Monday, August 30, 2010

Language Learning

Dear Family,

I can't believe how quickly all of you are growing up. Sophie is going to highschool and Clark is going to middle school! Yikes! That just blows me away! I know that Sis will love having Julie for her seminary teacher. I loved having mom as mine. It meant I was better able to apply things to my life because I had mom always there to remind me, even at home and not just in the classroom. I saw what she taught not just in word but in deed. I think it is so important that we have that combination. It was also fun to give mom those knowing looks across the pew when someone would quote a scripture mastery verse from the pulpit. I'm very excited for Sophie to be studying the gospel in depth every day. What a blessing it is to know and love the scriptures. I love the time we spend each morning in personal and companion study. It's fun to share insights and plan lessons for our investigators.

Our trio actually went to seminary a couple days ago. The teacher asked us to come recite Joseph Smith History 1:15-20 because she knows we recite it when we teach. We actually only recite a small portion of those verses so I was a little apprehensive about doing the whole thing. Thankfully I did learn it in seminary, so I was able to brush up and it came back fairly easily. We were able to share with those seminary students how significant the first vision is and how powerful it is to recite Joseph Smith's own words about it to our investigators. It brings the spirit every time. I certainly felt the spirit as I recited it that morning and know that Joseph Smith really did see Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I know they called him to be a prophet and restore their true church to the earth with all the principles and ordinances and authority that we need to live with God after this life. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the true church of Christ, restored to the earth after centuries of being lost. How blessed we are to know these precious truths. I love every opportunity I get to share them with others because they are then able to find greater peace and happiness.

Lately, we have been teaching a lot of people that don't speak much English. I think Sister Ith and her Mandarin skills have inspired some of that. She runs after every asian and non-white person she sees, probably hoping that they will speak mandarin. Instead we have found a lot of Sudanese investigators, a lot of Spanish speakers for the Elders to teach, and a handful of people that speak Laotian. Still, it has inspired me to brush up on my Spanish skills and even learn more languages when I get home.

Last Sunday, we decided to check on Bro. Abhon, someone on the ward list that we hadn't met. Well, when we got near his house we started talking to this group of Sudanese men that were walking down the street and one of them turned out to be Bro. Abhon. He was baptized in San Diego almost a year ago and moved here for work but didn't know where the church was. So it was definitely inspired for us to go find him. He is such a strong member. When we went back to teach him, he had his Ensign, his triple combination, his gospel principles manual, and his baptism program out for us to see. When we asked him and his friend why it was important to go to church, he said "to renew our baptimal covenants." He just gets it and I love him. Already he has come with us to teach a lot of our investigators. He speaks both english and arabic so he is the perfect team-up for Najwa, who speaks mostly arabic. Najwa is a Sudanese lady with a cute two year old son that we ran into on the street the other day. She is so sweet. Every time we come over she offers us water bottles on a tray, and last time she even had some home-made african cookies. They tasted amazing and I had at least four (partly because Sister Bonelli can't eat flour). She believed that Joseph Smith was a prophet as soon as we told her about him. So we invited her to be baptized right then and she accepted September 18th as her baptismal date. She is amazing. We are hoping the arabic Book of Mormon that we ordered comes soon.

We are also teaching a Sudanese lady named Nychai. Elders were teaching her before we Sisters came to the area and she also is set for baptism on September 18th. She speaks noware (not sure how to spell that, pronounced: no "R"), but her boyfriend Peter translates for us and there is a Sudanese family in the ward that speaks it too. Peter is Presbyterian and doesn't want to change, but by the end of our lesson, Bro. Abhon got him to say "I will think about changing and coming to church with you."

We also had a really great lesson with the Spanish Elders yesterday. Darlene and Denis both came to church! Then after church, the Elders did a great job resolving some of Denis's concerns. It turns out that he never really prayed to know if the Book of Mormon was true. He just liked going to church and feels like all churches are good. Well, the Elders, and even Darlene were able to explain to him why the praying about the Book of Mormon is so important. Darlene is excited for her baptism on September 18th and is just amazing. She reads the Book of Mormon on her own and came and enjoyed church. She is more into it than Denis, and he is the member. Hopefully, he will get on board and they can become an eternal family. We are all very excited for them.

We had a baptism on Saturday! Anna was baptized and the spirit was very strong. President Kunz suggested that, while she changed out of her wet jumpsuit, we teach the restoration and invite the audience to follow her example and be baptized. Well, the only non-member in the room already has a date to be baptized, so I invited anyone who wasn't baptized to be and anyone who had already been baptized to come take the sacrament and renew their baptismal covenants. I even quoted and 11 year old named Anna who said "Not going to church is like missing your own baptism." I know that is true. I know that we need to take the sacrament worthily each week to receive again that remission of our sins and hte promise to always have the spirit to be with us. All the talks were very powerful and the spirit was so strong it was almost tangible. I just love baptisms!

Things are going amazingly well! I love you all very much! Have fun with school or work (or in mom's case, both)!
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, August 23, 2010


Dear Family,

I'm glad you enjoyed your last few days of summer. The weather here is finally cooling down a bit and we sure appreciate that.

So many incredible things have happened since last week! The most surprising was to have Sister Ith join our companionship. She is from Singapore and came here from the MTC to wait for her visa. Hopefully it will come in the next month or two so that she can go to her initial assignment of Taiwan. When President called Friday morning to tell me I would be training a new missionary I was shocked. She came later that afternoon and I am so grateful. Having a new missionary in a trio is so fun! Sister Ith says that although coming to Grand Island, Nebraska was a pretty big disappointment (naturally ... she was looking forward to Taiwan) she is adjusting well. She says she feels happiest when we are teaching, so it is a good thing we teach a lot. Already, she is learning to love the people we teach. She is so good at bearing her testimony and sharing personal experiences that back it up. She also chases people on the street even though she is nervous about talking with them. She has brought Sister Bonelli and I renewed energy and enthusiasm for the work. Her mere presence inspires us to be our very best and miracles are happening as a result. None of us are big talkers so we all get a decent amount of time to teach during lessons. Also, it's fun to utilize our different strengths. I love being in a trio!

I got the highest compliment of my mission yesterday in sacrament meeting. I was assigned to speak on President Monson's talk about service. I was also going to accompany Sister Bonelli as she sang "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" for the intermediate hymn. Needless to say, I was pretty nervous about all that. Well, it all went very smoothly (we got a bazillion compliments), and after we sat down, Brother Adams (who was conducting) thanked us and then shared a little story about us. He said his wife had been asking him to turn the dining room table for a while. That way she could get through more easily with her walker. Well, one day, he came home and saw it and the rug turned just how she wanted it. He asked her why on earth she did that ... she could have injured herself. She, of course, replied that she didn't. She said the sisters came by and asked what they could do to help. We turned the table (a very small favor in our eyes) and gave her a big hug and told her we loved her. It meant a lot to both of them and was very touching. Sister Bonelli and I had tears in our eyes because the spirit was very strong. Then Brother Adams said the most amazing thing. He invited everyone, even if they had been apprehensive in the past, to invite their friends to be taught by the missionaries while they were priviledged to have sisters serving in the ward. It was powerful. It was certainly the best compliment I've received as a missionary.

We had an excellent lesson with Darlene and Dennis on Saturday. Darlene is actually best friends with Laurie (in the Ralston LaVista Ward) and it turns out that Dennis was baptized in Guatemala. Darlene felt the spirit, which she describes as comfortable, as we watched the Restoration DVD. Then we invited her to pause and ponder in prayer after asking if Joseph Smith was a prophet. She offered a beautiful, sincere prayer thanking God for sending us and asking Him to show her the way and let herknow if Joseph Smith was a prophet. She paused for a good twenty seconds before closing her prayer. Afterward, she said she felt "good" and promised to come to church. We invited her to be baptized on September 18th and she accepted after we explained that she could know it is ture and be ready by then. It was a spirit filled lesson. Sister Ith did a great job promising the blessings of baptism and expressing the love, excitement and joy that we and Heavenly Father felt at her decision to be baptized. We are all very excited for Darlene. I'm grateful that Sister Ith could be part of such an incredible lesson and see pause, ponder in prayer work on her very first try.

Next Saturday, Anna is getting baptized! She is a sweetheart. Her boyfriend, Chris, will be baptizing her so their whole family is very excited. We are so blessed here in Grand Island. I'm amazed at how quickly I'm able to learn and love my new area each time I am transferred.

I love you! Keep up on your Book of Mormon reading and all the other good things you are doing. And yes, you should tell people that I'm doing grand in Grand Island.
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, August 16, 2010

Grand Island really is grand, even if it's not an island

Dear Family,

Thanks for the update. Sounds like Sophie and Brandon are having a successful business. I can't believe Sophie is starting high school soon, but I'm way excited for her. Has she been preparing for cross country?

It sounds like Joel's wedding is going to be a blast. I got the announcement and it was super cute. When I got it I also realized that I haven't been at any of my cousin's weddings. Oh well. Let me know how it goes.

Grand Island is still a funny place but I like it. I guess it's a decently sized town. People say I'm from WaRshington and drive really slow but they have two Wal-Marts. Everyone is very friendly. There are a lot of Hispanic people as well, so dad can be proud of me for speaking spanish a lot.

On Tuesday, we invited Ann, who was set for baptism on Aug 21st, to pause and ponder during her prayers. We asked her to pray specifically to know if Heavenly Father wanted her to be baptized on the 21st. She said she would do that on her own over the next few days. Well, when we followed up on Friday, Ann said the answer she got was no, that she's not ready to make that commitment yet. At first we were afraid that she was going to drop us. But as we continued listening, she explained that she still wants to work with us towards baptism, but that she recognizes that she needs to work out some more things with God first. Apparently she had been having some really good discussions with Heavenly Father on her porch late at night. Her experience reminded me a lot of Enos. She prayed for a long time and learned to love and look forward to her time to talk with God. She was finally able to talk about things she had been burying inside for years. I think it strengthened her faith a lot. It also showed her some areas where she needs to repent and ask for His forgiveness. She continues to amaze me with all the progress she is making. She may not be getting baptized this week, but we know she will be ready soon. I was reminded that faith and repentance need to precede baptism so I'm glad that Ann is taking those steps very seriously.

Anyway, I hope you all have a good week.
Sister Mortensen

Monday, August 9, 2010

Far, Far Away on Nebraska's Plains

Dear Family,

Sophie's Super Suppers look amazing! I am very impressed with how professional the brochure and everything looks. I wish I could have some super suppers ... actually, the members feed us very well out here. I've been spoiled recently with a lot of Iowa and Nebraska sweet corn (on the cob ... yes, I like it again).

I'm glad you had a good time at the fair. It looks like I'll be going to the Nebraska State Fair near the end of August! That's right, I've been transferred to Grand Island, Nebraska and the members we live with are just a few blocks away from the state fair grounds. So, we'll have to go one of these p-days. My new companion is Sister Bonelli. She's from southern California, was studying vocal performance at a community college, and has a wheat allergy. That means I get to eat her toast/bread whenever we go out to eat! She's great and has really helped me get more familiar with the area and the people. Singing with her is way fun because she has such a beautiful voice.

To answer mom's questions: the release date on my ministerial certificate says 01 March 2011. I'll probably extend my mission for another transfer though. And I've decided that I'd prefer flying home over you picking me up. Since I am now far, far away on Nebraska's plains I no longer serve in the Trail Center. But when I did, we would be in there about 4 days out of the week for half a day. Apparently, I just missed seeing the Welch family by five minutes last week. I got a nice note from them though. Do you remember seeing Katie (who plays trombone) in Nauvoo last year? Well this year she saw me at the Trail Center and I took her and her friends on a tour. I thought that was a fun little coincidence.

Tell Julie thank you for the package of clothes. I got it Thursday morning and opened it during our long drive out west in the transfer van. I wore my new skirt and shirt on Friday and it was so fun to wear new, cute clothes. It kept me smiling all day!

We are teaching some great people out here in Grand Island. Ann is preparing to be baptized on August 21st and should be able to quit smoking by then. She's probably in her late 40s, has a husband and 2 kids, and has been meeting with the sisters for a little while now. I love teaching her because she'll start bearing her testimony spontaneously. Apparently she was really angry with God in the past because she felt like he had taken her loved ones (her parents) before their time. Every time we go over she'll say how much happier she is since she started reading the Book of Mormon and praying and having us teach her. She says everything used to be gray, but now she can see the color. Now she can laugh and find joy in the little things like taking her dog for a walk. She even came to church for the first time in years, and even though she didn't have an amazing experience, still wants to keep coming. I just love hearing investigators and recent converts share their testimonies and pray to express gratitude and love for their Heavenly Father and the gospel. It is the greatest thing.

I hope you all enjoy the rest of your summer! I love you and pray for you daily.

Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, August 2, 2010

Thanks for all the presents

Dear Family,

Thanks for all the presents. I am already enjoying the new clothes and the Reese's. Kristen A. sent me "The world's largest Reese's." It's like eating a sandwich. Tell Grandma Claire I will use her birthday money to go to the zoo today. I'll probably send her a thank you card after I go so I can tell her about it. Sister Itri was sneaky enough to buy me a NEBRASKA shirt without me noticing, so that was a fun surprise as well. And, Sister Worthen and Sister Itri made me some blueberry pancakes and eggs for breakfast.

It was a good birthday. We taught Annette (age 16). Some of her family are members of the church, but her sister (Ally, age 12), who was baptized last spring, is the only one that comes regularly. Annette is deaf so we've been learning some sign language. Elder Palmer taught us a lot as we rode in the transfer van back from our meeting in Sioux City. It is so fun to learn new things! So, our lesson on Saturday went really well because we were actually able to communicate with and get to know Annette. When we didn't know a word we just finger-spelled it and she taught us how to sign it. It was kinda slow but she was patient and really appreciated our efforts to involve her. When we asked her to come to church (in sign language!) she nodded with a half smile. Thankfully, Meagan, a member of the ward that can sign, just got called to young women's and agreed to interpret for Annette. It was really fun to see them conversing during sacrament. Meagan said it was really tiring to do for three hours straight, but that she enjoyed the opportunity to use her education. She also said that Annette seemed to feel the spirit. We just love Annette and hope that we can better understand how to help her.

That picture of you three canoeing is awesome. I'm going to try and attach some pictures too.

Tell Haley Hatch congrats on the mission call. She will LOVE it!

I love you all very much!
-Sister Mortensen