis. Gingrich, and she will be serving in Omaha. The mission president also requested that mail be sent to the mission home address and they will forward it to her.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Still at the MTC

Today I (Andrea) received a short letter from Bailey saying that she is still at the MTC for another week. She developed a pilonidal cyst a couple of weeks ago and the doctor put her on antibiotics hoping to avoid surgery. On her return visit the doctor said things were healing properly, that she would not need surgery, but that he wanted to continue to watch it for one more week. So, she will be a "solo sister" since her companion left on Tuesday and she will spend her time with a district "a week younger" than her. Here's her take:

"I'm sure it will work out just fine but I am a bit disappointed. Maybe this extra preparation time will turn out to be just what I need."

I don't know for certain when she will leave to go to Nebraska but I have posted the mission home address and I'll update her address if I get a new one.

Monday, October 12, 2009

MTC - Oct. 8, 2009

Dear family,

Life at the MTC is still fantastic, especially because of conference. It was fun to watch it with a whole bunch of missionaries. You should have seen & felt the intensity during Elder Holland’s talk. Everyone stopped looking at their notes and looked up with their eyes riveted to the screen. He spoke with such power, such conviction ,such boldness. I don’t know how you could hear that and not believe that the Book of Mormon is true. I’ve already watched it again and again. It gave me the chills. My other favorite talks were Pres. Uchtdorf’s about love and Pres. Monson’s about service but it seemed like every talk had at least one tidbit that was meant for me. I’m really excited for the Ensign to come out so that I can re-read and study all those wonderful talks (especially Elder Oaks because it was too deep for me to grasp in one hearing). For me, the big take home message from conference was love. Love is why I’m serving a mission. I love my Heavenly Father. I love His gospel, and I know He loves me. I want to share this love with all God’s children because it feels so good and brings such happiness.

One of the big things Sis. Allred and I are working on is getting to know people. We need to not be so shy and also step out of teacher mode so that we can really get to know the people. Only then will we be able to help them see how the gospel can bless them in their unique situation. And the best was to do this is through questions. One example would be, “How will the atonement bless you?” That way they can make connections on their own and find meaning for them personally. Sister Porter (a teacher) had us practice this as we taught lesson 2 by pointing at us when we should ask a question. Amazingly, good questions kept popping out of our mouths. The promises in D&C 84:85 and 100:5-6 are real!

I can’t believe how quickly my time at the MTC has gone by. In just one week I’ll be in Nebraska with my trainer doing real, alive missionary work! I’m excited but a little nervous and a little sad. Sister Allred will be in New Mexico and I don’t feel very ready. I’m not the only one that feels this way though and I’m sure it will all be just fine.

I’d like to conclude this letter with my testimony. I know that God is our Heavenly Father and that He loves us. He wants us to be happy and enjoy all the blessings He does so He provided a perfect plan for us to become like Him. Jesus Christ is at the center of that plan because it is only through Him and his atonement that we can repent and be forgiven. I know that Christ suffered everything that we will ever suffer so He understands us perfectly and knows exactly what we’re going through. I know that the true, full gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth through the prophet, Joseph Smith. If we follow this gospel, by having faith, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end we will receive eternal life and live with God forever. The Book of Mormon is true. I know that God answers every sincere prayer we offer.

Love always,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Thursday, October 1, 2009

First letter from the MTC

Hello family!

Life at the MTC is wonderful. The days feel like weeks and the weeks feel like days. I've really appreciated all the letters you've sent. It makes me think that letters are the way to go. Only 30 minutes on P-day (Thursdays here) to email will be too short, so I'll write most of everything in letters that I actually have time to write (that will still only be on p-days). You all can still send emails, but I prefer letters that I can read whenever I want.

We have a wonderful district! We are all so unified in our desire to serve and preach the gospel. Everyone is so spiritual and has a strong testimony. Having four sisters with six elders probably helps the elders behave (they goof off less than the elders in other districts). I love the discussions we have in class and the spirit that I feel almost constantly. I love the MTC!

My companion, Sister Allred, is excellent. She's kinda shy so I end up talking the most when we give lessons. But her simple testimony is very powerful and always brings the spirit. She is a good sport to play volleyball with me everyday.

Anyway, the MTC is hard work but the best work. The schedule is rigorous, especially for the sisters, but helps us stay focused. I feel the spirit stronger than I ever have.

Sister Bailey Mortensen

P.S. Preach My Gospel is such an inspired book and you should all read it!