missionary plaque picture

missionary plaque picture

Monday, November 24, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Dear Family, 

The Phoenix temple dedication was wonderful! No, we didn't actually go, but we did watch it broadcast at the stake center, just like when the Boise temple was rededicated. That's so cool that Chase got to carry a flag for it! It's fun knowing that the Browning cousins are doing double-duty on Arizona right now. ;) 

Speaking of extended family, please tell Grandma and Grandpa I said thank you so much for writing. :)  Their advice and encouragement was just what I needed! And it was nice to see pictures of the cabin too!

That's really scary what's been happening at CCC. What are you going to do? Has that caused a strain in the homeschool group? A lot of churches out here have similar classes. It just shows how true the gospel really is, if Satan's working this hard on it. Breaks your heart when it's honest, good, Christian people who have good intentions. I loved your thoughts about covenants, mom. Without ordinances and covenants we are left with only a shell of Christ's gospel and teachings! I agree, I would never trade that in for less. I think at this thanksgiving, that's what I'm the most grateful for-- the Gospel, my covenants, my family, and my Savior. 

Well this week was pretty fabulous! Prayed hard and worked hard. We are teaching a young couple named Kim and Terry (Sis Martin and I always get it mixed up and say Tim and Kerry... how horrible haha). Terry was baptized when he was 8, and Kim is a nonmember. They have an adorable, bashful, chunky-monkey 18 month old son and a lot of heartbreaking financial struggles. On Thursday, we went through a big pile of old clothes that sisters have left behind in our apartment, filled two big gift bags with what we thought would fit Kim, added a couple old things of our own, and took it to her. We also found a toy Finding Nemo turtle and took it for Levi. The look of joy on hers and Terry's faces was the best part of the whole day. Sister Shade, whose family got sealed on Saturday, bore the most wonderful testimony to them about how this Gospel blesses families. You could just see how hopeful it made them feel. I want to see Kim and Terry make it to the temple so bad! That would be a dream come true! 

One of the best things about the mission is that I never have to go to bed wondering if I served anyone that day. Sure, I may occasionally wonder if my efforts made a difference, but I never have to wonder if I tried! It's the best feeling! :)

We had a little miracle with Carlos last night. We decided to be bold and have a lesson about the importance of church and the sacrament, and he told us that a really grumpy ("frumpy, not grumpy" in his words) coworker switched with him so he can have Sunday Dec 13th off work! That's only one week earlier than we thought, but we'll take it. "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass!"  Sis Martin and I just about cried. Haha :) We're still praying that he can have as many Sundays off as possible. Preferrably, uh, all of them. :) 

Xonya is one of the most incredible 16 year olds I know. The young women have been really welcoming to her, and we're having an FHE with her in one of the young women's homes tonight! Last night, in our lesson on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, she told us that before we met her, she had been struggling with drugs and using them to cope with her problems. The day after she made the resolution to quit was the day we knocked on the door. I see what you did there, Heavenly Father ;) His timing is muy perfecto!! 

On Saturday, President and Sister Snow stopped by on their way back from Havasu to drop off some mail. Our 4:00 appointment cancelled, so they came to the stake center to see us. Our dinner cancelled too, and what a blessing, because we were with them until 5:30. He took the time to visit with Sis Martin and I individually and give us blessings. It meant the world that he'd do that for us! It has been made clear to me over and over again that President Snow is called of God. This mission needed to have his tenderhearted, wise, compassionate, optimistic leadership at this time for missionaries like Sis Martin and I. There's been a lot of people in my life that I'd consider "second moms," but President is the first "second dad" I've ever had! It blows my mind how much he loves the elders and sisters in this mission and how much he sacrifices for us. We're sure spoiled out here in the NLVM. 

As far as living conditions go, our area almost feels like it's split into the Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial kingdoms. I wanted to show you the contrast, so I took a picture in the "celestial zone" and one in the "telestial zone." Yep, those are both in my area! 

Funny story of the week: While going through the old clothes for Kim, we found a cute purple button-down shirt... upon further investigation we realized it had an horribly tacky snap at the bottom, like a toddler's onesie? Gotta do something to keep the shirt in place, I guess? Ha well that onesie/blouse thing has become the running gag in our apartment. I'll hang it in Sis Martin's bathroom, then she'll put it on my desk, then I'll put it on her bed... Sometimes we'll leave notes with it, like "A gift for you!" 

Well I hope you all have a wonderful thanksgiving!! Tell the Forkeys and Smedleys and Grandpa I said hello and I love them :) We'll be helping out with the community turkey trot in the morning, then we have district meeting and then a member family is feeding us dinner. Should be a good day!

Sister Browning 

Monday, November 17, 2014

How great the importance to make these things known!

Dear Family,

Well I feel bad about complaining about the cold if it's 1 degree in Rigby! It's dropped down to 40 here in Kingman and Sis Martin and I are two little popsicles. I've gotten soft out here. It's the coldest part of the mission but I can handle it ;) Mom, I got both packages on Saturday-- the one with my gray coat and the one with the blue. Thank you for sending those! It's just nice to see something from home, and putting on those old coats feels like a familiar hug. :) 

First off, I need to answer your questions from last week that I forgot to answer! What am I eating? Meat 'n potatoes. I've had it 7 times, to be exact. I'm not complaining, because it's delicious, but it's like Sunday dinner every dinner ;) This ward keeps us well fed! I'm still doing green smoothies in the morning-- or sometimes oatmeal, because I'm cold-- and usually sandwiches or tortillas for lunch-- or soup, because I'm cold. :) 

What am I doing for exercise? ...*sigh*... We're pretty limited out here. I miss running. If it were up to me, I'd run every day, but the cold weather is really hard on Sis Martin, being from Mexico City. So occasionally she bundles up and we run laps around a little gopher-hole-filled field behind our apartment, but I don't want Sis Martin to get sick again like she did a few weeks ago. We can't ride bikes either, because mine is still back in Robindale, and Sis Martin doesn't have a bike at all. Usually I just exercise in the apartment. Do you have any suggestions on what else I can do?? With daylight hours getting shorter and shorter I'm sure feeling the need for more exercise.

You also asked to hear more about my investigators, here's a few key people we're working with right now: 

Carlos, basically the coolest New Yorker ever. He has two little adorable kids and is probably the next bishop. He's got a super strong testimony and is willing to live the Gospel to the fullest-- the only problem is church. We can't seem to find a way for him to get work off. :/ Pray for him!!

Margot, a sweet older lady whose husband was baptized a few months ago. She has the opposite problem of Carlos-- comes to church each Sunday but just doesn't know if baptism is for her yet. She doesn't want to feel pressured. We know she will get there. We are just praying to know how to help her.

Brock is a lot like Margot, if Margot were a 30-something year old elementary school teacher with a hilarious witty sense of humor. He's dating one of our members-- who is also an elementary school teacher, awwww-- and ever so slowly progressing. Same as Margot, doesn't want to feel pressured. 

Nicole and Brittney are Bishop Tinnel's preteen granddaughters, and they have the most vibrant testimonies! Please pray that their parents hearts will be softened. 

Lita is a spunky 8 year old girl who comes from a less active family-- she is an incredible dancer and she's also blind. We're gonna try some different methods of teaching this week to help her really understand and have her own testimony of the Gospel, and hopefully get her family more involved as well. 

We met a few amazing new people this week-- a 16 year old girl named Xonia, who went to Meet the Mormons with a friend and now wants to be baptized!! We sat outside at a park bench in the wind yesterday and had a spirit-filled first lesson where she cried and bore her testimony of the power of prayer. Wow. Heavenly Father has really been preparing her for a long time. Hopefully she'll be baptized on December 7th!

We also met a 8 year old girl named Delaney, whose family are all less active members who want to come back to church. After Sister Martin recited Joseph Smith's first vision, Delaney started to cry, and her mom started to cry, and bore a powerful testimony that she's always known these things are true but that she'd forgotten. They're going to start reading the Book of Mormon as a family, and hopefully we'll be able to help them return to full activity in the church!! 

 I went on exchanges with Sis Hutchinson to Lake Havasu on Wednesday, and the whole exchange was a confirmation to me that Heavenly Father knows where we need to be. Sis Hutchinson is amazing, super hilarious and real. She and I are the only newly-transferred sisters in the zone, and she's gone through lots of things on her mission that have taught her wisdom and empathy. Sis Hutchinson gave me advice that was exactly what I needed to hear. She warned me to never ever compare myself to other missionaries and banish negative thoughts as soon as they enter my head. And she told me that whenever I wonder if a struggling area is my fault, that's Satan trying to plant a seed in my head, and all he has to do is get me to water that seed and he can limit my effectiveness as a missionary.  Well, that simply won't do. So I can't listen to him! :) She taught me so much about the power of faith and optimism. Gotta exercise more of it. :)

Rather than having regular church this Sunday, we had the Phoenix temple dedication! It was beautiful and the talks were amazing. If only I had packed a white handkerchief with me on my mission. ;) It was a little weird to tell all the investigators, "no, there's no church this Sunday..." But it opened up the door to talk about temples, which is great! 

Dad, it's funny you mention it- DJ and I were joking on the way to her baptism about the idea of her getting baptized in her mermaid tail! Sunday afternoon, Sabrina, Dianna, DJ, Michael, and Derek all drove down in a minivan to Kingman, stopped in Black Mountain to pick up Sister Luke, and took us with them to DJ's baptism. That was a dream come true. Going back to Robindale, seeing all those people I love so much gathered to support DJ, who's been waiting so long to get baptized-- it felt like we'd all died and gone to heaven! Super cool to see Derek get to baptize DJ, too. The love and unity that the YSAs in Robindale have for each other completely blows me away. I felt so motivated to do all I can to help Boulder Springs and White Cliffs become that same kind of ward. Robindale is truly a family, but it wasn't always that way. BS and WC can do it too! :)
One more story. Sometime during the week, we knocked on the door of a potential, Marsha, who invited us in. She turned out to be a former member who'd left the church 30 years ago. She was genuinely concerned for us and asked us to stop reading the Book of Mormon and the Bible for a month, and "only read history, and see what a difference it makes." She had so much doubt & anger & frustration and I felt so bad for her! All I could think was... Why would I do that? Asking me to stop studying the scriptures would be like asking a person on oxygen to turn off the tank and see if they can breathe easier. Meeting her was a confirmation to me that I do have a deep, grounded testimony that I know for myself that everything I've believed since I was a toddler is true. It was a fulfillment also of all the things they talked about at General Conference last month. She fulfilled Elder Anderson's words that Joseph Smith would be attacked from all sides, but if we had our own testimony of him, "the constant volleying of water balloons from the sidelines may get us wet, but they can never extinguish your fire of faith." And she fulfilled Elder Uchtdorf's words, that if we use the instruments God has given us we'll grow in light and truth but "if we remove ourselves from the light of the Gospel, our own light begins to dim-- until we look back and can't quite understand why we ever believed the Gospel was true."

Dad, what you said in your email reminded me of Marsha-- "Of course there are those who seek to avoid light and truth. You must not let them influence you or make you feel discouraged and afraid." It was frustrating to hear her voice complaints that we knew we had the answers to, knowing that all we could do was testify and walk out the door. But Sis Martin and I have thought about it several times since, as it made a lasting impression on us. Thank you, Marsha, for unknowingly doubling my faith in what I already knew to be true!

Favorite missionary scripture right now: 2 Nephi 2:8. "Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah." 

Sending pictures from the baptism and Pday last week. (Excuse my companion, she's basically a model.) ;) 

I love you all! 
Sister Browning

Monday, November 10, 2014

You Know You're a Real Missionary When...

...the last speck of toenail polish from home is gone.

Seriously, that stuff lasts forever!
Dear Family,
You have ELDER HOLLAND coming to your Stake Conference?? Merry Christmas to you, that's so exciting. You'll have to take good notes and tell me all about what he says. How cool that you get to be interviewed by him, Dad, and Mom gets to lead the choir? Go Mom go! That will be a meeting to remember.
It sounds like everyone's doing well. Congrats on the new trampoline Aubree and Ryan, that's a great investment. I hope this one doesn't blow away! ;)
I'm not jealous of your weather... it got up to the 80's this week and I was happy as a clam. Apparently Arizona Novembers are a little bipolar? When it dipped below 50 I thought I was going to die... I've gotten soft! Haha
Well, we got to take a road trip to Vegas on Tuesday to attend an all-day conference with half the mission. Elder Bradley D. Foster of the 2nd quorum of the 70 spoke. (Apparently he is from Rigby? Did not know... embarrassed... but I talked to him and Sister Foster at lunch and they know Darwin and Colene, of course, and the Shippens, of course. Fun!) The entire conference blew my mind. Elder Foster had ideas that completely changed the way I look at missionary work.
A couple bold and loving and awesome quotes from his trainings:
"When missionaries are getting hung up on numbers, they've lost the vision." Oops.

"Too many missionaries are playing missionary. Don't play missionary. BE a missionary!" 
And a couple that hit me hard from Sister Foster's talk:
"I know that at some point, you've knelt down with tears in your eyes and told your Heavenly Father, 'I don't know if I can do this...' You can do this, but you can't do it without your Heavenly Father's help." 
"When you're tired and discouraged, you remember Who called you here." 
I wrote that second one on a piece of paper and hung it above my study desk. Her words have really been helping me this week. As far as the work goes, It was probably one of the hardest weeks I've had on my mission so far. We worked so hard and did our best to implement Elder Foster's ideas about working with the members, but it felt a little bit like we were riding a stationary bike. Almost all of our solid investigators have decided they really want to take their time before deciding to get baptized. They want to keep meeting with us, but it's not really going anywhere... The 8 year old girl we've been teaching, Lita, has stopped answering our questions or speaking in lessons, so now even though she wants to be baptized, we're not sure what to do.
I had my first experience attending 6 hours of church plus meetings on Sunday! I stayed awake through the whole thing! Covering two wards has been an interesting challenge. We really want to work more closely with the members and build their trust in us. The hard part is remembering which members go where. ;) One of our wards is doing much better than the other, so that's the other thing we're trying to figure out how to do-- balance the work and amount of time between both wards.
After planning last night, Sister Martin and I knelt down and had the most heartfelt companionship prayer I think I've ever had. We thanked Heavenly Father for trusting us with both these wards and the people in them and begged his help in accomplishing what we were sent here to do. We were both crying through the whole prayer. I'm so blessed to have her!

Whenever I'm tempted to think that the work is struggling because of me, I remember Who called me here, like Sister Foster said. I have lots of weaknesses, but this is His work, not mine. I'm so grateful to be in an area where I really have to decide, over and over, every day, if I'm going to give it my all. I'm grateful for however long it's going to take to see success. Heavenly Father is mindful of the people in this area, and whether I get to help them with the beginning, middle, or end stages of their progression in the Gospel, I'm just grateful I get to be a part of it.

Fun fact about Kingman: I regularly drive up and down part of Route 66... Like Cars route 66... it's part of my area :) 
Funny story of the week: So I was the designated driver to and from the mission conferenceon Tuesday (that's not the funny part), and on the way back, there was a different sister sitting in the passenger seat than on the way down, because the other companionship of sisters had done an exchange. For some reason I assumed she knew the way to Kingman, even though she's a Lake Havasu sister... When we passed a sign for Needles & Blythe California, I was finally like... "Sister Hutchinson... Do you know how to get to Kingman?" 
Sister Hutchinson slowly shakes her head... Haha so we called someone and they told us just to keep going. We went the looooong way and ended up in Kingman at least half an hour later than we'd planned. Just took the wrong freeway. Oh well. :) Now I can say I've been in all 3 states in the mission in one day. Didn't leave mission boundaries though so that's good! ;)
One other thing... we had a lesson in Gospel Principles (my second gospel principles of the day..) on prayer. Someone shared a story about the power that comes from praying for other people. Whoever is praying for me, thank you for praying for me. It means the world and I can feel the blessings that are coming from your prayers! 

Love you all so much, 
Sister Browning
P.S: Quick update... DJ just called me and informed me that she, Dianna, Zach, and the gang are coming to Kingman to pick me up for her baptism next Sunday. And I don't have a choice. Haha I love her! Hopefully it does work out to where I can go! 

Pictures: Language study with Sis. Martin! I feel like a real life English teacher!
And a family photo at the mission conference. I got to see Sister Luke again (<3 <3 <3BFF<3 <3 <3) The middle sister is Sis Arnold, who trained Sis Luke, Sis Martin, and Sis Herman (the one on the end.) Then Sis Luke trained, me, and now Sis Martin and I are companions!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sister Browning Learns Spanish, Sort of

Happy Monday from the windy and remote city of Kingman AZ! :)

Megan thinks Kingman is beautiful!  
Whoooo I don't even know where to begin. I feel like I've started a brand new mission. And I have no idea what I'm doing! :) Last Monday I said my goodbyes at FHE and Tuesday I got on a bus and now I'm here... It's like the Wizard of Oz in reverse... I was in the Emerald City, I got swept up in a tornado and landed in Kansas!

This area is pretty cool. Apparently the district leader covers a ward where he and his companion backpack 10 miles down into the Havasupi nation and live in a church building for a week. And one time the sisters went to the Grand Canyon for Pday. Just a little taste of what it's like out here. :) Serving in Kingman is definitely a privilege. Not everyone gets to leave the valley and see this part of the mission, so I feel really grateful!
This work is SO different than what I was doing before. I've gone from working with singles to working with families, from one covering ward to covering two, from the busy city of Las Vegas to the slower-paced... whatever Kingman is. I should feel overwhelmed, but I feel strangely hopeful. We had a rough week but I can't deny that I feel like amazing things are going to happen this transfer.
My companion Sister Martin (Mar-teen, not Mart-in) is an absolute angel. She's from Mexico City and started learning English when we were together in the MTC! So there's a little bit of a language barrier, but honestly, she's doing amazing. She's one of the sweetest, most humble, loving, focused missionaries I've served around. She got sick on Saturday when the temperature dropped suddenly (Kingman knows it's November) so I've been trying to take care of her. Meanwhile she's been teaching me a little bit of Spanish! I can now say "Tu eres mi mejor companera" and "somos las misioneras de la iglesia de Jesus Cristo de los Santos de los Ultimos Dias" and a couple other things. Whenever an appointment falls through or someone flakes on us, we jokingly say "Salvacion!! Comprendes?!" Hopefully my Spanish is a little less wimpy by the end of our time together. :)
One of my favorite, and also one of the most frustrating, things about this area is working with the Elderly. Sis Smith would always tease me because, in Robindale, whenever I saw an old man walking down the street alone, it made me soooo sad. Like... where's his wife?? What's his story?? Does he have the Gospel?? So now I get to teach them, which is awesome! We're teaching a sweet old man named Ronald who had a stroke recently, but in his earlier days he was a Motown singer. He's got all of these pictures of himself on his walls, gussied up in a tux, posing with people like Aretha Franklin. Apparently he's been taught by sisters fooorrrreeeever, but yesterday, he finally came to church for the first time!! It was stake conference, actually, but Elder Christofferson and Elder Uchtdorf were speaking over a broadcast, so... even better. ;) We also taught a 93 year old lady named Helen who, in her closing prayer, asked God to let her leave this earth already... that sort of thing breaks my heart. I love older people sooo much.

Happy Birthday to Dad, Nelson, and Jeren this coming week!! Do something fun and exciting for me! You have birthday cards coming in the mail! but they might be a little belated :P
We got to volunteer at a community 5k run on Saturday morning-- we were windy and cold but it was worth it!
I've been learning a ton lately about the Atonement. I read in Matthew this morning the account of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and it was a little overwhelming. I love my Savior. He did that for me! The more I learn about Christ the more it motivates me to share the gospel for the right reasons-- not because I'm supposed to, or out of fear of failure, or desire for recognition, but because I have been given a precious gift and the whole world needs it. Whether you're 5 or 95, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the way to lasting happiness.

I love you all so much! 
Sister Browning