Monday, November 30, 2009

Transfers & Turkey Bowl

Dear Family,

Thank you for the prayers. I feel a little embarrassed to be tearing up in the library, but hearing that you and others pray for me feels really good.

Right after I emailed last week, we got the transfer call. Sister Gingrich was transferred to the singles ward in our stake. We were super surprised! I tried to help relieve the stress that Sister Gingrich had about packing and saying goodbye to people, but it was hard. Transfers are stressful! Moving your whole life and leaving everything and everyone you know in a few hours! I had no idea what a big deal transfers are. I felt pretty nervous about turning over the area, but grateful that I had taken the time to learn the area and get to know the people we teach. My new companion is Sister Smith and she served in Ralston six months ago. It helps that she knows the area and the members, but our teaching pool is completely different than when she was here. She is really good at helping the members get more involved in missionary work and I love it.

Sister Smith and I had a great Thanksgiving. Our ward actually had a Turkey Bowl! It was invigorating! Definitely a great way to start the transfer! I was so happy that President let us play. And he was there, in his sweats, running around with the rest of us. I thought it was weird to see him without a suit, so I'm sure the members thought it was weird to see me without a skirt. I had a great time and even made a few good plays. It also helped me get to know the ward members a bit better. President actually wrote the following in an email to me. "You are a great athlete and held your own at the Turkey-Bowl!" That made me smile.

After the Turkey Bowl we had three Thanksgiving dinners. It was hard to restrain myself and only eat one or one and a half plates at each one, but I did. That way I didn't get too full to eat at the other dinners. The members were all very excited to see Sister Smith again.

Sister Smith and I have seen several miracles in our short time together, but my favorite happened last night. We were going to visit a convert from Colombia named Rosa and her husband Carlos. It turns out that her sister, Cecilia, and two nephews, Alejandro and Estevan, have moved in with them. Cecilia and her boys are not members, but they went to church in the Spanish ward and liked it a lot. They don't speak much English but I understand their Spanish and Rosa would translate for us. So, we taught them about the Book of Mormon and praying to know that it is true. Cecilia really felt the spirit, both at church and in the lesson. She even told a really funny story that happened that day. I guess Rosa showed her a picture of Joseph Smith at church and she said "I dreamed about him. In my dream, I was his girlfriend and he was sad because my mom said he couldn't give me shoes." We all laughed really hard at that. Still, I think it shows how prepared this family is to receive the gospel. They were all so happy and excited to learn and we had the best time laughing and learning and feeling the spirit together. We are going back later this week with the Spanish Elders.

Well, I love you all and hope you make the most of this holiday season. I've found that focusing on others is the key to happiness. When I care about others and put them first, all my selfish cares and worries disappear. It's an amazing but simple principle.

Sister Mortensen

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

(Bailey had a different preparation day this week so had a ward member email me to let me know not to worry when I didn't get her email on Monday)

Dear Family,

I'm glad you got Cory's email. He is quite the guy. He's about 40 and single and Sister Gingrich and Sister Maxfiled taught him in Papillion (just south of LaVista). I love hearing the different view points on his conversion. I guess Sister Gingrich and Sister Maxfield were having a rough day with all their appointments falling through. But, like the dilligent missionaries they are, they looked around for who the Lord wanted them to talk to. They saw Cory outside with a huge dog and went to talk to him. He tried to scare them off by explaining that all churches are corrupt, but that didn't bother them 'cause that meant he already had a testimony of the apostasy. So, they started meeting with him and gave him an experiment. If he would do everything they asked him to do for four weeks (Word of Wisdom, read scriptures, pray, go to church, the works) then he would know if the church was true or not. If he didn't know by the end of those four weeks then he didn't have to get baptized. Well, he took that challenge very seriously and got baptized last spring. Now he does baptisms at the temple twice a week! So, Cory loves us Sisters and is always willing to help, even if it is just telling our parents that we won't be emailing until Tuesday. For future reference, don't worry if you don't get an email on Monday 'cause p-days can switch occasionally.

Sister Gingrich and I have had a good week. The highlight was definitely Luka's baptism. Sister Gingrich called it a "birthday baptism bash!" And for a missionary, what better present could you have for your birthday? I was so happy for Luka! I don't even know how he got to be so amazing. We just taught the lessons and he accepted everything. He loves studying and knows the Bible really well. Now he loves studying from the Book of Mormon too and is developing a strong testimony. All he needs is good friends in the ward to keep helping him learn and feel welcome. I got to speak at his baptism and as I did I felt very strongly Heavenly Father's love for Luka. I knew that God was proud of Luka and super happy for him. Baptism truly is the gate to the celestial kingdom and I just love helping people enter that gate and begin on that path.

On Friday nights all the sisters spend the night at the Trail Center apartments so that we can go to Trail Center training on Saturday morning. So, last Friday night, Elder and Sister Williams (one of the senior couples) threw a little birthday party for Sister Gingrich, Sister Brady, and Sister Anderson. It was a fun little get together with cake and icecream and lots of smiling faces. I love the unity that I feel with all the sisters in the mission.

The Trail Center is all decked out for the Gingerbread event that started this week. There are all kinds of gingerbread houses downstairs so it smells really good. I really liked the Winter Quarters Temple one that one of the districts made and the Noah's Ark one that a family from our ward made. Hopefully, it will help more people come see the Trail Center.

Today we find out about transfers. We are pretty sure nothing will change for us since trainers usually stick with new missionaries for two transfers. Still, I'm very curious to hear what will happen to other companionships. I'm learning that transfers are a very big deal because everyone loves predicting who will go where and be companions with who.

Thanksgiving with Brandy and her boys sounds fun! It will be weird without the Andersens, but good. Sister Gingrich and I will be eating with a couple families in the ward. We also hope to check up on people that might be lonely on Thanksgiving.

Some things I'm thankful for: my testimony of the gospel, Sister Gingrich, letters from friends and family, great people that are open to learning and living the gospel, a nice apartment, President and Sister Kunz, Luka getting baptized, the Book of Mormon, and all the love and support I feel as I serve a mission. I'm grateful for this time that I have to serve the Lord and His children.

Sister Mortensen

p.s. All of Sister Gingrich's birthday presents will help her stay warm and I thought that was genius. So, any layers (underarmor, sweaters, etc.) or other bright ideas for helping me stay warm this winter are great Christmas presents. I already have gloves, but maybe those poly-pro gloves and socks in the closet would be good. By the way, I love my green sweater, my skirts, and my shoes. I get tons of compliments on my wool coat, so thanks to you and Julie and Nat and Sis for helping me find cute clothes.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Elder Oaks

Hello Family,

You'll never guess what happened on Saturday! I met Elder Dallin H. Oaks! Each Saturday morning we have an hour long training at the Trail Center. After this Saturday's training, we stayed a little longer because we knew Elder Oaks would be coming to get a tour. All the sisters and senior couples were there to greet him as he came in. He and Sister Oaks were so cheerful and loving. They went around and met each one of us briefly. When I shook his hand I just couldn't stop smiling. He asked where I was from and after hearing that I'm from Vancouver said that he was there just a few months ago for a stake conference. That surprised me a bit, but I was glad to have that little connection to home. The coolest thing was the way he looked into my eyes. I could tell that he really cared about me.

After Elder and Sister Oaks met everyone he said "I'd like to talk with you for a moment, if that's alright." Of course that was alright, so we all knelt in a circle at his feet while he and Sister Oaks sat on a bench in the foyer of the Trail Center. They gave us a few words of advice, but the main thing I got out of it was how much they loved us. Elder Oaks would look at each one of us briefly as he spoke, and he even said that he was trying to see into our souls. And he said that he could see the light inside of us. The whole experience of kneeling at an apostle's feet helped me better imagine what it must have been like to kneel at the Savior's feet and hear him teach. The other thing I learned was that Elder Oaks isn't as dead serious as he seems at general conference. He likes a funny story or a good joke just as much as anyone else. And when he laughs, he really laughs. His shoulders go up and down pretty wildly if he thinks something is funny.

Stake Conference was also really good. An investigator that we met on Friday actually came. Her name is Tara and she brought her 1 year old daughter. Her daughter wasn't used to sitting still so that was distracting but cute. I'm really glad that Tara got to come listen to an apostle. She even shook his hand afterward. Elder Oaks must have shook hands with at least 500 people before and after the conference. He was very friendly and genuine the whole time, wanting to get to know each of us.

One analogy Elder Oaks gave, that I really appreciated, was the gospel as a merry-go-round. If you try to stay on the edge you will get spun right off, but if you stay in the center, it's a lot easier to stay on. And if there's not enough room in the center, just get as close as you can and link arms with the people around you. To me that means that we should all work together as friends in living the gospel the best that we can.

I hope you all have another wonderful week!

Sister Bailey Mortensen

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I'm a real missionary now!

Dear family,
It turns out Sister Gingrich has mono. The nurse said she must have got it in the past and her sinus infection made it flare up again. I believe it 'cause she was sleeping a lot. Actually, she lived with the Kunz family for a few days while I went out with other Sisters. It was weird to be without her, but I've seen amazing blessings come because of this whole ordeal. Without her, I became the missionary that was familiar with the area and the people. This put some added responsibility on my shoulders so I had to step up to the plate. During an exchange with Sister Maxfield I really went outside my comfort zone and became a better missionary. Sister Maxfield had us talk to everyone we saw and knock on every door we passed AND had me start nearly every conversation. It was awkward at first, but by the end of the day my confidence had grown. Incredibly, the spirit filled my mouth each time I opened it. Many blessings/miracles resulted from working hard, talking to everyone, and testifying boldly.

One of those miracles was Larry. Sister Maxfield and I had gone to check on a less active family but they weren't home so she suggested we tract the street. Eventually, we found Larry. He only has one leg so he hopped out on the porch and started talking with us. After Sister Maxfield recited the first vision, I asked him how he felt. He said "That's a nice story" with a tone of voice that said he really believed it. Then I bore my testimony of Joseph Smith. I even started crying, a first for my mission. I just really felt the power of the spirit bearing witness of the truth of what we were saying. Then we invited Larry to be baptized on December 5th and he accepted. It was amazing! The Lord truly does prepare people to receive the gospel! We just have to find them and share it with them.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy November!

Hello Family,

Thanks for the email. I especially liked the picture of Sis and Clark in their costumes. I had a pretty good Halloween as well. On Friday night we went to the ward Halloween party and got to visit with a few recent converts. And on Halloween we did have to be in by 5pm. We were going to go to the Trail Center to make Christmas cards and spend the night with the other sisters but that didn't happen because Sister Gingrich is sick. She started noticing on Thursday so we went to see Karla (a nurse practitioner in the ward) that night. Sure enough Sister Gingrich has a sinus infection and the flu. She's taking antibiotics for the sinus infection and that is clearing up, but she still has the flu. So, we have been staying in the apartment for the last few days. We didn't even go to church. All this staying inside is killing Sister Gingrich. She would work herself until she died, so it's my job to make sure she doesn't. Sister Kunz calls every day to check on us and to tell Sister Gingrich to stay inside, not only for her own good, but so that no one else gets sick. That means that today all we get to do is go grocery shopping and email. So far, I'm not getting sick so I guess I'm kinda like you mom, holding down the fort and having plenty of vitamin C until everyone gets better. It's been pretty relaxing to stay in, plus it gives me the opportunity to serve Sister Gingrich. She is pretty fun when she's sick. She tells lots of funny stories that help me get to know her better. We also pass the time by watching church movies on the portable DVD player that a ward member lent us. Sister Gingrich knows sign language and wants to become a teacher of deaf kids so she practiced signing to "The Restoration" DVD. Afterward, she even taught me a little bit. I just love learning new things! I was so happy that I couldn't even make the right facial expressions to go along with the things I was signing. I'll have to work on that. Tomorrow I will probably go on exchanges with Sister Maxfield and her companion, Sister Worthen (who came out with me) will hang out with Sister Gingrich for a while.

Right now we have six investigators set for baptism on Nov. 21st. Sister Gingrich wants to fill her birthday with baptisms. Every time we get a "set" we call President Kunz and sing him a song. He doesn't even ask what day anymore. He just knows they are set for her birthday.

One of the people we set this week is a miracle! Her name is Stephanie and she has a six month old baby named Blake. We were tracting and decided to knock on one last door: hers. She was very open so we gave her a Book of Mormon and invited her to read it. She grew up Methodist and has never looked at going to other churches but likes that we encourage her to find out the truth for herself. Then she said that her roommate was mormon. That surprised us so we asked who and she said Crystal. You should have seen Sister Gingrich's face of happiness and surprise at that. She taught Crystal when she served in Papillion! Crystal is also a single mom with a six month old named Joseyln. So, we are excited to get all four of them to come to church! A miracle, I think yes!

In answer to your questions I'd say that people are either really receptive, polite but not interested, or neither. We mostly get the middle one with the occasional extreme. We spend a lot of time in the more humble apartment complexes because people there are prepared to hear the gospel. We don't tract a whole lot cause we run into people outside, but that might change once people stay inside during the winter. We do spend a good portion of our time tracking down less actives. A couple times now we have discovered that the less active members have moved, but the new resident is interested in learning more. So it's pretty cool to see how the Lord works.

This week was also my first ever Zone Conference! We drove out to Lincoln and met in a Stake Center for pretty much the whole day. I loved getting words of love and encouragement and advice from President and Sister Kunz! They are so great! They really love us and want to help us. The focus was on improving our teaching (PMG Ch. 10). I'm excited to apply the things we learned there.

By the way, Dallin H. Oaks is coming to our Stake Conference on Nov. 14-15. I'm way excited and will be sure to tell you about it.

I love you all!
-Sister Bailey Mortensen