Monday, October 28, 2013

The view from Emily's apartment in Knoxville - taken on her Pday
Our mission president asked us to share with him some miracles we've seen this week.  Here are a few I've seen: 

Sister Paxton met a young mom only about five or ten years older than us and hadn't been able to get in contact with her.  We stopped by with a member and she was home!  We shared a brief thought with her because she was on her way out the door and left a copy of the Book of Mormon with her and she seemed determined to read it.  The day of our return appointment, we got a text saying that she felt really guilty for reading our book when she hadn't read the Bible in a long time.  She said she didn't want to meet with us, but thanked us for turning her back to God.  We were so bummed!  We asked if she wouldn't mind us stopping by just to give her a brief background of the Book of Mormon and what we believed and she said we could come back.  We went to her apartment knowing that this was a make or break appointment.  As we began talking to her, she shared that she felt so guilty for staying away from God for so long and felt that she had disappointed God.  We continued to tell her that her Father in Heaven loves her so much and taught the Restoration lesson tailoring it to her needs.  By the end of the lesson, her tears of guilt turned into tears of joy and she wanted to be baptized!  It was a miracle! 

This week we got a text from a guy who Sister Paxton had tracted months earlier and completely forgot about him saying he wanted to hear more about our church.  We went and talked to him and he said that he lost the number and had been searching for it for months, but found it just the other day in his cat's food bowl!  He was wowed by the fact that Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and that we have a living prophet today.  He said he wanted to be baptized too!  Him finding our number was a miracle! 

We've been working with a less active member who hasn't been to church in so long that she didn't even remember she was a Mormon.  Sister Paxton has been working with her long before I got here and we've been having a hard time getting through to her.  Every time we teach her, the TV is on loud and her five year old son is bouncing off the walls.  This time, she let us turn the TV off and her son was quietly drawing during the lesson. Getting the TV off was a miracle!  During the lesson, she definitely felt the spirit and we were able to address some of her concerns.  We invited her to church (like we've done many times) and she said she'd try, but no promises.  Sacrament meeting started and we didn't see her.  But when sacrament meeting was over, we saw her walk in with her son!  She apologized for missing the first meeting, but wanted to come to the other two!  She loved Sunday School and Relief Society and wants to come back next week!  Another miracle!

This is definitely the Lord's work! We could not do anything without His hand prodding the work along! 

Thank you for the letters and emails!  I really appreciate it! I'm sending my love and a big hug to all of you back home :)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

 Emily with her great BYU roommate, Chloe!  They both entered the MTC on Sept. 25th.
 So many friendly people in the South
Go University of Tennessee Volunteers!
Emily's apartment
Hey Fam!

Yesterday Elder Corbridge of the 70 came to speak to us. What great training we received!  Elder Corbridge is such a nice man and a great teacher.  Sister Paxton and I are already looking for ways to implement what he taught! We've been having a hard time getting our investigators to come to church.  Maybe it's what Elder Corbridge said-- they don't understand the doctrines well enough.  That's going to be something we work on this week.  Right now we have four investigators with a baptism date, but they aren't coming to church for one reason or another--one was sick, one had a family member in the hospital, the other two just didn't show up.  Sister Paxton reminds me of the guy from The Best Two Years because she invites everyone to be baptized, but it's good!  Hopefully we'll be able to help these people come closer to Christ and actually want to come to church!

This week we began teaching a guy named Darren that we ran into on my first day.  We tried meeting with him before, but he wasn't home.  We were over in his neighborhood to teach someone else who wasn't home, so we stopped by his house and he was there and said we could teach him.  When we got to the part about prophets and apostasy he asked what we were in today.  When we told him that we have a prophet, he was so excited!  "This is a BIG DEAL!" he kept saying, and it's true!  It really is a big deal that Heavenly Father loves us so much that he calls someone on the earth to talk to us and teach us what we  need to do!  Such a blessing!

The members in our ward have been so good to us.  Since we're in a car share, the members have been nice to give us rides when we don't have the car and come out to appointments with us.  It's so different from missionary work back in Utah!  Back home, we hardly ever saw the missionaries (because they were divided between several wards), but here, I feel like a needed member of the ward.  The ward members are becoming my friends and they are teaching me lots! I feel so blessed to be in an area with such a supportive ward family.  

I love being a missionary!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Saying goodbye to our zone reminded me of EFY-- we all became close friends as we grew spiritually together for a short period of time. We took lots of group pictures together, sang songs together, and instead of hugs there were handshakes.  I'm grateful that the sisters are all sticking together though!  We got up at 2 in the morning and began our trek across the country.  There was a sign on a screen saying, "Welcome LDS Missionaries!" Ha ha ha, only in Utah!  We flew to Atlanta and then got a smaller connecting flight to Knoxville.  It was a small flight so we got to talk to a lot of people and everyone was just so nice and friendly! 
We got off the plane and were met by President and Sister Irion-- they are SO nice and friendly!  Sister Irion gave us all big hugs and made us feel right at home.  The weather here is perfect!  My ideal weather--seriously.  It's in the 70s and sunny with a light breeze.  There isn't much humidity right now so it feels just like home.  The Irions fed us a home cooked meal and let us sleep in soft beds.  It felt so good to be in a home with soft fluffy carpet and the delicious aroma of a home cooked meal in the air.
The next morning we went to the church and met who our trainers were going to be.  President makes a big deal of the fact that we are not called "greenies" but rather "golden" because we are fresh from the MTC and ready to go. He even wears his gold tie-- it made me laugh!  Our mission is not just the Tennessee Knoxville Mission, but everything is the GREAT Tennessee Knoxville Mission-- good thing I came to such a great mission ;)
My companion is Sister Paxton from Bountiful, UT.  She studied neuroscience at the U for a year before coming out here.  She is a talented pianist and dancer and so down to earth.  We are on the same page-- we both want to work hard and stay busy-- so we get along great.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed by all I need to learn and am frustrated that I don't know things better, but she helps me through it.  I love being here!
After we got home, I had a minute to put my stuff down and then we headed out to go teach!  The girl we were supposed to teach wasn't home, so we stopped by a woman's house close by who was baptized when she was younger, but doesn't remember it at all.  The sisters have been working with her and she seems to be doing better.  We were there talking and Sister Paxton says, "We'd like to share a scripture with you. Sister Hales, do you have a scripture to share with her?"  Of course when that happens, your mind goes blank.  I had only known this woman for 5 minutes!  How was I supposed to know what she needed?  Sister Paxton talked to her some more and I found one in Alma (I should have written down the reference, sorry!) and shared it with her.  I think she really liked the scripture and the spirit was definitely there.  My companion is going to help me get adjusted quickly!
After a quick trip to Walmart to get food and dinner, we went out with Sister Williamson in our ward to teach Lisa, someone the sisters had tracted into.  She knows the gospel is true, but needs to stop smoking before she can be baptized.  She has such a sweet heart and it's been neat to see her love the scriptures even more in just the short time since I've been here.  She used to smoke 2 packs a day-- that is a TON!  She has since cut it down in half twice to a pack a day to half a pack a day.  We taught her again on Saturday and she was all set to come to church with us the next day, but while we were teaching her, her mom fell and she felt that she needed to stay at home with her Mom.  It was such a bummer! We really hope she will be able to keep cutting down the cigarettes and come to church soon!
On Thursday I had my first tracting experience.  Some of our appointments fell through (that seems to happen a lot....), and we had stopped by everyone in the area already so we tracked some apartments.  Our doorstep approach is very tailored to the South.  My companion calls it the "Peace and Blessings" approach.  We say that as representatives of Jesus Christ we would like to offer the Lord's Peace and Blessings in the form of a prayer and then if they let us, we pray for them and their family and then tell them a little bit about our church and ask if they want us to come back.  A girl named Katie seemed genuinely interested and we are going back to her apartment tonight.  Joe said we could come back, but he wasn't there when we showed up at his door for our appointment.  Oh well.  Thursday was the best weather I've had in a long time.  We stopped by this man named Jim's place for a while and we were all talking about our beliefs while a nice breeze blew his wind chimes-- it was so peaceful.  I love the south already!
That night we were going to teach Sara (who has a baptismal date on November 2!), but she was really sick, but told us to talk to one of her neighbors down the street.  He was an older man who had a Muslim father and a Jewish mother.  That's definitely unique!  It was fun to hear him talk about his beliefs and made me think about my days in Jerusalem, but he kept talking and talking and talking-- we could barely get a word in.  It seemed like he was more interested in converting us to his beliefs than us teaching him!  He's the second Muslim person I've seen today-- I hope I'll be able to talk to use my knowledge of their culture and beliefs to connect with someone and introduce the gospel soon. 
On Friday we had a district meeting.  They recently re-did the boundaries and now there are only seven of us in the district-- us four sisters and the three elders, all serving in the same ward.  SO different from Utah!  I don't think I've told you where I'm serving-- I'm in the West Hills area which is a suburb outside of Knoxville only 15 minutes away from the mission home.  The area I'm in was just split in half so the two sisters who were there are  now training me and Sister Hamilton who was with me at the MTC and knows Steve! It's been fun to have all four of us living together.  We do lots of role plays, but it's a good way to learn.  The bishop wants us to meet with the ward members so when appointments fall through or something, we'll meet with them, get to know them, and practice teaching the lessons. It's been fun to get to know the ward members and feel of their excitement for missionary work.  It's also been a good way to get referrals of people who they think would be interested.  My teaching is getting better, but I still need a lot of help!
Saturday was my companion's birthday!  We made her pancakes for breakfast and the celebrations kept coming throughout the day.  Everyone loves her.  People dropped off goodies by the apartment all day, her mom had a member order a cake and deliver it, people made us both lunch and dinner, a lady that was just baptized bought her a delicious cake-- I think we had at least four different cakes that day.  MMMM! We had lunch with a lady who was less active and she makes and sells scarves, and she gave me one!  It is beautiful!  She said she gives one to all the missionaries who come through.  So sweet of her!   It was a great day of teaching, visiting, and eating! 
Sunday we went to church early to go to ward council.  It's neat to see how the whole ward rallies around the missionary effort.  It's fun to be a part of it! I love going to church and feeling the special spirit that is there.  None of our investigators came to church though!  That was a bummer :( 
We are in a car share area so we share our car with the other sisters in our area which means that we bike every other day.  Thursday was our day for the bikes.  We didn't go to far away from our apartment, but it was tough!  It's not the distance that is the problem here-- it is the HILLS!  We live on a hill and there are rolling hills everywhere.   We've been able to get rides with members and coordinate our efforts with the sisters so we haven't had to bike too much.  If anyone knows a lady like way to ride a bike in a skirt, please let me know ASAP!

There is some funny lingo in the missionary church, and that is especially true of missionaries! "Celestial Parking" is where you can pull through the parking spot (because someone has to awkwardly stand outside the car every time you back up and since I'm not the driver, that job falls to me!).  Another funny term we use all the time is Larc which stands for Less Actice/Recent Convert.  Oh Mormons! 

I love being a missionary and being out here in Tenneessee!  It's going to be a great 18 months!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

   Arriving safely in Knoxville with President and Sister Irion

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sister Hales and Sister Husted in front of the Provo Temple
 Knoxville, Tennessee

Friday, October 4, 2013

Dear loved ones,

Thank you so much for all the support through love, prayers, and letters.  I have really felt strengthened from all of your love and from the Lord!  I've only been here for a week, but I feel like I have learned so much already.  My friend Amber told me that serving a mission really changed her heart, and I am feeling that happen already.  I search the scriptures and apply them to my life more and I pray for help all day long.  It's amazing how things I've known my whole life are taking on a whole new meaning.  The more I learn about the gospel, the more I am amazed by how perfect everything in the gospel works together.  We were reading in 3rd Nephi 11 where the Savior comes and I just started crying because I felt the Savior's love for all His children so strongly.  But don't worry about me-- I don't cry all the time ;)

This week we said good bye to a district in our zone and just said hello to two more bringing our total up to four.  We all sit together at lunch and are becoming really good friends.  Only seven sisters in our zone are going to Knoxville-- I'm going to miss everyone else! It's crazy how fast things they get missionaries in and out.  It's hard to imagine myself out in the field in just a few days!  Today is p-day, the next two days are conference, and then a day more of class and then we're off!

The other day we met our TRC investigator and it was so fun to talk to her and hear about her life.  It made me SO excited to go to Tennessee and meet the people who live there.  I love hearing people's stories!  This lady moved from Guatamala to Los Angeles two days after she got married and she and her husband have been in the states for the last 30 years.  When they first got here, they worked more than full time and then went to English class for several hours after work everyday.  Their hard work has paid off and they have done quite well for themselves.  I'm excited to get the chance to teach and meet real people in a few days!

On Sunday the temple president came to talk to us and it made me even more excited to go to the temple today!  I'm really going to miss it for the next 18 months! It'll be neat to do a session at the Provo temple. 

I can't believe it's snowing in the mountains!  I'm hoping for warmer weather in Tennessee! I'm not ready for winter yet!  We were lucky to have a few days of warm weather-- when we went to walk around the temple on Sunday, it was such a nice day! 
Being at the MTC has been a great learning experience-- I love it!

Sister Hales

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

 Dropping Emily off at the MTC.  She really wanted all of her brothers to come.

                      Right after Emily was set apart as a missionary - September 24, 2013.