missionary plaque picture

missionary plaque picture

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hugs and Kisses


Well fancy that, it's been raining here too! Exciting to hear about the homecoming game. Rigby's really making a name for itself now! And I'm glad that Aubree and Ryan are having such a good experience with soccer :) Both my companions so far have been soccer players and it makes me wish I'd done more of it! 

And Mom, thanks for sharing that amazing experience in the temple. That's really incredible. Did you notice how the whole women's broadcast was about temples? ;)  Your story reminds me of a scripture that's been on my mind a lot this week-- D&C 81:5 "lift up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees." I'm so glad you got to spend such a special time with Linda :) Her and her family are in my prayers!

How do I describe this week?? I don't even know where to begin. A couple quotes come to mind: 

"I laughed, I cried, it moved me, Bob." --Veggie Tales 
"Life is like a roller coaster, it's your choice whether to scream or enjoy the ride." --someone smart on Pinterest 

That about sums it up. :) 

Running this area is a little bit like jumping on a pogo stick and eating an enchilada at the same time. Good luck, without fervent prayer. I am learning so much, and it's not always comfortable! But I've got a great companion, an amazing ward, and an incredible bishop, so all is well. 

I have to tell you about this guy named Bas we met. Sister Smith and I were driving down the street and saw someone wearing a cape and helmet and carrying a sword. So naturally we pulled over said a prayer and jumped out. :) He's a sweet boy who's been bullied a lot, so he goes around offering his protection to anyone who looks like they're in danger. Now he's investigating! You meet the coolest people out here! :) 

Sabrina is a tender mercy! One of the sweetest people I've ever met. She wants to meet with us every day, shares with us these amazing spiritual experiences she's been having with prayer and the Book of Mormon, and always texts us to tell us thank you or how excited she is to meet with us. Sometimes I think she might be a plant... She makes these amazing comments in lessons and I just go... Are you sure you aren't already a member??  Haha we've found a great friend in her. :)

Yesterday was Akeem's baptism! Anyone want to take a guess as to who baptized him? Michael! Surprise. ;) He also baptized a guy named Frank in Royal Mesa on Saturday. For Michael's birthday, Amber made him a whole scrapbook of pictures from all of his baptisms with little notes from friends. It really is like he's serving a mission right now, the one he didn't have the opportunity to serve when he was younger. He is such a true friend to everyone he meets, and they can feel his sincerity and testimony. So he just keeps being asked to perform baptism after baptism! :) 

Akeem's baptism went really well except for the part where I neglected to look at the program I'd helped to print and started playing the wrong closing song. Hahaha the ward just went with it. :) In  one of Akeem's lessons this week, he told us how he has never been the kind of person who smiles or goes out of his way to talk to others, and because of the gospel now he finds himself smiling all the time. It's been incredible to watch the light in his eyes grow brighter and brighter. Excited to have him in the ward family! :) 

Sister Luke got to visit for Akeem's baptism. We just hugged each other and cried.It was like she was back from the dead. I just wanted to keep her forever! 

Funny story of the week: I've been both sneak-attack hugged and Colombian-kissed this week. Haha what do you do when you put out your hand for a handshake and the investigator air-kisses your cheek?? Just reminds me of Nacho Libre... "Don't you know this woman is a NUN?!" 

I love you all! Because of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we never have to walk alone! But he does ask us to walk :) He can take the little sacrifice that we can offer and turn it into something magnificent as long as we have faith!  

Lots of love, 
Sister B 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sister Browning Puts Her Big Girl Pants On

Not literal pants per se, but you know what I mean. :)

Hi Family that I love so much! 

Yes, I do feel so blessed to stay in this dream ward! I love it with my whole heart! It doesn't feel the same without Sister Luke... I miss her a ton, and so does the ward. But I'm learning that a mission is too short to stay in places that don't make you grow very much. I've got to get as much out of these 18 months as I can! In church yesterday a high councilman said, "We don't come on missions to miss things, we come to do things. We don't come here to be served, we come to serve." Thank you, Mr. High Councilman. That message was for me.  

Sister Smith is a fireball! (Not the same Sister Smith you met in Laurie & Kevin's ward.) She came from Royal Mesa, our next-door-neighbor single's ward. So we already knew each other! We taught institute together once and we have lots of mutual member friends. The transfers been an adjustment for both of us, but we're helping each other to laugh and have fun through it. Sister Smith's been out 6 months and this is her second area, but she seems a lot more experienced than that. She's super good at being bold with our investigators so we balance each other well. Couldn't do it without her! 

We're doing our best to keep the work going and the ward strong. Sweet story-- DJ has been working extremely long days, 4:30AM to 9PM, and she's been so worn out. While she was at work on Friday, Sister Smith and I heart-attacked her apartment door. That night, she sent us this text: "I got home at 10:30 and burst into tears. I love you girls so much! Thank you for making my day worth it. It's stuff like this that makes my life meaningful. You will never really understand how much you mean to me." Little does she know that she is making the difference for us. It's such a blessing to know people like her! 

Akeem is still doing great and progressing to his baptism date. We got to meet his mom last night and they're like the same person-- sweet, smart, and quietly confident. There's never a dry eye in a lesson with Akeem. We often teach him at the mission office and the office ladies l.o.v.e him. Our vehicle coordinator, Sister Brewster, even volunteered to bring a cake to his baptism. He has been through a lot, and you can just feel the sincerity in his testimony and desire to follow Christ. I'm learning so much from him. 

We're teaching a couple other trickier people like Johnny and Mike that are willing to listen but don't want to change. Mike's a riot-- he's from Idaho, but seems more like a California dude, always saying "man" and "dude" and making friends with everybody. He invited us and a couple members to go to lunch with him, but has no desire to come to church or be invited to activities. Whaaa?? To each his own, I guess. Haha. When we taught him the plan of salvation, we knew he knew it was true, but I think he's afraid of what it would mean to his lifestyle if it were true. That's the tricky thing about YSAs-- they recognize truth so quickly, but sometimes they don't want to change.   

With Johnny, we're taking baby steps. He's coming to church and Institute and inching along. I told Sister Luke I wouldn't leave this area until he was set for baptism. :) 

We met a girl on Saturday named Sabrina who is so super prepared!! At another ward's baptism, she told us that she feels like God has been nudging her in the church's direction and that she's ready to take the lessons. We'll start teaching her tomorrow! She came with us to the Why I Believe fireside last night, and afterwards she said "I loved every minute of it! Tuesday at 3 can't come fast enough!" 

Funny story of the week: Last night before bed, Sister Smith said, "Goodnight, Sister Luke!" Hahaha, well I'll take it as a big compliment :) 

Mom, I was so sad to hear about Keenan's passing. But hearing that story about Jaden, you're right, he's serving a new mission now. Unrestricted by pain or disability :) Tell his family I love them and they're in my prayers :) 

I loved hearing about your missionary experience with the less active sister! Sometimes the most important thing you can do is be an example of kindness to those lost sheep, and never ever give up on them, because the Savior wouldn't! Keep those stories coming! :) 

Out of time to send pictures but I'll send 'em next week. 

Lots of Love, 
Sister B 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Transfers are Smelly

Dear Family, 

Transfer facts are in! Tomorrow morning Sister Luke leaves for Black Mountain. Not sure why they would name a stake Black Mountain. It sounds like something out of Lord of the Rings, like she's headed to the orc mines or whatever. **Taps playing softly** But honestly, she's going to be incredible. She's gonna be a Sister Training Leader which means she'll go on exchanges at least once a week with all the other sisters in her zone. She'll get to give lots of trainings, and she'll be covering 3 wards, so basically, Sister Luke is about to hit the people of black mountain with a wave of Christlike love. They are the luckiest people in the entire mission! 

Meanwhile I'm staying in Robindale with Sister Smith, who's been serving in our next-door-neighbor single's ward her entire mission! She's the one who met Zach and also the one who taught Tori. I've never heard of someone singles ward-hopping like this. So there's a huge reason that Heavenly Father needs Sister Smith to work with singles! I get to spend a whole transfer learning from her :) Can't wait! 

This week literally flew by faster than Mom behind the wheel of a corvette. :) It's funny how when you want time to slow down, it speeeeeds up! Some really incredible things happened this week. I love this area and this ward with my whole heart

DJ's baptism has been postponed but she's still doing great. Her testimony and conversion just keep growing and deepening! Any backlash she gets from family and "friends" from her decision to be baptized, she just takes in stride. We took her to the temple this week and did our tour of the grounds. She was bothered by the fact that she couldn't go inside past the lobby until we told her just to touch the wall of the temple. As soon as she touched it, she started crying. She said that was the strongest she's ever felt the Spirit. She's amazing!

We also had a lesson with her where she confided in us some of the hard things from her past and how that's affected her self-worth. Sister Luke and I felt impressed to recite the Young Women theme for her. I have never understood or appreciated the full value and power of those words till now. As we said "We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him," I almost started to cry. How lucky are we to have that knowledge? So many girls grow up being fed lies... You're fat, you're dumb, you're useless, you're a whale... Nope. You are a daughter. Of the Creator of the Universe! "... as we come to accept and act upon this knowledge, we will strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation." First we have to accept that we're loved and of worth, and then we have to live that way. And then we get peace, lasting happiness, joy, true love, exaltation, eternal life. Knowing you're a child of God opens the doors to heaven! Literally! I want to run around and find every young adult who's ever been deceived or abused or neglected or brainwashed and help them understand the truth. The coolest part of being a missionary is helping people "accept and act." 

We went to the temple a couple times this week actually-- Friday we went inside and watched Stefanie do baptisms for the first time! Great experience for her :) It was also our member friend Keline's first time-- she's just as big of a miracle as Stefanie. Keline was baptized when she was 8 but basically hadn't been back to church since. Before this summer, she confided in us, she didn't have a belief in God. But in June she started coming back to church, and now she teaches with us, holds a calling, holds a temple recommend, has the strongest testimony, is thinking about serving a mission, and is one of the biggest example of selfless service I've ever seen.  

Oh! We also got to do a real life service project this week! We don't get to do much service in this mission simply because not a lot of people will accept help. But on Saturday our whole zone showed up to paint a young couple's house who couldn't afford to have someone come paint for them. Amazing how quickly a big group of missionaries can get a whole house painted! 

I'm so so so grateful I get to keep serving in this singles ward I love so much. I'm just sad that I won't be serving with Sister Luke :( we make a great team, her and I, because we're best friends with the same goals and the same desires. I love her so much but I can't keep her all to myself! She's worked her magic on Robindale, and now her talents and gifts are much needed elsewhere.

 I should be nervous about running the area without her because it's gonna be really hard and scary... but I feel strangely calm (thank you Heavenly Father!) I'm going to do everything in my power to keep the work rolling the way Sister Luke started it. Today I bought a foam poster to make a "vision board" of the things I want to see happen. Gonna work hard and pray hard! And I know a huge key to that success is unity in my companionship, so I basically plan on drowning Sister Smith with love. Hahaha :) Please pray for Sister Smith and I as we start this next transfer! Robindale is so priceless, Heavenly Father is so invested in these people, he knows where the prepared people are and what needs to happen. I just feel so blessed that he would trust me enough to let me labor in this part of His vineyard for the next 6 weeks. 

Funny story of the week: In one of our lessons with Akeem, who is a scripture-reading-commitment-keeping-boss, we asked him what was happening in the Book of Mormon right then. He sighed, shook his head, and in his quiet, New York-ghetto accent, said, "Nephi's brother's are still ignorant fools." Haha you got it Akeem! 

I almost forgot to mention that I got to meet Sister Luke's whole family on Friday, minus one brother. She got permission to see them when they were driving through, so they took us out to breakfast and Brother Luke gave us both priesthood blessings for transfers. She has an amazing family! Not surprised! :) 

 In honor of Sister Luke, I'm attaching some of my favorite pictures of us from the last 2 transfers, that you may or may not already have seen. Enjoy!

Love you lots! 
Sister Browning 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sister Browning Punches a Shark

Hey dearly beloved family,

You bought a TRAILER?? And you're thinking about a jacuzzi? Okee, you guys have learned how to have fun. ;) Have you named the trailer yet? Don't forget, it has to start with a "B"! Y'know, cause of Agnes...

Mom and Dad, I loved hearing about your experience at the temple. It really does align us spiritually every time. Several of the new converts are going to the temple to do baptisms for the first time this week. We bought them little temple recommend holders and pictures of the Las Vegas temple. It makes me so happy to see people keep their eyes on the temple! Mom, I'll be praying for you as the weather cools down. Going to the temple every week is the best idea ever. This is gonna be the best winter you ever had! :)

Ok, so I didn't actually punch a shark this week. But hopefully that got you really interested in this email! xD I did, however, have a dream that I was swimming through a pool punching great white sharks in the face. Meanwhile, Sister Luke has started praying for investigators and less-actives in her sleep. You can see who the more consecrated companion is. I'll let you know when she gets translated. ;)

This has been SUCH an awesome week!! Stefanie was baptized yesterday, right after church! She has taught me a lot about the importance of member missionary work. Her boyfriend, Holden, started sharing his beliefs and answering her questions before they were even dating, he came to almost every lesson, and yesterday he got to baptize her. He got to see her progress from believing that religion was a crutch to accepting Christ's gospel as the way to lasting happiness. I'm catching the vision of members being the full-time finders and missionaries being the full-time teachers! When the work is done that way, testimonies flourish. No wonder they stress that in General Conference. :)

DJ is continuing to make amazing changes in her life. She's a testimony to me that happiness, inner peace, and healing are available to anyone who accepts the Gospel. She told us that for the first time in years, she feels happy and loved, she wants to help people, she can sleep through the night, etc etc. Why? Because she's been reading, praying, coming to church, keeping the Word of Wisdom and repenting daily. And talk about change-- on Sunday she wore a dress for the first time in her life! She bore her testimony, too. She is such a hilarious delight. Her not-so-quiet laugh resonating through the chapel is exactly the addition this ward needs. XD I know that she's someone that I came here to meet!

Someone new we are teaching this week-- Akeem! Oh my gosh he's the coolest investigator ever! He's from the Bronx, and Don is from Compton, so they've basically become best friends forever. I'm glad Don has this opportunity to really be a mentor in the gospel for somebody. The success happening right now really is because Heavenly Father can trust this ward and the members in it to take new converts under their wings. I'm SO grateful for member missionaries!! They're an example to me!

But seriously, Akeem is so cool-- we asked him to read the first chapter in the Book of Mormon, and he went home and read twelve. "Twelve of 'dem!" And he should be an English teacher, his comprehension was so good. In the most spirit-filled lesson I have ever been in, we set him for baptism and he cried. He is so prepared. :)

We had exchanges on Tuesday and they made me sooo nervous for transfers next week... *fhooo* *whoo* *fhooo* *whooo* Sister Luke has been here 7 months so she's probably good as gone. *cries* Sister Luke is my person. We work well together, she makes me laugh and we help each other have fun and be obedient... really, she's become one of my very best friends! But of course we both have learning and growing to do, so we can't stay together forever... though I wouldn't complain.

Sidetracked. Right, exchanges-- they made me nervous for transfers 'cause it's always a little nerve-wracking to run the area without Sister Luke by my side... Coordinating which member is coming out with us when and remembering things and planning are challenging for me. I always thought I was an organized person, but a mission takes it to the next level! In one day without Sister Luke, I used up more miles than Sister Luke has ever used in a day on her mission. Our area is really big and I haven't quite caught the strategy of planning to conserve mileage. Hopefully my new companion and I aren't on bikes by week 2! ;) Please pray for President Snow that he will be extra-inspired to know who to send to Robindale!!

The Alex Boye fireside was incredible! We took DJ and the recent-convert-gang :) He sang one song and then told his awesome, inspiring, side-splittingly funny conversion story. And I'm so glad that Don was able to come, because it was perfect for him. He's been struggling with understanding why life after baptism is still hard, and how he might balance his dream of a music career with living the Gospel. Alex Boye was able to answer both of those questions in ways no one else could! :) As soon as the fireside was over we hurried up with Don so he could meet him. Alex Boye hugged Don, gave him his email address, and told him to send his music! Dream come true for Don!

And it was right after that that I heard Katie call "Sister Browning!!" I'm so glad she sent you that picture :) It was amazing to see her after almost two years! It made my heart so happy to have a hug from her! 

Funny story of the week: An older lady that we're teaching for the Elders gave us some cute frilly underwear as a gift. Thank you? Haha.

Mom, I'm so glad Derek wrote you! To answer your question, that's something Sister Luke came up with. I hadn't thought about that, though-- it is a great opportunity for the new convert to bear their testimony and to hear yours as well. Hopefully you'll hear from Stefanie soon :)

And to answer your other question, Sister Luke and I do get a lot of pats-on-the-back and we really, really do our best to re-direct the praise where it belongs. I can't take credit for anyone'sconversion and neither can Sister Luke! All the amazing things happening in this area are really because of Heavenly Father. I'm just grateful that He handed me a little shovel and let me do some of the digging in this particular part of the vineyard. As a missionary I hardly know what I'm doing and I'd never know the right thing to say or do without Him, so I know without a doubt that He guides and directs us as long as we're obedient! I'm just so so so grateful.

I absolutely love this mission. It's like having a front-row ticket to watching people's lives change through the Atonement-- including and especially mine! I feel like I've changed a lot in the past three months and I know I have so much growing to do. I have the chance to experience, like Alma and the sons of Mosiah, the inexpressible joy of sharing the Gospel. It's the best feeling in the world! Thanks everybody for your emails and letters and prayers and support :)

Lots of love,
Sister Browning  

P.S: Normally the internet gives us fits whenever it's windy outside, but we said a prayer before we emailed and it's been lightning-quick and reliable. Prayer works! :)

So in the pictures Stefanie looks a tad uncomfortable with all of our love... She likes it. Deep down. ;) But we were just really excited to finally be able to hug an investigator. Haha

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Happy September!


Well I've almost survived my first Las Vegas summer! Today's a little bit of a crazy day because Sister Luke's grandparents were here and there's a big zone barbeque going on but I'll try my best to do this week justice. The work is on fire here, in proportion to the heat! It was 109 degrees in the shade today :) This is September?!

I've learned a lot this week about true success. I think the biggest successes are the times when we know we've been led by the Spirit to be in exactly the right place at the right time. And that seems to happen a lot! On Friday, our 4:00 appointment didn't show up so we had our members follow us to try some backups. At the last house we tried, we found the brother of a referral home. Boy was he a talker! As he talked to Aaron and Daniel in the garage, a beautiful lost-looking girl about our age who was there walked up to Sis. Luke and I. She told us that she was a member, that she'd fallen away and wanted to come back, that she tried to pray but often didn't feel good enough to pray. We told her to keep on praying, that Satan would try to tell her she wasn't worthy to pray but that that was a lie and she could always pray. She started to cry, thanked us, hugged us, and left. That is a true success!

I mentioned DJ last week-- It's so fun to be teaching girls for a change! She is getting baptized onSeptember 13th! She is a testimony to me that our church is true. She's tried just about every church out there, and after coming to ours once, she's found what the others were missing. She's really diving in head-first to everything the church offers. She's been coming to activities, institute, throwing movie nights for the members, and is eating up the book of Mormon. When we taught her the word of wisdom, she immediately took all her tea bags and threw them in the trash while Michael poured her pitcher of iced tea down the sink. She's amazing!

Stephanie is still doing super awesome and progressing toward her baptism on Sunday the 7th. She and her boyfriend came to dinner with us at Bishop's home this week which was amazing because he was able to explain prayer and the atonement to her better than I ever could, and his explanation answered questions that I'd had, as well! We're so blessed to have such a fantastic bishop! He really would do anything for us.

Johnny is doing great as well-- progressing slowly and making baby steps in the Gospel. He is much more of a challenge to teach than anyone I've taught before, but I'm sooo grateful. How am I supposed to progress in my teaching skills, or learn how to really rely on the Spirit to answer questions, if everyone just rides a slip-'n-slide right into the baptismal font? And it makes the successes all the more sweet! Hearing that he read 2 pages in the Book of Mormon, or seeing him stay for all 3 hours of church, means so much more that way.  

We got to see Tori be baptized on Saturday morning in the Royal Mesa ward. Knowing that when Sister Luke met him he didn't believe in God, seeing his progression, and then hearing him say, "I want to make it clear that I love this church and I love Jesus Christ," was one of the happiest moments I've ever experienced! As a missionary I really get a front-row seat to watching people's lives change through the Atonement. There's nothing better!

"And behold, when I see many of my brethren truly penitent, and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy; then do I remember what the Lord has done for me, yea, even that he hath heard my prayer; yea, then do I remember his merciful arm which he extended toward me." (Alma 29:10)

Alright, funny story of the week (this one's hilarious): Sister Luke got chased around our car by a cross dresser! As she was backing me out of a parking spot (you know how missionaries do) said cross dresser spots her and starts super-speed walking it over as fast as his shaved legs can carry him... she had to run the opposite way around the car and jump in or they would've kept going in circles! We drove out of that parking lot so fast... part of me was afraid he was going to jump on to the back of the car and ride fabulously with us down St. Rose Parkway. Thankfully it was not so and we escaped. :)

I love you all, have a wonderful labor day!

Lots of love-
Sister Browning