Sep 6, 2016

18 Months of the Good Life. It Doesn't Get NE Better.

Our ward mission leader had this "brilliant" idea to have a "going away" party for our ward family home evening on Monday night. So the reason for it was depressing, but we invited ward members, less active members and investigators and it seemed to give people a reason to come. I was told that I could invite anyone that I wanted so I invited Bob and Lucy from Eagle Run, the Brimhalls from Cottonwood, Jorge and Renee and the Fokkens from Ralston, a few others to help represent all of my different areas. It was a little strange to see everyone together, but it was so much fun to be able to be reminded of how many incredible people I've met over these last 18 months. We had a lesson and then ate cake so it was a good time.

Other noteworthy events:

-Probably gained 10 pounds from eating out. Everybody is way too nice.

-Got 2 return appointments, ran into a guy we tracted into a month ago and taught the Restoration to someone in their car within a time frame of 15 minutes in a gas station parking lot.

-I was able to the temple with Christine! Eli had to be on kid duty and Christine wanted to wait to do baptisms with him, but we were able to watch others to baptisms and she was so excited to be there. She couldn't stop talking about how beautiful and peaceful it was and I can't wait to be able to take her upstairs one day.

It doesn't feel real to think that this is the last letter that I will be writing as a missionary and I don't really know how to put into words how I'm feeling. There were a lot of lasts this week and I think it's finally hitting me that I won't be a missionary anymore. These last 18 months have definitely had it's ups and downs and in betweens, but I wouldn't change a second of them. A mission has been the best decision that I have ever made in my entire life. I have been able to learn and grow in so many ways that I would never have been able to otherwise and I will forever be so eternally grateful for this adventure. I feel like I can now testify will my entire soul that this church is true. I know it and I know that will never be able to deny the fact that I know that Jesus is the Christ. He is my Lord, my Savior, and my best friend. I have had so many experiences to help me know that He really does live. He is here and loves us more than we can even comprehend. That is why He gave absolutely everything for us so that we could return home to live with our Heavenly Father. I have loved every minute that I've had to wear His name on my chest here in the Cornhusker state. Nebraska will always hold a very special place in my heart and if I think too much about leaving it's not going to be a pretty picture. I feel so spoiled that I got to be at the Trail Center and serve in such a sacred place. I have loved sharing the pioneer's story with every person that came in and learn more myself each day about sacrifice, faith and never giving up. This place really has become my home and I will desperately miss it along with everyone here. So even though it's painful to leave it behind, I thank my Heavenly Father for each and every day that I've had out here. This really has been the good life.
 The Siows! Such good people.

 Bob and Lucy! Also good people.

 If I look at this for too long I'm going to start crying. So there's that.

 My cute family. Love them dearly!

 That is until my granddaughter tries killing me off. I guess you have to deal with family drama at some point.

 Christine and the temple. Two of my favorite things.

Aug 30, 2016

Men Are, That They Might Have Joy

Bible bashes are always an interesting experience. Thankfully, I haven't had too many of them on my mission, but on Tuesday we ended up speaking with a Jehovah's Witness and, naturally, she tried converting us. It's always so strange and awkward when that happens because I always think, "that's supposed to be our job!" We somehow got on the topic of Adam and Eve and something that I came to realize this week was that most people believe that God never intended for Eve to partake of the fruit because He wanted all of us to live in a "perfect state" forever. After listening to her explain that, it made me so grateful for the knowledge that the Book of Mormon is able to provide in helping us know that the Fall was essential because we have to face opposition in all things to be able to learn and progress. If the Fall had never occurred, we would never know good from evil, happiness from sadness and so on. It is such a blessing to know that our Heavenly Father doesn't want us to just live here on earth, die and then that's it. He wants us to experience a fullness of joy and to become like Him. He wants us to reach our full potential and has a perfect plan to help us get there.

On Thursday, I was at the Trail Center and received a lovely surprise: Eli and Christine came to visit! I was able to finally meet little Aryannah and catch up with them. They are definitely going through some hard times with work and trying to figure life out, but it was so amazing to talk with them and see how much this gospel has already helped them. Even with everything that they have gone through, their testimonies are still so strong and I know that they have so much potential and so much in store for them. They also told me that they are wanting to go to the temple for the first time to do baptisms next week so I am praying that I'll be able to go with them. They really are so special and I just love them so much!
 I guess garages are now segregated in Omaha. Who knew?

 Gotta love that Nebraska corn.

Christine and Aryannah! Oh, how I love them.

Aug 23, 2016

Play Ball!

It's been such a fun week! On Monday we were able to help out with a luau that was put on for the senior couples. A group of us learned a Samoan and Tahitian dance for the occasion and it was so much fun! So I guess I never got to learn the Samoan language on my mission like my dad, but at least I got to learn how to dance like them. No complaints here.

We then had zone conference on Tuesday and it was amazing, as always. During the conference, we focused on what having "a mighty change of heart" really means. I have come to realize as I've been studying this question that our heart needs to be changed in order to become who our Heavenly Father needs us to become. And, in reality, He doesn't want us to change for Him. He wants us to change so that we can not only become who He wants us to be, but who He knows we can be. He wants us to reach our full potential and when we're humble enough to give our will to Him, He is able to mold us into somebody that is far greater than anything we could imagine for ourselves. President Gardner talked to us about how we can know that we've had a change of heart when instead of saying "I can't" we say "I don't want to". We come to realize that our Heavenly Father truly knows what's best for us and that He wants us to be happy and successful in our lives. The only way that we can truly achieve that is by submitting our will to Him and trusting Him. It's not an easy thing to do, but thankfully we have help along the way.

After the conference we were able to play softball with everyone and we even got to see President Gardner in jeans. That was definitely a highlight. And, yes family, I did hit the ball, thank you very much.

Another event of the week: my kidney stones returned. So dumb, I know. It seems be a curse at the Trail Center that every time sisters get ready to go home, something happens to them. But don't worry, they weren't nearly as bad as last time and I'm doing a lot better. The Lord definitely takes care of His missionaries.
 Why, yes. Those are feathers on my hips.

 This is how the islanders do it.

 Sometimes I like to pretend that I'm athletic. 

 We don't mess around in Omaha.

Sister Willis returns! #wealwaysback

Aug 15, 2016

A Couple Three Times Six Months.

Well, it happened. I have now officially been a missionary for 18 months. To be honest, it really doesn't feel like it has actually been that long. Looking back, it is crazy to see how much has happened and to see how much I have learned over this past year and a half. I think that the biggest lesson that I have learned is that everyone is on the same journey. We all take different paths to get to our final destination, but really, we are all here for the same purpose and that is to return home to live with our Heavenly Father. I have come to realize that there are so many people who don't know that we don't have do this on our own. I have met so many people who struggle and suffer and wonder how God could let bad things happen, but the truth is that we would never know the good times without the bad. Our Heavenly Father knew that this life would not be easy, because it isn't supposed to be, but that is why we have our Savior so that we can have help along the way. How comforting is it to know that we don't have to do this by ourselves? It has been such a life changing experience to be able to share this plan with the people here in Nebraska and it has amazed me to see how much love I really do have for them.

I think what I am going to miss the most is all the miracles that we see as missionaries. One huge miracle that happened was on a tour that I took with a woman named Shannon. She came into the Trail Center and told me that she was on a trip around the country by herself and as I got to know her better, I found out that she has been struggling to know where she should be in life. She had a lot of questions about the church and I ended up giving her a Book of Mormon and testified to her of the it's truth and that she could find that out for herself. At the end of the tour, we ran into some members from another tour and we ended up having a member present lesson about gaining a person witness of the truth of the gospel. It was so cool! After they left we could both feel the Spirit so strong and she ended up committing to be baptized! Since she is traveling, she didn't have a place for missionaries to go to, but she said that she is planning on going to Temple Square and I got her contact information as well. It really is the most incredible thing to see people so prepared to hear about the gospel and accept it. That is why missionary work is the best.

I also got to go inside of the temple twice this week. I helped clean it on Monday and then I was able to go to a session with a member from the Ralston ward that I worked with. Her name is Lindsay and I love her to death. She was baptized about a year and half ago and has read through the temple pamphlet about 14 times because she has been so excited about going inside. It was so amazing to be able to see her experience receiving her endowment and it definitely helped strengthen my testimony and love for the temple as well. The church is so true.
 It decided to pour on the day I hit 18 months, so we danced in the rain to celebrate.

 Yep. This about explains it.

 Because Sister Murphy always wants a laughing picture on the bench.

 Happy 18 Months!

 Nailed it.

This is Lindsay. Isn't she adorable?

Aug 8, 2016

"No Unhallowed Hand Can Stop the Work From Progressing."

We have been able to do A LOT of finding this week. On Tuesday we ended up tracting for about 4 hours and, unfortunately, we didn't have too much luck. However, we did knock on one woman's door and when we told her who we were she said "Oh! Well I am actually in the middle of a prayer that we say at 3 pm every day. You can come join me if you like!" I figured that missions are about experiencing new things, right? So we ended up going inside and she had a radio station playing where they were having people call in talk about who they wanted to pray for and then they would say some Catholic prayer to help them. We just sat there and listened, but it was really interesting to get an idea of what Catholics do. We came to find out that her name is Judy and she is a very VERY devout Catholic. But we ended up watching the #hallelujah video with her so we are hoping that one day she'll be open to learning more.

On Thursday we had our "finding night". President had told us last week that we were going to have a night when every missionary in the mission would go out and find people from 6-9. So on Thursday we had a conference call all together and President told us that he wanted every companion to set a goal to hand out at least 2 copies of the Book of Mormon, teach the Restoration 3 times and set one person for baptism. As Sister Pinhey and I went out we were able to see SO many miracles. One of the biggest miracles happened during the last hour of the night. We were going to tract around a less active member's house but our GPS started taking us out of our area, so we ended up just stopping in a random neighborhood and parked the car. As we walked up one of the streets I looked at one house and saw that the car's license plate said SJS which are my initials. I thought that was kind of cool, but then I saw that their other car's plate said SAV and I knew we had to stop there. Nobody answered the door but a guy walked out of the garage and told us there was a tornado warning. (Satan thinks he's so funny.) We started talking to him about his faith and he told us about his "miracle baby". We learned that he and his wife had just had a baby who wasn't supposed to survive but is now completely healthy and he knew that was a miracle from God. I felt impressed to ask what her name was and learned that it's Savannah Rae. What are the odds?! I absolutely knew at that point that we had been led to him for a reason. We taught him the Restoration but when we got to Joseph Smith he kind of backed up and told us "That man has nothing to do with my Jesus" and got kind of defensive. It was incredible to literally see the Spirit softening his heart as we testified and explained to him that Joseph Smith didn't start his own church but was a tool in restoring Christ's. We ended up setting him for baptism and he is really excited to learn more!

Within those three hours, as a companionship we handed out 4 Book of Mormons, taught the Restoration 6 times and set 1 person for baptism. As a mission we handed out 281 Book of Mormons, taught the Restoration 308 times and set 109 people for baptism. So even though there were tornadoes and rain trying to pause everything, I witnessed that there truly is nothing that will stop the Lord's work from progressing.
 Sometimes we have music parties in the car at 10 pm. It's the little things...

 Isn't she cute?

The best Sisters I ever did see.

Aug 1, 2016

Our Light In the Wilderness

Sister Hutchison and I were shocked this week when we heard about transfers. We were pretty sure that we would be staying together since we had only been together for one transfer, but we ended up finding out that Sister Hutchison would be moving to the Old Mill ward and I would be staying here in Bennington. I now get to be companions with Sister Pinhey (pronounced "penny") who is actually my granddaughter! So that should be fun. I am definitely going to miss Sister Huchison SO much. We decided that President split us up because we were having way too much fun, but the best part of being at the Trail Center is that we still get to see everyone every day.

Throughout this week I have noticed that there have been a lot of really bad moments but also a lot of really good moments that have gone along with them. Some of those include:

-Sisters going home. But we got to meet some of their families and Sister Murphy is BACK.
-Sister Hutchison leaving Bennington but now I get to start a new adventure with Sister Pinhey.
-It's been so busy at the Trail Center but that means that more people are taking part of this sacred place.
-The fact that I'm starting my last transfer. But that means that I get to use this time to give my all and try my best to learn everything that I need to.

I've come to realize on my mission that you really can't have light without the dark. You have to experience the rough times so that you can appreciate the good, and I've learned that you can always find tender mercies in the hardest of times. We all go through a "wilderness" period of our lives, but we can always find light in the dark through Christ and through knowing that He will guide us along the way. [1 Nephi 17:13]
 This is actually why President transferred Sister Hutchison... Thanks, Jaren for helping me represent my team!

 We decided to take pictures of us walking off into the sunset together on our last night. 

 And then I attacked her...

Meet Sister Pinhey!

Jul 26, 2016

The Big Two Four

There has been a heat wave going through Omaha and it has gotten up to about 113 degrees with the heat index and close to 100% humidity, so that's been an adventure. Sister Hutchison and I have actually been really lucky to have been inside most of the week, so we didn't have to deal with it too much, but as we've braced it we've been able to see so many good things. Unfortunately, Emma ended up dropping us this week, but we have been able to find some new promising potential investigators, so we're excited to see what happens with them.

Birthdays on a mission are definitely different than they would be back home, but I couldn't have asked for a better day. My amazing mom arranged a little "surprise party" with the other sisters at the Trail Center that included pizza and cheesecake so I had no complaints at all. After we were at the Trail Center we volunteered at a health clinic and the doctors ended up taking us out to dinner at Wheatfields which was delicious. When we got back to the Trail Center that night we had found that a member from our ward had dropped off a huge platter of food from Famous Daves and another member was there with cupcakes. It was so incredibly sweet of them! Good thing calories don't count on your birthday, right? Bennington knows how to do birthdays. I definitely felt so spoiled.

I loved going to church yesterday and having such a focus on the pioneers for Pioneer Day. To be honest, at the Trail Center it feels like every day is Pioneer Day, but I really wouldn't want it any other way. I feel so blessed to be able to share their story every day with the people I meet and to be serving and such a sacred place. They really are such an incredible example of sacrifice and doing whatever was asked of them because they had sunk their testimonies so deep into their hearts. I have grown such a love for them and I know that it will only continue to grow.

Thank you all so much for all of the birthday wishes! I honestly have no idea how I got so lucky to have such incredible family and friends, but I hope you all know how much I love you!
 I couldn't have asked for better company.

 Thanks for the balloons, mom!

 This is how we party.

 None of them are leaving. Ever. Departing testimonies are the worst.

Happy Pioneer Day, everyone!
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