Monday, March 28, 2016

New Place, New Companion, Stronger Testimony

Dear Mother,

Now that I hopefully don't have to worry about bed bugs (hopefully, unless I carried them with me when I left Columbus), I am doing a lot better. As I told you last week, I got transferred, and I am now in Albany, GA!! Side note for Brother Hawkins, yes, people remember him, and I was told that I can have some good stories of him when he was a kid here. From what I can understand, they are very similar to Robert Stories. Super excited to hear more. They think well of the Hawkins family here though. So it was cool to be able to make that connection to this area even in my first week.
I love the area already! There is an investigator here who has the same name as me, and it is the strangest thing to hear people say my first name, even when they aren't talking about me. Mostly though that is because it doesn't feel quite like my name right now. Kind of fun though! Monika is super nice and she is currently on date to be baptized in June. Hopefully that date sticks, because she thinks she might have to move to Atlanta soon, but whatever happens, I know the Lord will provide a way:)

My new companion is Sister Danible, and she is super awesome! It turns out that she served in my last area, and that she left 6 weeks before I got there, so she knows a lot of the same people as I do. It has been fun in the last few days reminiscing about all the people we knew there, and the many more people that came or progressed after she left. I was surprised to find out that there were a lot of people that she had been talking to that had somehow been lost after she and her companion had been whitewashed (her companion completed her mission, and she got transferred). It really hit home for me the importance of record keeping. Its also why it is so important for the ward members to be involved in everything because when things like this happen, then the members know who the missionaries had been seeing and will be better able to help the new missionaries figure out what they need to be doing, and giving them some people that they can go see. 

Sister Danible is from Idaho, and she has actually been out one transfer longer than I have, which is definitely a change from being the "oldest" sister missionary in my last zone. I was pretty sure there weren't that many Sister Missionaries that were out longer than I was, and I am glad to report that there are some, but they are hidden all in the other zones. I love Sister Danible already though because she is such the sweetest person ever! She also is more willing to go on fun adventures than some people are, seen by the fact that last Saturday when we almost slid into a ditch (multiple times), because it was stormy and we were on a dirt road, she and I just laughed and screamed the whole way through. Haha It was fun:) and it reminded me of all the fun adventures we have gone through on our trips to Utah and Oregon.

I've settled in pretty well here, which is awesome. And I am certainly ready for some fun adventures in Albany!

Well I love you, but I have to get off soon, so I will end my letter with a short testimony. 

I know so much more so now than ever before, of the reality of Christ's love for us! He is real! He really did suffer so much for us so that we can be happy. He did not have to do any of what He did, and if He so chose, He could have left us to ourselves, but He didn't. He sacrificed himself for each and every one of us. And He felt everything we did. Not just something similar, but EXACTLY what we feel. He is the only one who knows. He knows how to help. He loves us. And I love Him. I am honored to be numbered among those around the world who bear His name on a little black name tag. I am honored to be considered worthy enough to represent the one perfect Being. I, an imperfect person, representing He who is above all. What a responsibility. I love being a missionary, and I am super grateful for the opportunity to serve all around Southern Georgia! I love it! I bear my witness to you as His missionary that He lives! In Jesus Christ's name, Amen.


Sister Monica Walker

PS at the time of this email, 24 days exactly [until her birthday]!! Cause I'm sending it right at 9:55 California time:)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Bugs and Transferred

Dearest Mother,

Who came home to keep me from being your favorite missionary in Modesto 1st Ward? Shouldn't I be your favorite anyway since I am your child? Also, why in the world am I not your favorite missionary in the world? Having favorites outside of your children is not allowed.. It's hard enough to compete for the spot with 4 other people, we don't need to be adding in any more.. ;)

So we had an interesting adventure this week.. Last Sunday (the 13th) Sister Maher and I went home for lunch and Sister Maher went into our room to take a nap, while I stayed in our living room and read (what a surprise!) when Sister Maher starts freaking out and yelling and ran back into this room, grabbed her shoe and went back in our room. I followed her in, and discovered BUGS!!! There were many little black bugs crawling around our room, that had been there for who knows how long, but since we are only ever really in our room at the end of the day or the beginning of the day we never noticed them.. I then freaked out because it meant that I had been sleeping with bugs for who knows how long. Pretty much cried for the rest of the day. The Senior couple here who is in charge of helping with housing in this area told us to try to spray everything with permetherin (as did the Senior couple over housing for the whole mission) so Sister Maher and I spent the next 5 hours doing just that. And then we checked the mattresses for bugs (because we figured out it was bed bugs on the wall) and they were clean so we sprayed them again and brought them out to the living room and had a terrible night sleep as both of us couldn't stop thinking about the bugs. Day two of the bugs was P-day so after we finished emailing, we went home and vacuumed and sprayed everything again. We also called the office for our apartment complex (they were closed on Sunday) and told them that we had potentially bed bugs. They told us they would have the Knox people come look at it soon. So anyway, we did that again, I might have had a minor meltdown as well again because I realized that it was all on my side of the room that the bugs were, and we are pretty sure I had been bitten on my legs from before. (Nasty).

Tuesday comes along, and I am done with the bugs so I started to pack, because I didn't want any of my stuff to have the bugs in them so I checked and sprayed everything I owned before I packed it all.. At about 9 the Knox guy came for a inspection and when he went into our room, he flipped over our box springs. Mine was solid black in every corner on the bottom, and Sister Mahers only had a few. Super nasty. They then gave a checklist to us of all the things we had to do before they could come and spray our apartment. So we spent the next 6 hours doing all the stuff on it. Essentially it was like we were moving apartments, but we had to wipe down and spray everything in the process. So my beautiful map that I made a few months ago had to be taken down, all the fabric in our apartment had to be put in heavy duty trash bags to be washed when we left, all the stuff on the counters and bookshelfs and etc had to be put in bags and either taken with us, or we could leave them (but we took the supplies with us since most of them are paper, and we didn't know how those would fare in the bug bombing). The Sisters in the other ward, who we were going to stay with for the next week came and helped us pack all our stuff and clean everything. We filled both our cars with stuff and took it to the other Sisters apartment where we sprayed their apartment and then put the bags from our apartment in the middle of the room with a permetherin boundary around the whole thing so they don't spread. And then we went and did missionary stuff for a few hours, and then came home to the sister apartment and began what would end up to be over 15 loads of laundry. I stayed up that night until about 1 switching laundry around so that we didn't have to stay at the apartment and do it. As we took it out, then we sprayed them again and folded them.

The next day we had to go back to our apartment to vacuum the whole thing (including our room, which we honestly hadn't touched yet because neither of us wanted to deal with the bugs). We also had to get rid of our beds and box springs since the mission was going to just pay for new ones, so we called some members to come get them, since they had a truck, and we don't and so three of the brethren in the ward came to get them for us. We asked them before the went in to grab them if they wanted us to spray them, and they said no, then they went and got it all and afterwards asked us to spray them. (apparently after seeing it, they changed their minds.) Better safe than sorry people! 

Apparently we found out later, each of them went home to their wives and told them it was probably the worst they had ever seen it, and it completely freaked them out. So my meltdown Sunday was completely validated, even though Sister Maher was laughing the whole time.. I am the Queen of Drama is all:) Basically after we finished cleaning we left the apartment and haven't been back since. I will never be in that apartment again so that is strange. We still and to clean the rest of our clothes and we even had to send some to the dry cleaners which was interesting, but hopefully when we can go back it will all be fixed and there will be no more problems. They even get new mattresses and box springs so they know there are no bugs in them. It has been fun though at the other Sister's apartment for the last week. Tonight is our last night there.

Another blessing that came from this was the fact that after I cleaned everything of mine, I was able to pack it all, and transfer calls were last Saturday. Either way I would have had to pack it, so I just packed on the off chance I was going to get transferred, and I'm getting transferred! Luckily because this happened, we don't have to clean our apartment, and I don't have to try to locate everything that is mine, because everything is already packed. We also don't have to go shopping today because there is no point as we have no place to put it until we can get back in our apartment tomorrow. So I don't have to pack, or shop, or clean my apartment today, and I can just go say goodbye to people all day instead.

I am getting transferred by the way. I found out Saturday. I have been here 6 months and I knew it was probably time for me to leave. It will be interesting. I don't know where I am going though. I kinda hope I am either going to Savannah or Augusta but my thought is that I will go to Fort Stewart area since my last two areas have been military places. (Fort Stewart is over by those two places either way). We will find out what happens tomorrow and I will tell you all next week where I am and who I am with! :)

Also I am super excited to be able to talk with you when I get home because I am learning so much from my studies that I can't all email home, but that I am writing down for everyone to read (namely my companion because she wants to read it later when she can understand it better). Much of it is the thoughts and connections I have made in Jesus the Christ, but some of it is from my study of the Book of Mormon as well.. Super awesome! Plan for a whole month mom where I am just going to talk your ear off. It will be great!! :) Someday in the long distant eons of time these questions will be answered.

Super excited for that day.
Love you all!! Hope all is well with you:) I am thinking about you every day:)

-Sister Monica Walker

Monday, March 14, 2016

Taking Care of Yourself

Dearest Mother,

Here's a story I didn't tell you when it happened, but I will now:) (I'm telling it now, because it has to do with trusting in the Lord.) A couple of weeks ago Sunday morning I woke up in the middle of the night not feeling super well, and slept sporadically for the rest of the morning until our alarm went off at 6:30 at which time I got up to get ready for the day and for church (since it was Sunday.) I was both hot and cold at the same time (which is a bizarre feeling) but felt well enough to go to church, especially knowing how important it was for us to go. Anyway, we got to church, at which point, I then have a headache. It got to the point where I started crying because I really don't like being sick on my mission, and I knew that I would have to go home soon because it wasn't getting any better. I actually ended up leaving halfway though sacrament to go lie down in one of the classrooms nearby to see if that helped at all before I really had to go home. Didn't really help. So I ended up getting a blessing from the Elders before heading home, because I really didn't want this to last super long since there was so much work that Sister Maher and I had to do, and anytime I get sick on my mission I feel bad taking a break because there are people we need to see and lives we need to touch and we only have a short amount of time to do so.

Let me pause the story here and tell you how much I love the Priesthood! It really is the power of God, and whether someone uses it for me to help me heal or for comfort or for all those sacred ordinances that I take part in, it always makes me happy, and it reminds me that my Heavenly Father loves me and knows me individually and personally. Those blessing especially remind me that He is aware of all my needs, whether it is here in Georgia or home in California.

So back to the story, in the blessing I got, I was reminded that it is super important for me to not only take care of those around me, but that I need to remember to take care of myself too. I was kind of rebuked a bit just because so much of my focus in the last few months have been on other people, whether it was my companion, or those I teach or just those that I love in my life. Many a prayer has been said for all others in my life, and honestly I don't know if I ever prayed for myself. Heavenly Father told me in this blessing that I needed to take care of myself and get better before I could help other people. I thought it was strange for me to be told to focus on myself before I helped other people, because usually the Lord asks us to be unselfish, and this felt like He was telling me to be selfish for a moment. I ended up going home, and fell asleep for a total of 14 hours (I woke up a couple of times throughout the evening, but was still too tired to do anything so I had to go back to sleep).

That week, I was reading in the Ensign one of those short stories in the back about people's spiritual experiences, and I came across a story about this woman who suddenly had to start taking care of her aging mother in addition to all of her children and in addition to her already demanding calling in the church. In this story, this lady literally ran herself to exhaustion from doing so much for others and not doing much for herself, and had to spend a week in the hospital because it had gotten so bad. I was reminded of the blessing I had received and the Lord's counsel to me to make sure I was taking care of myself.

I realized that as much good that I had been doing, I was taking on myself more than I should have been, mainly because I felt like it all rested on me to do it. I was then repeatedly reminded to rely on the Lord. To trust Him to take care of the things that I can't. Like the scripture in Book of Mormon says "And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order" (Mosiah 4:27).

This was a needed reminder to me that I can't do everything. There is a reason missionaries are not sent on missions one by one, but rather two by two, that my companion is there to help share the load. There is also a reason why we have District Leaders and Zone Leaders and Senior Couples and a Mission President (and his wife), who are all there to help if I need it. The Lord provides us with the strength we need (plus a little extra) to get through what He asks of us, but that doesn't mean we have unlimited strength. It is possible to overexert ourselves due to our pride in thinking we can do it all ourselves, or to put off the help He does provide for all of His children (whether its the priesthood, doctors, or self help books). What we have to remember is that as important as it is to help other people, we should not do it to the point where it is detrimental to our own selves. He loves us just as much as He loves them, and so He wants us to take care of us too. 

That is honestly a hard lesson to learn as a missionary, but it all goes back to whether or not I trust the Lord. I will do all that I can, but then I have to let Him do the rest. I can't do everything. And that's ok.

I love my Savior! I love my Heavenly Father! And I love all the support I get from my family and those around me:) I wouldn't be here without any of that.
Sister Walker

PS I was better by the next day and it didn't really affect anything else other than that Sister Maher had to stay in the apartment with me for all those hours I was sleeping.. haha

PPS So funny story I thought I'd share.. A few weeks ago the library was doing a contest for some drawing. Thinking it would be fun to enter, but not really thinking I'd win, Sister Maher and I put our names in. I had totally forgot I had even done this, and today (while I was in the library) I got a call from the library telling me I had won the drawing! They gave me a free book:) Because I said it was a book I wanted that I didn't own.. I guess I will read it when I get home in 8 months! Hahaha
This library is awesome!

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Love of Mothers

Dearest Mother,

It is amazing to me to see the love that people have for other people, especially their family, and what they are willing to go through to help their lives be the best. Yesterday as you are aware, was Fast Sunday, and we had a lot of less actives there that have been coming for a while, as well as some that it was their first time. One such less active of the latter sort, got up to bear her testimony. I want to tell a little of her story. I am sitting in the second to the front row, so I really don't know what is going on behind me. One of the brethren come up with a microphone, the one used for blessings and what not and begins to plug it in. I watched a little confused, as the podium was working fine, when I glanced over to my right where the Spanish Elders were helping a lady walk up to the front. They were in the process of helping her walk up the stairs because of her physical inabilities to walk, but ended up sitting down in the front pew and spoke from there once they realized there was a microphone for her. She was a middle aged woman, who walked with a walker, and honestly if she was sitting, you would never be able to tell that she had trouble walking. She starts her testimony with a little of her background, namely that when she was younger she was involved in a serious accident that left her in a coma for a few days and when she woke up, she woke up a quadriplegic. But she continued to bear a powerful testimony of the effect that God has had in her life, especially since at the time she had the accident she wasn't Mormon. She talks about how since the accident, she has been able to literally feel the Spirit more firmly and real then she did before, which was a huge help in her being converted. She went on to explain how she feels it a lot differently than most people, but even still it bears witness to her of the truthfulness of the things that she has learned in the Gospel, and what it means to her. She knows that is is true, and knows that God loves each and every one of us despite what circumstances they find themselves in. She was in the gospel Principles class with me later, as well as in Relief Society, in which she shared a little bit more of her story, which I want to share with you as well. At the time of the accident she had a baby girl, who wasn't very old (less than 6 months it sounded like), and because she could no longer even help herself, Social Services came in and tried to take her baby, which she adamantly refused to let them do, but came to the realization that she needed to place her baby for adoption because she knew she was incapable of taking care of herself, let alone a baby. So she spent 6 months looking for a family to place her in, in which time, plus 6 months after, women from Relief Society (not sure how they knew her since she wasn't a member) came every day Monday-Friday many hours a day to help her get up the stairs, take a bath, fed her, clothed her, did her dishes, cared for her child, etc, so that she could focus on getting better without the added stress of taking care of all the other things that she couldn't take care of anymore. She had always been a Christian person, and so the entire time she is looking for a family to place her daughter in, she is praying and fasting and praying and studying. Hours after countless hours she is trying to narrow down the families, when at 6 months after the accident, she is lying in bed pleading for the Lord to help her find the best family for her daughter, when the most overwhelming sense of peace and assurance came over her, and she felt someone stroke her head in comfort (she said she looked around and no one was there either). Seconds after this, she gets a call from another lady who had cut her hair for years who said that she had friends who were willing to adopt her girl if she still needed them too. Again the feeling of peace overwhelmed her, and she realized that the Lord was telling her that this was the family that her daughter was supposed to go to. Immediately plans were made, and the next day the family came up the next day and took her daughter so that she could be taken care of even while the papers still hadn't been figured out. I told her later that I was super impressed by her willingness to let her daughter go, especially in light of all she had already had to let go because of the accident she suffered. She told me it was the hardest thing she had ever done but that she is glad that she did it, because it allowed her daughter to have a wonderful full life that she might not have been able to offer her otherwise.

This whole story though makes me super grateful for the love of mothers and how similar it is to the love that Christ has for us. How willing He is to not do what will make His life easier, but to make our lives the best they can be. Stories of such selflessness are amazing and wonderful, because of man's inherent desires to be selfish, and the excuses that we make to justify it. I really do love the amazing power that the gospel brings people in their lives to make changes necessary for their eternal happiness instead of momentary pleasure. There is such a huge difference that I don't think we realize sometimes, but we really should try to figure it out, because it is awesome!

Also Mom, here's a story for you (and everyone else that knows you and/or your parents and siblings). A few weeks ago I was at a member's home and we were eating dinner when they were sharing some random funny stories of things that their children had done. As your family is prone to do, I started to relate many of the stories to gospel principles that they could tie into the stories to make them spiritual or whatever. She thought that was funny too, and so for a little bit she would make something up and I had to somehow tie it to a gospel principle. It was fun! I told them it was something that I learned from you and that you learned it from grandpa who passed it one to many (if not all) of his children. :) Anyway, we had dinner with them last week, and part way through the meal, the wife turned to me and told me that she wants to be like my mom when she grows up (it's a younger family) because she wants to tie everything that she does into a gospel principle. I told her all she needs to do is practice and eventually it will come naturally. She is super excited about that prospect. I thought it was funny and that I would share. Congrats Mom, you can affect people you don't even know! :) You too Grandpa, since you were the one to teach it to my mother:) My family is awesome! Thanks for being such a spiritual giant in my life, you and dad both:) Love you lots!
Well this email is long enough. I will have more stories to share next week:) Hope all is well, I am always praying for all of you!

Love your favorite missionary

Sister Monica Walker

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Popped Tire

Dearest Mother,

Didn't we move into our house on the 29th of February? Or is that just something I made up because I thought it would have been cool if we had moved in on that day, and so I have always thought it my whole life? Either way it is pretty cool that I can say we have only lived in our house for 4 of todays.
Tell all of our neighbors that I miss them too!! Also ask Lorraine if she could tell you how to make the beans from those Mexican restaurants. I think she said that she knew how to make them, and I want to know how so that I can make them at home instead of having to go to a Mexican restaurant anytime I want refried beans.. hahaha

This week has been pretty great though. Here's a funny story for y'all. I will send a couple of pictures to go with it, but I didn't get too many because I walked away for most of it. So yesterday, we had three meals appointments that we had to go to in the space of 4 hours. The first one was a birthday party for our 97 year old investigator. That was awesome, but I was super nervous about eating her food. It was really good though:) We were there for a little bit longer than we had originally planned, and so we had to text the member family that was feeding us lunch after and told them that we needed to push lunch about 30 mins because we were running a little late. Eventually we head out, and are on our way to the member's home to get there at the time we had told them we were going to be there, when I'm driving along, and there is a loud bang. I realized that I had run over something, and looked immediately in my rearview mirror to check to see what it was. All I could see was a tiny strip of metal that was quickly disappearing. Looking back at my dashboard, I switched to a screen that allows me to see the tire pressure, and I watched as our tire pressure went from 40 to 10 in about 5 seconds. We managed to pull over at a safe spot and out of the way of traffic, and low and behold, the tire was flat. Whatever we had run over had ripped our tire. super crazy. We call the member and tell them that we had just gotten a flat and so we were going to be even later than we had said. They asked us if we needed help, and I told them we would definitely appreciate it if they came to help. Mind you, we have all the tools, and the spare tire, and I know where all of those things are located in the car, but I didn't know how to jack the car up to actually change the tire (which I did know how to do.) Plus we are in skirts, and its Sunday. Anyway, as we were getting all the stuff out to be all the way ready when the members got there, there was a homeless guy who couldn't talk that came up and tried to tell us what to do. He used gestures and seemingly tried to tell us that we needed to change our tire, and we politely tried to tell him that we appreciated his help, but we did have people coming to help us. (Honestly, it wasn't that he was speaking with a heavy accent that we couldn't understand, it was literally that he couldn't talk to us.) He did help us figure our though that we have those car brake things that you put on tires to keep it from rolling away when you park on a hill, or you do something to the car and so it is on the back tires or whatever. So that was nice of him. When the member got there, it was the father, their son, and one of their daughters. I wanted to go find the thing that pooped [popped] our tire, so I took the daughter with my companion and went up the road to find the thing that pooped [popped] our tire, so that no one else would get their tires popped. We left the boys there to fix our tire while we left (which is why I don't have many pictures of someone actually changing the tire). When we walked up the road, we saw one of two other cars that were changing their tires too because they had hit it as well.. Essentially it was a metal strip about 8 inches long with a bolt sicking out of either side (so two bolts total). We are going to see if we can somehow cut it so that each of us can have it as a souvenir. Super funny. By the time we got back the tire was fixed and the homeless guy had left, and so we were able to quickly go to our 2nd meal appointment for the day, but much later than planned. After we got done there, we had to go on Post for our dinner appointment with a less active family that was moving (which is why we agreed to have so many meals) but we had to switch cars with the Elders because Post is kinda far, and you can only get on it through the end of the freeway (unless you want to kill a bunch of miles, and when that's limited its not really worth it), and I didn't feel comfortable going so far and so fast with a spare tire. It was weird driving a Toyota car, because my whole mission I have only been assigned to Chevy Cruses. We were super blessed though to be able to eat all the food that was given to us, even though we might have possibly gained 5 pounds in doing so. Super fun.

Also we had an investigator go to Atlanta for a Doctor's appointment, and then she never came back. She took all her money out of her bank account and closed her bank account and her phone number and is disappeared. She lived with a member family here and they haven't heard anything from her, nor has any of her family. Super crazy. Keep her in your prayers. We honestly have no idea what just happened with her.

We had to say goodbye this week to many of our friends on post because they are being moved with the army. One of them is moving to Colorado, and the other is going to Utah because they just retired from the military. It made us super sad to have to see them go, because we had been working closely with one of the families to get them baptized, and the other family was their good friend, and ours as well. The second family was also a part member family, so I hope they will get the help they need in their journey to Christ that they couldn't get here. Pictures to follow.

Love you all! And I hope all is going well with you:) I love you and I miss you, but keep moving strong. It will all work out:)

-Love Sister Walker