Monday, May 24, 2010

Mall Trips Poop Me Out

Fam,

Wow, I'm tired and really don't want to write this (that's a first). We decided to go to the mall because Sister Farr wanted to buy some new clothes. As for me, I'm beyond the point in wanting new clothes because I don't want anything to do with these tattered rags after the mission and I certainly don't want to spend money on more. I think once I hit my 9 month mark, I decided "No more" and I've stuck with it since. But not for Sister Farr. I tried to postpone our mall trip, week after week and I actually was successful for about 3 weeks, but I couldn't make up any more excuses so first thing this morning, we took the 30 minute drive to Harlingen (another reason why I didn't want to go) and we went to the HUGE Forever 21 (which I'm assuming is located in an old Mervyn's building beacuse it's the biggest Forev I've ever seen). She wanted to go there even though she'd never been, but (as I predicted) she was completely overwhelmed by it all and didn't really know that she wanted or where to start. After wallowing in the store for 45 minutes, she finally decided on a shirt. Then she wanted cosmetics, so we headed to Dillard's (which had a pretty scanty cosmetics department) and she realized that $14 for an eyeshadow wasn't her thing (I think she really wanted MAC because of me, but they didn't have it there), so we left.

I actually felt really out of place at the mall (another reason, I suppose, I wanted to avoid the institution). Looking at the clothes and styles made me realize 1) how completely unfashionable my current wardrobe is and 2) how I'm going to have no idea what to do clothes-wise when I get home. Yikes. Maybe the Peterson girls will have to fashion makeover me. Haha.

I got the graduation announcement from Marshall. Tell him "Congrats" from me! Wow, he's turned into a little stud. When does he have his Mexico trip? Is it still on?

Well, this was a good week. We didn't actually find that many new investigators (only 3), but the three that we did find were stellar! Two--a mother and daughter--acutally came to church. I got invited to go to Monterrey, Mexico by this old Mexican man. I declined. Sister Farr's new skirt got caught in her bike gears as she was riding. I was ahead of her and didn't hear her shout, "Sister Burt, WAIT!" until I has half a mile ahead and turned around and didn't see her at all! Poor girl, the skirt just got caught and kept pulling and pulling. I would't have been surprised if he whole skirt would have just gotten sucked into the bicycle like you see on cartoons. Haha.

I'm getting sort of sick of people telling me "Oh are you tired?" or "You look like you just woke up?" Well, first off, I have like permanent bags under my eyes that don't go away and second, if you'd been a missionary for 15 months, you'd look like me too. Haha.

The Investigator--Theresa--who came to church said something funny to me. There is another Elder here named Elder Arens and he usually teaches the investigator class at church. Well, after church, I was talking to her and she said, "Are you and him related?" I was a bit surprised because I didn't see any sort of family resemblance. "No" I said. "Oh, that's interesting, because you both talk exactly the same. You have the same accent. When you read the scriptures, you both pause in the same places, too." "Oh, that's funny, because we're both from Arizona." Haha, I never realized that I had an "Arizona accent" and I never noticed that he did too, but I guess when you put two of us Arizonan's together in Texas, it becomes a bit more obvious.

After Zone Conference on Thursday, we had plans to work in Lyford next to a former investigator's house. We got there, but haven't really had much gusto to work in Lyford these past few weeks, so we headed back to Raymondville. Well, as we got to Raymondville, we realized we had a call from the Ward Mission Leader, Bro. Abbey, telling us that he had purchased sunscreen for us (we had a discussion about how much I use and he's had skin cancer so he's very adement about using it). We decided to head the 5 miles back to Lyford and pick it up. Eventually, we were led back to where our original plans of working Main St. There were only about 6 houses, so I was excited to bust through them and get back to Raymondville.

We knocked and had no success. It was on the same street as an Apostolic church, so everyone was members of it. But we finally found a woman, named Theresa who felt bad for us about how hot it was. So only invited us in to give us water. Anytime you can get into the home, it's great becaue it allows the Spirit to come in which is something that they probably have never felt before. We started talking about fluff stuff when she brought up the church and such. We eventually talked about how there's a prophet today and that threw her off a bit. She is very Christian and grew up Apostolic with her mom, but then became Baptist when she lived in Tennessee. But after being annoyed with all the Baptist's rules and regulations, and thenn confusion about the other churches, she settled for a non-demoninational church, but hasn't been for a long time. She shared a lot about herself and her beliefs, but we gave her a pamphlet about the Restoration and she very firmly said that she would "study" it and pray about it.

We came back two days later and he let us in and her 11-year-old daughter Beatriz was there too. She mentioned some questions she had about the pamphlet, but said, "I'm going to be honest ladies. I stopped when I got to the page about the Book of Mormon. I don't need another book when I already can't handle what I got in here." she put her Bible in the air. She started talking about how much she cherishes the Bible and LOVES it and can't imagine going away from it. "I'm sorry ladies, but I don't think this is what I want and I probably don't want you back." I wasn't going to take that for an answer. Through using a series of questions about how she feels about the Bible and then bearing testimony about the Book of Mormon. We were able to open a discussion about the origins and contents of the Book of Mormon. You could tell she was a bit skeptical, but we read quite a few passages from it and finished off, by watching the last 10 minutes of the movie "Testaments"--which, personally, is one of my favorite ways to teach it because it depicts it visually and the Spirit is so strong at the end. After the clip, we asked he what she thought and she said, "Wow. Apparently, there's a lot more about Jesus that I knew." She committed to read 3 Nephi 11 with her daughter and before we left said, "You know, I was set about not believing in this and having you back, but when I heard her (meaning my companion), say that she knew that is was true, it really made me think and have to look more into it." I love that by just Sister Farr's simple testimony of "I know that the Book of Mormon is true," that that is what made the difference.

Also, I've grown accustomed to using short simple statements of truth. During the lesson, she said, "You know, like after this life, we won't have any recollection of each other." She pointed to her daughter and said, "like I won't know who she is and she won't know who I am." Taking this as a chance to share true doctrine and correct her, I said, "I know that this church is true. It's because of the Book of Mormon, that I now have the knowledge that my family can be together eternally after this life." After I said that she said, "Wait a minute, you said something there. That you family could be...?" "Together Forever." "Yeah, something like that," she said, "I've never heard that before. I just thought that after this life we wouldn't be." I'd never actually had anyone say that or be shocked that "our families can be together forever." It was really interesting and after she said, "Well, I don't know all about this, it's all new to me, but I'm willing to learn and look into it. I want to follow Jesus exactly the way he wants me. And if he wants me to follow him into Mormonism, then I'll follow him." She definitely is one of the most open people I have met. It's interesting that at the beginning of the lesson, she was set on us not coming back, but by the end, she was excited to read, pray, and learn more.

Theresa and Beatriz came to church the next day! It was amazing! Theresa was so shocked to learn that her aunt is a member. I overheard her talking to her aunt in between classes and she said, "You know, other churches always tell you to stay away from the Mormons. But I never knew that this Book wasn't another Bible or takes away from it, but it's just another Testament about Christ." I smiled as I walked away. I know that there was nothing I had done to help her understand that, it was just combination of a missionary's most powerful tools: the Book of Mormon and the Spirit.

I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. At times, I've gotten carried away here on the mission, studying the Bible or other things, but really, I'm never as satisfied with myself as when I'm in the Book of Mormon. Like Elder Bednar said in this past April conference in his talk, "Watching with All Perserverance,":
The convincing and converting powers of the Book of Mormon come from both a central focus upon the Lord Jesus Christ and the inspired plainness and clarity of its teachings. Nephi declared, “My soul delighteth in plainness unto my people, that they may learn” (2 Nephi 25:4). The root word plain in this verse does not refer to things that are ordinary or simple; rather, it denotes instruction that is clear and easily understood.

The Book of Mormon is the most correct of any book on earth because it centers upon the Truth (see John 14:6; 1 Nephi 13:40), even Jesus Christ, and restores the plain and precious things that have been taken away from the true gospel (see 1 Nephi 13:26, 28–29, 32, 34–35, 40). The unique combination of these two factors—a focus on the Savior and the plainness of the teachings—powerfully invites the confirming witness of the third member of the Godhead, even the Holy Ghost. Consequently, the Book of Mormon speaks to the spirit and to the heart of the reader like no other volume of scripture.

I know that is true because I've seen it firsthand in my life, my mission and the lives' of my investigators. I invite everyone who is reading this to really ponder and pray about who they could give a Book of Mormon too. A missionary here was invited years ago to do just that and she just recieveed word that one of her best friends read it and got baptized last week. I know that there are people in all of our lives who also are waiting accept the Gospel.

Have a great week everyone!

Love,
Sister Burt

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dog Attacks Missionary..What Else is New?

Family,
First off, I'm going to respond to April Farnsworth. :) Haha, I love you so much April. You're awesome. Ok, so a few things, I realized that after I sent that email, it sounding like "complaining" but it really wasn't. Haha, I'm SO excited that you are pregnant and want to be the first to congratulate you, but unfortunately, by now, I'm probably the 13,232th. Oh well. You are right that when you are last to have kids, you get last pick of the names. But, you both definitely have priority rights to use the name Nora. But I know that you're little girl will be just as sweet and caring as Nora was. Just as Nephi and Lehi in Helaman 5, were named after their ancestors, to remember that their works were "good", I know the same will happen for little Nora.
"Behold, my sons, I desire that ye should remember to keep the commandments of God; and I would that ye should declare unto the people these words. Behold, I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that it is said, and also written, that they were good." --Helaman 5:6
Well, this week was great. We taught 30 investigator lessons this week--even though the Standard of Excellence for the mission is 20 (which we consistently get). It was great. 5 people came to church, but they all left after Sacrament meeting. We went to a funeral yesterday--the uncle of a member died; it was the first funeral I'd been to since Nora's back in '97. It was interesting but gave me time to ponder the meaning of life and read Doctrine & Covenants 137 & 138 about death.
So in our area, the different parts of the area are color coded. So a lot of times, when we're thinking about where to go, we'll say, "Hmm, how about green? What street do you want to work there?" or "We haven't been in blue for a while." Well, when we were first here, we worked green--a LOT. We exhausted green. So we vowed to not work in it at all, but to work the other areas (especially Orange, which is the richest area, so we avoided it forever anticipating imminent rejection). It's funny, even though we didn't want to be in green, we kept GETTING investigators in green even though we were never even there. It was surprising that a few weeks ago, we had a sprinkle of investigators from there, then they turned into a lot--now, we've just given up and started working in green and knocking there and about half of our investigators are from that part of town. Interesting, to me, at least.
Funny story. We were knocking streets (having to start reknocking streets and retalk to the people who didn't want to talk to you before) and I walked up to a door. I heard this yippy little fraidy cat dog barking from underneath the car as I walked past it. I didn't pay much attention to it. The majority of those dogs are the coward ones, who will bark and bark, but run away if you start walking towards them, BUT they are also the ones who once you turn your back, they try to bite you. I ignored it as the owner came down the steps to talk to me. As he was coming down, this Pitbull out of NO WHEREcame and started coming towards me. He startled me and I screamed and the put my knee up to block him. He was on the attack and ending up biting my knee. Sister Farr was in shock but was trying as fast as she could to pull out her mace. The dog really didn't bite me thought, more like grazed the skin (I think because I stepped back), and the owner quickly grabbed him, pulled him away, and then yelled at his son for letting him out. It was kind of scary, but not really. I think the mission has desensitized me to "scary things" and situations. I'm doing fine though, don't worry. I just have a pretty neat bruise in the shape of teeth marks. :)
We talk to a lot of people, obviously. But sometimes, the people clearly hear the truth--or rather, the Holy Ghost brings it unto their hearts (2 Nephi 33:1), but not into--that's where their agency comes in. On two different occasions this happened, the first was to the owner of that pitbull and the 2nd was to another man. We'd be talking and they would be disagreeing and trying to justify their ways, but then we would bring up some true doctrine (usually about commandments and how unless we LIVE them, we cannot enter into God's kingdom), and they would just stop talking at literally, walk away. It was semi-hilarious because I knew that in that moment, the Holy Ghost was testifying to them about what we were saying, that it was true--but they choose to reject the message. It's ok, but sort of sad.
Well, not much to say this week, love you all and have a great week!
Love,
Sister Burt!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Smiley-Face Park, Plates & the Camper-Trailer Investigator

Hello!
Wow, it was great to hear from everyone yesterday! It really lifted up and bolstered my spirits and got me pumped to keep going during these next few months. It was a "real treat" to get to talk to Chelsea too! Ah, family and friends are the source of happiness.
Anyways, I think I already spilled the beans for the upcoming week. And by "spill the beans" I really don't mean anything, because there's really nothing new to spill. Wow, that analogy just went horrible. But, alas, I'm too lazy to erase it, so just enough a laugh at the randomness that goes on in my head the majority of the time.
Well, I'll just share some random facts about this area. Every city in Texas has multiple water towers. I wasn't too familiar with water towers because I don't think we really have them in AZ (maybe we do, I was just too blind with life to pay attention). I don't know, I always thought that the ones I did see where antiques and "just for show." Anyways, the symbol of Raymondiville is a a water tower with a smiley face on it. Yep, a big white water tower with a blue happy face. It's great. It's right the base of the park, so most people give directions around town by saying, "Oh it's by Smiley-Face Park."
The Movie nights have been going well. We've had investigators at all of them except for the first one. We've been doing a progression of church history. First, "Testaments" explaining the Book of Mormon and the Savior's ministry here; next, the "Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration", then "Legacy" (yes, an embarrassingly hilarious film about the pioneers and this week, "The Mountain of the Lord" which is about the building of the Salt Lake Temple. I'm enjoying it and I hope the investigators and recent converts are, too.
Ok, well, I told mom this story last night, but I guess I'll share with the rest. We had this investigator--Chano--who really didn't do anything except call us for food. So we dropped him. Well we hadn't heard from him in a while, even though we had seen him throughout Raymondivlle walking around (Raymondville is quite small, you see everyone). We think he was actually hurt that we dropped him. But anyways, we got a call from an investigator yesterday saying that she had "plates" for us. Now, PLATES are a very South Texas delicacy. Pretty much, people with Hispanic backgrounds, love to barbecue at any given opportunity: weekends, holidays, parties; so of course, Mother's Day was a opportune time to "carne asada" as they call it. Plates consist of heaping portions of rice, beans, mean (usually chicken, brisket, AND sausage), potato salad, and of course, 2 slices of store-brand (usually HEB) white bread. If you are eating a plate a party, HEB brand fruit flavored soda (such as strawberry, orange, etc) or cola is served. Gotta love South Texas. Anyways, she said that she had some plates for us all wrapped up and wanted us to pick them up. So we started heading over there. But as we were talking to her, we got a call on the other line from Chano, asking if he knew anywhere where we could get food to hold him over till tomorrow when he starts his new job. Wow, what great timing. We went and grabbed our plates, found him on the side of the main street (walking of course), and gave him one of the plates. You could tell that he was really grateful. He said he wanted to come to church again, but I told him that we had to stop coming because he wasn't really doing anything. I was fumbling over my words and he cut in, "You mean, I need to do my part too?" Exactly. But it's great to see how the Lord's hand is involved in our lives. I'm sure we were an answer to his prayer, and Angela was inspired to call us, so that we could serve him.
One Thursday, we had a LONG day. Thursday is the only day (besides Saturday) that we don't have something (like a meeting or activity). Oh, just kidding, now we have movie night. Oh well, still, Thursday's are rough sometimes. We looked at our schedule and realized that we had no appointments. Great. We usually ride bikes around 3-4 times a week (for exposure, exercise and to save miles). So we rode around and it was hot. We started knocking doors, in a more affluent (by Raymondville standards) and weren't having much success. In other areas, Thursday's were great days to do planned service activities, but we haven't been able to do that here because no one will let us. It also was hard to contact because we have hit the point where we have to start "re knocking streets." Meaning, literally, we've knocked on every door in our area, and have to start all over again. It's a big deflating doing it because you've already been rejected by these people once, and here you are on their doorstep again like you don't get the picture. Haha, but it's good because a lot of people weren't there the first time around, so hopefully you can catch them this time.
Well, I was just so bored out of my mind and started praying that someone would let us serve them. We rode to the other side of town (5 minute bike ride, tops) and were going to stop by an investigator. As we turned down her street, we saw three men moving a camper trailer (people commonly live in these here). We got off and asked if they needed help. They were a bit hesitant because Hispanics don't like women doing labor like that, but it was apparent that they needed a bit more manpower. We helped them move the camper trailer from one side of the lot, to the other. Although, they were sort of wimps about it and kept stopping every 5 minutes for a break. But, they had a harder job than us, so I can't complain. They asked us a few questions about the church and then we left. We came back to our investigators, and one of the young guys, Angel--who owned the camper trailer, from earlier was there. He's a good looking 20-year-old, who doesn't do drugs or drink because he sees the disaster that comes from it (his mother died from those things). He just wants to work and stay out of trouble. To me, he has an Orlando Bloom sort of look. Turns out he's good friends with out investigator , Belinda, and her daughters. We invited them to movie night and he came! After movie night, we taught him at the church and he's turning out to be an awesome investigator! He even came to church yesterday. All of that, just from a little prayer asking for an opportunity to serve.
Well, I love this Gospel so much. The more I learn, the more I love it and want to learn more. I was reading in the "Teachings of Brigham Young" manual yesterday, and loved this part: "President Young declared that as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we possess the “doctrine of life and salvation for all the honest-in-heart”. He promised that those who receive the gospel in their hearts will have awakened “within them a desire to know and understand the things of God more than they ever did before in their lives” and will begin to “inquire, read and search and when they go to their Father in the name of Jesus he will not leave them without a witness”."
As we learn, accept and act upon true doctrine, our desire to learn the mysteries of God and his kingdom grows. The Book of Mormon is a catalyst to that changing process idle member or investigator, to a truly active disciple of Christ.
Love,
Sister Burt

Monday, May 3, 2010

I'm Drawing Blanks for the Title of This One

Family,
Hey Hey Hey! It's May! Can you believe it? A year ago I was in my first area with my trainer--now she's home, married, and pregnant. Yikes! Mother's Day is this Sunday, so I'm super excited to call you guys! I actually haven't really thought about it, it's cool and stuff, but not on my mind. My companion, on the other hand, is a different story! Haha. Does 5 pm your time on Sunday work?
So I just read the mini-email that you sent me and I'm 1) sad that Briggs is getting married a few WEEKS before I come home. BUMMER! 2) Sad that April is taking all of the good family names for herself (haha, just kidding. But seriously.)
and 3)...sad that Grandpa died this past week. :( I haven't heard of the news from my mission president yet, but now I know so it's alright. I'm sad, but not really actually because I know the Plan of Salvation. I'm not crying or feeling a heartbroken feeling about it--I know that is because through the Savior's atonement, all of our losses can be made up and he has taken upon him the sadness, sickness, and sins of the world. My testimony has grown so strong about it since I've been here on the mission. To quote president Monson this past conference after he quoted Job, "The empty tomb that first Easter morning was the answer to Job’s question, “If a man die, shall he live again?” To all within the sound of my voice, I declare, If a man die, he shall live again. We know, for we have the light of revealed truth." I know Grandpa is in the Spirit Paradise, resting from all care and sorrow. He is with his family and parents who have passed on and--even happier--he is with his precious daughter, Nora. :) I'm grateful for the Savior and that he broke the bands of death; that through him and if we are faithful to the commandments and ordinances of the Gospel, we will all be able to see Grandpa again.
Random question: So there are a TON of mosquitoes here. Is it true that vitamin b12 detracts mosquitoes and makes it so they don't' bite you? I hope so because if that's true, I'm totally doing it!
Well, another typical week in Raymondville. Both Sister Farr and I got proposed to (the man seemed desperate and didn't care which one of us it was. Haha), but at the same time, he was dead serious. Everyone who finds out I'm from Arizona is trying to talk to me about the law in AZ they're trying to pass about...checking id's or something or other. I have no idea what's going on, so yeah. Transfers are this week and I'm not expecting to get transferred. I have 2 transfers left (yikes!) and I hope to stay here will the end. I really do love the people here. And I mean, I just don't like getting to know new people/wards/areas all over again for my last 3 months, it just makes sense that I'll die/kick the bucket/be done in--whatever you want to call it--here in this area.
Well, Lucy was confirmed this week. We had the movie night which we promoted in the paper. No one except ward members come, which is sort of expected. But this week we had a family of investigators come. We watched the "Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration" movie (favorite movie EVER!) and they LOVED it.
So this family. The name of the mom is Belinda, who has 2 girls named Martha and Jessica. The dad isn't an investigator yet (even though he came to the movie night and loved the film), and I'm not quite sure what his name is yet. Haha, we always forget to ask. Belinda is super cool and actually approached us (sort of). So remember those trailers that we have been at for over the past 2 months, teaching EVERYONE who has lived or lives there? Yep, well they moved in a while back and didn't have time, but one day we went there with a member to pick someone up for church (who didn't wake up, of course), and she drove by in her car and said, "Hey once we get all moved in, I want you to teach my family." She always was the one I mentioned from last week where we got them couches and she drinks Vodka for breakfast. So it's been fun working with them. She really wants to change, and stopped doing drugs, but is still struggling with the alcohol. She lives in a horrible area and is getting no support from anyone around her, so it's hard. She drank on Saturday (her sister came into town and convinced her) and felt really guilty and bad, and of course, she didn't come to church--even though she was SO excited (and her girls too) a few days earlier. We're going to keep working with them though, they have baptismal dates but it's going to take a lot of work. So keep praying for them!
Well, I hope that I'm still here in Raymondville! Transfer calls will come later today, but I'm no worried. But whatever happens, I know that the Lord is in it. Well, I don't' really have that much more to say....I'm grateful for my Savior and the Plan of Salvation. This life is just a probationary state, a time to repent and prepare to meet God. We are just away from our real heavenly home, which is so much more marvelous than we can imagine. We just need to continue to be faithful and worthy of it.
Love,
Sister Burt
P.S. Maybe Chelsea will notice, or some RM, but has anyone noticed the multiple references/quotes I've made from the "Joseph Smith" movie? Haha, I don't think anyone has unless you've watched it and memorized it as many times as I have. But, yes, it's great. Tell Dad that my first Sunday back, that we're going to watch it together! :)
P.P.S I just found out from my companion that we have to change the time we talk to our parents. Does 6 PM AZ time, Sunday night work for you (8 pm my time)?