Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Darlene's Baptism

Dear Family,

Darleen was baptized on Saturday and confirmed on Sunday! I was so happy and excited for her! Laurie even made the trip from Omaha to come and speak. She gave a great talk about baptism from 2 Nephi 31:20. I was so proud of her and also of Darleen and her husband Denis. I think Denis really felt the spirit at the baptism because now he wants to come to the Spanish Branch in Grand Island (he was baptized a while ago in Guatemala). It was a wonderful event. I think one of my favorite things has been watching Darleen's faith grow. She already had a lot of faith, but ever since she prayed to ask if Joseph Smith was a prophet and felt the spirit bring that comfortable reassurance that he was, her faith has grown tremendously. We had a lesson about tithing on Tuesday night and we promised that the Lord would provide for her and help her get a job if she paid her tithing. Well, as she got back in her car to leave the church she found the $80 that she had lost a week or so ago. Our next lesson with her was also at the church and she brought her tithing money with her and got a tithing envelope all filled out so she could pay it. When she gave it to Bishop on Sunday, just before her confirmation, she was very happy and even leaned over to me to say "I've been holding on to that all week" showing what a relief it was for her to finally actually pay it. I really love and admire Darleen for having such great faith and trust in Heavenly Father. She is a very strong woman.

Funny story. We met a dog named Simon this week who gets his walks on a tread mill. It was one of the funniest things I've seen; this big hound dog with his leash attached to the tread mill just marching along, apparently trying to lose some of those extra pounds. Sister Warner and I got a kick out of that.

Another funny story. We were out visiting our friend Thomson when some rain clouds started rolling in. Before we walked to the next person we wanted to visit, I asked him and Sister Warner if they thought I should get my jacket from the car. Sister Warner said no, if we got wet we'd get wet and it probably wouldn't take that long. Thomson said "You know, it is going to pour now." But I ignored his warning and we started walking. We hadn't even gone a block when the heavens opened and we got soaked instantaneously. It went from two drops to sheets of rain in one second. I'm not even exaggerating. So we ran back to the car, completely drenched, and tried to visit people that might only let us in if the weather was insane. Well, the rain stopped not long after that but we still ended up wading through a few puddles and marching around with squishy shoes until dinner when we could change. The sun and the wind actually dried us off fairly quickly. Nebraska has the weirdedst weather.

Sister Bailey Mortensen

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Elder Ellis Visits

Dear Family,

I'm glad you enjoyed Stake Conference. What a blessing it is to hear from General Authorities like Elder Kevin Pearson. Yesterday, Elder Steven G. Ellis came to our zone conference and it was incredible! I felt so spiritually recharged and rejuvinated. He talked a lot about faith and miracles and seeking the Lord's will. It was powerful and motivating. I'll try to summarize some of the main points.

Are you having fun yet? If not, you need to repent.

Do the best you can ... your very best.

faith = power
obedience = price
love = motive
the spirit = key
Christ = reason
joy = reward

When Elder and Sister Ellis were called as mission president and wife in Brazil Sister Ellis didn't want to leave because the Houston temple was about to be dedicated. Pres. Faust chuckled and said "It will be there when you get back." She learned that "Sacrifice isn't loss - it's merely preparation for something better." They were able to attend a temple dedication in Brazil with their whole family because their youngest daughter just turned 8.

D&C 44:2 says when we assemble ourselves together (at church or general conference or whenever) and exercise faith, th Lord will pour out his spirit upon us. And the spirit does all kinds of amazing things. It edifies, sanctifies, testifies, comforts, guides, teaches (one on one), warns, reminds, reveals, and converts. So take every opportunity you get (especially general conference coming up) to have the spirit poured out on you.

Isaiah 55:8-9.says the Lord's ways are higher than our ways. If I got anything out of the conference yesterday it was to stop trying to do things my way and just have faith to do it the Lord's way. Again and again he put his right hand horizontally up above his head (representing the Lord's ways) and his left hand horizontally down by his belt (representing our ways) to remind us to trust Him who knows best. He cannot lie so His promises are sure and we can trust Him completely. As we do our best to make our ways His ways we will get higher and things will go better.

It is all a matter of faith. If we exercise faith and the Lord will's it, miracles will happen. We are not on our own; this is the Lord's church and we are His authorized servants. We serve the God of miracles. What miracles did you ask for today? Think bigger, think His thoughts (which are higher than our thoughts). And how do we get more faith? We do things that require faith. We study, pray, obey, repent, invite, and work (read the gospel principles lesson on Faith ... it is way good). "When you are on the Lord's errand, you'll have the Lord's support." -President Monson

All in all it was an incredible conference and I'm very grateful to have gone and been inspired and strengthened. The spirit was very srong. It gave me the renewed enthusiasm I need to work even harder and exercise my faith to see miracles.

I am so happy for Darlene Gomez. She is the most solid investigator I have taught. Just this last week her dad died, her husband left her, she quit her job, and she got kicked out of her apartment. And despite all that she is still staying super strong in the gospel. Isn't that amazing! Because she is moving to St. Paul she will be baptized in the 2nd ward so we had a really good lesson with her in the 2nd ward's relief society president's home. Darlene told us that she was wondering if she should push her baptism back but that one morning, she woke up and felt like she should do it anyway. She has invited her family to come to her baptism this Saturday and it sounds like most of them will (and she has a huge family). She came to church in the first ward on Sunday and met tons of people in both wards. Everyone was super supportive of her and her upcoming baptism. She met a ton of people and they were all so loving and welcoming. She even bore her testimony of the Book of Mormon in our Gospel Principles class. She is incredible. I love her so much.

Oh yeah, tranfers happened. Sister Bonelli is now serving in the Ralston LaVista Ward and Sister Ith was transferred to the Lincoln University Singles Ward. My new companion is Sister Warner. She's from Twin Falls, ID and is studying elementary education at BYU-I. She is super nice, super organized, and super great at teaching. We got to teach Relief Socitey at the last minute and it went very smoothly even though all we had time to do was read through the lesson. It is so fun to have a companion with whom I feel truly unified as we teach. I think that comes as we focus on those we teach and on the spirit. If we really listen to the spirit and follow it's promptings then the Lord will orchestrate the lesson so that the people hear exactly what they need to hear. We don't know these people nearly as well as He does so it is imperative that we seek and follow His guidance in order to help them as He would. This morning in companion study we discovered a couple verses that we hope we can become more like. In Helaman 10:4-5 the Lord says "Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld that thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee (not our words, but His words), unto this people. And thou hast not feared them (step outside our comfort zones: not care what they think, but what God thinks), and hast not sought thine own life (we set aside all personal affairs, see Matt 16:25), but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments." Now listen for the amazing blessing of seeking the Lord's will. "And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will." Isn't that incredible! I kind of take that to mean that even when we ask the Lord for miracles, if it is according to His will, they will happen. That is a great example of faith and seeking the Lord's will. I want to be like that. I want to promise people blessings that the Lord himself would promise and then see those miracles/blessings come to pass ... not because I promised it, but because that is what the Lord wants for them. It is such a good feeling to know that I have been an instrument in the hands of the Lord. I love what the missionary handbook says at the very beginning: "you have been called by a prophet of God and set apart to represent the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church. You have been called to 'invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.' How great is your calling! You have been recommended as one worthy to represent the Lord as a minister of the restored gospel." I feel very priviledged to serve the Lord full time during this period of my life. I get to be His hands, His feet, and His voice in reaching out and serving and lifting His children. I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing!

I love you all very much!
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, September 13, 2010

Turns our everyone is related

Dear Family,

Thanks for all the updates. Congrats to Sophie on her cross country run. I really do admire anyone that can run that far that fast. Tell Clark I would love to try some "Clark's Cookies." Now to mom: the idea of falling asleep to the sound of waves was very tempting. I realized that I haven't been camping in a long time and I miss it. But it's getting dark earlier so I get to see stars before we go in for the night and that is a treat, especially since Nebraska skies are huge. We went to the hospital (the tallest building in Grand Island) a couple times this week to visit people on the 7th floor, and looking out those windows made me realize how flat Nebraska is. We could see forever!

Actually, our visits to the hospital were inspired by Heavenly Father. As we were leaving one day, we saw Bro. Guererro sitting in the family suite. He had told us that his sister was dying, but we were still surprised to see him. When we went in to visit with him, we saw Randie and Lino, a couple we had tracted into, sitting in there as well. We were surprised to discover that Lino is Bro. Guererro's nephew. We've been trying to contact Randie and Lino for a while now but they've been really busy. So, we said a prayer with them and left them a copy of the Book of Mormon along with a Plan of Salvation pamphlet. I also volunteered Sister Bonelli's singing talents, so she might be singing at the funeral on Tuesday. Anyway, the next day, we visited Bro. and Sis. Mendez, some semi-recent converts we've been working with, and guess what? Bro. Mendez is Lino's cousin! But wait, it gets even better. Last night we decided to check on a former investigator named Bambi. She opened the door and told us how life has been crazy because a relative has been in the hospital and just died. We thought "no way." So we asked who it was and it turns out that Bambi is Randie's sister. So, pretty much half the people we are teaching are related to Bro. Guererro. The best part is that Bro. Guererro is an amazing missionary so we know that he will be a big help in getting these relatives to progress in the gospel.

Our lesson with Bambi was especially good. Bro. Smith was with us and did a great job jumping in to help Bambi see how the Plan of Salvation related to her and her family. When we had pretty much finished explaining the plan he even gave us the perfect segway into the baptismal invite. So we invited her to be baptized and she said yes! When we suggested October 9th she said she'd think about it. We are very excited for her and for her two kids. Hopefully they will want to get baptized with their mom.

Guess what? General Conference is coming and I am super excited! To help you get the most out of it I recommend that you come up with 3-5 "inspired questions." They can be questions about gospel principles or about things you have personally wondered. Just write them down and pray to ask Heavenly Father to answer them for you during general conference. Then take note of the answers during general conference. I have done this for a couple years now and every time, Heavenly Father gives me very specific answers. One year I asked "What one thing should I focus on improving?" because I was feeling a little overwhelmed with all the things I could improve. Well, Joseph B. Wirthlin gave a talk called "The Great Commandment" saying that the one thing that will most improve our lives is charity. Was that a specific answer or what?!? I just love it! Sometimes the answers don't relate directly to what the speaker is saying, but the spirit is able to speak to you individually. So, give it a try. I know that Heavenly Father will answer your inspired questions if you will sincerely ask and seek for them. He loves you and wants to guide you.

Well family, let me know what I can do for you. I love you tons!
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

All is Well

Dear Family,

It sounds like you're all having a good time getting started with school again. I'm excited for all of you and what the coming year will bring. I just can't beleive how quickly you are growing up. Clark using a locker and Sophie taking Chinese. It's a little mind blowing. I'm very happy for you though.

We have had a wonderful week! Yesterday was particularly great because we spent almost the whole day teaching. The highlight was definitely going to teach Darlene. Laurie (who referred Darlene, and was a recent convert I taught in Ralston) was there with her boys so it was a real treat to see them again. Also, Darlene invited her cousin, Craig, and her friend, Leah, to join in the lesson. We planned to teach the Word of Wisdom and when I saw that we had two new people I wondered if we should just start with the restoration instead. Well, we ended up reviewing the restoration briefly and transitioning into the Word of Wisdom. It was a lot like your demonstration at mission training. When I asked Darlene if she believed Joseph Smith was a prophet and if the Book of Mormon was true, she said "yes" both times. That, of course, made us very happy, and Laurie even gave a little cheer, saying how proud she was of Darlene. It was the perfect way to lead into the Word of Wisdom because that commandment was given to Joseph Smith. It turns out Darlene has already been trying to live the Word of Wisdom. The only question she had was on what types of tea should could have and when we told her just herbal tea she gave away all her tea (to Craig). Then she gave Leah a high five because Leah is already living the Word of Wisdom. So, now we will be teaching Leah as well and Darlene is on track to be baptized on September 25th! It was a great lesson, and having Laurie there to testify was especially helpful because she is Darlene's best friend. It also felt good, as we left, to have Laurie recognize how much I've grown as a missionary. I'm not the timid little girl I was in Ralston.

I love you all very much!
Sister Bailey Mortensen