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.

 

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!

The Spirit Shines Through Darkness

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It’s been raining pretty much every day, which has made for some incredible double  rainbows. We’ve been busy at the sites. I’ve been on tours pretty much the entire time. I’ve had the whole range of people and it makes life super exciting. Lots of families with little kids, pre-missionaries who are so ready to leave, people here on business, the curious people not of our faith, and people who have been waiting their whole lives to come here and see where it all happened.

The adventure of the week happened on Monday. We were serving at the Whitmer Farm and the power went out! The tractor that was plowing the field across the street took out a pole and we were in the dark for most of the day. People kept coming and we gave them old school tours in the dark without the introductory film. It was a good reminder that we don’t need the fancy kiosks, or the kids games, or even the movies here to feel the Spirit. To quote my past mission president, President Francis, “It’s not the sites, because we can feel as much spirit in a trailer, it’s because we are inviting people to Christ.” And there’s really nothing better in the whole world.

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Lights, Camera, Action!

image4Okay, so just the lights part, but THEY’RE PUTTING UP PAGEANT LIGHTS!! When I saw the cranes on the hill I just started screaming and scared Sister Aybar to death. She thought it was an emergency. Nope! Just pageant. I’m slightly excited if you can’t tell.

image1Last week I told you about the lady who ordered a Book of Mormon and wanted to join the church. I told the elders in her area that she was a miracle, and I could tell they were skeptical. The next day I got a text from them saying that she and her husband have a baptismal date for the 17th! They went to church on Sunday and are zooming through the lessons! It’s been incredible to see how the Lord is hastening the work through the internet. Speaking of, I had ANOTHER cool Book of Mormon request. I called Codie up to confirm her request and address and then I asked what interested her in ordering a free Book of Mormon. She said she has a friend that is a Mormon and her friend posted something online, a scripture, that was exactly what Codie needed to hear that day, so she wants to read more! Wow, the power of social media is real and you just never know what great things will come from small and simple posts.

Sunday was Palmyra Stake Conference and it was incredible. A lot of members were called up to bear their testimonies and then Elder Michael T. Dudley spoke and told really neat stories about President Gordon B. Hinckley. The message was to stomp down the weeds of sin in our lives and to gather and plant seeds of goodness. Such a good lesson for everyone at any point of life!

I love being a missionary and I love you all!

 

Aqui esta mi nueva companera!

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Transfers happened and it was another shakeup. I was released from my calling as Visitors’ Center Trainer. It has been an incredible time of learning and growing. But I’ve learned what I needed to and now it’s someone else’s turn.

The good news is I’m still full-site! I am so glad I get to be at the sites everyday still, especially since we’re about three days from busy season. WOOHOOO!! Aaaaaaand my new companion is Sister Aybar (eye-bar) from the Dominican Republic! My third foreign companion, how’d I get so lucky? And they’ve all been from different places, which has been cool. I’m excited to learn from her this transfer. We’ve only been together one day and it was about the most exciting day of my mission. More on that later. Anyway, we live right next to the Smith Farm..my backyard is literally the Sacred Grove and it’s the most surreal thing on the planet. My new address is 
863 Stafford Rd. Apt 2-B, Palmyra, NY, 14522.

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Okay, now for the exciting stuff. Yesterday Sister Aybar and I were serving at the Smith Farm. I started the tour of a great group consisting of a temple couple and their friends and then a family of 10 joined us. We had an incredible tour together, the kids were so well-behaved and gave amazing answers to everything I asked, and at the very end I was talking to the mom in the Frame Home while the kids went out to the barn. She was telling me this incredible story of how she had come here 20 years earlier addicted to meth, and had a life changing experience in the Grove. Right as she’s telling me this we hear lots of little voices screaming outside. She and her husband dashed out to see what happened and they yelled that the 7 year-old’s hand was stuck in an animal trap! Apparently he had jumped over the wall in the barn and stuck his hand in a hole in the corner where a small animal trap was. It took a couple men to pry it off his hand, meanwhile I ran to the welcome center to get the senior elder and his wife to call the paramedics. Two ambulances, 2 cop cars, extra volunteer cars on the road AND a firetruck showed up. While we’re waiting his older brother passes out seeing his little brother like that. He hits the barn floor pretty hard and it takes his mom a while to wake him up. It was the craziest 30 minutes of my life. In the end everyone was fine, the little boy got a good cut but incredibly it didn’t break his little fingers. And that was my first day with Sister Aybar! As the family was walking back to their motor home the mom took me aside and told me she just kept thinking of these great analogies and life lessons we can learn, which got me thinking as well. The wall in the barn is pretty high for a kid his size. He was curious about what was on the other side and instead of viewing the wall as a protection from the other side, he saw it as a hindrance. Before he knew it, his curiosity literally got him in a trap, a trap that he could not get out of by himself. But with the help of his loving father, and the priesthood to give him a blessing, he’s on the road to recovery. When we ignore the protection that surrounds us, we’re also caught in Satan’s trap, and the only thing that can save us is someone stronger, someone who knows how to remove the trap, and someone who loves us enough to go through the effort to get us out. Later that day I was reading about this during personal study in Alma 42, and I’ll leave you with verse 15: And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.
 
I’m grateful for the plan of mercy, I’m grateful for you all, I’m grateful to be a missionary in Palmyra, New York, and I’m grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ.

D&C 128:20 Look It Up

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We’ve had an eventful couple of days. On Sunday we had a regional broadcast for church which was all very good. We served at the Whitmer Farm that day so we drove down there for the broadcast and served the rest of the day. A couple came in and one of the senior missionaries took them on tour. I just caught a side glimpse of them and I realized he’s the famous church actor who plays Pilate and The Best Two Years mission president! Sure enough, when I came back from my tour he was still there and I got to take a picture with them.  We’ve had a few actors come through recently because they’re filming in Kirtland. So cool.image

On Monday we had two people from the missionary department come from Salt Lake to train us. It was spectacular. Sister Jacobsen and I got to give Bro. Jepsen a tour at the Hill on Monday, on Tuesday we a training meeting with all the site missionaries and President Evans gave an AMAZING training. Want to know what a perfect tour looks like? Read 1 Nephi 11. That’s what a tour should be. Many times the angel says “look”, meaning focus, and “behold” meaning value. Notice what he wants Nephi to focus on and value. What do we focus on and value? Oh man, amazing training. Then Bro. Kay and Bro. Jepsen trained us. Next we packed our minivan full of sisters and drove down to the Whitmer Farm to train the new missionaries and the sisters who came in from Buffalo for the training. It was a blast. imageThe best part of my calling is working with the sisters and the Bradfords. We had a great day on Tuesday. To cap off their stay, Bro. Kay and Bro. Jepsen did more trainings in our site meetings on Wednesday. More incredible stuff. I love being a missionary, but I will never get over how lucky I am to be a missionary at a Visitors’ Center. And not just ANY Visitors’ Center. The HILL CUMORAH. We were told that historians say it has been visited by more angelic messengers than any other location in North America. Cool.

So yep, the past few days have been pretty incredible. To top it off, on Sunday there was an INCREDIBLE broadcast for young adults, but everyone should watch it. Elder Kim B. Clark talking about Joseph Smith. I can almost guarantee you will learn something.

Alrighty, as always, I love being a missionary and I love you all.

Drowning But Not Complaining!

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I will start by saying how much I love serving at the Visitors’ Center and Historic Sites. Seriously, it’s the best gig ever. People coming to us to learn about the Restoration! I love it!

This week flew by, and it’s all blurring together. But here are some highlights.
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Saturday we were serving at the Hill Cumorah when this group of Young Men from the Bronx came in. We took them in to the Christ statue and as we were waiting for them all to gather we sang I am a Child of God with them. It was the neatest experience. I looked around the room at all of them and was filled with so much love. I was blessed with a glimpse into how our Heavenly Father sees them. He loves each and every one of us and knows us perfectly. These boys are filled with so much potential, and afterwards many of them came up to us and talked about how they want to serve missions. 
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Sunday was spent at the Whitmer Farm. Is there a better way to spend a Sunday? No. Especially when the fields are full of dandelions and you have an awesome companion by your side who can weave flower crowns. Seriously, Sister Jacobsen is the greatest. I’m sure I say this in every email, but I can’t say it enough, I am soooo grateful to be her companion. She has taught me so much and helped me become a better person. 

On Monday I got to go on exchanges with Sister Rea! Wow, now this is one incredible missionary. She is so smart, strong and I thoroughly enjoyed my short time with her and learned a lot. We served at the Smith Farm, and it’s literally been raining every day this week. At one point it was raining really hard, and barely anyone comes to the farm when it’s pouring, so we decided to walk through the Grove. Why? I don’t know, it seemed like a good idea at the time until the lightning struck not far away. We hightailed it back to the Welcome Center. I LOVE THE RAIN!
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Wednesday was new sisters training at the Grandin. We also held site meeting there and practiced giving short tours for when we have hundreds of people in the building at once. Do you know what this means? PAGEANT PREPARATION!! We’ve been doing some scheduling and when we see the schedule of bus tours coming we’re giddy. 
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Also included is our house picture. Back row is Sister Tucker: Texas, Sister Cahoon: Canada, and Sister Abreu: North Carolina. They are great and we have a blast living together at our cute little white house. Which reminds me our house is currently flooding as I write this. Remember the flood alarm a few weeks ago? It went off again this morning and we turned it off and left haha. Oops. All the rain has to go somewhere! Why not our basement?
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Lastly, yesterday was MLC! I know, it seems like last MLC was just last week! What better way to spend Cinco de Mayo then with my incredible missionary friends? We talked a lot about diligence and repentance. It has been amazing to see the strides this mission has taken since I first came out here. I love being a missionary and I love the opportunity to learn from President and Sister Evans.

Alrighty folks, here’s the deal. Stop what you’re doing. Go to Facebook. Search the Hill Cumorah page and LIKE IT! Help promote the sites! Get great pictures and inspirational posts on your feed! This week’s thought is taken from Sister Fuhriman. We got to do teamups with them on Sunday at the Whitmer Farm and she shared 2 Nephi 25:26 (one of my favorites) but changed the words to “And we of Christ, we [post] of Christ, we [snap] of Christ, we [pin] of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” Sharing the gospel isn’t just loosing our tongues, it’s also loosing our thumbs!

I love you all and I love being a missionary!

Sister Smith at Work

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Easter Sunday was definitely the highlight of the week. Church was incredible, we served at the Grandin Building and walked through the Grove after our shift. New York is starting to come alive, and it is very exciting. I SURVIVED ANOTHER NEW YORK WINTER!! *knock on wood* It snowed last May, so I know we’re not in the clear, it’s just exciting to see spring is finally here. So much new life springing forth in the Grove. It was a great reminder of the rebirth we experience continually because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. 

imageOn Wednesday we began our next round of site trainings for the new sisters. Each Wednesday we train them at a different site, and this week we started at the Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center. Wow, I love the Visitors’ Center, it’s my home away from home. The new sisters are just the sweetest. Listening to them teach is incredible, we are very excited to have them here. Pictured above are the four new sisters with their trainers. Woohoo, training days are my favorite days!

Zone conference was incredible. Because we couldn’t attend the Palmyra Zone Conference (we had to cover the sites for all the other sisters to attend), we packed up our minivan and trekked to Rochester, my old stomping grounds. It was so weird to be back in the stake center there. Here’s a tidbit of what stuck out to me, coming at ya from the Bible Dictionary (I LOVE the Bible Dictionary) “We pray in Christ’s name when our mind is the mind of Christ, and our wishes the wishes of Christ–when His words abide in us.”  Now that is ‘mighty’ prayer. I challenge all of you to make sure you are praying like this. Sister LeBaron and I got to hit 15 months together at the conference. She is such an incredible missionary. I learned so much from her in the MTC and I’ve been learning from her example ever since.image

Life is so good. And it’s going way too fast. The months are flying and I’m cherishing every minute. The church is true, and I love telling people about it! (I had a professional photographer, David Winters, in my tour group one day who snapped a few pictures of me.)
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An Amazing Week & April Showers

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What an amaaaazing week! So much happened, starting with CONFERENCE. So we didn’t actually get to watch hardly any of it as it was broadcasted. A talk here, a talk there. On Saturday we were serving at the Whitmer Farm (where I was last April Conference) and we were so busy all day and through the sessions. On Sunday we were equally busy at the Grandin Building. But we are slowly catching up during companionship study. The talk I’ve used on almost every tour since I heard it Sunday was from our beloved prophet. Wow. With 3.5 minutes what did he talk about? THE BOOK OF MORMON. I echo his words, “If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so.” Enough said.

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Because we didn’t have church on Sunday and conference didn’t start until 12, we took the opportunity to visit some of our neighboring churches in the area. What an interesting experience. There are four different churches on each corner of the main intersection in Palmyra. We picked Zion’s Episcopal Church. This was my first time going to a different church’s service and it was very insightful. Pastor Susan gave a sermon, we declined the wine and wafer, but everyone was pretty friendly. Then we walked through their labyrinth path/meditation thing, and toured the main old church that was built in 1832 (the service was held in a newer wing). It was a beautiful building and a wonderful adventure. So grateful for an adventurous companion! And for Christ’s restored church!

Miracle of the week: A few weeks ago my knee was really hurting after exercise one fine morning. I don’t know what caused it but it soon went away. Then on Monday we ran our 3 mile loop. About halfway from home my knee started hurting again, but by that time there was only one way home and that was running on it. By the time we got home I was in so much pain and I couldn’t straighten my leg. Sister Jacobsen asked if we needed to go to the doctor and I laughed and said, “I am NOT going to a doctor.” So what happened? The Lord sent a doctor to me. A couple walked into the Visitors’ Center and Elder Nielsen showed them around. They were moving from New York to Arizona and the packing they thought would take all day, with the missionaries help, only took them 15 minutes. They used their extra time to come to the sites one last time. Elder Nielsen and I were talking about my knee and he said that the man, who was in the back, was a doctor and he might be able to help. Just then the doctor came to the front and I asked, semi-sarcastically, “You don’t happen to know anything about knees do you?” He said he’d been a sports medicine doctor for thirty years and knew everything there was to know about the knee. His wife said, “you couldn’t find a better man to look at your knee.” All of a sudden the Visitors’ Center turned into a clinic and he was poking and stretching my knee in all sorts of painful ways, but he shortly had a diagnosis. I have isolated Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome. He called the mission nurse and explained everything, told me to ice it and was on his way, just like that!  To quote Elder Bednar, “I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are real and that they don’t occur randomly or by coincidence. Often the Lord’s timing of His tender mercies helps us to both discern and acknowledge them.”

On Tuesday we got to go to a lesson with the Macedon sisters. They are teaching an 18 year old boy, Michael, and he is just soaking it all up. They needed an extra female to teach him that night so I volunteered us and it was such an incredible lesson. Michael has gone through so much in his short life, and his mom recently kicked him out of the house. As I sat across from him in the lesson I just felt so much of God’s love for him, I just wanted to give him a big hug. They taught the Plan of Salvation and invited him to be baptized next month and he accepted! It was good to teach a real investigator in person again. Another tender mercy.
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On Thursday I had the great opportunity to go on exchanges with Sister Cahoon. She is part of the other set of full-time sisters. We served at the Smith farm and it POURED all day! We still had a blast, as you can tell. Sister Cahoon is the kindest, sweetest person. It was so great to spend the day with her.
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Our new wheels, that’s right, we got a van. It’s funny because Sister Jacobsen and I always joke about how being full-time VCT’s is total prep for when we’re soccer moms. Now we have the vehicle to prove it!
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The highlight of my week/mission was being able to see Jannik get baptized Saturday morning. I’m so grateful for my German brother and the decision he’s made!

Fun Fact: I love being a missionary and I love you all!