Monday, June 15, 2015

preface
It is so difficult to leave your mission. This transfer I say would make top 3 of most difficult transfers. Everything has been so wonderful. We find, we teach, we invite, we baptise as befits our purpose. I think it helped that I kept the fact that my time was up on the down low so I only really got ... two days of people asking me post-mission plans? But I've been spending all this time like I'll be here forever and the reality that I will not be. 
I know I am going home, but I am leaving home as well - if you understand me. 
The people here, the experiences, knowing that today I made a difference, today I helped someone draw closer to Christ, today I walked the paths our Saviour would walk - one step after the other. It is a good feeling. It is so good focusing on the spiritual. 

buzzybriansbaptism

I keep asking - are we allowed to have favourite baptisms? Everyone's journey is special and I am privileged to play a part in it, but having been there from the beginning of the teaching process to the ordinance of baptism? Wow, that's special!
Dannielle and Brother Finau gave really good talks. Tears may have been shed. Dannielle spoke about repentance and baptism. She spoke about how repentance is a gift, repentance means change. And that even if you forgot to read your scriptures or did not pray that day, don't worry. That's what repentance is for. Just start again tomorrow. Brother Finau was really funny, he gave Brian baptism presents (and related it to his talk about the Holy Ghost) - chocolate - representing fleeting happiness and a Captain America figurine - representing putting on the armour of God. And some people that we met the day before attended also with his family! He was a Seventh Day Adventist minister. I'm glad he and his family came. His kids made friends with bishop's kids and he said he enjoyed the service. :) 

And then Sonny (his cousin) performed the baptism. And then Brian bore his testimony! Sorry Brian if you read this and for quoting you so exactly but he spoke about his spiritual journey. How he came from NZ for a fresh start to live with his aunty and uncle and soon Brother Finau came to live with them (Brother Finau had to finish his studies, so his family is in the US while he has to do one more course!) and as soon as Brother Finau realised Brian was not a member he started working on him. And Brian said he heard the word "repent" a hundred + times a day, he'd be making his coffee in the morning and everybody would say "repent" and he did not understand why they were saying that. But then the mormon message "men's hearts shall fail them" changed his perspective. And he also started crying - this 20y.o. guy, crying whilst bearing his testimony. His family crying in the front row - especially his aunt who had not been to church in so long
And he pulled out a heart note that we gave him with Mosiah 18:10 written on it to help him remember how he felt during that lesson. Now all that is missing which sadly I really can't capture or convey through the medium of blog would be the musical items. Hymns can really bring the Spirit. I have a firm testimony of that. 
This is one person's story. There are millions of members of the church. This is why D&C 4 says "and now behold, a marvelous work and a wonder is about to come forth among the children of men." This marvelous work is the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

conclusion
It would be so entirely impossible to sum up everything I've learned during my mission and all the many ways that it has impacted me in one sentence, in one paragraph - even a monster paragraph! So if you read, don't just read this entry! Search around to capture a more holistic mission experience.
3 Nephi 5:13
Who am I? I have learned on my mission that I am not just "Ellen", I am not just a comm/law student, a tutor, a reader, a romantic... All these things that I thought I was were stripped away. All that was left was my testimony. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I suppose I will once again slowly gather other labels again, but I hope nothing hides my true identity. I am a child of God. And so are you! Never forget it :)  

Sister Soh took a photo of me walking in front of her at the temple. It seems fitting. 
Goodbye Adelaide. Goodbye blog. Goodbye ZAAM.

Now the true test is whether I live what I have learned. Until next time

Saturday, June 13, 2015

big girl pants
Sister Carter (our mission mum) has a saying. When things are tough, she says in her American Mom voice "put on your big pants, honey!"
I'll tell you a secret - your last transfer requires big girl pants. I haven't really spoken about it yet because quite frankly I think I was in denial. But with less than one week to go, my companion says it would be unkind to not say goodbye. My mission mum told me a lot more counsel but I kind of feel like it will only relate when you are in that exact moment, otherwise it will distract you? The Carter's are finishing their mission too! I will be their last intake going home. We'll build beautiful zion again someday :) 

faith
Something I've realised lately is that faith is not what I thought it was. I thought faith was the complete absence of doubt, or maybe certain knowledge. I thought that if your faith wasn't unshakeable, then it wasn't faith. But I've learned that faith comes in all shapes and sizes. It is a gift from God. True faith is shown when one moves and acts and reaches upwards and outwards despite the doubt or questions which plague you and ask you to stop. 
I really feel like the world today encourages you to discount your faith. You can't prove it? It must not be true! Or science says this or the media said that. Or move on with the times. Even myself, when I feel an inkling of doubt and I feel so anguished because how could I doubt? How can I still have this question? 
I wonder if the things I am saying resonates with anyone. In any case, I've learned that it is okay to admit that there are some things you don't know. There are some things that mankind will never know, there are some things that mankind cannot know because our finite mortal bodies and minds cannot even grasp the concept of eternity. And when your crisis of faith comes, when, as Elder Briscoe put it, an earthquake runs through your foundation of faith, the worst thing you can do is cave into those negative thoughts! You know that God is there and that He loves you. This past week there was this man who was awful to us at the door. And Sister Soh said she knew the Saviour was with us. I asked her, how did you know? Could you feel it? She said she couldn't feel it. She just knew. 
Trust yourself! Trust that sweet spirit. That's my advice to you and to myself. And as you trust and you move forward, your faith grows. That's faith. 
There's so much more I could say and expound upon but I think I'll have to wait until next personal study or the next time I give a talk! 

This is so not what I intended to write hahaha. But maybe someone out there needs it? Until next time! :) 

PS


Book of Mormon class! ft. Brian who is being baptised this saturday!! and brother finau and brother tuigamala. 
And temple trip today with lovely Sister Soh :)


love you all! have a great week!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Hello dear family/blog! 

OKAY this past week has been so great! Except for Friday, Friday was a hard day. Something about weekly planning seems to get me down, but we persevered and my companion was like I don't know what to do do you want to talk someone? And I didn't want to just yet I wanted to exhaust all the other avenues heavenly father has given us so I went into the room and I tried to lie down because I was tired but I was not sleepy (it is hard to discern sometimes what you need) so instead I just prayed and when I ran out of words (which I do, even in prayer sometimes) I just kind of meditated I suppose and I felt like that was really, really good for my soul. 
So I think I share this because a missionary will always share the highlights but i don't think you can appreciate really how special the highlights are unless you know that we suffer as others do, and we are under an extraordinary amount of pressure and as we learn to rely on heavenly father, that's what produces the miracles. 

But let's not focus on the negatives because as I said this week was really wonderful!
Our previous rescue had another Sunday off and came to church again! I love that family so much. She's Filipino and whenever we come over she cooks a FEAST. It reminds me of the Filipino parties you know with all the food on the table and it is kind of like a buffet and I forgot that that was what I was used to with all the western food I've eaten on my mission and how they give you your own serving.. it was awesome. I had ube again! Hooray! And lots of spring rolls.
Anyway, she had been struggling a bit over the past few, well, years... and almost losing her testimony and even considering going back to her old church but we knew she had a testimony, and so we tried to fan the embers of that testimony and she said she would try church just one more time before shutting the door and she did and it was a wonderful experience! And she just looked so happy. Sister Soh always says the gospel is so logical! You look at that face and that manner, and even if you were blind I'm sure you could feel her happy glow and you tell us that this isn't the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. You tell us that something that so obviously benefits her is not from God. We've had too many experiences to doubt. 

And what else has been happening?
Our investigator Brian had an interesting spiritual experience. First off let me tell you about their family. They are Samoan + a Tongan family friend living with them and the islander culture is quite different to the Aussie way of life. it is similar to Filipino culture re food haha but ah I can't explain it. it's just different. Anyway, we joined them for Family Home Evening last night and our investigator was teaching us the lesson (role reversal, hey) and also we had just had lunch with that family at another family's home and we talked about standards (watched "Stay Within the Lines" it's a good one. I recommend it) and that was good! And then the father of the home turned the time to us and we talked about the b word, baptism and how his prayers were going etc etc. And then he shared with us that interesting spiritual experience - with the aid of Brother Finau. 
So, I wish I could draw this for you haha but he was running along the beach after work and the sun was setting and he was standing on some cliffs and he realised that the sun rays were pointing directly to where he was, on the cliff. He felt like God was speaking to him, giving him the signal but his reply was "I'm not ready!" 
Hahaha... so we talked about that and what was keeping him from entering into that sacred covenant with heavenly father and we used the Book of Mormon to allay his fears and we invited him to baptism for the date that we had prayed about and he accepted. 
Something else I love about teaching this family is that we seem to always begin and end our lessons with hymns. And they are so good at singing - any hymn we sing turns into a 4 part choir. And I love music and the Spirit that it brings. I told Sister Soh, who needs iTunes when you have a hymn book? hahahaha! 

I've been thinking about the favourite moments of my mission and like you hear missionaries say so many things but I wanted what i said to be real and from the bottom of my heart and not just some cliche. And I think that honestly the favourite moments of my mission have been when we have felt the Spirit in the room and in the lesson and then invited our investigator to baptism. Elder Holland described this in a talk "The Divine Companionship." The veil is thin, hearts burn, sometimes tears are shed and nobody in the room would rather be anywhere else. And then like that corny EFY song "I cry and say, this is what matters. The truth is calling to you." I used to think that song was ridiculous but I realised that it kind of is describing a true moment. And that moment is the best. I think glimpses of this also happen whenever we find someone new to teach, or we hear someone's very first prayer ever. But really something in common with all of these moments is the presence of God's Spirit. My dad's mission changed his life in so many ways but he told me something that I think I'll always remember. He told me that the greatest blessing of all from his mission (and mind you that's where he met my mum and boom 4 kids a house no dog later) was the testimony that he received that God lives and that this is His church. All he left on his mission with was the knowledge that the Book of Mormon is true - but that's all you need to start, hey? I'm really grateful for the rich heritage my pioneer parents have left me. 

Attached are some photos!

                                                                     district activity
some nice scenery from my pro companion except i think the resolution may be small, sorry
eating a giant marshmallow from kyle and kirsty. it seemed like a good idea but after 1/3 of the marshmallow i was kind of done with it. but i'm sure it would work great over a fire!! 
our lemon tree in the backyard - the colours are so bright and poppy 


oh yes and at sister rowling's house. with the cat. I've developed an interesting kind of relationship with dogs and cats on the mission. but in case of any cat or dog lovers out there, I think I'll refrain from explaining the nuances of it. But I'm really glad my family didn't get a little inside dog while I've been gone. Hehehe. 

This is the best work ever! Elder Holland says 'welcome to the work of angels'. It's true. This work and the change that the restored gospel can make in people's lives is nothing short of miraculous. 

Anyway, thanks for reading. Have a great week!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

TRADE OFFS
Trade offs!!!! I'm so happy I got to stay in my area - I love my area. Sister Funaki came and we had a blast. A righteous blast. We went tracting and there was this guy middle aged or so and he was drunk as and bless her heart Sister Funaki she couldn't tell and we were talking to him and he was like "I'm not interested" but Sister Funaki just got to know him and talked to him and then he started asking questions like "so how do you know God is real?" "what makes you come here to my door and think you can tell me what to do? I already live a good life, why would I need God?" and the words just flowed and we replied I was really grateful because I've kind of been struggling with loving people lately - if that makes sense as in if someone is rude I just say thanks have a nice day and nurse my wounds whereas a more loving missionary would see past the rudeness and still try to help and still give love - so I was really glad to be with Sister Funaki because she helped me see past the fact that he was a drunk lone man at 5pm who had the signs of an alcoholic and who had made some bad choices in his life. And I told him that I knew Heavenly Father loved him, and I was able to tell him that because I just knew. And I knew that this was what our mission was for. We aren't just sent to those that are ready, to those who welcome us in with open arms, we are sent to help and serve. And that man needed kindness that night. I asked him a question before we went (and he will still a little aggressive) I asked him "are you even really happy?" and then he almost started to cry and he said I hit the nail on the head and all this bravado about how rubbish religion is really was just a covering for his insecurities and sadness. It was so sad, I wish I could help more. He was pretty adamant about no more religious talk but that was okay, we told him we would say hello when we were in the area. I think serving in lower socio-economic areas is very eye opening because growing up amidst it in Sydney, near it, not quite in it, I was always taught to avoid, to hold your bag, not to make eye contact and hopefully not to live near any housing commission. Which makes sense but as a missionary ah you just start to love the people and you wish, you wish that you could do more to help. But they have their agency.
So that was one tracting experience. I've had so many on my mission it all just blends together.
And Sister Funaki is a star! She just radiates love. I wish I could be more like that but I think I accept myself for who I am and I try to give where I have. It's so good having the opportunity to serve with others.


LOCAL RADIO
Now this is another interesting story. So Sasha the one with the beanie has been running a local live radio for Ramsay Place outside of Colonnades and we saw her there right after lunch with Dannielle after an appointment in the library (SO many things happened this week! it's so hard just picking the choicest experiences...) and when we went over to see what she was doing with that huge microphone we realised that it was live and it all started when she asked me for my first name because that launched into discussion about "Sister" and why I gave up my first name and what else I gave up and why on earth I gave it up in the first place and what it is like being a missionary in Adelaide. And then I told her about my two awesome friends Sister Funaki and Dannielle and she interviewed Dannielle who has just come back from her mission in the Marshall Islands!!!! Dannielle is so awesome. RM shines from her. I hope to be like that also (:  and she was able to share a bit about her mission experience also and contacting I think has never been more fun! Haha!

POSH CHIP BUTTY
I'm not sure I told you about this but Marlene and Tom gave us a posh chip butty. It is posh because of fancy bread and being cut in quarters. It is Liverpool, England slang they said. It tasted really good and I am determined to remember it - haha!!
We had a lot of fun trying to say "butty" the way they do. Australia is so wonderful. So many cultures all in one!

MOSIAH 18:10
I love Mosiah 18:8-10. The words ring so true to me. And we had a really choice experience with it with Brian yesterday night. Everybody shared testimony to invite the spirit and then we shared Mosiah 18:8-9 and asked him what his "spiritual desires" are. After ascertaining that they were to return to live with God again and that they were very important to him, we asked him to read vs 10 out loud. And it stuck to him. Look it up! Read it yourself (:
I think watching him have a spiritual experience with the Book of Mormon - because it is spiritual, you know, when  you feel like these words written so long ago are talking directly to you - was so wonderful. We pray a lot that our investigators will have spiritual experiences. So that was really nice.

Okay I feel like I have so much more still to share about baptismal invites and stake conferences and other lessons and members doing missionary work and new people in our teaching pool but you are all probably getting tired so I will close with a poem our mission president sent us. Sadly I empathise with it way too much - especially the first two chapters? But that's okay! Christ helps us through :) He fills all sidewalk holes. I know that is true.

There is a Hole in My Sidewalk

Chapter One:
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost...I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two:
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend that I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe that I am in this same place.
But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in...it's a habit...but, my
eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter Four:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five:
I walk down another street.

Chapter Six:
I walked down the street with the hole in the sidewalk.... I kneeled down and filled in the hole so that no one could fall in.


Missionary work is the best! It is so fulfilling being able to do what is most important to me, my soul feels so full when I pray after a day full of work because I can feel that I am doing what Heavenly Father wants me to do. Often it is so easy to lose sight of the difference that one makes and it is so easy to get bogged down because of my weaknesses, my limitations, shortcomings and sin, but this is what prayer is for.
Serving a mission has definitely not always been easy, there have been many times where I can't see past through to the next day, or even the next meal break .... but the rapid ascents and declines I know are moving me upward. Because I look back at my mission and my life and I know that I am stronger for those experiences, I know that I am closer to Heavenly Father and my Saviour for those experiences.
Maybe one day I'll learn how to get closer with suffering hahahhaaha but I don't think so. Even our Saviour had to suffer to know what our mortal condition would be like, even He once was cut off from the presence of our Father - He who was without sin!
I know you may not be able to exactly know what it is like being a full time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, maybe not even ever, and perhaps if you have been, you won't know what it was like to serve in Adelaide, and if you served in Adelaide, you won't know what it was like to be me, serving in Adelaide. But my dad always says that a wise person learns from the mistakes of others so I hope that reading the blog helps you to learn heaps! And I hope even if I still accidentally use too much jargon you can trust what you feel and have that taste of what missionary service is like. But it is different for everyone! Testimony and conversion is such so unique. But I hope that the sharing of my experiences adds some flavour and colour to your own spiritual journeys, wherever you are on that path. Feel free to talk to me when I am back.
Love to all! Have a great week. (: 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

So last time I wanted to tell you about a recent convert couple Marlene and Tom but then I so rudely ran out of time! (we are all very blessed it went through last week because the computer started to shut down the moment I pressed send - but I suppose there's a lesson in procrastination or time management in that). Marlene and Tom joined the church maybe 18 months ago and they are working to get sealed in the temple. They've been married for more than 50 years and they are from Liverpool, England and I admire them both so much. When I was last in the area we visited Marlene a lot because Tom was in hospital and when we could we'd ask permission from our leaders to leave our area and visit Tom! But now Tom is back at home and recuperating well. I think around 3 years ago, after a morning jog, Tom had a stroke. And their lives changed forever. But then the sisters knocked on their door! I remember Sister Christensen telling me about the first time she taught them about prayer and how they could pray to God directly and didn't have to pray through any saints for help. They've come so far. And Tom has a talent for writing! I find his story really inspirational and I think that the message of hope that it shares really is the gospel message. I know that the Lord works in mysterious ways that we often cannot comprehend from our mortal perspective. So here is an exerpt:
"I've met some beautiful and wonderful, caring people since the stroke. I'd like to dedicate this story to those people, to my wife and full time carer Marlene and to those who are also struggling to recover. Don't give up. Don't give in to hopelessness. I know I want to get back to the way I was. Love is my motivation. This is a deep seated love for my wife. We've been married for fifty four years now...
My first attempt at walking holding onto a bar was actually a magical feeling. I'll tell you how that came about. One of the nurses came into my room one day and said, "Tom, how would you like to go for a walk?" I thought she was joking. I told her I couldn't walk. But she said, "You haven't tried it with me yet have you? I'm going to take you for a walk down the passageway, holding onto the wall bar. Don't worry about it, I'll be with you, you'll be safe." So she wheeled me out to the passageway in the wheelchair and positioned me next to the bar. She told me to stand and then took the chair away, came back and told me to start walking slowly, taking steps. I just felt so relieved when I took that first step. Then I took my second step, still holding the bar, strangling the life out of it. I was holding the bar so tightly. I took about ten steps and thought I was in some magical moment. I was moving but nobody was pushing me, and I wasn't in the wheelchair. It was then that I noticed the members of my family at the other end of the bar. They were watching with a look of surprise and wonderment. My daughter was crying with happiness. They thought they would never see me standing or walking ever again. I am eternally grateful for that nurse. I wish I could remember her name. She showed me how to walk. I think that maybe God sent her to me."
Something else that happened this week was weekly Book of Mormon class! A member came with our investigator, he's playing like a fatherly and mentor role for him right now as his family is in the States but he said something that stood out to me. He said he had many friends from many different religions and he asked them all, "how do you know your church is true?" And he said all his friends said the same thing! And I tried to guess what they all said but I couldn't think of it. And he said, they all say "I know my church is true because we follow the Bible."
And I thought - what a paradox! All of these different churches reading the bible and only the bible and purely the bible yknow and yet following so many different traditions.
And we were studying 2 Nephi 29 at the time (awesome chapter) and talking about how we know our church is true. The member went on to explain that we are the only church that does not base their authority on the Bible, but we use the Bible and go to the author of all truth Himself, we ask God the Father, the author of all truth, what is truth. And we get our answer. And we belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!
I feel like this is something I understood as a child but something I had forgotten as I grew up somehow. The world beckons - you know? But if we heed the still, small voice, we will not be led astray.
So another wonderful week has passed in the ZAAM - full of ups and downs.
Until next time!
Have a miraculous week. :)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

NUTTY
During our doorknocking adventures Sister Soh saw a sign that said "no religious nutters." We thought that was fairly humorous but that it would be disrespectful to take a picture BUT later that day we popped by our investigator's house. His name is Keith. He is 85 but sharp as anything! In fact, he is doing some online studies right now! But also something that happened recently is that he got diagnosed with cancer. But he is facing the future with as much hope as ever. Anyway, whenever we pop by he gives us chocolate bars hehe but that morning he said he was out of chocolate bars and gave us nuts instead. So it is a photo of two religious nutters. Because who else goes tracting in the rain? We weren't quite nutty enough to actually take the photo in the rain. HAHA but close enough!


FIRST PRAYERS
I think that hearing someone's very first prayer is one of the most special experiences I've ever had on my mission. They met Anna on trade offs last week and we met at the library for the first time last Saturday. She comes from a church background where prayers are often done "speaking in tongues" which kind of has always made Anna uncomfortable so at the conclusion of the lesson when we invited her to pray she shied away from it. But then we taught her the true doctrine of prayer! And we explained to her how the spirit feels - that something of God will never make you feel uncomfortable but the fruits of the spirit are joy, love, peace, comfort etc. And she gathered her courage and said her first prayer and it was so sweet!! She's such a cutie pie. Her prayer went like this, "Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for being in our lives. In Jesus' name, Amen" but the spirit that was in the room was undeniable. Subtle, but undeniable. Personally I just felt a lift. And when we asked her how she felt, she said she felt refreshed which i thought captured the moment perfectly. And it really is humbling to know that that's basically how the church was restored, because of someone else's first prayer in a grove of trees. Humbly kneeling sweet appealing, twas the boy's first uttered prayer. (#26) First prayers are so wonderful.

GOOD CHEER
The other picture is of me and Sister Rowling! Sister Rowling is remarkable. But what is remarkable isn't just that she's survived cancer (and is making her way through another painful illness of sorts) - what is the most remarkable about her is her absolutely beautiful spirit. She truly is of good cheer. She does what she can. She is perturbed by the thought of death - and I know I just said that in one sentence but it is just so amazing. Like I can say it in one sentence "she isn't scared of death" but to truly not be scared, to truly know .... I feel like so many people go entire lifetimes not understanding this, even when death comes they still don't understand it. I would love for her to be there when I go through my own future experiences and illnesses. I would like to remember her spirit and attitude. And I love her conversion story!! But hers is a little sacred to her and to me. So perhaps another day through another medium. :)