missionary plaque picture

missionary plaque picture

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Hardworking Week

Hey people that I love so much! 

Sounds like a crazy week at home! Fin Fun is not so much fun with the fins, huh? I hope you are all able to enjoy the reunion regardless! And Todd enters the MTC this week, right?? Does that mean he gets set apart today? Man oh man! Tell him I said congratulations and to have so much fun in the MTC! New York is so blessed to be getting him. Congrats to Jeren as well for graduating, and best of luck with the move! Exciting things are happening!  

Heather Williams wrote me about the boating trip and I laughed out loud, imagining Dad race-car driving the boat and the youth flying off the back. Maybe that's a sign that you need to get that boat you've always wanted, Dad! Every time time I see a boat here, I think of you. :) 

I can't believe you got to meet Bishop Tuke and Amber! They are some of my favorite people in the WORLD! Bishop really does love his ward. He is the most fun-loving, hard working leader. I have so much respect for that man. And Amber is one of my best friends out here. Did they come to the house? Bishop texted and said that he is so impressed by my parents, that you're wonderful people, and also that Mom bribed him with cookies. :)

Sister Luke and I worked soooooooo hard this week. We try to work hard every week, but some weeks your labors feel more fruitful than others. However! I still feel so blessed that Heavenly Father is orchestrating so many great things in this area. :) 

For example. We walked into FHE last week with a whole entourage of nonmembers behind us! I felt like the leader of a small gang! Derek, Marco, Skyler, Dalton, and Josh were ALL there. So was Tori... but he doesn't count as an investigator. Yet. ;) Whoever is in charge of planning activities is truly inspired, because they planned "get to know you games," like do you love your neighbor. Perfect timing indeed! 

It really hit home for me this week that the Book of Mormon changes people. It is amazing to see the difference in progression between an investigator who reads it and an investigator who doesn't. We taught the Word of Wisdom to Derek and Marco separately, and even though we started teaching them together, and they're the same age and have similar backgrounds and interests, Derek is willing to live the word of wisdom and Marco is not. The difference? Derek has been reading! There really is a power in the Book of Mormon. He's set for baptism on August 23rd. :) 

On Thursday, I did something suuuuuuper scary.... Ran the area without Sister Luke for the first time! Our sister training leader came to Robindale for the day on exchanges. I got to drive for the first time in six weeks, navigate our whole huge area, lead planning, lead all the lessons, coordinate all the members, by mahself. It felt like someone had just handed me my big girl pants and told me to put them on. As nervous as I was, I actually really liked the feeling of running the area. As Pres. Richardson would say, I can "add that experience to my rolodex of life" and know that I can do hard things when called upon! 

The members in our ward are the most wonderful people ever, I'm so grateful for all they do for us. We have members with us at nearly every lesson, and they've become some of our closest friends. Sometimes having members there is more helpful, and sometimes, well... Story time. We have a new investigator, Zach 2.0, and as we were teaching the lesson, we ask the member, "How has the Book of Mormon blessed your life?" The member says, "Well, if the Book of Mormon were a movie, it'd probably be rated Z." Uhhhh?!? Sister Luke is a very skilled teacher and saved the lesson from nosediving. We're still laughing about it several days later! 

Sister Luke's uncle Jared had a 3-hour layover in Las Vegas on Wednesday and we got permission for him to come to dinner with us! Funniest guy ever... Apparently he has a history of dressing up to mess with Sister Luke's friends when she was in high school. He's dressed up as a detective, a gangster, a flamer, and I think a clown... This time, we had him dress up as a redneck. The tradition of messing with people continues. :) Apparently Sis Luke has seen lots of her family on her mission. So, if anyone's driving through Vegas... *cough* *Smedleys* *cough* I betcha I can get permission to say hi! 

Sis Luke and I have so much fun together. One morning, I put on her nametag before personal study. We got through all of companionship study and STILL she hadn't noticed, and I'm sure we would have walked out the door to district meeting like that if I hadn't said something. We left our nametags switched all day. Haha :) 

We spoke in church yesterday! My first experience trying to go more by the Spirit instead of writing everything out. Of course they had Sister Luke speak first, and she speaks simply and powerfully and then I have to try and follow her. Oh boy. I felt like I repeated myself a lot, but besides that I think it went well. :) Spoke on how we are motivated to share the gospel as we learn about the Atonement. Used Alma the Younger's conversion story. What a cool story! 

Last night as we were out trying to get a lesson, it started POURING rain! Flash flood city! I tried to take a couple pictures of the road so you can see how crazy it was. You could feel the thunder under the ground through the car, and we got drenched just running from the car to a door. It felt like we were in a movie. Hopefully you can see how awesome it was, even though the pictures don't do it justice. Less than 24 hours later, it's all already dried up! 

 Have a wonderful week!
Lots of love, Sister B 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Hello Hello! 

It makes me so happy to hear how many exciting things are happening at home! Nelson and Jeren are all done with school, then? How is it having a full house for a few days? I'm glad you've all had the chance to have lots of fun before Jeren and Lauren take off for Virginia. 

Mom, I brag about you all the time and how you've become this exercising-organizing-remodeling extraordinaire. I love what you said about "no pain, no happy." Just like you feel the most satisfied with a run after you really push yourself, you sometimes experience the most sorrowand the most happiness at the same time. While Sister Luke and I were running the other morning, we were talking about how a mission is like a long run. Sometimes it's exhausting, sometimes it's thrilling, sometimes you look at how far you have to go and it's discouraging, sometimes all you want to do is take a break and walk. But when you get to the end, you'll remember less about how much it hurt and more about how great it was. And you'll be grateful for the hills and proud of the times you chose  to keep going and not slow down.  

Wellp the cloudy spell is over and the "spoil-Sister-Browning-and-make-her-think-it-rains-all-the-time-here" weather is definitely done. But that is okay! As the good book says, "blessed are they who are persecuted for my sake" and a little bit of heat is a small price to pay to be doing the Lord's work. I am so grateful to have a car. 

Speaking of transportation, my bike turns the hem of my skirts black. Any suggestions on that one, Mommy? 

This week we had many many investigators cancel appointments, reschedule, or drop us, and we're teaching several people who we're not sure how sincere they are in learning. We spend a lot of time street contacting and hunting down referrals. Those poor people we street contact... all they want to do is get inside! If only they knew the value of our message! Air conditioning or eternal life? Hmm choices choices. :) But we were still able to see some crazy and amazing things happen! 

Did I tell you about Dalton? We started teaching Dalton last week, the shyest sweetest Hawaiian in all the land. I think he was genuinely scared of us when we first knocked on his door. Anyway, he is warming up to us, and more importantly the Gospel. He's been reading and praying and we hope to get him to an activity soon. 

We showed up to Dalton's for an appointment on Tuesday, and he was so embarrassed because he had forgotten about it, and we walked up with two members in tow while he was outside boxing his brother and wearing nothing but his spandex jammerz. Pretty comical. His older brother, Skyler, is now investigating as well! He was really intrigued by the Book of Mormon, and when we came back later in the week to re-teach the Restoration, he'd read all the way to chapter 5. That Restoration lesson was really filled with the Spirit and is one of the greatest highlights of my mission so far. 

The investigator closest to baptism is Derek-- he's been taking the lessons since the week before I got here. I'll be honest, I didn't know how much he was going to progress at first, but that all changed once he came to church. Coming to church as an investigator is SO important! We talk all the time about how this church is Christ's church, but you need to come to see that for yourself. And being surrounded by the positivity and community of the ward members makes such a huge difference. Zach has become the best member missionary and took Derek under his wing-- he now gives him rides to church, FHE, and institute whenever he can. 

Tori (I've been spelling it wrong this whole time. Oops) continues to be such a character. We know that he knows this is true! Little by little, he is opening himself up to the church. He continues to come to every activity and every block of church. After Institute, he told us, "I'm afraid I'm falling in love with this church." Let it happen, Tori! 

Both Zach and Donqwel were ordained to the Aaronic priesthood yesterday in church! That was an incredible experience. Zach even got to stand in the circle for Don's ordination. Sister Luke and I got to sit in on priesthood meeting which was pretty special. We felt like protesters. Haha, jokesies. 

Thanks for all your prayers, letters, and support! They mean the world to me! Family-- my adorable bishop, Bishop Tuke, is spending the rest of this week in Idaho, staying at Rigby lake and fishing up north. He told me that he would love to drop by and meet you! How cool is that?!! And he said that if you have anything for me, he'd be happy to take it for you. His number is 702-219-7541, and he's got our address. :) I can't think of anything at home that I need that you couldn't just mail to me... but if you do put something together for him to take, I can always use more sheet protectors, colored paper, family photos, and granola. We love granola. :)  

Lots of Love, Sister Browning  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Chock full'a miracles

Dear Family, 

It sounds like everyone's doing well! I sure pray a lot for you guys, morning and night. Sister Luke and I had a fabulous week as well. Heavenly Father has just been so nice to us! It was miraculously cool for the first few days of the week-- tons of thunderstorms and lots of rain. At one point it got down to 77 degrees, and it felt coooooooold. So that was miracle number one! 

Miracle #2 has a name and it's Tory. How do I explain Tory? He is not an investigator, he is not taking the lessons, and we don't have a teaching record for him, but he did come teach with us for 4 hours on ThursdayWhaaaaat?! When Sister Luke first met Tory, before I got here, she asked him if he'd be willing to listen to a 20 minute message and he told her that that would be a waste of his time. But he started coming to activities with our recent convert Michael, and he's pretty hooked on the social aspect of church. He told us he has a deep respect and admiration for the LDS people and their standards. He even said, 'I would wish the Mormon lifestyle on anybody." Tory still won't take the lessons, but... we have ways around that. ;) At FHE we jokingly asked him, "So when are you coming teaching with us?" And he replied, "How about Thursday?" And he didn't come to just one appointment, he came to three, and met us at our dinner appointment to practice the lessons, AND called us beforehand to find out what he should wear. He was really taking this seriously. It was amazing to have him at those lessons. He made one investigator feel more comfortable and understood, he explained the Atonement perfectly for the next, (?!?) and evenprayed at the last lesson. He came to Zach's baptism on Saturday and church the next day. We have faith that he will come to grips soon with how this Gospel makes him feel and that he'll be baptized. Just wait and see! :)  

Speaking of Zach's baptism. Zach is now the newest member of the Robindale YSA ward! Man oh man the adversary did not want that baptism to happen. What a crazy day. But it all worked out and the baptism was wonderful. Including the part where we forgot to tell him to plug his nose and he came up coughing and spluttering, haha I think he mentioned that to you Mom. :) The Relief Society room was packed with people. The ward LOVES him! He is just a big ton of love and energy and happiness in one teeny tiny package. He was confirmed the next day in Church, and Sister Luke and I gave him a picture of the Savior with a letter from us written on the back.

I went on my first ever exchanges on Wednesday! I served with Sister Pantoja for the day in the richest area of the mission. No joke, Marie Osmond lives there. It was humbling to see how much more difficult it was to find people there to teach and I realized just how blessed Sister Luke and I have been. Never ever taking my area for granted again!

We got to spend nearly the entire day in the Las Vegas temple on Friday. :) The new missionaries and their trainers did an endowment session in the morning, and Sister Luke and I got to come back and watch the ward baptisms that night. Because Michael was going! For the first time! They let Sis Luke and I stand right up at the font and watch him like proud parents.

While waiting for everyone to finish, Sister Luke suggested I take some time to pray about what had been on my mind in the endowment session earlier that day. Excellent idea. I'd certainly had a lot on my mind earlier that day. So I sat in that busy baptistery and prayed. Essentially, I asked, "Heavenly Father, why is this so hard?" I've been so blessed, and there's so many things I love about a mission, but even with all of that, a mission is a really hard thing. It's a huge and abrupt adjustment for sure. So I told Heavenly Father how I ached for my family and friends and the life I've put on hold, how I needed a change of attitude, and especially how I needed to know my Savior better. And then I opened the scriptures.

Mosiah 5:13: "For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger to him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?"


Cue the tears :)

How do I expect to come to know my Savior if I don't serve Him? And if I don't turn my thoughts and the intents of my heart to Him? That's what I want, isn't it?

The chapter goes on: "Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable... that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his..."

Wow. There is nothing more that I want out of this life than to know Jesus Christ so well that I am sealed His. I can pray in His name, I can even put on a nametag and try to represent Him, but I want to be able to look up at my final day and recognize Him because He has been permanently written on my heart.

Well I cried in the endowment and I cried during baptisms and I'm sure the whole ward and all the temple workers are worried for my mental health. :) But that's okay because I got a much needed answer and a huge shot in the arm of motivation to work hard and have faith.

We've started taking a ward survey. Every time we're riding in the car with a member, we've started to ask them, "what's your favorite thing about the Gospel?" One girl, Tersa, told us that her favorite thing is Jesus Christ. She told us a story where she was at a Girl's Camp doing a simulation-type thing, when a voice came over a speaker and all the girls jumped at the noise, except for Tersa. Why did I not jump? She wondered. But then she realized it was her father's voice, so of course it was more familiar to her than to the other young women. Then she said, "When Jesus Christ comes again, the world is going to jump. I want to be one of the people who recognizes his voice."
So that's my new goal, to be one of those people too. I'm confident that this mission is a huge necessary step for me in reaching that goal someday! Love you all so much!

Love, Sister Browning
Sister Browning, Zach, and Sister Luke!

Do you want to be a smudge or a masterpiece?

Hello Family! 

Wow, is it possible for one family to have so much fun?! Happy birthday to Ryan! Enjoy the big double-one! I'm glad you finally took that Lagoon trip and had a blast. You make me proud with all your roller coaster lovin. :) And it sounds like everyone had a great 4th of July too! Sister Luke is also from Idaho and we agree that you haven't experienced July 4th until you've experienced it in a small Idaho town. 

To answer your questions Mom, yes I am in a car! #tendermercies They give all the sisters in the mission cars, but encourage them to use their bikes for contacting once per day. However, since I'm in a singles ward that covers an entire stake's boundaries, it wouldn't be a very practical use of our time to bike every day. So we only bike once a week, and we do it in the mornings before it gets too terribly hot.

 As far as the heat goes, I am surviving! There were a couple of days this week that were killer... and I basically turned into a gospel-preaching puddle. I've never sweat so much. However. As long as I embrace the sweatiness and drink lots of water and pray, I'm okay! And we were blessed with some cloudy days this week which really helped. It even rained last night. Sis. Luke and I ran outside in our pajamas just to watch it pour down. :) 

Well. This has been a week full of miracles! I learned in a very physical way that it's true when they say the Lord protects His missionaries.  We were in a car accident Tuesday morning! A truck turned left on a red light as we were coming straight across the intersection in Amber's car (our relief society president) and knocked off the whole front of her little red kia. Thankfully, since Amber hit the breaks at the exact right moment, not one of the four girls in the car was injured. It's overwhelming to think about just how bad it could have been otherwise. Instead, it just felt like a bumper car! Amber's engine was totally ruined, but since the woman driving the truck was at fault, Amber shouldn't have to pay for anything. We felt so bad that this happened to her but it was quite obvious that Heavenly Father was watching out for all of us! 

Zach continues to be a blessing from heaven. I don't know why Heavenly Father decided to give us such a golden investigator but I'm so glad he did. I'm pretty sure he could have been taught by a chimpanzee and still accepted the gospel, as long as he could feel the spirit. Every commitment we extend to him, he immediately accepts. Get this: I think he keeps the word of wisdom better than I do! He bicycles 15 miles every morning, starts his day out with fruits and ends it with vegetables, coffee makes him tired, and he would always get bored halfway through a beer. .....Where did this guy come from?! He is SO great! He's even started to come out teaching with us. His baptism is this Saturday and he asked me to give the Holy Ghost talk. D'awww. :) 

Our ward mission leader Justin made the nicest dinner for us and some other ward members on the 4th of July! One of the yummiest steaks I've ever had... you know how I love my steak... cream green beans, homemade mashed potatoes, flaky rolls, salad with cranberries and feta cheese... It was the closest thing to mom-food that I've had since I've been out here. So I'd say I had a pretty good 4th of July. :) The whole day however was work work work! As soon as dinner was over we hit the local park and contacted all the people watching and lighting off fireworks. It was the perfect time to find everyone! 

The saddest thing happened with Danny, our Riverside-San Bernardino investigator. He got offended by the verse in the Book of Mormon where it talks about the Lamanites being cursed with dark skin. He texted us asking if his dark skin was a curse, and in the time it took us to pray, make some phone calls, and study frantically, he came across enough anti-Mormon literature that he didn't want to meet with us anymore. Broke my heart. I guess we never know what will happen in the future. We're continuing to pray for him in the hopes that his heart will soften. And hey, I have 17 more months to find our golden southwestern states investigator :) 

Good news. We are finally teaching a girl! haha oh boy. Her name is Amanda and she is one of the nicest people. She's very spiritualistic, believes in oneness and the energy of the earth and that sort of thing. Katherine would love her sense of fashion, very earthy and colorful. She's got a strong belief in a higher power and an open heart and mind so we will see how it goes teaching her! We met her and taught the Restoration on Saturday and she came to church the next day. So far so good! 

The ward has recently started a "rescue mission" to make a concerted effort to reach out to the less actives. We had a special fast yesterday for them, and holy moly fasting works you guys. I've never heard such a heartfelt, humble testimony meeting. It felt like two thirds of the young adults who bore their testimonies said "I'm so glad I'm finally coming back to church." Everyone mentioned the power of repentance or how learning about and relying on their Savior has personally changed their lives. Someone made an amazing analogy about repentance as dusting a room-- others can't really tell what you did, but they can tell that something's changed for the better. 

During that testimony meeting, Sister Luke and I also received an amazing answer to a big question. All week we had been wondering, "what was God trying to teach us by putting us in that car accident?" Near the end of the meeting, Sunny, the other girl in the car, got up to bear her testimony. She said that experience really opened her eyes to how precious life is and how mindful God is of her. Even though she wasn't wearing a seatbelt, all she suffered was a headache. That accident was the catalyst to help her make the decision to start coming to church every week. We are so glad! 

This work is so hard but it is so worth it! During my first week, Sister Luke gave me a talk to read called "The Fourth Missionary." Look it up. It will change your life! It talks about how serving a mission-- or I would add living a Christ centered life-- becomes easier when we surrender our will and heart to God, because our will is the only thing that He doesn't already have. My favorite quote, which is now hanging on my apartment wall: 

"Trust in Him. Trust Him who knows all things. Trust Him who has all power. Trust him whose love for you is perfect.... Trust Him that He will make of you immeasurably more than you will ever, ever, in all eternity, make of yourself. He will create of you a masterpiece. You will create only a smudge. You will create an ordinary man. He will create a God." 

One way or another, this mission is shaping me. It is setting the tone for the rest of my life. I want to look back on that life as a masterpiece, not just a smudge on the books of history and time. If I try to do this work by myself, it will be too hard and I won't progress much. If I do it with the Lord, He can shape me in all the necessary ways to become the person I need to be. He can lead me to the people who are prepared for the Gospel, and He will! He told me He would and I trust in that promise.

I love you all so much! You're in my prayers! The church is true the book is blue and God loves you :) 

Love, Sister Browning