Monday, December 22, 2014

White (almost) Christmas

G-day! Merry Christmas mates!

Christmas is upon us! Being in the bubble of missionary life seems to have eliminated a good deal of the hustle and bustle that usually accompany this time of year. People have started giving us cards and small gifts and I realized that I completely hadn't thought about getting Christmas gifts for anyone at all. As one of my favorite Sudanese investigators would say, "too biz!"

Our darling Kitty was baptized this weekend!! After six months of patience and love, her husband was able to baptize her! :) As soon as she came out of the water, she shot up a fist pump followed by two peace signs! It was probably the most excited I've seen her ever. She and Ed just glowed afterwards. :) They're headed off to Malaysia for about two months on the 23rd, so we had to say goodbye on Sunday. Kitty blew us two kisses and left with a big smile on her face. In a year, they can be sealed in the temple! What a blessing it is to unite families in the gospel!

In other news, Chirag was finally able to come to church!!! His boss rearranged his schedule so that he can make it to sacrament meeting now. It's the greatest!!! He manages this really nice restaurant in the city, and he invited us to come have lunch there last Saturday! It was divine. And free. Remind me to teach more investigators who can get me free food. :)

I love you all! Have a merry merry Christmas!!

xoxo Sister Larsen

christmas.mormon.org

#SharetheGift


The City District!


Sister Pastor and me at the mission home. It feels like Christmas there! :)



Monday, December 15, 2014

Families are Forever!

G'day mates!

We had our mission Christmas party this week! The highlight: We got to watch How to Train Your Dragon 2. It was so good. I almost cried four times.


This week has largely been focused on Kitty, the wife of one of our recent converts. She has been taught by missionaries for about six months and has dutifully come to sacrament meeting ever since her husband, Ed, was baptized. She has had a fair few baptismal dates but hasn't made any of them...yet. About a month ago she suddenly decided that she really wanted to get baptized! She had been learning how to pray and communicate with God, and she finally got her answer that it was time for her to be baptized! About three weeks ago she agreed to meet with us daily to prepare for her baptism! She has such an interesting mind and always compares gospel things to objects to help her understand everything. Her favorite analogy right now is the strait and narrow path as a water pipe. You need to be baptized to enter the water pipe, but once you're in you need to have strong faith and God will give you blessings as you flow towards eternal life. She's really excited about temple marriage and she can't wait to be sealed to Ed for time and eternity! Her baptism will be December 20th. Ed is so excited to be able to baptize his wife. :)

Adventures down under:
1) We dropped our phone down the gutter while we were on exchanges! :( Luckily the zone leaders drove by and big strong Elder Seuli pulled off the drain cover so we could pull it out.








2) Our mission Christmas party also included and excellent variety show! Some of our talented elders sang, played instruments, and danced!


First photo on the new camera! A very nice man named George spent a very long time telling me how to set it up, and very graciously took our first photo. :)


The branch relief society Christmas party! Some serious card making was happening, accompanied by lots of Vietnamese chatter. The darling girl smiling at the camera is Nalin. She and her husband Eljay are from New Zealand. They are two of the few lifelong members in our branch full of new converts!


Monday, December 8, 2014

Happy Australian Christmas!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas down under! Well, in the Aussie way. Which means barbeques and summer clothes and fluoro colors. A bit different, but still merry!

This morning a few missionaries went to the Epping hospital and played some Christmas carols in the outpatient ward. I got to borrow a flute from a member in the stake! It was so exciting! I've also been able to play with a small orchestra that will play with our stake's Christmas devotional. It's been so thrilling to be able to make music again! I didn't realize how much I missed it.

We've been taking as full advantage as we can of the #SharetheGift initiative. I hope all of you have seen the video on christmas.mormon.org! It is so pure and beautiful! We've been handing out He is the Gift cards to everyone and spreading Christmas cheer...the true kind of Christmas cheer. :)


We shared the video with Chirag this week. We've been working with him for a while now, and he is an absolute dream. His only problem is that he works so much and it's hard for him to make it to sacrament meeting. But we showed him the video and asked him what he can give to Jesus Christ for Christmas. He said that he wants to be baptized...on Christmas day!!! Here's to hoping and praying for the best kind of white Christmas! <3

Love you all!!
xoxo Sister Larsen

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Now a trio

I am rapidly learning and re-learning that there is no such thing as a typical week when it comes to missionary work!!

Monday: We packed up and moved to a new flat in preparation for Sister Pastor's arrival! Our old flat was not big enough for three beds. :( Then one of our recent converts did our nails at the salon she works at. We got super nice shellac. It's really exciting because it still looks nice. I haven't had nice nails my whole mission!

Tuesday: Transfer Meeting! Said goodbye to a lot of excellent missionaries and good friends. It's always sad to see people go. Their final testimonies always make me cry.

Wednesday: We picked up Sister Pastor from the mission home! She is about 4'10" and absolutely adorable. She speaks excellent English, and she visa waited in the Philippines Manila mission for two months, so she came to us pre-trained! That evening, we taught a lesson to Kitty, the wife of one of our recent converts, and solidified her commitment to be baptized! Here's to looking at December 6th for completing a family in the gospel! <3

Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday: Sister Stevenson got the flu! :( She was too sick to work (much to her dismay and frustration) so we did some finagling and managed to get some work done anyway. I spent a couple days in the city being companions with Sister McFadden, some of the Chinese sisters, and one of our amazing members so that Sister Pastor could stay home with Sister Stevenson and we didn't have to cancel all our lessons. It was really odd to not be with my companion for that long! It was also interesting to be fully in charge of our day, not totally splitting our efforts 50/50. Or now, since we're in a trio, 33/33/33. :) I'll be glad when I can have my companions back!

Sorry about the dearth of pictures lately... My camera is still out of commission. At my mother's urging, I will buy a new camera ASAP. :)

I love you all!


xo Sister Larsen

Monday, October 27, 2014

Weekly update

Hello everybody!
 
 
This week we've worked a lot with our Korean investigator, Yusong. He came to Melbourne to study English, was a rescue diver in Korea, and he is one day older than I am. He's pretty cool. Right now we're helping him prepare for baptism in November, and our current hurdle is the Word of Wisdom. Yusong loves to go to parties and drink beer. He does it almost every night. We talked with him about how we can't hear God talk to us if we are letting other substances control us. We gave him an "experiment" of not drinking beer for seven days to see how he feels. We also bribed him with an ice cream party if he succeeds. He loves ice cream a whole lot. :)
 
 
I love you all! Sorry for the short note this week! Next week I will manage my time better. :)
 
 
xo Sister Larsen

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Another Week in the AMM!

Dearest family and friends,


Every time P-day rolls around, I forget what I did during the rest of the week. Thank goodness for daily planners.


We have been teaching a family (that's right! A family in the city! That itself is a miracle!) for the past couple of weeks. The mother, Esperanza (Espy for short) is from El Salvador and she is absolutely gorgeous. The father is out of the picture, but her two children, Matilda (10) and Johnny (4), are wonderful. Espy so desperately wants her children to have a solid foundation to grow up with, unlike what she had. She needs the Spirit in her home so badly and she drinks in any opportunity to help her children learn about Jesus Christ. They will go to the family ward next door to the city starting next week, and we can't wait for Espy to meet some other moms and for Matilda and Johnny to go to primary!


We found out that our miracle Persian investigators don't live in our area so we have to hand them over to the elders in the next area. We're sad that we don't get to teach them anymore, but we're sure they will be in good hands. We got to teach a transition lesson with the elders, which was really cool. The elders were excited to work with investigators who have such real intent! They are honestly a miracle. As long as they get baptized, that's all that matters. :)


Yesterday was Masaru's 25th birthday! He absolutely does not look 25 years old. Probably closer to 17. But he's excellent. We sang happy birthday to him after church and he sang along with the biggest grin on his face. Then our Korean investigator, Yusong, gave him a hug. I don't think I've ever seen two Asian men hug each other before. It was pretty delightful.


Time is starting to really fly by. I've almost been out eight months! When the heck did that happen?! I never, ever want this to end! But I know that it will, and I hope that when it does I can remain a full-time disciple of Jesus Christ, even if I am no longer a full-time missionary. I love this work!!


Thank you for all your love and prayers!!


xoxo Sister Larsen

Monday, October 13, 2014

An Apple Seed

Dearest friends and family,


General Conference was amazing. I loved every single talk. We are so blessed to have a living prophet for our day and to be able to receive guidance and revelation from God through him. To borrow a word from my friend Sister Jowers, I exhort you to watch it if you haven't!! I promise that something one of the Apostles or other leaders says will speak to you. Heavenly Father is so aware of us and He speaks through His servants! I testify that that is true!


I just wanted to share one miracle from this week. Sister Stevenson and I met the most amazing man named Christopher. He is from Bosnia. We met him just as we left the church to go GQ. He was literally the first person we said hello to! We invited him to see the church right then and he agreed! He is the meekest, most humble, gentle man. He spoke of the energy he felt walking into the church and how he felt a connection with Sister Steveson the moment she opened her mouth. We talked about the Atonement and the healing power of Christ and baptism. The whole time, Christopher kept saying how special he felt to be there. He told us about his grandmother who was very religious and had walked to Jerusalem twice in her life. When we invited him to pray, he paused for a few minutes to remember how his grandmother used to pray. Just before we left, he pulled a tiny apple seed out of his pocket. He had found it at a park earlier that day and picked it up to save it. It had the smallest little green sprout growing out of the top. He kept it because he hoped it would grow into a great tree one day.


Christopher came to General Conference and loved it. He said that he wants to join the church so he can feel that special feeling all the time! He will be taught by the elders in his area and attend a different ward, but hopefully we will be able to see him again. Meeting him was truly a blessing and a miracle!


The day of miracles has not ceased! God still speaks to His children through prophets who hold His authority! Of those truths I testify.


Much love to all of you,


Sister Larsen

Letter from last week

Dearest, darlingest, family and friends,
 
It's transfers again! (How did that happen?!) And I am so blessed to be able to stay in the city with Sister Stevenson!!! We are both so excited!! Most missionaries don't get more than two transfers in the city, three if they're lucky. So I am definitely lucky. :)
 
Things with our Persian friends have been very happy/sad this week. Happy because: we got to teach three lessons with them this week, and their countenances have changed so much. Mohammed told us that he wants to have a family that is established on Christianity. He seems so incredibly different than when he first walked into the branch. Sad because: we found out that they don't live in our area and now we have to hand them over to other missionaries. :( I don't mind too much as long as they still get baptized, but I just hope that the transition is smooth. It can be pretty hard on investigators sometimes to change missionaries, let alone six investigators who have been taught for a whole transfer. But we'll see! I have faith in them!

We had the most amazing lesson with Masaru this week! A couple from another stake came to be translators! Steve served a mission in Japan, and his wife Satomi is from Japan! Satomi said a prayer in Japanese and Masaru was so, so excited! He had never heard anyone pray in his language before! All three of them just lit up and chattered away about the gospel and temples and the Plan of Salvation in Japanese and it was beautiful! Sister Stevenson and I grinned from ear to ear. Masaru is just the bomb.com.jpn.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Birthday in Melbourne

Dear family and friends,
 
Big thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes! I was the recipient of an abundance of kindness and love on my birthday, which I wasn't expecting and I was really grateful for.
 
Update on our favorite Nepalese investigator: He originally told us that he wants to get baptized sometime in the distant future, but when we shared a scripture about not procrastinating the day of repentance, he took that as an immediate need to be baptized so he went and got baptized that week! His intentions are so good. We taught him the Restoration again and he's cool with having another baptism. He can be like Godwin, one of the recent converts from Africa, who talks about his two baptisms. One is a great step towards following God, and the second is the one with priesthood authority that is valid in God's books. Bhadra's second baptism is scheduled for October 18th. :)
 
This week, Masaru brought a cute Japanese friend to church with him! Her name is Hana and she is the cutest thing. Her English is even more limited than Masaru's,so Masaru was our translator. It was so cool to see our very recent convert already sharing the gospel with his friends, and in his own language! He is such a miracle.
 
We met a really cool guy from India named Tinu. We met him on the street and invited him to come see the chapel right then and he agreed! He told us about how his relationship with God has lessened and how he wants to change. He was so excited to learn about temples and how families can be together forever. He said he wants to bring his girlfriend here from India and marry her in the temple! We talked about baptism and how it could help him so much. He's excited to learn more and he said he would pray about baptism!
 
On Sunday, one of the few married couples in our branch had us over for dinner. They're from New Zealand and they're just barely finished with uni. They're just getting started on their home and family but they already have such a wonderful spirit of love and devotion to the Lord in their home. We shared a message about the plan of salvation with them, and the Spirit was so strong. It testified to me how much even lifelong members need the basic doctrines that we missionaries teach. These truths are for everyone, whether they've read the Book of Mormon their whole lives or they've never even heard of Jesus Christ! The Gospel is for all!
 
Being a missionary is just the best thing ever and I never want to stop. I highly recommend it.

xoxo Sister Larsen

Monday, September 22, 2014

Yet Another Week of Miracles in the City of Zion!

Dearest family and friends,


I can't believe it's already been another week! There are only two weeks left of this transfer and I'm amazed at how fast it goes by. How have I already been a missionary for seven months? How am I almost 20 years old? I may or may not be freaking out. Our time is so short! We need to use it wisely!


So many miracles have happened this week! The biggest was most definitely Masaru's baptism! He asked Elder McFadden, half of the best senior couple ever to serve in Melbourne, to baptize him, and his friend Angeal to do the confirmation. Angeal is Vietnamese but he speaks a little Japanese because he watches a lot of anime (go figure). But at Masaru's baptism, he gave an entire talk in Japanese! His Japanese has gotten better as he has helped us teach Masaru, and Masaru's English has improved immensely as well. Heavenly Father truly blesses His children with the gift of tongues, especially when it can help bring His children home. Masaru said the most wonderful prayer thanking Heavenly Father that he could be baptized. He has grown so much since we've met him! The atonement is amazing!


Four of our Persian friends came to church on Sunday! It was so amazing to see these humble men all coming to learn about Jesus Christ. On Saturday, we watched a video about the Restoration and the First Vision with them, and after it was over they all said, "Again!" We were able to set a baptismal date with three of them for November 1st. They are such a miracle.


We had an interesting experience with Bhadra, our Nepalese investigator, this week. We have taught him quite a few times and set a baptismal date for November 8th, after he gets back from a trip home to Nepal. He came to church an hour early just to tell us that he got baptized on Thursday in another church, then he left for an hour, then he came back for sacrament meeting. Hmm. We're a little confused. Hopefully the more we teach him about priesthood power and the Restoration he will see the need for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and understand its importance.


I love being a missionary so very much! It has been such a time of change for me and I love who the Lord is shaping me into. I am so blessed.


Thank you for all your prayers and support!


xoxo Sister Larsen

Monday, September 15, 2014

"...going strong..."

Dearest family and friends,
 
The work in Melbourne is going strong!! We have seen bounteous miracles this week!
 
This week alone, six people came to the branch and asked us to teach them. That's right, six people found us. One of them, Bhadra, is a man from Nepal who was GQ-ed a few months ago by a missionary who has since gone home. He met with the elders once but was too busy to come back. He has more time now so he just came to the branch and wandered around for a few minutes until I talked to him. He wants to learn more about the gospel and about baptism!! He has been studying the Bible for months now and has a great background knowledge. He even asked us about how he can be baptized!! We've taught him about the Restoration and the Plan of Salvation, and he asks a lot of great questions. He has such an honest desire to learn. He won't agree to a specific date to be baptized yet, but he says he knows it's something he wants in the future. Another, Santiago, is from Colombia and studies English at the school that's above the branch. He came in because he knew there was a church on the first floor and he wanted somewhere to pray! We talked with him about the Book of Mormon and he said he has a good feeling with us. So fingers crossed that both of them will see the blessings of the gospel and keep wanting to come back!

Our biggest miracle though has been our friends from Iran. When I first arrived in the city, we had a special English class for Iranians and quite a few men would come. They kind of stopped coming after a while and it died down. A couple of them had stayed interested in the church and two of them have been baptized, which is such a huge miracle. But this week, four of them (four!!) came into the branch and asked us to teach them about Jesus Christ! Only one of them had been to the church before, but he had told his housemates about church and they were interested to know more! They talked about how they want a new life and they want to know God's commandments so they can follow him! We've had some wonderful lessons with them about the life of Jesus Christ and His atonement. They have such a desire to change. It's absolutely amazing. Two of them came to the baptism of another Iranian yesterday. The Spirit was so strong there. These men are so humble and willing to learn and it is such a privilege to know them.


I love you all!!


xoxo Sister Larsen

Monday, September 8, 2014

Exchanges

Dearest friends and family,
 
This was my first week going on exchanges as a sister training leader! I spent Wednesday in the city with Sister Tolutau, who is from Tonga. She had never been in a big city before and was amazed at how busy it was! We went GQ-ing and found two great people who we brought back to the church and taught them right then! The Lord provides some awesome miracles on exchanges! On Friday I spent the day in Croyden with Sister Bennett, who is from Utah. We listened to the David Archuleta Christmas album even though it's only September and it was really great. We also found our first ever "please knock" sticker. (Photo attached if you don't believe me.)
 
Masaru is doing great! We have taught him nearly every day simply because he's always at the branch. Last night he came to the mission president fireside with us and he got to meet one of the elders serving here from Japan. Masaru shared his testimony of the Book of Mormon with him, which was so special. During the fireside, Masaru kept kind of giggling and smiling a lot, and when Sister Stevenson asked why he was laughing, he said, "Body feel warm." I guess Masaru laughs when he feels the Spirit! Haven't seen that one before.
 
Being a missionary is so hard and so great! I love it so much! I just wanted to send a  BIG thank you to everyone who writes me letters or emails. I'm always so grateful to hear from everyone, and I'm super duper sorry that I don't reply to all of you. I hope you know I love you even if I don't write back! :)

xoxoxo Sister Larsen

Monday, September 1, 2014

Lost in translation

Dearest, darlingest, friends and family,
 
I am so happy to say that I am still serving in the CITY!! It's the best place to be and I wouldn't rather be anywhere else. Saying goodbye to Sister Vuta was hard, but I'm super excited for this next transfer which makes everything better. I'm serving with Sister Stevenson, who is from Texas and is a ray of sunshine. We've talked and made a lot of plans to raise our vision for this next transfer and have (hopefully) more success thane ever before! We're excited to be completely exactly obedient and take daily leaps of faith! Also last night we spent a good half hour quoting Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre, so I have a feeling this is going to be a great companionship. :)
 
I've been assigned to be a sister training leader this transfer, so I had the privilege of going to the mission leaders conference on Friday. We discussed a lot about obedience and conversion. I'm excited to be a part of the driving force for change in our mission and to have the opportunity to serve and uplift the sisters in our area.
 
We have been teaching a Japanese boy named Masaru for the last week or so. His English is quite honestly pretty terrible, so teaching him has been an interesting experience. I think he initially came to church to learn English, but we taught him about God and prayer anyway. Our first lesson was pretty awkward with trying to explain what prayer is and how to pray. We asked Masaru if he had ever prayed before, and he said, "Yes! I pray tennis, I pray ping pong..." and Sister Stevenson and I had to try really hard not to giggle. But he agreed to come back for another lesson! He came a couple days later for English class and stayed at the branch literally all day, and then went to a fireside with the members in the evening. He is, as Sister Stevenson has coined, a branch enthusiast. He's seriously at the church all the time. The members have just taken him under their wing, even with their limited ability to communicate with each other. Masaru is going to be baptized on September 27 and he can't wait! He went to the baptism of a Vietnamese girl and an Iranian man (who is such a miracle in and of himself) and asked three times if he could be baptized with them. Just goes to show how the Spirit is the true teacher. Also major props to the Church for having "The Restoration" and "Finding Faith in Christ" DVDs in Japanese. The gospel is so worldwide! It's beautiful!

Much love to everyone!!


xoxo Sister Larsen


PS: If any of you ever get to try Vietnamese rice paper rolls, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Five Baptisms!

Dearest family and friends,
 
Our AWESOME investigator Ken was baptized this weekend!! He has such great faith and such a strong desire to follow Jesus Christ. We had an awesome spiritual experience with him on Thursday. One of the elders gave him a priesthood blessing because he was sick, and afterwards he was just so happy and grateful. He asked if he could say a prayer to thank Heavenly Father. He's the bomb.
 
Ken's baptism was interesting, to say the least. One of our recent converts baptized him. It was his first time to baptize someone so he was pretty nervous. Ken was nervous too, and the water was freezing, and everyone was watching, and... Well, between saying the prayer exactly right and making sure Ken was completely under the water, it took five tries to get him properly baptized. FIVE. And the last two, our recent convert held Ken under the water for a good ten seconds just to make sure he got him under enough. Luckily Ken thought it was pretty funny. We were laughing about it yesterday and he said, "People kept asking if I was okay. I said yes, but inside I was thinking, I need an oxygen tank!" Poor guy. But! The deed is done. Ken is baptized. And he is so happy.
 
It's the best experience ever to see people grow in their desire to follow Jesus Christ! Ken is from Thailand and didn't know much about God before coming to Australia. But as he has learned, he has had such a love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and has such a desire to follow them. His faith just shines!

I love you all! Keep smiling! :)


xo Sister Larsen

Monday, August 18, 2014

Update

Dearest family and friends,

We got the opportunity to spend a couple days with Sister Kim, who finished her mission and left for her native Korea this week. She served in the city branch for ten months, so chose to spend her last two days here. It was so cool to see how much the people in the branch love her and how much she loves them. Sister Kim is a prime example of finishing strong and fulfilling her purpose until the end! She took any chance she had to GQ wherever we went, even though she would not be the one teaching these people. On Tuesday we took her to the mission home and had her farewell dinner there. We also got to say goodbye to Sister Burton, one of my good friends in the mission, who is going back home to Wales. Sister Kim's German and Korean companions sang "God Be With You 'til We Meet Again" in German, English, and Korean, and there were many tears. It was a lovely evening.

This week we met Juan, who is a student from Colombia. He is definitely not the kind of person who I would expect to be someone who is interested in learning about the gospel. He has earrings and this tough-looking beard and at first glance looks kind of intimidating. Lam, one of our members, pointed him out as we were walking through Melbourne Central station and said that I should GQ him. I was hesitant, but I'm really glad I did. Turns out he's super nice and actually really funny. After we taught him the restoration, he expressed that he has been on a search for something, but doesn't know what it is. He is so honest in his intentions. We gave him copies of the Book of Mormon in Spanish and in English so he can understand better. I can't wait to keep teaching him and helping him to find the answers to his search.

Ken is doing great. He has been faithfully coming to church, even though he has to leave after sacrament meeting because of work. If he didn't have to work, I'm sure he would stay all three hours. He gets baptized on Saturday!! He's really excited, and so are we. He loves the gospel and loves following Jesus Christ. I have never met someone who so willingly and immediately accepts all the commandments as we teach them, even the Word of Wisdom. he is so full of faith.

I love you all! The church is true!


xo Sister Larsen

Monday, August 4, 2014

Another great week

This week has been so great! I feel like I say it every week, but it's always true! It's always good to be a missionary!
 
Ken, our Thai investigator, is progressing so much! He has come to church twice now and loves meeting all the people there. He is so kind and just understands the gospel. His English isn't the best, but he always speaks so politely. He is just golden! He is a prime example of someone who has been prepared to hear the gospel. He has even started talking to his friends about his lessons with us, and two of them want to come to see what it's all about! Our investigator is already doing his missionary work!!
 
This Saturday we had the opportunity to do another mini mission! We just had our mini missionaries for one day, but the Lord sure pulled out some miracles for us and for them! While we were eating our lunch in the branch, the Chinese sisters brought up a man named Fuji who was visiting Melbourne from Japan. They gave him a tour of the chapel and then handed him over to us to teach a lesson. He was so interested in who God was and how to pray and asked if he could keep the pamphlets! We said yes, of course, and got him a couple of pamphlets in Japanese as well as English. He was so amazed that we had material in his language! He asked if there were churches in Japan, so I told him about mormon.org and how he could look up a church near his home. I truly hope he does! He could be a pioneer of the gospel in his country! I always have such hope for the travelers who visit the branch because they have the potential to carry the gospel to the whole world!

On Sunday we had the opportunity to go to the mission president's fireside at the mission office. We drove there with some of the girls from the branch. On the drive up we talked about prayer and our favorite scriptures and what keeps us going in the gospel. It's so amazing to be able to hear their strong testimonies. I know I'm meant to be here serving them, but they serve me and strengthen me more than they probably know. Being a missionary is such a blessing.


I love you all! The church is true!


xo Sister Larsen

Monday, July 28, 2014

Week two in the city

Dearest family and friends,
 
Week two in the city has been wonderful!
This week I:
~worked on learning how to navigate the trams between our home in Richmond and the chapel in the city
~got a little better at talking to strangers on the street (turns out I just need to take that first step to initiate conversation and then I'm pretty sweet)
~learned a couple phrases in Vietnamese (xin chou!)
~set a solid baptismal date with our investigator, Ken. He is from Thailand and has lived in Melbourne for a few years. He is so enthusiastic about learning the gospel and is so diligent in reading the scriptures! I am so excited to continue to help him progress.
~met a girl named Tijana who is absolutely amazing. The elders are teaching her, but I just want to be her best friend. She's Aussie and a total hippie, which is not normally the type to be receptive to the gospel, but she came to church on Sunday and loved it so much that she didn't want to leave!
 
I love the city and I love being a missionary and I love the gospel!!

xoxo Sister Larsen

Monday, July 21, 2014

The City!

Dearest family and friends,

I've been transferred to..... *drumroll*


THE CITY!!!


I could not be happier about it! Melbourne is so bustling and alive and I love everything about it! The branch here is so adorable. It's mostly made up of international students, a lot of whom are Vietnamese. Most of the members have been baptized for a year or less. The branch meets in the first level of an office building. It's small, but it's always full of people! The branch members are all really close with each other and with the missionaries. It's like one big multicultural family! It's such a unique place with such special people.


We don't do any tracting in the city, but we do what we call Golden Questioning, or GQ-ing, where we just strike up conversations with people on the street. As you would probably guess, that is just plain terrifying for me. Luckily my wonderful companion, Sister Vuta, is not afraid, so I can follow her lead. GQ-ing is amazing though, especially in the city. This week alone I have talked to people from Japan, China, Thailand, Tasmania, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Vietnam, all of whom were just walking down the street or sitting on a bench. For some reason people are more likely to hold a good conversation with you if you talk to them on the street than if you knock on their door.

We have seen so many miracles this week with teaching and GQ-ing. The most amazing one was Fin. She is a lady from Vietnam who was only visiting Melbourne for a week. We started chatting with her and invited her to see our chapel, which was about a five minute walk away. She was very interested and told us that she is Catholic but she always finds a church to go to whenever she travels. We gave her a tour of the chapel and she kept asking us what makes our church different from other churches. In Vietnam, they only have Catholic and Protestant churches, and ours was a third different one that she did not know, so we taught her the restoration. When we talked with her about the first vision, she said she got goosebumps! She was so excited to learn about the Book of Mormon and we gave her copies in English and Vietnamese. After we taught her she kept telling us how grateful she was and how she felt that God had meant for her to meet us. She gave us big hugs before she left, and we gave her our phone number even though she was leaving the city a couple days later. Yesterday she texted us, saying that she was on a bus to Canberra and was reading the Book of Mormon! I am so excited for her. I just know that she will get baptized one day. I really hope she finds the church when she goes back to Vietnam, because I know how much the gospel will bless her life!


I am so blessed to be able to serve here in the city. It's such a special experience and you get to meet so many wonderful people. The Lord's work is alive and well here in Melbourne!


Much Love,
Sister Larsen

Monday, July 14, 2014

Miracles and Transfer News

Oh, man. This week.
 
This week I got to witness the baptism of my darling little Aprilia! She may only be eight years old, but she is wise beyond her years. She knows what it means to have a testimony and she truly understands what the gospel is really all about. During her baptismal interview, Elder Apulu asked her what repentance means. She paused and thought for a minute, and then said, "Change."
 
It has been so incredible to watch the change in her entire family. Their mom who never used to say a word to us now has been taught the restoration, has had us over for family home evenings, and invited us to Aprilia's birthday party. Latetia, the oldest sister, used to mock Natalya for not drinking and would leave every time we came over, now talks with us for hours and tells us how glad she is that she knows us. She has so many questions to ask about the gospel and is always so excited to learn more. Last week we taught her the plan of salvation and challenged her to pray about baptism, and she did! She said prayed and then she had a dream that she got baptized in a silk dress. She told us, "Now I know I need to get baptized! I just need to know what day!" There is such a different spirit in their home and it has been so amazing to watch the change in each of them. Natalya is so happy that her family is beginning to follow in her footsteps. For Aprilia's baptism, our primiary president gave her framed pictures of Jesus Christ and of the temple, and Natalya put them in their living room so everyone can see them every day. She is such a good example to her family. It's amazing to see how one person can be the catalyst for the change of a whole family. I've been so privileged to be a part of their lives and their change.
 
I feel like I've finally gotten the hang of what missionary work is all about. It's about helping people to change. It's about uniting families in the gospel. It's about loving people and helping them to see how much Heavenly Father loves them too. And it's about moving on when your work is done.
 
The transfer news is in and I am bidding farewell to Point Cook. I'm sad that I won't be able to continue to be a part of the Solomon's conversion, but I feel at peace about the change. I think it's about time to go wherever the Lord needs me.

I love you all! The church is true! The gospel of Jesus Christ blesses families in a way that nothing else can!

xoxo Sister Larsen

Monday, July 7, 2014

"I Feel Great!"

Dear family and friends,

This week has been so miraculous!

 
We have been working with our wonderful family and teaching Aprillia all the lessons so she can be baptized this coming Sunday. We found out that Jecinta's mom isn't too keen on letting her get baptized because she has already been Christened Catholic, but hopefully we'll get to see more of her to see where she really stands. Zandria's date has been pushed back to the 27th because she doesn't quite feel ready. We hadn't seen Chozan for at least a week, so we had assumed that he would want to push his date back as well, if he was even still really interested. But they had promised to come to church on Sunday, so we waited expectantly through all of sacrament meeting, hoping that they would come in late. When they didn't, Sister Rooney and I were devastated! We stressed out all through the second hour class, and afterwards we decided to just go over to their house and invite them to come to the 1:00 ward. So we left church an hour early and just showed up at their house! Turns out they were awake and ready to go...but their ride didn't come. :( We called everyone we could think of to get a ride for them to church, and we finally got ahold of a sister in our ward who was willing to drive them! So Chozan, Aprillia, Natalya, and their little sister Impala all went to the chapel and attended all three hours of church together! We sat with Natalya and Chozan in class and Chozan seemed to really enjoy it. After church, we showed Aprillia the baptismal font so she could see where she's going to get baptized. We asked Chozan how he felt about baptism, and he said, "I feel great!" We asked him when he felt like he could get baptized and he said, "After Aprillia?" Sister Rooney and I were like, "Wait, straight after?" And Chozan just said yes like it was the most obvious thing! We had no idea that he was still reading and praying and wanting to get baptized! Apparently he's been reading all the pamphlets we gave him and studying with Natalya, his sister who is a member. His other sister has been giving him a hard time for "wanting to be Mormon" but he doesn't care. He just knows it's right!
 
They had planned to get baptized on the 13th, but with some complications with the chapel and the members it might be pushed back to the 19th. But as long as they get baptized, that's all that matters. We've got a busy week ahead of us, because we have to teach Chozan all of the lessons before he can have his baptismal interview and all that jazz. But we are so, so excited! Heavenly Father definitely answers prayers and prepares people to hear the gospel!!

I love you all!


xoxo Sister Larsen

Monday, June 30, 2014

TIKA TONU!

Dear friends and family,

This week I:

~Taught our miracle baptism dates' mom the restoration. When we asked her to pray about it, she said she felt like God would tell her it was true.
~Introduced Daisy, one of our recent converts, to Ria and Nawa, some of our investigators who are sisters. They're all Maori girls from New Zealand who have young families, and they live around the corner from each other. Fingers crossed they become fast friends. Daisy's testimony is so fresh and golden and I really hope she rubs off on them.
~Spent a wonderful evening with the Richards family. We stopped by to drop off some cookies we baked and share a lesson, and they invited us to stay for dinner. I absolutely adore them. Brother and Sister Richards both come from kind of rough backgrounds, but they have both become so strong in the gospel. Their testimonies are so strong and they are so inspiring. It's a privilege to be able to know them.
~Attended a multicultural night that our neighboring ward put on. They invited a Seikh group to come and perform (they did some crazy sword fighting martial arts, and finished off my cracking coconuts on people's heads with baseball bats), as well as a Samoan Chrisitan group (they sang Christian songs like an islander barbershop quartet!). One of the YSA girls in our ward did some Hawaiian and Cook Island hula with a girl from her hula troupe (in the middle of their routine, they pulled a bunch of guys from the audience on the floor and taught them how to hula! It was so awkward and hilarious), another ward did Samoan dancing (in lavalavas with feather headdresses!) aaaaand....the missionaries did the haka! Even the sisters! It was killer. We all yelled so loudly that most of the elders lost their voices the next day! Not to brag, but we totally stole the show.
Unfortunately my camera was accidentally locked in the bishop's office so I didn't get any videos. :( But a lot of the other missionaries did, so they should be sending them to me today! So you can see me do the haka next week. If there's something I never thought I'd learn how to do, it's the haka. But hey! It's pretty awesome.

Love you all!! xoxo Sister Larsen

Monday, June 23, 2014

"So? Just read!"

Dearest friends and family,


I'm not exaggerating when I say that all but a couple of our appointments fell through this week. We spent six days driving from planned appointment to planned appointment only to have people text us to cancel or be sick or otherwise unavailable to talk with us.


But on Sunday, we had the greatest miracle. We have been teaching Aprillia, who is the seven-year-old sister of Natalya, a 14-year-old recent convert. Natalya is the only member in her family, but has been such a good example to her siblings. Aprillia said that what she wants for her birthday is to be baptized, so we have been teaching her all the lessons to her seven-year-old understanding. Sometimes her older siblings would sit in and listen, but they never seemed very interested. This time, though, there was someting different about them. They were genuinely interested and really wanted to learn. After we taught the plan of salvation, Natalya's older brother, Chozan, said, "I want to move in with God." Sister Rooney and I kind of just looked at each other and were like, "You know how you can do that? By getting baptized!" Jesinta, their family friend who pretty much lives at their house, then asked us about the difference between christening and baptism, and expressed that even though she was christened as a baby she doesn't know much about God. She asked if we have any books that teach the basics about God, so Sister Rooney and I whipped out our pamphlets and a copy of the Book of Mormon! She was so excited. We then invited Chozan, his younger sister Zandria, and Jesinta to work towards getting baptized on the same day as Aprillia, July 13th! They were all so excited to pray and receive answers, as well as read more about the gospel. They all promised they would come to church as well! We had never expected that much from them. They had never seemed interested before. Right before we left, another one of Natalya's sisters, Latitia, came in. She always kind of gives Natalya a hard time for not drinking or smoking and all that, because Latitia is a huge party animal. She looked at all the pamphlets in Jesinta's hands and said, "You know you can't drink anymore if you do that." And Jesinta just held up the pamphlets and said, "So? Just read!" It was truly a miracle.


We also had the opportunity to go to the baptism of Brother Kong, the Chinese elders' investigator. He's the first Chinese person to be baptized into the Point Cook ward! All the talks were in Chinese and the baptism and confirmation were said in Chinese as well. It was a really cool experience. Brother Kong looked so happy afterward. He cried pretty much the whole time and kept putting his hand on his chest and saying, "So warm." He came to church on Sunday in a suit and a borrowed jacket from Elder Shum. He looked so proud of himself. It was so cool to watch him be able to make promises with Heavenly Father and to see the change that came over him as he did.


The Gospel is real!


xoxo Sister Larsen

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"Here we kneel in the sand..."

Dearest family and friends,
This week has been the most miraculous week.
I got my new companion, Sister Rooney, at transfer meeting on Tuesday. She is from Adelaide and has been out for nine months. She's super adorable and bubbly and she sings all the time and has cool glasses. People ask us all the time if we're sisters, probably because we're both blonde and super white. I love her already. (And apparently our moms are already chatting on facebook. The creeps.)
 
Transfer meeting is always inspiring because we get to hear the testimonies of the departing missionaries, but this one was especially inspiring. Elder Maifala, my zone leader, went home this transfer, and in his departing testimony he mentioned that video with Elder Holland that I wrote about last week. He also bore his testimony that we are all supposed to be here, and that we shouldn't go home because we feel like we aren't doing any good. The Lord called us here, and this is where we are meant to be. That was just another confirmation to me of what I learned last week about the work not being easy, but being so very necessary.
 
Tuesday evening Sister Rooney and I went to go meet our ward mission leader. While we were at his house, his wife shared an awesome video with us about John Tanner, one of the early saints. (You can watch it here). He was a self-made wealthy man who converted to the church and was healed from a canker on his leg that threatened to take his life. What really impressed me about his story, though, was not his miraculous healing, but more his miraculous faith. After he became converted, he gave every penny he had earned to the church. He invested in the temple and in other church prospects for the progression of God's kingdom here on earth, and he never got a penny of it back. But what he did gain was faith in the Lord and in His purposes. He really understood how to consecrate everything he had to the Lord and understood the blessings that come from it. I was so impressed with his faith, and I've been thinking about his willing sacrifice constantly. I want to be able to have faith like that so that I can truly give my all to the Lord and to His work.
 
That same evening, Sister Rooney shared a bit of a poem with me. It's about a group of pioneers who had faced an extremely treacherous, very un-miraculous journey, and had gotten just close enough to their destination that they knew they were going to make it. It reads:
"Here we kneel in the sand, grateful for every unanswered plea that proved us. Faith is the mountain that would not flee, the water that would not part, the stone that did not turn to bread, instead marks our dead." That poem really hit me. Faith is not always manifested in miracles. Faith is enduring through the hardships and remaining faithful. Faith is trusting the Lord through whatever trial He sees fit to lay upon you, and believing that He could work miracles if it were His plan to do so.

 
I am grateful for every unanswered plea that proved me. And now I am grateful for the miracles that the Lord is working in my missionary work.
 
Every day of this new transfer, we have seen a miracle. Wednesday, we found seven new contacts in half an hour. Thursday, we set a baptism date with our investigator, Emma, who had basically come to us and said that she wanted to be a Mormon and that she felt ready and committed to being baptized. Friday, we re-contacted one of our former investigators who said she wanted to take the lessons from the beginning. Saturday, Sister Rooney and I had a wonderful discussion about obedience and both committed ourselves to being exactly obedient with a willing heart. And Sunday, my personal favorite miracle, we set a baptism date with Victoria.
 
Victoria has wanted to be baptized ever since the missionaries started visiting her family, but we haven't felt able to invite her and Antonio to be baptized because we didn't want to offend their dad, who is Muslim. But on Sunday, we taught the plan of salvation to their whole family, and asked their father if he would be willing to allow his children to be baptized. And he said yes! As soon as he said yes, Victoria burst into tears. She is so excited. She said she wants to either be baptized on Christmas because it's Christ's birthday and He is the reason she's getting baptized, or on her birthday, July 19th. We picked July 19th for her because it's sooner. ;) Antonio is still waiting for his answer if baptism is right for him, and waiting for confirmation from Heavenly Father that he is worthy to be baptized. He really likes to be 100% sure about things before he commits, and I think he doesn't feel worthy simply because he doesn't feel like he was 100% faith yet. We invited him to keep praying, and we feel like he will get his answer very soon. The change that we have seen in him just this week is miraculous. During fast and testimony meeting, I noticed that he was crying, (Which is okay, because I was too. It was a killer testimony meeting.) and when we taught their family on Sunday, he looked at us more and gave longer answers to our questions. He is very, very shy, so he normally doesn't talk very much and hardly looks up. But when he told us about his desires to find his own witness, he looked us in the eye! And when we left, his handshake was just that much firmer.

The Lord really works in marvellous ways, and it's incredible to see how the gospel of Jesus Christ can change people. I know I've seen it change me. I hope that I can always keep changing and keep growing closer to my Savior, because the moment I think I have changed enough and I am good enough is the moment I lose His help, and there is no way I can do this without Him.
 
The gospel is so, so true. I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to be a part of it, and the opportunity to share it with all of our Father's children.
 
Much Love,
Sister Larsen

Monday, June 2, 2014

Remember Him

Dearest family and friends,
 
I'm not going to lie; this week has been really hard. Sister Leota was really sick this week so we spent all of Tuesday in the flat, we had another day when we weren't able to make it to any of our appointments, we weren't able to follow up with Victoria and Antonio about baptism, I had my first encounter with someone giving us a fake address, and to top it all off, my companion is getting transferred and I'm really nervous about the change. But I guess the Lord breaks us down so that He can build us back up again.
 
This week at zone meeting, the elders shared the most wonderful video that really helped me to refocus. It's based on talks by Elder Holland and President Eyring. It's about the Atonement and why the mission won't ever be easy. Elder Holland talks about how missionaries will ask why the mission is so hard. We want to know why people aren't flocking to the baptismal font. The message we have is so true, so why aren't people coming? He then says that says that the mission won't be easy because salvation is not easy. The Atonement wasn't easy for Christ, so why should bringing people to salvation be easy for us? There was no other way, no easier way, for the Savior of the world to accomplish His work, so why should we expect our work to be easy? That really hit me. It's not going to be easy, and it's not supposed to be. I may or may not have full on cried (Not any of this tearing up and sniffling business. More of the Les Mis cry.) during our zone meeting. Then our stake president showed the same video in stake conference on Saturday. I guess this is something Heavenly Father really wants me to learn. I've been trying to learn a lot about the Atonement this week and really trying to figure out what it means to rely on the Savior. Because I really, really can't do this on my own.
 
I've also had an eye opening realization about success. Just before we watched that video at zone conference, I got the strongest feeling that I need to change my perspective. I've been wanting success on the mission so that I can feel successful and so I can feel better about my efforts. But I really should be wanting success because I want my investigators to succeed. I should be wanting success because I care about their progression and their salvation, not because I want a pat on the back and a gold star. I know that sound so selfish and shallow, and maybe that's what I am. But I really want to change. I want to want this for other people. I want to give my mission to the Lord and fully live every day for HIM. This is HIS work and HIS glory. Not mine, not anyone else's. I just always need to remember that.
 
And I always need to remember Him. I need to always remember how much He has done for me and how much I owe Him. He is the reason I live now and the reason I will live again. It's because of Him that I'm here, and because of Him that I can be saved, and because of Him that I need to work.
 
I love you all! Always remember that your Father in Heaven and your Savior love you too.
xoxo Sister Larsen

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Another week

Hello all! I can't believe it's been another week already!

This week is the last week of my second transfer, which simultaneously feels like it came too soon and also like I've been here for ages. Time is really weird here.

This week has seemed really long. We spent the majority of our week knocking on doors for appointments only to have people cancel or just not answer. We had made a couple appointments with ladies we had tracted, and when we came back their husbands told us that their families wouldn't be interested. I keep noticing that women are much more likely to want to talk with us. Maybe it's just because women like to talk with each other, or maybe it's because women are more in tune with the Spirit (no offence, guys.)

We met with our part member family, the Bals, this week. We've been wanting to set baptismal dates for their two kids, Victoria and Antionio, for pretty much this whole transfer, and we finally felt like it was the right time to invite them. We've been kind of tiptoeing around baptism because the dad is Muslim and we didn't want to cause contention in their home. Sister Bal has been bringing her kids to church for a while now, but she told us that it has taken twelve years of prayer for her husband to allow her to take them. Victoria, who's 10 years old, really loves church and is keen on learning about and being part of the gospel. Antonio, 13, has some doubts and is a bit unsure still, but he told us that he likes to be 100% sure about something before he'll commit or say that he believes it. This week we taught them about the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end, and how those five things are the steps to allow us to live with our Father in Heaven again. When we asked them if living with God is something that they want, Victoria responded with an excited "yes!" We invited them to pray to know if baptism is what God wants for them, and they said they would. I'm sure Victoria will. She is just so excited about the gospel. We'll have to see about Antonio, though. I think he is stuck on feeling 100% about it and also not offending or letting down his dad. Sister Bal told us that there's been a bit of tension in the house lately because the two religions are kind of clashing, and it makes me really sad. I can't imagine how hard it would be to be married to someone who doesn't have the same beliefs and wants to raise your children with a completely different worldview. I can imagine it's so hard on both parents. I guess that just means we'll have to baptize Brother Bal as well. ;)

Other than that, this week has been pretty slow. Most of our appointments fell through and we spent a lot of time driving from house to house and visiting all of our backup appointments to no avail. Here's to hoping next week looks up.

I love you all!

xoxo Sister Larsen

Friday, May 23, 2014

Firesides and Finding Families

Dearest friends and family,

Sorry about the lack of letters for everyone last week! I spent all my email time Skyping with my family and basically trying not to lose it and cry at our members' home. But it was really great to see your beautiful faces! I hope you all know how much I love you and miss you even if I kind of stink at writing people back.

I have two weeks of miracles to update you all on! First big miracle: our musical fireside! Remember how I said we had to pull it off in less than two weeks? Well, we did. We really felt like this fireside was something we should do, so we put all our effort into making it happen and getting our ward members involved as well. Thankfully, so many people were willing to participate! We asked a handful of members to provide musical numbers, all of whom were totally willing, and Sister Vakalahi (our Relief Society first counselor and every missionary's surrogate mom here) worked with us to put together a program and make flyers. With everyone involved, we put together a song list, organized performances, wrote a script, scheduled rehearsals, made flyers, and spread the word in a matter of days. The whole process must have been facilitated by the Spirit, because everything went so smoothly!  
We were a bit worried about getting a good turnout due to the short notice and the fact that it was Mothers' Day, but on the evening of the fireside, the chapel was packed. The crowd filled up to the overflow! We even had some less active members who probably hadn't been to a fireside in years attend, as well as some investigators! The Spirit was so strong throughout the whole evening and I suspect that there were very few people who didn't shed at least one tear. Our bishop gave our closing remarks and bore his testimony of the Savior through tears. I'm sure everyone who heard him was moved. 
One of the part member families we have been working closely with (the mother is a member, her husband is Muslim, and her children are not baptized) attended! Even the dad came, which was such a wonderful surprise! After the fireside was over, the dad pointed to Bishop and said, "I like him. He is a good man." He may not be open to learning much about the gospel yet, but I do think he was able to feel the Spirit!
The whole fireside was such a miracle. Our ward has talked of nothing else since. There's already been talk of putting on another one! I'm really grateful that I could be part of this experience and be able to facilitate so many people feeling the Spirit and drawing closer to their Savior. 

This Monday and Tuesday was Sisters' Conference, where all of the sisters in the mission gather together for a day of service and a day of training from our sister training leaders and the APs. It was so cool to see all of my fellow sisters gathered in one place! Even the Tassie sisters got to come up, which meant that I got to see Sister Kruyer for the first time in what felt like ages! She is loving Tasmania and totally tearing it up. Everyone says such wonderful things about her, and I know they're all true. We had some really nice training on working with members, recognizing success, companionship unity, and the importance of finding and teaching families. The training on finding families was especially inspiring to me. The APs pointed out that in Preach My Gospel, the same wording is used to describe the gravity of the Atonement and the importance of families. Both the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the family unit are central to God's plan for our happiness. I had never really thought about the family in that way before, and it really inspired me to work harder to find whole families to teach. Often times we settle with just teaching one member of a family to seems to be progressing better than the others, but really this work is about bringing families into the gospel. Our ultimate goal is to help God's children enter the Celestial Kingdom in the family unit, so we should be teaching according to that goal!

We had Zone Meeting the following Thursday, which was just as inspiring as Sisters' Conference. Our Zone Leaders told us that we need to focus on finding new investigators, not just new contacts. In other words, we should find and teach people at the same time, and share the gospel with them as quickly as we can. Sister Leota and I really took that to heart and tried to apply that in our finding this week, and it worked! We met a Vietnamese man named Tun, who has a wife and three children. We knocked on his door and he invited us in, and we eagerly taught him about how God is our Creator and Father and how much He loves us. Tun is Buddhist, so he doesn't know much about God or anything about Jesus Christ. He drank in everything we taught him and totally felt the Spirit. Unfortunately, his wife speaks pretty much no English, so she and her kids weren't able to sit it. But! We contacted the Vietnamese missionaries who work in the area next door to us, and we invited them to our next appointment with Tun. They were able to talk with Tun's wife and teach them both! We decided to hand Tun's family over to the Vietnamese elders so that the whole family could be taught. So even though we aren't teaching them ourselves, I feel so blessed to have been able to find them!

We also have started meeting with Shony and Hone, a Maori couple from New Zealand. We met Shony at church, when she was attending her cousin's baby blessing. They are both very religious and Hone is actually an evangelist at their church. We had just decided to stop by and see if Shony was home, and both she and her husband welcomed us in and talked with us for over an hour about their faith and how they came to find God. Hone shared his remarkable conversion and how much both of their lives have changed since they gave their lives to the Lord. The invited us over for lunch a couple days later, and we had a great discussion about how much Jesus Christ loves us and how grateful we are for His Atonement. Shony and Hone's beliefs differ a little bit from ours, and Hone is very passionate about those things that do differ. He strongly believes that all you need to do to be saved is "give your life to the Lord," or just pray and confess with your mouth that Jesus is your Savior, and believe in Him, and that's it. He doesn't believe you need baptism or that faith requires any kind of works, which could prove a challenge. Hopefully we can come to help him see how baptism really is a necessary step to salvation and how faith is made manifest in our works. Shony seems more open and in tune with the Spirit, so hopefully she can be our gateway to helping them receive the gospel. But we're excited to keep meeting with them! They are really awesome people.

We have still been meeting with Elizabeth, who is really grateful for our visits but still seems to lack the desire to come to church or read the scriptures, which are things she said she knows she needs to do. She just doesn't feel very urgent about it, but hopefully if we keep coming over and helping her to feel the Spirit that she'll gain motivation.

These last two weeks have been so awesome! But Satan is certainly working hard to stop the work progressing. As soon as we get onto something good, he tries even harder to make us feel down about ourselves and to distract us from our purpose. We just always have to remember the importance of the work we are doing and power and authority of our callings! 

I love you all! Thank you so much for your prayers!

xoxo Sister Larsen

Monday, May 5, 2014

Zone Conference

This Wednesday we had the opportunity to have a zone conference with Elder Hamula, the area president for the Pacific area. We got to listen to him speak for two hours and it was so inspiring! He is so full of wisdom and is such an impressive scriptorian. He taught us so much about how the Book of Mormon can strengthen our (and our investigators') faith in Jesus Christ, and how it contains power unto the convincing of men that Jesus is the Christ. He counseled us about personal obedience as well, and how we gain intelligence, light, and truth through obedience to the laws of God. As missionaries, we have so many rules that we have to obey, but if we change our perspective of obedience from grudgingly following rules to gaining the blessings of heaven through obedience to divinely inspired laws, we can gain so many blessings. Probably my favorite thing he taught us was the three steps to defeat the adversary:
1. Put a smile on your face.
2. Love sincerely.
3. Walk in obedience.
If we do those three things, the adversary cannot have hold on us. If we stay positive, replace negative feelings with acts of love, and obey the laws of God, we cannot fall into temptation. I've been repeating those three things to myself since Wednesday. Smile, love, obey!!

What was extra cool about the conference was that every question I've been thinking about for the past couple of weeks was answered in something Elder Hamula said. He is definitely an inspired man of God, and our Heavenly Father is definitely aware of us and our needs.

I also had the opportunity to be one of the few missionaries interviewed by Elder Hamula himself! He just asked about myself and my area, kind of to get a cross section of how the AMM is doing. But I got some one-on-one time with a real live general authority. So cool. 

The Point Cook missionaries started planning a musical fireside this week, and we're going to pull it off this coming Sunday! We wanted to have an activity to bring the ward together to feel the Spirit together, and thankfully our idea is taking off. We've had so much support from our members to help us with musical numbers and flyers and such. I'm singing a solo (yikes) because apparently if you're a missionary with a decently good voice you get to sing all the time. So we'll see how that goes. But overall I think it's going to be really, really great!

Yesterday I had an incredible opportunity to be an instrument in the Lord's hands. We were driving around a neighborhood trying to find a member's home, but we couldn't remember where the street was, so we stopped to get our map out of the trunk. I noticed that we had stopped right in front of the home of Elizabeth, one of the former investigators we had been trying to contact for weeks but haven't had any luck with. I felt the Spirit nudging me to knock on her door, and at first I didn't really want to because she was never home. But we decided to knock anyway, and for once she was home! She told us that she had lost our number and was really glad that we had come over because she needed prayers. She told us how her mother and brother, who live in their native country of Sudan, are in trouble because two people died in their well. It was an accident, but the families of those who died are angry and unforgiving. In Sudan, it doesn't matter if the law says you are innocent if the people don't forgive, and Elizabeth is really worried for the safety of her family. We got to offer words of comfort and pray for her family with her. I know the words that I said did not come from me, but rather from our Father in Heaven through me. She was so grateful that we had come at that time when she needed her Heavenly Father most. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father gave me the opportunity to be there for one of His children and to impart His Spirit to her through me. It's things like this that make missionary work so, so worth it.

I love you all, and so does your Heavenly Father! Thank you for your prayers!

xoxo Sister Larsen

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A New Flat and a Weird Week

This has been the strangest, most off schedule week I've had yet! We got to go to transfer meeting on Tuesday (we got special permission because some of Sister Leota's good friends are going home) which was a really cool experience. All the departing missionaries bear their testimonies at the end, and it was cool to hear where I could end up after my eighteen months are over. Hearing their burning testimonies and their love for the mission, the people, and the Lord really motivated me to want to be the best missionary I can be. One of the elders in our district, Elder Snyder, is going home in the middle of this transfer, so he got to bear his testimony at the meeting. It's kind of weird being so new to the mission and serving around people who are so close to being done. But it's inspiring to see what I can become as a missionary!

We moved into our new flat this week! It's so new and so much nicer than our other flat. (I totally forgot to take pictures of it though. Next week!) We have nice carpet and the kitchen cupboards still smell new and we have a cute little garage and a little baby front lawn. We're so in love with it, even though it's quiet with just the two of us.
 

Mercedes kind of dropped us this week. We wanted to hand her over to the new Werribee sisters since she's actually in their area, so we had a lesson with all four of us missionaries there. Mercedes' sister, Ida, was visiting when we came over. Ida is actually a member, but she has been less active and going to a Catholic church for probably twenty years. We invited both of them to come to church with us on Sunday and they said yes, so we were really excited! The Werribee sisters arranged a ride for them on Sunday morning and everything. Then on Saturday the sisters stopped by to see how Mercedes was doing, and she said that she didn't want to come to church with them and she didn't want them to come visit her any more. We don't really know what happened. We think maybe her sister influenced her or something. Sister Leota and I want to stop by this week to see what's up. Mercedes is still reading the Book of Mormon every day, so I really hope it was just the confusion between having her sister over and meeting new missionaries. We shall see!

Our investigator pool is kind of dwindling, what with Mercedes and some of our other investigators kind of stopping progressing. It's been kind of a crummy week, to be honest, besides moving into our new flat. We have just been so off schedule and it's felt really weird. But it's good to be all settled and back into the normal groove of things! Hopefully if we work hard and pray hard, we'll be able to see the work pick up this week!

It's actually getting kind of cold here now, and I'm kind of regretting leaving all my scarves and hats and tights at home. I guess it just means I'll have to do some shopping! Shucks. ;)

I love you all! Thank you so much for your prayers!

xoxo Sister Larsen

Monday, April 21, 2014

It's transfers and....

....I'm moving.....

...to a new flat!! (Did I get you for half a second there?)

Sister Leota and I are staying in our same area, but we're moving to a nice new flat in Point Cook. We're moving out because another area is getting a new set of sisters and they're taking our spot in the Werribee flat. So we won't be living with our other sisters any more, which is a bummer, but we will be living closer to our members, which is great!

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter! We had a really nice musical fireside here in the mission, and I got to sing in the choir. It has been really nice to take extra time to think about the Savior and His sacrifice for us, but more importantly to think about His resurrection and express gratitude for the opportunity we have to live again and to be made clean through His atonement! What a beautiful truth that is!

These last two weeks have been school holidays, so we got to go on splits with our young women a ton. At least two of them came out with us nearly every day! It's been really cool to watch them want to come out with us and do missionary work. Some of them have been less active for a while, but they're coming back and they love coming to church and youth dances and going on splits with us now, and they all want to go on missions! They always leave the cutest notes at our flat and give us the biggest hugs. I'm so proud of them. They're like the little sisters I never had!

This week I learned a new Aussie slang word: "smash." It can mean a whole lot of things and be used in so many contexts. For example: "I smashed that cake, bro."(Translation: ''I ate that cake really fast.'') "We totally smashed our K's.'' (Translation: ''We really went over our kilometer limit this month.'') ''I can't believe Elder Valdes smashed our toilet!!'' (Translation: ''I can't believe Elder Valdes broke into our flat and left us a lovely present in our toilet and didn't flush and it stunk up the whole flat and now I'm laughing so hard I'm crying!'') All three of these usages of "smash" actually happened to me this week, in case you all were wondering.

I'm really loving the mission. I feel like I'm finally getting adjusted to how everything works here and settling into the missionary lifestyle. I appreciate everyone who has been praying for me! I can feel it! I love you all!!

xoxoxo Sister Larsen

Monday, April 14, 2014

Obedience is Power

Hello friends and family!

I was so blessed this week to be able to watch General Conference! I had heard that conference is like the Superbowl for missionaries, and I can tell you that it isn't. It's BETTER! We got to watch every session on both Saturday and Sunday, and I learned so much from every single talk! The most important thing that the Spirit taught me, though, was a reaffirmation that Thomas S. Monson really is a prophet of God, and that the apostles are chosen men ordained of God. Their words are vital scripture for us today! They are our outlet to hear exactly what God wants us to hear, in language that we can understand in our day! I am so grateful that God loves us so much to give us this direction through prophets.

One of my favorite themes I noticed throughout conference was the theme of obedience. As a missionary, you have heaps and heaps of rules and you're told to be exactly obedient to all of them. As disciples of Christ, missionary or civilian, we have commandments to be obedient to as well. A lot of times I think people think of obedience as a chore, or submission, or a degrading thing that admits that we don't have power. But obedience to God's laws is not. As L. Tom Perry said in his talk on Sunday, obedience is not weakness; it is what qualifies us to receive the power of heaven. Being obedient is choosing to access the infinite wisdom and power of God. All the things he commands us to do are for our own good, will bring us blessings, and will help us come closer to Christ. As we obey our Heavenly Father, we become more like Him. We become qualified to receive the blessings and divine assistance that he yearns to give us. Jesus Christ, as in all things, is our prime exemplar of obedience. He didn't have to suffer in the garden. He didn't have to be nailed on the cross. He was not killed by His crucifiers; He chose to die for us. He had all power to deliver Himself, yet He chose to be obedient to His Father's commandments and complete the atonement. The atonement was made possible by the obedience of our Savior. And if the Savior has such need and such willingness to be obedient to His Father, how much more need have to to be obedient as well. Obedience is not weakness.

And that's my sermon for the week! ;) On another note, we gave our sweet Mercedes a copy of the Book of Mormon this week and she is excited to start reading! She shared an experience that she had while reading her Bible. She said she felt like God was talking to her through the scriptures and telling her that she should listen to the message we have to teach her! So cool! We love her so much, and we know Heavenly Father does too!

Big thanks to everyone who has written me letters and emails! I promise I will get back to all of you as soon as I can! I even bought stamps to send real letters home, but I stuck them in a Book of Mormon and forgot about them and I'm pretty sure I gave that Book to Mercedes. So I'll have to ask for them back soon.

I love you all! The church is true!!

xoxox Sister Larsen

Monday, April 7, 2014

One month!

Hello everyone!
This Wednesday marks my first month out on the mission! How did that happen?! Time is going by so fast now!

The highlight was definitely having my first investigator come to church with us! We met this sweet lady named Mercedes who lives just down the street from us. We met her when she was walking her dog and we were walking to the bus. Her dog has loads of tumors and is being put down today, which is super sad. But she has had us over a couple of times and we taught her the plan of salvation and the restoration and she wants to be baptized! She came to church with us this Sunday and it was so fun to introduce her to everyone! She really loved church and is excited to go again!

I really hope everyone got to watch the women's conference!!! We just got to watch it on Saturday, and it was so beautiful. To the surprise of absolutely no one, I cried probably the whole time. I especially loved Sister Burton's and President Eyring's talks. SO GOOD.

We had a baptism last Saturday that I totally forgot to tell you all about! Their names are Trinity and Lebron. They're kids from a reactivated family who hadn't been baptized before they were eight years old. Their dad baptized them and their grandpa confirmed them. Their dad is this big islander guy who's really funny and kind of tough, and he cried when he bore his testimony after! It was the sweetest thing!

Being a missionary is awesome! Teaching people and feeling the Spirit is seriously the best.
I love you all so much! The church is true!



xo Sister Larsen

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

From Julia (and her mom)

A note from Kathy, followed by Julia's latest letter:

Julia didn't have very much time to write a nice, long letter so here is a little more information about what she is doing. She loves her companion. Yeah! This makes me very happy. She said all the sisters are very obedient, hard workers. She loves her district. She says Australia is great and has noticed a few fun differences between the US and Australia. Raisin Bran is called Sultana Bran and granola bars are called muesli bars. Most of the members in her area are Islanders. She has enjoyed getting to learn about a different culture. They are very loving toward her. She has seen a giant spider, but luckily the elders killed it. Her favorite thing about being a missionary is teaching a great lesson. She sounds happy! Thank you all for supporting her and praying for her. We appreciate it so much!
-------

This has been the stinkiest week. We went over our kilometer limit on our car, so we've had to bike for the last few days. It would be fine if our area weren't so big! We had to bike half an hour to Point Cook and half an hour home. There's one road that takes forever to bike, and at night it's totally infested with bugs. It's like biking through a sandstorm, but with bugs! One of them flew in my mouth. Yuck. On the bright side, that road is right though the middle of some sheep farms, so all these cute sheep come up to the fences and just lie there. You can get pretty close before they get spooked and they're SO CUTE. I like to reassure them that I don't want to eat them like everyone else here does.

We biked and biked and biked all week....but hardly anyone who we planned to visit was home. But on Sunday we had the coolest experience with a referral we got from the elders! Her name is Cynthia, and she's from India. She and her husband are super friendly and let us right in. They talked openly about their faith in God and Jesus Christ, and told us their incredibly story about moving to Australia from India, Cynthia's battle with cancer, and their current struggles to have a baby. We felt the Spirit so strongly and we really feel like they're ready to hear the gospel! Our first lesson with them went just like the Preach My Gospel DVDs! That lesson honestly made up for all the useless biking earlier.

Sorry for the short letter this week and scanty replies to everyone else ! I'm running out of time! I love you all heaps!!!

xoxoxo Sister Larsen

Monday, March 24, 2014

Julia Down Under (week 2)

G'day mates!

Second P-day already! How did that happen??

I feel more like a real missionary this week! We've done more tracting and teaching real lessons!

Tracting is terrifying. Just knocking on strangers' doors and talking to them is sooooo scary. A lot of times people are nice, but they hardly ever want to meet with us. But we always leave them with a pamphlet or a pass along card with our number and hope for the best!

We started teaching Mimi, our new investigator, this week! She and her family are from Sudan, and their whole family is absolutely gorgeous. We came over on Tuesday to help her clean for her inspections and she was just so happy to see us! When we came back later in the week to teach her, she opened up to us about her strong belief in God and her hard life in Sudan. She told us that she had been praying to find friends in Australia, and then the missionaries knocked on her door!! We told her that we're sent to her by God to be her friends and to help her! I can't wait to watch her grow and progress.

We also worked on contacting some of the many, many less actives in our ward as well as former investigators. We came across Ayan, who is a former investigator, and is also from Sudan. She totally welcomed us in and fed us lunch and let us pray with her and her kids! She told us that the elders who used to teach her just left without saying goodbye, so we don't really know what happened with them. But she seems really keen on having us back in her home, so hopefully we'll get to teach her more too!

We did exchanges with the sister training leaders this week. I went out with Sister Williams, who is also from Utah. We drove out to the very edge of our area to visit a sister in Sister Williams' ward, and it was like being out in the outback! We drove on dirt roads and saw tons of horses! We also spent a lot of time finding, so we just walked around neighborhoods and talked to people who were outside. Gosh, that was also really scary. I'm not very good at thinking of things to talk to people about, let alone start talking to them about the gospel! But I'm working on being bold and just opening my mouth and trusting that the Lord will fill it. I'm also making a list of things to say to people in case I panic and my mind goes blank like it usually does when I try talking to strangers.

I remembered my camera today so I can finally send pictures!! The top one is my last meal of Cafe Rio for a year and a half :'( and the bottom one is me and my companion, Sister Leota, at the Melbourne temple!

I love you all heaps!!
 
xoxoxox Sister Larsen






Sunday, March 16, 2014

From Down Under (March 16, 2014)

Hello all! Greetings from my first P-day in the land down under!

Australia is great! I'm serving in the Point Cook area, which is about an hour and a half west of Melbourne itself. The neighborhoods around here are quite nice (or "flash" as the Aussies say) and the people are really great. I live in a flat with another companionship of sisters, which is super fun. Our flat definitely needs a deep clean so hopefully we'll get to that today. 

My companion, Sister Leota, is awesome! She's from New Zealand but her family is Samoan. She only has a few months left on her mission! She's super nice and funny and so warm and so good to me. The sisters here call each other "Sis" or "Soa," which is Samoan for "companion." Sister Leota sometimes calls me "little flock" because my favorite scripture is D&C 6:34. Look it up! ;)

We have been so busy this week, but hardly any of what we've done has been real bonafide missionary work. We've had a district meeting, a service project with members, lots of meals with less actives and other members, splits with the Relief Society presidency, and a temple trip! I loved being able to go to the temple so early in my mission, even though it probably means that I only get to go two more times. The drive from my area to the temple is about an hour and a half without traffic, but we ran into some crazy traffic in the city so it took a little over two hours. 

Oh, and did I mention that I'M DRIVING?! My companion doesn't have her full license so she's not allowed to drive, but apparently having an American license qualifies you to drive on your first day. So I drive to my first area on my very first day in Australia. It was pretty terrifying, but we're still alive and haven't gotten super lost yet, so I'd say we're doing pretty well. The roads here are super narrow and the stoplights are in different places than in America, not to mention that they drive on the wrong side of the road here. It's an adventure every day.

The people in my area are just so wonderful! Nearly everyone is an islander or their family is from the islands, so the culture is really different from what I'm used to. Everyone is so warm and welcoming! All the sisters greet us with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, even if we've just barely met! The food is pretty interesting, too. On my very first night we went to a homecoming dinner for a girl in our district who just came home from her mission, and there was so. much. food!!! Aaaaaand a whole pig. An entire, roasted, head and ears still attached, pig, just hanging out on the counter. And we went to a luau at the church on Saturday, and there was another entire pig!! It freaked me out so much, but everyone else seemed to love it. Everyone eats tons of food, too, so they look at me funny if I don't fill my entire platter-sized dinner plate and always ask if I've had enough to eat even if I'm full to bursting. I haven't been properly hungry in the last week because everyone feeds us so much!

People here eat a TON of meat, which is an interesting experience for little vegetarian me. The members are all really accommodating and willing to put an extra salad on the table or cook fish as well as chicken. On Saturday, though, we had lunch at a less active sister's house with two of the other sets of elders in our district, and she cooked us steak. And not just regular sized steaks, either. They were "massive as" (as they say here...I'm still not sure quite what they are as massive as...) rump steaks that she just hacked off a giant hunk of cow and threw on the grill. She seemed like someone who would probably get offended if I didn't eat her cooking....so I ate my steak. Oh, man. It was the first red meat I've eaten in YEARS, and it made me so sick! I was nauseous for the next day and a half. Now even the smell of meat makes me feel queasy. So, no more meat for me.

We spent a lot of time this week the the Ta'ala family. They have been less active for a long time, but are coming back to church and working towards getting their family sealed in the temple!! They fed us twice this week, and we got to talk with them about the importance of family and temple covenants. Sister Ta'ala is quitting smoking so she can go to the temple! They've had to completely change their lives for the gospel, and I admire their sacrifice and dedication so much.

We only did a little bit of tracting this week, and all of it was totally unsuccessful. Hopefully next week we'll be able to do some more finding and get us some investigators!

I love you all! Best wishes to everyone back home! The church is true!

Love,

Sister Larsen