Monday, December 31, 2012

He did it!

Doesn't get better than this :)

Enrique is next! He thinks he will be ready by February

Friends and Family,

We had a good last week of the year with lots of exciting happenings to reign in 2013. Angel was baptized yesterday! He asked Richard to baptize him so it was a new experience for both of them and the spirit was powerful. Sister Jones was able to come back for the baptism and she spoke about the Holy Ghost and we did a musical number. Angel has had a light about him since we met him, but I have truly witnessed it increasing as he has prepared for this day and yesterday he was beaming. His brother Enrique saw how happy he was and said after that he wants to be baptized as well. He has a few more things getting in the way than Angel had, but we are looking forward to working with him more and hopefully their sister Tatiana. Some members of our ward brought non-members as well. They don't live in our area boundaries, but I was able to give one of them a Book of Mormon with my testimony in it and we will be sure to do everything we can to connect her with the missionaries.  Here's the best news! I am so close to having Angel convinced to go to college at BYU-Idaho! No. Big. Thang!! 

This week has been a stressful one full of baptism preparations and getting ready for multiple Christmas programs, one of which Sister Jones and I were in charge of. It's been a unique month and now we will be scrambling to find new people to teach and get back to our regular proselyting/V.C. schedule. We have one more program to put on tonight and we haven't even really planned for it. I feel fine about using things from past zone conferences and firesides though if I'm being honest. We have enough talented sisters to throw something together. 

I received some other exciting news yesterday in the call center at the V.C. I was calling a woman named Emma who we took on a tour back in October. She came in with her less active husband on their honeymoon and we showed her around the Visitors' Center and taught her the Restoration. At the end she said she would like to meet with missionaries where she lives in Oregon and then came back an hour later to bring us cupcakes and thank us. Best tour ever right?! Anyway, I sent her information through and have talked to her a few times over the phone throughout the process and encouraged her. When I got ahold of her yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to find out that she was baptized last week in her branch in (Dad will appreciate this) Klamath Falls! I told sister Jones the exciting news and she exclaimed, "The Visitors' Center is a real place!" Ha ha which I think just means that she has a testimony of it's purpose. Me too! 

We had the pleasure of having dinner with Richard and his family twice this week. Once on Christmas day and then again on the 29 for Obundanzah! No Idea how to spell that, but it means "abundance" in Italian. Both were feasts and while Richard is not actually Italian, he is very proud of his New York upbringing not to mention cooking. It was a lot of fun. I thoroughly enjoy spending time there and while Richard is 100% my family now, Janet and their children/grandchildren are beginning to feel like family as well. The dinner table conversations remind me a lot of our family's for the weekly Sunday dinner, although at times a little more worldly. It was pretty entertaining to listen to John (Richard's son) educate sister Schiel about alcohol and ask us questions like "Why don't Mormons have a rum springa like the Amish? Shouldn't you be able to have at least a day to try out everything you're not aloud to do?" Sister Schiel had a great answer about how it would be disrespectful because Christ suffered for all of those sins we would be committing. He seemed to accept her answer and the conversation moved to everyone's mutual disgust concerning neck beards. Ha ha I seriously love them so much.   

We had one other miracle this week that I think is worth mentioning. A man came into the Visitors' Center this week saying that he had been inactive most of his life and that he wanted to come back. He ended up being in our ward boundaries so we started teaching him this week. He came to church as well as Angel's baptism and seemed to really enjoy both. He is divorced, but his 11 year old son was with him for the break so we're hoping that a seed has been planted within him before he heads back to New York to be with his mom. So, pray for Brother Pinto, and Nicolas!

Gotta run. Love you all! Always :)

Sister Davis

Monday, December 24, 2012

With Sister Jones

New Trainers

New Arrivals

Family and Friends,

Merry Christmas!!

This week has been crazy! Full of surprises, exciting, and a little traumatic. When I found out that I would be training I knew it meant that Sister Jones would be transferred, but It didn't really hit me until she was gone. Then it did, and I mean it REALLY did. If I'm being honest I've been experiencing what I can only think to describe as intense separation anxiety! It's kind of awful. I guess I've just never spent every waking moment of every day with someone that I fit so well with. Whew! I still see her at the V.C. every day, but right now I can't tell if that helps or hurts. We went to dinner with Richard our last night together. Richard kind of guessed that one of us would be leaving, but was really positive about it and said, "What's a year when you're friends for eternity?!" Amen. Did I mention she got transferred to Malibu?! Who would have guessed right? I can't wait to come back and visit everyone with her :) 

My new companion (Sister Schiel) is doing great. She looked so familiar from the very beginning and on day 2 together I had the sudden realization of where I knew her from. She was Melinda's roommate last summer in Provo! It was actually a pretty entertaining discovery for both of us. I stayed there overnight once on our way to Disneyland so Sister Schiel has probably already formed an interesting opinion of me based on the experimental leg waxing that went on in her bathroom that night last summer (our first and last experiment). Plus seeing as Melinda is one of my closest friends, Sister Schiel has already heard many of my life stories just from a different perspective. I will admit it was a little eerie when we first made the realization because she already knew all these random things about me i.e. the story of my first kiss?! Weird...

On a more mission-minded note, it's been a big week for Angel and Richard! Richard passed the sacrament this week. One of the proudest moments of my life! Then in gospel principles class Angel got up and asked Richard if he would baptize him the following Sunday. It was a happy day. Angel had his baptismal interview and is all good to go. We have a ton to do in preparation, but I'd rather be stressed about preparing for a baptism than stressing about the lack thereof. A member that came with us to one of Angel's lessons this week noticed that their family didn't have a Christmas tree. She called us today and said that she'd bought them  one! We took it over today and decorated it with them and Angel just kept saying, "I can't believe it!" and thanking us over and over again. It felt good to be serving and will be a memorable Christmas eve I'm sure.

Susan has re-entered our lives! Sister Schiel has already connected really well with her so I have high hopes. She still isn't ready or willing to give up any of the things the needs to in order to be baptized, but I think if we keep trying and she sincerely does too that she'll get there over time. Talking with her makes me so sad. Since she received the news from her doctor that her illness is not and probably will not improve she's been looking into assisted suicide and going on about how she wants to die with dignity. I can't imagine even considering something like that and it makes me sad to think about her and others like her who haven't embraced the gospel yet. 

We had a mission-wide Christmas devotional today and the spirit was powerful there. It always is when a large number of missionaries gather. The music was beautiful and I was glad for the opportunity to sing. I had another opportunity to sing this week, but at a less joyous occasion. A man from my previous ward passed away and his family asked me to sing at his funeral. I got permission and Sister Jones played for me. I would rather have been there under different circumstances, but it was still nice to see some of the Pacific Palisades members again. 

I don't really know what else to say except that I can't wait to talk to you tomorrow and thank you for the cards and gifts. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

I know that this gospel is true. I also know that this mortal journey we are now experiencing can be incredibly difficult as well as incomprehensibly joyful. This Christmas season I'm trying to remember more than I have before who Jesus Christ is for me. He is my brother, my friend, and especially my Savior. I know man is nothing, and I also know that through Christ we can do all things. 

I love you all. thank you so much for all you do!

Sister Davis

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Caption Please

From the CLAM blog!  This picture could imply many things.  Please add  your caption . . .

Monday, December 17, 2012

The lights on Temple Square... uh I mean Temple Hill :)

One of our favorite regulars, Barbara Dodge, in concert

Merry Christmas! We love the things the Spanish Ward brings to the Visitors' Center

Family and friends,

I can't believe that Christmas is coming so soon!  I don't know if it's just because I'm on a mission or the palm trees and lack of snow, but even with all the lights and our Christmas exhibit it doesn't quite feel like Christmas. I did get a couple of wonderful Christmas packages from aunt Lisa and Jake Potter this week though (thank you!) so it does feel more cheery than an other week would. I'm so excited to call in 8 days! I feel like there is so much to talk about! Much more than can be said in 40 minutes, but we'll do our best I suppose. 

It's been a great week! We had an epic ward party on Saturday night. It was our ward combined with the Mt. Olive Baptist church so as you can imagine was a lively party. Our table was an interesting potpourri of people. It was us, Richard and Janet, Stephanie(our less active who is honestly one of our best friends now and has come to church 8 weeks in a row), Joe (a former investigator we contacted and invited), and an active member whose wife was home with sick kids. No one knew each other and it was fun to watch everyone get acquainted. At the table next to us was the boisterous pastor who would periodically shout "hallelujah" or burst into song throughout the program. Eventually everyone from their church took the stage and led us in some good ole gospel tunes. I loved it! Don't worry, I have a video and the answer is "Yes Richard sang along even though he didn't know any of the words." From what we could tell Janet enjoyed herself and I think it was good that we had the other church there and a non-member with us because she didn't feel so out of place. 

The next day was stupendous, marvelous, fantastic, superb, etc. Richard was confirmed in Sacrament Meeting and again his entire family came. They left immediately following Sacrament Meeting, but the Bishop gave him a beautiful blessing and the spirit was strong as the ward indicated our support and excitement to have him as the newest member of our ward. Richard commented later on what a powerful experience it was for him and that he must have chosen the right people to stand in his circle because he could feel their priesthood. When he stood up he even had to shake it off a little and everyone giggled. Later he received the Aaronic Priesthood and was ordained to the office of priest and received the calling to administer the sacrament to the people unable to make it to church. Again, Sister Jones and I were grinning from ear to ear all day. You may not believe this, but it gets better. After church Richard attended a lesson with us as a member present!! He told as that he wanted to be a ward missionary, but was a little surprised that we took him up on it so soon. It was a man we met tracting, his wife, and two daughters. The lesson started out alright. We taught about the Restoration, invited Richard to share how it has impacted his life (nailed it), and watched the 20 minute video with them. After the video, Clevin (the husband), completely took over the lesson and preached to us for thirty minutes about how any added scripture is false, there is no added revelation, there are no prophets after Christ, you know Bible bashing basically. We couldn't get a word in edgewise and as far as we could tell was just trying to convince us how idiotic our beliefs were. Finally he paused to come up for air and I cut him off to politely ask him why, if he felt he had nothing to learn, he had invited us back in the first place. He said something about hearing what we had to say and sharing with us what he knew to be the true doctrine of Christ. Ok... I'm not usually the boldest one in the bunch, but I was not about to walk out of there with him thinking he had convinced us of any portion of his falsehoods. Anyway, almost without breathing (for fear of being interrupted) I shared what the Book of Mormon was for me and how I knew without a doubt that it was true. He was looking at me like I had escaped a nuthouse so I broke eye contact briefly to glance at Sister Jones and then Richard who were both just grinning at me and I felt the courage to go on. I bore about the most powerful testimony I think I have the ability to muster in one minute and then told them we had to be on our way. Clevin closed with a prayer all about how we would come to see the truth and as we left he told us to take our books with us. *Ouch* Don't worry though. As we walked out his oldest teenage daughter said "actually can I have one of those?" and then the other one piped up and said, "Ya I would like on too." I thought their dad might have a stroke or something, but we happily obliged. Alright, so at this point I'm worried about Richard because the last thing we want is for his first member-missionary experience to be discouraging. On the contrary! The first thing he said when we walked out was, "I am so stoked right now!" Ha ha, I was a little exhausted and let out a half frustrated half relieved sigh, but Richard was on cloud nine. He was like, "Did you feel that? Did you feel the spirit with us in there?!" I was pleased and amused by his reaction, but I guess still looked a little flustered because Richard grabbed my hand, shook it until I thought it might fall off and said, "What's the matter? You don't even realize what you just did in there do you? We are planting seeds here!!" Ha ha Ohmahgoodness... Dear Richard, Can you please come with us to every lesson?

Long story short? Big day yesterday :) Angel and Enrique came to church again and participated a lot in gospel principles. Angel is still set for the 30 and Enrique will hopefully follow in January. 

I'm out of time. We have to finish early for a rehearsal. Who would have thought I would rehearse on my mission? Nice :)

Love you all! Merry Christmas!

Sister Davis

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

This Week from Sister Davis

Friends and Family,

Richard is a member of the Church!!! The ninth was a crazy day, but in the end everything went really well and he was just beaming. All of his extended family came and I was really impressed with his kids. The older son mentioned that Sister Jones and I were probably two of the happiest people he ever encountered (how could we not be?) and the younger one hugged us (oops) and thanked us for everything we had done for his "pops." His daughter-in-law to be said that she felt so happy throughout the service and that our musical number made her cry. None of them actually live in our area, nor are they ready to investigate anything themselves right this minute, but I am confident that through Richard's example they will all be curious enough to make their own discoveries one day. Janet didn't say much, but she seemed happy to be there and was a good hostess for his many friends that came to support him. The service ran long(naturally) and was one of the most unique as well as the most powerful meetings I have ever attended. Our missionary moment went great. It was centered around the Restoration and what that meant for Richard as well as all of God's children. We shared how the Book of Mormon changed his life and people were laughing as we shared scriptures that were unreal answers to each specific question that he asked. Richard's testimony was of course the highlight. He started out by quoting me. I guess I once told him that I love to sing so much because sometimes it's how I can express what I cannot say. Cliche, but true! Anyway, he proceeded to burst forth with "Amazing Grace" and one by one everyone in attendance joined him. It was AWESOME! He often says that before we showed up he was the wretch described in that song. The rest of his testimony was a series of "Thank you's" to the angels that have helped him to get where he is. He thanked his wife, the colleague that suggested he meet with missionaries, us :), a ward missionary, and then Heavenly Father. It was beautiful. I don't know about sister Jones, but I was blushing while he talked about us. He remembers everything, and is a bit of a tease, so he thanked us for a lot of very specific things that we both did along the way. I can't even begin to describe how much I loved him and being a missionary in that moment. Not even just that moment, but the whole evening as well as throughout all our lessons. He's one of those people that you're sure you knew before and that you will know and love forever.  

We had another miracle on Sunday. A woman (Hilda) that we have only ever spoken with over the phone walked into church and loved every minute of it. She came back later that night for the stake Christmas concert and raved about it as well. She doesn't have a lot of time to meet during the holidays, but she said she wold be back so hopefully we can get something going. She is from El Salvador and speaks very quickly, but we usually do fine seeing as Sister Jones speaks fluent Spanglish. 

Angel and Enrique were at church again and Hilda actually spoke to Angel and told him that he should stick with this beautiful religion. "You will be happy here," she told him. He asked me who she was later and was floored to find out that she isn't even a member. They came to Richard's baptism as well and Angel said that he doesn't think he can wait until the 30. Hold on.... I haven't even told you that we set a baptismal date! My bad. We had a lesson with them last Wednesday and since Richard's testimony in sacrament meeting Angel has read the Book of Mormon every day since. Before we even started the lesson he told us that he had exciting news. He told us that he was in 1 Nephi 12 and that just as Richard said it would, "this book speaks to me." He kept his commitment to read and pray to know of the Book of Mormon and the Church was true. He said that he had and described the emotional/physical/spiritual reaction he experienced and that he knew this was the right thing for him. We invited him to be baptized on the 30 and he said that was the exact date he was hoping for. "A perfect way to start a new year." So that brings us back to the spirit he felt at the baptism and being impatient to have that himself. He is awesome! Way more mature than most 18 year olds living in the projects of Culver City I would wager. Enrique isn't quite there yet, but he is coming along to most everything and seems to be enjoying it. He just isn't reading and it really is the key. The Book of Mormon is everything in missionary work. If they ready it, they're done :)

It's Sister Jones' birthday tomorrow and the one off the less actives we are working with(Crystal) invited us over. It happens to be her birthday as well so it will be a fun little "party" (I'll try to refrain from dancing). She is also our next door neighbor which makes it convenient. I have never struggled with obedience more on my mission than when she offers to let me hold her 3-month old every time we see them. Oy.

Here's a little comedy relief that Sister Jones will appreciate me including. I have a stalker... We have a problem with men every once in a while at the VC, like the time someone proposed to Sister Set... Anyway, I think every Sister here has an admirer or two over the course of their missions, but my most recent one took it to a whole new level of awkwardness this week. His name is Johnny and he has been home from his mission only a few months(no excuse). He has been into the VC 4 times in 5 days and we were happy to chat with him the first few time, but then it was getting to be a little much. Eventually he asked if I had a profile. I said that I did, so he asked me for my first name to which I replied, "I'm sure you can find it with Davis." Kinda rude, but necessary right? So the next night night he comes in AGAIN walks over to me and whispers in my ear, "Jenna Michele..." and then backs away and asks "is that your first name?" AHH!! Sister Jones completely lost composure and any sense of politeness and just started laughing. Maybe this doesn't sound all that awkward to any of you, but when you're a missionary not to mention haven't been on a date in nearly a year(ya that's real) it really is! So the next day he comes in AGAIN.... I know right? At this point we were both just done because now he has added me on Facebook and wants to talk about our mutual friends/engage in long meaningful hand shakes. Sister Jones filled Sister Shakespear in and while she fond it all slightly amusing suggested that we go to the multi-purpose room and practice for Christmas until he leaves. We are gone for, I kid you not, less than a minute and he comes waltzing in asking if he can listen. No you can't listen! Ay ca rumba... Sister Jones told him we were busy and that he needed to leave(ouch). And Elder Shakespear is going to ask him not to speak to me if he comes in again(bigger ouch). 

I think that's all the really important stuff. I love this gospel. I love being a missionary. I love all of you!!

Merry Christmas

Sister Davis

P.S. Pray for Sister Jones and I to stay together... Knock on wood!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sister Davis Wears Prada?

Our Mini-missionary, Sister Tanuvasa
Elder Kyler Pugh came into the Visitors' Center and I was floored! He was called to Spain, but is here waiting on his visa.

With Richard
Family and Friends,

This week has been wild! The Visitors' Center has been insanely busy since the lighting and concerts began. I'm exhausted, but we're having a lot of fun! The reception went over well although there was more excitement that night than I ever thought I would experience on my mission. Maybe not more, just a different kind. The Visitors' Center was transformed into another place with well dressed caterers serving everyone hors d’ oeuvres, a band of guitarists in the corner playing Jazz standards, and all these people from the Chilean Consulate, to representatives from the FBI. The program preceding the lighting was all opera and because I was given the job of shadowing the photographer I was the only missionary that got to go in. This is good because I'm probably the only one that would have appreciated it :) The whole night felt like a movie. I followed the photographer around and took down everyone's full names so they could match the pictures up with the right people. It was all very glamorous and overall a fun night, but I have to say I felt more like Anne Hathaway in "The Devil Wears Prada" than a missionary. It's just not something you're anticipating when you fill out your papers you understand. 

Anyway, back to the real world. Richard is... well he's Richard! There aren't words to describe. It's a joy to teach him. Missionary work can be challenging and I can honestly say that it is mentally and emotionally the most difficult thing I've ever done, or tried to do in my life. But, when I'm sitting in a lesson with Richard there is honestly nowhere else I would rather be, and nothing else I would rather be doing. He made my day yesterday. It was fast Sunday and I was remembering that the last testimony meeting he had said he wanted to go up the next time. I was crossing my fingers that he would, but wasn't going to pressure him. Halfway through the meeting I decided to nudge him. I just had to. I said, "Your turn," to which he replied, "I wouldn't know what to say!" I pointed emphatically at his Book of Mormon plastered with sticky notes each representing an answer to prayer and responded "You know what to say."  He gave me a look and returned to listening. A few minutes later he shot up and walked toward the pulpit. The first thing he said was, "I came up here for a lot of reasons, but in the end I just can't tell my missionaries no." Ha ha! I don't take no for an answer :) He bore a powerful testimony about the changes that he has undergone in such a short amount of time and summed conversion up as "not a change in our behavior, but our very nature." I could go on and on about his testimony, but for the sake of time just know that, he KNOWS. When he sat down I just said "Excellent"(one of his favorite words) and he replied," It's your fault you pain in the you know what." and smiled. After Sunday school he told me that he wanted to thank me. I guess that morning he was feeling a little low. He felt distanced from the spirit and wondered where the fire had gone and how to get it back. He said that me nudging him was a very specific answer to a very specific prayer. I was beaming. Best feeling in the world. Apparently the reason for me being the "bad cop" is that I'm always "nudging" or making uncomfortable suggestions, but he didn't think that was a very accurate title so he has now changed it to "The Conductor." I didn't really follow the explanation behind it, but it had something to do with attention to detail and the power of persuasion... He told me he was going to pull a "Sister Davis" and invite me to "own it." Calling me to repentance, ha ha, he's a character. He never ceases to amaze me. For Christmas he gave us each a rack of ribs that he smoked himself. Not bad! We were also discussing families and he expressed how eager he was to meet ours. He wants to invite you all to his baptism. We explained that that wouldn't be possible, but I mentioned to him that I would be coming with my family next summer. He was thrilled and even said that he would want to come to Idaho for Isaac's baptism. Can you say too good to be true? I'm trying not to get my hopes up, but it doesn't get better than that! Everything is ready to go for his baptism. He had an interview with President White that I guess was very unique (are we surprised?) Apparently Pres. White just asked him how he felt about what he had been learning and he ended up answering all of the questions before they were even really asked. Long story short he passed with flying colors.  He asked me to sing at the baptism and surprise him with the song choice. I'll be singing "Savior Redeemer of my Soul" and Sister Jones will accompany. We will also do a little "Missionary moment" which I'm honestly a little nervous about seeing as he has invited everyone in Culver City! It will be great. I could go on about him all day.

We have two new investigators that I'm really excited about. We were originally teaching their dad, but he kind of lost interest. We taught Angel (18) and Enrique (20) on Wednesday and they were at church and the Christmas devotional on Sunday. They both loved it and Angel specifically mentioned that he is wanting a change and willing to give God his life. Cool! He has been reading and they both have committed to pray.

We finally heard from Susan. She was MIA for about a week and we thought she was just dropping us. She kind of still did, but only because she is very sick and recently found out that she won't live much longer. We are praying for her and trying to help in any way that we can, but it sounds like finishing the lessons will be impossible. 

I almost forgot! We had another mini-missionary this weekend. We had a lot of fun together. She is 20 and is turning her papers in this coming January. We tried to give her the best advice that we could as you can see from the picture. She'll be great! We had a high stress tour with a group of university students studying the bible and she handled it very calmly. We did witness something a little crazy while she was with us. I was stopped on Santa Monica Blvd. and some guy ran across the street. He was running fast enough that I barely saw him. The car in the lane next to me was coming at about 35 mph and hit him!! I couldn't believe it! He went flying up over the car, cracked the windshield, and then landed on his feet! I was in shock all day and I'm surprised our mini wasn't hit since it happened right next to her window. This whole week has just been like a movie!

I'm out of time. Happy Holidays!!

Thank you Kelli and Michael for the 25 days of Christmas. It makes our apartment feel like Christmas :)

Love you!

Sister Davis