And This is My Joy

I don’t really know how to describe the last few days. They’ve just been so incredibly amazing it’s hard to put into words. Pageant is winding down and I’m just loving every moment. Seriously so so blessed. The biggest event of the week happened on Tuesday. There is a family from Orchard Park who we would do service for and share Mormon messages with and they just love missionaries, they were our second family. We told them they had to come to pageant and we were in contact for a while planning it out. A few weeks ago they said they would come the 18th, but then I didn’t hear from them for the longest time, no reply to my emails, texts or calls. I figured they weren’t able to make it and so we weren’t planning on going that night because our shift was til 9. Then that morning I got an email saying they were coming! I was so excited, but so nervous with how to leave our shift and get over there without a car. So I prayed and prayed and prayed, and everyone else prayed and prayed for us as well. Midday I got a message to call a number of some people who were looking for me. It turned out to be the Ocasios from Irondequoit! If you don’t remember them, Ashley, the 12 year old was baptized right after I left that area a year ago and I got to attend her baptism. They said that they were also coming that night to pageant and wanted to meet up with me. It finally slowed down enough that the senior couple said we could leave early, bless their souls, and the other set of sisters offered to drop us off. All of the most wonderful things that could happen did! We got there and I was so giddy I was laughing/screaming/hyperventilating, my companion definitely knows I’m nutso now. As I’m finding the family from OP I hear “SISTER SMITH” and there are all my favorite ward members from OP, the Bagleys and the Fehers and the Gordhamers. (Sister Gordhamer pictured below.)20140070_10155767645642780_8673470350934984085_nThere was much screaming, hugging and rejoicing. Then I got to see the Ocasios and watch the pageant with our friends the Denies family. My heart was so happy I could hardly contain it. Pageant was incredible, I love it more and more every time I watch it and I am 100% going to be in it one day in the future. After the show was over we said goodbye to all our friends and still had to find a ride home. We asked some elders if they knew of anyone and they found us a ride with the Boyer family. He was the bishop of the Rochester 1st Ward while I was there. It was so good to see and talk to all of them again, and even more incredible that they still remember me. All in all the whole night was just a gift from God. I got to see so many people from my past areas and know that the friendships I’ve made out here are going to last forever. A lot of times I feel like I haven’t made much of an impact in my areas, but on Tuesday night God showed me that I’ve done some good in the lives of the people here in New York. It reminds me of my mission scripture Alma 29:9 “I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.” That’s all I want. To bring some soul to repentance. To share this incredible message that’s brought me so much happiness. This is my joy. And I’ve felt it over and over these past few days. 

IMG_20170717_130113748_HDRI ran into a scout troop with some familiar faces. I asked one of the leaders where they were from and they said, “half of us are from Vernal, the other half are from Ephraim.” “Ephraim?! Where are the Ephraimites??” It was good to reunite with my people, even though I don’t know who half of these boys are, but they gave me one of their monkey fist necklaces, so now we are friends.

image3This guy flew out to propose to his girlfriend, who is in the pageant cast, on top of the Hill Cumorah. He was a celebrity because we all knew about this last week when he called the Hill for some info. Then we met the man himself. She said “yes!” It’s little things like this that just make my day.

image10Pageant cast shirts! Perks of being a site missionary.

image5The only downside to pageant is I rarely see Sister Greenwood. When I come back for a tour, she has just left. We might cross paths a couple of times and every time we do it’s a happy reunion. She is such a champ. Seriously blessed with the best. I can’t keep track of the tours I’ve taken each day. I finish one and start another. Teaching, testifying and inviting and I never want it to end.

Alright, addressing the elephant in this post. Yes, today (July 20th) is my 18 month mark. 18 months ago today I entered the MTC. One of the sisters in my MTC district who went to the Portland Visitor’s Center got back last Wednesday. She’s from Virginia and she came up to see the pageant. I was just teaching away at the Smith Farm and up walks the former Sister Ball! It was so weird to see her, the MTC feels like yesterday and here she is now – a returned missionary. I’m so grateful I have these last few weeks of pageant. I can’t imagine going home at 18 months and missing out on these last few days. I could type forever about how much I’ve loved the past year and a half, but I also have to go because it’s 9 p.m. and I really wanted cream puffs to celebrate 18 months, so I’m going to go eat those now.

 

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Uchtdorfs for the 4th of July

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 7.13.29 PMWe found out about three weeks ago that President Uchtdorf and his family would be visiting the sites on the Fourth, and that he wanted to speak to our mission!! It was so confidential of course, we weren’t allowed to tell anyone. Just happened to be transfer day, so we all gathered, got our suitcases switched and prepared for the event.  We got to take a mission picture and shake hands with Harriet and President Uchtdorf! Wowow. The meeting was so awesome. They both spoke and President Uchtdorf addressed us for almost an hour! There was no one topic he spoke on, he just went from one thing to the next, it was all over the place and all so good, I knew he was answering so many questions that our missionaries had been praying about. My favorite thing he said is how we need to have GRIT. Passion, persistence and grit, for the gospel, for the restoration, for everything. Very inspired, very spirit-filled, the best July 4th ever.

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We are full swing in the pageant motion and it is incredible. This panorama is one of my favs. You have the practices for the boat scene on the stage, the battle scene in the middle, and the banner bearers all getting ready to perform. The cast all arrive on Friday, the casting happens that night, this was taken Saturday morning as they start to learn their parts, and then dress rehearsal is the following Thursday. It comes together so fast! Also on Thursday Sister Greenwood and I got to go out to the pageant tents and teach the primary kids about the sites. It was so fun, all these kids get to gather around Christ during the pageant and they just have the sweetest souls. Also met the actor portraying Mormon. 
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Garbage plates round two: featuring Sister Guimaras (Philippines). The infamous garbage plate. I had it my first transfer, and we had to introduce Sister Greenwood and Guimaras to the pile of food. 
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In other news, Sister Greenwood is just amazing! I was worried about training a new missionary during pageant, it sort of feels like feeding her to the wolves, but it’s just like she’s been here forever. Seriously, no hard adjustments for her, she is a great teacher and everyone loves her. The other day at the Grandin building she was the only one on the first floor, the other sisters left for site meeting, the senior couple and I were all on tours, and an unexpected bus shows up. Most of the time large groups call ahead to schedule, but often buses appear without warning. I rushed downstairs and we realized that one of us had to stay, the other would have to take the entire bus. She was adamant about doing it because her grandparents were on the bus, so having served there once before, she did what would terrify seasoned sisters and took the whole lot of them. I felt like such a proud mom, but I didn’t do anything, she came pre-trained! She is so great and we are having a fabulous time. People see us and say we look like sisters, which is the greatest compliment ever because she’s the prettiest human being.image12
I’m off to teach hundreds the Restoration! I love being a missionary and I love you all! 
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Starting Off July With a Bang!

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Transfers have come again, and I am so so excited to be TRAINING my last transfer. President told me a few days ago that I’d be training, and so I was expecting to get her this Wednesday when new missionaries usually come. Then Friday night we had a voicemail from President saying that she would be coming SATURDAY NIGHT! Surprise!! So Sister Greenwood flew in Saturday and I met her that evening.

Sister Greenwood…she is so so awesome and so so cute! She is from Star Valley, Wyoming and she is the youngest of five kids. She went to a community college in Wyoming before her mission and got her associates degree, just like me! We’ve only been together for a day where we served at the VC yesterday, and she was just stellar. She’s excited to jump right in and she’s eager to learn.

The past few days have just been awesome. On Friday we served at the Grandin Building and I think we had 10 buses come! Sooo many youth! Luckily they were spaced out enough that we were able to get them through in an organized fashion. It was so much fun. As soon as we were done with one group, the next group walked through the door. I’ve also been able to take many cool families that come through.

One of my favorite experiences this week was taking a youth conference from the Cambridge, MA stake on tour at the Smith Farm. Their leaders were smart and gave them plenty of time here so we could have a really good indepth tour. We went backwards so we ended at the log home with the First Vision. I had one of the leaders quote it in Spanish, and then right before I was about to do it in English, I felt like I should ask if anyone else could recite it in English. This young 13 year old boy shot his hand into the air and continued to quote it perfectly, with so much feeling that the Spirit just crashed over me in waves and brought tears to my eyes. To hear a young boy, so close to Joseph’s age, quote it was an experience I’ll never forget. In Joseph’s 1832 account he says following the vision, “My soul was filled with love and for many days I could rejoice with great joy.” I also am filled with love for my Father in Heaven for all the incredible blessings I’ve been given. I’m grateful for the many wonderful experiences I’ve had this week and for the opportunity to be with Sister Greenwood this transfer. Here’s to making it the best transfer yet!

I love being a missionary and I love you all!