Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Family,

Tell Lisa congrats on her mission call! That is wonderful and she will love it! I guess that means our missions will overlap just a little because my new release date is April 15th.

We finally saw our first snow flakes this morning. It is a very light snow, almost like the frozen version of a mist. Still, it makes me excited for the Christmas season. We are planning on decorating a tiny tree in our apartment today. We will make popcorn strings, apple and orange slices, and a foil star. It's funny how such little things bring such joy.

Sister Warner and I had a wonderful Thanksgiving! She consented to come to the Turkey Bowl and actually had a good time. It was really cold but we ran around a lot and one of the men brought hot chocolate, which I am actually learning to enjoy. We had two dinner appointments and both were super delicious. The Orrs expressed a lot of gratitude that Bro. Orr was able to survive a huge semi accident that week. His truck was the second in a 13 semi pile-up on the interstate. Needless to say, his truck was totalled but he walked out with just a few bruises. We read the scripture in Mormon that says God is still a God of miracles because it seemed appropriate. And, miraculously, Bro. Orr came to church on Sunday! He has always had the attitude that there is no point in trying to convert him, but he actually came to church. I think that expressing gratitude really does lead to miracles, just like President Monson said last conference.

Thanksgiving dinner with the Rosenlunds was also a blast because their 6 kids are so cute. And they were able to invite Cretia, a less active member that hasn't had a real Thanksgiving dinner in 6 years. She really appreciated it. All in all it was a wonderful holiday.

On Saturday, we helped the Kori family rake the mountains of leaves in their front yard. Their little four year old was wading through them, but because they are all such good workers we got it done fairly quickly and still had time to read from the Book of Mormon. They were very grateful for our help and it just made me so happy to serve them physically and spiritually.

Last night, we had an intense lesson with Sandy and James. We've been teaching Sandy for over a month now and she's kinda stuck because they are living together. She can't get baptized until they separate or get married and he can't get married again until he gets his previous marriage annulled. It's kind of a mess. But thankfully, James was very open with his concerns and why he feels it is too hard to separate. He has experienced a lot of loss in his life. My heart really went out to him. I tried to help him feel how much Heavenly Father loved him. James wants to do the right thing, but just thinks it is too hard. We did our best to help him feel that God will help him keep the commandments and that so many blessings will come if he does. You can tell how much it is tearing him apart and I know they would both feel so much more at peace if they would separate until they can get married. I always feel so good when I finally humble myself enough to repent and do things the Lord's way rather than my own way. Sure it is hard, but I am so much happier when I obey. In the end, James and Sandy said they would pray about separating. As Sister Warner and I reflected on this lesson this morning, we realized that the lesson wouldn't have gone so well and James wouldn't have felt the spirit and love of God if we hadn't been living the mission rules. We could not have testified of these priciples and have the spirit bear witness of their truth if we weren't living them ourselves. A lot of power comes when we know and they know that we are living the same principles that we are asking them to live. I know that repentance and forgiveness and the healing power of the atonement are real because I have experienced them again and again in my own life. I know that the only way to have true peace and lasting happiness is to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I know that the atonement of Jesus Christ can heal anything. Absolutely anything. I know Heavenly Father loves me and will help me. I know He wants me to be happy and live with Him again. I know that I have the potential to become like Him because I am His daughter. Knowing these things gives me peace and courage to do what Heavenly Father asks me to do, especially when it is hard. I wish I could explain all of this more clearly to those I teach so that they can enjoy the peace that I enjoy by living the gospel.

Thanks for always sending me emails. I love to hear how you are doing. Enjoy this special Christmas season by trying to become a little more Christ-like.

Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ezra's baptism

Dear Family,

I can't believe it has snowed in Vancouver but not Grand Island. I'm sure we'll get some soon, but so far it is just cold.

Our nine year old buddy, Ezra, was baptized on Saturday and confirmed on Sunday! I wish you could have seen the huge grin on his face after each of these ordinances were performed. He is just the cutest kid. He has such a sincere desire to follow Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. He wants to do what is right because he knows they love him. One of my favorite quotes from him is that "Heavenly Father created everything! Everything we want, need, and love." He says that all the time and I just adore his high-pitched little voice. He is also being a really good example to his family, who are finally starting to come back to church. His mom cried at his baptism and his dad even said the opening prayer. His twin brothers are only two and very rambunctious but they also behaved very well at the baptism. It was a great event.

We are still teaching the Kori family and struggling to help Brother Kori understand the need to be baptized again. On Saturday, he had to go to a meeting but told us to teach his family and then come back on Sunday to see him also. We watched the Restoration DVD and invited them to be baptized. The kids and their mother said they would like to be baptized but needed to talk with Brother Kori about it. When we came back on Sunday they hadn't discussed it yet so we brought it up. Still, Brother Kori doesn't understand the need for authority in performing a baptism. We explained with analogies and discussed Acts 19 where a whole group of people are re-baptized, but mostly we testified that the priesthood was restored through Joseph Smith. Finally, he said he would watch the Restoration DVD and pray to ask if the priesthood was restored through Joseph Smith. He also said he will think about being baptized again. We hope that Thomson, a member that works with him, can help him understand.

William, the guy who recognized us last week, came to church again. Also, we had a lesson about repentance and he said he wants to set a day, after the holidays, to be baptized! We were so excited! He has been researching about the church for years and he finally wants to take this step and become a member of it. He has even started cutting back on smoking. The fun part is that we didn't really do anything. He already knows all the principles of the gospel so anything that we teach is just a friendly reminder of what he already knows is true. In our lessons, we mostly just listen to him talk things out and bear his testimony. He came to the decision to be baptized all on his own. Heavenly Father really does prepare people, sometimes over the course of many years, to receive the gospel.

So, things are going wonderfully well in Grand Island. I'm hoping that the wards here have a Turkey Bowl. I love that Thanksgiving tradition and had a blast last year! Sister Warner doesn't want to play but said she doesn't mind watching. Then we have a couple meal appointments with members and an appointment with the Kori family. It should be a great day!

Well, thanks for being so supportive! I love each of you very much!
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Heavenly Father answers specific prayers specifically

Dear Family,

Thank you so much for sending me weekly updates. It's so good to hear from you and know what is going on in your lives.

Our big miracle this week is a man named William. About a week ago, one of our investigators asked us to drop off a bag of clothes to the salvation army. Well, we finally put it in our plans on Thursday night and went there Friday afternoon. On our way out, we ran into some members and had a good little chat with them. Then, just as we were getting in the car, I see this man jump out of his van and walk towards us. I got out of the car and he called out "Are you LDS?" "Yes." I said with a puzzled look on my face. William smiled and told us how he had just moved from Twin Falls (where Sister Warner is from) for a job and was wondering if we had some scriptures he could read since his quad was still in a box somewhere. All we really had to give him was a Book of Mormon but he still insisted on showing us, in my copy of the Doctrine and Covenants, that he has an ancestor who is listed in section 75. We talked a lot about church history and then I finally had to ask, "Have you been baptized?" He kinda chuckled and said "No. The Word of Wisdom is something I still struggle with. Smoking." We thought "No way, that's it. You know more about the church than I do." Apparently he did a side by side comparison of the Catholic church and the Mormon church in college and gained a testimony then. He came to church on Sunday and was already in 2 Nephi of the Book of Mormon we gave him. William is amazing! The really great part is that on Friday morning I prayed that Heavenly Father would lead us to those who were prepared or that he would lead them to us. Sure enough, he sent William right to us. And to think that He organized it all for us to be there at just the right time. I am always amazed at Heavenly Father's ability to lead us where He needs us to be.

Sorry it's short. I love you and pray for you.
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, November 8, 2010

Double Baptism!

Dear Family,

I'm glad you are all in for a family temple trip when I get back. It will be a real treat. I turned in the form that the mission office sent and made a note that I'd like to extend my mission. I've also informed President Kunz so hopefully they sort all that out.

We had a double baptism on Saturday! It was great to see Jerome (70s) and Nyayien (8) be baptized! Bro. Whitehead is the friend that introduced Jerome to the church so even though he is about 80 years old and kinda frail he baptized Jerome. It took him four tries and some help from Bro. Pyper (who baptized Nyayien) but they did it! You should have seen the huge grin on Jerome's face afterward. He was so happy. Nyayien was also really happy and full of energy. I really felt the spirit. The spirit was especially strong as Sister Warner and I taught the restoration while those who were wet changed. I felt so warm as Sister Warner recited the first vision. I know that was the spirit confirming the truth. I know this is the true church of Jesus Christ. I really felt that as we bore testimony. At the end, Jerome bore his testimony. He read it from a paper he had typed up and it was so cute. He talked about God and the Savior, but my favorite was at the end he simply said "Therefore I believe. Thank you." I love his simple but firm faith.

It was also really exciting to have our investigator, James, attend the baptism. He turned 76 that day and I think that is a great thing to do on your birthday, attend a baptism. He has now gone 3 whole days without smoking and is feeling so happy because of it. He started smoking when he was 10 so this is a big deal. We've been doing everything we can to help him. When we taught him the no smoking program it took us a long time to convince him to get rid of his cigarettes. But with a lot of convincing from us, a member of the ward, and the spirit he finally crushed his packs of cigarettes and threw them away. He's been sticking with it ever since and it is amazing the change that has come over him. He is so happy to finally be conquering Satan. And he knows the only way he's been able to make it this far is because the Lord is helping him. He's praying and doing everything in his power so the Lord is making up the rest and helping to diminish that desire to smoke. What a miracle!

Remember the Sudanese family we read 1 Nephi 1 with? Well they are doing great. We taught them the gospel and invited them to be baptized and the dad said he would talk with his wife about it. He actually brought up the question of "is it okay to be baptized again?" before we even invited him to be baptized again. So we were able to explain the need for authority and then invite their family to be baptized by God's priesthood authority. It went really well. I loved what the dad said at the end, "Now we and all mykids know what we need to do." He was so grateful that we had taught him and his children the gospel, the simple steps we need to take to live with God again. It was amazing!

I have one quick insight to share from this morning's scripture study. ALma 37:34 says "Teach them to never be weary of good works, but to be meek and lowly in heart; for such shall find rest to their souls." Believe it or not, missionary work is exhausting and you pretty much never get a break. In that sense, I'm sure it is good practice for being a mom because you are always on the clock. But even though my body is tired I should "never be weary of good works." If I am meek and lowly enough to ask what Heavenly Father wants me to do next, even though I feel I've just done a good job and deserve a break, and then I keep working to do what He asks, then I will find rest to my soul. I really would rather be tired physically and at rest spiritually than to be resting physically and tormented spiritually. So I'll do my best to be dilligent and work effectively, even when I'm tired. I just love the insights I get as a missionary! Who knew that working hard would result in true rest?!?

Well, I love you all very much! Keep being the amazing family that you are! I think almost all of my companions want to meet you guys because I'm always telling them how great you are!

Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween

Dear Family,

I'm glad you had a good Halloween. I did too. We had stake conference in Kearney Nebraska and two of our investigators came even though it's 45 minutes away! In fact, we rode with Bro. Cunningham and Sandy and were able to teach a lesson during the car ride. It was definitely a unique lesson, but a good way to spend the time. I really enjoyed stake conference because it mostly centered on the importance of temples. I liked what President Sleight said "That which isn't sealed to you really isn't all that important." That really helped me get my priorities straight. I may not be with those I am sealed to while I'm serving a mission, but I still think about and pray for you every day. You are a big reason that I am here in the first place. Without your examples and encouragement I doubt I would be able to do this, but with that love and support it is a lot easier.

So, would you all like to have a family temple trip when I get back? I'm really excited about the idea. I know it would be a big strength to all of us.

All us missionaries had to be home at 6pm for Halloween but we still had a good time. It was weird to be in so early. We made a lot of phone calls and got everything organized. Actually, Sister Warner did most the organizing; she enjoys that kind of thing. We also had a little movie night because Sister Warner had never seen "Joy to the World" and since we're going to start handing out those pass-along cards soon, we figured she better know what she will be offering.

This week, my testimony that Heavenly Father knows each of His children was strengthened. We were walking down the street when we met this girl (about our age) and her little boy outside her apartment. She said she has been wondering what God wants her to do so we shared what Joseph Smith did in that situation and recited the first vision. After that, she invited us in and we were able to answer more of her golden questions. It turns out her name is Heaven and that she and her husband have been wanting their son to grow up with God even if they aren't sure He is there. We reassured her that He is and that He loves her and gave us showing up randomly of an evidence that He truly is mindful of her and her family. We are so excited to keep teaching her.

Another experience we had this week got me all excited to have family scripture study when I am a mom. We went to our appointment with Kori's family and decided to just read 1 Nephi 1 with them. Nayma and all four kids sat on the couches with us and took turns reading (except Magda 'cause she's only four and Nayma 'cause she's still learning to read English). It was so cute to hear Marigan (11) help Mabarak (8) and Myssa (6) sound out some of the bigger words. They all are very good readers and really understood what was happening in the story. It was one of those kodak moments that they put in the Ensign with the whole family gathered with the missionaries studying from the Book of Mormon. Oh it was precious. I'm sure my future family scripture study won't usually be so peaceful and precious, but at least I know what I'm shooting for. Moments like that make it all worth it.

Next Saturday is Jerome's baptism and he is so excited for it. He even wants to bear his testimony as part of the program. Nyayien (an 8 year old we've been teaching) will also be getting baptized so Sister Warner and I are excited for this double baptism!

Well, I hope you all have a wonderful start to this beautiful month of November. I love you lots!
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Too many miracles to write about

Dear Family,

Thanks for the email. I'm so glad that things are going well. I had to laugh when mom said that she loved Clark and I "warts and all." We are pretty similar, but I think you'd be surprised at how social I'm becoming. Talking with everyone is part of being a missionary and it's started to come more naturally for me. In fact, Sister Warner pointed out that she would like to get better at initiating conversations with people even though it's easier to just let me do it. It was exciting for me to realize that I've progressed from that stage of letting my companion talk to being the one to talk without even knowing it.

In Sunday School our lesson was on the priesthood and I learned some interesting things. Also, President Kunz gave a great description of how the Aaronic Priesthood prepares young men for the Melchizedek Priesthood. He said "the Aaronic Priesthood prepares a young man or an adult convert to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. The Aaronic Priesthood focuses on the temporal aspects of the gospel and includes the ministering of angels and the gospel of repentance while the Melchizedek Priesthood is primarily focused upon the spiritual aspects of the gospel including church administration and spiritual blessings. The Aaronic Priesthood is referred to as the preparatory priesthood." I think it is so wise of Heavenly Father to have young men prepare, bless and pass the sacrament. This responsibility really does prepare them to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. And then, when they go on missions, they have so many opportunities to exercise that priesthood by giving blessings all the time. Heavenly Father definitely knows what He is doing.

Wow, we've had an amazing week! I think it all started with training on Wednesday. Both Sister Warner and I came away with renewed excitement to concerate ourselves to the Lord and His work. We were encouraged to have a 40 day fast from anything that keeps us from having the spirit with us. Some things on my list to give up were: long showers, reading mail on days other than p-day, icecream, naps, and being even a minute late for personal study. I go over my list with Heavenly Father every morning and night. As I was praying that first night, the spirit reminded me of a scripture that describes what we are doing. Helaman 3:35 says "Nevertheless, they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sactification of their hearts, which sactification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God." I love it! That is what I want: clean hands and a pure heart! And I get that by being humble and faithful, by praying and fasting, by giving up what I want for what He wants, by yielding my heart to Him. As a result of this repentance, we have been guided by the spirit and miracles have occurred.

We have 7 people with a baptismal date! In the second ward we have 5. Jerome (11/6) came to church again and loved it again. Deb (11/13) has been faithfully reading the Book of Mormon and just needs a ride to church (she's in a wheelchair at a nursing home so it's a little tricky). Angel (11/20) enjoyed the goofy little coloring sheet I made to help her and her younger sisters understand the plan of salvation. Ezra (11/20) came to church and loved being part of the primary program. And James (11/27), an old man that we tracted into, said he believed the Book of Mormon was true before we even gave it to him. In the first ward we have 2 people with baptismal dates. Tabu (11/6) is hard to get a hold of and needs to come to church. And Frank (11/27) is a bubbly middle-aged man that grew up Catholic but hasn't gone to church for years. We taught him a brief restoration lesson and he said he felt good about what we shared and would prepare to be baptized.

If that isn't enough miracles, we also had 7 investigators come to church! Jerome, Ezra, Christina and a Sudanese family that we taught for the first time on Saturday night! We met Kori, the dad, at Thomson's house when he answered the door and immediately invited us over to teach his family. He invited us before we could even ask him. It was amazing! He wasn't there for our appointment, but we found them all at home Saturday night and were able to teach him, his wife, and his two boys (11 and 8, he also has two younger girls that were sleeping) the restoration. They said they would pray, read the pamphlet we left, and come to church and they did! It was so exciting to see Kori ... and then Missa ... and then Marigan ... and then Magda ... and the Mabarak ... and then Nama walk into sacrament. They were a little late but I went to sit by them and explain things. They really enjoyed the primary program but the kids were too tired to stay for sunday school and primary. I have never had so many people come to sacrament meeting!

Okay, I think I have time to tell one last miracle. Bro. Cunningham took his girlfriend to the Trail Center on Saturday where Sister Minert gave them a tour and invited her to be baptized. Sandy said she would if she felt it was true. She came to the first ward on Sunday and we had a lesson with her after church. Bro. Cunningham had already shown her the restoration DVD but we reviewed it anyway. She feels like this is where she is supposed to be and described the spirit as the comfortable pressure on her back. She said she would think about getting baptized on November 27th. So we are excited for her as well.

I am just so amazed at how much Heavenly Father blesses His children. I know that He loves us. I know that we will be happiest as we follow the example of our Savior and keep His commandments. I am so excited to be serving as a missionary and help people take those steps closer to our Heavenly Father. It truly is miraculous!

Sister Mortensen