Monday, April 26, 2010

Gretna Greatness!

Dear Family,

I am attaching some pictures of the bipolar weather we experience here in Nebraska. They were all taken within two hours of each other last Friday night. I'm actually very pleased with my photography skills. The lightning was flashing so frequently it was insane! Kinda like a strobe light but less predictable. So I just pointed my camera in it's general direction and took pictures randomly. About 1 in twenty of the ones I took had bolts of lightning in them. The rest were just black or so bright that you couldn't see the actual bolt in the midst of all the light. It was a pretty cool storm.

This past week has probably been one of the best on my mission so far. We had several good lessons. We're still teaching Beth, Kyle, and Patricia. We even set Patricia for baptism on June 12th! She will be out of town for a lot of May so that's why it's so far off. She actually came to Stake Conference yesterday! We were so pleased. She really liked it too. She loves the Bible and it seemed like most of the speakers quoted the Bible a lot. So, she said it was all things that she already knows and believes in. I hope Sister Kunz's talk about the first vision helped her understand even more the significance of the first vision. She loved the restoration DVD and believes it could have happened, but it took some explaining for her to see why it is such a big deal for Joseph Smith to have seen Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Patricia also told us that some of her children and grandchildren have expressed curiosity about the gospel and the things we are teaching her. She is going to ask them if they'd like us to come teach them too. In fact, her son-in-law is a member here in Gretna that never had his records transferred from California. So hopefully we will get to teach his family. Basically Patricia is an amazing woman. She is this super smart, fun loving grandma that has a story for everything. Sometimes that makes it hard for us to stay focused on the lesson, but she really enjoys the things we share and we are excited for her to be baptized. She has tried all kinds of churches before so we are excited to be teaching her about the true church of Jesus Christ. Once she is baptized she will be a great missionary for her family as well.

We also found a family this week! John and Michelle are the mom and dad and they have four kids. They haven't been to church in a while but want their kids to grow up with good Christian values. They loved learning about the restoration and were excited to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. John even said that he already felt that the Book of Mormon was "good" from reading those few verses in Moroni 10. He also felt that as we recited the first vision account. Those words that we memorize and recite are sooooooooooo powerful. They bring the spirit every time. I just love teaching people about the restoration. How blessed we are to know that Heavenly Father still speaks to us today through a living prophet. And we can know that there is a prophet because God speaks to us individually as well, through personal revelation. I know that God loves us. He will answer our sincere prayers by the power of the Holy Ghost. What a glorious message! The heavens are open! We don't have to be confused or lost because we can follow God's living mouthpiece, our prophet, Thomas S. Monson. I am so grateful to know that we have a prophet today. How grateful I am for Joseph Smith who sacrificed so much to restore the fullness of the gospel to the earth in these days. Everyone needs to know this! And they can! If we will just share this knowledge with them and they will pray and ask God if it is true, they will receive the answer from the Holy Ghost that it is. I love this gospel. It is so simple and so uplifting. I have probably never been so happy in my life!

I love you all very much!
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, April 19, 2010

Amazing Day

Dear Family,

Saturday was probably one of the best days of my mission. It was sunny as could be and tons of people were outside doing yard work. Sister Meryhew and I walked around and had a good time talking to all of them. Most weren't interested, but they were friendly. A few said we could come back. Then we went to Michelle's baptism. It was so happy. Her whole family was there: immediate and extended, active and inactive and non-members as well. There were also several members of the branch there to support her. She wasn't even nervous about it, just excited and confident (exactly like we had been praying she would be). She looked so happy as her uncle pulled her up out of the water. I just couldn't be more happy for her. What a wonderful experience for her to be clean and then to receive the Holy Ghost. She is such a good example of faith and dedication. She has worked hard to make it this far and is determined to endure to the end. What a great example she is to her family. I know her baptism will bless them as well. After the baptism we had dinner with the Willetts and took pictures in their field. I sure do love the Willetts. Then we went to Ashland (a small, far away town) to check on a few people. We met Desiree and had a powerful conversation about the sacrament. She said she'd never thought of it as a way to remember Christ. She also said she wants to come to church and learn more. We walked away from that thinking "Wow! It worked! Teach the doctrine of the sacrament and they will want to come to church!" Then we stopped another lady outside her garage. Her name was Leanne and she didn't seem too interested at first, but then we told her about having a prophet today and that intrigued her. She said she would come to the Trail Center on Tuesday so that we can teach her more. And last but not least, we visited a family in the Branch and they gave us two referrals. It was an amazing day!

Elder Perry's counsel to the mission was truly inspired! So far the Gretna Branch has invited 5 families to be taught by us and all 5 have accepted. We recently started teaching Beth, the wife of Rex who was baptized a year ago and just barely received his endowment. She seemed really closed off, but Rex reassured us at church the yesterday that "She really is investigating" but she doesn't like when we ask her questions. He said that they both appreciate our visits each week. Hopefully she will feel more comfortable with us as we continue to meet and won't mind so much when we ask her questions. The other part member family that we started teaching is super cute. Kyle, the dad, is not a member but he has been going to church with his family for years. Our lesson with their family last night was amazing! We taught the gospel very simply and he really appreciated it. He is already like a perfect Mormon dad: helping his kids read scriptures, making sure they are listening, answering our questions, and even telling his oldest daughter that he expects her to serve a mission. Why he isn't baptized already we don't know. I guess he has felt pressured in the past and wants it to be his decision. Anyway, they are coming to the Trail Center next Saturday so we will try and talk to him then. Plus, the Trail Center is a great place for emphasizing eternal families.

The Trail Center is getting busier now that summer is approaching so there are generally two companionships and a senior couple there. We go up there about two days a week and it takes about half an hour to get there. It's open from 9 to 9, but some days we only do half the day (9 to 3 or 3 to 9). Maybe I will have to take some pictures and "give you a tour" sort of like the tours I give to people who come in. When no visitors come we get time to study, update the area book, give each other tours, make phone calls, practice the piano, or do other productive things. It's a nice change of routine from normal proselyting. I like the fact that people come to us rather than us having to find them. The whole hope is that people will leave us with referrals of friends they know, or even themselves, that would like to learn more about the gospel (I'm sure you remember those cards from all the visitors centers we went to). It fits right in with our missionary purpose to "Invite other to come unto Christ ..."

Well family, I love you. I really, really do. I hope you have a great week!
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Trail Center

Dear Family,

Thank you for the email update. I'm excited to "participate" in FHE next week (especially since "The Restoration" is my favorite, and most frequently taught lesson). The story of Clark wanting Will's birthright made me laugh pretty hard. Still, the story of Jacob and Esau is a good reminder for us to ask ourselves: temporal or eternal? That's something I have to remind myself whenever I am tempted. Will this lead me closer to my eternal goal of living with God and my family? or will it distract me or even prevent me from having eternal life? Much of the time, temptations only offer momentary pleasure. I love the way the Book of Mormon makes it so clear: we are "free to choose liberty and eternal life, though the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil" (2 Nephi 2:27). Mormon tells us very clearly "the way to judge" in Moroni 7:12-13: "Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God." When you look at the source and consider the consequences of each "enticement" the choice becomes very clear. If you want to be happy, do good. If you want to be miserable, do evil. "I know" just like Alma "that he granteth unto men according to their desire" (Alma 29:4). Sometimes it is hard to choose to do good, but if we really think about it, I'm sure we would all prefer the"us" and "forever" of eternal life over the "me" and "now" that will lead to eternal death.

This week I discovered that I LOVE the Trail Center! At first I was nervous and slightly overwhelmed about giving tours, but Sister Meryhew gave me a good pep talk and I did just fine. My first tour was a little family. I'm not too good at keeping little kids entertained, but I must have done something right because the dad gave us a referral for a friend in North Carolina. My second tour was a group of four Chaplains. I really enjoyed sharing the gospel with them because they were respectful and at least mildly interested in what we believe. I kept emphasizing the Book of Mormon as the evidence that the gospel has been restored. Even at the handcart I found myself going back to the Book of Mormon. I told the story of the Mortensen's sacrificing by having their oldest son Morten stay in Denmark and serve a mission. The mission president promised them that they would all make it safely to Utah if he did and they trusted that promise. Even though they got caught in the blizzards of Wyoming along with the rest of the Martin and Willie handcart companies, not one of them died and they did arrive safely. Then I connected it to my life by telling how President Hinckley asked us to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. He gave several promises along with that invitation and I decided to test it out. Sure enough, I found greater strength and peace in reading the Book of Mormon and I know it is the word of God. I invited them to read it as well, to try it for themselves, and shared Moroni 10:4-5. They all said they would read the introduction and thanked me for sharing the "things of my heart." I hope they do read and pray. It will bless their lives so much! The last tour I gave on my first day in the Trail Center was for three of the Nelson kids in the Gretna Branch. They didn't have much time before going to do baptisms at the temple, but I hit the highlights and shared my testimony a lot. It was fun to give a tour to someone that I knew because I didn't have to struggle with getting to know them. That's probably the hardest part for me: getting to know these people and their needs in the first few minutes of a tour so that I can teach to those needs throughout the rest of it. I definitely need to work on my social skills, and being a missionary is forcing me to do that. I love it when people open up and tell us what they need, but when they don't I guess I just have to rely on the spirit. Heavenly Father knows these people, they are His children, and if I am worthy and in tune, the spirit can help me say the things they need to hear. I wish it was as easy as I just made it sound.

Another exciting thing is Michelle's baptism next Saturday. She is so ready. She's inviting her whole family. We are so happy for her and so impressed with her. She is super committed to following our Savior. When we asked how the word of wisdom was going she said that she has been getting better and that she is determined to quit smoking. She even told her friends at work that she can't smoke because she wants to get baptized and they said they would take her cigarettes away if she even tried. They can see how important this is to her and want to help her. Michelle is such a good example.

Jennifer bore her testimony yesterday. I've heard it plenty of times but I think it was good for her to have the courage to share it in fast and testimony meeting. Plus she and Jacob have callings now as branch missionaries! I'm super excited to have them come with us and share their testimonies to our investigators. They are great!

I love you all so much. Mom, thanks for writing so faithfully. Dad, thanks for sharing your testimony with me. Will, thanks for being my buddy as we grew up. I probably didn't treat you very well at the time, but I do appreciate all those times we got to play and do silly things together. Sophie, thanks for being a fun younger sister and for all those times you'd stay up late laughing with me. Clark, thanks for reminding me to have fun and giving me monkey hugs. I love each of you a lot a lot.

Bailey (Sister Mortensen)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Happy Easter

Dear Family,

Transfers happened last Thursday and my new companion is Sister Meryhew. She switched places with Sister Bleazard who is now in Millard. I really appreciate the change because it gives me another opportunity to start new and recommit myself to be the best missionary I can be. I used to really dread changes like this, but now I see the Lord's wisdom in giving us opportunities to change. Each week is a new week when we can partake of the sacrament and be cleansed and start fresh. Each day is a new day for us to "lay aside every sin which easily doth beset [us]" (Alma 7:15) and start being more like the person God wants us to be. If we really do repent each day and renew our covenants each week we will "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little" become more Christ-like. The gospel is a process of becoming and I have to remind myself to be patient as I make those little, incremental steps forward.

Sister Meryhew is great. She studied psychology at BYU before coming on a mission, so we have a few BYU connections. She's from Mesa Arizona. Sometimes, her personality reminds me a little bit of Natalie. She's very good at conversing with people and helping them feel at ease despite the awkwardness of running up to them to share the gospel. Hopefully I can learn how to be more personable from her. One tip of hers that I am trying is to make fun of myself, then people can see that I am a person too, not just a missionary. So far it seems to be helping. Sister Meryhew is also helping me learn the ropes of the Trail Center. We will be serving there one or two days a week. It's a little intimidating to have this new assignment/responsibility, but I am excited. I get to be a visitor center sister, just like all the ones we saw when we did our church history tour. Pretty crazy huh?!?

General Conference was amazing! It was fun to think that you all would be watching it too. And yes I thought "I've been there, I can picture exactly what he is talking about" when Parley Street was mentioned. All the talks were so good! The theme was definitely strengthening home and family. I can't count how many times they talked about the importance of parents teaching their children the gospel, through example and precept. I'm grateful that I get to use all that counsel for when I become a mother and that I get all this practice teaching the gospel as a missionary. In fact, most of the talks could easily be adapted to missionary work by considering the parent as the missionary and the children as the investigators. Elder Perry concluded his talk by saying that parents partner and joy with God in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. And while the greatest missionary work we will ever do will be within our own homes, as a full time missionary, I also partner and joy with God in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Elder Bednar's went right along with the teach, testify, and invite pattern that we find in Preach My Gospel. I'm pretty sure that serving a mission is the best thing I could possibly do to prepare to be a wife and mother. It's helping me see what I want in my future family and teaching me how to make that happen. Most of all, it is strengthening my desire and ability to live and share the gospel. The skills I'm developing now will be so valuable as a mother.

For me, watching General Conference also raised the question "What can I do to help my family now?" Although I am supposed to dedicate all my time and attention to serving the Lord, I'm sure there are things I can do differently or better to serve you all as well. Do you have any suggestions? I was wondering if we could study together in some way. Since my preparation day is Monday, maybe you could tell me what FHE will be about the next Monday. Then I can study and share what I've learned in my next email and you could include it as part of the lesson that night. Does that sound feasible? I hope that you each know how much I love you. If there is ever anything I can do to help you, please let me know. Even if it is just giving you an outlet to complain or someone to run your ideas by, I would be happy to "listen" via email. I love hearing from you and wish I could do more to encourage and support you.

I'm glad you all had a great Easter. I definitely did because conference was incredible! I love each of you very, very much.