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

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