Saturday, May 28, 2016

This Week's Happenings

Dear Mom:)

This week has been very interesting and really long and tiring. We traveled to far away places on 4 different days, and spent much of the day in each of those areas. 

On Tuesday we went to Tifton for our Zone conference meeting. We were told that there was a representative from Salt Lake coming to inspect our cars and so we needed to have our cars as clean as we could possibly get them. So last Monday Sister Danible and I went to an investigators house and she taught us how to detail our car so it would look super nice. That was fun! (really though it turned into a water fight). When we got to Tifton, we had to back our car into a parking spot, and after we finished inspecting it, and filling all the liquids it needed and whatnot, the vehicle coordinator for our mission told us that he was going to switch our car with some of the other elders in our district who ironically had just gotten the car that I started my mission with. We were a little disappointed because the car we had was a Ford Fusion with a USB port, and the car the Elders had was a Chevy Cruze that doesn't have a USB port.. So we were sad to loose all the music and talks that we had accumulated through our mission. Well not lose them, but not be able to use it for the foreseeable future.. And then the vehicle Coordinator surprised us with the keys to a brand new Toyota Corolla! They sold the car I started my mission off with. So that was pretty awesome! Also while we were there, we found out while we were in the meeting that the reason the representative from Salt Lake was there was because he was installing something called a Tiwi in all the mission vehicles. (it is commonly called a black box by other missionaries). The purpose of it is to teach us how to be better drivers. It speaks to us at real time if we are speeding, hit bumps too hard, take hard turns, stop hard, or speed up too fast (and other things I forgot). Any time you do one of these things, it will tell you what you did and then cite you for it. Those citations go to the mission office, and if we get to many then our driving privileges get revoked. We have talked to the tech people a lot about it in Utah because a lot of the speed limits are wrong and so we are trying to help them update them. We also got new phones (except they are still basic slide phones). Still no ipads though.. Maybe when the new mission president comes! haha..

Wednesday we went to Cuthbert (about an hour away) to try to track down some of the old referrals and some of the less actives that live there. Our goal in these far away areas is to try to update toe ward roster for those people that keep moving, as well as try to find out whether or not the people who we get referrals to online still want missionaries to come visit them. Unfortunately we keep finding out that there are a lot of these that say they have been contacted when they have never seen missionaries or received the things they asked for. Some of them are for over 6 months ago too.. Its been pretty crazy trying to track them all down.

Thursday we went to Blakely (which is about an hour away from us). We tried to track down some more of the people that we weren't able to see yet, and it took us a long while to find some of the houses. Some of them are seriously in the middle of nowhere, and the GPS thinks its 5 miles in a different direction. One member we found told us that he hadn't seen missionaries since he moved to Blakely and that was two years ago. He was also surprised to see us because as far as he knew, no one knew his current address and he hadn't changed his address either so he was in complete shock for about 40 mins of how he found that. And then add to that that his current address isn't found in the GPS. It was pretty awesome though, because he surprised us on Sunday and actually came to church! Which is pretty amazing considering he lives 55 miles away from where the church building is. He said he is going to try to start coming back which we think is super awesome and honestly a miracle since no one knows how his address got here and how we happened to catch him home at the exact moment that he was home on a day off that he rarely gets off. The Lord definitely works in mysterious ways. 

On Sunday our Spanish investigator came to church!! And that was a miracle in and of itself! His family was supposed to take him, but last minute changes made it impossible for them to take him to church. We ended up calling a member at 10 at night to see if he could go pick him up for church the next morning. The member said yes! It was even better because the member is a RM who speaks Spanish, and had come with us on a previous visit to meet Enrique. So they already knew each other! And then on top of that, Enrique lives about an hour away from the member and from church, and so the member drove a total of 4 hours to get this investigator to church and home! And he even stayed with him through the whole 3 hours of church to act as his translator so that he would know what was going on in church since everyone was speaking English. That was far beyond anything I expected a member to do, but it was so awesome because it allowed this investigator to go to church for the first time since he had come to America. Other circumstances (like not knowing where the church was or not having a ride) kept him from going this whole time, and it was so exciting to see him finally make it to church. :) We also went to go see his family, and taught them the Plan of Salvation. It was really awesome to try to teach them in broken Spanish and English, and it was really a testament to me of the power of the Spirit when the niece (who speaks English as her first language and Spanish as her second) said that this was clearer to her than anything else she had ever heard, and she really wants to learn more. She and her husband even promised to pray about baptism, and she is really excited for the prospect of becoming a forever family. A lot of the time when I teach about the Priesthood, especially the importance of having the correct authority and the power it has in baptisms, I compare it to marriage. In almost every other religion (as far as I know) when two people are married by the churches authority, they are married until death do they part. That is because that is all the authority they have. They cannot marry anyone further than this life because after life is God's domain and God's power. So unless they have his real authority, they can't marry for any longer then that. It is that same power by which people are baptized in other religions. So it is an awesome thing that they have done, and there is no doubt that their baptism will help them progress in this life to be closer to God. As soon as they die however, just like marriage, it will dissolve. When we explained this to Hannah (the niece) she said that she had never thought about it that way, but that it made perfect sense to her, and it also made her really want to have her marriage forever, because she doesn't like the idea that the marriage will end when one of them dies. 

I am certainly grateful for the knowledge that my family is a forever family and that my parents have been sealed in the temple for time and all eternity! I love that I have that potential as well, and that I grew up with that knowledge, and so never had to worry about any of my family being separated from me, whether by distance or death, because I know that eventually we will all be back together again! I was talking to Cassidy earlier, and we were talking about how many of our cousins are getting married, and how many cousin in laws we have. I realized that when we have a family reunion in later years with more of our cousins married, there will be (just including our cousins) close to 75 or even 100 people there. Including everyone else it will be even more!! And then I realized that that will be a lot like how the reunion in the Celestial Kingdom will be, except it will be 75 or 100 BILLION people.. It will be a wonderful experience:) 

Love you all!!
-Sister Monica Walker

Sister Dayton and I saw each other at Zone Conference!! It was so much fun to see one of my last companions:) Especially one that has become one of my best friends that I found on my mission:)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Finding People

Dearest Mother:)

This week has been super awesome! It also seems to have flown by, because of how much stuff we had going on. This week we had exchanges with the Sisters in Tifton, and I went there to Tifton. It was super fun because Sister DeMann, who I was with, had just finished being companions with one of my past companions Sister Dayton! So that was super cool to be able to talk with her about that and how they did in their previous area, and just reminisce about life in general. It was really fun:)
We went to try to visit some of the people in our ward that lived in the middle of nowhere Georgia, and we had a member come with us to help us try to track some of these people down. One of the places we went looked very secluded, and the member was afraid of getting shot (because we were in the middle of nowhere) and so she made us stop to say a prayer before we drove on their drive way. Their driveway was about a mile long and it felt like it just kept going on and on.. Finally we see a house only to discover that there are 4 houses! And none of them have numbers on them. We keep driving on the driveway, and it takes us up to the first house. We were going to get out so that we could knock on the door, but we see somebody walking back behind the house, so we follow them in the car and ask them if the member lives there. He said the guy did but that he lived in the back house and that we needed to continue down the driveway and take a left at the telephone pole and keep going until we hit his house. He told us though that he wasn't home, but his wife was. We thanked him, and then went back to go talk to the members wife. When we find her, she at first thought we were lost (they don't get very many visitors). When we explained who we were, who we were looking for, and why we were looking for him, she told us that he wasn't a member of our church. We asked if he had ever been a member of our church (because sometimes they were but because they stop going they think their records are gone) and she said he had been a member of their Baptist Church his whole life. She then told us we weren't the only people to think that that guy lived there, they get stuff for him and phone calls for him all the time. Apparently even the Sheriff called for the member guy once too. I asked her then her husbands full name, and it turns out his middle name is different than the members listed middle name, so unless it is the same guy and he changed his middle name for whatever reason, we had the wrong guy. It was pretty funny though and the lady was super nice, even though she wasn't all that interested in learning more about the Restored Gospel. 

While I was in Tifton, we traveled to a small town somewhere outside of Tifton, and it was really cool to meet all the differently people in the small little places around Georgia. It was also cool because we went to a gun shop to try to find an investigator of theirs who owns the place, and while we were there, they gave me a free pink t-shirt that has a gun on the back. Its pretty awesome:) I love being able to see how God is able to touch the lives of those who live so far away from anyone else, and how is still blesses their lives even when they don't have many of the things that I am used to in live. It is very humbling.

We also had our Zone Training Meeting, where Sister Danible and I had the opportunity to train the rest of the missionaries in our Zone. Usually we would train off the trainings we receive from our mission presidency, but we were unable to go to the last MLC because it was before transfers, and that MLC wasn't a normal MLC either because their was a general authority there who spoke the whole time instead of the mission presidency. So the Zone Leaders picked our topics and we got to plan a training off of that. My training was on Personal Revelation. I learned some interesting things about it which I wanted to share with y'all. First, it is important to understand that without personal revelation, none of us can be saved. Why? Because it is through personal revelation that all of us receive a witness that Jesus is the Christ, and that He is the Savior of all mankind. Second, personal revelation only comes through personal study. The Lord expects us to do our part before He gives us the answer. We have to ask a question before He can give us the answer. We have to try to find the answer ourselves as well. He gives us all these resources to look through and sometimes we just have to push through it all to find them. The object lesson that I did was that I had a dollar that I hid in plain sight, and had an Elder be blindfolded to try to find it where ever it was in the room. One of the sisters was the Spirit and her job was to make sure that she guided him to where it was using a soft voice, but she also couldn't touch him. Everyone else in the room was to be the distractions. One elder played the piano super loud, some of them yelled at him when he got close. Some Elders pushed chairs in his way as to make him stumble. Eventually he found the dollar. The point of it is to remind us that even when we know what we are looking for, and we know what the Spirit sounds like, we have to take the time to tune out the rest of the world in order to make the steps necessary to obtain it. The sister didn't just give him the dollar when he asked where to find it, he had to find it himself. But she did guide him to the place where he needed to go, and she even warned him of some of the dangers in his way. The same works with the Spirit. He doesn't always give us the answers. More often then not, we have to search for a long time before He will give us the place where it is.
Sunday, we met with our Spanish investigator again. We were a little worried though because the return missionary that we had previously asked to come with us to help teach couldn't come because he had family in town, and the investigator's niece who is usually the translator was out of town. We decided to go anyways, but were praying the whole way to help us be able to communicate with him. Luckily for us, earlier that day at church, we had 12 or so visitors at church that were going around selling Vivent, and most of them were return missionaries. One of them had recently returned from serving a mission in Mexico, and had told us that if we needed help that day to give him a call and he would do what he could to come help us. So we texted him and asked him if he would be willing to drive an hr away to help us with a lesson with a Spanish investigator of ours. He said yes!! That was a miracle in and of itself. Unfortunately we realized right before we left to the lesson that we were running out of gas (we had according to the car 70 miles left until the tank ran out) and the lesson was 44 miles away (in one direction). We discussed canceling the appointment, but we decided to go anyway. The whole way there we were praying that we wouldn't run out of gas, because we knew it was important for us to not go buy gas on the Sabbath, especially since it was because of our lack of preparation that caused the situation. We got there safe, and the member came with us to help us translate for our investigator. It was an awesome discussion though because we were able to figure out what was holding him back from baptism, and now that we know, we are going to try to work it out so that he can get baptized sooner than December. We are currently in contact with the missionaries there in Mexico so that we can mash out the details concerning his family. We are so excited for him though because he has such a strong testimony! We finish the lesson, and the member told us he was going to follow us home to make sure we were ok as we drove the many miles back to Albany. It was honestly a huge blessing though because we were not only able to make it home safe but we were also able to make it to the dinner appointment that we had that night about 8 miles away from our house. By the time we pulled back up to our apartment, we had 9 miles left of gas. The Lord really does bless His servants when they are doing His work, and when they show a little bit of faith:) 

As for some fun news, we were able to do some service for a member family and help them process some of the chickens they raised for food. We killed 40 or so chickens, and I participated in all stages of it. I have pictures of it to prove to y'all that I did it, but if you get queasy easy don't look at the pictures:)

We also got to go fishing for a little bit. We didn't catch anything, but we still had lots of fun! :)
Life is good:) I love you all!

Love forever and always,

Sister Monica Walker

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day

Dearest Mother,

I loved seeing all of your faces yesterday:) It was awesome to see my family, as well as all the other people that decided to say hi:) It's amazing to see how much people have grown in the last year even. I feel like they have grown so much while I am on my mission. Even more so then they did when I went to college for a year.

Here are some fun stories that happened this week:)

So last week like I told you were transfers. Neither I nor my companion got transferred, but one of the Elders did. It was the first time he was leaving an area, so it was really hard for him. We decided to cheer him up on Monday and so we planned out his whole P-Day for him:) One of the things we did was have a flour fight. I don't know if you have hear or seen it done before, but it was super fun! We didn't want the Elders to know what we were doing though, so we blindfolded them, and had one of the members with us to help guide them to the field of grass a little bit away from our apartment complex. We had earlier prepared a bunch of little nylon sacks filled with flour to take with us. When we got about halfway there, I realized that we had forgotten them, so I had to run back and get them. We told the Elders to stay where they were and we would be right back. When we got back, we discovered one of the Elders decided to try to keep walking, and then he stopped in the middle of the road. (It was a good thing there was a member with them to make sure they didn't get hit by a car.) Sister Danible decided to try and scare them, since they do it all the time to us, so we crept up behind them, and yelled in their ears. It was pretty funny because they jumped about two feet. haha. We kept going though and made it to the field, where we had them stand for a minute so we could take pictures and then we started to hit them with flour! They took their blindfolds off at that point and then retaliated against us, so by the end we were all covered in flour. It was awesome! Sad to see Elder Anderson go, but it was fun to welcome our new Elder here. :) I really do love being a missionary because of all the life long friends that you make with not just the missionaries, but the members as well:)

There really is a lot of potential here in the Albany ward. Yesterday I was telling you a little about it, but I thought I would repeat myself today as well. On Saturday, we planned on going to a little town called Edison (which is about 45 mins away) and then head over to Blakely (which is about 40 mins past that). There are a lot of potential people there for us to teach, that previous missionaries haven't had the opportunity to go to yet because of the far away distance. This month Sister Danible and I have been trying to plan out more of the far away places for us to go visit and then to hopefully help them realize the importance of what we do. While we were out and about, we met with 8 different people, all of whom said that they wanted us to come back, all of whom we were able to set return appointments for in two weeks!! It was amazing to me to see the difference in their attitude towards missionaries when they haven't had us knocking on their doors for the past long while, and how willing they were to listen to us, especially when they hear how far we went to talk to them. It makes me think about how much their souls are worth and that honestly, they are worth a whole lot more than what I have to offer. People coming to Christ is worth any sacrifice I have to make, even if it means a long day of a lot of traveling for me and my companion to come teach them about the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If I haven't learned anything else, I have learned a part of how much Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ loves each and every one of us. None are more entitled to His love than any other, and all are equally loved. I know how much He loves me, and I know that He feels that same love for everyone else. I am honored to be the one who gets to help others understand that even more than they might already know. God is most definitely alive! Not just figuratively like many believe, but actually, in the flesh. He watches over every one of us, and knows exactly what you need when you need it. He will always make sure you have all the support you need to get though something when you are going through hard times, but sometimes we just have to dig a little deeper to find them.
I love all of you! (Even those I might not actually know.. I love y'all too!)

Keep on keeping on!


Sister Monica Walker

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Finding His Sheep

Dear Mom!!

Oh how I love you!! Mother's Day is this Sunday and I am so excited to be able to talk to you face to face. To think, a year ago at this time I was preparing my farewell talk and packing for my mission! I can't believe it has almost been a year. Crazy. After I talk to you on Mother's Day the next time I get to talk to you is in person!! that is so crazy to think about. Especially since that still feels like a longs ways away and that I just got out on my mission.

This week has been pretty slow, but good news!! I'm not getting transferred! So I get to stay in Albany for at least 6 more weeks. I'm super happy about that. Especially since Sister Danible gets to be my companion again for those 6 weeks as well.

It has been a pretty slow week this last week, so not much happened, but there were some really awesome moments where we were able to be in the right place at the right time for the Lord to help us find people that needed to be found.

Backstory-My trainer began her mission in Albany about 2 years ago. Of course when I remembered that, I emailed her and told her that I was here. She emailed me back and told me to go find a part member family that she had been working with, whom she loved a lot and to go tell them that I knew her, and that hopefully they would let us talk to them. Apparently somewhere along the way, the family got lost because none of the missionaries that had been here before me and was still here knew who they were. We had planned on seeing them last week, but due to other things coming up, we weren't able to make it to the city in which they lived and try to go see them. Last Saturday though we were going to the Farmer's Market because we heard about a member who grows fresh produce and sells it there, but who also gives it for free to missionaries. So we went to go see what we could get, and plus we really wanted to meet this person. We go and find him, and after talking for a while, the family that was there buying stuff too was about to leave, when the mom told us that her daughter had something to say to us.. Super shyly she told us her name, and then ran away. It was super cute. The mom then said that her husband and her daughters were members and then told us their last name. IT WAS THE SAME FAMILY THAT MY TRAINER ASKED ME TO FIND!! It was pretty awesome how random of a meeting it was. We were able to set up an appointment with them, and the member who was selling the produce was from a different stake but he volunteered to come with us to go teach them because he is good friends with them. That was so awesome!

Another crazy story. So on Wednesday, when we were on exchanges, I had to make a quick stop at Walmart to grab something, and for whatever reason, this Walmart didn't have any self checkouts, so I had to go to a regular one. While I was going through the line, the cashier lady stopped us and happily exclaimed, "Hey! They brought the ladies back!" We gave her a super confused look, and then she pointed to our badges and said, I'm a member! The missionaries used to visit her, but about two years ago for whatever reason they stopped. We were later about to go visit her, and her son who is now 8 really wants to get baptized! Super awesome!

The last thing that was super awesome was that on Sunday one of the young Women's leaders came up to us and told us that there was a young women who had been coming to church for about a year now that wasn't a member (how the missionaries didn't know this, I have no idea) but that she wanted to meet with the missionaries and have the discussions so that she could get baptized! We are so excited to begin teaching her! It seems like she already knows all that she needs to know, but that she just needs to have the discussions so that we can make sure that she knows what she needs to know. I'm stoked to see how it is going to go!

Oh! Also this one is short, but the awesome moment when a member who is less active calls you out of the blue asking for a ride to church for her and her son, actually comes to church, signs up to feed us, asks us to then visit her family (none of whom are members), and then volunteers to go teaching with us. Yep. That moment made me so happy!! She seems like a pretty fantastic person already even though I have only known her for less than 48 hrs.

There are so many people here that I don't know, and so many that are amazing people but because there are just so many people to see that are on our records and then lots of people that aren't either, we hardly get to see even part of them. (here is an idea of how many people there are- in Albany alone, there are over 200 families. In Leesburg there are about 150, and then there are a lot in the outlying areas as well.. Those are just the members. We then have a list of online referrals that people want us to come see them of about 200 people over the last 18 months.) So we can't see all these people all the time, but we are working on it!!. There is so much work to do here and I am so excited for the future!

Love you all!

-Sister Monica Walker